x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Emirati royalty answer Khalifa's call to pray for rain

Sheikh al Hashmi led the prayer at Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque, where only 30 men attended.

ABU DHABI // Rulers and Crown Princes of several emirates participated yesterday in a prayer for rain, or Salaat al Istisqaa, called for last week by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, the President of the UAE. The prayer is a religious service originally performed by the Prophet Mohammed when rain was scarce. Now the prayer is also offered during rain season in the hope that more rain will fall.

In Sharjah, Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed, the Ruler of the emirate, offered prayers with congregates at the Al Badee prayer grounds, reported WAM, the state news agency. Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid, Crown Prince of Ajman, and Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed, Ruler of Fujairah, attended the prayers in their emirates. Rain is viewed with great respect in Arab culture. Arabic has numerous words for rain, with one of the more common words also meaning relief.

The prayer, led by an imam, comprises two parts: praying for rain and a short sermon. In Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Ali al Hashmi, religious adviser to Sheikh Khalifa, said he was not happy with number of people who turned out to join in the prayer. Sheikh al Hashmi led the prayer at Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Mosque, where only 30 men attended. The mosque is one of the largest in the world and can accommodate nearly 41,000 people.

"If the nation's leader has called for Istisqaa prayer, the religious affairs authorities should inform people about it," Sheikh al Hashmi said. He said officials from the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments should have made a more organised call for the prayer and ambassadors representing major Muslim communities should have been invited. Sheikh al Hashmi added that non-Muslims could also be invited to the prayer as it concerned every member of the community.

"It had been a long-standing tradition where non-Muslims attend the Istisqaa prayers," he said. "The tradition had been dropped only in recent decades. "We pray for rain because it is a mercy from God upon slaves. In the early days of Islam men and women and children used to attend the prayer with their cattle." mhabboush@thenational.ae