On Friday, 11 November, Presidents of Turkey and Belarus will participate in the inauguration of Cathedral Mosque in Minsk.
Here are 7 interesting insights about this place of worship.
1. Built as a replica of a mosque destroyed by the Communists
The decision to construct a stone mosque in Minsk was made in the end of XIX century. The construction lasted from 1900 to 1902.
Sixty years later, the mosque was demolished. The old building was situated not far away from its current location.
2. Located in a holy place
The new modern mosque is located at the intersection of Ignatenko and Griboyedov streets. A Tatar cemetery was there in the old days.
Belarusian Tatars are the largest group of the Muslim population in the country. Besides, other 32 Muslim groups migrated to Belarus over the years.
3. Room for 892 people and wrong-side door
As was already mentioned, the new building is a larger version of the old Minsk mosque, destroyed in Soviet years. The original project was enlarged with a semi-basement floor for Sunday school, classrooms and Mufti’s study; there will also be a museum.
The entrance to the Minsk mosque is located on the side of the building. This is unusual because, as a rule, the entrance to a mosque should be located opposite to mihrab, a niche in the wall indicating the direction to Mecca.
The main prayer hall is divided into two parts: the part for men can sit 347 people and the part for women can welcome 165 persons.
There is a balcony for 380 people above the main prayer hall.
“Muslim theologians say to me: “Look, your mosque is improperly built!”. I tell them I know, but I can do nothing about it”, Mufti says.
He explains that the architect who designed the original project wasn’t a Muslim. He just added the elements of Islamic architecture to the Christian principles of construction. “In our religion believers come in the mosque with their faces to Mecca, and here you can enter only from the side”, Mufti adds.
Some of the internal element, like mihrab and minbar, were made in Turkey.
4. Place of worship and tourism
Now Belarusian Muslims will be able to pray in the mosque. They can also come to the mosque to search for advice.
Young people will be able to get married in the mosque. There will be a Sunday school as well.
Those who do not read Arabic, will have translated texts. There exists a version of Quran in Russian, but now a group of enthusiasts will be preparing a Belarusian translation of main book of Islam.
Tourists also will have an opportunity to visit the mosque. But it is important to mind the rules and be appropriately dressed.
5. Why Erdogan will open the mosque
The answer is simple – because it was completed using financial help from Turkey. The construction of the mosque was began in 2004 with the money from the Fund of the King of Saudi Arabia, but it was enough only for the basement and the lower part of the walls. Then the construction stopped. When Belarusian Muslims lost their patience, they asked for help from the Ministry of Religious Affairs of Turkey.
6. The official opening was put off because of a coup attempt in Turkey
The opening of the mosque and the visit of Erdogan were initially planned at the end of July 2016. But on 16 July Turkey lived through an attempt of a military coup, and the visit was postponed.
7. The largest mosque in Belarus
The full capacity of the new mosque is 1,5 thousand worshippers.
Today there’s about a dozen of big mosques in Belarus, but they are mainly located in small towns: Iwye, Slonim, Navahrudak in Hrodna region and others.
Minsk Cathedral Mosque will be the biggest one in the country.
There are approximately 100,000 Muslims living in Belarus.