The Beginnings of an Arab Community in Singapore

Syed Omar Aljunied
Syed Omar Aljunied

An Arab Merchant

One of the earliest Arab settlers in Singapore. Originally from Hadhramaut, Yemen, Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied was a well-respected merchant and a philanthropist.

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An Arab Merchant

My uncle Syed Mohammed bin Harun Aljunied
He was Syed Omar Aljunied’s uncle, who arrived from the town of Palembang in Sumatra. He came before Syed Omar Aljunied and started a business in Singapore by June 1819. The Aljunied family were well-known traders in Palembang prior to their arrival in Singapore. There are records noting that a Hadhramaut colony had existed in Palembang since 1750.
came to Singapore and started a business here a few months after the British arrived to set up a port. I was on a mission from Palembang to Borneo, when I wrote to Sir Stamford Raffles asking to remain under British protection.
Stamford Raffles
Stamford Raffles

An East India Company Officer

An enterprising East India Company (EIC) officer looking to make his mark on the Eastern Seas. He was Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen when he controversially set up an EIC trading post in Singapore.

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An East India Company Officer
Circa 1819
I hope you had a smooth journey to Singapore, Pengeran Sherif
This was a Malay title added to the names of Arabs who were of royal lineage. Syed Omar Aljunied’s title indicated that he was either a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad or had royal blood. As such, the Malay community may have considered him a prince.
! I am delighted that you have decided to set up home here. I have written to William Farquhar to ensure that you are allotted a proper residence and given suitable support while you remain under his authority. I have also noted your wishes to remain under our protection, and have commended you to Major Farquhar as a man in whose character and abilities every confidence may be placed.

A Network of Arab Traders in Singapore

Stamford Raffles
Stamford Raffles

An East India Company Officer

An enterprising East India Company (EIC) officer looking to make his mark on the Eastern Seas. He was Lieutenant-Governor of Bencoolen when he controversially set up an EIC trading post in Singapore.

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An East India Company Officer

Pengeran Sherif, I am drawing up a town plan
As early as June 1819, Stamford Raffles gave William Farquhar instructions to make a town plan before he left Singapore. When he returned in 1822, he was upset that Farquhar had not followed his instructions. This was one of the reasons that led to the fallout between them. Raffles employed Lieutenant Philip Jackson to execute his vision. Hence, the town plan is also known as the Jackson Plan.
as I expect that Singapore will be a place of considerable magnitude and importance. As such, an economical and proper allocation of land is most important. The Arab community, which requires every consideration, will be situated in the vicinity of the…
The Hadhrami Arab Community
Circa 1822
Sir Stamford Raffles, we are happy to see that an ‘Arab Kampong’ has been included in the new town plan. It’s a clear invitation for more Arab traders to settle in Singapore. Our people have been settling in the region for more than five centuries. Us Hadhramis left our hometown to seek our fortunes and set up business links in the East and Africa. It’s a truly entrepreneurial network. We have always kept a close connection to our motherland and continue our traditions.

Syed Omar’s Philanthropy in Singapore

Syed Omar Aljunied
Syed Omar Aljunied

An Arab Merchant

One of the earliest Arab settlers in Singapore. Originally from Hadhramaut, Yemen, Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied was a well-respected merchant and a philanthropist.

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An Arab Merchant

It has been two years since I established Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka. Arab traders, Melakan businessmen, the local Malays and Indonesian immigrants often gather at the surau
This simple prayer house, which was a meeting point for Muslims, was built with wood and an attap roof. It was demolished in 1855 to make way for a brick building.
. It is my wish that my fellow Muslims are cared for through this Wakaf
A Wakaf means to protect a thing, to prevent it from becoming the property of a third person. This usually refers to the endowment of property and funds. There are three categories in Singapore: public Wakaf for charity, private Wakaf that endows funds to family and others, or a mix of the two. The first known Wakaf in Singapore was Masjid Omar Kampong Melaka that was endowed by Syed Omar Aljunied. Many others including Indian Muslims, the Indonesian Bugis and Arab traders, continued the Islamic Wakaf tradition. Women also contributed, creating one-third of the Wakaf collective in Singapore.
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The Singapore Census Office
Jan 1824
This is a notice of the official census which was taken this month. The population now stands at 10,683 people. The biggest group is the Malays, of which there are 4,580 of them, while the smallest group is the Arabs, with only 15 people.

The Syed Yasin Incident

Syed Omar Aljunied
Syed Omar Aljunied

An Arab Merchant

One of the earliest Arab settlers in Singapore. Originally from Hadhramaut, Yemen, Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied was a well-respected merchant and a philanthropist.

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An Arab Merchant

Many have asked about what happened tonight so I will lay out the facts here. I took Syed Yasin to Major William Farquhar when he was unable to pay the full $1,400 for goods that I sold him. So he was jailed. He requested to leave to retrieve the money,…
A European Settler
11 Mar 1823
I heard that William Farquhar was stabbed! Are you sure that this is related to the Syed Yasin case? Right now, a crowd of Europeans and natives have formed outside your house to find out what the ruckus is about! The natives have brought torches and candles because it’s a moonless night. Among the Europeans, I hear lots of shouting that it must have been the Malay chiefs who are behind this assassination attempt. It must be Temenggong Abdul Rahman. Sepoys have chased all the Malays away. Panic is in the air.

Syed Omar’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Syed Omar Aljunied
Syed Omar Aljunied

An Arab Merchant

One of the earliest Arab settlers in Singapore. Originally from Hadhramaut, Yemen, Syed Omar bin Ali Aljunied was a well-respected merchant and a philanthropist.

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An Arab Merchant

I made a risky venture into the real estate world. I did not know how I would fare given my background as a merchant, but I think I have worked out a good strategy to buying property. I’ve been studying the areas near the Singapore River, in the vicinity of…
A Textile Merchant
Circa 1850s
Pengeran Sherif, it’s not only your property business that is flourishing. Even your Syed Omar Aljunied brand of textiles has become a household name! These days, many of the Bugis perahus that stop at the Singapore River carry your goods, while your collection agents are often spotted on their bullock carts, collecting money. Your sharp eye for business has served you well!
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