Ramadan 2021: Sharjah's 200-year-old mosque is heart of the community

Alshoyoukh Mosque was built in the 19th century but has preserved its original design even as times change

More than a century before the UAE was formed, worshippers came to pray at a mosque at the heart of a Sharjah community.

The Alshoyoukh Mosque was known by a different name in those days – long before the shimmering skyscrapers that would come to stand tall in the nation's skyline were even dreamt of.

It was a different time, when Muslims gathered at what they would call the Bedouin Mosque.

Believed to be close to 200 years old, it is steeped in history and filled with warm memories.

My children were all born here and this mosque also meant a lot to them before they left the country. It's part of our lives

A larger mosque has since been built in the Al Gharb neighbourhood, but still the faithful come here to pray.

For Yahia Mohammed, the mosque's imam, this place of worship is everything.

There is a sense of belonging that grows stronger as the decades march on.

Some worshippers enjoy praying in the mosque’s small yard late at night, he said.

"Now, in Ramadan, workers, business owners from the businesses around the mosque and tenants from the buildings around here come to pray,” said Mr Mohammed, from Mauritania, who took on the role of imam eight years ago.

“It's everything to me spiritually and the connection between us is strong.

“My children were all born here and this mosque also meant a lot to them before they left the country. It's part of our lives.”

Dr Abdulaziz Al Musallam, chairman of Sharjah Institute for Heritage, said much has changed in this part of the emirate since the mosque first opened its doors.

"Houses of sheikhs, local notables and traders of Sharjah, like the house of Sheikh Majid bin Saqr, the house of Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr, and others were in this area," Dr Musallam said.

The 90-square-metre building underwent a few changes along the way.

“In the first stage palm tree leaves were used to build the masjid,” he said.

“Later on, coral stone brought out from the sea replaced the palm tree leaves on the walls while wooden sticks were used to cover its roof.”

Before being used in construction, the stones would be placed in pits of fire and left for 24 hours.

“This helped in the extraction of white plaster, which was also used in construction after being mixed with hay and sand.”

Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed Al Qasimi restored the mosque in the 1960s.

“It is said this happened in February 1962 but other stories say it happened towards the end of the 1960s,” Dr Musallam said.

A small rectangular yard in front of the mosque was originally built to allow travellers to rest before resuming their journeys.

The mosque, which can accommodate up to 125 men, is surrounded by shops, small companies and high-rise buildings.

Al Hisn Fort is just to the right of the mosque, which maintains its original design after renovations on the orders of Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi.

“It still welcomes worshippers every day except on Friday prayers,” Dr Musallam said.

The historic mosque, of course, must adhere to the challenges of the modern age, namely Covid-19.

With physical distancing in place, about 36 men can pray at any given time.

But in the holy month, they still flock to a mosque that is a constant source of happiness in their lives.