Thursday, March 02, 2006

Haji Sir Muhammad Macan-Markar Effendi

Oduma Lebbe Marikar of Galle had three sons - Naina Marikar, Macan Markar and Haji Ahmad. Naina Marikar had many sons, the eldest of whom was Muhammad Ismail. He established a Gem & Jewellery business in his name, N.M.Ismail. On his death, his three sons - Mahmood Ali, Muhammad Jameel and Muhammad Kassim (better known for his services as Honorary Secretary to the Ceylon Cricket Association for nearly a decade), changed the name of the business to M.Ali & Bros. and carried on a lucrative trade in the Victoria Arcade. They also assumed the ownership and management of Watawala Tea Estate, near Hatton, in the Central Province. Haji Ahmed had an only son, Cabeer who passed away at a relatively young age while performing the Jumma Prayers at the Galle Fort Mosque.

Oduma Lebbe Marikar Macan Markar, the second son, established, in 1860, a jewellery business at Point de Galle. The business flourished and was moved to Colombo when the port of call for ships was moved from galle harbour to Colombo harbour. His establishment in Colombo commenced at No. 1, Grand Oriental Hotel Arcade, Fort, Colombo. With the increase of patronage he moved to a more prominent location of the Grand Oriental Hotel in 1905. He had, among his clients, several members of the British Royalty comprising, His Majesty King Edward VII (1875) as Prince of Wales and His Majesty King George V (1901) as the Duke of Cornwall and York. Amongst the British nobility, some of his customers were, the Duke of Manchester, the Duke of Sutherland, Earl of Aylesford, Earl of Ellesmore, and Lord Abercomby.

In 1901, His Majesty King George V, as the Duke of Cornwall and York and the Duke of Roxbury, visited the exhibition of gems specially displayed at the King’s Pavillion in Kandy and made purchases from Macan Markar and complimented the firm for their excellent collection of gems. The firm regularly exported precious stones to the London and Paris markets. The world famous Cat’s Eye, weighing 105 Carats, called the Blue Giant of the Orient, a Blue Sapphire weighing 225 carats and the Wonder Star of Asia, a Star Sapphire weighing 225 carats are in the possession of the firm. They also possess a rare collection of antique jewellery worn by Moor brides of the past.

O.L.M.Macan Markar passed away on July 4, 1901.

The members of the firm who succeeded the founder were his four sons - Muhammad Macan Markar, Samsudeen Macan Markar, the most resourceful of them all in business, Abdul Vadood Macan Markar, steady and cautious in all his underatkings, and Muhammad Saleh Macan Markar, who passed away early in life in the year 1928 leaving behind a bequest of Rs. 50,000 for the establishment of the Saleh Macan Markar Muslim Educational Trust for the welfare of Muslim students.

The firm had, prior to 1942, branch offices at Shepherd’s Hotel, Continental Savoy, and Semiramis at Cairo and King David Hotel in Jerusalem.

Muhammad Macan Markar, fifth in a family of thirteen, was born at No. 47, Church Street, Fort, Galle on September 7, 1877. He was educated at Wesley College, Colombo (Pettah) and represented the College Cricket XI under the name of M.M.Muhammad, as he was then known at school. His contemporaries were, C.E.Pereira, who was the captain of the Cricket XI at Wesley, and S.P.Foenander, the worlds official cricket record keeper.

Muhammad made an unsuccessful attempt at passing the pre-medical examination before turning to business.

He was the Vice Consul for Turkey at Galle and later Consul for Turkey at Colombo during the period 1903 to 1915. He was also a member of the Galle Municipal Council, for twenty five years, during the period 1906 to 1931. later he was a member of the Colombo Municipal Council from 1940 to 1943. he also sat as a member of the Fez Committee and was the founder President of the All Ceylon Moor’s Association for and held that position for a number of years. He, subsequently, held the position of President of the All Ceylon Muslim League in 1945. He represented the Consulta eof Turkey in Ceylon. First Muslim Member for the All Island Seat at the Legislative Council. Senator 1947-1952. In addition, Muhammad was a registered member of the congregation of the Maradana Mosque. He was Knighted in 1938.

Ibrahimiya Arabic College at Galle was founded by his mother, Mrs. O.L.M.Macan Markar, who left endowments for its maintenance. The institution is now being maintained by the firm.
Haji Muhammad Macan Markar, Effendi, as he was known then, married Noor Neima Naina-Marikar, the eldest daughter of S.L.Naina Marikar Hajiar, on July 2, 1910, at "Muirburn", Turret Road, Colombo.

When the Hijaz Railway connecting Makkah and Madinah was commenced in 1907, Ceylon Muslims presented, at the Grand Mosque, New Moor Street, an address of thanks to the Turkish Consul, Muhammad Macan Markar, for submission to the Sultan of Turkey. A photograph of those who attended this function is still available.

Muhammad Macan Markar performed the Hajj piligrimage, in 1906, together with his mother, Aamina Umma, daughter of Aboobucker Mudaliyar, his grandmother Pathumuthu, daughter of Mudaliyar Cassim Lebbe Marikar (Cassile Blanc), his maternal uncle, Avoo Lebbe Marikar and the two ikhwans. S.L.M.H.Abdul Wahab and H.S.M. Izzadeen. They encountered a number of interesting adventures on their journey, including an encounter with a Bedouin tribe while crossing the Arabian desert on camel back, in a caravan.

As Turkish Consul, he visited Istanbul together with his brother Abdul Vadood and thereafter Rome, Paris and London on business, in 1909. While in London, he was presented to His Majesty King Edward VII, at St. James’s Palace by Lord Crewe.

Muhammad Macan Markar took a keen interest in the promotion of Muslim education and subscribed Rs. 1,000 towards the construction of houses, alongside the New Olympia Theatre at Darley Road, in a project that was estimated to cost Rs. 12,750. He, along with M.T.Akbar and several others, founded the Ceylon Muslim Educational Society Ltd., which established and managed the Hussainiya Boy’s School and Fathima Girl’s School. He realised the disability he suffered from insufficient education and endeavoured to provide his sons the best possible education available.

It was in his lavish bungalow, "Villa Stamboul", Galle Road, Colpetty, that the Muslim Ladies of Ceylon, gave an "Arabian Night" reception and presented an address paper to Lady Manning, wife of Governor, Sir Henry Manning, on October 5, 1921. The members of the reception committee were:-

Mrs. S.L.Naina Marikar, Mrs. E.G.Adamaly, Mrs. C.M.Meera Lebbe Marikar, Mrs. M.A.C.Muhammad, Mrs. W.M.Abdul Rahman, Mrs. S.L.Mahmood, Mrs. A.A.M.Saleem, Mrs. M.R.Akbar, Mrs. Ghouse Mohideen, Mrs. H.N.H.Jalaludeen and Mrs. H.M.Macan Markar.
Muhammad Macan Markar was elected the first Mohammedan Member for the all island seat in the Legislative Council in 1924. He was subsequently elected member for the Batticaloa South electorate in the State Council from 1931 to 1936 defeating E.R. Thambimuthu, and thereby gave the Muslims of the Eastern Province a political consciousness. he was elected the Minister of Communication and Works and it was his deciding vote in the Board of Ministers that introduced Income Tax to Ceylon. He was Knighted in 1938. At a grand public reception given to him in his home town, Galle, he was the first Muslim to openly espouse the establishment of a Sinhala Government, provided that justice and fairplay amongst all te communities in the country was ensured. As a matter of fact, the pro-Sinhala attitude of the All Ceylon Moor’s Association, of which Sir Muhammad was the President, broke the back-bone of the pro-fifty-fifty group. Sir Muhammad’s successor in office, Sir Razik Fareed, carried on this policy with great gusto until the fifty-fifty cry was silenced.

Sir Muhammad was appointed a Senator in the first Parliament of Ceylon in 1947 and continued to remain so until his death, after a short illness, on May 10, 1952 (15 Sha’aban 1371H). His wife pre-deceased him. He confided that he had two sincere loyal friends who were true to him right up to the end. They were, Hon. W.M.Abdul Rahman and H.N.H. Jalaludeen Hajiar.

Sir Muhammad made a bequest of Rs. 50,000 towards the construction of a Mosque in the University of Ceylon campus at Peradeniya. He also made substantial endowments towards Muslim female aducation and for post graduate studies for Muslim students.

His sons are, Ahmed Hussain Macan Markar, BA (Cantab), Bar-at-Law, MMC (former MP for Batticaloa); Alavi Ibrahim Macan Markar, MA (Cantab), FCA, Chartered Accountant and Dr. Muhammad Ajward Macan Markar, MD (London), MRCP (england), Professor of Medicine, University of Ceylon, Peradeniya.

His daughters are, Noorul Kareema (wife of Ahamed Samsudeen Muhammad), Hibshir Hanem (wife of A.M.Aboobucker), Fathima Shoiba (wife of S.A.C.Ismail), Noorul Ameena (wife of Muhammad Alavi Macan Markar).


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