People offer prayers on an open ground in Al Nahda area of Sharjah. Image Credit: Atiq ur Rehman/Gulf News

Sharjah: Last Ramadan, a group of residents in Al Nahda Sharjah came together to conduct special night prayer congregations in an open plot of land, because the nearest mosque is more than a kilometre away.

What started as a temporary arrangement for Ramadan last year has stayed on, as worshippers continued to gather for congregations even after Ramadan, converting the prayer area into an open air mosque.

Popular among the local residents now, the open air mosque is even marked in Google Maps.

However, the regular worshippers, especially those who took the initiative in creating the space, are now seeking help in converting it into a temporary portacabin structure, so that people can pray five times a day away from the summer heat.

“We created this prayer space last Ramadan because the mosque is far away and it is not easy to walk while fasting. But praying in the open is also not easy. We hope we can get permission and help in building a temporary structure so that we can pray comfortably indoors,” said Musa, a grocery owner, who was among those who took the initiative to create the prayer space.

Using a plywood board for the mihrab (a niche in the mosque that points towards Makkah, a direction to which Muslims face while praying), old rugs for flooring and small concrete blocks to mark the parameters of the praying area, residents have built the space on a private land, praying four times a day.

“We only pray four times a day here, because at the noon time it is very hot outside and most of the people are also at work, so the congregations are held only for morning, afternoon, evening and night prayers,” added Musa.

Located near Marco Tower, the prayer area overflows during Maghrib and Isha — the last two prayers of the day — with rows of worshippers forming beyond the demarcated prayer area.

“People pool together the funds to maintain the place and we also have a regular imam who comes four times a day to lead the prayers. We just hope this leads to a bigger and proper mosque, where people can pray comfortably,” said Abdul Hameed, a watchman who works in a nearby building and one of the initiators of the idea.

Many residents, who found out about the place much later, find the idea of not having to walk a kilometre to reach a mosque more appealing.

“There are not many mosques in the Al Nahda area. Those that are there are at a fair distance, so when I found out about this place just behind my building, I started praying here. But now it is getting hotter and praying in the open is getting difficult. I hope we can convert this into a proper mosque, even a temporary air-conditioned structure would be nice,” said Junaid Khan, a resident who has been attending the open air congregations since January.

According to Musa, recently a group of residents approached the authorities for help and the worshippers are now waiting for a positive response.