Istiqlal & at-Ta’awun: Independence & Tranquility

The specification of Istiqlal Mosque is poetry of symbolism. Beyond the fact as the biggest mosque in South East Asia, it numbers is a homage to Islamic tradition. The dome diameter of 45m marks the year of Indonesian independence and the immense gratitude of the Indonesian people to Allah. This is combined with another dome of diameter 8m to indicate the month of independence. The minaret height of 6666cm denotes the number of verses in the Quran while the diameter of 5cm echoes the pillars of Islam and prayer times. It is then topped with a steel spire of 30m that signify the 30 juz in the Quran. The twelve pillars in the main prayer hall celebrate the birthday of Prophet Muhammad on 12 Rabiul-Awal. A great contrast to Indonesian architecture tradition that mainly utilize wood and timber, Istiqlal Mosque are mainly built using local marble and steel imported from Germany. However, it still retains the beduk that is traditionally sounded before the call to prayer. It is built using the timber of 300 year-old meranti and cowhide. Irony of Istiqlal Despite being the most populous Muslim nation, the national mosque of Indonesia is designed by a Christian architect named Frederich Silaban. His design was announced as a winner on 5 July 1955 after several meetings of the jury panel at Istana Negara and Istana Negara. The jury panel is composed of prominent figures such as Prof. Ir. Rooseno, Ir. H Djuanda, Prof. Ir. Suwardi, Hamka, H. AbubakarAceh and Oemar Husein Amin while President Soekarno himself is the chief jury. As a mosque built to celebrate independence from colonial powers it is ironic that the construction is greatly delayed by the rise of Soeharto’s authoritarian New Order government in 1965. The project is only resumed when the Religious Minister KH. M. Dahlan restarted fund raising effort. KH. Idham Chalid later steps in to act as the managing coordinator.Only after 17 long years the the mosque is finally officiated in 1978 by President Soeharto. Harmony Oddly enough, the arcade walls that enclose the outdoor prayer area not aligned with the direction of the qibla. It’s rather dumbfounding at first since it can be interpreted as an erroneous error in the construction.

However, when looking at the mosque in a larger context, such alignment made it appear congruous with the National Monument. Seen from central business district of Jakarta, it is as if the monument is the minaret of Istiqlal Mosque. In Malaysia, it is common for grand mosques to be fitted with air conditioners but Istiqlal mosque relied mostly on natural ventilation throughout its open layout. The balcony is especially designed to encourage airflow. Combined with the usage of marble, the main prayer hall is cool enough for worship despite the hot sweltering climate. Furthermore, the rushing commuter train provide periodic boost of gust into the mosque. At-Ta’awun: The Mosque at the Peak The mountainous area of West Java or simply known as Puncak (Peak) offers cool, fresh air and breathtaking view not unlike Cameron Highland. Its hills and valleys are filled with tea plantation, vegetable gardens and flower nurseries. This natural beauty also reminds us of the greatness of Allah in creating this world. Realizing this, the Muslim community of West Java aspires to erect a mosque at the peak as a place to rest, refresh and reflect. A fund was set up under the purview of the Governor of West Java and the contribution came from all walks of life. The Governor of West Java R. Nuryana officiated the mosque on 24 March 1999. It is not only as a place of worship but also as a beneficial monument that became the pride of West Java. The name at-Ta’awun also portrays the spirit of cooperation that leads to the building of the mosque. A stream runs through the left side of the mosque and diverted into artificial brooks and ponds in the mosque compound. Visitors must dip their feet in the cool brook to reach the main prayer hall, effectively ensuring cleanliness of the area. The white flat domes that become the main motif of the mosque allow it to quickly dissipate heavy downpour that it frequently face. Glass is also used to take advantage of the inspiring vista surrounding the mosque. Stained glass decorations further enhance the overall aesthetics, complimented with the wooden flooring and mihrab.