Dialogue with the Imam
At the outset I must admit that I had to muster a lot of courage for this assignment as I zeroed on to interview the shahi Imam of Jama Masjid of Chandini Chowk, a meeting arranged by the grand daughter of Imam and a close friend. A fifteen minutes walk from the Chandini Chowk metro station had me standing in front of the imposing, awe inspiring and grand Jama Masjid complex, with my heart pounding against my rib cage. As I walked past the lanes of the Chowk to reach the Masjid complex, the smell of tender hot kebabs and syrupy orange jalebis kept on distracting me from the task at hand.
After a few security checks, I was let inside the complex and greeted by my friend, who constantly kept on reminding me to keep off from controversial and political dialogue with the imam.
As I was waiting for the imam, a number of sentiments dawned over me, from the grotesque communal history that clings to the structure to the message of harmony and brotherhood that it preaches. Minutes later the imam entered the guest room I was sitting in. Few words of greetings and I could feel my inhibitions melt away. Ahmed Sayeed Bukhari (the imam) was just like any other man teeming with wisdom.
“Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India. Shah Jahan built it in 1656. It is situated in Delhi. It’s also known as ‘Masjid-i-Jahan Numa’,’Jahan’ means ‘World’ and Numa means ‘Visible. The Masjid also comprises of a great treasure that has been kept in the northeast corner of the white shrine,” he said as I quizzed him about the history of the monument. “The treasure comprises of a hair of the beard of Hazrat Mahmmad, his used chappal, a chapter of Koran taken from its original holy book, the canopy of his tombstone and the footprint of Muhammad on the stone”.
Wow! I was surprised to know that in some corner of this massive mosque, history of Islam lies preserved. I have always been intrigued by the history behind the office of imam.
“The main imam of this Jama Masjid is the direct descendent of the original and first Imam appointed by Emperor Shahjahan and till now there is no break in its descendency,” he said. “The plan and design of the mosque were done by the great sculptor of the time, Ostad Khalil. Shahjahan built Jama Masjid at the cost of Rs 10 crores and it can be called the replica of Moti Masjid in Agra.”
Before I could pose any further questions our conversation was halted by a phone call for imam, which meant that it was time for me to leave the complex and soak in the spirit of Chandini Chowk and gorge the delicious food that the place offers.
Whatever little time I spent with the imam left me with a bloated content heart and pride of meeting the most revered and talked about Shahi imam. Though I wish I could have spoken to him for a little longer because it’s not everyday that I gets to meet such people.
img src: http://flickr.com/photos/haberdashery/398743640/