Regai Bahasht Mosque
Authors: Emine Bala, Mohammed Abdulghani, Ali Bala, Ibrahim Fatih Rasul.
Foundation and History
Regai Bahasht was founded in 2015 by Farhad Faqi who is a young, well known, and humble businessman in Iraqi Kurdistan; he has a company named “Dinary Iraqi” which is for currency exchange. The cost of the mosque was approximately 2 million dollars. Farhad Faqi said that he made the mosque build only for the sake of the God that is why he did not give his name or any names from his family to the mosque. Instead he gave the name Regai Bahasht which means “road to paradise”. People state his eager for Islam led him to think about building a mosque, he prefers to sit at the back of the mosque not to identify himself as the owner of the mosque. An opening ceremony was held by Farhad Faqi and his brothers with the attendance of approximately 15.000 people and also with some well-known people including ministers, governor, experts, and imams. After Mullah Fatih Sharistani sermon the ceremony, all of the attendants had a meal together. At the end, they formally announced the opening of the mosque in 2015. The Imam of the mosque, Mullah Fatih Sharistani, is considered as a knowledgeable and wise person and one of the most famous imams in the country. In 2015, he was chosen as the most influential speaker in Iraqi Kurdistan. Besides presenting the lectures, he is also a writer. He has written 16 books and many people in both Iraqi and Iranian Kurdistan know them. His library includes 3.000 books. He does not have any relationship with the political parties, and he works as a volunteer. The Imam finished high school in Sulaymaniyah and Ranya and studied there for 6 years to become an imam. One of his famous teachers in Sulaymaniyah was Mullah Mahmud Sharstini.
 Interview with Farhad Faqi (Founder of the mosque), 20.4.2019.
 Interview with Mullah Fatih Sharistani (Imam of the mosque), 20.4.2019.
Location and Building
The mosque is located between Dara Tw and 120-meter street in Erbil. The point which should be considered here is that, after establishing the mosque, many houses have been constructed around it. Before the mosque was founded, the quarter was not developed enough. Later over time, the price of houses rose rapidly. As people used to move there, the government started to construct public buildings such as schools, primary healthcare centers and roads for this area.
The design of Regai Bahasht mosque looks like the United Arab Emirates’ mosques. It has a large dome. The minaret’s shape is square and about 20 meters high from the ground that it can be seen from 120 Meter Street, Erbil. The inner walls of the mosque are designed with Allah’s names, it has been designed by experienced Turkish designers.
The haram of the mosque is 10.000 square meters and 8.000 persons can fit in the mosque. It has special prayer rooms for both men and women and event halls for wedding or funerals. Additionally, there is a house and an office for the Imam of the mosque. There is also a fountain in the middle of the mosque garden.
Regai Bahasht has six cleaners for the mosque. While five of them work on a voluntarily basis, just one of them is fully paid by the government.
 Latif, Omer. “Gashtek ba naw Mzgawt w Takyakani naw Shary Hawler” [A Tour Through the Mosques of Erbil]. Erbil 2012.
Prayer and Worship
The majority of the congregates come from the neighborhood of the mosque. Approximately 80 to 100 persons attend each prayer in the Regai Bahasht Mosque and in general almost 50 % of the participants come to the mosque continuously. But unlike other prayers, Fajr – the dawn prayer – is not crowded due to the early time when people do not wake up. The daily prayers are led by Mullah Hemn who is paid by the government.
Usually, on Friday mornings, the mosque becomes more crowded and 12 volunteers clean the mosque and deal with the security issues. Before Friday prayer, the Quran is recited by an internationally famous Quran reciter, Imam Sanger. Usually, more than 4.000 Muslims attend the sermon of the mosque. So many people come to this mosque from far places and even sometimes outside of the city because of the inspirational khutbahs of the Imam. According to congregations, he has a very humanistic approach and moderate Islamic interpretation. 80 % of the participants are young. The attendees consist of about 70% men, 20% women and 10% children.
In Ramadan, about 1.000 people come to the mosque for Taraweeh, the special night prayers during Ramadan. Imam Karwan, voluntarily leads Taraweeh prayer during this month. His voice resembles a famous imam in Mecca, Maher Al-Muaiqly that attracts people. After Taraweehs, Islamic speeches are presented by Mullah Fatih Sharistani throughout Ramadan. At the last 10 days of Ramadan, people stay in the mosque from the evening till morning and they recite the Quran, pray, prostrate and ask to the God for forgiveness. This is called I’tikaaf in Islamic terminology. They also pray night prayer which is called Tahajjud in congregation with the participation of almost 2.000 people. To perform this prayer, people get up from sleep at night.
Additionally, in the month of Mawlood, the celebration is held one or two times with the participation of thousands of people due to the Prophet’s Birthday and sweets are served and Islamic chants are sung.
 Interview with Mullah Hemn (Imam for the daily prayers), 10.2.2019.
 Interview with Mullah Fatih Sharistani, 20.4.2019.
Community and Group Activity
The mosque has an institution which is running under the supervision of the Ministry of Endowment. The mission of this institution is to educate newly graduates of theology faculties to become knowledgeable and well-equipped imams in the future. For each cycle, about 50 students who are selected by the Ministry of Endowment come and stay there for 50 days. The students stay in dormitory rooms where two people share and a shared kitchen inside where they may prepare their own meals. The instructors who are assigned by the Ministry of Endowment give lessons about Kurdology, mosque management, Fiqh methodology, moderate Islamic interpretation, patriotism, etc. for free and no tuition is required from the students. These lessons are available for both genders but conducted in different places.
This mosque has its own source of water, and it is also free for the neighborhood to use it. There is no hall for the funeral. In Ramadan, the volunteer supervisors who are eligible from the congregates teach how to read the Holy Quran to about 300 students in the main hall voluntarily.
 Interview with Walid Muhammad (Neighbor and volunteer of the mosque), 10.2.2019.
 Interview with Mullah Hemn, 10.2.2019.
The mosque has an official page on YouTube and Facebook named as Mzgawti Regai Bahasht. The Facebook page has around 215.000 followers, and the Youtube channel has around 18.000 subscribers. The people share the sermons in those channels and thousands of people may watch live from outside of the mosque and abroad. At the end of the year, the imam collects his sermons in one DVD, makes 1.000 copies and distributes to the congregations of the mosque freely, also he does the same for Ramadan sermons.
More than 10 TV channels have uploaded the sermons of the imam in Ramadan. According to Rudaw TV (a very popular channel in Iraqi Kurdistan), at the first Friday prayer in 2015, more than 15.000 people participated which broke the record of being the most crowded mosque in Kurdistan, and also 15.000 people were served food in the opening ceremony of the mosque.
Some lectures which have been presented by Mullah Fatih Sharistani:
• Human rights
• Protecting environment
• Respect elderly
• Women rights
• Children rights
• Purifying the heart
• Understanding the meaning of life
• Advising Muslim to respect other religions
- Understand the name of God meaning
Encouraging people to do charity and many other subjects which are suitable with contemporary issues.
 Interview with Mullah Fatih Sharistani, 20.4.2019.