Dr. T. B. Jayah - A National Hero | Sunday Observer

Dr. T. B. Jayah - A National Hero

Tuan Branudeen Jayah was born on January 1, 1890 in Galagedera. He died on May 31, 1960 in Medina and was interred at Jennathul Baqi – the final resting place of many Companions and members of the family of the Holy Prophet Muhammed. His father, Cassim Jayah was a Police Sergeant and his mother was Nona Jayah (nee Sourjah).

An old boy of St. Thomas’ College, he excelled in his studies and carried away a large number of prizes. He was the sole representative of the Muslims among the brilliant young men of other communities who obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree of the London University in 1911. Having entered the profession of teaching that was dearest to his heart for the next 35 years, he taught Classics and History at Ananda College and also taught at Prince of Wales, Moratuwa and Dharmaraja College, Kandy.

In 1921, when Jayah was 31 years, the Manager of the Maradana Mosque Committee, N. H. M. Abdul Cader invited him to assume duties as the Principal of Zahira College, Maradana. During his stewardship at Zahira College (1921 – 1948) he transformed it from a tottering elementary school to a premier educational institution. When he took over the school there were only 6 teachers, 59 boys, hardly any furniture and a small building. Before he handed over the reins to A. M. A. Azeez there were 10 institutions, over 3500 students and around 150 teachers. At the time of his retirement in 1948, his devoted service and hard work left Zahira with full coffers and an assured income. He even introduced sports where the Zahirians excelled in Rugby, Football as well as in Boxing.

Just after the 2nd World War, when the military forces occupied the College premises, the College had to be closed down for two years. In order that those students continue their education uninterrupted, he opened up branches in Matale, Puttalam Gampola, Alutgama and Slave Island. Once they were established, Jayah decided that they be given their independent status. It is Zahira College Slave Island, which has been named T.B. Jayah Maha Vidyalaya in honour of this great educationist.

T. B. Jayah’s thinking was that Muslims were an integral part of the multi-racial Ceylonese (later Sri Lankan) nation. Jayah’s first and original concern was the education of the Muslims, long neglected due to “Muslim conservatism”. If not for Jayah, Muslims would have remained stigmatized as backward.

Jayah in his time was an Educationist, State Councillor, Member of Parliament, Minister of State and Ambassador to Pakistan, where the University of Punjab conferred on him the Degree of Doctor of Literature (D.Litt. – Honoris Causa).

As a State Councillor, in 1944 he spoke for three hours on the Soulbury Report and the White Paper of the United Kingdom Government to pave the way for full independence. It was on this historic occasion that the then Leader of the House in the State Council, S.W.R.D.Bandranaike paid him a high tribute, when he said: “Credit for the attainment of independence should undoubtedly go to T. B. Jayah for his historic speech in passing the Dominion Bill”.

When Ceylon gained independence in 1948, he was appointed a Cabinet Minister of the D.S. Senanayake Government, the first Muslim to hold that much-coveted position.

Whilst serving as the Ambassador of Ceylon in Pakistan he worked assiduously to set up a Pilgrims’ Rest in Mecca for Ceylonese pilgrims performing Haj. It was in one of his visits to the Holy City to work out this facility that he died in the Holy City of Medina.