Mosques are sacred places for Muslims. In fact, mosques are temples, where Muslims can communicate with Allah and listen to Imam who leads the prayer. At the same time, mosques, being closely related to the religious life of Muslims have not only religious but also cultural, educational and artistic value. In this respect, it is possible to refer to Haji Ali mosque in the Gulf region. This mosque is a sample of traditional Islamic mosque, executed in traditional Islamic style, although the mosque incorporates certain elements of the local culture and art. Similarly to other mosques, Haji Ali performs multiple functions, which go far beyond religious rituals and needs of Muslims. Instead, along with religious life, the mosque is the center of cultural and educational life as well as the mosque can be viewed as a valuable object of art.
At the end of a long causeway falling into the Arabian Sea, stands the whitewashed mosque of Haji Ali, in a short walk from the Mahalaxmi Temple. This mosque is the tomb of the famous Muslim saint Haji Ali, and was built in his honor by his disciples during the early 19th century. In such a way, the Haji Ali Mosque is a sacred place for Muslims. The Haji Ali Mosque is a significant part of the heritage of Mumbai and the culture of India. The best time to visit is on Thursday and Friday evenings. The widespread belief in Haji Ali Mosque is that whoever prays truly is never disappointed. Many devotees come for thanksgiving here. The sacredness of this place inspires adepts of Islam attending the mosque to pray. In fact, they can hardly fail to be influenced by the ambiance of the mosque and its sacred background, while the fact that the mosque is the tomb of Haji Ali raises religious feelings and emotions in Muslims attending the mosque. The environment of the mosque makes them feel being closer to Allah. At the same time, they can concentrate on their inner world, their feelings, emotions as well as problems, but the sacred environment of the mosque helps them to find the internal balance.
In this respect, the history of the mosque plays an important role because it influences substantially visitors of the mosque. There are more than one version of the story that is heard about the Haji Ali. Some say that Haji Ali died while on a pilgrimage to Mecca and his casket by some miracle floated back to Mumbai and landed on the spot. Some believe Haji Ali drowned at the place where the Dargah stands today. In such a way, the historical background of the mosque influences the perception of this place by adepts of Islam. The mosque becomes a truly sacred place for Muslims, when they are able to understand the full extent to which the mosque is significant for you.
At the same time, it is not only the historical background that is important for Muslims attending the mosque, but the decoration and architecture of the mosque are also of the utmost importance. In this regard, it should be said that the Haji Ali Mosque is the mosque constructed in a traditional style, which though mirrors cultural and artistic traditions of the local population in the traditional Islamic context. In other words, the mosque is the manifestation of the local art, which was interpreted in the traditional Islamic context, because the mosque is constructed in accordance to traditional canons of Islam.
The Haji Ali Mosque is constructed deep into the sea with a narrow path leading to the mosque, giving it a delicate and unearthly look. During the high tide, the mosque almost become an island while the rest of the times, it can be reached through the concrete causeway. Following the Muslim tradition, there are separate rooms for prayer for men and women. Such a separation of men and women is a norm and this practice cannot be violated in mosques. Naturally, the Haji Ali Mosque is not an exception in this regard.
The sculpted entrance has a marble courtyard beyond containing the sacred shrine. A rich red brocaded chaddar cover the tomb of Haji Ali that lies in a beautiful silver frame supported by mirror decorated arty pillars. The Haji Ali Mosque in Mumbai can be reached during the low tide only. The Mosque lies opposite to the famous Mahalakshmi temple and can be approached from Lala Rajpatrai Marg. There are flights , trains and buses that connects Mumbai with places outside. Local trains, auto rickshaws, taxis or buses are available to take tourists to Haji Ali Mosque.
In such a way, Muslims that attend the mosque for the first time can hardly get rid of the impression that they have just abandoned the routine world and entered the sacred place. The contrast between the routine life outside the mosque contrasts to the sacredness of the mosque and its spiritual richness, which is not perceived physically but intuitively. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the mosque functions in accordance with the religious liturgy of Islam as it is defined in Qur’an. Muslims attending the mosque should obey all the traditional rituals which are accepted in Islamic traditions from taking off their shoes before entering the Haji Ali Mosque to separation of men and women within the mosque. As a result, Muslims feel the power of old traditions and Islamic norms which prevail in the mosque.
At the same time, this impression is strengthened by the music and art which elements Muslims can here and see while attending the mosque. In fact, music sounds mildly and helps adepts to relax and prepare for the pray. The music never interferes into the spiritual communication of Muslims with Allah. The mild sound of the music helps Muslims to concentrate on their thoughts, purify their mind and soul and come prepared to sacred communication or to the perception of the prayer led by the Imam.
As for art, it is obvious that architecture of the mosque plays a very important role because, on the one hand, the architecture of the Haji Ali Mosque demonstrates the divine power, while, on the other hand, it welcomes adepts demonstrating that anyone can find his or her place in the mosque. The spacious building, constructed proportionally, is well-balanced and seems to be a perfect sample of the traditional Islamic architecture. In such a way, the architecture of the Haji Ali Mosque prepares adepts to the sacred rituals they are going to commit as they enter the mosque. Even inside the building, the art, especially architecture, helps visitors to maintain and develop their religious feelings and conduct worshipping.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the Haji Ali Mosque is a good example of traditional mosques. At the same time, this mosque mirrors traditional Islamic trends in the construction of mosques and their architecture, although some local elements are incorporated in the architecture of the church. The music helps adepts to concentrate on their thoughts and rituals, while the environment in the mosque is favorable for worshipping. In addition, it is worth mentioning the fact that the Haji Ali Mosque is not only an essential part of the religious part of the local population, but it is also an object of art, which has a long history and dates back to the life of Hajo Ali, a Muslim saint. Therefore, the mosque is valuable not only from religious but also cultural as well as educational point of view.
Barbara, A. and A. Perliss (2006). Invisible Architecture: Experiencing Places Through the Sense of Smell. New York: Routledge.
Islam: Empire of Faith. (2006). PBS Home Video.
Blair, S.S. and J.M. Bloom. (1999). “Art and Architecture.” In Oxford History of Islam. New York: Oxford University Press.
Blesser, B. and L. Salter. (2007). Spaces Speak, Are You Listening? Experiencing Aural Architecture. MIT Press.
Butterfield, A. (2003). Brush with Genius. New York: New Publishers.