Muslims arrived in Saskatchewan at the end of the 19th century. Most of them came from Lebanon and settled as farmers in southwestern Saskatchewan, around Swift Current. A significant number of Muslims also arrived in Saskatchewan in the 1960s; they came from Asia and the Middle East, mainly from countries with a large Muslim population. Since then, conflicts in Africa and Eastern Europe have resulted in a large number of Muslim refugees, and the Muslim population of Saskatchewan has continued to grow. According to Statistics Canada, in 2001 there were 2,230 people in Saskatchewan who identified themselves as Muslims, compared with 1,200 in 1991. At present, the majority of Saskatchewan Muslims reside in Saskatoon and Regina. However, there are smaller numbers of Muslims in other towns such as Prince Albert, Swift Current and Moose Jaw. Muslims who came to Saskatchewan in the 1960s were mainly associated with the universities as teachers, researchers and students; others were physicians. Many became involved in business and other occupations.
In 1978, the Saskatoon Islamic Center (Mosque) was established in a former church building; in the early 1980s, the Regina Islamic Centre and the Islamic Centre of Swift Current were also established in older church buildings. An Islamic Centre is a place where Muslims gather for prayers as well as for social and educational activities such as evening and weekend classes in Islamic studies, and Arabic language classes both for children and adults. In 2000, a full-time private elementary school (Saskatoon Misbah School) was established, providing classes that are based on the Saskatchewan curriculum; a similar school (Huda School) has been operating in Regina since 1999. At these schools students also receive religious instructions within provincial guidelines.
Apart from beliefs common to the other two monotheistic world religions, Muslims represent a diversity of cultures and languages: the origins of many Canadian Muslims can be traced to a wide range of countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and Europe.
Muslims believe that there is only one God (Allah) and that Muhammad is the last prophet to whom God has revealed the Holy Quran, his final message for the guidance of mankind. Islam, which means “peace” in Arabic, is not a new religion: it simply reaffirms the message revealed by God to all the prophets from Adam to Jesus Christ. The five essential elements of Muslim faith include: belief in one God and Muhammad as the last prophet; five daily prayers; fasting in the month of Ramadan; Zakaat (giving a proportion of annual savings to help the less fortunate); and a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime for all capable individuals.