Sri Lankan Moors

The Sri Lankan Moors (commonly referred to as Muslims) are the third largest ethnic group in Sri Lanka comprising 8% of the country's total population (approx. 2 million people in 2005). They are predominantly followers of Islam. The Moors trace their ancestry to Arab traders who settled in Sri Lanka some time between the eighth and fifteenth centuries. The Arabic language brought by the early merchants is no longer spoken, though many Arabic words and phrases are still commonly used. Until the recent past, the Moors employed Arwi as their native language,[1] though this is also extinct as a spoken language.Moors today use Tamil as their primary language with influence from Arabic.[1] Those from central and southern Sri Lanka also widely use Sinhala, an Indo-European language spoken by the ethnic Sinhalese  majority in Sri Lanka.The Sri Lankan Moors lived primarily in coastal trading and agricultural communities, preserving their Islamic cultural heritage while adopting many Southern Asian customs. During the period of Portuguese colonisation, the Moors suffered widespread persecution, and many fled to the Central Highlands and the East Coast, where their descendants remain. Contents [hide] // [edit]History of Arabs in Sri LankaThe Jami Ul Alfar Mosque, which is in the pettah area, is one of the oldest mosques in Colombo The Tamils of Sri Lanka, throughout history, have attempted to categorize the Sri Lankan Moors as belonging to the Tamil race. It is claimed that this was a bid to eliminate the minority community from having its own unique identity. The Government of Sri Lanka, however, treats the Muslims as of Arab origin and as a distinct ethnic group from the Tamils.[1] The manner in which Islam developed in Sri Lanka is very similar to that on the Malabar coast of India. Tradition has recorded that Arabs who had settled down on the Malabar coast used to travel from the port of Cranganore to Sri Lanka on pilgrimage to pay homage to what they believed to be the footprint of Adam on the top of a mountain, which, until today, is called Adam's Peak.[1]Ibn Batuta, the famous 14th century Arab traveller, recorded many facets about early Arab influence in Sri Lanka in his travelogues. Before the end of the 7th century, a colony of Muslim merchants had established themselves in Ceylon. Fascinated by the scenic splendour and captivated by the traditions associated with Adam's Peak, Muslim merchants arrived in large numbers and some of them decided to settle in the island encouraged by the cordial treatment they received by the local rulers. Most of them lived along the coastal areas in peace and prosperity, maintaining contacts, both cultural and commercial, with Baghdad , Hadramout , Oman and other Islamic cities.[1] According to Tikiri Abeyasinghe in his Portuguese Rule in Ceylon, 1594-1612, Colombo (1966), Lake House Investments Ltd., p 192, tradition has it that, [...]the first Mohammadans of Ceylon were a portion of those Arabs of the House of Hashim, who were driven from Arabia in the early part of the 8th. century by the tyranny of the Caliph, Abdel Malik bin Marwan, and who proceeding from the Euphrates southwards made settlements in the concan in the southern parts of the peninsula of India, on the island of Ceylon and Malacca. The division of them that came to Ceylon formed eight considerable settlements along the Nort-East, North and Western coast of that island; viz., one at Trincomalee, one at Jaffna, one at Colombo, one at barbareen, and one at Point de Galle.[...] The first Arabs who practiced Islam arrived in Sri Lanka around the 7th/8th century A.D, and there is evidence that there was a settled community of Arabs in Ceylon in pre-Islamic times.[1] The circumstances that helped the growth of Muslim settlements were varied. Most of the majority Sinhalese depended more on agriculture than trade, thus trade wide open to the Muslims. The Sinhalese Kings considered the Muslim settlements favourably on account of the revenue that they brought them through their contacts overseas both in trade and in politics. The religious tolerance of the local population was also another vital factor in the development of Muslim settlements in Ceylon.[1]~Kechimalai Mosque - Beruwala~ One of the oldest mosques in Sri Lanka. It is believed to be the site where the first Arabs landed in Sri Lanka The early Muslim settlements were set up mainly around ports on account of the nature of their trade. It is also assumed that many of the Arab traders may not have brought their womenfolk along with them when they settled in Ceylon. Hence they would have been compelled to marry the Sinhalese and Tamil women of the island after converting them to Islam. The fact that a large number of Moors in Sri Lanka speak the Tamil language can be attributed to the possibility that they were trading partners with the Tamils of South India and had to learn Tamil in order to carry out their business. The integration with the Muslims of Tamil Nadu, in South India, may have also contributed to this. It is also possible that the Arabs who had already migrated to Ceylon, prior to Islam, had adopted the Tamil language as a medium of communication in their intercourse with the Tamil speaking Muslims of South India. The Muslims were very skillful traders who gradually built-up a very lucrative trading post in Ceylon. A whole colony of Arab Muslims is said to have landed at Beruwela (South Western coast) in the Kalutara District in 1024 CE[1]