x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Shops closed for not suspending trade during prayers

Sharjah Municipality is shutting down shops attached to mosques that do not suspend sales at prayer times.

SHARJAH // Thirty shops attached to mosques have been closed in the past 18 months for not suspending business during prayer times, authorities say.

There are 351 shops owned by the Sharjah Awqaf General Trust near mosques.

Shop owners signed an agreement with Awqaf as part of their tenancy contract to respect all Islamic traditions, including a directive to stop working when a call to prayer is made at the neighbouring mosque, said Hassan Saab, the director of investments at the trust.

"We have our inspectors going around all mosques in the emirate where these shops are found and warning any shop found open during the prayer times," he said. "We also appeal for those coming to prayers to report any shop at the mosque they find open."

At first, the inspectors warn shopkeepers not to do it again. But if they are found committing the same violation three times, they are permanently closed.

Mr Saab said the trust had met with Sharjah Municipality and the Department of Economic Development to decide on the type of shops allowed near mosques. Those include grocery stores, cafeterias, tailors and laundries.

Shops such as women's salons are banned from operating near mosques and in buildings owned by Awqaf, he said.

"This is to preserve the privacy of women going in salons, a teaching well-respected in Islamic cultures," Mr Saab said.

Grocery shops must sign an agreement to not sell cigarettes or magazines that show women on the cover, he added. The shops can be shut down for such violations.

Several owners of shops in al Qassimiya that are part of the Awqaf group said the strict penalties were justified, as most tenants were Muslims and agreed to the provisions when they signed their contracts.

"There are always fines for breach of any contract and the Awqaf contract is clear on respecting Islamic traditions," said Aqir, who owns a grocery shop.

"I find it very improper to continue selling while people are praying and would always close my door even if I was not renting Awqaf shops."