The Malay Heritage Foundation


In order to optimise resources and potential collaboration with multi-agency stakeholders, MHF has embarked on two modalities of production for its publications. 

The first modality will be based on works commissioned to specific writers.  Two (2) key publications have been produced and published under this modality.

The first publication entitled, “Malay Heritage of Singapore” was published in 2011.

Malay Heritage of Singapore

Malay Heritage of Singapore Book Cover


This book aims to provide a substantive account of major aspects of Malay life in Singapore, drawing upon a rich history and regional ethnic cultures that shaped the Malay community. Researched essays provide valuable insights into important moments in Malay history, while other chapters describe the rich cultural achievements of the Malays.

In Singapore’s ancient history, Malay life may be traced as far back as the 7th to 11th centuries, during the Sri Vijaya period, and to the Majapahit empire in the 14th century. The book also charts the progression of the Malay community through colonial times, war and political strife in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The early settlers were engaged in trade and politics and set up the old port town in the Kampong Gelam, Rochor and Kallang area, bringing with them many subcultures from their original homes in island Southeast Asia. Among them came the Javanese, Bugis, Baweanese, Minangs, Banjaris and many other ethnic groups that enriched the tapestry of Malay life with literary and folkloric influences, visual arts, decorative and architectural styles, beliefs and rituals, family structure and traditions, village and community life, and past-times and entertainment. Over time, independence, and nationhood, the Malay community thrived alongside other migrant communities in Singapore, its rich heritage a part of the nation’s cultural assets today.

The book is lavishly illustrated with more than 556 maps, photographs and other illustrative materials to enhance each of the 16 chapters.

The book is graced by a Foreword by Mr S R Nathan, former President of the Republic of Singapore.

The book can be purchased at the Visitor Services counter of The Malay Heritage Centre, 85 Sultan Gate, Singapore 198501.

Singapore Malays: Our Heritage and Legacy Series

Singapore Malays_ Our Heritage and Legacy Series Book Covers

The second set of commissioned works is a serial publication entitled, “Singapore Malays: Our History and Legacy”.  Titles published under this series are in paperback edition in the handy A5 size that can easily fit into most handheld or sling bags.  Apart from the general public, it is hoped that the books produced under this series would also be used by upper secondary schools and above to enhance the younger generation’s awareness of the community.  To encourage reflection and discussion, the book will also contain a list of references and bibliographies.  Illustrations, quotes and relevant pictures may be included to add variety to the written text format.

Series Synopsis

Existing books, references and research papers focusing on the Malay community in Singapore are often written from an outsider’s point of view looking in. Publications by Singaporean Malays about the socio-historical development of the Malay community in Singapore are still few and far between. Singapore Malays: Our Heritage & Legacy aspires to bridge that gap by publishing a series of books that will encourage introspection and reflection on our social history and culture in a more in-depth manner.

The titles in this series are purposely varied to include topics on culture and the arts, social history and cultural development, trends in religious practices and socio-economic life, and the spirit of enterprise of the Malay community in Singapore. This is to allow different perspectives and unique insights into the everyday lived-experiences and collective memories of our community to be brought forth. Each writer will analyse the various challenges faced by the Malay community in Singapore, from the nineteenth century to contemporary times, using his or her own lens and world view, supported by intensive research.

We hope that Singapore Malays: Our Heritage & Legacy will inspire further reflections, and deepen our understanding and appreciation of our heritage and our contribution to Singapore’s development as a nation.

To date, six (6) titles in this series have been launched between 2012 and 2020. The titles are as follows;

  • Narrating Presence: Awakening from Cultural Amnesia – Dr Azhar Ibrahim
  • Potret Puisi Melayu Singapura – Isa Kamari
  • Portrait of Singapore Malay Poetry – Isa Kamari, translated into English by Abdul Rahman
  • Faith, Authority and the Malays: The Ulama in Contemporary Singapore – Norshahril Saat
  • Falsafah Pengkaryaan Melayu Singapura – Mohamed Pitchay Gani Mohamed Abdul Aziz
  • Kesusasteraan Melayu Singapura: Kumpulan Puisi Melayu (1930-2015) – Suratman Markasan, 2010 Cultural Medallion (Literature)

These titles can be purchased at the Visitor Services Centre, Malay Heritage Centre, 85 Sultan Gate, Singapore 198501 (subject to stock availability).

Narrating Presence: Awakening from Cultural Amnesia by Dr Azhar Ibrahim


This book investigates and raises questions on the background and social-historical conditionings that had shaped and coloured Malay thinking and worldview, from the past to contemporary thought. The author had endeavoured to fathom the thinking and soul of the society concerned through its literary heritage and letters.

So, to what extent had colonialism conditioned the thought of Singapore Malays? What has been the historical and intellectual response of Malay literature and letters to the various changes brought by colonial capitalism in the beginning, and what is its impact on contemporary thinking in the form of historical continuities? 

This book portrays the condition and stirring of the soul of the Singapore Malays in forging their own cultural identity, how they endeavoured to maintain their tradition while at the same time cultivate ‘the New Malay’, all within a unique and relevant context.

About the Writer

Dr. Azhar Ibrahim is a Visiting Fellow at the Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore (NUS).  He obtained his PhD and MA from the same Department in 2008 and 2002 respectively.  His research interests include sociology of religion, sociology of literature and critical literacy, and the Malay-Indonesian intellectual development.  He pursued his post-doctoral research on social theology in Muslim Southeast Asia at the Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark and the Abbasi Islamic Studies Program at the Stanford University, USA.


Potret Puisi Melayu Singapura (Portrait of Singapore Malay Poetry) by Isa Kamari, translated into English by Abdul Rahman


This book reflects the unity and direction of Singaporean Malay poetry. It displays the works of 44 poets, including established individuals and lesser known individuals. This allows us to witness the development of literature over time. While this book covers a wide area, Isa Kamari reminds us that it is not a mere anthology that claims perfection. The author’s interest is to draw up a portrait that is representative, based on his own research interests and reflections.

Parallel to this, Isa Kamari portrays and annotates each poet with a desire to understand the ideology behind the poems, its meaning, intentions, imagery, and influences behind its creation. This book is then useful for researchers and literature enthusiasts who wish to see the relationship between the society, history, and a poet’s individuality.

In Portret Puisi Melayu Singapura, Isa Kamari manages to portray the Malay identity that wrestles with development, definition, and existence in a small island which contains big challenges.

About the Writer

Isa Kamari was born in 1960. Isa obtained his bachelor’s degree (with honours) in architecture from the National University of Singapore in 1988. In 2008, he obtained a master of philosophy in Malay literature from the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (National University of Malaysia). He currently is a deputy director in the Architecture (Design) Division of the Land Transport Authority.

In 2006, Isa was presented with the Southeast Asian Write Award. He was honoured with the Cultural Medallion in 2007 and the Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang in 2009.

Faith, Authority and the Malays: The Ulama in Contemporary Singapore by Dr Norshahril Saat


This book seeks to examine the various roles played by the Ulama in contemporary Singapore in the religious public sphere. It also accounts the ways the group shapes the religious life of the Malay/Muslim community here.  By setting the context to be post-1965 Singapore, this study mainly locates their influence in the various domains of public life, understands the social bases of their authority and power, and examines the contributions towards the various challenges in the context of modernization and social change. Nevertheless, understanding these issues cannot be undertaken without also highlighting the mode of learning they received, their religious education and upbringing, as well as a brief biography of the more prominent religious personalities.

Rather than adopting the biographical approach, this book will mainly highlight the contributions of a sample of Ulama and how they are influential in their fields through the application of sociological methodology and theory. Such an approach is undertaken so as not to parallel other ongoing projects on the Ulama in Singapore.  Both the Ulama from the state institutions and the non-government organizations shall be discussed. Some of the figures highlighted include Syed Isa Semait, Syed Abdillah Aljufri, Ahmad Sonhadji Muhammad, Hasbi Hassan, Habib Hassan Alatas, Ali Muhammad, Pasuni Maulan, and Osman Jantan. These personalities are selected mainly because (1) they have been acknowledged by the society to be regarded as an Alim, (2) they wield significant influence in Malay society, and (3) they have made numerous contributions towards Islamic scholarship.

About the writer

Norshahril Saat is a fellow at the ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, Singapore. He graduated with a PhD at the Department of Political and Social Change, School of International Political and Strategic Studies,College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University (ANU).  He is a recipient of the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) Post-graduate Scholarship 2011. A graduate of National University of Singapore (NUS) in Malay Studies and Political Science, he was also the recipient of the prestigious Tun Dato Sir Cheng Long Tan MA Scholarship from the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) and also the National University of Singapore MA Scholarship in 2008.  His research interest is mainly on Southeast Asian politics and contemporary Islamic thought. His articles have recently been published in the journals Contemporary Islam: Dynamics of Muslim Life, Review of Indonesian and Malaysian Affairs and Studia Islamika. He has also published numerous opinions and think pieces including those in the local newspaper The Straits Times, Berita Harian and Today, and international newspapers such as The Canberra Times, Bangkok Post and The Jakarta Post.


Falsafah Pengkaryaan Melayu Singapura by Mohamed Pitchay Gani Mohamed Abdul Aziz


This book examines the thoughts of some literary heroes after the separation, namely Masuri S.N., Muhd Ariff Ahmad, Suratman Markasan, Mohamed Latiff Mohamed and Abdul Ghani Hamid. It is an effort to identify the motivation of Singaporean writers to produce works of great value in recording the history of the nation and the homeland, and to generate innovative ideas. It contains ten chapters that examine the philosophy of the writings from colonial times to the present day. These chapters lead the reader through the struggles of the author, the struggles of art, religious beliefs in writing, humanity in literature, the insistence behind the protests and breakthroughs of the writers, the idealism of the writers, and the aesthetics of the arts.

This book invites us to continue to think about the appropriateness of the stance and thought ideas brought by our writers, including those concluded by Dr Mohamed Pitchay himself. Only by careful reading and placing the thoughts they conceive in the context of politics, socioeconomics, history and tradition – then from there it is possible for us to give meaning to these works with literary figures as social groups that we can refer to as literary and cultural intelligentsia. Dr Mohamed Pitchay’s excerpt in this book can provide an initial map so that we can further examine our literary intellectual thinking in a more concrete and effective way.

About the Writer 

Dr Mohamed Pitchay Gani Mohamed Abdul Aziz is a holder of a Doctor of Philosophy degree in linguistics from the University of Malaya. He is an active researcher in producing documents regarding the Malay language and the Singaporean Malays, and its relationship to the region. His two main documents produced are his thesis Ph.D. titled The Ethnolinguistic Vitality of the Malays of Singapore (2014) which studied the existence of the Malays in Singapore, and a Master’s thesis titled E-culture and evolution of Malay in Singapore (2004) which uses the theoretical framework of Darwinism in studying the Malay language development since the beginning of its existence and the impact of technology on the Malay language in Singapore. He has also published many articles on Malay society, Malay language, education, literature and socio-religious articles in the press. In addition, his study was also published in journals and proceedings at home and abroad. He has delivered his papers in Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, the United States, Canada, Austria, and Germany. His paper on the vitality of the Malay language in Singapore was awarded the Best Conference Award by the International Journal of Arts and Sciences, American-Canadian Conference for Academic Discipline in Toronto (2009). He is also the recipient of the Tokoh Muda Persuratan (2007) award by Penamas.

This book has won the Singapore Literary Prize 2020 for the Creative Non-Fiction Category.


Kesusasteraan Melayu Singapura: Kumpulan Puisi Melayu (1930-2015) by Suratman Markasan


This book is complete with poems written by Singaporeans who first wrote in the pre-war era to the present. The poets are grouped into four: the Pre-World War, the ‘50s, during Pre-Independence, and Post-Independence. Suratman Markasan also incorporates his own methodology for using these poetry materials. The authors include surviving and deceased writers.

This book was published just in time in 2019, which marks the bicentennial since the arrival of Stamford Raffles in Singapore in 1819. Thus, these poems are almost 100 years old, and reflect the public sentiment about the state of society at the time these poems were written.

About the Writer

Suratman Markasan or more affectionately known as Pak Suratman, is one of the famous writers of Singapore and in the Asian region. This Singaporean has produced various works in the form of poetry and novels, since the 1950s. He has also written and presented many papers on literature, language and culture in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Throughout his involvement in the arts and literature, Pak Suratman has received various awards. Among them are the Awards Author Southeast Asia (South East Asian writers, SEA Write Award, 1989), Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang of the Malay Language Council of Singapore (1999), the Malay Archipelago Arts Award of Johor Menteri Besar (1999) and the Laureate Award of Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Malaysia (2003). At the culmination of his artistic career, he was awarded the 2010 Cultural Medallion (Literature), the highest award awarded to an artist in recognition of his contribution to the development of art and culture in Singapore.

Pak Suratman has also been the editor of several magazines. Among them are Majalah Sasterawan (1971-1973), Majalah Sekata (1984-1988), Suara Mendaki (1985-1987), Warita Muis (1989-1992), Ikhwan Darussalam (1993-1997) and Khalifah Muda (1998). He has also participated in various international literary festivals in Japan (Tokyo and Osaka), the United Kingdom (London), France (Paris), Germany (Frankfurt), the United States (San Francisco and Ohio), Malaysia and Singapore.

His contribution to the development of literature, language and culture has been extensive through his involvement in several literature and Malay community. He was the Vice President and President of the Angkatan Sasterawan (ASAS) 50, the President of the Malay Teachers’ Union, deputy president of the Central Council, a lecturer at the National Teacher Training College (Sep 1981-1995); Vice-Chairman, Singapore Malay Teachers Cooperative Berhad (1981-1982); and Chairman of the Darussalam Mosque Management Board (1997).

Even in his twilight years, he is still active in writing novels, essays, short stories and poems. He also teaches creative writing in several schools and primary colleges. In 2015, he was invited as a guest writer at NUS-NAC in the Department of Malay Studies, National University of Singapore.

other forms of support

MHF may also choose to support publication works/titles that are aligned with MHF’s objectives and fall within our focus areas.

Depending on the suitability of the project and proximity to its objectives, MHF’s support can come in following form:

  • Credit mention “Supported by Malay Heritage Foundation Ltd”
  • Linking partner organisation to the relevant funding agencies
  • Lending its name to apply for funding with the national agencies, on behalf of the partner organisation.

For example, in support of the effort to document the culinary heritage of the Malay community, Chairman, MHF, Mdm Zuraidah Abdullah, contributed a Foreword to Rita Zahara’s Singapore Heritage Cookbook: Malay Heritage Cooking.  Deputy Chairman, MHF, Dr Suriani Suratman will also be providing a Foreword for her second book due to be published in 2015. 

In 2019, MHF collaboration with Dr Mohamed Pitchay Gani Mohamed Abdul Aziz to publish his collection of research papers that have been presented at both local and overseas seminars.  These research and documentation provided the critical insight into the motivation and philosophies that had inspired many generations of Singapore Malay writers.  Published in conjunction with the commemoration of Singapore’s BiCentennial, this book has been nominated for the Singapore Literature Prize 2020.

Any other entitlements and forms of credit mention can be further discussed between the various stakeholders involved so as to reflect the collaborative effort involved in bringing the publication to fruition.

Open Call for Publication Proposal

Due to our multicultural environment and historical as well as cultural links to the wider Malay world (Nusantara), many of our cultural practices and art forms have also evolved in response to Singapore’s context. To date, there is not much writing or research to document these developments and growth.  As such, MHF is open to collaborate with writers on this documentation efforts.  The topics and areas of focus we are interested in are as follows;

  • Evolution and development of our cultural practices and the art form, especially our intangible cultural heritage;
  • social history and cultural development of Malays in Singapore; and
  • socio-economic life and the spirit of enterprise of the Malay community in Singapore.

You can submit your book proposal to

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