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17 may 2013, 13:45
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The opening ceremony of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque, which has been overhauled and reconstructed at the initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, has been held.

The opening ceremony was joined by President Ilham Aliyev.

The Muftis of the peoples of the Caucasus, Ambassadors of Muslim countries to Azerbaijan, representatives of the public and religious figures gathered for the ceremony warmly greeted the head of state.

President Ilham Aliyev met with the guests.

The Chairman of the Clerical Office of the Caucasus Muslims, Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, informed the President about the restoration and reconstruction of the Juma mosque.

It was noted that yet another important event testifying to the greatness of the spiritual world of our people was being written in the history of modern Azerbaijan. The Shamakhi Juma Mosque, one of the unique pearls of Azerbaijani and Oriental architecture, is starting a new life. One of the shrines of the Muslim world, the Shamakhi Juma Mosque, is being placed at the disposal of the people after major restoration and reconstruction thanks to the efforts of President Ilham Aliyev and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation which have been making a great contribution to the promotion of the national and spiritual values.

It was brought to the attention of the President that the Shamakhi Juma Mosque, one of the oldest Muslim temples on the territory of Azerbaijan, in the South Caucasus and in the Middle East as a whole, was built at the time of Caliph Khalid ibn Valiyad in 743 in honor of the arrival of his brother, Muslim ibn Valiyad, in Azerbaijan. According to some sources, defeated by the armies of the Caliphate, Khazar Khan adopted Islam at this very mosque. The devastating earthquake that hit the Shamakhi province, one of the largest provinces in the Caucasus, in 1859 wiped the city off the face of the earth. Following the earthquake, the administrative center of the province was moved to Baku. The restoration of the mosque in the aftermath of the calamity was entrusted to the native of Shamakhi, Gasim Bay Hajibababayov. The earthquake of 1902 could not destroy the mosque, as it managed to withstand the elements. Then the decision was made to restore the mosque on a previous foundation. Initially, the restoration work was supervised by architect Zivarbay Ahmadbayov and then by the Polish engineer and architect, Joseph Ploshko. The restoration work carried out in accordance with the original design of Ploshko was not completed. But even the unfinished mosque retained its grandeur.

During the massacre unleashed by the armed groups of Armenian Dashnaks in March 1918, an act of genocide was committed in Shamakhi. The bloodiest massacre occurred at the Juma Mosque. On seeing that the people of Shamakhi had taken refuge in the mosque, the house of Allah, the Armenians set fire to it and killed 1,700 innocent people. In Soviet times, the mosque was not used for the intended purpose for obvious reasons and was faced with the threat of destruction. But at the initiative and on the instruction of great leader Heydar Aliyev, who was very attentive to the development of all spheres of life in Azerbaijan, including the preservation of national and spiritual values, this historic building was renovated in 1980.

It was noted that the major overhaul and reconstruction of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque, carried out as part of the “Tolerance Location: Azerbaijan” project of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, have always been at the center of attention of the President of Azerbaijan. During a trip to Shamakhi in November 2009, President Ilham Aliyev visited the Juma Mosque and signed a decision on the restoration of the monument, which has great historical value and holds a special place in the spiritual world of the Azerbaijani people. Following the orders signed by the President of Azerbaijan in December 2009 and February 2013, funds were allocated for this purpose. Then the major overhaul and reconstruction of the mosque, a fine example of architecture of the capital of the state Shirvanshahs, commenced. The President and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva have repeatedly visited the mosque to review progress of the restoration and renovation.

President Ilham Aliyev gave instructions and recommendations on completing the work at a high level. Thus, the President supported the initiative of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which is paying special attention to the preservation of national and spiritual values and restoration of religious monuments, breathed a new life into this masterpiece of Azerbaijani and Oriental architecture, and contributed to the preservation of centuries-old cultural heritage of the Azerbaijani people and its communication to future generations.

It was noted that reconstruction of the mosque had started in March 2010. Along with the reconstruction of the mosque proper, the old cells located around the "Shamakhi Juma Mosque" state historical and architectural monument have been restored and the area extensively landscaped. The reconstruction has completely changed the appearance of the Seid Azim Shirvani Park. Special attention was paid to providing the mosque its original appearance. The total area of the mosque is almost one hectare. The Madrassas, cells and tombs found in the courtyard of the mosque during the excavations in the 1970s and 1980s have been preserved in their original form. During the restoration and reconstruction, maximum attention was paid to observing the architectural traditions of the Shirvan school. Due to the fact that Shamakhi is located in a seismic zone, the foundation of the mosque has been thoroughly reinforced with concrete structures.

It was indicated that the height of the minarets of the mosque is 36.4 meters. The entrance to the mosque, the central large, as well as the right and left domes have been refurbished and decorated with antique ornaments. The corridor of the mosque attracts attention with its unique design. The middle hall has been renovated in the national architectural style. A total of 1,500 people can officiate here at the same time. The courtyard of the mosque has been landscaped, two swimming pools built and six galleries set up. The area of the two-storey office building is 804 square meters. The mosque has a conference room and a number of auxiliary facilities. The service building with an area of 520 square meters houses a 250-seat ritual hall and a kitchen fitted with modern equipment. A rich library has been set up here as well. The reconstruction of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque is a strong indication of a sensitive approach of the Azerbaijani state to national and spiritual values, the freedom of conscience and religion.

The head of state reviewed the stands describing the condition of the Juma Mosque after the earthquake in 1902, before and after the current overhaul, as well as the progress of reconstruction.

The opening ceremony of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque started with the reading of ayats from the Holy Koran.

The President of Azerbaijan delivered a speech at the ceremony.

Speech by President Ilham Aliyev

- Dear religious figures!

Dear Ambassadors!

Dear friends!

It is a very significant day in the history of our country. Today we are celebrating the opening of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque after renovation. Greetings to the Muftis of the North Caucasus and all the guests who have come to Azerbaijan to participate in this ceremony!

The Ambassadors of Muslim countries to Azerbaijan are also here with us today.

I should note that this beautiful event is being attended by representatives of all regions of our country. There are religious leaders from every region of Azerbaijan here. In essence, the whole of Azerbaijan is here in Shamakhi today, participating in the opening of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque.

The mosque holds a special place in the history of Azerbaijan. It is the oldest mosque in Azerbaijan. This mosque was built in 743. The Shamakhi Juma Mosque has played a huge role in the spread of Islam in Azerbaijan and in the Caucasus. Unfortunately, as a result of natural disasters, the mosque has been destroyed twice. In the aftermath of powerful earthquakes in Shamakhi in 1859 and 1902, much of the mosque was destroyed. Subsequently, during the genocide of March 1918, the mosque was burned by rampant Armenian gangs. More than a thousand innocent people who wanted to take refuge in the mosque, among them women and children, were burned by the Armenians. Armenian bandit gangs subsequently committed the Khojaly genocide. As a result of that genocide, 613 civilian and innocent people, including 63 children and 100 women, were killed.

But the Shamakhi Juma Mosque is alive again and opens its doors to the faithful today. The Azerbaijani government has taken all the necessary measures to restore the mosque. Of course, the mosque did not function in Soviet times. In 2009, I signed a relevant order on the overhaul of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque, and hard work began in 2010. I personally examined progress of construction and gave instructions each year. The main objective was to preserve and save the historical part of the mosque - these columns, these historical walls. So both the interior design and the external appearance of the mosque are pleasing to the eye today. Once again I want to say that the most important thing is that the ancient walls and stones have been preserved, while new structures have been added as well.

This, in fact, is evidence of the work being done throughout Azerbaijan. We are building all our work on a solid foundation, on values. For us, national and spiritual values are above everything else. We are committed to our religious and national values. On this solid foundation we are building a modern state, a modern Azerbaijan. The independent and free state of Azerbaijan has managed to adequately cope with this immense task. From today onwards, all necessary ceremonies will be conducted at the mosque.

The Azerbaijani government is attached to its past. All the religious monuments are restored and repaired in Azerbaijan.

There were only 17 mosques in Azerbaijan in Soviet times, while now their number is close to 1,800. This shows that faith in the hearts of the people could not be destroyed even in Soviet times. The Azerbaijani people have preserved and saved the respect and love of their holy religion in their hearts.

Our friends, the muftis of the North Caucasus, Ambassadors and other guests, have attended practically all of our activities - the opening ceremonies of the Tazapir Mosque after major overhaul, the Bibiheybat and Ajdarbay mosques.

This is evidence of the fact that religious centers are restored in Azerbaijan. At the same time, mosques are built in all the regions of the country. Such an approach, I want to say again, is a government policy. We will continue to follow this path, are restoring and will continue restore our religious monuments. I want to note that more than 200 mosques have been built and over 80 mosques renovated in Azerbaijan in the last 10 years.

Currently, the religious and historical monument of Imamzade, which is of great importance for our people, is undergoing restoration. Azerbaijan’s biggest mosque is under construction in the Binagadi district of Baku.

As an independent state, Azerbaijan contributes to Islamic solidarity as well. We intend to build very cordial relationships with all Muslim countries. Actually, we have already done that. We are taking practical steps to strengthen Islamic solidarity. Azerbaijan is an active member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Azerbaijan is making the necessary contribution to the activities of this organization. The Organization of Islamic Cooperation highly appreciates the work done in the sphere of religion in Azerbaijan.

We must strive to continue strengthening Islamic solidarity and enhance communication between Muslim countries. A representative event at ministerial level has recently been held in Baku under the auspices of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The number of such activities is gradually increasing. At the same time, a variety of humanitarian forums are held in Azerbaijan. A summit of leaders of world religions has been held. A forum on intercultural dialogue is scheduled for the end of this month. This means that the state of Azerbaijan has become a center of tolerance on the world map. Representatives of all religions live and will continue to live like one family in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has never had and I am sure never will have any confrontation or misunderstanding on religious or ethnic grounds.

At the same time, we are understandably concerned about the processes taking place in the world. There is an unfair attitude towards Islam. There are growing trends of Islamophobia in some countries.

Islam is a religion of mercy. We must seek to take practical steps to provide the world with complete and fair information about the Islamic religion. I can say that comprehensive measures are taken in this direction in Azerbaijan. In September of last year, a section on Islamic culture opened at the world’s largest museum – the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Azerbaijan provided its support for the establishment of this section. In essence, this is our contribution to the entire Islamic culture. At the same time, an exhibition of a Muslim country was held for the first time at the Vatican a few months ago. And it was an Azerbaijani exhibition. So we are trying and need to work together to communicate meaningful information about the Islamic culture and values to the world. In some cases, a false impression is deliberately created about Muslims. At times, the media play a role in exacerbating the issue.

Unfortunately, there are civil wars ongoing in various parts of the world, fraternal blood is shed. We shouldn’t let this happen.

As I noted, the Shamakhi Juma Mosque was subjected to natural disasters and Armenian vandalism. It is possible to say that all the buildings in Shamakhi were destroyed at the time, during the genocide of 1918. But they failed to destroy the mosque. After 1270 years, this mosque is starting to operate again. This is a great historical event indeed, as it carries a huge symbolic meaning. It shows that the people of Azerbaijan are unbreakable.

The Shusha mosque, the Agdam mosque and other mosques located on the occupied territories are in a dilapidated condition now. But there will come a time when we will restore those mosques. We will restore the Shusha mosque, the Agdam mosque and other mosques that are currently under occupation. We will oust the invaders from Azerbaijani lands. The Azerbaijani flag will fly in Shusha, Khankandi and all occupied lands. I am sure that this day will come. To bring this day closer, the entire Azerbaijani society, all the citizens of Azerbaijan have to join their hands. We need to strengthen and fully develop our country. We are creating these beautiful monuments. We are restoring historical justice.

I am sure that the Shamakhi mosque will now live forever.

Azerbaijan is free and independent today. The independent Azerbaijan is capable of protecting its past and looking forward with confidence.

I congratulate all the Muslims of Azerbaijan, all the Muslims of the world on this wonderful event again and wish each one of you good health and happiness. Thank you.

Х Х Х

Addressing the ceremony, the Chairman of the Clerical Office of the Caucasus Muslims, Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, said:

- In the name of Allah, the Merciful and the Compassionate!

Your Excellency Mr. President!

Distinguished Muftis! Dear guests!

I salute you all on the blessed Friday at the opening ceremony of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque which has been overhauled on an order of His Excellency President Ilham Aliyev and a project of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation called "Tolerance Location: Azerbaijan". I say to you, "Welcome!"

Thank God, we in Azerbaijan have the opportunity to be attached to our spiritual values today, revive our national and religious heritage. Our country’s economy is rapidly developing and our authority in the international arena is growing by the day. Temples and shrines are carefully restored one after another and are now opening their doors to the faithful in our country.

Both Azerbaijan’s achievements in the CIS and on a global scale and this upheaval in the spiritual life are a celebration of the course of our brilliant leader Heydar Aliyev. By the blessing and mercy of Allah, the people of Azerbaijan have been given a brilliant leader who laid the foundation of tolerance, intercultural dialogue and multiculturalism, and this policy successfully is continued today.

A few days ago we celebrated the 90th birthday anniversary of our brilliant leader Heydar Aliyev and his wife Mrs. Zarifa Aliyeva. May Allah rest their souls in peace! I always thank God for the fact that at a difficult time for the people and the state of Azerbaijan the great leader, despite the threats to his own life, stood up to defend his nation. It was at the insistence of the people that he came back to power and took on the salvation mission. At a difficult moment when our independence and the fate of the nation were in jeopardy, the separatism and war had weakened our country, the greatness of Heydar Aliyev’s personality once again manifested itself in the fact that even at the most difficult time when the country was experiencing difficulties with bread, he did not forget about the spiritual factor. One of the first places visited by the head of our state, was who sincerely attached to the nation and religion, was the Tazapir mosque. From there the great leader appealed to the people of Azerbaijan with the words "Let’s unite in the way of Allah", and called on everyone to join hands. One of the first orders of Heydar Aliyev was one on the restoration of the Bibiheybat mosque, which had been destroyed in the years of atheism. Addressing the groundbreaking ceremony of the mosque, he said: "Together we will restore all the religious monuments, centers and sacred places in Azerbaijan. And what we can’t do ourselves will be completed by our successors." Life has shown the great leader’s vision and leadership in this area too. His foresight and confidence were based on the accuracy of the course he laid down and on his deeds that are pleasing to Allah.

We are very fortunate that Heydar Aliyev’s course towards revival of the religious and spiritual heritage, which began with Bibiheybat, was continued by Ilham Aliyev. Having gone through Tazapir, Ajdarbay, Imamzade in Ganja, and more recently Sumgayit, he has brought us together in the ancient land of Shirvan for the opening ceremony of the reconstructed building of Azerbaijan’s beautiful and ancient mosque.

The Shamakhi Juma Mosque is a shrine which occupies an important place in our history. This mosque has witnessed not only glorious periods but also some difficult moments of Azerbaijani statehood. This mosque still bears the bullet traces of Armenian thugs who had organized the massacre against Shamakhi civilians.

This mosque, which was burnt by Armenian Dashnaks who wanted to kill those who had found refuge in the house of Allah in 1918, became a victim of genocide against our people, a victim of Armenian terrorism. Today, an even more majestic building of this mosque is a symbol of revival of our national consciousness and traditions of our economic and spiritual victory. While in this sanctuary, we pay tribute to the memory of those who died for the independence of Azerbaijan, in Karabakh, who fell victim to the acts of genocide perpetrated by Armenian extremists against the Azerbaijani people. We pray to Allah to rest their souls in peace.

I am proud to say that thanks to the wise policy of President Ilham Aliyev, his deference to the national and spiritual values and religious heritage of our people, the activities of Muslim and other religious communities are supported at the highest level in Azerbaijan. Appropriate steps are taken to address their material and spiritual needs in the field of construction, repair and renovation of shrines. All this contributes to the further deepening of the existing tolerance in Azerbaijan. Thanks to the activities of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, which perpetuates the legacy of great leader Heydar Aliyev, and to the efforts of Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva, Azerbaijan is making a major contribution to intercultural dialogue.

His Excellency Ilham Aliyev is doing tremendous work to take care of shrines and revive the national and spiritual values in Azerbaijan. As Sheikh ul-Islam, I appreciate this work, pray to Allah to grant him continued success and express our deep gratitude to His Excellency on behalf of all the Muslims and believers of the Caucasus.

Azerbaijani believers are and will always be next to you, the follower of this great course. I am confident that this grand building of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque we are opening today will be an expression of our people’s appreciation of their long spiritual history. These monuments of spirituality will perpetuate the names of our people and those of their valiant sons and daughters over the centuries.

On behalf of all the faithful who are present here I would like to present you with the Holy Koran revealed to us by Allah Almighty.

The Chairman of the Clerical Office of the Caucasus Muslims, Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade, presented the Holy Koran to the head of state.

Х Х Х

Addressing the ceremony, the Mufti of the Karachay-Cherkessia republic of the Russian Federation and the chairman of the coordinating council of the North Caucasus Muslims, Ismail Berdiyev, said:

- It is a holiday for all Muslims today. A holiday is what makes a person happy. We are glad that shrines are being restored and prayers continue to be said in the name of God. What your father did – may God make him an inhabitant of paradise – is continued by you. When I saw how beautifully the Tazapir mosque has been done, I was amazed. And what has been done here is actually a feat. May Allah give you health and strength to continue this all.

Ismail Berdiyev described the activities in the field of tolerance and intercultural dialogue being held in Azerbaijan, including the recent Baku conference "CIS Muslims for peace and sustainable development", as Azerbaijan's contribution to Islamic solidarity. Speaking about the merits of nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev in the overall development of the country, as well as the preservation and communication of national and spiritual values to future generations, Ismail Berdiyev described the restoration of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque as an example of a commitment to the policies of Heydar Aliyev. He said:

- This mosque has been around for 13 centuries. We have seen the photos of its previous condition. And what you have just done is really worth admiring. I wish you good health and strength.

Х Х Х

Congratulating the President of Azerbaijan and the ceremony participants on the opening of this ancient and magnificent mosque after restoration, the Mufti of the Chechen republic of the Russian Federation, Sultan Mirzayev, said:

- It is symbolic that this mosque is being opened on a Friday, a holy day for Muslims, and in the holy month of Rajab. As the Prophet said, Rajab is the month of Allah. And those who fast during this month, read the Koran, pray – only Allah knows that – are rewarded for that. I would like to thank you very much for this great gift not only for the Muslims of Azerbaijan and the Caucasus, but also, I would say, for the Muslims all over the world.

Sultan Mirzayev said that the bloodshed observed in certain regions of the world today does not conform to the principles of Islam, which is a religion of peace and mercy, and asked the Almighty to hear the prayers with a call for peace and tranquility.

Х Х Х

Describing the commissioning of the Juma mosque as a very important historic event in the life of Shamakhi, a local elder Majid Shikarov said:

- This historic monument was renovated on the instruction of nationwide leader Heydar Aliyev in 1980. Mr. President, you have breathed a new life into the Shamakhi Juma Mosque, and this life is worthy of our nation and religion. All the believers of Azerbaijan see this move as a service to our religion and the spirituality of our nation. By rebuilding mosques, you return the homes of Allah to people and thus do charitable deeds.

All believers thank the Almighty for the fact that you have given this beautiful and grand monument back to Azerbaijan and the Islamic world. We offer the most sincere prayers for you. I am proud to say that this wonderful historical and religious monument is a priceless gift to believers, elders, intellectuals, all Muslims of Azerbaijan and indeed the Muslim world.

This once again confirms the attachment of the Azerbaijani people and state to their national and religious values.

The tradition of tolerance, which have formed in our country over centuries and are carefully protected today, the historical and religious monuments being restored are our biggest contribution to world culture and the most valuable legacy for future generations. It is beyond doubt that the people of Azerbaijan will forever remain in history as the master of this heritage and you as its benefactor.

Dear Mr. President, we, elders and religious leaders, see you as a happy future of Azerbaijan. The representatives of all the regions present here can also confirm the rapid development of all our cities and districts. All measures are taken to ensure that people have a better and more comfortable life. You have constantly showed great attention and care about the old Shamakhi, a city with a rich history. Thanks to your attention and care, our ancient city has been reconstructed in accordance with national architectural traditions. Large projects have been implemented here.

We appreciate the caring attitude you and Mrs. Mehriban Aliyeva have shown to our history, culture, religious customs and traditions.

Dear Mr. President!

We, the people of Shamakhi, are proud to have such a President who is the guardian of the national and spiritual values and the guarantor of the freedom of religion.

We, the elders and the faithful in general, sincerely and loyally support you, Mr. President, as you are successfully continuing the difficult and at the same time glorious path of our nationwide leader. Azerbaijan, which is successfully moving towards a bright future under your leadership, is one of the fastest growing countries in the world. Each of us is proud of this irrefutable truth and also of you. You can rest assured that our people and indeed the Muslim world will never forget this historical and noble act of yours.

Dear Mr. President! May Allah help you! Your cause is fair! May Allah help you in this matter! Allah bless you!

Х Х Х

Then a picture was taken.

Х Х Х

Then President Ilham Aliyev had a discussion with the guests attending the opening ceremony of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque around a tea table.

Х Х Х

After the opening of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque, festive prayers were offered.

First, the Friday azan was read out. The Imam gave a sermon from the minaret.

After the Friday azan was read, prayers were made.

Х Х Х

Then, Ehsan was served at the ceremonial hall of the Shamakhi Juma Mosque.


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