Kampong Glam – A stroll during Ramadan

Last Saturday marked the beginning of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. This prompted me to take a stroll in one of Singapore’s historical site, the Sultan’s Mosque located at Muscat Street and its vicinity.

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^ The Sultan’s Mosque is named after Sultan Hussein Mohammad Shah, the first Sultan of Singapore. After signing a Treaty with Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 ceding Singapore to the British Crown, Sultan Hussein Shah, with a grant given by the British East India Company, instructed Temenggong Abdul Rahman to build an Istana (Istana is a Malay word for palace) and a mosque at Kampong Glam where the community of Muslims can worship. The area developed into a thriving business community consisting of Javanese, Buginese, Boyanese and Arabs merchants trading in spices, cloths and many other goods brought from their homeland. By the early twentieth century, the mosque was in a state of disrepair. The Trustees of the mosque and the leading Muslim residents manage to raise funds for a reconstruction. Designed by Denis Santry of Swan & Maclaren, reconstruction works started in 1925 and the mosque was completed in 1928. From then till now, minor repairs were carried out as well as the addition of an annex in 1993. Largely, the mosque has remained unchanged till today. On 14th Mar 1975, the Sultan’s Mosque was gazetted as a national monument.

sultan'smosque01A c1950
^ An old file photo of the Sultan’s Mosque. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1950). You will notice the old pre-war shop-houses lining on both sides of the road. Today, the road has been converted to a pathway for pedestrians as seen in the previous photo. The shop-houses were refurbished but yet retaining an old world charm reflective of the community it was before.

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^ Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar where Muslims are called to fast from dawn till dusk. Fasting is the 3rd Pillar of Islam where it is aimed to remind the believer on the more important spiritual aspects of the faith and to detach oneself from the material desires of life. The 1st Pillar of Islam is the affirmation of the believer to follow the righteous path with God’s guidance, that there is only one God and Prophet Mohammad is the Messenger of God. The 2nd Pillar of Islam is where a Muslim is called to pray 5 times a day facing the direction of the Ka’aba located at the holy city of Mecca. The 4th Pillar of Islam is known as the zakat (alms-giving) where Muslims are called to be charitable. The 5th Pillar of Islam is where every Muslim, financially and physically able, to perform the Haj (pilgrimage) to Mecca. It is an opportunity for the believer to have a closer spiritual experience with God as well as to seek forgiveness and to forgive one another.

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^ A beduk. The next photo describes more.

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^ In the past, a call to prayer for Muslims living in villages were made by beating the beduk instead of the loud-speakers you hear nowadays. Muslims fulfill their daily prayers 5 times a day – at dawn, noon, mid-afternoon, sunset, and at night.

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^ A map showing the historical sites of Kampong Glam where the Sultan’s Mosque is the centrality of the community living in the area. The street names in the district of Kampong Glam bear the influence of early Arab immigrants with names like Kandahar Street, Arab Street, Muscat Street, Bussorah Street, Baghdad Street, Haji Lane, Jalan Sultan, Sultan Gate.

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^ Zam Zam Singapore. You may have experienced a great deal of perspiration from eating all that hot and spicy food without any air-conditioner in the past. At least now, the restaurant’s upper floors have been air-conditioned for its patrons for a more comfortable and relaxing meal.

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^ Haji Lane…a walk back in time along this narrow street.

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^ Along the corridors of shop-houses, fabrics, textiles, knick-knacks can be found.

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^ The skills of such a trade like carpet-weaving are passed down from generation to generation. The family name synonymous of a specialized trade is upheld with honour and prestige.

sultan'smosque09A c1963 Bussorah Street
^ An old file photo of Bussorah Street. (Photocredit: National Archives of Singapore, circa 1963). On display are cakes, sweets and other things you can find when Muslims prepare to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan…Hari Raya Puasa Adil Fitri.

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^ Adding more variety to the bazaar…Ramly burgers.

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^ The entrance to Istana Kampong Glam.

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^ The grounds of Istana Kampong Glam which was once the seat of Malay royalty. This area is part of the conservation project of Kampong Glam. On 12th Mar 1999, it became the Malay Heritage Centre.

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^ Umbrellas with floral designs on display on the grounds of Istana Kampong Glam.

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^ Intricate designs on fabric that speaks a lot more than just shapes and colours.

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^ For those who chew sireh, you will know what this is. The next photo tells a bit more of the…..

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^ ….. Cembul.

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^ An old horse-drawn carriage before the introduction of the electric trams and motorised vehicles on the roads of Singapore.

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^ A prahu. Very fast sailboat. I came to learn that Kampong Glam got its name from a group of Orang Laut from the Glam tribe who resided by the sea. The prahu provided the orang laut a means of transportation not to mention some nefarious activities like piracy on the high seas. It is said that the bark from the Glam tree is used for making awnings and sails. The timber is used to construct the boat as well as for use as firewood. Its fruit is grounded for use as pepper. Its leaves boiled into a concoction as a form of medication to cure rheumatism.

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^ A scaled-down model of a Minangkabau palace “Istana Basa” , West Sumatra, Indonesia.

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^ If you would like to take a stroll soaking in the ambience of Kampong Glam or visit the bazaar, this notice will come in handy.

Taking this opportunity to wish all our Muslim friends, their families and the community…a meaningful Ramadan. May your spiritual renewal culminating in the celebration of Hari Raya Puasa Aidilfitri be one filled with love, joy, and peace.

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3 Responses to “Kampong Glam – A stroll during Ramadan”

  1. py Says:

    Thanks for this post. I have a liking for and good memories of Kampong Glam.

  2. Zul Says:

    Nice framing & story too

  3. marissa Says:

    Just what I needed! Thank you so much for that one photo of pre war shophouse.

    MANY THANKS!

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