Hadji Murad Mosque

Authors: Emine Bala, Mohammed Abdulghani, Ali Bala, Soma Farhank Mustafa, Nazanin Muhialdin Maaroof

Foundation and History

The mosque was founded in 1962 by Hadji Murad Miro Mikail, who was originally Jewish and converted to Islam. Hadji Murad’s family is an old and rich family from Erbil. However, after his conversion, his family no longer supported him financially and disinherited him.

       The mosque was initially much smaller than it is today. It was renovated and rebuilt in 2011 by Haji Suleiman Jalal Khoshnaw, as the original mosque had become too small and was no longer suitable for the growing congregation.[1]

       Muhammad Faqe Murad, a grandson of the founder and a medical doctor, looks after the mosque’s administration and delivers the khutbas during Friday sermons. The Haji Murad Mosque does not have a written chronicle.

       Mullah Omer Khalit Muhammed, who is from Makhmur, has served in this mosque since 2012. Another mullah, Saib Hazim Ismael, is from Erbil. Both Mullah Omer and Mullah Saib studied religious education at Shehit Mala Abdulla Plitani, the madrasa in the Sawwaf mosque, and graduated in 2003. They then earned their bachelor’s degrees in theology in 2007. Mullah Saib was the imam of Spi Mosque until 2005. Since 2011, he has been imam of Haji Murad Mosque. Both imams are famous for their heartfelt recitations of the Quran, with which they lead the daily prayers, and which are based on the reflections of mosque visitors. 

       In addition, four employees look after the maintenance, cleaning and reputation (muadhin) of the mosque. Two of them are paid by the government, while the other two are financed by the mosque owner.

Haji Murad mosque.  ©Nazanin Maaroof

[1] Nazanin Maaroof and Soma Farhank Mustafa. Personal interviews with Dr. Muhammad Abdullah Faqe Murad, Erbil. February 26, 2019.

Location and Building

The Haji Murad Mosque is located on 60 Meter Street across from the Dedeman Hotel. A shoe store is on the right side, and a secondary boy’s school on the left. Some stores in the neighborhood are upscale, while others are cheap, suggesting that the socioeconomic status of visitors is mixed. The surrounding area is a strategic location for retailers, making it all the more practical for locals to go and pray at the mosque.

       The floors of the mosque are square in shape. The building has two doors: One of them is the main gate located on the right side, and the other is enclosed by white fences. On the front side of the mosque, a few posters show safety instructions and emergency numbers. Some stickers provide the contact details of gassals (whose job includes washing and preparing the deceased), while a plaque shows the name of the mosque, the year of construction and the renovator of the mosque. All this information is displayed on the wall next to the entrance.        At the entrance, stalls sell socks, tissues, lighters, small perfumes and other sundries.  On the ground floor of the mosque, there is a main praying hall and four bathrooms for males, just to the right a generator room. There is a lounge area where people spend time conversing before and after praying. Before entering the main praying hall, a double door lined in black and gold leads to a bathroom for ablution of the men. On the second floor, there are four rooms: A hall for special occasions such as Mawlid or feast celebrations, a prayer hall for women, and two offices for the employees and preachers. The mosque has three offices – one for the main preacher, and two for guest preachers. Around 2,500 people can fit in the men’s section and around 100 fit in the women’s section. However, the women’s section is used only for the Friday prayers and during Ramadan; on other days, the men use it. The women’s section has a separate entrance and a private bathroom for females only.[1] A separate room exists for religious education lessons, such as translation and interpretation of the Quran, and tajweed lessons (rules for correct pronunciation of the Quran).

Women’s prayer hall door. ©Nazanin Maaroof

[1] Nazanin Maaroof andSoma Farhank Mustafa-Personal interview with Dr. Muhammad Abdullah Faqe Murad. Erbil. February 26, 2019.

Prayer and worship

Daily Meetings

In the Haji Murad Mosque, the Maghrib and Isha are the busiest prayer times probably because of their location within many stores whose owners indicate that they do not have a lot of time to return home and pray; instead, they would rather go to the mosque nearby. Approximately 150 people participate in each of those two prayers whereas around 15 people in Fajr, nearly 90 people in Dhuhr and about 100 people in Asr prayers participate.[1] Women do not participate in daily prayers.

The congregation does Tesbihat silently altogether. People wait in the mosque 15–20 minutes to pray more or recite the Quran; sometimes they even stay to study. Before each prayer, some people come earlier around 30 minutes to pray on their own, recite the Quran or do Tesbihat.

Friday Prayers

Friday prayer consists of two parts, Friday sermon and Friday prayer. Even if the imam has not studied theology, he can deliver khutbas for about 35-40 minutes. The topics are general. Before the sermon, the Quran is sometimes recited by one of the congregation members who arrive at the mosque early; this is an individual rather than a collective act. Tesbihat is performed in silence, and children who participate in the prayer are rewarded with sweets. Some visitors stay for a while after the Friday prayer to continue praying.[1]  About 100-150 men attend the daily prayers, but no women, probably because the mosque is located in an industrial area where mostly men work. In addition, many Muslim foreigners visit the mosque and the other visitors who are interested in the history of the founder, since he converted from Judaism to Islam. Like any other mosque, the Awqaf Ministry gives the mosque three topics for the Friday sermon, from which the imams can choose according to the needs of the people. The topics are usually politics, religious rules, current social issues, spiritual matters, morals and ethics, which are usually of interest to the congregations because they want to hear the religious perspective on the above topics.

Annual Gathering

Some festivals, including Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, are celebrated at the Haji Murad Mosque. During these festivals, about 400-450 people, including 50-100 women, participate in the ceremonies as they want to share their joy with the community. Especially during Ramadan, about 500 people participate in the Taraweeh prayers, which are accompanied by beautiful recitations of the Quran by the mullahs.

Life-Cycle Events

On the first floor of the mosque, there is a small room for washing the dead, located next to the men’s ablution area at the back of the mosque. Although there is a special room for washing the dead in the mosque, it is rarely performed. The mosque is located on a main street in the city and does not have a parking lot. However, since many people would come to the mosque for washing the dead, this would cause traffic chaos as their parked cars would block an important road. Therefore, the Ministry of Endowments has warned the imam not to perform the washing of the dead. This is also the reason why the mosque does not have an event hall. For the same reason, weddings are not held in this mosque. The birthday celebration of Prophet Mohammad (Mawlid) is also not celebrated in the mosque, but the Sunnah is celebrated instead.[1]

Community and Group Activities

At the Haji Murad Mosque, there are religious study groups for men and children who want to refresh and deepen their religious knowledge in the areas of fiqh, catechism, kalam, hadith or Quran recitation. The mosque administration occasionally organizes social activities such as visits to restaurants or gyms in order to get better acquainted with life in the mosque.[1]   Donations are collected from congregation members by one of the trusted staff members and then forwarded to the preacher in charge of them. Sick and poor people are financially supported by the mosque administration as part of social solidarity. Normally two volunteers clean the mosque, but during Ramadan, the visitors do it together. The preacher and the other two preachers not only give sermons but also help the sick or people with family, social or spiritual problems. People say they like the preacher because he is either a doctor or a preacher and a companion to all. They want to shake his hand and talk to him about any questions they have after prayer. The main preacher is usually at the mosque on Fridays where people can spend a limited time with him after prayer. From Sunday to Thursday he works in the hospital. Some seminars are held on medicine, health care and its relation to religion.

Public Relations

The mosque does not have its own website, but there are some Facebook pages set up by locals to share the imam’s sermons and provide information about community life. However, the mosque’s imam, Dr. Muhammad Abdullah Faqe Murad, has an official YouTube channel under his name through which he uploads his sermons.[1] Relations between the mosque and the other mosques are very good. Mainly because the Sayed Gharib Mosque is nearby and has a good relationship with the mosque.[2]

There is no weekly or monthly newsletter printed, but there are some posters on the wall in the garden with information about the history of the mosque, emergency numbers, and the phone numbers of the people who would wash the dead.