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Graduate student Shakila Sultana visits the new Muslim prayer room on the Bannatyne campus.

Muslim prayer room opens on Bannatyne campus

March 30, 2022 — 

Muslim students in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences now have a dedicated space for prayer on the Bannatyne campus.

The new Muslim prayer room is in Room 121 in the Chown Building. The space gives Muslims, who traditionally engage in prayer five times per day, an easily accessible private room.

“Part of their prayer involves prostrating, kneeling on the floor,” says Edgar French, UM spiritual care and Multi-faith Centre co-ordinator.

“Now that they have this room, they are able to pray in a private space.”

The Fort Garry campus provides a prayer room for Muslims. Abu bakar Siddik, a PhD candidate in medical microbiology and infectious diseases at the Max Rady College of Medicine and a representative of UM’s Muslim Students’ Association (MSA), says the group has been looking forward to a similar space being established on the Bannatyne campus for some time.

“We did not have a prayer room on the Bannatyne campus because there is a place in the hospital beside the campus [Health Sciences Centre] for multi-faith purposes. However, during COVID it has been tough and sometimes impossible to go to the hospital,” says Siddik.

“Three times of prayer during working hours has become impossible for many people who don’t have a place in the lab, or don’t have an individual room. They can now do that easily because the new space is not that far.”

Abu bakar Siddik inside the new Muslim prayer room.

With the holy month of Ramadan beginning on April 1, Siddik says the space will be helpful for Muslim students who may be on campus after hours to have a place to break the fast and take some time to rest.

“This space provides that sense of privacy and security to allow me to focus on prayer rather than on my surroundings which is so valuable,” says Murtaza Jafri, a first-year medical student at the Max Rady College of Medicine.

Jafri along with Mirha Zohair, another medical student, had been discussing the need for a Muslim prayer room at the Bannatyne campus and organized a meeting with UM Spiritual Care to convey the importance of establishing the room with Ramadan approaching. This led towards the agreement to open the temporary space with plans for a larger room in the future.

“These spaces are essential for our university to truly put forward real action towards inclusion and acceptance on our campus. Coming from a health care background, we know how important it is to respect someone’s spiritual needs when it comes to improving health-care outcomes in the hospital or clinic setting,” says Jafri.

Siddik is excited about the space as a prayer room as well as a place where new Muslim students looking for guidance can meet others in the Muslim community on campus.

The MSA has worked closely with UM Student AffairsSpiritual Care and Rady Faculty of Health Sciences to find an appropriate room for the time-being and to outfit the space with prayer rugs and resources such as copies of the Qur’an and signage. The room will serve as an interim space until something more suitable is found. The current room is small and does not have a sink/plumbing for the traditional washing ritual of wudu. Washrooms are located nearby.

“We are still discussing how we can get a bigger room and separate rooms for men and women,” says Siddik.

French emphasizes the importance of having more sacred spaces on campus that allow for quiet contemplation and meditation.

“Anything we can do that will help learners become more resilient and allow for proactive wellness practices, we are all for. When it comes to mental health and spiritual health, I think resources are merited,” says French.

The Muslim prayer room is open to any students, staff or faculty who wish to use it. Swipe card access to enter Bannatyne Campus is required to access the Muslim prayer room. Due to the space limitations of the current room, priority is given to students.

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