Mosque With Warmth

In the chill of Kashmir’s winters when everyone loves to sit in their cozy homes at leisure, a mosque in the frontier district of Kupwara is providing a relief to both the selves – physical as well as spiritual. Shafath Hussain reports.

Kashmir’s first fully air-conditioned mosque is in Kupwara

Being one amongst the most backward and poor districts of J&K, Kupwara can boast of a lovely centrally heated mosque.

On entering the Kupwara town, a grand mosque with towering green minarets welcomes you to the town. Located under the lush green jungles, on the banks of Kahimil stream, this magnificent mosque holds the distinction of being the first and till recently the only centrally heated mosque in Kashmir. Named as Masjid-e- Murshiddin, the mosque also serves a centre for teaching and tabligh (propagation).

“Although there is a Markazi Jamia Masjid just 200 meters away but I wanted to build a mosque that would be a place of both teaching as well as devotion,” says Pir Mohammed Shams-ud-din.

The three storied mosque with its ground floor centrally heated is spread across an area of around ten kanals. With its four towering minarets and a green dome, the mosque is a modern piece of Indo-Iranian medieval architectural makeup. Apart from the basement, it has a hamam in the first floor and a gallery in its third story.

Architect Zahoor Ahmed, who designed the mosque, says, “This mosque is not much different than the other mosques in its outer layout, but has added features.”

The location of the mosque is quiet perfect except for being too close to a stream called Kahimil Nallah, which in full spate can prove very dangerous to the settlements near its banks. “The basement was built, keeping in view the nearby stream. We know the magnitude of its destruction but we have made the foundation very strong to meet any challenges,” adds Zahoor. The foundation stone of the mosque, that took many years to complete, was laid on November 19, 1998.

“People from every sphere donated for building the mosque. The cost of construction is much less than that of any building of comparable size and type,” says Pir Shams-ud-din. “I would say it was divine intervention as works which should have cost lakhs of rupees were done with thousands only.”

Masjid-e-Murshideen is also the headquarters of the Tabligi Jamaat in Kupwara district, where Muslim men meet every week for night-long learning and prayer sessions. Tabligi Jamaat organizes small groups of Muslim men who go to various villages and neighbourhoods to propagate the basic tenets of faith among the community.

“The central heating system was more of a necessity than desire. The Jamats (groups of Muslim men) coming here should have adequate facilities and building a large hamam would have been a cumbersome project,” says Abdul Rashid, a frequent visitor to the mosque.

A hamam was built on the second storey of the mosque but the experiment was not successful.

The minarets of the mosque suffered damage during the 2005 earthquake.

Zahoor Ahmad blames the unavailability of expert and skilled labour for the damage inflicted by the quake. “We had so many plans for the mosque but the skilled labours were not available. Because of that the mosque suffered a little damage during the quake which was immediately repaired,” Zahoor said.

Being the headquarters of Tabligi Jamat the mosque is a hub of many religious activities. “You know the people of Kupwara are mostly illiterate, my idea was that this mosque should be devoted to both the learning and preaching. Because a learned can worship better,” adds Pir Shams-ud-din.

Haji Habibullah, an octogenarian, who is a frequent visitor says, “Even after crossing 70 (years of age) I was not knowing even the basic verses of Quran but thanks to this mosque now I am a little better in my salat (prayers).”

Every Thursday night a scholar delivers sermons on Quran and Hadith (sayings of the prophet). Arrangements are made for those who stay for the night long programme.

“People from across Kashmir come here, even from Srinagar, and stay here for the night,” says one Ghulam Hassan, pointing towards an adjacent building reserved for the guests, who has been coming here for a decade now. The frequency of the jamats usually increases during the winters partly because most of the boys are on winter vacation.

Worshippers throng the mosque every day. A elderly person from an adjoining village says that the mosque is playing an active role in bringing people closer to religion. “Here they teach you the religion, humanity and brotherhood. I often go with the jamat for at least 10 days a year,” he adds.

Tariq Ahmad is a government school teacher who spends most of the Thursdays at the mosque. “I would definitely say that the work done here has no parallels for its propagation of the teachings of Islam.”

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