Against sectarian odds, small-town mosque sets example for world to heal

Budgam: At a time when the Middle East is purportedly split on sectarian lines, and it appears the Islamic world is more divided on Shia-Sunni lines than ever, the residents of Magam town in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district are showing the way by holding congregational prayers together in a masjid, irrespective of the sect they belong to.
The members and religious heads of both the Sunni and Shia factions of Magam decided to hold prayers together in the town’s Jamia Masjid since they want to send the message to the Islamic world to unite, instead of getting trapped in divisions detrimental for Islam and the wider interests of the Muslim ummah.
“I joined the initiative of holding the Sunni-Shia prayers together because I think it will foster universal brotherhood, strengthening the social fabric of Islam,” said Syed Riyaz Sheerazi, a Sunni imam who leads his following’s prayers in the Jamia Masjid which hosts worshippers from both the Sunni and Shia sects.
“I can’t say we have been doing something extraordinary. This move of ours could bring unity and brotherhood among the various sects, among our own Muslim brothers, and it will surely create an example of fraternity and unity in the Islamic world,” he added.
Shia imam Aga Hammid, who also leads worshippers of both sects in the masjid, called the initiative “the need of the hour, in a state like ours which is so diverse. I associate myself with it as it promotes the true idea of Islam, which is togetherness.”
“Keeping aside the sectarian lines, both the Sunni and Shia factions have decided to hold prayers together since we want to send the message to the Islamic world to be united and meanwhile keep apart the minor sectarian differences,” he added.
He said that even though the town has a majority Shia population, the Sunni sect had fully cooperated with the masjid committee to keep alive the example of brotherhood and unity among the two sects.
The two-storey masjid stands at a short distance from the main bus stand.
Despite the town’s having its Shia population in the majority, the namaaz is led by a Sunni cleric. And when the Shia cleric leads the prayer, people from Sunni sects also join.
“It was an extraordinary feeling to pray with my brothers in faith,” says Irfan, an engineer who belongs to the Shia sect. “Keeping difference from our own brothers on religious grounds is not only anti-humanity but anti-Islamic as well. Having love and brotherhood is a better way to spoil the plans of the anti-peace agencies, and I feel joyful seeing the unity between Shias and Sunnis in this town.”