Syed Ahmad bin Muhammad Semait

(21/8/1933 – 15/7/2006)
72 years of age

Ustaz Syed Ahmad bin Muhammad Semait was born in Singapore, on Monday, 21 August 1933, corresponding to 29 Rabiul Akhir 1352. His father was an Arab who worked as a clerk in a real estate company and who was active in social works among the local Arab community. His mother hailed from Kemaman, Terengganu, Malaysia.

Ustaz Syed Ahmad had one maternal brother and two maternal sisters, and three brothers and two sisters from the same father and mother.

When he was 12 years old, his father passed away. With no one to support the family, life was hard. His father’s relatives suggested that Ustaz Syed Ahmad and his younger brother, Mufti Syed Isa, be sent to an orphanage called Malja’ al-Aitam (later renamed Darul Ihsan). This was to enable both of them to continue their studies. However, Ustaz Syed Ahmad could not stay long in that orphanage. He had to work to ease the financial burden of his mother.

Ustaz Syed Ahmad received his formal education at Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. He stopped when he finished Level Six and did not continue in the Special Class which was open to selected students, even though he was among the best students in his cohort. Instead he worked fulltime in a textile shop owned by the famous scholar Sheikh Umar bin Abdullah Al-Khatib.

However his education did not stop there. He continued attending the weekly religious class with the Madrasah principal of that time, Syeikh Abdullah Balfaqeh, learning in the traditional way. He also attended the famous Sunday morning class, reading books on Tasauf, Hadith and Tafsir with the local ulama. And on every Thursday night, he attended another class held by a group of ulama, reading books on Fiqh and other subjects. Both of these classes continue till today. Later in his life, Ustaz Syed Ahmad would lead both classes although, when he passed away, the trust to lead them fell on his brother, Mufti Syed Isa Semait.

His work in the textile shop owned by Sheikh Umar bin Abdullah Al-Khatib served to be more than just earning money for his mother and siblings and was to provide some very significant directions in his life. Two things happened when he worked there:

  1. He benefited enormously from the knowledge and mastery of Islam of the erudite scholar Sheikh Umar Al-Khatib, who was not only his employer, but – more importantly – as Ustaz Syed Ahmad later admitted, his ‘Syeikh Al-Fateh’. This learning with Sheikh Umar Al-Khatib continued throughout his life and even though there were certain points on which he quite not agree with Syeikh Umar, that only showed his critical and analytical mind. For his part, Sheikh Umar Al-Khatib did not stop him from giving second opinions.
  2. He began to develop the interest and acumen in business. He began to see business opportunities in selling Arabic reference books to madrasah students and teachers.

In 1950, he left the shop of his teacher and, together with his brother, Syed Umar bin Muhammad Semait, he opened up a shop dealing with Arabic books. He called the shop Al-Maktabah At-Tijariyah Asy-Syarqiyah. During this time, his other brother, Mufti Syed Isa bin Muhammad Semait, was studying in Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt and Ustaz Syed Ahmad used this opportunity to appoint his brother as book purchaser in Cairo and to send these back to Singapore.

The business went well and he decided to expand it to include books meant for the Malay community. Thus, he folded this first company and set up a new one, giving it a Malay name – Pustaka Nasional. He wanted this company to be his medium of dakwah.

Ustaz Syed Ahmad proved to be a prolific writer and translator. He wrote many books on Islam, and translated numerous Arabic books to Malay. Where Islamic books in Arabic had already been translated to Malay, he would republish them with better typeface and layout, and in more readable Malay. To achieve this he would sometimes make the necessary corrections and additions after counter-checking with the original Arabic text.

The following are some of the books he wrote:

  1. Kuliah Subuh – Pada membicarakan Hadis 40 (3 volumes: 741 pages)
  2. Hadis Qudsi – Analisa dan Komentar (2 volumes: 648 pages)
  3. Sepuluh Yang Dijamin Masuk Syurga (1 volume: 450 pages)
  4. 100 Tokoh Wanita Terbilang (1 volume: 577 pages)
  5. Untaian Kisah Para Wali (1 volume: 472 pages)
  6. Syarah Ratib Haddad (1 volume: 280 pages)

Some of the books he translated:

  1. Isra’ dan Mi’raj – Abdul Halim Mahmud (2001, 150 pages)
  2. Kurnia Rabbani Limpahan Rahmani – Sidi Syeikh Abdul Al-Jailani (2001, 660 pages)
  3. Dakwah Yang Sempurna Peringatan Yang Utama – Imam Habib Abdullah Al-Haddad (2000, 299 pages)
  4. Al-Adzkar Lin Nawawi – Imam An-Nawawi (2000, 794 pages)
  5. Tata-tertib Pengajian Al-Quran – Imam An-Nawawi (1999, 182 pages)
  6. Belitan Iblis – Ibnul Qayyim (1994, 478 pages)
  7. Dosa-dosa Besar – Muhammad bin Ahmad Adz-Dzahaby (1994, 598 pages)
  8. Benteng Diri Ahli Hakikat – Syed Ahmad Ar-Rifa’I (1994, 425 pages)
  9. Halal Dan Haram Dalam Islam – Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradhawi (1995, 578 pages)
  10. Taubat Dan Liku-likunya – Imam Ghazali (1995, 280 pages)
  11. Rahsia Sufi – Syeikh Abdul Qadir Al-Jailani (1997, 263 pages)
  12. Untaian Kisah Nabi Dan Para Sahabat – Al-Kandahlawi (1997, 795 pages)
  13. Petunjuk Thariqat ke Jalan Akhirat – Imam Habib Abdullah Al-Haddad (1999, 225 pages)
  14. Bimbingan Mu’min – Imam Ghazali (1978, 873 pages)
  15. Nasihat Agama Dan Wasiat Iman – Imam Habib Abdullah Al-Haddad (1981, 493 pages)
  16. Petunjuk Jalan Thariqat / Penuntun Hidup Bahagia – Imam Habib Abdullah Al-Haddad (176 pages)
  17. Masalah Sufi – Abu Said Al-Kharraz (1981, 598 pages)
  18. Peringatan Tentang Umur Insan – Imam Habib Abdullah Al-Haddad (1982, 168 pages)
  19. Mu’jizat Al-Quran – Muhammad Mutawalli Sya’rawi (1985, 592 pages)
  20. Pendidikan Anak-anak Dalam Islam – Abdullah Nasih Ulwan (1988, v1: 612 pages, v2: 705 pages)
  21. Roh – Ibnul Qayyim (1990, 551 pages)
  22. Was-was – Ibnul Qayyim (1990, 123 pages)
  23. Induk Pensucian Diri – Syed Hawa (1992, 1426 pages) – co.translater M. Abdai Rathomy
  24. Kifayatul Akhyar – Imam Taqiyuddin Abu Bakar bin Muhammad Al-Husaini (1993, v1: 736 pages, v2: 624 pages)
  25. Sahih Al-Bukhari – Imam Muhammad bin Ismail Al-Bukhari (published post-humously in 2006, 3 volumes)

Ustaz Syed Ahmad Semait might not have left a mark giving wonderful speeches and lectures, but his dakwah through writing has left a profound impact in the literary world. Perhaps his most famous and best received work is the book ‘Nasa-ih Ad-Diniyah wal Wasaya Al-Imaniyah’ by Imam Abdullah bin Alawi Al-Haddad, which he translated to Malay and gave the title ‘ Nasihat Agama dan Wasiat Imam’. He went to great lengths to ensure the accuracy and integrity of his translation, reading the book from cover to cover several times with Sheikh Umar Al-Khatib in order to try to understand the true meaning of every word and sentence. The book has two editions: Malay Rumi, and Malay Jawi. The Rumi edition was printed eight times, the last of these in 2001. The Jawi edition was printed seven times, the last being in 2004.

Ustaz Syed Ahmad did not teach many classes. But of those he did teach, his famous class was the one on Ihya’ Ulumiddin, held every Friday after Isyak prayers at Masjid Abdul Razak. There he would explain what Imam Al-Ghazali wrote in that book, and share what he had gathered from his teacher Sheikh Umar Al-Khatib in his own Sunday morning class on Ihya’ Ulumiddin.

Ustaz Syed Ahmad’s last class was on Friday, 14 July 2006. As usual, after Isyak he taught Ihya’ Ulumiddin at Masjid Abdul Razak. After the class had finished, he set off with his wife and some of his relatives, to Kuala Lumpur by car where he had his normal weekly religious class at a mosque there. This was unusual since he would normally take the bus.

About 1.10 am, on Saturday morning, 15 July 2006, near the 190.1 km mark along the Yong Peng-Pagoh stretch of the highway, a boar crossed the road. The car hit the animal, and was flung up in the air and overturned. Ustaz Syed Ahmad and Madam Fatimah, the driver’s sister, were thrown out of the car. Both were seated beside the doors.

Ustaz Syed Ahmad passed away at the place of the accident. He was buried at Batu Pahat, fulfilling his wish to be buried wherever he died. He left behind three children.

May Allah bless his soul.

(Source: Mufti Syed Isa Semait)

Other newspapers reports:

Oleh Hisham Hambari
Singapura : 17 Julai 2006

PEMERGIAN secara tiba-tiba seorang ulama Singapura, Allahyarham Ustaz Syed Ahmad Semait, adalah sesuatu yang mengejutkan dan merupakan kehilangan besar kepada masyarakat.

Demikian reaksi beberapa pemimpin agama dan masyarakat di atas pemergian Allahyarham, yang terkorban dalam satu nahas jalan raya di Lebuh Raya Utara-Selatan kelmarin.

Presiden Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Muis), Haji Mohd Alami Musa, menyampaikan salam takziah kepada keluarga Allahyarham, sambil menyanjung budi dan sumbangan beliau.

‘Sumbangan Allahyarham di dalam dakwah Islamiah amat terserlah sekali menerusi kuliah-kuliah pembelajaran Islam beliau di merata Singapura dan di rantau ini. Beliau lebih dikenali ramai menerusi penulisan dan hasil terjemahan kitab kitab ilmu agama Islam yang mencakupi pelbagai bidang,’ kata beliau.

Dalam satu kenyataannya kelmarin, Persatuan Ulama dan Guru-Guru Agama Islam Singapura (Pergas) turut mengucapkan takziah kepada keluarga Allahyarham yang merupakan antara pengasas persatuan itu.

‘Beliau adalah Ahli Majlis Masyaikh Pergas sejak 2002 yang berperanan memberikan pandangan dan nasihat terhadap hala tuju Pergas.

‘Awal daripada itu, beliau merupakan salah seorang pengasas Pergas pada 1957 bersama-sama dengan Almarhum Kiyai Zuhri Mutamim.

‘Pada 1959, beliau dilantik sebagai Bendahari Pergas. Beliau juga adalah antara anggota jawatankuasa Majlis Fatwa Muis.

‘Walaupun tidak berpeluang belajar di institusi tinggi, ilmu yang dimiliki beliau amat dikagumi para ulama serantau. Beliau adalah antara pelajar yang rapat dan lama dengan Almarhum Syeikh Umar Al-Khatib, seorang ulama terkenal yang meninggal pada 1997,’ kata kenyataan itu yang ditandatangi Setiausaha Kehormat Pergas, Ustaz Firdaus Yahya.

Sebuah majlis tahlil untuk Allahyarham telah diadakan selepas solat asar semalam di Masjid Abdul Razak, Jalan Ismail.

Majlis itu dihadiri lebih 100 jemaah, terdiri daripada kaum kerabat dan anak murid Allahyarham.

Semasa ditemui dalam majlis tahlil itu, Mufti Syed Isa Semait, adik Allahyarham, berkata:

‘Kita mempunyai ramai asatizah, tetapi hakikatnya dari segi mengarang dan mencetak buku-buku agama amatlah kurang.

‘Allahyarham berdakwah menerusi penanya, menerusi terjemahan buku-buka agama yang telah tersebar ke seluruh Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei dan Singapura.’ – Berita Harian

Oleh Hisham Hambari
Singapura : 17 Julai 2006

BELIAU sering ke Kuala Lumpur dan Kuantan sendirian untuk mengajar kelas agama, lazimnya dengan menaiki bas.

Kelmarin, Allahyarham Ustaz Syed Ahmad Semait, mengajak isteri kedua serta ipar duainya untuk ikut sama.

Tetapi perjalanan dengan menaiki kereta itu berakhir dengan tragedi apabila beliau terkorban dalam satu nahas jalan raya di Lebuh Raya Utara Selatan, dekat Batu Pahat.

Turut meninggal ialah seorang ipar Allahyarham, Allahyarhamha Fatimah Mohamad, 58 tahun.

Berita Minggu, berdasarkan maklumat seorang anggota keluarga terdekat, semalam silap melaporkan Allahyarhamha Fatimah sebagai isteri kedua Allahyarham.

Penumpang lain yang terselamat ialah isteri kedua Allahyarham, Cik Thuahira Abdul Rahman, 41 tahun, serta ipar-duai beliau – Encik Ismail Mohamad, 48 tahun, dan Encik Abu Bakar Mohamad, 64 tahun, iaitu suami Allahyarhamha Fatimah.

Menurut seorang jurucakap polis Malaysia, kemalangan itu berlaku sekitar 1.10 pagi di Kilometer 180.1 Lebuh Raya Utara Selatan antara Yong Peng-Pagoh.

Menyingkap kejadian itu, Encik Abu Bakar, berkata: ‘Cuaca baik dan tidak banyak kenderaan. Tiba-tiba kereta kami melanggar seekor babi hutan yang melintas. Kemudian ia seperti merempuh sesuatu.’

Encik Abu Bakar dan Cik Thuahira kini masih dirawat di Unit Pergantungan Tinggi (HDU) Hospital Besar Singapura. Mereka berdua sudah sedar dan boleh berkata-kata.

Encik Ismail, pemandu kereta itu, turut cedera tetapi dibenarkan keluar dari Hospital Batu Pahat, kelmarin.

‘Setelah kereta itu terbabas, saya dapati kaki kanan saya terperangkap. Thuahira yang duduk di tengah juga terperangkap dan saya dengar dia meraung kesakitan.

‘Ismail yang memandu turun dari kereta dan pergi mendapatkan Ustaz Syed Ahmad dan isteri saya, Fatimah, yang telah tercampak keluar. Saya turut memanggil-manggil nama mereka, tetapi tiada jawapan. Pada ketika itu saya fikir mereka sudah tiada lagi,’ tambah Encik Abu Bakar pilu.

Dalam nahas itu kedua-dua Allahyarham Syed Ahmad dan Allahyarhamha Fatimah yang duduk di sebelah pintu penumpang belakang tercampak dari kereta Mitsubishi itu.

Encik Abu Bakar berkata ambulans tiba sekitar satu setengah jam kemudian dan membawa mereka ke Hospital Batu Pahat.

Beliau dan Cik Thuahira kemudian dibawa ke SGH petang kelmarin dengan ambulans privet.

Jenazah Allahyarham Ustaz Syed Ahmad selamat dikebumikan di Pusara Batu Lima, Batu Pahat, selepas solat zuhur kelmarin, sementara jenazah Allahyarhamha Fatimah dikebumikan di Singapura sekitar maghrib kelmarin. – Berita Harian

Mufti’s brother dies in road accident in Johor
Saturday July 15

Mr Syed Ahmad Semait, a well-known scholar, died in a road accident in Johor while he was on his way to Kuala Lumpur early Saturday morning.

He is the elder brother of the Mufti, who is Singapore’s top Muslim religious leader.

Mr Syed Ahmad Semait was known in the region as the author of several Islamic books.

He was also a member of the Religious Rehabilitation Group, set up by the Malay community to counsel detained Jemaah Islamiah members.

He will be buried in Batu Pahat later Saturday. – CNA

Bantu bentuk sistem kaunseling
Selasa, 18 Julai 2006

KUMPULAN Pemulihan Keagamaan (RRG) merakamkan ucapan takziah kepada Mufti Singapura dan anggota keluarga atas pemergian abang beliau, Ustaz Syed Ahmad Semait, seorang alim besar dan menjadi antara pakar rujuk RRG.

Menurut RRG, Allahyarham adalah seorang yang gigih membantu perjalanan Kumpulan RRG.

RRG menyatakan:

‘Nasihat, penglibatan serta penulisan Allahyarham telah membantu RRG dalam membentuk sistem kaunselingnya serta membantu usaha kajian dan perbincangannya.

‘Bakti dan semangat Allahyarham di dalam RRG akan sentiasa dikenang dan menjadi pendorong bagi setiap anggota RRG untuk meneruskan usaha murni ini.

‘Semoga bakti Allahyarham dapat diperingati dengan cara tersendiri oleh masyarakat Islam di sini agar akan lahir tokoh pelapis sepertinya.’

Kenyataan RRG itu ditandatangani bersama oleh Ustaz Haji Ali Haji Mohamed dan Ustaz Haji Mohd Hasbi Hassan.

RRG dibentuk pada April 2004 dan diketuai Ustaz Haji Ali, pengerusi Masjid Khadijah, dan Ustaz Haji Mohd Hasbi, presiden Persatuan Ulama dan Guru-Guru Agama Islam Singapura (Pergas).

Allahyarham Syed Ahmad meninggal dunia dalam kemalangan jalan raya sekitar 1.10 pagi Ahad lalu di Kilometer 180.1 Lebuh Raya Utara Selatan antara Yong Peng-Pagoh dekat Batu Pahat.

Beliau dikatakan dalam perjalanan ke Kuala Lumpur untuk menyampaikan kuliah agama.

Menurut RRG, bakti Allahyarham sebagai seorang alim adalah amat besar kepada umat Islam setempat dan rantau ini.

Usaha beliau termasuk dalam penyebaran dakwah, penerbitan dan khususnya penterjemahan pelbagai kitab karangan ulama terkemuka Islam ke dalam bahasa Melayu.

Ia bak menebarkan benih ilmu yang menghidup dan menyinari pembangunan tamadun Islam Dunia Melayu.

‘Kami berdoa agar Allah swt mencucuri kesabaran dan keredaan ke atas Mufti dan keluarga Almarhum atas pemergiannya. Semoga Almarhum ditempatkan Ilahi dalam kalangan solihin,’ tambah kenyataan RRG itu.


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