Kerala: This ‘Mosque’ welcomes all, also houses a Modern art gallery

Kochi: Masjid-ul Islam in the lane opposite the RDO office in Fort Kochi has opened its doors to modern art gallery in April last year with believers offering their Jumu’ah prayers in constraint space with curtains over the art pieces.

It has been over the past 10 months, that prayers in this Masjid are offered without creating any ruckus for the limited space they are allotted now with the modern gallery now functioning inside the Masjid.

Currently on show in the gallery is photo documentation of 42 communities found in the 5.5 sq km area of Mattancherry and Fort Kochi.

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“The only reason why we are covering them during prayers is to ensure that people are not distracted,” says K A Mohammed Ashraf, the mosque committee’s chairman who set up the Mosque with his own funds four years ago.

He says this mosque welcomes all, irrespective of faith & gender and also celebrates the diversity of religion with citations from revered spiritual texts.

“We want to be inclusive. We don’t have restrictions on the type of dress one should wear,” Ashraf says. He goes on to add that the gallery has quite a lot of foreign visitors.

The Islamic Heritage Centre (IHC) art gallery on the second floor of the building welcomes you with two quotes: a sukta from the Rigveda on the right and a verse from the Quran on the left, both delivering the same message.

On one side of the art gallery is a neatly-labeled wooden shelves showcase which has books ranging from religious texts to even novels and poetry.

“This is not much but we are trying to source some rare books. A large reference library is also on the anvil,” says Ashraf.

The IHC and the gallery is a joint initiative of the trust and Forum for Faith and Fraternity (3F) who are fascinated by the golden age of Islam between AD 8 and AD 14, when mosques were centres of learning and art and science flourished.

“We want people to understand the principles of pluralism, cultural diversity and the importance of upholding these traits in the contemporary world,” says Ashraf.

While the 3F chairman C H Abdul Rahim also former executive director of KIMS and a CA describes this organisation as a small group of professionals working silently to promote cultural diversity through study of different religions.

“It is a myth that Islam is antithetical to art. It has always promoted art and music and historically mosques were seats of learning,” said Rahim.

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