A Shia Mirza Ismail constructed a Sunni mosque
“I believe deep down in my heart that the great reality of spiritual revelation given to humanity by the Prophet (blessed be His name) is an infinitely greater thing than any sectarian difference (Shia & Sunni) imposed upon it by subsequent human feeling and by lesser vision than his of the inner realities from which the external life of humanity has developed.” Mirza Ismail, a Shia Muslim by faith, who was the Prime Minister of Mysore had spoken these words at the inauguration of Jamia Mosque, a Sunni mosque, in Bengaluru on 30 May 1941.
Mirza Ismail remained one of the most important politicians in India as he held the position of Prime Minister (PM) of the second wealthiest state, Mysore, from 1926 to 1941 after which he became PM of Jaipur and Hyderabad. A Shia by his faith whose foreparents had migrated from Iran and stayed in India, Ismail remained committed to the unity of humans. He believed that Shia and Sunni, Hindu and Muslim, or any caste difference among humans could not stop them from living together harmoniously.
Ismail inaugurated the mosque at Bangalore, which was one of the most important cities in Mysore state, as his last public ceremony in the capacity of the PM of Mysore after resigning from the post. On the occasion he noted, “I am particularly happy that this function, which is the last of my period of service as Dewan of Mysore, gave me the opportunity of expressing an ideal of my life which has been foremost in the past and will remain foremost in the future.”
What was the ideal Ismail talking about? Making a mosque or something else?
The ideal he was talking about was the unity of Shia and Sunni as one Muslim community. He told the people gathered there that the non-Muslims observing this ceremony would not think much about it. In their view a Muslim had come to lay the foundation stone of a mosque of his fellow Muslims. “But to you”, Ismail argued, “fellow-Musalmans, it is not so simple. You know that in the historical development of Islam I belong to a section of the organised expression of the Faith that for centuries has been in sharp opposition to the section to which you, who are going to build this mosque, belong.” He expressed satisfaction that Sunnis had invited him for this event. He told the people that since its very inception he had taken “the greatest possible interest” in this mosque where Sunni Muslims would pray in the manner they wanted.
Ismail went on to tell the people;
“At the centre of Islam is the teaching and practice of brotherhood. You would have been false to the truth of life if, because I am a Shia by birth, you had not invited me to this function, and I would have been equally false to the brotherhood of Islam if, because you are Sunnis, I had not accepted your invitation. Our differences are transient, even trivial, in comparison with the spiritual reality which these differences tend to obscure and weaken.”
Ismail went on to state that love and peace are the essence of Islam and Muslims should stop fighting among themselves as well as with their coreligionists in the country. The mosque is one of the most important mosques in Bengaluru today.
(Author is a neurobiologist with a keen interest in history, society and culture of India)