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Worshippers at Al Noor Mosque in Sharjah. Mosques in the UAE reopened on Wednesday. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: Strict adherence to guidelines was observed as UAE mosques re-opened after more than three months on Wednesday.

Worshippers said the guidelines for praying at mosques, such as leaving enough gap between each other, were easy to follow.

They also spoke about the spiritual relief of being able to pray together again as a community, while following social-distancing guidelines.

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Worshipper at Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque, known as The Blue Mosque during the prayer time. Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

This follows the period of the first-ever closure of mosques in the UAE, introduced as a precaution against the coronavirus outbreak.

The federal announcement to suspend prayers at mosques, and other places of worship in the emirates, had come on March 16.

For Wednesday’s re-opening, Islamic authorities had revealed a series of guidelines that worshipers must follow at mosques, such as leaving an empty row between two occupied rows, wearing masks and gloves, and bringing their own prayer rugs to the mosque.

‘My happiness knows no bounds’

Praying at Al Qasba Mosque in Sharjah on Wednesday was Indian expatriate Akram Khan, 50, who said: “My happiness knows no bounds. It has been a long three-and-a-half months since I prayed at my neighbourhood mosque [Al Qasba]. I’m a regular here and plan to come for prayers every day.”

He advised people to come early for prayers.

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AlKarama AlKabeer Masjid in Karama opens it’s doors for Dhuhr prayers at 12:22pm on 1st July, 2020. Photo Clint Egbert/Gulf News

“Since there are only a few minutes now between the Adhan [call to prayer] and the start of the prayer, in my view, people should come a little before Adhan so they don’t miss the start of the prayer. You can also catch the first row this way.”

Call to prayer

The Adhan has been changed back to the regular format that includes the phrase “come to prayer”, instead of the “pray at home” phrase that was in place during the closure period.

For Mazhar, an Afghan expat in his 40s, the re-opening of mosques has also conjured up memories of working before the pandemic started.

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Worshippers at Kng Faisal Mosque in Sharjah. Mosques reopen on Wednusday, 1st July 2020. Mosques had been closed as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus pandemic since March 16th 2020, and reopens with guidelines to take precautions against COVID-19. 30th June 2020. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

“Me and my staff are often outdoors. We would welcome the prayer break and refresh ourselves. We would freshen up in the ablution area and have water from the coolers. Once, during the restrictions, I wanted to take rest at a mosque, but realised mosques were closed. It’s a relief to know mosques are open again,” said the Dubai resident.

“I had been really looking forward to this day, when mosques would open again. Thankfully, we have the opportunity to pray again together, while taking the precautionary measures, of course,” he added.

Phased opening

Mosques are being opened in a phased manner – at only 30 per cent of capacity for the time being. Still closed are prayer rooms in malls, women’s prayer halls in mosques and ablution areas.

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Worshipper at Al Farooq Omar Bin Al Khattab Mosque, known as The Blue Mosque during the prayer time. Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

Another Dubai resident, Mohammad Omar, a 44-year-old British national, said it felt “surreal” to head back to the mosque again. Omar added that he was not at all concerned about praying in congregation, as the re-opening has come with guidelines.

‘There is no cause for concern’

“I’m pleased with the precautionary measures introduced by the government for worshippers; these will safeguard us. I’m comfortable about praying in mosques again; there is no cause for concern if everyone follows the instructions,” Omar said.

Other places of worship

In Ajman, Pakistani expat Zubair Haider, 41, said it was not always easy for people to find a suitable place to pray when mosques were closed, especially for people on the go. “It’s great news to hear we can go back to mosques again. I used to wonder how people working in small shops would pray during the restrictions. Now, everyone has a place to pray. And I’m satisfied with the precautionary measures in place at mosques; they are simple and easy to follow,” he added.