View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Friday, May 25, 2007

UAE Mosques Must be Emiratised, Hi-Tech, Online, Multilingual

An extensive report by the General Authority of Islamic and Awqaf Affairs is recommending sweeping changes to mosques and the practice of corporate worship in Abu Dhabi, which might also be the catalyst for reforming Islamic worship throughout the UAE.

The article written by staff reporter, Nissar Hoath, appeared in the Gulf News on 15 May 2007 and is entitled ‘Mosques go High-Tech’.

Hi-Tech Worship
The electronic innovations soon to be implemented in the capital’s mosques include an electronic network system, with electronic screens displaying prayer and prayer call (Azan) timings, titles of Friday sermons and Islamic lectures.

Mosques Online
Other suggestions include:
* MP3 devices for recording and storing Friday sermons and lectures,
* Sermon and Lecture downloads via the Internet
* Hotline for reporting concerns and offering suggestions

Correspondents added the hope that online materials might be available in languages other than Arabic but some wondered whether people would decide to say their prayers online rather than attend the mosque in person.

Another interesting request was for major mosques to provide a translation facility, especially for Friday prayers, so that the speech is translated into different languages for non-Arabic speaking Muslims.

Mosque Maintenance
The proposals arose in a debate about the poor conditions of mosques in Abu Dhabi, especially in regard to cleanliness and general maintenance. Some correspondents to the Gulf News complained about the lack of clean toilets at mosques, the defective sound systems and the dilapidated facilities at mosques in rural areas and along the highways.

Mosque Overview
There was a call for the replacement of all wooden and temporary mosques with new and permanent buildings. It was also noted that there are 2,757 mosques in Abu Dhabi. The authority manages 1,870 of them, 887 are privately managed and 753 are wooden and temporary structures. The budget for these mosques, including salaries, maintenance and affiliated education programmes is Dh12 million.

For international readers of this blog it is worth noting that UAE mosques are intended to be only a brief walk away from people’s homes. In our street, which takes 15 minutes to walk from one end to the other, I can count 10 mosques. There are larger mosques to which people drive their cars when they gather for the major Friday worship experiences.

Emiratise Mosques
Emiratisation (the movement by the UAE government to proactively employ its citizens to reduce its dependence on foreign workers) has yet to make its impact on mosques as it was noted that almost no UAE nationals are employed to manage mosque affairs and there are no national imams, muezzins and religious scholars.

To respond to this lack, Abu Dhabi Muslim leaders are looking at setting up an institute to train UAE nationals to serve as muezzins leading prayers in their mosques and prepare lecturers for educative purposes.

Geoff Pound

Image: Large mosque by Abu Dhabi highway.