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Habib Nuh Al-Habshi

By Abu Muhammad of Bahrus Shofa.

Photography & English translation by Bin Gregory Productions

Hilltop MaqamIt is related that Kiyai Agung Muhammad bin ‘Abdullah as-Suhaimi BaShaiban made a regular daily  practice of reading the mawlid of the Holy Prophet s.a.w., but now and again he would miss a day.  One night, he had a dream, and in that dream he met the Holy Prophet s.a.w. and Habib Nuh, who had already passed unto the Mercy of the Lord at that time.  In that dream, Habib Nuh was accompanying the Prophet s.a.w. as he walked by the home of Kiyai Agung until Habib Nuh said, “O Messenger of God, let us visit the home of my friend Muhammad Suhaimi.”  But the Holy Prophet s.a.w. did not wish to do so, and said, “I don’t want to visit him because this Muhammad Suhaimi always forgets me, because he abandons the recitation of my mawlid.”  Habib Nuh implored the Prophet s.a.w., “I beg of you that he may be forgiven.” Only then did the Holy Prophet s.a.w. elect to enter and sit in the home of Kiyai Agung.   Thus was the dream of Kiyai Agung; after seeing its signs, Kiyai Agung never again failed to recite the mawlid, even upon the open seas, or even though only two or three people sat with him in congregation.

stepsThis is an account of a dream: believe it or don’t, as you please. I relate the story here to acquaint the reader with the high spiritual station of a certain Friend of God who rests in his grave in Singapore.  The one of whom I speak, and whose blessings I desire for myself and my family and the muslims one and all, is Habib Nuh bin Muhammad al-Habshi, who lived from 1788 to 1866 AD.  His grave rests at Palmer Road, Tanjong Pagar, Singapore.  The greatness of Habib Nuh al-Habshi became more widely known when the government of Singapore, while building a large freeway, tried to move his shrine but were unable to do so.  In the end, his shrine was left untouched and to this day remains under the care of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.

Habib Nuh al-Habshi left the life of this fleeting world on Friday, 14 Rabi’ul Awwal 1283 H. Before he passed, he willed that he should be buried atop a small hill on Palmer Road. His will was considered odd since the spot that he had picked was well removed from the Muslim burial grounds and was situated by the sea, exposed to the erosive forces of the ocean and its pounding waves.  Therefore his family decided that his remains be interred in the usual cemetery.  When his funerary rites were complete and the time came to carry his remains to the cemetery, his litter could not be raised by the pallbearers.  It is said dozens of men tried to lift it but none were able.  In the end, they realized they must obey the will of Habib Nuh with regard to his desired burial place.

The mosque built at the foot of Palmer Hill

The mosque built at the foot of Palmer Hill

When the decision was made to bring Habib Nuh’s remains to the place indicated by his will, the pallbearers found his litter to be exceptionally light and they bore it with ease.  In 1962, the government of Singapore began ocean filling and reclamation around Habib Nuh’s shrine, and now it is positioned in the middle of dry land, no longer by the sea shore.  His resting place is preserved to this day and has become a site of pilgrimage for those who seek the blessings of a righteous Friend of God.

The karamat of Habib Nuh al-Habshi were evident even during his life.  It is related that he was once imprisoned by the White colonists. Amazingly, Habib Nuh was able to appear outside the jail whenever he pleased, although he was shackled hand and foot in prison.  When he would be seized again, again he would appear outside the prison.  Finally the colonists gave up imprisoning him, as he had rendered their prison meaningless.

Another story relates how a merchant was once sailing toward Singapore.  On his voyage, this ship was struck by a tremendous storm.  Faced with calamity, the merchant prayed to God to save him and his boat, and vowed that if he arrived safely in Singapore he would give a gift of cloth to Habib Nuh.  Praise be to Allah, he and his enterprise were saved by Allah from the ferocity of the storm.  Upon reaching Singapore, he was amazed to find Habib Nuh patiently awaiting his arrival in port, whereupon Habib Nuh asked him to fulfill his vow that he had made upon the high seas.

Yet another story tells of a man preparing to set sail on a boat with a valuable cargo of goods who approached Habib Nuh to request his prayers for a safe voyage.  Habib Nuh sternly forbade him to undertake the voyage.  With Habib Nuh’s advice in mind, the trader decided not to ship his merchandise on that vessel.  Not long after the ship had sailed, the people of Singapore were informed that the ship had caught fire and sunk.

Quran 10:62 above the grave

Quran 10:62 above the grave: “Behold! Verily upon the Friends of Allah there is no fear, nor do they grieve.”

Many more remarkable events are attributed to the karamat of Habib Nuh.  Yet despite the many extraordinary abilities that were manifested by him, it is not to this that we aspire.  Rather, history has borne witness that Habib Nuh al-Habshi was a righteous man, devoted to the teachings of Islam.  What we hope is to follow in his footsteps and those who came before him, one before the other, till we arrive at the presence of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him.  Love of the Righteous Elect is to be striven for, knowing that man will be together with those he loves in the Hereafter.  Verily, firmness and constancy in religion is better than a thousand astonishing miracles, and miracles hidden are more meaningful than miracles revealed.  We pray that the blessings of Habib Nuh al-Habshi flow to us and to our descendants, a blessing by means of which Allah looks upon us with the gaze of Mercy and Compassion.  Let us send a gift of the Fatihah for the Saint of the City of Lions … Fatihah!
Habib Arifin
Pictured is Habib ‘Arifin bin Muhammad al-Habshi, brother of Habib Nuh bin Muhammad al-Habshi.  Habib ‘Arifin returned unto the Mercy of Allah in the year 1904 AD and is buried on Burma Road, Penang … Fatihah.