Magelang, Central Java; A unique mosque stands tall in the Armada Estate in Magelang, Central Java. Named Al-Mahdi Mosque, it resembles a Chinese temple, locally known as klenteng, instead of a mosque, because of the appearance of its overall structure, its red and yellow paint scheme and the dozens of lanterns that hang out front.
Inside, the 290-square-meter property also hosts several Chinese-inspired ornaments, such as more lanterns, lamps and pillar. The lanterns are uniquely adorned with Asmaul Husna (the 99 names of God) written in Arabic. Some calligraphy can also be found on the walls, the mimbar (pulpit) and the red carpet that serves as a prayer mat.
“This mosque attracts many people. Some want to pray; some simply seek to take selfies. We are open to the public,” said Mahdi, the mosque’s founder.
One visitor, 33-year-old Abdul Haris who came from Surakarta, said that the mosque was not only beautiful but also remarkable. “The Muslims [who live] around the mosque are also remarkable for accepting [each others’] differences,” he added.
Built by Kwee Giok Yong, a man of Chinese descent who changed his name to Mahdi when he converted to Islam, the mosque can accommodate about 120 people.
Mahdi’s house use to stand on the land where the mosque was built, but he donated the property to be the site of the house of worship in August 2016. By April the following year the mosque’s construction was complete and it was officially inaugurated.
“In China, all buildings are like this, either klenteng, mosques, or houses. China has many Muslims and their mosques look just like this. I want to show that Islam is everywhere, including in China,” Mahdi said.
On weekdays, Al-Mahdi Mosque hosts various activities, from a regular pengajian (Islamic learning forum), shalawat (prayers to Prophet Muhammad), religious discussions and Quran learning classes.
During Ramadhan, the mosque gets busier with iftar (breaking the fast), tarawih (evening Ramadhan prayers), kuliah subuh (learning Islam in the predawn) and tadarus (reading the Quran).
“Alhamdulillah, many [Muslims] like to come here. This mosque is part of our syiar [spreading religious values] efforts. They first come to take pictures, but maybe later they will perform the shalat prayer or mengaji [recite the Quran],” said Mahdi. (The Jakarta Post-Ganug Nugroho Adi)