Al-Fourqan Mosque

Authors: Johann Hafner, Mohammed Abdulghani.

History and Foundation

The mosque was built in 1983 on the road between 100 Meter Street and 120 Meter Street, commonly known as the road to Company 77[1] in the Rasty district. The district has developed in recent decades, making it necessary to build a mosque there.[2] The current imam’s aunt and her husband sponsored the construction.

It is remarkable that this building does not bear the name of its donor, but rather a religious name “al fourquan” (“the scripture”). From 1985 to 1990 it was the most prominent of the Erbil mosques. The Friday prayers were crowded because the imam, Abdulghani Taha, was popular. Taha was known for his critical sermons against the Baath regime. He was finally sentenced to two weeks in jail for his statements. After the regime fell, he became Minister of Justice from 1996 to 2000 in the Kurdistan region. In 2003 he retired from politics and chose to serve as an imam until to the present day (2021). He is known for his rather rigid theology that is not salafyi, but strictly conservative.

Court and mosque from the outside.                © Johann Hafner

[1] Company 77 is a well-known cement manufacturing company located at the end of the road.

[2] Interview with Dr. Mala Abdulghani (imam of the mosque), October 15, 2021.

Location and Building

The campus encompasses an ablution area and a house for the caretaker of the gate. An old security checkpoint (dating from when the mosque was a possible target), located to the right of the entrance, now serves as a storage room.

The first floor was used for activities like funerals and weddings until the new building was established for activities in 2015.[1] Due to overcrowding, a second story was built in 1989. The second floor was used for women’s prayers. Since 2015, the first floor has been used for women and the second floor as a storeroom.

The four offices were demolished and rebuilt in 1999 into two offices and a tea room. In 1993, a second floor was added to the haram hall. An inconspicuous graveyard behind the mosque contains the tombs of the sponsors. According to the tradition to prevent any veneration of humans, the graves are not maintained and left as untended spaces for nature. Some shops along the street side belong to the mosque, and the rent they pay goes toward the budget.

Street side of the mosque.                          © Hafner

Adjacent to the campus, an empty lot is reserved for an Islamic Institute that the imam plans to establish. The building next to serves as the funeral house for washing the dead.

The court inside the campus has no greenery but a small fountain. The mosque itself is rectangular (20 meters by 12 meters) with no special architecture and no dome. The entrance hall (haywan or iwan) has shoe racks and fills up when the haram gets overcrowded. The same applies to the gallery above the haywan, where visitors can participate in the prayers behind plexiglass walls.

Prayer rows and mihrab in the haram.                       © Johann Hafner

The haram has 12 prayer rows. Five chandeliers and several ceiling lights illuminate the room at night. The mihrab has a wood-panelled interior equipped with a clock for prayer times and two bookshelves. The inscriptions above the mihrab display the shahada “No God, only Allah. His prophet is Muhammad.” The front side has two windows with large air conditioning units. A mobile wooden minbar is placed beside the mihrab for Friday prayer to be removed afterwards.

At Friday prayer, a mobile phone for live streaming on Facebook and a recording camera for the archive is usually set up before the preacher. There is a row of sofas at the far end of the room for visitors.

[1] In 2015, a new hall was constructed on the north side of the mosque. The hall is used for weddings and funerals.

Prayer and Worship

Five minutes after the call the imam takes his seat.[1] The mosque is usually about half-full by that time. The volunteer muadhin Akram recites the adhan (the Islamic invitation to prayer). Then the imam begins to preach in the Arabic style called “muqaddima.”[2]

After five minutes the imam takes over with announcements (message of the day, prayer for the sick in the congregation) and continued with a sermon on kindness. He quotes verses from the Quran and hadith about the kindness of the prophet and of God himself. After that, he explains situations from the prophet’s life: Mohammad did not embarrass those who tolerated someone urinating in the mosque, whereas others scolded the offender. In another, when a student wanted to prevent his colleague from praying because his beard was still wet, the prophet kindly accepted the colleague for prayer.

The imam adds several examples of everyday life: a kind man is loved by others; a teacher will reach his students better, if he forgives little shortcomings; a trader will sell more, if he shows kind interest in the family of customers etc. The sermon concludes with an admonition: Even if Muslims pray and fast, it will not be beneficial if they act and speak harshly.
The imam speaks for 20 minutes using a slip of paper with his notes. He underlines his sentences with dramatic gestures. Throughout the sermon he speaks aggressively in a loud, emotional tone that could in no way be considered kind. One ideal of Muslim preaching is to imitate Mohammad, who allegedly spoke with such energy that his veins protruded from his neck.

Some 280 males and 50 females participated in the Friday prayer on September 24, 2021.

Daily Prayers

The majority of congregates come from the neighbourhood. Approximately 80 to 100 people – mostly male – attend each prayer; about half of them do it on a regular basis. The Fajr prayer is crowded in this mosque because the imam starts 45 minutes after adhan of Fajr (morning call for prayer). On Fridays, the Fajr prayer attracts around 150 persons.

Yearly Meetings

During the month of Ramadan, about 300 people come to the mosque for Taraweeh. The imam’s son usually leads the Taraweeh prayer. During the last 10 days of the month, people remain in the mosque overnight and recite the Quran individually. They also conduct Tahajjud night prayers in a congregation of around 400 men and 100 women.

Around 350 to 400 men and 100 to 150 women take part in Ramadan and Adha Eid celebrations. This mosque hosts three to five funerals and weddings every year.

[1] Observation on September 24, 2021.

[2] According to tradition, the prophet praised Allah before starting his khutbah.

Community and Group Activity

As one of the pillars of Islam, zakat is a form of obligatory charity. The imam receives nearly $10,000 in zakat donations each year, which he distributes among the less fortunate.

Public Relations

There is a Facebook page dedicated to the imam, Sheikh Dr. Abdulghani. As of October 16, 2021, the page has approximately 500 followers.