Haji Jawdat Mosque

Authors: Emine Bala, Mohammed Abdulghani, Ali Bala, Ibrahim Fatih Rasul

Foundation and History

The mosque was named after Haji Jawdat, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Erbil, born in 1938. A few years after his death, his sons decided to build a mosque in their father’s memory as a sign of love and respect and as a gift to their father’s soul. The ground-breaking ceremony took place on May 26, 2008, and took two years to finish. In 2010, a formal opening ceremony was organized by his sons, and famous figures from business, art and politics were invited from the region. Meanwhile, Najib Muhsin Shakali was chosen as the imam of the mosque, but was replaced by imam Kanan Muhammed Ali Abdulla mainly for Friday prayers and sermons. Omer Khalid Muhammed was assigned as imam for daily prayers. Both imams, born in 1982 and 1978 respectively, are graduates of the Theology Department of Salahaddin University in Erbil.

Front view of the mosque photo by Ibrahim fatih

Location and Building

The mosque is located in the district’s 32 Park between the streets of Mosul and Ainkawa on 100 Meter Street near International Erbil Airport. The location has a strategic significance because it is surrounded by upscale homes of expats and governmental buildings such as MRF and Empire Buildings, and police headquarters.

The mosque covers approximately 3,000 square meters, where 1,500 people can pray at a time. The basic blueprint and design were supervised by Haidar Anwar, who was a high official in the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

Haji Jawdat’s sons Haji Bahjad, Safin, and Dilshad are responsible for mosque administration, and other volunteers from the congregation play a role in management. Whenever any equipment requires maintenance, Haji Jawdat’s sons are there to repair them.

Praying Hall (Haram) and its Compartments

The area of the rectangular-shaped haram is 20 by 25 meters, and its height is 6.5 meters. Seen from outside, the mosque has a spectacular design and the interior walls are inscribed with the names of Allah. Inside the haram, there is an ablution area for wudu with soap, and both hot and cold water.

Prayer hall photo by Ibrahim fatih

Religious Events Hall

For religious events such as funerals or wedding engagements, there is a hall measuring 10 by 20 meters, complete with four-meter ceilings, to the right and opposite the haram. The hall has three entrances, each facing a different side, and is located in the yard of the ornately-decorated mosque. It has a room that is used for serving tea and coffee during the events.

Funeral prayers are held in Haji Jawdat around three or four times per month. Several volunteers of both genders participate in washing the deceased.

The Women’s Prayer Hall

The hall measures around 20 by 15 meters and 4.5 meters high. It has a separate entrance and exit from the men’s side, and is equipped with controls for air conditioners, lights, microphone, and sound system.

The Imam’s Room

Close to the funeral hall, the imam occupies a room measuring about 4 by 5 meters with a height of 3.5 meters. It includes all necessary furnishings such as a carpet, rug, air conditioner, lights, sofa, bookcase, and curtains. The imam may rest between prayer times in that room, and answer people’s questions about their religious and social life, and give consultations about their family life.

Prayer and Worship

Daily Prayers

Haji Jawdat Mosque, a Sunni mosque, offers all obligatory prayers together. Most daily visitors are neighbors or local residents, and about 100 to 120 people perform their daily prayers in the mosque. However, Fajr time – the dawn prayer time – is not as crowded as the other prayers because it is so early in the day. Around 20 people attend the prayers of Fajr, 40 people for Dhuhr, 30 people for Asr, 30 people for Maghrib and 25 people for Isha.

Before common prayers, the congregation sits quietly during the recitation of the verses from the Quran. The imam recites the Surah al-Fatiha and some other verses out loud during Maghrib, Isha and Fajr, while the others quietly repeat after the imam. The daily obligatory prayers are led by two imams; One of them, Mullah Kanhan, leads the prayers aloud, while another one, Mullah Omar, does so in silence. At the Haji Jawdat Mosque, they also perform Tasbihaat[1] loudly after each prayer, except for Fajr and Maghrib prayers.

Weekly Meeting (Friday Prayers)

Haji Jawdat Mosque has four cleaners. While two of them are paid by the government, the others are paid by the mosque owner. On Fridays, they start cleaning the mosque early in the morning. Friday sermons consist of two parts: the first sermon is in the Kurdish language, and the second one is in Arabic. Usually, one hour before the sermon begins, people gather in the mosque and recite the Quran individually. The Khutbah lasts about thirty minutes in Kurdish and Arabic; soon after the sermon, the visitors pray and leave the mosque. An estimated 1,500 to 1,700 congregants participate in Friday prayers. Occasionally, some people have to listen to the sermon in the courtyard or on the street due to the lack of space inside. This mosque is more crowded than other mosques in the 32 Park area because of the popularity of its influential preacher, Mullah Kanhan. Usually more men than women attend because women are not obliged to pray in a congregation for Friday prayers. An estimated 80% of attendees are men and 20% are women. As for their ages, about two-thirds are young adults.

Yearly Meetings

Approximately 400 people gather in the mosque every night during the month of Ramadan to perform Taraweeh[2] and Tahajjud[3]. When Ramadan is over, congregants celebrate Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha in the mosque. First, the imam recites some verses and congregants recite Takbir[4] in chorus between verses. Following the Eid prayers, the imam preaches in congregation, and later most people embrace each other as a symbol of spreading peace among Muslims. Nearly 300 people attend each of these two prayers.

[1] Tasbihaat is a supplication to praise God, which is recited after the daily obligatory prayers.

[2] Taraweeh is an additional special night prayer in Ramadan.

[3] Tahajjud is a free night prayer for which Muslims get up during the night.

[4] Takbir is the magnification of God.

Community and Group Activities

During Ramadan, the neighbors of the mosque bring food to serve the congregants to break their fast and foster a feeling of togetherness. Also, some volunteers teach the recitation of the Quran to people of all ages during Ramadan. Furthermore, the people who go to Hajj or Umrah[1] spend one night in the mosque hall for funerals and weddings since it is near the international airport.

[1] Umrah is an Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that can be undertaken at any time of the year. By contrast, Hajj is an obligatory pilgrimage that takes place at a specific time of the year according to the Islamic lunar calendar.

Public Relations

A non-profit organization established in 2015, Zhyan (Life) organizes some charitable activities at the mosque. The organization, which is supervised by Imam and four assistants, has helped nearly 750 families in Erbil. The volunteers in this organization devote their work to God and help those who are in need by providing monthly financial support and food for families. Zhyan supported the Kurdish army Peshmerga during the war against ISIS. Additionally, people visit the imam in his private office to consult on societal or religious issues such as marriage, divorce, human affairs or fatwa in Islamic life.