PESHAWAR: Masjid Qasim Ali Khan is though a historic mosque in Peshawar city like Masjid Mahabat Khan yet it comes to limelight only during moon sighting before the start and end of Ramazan leading to an endless controversy for the last few decades. People from far and wide throng the mosque for moon sighting announcement as Populzai scholars have been controlling religious rituals since Durrani dynasty in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa as they have a track record of fair play and being honest.
Located in Misgaran near famous Qissakhawani Bazaar, the origin of Masjid Qasim Ali Khan itself shrouds in a fold of fiction and facts. Every year, Masjid Qasim Ali Khan triggers a big controversy over moon sighting. However, a few people know that the historic mosque has its own history.
Musharraf Shah, an Auqaf employee, told Dawn: “Currently, the three-storey Masjid Qasim Ali Khan has a capacity for 2,200 worshippers and there are six rooms for employees and a residential quarter for the prayer leader. Also there is a boat shaped ablution space. A four-member committee and four Auqaf employees take care of affairs of the historic mosque.”
Of late, the mosque got prominence due to moon sighting controversy
He said that noted religious scholar Mufti Shahabuddin Populzai was the sitting khateeb who showed up only for Friday address and prayer. The Masjid committee, he said, collected donations from local residents, shopkeepers and affluent people and arranged Iftari daily for around 600 poor labourers working in the city in Ramazan. He said that people gave donations to the Masjid committee in the shape of cash as well as solid food items.
According to a popular legend, the mosque was built during Mughal governor of Peshawar, Nawab Mahabat Khan during 17th century who served two Mughal rulers, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. The legend adds that his three brothers – Gunj Ali Khan, Dilwar Ali Khan and Qasim Ali Khan – also constructed mosques in Peshawar city being named after them.
The official record of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Auqaf Department traces back construction of the Qasim Ali Khan mosque in 1842 during Sikh rule in Peshawar while that of its outer portion in 1941. Also one legend claims that a noted businessman, Haji Ghulam Samdani who had migrated from Baramullah Kashmir in early 19th century, had renovated and expanded the mosque before his death in 1920s. Surprisingly, he and three sons and some other personalities had their graves in the precincts of the mosque.
Professor Ibrahim Shah at the archaeology department, University of Peshawar, in his research paper on the issue had pointed out that Qasim Ali Khan was a lower rank officer in the era of Mughal ruler Aurangzeb so the mosque was named after him. Similarly, the other two mosques [Masjid Gunj Ali Khan and Masjid Dilawar Ali Khan] too were attributed to two junior rank officials in Emperor Aurangzeb era, the paper wrote.
It added that Masjid Qasim Ali Khan was not that spacious that could be attributed to a Mughal governor. The paper also rejected the notion that one of King Akbar’s engineers ‘Qasim Khan’ had built the mosque. “But the mosque is named Qasim Ali Khan and not Qasim Khan,” the research paper reads.
Mufti Shahabuddin told Dawn, “I don’t think the three supposed builders of the three mosques in the city were real brothers because there is a big difference in their times. Our family has been serving this mosque for several decades. Great religious scholar Abdur Rahim Populzai, our great grandfather, was Qazi of Peshawar in early 16th century under Durrani dynasty.”
He said that the grandson of Abdur Rahim Populzai, Mufti Abdul Hakeem Populzai, who had played an important role in Khilafat Movement, also served as khateeb of Masjid Qasim Ali Khan. He said that he was followed by one of his sons Mufti Abdur Rahim Populzai-II who carried on the legacy of fighting against the British Raj.
“After his death in 1944, his younger brother Maulana Abdul Qayyum Populzai – my father – became khateeb and now I am carrying forward the legacy of serving the post of khateeb of this mosque,” Mr Shahabuddin explained.
Hamudur Rahman, chairman of the Masjid Qasim Ali Khan committee, told this scribe that great care was being taken of security around the mosque as no one was allowed to stay inside for a night without permission and identification of the committee.
Qari Mohammad Younas, prayer leader of the mosque, said: “There is a separate arrangement for about 40 local students who study Nazira and Hifzul Quran only during daytime. Foreign tourists and casual visitors also come to the mosque, but their number has now reduced to a few individuals due to the law and order problems in the city,” he said.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2015