Acheen Street Mosque

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Acheen Street Mosque

A 19th century construct, the Acheen Street Mosque or Masjid Lebuh Acheh gets its name from the street on which it is located within Georgetown’s heritage enclave. Founded by Tengku Sheriff Syed Hussain Al-Aidid, an Achehnese clan leader from neighbouring Indonesia, the mosque was built in 1808. It is reputed to be one of the oldest mosques in Penang with a history linked to trade and rivalry.

Story has it that Tengku Syed Hussain was personally invited by Francis Light to settle in Penang. Malacca was in decline in the 18th century and trade movement had shifted from the Acheen Street MosqueStraits of Malacca towards Acheh in Sumatra. Francis Light had his sights set on Penang becoming the leading British trading post of the region rivalling Acheh. He invited international merchants and traders to settle in Georgetown. Penang quickly became host and home to immigrant communities from Phuket, China, South India, Acheh, Arabia and Armenia. Amongst these was Tengku Syed Hussain, a wealthy Achehnese merchant of Arab descent.

Tengku Syed Hussain began a Muslim settlement in the area near Lebuh Acheh or Acheen Street in 1792. Over the ensuing years, the settlement became a hub for Islamic studies in Penang, attracting traders from the surrounding Malay archipelago, India and Arabia. The Acheen Street Mosque was built in 1808 on land donated by Tengku Syed Hussain. It combines Achenese and Arab architectural traits: its roof is distinctively Achehnese while its minaret is Arab-styled. If looked at closely, there is a hole made by a cannon ball, midway up the minaret. Apparently this was caused by the 1867 triad riots during which Chinese secret societies fought for power over nine days.

The compound within the Mosque is also where Tengku Syed Hussain’s simple unadorned mausoleum rests, in keeping with Islamic tradition. It is sheltered against the elements by a cover.