Cheraman Juma Masjid, Thrissur, Kerala

The Cheraman Juma Masjid mosque can be found in the Methala which is located in Thrissur district. This is considered to be the first mosque built in India. It was said to be built in 629 AD by Maliik Bin Dinar. The history of Islam dates back to many centuries ago. Excellent trading opportunities were made available between the Arabs and the people of Kodungalloor. Scores of tradesman from all over the world visited the city to conduct trading activities. It was the Arabs that propagated the religion in the state.

Cheraman Perumal, the Chera king on whose honour this mosque is named abdicated his throne and converted to Islam. Legend has it that he once had a dream of a moon splitting into two halves. When he discussed this his court astrologers, they couldn’t give him a satisfactory interpretation of the dream. Later, when some Arabs visited his court, he mentioned the same dream to them and they told him about the miracle that Prophet Mohammed had carried out in Arabia. On hearing this, he decided to leave to Mecca. He divided his land and entrusted it wither several ministers for smooth governance. Once in Mecca, he converted to Islam and spent several years there. On his return to Kerala, he fell ill and died. Prior to his death he had written several letters to his ministers and entrusted it with his friends like Malik Bin Dinar. Thus when his friends returned to Kerala, the ministers gave them permisiion to build mosques all over the state. Thus the Cheraman Juma Masjid was built in Kodungalloor and named after Cheraman Perumal. Malik Bin Dinar is said to have been the first Ghazi in the mosque. He handed over the reins to his relative Habib Bin Malik and left to propagate Islam all over the state. The tomb in the mosque is said to belong to Habib bin Malik and his wife.

The political scene in Kerala is better recorded after the abdication of Cheruman Perumal. Hyder-Ali and Tipu Sultan’s invasion had plenty of conflicts in this region. When the British took over, their atrocities along with the upper caste communities knew no bounds. The Malabar rebellion of 1921 had a great impact in the history of Islam in Kerala. During the rebellion, the Ulemas from the Malabar district found sanctuary in Kodungallur to escape from the atrocities committed by the police. They formed an Aikya Sanghamam in 1923. This group encouraged education and female literacy and gave away plenty of scholarships too. It is interesting to note that the literacy levels reached to the grass root levels in Kodungallur bu the early twentieth century when compared to other Muslim communities in India Much credit for this needs to be given to the principal members of the Aikya Sangamam.

Many renovations have been done in the Cheramman Juma Masjid. It was renovated for the first time in 11th century and later renovated some 300 years ago. In 1974, 1994 and 2001 extensions were constructed to accommodate the increase in the population of Muslims. The original wooden structure was eroded due to change in the climatic conditions and was restored to its original glory with the wooden structure intact.

A unique identity of this mosque is that several of its followers are non-Muslims. They even give iftar offerings during the holy month of Ramadan. Encouraged by the Mohalla committee, a lot of non-Muslims conduct Vidyarambham initiation ceremony for their children in this mosque. Secularism is very evident in this region.

There are more than ten thousand members that belong to this mosque. The management affairs are conducted efficiently by a committee of its adult members that are elected by a general body election for a tenure of two years according to its bye-laws.

A traditional brass lamp is lit inside the mosque for which oil is brought by Muslims, Christians and Hindus alike. This is a unique offering done in this mosque that is not practiced in any other mosque in the country.