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Meera Lebbe Maestriar Shekadie Marikar (Sheikh Abdul Cader Marikar)

Meera Lebbe Maestriar Sekadie Marikar, known as the "Moorish Doctor", was a reputed physician who was appointed physician to the Cinammon Peeler’s Guards (Chaliah Commanders) and the Moor Regiments which served under the Dutch at Colombo. He was appointed Native Superintendent of the Medical Department under the control of the Supreme Court by the British in 1806. He also was a signatory to the special laws concerning "Maurs" or Muhammadans (Muslims) dated August 1, 1806, prepared on the orders of Governor Lord North. He was appointed arbitrator and President of the Moorish Community in 1823 and died on February 25, 1840.

The portrait of Sekadie Marikar, prepared and presented by Sir Alexander Johnston, Chief Justice and President of His Majesty’s Council in Ceylon, to the Royal Asiatic Society Ceylon Branch on July 19, 1834, was passed on to the National Museum of Colombo by Dr. Paul Peiris L.L.D. where it can be seen to date. (Ref No. C/448)

The ancestors of the "Moorish Doctor", Sekadie Marikar, is described as follows:-

"Prince Jamaldeen, son of Sultan Albdin of Koniya, in Asia Minor (Eastern Turkey), settled down in Beruwela in 800 A.D. and practised medicine. This was during the reign of the Singhalese King Dapula III who established a medical college.

Dr. Periya Mudaliyar Marikar (1016) was awarded Royal recognition (Sembu Pattam) by the Singhalese King in consequence of his having introduced from the opposite coast of India, the first weavers of cloth who were established in Ceylon".

The original ancestry of the present SALAGAMAWANSA community were:-

- Dr. Minna Marikar Bastaamiar (1515), appointed Physician to the Portuguese Royal household,

- Dr. Uduma Lebbe Maestriar Shekadi Marikar Maestriar (1640), Physician to the Dutch Government,

- Dr. Bastaamiar Lebbe Marikar Meera Lebbe Maestriar, Physician to the Dutch Government transferred to Colombo on promotion as Physician in charge of the Chaliah Commanders,

- Dr. Meera Lebbe Maestriar Shekadi Marikar, the celebrated, ‘Moorish Doctor’.

A reference to the family of the ‘Moorish Doctor’ is made in the "KULALEKA POTHA" of Maha Mudaliyar Abraham De Saram.

Sekadie Marikar was the eldest son of Bastaamiar Lebbe Marikar Meera Lebbe Maestriyar, the original claimant of the Maradana Mosque land. Bastaamiar lebbe Marikar Maestriar was a reputed medical practitioner both under the Dutch and British governments. In 1744 he had acquired title, by long and undisputed possession, of the land on which the present Maradana Mosque is situated, for the benefit of the Muslim Community of Colombo. He also possessed a portion of land lying between the Maradana Police Station and Dematagoda junction in Colombo, which he used for acquiring medicinal herbs for his medical practice.

In the course of time, he erected a building on the land adjoining the present Maradana Police Station and lived there with his family. This premises eventually came into the possession of Shaka Marikar (Sheikh Abdul Cader Marikar), father of Ghouse and Mohideen (John Scot), who were his descendants.

On the land opposite to this site he built a Mosque, which, at the beginning, was used mainly by him and his family. Later on, other Muslims of the locality began to use the Mosuqe for prayer too. In the course of time, this Mosque waS extended and rebuilt by the Muslim community and stands until today as the Maradana Mosque. The "small mosque" in Symonds Road, Maradana, was built much later by a group of the congregation of the Colombo Grand Mosque.

Sir Alexander Johnston, in referring to the "Moorish Doctor" and his family, states as follows in his foot notes to his despatch to the Secretary of State dated February 3, 1827, as appearing in the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume I, Page 537, as follows:-

"I have a copy, in my possession, of a very curious and very ancient grant in copper, made by one of the Cingalese Kings of Ceylon, about six or seven hundred years ago, to a great Muhammedan merchant who was then residing at Barbareen, and to his descendants for ever, of certain privileges and immunities in consequence of his having introduced from the opposite coast of India the first weavers of cloth who were established in Ceylon. By virtue of this grant, the lineal descendants of that merchant, now enjoy, under the British Government, a portion of the privileges which were granted to their ancestors by the ancient Cingalese governments of the country, and which were successfully confirmed to them by the Portuguese, Dutch and English Governments in Ceylon. The Chief of this family was appointed by me, in 1806, Native Superintendent of the Medical Department, under the control of the Supreme Court. He was considered by the natives of the country as one of the best informed of the native physicians in the Island, and possessed one of the best collections of native medical books, most of which had been in his family between seven and eight hundred years, during the whole of which period it has been customary for one member of his family, at least, to follow the medical profession. This same person made me a very detailed report of all the plants in Ceylon which have been used from time immemorial for medical purposes by Muhammadan native physicians in the Island. The cultivation and improvements of these plants, as well as of all other plants and vegetables in the Island, which might be used, either for, food or commercial purposes, was one of the great objects for which His Majesty’s Government, at my suggestion, in 1810, established a Royal Botanic Garden in Ceylon".

In referring to the wide knowledge in medicine and philosophy of the Moorish (Muslim) physicians of the time, Sir Alexander Johnston, in the same despatch comments as follows:-

"One of the principal Arabic works on Medicine which they introduced into Ceylon was the work of Avicenna; they also intriduced Arabic translations of Aristotle, Plato, Euclid, Galen and Ptolemy, extracts of which were frequently brought to me while I was in Ceylon by the Muhammadan priests and merchants who stated that the works themselves had originally been procured from Baghdad by their ancestors, and had remained for some hundred years in their respective families in Ceylon."

The lineal descendants of the "Moorish Doctor" are A.C. Abdul Cader and A.C. Jamaldeen who are his great grandsons. One of the descendants of the "Moorish Doctor" was S. D. M. Burhan, Proctor SC, who served as the Secretary of the Management of the Maradana Mosque for about 35 years. A descendant who acquired eminence in the medical profession is Dr. M Nafick Burhan, MBBS (Ceylon), FRCS (England), the first Ceylon Muslim to be admitted a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons (England). Other descendants are, Mohideen Burhan, Proctor SC and Coroner, Avissawella, Marzook Burhan of the Police Department, founder member and 13th President of the All-Ceylon YMMA Conference and leader of the Ceylon delegation to the 3rd. General Assembly of the World Assembly of Youth held in New Delhi, India, in 1958.

Around the year 1800, the "Moorish Doctor" was in charge of the "Marakkala Palliya" (Mosque) and "Watte" (Grounds) of the Maradana Mosque. He blocked out the grounds for burial of the important members of the congregation. His own family block was numbered 41. On May 21, 1873, the Government ordered the closure of the burial grounds by proclamation. However, the descendants of the doctor continued to defy the order and buried their dead in the grounds. They were prosecuted and fined. Some of the members applied to the Government for permission to bury their dead therein and an ordinance was proposed and gazetted on Friday, June 16, 1882. However, since the Kuppiyawatte burial grounds was now being patronized by the Muslims the ordinance was dropped. Since then almost half of the burial grounds has been acquired by the Ceylon Government Railway on which now stands a Bo-tree. The grave of the "Moorish Doctor" which was situated under a Tamarind tree within the Mosque premises has since been levelled and a is now being used as a car park for the members of the congregation.

Attempts were made, on November 21, 1931, to bury the remains of Dr. Bastaamiar Lebbe Abdul Careem, member, Board of Trustees of the Maradana Mosque, grandson of the doctor, according to his long cherished claim, and also the remains of S.D.M. Burhan, Proctor SC, Secretary of the management of the Maradana Mosque for 34 years, another descendant of the doctor, on December 27, 1955, but were not successful.

Oduma Lebbe Marikar Sheikh Abdul Cader Marikar (Shekhadi Marikar) see family #22

Oduma Lebbe Marikar Sheikh Abdul Cader Marikar, popularly known as Shekhadi Marikar, was appointed a sectional head of the Moor Community, on June 16, 1818, by His Excellency Sir Robert Brownigg, Governor of Ceylon (Vide Appendix II(b)). In 1825, another Governor, Sir Edward Barnes, appointed him as a Notary Public for attesting deeds of Muslim females.

Shekhadi Marikar was born in the year 1772 and died in 1847. His oldest son, Cassim Lebbe Marikar Mudaliyar, born on December 5, 1805, was appointed as Mudaliyar of the Governor’s Gate in 1867. His second son, Idroos Lebbe Marikar, served the Government as Shroff in several departments. He was also the Trustee of the Maradana Mosque. Following is a translation of the Arabic inscription, translated by Noordeen Abdul Careem, on the facade of the Mosque, which was put up by the Khateeb of the time, namely, Segu Mohiyadeen Sinna Meera Auduka Lebbe:-

"In the name of God, The One who purified the heart of the Founder of the Ka’aba. We lay the foundation of this house of God at Luhar time. In doing so we followed the Path of righteousness in the forenoon of the day, which is the sixth of Rajab, the month of respect and goodness. That is the day on which the Imam stood praising Him. All others stood there together invoking the blessings of the Prophet. The building was completed as the work of Moses was perfected on Ashura Day. On the Day of Hajj which was the Day of excellence and beauty, hich belonged to the sixt year along with 50 and 200 and 1000 (1256 Hijra), from the time of the departure, to Madinah, of the Prophet f the Hashemite Clan. Oh Lord! grant us victory and forgiveness and mercy. To those who glorified You in it prostrating. And we ask blessings upon him who recommended to build mosques. And he is your beloved creature and the best of those who prayed at Makkah. Month of Hajj, 10th Day, 1256 Hijra. (10 Dhul Hijjah 1256 H)"

Appendix II

(a) Whereas the Moor Seyed Nadie Nainde Marcier Lebbe NAINA MARCIAR was by us recently appointed joint Chief of the Moors of the town of Galle and is now the other Chief of this community in the commandments has appealed to us that he being the oldest in service shuld have preference over the other. We, therefore, in consideration, of the request made by him, the said present Chief deem it desirable to appoint his first Chief over the Galle community of Moors residing within the four gravets with authority t employ the Moor, Ismail Lebbe Maestri KADER as his Canne Kappel.

Wherefore one and to whom it may concern are commanded to regard respect come and obey, as it behoves them, him the said AGHAMDOE LEBBE SINNE LEBBE MARCIAR AS first Chief of the Moors. Colombo, 28th July, 1757.


(b) By His Excellency ieutenant General, Sir Edward Barnes, Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath Governer and Commander-In-Chief in and over the British settlements and territories in the island of Ceylon with the dependencies thereof.

Whereas we have the greatest confidence in the eminent qualities, zeal, fidelity and ability of Oduma Lebbe Marciar Sekadi Marciar, we do hereby appoint him Headmoorman, of Colombo and Salpity Corale during our Will and Pleasure.

And we do further by these presents confirm to the said Oduma Lebbe Marciar Sekadi Marciar all such privileges, rights, Honours and Precedence enjoyed by His Predecessors in the office of Headmoorman of Colombo and Salpity Corale as these have not been abrogated or altered by Law.

All persons whom it may concern are hereby ordered and directed to acknowledge, respect and obey the said Oduma Lebbe Marciar Sekadi Marciar as Headmoorman of Colombo and Salpity Corale.

Wherefore we have granted him these Presents whereunto we have affixed the Seal of Our Arms Given at Colombo, the 22nd. May, 1824.

By Order of His Excellency the Governor

G.O. Seymour.

Family of Cassim Lebbe Marikar (Casie Lebbe Marikar Mudaliyar)

Cassim Lebbe Marikar, born on December 5, 1805, was the eldest son of Othman Lebbe Marikar Shekadi Marikar. By his first marriage, with the daughter of Ossen Lebbe in the Cappodiar family, he had two children who died in infancy. After the death of his spouse, he married Mohiyadeen Candu Natchiya alias Mathunga Natchiya, daughter of Sultan Candu Yousoof Lebbe of Colombo, on May 28, 1842. She died on May 26, 1900 at No. 263 Dam Street, Colombo. Cassim Lebbe Marikar had four daughters and four sons as follows:-

1. Hafsa Umma (daughter) born: June 1, 1843 in Trincomalee. Married C.L.Samsudeen.

2. Muhammad Yousoof (son) born: December 17, 1844 in Trincomalee. Muhammad Yousoof, by first marriage, had a son, Abdul Cader (unmarried) and a daughter, Rahma, who had two sons and two daughters. After the death of his spouse, Muhammad Yousoof married again in Kandy, the sister of Muhammad Cassim alias Siddi Lebbe, the Moor Leader, but had no children from this union. He worked in the Colombo Municipality as an Executive Officer in the Secretariat. He died in Kandy in 1917.

3. Saffra Umma (daughter) ("Palathu Mami") born: May 8, 1847 in Trincomalee. Married Ahmed Lebbe Marikar ("Dappy" family) and had three sons, Abdul Latheef, Abdul Cader & Abdul Hamid and four daughters, Ayesha Umma (mother of M.Y.Hashim Jiffry), Maryam Beebee, Maimoona and Fathima Umma of Colombo.

4. Haniffa Umma (daughter) born: September 18, 1848 in Trincomalee. Married Cader Sahib Sinne Lebbe Marikar. had two sons, Abdul Hadi married to Thuwaiba Umma & Muhammad Cassim (father of Mrs. Ayne Muhammad and brother-in-law of M.Maharoof of the Ceylon Diplomatic Corps). Sinne Lebbe Marikar married once again and his children of this union are Muhammad Saleem (Papulka) and Ummu Ayman (mother of Dr. M.H.M.Ilyas and brother).

5. Ayesha alias Moomina Umma (daughter) born: November 5, 1850 in Colombo. Married Cader Sahib Aliya Marikar Alim Hajiar (Trustee, Maradana Mosque). The children are Muhammad Rasheed and Muhammad Thahir, both died unmarried, Leila (also died unmarried), and Ameena who married A.B.L.I.L.Marikar (first Ceylonese English bookseller) whose children are A.I.L.Marikar, Sithy Ayesha, Muhammad Aly, Muhammad Nilam and Muhammad Fulail. Ayesha died on May 29, 1924.

6. Abdul Majeed (son) born: September 26, 1853 at Trincomalee. Married Jainambu Natchia and had a son, Muhammad Cassim (father of M.C.M.Sheriff and Suleiman) and a daughter, Khadija Umma (mother of A.L.M.Rally). He also married Ummu Hany ("Nawtha"). She had three daughters and five sons, one of whom was Abdul Ahad. Abdul Majeed served as a Shroff in the Kachcheri and later was in the clerical service in the Colombo and provincial Kachcheris. He died in Colombo.

7. Abdul Gaffoor (son) born: May 10, 1860. Married Ayesha Umma, daughter of Muhammad Lebbe Marikar. His sons were Mahmood and Shameem and daughters were Thuwaiba Umma (see 4 above) and Negiba Umma (mother of A.L.M.Nasir). He served in the clerical service of the Customs Department and died on August 30, 1940.

8. Abdul Cader alias Abdul Jabbar (son) born: February 24, 1863. Married Cappodiyar Ahmed Lebbe Marikar’s daughter, Ayesha Umma. Children are Muhammad Woleed (Trustee, Maradana Mosque), Nasseer Abdul Rahman, Sithy Rowha and Abul Hassan. He was also the Trustee of the Maradana Mosque and Manager of the Hameedia School. He worked in the Drafts Department of the Chartered Bank and died on June 19, 1902.

Like his father, Cassim Lebbe Marikar Mudaliyar, was a devoted servant of the public and a devout Muslim interested in religious activities. It was through the inducement of his eldest son, Muhammad Yousoof, that Muhammad Cassim (proctor) alias Siddi Lebbe, Yousoof’s brother-in-law, was spurred on to to take up the cause of Muslim education and their general progress.

He was attached to his father at Trincomalee and made his mark so well that he was appointed as Chief Mudaliyar of the Eastern province by Sir Robert Wilmot Horton on October 23, 1834.

On his transfer, on promotion, he was appointed Mudaliyar of the Government Agent’s Department (Western province), Colombo, by Sir Henry George Ward on June 18, 1855. All Muhandirams, Arachies, Kanganies, lascoreens and others connected therewith came under his purview by this appointment. (original letters of appointment are available with Mr. A.J.M.Woleed). He was also the Shroff at the Colombo Kachcheri in 1855 and was appointed Shroff of the Pearl Fishery on March 3, 1858.

On representations made by Moor representatives of Colombo, a General Meeting was held at the Maradana Mosque, and on their recommendations he was appointed Head Moorman of Colombo on december 25, 1859. He was then appointed Cashier of the General Treasury and Mudaliyar of the gate by His Excellency Sir Hercules George Robert Robinson, on July 3, 1867. (letter of appointment available with A.J.M.Woleed).

After a full life of fruitful activity, he died and was buried on Friday, August 16, 1877, before Jumma, at the Maradana Mosque grounds.

It was said that the Moors during that period used to whisper between themselves on the undesirability of him wearing trousers and tunic coat with a turban on his head, an attire looked down upon as alien to Muslims, at that time.

Family of Idroos Lebbe Marikar Abdul Azeez (ILM Abdul Azeez)

Idroos Lebbe Marikar Abdul Azeez, grandson of Oduma Lebbe Marikar Sekadi Marikar, came from a very distinguished family of Moors in Colombo. He was a sectional Chief Head of the Moors. His father was Idroos Lebbe Marikar, a shroff in the goverment departments. In view of the confidence he received, the Government vested the Muhammadan burial grounds at Kuppiyawatte to I.L.M. Abdul Azeez, appointing him as one of the three Trustees in 1879.

Abdul Azeez was born on October 27, 1867. He studied Quran and Tamil under his father. He received his English education at the Pettah Boys Government English School. He gathered a good understanding of religion and also mastered the Tamil language. he also read many English authors. In 1888, he was elected Secretary of the Al-Jamiathul Islamia Society. Among the many good works done by this society was the taking over of dead bodies of Muslims from hospitals for proper burial.

In 1889 Abdul Azeez assumed the editor-ship of the "Muslim Friend", started by Proctor M.C. Siddi Lebbe. In 1892 Abdul Azeez gave his wholehearted support to the educational movement started by Siddi Lebbe and fnanced by Arasi Marikar Wapchi Marikar. This movement formed the Colombo Muslim Educational Society and founded Zahira College. He was the Secretary of the society. The great assiatnce rendered by Abdul Azeez was borne out by the testimony of Wapchi Marikar, Manager Zahira College, in the following statement: "My heartfelt thanks are due to the Committee who have bravely assisted me I the work, especially to Mr. I.L.M. Abdul Azeez, for his valuable advice".

Another Muslim lawyer, Mr. A.C. Muhammado, referred to Abdul Azeez, at a prize giving ceremony at Zahira College, as the "fulcrum" of this institution.

In 1900, the Moors formed an organization called the Moor’s Union and elected Abdul Azeez as its first President. Abdul Azeez sent telegrams of condolences at the death of Her Majesty Queen Victoria and His Majesty King Edward VII. He also read addresses to the Turkish Consul, Atha-Ulla Bey, while passing through Colombo, on his visit to Singapore. He presented an address to the first Muslim advocate, Mr. Abdul Cader. He passed a resolution of thanks to the Governor, Sir West Ridgeway, for nominating Mr. W.M. Abdul Rahman as a Muhammadan member of the Legislative Council. At the Moor’s Union Hall, he delivered a lecture on the Muslim aspect of future life.

In 1898 Abdul Azeez published an Arabic Tamil journal titled "Assawab". In 1901 he started a Tamil newspaper, titled, "Muslim Guardian". Later it was converted into a Tamil and English magazine. Through this magazine he urged the Government to enact laws for the compulsory legislation of Muslim marriages. he ably defende Islam against criticism by Sir Hugh Clifford, Colonial Secretary, published in the pages of the magazine. In 1907 he published an Anglo-Tamil paper caled "Al Muslim". His contribution to the local newspapers on the racial representations in the Legislative Council and on Muhammadan education were highly commended by the public.

When Mr. Abdul Cader, the first Muslim Advocate, was prevented from appearing with his Fez Cap on, before the judges of the Supreme Court, a deputation of Muslims including Abdul Azeez called on the Chief Justice, Sir C.P. Layard, at his residence, and laid their grievance. having failed to obtain redress, the Muslims held a Mass Meeting at Maradana Mosque grounds on December 31, 1905. Abdul Azeez moved a resolution appealing to His majesty for relief.

Tamil speaking people were represented in the Legislative Council by a Tamil Member. About the year 1880, the Muslims, the majority of whom were Moors, clamoured for representation in the Legislative Council by a Muhammadan member. Mr. Ponnambalam Ramanathan opposed this suggestion of the Moors saying that the Moors were Tamil speaking people and Tamil converts to Islam. Abdul Azeez carried on the campaign of the Moors, led by Siddi Lebbe, seeking Muslim representation in the Legislative Council. Mr. Ramanathan, opposing this request, read a paper at the Royal Asiatic Society Meeting on the subject of "Ethnology of the Moors of Ceylon" ad attempted to prove his theory that the Moors were of Tamil origin. Abdul Azeez, under the auspices of the Moor’s Union, published a book titled, "A criticism of Mr. Ramanathan’s Ethnology of the ceylon Moors" proving that the Moors were a separate race descended from Arab travellers who settled in Ceylon. This book has been reprinted by the Moor’s Islamic Cultural Home.

In 1903 Abdul Azeez was elected Managing Trustee of the Maradana Mosque for five years. At the end of this term he was elected for a further five years and this was opposed by a section of the congregation thus leading to litigation. The Privy Council approved his re-election. He also presided at the dinner given to Muhammad Macan Markar Effendi who was appointed Honorary Turkish Consul. Abdul Azeez also wrote an account of the "birth, customs and puberty ceremony" of the Moors for the census Report of 1911.

When the period of W.M.Abdul Rahman’s membership in the Legislative Council was ending, in 1905, the Muslims petitioned the Government to nominate Abdul Azeez. However, this was not accepted and Abdul Rahman;s period was extended for a further five years.

Abdul Azeez drafted an amendment to the Muhammadan Marriage Registration Ordinance in 1906. he also suggested reforms in the Purdah system retaining the Islamic Laws but permitting the womanhood of Islam to advance socially, intellectually and spiritually in like manner as the females of the glorious days of Islam. he sopought reforms in the matter of acquiring religious knowledge. He suggested translations and explanations ofreligious literature. The Baptist Young Men’s Society gave him an opportunity to deliver a lecture on Islam in their hall.

In 1912 Abdul Azeez travelled to Jaffna where, after the Jumma Prayers, he presenetd a lecture on Hadis and urged the Imams to deliver their Khutbas I Tamil so they may be understood by the congregation. Abdul Azeez also delivered a lecture on the conflict between the cross and the crescent and this was published in book form.

His only son is Muhammad Rashard Abdul Azeez of Sagara Road, Colombo 4. His grandsons are Dr. Nafick Burhan and Muhammad Marzook Burhan, who take a great interest in the affairs of the Muslim Community.

I.L.M. Abdul Azeez died on September 11, 1915. May Allah bless his soul.