In this series of looking at our future president spouse, we take a closer look at Madam Halimah Yacob’s husband – Mr Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee.
After all, Madam Halimah Yacob is widely speculated to become the next president of Singapore.
Americans joked that the male spouse of an American head of state should be called “First Dude”, “First Lad” or even “First Mate”
A theoretical Mdm Halimah as Singapore’s president would make her the first female president of the country and her husband the ‘First Gentleman’
“First Gentleman” or a “First Lady”, they accompany our Presidents to key state or diplomatic events, and are arguably, an important face of Singapore as well.
So who is this Mr Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee?
Mr Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee graduated from the University of Singapore. He was Mdm Halimah’s university sweetheart and they got married two years after she graduated.
He was a physics major.
Determined and humble
They were hopelessly in love but poor. He never believed in borrowing money just to make their lives better. As a result, the first flat that they moved into was spartan and un-renovated. They started with a rented room and then lived with relatives. Together with the love of his life by his side, they eventually managed to save up enough to buy a five-room flat in Tampines for $75,000.
He never forgot his roots and still lives in a HDB house with Mdm Halimah today. Together they have five children in steady succession.
Strong family values
Mr Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee enforced the importance of communal living and taking care of elders to their children.
30 years ago, he and Mdm Halimah bought two adjacent five- and four-room flats in Yishun, and knocked down the dividing wall so that the family can be even closer together.
In his household, everything is family-sized and common property. The idea of sharing is very important. In a 2013 interview, Mdm Halimah shared that in their household, “You do not buy things just for yourself. You buy things to share with everybody.”
He took care of his mother and lived under the same roof until she passed away in 1999. His mother-in-law too lived with them until recently, she passed away in 2015.
Tri-lingual and a singer!
Mr Mohammed Abdullah Alhabshee is talented. Well versed in Malay and English, he could also sing well in Tamil!
The pillar behind Mdm Halimah success
Madam Halimah is a ground person. She never relies on official feedback channels alone but keeps her ears planted to the ground so that she can understand her residents better and help them in whichever way she can. Even back in MSF, she would visit voluntary welfare groups at least twice a week to find out their problems in implementing policies.
Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee acts as the support pillar in her life. He is extremely proud of his wife achievements and never fails to give her moral support and make time to accompany her to grassroots events and functions.
The Singaporean Identity
Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee promotes the Singaporean identity and yet takes pride in his own ethnic background.
(Mr Mohamed and Mdm Halimah at an Arab association achievement awards ceremony)
Alhabshee is an Arab family name and Singaporean Arabs have a history that stretches all the way to the island’s modern founding by Stamford Raffles.
Even though they are a relatively small community, they have made prominent contributions to the country. The majority of the Arabs in Singapore are Hadhramis tracing their ancestry from the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula called Hadhramaut, which is now part of the Republic of Yemen. Some of the more famous Arab families includes the Aljunied (al-Junayds), the Alsagoff (al-Saqqāf), and the Alkaff (al-Kāf) families.
Assuming Mdm Halimah runs for the Presidency, will we be seeing Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee portrait up in the halls too, alongside Madam Halimah Yacob?