Al-Abrar Mosque

Al-Abrar Mosque is located at 192 Telok Ayer Street, in the historic Chinatown area. Established in 1827, it was a mosque for the Chulias, Tamil Muslims from south India, so it was also known as Masjid Chulia or Chulia Mosque. The present building was built between 1850 and 1855. The mosque was declared a national monument on 19 November 1974.

The Chulias, Tamil Muslims from south India's Coromandel Coast, were among Singapore's earliest immigrants from 1822. They lived and worked around the Singapore River, and had a strong presence in the Telok Ayer Street area. Al-Abrar Mosque was established in 1827, probably as a simple structure, thereby giving rise to its Tamil name, Kuchu Palli (kuchu means “hut” and palli means “mosque”). In Malay, the mosque was known as Masjid Chulia or Chulia Mosque.

The existing brick building was erected between 1850 and 1855. The building stands on land that was originally granted as a 999-year lease to Hadjee Puckery Mohamed Khatib bin Shaik Mydinas, a trustee for the Tamil Muslim community. A court order issued on 21 November 1910 appointed new trustees to look after the mosque, namely K. Mohamed Eusope, Thambyappa Rarooter, S. Kanisah Maricayar, V. M. Kader Bux and J. Sultan Abdul Kader. These men were also trustees for the Nagore Durgha Shrine on the same street and Jamae Mosque at South Bridge Road.

The mosque was featured in an 1850 painting by Percy Wallace of the view from Mount Wallich.

Prior to the 1980s, the mosque underwent minor repair and repainting works. Between 1986 and 1989, extensive additions and alterations costing an estimated S$1 million were undertaken that changed the architecture of the original building significantly. The man credited with the development of the mosque is Haji Mohamed Yusoff Hameed, a volunteer with the mosque since 1972 and its secretary since 1974.

The mosque was designated a national monument on 19 November 1974 and is now under the care of the Majilis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS).

Al-Abrar Mosque stands on a land area of 448.7 square metres that aligns with the urban planning grid while also facing Mecca. Set in a row of shophouses, the front of the building incorporates the five-foot walkway and is estimated to be the width of three shophouses.

The building is of simple architectural design. The central bay is framed by two large octagonal minarets topped by a crescent moon and star. In between, miniature minarets with domes rise from circular columns. Islamic in character, the dome effect is echoed along the façade with its latticed, vent-style balustrade. The Islamic merlon cresting is similar to that found on Sultan Mosque in Kampong Glam.

Originally a single-storey structure, the 1986-1989 renovations added a second storey where the imam of the mosque now resides. A large jack roof was also added, the prayer hall was enlarged, and the addition of an upper gallery enclosed the courtyard. The details on some columns were simplified. The building interior features French windows topped with fanlights and coloured glass.

The mihrab was enlarged, and the calligraphic inscription above it is taken from Surah Al-Fatehah of the Holy Koran.  It reads: “In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful, Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the Words, Most Gracious, Most Merciful Master of the Day of Judgement”.

Overall, the renovations increased the capacity of the mosque, which can now hold up to 900 people, five times the original number.

In 1998, the mosque acquired a neighbouring two-storey shophouse and turned it into a madrasah and a place for prayers.

Vernon Cornelius-Takahama and Joanna Tan

Beamish, J. (1985). A history of Singapore architecture: The making of a city (p. 58). Singapore: G. Brash.
(Call no.: SING 722.4095957 BEA)

Edwards, N. (1996). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places (pp. 405, 439, 486). Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: SING 915.957 EDW)

Hooi, C. (1982). National monuments of Singapore (pp. 12-13, 20). Singapore: National Museum.
(Call no.: SING 722.4095957 NAT)

Key man behind mosque's growth. (2000, September 17). The Straits Times, p. 46. Retrieved on August 24, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Keys, P. (1981, December 27). Grand buildings ... with £ood and medicine too. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved on August 24, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers (pp. 88-89). Singapore: Landmark Books and Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Call no.: SING 726.095957 LEE)

Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore (pp. 83, 89, 98-99). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: SING 725.94095957 LIU)

19th Century mosque to get $1m extension. (1986, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved on August 24, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Samuel, D. S. (1991). Singapore's heritage: Through places of historical interest (p. 31). Singapore: Elixir Consultancy Service.
(Call no.: SING 959.57 SAM)

Singapore Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1991). Al-Abrar Mosque preservation guidelines (Vol 1-2). Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board.
(Call no.: R SING 363.69095957 ALA)

Taking their place in history. (1974, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved on August 24, 2010, from NewspaperSG.

Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers' Singapore: Then & now (p.186). Singapore: Landmark Books.
(Call no.: SING 959.57 TYE)

Further reading
Al-Abrar Mosque. (2010). Retrieved November 4, 2010, from Preservation of Monuments Board website:

The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to 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.

Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Monuments
National monuments
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Architecture and Landscape>>Building Types>>Religious Buildings
Religious buildings
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