Article in brief: The author talks about his experience in visiting different mosques in the UAE and the importance of preserving old mosques.
According to the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments, there are 4915 mosques in the UAE. The number of mosques has increased drastically in the recent years with the increase of population and the country’s development. New mosques design have been influenced by Turkish and Egyptian architecture which makes them so unique in the region. Today, the grand mosque in Abu Dhabi, besides its spiritual importance for Muslims, stands as a magnificent example of beauty and architectural design.
On my visits to various cities in the UAE, I search for old mosques as their simple structures and basic designs attract me. Mosques in the past were very simple in design with a capacity of 20 to 30 worshipers, with the exception of mosques inside the city, which tend to be larger in size.
In a recent visit to Habhab, a small village in the outskirts of Fujairah, I found an old mosque in between the farms. The mosque was small, built with stones and palm tree wood. The square shape “mihrab” was carved carefully in the wall allowing enough space for the “imam” to lead the prayer and had little windows for air circulation. The mosque didn’t have a minaret like modern mosques, as traditionally small mosques were built without it. Unfortunately, the mosque was in a bad condition and needed immediate maintenance. Given that it was still possible to pray in it.
Initially, I thought that this was an abandoned mosque and no one would pray in it. However, around Maghreb Prayer I noticed an old man leaving a nearby farm and going towards the mosque. I greeted him and introduced myself and we started talking. Sultan is a 50 years old farmer from Pakistan who has been living in Habhab for the last 25 years. I asked him about the mosque and he said: “This is a very old mosque, no one knows when it was built. Look at its condition and the material used to build it. This must be at least 200 years old”. I was a bit curious about his reasons to pray in this old mosque when the new mosque is not that far. However, Sultan didn’t answer me and instead said: “I go to the other mosque also, but I like to pray here.” Praying in the old mosque with Sultan was very spiritual. The mosque did bring a high level of peace to myself.
The sad part is that the mosque was not maintained and may collapse at any point of time. This mosque like many other traditional mosques in the country needs attention as they have both religious and historical importance.
Sultan may not be able to rebuild the mosque, but by praying in the old mosque he brings life to it. We need more people like Sultan; therefore I urge you all to look for the oldest mosque in your neighborhood and find out what it is that is needed to continue its role as a place of worship. Let’s us work together in serving our faith and protecting our history.
Abdulla holds a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering and a Master’s in Business Administration. His abstract passion for history and literature with a hint of photography adds to his noble enduring quality. Abdulla enjoys visiting museums, art exhibitions and likes to spend his spare time in the outdoors. His column “Emirati Reflections” is a mixture of stories from the past and insights of the present, which blend together and formulate his understanding of the UAE’s culture.