Moors' Islamic Cultural Home (MICH)
Hon. Jt Secretaries' Report presented at the formal opening of MICH Building at Fort on May 30, 1965
by A I L Marikar, Hon Joint Secretary MICH
published in the MICH Souvenir I of 1944-65
We of this Institution bid all of you a warm welcome. We greet you for your participation in our cultural celebration.
Culture, being intellectual development, rescues man from insular thinking and elevates himto the eminence of a wider vision with a deeper meaning of life. Religion is the source of culture and from it has flowed wisdom and virtue. Buddhism, with its mission of Maitriya, Hinduism, with its assertation of Ahimsa, Christianity, with its creed of Charity and Islam, with its fabric of Fraternity, serve man to turn him away from the track of transgression.
Lanka, the blessed isle of ours, where these four great cultures exist, has survived the onslaught of materialism. It is therefore in the fitness of things that cultural institutions, in this age of space survey, should rise up to keep alive the flickering flame of Spiritualism by effective diffusion of their messages of goodwill in a spirit of tolerance and understanding.
The culture of Islam is of no lesser value in this grand spiritual effort to save this world from material conflict. The Prophet of Islam (sal) gave a fresh impetus to knowledge, when he said, "Knowledge is the remedy to the infirmities of ignorance and a comforting beacon in the night of justice." In a world then sunk in the abyss of darkness, it shed the light of learning and enriched it in thought and endeavor. For centuries the Moors of Spain were in the van of civilization. Europe - nay the world - drew inspiration from the Universities of Alhambra, Baghdad, and Cordova. Its impact on civilization was such, that in the spheres of Art and Architecture, Chemistry and Communications, Justice and Jurisprudence, Medicine and Mathematics, Philology and Philosophy, and the like, Muslimsled the World. Arab and Persian scholars like Averros and Avicenna, Al Ghazzali and Al Rumy, left legacies of learning for knowledge to grow and flourish everywhere. The astronomer Poet Omar Khayyam, who measured Time and left his famous Rubaiyyat, and the Emperor Shah Jehan, who immortalized his beloved Mumtaz in his poem and marble in the Taj Mahal, were but inheritors of this Culture.
As heirs to such a heritage, we could not remain unaffected. This Home was thus inspired and conceived in 1944 by a few of us. Action was steadfastly pursued. The Constitution of the Home was incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1946 and an assurance for the allotment for a suitable site in Fort for the purpose was obtained in 1948 from Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, then Leader of the Senate, on a motion of our President, Sir Razik Fareed, which was seconded by the then Senator, Mayor RFS de Mel, both of whom are happily in our midst today. After some years of struggle, this site was ultimately released to the Home in March 1961 On the coincidental arrival, at the time, of HE Seyed Abdul Qadir Gilanee, the Ambassador for Iraq in both Pakistan and Ceylon, the site was visited by him on October 6, 1961. Construction work by our diligent contractor, ACM Fuard, commenced on the blue prints and supervision of our Hon Architect and Engineer, MB Baseran, BSc (Engineering). Cost so far has exceeded six and a half lakhs of Rupees and we have, yet, four more storeys to complete. Funds were collected locally during a period of years from both the rich and the poor, so tat this Home could be the result of a combined effort and not that of the privileged few. While thanking all donors - both large and small - with equal sincerety, we cannot but mention the grand gift made in 1957 of Rs 50,000 of the benevolent body that helps laudable causes, without any strings, in many an Asian land - the Asia Foundation. The tablets just unveiled seek to acknowledge to a possible extent, gifts of donors and to recognize service rendered.
The Constitution of this Home orecludes politics, true toits cultural character. Its membership is open to all, regardless of creed or community. To mould ourselves in the Islamic way of life, the Home provides students approved Muslim readers in Tamil and a Catechism on the First Teachings of Islam in English and Sinhala. Annual contests of memory Recital of Qur'an are held. Literary activities include a Free Night School for the study of Sinhalafor all classes of children in Dematagoda, where the Home functions as at date. A hostelry for outstation students provide cheaplodging with a Library and all possible amenities. A free Wedding Home for residents of the locality and the Lady Fareed Home for the Aged function as separate units under the auspices of the Home. Wrestling, Billiards and indoor games make up the recreational activities.
In the pursuit of its ideals, the Home, aided in part by the Department of Cultural Affairs, undertook the unique and sacred task, at considerable cost of money, time and labor, of translating Al Qur'an - the fount of Islamic Culture - into Sinhala, with Mr Pinoris Wickremasinghe, a Sinhalese scholar competent in Arabic, as the Head of the Translation Team of Moulavi's. Of its thirty parts, eight parts have been published and work continues uninterruptedly. It is mainly meant to serve Muslims of the future who will have to study Sinhala. In their pages will be found Wisdom and Virtue, and Purpose and Pursuit in the search for Truth. We had the honor of presenting the first copy of Part I, when published, to the then Head of the Govenment, Hon Ms Sirimavo Bandaranaike. In keeping with this gesture of goodwill I shall now pause for a while, to enable one of my brother Secretaries, AH Macan Markar, to make a gift, on behalf of the Muslims of Ceylon, of the eight completed parts of the Holy Scripture to the Hon Prime Minister, Mr Dudley Senanayake.
In the intellectual sphere, from the membership of this Home, have emerged men like Dr MU Sultan Bawa, PhD (London), Professor of Chemistry, Dr MA Macan Markar, MD MRCP, Professor of Medicine, both of the University of Ceylon, and Dr AMM Mackeen, MA PhD, Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies in the University of Malaya. On the recreational side, our young MJM Lafir brought fame to Ceylon, as the All-India Champion in Snooker, while securing third place in the World Championship.
We have only reached a milestone in our progress and have yet a long way to go. The structure, as you see, is but embellished with its blemishes, but it will have to rise up without delay, to be truly symbolic of its culture and to more effectively function as a bulwark of democracy. We shall need aid and assistance in many ways and feel confident that this call will receive generous response. We gratefully acknowledge the support this institution received from the Government that functioned during the period. We publicly thank our Vice Presidents, the Board of Trustees, the Chairmen and members of the various Committees, and our members and well-wishers for their valuable support and co-operation. Posterity will remember them with appreciation. regretfully not one of the Muslim States to whom we made frantic appeals were made ever to come to our assistance.
This movement needed exemplary leadership for its success. It needed a leader, who would grab an idea with both hands and grapple its problems with grit, a leader who would foot a bill whenevr in need and foot many a mile to find the means to meet more, and a leader who would sacrifice leisure for the pleasure of service. This Home found such a leader in our President, Sir Razik Fareed. He needs no introduction. Many are his benefactions and many are his services to his country and community. Suffice it for us to refer to but one such of his munificence to the cause of Muslim female education. He, unhesitatingly, gifted valuable land and buildings worth lakhs of Rupees to house the only Muslim Ladies College in the island. This Home is but a dream of his that has come true. His interest to this Home, we know, is so near his heart that one need not feel surprised if he sometime, someday, gives effect to what may be lurking in hismind, to make a bountiful benefaction for the future of this Home. We thank you, Mr President, for your able leadership and active support in all our efforts.
On behalf of this Home, we thank you Hon Prime Minister for your gracious participation in our cultural event. It is our sincere hope that budded as you were, like the lotus, you shall for long bl;ossom as the amaranth exuding the aroma of amity among the people of Lanka. We thank you, Sir Oliver - the Peer without a Peer - for your long association with us and our aspirations. We thank you, Mr RFS de Mel - a friend we cannot forget - for your interest in our Home.
Finally, we pray the Almighty Allah that this institution shall grow up in stature, in keeping with the aspirations of similar sister institutions, as an Instrument of Peace and Fraternity and as a center radiating harmony and goodwill to help build a united and devoted Ceylonese nation to make little Ceylon big in the eyes and ears of the World. To this high task, the members of this Institution pledge their dedication.