“Can I pray here / kya main yahan namaz padh sakti hun?” I asked the Imam in a 14th century Mosque in the tiny village of Zafarabad, near Jaunpur.
“Bibi Agar aap Allah ke ghar mein namaz nahin padhengi to phir kahan padhengi?”
( Bibi if you can’t read namaz in God’s house then where else will you read it? Replies the Imam. Far more visionary and broad minded than imams in cities who stop women from praying in mosques.
In 1359, Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq stopped at a place called Zafarabad on the river Ganga on his way to campaign against the Ilyas Shahi rulers of Lakhnauti in Bengal. Zafarabad was a strategic point on the road to Bengal and the Delhi Sultans had long been fighting with the rulers of Lakhnauti. This probably prompted the Sultan, a prolific builder, to think of building a new city near Zafarabad. The city was built on the river Gomti and was named Jaunpur after the Sultan’s cousin and predecessor, Jauna Khan, who had ruled as Sultan Mohammad bin Tughlaq.
I went exploring there a couple of years ago.