"Modern eyes maybe more accustomed to the minarets and domes of the Middle East, but Indonesia's early mosques sometimes blended Islamic, Hindu and Chinese architectural styles where roofs varied from flat tiers to tiered domes to flat domes."
Jakarta’s mosques reflect a diversity of architectural styles, historical, and cultural influences. Masjid Luar Batang (Sunda Kalapa) was built in 1739, although those responsible for the management of the mosque claim that it was established around 1700. National hero Sayid Husein bin Abubakar of the Abdillah al-Aidrus, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad SAW through his daughter Fatimah, was exiled by the Dutch but managed to return to Sunda Kalapa and establish the mosque. He was later buried there in 1756, and his tomb is incorporated into the structure of the mosque.
The 5,780-metre site is now regarded as a sacred place and is visited by many pilgrims from Indonesia and abroad. While it contains certain European architectural features, the main gate to the two-storey mosque is decorated with reliefs similar to those fond on Java’s old Hindu temples. It is closely connected with the history of Sunda Kalapa and subject to a local government preservation order. Architects claim that when the Rp 5 billion restoration is finished, the mosque will become an object of interest for all tourists visiting the area as well as maintain its traditional role as a place of worship, pilgrimage and education, as well as an Islamic Centre.
Located on Jl Hayam Wuruk, and not far away from Sunda Kalapa, is Masjid Kebon Jeruk. The name is something of a misnomer, and has nothing to do with the large district of the same name located in the heart of the city’s west. Situated on the other side of the river Ciliwung and close to the Jayakarta Hotel, the mosque was built in the peranakan style in 1786 by a Mr. Tchoa, who was in charge of Jakarta’s Chinese Muslims from 1780-1797. The term peranakan was given to Chinese who had married Balinese wives. Back in those days, many Chinese converted to Islam as a result of the riots and massacres of 1740, which saw the Chinese confined to areas outside the old city. Because the had no mosque of their own, he built the mosque on top of his own home. The tomb (1792) of Fatimah Hwu, rumoured to be the wife of Mr. Tchoa, is also located on this site and is notable for its eclectic mix of chinoiserie and Arabic influences. The Arabic figure for 1792 is visible as are the heads of dragons.
The mosque at one stage also contained ceramic tiles depicting people, not permitted under Islam. Islam tradition condemns the pictorial depiction of the Prophet SAW as well as all living creatures for fear that it may lead to pagan worship. Geometric or arabesque forms are preferred.
In time, Indian, Arab and other ethnic minorities also used the mosque. Renovated in 1957, it remains in poor condition although the original shape of the first mosque can still be seen.
Southeast Asia’s largest mosque, Masjid Istiqlal, is situated within walking distance of the National Monument (Monas), and stands opposite Jakarta’s Catholic Cathedral. Designed by a Christian architect, construction began in 1961 during the heyday of the Soekarno era (1945-1965) and reflects that era’s love of design on a monumental scale – the mosque can accommodate up to 10,000 worshippers. The immaculately manicured lawns, gardens, fountains, lakes and waterways are spread over a spacious 9.5 hectares of land.
Mosques have also had to battle the onslaught of developers. But in the case of Masjid Hidayatullah, which sits on Jakarta’s main business thoroughfare Jl. Sudirman, Central Jakarta,t he exotic old Pagoda style mosque seems to have come into its own. Modern eyes may be more accustomed to the minarets and domes of the Middle East, but Indonesia’s early mosques sometimes blended Islamic, Hindu and Chinese architectural styles where roofs varied from flat tiers to tired comes to flat domes. The careful restoration of this mosque, obtained as a concession from the developers of the site, makes it an oasis for worshippers. That’s also in keeping with the basic principle that mosques are also designed to create “a space of serenity rather than exaltation.”
Masjid al-Azhar is a mainstream mosque built alone the lines of the large traditional mosques found in major Islamic capitals around the world, and which site side by side with universities, schools and libraries, just as they did centuries ago in Baghdad, Isfahan and Samarkand. Jakarta’s modern Masjid al-Azhar complex in suburban Kebayoran Baru contains the well known school of the same name, large playing fields, a library and other facilities.
The days of Governor Coen have long gone, and mosques are now part of the infrastructure of many housing complexes in Jakarta, and constructed almost as soon as he roads are made. In other areas, local residents have to battle hard to find the funds to build their mosques. Their rewards are most certainly in heaven. For Muslims, the building of mosque constitutes an act of great merit, a fact noted in the following Hadith (saying): “Whoever builds a mosque desiring God’s pleasure, God builds for him the like of it in paradise.”