ABU DHABI // Prayers for rain rang out from mosques across the country early yesterday morning.
Rulers, members of the Supreme Council and Crown Princes of several emirates were joined by residents and nationals as together they prayed Salaat al Istisqaa (prayer for rain) at 7.30am.
The prayer, a religious service originally performed by the Prophet Mohammed when rain was scarce, is now also offered during the rainy season in the hope that more rain than average will fall.
On Thursday, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE, asked that the prayer be performed in all the country's mosques and musallas.
In each mosque, an imam led the two-raka prayer, which was then followed by a short sermon. Worshippers were asked to strengthen their faith through righteous deeds and prayers, to purify their hearts with piety and ask God for mercy, to ask for forgive of their sins and to abandon that which God has prohibited.
The importance of the prayer is to have rain that is "merciful and blessed", said Salem Ahmed, a farm owner in Madinat Zayed, so that things like flooding or dangerous storms do not occur.
"Flooding might not affect us in our farms as much as it will affect cities with insufficient drainage systems as in previous years, but as much as we want rain to fall, the point of the prayer is for rain to come upon us as a blessing and a mercy from God, not a tribulation or a cause of difficulty and mayhem," he said.
Although he was unable to attend the morning prayer, Mr Ahmed said rain is a much-needed source of life for the agriculture industry of the entire region, not only the UAE. "Our livestock need it, our camels, and there are so many kinds of trees that flourish with the rainwater."
"At the same time," he added, "there is a beauty to the rain and a calm it brings to the country, which is what we pray for."
The National Centre of Meteorology and Seismology (NCMS) forecasts a chance of scattered rain for both today and tomorrow, especially during the night and early morning.
However, said Sheikh Khaled Abdulaleem, a religious cleric in Dubai, that does not guarantee rain, and the prayer is still needed. "Weather forecasts will never be 100 per cent accurate, all they can do is predict based on probability," he said. "Winds can change unexpectedly, clouds can appear where there are none. It's all in God's hands."
The custom is for the rain prayer to draw out an entire community and have crowds congregating in worship and in asking God for rain, said an imam and academic research consultant in philosophical theology who asked not to be named.
There was limited turnout in some areas, but the imam, who sometimes gives the Friday sermon at Maryam bint Sultan Mosque in Abu Dhabi, said having the most pious and innocent people in a community attend the Salaat al Istisqaa was key.
"The most sincere people, women, children, these are the most important people who should show up and whose prayers will be answered, people who really care and have compassion in their hearts for the situation of people and children and animals and region suffering from a drought," he said.
At the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in the capital, one of the largest in the world with a capacity of 41,000 people, Sheikh Ali al Hashemi, religious and judicial adviser at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, led the prayer. In his congregation were 55 men and five women.
"Not enough" according to Alia Obaid. The 20-year-old student attended the prayer with her sister Mozza, 13, and their older brother.
"It is really a pity that such few people showed up," said Ms Obaid.
"We came because first of all it is a Sunnah and something that the Prophet Mohammed used to do and used to advise his people to do," said Ms Obaid.
Rasheed al Ghadban, an Emirati shopkeeper, praying at the Saqira Al Qubaisi Mosque, said the decision to pray for rain was not well publicised. "I think there needs to be a way to get the word out to people so that everyone knows this prayer is happening," he said.
"We should be praying as a community, and especially asking for good and merciful rain that is not destructive and harmful."