Growing Up In Trengganu

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Growing Up in Trengganu #12150

The Grand White Mosque of Sultan Zainal Abidin dominated the centre of Kuala Trengganu by its size and height and by the reach of the calls of its muezzin. The locals knew it as the Masjid Putih for its gleaming whiteness, but I remember it as a Mosque of many colours.

A child remembers its cavernous interior, the massive pillars that reached great heights, and the depth of its mihrab in the inner reaches of its west facing front that was out of the reach to a young novice. This square forward position that jutted out from the vast rectangular body of the Mosque was the sanctuary of the Imam who led the prayer, The new Masjid Sultan Zainal Abidin, Kuala Terengganu. So different from the old one that I knew.Source: Muzium Terengganu.local dignitaries when they graced us with their presence, and of men with flowing cloaks and heads wrapped in dangly-tailed white turbans, and a local learned with a head-gear that looked like it'd been made from reeds, a man we called Ku Haji So-and-So of the serban bakul, the headgear of woven basket; a Ku by title he was, scion of the local royalty. When he passed on, his eldest son came to the Mosque in similar headgear, so we took it to be the regalia of office of some esoteric order of local dignitaries.

In the quiet after the Friday congregational prayer I often wandered to the front of the Mosque, to the mihrab niche where the Imam led the prayer. It was a confined quarter without the wide ambience of the main back chamber, and in this limited space one could presumably focus better on meditation and prayer. From this forward position which projected out of the main body I could see — not through windws, but portholes — the tips of tall tombstones outside in the burial ground of members of the royal household.

The Masjid Abidin as I remember it was a 'living' mosque that attracted people of many miens and disposition, and these were just those of my age. There was Ku Teng, who was reputedly born in a bottle ("beranok ddlang botol"), there was Pe'ee, who lived in Kampung Dalam Bata, and Cik Wa, whose father had one of the early motor cars in Kuala Terengganu. Some of the people I knew actually stayed the night there after the last 'Isha prayer, to be awoken again at the crack of dawn by the resounding beat of the Mosque drum or geduk as we called it, and the gentle lilt of the pre-dawn tarhim that was followed by the thunderous azan that bellowed out of speakers in the four minarets. There were people who worked in the mosque, people who slept in the mosque, and a brave, lone man who stayed the night behind a closed door in the annexe that housed the mausoleums of past Sultans and their close family members. His job was to tend to those tombs and offer daily supplications for the souls of the departed. Once in daylight, I saw the door slightly ajar and peeked inside to see him fallen among the pallisade of tombstones of the royal dead, fast asleep. Those supplications in the dead of night must've made him quite tired.

The muezzins were known to locals by volume and name. Bilal Sa'id, a handsome man with a mellifluous tone, lived in the vicinity of the Mosque; another, Bilal Haji Deraman, lived in the middle of a padi field not far from a romantic place called Paya Bunga, the pond of flowers. He was a bluff man with a gruff though not unpleasant voice that reached parts that other Bilals couldn't, even with benefit of the mike. Once on a Radio Malaysia play, I was listening to the nattering of Raffles' scribe, Abdullah, when Bilal Deraman's unmistakable voice boomed out in the background just as Abdullah reached the shores of 18th century East Coast Malay States. Father told me he remembered seeing the man from the Radio at the Mosque, recording Bilal Deraman for posterity.

My father set his daybreak routine by the sound of the tarhim in the morning when he rose for his ablutions, then, by the sound of the geduk he'd be dressed in his sarung and baju, to start his brisk walk to arrive just in time for the end of the azan. Regulars to the Mosque knew this routine very well, and timed their journey to the movements of the bilal, taking the gap between the sounding of the geduk and the azan to be roughly 8 - 10 minutes — the time the bilal took to walk from the loft of the Mosque, where the geduk was housed, to the foot of the stairs, where the microphone was placed. It worked out very well for Father unless it was Bilal Deraman's turn, for then he'd rush out muttering something about Bilal Deraman being at the helm. The reason was that Bilal Deraman had a muscle-rippling, silat practising son called Dolloh who did the geduk for him as he waited patiently at the foot of the stairs. As soon as the beatings of the geduk ended, Bilal Deraman went straight to the azan without pause, sending many a faithful scurrying and jumping down the stairs of their homes.

Picture Note: The picture of the modern Masjid Abidin (above), is completely different from the one I knew. Additions have been made without regard to the old architecture, and it has been completely modernised, even taking on the 'rocket' minaret of the Masjid Negara in Kuala Lumpur.

December 11th, 2004


  • Hey,

    This is an invite to Blog Ladder is a community blogging site that is set up like a forum.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:30 PM  

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    By Blogger Awang Goneng, at 10:07 AM  

  • Tuang AG,
    Have you heard? Hehe, one verrrry reliable source told me that someone AG-ish just delivered a new baby.... hehehe
    CONGRATULATIONSSSSSSS to the proud father!!!!!!
    cant wait for it to hit the stores!


    By Blogger OOD, at 1:33 AM  

  • Assalamualaikum Tuang.

    Masjid Putih. Amat dimuliakan di kalangan keluarga kami. Tahung 60an dulu, petang2 kerap kami naik teksi roda tiga sejarak 10km dari kamgpung ke Masjid Putih. Bukan apa. Pergi sembahyang maghrib, ddengar, sembahyang isyak dan balik.

    Semasa di sekolah ladang saya kerap singgah sembahyang. Kerap juga murid2 sekolah saya dijemput bila ada jamuan tertentu di Masjid Putih.

    Satu waktu ada kerja-kerja tambahan. Menaranya roket atau payung tertutup. Kalangan kami ada yang berkata," arkiteknya tak pandai buat menara macam yang dah ada tu".


    By Anonymous yasing darak gelugor, at 9:05 AM  

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