x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

The house of prayer that Suhail built

Suhail Mohammed Sulieman, 23, has had his modern mosque and Islamic center (Awqaf), Al Saadiyat Masjid, approved for construction by the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments in Abu Dhabi.

Most architecture students have few ambitions for their final-year project beyond picking up credits for their degree, but Suhail Suleiman had loftier goals.

In designing Al Saadiyat Masjid, the Emirati student from Alhosn University, wanted his first project to "show the world what our Emirati culture is about".

And he is achieving that goal. The General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (Awqaf)in Abu Dhabi has approved his design for a modern mosque and Islamic centre.

Mr Suleiman, 23, says it "will be open to all and illustrate the openness of our religion, with respect, and heritage to all visitors".

Years in the designing, it drew inspiration from Islamic centres throughout the world.

"I researched mosques from China to Morocco and studied their styles and structures in depth," Mr Suleiman says.

He opted for a more contemporary feel to his mosque, which will feature a partially translucent roof with letters spelling Allah in Arabic reflecting on to the mosque during the day, and beaming into the sky at night.

Mr Suleiman came up with the idea when returning from the Umrah pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

"Flying over Saadiyat I pictured the mosque beaming up the name of Allah in the sky," he says. "I want all those who fly over the area to see God's name from the sky."

The architect says he loves challenges and was presented with one when Awqaf told him that to pay proper respect to the name of Allah, the shadow cast by the letters must not be stepped on.

"My design now reflects Allah on to the Qibla, the direction of prayer," he says.

"Most mosques consist of a dome, minarets and a courtyard, but I want to include an Islamic centre in the same building."

Mr Suleiman envisions the centre as holding a library, an auditorium, a coffee shop and a nursery.

"It will be a place where people can come to learn about Islam through books, discussion and meetings while their children are taken care of."

Having worked closely with the Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), Mr Suleiman has designed the project to complement the rest of Saadiyat Island's architecture.

He has also designed the mosque to be environmentally friendly by using eco-friendly building materials and designs.

"The mosque will be lit mostly by natural light and a silent fountain inside the mosque will serve to cool the climate as a place for ablution, using filtered grey water which will also irrigate landscape," he says.

It will feature removable carpet portions to enable cleaning or replacing.

Born and raised in Abu Dhabi, Mr Suleiman says his primary concern is giving back to his country.

"Every step of my education and project I have been encouraged by Emiratis, from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed's scholarship, people at Awqaf and TDIC, and all of my fellow students and professors at Alhosn University," he says.

"I plan to devote my next and many more projects to them and our society."

Mr Suleiman was offered the chance to continue working at Awqf after an internship there.

"People asked me: 'why didn't you just get a salary with them?' I want to build more than just mosques and further my experience as an architect."

For now, Mr Suleiman is dedicating all of his time to his mosque project. He says he is working hard on developing the design, and hopes "to take the next step towards fulfilling my dream".