"India's oldest mosque"
KODUNGALLUR: On Friday evening, A P J Abdul Kalam became the first President of the country to visit the centuries-old Cheraman Juma Masjid at Kodungallur, considered to be the first mosque in the Indian sub-continent.
Responding warmly to the reception extended to him by mosque officials, Kalam wrote in the visitors' book, "I am indeed inspired and with reverence I visit and do Al Fatiha in the Cheraman Masjid. I pray for peace and prosperity of our nation."
The President arrived at the masjid around 7.40 pm, and directly entered the sanctum sanctorum through a side door.
There he prayed. Then the khatib offered prayers for all. The President was shown the mimbar (pulpit) and the traditional lamp inside the sanctum sanctorum, Mahallu vice-president Mohammed Sayeed, one of the masjid officials to accompany the President, said.
In his brief address, Kalam said: "All faiths can live together and should finally enrich our lives."
He recited the verse Lakhum Deenakum Valiadeen, stressing the significance of communal harmony.
"I am reminded of my native place, Rameswaram, where my father was an Imam-like person. He had two friends, a Hindu Vedic scholar and a Christian priest. What surprised me was how they worked together and led a good life. They were an example to the whole of Rameswaram," he reminisced of his childhood.
Earlier, the President was greeted with a bouquet by the general secretary of the Mahallu Committee, K S Abdul Khader, and the Mahallu vice-president Mohammed Sayeed.
The President also exchanged greetings with Godavarma Raja, the head of the Kodungallur kovilakam, who was specially invited by masjid officials for the function.
After this, Kalam offered prayers at the sanctum sanctorum of the mosque, which is also its oldest section.
The President also signed an autograph on the palm of Fazil V I, who was present at the mosque. Fazil is a second year BCom student.
Believed to have been built by Malik bin Dinar in 629 AD, a contemporary of Cheraman Perumal who left for Mecca and embraced Islam after meeting the Prophet, the mosque draws visitors from all over the globe.
After the prayers, a brief function was held in the front hall of the mosque, which commenced with the singing of the National Anthem by two school students, Sana Ismail and Rini Siraj.
Ibrahim presented a relief in wood of the Cheraman Mosque to Kalam as a memento of his visit.
The President left the mosque at 8.20 pm for Kochi.
By P.A. Muhammed
This is the first Mosque in India situated in Methala, Kodungallur, hardly 20 kms from the Irinjalakkuda railway station. The Arab world had trade contacts with Kerala coast from very early times. As the tradition goes, a Chera king, Cheramanperumal of Kodungallure, left for Makkah, embraced Islam, and accepted the name Thajudeen. He married the sister of then King of Jeddah. On his return trip, accompanied by many Islamic religious leaders, led by Malik-ibn-Dinar (RA), he fell sick and passed away. But he had given introductory letters for the team to proceed to âMusirisâ (Kodungallur, the Chera capital. The visitors came to Musiris and handed over the latter to the reigning king, who treated the guests with all respect and extended facilities to establish their faith in the land. The king also organised help for the artisans to build the first Mosque at Kodungallur, by converting Arathali temple into a Juma-Masjid. It was build in 629 A.C., and the area around it had been ear-marked for the teamâs settlement.
The original Mosque has undergone extensive repairs, but traces of the original construction are seen in the plinth, the columns and the roof which are in the old traditional styles of Hindu temples.
The renovated mosque looks very different today:
It is hard to see how a king could convert or leave for Mecca, although it is likely that Indian traders visited Mecca in pre-Islamic days. The accounts of conversion of Cheramanperumal to Islam appear to be recent.
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