जामा मस्जिद, दिल्ली

( Jama Masjid, Delhi )

Masjid-i-Jehan-Numa (Persian: مسجدِ جهان نما), commonly known as the Jama Masjid of Delhi, is one of the largest mosques in India.

It was built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan between 1644 and 1656, and inaugurated by its first Imam, Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari. Situated in the Mughal capital of Shahjahanabad (today Old Delhi), it served as the imperial mosque of the Mughal emperors until the demise of the empire in 1857. The Jama Masjid was regarded as a symbolic gesture of Islamic power across India, well into the colonial era. It was also a site of political significance during several key periods of British rule. It remains in active use, and is one of Delhi's most iconic sites, closely identified with the ethos of Old Delhi.

Construction and Mughal Era

Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Jama Masjid between 1650 and 1656, at the highest point of Shahjahanabad. It was constructed by approximately 5000 workers.[1][2][3] The workforce was diverse, consisting of Indians, Arabs, Persians, Turks, and Europeans. The construction was supervised primarily by Sadullah Khan, the wazir (or prime minister) during Shah Jahan's reign, and Fazil Khan, the comptroller of Shah Jahan's household. The cost of the construction at the time was ten lakh (one million) rupees.[4] The mosque was inaugurated on 23 July, 1656 by Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari, from Bukhara, Uzbekistan. He had been invited by Shah Jahan to be the Shahi Imam (Royal Imam) of the mosque.[5]

The mosque was one of the last monuments built under Shah Jahan. After its completion, it served as the royal mosque of the emperors until the end of the Mughal period. The khutba was recited by the Mughal emperor during the Friday noon prayer, legitimising his rule. The mosque was hence a symbol of Mughal sovereignty in India, carrying political significance. It was also an important centre of social life for the residents of Shahjahanabad, providing a space transcending class divide for diverse people to interact.[6][7]

British Raj  Eastern gate of the Jami Masjid, painted in 1795 by Thomas Daniell

The British took over Shahjahanabad in 1803. The Mughal Emperor remained the ritual imperial head of the mosque, but Mughal power and patronage had significantly waned.[8][9] The initial policy of the British in the city was favourable towards its residents; the British undertook repairs and even renovations of the Jama Masjid.[8] The Masjid continued to serve as a site of social and political discourse, in keeping with other mosques of Delhi at the time; for example, theological and philosophical debates were held between Muslims and Christians.[10]

The Revolt of 1857 was a major turning point in this situation. This event resulted in the deaths of many British people in the city, and weakened colonial authority, deeply affronting the British.[8] It also ended the Mughal empire. The British perceived the revolt as instigated by Muslims, cultivated within Delhi's mosques.[11] After the British reclaimed the city in the same year, they razed many mosques and banned the congregation of Muslims in any remaining mosques. The Jama Masjid fell into British confiscation during this time, and was barred from any religious use. It was repeatedly considered for destruction, but the British eventually began using it as barracks for its Sikh and European soldiers. This was a desecration of the space; Aziz characterises the decision as deliberate, in order to insult the sentiments of the city's Muslim inhabitants.[12]

The Masjid was eventually returned to the Muslim population in 1862, due to their increasing resentment of British actions. Multiple conditions were imposed, including the usage of Jama Masjid as strictly a religious site, as well as mandatory policing by the British. The Jama Masjid Managing Committee (JMMC), consisting of respected Muslims of Delhi, was established as a formal body to represent the mosque and enforce these conditions.[13][14]

Upon its return, the Jama Masjid was reestablished as a mosque. Though the Mughal state had been dissolved, the mosque received patronage from various regional Islamic rulers and nobles. In 1886, the Nawab of Rampur donated a large sum of 1,55,000 rupees to facilitate repairs. In 1926, a donation from the Nizam of Hyderabad of 1,00,000 rupees was used for similar purposes.[15]

 Jama Masjid in 1852, as seen from the adjacent Urdu Bazaar.

Growing unrest against British rule manifested in Delhi's mosques from 1911. The Jama Masjid was frequently used for non-religious, political purposes, against the rules instituted. While the British could police and clamp down on political activities in public spaces, the Jama Masjid was a religious space and was hence protected from such action, by both law (Religious Endowment Act, 1863) and the sentiments of Delhi.[16] Hindus often gathered with Muslims in the mosque to express anti-colonial solidarity, in spite of simmering tension between the communities in the colonial period.[17]

Post-Colonial Era

The Jama Masjid continued to be a political symbol after independence. Indian independence activist Abul Kalam Azad delivered a speech from its pulpit during the Friday prayer of 23 October, 1947. The Partition of India was underway, causing massive population movements in Delhi. Azad implored the Muslims of Delhi to remain in India, and attempted to reassure them that India was still their homeland.[18]

During 1948, the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Asaf Jah VII was asked for a donation of 75,000 rupees to repair one-fourth of the mosque floor. The Nizam instead sanctioned 3,00,000 rupees, stating that the remaining three-fourths of the mosque should not look old.[19][20]

The mosque served as a site of significance with regards to the infamously communal Babri Masjid dispute. Abdullah Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of the Jama Masjid at the time, made several speeches in 1986 regarding the issue from the Masjid, condemning the political support given to the Hindu cause and mobilising Muslim sentiments. In one instance this ignited riots and clashes in Old Delhi. In 1987, Jama Masjid was the staging point for a major peaceful protest regarding the Babri Masjid dispute. On 28 May 1987, amidst rising communal tensions and riots all over India, the Jama Masjid was closed by the Imam and adorned in black cloth, symbolising Muslim resentment of government actions at the time. The decision was highly controversial among Islamic leadership.[21]

^ Lews, Robert. "Jama Masjid of Delhi". Britannica. ^ Asher, Catherine B. (1992). The New Cambridge History of India: Architecture of Mughal India. Cambridge University Press. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-521-26728-1. ^ Cite error: The named reference :2 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). ^ Ur-Rahman, Aziz (1936). History of Jama Masjid and interpretation of Muslim devotions. pp. 8–9. ^ Dalrymple, p.252 ^ Aziz 2017, p. 18. ^ Rajagopalan 2016, p. 92-93. ^ a b c Aziz 2017, p. 19. ^ Rajagopalan 2016, p. 106. ^ Rajagopalan 2016, p. 94. ^ Rajagopalan 2016, p. 95. ^ Aziz 2017, p. 20-21. ^ Aziz 2017, p. 24-27. ^ Rajagopalan 2016, p. 93. ^ Rajagopalan 2016, p. 103-104. ^ Rajagopalan 2016, p. 96-97. ^ Rajagopalan 2016, p. 111. ^ Rajagopalan 2016, p. 113-114. ^ "Remembering Mir Osman Ali Khan on his 51st death anniversary". Medium corporation. 24 February 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2018. ^ "Surviving aides say Mir Osman Ali Khan donated generously for social causes, but did not like to spend on himself". thehindu. 25 February 2017. Retrieved 18 June 2018. ^ Ahmed, Hilal (2013). "Mosque as Monument: The Afterlives of Jama Masjid and the Political Memories of a Royal Muslim Past". South Asian Studies. 29: 52–55. doi:10.1080/02666030.2013.772814. S2CID 85512513.
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