Friday, 5 April 2013

Muzium Islam Kelantan

We visited Muzium Islam Kelantan for the first time on 30 March 2013, after we left Prof. Datuk Mafauzy bin Mohamed's wedding reception party for his first son (Dr Mustaqim Mafauzy) at Hotel Grandriverview. We parked right in front of the muzium, which is beside the Muhammadi mosque in Kota Bharu. The muzium is a light green old wooden building, formerly the house of one of the Malay nobility. The muzium display is housed on 2 storeys. The groundfloor has an old mimbar, incense burners, medicine bowls, history of Islam in the region and wooden wall calligraphy. The upper floor houses several displays including cave findings, traditional Malay musical instruments, textiles, pottery, gold ornaments and findings from shipwrecks of the region.

Entrance to Muzium Islam Kelantan.
Muzium Islam Kelantan poster
Structure of the Muzium Islam Kelantan - the Rumah Limas Bungkus.
A typical long window of a Malay house
Singgora roof tiles
Wooden louvres

External links

Gold Ornaments

I am attracted to the large gold bangles worn by women on their feet. In the old days, Indians and Straits Chinese wore large bangles on their feet. I don't see them anymore nowadays but only in old photos and in museums. They may look like heavy objects and which would interfere with walking. Quite the contrary, these bangles are light hollow tubes and have a hinge.

Another type of bangle is worn on the wrist or the upper arm. In the old days, women wore sarong to cover the breasts downward. The bare arms and chest were adorned with much gold ornaments such as big gold bangles and arm bands. They look stunning as worn by Tiara Jacquelina in the legendary dance drama, Puteri Gunung Ledang.

A small golden arm band and 2 large pewter bangles for the feet.


Belindan is the grave frame. In the old days, people used wooden belindan for Muslim graves. Some belindan are plain and simple while others are ornately carved. The ornately carved belindan are from Kancanaburi in Thailand. The ornately carved wooden belindan have given way to the less ornate concrete belindan but the overall design has remained. The ornate belindan is used for the graves of nobility and Muslim scholars.

Ornate wooden Kancanaburi belindan for Muslim graves.
Photo from Muzium Islam Kelantan, 30 March 2013.

Sistem Pondok

Traditional Pondok System

The traditional educational system for learning about Islam is the sistem pondok (the hut system). In the traditional sistem pondok, there is a central building that houses the Tok Guru (the head teacher) which is surrounded by small pondok (huts or chalets) of the students. All the students go to learn from the Tok Guru and then return to rest and eat at their own huts. This has been going on since time immemorial. The pondok system is affordable and convenient for Islamic teaching. Students who graduate from the pondok system often continue their studies in Islam or Medicine in Egypt, Syria and Jordan. When they return, they work at the government hospitals or private hospitals. Almost all states in Malaysia have produced students from the pondok system who are now doctors or in allied health. Some are from the more recent Islamic schools operated by each state. The students complete Form 5 and continue to local university for 2 years before they go overseas for further degrees. These students are good and more rounded. They also become good leaders and are much prized for their honesty and sincerity as community leaders. They are not easily swayed by money, high post and corruption.

Traditional Malay pondok system for Islamic teaching.

New Pondok System

The traditional pondok system has some setbacks in terms of building safety. We have heard many fires razed many pondok and taken many innocent lives, year after year. A new move by the government is to set up more a modern and organised pondok system with a masjid as a central learning institution and surrounded by more modern housing for the students. This is a welcome move but it should be noted that if the rental rates of the huts become too expensive, poor students will not be able to afford to study at such pondok and therefore lose out altogether on all chances of learning.

A modern Malay pondok system for Islamic teaching.

Examples of pondok establishments

Some pondok establishments have received a lot of publicity while a few are not known to many. The famous ones are Pondok Terusan, Pondok Lubok Tapah and Pondok Jaal. 

Pondok Terusan is adjacent to Pasir Tumboh, at the end of a canal (terusan). It is attended by young Muslim students from Kelantan, Thailand and neighbouring regions. Elderly single men, women and couples also live here and attend daily lessons held at the mosque. An unfurnished wooden pondok rents for RM250/month and a brick unit rents for RM300/month. Clean water and electricity is supplied to all rental units. Commercial drinking water vending machines are available nearby at the shops across the road - ROS water costs 50 sen for 25 gallons. There are a few shops on site which sell packed food and freshly cooked food. Some double as a coffee shop (kedai kopi). There is a small fresh market near the mosque that sells vegetables and fruits. Life is quite relaxed at this place.

Pondok Lubok Tapah is adjacent to Pasir Mas. Its founder has passed away. It is attended by local young Muslim students. This is a true kampung setting, among the coconut trees and a lovely village scene.

Pondok Jaal is in Jertih and is attended by elderly women (above 60s). The ladies here prefer locally made products as opposed to imported products, eg locally made facial powder from the skin of the young custard apples (kulit buah nona).

More modern Islamic schools are like the one at Pulau Melaka and the Muslim orphanage at Dermit (on the way to the airport). 

The Pulau Melaka Muslim school is a modern school complex and is operated privately by the son(s) of Tuan Guru Nik Abdul Aziz bin Nik Mat, the Menteri Besar of Kelantan. The school is open to international students. Some previous students were 4 Somali siblings from New Zealand and a Chinese female student from China. Arabic, English and Malay are taught and used at the school. The teachers comprise local ustaz and ustazah, and ustaz from Egypt and other Islamic centres of learning. The school has a website. Meals are cooked daily on site by a group of housewives and the students get 3 complete meals a day. The students here get free time for recreation in the evening - the boys usually enjoy playing football by the river.

The orphanage at Dermit runs a Muslim school for boys in a modern complex. Meal are sometimes sponsored by outsiders and generous donors. An ustaz is usually around on duty on site should a visitor drop by. Here, the boys will be fed rice and will later make doa (supplication) for the donor. On weekends, the boys are free and they sit by the staircase to play quietly in the hot afternoons.

External links

Early Muslim Scholars

There were a number of early Muslim scholars in Kelantan and its vicinity. I first came to know about them from the Kelantan people when I started research on The Early Malay Doctors. I also saw some of the names being mentioned at an exhibition at Pusat Islam in Kuala Lumpur. At the time, I hadn't known who they really were and what were their contributions to society. There is very little known about them at our medical school but we had the other Muslim scholars from West Asia whose portraits now hang in our school's meeting room. I don't know why we studied about the foreign scholars but not our own Muslim scholars on our soil. They were familiar with prevailing ailments and diseases and were also good at some medical practices. Many wrote important health advice and medical notes.

Tok Kenali (2)

Also refer to Search 23 and MAIK

Tok Kenali
Real name: Muhammad Yusuf bin Ahmad (1868-1933)
Contributions to Kelantan: religious teacher, thinker, intelligent holy man, sage

Tok Kenali was born Muhammad Yusuf bin Ahmad in 1868. He grew up and married and had family in Kubang Kerian. Tok Kenali walked from Kubang Kerian to the Muhammadi Mosque in Kota Bharu where he taught the religion. He walked barefoot and walked fast; there were sightings of him in Kubang Kerian and he had arrived in Kota Bharu soon after that. These sightings were typical of people who were close to Allah SWT. After assisting with MAIK to make Islam a state religion and to focus life around its tenets, Tok Kenali finally died in 1933, aged 65. I figured he had died of diabetic complications, probably of advanced diabetic neuropathy as he didn't feel an injury on the sole of his foot. Tok Kenali was finally laid to rest at Tanah Perkuburan Tok Kenali, a Muslim graveyard in Kubang Kerian which was named in his honour. The graveyard is close to the water storage towers in Kubang Kerian and some distance from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). We visited Makam Tok Kenali on 5 December 2012.

We visited Muzium Islam Kelantan on 30 March 2013 and saw 2 posters on Tok Kenali and a big wall poster of the other religious teachers of Islam.