x

Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

Mosques of the UAE: friendships and community spirit tell the story of Ateeq bin Rashid Mosque

A place where prayers are whispered and community was built

Ateeq bin Rashid mosque in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National Reporter
Ateeq bin Rashid mosque in Abu Dhabi. Victor Besa / The National Reporter

At the heart of one of Abu Dhabi’s busiest streets lies an Andalusian sanctuary, Ateeq bin Rashid Mosque, the neighbourhood’s cultural meeting point.

A girl tugs on her mother’s abaya urging her to walk faster to the door at the right of the mosque’s courtyard on Liwa Street.

“I’ve been coming to this mosque for the past seven years, since we moved to the area,” says an Egyptian mother of three.

Her face changes as she says her two older children give more priority to finishing school work than prayers at the mosque.

“Back when they were little they would all come with me even though that mosque was further away,” she says. “I wish they would make Ramadan a holiday for the kids so they have time to go pray at the mosque again.”

On entering the women’s prayer room, worshippers are in various positions of prayer before taraweeh prayers begin. Women tiptoe to friends they first met at the mosque years ago to exchange hugs and whisper greetings.

When asked what makes the mosque unique, Wafa Al Hourani, 49, points to women sitting in a circle reading the Quran. “The friendships here is what makes this mosque different,” she says. “We’ve been meeting here for the past seven years.

“I used to go to a different mosque, one that had stairs. But I changed to this one. You know, age and all, my knees are now too weak and this is much closer.”

The Moroccan-designed minaret stands at the centre of heavily populated blocks of flats, Baqalas and Indian restaurants.

In the mosque’s sahn, or courtyard, worshippers lean shoulder to shoulder on straw mats before maghrib prayers echo across the city. Dates are held between their fingertips to break their fast.

________________

Read more on the 'Mosques of the UAE':

100-year-old mosque built by pearl diver has stood test of time

Mosques of the UAE: A house of God built in exchange for dates and coffee

Quiet Abu Dhabi community mosque attracts a multinational congregation

Peace of worship found at RAK's Sheikh Salem mosque, where former Ruler prayed

________________

As dusk falls, Mojeeb Al Rahman distributes meals in iftar boxes to workers who come to the mosque every day. As night falls, he potters around the courtyard, smiling and collecting rubbish.

“I’ve been working in mosques for about two decades now,” says Mr Al Rahman, in his fifties. “Ten years in different mosques in Saudi Arabia, eight years in Talib Ibn Abu Talib Mosque in Ras Al Khaimah and six months in this one.”

Explaining why he likes working at mosques, he places his palm on his chest and points to the sky.

“This is all good deeds in my book,” Mr Al Rahman says. “That’s the only reason why I do it, so that when I die I know I will be at peace. God will be happy with what I have done with my life.”

After iftar, men and women enter the mosque through a shared passageway that leads them into their respective mihrabs, the niches in the wall that point to the Kaaba, to perform taraweeh prayers.

“I circulate between three mosques in Ramadan,” says Mohammed Osman, 28, as he walks to the men’s prayer room.

“But I’ve been coming to this one for the past three years for taraweeh prayers because it’s suitable to my location, and after taraweeh I go rest in my apartment because I have duties in the morning.”

Imam Zahed has led prayers in this neighbourhood for the past 20 years. He lives with his family in a flat connected to the mosque.

“This mosque is packed during all five prayers in Ramadan,” Mr Zahed says. “You don’t see that many people in it after Ramadan, except during Friday and dhuhr prayers.”

Al Qubaisi family founded the mosque in 1979. It accommodates about 200 women and 300 men in its prayer rooms.