7 things you didn’t know about Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah (MAI) 

It even survived fire for more than 30 years ago.
by Muslim.Sg 2020-07-10 • 4 min read
Muslim.Sg is a one-stop online media platform that aims to inspire and empower Singapore Muslims with bespoke Islamic religious content.
2020-07-10 • 4 min read

1. Humble beginning in Serangoon 

Sometime between 1930 and 1934, a small madrasah was built beside Masjid Haji Yusoff at Hillside Drive, off Upper Serangoon Road. That madrasah, named Madrasah Al-Arabiah Al-Islamiah (MAI) or Arabic Islamic School, was attended by about 40 Muslim students living in the area. 


 Artist’s impression of MAI in 1971 (Photo: MAI) 


2. Founded by an Arab Merchant 


Portrait of Sheikh Omar Bin Abdullah Bamadhaj (Photo: NLB


It was believed the construction of the original MAI building was funded by Arab merchant and philanthropist, Sheik Omar bin Abdullah Bamadhaj. He was also a trustee of the Management Committee of Masjid Haji Yusoff, and later a trustee of Masjid Alkaff Upper Serangoon. 

3.Third oldest full-time madrasah in Singapore 

There were several madrasah founded in the early years of the country, but only 6 remain today which serve as full-time madrasah. Among them, MAI is the third oldest madrasah having been established in the 1930s. The other two older madrasah are Madrasah Alsagoff Al-Arabiah which was founded in 1912, and Madrasah Aljunied Al-Islamiah in 1927. 

4. Destroyed in a fire 

 News clipping from Berita Harian, 27 July 1982, “Madrasah Arabiah musnah dijilat api” (Photo: NLB

On 26 July 1982, a fire broke out in the madrasah, burning the entire building down. The fire was found to have started due to faulty electrical wiring. After the fire, only 17 students returned to the madrasah with lessons resuming within the building of Masjid Haji Yusoff. Students sat cross-legged on the floor to study alongside their teachers. Without a proper building, functioning classrooms and facilities, the student population dwindled further. 

5. Taken over by Muhammadiyah Association 

In 1989, Muhammadiyah Association took over the management of the madrasah and it was relocated to the association’s headquarters at 14 Jalan Selamat. Under the association, the madrasah offered both primary and secondary level education. In 2006, the primary level moved to No. 17/17A Lorong 13 Geylang. 

6. Academic-track madrasah  

 Signing of MOU for the Joint Madrasah System in 2007 (Photo: Muis) 

In 2007, MAI signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to be under the Joint Madrasah System (JMS), focusing on secondary education with an academic track. MAI came under the purview of a Board of Governors with senior management personnel from Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (Muis) and Muhammadiyah Association. In 2009, it relocated to No. 1 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh. 

 Science lesson at MAI in their new science lab (Photo: MAI) 

MAI today emphasizes on academic studies, at the same time keep their students rooted with Islamic values and foundations. 

7. Brand new building 

 MAI New Building at 3 Lor 6 Toa Payoh (Photo: MAI) 

In 2020, MAI opened its doors to a brand new madrasah building at No. 3 Lorong 6 Toa Payoh. Built at an estimated cost of $17 million, the new campus with its up-to-date facilities will better help students to pursue their area of interest in science-related subjects, without forgoing the traditional Islamic subjects. 

As a community funded institution, MAI requires your support to better serve its objectives to be a leading madrasah recognised for developing successful Islamic inspired men and women. 

To find out more how you can contribute, visit their website.

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