Good bye my child...
Hafsah faintly heard an expression ‘good bye my child’ while she was in the womb of her mother Fatimah. It was many years later that she knew the voice came from her unseen father, Sheikh Abdullah who was leaving for Kampong Kerisek, South Thailand. Sheikh Abdullah with a straight face holding back his tears, bade farewell to his wife and children. Before he took the final step to the waiting ship, he touched Fatimah’s bulging stomach and whispered softly “InshaAllah she will be okay and may Allah bless this baby with many children”. He could sense that it would be his last look at his beloved family members. Hafsah was born on 4.3.1338 (27 November 1919), the year when the Peace of Neuilly-sur-Seine took place and Siegfried Naumann, a composer was born.
Sheikh Abdullah being the eldest son of the well-known Tok Guru Makkah Sheikh Nik Mat Kecik had always lived under the “beck and call” of his father who was always in need of a personal assistant to run the errands for him. His father was a big man in Mekkah to have been the first Malay appointed by the Arab ruler as the Kadhi of Mekkah. He could not have done it without an able and loyal personal assistant. It was also fashionable Arab culture for the eldest son to be the personal assistant to his father, who at the slightest of excuse would shout from his exclusive room – “Abdullah, Abdullah…” in full Arabic intonation and tajwid. If he had called out “Dollah” or “Lah” like we do in our softer-toned Malay Culture, it would not have been so scary. To young Abdullah it was scary though he was already a family man on his own accord with 4 children. Things like these were the accepted norm in the Arabic culture, once you were born as the eldest then the whole burden fell on your shoulder. The likes of a VIP like Sheikh Nik Mat Kecik would not be seen buying a kilo of dates from the local market by the public, he would only shout from his first floor majlis “Abdullah….” And Abdullah would have appeared instantly “Labbaik…”. The sweetest and most obedient answer. Abdullah saw no point in making the old man angry by making him wait. Abdullah understood this and remained loyal to his father, though he sometimes envied his younger brother Sheikh Muhammad Noor who was able to leave home to study at the oldest University in the world, the Al-Azhar in Cairo.
Deep inside his private thoughts, Sheikh Abdullah had a passion about something too but it was not possible to discuss such thing with his father. In 1914, when Sultan Zainal Abidin III of Terengganu performed his pilgrimage with 15 other members in his entourage, Sheikh Abdullah was appointed by his father to be the host (Sheikh Haji). It was after this pilgrimage that the Sultan visited Egypt and before continuing the journey to Baitul Muqaddis (Jerusalem) he was ill and had to return to Terengganu.
Terengganu was where Sheikh Nik Mat Kecik was born way back in 1842 in a famous place called Pulau Duyong. Now it is known outside Malaysia as the venue for Monsoon Cup sailing boat race. But in those days a famous man Tok Ku Pulau Duyong lived there. He was the teacher to the Sultan. Unlike the normal practice whereby a teacher would be expected to go to the Istana daily to teach the young Sultan, in this case the Sultan attended class in the Tok Guru’s house in Duyong. Because that was the correct way of receiving knowledge according to Imam Shafei. Also, it seemed that he disliked his people from setting foot across the river on Kuala Terengganu soil. As he was a close ‘confidante’ of the Sultan he did attend one function at the Istana which otherwise was off-limit for him and his people for reasons only known to himself.
In the 3 months of pilgrimage, Sultan Zainal Abidin III grew fond of his efficient host Sheikh Abdullah AlFatani. He made an offer for Sheikh Abdullah to bring his family back to Terengganu and promised to give him land. This was the land called Balik Bukit of about 4 acres which remained till this day as the heritage of Sheikh Abdullah.
When Sheikh Nik Mat Kecik passed away in Mekkah in 1915 at the age of 73, Europe was having the First World War, Sheikh Abdullah by now a family man of 44 years old found himself in a vacuum. He could still hear the calling “Abdullah…” as if Baba was still alive needing him for everything. Baba’s clothes and the cushion that Baba sat on were haunting memories of his beloved Baba. On the other hand, it was time to make his dreams come true and Baba was no more there to stop him. Despite, objections from his brothers Sheikh Muhammad Noor and Sheikh Daud and the only remaining sister Khadijah, he bade farewell for good to sail to Terengganu where the Sultan had promised him land. Mekkah was too close to the war zone though the First World War was just over. He could sense that the Second World War was coming.
Being a private person, Sheikh Abdullah actually had other plans. Terengganu was not for him, but it was a safe retreat for his family. In 1919, he set sail for Terengganu with his wife Siti (Fatimah binti Abdul Rahman) who actually was born in Losong Terengganu but grew up in Mekkah. It could well be this factor that had persuaded Sheikh Abdullah to bring his family back to Terengganu. The children who were all born in Mekkah, Sheikh Yahya(8 years), Asiah(6 years), Mohd Kamil (5 years), Maimunah (4years) followed. Siti was pregnant with the youngest child Hafsah at the time.
Sheikh Abdullah received his education through home-study course conducted by his own father the Guru who had received his knowledge from the famous Sheikh Daud AlFatani, his grand uncle. It goes without saying that he had to sit at every kuliah session conducted by his father. Although the writings of Sheikh Nik Mat Kecik one of which was “Matla’ul Badrain” were on the subject of fiqah, other current matters involving the struggle of muslims in Patani would have been discussed. He would have heard many times that some of the famous ulama of Mekkah were lucky to have escaped execution by the King of Siam. He would have heard about the unfinished Masjid Kampung Kerisek in Patani and the relatives of his father who were still alive but living in fear and poverty. He would have heard of Haji Sulong of Patani who had ‘vanished’. Nobody really knew what went on in his head at the time because he did not tell not even his wife Siti.
After settling his family at the ‘promised land’ Balik Bukit, he wasted no time in declaring to his wife that he was leaving for Patani, he could not wait for the birth of his youngest daughter. Neither Siti nor his small children were brave enough to ask the question “why?” nor even dare cry in front of him. After all the strict way he was brought up make him seemed rather “heartless” . Maybe on the ship to Patani, when others were asleep, he would cry his heart out shamelessly because Patani was not a safe place, there was a likelihood that he might not see any of the family members ever again. He did this probably to fulfill his desire that his son Yahya should not experience what he went through - the over dependence between son and father.
Siti received the sad news three months later that he was sick in Patani. Though six months pregnant at the time, Siti hastily gathered all the children and enquired for the earliest possible boat leaving for Patani. That night they sailed to Patani with the hope of being with the father that they had quietly missed for many months. Siti probably thought that she could persuade him to return to Balik Bukit for good.
The ship took two days to reach the port of Patani, it was at night when it gave a “hoot, hoot” declaration as it entered the port. Back in the rented room of Sheikh Abdullah who was surrounded by close friends and cousins from his father’s side. The scene was chaotic as his friends and cousins observed the deteriorating Abdullah and the fear that time was not on his side. Upon hearing the ‘hoot, hoot’ sound, Abdullah managed to put on a smile and said softly “Allahuakbar, the ship had come in, my family is already here”. But before his family members could reach the house he was already in the safe hand of Allah. Subhanallah, only Allah knew that the best arrangement was that Abdullah and his loved ones would not see each other again although they were separated only hours apart. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rawji’un.
Alighting from the ship with four little ones with baggage to carry was not the end endured by the young pregnant mother. According to Khala Maimunah, they had to walk for two miles in the dark to the place where their father was waiting for them. When they arrived, they were met with cries indicating that it was a little too late. It was August 21, 1919 at the age of only 48 when Sheikh Abdullah AlFatani who was born in Mekkah, lived in Mekkah all his life but finally returned to the land of his forefathers to be laid down in a final resting place, the grounds of the famous unfinished Masjid Kampong Kerisek next to the grave of a famous ulama Sheikh Abdul Samad AlFalambani.
The family stayed on in Patani until Siti delivered her last daughter Hafsah. She had some time to think of what to do with the future for the family. She then had the choice of remaining in Kampong Kerisek Pattani which would greatly please her husband’s cousins, uncles and aunties. Or she could go back to Balik Bukit Terengganu where her own relatives in Losong and Pulau Musang would be available to assist her. Little did she knew at the time that the patriarch connection in Mekkah was going to make all the decisions for her.
WAN YUSOFF WAN OTHMAN
AND NIK FUAD KAMIL