ISLAMABAD: Months after the controversial military operation against Lal Masjid and Jamia Hafsa in July 2007, the mosque was given an entirely new look. The first move to change its famous red colour was fiercely resisted by sympathisers of the mosque. However, a business tycoon took up the task of changing the skin of the structure, which was ultimately accepted.
Under the ‘beautification’ project, the main compound of the mosque was restored, its walls were embellished with stones and intricate wood paneling was done on the inner sides of the main hall.
But Baba Murad Jamal can see what lies beneath this beautification. An elderly man with a long grey beard, Baba Jamal claims to be a relative of the Ghazi brothers, the clerics who used to run the Lal Masjid. He can be found loitering around the mosque. After every prayer each day, Baba Jamal goes around the mosque, ritually touching various places. For those who pray at the mosque, this is a taboo. According to their belief, reverentially touching and kissing any place and considering any place to be holy is akin to kufr (idolatry).
Baba Jamal, in his mix of Balochi and Urdu, explained: “I touch walls where there are bullet marks. I kiss the mosque’s wounds which it sustained during the military operation.”
Baba Murad Jamal belongs to Basti Abdullah, the native town of Maulana Abdur Rashid Ghazi, who was killed in the operation, and his elder brother and chief cleric of the mosque Maulana Abdul Aziz. These days he spends most of his days in the Lal Masjid and sleeps at the Jamia Somayia, a seminary for girls and an offshoot of Jamia Hafsa, in nearby Sector G-7/3.
In Baba jamal’s mind, the mosque is a living entity. “Only God will punish those who destroyed this mosque’s sanctity,” he said in a voice trembling with the intensity of his emotions.
For Baba Jamal, the original Lal Masjid was far more beautiful. “It is not about its structure. It is about the people here who loved their faith. I miss them,” he said.
The mosque and everything associated with it is not a fixation just for Baba Murad Jamal. The mosque’s young attendants were also among its most ardent followers. Ahsan Khalid was one such youth who remained affiliated with Lal Masjid for a long time. Originally from Chitral, he said although his affiliation with the mosque unerwent ‘bad patches’ three years ago, it was even stronger now. Only days before the military operation, Khalid’s left leg was fractured in a road accident. Before the accident and the military operation, he had been a regular visitor of the mosque. In the post operation days, his routine continued--with a slight change.
He is seen limping into the mosque these days, with the help of a stick. Ignoring the easiest entry into the main prayer hall, he always opts for a longer route. He does not care that he has to use stairs with an iron rod in his left leg.
He says he is forced to do this because of the memories of the old Lal Masjid, pointing at the the poster-sized pictures of the pre-military operation mosque displayed on the inner side of the entrance wall.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2010.
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