Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Visit at the National Mosque

In December, members of the Museum Negara (National Museum) volunteer tour leader in training group had a tour of the National Mosque (Masjid Negara) in Kuala Lumpur.  The tour was in the morning as not to interfer with prayer times at the Mosque.  We were all requested to be appropriately dressed (long pants for men with long sleeved shirts, and women with long skirts and long sleeved blouses with high necklines and a scarf for head covering).  We noted that tourists who were inappropriately dressed were provided with robes and head covering during their stay at the mosque.

Since our group had a planned tour, we were provided with an hour long briefing regarding Islam by volunteers from the education staff at the Mosque.  We were also greeted warmly by a staff member of JAKIM (Department of Islamic Development - Malaysia).  Following an hour long briefing, we were divided into groups of six for our tour.  Local volunteer guides took us on the tour.

The mosque was built in 1965 and reflects a Malaysian architectural style.  The roof reflects an open umbrella with 16 ribs, while the minaret reflect the a closed umbrella.  The umbrella has long stood as one of the regalia representative of the Malay Sultans.  The mosque was build on land previously used as a church during colonial times but was repurposed for this use.

The main worship hall is open air and is capable of handling a crowd of over 3,000 people, while the entire mosque can handle 15,000 people.  Women can worship in the mosque but in a separate balcony hidden from the main floor by decorative screens.

Water plays an important feature at the mosque.  Several large pools flank the main worship hall, and at ground level ceremonial ablution (washing) areas are present.  Prayers are held 5 times a day, but the mosque is most busy for Friday noon prayers.  (Woe be to the casual tourist walking on the adjacent sidewalks when the masses come to prayers on Friday noon, the traffic is incredible).

Adjacent to the mosque on the same grounds is the Makam Pahlawam or Hero's Mauseoleum.  Technically outside of the mosque this is the burial grounds for some important Malaysian politicians.  We were told that mosques typically do not contain interments.

Other building nearby are the headquarters of JAKIM (Department of Religious Development), the Islamic Museum, and the Royal Police Museum.  Across the street is the old KL Station with its elaborate Mongul styled ornamentation.

Access for the visitor to the mosque is quite easy.  Take a taxi, take the KTM Commuter Train to KL Station exit through the station, take the underground passage across the street.  From the LRT go to Pasar Seni, walk on the elevated walkway to KL Station and follow the above directions.  A map and pictures is available from the Tourism Malaysia website.

Visiting the mosque

This National Mosque is tourist friendly, but please follow the following rules (Just like you would do when visiting the Vatican, a Buddhist Temple or other major religious center).

It is important to dress appropriately when visiting the mosque.  Men and women must wear conservative attire ( it is best to wear long sleeved shirts and blouses with high necklines, and ankle length pants or dresses, and women should carry a scarf to cover their hair, and men remove their hat).  If you come inappropriately dressed the mosque will provide you with long robes and head covering (but they look hot).  Time your visit so as not to interfere with prayer times (this is a house of worship, not a museum).

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