A grand mosque in Gawula District, Grand Cape Mount County, constructed by a Saudi philanthropist, had its official opening ceremony Saturday, November 17, with enthusiastic residents in attendance.
As a small orchestra played traditional Islamic songs, hundreds of people of various ethnicity from outlying villages crowded outside the mosque where they lined the walls for a photo opportunity.
The master of ceremony was Sheikh Zaidan Sheriff, a Liberian residing in Saudi Arabia, who envisioned the project and prevailed on a wealthy Saudi family to support the construction of the Islamic worship house now known as the Mohamed Salim Bakit mosque.
But the formal opening of the US$45,000 mosque in western Liberia had lingered for years after it was constructed. The delay had been due to personal problems encountered by Sheikh Sheriff, its implementing partner in Saudi Arabia.
No sooner had he surmounted his problems than he returned home quickly and the facility opened last Saturday amid fanfare. The project has drawn praises from beneficiaries who say they are grateful to the Bakit family for providing the funding.
When the center was first envisioned several years ago, Zaidan Sheriff played a major, vocal role in prevailing on the Saudi family to sponsor it.
He thanked community leaders, elders and activists for their patience and urged them to remain committed to the service of the Almighty Allah.
“As we open this mosque today, I urge you to remain committed to the service of Almighty Allah by refraining from radical behavior, and your preaching must be in compliance with Islamic doctrine,” Sheriff told the Islamic leaders present.
People flocked to Makpomah, the site of the mosque about two miles from the district’s provincial city of Sinje, to attend the ceremony. A photography exhibit showcasing crowds of people of various ethnicity from the outlying towns of Jagbaka, Mabuela, Banala and Bendu featured the occasion.
Traditional Islamic music filled the air as the crowds gathered to take in the sights of the exterior and interior parts of the Islamic house of worship. The building’s developer Keifa Sesay did acknowledge that the construction went on smoothly as many ecstatic inhabitants volunteered their services, having longed to see such a giant facility in their area.
“We were glad that the people in this town incredibly embraced us as we were implementing the project,” Sesay told our reporter at the site last Saturday.
He added, “Even though we paid several other people, some others who permanently reside in the town offered to help us on a voluntary basis.”
The mosque accommodates nearly 1000 people and contains two separate but large spaces for prayer services for men and women, a storeroom, and a platform for Friday preaching. Residents pray that their Saudi benefactor will further provide the necessary support to expand the facility to include toilets, pipe born water, a palaver hut for teaching people wishing to learn Islamic literature and the Quran, several cartoons of the Holy Quran, and related Islamic literature for learning purposes.
“We want our children to learn the fundamental elements and essence of Islam, but we do not have the means to support them,” a resident said.
“So we want Sheikh Mohamed Salim Bakit and his family to support us in educating our children,” according to Jusufu Swaray.
“If they do that for us, we will remain forever grateful to them, and we will say ‘Wow. This is great.'”
The women stood at attention as the Sheikh opened the grand mosque with a word of caution. Mohamed Kiazolu, another resident, acknowledged public gratitude to the Bakit family for providing them a decent place of worship.
Kiazolu recalls how local worshipers there have been “craving for a grand mosque like the one funded by the Bakit family, which serves as a perfect opportunity that the inhabitants are exceedingly grateful to the Saudi family.”
Present were nearly 2,000 Muslim inhabitants of the town, some of them either residing or doing trade in the area and its surrounding districts, according to the elders. A resident of Banala, Mohamed Idriss, said he regularly attends the Friday’s prayers in Makpomah. He believes that since Islam calls for worshipers to pray five times a day, embarking on the memorization of the Holy Quran offers an added safe haven for many Muslims in the great beyond. The inclusion of a space in the mosque for instructional purposes, says Idriss, is critical to the Muslim community.