Monthly Archives: September 2011

Study – Islamic Architecture in the Malay Peninsula – Part 4 – North Indian Style

Almost two weeks of no posting…I’m sorry but life is getting busier by the day and exhausting me both physically and mentally. But now I have some spare time to spend, I am continuing the Islamic architecture in Malay Peninsula series.

Next in the series is the North Indian Style. This style, mostly used in the Malay Peninsula in the early 20th Century be easily recognized by the usage of of Onion dome in many sizes, spires and domed canopies. This style is similar to the Mughal style architecture in North India, hence the name.

Kapitan Keling Mosque in Penang Malaysia

There are two theories as to why this particular style to be used in the Malay Peninsula. One theory is that this style is the colonialists’ (read : the European powers especially the United Kingdom) to accept their version of Islam or to differentiate the styles in their own countries versus their colonies. This might be true when many of the government offices built during this period also features the same Style. Simply put, the colonialist chose a different, ‘exotic’ style of architecture as opposed to the classical language of their monuments and religious buildings. Thus, they would have the Classical style in their hometown, but an exotic cityscape in their colonies. As the United Kingdom took hold India as their colony, it is a sensible choice to take the architectural style there to other colonies for example in the Malay peninsula as a continuation.

Another theory is that the style is that the Indian Muslim merchants, building mosques in their native styles. As the merchants return to their homelands, it might be the explanation of why the style declined in popularity as the local population no longer associate Islam with the Indian merchants.

The floorplan of mosques in this style is inconsistent unlike the other style mentioned before. However, as stated above, one can easily distinguish the North Indian style with other styles. All buildings of this style features arches with indents, multifoiled or horseshoe. This recalls the Indian mosques with Hindu influences. These arches themselves mostly are used to cover walkways around the mosques or as decorative accents. Domes are of many different sizes from small ones covering the walkways to large ones covering the main prayer hall. These domes were onion in shape(picture the domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Russia) and built mainly out of concrete or aluminum sheets. Spires ending in smaller domes are abundant and very common feature in this style, as well as a multitude of minarets and covered, domed pavilions, very similar to ones featured in Hindu temples.

Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams (Earth) by 15:26, 26 December 2005


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Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #45 – Islamic Stars in our Daily Life

This article is just a casual look into Geometric shapes, particularly Islamic stars and motifs, and its role in the daily life as aesthetics. These pics were all taken by me, in the time frame of  between Ramadan and the early weeks of Shawal and the Eid.(Although I have to considerably resize all the photos to a fraction of the original size just because WordPress doesn’t allow a 12mp picture to be posted. My bad.)

A biscuit I was munching on after Iftaar (breaking the fast). Actually it was two biscuits sandwiching a lump of coarse, sticky pineapple jam, the other one with the lump of jam was already in its way to the digestive system of my body. A little close inspection and you would realize that the shape resembles a 12-pointed star. Get me another bunch of these and I will make you an edible wall covering.

A fabric on sale in a Mall here in Brunei. It was intended for making a women’s dress. I was just passing by the stall that is selling it with my parents and I immediately stopped and thought, Zellige! So I stayed a few minutes since my mum was also looking at something else. I thought, I should post this on my blog. The colours, though in my opinion a little bit somber, but the splash of orange was a nice touch and gives it a modern look. Just saying.

A small key-chain bag I bought as a souvenir when I was in Bali, Indonesia.  It is a small bag suitable for keys and loose change chained to a key ring and wrapped in Batik fabric. I took it because it looks nice and the colours are good enough for a guy like me to tote around and wait…isn’t that the ubiquitous Eight-pointed stars and cross pattern so much loved in the world of Islamic art? I guess people tend to notice the snowflakes design before the geometric pattern.

I had a rather crazy idea of making lamp shades when I saw a few modern light pieces with Islamic design influence online. This one is an utter failure, but it still casts pretty shadows off my walls in the night. I replaced the IKEA lampshade with my own creation made using perforated with star designs construction paper (!) laminated with plastic. I need to concentrate and take it slow, because this was made in just a day!

In Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore (not sure about the Indonesians), During Eid or Hari Raya Aidilfitri in Malay kids were given green (or in this case yellow, since these days it comes in a myriad of colours already) packets filled with money called Angpow/Angpao– a tradition taken from the Chinese where they would give children and unmarried girls and boys red Angpao during the Chinese New Year. I received these when I was a child and stopped around my early teenage years (my nephew who is 14 this year still received it, no fair!). this is the pack I was going to give to my nephews and nieces and I noticed the beautiful panel of Arabesques and Islamic geometric star.

All that is done, I would like to convey a deep sympathy for the family of two girls who died in a freak accident ; a tragic incident here that causes a wide stir among the Bruneian population. Just a few days ago an unfortunate accident happened in the Primary School in Mabohai, Brunei where two preschoolers died  when a teacher of the school reversed her car and ran onto the children. I don’t have any ideas about how  the unfortunate mishap happened other than this, and since the local news were also unreliable, it is only safe to say that only the poor victims knew what really happened. I would like to say deep condolences to the families affected…May Allah guide their souls.

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Study – Islamic Architecture in the Malay Peninsula – Part 3 – European Classical

Now the Eid celebrations here in Brunei is slowly going to a stop, I can now resume the blogging, especially now I have a few days off and some spare time to spend time adding a few articles to this blog.

This article is a continuation of the Islamic Architecture in the Malay Peninsula  series where I try to categorize the styles of Islamic architecture, particularly mosques, in the Malay Peninsula. according to period. In the last past of the series I was focusing on Sino-Eclectic style where mosques share similarities and shows apparent influences from Chinese architectural features.

This article focuses on the European Classical style, integrated to Islamic architecture in the Malay archipelago. This particular style is mostly used in around 1800’s, where Europeans, particularly the English traveled into the Malay archipelago in the interest of business and finding settlements as well as colonies.

The European Classical style refers to the style that derived from Greco-Roman period architecture, also known as Classical architecture , where it was fashionable in architectural terms somewhere around the 1800s , post-Renaissance Europe. The Greco-Roman style features Columns primarily as well as elaborate ceilings and cornices, amongst other. This style is carried to the Malay Archipelago by the European settlers late in the 1800’s when it became favoured because of its uniqueness especially by the royalty.

Taken by Terence Ong in June 2006

Masjid Negeri Sultan Abu Bakar, the State Mosque of Johor, Malaysia

When mosques were built in this style they show characteristics that differs from other prior styles used. One of the characteristics is the usage of elaborate, European style decorations such as cornices, and plasterwork around windows. There are also extensive use of semi-circle or flat arches particularly for portals, above doors and as windows, similar to the ones found in any post-renaissance buildings in Europe. Masonry are preferred in this style while ceilings uses timber trusses as a nod to English tradition.

The main building of the mosque are usually built on a foundation of concrete a meter above ground and tiled. The main prayer hall is usually square in plan with gabled roofing in the shape of a pyramid, not unlike the Traditional Vernacular style. However, the difference between the two styles lies in the roof where Traditional Vernacular style usually has 3 tiered roofs, a nod to the older Hindu/Buddhist influenced style, as well as topped with finials that resembles those found on Balinese or Javanese roofs. The European Classical, however, usually features a single tired Gable roof topped with Islamic moon-and-star finial.

The Minaret of Sultan Ibrahim Mosque, Muar, Johor Malaysia

Minarets in this style differs from any other styles in the Malay Archipelago. Minarets could be square in shape, but it is not uncommon to find circular or even hexagonal shaped ones. as with the main building of the mosque, they also feature arches both flat and semi circular ones for the doors and windows, as well as extensive usage of decorative cornices. One mosque in this style, The Sultan Ibrahim Jamek in Muar, Johor, features a circular (or cylindrical shaped) minaret with decoration and bay windows that it somehow resembled a bell tower for a basilica. The minarets are topped usually with European style domes (the ones similar to domes in the Victorian architecture) or in some cases triangular roofs, with typical Islamic finial of crescent moon and star.


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