More about the Kataragama Devotees Trust

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

Islamic Kataragama

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.

M.S.M. Jiffry

Sahabuddin's rebuttal

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 that

  1. Prophet Adam (alai) descended to earth in Serendib
  2. Howwa or Eve descended near Jiddah in Arabia, and
  3. re-united on Mt. Arafat (four hours by camel east of Makkah), the holy couple retired to live in Serendib?
Does Mr. Azeez or anyone else wish to question further the validity of mainstream scholarly opinion? If so, I shall be happy to respond.

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.

Tariqatun Naqshbandhia

Traditions of Islamic Kataragama
 Islamic Kataragama: The Timeless Shrine
Interview with M.H.A. Gaffar, Trustee of Kataragama Mosque & Shrine
The Story of al-Khadir and Zul-Qarnain
"Kataragama is for all people"
Coming of Mystery Imam al-Mahdi
Kataragama the 'Home of al-Khidr'
Al-Khadir, Alexander and the Fountain of Life
Al-Faqr or `Spiritual Poverty'
"Kataragama - The land of Khidr"
"Flag-Hoisting Ceremony at the Mosque"
"Muslim Pal Kudi Bawa of Kataragama" web site Abul `Abbas, Hazrat al-Khidr web site Dafther Jailany associated with Sheikh Muhiyadeen Abdul Qadir Jilani