Syed Omar bin Mohamed Alsagoff



Singapore Infopedia

by Tan, Bonny

Background

Syed Omar bin Mohamed Alsagoff (b. 1852, Singapored. 18 May 1927, Soekaboemi, Java), was the head of Alsagoff and Co. Ltd. and leader of the local Mohamedan community.1

Early life
Syed Omar was born in Singapore to a prominent family from the Hadramaut region in Arabia. The family had been associated with Singapore since its founding.At 20 years old, Syed Omar established the firm Alsagoff and Co. with his uncle, Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff. Syed Omar brought no capital to the enterprise, but his familiarity with the Arabian world enabled him to conduct business in Arabia, Egypt, Turkey and the Middle East.Syed Omar then left Singapore and represented the company in Arabia, Egypt and Turkey.4


Business dealings
Upon his uncle’s death in 1906, Syed Omar returned to Singapore and continued to run Alsagoff and Co.5 By then, the company was involved in real estate and also served as an agent for Muslim pilgrims travelling between Singapore and Jeddah.6 Through the business of bringing pilgrims to Mecca, Syed Omar became closely linked with Mansfield and Co. Ltd. and the Blue Funnel Line.7


In 1907, the murder of his business partner, Syed Abdul Kadir bin Abdul Rahman Alsagoff, made Syed Omar the sole proprietor of Alsagoff and Co.8 Rumours circulated that he had instigated the murder as he was jealous of Syed Abdul Kadir’s share in the company.9 In 1916, Syed Omar was accused of breach of trust in the management of Alsagoff and Co., as he did not appoint a receiver. Syed Omar was the sole trustee from 19 May 1927 to 13 September 1929, when a co-trustee was appointed.10

Contributions to the community
Syed Omar bin Mohamed Alsagoff was a Justice of the Peace and doyen of the Arab community.11 A successful businessman and philanthropist, Syed Omar came to be regarded as the head of the Mohamedan community in Singapore.12 He was often seen contributing to major events. For example, in 1922, Syed Omar welcomed the Prince of Wales with a miniature battleship, the H.M.S. Slamat, which cost him nearly $8,000. Built at the United Engineers’ Tanjong Rhu dockyard, the ship was towed by a tractor to the Town Hall, where the full crew on board saluted the royal visitor. After the event, the vessel was used as a motorboat on the lake at Bukit Tunggal, Syed Omar’s residence.13


Syed Omar also contributed to the upkeep of Alsagoff Arab School, which was established in 1912 through a wakaff fund set up by the late Syed Mohammed Alsagoff.14 Syed Omar was appointed as one of its trustees. Promising that he would continue to maintain the school’s operations during his lifetime, Syed Omar contributed his own money towards the upkeep of the school.15

Arabic links
Syed Omar represented the interests of both the sultan of Hadramaut and king of Hedjaz, and was later honoured with high decorations in Turkey.16 He also served as an agent of Sultan Abdullah Alkathiri of Seywoon, Arabia, and the sultan of Muscat.17


Personal life
Syed Omar owned several houses in Singapore, including one on Rochor Road and another in Woodlands,18 as well as the Omaran at Chancery Lane.19


Syed Omar died on 18 May 1927 during a visit to Soekaboemi, Java.20 His remains were brought back to Singapore and interred at the Alsagoff Mosque on Java Road, which housed the Alsagoff family tomb.21

Appointments
1907–10: President, Muslimin Trust Funds Association of Singapore22
1910: President, Muslim Association23
1915: Member, Mohammedan Advisory Board24
1915: Member, Commission of the Peace for the Settlement of Singapore25
1916: Chairman, South Bridge Road Mosque management committee26

Awards
27

Osmanieh Order of Turkey
High Order of Sheriff Hussein, King of Mecca

Family
Grandfather:
 Syed Ahmed bin Abdulrahman Alsagoff28

Uncle: Syed Mohamed bin Ahmed Alsagoff29
Brother: Syed Ali Alsagoff30
Wives: Two wives31
Sons: Syed Mohamed bin Omar Alsagoff, Syed Ibrahim bin Omar Alsagoff and Syed Ahmat bin Omar Alsagoff32
Daughters: Sharifah Zainab binti Omar Alsagoff and Sharifah Ayesha binti Omar Alsagoff33

Variant spelling
Sayyid ’Umar al-Saqqâf34



Author
Bonny Tan




References
1. “More Colony Trade with Middle East Sought,” Straits Times, 2 November 1956, 14; “Syed Omar Alsagoff,” Straits Times, 18 May 1927, 9; “Late Syed Omar Alsagoff,” Straits Times, 24 May 1927, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
2.  “More Colony Trade with Middle East Sought.”
3. Stephanie Po Yin Chung, “Creating 'Family' Networks Across Time and Space: The Alsagoffs in Singapore, 1824–2009,” Modern Asian Studies 52, no. 2 (2018): 467.
4. “Syed Omar Alsagoff.”
5. “Syed Omar Alsagoff”; “Supreme Court Case,” Malaya Tribune, 1 April 1919, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
6. “Legal intelligence,” Malaya Tribune, 15 February 1917, 12”; “Supreme Court Case.” (From NewspaperSG)
7. “Syed Omar Alsagoff.”
8. “The Alsagoff Inquest,” Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, 30 April 1907, 3 (From NewspaperSG); “Supreme Court Case.”
9. William R. Roff, “Murder as an Aid to Social History: The Arabs in Singapore in the Early Twentieth Century,” in Transcending Borders: Arabs, Politics, Trade and Islam in Southeast Asia, ed. Huub de Jonge and Nico Kaptein (Leiden: KITLV Press, 2002), 107. (Call no. RSING 305.8927059 TRA)
10. The Alsagoff Estate,” Straits Times, 3 October 1916, 6; “Severe Criticism of Trustee,” Pinang Gazette and Straits Chronicle, 15 December 1934, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
11.  “Matters Muslim,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 27 April 1927, 14. (From NewspaperSG) 
12.  “Late Syed Omar Alsagoff.”
13. “H.M.S. Slamat,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 7 April 1922, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
14. Victor R. Savage and Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Singapore Street Names: A Study of Toponymics (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2023), 22–23. (Call no. RSING 915.9570014 SAV-[TRA])
15. “The Alsagoff Arab School,” Straits Times, 12 October 1923,  10. (From NewspaperSG)
16. “Syed Omar Alsagoff.”
17. Syed Mohsen Alsagoff, The Alsagoff Family in Malaysia: A. H. 1240 (A.D. 1824)–A.H. 1382 (A.D. 1962) (Singapore: Syed Mohsen Alsagoff, 1963), 15. (Call no. RCLOS 929.2095957 ALS)
18. “Property Auction,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), 2 October 1922, 4; “Contractor’s Claim,” Straits Times, 30 January 1924, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
19. Untitled, Straits Times, 20 September 1923, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
20. “Syed Omar Alsagoff.”
21. “Late Syed Omar Alsagoff”; Funeral of the late Syed Omar Alsagoff,” Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (Weekly), 25 May 1927, 324. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Syed Mohsen Alsagoff, Alsagoff Family in Malaysia, 15.
23. “Muslim Association,” Straits Times, 18 February 1910, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
24. “Moslem Advisory Board,” Malaya Tribune, 18 June 1915, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “Social and Personal,” Straits Times, 27 March 1915, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
26. Untitled, Straits Times, 13 March 1916, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
27. Syed Mohsen Alsagoff, Alsagoff Family in Malaysia, 15.  
28. “Syed Omar Alsagoff.”
29. “Syed Omar Alsagoff.”
30. Acknowledgements,” Straits Times, 3 August 1923, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
31. Syed Mohsen Alsagoff, Alsagoff Family in Malaysia, 15.  
32. “Late Syed Omar Alsagoff.”
33. Syed Mohsen Alsagoff, Alsagoff Family in Malaysia, 16.  
34. Mohammad Redzuan Othman, “Conflicting Political Loyalties of the Arabs in Malaya before World War II,” in Transcending Borders: Arabs, Politics, Trade and Islam in Southeast Asia, ed. Huub de Jonge and Nico Kaptein (Leiden: KITLV Press, 2002), 39. (Call no. RSING 305.8927059 TRA)



The information in this article is valid as of September 2023 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

 

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