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Sultan Mosque

Sultan Mosque (47)

With its large golden dome and huge prayer hall, the Sultan Mosque is one of Singapore’s most impressive religious buildings and a meeting place for most of the city’s Muslims. Though there are about 80 mosques in Singapore, none of them is as beautiful or a popular as this one.

Right after Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in Singapore in 1819, the security chief of the island Abdul Rahman and the then Prince Hussain were given small fortunes in exchange for losing their power here. In addition, Sir Raffles gave them an annual income as well as the Kampong Glam area for Hussain’s  residence, as well as giving him  the title of Sultan of Johor. That is why many Malays and Muslims came to live here. Over the years, many immigrants from Sumatra, Malacca and the Riau islands came to live near the new sultan. In fact, only 5 years after Sir Raffles’ famous landing, the population had increased from 150 to more than 10,000 people.

Therefore, Sultan Hussain decided to build a large mosque next to his palace, in keeping with his position. The mosque was built in the 1820s with financing from the East India Company, but by the 1900s the mosque had become too small for the growing Muslim community and a new one was needed.

So in 1924, for the centennial of the old and already damaged mosque, a project was approved for a new building. The project manager was the Irish architect Denis Santry of the Swan and Maclaren firm.  The building of the mosque that you see today was completed in 1928.

Some say it was inspired by the Taj Mahal with added Persian, Turk and Arab details. The truth is that it is a Moorish style architectural jewel with beautiful bulbous golden domes, elegant minarets and numerous, wide balustrades. The final result is a harmonious, well-thought out whole, enhanced by the surrounding vegetation.

Since the original Denis Santry building few changes have been made and just one annex in 1993, years after being declared an official monument on 14 March 1975. If you look at the area’s street grid, you will see how it had to curve, especially the North Bridge Road, to allow for the mosque’s Mecca facing alignment.

Once you have taken off your shoes and are wearing the proper clothing, go inside and soak up a bit more of Islamic life. But remember that, in principle, the main prayer room is not accessible to tourists, unless you're a man and Muslim, of course. If you do enter this room, you'll be amazed at the number of faithful who, on certain days, can be as many as 5000. The floor is fully carpeted by a donation from a Saudi prince, so you'll see his logo here.  Be sure to look inside the main dome made out of glass bottles, a very distinctive artistic detail.

Don’t miss the minbar, an elaborate black and gold pulpit where the imam gives his sermons or khutba on Fridays, the Muslim holy day. The mosque also contains the tomb of Sultan Ali, the grandson of Sultan Hussain, who signed the treaty with the East India Company.

To the left of the tourist entrance is the Sultan's Gate where you can see what used to be the Sultan's residential palace: the Istana Kampong Glam: As of a few years ago it houses the Malay Heritage Centre, also well worth the visit. 

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