Monday, August 11, 2014

Manila Golden Mosque and a Piece of Islamic History (Philippines)

Manila Golden Mosque is located in the heart of Quaipo's Barter Trade (aka the land of pirated DVD's). I gathered enough courage to visit it after its renovation (basically repainting and some colorful tile patchwork on the exterior walls). 

Entrance to the Golden Mosque
I was greeted by an imam at the gate. I handed him P20, which was unusual for a mosque. I've never paid for visiting a mosque anywhere in Islamic Asia, except at Jamai Masjid in Delhi (India). But what's 20 bucks, right? The imam wanted small talk and when he heard where I lived, his eyes lit up. "Can you tell Santanina Rasul to come visit us," he said. I told him I have no idea where the former lady senator lives. Nor do I have any intentions of visiting her, I thought.

Inside the mosque, people were either praying or sleeping on the cool, glistening tile floor. Even in Malaysia, people would use mosques for sleeping when they should be for praying. But then that's their territory so who am I to say? Some kids walked with me to check out the grounds, and I knew I'd be alright. 

The Golden Mosque isn't in anyway as grand as the ones in neighboring countries. After all, there are only about 5 million Filipinos who practice the religion - or 5% of the country's 100 million population. There are ongoing debates about this statistic, declaring that this number is gravely "under-counted", but until proven otherwise, let's agree on that and avoid subjective estimation.

Islam is considered the oldest monotheistic religion to have entered the country between 12th and 14th century, by way of the natives’ trading relations with Muslims from the Persian Gulf, the Malabar Coast in Southern India, and the Malay archipelago. Arab trader Karim ul’Makhdum arrived on the islands of Sulu in 1380. Accompanied by "hui hui" (a term essentially referring to Muslims from mainland China who were also spice traders in Yemen, Egypt and India), he subsequently built the first mosque in Simunul Island in Tawi Tawi; the first in the country - the Sheik Karimal Makhdum Mosque, now declared a "national treasure". Makhdum is credited for establishing Islam in the Philippines. Such is his legend that others believe that he could "walk on water". However, this could be an intrinsic reference on "sufi saints".

Isn't that a crucial page of Philippine history that hasn't been adequately told? One wonders why there's not even a single photo of Makhdum available anywhere.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

My young "guides".

Uneven coat of gold paints the domes.

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