Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad Milatu



Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad Milatu (b. 18 August 1922, Desa Pingging, Surakarta (Solo), Central Java, Indonesia–d. 12 August 2010, Singapore) was a prominent ulama (religious scholar) who played a critical role in the development of Islamic education and the nurturing of ulama in Singapore and the region.1 He was a founding member of the Persatuan Ulama dan Guru-guru Agama Islam (Singapura) (PERGAS; Singapore Islamic Scholars and Religious Teachers Association), formed in 1957.2 He also held numerous positions in the Majlis Ulama Islam Singapura (MUIS; Islamic Religious Council of Singapore) and was a respected adviser on Islamic religious matters.3

Early life
Born to Mohamad Milatu bin Hj Haromain and Raden Ummi Salamah Binti Haji Anwar,4 Ustaz Sonhadji came from a family of religious preachers.5 Some of his family members were experts in Quranic recital, and were teachers to the fourth sultan of Surakarta.6


In 1927, his father brought him to Singapore, and they lived at Pasir Gembur, near Jalan Sultan.7 The family later moved to Riau, Indonesia, where he received a religious education as his father worked as a religious teacher.8 At the age of 14, he returned to Singapore and enrolled in Madrasah Aljunied. When the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45) disrupted his education, he was compelled to return to Rengat, a province in Riau, in 1941. While in Rengat, he co-founded a madrasah, Perguran Agama Islam Rengat (Rengat Muslim Teachers’ College), with one of his teachers.9 Upon returning to Singapore, Ustaz Sonhadji continued his education at Madrasah Aljunied, and completed his studies in 1944.10

Teaching career
After he completed his studies, Ustaz Sonhadji worked as a trainee teacher at Madrasah Aljunied before becoming a fulltime teacher at the school.11 While teaching at Madrasah Aljunied, Ustaz Sonhadji set up a nasyid group, a religious choir. He also taught the students how to sing using musical notes.12


In 1945, he established a religious school, Madrasah Bustanol Arifin, on Coronation Road.13 He taught there for a while, then left to start his own religious school, Madrasah ad-Dinniah, with classes held in his home on Coronation Road.14 The school lasted for seven years.15

While serving on the education ministry’s Islamic Education Council from 1958 to 1960, Ustaz Sonhadji was tasked to plan the curriculum for religious education in Singapore.16 He also wrote more than a dozen religious books that became textbooks used at local madrasahs.17

In 1966, Ustaz Sonhadji moved to Brunei to become the head teacher at Sekolah Menengah Arab Hassanul Bolkian (Hassanul Bolkiah Arabic High School), where he remained until 1970.18 A song composed by Ustaz Sonhadji is still the official song of some schools there. Many prominent public figures in Brunei were once his students.19

Ustaz Sonhadji later returned to Singapore and held several key appointments. He returned to teach at Madrasah Aljunied in 1971, and was appointed the school principal two years later.20 He worked there until 1980.21

In 1980, Ustaz Sonhadji was made imam (religious leader) of Muhajirin Mosque.22 He continued teaching at Muhajirin Mosque23 even after his retirement as imam of the mosque in 2002.24 In 1993, he was appointed as chairman of Madrasah Al-Irsyad.25

Religious adviser
Described as a progressive scholar, Ustaz Sonhadji joined as a member of the Fatwa Committee of MUIS in 1975, and served on the committee for over 30 years.26 As a member of the committee, he influenced the committee’s rulings on various issues such as organ donation, religious endowments and the acceptability of NEWater.27


He was also a key adviser to the Religious Rehabilitation Group, which helps rehabilitate detained terrorists. He crafted a manual to address the detainee’s misinterpretation of Islamic concepts such as jihad.28

Literary career
Ustaz Sonhadji’s name was inspired by the Tunisian author Sheikh as-Sonhadji,29 and wrote many books himself. His best-known publication is Abrul Athir, which means “through the air waves”.30 It is a translation and interpretation of the Quran in the Malay language, a 30-volume work that took him more than 25 years to complete.31


He first started translating the Quran in 1959 for a programme on Radio Singapura.32 The programme ran between 19 February 1959 and 26 April 1984.33 From there, he began to work on the book version. The first volume was published in 1960, a year after the radio programme started, hence the name of the publication, Abrul Athir.34 The full 30-volume work was finally completed and published in 1993.35 Abrul Athir has been said to be among the finest works of translations and it has been republished many times in different languages.36

Ustaz Sonhadji also authored an instructional guidebook on Islamic prayers,37 which has been reprinted and translated into various languages such as Korean and Sinhalese.38

In August 2008, Ustaz Sonhadji signed a memorandum of understanding with the National Library Board (NLB) of Singapore to donate his literary collection to NLB for the benefit of the public.39 The Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad Collection consists of more than 1,000 publications on Islam and the development of Islam in Singapore and the region, and over 500 manuscripts including his sermons and interpretations of the Quran.40

Awards
1961: Appointed by the Yang di-Pertuan Negara, Inche Yusof bin Ishak, as member of the Muslim Advisory Board, Singapore.41

1988: Public Service Medal42
1992: Anugerah Jasawan Cemerlang (Excellence Award), MUIS43
1993: Gelar Ilmiawan – Ulama Contoh, Persatuan Pelajar-Pelajar Agama Dewasa Singapura44
2010: National Day Team Award, Ministry of Home Affairs45

Death
Ustaz Sonhadji died of complications from pneumonia at the age of 88 on 12 August 2010. His wife passed away in 2001. The couple were survived by 10 children, 32 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.46




Author

Nurhaizatul Jamila Jamil



References
1. He is not an ordinary ulama. (1997, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Sonhadji giat tabur budi kepada masyarakat. (2004, October 10). Berita Harian, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Zakir Hussain. (2010, August 13). Noted Islamic scholar Ahmad Sonhadji dies. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Keluarga tidak pernah diabaikan walau sibuk. (1996, August 18). Berita Harian, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Sonhadji giat tabur budi kepada masyarakat. (2004, October 10). Berita Harian, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Norman Suratman. (1997). Menyongsong arus: Biografi Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. Singapore: Pustaka ASB Mohamad, p. 28. (Call no.: Malay RSING 922.97 NOR)
7. Mazelan Anuar. (2008, October). Signing of memorandum of understanding between National Library Board and Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. BiblioAsia, 4(3), 46. Retrieved 2016, September 9 from National Library Board website: https://www.nlb.gov.sg/Browse/BiblioAsia.aspx
8. Hijrah ke Singapura (1996, August 18). Berita Harian, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Norman Suratman. (1997). Menyongsong arus: Biografi Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. Singapore: Pustaka ASB Mohamad, pp. 21, 40. (Call no.: Malay RSING 922.97 NOR)
10. Sonhadji giat tabur budi kepada masyarakat. (2004, October 10). Berita Harian, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
11. Norman Suratman. (1997). Menyongsong arus: Biografi Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. Singapore: Pustaka ASB Mohamad, p. 43. (Call no.: Malay RSING 922.97 NOR)
12. Cipta lagu dalam zaman muda. (1996, August 10). Berita Harian, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
13. Sonhadji giat tabur budi kepada masyarakat. (2004, October 10). Berita Harian, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Keluarga tidak pernah diabaikan walau sibuk. (1996, August 18). Berita Harian, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Norman Suratman. (1997). Menyongsong Arus: Biografi Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. Singapore: Pustaka ASB Mohamad, p. 44. (Call no.: Malay RSING 922.97 NOR)
16. Norman Suratman. (1997). Menyongsong arus: Biografi Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. Singapore: Pustaka ASB Mohamad, p. 90. (Call no.: Malay RSING 922.97 NOR)
17. He is not an ordinary ulama. (1997, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Sonhadji giat tabur budi kepada masyarakat. (2004, October 10). Berita Harian, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. He is not an ordinary ulama. (1997, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Norman Suratman. (1997). Menyongsong arus: Biografi Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. Singapore: Pustaka ASB Mohamad, p. 58. (Call no.: Malay RSING 922.97 NOR)
21. Hijrah ke Singapura. (1996, August 18). Berita Harian, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Norman Suratman. (1997). Menyongsong arus: Biografi Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. Singapore: Pustaka ASB Mohamad, p. 60. (Call no.: Malay RSING 922.97 NOR)
23. Mazelan Anuar. (2008, October). Signing of memorandum of understanding between National Library Board and Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. BiblioAsia, 4(3), 46. Retrieved 2016, September 9 from National Library Board website: https://www.nlb.gov.sg/Browse/BiblioAsia.aspx
24. Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji letak jawatan. (2002, December 6). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Ustaz Sonhadji dalam lembaga Al-Irsyad. (1993, March 6), Berita Harian, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. DPM Wong pays tribute to late Islamic scholar. (2010, August 14). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Zakir Hussain. (2010, August 13). Noted Islamic scholar Ahmad Sonhadji dies. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Zakir Hussain. (2010, August 13). Noted Islamic scholar Ahmad Sonhadji dies. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Norman Suratman. (1997). Menyongsong Arus: Biografi Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. Singapore: Pustaka ASB Mohamad, p. 14. (Call no.: Malay RSING 922.97 NOR)
30. Anak jadi inspirasi kitab tafsir. (1996, August 18). Berita Harian, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. He is not an ordinary ulama. (1997, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Mazelan Anuar. (2008, October). Signing of memorandum of understanding between National Library Board and Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. BiblioAsia, 4(3), 46. Retrieved 2016, September 9 from National Library Board website: https://www.nlb.gov.sg/Browse/BiblioAsia.aspx
32. Anak jadi inspirasi kitab tafsir. (1996, August 18). Berita Harian, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33. ‘Institusi’ mengaji. (1993, March 28). Berita Harian, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Anak jadi inspirasi kitab tafsir. (1996, August 18). Berita Harian, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Suara Ustaz masih semerdu dulu. (1993, March 27). Berita Harian, p. 4 Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. He is not an ordinary ulama. (1997, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Mazelan Anuar. (2008, October). Signing of memorandum of understanding between National Library Board and Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. BiblioAsia, 4(3), 46. Retrieved 2016, September 9 from National Library Board website: https://www.nlb.gov.sg/Browse/BiblioAsia.aspx
37. Mahu jadi seniman, tapi… (1993, March 28). Berita Harian, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Mazelan Anuar. (2008, October). Signing of memorandum of understanding between National Library Board and Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. BiblioAsia, 4(3), 46. Retrieved 2016, September 9 from National Library Board website: https://www.nlb.gov.sg/Browse/BiblioAsia.aspx
39. Mazelan Anuar. (2008, October). Signing of memorandum of understanding between National Library Board and Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. BiblioAsia, 4(3). Retrieved 2016, September 9 from National Library Board website: https://www.nlb.gov.sg/Browse/BiblioAsia.aspx

40. National Library Board. (n.d.). Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. Retrieved 2016, September 19 from National Library Board website: http://www.nlb.gov.sg/donors/ustaz-ahmad-sonhadji-mohamad/

41. Advisory board. (1961, January 9). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
42. Proud moment for award recipients. (1988, October 27). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
43. For S’pore to react fast, its leadership must be sensitive: President Wee. (1992, November 8). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44. Ahmad Sonhadji ulama contoh. (1993, August 8). Berita Harian, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
45. DPM Wong pays tribute to late Islamic scholar. (2010, August 14). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
46. Zakir Hussain. (2010, August 13). Noted Islamic scholar Ahmad Sonhadji dies. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.


Further resources
Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad. [1962–1965]. Tafsir al-Quran [Interpretation of Al-Quran]. [Singapore: Almaktab Attijari Asshargi].

(Call no.: Malay R 297.1227 AHM)

Zulkifli Haji Mohd Yusoff, Noor Naemah Abdul Rahman & Mohd Asmadi Yakob. (Eds.). (2004). Tazkirah untuk orang mengaji: Karya Sonhadji [A reminder for those who recite the Al-Quran]. Shah Alam: Mahli Training; Intel Multimedia and Publication.
(Call no.: Malay RCLOS 297.2 TAZ-[UAS])



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Award winners--Singapore--Biography
Philosophy, psychology and religion>>Religion>>Islam
Religious leaders
Personalities>>Biographies>>Religious Leaders
Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji Mohamad Milatu, 1922–2010
Ulama--Singapore--Biography