[Kapitan Keling] Cauder Mohiddeen Merican Kadir Merican

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About [Kapitan Keling] Cauder Mohiddeen Merican Kadir Merican


Kapitan Keling Mosque

The Kapitan Keling Mosque on Pitt Street was named after "Captain Kling", the headman of the South Indian community, who was appointed by the British administration in 1801.

The first mosque on the site, the predecessor of the present Kapitan Keling Mosque, was a small "Chulier Mosque" which appeared on a map of 1798.

According to the history recorded in a report on Muslim trusts in 1904.

"In the early days of this Settlement, the Havildars, Jemadars and Sepoys who constituted the native section of the East India Company's Troops stationed in Penang, cleared a piece of land and erected an attap mosque on a portion of it and used another part as a burial ground." (Hand Book, 1932; 9)

Oral tradition names the founder of this attap mosque as Major Nador Khan, an East Indian Company sepoy, who was popularly called To' Nadok Berkajang Kain. (Abdul Kahar, 1974; unpaged)

In 1801, the Leith administration appointed Cauder Mohiddeen as Captain of the South Indian community and in that same year granted the piece of land for the Kapitan Keling Mosque. Leith on behalf of the East India Company granted to the "Mohammedan Church" a piece of ground on the south side of Malabar Street (Chulia Street). The property was estimated to contain 5,468 square jumbas, or about 18 acres. In this grant the land is described as being bounded towards the West and South by grounds belonging Cauder Mohuddeen.

The grant stipulated that the land "which have been originally given for religious purposes is not to be sold or transferred but to revert to the Honourable Company should it cease to be used for the purposes intended." (Hand Book, 1932; 9-10)

A 1904 report on Muslim trusts describes the circumstances of the founding of the mosque:

"As the trade of the Settlement increased, attracting many Mohammedan traders and mariners it became necessary to erect a more permanent building and to provide a large burial ground. Cauder Mohuddeen, a wealthy Mohammedan Kling, took the matter in hand and, having collected subscriptions, built the present mosque. He also prevailed upon the Mohamedan merchants and mariners to subscribe certain sums for the upkeep of this mosque" (Hand Book, 1932; p. 9)

The Muslim community, including the Sepoys and Arabs approached Cauder Mohuddeen to build the mosque and supplied him with a letter of request from the community. Then given a letter of authorization from the government, Cauder Mohuddeen brought builders and stones (or bricks) from India to erect the brick mosque. (Hand Book, 1932; 23, Merican, 1981; 2).

The Captain Kling was thus regarded as the founder of the mosque. The Kapitan Keling Mosque was probably the first congregational mosque (Masjid Jamek) to be built in George Town. It is possible that the sermons and other matters were conducted in Tamil, and for this reason, the Achehnese community under the leadership of the Arab decided to build the Masjid Melayu at Acheen Street in 1808.

The Kapitan Keling Mosque was named after Cauder Mohuddeen (Kader Mydin), a Maraikkaya and a ship mandor (foreman) who traded with Nagore, Nagapattinam and Kedah. (Fujimoto, 1988; 42-43) He came from Porto Novo - the Tamils call it Paringgipettai while the Muslims call it Mahmudbandar -- on the coast of South Arcot, 32 miles south of Pondicherry.

Several family traditions about Cauder Mohuddeen's family have been handed down. (Fujimoto, 1988; 43-44; Merican, 1991 a and b; Abdul Kahar, 1974) Although differing in detail, all of them emphasise the prominent role of the women in his family. According to one family tradition, Cauder Mohuddeen Merican and his younger brother Muhammad Nordin Merican sailed to Penang with their mother Fatimah, when the boys were 11 and 7 years respectively. All versions claim that Cauder Mohuddeen had three wives, including an Indian wife and princess from Kedah.

In addition to founding the Kapitan Keling Mosque, Caudeer Mohuddeen also donated his own lands to waqf. When he died in 1834, Cauder Mohuddeen left behind a personal fortune of 50,000 Spanish dollars. "I do not leave this as a sufficient Estate to my wives and children," he wrote in his will, "but I have for them unperishable goods in the hands of God." By this, he meant that his deed as a founder of the mosque and waqf and his other charitable acts would stand him in good stead in the hereafter. Cauder Mohuddeen is buried together with his family in a mausoleum in Kampong Kolam, just next to the mosque. This mausoleum is still intact though in a somewhat dilapidated condition, reminding us of the great man who founded one of Malaysia's most prominent mosque.

The Kapitan Keling Mosque went through several stages of development. By 1803, a brick mosque with a pyramidal roof had been erected. The rectangular building was surrounded by a colonnaded venches, while a well on the southern side supplied water to the ablution area. Around the mosque was the burial ground. A well on the southern side supplied water to the ablution area.

In 1910, the Kapitan Keling Mosque was skillfully extended, with some parts of the original mosque walls retained within the larger building; the original minarets can still be identified. The spectacular new look of the mosque could be described as Moghul or Indo-Saracenic', with a fancy roof of domes and turrets, and the walls elaborately stuccoed and coloured to simulate the Moghul monuments of India, which employed different coloured stone and marble. The work was commissioned by the Mohamedan and Hindu Endowments Board. The architect was a Malacca-born Eurasian of Germnan decent, Henry Alfred Neubronner.

The building of the minaret in 1916 marked the completion of this phase of expansion. The minaret has a slab with this inscription. 'This Minaret was erected by the Endowments Board from the funds of the Capitan Kling Mosque. W.Peel President, H.C Sells Secretary. The foundation stone was laid by Haji Abdullah Imam. Committee of Management, Shaik Ismail, Haji Yahya Khatib. N.A. Neubronner F.R.I.B.A. Architect. 13th Rabi-al-Akhir A.M. 1334. 18th February 1916.'

The shophouses immediately to the south of the minaret were cleared soon afterwards so that the mosque could be fully viewed from Pitt Street, the mosque and minaret became the most prominent landmark in the neighbourhood.

In the 1920s, improvements were made to the ablution areas with modern plumbing and reinforced concrete coverings. In the 1930s' the Kapitan Keling Mosque was again expanded and assumed its present form. A somewhat simpler and more weatherproof hip roof was added and a perimeter wall was built.


Abdul Kahar bin Yusoff, Abu Bakar bin Shariff, Abdul Razak bin Mohamed Sultan, Ahmad bin Kasmar, Joseph Casimer Fernandez, Sulieman bin Hussain, W. Williams, (Lecturers and members of the Junior and Senior History Options at the Malaysan Teachers College, Penang, Historical Survey Of The Mosques and Kramats On Penang Island, Malayan Teachers' College, Penang, 1974.

Fujimoto, Helen, The South Indian Muslim Community and the Evolution of the Jawi Peranakan in Penang up to 1948, ILCAA Tokyo Gaikokugo Daigaku, 1988.

Hand Book of the Mohamedan and Hindu Endoments Board, Penang, 1932. This publication is an updated version of the "Hindu and Mohamoden Endowments Board Handbook", Penang, 1905, which contains the General Report Upon The Moslem Trusts and Foundations in Penang.