M C ABDUL CADER 1879(?)-1946
Muhammad Careem of Jaffna, father of MC Abdul cader, was engaged in business and was very orthodox in his outlook and views. He feared that western education would mitigate an Islamic way of life. His wife, however, held a contrary view and thus helped young Abdul cader to receuive his early education at the New Chetty Street High School, in Jaffna.
Noting his brilliance in his studies at the school his teachers strongly urged the young man to continue his higher studies. Having performed excellently at the Matriculation of the Madras Presidency Examination held in Ceylon, he won a scholarship for admission to the University.
Asfter graduating from the Presidency College in Madras he returned to Ceylon and taught mathematics at his “alma mater” for a short period. Law attracted him and he passed out as an Advocate of the Supreme Court of the Island of Ceylon. He took his oaths before the Supreme Court Judges on October 7, 1904, clad in his western best, resplendent with his red Fez on his head.
He held a double distinction of being the first Ceylon Moor graduate and Advocate. They Ceylon Moors were then known as “Mohammedans” by the Colonial regime of the time.
He was building a lucrative practice in the Supreme Court, Colombo. When he appeared before Justice Sir CP Layard on that eventful day of May 2, 1905, to argue an appeal case, he was rudely shocked when the learned judge asked him to either remove his Fez Cap or take off his boots in order to show his respect to his court.
But Mr Abdul Cader was made of stronger stuff, unawed by the rebuff of the Court, he refused to do either. He explained that the wearing of his national headgear was a sign of Islamic respect to the Court and the removal of his boots being out of the question, walked out of the Court. Thoudh being defiant, as a practical lawyer, he explained to the Judge subsequently in his chambers but without success.
He thus manifested to the legal world of the time that he regarded the preservation of his community’s heritage more than his profession and felt it was worth risking even his legal career. His defiant and courageous stand evoked, not only the admiration of his people but also of the generalpublic against the rebuff of a Colonial Judge. It further aroused an indifferent community to galvanic action, with the leadership of Mr ILM Abdul Azeez, Chairman of the Moors’ Union. They planned an organized action initially to lead a deputation of the Moors before the Justice Layard to justify the stand of Abdul Cader. The judge, with the Colonial trait in his character relaxed to see them of the matter was discussed on a personal (but not official) level and received them to hear their views at his residence, “Torrington House”, on June 17, 1905. The selected few of the deputation explained in detail their views and of their fear of implications in the future unless he revoked his provocative order that adversely affected a heritage of the community.
The Judge, however, asked the deputation to submit its representations in wriring for the issue of a formal decision. Mr Abdul cader submitted amemorandum to the Supreme Court, but influenced by Justice Layard to maintain his earlier order, it decided on September 19, 1905, to prohibit the wearing of the Fez before the Court.
Quite naturally, the community was stirred to take an united action and initial meetings were held to organize an effective campaign of mass protest.
A Fez Committee, comprising of the following, was formed to pursue action at a high level:-
Mr MLM Zainudeen Hadjiar, MMC (grandfather of MMI Kariapper)
Mr Muhammad Macan Markar, Consul for Turkey (father of A Hussain Macan Markar)
Mr MI Muhammad Ali, JP, Vice Consul for Persia (gradfather of Ummuna Azeez, wife of AMA Azeez, Sithy Fathma Cader, wife of Jabir A Cader, and Advocate Mahdi Hussain)
Mr SLM Mahmood Hadjiar, JP, (father of MHM Yousoof)
Mr ILMH Noordeen Hadjiar (grandfather of Mohideen Jalaldeen, JP)
Mr Carimjee Jafferjee (father of Alibhoy Carimjee)
Mr SL Naina Marikar Hadjiar, Treasurer, Fez Committee (grandfather of M Ibrahim & M Zain Naina Marikar)
Mr CM Meera Lebbe Marikar (father of MLM Reyal, ex MMC)
Mr AL Abdul Careem (grandfather of Jabir A Cader, ex Mayor, ex MP)
Mr OLM Ahamed Lebbe Marikar Alim Sahib (grandfather of M/S MTM Hassim, Marzuk A Rahim, MHM Kamil, Barrister Hamavi haniffa, and Mrs Raliya Umma Noordee, wife of Muhammad Sameer bin Haji Ismail Effendi)
Haji Ibrahim Bin Ahamed (father-in-law of Sir Razik Fareed)
Mr ILM Abdul Azeez, Secretary, Fez Committee (father of Rashard A Azeez)
Mr ILM Muhammad Meera Lebbe Marikar (grandfather of MI Azhar Ghouse, BA Ceylon)
Mr NDH Abdul Ghaffoor (father of Faleel A Ghaffoor, MP)
Mr PT Meera Lebbe Marikar (father of MLM Mohideen, Jaward & Junaid)
Mr NEM Packeer (grandfather of Abdul Raheem)
Mr Muhammad Abdul Cader Alim Sahib
Mr K Abraham Sahibo (general Merchant of Nuwara Eliya)
Mr MKM Muhammad Salihu
Mr MA Katchi Muhammadu
Mr PB Umbichchy
Even non Muslims joined in what was regarded as an infringement in the personal liberty of Muslims to adhere to approved Muslim wear from head to foot.
With the indefatigable Mr ILM Abdul Azeez at the spearhead, the Fez Committee, on the suggestion of Seth Carimjee Jafferjee, invited a reputed Indian Muslim barrister-at-Law, Mr Raffiu-ud-din Ahamed (Moulavi), to address, what was then the biggest mass meeting of Muslims in Ceylon. The meeting was held on December 31, 1905, at the grounds of the Maradana Mosque, Colombo 01000, with the Honourable WM Abdul Rahman (father of Sir Razik Fareed) in the chair.
In an inspiring address, Mr Raffiu-ud-din Ahamed, mentioned that he had always appeared before the High Courts of India wearing his headgear on his head and had never been questioned. He further stresses that he had even attended an audience before the late Queen Empress Victoria in her Chapel, with his Fez Cap on his head and failed to understand how Justice Layard could, in such circumstances, take it as a disrespect for his Court. He praised the British sense of fair play, Justice, and spirit of religious sentiment. He criticized the order of Justice Layard as one completely alien to the British outlook of administration. The Mass Meeting, by unanimous decision, resolved to appeal to the British Crown. Consequently, the Colonial Secretary conveyed to the President of the Fez Committee that the Fez could be worn by Mohammedan lawyers before Court if clad in the conventional attire of lawyers.
Thus was a fight bitterly fought and rewardingly won, to preserve and safeguard a heritage of the Moors of Ceylon, on the defiance of Mr Abdul Cader even to disobey the order of a British Judge of the Supreme Court, in those days of Colonial rule.
Mr Abdul Cader was more than juist a practicing advocate. He identified himself in various activities in the promotion of Muslim education and took up the offered appointment of Manager at Al-Madrasathul Zahira (presently Zahira College, Colombo), for sometime. The call to the Bar was too strong an urge for him to suppress any more and on the advice of his Proctor friend, AM Sheriff (ex MLC) of Kattankudy, he settled down at Kattankudy to actively practice at the Batticaloa Bar.
Although legally engaged, he yet found time to serve as a useful member of the Colombo Muslim Educational Society and the Mohammedan Registration Ordinance Amendment Committee, which included several Muslim leaders, viz; Hon WM Abdul Rahman, Hon Muhammad Macan Markar. His political sagacity was so well known that he was included in the deputation of the Muslims composed of leaders like TB Jayah, MM Mahroof and FE Ghulam Hussain, who went to the Colonial Office in London to amend the constitution for the retention of at least three communal seats in the State Council through election by Muslims only. Mr Abdul Cader was also a member of the Committee, on the basis of whose recommendations, the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act No 13 of 1951 was passed.
His public spiritidness made him a member of the “Friend in Need Society” and the Provincial Road Committee. He was also a member of the first Urban Council, Batticaloa, and the First Board of Quazis. Wherever he served, he dedicated himself to the work involved and gave of his best in the best interest of all. He, however, devoted more of his time in the legal profession and practiced for nearly four decades at the Batticaloa Bar.
Of his five children, first was a daughter, Salma, who married a kinsman, Mr Samsudeen. They both died early in life without issue. The second child, a son named Muhammad Careem (named after his grandfather), had a brilliant start as a Sub Divisional Officer in the department of Irrigation and would have risen high in the profession had he lived. But fate took him away when he was in his late twenties. His two daughters married Dr HM Mahuroof of Akurana and Dr AZ Abdeen of Madawela.
Abdul Cader’s two other daughters, Salha (mother of MIA Qamardeen & MIM Noordeen), and Mymoon, were well settled in life having married two landed proprietors and the last son, ACM Mohideen (named after Abdul Cader’s father-in-law) served in the Ministry of Local Government. Abdul Cader’s wife, Sulaiha, lived up to the age of a nonegenarian after having seen her fifth generation.
Abdul Cader was versatile in his career, which occupied most of his time in various locations. Yet, as a devout Muslim, he never missed any of his daily five times obligatory prayers. A feat not easily achieved by many Muslims in their religious duty at that time.
Steadfast in his stand, dedicated in his devotion, and decisive in his deliberations, Abdul Cader passed away, having suffered a heart attack at Kattankudy on May 27, 1946.