Mosques in the UAE on Wednesday welcomed back worshippers after closing for more than three months because of Covid-19 restrictions.
But several restrictions remain in place to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Capacity is capped at 30 per cent, and visitors must keep a three-metre distance from one another, wear masks, bring their own prayer mat and Quran and download AlHosn app.
Imams and residents who spoke with The National said they were still overjoyed that they could offer their prayers inside mosques again.
All places of worship in the UAE closed on March 16 as one of the safety measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of the virus.
Sheikh Dr Fares Al Mustafa, imam at the Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque and Centre, said there were 70 worshippers at his mosque for dhuhr prayers on Wednesday.
“I’m very happy that mosques are open again,” he said.
“People are coming to pray because they’ve been away from mosques for many months. They feel comfortable because everything has been sanitised, there are precautionary measures in place and everyone respects the rules.”
Before the closure, 2,500 visited the mosque for Friday prayers, which are still not permitted.
Mosques will remain open only from the time of azan until the end of obligatory prayer in congregation.
All mosques underwent heavy disinfection prior to their reopening.
Mohammedullah Moin, imam of Ali Salem Al Kaabi Mosque in Abu Dhabi, said only 40 people were allowed to pray there.
“It’s operating at 30 per cent capacity right now, but people are still very happy and appreciate that they can come here to pray,” he said.
On a regular day, there used to be about 400 people at the mosque for every obligatory prayer.
Sohail Iqbal, 40, a Pakistani living in Sharjah, visited the mosque every day for prayers before places of worship were closed.
He said he enjoyed the experience of praying together with his family at home for the past three months, however, he “missed going to the mosque”.
“We moved into a new apartment with a mosque right next to the building so we could pray there five times a day, but then the closure happened,” he said.
“So, we’re definitely very relieved that we can start going there.”
Meanwhile, Russian expat Ivan Knightsbridge, 40, is another Muslim who has welcomed the reopening of mosques.
He converted to Islam at about the time the temporary closure was enforced.
“The current situation is unusual but we have to be responsible and make sure we are following the rules,” Mr Knightsbridge said.
“I was mostly praying in my office and in malls, but now I can go to the mosque.”
Besides mosques, Hindu temples and a Sikh gurdwara in Dubai are also ready to open without ritual ceremonies and offerings to the gods.
Trustees await details from the Community Development Authority about the restricted timing during which worshipers could enter to pray.
Meanwhile, certain churches in the country are expected to delay their reopening as they seek clarity on receiving Holy Communion.