happened to visit the capital city a couple of days ago.
I found an opportunity to go to the Shah Faisal Masjid.
This masque is indeed a masterpiece of art and architecture.
Before I come to the main point of this column, I would
like to narrate a little bit about the structure and history
of this mosque for your reading pleasure.
The mosque is rightly named after Shah Faisal (late), the
ex-ruler of Saudi Arabia and a true well-wisher of the Islamic
World. In 1966 when he visited Islamabad, Islamabad was
a newborn city. During the visit he was informed that a
historical and exquisite masque was to be constructed in
the new city. He not only supported the idea but also promised
to bear all the expenditures on its construction. In 1969
a contest at the international level was arranged inviting
the architects from all over the world with uncompromising
reputation. The model made presented by Vedit Dolki, a Turk
architect was approved as the best.
The design is unique in design from all other Pakistani
mosques. The design seems to have been derived from a large
tent. Four minarets have been constructed on each of its
four corners with a height of 285ft with another 14ft including
the length of the golden crests made of gilded copper. The
fifth and the largest crest has been installed over the
top of the main hall with a height more than 20ft. Although
the mosque has no boundary wall or any arch-shaped roof,
yet its main hall is without pillars and has the largest
covered area compared to all the mosques in the world. The
dimension of this equal-sided hall is 280ft with a height
of 140ft. Almost 10,000 people can pray in its lounge at
a time. A very beautiful chandelier has been fixed to the
ceiling of the main hall. The chandelier, gifted by the
Muslims artisans of China, is fitted with 1,100 electric
bulbs that not only illuminate the hall but also embellish
the inside view. The mosque is surrounded by two yards having
verandahs on the outer sides. Almost one hundred thousand
people can offer prayers in the hall, yards and verandas.
The spacious hall, tall minarets crowned with golden crests,
illuminating chandeliers, serene ponds and waterspouts with
the crystal clear water have a glamorous power to astound
a human eye.
I experienced the same exotic elation yet I had a feeling
of sudden and deep shock to see the people’s conduct
against the sanctity of the mosque. By chance the moment
we reached there, people were coming in for the Zuhr (noon-prayer).
The visitors including women and children were entering
the mosque in groups but most of them with conduct as if
it was not a mosque but a museum or garden. Hullabaloo,
photographs, unveiling women, playing children, whispering
young couples and old men and women lying about… at
a time when prayer was being performed. Although there were
many instructions about the due reverence of a mosque, the
visitors neglected instructions criminally and there was
no one to stop them. There was a contradiction between the
words and actions of the administration. One of the instructions
prohibited photography in the mosque, but the bookstalls
near the yard were selling the books and magazines full
A book authored by William Shakespeare with his picture
on the title page was on display in a facing showcase and
could be seen when standing in the courtyard. That stall
was also a good place to purchase pants and shirts with
pictures printed on them. Stone and bricks construct only
the structure of a mosque. The purpose of its construction
cannot be achieved without due maintaining mosques sanctity.
People not giving reverence to mosques do not make any spiritual
gains by coming to there.
Those who love God are identified with a love for mosques.
One who does not revere a mosque actually shows no respect
to Allah Almighty. The people who are acquainted with the
etiquettes and their hearts are filled with Allah’s
love. When they enter a mosque, they are overwhelmed by
the Majesty and Sovereignty of Allah, walking humbly either
silent or busy glorifying Allah’s name. They know
that making a noise, talking about the worldly affairs,
chuckling and strolling, and bringing women and very small
children there, all are the activities against the etiquettes.
Women have been ordered to perform Salaat at their homes
and that too at a covered portion.
Once the wife of Abu Hammed Sa’adi (radhiallahu ‘anhu)
expressed her desire to offer prayers led by the Holy Prophet
(sallallahu ‘alaihe wasallam) in the mosque. The Prophet
(sallallahu ‘alaihe wasallam) replied: I know your
desire but for you performing the Salaat in a room is better
than performing in a veranda and performing in a veranda
is better than performing in a courtyard.
Along the eastern wall of the hall of the Shah Faisal Masjid,
there is a gallery speciefied for women. Since we had to
perform the Zuhr prayer in the Jami‘ah Faridiay due
to some reason, we left the mosque while the prayer had
just started. We witnessed that many women were busy gossiping
in courtyard and verandahs. Some of them were praying without
any arrangement to cover themselves. Our friends who live
in Islamabad said that the situation was more badly on Fridays
than normal days as women come to visit the mosque so large
in number that it is nearly impossible to avoid mixing with
them. The indecent activities of the scoundrels were enough
to shame the men present there but women considered it a
great virtue to visit the mosque and that too without proper
These scenes of disrespect, photography, mix gathering and
negligence to the obligation of prayer are not specific
to the Shah Faisal Masjid as these scenes can also be seen
in many beautiful and historical masques including the Gol
Masjid in the Karachi and the Badshahi Masjid Lahore.
When I see the sanctity of mosques being violated in such
a way, I fear if our mosques are being converted into the
museums. You must have heard about the beauty and attractiveness
of the Qurtuba Masjid in Andalusia. Today that historical
and beautiful mosque has been converted into a museum where
no one is allowed to perform the Salaat. No doubt the Jami‘ah
Masjid Qurtuba is under the custody of the non-Muslims but
the custodians of the Jami‘ah Aaya Sofia in Istanbul
is under Muslim custody, but praying was declared unlawful
by Kamal Ataturk. Some people in Pakistan seek their ideal
in Kamal Ataturk. God forbid! Attempts are being made to
repeat the history of Turkey in Pakistan by converting the
mosques into museums.