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Masjid Paloh Ipoh – Mosque Open Day: ITM 2023

The inaugural Islamic Tourism Month 2023, which was held from 21st August until 17th September 2023, has wrapped up on a successful note. There were many activities planned around the country not only for tourists but also locals. One of the highlights of the month-long event was the “Mosque Open Day”, which saw a number of mosques participating by welcoming the public from all walks of life and faith to partake in activities that had been specially planned for the day.

Masjid Paloh declared a heritage buidling in 2012
Masjid Paloh declared a heritage buidling in 2012

In Ipoh, two of the participating mosques were Masjid Panglima Kinta and Masjid Paloh. We managed to join one of the guided tours organised by Masjid Paloh.

our guide, Nazri, at Masjid Paloh, Ipoh
our guide, Nazri, at Masjid Paloh, Ipoh

Masjid Paloh, also known as Masjid Kampung Paloh, is one of the oldest mosques in Ipoh. According to Wikipedia, this prominent mosque was built in 1912 by Wan Muhammad Saleh, superintendent of Penghulus and assistant collector of Land Revenue during the Frank Swettenham administration. The mosque is located along Jalan Datoh, opposite Chung Shan Kindergarten.

Ipoh town in the 1930s
map of Ipoh in the 1930s
map of Ipoh in the 1930s

Also according to Wikipedia, the construction of the mosque was financed by two wealthy Malay Muslims at the time, one of them being Long Kassim. This is why, until today, the administration of the mosque is still managed by the descendants of Long Kassim.

Masjid Paloh with the 3-tiered dome and 5-tiered minaret
Masjid Paloh with the 3-tiered dome and 5-tiered minaret

Since the early days, this mosque has been renovated but the original three-tiered dome and five-tiered minaret were retained. Also, the mausoleum of its founder is still in its original form.

Our guide explained that Masjid Paloh is a vernacular mosque, which means that it was locally designed in Malay architecture and was built using local materials. While domes are not a necessity in mosques, minarets are compulsory structures. At Masjid Paloh, the three-tiered dome design was used, mainly to facilitate air ventilation and natural light, plus acts like loudspeakers for the call of azan prayers.

Each mosque should have at least one minaret. The reason is that minarets were used in the old days by the muezzin, the person who proclaims the call to the daily prayer five times a day, to climb up to call the azan. In modern times, muezzins use megaphones instead.

Besides explaining the architecture of the mosque, our guide also gave an insight into ablution, or the ritual of washing before one starts to pray. Every mosque ought to provide a tub of clean water for this purpose, or taps with running water. There are four parts of the body that are compulsory to be washed: face (one time or a maximum of three times), followed by elbows, then the forehead and legs.

Optional washing for additional merits is of the hands up to the wrists, mouth, and nose.

a tub of clean water for ablution

The question arose if there is no water during prayer time, how does a devotee clean himself then? Use sand, but of course, there are limitations – washing the face once is sufficient, and there is no need to wash the mouth. Mouth is optional, anyway. But then again what if there is no sand? Just pray, and wash as soon as there is access to clean water. Other alternatives, should sand be unavailable, are dust particles and talcum powder.

stand with heels on the back line of the yellow section
stand with heels on the back line of the yellow section

In the main prayer hall, a carpet is laid for the ease of the congregation to pray. Men pray in the main hall, whereas women congregate in another hall. The devotees place their heels on the back line of the carpet, so as to keep everyone in a straight row, while standing shoulder to shoulder, to signify brotherhood. In mosques, everyone has the same status irrespective of their standing in society – all are below God.

prayer direction is towards the niche in the wall (mihrab)
prayer direction is towards the niche in the wall (mihrab)

The direction (qibla) to face during prayer is towards the Kaaba inside the sacred mosque in Mecca. In a mosque, it’s easy to identify the direction as it’s the niche in the wall (mihrab). In hotels, the direction for prayer is indicated via a green arrow on the ceiling of guest rooms. In any other location, one can use smart mobile apps to identify the direction.

Interestingly, in the first three years of Islam, the direction for prayer was towards the *Holy Land of Jerusalem, where Jesus Christ was born (in Bethlehem). This direction was changed to Mecca, the birthplace of Prophet Muhammad – the founder of Islam, amidst the conflict between believers of Islam and Christianity.

The Imam, not unlike the Catholic priest, leads Islamic worship services, with the forehead to the ground. However, there are a few stark differences, one of which is that the Imam does not listen to confessions. Think of the Imam as an orchestra conductor, whose congregation follows his lead, especially during Friday prayer (congregational prayer).

The appointment of an Imam, a graduate in religious studies, is a stringent process, culmulating with an interview by the religious department. In Malaysia is JAKIM, aka Department of Islamic Development Malaysia.

Friday prayer (congregational prayer) also known as “jumʿah” is obligatory for all adult male Muslims. To encourage them to fulfil this obligation of attending the special Friday noon service, it is believed that the nearer a devotee is to the Imam during prayer, the more merits he can gain.

our knowledgable guide
our knowledgable guide

You may notice that regardless of the race of a Muslim, he prays in Arabic only. Surely “God” knows all languages in the world? He certainly does, but Arabic is the unifying language which was taught 1444 years ago. One of the reasons that Arabic is used is to preserve the language. It is said that today, there are ten million Muslims who can wholly recite the Qu’ran from page to page so that it can be rewritten, should it be “destroyed” one day.

This is the threat that is being faced by the Bible, which was originally written in the ancient language of Aramaic (written) or Hebrew (spoken). In modern times, hardly anyone can understand that language anymore as it is rarely used.

the nail-less pulpit
the nail-less pulpit

The pulpit at Masjid Paloh was crafted by craftsman Mohammed Amin, without the use of a single nail. The joints were held together by interlocking wood. The pulpit is used by the Imam to conduct Friday sermons, sitting atop it, so that even those at the back could see and hear him. Friday sermons could be about any subject matter, except politics. Each topic is prepared by the religious department.

The Imam would hold a staff (Asaa) with his left hand during sermon, as a reminder of Prophet Muhammad, who preached while standing on uneven ground.

Muslims pray standing up and then bending down. Those who are unable to stand shall fulfil their obligation by sitting. Meanwhile, those who are paralysed can still pray, but with their eyes (or their movement).

our guide explains the five pillars of Islam
our guide explains the five pillars of Islam

In general, “Allah” is known as the “God” for Muslims, or those of the Islamic faith. The true meaning of Allah is that He is the One and Only God, the Creator of the Universe. Therefore, no matter one’s faith or religion, there is only one Creator. This video explains.

Video: Who is God? – Islamic Tourism Month 2023 Mosque Open Day @ Masjid Paloh Jalan Datoh Ipoh

At the same time, a Muslim is not someone of the Islamic faith, but someone who prays to the One and Only God. He or she may not be a believer of Islam.

*Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Malaysia does not officially recognise Israel or its government, hence there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries. Malaysians are restricted from visiting Israel, as stated clearly in the passport. However, there are two categories of Malaysian citizens who may enter Israel, provided they have received written permission from the Ministry of Home Affairs (Kementrian Dalam Negeri): those going on a pilgrimage (Muslim or Christian) or on business. Malaysians caught entering Israel without special permission from KDN will have their passport suspended for three years.

Note: The above information about Masjid Paloh, Islam, Muslim and Allah, was gleaned from the Mosque Open Day of Masjid Paloh in conjunction with Islamic Tourism Month 2023.

Event: Mosque Open Day
Venue: Masjid Paloh, Ipoh
Date: 16th Sept 2023
Time: 2pm

With love

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