Dr. Badi-ud-din Mahmud:
An illustrious Muslim hero of Ruhuna
Dr. Badi-ud-din Mahmud was a founder member of the SLFP. Till then
practically the entirety of the Muslim community were ardent supported
of the United National Party. Dr. Al Haj Badi-ud-din Mahmud explaining
his political stand at Galle Fort addressing the Muslim Cultural
Association, in 1974 said:
“I realized the inherent dangers of this political attitude of the
Muslims, and, I joined S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike in the formation of the
Sri Lanka Freedom Party in 1951 and became its Founder General
Secretary. I offered my fullest support to Bandaranaike to form a
Government in 1956. This Government brought about a revolutionary change
in the socio-political and economic conditions of the working class and
toiling masses of this country. I was made the target of all manner of
accusations that were hurled against me. I was called a traitor towards
the Muslim community and the epithet of Abu Jahil, the most inveterate
foe of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (sa) was foisted on me.
I was not intimidated and did not swerve even the slightest degree
from the political stand I took. I did not take this decision actuated
by selfish motives of self-aggrandizement or self-glorification or to
enjoy the position of a Minister. I took this decision solely and purely
for the love of my community.
Subsequent events have indicated the political stand I took and I can
hold my head and shoulders high before my people.”
What Dr. Mahmud said in 1974 is relevant and appropriate in the
political context of today. This is eloquent proof of his political
acumen, far-sightedness and his consummate and astute political vision
The entire political life and struggle of Dr. Mahmud reveals his
daring, courage, ability to face overwhelming odds and did not deflect
from his political stand even by the slightest degree by submitting to
pressure or persuasion from external forces. He reflected the patriotic,
fearless and heroic qualities of a Ruhuna Hero.
Patriotism - a religious imperative
He not only showed his intense and unflinching patriotism as a Ruhuna
Hero, he also displayed the religious ideals of Islam which shaped,
moulded and determined his political outlook.
On September 30, 1971, Dr. Mahmud delivered his Presidential address
at the Maradana Mosque grounds, in one of the grandest public receptions
ever accorded when Sirimavo Bandaranaike was felicitated as the first
Woman Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. This merging and blending of
patriotism, and Islam was clearly shown in Dr. Mahmud’s speech when he
“My thinking has been stimulated, nourished and sustained by the
eternal verities and fundamental principles thought to me by my religion
- Islam.” The Holy Prophet of Islam says “Hubbul Vataniminal Iman” -
“love of ones country is part of ones faith.” Thus patriotism love of
ones country has been elevated to the status of a religious imperative.”
When he became Education Minister, he revolutionized the thinking of
Muslims and instilled an Educational awareness and created a reawakening
amongst them. The Muslims had to change their traditional attitudes of
pursuing purely commercial pursuits to take to education in a serious
and sustained manner. He filled vacancies in Muslim schools by
appointing teachers, upgraded schools to Maha Vidyalas, provided Science
laboratories and sent Muslims abroad on scholarships. He strictly struck
to his quota of eight percent of the funds allocated to Education and
did not add even an iota over and above this percentage.
Jayah - his Guru
As a loyal student of Dr. T. B. Jayah, one of the greatest
educationists and national figures of the 20th Century, Dr. Mahmud drew
inspiration from his Guru and gave his best to the education of the
When he became Education Minister, he unflinchingly helped Zahira
College, Gampola to become one of the leading educational institutions
of this country. There were loud whispers and murmurs of veiled
communalism on the part of Dr. Mahmud in the political corridors. He
magnificently vindicated his educational impartiality. He gave the
school he founded, Zahira, Gampola, only Rs. 2 million while he gave Rs.
40 million to Ananda College. The then Ananda College Principal
gratefully acknowledged this gesture and declared that no Sinhala
Education Minister has given such an endowment to a Buddhist institution
as Dr. Mahmud has done.
On March 5, 1939 addressing the Muslim Political Conference at Zahira
College, Colombo he further orchestrated his antipathy to communalism
when he expressed the following sentiments:
“While in India I fought all mischievous forms of communalism, and I
can even today recall with satisfaction and pride the opposition I
staged, with complete success, against the formation of a Muslim
Students’ Federation in opposition to an already established An India
Therefore, let me assure my Sinhalese countrymen, that I am one of
them in demanding complete freedom for our country. They can count me as
one of the most ardent admirers of their legitimate national and
cultural aspirations. In me and my community, let them know, that they
could find the most trusted friends and kindly neighbours in this
Island. They would never find wanting in me or in my community that
unflinching loyalty and patriotism that this little Island would demand
one day from its sons to carve out niche of fame for itself as a
self-respecting unit in a World Federation.”
Dr. Mahmud deeply abhorred any form of manifestation of communalism
of divisive tendencies. He expounded his thoughts in a succulent manner
on this subject when he presented the Muslim case in the Constituent
“Throughout, the Muslims on whose behalf I speak today, have fought
against all divisive tendencies the retard full freedom, they have
repudiated all efforts that tend to promote communal disharmony. To this
attitude their geographical distribution and historical experience have
no doubt contributed. Therefore let me state in clear terms that the
Muslim community will always oppose strongly any attempt at the division
whether directly or indirectly of the country. To date the Muslims of
Ceylon are totally in favour of a unitary Government and a United Lanka.
I would strongly urge in these circumstances that special provisions be
included in the new Constitution to avoid and such division.”
Ability to choose leaders
Dr. Mahmud had an amazing ability to choose potential leaders from
his own ranks. Western Province Governor Alavi Moulana, I. A. Cader,
former Deputy Speaker, Senator and Ambassador, L. A. Majeed (Muttur),
Abdul Jabbar of Galagedera, Haleem Ishak of Colombo Central, M. C.
Ahamed of Kalmunai and S. E. M. Assen Kuthudoos of Puttalam were some of
the leading figures he had guided and brought to limelight. There were
various others following of him chosen at local Government level as
well. These were some of the finest men who respected and honoured the
ideals of Dr. Mahmud to carry forward his mission. They were all
patriotic citizens of Sri Lanka.
Dr. Mahmud was born in Ruhunu Rata in Matara on June 23, 1904. His
father was S. M. M. Mahmud Neina Marikar (Matchitham) an honoured title
given to a Mosque trustee. His Mother was Syed Musthapha Notharis
Hadjair Binthie Fathima Natchiya. They were blessed family of 12
children of whom Dr. Mahmud was the youngest. I may also strike a
personal note here to illustrate the large heartedness and political
magnanimity of Dr. Mahmud.
When I was working at the then All Ceylon Ltd., I admired Dr. Mahmud
from a distance. I particularly admired him because he was a student of
Dr. Jayah, a leader whom I respect, admired and cherished. The SLFP came
to powering 1970 and Dr. Mahmud became Minister.
Some of the members of the Islamic Socialist Front demanded my
expulsion from AirLanka, since I was on the opposing camp to Dr. Mahmud.
The reply was: “I say, leave him alone, I know him well, he is a
talented boy, leave him alone. What is the harm he can do to me.”
So, I continued to work at Air Ceylon until the Sri Lanka Airlines
began to take wings.
When he was ailing I went to see him at his Kollupitiya residence
where my late uncle A. J. L. Deen, a popular building contractor, lived.
I was accompanied by Omar Kamil day gone by who later became Mayor of
Dr. Mahmud surveyed me from top to bottom and said: “You are wasting
your time in running behind money wallas and promoting them. At this
time we need someone like you in Parliament to loudly voice our problems
in the Legislature. Go and tell your leader to make you an MP, or tell
me, and I will take you to Sirimavo Bandaranaike, who will do that for
Are those words of wisdom? Although I could not reach Mrs.
Bandaranaike in the context of the political environment, later it (MP)
came to me like manna from Heaven. Omar Kamil would vouch for this.
Dr. Mahmud faced baffling problems in the Health and Education
Ministries which he successfully overcame. He indeed displayed the
fearlessness and courage and daring of a true Ruhunu Putra. Memories of
the calibre of men like Dr. Badi-ud-din-Mahmud shall not be allowed to
be buried in the sand of time.
In a rare display of gratitude, the All Ceylon Union of Muslim League
Youth Fronts, headed by the new President Attorney-at-law, Rasheed M.
Imthiyaz, organized a Commemorative meeting at the Nagarodaya Hall-Borella,
to be addressed by Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva, as Chief
The Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation has initiated, befittingly,
the bunching of a Special Cassette containing historical and valuable
speeches made by Dr. Badi-ud-din-Mahmud M. Z. Ahamed Munswar, the new
Director of the Muslim Service has made an appreciative attempt to
collect and record these speeches, for posterity.
May Allah Grant Dr. Al Haj Badi-ud-din-Mahmud the highest felicity in
(The writer was former Minister of Islamic Religious Affairs and
Parliamentary Affairs and currently the Advisor to the President)