KETCHIMALAI MOSQUE
 
  High on a rock in Beruwala, tall, white and towering, surrounded by coconut fronds, stands Ketchimalai mosque. The ancient historic site has been a place of reflection and prayer for centuries, calling unto it every year, scores of pilgrims from all over the island. As Muslims commence the holy month of Ramadan, the Nation took a trip to the mosque, to learn more of its history and discover intimately, the awe-inspiring beauty of this religious site….

By Aisha Edris
The story of Ketchimalai has been fairy-tale for me. I’ve heard so many tales from my grandmother, mother and the rest of my family; it was unique to Beruwala, my hometown. I have known the mosque ever since I was a child. Now, in my twenties, it looks no different. Ketchimalai mosque has been a sacred landmark for many centuries and the annual festival at the mosque, has been a grand occasion for the villagers and pilgrims.

It is of ancient Arabic architecture, as it stands tall and white upon a rock, surrounded by swaying coconut palms. Viewed from the Galle Road, it looks picturesque. The sound of the sea blends with the sounds of prayer, when devotees flock there.

The history of “Ketchimalai” Mosque goes back generations, and with its myths and legends lay hidden also many tales. One of them is the civilization that was created around this mosque. In the 12th century, a vessel came ashore on the South West of Ceylon (Sri Lanka) at Ketchimalai, Beruwala, with seven members of the royal family of Hadramouth, Yemen. Sultan Ashraff Waliullah, his five brothers and a sister.

At this time, Muslims in the region were well respected by the Sinhalese Kings. The royal entourage, on disembarking, were apprehended by the coastguards of the Sinhala king and escorted to the king. The King accorded the visitors a royal welcome and invited them to stay in the palace, as his guests. They accepted the king’s invitation and lived in the palace for few years as the king’s guests.

Realising that the life-style within the palace was a hindrance to fulfilling their spiritual obligations, Ash-Shaikh Ashraff Waliullah, along with his siblings took residence in the western part of Beruwala. After a few years of peaceful existence, he passed away and the people of Beruwala buried him at Ketchimalai.

After sometime, one day Shaikh Abdul Cader bin Shaikh Yoosuf (chief priest at Maradana Jumma Mosque, Beruwala) was clearing the bushes around the grave of Ash-Shaikh Ashraff Waliullah, when a thorn pricked his foot, causing severe pain. As he rested for a while, he fell asleep. While asleep, Shaikh Ashraff Waliullah, in a dream, asked the chief priest to allocate the piece of land to him and put up a building there. Shaikh Abdul Cader put up a Cadjan building to cover the grave and set apart a small area for the mosque.

With the passage of time, the Sinhala kingdom fell in to the hands of foreign invaders. One day, some Dutch soldiers began demolishing a part of the hill on which the building and the shrine stood, to erect a lighthouse. While demolishing, an unknown person had kicked and chased the soldiers, who fled in fear.

This news spread to the villagers. Ever since then, the people of the area began to respect the area much more than they did before. Muslims, as well as non Muslims visited the shrine very frequently from all over the island. People had their wishes granted and their appeals fulfilled by visiting the shrine. They prayed for the Shaikh and recited the Holy Quran. The devotees named this area “Ketchimalai”.

Since ancient days Ketchimalai hill was crown land. One day, British Governor Sir Arthur Gordon was riding from Colombo to Galle. While passing Beruwala, his horse became difficult and refused to proceed. The Governor, unable to gain control of the horse, set it free. Left to itself, the horse had come to Ketchimalai Dharga and was quite calm there.

The governor seeing devotees praying and meditating there, enquired about the place. The devotees obliged him with a narration of its history. Upon which the governor asked the for the ‘caretaker’ of this location, when chief priest Abdul Cader bin Yoosuf, was introduced to the governor and informed that he was in charge of the Shrine and the Dharga Shareef.

The governor gave the entitlement of the land to the Katheeb Shaikh Abdul Cader bin Yoosuf by deed and left for Galle. From that day onwards, the holy place has been under the guardianship of the descendants of Shaikh Abdul Cader bin Yoosuf’s family.
When the tsunami struck in 2004, it destroyed many buildings, houses and lives around Ketchimalai but, by a miracle of Allah, Ketchimalai was untouched by the killer wave.

Despite the relentless passage of time and the surrounding tide Ketchimalai has remained the same for centuries. The tale of this historic mosque will continue to enthral Muslims in Sri Lanka for generations to come.

Source: - The Nation

In this jungle she tripped over the root of a Cadju tree and fell. Her clay pot was smashed to pieces. “Aiyo, Aiyo!” she cried out, “My family will have no food today. My only means of earning has been destroyed.” She wept her eyes out in desperation and exhausted, fell fast asleep.

A voice awakened her. It asked her not to despair and bade her rise, assuring her that everything would be well soon. She looked up and found no one in sight and in de¬speration burst into tears again.

Again the voice repeated the reassuring words. This was incredible as she had hardly seen any human being within earshot in that dense jungle. Suddenly she saw an old man in green garb and his holy mien was an inspiring sight to the stricken woman.

“You have nothing to fear,” he told her. “I shall give you back your oil. Only fetch me a pot.”

The woman started off towards Maradana to the house of a regular customer, a Muslim by the name of Mamma Lebbe and asked his mother to give her a new pot. When the latter queried this strange request the oil monger said: “I shall come back and tell you my story.”

She returned with the pot to the jungle to find the old man reclining against a ‘dawata’ or ‘devata’ tree. He directed her to place the pot where the first one was broken. He pressed his foot on the ground and, behold, oil bubbled up from the ground!

The woman was speechless with amazement. Picking some leaves from a Cadju tree he asked her to scoop up the oil with them and fill her pot. “You can now earn your living,” he told her and also requested her to inform her Muslim customers and show them the spot where he appeared. The grateful oil monger made obeisance to the saint and invoked his blessings.

She hurried to the house of Mamma Lebbe and related her story of the miracle to Mamma Lebbe’s mother. A party comprising Mamma Lebbe, Periya Pitche, Meera Kani and the oil monger left for the spot to investigate and found evidence of the miracle—the broken pot, the seeping oil, the Cadju tree, the Cadju leaves the dawata tree.

The party of Mushinis recited Yaseen and Fathiha and prayed: “Oh Vohiyullah (saint)! Praise is to Allah for having given us the opportunity to bear witness to your miracle. Almighty Allah, may You reveal to us the identity of this Vohiyullah.”

They returned to Mamma Lebbe’s mother and vouched for the truth of the miracle and the accuracy of the woman’s report. They bought up the rest of the woman’s oil after she had finished her rounds and dismissed her after giving her a good meal.

The Muslims of the area appointed Maniema Lebbe as their leader, and Trustee of the shrine. The identity of the saint was still unknown.

In 1847, twenty-seven years after the miracle, there came from Maghreb to this Island a divine, Sheikh Ali Jahbarooth Moulana, who took up his residence at the Maradana Mosque, Colombo. He was informed of the Dawatagaha miracle and on an appointed Friday, after Jumma prayers, a party of Muslims headed by Jahbarooth Moulana and including Katheeb Assena Lebbe, Sheikh Abdul Quadir and others proceeded to the shrine and recited Kath ham Fathiha.

Jahbarooth Moulana identified the grave of the saint. He shrouded himself with his 'jubbah' (robe), knelt by the grave and sought communion with the saint. When he finally emerged from the shroud his face seemed ablaze with divine light. He announced to the assembled Muslims:

“Oh, Almighty Allah, this is a most venerable saint. His name is Seyed Usman Siddique Ibn Abdurrahman, one who came to this Island on a pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak and after living in the vicinity for some time, died here.”

He then turned to Katheeb Thambi Lebbe and said, “What month is this?”

Katheeb Thambi Lebbe said, “Today is the fourth day of the Muslim month of Zulqadha.’

Jahbarooth Moulana then told those assembled, “We shall recite Kath ham Fathiha for the ten days of this month every year in the saint’s memory and distribute “niyath.”

He gave a sovereign to the Trustee, Mamma Lebbe, and asked him to prepare ghee rice for the pilgrims. He also asked the Muslims to find a flagpole. A bamboo stalk was found near Mamma Lebbe’s house and handed over to Jahbarooth Moulana who exclaimed “Marhaba! Marhaba!” and tearing a portion of his white turban, made a flag of it, and planted the flagpole at the head of the grave.
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