Taiz’s Mudhafer Mosque is near collapse [Archives:2007/1022/Culture]

February 5 2007

Salem Al-Majidi
For Yemen Times

Mudhafer Mosque, a historical monument located in the heart of the old part of Taiz city is almost closed, but has a very small area for people to pray. Today it threatens to collapse because its walls have severe cracks that have begun to eat away at them.

With three eastern doors, three western doors and a northern gate, the mosque retains its original walls, but its wood ceiling was replaced with cement, thus distorting its originality.

Regarding a repair program, the director of the monuments, Al-Ezy Mosleh, said the repair process will be according to the plan of some experts and consultants. “Refurbishing may not include renewing the adornments drawn on the walls, as they require a huge budget. Therefore, the project will be executed for the mosque's downstairs walls, since they're more important in order to save it.”

One surprise while repairing Mudhafer Mosque was the discovery of dozens of corpses found downstairs; however, they weren't buried in the Islamic way. “They were buried in a disrespectful manner,” Mohammed Abdu Faree noted. Those who are in charge of the mosque took them out and buried the remainder of the dead bodies in a grave located beside the mosque.

“Some people responsible for burying dead bodies exploit others to get more money under the pretense that they will entomb them beside Sheikh Al-Baihani, a righteous man, to be their intercessor. However, such beliefs are not in Islamic instructions,” Mohammed Sa'eed Saleh explained.

Mohammed Abdu Faree noted, “Dozens of dead bodies were buried downstairs in the mosque for the sake of receiving some of Sheikh Al-Baihani's blessings.”

Hisham Ahmed Ali commented, “People come from various areas in Taiz to pray here; however, the refurbishing process may take a long time. We hope to hasten the mosque's repair.”

Visitors to Mudhafer Mosque will feel proud of such great architecture and beauty, in addition to pity and sorrow for the latest repairs, which offended the mosque's value and the beauty and created obstacles for today's repairs.

Mosleh noted, “Obstacles the overhaul process faces are the deformities that took place over time. Misuse and random overhauling of the mosque's appendages affected its whole form, as well as its structure. However, the biggest problem is the eastern side of the downstairs, which is about to collapse, because this side was used for cleaning and the watercourse wasn't good enough to drain the water.”

Furthermore, the mosque's eastern gate filled with earth, partially closing it because it was easy for the dirt to get in. In the 1960s, a complete filling took place up to the gate.

Installing modern means in the mosque, like faucets, in a wrong manner made it worse and caused more decay. In 1967, the wooden ceilings that were full of adornments were replaced with reinforced concrete cement in a wrong way, so only the loss can be decreased now.

Faree confirmed that the refurbishing process is an emergency and that the budget isn't enough due to the mosque's decay. For example, wood is corroding and falling down owing to woodworms. Added to this is the area's severe humidity, which has caused huge fissures in the walls, especially downstairs. The Social Fund for Development is the only authority supporting the project.

“To avoid destroying the mosque as a whole, we will take from Al-Ashrafiyya Mosque's budget, which also currently is being overhauled,” Faree added.

Located in Taiz's Al-Mahareeb quarter, Mudhafer Mosque was built by Al-Mudhafer King Yousef bin Omar Ali Rasul. With its unique architecture, the monument wasn't only for praying, but it also was a place where the Qur'an and its science were taught.

“Because the mosque was a place of learning, it involved various manuscripts in sundry fields, such as 'The Pearl Centuries in the History of Rasulian Country' manuscript and other manuscripts written by scholar Abdullah Abdulwahab Al-Shami. However, these manuscripts and others disappeared,” noted Ahmed Al-Haddad, the approximately 80-year-old man who is in charge of Mudhafer Mosque.

Mudhafer Mosque is in a particular area where kings of Bani Rasul, kings of Bani Iyoob and others lived. It witnessed the greatest cultural renaissance in Yemeni history during the Rasuli state founded by Omar Bin Rasul, who once inhabited Taiz. After his death, his son Yousef bin Omar was nominated to be King “Al-Mudhafer.”

His era witnessed an intellectual and cultural revival, which was evident in the large numbers of mosques, schools and libraries. Described as wise and generous, King Al-Mudhafer encouraged education and founded the mosque, which later bore his name (Hijra year 647-694), for the Hadith and religious education, as well as Qur'anic sciences. The king was fond of science and superior to his colleagues in the various religious sciences.

After Al-Mudhafer's death, the Mudhafarian School witnessed architectural expansion, so its architectural type was changed and new buildings were added to the school, including the western side by Al-Mudhafer's grandson in Hijra year 764-721 and King Al-Ashraf's modification to the eastern side. During King Dhafer'sera, the prayer house was expanded and a manbar added.