Pakistan’s first non-sectarian mosque calls for Muslim unity

Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba (photo taken by Tanvir Shehzad)

The first non-sectarian mosque has been established in the capital city of Pakistan.

Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba in Islamabad is the first non-sectarian mosque to be built in Pakistan which accommodates for both Sunni and Shia Muslims. The mosque’s story is as dramatic as the sectarian history of Pakistan.

The newly-built mosque in Islamabad’s Margalla foothills is calling upon its worshipers to stop discriminating along sectarian lines and to start praying together, under the same roof.

Local businessman, Zahid Iqbal conceptualised the idea of a sect-free mosque in 2010. He purchased the plot of land in the E-11 sector. He said: “The road to the realisation of my dream wasn’t easy. At first, authorities refused to register it as a sect-free mosque.

“Under Capital Development Authority rules, every mosque has to declare its sect following, before being granted permission to build the mosque.”

The procedure involved some complicated manoeuvring which involved the bypass of strict rules, which Mr Iqbal had to register a trust, and then sub-register the mosque under the trust’s banner – The Al-Kitaab Foundation Trust.

So far, Mr Iqbal has already found an Imam for the mosque. The man for this difficult yet “brave” job is Qari Jehangir, who is currently doing his Master’s degree from the Islamic University. The coordinator of the mosque is completing his MBA from Preston University. Both men are in their twenties. The Imam and Khateeb are both from different sects, Sunni and Shia – and the mosque administration says it will have no problem if a Shia Imam leads the prayers.

Mr Iqbal says there is a “simple philosophy” behind his revolutionary idea. For the mosque’s administration to brandish Islam along sectarian lines will damage religion more than any other reason. He said: “By branding ourselves on sectarian lines we have even put non-believers to shame through violence and unruly conduct.” He believes that certain religious leaders known as “mullahs” have turned religion into a financial business venture for petty personal or political gains.

Referring to his prayer hall as a “model mosque”, Mr Iqbal added: “This is God’s house. Even non-Muslims are allowed to come and seek guidance.”

The mosque which is located in the northern strip of the capital in the E-11/2 sector, not only invites Sunni and Shia Muslims, but also has a separate section for women, and a library filled with religious books from both sects. With the support of other businessmen and Pakistanis from overseas, the 2-kanal compound has been built at a cost of Rs30 million (£4.6 million).

The mosque is also funding students’ completion of their Bachelor’s degree, which they could not have afforded without external assistance.

Mr Iqbal is overwhelmed by the response he has received from the people of Islamabad and other cities. He said: “There has been individual criticism but overall a collective acceptance amongst the community is settling in. People from different sects are already praying there together, although the number is not yet big enough to cover the 350-people prayer hall.”

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