Providing a beacon of direction for visitors to Kampong Gelam with its striking Golden Domes, Masjid Sultan was built in honour of Sultan Hussein Shah in 1824 and serves as a reminder that Kampong Gelam used to be the seat of the Malay royalty and where various immigrant Muslim communities used to reside.
Today, despite being home to a trendy lifestyle scene, Kampong Gelam retains its heritage charm and Masjid Mosque continues to play, not just a key role in being the anchor of Islamic practice but also in fostering the community spirit of the area.
The magnificent structure that you see today was rebuilt in 1928 and completed in 1932 by Denis Santry, an Irish architect in an Indo-Saracenic style that mixes traditional Hindu and Islamic elements with European architectural features, a style favoured by British architects in the late 19th century.
Over time, the Mosque underwent various upgrades and in 1993, an annexe building housing a multi-purpose auditorium was added. This provided the infrastructure to further propagate the teachings of Islam as a religion and a way of life. More recently, a space has been created where the homeless, regardless of their faith, can seek temporary refuge. The mosque also provides a myriad of community services and organises numerous social and cultural activities.
It plays hosts to many visiting dignitaries and religious scholars and welcomes a steady stream of locals and tourists every day, many of them non-Muslims. To communicate more effectively with non-English speaking visitors, some staff members have even taken up foreign languages.
In keeping with times, further upgrades were introduced progressively. This included the installation of a glass lift for the elderly, mobile-charging points, free Wi-Fi, solar panels and state-of-the-art water-saving taps for ablution (an essential practice for Muslims before the performing of prayers) for worshippers. These enhancements earned Masjid Sultan an ISO 9001:2015, the first mosque to get the certification. Restrictions to group gatherings during COVID19 further underscore the progressiveness of the Mosque where calls to prayers are made online.
Some interesting nuggets about the mosque that many people may not be aware of:
- The prayer hall can hold 5,000 worshippers. Prayer times follow that of Mecca and are posted on the notice board each day.
- The base of each dome is decorated with glass bottle ends, donated by lower-income Muslims during its construction so that all Muslims, regardless of their wealth, could contribute.
- The carpeting was donated by a prince of Saudi Arabia and bears his emblem.
- Masjid Sultan is the only mosque in Singapore with outward loudspeakers that are used for calls to prayers.
- Customer service survey touch screens are fitted at strategic locations to help the mosque administration stay abreast of the demands of the visitors and congregants.
Like many other places of worship, no shorts, T-shirts or revealing clothes are allowed when visiting the mosque. However, it does not turn away anyone without the proper dress code. Cloaks are provided free-of-charge and they can be found on the right of the stair landing by the entrance. Visitors are expected to remove their footwear as well.
Following tradition, the start of Ramadan (Muslim fasting month) is announced at the Mosque. During this period, the front of Bussorah Street is transformed into a bazaar with stalls selling mouthwatering food, where Muslims gather to await the prayer call to break fast at sunset.
The Mosque was gazetted as a national monument in 1975 for its historic and architectural significance.