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Knowledge, a sacred duty obligatory on every Muslim

KNOWLEDGE: Matara St. Mary’s Convent marked the sixth annual Islamic Day with Moratuwa Additional District Judge S. D. Arfa Thassim. Here are excerpts of her speech which touched on the education of women in Islam. Rev. Sister Sandamalie Kurera, Principal of the school was also present.

“First of all I must thank the organising committee for inviting me to grace this occasion especially in this convent as I’ve a special regard to this convent. This is a very special school of the Southern Province, most of the Muslim girls of the area up to Hambantota are educated in this convent.

The reason for that is though this is a school with Christianity background management of the convent always welcome Muslim students and there is no discrimination. Also I should say they are enjoying the privilege of adhering to Muslim culture. For example they are allowed to wear their uniform to convent according to Islamic way.

That itself is unique. I would like to say this privilege is not granted by most of the other schools that I am aware of. I take this opportunity to thank the principal and the management of the convent for the privilege granted. I must say even my daughter Nithashi had her primary education in this convent, reluctantly I removed her as I had to shift to Colombo due to my profession.

Today I thought to speak a few words to the Muslim girls about education for women in Islam.

Our Prophet has said 1,400 years ago in the darkest of times “The seeking of knowledge is incumbent upon every Muslim male and female.” This clearly states that there is no disparity between men and women in seeking of knowledge. One can quite rightly say with this statement, that it is the right of every woman to equip herself with a sound education.

Other Hadiths too show the importance of gaining knowledge. Not only that it should begin from young age.

The Prophet has said: “One should seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave.”

The Prophet has also stated: “That a person even could go to China in order to broaden his education.” China was then known to be the furtherest end.”

Dear children you may now understand to seek knowledge is a sacred duty, it is obligatory on every Muslim, male and female.

What is the first word revealed to Prophet by Allah Almighty through his Angels? The first word revealed of the Qur’an was ‘Iqra’. It is in Sura-Al-Alaq. It says: “Read! In the name of thy Lord who created. Seek knowledge! Educate yourselves! Be educated.”

In Islam men and women have the equal right to seek education. Education and seeking knowledge are mandatory upon men and women in Islam.

What is the meaning of mandatory? It is an order. Allah has ordered all human beings without any gender discrimination to seek knowledge and education.

Quran believes in equality of all human kind. But it announces the superiority of the class of educated people.

Let us look at what Allah Almighty said in His Noble Quran:

Chapter 39:9 - “Are the educated and uneducated equal? Are those equal who know and those who do not know?

Chapter 35:28 - “Those truly fear God among his servants are who have knowledge: for God is exalted in might, Oft Forgiving.”

Further Prophet Muhammed said:

“If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, Allah will cause him to travel on one of the roads of paradise, The angels will lower their wings in great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge, The inhabitants of the heavens and the earth,And the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man.

The superiority over the learned man is like that of the moon on the night, when it is full, over the rest of the stars.

The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, And the Prophets leave neither dinar nor dirham (currency of that country) leaving only knowledge, and he who takes it, takes an abundant portion.

(This Hadith is from Kithab-Al Ilm-Book of knowledge - translation of Sunan Abu Dawud - Book 25 - No. 3634).

And in that Book, No. 3656 the Prophet said: “If anyone acquires knowledge only to get some worldly advantage, he will not experience the odour of paradise.”

So education and knowledge is necessary to understand the essence of teachings of the Quran too. In the above noble verses and sayings, we clearly see that knowledge and education are a must on both Muslim men and women. “Those who know are better than who do not know”

Hence education to both men and women in Islam is essential. And those who seek good knowledge and education will be granted paradise and the Angels will lower their wings with great pleasure, and forgiveness will be asked for them. The learned are considered the heirs of prophets.

With these instructions of Prophet it became a religious duty of Muslims to educate themselves, their families and their societies. No Muslim could prevent a another human being from acquiring knowledge. Gender or race, culture or tradition could not become the cause for prohibiting a person from educating one’s self. Acquiring knowledge is a religious law, therefore it is necessary to achieve.

And apart from religious law it should be noted if a woman is educated that is for the well being of ones family. Today you are a daughter, a sister and tomorrow you are a wife, mother, mother-in-law, then a grandmother. A girl is the mother of the nation. So if a girl is educated, whole nation is educated. We have to understand the reality of this.

I would like to draw your attention back to 1400 years. Fatima daughter of Prophet was well educated, beautiful and highly respected. Her sacrifices to protect and support human rights were among the most praiseworthy acts. It is said whenever Fatima entered the room Prophet would stand and give his seat to her. Khadijah who later became a wife of Prophet owned her own business.

I’ll not take much of your time. I hope dear students, you would have understood the importance of education, how mandatory it is and seeking knowledge is a religious law imposed on every human being by God.

Finally I’ll quote a part of a poem from Hazrat Ali’s book entitled ‘Nehjul Balaja’. He has beautifully portrayed the significance of knowledge in that book.

“The beautiful dress does not reflect beauty, The beauty is, the beauty of knowledge and morals.”

Well, I am grateful for your time. Thank you for listening.

I’ll conclude my speech with a prayer verse from Quran which revealed to Prophet.

‘Rabbi Zidnee Ilma’

‘O Lord increase us in knowledge.’

Ameen.”

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Historical Wahakotte church



St. Anthony's Church Wahakotte

FEAST:The annual feast of historic Wahakotte Church will be held on June 17th with a festive high mass celebrated by Rt. Rev. Dr. Vianney Fernando, Bishop of Kandy.

The Routes to Wahakotte

St. Anthony’s church at Wahakotte is one of the most sacred shrines for catholics in Sri Lanka. This historic church is situated in Udugoda Palelsiya Pattuwa, to the North-West of Matale district, four miles from Galewela town on Matale-Galewela main rod.

It is about 140 Km from Colombo, through Warakapola-Kurunegala, Galewela and Wahakotte. From Kandy it is about 55 km via Matale-Palapathwela and Wahakotte, and from Negambo it is about 130 km. through Kurunegala-Galewela and Wahakotte. From Chilaw it is about 120 km along Kurunegala-Galewela and Wahakotte.

History

Wahakotte was known as “Wasala-Kotte” - Castle in the Fort. It is believed that there was a palace and a fort, where the present church is situated, the village was so called, because it protected the palace, traces of which are still visible. There is another legend to say that “Waha”-poison; “Kotte” - pillow; means poisonous pollow because a queen had committed suicide after hearing of her husband’s death at war.

History records that when king Dutugemunu defeated king Elara, in 164 B.C. he had built a small fortress at Wahakotte. There are still some ruins of ancient buildings on a rocky-hill called “Maligatenna” - Palace-field.

These ruins show that Wahakotte was once a prosperous town with a fort, ramparts, a moat and thorough fares, where sub-kings lived. One can see Dambulla Rock Temple to the north from Maligatenna. The Ceylon Alamanac - (1834-Page 204) records that there were ruins of “Rangalle Nuwara” and a Hindu Kovil - “Pattini Devalaya” in the woods close by.

The history records that the first christian Monarch - Yamasinghe, adopted son of Karalliyadda Bandara, who later became Don Phillip after embracing christianity in Goa, India, was received by some rebels from Kandy (Queyroz-pages-443447708) and was crowned at Wahakotte by the Portuguese.

It is also recorded that Don Francisco Wijekoon, who organised the Kandyan rebels against king Rajasinghe, too, was present on this occasion (Pieris P.E. Colombo 1914-page 249).

King Rajasinghe of Kandy, who fought against the Portuguese captured some of them and made them settle down in Wahakotte. These captured people earned their living by engaging themselves in cultivation, business and trade, and women sewing dresses for women, men sewing dresses for men; some engage themselves in running taverns and making liquor. (Robert knox-page 248).

The people of Wahakotte are slightly fairer in complexion, compared to other rural people in the area, though there are also very dark people among them. Because of this complexion neighbouring villagers still refer to them as “Pruthugeesi” or the decendants of “Parangi”. Some had Kandyan names mixed with Portuguese hames, like Don Juan Wijeratne or Dona Issabella Ekanayake.

When the Dutch captured the areas that were under the Portuguese rule, they confiscated all catholic institutions, churches, schools and religious places, chased away the Catholic priests and banned all religious activities.

Visit of Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz

When Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz, who arrived in Sri Lanka from South India, disguised as a labourer, had visited Wahakotte, the peasants there had built a little hut on a small hill for Fr. Joseph Vaz, which is still venerated by Catholics.

In 1705, Rev. Fr. Jacob Gonsalves arrived in Sri Lanka, he studied Sinhala Language and Literature under the tutelage of Buddhist monks in Kandy and composed hynms and wrote prayer books and other religious literature in Sinhala on “Puskola Path” - Ola leaves.

The Catholics have safeguarded all these ola leaves with utmost respect and devotion. Later Fr. Jacob Gonsalves was fondly called “Sinhala Swami” - Sinhala Father - as he was the first to translate all religious literature into Sinhala.

Harmony with the King

When Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe, younger brother of Sri Vijayarajasinghe’s Queen, became the king of Kandy, he allowed the catholics to perform their religious activities and gave freedom of worship, the king of Kandy as a token of goodwill gave back the statue of St. Anthony, which was plundered from a Church in Kandy, during the reign of his brother-in-law Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe, to the catholics of Wahakotte.

St. Anthony of Padua (Italy)



 The six inch tall miraculous wooden statue of saint Anthony of Padua.
Pictures by Rev.
Fr. Hilarion Fernando.

Wahakotte is a well-known pilgrim centre, enshrining a miraculous statue of St. Anthony of Padua (Italy). St. Anthony is a catholic saint born in 1195 in Lisbon - Portugal. He entered the Augustinian order at the age of 15 and lived as a a priest and a famous preacher and wonder - worker. There are thousands of recorded miracles attributed to St. Anthony during his lifetime and also after his death.

He died in Padua on June 13 1231 and Catholics celebrate his “feast” on this day.

In times of tribulation the people of Wahakotte sought St. Anthony’s help during persecution, they assembled in secret around the statue to pray, they made a Novena - nine days of prayer - and carried the statue in procession in times of drought and plagues. At the turn of the Century there was a severe drought in “Kandapaha Korale” - Wahakotte - with all water tanks dry.

Having had recourse to their religious practices the people requested the catholics of Wahakotte to invoke blessings from their god for three days the catholic community payed to St. Anthony and at the conclusion of their prayer the drought ended with a torrential rain. (heliamas. L. Ceylon 1932 - page 30). the Catholics and non-catholics had organised a “Perahera” procession, to mark this miracle. Even today some neighbouring buddhists speak of this miraculous power of St. Anthony.

This grateful neighbours, it is said, had brought gifts to St-Anthony in a solemn manner, accompanied by Kandyan “Hewisi” band, and accorded by popular acclamation the right to use “Hewisi” at Catholic feast at Wahakotte.

“Hewisi” is not used in many other churches as it was the privilege of Kings, Adigars and Disawas. Still Buddhists come to Wahakotte, church - festival from “Kandapahala Korale” with their “Hewisi” and make this feast, a symbol of unity among Buddhists and Catholics.

Legend

There is also an interesting legend about this sacred statue of St. Anthony. Once, some enemies destroyed this great church and plundered all the valuable things in the church but this statue.

The villagers had somehow hidden this statue made of wood, only six inches in height, in a rice-pot and was able to save it from enemies. As the Catholics of Wahakotte faced much harassment from the Dutch and the Kandyan rulers, during this time, they erected a place of worship in a secret place, during the time of Fr. Joseph Vaz, and during the day time if looked like a cattle-shed, but at night it was a prayer-room.

When Wahakotte celebrations are held now, the statue of St. Anthony is taken in a procession to this sacred place and in holy prayer the catholics pay homage to Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz. The historic Wahakotte religious festival, portrays the story of Catholics, who, without any help from organised clergy maintained the catholic faith for over 200 years in a purely, non-catholic surroundings. today Wahakotte or Wasala-Kotte, Which once flourished as a-Royal City - holds a unique place in the history of Catholics in Sri Lanka.

The Parish Priest of Wahakotte church, Rev. Fr. Hilarion Fernando, O.S.B. said that, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims in this area help catholics, and specially the Buddhist monks from temples around Wahakotte always help to make this religious festival a success.

He further requests, all pilgrims, to refrain from wearing expensive jewellery and not to bring unnecessary expensive items with them, as the church authorities intend to celebrate this holy feast in a simple and devout manner, and to get blessings and pray for peace to our Sri Lanka!

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Hindu festivals of India



Festival rituals

HINDU FESTIVALS: The Indian Hindu year has six seasons, with two months forming a season. The seasons are Vasant (March - May), Summer (May - July), Monsoon rains (July - September) Sarath (September - November) Hemant (November - January) and Sisir (January - March).

In each of these seasons there are festivals called Utsava and Mahotsava. The Utsava is dedicated to a village or regional superintending god of the particular Hindu shrine and Mahotsava are great festivals that involve the entire Hindu community of the country.

India is a land of myriad Hindu religious festivals. These festivals abound with legends of victory over evil and heroism of gods and goddesses. Prior to independence, when the literacy rate was very low, the unsophisticated villagers, mostly the illiterate, literacy not being a wherewithal for successful agriculture and animal husbandry for sustenance, nor was it necessary for them to learn Sanskrit to memorise the stanzas of the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda to plead with the gods and goddesses for boons for a healthy and successful agriculture and other activities, as the brahamin was the intermediary between them and god and they offered hymns and prayers on their behalf.

Thus the simple folk computed their age as per the sequence of the annual festivals. These were the essential punctuation marks in their story of life.

Vasant (Spring) beckons the trees to bloom, and the birds to sing. Scattered among the ripping ears of wheat are the bright yellow mustard flowers, mustard too is grown among the wheat and other cereals, as its pungent smell repel insects and worms.

Tender blossoms embellish the mango trees after their deep slumber inviting the birds to sing and dance among the bunches of flowers. Bees hum around having taken their fill of honey. On the day of Vasant festival everybody where a special shade of yellow and celebrate Vasant festival.

This festival is dedicated to goddess Sarasvati, the goddess of learning and the fine arts. Then comes the festival of Holi, the very end of the cool season. It has a heritage of colour and democratic and egalitarian. All divides and inhibitions are temporarily laid to rest and men and women of all ages colourfully dressed armed with bamboo syringes, shoots one another with coloured water normally light red.

There are pitchers of water coloured kept beside the road for them to replenish their syringes as they dance and move to and fro in the streets or roads. The festival is linked to King Hiranyakasypa, who claimed himself superior to gods.

However, his son Prahlad though a small child disclaimed the father's claim. Prahlad prayer which is sung at this festival is,”I want neither a kingdom nor a heavenly happiness nor escape from rebirth. All I want is the end of sufferings of the people”. The father sensing, the son was a potential danger to him, devised to kill him.

All his plans failed. Then his daughter Holika, in order to show the father, her brother Prahlad would be burnt alive kept him on her lap and set a fire around. She was destroyed by fire, but the child Prahlad rose up with, God in his lips.

Hence on the eve of Holi bonfires are lit and Holi is the festival of dance, music and song, victory over the wicked king, the triumph of good over evil. With the passage of time this festival has become associated with the Lila of Radha, giving inspiration to poets and lyrists to compose sensuous poems and songs.

The monsoon period of two months in India has evoked the largest number of songs among the Saivite Hindus of North India as the hot season has frown away with monsoons.

As the months roll on anxiously people look skyward. It is time for renewal of dormant life. Swings are brought out from the lofts of houses and hung on branches of trees and boys and girls swing singing melodious songs. This swing tradition comes from the Hindu shrine tradition of keeping idols, (effigies) of gods and swining them.

To be continued

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Feasts

* The feast of St.Anthony of Padua is celebrated today, June 13 in Colombo, Kochchikade,Dalupotha,Batagama and several other parishes in the country.

* Batagama Catholics will mark the 118th feast of their Patron Saint today with a festive High Mass sung by Rev.Fr.Patrick Perera, Rector St Aloysius Minor Seminary, Borella. Following the evening Holy Mass at 6.00 pm, a procession will parade in the vicinity of the Church with the statue of St.Anthony.

* On Sunday, June 17, Wahakotte and Soysapura, Moratuwa will celebrate the feast of this great Saint.

* On June 24 Sunday Thoduwawa Catholic community will mark the 75th Jubilee of their Church dedicated to St.Anthony. Churches covering several parts of the country will offer festive Masses to honour St Anthony.

* Mattumagala Church dedicated to Sacred Heart of Jesus will celebrate the feast on June 17. The festive High Mass will be sung at 8.00 am by Very Rev.Fr.Marcus Ferdinandez, Vicar General, Colombo Region. Following the evening Mass at 5.00 pm, there will a procession and at the end of the procession the parishioners will be dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

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