Heritage

Inter-faith Harmony

The Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kerala, India, built in 629 AD, is a symbol
of interfaith harmony that was groomed and nurtured over centuries.

By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar | August 2020

It is a structure almost as old as time. Built somewhere in 629 AD, the Cheraman Juma Masjid in Kerala, India, is probably the oldest Muslim structure constructed in the country. It could probably be one of South Asia’s mosques built during that era. Researchers estimate that the mosque was built during the time of the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Ever since, it has remained a place of prayers for Muslims.

Considered as India’s first mosque, the Cheraman Juma Masjid is located in Kodungallur, Kerala. Historians claim that one of the first Arabs to arrive in India was Malik Bin Dinar. He was a proponent of Islam. Some sources claim that Malik Dinar was a Persian traveller who died in 748 CE. It is reported that his father was a Persian slave from Kabul who was one of the disciples of Hasan al-Basri.

It is worth noting that the Arab general Muhammad Bin Qasim invaded Sindh in 711 AD via the sea route; this was much after the Cheraman Juma Masjid was built in Kerala 629 AD.

However, the name of the Cheraman Juma Masjid does strike interest among people. It is named after a non-Muslim. Some stories say that Cheraman Perumal was a king from this area. He was fascinated by Islam. He gave up his throne and embraced Islam to begin a new life. Cheraman made a pilgrimage to Mecca and stayed there for a few years. While returning to India, he fell ill on the way and died. It is said that Malik Bin Dinar was captivated by Cheraman’s life story. Dinar resolved to complete the journey to India that Cheraman had begun. Dinar arrived in India with his companions after great efforts. They had letters written by Cheraman who wanted to ask the local rulers of Kerala to permit him to build a mosque.

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