Walking through the roads of Shopian, as I proceeded towards the main market, the great and significant Jamia Masjid grasps my eyes, amid all the hustle bustle of the main chowk where occupants mostly come putting up their stalls. It’s historic prominence and beautiful architecture makes me contemplate over and over again, how beautifully the architecture is carved. Shopian, despite being politically disturbed because of the ongoing turbulence in the Kashmir valley, the mosque and the beautiful Azaan from the speakers bring solace to the ears of the people. It was earlier rich and known for its scenic beauty, not that it has lost its importance now but the district has become more commercialized than it used to be earlier, overshadowing the persona of the mosque.
As I sit inside and went around the beautiful mosque, the Quranic verses carved on the doors as I step into the mosque welcome me. Standing in the midst of the mosque, I can spot the birds go gaga during the morning call for Azaan.
Nazir Ahmad Khan, 70, is a former president of the committee which overlooks the affairs of the mosque. He was elected as the president of the Awqaf committee in 1999, and for over a decade he did his part for the mosque.
“The mosque was built by Ustab Habib Ullah, a woodworker from Srinagar, during the 1930s. He was asked to look after the construction of the mosque. The stones were collected from the vicinity of the Rambi Ara River with the help of camels to shuttle. Women in large number donated their silver ornaments for the building of the great historic mosque. Even people who belonged from marginal backgrounds contributed to the construction of the mosque ” Nazir says.
Farooq Ahmad Naikoo, a local resident, remembers that people used to work tirelessly day and night to build the mosque. The laborers would rub the bricks to get a special finish on the them.
“In 1940, the foundation of the mosque was laid. The president was Mohammad Afzal Dar (Drabgam), along with members Mirza Mohammad Afzal Beg, popularly known by the name Fakhr-e-Kashmir, a well known Kashmiri politician and lieutenant of late Chief minister Shiek Abdullah, Nabji governor Islamabad (Anantnag), and Gulam Hassan Malik Zaildar (Kulgam ) Lamar,” narrates Farooq addding, “these were some known faces of Shopian, it took 8 years to build the mosque.”
However, as the years passed, the locals say the mosque lost its sheen. They blame the committee for turning a blind eye towards the maintenance of the mosque which has led to its retrogression.
“Water is continuously spilling through the rooftop, the main cause of depredation in the mosque is due to the ignorance and scuffle among the committee members,” says Riyaz, a local while pointing towards the mosque rooftop.
People say different members of the committee are often at loggerheads with each other, thus not being able to look after the administration properly. “The masjid committee was into a quarrel for ten years which led to the deterioration of the mosque. Sometimes, it lead to a violent scuffle. Groups often fight over the money", locals allege.
Jamia Masjid Shopain is of historical significance and it is the mosque that was built by the masses without any assistance from the rulers and the government, unlike the case with numerous other monuments in the valley.
Despite the mosque receiving huge funds, no care is taken on the structural maintenance of the mosque.
But what makes Jamia Masjid different from what it was earlier is the lack of the mainstream administration. The need of the hour is to throw light on the loopholes and to work as a society towards preserving what has been a very valuable gift by our ancestors.
[The writer is a student of journalism and can be reached at email@example.com. First published by CounterCurrents.org.]
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