A few years ago I knew by chance from an official in Cairo governorate that al-Rahman al-Rahim mosque overlooking the main road of Salah Salem was not authorized to have a ceremonial hall… this happened as I was late to a meeting I was supposed to be the first to arrive to since I was the inviter… I apologized and explained how cars were forced to change their course and go back in the reverse direction so that they may find a way out to avoid the blockage resulted from cars parking in lines next to the mosque until the road was completely locked… that official in charge at that time was one of the guests…
It seems that matters worsened even more that a massive iron fence was made to separate the side street parallel to the mosque while iron blockages with the sign “Cairo traffic” written on them erected outside the fence… also a car-lifting crane in addition to few policemen were deployed to prevent cars from parking in lines… however, it was in vain!
A short distance from that mosque lies another one; that is the police mosque where the mosque’s dome bears the shape of a hand grenade and the end of the minaret has the shape of a bullet… situated in the side street next to the police mosque is the traffic department…
A short distance before that mosque lies the way coming down from al-Bo’outh al-Islamiya bridge where cars come down sometimes rushing and most times slowing because of the huge number of cars lining and pedestrians crossing the street without any traffic light or pedestrians’ passing lines and away from any discipline practiced from any responsible authorities… there have been many running over and crashing accidents by cars in this place… moreover, many quarrels and arguments erupted due to disorder in orchestrating car traffic and pedestrians’ crossing… also, due to people coming to offer their condolences in the ceremonial halls embracing them.
On the other side lies Abuelmakarem el-Zoghl mosque; the relatively far from the main road but the vibrant activity of people coming there to offer condolences along with their cars affect the main road of Salah Salem… as this road of Salah Salem encompasses many ceremonial halls associated to some arms and departments in the armed forces where some occasions like weddings and banquets are held.
This is the case of one of the most important roads affecting traffic movement in Cairo and which is getting worse in the very same road when it diverts into three branches only short distance after the police mosque… the right lane leads to al-Ga’fari street, al-Azhar headquarter and dar al-Ifta… the middle lane leads to al-Azhar tunnel… and the left one leads to the famous al-Azhar park…
You would be very unlucky if it happened that you were in this place in the time period from afternoon until evening when cars pile up and some try to play smart… cars, especially pick-ups and microbuses, come from the most right side to the far left side towards the citadel to cut the road before those moving in their course blocking the entrance of the tunnel and peeping out their horns… not to mention the ugly words you hear like “what’s wrong?... what do you want?... do you want me to hit your car?... mine is junk but yours is very expensive”.
Here, we find ourselves standing before a situation that is highly significant… as mosques are supposed to be built in the first place to worship God and hold prayers … and to call for simplicity and easiness on people… however, you discover that if we have allocated the money spent generously on these mosques to find solutions for the problems of education, health and production, we’d have participated in achieving the very essential purpose of religion; that is helping people to build and spread goodness in earth…
Of course, all those who have spent their money in such aspect are most appreciated… but I here ask because I don’t know: shall mosques act against the law and practice activities that are not authorized to? Has our religion called for mosques to turn into a reason to make people’s normal life impossible? And should it continue like this without finding a solution?
We here talk about a unified law for worshipping places in which all these places are equal and regarded as sources of love, peace, role models of respecting law and enhancing people’s behavior… We have to tackle and discuss such thing… also, the state has to put an end to such problem so that mosques do not turn into places spreading harm regardless of the good intention of those who have volunteered to build and fund them… what is the definition of harm if it is not turning goodness into threatening people’s life and disrespecting law?
Moreover, there is another problem; that is noise pollution through microphones that is still worsening… I here mention that some of those who put their life savings in buying a residence in a place where they thought they could find some quietness missing in Cairo, are standing helplessly before those who insist on putting eight or may be ten microphones over one minaret… then you find the ugly voice void of any melody or beauty roaring every prayer to frighten people…
I remember when I went once to the mosque to have Ishaa prayers and asked about the one who echoed al-Azaan… I asked him if he had ever heard of the quranic verse saying “do not recite [too] loudly in your prayer or [too] quietly but seek between that an [intermediate] way”, verse 110 of al-Isra chapter… I also asked him if he knew that Prophet Muhammed – Peace be upon him – had ordered Belal be the one calling for prayers because he had the most beautiful voice… again, I asked him about the use of shouting out loud with his coarse voice through the highest level of volume for the eight microphones especially that there were more neighboring mosques and that residents were very few in the area?
The answer, which he thought would make me speechless, was “well, but why don’t we see you often in the mosque?”… The man believed that only those who come frequently to the mosque are the only ones allowed to ask and talk!
Finally, I doubt any official may interfere to find a solution for such tragedy taking place over the main road of Salah Salem… as who will tell the police to fix the situation around their mosque… to make a bridge or tunnel for pedestrians… to transfer the ceremonial hall into al-Moshir Tantawi mosque for example… or even to build another mosque for police in a more spacious area?... who will discuss the legality of non-authorized ceremonial halls in al-Rahman al-Rahim mosque?... who will ask to make certain side lanes separated by platforms from the main road in front of the clubs and ceremonial halls bearing the name of many arms and departments associated to our great army?
Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar
Translated into English by: Dalia Elnaggar
This article was published in Almasry alyoum newspaper on August 31, 2016.
To see the original Arabic article, go to: