Biography of Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji
(author unknown but may Allah bless him or her)

Placeof Birth
Surakarta (Solo), CentralJava, Indonesia

Dateof Birth
18 August 1922 (24 Zulhijjah 1340H)

Childhood History
In 1927, at the age of five, he travelled with hisparents to Singaporeand lived with the Solo community at the Jalan Sultan area known as PasirGembur.

Later, his family moved to Rengat (Sumatra). (He returned to Singaporeand became a citizen.)

In February 1937, he furthered his studies in Singaporeat the Aljunied Islamic School. He finished his education in 1944 during theJapanese Occupation.

From May 1966 to end October 1970, he became areligious teacher at the Hassanal Bolkiah ArabSecondary School in Bandar Seri Begawan, BruneiDarussalam. Ahmad Sonhadji and his family returned to Singapore thereafter.

In August 1971, he took up a post as senior teacherat the Aljunied Islamic School. He was appointed as principal of theinstitution from February 1973 to end March 1980, when he retired. In September1980, he took up the post as the Imam (prayer leader) of Masjid Muhajirin.Previously, he was also a volunteer Imam at Masjid Al-Huda for 10 years. In March 1985, he was invited to be an advisor to the principal of the AljuniedIslamic School.

During the Japanese Occupation in 1942, he leftSingapore for Rengat (Riau) to establish a madrasah,the Perguruan Agama Islam Rengat(PAIR), together with his teacher, Ustaz Haji Marzuki bin Haji Shamsuddin.He returned to Singaporeto continue his studies for a year, before becoming a trainee teacher foranother year. Upon the end of the Occupation in August 1945, he ended his stintas a trainee teacher.

In early 1946, he set up the Madrasah Bustanul 'Arifin in Coronation Road, Singapore.After teaching for four months at MadrasahBustanul 'Arifin, he resigned to resume teaching at Madrasah Al-Junied during the day. He also offered privatereligious classes, known as Al-MadrasahAl-Diniah, at his home in the evenings.

Involvementin Organisations

1)TheIslamic Religious Council of Singapore(Muis):
He was a member ofthe Muis Council and had actively contributed in various workgroups constitutedunder Muis to deal with the community's religious issues. One of his keycontributions was through the Fatwa Committee, of which he had been a membersince 1975. He had always been a progressive and forward looking scholar, andhis ideas and thoughts were pivotal to advance many issues deliberated by theFatwa Committee such as organ donation and the inclusion of Muslims under HOTA,waqaf development, zakat administration, determination of the beginning of theIslamic calendar through mathematical calculations and discussions on Newater. He was stillteaching at Muhajirin Mosque, even in his late 80s.

2)Associationof Islamic Scholars and Teachers (PERGAS)

He was one of the early activists of PERGAS wherehe was elected as the secretary of the Educational Department. He was laterappointed as its Vice Chairperson and subsequently as advisor.

Ustaz Sonhadji had authored many books and his best-known work is thetranslation and interpretation of the Qur'an into the Malay language. It tookhim more than 25 years to complete this task and it has subsequently beenrepublished many times. His instructional book on performing the prayer hasalso been republished many times and is used by the majority of Muslims in Singapore.It has also been translated into other languages such as Korean and Sinhalese.

The Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad Collection at Singapore's National Library comprises more than1,000 publications in Jawi, Arabic and Malay, on Islam and the development ofIslam in Singapore and Southeast Asia and more than 500 manuscripts which are onloan. The manuscripts include notes of his sermons and interpretation of theQur'an for which he is most respected for in the region of Southeast Asia.

He is survived by a wife and ten children (ninedaughters and a son).

Many of his students have become important and respectedreligious leaders of the Muslim community in Singapore,Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. They include Singapore'sMufti, Syed Isa Semait and former Chief Officer of Brunei Darussalam Ministryof Religious Affairs, Pehin Haji Mohd Zain Haji Serudin.


Shaykh Zakaria Bin Omar Bagharib

Shaykh Zakaria Bin Omar Bagharib (1936-2009)
The authorized representative or wakil in Singapore, for Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil Al-Haqqani Al-Qubrusi An-Naqshbandi (qs)

Prepared by Noor Mohamed
Minor editions by Mohamed Nassir
O the brilliance of the moon!
Even shinier than that golden spoon!
Glad tidings! O what a boon!
Whirling and dancing to the soul’s tune!

O that rare unique star!
Shaykh Nazim’s Singapore car!
At times strange and bizarre!
The best we have seen here so far!

O Lord! Grant him good health and long-life,
And strengthen his will to survive,
We are bees in need of this hive!
A conduit of spiritual honey for life.


Author: Unknown

His Family
Born as Zakaria Bin Omar Bagharib on 19th March 1936 to an Arab family of 12 siblings (6 boys and 6 girls), whose roots were from Tarim, Yemen (Hadramawt). He was the youngest.

His late father, Allahyarham Sheikh Omar bin Abdullah Bagharib (may Allah bless his soul), had been serving the community as Imam of Masjid Khadijah, situated at Geylang Road, for 32 years. Being a contemporary of Syed Muhammad Bin Salim Al-Attas (may Allah bless his soul), Sheikh Omar played a major role in the development of the famous Masjid Ba’alawi located at Lewis Road off Bukit Timah Road.

The Family Tree of Shaykh Zakaria connects up to a 5th generation Wali Qutb (cardinal saint) whose name is identical to that of Sheikh Zakaria’s late father, Sheikh Omar Bin Abdullah Bagharib, Sahibul Kanziyah As-Siddiqiyyah al-Kubra. He had been blessed by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala with a sufi maqam (spiritual station) in the same level as that of Sayyidina Abu Bakr as-Siddiq, the first Caliph of Islam. This was related by Allahyarham Sheikh Umar Al-Khatib to Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib.

Shaykh Zakaria lived with his wife Ummi Aishah Bte Omar Said Makarim, to whom he had been happily married for the past 51 years. They are blessed with 5 children (4 girls and a boy), Sabah, Shirin, - the eldest daughter, Gusti Sabah - the 2nd daughter, 3rd son - Omar, 4th daughter - Thuraiya and his youngest daughter - Aiman.

Education and Career
He had his early secular education in the Geylang, Telok Kurau and Kota Raja Schools in Singapore including 4 years of Islamic Education at the Al-Khairiah Islamic School (Madrasah Al-Khairiah Al-Islamiah), which still exist today at 152 Still Road.

Later, he undertook 3 years of full-time study at The Sultan Idris Training College (SITC) and thereafter, studied law at the University of Singapore from 1961 to 1965. In 1966, he was offered a teaching job and served as lecturer at the Teachers’ Training College in Paterson Road. Two of his students today are prominent figures in Singapore. They are Hj Yatiman Yusof – a former Member of Parliament, and Hj Ma’arof Salleh – former President of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS).

He furthered his education at The Concordia University in Montreal Canada from 1972-1976, where he obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce, majoring in Accountancy and Business Administration. He commenced his Masters Degree but had to end it prematurely because of extenuating circumstances.

For nineteen years, Shaykh Zakaria also learnt intensively various Islamic sciences like Arabic language, Arabic grammar, Tasawwuf (Islamic spirituality), fiqh (jurisprudence), hadith (Prophetic traditions) and Qur’anic tafsir (exegesis) under the tutelage of arguably the most eminent of Islamic scholars in Singapore, Sheikh Umar Al-Khatib (may Allah bless his soul) (1908-1997).

Shaykh Zakaria taught the Islamic sciences at private centres and the Darul Arqam (The Muslim Converts’ Association of Singapore) and was among their popular teachers.

Shaykh Zakaria was fluent in the languages of English, Malay, Arabic, and spoke a little bit of French.

Spiritual Path
He traveled in the year 1990 and had the good fortune to meet the 40th Master of the Esteemed Naqshbandi Sufi Order, Mawlana Shaykh Muhammad Nazim Adil Al-Haqqani al-Qubrusi in his hometown in Lefke, Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). In 1994, he met Shaykh Nazim’s deputy, Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani in Kuala Lumpur, who informed Shaykh Zakaria that Prophet Muhammad salallahu alaihi wasallam had given permission for him to pledge allegiance to the Prophet through Shaykh Nazim, and to be Shaykh Nazim’s representative in Singapore. Shaykh Zakaria was overwhelmed with tears of joy upon hearing it.

Shaykh Zakaria then commenced the regular Naqshbandi dhikr with a small group of about 2-3 persons. And the group steadily grew larger and larger. Today there is a regular attendance of about 150 to 200 people who attends the Naqshbandi weekly dhikr at Masjid Kg Siglap and Masjid Hajah Fatimah (first Thursday of each month).

Spiritual Blessing
Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib was fortunate to have been in contact with many holy personalities and saints since he was very young. In 1942, a sufi master, Mawlana Abdul Aleem Siddique, was in Singapore on a missionary visit. Mawlana Abdul Aleem Siddique appointed Shaykh Zakaria’s father, Sheikh Omar Bagharib as his khalifah (representative) for the Qadiri tariqah (spiritual order). Once at the age of 6, Shaykh Zakaria was in the presence of Mawlana Abdul Aleem Siddique and was personally spoon-fed by Mawlana Abdul Aleem with a local delicacy called ‘suji’ and along with his barakah or spiritual blessings.
Today, the Abdul Aleem Siddique Mosque stands at No. 90 Lorong K Telok Kurau, in memory of this sacred figure, who although had an Indian background, but was of Arab descent with a noble lineage directly to Sayyidina Abu Bakr Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him).

The late founder of Singapore’s Ba’alwie Mosque, Syed Muhammad bin Salim Al-Attas (may Allah bless his soul) was very fond of the young Shaykh Zakaria and used to affectionately call him, “Ya Afrit, ta’al, ta’al” meaning “O Afrit (mischievous jinn), come here.”

His Seclusion
In the year 2004, during the month of Rajab, Shaykh Zakaria was especially selected by Mawlana Shaykh Hisham Kabbani, amongst twenty other Naqshbandis to perform seclusion in Bogor, Cikreteg, located on a mountain. There were many seclusion chambers there, specially built for khalwat (seclusion).

Shaykh Zakaria (the only Singaporean) and nineteen other khalwatis were scheduled to do seclusion for 40 days. They were all under the care and guidance of Mawlana Shaykh Hisham, under the authority of Mawlana Shaykh Nazim. The khalwatis had to adhere strictly to the rules of seclusion, like:

1. To bathe before performing each fard (obligatory) prayer – i.e. 5 times daily.
1. To perform daily dhikr (chants) of the names of Allah, in the hundreds of thousands, as prescribed.
2. To recite daily the Dalailul Khairat and thousands of salawat.
3. Food served daily in very small portions at the morning and evening only.
4. No interaction with anyone.

During one of the days during seclusion, as recalled by Shaykh Zakaria, his ego was smashed, knocking him out for a few minutes. After regaining consciousness, he then felt a collar round his neck being pulled. As he looked up, he then saw Prophet Muhammad salallahu alaihi wasallam. He could not see the face of the Prophet (s) but he knew it was the Holy Prophet (s).

On the 20th day of seclusion, Shaykh Hisham arrived and he saw many colourful lights. Due to the bond and affection to Shaykh Hisham, they both enjoyed each other’s presence.

During the last day of seclusion, a strange event occurred, in that, it was dry and there was no water supply. Therefore, the khalwatis were in a dilemma, contemplating the seclusion rule that a bath is compulsory before each obligatory prayer. However, with the Will of Allah subhanahu wa ta‘ala, a heavy downpour ensued and it rained heavily, providing sufficient water supply once again.

The khalwatis completed the whole 40-day seclusion process successfully, except for 3 individuals who could not complete the exercise.

His Demise
Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib returned to Allah Almighty on Friday 25th September 2009 (6th Shawal 1430 Hijrah) at about 10 a.m. At least a thousand people prayed at his funeral prayer, conducted at Masjid Sultan (one of the biggest mosque in Singapore). He was then buried at Singapore’s Muslim cemetery at Jalan Bahar.

Shaykh Zakaria Bagharib was an affable man, easily loved by anyone who meets him. He had a good sense of humour, although he can be very serious especially in matters of the faith. His personable character and charm has attracted many converts and born-Muslims to an appreciation of the beauty of Islam.

He had a fulfilling life that spanned an illustrious academic teaching career, interesting business endeavours, and a religious and spiritual teaching passion.

Shaykh Zakaria will be deeply missed by hundreds of people, especially the followers and students of the Naqshbandi Haqqani Sufi Order in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.