Dear Ali: According to surat al tawbah ayat 17 and 28, non-Muslims are not to enter our mosques, so why are they admitted to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque? DI, United Kingdom
Dear DI: Many scholars agree that non-Muslims are allowed to enter mosques only if they comply with certain rules such as those you will see posted outside the mosque, including:
- Wear modest clothing.
- Respect the surroundings.
- Be supervised (normally by a tour guide).
Also, bear in mind that the areas non-Muslims are allowed to enter are separate from the area where Muslims pray. Non-Muslim visits, therefore, are respectful and promote our peaceful faith, our beautiful and breathtaking architecture and our way of worshipping.
Not all mosques allow non-Muslims to enter, however. Two that do are Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai. There are proper rules and guidelines for everyone to follow, and supervision by guides and mosque staff.
Visits by non-Muslims cause no harm because, if you think about it, it's difficult to explain what happens inside a mosque to non-Muslims and especially to anti-Islam types who think we enter a mosque to seek inspiration for "jihad", when in reality we go to simply say our five daily prayers and read the Holy Quran.
Without these opportunities to show non-Muslims the truth we have only mostly images from Mecca of three million Muslims walking in a circle around a square-shaped building. I believe after careful study and well-managed plans by clerics and scholars, we are allowed to welcome non-Muslims to our mosques so that they can learn, accept, understand and appreciate our great religion.
Dear Ali: I am moving to the UAE from the US state of Minnesota. I know it is very hot there. How is a woman supposed to stay cool in the summer months if shorts are unacceptable, as I have read? Or can expatriate women wear shorts? AK, United States
Dear AK: If you look at the kinds of outfits people wear in really hot places, you will realise that they try to cover as much of their bodies from the sun as possible. They prefer light, loose clothes from natural materials that soak up the unavoidable sweat and allow air to circulate.
A lot of my western female friends, who at first could not believe that a bit more cover in the heat would make them more comfortable, now are happy with their choice of light and comfortable Indian cotton dresses and trousers, which they can easily find here.
Trust me, the direct sun on your skin will not only make you feel uncomfortable, but also is not the most healthy thing - and I am sure you want to protect yourself from possible skin damage caused by excessive UV exposure.
As for the cultural aspect to your question: the UAE is a modern but nonetheless Islamic country and therefore we appreciate it if people dress modestly out of respect for our culture and religion.
Of course, you can wear shorts or swimwear if you are at the beach or on a fishing trip, but in public places it is considered inappropriate. Women should preferably cover at least the knees and shoulders.
Jamee is another word for mosque but is inclusive of amenities such as a library. "Ana baser el jamee" is how a person would say: "I am going to the mosque". We refer to our beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque as Jamee Sheikh Zayed.