Ramadan revolves around fasting, prayer and spiritual reflection, with Muslims from all over the world reading from the Qur’an, reflecting on its lessons and reliving Islam’s rich history.
Tucked away in Manama is Beit Al Qur’an (House of the Qur’an), an elegant and peaceful abode dedicated solely to the understanding and service of the holy book and Islamic heritage. The building, with its engraved Qur’anic verses and slender minaret based on Bahrain’s 12th century Al Khamis mosque, was founded in 1990 and is unique in the Muslim world: other countries preserve their copies of the Qur’an in mosques and museums.
Beit Al Qur’an is made up of five main parts, the first and most important being the majlis, or ‘gathering place’, the Abdul Rahman Jassim Kanoo mosque, able to accommodate 150 worshippers. A large, specially commissioned stained glass dome covers the mosque and grand hall. The mihrab, the niche indicating the direction of Mecca, is covered in blue ceramic tiles with engraved Al Qursi Qur’anic verse, made for Beit Al Qur’an in Turkey.
The second part is the library, containing more than 20,000 books and manuscripts in three languages – Arabic, English and French – the majority of which are on Islam. The institute also specialises in Islamic art and many of its reference books are of international importance. The library and its reading rooms are open to the public during working hours, as are individual rooms for researchers and specialists.
Then there is the auditorium – the Mohammed Bin Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa Lecture Hall –which can seat 150 people and is used for lectures and conferences. Guest speakers have visited from the US and Europe.
The fourth section is the Yousuf Bin Ahmad Kanoo School for Qur’anic Studies. This offers seven study areas fully equipped with computers and modern study aids, with separate classes for women and children.
Finally, you have the Al Hayat Museum. Over two floors, it exhibits rare Qur’anic manuscripts from different periods, starting from the first century AD, on parchments from Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, Damascus and Baghdad. Beit Al Qur’an employs special procedures for the preservation of these precious artifacts, and also has paper copies on display, including editions of the holy book in several different languages. As well as exhibitions relating to the Qur’an, the museum also features art and paintings, with special preference given to Bahraini artists. Beit Al Qur’an also collaborates with the National Museum and embassies for special exhibitions.
The establishment of the institute was wholly funded by public donations, receiving support from all walks of life, from heads of state to school children. It was built by the people of Bahrain for the people of the world, to celebrate Islam, its culture and heritage. The centre is free to the general public and there is a donation box for those wishing to contribute to its invaluable work. Rosy Moorhead
Beit Al Qur’an, Manama (17 290 101). Opens again from September, Sat-Wed 9am-12pm, 4pm-6pm; Thu 9am-12pm
Other places to get your fix of Islam this Ramadan
Al Fateh Mosque
(The Grand Mosque) The country’s biggest mosque.
The National Library
Housed in the same compound as the Al Fateh Mosque in Juffair, the library contains around 70,000 books, including volumes on the teachings of the Prophet Mohammed, and periodicals and magazines on Islamic law, science and technology. The library is open from 9am-2pm and unfortunately there is no borrowing service so all reading must be done on site. National Library, Ahmed Al Fateh Islamic Centre, Juffair (17 727 773; www.alfatehcenter.com)
Al Khamis Mosque
Believed to be one of the oldest Islamic relics in the region, this is also considered to be the first mosque built in Bahrain. It is no longer in use but visitors can wander around this ancient site and the adjoining cemetery.
If you want to find out more about the region’s major religion, drop by the Discover Islam centre, which also offers Arabic lessons.