5 Mosques to Explore and Admire (that are not Masjid Sultan)
One of the things that many Singaporean Muslims miss in this post-Covid world is the ability to go to the mosque anytime we want. We now have to make a prior booking before we get to enter the mosque to pray in it. The mosque is a special place for Muslim communities all over the world for it is at the mosque that we often feel closest to God. However, the mosque is special not only because of its relation to God, but because it is where we as a community experience and reflect upon our highs and lows in life.
Today, let’s go on a journey. Let’s explore five different mosques in Singapore together and how they are representative of the different Muslim communities then and now by looking into the mosques’ history and architecture style.
1. Hajjah Fatimah Mosque
Located beside Golden Mile Food Centre at Beach Road, Hajjah Fatimah Mosque was built in 1846 by Hajjah Fatimah, who was a Malaccan wealthy businesswoman. It was built as a token of gratitude by Hajjah Fatimah after her house had been burned down due to an arson attack. Luckily, she and her family were not in the house at the time of the attack. Thereafter, she dedicated the plot of land where her house once stood for the building of the mosque. Hajjah Fatimah was also the maternal grandmother of Syed Muhammad bin Ahmed Alsagoff who was responsible for the building of Madrasah Alsagoff Al Islamiah. Hajjah Fatimah and her grandson’s graves are located in the mosque’s compound.
The architecture of the mosque is unique because it has elements of both Eastern and Western architecture. The minaret of the mosque and its European elements is often compared to St. Andrew’s Cathedral’s steeple. In contrast to the minaret, the mosque has a large round golden dome which resembles that of Masjid Sultan’s dome. One fun fact about the mosque is that the minaret of Hajjah Fatimah Mosque is actually tilting six degrees off the vertical!
2. Hang Jebat Mosque
Located at the end of Jalan Hang Jebat, the colonial houses which still stand near the mosque are emblematic of the area. The area has managed to preserve the rustic, pre colonial vibes which you can also see in the architecture of the mosque. Hang Jebat Mosque was initially built as a surau in 1952 for the Malay regiment soldiers and Muslim workers who worked nearby. Hang Jebat Mosque was named after the street in which it resides and the Hang Jebat Regiment, which is stationed around that area. Hang Jebat was a legendary Malay warrior from the Malaccan Sultanate. He is best known for his duel with Hang Tuah, and the conflicting principles of the two in Hikayat Hang Tuah.
The mosque is reminiscent of a kampung mosque, or a Malay village’s mosque. Unlike most of Singapore’s mosques which have big domes and minarets, Hang Jebat Mosque has a very humble structure instead. Hang Jebat Mosque still uses zinc roofs which rest on top of its one story building. It is also surrounded by a steel fence, a very kampung-esque feature. The mosque is surrounded by luscious greenery, providing visitors with a good change of scenery, especially for those who are sick of the concrete jungle that is the rest of Singapore.
3. Jamae Chulia Mosque
The Jamae Chulia Mosque is a unique aspect of Singapore’s racial diversity as the mosque is a distinct Indian Muslim mosque which was built in a predominantly Chinese area. The mosque was built by Chulias, coastal Tamil Muslims that had come to Singapore, in 1830. The Chulias who immigrated to Singapore were mostly moneychangers and traders. Jamae Chulia is one of three monuments which the Chulias had built in Singapore. The other two are Al Abrar Mosque and Nagore Dargah. The mosque still plays an important role in the Tamil Muslim community in Singapore as it is one of the few mosques which conduct religious classes in Tamil.
What is distinctive of the Jamae Chulia is its twin octagonal minarets that border the entrance. The minarets are of a South Indian design which closely resemble that of the minarets of the original Nagore Dargah in South India, a mausoleum dedicated to the Sufi saint Shahul Hameed.
4. Darul Aman Mosque
Darul Aman Mosque was built in 1986 along Jalan Eunos. It was built to replace the demolished Aminah Mosque in Geylang Serai. Located at the heart of the Malay community in Singapore, Darul Aman Mosque is just a stone’s throw away from Geylang Serai. Darul Aman is considered a relatively young mosque compared to the previous mosques in this list, but what is historically significant about it is that it was one of the first few mosques built by the Housing Development Board (HDB) using funds from the Mosque Building Fund. Previously, mosques were built on waqf, or on charitable endowment basis by wealthy donors. However, in view of Singapore’s lack of land resources and mass urbanisation (which requires more mosques to be built in housing estates after independence), the task of building mosques was given to government agencies such as HDB and Majlis Ugama Islam Singapore (MUIS).
From an architectural point of view, what is especially striking about Darul Aman is its pitched roof structure and the mosque’s appearance. It looks as though it was built out of timber. These features of the mosque are distinct of Indo-Malay Mosques. In fact, Darul Aman Mosque reminds me of the Grand Mosque of Demak which has a similar pitched roof structure. For those who are unfamiliar with the Grand Mosque of Demak, it is one of the oldest mosques in Indonesia and it is also believed to be built by the Wali Songo (Nine Saints in Javanese) in the late 15th century. Another fun fact, the Sultan Mosque that we see today was not the original structure of the mosque when it was first built in 1824. The original structure of Sultan Mosque had initially resembled the Grand Mosque of Demak with its tiered pyramid roof. The current structure of the Sultan Mosque, with the onion dome was only built in 1932.
5. Yusof Ishak Mosque
The last mosque on this list also happens to be the youngest. Yusof Ishak Mosque was officially opened in 2017 and was named after the first President of Singapore, Yusof Bin Ishak. Like Darul Aman Mosque, Yusof Ishak Mosque was built under the Mosque and Mendaki Building Fund (formerly known as Mosque Building Fund) and is also the 71st mosque to be built in Singapore.
Located in Woodlands, Yusof Ishak Mosque was inspired by official and private residences, giving it a contemporary look. The mosque was designed to include “features of a tropical Nusantara house”. The inspiration of a Nusantara house is clearly evident in the architecture of the mosque which does not have domes or tall minarets. Instead, it echoes a traditional looking Malay verandah.
These mosques are not just a reflection of our community but hold many stories within them which I can only scratch the surface of in this article. After going through this list, I hope that the mosques continue to be an important part of our lives and InshaAllah we will all get to enter our mosques freely as we once did.
 Ray,Bihu. 2017. “Yusof Ishak Mosque opens in Woodlands: Know more about its unique architecture, features”. Accessed October 17 2020. https://www.ibtimes.sg/yusof-ishak-mosque-opens-woodlands-know-more-about-its-unique-architecture-features-9267