Part I Masjid Angke al-Anwar: The restoration of one of the most pluralist and unique mosques in Jakarta

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Masjid Angke in 1922 Phoro credit: From the book Oud Batavia by F. de Haan

IO – From a historic perspective Masjid Angke is one of the most unique and pluralist mosques in Jakarta. On the 20th of September 2021 the Lingkaran Warisan Kota Tua Jakarta or the Jakarta Old Town Heritage Circle (also known as Lingwa) celebrated the official completion of the restoration of the mosque. It was also the commemoration of a hundred days after the death of the head of Lingwa, the philosopher and Renaissance woman, Toeti Heraty N. Roosseno.

Masjid Angke al-Anwar (known popularly as Masjid Angke) was erected on the 2nd of April 1761. Muslim Chinese played an important role in building the mosque which is located just outside what were once the city walls of the Old Town of Bataiva. It was located not far from the small redoubt once known as Vijfhoek. What is remarkable is that it was built only about 20 years after the gruesome Chinese Massacre of 1740 within the city walls of Batavia.

Iwan Henry Wardhana who heads Jakarta’s Cultural Services praised Lingwa’s restoration efforts as promoting the culture and history of Jakarta. Photo courtesy of Iwan Henry Wardhana

The head of the City of Jakarta’s Cultural Services, Iwan Henry Wardhana praised Lingwa’s restoration work, saying that it was an extraordinary effort which did more than just physically restore a historic building. The restoration of one of Jakarta’s oldest and most unique mosques supports and upholds not only Jakarta’s religious life but also its historical and cultural heritage, thereby helping to make Jakarta a more civilized city to live in. On behalf of the City of Jakarta, he thanked Lingwa for its restoration work as a non-profit organization.

Lingwa was the brain child of the renown Indonesian heritage architect Han Awal who carried out the restoration of many of the most important historic buildings in Jakarta including the former Javasche Bank (now the Bank of Indonesia Museum), the old Nederlands Handels Maatschappij (now the Bank Mandiri Museum), the Dekranas building, the Immanuel Church and perhaps most important of all, the Gedung Arsip Nasional RI which was built as the country estate of Governor General Reyner de Klerk in 1760, and for which restoration the building received the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Award for Excellence in the Asia Pacific region.

Heritage architect, Han Awal wanted to establish an organization that would actually restore heritage buildings. Photo courtesy of Yori Antar

Han Awal had noticed that although there were many heritage organizations all over Indonesia and especially in Jakarta, nearly none of them were engaged in the restoration of heritage buildings; because of this, he and Toeti Heraty Roosseno decided to establish Lingwa, a non-profit organization which would dedicate itself to restoring heritage buildings. Unfortunately, shortly before Lingwa was set up in 2016, Han Awal passed away. Undeterred, Toeti Heraty Roosseno continued to establish Lingwa.

At its first meeting it was decided that Masjid Angke would be Lingwa’s first restoration project. Inda Citraninda Noerhadi who has succeeded Toeti Heraty Roosseno as Lingwa’s head says that the reason Toeti Heraty agreed to Masjid Angke is because of its very pluralist history involving so many different ethnic groups which is reflected in its extremely eclectic architecture. The deputy head of Lingwa, archaeologist and former head of Jakarta’s Conservation Office, Candrian Attahiyyat adds that another factor in choosing Masjid Angke, is that it is also one of the few historic mosques in Jakarta whose structure and style has remained intact without any significant changes through the centuries. Furthermore, the guardians of the mosque appreciate and value the mosque’s history and were very open to Lingwa carrying out such a restoration.

Toety Heraty Roosseno. Photo courtesy of Inda Citraninda Noerhadi

So, what is the history of this very unique mosque which is connected to so many different ethnic groups?

First of all, the area where the mosque is located belonged to a small Bantenese settlement which  according to the guardians of Masjid Angke has historical connections with the most important Indonesian heroes of Jakarta, such as Prince Jayakarta, Fatahilah and especially, Prince Tubagus Angke. There are some ancient tombstones in the grounds of the mosque said to be connected to the old Sultanate of Banten and its vassal port of Sunda Kalapa (or simply, Kalapa), which hopefully the Indonesian Archaeological Society might be interested in further researching.

Engraving by Romeyn de Hooge of Arung Palakka in the book The Conquest of Makasar by Speelman from 1666 till 1669. Photo credit: public domain under a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC-ZERO). This permission has been archived as ticket #201405141000888

Beside the Bantenese, the first group that we hear about living in the area of the mosque are the Buginese fighters of Arung Palakka, the famous Buginese warrior prince from Bone who brought his followers to join the VOC troops in 1663 after he was defeated and exiled by the King of Gowa in South Sulawesi. The VOC provided him and his followers with land to settle on when they were not fighting for them. Eventually, a Buginese settlement was established there known as Kampung Bugis. After helping the VOC defeat Sultan Hasanudin of Gowa in 1669, he and most of his followers returned to Sulawesi. His Buginese troops who were known for their courage and daring, were called toangke or ‘the people from Angke’. At this time Masjid Angke had not yet been built.

In 1708 several companies of VOC Balinese troops under the command of I Gusti Ketut Badudu were also given land to build a settlement in the area where Masjid Angke was later built. These troops were the last foreign troops that joined the VOC, which had originally fought against the VOC but were later persuaded by the Dutch to change sides and join them. The Balinese settlement was first known as Kampung Gusti and later became Kampung Bali. Slowly with time, the Balinese converted to Islam.

The Chinese Massacre of 1740 by Van Schley.
Photo courtesy of Bartele Gallery.

Nearly 30 years later the horrific 1740 Chinese Massacre of Batavia occurred. It is said that nearly 10,000 Chinese were killed. Only a few managed to escape and of these, a few made their way to the small Bantenese settlement in Angke. The head of the settlement was Syeh Jafar whose ancestry included both Prince Tubagus Angke as well as Prince Jayakarta Wijayakrama, more popularly known as Prince Jayakarta. On his mother’s side, Syeh Jafar was also descended from Sultan Hasanudin, the first Muslim ruler of Banten,. It was Syeh Jafar who provided shelter to the Chinese fleeing Batavia in 1740. Many Batavia Chinese had originally come from Banten. Some of them were Muslim Chinese. Whether the Chinese who were given shelter by Syeh Jafar were Muslim Chinese or whether they later converted to Islam, is not entirely clear.

What is known is that nearly 20 years after the Chinese Massacre of 1740, a Chinese Muslim lady named Nyonya Tan Nio donated the funds to erect a mosque at the Bantanese settlement. Syeh Jafar donated the land for the mosque which was built for the Balinese who had converted to Islam. Consequently, the mosque was first known as Masjid Kampung Bali and later as Masjid Bali.

The grave of Nyonya Tan Nio who donated the funds to build Masjid Angke. Photo credit: Tamalia Alisjahbana (private collection)

Masjid Angke was built on the 2nd of April 1761. The contractor for the mosque was a Chinese Muslim named Syeh Liong Tan who had married a Bantanese woman. He was later buried beside Pangeran Tugbagus Anjani, the son-in-law of Syeh Jafar. After the Chinese Massacre of 1740, he was given shelter and educated by Syeh Jafar and Pangeran Tubagus Anjani.

Bearing in mind the important relationship between the mosque and the Bantanese settlement, it is worth looking briefly into the history of the connection between the settlement and several pre-colonial Bantanese historical figures, in order to better understand the history of the mosque. There are not many written records in existence from that period. What exists are a babad of the history of Banten besides several Portuguese, English and Dutch accounts of certain events and figures. Often, there are several versions or accounts of historic figures and events so that historians are not always in agreement about what occurred.

One such figure is Fatahilah whose origins are not very clear. Some say that he came from the Middle East. Others believe that he came from the Sumatran Muslim Kingdom of Samudra Pasai and went to the Middle East to study Islam. When he returned however, Samudra Pasai had been defeated by the Portuguese and so he went to Demak, the first Muslim Kingdom on Java. Another version says that he went to Cirebon, another of the early Muslim kingdoms of Java, where he married the daughter of the Sunan Gunung Jati, who was also known as Syarif Hidayatulah. Yet other version, claim that Syarif Hidayatulah and Fatahilah were the same person.

The Luso-Sundanese padrao of 1522 Photo credit: Hadiyana at the Indonesian language Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creative commons .org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), via Wikimedia Commons

At that time the Port of Kalapa was one of the most important ports of the Hindu kingdom of Pajajaran, which felt threatened by the new Muslim kingdoms of Demak and Cirebon. So, Pajajaran created an alliance with the Portuguese. To commemorate this the Portuguese erected a padrao. A padrao is a stone pillar that the Portuguese put in important places where they landed during their voyages of discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. The pillars cited their presence and for the Portuguese the padraos represented their dominance over the surrounding area. Padraos were often placed at the mouth of rivers as was the case with the Port of Kalapa where a Padrao was placed in the year 1518. In 1522 an agreement was signed allowing the Portuguese to build a fort in the Port of Kalapa. The Portuguese were represented by Henrique Leme who was sent from Malacca. That padrao may be seen today at the Indonesian National Museum.

Demak and Cirebon did not like this development and together sent troops under the command of Fatahilah and the Cirebon prince, Hasanudin to attack Pajajaran. They succeeded in seizing Banten and Prince Hasanudin became the first Muslim Sultan of Banten. In 1527 Fatahilah conquered the Port of Kalapa and changed its name to Jayakarta or Jacatra. He became the first adipati or ruler of Jakarta under the suzerainty of Banten. Later in life, he returned to Cirebon where he is buried. According to the guardians of Masjid Angke, the Bantanese settlement with its many old graves are related to these historical figures.

The most important figure to whom the Bantanese settlement is however related, is Prince Tubagus Angke who was later one of the adipatis of Jacatra. There is a tradition at Masjid Angke that Prince Tubagus Angke is buried in the grounds of the mosque. It is said that he asked that his grave be given no markings so that people would not perform pilgrimages to his grave. He also predicted that one day something would cover his grave so that it would be hidden forever. These events of course, would also have occurred long before Masjid Angke was built.

The grave markers of the wife of Prince Tubagus Angke, Ratu Pembayun Fatimah. Mohamad Habib a guardian of the mosque explained that the 2 intricately carved markers fit into each other when placed together. Photo credit: Tamalia Alisjahbana (private collection)

In Hoesain Djajadiningrat’s book entitled Tinjauan Kritis Sejarah Banten or ‘A Critical Perspective of the History of Banten’ Prince Tubagus (from the words Ratu Bagus which is an aristocratic Bantanese title showing descent from the Sultanate of Banten as well as a religious title, showing descent from the Prophet Muhammad) Angke was a vassal of the Sultan of Banten who sent him to govern an area close to the Angke river. He was married to a daughter of the Sultan named, Ratu Ayu Panembahan Fatimah. She was buried in the grounds of the mosque and her grave may still be seen there today. The Prince was involved in a very bloody battle with Pajajaran leaving the Angke river filled with corpses and it was said to have turned red with the colour of blood.

There are also several versions about the history of Prince Jayakarta who was a later adipati of Jacatra. What is known is that in 1610 he signed an agreement with the VOC allowing them to conduct ships’ repair on several islands in the Bay of Jakarta and to build a godown in Jacatra. Later the VOC breached the agreement by fortifying the godown and turning it into a small fort. We know that this story ended with the VOC attacking and destroying Jacatra and establishing Batavia in 1619.

As previously stated most of these historical figures from Banten, Demak and Cirebon lived long before Masjid Angke was erected. The graves in the Masjid Angke cemetery are said to have been in existence long before Masjid Angke was built. Knowing their history and connection to such historical figures helps us to understand the history of the small Bantenese settlement that donated the land for the mosque. It also helps to explain perhaps, why the settlement was prepared to offer shelter to the Chinese Muslims during the Chinese Massacre of 1740. With such a history, in the settlement there would have been clearly no love lost for the VOC.

The coming article about Masjid Angke will describe its connections to the Sultanate of Pontianak in Kalimantan and the famous 19th century artist Raden Saleh as well as its extremely eclectic architectural style and its 2021 restoration. (Tamalia Alisjahbana)