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Mosques play a very important role in the society, and it is always considered as a defining factor of the character of a society. In Abu Dhabi, the role of Mosque to members of the public has been on the rise. According to Rajiv (2011), our population in Abu Dhabi City has generally been on the rise. This means that there is increased pressure of the existing facilities in these cities.
As the population continues to rise over the years, the available mosques become limited. The available facilities are not able to sustain the current population of this city. This condition is predicted to be worse if the relevant authorities do not take measures. This is because there has been a consistent increase in the population of residents of this city.
With this rising population, there has been need to ensure that proper planning, locating and developing of mosques is conducted in a way that would give the best benefit to the residents. According to Crampton (2011), there has been an urban growth and expansion of this city for the last ten years.
As this city grows, there is need to plan on how mosques should be located and developed within the expanding city in order to accommodate the needs of the local population. These mosques should be located in a way that would meet the needs of the local worshipers. The authorities in Abu Dhabi have been concerned of the issue of planning, locating and distributing of mosques within this city.
In the process of developing this city, the authority is concerned of the need for the newly developing city to preserve Arab and Islamic identity. Inasmuch as the society needs to growth, there is need to ensure that this city upholds the tradition and the religion that has been in place for several centuries.
This can only be possible when there is a proper planning of the mosques within this city. Their location and distribution should reflect their purpose.
Geographic Information System (GIS) has come as a solution to the city planners of this city. Geographic information system helps in determining some of the important factors needed when constructing a mosque. According to Rajiv (2011), there are policies and standards for mosque location within the city of Abu Dhabi set by relevant authorities.
GIS offers such information as the distance from one mosque to another, the level of need for a mosque, the demographics of the society and other relation issues.
GIS offers these planners a rare opportunity to plan on how to locate and distribute mosques within this city in a way that will not only meet the needs of the local population currently, but also be sustainable in future. This will make the city sustainable in a way that would allow the increasing population to have access to mosques for worshipping.
Every piece of research must have a specific focus area that would help define a research process. This scholar says that by defining the study area, the researcher would be avoiding scenarios where the research goes off the research area. In this research, the researcher is interested in conducting a detailed research on mosques locations and their distribution within Khalifa City A. District in Abu Dhabi Emirate using GIS.
The research will specifically focus on how relevant GIS is in defining factors important when locating and distributing mosques. The research will determine how GIS helps in coming up with appropriate location for mosques within this city that will help ensure that the needs of the locals are taken care of.
According to Rajiv (2011), locating an appropriate location for mosque still remains a challenge for many countries in the Middle East and Gaza strip. Mosques are very important places in the society given their nature as worship centers.
This scholar says that mosques form part of the society in these regions as they not only act as places of worship, but also places where people can gather together and share their life experiences and encourage one another. Alaeddinne, Al-Qeeq and Zeyad (2013) who say that mosques define civilization of the Islamic society share these sentiments.
The Islamic society has faced various challenges in establishing this religion, and after a long struggle, the religion stands out as one of the most important religions around the world.
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It has taken years to reach this far, and it is now the responsibility of the society to uphold the virtues of this religion as a way of enhancing its development. This can be achieved by among other things, having the right locations and distributions of mosques within any given region where Islamic faithful reside.
Abazari, Babalhaveaji and Jahangirifard (2012) observe that Khalifa City is one of the most strategically located centers within the city of Abu Dhabi.
This scholar says that although there are other religious groupings in all the three Khalifa cities (Khalifa City A and B, and the New Khalifa City), the main religion in these regions is Islam. Duin (2009) appreciates the fact that the three districts within the Abu Dhabi city have been designed professionally.
City planning is one of the most important factors that will help enhance sustainability within the city. Rajiv (2011) says that poorly planned cities can result into complex lifestyle within a city, and at times it may degenerate to a chaotic city if care is not taken to arrest the situation early enough.
The aerial view of the city shown above clearly demonstrates how the city planners were keen on coming out with a city that is carefully planned in order to sustain the current and future population. Caner, et al (2009) says that when planning a city, care should be taken to ensure that locations of some of the defining facilities are located in the strategic position.
This scholar says that when defining a location of a mosque, it is always advisable to consider the residential areas. This idea is emphasized by Crampton (2011) who says that it is not prudent to locate a mosque in an industrial hub where there are numerous industrial firms emitting gases accompanied by irritating sounds of the engine.
Kahera (2012) says that the planning of the Khalifa city was done in a manner that separated residential areas from the busy commercial centers of the city.
The residence were planned and were designed in a way that would allow the residents of this city to live in an environment that is free from the heavy activities in the city center and the industrial hubs. According to Kahera (2012), Khalifa City A, which is the focus of this research, is centrally located within the city of Abu Dhabi.
Napoleon (2008) says that Khalifa City A forms one of the core centers of the city of Abu Dhabi. This scholar says that given the location of this city, care should be taken when locating a mosque. Mosques, as Kahera (2012) observes, should always be located in regions that would allow faithful to find their way easily to the mosque without any difficulty.
This means that they should not be located in hidden places where it may be challenging for the worshipers to locate them. It may be appropriate when they are located along the highways or streets if it is within the city center. If it is outside the city center, then the planner should ensure that its location is near the mass, and is easily accessible by road.
According to Kahera (2012), there are policies that have been developed by the city planners and approved by the city council on how to locate mosques within the city of Khalifa. The following are some of the policies that were developed to help guide the development of mosques within this country.
The policy of mosque availability: this policy emphasizes on the need to make mosques available to the populace. The policy states, “Make mosques available and enough to accommodate worshipers at prayer times with no consideration to location and urban and geographic boundary,” (Al-Qeeq & Zeyad, 2013).
This policy emphasizes on the need to make mosques available to the worshipers at any time and without any restriction pegged on such issues as geographic boundary or the fact that the location is in urban centers. The mosque must be able to sustain the worshipers.
This, according to Duin (2009), means that the size of mosque should be able to accommodate the worshipers in a particular location. This also means that the distribution of the mosques will be based on the population of the worshipers within a specific location, and not on the geographic locations.
The policy on mosque location: this policy emphasizes on the actual location of a mosque. It states, “Mosques should be built in central and visible locations as to enforce its important religious and social rule in the residential area it serves,” (Irem & Cubukcu, 2009).
The emphasis of this policy is on the location of the mosque in respect to the residential places. It brings out the importance of ensuring that mosques are located in areas central to the residents. This would allow worshippers to easily access the mosques. This policy also appreciates the fact that the location of a mosque would help enhance important religious and social norms within the area it serves.
The accessibility policy: this policy states, “Mosques shall be planned in a way to make it easy to reach either walking (first) or by cars,” (Al-Qeeq & Zeyad, 2013).
Mosques serve a large number of people, some of whom may not afford expensive travel expenses regularly to the mosque. Given that there is always need for the worshipers to visit the mosques quite often, then the location should be accessible by walking. It should also be accessible by cars for those who would prefer coming with their cars.
The policy to merge mosque with the society: this policy is meant to ensure that mosques are appropriately merged with the society. To achieve this, the following factors should be considered.
- Mosque area should be enough for residents and visitors.
- Society services: nursery, Quran center and socialization area should be available within the mosques.
- Design of the mosque should best fit the surrounding buildings.
Kahera (2012) says that mosques should serve the society, and not vice versa. As such, there is a need to merge it with the society needs. This would help in ensuring that these mosques help in serving the needs of the society in the best way possible.
The policy on comprehensive and equality between genders policy: this policy states, “Mosques should provide enough area to for worshipers from both genders,” (Irem & Cubukcu, 2009).
This policy is meant to ensure that both genders are allowed access to the place of worship. In this society, women, just as men, have the right to the place of worship. When planning a construction for a mosque, their interest should always be put into consideration.
The policy on the ease of entrance to the mosque: it states, “Comfortable place for prayer should have enough facilities and clearly marked entrances for elders and people with special needs,” (Al-Qeeq & Zeyad, 2013)
These policies have been enacted to help guide mosque construction within this city. Kahera (2012) says that developing policies on mosque construction helps define what the basics are when an individual or a group plans to construct a mosque within a particular location.
Napoleon (2008) says that it has been challenging how the distribution of mosques should be defined. The solution for this came with the development of Geographic Information System. Using the GIS in planning the development of mosques is very important in the current society where space for constructing various structures is becoming scarce.
According to Duin (2009), GIS has come at the right time when it is needed most. This scholar observes that land has become an issue in most of the cities in United Arab Emirates as the population continues to grow. Land is finding other uses as the pressure to sustain the increasing population is on the rise.
According to Kahera (2012), Remote Sensing and GIS have become the backbone of the current urban planning and management. This scholar says that in the modern society, it is impossible to plan the city without a clear scientific approach on how the new structure will be put.
Napoleon (2008) says that GIS helps in integrating both the spatial and non spatial information such as the urban infrastructure, the services within the center and other socio-economic factors.
According to Kahera (2012), GIS mapping helps in identifying important facilities within a given location. When planning to construct mosques in a specific location, it is important to have a GIS mapping done. This will help in identifying the exact location of the existing mosques within that area.
Using the non spatial information, it would then be easier to determine the best location for a mosque that will be fairly located from other existing mosques. This will help in observing one of the policies that demands that a mosque should be centrally located.
Napoleon (2008) says that GIS helps when identifying an appropriate location of a mosque. Duin (2009) says that mosques should not be assigned location in a haphazard manner without considering other factors. Getting the geographic information of a given location helps in ensuring that the identified location befits the needs of the locals.
Khalifa City A is a very busy city and with limited land available for further development (Al-Qeeq & Zeyad, 2013). This means that when locating a mosque, this should be done after a comprehensive analysis, and a confirmation that there is need for a mosque. Arranging three mosques in the same street, and being close to one another is a sign of lack of planning (Duin, 2009).
These mosques should be at equidistance from one another, and each should be able to satisfy the needs of the worshippers around it. When using GIS, it would be easy to determine how the existing mosques are located (Al-Qeeq & Zeyad, 2013). The question that should guide development of a new mosque should be whether or not the existing mosques are sufficient for current needs.
When the existing mosques are confirmed to be sufficient, then the need to construct other mosques would be eliminated. However, when it is confirmed that the existing mosques are not enough, and that a section of the society are straining to go to the mosque because of the distance, then a new mosque would be appropriate. Using the GIS, it would be possible to identify when the mosque is needed the most.
Kahera (2012) says that those areas in need of a mosque should always be considered first when determining location of a mosque. GIS helps in creating an even distribution of mosques within a given geographic area. Khalifa City A has a considerably large population that must be sustained within its geographic boundary.
When distributing the mosques, it is vital to take into consideration both the geographic and socio-economic information about the area. This would help in ensuring that when a mosque is put up, it is able to serve the needs of the locals.
According to Duin (2009), data collection using GIS is always important when there is a planned construction of public facilities. This scholar says that having a map of the entire area where the facility will serve will help determine the feasibility of the facility. When constructing any facility, it is important to appreciate that there will be benefits and demerits that the construction will come with, especially to the immediate community.
Collecting data using GIS helps in conducting the feasibility test. It helps in determining whether the construction would be of more benefits than the harm it would cause the society. This would help in approving such construction by relevant authorities.
According to Kahera (2012), the current planning professionals are concerned with future sustainability of our society. This scholar says that there are two main challenges that have been causing crisis in the current society. The first factor is the natural world which is delicate and with scarce resources. The second factor is the human activities that are leaving footprints to the environment, threatening the natural resources.
These two factors always play off in any urban setting. Duin (2009) says that urban planners are always forced to look into these factors and determine how to strike a balance. Nature needs protection from human activities in order to remain sustainable. Human is under pressure to use the available resources to ensure that the living standards are elevated.
GIS helps in determining the impact that the environment has faced due to various human activities. Most importantly, planners use GIS to determine the history of other related buildings in order to determine how to develop a new one. The information will give a detailed report of how similar structures affected the society in various ways.
The planners will then be in a position to weigh both the benefits and the demerits of putting a similar structure. With this information, these planners will be aware of the most appropriate way to put a similar facility in a way that will be beneficial to the entire population within an urban center.
Kahera. (2012) says that the use of GIS in urban planning has gained relevance in the recent past. With advanced computer systems, GIS tools have become relevant in a society that is under an increased pressure to sustain the increasing population. This scholar says that GIS do not only help in environmental data management, but also in the industrial facility management.
Rajiv (2011) says that the ability of GIS to analyze, integrate and display information in regard to location helps in geographic mapping. The recent planners have come to rely heavily on GIS when managing geographic data. GIS has particularly been popular because of its scientific nature.
Rajiv A. Y. (2011) says that planners are currently trying to balance the limited land with the need to erect new buildings within various regions within a given urban centers. Geographic information system, therefore, comes as a solution to this problem. The planners are aware of the need to ensure that every structure that is put up has the maximum benefit to the society.
Kahera. (2012) says that GIS is one of the best scientific tool that has been of good use to people who are planning to build a mosque. There are policies that guide construction of mosques. One of the most important aspects of the policy is that they should always be equidistant from one another. For this to be possible there must be a specific way of defining the geographical distance of one mosque to another.
Other non spatial issues should also be considered to ensure that the mosque is given the best location where it would be of maximum benefit to the society. GIS comes with the solution for this. Using the GIS software which would display data gathered from the locality. Besides the geographic data, this system also helps in defining other social factors that are relevant to construction.
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