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Makam Habib Noh or Keramat Habib Noh is the famous mausoleum by Muslim community in Singapore. Located at the hill between Palmer Road and East Coast Parkway. Today the mausoleum and mosque is owned by Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS).
The Story of Habib Noh
Habib Noh was born aboard a ship in the year 1788 (1202/3 Hijri). According to Shaykh Hasan Al-Khatib, the caretaker of Maqam Habib Noh, who heard from Habib AlKhair, Habib Mohamad's wife was in labour when a huge storm hit the ship. It was a critical moment and the ship threatened to be overturned. At that time, Habib Mohamad made a nazar that if the baby arrives safely, he would name the baby "Noh" in remembrance of Nuh (Noah) who brought the light of mercy on his ship. Not long afterwards, Habib Noh arrived safely into this world.
Not much is known about the early life of this individual except that he came from the northern Malaysian state of Kedah and lived for a while in Penang an island off the coast of Kedah. He was a direct descendant of Muhammad. He was an Arab from Hadramaut, the area of southern Arabia that is now known as Yemen. Habib Noh's family stayed in Kedah before moving to Pulau Pinang.
Arrival in Singapore
Around 1819, Habib Noh was invited to Singapore by Habib Salim bin Abdullah Ba Sumayr after the island became a British colony. Habib Noh stayed here (in Singapore) for about 50 years. Some reports mentioned that he stayed at Kampung Kaji (next to Al-Masjid Sultan.)
He came into prominence because being a 'majdhub' as he did things that are out of the ordinary. He loved children who liked to accompany him everywhere he went.
Among his honourable habits was to distribute food to the poor. Often, he would enter a shop, take out all the money from the cash drawer and throw it to the waiting children. Those shopkeepers who were aware of his holy state did not make any attempt to stop him and were rewarded by Allah with prosperity in their business thereafter.
Such activities however, were frowned upon by the British colonial masters who tried to put him in jail a number of times. However, after doing this many times, they finally gave up and left him alone. The reason? Each time he was arrested, and put in jail, he mysteriously disappeared from his cell and was seen outside walking free. This is one of the signs of awliya, their service to God has set them free from man.
He frequently gave advice to the community. He urged his companions to always show compassion, to increase their religious knowledge and to be consistent in learning the Al-Quran. Among his advice was "Let there not be any spite or ill-will among you and let there not be even a bit of greediness among you."
Habib Noh r.a. often woke up at night to perform prayers till dawn. He often visited the graves of the Muslims in the middle of the night to read Quranic verses till dawn. Habib Noh later moved to Marang Road, near Masjid Temenggong. He would often khalwat (remain in solitude for zikrullah) atop Mount Palmer, which was then a thick jungle facing the vast sea. The peaceful setting was perhaps a way for him to get closer to Allah.
A friend of his, Hj Muhd Salleh wished to set up a small mosque for the convenience of the Habib, but Habib Noh ra passed on to the next world before his friend's intention was fulfilled. The small mosque was still built, but it was later demolished. In replacement, the Hj Muhd Salleh mosque was built at the foot of Mount Palmer, for the convenience of the guests who came to visit the Habib.
People in those days flocked to see him and sought the blessings of his sincere invocation. Since those were the days of sailing ships, traveling by ship was often hazardous and it took a few months to sail from Singapore to Jeddah, Arabia. Muslims planning to sail back to Indonesia, India and Arabia made it their practice to come and ask him to pray for their safe journey.
Stories on Habib Noh often revolve around his miracles—especially his incredible ability to appear in a number of places at the same time. He had been seen in Mecca when it was known that he has not left Singapore. He has been known to say farewell to travellers leaving Singapore with the words 'I will be there when you arrive'. When the traveller reached his destination months later, Habib Noh would be there to welcome him at the harbour.
Once a prominent Singapore businessman was about to set sail before lunch-time on a certain day. He received word that Habib Noh wanted to have lunch with him in his house that very day. Because of his love for this great wali, he did not depart on the ship that day but stayed behind to have lunch with Habib Noh.He did not know at that time that Habib Noh—who was also known for his gift of knowing about events to come and his state of unveiling (kashf)--had come to lunch with a purpose. That was to prevent him from sailing on a ship that was doomed to be shipwrecked near Penang a few days later, going down with most of its passengers.
A gentleman by the name of Tok Mat, who owned a horse carriage, used to take Habib Noh on rides in his carriage. One night Tok Mat was returning home alone in his carriage felt quite frightened, as Singapore, one-hundred years ago, was not a safe place as it is now. Robbers and bandits were everywhere, waiting to take unwitting travelers by surprise. Tok Mat felt fearful and wished Habib Noh was there to protect him. He turned around and was shocked to see Habib Noh sitting in his carriage and smiling at him.
One night, Habib Noh RA was resting when he heard the continuous cries of a child, from his neighbour's house. Habib Noh RA got up and went to his neighbour's house. He gave Salaam and entered the neighbour's house, upon which, he saw the father of the child crying. He asked the mother of the child about this. The mother answered, "Habib, my child is crying because he wants to drink milk but I do not have the money to buy it. My husband is crying because he's too overwhelmed when he heard the child crying." Habib Noh RA then requested for some drinking water. The mother gave him some water in a coconut husk. Habib Noh RA read a few verses and a while later, the water turned into milk and the milk was given to the child.
One day, a group of people visited Habib Noh RA. They waited for him as he prayed Asar. Soon, Habib Noh RA came out to meet his visitors. While he was greeting the second person in the group, he observed the man's face and said, "It's better for you to leave now because your mom is facing her last moments, and is dying." The man rushed home accompanied by Habib Noh RA. When they arrived, the man's mother had just died.
Once there was an Arab trader who was a follower of Habib Noh RA. One day, he invited the Habib RA to his home for a farewell supplications (du'a selamat) as he was going back to Yemen on some business. The trader made preparations for his journey. According to his plans, he would leave immediately after the farewell supplications, and would head down to Keppel where a ship was awaiting. At that time, there would only be a few ships which set sail to Yemen in one week.
Something strange happened. When the Habib RA arrived, he sat on the trader's luggage while making the farewell supplications. This had never happened before. Habib Noh RA made a very long supplication, until even the trader became restless, as his ship was set to sail soon. As a sign of respect to the Habib RA, nobody dared say anything. Finally, the Habib RA ended his supplication. By then, the ship on which the trader was supposed to be in, had already left the port. The guests started eating but nobody said anything or questioned the Habib RA. The trader had missed his ship. A week later, they heard the news that the ship on which the trader was supposed to be in had sunk at the Indian Ocean, and everyone on the ship died. That's when they realised the reason behind the Habib's behaviour.
During World War II, a Japanese plane dropped a bomb which landed on the roof of the maqam. The building surrounding the maqam was completely ruined, even the entrance to the maqam was shattered. Habib AlKhair (the entrusted caretaker) was slightly hurt. By Allah's Will, the maqam remained untouched.
Numerous stories like these are still talked about till this very day in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia and even in far away India and Yemen, among people who accept the miracles of awliya as commonplace. Speak to the present caretaker of the Habib Noh shrine, 51 year old Hassan Al-Khatib, and he will share with you his rich repertoire of stories on the life of Habib Noh. He will also tell you of unsuccessful attempts by local Wahabis and their Saudi friends to stop people from visiting this maqam.
Habib Noh died peacefully on Friday 14 Rabi`ul Awal 1283 Hijra (1866 CE ) and was buried on the hill at his own prior request. As with the martyrs and great saints, his spirit lives on and many miracles are still happening to those who have strong certainty and ask Allah for help with the baraka of this Saint of Singapore.
Even after his physical demise, Habib Noh is still held in high esteem. Whenever he meets visitors from Singapore, Shaykh Nazim Al-Haqqani, Mufti of Cyprus and world leader of the Nasqshbandi-Haqqani order, requests that they convey his salaams to Habib Noh. He also makes it a point to visit Habib Noh whenever he is in Singapore.
A measure of the high respect given to this saint can be seen in the action of Shaykh Hisham Kabbani Chairman of The Islamic Supreme Council of America and a Sufi Shaykh from the Naqshbandi Haqqani sufi Order during this visit to the maqam. Shaykh Hisham took off his shoes at the bottom of the hill on which the maqam is situated and walked barefooted up the 47 steps leading to the tomb as a sign of respect, although he was told that normally visitors take off their shoes at the top of the steps.
Death Anniversary (Haul)
His death anniversary ceremony (or haul) is often held on the last day of the month Rabiul Akhir. It starts about 'Asr with various invited 'ulamas or religious scholars from within Singapore and overseas giving lectures.
Maulid and tahlil are read after Maghrib. Generous food is then served to the hundreds of guests regardless of race or religion, after Isya' prayers.