Ramadan 2021: return of midnight prayer to mosques brings joy to worshippers

The tahajjud prayers are an important ritual during the final 10 days of the holy month

Worshippers across the UAE took part in late-night prayers during Ramadan for the first time since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Muslims performed tahajjud at mosques on Sunday amid a gradual easing of safety restrictions.

In late April, authorities revealed that the optional prayer, performed during the night, would be held at mosques in the final 10 days of Ramadan after complying with precautionary measures.

The prayers must be held between midnight and 12.30pm. Elderly people and those with chronic illnesses are advised to pray at home.

Muaz Shabandri, an Indian communications professional in Dubai, said he was happy with the return of an important Ramadan tradition for the first time since 2019.

“To get back to tahajjud prayers was great as this is a big part of Ramadan rituals," he said.

“There was happiness all around.

“In many ways it is yet another way of things coming back to normal.

“For a Muslim these are the most important nights of Ramadan and the entire year.

"There is a sense of calm and serenity when attending the prayers at midnight.”

Mr Shabandri said he had prayed tahajjud at mosques in the country for 10 years now.

Islam places an emphasis on praying in congregation in the last 10 nights of Ramadan, which are viewed as the most precious of the holy month.

Mr Shabandri said worshippers had to follow social-distancing protocols, wear masks, and carry their prayer mats.

He said security guards at mosques helped manage crowds and ensure people followed rules.

'An eagerly awaited experience'

Mohammed Abdulla, an Indian resident in Dubai, said participating in prayers at a mosque was a joyous occasion.

“It was emotional and eagerly awaited experience to return to tahajjud at the mosque,” he said.

“It was a spiritually uplifting experience and everyone had a smile on their face.”

Mr Abdulla grew up in the Emirates and attended the prayers at mosques in the country since he was 10.

The 38-year-old resident reminisced about attending prayers with his family and children.

He said he had hoped to attend the prayers last year but mosques had remained shut.

“I was born in the UAE, and have prayed at mosques here for close to 28 years," he said.

“When I was a child, I would go to the mosque with my father and play or sleep there.

“People are diligent and get their own prayer mats and follow the rules."

He said being back at the mosque helped him feel united with the community, and spiritually connected, even amid a pandemic.

In previous years, tens of thousands of people could come together for tahajjud.

In 2013, about 52,000 worshippers performed tahajjud on the 27th night of Ramadan at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

Volunteers at mosques are instrumental in controlling crowds and ensuring people followed social distancing guidelines.

Worshippers must keep a distance of two metres from each other.

Mohammad Moin Uddin, imam of Ali Salem Al Kaabi Mosque in Abu Dhabi, welcomed the return of congregational tahajjud prayers for the first time in two years. Victor Besa / The National
Mohammad Moin Uddin, imam of Ali Salem Al Kaabi Mosque in Abu Dhabi, welcomed the return of congregational tahajjud prayers for the first time in two years. Victor Besa / The National

Mohammad Moin Uddin, the imam of Ali Salem Al Kaabi Mosque in Abu Dhabi, said the mosque could accommodate 350 worshippers previously, but can now take only 100 because of social-distancing rules.

“I was emotional and happy to lead prayers. It felt very good,” said Mr Moin Uddin.

“It felt very peaceful to lead the prayers at midnight.”

He reminded worshippers of social-distancing guidelines at the beginning of prayers.

To ensure people follow regulations, Sheikh Dr Fares Al Mustafa, religious and cultural affairs adviser, imam and khateeb at Al Farooq Omar bin Al Khattab Mosque and Centre in Dubai, also gives daily reminders of social distancing before starting prayers.

Before the pandemic, about 3,500 people used to gather for tahajjud at the mosque every day. Now the mosque can accommodate a maximum of 800 people.

Updated: May 4, 2021 08:45 AM

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