by I L M Abdul Azeez, Editor of the “Muslim Guardian”
Originally published under the auspices of the Moors’ Union, Colombo in 1907
The object of this pamphlet is to dispel the mistaken ideas entertained by some persons as to the origin and history of that section of the Mohammedan population of Ceylon which is called by the name of Ceylon Moors. While it is apparent to all that these people are not indigenous to Ceylon the absence of an authentic history of their race has led to form wrong opinions as to their origin and the period of their settlement in this Island. It is very annoying to see some irresponsible writers, who have not taken any trouble to investigate the matter they so glibly speak of, stating without the slightest justification that the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors were Tamils who had embraced the religion of Islam.
The Ceylon Moors are traditionally believing that they are descended from the Arab traders who settled in the Island several centuries ago. Among them, no writing is extant to my knowledge, which affords information as to the origin and the earliest settlement of their race; and the absence of it may be attributed to the decline of education among them, caused by the persecution of them by the Portuguese and the Dutch, during whose administration the Moors, while losing their commercial prosperity and political influence, receded from the advanced state in which they had been before the advent of the Europeans. But when that information is sought in the writings of trustworthy Europeans we come across the statement of Sir Alexander Johnston, the first Chief Justice and President of His Majesty’s Council in Ceylon, to the effect that the first Mohammedans who settled in the Island were Arabs of the posterity of Hashim, and they migrated to Ceylon in the eighth century, according to a tradition prevalent among their descendants. No doubt the tradition, recorded by him a century ago, would be found in previous records as well, if any, made by trustworthy writers, do exist, but such records are wanting. Though the above tradition points to the eighth century as the period of settlement, the Arabs were frequenting the Island for long before that time. Of the Arab settlers some had their Arabian wives with them and others converted and married Tamil women, as it was with the Tamils, who were then called Malabars, that the Arabs came in contact. The entire cessation of intercourse with their own country made the Arabs to adapt themselves to their new surroundings, and they gradually adopted the language, customs, habits and manners of the people (Tamils) amongst whom they had settled, as did the Persian ancestors of the present Parsees of India, and this circumstance seems to be the cause of the misconception that the Moors are Tamils.
In 1885, in the Ceylon Legislative Council, and in 1888, in the Royal Asiatic Society (Ceylon Branch), Mr Ramanathan, who evidently places more reliance on the words of Valentyn than those of Sir Alexander Johnston and Sir Emerson Tennent, “the most eminent of Ceylon historians”, announced that the Ceylon Moors were Tamils in nationality and Mohammedans in religion. Though there is nothing humiliating in being Tamil in race, the persistent attempt of that gentleman in attributing to the Moors an origin which they do not claim, in spite of their assertion to the contrary, is annoying, if not offending; and it becomes very necessary that his statement should be examined and his references sifted before his conclusions are allowed to be upheld. In the Paper which he read before the said Society he has given the reasons for his conclusions that the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors were Tamil Mohammedans and that they settled in the Island in the fourteenth century. The facts which prove the fallacy of his contention are given in the following pages, wherein I have also pointed out the errors in his arguments and conclusions.
The love ofmy community and the desire to remove, as far as possible, the misconception as to its origin and the period of its settlement in Ceylon have induced me to write this pamphlet though I am conscious of my inability to perform the task in the most satisfactory manner.
ILM Abdul Azeez
Colombo, May 22 1907
The need for a re-print of this publication has been a long felt one and its issue in its original form, when published in 1957, is the outcome of numerous requests of Muslims from all over Ceylon.
Ceylon Moors, ethnically, and, as proved by historical facts, are of Arab origin, as the contents hereof will reveal to the readers.
Far from creating any controversy, the Moors’ Islamic Cultural Home, in issuing this booklet is merely seeking to re-establish the fact that the Ceylon Moors are a separate entity, distinct from any other ethnical group.
It is fervently hoped that the Muslims of Ceylon will not misunderstand its issue as an attempt to cause disharmony, but rather would welcome it, as a vehicle of thought that endeavors to consolidate the solidarity of Islam.
MOORS’ ISLAMIC CULTURAL HOME
115, Dematagoda Road, Colombo 9
A Criticism of Mr Ramanathan’s “Ethnology of the ‘Moors’ of Ceylon”
A few years ago, I had the pleasure of delivering a lecture on “The Moors of Ceylon” before the members of the Moors Union, of which I have the honor of being the President. At the conclusion of it I was requested by some of them to write the history of my race, but I was not then in a position to pay more attention to the subject, as I was connected with some business which occupied my time fully. Though I have now more leisure, still, on a further consideration of the subject, I have decided to leave to the future, the writing of a comprehensive history of my race, explaining its origin, manners, customs, habits, and trade; and to content myself, for the present, with writing a criticism of “the Ethnology of the ‘Moors’ of Ceylon”, a Paper read by Mr (then Hon) P Ramanathan, before the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, on April 26, 1888, which has cast a slur on the origin of the Ceylon Moors.
It is not a pleasant thing to criticize Mr Ramanathan, who is a gentleman of great renown and world-wide fame; a brilliant and accomplished lawyer, having filled for some time, with credit to himself and the Ceylonese in general, the responsible position of His Majesty’s Solicitor General, in Ceylon; and a man of much intellectual attainment and public spiritedness; but as there is reason to suspect that in his attempt to establish the ethnology of the Moors of Ceylon, he was carried away by prejudice, it is nothing but just that the facts which are opposed diametrically to his conclusions, should be placed before the public.
It was in 1885 that Mr Ramanathan first announced his great discovery that the Moors of Ceylon were Tamils in nationality and Mohammedans in religion, in the Legislative Council, while speaking on the Mohammedan Marriage Registration Ordinance; and stated, in substance, that it was amusing to find the Ceylon Government calling the Mohammedans in a previous Ordinance as “Moors or Mohammedans”, and again “Moors and Mohammedans”, as if they had not sufficient evidence to decide the nationality of that race; and submitted that their name Sonahar was only a corruption of the term Sunni. When what he said in Council appeared in the English newspapers, the late Mr Siddi Lebbe, who was then editing the “Muslim Friend”, a Tamil newspaper founded by himself, criticized in that organ Mr Ramanathan’s statement, and wrote series of articles producing historical facts and traditional evidences to prove the fallacy of his (Mr Ramanathan’s) contention, and to establish that the Ceylon Moors were mainly the descendants of those Arabian colonists, who settled in Ceylon many centuries ago. Moreover, it was thought, nay believed, that his object in calling the Moors, Tamils in race was to dissuade the Government from appointing a Moorish member in Council, it having leaked out then that the Government was contemplating to appoint such a one, and to make them understand that there was no necessity for taking such a step, as he Moors did not form a distinct race (Mr Ramanathan was then representing, in the Legislative Council, all the Tamil-speaking inhabitants of the Island). Many expected that Mr Ramanathan would communicate to the Press his rejoinder to Mr Siddi Lebbe’s reply, but he, instead of doing that, determined to attempt through another channel to stamp the Moors as Tamils more effectively, and prepared his Paper, above referred to, in which there is ample evidence to prove that he is not investigating, in an impartial manner, the ethnology of the Moors of Ceylon, but endeavoring at great pains to substantiate his previous announcement that the origin of the Moors was Tamil.
What I have stated above ought to show the readers that Mr Ramanathan approached the subject of his Paper with a prejudiced mind; but if that were not the case andmy supposition be incorrect, it would be very difficult to account for the partiality evinced by the writer of “the Ethnology of the ‘Moors’ of Ceylon”, all through the Paper, in ignoring studiously the numerous facts, which abound in the history of Ceylon, and which prove that the ancestors of the Moors were Arabs; and in endeavoring, with great forensic ability, to make capital out of some weak evidences and arguments which seem to support his contention. He has not quoted, in support of his assertion, any of the renowned historians who have written on Ceylon, but has drawn to his aid, on the one hand, Valentyn, one of the bigotted Dutch whose antagonism to and persecution of the Moors are proverbial, and on the other, John de Marignolli, the Rev father Corbet, Mr C Brito, the Rev Cordiner and some others. His anxiety to clutch at any straw, if it would only serve his purpose, was so great that the omission by Ibn Batuta to make mention of Beruwala, in the narrative of his travels, was sufficient evidence, for him, to prove the non-settlement of the Moors at that hamlet in 1344, in the teeth of the positive evidence to the contrary.
The opening paragraph of the said Paper runs thus:-
“That section of cour community which passes principally among our European settlers by the name of “Moors” number, according to the last Census, about 185,000 souls. They are all Mohammedans. In the Sinhalese districts they occupy themselves with petty trade of all kinds, as pedlars and boutique (small shop) keepers. The poorer classes are mostly boatmen, fishermen and coolies. In the Tamil provinces they pursue agriculture and fishing. In physique and features they closely resemble the Tamils, and as to the language they speak, it is Tamil, even in prely Sinhalese districts. I propose in this Paper to consider the nationality of tghis community.”
Mr Ramanthan has thought it sufficient to refer to the Moors as petty traders, pedlars, boutique keepers, boatmen, fishermen, agriculturists, and coolies, but, I think, had he been a little more candid, he would have said that they included wholesale merchants, large shopkeepers, planters, and wealthy landed proprietors, and, in point of wealth, they were only next to the Sinhalese among the native races of the Island. In the matter of their influence and position, Mr Ramanathan has not done justice to the Moors. “The appearance of the Portuguese in Ceylon”, says Tennent, “at this critical period, served not only to check the career of the Moors, but to extinguish the independence of the native princes; and looking to the facility with which the former had previously superceded the Malabars, and were fast acquiring an ascendancy over the Sinhalese chiefs, it is not an unreasonable conjecture that, but for this timely appearance of a Christian power in the Island, Ceylon, instead of a possession of a British Crown might at the present day have been a Mohammedan Kingdom, under the rule of some Arabian adventurer (Tennents “Ceylon”, Vol I p633). Since their career was checked by the Portuguese the Moors have no doubt receded, but their position has not been lowered so as depicted by Mr Ramanathan, who seems to have been thinking of the “Coast Moors” when he penned the above description. As to the physical resemblance of the Moors to the Tamils, and how they came to speak Tamil even in purely Sinhalese districts, I shall give my explanation later on.
Mr Ramanathan says:-
“When the Portuguese navigated the eastern seas in the fifteenth century and found Mohammedans along the western shores of India and Ceylon they gave them the name of ‘Moros’ which in English is ‘Moors'”
He further says:-
“The Registrar-General and other Commissioners appointed for the taking of the Census are not primarily responsible for the term ‘Moor’ representing a nationality in Ceylon. As I have said, our Portuguese conquerors applied the term to this community, not because that was the name it went by in its own circle or among its neighbors, but because, like the Moors of North Africa, its religion was Mohammedan. The political successors of the Portuguese – I mean the Dutch – took over the word and used it in a loose way to denote a class of people whose lingual and social characteristics they did not comprehend for several decades, either absolutely or relatively to the races which inhabit Ceylon and India. In the closing years of their rule, however, they were convinced that the ‘Moors’ of eylon were, in the main, Tamil Mohammedans (see Valentyn ch xv p214). But before the discovery could stamp itself on official documents and pass current official lips, the English had arrived and found a world of work to do in supplying the material and moral wants of the country, without the leisure for entering upon ethnological questions.”
Mr Ramanathan was wrong when he stated that the Portuguese gave the name, Moor, to the Mohammedans whom they met along the western coast of India and Ceylon. The fact is that they applied the term only to Arabs and their descendants. “The epithet (Moor)“, say Tennent, “was borrowed (from the Spaniards) by the Portuguese,who, after their discovery of the passage by the Cape of Good Hope, bestowed it indiscriminately upon the Arabs and their descendants, whom in the sixteenth century, they found established as traders in every port on the Asian and African coast, and whom they had good reason to regard as their most formidable competitors for the commerce of the East.“ (“Ceylon”, Vol I p629). The Portuguese had visited India before they came to Ceylon. In the western coast of India they met Mohammedans to whom they did not indiscriminately apply the term Moor, as supposed by Mr Ramanathan, for we do not hear of the Moors or Moros of Bombay, Goa etc. To those of the Mohammedans seen by them on the south-western coast of that continent, who were called among themselves and their neighbors, “Sonahar”, and whom they had reason to believe as the descendants of Arabs, they applied that term. On their advent to Ceylon they found here, we are informed by a writer, a class of people who resembled in religion and other characteristics the Arabs of Spain, and called them Moros or Moors. When he said that Moor was not the name my community went by in its own circle or among its neighbors when the Portuguese came he did not speak the whole truth, for that community was known then, as now, in its own circle as “Sonahar”, and among its neighbors, the Tamils and Sinhalese, as “Sonahar” and “Yon”, both terms being the equivalent of the term “Moor” (Arab), which was an European one, applied by the first European race which visited the Island. Arabia is, in Pali, “Yonna” and in Tamil “Sonaham”, as I shall show later on; hence to the Arab settlers, who were our ancestors, the Sinhalese and Tamils applied the names given in their respective languages for those people. I seek to impress on the mind of the readers the perfect agreement, in sense, between the said names, for that is not a mere accident but the result of investigation; and this ought to convince every impartial critic that the Portuguese used the term Moor to denote my race after they had learned its ethnology from the two other races which had been inhabiting the Island for long before their arrival. The Dutch had not more and better opportunities than their predecessors had not more and better opportunities than their predecessors – the Portuguese – to investigate the origin and history of my race. The statement of the Dutch, as recorded by Valentyn, was absurd and utterly groundless. It bears on itself the stamp of a concocted and spiteful story. It is a historical fact that the Dutch were the persecuters of the Moors. They murdered them, hunted them from place to place, attacked their religion, deprived them of their civil rights, prohibited them to buy lands in the Pettah and Fort of Colombo, and did them harm in numerous other ways. Mr Ramanathan himself says in his paper that “the Mohammedan settlers from their obstinate refusal to become Christians, became objects of persecution to the Hollanders, who imposed all manner of taxes and disqualifications on them.” There is nothing, therefore, amazing in the audacity which such a people had to discredit, in addition to disqualifying, my race by asserting that “the Moors were Moslemin only by profession: that by birth they were descendants of a mean and detestable Malabar caste, who in remote times had been converted to Islam through intercourse with the Arabs of Bassora and the Red Sea; and they had frequented the coasts of India as seamen, and then infested them as pirates; and that their first appearance in Ceylon was not earlier than the century preceding the landing of the Portuguese.“(“Ceylon” Vol I p630). Is it fair, I ask, for a man of Mr Ramanathan’s caliber and judgment to give credence to their story, and is it not a matter of regret that he should think it worthwhile to appear in the role of a supporter of the Dutch whose saying has been characterized as a mere “conjecture” by Tennent? Though Mr Ramanathan says that the Moors are Tamil Mohammedans, is he prepared to admit that our ancestors were “detestable Malabars”, and acted the part of pirates, and came to Ceylon in the century (fifteenth century, Mr R thinks that the Moors arrived in the fourteenth) preceding the landing of the Portuguese? The story of the Dutch historian was not even believed by the Dutch Administrators. Had there been a little of evidence to support it, the Dutch administrators, who were not friends but enemies of the Moors, would have hailed it with delight, and not only impressed it on official documents but would have bequeathed it to their political successors as an established fact, and in such a manner as to leave no chance of it being repudiated by others. To say that they had no time to do it owing to the arrival of the English is puerile.
It is equally childish to say that the English, too, had no leisure during a century to inquire about the ethnology of the races of Ceylon, placed under their rule by Providence. The fact is otherwise, there being evidence to prove that the origin and history of the Moors were investigated and the truth found out by the English. Sir Alexander Johnston, the first Chief Justice of Ceylon, made inquiry about a century ago of the leading Moors of his time as to the origin and history of their race, and was informed by them that according to tradition (Appendix A) the first Mohammedans who settled in Ceylon were Arabs of the house of Hashim, who left Arabia in the early part of the eighth century; and he included that information in a report which he sent to the then King of England, George III (“The commentary on the Roman Dutch Law”, Introduction) Mr Ramanathan has adduced certain arguments to discredit the account given by Sir Alexander Johnston, but I shall show later on their absurdities. The informants of Sir Alexander were not ignorant men, who did not mean what they said. With reference to the Mohammedans whom he consulted he says in his letter to the Secretary of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, of which he was the Vice President, as follows: “The conduct, which they as a body invariably observed with respect to the different measures which I adopted while I was Chief Justice, and President of His Majesty’s Council in Ceylon, gave me a very favorable opinion of their intellectual and moral character. In 1806, when I called upon their chiefs and their priests to assist me in compiling for their use, as I had done for that of each of the other classes of inhabitants in Ceylon, a separate Code of Laws, founded upon their respective usages and customs, I derived the most extensive and valuable information from their local experiences.”(Appendix A). Sir James Emerson Tennent, KCS, LLD, who was once Colonial Secretary of Ceylon, who has been described by the Hon Mr Arunachalam, in his Census Report for 1901, as “the most eminent of Ceylon historians”, and whose historical work in Ceylon is the standard one of the kind in English, containing copious and reliable information about all matters connected with the Island, knew of the Dutch theory, above quoted, and the other conjectures as to the origin and to the first appearance in Ceylon of the Moors; and he, after considering them as fully as an erudite historian, like him, would do, has expressed his conviction as follows: “The truth, however, is, that there were Arabs in Ceylon ages before the earliest date named in these conjectures; they were known there as traders centuries before Mahomet was born, and such was their passion for enterprise that at one and the same moment they were pursuing commerce in the Indian Ocean, and manning the galleys of Marc Antony in the fatal sea-fight at Actium. The author of the Periplus found them in Ceylon about the first Christian century. Cosmos Indicus-pleustes in the sixth; and they had become so numerous in China in the eight, as to cause a tumult at Canton. From the tenth till the fifteenth century, the Arabs as merchants, were the undisputed masters of the East; they formed commercial establishments in every country that had productions to export, and their vessels sailed between every seaport from Sofala to Bab-el-Mandeb, and from Aden to Sumatra. The ‘Moors’, who at the present day inhabit the coasts of Ceylon are the descendants of these active adventurers; they are not purely Arabs in blood, but descendants from Arabian ancestors by inter-marriage with the native races who embraced the religion of the Prophet. The Sinhalese epithet of “Marak-kala-Minisu*” or “Mariners”, describes at once their origin and occupation; but during the middle ages, when Ceylon was the Tyre of Asia, these immigrant traders became traders in all the products of the island, and the brokers through whose hands they passed in exchange for the wares of foreign countries. At no period were they either manufacturers or producers in any department; their genius was purely commercial, and their attention exclusively devoted to buying and selling what had been previously produced by the industry and ingenuity of others. They were dealers in jewelry, connoisseurs in gems and collectors of pearls; and whilst the contented and apathetic Sinhalese in the villages and forests of the interior passed their lives in the cultivation of their rice lands, and sought no excitement than the pomp and ceremonial of their temples; the busy and ambitious Mahometans of the coast built their ware-houses at the ports, crowded the harbors with their shipping, and collected the wealth and luxuries of the Island, its precious stones, its dye-woods, its spices and ivory, to be forwarded to China and the Persian Gulf.” [“Ceylon” Vol I p630-632]
[*Note: “Marak-kala-Minisu” seems to be a corruption of “Markar-Minisu”, which, I believe, was the original term the Malabars having called the prominent Moors “Marikar”, from which the present “Marikar” is descended. Among the Arab merchants who carried on trade in South India and Ceylon, the principal persons were owners and commanders of ships, who, for constantly travelling therein, were called “Markabi” (from Markab, ship) among themselves to be distinguished from others. “Markabi” might have been abbreviated into “Marka” by the Arabs as “Sahibi” is shortened by them into “Sahib” (ch Sahib Shammir; O myfriend gird up thy dress); and even at the present day the Arabs often use the term “Marka” while addressing their co-religionists of Ceylon. In the sixteenth century, “Marka” or Marca was the honorific ending appended to the name of every notable Moor, the Moorish cavalier who commanded the Malabar force, which was sent to Ceylon by the Camorin to oppose the Portuguese being Ali Ibrahim Marca (Ribero’s History of Ceilao). As time rolled on the Tamils changed “Marca” into “Marcan” in the singular and “Marcar” in the plural, the latter term being still further changed into “Marikar”. In the old title deeds which are in the possession of the Moorish landowners, “Marican” (not Marikar) is found, though that term is no more in use. The South Indian Mohammedan yet pronounce the word as “Marica”.]
The Hon Mr Arunachalam ( a brother of Mr Ramanathan), the present Registrar-General, who was commissioned by the Government to take the census of Ceylon in 1901, has made the following announcements in his Census Report with reference to the Moors. He says in paragraph 27 of Chapter III: “From about the tenth to the fifteenth century the trade of the Island gradually passed into the hands of the Arabs, as they became undisputed masters of the Indian seas. The trade was exceedingly valuable and embraced not only pearls, gems, spices and elephants, for which the island was celebrated from remote times, but the prdducts of the Eastern and Soutrhern Asia, brought here by the Chinese, to be exchanged for the wares brought by the Arabs from the countries beyond the Euphrates.” Again, he says in paragraph 31 of the same chapter: “The Arabs or Moors, as the Portuguese called them (identifying them by reason of theirprofessing the same religion with the Moors who ruled the Spanish Peninsular) were soon ousted from trade and power. Only their name and trading instincts have been transmitted to their descendants, the ‘Moors of Ceylon’.” Further, in paragraph 34 of Chapter X, the sdame authority says:“From the tenth to the fifteenth century the Arabs were the undisputed masters of the Eastern seas and trade, and exercised great influence in Ceylon till ousted by the Portuguese. During this period they settled on the Indian and Ceylon coasts, and internarried largely with the natives, especially the Tamils.” I cannot help quoting here the last and deploring part of the Hon Mt Arunachalam’s reference to the Moors of Ceylon, though it is irrelevant and superfluous for the present purpose. “Though the Moors,” says he in paragraph 35 of Chapter X, “are by no means deficient in intelligence, they care little for education, especially education on Western lines. The presence of Arabi Pasha and his fellow Egyptian exiles in Ceylon during the decade has had the effect of stirring up the Moorish community, but this has shown itself mostly in externals, the adoption of the dress of European Turks etc. There is little sign as yet that they realize, or desire to make thenmselves worthy of their great heritage from Islam, whose votaries during the darkness of the Middle Ages kept the lamp of learning and civilization trimmed and burning throughout the greater part of Europe and Asia.”I trust that my co-religionists in Ceylon will take to heart these words of the Hon Mr Arunachalam, and try, in future, to make themselves worthy of their great heritage. The same gentleman, moreover, expressed a similar opinion as to the origin of the Moors, namely, that they are of Arab descent, while delivering a lecture recently on the history of Ceylon at the Chamber of the Ceylon Legislative Council before an intelligent gathering, presided over by His Excellency the Governor. These pronouncements, made by high officials of the English Government, in their official as well as private capacities, show beyond all doubts that the English have investigated the origin and history of the Moors, and found out the truth about them. Therefore it is wrong to say, as did Mr Ramanathan, that the English have not had “the leisure for entering upon ethnological questions.“.
After remarking that in the Census Report of India for 1881 there was no returns relating to nationality, but language was taken as equipollent to it.; and after quoting Professor Max Muller, who states that “if there is one safe exponent of national character, it is language”, and, “in ancient times particularly language and nations meant the same thing; and even with us our real ancestors are those whose language we speak, the fathers of our thoughts, the mothers of our hopes and fears.”; and also quoting Sir William Hunter, who says, in short, that though many storms of conquest have swept over the Madras Presidency the indelible evidence of language proves that the ethnical character of the population has remained stable under all their influences, Mr Ramanathan says:
“If therefore we take language as the test of nationality, the Moors of Ceylon, who speak as their vernacular the Tamil, must be adjudged Tamils.”
Again, he says in the last paragraph of his Paper:-
The vernacular language of the Moors, is, as I have said, Tamil, even in purely Sinhalese districts. What diversities of creed, custom, and facial features prevail among the low-country Sinhalese and the Kandyan Sinhalese, between Tamils of the Brahmin or Vellala castes and of the Paraya caste! And yet do they not pass respectively as Sinhalese and Tamils, for the simple reason that they speak as their mother-tongue those languages? Language in Oriental countries is considered the most important part of nationality, outweighing differences of religion, institutuions, and physical characteristics. Otherwise each caste would pass for a race. Dr Freeman’s contention, that ‘community of language is not only presumptive evidence of the community of blood, but is also proof of something which for practical purposes is the same as community of blood’, ought to apply to the case of the Ceylon Moors.”
I see the force of his argument that the language spoken by the Moors is an exponent of their nationality, because though diversities of creed, custom, and facial features prevail among the low-countyry and Kandyan Sinhalese, and among the Tamils of high caste and low caste, yet they pass respectively as Sinhalese and Tamils, for the reason that they speak as their mother tongue those languages. But what he has to consider, in the case of the Moors, is whether they speak Tamil as their own national language, or as a borrowed one; and whether there is possibility of one race borrowing the language of another, and continuing to use it forgetting its own. Among the Vellala and Paraya caste Tamils, and among the Kandyan and low-country Sinhalese there is no class claiming foreign descent, hence the test of language can be applied to their cases without any paucity; but as the Moors are making such a claim not for years, nor decades, but for centuries, one needs to pause before applying the same test to their case too. Their ancestors came from Arabia pursuing commerce and settled on the coasts of Ceylon. This Island had many attractions for them. It is the place where their primitive father, Adam, was when he obtained forgiveness of God for the sin of disobedience committed by him, and where the mountain, which bears his footprint, and which for that reason is visited by Muslims from time immemorial stands. Its seaports were the centers were the centers of trade visited, not only by the Arabian merchants, but also by the Persian, Chinese and other traders as well. It produced the aromatic drugs, gems, pearls, shells, cinnamon, and articles for which much demand existed in Egypt, in the lands washed by the Persian Gulf, and other Western countries, between which and Ceylon the trade was largely in the hands of the Arabs. In their own country, Arabia, things were not then as they desired. With the attainment of power by the Umayyads, the period of trouble for the Hashimites began. Most of the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors, were according to tradition, members of the family of Hashim. Some of the Hashimites, and probably, a few of other tribes, who were less war-like and given more to the peaceful pursuit of trade naturally thought to hold themselves aloof from the amphitheatre of constantly changing political dramas in their own country, where lives and properties were not secure, and sought refuge in foreign lands. Some were actually driven by the tyranny of the contending rulers. At such a critical moment what other country could have been more attractive to them, as a place of refuge, than Ceylon, which had been their commercial resort for a considerable period? When they settled here, they did so among the Tamils and not the Sinhalese. This may appear strange to some for Ceylon was the country of the latter race, but history explains the matter. Those Arabs were traders, and, hence, it was natural that they should come in contact with the traders of this country.Our Sinhalese friends were not traders. They hated commerce and gave themselves up to agricultural and other pursuits. “The fact, thus established“, say Tennent,”of the aversion to commerce, immemorially evinced by the Southern Sinhalese, and of their desire to escape from intercourse with the strangers resorting to trade on their coasts, serves to explain the singular scantiness of information regarding the interior of the Island which is apparent in the writings of the Arabians and Persians, between the eighth and thirteenth centuries.” (“Ceylon” Vol I p596). Such places as Galle, Beruwela and Weligama, which are considered as “purely Sinhalese districts” are in the Southern part of the Island, and, according to the above account, the Southern Sinhalese, not only had an aversion to commerce but were desirous to escape from intercourse with strangers. Therefore, we can safely conclude that the Arabs had not the opportunity of having intercourse with the Sinhalese. Then, it may be asked who were the people who received the strangers in the Southern Districts and had intercourse with them. They were the Tamils, as I have said before, who were then called Malabars. They invaded Ceylon from Southern India on many occasions, and were found, in large numbers, in the seaports as well as the interior of the Island. To show the power and ascendancy gained by them I have only to quote the following passage from Tennent’s “Ceylon”:-
“For nearly four hundred years, from the seventh till the elevnth century, the exploits and escapades of the Malabars occupy a more prominent portion of the Sinhalese annals that that devoted to the policy of the native soverigns. They filled every office, including that of prime minister, and they decided the claims of competing candidates for the crown. At length the country became so infested by their numbers that the feeble monarchs found it impracticable to effect their exclusion from Anarajapoora.” (“Ceylon” Vol I p400)
“In AD 1023, the Cholians (Tamils from Chola-Desam. South India was then known by the name of Chola-Desam), again invaded Ceylon, carried the king captive to the coast of India (where he died in exile), and established a Malabar Viceroy at Polonnaruwa, who held possession of the island for nearly thirty years, protected in the usurpation by a foreign army. Thus, ‘throughout the reign of nineteen kings’, says Rajaratnacari, ‘extending over eighty sux years, the Malabars kept up a continual war with the Sinhalese, till they filled by degrees, every village in the Island.'” (“Ceylon” Vol I o402)
The above passages show that the Malabars were all powerful in every part of the Island at the time our ancestors were settling here; and it was they who received the Arabs is evidenced by historical facts, as well as the tradition current among the Moors, themselves. It is recorded in history that when Sindbad, the famous Arabian mariner, arrived in Ceylon, he was first received by the Malabars. “In the order of time” says Tennenet, “this is the place to allude to another Arabian mariner, whose voyages have had world-wide renown, and who, more than any other author, ancient or modern, has contributed to familiarize Europe with the name and wonders of Serendib …. One inference is clear, from the story of Sindbad, that whilst the sea-coast of Ceylon was known to the Arabians, the interior had been little exposed by them, and was so enveloped in mystery that any tale of its wonders, however improbable, was sure to gain credence. Hence, what Sindbad relates of the shore and its inhabitants is devoid of exaggeration; in his first visit the natives who received him were Malabars, one of whom had learned Arabic, and they were engaged in irrigating their rice lands from a tank.” (“Ceylon” Vol I p597). What do the readers think of the intimacy which must have existed between the Arabs and the Malabars, for the latter to have learned the language of the former, and been the first among the natives of Ceylon, to extend hospitality to the Arabs on their arrival here? Is there, then, any difficulty in believing that the Arabs, likewise, learned the language of the Malabars with whom they had business relations, and after settling among them, and ceasing intercourse with their own country, continued to speak it, with the result that their descendants have entirely forgotten the national language of their fathers, and stick to that which was borrowed by their fathers from their Malabar friends, and Malabar wives? Thus came the Moors of Ceylon to speak the Tamil language.
Having shown how they came to drop the language of their ancestors and adopt that of the people among whom they had settled, I shall now proceed to see whether there is any other case, parallel to their one, in the history of any other race existing in this generation. The words of Professor Max Muller have to be considered in a broad sense, and cannot be accepted without qualification. The word “nation” has a very broad meaning. It means “a body of people in habiting the same country or united under the same Sovereign or Government.” It may also be said that the people are “to be determined by common language and character, and not by political bias or division.”. What is meant here is that a common language is needed to determine the national character of a people. So the Ceylonese may be said to have no national character without a common language. The people of Great Britain consist of the English, Welsh, Irish, Scot and Jews, who have political divisions among themselves, but they are determined as one nation by the common language spoken by them. This does not lead us to the conclusion that there cannot be, in such a nation, different races or classes claiming descent from different parental stock. If the Moors happen to be in a country with different other communities, all speaking Tamil as their common language, they may with their neighbors, be adjudged nationally Tamils according to the above principle. But where varieties of races are recognized, their respective descents considered, the national unification being out of the question, it is not proper to apply the principle inculcated by the said Professor. If we are to take his words, “our real ancestors are those whose language we speak“, as conveying the meaning which Mr Ramanathan has construed; and if his word “our” includes all the races of the world, I can say, without hesitation, that our experiences show that the professor is wrong on that particular point, because we know of a community, who are an important section of the population of India, and whose members are not speaking the language of their real ancestors, but that of the people among whom they have settled. I mean the Parsees. After Persia was brought under the sway of Islam, a body of Persians migrated, for some reason, from that country, and sailing towards the south, wanted to land on the coast of that part of India which is now known as Bombay Presidency; but the then ruler of the place, who was a Hindu, did not permit them to land until they had agreed to some conditions, which required them to observe the Hindu law in certain respects. Since they settled in that country they had no intercourse with their native land, and those of them who had no wives married Hindu women, and all began to speak the language of the land, and adopt its customs and manners of the Hindus. Their descendants are the present Parsees of India. The vernacular of these people is Gujarati and Persian is no longer their language. Are they, therefore, to be adjudged as not of Persian descent? The late Mr George Wall, who was the Chairman of the meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society, before which Mr Ramanathan read his said Paper, brought to his notice, at once, the case of the Parsees. He said, in the course of his speech delivered on the occasion; “But it would appear to me that, if we are to accept that definition (Max Muller’s) in its simplicity and without any qualification, we must regard the Parsees as Indians and not as a separate nationality, because they speak the language of the people among whom they have taken up their abode ………. I should think, looking to the fact of their remarkable isolation, and the distinctions that there are between the Parsees and others, that it can hardly be taken as conclusive proof of their nationality that they speak the language of the people whose hospitality they received and whose country they have made their own.” (The “Times of Ceylon”, 27 April 1888). The case of the Parsees is parallel to that of the Moors. They have dropped the language of their forefathers and are speaking that of the Hindus; still none have thought it right to call them Hindus in nationality and Zoroastrian in religion. Hence, it is nothing but absurd to call the Moors of Ceylon Tamils because they speak the Tamil language. Like the Moors and Parsees the Dutch people, found in Ceylon at the present day, are also not speaking the language of their real ancestors. With reference to Dr Freeman’s remarks, quoted by Mr Ramanathan, to the effect that the community of language is practically the same as the community of blood. I cannot do better than reproduce here what Dr Trimen, the late Director of the Royal Botanical Garden, said, in the Royal Asiatic Society, while criticizing Mr Ramanathan’s said Paper. It is as follows: “We have heard from Mr Ramanathan a very interesting Paper on the origin, the language and the customs of the so-called Moors of Ceylon; and he very rightly says that these various peculiarities do not necessarily, either one way or another, show whether they are Moors or Tamils. But, Sir, none of these things help us much towards the determination as to race. There is only one thing that constitutes race — blood. Nothing else. There cannot be anything else, but community of blood, and it is in that direction, I think, that the investigation must tend in the determination as to the origin of the Moors of Ceylon ………. What we want are observations — extended observations — not only upon skulls, but also upon the anthropology of the race, generally. I cannot help thinking, as a naturalist, that, if we are able to decide as to the origin of the Moors of Ceylon than by the linguistic and historical investigation which Mr Ramanathan so laboriously pursued.” (The “Times of Ceylon”, 27 April 1888). So we are informed by an eminent naturalist, who was qualified to speak authoritatively on the point, that the most essential evidence required to decide the origin of a race is that of the blood and not that of the language or history. Were observations made on the blood of the Ceylon Moors, and the result found to support the theory which Mr Ramanathan wanted to establish? I believe not.
I think I need not labor more to refute Mr Ramanathan’s contention on the point of language, because he himself has had doubts on it, for we find him to say in his Paper as follows:- “But as some ethnologists, like Dr Taylor, maintain that language of itself affords only partial evidence of race I shall dive a little deeper and prove that the conclusion I have arrived at is supported as much by the history of the Moors (so far as it may be ascertained) as by their social customs and physical features.” Now let us see whether he has succeeded in this attempt.
In order to establish a relation between the Ceylon Moors and “Coast-Moors”, and to show the latter to be converts to Islam from the Tamil race, he has drawn a very elaborate sketch having studied at great pains some works bearing on the history of the Indian Mohammedans. No doubt the readers of his Paper will give him credit for the trouble he has taken for explaining the matter in the light in which he has expounded it, but at the same time they will certainly ask themselves whether the annals on Ceylon are silent to such an extent, with reference to the history of the Ceylon Moors, that it can only be ascertained in thelight of the history of the Indian Mohammedans. I have carefully followed Mr Ramanathan in that part of his Paper to see whether he has found anything in the Indian history to show that a colony of Tamil Mohammedans from Kayal, or any other part of India, formed the earliest Moorish settlements in Ceylon, but have found that he has not given any such thing from Indian history; and although he has stated that “great numbers of Tamils of various castes in South India, were converted” to Islam, and, “Negapatnam, Nagoor, Atirampet and Kilakarrai soon became centers of proselytism”, he has not given chapter and verse to prove it. I shall quote here from that part of his Paper only those passages which need to be commented on. He says,
“that (1) “those returned in the Census of 1881 as ‘Moors’ are to be found in every part of the Island ………. This community, numbering (as I have said), nearly 185,000 souls, includes those who are commonly known in our Law Courts as ‘Ceylon Moormen’ and ‘Coast Moormen’.”
that (2) “it may, therefore, be concluded that the 185,000 Moors in the Island are divisible almost equally between ‘Ceylon Moors’ and ‘Coast Moors’. The English in South India call the Mohammedans from whom our ‘Chammankarar’ are drawn ‘Lebbes’ or ‘Labbays’, most probably because ‘Lebbe’ is a common ending to their names. The ‘Lebbes’ call themselves and are called by the Tamils, ‘Chonahar’ ………. while nearly all the Mohammedans of Malabar are ‘Mapillas’, nearly all the Mohammedans in Tinneveli, Madurai,and Tanjore are ‘Lubbays’. The figures in round numbers are these:- – Of the 1,935,000 Mohammedans, 515,000 are Lubbays (speaking the Tamil language); 496,000 are Mapillas (speaking the Malayalam language); and the rest are Sheikhs, Sayyids, Pathans and Mughals (speaking mostly Hindustani language).
that (3) “the Mussalman religion was introduced into the Western Punjab in the thirteenth and into the Eastern Punjab in the seventeeth century ………. The Islam of the Mapillas in South India has an almost similar but earlier history. The tradition among them, as reported in the Inperial Gazetteer of India, is that in AC 844, an Arab ship, or Bagala, was wrecked on the Island of Chaliyam, formed by the Beypur and Kedulindi rivers, and that the local Hindu ruler, whose policy was to foster trade, received kindly thirteen Arabs who were saved, and granted them lands, whereupon other Mohammedans arrived, together with a few enthusiastic missionaries. The Mapillas, says the same authority, are Malayalam converts to Islam from various castes.”
that (4) “some centuries later we observe another town full of Mohammedans risen into importance on the south-eastern seaboard of the Tamil country, some five and twenty miles below the modern Tuticorin. Its name was Kayal-Paddanam, or the town of Kayal, which is of special interest to us, because not only has it been the principle city of the Lebbe’s, but the tradition there — and indeed in Ceylon –is, that a colony there-from settled at Beruwela, near Kalutara, which is admittedly one of the earliest centers, if not the very earliest center, of Islam in the Island ………. Consequent upon the desertion of the sea, another town had to be founded, which bears the same name Kayal. Dr Caldwell observes that it is admitted by its inhabitants that the name of Kayal-Paddanam has been given to it as a reminiscense of the older city, and that its original name was Chonakar-Paddanam, or ‘the town of the Chonakar’, which, I have said, is the name applied by the Tamils to the Mapillas, Lebbes and Moors, and assumed by these communities to distinguish themselves from the other religionists of Tamil India ………. It appears to me that Kayal contains the keystone of the history of Tamil Mohammedans. The tradition in Kayal is, that a few missionaries or teachers from Cairo landed there and made it their headquarters in the early part of the ninth century. In fact, it is said that Kayal, or Cail, is another form of Cairo, properly ‘Kahira’;
that (5) “in the tenth century the Chola dynasty overthrew the neighboring sister kingdoms of the Chera and Pandiya, and reigned paramount from the vicinity of Madras to Cape Comorin. It was doubtless subsequent to this period that the Tamil Mohammedans of South India became known as the ‘Choliya Mohammedans’, or more commonly ‘Choliyar’, or people of the Tamil country called ‘Chola-Desam’. To this day, the Hindustani Mohammedan speaks of his southern co-rel;igionist as ‘Choliya’, for, save as a religion, the vast majority of the Choliyar are Tamils in point of language, general appearance, and social customs;”
that (6) “the mistake consists in assuming that a great proportion of the Africans, Arabians, and Persians who navigated the Indian Ocean made new homes for themselves on these shores, as if the pressure of population in their old homes was too severely felt, or the advantages of the self-imposed banishment outweighed the sorrows of parting from their country, family, and early associations. The truth, therefore, appears to be that only a small proportion of these traders domiciled themselves in South India and Ceylon.”
that (7) “we are now in a position to deal with the question whether the ‘Ceylon Moors’ have a history different from that of the ‘Choliyas’ (Lebbes, Coast Moors) which I have just outlined. In the ‘Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society’, Sir Alexander Johnston says: ‘The first Mohammedans who settled in Ceylon were, according to the tradition which prevails among their descendants, a portion of those Arabs of the house of Hashim who wered riven from Arabia in the early part of the eighth century by the tyranny of the Caliph Abd-el-Malek (Abdul Malik) Ben Marwan, and who proceeding from the Euphrates southwards, made settlements in the Concan, in the southern parts of the peninsular of India, on the Island of Ceylon and at Malacca. The division of them who came to Ceylon formed eight considerable settlements along the north-east, north, and western coasts of that Island viz one at Trincomalee, one at Jaffna, one at Mantota and Mannar, one at Coodramale, one at Puttalam, one at Colombo, one at Barbaryn, and one at Point-de-Galle’ (Vil I p538). It is difficult to conceive an array of Bagalas sailing together in those early ages for over two thousand miles on the fitful Indian Ocean, and making for the different ports mentioned above in the different parts of the Island, as if there were agents in those places appointed to receive the unfortunate men. But a greater difficulty exists. The Arab exiles were, or were not, accompanied by their wives and daughters. If they were so accompanied and settled with them in purely Sinhalese districts like Kalutara and Galle, why did they abandon both the Arab and the Sinhala and take to the Tamil? Or, if they came to Ceylon without their women and took Sinhalese wives, why has the same survival of the Tamillanguage occured? It is impossible to accept this version of wholesale Arab colonization. It is too elaborate and inexplicable. But the crowning absurdity of the tradition remains yet to be mentioned. Hashim, the son of Abd Manaf, was the father of Abdul Muttalib, who was the father of Abdullah and grandfather of Muhammad the Proophet (peace be upon him). In so great veneration is the memory of Hashim held by the Arabs, that among them the family of Muhammad (peace be upon him) are called Hashemites, as Mr Keene says in his Oriental Biographical Dictionary: consequently, the Ceylon Moors would all be Sayyids! which they are not and do not profess to be, being only Sunni’s of the Shafi Sect.”
that (8) “at any rate, there is a tradition in Ceylon, which is referred to by Casie Chetty (Ceylon Gazeteer p 254, and so far as the circumstances but not the years are concerned, is not at all improbable) that the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors formed their first settlement in Kayal-Paddanam in the ninth century, and that many years afterwards, in the 402nd year of the Hijra, corresponding to AC 1024, a colony from that town migrated and settled at Barbaryn (Beruwela). I have already called attention to the belief current in South India that Beruwela is a colony of Kayal;” and
that (9) “the Mahavamsa makes no mention whatever of the Moors (Yonna, Marakkalayo), but the Rajavaliya records that a great number of them arrived in 1505 from Kayal-Paddanam, and attempted to settle by force at Chilaw, and were beaten back by Dharma Parakrama Bahu. An earlier reference is contained in the ‘Paravi Sandesa’ (Pigeon Message), a poem written by Totagamuwe Rahula Sthaviro, and addressed to the god Vishnu at Devundra (Dondra) Devale. The pigeon is made to start from Jayawardhana Kotte (the modern Cotta near Colombo) where Sri Parakrama Bahu (1410-61) was then ruling, and to fly along several villages to Dondra, carrying the prayer that taht monarch might be preserved and blessed. One of the villages on the route is Beruwela, which is described to be in the occupation of ‘cruel and lawless Bamburos’ (scil mlechchas ‘barbarians’). Another poem, the ‘Kokila Sandesa’, written by Irugal Kulatilaka Same, in the same region, alludes to Beruwela in similar language. I have not had time to get at earlier references in Sinhalese literature, but I suspect none such exist. We have, however, some information from foreign sources. In 1350, John de Marignolli, was wrecked on the coast of Ceylon at ‘Perivilis’ which is supposed to be Beruwela. Here, he says, ‘a certain tyrant, name Coya Jaan, an eunuch had the mastery in opposition to the lawful king. He was an accursed Saracen (Mohammedan)’. We are also told that by means of his great treasures he had gained possession of this part of the country. He robbed De marignolli of the valuable gifts he was carrying home to the Pope. Ibn batuta visited the Island six years earlier (1344) but makes no mention whatever of Beruwela, though it lay directly on his route from Galle to Colombo. he refers to Galle as a small town, to Colombo as the seat of a pirate in command of five hundred Abyssinians, and to Battalah (Puttalam) as the capital of a Tamil king Arya Chakkaravartti,’one of the perverse and unjust’, as the devout traveler says, but of whose hospitality he is loud in praise.”
The above passages contain the evidence which Mr Ramanathan has produced historically to prove the origin of the Ceylon Moors to be Tamil. On that he concludes thus:
“By the light of these passages, and the circumstance that the Sinhalese did not know in the early part of the fifteenth century any more of the colonists who were found settled at Beruwela than that they were barbarians, we may safely conclude that Beruwela had not been seized upon by the Mohammedans in 1344; that, that hamlet, Galle and Puttalam, which are commonly believed to have received the earliest Mohammedan settlements, did not contain any such colonies at that period; (On what evidence is based the conclusion that Galle and Puttalam did not contain Mohammedan colonies at that period?) ………. and that the settlement at Beruwela, which the Ceylon Mohammedan generally admit to be the first (What is the evidence which supports the assertion that the settlement at Beruwela was the first of all the Mohammedan settlements in the Island?) of all their settlements, took place not earlier than the fourteenth century, say AC 1350. We mayalso safely conclude that this Colony was an offshoot of Kayal-Paddanam and that the emigrants consisted, largely, of a rough and ready set of bold Tamil converts, determined to make themselves comfortable by the methods usual among unscrupulous adventurers.”
Now let us see whether Mr Ramanathan’s said conclusions are correct. I deal with the above passages one by one,
(1) Those people, who are referred to by him as “coast Moors” are ever called in Ceylon “Chammankarar” among themselves as well as by the Ceylon Moors and Tamils, and I do not know how they came to be applied the name “Moors” in Ceylon, when they are not known by that term in their own country, where, Mr Ramanathan himself tells us, they are called “Lebbes“. They are Lebbes in South India and Chammankarar in Ceylon. They are not called here Sonahar, though they and the Tamils, call the Ceylon Moors by that name. Nor are they called Yonnu by the Sinhalese, who call the Ceylon Moors by that name, and the “Coast Moors” Hambankarayar. As the names of the Ceylon Moors and “Coast Moors” differ, so their histories also differ. I shall explain this hereafter. In this connection I have to remark that if, in future, the Ceylon Census Reports show the numbers of the Ceylon Moors and “Coast Moors” under their respective names, Moors and Chammankarar or Lebbes, it will be better.
(2) Mr Ramanathan says that the 185,000 Moors, found in Ceylon in 1881, were divisible equally between ceylon Moors and “Coast Moors”. I think his calculation is fairly correct. In that case there were in that year 92,500 Ceylon Moors and a similar number of “Coast Moors”. The latter continue to have intercourse with the southern coast of the neighboring continent, whence they have come, and their number must have been considerably increased by fresh arrivals during the two and a half decades, which have since passed. The former are living in Ceylon, which is their permanent abode, and, owing to the want of statistics, it is not possible to find out their exact number. However, the Census Report of 1901 gives the number of the Moors in Ceylon as 228,034. If we follow Mr Ramanathan yet, and divide it between the Ceylon Moors and the “Coast Moors”, the number of the former alone will be 114,000 in round figures, there being an increase of 21,500 souls in two decades, but I believe that much more than half of the said number of 228,034 were “Coast Moors”, for since of late they have arrived in abnormality large numbers. These we have to reckon with the large Tamil-speaking Mohammedan population of South India, the number of which Mr Ramanathan gave us eighteen years ago as 515,000; and it must have since increased considerably. The South Indian Mohammedans are partly the descendants of Arabs – traders and missionaries – and partly the progeny of the Tamil converts to Islam. Though it may be said that Arab missionaries were proselytizing Tamils in South India, that was not the case in Ceylon, where Arab missionaries were unknown, and where at no time a regular system of proselytizing the Tamils and Sinhalese to Islam was noted. Had it been otherwise, and systematic conversion taken place here, what number of converts must have been made during the last twelve centuries for which period Mohammedans are living in this Island, as I shall show later on, when we consider that about 100 European missionaries, who labored in the cause of Christianity in Ceylon, have made in three centuries as many as 250,000 converts, as Mr Ramanathan himself has pointed out? But there are only about 114,000 Ceylon Moors (In 1827 there were only 70,000 Moors – Ceylon Moors and “Coast Moors” – in the Island) and the only conclusion we are led to arrive at, under the circumstances, is that they are mainly the descendants of those Arabs who settled in the Island about twelve centuries ago, and whose number was not necessarily large in view of the present number of their descendants; and considering that the number of the original settlers was not much more than 100. To this point I shall refer again. Mr Ramanathan’s assertion that the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors were Tamils, who embraced Islam at Kayal and came to Beruwela is untenable, for there had been Moors in Ceylon before Kayal-Paddanam came into existence, or rather before it was in a position to send colonies abroad, as I shall hereafter show. The Lebbe’s of South India do not call themselves Sonahar, nor do the Tamils call them by that name. It is true that when the Arabs went to Kayal and had commercial dealings with the Tamils, they and their descendants were called by the latter, Sonahar, which is the term given in the Tamil Lexicon to the people of Arabia (Rottler’s Tamil and English Dictionary); but the South Indian Mohammedans are now called by themselves as well as by the Tamils, Lebbemar or Mohammediyar.
(3) The wave of Islam first entered India through the south in the ninth century and then through the north in the eleventh century (The Arabs temporarily conquered the Sindh in the eighth century). The banner of Islam was carried thither by traders through the south, and by warriors through the north, which shows that the religion of the Arabian Prophet, on whom be peace, was inculcated by peaceful as well as haughty methods, as circumstances necessitated, and not by mere violence. The tradition prevalent among the Mapilla’s and reported in the Gazetteer of India, throws some light on the tradition prevalent among the Moors of Ceylon, and reported by Sir Alexander Johnston. The Mapilla’s believe that the earliest Mohammedans, who settled in their country, were the Arabs who had been ship-wrecked in the ninth century along the Malabar coast; and the Ceylon Moors say that their ancestors were a portion of those Arabs who, departing from Arabia and proceeding south-ward, made settlements in the Concan, in the southern parts (including the Malabar) of the peninsular of India, on the Island of Ceylon and at Malacca. That the Ceylon Moors should be traditionally believing all along that some Arabs, who had started with their ancestors from Arabia, settled on the Malabar coast is very significant; and, as a matter of fact, both the traditions are corroborating each other, except in years, the Ceylon tradition giving the period as the eighth century. Mr Ramanathan tries to explain away the agreement between the traditions by saying that the Ceylon tradition “may be a wild exaggeration of that which prevails among the Mapilla’s”. It is very easy to say so, but not so easy to substantiate it. He says further that “Sir Emerson Tennent discredits” the tradition of the Ceylon Moors. What Sir Emerson Tennent thought was that there had been Moors in Ceylon before the time – eight century – mentioned in the tradition; but he has affirmed in unequivocal terms that the Ceylon Moors are descended from Arabian ancestors, as I have shown before.
(4) Mr Ramanathan says that according to a tradition, prevalent at Kayal, a few Arab missionaries came from Cairo, in Egypt, in the ninth century, and founded Kayal-Paddanam in South India, which was originally called Sonahar-Paddanam, and which contains the keystone of the Tamil Mohammedans; and that a colony from that place settled in Beruwela according to a tradition prevalent there as well as in Ceylon. Let me state at once that there is no tradition in Ceylon that the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors came from kayal and settled at Beruwela, nor have I ever heard that such a tradition exists at Kayal. It seems Mr Ramanathan’s informant, probably a “Coast Moor”, misled him. But suppose I admit that a colony from Kayal settled at Beruwela, what does it prove? Does it prove that the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors were Tamils? Mr Ramanathan has told us that the period of its settlement was the fourteenth century, and I am about to prove that the Moors had existed in Ceylon before that period. He has admitted that Arab traders and missionaries settled in Kayal; so there are at that town their descendants, as well as those of the Tamils converted by them. There is no evidence. I state emphatically, to prove that those Mohammedans, who came to Beruwela from Kayal, in the fourteenth century, were Tamils, and not Arabs, in descent, though Mr Ramanathan has dared to announce definitely that they were exclusively or mainly Tamils. “The men of Cairo” he says, “who are said to have originally settled at Kayal, could not have been very many.” Why? What was their exact or approximate number? Without knowing it how an inference could be drawn as to the number of their descendants a century or more later? Again he says, “In the course of a century, after the arrival of the foreigners at that town, it is perhaps too much to suppose that they could have represented even five percent of the proselytes.” This is but a supposition worth a little, if not nothing. Those foreigners did not remain single but inter-married with natives, and their descendants multiplied as the numbers of their converts increased. The “Coast Moors” or Chammankarar who settled at Beruwela, whether they were Arabs or Tamils in descent, could not have been the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors, who are in the Island from an earlier period than the fourteenth century, but might have been the progenitors of some other Chammankarar, who may or may not be in the Island now. Cairo, or properly, “Al-Misr-Al-Kahira” (the victorious city), was founded in Egypt in the reign of the Fatimid Caliph, Al Muis-li-din-Illah, by his lieutenant, Jouhar, in AH 359, corresponding to AC 969 (Sheet History of the Saracens, page 600). Therefore a colony from that place could not have migrated to South India to found Kayal till long after the tenth century. Kayal was found by Marco Polo, whose words Mr Ramanathan has quoted, to be in a flourishing condition in the thirteenth century, when its prominence was such that it brought “a great concourse of people from the country round about”, and great business was done in that city. When it was in such a prosperous state a colony would not have gone out from there to settle abroad. So the Colony from Kayal to Beruwela, referred to by Mr Ramanathan, could have come, not from the original Kayal but from the second city of the same name, referred to by Dr Caldwell, and that could not have occurred till another century had passed. Therefore Mr Ramanathan’s computation was correct when he said that the settlement of Beruwela “took place not earlier than the fourteenth century”. Mr Ramanathan’s theory that the Ceylon Moors are Tamil Mohammedans is based on the presumption that they are descended from the “Coast Moors”, who came to Beruwela from Kayal in the fourteenth century, and whom he calls without reason Tamils in descent. When this presumption is shattered by the historical fact that the Moors had established themselves in Ceylon before the fourteenth century the whole superstructure, built by him will come down with a crash. Let us now consider the following passages taken from Tennent’s “Ceylon and the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society“:
“There is an obscure sentence in Pliny which would seem to imply that the Arabs had settled in Ceylon before the first century of our Christian era” [“Ceylon” Vol I p 580 n]
“The Arabs, who had been familiar with India before it was known to the Greeks, and who had probably availed themselves of the monsoons long before Hippalus ventured to trust them, began in the fourth and fifth centuries to establish themselves as merchants at Cambay and Surat, at Mangalore, Calicut, Coulam, and other Malabar ports, whence they migrated to Ceylon, the government of which was remarkable for its toleration of all religious sects, and its hospitable reception of fugitives.” [“Ceylon” Vol I p581]
“It is a curious circumstance, related to Beladory, who lived at the court of the Khalif of Baghdad, in the ninth century, that an outrage committed by Indian pirates upon some Mohammedan ladies, the daughters of traders who had died in Ceylon, and whose families the King Dalupatissa II, AD 700 was sending to their homes in the valley of the Tigris, served as a plea under which Hadjadji, the fanatical Governor of Irak, directed the first Mohammedan expedition for subjugating the valley of the Indus.” [“Ceylon” Vol I p581]
“There formerly stood there (Colombo) in the Mahometan Cemetry, a stone with an ancient inscription in Cufic characters, which no one could decipher, but which was said to record the virtues of a man of singular virtue, who had arrived in the island in the tenth century. About the year 1787 AD, one of the Dutch officials removed the stone to the spot where he was building, ‘and placed it where it now stands, at one of the steps to his door’. This is the account given by Sir Alexander Johnston, who, in 1827 sent a copy of the inscription to the Royal Asiatic Society of London. Gildemeister pronounces it to be written in Carmathic characters and to commemorate an Arab who died AD 848 ………. A translation of the inscription by Lee was published in Trans Roy. Asiat. Soc. Vol I page 545, from which it apepars that the deceased Khalid Ibn Abu Bakaya, distinguished himself by obtaining security for religion, with other advantages, in the year 317 of the Hejira.” [“Ceylon” Vol I p58 n]
“Edrisi, in his Geography, writing in the twelfth century, confirms the account of Abou-Zeyd as to the toleration of all sects in Ceylon, and illustrates it by the fact that of the sixteen officers who formed the council of the king four were Buddhists, four Mussalmans, four Christians, and four Jews. [Idem p 587 n]
“Albateny and Massoudi, the earliest of the Arabian geographers, were contemporaries of Abou-Zeyd, in the ninth century, and neither adds much to the description of Ceylon, given in the narratives of ‘The two Mahometans.'” [“Ceylon” Vol I p596]
“Probably, the earliest allusion to Ceylon by any Arabian or Persian author, is that of Tabari, who was born in AD 838; but he limits his notices to an exaggerated account of Adam’s Peak, ‘than which the whole world does not contain a mountain of greater height.'”[Idem p596 n]
“The commerce, for which the island was remarkable in the ninth and tenth centuries, is implied by the expression of Sindbad, that on occasion of his next voyage, when bearing presents and a letter from the Khalif to the King of Serendib, he embarked at Bassora in a ship, and with him ‘wetre many merchants.'” [“Ceylon” Vol I p598]
“Although the Mohammedan traders, who were settled in Ceylon, had acquired great wealth and influence very early in the eleventh century, and although they continued to possess a most extensive and lucrative trade in its ports till the end of the fifteenth century, it was during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that they attained the highest degree of their commercial prosperity and political influence on that Island.” [Sir Aleaxender Johnston in TRAS See Appendix A]
“The last of this class of writers to whom it is necessary to allude is Kazwini, who lived in Baghdad in the thirteenth century, and from the diversified nature of his writings, has been called the Pliny of the East. In his geographical account of India, he includes Ceylon, but it is evident from the details into which he enters as to the customs of the court and the people, such as the burning of widows of the kings on the same piles with their husbands, that the information he had received had been collected amongst the Brahmanical, not the Buddhist portion of the people. This is confirmatory of the actual condition of the people of Ceylon at the period as shown by the native chronicles the king being the Malabar Magha, who invaded the island from Kalinga, 1219, overthrew the Buddhist religion, desecrated its monuments and temples, and destroyed the edifices and literary records of the capital.” [“Ceylon” Vol I p599]
“The Singhalese inhabitants of Ceylon were, previous to the thirteenth century, ignorant of the art of weaving fine cloth, which was then known in the peninsular of India; and the native Kings offered great rewards to any subject who would bring over some Weavers from India for the purpose of intoiducing that art to Ceylon. Early in the thirteenth century a Moorman of Berwalla, in the Kalutara District, induced by the offer, brought over from India eight weavers. The King received them with great kindness, had them married to women of distinction, gave them houses and lands, established a manufactory for them in the vicinity of the palace, and conferred the highest honors upon their chief, among others, the privilege of wearing a gold chain – traveling in a palanquin, and having an umbrella and a tailpot leaf carried over his head whenever he appeared in public. The descendants of these people, having in the course of two centuries become numerous and powerful, excited the jealousy of the Kandyan government, and were compelled by the King, as punishments for some alleged offence against his authority, to quit the interior and settle near the southwest coast, where cinnamon grew to perfection, and to peel and prepare for the government without pay as much cinnamon annually as it might require. [Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, Vol III – Contribution from Sir A Johnston]
The above passages, in conjunction with the words of Sir Emerson Tennent, quoted by me before, namely “the author of the Periplus found them (Arabs) in Ceylon about the first Christian century, Cosmas-Indico-Pleuses in the sixth,” show that the Arabs appeared in the Island not later than the first century of the Christian era, and began in the fourth and fifth centuries to establish themselves as merchants on the coast of India and in Ceylon, which was then renowned for its and hospitable and reception of fugitives. They were seen in Ceylon in the sixth century by Cosmas, and at the end of the seventh many of them, who had settled in the Island with their families, died leaving their families probably un-provided; some of these families were rather unwilling to prolong their stay in Ceylon, and seemed to have asked the King to send them away to their country; so we learn that the Sinhalese monarch, who reigned here in AD 700, had the kindness to send them to their homes in the valley of the Tigris. In the tenth century thair stay in the Island had been so long that they neglected their religion, and felt the necessity of getting from abroad a virtuous man in the person of Khalid Ibn Abu Bakaya, to instruct them in religion and obtain “security” for it; and when he died amidst them their sympathy was so great that they had a tombstone placed over his grave with an inscription, in Arabic on it, which, with the translation of it by Lee, is given in the “Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society”, Vol I p545 (Appendix B). With reference to the said inscription, Sir Alexander Johnston says: –
“In 1806, while collecting, as I have already mentioned, the various usages and customs of the Mohammedan inhabitants of Ceylon, I directed my inquiries particularly to those customs and usages which could throw any light on the history of their early settlement, and former commercial prosperity on that Island, and their intimate connexion and constant communication with the Caliph of Baghdad, during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and I was referred by all the Mohammedan priests, merchants, and mariners, by whom I was assisted in my inquiries, to the Cufic inscription of which the accompanying is the fac-simile, as the oldest record on the Island (the next oldest record which alludes to the Mohammedan settlement in the Island, is I think, the inscription ‘Hegira 331’ on a tombstone now standing in the Mohammedan cemetry at Beruwela, and found out recently by Mr MAC Mohammed of Colombo, as reported in the ‘Times of Ceylon’ (Morning Edition) of the 15th October, 1906), which alluded to the intercourse that had subsisted in former days between the Caliphs of Baghdad and the Mohammedans of Ceylon.” [Appendix A]
In the twelfth century the Arabs had attained such influence with the ruling race in Ceylon that they were given seats in the kings council [Sir Alexander Johnston says (Appendix A), that the Mohammedans had obtained from the Sinhalese sovereigns the privilege of having their commercial and maritime cases tried by a tribunal consisted of some Mohammedan priests, merchants and mariners.]. From the ninth century the books written by Arabian authors contained references to Ceylon, and the events which occurred in the Island in the thirteenth century have been correctly recorded in the writings of the historian, who flourished at Baghdad at that period. The Caliph of Baghdad, who took interest in the welfare of the Mohammedans settled in this Island, sent letter and presents to the King of Ceylon; and during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries those Mohammedans attained the highest degree of their commercial prosperity and political influence in the Island. The last, but not the least, evidence in support of my statement that before the fourteenth century the Arabs or Moors, as the Portuguese called them, were in Ceylon, is afforded by by the last passage quoted above, which proves beyond all doubts that the Moors had so strongly established themselves in the Island vy the thirteenth century that they were then in a position to render valuable services to the Sinhalese King. “Early in the thirteenth century a Moorman of Berwalla, in the Kalutara District, induced by the offer (made by the Sinhalese King) brought over from India eight weavers,” says Sir Alexander Johnston, who saw the descendants of the said Moorman who lived in his time, and made one of them well versed in medicine, native superintendent of the medical department under the control of the Supreme Court, as I shall hereafter show. The fact thus established historically, that the Moors had settled in Ceylon long before the fourteenth century pulverizes the presumptuous theory advanced by Mr Ramanathan that the progenitors of the Ceylon Moors were the Tamil Mohammedans who came to Beruwela from Kayal in the fourteenth century. The name “Chonahar” was never applied by the Tamils to the Mapillas, as Mr Ramanathan has stated and the fact that it was applied to the Mohammedans of Kayal-Paddanam in the early part of their history shows that city and their descendants. Kayal-Paddanam was called “Chonahar-Paddanam” because it was founded by Arabs (Sonahar).
(5) I quite agree with Mr Ramanathan when he says that the term “Choliyar” denotes the people of the Tamil country called Chola-Desam, but I cannot understand him when he says that the Hindustani Mohammedan speaks of his southern co-religionist as a Choliya for the majority the Choliyar are Tamils. No doubt the majority of Choliyar ie Chola-Desathar (the people of Chola-Desam) are Tamils. There is nothing to show that the term “Choliyar” was intended for and applied to the Mohammedans alone. It was applied to the people – Tamils as well as Mohammedans – of the Chola-country, by those of other parts of India. It is a Tamil word and not a Hindustani one (The Hindustani people use the term Choliya both in singular and plural sense to denote Choliyan and Choliyar). Winslow explains it in h8is Tamil and English Dictionary thus: “CHOLIYAR: a class from several castes named from their country Cholam…” As there are Choliya Brahmin and Choliyar Vellalar, so there are Choliya Mohammedans, all belonging to denote that the Choliya Mohammedan is not of Arab descent. The South Indian Mohammedan calls his northern co-religionist Hindustani not because he is a Hindu in descent but because he hails from Hindustan, likewise the Hindustani Mohammedan calls his southern co-religionist Choliya because he belongs to Chola-Desam, by which name Southern India was known at one time. The Tamils who invaded Ceylon from South India in the eleventh century were called Cholians as shown before. [see ante p 13].
(6) When Mr Ramanathan says that “the mistake consists in assuming that a great proportion of the Africans, Arabians and Persians, who navigated the Indian Ocean, made new homes for themselves on these shores, as if the pressure of population in their old homes was too severely felt, or the advantages of the self-imposed banishment outweighed the sorrows of parting from their country, family and early associations” he misunderstands his opponents, and betrays his ignorance of the internal state of Arabia at the time under notice. The Moors of Ceylon never assumed that the nukber of their ancestors, who settled in the Island several centuries – at least 12 centuries – ago, was great; and I have pointed out before that that need not have been so considering the number of their descendants at the present period. I have shown before that there were in 1901, 114,000 and in 1881, 92,000 Ceylon Moors. In 1827, Sir Alexander Johnston said that there were then about 70,000 Mohammedans in Ceylon, but were not told how many of them were “Coast Moors”. Let us assume that only a few of them were “Coast Moors” for their influx had been checked during the Portuguese and Dutch administration. We are also informed by the same authority that there were in Ceylon at the said period, 24,000 or 25,000 Chalias who were descended from the 7 (or 8) weavers introduced into Ceylon from India in the twelfth or thirteenth century. If in 600 or 700 years the progenies of 7 or 8 weavers numbered about 25,000 souls, it is not difficult for the readers to think out what must have been the number of the original Arab settlers for propagating 70,000 souls in eleven hundred years of 114,000 in twelve hundred years. I have pointed out before that their number could not have been much more than 100.
As to the Africans and Persians whom Mr Ramanathan mentions with the Arabians, let me state that there is no community in the Island which claims descent from them, hence there need not be any assumption that they made new homes on these shores and intermarried with the natives as did the Arabians.
In order to show the readers the advantage of the banishment which our forefathers imposed on themselves, and the circumstances in which they parted from their country, family and early associations I cannot do better than quote the following lines from the “Short History of the Saracens” which refer to the period in which they are said to have migrated to Ceylon: [Pages 93,94 & 100]
“On the death of Merwan, Abdul Malik was accepted as their ruler by the majority of the clan. Abdul Malik was a typical Ommayede; energetic, intriguing and unscrupulous, he applied himself with extraordinary ability to strengthen his position. Whilst he was thus employed, Mukthar established himself in Iraq, and from there hunted the murderers of Hussain. They were systematically puirsued and killed like vermin. An army sent by Abdul Malik under the ‘Butcher’ [Obaidullah bin Zaid] was destroyed; he himself was killed and his head was taken to Mukthar. Having achieved the object for which they had taken up arms, the Avengers became rent into factioons, and were one after another subdued by Musaab, Abdullah’s brother and deputy in Iraq. he struggle with Mukthar was protracted and sanguinary, but in the end the ‘Avengers’ was killed, his adherents were put to the sword, and Musaab was left complete master of the field. The authority of the son of Zubair was now unquestioned both in Iraq and Mesopotamia. Khorasan also was under his sway. But his power rested on precarious foundations. The Iraqi’s were faithless, and entered into secret negotiations with Abdul Malik to accept him as their ruler in return for certain rewards. In the meantime, Abdullah’s forces were weakened by incessant fights with the Kahari’s, who issuing from their desert fastness were committing depradations and atrocities upon the unoffending inhabitants of Chaldea and Southern Persia. These ruthless fanatics in their religious fury, perpetrated revolting cruelties to avenge themselves on organized society.”
” By the unsparing use of the sword, Abdul Malik in a few years cleared Syria of his enemies. ‘Amr, the son of Said, had attempted a rising. He was inveigled into the Palace, and killed by Abdul Malik with his own hands. Firmly established in Damascus, he turned his attention towards Mesopotamia and Chaldea, held by Musaab on behalf of Abdullah bin Zubair. The defection of the Iraqians encouraged him to move upon Kufa. Musaab, his son Yahya, and his heroic lieutenant Ibrahim, the son of Al Ashtar, were slain in battle, and Iraq passed once more under the rule of the Ommeyades. After crushing Musaab, Abdul Malik despatched his troops against Abdullah. An overwhelming force under Hajjaj, the son of Yusuf, marched into Hijaz. Medina was captured without much difficulty, and Makkah was again surrounded; and massive missiles hurled from battering engines placed on the hills which encircled the devoted city, spread havoc and ruin all round. But Abdullah, by repeated sorties, long held the Syrians at bay. The siege was then turned into a blockade; the inhabitants, suffering from the rigors of famine, deserted in large numbers, until Abdullah was left with only a few defenders. Before making his last sortie he consulted his mother Asma, the daughter of Abu Bakr, whether he should submit to the yoke of the hated Omayyades or die fighting. The aged old lady, in the heroic spirit of the Arab matron, answered that if he believed in the justness of his cause, it was his duty to fight to the last, but if he thought he was in the wrong, he should submit. She allayed his fear that the enemy would desecrate his body after his death by the answer, that it mattered little what became of the body when the soul had returned to its Creator. Bidding her farewell, he kissed her tenderly on the forehead and then issued sword in hand, determined to conquer or to die. The Ommeyades were driven back on all sides, but in the end the brave warrior fell, overpowered by numbers. A soldiers death is generally respected by a brave enemy. But the Syrians possessed no sense of chivalry, and ignored the command of the Prophet, ‘to respect the dead’. They refused the prayer of Abdullah’s mother to give up her sons body for burial, and in the ferocious spirit of the times, they impaled his corpse on a gibbet. The heads of Abdullah and of two of his leaders were exhibited at Medina and thence sent to Damascus.”
“Hajjaj, at one time governor of Hijaz, was Abdul Malik’s viceroy over Iraq, Sejistan, Kerman and Khorasan, which included Cabul and parts of Transoxania. Western Arabia was under a separate governor named Hisham, son of Ismail, whilst Egypt was ruled by Abdul Malik’s brother, Abdul Aziz. The intolerable and ferocious cruelty of Hajjaj gave rise to several furious revolts, one of which under Abdul Rahman, the son of Ashas, nearly cost Abdul Malik his throne. But numbers and perseverance bore down all opposition, and the insurgents were driven to take refuge in distant parts. Whilst governor of Hijaz, Hajjaj had cruelly oppressed the inhabitants of Medina and ill treated the surviving companions of the Prophet. At one time he thought of raising the city to the ground. In the course of his long government over Iraq, he put to death nearly 150,000 men, many on false charges, some of them the best of the Arab race. At the time of his death 50,000 people of both sexes were found rotting in his prisons and cursing the tyrant. The effect of these wholesale massacres was ‘to attenuate’, as M Sedillot observes, ‘the Saracenic nation by depriving it of its noblest and most capable leaders.'”
The above passages will show the readers under what circumstances the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors left Arabia. They were mainly Hashimites, and it was that clan that the Ommeyades hunted everywhere. They escaped from the tyranny of Abdul Malik and his lieutenant Hajjaj. They were traders and less disposed towards warfare; hence they fled from their country owing to its tumultuous condition and the un-safety of their persons and properties. The banishment which they imposed on themselves was, no doubt, advantageous inasmuch as it afforded them immunity from loss and trouble.
Mr Ramanathan’s words “the truth, therefore, appears to be that only a small proportion of these traders domiciled themselves in South India and Ceylon”, are very important inasmuch as they strongly support my case, it being my contention that their number was not necessarily large. He has not told us what was the actual or approximate number of those who were domiciled here, but would he venture to say that it was less than 100? Let him not forget that, when we consider the fact that in six hundred years 25,000 Chalias were descended from 7 or 8 weavers, 25 Arabs domiciled in the island in the thirteenth century would have pro-generated the 70,000 Moors found in the Island at the time of Sir Alexander Johnston. The tradition is that our ancestors settled here in the 8th century.
(7) I have shown before that the Ceylon Moors have a history different from that of the Coast Moors. Having quoted the tradition recorded by Sir Alexander Johnston as to the origin and the earliest settlement of the Ceylon Moors, the truth of which he was more able a century ago to ascertain than was Mr Ramanathan in 1881, the latter undertakes the task of refuting it. His arguments against the acceptance of that tradition are given above. According to the early historians of the Island of Ceylon was known in the first century of the Christian era to the Arabs, who have since frequented the place with commercial object, and made it, at times, the Emporium of their trade in the East. Then what difficulty is there to conceive that such a people, when they found themselves beset with troubles in their own country, thought of emigration, and embarking on Bagalas or ships, came to Ceylon, and settled here among a class of people with whom they were acquainted, for it was with them that they had had business relations for centuries. The difficulty exists only in the imagination of Mr Ramanathan. To an impartial student of history it ought to appear that it was both possible and probable that the Arabs migrated to Ceylon as mentioned in the said tradition.Of those Arabs, some came with families, as shown before, and the others single, and settled at Barberyn, Galle, and other places referred to in the tradition, among the Malabars and not among the Sinhalese. As I have pointed out before it was the former who received the strangers, and the latter were only desirous to escape from intercourse with them. Kalutara, Galle, and Beruwela may have been at one time purely Sinhalese districts, but at the period under notice they were, as shown before, under the sway of the Malabars, who, with the Arabs and other strangers, were found in all the southern seaports which were free of the Sinhalese. The Arab “exiles”, as Mr Ramanathan calls them, did not take Sinhalese wives as he presumes but took Tamil wives as confirmed by the tradition prevalent among their descendants. It was in this manner that the survival of the Tamil language occurred among the Moors in “the purely Sinhalese districts” referred to by him. he thinks that the “crowning absurdity” of the said tradition is that the Ceylon Moors call themselves the descendants of Hashimite Arabs while they do not consider themselves Sayyids, which, he says they ought to be, if they are Hashimites. I have yet to learn how he, a man of extensive learning, came to conceive the erroneous idea that all the Hashimites are Sayyeds, and I believe that had it not been for this wrong impression, he would not have opposed the tradition as vehemently as he has done. Sayyids are the descendants of Imam Hassen and Hussain, the children of Fathima, daughter of the blessed Prophet Muhammad, on whom be everlasting peace. They are, no doubt, Hashimites, but they are very few compared to the rest of the descendants of Hashim. To be more clear, all the Sayyids are Hashimites, but all the Hashimites are not Sayyids. Sayyids are anly a section of the Hashimites. The Ceylon Moors who are descended from the Arabian colonists mentioned in the sdaid tradition, are all Hashimites, but only those of them whose descent is through Fathima, are Sayyids. This is a simple matter easily understood by any person of fair knowledge of Arabian history. When Mr Ramanathan has erred egregiously in it, it is no wonder that he should fail to correctly establish the origin of the Moors of Ceylon whose history is unwritten. After all it is human to err, and it should be understood that the error, committed by him, was due to the want of calm and careful investigation on his part before he attempted to launch his Paper. The crowning absurdity to borrow how own words, of his contention against the said tradition, lies in his basing it on misconception as to the real significance of the simple word “Sayyid” which is commonly known in this Island.
(8) Mr Casie Chetty has not stated in the Ceylon Gazzeteer, page 254, to which Mr Ramanathan refers, that the Ceylon Moors formed their first settlement at Kayalpaddanam in the ninth century, and in the 402nd year of the Hijra a colony from that town migrated and settled at Beruwela, but what he says in the said book (Cotta, 1834) is that the Ceylon Moors are, according to a tradition, “descended from a tribe of Arabs, of the posterity of Hashem, who were expelled from Arabia by their Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) as a punishment for their pusillanimous conduct in one of the battles in which he was engaged against the partisans of Abu Jaheel, and who afterwards founded a colony at Kailpatnam (the Colchis mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea,) and from thence moved in successive emigration towards this island, and along the borders of the peninsular of Hindoostan as far as Rameswaram,” Mr Casie Chetty has not given the years. The tradition recorded by him corroborates that recorded Sir Aleaxender Johnston in that the ancestors of the Ceylon Moors were of the posterity of Hashim. In other respects it is absurd. Mr Casie Chetty may have misunderstood his informants, or misrepresented their statements for otherwise it is difficult to account the absurdity of his narrative. It was at the Battle of Badr that the Muslims, headed by their Prophet (peace be upon him), fought against Abu Jaheel and his party, and utterly routed them killing their chief. The battle ended in a complete victory for the Muslims, whose number was few and whose behavior in the field was commendable. No Muslim was guilty of pusillanimous conduct at the said battle and none were banished or punished by the Prophet (peace be upon him) for any bad conduct. These are incontrovertible facts based on history. At the time the Prophet (peace be upon him) fought with Abu Jaheel and his compatriots he was not master of Arabia, to be able to expel men from that country. As a matter of fact, except Medina and its environments the whole of Arabia was then against the Prophet (peace be upon him), who himself had sought refuge at Medina from the fury of his enemies. Therefore the story mentioned by Casie Chertty is to be rejected as nonsensical. Had his informants really told him that their forefathers left Arabia in the time of the Prophet and with his knowledge it is possible to conjecture, not without reason, the circumstances in which they might have left their country for good. At the early part of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) mission, the Muslims were subjected to much persecution by the Meccan idolators, and had at the request of the Prophet (peace be upon him) himself, to flee, for safety, first to Abyssinia and then to Medina. During their flight to Abyssinia, crossing the Red Sea, some of them may have gone on board the ship which was bound for the East on commercial pursuit, and been brought down here. This is the only rational explanation that can be offered of the statement that in the prophets (peace be upon him) lifetime, Hashimite Arabs migrated to Ceylon from Arabia under compulsion. I have explained above that Kayal-Paddanam could not have come into existence till long after the tenth century; therefore the Arabs, who departed from Arabia at the prophets (peace be upon him) time — seventh century — could not have formed a colony at Kayal-Paddanam as supposed by Mr Casie Chetty, but might have come to Ceylon direct. I have pointed out before that the statement that a colony of the Moors came to Beruwela from Kayal in the eleventh century (1024) is not found in Casie Chetty’s Ceylon Gazeteer, but an account (Vol I p632) to that effect is recorded in Tennents “Ceylon”, author of which characterizes it as a legend.
(9) because Mahawansa makes no mention whatever of the Moors; because Rajavaliya records that a number of them arrived in 1505, the year which witnessed the advent of the Portuguese; because Beruwela is described in the “Pigeon Message” and “Kokila Sandesa” as in the occupation (1410-61) of cruel and lawless Bamburas (Mlechchas); and because Ibn Batuta, who visited the Island in 1344, makes no mention of Beruwela in his work, Mr Ramanathan has concluded that the Mohammedans had not seized upon that station in 1344, and hence they were not in the Island at that period. It seems to be very strange that he should have placed more confidence on the “Pigeon Message”, “Kokila Sandesa” and the narrative of Ibn Batuta than on the words of Sir Alexander Johnston, which show beyond all doubts that the Moors were at Beruwela before the fourteenth century, and that they were not in the state of Bamburas or Mlechchas, but of civilized inhabitants. The following paragraphs occur in his contribution to the Royal Asiatic Society, reproduced in Appendix A: —
“The cinnamon generally grows in the south-west part of the maritime provinces, and in the interior of Ceylon. In the maritime provinces the cultivation and the preparation of the cinnamon are carried on by a particular caste, which consists of between 24 and 25 thousand persons, who are said to be descended from 7 weavers that were introduced into Ceylon by a Mohammedan merchant of the town of Barbareen, about the end of the twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth century.”
“I have a copy in my possession of a fery curious and very ancient grant in copper, made by one of the Cingalese Kings of Ceylon about six or seven hundred years ago to a great Mohammedan merchant who was then residing at Barbareen, and to his descendants for ever, of certain privileges and immunities in consequence of his having introduced from the opposite coast of India the first weavers of cloth who were established in Ceylon. By virtue of this grant the lineal descendants of that merchant now enjoy under the British Government a portion of the privileges which were granted to their ancestors by the ancient Cingalese government of the country, and which were successively confirmed to them by the Portuguese, Dutch and English Governments in Ceylon. The chief of this family was appointed by me, in 1806, native superintendent of the medical department, under the control of the Supreme Court. He was considered by the natives of the country as one of the best informed of the native Physicians of the Island, and possessed one of the best collections of native medical books, most of which had been in his family between seven and eight hundred years, during the whole of which period it had been customary for one member of his family at least to follow the medical profession. This same person made me a very detailed report of all the plants in Ceylon which have been used from time immemorial for medical purposes by Mohammedan native Physicians in the Island. The cultivation and improvement of these plants, as well as of all other plants and vegetables on the Island which might be used either for food or commercial purposes, was one of the great objects for which His majesty’s Government, at my suggestion, in 1810, established a royal botanical garden in Ceylon.
The above paragraphs directly show that about the end of the twelfth or beginning of the thirteenth century (It was during this period that the Mohammedans in the Island attained the highest degree of prosperity and influence), the Mohammedans were influential and respected at Barbareen (Beruwela), and, instead of being considered as Bambaras or Melchchas by the Sinhalese people, were honored by the Sinhalese Kings of Ceylon for the meritorious services rendered by them to his government. Sir Alexander Johnston bears testimony to the fact that the Sinhalese King granted, six or seven hundred years previous to 1827, by copper Sannas, a copy of which he saw, certain privileges and immunities to a great Mohammedan merchant of Barbareen, whose descendants were at his (Sir Alexander’s) time enjoying under the British Government a portion of these privileges. Will anyone dare to doubt the veracity of the words of Sir Alexander Johnston, who was Chief Justice and President of His Majesty’s Council in Ceylon? When in the teeth of the above statement Mr Ramanathan ventured to assert that the Moors did not settle at Beruwela before the middle of the fourteenth century (1350), and even then they were only known to the Sinhalese as cruel and lawless barbarians did he state what was the fact?Rajawaliya cannot be depended upon for it makes no mention of the arrival of the Moors in Ceylon before the sixteenth century, whereas Mr Ramanathan himself admits of their arrival in the fourteenth century; and likewise the silence of the Mahawansa as to the arrival of the Moors is also immaterial. The Sinhalese chronicles (See Tennents “Ceylon” Vol I page 590) have not recorded many incidents of importance in the history of the Island. Ibn Batuta, in the account of his visit to Ceylon, refers to the Mohammedans inhabitants of the Island only at places where he has to mention some incidents connected with them; therefore we can infer that he has made no mention of the Muslims of Beruwela, because he has had nothing important to narrate about them. However that might be, it is imprudent and unjustifiable, to regard his failure to refer to Beruwela as conclusive evidence against the existence of a Mohammedan settlement at that station at the time of his visit (1344); and besides, it is not clear from what Ibn Batuta has stated whether he traveled from Galle to Colombo by land or sea.; and, if by the former, whether the route he took was the present one or another. Without considering these points Mr Ramanathan has rushed into conclusions which, for reasons given above, are erroneous.
Of the four points brought forth by him to prove that the Ceylon Moors are Tamils in nationality, namely; their language, history, social customs and physical features. I have disposed of the first and second; and have now to consider what he has stated on the social customs and physical features of the Moors.
Of their social customs he says:-
“But I do not propose to dwell at length on these points, not only because they are apparent to most of us who reside in the Island, and this Paper has far exceeded the limits I set upon it, but also because because, in January last year, when Mr Bawa’s Paper on the marriage customs of the Moors of Ceylon was read, I pointed out what the requirements of a marriage were according to the law of the Prophet, but how different were the rites and customs practiced by the Moors, and how many of these customs, such as the Stridhanam (independent of the Mahr), the Alatti ceremony, the bridegroom wearing jewels though prohibited by the law, the tying of the tale, the bride wearing the Kurai offered by the bridegroom, and the eating of the Pathcoru, were all borrowed from the Tamils. I also commented on other customs, such as the absence of the purdah system (or rigid seclusion of women), and of prayer in the streets and other public places, both of which are foreign to Tamils, but germane to Egyptians and many clans of Arabs.”
All the energies put forth by M Ramanathan to find out what resembles some of the social customs of the Ceylon Moors bore to those of the Tamils have been misspent, for there was no necessity whatever for him to be at pains to find them out, inasmuch as the Moors themselves have admitted all along that among their ancestors there were many who married Tamil wives, whose language, habits, customs, and manners their descendants adopted in the long run. What the Parsees did in India the Moors have done in Ceylon, and it ought to be apparent to the readers now much more natural it is for the children to cherish and adopt the the thoughts and habits of their mothers than of their fathers. It is true that the Ceylon Moors have the customs of Stridhanam, Alati, the tying of the Tali etc. and my explanation is that these have been borrowed by them from the Tamils, to whose race their mothers, in most cases, belonged, and among them their fathers settled. Does the fact that these customs have been borrowed by the Moors from the Tamils prove in any degree that they are Tamils in descent and nationality? (Can the circumstance that the Ceylon Sayyids, whose Arab descent can in no way be doubted, have adopted some of their social customs from the Tamils like the other Moors, prove them to be of Tamil descent?) To answer this question in the affirmative will be nothing but absurd, for we have the example of many a race which have adopted the customs and habits of the people among whom they have settled. Most of the social customs of the Jews in England are identical with those of the English people, and for this reason are they to be classed with the Anglo-Saxons. It seems Mr Ramanathan was led by the spectacle of poor Mohammedan women moving publicly to believe that purdah system was absent among the Moors of Ceylon. The fact is that the Moorish women, I mean those who are not prevented by poverty from respecting the law, are rigidly observing seclusion like their sisters in Arabia and Egypt. Praying in the streets at places where there are Mosques is not s characteristic of Arabs and Egyptians.
As regards the physical features of the Moors Mr Ramanathan has remarked as follows:-
“Of these, the best marked race-characters, according to Dr Tylor, are the color of the skin, structure and arrangement of the hair, contour of the face, stature, and conformation of the skull. On all these points there is, in my opinion, no appreciable difference between the average Tamil and the average Moor. If he were dressed up like a Tamil he would pass easily for a Tamil, and vice versa. As regards cranial measurements, I would add that in a famous trial for murder (known as the ‘Chetty Street’ murder case), in which I appeared in 1884 as counsel, I had to be in consultation with three of our leading doctors of medicine and surgery (having large experience of the country and its people) on the question whether the skull produced in the case was the skull of a Tamil or not, and they were unanimously of opinion that it might be as much the skull of a Moorman or a Sinhalese as of a Tamil; so difficult would it be to distinguish between the skulls of the three sections of our community.”
Here, too, his argument is weak. It is true that there is, in some cases, similarity between the Tamils and Moors, on the points of the color of the skin, structure and arrangement of the hair, contour of the face etc, but that is accounted for by the fact that there is an admixture of Tamil blood in those Moors, from the mothers’ side. The Arabs are not alike in features, some resembling the Europeans and some the Africans; and there are among the Moors some who, if dressed up like Europeans would pass for Europeans. I have learned on good authority that it was with some difficulty that Sir William Gregory and Lord Stanley of Alderly, believed that the late Mr CL Shamsudeen Mudaliyar, of the Colombo Kachcheri, was a native of Ceylon. Such was the resemblance borne by him to an Arab or European in features. He was not, however, singular in possession of that quality, and even at the present day, numerous persons could be found, among the Moors, who have a striking resemblance to Arabs. As in the case of the social customs, so in the case of the physical features, the similarity between some Moors and Tamils does not conclusively prove that the former are purely Tamil in blood. The opinion of the eminent doctors, who examined the skull produced in the Chetty Street murder case, that it might be as much as the skull of a Moorman or a Sinhalese as of a Tamil is important as it establishes that the physical resemblance, as far as the skull is concerned, between the Tamils and the Moors is not complete, and raises the question whether from the similarity of their skulls the Sinhalese and Tamils could be adjudged as of one race. In connection with this point I have to refer the readers to the words, quoted above, of Dr Trimen who has emphatically declared that the evidence afforded by the skull is not sufficient to determine the origin of a race. I have shown the futility of the arguments, adduced by Mr Ramanathan, on the points of language. history, social customs, and physical features of the Moors of Ceylon, to prove their Tamil origin, and now proceed to consider his remarks on the name Chonahar or Sonahar by which the Ceylon Moors are known, before taking the concluding part of his Paper. He says:-
“The Sinhalese call them Yonnu and the Tamils Chonahar. It is supposed by those few of the Moors who would (like the Mauri of old described by Gibbon) ‘adopt the language, name and origin of Arabs, that this very name of Yonnu or Chonahar is evidence of the origin of the Moors from Arabia’ because Arabia in Sanskrit is Yavana, in Pali Yonna and in Tamil Chonaham or Sonaham. The descent of Yonna from Yavana must be conceded on the analogy of lona, Pali for salt, being derived from the Sanskrit lavana; but it may be concluded that Chonahar with a long o cannot be traced as clearly from the Sanskrit (The Hon Mr Arunachalam says in his Census Report for 1901 that Sonahar is derived from Yavana). A more direct derivation, it has been pointed out to me by the Rev Father Corbet, is from the Arabic Shuna a “ship of war’, and Shuna could easily have become Shona through the Hindustani (It was the Tamil and not the Hindustani people who called the Moors Sonahar) which often tends to change the long u into o. If this be so, Chonahar (in which har wold represent the Tamil plural form) would mean warlike people. Father Beschi, in his Tamil Dictionary says that the name is a corruption of “Chola-Nahara people”. Mr C Brito thinks is is derived from Sunni, as the bulk of the Moors are Sunni’s of the Shafi Sect.”
The admission made by Mr Ramanathan that Arabia in Sanskrit is Yavana, in Pali Yonna and in Tamil Sonaham, and Yonna is derived from Yavana, is very significant, inasmuch as it has made it superfluous on my part to produce evidence to prove that Sonaham means Arabia, and Sonahar Arabians. But in order to qualify his admission he has made certain remarks regarding the term Chonahar which of course, the readers have to take at their proper value, for without the qualification the admission would be a glaring self-condemnation. He has not adduced any reason for his statement that “Chonahar with a long o cannot be traced as clearly from the Sanskrit.” It is only an opinion of his, which is, I regret to say, as worthless as those of the Rev Corbet and Mr Brito. The term Sonahar or Chonahar is not a compound one, made of Arabic and Tamil words, nor is it Hindustani in origin. It is very regrettable to note how these people grope in the dark, and indulge in surmises, when it is clear that the word is Tamil, and has a place as well as a meaning in the Tamil lexicon. Mr Rottler in his Tamil and English Dictionary (1834) explains that Sonaham is one of the 56 countries mentioned in Hindu geography, and that it is Arabia. After this explanation I do not care for the opinions of the Rev Corbert and Mr Brito, whose statements that the term is derived from Shuna and Sunni are absurd (If the Rev Corbert’s supposition be correct the name ought to be Shunan or Shunan in the singular and Shunar or Shonar – not Sonahar – in the plural. In case Mr Brito is right all Mohammedans of the Sunni sect ought to be Sonahar. Are the Sunni Mohammedans of Northern India called Sonahar?). As to the supposition that the name is a corruption of Chola-Nahara people I have given my explanation before. having traced the history of the term Yavana in order to show that it was first applied to the warlike races outside the limits of India, then to Ionians and Greeks, and at last to Arabs, Mr Ramanathan concludes that:-
“the Arabs and other Muslims were the last to receive the name Yavanas. from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries the Mohammedans in South India were known as Mlechchas or “barbarians” just as the Sinhalese knew them in Ceylon in those ages as Bamburo. In later days they knew them as Yonna, while the Tamils learnt to use the word Chonahar.”
Let me admit for the sake of argument that the Arabs and other Muslims were the last to receive the name of Yavanas from the Indians. Does it follow that the Ceylon Moors or Sonahar are not Arabs in descent? Whatever may have been the history of Yavanas previous to the eighth century, when the Arabs temporarily conquered Sindh, since that period the Arabs have been called Yavanas in Sanskrit. Mr Ramanathan has admitted that the Pali term Yonna is derived from Yavana; and the Sinhalese who use the Pali term to denote the Moors of Ceylon, do not apply it to the “Coast Moors”, whom they call Hambankaraya. Though the word Yavanas was applied to Arabs as well as other Mussalmans in India, Yonnu or Yon was not so indiscriminately applied in Ceylon by the Sinhalese as Hambanwella (Bankshall), the quarter where the Coast Moors live in Colombo, and Yon Weediya (Moor Street), the quarter of the Ceylon Moors bear testimony. We are not informed that Sonahar had a shifting history like Yavanas, and Mr Rottler’s explanation confirms that by Sonahar the people of Arabia alone are meant. As to the term Mlechchas and Bamburas by which, Mr Ramanathan says, the Mohammedans were known in South India and Ceylon, from the ninth to the fourteenth centuries, I have to remark that opprobrious meaning is not always attached to the epithet of Mlechchas, for we hear, even at the present day, the Hindus calling the Christian religion “Mlechcha Matham”. Are we to regard these terms as conveying the meaning that the Christian religion is that of the savages? Were the Europeans who introduced Christianity into India barbarians and inferior to the Hindus in intelligence and civilization? It is apparent that the term Mlechchas was used to denote foreigners, hence the early Arabs who visited India were regarded by the Indians as Mlechchas ie; foreigners (not barbarians), till they knew them better. The term Bamburas (barbarians) must also have a similar significance, for it is absurd to regard the Moors, who were at Beruwela in the thirteenth century in a civilized state, rendering meritorious services to the government and being rewarded for it by the same in a handsome manner, as uncivilized barbarians. If the authors of the poems (Paravi Sandesa and Kokila Sandesa) referred to by Mr Ramanathan really meant the Moors to be cruel savages, they must have been deplorably ignorant of the real position in which the Moors of Beruwela were at that period.
Finally Mr Ramanathan concludes thus:-
“As regards the nationality of the ‘Ceylon Moors’, numbering about 92,500 out of the 185,000, we have ample reasons for concluding that they too are Tamils – I mean the masses of them; for, of course we meet with a few families here and there – say five percent of the community, or about 5,000 out of the 92,500 – who bear the impress of an Arab or other foreign descendant.”
It is a matter of exceeding importance that Mr Ramanathan has been forced, by the existing evidences which he was unable to forge, though he studiously expressed them in his Paper, to admit, at the concluding part of it, that only the masses of the Ceylon Moors were Tamils, and that he has met with families, here and there, who do not bear the Tamil impress. According to his computation, of the 92,500 Ceylon Moors, found in 1881, about 5,000 were of Arab or “other foreign” descent. These have falsified the conclusion which he has arrived at, after a laborious task, on the evidences afforded by the language, history and social customs of the Moors. They were, like the remaining 87,500 Moors speaking Tamil as their vernacular; were descended, according to him, from the colony which migrated in the fourteenth century from Kayal, and settled at Beruwela; and borrowed some of their social customs from the Tamils; still they were not adjudged Tamils for the simple reason that they bore the impress of Arab or other foreign descent. Did Mr Ramanathan see every one of the 92,500 Moors, or only some of them, and whether he found out by experience that 5,000 persons out of the 92,500 did not bear the Tamil impress, or is it only a conjecture? I believe it is merely a baseless conjecture and he had no reason whatever to limit to about 5,000 the Moors who were not of Tamil descent. Unless he has traveled all over the island with the very object of discovering the descent of the Moors by observing their facial impress, and unless there is incontrovertible evidence to prove that he is well versed in the art, one cannot find his way to attach credence to his finding on this point. We have not learned that he traveled through the length and breadth of the Island on such an errand, and that he is well aware of the art of discovering the nationality of a people by observing their facial impress; therefore I think we can safely reject the limitation placed by him on the number of the Ceylon Moors, who are not of Tamil descent. The readers will now understand that, in the opinion of Mr Ramanathan, all the Ceylon Moors are not Tamils, in descent, but only a portion of them. Had he told the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society at the commencement of his Paper, that he had no doubt that among the Ceylon Moors there were Arabs, and his proposal was only to consider and determine their percentage, he would have explained his position better. Moreover, had he done so the members of that respectable Society, who heard him, would have concentrated their thought on the point of knowing what opportunity and information he had to ascertain that percentage, and whether his conclusion on that point was justified by the materials placed before them by him. But neither he elucidated that point nor they sought enlightenment on it. As I have shown before his conclusion on that point is utterly worthless, inasmuch as it is not based on any substantial reason. It may be true that of the Moors met by him some resembled Arabs and the others did not, but it is very strange that he did not understand that the former were purely Arabs in blood, whereas the latter were descended from Arab fathers through Tamil mothers.
In conclusion, I have to state that I agree with Mr Ramanathan when he says that the 185,000 Moors found in the Island in 1881 were divisible equally between Ceylon Moors and “Coast Moors”, but I have shown above that he has failed to prove his theory that the Ceylon Moors came from Kayal-Paddanam, and have not a history different from that of the “Coast Moors”. I have shown further that Kayal-Paddanam was not in a position to send a colony of Mohammedans – Tamil or Arab – to Ceylon before the fourteenth century, which was the period when, according to him, the first colony of the Moors migrated from Kayal and settled at Beruwela; that the Moors first appeared in the Island in the first century of the Christian era, and that by the early part of the thirteenth century had completely established themselves at Beruwela; that at that period their services to the state were recognized by the Sinhalese King, who granted them privileges and immunities, which have been in later days fully or partially confirmed by the European conquerors of the Island; that the Mohammedans who had settled in the Island before the fourteenth century could not have been the descendants of the Moors who came from Kayal-Paddanam, and that the emigrants from Kayal were either Arabs or Tamils in descent, and it is only a supposition of Mr Ramanathan and not an established fact that they were the latter. I have pointed out the utter worthlessness of his arguments adduced by him to discredit the traditions recorded by Sir Alexander Johnston, to the effect that a colony of Arabs of the House of Hashim made settlements at different stations in the Island in the early part of the eighth century. With reference to the tradition reported by Mr Casie Chetty I have shown that the Hashimite Arabs, mentioned in that tradition to have emigrated from Arabia in the lifetime (seventh century) of the blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) could not have formed settlement at Kayal-Paddanam, because that town did not come into existence before the tenth century. I have also pointed out, with reason, that the conclusion arrived at by Mr Ramanathan that the ceylon Moors are Tamils because some of their social customs have been borrowed from the Tamils and because some Moors and Tamils resemble each other in physical features is erroneous. The inference drawn by him from the language spoken by the Moors is equally erroneous. I have shown that it is not unnatural nor unusual for a people to drop the language of their ancestors, and adopt that of the inhabitants of the country where they have settled; and I have explained how the Moors came to drop the Arabic and adopt the Tamil. It has also been proved that some districts in Ceylon, which are considered as purely Sinhalese, were, at the period when the Moors settled there under the control and influence of the Malabars, who over-ran them, and with whom the Moors associated with the result that the Tamil became their adopted language in those districts. In short, I have shown conclusively that neither the language, spoken by the Ceylon Moors, nor their history, social customs and physical features have singly or cumulatively proved that they are ethnologically Tamils.
One word more. Of the 92,500 Ceylon Moors found in 1881 a few were the descendants of the Tamil and Sinhalese converts to Islam, whose conversion, however, was not brought about under the influence of a proselytizing mission, as I have pointed out before. Those converts were mostly the servants of wealthy Moors, and, though they did not advance any claim to Arab origin, yet their adopting the dress, customs, and habits of their masters led to their being called by the name by which their superiors were known. Among those converts were also Sinhalese and Tamil who embraced Islam of their own accord seeking salvation, and whose number was not large.
The above document was reproduced here with permission from the Sri Lanka Geneology Website run by Mr.Fazli Sameer.
1. Ethnology of the ‘Moors’ of Ceylon