A place to remember and pray to God is at the heart and essence of every community. People find individual and communal values and commemorate this by praying and serving together. More than culture, nationalities, and hobbies, remembrance of God unites. This Ramadan, Muhammad Sami Khalil united UAE’s Muslim community, giving them the freedom to practice religion by overcoming accessibility and construction hurdles, bringing the proverbial “well to the thirsty” with his ‘Mosque on Wheels’ idea – a mobile mosque, designed out of a trailer caravan that can be towed and parked anywhere.
From the heart
It all started in 2017 when Sami moved the office premises of DX Garage – their family business of 33 years from Rashidiya to Al Quoz Industrial Area #3 in Dubai. While it is an excellent location for automobile businesses, there is not a single mosque in this sprawling 400-acre area. Ironically, the majority of the population working here are Muslims and are forced to either pray alone, or together at their workplace, since visiting a mosque outside of Al Quoz is not possible. This dearth is exponentially pronounced during the holy month of Ramadan – thirty days of spiritual communion involving fasting, praying, and reflection.
Being a devout Muslim himself, Sami was moved by the plight of the working Muslim community here, especially the expats and laborers from many different nationalities who often did not have appropriate food to break their day of fasting – the ‘Iftar’ meals.
While having a mosque in the area could bring vast comfort to everyone, construction is time-consuming and expensive. It also requires many permits and approvals. A conservative estimate for building a mosque in Dubai is ten to fifteen million Dirhams.
Brilliant, creative, and giving, Sami found a workaround to the budget and land issues. Inspired by his love of automobiles, Sami’s clever design uses the concept of trailer holiday homes to create a moving mosque, with a special area for the Imam, a main ‘inside’ prayer area along with an extendable deck and an awning that serves as an ‘outdoor’ prayer area. Dedicated areas for ablution, shoe stowing, miscellaneous storage, a detachable staircase, and a minaret complete the mobile mosque design.
The community collaborates
Able to comfortably accommodate 46 people, Sami’s low-budget venture of 55,000 AED gained favor with everyone in the community instantly. Interior designer, Taj Nadzuni of Detail Masters, brought the design to life. Shabana Abdul Razzak of Maison de ARY and Kamran Riaz from Bin Dhahi offered unwavering support for this unique vision, while the community helped with technical skills and ideas. Soon ‘Mosque on Wheels’ became a community collaboration – with people of different classes, cultures, and nationalities coming together to create a place to pray. Few people donated water coolers, yet others took up the Iftar meal prep and distribution, services like glass work on windows, air conditioning setup, lighting, ceiling fan fixtures, and carpeting were provided for free. Approvals and permits required from the Department of Dubai Islamic Affairs were applied in record time and are already under process. The overwhelming support from friends, family, and community spurred Sami and his associates to work enthusiastically and bring the ‘Mosque on Wheels’ to life, in Al Quoz, on the first day of Ramadan this year. Serving free Iftar meals helped them quickly spread the word around.
Being portable, the ‘Mosque on Wheels’ can be moved and parked virtually at any location. Cost-effective and modular, it can be replicated as many times as required. In fact, the second Mosque construction has already begun.
Sami wishes to set up a total of 99 such mosques in Dubai – “There are ninety-nine names of Allah in the Arabic language.
I wish to name each mosque after one of His names.”
Like Sami, the ‘Mosque on Wheels’ initiative is creative and has a far-reaching impact. “Firstly, it gives the community a venue for regular visitation at a small distance, encouraging bonding, harmony, and brotherhood. Many people now know each other as they all visit the mosque frequently.” The second use Sami foresees is that of helping out overcrowded mosques during Friday prayers, Eid Prayers, and public spaces like malls where the number of prayer rooms is insufficient during rush events like DSF, GITEX, etc. Another use is that of personal events like funerals where a ‘Mosque on Wheels’ can be parked in the parking lots of residences of Muslim expats that are not big enough to accommodate visitors. Besides this, the mobile mosques can also be taken to mega-construction sites to help laborers and workers pray.
A ripple effect
The beauty of this idea is that it is scalable, budget-friendly, and adaptable to any community, anywhere in the world. Already, Sami says that a Muslim community from Zanzibar has requested a ‘Mosque on Wheels’ patented design. Sami plans to make the designs and other details available under their initiative’s umbrella on their social media FB page ‘Mosque on Wheels’ for a small fee that will be used as a donation for the community.
A CPCC life coach (Certified Professional Coactive Coach) and student of Bachelor’s in Psychology and Islamic Studies, Sami’s education has been geared towards religion, community, and helping people. Wanting to expand his philanthropic efforts, his next initiative will focus on enabling Muslims to understand and live by ethical conduct as per the holy scriptures. He plans on creating a networking organization that would help people keep track of their ethical failures and success with the help of an accountability partner and community support.
Sami has two children and hopes to impart his values with actions rather than words to them. “Growing up, hopefully, they understand my motives and what I am trying to achieve with these efforts.” He quotes his father, Mr. Muhammad Khalil, to summarize his way of life – “In charity, our hand should be the giving one. There is always more to give, more to help”, beautifully summing up the wisdom given to us from heaven itself.
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Every Muslim has to give in charity.”
The people then asked: “(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?”
The Prophet replied: “He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns).”
The people further asked: “If he cannot find even that?”
He replied: “He should help the needy who appeal for help.”
Then the people asked: “If he cannot do (even) that?”
The Prophet said finally: “Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524).