Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah

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

Background
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.All are private schools and do not receive funding from the government.4 The madrasahs were set up at the turn of the 20th century by philanthropists.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.

The first batch of students numbered only 10 and were strictly boys.9 However, the school 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 was 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 

Many of the school’s students and teachers returned to their hometowns as a result of the war.15 After the war, the madrasah continued to take in more students until its premises became so cramped that some classes had to be held in the school hall.16 In the 1950s and 1960s, new subjects were introduced, including mathematics, geography, history, Malay language, English language, science and Malay literature.17 

In 1991, a school redevelopment committee was formed to plan the construction of 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, 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, which had been relocated as their school building was also being redeveloped.20 

Reopening
The new school building 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 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
70 percent of the curriculum at Madrasah Aljunied is inclined towards religious subjects,  with the remaining dedicated to 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 stems 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, Pasuni 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,” Berita Harian, 13 June 2007, 8; Tuminah Sapawi, “School Grooms Islam’s Future Leaders,” Straits Times, 17 July 1997, 15 (From NewspaperSG); “Home,” Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, accessed 31 January 2017.
2. “Popular Again after Decline in ’70s and ’80s,” Straits Times, 1 March 1998, 7; Zuzanita Zakaria, “Madrasah Draws Hearts and Money,” Straits Times, 7 May 1998, 32. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Popular Again after Decline in ’70s and ’80s”; Zakaria, “Madrasah Draws Hearts and Money”; “Madrasah Aljunied Enters World of IT,” Straits Times, 6 February 1999, 58. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Mahrajan Ke-60: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, 1927–1987 (Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiyah, 1987), 25–26 (Call no. Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAH); Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Perayaan Jubli Emas Sekolah Ugama Aljunied (1927–1977)Cenderamata (Singapura: Madrasah Aljunied, 1977), 12–15. (Call no. Malay RSING 297.07105957 MAD)
5. Zakaria, “Madrasah Draws Hearts and Money.”
6. “Popular Again after Decline in ’70s and ’80s.”
7. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home”; “Popular Again after Decline in ’70s and ’80s.”
8. Zakaria, “Madrasah Draws Hearts and Money.”
9. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home”; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Mahrajan Ke-60, 31.
10. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Mahrajan Ke-60, 33; “Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Victoria Street,” Straits Times, 4 May 1993, 5 (From NewspaperSG); Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Perayaan Jubli Emas Sekolah Ugama Aljunied, 13; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home.”
11. Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Perayaan Jubli Emas Sekolah Ugama Aljunied, 12–13; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home.”
12. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Perayaan Jubli Emas Sekolah Ugama Aljunied, 12; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home.”
13. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Mahrajan Ke-60, 34.
14. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home”; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Perayaan Jubli Emas Sekolah Ugama Aljunied, 13.
15. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home.”
16. Zakaria, “Madrasah Draws Hearts and Money.”
17. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home”; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Perayaan Jubli Emas Sekolah Ugama Aljunied, 13–14.
18. “Victoria Street Religious School to Get New Building,” Straits Times, 4 December 1995, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Tuminah Sapawi, “Non-Muslims Respond to Fund-Raising,” Straits Times, 24 July 1997, 11; “Donate a Day’s Pay to Help Build School,” Straits Times, 2 July 1997, 29. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Aref A. Ghouse, “Suasana Hening 'Tutup Buku' Madrasah Aljunied,” Berita Harian, 8 August 1996, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
21. Ahmad Osman, “Govt Believes in Madrasahs’ Importance,” Straits Times, 22 April 2000, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
22. “Victoria Street Religious School to Get New Building”; “Madrasah Aljunied Enters World of IT,”Straits Times, 6 February 1999, 58; “Historic School the ‘RI of Islamic Education’ Here,” Straits Times, 22 January 1996, 30; Zakaria, “Madrasah Draws Hearts and Money.”
23. Sapawi, “School Grooms Islam’s Future Leaders”; “Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Victoria Street,” Straits Times, 4 May 1993, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Sapawi, “School Grooms Islam’s Future Leaders.”
25. Tuminah Sapawi, “Model Student Found Dad a Tough Principal,” Straits Times, 10 July 1997, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home.”
27. Sapawi, “School Grooms Islam’s Future Leaders.”
28. “Popular Again after Decline in ’70s and ’80s”; “Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, Victoria Street.”
29. Zakaria, “Madrasah Draws Hearts and Money”; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Perayaan Jubli Emas Sekolah Ugama Aljunied, 6–7; Sapawi, “Model Student Found Dad a Tough Principal”; “Popular Again after Decline in ’70s and ’80s.”
30. Zakaria, “Madrasah Draws Hearts and Money”; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah, “Home”; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Mahrajan Ke-60, 7; Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah (Singapore), Perayaan Jubli Emas Sekolah Ugama Aljunied, 15–27.



The information in this article is valid as at August 2018 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
Education
Islamic education--Singapore
Schools--Singapore
Schools (Buildings)