(1905 – 20/6/1985)
80 years old
He was born in 1905, in Eastern Java, Indonesia. He managed to khatam Al-Quran at the age of 10 years, and received his primary and secondary educations at Madrasah Tanwirul Afkar at Belimbing (near Lamungan, East Java) from 1915 to 1922. He then performed his Hajj in 1922, at the age of 17.
Returning from his Hajj, he continued his studies at Perguruan Tinggi Islam in Surabaya from 1923 to 1930. One of his teachers there was the prominent ulama of East Java, Kiyai Ahmad Lutfi.
Graduating from that college, he decided to move to Singapore to learn Malay and English Languages and to spread Islamic teachings. He was 25 years old then.
Two years after his migration to Singapore, in 1932, at the age of 27, he married Safiah bte Haji Abdul Halim, daughter of the eminent ulama of that time, Abdul Halim bin Karto, who was also a Qadi and Justice of Peace. The dowry was to teach his bride Al-Quran until she knows how to read it well. She was 14 at that time, the usual age for girls to get married at that time.
He then moved from his residence at Jalan Sultan to Abdul Halim’s house at Telok Blangah. Later, he brought his family to stay at Radin Mas.
From this marriage, he was blessed with six children, 5 boys and 1 girl: Dehya Kamal, Wan Hussein, Mohamed Yusuf, Faridah Hanim, Ahmad Zohri and Wan Noor.
Besides teaching and giving lectures, he ran a small business selling sundries at Telok Blangah, until the Japanese Occupation in 1942.
Early in 1950s, he moved and took residence at Kampung Melayu, Jalan Eunos, near the old Masjid Alkaff Kampung Melayu. There, he was appointed as President/Chairman and later Advisor for the mosque’s Management Council. He was also the mosque’s imam for Subuh prayers, and khatib for Friday and Eid Sermons. And after Subuh prayers, he would teach Tafsir and Hadith.
As a religious teacher, he taught at many places, among them at Jalan Sultan, Minto Road, Sophia Road, Tangling, Radin Mas and Kampung Melayu. Not restricting himself to mainland Singapore, he hopped across to several islands around Singapore, namely Pulau Brani and Pulau Tekong.
In 1945, he took the responsibility as a teacher at Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah. He was 40 at that time. 7 years later, in 1952, he was appointed as Headmaster when Ustaz Jastan Abdullah left the post. He continued to teach at that Madrasah for 8 more years until 1960. He was 55 at that time.
In that year, he was appointed as Qadi. Later the title was changed to Vice Qadi (Naib Qadi) due to changes in the system.
Besides this permanent job, he served as Muis Fatwa Committee during for both the first Mufti Haji Mohamed Sanusi bin Mahmood, and the second Mufti Syed Isa Semait. He also sat in the Muis Appeal Committee. He always strived to come prepared for the Fatwa meetings, complete with answers and references to the questions raised in the meetings.
During his stint at Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah, he made two major contributions to the local Muslim community.
First, he envisioned an association that will protect and fight for the rights of Islamic religious teachers in Singapore. Thus, in 1954, he enrolled the assistance of some of his friends and setup the Singapore Islamic Religious Teachers and Scholars Association (Pergas), and became its first President. Pergas is still active till now. It was Pergas, with him at the helm, that managed to convince the Government to include Islamic Religious subject in Malay schools and to pay its teachers.
With the help of Minister Haji Yaakob Mohamed, he managed to get a land for Pergas building at Kampung Melayu, just downhill from Masjid Alkaff Kampung Melayu. He, with others, cleared the land away themselves.
Second, following the tradition of ulama, he wrote the following books:
- Al-Ummin fi Al-Arba’in fi Ahadith Sayyid Al-Mursalin (in Malay)
- Al-Manzumat Az-Zuhriyah fi Ma’rifat Awa-il Al-Asyhur Al-‘Arabiah (in Arabic)
- Syarah Al-Manzumat Az-Zuhriyah fi Ma’rifat Awa-il Al-Asyhur Al-‘Arabiah (in Arabic)
- Suluhan Falsafah Pada Mentafsirkan Surah Al-Fatihah (in Malay)
- Falsafah Perangai (in Malay)
- Namusi pada Menyatakan Surah Kejadian Manusia (in Malay)
- At-Tasrif wa Al-‘Ilal (in Arabic)
- Jawahir Al-‘Aqa-id (in Arabic and Malay)
- Geliga Perangai (in Malay)
- Hidayah At-Tahzib (in Arabic and Malay)
- Fiqh Al-Madaris (in Arabic)
- Risalah Ilmu Falak (in Malay)
- As-Syafiyat Pada Menerangkan Empat Puluh Ayat (in Malay)
- An-Najm Al-Bariq Pada Mentafsirkan Surah At-Tariq (in Malay)
Notwithstanding these contributions, the now defunct Radin Mas Religious School was also setup by him.
He also wrote many articles and wrote the Friday Sermons regularly, regardless of whether it will be read or not.
However, his activities were not restricted to writing, teaching and preaching. He was known as an ardent badminton player, participating in tournaments and games organized by Madrasah Alsagoff. Once, when cycling to the mosque for Maghrib prayer, he spotted some youngsters playing badminton. He stopped his bicycle, removed his cap (tarbus), and started playing with them with earnest. A few minutes later, the Maghrib azan was heard. He told them, “Now that I’ve played badminton with all of you, why not we all go to the mosque now for the Maghrib prayer?”
It was this casual and friendly style of dakwah that endeared him to most people and students.
Probably, the most outstanding feature of Kiyai Zohri was his ability to calculate the movement of Sun and Moon, and thus managed to determine in advance the date for Ramadan and Syawal. It was not known that others had this knowledge beside him. Thus, he contributed regularly to the newspapers, informing Muslims when Ramadan and Syawal will fall that year, although the final decision on those date will be determined by the Mufti. And he always followed the Mufti’s decision.
It was his love for astronomy that he would bring his children out to gaze the night sky, pointing to them the different constellations and told them the facts about stars, that they were far and huge.
Hence, it was not surprising that in 1979 he was awarded the Ilmiawan (Scholar) of Muis due to his contributions. And in 1982, he was awarded Jasawan (Meritorious Contributor) by Pergas.
In 1983, he moved to Chai Chee when Kampung Melayu settlement gave way for development. It was near to the newly built Masjid Al-Ansar. It was he who gave the mosque its name.
After 80 years of serving Islam, he passed away peacefully on Thursday morning, the first day of Hari Raya 1405 AH.
May Allah bless his soul.
(Source: Mohamed Yusuf bin Zuhri bin Mutamim)
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