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Kampung Laut Mosque - A Living Museum

Updated: Feb 26, 2021

Masjid Kampung Laut is the oldest surviving mosque in Malaysia. Speculated to have been built by a group of seafaring missionaries in the 1730s, or even as early as the 1400s, the all-timber mosque is, by most accounts, a living museum.

The history of the mosque has been pieced together over the decades through the recounting of tales from Kampung Laut elders, as well as studies by researchers who travelled to places where old mosques of similar architecture were built.

(Photo credit : Wikipedia)

The accepted story behind Masjid Kampung Laut is that the seafaring missionaries faced danger when their ship sprang a leak. They are believed to have made a vow that if they reached shore safely, they would build a mosque where they landed. As luck would have it, they found themselves ashore at Kampung Laut, and immediately built a mosque there with the help of the locals.

The original mosque was a basic structure with four pillars and palm fronds for its roof, measuring 400 square feet. Between 1859 and 1900, it became an important meeting point for religious scholars in the region, and correspondingly Kampung Laut flourished as a trading post. During this period, the mosque was expanded and upgraded with 20 pillars, a three-tiered roof, a tower (for muezzin to call for prayers), a water tank, and more, while the flooring was made of sturdy chengal wood.

Masjid Kampung Laut's strikingly classic architecture is a combination of traditional local style with Javanese influence, giving it a timeless aesthetic quality. Only highly-skilled craftsmen and builders were commissioned in the building of this mosque, with every piece of locally-sourced building material handcrafted to perfection. (Photo credit : Pinterest)

It has survived two big floods. The first was in 1926, known as Bah Air Merah, and the second in 1966. Unfortunately, the second flood severely damaged the building when portions of the mosque close to the river was swept away by flood waters. Some of its stilts were left dangling in the air when the ground underneath was washed away by the flood.

As a result, in 1968 the mosque was moved from its original location to Nilam Puri, where it is today. This was done to protect the priceless and unique architecture of the building from further damage. The original architecture has been retained except for the damaged parts, which were replaced when it was dismantled and painstakingly rebuilt at the new site by the Malaysian History Society.

(Photo credit : Pinterest)

Masjid Kampung Laut remains an active religious centre catering to the residents of Nilam Puri, and is one of the country’s most important heritage sites. While it continues to draw the Muslim faithful, researchers and history and architecture students also come here to unlock and get insights into the vast history and knowledge found within its walls.


Sources : Wikipedia, The New Straits Times (Nik Imran Abdullah / Kerry-Ann Augustin)

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