Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah



Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, located at 30 Victoria Lane, is Singapore’s premier Islamic institution of learning.1 Of international repute, the school boasts an illustrious alumni including key Muslim leaders in Singapore and Southeast Asia.2

Background
A madrasah is an Islamic religious school. There are six fulltime madrasahs in Singapore offering primary to pre-tertiary education: Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Alsagoff Al-Islamiah, Al-Maarif Al-Islamiah, Wak Tanjong Al-Islamiah, Al-Irsyad Al-Islamiah and Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah. The schools are independent of each other, and develop their own curriculum.3 All are private schools and do not receive funding from the government.4 Philanthropists had set up the madrasahs at the turn of the 20th century.5

Early years
Madrasah Aljunied is the second-oldest Islamic school in Singapore after Madrasah Alsagoff, which was founded in 1912.6 Founded by Syed Abdul Rahman Aljunied, Madrasah Aljunied was built in 1927 on a wakaf burial land in Kampong Glam. The cemetery was started by prominent Arab businessman, Syed Omar Ali Aljunied.7 The school’s premises consisted of a two-storey colonial-style building.8

The first batch of students numbered only 10 and were strictly boys.9 However, the intake soon began to include students from the region such as peninsular Malaya, the Dutch East Indies and Brunei.10 In 1936, the school began a post-study course to groom religious leaders, an early sign of what is to be the school’s mission – the nurturing of Muslim leaders and teachers.11 The course, known as Kismut-takhassus Fil Wa’dzi wal Irsyad, was conducted by Assyeikh Abdurrahim Ibrahim Assamnudi from Egypt.12 In 1938, the madrasah started afternoon religious classes to cater to students attending government schools in the morning.13 In 1941, just before World War II, the school had its first rebuilding project to add more classrooms.14

The war led many of the school’s students and teachers to return to their hometown.15 After the war, the madrasah continued to take in more students until the premises became so cramped that some classes were held in the school hall.16 In the 1950s and 1960s, new subjects were introduced, including mathematics, geography, history and science.17

In 1991, a school redevelopment committee was formed to plan a modern building on the same site.18 Funds were then collected from the Muslim community and non-Muslim well-wishers for the project.19 On 7 August 1996, teachers and students had their last activities in the old premises of Madrasah Aljunied before saying prayers to mark the closure of the over 70-year-old building. While waiting for their new school to be built on the same site, the teachers and students occupied the building of the former Language Centre of the Ministry of Education on Winstedt Road. They had to share this building with students of Madrasah Al-Irsyad, who had been relocated because their school building was also being redeveloped then.20

Reopening
The new school building was officially opened on 21 April 2000.21 Designed by DP Architects and completed in late 1998, the five-storey structure was built over part of its original site on Victoria Street, occupying 0.52 ha of land. It incorporates traditional Islamic designs such as a central tiled open courtyard and domed roof with a crescent moon. It also has 28 new classrooms that can accommodate up to 2,000 students. Other facilities include a two-storey library, a computer room with 30 terminals, science labs, art studios, a street soccer court on its roof terrace, a 250-seat theatre and a multipurpose hall that can seat 500 people.22

Curriculum
The curriculum of Madrasah Aljunied is inclined towards religious subjects, which take up 70 percent, with the remaining dedicated to the teaching of secular subjects.23 This emphasis on religious disciplines is different from the practice of other madrasahs such as Al-Maarif, which places equal emphasis on both religious and secular subjects. Madrasah Aljunied’s focus on religious education spawns from its dedication to nurture outstanding Muslim scholars whose knowledge of Islam is par excellence. The school believes that this can only be achieved with a meticulously planned curriculum that gives the widest exposure to Islamic subjects.24

At Madrasah Aljunied, the use of Arabic extends beyond the teaching of Islamic subjects: Communication outside the classrooms also has to be in Arabic.25 Over the years, the madrasah has established itself as the only religious institution whose students’ mastery of Arabic is considered the best.26

Madrasah Aljunied offers classes from primary to pre-university levels.27 It is compulsory for the students to sit for the O-Level examination, and students are encouraged to take the A–Level examination. Regarded as the premier Islamic school, its graduates can gain direct entry to Cairo’s top university, Al-Azhar University, or the International Islamic University in Malaysia.28

Tradition of excellence
Madrasah Aljunied is known for its long line of prominent old boys. Some alumni who have played a key role in Singapore’s Muslim affairs include: former mufti of Singapore, Syed Isa Mohamed Semait; former president of Syariah Court, Salim Jasman; his predecessor, Haji Abu Bakar Hashim; Registry of Muslim Marriages official, Pausuni Maulan; religious leader, Ustaz Ahmad Sonhadji; and school principal, Mohamad Amin Muslim.29 The school has also produced Muslim leaders in other Southeast Asian countries, including 90 percent of the Sarawak Islamic Council’s staff and Brunei’s Minister of Religious Affairs, Datok Mohamed Zain.30



Author

Nureza Ahmad



References
1. Karnival Keluarga Madrasah Aljunied. (2007, June 13). Berita Harian, p. 8; Tuminah Sapawi. (1997, July 17). School grooms Islam’s future leaders. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. (n.d.). Home – historical. Retrieved 2017, January 31 from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah website: http://www.aljunied.edu.sg/about-us3/historical
2. Popular again after decline in ’70s and ’80s. (1998, March 1). The Straits Times. p. 7; Zuzanita Zakaria. (1998, May 7). Madrasah draws hearts and money. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Popular again after decline in ’70s and ’80s. (1998, March 1). The Straits Times. p. 7; Zuzanita Zakaria. (1998, May 7). Madrasah draws hearts and money. The Straits Times, p. 32; Madrasah Aljunied enters world of IT. (1999, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 58. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1987). Mahrajan ke-60: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, 1927–1987. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, pp. 25–26. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAH); Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1977). Perayaan jubli emas sekolah ugama Aljunied (1927–1977): Cenderamata. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied, pp. 12–15. (Call no. Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAD)
5. Zuzanita Zakaria. (1998, May 7). Madrasah draws hearts and money. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Popular again after decline in ’70s and ’80s. (1998, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. (n.d.). Home – historical. Retrieved 2017, January 31 from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah website: http://www.aljunied.edu.sg/about-us3/historical; Popular again after decline in ’70s and ’80s. (1998, March 1). The Straits Times. p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Zuzanita Zakaria. (1998, May 7). Madrasah draws hearts and money. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. (n.d.). Home – historical. Retrieved 2017, January 31 from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah website: http://www.aljunied.edu.sg/about-us3/historical; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1987). Mahrajan ke-60: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, 1927–1987. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, p. 31. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAH)
10. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1987). Mahrajan ke-60: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, 1927–1987. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, p. 33. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAH)
11. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1977). Perayaan jubli emas sekolah ugama Aljunied (1927–1977): cenderamata. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied, pp. 12–13. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAD); Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. (n.d.). Home – historical. Retrieved 2017, January 31 from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah website: http://www.aljunied.edu.sg/about-us3/historical
12. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1977). Perayaan jubli emas sekolah ugama Aljunied (1927–1977): Cenderamata. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied, p. 12. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAD)
13. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1987). Mahrajan ke-60: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, 1927–1987. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, p. 34. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAH)
14. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. (n.d.). Home – historical. Retrieved 2017, January 31 from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah website: http://www.aljunied.edu.sg/about-us3/historical
15. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. (n.d.). Home – historical. Retrieved 2017, January 31 from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah website: http://www.aljunied.edu.sg/about-us3/historical
16. Zuzanita Zakaria. (1998, May 7). Madrasah draws hearts and money. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1977). Perayaan jubli emas sekolah ugama Aljunied (1927–1977): Cenderamata. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied, p. 13. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAD)
18. Victoria Street religious school to get new building. (1995, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 30. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Tuminah Sapawi. (1997, July 24). Non-Muslims respond to fund-raising. The Straits Times, p. 11; Donate a day’s pay to help build school. (1997, July 2). The Straits Times, p. 29. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Ghouse, A. A. (1996, August 8). Suasana hening 'tutup buku' Madrasah Aljunied. Berita Harian, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Ahmad Osman. (2000, April 22). Govt believes in madrasahs’ importance. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Victoria Street religious school to get new building. (1995, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 30; Madrasah Aljunied enters world of IT. (1999, February 6). The Straits Times, p. 58; Historic school the ‘RI of Islamic education’ here. (1996, January 22). The Straits Times, p. 30; Zuzanita Zakaria. (1998, May 7). Madrasah draws hearts and money. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Tuminah Sapawi. (1997, July 17). School grooms Islam's future leaders. The Straits Times, p. 15; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Victoria Street. (1993, May 4). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Tuminah Sapawi. (1997, July 17). School grooms Islam’s future leaders. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Tuminah Sapawi. (1997, July 10). Model student found Dad a tough principal. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. (n.d.). Home – historical. Retrieved 2017, January 31 from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah website: http://www.aljunied.edu.sg/about-us3/historical
27. Tuminah Sapawi. (1997, July 17). School grooms Islam’s future leaders. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Popular again after decline in ’70s and ’80s. (1998, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 7; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Victoria Street. (1993, May 4). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Zuzanita Zakaria. (1998, May 7). Madrasah draws hearts and money. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1977). Perayaan jubli emas sekolah ugama Aljunied (1927–1977): Cenderamata. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied, pp. 6–7. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAD); Tuminah Sapawi. (1997, July 10). Model student found Dad a tough principal. The Straits Times, p. 15; Popular again after decline in ’70s and ’80s. (1998, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Zuzanita Zakaria. (1998, May 7). Madrasah draws hearts and money. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah. (n.d.). Home – historical. Retrieved 2017, January 31 from Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah website: http://www.aljunied.edu.sg/about-us3/historical; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1987). Mahrajan ke-60: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, 1927–1987. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, p. 7. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAH); Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore). (1977). Perayaan jubli emas sekolah ugama Aljunied (1927–1977): Cenderamata. Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied, pp. 25–27. (Call no.: Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAD)



The information in this article is valid as at 2004 and correct as far as we can 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
Schools (Buildings)
Islamic education--Singapore
Arts>>Architecture>>Educational buildings
Politics and Government>>Education
Education>>Special education
Schools--Singapore
Education
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