In betwixt of walled city of Peshawar is a magnificent mosque erected a little far away from the historic “Chowk Yadgar” which can be sited in “Andhar Shehar Bazar”.
Identified with the title of “Mohabbat Khan Masjid” or Masjid Mahabat Khan among the locals, this historic mosque is a beacon of Islamic architecture. The mosque is decorated with white marbles and consists of eight elegant minarets which are an aesthetic wonder to behold. Masjid Mahabat Khan holds great importancein terms of faith and culture culture, not only to the local Pashtun community but in the subcontinent’s history.
Mahabat Khan Masjid is a seventeenth century’s historic site which was built in the year of 1670 on the orders of Mughal Emperor Shahab Uddin Shah Jahan who named it after one of his important military officials Ali Mardan Khan.
Ali Mardan Khan, commonly known as Muhabbat Khan among the royal ministers of the Mughal empire, financed the building of Masjid Muhabbat Khan. Mardan Khan was born in present Afghanistan but he was Kurdish by his ethnicity and served under Safavid Empire. He was later appointed as governor under the Mughal Empire in Kabul and Peshawar. He was buried in Lahore at a remarkable mausoleum.
Mahabat Khan consists of ten minarets in which two main minarets are for the purpose of calling out the people for prayers five times a day through “Adhan”, while the rest of minarets are merely for elegant decoration of the mosque.
This heritage site coincides of a splendid courtyard with an attractive blue-tiled pond for purpose of ablution in center of it (that matches with Mariam Zamani Mosque in Lahore to much extent).
Going towards the western side of Mahabat Khan Mosque where the main prayer of the whole monument is situated from the entrance, there are several rooms along with it. Mahabat Khan Masjid is as same as those monuments of Mughal heritage that are situated in the old walled city of Lahore (for example Wazir Khan Mosque, Sunehri Mosque and Moti Masjid).
Indoor of the mosque can be identified with aesthetic calligraphic and floral arts with a flamboyant touch of architecture greatly affected by Turkish-Persian and the very own styles developed by Mughals with an artistic touch of Islamic architecture. Patently the interior of Mahabat Khan Masjid makes a person comfortable after observing the paintings and calligraphic scriptures. One can also identify the attractive glassworks inside the prayers hall of the Masjid.
The Majestic Interior of Mahabat Khan Mosque
The Mahabat Khan Mosque is a surviving Mughal Empire’s heritage inside the old and walled city of Peshawar and several other noticeable and historic sites of the city are not far away from it. This monument survived the dark days when Mughal rulers and administration lost their grip from current Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. These were the days when several Mughal-era monuments built with expensive and decorative stones and construction material were looted and desecrated.
When Sikh Confederacy under Maharaja Ranjeet Singh occupied the regions in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and gave the charge of region to his most important and close General known as Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa, the monuments like Mahabat Khan Mosque were used as military barracks or execution sites.
When Hari Singh Nalwa was killed by the liberating brave Afridi tribesmen and troops of Afghan Royal Army led by Dost Muhammad Khan in battle of Jamrud and was cremated in Jamrud Fort, an Italian born General Paolo Martino Avitabile who became a mercenary commander and then the ruthless administrator of occupying Sikh Confederacy in Peshawar and he actually ordered the usage of minarets of Mahabat Khan Masjid for the sake of hanging the enemies.
General Avitabile done this just to please the Sikh Maharaja by avenging for the defeat from the Pashtun tribesmen by hanging locals and to spread horror among the masses of the region so they could keep their notorious rule stable in Peshawar. The name of General Avitabile was corrupted by the locals with “Abu Tabela” who keeps much importance in the local folklore culture as well and since for long the elders usually scare children when they do something mischievous.
The mosque also faced the devastating fire that actually not only wrecked much part (as per some references the domes of the mosque were badly affected) of Mahabat Khan Masjid from outside but also the ancient bazar surrounding this beautiful monument in 1898, the preservation and reconstruction process of it was done by the British Raj in the very beginning of 20th century.
The preservation of this very majestic site hadn’t got any focus from either the Heritage dept. of federal government of Pakistan neither the provincial government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The main problem that badly impacted the historic cites of both walled cities in Peshawar and Lahore are the encroachments and illegal constructions that were conducted near to it. No doubt the government of Pakistan in 1970 under the orders of President of Pakistan General Muhammad Yahya Khan structured another proper ablution place and preserved it by reviving some of the places outside and inside the structure of it.
In the recent years, the Auqaf Department pointed the historic, cultural and religious importance of Mahabat Khan Masjid and issued a statement by mentioning that the mosque will be fully preserved and solid steps for its attractive structure will be taken. Many local people also suggested that this mosque should be given much importance as those are in Lahore’s Walled City by the federal government and to preach about its historic importance by mentioning the dark times of Peshawar this very majestic and elegant mosque saw since its building up on the highest point in betwixt of Walled City of Peshawar.