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Cheraman Perumal, (Tajuddin. r.a) king of india-Kodungallur, Kerala (AD 622-628. Hijra 1-7) was the first Indian to accept Islam.
The masjid is believed to be established in 629 AD. An inscription in Arabi-Malayalam language on the gate of the masjid gives the date as 5 Hijri.
The Cheraman Juma Masjid owes its name to Cheraman Perumal, the last of the Chera kings who ruled Kerala with Kodungalloor as their capital. However, it was built by Malik Bin Dinar, one of the disciples of Prophet Mohammed, way back in AD 629.
Legend has it that Perumal experienced an unusual dream of the new moon being split into two halves at the horizon.
His court astrologers could not give him a convincing explanation. Later, it was a group of Arab traders on its way to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) which explained to Perumal that this could probably be the miracle performed by he Prophet in Arabia.
This explanation convinced him and he decided to embrace Islam. Though his
decision to leave for Mecca was kept a secret, he divided his land and assigned various territories to local chieftains to ensure smooth governance.
At Mecca, he met the Prophet and embraced Islam.
He spent some years there and while returning home, fell ill and died at Dhufar in Oman. .Before dying, he instructed his travel companions, led by a companion of the Prophet, Malik Bin Dinar, to spread the message of Islam in his homeland.
One of them, Malik Bin Dinar, who reached Kodungalloor along with his companions, handed over the letters to the ruling chieftains. They were given permission to construct mosques in different places and the mosque at Kodungalloor was the first to be established. It is said that a defunct Buddha vihar was handed over to set up the mosque there. The first mosque in India was thus constructed at Kodungalloor and Malik Bin Dinar himself was the first Ghazi of Cheraman Masjid.
Inside the Cheraman Juma Masjid, the first mosque in India and probably one of the oldest shrines in the world, burns an oil lamp which is believed to be more than a 1,000 years old. People of all faith bring oil for the lamp as offering, underlining its secular standing in Kerala.
Why did the Perumal convert himself into a follower of Prophet Mohammed? M. Hamiddullah writes in Mohammad Rasoolullah, quoting some old manuscripts from India Office Library (ref no. Arabic, 2607, 152-173) Vol.16 (06): "There is a very old tradition in Malabar, southwest Coast of India that Chakrawati Farmas (perhaps another name for denoting Cheraman Perumal) one of their kings, had observed splitting of the moon, the celebrated miracle of the Holy Prophet at Makkah, and learning on inquiry that this was a symbol of the coming of a Messenger of God from Arabia, he appointed his nephew regent and set out to meet him. The love for Holy Prophet grew in his heart and he became the earliest Muslim convert of present day India." This 'Moon Splitting' is also mentioned in the hadith. As per narrations of Abdullah bin Masud: "During the lifetime of the Prophet, the moon was split into two parts and on that the Prophet said, 'Bear witness (to thus).'" (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Virtues and Merits of the Prophet and his Companions, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 830) To continue with the words of Hamidullah, Cheraman Perumal embraced Islam at the hand of Prophet. A tradition of the Holy Prophet has also been reported from one of the companions, Abu Saeed Al Khudri, regarding the arrival of Cheraman Perumal "a king from India presented the Messenger of God with a bottle of pickle that had ginger in it. The Holy Prophet distributed it among his companions. I also received a piece to eat." It is said that, after conversion, the Perumal took the name of Tajuddin, while other chroniclers say that he called himself as Abdullah Samudri, in remembrance of his past. He married the sister of the then king of Jeddah and settled down there. He handed over to the king of Jeddah several letters addressed to the ruler of Kodungaloor (then known as Muzuris), seeking his help to propagate the tenets of Islam.
This is the second Juma Mosque in the world, where Friday prayers have been offered since 1365 A.D./Hijra 7. It is situated in the Mrthala village of Kodungaloor, hardly 20km from the Irinjalakuda railway station in Kerala. Unlike any other mosques in India, the Cheraman mosque uses a traditional brass oil lamp, mostly found in Hindu temples.
It was first renovated or reconstructed sometime in the 11th century AD and later again 300 years ago. Another renovation was done in 1974 when an extension was constructed after demolishing the front portion of the mosque. The ancient part of the mosque was left untouched and is still preserved.
Yet another extension was made in 1994 and another extension was carried out in 2001 when it was decided in principle to reconstruct the mosque in its old form. “The Cheraman Juma Masjid is a cultural monument and it should be preserved it in its original form,” said Sayed.
The plan now is to demolish the additions made to the original structure after 1974 to accommodate more believers, especially for the congregational Friday prayers, and restore the heritage value of the mosque built in the traditional Kerala architecture style.