Istiqlal Mosque of Jakarta, Indonesia

First opened to the public by Indonesia’s first President, Soekarno, on 22 February 1978, the grand Istiqlal Mosque of Jakarta is the largest mosque in South East Asia both in structure and capacity, as it can accommodate congregations of up to 120,000 people.

Located at Jalan Taman Wijaya Kusuma in Central Jakarta, on the north eastern corner of the Merdeka Square, the Istiqlal Mosque stands out with its 45m diameter dome and tall minarets. Standing almost right across the old Catholic Church at the corner of Jalan Lapangan Banteng, the Istiqlal mosque was designed in 1954 by Frederich Silaban, a Christian architect from North Sumatra. The idea for the need of a national mosque was inspired by Muslim leader KH Wahid Hashim and executed by Cokro Aminoto, then minister for religious affairs. Istiqlal meaning ‘Independence’, is a reminder of Indonesia’s struggle for national Independence. Its 17 years construction was personally supervised by President Soekarno.

The mosque has a large rectangular prayer hall with a 45 meter diameter dome supported by 12 round columns, and has 4 levels of balconies. Its interior is mostly simple.

In his brief 18 hours visit to Indonesia on 9th and 10th. November 2010, US President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made a special visit to the Istiqlal mosque. An aside note which the President heard from the leader of the mosque, and which he relayed to the press, was that during Christmas mass, the mosque’s parking lot is used by the Cathedral’s congregation across the road. And vice-versa during Ied prayers.

Later President Obama praised the Istiqlal Mosque as a symbol of religious tolerance which characterizes Indonesia and Indonesians, inspiring the world.

There are seven gates to enter the mosque, each named after Al-Asmaul-Husna, the names of God in Islam. The number seven represent Seven Heavens in Islamic cosmology. The wudu (ablution) fountains located on ground floor, while the main prayer hall and main courtyard located on elevated first floor. The building is consist of two connected rectangular structures; the main structure and the smaller secondary structure. The smaller one served as main gate as well as stairs and prayer spaces. The rectangular main prayer hall building is covered by a 45 meter diameter central spherical dome, the number “45” symbolize the year of Proclamation of Indonesian Independence in 1945. The main dome is adorned with stainless steel ornamental pinnacle that took form of a crescent and star, the symbol of Islam. The smaller secondary dome is also adorned with stainless steel pinnacle with Arabic caligraphy of Allah.

The dome is supported by twelve round columns and the prayer hall is surrounded by rectangular piers carrying four levels of balcony. Twelve columns represent the birthday of prophet Muhammad in 12th Rabi’ al-awwal. The four levels of balcony and one main floor makes the main building of Istiqlal consists of five floors, the number “5” represent the Five Pillars of Islam while it also represent Pancasila, the five principles philosophical foundation of the Indonesian nationhood. Staircases at the corners of the building give access to all floors. The main hall is reached through an entrance covered by a dome 10 meters in diameter. The interior design is minimalist, simple and clean cut, with minimal adornment of stainless steel geometric ornaments. The 12 columns are covered with stainless steel. On the main wall on qibla there is a mihrab and minbar in the center. On the main wall, there is a large metalwork of Arabic calligraphy spelling the name of Allah on the right side and Muhammad on the left side, and also the calligraphy of Surah Thaha 14th verse in the center. The metalworks, stainless steel covers and ornaments were imported from Germany. Originally, just like National Monument nearby, the white marbles were planned to be imported from Italy. However to cut cost and to support local marble industry, later dicided that the marbles would be taken from Tulungagung marble quarries in East Java instead.


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