VietNamNet Bridge – One man has spent over 20 years of his life taking care of Al Noor, the only mosque in northern Vietnam. His name is Doan Hong Cuong, 58, and he lives at 12 Hang Luoc Street, Hanoi.
Doan Hong Cuong, the caretaker of Al Noor. (Source:VNA)
Al Noor was built in 1890 by Indian Muslims who originally went to Vietnam to do business. They even contributed the money needed to build the mosque so they could meet and worship on a regular basis.
Cuong’s father was a Pakistani who married a Vietnamese woman and settled down to live in Hanoi in 1940. He formed a small Muslim community in the capital city, and then later became the mosque's caretaker.
In 1954, many people with religious beliefs, including Muslims, moved to the South, but Cuong’s father stayed in Hanoi , taking care of the mosque. When his father died in 1963, his eldest brother and then Cuong himself took up the task.
The daily lives of Muslims are not very different from others, despite the strict regulations stipulated in the Koran.
“We get up at 4.15 every morning and pray for the new day. When the sun rises, every family member starts work. My son tends his own small shop and as our grandchildren go to school, the women in the family do the housework,” said Cuong.
Muslims are forbidden to do many things, such as smoking, drinking alcohol or eating pork, and must adhere to strict rules during the month of Ramadan. However Cuong says that this is their way of life and there is no hardship in turning these into their habits. “The most important thing is belief and to want to do good for the world at large. Our religion does not ban people from enjoying themselves or insist they must live austere lives,” said Cuong.
His mother and siblings returned home in 1980, only Cuong stayed in Hanoi . In the minds of Muslims, even if only one man is left behind, the religion will not be lost. That’s the reason why Cuong spends his time taking care of the mosque while worshipping the Supreme Being.
Fairly small, only 700m2, yet Al Noor is in the typical Islamic style of mosques that can be seen all over the world, especially that used by Indian Muslims, with a dome, arched door and pointed tower. The mosque’s design is simple and airy, with large high arched doors in the main praying hall and the whole building painted white.
Muslims pray five times throughout the day and Cuong opens the doors of the mosque at pre-ordained times to welcome them in. At the main service, which is held every Friday at noon, around 200 Muslims arrive at the mosque to pray.
More than 100 years have passed by and these days the mosque has fallen into disrepair. Cuong said that the Islamic community in Hanoi expects to hold its first congress in December, when the congregation will discuss ways of restoring the mosque.
Even though he has not had the chance to visit his father’s homeland, Cuong is more than happy to stay in Hanoi , a city with a 1,000-year-old history, and has become very attached to the Al Noor mosque. Without complaining or making any demands for himself, the man still quietly and diligently takes care of ‘Allah’s House’ and remains true to his beliefs.
Islam is one of the world’s major religions; with over 1 billion followers. There are 79 mosques and places to worship in Vietnam and the 73,000 Muslims who currently reside in the country mainly live in the provinces of Ninh Thuan, Binh Thuan, Binh Phuoc, An Giang, Tay Ninh, Dong Nai, Ninh Thuan, Kien Giang, Tra Vinh, Tien Giang, Long An, Binh Duong, Binh Phuoc, Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The State has also recognised the boards that represent the Muslim communities in Ninh Thuan, An Giang, Tay Ninh and Ho Chi Minh City as well as the provisional management board of the mosque at 12 Hang Luoc Street.