Of Mosques and Cultural Centers in Tawi-Tawi

By JOHNNY R. LEE, Ph.D

The Province of Tawi-Tawi has gained international recognition because it is considered as the cradle of Islam religion in the Philippines.

In 1380, an Arabian missionary named Sheik Karimul Makhdum landed in Bohé Indangan, a village in the island Municipality of Simunul. He introduced Islamic concepts, principles, rituals and practices as taught by Prophet Mohammad (S.A.W.) It was narrated that Makhdum himself did physically participate in erecting the first mosque together with the natives of the place. The most notable part of the structure are the four huge ‘monolithic’ wooden pillars that still stand today and remain solid. They are now central to the over-all part of the current mosque – which has been renovated a number of times. 

Today, Sheik Makhdum Mosque has been declared as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.

Following the introduction of Islam, mosques and cultural centers has been built in almost all parts of the municipalities of the province owing to the sincere acceptance of Islam religion and its teachings by the people. The mosque, masjid in Arabic, is the Muslim gathering place for prayer. Masjid simply means “place of prostration.” Though most of the five daily prayers prescribed in Islam can take place anywhere, all men are required to gather together at the mosque for the Friday noon prayer.

Some historical narratives point to the fact that Makhdum has travelled to other municipalities of the province and continued preaching and established a house of worship. For instance there remains a single wooden column in barangay Laum Sikubong, Municipality of Sapa-Sapa with a marker that dates back to 1370. If true, this one outdated The Sheik Makhdum mosque in Bohé Indangan.  A radiocarbon-dating is needed to determine the age of the object wood column). 

Other claimants include the Municipality of Sibutu in a barangay named Sheik Makhdum believed to be the home of the great Arab missionary. In this place, allegedly, a grave of Sheik Makhdum can be found. Also a mausoleum, just after the grave, has been erected here honoring the religious teacher. There is also one in Bohé Maheya in mainland Tawi-Tawi whose native residents alleged that the tomb found in the hilly area with stream below was that of Sheik Makhdum. 

A theory has emerged that all claimants might be correct in their assertions as some religious and history pundits say that there were seven missionaries who arrived to Tawi-Tawi and perhaps spread themselves to preach Islam religion in the area. One keen student of Islamic studies has affirmed that the name ‘Makhdum’ is a title meaning ‘teacher’. The one in Bohé Indangan is widely known as Karimul Makhdum. Perhaps a comprehensive research must be done to trace the other ‘makhdums’ if indeed they are not ‘one’ but many who came to the islands of Tawi-Tawi. JRL

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