Tent Mosque in Gaza: Palestinian Women Hold on to Their Faith Amid War

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From gathering daily in their local mosques, displaced women in central Gaza now meet in a tent mosque, clinging to the Quran as their sole companion.

GAZA – In the sweltering heat of Gaza’s summer, a group of girls and women make their way to a tent mosque in Deir Al Balah, passing through streets flooded with sewage water and littered with ruins from Israeli bombings.

On June 4, the tent mosque witnessed a significant event as six women recited the entire Quran from memory in a single sitting. Twenty-year-old Shaymaa Abualatta decided to document the occasion.

“When the girls finished reciting, we all cried and thanked Allah for this great blessing,” Shaymaa says. “I felt incredibly grateful to witness people holding the Quran in their hearts, especially during these tough times. It was very memorable.”

Before the war, Shaymaa was a third-year computer engineering student at the Islamic University of Gaza. Her life revolved around her university, neighbourhood, and family. However, the war turned everything upside down.

Shaymaa’s family home in Shejaiya, one of Gaza’s largest neighbourhoods, was destroyed by Israeli shelling and air strikes. The family had to evacuate immediately, each carrying only a single bag.

Shaymaa says that they had been displaced so many times that she lost count, but vividly recalls three occasions where she survived near-death experiences during airstrikes, with some hitting nearby and shattering their windows.

After arriving in Deir Al Balah in central Gaza, and living for more than six months in hastily assembled and overcrowded tent camps without access to electricity, clean water, or protection from the extreme heat, Shaymaa, her family and others in the tent camp felt they “had to do something to preserve their sanity”.

“We needed to regain some essence of our previous lives. Our routine turned into air strikes, bombings, and mourning the loss of loved ones,” she says. Shaymaa lost 70 family members, including her grandmother, cousins, and uncles.

A mosque for all

In their quest to find some normalcy, Shaymaa and others in the camp first turned to studying and teaching kids.

“But something that gave us a lot of strength was the Quran. So we had to return the Quran,” she says.

They initially gathered in Shaymaa’s tent, but as more people joined their circle or halaqa – a religious gathering for studying Islam and the Quran – they needed a larger space. That’s when the idea of a tent mosque came to be, Shaymaa says.

Her aunt, Khadija, who is also their Quran instructor, reached out to organisations for funding, and by late February, they were able to build a tent dedicated to prayers and Quran halaqa. They named it “Prayer Hall of the Circle of the Good Word”.

TRT WORLDBelow the name of the tent mosque, a quote from the Quran is written. It says “Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort.”

The tent mosque accommodates both men and women of all ages, from three-year-old children to elderly individuals in their 70s and 80s. Women’s sessions are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10.00 AM until the noon call to prayer at around 12.30 PM, with about 100 female students gathering to memorise and recite the Quran.

Shaymaa says that some people were already on their journey of Quran memorisation, but many others started theirs during the war.

“What motivates us is the mindset that we might die at any moment. We want the last thing we do to be memorising the Quran and meet Allah with it in our hearts,” she said.

And many women who lost loved ones find comfort in praying that their recitation and memorisation of the Quran will reward those they have lost.

In the tent mosque, daily recitations of the Quran are common as the community strives to recite the entire Quran in a single sitting and prepare themselves for this significant event.

“We have this day, every month, where we gather to listen to participants recite different portions of the Quran, as much as they can,” Shaymaa says.

For Iman, Afnan, and Aya, June 4 was their big day.

TRT WORLDIman, Afnan, and Aya were among the six women who recited the Quran in one sitting. / Photo: TRT World

Iman Asem, a 34-year-old with a degree in Islamic Law, was among the six women who recited the Quran in one sitting. Displaced from her home in northern Gaza’s Al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, she now lives in the Abu Ammar Al Zawaida camp, where the tent mosque is located.

“The Quran is a companion and friend to those without a companion.

Although their life is drastically different and conditions are harsh in the tent, where temperatures now reach over 35 degrees. Without comfort, rest and safety amidst bombardment, Iman says she remains thankful for their make-shift mosque.

“God has blessed us with a tent mosque, which is a provision He has granted us to have a place of prayer in a displacement camp, even if it is just a tent. Many camps lack such facilities,” Iman says.

“The Quran is a companion and friend to those without a companion. Whenever our souls and hearts feel weak, we turn to the Holy Quran to provide us with the energy and ability to remain steadfast in the face of this great trial.”

Afnan Heles, a high school student in Gaza City before the war, now spends most of her time in the tent mosque.

“After the war started, all our routine activities, including education, came to a halt. But, Allah compensated us in our camp with a prayer tent”, she says.

“Even though it’s just a tent, I spend all my time there memorising, reviewing, reciting, and teaching the Quran to the students.”

And for 29-year-old Aya Qalaja, the tent mosque is a guiding light. Having recited the entire Quran from memory twice before, the tent mosque helps her review and solidify her memorisation.

Aya credits their commitment to memorising the Quran to the support of their teacher, Khadija, who encourages them to continue despite adverse circumstances.

Shaymaa adds that Khadija always reminds them to recite sincerely, asking Allah to end the war and alleviate their struggles.

She says: “We believe that the closer we are to the Quran and the more we memorise, the closer we are to ending the war and suffering, God willing.”

C. TRT WORLD

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