Thursday, March 02, 2006

ABOOBUCKER ISMAIL LEBBE MARIKAR 1907-1992

AlHaj Aboobucker Ismail Lebbe Marikar, affectionately known as AIL Marikar, was destined to serve the community by the Will of Allah, for over two decades. Be it, the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home, All Ceylon Moors’ Association, Ceylon Moor Chamber of Commerce, Ceylon Moslem Educational Society, Maradana Jumma Mosque, Peradeniya University Mosque Association, Syed Jiffry Moulana memorial Trust, AIL was one of those at the helm to deliver the goods. AIL Marikar’s ancestry can be traced back to Prince Jalaludeen of Armania. His father was ABLIL Marikar, a specially reputed Ceylon Moor English book seller. AIL was born on August 10 1907 at his ancestral home at No 263 Dam Street, Colombo 01200.

He had his early education at Hameedia School and later moved to Wesley College in Pettah during the Principalship of the Rev Highfiweld. He passed the London Matriculation Examination with honors in History and English Literature.

He chose to pursue his fathers business instead of venturing into higher education. Later, he started an indenting agency on his own under the name of “Cey-Jap Mercantile Agency”. He was very successful and ventured easily into many religious and socvial activities. He married, Noor Razika, daughter of PTM Sheriff, who predeceased him.

On August 2, 1944, at his office at No 5 Second Cross Street, Colombo 11, in the Pettah, a few leading members of the Moor Community, who cherished a vision for the future of their people in their hearts, met and founded the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home (MICH). The founding fathers were, Sir Razik Fareed (then known as ARARazik), WM Hassim JP, Ahmed Hussain Macan Markar, ALM Lafir JP, and AIL Marikar. AIL held the position of Honorary Joint Secretary of the MICH, from its inception in 1944 all the way until his demise on January 4, 1992 – a record for anyone in any association or society.

When the need for a permanent Headquarters for the MICH arose, Sir Razik Fareed with customary zeal, at the instance of AIL, sponsored a motion in the Senate, on May 25 1948, to obtain a grant of a block of crown land in the Fort. It was seconded by Mr. R F S de Mel. Sir Oliver Goonetilleke, the then Governor, most graciously accepted the motion on behalf of the Government. When donations were invited for the building fund, the first contribution of Rs 31.50 was made by AIL and his wife. Today, a massive four-storeyed building stands tall at Bristol Street Fort as the HQ of the MICH.

During this period, temporary accommodation was found necessary for the activities of the organization. “Pasha Villa” at No 15 Dematagoda Road, Colombo 00900 fell vacant after WWII had ended, and money had to be found in order to lease it as a suitable location for the activities of the MICH. AIL induced Husain Macan Markar, another Joint Secretary, and arranged a string-hopper dinner at his residence and invited many active and rich members of the community to come forward to assist in this project. The required funds were immediatrely subscribed, a lease agreement was signed with the owners of “pasha Villa”, and eventually the whole propert was purchased for the MICH.

A scheme for the local training of Hafiz Al Quran (Quranic memorization), in view of their dearth in Colombo and the reliance of the services of Hafiz from neighboring India to conduct Night Prayers during Ramadan at the Mosques, was mooted on the initiative of AIL at the meeting of the Board of Trustees on October 8, 1946. Implementation commenced on August 20, 1950 when the first Annual Al-Quran (memory) Recital Contest was held for the first three sections (Jooz) of the Quran.

The complete Quran was completed in the first ten annual contests and now there is no dearth of Hafiz in Colombo anymore. At the elevnth Annual General Meeting of the MICH, held on August 25, 1955, AIL Marikar moved a motion for effective steps to be taken for the translation of the Quran into Sinhalese. Although it took 26 years, the translation was finally completed during his lifetime. The call for prayer broadcast on Radio Ceylon, daily, during the month of Ramadan, for the break and commencement of the fast, was also one of the actions initiated by AIL to the then Minister of Broadcasting, Mr S. Natesan. This commenced on June 5, 1947 and is being continued to date with the Rupavahini Corporation broadcasting it on TV too.

AIL Marikar has authored many books, both individuallyand also with A Hussain macan Markar and ALM Lafir. On many occasions he also subscribed to the national newspapers on Islamic events and has also given talks on radio, one of them being on the “signifance of aj in the light of cataclysmic changes in Muslim countries”. The “Asrarul Islam”, written by the late MC Siddi Lebbe, was also translated into English by his brother ILMM Nilam.

During the 48 years of stewardship of the MICH, he rarely missed a meeting of the Board of Trustees. He was also a very rare example of a dedicated Secretary who set out to work for his community without any trappings or pelf. He was at his office at the MICH, Fort, as always until he breathed his last. During this time there were numerous callers with problems of whom many were students, for whom he would respond patiently and settle their affairs. Apart from his literary pursuits he also helped many worthy charitable causes without publicity and fanfare.

At the AGMof the Ceylon Moors’ Association,held on August 4, 1941, AIL Marikar and SM Ismail were elected Joint Secretaries. During the early years of war, politics was at a standstill, yet the President of the Moors’ Association, Sir Razik Fareed, AIL Marikar, and a few others kept the Ceylon Moor Flag flying in many other spheres. AIL, after his marriage, moved to his wife’s home at St. Peter’s Place, Colombo 0400, which was just a stones throw away from the Fareed Place residence of Sir Razik Fareed. This was a tremendous convenience for him in most of his activities pertaining to the community.

The activities of the Ceylon Moors’ Association, which after the Japanese Air Raid on Colombo lay dormant like most other voluntary organizations, were revived in 1943 at AIL Marikar’s office premises at No. 5 Second Cross Street, Colombo 01100. It was the time when the War Damage Insurance were being refunded. The Ceylon Moor Chamber of Commerce had been functioning for sometime on the solo efforts of AIL Marikar, the Secretary of the Chamber. On July 4, 1950, a private members motion was moved by the President, Sir Razik Fareed, for the reservation, exclusively, to Ceylonese importers all imports from Japan and other foreign countries. AIL was the man beind the scenes who initiated this move.

With the gradual restrictions on the private sector the activities of the Chamber slowed down, although AIL Marikar’s services was always at the disposal of the members of the Chamber. At the time of his death, he was the Secretary of the Executive Committee of the Maradana Jumma Mosque and was largely responsible for the multi-million Rupee expansion project of the Mosque which was in progress at that time. AIL Marikar was an active member of the Peradeniya University Mosque Association and his contribution towards its progress was immense.

AIL Marikar took a leading role in the formation of the Syed Abdul Rahman Jiffry Moulana Memorial Trust which helps many deserving students to pursue their higher education. In the year 1940 he was a member of the Muslim Mosques and Charitable Trust along with Sir Mohammed Macan Markar and Sir Razik Fareed. AIL was the last to survive of those who appeared before the Soulbury Commission to urge for adequate representation for Muslims in the Legislature.

He was a scholar, Master of written words and a ery simple but active personality. The London based Guiness Book of Records has opened a file for his exemplary service and contributions made in respect of Islamic Culture in Sri Lanka – a very unique achievement, indeed.

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