Msjid Kapitan Kelling Street Art, Penang, Malaysia

" In the days when your money could be as big as a bullock cart, this was a popularest stop for the limousines of that time"

The Kapitan Keling Mosque is arguably the best known mosque in Penang. Situated on Jalan Kapitan Keling, formerly Pitt Street (or otherwise known as the Street Of Harmony), it is the largest historic mosque in George Town. From nearby hostels you can hear the hypnotic prayers echo in the sky, 5 times a day.

The Kapitan Keling Mosque is named after Caudeer Mohudeen, the head of the Indian Muslim community credited to have built it around 1800.

The name “kapitan keling” is used to denote the headman or leader of the South Indian Muslim community. The term “keling” is derived from the ancient Hindu kingdom on the Coromandel coast of South India, and the local Hokkien community corrupts the word to derive “keling-na” for Indians in general, particularly those from South India (The North Indians are pooled together with another term, “banggali”, though they are not necessarily from Bengal). The title “Kapitan” is a corruption of the English word “Captain”, and is used to denote the leader of the community. Similarly, the leader of the Chinese community during that period is called a Kapitan China.

The Kapitan Keling Mosque underwent its most recent refurnishment in 2003, with a RM5 million grant, as water seepage and poor drainage were affecting the building, closing it down for a year. In this renovation, some alterations that do not compromise on the original aesthetics of the building were included. Among the new extensions was a covered walkway and a women’s ablution area. Calligraphy was added to the interior of the main dome and walls, where once these were decorated with foral motifs. An Islamic Information Centre is also set up on the ground floor of the minaret.

The mosque also complies with the ancient rule of the Kiblat, which means to face in the direction of the Ka’aba. This is also the direction Muslims must face when praying.

The Kapitan Keling Mosque is used by Muslims five times a day, seven days a week. It is full on Fridays and overflows during the the Muslim celebrations of Hari Raya Aidil Fitri and Hari Raya Haji. Just as the mosque has grown over the past two hundred, so has the number of worshippers and the strength of faith.

A Photo by the Creativity Engine
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