Monday, December 21, 2009

Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka

Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka (or Omar Kampong Malacca Mosque; Chinese: 奥玛甘榜马六甲回教堂) is a mosque in Singapore, and is located at Keng Cheow Street in the Singapore River Planning Area, within the Central Area, Singapore's central business district.

The first mosque to be built in Singapore, Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka was established in 1820, just a year after the British set up a trading post on the island. Since then, the mosque has been rebuilt twice; once in 1855 and again in 1981-1982. The mosque is owned by Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura.

Situated on the southern bank of the Singapore River, Kampong Malacca was designated for Muslims by Sir Stamford Raffles in his 1822 Town Plan. As a result, Arabs, Jawi-Peranakans, Indonesians and Malays gravitated there. Its heritage is reflected in the colourfully diverse architectural styles that can be found in the area, some of which are still evident today.

Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied, an Arab merchant from Palembang, was the mosque's founder. His son, Syed Abdullah bin Omar Aljunied, was responsible for the 1855 rebuilding of the mosque. The Aljunied family's contribution to Singapore was not insignificant. Among the three wealthiest Arab families in Singapore — the other two being the Alkaffs and the Alsagoffs — the Aljunieds were philanthropists, generously supporting schools, hospitals and mosques, as well as sponsoring religious events. Their contributions are recognised not only in the naming of Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka after its founder but also in the naming of Syed Alwi Road in Serangoon and Aljunied Road in Aljunied.

The original structure was a temporary timber building, which was torn down and replaced by a brick mosque in 1855. This reconstruction coincided with the laying of a new road through Kampong Malacca which brought worshippers from the surrounding area. With a bigger congregation, the timber mosque became insufficient and a larger, sturdier brick structure was built to better serve the mosque's growing needs.

In 1981-1982, after almost a hundred years of use, the 1855 mosque was in great need of reconstruction. All this time, Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka, unlike other mosques in Singapore, had no minaret. It was only in 1985 that a tall minaret with a small roof dome was added at the entrance of the mosque.

Today, the mosque is in much the same state as it was after the last reconstruction — a simple building that is well complemented by its surrounding space. With a capacity to seat 1,000 people, it is the focal point for office workers during daily and Friday prayers.

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What's Mosque?

A mosque is a place of worship for followers of Islam. The word entered the English language most likely through French (mosquée), from Spanish (mezquita), from Berber (tamezgida), ultimately originating in Arabic: masjid مسجد‎ — Arabic pronunciation: [ˈmæsdʒɪd].[1] The Arabic word masjid literally means a place of prostration.

The word "mosque" in English refers to all types of buildings dedicated for Islamic worship, although there is a distinction in Arabic between the smaller masjid dedicated for the daily five prayers and the larger masjid jāmi‘ (مسجد جامع) where the daily five prayers and the Friday congregation sermons are held with a high volume of attendance. The masjid jāmi‘ also plays more roles such as teaching Qur'an and educating future imams.