National Monuments Of Singapore: Al-Abrar Mosque
What is a National Monument? Who gazettes them? How many national monuments are there in Singapore? To date, the Preservation of Sites and Monuments, a division of National Heritage Board, has identified and gazetted 75 buildings, structures and sites of national significance as an integral part of Singapore’s built heritage.
And we're here to tell you all about them - one National Monument at a time!
Here they all are on a Google Map we specially created. Every Wonderwall.sg logo, or "W", indicates a spot where a National Monument of Singapore is located:
You've probably passed by or stepped into more than a few of them without realising they were National Monuments: Asian Civilisations Museum, the Civilian War Memorial, Saint Andrew's Cathedral, the Esplanade Park Memorials, Fort Siloso on Sentosa - no need to plan an itinerary for friends visiting from overseas; just show them this article ✌️
In this edition, we zoom in on one of Singapore's oldest mosques, Al-Abrar Mosque.
Al-Abrar Mosque was the 10th building to be gazetted as a National Monument in Singapore, and is located right beside other iconic National Monuments - the Thian Hock Keng Temple, Former Keng Teck Whay Building and Former Nagore Dargore. The MRT station nearest to it is Telok Ayer.
📅 Significant dates
- 1827: Began as a simple thatched hut
- 1850-1855: Construction of the present brick mosque
- 1986-1989: Underwent a series of major renovations
- 1998: Acquired a neighbouring two-storey shophouse, turned it into a madrasah (a place for study) and a place for prayers
Date gazetted: 19 Nov 1974
IMAGE: NG KAI
Al-Abrar Mosque was established in 1827 as a simple thatched hut, which gave rise to its other Tamil name, Kuchu Palli (which means "Hut Mosque" in Tamil). The existing brick building was erected between 1850 and 1855. It stands on land that was originally granted a 999-year lease to Hadjee Puckery Mohamed Khatib bin Shaik Mydin as a trustee for the Tamil Muslim community.
On 21 Nov 1910, a court order was issued, under which new trustees were appointed to look after the mosque. The same trustees also looked after the Former Nagore Dargah on the same street, and Jamae Mosque on South Bridge Road.
IMAGE: NG KAI
Prior to the 1980s, the mosque underwent minor repairs and repainting works. The building’s architecture changed significantly after extensive additions, and alterations were undertaken between 1986 and 1989.
After the major renovations during the 1980s, an additional floor was added to the original single-storey building, and the prayer hall was enlarged. The courtyard between the entrance gate and the prayer hall was also covered up to form a gallery extension above. Additional space was also acquired from the adjacent shophouse and converted into a prayer hall for women. Today, according to the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS), the mosque has a capacity for 500.
IMAGE: NG KAI
A man credited with the development of the mosque is Haji Mohamed Yusoff Hameed, a volunteer with the mosque since 1972, and its secretary since 1974. The mosque was designated a national monument on 19 Nov 1974 and is now under the care of MUIS.
IMAGE: NG KAI
📐 Design and architecture
Al-Abrar Mosque is set in a row of shophouses, with a frontage the width of of three shophouses. Incorporated into the façade is the five-foot-way, which seamlessly connects the mosque with the neighbouring shophouses. The lot lines of the prayer hall conveniently coincide with the qibla (the direction of the Kabba, the sacred building at Mecca, to which Muslims turn at prayer). Formerly confined to the central bay, the parapet was extended on both sides, lining the entire front façade of the mosque.
Borrowing elements from the Indo-Islamic architectural style, the design of the mosque sets it apart from other shophouses in the vicinity. Two tall octagonal minarets flanking the main entrance – each crowned with the Islamic symbols of a crescent moon and a star – distinguish the façade as that of a mosque. These same minarets have been a visual landmark in the area since the mid-19th century.
IMAGE: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/@SENGKANG
In addition, the use of European Neoclassical features adds a touch of eclecticism to the mosque. The interior of the prayer hall is lined with Doric columns. Coloured glass panels were installed in the fanlights above the large French louvred windows. On top of the mihrab (which indicates the orientation to Mecca, towards which Muslims would pray) is a blue glass panel, with a verse from the Quran in Arabic.
🕖 Opening hours
Regular visiting hours are weekdays from noon to 8.45pm daily. The mosque is closed on the weekend.
Entry is free.