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The mosque is one of the most noticeable places of worship in Malaysia, and the call to prayer by the muezzin reminds foreign visitors that Islam is the official religion of this country. Islam first arrived in Malaysia in the 13th century when Arab traders sailed to the Golden Chersonese (old name for the Malay Peninsula) in search of gold and spices.

During the expansion of the Melaka Empire, Islam was disseminated along, necessitating places of worship to be built in various parts of the land. These early structures were wooden, thatch-roofed mosques. Over the centuries, however, the architectural styles of mosques in Malaysia have demonstrated splendid growth and aesthetic interpretations, making visits to mosques an educational and enlightening experience in art, architecture and culture.

The design characteristics of a mosque can indicate the period in which it was built. Traditional mosques dating back to the pre-18th century follow certain design elements of a Malay house. These structures were made of timber and clay tiles and erected on stilts. A high level of craftsmanship was usually invested in such structures as intricate carvings are always found in the mimbar (pulpit) and mihrab (niche denoting the direction of Mecca).

A fine example of an ancient traditional mosque is the Kampung Laut Mosque in Nilam Puri, Kelantan, that was constructed without any nails. Built in the 1730s, it is the country's oldest mosque. Another traditional mosque is the Kampung Langgar Mosque in Kota Bahru, built in 1871.

Alongside the period influences, there was also the impact of external culture on mosque design. Admiral Cheng Ho of China brought along with him Chinese design elements. Melaka's ancient mosques such as the Tengkera Mosque features a minaret resembling a Chinese pagoda. Cultural influences also come from other ethnic groups as Muslim merchants from Java, India and Pakistan established their communities in Melaka and Penang. When the British arrived, local mosque design drew heavily from Moorish architectural styles as many of the British architects had previously served in North India. The most famous being the Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur. During colonial times, even Art Deco elements were used in mosque design. One such example is the Sultan Sulaiman Mosque in Klang.

After Malaysia's independence in 1957, local architects handled the design of mosques. To capitalise on advancements in building technology, they used modern materials such as steel, marble and concrete. Aesthetics was also given high importance by incorporating landscaped gardens, paved pathways, fountains and lighting. Latticed arches, onion-shaped and top-shaped domes as well as tall minarets were popular features of early post-independence mosques.

Such elements can be seen in the National Mosque at Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin in Kuala Lumpur. Completed in 1965, it is made of reinforced concrete and Italian marble. Pools of water in its courtyard create a serene ambience while Islamic geometric latticework adorns its walls, exuding elegant beauty. Another impressive modern mosque is the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah Mosque in Shah Alam, Selangor. Inspired by an Ottoman mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, and opened in 1988, it boasts the worlds tallest minarets and biggest dome. Its roof is made of steel finished with vitreous enamel.

Currently, many newer mosques are based on the architectural styles from the Middle East. Completed in 1998, the Al-Asyikin Mosque at KLCC is surrounded by a moat and its twin minarets rise 45 metres, echoing the Petronas Twin Towers. Marble and water features are prominent features of its design. One hour's drive from Kuala Lumpur, the Putra Mosque is a big tourist draw. Overlooking the scenic Putra Lake, it showcases Persian architecture from the Safavid period. Completed in 1999, it has a 116-metre high minaret and paved courtyards. The minaret is divided into five levels to represent the Five Pillars of Islam, and is influenced by the design of the Sheikh Omar Mosque in Baghdad.

With so much historic and architectural grandeur, the mosques of Malaysia are a true testament to the highly refined aesthetics of Islamic art that continues to awe and inspire.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1.

From paragraph 1,

a) what is significant about the call to prayer in Malaysia ?

b) when and who brought Islam to Malaya ?

  2.

From paragraph 2,

a) describe the early designs of mosques in the country.

b) what kind of experience can be derived when visiting a mosque ?

  3.

From paragraph 3,

a) what does the design of a mosque indicate ?

b) mention what early mosques were based on.

c) where are the intricate carvings found in mosques ?

  4.

From paragraph 4, what is unique about the Kampung Laut Mosque in Nilam Puri, Kelantan ?

  5.

How are mosques in Malaysia a true testament to the highly refined aesthetics of Islamic art ?

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Answers
 

1.

a) It reminds foreign visitors that Islam is the official religion of the country.

b) When Arab traders sailed to Malaya in search of gold and spices.

 

2.

a) They were wooden, thatch-roofed mosques.

b) The visit is an educational and enlightening experience in art, architecture and culture.

 

3.

a) It can indicate the period in which it was built.

b) They were based on the design elements of a Malay house.

c) They are in the pulpit and niche denoting the direction of Mecca.

 

4.

It was constructed without any nails.

 

5.

It is the fine craftsmanship shown in the building of the mosques.

 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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