Chapter 4

Siti Asiah – The Family Matron

Asiah was born in 1913 in Mekkah, the first daughter of Sheikh Abdullah and Siti. She had lived all her life in Mekkah. It is customary for the Saudi family to match their youths to marry cousins, and Asiah was matched to the first son of Sheikh  Muhammad Noor, a cousin, Ahmad. Asiah was 14.

She did follow Siti to emigrate to Terengganu in 1924 even though the family of Ahmad remained in Mekkah despite the political turmoil in Hijaz. At this time the new Sultan of Terengganu was

Sultan Sulaiman (1920 – 1942). Sultan Sulaiman was interested to set up an Arabic school. Sheikh Ahmad ibn Sheikh Muhammad Noor Alfatani was chosen to be the first Mudir.

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The school was named Sekolah Sultan Zainal Abidin, initially the lessons were held in the classrooms at the Bukit Jambul School in 1925. Later it was moved to the premises of Paya Bunga School until it had its own premises at Kampong Ladang. The school was not an Islamic school, at this time it was merely teaching the Arabic Language.

Later on the school progressed to become a religious school and later on achieved a college standard that received the recognition for entry into the oldest University in the world, The Al Azhar University in Cairo. It is now known as Universiti Sultan Zainal Abidin (UniSZA).

After running the school for 2 years, Sheikh Ahmad handed the school to his cousin Sheikh Wan Abdul Rahman AlMakki who had years of experience running the Madrasah Muhammadiah in Kelantan. He and his wife went back to Mekkah for good in 1927.

In Mekkah, Sheikh Ahmad took over the activities of the family mutawwif activities. The licence given to Sheikh Nik Mat Kecik which was inherited by Sheikh Abdullah was later inherited by Sheikh Muhammad Noor. Sheikh Ahmad competently led the family team and as the number of pilgrims grew over the years his role became more important.

In 1932 Sultan Abdul Aziz As Saud took over Hijaz and formed The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Sheikh Muhammad Noor became popular in the inner circle of the King and therefore depended a lot on the first son Ahmad, but Sheikh Ahmad passed away quite young.

Khala Asiah had Safiah, Azizah, Mahmud, Asma, Hamidah and Sa’adu. The family grew up in Mekkah. And Sheikh Mahmud took over the Mutawwif activities.

Khala Asiah was the maternal figure much respected in the family in Mekkah because not only she was the first daughter of the first son of Sheikh Nik Mat Kecik but her late husband was the first son of the second son of Sheikh Nik Mat Kecik. Not only because of her position in the family hierarchy, she was a lovable mother to all, and she showed this caring nature by cooking Malay cuisines and sharing with everybody in the big family of Sheikh Nik Mat Kecik. During Eid celebrations, it would be disrespectful not to congregate first with her before visiting others.

She united the big family and she relived the memories of their Malay origins. It is not surprising that Saudi family members who had never visited Malaysia knew very well the delicacies like nasi kerabu, laksa, rojak and wajid.

During the later part of her life, she suffered an illness in her legs and was not as mobile as she used to be. But all her daughters Safiah, Azizah, Asmah, Hamidah and Sa‘adu were taught by her to cook original tasty Malay delicacies.

When she was resting in her bed, recollecting the life that she had gone through over 80 wonderful years, her lips would be reciting the surah from the Quran that she had memorized wearing the sweetest smile. 

There were times that brought her great pleasures when suddenly Khala Maimunah appeared in front of her to give her a surprise, all the way from Malaysia. They would hug, long longing hugs. She would ask about Kamil. She would ask about Hafsah, although Hafsah had passed away a few years before that.

Khala Asiah only visited Malaysia once in the 70’s, she passed away in Mekkah (Aziziah) at the age of 83 in 1996.