UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

Sunan Ampel Great Mosque, Surabaya, also known as “Ampel Mosque”, “Masjid Agung Sunan Ampel” Neelakantan, Vivek


Sunan Ampel (1401-1478, also known as Raden Rahmat or Soenan Ngampel) was the son of Sunan Gresik (also known as Maulana Malik Ibrahim Asmarakandi) and the Champa princess Dewi Candrawulan. Sunan Gresik and his descendants collectively constitute the Wali Songo (revered saints of Islam on the island of Java). Each saint bore the Javanese honorific Sunan. Sunan Gresik was instrumental in the proselytization of the Champa kingdom and its inhabitants to Islam. Dewi Dwarawati, Raden Rahmat's aunt (Dewi Candrawulan's sister) was the consort of the Majapahit monarch Brawijaya. In 1443, upon arrival in Java, Brawijaya granted him land in Ampel Denta, Kahuripun (that corresponds to modern Surabaya). Raden Rahmat subsequently entered into a matrimonial alliance with a Javanese princess who was the sister of the would-be Sunan Kalijaga. According to the Babad Ngampeldenta (Javanese chronicle) , Raden Rahmat was invested with the Javanese appellation of Sunan by his uncle Brawijaya. The title Sunan mediated his position not only as an Islamic teacher but also someone who had the authority to impart Diksa or induct students into Islam. Furthermore the Babad Ngampeldenta notes the investiture of Raden Rahmat with the title "the Imam of Surabaya" by the Duke of Surabaya Aria Lembasura. At the same time, Aria Lembasura offered his granddaughter Nyai Ageng Manila in matrimonial alliance to Sunan Ampel. With Nyai Ageng Manila, Sunan Ampel begot Sunan Drajat and Sunan Bonang. Sunan Ampel's closeness to the royal family was a part of his Dakwah or Daawa strategy (the act of calling people to embrace Islam). Prior to settling in Surabaya, Sunan Ampel mentored Raden Patah, the son of Brawijaya and converted him to Islam. The latter subsequently refused to acknowledge the suzerainity of the Majapahit monarch. The act of Raden Patah's defiance later led to the establishment of the Sultanate of Demak by 1478. A salient feature of Sunan Ampel's dakwah was the syncretism between Javanese cultural traditions (heavily influenced by Hinduism and Buddhism) and Islam. For instance, he incorporated the Javanese custom of Sraddha (homage paid to one's deceased ancestors). Historical tradition attributes the construction of the Ampel mosque to Sunan Ampel. The monument cannot be precisely dated. The mosque architecture is a fusion of Javanese and Arab elements. The Javanese influences are apparent in the three-layered roof (Tajuk, the embodiment of Mount Meru of Javanese cosmology) and the five gapuros (entrance gates) to the mosque. The tomb of Sunan Ampel is situated right in front of the Ampel mosque. Unlike the tombs of other Wali Songo, the tomb of Sunan Ampel is noted for its simplicity and lacks a cupola as per the saint's last wish. The Juru Kunci (caretaker of the shrine) notes that several years after the demise of Sunan Ampel, a cupola was constructed above the tomb of the saint but strong winds blew it away. East of the mosque is the tomb of Mbah Shonhaji or Mbah Sholeh, an astronomer of Hadhramaut Arab ethnicity and disciple of Sunan Ampel who fixed the direction of Kiblat (Qibla, the fixed direction to Kaaba in the Grand Mosque in Makkah). According to legend, Mbah Shonhaji was believed to have lived and died nine times and as a result has 9 tombs in the Sunan Ampel masjid complex.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution 4.0 International