Sunday, May 3, 2009

History of Syed Omar Bin Ali Aljunied

History of Syed Omar Bin Ali Aljunied


Syed Sharif Omar bin Ali Aljunied (al-Junied, Al-junied, al Junied) (b.1792 ,Hadramaut, Yemen - d. 6 November 1852, Singapore), the patriarch of the Aljunieds in Singapore, was a noted Arab spice trader and businessman, philanthropist and important leader of the early Arab community. He was also a landowner and became a leader of the Muslim community in Singapore. Aljunied Road was officially named in 1926 after Syed Omar bin Ali Al Junied.

Early life-

The Aljunieds, descendants of the Prophet Muhammed, had established themselves as traders in Southeast Asia long before coming to Singapore. One such member of the family, Syed Sharif Omar al-Junied and his uncle, Syed Mohammed bin Harun (Haroon) Aljunied, (d. 22 February 1824, Singapore) were probably the first Arabs to come to Singapore. The first in the family to leave Yemen, he travelled to the East in 1816 set on spreading the Muslim faith. He landed in Palembang, Sumatra and established himself as a successful trader in spices. Syed Omar's fame in Palembang was not only as a merchant but also as a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammed. He was well-known as a leader of the Arabs in the Malay Sultanate in the East, an upright and honourable man.

Meanwhile, Syed Mohammed set up business by June 1819 just four months after the founding of Singapore in 1819. His nephew, Syed Omar soon followed and was personally welcomed by Stamford Raffles eager to court the wealth of Arab traders who had established a lucrative trade between the Far East and the known world. The Arabs in turn were attracted to Singapore's free port which contrasted with the heavy duties charged at ports held by the Dutch.

Through Raffles' support, the Aljunieds gained a plot of land between High Street and the Singapore River to set up their home. When Syed Mohammed died in February 1824, the business was passed on to Syed Omar who served as guardian for the heir apparent, Syed Ali bin Mohammed Aljunied who was only 9 years old then. Syed Omar carried on the business under Syed Ali's name rather than his own, multiplying the already great wealth of his uncle's.Syed Omar bought land at the southwest corner of High Street and North Bridge Road.

The family home was also where the merchant conducted his business, with transactions extending between London and Indonesia. His spice trade spilled over into other products, with even a personal brandname on cotton purchased from Britain and traded with Indonesia for batik printing. The Aljunied home was sold to the Seah Eu Chin family and Omar's nephew, Syed Ali, moved the Aljunied home to Balestier Road.


Built in 1820 through the efforts of Syed Omar Bin Ali Aljunied, this was the first mosque and house of prayer in Singapore. It has been rebuilt twice once in 1855 and again in 1981-82.

-Aljunied Road was officially named in 1926 after Syed Omar bin Ali Al Junied (died 1852). He gave a plot of land along Victoria Street for Muslim burials. He established Singapore's first mosque, the Omar Kampong Malacca mosque, in 1820. He also built a mosque on Bencoolen Street about 1845.-Syed Ali bin Mohammed Aljunied (d.1858), son of Syed Mohammed bin Harun, headed the family business with Syed Sharif Omar's son, Syed Abdullah Omar.

He was a community leader in his own right, contributing land and money in the spirit of the Aljunied clan. Some commendable deeds included:· Ensuring the supply of drinking water to the community by financing the building of four community wells dug behind Fort Canning, at Selegie Road, Pungulu Kisang and Telok Ayer.

Donating land for the Bukit Wakaff Cemetery off Grange Road.Donating the land in 1857 between Victoria Street and Arab Street for the new site of the Tan Tock Seng Hospital.· Rebuilding the Masjid Melaka in 1855.. The Aljunieds along with the Alkaffs and Alsagoffs were the three most prominent and wealthiest Arab families in Singapore for some time. The Aljunieds were notable residents at Balestier Road for over 100 years. The Aljunied Islamic School (Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah) built in 1927 is attributed to one of the Aljunieds, Syed Abdul Rahman Aljunied. Large sums of money was also contributed by the family for the building of the Town Hall. The business moved to 737 North Bridge Road under the name Toko Aljunied (meaning "Aljunied's shop"), long famous for its atar, an alcohol-free perfume preferred by Muslims. The family also started the House of Batik. Today, the Aljunieds are more than 300 strong, many still residing in Singapore.

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