Dr. T.B. Jayah: A national hero and stalwart of the Muslim community

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January 1, 2020 marked the 130th birth anniversary of the late Dr. T.B. Jayah whose renowned name has found an honoured place in the annals of this country. He was an educationist, politician, statesman, diplomat and national hero who did so much for our country and the Muslim community.

Born at Galagedera in 1890 to humble parents, he chose teaching as his profession. As a 20-year-old youth, he first taught at Dharmarajah College, Kandy, and later joined the staff of Prince of Wales College, Moratuwa as Classics Master. While being a teacher, he pursued higher studies to arm himself with a degree in English, Latin and Greek from the University of London. He then served as a teacher at Ananda College, and in 1917 joined the Law College as a student to pursue his legal studies.

He firmly believed that English education was imperative for all Muslim children. His thinking was that the only way in which the Muslim community could move forward in society was by imparting English education to children. Realising the shortcomings and predicament of the Muslim community, he thought the remedy was to educate their children. He believed in an education based on Islamic percepts.

Playing the role of a crusader, a torch bearer and as a missionary in youthful prime, the budding teacher started to devote his time, effort and knowledge to realise his life’s aspirations. Appointed as a Principal of Zahira College, Colombo in 1921, Dr. T.B. Jayah, by sheer dint of hard work, steered the school to enviable heights, so much so that names Jayah and Zahira became synonymous. During his stewardship of nearly 27 years, Zahira shone in the firmament of Sri Lanka’s education sector.

As a political figure, Dr. Jayah entered the first Parliament and became the Minister of Labour and Social Services in the cabinet of D.S. Senanayake, independent Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister. As a Minister, he introduced reforms in the fields of social service and labour to benefit the masses and the working people.

When we think of Dr. Jayah, we are reminded of his accomplishment in the field of education and the important key role he played to achieve independence from British rule. He was in the thick of politics as a member of Legislative Council, the State Council and then the House of Representatives.

His foreign sojourn as a diplomat came when the then Prime Minister D.S. Senanayake’s chose him as the first Muslim High Commissioner to Pakistan to build cordial and harmonious relationship with Pakistan. Dr. Jayah’s contribution was greatly appreciated by the Pakistani Government and the people. He served there for more than five years and cultivated a harvest of friends. In appreciation of his great services, a prestigious institution, the Punjab University conferred on him a Doctorate in Literature.

Dr. Jayah had adorned the public and political life of this country for nearly four decades with his sincere and dedicated services to his countrymen. The highlight of his illustrious career was that he put the cause of his community and the country above personal considerations. His work and life had been admired and praised by the people off all communities in Sri Lanka.

As the Gen Secretary of the Dr. T.B. Jayah Foundation, I would like to narrate an incident which my late father, M.Y.M. Faleel, JP related to me. My father was on the tutorial staff when Dr. Jayah was the principal of Zahira College. It was April 5, 1942 (a Sunday) when the Japanese started to bomb Colombo. It was on this very day my father’s wedding took place. Dr. Jayah attended two weddings on this day. One was that of the late A.M. Marikar Bawa’s daughter’s at 11 am and my father’s at Maligawatte at 04.30 pm. This was mentioned on Page 140 in Dr. M.S. Jaldeen’s book “T.B. Jayah: A National Hero”. That he took time off to attend these functions amidst turmoil and disturbance in the city of Colombo reflects the greatness, simplicity, cordiality and humaneness of this great human being.

Dr. Tuan Buranudeen Jayah was a gentleman with sterling and noble qualities. God fearing and religiously inclined, Dr. Jayah breathed his last on May 31, 1960 in the Holy city of Madina al Munawwarah in Saudi Arabia when he was on a pilgrimage there. Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon. It is on record that he was buried within two hours of his death at Jennathul Baqi, the resting place of the companions and members of the Holy Prophet’s (Peace be Upon Him) family. With his demise, Sri Lanka had lost a noble son, the community a great leader.

“May he enter Jennathul Firdouse” Aameen

Faisal Faleel Gen. Secretary, Dr. T.B. Jayah Foundation

Courtesy: Sunday Times

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