Many non-Muslims may have visited mosques as part of a tourist attraction and admired the mosque for its architecture and the history behind it without actually knowing what happens in a mosque apart from the namaz/ prayer. For the first time in Hyderabad and maybe even in India, the trustees of the Masjid-e-Quba initiated a unique program called “ Open Mosque” just after Eid ul Fitr by inviting men and women from different faiths to pay a visit to the mosque to get an idea of what goes on inside a mosque.
Masjid-e-Quba, located at Nanalnagar, Hyderabad, is a large structure equipped with air coolers, chandelier and a cellar and can easily accommodate 1,200 people. It has been built by Syed Akthar and designed by architects Naseer Aziz and Zaheer Ahmed in an Egyptian-Arabian style.
As if to extend the celebrations of Eid ul Fitr, the management of the mosque set up this program on 17th June, Sunday, wherein a guided tour of the mosque and later presentations on Islam, its basic tenets, clearing the misconceptions people have regarding Islam was given by volunteers.
The visitor is then taken to the gallery which had books on Islamic teachings in English and the local language and displays on the 5 pillars of Islam, on doomsday, death, and the hereafter – all which every Muslim believes in. The displays were also on topics such as terrorism and women’s rights both of which are always in the news for the wrong reasons.
The volunteers explained in detail on all of these topics and answered the questions/ doubts patiently to the men and women who were all inside a mosque for the first time and grappling with so much of knowledge about Muslims and Islam.
“Our main purpose of initiating this program is to clear all the misconceptions people of different faith to have about Islam and a Masjid,” said Syed Akhtar, one of the trustees of the mosque. “In these hard times, it is important to let people of other faith know what a mosque is and what we do here. We want them to understand Islam is all about peace and co-existence with people from all other faiths”.
A mosque is a place where all activities concerning Muslims take place. It is not just for prayers. Children are taught to read and learn the Quran; Muslims gather at the mosque to perform the Nikah, the final prayers of the dead person called Namaz-e-Janaza are also performed here, people discuss their problems and seek a solution by consulting the elders in the mosque in the light of the judicial tenets of Islam.
In short, it is a place wherein all social activities used to take place. And we want to revive this practice of our beloved prophet who used to also conduct meetings with foreign delegates at the mosque. The prophet used to allow Christians and the Jews–the two faiths that existed then–in the mosque.
One of the trustees added that they want to revive this practice.
As soon as the Azaan, the call to prayer sounded and the afternoon prayer was over, the meaning and process of Namaz were explained to the visitors.
Visitors welcome the initiative
Simrat and Tarun Deep, two visitors, said this was the first time they had entered a mosque and they did not know much about what took place in a mosque, now they knew and appreciated the program very much.
Another person, Sitaram who lived in the same locality and had always seen the mosque from outside had come inside for the first time. He said he learnt more about Islamic beliefs and that Islam teaches kindness, humanity and compassion towards all living beings.
Gita Ramaswamy, a feminist and women’s rights activist, felt visiting a mosque to dispel the doubts people may harbour is fine but to build communal harmony we need to work beyond this.
Copies of the Holy Quran were distributed along with other literature on Islam. The trustees said they want to continue this activity and reach out to more people at this time being the first time only about 2 dozen people from other faiths had visited.
All the visitors were treated to the Eid delicacy “Sheer khurma” before leaving the mosque.