The passing away yesterday, (19th May 2020) of Dr M A M Shukri(79) has removed from our midst, an eminent educationist and a scholar of repute. In the Muslim community, he is considered not only as an intellectual giant but also as a catalyst of progressive change within the community. Belonging to the category of intellectual scholars of the standing of the late Dr A M A Azeez, Dr Shukri’s demise comes as an irreplaceable loss to the country and the Muslim community in particular.
A product of Zahira College, Colombo, Dr Shukri graduated from the University of Peradeniya with First Class Honours in Arabic and was awarded the Commonwealth Scholarship-1973, for his post-graduate studies at the University of Edinburgh, UK where he obtained his PhD under the tutelage of the distinguished Islamologist Prof Montgomery Watt. He returned to the country and lectured at the University of Peradeniya and the University of Kelaniya. He thereafter founded the well-known non-fee levying educational institute, Jamiah Naleemiah in Beruwala on the invitation of the late philanthropist M I M Naleem Hadjiar of China Fort, Beruwala who funded the project.
Jamiah Naleemia established in 1973 grew as an academia inspired by distinguished Muslims such as A M A Azeez, late District Judge A M Ameen, well known civil servant M N Junaid and many others. Jamiah is managed under the guidance of its Chairman Yakooth Naleem by a large number of dedicated educationists such as Sheikh A C Aghar Mohamed, Sheikh S H M Faleel and many others under the academic leadership of its founder Director Dr Shukri who remained as its academic head until his passing away.
The Jamiah is fulfilling a long felt need of the community for a center of scholarship, balancing Islamic learning together with degree level academic studies. A large number of students who graduated from Jamiah serve the country in high positions in the administrative, judicial and overseas services.
In January 1984 the Jamiah under the leadership of Dr Shukri organised a five-day seminar cum workshop in a unique attempt to chronicle an authoritative record of the history of the Muslims of Sri Lanka. Participants and contributors of research papers included Prof C R de Silva, Prof K M de Silva, Dr Ms Lorna Devaraja, Dr H M Z Farouque, Prof K W Goonewardena, Prof K Indrapala, Prof Ms Sirima Kiribamune, Prof Ma’ruf Muhammed, Dr K D G Wimalaratne, Dr Ameer Ali, Dr D A Kotelawele, Dr B A Hussainmiya, Barrister at Law Asker Moosajee, and Dr Shukri among several others. The papers covered a period of over a thousand years of Muslim presence in the island nation and the Muslims’ contribution to the development and progress of their country.
In 1986, Dr Shukri put out a 494 page book containing the research papers presented at the Jamiah seminar as a permanent record of a thousand years of peaceful co-existence of the Muslims with the other communities. Titled “Muslims of Sri Lanka-Avenues to Antiquity”- edited by Dr M A M Shukri, the book remains an excellent testimony to the sacrifices and contributions of Sri Lankan Muslims for the unity and territorial integrity of this country populated by an understanding Buddhist majority as well as peace loving Hindus and Christians.
Dr Shukri will be best remembered as the guiding light of the Muslims of Sri Lanka throughout a period of over 40 years. His speeches, writings, research and books will guide this community for decades to come. His 1986 publication reflecting on the history of the Muslims of Sri Lanka and their patriotic role will remain a monumental bridge between the communities of this country, a bridge that this country is in urgent need of.
He was laid to rest at the Matara Rahula Road, Sheikh Hamadar Mosque burial grounds last (19/5) evening. May he attain Jennathul Firdouse.