Catching up with.. : Ustaz Hassan & His Golden Boys
NST, 21 Jan 2007 - Mention Datuk Hassan Azhari, the religious teacher who hosted RTM’s popular Muqaddam show in the 1970s, and his three celebrity sons — Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Musa Hassan, former Hulu Klang assemblyman Datuk Fuad Hassan, and the ‘superstar’ of the family, Jalaluddin Hassan of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire fame — will also come to mind. TAN CHOE CHOE gets up close and personal with them.
THE three Hassan brothers learnt early on not to smoke at home — when they nearly torched their grandmother’s room play-acting Hang Tuah and his warrior friends.
They were trying to smoke "cigarettes" which were ice-cream sticks and some rolled up pieces of old newspapers.
"We were on granny’s bed in her room," says Jalaluddin Hassan, 53, the charismatic star of countless Malay dramas and the unforgettable host of the Malaysian version of the international game-show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
"The mosquito net hanging overhead caught fire. We managed to put out the fire and the damage was limited to granny’s mattress."
That was almost 47 years ago and Tan Sri Musa Hassan — the oldest of the Hassan boys — played Hang Tuah, while second brother, Datuk Fuad Hassan, got to be Hang Jebat, and Jalaluddin was Hang Kasturi.
"Abdul Rahman and Isa (other brothers) completed our group as Hang Lekir and Hang Lekiu," remembers Fuad, 55.
"Granny gave us a blistering lecture. No one in the family smokes now, except for me," says Musa, 56.
Of the three, Jalaluddin was the cheekiest when he was young, and "often played Superman and jumped from bed to bed", says their father, religious teacher Datuk Hassan Azhari.
Hassan, 79, is the 2002 recipient of the Tokoh Ma’al Hijrah, the highest honour in the country for an individual who has done much for the development of Islam.
The Mecca-born Hassan came to live in
He shot to fame during his stint with RTM, hosting the station’s popular religious programme, Muqaddam, on TV1 for eight years in the 1970s.
In 1997, he won the Sri Angkasa special jury award for his nearly 40 years of loyal service to RTM.
His Muqaddam shows are still much talked about among the Muslim community, which raved about how he made learning the Quran much easier for young children.
"I still get fan mail enquiring after my health. It’s really heartening to know that so many people still remember me," says Hassan.
Hassan is also one of the longest serving tilawah al-Quran (Quran recital competition) judges in the country.
For almost 46 years now, he has judged at home and also in
Hassan is also the winner of the first tilawah competition held in
Married to three wives, Hassan is father to 22 children.
Musa, Fuad and Jalaluddin are his three eldest sons of 13 children from his first wife, Sahara Abdul Samad, who died in April 2004.
"Father was a very stern but loving man when we were growing up. He was very pious and would get very upset if we forgot to pray," says Musa in a telephone interview recently.
"He used to make us pray together — all 13 of us — and teach us the Quran after prayers."
Musa says when their father was abroad, the brothers would take turns leading the prayers at home.
Talking of his sons’ achievements when met in Fuad’s home with Fuad and Jalaluddin recently, Hassan says he never thought any of them would be such "big shots".
"Looking back, I remember Musa wanted to be a doctor. But he got grossed out after dissecting a frog in Form Four and changed his mind," Hassan reveals.
After the frog episode, Musa, who was an active Boy Scout, began to develop an interest in pursuing a career in the police force.
"Being the oldest in a large family, I was the one who took charge and solved problems for my siblings when father was not at home."
But Hassan suspects that Musa’s interest in uniformed bodies developed because of his liking for the"smart uniforms".
"He used to love his Boy Scout uniform and the big buckles. Once, when I refused to buy him the belt buckle to go with his uniform, he cried and pleaded with me to get one for him!"
Asked who was the quietest of the three, Hassan points to Fuad.
But the former politician shakes his head and says: "I was the troublemaker and got into all sorts of mischief."
He says he only quietened down when he joined a co-ed school in Form Four and studied with girls for the first time.
Calling himself a simple man, Fuad says he wanted to be a teacher after watching the movie To Sir, With Love and became a lecturer at the Mara Institute of Technology.
"I liked serving the public and was doing a lot of community work. My friends persuaded me to go into politics and I relented after five years."
Fuad served as councillor with the Gombak District Council and the Ampang Jaya Municipal Council before being elected the state assemblyman for Hulu Klang, serving between 1995 and 1999.
"Father’s reputation helped a lot when I became a politician. His presence was enough to draw the crowds when I went campaigning for votes," says Fuad.
Despite his promising start, Fuad quit politics after losing his Hulu Klang seat to Mohamed Azmin Ali of Keadilan by a majority of 1,146 votes in the 1999 general election.
Fuad is now a businessman running a boutique airline, Asmara Air, the third airline in the country after MAS and AirAsia.
Being a favourite of their paternal grandmother, Musa lived with her as a boy, while the rest of his siblings wreaked havoc at home.
"We weren’t allowed to go outside much so our brothers and sisters became our closest friends," says Fuad.
"Musa would join us during school holidays or festive seasons or we would visit him at granny’s place.".
When Jalaluddin was nine, he too went to live with their paternal grandmother because "school was nearer granny’s home".
While Musa finished his Form Six and joined the force as a probationary inspector at the age of 18, Jalaluddin was contemplating becoming a singer.
"But I changed my mind when I was asked to play Julius Caesar in a school play at the age of 16. I found I liked acting more because it was more challenging," says Jalaluddin.
At 17, Jalaluddin "broke his father’s heart", as he puts it, when he refused to continue his studies after Form Five to pursue a career in the film industry.
"I was very angry with him. I wanted him to finish schooling," remembers Hassan.
"I didn’t like him acting because I’d seen him on TV sitting with women in bed. I’m a pious man and do not want my son to behave badly.
"But he explained to me that he was not alone with the women as there were many other people on location. So I relented."
Determined to make a go at acting and be financially independent, Jalaluddin took on many odd jobs to support his passion, including waiting at tables at a fast food outlet.
"I even taught English at the private school where Fuad was teaching. I stopped after two years because he told me my students were falling in love with me," laughs Jalaluddin.
To prove to his father that he was serious about his career, he starred in more than 100 drama series and theatre plays.
"When he won the best supporting TV actor in 1993 for his role in Jejak Perantau, I knew then that he was determined to make it as an actor," says Hassan.
Jalaluddin went on to win other awards, including the Anugerah Bintang Popular Berita Harian 2001’s most popular male TV presenter, TV3 Anugerah Skrin’s Best Supporting Actor for his role in Tarantula, and Anugerah Seri Angkasa 2005’s best radio drama supporting actor award for his part in Igauan Semalam.
"Before, when I walked down the street with Jalaluddin, people would look at me. Now, they only look at him," says Hassan.
But the multi-award winning actor thinks he has failed his father because he did not complete his studies.
"I call it his certificate-phobia. He doesn’t think highly of himself because he doesn’t have paper qualifications.
And Hassan says: "I’m proud of all my sons. They are all successful in their own right."
Today, the three brothers try to get together as much as possible with the rest of the family.
"We have jamming sessions whenever we meet up. I’ll be on the saxophone, Jalaluddin on the drums and Musa, a Cliff Richard fan, will sing," says Fuad.
Musa, who will be retiring this year, says: "I like to sing English, Malay and Arabic songs. I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family."
Of their father, the three brothers say: "He tells us never to forget our prayers and be honest and sincere in all our endeavours."
"He is a strict father, but he is also our good friend, and an important member of our music group — our keyboardist," says Fuad with a grin.