Firstly, Alhamdulillah for the 71st mosque of Singapore. All praises to Allah for allowing us with more areas to pray, insyaAllah we are one step closer to reaching the huge number of mosques we once had before, the state had them demolished or discontinued.
There have been quite a controversy circulating online regarding the mimbar (pulpit of the mosque where the imam delivers his sermons) of the newly opened Yusof Ishak Mosque. There were claims that the design of the mimbar was not pleasing to the eyes, as it was akin to a type of architecture known as “phallic architecture” and to a certain extent, resembled the lingam, a representation of the Hindu god Shiva, commonly found in Hindu temples.
With my very limited knowledge as a mere student of architecture, I seek permission to humbly reason out my thoughts on this issue. I would have to give the author, Isa Kamari due credit and benefit of the doubt, for he obviously have been in this field longer than I have. The author too have been to said mosque, while I can only rely on photos available online at the time of writing.
However, I feel that this has been blown entirely out of proportion. I would vehemently reject any opinions that this resembled a phallic symbolization or architecture, simply due to the nature of the building. While phallic architecture does exist and have been repeated time and time again as a trademark of certain architects and design styles, no one in the right mind would do that to a religious building.
Furthermore, it has already been clarified that the design of the mosque was a blend of “traditional mosque characteristics with Nusantara heritage.” (That, in and of itself, requires further clarification but I guess we can all agree that phallic would not be a word to describe this mosque or any parts of its design).
I get the author when he referenced the mimbar to what he terms as “maha linggam” which, from my very limited knowledge once again, I reference to an object called lingam, or also known as Shiva lingam. Again, I have to disagree with the author on two points. Firstly, I agree that the front elevation of the mimbar from a very low angle does resemble a shaft. However, when viewed from all other angles, the same can’t be said. The design, which many have commented to be a futuristic one, is in my opinion a hybrid of the modern and the vernacular, with carvings and lights etched on a timber pulpit which seems to be suspended above ground. Nowhere did my friends and me found any resemblance to the male genetilia whatsoever, it didn’t even cross our minds. Many things in this world resembles a shaft, not all of them can be correlated with a penis.
Secondly, to say that the lingam is phallic in nature and that the Hindus worship these phallic symbols is totally out of line. Yes, there have been debates by western scholars on the nature of the lingam, yes there are those who claimed that the phallic-based designs were a later addition, but ask any Hindu and he/she would be outraged at such claims. One could also simply Google how it looks like, and you’ll realise that the lingam isn’t phallic and this mimbar does not even look like a lingam.
I am very upset at the snide remarks. Lest we forget, there are mosques in the Malay Nusantara which have Hindu motifs on them, such as the naga guarding the elixir of life, the meru roof and so on, and at the same time, there are mosques which have appropriated the spaces of what used to be Hindu temples. Do these mosques lose their Islamic-ness whatsoever? No, because all these are merely symbols which doesn’t affect the function of the mosque, all the more, those elements reaffirm ourselves as to our religion.
Now let me reiterate, it is my modest opinion that the mimbar isn’t phallic, isn’t inspired from the lingam, and the lingam isn’t phallic. In addition to that, it’s upsetting to see the introduction of another religion which from my point of view only seeks to stoke the flames in the hearts of the ignorant. There’s also an element called power of suggestion, for when I showed the same photo to both Muslims and non-Muslims who are not aware of the controversy, none of them had any phallic like ideas in their heads. But once someone forces himself to see it and spread the word, naturally it would be hard for people to unsee.
My point being, it is evidently clear to us that this is simply making a mountain out of a molehill, or rather nothing at all. Purify our hearts and niat such that Allah rid our minds of such thoughts from what we see through our eyes. There are a lot of other problems plaguing the Malay and Muslim community which needs more attention, rather than such controversies which does not benefit anyone. At the end of the day, these are just my opinions as a Muslim architecture undergraduate. Indeed, Allah knows best.
Source: Ahmad Bin Osman