ISLAMABAD: Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba’s story is as dramatic as the sectarian history of Pakistan. The newly-built mosque in Islamabad’s Margalla foothills is calling upon its followers to stop discriminating along sectarian lines and to start praying together – in whichever way they like – under the same roof.
Zahid Iqbal is a local businessman who conceptualised the idea of a sect-free mosque in 2010. He bought the mosque plot in the E-11 sector. But the road to the realisation of his 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 maneuvering: To bypass the strict rules, he registered a trust, and then sub-registered the mosque under the trust’s banner: The Al-Kitaab Foundation Trust.
Meanwhile, Iqbal has already found an Imam for the mosque – Qari Jehangir, who is currently doing his Master’s degree from the Islamic University. The coordinator of the mosque is doing his MBA from Preston University. Both are young men in their twenties. The Imam and Khateeb are both from different sects – and the mosque administration says it will have no problem if a Shia Imam leads prayers.
There’s a simple philosophy behind Iqbal’s revolutionary idea. For the mosque’s administration, branding Islam along sectarian lines has damaged religion more than any other reason. “By branding ourselves on sectarian lines we have even put non-believers to shame through violence and unruly conduct,” the businessman said. He believes that mullahs have turned religion into business ventures for petty personal gains.
Calling his prayer hall a ‘model mosque’, Iqbal added, “This is God’s house. Even non-Muslims are allowed to come and seek the light.”
In addition, the mosque, located in the northern strip of the capital in the E-11/2 sector, not only invites all sects, but also has a separate section for women, and a library filled with religious books from all sects. With the support of other businessmen and overseas Pakistanis, the 2-kanal compound has been built at a cost of Rs30 million.
The mosque is also funding at least ten students’ completion of their Bachelor’s degree, which they could otherwise not have afforded.
So far, Iqbal is thrilled by the reaction he has received from people. “There has been individual criticism but overall a collective acceptance amongst the community is settling in,” he said, adding that people from different sects are already praying there together, although the number is not yet big enough to cover the 350-people prayer hall.