Masjid Jamek Batu Uban (GPS: 5.35041, 100.30917) is said to be the oldest mosque in Penang. It was built in 1734, pre-dating the establishment of George Town in 1786 by Captain Francis Light. The mosque began as a surau, or prayer hall, erected by Haji Mohammed Saleh, popularly known as Nakhoda Intan Nam Tunku Patis Batang, a Muslim leader from Buadi Village in Paya Kumbu, Sumatra.
Haji Mohammed Saleh and his followers arrived in Penang, which was then still densely covered in jungle, and established a settlement by the coast. It was named Batu Uban, meaning "grey hair rock", after a sea boulder with some dried grass clinging onto it, which seemed to resemble white hair. The boulder is said to be somewhere in the sea between Penang Island and Pulau Jerejak.
Over time, the surau was eventually replaced by a mosque for the Malay settlement, or kampung, that was established in Batu Uban. They lived mostly as fishermen, largely undisturbed by the opening of Penang Island as a British trading port.
Masjid Jamek Batu Uban (22 September, 2009)
There are claims that Batu Uban was a transit point for Muslim traders and missionaries from India, Pakistan and the Middle East, but this has not been fully verified, and even if it were to have taken place, would have comprised an insignificant number compared to the amount of Muslim trade that took place through George Town following the latter's establishment.
The descendents of the original Sumatran settlers continue to live in Batu Uban, where they depend on fishing as their livelihood. Until recently (2009), some have their sampans docked along the coastal expressway at Sungai Gelugor. With the land reclamation (for the Light Waterfront), the fishermen have been relocated.
In terms of aesthetics, there is nothing outstanding of Masjid Jamek Batu Uban. However, the architectural style of the pyramidal roof is similar to mosques in Malacca, such as Masjid Kampung Hulu, which derived its design from Sumatra.
Signboard showing year the mosque was established (22 September, 2009)
From George Town, take Rapid Penang Bus No. 301, 303 and 304 to Batu Uban. From Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah, enter Jalan Batu Uban, with E-Park on your left, and Sunny Ville and N-Park on your right. Turn left just before E-Park, and continue down the road until you reach the mosque at the end of the road.
If you are driving along the Bayan Lepas Expressway towards Penang Bridge, you can see the mosque immediately after the turning in to N-Park.
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