A very special ceremony was held on September 23rd in Moscow, to celebrate the reopening of the Jum’ah Mosque. Muslim religious leaders, politicos including Vladimir Putin, and others gathered together to enjoy a pleasant day of reflection upon the history not only of this Mosque but of the vast contributions made by Russia’s Muslim community. President Putin made a distinction between Russia’s Muslim community and radical Islam,and honored the Russian Muslims for their emphasis on education, community activism, tolerance and efforts to unite people of different faiths. Also present at the ceremony was well-known Dagestan-born philanthropist Suleyman Kerimov, who donated $100 million to the Mosque in memory of his father. For him, the opening was a satisfying opportunity to both honor his father and further the charitable activities of the Suleyman Kerimov Foundation, which is very active in supporting construction of educational and religious facilities.
The original mosque that sat on this site was demolished four years ago. This new incarnation, which took ten years to complete, sits on the site of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque which dated back to 1904. Tartar merchants purchased the plot of land in 1902. For just about the entire Soviet Union era, the Moscow Cathedral Mosque was the only place of worship for Russia’s Muslim population. The Mosque was demolished as a part of the city’s urban renewal plan, but not without considerable controversy and public outcry from both Muslims and historical preservationists.
The Jum’ah Mosque is one of six mosques in Moscow, where the Muslim population is something around two million. Restored to its original grandeur and beauty, to the tune of roughly $170 million, the mosque, which covers 19,000 square feet over six floors, can hold 10,000 worshippers, making it the largest mosque in Moscow. Even so, officials say that the city is still short of worshiping space, with many Muslims finding themselves relegated to the street when the time to pray comes around. The situation is exacerbated during holidays and special pilgrimages. Muslim religious leaders are hoping to construct a second large mosque in Moscow in the near future.
While very much a Muslim place of worship, Jum’ah Mosque has features that blend in with its home environment. Russian ornamental inscriptions line the interior walls and ceilings, carved by craftsmen from Turkey. The mosque’s pavilions and dome are covered with 12 karat gold, designed to blend in with the skyline of Moscow, which is dotted with gold-covered domed churches.
The opening ceremony came just two days before the start of one of Islam’s most important religious holidays—Eid al-Adha, known as Kurban Bairam in Russia. In addition to Russian President Putin, other world leaders in attendance included Turkey’s Erdogan and leader of the PLO, Mahmoud Abbas, who joined the philanthropic leadership of Kerimov by contributing $25,000 of his personal funds toward the reconstruction.
Russia is home to two additional large mosques—one in Chechnya and one in Dagestan. The Jum’ah Mosque will be the second largest mosque in Russia. What will be the largest is the Salawat Yulayev Mosque, currently under construction in Ufa.