YYT204 Full transcript:
Abdul Gafoor Mosque is an unique Mosque in the heart of Singapore city. This eclectic building is a strong symbol of the Muslim community. Today, we will go on a tour of this building. I will show you the unique architectural features of the building, introduce you to the basics of the Islamic faith, and give you a good overview of the history of the Muslim community in Singapore.
Hi I’m Yilun. Thanks for downloading this episode of Yilun Audio Tours. This podcast offers reviews, tours, news and commentaries about Singapore. Traveling through Singapore just got easier.
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Disclaimer and warning:
This audio guide is designed to accompany you while you visit the location. Use this guide with discretion. Always be prepared for renovations and the shifting of artifacts. Most importantly, be flexible. Ask a local for directions. Singaporeans speak English as our native language.
We are visiting a religious monument in today’s tour, so take special caution to observe and respect the various guidelines at the mosque. Be prepared to remove your footwear. Try to keep as quiet as possible, and remember to always respect worshippers. It will also be recommended to avoid wearing clothing that exposes too much of the flesh, no mini-skirts, no bare shoulders and so on.
Guide to the location:
Abdul Gafoor mosque is located on 41 Dunlop Street, and the nearest MRT station is Little India. Check out the map on our website for more details.
We will start this tour at the gate of the Mosque, on Dunlop Street.
Abdul Gafoor Mosque is one of the many mosques in Singapore. Singapore is home to a variety of religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism. The Muslim community in Singapore has a long history, and is an active and vibrant community. On today’s tour, we are going to get a peek into the Muslim community of Singapore. As the road here may be heavy with pedestrian traffic, I am keeping the introduction short, and we will now proceed into the mosque compound.
You will see a row of shoes right beyond the entrance to the mosque. You will have to remove your footwear in order to proceed further into the complex. This is actually more of a practical requirement than a religious one, as Muslim worshippers kneel and touch their heads on the carpets, hence it is important to keep the floor clean. The ground of the complex is swept many times a day, hence you do not need to worry about dirtying your feet.
You may wish to wash your feet at the small washing area to the left of the entrance, though that is optional.
After you have removed your footwear, you can seat on one of the benches to the right, as I tell you more about the mosque, and about the faith.
The Islamic faith is one of the three main Abrahamic religions of the world, and has a considerable following worldwide. Abrahamic religions are religions emphasizing and tracing their common origin to the prophet Abraham. Judaism and Christianity are the two other main Abrahamic religions. These three religions share many similarities, sharing many basic tenets, such as the belief in monotheism.
The history of Islam started around 500 CE. Muhammad, a trader in the middle east, reputedly experienced a series of divine revelations that he believed to be from God, or Allah in Arabic. Muhammad soon went about Arabia preaching to the people, and soon gained a huge following. In the centuries following Muhammad’s death, the Islamic faith expanded exponentially. Not only did in encompass the whole of Arabia, it reached the northern coast of Africa, and made its way into the southern tip of Spain.
This was also when our story starts. With the expansion of the global trade network, many trade routes were created between the east and the west. Singapore was an important port of call for these trade routes, and many Arabic merchants would stop in Singapore to rest and to replenish their supplies. This resulted in the spread of the Islamic faith to Singapore and the rest of the Malay Archipelago, and soon enough, many pockets of Muslim communities were seen springing up in this area. This was well before the time of Raffles and the British colonialism of Singapore. Singapore was only a small fishing port when the Islamic faith arrived in the region. The Malay royalties were the ones that were the most devout converters of Islam, and they made Islam the de facto faith of their empire. Therefore, the Malay community residing in the region around Singapore soon became Muslim.
This mosque, the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque, is located in the area known as Kampong Kapor, which was an active business hub for Indian merchants and for those who worked at the old race course at Farrer Park. The mosque on this site was originally a building with timber partitions and a tiled roof known as Masjid Al-Abrar, built in 1846 to serve the religious needs of the South Indian Muslim merchants and Baweanese and horse trainers residing in Kampog Kapor. The old timber and tiled roof building began to age with time, and a new mosque, the one you see today, was constructed in 1907, in an eclectic fusion of different architectural styles.
Take a look at the building.
This is a single story building, built in a fusion of the southern indian and Moorish styles. Notice the four taller towers at the corners of the building. The tall towers are actually called minarets, and were traditionally used to call the Muslims to prayer. The building is built around a green and white color base, with yellow highlights. The building is also decorated with many smaller towers, each topped with the symbol of a crescent moon.
The Islamic faith has five basic tenets, called the five pillars of Islam. They are Kalima, Salat, Zakat, Sawm of Ramadan and Hajj. Don’t worry if they sound foreign to you. I will explain. Kalima, the first pillar of Islam, is the basic premise of Islam, and that is the declaration of the existence of a single God, Allah. Muslims chant the following statement during prayer, which goes “I bear witness that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and Muhammad is His Servant and Messenger.” This chant is repeated five times a day, during their prayer times, which leads us to the second pillar of Islam, which is Salat. Salat is the Islamic prayer, and Muslims pray five times a day, in the morning, noon, afternoon, dusk, and night. Worship to Muslims is a solidary act, and can be carried out anywhere kneeling in the direction of Mecca. The third pillar of Islam is that of Zakat, which is the practice of charitable giving by Muslims to the less fortunate. The forth pillar of Islam is the Sawm of Ramadan, and that is the ritual fasting for the month of Ramadan, whereby the believer cleanses his soul through fasting from dawn to dusk . Lastly, it is the Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to the Holy city of Mecca that evert Muslim should go on once in a lifetime. So, the five pillars of Islam are: singular god, five daily prayers, the giving of alms, fasting during Ramadan and a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Mecca is the holy city of the Islamic faith, and it is where the Islam faith first originated. All Muslims pray in the direction of Mecca. If you were to observe carefully, this mosque is off center with regards to the layout of the street. It is not parallel to the street grid, nor to the shop houses around it. This Mosque, like most other mosques, are actually orientated towards the direction of Mecca.
We will now move on, and I will show you more about the architecture. Stand right in front of the front façade of the Mosque. You will immediately notice a gigantic sundial decorating the main entrance, which has 25 rays decorated with Arabic calligraphy denoting the names of 25 chosen prophets. It is the one of its kind in the Islamic world.
You will notice that the color green is present as a motif throughout the building. The color green is a symbolic color in the Islamic faith. Prophet Muhammad’s tribe used green on their flags. In the Qur’an, it is said that the inhabitants of paradise will wear green garments of fine silk. In fact, the color green is so deeply associated with the Islamic faith that Christian Crusaders avoided using any green in their coats of arms, so that they could not possibly be mistaken for their Muslim opponents in the heat of battle.
Another key feature of the façade is the presence of the star on the walls, and the crescent on the towers. The star and the crescent predate Islam, and it wasn’t until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they adopted the city’s existing flag and symbol. Legend holds that the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman, had a dream in which the crescent moon stretched from one end of the earth to the other. Taking this as a good omen, he chose to keep the crescent and make it the symbol of his dynasty. After centuries of rule of the Ottoman Empire, the Crescent and the Star became closely associated as a symbol of the Islamic faith.
Look around the exterior of the building. You will also notice many Corinthian Columns supporting the structure. These Corinthian columns are elements taken from the Neo-Classical Greek architecture, and can be distinguished by their flowery capitals, which is the place that the column meets the ceiling.
The openings around the building are marked by cinquefoil arches. Cinquefoil arches are essentially arches with five folds, are originated from gothic architecture. Abdul Gafoor Mosque is truly a mishmash of various architectural styles, and this highlights the status of Singapore as a melting pot of cultures.
We shall now proceed into the interior of the building.
We are now in the prayer hall, which is a highly sacred place in this complex. Look around and soak in the atmosphere. Observe the carpets on the floor, the intricate designs of the walls, and the low lighting in this hall. This is created to provide the most conducive environment for worship.
Believers line the carpet during worship, and kneel in unison following the chants of their spiritual leader. It is quite a sight to behold. This main prayer hall is actually only used by males, and females have a separate prayer hall to the side. This is believed to prevent distraction and help both genders focus on the worship.
At the opposing wall is the mihrab, which is the small niche that is facing the direction of Mecca. At certain sessions, a minbar, which is a small podium of sort, will be placed in front of the mihrab, from which the leader of prayer will address the congregation.
We will now respectfully make our way out of the prayer hall towards the sheltered area to the left.
Recall what you saw in the prayer hall. There were no figures or icons to worship in the hall, unlike other religions such as Christianity, Buddhism and so on. This is because of the belief in Islam that Allah is a transcendental entity and does not exist in a particular physical figure.
We are now in the sheltered area next to the prayer hall. Look of the diagram on the wall that traces the lineage of the Muslim prophets, of course, with all the descendants originating from Adam.
We are now nearing the end of the tour. Walk out of the sheltered passageway and back into the open area in front of the front façade of the Mosque. There are a row of shophouses right opposite the mosque, and these shophouses are used as schooling facilities for teaching of the Koran and such. The community of this mosque is still highly active. The Muslim community in Singapore is a thriving gem of culture, and I hope that you have gained a small peak into the vibrancy of this community and its culture. After visiting this monument, you can wander around the streets outside of this mosque and enjoy this unique enclave of Singapore.
I hope you have enjoyed this tour. For shownotes, a transcript of this tour, or travel directions, visit yiluntours.tk Also, subscribe to this show on itunes, and leave a review while you are there. Help to spread the word, tell your friends about this show! Thanks.