KUDUS is a small city, with a regency status, located 51 kilometers north of Semarang, the capital city of Central Java province. It’s very strategic location connects Jepara, located at it’s western side. Pati, Juwana, Rembang, Blora and Cepu, located at it’s western side with Semarang.
Kudus lies on the north coast of Central Java. It is 25 kilometers from Demak, 24 kilometers from Pati and 38 kilometers from Jepara. As an old city Kudus has cultural and historical heritage, because there are many remnants of the history. There is no second such Minaret in Indonesia or in the world after that unique and specific Minaret in Kudus. That beach city in the northern part of Central Java. Not only the historical values, but also the development of the city constributed the heritage. In fact Kudus in known as the city Islamic Saints (Wali), of tourism, culture, history and kretek (Indonesian clove cigarettes).
In the middle of the 16th century this city emerged in the history and functioned as the city, which protected and supported Demak, a city of protection and support, when Demak was the capital city of the first Islamic Kingdom in Java at that time.
Therefore the position of the Kudus city was very important and strategic, from the political, economic and military points of view. Politically it was strategic because Kudus was near the capital. Mount Muria was also the last fort protecting. It’s surroundings. Looking on closer, in a near distance, 25 kilometers Demak to Kudus, 18 kilometers between Kudus and Muria, there are 3 graves of wali (Islamic Saint), Sunan Kalijaga, Sunan Kudus and Sunan Muria. The three religious leaders were among “wali songo” (the nine wali) of Java. It was clear that the locations of these three cities were very strategic. Although it was not a harbour city, due to its interesting position, Kudus was always considered by it’s rivals.
As a commonly known, Kudus has a monumental unique and specific building. It is the Minaret of Kudus. It’s shape is similar to those of Jago and Singosari temples in East Java. Made from red bricks, it is tall, thin and very beautiful. As those of East Java, all building erected in Majapahit period are made from red bricks. The Islamic Kingdom of Demak began at the transition period from Majapahit Kingdom. It is not hard to understand that the shape of the minaret is similar to a temple. That style was a heritage of Majapahit Kingdom (Hindu).
According to historical facts, the fall of Majapahit was in the year of 1478 AD or in 1400 Saka year (Javanese calendar). It read “Sirna ilang kertaneng Bhumi”. Sirna = 0, ilang = 0, kerta = 4, and bhumi = 1. It is reversely read the year of 1400 Saka or 1478 AD.
Back to the minaret’s temple like shape, besides the influence of pre-Islam history when a temple was considered as a holy building by followers of Hindu and Budha, a building was erected to attract people around Kudus. Therefore, a mosque with temple style minaret was built.
It is clear that the minaret was not from a Hindu temple renovated to be a minaret of the mosque. According to survey conducted by Prof. Dr. R. M. Soetjipto Wirjosoeparto, if the minaret was an extemple there must be hollows in the middle of the building where statues were put. Also there must be some reliefs on square sides of the minaret. A Hindu temple always has a Makara, a formalized animal figure in old Javanese sculpture. But those things can not be found in the minaret. Therefore Prof. dr. Soetjipto Wirjosoeparto concluded that the building is not a former temple.
When was it built? No one certainly knows. It is written in an inscription on it’s roof pillar “Gapura rusak ewahing jagad”. Gapura = 9, rusak = 0, ewah = 6, and jagad = 1. It means 1609 in Javanese calendar or in the year of 1685 AD. The inscription was likely made when the roof of the minaret was damage. That sign marked the improvement.
According to a legend, there was a well filled with Banyu Pannguripan or water of life under the minaret. When Islam entered the well was closed and a minaret was erected.
People maybe ask why Kudus people never slaughter cows. Once, Sunan Kudus was thisty. A Hindu priest gave him milk to drink. As thanks giving of the Sunan, the local people is prohibited to slaughter cows. What can we learn from this story? Before Islam came in Kudus as well as it’s surroundings was a centre of Hindu religion.
Therefore, in order to avoid friction, the prohibition was announced. As we all know, that in Hindu cows are holy animals. It was the philosophy of spreading Islam especially done by Sunan Kudus and also the other “Nine Wali”, in Javanese philosophy it is read Menang Tanpo Ngasorake or Winning Without Conquering.
The location of the place, which we know as the city of Kudus, shows that the name of Kudus seems to have originated from the name given by Sunan Kudus. The name Kudus originates from the Arabic name Al Quds and means Holy. Sunan Kudus himself had the name Ja’far Shodiq. From the name Kudus we can draw a conclusion that in the pre-Islam age, this region of Kudus was the centre of the holy city. This was proved by the finding of old holy buildings and various Hindu statues in the region of Kudus. There was a living legend among the local people or fables as a strong indicator that the region of Kudus was the centre of the Hindu religion.
Above the Mihrab or the place for imam in the mosque of the Kudus Minaret there is an inscription in the Arabic language with ancient Arabic letters meaning:
“In the name of loving and charitable God. The following persons have founded this Aqsa and this Khalifah’s region of Kudus at the time of the ulemas, descendants of the Propet Muhammad for the sake of eternals heavenly glory.
… To be near to god in the region of Kudus, to build the Al Manar Mosque named Al Aqsa Khalifatullah in this earth of the world.
The Great and the wise Mujtahid Sayyid, Al Kamil (the perfect man), Fadhil (the superior man), Almaskus (the special man) bi inayati (with the maintenance) Al Qadhi (the highest mosque judge) Ja’far Shadiq in the year 956 of the Hijrah/Departure of the Prophet Muhammad S.A.W.”
Base on the above inscription, the establishment of the ancient Mosque in Kudus, which was found in the complex of the Sunan Kudus, more known as the grand Mosque or two grand Mosque of the Kudus Minaret in the western Kauman of Kudus, took place in the year 1549 Hijrah/Departure of the Prophet Muhammad or the year 1549 after crist. This Mosque was name Masjid Al Aqsa or Al Manar.
Thus, when we specify the above inscription it gave the fundament of the history of the city and mosque of Kudus because in that inscription there were various data on the year of the establishment of the Mosque, the name of the founder, the name of the Kudus City, the name of the Kudus Mosque, the name of the Kudus Minaret.
So these five factors were contained in one inscription. The Minaret of Kudus , as a historical monument which was left behind by our ancestor, is increasingly famous, not only in Indonesia, but also in the world. Because this centuries old Minaret of Kudus still exist in the city of Kudus. It is a unique and specific monument.
It’s presence has invited scholars to make a research about it and has drawn domestic and foreign tourists to come and see it by themselves.
Only the style of it was made similar to a temple. To the north of the Minaret lies an old gate (gapura kuno). According to ancient legend among Kudus people, the grade was called Twin Grade, it’s couple was said in Majapahit. Traditionally, history or stories are hidden in a folk stories or legend. It is our job to listen to the stories or legend, because there could be histories behind them.
The Minaret of Kudus is unique, specific and artistic. It is only in Kudus. Nowadays the Minaret belongs to Nation even to International Society.