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Tuan Haji Ghani Bin Haji Awang

Translation by Haji Hashim Bin Samin


Haji Abdul Ghani was born in 1888 at Kubang Siam, Kedah. His family however, had hailed from Telok Manak, Petani, in Thailand. Haji Abdul Ghani learned to read the Koran from his uncle, Haji Adam until he had completed reading the holy book a number of times. He then went on to improve his reading of the Koran from a Hafiz (one who memorizes the Koran) from Patani, Thailand, called Haji Ahmad Jaka. He then returned to Kedah to study the religion from his father, Haji Awang. At the same time he made return trips to study at Guru Haji Muhammad Saad's Pondok (hut) Religious School at Kubang Bongor, a village about two miles from Kubang Siam.

Upon reaching adulthood, he was sent to Patani to further his studies with Tok Ayah Bermin, an Ulama who had a big Pondok School at Bermin, Patani. He then went to Trengganu for more religious education with Tok Sayid, who had a religious pondok School. After spending a year in Trengganu, he returned to Kedah, before leaving for Mecca.

In Mecca, he stayed with his uncle, Haji Abdul Mutalib. He learned to make Arab unleavened bread from Hajah Rahmah who looked after his meals. Every morning, before dawn, he would grind wheat into flour before turning them into freshly baked bread. He would then carry the bread on his head and made his way to the many lanes in Mecca to sell them.

After dawn, Haji Abdul Ghani studied religion with a few teachers, such as Sheik Daud bin Mustafa al-Fatani, Haji Abdullah Senggora al-Hafiz (Koran studies), Haji Yahya Reman (a Fiqah specialist), Tuan Omar Sembawa and Tuan Ahmad Khatib Sharbani.

Haji Abdul Ghani returned home in1915 and stayed with his family in Kubang Siam. He then went to Tuan Hussain Kedah Pondok Religious School at Bagan Ulu, in Kuala Merbok. There, he was asked by Tuan Hussain to help him teach the more than 400 students in his "Pondok". He then married Tuan Hussain's only daughter, Cik Meriam.

He stayed for eight years in Tuan Hussain's "Pondok" during which time he made a lot of close friends. Among them were Haji Yaakob Legor, Dato' Haji Abdul Rahman Merbok, Haji Ismail binSulaiman Kelantan, Haji Khalid Kuala Kangsar, Haji Zabidi Changkat Jering, Perak, Haji Nawawi Telok Intan, Haji Muhamad Saman Kati, Kuala Kangsar, Haji Ghazali Arshad, Bagan Datoh, Perak and Haji Muhammad Yusuf, the former Mufti of Selangor. After eight years , he moved to a new "Pondok" school, along with Tuan Hussain, at Kampung Selengkoh, 30 miles north of Bagan Ulu.

Around 1922, Haji Abdul Ghani went to Mecca to perform the Hajj and to meet his former teachers. He arrived in Mecca at the outbreak of war between the Saudis and Sheriff Hussain of Mecca. War between the two sides were raging when his father-in-law, Tuan Hussain arrived. However, Tuan Hussain and the seven family members in his entourage managed to return home safely. Tuan Hussain had brought along three of Haji Abdul Ghani's sons, Haji Muhammad Said, Haji Masud and Haji Abdullah. He had also taken along his wife and Hajah Meriam, Haji Abdul Ghani's wife, in the entourage.

Haji Abdul Ghani did not return with Tuan Hussain, instead he chose to return only in 1924, when the Saudis attacked and occupied Taif. Haji Abdul Ghani failed to make the journey to Medinah because the condition was far from peaceful. He then boarded an Indian ship in Jeddah, which was heading for Penang, but the ship only made it to Bombay where he was stranded for three months. Haji Abdul Ghani and some of the passengers were placed in a guest-house called "Musafir Khannah". He offered himself as a cook in the establishment. Haji Kassim, the manager of the guest-house, supplied two sacks of rice daily to feed the poor and those who were stranded.

Upon his arrival in Penang, he immediately left for his village of Kubang Siam before being reunited with his family in Selengkoh. Haji Abdul Ghani then acquired a nine relong (6.3 acres) piece of land in Tandop in the mukim of Pengkalan Kundur, south of Alor Setar. He the proceeded to open his own Pondok religious school in 1925. The school, which was located behind Tandop mosque, had 30 huts for married students and eight huts for bachelors. As with other "Pondok" schools, the subjects taught by Haji Abdul Ghani were such as Nahu, Saraf, Fiqah, Tafsir, Hadis and Usuluddin. Koran-reading lessons was conducted by his brother, Haji Muhammad Isa. Besides that, Haji Abdul Ghani taught village folks, lessons on religion based on certain Jawi texts. Its course monitor was HajiHussain bin Haji Ibrahim, who later became the Imam of Tandop Mosque.

Haji Abdul Ghani who known as "Tok Sheikh" by the people of Tandop managed his "pondok" for a ver short while. This was because in 1927, he accepted the post of Kadi for Kulim District. Tuan Hussain did not give his blessings to Haji Abdul Ghani's career change even though he would be working under Haji Wan Sulaiman bin Wan Sidek the Sheikh-ul Islam of Kedah (1920-1935) as he felt that a Kadi would not be able to help raise the position of Islam, a "Pondok" teacher could.

Not long after that, Haji Abdul Ghani was appointed as the State's Assistant Chief Kadi; a post he held until the Japanese Occupation years in 1943. He was however asked to continue in the job even after his retirement. It must be reminded that ever since 1936, the post of Sheikh-ul Islam was no longer in use in the State's Religious Administrative system, to be replaced by a Chairman of the Islamic Religious Council. Its chairman was Sheikh Ismail bin Haji Salleh, Haji Ismail's brother-in-law. On January 24, 1951, Haji Abdul Ghani feinted, went into a coma and died.

There were at least three articles written by Haji Abdul Ghani, but the writer was only able to trace one, entitled "Qurratul Ain". It was written in 1928, a year after he opened his "Pondok" in Tandop. This was an article on Tauhid discussing the 20 characters of God and the four characters of the Prophet. Although he was born in Kedah, he was most proud of the fact that his ancestors had hailed from Patani Kedah. He penned his article under the name "Abdul Ghani Hmazah al-Saiburi. Saiburi is a District in Patani, Thailand, where Teluk Manak" is located.

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