SOAS Mosque stands as Brunei's icon

Sentinel of history: Panoramic view from one of the minarets of SOAS Mosque of Bandar Seri Begawan and Kampong Ayer. Picture: BT/Zainul Rizal Sulaiman

Saturday, September 27, 2008

POSITIONED majestically on an artificial lagoon near the banks of the Brunei River, the Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) Mosque stands as among the most magnificent mosques ever built in the world.

With its golden dome and soaring white minarets, the mosque is often pictured as an oasis of serenity amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Bandar Seri Begawan. The celebration of its golden anniversary heralds the mosque's unique long-standing status as the heart of the capital and the symbol of Brunei's deeply-rooted Islamic faith.

Named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, His Highness Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien — the father of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah — the mosque has been dominating the skyline of Bandar Seri Begawan since its official royal opening on 26 September 1958. The opening was officiated by His Highness Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien and attended by many high-level dignitaries that included royalty from Malaya.

No trip to Brunei is considered complete without visiting this well-known historical icon. Tourists both domestic and international including official delegations will make it a point to include the mosque in their "things-to-do" itinerary.

A landmark most revered by the Bruneians, the mosque played an important role as a sentinel to Brunei's history. There is no denying that the mosque played an important role in the country's independence. It was here at the mosque on 31 December 1983 that thanksgiving prayers were held to offer thanks to Allah for the coming independence of Brunei as a sovereign state.

The mosque also stood as witness to the full proclamation of independence that was announced at the nearby Taman Sir Muda Omar 'Ali Saifuddien.

SOAS Mosque has been regarded as Brunei's proudest architectural achievement and has over the years established itself to become the country's most recognisable landmark. Heavily influenced by India's Mughal architecture, the mosque indeed stood as an impressive example of modern 20th century Islamic architecture.

The mosque also incorporates Italian and Renaissance architectural styles, but with craftsmanship that reflects classical Islamic architecture. This makes the mosque as one of the most unique Islamic places of worship across the world. The mosque took four years to complete, from 4 February 1954 until 26 September 1958. His Highness Sultan Haji Omar 'Ali Saifuddien is remembered as the "Architect of Modern Brunei". During his reign from 1950 until his abdication in 1967, the Sultan steered Brunei safely through the turbulent years following WWII, establishing the foundation for the nation's independence and sovereignty. Through his determination and dedication, he had implemented the foundation to build the infrastructure, society and economy of modern Brunei and also ensuring the preservation of an independent Malay Muslim Monarchy in the modern world.

He proved that small nations could survive. To commemorate the Sultan's rule, Brunei Town was renamed Bandar Seri Begawan.

Besides holding religious functions, the mosque also hosted several grand ceremonies steeped in traditional Brunei royal custom. SOAS Mosque on 5 September 2004 hosted the "Istiadat Akad Nikah Diraja" or solemnisation of the royal marriage ceremony of Crown Prince, Pengiran Muda Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah and Yang Mulia Dayangku Sarah binti Pengiran Salleh Ab Rahaman. Accompanying the Crown Prince into the mosque were 40 spearmen and awang-awang. The event saw the attendance of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah and other members of the royal family and dignitaries.

The mosque also hosted the solemnisation of the royal marriage ceremony of Her Royal Highness Princess Hajah Majeedah Nuurul Bulqiah, the fourth child of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulah, the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha, to Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Khairul Khalil Pengiran Syed Haji Jaafari on June 2007.

A range of events have been scheduled for the SOAS Mosque Golden Jubilee celebrations. The first event on the diary is the signing ceremony of the SOAS Mosque Golden Jubilee Monument and followed by the recital of the Surah Yassin, Tahlil and thanksgiving prayers. The opening of the SOAS Mosque Golden Jubilee Exhibition and the launching of the "Buku Sejarah 50 Tahun Masjid Sultan Omar 'Ali Saifuddien" scheduled to be held at Brunei Museum, Kota Batu.

The Brunei Times


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