x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Millions gather for Eid prayers across UAE

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, led worshippers at the Sheikh Rashid Mosque in Zabeel.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, centre, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, prays at the tomb of his late father Sheikh Zayed after Eid Al Adha prayers yesterday at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.  Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, centre, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, prays at the tomb of his late father Sheikh Zayed after Eid Al Adha prayers yesterday at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Ryan Carter / Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI // Millions of Muslims gathered in mosques throughout the country early yesterday to offer prayers on the first day of Eid Al Adha.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, led worshippers at the Sheikh Rashid Mosque in Zabeel.

In Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, performed prayers at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.

Sheikh Mohammed was joined by senior military and civilian officials, diplomats and Emirati and expatriate worshippers.

In his Eid sermon, Ali Al Hashimi, religious and judicial adviser at the Ministry of Presidential Affairs, said Islam was a tolerant religion that did not discriminate on the basis of colour, gender and race.

“We mark Eid Al Adha, a day on which Allah forgives those who repented and rewards philanthropists and believers,” he said.

Mr Al Hashimi said Islam called for unity and solidarity, and Eid was a reminder of that solidarity and of people’s duty to the nation.

He asked Allah for mercy over the soul of the late Sheikh Zayed, founder of the nation. Later Sheikh Mohammed and other senior sheikhs visited the tomb of Sheikh Zayed, his father, in the grounds of the mosque, where they prayed for his soul.

In Abu Dhabi, the 40,000-capacity Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque attracted the largest gathering of worshippers in the country – but mosques of all shapes and sizes were busy.

With one minaret, one hall and a capacity of no more than 200, the modest Khalifa City Police Station Mosque across the street from Al Raha Gardens could easily go unnoticed – but those familiar with the area know it well and began arriving before dawn.

Emirati Saeed Al Menhali, 19, arrived in uniform, coming from the adjacent police station. Despite having to work, he was still glad to see Eid Al Adha arrive.

“This day is pure happiness,” he said. “Eid is a time of connection, when Muslim communities become closer and neighbours and family come together.”

Mr Al Menhali and his family accepted that he had to work through the holiday.

“For me this is what Eid is about – not only giving my service and sacrifice to Allah but also to my country.”

Mohammed Mustafa, 44, an Egyptian expatriate who works in maintenance near by, has been praying at the mosque for more than three years.

“You wait for this occasion every year,” he said. “The feelings you get on this day are different from those on any other day of the year.”

Mr Mustafa has lived in the UAE for 10 years, His wife and five-year-old son are in Egypt, where he said Eid celebrations were completely different.

“In Egypt the streets fill with people and children and the festive mood can be felt everywhere, but in the emirates I can focus on my faith and prayers much easier as there are less distractions.”

On a typical Eid day he said would call his family after prayers and then meet up with friends in the afternoon at a coffee shop.

“But I’m part of an emergency maintenance crew so if anything comes up I am still on call, even today,” he said.

Speaking after prayers, during which the imam was so overcome by the occasion he began crying while reciting the Quran, Mr Al Menhali said this was to be expected.

“I believe when you hear or read the Quran on a special day like today it is very hard for any Muslim not to have his heart moved by the words of Allah.”

Shahid Alam, 27, was also touched by the imam’s outpouring.

“It made me think of the sacrifices Muslims have to make around the world to live in peaceful Muslim countries such as the UAE where we can enjoy Eid together in security.”

Mr Alam said his personal sacrifice of living away from his family in Bangladesh was more difficult to bear on days like this.

“Eid is just not the same without them and I will call my mother as soon as I get back home today.”

But not all made it to the mosque on time and Saad Sherif, 21, was disappointed after he jumped out of a taxi, ran towards the mosque, and slapped his own head after realising he had missed the Eid prayers.

A chemical engineering student, Mr Sherif had overslept in his nearby Masdar Institute dorms.

“These prayers are important and it is the least you can do.”

Mr Sherif would have preferred to return home to India for the holidays, but his passport was under process for his UAE visa.

“This is my first Eid away from the family and back home my mother would make sure I was awake.”

Despite his initial setback Mr Sherif was able to join prayers at another mosque.

tsubaihi@thenational.ae

* Additional reporting by Wam and Agence France-Presse