The mosque where ALL Muslims are welcome

Published: July 20, 2013
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The Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba is the first of many steps that must be taken to end religious violence in the country. PHOTO: MYRA IQBAL/EXPRESS

The opening of Pakistan’s first sect-free mosque is such a refreshing change from the religious violence that has been plaguing the country for years now.

On the foot of Margalla hills in Islamabad, a businessman by the name of Zahid Iqbal has constructed a mosque. This mosque – called the Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba – is Spartan in its appearance, but the message it sends is even morepowerful. In a time when inter-faith conflict is constantly escalating and Shia Hazaras in particular are subject to ethnic cleansing, this mosque welcomes visitors with a sign that reads,

“This mosque does not discriminate between any sects and welcomes all Muslims.”

However, that is not where the deviation from the norm ends. The mosque also hosts a separate, segregated section for females and contains a library filled with religious books that cater to and contain information on all the different sects.

While many have taken to social networking websites to praise the pro-peace, pro-tolerance and, in general, progressive minded initiative, the mosque and its brainchild have drawn attention from detractors who do not agree with the vision behind its creation. Iqbal claims that around one dozen members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan came to the mosque and criticised his thinking while showing disappointment that he “is not adhering to his sect.” They left after hours of debating in which he asked them to stop opposing his interpretation of Islam, but he fears they will come back.

Similarly, Iqbal was also given undue trouble by the Imam of a nearby mosque who forcibly took the property he bought for the sect-free centre over with the help of ‘body-builder-type’ madrassa students. Moreover, he claimed that he was forced to call the police to evict the trespassers from the property.

Despite the opposition, Iqbal is successful in founding an establishment where followers of any sect can come to pray in an eclectic environment and hopefully discuss and deliberate on the various issues facing the community-at-large in a civilised and thought-provoking manner.

It is difficult not to be full of praise for such an idea and I truly wish that it is successful in its attempt at bridging gaps between the different sects and ending the animosity that their members show for one another. At the same time, I hope that this progressive thinking does not end here. What Pakistan urgently requires is the opening of more of these centres throughout the country as well as of inter-faith centres for members of all religions where people can pray, engage in discussion with one another, study their own religious teachings, perhaps even study about other faiths, and even be able to criticise religious teachings without the fear of mob brutality. If properly done, such establishments will not only spread the message of love, coexistence and tolerance but should also weaken the intents of malicious organisations such as Taliban or the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

The completion of the Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba is the first of many steps that must be taken to end religious violence in the country. It is only when the message of love and peace is loud enough that hatred can truly be eradicated from our hearts.

PHOTOS: MYRA IQBAL/EXPRESS

Read more by Syed Ali here

Syed Ali Hassan

Syed Ali Hassan

An A-Level student at Aitchison College, Lahore, who loves to write and is keen on pursuing journalism as an occupation in the near future.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • GA

    I have prayed Jumma salah alongside a shia more than once and it wasn’t in this mosque. Please don’t make this issue bigger than it is. Ordinary people don’t have hatred for the other sects. It’s a different issue altogether, with a minority of people who are militant.Recommend

  • ahsan

    So happy to hear this!! MASHALLAH. We are moving forward! Recommend

  • Arain

    Behold the beginning of yet another sect..Recommend

  • Blah

    which way of the prayer will the Imaam follow? Shi’a or Sunni or ???Recommend

  • Sam

    It would have been better if they would have open a technical university and imparted education to all irrespective of religion. Recommend

  • Parvez

    Genuinely a bit confused. The idea and the intent appears good but in a land where there is little religion but a huge amount of religiosity, even the best of intentions may prove counter productive………..but I wish this idea success.
    The comment by Sam made good sense.Recommend

  • abhi

    are ahemadis allowed in it.Recommend

  • Gingo

    “This mosque does not discriminate between any sects and welcomes all Muslims.”
    Why not welcomes all regardless religion?
    During Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) time non muslims and pagans were welcome in mosques.Recommend

  • http://swansea mrs ahmed

    @abhi:
    i also wished to ask same question since by law ahmedis are not muslim and cannot pray like other muslims , this should be made clear Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    In Tehran Iran, by law every non muslim place of worshiped is allowed to build but Sunni Mosque is not allowed they feared of division and argument and also reason behind is they called Tehran a Vatican of Shiaism, now I have a question why we are so concern about one mosque??? ( I hope E,T will give place to my comment in the name of freedom of expression).Recommend

  • http://gujrat RAW is WAR
  • Nathan

    The author proudly claims ” a segregated section for women” as if that is a favor. If the same thing were said about a Church , temple or synagogue it will be outright condemned as belonging to “stone age”

    Tell me are human beings so incorrigible that even in a house of GOD they should be protected from lust? Nothing less than demeaning of human beings.

    Nathan Recommend

  • Chaudhry of No Where

    @mrs ahmed:
    “since by law ahmedis are not muslim” Spiritual matters are never decided by a political institution. All Ahmadis consider themselves true Muslims and no laws or any amount of ayes and nays can change that.Recommend

  • http://UK Saleem

    @mrs ahmed:
    Which law; the one passed by corrupt politicians! Really. So you decide to enforce this law but not the hundreds of others.(paying taxes, etc etc)Recommend

  • Anwar

    Better have heavy security there. Militants will try their best to bomb it.Recommend

  • Muhammed Usama Aziz

    There are plenty of mosques in Karachi where people form various sects offer prayers. Even in the mosque near my home, i see people form deobandi, shia and barelvi offer prayers together.
    So stop this nonsense please!!!Recommend

  • Jay

    who will lead the prayers? And what about Azaan? Different sects have different Azaan timings
    Socio-religious centre would be much appropriate name Recommend

  • Wizarat

    @Blah:
    Could you enlighten me with the differences in the Salah of Farz/Wajib arkaan?
    If we look at differences we surely would find reasons why we should kill each other, but if we truly want to be an Ummah for our Rasool (SAW) to be proud of, we need to step up and move beyond bigotry.Recommend

  • Hassan

    @Ali Tanoli:
    False, please prove your point with some hard evidence, otherwise refrain from false propaganda. Recommend

  • Concerned

    So is this mosque open for Ahmadiyas or Shias ? I oppose it vehemently as it puts a question on our belief system.Recommend

  • Saiyed Shahbazi

    The Imams of different sects should be allowed to lead the prayers. Especially different sects Imams on Fridays, only than it may be called open for all sectsRecommend

  • kaalchakra

    First sect-free mosque? More a stunt to garner attention. Doesn’t ET check up on any factual claims?Recommend

  • Raj Kafir

    Calgary’s Baitunnur Mosque is where everyone is welcome. I ( Sikh ) with my Hindu friend have been to this Mosque. We were given the tour of the Mosque. We visited library and amazed by the fact that Koran Shareef was available in Hindi and Gurumukhi. We also visited the prayer room and were counselled to pray in any language for HIS ( Allah’s ) blessings.
    http://www.baitunnur.org/Recommend

  • SOHAIL AHMAD

    This is a good idea – but I hope this wil not introduce a new sect—we are already more than enough- Recommend

  • zaki haider

    Masha Allah! glad to hear this news and does not matter what imam will follow the way of prayers.. Islam is very flexible religion.. Recommend

  • Sanam Ntempora

    As long as you segregate women and deny visitors of other faiths particularly those who also believe in one God – you are still practicing discrimination.Recommend

  • Farhan

    @mrs ahmed: People from all walks are welcomed. Isnt that good enough ? Recommend

  • The Rebel

    This sect thing in Islam has completely ravaged our religion and I fail to understand it’s origin. A house that is so divided amongst itself can never stand united. Sunni, Shia, Deoband etc etc. I mean seriously?! Why do we have to label our fellow Muslims as belonging to one of the sects. Why can’t we just be a Muslim for once?Recommend

  • Eddied

    What a great idea…of course because it involves Muslims who traditionally are not prone to accept any new ideas we will see of it is successful….as a world traveler who has visited the Vatican in Rome and the western wall in Israel, it has always bothered me that I cannot visit Mecca?…perhaps some day Islamic shrines will be accepting of visitors of other faiths…Recommend

  • shabber

    @Ali Tanoli:

    Read This!

    There is great stress upon Shia/Sunni Unity in Iran and Imam Khomeini was biggest supporter for this unity.

    The Constitution of Iran and Imam Khomeini was very clear that labeling Mosques as Shia or Sunni is division of Muslim Unity. It is a curse to say this is Shia Mosque or this is Sunni Mosque. Nay, all Mosques are only and only for Allah.
    Iranian Law says:
    If there is an Area where majority is of SHIAs, then Sunni are asked to pray behind Shia Imam.
    While Areas, where there is Sunni Majority like in the South West of Iran, there Shias are also asked to go in that same Sunni Mosque and pray behind the Sunni Imam and they are not allowed to open up their any Separate Mosque.

    There may be few deviations to this RULE, but in 80-90% this rules is practiced in it’s spirit and indeed Shias are compelled to pray behind Sunni Imams.

    Even Ayatullah Khaminei and all Shia Mujtahids themselves prayed several times behind Sunni Imams and that without any problem.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    It is a novel concept. Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @Eddied
    U can visit in Mecca too bro but u need visa to go there and visa is just say There is no god but god and Muhammad peace be upon him and his family is last messenger of god.
    @To the auther of article,
    who is gonna be imam of that mosque I think best choice will be Maulana Mohammad Iahaq
    of Faisalabad…Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @Hasan
    Hard evidence is what I am saying and I bet if u visit the Tehran then u may be accept the truth and second thing in iran is any sunni who study reliegous education have to read fiq jafferia with others but we in Pakistan don’t implement that requirement with any body….Recommend

  • Ahmad Khan Looni

    The building and acceptance of such mosques will make Pakistan live for ever. Unfortunately, the present situation in the country if not changed for better there are less chances that Pskistan will remain on the world map for long. This is a step towards keeping the country intact.Recommend

  • http://NA NK Ali

    Good work and stand firm against the myopic and misguided. Next time I visit Islamabad, I must offer Salat at Darul Iman Jamia Masjid Qurtuba. Inshallah. Salams to Zahid Iqbal.Recommend

  • Bilal

    “Sect Free Mosque”? Aren’t they all? Recommend

  • Naeem

    @Blah:
    He will follow te Ahmadiyaah way!Recommend

  • MA

    when i go to masjid no one asks me that which sect you belong to !!
    we have forgotten that masjid is Allah ka ghar and all muslims are already welcomed and this is nothing new !!Recommend

  • http://twitter.com/bohotsaara Sarah B. Haider

    In Makkah, people from all sects offer prayers together, but the country still remains predominantly Wahabi and engenders Wahabism at large. And though, it is a good initiative and I wholeheartedly appreciate it, I doubt that the sectarian divide, which is deep-rooted in Muslim upbringing, would be bridged. Recommend

  • Naeem

    @mrs ahmed:
    Law be damned.The law is discrimanatory. Ahmedis pray exactly the same prayers and in exactly the same way. They follow the Sunni fiqah.
    I do not see any problems if Ahmedis want to come and offer Salaat. Salaat is for allah and not people. It is upto Allah who Salaat he accepts. This should be a total sect free mosque!!Recommend

  • Jimmy

    Author seems to have just crawled out from under whichever rock he was. In Karachi the mosques I have prayed at regularly have many sects in the prayers. So the auhtor’s excitement is misplaced and misinformed. Recommend

  • Naeem

    @Concerned:
    It is opened for everyone who wants to pray for Allah. Who do you pray for?

    Na Yehmera Khuda hai aur na yehtera khudahai. He hamara Allah ahi hum sub ka, Sunni ka, Shiaon ka, Ahmediyon ka, deobandi ka,Barelvi ka, Sufi ka and all the other sects.Recommend

  • Hasan

    Unless this new mosque is allowing jews, christians, buddhists, hindus etc there is nothing new about it. All mosques that I have prayed at in the country have multiple sects praying together. Author needs to get out and see more of his country before writing such childish articles.Recommend

  • danny boy

    if shias and sunnis accept each other and pray together it will be like questioning their own beliefs…….if prayers are conducted separately in this mosque then the whole purpose gets defeated…Recommend

  • http://syedaz.wordpress.com Zahra Meerza

    A sect-free mosque reflects an assumption that it’s the two sects fighting against each other, when actually it doesn’t seem to be the case. Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @Shabber
    Justification of that thing is a good thing but please tell hasan sahib that I am right and if that the case what u saying then I guess we in Pakistan should fallow it what iran doing if
    area is sunni majority then shia or even others small sect also pray together? what u say
    Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    My neighbors in Karachi are Iranians and I know very well about Iranian culture one time I asked him why there is no mosque for sunnis in iran he said that govt don’t allows it in fear of sectarian conflict and second reason is of Tehran is considered Vatican of shiaism to all shia in the world my question is why iran interfares in every country on as a chief of shia clan but don’t allows basic rights to there minority????Recommend

  • Paji

    @Anwar:

    The fanatics like to impose their hegemony. They harmed more my religion than any of other faiths. Mullah Buhaader, wake up it is 21st century
    From the comments, I read more negativity than appreciative.
    Bravo: Zahid Iqbal
    The masjid should have better securityRecommend

  • Mehdi

    This experiment is going to fail in Pakistan. First extremist Sunnis have to learn to respect minorities and accept others right to complete religious freedom, once they accept this basic prerequisite and this action of tolerance bears fruition, then I myself as a Shia would support this idea.

    @ET moderator – you guys should outline your editorial policy in the form of blog, what is acceptable to you. if you don’t want viewers to have their say then just shut off the blogging section. Editing a users comment or partially displaying them is worst than not displaying the blog at all. Recommend

  • Insaan

    The mosque where ALL Muslims are welcome

    ALL MUSLIMS include TTP, LeJ and all other Jihadi organizations.

    I hope terrorists keep away and this mosque becomes an example for other mosques to follow.

    Does ALL MUSLIMS include men and women praying side by side?Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Raj Kafir: Calgary’s Baitunnur Mosque is where everyone is welcome. I ( Sikh ) with my Hindu friend have been to this Mosque. We were given the tour of the Mosque. We visited library and amazed by the fact that Koran Shareef was available in Hindi and Gurumukhi

    When you have to convert people you have to do all this. Christian Bible is available in many languages.Recommend

  • Insaan

    @Ali Tanoli: There is no god but god

    Why you say there is no God? who is but God?Recommend

  • mind control

    **The mosque where ALL Muslims are welcome**

    Including Ahmadis, Bohras, Bahaais, Ismailis?Recommend

  • Naeem

    @Saiyed Shahbazi:
    Excellent idea!!!Recommend

  • Naeem

    @Concerned:
    What are you opposing?Are you opposing a Shia or an Ahmadi is praying to Allah? What is your problem if Allah does not have a problem. After all it s up to him to accept or reject your prayers. Younever know, a Shia or an Ahmdis prayer may be accpeted by Allah and yours may be rejected because of your bigotory. NO one has a monopoly over Allah!!!Recommend

  • Naeem

    @Ali Tanoli:
    Imam should be a University educated young man with an open mind and his Khutbas should only be about tolerance taken directly from Quran and hadith. No fitna wala khutba allowed.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    ET, please post this in its entirety.
    @Ali Tanoli:

    That’s a theocracy for you. Iran’s hypocritical that way. So is Saudi Arabia, which has gone one further in their interference, by making Pak a bastion of Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni extremism. Though I’ll give Iran this, that they’ve supported the rights of Shia clans that are oppressed elsewhere, usually under a Sunni hegemony, which of course upset other govts and their privileged citizens. That’s why its best Pak not be a Vatican of Sunnism or whatever ideology either, address its inherent religious and sectarian prejudices and extremism and outside support for it by separating state and religion. This story is concerned about this one mosque in hopes that tolerance is fostered within Pak, regardless of what is happening in Iran or Saudi Arabia, or those who like to dwell on incidents there and take it out on their fellow citizens and minorities in the widespread scourge of sectarian intolerance within Pak. Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @bigsaf,
    We are very nice and peacefull until 1979 one of our neighbor start interfaring in our country
    every one knows that how cry babies migrated to Pakistan and then we saw bunch of big black turbans start coming from zaidan……Recommend

  • Iftikhar Khan

    @Ali Tanoli:

    I will have to disagree with you here. Iran assist muslims for Muslim causes not Shia or Sunni causes. For example Palestine is completely sunni and Iran is their biggest supporter and helper, while other Arab countries exploit palestinian cause for their own benefit. Iran does not share border with Isreal could have just remain neutral but it did not. The phenomena of sectarian hatred is a thing of our country fueled by Saudi Arabia. We as a Sunni need to disassociate ourselves from bigots within us who are destroying us from within.Recommend

  • Awais Khan

    It is good a initiative but, who will ascertain the security of this mosque? This question needs to be answered…Recommend

  • HADI SAKEY

    I migrated from Pakistan because I was disgusted. I remember 1960, when I travelled with four friends – one Shia, One Ahmadi One Christian and a Sunni. The itinerary was jointly chalked out. From Lahore to London the journey was extremely pleasant. We never discussed religion or sect. While passing through Mashed Iran we all visited the Roza of great Imam and in Istanbul we all visited Aya Sofia and Blue mosque, while in Rome we all visited Vatican city. The poisonous seeds were sown by Zia Ul Haq just to keep himself in power he misused Islam

    HADI SAKEYRecommend

  • http://gujrat Zalim singh
  • Insaan

    @Ali Tanoli: We are very nice and peacefull until 1979 one of our neighbor start interfaring in our country

    Russia entered Afghanistan to counter non-State Pakistani actors who were trying to desterilize Afghanistan. In other words Pakistan was trying to gain strategic depth..
    Pakistan created talibans to make Afghanistan an Islamic Emirates. Every thing Pakistan did or does is for money and weapons. Pakistan claims they have connections with many terrorist organizations but don’t control them. In fact Pakistan controls most of these organizations.Recommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    @Ali Tanoli:

    There were always internal issues in Pak which included war and genocide earlier in ’71, besides suppressing ethnic and religious minorities, even before then. Its not Iran’s proselytizing or support for oppressed religious Shia minorities under a Sunni hegemony that broke the peace. To see it as a problem suggests intolerance and irrational resentment. Those you prejudicially call ‘cry babies’ or ‘big black turbans’ did not introduce the insane violence and mass killing that would later be adopted in the paranoid over-reactive Pak and Saudi state’s ideological Wahhabification drive, which is now a global threat. At some point such closed minded folks will have to stop deflecting pointing fingers elsewhere and take responsibility for their own actions instead of trying to make excuses and scapegoat such discriminatory and violent ideologies which is today’s problem in Pak. Recommend

  • Kulwant Singh

    @Ali Tanoli:
    Dear please let me know if I will be allowed to visit Macca and allowed to enter the Mosque if I have a valid visa for Saudi Arabia or separate visa is required for Macca I am a Sikh.Recommend

  • Naeem

    @Kulwant Singh:

    Dear Kulwant, Non Muslims are not allowed into Mecca. There is a separate road that will by pass Mecca. However, having said that, I know for a fact that ll these luxuiius hotels that you see in Mecca and the highrise office buildings must have been built by Western engineers and workers. So the policy of who can enter the city of Mecca is a bit dubious to me. Recommend

  • Aisham

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Alhumdulillah, 3 years ago my uncle, Zahid Iqbal, and I started this Project of Darul Iman. A Masjid where everyone, whether Muslim or Non-Muslim, is welcome. Our vision was to promote the multicultural understanding between the people of different fiqhs and faiths and create a center where we can teach Islam along with the modern science education.

    I remember my uncle saying, “We are founding this masjid on the same grounds as Prophet Muhammad (Sal lal lahu alayhi wasallam) founded the Masjide Nabwi in Medina: Mercy and compassion for all and no discrimination on the basis of color, cast, sect, or religion.”

    One of my best memories of this center was when Engineers and Chartered Accountants used to come to the library of this Masjid and sit their for hours to prepare for their exams.

    On behalf of Mr. Zahid Iqbal, I would like to clarify that some of the information in this article has been manipulated, for example, we have NEVER received threats from any organization at all whether Taliban or any other religious/non-religious groups.

    Although the article has made it very clear, we would still like to point it out that we have never received funding from any government at all. This Masjid has been built by individual contributions of the Muslims all around the globe and we are still in the process of completing this project. The fact that we are trying to complete this project for the past 3 years, speak for itself that we are still short of funds and thus not receiving money from any government.

    We are not opening any new sects in Islam. We just want to unite the Muslims of Pakistan and live up to the true Message of Islam, mercy and compassion, that is to good to others whether Muslim and non-Muslims and demand nothing in return. We want to accomplish this goal in the light of Quran and Hadith as we firmly believe that the Quran and Sahih hadith has a lot of flexibility to not only accommodate all the school of thoughts in Islam but it also speaks and stands for the rights of non-Muslims.

    May Allah SWT accept this little effort from us and keep you all in His shade of love and protection in this life and the life hereafter, Ameen!

    If you want to reach Zahid Iqbal with your suggestions/comments or want to visit this Masjid, you can write him on [email protected]

    Thanks!

    P.S. I agree that this is not Pakistan’s “First” sect-free mosque. May be its the first one which made it to mainstream news paper but its definitely not the first sect free masjid as stated in this article.Recommend

  • Ismail Safavi,

    Please don’t do it what I have done with Iranians five centuries ago ruthlessly.Recommend

  • Mehdi

    @Ismail Safavi,:

    Great pseudo name. What is your point ?Recommend

  • Waqar Ali

    @Ali Tanoli:

    The Constitution of Iran and Imam Khomeini was very clear that labeling Mosques as Shia or Sunni is division of Muslim Unity. It is a curse to say this is Shia Mosque or this is Sunni Mosque. Nay, all Mosques are only and only for Allah.
    2. Iranian Law says:
    If there is an Area where majority is of SHIAs, then Sunni are asked to pray behind Shia Imam.
    While Areas, where there is Sunni Majority, there Shias are also asked to go in that same Sunni Mosque and pray behind the Sunni Imam and they are not allowed to open up their anySeparate Mosque.Recommend