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Home » History: Why Mishkal Mosque of Kozhikode is special?

History: Why Mishkal Mosque of Kozhikode is special?

Oldest Mosque: Mishkal Mosque Kozhikode

The Mishkal Mosque, built in the 14th century, takes its name from its builder, Nakhuda Mithqal, who was a merchant from Yemen and had trade relations with Malabar. It is situated in Kuttichira, within the city limits.

Instead of the Saracen architecture that is generally employed for the construction of mosques in the state, the Mishkal Mosque follows an architecture that is more of a temple. It is a structure that conveys the harmony and secular culture that this city has shown for centuries.

Although all the rituals of Islamic mosques are also held in Mishkal Masjid, it is more of a monument to the plurality of India. Nakhuda Mithqal, who Ibnu Batuta describes in his books as an extremely wealthy merchant, enlisted all the help of the Zamorins, the rulers of Kozhikode and the adjoining areas at the time, to build the mosque.

The structure has its own stories of struggles and acts of revenge to tell. In 1510, in the holy month of Ramadan, Mishkal was attacked by the Portuguese when the Zamorin army was elsewhere. But an army of people dedicated to defending the city’s heritage and honour pushed back the Portuguese army before the ruin was complete. Mishkal still has marks from this attack that can be seen on the upper floors of the building.

The architecture of Mishkal is so unique. No cupolas, minarets or cupolas can be seen in this marvellous structure, which usually defines a mosque. It looks more like a temple with its arches, pillars and flat roof.

Except for the walls on the ground floor, the entire mosque can be said to be made of wood. The damage done over the years to this wood is visible on the pillars and walls.

The rich history of this magnificent Muslim prayer space can be seen carved into the minbar (preaching station). Within the Mezquita complex, there is a small museum that tells the story of the separate structure.

Originally built in the 1340s by Nakhooda Mishkal, a wealthy Yemeni merchant and shipowner, the mosque is a fine example of the integration of Islam into Kerala culture. During this time, Calicut was a flourishing center of trade, especially with the Arabs, and it was through this trade in spices, as well as ideas, that Islam is said to have reached the Indian subcontinent.

The architecture of the Mishkal Mosque is a reflection of this interaction. From the widespread use of wood in the construction of this four-story structure to the stepped roof that is the hallmark of Hindu temples in the state, the architecture reflects the ancient carpentry principles of thachu shastra, which were followed by architects and local carpenters over the years.

Unlike many medieval religious structures that have undergone various degrees of expansion and reconstruction, the Mishkal Mosque was built in one go. Unfortunately, it was partially destroyed by Portuguese naval artillery fire in the 16th century but was later restored using the remains of a destroyed Portuguese fort.

A sample survey was conducted in Kuttichira, in an area known locally as Thekkeppuram, to understand the workings of a mahal committee. Since a group of mosques, including Jama’at mosques (cathedral mosques where Friday congregation is held), function in the region, there are committees for individual mosques such as Miskal Mosque and Valia Juma Masjid under separate qazis (callers to prayers).

However, all committees are under the supervision of a Qazi chief (Valiya Qazi or Qazi Qulath). He is undoubtedly the foremost authority on all religious matters, including Ramzan’s statement on the basis of the crescent moon sighting. His verdict is accepted by all the mahals in the Malabar region. Since a group of mosques are located in these places, there are mosque committees instead of mahal committees that serve the purpose of the mahals and deal with the matters of concern to the Muslims who attend the Jama’ats there.

These ‘micromahals’ have comparatively minimal duties and responsibilities. Of course, on issues like marriage, divorce, or inheritance of property, this can work effectively, but on broader issues like sharia (canon law) or fatwa pronouncement, the larger body of the qazis of the mahal intervene legitimately with full rights. authority to the acceptance of all. However, in both Kuttichira and Thekkeppuram mahals, religious or non-religious issues have not arisen in recent years due to the smooth functioning of the committees.

There have been cases of qazi committees (Musha’ira) replacing mahal committees in cases of marriages and inheritance problems arising due to temporary marriages (Mut’a) with foreign citizens, especially Arab merchants. Both mahal committees and qazi conclaves oppose such marriages, which were once prevalent along the Kozhikode coast. Sociologists have opined that Mut’a was a relief to the poor who would otherwise have had to give up marriage.

In places like Kuttichira, mahal committees and qazi conclaves have worked together without any conflict of interest, unlike in other regions. Qazis of Kozhikode have special rights and privileges and their opinions are given the highest priority in decision-making throughout Kerala, especially on the occasion of declaring the first fast day of Ramzan and in determining holidays such as Eid. The Nalakath family is one of the most prominent Qazi families in the region. All qazis trace their lineage back to the Syeds as descendants of the Prophet.

The mosque was built by an Arab merchant, Nakhooda Mishkal, almost 650 years ago. It bears his name. It is located in a part of the Thekkepuram region in the city of Kozhikode. Nakhuda Mishkal was a renowned Yemeni merchant and shipowner.

The title Nakhuda is of Persian origin and means Captain of the ship; from nāv = ship +khudā = teacher. The mosque was designed in traditional Kerala architecture of that period. The Mishkal Mosque in Kuttichira stands as a symbol of communal harmony.

In 1510 AD, the Portuguese attacked the mosque and partially destroyed it. Supposedly, their mission was to divide and conquer, breaking the harmony between Hindus and Muslims. The Samoothiri (Zamorin), the local ruler at the time, was not fooled and helped defend and repair the mosque.

Built-in the 13th century AD. With its unique Hindu temple architectural style, it is one of the oldest mosques in present-day Kerala. The Muchundi Mosque has a bilingual stone inscription known as the Muchundi Inscription which dates back to the 13th century. It is written in Arabic and in an older form of Malayalam. Scholars have translated it to say that a certain Shihabuddin Raihan, a freed slave, built this mosque with his own money on land donated by the local ruler.

The mosque is associated with Shaikh Zainuddin Makhdoom II, the famous author of Tuhafat-ul-Mujahidin. It was in the mosque that Shaikh Zainuddin Makhdoom II used to teach the young students and this is probably where he wrote his famous book which narrates the history of Islam in Malabar.

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