Wednesday, March 01, 2006

MAAS THALEP AKBAR

Maas Thajoon Akbar, KC 1880-1944

Born:15-Jun-1880 at Slave Island, Colombo 2.
Educated at Royal College, Colombo 7.
Won a scholarship to University of Cambridge, 1897. BA LLB.

Called to the bar Grey’s Inn in 1904. Returned to Ceylon in 1905.
Private Secretary to C.P. Layard, Chief Justice. Lecturer and Examiner Ceylon Law College. Crown Counsel 1907. District Judge, Colombo 1918-1919. Soliciter General 6-Oct-1929. Retired 12-Nov-1936. Member, Legislative Council 7-May-1938. Executive Chairman University Committee, Peradeniya. Established Hussainiya and Fatima Girls School.

Donated land for Jawatta Mosque. First Muslim to adorn the Supreme Court and also to be raised to the status of Kings Council. Founder Ceylon Muslim Educational Society. Died:22-Apr-1944

MT Akbar played a prominent role in the educational and judicial life of the country. He was the son of MSJ Akbar, a wealthy coconut planter. He showed an exceptional talent as a student of Royal College and won several prizes and accolades during his studentship. He obtained a first class division pass at the London Matriculation and won the coveted scholarship to Cambridge University in 1897 where he did the Mechanical Science Tripos to qualify as an engineer.

However, he subsequently switched over to law and was called to the bar at Gray's Inn.

On his return home in 1905, while practicing law, he also officiated as a lecturer and examiner at the Ceylon Law College in Criminla Law & Procedure and Muslim Law. He joined the official bar and became a Crown Counsel in 1907, and by sheer merit, received appointments in turn as Solicitor-General, District Judge and Acting Attorney General, when Mr CH Elphinstone, the Attorney General at that time was away on furlough.

Akbar was the Chairman of the University Commission on whose recommendation the Legislative Council resolved, in 1928, that the University should be of the unitary and residential type, and that it should be located in the Dumbara Valley near Kandy.

Akbar, by his oratorical skill, tact and wit, successfylly piloted through the Legislative Council the resolution accepting the recommendations of the University Commission of which he was the Chairman. he had to face strong opposition from such giants of the past as Sir james Pieris, Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan and Mr GA Wille. He had lofty ideals in that the Cultural University he envisaged should be a great center of learning for the whole of Asia. Rather belatedly and grudgingly the University authorities have named on-half of a hall of residence as the "Akbar Hall".

Akbar was the first Muslim to adorn the Supreme Court Bench. He was also the firdt ceylon Muslim to be raised to the status of King's Counsel. At the time of his retirement he was the senior-most Puisne Justice.

Akbar made outstanding contributions towards the development of Muslim Law in Sri Lanka. He played a leading role in framing new law on the subject of the Muslim Law of Inheritance and Law of Wakf. He was also responsible for enabling Muslim Public Officers who had hitherto been debarred to come within the provisions of the Widows and Orphans Pension Fund.

Akbar, realizing the educational backwardness of the Muslims served as the founder Secretary of the Ceylon Moslem Educational Society Ltd for a number of years and succeeded in establishing the Hussainiya Boys' School and the Fathima Girls' School which fulfilled and essential service in a populous Muslim area of Colombo. he was also instrumental in building the Jawatte Mosque within the Jawatte Burial Grounds.

Akbar studied the works of eminent Muslim scholars and writers and was a student of comparative religion. He contributed a number of erudite articles on Islam to various Muslim Journals and it is a pity that these cannot be traced for purposes of re-publication in book form.
MT Akbar, ex officio member of the Legislative Council by virtue of being the Solicitor-General, was the Chairman of the Committee composed of NHM Abdul Cader, HM Macan Markar, TB Jayah, SR Mohamed Sultan and made the following recommendation to change the word Mohammedan to Muslim in sessional paper XXXV of 1924 as follows:-

"The Committee are unanimously of opinion that the word "Mohamedan" in whatever form it may be spelt is incorrect and should not be used. The correct expression which should be used is "Muslim" to designate a person professing the religion preached by the Prophet, and "Islam" when the reference is made to the religion itself. These are the two expressions used in the Qur'an."

The versatility of Akbar could be guaged from the fact that he was a wrestler and an exponent of Judo. He died at the age of 64 on April 22, 1944.

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