Mosques of Qatar: Beyond Places of Worship

Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Cultural Center (Fanar)

The Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center is also known as “Fanar” or Qatar Islamic Culture Center. This landmark is a cultural organization in Doha, located close to the Corniche and easily seen by its spiral minaret. Moreover, as a mosque, it is considered an important cultural center for Islamic culture and Arabic language, hosting a library, an exhibition and lecture halls all in one building.

This center publishes and distributes easy-to-read booklets in many different languages to help readers understand Islamic culture. It also provides courses for new Muslims and Arabic language classes. The new name of the mosque was given in remembrance of the Qatari Islamic scholar and founder of the Qatari judicial system, Sheikh Abdulla Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud. This was the largest mosque in Qatar until the next mosque on our journey, the State Grand Mosque, was built in 2011.

The State Grand Mosque (Mohammad ibn Abdul Wahab Mosque)

Imam Mohammad ibn Abdul Wahab Mosque. Photo from the mosque’s official website, http://www.jameaalemam.com

Covering over 175,000 square meters with a capacity of 30,000, the State Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in Qatar. It officially opened in 2011 and was also given the name “Imam Mohammad ibn Abdul Wahab Mosque.” It is now well-known by both names. If you visit this mosque, you will enjoy its fascinating old Arabian architecture style. It has a single minaret and a total of 95 domes of different sizes. The architectural concept is very similar to the Bu Legbaib Mosque, but the State Grand Mosque is far bigger. This large area holds male and female prayer halls, a library, a Holy Qur’an memorization area, ablution areas and washrooms, and outdoor prayer space. In addition, it has covered car parking.

Imam Mohammad ibn Abdul Waab Mosque, interior. Photo from the mosque’s official website, http://www.jameaalemam.com

Here in this mosque, traditional Qatari architectural beauty meets modern technology. The lighting system adds ambiance, and the sound system guarantees everyone in and around the building can hear the proceedings. The building also has its own media center and built-in cameras for media coverage. The building and its spiritual atmosphere, lectures and cultural activities all make this mosque one of Qatar’s most important landmarks. The mosque’s website is only in Arabic at the moment, at www.jameaalemam.com

What You Need To Know About Mosques

Who is welcome in Mosques?

Mosques accept visitors and tourists from all over the world. Unlike what many people think, you do not have to be a Muslim to enter a mosque. Everyone is welcome! Non-Muslim visitors will not be banned from entering mosques, although they may not find things to do in the small mosques while Muslims pray. However, it is different at the big mosques, which welcome visitors and tourists individually or in groups to teach them about Islamic culture.

Still, there are few guidelines everyone should follow when entering a mosque:

  • Dress code: Clean and modest attire. Ladies are urged to cover their heads and wear a long dress when entering a mosque.
  • Voice level: We should maintain a low voice level inside a mosque.

That’s it! So easy 😊.

What is the Athan?

If you have never been to a Muslim country, you may have not heard the Athan before. However, if you live in Qatar, then you hear the Athan five times a day. Besides the live Athan from mosques, you also may hear a recorded Athan in shopping malls, public parks, libraries and even on your friend’s mobile phone!

Athan is the declaration of a prayer time, also known as the call to prayer. Athan timings change a bit from day to day depending on the length of the day, but the five general prayer times are at dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset and night. Because the Athan is performed by humans, you may notice the difference in voices among Athans from different mosques.

In the following video, you will hear an Athan from Qatar TV calling to the noon prayer:

And as an example of differences in voice and performance, the following video is the Athan calling to the dawn prayer, with English subtitles:

These are only two examples of Athan voices. For me, the recorded Athan at Qatar National Library remains one of my preferred Athan voices. Come visit us and hear it.

Personally, I consider the Athan a message to take a break from the busy life and focus on the spiritual side of prayers, and I come back in a fresh mood to continue life’s responsibilities.

Mosques During the Pandemic

In March 2020, many places in Qatar had to be locked down due to COVID-19, including mosques. This was sad to many Muslims, who were used to performing their prayers five times daily in mosques. Even the Athan (the call to prayer) changed to call people to “pray at home” instead of calling them to the mosque. This change was in line with the Prophet Muhammed’s (Peace and Blessings be Upon Him) advice for cases when people should pray at home instead of going to mosques due to unsafe conditions.

For me, it was the first time in my 36 years that I heard an Athan telling us to stay home, and I cannot explain how sad this experience made me. After three months of closure, this sadness was followed by great happiness of having these “doors of mercy and peace” open again! Mosques are open!

In this video, Mosa Abdul Alim, a basketball player at Al Wakra Sports Club explains his happiness and excitement after the mosques opened. He simply had to hear the iqama coming from the mosque to realize that they were back open. Enjoy watching!

Still, some precautions must be followed in mosques after the pandemic. Mosques are now open in Qatar only for people who show a healthy status on their Ehteraz app (the official app in Qatar linked to individuals’ health records), and visitors must wear face masks, bring their prayer mats and maintain social distance.

To conclude, I would love to say that mosques, whether they are architecturally ornate or simple, are spots of beauty and peace on our planet. Their impact goes beyond how we see them to how they make us feel inside, and the mosques of Qatar are at the heart of our collective community.

Group prayer before Covid-19, photo from http://www.jameaalemam.com
Group prayer after Covid- 19, photo from: http://www.raya.com

Book Recommendations

The history of Qatari architecture from 1800 to 1950 

By Ibrahim Mohamed Jaidah, Malika Bourennane

Book | Skira | 2009 | First edition.
ISBN: 9788861307933

99 domes : Masjid of Imam Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab 

By Ibrahim Mohamed Jaidah

Book | Skira | 2015 

ISBN: 9788857222783

Open Source Book

The Masjid, Yesterday and Today

by Zakaryya Mohamed Abdel-Hady

Publisher: Center for International and Regional Studies


Written By:

Ahmad Naddaf

Ahmad is an Information Services librarian at Qatar National Library, specialized in Islamic Jurisprudence and its foundation. Ahmad looks to the Library as a place for learning, exploring, and engagement.

#QatariLitMonth is curated by Abeer S. Al-Kuwari

Abeer works as director of Research and Learning Services at the newly established Qatar National Library (QNL). Abeer’s work focuses on engaging library researchers in the Qatari community to explore archival and libraries as memory institutions and documentary heritage.

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