Mosque is a haven for prayer and serenity
SHARJAH // The morning silence around Khalid Lagoon is broken by Imam Murtada Ahmed Bakour's call to prayer.
Soon the streets of Buhairah Corniche are bustling with people heeding his call to one of the grandest mosques in Sharjah.
To tourists, Al Noor is the postcard mosque: a highlight stop for travellers to Sharjah. But for the community, this is the place to spend Ramadan, contemplating the words of the Quran.
From the day's first call to prayer to the last, the mosque compound buzzes. Many people arrive early to squeeze in a few extra minutes and recite the Quran as the imam prepares for the second call.
"The mosque becomes a school of manners in this month," says Imam Bakour, who was chosen from the US by the Ruler of Sharjah to lead the Ottoman-era inspired mosque.
"The goal in this month is not only to give up food and drink; the reward is when the goal is to become a pious human being and raise your soul," he tells worshippers.
Al Noor, commonly known as the Turkish Mosque, was built in 2002 for the neighbourhood that had formed around the corniche.
Mahmad Farouq, an engineer from the Architectural Academic Office who consulted on the mosque, says the brief from the emirate's Ruler was to "make it different".
"Most of the mosques in Sharjah are Fatimid style but we were told to design one that would incorporate Turkish architecture," says Mr Farouq.
The result was large domes and semidomes placed in a succession between thin minarets that are typical of this style.
Imam Bakour says many come to the mosque on the banks of the lagoon for the view and the calm environment it provides. Here, he says, worshippers can be at one with God.
But several regular attendees at the mosque say they do not come for the view. It is the sound of the imam's voice that attracts them.
Uzzal Khan, who is the carpet cleaner at the mosque, should know. He rises in the morning and sleeps at night to the sound of the call to prayer.
"I am here all the time and it is wonderful to listen to the imam and his teaching," says Mr Khan. "And being involved with all the activities here is sawab [rewarding]."
The Sharjah businessman Mahmood Malik, 40, is always moved by the recitation during the night prayer, or taraweeh.
"It's like being transported to another place, being closer to Allah," Mr Malik says.
Imam Bakour, who is originally from Syria, says people travel from Abu Dhabi and Al Ain for the Friday prayers.
Last Ramadan, the 3,000-capacity mosque even welcomed worshippers from Morocco and Algeria.
"During the last 10 days of Ramadan people can stay in the mosque," he says.
"It is called itikaf. It is a time when Muslims shut themselves away from the materialistic world and devote their time to connect with Allah."
Imam Bakour says the mosque often has hundreds of people at this time trying to finish reading the Quran as many times as possible.
In the ladies' section of the mosque, a first-time visitor, Shehazadi Dua, 11, chose a corner for morning pray-ers with her mother.
"I feel so humbled by all this and very calm here," she says.
Her mother, Shehazadi Saba, says she decided to experience the morning prayer with the community before going home to start the day's fast.
"Just being here with all these people praying and remembering God helps me embrace the good in myself as well," she says.
"I do not usually come to the mosque but now I plan to do it every day."