Sunehri Masjid, Lahore
Updated: May 8
Sunehri Masjid, or The Golden Mosque, was built in Lahore during the era of Mughal decline in 1753, twelve years before the Sikhs invaded the city. The mosque's architect was Nawab Bukhari Khan, deputy governor of Lahore during the reign of Mir Moin-ul-Mulk, also called Mir Munoo, the Arain strongman of Lahore.
At the time, local Hindu and Sikh businessmen as it would allegedly harm their profits by congesting the already congested bazaar. The religious ‘Mullahs’ (religious leaders in Islamic text & law) objected to constructing a mosque as traders threatened to cut off their funding if they supported the project. They, therefore, dubbed this decision as un-Islamic & against the community’s wishes.
The Nawab came up with an interesting solution. He met the traders & promised that they would not have to pay donations to the mosque. It would be built at an elevation of 11 feet, giving space on the ground floor for shops to operate. The rent from these shops would pay for the maintenance of the mosque. Once the traders were satisfied, Nawab asked them to convince the mullahs to issue a ‘fatwa (religious decree)’ welcoming the creation of the mosque.
Soon afterward, Gujjar Singh, Sobha Singh, and Lehna Singh of the Bhangi Misl conquered Lahore in April 1765. The city was conquered with the assistance of the Arain traders of Lahore. Moreover, later in 1799, these traders assisted Ranjit Singh in capturing the city from the three rulers.
It took Ranjit a decade to consolidate his empire. Then, a Sikh priest led a group of soldiers & Sikh residents and took over the mosque. They complained to the Maharaja that ‘Azaan’ (the call for prayer) was too loud for the residents. The Maharaja consented, and the mosque was converted into a gurdwara named ‘Chota Sunehri Gurdwara.’ A copy of the Guru Granth Sahib was placed in the mosque.
A few years later, a delegation of Muslim leaders approached the powerful Fakir family of Bazaar Hakeeman and discussed the issue with Fakir Azizuddin & Fakir Nooruddin. In 1826, the Fakir brothers approached Maharaja Ranjit Singh to get the mosque restored. As the Fakir brothers were influential, the ruler had to consent but asked for some time before he could think of a strategy to dislocate the powerful Sikh Panths.
In addition, the Muslims were in the majority in Punjab, and Ranjit understood that the importance of keeping everyone satisfied was critical to consolidate his power. He came up with the solution and summoned the Sikh residents and priests to the Lahore Fort and informed them that the Maharajah had decided that he intended to serve all the communities equally. Therefore, it was the religious duty of the Sikhs in the area to get up early in the morning and awaken all the Muslims for prayers, and refusal to comply meant severe punishment.
Within a fortnight, the Sikhs returned to the ruler and told him they could not carry out this duty as it was tiring and improbable for them to approach all Muslim residents in the area. It was then decided, and consented by the Sikh population, that the mosque would be returned to the Muslims.
This blog has been contributed by Maaz ud Din.