Sunday, 14 July 2013

Shaykh Muhammad Tahir Jalaluddin al-Azhari

An early Sumatran religious teacher who was attached to the al-Mashhur school in Penang was Shaykh Muhammad Tahir Jalaluddin al-Azhari. 

He was born in 1869, near Bukit Tinggi in Sumatra. In 1881 (aged 12), he went to study in Makkah for 12 years (1881-93) and came to Penang. In 1897 (aged 28), he went to Egypt to study astronomy (Ilmu Falaq) at al-Azhar University for three years (1897-99). Upon completing his degree, he returned to Penang, Malaya in 1899 (aged 30). 

Shaykh Muhammad Tahir Jalaluddin, together with Sheikh Mohamed Salim al-Kalili, Haji Abbas Mohamed Tahar and Syed Shaykh al-Hady, founded the magazine Majalah al-Imam on 23 July 1906. Later, he contributed writings to Syed Shaykh al-Hady’s magazine al-Ikhwan (1926) and initially weekly and later biweekly newspaper Saudara (29 September 1928). 

A photograph of the young Shaykh Muhammad Tahir (undated) was probably taken in 1893 or 1899. 

Shaykh Muhammad Tahir circa 1893-99, aged 24-30.

Shaykh Muhammad Tahir Jalaluddin was photographed in Singapore on 13 October 1956, less than two weeks (13 days) before he passed away, at age 87. 

Shaykh Muhammad Tahir on 13 October 1956, aged 87.

Both photographs appear in Alijah Gordon’s book, The Real Cry of Syed Shaykh al-Hady (1999:172). His son is Tun Tan Sri Datuk Dr Haji Mohd Hamdan Sheikh Tahir.

He was born in Penang (b.27 April 1921–d.21 January 2005). He was the second Vice-Chancellor of USM (1976–82), and the USM medical library was named in his honour. He was also the 6th Yang di-Pertua Negeri Pulau Pinang (1 May 1989-1 May 2001), who succeeded Tun Dr Awang Hassan, an early Malay doctor.

A Big Need for Jawi Translators

Many Malay records before Merdeka (1957) and before 1900 were written in Jawi script. Researchers today, who are not well-versed in Jawi script, have problems deciphering old Malay manuscripts, which are a big store of knowledge.

There are a few individuals today who can decipher and are good at Malay Jawi scriptology and can offer some assistance. I do not know them personally and I haven't met them. But I have used the service of one man via a colleague for an important marriage certificate that was written in Jawi script, before Merdeka, which had to be included in my book, Biography of the Early Malay Doctors 1900-1957 Malaya and Singapore.

I am not the only one stuck with old Jawi documents. The Ceylon-Dutch VOC also has acquired Jawi documents during Dutch rule in Ceylon and Malacca, and wish to decipher them. It is looking for translators. As such, there is tremendous need for Jawi translators who can read and decipher old Jawi documents for both Malay and non Malay researchers today.

Jawi scriptology is an important research field that will certainly help many researchers who are looking into Malay history where most information are held in the form of Malay documents and manuscripts, written in Jawi script - Othmani/ Arabic/ Farsi/ Turkish/ Egyptian/ Jordanian/ Syrian/ Pakistani/ Indian, etc. There are many Jawi script versions but I am not the expert and I wish Jawi experts will come forth and make known their expertise and voice their concerns, so we can do better research from the Malay sources written in Jawi script. So far, I have on record, one name, that is, Professor Haji Muhammad Bukhari bin Lubis. 

Professor Haji Muhammad Bukhari bin Lubis was born on 16 August 1953 in Makkah. He researches on four Sufi strands - Malay, Arab, Turkish and Persian. He also studies Philology - comparative constructs of the 4 languages. In addition, he has interest in Arabic calligraphy (tulisan khat). He speaks many languages and so does his daughter, who was featured in a TV program on ASTRO. Professor Bukhari Lubis currently is with UPSI (Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris) in Perak. I have never been to see UPSI, both its old and new campuses. 

I hope the Ministry of Education and also MOSTI can highlight this matter, and that students are channelled into taking up majors and research in Jawi scriptology and manuscript writing. I would also recommend the state muftis to look into this matter. Persatuan Linguistik Malaysia and Persatuan Penterjemahan Malaysia are under DBP (Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka).

It is not evident from the web pages, whether translation is a service offered, details of services, and what the charges are. I hope someone can respond.

Malaysian Linguistic Association:
Persatuan Linguistik Malaysia (PLM)
Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka,
Peti Surat 10803,
50926 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: +603-2148 2797
Faks: +603-2148 1969

Malaysian Translators Association:
Persatuan Penterjemah Malaysia
171-A, Tingkat 1, Jalan Maharajalela
50150 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603-9226 2506 | +603-2144 2506

Ceylon-Dutch-Burgher Heritage Exhibition

External links:
Persatuan Pengajian Melayu Malaysia (?)