ISLAMABAD – For any Pakistani Muslim, Islamabad’s Qutuba Mosque is no different from other houses of worship as far as the structure, style, and operation.
Yet, a small white banner placed right on the entrance of the mosque makes it unique.
The banner reads “This Mosque is meant for all the Muslims irrespective of their sects,” with two verses of Pakistan’s national Poet Allama Mohammad Iqbal reminding Muslims about the true spirit of prayer and urging them to shun their differences and get united.
“We have hundreds of thousands of Mosques here that represent Shiite, Sunni, Dubendi, Brelvi, and Ahl-e-Hadit school of thought, but there was not a single Mosque that represents Muslims rather than their schools of thought,” Zahid Iqbal, a local businessman behind the mosque idea, told OnIslam.net.
The idea of this unique sect-free mosque, located in Islamabad’s Margallah foothills, first came to Iqbal in 2010.
Facing some procedural problems, he had to declare a school of thought to avoid obstacles regarding future management of the mosque.
“I was asked to declare my school of thought. I said, I am a simple Muslim. I follow Qur’an and Hadit, but they (authorities) insisted,” Zahid said.
Supported by his friends, family members, and well—wishers, he managed to collect a sum of RS 30 million (300,000 dollars) to build the Mosque.
With a capacity of 350 worshippers, the mosque includes a modern library for books of representing different schools of thought and a separate section for women.
Pakistan, home of 180 million people, is a Sunni majority country with 85 percent Sunnis.
Shiites make up 10 percent of the total population.
Pakistan has had a decades-long history of Sunni-Shiite violence that have claimed thousands of lives during last 30 years.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are often blamed for using the Pakistani soil for their proxy war by patronizing the hardliner Shiite and Sunni groups respectively.
Open to All
Naming the mosque after the Qurtuba Mosque of Spain, Zahid said that mosque should be open to all worshippers of all sects.
“Not only Muslims, belonging to any sect, even non-Muslims can come here to seek the light”, he maintained.
“By branding ourselves on sectarian lines, we are not serving Islam. In fact, in that way, we prefer our schools of thought over Islam,” Iqbal said.
“What message we are giving to non-Muslims by hating and killing each other in the name of sects. We have forgotten the message of noble Quran that commands us to hold fast the rope of Allah and don’t divide ourselves into sects.
“Building this Mosque, I have tried to remind this forgotten message to the people,” he added.
The Mosque is run by a board of trustees which hired an Imam, who is doing his masters from International Islamic University, and a coordinator.
Both are Sunnis, but they say they do not mind if even a Shiite Imam leads the prayer there.
“I do not talk about non-issues that often ignite sectarian rivalry, in Friday sermons,” Qari Jehangir, the Imam told OnIslam.net.
“I mostly talk about why Islam is a practical religion? Where honesty, simplicity, altruism, thirst for knowledge, and other qualities that Islam demands from us, have disappeared,” he added.
Zahid and his colleagues were overjoyed with the public response.
“Indeed, it was a completely new thing for the people when they came to know the Mosque in their neighborhood does not belong to any sect”, he said.
“There has been a collective support and encouragement on the part of local community. People generally support and like this idea”, he said.
People from different sects are already praying together, however, he admits, they are not in great numbers.
“But we are not discouraged by the small number of people,” a confident Zahid maintained.
“We are in fact encouraged by the public response, and we are sure, Inshaullah our efforts will soon produce results.”