Cathedral Mosque in Kazan: where and what should it be?

Discussions about the construction of the future main Muslim temple of the republic have again started in the network. Sources of Realnoe Vremya reported that the Cathedral Mosque is planned to be built on Sibgat Khakim Street, next to Tatneft Arena and Riviera complex. In his last column, Karim Gaynullin, columnist for Realnoe Vremya, expert of the Centre for Islamic World Studies, told the readers about what the Cathedral mosque is, and also made a number of assumptions about where the construction site of the new mosque could be. This column is the author's opinion on how the mosque could look like and what could be inside the complex.

About location

Our mufti Kamil khazrat Samigullin announced the construction of the mosque in 2018 for the first time at the official level. At the same time, a petition was created with a request for the construction of the main Muslim temple for our republic, which was addressed to President Rustam Minnikhanov.

Now we are witnessing that the dream of our Muslim citizens is going to be realised in a new facility. Apparently, it will be located in the Riviera area, on the right bank of the Kazanka River.

The mosque on the riverside is very beautiful. The beautiful Ortakoy Mosque on the shore of the Bosphorus, one of the beautiful symbols of Istanbul, immediately comes to mind. The fact of being near water can be successfully used — in an architectural sense. In general, the embankment is a new urban development trend. People like to be close to the water. Kazan knows this firsthand: the most popular routes for family walks are the Kremlin Embankment and the embankments on Kaban Lake.

But it also imposes a great responsibility. The river is very sensitive in an ecological sense. Therefore, such construction must necessarily take place under the supervision of environmental specialists, so as not to harm Kazanka, the symbol of the capital of Tatarstan. The embankment is a great place for a park and family walks, the mosque should be a continuation and decoration of a beautiful park, and not conflict with it for the territory.

Some commentators rightly saw a symbolic meaning in the construction of the mosque on the banks of the river — during the time of tsarism, the Muslims were forbidden to settle and build temples in riverbeds. Such construction will show that in the new democratic Russia, in the Republic of Tatarstan, Muslims have returned to the ancient Kazanka River, where the symbol of the peaceful existence of Islam in Russia was built.

Some commentators drew attention to that there is already one mosque nearby — the wooden Kazan Nura. As a person who has prayed many times at Kazan Nury both on Friday and during regular prayers, I can say that the mosque is always busy. There are always a lot of worshippers in it.

Besides, the concept of the Cathedral Mosque itself does not imply that only residents of nearby houses will pray in it — for this it would make sense to build many small mosques. It serves as a meeting place for Muslims on important dates as the main temple of the city.

Commentators write that Sibgat Khakim Street is entertaining and restaurant and therefore is not suitable for religious buildings. But the question arises: how will the temple interfere with entertainment? Some restaurants, by the way, are oriented towards Muslims and are very popular: Itle, Anatolia, etc.

Readers are also warned that there are beaches nearby and athletes in tight clothes who will interfere with the worshippers. However, I think it's already difficult to surprise with tight clothes and nudity — in whatever area of the city you are. Muslims are well aware that they live in a secular society where they have to make some compromises. But secular society does not mean irreligious. We all got different needs.

In general, the idea that some part of the city should be for business, some for entertainment, and some for prayers is wrong. From an urban planning point of view, the development of each district in different spheres will be justified: there should be business centres, prayer halls, hospitals, and educational institutions. The division of city districts into sectors forces people to constantly move from one part of the city to another to solve their everyday problems.

Naturally, Muslims also have fun, and it's good if they don't have to walk a couple of kilometres to the nearest mosque for one prayer or read it in the snow.

Therefore, I see the construction of the Cathedral mosque on the territory of traditional Tatar settlements as a problem. There are already many historical mosques in these areas that need to be developed instead of building new ones.

About architecture

The appearance of the mosque is no less important than its location. The temple should not disfigure the place where it is located — on the contrary, it should indicate the greatness of the One to whom it is intended, and be an ornament to the eyes of the beholders.

From the point of view of the mosque's style, it is better to continue the architectural tradition that is already connected in the minds of Tatarstan residents with our era. This is the style of the new White Mosque in Bulgar, Irek mosque, Kul Sharif, partly the new mosque named after Utyz-Imyani. Each epoch has its own architectural style, and this should be taken into account when building mosques. But religious buildings are a rather conservative thing. In religious affairs, the balance between tradition and reform is most urgently needed.

In Russia, it is generally believed that Muslims should rely on their religious traditions. From an architectural perspective, we have few “authentic” monuments: these are the ruins of the mosque in Bulgar, mausoleums in Bulgar, Bilyar, Chishma, the mosque in Kasimov. In fact, modern architecture relies on these monuments.

The mosque must take into account the architecture of the area in which it will be the architectural dominant.

Besides, we need to be careful about the balance in architecture. A good architectural work is distinguished by that each part of it has its own inner meaning — so by removing a part, you can spoil the whole picture. In large-scale construction, there is always a temptation to overdo it with pomp: the taste of all subsequent generations will pay later.

The most important thing is that the mosque should not be a museum. This is a big problem for us. From the point of view of Islam, the mosque is, first of all, the house of Allah, where people are supposed to pray. This house is open to everyone: onlookers, tourists, just good people. But when building a mosque, it is worth assuming that people will, first of all, pray in it.

For example, the women's hall of the mosque and the women's room for ablution should be inaccessible to the eyes of men, it is best if women have their own entrance, which would allow them not to crowd among men. It should be convenient to get directly to the prayer hall from the entrance to the mosque.

Fortunately, with each new mosque comes an understanding of how a mosque should look — and the newer our architecture is, the better it looks.

Karim Gaynullin

The author's opinion may not coincide with the position of the editorial board of Realnoe Vremya