When I was in high school, I grew up witnessing a huge project development on Jalan Langgar, Alor Setar Kedah. Whenever I travelled back and forth from my hostel to my home every weekend, my bus would pass by that area. There were not many major projects in Alor Setar during that period, and it made me wonder the kind of huge complex that they planned to build. The lingering question were, “When will it be accomplished?”, “What is the purpose of this project?” and “Why does it takes years to complete?”. Finally, when I was away from my hometown to further my studies, the first ever structure built in this complex known as Albukhary Mosque was officially open in 2001. The mosque not the only building built, there are other buildings inside this complex too. The complex is known as Syarifah Sofia Center of Excellence.
This complex is one of the most prestigious complexes that has ever been built in Alor Setar, Kedah. From my observation, numerous facilities provided in this complex can be utilised by the societies through beneficial activities conducted in the complex. Until now, whenever I return to my hometown, this complex has never failed to amaze me with its great architectural design. As a person who appreciates aesthetics in arts, architecture and heritage, I am honoured to have directly witnessed some parts of the development phase of the sacred project. It is an opportune moment for me to share about this hidden gem by inculcating awareness about the existence of this complex among the people from and outside Kedah.
Syarifah Sofiah Center of Excellence or also known as Albukhary complex is a waqf initiated by Syed Mokhtar Albukhary, which is intended for the poor and marginalised segment of the society. Syed Mokhtar Albukhary’s views can be understood based on the principle, “The day has twenty-four hours; eight for the night’s sleep, eight for the day’s education, and eight for helping others in need”. The complex is built on a family land and managed by the Foundation of Albukhary as an integrated complex of education, health and welfare, as well as community facilities. Built in phases, the following addition to the area after the completion of Albukhary mosque is its commercial complex, known as the Souq. The final addition to the complex, which marked its completion in 2015, is the centre for people with Special Needs. At the heart of the centre is Albukhary International University, which is a private waqf university. There are health and welfare facilities for the poor, disabled, sick, and the elderly nearby the university.
Sharifah Rokiah Centre of Excellence’s rich and diverse architecture is spread over a 75-acre site. This complex consists of beautiful and attractive designs of architecture that are inspired from various renowned Islamic buildings in the world of Islamic architecture.
Souq Albukhary is known as Albukhary Mall. Souq Albukhary employs Islamic motifs in its design with elements borrowed from the Mughal and Moorish architectural styles. This includes chhatris and minarets in the design and filigree screens to the walls. Souq Albukhary also consists of a three-story air-conditioned mall with Giant Hypermarket as the anchor tenant, linked to a non-air-conditioned bazaar. This building captures the grandeur of the Citadel of Bukhara, Uzbekistan.
Albukhary mosque is considered as one of the famous mosques in Malaysia. It is due to its unique features and beautiful architectural design. The Mihrab of this mosque (sanctuary) was inspired from the architecture of Sheikh Abdul Samad’s tomb as found in Natanz, Iran. Meanwhile, the minarets are designed after those of the Nabawi Mosque in Medina. The Mimbar is a replica of those in Medina’s Qiblatain Mosque and Cairo’s Qaitbay Mamluks. The seven domes in the mosque are adorned with Quranic verses. The Mosque’s square has plain ponds and waterways in specialised geometric structures, which are based on the architecture at the tomb of Imam Albukhary in Samarkhand, Uzbekistan.
Albukhari International University complex
The university campus is designed based on classical Islamic geometry and planning principles. It is intended to be a ‘living museum’ of classical Islamic Art and Architecture; showcasing the various styles, forms and elements found in many Islamic countries. Interestingly, the dome of Albukhary mosque act as a cue to generate the master plan for the university. The convocation hall reflects the serenity of the University of Qarawiyin, in Fes, Morocco. The most attractive building in this university is the lecture theatre that embraces the opulence of the Suleimaniya Mosque Complex, Istanbul while the library building’s dome mirrors the sparkling Dome of the Rock, in Al – Quds.
The Center for Community
Sharifah Rokiah Center of Excellence also functions as the complex for community through its facilities and services provided. The surrounding of the mosque is an old folks’ home, an orphanage, and a dialysis centre, to serve the needs of the disadvantaged in the local community. The dialysis centre has 18 dialysis machines, which provide medical service to the poor in Kedah, at no cost. Besides that, the landmarks of the Islamic World gathered in this complex not only beautify its surroundings and showcase replicas to students and members of the university, they also welcome the community who might otherwise not have the chance to visit these magnificent buildings.
In my view, Syarifah Rokiah Center of Excellence is a hidden gem because this complex is not only a common complex that only showcases the beautiful landscape and architecture but, it also serves the community especially for those in need. That makes this complex unique and I am so delighted to be able to share about this hidden gem with others! Lastly, please embrace this quote by the founder of this complex as a reflection.
“Saya gembira dapat membantu. Saya mahu orang lain merasai (kesenangan) apa yang saya pernah rasa. Saya tahu bagaimana perasaannya. Saya kata kepada diri saya, apa yang saya dapat saya mesti beri orang lain merasainya sama. Jangan beri kurang, lebih tak mengapa. Itu yang membuat hati saya seronok.”- Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary