Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Memory of Masjid Darul Ghufran Before the Upgrading

As a young boy, I grew up in the new town of Tampines. My primary and secondary school days were mostly filled with wonderful memories there. On Friday for the weekly Friday prayers, me and my classmates would go to the nearby (In fact, the only mosque in Tampines) Masjid Darul Ghufran.
Masjid Darul Ghufan, December 2015.
In the 2015 Singapore Budget, it was first announced that the mosque would be upgraded and slated to complete in 2016. Personally, I welcomed the news as the mosque does in fact face overcrowding and overcapacity during Friday prayers. And its also about time that the mosque got itself an extensive upgrade.
Artist's impression of the upgraded mosque.
The model.
Another angle.
The current mosque and its history.
Prospective new floor plan
New main prayer hall.
But looking back, growing up with the mosque, a sense of nostalgia overwhelmed me. I also decided it was time to take some pictures and preserve its current state in photos and media before the upgrading begins.


Darul Ghurfan before 1997. Courtesy of the National Archives Singapore
A little bit of history here. Masjid Darul Ghufran was completed and opened to the public on 7th December 1990. It was officially opened later by Member of Parliament  Marine Parade GRC at that time, Haji Othman Harun Eusofe, on 13th July 1991. It is the 2nd largest mosque in terms of capacity at that time with a capacity to hold 4000 people and floor area of 4,063 sq meters.

In 1997, the original brick surface suffered structural brick wall failure and buckled before collapsing. After minor repairs, the problem persisted and a full-scale building renovation was decided and the mosque earned its trademark blue color. Residents of Tampines nicknamed the mosque, "Menara Biru" (Blue Minaret in Malay).
The crowd during Friday prayers
But over the years, for as long as I can remember, the mosque faces overcrowding and overcapacity that worshipers had to pray outside the mosque's premises. After Masjid Al-Istigfar was built in Pasir Ris, there was slight improvement, but still faced major overcrowding some years later.

Old State of the Mosque

In light of the mosque's upgrading, I decided to document the mosque in its current state as of December 2015, somewhat as a keepsake to remind myself on how the mosque used to look like. I went there on two separate occasions. One on a Friday after Friday prayers, where the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs himself, Dr. Yaacob Ibrahim was present to grace the launch of the mosque upgrading initiative. And another occasion on a weekday, where there were less worshipers around.

Level 1 Perimeter

So, let us start with the outside perimeter of the building. As stated before, the mosque's iconic blue color was decided upon after the original brick wall buckled and collapsed on two separate occasions.
Viewed from the western end of the property.
The western perimeter.
The eastern perimeter of the building 
Along the western perimeter of the mosque, the shipping containers are actually remnants of the construction workers' dormitories during the 1997 upgrading of the mosque. The containers are retained, painted blue to match the mosque and upgraded as classrooms for the mosque's religious school.
The former shipping containers recycled as classrooms.
Entrance into the classrooms
As viewed from one of the staircases.
The garden near the classrooms.
North side of the mosque, the rear of the building.

Level 1 Interior

The qibla wall of the mosque.
The mihrab and  minbar.
The main prayer hall after Friday prayers.
After the 1997 upgrade, the carpeting was changed from maroon to blue as seen in the above picture.
The kindergarten area at the southern end of the main prayer hall. 
The void as viewed from the mihrab.
Outside the main prayer hall foyer
The office facade was added after the 1997 upgrade.

Ablution Area.

Ablution area, level 1.
Ablution area, level 1.
Ablution area, level 1.
Ablution area was fairly simple, decorated with white tiles. During Friday prayers, it could get overcrowded. Ablution areas were only available on levels one and two, with the upper floor reserved for the women except for Friday prayers.

Level 2

Level 2 Prayer Area during regular days.
After Friday Prayers.
On regular days, the level 2 prayer hall was reserved for women worshipers. The madarsah's offices and some of its classrooms are also located there.
The classroom makeshift as a prayer hall during Friday prayers.
Hallway of the classroom areas in level 2.
Hallway of the classroom areas in level 2.
The above photos were taken during after Friday prayers with the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim attending an event announcing the mosque's upgrading. Which explains the table in the middle of the classroom area.

Level 3

Level 3 Praying Hall
The void as viewed from level 3.
Level 3 is usually opened for Friday prayers and on that day, most of the worshipers who would go there are students and teenagers. There are also two classrooms on that level, usually reserved for the kindergarten classes.
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The staircase as viewed from the top level.
The Staircases in the mosque are named after historical books. Due to overcrowding during Friday prayers, worshipers also pray in the staircase areas. At the bottom of the stairs, the area becomes a makeshift shoe rack and area where school children place their school bags during Friday prayer. 

Final Thought and Conclusion

Through this post, I hope to have captured at least some memory of the mosque's state before its being upgraded. Currently, some parts of the mosque has already been demolished as it is being upgraded. Squeezing into the temporary mosque next to the swimming complex is something that we in the community have to bear, but nevertheless, we will be looking forward to the upgraded mosque once it has been completed.

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