By initiating a free vegetarian meal service, the trustees of this mosque have introduced an inclusivity to a sacred space.
By Mohammed Wajihuddin
Mumbai: It is around 8.30pm. The muezzin at the massive, white-washed green minarate-decorated Sunni Muslim Bilal Masjid on Grant Road (East) has called out the faithful for Isha or the night prayer. While several devout Muslims head to the mosque’s inner sanctum, a group of good samaritans first finish a big task at hand before joining others at the prayers.
They hand out food packets, each containing three rotis, sabzi and pickle to the hungry, impoverished lot who have queued up at the Idgah Maidan on the mosque’s eastern flank.
Led by spiritual leader Syed Moin Ashraf Quadri (Moin Mian), one of the trustees of Sunni Muslim Chhota Kabrastan Trust which manages both the Bilal Masjid and the Idgah Maidan, this charitable act is unusual if not altogether unique. Langar or community kitchen through which Sikhs distribute free meals to the visitors in the Gurudwaras, is common. Distribution of free meal at Dargahs or mausoleums of Sufi Saints is also passe. But rarely does a mosque or a trust which runs a mosque manage a langar.
The service named Langar-e-Rasool (the Prophet’s kitchen) began last month. The trustees have not just begun feeding some of the poor in the city, but even revolutionised the role of a mosque. Mosques traditionally are used to pray or even to hold Quran classes, but, by initiating a free vegetarian meal service and naming it after the Prophet, the trustees have introduced an inclusivity to a sacred space. “The Prophet encouraged people to feed the poor and the hungry and the hungry can be from any religion. We have kept it vegetarian to widen its appeal to non-Muslims who may not be comfortable to take non-vegetarian food from a Muslim-run organisation,” explains Moin Mian whose fellow trustees-Abdul Kader Churatwala, Amin Dabbawala and Aslam Lakha-approved the proposal when one of Moin Mian’s followers proposed the idea and initially funded the project. “We have done the maths and can give food to at least 400 people every night. Currently around 100 turn out to receive free meal,” informs Dabbawala.
The food, Dabbawala insists, prepared from fresh vegetables and pure wheat flour, at the nearby Madrassa Ashrafia Qadriya (Moin Mian heads it), reach the maidan just before the night prayer begins. As the volunteers bring the baskets, the beneficiaries queue up.