First opened to the public by Indonesia’s first President, Soekarno, on 22 February 1978, the grand Istiqlal Mosque of Jakarta is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia both in structure and capacity, as it can accommodate congregations of up to 120,000 people. Most of the Islamic celebrations in Indonesia, such as Ied prayer, are also broadcast from this mosque.
The Mosque is located at Jalan Taman Wijaya Kusuma in Central Jakarta, on the north eastern corner of the Merdeka Square. It Stands almost right across the old Catholic Church at the corner of Jalan Lapangan Banteng. These landmarks represent the nation’s acceptance of religious diversity.
History of the Mosque
The Istiqlal Mosque was designed in 1954 by Frederich Silaban, a Christian architect from North Sumatra. To build the mosque, it took 17 years. Built under Sukarno's administration, the construction was personally supervised by the president himself.
The idea for the need of a national mosque was inspired by Muslim leader KH Wahid Hashim and executed by Cokro Aminoto, then minister for religious affairs. The word Istiqlal comes from Arabic that means "Independence." The name is a reminder of Indonesia’s struggle for national Independence and the Istiqlal was built to memorialize it.
An Admirable Architecture Design
As one of the remarkable buildings that beautify Central Jakarta’s cityscape, the Istiqlal Mosque inspires with its enormity and contemporary design. The building of the mosque covers approximately nine hectares (22 acres) and has five levels in total. Much of the structure is clad in marble from East Java.
The mosque has a large rectangular prayer hall with a 45 meter diameter dome supported by 12 round columns, and has 4 levels of balconies. Its interior is mostly simple but represents the luxury of the mosque itself. No wonder most of the jama’ah who come to pray there will take some of their time to take some pictures inside and outside of the mosque as a way to appreciate the beauty of the building itself.
The mosque’s main prayer hall will also make you gaze in awe at the beauty of it. There are also four tiers of balconies surrounding the hall of the main prayer hall of Isitiqlal mosque. When looking for the mihrab, a niche that marks the mosque’s closest point to Mecca. There are also some of the Arabic calligraphies, which spell the names of Allah and Muhammed that perfect the beauty of the main prayer hall.
Running from the main hall are a series of arcades connecting to an open-air courtyard. Look up at the soaring minaret, which transmits the call to prayer every day. Located beyond the southern corner of the courtyard are a fountain and pool. The fountain projects water during important Islamic ceremonies and holidays.
World’s Leader Visit
In his brief 18 hours visit to Indonesia on 9th and 10th November 2010, US President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama made a special visit to the Istiqlal Mosque. An aside note which the President heard from the leader of the mosque, and which he relayed to the press, was that during Christmas mass, the mosque’s parking lot is used by the Cathedral’s congregation across the road. And vice-versa during Ied prayers. Later, President Obama praised the Istiqlal Mosque as a symbol of religious tolerance which characterizes Indonesia and Indonesians, inspiring the world. Although non-Muslims aren't allowed to enter the main prayer hall, it's possible for everyone to visit the impressive upper hallways and terraces.
The grand Istiqlal Mosque of Jakarta is easy to reach since it is near the Gambir Train Station. To get here from the Sukarno-Hatta international airport, you can use public transportation such as "Metromini" or Transjakarta bus in the direction to Gambir. From Gambir you can use a motorbike taxi commonly known as "ojek", or, if you prefered to, you can walk to this mosque.
To enter the mosque, there are seven entrances that you can go through. Each of the entrance symbolizes one of the Seven Heavens of Islam. Before entering the building, jamaah or worshippers need to take off their shoes.
The mosque is open daily and there is no admission fee to enter. Guides are available to show non-Muslim visitors around the mosque.