From the writings of Y.Ahamed

From ‘Islam is our way and Tamil our tongue

From “India’s great poets, Iqbal and Bharathi”

From ‘Valaichenai - A historical note’ - Published in 1992.

From the ‘Arrival of Muslims in the East

Moulana Abdul Cader’s Healing Mission : Kattankudy & Akkaraipattu

From the writings of Y.Ahamed

We have recorded in the preceding pages the death of Y.Ahamed, civil servant, scholar and writer, at the age of 47. The East has in the recent decades been struggling to produce its own crop of scholars and writers, rooted in its soil and among its people. It is they who from a knowledge of their roots and by forging a common Eastern identity, should act as a stabilising influence and harmonise communal relations. Y.Ahamed was a notable figure among them, who like several among his company, had his days cut short. The community as a whole continues to bleed. Ahamed enjoyed much respect among Tamils as a fair administrator, and one, who through his work and writings, worked earnestly for Tamil-Muslim unity. This makes his loss all the more poignant. The following excerpts from his writings, translated from Tamil, are given with the intention of providing some insight into the man, his mind and what moved his heart.

That he was a man Muslim by faith, thinking instinctively in terms of a multi-religious Eastern identity, comes out in his writings. The beginning of his essay on his visit to Kerala, written in 1986, brings out his love for the East and his disquiet over the gathering storm clouds:

“My journeys between Mutur and Valaichenai used to be most uplifting. My heart would go out to the verdant forests bequeathed by nature, and I crossed several rivers of indescribable loveliness. The passage through Verugal and Kilivetti left not one moment of boredom.

“With Communal disturbances in the East of 1985, a dark pall descended over these travels, which used to bring me great joy. Many lives were lost in the disturbances in the Batticaloa District. Although the Trincomalee District was then quiet, by the end of the year there was violence between Sinhalese and Tamils. The people living from Verugal through Mutur were subject to great insecurity. Many Tamil villages were entirely destroyed. Travelling through those villages became a terrifying experience.

“My journey to Mutur from Valaichenai now had to proceed through Polonnaruwa, Habarana to Trincomalee and then to Mutur by ferry. We had to get down from the bus at sentry points and get back in after enduring the belittling speech and insulting manner of those manning the points.....”

From ‘Islam is our way and Tamil our tongue

“.....By whatever name the Tamil speaking Muslims of South India and Ceylon are called for reasons of national harmony or political expediency, their way of life and their history are intimately and fondly harmonised in the totality of Tamil heritage.

“There are people of many religious groups who hold Tamil as their mother tongue. Their faith governs their thinking and their way of life. But the Tamil language is the medium of their thoughts. The ethical and religious systems of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Christianity and Islam are fostered by the adherents of these faiths. The literature and creative writing of the followers of these faiths is spun with their way of life as its raw material. There is no disputing this.

“Tamil heritage is one that has been taking shape over several centuries. The impact of these religions on the growth of this heritage is one that is a subject of research..... Even when that heritage sustains a particular character, it needs to accommodate within itself several distinct traditions. Tamil heritage is therefore a treasure that is held in common by peoples with diverse ethnic strains, cultures and religions....”

From “India’s great poets, Iqbal and Bharathi”

“.....The Himalayan range and the river Ganges are integrally linked with the fame of the good land of India. These two are symbols of its strength and purity ...... These two are precious jewels adorning Mother India. Their pride and grace is reflected in the poems of Iqbal and Bharathi. Iqbal’s “Dharana-yeh-Hindhi” takes us into the spirit of the Himalayas and the Ganges. Its fame received a permanent setting by its being sung on India’s day of freedom in its new governing council:

“......Though we journey through other lands,

our hearts remain fixed on thee O mother,

In thee rests our consciousness of being!

Our Himalaya the greatest mount of all

The sky gently reposes on her.

Beautiful Himalaya our indomitable guardian

A thousand rivers

Play upon her lap.

Others envy the wealth

these living waters yield

Ours this garden of rich blossoms.....

Hey thou full flowing Ganges .....

“Is it only Iqbal who has sung so? “So have I”, I can hear Bharathi protesting. Let us hear him:

“Himalaya, prince of mountains, is our mountain

The wide earth hath nothing like unto thee

There is no river like our river Ganga

Is there another that outshines her glory?

How wonderfully has God united the vision of diverse poets? Whether in showing attachment to their land or in their devotion to their community, do not they all open their hearts to us? Do not their thoughts all flow into the same river? How great, how broad are their hearts!

(The extracts above are from articles published in the author’s ‘ Moliyum Valiyum’)

From ‘Valaichenai - A historical note’ - Published in 1992.

From the preface: The Tamils and Muslims of the Batticaloa District have lived in unity for centuries. A group bent on stirring up disunity and finding perverse amusement in doing so, is ignorant of the history of the Muslims of this district. I was therefore moved to express by means of this small work, who these Muslims are, so fraternally and intimately bound to their fellow Tamils, through ties of blood and speech.....

From the ‘Arrival of Muslims in the East’

“Alexander Johnston tells us that Mohomedans or Yonakas settled in this island during the eighth century A.D. According to him they belonged to the Hashim family who took refuge from the persecution of Caliph bin Marwan. Those who settled in Puttalam took to coconut growing, paddy cultivation, pearl fishing, trade and salt manufacture.

“An incident in Puttalam is closely connected with the Mukkuwas who settled in the Batticaloa District...There is historical evidence to prove that there ia a strong tie of blood between the Mukkuwas and the Batticaloa Muslims....

“Mukkuwas lived in the village of Koththanthivu in the Puttalam District. Manikkathalaivan, the chieftin of a neighbouring village desired the hand of a Mukkuwa lass, Nallal. For this cause he took to arms. The Mukkuwas sought the help of Arab merchants to defeat Manikkathalaivan... When asked what they desired in return for their services, “We would like you to embrace Islam” replied the Arab merchants. This many of them did.

“One historian tells us that of the thirteen Mukkuwa villages in Puttalam, seven migrated to the Eastern province. The traditional practices of the Mukkuwas are to this day prevalent among Kalmunai Muslims.....

“One historical account tells us that the Mukkuwas were expelled from the Jaffna peninsula in the 5th century A.D. Their settlement in Batticaloa was resisted by the Thimila tribesmen who were already there. The Mukkuwas sought the aid of Muslim warriors to defeat the Thimilas, who were driven northwards. An ash coloured stone pillar finally separating the domains of the two tribes, erected at Thumbukkan Kudah, near Panichchengkeni, stands to this day. As reward for their services, the Muslim warriors accepted Mukkuwa women as wives, thus strengthening their ties of kinship. But there is no evidence of instances such as at Koththanthivu, where Mukkuwas in the East embraced Islam......

“Although Eastern Muslims are descendants of Mukkuwa women, they today regard themselves a people with a distinct identity. Their descendants took to trade and to seafaring. They also served in the army of the king of Kandy. Their quality as warriors was proven and the Muslim camel cavalry attained fame in the battle of Wellawaya, during the reign of Rajasinghe II (1634-84). It is notable that the traditional pursuits of Eastern Muslims are also those associated with Arabians.

“Several place names in Batticaloa pertain to the historic battle between the Thimilas and Mukkuwas in which Muslim warriors assisted the latter. These are ‘Vantharumoolai’ (Came-rested corner), ‘Sathurukondan’ (Enemy killed), ‘Santhiveli’ (Meeting-moor) & ‘Pathiyai-thookia-palai’ (Place where the Thimila queen was hanged). Eravur is named after the place where Muslims, previously prevented from settling, were allowed to settle down as part of their reward.

[Some of this lore can also be found in Nadarajah’s, ‘Mattaikalappu Manmiyam’].

The writer also gives instances of Muslim settlers, some from the Kandyan kingdom, associated with places in the East and who held office during the British administration. The writer concludes: “The Muslims of Valaichenai are largely settlers from Kattankudy. It is said that Arumuga Pattamkatti (a Tamil) and his wife Valliammai , together with Meeranpodiar (a Muslim) and his wife Kathisa Umma , came to Valaichenai from Kattankudy in the same bullock-cart and continued the rest of their days in like harmony.

“Whatever the truth of this story, it is likely that both communities settled in Valaichenai (Banana cropping using chena cultivation) in recent times. The long standing unity between the Tamil and Muslim communities, the practice of give and take, and co-operation in professional life, are qualities which have prevailed unto this day.

 

Moulana Abdul Cader’s Healing Mission : Kattankudy & Akkaraipattu

Sorely missed in the East are leaders respected and listened to by both the Tamil and Muslim communities who can act as a bridge to bind them as partners and overcome the recent legacy of violence. Both communities at the bottom feel a need to live together and know that to allow present differences to fester will be fatal to both. Who would have dreamed that the leadership vacuum can sometimes be filled by self effacing traders who feel the public pulse and can act fast when an opportunity presents itself. The occasion was the visit of Moulana Abdul Cader from Pakistan sharing what many acknowledged as God’s gift of healing. He saw Muslims in Kattankudy from 21st to 23rd January 1993. There had for some days been a number of requests from Tamils to see him. Muslim and Tamil traders from the Batticaloa Traders Association got together and did the needful. A number of Tamil traders went to the Muslim village of Kattankudy and worked as volunteers.

On the 24th January 1993, Tamils came to Kattankudy in their thousands from far afield as Kalmunai, Kallar and Valaichenai. . What happened next was almost a miracle. Muslims rushed to the village border, greeted the Tamils, and led them to the Moulana, bearing on their shoulders, those who could not walk. The Muslim trader who spoke to us was deeply moved, “The greater enthusiasm was shown by those who had suffered at Tamil hands,” he said, “This was spontaneous. It was not artificial like the government agent calling a peace meeting of Muslim and Tamil elders where good intentions are exchanged.”

For one day the two communities were as though the last seven years had not intervened. The old Moulana himself said, “Whatever becomes of your personal illnesses, let this be a day of healing between the two communities. Let not any bitterness come betwixt you hereafter.”

A week later, it was the same story at Akkaraipattu. A Tamil foreman after the event told a Muslim shop keeper, one of the organisers, “What a fine thing it was. I have never seen such in my life before.”

Everyone agreed that the atmosphere had been greatly altered for the better.