Bangalore Jama Masjid: In a Dynamic Mode
In a Dynamic Mode
A Mosque Committee steps beyond its traditional role and gets deeper into the life of the community
BANGALORE'S centrally located Jama Masjid is not merely the spiritual and religious hub of the city’s Muslims. From the bowels of this magnificent mosque goes out a stirring call for modernizing the Muslim mindset. For over 15 years the Jama Masjid has run a modern English medium school from its cellars, employing Hijab-donning women teachers and imparting basic skills in computers to the Muslim children. It has also become customary for the Masjid to invite and felicitate every new Commissioner of the City Police after a Friday congregation in order to build rapport with the police force. With these hallmarks, Jama Masjid has come to symbolize the new leadership in Bangalore.
Indeed, one would not expect all this from a traditional mosque. But the change owes itself to the dynamic secretary of the Muslim Charitable Fund Trust Atheeq Ahmed who has been helped along in his campaign by the equally enlightened pesh-imam of the mosque Maulana Riyazur Rahman Rashadi. The duo has turned the Masjid into a beehive of educational and socio-economic activity even while taking care to impart basic Islamic instructions to students, both boys and girls.
Today, the managing body of the Jama Masjid, Muslim Charitable Fund Trust after 16 years of steady growth imparts education from pre-primary level to college. The income that the mosque property yields is spent on running a string of institutions, all guided by the vision to empower the community with the education and skills of the age. A couple of hours after the namazis have left the mosque premises after Fajr (dawn) prayers, students begin streaming into the school in the cellars. Nearby, the Jamia Complex Jamia-ul-Uloom Institute of Information Technology offers advanced computer courses such as BCA, diploma and certificate courses in computers etc. A junior college for girls is being run in a building adjacent to the mosque. Some boys and girls even memorise the Holy Quran in the
A dynamic secretary and an enlightened Pesh-imam have turned the Mosque into a beehive of educational activity
Says Atheeq Ahmed, when he and Pesh-imam Maulana Rashadi started the school in the mosque premises there was a storm of resentment. Ulema were opposed to the idea of imparting modern education inside a mosque. But now the institutions have nearly 3,000 students, 86 teachers, 90 per cent of them women, with a budget running into nearly Rs. 4 lakh a month. The opposition has died down and boys and girls attain modern education in an Islamic ambience. The management even employs non-Muslim women teachers.
Encouraged by the success, the mosque has even set up Jamia-ul-Uloom Residential School and the Industrial Training Institute at Banikoppa, a village 30 kms from Bangalore. The campus sprawls over a 62-heactare lush green area and houses two large hostel complexes, a mosque, a convention hall, school building, mango and coconut orchards and a separate campus for the Industrial training institute. The residential school started functioning from 1986, today it has a total strength of 210 students. But Atheeq Ahmed regrets that only a quarter of the students at the ITI are Muslims. “This reflects apathy towards learning skills in the community”, he adds.
What prompted the mosque into this role? Atheeq Ahmed recalls the days in 80s when a defamatory story in a Daily newspaper had caught the state in a communal storm. “Our youth became unsuspecting victims of violence and police firing merely due to ignorance and reactionary attitude. This set us thinking. And we decided to educate the children of the City areas where there were no schools,” reminisces Atheeq Ahmed.
But Atheeq Ahmed still rues the attitude of the members of the community who do not realize the value of the work the mosque committee is doing. According to him, mosque properties occupied by Muslim shopkeepers yield rents ranging from Rs. 30 to 80 a month while a bank alone yields a rent of nearly Rs. one lakh. He laments: “When we approach Muslim shopkeepers to hike the rent they agree for a 10 per cent increase i.e., from Rs. 30 to 33, while non-Muslim shopkeepers offer us blank cheques to write the amount of our choice.” The mosque raises donation to meet deficit by circulating the donation box amid rows of the Juma congregation.
Pesh-imam Riyazur Rahman Rashadi has been a real pillar of support for the Mosque Committee and its educational projects. His Friday sermons have been helpful in mobilizing popular support for the Mosque. Asked how should Muslims reconcile with modern curriculum which carries romantic poetry, chapters on interest in mathematics and distorted history. Can such a curriculum be taught within a mosque. Rashadi replies: “When I did my MA from the University of Mysore, I myself went through all these. We cannot keep away these elements of syllabus. We do have to teach them (students) about its positive and negative aspects, this is very necessary and this could be of help at any point of time. If we avoid teaching them these things they will learn from the television sets at home”.
Rashadi says: “It is not that the alims do not get the jobs after their current level of education but with other courses in madrassas the alims can be more self-reliant”. He advises the madrassas to open Industrial Training Schools and train ulema in craft.
Jama Masjid having set the precedent in Bangalore, a number of mosques in the City are now starting modern schools within their premises while half a dozen mosque have already set up computer training centers.