Syed Abdulrahman Taha Alsagoff
Syed Abdulrahman bin Taha Alsagoff (b. 17 October 1880, Singapore–d. 22 May 1955),1 or Engku Aman as he was also known, was a member of the wealthy trading Arab family, the Alsagoffs. The landowner was a philanthropist dedicated to administering Muslim charitable institutions closely associated with the Alsagoff family name.2
The nephew and son-in-law of wealthy trader Syed Mohamed Ahmed Alsagoff, one of Singapore’s pioneers,3 Abdulrahman was also the great-grandnephew of the Arab patriarch Syed Abdul Rahman Alsagoff. His maternal great-grandmother was Hajjah Fatimah, a wealthy Malaccan merchant who was also the Sultana of Gowa in the Celebes (now Sulawesi).4 Being of Bugis royal descent, Abdulrahman was addressed as “Engku” while “Aman” was short for Abdulrahman.5
Engku Aman built up his wealth by establishing a company, S.A.T. Alsagoff Landowners and Estate Developers, in 1915.6 The S.A.T. Alsagoff Building in Pahang Street, built by him, was gazetted for conservation in 1989 together with the Kampong Glam area. On the roof gable is an inscription with his name and the year of the building’s completion, 1935.7 Although he was a rich landowner with properties in Nassim Road, Pasir Panjang, Pahang Street, Emerald Hill and even overseas in India, Engku Aman remained humble. He was a strict father and hired a religious teacher to watch over his children while he worked in his home office.8
Engku Aman was one of the first two trustees of the S.M.A (Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed) Alsagoff Wakaff Funds, which was founded and endowed by his uncle. A third of the investments from this fund was set aside for charity, which included the maintenance of the Alsagoff Arab School, Alsagoff Outdoor Dispensary and Muslim orphanages, namely Darul Ihsan (for boys) and the Darul Ihsan Lilbanat (for girls). His contributions as a trustee was overseeing the construction of the Alsagoff Arab School in Jalan Sultan in 1912. He served as its supervisor for 43 years from 1912 to 1955. The madrasah taught a combination of religious and secular education and is one of the oldest of the five madrasahs in Singapore. In the 1920s, he presided over the reconstruction of the Hajjah Fatimah Mosque at Java Road, which was named after his great-grandmother. He also served three terms as the president of the Muslimin Trust Fund Association. The association was founded in 1904, the first Muslim body to cater to the spiritual and welfare needs of Muslim Singaporeans.9
Lorong Engku Aman
Lorong Engku Aman was a lane that ran parallel to Paya Lebar Road during the 1930s. Engku Aman had resided there in a large — and sole — brick house in a village of attap huts between 1922 to 1951. He held a feast every Thursday for the villagers at his bungalow in Geylang. He often brought orphans to his resort bungalow in Pasir Panjang as a treat.10 Lorong Engku Aman closed in 1989 but in August 1994, a new street in Geylang, Engku Aman Road, was named after him.11 Some buildings today are reminders of his contributions to the Muslim community in Singapore.12 These include the Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, Alsagoff Arab School and the only two Muslim orphanages in Singapore, Darul lhsan (for boys) and Darul Ihsan Lilbanat (for girls).13
Engku Aman passed away on 22 May 1955.14 His body lies in the Royal Cemetery in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.15 He had four wives, 16 children and 86 grandchildren.16
1906–1954: Trustee of Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed (S.M.A.) Alsagoff Wakaff Funds.
1912–1954: Trustee of the Alsagoff Arab School in Jalan Sultan.
1920s: Supervised reconstruction of Hajjah Fatimah Mosque.
1911, 1912 & 1943: President of the Muslimin Trust Fund Association of Singapore.
1921–1942: Honorary Secretary of the Muslimin Trust Fund Association of Singapore.
1. Syed Mohsen Alsagoff, The Alsagoff Family in Malaysia: A.H. 1240 (A.D. 1824) – A.H. 1382 (A.D. 1962): With Biographical and Contemporary Sketches of Some Mehe Smbers of the Alsagoff Family (Singapore: Syed Mohsen Alsagoff, 1963), 20. (Call no. RCLOS 929.2095957 ALS)
2. “Engku Aman Was a Philanthropist and Strict Patriarch,” Straits Times, 20 August 1994, 29. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Engku Aman was a philanthropist and strict patriarch.”
4. Lim Li Hsien, “New Street in Geylang Named after Man Who Once Lived There,” Straits Times, 16 August 1994, 27; “The Ex-Geylang Resident with a Road Named after Him,” Straits Times, 4 September 1994, 5. (From NewspaperSG).
5. Anis Alhabshi, “Timely Decision to Name Road after Engku Aman,” Straits Times, 17 August 1994, 29. (From NewspaperSG)
6. Singapore Days of Old: A Special Commemorative History of Singapore Published on the 10th Anniversary of Singapore Tatler (Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine, 1992), 57. (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN)
7. Alyssa Woo, “Simple Glamour,” Straits Times, 1 July 2017, 3. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Lim, “New Street in Geylang”; “Ex-Geylang Resident.”
9. Lim, “New Street in Geylang”; “Ex-Geylang Resident.”
10. Lim, “New Street in Geylang.”
11. Alhabshi, “Timely Decision to Name Road.”
12. “Ex-Geylang Resident.”
13. “Ex-Geylang Resident.”
14. Alsagoff, Alsagoff Family in Malaysia, 20.
15. “Ex-Geylang Resident.”
16. “Engku Aman was a philanthropist and strict patriarch”; “Ex-Geylang Resident.”
17. Alsagoff, Alsagoff Family in Malaysia, 20; “Ex-Geylang Resident.”
The information in this article is valid as at July 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.