Come the last Friday before holy month Ramadan, another landmark would be added to Dubai’s celebrated landscape matching the city’s ambition.
Though it has already made its presence felt physically, Al Farooq Omar bin Khattab Mosque and Islamic Centre will host its first congregation with a Friday prayer on July 29.
A replica of Istanbul’s fabled Blue Mosque, the Al Farooq Centre is designed to play a similar role that the historic Blue Mosque played with its extended community centre, a public kitchen, a hospital, a bazaar and a madrassa.
While Dubai’s Blue Mosque complex won’t have a hospital or a public kitchen, it houses a madrassa that will facilitate learning of the Holy Quran and Islamic courses, a library with a collection of some 4,000 Islamic and other religious titles to help advance learning, and a lecture hall that will be host to inter-faith dialogue to forge better religious understanding.
The complex also has the customary residences for the Imam (prayer leader) and Muezzin (the caller for prayers).
“Our idea is to pass on the message of Al Farooq (the title of Omar bin Khattab, Islam’s second caliph and a beloved companion of Prophet Muhammad(peace be upon him), who as a ruler extended his arm of benevolence to people from all walks of life. We want to spread the larger good of Islam rather than just being a player of worship. The centre and mosque would be open for people of all faith,” said Abdul Malek, who is the manager of the centre.
This means the mosque will be one of the three in the country and second in Dubai to open its doors for non-Muslims, the other two being the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi and Jumeirah Grand Mosque in Dubai.
“Omar bin Khattab gave generally amnesty to the Christian and Jewish population of Jerusalem after it was peacefully occupied by Muslim troops, and we want to continue his legacy of peace and brotherhood,” he added.
As part of the legacy, the centre will host regular inter-faith dialogues and also host talks by non-Muslim scholars to dispel misconceptions about different religions.
To begin the noble mission, the first prayer congregation in the mosque would be led by Kuwait’s renowned scholar and imam Shaikh Masharey bin Rashid Afasy and is expected to be attended by who’s who of the country’s elite and diplomatic circle.
“We have sent invitations to the Rulers and shaikhs of all emirates, including His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. We have also invited many ambassadors and consul-generals, irrespective of their faith, and we hope a very good turnout on that auspicious day,” said Abdul Malek, as he guided us through the complex.
The building’s Ramadan opening is considered auspicious and the centre has planned a month-long festival to mark the occasion.
As many as eight beautiful reciters of the Holy Quran would be flown in from different parts of the world for the special Tarawih prayers offered in Ramadan, special iftar majlis would be held for public every day of the holy month and night lectures by famous scholars would be held for the benefit of the community.
Already taking on the role of spreading the umbrella of peace, the centre looks to be the soul of the quaint neighbourhood of Al Safa where it is located, as passersby — both on foot and cars — get drawn as if by a magnetic pull to the magnificent structure.
“The complex is not yet officially open and finishing works are still on, but we already have dozens of visitors everyday. They are drawn towards the complex as moths are drawn to light,” said Abdul Malek, with his eyes swelled by tears of joy and pride.
The tranquil, almost sleepy surroundings of the mosques seem to be a reflection of the hallowed place of worship, a world far removed from the fast-paced and noisy city of Dubai.
The peace and serenity it brings is not unlike any similar worship houses of God, but what is unique is its design, which is a tribute to two splendid Islamic civilisations. A coherent mixture of Ottoman and Andalusian architectural styles, the structure is based on Turkish mosques of the Ottoman era — more precisely the legendary Blue mosque — though in the much smaller scale, the internal decorations, designs, calligraphy, inscriptions and patterns are taken after the Moorish style of Islamic Spain.
Held by a central dome that is 30 metres high and supported by 21 other half and full domes, resembling the Turkish style of building, the mosque has four 70-metre-tall minarets — the second tallest in the UAE after the Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque minarets — that are visible from kilometres afar.
The 2,000 capacity worship hall is 4,200 square metres in size, while the entire mosque site is 8,700 square metres, making it the biggest in Dubai leaving behind the Rashidiya Grand Mosque by a long way.
Handmade by the specially flown Moroccan craftsmen, who are still the guardians of Andalusian science of building, the intricate geometric designs and glazed tile patterns coupled with a mesmeric mix of calligraphy, Quranic inscriptions and 124 stained glass windows combine to form the most soothing symphony for a connoisseur’s eyes.
The grandeur and splendour of the interior take one back to the realms of the Mughals, the Ottomans and the Moors. Not that there aren’t similar structures around (how can one deny the mesmeric effects of Shaikh Zayed Grand Mosque?) it’s just that like the person it is named after, Al Farooq stands out tall and high.