The project was launched by the late president of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who wanted to establish a structure that would unite the cultural diversity of the Islamic world with the historical and modern values of architecture and art. His final resting place is located on the grounds beside the same mosque. The mosque was constructed from 1996 to 2007. It is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates. The building complex measures approximately 290 m (960 ft) by 420 m (1,380 ft), covering an area of more than 12 hectares (30 acres), exclusive of exterior landscaping and vehicle parking.
As the country's grand mosque, it is the key place of worship for Friday gathering and Eid prayers. During Eid it may be visited by more than 41,000 people.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center (SZGMC) offices are located in the west minarets. SZGMC manages the day-to-day operations, as a place of worship and Friday gathering, and also a center of learning and discovery through its educational cultural activities and visitor programs.
The library, located in the northeast minaret, serves the community with classic books and publications addressing a range of Islamic subjects: sciences, civilization, calligraphy, the arts, coins and includes some rare publications dating back more than 200 years. In reflection of the diversity of the Islamic world and the United Arab Emirates, the collection comprises material in a broad range of languages, including Arabic, English, French, Italian, Spanish, German and Korean.