Hajjah Fatimah Mosque

Text by Eugene Tan

The only mosque in Singapore named after a female benefactor, the mosque’s tower and spire is known affectionately as Singapore’s own ‘leaning tower’, after having tilted by 6 degrees due to the soft soil below. Together with Keypoint and the Kampong Glam Community Club, the mosque serves as a nodal point for the local community.

Hajjah Fatimah Mosque (Photo credit: C. A. Gibson-Hill)

Founded by Hajjah Fatimah, the mosque is the only one in Singapore named after a female benefactor. A Malaccan Malay lady, Hajjah Fatimah amassed a considerable fortune by continuing her husband’s business following his early death. In the 1830’s, her house was set on fire by thieves; fortunately, she was away at the time. Grateful for her providential escape, she donated money and the land on which her house stood for the establishment of the mosque. She remains there to this day, buried together with her daughter and son-in-law in a private enclosure behind the mosque.

Prayer hall of Hajjah Fatimah Mosque

Arcuated doorways to the prayer hall of Hajjah Fatimah Mosque

Built by French contractors using Malay labour, the mosque possesses an eclectic mix of building forms, such as an Arab style dome, Doric columns, European Classical elements and Chinese detailing. Its prominent minaret shaped like the tower and spire of a church bears similarities to that of St Andrew’s Cathedral at City Hall, leading to speculation that both buildings shared the same architect, John Turnbull Thomson.

Hajjah Fatimah Mosque's minaret in context today

Due to the soft ground beneath, the Mosque’s minaret has curiously tilted by about 6 degrees, gaining it the dubious reputation of being Singapore’s own “leaning tower”. After achieving its current status as a National Monument in 1973, preservation and upgrading works were undertaken, improving foundations and watertightness, and curtailing the tilt of the minaret which is still visible today. Like the composition of eclectic elements it is, the Mosque synergises with Keypoint and Kampong Glam Community Club, defining a shady lawn which serves as a nodal point for the local community.

Hajjah Fatimah Mosque in the 1980s