This blog may contain not-so-strong languages and slightly strong ecchi pictures. Please proceed with caution.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Allah Kore Cumhuriyeti'yi Korusun, Part II: Seoul Central Masjid

Kyousuke: Masha-Allah! I can't expect that my little sister can't be this Pious! Seriously.

Located in the center of Seoul - 39 Usadan Avenue 10th Street/Usadanno 10-gil, Hannam-dong 732-21 beonji, Yongsan-gu, the Seoul Central Masjid (Hanja: 서울中央聖院) is Korea’s first permanent mosque and the only mosque in Seoul. The mosque and Islamic center were erected in 1976 with the help of a generous donation of land from the Korean government and large monetary contributions from Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries that funded all construction and operational costs.

The mosque is made up of three floors: on the first floor is the Korea Muslim Federation office and meeting room, on the second floor is the men’s musalla (prayer hall), and on the third floor is the women’s musalla (prayer hall). In addition to the mosque (masjid) itself, there is a secondary building on the premises that houses a madrasah, an educational institution for the Muslim children to learn about Islamic culture and religion, the Islamic Cultural Research Center and other Islamic-related organizations.

The Seoul Central Mosque stands tall at the top of a hill, smack dab in the middle of Korea’s most international neighborhood. The entrance of the mosque is decorated in blue mosaic tiles and a sign that states in Arabic, “lā ilāha illallāh, Muhammad rasūlu-llāh” (There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God), a religious creed that is recited during prayer called the Shahada. Beyond the entrance is the masjid, an exotic-looking building that can be seen nowhere else in Korea. With its towering twin white minarets, the mosque is a visually arresting piece of Islamic architecture. 

The mosque is open to both Korean Muslims and Muslim tourists and prayers are conducted several times a day, allowing visiting Muslims to perform their five daily prayers. Sermons are conducted in English, Arabic, and Korean, and each praying session lasts about 10 – 15 minutes. In the center of the masjid is a green sign that states “Allāhu Akbar” (God is Great).

Visitors must take the stairs up to the musallas. The men’s musalla is located on the second floor, and can be accessed through the entrance located at the top of the central stairs. The women’s musalla is located on the third floor, and can be accessed through the entrance located next to the office on the first floor. The women’s musalla overlooks the men’s musalla, so that they may all worship and pray as one. 

The floor of the main musalla is covered with bright red carpet with lines drawn on it. The lines are there so that the worshippers may line themselves evenly, shoulder to shoulder, side by side. There is a dome located directly above the main musalla, allowing for natural light to filter in. The semicircular niche in middle of the front wall of the masjid is the mihrab, a niche that indicates the direction of Mecca and hence the direction that Muslims should face when praying. (This is the direction in which all Muslims pray.) To the right of the mihrab is the minbar, a pulpit in the masjid where the Imam (leader of prayer) stands to deliver sermons during Friday prayers. To the left of the mihrab is a timepiece with seven clock faces. The largest clock face tells the current time, and five of the six small clock faces tell the times of the five daily prayers. The last small clock face tells the time of the Friday prayer (Jumma prayer). Praying session times differ day to day, depending on what time the sun rises. 

During a regular week, the mosque attracts the most people during Jumma prayers, regularly drawing in up to 800 worshippers. However during the year, the mosque attracts the most people during the Eid holidays (two important religious holidays celebrated by Muslims worldwide), so many people in fact that worshippers are often seen praying outside on the roads all around the mosque using their prayer mats.

The Seoul Central Masjid is accessible by using either SMRT Line 6 to Station 630: Itaewon or KORAIL-Jungang Line to Station K113: Hannam.