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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 5 March 2021

In Abu Dhabi, a makeshift mosque but heartfelt prayers

Ramadan prayers intensify during the last 10 days of the holy month as one of the days is destined to be Laylat Al Qadr, or Night of Power, which was the day the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
Residents in Al Wahda, in the capital, perform isha prayers at the site of Mosque 299, which was knocked down two years ago. Jaime Puebla / The National
Residents in Al Wahda, in the capital, perform isha prayers at the site of Mosque 299, which was knocked down two years ago. Jaime Puebla / The National

ABU DHABI // Those who pass the remnants of Mosque 299, off the back streets of Al Wahda, are met with an assembly of rolled-up carpets and old office furniture that turn the spot into a prayer ground for dozens of residents.

Varicoloured straw mats cover the space that marks the makeshift mosque, their perimeter lined by shoes and slippers. As the time for prayer nears, a bearded man walks to the front of the area.

Abdel Malik Buyukhan gives the call to prayer without a microphone, over the cacophony from the nearby bus station.

Growing up in an Islamic school in the mountains of Pakistan, he has never known another way.

“During Ramadan, this is the important thing: prayer,” Mr Buyukhan says. “Where and when is not important, but the prayer. Laylat Al Qadr is a moment for all Muslims to be devoted, to be in prayer for Allah. So for me this is a blessing.”

Ramadan prayers intensify during the last 10 days of the holy month, one of which is Laylat Al Qadr, or Night of Power – the day the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed in 610, in Hira Cave, Mecca.

Mr Buyukhan, a volunteer imam, teaches Islamic studies to local pupils and has been living in Abu Dhabi for 18 years. For eight of them, he has prayed mainly at Mosque 299.

The mosque was a prefabricated structure equipped with air conditioning.

Mr Buyukhan says people have been going there for years, as they had become accustomed to praying at the “caravan mosque” before it was demolished two years ago.

The Government went through a wave of demolitions over the years to ensure all mosques adhered to the capital’s development regulations.

Those rules are in line with its Abu Dhabi Capital 2030 plan. The goal is to have a mosque within 350 metres of every home.

“Some mosques costs millions to build but have nobody praying in them,” Mr Buyukhan says. “Our mosque costs nothing but is rich in prayer.

“At the end of the day prayer is what is needed, and at Laylat Al Qadr this is the most important thing.”

Mohammed Lukman, a fruit seller whose windows overlook the makeshift mosque, says the area is the most convenient place for him to pray. The nearest mosque is 15 to 20 minutes’ walk away.

“It’s easier for me to close my shop for a few moments, pray quickly and come back than walk all the way and risk losing business,” says the Bangladeshi.

Babar Abasi, a Pakistani working for an engineering company, lives in the area and comes to pray for convenience.

“I could walk to the nearest mosque and pray in an air-conditioned area,” says Mr Abasi. “Then again, I can avoid the 15-20 minutes of walking in the heat during daytime prayers by spending five minutes under the sun praying here.”

For him and others in the area, spending time in the local coffee shops drinking tea and waiting for prayer before going to the mosque that they have been attending for eight years will be how they observe Laylat Al Qadr.

nalwasmi@thenational.ae

Published: July 22, 2014 04:00 AM

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