In the 18th-19th centuries, when Kokand became the metropolis of a strong and powerful state, many big, attractive mosques were constructed in the city. From written sources it is known that in the capital of the Kokand khanate there were 230 neighbourhood and 18 Friday mosques.
The construction of Jami Mosque, the biggest in the city, was completed in 1818. But its erection was initiated long before – in the 18th century when the ruler of Kokand Alim-khan commissioned to construct Jami complex – a madrassah to accommodate 100 hujras (cells for students) and a magnificent mosque. The local legend says the logs for pillars supporting the ceiling of its avian were provided by famous poetess Zebinisso, who was Babur’s great-grand-daughter and lived in India. However, after Alim-khan was assassinated by the plotters, the construction works were discontinued and the bricks were utilized for reconstruction of the old Kokand Urda (governor’s residence). Only in 1817 by order of Umar-khan the erection of the mosque was resumed.
They say that before the first brick was laid (tradition dictates that this operation should be entrusted to the virtuous and godly man), Umar-khan addressed the audience three times with a question: “Is there among you a person who has never sinned?” But there was silence in response, and regarding himself a sinless person, he personally laid the first brick into the wall of the mosque, whereupon he got a nickname ‘Jannat makon’ – “worthy of paradise, God’s minion”.
The main Friday mosque of Kokand is a khanaka – winter premises on three sides surrounded with avian. The vault of avian is supported by 98 columns made of hard karagach wood, sometimes called ‘stone wood’. Ten similar columns are placed inside the khanaka. All of them are decorated with gorgeous fretwork, are crowned with stalactite heads and are set on marble bases. The main façade of the mosque with frontage length of about 100 metres faces east, and is outlined by colonnade; it is decorated with a cornice elevated above the central entrance thus forming so called kaivan.Contracting with plain brickwork of outer walls the façade and interior of the mosque are richly decorated. The plafonds and ceiling beams made in typical Ferghana architectural style ‘vassa juft’ are covered with paintings of geometrical and vegetal patterns. The upper part of the walls is decorated with rectangular and arched carved ganch (plaster) panels, whereas the lower part is ornamented with a kind of mosaics made of coloured ganch – the traditional Kokand techniques called‘chaspak’.
In 1852, under Khudoyar-khan, next to the mosque there was constructed a 22-metre-high minaret made of baked bricks. Its form reminds a truncated cone with a hexahedral lantern on the top. Inside the minaret there is a winding staircase. Five times a day azanchi (muezzin) climbed these steps and from the top of the minaret called upon the faithful for praying. Five years later after the minaret was constructed Khudoyar-khan invited the best craftsmen and painters to restore the Friday mosque. To finance the works he ordered to use the two-year profit from vakf – the area intended for maintenance of the mosque and madrassah.
In 1905 after Kokand khanate was annexed to Russia, there were carried out repair works in Jami Mosque which by that time had become dilapidated. The funds for this righteous deed were allocated by local merchant Mir Khabib-bay. Stone –cutters from Armenia were invited to fulfill the works; craftsmen from all over the Ferghana Valley were involved in restoration. Not all of them were experienced enough for such work. This resulted in original gorgeous paintings being spoiled.
Under Soviet power the madrassah was demolished, the Jami Mosque was closed, whereas the main entrance was blocked up with bricks. Only in 1982 the mosque was thoroughly restored. The deteriorating bases of wooden columns were replaced and the unique paintings of aivan and interior were restored to their initial appearance. Today the mosque is given back to the religious people and every Friday the citizens come here to pray, just as in olden days.