Promoting Interfaith Understanding
Bangalore Mosque Hosts ‘Visit My Mosque Day’
Recently, the Rahmath Group organized a ‘Visit My Mosque Day 2020’ at Bangalore’s Modi Masjid, situated in Tasker Town, close to the Shivajinagar bus stand. The mosque, almost two centuries old, is named after Modi Abdul Gafoor, who had given a certain portion of his vast property for building a mosque. A beautiful structure was erected in its place only a few years ago. The Visit My Mosque Day event was posted on social media and there was an overwhelming response to it. According to Sadiq Sailani, one of the organizers, the event was planned for 100 people but more than 300 people showed up. Many people of different communities visited the mosque, and for some it was their first such visit. What happens inside a mosque is not known to many in the outside world, and so this event quenched the curiosity of people regarding mosques. The organizers had made it clear that this was a completely different activity and had no connection whatsoever with the ongoing protests on the CAA-NRC and that any talk regarding about that issue would not be entertained. Through the event they sought to bring different religious communities together and talk about unity. Rahmath Group seeks to organize more such events shortly.
This beautiful initiative was taken to spread love and understanding between different religious communities and promote interfaith harmony. People attended the event in large numbers to declare that no matter what happens, we stand united. A lot of misconceptions about Islam were cleared in this event and people who had never seen the inside of a mosque were brought in, where they were informed about how worship happens in a mosque. One of the organizers, while explaining the rationale behind this event, said that today Islam is being identified with the bad morals of Muslims and we have created a wall between Muslims and people of other faiths by wrongly viewing them as ‘other’. He also pointed out that while Muslims blame the media for misrepresenting Islam, Muslims themselves are to blame for not having explained Islam to others. There is a prevalent negative attitude towards Islam and somebody has to take the first step in overcoming that negativity. He added that the Prophet’s Mosque was open to everybody.
Even people of other faith communities would come inside the mosque and benefit from the teachings of the Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam). So, we should strive to make our mosque like the mosque of our beloved Prophet.
The exotic-looking chandeliers of the mosque coupled with a silky feeling carpet and the beautiful calligraphy on the walls had a very soothing effect on my nerves. The mosque also has a separate lady’s chamber where women pray. The towering minarets could be seen from a distance, in spite of so many huge structures in its vicinity.
The chief organizing party of the event, Rahmath Group is run under the Darul Ehsan charitable trust, which is under the guidance of Hazrat Talha Sahib Naqshbandi, deputy of Shaykh Zulfiqar Ahmad Naqshbandi. Under his guidance, Rahmath Group is carrying out humanitarian activities across communities. The Mission statement of Rahmath Group reads Muhabbat ka deep jalao, nafrat ki aag bujhao, (‘Light the lamp of love and extinguish the fire of hatred’). Their members directly reach out to people from all walks of life and strive to end hatred and spread love. They run a library on Tannery Road, which doubles up as their office and as a unit to store and pack aid, which is then distributed amongst the needy living in slums. They also conduct Quranic classes, skill development and corporate training workshops and medical camps, and visit schools, colleges, hospitals, and are planning to organize visits to jails. While serving people, they do not look at the religion of the person. They serve based on humanity. At Darul Ehsan, they also run a spiritual treatment centre. Guests can come from any state and are allowed to stay in harmony with others and learn the skills to serve humanity for their betterment, thus enhancing their personality.
The mosque visit event was organized on 19th of January 2020, when people had their new year declarations fresh in their minds. The timing was just right to add another declaration of interfaith harmony on everybody’s lists. The crowd was very happy and excited and I could not see anyone leave midway. The entire audience gave their 5 hours on a Sunday to learn about Islam and show unity with their Muslim brothers and sisters.
A few feet away, from the entrance of the mosque, I was greeted by two little girls holding a placard, which read ‘Welcome’ in several different languages. Desks were arranged to greet the visitors. I noticed a list of people who had already registered for the event. Each visitor was given a name badge. I could see a huge crowd of educated people from different faith communities walking in with curious eyes and having a look at the interiors of the mosque. Visitors were told the importance of ablution before entering the mosque. Women were taken to a separate chamber and later joined in the main portion of the mosque, alongside men.
I noticed the happiness being expressed by these women because of being inside a mosque and sitting in an area which was otherwise thought to be reserved only for Muslim men. Some women were wearing western-style wear. The organizers had earlier made it clear that everything was allowed except shorts. Children could be seen playing inside the mosque. Senior citizens were seated on chairs, while the younger crowd preferred the carpet.
As soon as I entered the mosque, I was given a plate full of refreshments and a bag full of books on Islam, along with a notepad and a designer pen with ‘Visit My Mosque Day 2020 Rahmath Group’ printed on it.
The talk began with an explanation of the basic structure of the mosque, followed by a demonstration of namaz. Women were given a separate demonstration of the namaz. Ayat ul-Kursi and Surah Ikhlas were recited and their meanings explained to the audiences. Some hadiths regarding humanity were also elaborated upon and a copy of the Quran was passed on to visitors who read a verse and then a visually-challenged hafiz would read the complete verse.
I noticed during the Q&A session that visitors had a lot of questions. Most of the questions came in from the women’s side. Some of the questions raised were about the time required to complete namaz, why Muslims refer to Allah as ‘He’ if ‘He’ is formless, the difference between a dargah and a mosque, the concept of jihad, and why women are not generally allowed inside mosques. Curious visitors wrote down questions and passed them to the speaker but were disappointed as all of them could not be answered due to lack of time.
The interfaith audience was receptive and open to learning about Islam. They listened with rapt attention, asked a lot of questions and were careful not to offend anybody. Before the Zuhr prayer, there was a spiritual meditation session, followed by the Zuhr namaz and lunch. Visitors witnessed the namaz and were served both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
The initiative by the group and the mosque committee was a very welcome step in fostering understanding amongst people, at a time when the country which is being divided along communal lines. Muslims ought to become more active in such efforts to promote interfaith interaction and understanding. Through such events as was recently organized in this mosque in Bangalore, people of other faiths can learn about Islam directly from Islamic scholars rather than getting biased and prejudiced information from third-party sources who have little or no authentic knowledge or connection with Islam. I hope that more such events are organized, in mosques in other parts of the country too.
Although the event was organized well, I feel that there is always room for improvement in anything that we do. This being the first such event for the general public, Rahmath Group could reflect as to how this effort could be made better and conducted on a larger scale. And just as this interfaith initiative sought to help people of other faiths get a better and more appreciative understanding of Islam, Muslims should also seek to develop a better and more appreciative understanding of other faiths.
(The author is a Bangalore-based freelance writer. He can be contacted on [email protected])