When we went to Langkawi for New Year’s, the only thing we planned out was a day of snorkeling and then watching the fireworks on the beach. Other than that we had no set plans. This was probably our most relaxed trip and we ended up having a good time just wandering around Kuah, the town we stayed in, and checking out other parts of the island.
The first thing we did after our day of snorkeling and swimming was to visit Al-Hana Mosque. We’d only been living in Malaysia for about two months and hadn’t visited any yet, so when we saw a mosque just down the street from the hotel we decided to walk down there after breakfast and check it out.
The proper Islamic term for a mosque is Masjid. Mosque is just the English equivalent, so the proper name for this mosque is Masjid Al-Hana Langkawi. But I’m going to keep calling it Al-Hana Mosque because it’s feels more natural for me.
Al-Hana Mosque was built in 1959 and inaugurated by the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman. From the time it was built until now it has been the largest and most popular mosque on the island. The structure combines Islamic motifs from Uzbekistan with Malay-style architecture and follows conventional mosque design by having a large gilded main dome surrounded by several smaller ones.
Visiting the mosque was nice. There was nobody else there when we were there, so we just wandered around and took our time.
The first room we visited was the Prayer Hall. This room is the central room of a mosque is called musalla, which means “place for prayer”. There is no furniture in the prayer hall since worshipers sit, kneel, and bow directly on the floor. Chairs can be brought in to assist elderly or disabled worshipers who have difficulty with mobility. The carpet in most mosques will have lines or some form of design that is in a straight line so that worshipers can arrange themselves in orderly rows.
Along the walls and pillars of the prayer hall, there are usually bookshelves to hold copies of the Qur’an, wooden book stands (rihal), other religious reading material, and individual prayer rugs.
The curtained area in the corner is the area set aside for the female congregants to pray in private, though most women pray at home where they are unencumbered by their formal outerwear.
While the furnishing may be sparse, the decor is quite lovely. The main prayer hall has abstract floral patterns and selected verses from the Quran etched into the walls along with beautiful stained glass.
I learned in my Art History class last semester that Islamic art does not depict actual floral themes nor do they paint or carve animals and humans because Muslims believe that it violates the Second Commandment regarding graven images. So, basically, they avoid any type of decor that represents anything that can be found in nature. I’ve found it very interesting that the artists have created such beautifully abstract vegetal designs that don’t actually depict plants, but are clearly inspired by them. It’s quite beautiful.
And then at the back of the prayer room are both the mihrab and the minbar.
The mihrab is an ornamental indentation in the wall of a mosque, which marks the direction of the qiblah, which means “direction of the Ka’aba”. The Ka’aba, the most sacred site in Islamic culture, is located in Mecca, which is why most people think Muslims pray to Mecca. The Ka’aba is their religion’s House of God. Muslims are required to pray facing in the direction of the Ka’aba and the mihrab marks the exact direction for them.
Mihrabs vary in size and color, but are usually shaped like a doorway and elaborately decorated to make the space stand out.
Next to the mihrab is the minbar. The minbar the place from which sermons or speeches are given. The minbar is usually made of carved wood, stone, or brick. It includes a short staircase leading to the top platform,.
This was by the mihrab. At first I thought it was a list of prayer times for that day, but there are 7 clocks and Muslims only pray 5 times a day. My other theory is that the top 5 clocks are the prayer times an the bottom 2 are sunrise/sunset times, but I can’t find anything to support that. I really think it’s the prayer times with the sunrise/sunset times, but don’t quote me on that because I have nothing other than my own thoughts to back that up. For all I know, it could be a list of different time zones around the world.
***EDIT: Many thanks to Nazifah for leaving a comment explaining the clocks. This is what she said,
“The 5 clocks above is the five daily prayers. From the right, it shows the afternoon prayer, late noon prayer, sunset prayer, night prayer & morning prayer. Each prayer normally takes about 7-10 minutes.
In the second row; the clock on the left is the imsak time which is few minutes before the morning prayer begins. This time is important for fasting, we should stop taking meals and start fasting. And the clock on the right is the syuruk time which means the end time for morning prayer.”
Once we left the prayer room we wandered around the rest of the mosque. It’s not quite as fascinating as the prayer hall, but it still has some neat things to see. Outside we found this water font. Before praying, Muslims must wash their hands, mouths, arms, feet, face, heads, necks, nostrils and ears. This is one of the sites at the mosque where this is done.
This is an overflow area for when there are too many people to fit in the main prayer hall. This one isn’t as comfortable and I’m betting this is done as incentive for people to arrive early for prayers.
Found a mirror and decided to take a picture of myself. We went to a local shop the night before so I could purchase a headscarf. The ladies in the shop said it would be too difficult for me to learn how to put the scarf on correctly myself without someone to walk me through it in the morning, so they just told me to wear it like this. They giggled a bit when I modeled it for them and said I would make a lovely Muslim. haha.
I love how the windows are shaped like the onion dome on the top of the building. It really makes everything so cohesive.
This reads: Official (i think it’s the office). Council Meeting. Seminar Hall. Refectory. Prayer Hall. Male Toilets. Men’s Ablution. Health is a shared responsibility.
And because there is a Islamic children’s school just next to the mosque, it also says: Children are forbidden to wash clean in this ablution. Please remove your shoes below.
Wouldn’t you just love to have an outdoor table like this in your backyard? I know I would. It’s pretty fantastic.
Even the fences match the mosque. I’d love to have this around my yard, except without the onion domes. Maybe just a ball or dish.
Here you can see some of the speakers that broadcast the call to prayer 5 times a day.
This is the other cleaning area. It looks much more modern than the other area and able to accommodate more people, so I’m assuming that this area was added several years after the original mosque was built.
This is the Islamic school next to the mosque. I love how bright and happy all the colors are.
Before we left, a taxi pulled through the gates and drove over to us. The driver spoke decent English and asked us if we needed a ride anywhere. Since our hotel was just down the street and the next place we were going was within walking distance, we told him no, thank you. He then started asking us where we were from. He actually thought we were Syrian, since we were white. But after he found out we are Christian Americans, he was completely floored. He wanted to know why I was dressed like a Muslim woman and we told him that we wanted to visit the mosque in a respectful manner. He was delighted and said he couldn’t wait to tell his wife about us. And then he gave us his card, saying said he’d love to drive us around if we needed a taxi while we were in town.
We were quite surprised, actually, about the whole conversation. That had never happened before. This was our first time visiting a mosque and it was nice to see that our desire to dress respectfully had made a positive impact on someone. We left the mosque feeling quite happy and glad we’d made the time to go there.
- Opening Hours: 24 hours
- Location: Lencongan Putra 2 (located beside the Kuah Tourism Information office)
- Dress: Shoes must not be worn inside the mosque. Women should be modestly dressed (clothing that covers the body from the wrists to the ankles).
- Note: Visitors are required to remain quiet as a sign of respect to those in prayer. I’d recommend not visiting on a Friday since that’s when the most locals will be there. We were there about 8:30 am and there was nobody there, so going first thing in the morning would be a good idea if you want to avoid other people.