First glass mosque in the country

First glass mosque in the country

Masjid has a seating capacity of around 2,000  and has separate space for women to offer prayers.

When Sayeedullah Nongrum, General Secretary of the Shillong Muslim Union (SMU), dreamt of constructing a mosq­ue made of glass and that too without a professional architect, most of the peop­le considered it to be a reverie. After four years, the resplendent structure of glass dome and glass minarets of Madina Masjid stands inside the idgah complex in Shillong, making India only the third country to have a mosque built of glass.

“It was a distant dream for us and we have achieved it. The incredible charm of the green glass edifice with its matchless design and radiance... my heart says... the structure has come up here from the Omniscient Source far above the creativity of human mind. No one had ever planned or designed it before; it is Allah’s divinity that has made the House of the like of His Choice,” Sayeedullah Nongrum told Deccan Herald over phone from Shillong.

“It is an architectural marvel. It took us nearly four years to complete the only glass mosque in India and the largest one in the north-eastern region,” Nongrum, who is also a Congress legislator, said.

When asked how such a structure was created, Nongrum said: “Actually we never thought that it would become an architectural wonder. We wanted to build  a mosque because it was becoming a big problem for the people, particularly women of the area, to offer prayers on the open ground”.

“So we started constructing a mosque on the complex in the city’s Laban area which is close to the Garrison Grounds along the Umshyrpi River. After we completed the first storey of the mosque it was opened to the people on August 29, 2008,” Nongrum said.

After the completion of the first floor, the union purs­ued permission for the construction of upper floors and the work continued  under the supervision of Sayeedullah Nongrum and the present Office Superintendent of Umshyrpi College Jawed Nongrum.

“Many a time, I saw that even his (Sayeedullah Nongrum) lunch and dinner were brought from home and delivered at the idgah compound by his children or helpers, for he didn’t have time to go and have food at  home due to his service and daily routine to attend his office,” said one of the members of SMU, who worked together with Nongrum.

On the concept of glass mosque, Nongrum said: “Actu­ally after the completion of the first storey we contacted a company in Ajmer for the construction of the rest of the building but it asked for a huge amount which we couldn’t afford,” Nongrum said.

“We mainly had to depend on donations and so we thought of constructing it ourselves and at a meeting it was suggested that if we make strong steel frames and fix glasses then it will be cost effective and good looking and we jumped on that idea and the glass mosque came up,” he added.

The union had to spend Rs 2 crore to build the four-storey building-- 120 feet high and 61 feet wide with structure of glass dome and glass minarets which glow and glitter at night. “The entire money was given by our members and some benevolent people of the locality. We didn’t take a single penny from the government or any other organisation,” Nongrum said.

When asked about the structural details of the mosque, Nongrum said: “barring the floor, staircase and concrete pillars, the rest of the structure is made of glass. We outsou­rced the material from Guwahati and Kolkata  and the entire responsibility of the frames and glass was taken by one of our members”.

“You will be surprised to know that the people who worked here are Hindus and they are from Coochbehar district in West Bengal,” Nongrum said.

The multi-purpose cluster of buildings may serve as an edifice, a home and a learning centre to those seekers of true knowledge into spiritual as well as intellectual realm. At present the mosque houses a new orphanage named Meherba, a library and a markaz— an Islamic theological institute. The new theological institute would impart Islamic teachings and the library there would have books on comparative religious studies.

The library has been built keeping in mind the future needs. To begin with, it will have basic Islamic study material. Slowly, it will be upgraded and will have the resource of advance dogmatic theology as well as comparative religi­ous studies in the near future. “The library is open to all subject to the condition that every user has to maintain the sanctity of the place while using the resource,” Nongrum said.

Madina Masjid has a seating capacity of around 2,000  and has separate space for women to offer prayers. Now, the building, which was inaugurated last month, has become a tourist attraction.

As many as 51 boys and girls are in the orphanage and they go to a primary school in the idgah complex established in 1942. The complex also has a minority co-educational institution, Umshyrpi College, set up in 1994.

About women offering prayers in the mosque, Nongrum said: “In 2008, the idgah was the first in the region to open doors to women devotees. I had seen Muslim women offering prayers with great difficulty in the absence of space and privacy, especially while at work or out of home.

“When our women go to market, which is considered to be the worst place for Muslim women under Sharia, we  men do not object. So, why can’t women go to a masjid and offer prayers? Why fanatics object to it?” he said.

“I don’t believe in the interpretation of fanatics. Purdah means inner shyness of women. If the shyness is retained, she can go anywhere. There’s nothing forbidden in going to a place and offering prayer,” he added.

An ardent fan of Urdu shayari, Nongrum recited, “Mana ki is chaman ko – Guljar na kar sake hum/ Kuch Khar kom kiye hai / gujre jahan se hum” (I admit that I have failed to make this world a garden but I have plucked some thorns whenever I walked through this earth). This is perhaps the best one liner to describe the mosque and the passion behind it.

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