Arabs who settled in the maritime coast, particularly in Beruwela, had expert
knowledge of gems and precious stones. They penetrated into the gemming centers
and did considerable mining for these precious stones. The ancestors of Abdul
Caffoor started gemming in this area. They took their stones to Colombo
where the Arab navigators bought Ceylon produce in the warehouses of the "Yons"
or "Yonakas", later known as "Moors".
family made Colombo their permanent residence and continued their gemming
activities at Asthen Korale at Eheliyagoda. The earliest known record of Abdul
Caffoor’s ancestors name in a public document is in 1840
where Samosothen Lebbe Cassim Lebbe appears in a list of seventy
four contributors for the purchase of a property for Maradana Mosque.
Lebbe had several sons:-
Noordeen Hajiar - father of N.D.H.Abdul Hameed, Caffoor, Careem, Cader
Samsudeen Shroff Mudaliyar of Colombo Kachcheri - father of Haji Cassim,
a Trustee of Maradana Mosque, who had two sons, Mohideen Cassim and Ilyas Cassim
Rahmatullah alias Periya Thamby - father of P.T.M.Kiyas of St. Joseph’s
Abdul Rahman - father of Dr. A.R.M.Waffarn
Lebbe’s male lineal
ascendants in reverse chronological order are:-
Lebbe - Bahaudeen - Noordeen - Rahmatullah - Abdul Rahman
Lebbe married the widow
Ummu Hany, a daughter of Oduma Lebbe Marikar Sekadi Marikar. She was
the younger sister of S.M. Cassim Lebbe Marikar (Mudaliyar).
Hajiar, besides carrying on his own business, was one of the Commissioners
selected by the Municipality to value Colombo properties for the recovery of
brother, Samsudeen Shroff Mudaliyar, carried the stately features of the
Arab origin of his family that Governor Gregory and Lord Stanley doubted that he
was a native of Ceylon, based on his appearance. Another brother was Sheikh
Abdul Cader Marikar, Shroff of the Treasury and grandfather of Nazli
Samsudeen (Duke). Another son was C.L.Rahmatullah, alias Periya
Thamby, a gem merchant in whose shop Abdul Caffoor learnt the gem
Caffoor started his gems and
jewellery business at Bristol Hotel building in 1894. He had special permission
to board the ships that called at the Colombo harbour and sell his gems and
jewellery to the sailors. By special command, Abdul Caffoor was allowed
the privilege of exhibiting pearls, diamonds, rubies and sapphires and art works
to the Prince and Princess of Wales at the Kandy Pavilion, during their Royal
visit in 1901. His stall was given a prominent place at the Wembley Exhibition
in 1924 and Her Majesty Queen Mary
personally visited his pavillion and made purchases. It was by sheer merit that
he achieved success.
his own expense he took part in a series of world exhibitions which, while
increasing his own reputation, brought publicity to the Island. Some of the
exhibitions in which he participated were, the St. Louis Exhibition in USA in
1903, All Ceylon Exhibition in 1912, the British Expire Exhibition in 1924
and the Philadelphia Exhibition in 1925. His gems were considered some of
the finest collections to be exhibited in the USA. When he returned to Ceylon
after the Wembley Exhibition, the then Governor of Ceylon congratulated him on
"the valuable work done".
the many Muslim institutions that benifited from Abdul Caffoor’s
philanthrophy was the Zahira College. He built and equipped a complete Science
block, in addition to building sixteen classrooms for the school. Further he
donated a sum of Rs. 100,000 to
inaugurate a building scheme for Zahira College Hostel and also donated 18
acres of land at Maharagama to be utilized for practical schools. The
branch schools of Zahira College also received his generous gifts, as also many
Mosques throughout the Island, the Deaf and Blind School at Ratmalana, and the
Boy’s Industrial School at Maharagama. The major cost of building Masjid
Muhiyadeen at Messenger Street, Colomso, with its striking Minarets and
Saracenic horeshoe arches, was borne by him.
in 1932, he established a Muslim Theological Institute, known as the Ghaffooria
Arabic College, for the study of Arabic, at Maharagama. He has endowed the
institute with a premises at Grandpass valued at five hundred thousand rupees.
The Ghaffoor Trust has been established for the purpose of promoting the
education of Muslims. It is endowed with the Gaffoor building in the Fort,
valued at four million rupees.
His Excellency Governor General Sir Henry Moore unveiled the portrait of Abdul
Caffoor at Zahira College on March 1, 1949, he said, "that the
portrait would not only be a lasting memorial but also serve as an encouragement
to others to emulate him". Further His Excellency said,
"Wherever he travelled, he maintained the highest traditions of business
and promoted the best interests of Ceylon, and, despite his great business
acumen andthe wealth he acquired, he lived a simple life according to the devout
Muslim tradition, and he was always happy to share his wealth with the needy and
the less fortunate".
A.M.A.Azeez, Principal of Zahira College, said referring to Abdul Caffoor,
charity was not the kind that was alloyed with local or Imperial honours or with
places in the Councils of the realm. In his charity there was no ostentation
displayed and there was no applause sought. In the true Muslim way he concealed
his charity so much that his left hand did not know what his right hand
him to the Carnegies and the Rocerfellers, Mr. Azeez added that he had
not only given abundantly in his lifetime but had also provided for abundant
giving even after his death.
an incident in which the late Abdul Caffoor had proved his integrity and
sense of fair play, Mr. A.F.Molamure, Speaker of the House of Representatives,
stated at a meeting at Zahira College, that, as a businessman it was difficult
to find his equal in honesty. His father had offered a stone to Abdul Caffoor
and had wanted forty five thousand rupees for it. Abdul Caffoor had given
him sixty five thousand insisting that that was its correct value.
the Memorandum of the Ceylon Moor’s Association to the Chairman and Members of
the Royal Commission on Constitutional Reform, submitted on January 20, 1945,
the following reference is made to the munificence of Abdul Caffoor: "the
endowment of a property worth 20 lakhs
of rupees in the heart of the city of Colombo by a Ceylon Moor as gift to the
nation is unprecedented in the history of the Island".
a lecture in 1945, at the Moor’s Islamic Cultural Home, Dr. W. Balendra LMS (Cey),
FRCS, LDS (Eng), LRCP (London), referring to Abdul Caffoor stated,
come up to this Island from abroad. When the ship approaches the harbour I have
come several times and what is it you find the Gem Palace (Gem Museum) standing
over-looking the harbour. You go past from the harbour and you go along Galle
Face and you find a series of flats, the creation of Moor business integrity,
but there is something more in the Gem Palace"
is a man, a native of this Island, creating wealth from unpolished stones,
taking these stones to far off lands in New York, Paris and other parts of the
world, bringing wealth to this country, putting up buildings (Caffoor Building)
which are some of the highest in this land, but at the end giving a part of his
wealth for the benefit of his fellow-men. A civilization which can produce such
a man is a very high type of civilization".
is different from the civilization of the other races of the world. It is a
civilization which asks you to look forward to some other world, a civilization
which advises you to exploit the useful to man, and after exploiting it, after
using it, not to possess it but to divide it among the fellow-men is a very high
type of civilization".
Caffoor had a unique
collection of precious stones and jewellery. In 1929
Abdul Caffoor established a Gem Museum at Church Street, Fort,
Colombo. Sir Herbert Stanley, then Governor, when opening he Museum paid tribute
to him for his presentation for permanent exhibition, at the Imperial Institute,
South Kensington, of a valuable exhibit of Ceylon stones.
devotion to religion was deep and profound. He never missed his daily prayers
even when travelling in mid winter and his entire life was characterized by
piety. He had travelled extensively around the world and he visited the placeses
of Islamic interest in Makkah, Madinah, Damascus, Baghdad, Cairo and India. many
travellers enjoyed his lavish hospitality during their stay in Colombo.
"Icicle Hall" (now Sri Kotha), in Colombo, was latterly his
Caffoor will always be
remembered, besides other things, for his philanthropy. His name is well known
in many a foreign land.
breathed his last at his residence at Colpetty, at the age of 73, and was given
the honour of being buried at the Maradana Mosque ground.
eldest son was Al Haj Falil Abdul Caffoor (1907-1980), MP (Colombo), MMC,
MBE and Honorary Consul for Iraq. Falil was educated at St. Thomas’ College,
Colombo. Henheld a Gem Exhibition in England and also founded the All Ceylon
Muslim League of which he held the position of Deputy President. He entered
politics in 1954 by contesting the
CMC election and winning in 1965. Was elected MP Colombo Central in 1965.
Presdient YMMA Sports Club. Director, Bank of Ceylon. Died:31-Mar-1980
son Mohideen Caffoor was resident in England and Muhammad Rafi Caffoor
succeeded in carrying on the business. His other sons, the genial Yusuf Caffoor
and the upright Zubair Caffoor pre-deceased him.
Hajiar Muhammad Abdul Cader b:10-Feb-1879, d:29-Aug-1938
Hajiar Muhammad Abdul Cader
was the younger brother of Noordeen Hajiar Abdul Caffoor. He was educated
at Wesley College. He continued his studies and qualified as a Proctor &
Notary Public in 1907.
Cader led a full life. He
was one of the leading proctors of the day and represented the Muslims in the
Legislative Council for fifteen years. He was Senior Municipal Councillor at the
time of his death. He was also the President of the All ceylon Muslim League at
a critical period of its history. As a businessman he was one of the pioneers of
the cinema business in Ceylon.
Cader succeeded W.M.Abdul
Rahman as the Muslim Member of the Legislative Council in 1915. He was in
the center of every activity whcih concerned the Muslim community. He was always
ready to enter the fray and fearless in expressing his sentiments and feelings.
Cader entered the Colombo
Municipal Council for the Pettah Ward in 1908
and continued to be a member for the next thirty years, and except during
the last term in council, He was always returned uncontested. Among his
contemporaries were outstanding men like Sir James Peiris, Arthur Alvis, Hector
Jayawardena, T.L.Villiers, C.P.Dias and H.L.de Mel. Member Legislative Council
1916-1930. Manager Zahira College 1921-1938.
in the Legislative and Municipal Councils, Abdul Cader advocated equal
educational facilities for Muslims as was available for the more progressive
communities in the Island. He was convinced that there can be no progress
without education even if the boys in the families inherited their fathers
business. His eldest son, Dr. Marzook Abdul Cader, who passed away at the
early age of 49, had a brilliant career in England and qualified as an ENT
position as President of the Muslim League was never challenged while he held
it. In all negotiations with the Government and with other communities for
constitutional reform, the views of the Muslim League commanded respect with a
man like him at the helm.
was also President of the Maradana Mosque Executive Committee for twenty five
years, taking over from Aboobucker Lebbe Marikar Ibrahim Lebbe Marikar
(uncle of M.L.M.Reyal ex MMC Colombo). In 1921
he became the Manager of Zahira College, the leading Muslim school in the
Island. The College progressed rapidly under his capable management and the
principalship of Mr. T.B.Jayah.
in Muslim areas received much less Government help than they do today. Abdul
Cader introduced a motion in the Legislative Council for an annual grant of Rs.
150,000 towards the promotion of
education among Muhammadans. The motion seconded by K. Balasingham was defeated.
However the motion succeeded in obtaining a grant of Rs 25,000
from the Government for Zahira College.
Cader represented the
Muslims in the Legislative Council from 1915
to 1931, safeguarding their interests with great care and watchfulness,
while undertaking more than his fair share of work in matters pertaining to the
welfare of his country.
was a popular member, noted for his sturdy independence, tenacity and outspoken
views. It was mainly due to him that the Muslim marriage Ordinance was enacted.
In educational and religious matters he was a tower of strength to his
his bluntness led him into trouble, as when he was sued for libel after he had
denounced, in the legislative Council, a high official for what is believed was
an injustice done to a Muslim doctor. He fought the case until the intervention
of the Colonial Secretary, Sir Arthur Fletcher, led to a settlement. As a result
of the case, Sir Vaitilingam Duraiswamy introduced in the Legislative Council a
bill to confer immunity, on all speeches and statements made in the Council,
from the process of the Courts.
all things he did, Abdul Cader showed determination and foresight. He
foresaw a successful field of activity for his sons in the cinema business and
his sons have more than justified the confidence reposed on them.
Cader’s statement at an
interview to the Ceylon Independent in 1917
is very characteristic of the man,
among the Muhammadans, they had a very undesirable system of charity, that of
giving feasts of Kanduri, with no beneficial results. It would certainly be
charity if the poor are fed, but that is not what is done at these feasts. Men
like myself, others equally prosperous, are feted. I have not the slightest
objection to the feeding of the poor, but my experience has been that the poor
are the least thought of at these feasts, so called charity. A portion of the
money spent on these feasts may with advantage be diverted to better purposes,
such as education".
demise after an operation on August 30, 1938, came as a rude shock to his many
His sons are Dr. Marzuk A Cader
(deceased), Mohideen A Cader, Jabir A Cader MP, MMC, (former Mayor), Hamza
A Cader, Ansar A Cader, Chartered Accountant, Shafeek A Cader, Shuhaib A
Cader, Ashroff A Cader (All Ceylon Rugby player), Zachroff A Cader
(Dental Surgeon), Huzaim A Cader, Huzair A Cader and Ifthikar A Cader
(Cost Accountant). His daughters are Ayesha Cader (wife of HE Mr.
M.M.Maharoof High Commissioner in Malaysia), Thufa Cader (w/o Aamir Sheriff) and
Aynul Rifa Cader.
Death of Jabir A. Cader a big loss for
the community and the nation - AHM Azwer Sat Jun 29
The demise of Alhaj Jabir A. Cader is a
big loss for the community and the nation - A. H. M. Azwer, Minister of
Parliamentary Affairs states in his condolence message sent from the State of
Kerala in India.
Further in his condolence message, the
Minister said Alhaj Jabir A. Cader not only touched the hearts of Colombo
civilians but hearts of all other communities in the island by his service
rendered through the community development projects and social service.
Being a close associate, I have worked
with him for 45 years. I greatfully
remember the services he rendered to the community being a founder member of All
Ceylon Muslim League. He started his political career as Member of Colombo
Municipal Council and became Mayor of Colombo, Member of Parliament and Deputy
Minister of Health and Rural Industrial Development.