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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:

Dr. Badi-ud-din Mahmud

“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 and sagacity.

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 said.

“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 children.

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 Students’ federation.

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 Assembly thus:

“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 Colombo.

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 you.”

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 Guest.

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 Jennathul Firdouse!

(The writer was former Minister of Islamic Religious Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs and currently the Advisor to the President)

 

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