THE LEGENDARY MASTER JABBAR (PART TWO)

Master Jabbar

continue from Part One

Now no longer a single father, he could find more time to devout not only to his family he loved most but to his career as well. He was extremely happy to note how his three little children adapted very well with their new mother and likewise. To him that was very important to maintain a good family life.

Abdul Jabbar loved children and beside his own, he loved all his nephews and nieces treating them all like his own. Even children from the neighbourhood would find comfort in him. A great storyteller, he would tell stories to them whenever he had the time to spare. Whenever there were school holidays, these nephews and nieces would flock into his house and they would enjoy every moment when Wak Bar (as they all called him) spent the time with them. Even when these nephews and nieces grew into adulthood, they would still love to be with him. He was perhaps the only uncle that could give them the affectionate bond greatly yearned. He understood their feelings, each and every one of them. On one occasion when he was riding in a trishaw, the trishaw man told him that his wife had given birth to a baby girl. When the trishaw man asked him to suggest a name for his baby girl, Abdul Jabbar immediately suggested the name ‘Shamsiah’. The name came out from his mouth without hesitation because at the time the question was asked, Abdul Jabbar was thinking about his niece Shamsiah, the daughter of his eldest brother Ibrahim. A few years later, he rode on the same trishaw and the trishaw man remembered him vividly. The trishaw man told him that his daughter Shamsiah whom Abdul Jabbar had suggested for her name was now schooling at a primary school and excelled well in her studies.

A nephew who lost his mother at a young age of ten would always look forward to be near him. Azmi Ismail, the son of his immediate elder brother would always find solace with his uncle Wak Bar. He would tell him stories that warmth the hearts and the young Azmi would sit by his side listening diligently as the story progressed. Such was a man who would always find time to enlighten the young ones. He would advise them the good values of life.

He advocated greatly the importance of good education for children during their growing years. To him good education was the best investment any father could give to their children. For his three young children, he had plans for them but the time wasn’t ripe.

The education policy of that period emphasized the importance of learning the English language and failing this subject in your examination meant failing your examination in total. Realizing the fact that many young Muarians of that period lacked the knowledge of the language, he mooted an idea many would shrug. In 1956 he built a school on a piece of land along Jalan Khalidi, an idea nobody of that period would even dream of. After getting all the necessary approvals, he began his school project. It was built by using wooden planks and consisted of two blocks. The first block could accommodate five classrooms and the other block consisted of three classrooms, an office, a library and a canteen. There was a small field suitable for light recreational activities. The school was named “The Muar Hana English School”, located at 100, Jalan Khalidi, Muar . It was named after the first Englishman by the name of Captain Hana who arrived at Muar town after the Japanese surrendered. Abdul Jabbar must have liked this Englishman to have named his school after him.

A great teacher himself, he roped in few of his cousins and nephews to be the teachers of the school. Among those who were teachers in this school were Aris bin Abdul Aziz (cousin), Karim bin Othman (nephew), Kamar bin Othman (nephew), Maznah binti Mohamad, Selamat bin Johari and Abdul Ghafar bin Ali (who himself earned the title Master Ghafar in later years). When the school opened for registration, the response was unexpectedly overwhelming. He had to rent a vacant house across the road that could accommodate three classrooms. Students of all races were enrolled and among them was my uncle Abdul Aziz Abdul Hamid (first cousin to Master Jabbar). Uncle Aziz had many fond memories of the school before being admitted to the Muar High School.

The school functioned like any other schools and produced many outstanding students in their own fields. His uncle Abdul Rahman Hj, Taib who was younger than him took charge of all the administration of the school. The school had a football team and participated in few local tournaments. The team was named after him known as Abdul Jabbar 11.

The following year in 1957, the Bar Council of Malaya recommended to the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Sir Ibrahim that Abdul Jabbar be honoured with Justice of the Peace (JP). In the same year, he was awarded the prestigious Bintang Jubli Intan Sultan Ibrahim. He became a Magistrate in the Juvenile Court and Rents and Control Acts. Later in the same year he was appointed a member of the Majlis Mesyuarat Negeri Johor, Public Service Commission and the Johor Civil Service.

When everything was in place and the school he set up had made a name for itself, Master Jabbar now focused on his children. In 1958, he brought along his two sons Mohamad Ali and Shamsuddin to India with a big hope to have them registered at one of India’s well known university-the Aligarth University at Agra. The three of them went on board the ship RMS Rajuna from Singapore to Podicheri, South India. They then proceeded to Madras by rail and the journey took them three days to arrive. It was perhaps during this long trip that many things began to creep into his mind. The thought of his first wife Zaharah, the fate of his children, his new wife Kalthum and his children that would come from her. He had always wanted to be a good and responsible husband and father. He had plans he’d wish he could implement and carry on and prayed that God would grant some of his wishes. He was compelled to his own conviction to accept anything that God refused to grant, treating them as blessings from the Knower of the future.

In Madras, he met the student representative for the university and was advised to abort the idea of sending his two sons to the university. His two sons Mohamad Ali and Shamsuddin could not be enrolled to the university as age forbade their admission. Furthermore they were too young to be left in a faraway country. In his moments of quiet reflection, he reminded himself that patience and steadfastness were valuable virtues to be preserved at all times. Before leaving India, he remembered his old friend from Muar, Abdullah Ali, who was then the First Secretary to our High Commission in New Dehli. They met and both of them spent some valuable moments reminiscing those good old years they had left behind. Father and sons then left for home on board RMS Madras.

In 1962 he received an unexpected call from someone he knew when studying at the Raffles College. It was from his old friend who was now the Deputy Prime Minister of the country. Tun Abdul Razak had wanted to see him and they were to meet at the residence of the Johor’s Menteri Besar. It must be an important meeting for a Deputy Prime Minister to summon him and so he left for Johor Bahru and headed straight to Saujana, the official residence of the Menteri Besar. Upon arrival he was greeted by Tun Abdul Razak and Dato’ Hj. Hassan Yunos the Menteri Besar. The three discussed topics of development and areas for improvements for the state of Johor and in the midst of their discussion Tun Abdul Razak asked him something that served the actual purpose why he was called. Tun had wanted him to join UMNO and the plan was for him to be the next Menteri Besar. Dato’ Haji Hassan Yunos was on the verge of retiring and the state needed someone to steer the wheel and they both thought Master Jabbar was the most suitable candidate. It was not long for him to respond and there wasn’t any reason to delay why he had to reject the honourable request from the second most important person in the country.

Master Jabbar was a good practicing Muslim. To him a mere declaration of faith was insufficient, it must be firmly rooted within oneself. Politics is the art of the possible, where back stabbing is the norm. He had enough of that and had learned enough to understand the dirty side of politics. The experience he had personally gone through taught him many valuable lessons some of which he wouldn’t wish to repeat. He had watched and observed some of his family members being vilified through politics. His own uncle Dr. Hamzah Hj. Taib, the first Malay doctor of Johor State, who was partly instrumental in crushing the British’s dream of creating the Malayan Union suffered such a fate. He was adamant that politics would no longer play a part in his life. This was evident when in 1976 after the death of an UMNO assemblyman of Parit Bakar YB. Abdul Aziz Ishak, he was offered by an opposition party to stand for election against the Barisan Nasional candidate which he refused without having to think twice. Politics was history to him.

The education policy changed with the introduction of the Razak Report rendering many private schools in the county to close their operation. After some consultations with family members and close friends, Master Jabbar too decided that the Muar Hana English School should ceased operation. It was in 1965 when he was only 44 years old, still young and energetic. He began to plan few other things to make ends meet but Master Jabbar had his life full of unexpected tragedies. He had lost his wife for the second time in 1961 due to some complications after delivering their last child Shirazah. The nature of her death was quite similar when his first wife slumbered through eternity.

Nobody for sure knew how heart broken he could be for he never let loose any of his negative traits to others. Behind that happy face that he had always extended to others was perhaps to secretly keep the agony and pain that had deeply cut his heart. Who would know how many tears he had shed alone? Who would ever know that every night before retiring to bed he could be crying alone thinking about his two wives, taken away from him during the time he needed them both? He concealed his frustration only to himself and to God. His life was an illustration of one’s great faith to the Almighty. Perhaps it was too much for him to bear and the reason why he had shunned any idea of having another wife in spite of his young age.

 

1967 was my last year in Muar town and I can still remember most vividly on one December morning of that year when a classmate came looking for me. Hassan had wanted to see Master Jabbar for some advice on land matters for his ailing father. He could have easily met Master Jabbar by himself but instead chose to bring me along. He knew I was related to this great Muarian respected by many. Yes, Master Jabbar had a close tie with my family and his childhood friend Abdullah Ali was my father. His relationship with my father became closer when my father married his first cousin Kamariah, my mother. My mother passed away in 1949 when I was three months old and I was then looked after by my maternal grandparents. My grandfather Abdul Hamid Hj. Taib was Master Jabbar’s uncle, younger brother to his mother Aishah. Obviously I knew Master Jabbar although I wasn’t too close to him. He was a frequent visitor to our house.

Much as I can remember, Wak Jabbar (as I called him) was a tall man, chubby but well built, bespectacled and would talk with a loud voice. Every time when he visited my grandfather, I knew it was the voice of Wak Jabbar even from a distant and without having to see him. He would be talking to grandpa on subjects of interest to both for hours. Grandpa seldom talked at home but he would turn into a fine conversationalist every time when Wak Jabbar was with him. That was Wak Jabbar’s special talent; he could turn a dull person into a lively one.

Both Hassan and I cycled to Apong’s restaurant that morning hoping to see Master Jabbar. It was still early but we planned to have our breakfast before he arrived and of course if he was in town. It was a gloomy morning with dark clouds looming over many parts of town. When we arrived the restaurant was crowded as it would always be every morning. We shared a table with two others who were absorbed with their discussion. Ah Pong was at the counter looking happy with the continuous flow of customers that kept coming. He knew me as “Din anak Kolah” and was a good friend of my father. I went to see him and asked whether Master Jabbar would be coming this morning? He gave me a positive answer for he knew too well the schedule of his special customer. All the tables were filled with customers except the one with a typewriter on it.

At slightly above 10.00am, Master Jabbar arrived on a trishaw, his usual daily transport as he couldn’t drive. In spite of not being able to drive, he had an amazing record of being the first to ride on a moto-moped in Muar town; a small motor bike slightly bigger than a normal bicycle with a small engine. It could be peddled as well as riding like a motor bike. In fact he was the first in Muar district to own a Lambretta scooter. He had told to his children how he had gone to Malacca to collect his newly scooter. Being the proud owner of this ‘fascinating’ vehicle, he rode it home to Muar town. Halfway he stopped at one village to take a rest. When the kampung folks saw the scooter they were amazed at seeing a peculiar vehicle never seen before. Many came to view for themselves this new invention. When he reached Muar town, the first thing he did was to ride straight to Aman Workshop and met the workshop owner Pak Man himself. He told Pak Man to keep the scooter and study the parts so that it would be convenient to repair it whenever the scooter gave any problem in the near future. He always think ahead, just in case. In the evening he would ride the scooter bringing along his little children who would stand behind the center of the handles.  His five young boys namely Ali, Shamsuddin, Abdul Majid, Hanafi and Abdul Kadir would  enjoy the riding spree around Muar town ridden by their father. Sometimes the four of them would be on the scooter with Abdul Majid standing at the front in between the handles while the other three would be sitting behind him. All heads would turn to the strange moving vehicle.

As he stepped out from the trishaw, few people were already waiting for him at the entrance of the restaurant. Some had come as early as 8.00am to see him. It was like a typical scene in a busy clinic with patients queuing to see a doctor. Master Jabbar greeted them and invited them to his table. His hot black coffee was already on the table. They always had it prepared the moment he showed up. Both Hassan and I decided to let the others conducted their business with him and finally when he was sitting alone, the two of us approached him.

“Salam Wak Jabbar, my friend wants to see you”, I told him as I extended my hand to his. He invited the two of us to take our seats. As we sat in front of him, he looked at me and asked, “You look so familiar, have we met somewhere before?” Then I told him who I was and he immediately smiled and said, “No wonder I thought I’ve seen you somewhere. Ok let me deal with your friend first.” Hassan explained to him the problem his father had with regards to some land matters and he advised him accordingly like a true professional. When he had done with Hassan, he turned to me and asked:

“So young man, are you still schooling?”

“Yes Wak Jabbar. Just sat for my form five examination last month,” I answered.

” And what are your plans? Aren’t you going to pursue higher education?”

“I have no plan for the moment Wak Jabbar. I will be leaving for Kuala Lumpur in a week’s time and will decide after that”. We talked for a few minutes touching mainly on my immediate family members whom he knew them all too well. He described the nature of man my grandfather was, about my late mother and how she was supposed to marry her cousin instead of my father and he could even described how soft spoken my grandmother was.

When I noticed the people wanting to see him had built up, I decided that we should leave. Hassan asked how much was his service to which he answered smilingly, “I don’t charge anything for just uttering some words”. Before we parted, Wak Jabbar told me to come and visit him at this place whenever I had the time.

I did not. That was the last time I met him but the memory of this great man will lingers on. I remember few things about him. There was one evening when he came to our house looking for my grandfather, in fact he wanted to see my uncle Aziz who made the grade and was accepted to be admitted to the Muar High School. Uncle Aziz who was a student of the Muar Hana English School was playing football with his friends at the field of the police barracks nearby. Both grandpa and Wak Jabbar walked to the field looking for uncle Aziz and I followed them. They both were more like friends rather than uncle and nephew. Whenever there were family gatherings Wak Jabbar would surely be around and as usual he would always be the center of attraction.

 

After completing his terms as a magistrate as well as with the Johor Civil Service, Master Jabbar had more time to himself. To fill in the gap, he took interests in few hobbies; collecting stamps, writing, music and even weight lifting. He liked listening to music and had himself not only a radio but a Hi/Fi Amplifier, something not many had in those days. He almost got himself hooked into running the Amateur Radio (ham.radio) but aborted the idea because he had to learn the Morse-Code as required by the Communication Commission to get a license. For weight lifting he had a full equipment at his disposal well placed inside his house.

He even took up photography with all the necessary equipment including a picture processor. For the dark room, he used a toilet and the pictures would come out nice and clear. During the rush for the identity card, he went inside few villages and took the photographs of these people so that they would not have to go to town to have their pictures shot. That was how kind and considerate the man was.

Friday morning being a weekend holiday was reserved for his children. He would treat them lavishly and of course at Ah Pong’s restaurant. A trishaw would come to fetch them with the father sitting with his eldest daughter Mihrimah, his youngest daughter Shirazah on his lap while the boys squatting at the small space by the front. The family would be enjoying their breakfast of satay and lodeh, mi jawa and Ah Pong’s home made drinks.

In 1988 he performed his Haj pilgrimage on the first flight to the holy land and in the same year he received the medal PIS II from the late Johor Sultan DYMM Sultan Iskandar.

Sometime in 1990, he noticed his grandchild who was schooling in the afternoon session did not perform her zuhor and asar prayers. When asked why, she answered by saying there wasn’t a suitable place for her to pray. The next thing he did was to write a letter to the then Education Minister Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim on the needs to provide facilities in schools for Muslim students to perform their prayers. The letter was registered and he had it posted personally. A week later the Education Minister instructed that all schools should provide facilities for Muslim students to enable them to perform their prayers. A small thought from a great man could change a policy of a ministry and that what made Master Jabbar a great man in his own way.

 

All close family members had been informed of his deteriorating stage and how his health had failed him by the hour. They all came to spend the last few hours with a man they loved most. Some grieved silently with great pains while some others cried uncontrollably. The thought of losing a lovable man who had been unconscious for the last three days in the hospital was truly unbearable and prayers kept coming continuously for his recovery. When doctors advised that they should bring him home, they knew that his audience with God was now near. They made all the necessary preparation and the house of his son Shamsuddin in Sungei Mati was ready to accommodate more close family members who were on their way to Muar.

On the night of 8th October 1992, Master Jabbar was brought home in an ambulance accompanied by his eldest daughter Mihrimah and her husband Daruish. That was a journey they both wished did not happen. Holding the hand of his dear father who was motionless, she kept on crying and praying for the best but her dear father did not respond. Strange as it could be, she noticed the lips of his motionless father moved slowly chanting the name of his Creator throughout that short and painful journey. Even at the time of his near death, Master Jabbar did not fail to remember God.

When they arrived home, the house was already filled with close relatives; his children,his siblings, uncles and aunties, nephews and nieces all with teary eyes as they watched with great pains the man they loved being carried to the bed already prepared. They all sat by his bed side offering prayers and many began reciting the surah Yassin. Even at the time of his death he was not alone but surrounded by many who kept on wishing that God would extend the life of a man they loved most. But his life must end and slightly before dawn, Master Jabbar peaceful slumbered through eternity having successfully uttered There is no God but Allah.

They buried him at the 6th mile Jalan Bakri Muslim cemetery.

….to be continued Final Part.

 

 

 

 

 

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