GEORGE TOWN: The Syariah High Court yesterday heard about a 50-year battle by a tycoon’s family to recover 6ha of their family estate in Air Itam which they claim was turned into wakaf land illegally.
In a trial mounted by the heirs of the late Shaik Eusoff Latiff, it was revealed that the family had fought against the transfer of the land on Jalan Air Itam next to the Chung Ling school since the late 1960s.
Shaik Eusoff, a Jawi-Peranakan man, owned large tracts of land in George Town in the early 19th century and is credited with introducing Boria to Penang.
His heirs claim the land was turned into wakaf (Muslim endowment) land illegally, as the late Shaik Eusoff had only decided to give up the land as an endowment for 21 years after the death of his last offspring – through a will.
Lawyer Akberdin Abdul Kader said the heirs’ trouble began on Jan 1, 1967, when the Penang Islamic Council’s predecessor Jabatan Hal Ehwal Ugama Pulau Pinang dan Sa-berang Perai took over the Air Itam land, despite objections.
He said the heirs then mounted an objection at the Penang land office, but the administrators decided in favour of the Islamic council.
Akberdin said several legal letters were sent to the council from the 1970s, only to be ignored.
Civil suits were filed later, as Shaik Eusoff’s will fell under the civil law. However, the cases were transferred to the shariah courts after the Penang Islamic Council challenged the civil courts’ role in wakaf matters.
He raised these facts during cross-examination of the council’s real estate development and wakaf properties unit chief Fakhruddin Abd Rahman today.
Akberdin said Islamic experts had earlier testified that no wakaf land could be given for a short-term such as 21 years but must be given in perpetuity. He said this is as per the Shafi’i school of thought.
He said in a Penang fatwa committee decision on Aug 17, 2000, the then state mufti, Hassan Ahmad, had stated that the 1892 will left by Shaik Eusoff was “terbatal and tidak sah” (illegal).
“So, how can a wakaf land be legal, when the will itself had been decreed illegal in a fatwa?” he asked the court.
The suit was initiated by Shaik Eusoff’s grandchildren ex-senator Abdul Shukor PA Mohd Sultan, Syed Idross Hassan Al Mashoor, and Sheik Mohd Jelani Emam.
Shaik Eusoff had willed that the land be held in trust for his descendants, and to be used as wakaf land only for a period of 21 years from the death of his last offspring.
The last of his seven children – a daughter – died in 1932, so the land was supposed to be returned to the family estate in 1953, as per the 10-page will written in English, dated Dec 30, 1892.
Akberdin was assisted by lawyers Rafie Mohd Shafie and Yuslinov Ahmad, while Shaikh Mohamed Tawfeek Badjenid, Faizal Arif Tajul Ariffin, and Ahmad Muzambir Abd Razak represented the council.
The trial resumes before judge Mohd Yunus Mohamad Zin tomorrow.