18 Sept 2015: 50 Years of the National Mosque

The National Mosque of Malaysia will be acknowledged as our national effort to elevate the religion to greater heights…and be regarded as an icon to symbolise the solidarity of Malaysia which is made up of various races and religions.—Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj

natmos-1The historic National Mosque, commonly known as Masjid Negara, is one of the most recognisable icons of Malaysia. It is a symbol of the country’s official religion and the embodiment of unity among Sunni Muslims. Unknown to many however, the National Mosque is also a silent testament to the oneness of all Malaysians— it was built not only from the philanthropy of Muslims alone, but also from non-Muslims “imbued with the spirit of loyalty to their country”. Our featured book-of-the-week is a bilingual (English and Malay) timely tribute to the 50th anniversary of Masjid Negara. This landmark volume is generously filled with illustrations from the past and present, showing the mosque in various stages of completion.

50 years of the National Mosque
Tunku Abdul Rahman conceived the idea of building the National Mosque when he became the first Prime Minister of Malaysia in I957. It was to be one of his first tasks—not only to serve the nation, but also to promote the official religion of the country as inscribed in the Federal Constitution. The architect chosen for this national landmark—from concept to completion—was Dato’ (Dr) Ar. Baharuddin bin Abu Kassim. His design, although distinctly modernistic for its time, incorporated ‘traditional’ Islamic leitmotifs via geometric patterns, shapes and forms. It is to him that this monograph is dedicated. On Friday, 27 August I965, His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra lbni Almarhum Syed Hassan Jamalullail performed the official opening of the National Mosque. The king, together with Malaysians and invited VIPs performed the first ever Friday prayer there. Since that significant moment, the National Mosque has ‘hosted’ approximately 2,600 Friday prayers.

natmos-2Today the National Mosque continues to be an impressive structure, centrally situated in the nation’s capital, proudly standing alongside the city’s skyscrapers and landmarks. In the impersonal hustle and bustle of metropolitan life, the mosque serves as a daily reminder of one’s spiritual obligation. In addition to being a place of worship, the mosque is also a meeting place for all Muslims to discuss and seek ways to better the teaching of Islam in this region. Most significantly, it was built to project the Tunku’s idea of a nation’s unity.

The 50 Years of the National Mosque monograph was produced to coincide with the 50th Year of the National Mosque (1965-2015) exhibition, held at the Islamic Arts Museum, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from September 5 to October 13, 2015.