TRIBUTE | Sunday Observer


 A M A Azeez: Reminiscences   

A M A Azeez (1911-1973) was an “eminent educationist, a brilliant scholar and a dedicated social worker” who fervently believed that all communities in the country should live together in amity.

He felt that this was possible with the understanding of each other’s religion and culture and that knowledge of each other’s language would help to promote inter-communal harmony.

Throughout this career, first in the Ceylon Civil Service, then as the Principal, Zahira College Colombo, and as a social worker, he worked towards this ideal.

Azeez was also involved in the betterment of the Muslim community which was considered backward owing to the lack of education. Azeez felt that the problem of education had to be addressed. He therefore founded the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund to assist needy students to follow higher education.

He also formed the Young Men’s Muslim Association Conference to provide leadership training to Muslim youth.

Here too, one of the main objectives was the fostering of inter-communal harmony.

As a Senator, he made many speeches on this subject and matters regarding the Muslim community. (These speeches and many more are published in a book by the A M A Azeez Foundation, titled, A M A Azeez – Senate Speeches 2008).

Azeez was born in Jaffna. He lived with his maternal grandparents in Moor Street, Jaffna. His father was a lawyer, a Kathi and a social worker; his grandfather was a well-known businessman. Azeez began his schooling at Allahpitchai Quran Madrasa and then at Vaidyeswara Vidyalayam and Jaffna Hindu College.

Undoubtedly, these institutions had a profound influence on his later life. As a Muslim he was deeply religious and at the same time he learned much of the Hindu culture and the Tamil language. In fact, he was regarded as a Tamil scholar and writer.

A M A Azeez Reminiscences (written by Marina Ismail) is a worthy tribute to a personality such as Azeez.

This book about Azeez, narrated in the form of many interesting and amusing anecdotes and reminiscences of his family, his students, friends and colleagues. Many quotations from his speeches and his own reminiscences are also included, such as, recollections of his school days, his teachers and the influence of the two Hindu schools he attended.

Many glowing tributes are paid by grateful students, friends and admirers, some of them eminent persons. Information of his time as A. G. A. Kalmunai in 1942, a significant period in his life, has been gathered from documents, newspapers, letters and speeches from the then Minister of Agriculture, Hon. D S Senanayake, Governor Sir Andrew Caldecott and others.

An insight into the period, the early 19th Century is vividly portrayed, e.g. the tranquil life in Moor Street, friendships between the Muslim and Tamil communities, the emphasis laid on learning and the simple way of life.

The system of education before the takeover of schools, which at Zahira College is considered as the ‘Golden Era’ when Azeez was Principal: the progress of the Muslim community which by this time could not be considered backward, the education of Muslim women, are also commented upon.

A. M. A. Azeez Reminiscences is interesting, written in an easy-to-read style with relevant photographs and bound in an attractive cover.

“The living owe it to those who no longer can speak to tell their story for them” Miloz The Issa Valley 1955