Elders condemn demolition of historical mosque

Khalifa Khamis, an elder of Kibos Mosque, at the debris of the Muslims worship centre which was demolished by Kenya Railways to pave way for the renovation of Nakuru-Kisumu Railway Line. [Kevine Omollo, Standard]

Khalifa Khamis, 64, rummages through the debris after demolition of Falha Mosque in Kibos, Kisumu County. He picks tattered pages of the Quran.

For four days now, he has not conducted salah (Muslim prayers).

“We always conduct five prayer sessions every day. The sessions are at 5am, 1pm, 4pm, 7pm and 8pm, so we have missed a lot,” says Khamis who is one of the elders of the mosque.

“This is one of the chats that over 300 children use here for their madrasa lessons. They were all covered down here,” he says as he shows the writer a torn chat with Arabic writings on it.

The 100-year-old mosque was one of the structures brought down by Kenya Railways last Friday to pave way for the renovation of Nakuru-Kisumu railway line.

Khamis says he was born and brought up on the contested land, where he has also raised his 14 children.

“When we were born, the mosque had mud walls. With the population growing, it became too small, and was expanded, but using iron sheet walls. Later in the 1970s the permanent structure was put up, which was big enough to accommodate the growing number of Muslims in the area,” he says.

Ibrahim Kibwani, who converted to Islam, has for the last 10 years been one of the four people whose voices comes through the speakers to remind faithful of prayer time.

“I got a job in Saudi Arabia at a stone blasting site about 25 years ago, and the culture change forced me to change from Christianity to Islam. Once I returned to Kenya, I chose to continue with Islam, and I have been a member of this congregation ever since,” said Kibwani from the neighboring Kunya village.

Khamis and Kibwani maintain that the mosque should have been spared.

“Our Islam teaching is very clear, that you cannot demolish the house of God. Even if we were to be moved away, the worship place would still serve the future residents of the area,” said Khamis.

Kibwani says the mosque, besides being a house of prayer, helped residents to tell time.

“When we call out people to pray in the morning, people know it is 5am, and they need to wake up and head to work. At 1pm they know it is lunch time,” he says.

Members of the Nubian community were the biggest casualties of the demolitions. At least 3,000 people were affected and have since been living in tents provided by Kenya Red Cross Society, about 600 metres from their demolished homes.

Sheikh Musa Hajj, the chair of Kisumu County Muslim Association, notes that this was the second time the Nubian community was being displaced from their land, after the first incident which saw them moved from Usoma to pave way for the construction of Kisumu International Airport.

The Nubians came to Kenya from Sudan during the pre-colonial period, and were involved in the construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railways. Thereafter, the colonial government allocated them land in Kisumu.

“From the records, the community was allocated 109 acres of land, which has since been grabbed with just a small portion left. And now the community has been displaced from the little land left, and they have become squatters again,” he says.

Kisumu Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o pledged to help reconstruct a mosque for the community. “We have architects who can reproduce the mosque as it was originally, so that we retain the heritage,” he said.

Sheikh Musa said the new structure would be named Masjjid Mariam Umul Issa Ibin Mariam (The Mosque of Mary Mother of Jesus), from its original name Masjjid Falha (The Mosque of Success), in a bid to promote coexistence.

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