Kampong Glam is famous for a variety of different things – delicious food, rich culture, and of course, Sultan Mosque. An iconic landmark right smack in the middle of this bustling area, Sultan Mosque a.k.a. Masjid Sultan is an important place of worship for the Muslim community in Singapore.
Whether you’re a frequent visitor of this mosque or have never seen its splendour IRL before, learning about its history and significance makes the visit a whole lot more memorable.
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The original Sultan Mosque in 1825
Image credit: tourwithus
While many know the landmark for its striking architecture, Sultan Mosque didn’t look this way when it was first built around 1824. To put this into perspective, Sir Stamford Raffles was actually a key contributor to it’s construction – so you know it’s old.
The original Masjid Sultan was mostly built by the East India Company for Sultan Hussein Shah, the very first sultan of Singapore, in order for them to gain sovereign rights to Singapore. The one-storey building with a double-tiered roof remained untouched for over 100 years, giving thousands of Muslims a place of worship during its run.
While 1824’s version of Sultan Mosque may be a far cry from the iconic golden domes and majestic infrastructure we know of today, the building was actually very fitting for its time and was modelled after traditional mosques in Indonesia.
Image credit: @rabindra
By the time a whole century passed, the masjid was in dire need of reconstruction, as you probably can imagine. Designed by Swan and Maclaren Architects and funded by the Muslim community in Singapore, a more modern Indo-Saracenic-style Sultan Mosque was finally opened to the public in 1932.
Soya sauce bottle ends were used in the black lining of the domes
Image credit: Public Domain
The architecture of this 200-year-old building is just as intricate as its history, and popping down for a visit will reveal fascinating details of its construction. Properly visible in the daylight, a close inspection of the black dome rims will reveal what looks suspiciously like glistening glass bottle ends.
While the wealthy were able to contribute the monetary funds to build the main bulk of the new mosque, lower-income Muslims were also able to contribute in their own way – through used soya sauce bottles.
The hundreds of bottles that were donated were cut down to their ends and were added as decoration for the lining of the golden domes. This way, all Muslims, regardless of status, were able to pitch in for the construction of this important religious building.
Image credit: @saewanderlust
Not only is the exterior of Masjid Sultan beautifully constructed, but the interior of the mosque is also equally beautiful. The prayer hall can hold up to 5,000 people during mass prayer and takes up two storeys in the building – one for men and one for women. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19 restrictions, only 50 people are allowed inside at any one time to prevent close contact with others.
While most of the mosque is usually open for the public to explore, there’s a hidden mausoleum not many know about that is located under one of the golden domes. Entry to this section of Masjid Sultan is strictly prohibited, as it houses the tombs of the late Tengku Alam Shah, prince of the House of Bendahara, and other royalty.
The mosque is still primarily used as a prayer area for Singaporean Muslims, but it has also greatly expanded over the years, with a whole range of different uses today. From hosting Quran recital competitions to our favourite annual Ramadan bazaars, it’s no wonder that so many tourists and pilgrims flock to Sultan Mosque.
If you’re planning to head down by yourself, the mosque even holds guided tours in English, Malay, Chinese, and Japanese, so you can educate yourself on the cultural significance of this important place of worship.
Disclaimer: General entry and tours have been suspended in light of Covid-19 restrictions, but do keep an eye out for updates on Sultan Mosque’s website.
With so many different religions in Singapore, understanding their various traditions and customs is extremely eye-opening. Even if your knowledge of Islam barely scratches the surface, starting somewhere is better than staying in the dark, and learning a thing or two about Sultan Mosque can help to make you feel that much more #cultured.
Address: 3 Muscat Street, Singapore 198833
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