[Worshippers thronged Masjid Haji Abdul Rauf on Friday October 21, 2016 when it was opened in the presence of Jamiat Ulema Chief Arshad Madani. (Photo: Courtesy WhatsApp)]
Malegaon: From lustrous minaret of unique design, outer walls artistically crafted using red bricks and rooftop having ventilation to suit local environ to class interior and state-of-the art and modern washrooms and wadhu khanas, Masjid Haji Abdul Rauf is an architectural master piece. But, with a provision for women, this architectural monument could have been more impeccabl and perfect.
What was more embarrassing, rather humiliating, was watching the enthusiastic women, visiting in groups to have a look of this beautiful mosque ever since it was opened Friday October 21, 2016, being restricted from entering into the mosque. Far from allowing them two rakats of salaat, which many of them eagerly willing to offer, they are not even allowed to have a mere glimpse of the mosque interior.
“Women were permitted to enter inside the mosque till its opening. Now that the mosque has been inaugurated and regular salaat have started, women cannot enter”, a woman visitor said while talking to ummid.com, her eyes full of despair and disbelief.
The mosque was opened on Friday in the presence of Jamiat Ulema Hind President Arshad Madani. It is named after Haji Abdul Rauf of the popular Ghastelwala family in the Fort area of Malegaon. Haji Abdul Rauf’s father was into kerosene business hence became famous with “Ghastelwala” suffix. He switched to power loom business later on, with the colored sarees produced by him selling like hot cake. His three sons – Mushtaq Ahmad, Hafiz Shabbeer Ahmad and Iftekhar Ahmad further expanded the business and today they are among top entrepreneurs of Malegaon.
“Kabhi Paise gina nahi. We wanted the mosque named after our late father to be a master piece and hence never cared about the money being spent”, Mushtaq Ahmad said in reply to an indirect question by Jamiat Ulema Chief about the cost of construction.
Masjid Haji Abdul Rauf, having a capacity of roughly around one thousand worshippers, is designed by NBZ Architectural Consultants, Nashik. Unfortunately, Architect N Aboojiwala, who led the team of designers to finalize the mosque plan, expired about eight months ago. Masjid Haji Abdul Rauf, however, because of its design which is quite different from other mosques in Malegaon of Arabic, Turkish and Mughal architecture, is at the center of discussion not only in the city but also among local architects and civil engineers.
“The red bricks used in the outer wall of Masjid Haji Abdul Rauf are facade bricks. They are actually fired facing bricks - solid, durable and practically maintenance-free”, Architect Ather Shazan said while talking to ummid.com.
“Unlike clay bricks, their colour does not lose radiance with time”, he added.
According to senior Architect Arif Shah, the mosque has been built as per the African Vernacular architecture.
“This is African architecture originated in North Africa. It is a special category of architecture style of North Africa which later transformed as juxtafusion of Arabian influences. The domes, arches, spatial buttresses are significant elements in this transformational style”, he added.
Malegaon, the Muslim dominated city in North Maharashtra famous for its textile industry, is also called as “City of Mosques” due to the presence of mosques in almost every street. Other prominent mosques in the city are Noorani Masjid, Masjid Jameela, Nomani Masjid of Madrasa Millat, and recently opened Masjid Ahmad-e-Mustafa, Mushawarat Square. However, Masjid Aisha, Mansoora still outshines over 300 mosques of Malegaon. Built in white marble, Masjid Aisha with a capacity of more than 5000 worshippers, besides other features, is female friendly with special provision for women worshippers.
Interestingly, Masjid Haji Abdul Rauf is inaugurated at a time when India is debating extensively over rights of Muslim women and gender equality. Haji Abdul Rauf Ghastelwala himself, as people close to him still recall, was known for his progressive thinking. His sons would have done a great job if the mosque they have built was female friendly.
“They have done a marvelous job - the designers, workers and owners combine. But, they have missed it to be a "Masjid alas-Sunnah (مسجد على السنه). They built and opened this masjid for half the human race. Rest half is entirely deprived of it”, Architect Arif Shah said.
Incidentally, Architect Arif Shah was recently in the news because of his campaign to promote, design and construct female friendly mosques. In fact, he refused big mosque projects when the trustees refused to accept his condition to build a female friendly mosque with suitable and enough space for women worshippers.