Vice President Ansari visits Indonesia’s historic Istiqlal Mosque

Jakarta: Vice President M. Hamid Ansari, who arrived here this evening on the first leg of his five-day two-nation visit to Indonesia and Brunei, visited the historic Istiqlal Mosque.

The vice president was accompanied by his wife Salma Ansari, Indonesian and Indian officials.

The Istiqal Mosque is Indonesia and South East Asia’s largest. It is regarded as the national mosque of Indonesia and was built to commemorate Indonesia’s independence, and named “Istiqlal”, an Arabic word for “independence”.

The mosque was first opened to the public on February 22, 1978. It is located next to the Merdeka Square and the Jakarta Cathedral in Jakarta.

After the Indonesian National Revolution 1945-1949, followed by the acknowledgement of Indonesian independence from The Netherlands in 1949, an idea grew to build a national mosque for the new republic, which has the largest Muslim population in the world.

The idea for constructing a national mosque was launched by Wahid Hasyim, Indonesia’s first minister for religion affairs, and Anwar Cokroaminoto, who was later appointed as the chairman of the Masjid Istiqlal Foundation.

The committee for the construction of the Istiqlal Mosque, led by Cokroaminoto, was founded in 1953.

The then President of Indonesia, Sukarno, welcomed the idea and initially supervised the mosque’s construction, as its technical chief supervisor.

Several locations were proposed for the mosque, but it was later decided that it would come up in the then Wilhelmina Park, in front of the Jakarta Cathedral. To make way for the mosque, the Citadel Prins Frederick, built in 1837, was demolished.

The planning and construction of the mosque was actively followed by President Sukarno. Its design was submitted by

Frederich Silaban, a Christian architect from North Sumatra, with the theme “Ketuhanan”, meaning “Divinity” in English.

The foundation stone of the mosque was laid by Sukarno on August 24, 1961, and it took 17 long years to construct.

President Suharto inaugurated it on February 22, 1978.

The mosque has seven entrances, and all seven gates are named after Al-Asmaul-Husna, the names of Allah. The number seven represents the Seven Heavens in Islamic cosmology. The wudu (ablution) fountains are on the ground floor, while the main prayer hall and main courtyard are on the first floor.

The building consists of two connected rectangular structures: the main structure and the smaller secondary structure. The smaller one serves as main gate as well as stairs and prayer spaces.

The rectangular main prayer hall building is covered by a 45-meter diameter central spherical dome; the number “45” symbolizes the 1945 Proclamation of Indonesian Independence.

The main dome is adorned with a stainless steel ornamental pinnacle in the form of a crescent and star, the symbol of Islam. The smaller secondary dome is also adorned with a stainless steel pinnacle with the name of Allah (God) in Arabic calligraphy.

The dome is supported by twelve round columns, and the prayer hall is surrounded by rectangular piers carrying four levels of balconies.

The twelve columns represent the birthday of Prophet Muhammad.

The main floor and the four levels of balconies make five floors in all, with the number five representing the five pillars of Islam.

The interior design of the mosque is minimalist, simple and clean-cut, with a minimum of stainless steel geometric ornaments.

On the main wall, there is a large metalwork in Arabic calligraphy, spelling the name of Allah on the right side and Muhammad on the left side, and also calligraphy of Surah Thaha 14th verse in the center. The metal works, stainless steel covers and ornaments were imported from Germany.

Originally, the white marbles were planned to be imported from Italy, but it was later decided that the marbles would be brought from the Tulungagung marble quarries in East Java.

The main structure is directly connected to the arcades that are spread around the large courtyard. The arcades connect the main building with a single minaret in the southern corner.

The Istiqlal Mosque has a single minaret to symbolize the divine oneness of God. It is 66.66 meters tall to symbolize 6,666 verses, the traditional perception of the numbers of verses in the Quran. The 30-meter-high stainless steel pinnacle on top of the minaret symbolizes the 30 juz’ of the Quran.

On the southern side, near the minaret, there is also a large bedug (large wooden drum made of cow skin).

Traditionally, Muslims in Indonesia use the drum with the adhan (call to prayer). The mosque provides facilities for social and cultural activities.

In the southwestern corner of the garden surrounding the mosque, there is a large pool and a grand fountain that spouts water 45 meters high. The fountain only operates on Fridays during congregational salat and during Islamic holidays such as Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha.

The River Ciliwung flows across the mosque complex and along the eastern side of the mosque. (ANI)