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A Peek Into The History Of Masjid Sultan - Singapore's Most Famous Mosque

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Shasha Dania  •  Jun 24, 2020

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Whether you're a local or a visitor, chances are you've been inside Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque) before or have at least snapped a few photos of its glorious golden domes! Regarded as Singapore's national mosque, it sits in the Bugis-Kampong Gelam area and is an important monument and gathering spot for Muslims in the country. Today, we're diving a little bit into the history of Masjid Sultan and how it became such a beautiful and adored landmark. 🥰
Credit: tourwithus The mosque was founded in 1824 by Sultan Hussain Shah (hence its name), who proposed its construction to the British East India Company during a treaty agreement. At the time the Sultan and his family still lived in the area in the Istana Kampong Glam, and part of the land was set aside for a royal mosque to be built nearby. The original mosque (finished in 1826) was nothing like the grand structure you see today - it was a simple single-storey brick building, with a double-tiered roof . In fact, it was more similar to other traditional Southeast Asian mosques you can still find in the region! 😮 (Check out Masjid Kampong Laut in Kota Bahru for an idea of what traditional mosques in the area look like!) 
By 1924, the first round of restorations took place. A new building was constructed on the same site, with construction done in phases so as to not disrupt prayers. This is when the mosque as you may recognise it today first appeared, with its big onion-shaped domes and towering minarets. Fun fact - the base of the domes were made and decorated using glass bottle ends donated by lower-income Muslims. This allowed all members of the community to contribute to the mosque! 😊 P.S. Here are 9 more beautiful mosques in Singapore you should check out!
The mosque was designed in an Indo-Saracenic style that borrowed elements of Indian, Persian, and Islamic architecture like the huge domes and tall minarets. The interior was even repainted its original green to highlight the tall arches. 😍 For a closer look at a mosque with stronger Turkish and Ottoman influences, take a look at Japan's very own Tokyo Mosque (Tokyo Mosque Camii)! Beautiful Islamic calligraphy and motifs decorate the interior, and the beautiful mihrab (pulpit)  of the main prayer hall is framed by a tall and narrow arch with gold-plated floral motifs. 🌼 As Islamic art avoids depictions of human or other figures, floral and geometric motifs are much more common. 
Credit: Jnzl's Photos on Flickr The blend of different cultures and styles in Masjid Sultan's decor reflects how the Muslim community here has its roots in traders and immigrants from around the world too! Even standing outside its wrought-iron gates, there's a beautiful majesty to the mosque that makes it a must-visit for any visitor! Mosques all around the world reflect a blend of Islamic and local influences, and Masjid Sultan is no exception.
Credit: Francisco Anzola on Flickr The new building was opened in 1929 and construction finally completed in 1932. The mosque was eventually declared a preserved historical building in 1975 under the Preservation of Monuments Board Act! 😮 Though it no longer looked like the original mosque, it's a familiar landmark in the Singapore landscape. Especially because of all the delicious halal food in the area. 😋
In the last few years, the mosque has undergone more renovation to keep up with the needs of the community. Solar panels were installed in the Annex in 2017 to help reduce its carbon footprint, and water-saving taps were installed in the ablution (wudhu) areas! 🚰 In 2018 the mosque was even included in   Singapore's bicentennial celebrations, reflecting how it's become a beloved national monument for non-Muslims too. 😊 Today, the mosque is a focal point for Singapore's Muslim community with events such as classes, nikah (wedding solemnisation), and even a yearly Ramadan bazaar taking place in or around the mosque buildings. At least during pre-pandemic times. 😉 While COVID-19 temporarily shuttered Masjid Sultan's doors a few weeks ago, it has now reopened for individual private prayers and congregational prayers (from 26 Jun onwards)! 😄 If you're planning to do your prayers at the mosque, here's what you need to know:
  • 2 sessions of congregational Friday prayers will be held, with up to 50 congregants per session. Booking can be done online.
  • All worshippers will need to adhere to safe distancing measures (for private/congregational prayers) such as spacing out their prayer mats and using their own personal prayer items.
  • If you can, take your wudhu before arriving at the mosque and make sure to wear a face mask at all times.
  •  MUIS' Fatwa Committee has also announced that certain groups are exempted from performing Friday prayers, including senior citizens, those with chronic illness, those who have family members who are at risk (e.g. parents to newborns or children), and those who tried to register a slot but failed to get it. If you have elderly relatives who are anxious about missing out on Friday prayers, make sure to reassure them that it's okay and that their health and safety are what's most important. 😊 
While the mosque still hasn't reopened for other functions yet, Phase 2 is a hopeful sign that things will slowly get back to normal for the community. In the meantime, you can definitely still visit Masjid Sultan to marvel at its gorgeous golden domes, seek out the stray cats that live in the vicinity, or just find peace in the beauty and tranquillity of its noble structure. ☺️ Address: 3 Muscat Street, Singapore 198833 (Do note that all tours are currently suspended due to COVID-19) Opening hours: 5.30AM - 7AM, and 1PM - 9PM Directions: Travel to Bugis MRT station, and walk 10 minutes along North Bridge Rd until you see the mosque. Contact: 62934405 OR 62934043 Website | Facebook | Instagram