Bintulu Mosque circa 1920
Today I would like to give myself a special treat. Yesterday I went over to my father's house to inquire a couple of things historical.
I was so pleased that he showed me a picture of the Bintulu Mosque from his collection of rare pictures of Bintulu. I will slowly release some of these pictures on the web.
However, today I would like to take the liberty to show the original Bintulu Mosque building built sometime in 1920.
The present mosque has seen too much renovation, rebuilding and modification that it has totally lost its original appeal, elegance and form.
Eagerly I produced my notebook and jotted these points while my father remembered the details. He is now 85 years old.
He recalled that at the fragile age of 4 he used to pray in the mosque. Reason being the "Imam" ( leader of the congregation) was his grandfather by the name of Hj.Abdul Samad bin Hj. Abdul Hadi. He was the first " Imam". His son, Dahlan bin Hj. Abdul Samad was the first "Khatib" or sermon reader.
The mosque was built entirely of " belian " a local hardwood species. It was the main material
for the major building elements such as the posts or columns, roof, floorboards, trusses, fencing and verandah.
Many things strike out to be very peculiar and telling in the picture.
- a) The forest around the mosque was heavily vegetated with the commercially viable sago palm.
- b) Only two houses are seen close to the mosque. On the right is the residence of the muezzin or "Marbot" as thel ocal Melanau referred him.
- c) The two towers or minarets are for two muezzins to call the people around the mosque to pray at the 5 appropriate times of the day.
- d) The one farther in the background has a "beduk" or drum that is sounded before the call of the prayer. ( No microphones or loudspeakers then)
- e) On three sides of the building runs the verandah or " serambi" in the local dialect . This space acts as rest area and double as a function area for small gathering especially when food is served.
- f) The whole building is raised above the ground approximately one meter high.
When I compare today's picture, I just wonder what development has done to the spiritual environment of the mosque. Today's mosque is surrounded by squatters and make-shift structures. The main throughfare is a one-way road that goes round the kampung and passes by the mosque. This road is noisy, small and polluted from the automobile and motorcyles fumes that pass by.
There is no original charm and serenity like the good old days!
My vote for whoever will have the sense to put up a new mosque worthy of a prosperous Bintulu probably at the old airport site if it is to be re-planned or re-modelled after all.