A green dome and two minarets – Frankfurt’s Nuur Mosque was inaugurated on 12 September 1959.
This mosque of the Ahmadiyya community on the Babenhäuser Landstraße was the second mosque in Germany. Correspondingly large in 1959, it was the delight of the faithful.
Frankfurt am Main was happy. At that time, in 1959, the opening of the Nuur Mosque on Babenhäuser Landstrasse was a sensation for the citizens.
“People came in droves to look at this new, exotic building. They were curious and wanted to know what a Muslim place of worship looks like from within and who goes there to pray together,” said Abdullah Uwe Wagishauser, chairman (Amir) of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat (AMJ) in Germany.
He himself knows the euphoria of the first years only from newspaper reports and the accounts of contemporary witnesses, because the 59-year-old was then still a child and grew up in a Christian civil servant’s family. Only in 1976 did Wagishauser convert to Islam.
The first mosque in southern Germany
There is only one other mosque in Germany which is older than this one; in Hamburg, built in 1957. The Frankfurt mosque – whose name “Nuur” incidentally means “light”, meaning the light of God – was at that time the only one of its kind in southern Germany and the influx, therefore, large.
“The faithful travelled to prayer with buses,” said Wagishauser. And also, a lot of celebrities knelt here for Friday prayers. Sir Zafrullah Khan, then President of the European Court of Justice in The Hague, opened the sacred building to the public.
Prominent prayer: Muhammad Ali
Wagishauser has a wealth of black-and-white images that illustrate the history of his community. Time and again, men with beards, flowing shirts, and white turbans on their heads indulged in animated conversation. Even the youthful face of today’s chairman can be seen below [see image of inauguration]. The impression that dialogue and not dogma is maintained here, immediately adjusts itself to the viewer. A photo is particularly spectacular, even at first glance. In the midst of a crowd in front of the mosque’s portal, you suddenly recognise features of one of the twentieth century’s most famous [people]: Muhammed Ali. The best boxer of his time came to Frankfurt in 1967 to compete in the Waldstadion against Karl Mildenberger – he needed a tedious 12 rounds to victory, which did not happen to him so often back then. As a devout Muslim, who Ali had become then, he also visited the local mosque for Friday prayers.
A Muslim place of worship in the middle of a Christian neighborhood
These pictures almost seem like relics from a time bygone. Back then, the members of the Ahmadiyya community were not afraid to build a mosque with all its typical features right in the middle of a Christian neighborhood, and that neighborhood did not respond with fear and defense.
It was, as Wagishauser soberly and without consideration of political correctness formulated, the epoch before hundreds of thousands of “guest workers” were to arrive in the Federal Republic and were to shape the image of Muslims in the minds of their German fellow citizens for the coming decades.
At that time, people probably did not think about Islamism, terror and the so-called holy wars either.
Separation of church and state, equal rights for men and women
The many events that the Ahmadiyya community is now planning on the occasion of the … anniversary of the Frankfurt Mosque may help to paint the image of Islam a bit more colourfully and differently. For the members of this religious movement see themselves as liberal reformists who advocate a strict separation of state and religion and the equality of men and women; to whom, above all, integration into the mainstream society is a primary motive.
“We are not a nationality, but a pure religious community,” explains the chairman of the German section … “Our Friday sermons are also in German.” In addition, the mosque serves only for religious practice.
The reigning caliph has just chaired the annual assembly
Ahmadiyya communities exist in 190 countries [now more than 200] around the world, yet 80 percent of their multi-million members or their ancestors are from Pakistan. There, however, they are regarded by many orthodox scholars as non-believers, as far as they have moved away from Islam in their eyes, and are therefore not recognized and are discriminated against by the state. For the AMJ, the Messiah has already appeared, in the form of its founder Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). Since his death, a successor (caliph) is chosen as the spiritual head of the community. The current 5th caliph, Mirza Masroor Ahmad, had only recently arrived in Frankfurt to lead the annual assembly of his community because in the Frankfurt district of Bonames has been the headquarters for around 30 years…
Woman designs residential house for women on the mosque grounds
On the grounds of the Nuur Mosque is currently a guest and residential house for women and children from the community, who are in need, are in transit or for other reasons need a short-term accommodation. It was designed by a woman, the Frankfurt architect Mubashra Ilyas. The 30-year-old may be considered typical of the younger generation within the AMJ; her parents still came as unskilled workers from Pakistan to Germany, they and her siblings, all of whom were born here, completed a university degree. In three cities – Bremen, Offenbach and Berlin-Heinersdorf – mosques have been built according to the designs of Mubashra Ilyas. “I am German,” says the young woman confidently, wearing her headscarf with a self-evident pride.
(Special thanks to www.frankfurt.de, the official website of the City of Frankfurt, for permission to include this article)