Islam and modernism have played important roles in Malay nationalism. Masjid Wilayah, along with the Islamic Arts Museum and a branch of the International Islamic University, symbolizes Kuala Lumpur’s rise as a contemporary Muslim cosmopolis.
While Malaysia is physically distant from areas perceived to be the Islamic heartland, middle-class Malays, a large number of whom are fluent in English, are virtually connected to global Islamic fraternal and knowledge networks. Malays, for example, are voracious consumers of Islamic knowledge from Muslim diaspora communities in the west and are generally conscious of being part of a global ummah or Islamic nation.
Masjid Wilayah and Islamic Cosmopolitanism
And it is that very Muslim cosmopolitanism that Masjid Wilayah represents. Opened to the public in 2000, the dominant influence on Masjid Wilayah is Ottoman, with its giant main pendentive dome. The turquoise tiling on the mosque’s twenty-two domes harkens back to the Safavid-era mosques of Iran—most notably, the Shah Mosque of Isfahan.
Horseshoe arches, commonly associated with Ummayad mosques, such as the Great Mosque of Cordoba, line Masjid Wilayah’s perimeter. Its grand iwan, a feature common to Indo-Persian mosques, is partly composed of Makrana marble—the same material used for the Taj Mahal. The iwan’s rounded top reflects Malaysia’s modernist aspirations. And the mosque’s spectacular woodwork, including its large doors and mimbar, is the work of local artisans from the Kelantan and Terengganu regions.
While Masjid Wilayah is often referred to as a “Turkish” mosque, it is eclectic and pan-Islamic, with a modernist touch. In other words, it is a metaphor for the modern Muslim Malay.
The interior of Masjid Wilayah brims with brightness. Abundant natural light illuminates the pastel interior, which is dominated by a sandstone-colored dome. Sky blue embellishments line the rim of the dome, flowing through the vaulting. Four navy blue discs, similar to those in the Hagia Sophia, bearing the name of God are embedded in each pendentive. The walls of the main hall feature turquoise, stained glass latticed windows.