This is the story of India’s oldest mosque which has been disowned and discarded by its own religion and people, Barwada Masjid of Ghogha, Gujrat. All for a change in Islam that changed the way the world works now, or at least for 1/4th of the world’s population – the Muslims.
THIS ISNT ABOUT ISLAM, IT’S ABOUT INDIA’S HISTORY
Neither do I wish to disprove someone’s belief, nor do I wish to wastefully invest my efforts in finding the proof of god’s non-existence. So I say, I’m not an atheist, I’m agnostic. I have a list of my favourite tales to tell about religion, even bigger a collection of question to ask, and further bigger a treasury of arguments for those who even attempt to convert me. While I’m born a Hindu, my interest lies in the practices of Islam. This, comes from my interest in travels, Urdu language, and Mughal History. Now, Urdu by no means is Islamic, it’s an Indian language, divided by the British (there’s a story there as well).
Regions have languages, not religions.
ISLAM – A STUDY RAISING A BILLION QUESTIONS
In the last week or so, I’ve read a ton of texts about Islam, and subsequently watched documentaries, both, supporting and disapproving of it, and its fractions. I don’t really have a side to pick, nor would I be answerable to someone even if I picked one. I reckon neutral is a side by itself, and comfy one to be at.
There’s one story that has recently piqued my interest and I wish to document for my own interest. The story of India’s first mosque.
PREFACE – THE CHANGE IN ISLAM, AND MOSQUES
Before I do that, let’s just establish a fact, especially for those who don’t know much about Islam. Quran is a narration of prophecies that Muhammed received from Allah. What the Muslims of the world follow today are these preachings of their last prophet – Muhammed. While all Muslims offer namaaz in a fixed direction of Mecca, its wasn’t always the case. The direction has changed, and differ in various ancient mosques a several times. Prior to this, Muslims of the world prayed in the direction of Jerusalem. Due to various reasons, later, Muhammed changed the direction to Mecca in 623AD. Surprising, some of the oldest surviving mosques, after this change, face Petra. Mecca is mentioned in the Quran only once, which too came up after 120 years after Muhammed died. There’s a clear possibility that it was a result of Chinese whispers between Becca and Mecca. Some of the Spanish mosques face at neither Jerusalem, nor Petra or Mecca. Instead, their mehraab suggest that the qibla is parallel to an imaginary line between Jerusalem and Mecca.
So, let this be known that Islam and Quran are split and are ambiguous at various places and at various levels. Or simply, Islam went through a change of the ultimate praying place, and there was an entire period of confusion. There’s also the consideration of politics and power. And, undeniably, change of literature by the governing power.
INDIA’S OLDEST MOSQUE – IF IT IS ONE
Google search ‘India’s oldest mosque’ and it’ll land you at Kerala’s Cheraman Mosque. It was built in 629AD, rebuilt in the 11th century, destroyed and attacked by the Portuguese in 1504, and recently restored at a cost of Rs 1.13 crore. Reality may be different though. The oldest mosque in India is the Jumi/Barwada Masjid in Gujrat, but no one talks about it. (Barwada in Gujarati translates as outsiders’ or foreigners’). You may not even find its mentions in the list of monuments or on travel brochures for the region. Why so?
Remember, the Muslim custom of offering namaz during the times of Prophet Muhammad had changed? Between 610 and 623, prayers were rendered towards Jerusalem. Barwada Masjid is said to be constructed during this period, or before. However, since then Muhammed instructed its subjects to pray in the direction of Kaaba in Mecca. Cheraman Mosque’s qibla (direction of prayer) faces Mecca. (A a semi-circular niche in the wall, called mehraab, suggests the qibla at all mosques, as the directions can change depending on where on Earth you stand). This is an approximately 20 degrees shift from where Barwada Masjid stands. This is why the local Muslims stopped offering namaaz at this mosque, rendering it unfit to be called a pious place of worship. The Kerela mosque faces the correct qibla as it stands true today.
DISAPPOINTED BY THE INDIAN POWERS – OLDEST DEMOCARACY
Built by Arab traders in a once flourishing town of Ghogha, the stone structure has been abandoned for very obvious reasons by its devotees. And since it had lost its importance then, this 600 years old structure isn’t even considered a monument, let alone worthy of any preservation efforts. I consider it a great shame!
The political battle of power, money, prestige, egos, and control let to the creation of a haphazardly conceived religion. Its nature of oral tellings dented its plausible authenticity, which was further marred by the change of powers and splitting of the world into smaller nations, dictatorship, and play of money made it a mess. Questioning its authenticity is a bigger task than just ignoring them and accepting it all at face value. But, with 1/4th of the world’s population following it, madly so, much like any religion, it must be questioned. But even that can’t help the sad demise of Barwada Masjid. It indeed remains a mosque that’s been failed by the very religion it was built to serve in the first place.