Faithful relish calm on day 1 of socially distanced prayers in UAE
As the faithful went through the new normal for prayer, the precautions were noticeable and, to some extent, strange.
The faithful relished every moment of peace and calm as they offered their prayers on Wednesday, the first day of reopening for most places of worship across the country.
For the first time in more than three months, people heard the phrase "hayya alas-salah" (come to prayer) again from the muezzins of mosques across the country. And worshippers were overjoyed as they heeded the call. Some even called it 'magical'.
Abu Dhabi resident Meraj Siddiqui said: "My soul felt revitalised today as I heard the muezzin announce Hayya Alas Salah (come to pray) and I raced towards the mosque. The feeling was magical, soothing.
"Life is rolling at a dizzying pace and, today, after over three months I experienced that solace, calmness that I used to feel earlier when I would pray at the mosque."
Dubai resident Irfan Yusuf said that when he stepped inside the mosque, he realised how much he missed the sense of peace it brings.
"I would try to pray all my five prayers in the masjid but after this long gap my love for praying at the mosque has doubled," Yusuf said.
'A different experience'
As the faithful went through the new normal for prayer and worship, the adjustments and precautions were noticeable and, to some extent, strange.
"It was a different experience as for the first time we were not praying shoulder to shoulder in a congregation. We were spread out as we maintained the social distancing norms," said Yusuf.
"I saw some familiar and unfamiliar faces wearing masks and greeting each other from far, including our imam."
At the Sheikha Bint Suroor mosque, which is located in a commercial area along Sultan Bin Zayed Road (Muroor road) in the Capital, only 42 people out of the usual 200 prayed together.
With the 30-per-cent limit on mosques' capacity, some weren't early enough to make it inside.
"I missed the congregation for the morning prayer (Fair) because I got there late. I had to prepare myself early for this afternoon prayer so I can be among the first to get in," said a 21-year-old barista, Mohammed Yousef from Uzbekistan. Bringing his own prayer mat and wearing a mask, he was the among the first people who came for the Zuhr prayer at the mosque.
Omar Salem, a Pakistani expat in Abu Dhabi, said another thing he would now have to get used to is avoiding handshakes and hugs.
"It is quite strange for Muslim worshippers to gather at the mosque and leave without shaking hands or hugging. This is an important norm in the Islamic religion and part of our culture in socialisation," said Salem.
"But we can't do it for now even when we meet for prayers because it is a precautionary measure to avoid spreading and contracting the virus. We are hopeful the situation will slowly get back to normal and return to our usual norms after the pandemic is over."
Reminder for mosque-goers
As the 770 mosques in Dubai reopened on Wednesday, the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai (IACAD) sent out a circular highlighting important points that mosque-goers have to remember
Friday prayers will remain suspended in all the mosques until further notice, the circular stated.
"The gap between Azan and Iqaamah will be five minutes for every prayer, except for Fajr prayer, for which the gap will be 10 minutes. The doors of the mosques will be closed soon after each congregational prayer and the total time period for which the mosque will be open will be just 20 minutes," it added.
The circular, a copy of which Khaleej Times has studied, also stated that mosque management must remain vigilant and create awareness amongst the worshippers about the importance of bringing their own prayer mats and not leaving them there after the prayer.
Some of the activities that will remain suspended until further notice even as the mosques reopen, include lessons and lectures at mosques and janazah (funeral) prayer. Water coolers and dispensers will also remain unavailable until further notice, it stated.
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