In the heart of our kampung in Bagan Datoh lies the Masjid Jamek Jawiyyah, a beautiful mosque built entirely from wood over one hundred years ago. There have been a few expansions since then, but the original timbers of the structure are still intact and unchanged. Since it was built before running water, the ablution pools are fed by gutters that channel rainwater from the roof. The main roof is square and built in two tiers. The red metal dome may not be original and in any case is not structural but just a decoration placed on top. The minaret is also square and tiered.

The whole structure reflects a tremendous amount of care, skill and art on the part of the builders. The cross beam in the cupola is ornately carved, as is the gingerbread along the roof edges. The beams and posts are all fitted together without nails or metal joiners. The pillars are huge square timbers maybe 8×8. The wood is of such high quality, some of the beams are even spliced together over the long spans yet still look sturdy today. Hardwood of that size and quality is hard to find in West Malaysia these days at any price.

Every Friday there is a cerama before the khutbah, held on the large airy front porch. The ustaz sits crosslegged on the floor with a small wooden table on which is the Holy Quran in Arabic. He recites a verse, translates it on the fly and then proceeds to give classical tafsir and commentary from memory. The ustaz is an elderly man of the village, who, as is so common, has moved away to KL. He comes back every Friday just for this.

The mosque was built by the settlers of this area who were migrants from Java, hence the name. Although the kampung population has dwindled considerably due to urban migration, the main prayer hall is still full for juma’ah. The residents have a lot of affection for the building. Even in its heyday this region was never wealthy, yet the mosque was entirely built by hand by the community without government patronage. Many residents can still name which ancestor of theirs helped to build the mosque. May it be an unceasing source of blessings for those many souls who set their hands to establish this house of God.

Published by bingregory

Official organ of an American Muslim in Malaysian Borneo, featuring plants, pantuns and pictures from the Malay archipelago. Oversharing since 2002.

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