Hajjah Fatimah



Singapore Infopedia

by Aisyah Hamid, Edian Azrah

Background

Hajjah Fatimah Sulaiman1 was a tradeswoman and philanthropist from Malacca who settled in Singapore. As she married a Bugis prince from the Celebes (present-day Sulawesi), she was also known as the Sultana of Gowa, Celebes.2 Grateful that her life was spared when her house in Singapore was ransacked twice and burnt on the second occasion, she donated her land for the building of a mosque.3 Called the Hajjah Fatimah Mosque, it is the first local mosque to be named after a woman.4

Background
Hajjah Fatimah (“Hajjah” being an honorific title given to women who have completed their pilgrimage to Mecca5), who was from a well-known Malaccan family, married a Bugis prince from the Celebes. Her husband is believed to be a trader whose business was located in Singapore.6 Widowed at a young age, she continued her husband’s business and gained great wealth.7


She built her residence on Java Road in Kampong Glam. However, in the late 1830s, it was ransacked by thieves and set on fire on the second occasion, a common occurrence during that period.8 Grateful that her life had been protected, she donated the land and money for a mosque to be built on the same site of her home.9 Construction took place between 1845 and 1846, and the mosque was named after her. Hajjah Fatimah was also known as a philanthropist10 who built houses for her family and the poor.11

According to her descendants, Hajjah Fatimah lived until the age of 98.12 She was buried in a private enclosure behind the mosque.13

Hajjah Fatimah's tombstones was placed next to another tombstone believed to by Raja Siti's, her daughter, in a special chamber within the mosque, while that of her son-in-law, Syed Ahmed Abdulrahman Alsagoff, can be found at the rear of the mosque.14

The title "Raja" in her daughter's name is an honorific title for Bugis royalty.15 However, another account suggested that Raja Siti died in Mecca and was buried there, and the smaller grave next to Hajjah Fatimah's is believed to be that of a child of one her servants. Annual feasts are still held at the Hajjah Fatimah Mosque to commemorate her death anniversay.16

After her death, her son-in-law took over her business, which eventually passed on to the Alsagoff family, who later ran it in their own name.17 The Alsagoffs were also keepers of the Hajjah Fatimah Mosque.18

Family
Hajjah Fatimah was associated with the Alsagoff family through her daughter’s marriage, and several of her descendants established themselves as pioneers in the local community.19 Her grandson, Syed Mohamed Ahmad Alsagoff, was the founder of the Muslimin Trust Fund Association,20 which runs the mosque together with the Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Singapore Islamic Religious Council).21


In 2005, Hajjah Fatimah was inducted into the Singapore Women’s Hall of Fame by the Singapore Council of Women’s Organisation. She was lauded for her contributions to female empowerment in Singapore.22



Authors

Edian Azrah & Aisyah Hamid



References
1. Mesjid Fatimah akan dibaiki dan dicantikkan bulan ini. (1974, April 10). Berita Harian, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Wright, A., & Cartwright, H. A. (Eds.). (1908). Twentieth century impressions of British Malaya. London: Llyod’s Greater Britain Publishing Co., p. 705. (Call no.: RCLOS 959.51033 TWE-[LKL])
3. Lee, E. (1990). Historic buildings of Singapore. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 52. (Call no.: RSING 720.95957 LEE); Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S Samuel, p. 119. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
4. Liu, G. (1996). In granite and chunam: The national monuments of Singapore. Singapore: Landmark Books and Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 92. (Call no.: RSING 725.94095957 LIU); 6 feisty women grace new wall of fame. (2005, October 23). The New Paper, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. National Heritage Board. (2015). Hajjah Fatimah Mosque. Retrieved 2016, April 1 from National Heritage Board website: http://www.nhb.gov.sg/places/sites-and-monuments/national-monuments/hajjah-fatimah-mosque
6. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)
7. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S Samuel, p. 119. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
8. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 564. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS]); National Heritage Board. (2015). Masjid Hajjah Fatimah. Retrieved 2016, April 1 from National Heritage Board website: http://www.nhb.gov.sg/places/trails/kampong-glam/trail-ii/trail-sites/places-of-worship/masjid-hajjah-fatimah
9. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S Samuel, p. 119 (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS])
10. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet; National Heritage Board, p. 191. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
11. Tyers, R. K. (1993). Ray Tyers’ Singapore: Then & now. Singapore: Landmark Books, p. 79. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 TYE-[HIS]); National Heritage Board. (2015). Masjid Hajjah Fatimah. Retrieved 2016, April 1 from National Heritage Board website: http://www.nhb.gov.sg/places/trails/kampong-glam/trail-ii/trail-sites/places-of-worship/masjid-hajjah-fatimah
12. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 564. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
13. Urban Redevelopment Authority. (1991). Fatimah Mosque preservation guidelines. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, pp. 4–5. (Call no.: RSING 363.69095957 FAT)
14. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 191. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
15. Lee, G. B. (2002). The religious monuments of Singapore: Faiths of our forefathers. Singapore: Preservation of Monuments Board, p. 85. (Call no.: RSING 726.095957 LEE)
16. Samuel, D. S. (2010). Singapore’s heritage: Through places of historical interest. Singapore: Dhoraisingam S Samuel, p. 119 (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SAM-[HIS]); A mosque named after woman merchant and philanthropist. (2017, August 3). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 29. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
18. Kampong Glam and its majestic past. (1989, April 27). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore: 1819–1867. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 564. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC-[HIS])
20. A living contribution of the Alsagoffs. (1988, February 9). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Edwards, N., & Keys, P. (1988). Singapore: A guide to buildings, streets, places. Singapore: Times Books International, p. 269. (Call no.: RSING 915.957 EDW-[TRA])
22. 6 feisty women grace new wall of fame. (2005, October 23). The New Paper, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we can 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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