Unusually named after a woman, Hajjah Fatimah Mosque is an interesting small historical mosque in Kampong Glam, the Malay heritage area of Singapore.
Hajjah Fatimah binte Sulaiman (around 1754-1852) was a wealthy Malay businesswoman from Melaka married to a Bugis prince. Widowed at a young age, she successfully took over her husband’s business. In the late 1830s, after her house was robbed several times and then burnt, in gratitude to Allah for her escaping unharmed she donated land and funds (and her name) for the mosque. Hajjah Fatimah’s philanthropy also included several houses for the destitute. She was acclaimed for her contributions to female empowerment in Singapore, and in 2005 added to Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame.
Thought to have been completed in 1846 by British colonial surveyor and architect John Turnbull Thomson (who also developed infrastructure in New Zealand), the mosque is a mix of Eastern and Western styles. The prayer hall was refurbished in the1930s by local architects Chung and Wong using a French contractor, Bossard Mopin, and Malay craftsmen. During this phase, a typical onion-shaped dome was added, contrasting with the existing unusual and distinctive tiered eight sided minaret, which has been likened to a church spire, although it’s probably more influenced by the Portuguese design of Melakan mosques. The interior includes Malay and Chinese elements.
Beach Road, where the mosque is located, was formally beachfront Singapore. Sandy soil has caused the minaret to subside; it has a distinctive lean. The problem has been rectified through renovation work, and it won’t continue to tilt further, but locally it’s dubbed the “Leaning Tower of Singapore”. Hajjah Fatimah Mosque became an official national monument in 1973. The grave of Hajjah Fatimah lays in a mausoleum within the mosque grounds.
Visitors are welcome outside of prayer times as long as you’re respectfully dressed (shoulders and knees covered), however unlike nearby Sultan Mosque, there’s no one here to show you around. If you have a particular interest in colonial or Islamic architecture, it’s worth a visit, otherwise if you’re in the area, it’s an interesting quick stop.
By Sally Arnold
Last updated on 27th May, 2016.