January 22nd 2024, will be India’s Hagia Sophia moment. The Hagia Sophia located in Istanbul, Turkey, has seen a tumultuous history. Built between 532 and 537, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom, Ayasofya) represents the epitome of Byzantine architecture and art. It was the Principal Church of the Byzantine Empire in its capital, Constantinople (later Istanbul), and was converted into a mosque after the Ottoman Empire conquered the city in 1453. The Turkish government in 1934 made it into a museum. In 1985 the Hagia Sophia was designated a component of a UNESCO World Heritage site called the Historic Areas of Istanbul. The present Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made the decision to convert the building back into a mosque. In July 2020, the Council of State annulled the 1934 decision to establish the museum, and the Hagia Sophia was declared as a mosque.
Similar to the events surrounding the Hagia Sophia is the narrative of the Ayodhya Temple. For over several millenniums, Hindus have revered Ayodhya as the birth place of Lord Shri. Ram. The Hadiqah-i-shuhada written by Mirza Jan, an eye witness as well as active participant in the Jihad led by Amir Ali Amethwi during Wajid Ali Shah’s regime in 1855 for the capture of Hanuman Garhi (a few hundred yards from Babri Masjid) from the Hindus, states that “Wherever they found magnificent temples of the Hindus ever since the establishment of Sayyad Salar Mas’ud Ghazi’s rule, the Muslim rulers in India built mosques, monasteries and inns, appointed mu’azzins, teachers, and store-stewards, spread Islam vigorously, and vanquished the Kafirs. Likewise, they cleared up Faizabad and Avadh too from the filth of reprobation (infidelity) because it was a great centre of worship and capital of Rama’s father. Where there stood the great temple (of Rama janmasthan), there they built a big mosque, and where there was a small mandap (pavilion), there they erected a camp mosque (masjid-i mukhtasar-i qanati). The Janmasthan temple is the principal place of Rama’s incarnation, adjacent to which is the Sita ki Rasoi. Hence, what a lofty mosque was built there by king Babar in 923 A.H. (1528 A.D.), under the patronage Musa Ashiqan! The mosque is still known far and wide as the Sita ki Rasoi mosque and that temple is extent by its side (aur pahlu mein wah dair baqi hai).” The inscription on the destroyed Temple rebuilt using the same materials and called as Babri Masjid states: “By the command of the Emperor Babur, whose justice is an edifice reaching up to the very height of the heavens, the good hearted Mir Baqi built the alighting place of angels. Bawad [Buwad] khair baqi (may this goodness last forever).”
The Hindus have been yearning for centuries to reclaim their sacred Temple. Decades of protracted legal battles has restored the illegally usurped site back to the Hindus, and has resulted in the construction of a grand Temple, slated for consecration on January 22nd 2024, by the Prime Minister Shri. Narendra Modi.
The Muslim community has not reconciled gracefully to the fact that what was usurped and destroyed by foreigners, has rightfully been restored to the Hindus. They need to take pride that an amazing version of the Holy Ramayana is recorded in the Tarikh al-Mustabsir which was written in the early quarter of the thirteenth century by a Muslim traveller named Abu al-Fath Jamal al-Din Yusuf bin Yaqoub bin Muhammad (Arabic: أبو الفتح جمال الدين يوسف بن يعقوب ابن محمد), better known as Ibn al-Mujawir (1205–1292). The text is a fascinating account narrating a different version of the Holy Ramayana. This Arabic version of the Ramayana that Ibn Al Mujawir narrates, tells about the entrance to a tunnel connecting Arabia with India, with its egress in Ujjaini, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Malwa. The other end of the tunnel is believed to open in Sira Island in Aden’s harbour! This tunnel connecting Ujjaini and Aden was supposed to have been excavated by Hanuman! Sita according to this narrative was abducted by the demon Hadathar who wanted to transform her into a Jinn. Hanuman described as a demon in the form of a monkey proceeded to dig the tunnel to rescue Sita. Tunnelling through the night, he arrived to find Sita asleep beneath a thorn tree and throwing her on his back, returned her safely back to Lord Ram. Lord Ravan gets an equivalent in the character known as ‘Das Sir’, the Jinn with ten heads, who used Aden as a prison for his enemies. Das Sir lived “on Jabal al-Manzar and took walks on the sands of Huqqat.” When he died, Hanuman took up residence in his place. Whether this was before, after or as a result of the latter’s rescue of Sita is not told. Predictably, among its many names, Ibn al-Mujawir, notes Aden was often referred to as Muqam al-jinn—Abode of the jinn.
As we can see, the above Arabic version of the Holy Ramayana differs significantly from the one with which we are familiar with. Hanuman sought to rescue Sita the wife of Lord Ramachandra not from Ravana, the King of Lanka, but from the demon “Hadathar.” Rather than build a bridge (Ram Setu) he dug a tunnel. The original Ramayana speaks about the construction of the Ram Setu connecting India and Sri Lanka, whereas the Arabic Ramayana speaks of a tunnel linking Ujjaini and Aden which traverses the Arabian sea. The distance between Mumbai and Aden is 3054 km, whereas the length of the Ram Setu bridge connecting Pamban island in Tamilnadu to Mannar island in Sri Lanka is only about 50 km. (Government of India and Government of Sri Lanka should collaborate to recreate the Ram Setu as an eternal tribute by the present day people living in Kaliyuga to the people and Lord Rama who lived in the Treta Yuga. It would be befitting to have iconic statues of Lord Rama, Sita Devi, Lakshmana and Hanuman on Pamban, and a statue of Lord Ravan at Mannar.)
Ibn al Mujawir is emphatic that the tunnel dug by Hanuman remains intact even now. Ibn al-Mujawir cites anecdotes from a local Yemeni chronicle, Kitab al-Mufi d fi Akhbar al- Zabid, to prove his contention. Ibn al Mujawir also goes on record that the legend of Hanuman was told to him by his father’s client, Mubarak al-Sharabi.
Positioned at the crossroads of the maritime routes linking the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the Yemeni port of Aden was one of the medieval world’s greatest commercial hubs. Aden’s natural harbour lies in the crater of a dormant volcano, which now forms a peninsula joined to the mainland by a low isthmus. This harbour was first used by the ancient Kingdom of Awsan between the 5th and 7th centuries BC. The modern harbour is on the other side of the peninsula. Aden gives its name to the Gulf of Aden.
Ujjaini, from the accounts of Ibn al-Mujawir was well known to the Arabs, as it was widely reputed to be the crossroad of Space and Time. This renowned and ancient city in India is famous for spiritual as well as scientific reasons. It has stood, quite literally, at the very centre of the development of astronomy as a science, as well as an instrument of spiritual knowledge and practice. It is the cradle of the Hindu science of astronomy and Timekeeping, and the principal seat of astronomical knowledge during its early history. It occupied this position because it is uniquely situated where India’s ancient Prime Meridian and the Tropic of Cancer crossed. Hence, Lord Mahakaal, the presiding deity of Ujjaini is considered to be the God of Time.
Ujjaini is best known as an ideal place for calculation of time and calendar science and is known as the ‘Greenwich of India’. Indicating the great age of India’s zero longitude, or Prime Meridian, of Avanti, the ancient name for the historic city of Ujjaini, it is situated 23.9-degree northern latitude and 74.75-degree eastern longitude at an altitude of 1658 ft., and is situated on Topic of Cancer and hence a big centre for calculation of time.
There is another important astronomical line connected to Ujjaini. Traditionally the Tropic of Cancer is reckoned to pass through Ujjaini, specifically through the temple known as Karkoteshwar, located within the compound of the Harsiddhi Temple. The Tropic of Cancer is the line of the most Northern position of the Sun in its yearly course. From mid-winter till mid-summer the Sun’s course is north. In India this is called Uttar Ayana. Between mid-summer and mid-winter, the Sun moves south, and is called Dakshin Ayana. These astronomical calculations are reckoned as apparent movements caused by the tilt of the earth’s axis. It is the reason for the cause of the seasons on our planet. Even today, wherever a person is born, in India, and a Panchang or horoscope as per the Hindu almanac is drawn up, it is always based on Ujjaini time (roughly 29 minutes behind IST).
Another historian of recent origin, born in 1919, Hamza Luqman who made his mark as a local historian, wrote two works about Aden of the earliest period: Tarikh ‘Adan wa janub al-jazira al-Arabiya (A History of Aden and Southern Arabia) published in 1960 and an undated typescript in English – Stories from the History of Aden and Southern Arabia. legend of Hanuman and his supernatural feat of constructing a tunnel between Ujjain and Aden appears in this work also.
Ibn al-Mujawir was a man who in all probability followed the age-old Islamic practice of making the pilgrimage to Mecca and thereafter travelling in the area to further his business interests. His route began in Mecca and essentially ran south through the Red Sea coastal plain, Tihamah, down into Yemen and along the southern coast of the peninsula. He stayed back in Aden, where he observed closely the activities of the port to report at length on its administration, taxes, markets, currency, weights and measures, and the like. His route then continued along the southern coast of Arabia into the Gulf, and he presumably returned home to the east via Iraq. Ibn al-Mujawir is a wonderful observer of people: their buildings, their dress, their customs, their agriculture, their food and their history. This book is a unique source for the social and economic history of thirteenth-century south Arabia. The text is of major linguistic importance too, as it is written not in pure classical Arabic.
Ibn Al Mujawir signals an ontology that conceives India and Arabia as connected not merely through physical space but also via the spiritual. The port emerges as a city linked to its wider geographic context not only by winds and ocean currents but also by feats of superhuman engineering and enchanted alternate dimensions. The physical space frequently intersects with the metaphysical, mysteriously linking the port city of Aden and the ancient Indian city of Ujjaini, which once represented the centre of the Earth.
Aden, Ibn al-Mujawir tells his readers, was not always a city by the sea. “From Suez to Aden, to beyond the mountain of Socotra, all was once [a single] stretch of land,” a desolate, dry valley, in fact. That was, until Alexander the Great suffering from oppressive heat, dug out the southern end, allowing the waters of the sea to rush in as far north as Egypt. The Greek conqueror created the sea not simply to cool-off, but to separate Abyssinia and Arabia whose peoples were in constant conflict. “We want to separate the two,” he declared, “so that each knows its lord, each takes possession of [only] its own territory and there is an end among the people to domination and hostility.” This great piece of historical advice needs to be imbibed and understood by followers of the Abrahamic faiths, who do not respect other faiths and beliefs, are adamant about religious conversions, imposition of foreign dress codes, language and destruction of places of worship of other faiths as their sacred duty.
It is reiterated that the present restored Sri Ram Janambhoomi, is a gift from the people of Kaliyuga to the people of Treta Yuga who once inhabited Bharatvarsha. It transcends all divisions of indigenous and foreign religions, denomination, language, race, colour, and politics. It is a world monument conjoining Treta Yuga and Kaliyuga.
Imperial Muslims by Scott S. Reese
Hanuman’s Tunnel: Collapsing the Space between Hind and Arabia in the Arab Imaginary