Shia Ithna ’Asheri muslims have been in Singapore since before the First World War of 1914 to 1918. Muharram majaalis (gatherings to commemorate the tragic martyrdom of Imam Husain (a.s.) and his followers at Karbala) were held and continued after the war for several decades at the homes of two prominent families – the Namazie family, and a Khoja family, that of Rajabali Jumabhoy. During the Japanese occupation of Singapore from 1942 to 1945, prisoners of war from the British Indian army and other local shia were allowed to commemorate Muharram and organize processions related to it.
In the late ‘70s Rajabali Jumabhoy and his wife Fatima Premjee bought a shophouse in Lim Ah Woo Road where Muharram majaalis were addressed by an Urdu vaiz (speaker) from Lucknow in India, Maulana Mazahir, every year till 2009. The ladies’ section was strongly supported by the late Mrs. Amina Jumabhoy, and her friend and guide the late Mrs. Shams Namazie, and their families.
Beginnings of local Malay Shia presence
From 1985 onwards it was noticed that some malay muslims asked to attend these majaalis. For their benefit a short précis of the speaker’s sermon was translated every night. These malay brethren belonged to a group called the Himpunan Belia Islam (HBI) or Muslim Youth Assembly that numbered about four hundred persons. They had been staunch followers of the Wahabi sect . Then, with better access to authentic Islamic books and personalities and the uplifting islamic revival after the Iranian revolution, they began to recognise the truth in shia teachings. Valuable assistance through direct teaching or arranging educational programs came from many well wishers including brothers Javad Souhani, Dabbagh, Syed Ahmed Baragbah and Syed Husin Shahab.
Avid readers, they possessed the determination to seek the truth. They had been blessed with open minds and sincere hearts . Above all, they had the courage to take the tough actions to change once the true path was found. Initially, led by Brother Muhammad Ithinin Kasmin, seven of them ( brothers Farok,Habib, Hizbullah,Ithnin, Jahari, Rahim and Shaaban ) accepted the Shia faith, and in due course most of the rest also became Shia Ithna ’Asheri muslims – the first time that local malays had embraced these beliefs. Describe it as a historic event or a modern miracle , there is no doubt that later generations will continue to thank and pray for these pioneers who put them on a path that brings happiness and inner peace in this world and rewards in the hereafter.
Alhamdolillah, the community in Singapore has grown ever since. Some Khoja brothers from Karachi who had offices in Singapore, namely brothers Reza Chandoo, Askari Taqi, and Reza Premjee supported the da’wah activities. They invited a learned and broadminded intellectual from Karachi named Syed Farzande Raza, who over several visits engaged in discussions with the malay brethren and their womenfolk.
Since the eighties and until his demise in early 2011, a dedicated mentor and a sincere friend of the community imparted knowledge and encouragement every year during the chehlum English majalis, making himself available at all hours of the day throughout his visit with an open door for all who needed information and advice. Malay brethren’s love and appreciation of late Maulana Raza Pasha of India is evident in their large attendances and in the way they refer to him as : our beloved Maulana.
Under the leadership of Ust Mohammad Rosli Hassan and their management committee, the Malay brethen have instituted during a short period an impressive range of year-round activities focussed on moral and religious teachings and prayers with special emphasis on the needs of the young. They also acquired their own premises and a large collection of books in Malay and English. This served well for the entire community for several years until a bigger premises acquired by Jaafari Muslim Association became available for use by the community in 2017. Until then, for many years, driving on the Guillemard Road towards the City, you would see a signboard on the second level of a building that read “HUSSAINIYAH AZ ZAHRA ” …. a humble signboard that spoke volumes for the lovers and their love of our Prophet and his pure household. Lost in the noise and the haste of the daily humdrum , the passing traffic may not have taken much notice but who knows how bright its light shone for the dwellers of the sky when its sublime sounds of Quran and duas filled the air.
Formation of the Jaafari Muslim Association Singapore
The Rajabali Jumabhoy Trust had by now bought the adjoining shophouse owned by a staunch shia, the late Haji Tabib Ghulam Mustafa. The Trust then built a modern three and a half storey building at the site. Ideas were drawn from Hujjatul Islam Syed Mohammad al-Musavi (now based in London), and friends in Bombay and Karachi.
Now came the necessity of forming a body to represent all Shia Ithna ’Asheris in Singapore. Under Singapore’s laws all muslim matters and associations come under the control of a body called MUIS – Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura’ (Muslim Religious Council) formed under the Administration of Muslim Law Act. Br Ameer Jumabhoy , who had served in the MUIS’ wakaf committee for many years and been instrumental in building a masjid and developing several MUIS properties, started the lengthy process of forming a society for the shia, despite some opposition to the idea.
The Jaafari Muslim Association was finally approved in 1998. The first meeting was held on Saturday 9th January of that year, at the Imam Bargah at 43, Lim Ah Woo Road. The founding committee members were as under:
1. Br. Ameerali Jumabhoy
2· Br. Abdul Karim Sulaiman
3· Br. Ahmadjirony Alap
4· Br. Ali Y. Aladin
5· Br. Jahari Hj. Affandi
6· Br. Asad Jumabhoy
7· Br. Md. Ithinin Kasmin
8· Br. Mohd Said Saibon
9· Br. Tayib Alias
10· Br. Kassamali S. Merchant
11· Br. Muhd. Nabil Abdullah Lam
Unfortunately the Jumabhoy Trust building is no longer available for our use due to laws that do not allow for non-residential use in that location. The Community was badly affected by this dislocation for several years. Alhamdulillah, with hectic efforts to collect the funds required , in 2017 JMAS was able to acquire its own Ahlulbayt Centre . Read more at : AECC