If you think you’ve seen enough religious sites, Abdul Gaffoor Mosque will cause you to think again. Located at 41 Dunlop Street in Little India, the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque is not only a testament to the early Tamil Muslim settlers but boasts of the infusion of various architectural details from Moorish to Saracenic and Roman designs. Named after Shaik Abdul Gaffoor bin Shaik Hyder, it was built in the early twentieth century to replace the nearby Al-Abrar Mosque and was gazetted later in 1979 as a national monument.
Like many other mosques, the initial Al-Abrar Mosque was built to serve the needs of the many South Indian Muslim merchants, Bawanese stable attendants and horse trainers that use to frequent the area. The humble wooden and tiled roof structure however soon became too run-down to be recovered.
As the chief clerk in the mosque board of trustees, Abdul Gaffoor obtained a permit to construct shophouses around the proposed site. These shop houses provided revenue which enabled the construction of the new mosque. Abdul Gaffoor was so dedicated in seeing the new mosque’s completion that he even made provisions in his will to ensure both its completion as well as the rituals to be conducted in the mosque in honour of the Prophet Mohamed. Completed around 1927, it was no wonder that the mosque was named after Abdul Gaffoor. Today, the Abdul Gaffoor Mosque is listed as under a wakaf, or endowment fund, and managed by the Islamic statutory board Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS).
From the outside, the mosque is heavily decorated with verandahs and circular lancet-shaped balustrades on all sides. The bright yellow and green facade and minarets is stylistically preferred in Indian Muslim architecture. Visitors can climb up the staircase at the back of the building to witness the 22 mini-minarets encircling the onion domes from the viewing deck up on the roof.
Enter the main entrance and come face to face with its one-of-a-kind 25 rays sundial piece flanked by miniature Corinthian columns, which includes the names of 25 chosen prophets written in Arabic calligraphy. Above it the signature onion-shaped dome and arches graces the prayer room with a square minaret and a series of miniature columns surrounding it. A framed family tee tracing the lineage of the Muslim prophets is also located at the left end of the prayer area. The prayer hall also features a panel with a inscribed Korean passage hanging above the mihrab which points to the direction of the Mecca.
Obvious western architecture influences are evident by the large Corinthian columns placed at the four corners of the building in additional to the other Doric and Corinthian pilasters and columns located both the internally and externally.
The Abdul Gaffoor Mosque underwent some restoration works from 2000 and was reopened in 16 May 2003. Works included fortifying the building’s foundation, air-conditioning the vicinity as well as converting the associated shop houses into a Muslim educational institute. Today, this personable mosque can hold up to more than 4,000 worshippers and is still heavily frequented by Tamil-speaking Indian Muslims.