Jain Mandir in Pakistani mosque maintained by Maulana Ashraf

Jain Mandir in Pakistani mosque maintained by MaulanaRawalpindi, the abode of the army and the epicentre of the country’s power, is a city that has endured sectarianism and communal violence.

Yet, it has maintained a symbol of peace in the shape of a temple that stands right at the heart of Jamia Taleem ul Quran Raja Bazaar, one of the oldest and central mosques of the city.

Like other cities of its time, Rawalpindi has a qila (fort), a tibbi (red light district), and a mosque around which the city developed.

Descending the street from Purana Qila whose only remains is a desolate brick arch and marble plate, you’ll find yourself amid the buzzing world of Raja Bazaar, the business hub of Rawalpindi.

On the left is the famous Qasai Gali; once a tibbi, it is now a jumble of old and new kitchenware, utensils and steel ware.

Balconies that at one time offered glimpses of stunning Bundo and Khairan Bai (dancers from Kashmir) have turned into storerooms of Chinese goods and crockery.

Searching for Jamia Taleem ul Quran is not without its challenges. Amongst newly built plazas and old buildings decked with bill boards and political banners, it takes considerable effort to locate a green board with bold Urdu writing: “Jamia Masjid Dar ul Uloom Taleem ul Quran”.

Rawalpindi, before Partition, was a predominantly Sikh city with a considerable populace of Hindus and Jains.

Raja Bazaar and the adjacent Bhabra Bazaar were Jain areas, dotted with their temples and magnificent havelis.

The adjacent areas of Mohan Pora, Arjun Nagar and Ram Bagh still echo the past that despite ages having gone by, looms large in their jharokhas (a type of overhanging enclosed balcony).

Knowing my academic background wouldn’t help, I approached the administrator stating my past journalistic affiliation to inquire about the temple.

He agreed to take time from the madrassa principal for the next day at 11am. ‘
The next day, I decided to take a rickshaw there. “Molana Ghulam Ullah ki masjid jana hai [I want to go to Mollana Ghulam ulla’s Mosque],” I told the rickshaw driver.

The driver, who was in his 20s, understood the exact location without me mentioning the nearby landmark. It took 15 minutes to reach the mosque from Saidpur Road.

The giant Masjid-e-Nabwi-designed door was half opened. I proceeded to climb the stairs; the guards were there as usual. “Molana se milna hai, interview k liye [I want to meet the Molana for the interview],” I explained.

The guard, who seemed aware of my arrival, replied: “Yes, he’s waiting.” He asked me to follow him.

I walked down a long hallway with rooms where students were reciting their lesson. Some looked at me with surprise and others with a smile.

We stopped at a room that had a big plate titled ‘Principal’ displayed outside. “He’s here, ” said the guard peeping in through the door.

“Let him in,” someone replied from inside.

Molana Ashraf Ali, a white-bearded man dressed in white shalwar kameez, is the son of Molana Ghulam Ullah Khan and the current mohtamim (principal) of this mosque.

He met me cordially, greeting me with a mix of English and Urdu and we sat on the carpeted floor.

Within minutes tea arrived along with bakery items. Initially focused on politics, our conversation turned towards sectarianism and later, legal amendment.

Having been told that I wanted to talk about the temple, he looked a little baffled.

“The temple was here before the mosque,” he said while taking a sip of the tea. “My father came here in the 1940’s and established a small mosque. Those were good times. Hindus and Muslims used to live in harmony,” he recalled.

“Although the surrounding population was Hindu, they never bothered us. Then Partition happened and brothers turned into foes.

“Hindus came to my father who had a good reputation because of his honesty and humbleness, and asked him to take care of the temple. They gave him possession of the temple in writing, and asked us to look after it until they returned.

“They never came back but my father kept his promise and passed the caretaking responsibilities to me. For us, this temple is the emblem of our promise and honesty and will endure till future generations.

“We safeguarded it with our lives after the Babri Mosque incident to show the world that followers of Prophet Mohammad — peace be upon him — are not violent.

“We are not like them (Indians) and certainly not the way you media people portray us,” he stated pointedly but with a slight smile.

“We inform our students about other religions and teach them to respect others’ views and live in harmony. Humanity precedes everything,” he affirmed, referring to a hadith.
रावलपिंडी में 70 साल बाद भी मौलाना अशरफ अली का परिवार मस्जिद के बाहर बने मंदिर के वारिसों के इंतजार में है। मुल्क के बंटवारे के समय जब हालात खराब हुए तो वहां रहने वाले जैन और हिंदू परिवार मंदिर की चाबी मौलाना अशरफ अली के वालिद मौलाना गुलाम उल्ला खान को सौंप गए। तय हुआ था कि जब हालात कुछ ठीक होंगे तो वो लोग वापस आकर मंदिर की चाबी ले लेंगे, लेकिन एेसा अब तक नहीं हुआ।
– मौलाना नहीं जानते कि वे परिवार अब भारत में कहां है, किस हाल में है।
– मौलाना के मुताबिक उनकी फैमिली का कोई भी सदस्य रावलपिंडी आकर मंदिर की चाबी ले सकता है।
– वे कहते हैं कि धर्म की किताबों में ये कहीं नहीं लिखा है कि किसी दूसरे धर्म से जुड़ी चीजों या प्रतीकों को नष्ट किया जाए।
– मस्जिद में एक मदरसा भी है- जामिया तालीम-उल-कुरान। इसका संचालन मौलाना अशरफ अली के हाथ में है।
– उनके मुताबिक – यहां पढ़ रहे बच्चों ने कभी किसी हिंदू को नहीं देखा, इसलिए हम उन्हें इस्लामी तालीम देते हुए ये भी सिखाते हैं कि दूसरे धर्मों की मान्यताएं कैसी हैं, उनके मंदिर वगैरह कैसे हैं।
– ये इसलिए जरूरी है, ताकि हमारे बच्चे दुनिया के हर धर्म की अच्छी बातें सीख सके। ये भी एक कारण है कि हमने मंदिर को कभी कुछ नहीं होने दिया।

पिता दे गए थे मंदिर की चाबी
– अशरफ अली ने कहा- आजादी से पहले रावलपिंडी के राजाबाजार में हिंदुओं की घनी आबादी थी और जैन समुदाय के लोग भी थे।
– ये मंदिर जैन समुदाय के लोगों ने ही बनवाया था। तब धर्म को लेकर ऐसी मार-काट बिल्कुल नहीं थी, इसलिए मस्जिद के अंदर बने इस मंदिर को लेकर किसी को भी कुछ गलत नहीं लगा। फिर जब 1947 में बंटवारे की आग फैली तो हिंदुओं को जान बचाने के लिए यहां से भारत जाना पड़ा।
– उस दौरान मेरे वालिद ने उन लोगों से वादा किया था कि मंदिर को कुछ नहीं होगा। जब हालात सामान्य होंगे, आप लौट आना।
– बाद में वालिद ने इसकी चाबी मुझे सौंपी और कहा कि इसे इसके असली वारिसों को ही सौंपना, इसलिए मुझे उन लोगों को इंतजार है।

जब बाबरी मस्जिद गिराई गई, इस मंदिर को गिराने भी यहां के लोग आए, लेकिन हमने हर बार उन्हें भगा दिया
– अशरफ अली ने कहा- मंदिर शहर के बीचों-बीच है। जब भारत में बाबरी मस्जिद गिराई गई तो यहां के कुछ लोग भी मंदिर को निशाना बनाने के लिए आए।
– हमने उन्हें हर बार भगा दिया। कुछ और लोग भी हैं, जो मानते हैं कि ये मंदिर यहां मस्जिद के भी पहले से है।

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