Festival invitation to mosque for all faiths

Gathering to create 'brotherhood'

By Pheroze L. Vincent
  • Published 23.06.18
Visitors at the mosque during the programme. Picture by Pheroze L Vincent

New Delhi: Theatre practitioner Subhash Rawat is preparing to stage his play Idgah, based on Munshi Premchand's eponymous short story.

His troupe got a pre-production primer on Friday, when Rawat took them to a New Delhi mosque whose imam, Mobidullah Nadvi, has thrown open the shrine's doors to passersby, irrespective of their faith.

"They've been to temples, gurdwaras and churches. But no one had been to a mosque," Rawat told The Telegraph, recounting how the children at his theatre workshop had looked at him with blank faces when he had asked them what they knew about Id and mosques.

"Mosques are open to all but people hesitate to enter. When I got to know of this invitation (by the imam), I told the children and their parents," Rawat said.

Nadvi has for the past 14 years served as the imam of the Red Cross Road Jama Masjid, which shares the same name as the more popular 17th century mosque in Old Delhi.

Among those who have listened to his sermons are parliamentarians, dignitaries and government employees.

Earlier this week, he went a step forward. He put up a sign outside the mosque that said: "All Non-Muslims invited to visit my mosque. Celebrate Id with us."

Friday was the two-day celebration's first day. "Everyone who celebrates Id hosts guests and friends. In times like this, I thought why not invite non-Muslims - those who may not know about what happens in a mosque - to come and join us. There are difficult situations these days, situations that give rise to both problems and solutions. Festivals are our common heritage. They shouldn't create confusion, but brotherhood," Nadvi told this paper.

It appears to have been a masterstroke. "I came straight from office, as I didn't want to miss this," said Manisha Pathania, mother of a child, one of those who would act when Idgah, a story that begins on an Id day many decades ago, is staged on Sunday.

"I had not been inside a mosque. I learnt so much about their culture. I didn't know that women were also allowed inside," Pathania said.

Many others who had turned up listened as Nadvi explained the call for prayer ( azaan), the ritual ablution (wuzu) before one enters a mosque and the different kinds of namaaz.

Those interested were given a brief history of the mosque - believed to have existed for around three centuries and rebuilt in 1931, four years after Parliament House was constructed.

The mosque, which hosts the mausoleum of former President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed, is one of the few in north India that hold special namaaz for women. For daily namaaz, there is a room for women while the upper balcony is reserved for them for occasional namaaz.

After a tour of the mosque, those present sat on a green-carpeted floor and were served wheat halwa, sewai, dates and samosas.

"It's up to us adults to give kids the chance. After all, theatre isn't just about acting, it's also about awareness and sensitivity to the world around us," Rawat said.

Tensions had flared in neighbouring Gurgaon after some groups had disrupted open-air namaaz on Fridays during Ramazan.

"Such a gathering (like Nadvi's invitation) is needed when some people create differences.... The objective of this Id Milan was to share our joy and build acceptance and respect for each others' religions. Similar milans have happened in Bangalore and Hyderabad," Rawat said.