In Islamic architecture, the Singapore Nagore Dargah comes under the category of mashhad (المشهد). The most famous example of a mashhad in the Islamic world is the qubbatu-s sakhra (قبة الصخرة) or the “Dome of the Rock” in Jerusalem.
In general, there are three types of mashhad viz:
- A monument to commemorate an important event. The Dome of the Rock is an example of this kind. It was built to remember the heavenly night journey of the Prophet, Allah bless him and give him peace.
- A mausoleum where the remains of a Muslim martyr or a saintly Muslim is interred. The Maqam or Keramat of Habib Nuh al-Habashi, may Allah be pleased with him, at Palmer Road is an example of this category.
- A memorial built in honour of a saintly Muslim. This is usually erected out of reverence for a saint who is buried in another land and with whom one has an affinity with. It is also built to commemorate the witnessing of a Prophet or a saint at a particular location. The “Sanctuary of Khidr” in Kataragama, Sri Lanka, is an example of this variety.
The Singapore Nagore Dargah is a classic example of a memorial or cenotaph. It was built in memory of the celebrated South Indian saint and savant of North Indian origin, Sayyid ‘Abdul Qadir Shahul Hamid [d. 1557 AD]. He was a man of exacting piety and exemplary propriety.
The National Library Board’s SingaporeInfopedia entry on the historic Nagore Durgha Shrine describes the architecture as follows:
Though a small structure, the ornate architecture of Nagore Durgha Shrine makes an imposing stand at the corner of Telok Ayer Street and Boon Tat Street. Similar to Jamae Mosque, the architectural features are a unique blend of East and West. Fluted Corinthian pillars front the entrance, which features a classical street-level façade with an elaborate Islamic balustrade pierced with mihrab-shaped niches. At the corners of the building are 14-level square minarets topped with onion domes and spires. Inside the building sits a square enclosure that consists of an outer hall, a main hall and two kramats (Malay for “shrines”). The interior galleries are lined with heavy Doric columns. The side of the building facing Boon Tat Street features large French windows topped with glass fanlights. Externally, the eaves of the building are supported by a European-influenced system of cast-iron brackets.
— Takahama, V and Tan, J. (2001). Nagore Durgha Shrine. Available: http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_536_2004-12-27.html. Last accessed 1st Apr 2011.