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Al A’zhom mosque, pride of Tangerang Municipality

Multa Fidrus

As the grand mosque of Tangerang Municipality, Al A’zhom reflects the pride all Muslims share in their religion.

Erected on a 2.5-hectare property, right beside the newly municipal Ulemas Council (MUI) building across the municipal administration office compound on Jl. Satria Sudirman, the mosque displays a curious mix of Sundanese and Middle Eastern architecture.

Since its completion in 2003, Muslims from all over Greater Jakarta — Jakarta, Bekasi, Bogor, Serang and Cilegon — have traveled to Al A’zhom for communal prayer sessions.

“”We never expected this mosque to attract so many people from outside the municipality. It’s particularly busy at Ramadhan,”” Hamidi Rusadi, the chairman of the Grand Mosque Welfare Council (DKM) said on Saturday.

He said that Al A’zhom, which can accommodate 20,000 people, was built to rival the grand mosques of the Middle East. The construction of the mosque began in 2000.

The giant dome — 44 meters high with a diameter of 63 m — is in fact a fusion of five lesser domes that all at once function as the building’s roof without supporting columns.

“”This is a brave concept. We made a number of comparative studies in places like Medina in Saudi Arabia, Istanbul in Turkey, Selangor in Malaysia, Agra in India and in East Java’s capital of Surabaya, which are known to have the largest domes in the world,”” he said.

He said the domes of Nabawi Mosque in Medina and the Taj Mahal in India have diameters of 35 m while the dome of Al Aqbar Mosque in Surabaya has a diameter of 34 m.

Separately, Edi Junaedi Nawawi, who chairs the Tangerang municipal Council of Ulema (MUI), a cleric who oversaw the project, said the design engineers who worked on the dome configuration were from PT Binatama, a private company specializing in dome designs.

He said the dome was made from steel plates covered with layers of glass wool, wire netting and aluminum sheets, which together form a 12.7-centimeter thick plate. Slamet Worasonjaya from the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) designed the dome itself.

“”The plate is expected to be able to withstand heat and dampen the reverberations from the powerful sound system inside. The dome is built to last 100 years. Once you set foot inside the mosque, you will feel the cool air and the solemn atmosphere,”” he said.

In each of the four corners of the grand mosque stands a 55-meter tall tower. The 5,000-square-meter floor area of the men’s section can accommodate 7,500 people. While the women’s section — two 600-sq-m balconies — can accommodate 5,000 people.

Besides the absence of a main column or pillar supporting the dome, there is also no ceiling between the floor and the giant dome, which is beautifully decorated with calligraphy that can be viewed from underneath. From afar the dome looks like a gigantic hat placed on a square box.

“”To the best of our knowledge, there is no dome with a joint configuration as large as this one. The Guiness World Records lists Aya Sofia Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, as the mosque with the biggest dome.

“”Its diameter is only 30 m,”” Nursyami, a visitor from Pandeglang, Banten, told the Banten Journal, adding that Al A’zhom’s dome should be listed as the world’s biggest.

Nawawi said the DKM was considering contacting Guiness World Records Ltd. to register the dome.

“”The five domes symbolize the prayers that Muslims are obliged to perform five times a day. While the four towers symbolize the four pillars of Islam, the Arabic language, sharia, history and philosophy,”” he said.

Nawawi, said the mosque’s gardens also showed Middle Eastern and Sundanese influences. Eighteen date palms from the Middle East and 180 local palm trees were planted around the mosque.

The outdoor area can accommodate 10,000 people.

Shades of green dominate the entire building. The mosque is equipped with various facilities including a four-m-high pulpit, a library, 400 faucets for ritual ablutions and a parking lot for 400 cars and a giant drum or bedug with a diameter of two m.

Seventy percent of the construction funds were taken from the administration’s annual budget and another 25 percent was donated by community members.

The mosque has been open to the public since April 2003.

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