Of the various mosques that have undergone Additions & Alterations and upgrading works recently are Abdul Gafoor Mosque, a National Monument located in the heart of the Little India Conservation Area, and Angullia Mosque, another heritage urban mosque located less than a kilometer away in the Jalan Besar Conservation Area.
Mosques as National Monuments
Out of the 71 mosques in Singapore, 6 mosques have been gazetted as National Monuments, with many others recognised as conserved buildings. Being accorded the National Monument status indicates that these mosques contribute as significant historic, traditional, archaeological, architectural or aesthetic value to the nation, being accorded the highest level of preservation and protection as integral parts of Singapore’s built heritage.
Abdul Gafoor Mosque: A National Monument
Gazetted as a National Monument in 1979, Abdul Gafoor Mosque was built in 1910, named after its founder Shaik Abdul Gaffoor Bin Shaik Hyder. Unlike many other mosques which are constantly upgraded and rebuilt to adapt to the changing needs of the community and surrounding demographic, this National Monument and heritage mosque is largely preserved as a landmark and a reminder of the central axis around which the urban community once revolved.
Abdul Gafoor Mosque stands independent and undeterred by the changes in the demographic and built landscape around it. Architecturally, Abdul Gafoor Mosque boasts an eclectic mix of Saracenic and Roman designs, with many Western classical motifs, Doric and Corinthian columns and intricate Arabic calligraphy. Many of these elements have been well-maintained and restored for more than a century, carefully preserving the history and heritage of the mosque. The preserved existence of the original mosque building also encapsulates the history of the former Kampong Kapor area, a lively business hub and an enclave for South Indian Muslim merchants and Bawanese syces and horse trainers.
Much of the restoration works carried out in 2000 and recently in 2018 center around the maintaining the built structure, unique aesthetics and architectural integrity of the mosque, while strategically reorganising and refurbishing the internal spaces in order to maximise the prayer capacity and elevate the quality of spaces within the main mosque building and its adjacent ancillary buildings such as the shophouses (now termed as the Madrasah block), Admin block and Annexe block (Ladies’ Prayer Hall).
Angullia Mosque: A heritage mosque
Angullia Mosque, which completed its major upgrading project in end 2019, symbolizes a major milestone in fulfilling the demands of an additional 1,000 prayer spaces within the urban city centre. The original building, after the land was bequeathed by the late philanthropist Mohammed Salleh Eusoff (MSE) Angullia in 1890, had since been demolished and replaced by a larger two-storey mosque building in 1970.
Unlike a National Monument mosque, Angullia Mosque is able to physically adapt itself to the changing demands for comfort and reliability by replacing the almost 50-year-old building with a brand new four-storey building with a modern translation of the Islamic architectural dome crowning the rooftop garden. Its other community facilities include religious classrooms, a multi-purpose hall and a customer service office which would not have been physically possible to accommodate in the former building. The Mosque Management Board was also instrumental in ensuring that the family heritage citing their origins from Randhir, India was also being translated into the mosque’s newly designed architecture through subtle introduction of finials, arabesque and selection of deep colours.
Despite the rebuilt and redesign of the mosque building, the rich heritage of the mosque is still preserved through the key architectural elements and especially the original gatehouse structure adorning the main entrance of the new mosque. The conserved gatehouse is stylized to its former glory with its glass bottle balustrades and part of its original paint layers was also uncovered and displayed to showcase the different facets of the gatehouse’s history, especially during the World War years when it was likely painted black to avoid aerial bombing by the Japanese.
These unique national heritage mosques, National Monuments or not, are just two of the many faces and identities of our mosques in Singapore. While both mosque developments differ in the levels of preservation and conservation efforts, they remain integral to the urban and Indian-Muslim community in ensuring that the sufficient prayer spaces and community facilities remain as their key priority.