Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, a Symbol of Unwavering Islamic Faith
Exploring Brunei’s capital Bandar Seri Begawan is an enjoyable experience; you can see some nostalgic buildings and contemporary ones too but what caught our eyes the most was the alluring mosque that dominate the city’s skyline. This iconic building is the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque or known as the SOAS Mosque. It is a famous landmark and tourist destination that will always be on tourists’ must see list in Brunei.
Regarded as one of the most beautiful mosques in the world, it started construction on 4th February 1954 and took 4 years to be completed. On Friday the 26th of September 1958, the mosque was officially opened to public with its very first Friday Prayer.
Located on a 5 acre site surrounded by an artificial lagoon, the mosque has a size of 225 feet in length and 86 feet in width which can accommodate a congregation of approximately 3,000 worshippers. The mosque features many superior quality materials at the time of its construction; the marble flooring is imported from Italy, stained glass and chandeliers from England, granite from Shanghai and handmade carpets from Saudi Arabia. A local design, Kalat or also known as thick rope is plastered on the outside columns. The most recognizable feature of the mosque is the huge round dome made from gold. The artificial barge was later built in 1967. The barge is a replica of a 16th century Sultan Bolkiah Mahligai Barge.
The SOAS Mosque has a large prayer hall for men while the women’s prayer room is separated and located upstairs, which can be accessed by a staircase. There is also a particular place called the Mimbar where the Imam (leader) would read the khutbah or the Friday Sermons during Friday prayer. If you notice there is an escalator, it is used by the Royal Family for a more non crowded praying environment. Just outside the mosque, there are separate men and women ablution areas provided. The mosque is surrounded by beautiful gardens, brimming with flowers and shrubs, water fountains and also benches for visitors and congregants to admire the view of the majestic mosque.
Not only does the mosque hold large congregation prayers, it is also used for royal solemnizations like the royal marriage ceremony. A notable royal marriage ceremony held here was His Royal Highness Prince Al-Muhtadee Billah ibni Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’Izzaddin Waddaulah with Her Royal Highness Paduka Seri Pengiran Anak Isteri Pengiran Anak Sarah binti Pengiran Salleh Abdul Rahaman on the 5th of September 2004.
Visiting hours for Non-Muslims inside the mosque are on Mondays to Wednesdays, starting from 8:30AM to 12:00 noon, 1:30PM to 3:00PM and 4:30PM t0 5:30 PM. On Thursdays, the mosque is closed for visitors. On Fridays, it is only open from 4:30PM to 5:30PM. On Saturdays and Sundays, the visiting hours are similar with those on Mondays to Wednesdays. It is closed during prayer time or any religious activities. Visitors are required to remove shoes, dress appropriately (non-revealing clothing or long pants that cover the knees) as to shown sign of respect while women are given robes to wear at the main entrance. Taking pictures inside the mosque is not permitted by the authority but yes, you can take pictures outside.
The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is a well kept history and the first national mosque of Brunei Darussalam. Not only it is part of the history but it is a symbol of strong Islamic faith in Brunei Darussalam.
By Amir Izzat
Pictures by Willie ki