Early Islam in Madurai: Times of India

READ MORE Kazimar Big Mosque

MADURAI: The wide Kazimar Street, which branches off from the busy TPK Road near Periyar Bus stand, is one of the oldest settlements of Muslims in Madurai. Historical legends state that Hazrat Kazi Syed Tajuddin came to Madurai from Oman in the 13th century and established the Kazimar Big Mosque on a land given to him by a Pandya monarch.

Till date, the descendants of Syed Tajuddin, who is believed to be a descendant of Prophet Mohammed, live on the Kazimar Street. They are hereditarily elected as the town kazis.

Syed Ahja Mueenudeen, the current town kazi, said that the Kazimar Big Mosque, which was constructed by Tajuddin as a thatched structure initially, was the first place of worship for Muslims in Madurai. The street has had Muslims settlement for over 700 years, he said. Thus, Islam arrived in Madurai even before Malik Kafur’s invasion of Madurai in the 14th century.

History professor R Venkataraman opines King Maravarman Sundarapandian might have been the contemporary of Tajuddin. Even before the advent of Islam, Arabs maintained trade links with South India, especially for the pearls Madurai Pandya Kingdom was famous for. “Sufis, Muslim saints, started coming to Tamil Nadu by 900 AD. The entry of Islam to the region was peaceful as Sufis conceived God as love,” he said.

The short-lived Madurai Sultanate and Islamic influence did have their impact on the city, especially on warfare and town planning. “Muslim rulers introduced arch construction they learnt from the Romans. It changed the style of architecture here in a significant way,” Venkataraman remarked.

The Big Mosque, which is an architectural attraction, accommodates Madurai Maqbara which is the dargah of sufi saints Hazrat Meer Ahamad Ibrahim, Hazrat Meer Amjad Ibrahim and Hazrat Syed Abdus Salaam Ibrahim Rahmatullahi Alaihim.

Syed Ali Hussaini, the renowned Chennai-based stunt artist, is originally from Kazimar Street. Recalling the legend of Tajuddin, he said: “It is believed that Tajuddin came from Arabia to Kerala and reached Madurai where he established a mosque. He became popular for divine healing powers. The Pandya king was irked with his fame, but Tajuddin cured the king himself when he suffered from a stomach ailment. The king gave away a land for mosque in gratitude,” he said. “Even today Tajuddin’s descendents, numbering more than 2,000, are annually given a customary nominal share of the income from the waqf lands originally donated by the king,” he added.

Till the 1980s, the residents of the street were engaged in rearing horses, rams, cocks and pigeons. “People were crazy about horses and many raised them. Rekla or bull cart race and pigeon racing were popular when I grew up in the area in the 1960s,” Hussaini recalled.

However, the face of the area has changed since then with many moving out for education and jobs, he said.

Categories: Islam in the press

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.