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Monday, July 15, 2024

UAE shortens Friday sermons to combat extreme summer heat

The directive has been well-received by the community, with many acknowledging the challenges posed by extreme heat.

In response to soaring summer temperatures, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has implemented a new directive to shorten Friday sermons and prayers to just ten minutes. This measure, enforced by the General Authority for Islamic Affairs, Endowments, Zakat (Awqaf), will remain effective until early October, ensuring the safety and well-being of worshippers during the scorching summer months.

Addressing Heat-Related Health Concerns

The UAE, which experiences extreme summer temperatures ranging from 48 to 50 degrees Celsius, sees the new directive as essential for protecting the health of its Muslim community. An Awqaf spokesperson explained, “The reduction aligns with Islamic practices to protect community health.” This move mirrors similar measures taken by neighboring Saudi Arabia, where Friday prayers and sermons have been limited to 15 minutes at the Two Holy Mosques during the summer.

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Practical Implications of the New Directive

Friday, the holiest day for Muslims, features special congregational prayers known as Jum’uah, often drawing large crowds. Typically, Friday sermons last between 10 and 20 minutes, followed by a two-unit congregational prayer. However, due to overcrowding in mosques, many worshippers are often left praying outside in the mosque courtyards under the hot sun. The new directive aims to offer significant relief to these worshippers.

Mohammed Yaseen, a Syrian expatriate in Dubai Sports City, praised the decision. “Recently, I had to pray outside and felt like my hair was about to catch fire,” he remarked. “I hope imams will also opt for shorter verses to make the prayer more bearable.”

Community Reactions

The directive has been well-received by the community, with many acknowledging the challenges posed by extreme heat. Dubai-based Islamic preacher Imam Ayaz Housee emphasized the importance of the new measure. “The community eagerly awaits the sermon each week and strives to attend, even when mosques are full,” he said. Imam Housee also highlighted the Islamic tradition of keeping sermons concise, noting that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) advocated for brevity in khutbahs as a sign of understanding religion.

Sudanese expatriate Mohammed al Hassan echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the difficulties of praying in such intense heat. “With temperatures exceeding 40°C, praying outside is extremely difficult. Reducing prayer time to 10 minutes will greatly help those unable to find space inside the mosque,” he said. “It’s a small change that significantly enhances comfort and well-being.”

Broader Measures to Protect Workers

This directive is part of a broader strategy by UAE authorities to mitigate the risks of heat exposure during the summer. From June until September, the UAE enforces a midday break policy, prohibiting work under direct sunlight and in open-air areas between noon and 3:00 p.m. This longstanding policy aims to protect outdoor workers from heat strokes and other heat-related complications.

Karim Elgendy, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank, highlighted the serious threat posed by rising temperatures in the region. “Rising temperatures in the region, combined with high humidity, create dangerous conditions. This presents a serious threat to human health in outdoor environments,” he stated.

Personal Experiences

For many residents, the new directive has already made a noticeable difference. Dubai resident Muzaffar Habib, who often rushes to a mosque from his work site, expressed relief. “The khutbah (sermon) was only for seven minutes,” he said. “It has become unbearable to stand under the sun in this heat. I feel like this year’s summer is hotter than usual.”

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Jordanian expat Mohammed Ali, who attended prayers in Jumeirah, also appreciated the shortened sermons. “It was so hot just to walk from the mosque to my car; I can only imagine how hard it must be to sit in the hot sun and listen to the khutbah and then pray,” he said.