Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Wilayah Mosque, KL

 The Jewel of Kuala Lumpur 
Brochure cover, Wilayah Mosque, KL, MalaysiaI was very keen to visit some major mosques in KL (for its architecture). Jamek Mosque was in the middle of renovation and was off limit to visitors. I only just heard of Wilayah Mosque, aka Federal Territory Mosque (Masjid Wilayah Persekutuan). One reason that i haven't heard of it, or more to the point, didn't visit it in the 1980s and mid 1990s when i visited KL is because it wasn't completed until year 2000.

The name "The Jewel of Kuala Lumpur" is given by the brochure that promotes this mosque.

Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia

When i saw some photos of this mosque online, the first thing that popped into my mind is the Blue Mosque (aka Sultan Ahmed Mosque) in Istanbul that i visited some 15 years ago. The impression of resemblance comes mostly from its cluttering of domes. Interestingly, the Blue Mosque doesn't have blue domes, but this mosque does! The Blue Mosque is named because of the blue tiles inside, not the domes.

The resemblance isn't a coincidence as it turned out. This mosque, according to the official source, is inspired by the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. But there're many significant differences.

Blue domes, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia
Unlike the ancient Blue Mosque in Istanbul, these dome are made up of modern material of glass fibre fabric mixed with epoxy resin, making it light and durable (and probably easier to maintain)

Blue domes, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia

Blue domes, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia
Blue domes of various sizes with smaller ones surrounding the larger ones that are the main external features the Blue Mosque.

 In the Number of Minarets 
But if you look closely, there're many differences you can detect. Take the minarets. In the Blue Mosque, the pillars are round (i.e. they have circular cross sections) with conical spires, which make the entire minarets look like space rockets, which is based on Ottoman (or Turkish) design, naturally. The minarets in this mosque have square pillars and balconies, which are based on Egyptian tradition. In this case, the bottom 2 sections have square cross sections while the top 2 sections have octagonal sections. Both the 4 and 8 sided cross sections represent Egyptian architectural designs at 2 distinct periods.

Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia

Here are some quick facts regarding minarets. Various scholars have different interpretations of the origin of the word "minaret".

Some believe it comes the word manār or manāra in Arabic, meaning place of fire or light. The term manāra, on the other hand, may have came from the Aramaic language, which when translated means “candlestick” (Aramaic is the forerunner of Hebrew and Arabic languages).

Courtyard, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia
View of one of the minaret from inside the main courtyard

Other scholars believe that the term manāra may have the meaning of "light house" or "beacon" (many nautical words have derived from Arabic words, especially from the Islamic Golden Age between 8th to 13th century. Travelling in desert is similar to travel at sea. At night, both groups of travelers rely on stars to help them to navigate. Camel is known as ship of the desert for that reason).

Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia

There's a strict code governing the number of minarets of a mosque. For example, 1 minaret indicates that the mosque is built by an individual or private organisation; 2 minarets suggests it's built by a community or in this case government; 4 minarets indicates that it's built by a sultan; in the case of the Blue Mosque, it has 6 minarets, this was the Ottoman sultan's way of declaring their supremacy over all other sultans. Only mosque in Mecca has 7 minarets. Just as hotel has a star-rating system, mosque has a minaret-rating system.

Skyline, Istanbul, Turkey
Skyline of Istanbul with 3 mosque erected with prominent minarets. Guess which one is the Blue Mosque.

Apart from Turkish and Egyptian architectural elements, Islamic architectural traditions such as Moroccan, Iranian, and last but not least Indian (i.e. Mughal) style also being incorporated into this mosque. This blending of architectural styles is deliberate, expressing Malaysian inclusiveness and openness (at least, in the religious sphere). Truth be told, Malaysian version of Islam is far more liberal than those in the ME.

Moat, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia
Moroccan arches form a prominent part of the mosque's exterior.
The mosque is surrounded by moat, which makes it seems like it's floating on water.

Entrance, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia Entrance, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia

Entrance, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia

While the mosque is open to public. but i saw a sign at this entrance indicating the appropriate attires are required to enter. As the day was very hot (just about every day in KL), i wore shorts. I knew there was a good chance that i wouldn't be allowed into the mosque in shorts, but i couldn't bear the heat if i wore pants. Besides, i was quite happy looking at the exterior architecture.

As i was about to leave, a young lady in headscarf approached me and invited me to visit inside the mosque (my DSLR camera was a dead giveaway that i was a tourist). I told her that i wasn't appropriately dressed for the mosque. She said it wouldn't be a problem. They have something we could put on.

Interior, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia
180° pano of the interior of the mosque
(Click to enlarge. You must!)

Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia
Ada in her appropriate mosque-attending attire.

Interior, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia
Interior, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia
Top:  Names of prophets in Arabic calligraphy along the circular architrave.
Left:  "Allah" in Arabic calligraphy in the pendentive. Often seen in large mosques.

Courtyard, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia

And as expected, the mosque is built atop a hill to give it a commanding position. From here one can have a nice view of the surrounding. You could spot the Petronas Twin Towers from here (right photo below).

Aerial view, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia Aerial view, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia Aerial view, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia

Interior, Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia

Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia Wilayah Mosque, KL, Malaysia


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