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‘Grand mosque in Ayodhya to represent peace and love’

Recently appointed as a trustee of the Indo-Islamic Culture Foundation and Chairperson of hte Development Committee of Muhammad Bin Abdullah Masjid, Arfat, a former chairperson of the Maharashtra State Commission for Minorities and a BJP leader, shared his vision for the project in an interview with DH
Last Updated : 26 December 2023, 01:02 IST
Last Updated : 26 December 2023, 01:02 IST

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Mumbai’s Haji Arfat Shaikh is set to lead the development of the grand mosque to be constructed on the land allocated in lieu of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The mosque, named Muhammad Bin Abdullah Masjid after the Prophet, will situated at Dhannipur in Ayodhya. Recently appointed as a trustee of the Indo-Islamic Culture Foundation and Chairperson of hte Development Committee of Muhammad Bin Abdullah Masjid, Arfat, a former chairperson of the Maharashtra State Commission for Minorities and a BJP leader, shared his vision for the project in an interview with DH’s Mrityunjay Bose. Edited excerpts:  

What would be the most unique thing about this mosque?

My idea is to give the country  something that symbolises its ethos, spreading the message of peace and love. It is a matter of great pride and responsibility that I have been chosen to oversee the implementation of the project. Firstly, it is going to be the biggest mosque and the mosque complex in India, accommodating more than 9,000 people in the prayer hall. Secondly, in India we have seen several mosques with two minarets. We all know about the four minarets, that is, the Charminar of Hyderabad. The mosque in Dhannipur would have five minarets--the only mosque in India to have so. The five minarets symbolise the five pillars of Islam: Namaz, Kalima, Zakat, Roza and Haj. Thirdly, the world’s biggest Quran, measuring 21 feet high and 36 feet wide, would be placed in the site. There are several other never-seen-before things that we are planning. In the years to come, it would attract more people than the Taj Mahal.

What would be the total area of the complex?

The Supreme Court, in its November 9, 2019 judgement in the Ayodhya dispute, has asked the government to give 5 acres of land within Ayodhya, which has been allotted in Dhannipur around 25 kms away from the site where the Ram temple is coming up. The mosque site is located near a small river. We have acquired 6 acres of land of our own. If need be we will acquire more land after following the due process. It’s going to be spread over a huge area. Pune-based architect Imran Sheikh is working on the design. Hundreds of people are involved in the project. 

When is the construction expected to start, and when will it be completed? 

We are trying to lay the foundation early next year. Saints, peers, and clerics from across the country will be invited for the foundation-laying ceremony. The entire complex is expected to take around five years to complete. The complex will also include a cancer hospital, an international school and several colleges, a museum, a library, and a vegetarian kitchen where visitors will be offered free food. One of the highlights will be a huge aquarium near the ablution space, with separate sections for men and women. The aquarium would be bigger than the one you see in Dubai. For the inauguration, we plan to invite top clerics from across the world including Imam-e-Haram, who leads the namaz at the Mecca Masjid.

What are the other plans?

Among the major plans we are focusing on is an old-age home where people of all religions and communities can stay if they meet a set of criteria. The education complex will be one of the best with scope for expansion. As of now, we have planned an international school, colleges dedicated to education in engineering, medicine, dental, law, and architecture. Dr Habil Khorakiwala, Chairman of Wockhardt Group, is entrusted with the responsibility of setting up a 500-bed cancer hospital. 

How can people get involved?

We shared the plans with the people during the meeting of All India Rabta-e-Masjid in Mumbai, where Zufar Farooqui, Chairman of the Indo Islamic Cultural Foundation, was present. The meeting was attended by about 1,000 clerics of all sects including Sunni, Shia, Barelvi, and Deobandi, and representatives from all political parties and citizen groups. At every stage, we will involve people and take their suggestions. It’s their mosque. 

What is your vision for the project?

The focal point is dua (worship) and dawa (healing) at one place. My idea is to give the country something that would symbolise the ethos of the nation, to spread the message of peace and love. The country has seen enough disputes. This will be a mosque of love and peace. We believe in Gareeb Nawaz. As far as funds are concerned, we are not going to ask money from the government. We are very clear that we are not going from door to door for collection. We are planning to have a QR code and donations will be accepted online. As a Mumbaikar, it is a matter of pride for me that I have been entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the development of the grand mosque, which would be an example in the world. 

What is the estimated cost?

At this point, it is difficult to specify as we are fine-tuning and refining the project. There are several things that are involved. As we appraoch the foundation laying ceremony, we will be able to provide something more concrete as far as cost is concerned. However, our intention is clear, we have to complete the entire mosque complex within five years.

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Published 26 December 2023, 01:02 IST

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