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Berlin Mosque survives Second World War

Article compiled by Dr. Zahid Aziz

The Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement has always expressed the deepest of gratitude to Almighty Allah that its mosque situated in Berlin survived the terrible, wholesale destruction of the German Capital during and, especially, towards the end of the Second World War. Having searched the archives of The Light, the English organ of the Movement published from Lahore, we found some reports of that period which are quoted below.

The first item below (Berlin Mosque Intact) was written by Dr. S.M. Abdullah, who at the time of writing was the General Secretary at the Centre of the Movement in Lahore. He had served as Imam of the Berlin Mosque during the 1930s, leaving shortly before war broke out in 1939. After the war, he was again placed in charge of the Berlin mission, while also serving as Imam at the Woking Mosque in England.

Berlin Mosque Intact

(From The Light, 18 September 1945, pages 4-5)

“It is nothing less than a miracle that the Berlin Mosque, which was built by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam, Lahore, in the year 1927 has survived the ravages of the war. Berlin has been destroyed, ruined and bombed in a manner unprecedented in the history of the world. That the Berlin Mosque where actual bombing, shelling and fighting has taken place should have escaped destruction is a clear sign of the hand of the Almighty God working behind the scene. It also shows the purity and sincerity of the purpose with which the handful of members of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement are working for the noble and sublime cause of the propagation of Islam in Europe. It also shows the enthusiasm and devotion to Islam with which these new converts are imbibed. Six zealous women have worked five weeks repairing the damage to make the mosque fit again for congregational prayers and that at a time when there were no funds available and when they themselves stood in need of every possible help to keep soul and body together. This shows their ardent zeal and devoutness for Islam, the religion they profess.

Let such our Muslim brethren as oppose our humble efforts and services to the cause of Islam pause and ponder over their attitude. Can they not see the hand of God working with and helping this Movement? Let me assure my brethren in Islam that this Movement which was founded by the Reformer of the present century is bound to succeed as it aims at the establishment of the universal truth of Islam.

Let our brethren in faith come forward and join us in pushing forward the cause of Islam in the world, especially in Europe, which needs it most the existing and prevailing evils of the present-day world.

To the members of the Ahmadiyya Movement, the news of this Providential protection of the Mosque has come as a fresh message of hope and cheer. It has filled them with the conviction that this Mosque is destined to play a distinct role in the spiritual reconstruction of Berlin that now lies torn and bleeding, materially as well as spiritually. The German people stand rudely shaken and disillusioned — just the mood of mind to receive the message of universal human equality that Islam is. That is what the Hand of Providence has preserved the Mosque for.”

Another item appeared shortly afterwards in The Light of 8 December 1945 on page 1. It gives some details of the damage sustained by the Mosque due to “the war that was fought even within its sacred precincts”, and reports that the Mosque now lies situated in that zone of divided Berlin which is “under the British Army of occupation”. It further reported that Dr. S. M. Abdullah was ready to resume his work in Berlin, and that “the Anjuman has moved the Government of India to get the benefit of priority for a sea passage from India to England and an air passage from England to Berlin.”

‘Imam back in Berlin’

Under the above heading, a report appeared in The Light of 8 February 1947 on page 3 which is reproduced below:

“Dr. Shaikh Muhammad Abdullah, M.Sc., Ph.D., Imam of the Mosque, Berlin, it will be recalled, had to quit Germany at the outbreak of war. At the termination of war, this Anjuman was anxious that the activities at the Mosque should be resumed as early as possible. Military occupation, food condition and general dislocation of life in that once Naziland, however, made the prospects of reopening the Mosque and its allied missionary activities extremely gloomy. Even in December last, when the Anjuman decided to take the first step in this direction at any cost and sent Dr. Abdullah to England to study conditions from that quarter, the prospects were none too bright either. It was a leap in the dark and it was almost a settled fact that for sometime to come the Imam will have to mark time and keep himself occupied with some sort of missionary work in England.

God, however, comes to the help of those who move in His way. Dr. Abdullah has been afforded every facility to visit Berlin by the authorities of British occupation. Life in Berlin being still in military control, he has been invested with the Honorary rank of a full Colonel which will enable him to enjoy all the facilities associated with that position.”

Beneath this is a report headed Berlin Mosque’s S.O.S., which is reproduced below:

“Maulana Muhammad Ali, Head of the Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement, has issued an appeal for funds for the repair of the Berlin Mosque, which was damaged in the last phase of the war when Nazi resistance took the form of street fighting. When after victory the Allied forces entered Berlin, the Mosque was found littered with the dead bodies of Nazi youth.

According to the estimate received from a Berlin architect the repairs will cost Rs. 92,000, prices and wages having risen four times compared to pre-war rates. The appeal gives two photographs — one showing the Mosque as it originally stood, the other in its present damaged condition. Should this S.O.S. from this House of God bestir the heart of any son of Islam and he would like to see this sole beacon of Light Divine in the dark heart of Christian Europe restored to its original dignity, he may send his contribution to the Financial Secretary, Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam, Lahore.”

Reuter’s report

In The Light of 24 May 1949 on page 19, a report from Reuter’s Berlin correspondent is reproduced regarding the Berlin Mosque which had appeared in the Pakistan newspapers. It contains a brief history of the Berlin Mosque which we quote below:

“The foundation of the Berlin Mosque was laid in 1922 by Maulana Sadr-ud-Din who was deputed by the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha‘at Islam to deliver the message of Islam to the people of Germany. At the same time, he laid the foundation of the Islamic Mission. Within a couple of years there stood in the heart of the German Capital, with all its grandeur and beauty, a huge building of the Berlin Mosque possessing a fascinating charm. A quarterly magazine in German under the title Muslimische Review was also started which rendered valuable services in disseminating the light of Islam in Central Europe.

The strenuous work and the devoted efforts of the Islamic Mission attracted the attention of Germans, and by 1925 about forty people of high reputation embraced Islam.

The opening ceremony of the mosque was attended by a large number of new converts to Islam as well as by a distinguished gathering of Muslims from Egypt, Syria, Persia, Afghanistan and India, including Allama Lufti, the leader of Muslims in Russia.

In his inaugural speech, Allama Lufti said with a sense of pride that he had studied each and every word of the books of the Mujaddid recommended to him by Maulana Sadr-ud-Din and had found in them the light of truth in abundance which showed that he was in fact the Mujaddid of the time. Besides, Egyptians, Syrians, Iranians and Afghans delivered lectures and each of them expressed his love and appreciation for the mission.

Muslims were brought under one banner. Dr. Marcus, Dr. Griefelt and Dr. Banning were among the renowned personalities of the time who, realising the magnetic force of Islam, embraced it and devoted themselves to further the cause of Islam.

Dr. Marcus’ personality needs no introduction. He is the man whose essays on the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him, left a deep impress upon the mind of Dr. Iqbal who, by way of compliment, observed: 

“Many a Muslim thinker and philosopher have written a great deal about the Holy Prophet, but none comes up to the mark of Dr. Marcus.”

His way of presenting the Prophet is unmatched in its beauty, his force irresistible and his sincerity very convincing.

Uptil 1938, the Muslim Mission’s work went on smoothly and uninterrupted, but with the outbreak of the war the whole thing was upset. Professor Dr. Abdullah, the then Imam of the Mosque, as an Indian national had to leave Germany. A German doctor and his wife offered their services to Professor Dr. Abdullah to take care of the garden, the Mosque and the house adjacent to it. They decided also to bear themselves the expenses of running the Mosque. Sometime later this doctor joined the army and was killed in action. His wife also left the place. A new convert to Islam, Frau Moslar, then came forward to take care of the Mosque and the house.

This magnificent Mosque was built at the cost of Rs. 150,000. During the war it served as a spiritual centre not only for hundreds of German converts to Islam but also for the thousands of other Muslims who were drawn to Berlin — Russians, Turks, Egyptians, Afghans, Indians and others. During the war, Muslim prisoners of war from India who happened to be in Germany also went to this Mosque for Id prayers.

In the final stages of the war, when Berlin was attacked by the Russian forces, the Germans dug trenches in the Mosque garden and it, therefore, became a target for the invading forces. Though the Mosque survived the war, it suffered heavy damage. The dome itself was hit and damaged. One of the two minarets, 95 ft. high, was practically destroyed. Its repair cost the Anjuman more than eighty thousand Rupees.

The Mosque is situated in the most fashionable locality of Berlin. Well laid out roads on its three sides with a foot path running side by side, lovely hedges and flower plants with a beautiful lawn in front add to the charm of the Mosque.”