WHEN the holy month of Ramadan approaches each year, Muslims around the globe look up to imams who lead special night prayers at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah as these prayer leaders play a significant role in energizing their spirituality through their melodious and awesome recitation of the Holy Qur’an.
Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais and Sheikh Saud Al-Shuraim have won the hearts of millions of believers through their marvellous recitation of the Qur’an. They have led the special night prayers during Ramadan in the two holy cities for several decades, giving the worshippers a unique spiritual experience.
Over the past 100 years, 190 imams led prayers in the two holy mosques either as permanent imams or on temporary assignments. Of them, 105 imams were in the Grand Mosque in Makkah while 85 in the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah.
Leading prayers at the Grand Mosque is an extraordinary honour. Abdullah Abulkhair, Omar Al-Kurdi and Abdullah Al-Zawawi were some of the elderly imams in the Grand Mosque in Makkah. All of them died in the year 1343 AH.
Yahya Daftar Dar, who died in 1345 AH, was the oldest imam to lead prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque in modern times.
Ali Al-Hudaifi is currently the chief imam of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. One of the best known Qur’an reciters in the Middle East, he was a former imam of the historic Quba Mosque and a lecturer at the Islamic University of Madinah. He became the chief imam of the Prophet’s Mosque in 1400 AH. He was briefly appointed the imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah in the Ramadan of 1401.
Bandar Balilah is a newly appointed imam at the Grand Mosque while Abdullah Al-Baeejan and Ahmed Bin Humaid are new imams at the Prophet’s Mosque.
Hassan Bukhari and Yasser Al-Dossari were appointed as acting imams while Muhammad Ayoub (who passed away recently) and Khaled Al-Mohanna were named acting imams at the Prophet’s Mosque.
King Saud and King Faisal had made history by leading prayers at the Grand Mosque while Abdul Malik Mulla, a senior muezzin who passed away in 1427 AH, once led the prayer at the Haram Mosque in Makkah in a rare incident.
Well-known scholars like Sheikh Mohammed Bin Othaimeen, Sheikh Abdullah Al-Bassam and Sheikh Abdullah Al-Obaid were imams at the Grand Mosque while Sheikh Bakr Abuzaid, Sheikh Abubacker Al-Jazairy, Sheikh Abdul Qader Shaiba Al-Hamad and Sheikh Saleh Al-Aboud led prayers at the Prophet’s Mosque.
Visually impaired Mohammed Al-Alami, who died in 1411, had led prayers at the Grand Mosque.
Adel Al-Kalbani and Yasser Al-Dossari were appointed as acting imams at the Grand Mosque.
In 2008, King Abdullah appointed Kalbani, son of an immigrant from Ras Al-Khaima, as one of the imams to lead the taraweeh (special night prayers) in the Grand Mosque. Sheikh Kalbani’s deep baritone voice, echoing musically through the Grand Mosque, were broadcast by satellite TV to hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world.
“Reciting before thousands of people is no problem for me. But the place, its holiness, is so different from praying anywhere else. In the Holy Mosque, there are kings, presidents and ordinary people, all being led in prayer by you as imam. It gives you a feeling of honour and a fear of Almighty God,” Kalbani, who had worked as the imam at a Riyadh mosque for 20 years, said at the time of his appointment in the Grand Mosque.
Prominent imams in the two holy mosques are celebrities in the Muslim world. A number of Qur’an reciters and scholars have won the title of “Imam Al-Haramain.” They include Salah Al-Budair, Ali Al-Hudaify, Abdul Bari Al-Thubaiti, Maher Al-Moaiqeli, Abdullah Al-Johani, Khaled Al-Ghamdi and Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais.
Sheikh Ahmed Taleb Bin Humaid, born in 1401 AH, is the youngest of the imams of the Prophet’s Mosque while Ali Al-Hudaifi (born in 1366 AH) is the oldest.
Sheikh Saleh Bin Humaid, 68, is the oldest imam in Makkah while Abdullah Al-Johani, 41, is the youngest.
Muslims all over the world, especially those who have got an opportunity to visit the two holy mosques, remember these imams with great reverence for strengthening their spirituality.
Among them Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, Abdullah Al-Jaber and Abdullah Al-Khulaifi stand out as the faithful will never forget their incredible recitations of the Holy Qur’an.