Al-Ansar Mosque in Bedok reopens with more space and handicap-friendly facilities

SINGAPORE - The Al-Ansar Mosque finally reopened its doors on Friday, after nearly three years of upgrading works.

The centre of worship in Bedok town now has a larger prayer space which can accommodate 4,500 congregants, up from 3,500 previously. This will help to alleviate the prayer space crunch in the eastern part of Singapore, said the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis). The refurbished mosque's total floor space also expanded by 40 per cent to about 4,800 sq m.

It now also boasts handicap-friendly facilities, including wheelchair ramps, a lift serving all of its seven floors and a handicap lot in its basement car park. Other new features include multipurpose classrooms, an auditorium, a heritage wall, a family prayer area and a library. It will also eventually have a roof garden for youth and community activities.

Masjid Al-Ansar was the sixth mosque built under the Mosque Building Fund programme in 1981.

It was identified as one of the six mosques to undergo the Mosque Upgrading Programme Phase 1 in 2009. The upgrading works cost $15.9 million, with the Mosque Building and Mendaki Fund funding $8 million, and the remainder raised by the mosque.

At the mosque's re-opening, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Yaacob Ibrahim, said the bigger space will be a "welcome relief", but also noted that some mosques are more crowded than others.

"The truth of the matter is on...public holidays like the first of May which is coming very soon, there are mosques around the city which will be empty," said Dr Yaacob, noting that there is a limit to which prayer spaces can be increased.

"And so we'd like to encourage our jemaah (Malay for congregation) to try and spread themselves out...If we can distribute ourselves appropriately I think we'd be able to fulfill all our religious obligations on Friday with ease and with comfort."

For 63-year-old retiree and Bedok resident Syed Hussein Syed Mahdar, the lift and ramps are excellent additions to the mosque. The main prayer hall, now on the ground level, used to be on the third floor of the mosque.

"Previously, I had to use a walking stick to climb up the stairs," said the wheelchair user, who suffered a severe stroke in 1998. "It's easier for me now. I don't have to worry and I don't need any help."

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg