Some come here to pray, some hope for a miracle, while others merely sit waiting for anyone to hand them food or money. With this combination in hand, Keramat Mosque in Luar Batang, North Jakarta, looks more like a pilgrimage site than a heritage building.
Built in 1739 by Muslim preacher Habib Husein bin Abubakar Alaydrus from Southern Yemen, the mosque is among Jakarta’s oldest.
Paradoxical to the teaching of Islam that one should only ask for blessings from God, most who come to the mosque, where the tomb of Habib Husein lies, come in quest of a miracle from the spirit of the teacher.
“People crowd the place on Thursday nights. Some say they were cured after praying in front of the tomb,” a mosque guide said.
The story goes that Habib Husein had a sixth sense. He prophesied the birth of a Dutch boy who would grow up to be a great man. Another legend tells of him sending a sack of money to his mother in Yemen by throwing it into the sea.
Pilgrims from all over the world flock to the mosque. Despite the special qualities of the area, people generally associate Luar Batang with Keramat Mosque.
The mosque itself is actually less popular than the tomb of Habib Husein, which was situated within the mosque prior to the building’s first renovation in 1993.
Although initially built in a mixed style of European and Middle Eastern architecture, very little of the building’s original fabric remains.
Several renovations have been carried out, neglecting the basic principles of architectural conservation and leaving the mosque looking too modern for its age.
However, a number of interior elements, like a chandelier suspended at the center of the prayer hall, are just as they were more than 250 years ago.
Typical of pilgrimage sites in Indonesia is the line of beggars stretching from the front gate of the complex to the mosque’s entrance.
Pictures of health — even if their clothes are torn and tattered — a group of women crowd around the trunk of a car, from where a young woman is taking out cash wrapped in colorful paper.
Not far from there, a little boy grabs the hem of a woman’s skirt, cupping his hands together to ask for money.
Surely, this is not what Habib Husein taught centuries ago.
Other heritage buildings near Luar Batang:
1. Maritime Museum (1773)
2. Old Watchtower (1839)
3. Kampung Bandan Mosque (1879)
4. Fish market (1920)
5. Hexagon market (1920)
Source: Jakarta Cultural and Museum Agency
Article: Anissa S. Febrina