Iconic Masjids of Ceylon

book cover

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

TESTIMONIALS

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

Production of a book such as this is by no means an easy task.For me especially it was fascinating to read the write-ups, enjoying every word along the way and captivated by the excellent selection of photos for each of the masjids. It was simply superb.

I have three reasons for my response: History was one of my favourite subjects in school and I received the College History Award in 1965. The names are recorded in the college hall for posterity. The book was full of history and it was as if I was back in class really.

As a Property Valuer, having learnt building construction and draughtsmanship, I went racing back 50 years, learning again at first hand the architectural terms of many parts of the masjid written so vividly. For example, a frequent word that popped up was “fenestration” which I thought I’ll never see again.It simply means “the arrangement of windows and doors on the elevations of a building or an opening in a surface such as a wall.” It was clearly explained. Alhamdulillah. I am deeply thankful to the author.

And thirdly, I have prayed in a some of the masjids mentioned in the book. It brought me a whole lot of good memories. Alhamdulillah, I counted 9 in all.

I wish to convey my sincere appreciation again for the wonderfully illustrated, well researched and very absorbing and interesting coffee table book.

Mirza Zavahir, Author and Rating Valuation Specialist, Botswana

 

The Iconic Masjids of Ceylon is a very well written and illustrated book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

As it covers the historical aspect of these mosques and their location, it is of interest to anyone interested in the history of Sri Lanka in general and the Muslim community in particular.

For someone like me who has a keen interest in photography I appreciate the fact that this book has many colourful photos as well as a good description of the salient features of each mosque. Hence it also is of value to anyone interested in architecture.

The large format of the book is nice as by this the text is of a readable size for most individuals and photos are larger.

Dr. Mahin Wimaladharma

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