The Sheikh Saud mosque in Sharjah.
World renowned Quran reciter in Sharjah
SHARJAH // It seems every Islamic recording shop in the Muslim world carries a CD or audio cassette of Quran readings by Salah Bukhatir.
He has led prayers big mosques in the Gulf and Japan, but his voice is most often heard at the Sheikh Saud Al Qasimi Mosque in Sharjah, where he is an imam.
"The mosque had a reputation as the taraweeh and tahajjud headquarters in Sharjah for having Salah Bukhatir, and often bringing other popular imams to work with him," says Mohammed Aqeeb, the mosque's other imam.
The climax is always in the tahajjud (after midnight) prayers of the last 10 days of Ramadan, when the whole neighbourhood turns into a place of prayer.
Roads close and people come from all over the UAE to perform their night prayers with one of the world's most popular Quran reciters.
"I had not seen anywhere people laying their mats into the road intersections to pray like they do here," says Eissa Abdullah, a resident. "People park their cars almost a mile away and come walking to this place."
Sheikh Saud Al Qasimi Mosque was opened in May 1996. It is popularly known as Bukhatir mosque by Sharjah residents. Few people, even in its Sahabah neighbourhood, know its real name.
The prayer area can accommodate up to 2,306 people, says Sheikh Abdullah Al Khayal, the director of Sharjah Islamic Affairs Department.
But the mosque's biggest attraction is Imam Bukhatir.
He memorised the Quran at the age of 24 when he had just graduated from university, he says, adding he was inspired by another famous reader, Sudais.
"There is a similarity in the tone and voice, but during the last few years I have diversified my style of reading to distinguish my voice from Sudais," Imam Bukhatir says. "There are times, however, when I still recite in my old style that people want to hear."
Worshippers at the mosque are learning how he recites.
"I have already copied his full voice and am now working on improving my tajweed," says Mohammed Banurah, from Sudan.
"When ever I go back to my country, I lead prayers in our mosque and everyone comes to pray to hear me reciting. I [tell] my peers that I learnt this voice live from Sheikh Bukhatir."
Abbudin Farraj, another resident, says: "If am not in Mecca during Ramadan I am in Sharjah every taraweeh with Bukhatir."
Imam Aqeeb says taraweeh pray-ers will be led by Imam Bukhatir for the first 15 days, then by Khalifa Al Tunaiji for the last half of the holy month.
Imam Bukhatir will lead the tahajjud prayers for the last 10 days.