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The History Behind Bairurrahman

Aceh is a special region of Indonesia. It is autonomous and Muslim majority state. It is the only one state in Indonesia where people live according to sharia customs and laws. Its capital is Banda Aceh. Once Aceh was a cosmopolitan city. Aceh played a very pivotal role in the development and spread of Islam to the rest of the Malay Archipelago. It is very close to Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India.

I would like to shed light on the history of Masjid Baiturrahman. Masjid Baiturraham is located in the center of Banda Aceh. Basically, it was built by Iskandar Muda in 1612. It is said that the original mosque was built by Sultan Alaidin Mahmudsyah in 1292. It is the symbol of religious life and bravery of Aceh people. It is one of the beautiful mosques in Indonesia. The Masjid remained the center of armed resistance to Dutch invaders. When it became the center of armed resistance. Therefore, it was burned down by Dutch in 1874. When it was through and through damaged, Acehnese people were extremely antagonistic towards Dutch. Afterwards, the Dutch colonial government tried to ameliorate the situation in Aceh. General van Swieten promised the local rulers he would rebuilt the Masjid in order to gain sympathy of Acehnese people. Construction began in 1879. The first stone was laid by Tengku Qadhi Malikul Adil who became the first imam. The construction was supervised by L.P. Luyks and several other experts. Construction was completed in 1881 during the reign of Davud shah. Most of the material for the Masjid came from outside Aceh. The varieties of stones were from Netherland. Marbles that were used for floors and stairs were from China, iron frames for the windows was from Belgium, wood for the window frames was from Burma and iron pillars were from Surabaya. The cost of Masjid became very expensive. After two years of construction, the Dutch government handed over the Masjid to the Acehnese people through an official ceremony. The new Baiturraham Mosque was reminiscent of Arabian, classical European and Moorish architectural styles. The roof was covered by main dome characteristics of the Mughal architecture. The shape of dome’s base like an octagonal drum. The dome was made of wooden structures. At first, the Masjid had only one dome and minaret. Slowly domes were added to the Masjid. Today the Masjid has seven domes and eight minarets and the mosque covers more than 1500 square meters. The Masjid was designed by Dutch architect Gerrit Bruins. The design chosen is Mughal revival style, characterized by grand domes and minarets.

The Aceh war (1873-1903) was the longest fierce combat between Dutch government and Aceh sultan. In order to dominate the northern part of Sumatra. It caused great monetary loss for the Dutch colonial government. Therefore, the Dutch government rebuilt the Masjid Baiturraham in order to get sympathy of Acehnese people. After having lost this long fierce war that had resulted in the deaths of many victims and had consumed considerable financial resources, which almost made Dutch government bankrupt. The rebuilt of Mosque couldn’t soft the hearts of Acehnese people. At first, Acehnese refused to use the masjid. As a matter of fact, the mosque was built by Dutch colonialists, who were the enemy of the Acehnese people and their religion. The war between Dutch colonial government and Acehnese people which had been seen as not only war for power or territory. But it was also a religious war between Dutch colonial government and Acehnese people. When the Masjid Baiturraham was designed in a shape of cross. It caused spatial conflict between Acehnese people and Dutch colonial government. Acehnese people had been filled with dismay by the design of Masjid Baiturraham. Therefore, in 1936, the governor Van Aken ordered to extent the Mosque in order to hide the reversed cruciform plan. The mosque was transformed into a rectangular plan. After changing the mosque into a rectangular plan it had changed the viewpoint of Acehnese people toward Mosque.

The Sumatra kingdoms fell one-by-one and became the part of Dutch colonial government. Medan-Deli, Langkat and Siak fell easily to Dutch colonial government. Without the exception of Aceh, Aceh was defeated only after a long guerrilla war. The Dutch government was about to bankrupt in Aceh war. It was political strategy of Dutch Colonial government to rebuild the mosque in order to end the insurgency in Aceh.

Masjid Baiturraham is very famous mosque in Aceh. Every year thousands of people come to visit this beautiful mosque. It is located in the heart of Banda Aceh. It is the pride of Acehnese people. People find tranquility and bliss in this sacred mosque. The sacred mosque survived the devastating tsunami in 2004.

Aqib Farooq Mir
(miraqib454@gmail.com)

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