Text and photos by Lau Sook Mei
You will be surprised to know that this 1938 mosque, also known as Masjid Lama Kampung Dal, was not built by local Malay builders but Chinese artisans who involved the local community in the gotong royong (teamwork) spirit. It was built at a cost of RM8,000, borne by the 30th Perak Sultan, Sultan Iskandar Shah (r. 1918-1938). Incidentally, the Sultan is the head of the Islamic religion of the state.
Located at Kampung Kuala Dal, Padang Rengas, less than 2 km north from the interchange after you exit the North-South Expressway Toll Plaza in Kuala Kangsar, Masjid Ihsaniah Iskandariah was accorded national heritage status upon completion of its restoration in December 2009.
According to the website of the Department of National Heritage, Jabatan Warisan Negara, while returning from his Royal Highness’ favourite picnic spot at Lata Bubu, Sultan Iskandar Shah saw that the locals had only a dilapidated madrasah where they conducted prayer sessions. He vowed to have a mosque constructed for his subjects if his son recovered from an illness. He did and Masjid Ihsaniah Iskandariah was built on waqaf land originally endowed by Juragan Abdul Syukur Mohamad Ali.
The two-storey building has a unique shape, for a mosque, and a design that resembles a bird cage. Its architectural style is very much in tune with the Sultan’s Istana Kenangan (completed 1931) in Bukit Chandan, Kuala Kangsar. It has a low-pitched roof of zinc sheets. The walls are woven bamboo (kelarai), and above the windows the ventilators are adorned with intricate carvings in wood.
Abandoned since 1976 when the Masjid Al-Wahidiah was built in the same compound, the Masjid Lama fell derelict. Because of its historical significance, the Department of National Heritage undertook to restore it. Taking almost a year, restoration work adopted traditional construction method, with the woven bamboo wall-cladding and woodcarvings done by craftsmen in the district. The diamond-shaped Arabic geometry pattern of the kelarai was painted the colours of the Perak flag.
During a recent visit to the Masjid Ihsaniah Iskandariah in late May, barely half a year after its restoration, the PHS team was dismayed to discover that the paint on the kelarai and some parts of the concrete skirting has come off. Could these be the result of our harsh tropical weather or is it inappropriate paintwork? Surely, once restored, buildings need maintenance and monitoring so that they do not degenerate to a miserable state, like the Rumah Kutai on the Ipoh Road outside Kuala Kangsar.
Something needs to be done to ensure the paint stays on the kelarai of this enchanting mosque.
Please visit https://perakheritage.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/phs-3-5-ecopy.pdf for related story.