At 17 years of age, Abuya entered Maahad Hishamuddin primary class (Ibtida’ie) at Klang, Selangor. Abuya spent less than the conventional 3 years by leapfrogging his classmates. After 2 years, he was promoted to Thanawi 2. His whole education ended in 1957, at Thanawi 3 level, that is after 4 years at Maahad Hishamuddin. By then, he was barely 20 years old.
Because his parents worked in Port Klang, Abuya stayed with his father and stepmother at the customs quarters, Klang. The distance from Maahad Hishamuddin to their house was 7 miles.
Abuya’s teachers at the Maahad were:
1. Syeikh Khalil, a graduate of pesantren Tebu Ereng, East Java – an expert in Arabic grammar and Islamic jurisprudence.
2. Ustaz Hakim, a graduate from Mecca – elder brother of Dato’ Hassan Azhari, also en expert in Arabic language and literature.
3. Ustaz Dahlan, a Maahad Hishamuddin graduate.
4. Ustaz Mokhtar bin Radzi, a graduate of Pondok Batu 20, Bagan Datuk, Perak.
5. Ustaz Haji Idris, a Sunni who studied in Mecca for 15 years. He hailed from Kuala Pilah, Negeri Sembilan. Sunni teachings still prevailed in Mecca when he was there, but Wahhabi doctrines were beginning to appear.
6. Ustaz Rashid, a graduate of Madrasah Junaid, Singapore.
7. Ustaz (now Dato’) Hassan Azhari - Abuya’s Quran teacher.
8. Tuan Haji Salim Segambut, teacher of the exegesis of the Quran (also Abuya’s father in law – father of Abuya’s first (now divorced) wife.
9. Syeikh Mahmud Bukhari, Principal of Maahad Hishamuddin. His parents were natives of Bukhara, Uzbekistan (Khurasan). But this Syeikh was born and studied in Mecca. He was brought to Malaya by the then Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Hishamuddin. He memorized 10,000 hadith with their full genealogies, and memorized 40 original texts of knowledge. Abuya studied under him for 4 years.
10. Abuya studied at night under Syeikh Muhammad Abdullah bin Muhammad Khairullah As Suhaimi, focusing on tariqah and the Islamic resurgence, the centre of Jamaah Muhammadiah, Jalan Sungai Udang, Klang, Selangor.
Throughout his conventional education, Abuya craved for knowledge, regardless of day and night. For 2 years, he took midnight tuition classes under Ustaz Hakim, who was then the religious schools’ inspector in Kajang. With the teacher’s agreement, Abuya and 3 others would come to his house. The tutorials lasted from 12 am until 1 am.
As schools’ inspector in Kajang, 70 miles from Klang, Ustaz Hakim came home late from work. When the students asked him for the tuition classes, he requested to rest first. As he was taking his nap, the students could massage him. At 12 am, he woke up and taught them Arabic grammar and linguistics. This became routine for 2 years.
The 3 friends of Abuya were Ustaz Taha (Ustaz Hakim’s own son), Abdul Karim (Dato’ Hassan Azhari’s younger brother) and Ustaz Rifai Abdullah (elder brother of Shapadu Holding’s proprietor, Haji Shaarani). The 4 were recognized as excellent students. They would dominate the splendid examination results.
During the evening, Abuya took tuition classes under Syeikh Bukhari, for the subject of the exegesis of the Quran. We are flabbergasted at people willing to conduct tuition classes at midnight. This history would not have been recorded if it had not been planned by Abuya. His 3 friends and Ustaz Hakim merely followed him!
Such was Abuya’s thirst for knowledge that he was willing to travel to faraway places in search of it. He endured all oncoming difficulties and risks. He usually spent the night in the mosque as he did not want to go home. But at times, he returned to Klang, cycling 7 miles at midnight. The next day, after fajr prayers, he cycled another 7 miles to go to school. He often forsook his breakfast. His physique became so skinny that friends nicknamed him ‘flamingo’!
At one time, he played the simultaneous role of prayer leader, house manager, teacher and knowledge-mad student. His relationship with society was very good, his struggle and large influence were acceptable to many. No wonder this peculiar man was never taken for granted by his teachers and friends. Teachers gave special attention to him.
Although the duration of his schooling was not as lengthy as others’, the fact is that Abuya mastered far more knowledge than the others did. His knowledge bore fruit and multiplied. He admitted never being satisfied with the knowledge he imbibed, so he researched and thought further about it. Allah then added to his repository of knowledge, until he became a source of knowledge for his time.
His formal education, intended to pick up knowledge in all fields which Abuya yearned for since his childhood, proceeded seriously and intensively. Starting with a bicycle and 3 ringgit per month, Abuya traveled back and forth 7 miles each in countless mornings, afternoons and nights. Other children of customs officers went by bus to the English school in Klang. But this solitary son of a customs officer cycled 14 miles a day, bringing together his Islamic spirit. He was aware of the “you have no future” insults hurled at him because he decided to pursue religious education. Whatever the obstacle, Abuya was determined.
As related by Hashim Muhammad, Abuya’s younger brother, Abuya’s father forbade Abuya from boarding the bus to school, so as to prevent Abuya from mingling with the young ladies in the bus. Abuya was given a meagre sum of RM3 in order to discourage him from eating outside a lot, for such food may be suspicious in spiritual quality.
He would wake up before fajr, immediately boil water and make his way to the customs prayer house for the call to prayer (azan). After congregational fajr prayers, he would return home to get ready for school. He would make time to prepare coffee for his father, stepmother and younger siblings.
Outside, Abuya would have a tea breakfast with friends. It was cheap, and Abuya usually treated the others. But when his RM3 was used up, he did not eat outside or during school hours. It was a long wait for the following RM3 the next month. RM10 a month would have been an adequate supply. This meant that Abuya seldom ate during his school days as he seldom came back in the afternoon and night due to his extra classes, as mentioned above. When he did come back, sometimes the rice had all been eaten. If capable, he then would cook, but if not, he would not eat. He never complained. Indeed he was a good son.
Why did Abuya refrain from making such discomfort an issue? He felt that his father purposely made life difficult for him. Once, and the only time, he asked for a samping (knee-length sarong) through his stepmother, but his father retorted, “Don’t teach me!” The experience made Abuya an extremely loyal son. Life in the household was actually quite comfortable, with food plentiful as in other customs officers’ homes. But outside, Abuya lived a difficult life! Because a customs residence had only 2 rooms, Abuya usually slept in the customs prayer house. The house became crowded by his little siblings.
One night during Ramadhan, as Abuya was about to sleep in the prayer house verandah, in the darkness of the night, he witnessed a loop of light descending from the roof to the floor, before vanishing. Struck by fear, Abuya ran back and slept at home. His father told him, he had witnessed the signs of Laylah al-Qadr (Night of Power).
Abuya’s father knew that Abuya would become a leader. He was utterly convinced of this. Through his wife and other children, we hear many stories from Muhammad about his son (Abuya) who would emerge as a leader. But the matter was concealed from Abuya. Among other things, he told his other children:
1. “Naemah, later do not become a salaried worker, but work with your brother (Abuya).”
2. “If all of you want to gain salvation in this world and the Hereafter, follow me. When I am gone, follow your brother (Abuya).”
Abuya highly respected his father. He could not give a talk in front of his father, but strangely, the father held his son (Abuya) in high esteem.
When Abuya no longer resided in the same household with his father, once in a while Abuya would visit his father. His father would welcome Abuya and say farewell to Abuya at the doorstep, until Abuya disappeared from his sight. For dinner, he would slaughter his reared village chicken as a special dish.
God had destined that Abuya’s father was very meticulous in educating Abuya. Abuya was taught to procure God. The same has been emphasized by Abuya with regard to educating his children and followers. Observe the following poem by Abuya:
My beloved children
Abuya’s wound in the heart has healed
Having seen my children
Being led by God
This is a sign that my children will become the Ikhwan
Or at least the future Asoibs
Changes observed among my children
Entertain Abuya’s heart
Abuya prays for his children
For their future salvation
In the protracted life of the Hereafter
It’s alright if Abuya can’t give you love and care
For God’s love and care are the priorities
Your father is different from others
For other fathers
Love for their children is by giving them money and comfort
But Abuya is distinctive
Because Abuya learned from your grandfather
My father, he never pampered Abuya
With money and prosperity
But Abuya was given God by your grandfather
Comfort in the protracted Hereafter
The education I inherited from your grandfather
Is what I bequeath to you all
As your grandfather’s alms in the Hereafter
As my contribution in memory of your grandfather
Not money and comfort
I leave this as my heritage
To all my beloved children
Although your grandfather was then a customs officer
Life was easy then
Yet under his guidance
Abuya was not indulged with extravagance
If this poem reaches you
Recite Al-Fatihah for your grandfather and Abuya
As a sign of love for Abuya and your beloved grandfather
In memory of his good deeds to Abuya
Giving Abuya, God
Here we understand
All this while Abuya seemingly never showed love unto you
By denying you money and prosperity
But Abuya gives you something priceless
The Everlasting God
Here your queries are answered
Abuya loves all of you
To Abuya, Abuya shows love and care
By giving you God
Not money and material comfort
You were then small kids
You did not understand, you were uneasy
Now you do understand
That Abuya’s love to you is by giving you God
And endeavouring for your happiness
In the prolonged Hereafter
If Abuya had demonstrated love and care
By giving you adequate money
And superfluous wealth
The world brings you nowhere
Whereas in the Hereafter you will lose out
As you face a lengthy suffering
Abuya has come to know that all of you
Observe your daily prayers
In fact if you miss your tahajjud night prayers
Your spirit gets restless
In daytime you contemplate alone
Remorseful at having missed tahajjud prayers
Such feelings is a bounty from God
Others would feel worried by the loss of money
Abuya has also come to know
That you siblings have united, loved and cared for one another
All your mothers, namely Ummi, Ummu and Ummu Ain
You do not differentiate between them
If you could maintain this situation
You have gained God’s Pleasure
God’s Pleasure is more priceless than jewels and diamond
Here Abuya understands
That Abuya’s struggle will persist
Abuya’s children will continue Abuya’s struggle
You continue Abuya’s struggle
It is Abuya’s asset for life in the Hereafter
It is also your wealth in the Hereafter
The Eternal destination
Immeasurable by time
Abuya hopes such a situation can be maintained
Until death invites you to God
Let us endure a little hardship in the world
As long as we gain Eternal Happiness in the Hereafter
I would like to remind my children
If you obtain God in this world
And live according to God’s discipline
God willing, you will not be troubled in the world
This is proven
See for yourself
All this while Abuya taught you to fear God
And give priority to the protracted Hereafter
Your worldly life is not as troublesome as others
Those who chase after the world, the world eludes them
They lose God, and neglect the Hereafter
But your life, as you yourself can see
You are not destitute in food and clothing
You are not needy in transportation
At very young ages
You can travel everywhere
While those who pursue the world
At your young ages
Never dream of going abroad
This shows, if we live in this world
Seeking God and adhering to God’s discipline
Life in this world will not be troublesome
Hardship is for those who are deprived of God
And who discard God’s discipline
In the world, not too comfortable
In the Hereafter, their hardship is prolonged
They are not comforted in the world
And they lose out in the Hereafter
12.34 noon, 17 June, 2006
Rufaqa’ Guest House
Nilai, Negeri Sembilan
In facing hardships in life, Abuya never grumbled. In Pilin, Segambut and Klang, Abuya could feel the love and care of all those he lodged with. As Abuya related, it had been destined by God, wherever he moved to, although constantly being transferred from the hands of one guardian to another, all his foster fathers loved him and cherished the practice of the Aurad Muhammadiah.
Among his foster fathers were:
1. Wak Karim in Sungai Nibong.
2. Kiyai Jalal in Sungai Nibong.
3. Pak Mat Klang (Sayidi Syeikh Suhaimi’s grandson), who manifested his love for Abuya by revealing all he knew about Sayidi Syeikh As Suhaimi and his teachings. Every Thursday night, when Abuya visited him, he was willing to attend to Abuya until dawn. Besides imparting to Abuya Sayidi’s teachings, he showed to Abuya secret objects inherited from Sayidi, including the Zulfakar dagger. In fact Pak Mat (Muhammad Abdullah ibnu Khairillahi Suhaimi), also a caliph of the Aurad Muhammadiah, had mentioned his intention of marrying Abuya with his younger sister. But God destined that it was not to be.
Hardships suffered by Abuya were all in God’s plans. Abuya accepted them wholeheartedly. His stepmother and younger brothers and sisters not only loved him, but also respected him. A taciturn but industrious character with a heart which was glued to the prayer house, Abuya was very much liked by the customs community, especially among the prayer house going people. This was a person only one of his kind. Abuya received constant praises from them. According to Abuya’s siblings, the customs people always told Abuya’s father, “Mad, your son is strange. Sometimes we witness a light emanating from his forehead.”
Abuya was indeed peculiar. If he went to Pak Mat Klang’s house on Thursday night, he was willing to refrain from sleeping just to listen to extraordinary stories from this grandson of Sayidi. All his accompanying companions would fall asleep.
During night tuition at Ustaz Hakim’s house, before teaching, the ustaz would request that his pupils lightly massage him or step on him. Abuya would shoulder the responsibility. His other friends would stop when they get tired, but not Abuya. As long as his teacher did not command him to stop, he would continue with his body shaking and hands holding on to the wall, for fear of falling if he stepped on the back of his teacher. Yet, he would never stop. Is such a quality of loyalty not peculiar?
One day while cycling home with his school mates, they persuaded Abuya to watch a movie in the cinema. Abuya was initially reluctant, but he followed them nevertheless since they had already bought a ticket for Abuya. But as soon as he was seated in the dark surrounding, Abuya fell asleep. Abuya woke up when the lights had been turned on. He knew nothing of the film just shown. He never disclosed this to his friends until their death, in order not to offend them.
In Pilin, apart from making Abuya’s life difficult, Abuya’s father restricted Abuya’s social life. He felt responsible for the leadership character-building of his son. He created an environment conducive to the making of a leader. If Abuya was in service of his teachers, his father’s instruction took second place. Abuya greatly respected his teachers. Once Abuya could not come home, prompting his father to search for Abuya’s whereabouts all night long.
Abuya was nicknamed ‘Bedah’s maiden’ by wives of customs officers at the quarters. Why? In the crowded quarters, houses closely juxtaposed to one another, there was hardly a secret among the dwellers. Since Mak Bedah had small babies, she could not do much in terms of household chores, especially during the post-natal period. So it was Abuya who completed the housework, even managing his father’s food and clothes. During school holidays, Abuya would rise early in the morning to go to the market. Back from the market, he would clean up the house and the drain, wash the clothes, cook, tend his siblings, lift washed clothes from the railing, fold them, iron them, and do many other chores. In short, whatever the next door maiden does in those times, Abuya would do as well. He was thus dubbed ‘Bedah’s maiden’.
His stepmother was gentle and quiet. He did not ask Abuya to do the chores, but such was Abuya’s character. A stepmother would of course love such a son! When Abuya had become Darul Arqam’s leader, his stepmother would shake hands with Abuya and kiss his hands, saying, “Ashaari is my teacher.”
A lot of people were interested in taking Abuya as their son-in-law. But in those times, daughters of customs officers mixed freely between the sexes. They dated boyfriends, unashamedly holding hands, even in the house. Abuya was a far cry from such a life.
Abuya’s extremely shy character, especially in the company of women, made him reticent when facing the young ladies at the customs quarters. They went to the same market and did the same household chores, but Abuya always shyly avoided them. The ladies were correspondingly coy, out of respect for the ulama whose character was evident ever since adolescence.
Such were episodes pertaining to Abuya’s informal education at home. He was finally selected to become a temporary religious teacher at the customs primary religious school, which had inadequate teaching staff. He was appointed by the customs association, but his father did not allow his colleagues from paying wages to Abuya.
Here, yet another surprise: Why is a father willing to prevent his son from being remunerated? Odd! Usually anybody would be proud of his son’s deriving income, but Abuya’s father was against the idea. This showed that Abuya’s father was capable of shielding his son from love of the world. He had an extraordinary capability of doing so.
Abuya’s father was once appointed as the treasurer of the customs prayer house for a year. During the annual general meeting, when asked to present the accounts, he did not come out with any accounts because he had spent everything out of his personal pocket. The prayer house’s funds, wrapped up in the same bundle as he had received them, were returned to the executive committee members. His spirit was so strong in facing the world. He did not want the world to deceive Abuya. He did not want Abuya to be moulded by the world. Without the world, Abuya would rely fully on God. The world will not be able to entice Abuya.
Once the next door neighbour in the customs quarters organized a feast, but unIslamic music was played throughout the event. Abuya’s father boycotted the feast. So strong was he in upholding God’s laws. He would put aside his friend in the name of God. Such was another teacher of Abuya – his own father.
Having to go to school in the morning and then in the evening to teach, Abuya became busier. His headmaster at that time was Ustaz (now Dato’) Hassan Azhari (then in Thanawi 2 at the Maahad). Abuya was only in ibtida’ie class 3. They worked at the same place. The customs association was confident in Abuya’s capacity to teach religion to their children.
Memories with Syeikh Mahmud Bukhari
Amongst Abuya’s teachers, Syeikh Mahmud Bukhari has an immortal place in his heart. Abuya had a lot of sweet memories with him, brought even into his dreams. In one of them, Abuya saw himself being ‘mended’ by Syeikh Bukhari.
Once in the local mosque where Syeikh Mahmud Bukhari was teaching adults, Abuya was present as a listener. But he called Abuya to sit beside him and asked Abuya to recite the Quran.
This Syeikh from Bukhara also taught in the evening at the customs prayer house, near where Abuya lived. Abuya would usually participate in his Quranic exegesis class. In the morning, he would remind Abuya to bring along some religious texts in the evening. He arrived early and while waiting for others to come, he would teach Abuya to read and memorize the texts. When finished with a text, he would sign it.
At dinner time, he unashamedly fed his students, especially Abuya, with his own hands. He fed them unpeeled oranges. Abuya told how they were obliged to eat. Once in a while Abuya and his friends would pay him a visit at his house. He would add to the food of his students.
One day Abuya had prepared 5 ringgit to be gifted to this teacher (in those days, 5 ringgit was a big amount of money). Before departing, his teacher first gave him 10 ringgit. He trained Abuya to become generous. He taught Abuya to eat little. He also taught Abuya the daily prayers, although he was no member of any tariqah.
Syeikh Bukhara’s presence in Malaya, coming from Mecca, was very meaningful in Abuya’s character-building. In the aforesaid dream, Abuya’s soul witnessed Abuya’s physique being repaired by Syeikh Mahmud Bukhari. Small wonder Abuya loved him so much.
Abuya was active for 4 years at Maahad Hishamuddin, involving formal as well as informal education. During the period, he mastered a lot of knowledge and skills.
People know that Abuya did not proceed to higher education, but after 2 months of being investigated and interrogated by police and the Special Branch from Bukit Aman (the national police headquarters) under ISA detention, they were rumoured to have commented about Abuya: “His has very broad knowledge, a sharp mind and Mahathir fears him!”