Monday, June 15, 2009

Tok Pulau Manis of Terengganu (1650-1736)

(Translated from “Syarah Kitab Hikam Ibn ‘Athoillah Tok Pulau Manis, proofread and commented by Haji Engku ‘Ali bin Engku Endut”)

His real name is Shaykh ‘Abdul Malik bin ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abdul Qahhar bin Sharif Muhammad al-Baghdadi. He is also known as Tok Sheh Pulau Manis, Tokku Pulau Manis, Tuan Pulau Manis, and Sharif ‘Abdul Malik.

Among the earliest family of da’wah to setle in Terengganu, his father lived in Kampung Pauh, Hulu Terengganu. His great-grandfather Sharif Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah had been of noble lineage from Baghdad, Iraq. He later moved to Makkah, then Acheh in North Sumatra, then to the Malay Peninsula, where he settled near Batu Belah, Kuala Berang, Hulu Terengganu.

Tok Pulau Manis was born in Kampung Pauh in 1650 AD (1060 AH). After an early education by his own father, he set out to Acheh and studied under the great Shaykh ‘Abdul Rauf Singkel. After a brief stint in Java, he continued his pursuit of knowledge in Makkah al-Mukarramah, the center for knowledge and worship. Arriving in 1681, he spent 10-12 years at the feet of various ulama including Shaykh Ibrahim bin Hassan bin Shihabuddin ash-Shafi’I al-Kurdi al-Kurani (successor of Shaykh Ahmad al-Qushashi).

His peers in Makkah include Haji Muhammad Soleh bin ‘Umar Semarani, Dato’ Syed Abdullah, Faqih ‘Abdul Qadir Palembang, Faqih ‘Abdul Rahman Fatoni, Faqih ‘Abdul Samad Kedah, Haji Ibrahim, and Haji Muhammad Siantan.

Deeply interested in tasawwuf, he studied the works of imams Ibn ‘Athoillah, al-Ghazali, Ibnul ‘Arabi, Abu Tholib al-Makki, al-Qushairi, Abu Nasr as-Siraj at-Thusi, Ibn ‘Abbad, Ahmad Zarruq and others. He chose the path of Shaziliyyah as his tariqah. He busied himself in the study of usuluddin in the creed of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jama’ah, in Shafi’I fiqh, tafsir, hadith, history, and various disciplines of Arabic language.

Apparently a cream of the crops among his peers, Tok Pulau Manis was requested to translate the famous Ibn ‘Athoillah’s Hikam to Malay. The fame of his Hikam translation reached the Malay Peninsula even before his return to native land in 1690. He started teaching Hikam in his own village, later in Kampung Batu Hampar, then moved downstream to his new residence in Kampung Pulau Manis.

Renowned as a wali of Allah, many students from all over the Peninsula came to study under him in Pulau Manis. The students built small huts for residence, hence the pondok (hut) system. After his passing, his pondok system was administered by his descendants, and saw relocation and expansion to Beladau, Sungai Rengas, Kampung Midin, and Kampung Aur Cina.

Tok Pulau Manis was famous among the masses as well as the nobles. Besides the public, Sultan Zainal ‘Abidin I and many of the palace chieftains also counted as his students. He was the official Shaykhul ‘Ulama and Mufti.

He left behind 3 religious works besides the sharah of Hikam:

  1. Kitab Kifayah on usuluddin and fiqh.
  2. Risalah Naqal on the number of congregants valid to make a Friday solah.
  3. Risalah Kaifiyyah an-Niyyah on fiqh and tasawwuf.

An islamic school has been named in his honor. Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Agama Shayk ‘Abdul Malik is located in the capital city Kuala Terengganu.

Wallahu a'lam

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Everybody Else Has Poem on Their Blog...

This poem has been lying around for a while, and today the bulb lights up suddenly. So here’s the translation (+ some editing here and there to make words rhyme).

Tariqah Sufiyyah

Tariqah is but a road
For a servant to seek God
Where to seek, you reckon?
A good “mursyid” is the beacon

Tariqah sufiyyah is full of thorns
But soon you’ll whiff a barrel full of cologne
Reaching for the goal, oh so difficult
One slip, you cut your own throat

Tariqah and Tasawwuf food for the soul
Legacy from the Prophet, whom we all follow
“Bid’ah”, outdated you say?
InsyaAllah they're here to stay!

The way of the Salaf on basis of Syari’ah
Start your journey on the path of Haqiqah
Traversing the land treading the Tariqah
Sailing the ark in ocean of Ma’rifah

A true tariqah guides to sincerity
So seek knowledge, perform deeds attentively
Remember all these before your last breath
You’ll find it handy in the days after death!

The original poem composed by somebody else(I don’t know who). It was distributed on the day honoring Syaikh Wan Mohd Shaghir Wan Abdullah (rh) on 17th May 2008.

Wallahu a'lam

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Raja Ali Haji continued

His Works

Besides teaching, Raja Ali Haji published works on Malay history and literature. With his presence, the kingdom Riau-Lingga-Johor and Pahang became the center for Malay culture and literature, as well as the hub for Islamic Learning.

It is a well-known fact that Raja Ali Haji is famous for his "Gurindam Dua Belas". – a poetry work. However, he also published works in fiqh, tauhid, and tasawwuf. Nowhere nearly as prolific as his teacher – Syeikh Daud bin Abdullah al-Fathani, he still left some works behind from which we can benefit:

  1. The poem of Sultan ‘Abdul Muluk (1846 = Hijri 1262)
  2. Gurindam Dua Belas (1846)
  3. بستان الكاتبين للصبيان المتعلم - Bustanul Kaatibin lis Sibyanil Muta’allim (1850/ Hijri 1267)
  4. The Book of Language (1858/Hijri 1275)
  5. ثمرات المهمة - Tsammaratul Muhimmah ( 1858/Hijri 1275)
  6. The Malay and Bugis History (1865/Hijri 1282)
  7. تحفة النفيس – Tuhfatun Nafis (1865/Hijri 1282)
  8. مقدمة في إنتظام – Muqaddimah Fi Intizhom
  9. The Poem On Matrimony, also known as The Poem for Guidance of Officers
  10. Syair Sinar Gemala Mustika Alam
  11. جوهرة المكنونة – Jauharatul Maknunah

All the above works deal on 3 subjects: history, language, and Islamic jurisprudence. In jurisprudence, his writings did not guide the muslims merely on personal obligations, but also set down guidance and rules to the judges and sultan on how to make decision on community matters.

His Descendants

Raja Ali Haji passed away in 1873, leaving behind 17 children and many more grandchildren. Some later became influential persons in the government and in the Malay society in general.

More on him and his origin available here:-

Wallahu a'lam

Monday, May 12, 2008

Raja Ali Haji bin Raja Haji Ahmad ar-Riyawi

Raja Ali Haji bin Raja Haji Ahmad ar-Riyawi – The Master Linguist
(adapted from Hj. Wan Mohd Shaghir Abdullah r.h. ‘s Ulamas of the Malay World))

About Him

This ulama from a noble family was a Syafi’i in mazhab, an Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah in creed, and a Naqsyabandi in tariqah.

The fact that he wrote books on disciplines outside of fiqh and Islamic jurisprudence made him more famous in Malay literature than in Islamic knowledge. Not only his name well known among Malaysian and Indonesian language scholars, the Dutch and English researcher also paid a lot of attention to his works.

His full name is Tengku Haji Ali al-Haj bin Tengku Haji Ahmad bin Raja Haji Asy-Syahidu fi Sabilillah bin Upu Daeng Celak. He was born in Pulau Penyengat, an island south of Singapore in 1809. At the time, Penyengat was the capital of Riau-Lingga-Johor kingdom. His mother was Encik Hamidah binti Panglima Malik Selangor. He had 9 brothers and 7 sisters.

Around 1822, he went to Jakarta (Batavia) together with his father, who was the government representative to the Dutch Governor. Raja Ali Haji took the opportunity to study under the ulamas there. One of them was Saiyid ‘Abdur Rahman al-Mashri, under whom he studied Ilm Falak (astronomy). He also made friends with some Dutch officials such as T. Roode and Van Der Waal.

In 1827 (Hijri 1243) Raja Ahmad together with his son went for pilgrimage to Makkah. They stayed on for a while and Raja Ali Haji studied Arabic and other Islamic disciplines there. Among people he met were Syeikh Daud Abdullah al-Fathani and Syeikh Syihabuddin (son of Syeikh Abdullah al-Banjari). They also made a detour to Cairo befor returning home to Penyengat.

Now a qualified ulama, Raja Ali Haji then asked by his cousin (the Yamtuan Muda of Riau– equivalent to Sultan) to teach Arabic Grammar (nahwu), morphology (sorof), creed (usuluddin), jurisprudence (fiqh), tasawwuf and other disciplines. Even the sultan himself (Raja Ali bin Raja Ja’far) and the later sultan studied under him. Raja Ali Haji became one of the greatest ulama before his death.

He practiced Naqsyabandiah tariqah, and routinely read the salawat Dalail al-Khairat of Saiyyid Sulaiman al-Jazuli, which had been practiced in his family for generations. In fact, his grandfather – Raja Haji asy-Syahid fi Sabilillah died on the battlefield fighting the Dutch invaders – one hand holding the salawat booklet, while the other holding a sword.

More on him and his land of origin available here:-

Wallahu a'lam

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Syeikh 'Abdul Jalil al-Mahdani

Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil Al-Mahdani, Mufti of the Government of Kedah Darul Aman
(adapted from Hj. Wan Mohd Shaghir r.h. ‘s Ulamas of the Malay World)

An early source – Al-Tarikh Salasilah Negeri Kedah by Muhammad Hassan bin Kerani Muhammad Arshad – mentioned that this ulama by name of Tuan Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil al-Mahdani was the father of Syeikh ‘Abdus Shamad al-Falimbani. This document has later been republished by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka in 1968.

In any case the truth is still open for debate since several other sources mention that Syeikh ‘Abdus Shamad’s father being one Syeikh Abdullah, while other sources said his father goes by name Syeikh ‘Abdur Rahman.

Origin and Arrival in South-East Asia

His full name is Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil bin Syeikh ‘Abdul Wahhab bin Syeikh Ahmad al-Mahdani, from San’a, Yemen.

It is unclear the year he arrived in Palembang. According to a manuscript by Society of Malaysian History – Kedah Chapter (published 18th July 1989), he came to Palembang towards the end of 17th century. Six months later he departed for Java together with disciple Tengku Muhammad Jiwa – son to the Sultan of Kedah. The Syeikh spread Islam to the people of Java for a while before setting sail for India.

His disciple Tengku Muhammad Jiwa acted as the Syeikh’s personal aide (khadam) and concealed his nobility very well. Moving from place to place in India, he maintained humility towards his master. Much later the Syeikh acquired another personal aide by name Hapisap, a similarly well-mannered disciple.

Probably driven by longing to return to his homeland, Tengku Muhammad Jiwa suggested to Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil and Hapisap to visit Kedah since they had never been to that kingdom. He added some spice to that suggestion saying that Kedah was quite a prominent kingdom, ruled by a Muslim by name of Sultan ‘Abdullah. It might not be far-off if we speculate that Tengku Muhammad Jiwa also felt the need to spread his Syeikh’s vast knowledge of Islam to his homeland.

In 1710 (Hijri 1122) the trio boarded an Arab ship from Muscat stopping over en route to South-East Asia. The ship also made a re-supply stop at the Mergui harbor in present-day Myanmar (Burma).

The Empty Throne in Kedah

Unknown to Tengku Muhammad Jiwa, his father – Sultan ‘Abdullah Mu’azzam Shah had passed away in 1706 (Hijri 1118). He was succeeded by the crown prince Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin Halim Syah – who passed away shortly after. Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin did not leave behind an heir. The Kedah chieftains decided to set out and look for for his brother – Tengku Muhammad Jiwa to succeed the throne.

While Dato’ Kema Jaya set out to Sumatra and Java, his colleague Dato’ Seri Indera Mambang went to India and Burma. It happened that Dato’ Seri Indera Mambang bumped into Tengku Muhammad Jiwa in Burma (Mergui) during the stopover. Upon learning that both his father and brother had passed away, Tengku Muhammad Jiwa cried and related his real identity to his Syeikh. In company of the Kedah chieftain all three departed for Kedah.

The Mufti Appointment

Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil recited the ceremonial do’a when Tengku Muhammad Jiwa was appointed as the next Sultan of Kedah. When the Chief Judge (Qadhi) of Kedah passed away, the new Sultan asked the chiefs’ approval to appoint his good friend Hapisap as the new Qadhi, and Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil as the new Mufti.

Sultan Muhammad Jiwa then looked for a suitable bride for the Syeikh. He found one in Wan Zainab binti Dato’ Seri Maharaja Putra Dewa.

Descendants of Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil

After a few months, an old student of Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil by name Raden Siran came from Palembang for a visit. He suggested the Syeikh to return to Palembang and pay a visit to his old students.

Later in Palembang, the Syeikh married Raden Ranti/Rantai. From this marriage, they had a son – ‘Abdus Shamad. This child later became one of the most famous sufi alim in South-East Asia (even to this day). Syeikh Abdus Shamad al-Falimbani would later wrote famous books such as ‘Hidayatus Salikin’ and ‘Siyarus Salikin’. Syeikh ‘Abdus Shamad is known to leave behind at least one offspring – a daughter named Fathimah.

From his earlier marriage in Kedah with Wan Zainab, the Syeikh had 2 sons. One was named Wan ‘Abdul Qadir (later Mufti of Kedah). The second was Wan Abdullah, who grew up to hold important position in the government – Seri Maharaja Putera Dewa. Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil’s grandchildren in Kedah have yet to be located.


Syeikh ‘Abdul Jalil al-Mahdani passed away in 1782 (Hijri 1196). His grave is in Tanjung Pauh, Jitra, in district of Kubang Pasu, Kedah.

Wallahu a'lam

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ulamas of the Malay World - Wan Shaghir

Writings on this blog are sourced primarily from Syeikh Wan Mohammad Shaghir Abdullah r.h., who passed away in April of 2007. He left behind a family and a tall stack of books - published or not. I bought a collection of booklets titled 'Sejarah Penyebaran Islam dan Silsilah Ulama Sejagat Dunia Melayu' after first time listening to his speech in 2005. These booklets - roughly translate to 'Historyof Islam and Scholars in the Malay World'.

To me he is one of those gems buried somewhere in the mud. He did a lot of leg work in research, writing and teaching - paid or not. He was qualified and authorized to teach Islamic classical kitabs, and held weekly classes in a masjid. He did not glitter because he was not a celebrity.

A longer description on him (in Malay) is here:

May Allah reward him the best.

Wallahu a'lam.