(MULTIPLE PHOTOS) - Shi'ite (as opposed to Sunni) mosques are rare and Toronto's Jaffari mosque is one of N America's largest. Here's some cool things I saw there:
1) Tip #1 that you're in a Shi'ite mosque: they have models of famous shrines. These shrines mark the graves of famous early leaders of the Shi'ite movement, such as this one marking the grave of Muhammad's grandson. Keep reading...more on this in the next photo.
2) Now THIS is interesting. (Sorry it's hard to read as lighting and a mirrored background defeated my photographic attempts). The plaque tells you which shrine the model imitates but if you read the second line from the bottom, it says in brackets "(before demolition)." Most of the shi'ite shrines were in the Arabian peninsula, but that Sunni country became very zealous under the Wahhabi-inspired Saudis and the Saudis destroyed shrines in the 1800s and again in the early 1900s because they saw them as idolatrous. As noted above, this shrine marked the grave of Muhammad's grandson but the Saudis had it erased. For some shrines, photographs do exist.
3) A cool touch - at his mosque, some brilliant person thought to put the shrines in a room with a model of the ka'ba. So as you circle the room to look at the shrines...you circle the ka'ba as is done on the hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage. Nicely done! Per the previous photo, most of these models are of shrines that no longer exist, destroyed by the Saudis.
4) Tip # 2 that you are in a shi'ite mosque: the batch of stones near the entrance. Shi'ites believe when you prostrate in prayer, your head should touch the earth (i.e. not just the carpet). And so, they take little earthen stones and place them where their forehead will touch the ground. (over time, you can even get a callus)
5) This is the mihrab, the niche in the wall of every mosque that indicates the qibla (or direction of prayer, namely towards Mecca). All mosques of every sect has such a niche though not usually as elaborate as this.
6) Here is the space for the prayer leader (or imam) to pray. Do you see at the top, inside the blue floral pattern on the carpet that there is a small brown object? That is one of the stones mentioned above. The imam will stand so that his forehead touches that stone. The water bottle is imported from Mecca with holy water (or not...now I'm pulling your leg).
7) Tip # 3 that you are at a Shi'ite mosque: prayer beads near the entrance. Sunni Muslims use prayer beads too but I've only seem them available in bunches near the entrance at Shi'ite mosques.
8) The facility from the outside. Includes a mosque, offices and a day school.