Sunday, October 23, 2005

Federal Territory Mosque

I always seem to drive past the mosque on Jalan Duta thinking that I must go there sometime but never finding the opportunity. So, when my anti religion, anti-culture, anti-art, etc, 15-year-old son visited with school and then arrived home to shock me with the news that the mosque was “awesome and fantastic”, I decided it must be worth a visit! The Internet provided little information other than who the architects were. Eventually I was given a number of a guide who would take the group round.

The state mosque, known as the ‘mosque in the garden’ is situated on a raised area surrounded by a large moat, 33 acres in total. Building commenced in March 1996 and was completed on 1 September 2000, funded by the government and run by the Islamic department, costing RM 225 million to build.

It is built to accommodate up to 22,000 people. The main prayer hall holds up to 15,000, the ladies’ prayer hall up to 2,000 and the outside courtyard the remainder. Approximately 12,000 visit at Hari Raya, although the parking is for a mere 1,000 cars. The mosque has attractive gardens surrounding the stunning building, which has 22 beautifully decorated domes.

First, we were shown round the Islamic school. There is a pre-school for five and six year olds and the main school is for seven to 12-year-olds. The children attend Islamic school for two hours daily as well as the usual day school. It is voluntary, with classes of between 20-35 pupils. The curriculum is set by the Islamic department and teaches children how to pray, how to take their ablutions, moral education and Arabic for reading the Quran. The classrooms are bright with colourful teaching aids on the walls.

Other facilities include men’s and ladies’ dormitories, nine units for ladies and 19 for men. These provide accommodation for visitors who may find it difficult with transport or in funding a place to stay.

The multi-purpose hall holds 1,200 people and is used for Islamic forums, conferences and exhibitions. The dining hall caters for 750 at weddings and social occasions. A large library is available for Islamic research.

There is a beautiful VIP room, with luxurious soft furnishings and Islamic art features, this being reserved for the King, visitors from overseas and VIP explorers! Separate greeting areas are for ladies and men. A separate conference room is available for press reporting.

The local architects visited mosques all over the world before designing this one. Built by a mainly Malaysian workforce it combines traditional design and craft but is also hi-tech.

It boasts a number of firsts: the first mosque in Malaysia with air-con (RM12,000 per month); first with a reversible escalator, adapted for bare feet and is also the second mosque with a central chandelier with no bulbs. A lift makes the 95 metres journey up the minaret easier!

We were allowed a peak into the men’s prayer hall. The wonderful chandelier, weighing 2.1 tonnes and supported by three cables, works with lenses and blister glass, attracting light into the centre so that the prisms refract the light to the whole prayer area.

At night spotlights do the job of sunlight. Lighting also highlights the design in the ceiling at night, the lighting controlled to react to the available light. The sound system is also hi-tech with cameras detecting where people are to only play to that area, the first in the world in a mosque.
The granite is from Johor Bahru and the marble from Langkawi. The mosque is symmetrical with two waterfalls and a moat, water being a feature to help calm and prepare for prayer.

The lines produced by the prayer mats inside are continued in the marble outside so that if the hall is very busy worshipers know where to stand. Stone carvings with inlaid malachite and mother-of-pearl were done in India following the style of the Taj Mahal, by the descendants of the original stonemasons.

Seven specialists came to do the final touches when the assembly was done. The calligraphy is carved in Egyptian plaster by Iranian workers, with gold leaf. Local plants feature on the beautiful hardwood doors, screens etc. Thirty traditional carpenters from Trengganu and Kelantan did the carvings, taking approximately one month to do one door. Likewise the cut glass of the windows has similar stunning flower designs.

Lastly, we were allowed a look into the women’s prayer hall, which was deceptively large, situated at the back of the prayer hall behind screens so that the men cannot see the ladies praying. A wall-to-wall carpet from India with orchids in the design was a replacement as the previous one was considered too hard for the ladies to kneel on.

This concluded our visit. I hope the group enjoyed it. I thought it was a good insight into how a mosque is also a community centre. It is a spectacular building and so interesting to hear about how it was designed and built. On the face it is a very traditional building in design but we know now how various features and technology make it a very modern and comfortable place. I would recommend a visit!

Articles and photo from - Elaine Wade of Malaysian Culture Group


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