Jamae Mosque is located at 218 South Bridge Road, on the corner with Mosque Street in the historic Chinatown area. One of several mosques built by Tamil Muslim migrants from south India, the present mosque was built between 1830 and 1835. Jamae Mosque was designated a national monument in 1974.1
As early as 1827, south Indian Tamil Muslim migrants, led by Anser Saib, built a mosque on the site where Jamae Mosque now stands. Prior to the 1830s, the site already had a makam (Malay for grave, tomb or shrine) of a local religious leader, Muhammad Salih Valinvah. The garden was laid out to accommodate other tombs upon his death.2
Also known as Masjid Chulia or Chulia Mosque, the building that stands today was not completed in its present form until between 1830 and 1835. Mosques at the time were constructed by individuals or committees on land donated by them and placed in trust for the Muslim community, a practice known as wakaf (Malay for benefaction or donation for a religious purpose). The founders also placed rental properties under wakaf, where revenue collected went towards mosque maintenance. Trusteeship passed from generation to generation within the same family or community.3
By the late 1800s, most of the early benefactors of Jamae Mosque had died or left the country. In 1881, a lease was granted to five trustees – Mohamed Syed, K. Nainah Muhamed, Meydin Suleiman, K. Peer Sahib and K. Mohamed Eusof – to manage the mosque. New trustees were appointed in 1894, namely M. Mohamed, V. Hameed, S. Saboo Ghany, K. Mohamed Ismail and T. Chinny Tamby. These new trustees were also appointed to manage Nagore Dargah, an Indian Muslim shrine at Telok Ayer Street.4 In 1910, Jamae Mosque, Al-Abrar Mosque and Nagore Dargah all came under the same trustees, namely K. Mohamed Eusope, Thambyappa Rarooter, S. Kanisah Maricayar, V. M. Kader Bux and J. Sultan Abdul Kader. Subsequently, complaints about the mismanagement of religious trusts led the British colonial government to establish the Mohammedan and Hindu Endowments Board in 1906. Jamae Mosque came under the board in 1917, and has been under the care of the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) since 1968.5
Jamae Mosque is considered as one of the oldest mosques in Singapore. Together with Nagore Dargah and Al-Abrar Mosque, it is also one of several Muslim religious monuments built by the Tamil Muslim Chulias. The mosque features prominently in many illustrations, photographs and postcards of early South Bridge Road. Sri Mariamman Temple, a historic Hindu temple that is also a national monument, is located along the same road, reflecting the religious and cultural mix of early Singapore. It is believed that adjacent Mosque Street was named for Jamae Mosque.6
Plans to rebuild the mosque were drawn up in 1897 and 1911 were never carried out for unknown reasons. In 1986, plans to add a second storey above the toilets were rejected. In 1996, the mosque underwent repair and repainting work.7
Jamae Mosque was gazetted as a national monument on 19 November 1974. On 24 November 1981, its land lease was renewed for 999 years.8
Jamae Mosque stands on a land area of 4,809 sq m.9 While the gate and compound follow the urban planning grid, the buildings within the compound are oriented to face Mecca. The exterior of the building does not have the street facade and walkway characteristics of buildings of later years.10
Similar to Nagore Dargah but simpler in design, Jamae Mosque’s architecture reflects the influences of both East and West. Its distinctive front gate is of South Indian design, framed by a pair of stepped minarets topped with onion-shaped domes. Above the gate and between the minarets is a decorative miniature palace facade of four levels. The entrance foyer leads into the ancillary prayer room, featuring rows of Tuscan columns as well as large windows with Chinese green-glazed tiles at the base that provide good ventilation. Double-leaf timber doors lead to the main prayer hall, which has a series of Doric columns. The ablution area is located in a courtyard to the side of the prayer halls.11
Vernon Cornelius-Takahama & Joanna Tan
1. Christopher Hooi, National Monuments of Singapore (Singapore: National Museum, 1982), 17. (Call no. RSING 722.4095957 NAT); Lee Geok Boi, The Religious Monuments of Singapore: Faiths of Our Forefathers (Singapore: Landmark Books and Preservation of Monuments Board, 2002), 82. (Call no. RSING 726.095957 LEE)
2. Hooi, National monuments of Singapore, 17; Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 82; Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore, Jamae Mosque Preservation Guidelines, vol. 1 (Singapore: Preservations of Monuments Board, 1991), 21. (Call no. RSING 363.69095957 JAM)
3. Gretchen Liu, In Granite and Chunam: The National Monuments of Singapore (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1996), 83. (Call no. RSING 725.94095957 LIU)
4. Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 82.
5. Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 82; Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore, Jamae Mosque Preservation Guidelines, 4–5.
6. Liu, Granite and Chunam, 83.
7. Liu, Granite and Chunam, 84, 86; Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore, Jamae Mosque Preservation Guidelines, 22.
8. The Preservation of Monuments Order 1974, Sp. S 339/1974, Government Gazette. Subsidiary legislation supplement, 1974, 898. (Call no. RCLOS 348.5957 SGGSLS); Hooi, National monuments of Singapore, 17.
9. Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore, Jamae Mosque Preservation Guidelines, 4.
10. Liu, Granite and Chunam, 83; Preservation of Monuments Board Singapore, Jamae Mosque Preservation Guidelines, 5.
11. Lee, Religious Monuments of Singapore, 82; Liu, Granite and Chunam, 84.
Archives and Oral History Department Singapore, Chinatown: An Album of a Singapore Community (Singapore: Times Books International, 1983), 67. (Call no. RSING 779.995957 CHI)
Dhoraisingam S. Samuel, Singapore’s Heritage: Through Places of Historical Interest (Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service, 1991), 39. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
Edwin Lee, Historic Buildings of Singapore (Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, 1990), 64, 93. (Call no. RSING 720.95957 LEE)
“Four Mosques in CBD Won’t Be Affected by Urban Renewal,” Straits Times, 27 March 1981, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
Geradine Goh, “Take Me to the Great Horse Way,” Straits Times, 3 June 1998, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
Gretchen Liu, Singapore: A Pictorial History 1819–2000 (Singapore: Archipelago Press, 1999), 66–67. (Call no. RSING 959.57 LIU-[HIS])
Irene Hoe, Chinatown: A Personal Portfolio (Singapore: MPH Bookstores, 1984), 152–53. (Call no. RSING 779.995957 LLO)
“Jamae Mosque,” National Heritage Board, accessed 31 March 2016.
Jane Beamish and Jane Ferguson, A History of Singapore Architecture: The Making of a City (Singapore: G. Brash, 1985), 56, 58. (Call no. RSING 722.4095957 BEA)
Norman Edwards and Peter Keys, Singapore: A Guide to Buildings, Streets, Places (Singapore: Times Books International, 1988), 405, 437, 439. (Call no. RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
Peter Keys, “Classic in Design, Rich in History,” Straits Times, 10 January 1982, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
Ray Tyers and Siow Jin Hua, Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & Now (Singapore: Landmark Books, 1993), 182. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS])
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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