Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka



Singapore Infopedia

by Cornelius, Vernon

Background

Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka is Singapore’s oldest mosque. Located on Keng Cheow Street, off Havelock Road, the mosque was constructed in 1820 by the Aljunied family.1

History
According to the Raffles Town Plan in 1822, land was set aside for Kampong Melaka (Melaka Village) for the Muslim community.2 With the support of philanthropist Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied from Palembang, a surau (prayer house) was established in 1820.3 The original building was a simple wooden structure with an attap roof.4 This was replaced by a brick structure in 1855.5 The surau served as a meeting point not only for the local Malays and Jawi Peranakans,6 but also early Muslim immigrants such as Arabs and Indonesians.7 A new road through Kampong Melaka brought more worshippers and thus a larger building was required.8 Despite being located in the middle of a large Chinese community, the mosque was untouched during the racial riots of the 1960s.9


On 11 November 2001, the National Heritage Board declared Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka a historic site, the 59th location in Singapore to be granted this status.10

Key features
With monetary contributions from merchant Syed Abdullah bin Omar Aljunied, the wealthy son of the original founder,11 a brick building replaced the original wooden structure in 1855.12 Another major reconstruction took place between 1981 and 1982,13 which added an administration building.14 The dome-shaped minaret was built in 1985.15 In 2009, S$936,000 was spent on replacing the roof of the mosque, new classrooms, a women’s prayer area and a new resource centre for both Muslims and non-Muslims to learn about Islam.16


The mosque presently has a capacity of 500 people,17 and most of the worshippers are office workers from the nearby city centre.18 Omar Road, the tiny street that once led into it, has been expunged and on its site currently stands the nearby Ministry of Manpower Building.19

Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied and his descendants are buried at the mosque.20



Author

Veronon Cornelius-Takahama




References
1. Oral History Department Singapore, Singapore Lifeline: The River and Its People (Singapore: Times Book International, 1986), 33. (Call no. RSING 779.95957 SIN)
2. Ong Sor Fern, “Five of Singapore’s Oldest Places of Worship,” Straits Times, 13 March 2014. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
3. David Brazil, Street Smart Singapore (Singapore: Times Books International, 1991), 36. (Call no. RSING 959.57 BRA-[HIS])
4. Ong, “Five of Singapore’s Oldest Places of Worship.”
5. Gregory Byrne Bracken, Singapore: A Walking Tour (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish, 2016), 23. (Call no. RSING 915.957 BYR-[TRA])
6. “Mosque Built in 1820 Now a Historic Site,” Today, 12 November 2001, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
7. Arlina Arshad, “181-Year-Old Mosque Marked as Historic Site,” Straits Times, 12 November 2001, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
8. G. Uma Devi, et al., Singapore’s 100 Historic Places (Singapore: Archipelago Press; National Heritage Board, 2002), p. 82. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
9. Ong, “Five of Singapore’s Oldest Places of Worship.”
10. Ong, “Five of Singapore’s Oldest Places of Worship.”
11. Ong, “Five of Singapore’s Oldest Places of Worship.”
12. Oral History Department Singapore, Singapore Lifeline, 33.
13. Norman Edwards and Peter Keys,
Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Times Books International, 1988), 400. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
14. “Upgrading for Oldest Mosque Here,” Straits Times, 30 May 2009, 47. (From NewspaperSG)
15. Edwards and Keys, Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places, 400.
16. Ong, “Five of Singapore’s Oldest Places of Worship.”
17. “Omar Kampong Melaka,” Majlis Ugama Islam Singpura, accessed 26 August 2016. .
18. Tuminah Sapawai, Mosques Guide 2000 (Singapore: Islamic Religious Council, 2000), 73. (Call no. RSING 297.35095957 TUM)
19. Brazil, Street Smart Singapore, 36–37.
20. Cheong Suk-Wai, “Arab Trader’s Role in Singapore Landmark,” Straits Times, 24 September 2015. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

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