|The Mackinon Road Mosque. INSET: Musa Ahmed prays at the Mosque, of which he is in charge. [PHOTOS: OMONDI ONYANGO]|
By ISHAQ JUMBE
The highway town of Mackinnon Road with its old train station is surrounded by controversy.
The road lies along the Mombasa-Nairobi highway near Mariakani town. The most outstanding landmark here is the Mackinon Road Mosque that was built as a result of the tomb of Seyyid Baghali, who was a foreman at the time of building the railway fabled for his tremendous strength and according to many, charmed lifestyle.
Travellers, regardless of religion or colour have been making stopovers at the shrine long before independence and are pulling up at the sight to this day.
Legend has it that Baghali was a saint whose family tree traced back to the Holy Prophet, a fact that he tried to conceal from the public to no avail.
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For when he got tired of carrying stones, his ‘laden karai’ (bucket) would float above his head to the consternation of many.
However, conflicting accounts record that Baghali was a man endowed with tremendous strength and would balance several Karais on his head, a feat that was hitherto unseen before.
According to notes seen by The Counties attributed to the late Ikram Hassan, a second generation Kenyan, when his father M.akbar Shah was immigrating to East Africa from Punjab, India in 1906, a neighbouring family requested him to trace down their son Fateh Shah who had disappeared since 1890.
He heard of Bhaghali in the 1940s, a man with astounding feats of strength. Upon investigation, the description fitted the lost man.
“ He had obviously signed under a false name fearing that news would get to his family before he would leave,” read an excerpt from the notes.
By 1940s, when the grave was still covered in bushes, travelers would stop there and ask for boons and generally attribute their safety during their journey to the holy man buried at the tomb. The news spread, a legend started and a reputation of the place grew.
People later claimed that Baghali would communicate with man-eaters who were terrorising the Indian workers and order them to relocate saving the lives of his colleagues.
However, according to Mackinon Road ward representative Musa Ahmed who also doubles up as the caretaker for the mosque and tomb, the mosque was constructed by his grandfather who was a preacher.
“The saint was calling to him in a vision and he relocated to this place and set up a simple mosque which my father, Umar Musa later expanded to cater for the many travellers who stopped over at the shrine,” he said.
When his father died, Ahmed had just left secondary school in 1977 and he took over the privilege of tending the Shrine as well as the Mosque by virtue of being the eldest son in the family.
“I sourced from friends and managed to significantly expand the facility to its present capacity,” he said.
The Mackinon Road Mosque, run by Ahmed and his two other brothers have constructed over 20 other mosques in various locales in the district.
They also have a children’s center in the mosque and also manage an orphanage in Taru, which houses 110 orphans.
However, the many responsibilities they have taken upon themselves do not compromise their primary function, which has been their family tradition for three generations: custodians of the shrine, tending the mosque and serving the travelers who stop over at the facility daily.
“I visit the site weekly to offer my prayers as well as enjoy the tranquility within this holy site. It is also a great excursion destination for the entire family,” says Zamil Nurmuhammed Kana, Ahmed’s brother.
According to him, he meets his cousins and uncles from Nairobi during some of these visits as they come for benediction and it sometimes ultimately evolves into a family get together.
“We are aware that the alms we give at the shrine are used for projects to help the community and that is fine with us,” he adds.
The Mosque has boarding facilities and can accommodate 200 people and they offer meals for a free for a period of three days if one is boarding for prayer purposes.
“We spent upto Sh200,000 every month when the season is low and upto a million in food during high season,” says Ahmed.