An unsung legacy

April 14, 2024

Remembering Mian Fateh Deen, the man behind the timeless architecture of Faisalabad

An unsung legacy


yallpur, founded during British rule in India, is one of the most meticulously planned cities in the subcontinent. At the heart of its founding narrative lies the indelible contribution of Mian Fateh Deen, also known as Munshi Fateh Din, revered for his pivotal role in shaping the city’s landscape.

An unsung legacy

Deen’s legacy is etched in the annals of Faisalabad’s history. He is rememberd for erecting over a hundred mosques, madrasas, schools, colleges and various welfare projects. Among his notable achievements is the establishment of Lyallpur’s first-ever Jamia Masjid and Darul Uloom which mark the spiritual and educational cornerstones of the burgeoning city.

Mian Fateh Deen was a pious zamindar from Jalandhar district in India. His elder son Mian Barkatullah was a zaildar and an honorary magistrate in five districts including Jalandhar.

According to Ashraf Ashari’s Faisalabad Tareekh kay Ainay Main and Liaquat Ali Sindhu’s Khoj, Munshi Fateh Deen’s endeavours spanned the construction of more than a hundred mosques in Faisalabad alone. His philanthropic spirit extended beyond the confines of Faisalabad, reaching areas like Tandlianwala, Jaranwala, Gojra and Toba Tek Singh.

Mian Haroon Yasin, a great-grandson of Munshi Fateh Deen, told The News on Sunday that in 1896, the British government had approached Munshi Fateh Deen to spearhead the settlement of Lyallpur. However Deen declined the proposal.

Sir Ganga Ram and Munshi sahib shared a strong friendship,” Mian Haroon said. “Upon British government’s request, Sir Ganga Ram intervened to persuade Munshi Fateh Deen to undertake the journey. Eventually in 1900, he arrived in Faisalabad.”

Mian Haroon says Munshi Fateh Deen initially settled in Chak 224 RB before taing residence in Abdullahpur near the Rakh Branch Canal.

“At Abdullahpur, several brick kilns were established. Two of those were located where Naz Cinema and Rio Cinema are now located,” he says. “The construction of Mian sahib’s residence, Jamia Masjid and Darul Uloom soon after.”

The bricks used in the construction of the Jamia Masjid Abdullahpurcarry the English letters, BFAN. Mian Haroon says that these letters represent the initials of Munshi Fateh Deen’s four sons’ names - Barkatullah, Fatehullah, Abdullah and Noorullah.

The late Mufti Yunus, a graduate of the famous Darul Uloom in Deoband, was the first prayer leader at the mosque. He also held the esteemed title of the first Grand Mufti of Lyallpur. His final resting place is in the cemetery adjacent to the mosque. It is a poignant reminder of his contribution to the community.

The chairman of the World Islamic Mission and chairman of the Rueat-i-Hilal Committee, the late Mufti Zainul Abedin, too, graced the mosque as its khateeb for a 28-year tenure.

Despite its rich history, the condition of the mosque and the Darul Uloom had deteriorated with time This prompted the city district government to intervene in 2015 under the Lyallpur Heritage Foundation. A restoration project was initiated with the intention of preserving the culturally significant monuments.

Regrettably, the project remains incomplete. The entrance to the mosque, its main hall and the exterior of the Darul Uloom building are in their original form, albeit in a state of disrepair.

Mian Haroon says meticulous efforts were undertaken during the reconstruction of the mosque’s main hall under his supervision before 2015. He says the doors were crafted from the wood used in the original doors and windows. The girders used for the roof were fashioned after those used in the original construction.

Despite the challenges of antiquity, some elements of the mosque’s architecture endure. These include the sturdy outer wall constructed with bricks fashioned and a blend of mortar, mud and ground pulses.

Mian Haroon says the City District Government or the Lyallpur Heritage Foundation should revive their restoration plans and preserve the invaluable cultural heritage for future generations.

In the interview Mian Haroon Yasin also recounted a remarkable chapter from the philanthropic endeavours of Munshi Fateh Deen, highlighting his unwavering dedication to community welfare.

During the construction of the Abdullahpur mosque, Munshi Fateh Deen embarked on yet another project, initiating the development of a mosque near the Finance Department offices, now known as the Tehsil Wali Masjid on Circular Road.

Undeterred by the scale of his undertakings, Munshi Fateh Deen proceeded to acquire land for the construction of the Jamia Masjid at Kachehry Bazaar.

In a testament to his selflessness, Mian Haroon recollected a poignant moment during the auction of the mosque site. Munshi Fateh Deen, astride his mule, implored the British officials to allocate the land in his name, regardless of the cost.

A defining characteristic of Munshi Fateh Deen’s philanthropy was his insistence on communal ownership. When registering the land for the mosque, he asked that it be registered in the name of Ahl-i-Islam.

Munshi Fateh Deen’s legacy extends beyond his altruistic endeavours. He was a steward of vast swathes of land, comprising 101 squares (2,525 acres) in Faisalabad alone, besidesz substantial holdings in Gojra, Jaranwala, Tandlianwala and Toba Tek Singh. These acquisitions, obtained through auctions conducted by the British government, underscore his astuteness in resource management.

Remarkably, archival records maintained by Mian Haroon’s father reveal Munshi Fateh Deen’s staggering annual income, surpassing Rs 55,000 annually at the time—an indication of his financial acumen and prosperity.

Wherever his land holdings extended, Munshi Fateh Deen’s benevolence followed suit. He dedicated himself to establishing mosques, the central Eidgahs, orphanages and numerous cemeteries, leaving a mark on the social fabric of the region.

Mian Haroon highlighted his pivotal role in shaping the social and educational landscape of Lyallpur. Notably, Munshi Fateh Deen laid the foundation of Anjuman-i-Islamia in Lyallpur, underscoring his commitment to fostering communal cohesion and educational advancement. Under his visionary leadership, institutions like Islamia College and Islamia School flourished, with the latter spanning nearly 12 acres in Tariqabad—a testament to Munshi Sahib‘s philanthropy. Adjacent to the school stood an orphanage offering sanctuary to the vulnerable.

Munshi Fateh Deen’s foresight extended beyond educational endeavours; he allocated land for inns across his holdings, catering to the influx of merchants converging on Lyallpur—the bustling epicentre of the grain trade in the Punjab. A sprawling inn on Satyana Road served as a hub for commerce and camaraderie, facilitating trade and fostering intercity connections.

Following Munshi Fateh Deen’s demise in 1911, his sons dutifully carried forward his philanthropic legacy, championing causes close to their father’s heart. Mian Barkatullah, in particular, assumed leadership a role in Anjuman-i-Islamia, leveraging his education from Aligarh to nurture educational institutions. He envisioned a holistic approach to welfare, recognising the transcendent impact of masjids and schools on both Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

In a remarkable display of communal harmony, Munshi Fateh Deen, along with Mian Barkatullah and his siblings, generously donated land for the establishment of the main church on Railway Road and the adjacent Sacred Heart Convent School, embodying the spirit of inclusivity and cooperation.

Mian Haroon says Munshi Fateh Deen had the foresight to sustain the upkeep of mosques by dedicating commercial properties. Notably, the bustling Kachehry Bazaar, adjacent to Jamia Masjid, stands as a testament to his legacy, with many shops generating substantial revenue channelled directly into mosque maintenance.

The tradition of mosque construction initiated by Munshi Fateh Deen has continues through subsequent generations. His descendants have upheld the noble legacy by erecting mosques on lands bequeathed for this purpose. Thus, the sacred tradition of service to the community endures, ensuring the preservation of spiritual sanctuaries for generations to come.

Munshi Fateh Deen’s final abode is on Hilal Road, in the vicinity where he initially settled upon arriving in Lyallpur over a century ago. Today, this area bears the reverential moniker of Munshi Fateh Din Di Chovi, a lasting tribute to his memory. Fateh Deen Masjid, a spacious edifice erected a few years ago, graces this sacred site.

Mian Haroon proudly points out the ancestral cemetery, where Munshi sahib’s holy grave lies. A grand mosque, constructed by Munshi sahib’s great-grandchildren on adjacent land, stands as a testament to familial reverence and devotion.

Reflecting on the management of the mosques built by Munshi Fateh Deen, Mian Haroon says that, while a majority of the mosques were managed by mosque management committees, certain prestigious establishments, including the Jamia masjids, were taken over by the Auqaf Department in the 1960s.

He recounts that the Jamia Masjid Abdullahpur, initially taken over by Auqaf, was later returned to his father through a court decree in 1970. The verdict was prompted by the regard for the adjacent cemetery, reserved for the interment of the guardians, prayer leaders and their spouses.

Beyond his architectural feats, Munshi Fateh Deen’s altruistic contributions endure through charitable organisations established by him and his family, continuing to serve the deserving citizens of Faisalabad.

The government of the Punjab and the district administration have regrettably failed to formally acknowledge his services.

Mian Haroon affirms the family’s reluctance to seek such recognition.

The writer has been  associated with journalism for the past decade. He tweets 

@ naeemahmad876

An unsung legacy