Muslims in Stratford: A Brief History

1966

A high pressure oxygen welder named Mahmood Hasan came to Toronto Canada as a landed immigrant from Germany. Within one year of his arrival, he opened a restaurant called Ali Baba’s Steakhouse in Kitchener. Soon after he heard about the Shakespeare Festival, he decided to move to Stratford in 1967 marking himself the first Muslim to live in Stratford. The move helped him to become a very successful businessman, numerous franchises in the area and millions in profit.

Agusut 1975 - Brothers of Islam

From right to left: Mahmood, Qasem, and Musa Abd Hasan. Musa is Mahmood and Qasem's cousin visiting them from Jordan in 1977.

1975, August 17th

Mahmood’s cousin Qasem Yousef, also landed in Toronto as an immigrant, and moved to Stratford the same day as a his cousins guest making him the second Muslim to live in Stratford. Much later in Oct 19th 1997, Qasem's nephew Mohammad Nur Hasan Qaimeh joined his uncle in Stratford directly from Pearson airport.

Mahmood has since retired to his country of origin, Jordan

2006, March

Mohammed Rafiq opened the back of his store as mini prayer space for Muslims. A crucial step for the community as it gathered Muslims in one place, where they could discuss their current status and future.

2010, January 1st

Jama Botan made a very selfless act: he opened his basement as a five-times-a-day prayer place sacrificing his privacy with a wife and two children 24/7 all year around. He then started Quran classes for children, and Arabic lessons for a couple female converts to Islam. Muslims were visiting from all around using his home as temporary housing. Jama’s sacrifice was greater than to be explained and appreciated. God Almighty alone is the only One who could reward Jama for this.

Khalid Khan and his children greatly appreciated Jama’s sacrifice as they consistently attended the five daily prayers combined with swashing sound of laundry as they worshipped and dreamt of reviving the muslim community.

2010, October 2nd

A young Stratford girl by the name of Jessica Lynn Manuel visited Thailand and converted to Islam after reading the English translation of the meaning of the Nobel Quran, marking herself as the first female convert in Stratford.

2012, Winter

Group of Muslims from Waterloo went to Jama’s place for a weekend visit and to look for Muslims in the area to give them support. Surprisingly, one Muslim man they visited had a non-Muslim partner and she decided to embrace Islam suddenly when she heard Muslims at the door. She came the same day to announce her conversion and asked for her name to be changed to that of the only women’s name mentioned in Quran, Mary (Mariam), the mother of Jesus Christ. Omar Alshehri was one of the witness’s of the event and part of the Waterloo group. He was taken by the experience as well as noticing the poor condition of Muslims in the city.

2013

A little unknown boy from Stratford entered the Stratford Public Library, but his visit was not like any other he had experienced. He found a copy of the Nobel Quran on the shelf which he began to read. He began to read and found the truth he was seeking. Wanting to accept Islam but unable to find a Mosque in Stratford, he turned to the London Mosque to accept Islam making him the first male convert in the history of Stratford. Soon after his acceptance, along with his family, moved to Alberta. Those in the community would love to get in touch with him but unfortunately his name is not known.

2014, July

Omar Alshehri decided to move to Stratford to pursue his dream: a Mosque in Stratford, the 1st Mosque to be in both Perth and Huron counties. By the will of God, Jama helped Omar learn to navigate the streets of Stratford. They soon came to the best and only place on-sale and zoned for worship: 97 Woods Street, the former New Apostolic Church of Stratford. When Jama phoned the agent to inquire he learned that the place had been on sale for many years and the first offer of purchase had been placed by an investor the day before.

2014, September 29th

The New Apostolic Church accepted the investor’s offer but a plan had to be made! After consulting with some friends, the new owner was contacted to buy the Church. After contacting some Islamic organizations to adopt the project, North American Muslim Foundation signed a waiver deal. Unfortunately the deal was not finalized.

November 2014 - Time to find a new pace of worship - Moving out

2014, November 7th

Jama Botan’s was living alone in a subsidized unit not intended for an individual. Once the housing department became aware of Jama’s situation they were left with the decision to evacuate him. Jama appealed to continue using the home to help serve the Muslim community but was not successful. Eisa Estanbouly, the president of the well known Red Leaf Painting company in Stratford made the long awaited suggestion of a new rental location to serve the Muslim community.

2014, November

The Muslim community rented the main hall of The Optimist Club of Stratford to deliver Friday sermons and prayer.

2014, December 15th

Omar Alshehri received a very unexpected call from a friend in Guelph offering him a 16,000 CAD support for the project. The Church being zoned as a house, place of worship, and elementary school gave Omar the opportunity to rent the location as a home. The day after recieving the financial support from Guelph, Omar used the funds for a security deposit in a Rent-to-Own agreement with the new owner thus providing the community a large place for gatherings and prayer.

2015, September 1st

After a prolonged negotiation, Salaheddin Islamic Center, a charitable organization in Scarborough, gladly agreeded to adopt the Stratford Mosque project by signing a formal purchase contract. Utilizing the Salaheddin Islamic Center's expertise a new fundraising campaign was launched.

June 4th 2016 - Melissa accepts Islam

Melissa Langmuir and Her Mother

2016, June 4th

Melissa Langmuir decided to convert to Islam after reading the Nobel Quran. As she lived in New Hamburg, the closest Mosque she could find was Stratford Mosque. She contacted the Mosque requesting to declare her conversion testimony inside the Mosque becoming the first person to embrace Islam inside the Mosque. Below is Melissa's experience at the Mosque.

"My experience at the Stratford masjid was nothing short of glorious. The reception that my mother & I received was more than I could've imagined. My new sisters took care of our every need, from presenting me with my first precious hijab& wrapping me up, to our wonderful Imam instructing me through my pledge. My brothers were so very welcoming, one in particular that approached me with his lovely wife. Please excuse my ignorance as I met so many wonderful people I am having trouble remembering their names 😊 The people at the Stratford masjid were loving, accepting & absolutely non judgemental. The support they gave was way more then ample but they also showered me with precious items to help me on my way into Islam as the baby Muslim I am proud to be. Allah hoo Akbar🙏🏼"

2016, July

The fundraising campaign ended with great success and the building was purchased.