Although Sri Lanka’s Muslims form nearly ten percent of the population of Sri Lanka, a comprehensive work detailing their main places of worship and recording their history, evolution and architecture has been a long-felt need. This lacuna is now filled with a well-illustrated coffee table book ‘Iconic Masjids of Ceylon’ authored by Asiff Hussein and published by the Ceylon Baithulmal Fund.
This monumental, painstakingly craftedworkis the most noteworthy contribution to recording the rich heritage of mosques in Sri Lanka. With a beautifully designed hard bound cover andrichly illustrated fine art paper replete with a hundred photographs on top of its captivating stories, the book brings out the ambience of mosques in all theirsplendour and variety. The history of mosques in Sri Lanka, as the reader would find, is a most fascinating one interwoven with stories of miracles, perseverance and very importantly many instances of co-existence and co-operation with the other communities that call this beautiful island their home.
The book covers thirty one iconic mosques of Sri Lanka from what is supposed to be the oldest standing mosque in the island, MasjidulAbrar in Beruwala said to have been built in the year 920 but embellished over the years to the ultra-modern JamiahNaleemiah Mosque that has been compared to a flying saucer. The work also covers a number of little known mosques of great antiquity such as theBakinigahawela Mosque near Monaragala with its thick walls and traditional local architecture that goes back to several centuries as well as heritage mosques showing profound colonial influence such as the Meeran Mosque in Galle Fort.
Publisher: Ceylon Baithulmal Fund, Printed by Neptune Publications (Pvt) Ltd. Price Rs.3500
This lavishly-illustrated and well-researched digest of the mosques of the country makes an invaluable contribution to the important task of building understanding, appreciation and admiration of the rich cultural traditions of the Muslims of Lanka. It documents the astonishing diversity of stories behind the mosques of the island, ranging from north to south, and from earliest maritime origins to high modernism, and from simplicity to technicolour, and taking in saints, preachers and pilgrims of so many kinds. It bears out the width of Islam in Sri Lanka as well as the way Muslim structures are connected with so many distinct periods in the island’s past. For once, here is a coffee-table book with a serious purpose.
– Sujit Sivasundaram, Professor of World History, University of Cambridge
This coffee table book authored by Asiff Hussein is a wonderful collection of images and social histories surrounding a number of mosques found across Sri Lanka. The narratives contained within reveal various legends, recollections and beliefs dating back over a millennia. Some of the featured mosques are architectural feats as well as sites of religious syncretism shared with neighbouring communities. The book thus reflects the melting pot of identities that make up the diverse Muslim community in Sri Lanka, and the exchange and connections these mosques have beyond the Muslim community.
Shamara Wettimuny, Beit Scholar in History, University of Oxford