With Buddhism being the state religion of Thailand, one often forgets that there are many healthy communities of other religions thriving in pockets all over the capital. In historic Bangrak, there exists an active Muslim community that has been around centuries. The Haroon Mosque is central to this small neighborhood opposite the French Embassy and behind the Old Customs House. The presence of this house of worship and its surrounding residents only adds more diversity to the up-and-coming Creative District.
In 1837, an Indonesian-Arab trader Musa Bafadel arrived to settle down in Bangrak, which was back then a small village named Ton Samrong. He had three sons: Haroon, Uthman, and Ishaaq. Two of the sons inherited their father’s penchant for travel – Uthman headed for Malaysia while Ishaaq departed for Cambodia. Haroon firmly planted his roots in Bangkok, eventually marrying and having a son. Originally, Ton Samrong had its mosque located on the riverfront. In 1899, the Thai government saw that the land where the mosque stood was prime location for a customs house. A trading of properties concluded with the mosque being moved further inland to where the mosque stands today.
The first form of the mosque was made of wood, allegedly beautifully designed in a hybrid Ayutthaya-Java style. In 1934, Haroon’s son Muhammad Yusuf decided to upgrade the mosque to its present brick and lime form today. Ton Samrong is no more but the mosque still stands. Residents and the faithful, through their lifestyle and religious practices offer insight into Islam and its culture. Every Jumu’ah (Friday congregational prayer), the neighborhood comes alive as the community gathers to pray together. One can become a wallflower and respectfully observe the activities if permitted by the worshippers or partake in the variety of Thai-Muslim foods sold by residents.