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A mosque. A prison. And a mosque again. Derbent - the oldest Djuma-mosque in North Caucasus.

Source : Islam Magazine | Makhachkala | 20 Jan 2012

Derbent is one of the oldest towns that has saved its original look till nowadays. One can hardly find another town that has survived so many invasions and destructions, has been an apple of discord and a scene of bloody battles so many times.

The first Islamic activists and the descendants of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had started their charitable mission here.

After Arabs conquered Iran in 602, they reached the walls of ancient Derbent under the command of Maslama in the first quarter of the 8th century. They considered the town could become a center of Islamic religion in the northeast Caucasus.

From that time on Derbent became the spiritual home and Islam became the most wide-spread religion of the region.

In 733 seven mosques were built here. Each town quarter (magal) had one. And a special cathedral mosque to be used for Friday prayers called al-Masjid al-Djamii was raised.

In 1796 there 15 mosques existed in Derbent. The Djuma-mosque is truly the cradle of Russian islamisation. It is one of the first significant mosques, that was built out of the Islamic caliphate.

The Djuma-mosque is situated in the center of Derbent’s old part. It is a part of an architectural ensemble of the ancient town. The group of buildings consists of the main mosque, a madrasah and some houses where religious leaders live.

Building of the mosque is dated to 115th year of Hijra (or 733-734). Djuma-mosque was the biggest building in town. Its size was quite impressive for those times. Its length from West to East was 68 meters and 28 meters from South to North. The height of the cupola is 17 meters. And the yard was about 2475 square meters.

There are three naves in the inside of the mosque. The width of central nave is 6.3 m, side naves are 4 m wide. The naves are separated by square columns 97 to 97 cm wide, that have profiled capitals. The columns are connected by lancet arches.

Djuma-mosque was rebuilt many times during its centuries-long history. An inscription at the entrance says that the building was repaired after an earthquake in 770th year of Hijra by Tajjudin, a builder from Baku.

1300 years after we still can enjoy the original look of the Djuma-mosque. Eras passed, natural disasters stroke, generations changed, the town changed gradually, but the Djuma-mosque remained the same like an impregnable fortress and survived all the ordeals.

It is a pity that the Djuma-mosque has survived some bad times. It was shut down in 1930-s, at that times an anti-religious campaign was carried on in the whole country. But unlike other religious objects this mosque had more cynical destiny. In 1938-1943 it was in the jurisdiction of USSR’s secret police department (NKVD) and served as a municipal prison with all the common attributes.
In 1943 (in the midst of the Great Patriotic war) there was a decree issued in Moscow passing the mosque back to religious leaders who could from that time on turn it to a place of worship again.

Doubtless is that gorgeous plane trees are Djuma-mosque’s special features. Four grand trees tower above the high cupola of the building. Thank them the mosque can be seen from any part of the town.
Islam Magazine