'My eyes filled with tears': UAE worshippers rejoice as mosques prepare to reopen for Friday prayers

Friday prayers will resume on December 4 in line with Covid-19 safety measures

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Worshippers in the UAE spoke of their joy after officials confirmed that Friday prayers at mosques would resume next week after being suspended for eight months due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Emiratis and residents were eager to return to the traditional Friday service but would take heed of precautionary measures.

Mosque capacity will be capped at 30 per cent and safety protocols will be in place to prevent the spread of the virus.

Worshippers will also be allowed to pray in the courtyards.

“When I heard the news my eyes filled with tears,” said Emirati Abdulla Al Blooshi, 42.

There was a spiritual emptiness when I could not attend Friday prayers

“I started sharing information about the mosques I used to pray at on Fridays, and remembered the friends I used to meet during prayers.”

He described Friday prayers as “the scale of the week”, that balanced the person’s spiritual and worldly activities.

Mr Al Blooshi said he used to set his Friday routine around prayer timings so he could go to the mosque early, read Surat Al Kahf, a chapter of the Quran that the Prophet Mohammed advised Muslims to read every Friday, and schedule activities after prayers.

Mr Al Blooshi was excited ahead of performing Friday prayers on December 4 at a mosque in Al Ain.

Almir Smajlovic, a volunteer khateeb, the reader of the sermon, and a speaker on religious issues in Dubai, shared the positive sentiment.

“We are all very excited and happy after hearing the announcement, but people are cautious," he said.

“I will be reading the first Friday sermon at a mosque on December 4th, and I am really looking forward to it."

Dr Smajlovic advised people to follow safety guidelines set by the authorities.

"If there is not enough room in the mosque, people should pray in the courtyard," he said.

Dr Nazura Siddiqi, a gynaecologist at Bareen International Hospital, said she had lived in the Emirates for close to a decade and had enjoyed attending Friday prayers until they came to a halt during the pandemic.

"I could not attend Friday prayers in my home country, India, as mosques do not have women's prayer halls," said Dr Siddiqi, who lives in Abu Dhabi.

“When I moved here I enjoyed going for the Friday prayers and was extremely sad when mosques closed.

"I am very excited to go back for Friday prayers. For me, the day was all about preparing to go for the mosque and pray in congregation."

Dr Siddiqi said she missed attending prayers during special times such as Ramadan and Eid, and meeting friends and neighbours.

Friday is the most important day of the week for Muslims, when they perform extra acts of worship, read the Quran and give to charity.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: N/A. News. Covid-19/Coronavirus. Midday prayers are performed at Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque in Dubai. Wednesday, July 1st, 2020. Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Dubai resident Mohammad Muaz said not attending Friday prayers made him realise how spiritually uplifting they were for him.

"There was a spiritual emptiness when I could not attend Friday prayers," the Indian citizen said.

"Not being able to go and pray had a very big impact on me. The day would not be complete without prayers."

The communications professional grew up in the UAE and said this was the first time he had not prayed in congregation in the country for such a long period.

"When we came to know, everyone was excited and shared the announcement. We have all been waiting for this one thing," he said.

Mohammed Fanni, 28, an accountant from Palestine, said he looked forward to getting back to his Friday routine.

Before mosques were closed, Mr Fanni used to walk to the mosque with his roommate every week.

“In the past few months, we would stay at the beach for the whole day, without having to break for Friday prayers. Now we will have to schedule activities around prayer times," Mr Fanni said.