The family saga which rocks Haji Yusoff’s family revolves around Islamic laws, Civil laws and the Administration of Muslim Law Act (AMLA).
Before Haji Yusoff’s demise, he appointed 2 of his sons, Haji Ismail and Othman, to be trustees of his Estate. The family of Haji Yusoff trusted them and did not question the manner they carried out their administrative estate duties. They were after all their blood relatives. Each time Hajah Fatimah, Hidayah’s grandmother (Haji Yusoff’s eldest daughter) asked about estate matters, she was told off by the trustees, “Tak percaya kita kah?” (You don’t trust us?).
Haji Ismail appointed his son, Zhulkeflee Ismail (Hidayah’s second cousin) as additional trustee to replace Othman who retired due to illness. The beneficiaries of Haji Yusoff put their trust in Zhulkeflee as he was an Ustaz (religious teacher) and appeared credible and trustworthy.
[Deed of Appointment]
Haji Ismail retired due to illness.
The family was informed by Zhulkeflee (the sole Estate’s trustee) that Gedung Kuning was to be acquired by the Singapore Government under the Land Acquisition Act.
[Letter from Land Office]
The beneficiaries were upset that Zhulkeflee liaised with the Land Office without any of them present.
3 family meetings followed. The beneficiaries were told that they could not contest the acquisition and must comply with the law. They asked Zhulkeflee to consult the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) about Haji Yusoff’s Will
The Istana Kampung Gelam (IKG) family petitioned against the acquisition of the Istana. However, the Gedung Kuning family’s case was different as Gedung Kuning became private property since early 1900s.
[IKG Letter of Appeal]
Deed of Assignment was signed by the descendants of Mohamed (Haji Yusoff’s son from Noribah, his first wife). The assignees (Mohamed Noor, Ibrahim, Ali, Asmah, Harun, Munah, Mariam and Aminah) assigned to Shaik Raheem s/o Abdul Shaik Shaik Dawood “all rights, title, estate and interest, including any rights under any trusts, in all the property real and personal of whatever and wherever situate which may be due and payable to Assignors as the beneficiaries of the Estate of the said Mohamed Bin Haji Yousoff.”
The descendants of Haji Yusoff’s second wife (Hajah Aisah) were not aware of the Deed of Assignment until 2 October 2002 when the estate lawyers received a notification letter from Kalamohan & Co.
[Deed of Assignment] [Notification Letter]
Zhulkeflee told the beneficiaries that the government would compensate the Estate of Haji Yusoff SGD3.6 million for the acquisition of Gedung Kuning (13,254 square feet of prime land area). The beneficiaries were unhappy as they had no alternative accommodation as Zhulkeflee had informed them late.
Gedung Kuning was acquired under the Land Acquisition Act and now belonged to the Singapore Government. The beneficiaries who were staying in Gedung Kuning had to leave the mansion.
Various requests were made to Zhulkeflee about the Estate’s outstanding Statements of Accounts but all requests and demands fell to deaf ears. The beneficiaries began to realise that they should not have trusted Zhulkeflee whole-heartedly.
They also asked MUIS to issue a Fatwa (religious ruling) on the validity of Haji Yusoff’s Will.
The Will: The issue in question is the clause in Haji Yusoff’s Will that stated “the date of distribution… shall mean 21 years after the death of the last survivor of my said children and of my said grandchildren”.
The provisions in the Will contradict Islamic laws of Faraid (law pertaining to the distribution of inheritance) as inheritance must be distributed upon the death of the person. The Will was written in English by F.B. Oehlers, Barrister-at-Law. There was no mention if the Will was translated in Malay to Haji Yusoff who could neither read nor write English.
Implications: None of the beneficiaries is able to get their inheritance (including the SGD3.6 million compensation). This is unfortunate as some family members are very old, sickly, homeless and live in poverty.
It has been more than 50 years since Haji Yusoff’s death and no inheritance has been given out to the beneficiaries.
*Beneficiaries may contact us to read the Grant of Probate.
MUIS issued a Fatwa stating that Will is null and void and that the inheritance must be distributed according to Faraid.
Zhulkeflee wrote to the beneficiaries informing them that he will respect and adhere to the Fatwa.
Zhulkeflee wrote to the Fatwa Committee requesting clarification and ruling on the validity of Haji Yusoff’s Will. However, the beneficiaries were not sure if he did mail the letter and they were not informed of the Committee’s response.
[Zhulkeflee’s letter to Mufti]
Haji Yusoff’s beneficiaries were kind-hearted and tried to resolve the matter amicably. But Zhulkeflee never wanted to meet them to discuss. He did not even turn up at the lawyer’s office during their meetings. He ignored their letters and pleas. Yet the family kept the saga away from the press. They did not want to embarrass Ustaz Zhulkeflee who had quite a large following.
They then brought this matter to the attention of various religious authorities (i.e. MUIS, the late Ustaz Syed Abdullah Al-Jufrie and the Singapore Islamic Scholars & Religious Teachers Association or PERGAS) asking them to advise Zhulkeflee. Several meetings were held (with Zhulkeflee’s presence) whereby Zhulkeflee was advised accordingly. Zhulkeflee promised to follow Islamic law.
In Zhulkeflee’s Affidavit in Originating Summons 60 of 2002/F in the High Court of Singapore, he affirmed that:
“… As a trustee, I would have to uphold the terms of the trust and in order for the trust to be managed smoothly, it would be necessary for my co-trustees to be of similar mind and not persons who have at the back of their minds an intention to break the trusts because they are contrary to Muslim law.”
His Affidavit contradicted his promise (given to family members & religious bodies) to adhere to the Fatwa.
MUIS issued another Fatwa stating:
“… the will made by Haji Yusoff bin Mohd Noor, the deceased, is not valid. This is because the will purported to benefit the testator’s heir. According to the Islamic (Syariah) Law, such a will is not valid… Furthermore, the beneficiaries are the deceased “heirs” which did not exist at the time… A person who dies cannot decide when and to whom the estate should be distributed, unless he made a valid will according to Islamic Law which is:
1. Nor purported to the legal beneficiaries
2. Not more than 1/3
3. The beneficiaries should be in existence
4. They are defined.
It is because issues of inheritance are ordained by Allah swt as explained in the Quran in surah An-Nisa verse 11 which means: “These are settled portions ordained by Allah”.
Hidayah wrote to the Minister in-charge of Muslim Affairs (in 2001 & 2003) and to the Prime Minister in 2004 to inform them about the social injustices that was happening to the family of Haji Yusoff.
Legal position: The AMLA became law only on 1 July 1968. AMLA provides that the estate of a deceased Muslim shall be distributed according to Islamic law. This provision is mandatory. A Muslim may make a will but the will must be made in accordance with Islamic law, e.g. one cannot will his estate to an heir and one cannot will more than 1/3 of his estate. In other words, if the will contravenes or conflicts with the principles of Faraid, then the will is not valid. This applies only to Muslims who passed away after 1 July 1968.
Conflict: If Haji Yusoff were to pass away after 1 July 1968, the beneficiaries would have been able to exercise their rights to follow Faraid and the Civil Court will not uphold the Will. But since he passed away in 1950, this provision is not made available to his family.
Islamic law should apply to Muslims regardless of the time period. The beneficiaries of the Estate of Haji Yusoff are all Muslims and would like to follow Islamic law. However they are ‘trapped’ by the time frame laid down by AMLA. They pray for redress on the basis of social justice.
Hidayah proposed to the Minister in-charge of Muslim Affairs the need to review AMLA.
Legal proceedings on other matters ensued. Please read ‘Court Cases’.
It is ironic and sad that Zhulkeflee, an ‘Islamic Scholar’ (as he is known to the public), still refuses to adhere to Islamic law of Faraid.
The court appointed trustee, Idris Hanafiah is now changing his stand and wants to uphold the Will even though it is in contradiction with Faraid. Abdullah Joffri is the only court-appointed trustee who wants to adhere to Faraid and give the beneficiaries their rights of inheritance.
May God the Almighty guide us all to the right path, ameen.
With reference to the Deed of Assignment (please refer to 4 Aug 1999), Hidayah discovered that Shaik Raheem s/o Abdul Shaik Shaikh Dawood (the Assignee) had been found guilty of 4 cheating charges – DAC 53819-21/2004 (charges under section 420 of the Penal Code) and DAC 53822/2004 (charge under section 417 of the Penal Code). He had also been charged for various fraud cases:
- Abdul Hamid Bin Mohamed Ismail and Others v Shaik Raheem s/o Abdul Shaik Shaik Dawood and Another Action  SGDC 28
- Public Prosecutor v Shaik Raheem s/o Abdul Shaik Shaikh Dawood (2006) SGDC 86
- The Law Society of Singapore v Vasantha Lakshmi Vardan Originating Summons No 660 of 2006 (Summons No 2323 of 2006). Read full judgement
- Commercial Affairs Department Annual Report 2007 (page 33): PP vs Shaik Raheem
Hidayah urged the family of the Assignors (Mohamed, Ibrahim, Ali, Asmah, Harun, Munah, Mariam and Aminah) to immediately file a police report on suspicion of fraud by Shaik Raheem.
Mallal & Namazie took an action against Idris Hanafiah for refusing to pay the Bill of Costs (legal fees). The two other trustees, Zhulkeflee and Abdullah had no objections to the Bill of Costs (pls. refer to Court Cases).
The beneficiaries questioned Idris Hanafiah’s ‘professionalism’ as a trustee and demanded him to retire.
The beneficiaries wrote to the trustees to ask for the distribution of net income in accordance to the Will.
One of the estate’s trustees Idris Hanafiah made defamatory statements against Zhulkeflee and lawyer Namazie in his letter “Rumah 37, 39, 41 & 43 Sultan Gate” that was circulated to the benficiaries.
Ghazali bin Abdul Rahman engaged Straits Law to inquire about the dividends that his family (from Haji Yusoff’s first wife) ceased to receive from 1998 onwards. Read our lawyer’s reply
Note to Ghazali – pls refer to the Deed of Assignment that your family members (all 8 of Mohamed bin Haji Yusoff’s children) signed with Shaik Raheem. Until that case is resolved, the estate is legally unable to give your family their share in the estate.
The lawyers wrote to Idris informing him of the beneficiaries’ intention to take Idris to court should he continue to withhold approval and distribution of dividends; and demanding his settlement of lawyer’s bill.
Updates of the 29 February defamatory statements made by Idris Hanafiah in his letter “Rumah 37, 39, 41 & 43 Sultan Gate”. Legal preceedings had been taken against him. As a result, Idris had to pay damages and costs for those dafamatory statements and furnish a letter of apology (dated 2 November) to both Zhulkeflee and Namazie (our lawyer). The apology letter was made known to all beneficiaries.
It has came to our attention that Ghazali bin Abdul Rahman had been engaging with property agents, telling them that he needed their help to ‘sell’ Haji Yusoff’s properties. According to one source, Ghazali told the agents to check the title deeds to those properties (one agent spent thousands of dollars on this) and that he is willing to pay 10% commission to the agents for every successful sale transaction. However, Ghazali wanted the agents to give him the sale money first. Please be warned that Ghazali has NO RIGHTS to sell off any Haji Yusoff’s properties. We are NOT SELLING any of our properties.
Hidayah’s second cousins Idrus Ismail and Alwi Jofrie filed an application to the High Court (HC/OS 139/2015) against the three trustees of the estate. However, Trustees Zhulkeflee and Abdullah submitted their affidavit in support of Idrus and Alwi. Thus, the case was against Trustee Idris Hanafiah. Among the charges were Idris’ irresponsible, negligent, obstinate and unreasonable behaviour as a Trustee.
Order of Court (Case No HC/OS 139/2015): The court found in favour of the Applicants (Idrus and Alwi) and ordered Trustee Idris Hanafiah among other things, the following:
1. To return all cheque books, bank statements and deposit slips to the estate lawyers
2. To pay costs to the Applicants as well as to the other two Trustees (Zhulkeflee and Abdullah)
Read the court order.
Aftermath of Order of Court, Trustee Idris Hanafiah was asked to resign or be terminated. Idris signed the Indenture of Retirement. As such, he has retired and is discharged from duties relating to the estate of Haji Yusoff. The two remaining trustees are Zhulkeflee Ismail and Abdullah Joffri. Hence, please do not liaise with Idris regarding estate matters.
Re the Deed of Assignment drawn up by Shaik Raheem s/o Abdul Shaik Shaikh Dawood, family members (with the exception of one or two families) affected are taking legal action. They are:
Suhaimi bin Ahmad Sari (son of Aminah)
Siti Fatimah bte Mohd Zainol (daughter of Munah)
Rohayah Harun (daughter of Harun)
Asmah bte Mohamed
Mohamed Hassim (son of Ibrahim)
*Assignors to the Deed: Mohamed, Ibrahim, Ali, Asmah, Harun, Munah, Mariam and Aminah
Zhulkeflee passed away due to brain stroke. His eldest brother, Mohamed Idrus, replaced him as Trustee of the Estate.