BANGKOK – Mosques are regarded as the centers of Muslim communities all over the world. They are the places where Muslims gather to pray, listen to sermons, and strengthen their communal bond.
According to statistics compiled by the Internal Security Affairs Bureau, Department of Provincial Administration, there were altogether 3,722 mosques registered on 31 October 2011 in Thailand.
Out of this number, 3,158 are located in the South (14 provinces), 491 in the central region (25 provinces), 46 in the North (13 provinces), and 27 in the Northeast (15 provinces).
A large number of Muslim Thais live in the five southern border provinces, namely Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala, Songkhla, and Satun. There are more than three million people in the deep South of Thailand and 62 percent of them are Muslim. About 82 percent of local residents in the four southern provinces – Pattani, Narathiwat, Yala, and Satun – are Muslim. They have a distinctive culture, different from the culture in other parts of Thailand.
Among the five southernmost provinces, Pattani has the highest number of mosques, 675, followed by Narathiwat, 633, Yala, 470, Songkhla, 378, and Satun, 223. These mosques play an important role in social and spiritual development.
The central mosque in Pattani is recognized as the most beautiful Muslim religious structure in Thailand. It is located on Yarang Road in Mueang district. The Thai government in 1954 approved a budget for the construction of the Pattani Central Mosque. It took nine years for the construction of this magnificent mosque, which was completed in 1963.
On 21 October 1993, Their Majesties the King and Queen visited local residents at the Pattani Central Mosque. His Majesty told the then Education Minister (Mr. Samphan Thongsamak) to renovate this mosque. Later, the Ministry of Education included the renovation of the Pattani Central Mosque as a project to celebrate the golden jubilee of His Majesty the King’s accession to the throne in 1996.
The central mosque of Pattani is a two-storey building and its architectural form looks like that of the Taj Mahal of India. It has a large dome, surrounded by four smaller ones. There are two minarets on both sides of the building. A large pond is found in front of the mosque. Inside the mosque, there is a large prayer hall and long corridors.
The mosque is open for daily religious activities. Visitors may visit this mosque from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day, except on Friday, when Muslims are called for a special gathering prayer, with religious activities culminating between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
The beautiful mosque has become a major tourist attraction in the southern border province of Pattani. A visit to the Pattani Central Mosque is recommended for all visitors who should not miss the opportunity to see the magnificence of this religious structure. The mosque is also recognized as a symbol of Pattani, which also boasts many interesting historical and cultural sites.