Curious about the mosques that you spot around the island? Here's what you need to know and where to visit the breathtaking mosques in Singapore…
Have you ever wondered why many local Muslim men disappear at Friday lunchtime? Perhaps you’ve heard the beautiful singing coming from a building and been tempted to get a closer look. Chances are you are near a masjid, the Malay word for mosque. Here’s our guide to the majestic mosque – what you should observe, when you can pay a visit, and which mosques in Singapore you should keep your eyes peeled for.
What you need to know about mosques in Singapore
When is a good time to visit a mosque?
Mosques are busy at Friday lunchtimes because all Muslim men must do their best to attend the service at the mosque. This is when the Imam, an Islamic holy man, gives a special address or prayers. He’ll stand on a minbar (similar to a pulpit – see if you can spot one!) but will never stand on the top step as this is reserved for the Prophet Muhammad and is a sign of respect. Whatever you do, don’t stand on it! Thus, Friday is not the best time to see the mosque as it will be incredibly busy. Any other time is recommended.
What are the dos and don’ts when visiting a mosque?
Rule number one: do not flash the flesh. Bodies should be covered from the shoulders to below the knees. Psst, don’t worry if you are unprepared, as the mosques have long robes you can borrow for free while you’re inside. Remember to turn the noise down and turn the computer games off. Gasps of admiration are acceptable!
What should you look out for
Now that you know the rules, here’s what to spot inside a mosque. There are three major art forms in the Islamic world – flowers and foliage (representing the garden of paradise), calligraphy, and geometric patterns and shapes (the Islamic world loves mathematics and science. Psst, they invented trigonometry!). See how many different art forms the littlies can spot while looking around. Fun fact: Islam’s symbol is a rising moon and star, which symbolise Islam as a rising religion. The symbol was created in the seventh century C.E.
Mosques have beautiful carpets or prayer mats instead of chairs or pews (pictured above). This is because when Muslims pray, they do so in whole-body movement, including a full prostration on the floor. It’s a wonderful thing to watch in motion. Muslims pray in the direction towards Mecca, the birthplace of the Prophet Muhammad (see if you can find it in the mosque). All of the mosque’s walls are plain, apart from one brightly decorated wall, called the Qiblah. This is the direction Mecca is in, and tells devotees which direction to pray in.
Breathtaking mosques in Singapore for you to admire
1. Sultan Mosque
The most well-known mosque in Singapore is Sultan Mosque, which was completed in 1824. The mosque was built for Sultan Hussain Shah, the first sultan of Singapore. Wonder why it looks similar to the palace in Disney’s Aladdin, rather than the other local mosques, which take their design from traditional Malay mosques? The answer is in the architect! Sultan Mosque was designed by an Irishman, Denis Santry.
Sultan Mosque, 3 Muscat Street, Singapore 198833
2. Al-Ansar Mosque
Located at the junction of Chai Chee Street and Bedok North Avenue 1, this breathtaking mosque is able to accommodate up to 4,500 worshippers. It underwent renovation and upgrading works in the 2010s, which included changing its exterior facade from green to blue, improving access for the elderly, and transforming the minaret into an elevator shaft. Al-Ansar is one of the few mosques that offer religious classes in Tamil.
Al-Ansar Mosque, 155 Bedok North Avenue 1, Singapore 469751
3. Yusof Ishak Mosque
This mosque is named after Singapore’s first President; it was opened in 2017 by the former President’s widow. Yusof Ishak Mosque’s design and architecture were inspired by the President’s official and private residences. If you noticed, the mosque doesn’t have huge pillars or domes; instead, it corporates the look and feel of a contemporary Nusantara house. Yusof Ishak Mosque is accessible from Woodlands South MRT Station.
Yusof Ishak Mosque, 10 Woodlands Drive 17, Singapore 737740
4. Maarof Mosque
Back in the day, the original Maarof Mosque served devotees within the Kampong Jawa and Beach Road vicinities. It has since been demolished, and a new mosque in Jurong West took on its name in order to create awareness of important mosques in Singapore that no longer exist. The mosque’s exterior features modern designs with Islamic patterns, making it look like an Islamic art museum. Keep a lookout for Kiki, the mosque’s resident cat when you pop by!
Maarof Mosque, 20 Jurong West Street 26, Singapore 648125
5. Abdul Gafoor Mosque
If there’s one mosque in Singapore that you ought to visit, it’s Abdul Gafoor Mosque at Little India. The bright yellow and green will deffo draw you in! This national monument is a mix of South Indian, Moghul, and European influences. Check out the architectural features such as the many minarets on the roof deck and the large Corinthian columns at the four corners of the building. Psst, don’t miss the sunburst design that crowns the entrance – it features the names of the 25 prophets in Arabic calligraphy! You can take a guided tour of the mosque to learn more about it.
Abdul Gafoor Mosque, 41 Dunlop Street, Singapore 209369
6. Darul Ghufran Mosque
Tampines is home to Darul Ghufran Mosque, AKA the largest mosque in Singapore. Renovated and expanded, the mosque was reopened by President Halimah Yacob in 2019 and can now accommodate up to 5,500 worshippers. Another new feature is the Youth Hub, an inclusive space for youths to gather and seek knowledge on Islam. Psst, its previous azure blue panelling earned the mosque its nickname “Menara Biru”, which means blue minaret in Malay.
Darul Ghufran Mosque, 503 Tampines Avenue 5, Singapore 529651
7. Assyafaah Mosque
This four-storey mosque is a replacement for two former mosques, Naval Base Mosque and Jumah Sembawang Mosque. Assyafaah Mosque stands out for its integration of Islamic symbols with contemporary architecture. There’s a 33-metre high steel tower in place of the traditional minaret, and skylights in the roof naturally light up the prayer rooms.
Assyafaah Mosque, 1 Admiralty Lane, Singapore 757260
8. Hajjah Fatimah Mosque
One of the few mosques in Singapore to be named after a woman, Hajjah Fatimah Mosque (pictured up top) sits on the site of Hajjah Fatimah’s family home. It’s said that the businesswoman and philanthropist dedicated the land for a mosque to be built as a sign of gratitude, after her house was broken into twice and set on fire. The mosque’s well-known feature is its four-level minaret, which leans six degrees off-centre due to moisture seepage. The minaret is often referred to as Singapore’s Leaning Tower. Because of its Indo-Islamic and European features, Hajjah Fatimah Mosque is said to resemble St Andrew’s Cathedral.
Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, 4001 Beach Road, Singapore 199584
9. Al-Abrar Mosque
Founded in 1827 and gazette as a national monument, you might not notice Al-Abrar Mosque until you stop right in front of it. That’s how seamlessly the mosque connects to its neighbours! It is a mixture of South Indian and European Neo-Classical designs, with octagonal minaret-style towers flanking its entrance. If you decide to enter the mosque, be sure to admire the blue glass panels installed above the mihrab.
Al-Abrar Mosque, 192 Telok Ayer Street Singapore 068635
10. Jamae Mosque
Take a few steps down after Sri Mariamman Temple in Chinatown, and you’ll face Jamae Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in Singapore. This national monument stands out along the South Bridge Road stretch for its South Indian architecture. Besides facilitating official religious activities, Jamae Mosque also frequently holds seminars and discussions for both Muslims and non-Muslims. Only in Singapore will you see a Buddhist temple, a Hindu temple, and a mosque located near each other. That speaks volumes of the country’s multiculturalism!
Jamae Mosque, 218, South Bridge Road, Singapore 058767
Next time you’re near a mosque, have a look inside and see another part of Singapore’s vibrant culture and tradition!