Habib Noh bin Muhammad Al-Habshee came from Kedah, Malaysia. Not much was known about his early life, though he came from a family of four brothers: Habib Noh, Habib Ariffin and Habib Zain (both of whom died in Penang) and the youngest – Habib Salikin – who died in Daik, Indonesia.
From his marriage with Anchik Hamidah who came from Wellesley Province, Penang, they were blessed with only one daughter named Sharifah Badaniah. Sharifah Badaniah later married Syed Mohamad Bin Hassan Al-Shatri at Jelutong, Penang. The couple then gave Habib Noh his only grandchild – a girl named Sharifah Rugayah. She married Syed Alwi Bin Ali Aljunied and they had five children, two boys and three girls namely Syed Abdul Rahman, Syed Abdullah, Sharifah Muznah, Sharifah Zainah and Sharifah Zubaidah.
By most accounts, Habib Noh arrived in Singapore shortly after Sir Stamford Raffles landed on the island. He was then in his thirties.
Although he spent the rest of his life in Singapore, and died there, he travelled around, mostly to Johor Bahru and to other states of peninsular Malaysia, preaching Islam.
He was a very pious man and his nights were spent in praying till dawn. And he was a constant visitor of the graveyards, often praying for the souls of the dead. He always moved around with his closest friends except when he specifically requested to be alone.
He was well loved by people from all walks of life, especially children. He would often buy sweets and give money to children, the poor and destitute.
Thus it was without surprise people recounted many of his karamah.
He possessed the ability to literally disappear, and be seen at far-away places. It was reported that he was ever seen praying in the Grand Mosque of Mecca in Saudi Arabia without actually making the journey there himself physically. Once he even told a departing haj pilgrim that they would meet in Mecca. When the person arrived there, it was Habib Noh himself who greeted him.
Habib Noh was also well known as a great healer, especially for children whom he loved very much. There was one occasion when he healed a child with an injured leg, by simply putting his hands over the wound and reciting some prayers. Within moments, the child was able to run again as though nothing had happened to him. The father of the child was so happy; he donated shillings to Habib Noh, who in turn gave the money away to the needy.
Habib Noh would brave even thunderstorms to tend to any sick child. He ever walked to Paya Lebar from his home at Telok Blangah under heavy rain to heal a child. When he arrived at the child's home, to the astonishment of the parents, Habib Noh was not drenched at all.
In another incident, Habib Noh was awakened by the continuous crying of his neighbour's child. When he went over, he found that the family was too poor to buy food for the hungry child. With tears in his eyes upon hearing the story, Habib Noh took a coconut kernel, poured some water in it and recited some prayers. By God's will, the water turned into milk for the child.
Habib Noh is also remembered for his powerful and accurate premonitions. He seemed to know if people were in need, or were sick or had intentions meant for him. Once there was an Indian Muslim man who travelled back by sea to India to visit his family. He made a sacred pact with God that if he were to return to Singapore safely, he would present Habib Noh with a gift. Upon returning, he was shocked when Habib Noh was already waiting for him at the shore.
Habib Noh called out to him “I believe you have made a promise to give something to me." Surprised, the Indian Muslim man said, "Speak oh wise one what you wish for and I will gladly present it to you."
Habib Noh replied, "I would like to have rolls of yellow cloth to donate to the poor, the destitute and children."
Hugging Habib Noh, the Indian Muslim man cried, "By God, I will be most willing to present it to a man who is exalted in the eyes of God for his kindness towards mankind. Please give me three days to present them to you."
He did within the stipulated time.
After 78 years of life devoted to Islam, Habib Noh passed away peacefully on Friday, 27 July 1866 corresponding to 14 Rabiul Awal 1283. A few days before died, he gave a great deal of advice to his beloved friends. Amongst his treasured words were, "Don't be greedy for worldly materials nor have any ill-feelings towards anyone throughout your life."
Habib Noh breathed his last breath in Telok Blangah, at the residence of Johor's Temenggong Abu Bakar. When news spread, many people from all walks of life, including Englishmen who converted to Islam through Habib Noh, and those from the neighbouring islands came to pay their last respects. All horse-drawn carriages in Singapore came to a halt from their daily activities, to ferry the old folks, women and children to the funeral for free. But just before the cortege left the Temenggong's house for the burial ground, a strange phenomenon took place.
Before his demise, Habib Noh had actually instructed his friends to bury him at the top of Mount Palmer, which during that time was a small burial ground. Somehow on that fateful day, everyone had forgotten about it and they were all preparing to go to the Bidadari Muslim cemetery. When the time came to carry the coffin, it refused to budge from the ground. Nobody could lift it. The atmosphere turned panicky, and almost everyone cried upon seeing the coffin not moving one inch, despite the strong attempts of able men.
Fortunately, someone finally remembered the late Habib Noh's instructions; came forward and addressed the true situation to everyone. Each person realised their lapse in memory and immediately decided to proceed to Mount Palmer instead. Through the will of God, the coffin was able to move at much ease and cries of Allahu Akbar! (God is Great!) filled the air. As per his parting wish, Habib Noh was safely buried at Mount Palmer.
His karamah did not end there. During World War 2, when Telok Blangah was extensively aerial bombed by the Japanese, not a single bomb touched Habib Noh’s tomb. And when the Singapore government wanted to build an elevated highway along Tanjung Pagar, the roadway was designed to curve around it, the height almost on the same level as Habib Noh’s Mausoleum. It was almost impossible for any driver not to notice it. Now everyone can visit him without going up the 49 steps to the top of the hill that houses his grave.
Next time, when you drive around that curve towards the end of the highway bridge at Tanjung Pagar towards Changi Airport, do not forget to recite Al-Fatihah for this great saint.
May Allah bless his soul.
(Source: Sheikh Hassan Abdullah Al-Khatib, caretaker of Habib Noh’s mausoleum)
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