Majestic SOAS Mosque turns 50
By Syafiq Affendy & Narissa Noor

Exactly 50 years ago on Friday, September 26, 1958, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque was officially opened by the 28th Sultan of Brunei, Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien.

One of the celebrated landmarks of Brunei turns 50 today and the Golden Jubilee celebration will see His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam attending the Friday prayers and signing of the plaque.

The mosque was built at a cost of $7.7 million, with the best of materials at that time used for its construction.

Preparation for the Golden Jubilee celebration started as early as March this year with renovations on the whole mosque infrastructure ranging from general repairs to mosque facilities, including repairs on the domes, upgrading the gate and cleaning the lagoon and artificial barge.

The mosque is now glistening under the $2.6 million facelift with the dome being the main attraction. Repairs to the dome took more than six months and now it shines in all its grandeur.

The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque has been a popular tourist attraction for decades and more importantly, it represents Brunei's history throughout the world as visitors are left awestruck at its magnificence and beauty.

A special committee was formed in 1949 to build an edifice that would symbolise Brunei's faith, vision and strength, which began as they laid the foundation of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque.

Its members comprising locals and foreign architects were chosen to help realise the vision of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien and what he wanted Brunei to be.

According to historians, the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque is an embodiment of the late Sultan's characteristics; strong, regal, inspiring, ardent and fervent which all was successfully captured upon its completion.

The mosque single handedly epitomises his vision which places Islam at its zenith.

On February 4, 1954, construction works began and the 5-acre site chosen encompassed the areas of Kampong Sungai Kedayan, Kampong Sumbiling Lama and Kampong Bukit Salat.

With Brunei Town playing its growing role as the town centre and the high population density in this area at that time, the site selected undoubtedly gave residents the best religious facility for their daily use and strengthened the Islamic faith for the masses in the country.

Four years later, at exactly 12.25pm on September 26, 1958, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien officiated the opening of the mosque.

Malaya's first Yang Di-Pertuan Agong, Malaya's Prime Minister Tunku Abd Rahman Putera, and the Sultans of Malaya were present to witness the historic event as well as Brunei's own high-ranking officials, citizens of Brunei and its neighbours.

Fifty years on, the mosque continues to serve as a reminder for the people of where they came from and the great strides it took to get there.

For those residing in the area near the mosque, its importance will persevere as much as it did in the past, has in the present and will the future. - Borneo Bulletin (26th Sept 2008)