Cheraman Juma Masjid is a mosque in Kodungallur in the Indian state of Kerala. Believed to be built in 629 AD by Malik Ibn Dinar, it is considered as the oldest mosque in India, and the second oldest mosque in the world to offer Jumu'ah prayers. Constructed during the lifetime of Muhammad, the bodies of some of his original followers are said to be buried here. Unlike other mosques in Kerala that face westwards this mosque faces eastwards.
Let us analyse the Facts
Keralopathi Account(16th century AD)
As the tradition goes, a Chera king, Cheramanperumal of Kodungallure, left for Mecca, embraced Islam, and accepted the name Thajudeen. He married the sister of then King of Jeddah. On his return trip, accompanied by many Islamic religious leaders, led by Malik-ibn-Dinar (RA), he fell sick and passed away. But he had given introductory letters for the team to proceed to ‘Musiris’ (Kodungallur, the Chera capital. The visitors came to Musiris and handed over the latter to the reigning king, who treated the guests with all respect and extended facilities to establish their faith in the land. The king also organised help for the artisans to build the first Mosque at Kodungallur, by converting Arathali temple into a Juma-Masjid. It was build in 629 A.C., and the area around it had been ear-marked for the team’s settlement. This is said in Book called Keralopathi, not anywhere. But there are different versions of Keralopathi giving different accounts. In one version he converted Buddhism.
None of the early or medieval travelers who visited Kerala has referred in their records. Thus Sulaiman, Al Biruni, Benjamin of Tuleda, Al Kazwini, Marco Polo, Friar Odoric, Friar Jordanus, Ibn Babuta, Abdur Razzak, Nicolo-Conti – none of these travelers speaks of the story of the Cheraman’s alleged conversion to Islam.
No cheraman in 7th century AD
Sreedhara Menon authoritatively states that Kerala never had a king called Cheraman Perumal and quotes Dr. Herman Gundert, the German who composed the first Malayalam-English dictionary and the grandfather of Herman Hesse for this. But there seems to have been a Cheraman Perumal, whose history is overlaid by legend. According to Saiva tradition, he had an association with a Sundaramurti, the last of the three hymnists of Devaram. This Cheraman Perumal vanished in 825 A.D, about 200 years
A mention of the Cheraman Perumal legend appeared in the 16th century book Tuhafat-ul Mujahidin by Shaik Zainuddin, but he too did not believe in its historical authenticity. But later cut and paste historians seem to have forgot to add his disclaimer.