Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi: A Publicist & Reformist

By Nur Diyana


On January 31, 2024, Central Library became a portal to the past as Dr Azhar Ibrahim from NUS Malay Studies Department led an exploration of the seminal works of Syed Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hadi. Participants hailed from diverse disciplines and faculties including Science, Computing, and Arts and Social Sciences.

Dr Azhar illuminated the pioneering spirit of Al-Hadi, the publicist and reformist, tracing his footsteps from the inception of the first reformist journal in Southeast Asia Al-Imam in 1907 (Singapore) to the establishment of Jelutong Press (Penang) in 1927. Al-Hadi’s ground-breaking works were highlighted, including his translations of influential texts like Tahrir al-Mar’ah by Qasim Amin. These publications centered around progressive themes on women’s agency, education, and societal reform.

Dr Azhar Ibrahim delivering his talk titled Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi: A Publicist & Reformist

The rare Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi Collection was put on display for the first time and offered participants a tactile connection to history. Engaging discussions sparked curiosity and reflection, underscoring the enduring relevance of Al-Hadi’s writings in shaping the cultural landscape of the Malay Archipelago.

Participants engaging with the physical Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi Collection

This was the second iteration of the Discussion Series. You can watch the recording of the first talk, Al-Imam: The Voice of Reform here. Save the date for our upcoming event, Emancipation of Women in Early Malay Journals, slated for March 6, 2024. Let’s continue our journey of discovery with the Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi Discussion Series!


Syed Sheikh Al-Hadi Collection

Al-Hadi made significant contributions to modern Malay nationalism. His highly sought after works are now part of our rare collection, digitised to enhance its discoverability and usage. This collection of primary source materials contains 7 series of Al-Imam (1907 – 1908), the first Malay Islamic reformist periodical published in Singapore, Malaya and the Malay Archipelago; 18 series of Al-Ikhwan (1927 – 1930); two monographs on religious reformation and education, and 10 novels by Syed Sheikh Ahmad Al-Hadi.

This endeavour is part of NUS Libraries’ effort to bridge the gaps in our collections, de-center hegemonic narratives and include Other-ed knowledges through the use of our collections for education and research.

🌟We’re on the lookout for transliterators passionate about preserving and transcribing historical Jawi texts ✍️ . If you’re interested in contributing, please reach out to Diyana at

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