Al-Jami al-Anwar: Origins
His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA has repeatedly stated that all barakat prevalent in Dawat Hadiyah was due to the completion of one grand undertaking: the restoration of al-Jami´ al-Anwar. Originally completed in 403/1013, the construction of the masjid commenced under Maulana al-Imam al-Aziz Billah AS and was completed by his successor Maulana al-Imam al-Hakim bi Amrillah AS. Sadly, this grand masjid was later ravaged by time and people—used at one point by Napoleon as a stable and barracks. Seeing the state of this sacred space, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Taher Saifuddin RA expressed his desire to restore al-Jami’ al-Anwar to its historical grandeur. His successor, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA, ably assisted by his own noble successor, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS completed the renovation of al-Jami’ al-Anwar in 1401/1980. Much like Imam al-Hakim AS completed the vision of his father Imam al-Aziz AS in building al-Anwar, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA and Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS brought to life the vision of Syedna Taher Saifuddin RA in renovating al-Anwar.
The revival of Fatimi architecture reasserts the culture and faith of the Fatemi Imams AS. This culture and faith was meticulously preserved by Duat Mutlaqin SA, the vibrant results of that preservation being eloquently alluded to in Syedna Burhanuddin’s RA words at the inauguration of the renovated al-Jami’ al-Anwar: “We have returned, as we had left.” The restoration and revival of Fatimi architecture by Duat Mutlaqin SA is a call to remain steadfast to the beliefs and values eternalized in Fatimi buildings, as expressed by Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA at the inauguration of Aljamea-tus-Saifiyah, Karachi:
“Fatimi monuments stand distinguished by their unique beauty. We have tried to express our beliefs and values through these buildings till they speak out through the language of brick, stone and mortar and find expression in the campus’ arches, prayer niches and minarets. As long as belief is steadfast in the heart, it is impossible for it to be precluded from expression.”
As testament to his profound love for this Fatimi heritage, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA, ably assisted by his successor, His Holiness Dr. Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin TUS revived and restored al-Jami al-Anwar, formerly ravaged by man, natural calamity and time, in a mere 27 months.
“Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin RA categorized the many facets of restoring al-Jami al-Anwar into seven stages.
- Cleaning and excavation
- Recording and documentation
- In-depth research
- Survey of architectural development
- Construction and completion
- Ornamentation” (extracted from ‘al-Jami al-Anwar- the Luminous Masjid’, page 56)
Achieving this result in the best of circumstances would be considered miraculous. Hence, this outcome was all the more incredible when we consider that the restoration was such a monumental task that not even national or international organizations with vast resources considered undertaking it. Negotiating permissions, conducting meticulous research, garnering human and material resources and removing almost 29000 cubic metres of sediment and earth from the masjid premises were just some of the works to be accomplished before construction could begin. Furthermore, all of this needed to be achieved in the challenging, relatively unfamiliar, at the time, Egyptian socio-administrative context.
Even today, this momentous achievement has the potential to inspire all who feel they face insurmountable odds while trying to achieve their goals. Especially, in present times, when there is hardly an individual whose life has not been complicated by new challenges, the 27 months in which al-Jami al-Anwar was restored to its original grandeur motivate us all to strengthen our resolve, reorient ourselves to our goals and unceasingly persevere until we reach them.