A Christian businessman from India has built a mosque for his Muslim workers in the United Arab Emirates.
It was a gesture of kindness from Saji Cheriyan who decided to build the mosque after watching his workers take taxis to the nearest mosque.
“They have to spend at least 20 dirhams to go to Fujairah city or another industrial area to attend the Juma prayer in a mosque. So, I thought it will make them happy if I build a mosque here next to their accommodation,” he said.
Cheriyan, an Orthodox Christian by birth, had previously built a church for his parish and also keeps the doors open in a multipurpose hall in his complex to allow Christians to pray.
India prides itself on its religious tolerance and sophistication, and Cheriyan says he wants to continue that heritage, “I have grown up seeing communities living together in utmost harmony. We celebrate all religions’ festivals and I don’t judge or treat people based on religion, caste, colour or nationality. The UAE is another example of communal harmony and tolerance.”
Cheriyan’s generosity has caught the attention of the local Awqaf, a charitable endowment under Islamic law, which typically involves donating a building, plot of land or other assets for Muslim religious or charitable purposes.
Awqaf officials were surprised and happy when they learned a Christian wished to build a mosque. They offered financial and material support for the mosque’s construction. Cheriyan only accepted carpeting and a sound system.
He’s also made a name for himself in the community.
“When word spread about my mosque, many other people also offered cash donations, construction materials like sand and paint. But I have politely refused all those offers as I would like to pay from my pocket for this mosque.”
Construction on the mosque, named Mariam, Umm Eisa (Mary, the Mother of Jesus), began over a year ago. It can accommodate 250 worshippers at a time. Plans for another 700 to pray in the interlocked courtyard are underway.