Hajjah Fatimah Mosque
4001 Beach Rd, Singapore 199584
Location: 4001 Beach Road
Hajjah Fatimah Mosque (formerly also known as Java Road Mosque) is among the oldest mosques in Singapore, and also a rare example of a mosque that is named after a businesswoman, the wealthy donor to the building. Located along Beach Road in historic Kampong Glam area, the mosque distinctively represents a blend of Islamic and European architectural elements. Built between 1845 and 1846 on the sandy land by what was then the shoreline of the time, the mosque’s famous minaret gradually tilted 6 degrees off centre until restoration work began in the 1970s. Resembling a church spire, the minaret was nicknamed “the leaning tower of Singapore”. Witnessing the contribution of the Muslim communities to Singapore since colonial years, the mosque was gazetted as a national monument on 6 July 1973.
Designed by colonial architect John Turnbull Thomson and constructed by French constructor, Hajjah Fatimah Mosque consists of the combined influences of Moorish, Chinese, and European styles in its architecture, most notably, the minaret, which resembles a Neoclassical steeple. The mosque interior was filled with Malay-Muslim traditional woodcarvings. On the exterior of the tower is a bleeding heart, a downright Christian symbol. Chinese glazed porcelain tiles in the parapet grilles on the windows and woodwork are also seen on the top of the tower.
Hajjah Fatimah was a wealthy businesswoman born in Malacca who had married a Bugis prince-merchant from Celebes (today’s Sulawesi, Indonesia), who ran a trading port in Singapore. Hajjah is an honourable title given to a Muslim woman who has completed the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). Hajjah Fatimah was widowed after her husband’s death, but single-handedly carried on the husband’s business and raised up their only child, a daughter named Raja Siti. Her daughter eventually tied the knot with Syed Ahmed Alsagoff, son of Arab trader and philanthropist, Syed Abdul Rahman Alsagoff. Thus, Hajjah Fatimah’s great wealth passed into the hands of the Alsagoff family upon her demise. Her grave, along with her daughter’s and her son-in-law’s, were laid in a private room in the mosque.
The mosque is built on Hajjah Fatimah’s former residence on Java Road, which was burgled twice in the 1830s and set on fire during the second burglary. Left unscathed by her ordeals, the rich businesswoman erected the mosque as a form of gratitude towards Allah, whom she deemed granted her providential escape.
Several periods of reconstruction were subsequently added to the design of the mosque by Hajjah Fatimah's great-grandson in the 1920s. Most prominently in the 1930s, a prayer hall designed by architects from the local firm Chung & Wong was built by French contractors Bossard & Mopin. Crowned with a huge golden ogee-shaped (onion-shaped) dome and fitted with twelve openings covered by yellow and green glass panels, the hall is aligned to the qibla (orientation towards Mecca) as required. Numerous lancet-shaped windows that ventilated the interior extended the European blend of Neoclassical style, with enclosed verandahs on three sides of the halls. The mosque compound also has an ablution area, gardens and mausoleums, the quarters of an Imam, several annexes and the cemeteries.
Hajjah Fatimah Mosque is still functioning as a place of worship and besides commemorating Hajjah Fatimah's death anniversary, other significant celebrations are regularly held at the mosque including the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. The mosque is managed and owned by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura, MUIS).
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