It is commonly thought that the area of land on which the mosque was built was donated to the Muslim Indian community by Sir George Leith, Lieutenant Governor of Penang in 1801 for the construction of a major mosque. Since these early days the grounds of the mosque have diminished, due to improper administration and encroachment of private property, but the magnificent structure remains.
During the 1910s the mosque was granted a significant refurbishment in the style known as British Moghul Revival, augmenting the existing structure with a ‘madrasah’, a sizable minaret, and Mughal turrets and domes. It must be noted that the mosque conforms to Kiblat, which decrees that the mosque should face the direction of Mecca.
In 1930 the mosque was granted another facelift, providing it with the appearance seen today. Complying with tradition, the mosque was merely enlarged and not rebuilt. The significant alterations dating to this phase include development of the ventilation system, vastly increasing the height of the principal prayer hall, and enabling more sunlight to enter providing a more airy environment. A yellow ochre colour was provided to the exterior, while the interior was granted a lofty ceiling and floors of white marble. The aisles of the interior, created with a succession of horseshoe shaped arches were adorned with King Edward’s plaques. Since human or animal depictions are prohibited by Islam, the interior and façade of the building were embellished with geometric patterns.
A further refurbishment was implemented in 2003 with the provision of a sizable grant, but only subtle changes were implemented that did not affect the overall beauty of the mosque. The interior of the walls and the principal dome were adorned with calligraphy. A Centre for Islamic Information was also set up in the premises. It is interesting to note that the mosque is still used by the faithful every day of the week.
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