The Blue Mosque - Notice the Islamic calligraphy (see below for detail) decorating the dome (and even the walls) of this mosque, as well as other Islamic mosques and structures (the Taj Majal has such calligraphic designs). Pictures are considered haram (forbidden) in mosque architecture.
Shah Alam is a city that nestles at the Klang Valley in the state of Selangor, some 25 kilometers west of KL, and 35 minutes by train. This has to be mentioned to underline the fact that it can be easily visited for a day-out! It is also the first planned city in Malaysia after its independence in 1957. Its most famous landmark is a disarmingly beautiful mosque – the Blue Mosque – aka the Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Mosque – which is claimed to be the world’s largest mosque. Its distinguishing feature is a blue-and-white dome surrounded by 4 minarets (towers) in arabesque fashion, rising 460 feet into the sky.
The mosque was commissioned by the late Sultan Abdul Aziz when Shah Alam was proclaimed as the new capital of Selangor during the 1974 Valentine’s Day. Construction began in 1982 and was finished 6 years later (1988). It can accommodate 16,000 worshippers.
MY ARRIVAL – WHERE TO?
Upon my arrival at the Shah Alam train station, it was just 10 paces beside the road where I hailed a RAPID KL commuter bus no. 101. The door up front led inside a comfortable, air-conditioned bus. I deposited 1 malaysian ringgit RM ($0.29) at the payment box – they don't have change so make sure you have the exact amount - then took the seat at the back of the driver (who sits at the right side of the bus). To alight from the bus, you have to push the bell button located by the window. The bus will stop at the next designated stop – usually a waiting shed.
I couldn’t help admire how clean the surroundings were – residential areas, a few rows of restaurants, playgrounds and a park, then commercial establishments, Kompleks PKNS, a City Aquarium, Wet World Water Park and malls. 35 minutes from the train station, the bus had its last stop at the back of a May Bank. The sun was bearing down the pavement. Mapapalaban ako nito.
I reached the marble floor. I took my shoes off and carried them to a stall some 50 paces away, at the facade. This mosque was huge – and though I hate walking around na nakapaa - without a pair of shoes – I was brimming with excitement! There were a few tables selling shirts, caps, books and those white muslim get-ups (I forgot the name). To get to the prayer hall, I had to walk up the spotless stairs. Thank heavens I still had my socks on! Everyone else was barefoot! Even going to the puddly toilet would be in barefoot! Eww!
I stood by the door, and just peeked inside! Heavens, I am sure it wasn’t forbidden to take a peep inside. By this time, a steady stream of men was walking past me. MEN! Where were the ladies? This was after 2 PM, and men were scurrying inside the hall, which was immense, and had a pious atmosphere! God knows, I needed to photograph this, but how?
I saw a small door by the side, and a cramped winding stair that led to a seemingly hidden enclave, facing the prayer hall! My gosh! I had goosebumps. In there, I saw the women! All covered with white burqah – if that’s how they call it in Malaysia. The women were apparently secluded – and have a much smaller prayer hall of their own, upstairs! Snap! Snap!
SECLUSIVE, SECRETIVE NATURE
Now I don’t mean to desecrate the mosque by photographing these halls. I just think it’s a good idea to share to the world how beautiful and peaceful and solemn it is inside. It is this secretive, seclusive nature of the Muslim religion that somehow allows wild imagination to run wild. If they were more welcoming and more open, most people would see that Muslims are no different from Catholics who pray in churches; or from the Anglicans in England or any religious group the world over, and there is absolutely nothing to fear within the realm of this religion which suffers a certain stigma among non-muslims.
Find my way out, I noticed more and more people rushing in, walking towards the mosque. Cute little school boys were led by their teacher. People rushing off their cars, or bicycles. That’s what I love about the institution that is religion. It equalizes a group of humanity. That everyone within the same religion kneels down and prays to a mighty One. The thought comforts me. Sometimes, being inquisitive, like an Eye in the Sky pays up big time – like this time.