Indonesia: Archipelago of thousands of mosques

(From Top to Above) File photo shows Banda Aceh residents performing the Aidil Fitri prayers at Baiturrahman Grand Mosque; aerial view of Istiqlal mosque in Jakarta; and the Jogyakarta Grand Mosque. Pictures: EPA, Wikipedia

Sunday, August 21, 2011

INDONESIA is considered as one of the world's top travel destinations as the country rewards its visitors with fascinating and rich cultural experiences.

The island republic is also known as the "Archipelago with thousands of mosques" as the country has the largest Muslim population in the world. Mosques of various shapes, colours and sizes can be found from the northern tip of Sumatra and all the way to the outlying islands.

Indonesia, with a population of 240 million, recently celebrated its 66th independence anniversary on August 17.

Since recovering from the 1998 monetary crisis, its economy continues to grow at a robust and accelerated pace. As a testimony to this recovery, many new grand mosques were built.

Indonesia is also home to the largest population of Hafiz in the world. There are more than 30,000 Hafizs (2003) throughout the archipelago. A Hafiz is a person who can memorise the Al-Quran.

Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta

The Istiqlal mosque, the country's national mosque, is considered as the largest mosque in Southeast Asia and the third in the world. The Istiqlal is located in the heart of Jakarta, across the Presidential Merdeka Palace. This national mosque of Indonesia was built to commemorate Indonesian independence. "Istiqlal" is Arabic for "Independence". Most of the state Islamic functions and ceremonies are conducted in this mosque. The mosque, which can accommodate about 120,000 people, was constructed in 1955 and was launched by KH Wahid Hasyim, Indonesia's first minister for religions affairs. The Istiqlal's 30 metal pillars symbolise the 30 Juz (Chapters) in the Al-Quran.

Al-Munawarah floating mosque, Ternate

Ternate which is located in the northern tip of the Spice Islands of Maluku in the eastern part of Indonesia has been an Islamic monarchy since 1257. This old city has been the centre of the spice trade for several centuries, and evidences of Dutch and Portuguese architecture can still be seen today. The Muslim population in the northern part of Maluku build this "floating" Al-Munawarah mosque in 2003.

Golden Dome of Dian Al-Mahri mosque

Located in Depok town southwest of Jakarta, the Dian Al-Mahri mosque, also known as "Golden Dome Mosque", was built in 2003 - 2006 and can accommodate 20,000 worshippers. It is characterised by its five-gold plated domes.

The mosque was privately funded by Hjh Dian Djuriah Maimun Al-Rasyid, a businesswoman from Banten, West Java. The mosque is situated on a 50-hectre campus site surrounded by a library, schools and beautiful garden. Since its opening, the mosque has now become one of the major tourist destinations in the country.

Cheng Ho mosque, Surabaya

Admiral Cheng Ho (or Zheng He) was a Muslim naval admiral of the China Ming dynasty who arrived in Surabaya in 1410 and 1414. The mosque was built by the Muslim Chinese community in Surabaya to commemorate the relationship between Chinese muslims and people of Surabaya. Thousands of Chinese Muslims of Surabaya as well as Javanese locals perform their prayers together in this beautiful red-and-gold mosque.

Javanese Influence in Masjid Besar, Jogyakarta

This 238-year-old Masjid Gedhe or Masjid Besar Jogyakarta ("Grand Mosque") is part of the Jogyakarta Sultan's Palace which is located in Kampung Kauman, Jogyakarta in central Java. It was built on May 29, 1773, during the reign of Pangeran Mangkubumi.

Masjid Gedhe is among the oldest mosques in Indonesia, where Islam has been embraced by the Javanese since the 12th century. The architect of the mosque was Kyai Wiryokusumo. The Brunei Times