Islam and Kataragama
Response to "Islamic Kataragama The Timeless Shrine"
Letters to the Editor, The Sunday Observer
The Sunday Observer, April 14, 1991
From Ramzeen Azeez
The article by Shahabuddin on "Islamic Kataragama" as one with a basic knowledge of Islam will confirm is
full of inaccuracies and hearsay as regards Islamic traditions and history.
The idea that Adam landed on Adam's peak is a fond legend
confined to those in Sri Lanka only. To suggest that "Khidr" mentioned in the
Qur'an in the story of Moses resided in Kataragama is indeed rather fanciful.
"Zulqamain" mentioned in the Qur'an has not been proved to be Alexander. One
the one hand, the Qur'anic story is far ahead of the latter's time and on the
other, the Greek Emperor was an idolator. Zulqarnain, on the other hand, was
said to be a devout follower of God. Also, as Shahabuddin mentions, Alexander's
un-anglicised name was Iskander.
Apart from all these nonsense, I regard the penultimate para of the article as the most mischievous and misleading. To
suggest that prophet Muhammad who preached "Tauheed" or one-ness of Allah beyond everything else, had visited or condoned the visit of shrines is preposterous. Could he tell me who were these so-called saints of pre-Islamic times that the prophet visited?
Who is to judge that it is really "Allah's beloved
servants" (sic) that are buried in these shrines and guarantee that they have
the power to intercede on anyone's behalf at any given time? Remember that
Shaytan at the time of the creation of Adam, was also given powers to beguile
and mislead man and undoubtedly those who visit shrines and take part in
"shirk" practices are prime targets. The custodians of such "holy shrines" only
aid in the deification of former human beings, paving the way to idolatory,
which is one thing that Allah has said. He will never forgive.
The path to heaven does not have short cuts and Shahabuddin and similar thinkers should take a closer and deeper look at the
real message of Islam.
Dehiwela Ramzeen Azeez
The Sunday Observer, April 28, 1991
From M.S.M. Jiffry
As a new Muslim Mr. Shahabuddin is advised to learn his Islam from the Qur'an and the authentic traditions of the Holy Prophet
before venturing to write misleading articles on Islam.
We are rather grateful to Mr. Ramzeen Assez for the reply he has given to Shababuddin. I would like to clear some points which Mr.
Ranizeen has missed. Khidr is called Hayat Nabi by certain people in Sri Lanka, which means the immortal prophet. There is nothing in the Holy Qur'an to
suggest that Khidr was a Prophet and he was immortal. He is described in the Qur'an as "One of Our servants, on whom We had bestowed Mercy from ourselves and we had taught knowledge from our own presence."
The Qur'an categorically states:
"Every soul shall have a taste of death:" Surah 3 Verse 185, "Wherever you are, death will find you out, even if you are in
towers built strong and high" Surah 4 Verse 78.
The theory of immortality is alien to Islam. Furthermore, the Fountain of Life or Maul Hayat has nothing to do with this
World. The idea is borrowed from certain Hadeeth pertaining to the events that will occur in the Hereafter. Let me quote from page 392 of Saheeh al Bukhari (Volume 9) they will come out of the (Hell) fire completely burnt, and the water of life (Maul Hayat) will be poured over
them' and they will grow under it as does a seed that comes in the mud of a torrent.
So every Muslim will understand that Maul Hayat does not refer to any subterranean spring in Kataragama.
Any Muslim who go on pilgrimage to the Mausoleums of the so-called saints are wasting their time and money and
practice ‘shirk', a practice which God will never forgive.
"God forgiveth not that partners should be set up with him; but he forgiveth
anything else, to whom he pleaseth; to set up partners with God is to devise a
sin most heinous indeed." Surah 4 Verse 48:
Raising the graves above ground level, building mausoleums, hoisting flags for the dead, lighting lamps, and
organising all sorts of functions in such places are all forbidden practices.
Pilgrimage is permitted only to the Holy Kāba at Makkah, the Prophet's Mosque
at Madinha and Baith ul Muqaddas at Jerusalem.
Let us not be misled by vested interests.
The Sunday Observer, May 19, 1991
From Sahabuddin,Tariqatun Naqshbandhia
With respect to the opinions of readers Ramzeen Azeez (14th April), M. S. M. Jiffry (28th April)
and others who venture to criticize divine mysteries such as at Kataragama that
they cannot claim to understand, I wish to remind the reading public of the
following considerations about ‘Islamic Kataragama.'
First of all, Mr. Azeez and other modern-minded Muslims who scoff at Islamic traditions concerning Serendib
should ask themselves why the learned Ulema since the time of the Holy Prophet
(sal.) and across the Islamic world accept these ‘fond legends' with such
remarkable unanimity. Why, for example, the scholarly consensus among believers
Azeez or anyone else wish to question further the validity of mainstream
scholarly opinion? If so, I shall be happy to respond.
- Prophet Adam (alai) descended to earth in Serendib
- Howwa or Eve
descended near Jiddah in Arabia, and
- re-united on Mt. Arafat (four hours by
camel east of Makkah), the holy couple retired to live in Serendib?
Similarly, Zul-qarnain (‘Lord of Two Horns') is generally considered by learned Islamic commentators to be
identical with Alexander the Great. Al-Baizawi says, "He was Sikandar ar-Rumi,
King of Persia and Greece." Al-Qastalani, the commentator on al-Budhari, says,
"Zul'-qarnain was a king named Sikandar, whose wazir or chancellor was Khidr."
Believers accept this. Modern education—which holds tradition up to ridicule
— makes believers seem foolish and, unbelievers to appear wise. But who has been fooling whom?
In the Holy Quran (Surah 18 verse 60-61) prophet
Moses (alai) is directed to seek instruction from "one of Our servants"—whom
the Ulema identify with Khidr—at a place where two streams or currents meet
by the sea. Apart from the geographical interpretation, an implied meaning is
the convergence of the water of holy scripture that all may read with the
mystical or underground stream of living oral tradition that surfaces at
certain places and certain times. There one may discover the Living Water or
Maul Hayat, and there also one may find al-Khidr, the ageless spirit of life
(hence Hayat Nabi, ‘the living prophet') and its paradoxical wisdom. Kataragama
or Khidr-gama has long been recognized as one such place.
In oriental tradition, Alexander and a philosopher-companion are believed to have come here in search of something; a
Persian poem by Ashref, the Zaffer Namah Skendari, describes their voyage to
Serendib and devotions at the foot-mark of Adam (alai). According to Tennent
(Ceylon, p. 606), Ibn Batuta of Tangiers who came here in the early 14th
century as a pilgrim climbed Adam's Peak and found on its summit a minaret
named after Alexander the Great.
Is it then so strange that Alexander and Khidr should also be associated with Kataragama? Perhaps there is more to this than meets the modern critic's eye.
And as for the dark insinuations of shirk or idolatry in prayer, vows, and acts of faith undertaken at the graves of the awliya or
friends of God, let those who would see heresy in others recall that the Holy
Prophet frequently visited the graves of martyrs such as Hamza (ral.) who died
at the Battle of Uhad. If the Prophet (sal.) visited graves in this manner then
it is sunnat for his followers to adopt the practice.
As those with a profound knowledge of Islam can
confirm, the tauheed or unity of Allah surpasses all human understanding
whatsoever, let alone modern reasoning. And as Mr. Azeez and others are urged
to discover for themselves, it is not to the hair-splitting legalists but to
the pure in heart that the fully bounty of God's grace descends.