Thursday, March 02, 2006

*Slema = colloquial form of Sulaiman commonly used in Sri Lanka

Sulaiman Lebbe Naina Marikar Hajiar (#42 Main Street, Pettah)

John Capper in his "Old Ceylon – sketches of life in the olden time" pp154-161 dealing with Ceylon Moor shopkeepers in main Street, Pettah, in the year 1848 describes Sulaiman Lebbe Naina Marikar as "Number 42" based on the address of his business located at No 42, Main Street, Pettah. Many of the Moor businessmen were thus called by the assessment number of their respective businesses in the Pettah as their names were too complex to be remembered and pronounced by the Colonial rulers (British). Capper describes Sulaiman Lebbe as follows:-
"The most flourishing of these gentry is certainly Number Forty Two, a portly oily-skinned, well conducted Moorman with a remarkably well shaved head surmounted on its very apex by a ridiculously little colored cap like an infantive bee-hive. His bazaar is admitted on all hands, especially amongst the fair sex to be "fi……chop". Yet a stranger would imagine that the fiscal had possession of the place and was on the point of selling off by auction the entire contents; so confused and motley an appearance do they wear.

The doorway, narrow and low, is jealously guarded by a pile of grindstones, surmounted by a brace of soup-tureens on the one side and by tools and weapons of offence on the other"
Sahib Doray Naina-Marikar Hajiar

A clan of Ceylon Moors moved from Beruwala to Panadura and set up business establishments in Colombo where they subsequently settled down once business prosperred. One of these families contained a person named Sahib Doray Muhammad Lebbe Marikar, who married Assen Kandu Natchia, the third daughter of Meera Lebbe Slema Lebbe Comoster, in 1817. Their son was Sulaima Lebbe (Jahil) who in turn had a son named Naina Marikar in 1868.

Naina-Marikar received his Arabic education at home and Tamil at a night school and also attended Wesley College, which was then situated next door in Old Moor Street, for his English education. As was the prevailing custom then, he also attended his father’s shop during his free time and learnt the mechanics of business.

His father passed away in 1892 and Naina-Marikar took over the business at Main Street, Pettah. His business flourished rapidly and he opened up several new shops in the Pettah.
Naina-Marikar was resident at No 43, New Moor Street, Colombo, and in 1900 he purchased a palatial bungalow, that contained a large garden, at Turret Road called "Muirburn". Within this compound he built another shop called Victoria Drapery Stores. He also worked as an indenting agent and imported large stocks of goods from Europe to be disposed of wholesale to other big merchants in Ceylon. He sold on credit and his stock in trade was valued at several hundreds of thousand Rupees.

Naina-Marikar made a donation towards the construction of the Wesley College building at baseline Road, Colombo. This donation, along with many others, has been gratefully acknowledged on the plaque near the main entrance of the school even ntil today. He took an active part in the educationa movement of Wapchi Marikar at Zahira College and of I.L.M.H. Noordeen Hajiar, his Father-In-Law, at Hameedia School.

The prevailing system of Muslim Marriage Registration in Ceylon was not beneficial to the parties in the event of any disputes arising between them. The Government found it quite difficult to settle such disputes, especially in the Eastern Province. As the Muslim Marriage Registration Ordinance had not been compulsorily enforced on the Muslims, the Government Agent, Mr. Lushington, addressed Naina-Marikar, in 1907, on the subject as he was considered the leader of the Muslims of Colombo.

Naina-Marikar sumoned a meeting of the Muslims, consisiting of both lay people and Ulemas, at his residence at "Muirburn" and explained the difficulties of the Government in settling marriage disputes. Several other meetings followed and, finally, a request was made to the Government to make the registration of Muslim marriages compulsory. The congregation of the New Moor Street Mosque had always opposed the registration of Muslim marriages on the grounds that it was not islamic and hence not required. This opposition was prevalant since the inception of the marriage registration ordinance in 1886 for which the Muslims were not required to comply at the time of introduction. A meeting of the congregation of the New Moor Street Mosque, under the Presidency of M.I.Muhammad Ali JP, paternal grandfather of Mrs. Ummuna Azeez, was held in the Mosque to protest against Naina-Marikar’s proposal and the proccedings of the meeting were published in the "Crescent" of Sheikh Abdulla Quilliam of

Liverpool Muslim fame as follows:-

"A General Meeting was held at 8.00 p.m. on the 12th July 1907 at New Moor Street Mosque, to discuss the subject of introducing registration or\f Muhammadan marriages. Mr. Muhammad Ismail Muhammad Ali, Khan Bahdur, Persian Consul and Justice of the Peace, presided and Mr. A.K.Uduman hajiar acted as Secretary, and there was a respectable assembly of some of the leading Muhammadans including Alims and Mullahs. It was unanimously resolved that this Registration Ordinance should not be introduced, as it is aginst the Muhammadan religion and serves no purpose. There was an assembly of about 5,000 people".

Nevertheless, amendents were made to the Muhammadan Marriage Laws and registration became compulsory.

Naina-Marikar’s ancestors were members of the Maradana Mosque congregation and they contributed money for the purchase of a property in 1840. naina-Marikar, at his own personal cost, erected a building for the Maradana Mosque Ablution Tanks (Howl) in 1899. R.H. Bassett, CCS, remarked, "the Howl or the ablution place oat Zahira College Mosque is extremely picturesque seen through its low circular arches".

He contributed two thousand rupees for the Zahira College houses (from Nos. 105 to 121) to make up the twelve thousand seven hunfred and fifty rupees required. He also paid two hundred and fifty rupees to equip Wapchi Marikar’s second building with furniture.

As a member of the executive committee of the Maradana Mosque he was elected Treasurer for several periods. He was also a contributing member of the Jameeathul Hameediah which managed the Hameediah School.

Oduma Lebbe Marikar Ahmed Lebbe Marikar Alim (OLMALM Alim) was one of the wealthy amongs the Ceylon Moors in Colombo. He did extensive hardware business and was possessed of several immovable properties. He had several sons who managed each department of his businesses. He passed away in 1917 and his estate was valued at approximately two million rupees. When his last will was submitted to court some of his heirs contested it. The will was not proved and the Court declared that he had died intestate. The Supreme Court rejected the appeal and preparations were being made by the heirs to appela to the Privy Council. Some of the elders in the community advised them to stop legal proceedings and allocate the properties to the heirs. The parties concerned agreed to the selection of S.L.Naina-Marikar Hajiar as the arbitrator and his award was accepted as final.

Naina-Marikar was engaged in the hardware buisiness during the latter years of his life. His establishment was situated at No. 188, Keyzer Street, Pettah. Prior to that, in 1920, he was also engaged in the automobile business, in partnership with Weerappas, and was involved in importing motor vehicles from Britain and Europe.

Naina-Marikar passed away on December 24, 1926 leaving three sons, Muhammad Rawoof (who pre-deceased him), Muhammad Sulaiman,


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