When the Sultans charmed Serendib

Sri Lanka is home to a large number of Muslims many of whom comprise the descendants of Arab traders who had settled down here several centuries ago. It would appear that in the early days of their settlement in the island, Sri Lanka’s Muslims owed allegiance to the Caliphs of Baghdad such as the illustrious Harun Al-Rashid who figures as the hero in many of the tales told in the Alf Layla wa Layla or The Thousand and One Nights. That the Sri Lankan Muslims of old maintained friendly relations with the caliphate in Baghdad is suggested by a local tradition concerning a 10th century cleric named Abu Baqaya who is buried in the Muslim burial ground in Colombo. A well known British Official Alexander Johnston (Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland. 1827) has recorded a tradition current in his day that the cleric was sent by the Caliph of Baghdad in the beginning of the 10th century with instructions to reform the Muslims of Colombo after hearing that these Muslims, who were then established as traders, were ignorant of and inattentive to the real tenets of their religion. The caliph, he records, instructed the cleric to explain to these Muslims the nature of their religion and erect such a mosque at Colombo as were likely to ensure for the future, their strict observance of the real spirit of Islamic worship.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.