Kampung Sambau was once a fishing village largely inhabited by Malay fishermen who came from adjacent islands. It was bounded by what is presently Anson Road, Trafalgar Street and a part of South Quay.
Sayyid Noh bin Sayyid Mohamad (bin Sayyid Ahmad Al-Habshi) also known as Habib Noh is regarded as one of the seven wali (saint) in Singapore. Habib Noh frequented Mount Palmer to pray in seclusion. A close friend of his, Haji Muhammad Salleh, intended to build a surau there for him to pray in ease. However Habib Noh passed away before his wish was fulfilled on 27th July 1866 (14 Rabiulawal 1283 H).
Habib Noh was a direct descendant (source: The Grand Saint of Singapore) of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) and was an Arab from Hadramaut (present day Yemen). Habib Noh was born in 1788 enroute to Penang from Palembang. He arrived in Singapore around 1819 and was believed to have stayed at Kampung Khaji for the next 47 years or so. He was a miraculous, revered and holy man, highly respected by the community then (and today) who often sought him for blessings.
Haji Muhammad Salleh
Among the residents of Kampung Sambau was a trader from Batavia (Jakarta), Haji Muhammad Salleh. He was a devoted Muslim who donated a piece of land at the foot of Mount Palmer on which stood the shrine/mausoleum of his close friend, Habib Noh. The existing surau which faced the shrine was demolished and replaced with a larger mosque to cater to the shrine’s visitors in 21st April 1902**. The mosque was named Haji Muhammad Salleh Mosque and construction was only fully completed in 1903.
Haji Muhammad Salleh Mosque was a small mosque that catered to up to 200 Muslims living in the vicinity of Kampung Sambau.
The area soon developed and saw workers around the area like police personnel, harbour staff (from PSA Tanjong Pagar and Keppel) and customs men (from Customs Operation Command), in addition to the shrine’s visitors, attending daily prayers and congregations at the mosque.
The mosque was enlarged accordingly in the early 1950s and 1960s to enable it to accommodate approximately 200-250 people**. The funds came in the form of donations by residents and well-wishers. The renovation work carried out by the mosque trustees, namely Almarhum Tuan Akbar Khan and Tuan Haji Hajar Aswad, whose wives are direct descendants of Almarhum Tuan Haji Muhammad Salleh**.
In 1987, MUIS upgraded the mosque at cost of $1 million*. The upgrading was undertaken following a decision by the authorities not to demolish the mosque to give way to the construction of the AYE expressway, but to curve the expressway around it. The new mosque was designed with a prayer space to accommodate 500 worshippers.
Urbanisation plans called for people residing in the area to be resettled. While the mosque and shrine remained, the surrounding area was completely transformed with high-rise buildings of Shenton Way and Tanjong Pagar, as well as the expressways AYE/ECP.
Extensions carried out around the mosque include additional 2nd level at the rear with a makeshift prayer space, office and meeting room. The mausoleum was entirely tiled green.
The main prayer hall retains the 6 Corinthian columns till today:
In 2008, a ladder was built from the 1st floor as a ‘saf connector’ to enable the roof terrace beside the mausoleum to be utilised as additional prayer space.
This mosque which was designed to accommodate 500 worshippers back in 1987, now attracts more than 1200 worshipers* for Friday and Eid prayers. Tents need to be erected as makeshift roofs over the roof terrace during these occasions. For the haul (death anniversary) of Habib Noh, happening on the last day of the month Rabiul Akhir, the mausoleum (and subsequently the mosque) can attract more than 8000 visitors*.official webpage* and Haji Abdullah Musa in ‘Cenderamata Sempena Perasmian Ubahelok Masjid Haji Muhammad Salleh 19 July 1987 / 23 Zulkaedah 1407′**