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Masjid Al-Hilal also known as “Katangka Old Mosque, Gowa”, “Masjid Katangka Tua, Gowa” Neelakantan, Vivek


The Al-Hilal Masjid, more commonly known as the Katangka Old Mosque, is a royal mosque, situated in the village of Katangka on Syekh Yusuf Street (named after the Sufi mystic Syekh Yusuf al-Makassari, 1626-99) in the kecamatan (sub-district) of Somba Opu in the kabupaten (district) of Gowa, on the immediate outskirts of Makassar in the province of Sulawesi Selatan (South Sulawesi). Syekh Yusuf (whose maternal ancestors hailed from the Gowa royalty) founded the Khalwatiyah tarekat or order of Sufism. Between 1640-44, he was trained by Syekh Jalaluddin, a prominent Acehnese Ulama (body of Muslim scholars who have specialized knowledge of Islam). Between 1649-1659, during his sojourn in the Middle East, he came in contact with the teachings of prominent Sufi tarekats such as Syattariyah. After spending nearly a decade in the Middle East (1649-59), he returned to the Indies archipelago in 1659 but was unable to return to Makassar that was under Dutch control. He was welcomed by Sultan Ageng Tirtayasa of Banten in 1659. In 1680, Ageng's son rose in rebellion against Syekh Yusuf at the behest of the Dutch. In 1683, Syekh Yusuf undertook guerilla warfare against the Dutch in Banten. By 1684, the Dutch promised to pardon Syekh Yusuf and persuaded him to surrender. But the former reneged on their promise. Consequently, Syekh Yusuf was imprisoned, initially in Batavia (1684) and was subsequently deported to Colombo (Ceylon). In 1693, Syekh Yusuf was exiled to the Cape, now in South Africa where he was instrumental in spreading Islam. He passed away during his exile in Cape province in 1699. Among Yusuf's first disciples, Makassarese and Buginese royal families predominated. He was known by the honorific title of at-Taj-al- Khalwati or the " Crown among the Khalwatiya," amongst the Buginese and the Makassarese. Syekh Yusuf's spiritual techniques were syncretic and were heavily influenced by the Naqshbandiyya School of Sufism that emphasizes silent Dhikr (a Sufi practice that emphasizes rhythmic repetition of the name of God). Syekh Yusuf's remains were repatriated to Gowa in 1705. The tomb of Syekh Yusuf (built ~ 1705) is located 500 meters to the west of the Katangka mosque. The total area of Masjid Katangka is 174.24 square meters. As per historical records, the mosque has undergone renovations at least seven times between 1603 and 1980. The Masjid Tua Katangka mosque was constructed in 1603, supposedly by Minangkabau cleric Daeng Bandang who succeeded in converting the Fourteenth Raja of Gowa Karaeng Matowaya Tumamenaga Ri Agamanna, reign between 1591-1629. The Fourteenth Raja of Gowa changed his name to Sultan Alauddin) after accepting Islam in 1605. The coming of Islam in South Sulawesi is linked to the " Legend of the Three Datok," who were the muballigh or preachers. Muhammad Aldin Sila (2015), dates the arrival of the Three Datok in South Sulawesi to 1575 that coincided with the first period of Islamization of Gowa (1575-1605). The three Datok namely Datok Abdul Makmur (Datok Ri Bandang), Khatib Sulaiman (Datok ri Pattimang) and Khatib Bungsu ( Datok di Tiro) were believed to have converted the twin states of Gowa and Tallo to Islam (~1605). The " Legend of the Three Datok" indicates the gradual Islamization of South Sulawesi. A salient feature of Islam in South Sulawesi was the blending of Islam with adat or tradition. Datok Ri Bandang did not force the Makassar nobility to abandon their pre-Islamic customs soon after they embraced Islam such as bringing offerings to sacred places or the belief in Saukang (a stone or piece of wood considered "sacred." The finder of a Saukang was regarded as the temporary personfication of the pre-Islamic deity according to the Makassar nobility). Masjid Tua Katangka, the more popular appellation of Masjid Al-Hilal, is named after native Katangka trees (a deciduous tree endemic to South Sulawesi) that grew in abundance at the present site of the mosque. The scientific name of the Katangka tree, as listed in in Flora Malesiana is Millingtonia Hortensis. The Katangka was considered sacred by pre-Islamic Buginese and Makassarese and was priced for its fine-grained timber. The timber of the Katangka was initially used in the construction of the Katangka Old Mosque in 1603. The architecture of the mosque is an eclectic fusion of Javanese, Chinese, Arab and classical Greek styles. Cultural symbolism is apparent in the architecture. The four pillars of the mosque, reflect the blending of Javanese Joglo style of architecture with classical Greek influences. The Greek influence is evident in the cylindrical molding of the pillars. The pillars collectively symbolize the four companions of Prophet Muhammad. Five doors, three inside and two outside symbolize the five tenets of Islam. There is a carving on the door leading up to the pulpit of the mosque in Arabic calligraphy but in the local Makassarese language. On the left and the right side of the pulpit, there are two spears. Local informants from Gowa note that at the turn of the seventeenth century, Islam in South Sulawesi was highly influenced by Animistic practices. Local Makassarese and Buginese would bite off edges of the Lontara (palm leaf manuscripts) from which Islamic sermons were read during Friday prayers. The locals at the time were of the conviction that such a practice would confer them immunity from enemies (Ashrawi Muin 2021). To dispel animistic practices, the Gowa Sultan stationed two soldiers armed with spears. The two spears in turn, are symbolic of the Islamization of the principality of Gowa.

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