(15 June 1921 – 25 April 2016)
Dedicated leader for the cause of Muslim Ummah &
to the service of the Sri Lankan Muslim Community
Mohamed Haniffa Mohamed was born on 15 June 1921 to an illustrious family of Sri Lanka. He spent his long life for the service of Islam and his community of Sri Lanka. I had the opportunity to meet this great leader of Sri Lanka so many times when he used to come to attend the meeting of the Constituent Council of the Muslim World League (Rabitat al-Alam Al-Islami) in Makkah Al-Mukarramah.
I used to meet and interview him about the Muslim situation in Sri Lanka as well as about his viewpoint on world Muslim situation. I still vividly remember those days when I used to sit long long hours at his room in Hilton Hotel Makkah and also in Safa Palace Makkah. I enjoyed my meeting with him when we were sitting and discussing about interfaith activities at Safa Palace during the First International Dialogue Conference in Makkah initiated by the then King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
M H Mohamed was a versatile dedicated leader of the Muslim community. I want to divide his activities into three categories –international Muslim Ummah, religious and Muslim Affairs and political activities. So far his national political activities are concerned; he held most of the important political positions in the Government of Sri Lanka. Mohamed Haniffa Mohamed, Municipal Councillor, Member of Parliament, Minister who held several portfolios (although at different times), and one time Speaker of the Sri Lankan Parliament.
Mohamed Haniffa Mohamed – Ancestry
Amongst Such early migrants from the Peninsular Arabia during the rule of the Sinhala Monarchs – That is, long before the South Indian Kings and the Catholic Portugues invaded Ceylon – were the ancestors of M H Mohamed. One such person was Saint Al Quthub As Sheikh Ismail Moulana Al Yemeni Seilani As Zebeedi wal Abbasi (Nasab) wa Siddique (Hasab), known as Arabi Appa, who migrated from Yemen together with Seyyed Abdul Qadir Moulana and settled down in Ceylon.
A great Islamic and Arabic scholar and a widely respected theologian. Arabi Appa was direct descendent of Seyyidina Abbas (RA), who was an uncle of Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), as well as Seyyidina Abu Bakr Siddique (RA), the first caliph of Islam. His immediate ancestors were As Seyyed Sheikh Shaoosi Ar Rabahiyyi Zebeediyil Abbasi wa Siddiqui, as Seyyed Salih Abdullah, As Sheikh Salih Moulana and Sheikh Izzadeen Moulana.
M C Raheman’s fifth child, Abdul Azeez, the maternal grand father of M H Mohamed, married Yeha Umma, a grand daughter of As Sheikh Abdul Azeez Moulana, who was one of the sons of As sheikh Ismail Moulana Yemeni (Arabi Appa).
The Abdul Azeez Yehya Umma Couple had one daughter and their only daughter Ummu Hafeera was given in marriage to N M M Haniffa Proctor and Notary Public..
First in so many respects
Because of his ancestral background and heritage, M H. Mohamed has devoted himself to the cause of Islam and to the service of the Muslim community both nationally and internationally. He was the first in so many respects in the history of Sri Lanka. He won the Ward in the Colombo Municipal Council and on 12 January 1960-63 was elected the first Muslim Mayor of Colombo. He was in the Colombo Municipal Council from 1947 to 1965.
Again he was the first to hold the portfolio of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs in J.R. Jayewardene’s government.
Membership of Motamar Al-Alam Al-Islami
(World Muslim Congress)
Mohamed Haniffa Mohamed was member of international Muslim organisations, such as Rabita Al-Alam al-Islami (Muslim World League) and Motamar Al-Alam Al-Islami (World Muslim Congress). Mr. Mohamed Iqbal wrote about this: “My late father and others in the 1950s and early 1960s with the YMMA attending Islamic meetings. The reawakening of the World Muslim Congress in Karachi, Pakistan by the sole and dynamic efforts of the late Dr. Haji Inamullah Khan and the late Grand Mufti His Holiness Amin Al-Hussaini was one such meeting and my late father introduced my uncle to Dr. Haji Inamullah Khan when he visited Sri Lanka.”
“The Late Dr. Haji Inamullah Khan appointed my uncle to the World Muslim Congress and both of them were also inducted as founder members of the Muslim World League (Rabita) in the Royal Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” mentioned Iqbal.
Founder Member of Muslim World League
(Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islami)
RabitaAl-Alam Al-Islami was launched under the patronage of King Faisal bin Abdulaziz in 1962 in Makkah al-Mukarramah. M H Mohamed was associated with this organisation from the very beginning and was its Founder-Member of the Sri Lankan chapter of the organisation. He was a Member of the Constituent Council of the Rabita Al-Alam Al-Islami, the highest decision making body of the international Muslim organisation.
His Religious Activities:
Hajj Pilgrimage for Sri Lankans
Coming from a deeply religious family, M H Mohamed did not neglect his religious functions, associations or activities. He was the first Muslim minister in the Sri Lankan cabinet. He was entrusted with the cabinet portfolio of Muslim Affairs. Being Minister in Charge of Muslim Religious Affairs in J.R. Jayewardene’s government, he addressed the issues of the Hajj pilgrimage of Sri Lankan Muslims in the most efficient manner. Writing about this Hajj delegation, Mohamed Iqbal, his nephew wrote: “It became my task to assist him to draft documents on the performance of Holy Hajj by Sri Lankan faithful and their visiting both holy cities of Makkah and Madina in Saudi Arabia. The Hajj Committee of the YMMA and other bodies were duly recognised and formalised.
The first Hajj delegation proposed by M H Mohamed received the approval of the Government of Sri Lanka in 1965.This Hajj Committee set up by M H Mohamed is still in existence.
National Hijra Council
He was appointed by the Government as chairman of the National Hijra Council, which worked not only for the welfare of Muslims, but also contributed towards establishing communal harmony. Towards this, he organised two international seminars in Sri Lanka on the “Universality of Islam” and arranged a dialogue between Muslims and Christians, with top delegates from international Muslim organisations represented at these events. M H Mohamed, through the Islamic Centre in Maligawatte, which he was credited to have established, periodically invited Ulemas, Buddhist, Christian and Hindu clergy for events intended to promote communal harmony, mentioned Dr. M. Haris Z Deen.
Islamic Centre in Maligawatte
M H Mohamed established Islamic Centre in Maligawatte, Colombo in 1965. Through this centre, he invited periodically Ulemas, Buddhist, Christian and Hindu clergy for events intended to promote communal harmony. Besides Islamic centre, he has established many Jumah Mosques, Muslim orphanages, Muslim Ladies Arabic College, Islamic Centre for physically handicapped Girls School and college and Arabic school.
“Besides the Islamic centres, the following few stand out as iconic; construction of the Dewatagaha Jummah Mosque, Kataragam Mosque, Kirulapana Jummah Mosque and various other development projects undertaken including Naleemiya Institute at Beuwela, Muslim Orphanage at Makola, Kal eliya Muslim Ladies Arabic College, Islamic centre For physically handicapped at Thihariya, Zahir College Colombo, MICH Colombo, Madrasuthul Falah Kattandudy, Al-Hijrah and Khairiya Girls school, Zahira College Kalmuni and Ghaffooriya Arabic School in Maharagama,” wrote Nissther Annis, former President of Sri Lankan Islamic UK Association.
IDB Scholarships for Muslim education
M H Mohamed initiated many projects for the education of Sri Kankan Muslims through the Islamic centre. He was behind the arrangement for the educational scholarships for the education of Sri Lankan Muslims from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB). It is learnt from his son, Azahim Mohamed who lives in London that more than 150 students went for higher studies with this scholarships in two years and this IDB scholarship is still in existence and Sri Lankan Muslims are benefitted from this. “The number of Muslim doctors, engineers and other graduates, qualified and in the process of qualifying who assembled in the UK and conducted Janaza prayer for him in his absence bears testimony to the “generosity in silence” that Marhoom MH initiated for the education of Muslims through the Islamic Centre, mentioned Dr. Haris.
Musalla for Indonesian Hajis
The Musalla (place of prayer) constructed in Katunayake, in honour of the Indonesian Hajis who died in the air crash, is also an initiative by M H Mohamed. These will remain as monuments to the eternal memory of Mohamed Haniffa Mohamed the versatile charismatic politician.
Political Life of M H Mohamed
M H Mohamed was a household name in Colombo politics. “a former Speaker and onetime a stalwart member of the United National Party, entered into politics and remained in that enterprise during that ‘golden era’. After entering the Colombo Municipal Council in 1947, after his father Proctor Haniffa bade adieu to his lively political career, M H Mohamed contested the same Ward, Maligawatte that his illustrious father represented up to then. After a vigorous campaign for which Mohamed had built a fairly reasonable reputation, M H Mohamed was victorious as an independent candidate and entered the exalted corridors of power in the prestigious Colombo Municipal Council, wrote Dr. Wickrema Weerasooria in his write up M H Mohamed – a Muslim icon of a bygone era.
Writing about the political achievements of M H Mohamed, Dr. Weerasooria mentioned, “Mohamed’s political achievements are simply unique. From a mere Member of the Colombo Municipal Council to end up as the First Citizen of Colombo (Mayor) and then go on to win a parliamentary seat and hold many Cabinet portfolios under both Dudley Senanayake and J R Jayewardene and then end up as the Speaker of the House of Parliament when R Premadasa was the President of the country are no mean achievements. Only those who have so succeeded know how difficult the road was! By any conventional standard, Mohamed was an overachiever. But the humility with which he accepted all accolades and praise held him good stead in good times as well as in bad times. As the Speaker of Parliament, the exemplary manner in which he undertook to handle the “infamous” impeachment motion against the then President Premadasa will go down in our parliamentary history.”
M H Mohamed
First Muslim Mayor of Colombo 1960 – 1963
Member of Parliament of Sri Lanka 1965 – 2010
Sri Lanka Cabinet Minister 1965 to 1970, 1977 to 2010
Including the first to hold the cabinet rank as Muslim and Cultural affairs.
Chairman Islamic Centre
Chairman World Mosque Council
President Asian Islamic Council
Senior Vice President Motamar Al Alam Al Islami
(World Muslim Congress), Karachi
Member, Constituent Council of Rabita Al Alam Al Islami,
(Muslim World League) Makkah
Member, Scholarship Programme Committee for the Asian Region of the
Islamic Development Bank, Jeddah
M H Mohamed lost his wife, Noor Naseema early, and two of his children Shaha preceded him. Sadly, his son Haniffa succumbed to a heart attack a week after the demise of MH. His surviving children Hussain, Hassan, Azahim, Thufa and Sahul Hameed and the number of grand- children will certainly miss him. May Allah Grant Him a Special Place in Paradise.