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Did you know? Australia’s oldest surviving mosque

Learn more about Adelaide Central Mosque, the oldest surviving mosque in Australia.

29·06·2021

The 1880s – probably a period you don’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about. 

Which is fair enough really. 

It’s a time where most of our great grandparents weren’t even born, Australia wasn’t officially federated and zippers hadn’t even been invented.

But it’s also a time when some interesting Muslim Australian history took place. 

Let’s take a journey back in time to Adelaide, to learn the history behind the Central Adelaide Mosque – Australia’s oldest surviving mosque. 

One man who wanted a place to worship 

It all starts with a man called Hadji Mullah. 

Hadji was in Adelaide to retire. 

He’d been leading teams carrying materials and supplies for the Overland Telegraph Line –  the only way you could get a message from Darwin to Port Augusta in South Australia. 

You only have to take one look at a map of Australia to see how difficult this would’ve been – their route took them straight through the Red Centre. 

It would’ve been a tough job in a 4WD, so spare a thought for Hadji and his team who were delivering the supplies on camelback. 

Hadji was, justifiably, getting ready to put his feet up and enjoy some rest. 

Adelaide was the perfect spot, but it was missing one thing – a mosque. 

Early beginnings

Hadji wanted a central place where Islam could be practiced. 

The job fell to Abdul Wade, a merchant and cameleer from Bourke in outback NSW. 

Plans were drawn up, funds were raised by donations from the Muslim community and in 1887 Adelaide City Council finally gave the mosque the go-ahead. 

It was erected over a two year period from 1888-89. 

At that stage it was a relatively plain (and cramped – 11.3 x 7.6 metre) building.

But it got off to a steady start and Fridays would regularly see groups of 20-40 worshippers, with up to 100 joining for big occasions. 

Hadji was the mosque’s first caretaker and lived in a cottage on the grounds, but would often provide shelter for those in need. 

“When out of work, poor, and almost penniless, they have always been provided with food and shelter through the charity of the Hadji, who permits them… to occupy the tenements in Little Gilbert street,” an early visitor writes in an article for the Observer.  

In 1930 the four minarets, which you can still see until this day, were added to the mosque, and the garden had grown to provide a peaceful environment for thought and prayer. 

Still going strong

The mosque had some tough times in the years that followed. 

A lot of the cameleers who had worked on the Overland Telegraph Line moved back to their countries of origin.

But the mosque saw new life in the 1950s, when migrants arrived after the Second World War. It soon became a place of prayer for migrants from all around the world including places like Lebanon, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia. 

And today the mosque is going strong. 

Recent decades have seen upgrades like modern AV systems and new air-conditioning (important!). 

You can still visit it today, so it’s definitely one to add to your itinerary next time you’re in Adelaide. 

Have you been to Central Adelaide Mosque? Get in touch! We want to hear your story.

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