Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this week remotely inaugurated the first 50 ‘model mosques’ - as defined by the government to meet certain parameters that have been set in consultation with experts on Islamic art and architecture. The fifty were the first deliverables in a project to build some 560 such prayer-houses covering every District and Upazila throughout the country. Hasina opened these mosques virtually from Ganabhaban, as part of the ongoing programme for the Mujib Centennial. Work on the Tk 8,722 crore project started with the Bangladesh government deciding to finance the early parts. The mosques, following one of three templates as appropriate, are designed to act as the center of not only prayer but also all social activities in their community.
Background of the Model Mosque Project
As per the Awami League's election manifesto in 2014, the government took the initiative to build 560 model mosques and cultural centers across the country at a cost of Tk 8,722 crore as part of implementing the promise to build an improved mosque in each district and Upazila.
During the Prime Minister's visit to Saudi Arabia in 2016, King Salman pledged to provide most of the funding for the Model Mosque project. But as no funding has come so far, the Prime Minister decided it was better to go ahead and implement the project with the government's own funding.
It is thus the second-largest self-financed project for the GOB, after the Padma Multipurpose Bridge.
The project was approved by the Bangladesh Planning Committee, ECNEC on April 25, 2017. It is now being implemented by the government's Public Works Department in a joint venture with the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Islamic Foundation. The work of another 100 model mosques will be completed by the end of this year. The entire project has been scheduled for completion in December 2023.
Inspired by mosque architecture
The mosques have been modeled on world-class mosques in the Middle East and the Arab peninsula. They will have multipurpose centers, including auditoriums and libraries alongside a huge place for prayer in the mosque complex.
The mosques are being built as four-storied buildings at the district level, three-storied at Upazila level, and again four-storied in coastal areas. There will be 69 mosques built in Cities and urban areas where the area of each floor is designed to cover 2,360 square meters.
In upazilas, the area of each floor would be 1,680 square meters for the 475 mosques at the Upazila level. In the coastal areas, there are plans to build 16 mosques, with a floor area of 2,050 square meters. Ramps will be set up to facilitate easy access to the prayer rooms for the sick and disabled people.
Almost 1,200 Muslims will be able to perform prayers together in the district-level mosques. There will be arrangements for performing prayers of 900 people at a time in the mosques at the Upazila level and coastal areas. There is also an arrangement for women to offer separate prayers. In total, almost 494,200 men and 31,400 women will be able to offer prayers together in the 560 mosques. The ground floor will be empty to act as a shelter during natural disasters in the coastal areas.
Under the library facility, 34,000 readers can read Quran and Islamic books together every day. There will be opportunities for research on Islamic subjects for 6,600 people. Fifty-seven thousand devotees will always be able to recite Tasbih with Doa, Munajat.
At this stage, the details on the standard facilities on offer at each of the three classes under the Model Mosque project (City, Upazila, and Coast) can start to feel slightly benumbing with all the numbers getting thrown at you.
It's better to visit them to get a real sense of what they're all about. One issue is obviously the strand of Islam that will be practised through these mosques - if at all a strand would be adhered to as the preferred.
So it would be best to find one near you and go down to say your prayers there. That will always remain the best way to learn about a mosque. Below are the first fifty to be inaugurated.
Find your nearest
Among the 50 model mosques, 5 are at the District level and 45 are at the Upazila level. They are: Savar in Dhaka, Madhukhali in Faridpur, Pakundia and Kuliarchar in Kishoreganj, Shibalaya in Manikganj, Razbari Sadar, Shariatpur Sadar and Goshairhat, Shariakandi in Bogra, Sherpur and Kahalu, Shapahar and Porsha in Naogaon Sadar and Porsha in Rajshahi. Khanshama and Beral of Dinajpur, Patgram of Lalmonirhat, Debiganj and Upazila Sadar of Ponchogarh, Rangpur District Sadar, Mithapukur, Upazila Sadar, Peerganj, Badarganj, Horipur of Thakurgaon, Shubarnachor of Noakhali, Goforgaon and Tarakanda of Mymensingh, Tarakanda of Manda, Chittagong District Sadar, Islampur and Upazila Sadar, Nobinagar and Bijayanagar of Brahmanbaria, Bhola Sadar, South Shurma of Sylhet, Daudkandi of Comilla, Ponchhori of Khagrachhri, Kushtia Sadar, District Sadar of Khulna, Kochua of Chandpur, Razapur of Jhalokati and Chuadanga Sadar.
The aim of the project is to spread Islamic values and Muslim brotherhood as well as the main message of Islam against terrorism and extremism. As the Model Mosque project has been undertaken for the purpose of institutionalizing public awareness activities on policymaking in the development process of the government. As a result, opportunities are being created for the Muslims to conduct prayers, religious education, training, and religious activities. Awareness activities will be conducted to prevent various social ills including drugs, terrorism, dowry, and violence against women. These mosques will also be used for the expansion of Islamic knowledge and culture through the creation of physical infrastructural facilities.
Besides, those employed in mosques will get a government salary. There are many mosques in Bangladesh that have a lot of income. But the mosque committee does not pay much to the Imam and Muazzins. Again, the financial condition of many mosques is bad. But now the situation can be better in terms of a government salary.
Generally, the mosques in Bangladesh are prayer-centric. But the main theme of mosques in Islam is that besides prayer, mosques will also become the heart of social activities. In the idea that model mosques are being built, they will also become the center of social activities. There will be many initiatives to help people accordingly.