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Shortly after Stamford Raffles established a British trading outpost in Singapore on 6 February 1819, missionaries began arriving here in hopes of spreading Christianity to the people.The first of these missionary groups was the London Missionary Society (LMS) – a non-denominational Protestant society founded in 1795 in England – which sent a missionary named Samuel Milton from Malacca to Singapore. Milton was later joined by another missionary, Claudius Henry Thomsen, who brought with him a small printing press and a few employees. Thomsen most likely translated the Sermon on the Mount into Malay. The Sermon is the longest and one of the most often quoted teachings of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew in the Bible. The translation by Thomsen is one of the earliest extant Malay publications printed in Singapore. It is a small booklet printed by S. C. Mission Press in 1829 – “S. C.” refers to the Singapore Christian Union, which was formed by Protestant missionaries in Singapore. For the first few years, S. C. Mission Press was managed by Milton, but he…

Singapore’s meteoric rise as a maritime trade centre soon after its founding in 1819 was largely due to its prime location at the tip of the Malay Peninsula. With trade came immigration and over time the population increased; by 1836–37, there were some 30,000 people in Singapore, almost half of whom were Chinese. In 1819, the Reverend Samuel Milton, a missionary of the London Missionary Society (LMS), was sent to Singapore to spread Christianity to the Chinese. Shortly after, Claudius Henry Thomsen, a fellow missionary from the LMS branch in Malacca, arrived in Singapore. Thomsen brought with him a small printing press, and, together with Milton, established the Mission Press – the first printing press in Singapore. Although the main priority of the missionaries was to spread the Gospel among the indigenous Malays, the printing and distribution of religious tracts in Chinese, to target the largest migrant community, became an important part of their work. The larger aim of the missionaries was to convert the Chinese in China to Christianity. However, this was a challenging task…

The early Indian Muslims who settled in Singapore in the 1800s brought with them a varied heritage: their skills as shopkeepers and office workers, their unique customs and beliefs, and a tradition of devout poetry. Indeed, their religious faith was a key source of solace for these transplanted Muslims from the southern part of India, who often expressed their piety in the form of verse. One particularly notable poet among them was Muhammad Abdul Kadir Pulavar, whose Islamic religious poetry collection, Munajathu Thirattu, is the oldest Tamil book held by the National Library. Published by J. Paton, Government Printer, in 1872, the book comprises a total of 55 poems and songs in praise of Muslim saints and the Prophet Muhammad. The verses are written in simple Tamil, richly overlaid with Persian and Arabic words, and are appended with tunes and rhythms. They are divided into six genres: introductory poems in praise of the author (four poems); Munajathu Pathikam (four songs); Thanippaakkal (12 poems); Thanippathangal (30 songs); Sindhu, a lyrical form of Tamil (two poems); and Chitirak…