A walking tour group visited Durban’s Juma Masjid last week and were mesmerised by its minimalist beauty, writes an Al Qalam Reporter.
A Durban social group that inspires locals to get out of their comfort zones and explore the sights and sounds of the city on foot, took about 200 visitors on a tour of the historic Juma Masjid last weekend – and for most of the participants, it was their first view inside a mosque.
The group, known as Beset Durban, invites subscribers on their social platforms to participate in free monthly tours to interesting parts of the city.
Describing themselves as “ambassadors” for the city, a Beset spokesperson said their main purpose was to re-introduce Durbanites to their city, and “proudly introduce the world to our incredible home.”
This time, the organizers decided to take the group to the Juma Masjid and the neighbouring Emmanuel Cathedral to show how the two historic places of worship – and both Muslims and Christians – were co-existing harmoniously. And what is more, an executive director of the Emmanuel Cathedral, Raymond Perrier, also joined the group on their mosque tour.
The Juma Masjid was built in the 1880s and completed during the 1930s, and together with Madressa Arcade which runs through it, replaced the original series of buildings that had popped up with the arrival of non-indentured Indians in Durban in the late 1800s. The mosque is actually a series of interlinking buildings, arcades and corridors, in which commerce, religion and community exist in equilibrium.
Iqbal Essop, a mosque tour coordinator at the Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI), told Al Qalam, the group was excited at the chance of seeing the inside of the mosque, once regarded as the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
He said members of the group were awestruck by the beautiful architecture of the mosque and marveled at the rich interior décor, the beautiful Islamic calligraphy, and the unique wudu area that doubled as a fish pond which contains tropical fish as large as a kilogram. Another highlight was stepping onto the roof of the Juma Masjid and viewing the bustling and colourful street life from atop.
Beset Durban wrote on their Facebook page: “It is no secret that those of the Christian and Muslim faith have not always seen eye to eye. That fact makes a particular part of Durban incredibly special. Many people it appears are aware of the Victoria Street Market in Durban CBD. Fewer it seems know that across the road you will find one of the largest Mosques in the southern hemisphere less than a dozen meters from Durban’s only Cathedral.
“The Emmanuel Cathedral Durban and the Juma Masjid (also known as the Grey Street Mosque) have coexisted peacefully side by side for more than a century. And that coexistence has regularly translated into co-operation for the greater good of society.”
Beset Durban described the tour as a “tale of collaboration and faith,” that would help “uncover the stories behind these two places of worship”.
Members who joined were advised by Beset organizers not to wear modest clothing during their visit to the Juma Masjid and Emmanuel Cathedral.
More such tours are planned for the future and the IPCI told Al Qalam they would warmly welcome all visitors with open arms.