Watch: UAE streets turn into 'open-air mosques' well past midnight, overflow with worshippers for Laylat Al Qadr

Police officials worked round the clock to ensure public safety, while volunteers helped the elderly and the handicapped who had arrived at masjids to offer prayers past midnight


Nasreen Abdulla

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Published: Tue 18 Apr 2023, 2:10 PM

Last updated: Tue 18 Apr 2023, 11:07 PM

Abu Dhabi resident Sabeel Abdul Kareem lives just 15 minutes away from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. But on Wednesday night, he spent more than an hour in traffic to get to the mosque for the midnight Qiyam prayers. He then parked two kilometers away from the mosque and set off by foot to reach in time for the prayers.

Similarly, mosques and prayer halls across the UAE overflowed with worshippers on the eve of the 27th of Ramadan. Laylat Al Qadr (night of power) is one of the holiest nights in Islam, with Muslims believing it was when the holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Although the exact date remains unknown, Muslims are told to seek the night's blessings on one of the odd nights of the last 10 days of the holy month.

In this incredible time-lapse taken on Wednesday night, row upon row of worshippers are seen standing at the gleaming white marbles of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, with the prayer halls filled to the brim. Some had to stay outside the iconic site:

Videos posted by the Sharjah Police on social media show hundreds of worshippers flocking to mosques across the city as police officials worked round the clock to ensure their safety and convenience.

Rows of worshippers spilled over into the streets and sidewalks all around the emirate as volunteers set up barricades and laid out sheets to accommodate them. Volunteers helped the old and handicapped who had arrived to pray in congregation on the holy night. Officers were out on the street throughout the night to control the heavy traffic.

Sabeel, who has been to the Sheikh Zayed mosque several times this Ramadan, said the place was packed. “There were security guards everywhere,” he said. “They would close off the entrance and adjust the rows before allowing more people in. I reached around 12am after leaving home before 10.30pm and I was lucky enough to get space inside.”

However, Sabeel said there were long queues outside the washroom and the ablution area. “I contemplated going to the washroom but abandoned the idea upon seeing the rush,” he said. “I have come here for all the other odd nights and never faced such a rush. The 27th night rush was just unprecedented.”

Here's how the scene looked at a mosque in Ajman:

This is the first time in four years that the special midnight prayers are taking place without any restrictions or distancing. After Ramadan 20, residents have been flocking to mosques past midnight for special prayers. However, it peaked on Monday, on the eve of Ramadan 27.

Here are some snaps taken from at a mosque in Deira, Dubai:

Dubai resident Mehnaz Anshah decided to go to a different mosque on the 27th night. “I usually go to the Omar Bin Al Khattab mosque but when I went for Taraweeh prayers on Monday night, the masjid was already packed so I decided to go to a smaller mosque,” she said. “I headed to a mosque close to our house in Jumeirah with my husband and daughters. Even that mosque was unusually busy and almost full by the time we reached.”

For Mehnaz, the Qiyam prayers bring a lot of nostalgia. “When we were younger, my entire family used to head to the Salah Bukhatir mosque for prayers on the odd nights,” she said. “My aunts, uncles and cousins would all join us. We would be a group of at least 15 to 20 people. And after the prayers, we would catch up or head for an early Suhoor meal. Even in those days, around 2002 or 2003, the 27th night would be the busiest. Many days we would pray outside the mosque despite reaching early.”


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