Friday, April 21, 2006

Memories of Penang's Malay Town

(PIX: Sharifah Salmiah binti Syed Ali bin Syed Abdul Hamid bin Syed Abdul Rahman bin Tengku Syed Hussein Idid (1873-1958)- great grand-daughter of the founder of Malay Mosque, Acheen Street, Penang and great grand-mother of the Blogger).

When Capt Francis Light of the East India Company (EIC)set up the first British trading post in the Far East, that is in Penang in 1786, he wooed Tengku Syed Hussein Idid, an Arab from Aceh, to move to Penang to help spur on the island's economic growth.

Tengku Syed Hussein was the grandson of the Sultan of Aceh and a successful and influential trader. Syed Hussein set up his trading post and settlement fronting the sea. The settlement was recognised as the first township in Penang and was referred to as the Malay Town or Malay enclave.

His standing as a seasoned trader with a vast trading network influenced others, especially Arabs in the Malay archipelago, to migrate to Penang. By 1803, the Malay Town covered Acheen Street (Lebuh Aceh), Malay Street, Armenian Street and parts of Carnavon Street and Beach Street.

Syed Hussein and his clan moved to Penang in 1792 and Francis Light granted him exemption from English laws. It was recognised as the first instance that the colonial administration allowed the Muslim community in the Malay peninsula to practice the Islamic Law (Sharia) but with a condition that no capital punishment should be imposed. Aceh continued to be the source of much Arab immigration to Penang, which accelerated during the 19th century disturbances there.

By his will dated 1820, Syed Hussein created the wakaf for the Malay Mosque or Masjid Melayu which was constructed around 1800. The land comprises Lot 200 Town Subdivision XXII. Apart from the mosque, a total of 16 houses were erected namely houses nos 103, 105, 107, 113, 115 and 117 Chulia Street and nos 49, 55, 57, 59, 77, 79, 81, 81A, B and C Acheen Street. During the Aceh wars of 1870s, the Malay Mosque became one of the focal points of the resistance against the Dutch.

Syed Hussein was also responsible for the construction of Penang's tallest building (at that time and for several decades) - a four-storey house-cum-godown at the junction of Beach Street and Acheen Street, later known as Gedung Aceh, a local landmark which still stands today and referred to as "Rumah Tinggi" or Tall House.

The surrounding area of the Malay Mosque became the Arab quarter in Georgetown and remained so until the mid-20th century. The well known Islamic educational institution, Madrasatul Mashoor Al-Islamiah was established at the Arab quarter in 1916, then known as Madrasatul Al-Quran and its first teacher was Syed Abdul Rahman bin Sheikh Alhabshee, an Arab from Solo, Indonesia and father of the late Tan Sri Syed Abbas Alhabshee of Penang.

It was founded by seven Arabs namely Syed Mohdar Aidid, Syed Omar Almahdar, Syed Omar Alsagoff, Sheikh Hassan Albaghdadi, Sheikh Ali Bawazir, Sheikh Zakaria Basheer and Sheikh Muhammad Alhasawi. So, why it was later named "Almashoor" since no one from the Almashoor family was involved in the setting up of the school? Well it was named after Ayid Mashoor by Syed Sheikh Alhadi when he headed the school. Who is Ayid Mashoor? He was Syed Sheikh's father-in-law Syed Ahmad Almashoor, the penghulu of Jelutong and leader of the Muslim community respected by the British colonial masters.

Several years after Malaysia was formed, the school was taken over by the Education Ministry and is known today as Sekolah Menengah (Agama) Almashoor.

Since the early 19th century, Penang has been the transit point for the Haj pilgrimage to Makkah. The management of the pilgrims was started by one Pak Mas'um Mandailing. He was the first pilgrim agent or broker which were referred to as "Sheikh Haji" and the centre was Kampung Melayu Lebuh Aceh (Malay Town). The haj agency business survived up to the 1970s and became history when the government established the Tabung Haji (Pilgrims Fund and Management Board) to handle the annual pilgrimage.

With the demise of the "Sheikh Haji" and the "kapal haji" replaced by passenger jets, Kampung Melayu Lebuh Aceh suffered. One by one, its residents left in search of greener pasteurs.

The Penang State Government is keeping its fingers crossed anxiously awaiting the outcome of its submission to UNESCO to name part of old Georgetown and most of Kampung Melayu Lebuh Aceh as a world heritage.


Syed Imran said...

Thank you Syed Abdullah Aljunid, Dato Syed Ahmad Idid and Syed Tahir Almashoor for your positive comments.

Since the comments were 'personal' in nature and not for public knowledge, I will respect and honour that trust. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

bole saya tahu perbezaan keturunan aidid dan idid di Malaysia,adakah kedua2 keturunan ni berasal dari Tengku Syed Hussin Al-Idid??

Syed Imran said...

Sama ada Aidid atau Idid, semuanya dari keturunan Waliyullah Muhammad Maula Aidid bin Ali Al-Huthah bin Muhammad bin Abdullah bin Ahmad bin Abdulrahman bin Alwi Ammil-Faqih.

Anonymous said...

Saya pun keturunan Tengku Syed Hussin Al-Idid tetapi apa pun tidak dapat hanya di fitnah dan di aniayai,tolonglah doa saya supaya masalah-masalah selesai.

alonthegreat said...

Assalamualaikum, mahu bertanya..anak Tunku Syed Hussin Aidid ada berapa org anak? boleh tuan senaraikan..adakah salah seorang anaknya bernama Syed Ibrahim dan Syed Mashor. Terima kasih

Syed Imran said...



setahu saya, tiada anak almarhum yang bernama Ibrahim atau Mashor. Hanya Abdullah dan Abdul Rahman.

Sellene said...

Assalamualaikum Pak Tuan,

I'm wondering if you are acquainted with Sharifah Shefa, the daughter of Syed Ahmad alMashoor living in Kelawei, who is now close to 90. If you are, there is something I wish to ask you, in private.

Syed Imran said...



The answer is yes.
You can email me at

Golnaz said...

this is interesting doing a research under USM about penang heritage interpretation and today I went to the mosque you mentioned. It felt so historical with all the houses inside. may I know which Arab country was Tengku syed Hussein from? and in my country "seyed" is a title given to those who are somehow related to Prophet Muhammad by blood (either paternal or maternal). Is that the case with Syed Hussein? thank you. I love getting lost in history :D

Syed Imran Syed Ahmad said...

Golnaz -from Yeman and yes descended from Bani Hashim.

Syed Mohamed Idid b. Syed Osman Idid said...

1. Did Syed Hussein Idid married a Shahabuddin?
2. Are Sharifah Salmiah Idid bt Syed Ali Idid and Syed Mohamed Idid b. Syed Ali Idid sibings?

Syed Imran Syed Ahmad said...

Ami Syed Mohamed Idid,

Syed Hussein Idid's wife was the daughter of a Bugis ruler (not a bogus Bugis warrior).
Yes, Sharifah Salmiah and your grandfather were siblings. Sharifah Salmiah (1873-1958) was the eldest of four siblings. Her younger brother Syed Salleh (1877-1884) died at the age of seven, your grandfather Syed Mohamad (1883-1948) was born at Kelawai, George Town, attended the Kelawai Road Malay School and then Penang Free School, He migrated to Kedah in 1912. The youngest of the siblings was Sharifah Aishah (1886-19..) died a teenager in Kelawai.

Sharifah Salmiah married her cousin Syed Mohsin bin Syed Abdul Rahman Idid (brother of Syed Ali Idid) and was blessed with a daughter Sharifah Fadzlon Idid (my grandmother) while your grandfather married Sharifah Khamsiah Al-Idrus in Penang.

zahra said...

Assalammu'alaikum WBT.
maaf tuan ingin bertanya,
Arwah bapa saya pernah bercerita tentang asal usul keturunan saya yang berasal dari Acheh. katanya keluarga kami datang dari acheh 5 beradik dan yang sulong telah membuka masjid melayu kampung acheh. saya telah pergi ke masjid tersebut dan mendapati pengasasnya adalah Tengku Syed Hussien Al Aidid. sedang nama kami sekeluarga tidak ada gelaran syed. nama saya Mohd Azhar bin Hassan bin Zainul Abidin bin Musa dan selebihnya saya tidak tahu. menurut pakcik saya, moyang musa dulu adalah Imam di Masjid tersebut. bagaimana cara saya nak cari kepastian keturunan saya ini.

Sellene said...

Kepada Zahra di atas,

Saya ada sedikit maklumat tentang moyang Musa yang dikatakan pernah menjadi imam di Masjid Melayu pada satu ketika dahulu. Memang cerita sangat sedikit orang yang mengetahui dan mengingatinya, hatta keturunan mereka sendiri tidak mengetahui.

Mohon maklum balas sekiranya betul-betul berminat, barulah saya akan terangkan apa yang saya tahu.


m said...

Masi adakah keturunan dari syed abdullah bin syed hussein aidid...????? syed abdullah pernah menjadi sultan aceh dengan gelar sultan syarif saiful alam..

Syed Imran Syed Ahmad said...

Keturunan Syed Hussein Idid masih ada di Pulau Pinang, Kedah, Selangor dan beberapa tempat lain. Pusara Syed Abdullah yang juga mantan Sultan Aceh breada di Pulau Pinang. Tiada maklumat mengenai zuriatnya.

Syed Hasrin said...


Boleh saya tahu siapakah anak - anak Syed Abdul Rahman? Dan adakah beliau pernah mempunyai keluarga di Kelantan?

Terima Kasih

Syed Hasrin Aidid

Syed Imran Syed Ahmad said...


Sekadar yang saya tahu, Syed Abdul Rahman bernikah dengan puteri Istana Kelantan (puteri Sultan) tetapi tiada kepastian mengenai siapa puteri itu dan pada tahun berapa.

Syed Abdul Rahman mempunyai seorang anak lelaki, Syed Hamid, yang dikenali sebagai Tengku Kelantan. Tiada maklumat sahih mengenai siapa isterinya tetapi ada maklumat yang almarhum mempunyai lima orang putera iaitu:- Syed Ali, Syed Abdullah, Syed Idros, Syed Ibrahim dan Syed Abdul Rahman.

Saya yakin ada keluarganya di Kelantan. Tetapi tiada maklumat sahih.

Sekian. Wassalam