by Ahmed Khan, Founder, The Rahnuma Daily
(RAHNUMA) The India Islamic Cultural Foundation (IICF), founded by the Sunni Waqf Board, and entrusted with building the ‘new Babri Masjid’ mosque and adjoining facilities held its first virtual meeting on July 19 where it decided on its functionaries and their responsibilities, with six more vacancies in the trust to fill.
India Islamic Cultural Foundation was handed over the papers to the land allotted for the project on August 2, and there was an event attended by the PM to inaugurate the temple on August 5, 2020.
Days after Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath announced that he would not attend any events pertaining to the new mosque in Ayodhya, IICF announced in an IANS exclusive interview it would still invite Yogi, and the Prime Minister as well as “several other opposition party leaders, NGOs and activists, saints, ulemas and academicians” and have decided to not “name the mosque after any emperor or any ruler”.
The inclusive and good spirited attitude the IICF is demonstrating, despite the Islamophobia and open bigotry it is facing is a great sign of the great potential the ‘new Babri Masjid’ project holds in its ability to redefine narratives on Islam’s arrival in Hindustan, and in my opinion can be instrumental in defeating Indian Islamophobia for good.
While the IICF made it clear it would not name the new project after any emperor or ruler, I do have one suggestion for them, which if followed, could forever change the course of history of perceptions about the arrival of Islam to India, and the subsequent attitude of some non-Muslims in India towards Indian Muslims – name the new mosque after the first documented Indian Muslim in history!
Narrated Abu Saeed Al-Khudri: “A king from India presented the Holy Prophet with a bottle of pickled ginger. The Holy Prophet shared it among his Companions. I also received a piece to eat.” (Bukhari)
The name of this Indian Maharaja who embraced Islam on the hands of the Holy Prophet Muhammad himself, and built India’s first mosque is Cherman Perumal Maharajah Rama Varma Kulashekhara, of the Chera dynasty.
After embracing Islam on the hands of the Prophet Muhammad, in 628–630 AD Maharajah Rama Varma Kulashekhara built the ‘Kilakarai Mosque – Palaiya Jumma Palli’ – India’s oldest mosque and the 5th oldest in the world.
The mosque predates the changing of the direction of prayer from Jerusalem to Mecca, and so it is unique in that it was constructed facing East, towards Jerusalem, the first direction for Muslim prayer.
The Kilakarai mosque – Palaiya Jumma Palli (pallivasal) is located in Kilakarai, an ancient port town in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu known for its early Indo-Muslim culture.
The mosque, though much neglected, is the oldest example of Pancha-Dravida-Islam architecture, and is unique in that it was constructed by one of the Prophet’s Companions during his era.
It is my opinion, that IICF could name the new mosque in honor of this Muslim, who abdicated his throne, in love of the Prophet of Arabia, whom he personally interpreted to be the awaited Kalki Avatar.
It is also my opinion the IICF mosque project in Ayodhya be constructed using the same Pancha-Dravida-Islam architectural style, as was used by Cherman Perumal Maharajah Rama Varma Kulashekhara, the first documented Indian Mohammedan-Muslim in history.
The Chera dynasty is the parent House of the Travancore Royal Family, which lost its ruling rights in 1949 when Travancore merged with the Indian Union. The former Maharajahs of the Princedom of Travancore in pre-Independence India included the following line in their coronation ceremony, “I will keep this sword until my uncle who has gone to Makkah returns.”
According to historian M.G.S. Narayanan, “there is no reason to reject the tradition that the last Chera king embraced Islam and went to Makkah, since it finds its place not only in Muslim chronicles, but also in Hindu Brahmanical chronicles like the Keralolpatti, which need not be expected to concoct such a tale which in no way enhances the prestige of the Brahmins or Hindu population.”
The Travancore Royal Family became a household name around the world when it was announced in 2011 by the Government of India, that a hidden treasure valued at over $1 trillion USD had been discovered inside the royal Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Not only do I believe naming the mosque after India’s first Muslim and constructing it along the same architectural style used to construct India’s first mosque will end Islamophobia in India, but I also believe it would reflect the true history and nature of the arrival of Islam to India.
For this, to end religious strife in India which threatens my faith community most, given my family publishes India’s oldest Urdu daily newspaper, I am also offering to assist the IICF board in any way they may require, to help them complete this potentially paradigm changing project.
Furthermore, I am also willing to help IICF garner more public support for their project both in India and abroad, even if it means having to join their board in the capacity of a volunteer and advisor, should they request it.
Ahmed Khan is the Founder of The Rahnuma Daily (theRahnuma.com), the online global English daily edition of The Rahnuma-E-Deccan Daily (ReDD), India’s oldest Urdu daily print newspaper established in 1921. More than 81.1 million Indians identify Urdu as their language, and as per the annual INA (Indian Newspapers Association) report, ReDD ranks among the top 5 most widely circulated and read Urdu daily print newspapers throughout India. Ahmed resides in Hyderabad at his maternal ancestral home and can be contacted at, firstname.lastname@example.org