Hajjah Fatimah Mosque



Hajjah Fatimah Mosque is located along Beach Road in the historic Kampong Glam area.1 Built between 1845 and 1846, the mosque was named after Hajjah Fatimah, a wealthy businesswoman. It is one of the few mosques in Singapore to be named after a female benefactor.2 The mosque used to be known as Java Road Mosque, after an adjoining road that has since been expunged.3 Combining eastern and western design elements, the mosque is known for its unique minaret, which resembles a church spire,4 and the noticeable tilt of its minaret, which has led some to refer to it as the “leaning tower of Singapore”.5 The mosque was gazetted as a national monument on 28 June 1973.6

Background
Hajjah Fatimah was born in Malacca and was said to be married to a Bugis prince from the Celebes (Sulawesi). After his death, she successfully carried on his trading business and amassed great wealth. According to historical accounts, her house was twice burgled and set on fire. To demonstrate her gratitude to divine providence for having spared her life, Hajjah Fatimah built a mosque on the land where her residence once stood. The mosque was eventually named after her.7

After her death, Hajjah Fatimah was buried in a private enclosure behind the mosque, and was later joined by her daughter Raja Siti and her son-in-law Syed Ahmed bin Abdul-Rahman Alsagoff.8 Ownership of the mosque passed to the Alsagoff family and then to the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS).9

Hajjah Fatimah Mosque was designed by an unknown European architect, and built between 1845 and 1846. As the minaret resembles the steeple of the Church of St Andrew (precursor to the present-day St Andrew’s Cathedral), some believe that its designer was John Turnbull Thomson, though there is no documentary evidence to support this view.10

The mosque has undergone alterations and additions over the years. In the 1930s, French contractors Bossard & Mopin and Malay artisans rebuilt the main prayer hall based on designs by Chinese architects Chung & Wong, thereby contributing to the mosque’s syncretic look.11

The mosque was designated a national monument on 28 June 1973 by the Preservation of Monuments Board (known today as Preservation of Sites and Monuments).12 Much-needed restoration and renovation works were undertaken around this time, including the water-proofing of the mosque’s dome and minaret as well as strengthening the building.13 

Features
The mosque is an eclectic blend of eastern and European architectural styles, as seen in the Indo-Saracenic-style, bulbous-shaped dome, the Moorish wooden balcony above the entrance gates, European-style pilasters with Doric capitals in the minaret, and Chinese glazed green tiles on the parapet.14

The mosque compound is bounded by a high wall. The complex consists of a minaret tower, a prayer hall, an ablution area, the imam’s residence, a mausoleum, small cemetery, gardens and ancillary buildings.15

The four-level minaret tilts at an angle of about six degrees, which led to it being called “Singapore’s leaning tower”. The tilt is caused by moisture seepage and shifting of the handmade bricks that were used in the construction of the tower.16

The main prayer hall is skewed from the main entrance to face Mecca. It is topped by an onion-shaped dome with 12 lancet-shaped windows fitted with yellow and green stained-glass panels. Lancet-shaped doorways and windows are found throughout the mosque’s architecture, providing ventilation to the interiors.17

The mausoleum behind the prayer hall houses the tombs of Hajjah Fatimah, her daughter and son-in-law, while a small cemetery in the garden inters the remains of Hajjah Fatimah’s other family members.18



Authors

Edian Azrah & Joanna Tan



References
1. Preservation of Monuments Board. (1991). Fatimah Mosque preservation guidelines (Vol. 1). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, [Foreword]. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FAT)
2. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW); Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Urban Redevelopment Authority for Preservation of Monuments Board. (1991). Fatimah Mosque preservation guidelines (Vol. 1). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 4. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FAT)
3. National Heritage Board. (n.d.). Hajjah Fatimah Mosque. Retrieved 2016, July 27 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Roots/Content/Places/national-monuments/hajjah-fatimah-mosque; Hancock, T. H. H., & Gibson-Hill, C. A. (1954). Architecture in Singapore. Singapore: Singapore Art Society. (Call no.: RCLOS 722.4095957 SIN); Siow, J. H. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 79. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE); Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)
4. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW); Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Beamish, J. (1985). A history of Singapore architecture: The making of a city. Singapore: G. Brash, pp. 58–59. (Call no.: RSING 722.4095957 BEA); Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)
5. The leaning tower of Singapore. (1996, November 30). The Straits Times, p. 11; Plea for cash to help repair S’pore’s ‘leaning tower’. (1974, May 17). The Straits Times, p. 9; The mystery of Singapore’s leaning tower. (1991, July 17). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Tyers, R. (1976). Singapore, then & now. Singapore: University Education Press, p. 180. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE)
6. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Subsidiary legislation supplement. (1973, July 6). Preservation of Monuments Order 1973 (S228/1973). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 377. (Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGSLS)
7. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 564–565. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC); Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)
8. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 564–565. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC); Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW); Ismail Kassim. (1973, April 27). A relic of the past is spared by builders. New Nation, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 564–565. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC); Ismail Kassim. (1973, April 27). A relic of the past is spared by builders. New Nation, p. 9; Ismail Kassim. (1974, August 31). The old and new of Singapore…. New Nation, p. 7; Mosque with a woman’s name. (2002, July 27). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura. (2016). Annual report 2015 (p. 73). Retrieved 2016, July 29 from MUIS website: http://www.muis.gov.sg/documents/Annual_Reports/MUIS_AR_2015-Full-FA-LR.pdf
10. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, pp. 269, 371. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW); Siow, J. H. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 79. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE); National Heritage Board. (n.d.). Hajjah Fatimah Mosque. Retrieved 2016, July 27 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Roots/Content/Places/national-monuments/hajjah-fatimah-mosque; Preservation of Monuments Board. (1991). Fatimah Mosque preservation guidelines (Vol. 1). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FAT)
11. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW); Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 96. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Uma Devi, G. (2002). Singapore’s 100 historic places. Singapore: Archipelago Press, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN); Untitled. (1933, August 5). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Urban Redevelopment Authority for Preservation of Monuments Board. (1991). Fatimah Mosque preservation guidelines (Vol. 1). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, pp. 22–23. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FAT)
12. Republic of Singapore. Government gazette. Subsidiary legislation supplement. (1973, July 6). Preservation of Monuments Order 1973 (S228/1973). Singapore: [s.n.], p. 377. (Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGSLS)
13. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW); Siow, J. H. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then and now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 79. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE); Fund to renovate mosque short by $162,000. (1974, June 5). The Straits Times, p. 23; Public give $140,000 to renovate mosque. (1974, July 7). The Straits Times, p. 5; Leaning mosque may end up with too much tilt. (1974, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 10; Leaning minaret: No more signs of tilting. (1975, December 31). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW); Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books and Preservation of Monuments Board, pp. 93–96. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, pp. 84–87. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Beamish, J. (1985). A history of Singapore architecture: The making of a city. Singapore: G. Brash, pp. 58–59. (Call no.: RSING 722.4095957 BEA); National Heritage Board. (n.d.) Hajjah Fatimah Mosque. Retrieved 2016, July 27 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Roots/Content/Places/national-monuments/hajjah-fatimah-mosque
15. Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 93. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 87. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); Preservation of Monuments Board. (1991). Fatimah Mosque preservation guidelines (Vol .1). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 28. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FAT)
16. Zaccheus, M. (2016, May 20). Mosque to be restored but ‘leaning tower’ to stay. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva; Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books, pp. 93–96. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Preservation of Monuments Board. (1991). Fatimah Mosque preservation guidelines (Vol. 2). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FAT)
17. Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 96. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, pp. 86–87. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); National Heritage Board. (n.d.) Hajjah Fatimah Mosque. Retrieved 2016, July 27 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Roots/Content/Places/national-monuments/hajjah-fatimah-mosque
18. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, pp. 86–87. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE); National Heritage Board. (n.d.) Hajjah Fatimah Mosque. Retrieved 2016, July 27 from Roots website: https://roots.sg/Roots/Content/Places/national-monuments/hajjah-fatimah-mosque; Preservation of Monuments Board. (1991). Fatimah Mosque preservation guidelines (Vol. 2). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 27. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FAT)



Further resources
Mosque brings memories of Malacca. (1981, November 29). The Straits Times, p. 48. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Mosque with a woman’s name. (2002, July 27). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Religious Buildings
Religious buildings
Monuments--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Religious buildings
Mosques--Singapore
Historic buildings--Singapore
Singapore--History--1819-1867