Tuesday October 19, 2021

A story of loss & lament: US-based scholar says Spain’s Qurtaba Mosque has great pull on Muslims

December 15, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Peshawar Museum’s Victoria Memorial Hall played host to a known United States-based intellectual from Peshawar, Prof Dr Sayed Amjad Hussain, who delivered a captivating talk entitled, “The Great Mosque of Cordoba and its place in the Muslim psyche.”

The event was co-organised by Directorate of Archaeology & Museums, Creative Co. and Rotar Act South, Peshawar. The programme is arranged every year and it was the third such scholastic session.

Speaking before an audience comprising literati, history buffs and culture lovers, the scholar who is an accomplished cartographer, calligrapher, traveller, and engages in community work and promotes inter-faith dialogue, narrated very few architectural monuments in the world had a deep and abiding emotional pull.

“Even after 1,000 years, the Great Mosque of Cordoba (Qurtaba in Arabic) still has a tremendous pull on the Muslims the world over. It is a story of loss and lament,” said the scholar who is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon by profession.

According to him, the Moors ruled the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) for eight centuries until 1492 CE. They established a truly pluralistic society where Jews, Muslims and Christians participated equally and ushered in an era of unprecedented advances in science, arts and architecture. Those accomplishments still dazzle after over 1300 years. The speaker said The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain was built in 784 CE by Abd al Rahman and expanded by his successors.

In 1492 CE, he elaborated, after the re-conquest of the Iberian Peninsula, the mosque was turned into a Cathedral. “From that point on, while the original architecture of the mosque has been maintained, it has ceased to be a place of worship for Muslims. Sadly, nobody is allowed to pray there anymore,” he went on to add.

The writer, who has authored several books on history and culture, including “Alam Mey Intikhab Peshawar”, which is hailed as the cultural encyclopedia of Peshawar, said the loss of Andulas in general and the Qurtaba Mosque, in particular, was highlighted in Allama Iqbal’s epic poem Masjid Qurtaba.

Through an audiovisual presentation, the scholar discussed the history of the Moor rule in Spain and Portugal, the highlights of a pluralistic society and their eventual defeat and expulsion from Spain and Portugal. Iqbal’s epic poem, which was especially played in audio in the voice of Zia Mohiyuddin captivated the gathering.

Through the magic of his spellbinding talk and with Andalusian Moorish-Spanish music playing softly in the background, Dr Amjad Hussain recreated the historic environs of Spain under Muslim rule.

“It was a unique pluralistic society where Muslims, Christians, Jews and other faiths accommodated each other under Muslim rulers. They lived in complete harmony and tolerated each other. This ushered in an era of progress that was a glorious period of Islamic rule,” he added.

With the help of visual aids, the scholar who has rightly been described a ‘jack of all trades and master of many’ and has monumental contributions to the fields of medicine and literature, showed how the mosque was expanded over the years. The horseshoe-shaped arches were the architectural hallmark of its fine construction, according to him.

The talk was followed by an equally engaging question & answer session where the audience delved deeper to discuss the notion of tolerance and inter-faith harmony in present-day Pakistani society. The scholar gave examples from his own experiences and referred to Manto’s short-story “Toba Tek Singh.”

Answering the audience in one of the questions, he reminisced the times when the city of Peshawar itself was culturally more vibrant and receptive. He stressed the need for interfaith dialogue and inclusion.

In the end, Dr Amjad Hussain gifted copies of his famous souvenir maps of Peshawar. He said first published in the 1980s, the maps have undergone eight printings. He got them printed recently in the form of leaflets for free distribution.