Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who spent two days in Hyderabad before meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Saturday, was very impressed with the condition of Muslims in India and the unity between Shia and Sunni sects of that community. 

An official in the Iranian consulate in Hyderabad told The Sunday Guardian on Saturday that the visiting president was “overwhelmed” with the warm welcome he received from both Shia and Sunni Islamic scholars when he arrived here on Thursday for a two-day stay. Such bonhomie between the two sects has become a rarity in the Islamic world now, rued the official, preferring not to be quoted.

The Iranian diplomatic staff here feels that the “feel good” experience of Dr Rouhani may act like a catalyst in cementing better ties between Iran and India ahead of his talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Dr Rouhani and his delegation had told the media that they expect the relations between the two Asian nations to grow stronger and act as a deterrent to religious terrorism.

Dr Rouhani enjoyed his “Modi moment” here, while addressing a huge gathering at historic Mecca Masjid in the Old city of Hyderabad on Friday afternoon. The Iranian diplomats called it “Modi moment” because PM Modi too had addressed a big gathering of Indians at a Gurudwara in Tehran when he had visited Iran in 2016.

The visit to the Mecca Masjid was suggested by External Affairs Ministry officials when the Iranian president had expressed his interest to visit some historic places connected to Iranian legacy. The architecture of Mecca Masjid resembled Persian architecture and symbolised Indo-Iran ties. Mecca Masjid was built by Shia ruler Mohammad Quli Qutub Shah VI in 1616.

Quli had brought bricks and some soil from Mecca in Saudi Arabia for the construction of this masjid. But the mosque, one of the biggest mosques in Asia, was completed during the time of Sunni Moghul ruler Aurangzeb in 1694. A decade after that, Hyderabad came under the control of orthodox Sunni rulers of Nizams.

Dr Rouhani was happy to know that several Hindu contractors and masons too had participated in the construction of the Mecca Masjid. He was also pleased to be welcomed and accompanied by Sunni leaders, Telangana Deputy CM Mohammad Mahmood Ali and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi at the Mecca Masjid. Rouhani enquired them about Shia, Sunni harmony in India.

Rouhani visited Qutub Shahi Tombs, the tombs of Shia rulers of Golconda kingdom and was told about the efforts made by the government of India in their restoration work, though currently Aga Khan Foundation is funding the renovation. President Rouhani while talking to Hyderabad District Collector Yogita Rana, lauded the spirit of the Indian government in protecting Islamic heritage in India.

Rouhani wrapped up his visit to Hyderabad on Friday evening with an interactive session with Iranian families—around 600 of them—from Hyderabad and adjoining areas from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Most of them told the Iranian president that they were happy in India as their business ventures were protected by local state governments.

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