At the age of seven, Pono journeyed to Siantuk with his parents, which is an area near Lebuk Alung. They were given a plot of land from one of the local elders whose title is Datuk sati. Pono later ventured to Tapakis to study under prominent ulema, Yahyuddin, who is also known as Tuanku Madinah (deceased in 1403 Hijriah). Based on the advice of those ulema in Aceh whose name was Sheikh Abdur Rauf Singkel. He studied Islam from 1043H-1073H. Abdur Rauf changed Pono’s name before Pono left Aceh into Burhanuddin meaning “religious proof”. This change took place under a religious ceremony attended by his fellow students, which was directly lead by Abdur Rauf.
Burhanuddin headed for Ulakan and built a surau (a religious communal building suitable for any devotion except Friday prayer) at the promontory of Medan . He succeeded in propagating Islam amongst the community of the central area of Sumatra. His strongest influence was amongst the hinterland community.
Burhanuddin adhered to the Shattariah Sufi school of thought. This is why his surau is Ulakan is renowned as the centre of the Shattariah Tarekat (path for mystics to follow). The Ulakan surau, which is located on the western shore of Sumatra (north of the town of Padang) still receives a special meaning amongst the West Sumatran people to this day.
A Quranic recital centre was established in Pamansiangan Luhak Agam. Ulemas (tuanku-tuanku) who came to this region furthered their knowledge of Islamic teachings in Ulakan. The most famous ones amongst them are Tuanku Koto who comes from Nagari Ampat Angkat Luhak Agam. His former residence has now become a development centre for the Islamic religion in and around Luhak Agam. His students are known to be faithful in propagating the Islamic religion. One of his outstanding students is Tuanku Imam Bonjol.
The influence of the Ulakan is quite substantial towards the development of the Islamic religion in Minangkabau. According to the ulemas traditional history, this small town was where Islamic propagation began during the 17 th century. The tradition of suraus as a centre for educating and cultivating religious knowledge began at this town and it is also here where the ancestry and the starting point of well-known suraus began. The western shore of Aceh was still under Dutch dominance – after Aceh’s decline of power – where its people were still in a period of traditions when Burhanuddin built a surau there. Trading competition and hegemonic acts were implemented within the circles of newcomers and indigenous people. Political uncertainty also characterized this period. It was during this time that the western shore of Sumatra was enmeshed within a very strong and religious atmosphere. It was in this town that Burhanuddin developed Islam for 39 years every year up to this day.