Singapore, mid-20th century
Wood, paint, metal, chalk
Gift of Haji Mohd Amin bin Abdul Wahab, Singapore
Science and faith merge in this prayer timetable chart.
This chart tells Muslim devotees the times for their five daily prayers: subuh (dawn), zuhur (when the sun is at its zenith), asar (late afternoon), maghrib (sunset), and isyak (after moonrise). The prayer times are affected by solar and lunar cycles, so they change every day. Someone at the temple would set the clock faces each day, and also use chalk to write the times.
On this chart, you will notice there are six clock faces. The sixth indicates imsak, which only applies during Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month. Imsak is a time before dawn prayers, and serves as a signal for Muslims to stop eating and drinking in preparation for the day’s fast.
This prayer chart was used in the Wak Sumang Mosque, which used to be in a village at the end of Punggol Road. The mosque was demolished in 1995. Kampung Wak Sumang (also known as Kampung Punggol) is thought to have been one of the oldest fishing settlements in Singapore.
Yusuf Chen Jinhui
Ink on paper
Gift of Yusuf Chen Jinhui
Is it a bird? Is it a phrase?
Written by the renowned Chinese Muslim calligrapher Yusuf Chen Jinhui, this bird calligram shows hybridity in practices, art, and culture. The artist used Chinese ink brush painting techniques to make a calligram, a widely practised form for Islamic calligraphy.
A calligram is an image made up entirely of words or phrases. In this case, it's the Arabic letters of the basmala, the Islamic invocation to God. Every part of the bird is formed from Arabic letters, including its wings and feet. The eye and beak are formed from a single Arabic letter.
Zoom in on the red seal, just below the artist’s signature. It looks like a traditional Chinese seal, but this one has a cross-cultural difference. The top line is in Arabic, spelling out the artist's Muslim name (Yusuf), the bottom line is his Chinese name.
Create a calligram with your name, and challenge yourself with a word search here – great for the little ones, and the young at heart!
Or listen to the description of the bird calligram here.
Explore Islamic Art here.