Istiqlal Mosque

Istiqlal Mosque, or Masjid Istiqlal, (Independence Mosque) in Jakarta, Indonesia is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia in terms of capacity to accommodate people and building structure. This national mosque of Indonesia was built to commemorate Indonesian independence, as nation's gratitude for Islam's blessings; the independence of Indonesia. Therefore the national mosque of Indonesia was named "Istiqlal", an Arabic word for "Independence".


After the Indonesian National Revolution 1945-1949, followed by the acknowledgement of the independence Indonesia from The Netherlands in 1949, there was a growing idea to build a national mosque for this new republic, befitting for a country with the largest Muslim population in the world. The idea of constructing a grand Indonesian national mosque was launched by KH. Wahid Hasyim, Indonesia's first minister for religions affairs,and Anwar Cokroaminoto, later appointed as the chairman of the Masjid Istiqlal Foundation. The committee for the construction of the Istiqlal Mosque, led by Anwar Cokroaminoto, was founded in 1953. Anwar proposed the idea of a national mosque to Indonesian President Sukarno, who welcomed the idea and later helped to supervise the construction of the mosque. In 1954, the committee appointed Sukarno technical chief supervisor.

There is several places proposed as the location of Indonesian national mosque; Mohammad Hatta, Indonesian vice president suggested that the mosque should be built on Thamrin avenue, on location where today stood Hotel Indonesia. Hatta argued that a mosque should be located near residential area and surrounded by Muslim communities. At that times the location is surrounded by Menteng residential area and traditional kampungs around Tanah Abang and Setiabudi area (today transformed into Thamrin-Sudirman business area). However Sukarno insisted that a national mosque should be located around the most important square of the nation, near the Merdeka Palace. This is in accordance to traditional Javanese culture that kraton (king's palace) and masjid agung (grand mosque) should be located around alun-alun (main Javanese city square), which means it must located near Merdeka square. Sukarno also insisted that the national mosque should be built near Jakarta Cathedral and Immanuel Church, to symbolize religious harmony and tolerance as promoted in Pancasila, Indonesian national philosophy. It was later decided that the national mosque was going to be build in Wilhelmina park right in front of the Jakarta Cathedral. To make way for this grand mosque, the Citadel Prins Frederick built in 1837 was demolished.

Sukarno actively followed the planning and construction of the mosque, including acting as the chairman of the jury for the mosque design competition held in 1955. The design submitted by Frederich Silaban, a Christian architect, with the theme: "Ketuhanan" (Indonesian: Divinity) was chosen as the winner. The foundation stone was laid by Sukarno on 24 August 1961 and the construction took 17 years. Indonesian president Suharto inaugurated the Indonesian national mosque on 22 February 1978. It is still the largest mosque in the region: more than 120,000 people can congregate at the mosque at the same time.


There are seven gates to enter the mosque, each named after Al-Asmaul-Husna, the names of God in Islam. The number seven represent Seven Heavens in Islamic cosmology. The rectangular main prayer hall building is covered by a 45 meter diameter central spherical dome, the number "45" symbolize the year of Proclamation of Indonesian Independence in 1945. The main dome is adorned with stainless steel ornamental pinnacle that took form of a crescent and star, the symbol of Islam. The smaller secondary dome is also adorned with stainless steel pinnacle with Arabic caligraphy of Allah. The dome is supported by twelve round columns and the prayer hall is surrounded by rectangular piers carrying four levels of balcony. Twelve columns represent the birthday of prophet Muhammad in 12th Rabi' al-awwal. The four levels of balcony and one main floor makes the main building of Istiqlal consists of five floors, the number "5" represent the Five Pillars of Islam while it also represent Pancasila, the five principles philosophical foundation of the Indonesian nationhood. Staircases at the corners of the building give access to all floors. The main hall is reached through an entrance covered by a dome 10 meters in diameter. The interior design is minimalist, simple and clean cut, with minimal adornment of stainless steel geometric ornaments. The 12 columns are covered with stainless steel. On the main wall on qibla there is a mihrab and minbar in the center. On the main wall, there is a large metalwork of Arabic calligraphy spelling the name of Allah on the right side and Muhammad on the left side, and also the calligraphy of Surah Thaha 14th verse in the center. The metalworks, stainless steel covers and ornaments were imported from Germany. Originally, just like National Monument nearby, the white marbles were planned to be imported from Italy. However to cut cost and to support local marble industry, later dicided that the marbles would be taken from Tulungagung marble quarries in East Java instead.

The main structure is directly connected to the arcades which run around the large courtyard. The arcades connected the main building with a single minaret in southern corner. Unlike many Arabic, Persian, Turkish or Indian Islamic mosque architecture that employ multiple minarets, Istiqlal mosque only have one minaret to symbolize the divine oneness of God. The minaret is 66.66 metres tall, the numbers is to symbolyze 6,666 verses, the traditional perception on the numbers of verses in Al Quran. The 30 pilars of the minaret symbolize the 30 juz' of Al Quran. On southern side near the minaret there is also a large bedug (large wooden drum made of cow skin), unknown in Middle East, muslim in Indonesia also uses drum next to adhan to signify the Islamic call to prayer. On the garden surrounding the mosque, on the southwestern corner there is a large pool and a grand fountain that bursting water 45 meters high. The fountain only operated in fridays during friday congregational salah. The river Ciliwung flow crossed the mosque complex. The mosque also provides facilities for social and cultural activities, including lectures, exhibitions, seminars, conferences, bazaars and programmes for women, young people and children.

Some Muslims in Indonesia said Istiqlal's dome and minaret structure was too modern and too Arabic in style. They regarded the architecture as being out of harmony with the Islamic culture and architecture in Indonesia. In response, former president Suharto began an initiative to construct more mosques of the Javanese triple-roofed design.


After president Barack Obama and his wife visited Istiqal Mosque in November 2010, about 20 foreign visitors came to see the mosque everyday. They mostly come from Europe. The foreign dignitaries that had visited Istiqlal mosque are; Bill Clinton President of United States in 1994, President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Libya Muammar Gaddafi, Prince Charles of United Kingdom, Li Yuanchao the vice chairman of Communist Party of China, President of Chile Sebastian Pinera, Heinz Fischer the President of Austria, and Jens Stoltenberg the Prime Minister of Norway.

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