Maghrib at Kampong Gelam

9 01 2020

There is no better time of day than maghrib, or sunset, to take in Kampong Gelam. The winding down of the day in Singapore’s old royal quarter is accompanied by an air of calm brought by the strains of the azan – the Muslim call to prayer, and, as it was the case last evening, made a much greater joy by a colouring of the evening sky.

Masjid Sultan against the evening sky.

Viewed against that dramatic backdrop, Masjid Sultan – the area’s main landmark – looked especially majestic. The golden dome topped National Monument, Singapore’s principal mosque, stands just a stone-throw’s away from the former Istana Kampong Gelam. Erected by Sultan Hussein Shah’s heir Ali, the istana or palace, served little more than a symbolic seat of power which Hussein had all but relinquished in signing the Treaty of Friendship and Alliance in 1824. Now the Malay Heritage Centre, the istana is a showcase of the Malay world’s culture and a reminder perhaps of the last days and lost glory of a once mighty Johor-Riau-Lingga Empire.

Istana Kampong Gelam.

More on Masjid Sultan and Istana Kampong Gelam and the Johor Empire can be found at the following posts:

 

Masjid Sultan.

 





The call to prayer

20 07 2010

As a child I had always been captivated by the Adhan or the Islamic call to prayer. I would wake up just to listen to it echoing through the relative silence of the dawn with the crowing of cockerels as an accompliment in the welcome to the ligthening day, the voice of the muezzin filling the morning with an air with the distinctive melodic strains of the Adhan, whenever I am in the vicinity of a mosque on the many trips I made to Malaysia as a child. There were occasions when I could help the overlap of calls, reaching out to the faithful from the numerous pointed minarets rising out in the landscape, seemingly in competition with each other. However, the overlap of calls rather than complicate the otherwise sedate air somehow complement each other, ringing out in a surprisingly harmonious mixing of the distinctive voices of the muezzins. The call is made five times a day, calling upon Muslims to turn towards the Ka’aba in prayer, once as day breaks (Subuh), once at noon (Zuhur), once in the mid-afternoon (Asar), once as the sun sets (Maghrib), and the last at night (Isyak). This I guess, is something that we don’t often hear in Singapore. Here the call is not amplified through loudspeakers as it would be across the causeway, save maybe for one that rings out from the Sultan’s Mosque in Kampong Glam area. I am sometimes drawn to the are around the Sultan’s mosque at dusk, just to listen to the call ring out as day turns to night, engulfing the area in a sense of calm. As the strains of the Adhan fills the air, accompanied by the glow of the colours of the sky cast on the golden dome of the mosque, I am transported away from the world for that short moment when life seems to come to a standstill.

Waktu Maghrib at Sultan's Mosque in Singapore