Crowning Glory of Kattankuddy

A.M.M.Muzammil

Kattankudy, a vibrant enclave on the eastern coast of Sri Lanka, stands as a testament to the strong Islamic presence in the region. It is not surprising that Kattankudy hosts a replica of Masjid Al Aqsa in Jerusalem, underlining the profound historical and cultural aspects.

Historically, the Al Aqsa Mosque holds the esteemed position as the third holiest site in Islam, marking the location where the Prophet Muhammad, during the Night Journey (Al Isra wa Al Mi’raj), was transported from the sacred mosque in Mecca to Al Aqsa, and the Prophet prayed before ascending to heaven. It has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Initially receiving partial funding from the government of Sri Lanka, the realization of the magnificent octagonal structure of Al Aqsa Grand Jumma Masjith in Kattankudy was made possible through the visionary efforts of Mr. M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, a former deputy minister. Mr. Hizbullah took a pioneering initiative to secure crucial funds from foreign well-wishers.

The completion of this monumental project took nearly a decade, with Mr. Hizbullah personally journeying to Jerusalem. There, he meticulously studied the detailed architecture and intricacies of Masjid Al Aqsa, ensuring an authentic replication in the heart of Kattankudy.

To ensure originality, the finest products were sourced from around the world. From the rich tapestry of Turkey, exquisite carpets add a touch of luxury; meticulously crafted calligraphy-designed mirrors from China reflect cultural depth. The walls adorned with Saudi gypsum bring an authentic Middle Eastern charm, while the calligraphy titles from Iran infuse artistic elegance.

The collaborative effort extends to the skilled hands of artists from India, whose contributions weave the threads of diverse cultures into a harmonious tapestry. Quranic verses adorn the walls, further enhancing the beauty and grandeur.

Masjid Al Aqsa in Jerusalem stands as a single-story structure, encompassing a vast area capable of accommodating thousands of worshippers. However, here in Kattankudy, due to the scarcity of land, Al Aqsa Grand Jumma Masjith is a two-story edifice, excluding the ground floor, designed to host a larger congregation, particularly on Fridays. Despite differences in dimension, its unique designs, architecture, and calligraphy closely mirror the original. The call to prayer (Azan) resonates melodiously, echoing its authenticity.

Adjacent to the mosque, a four-story building houses 17 fully air-conditioned rooms available for visitors at a reasonable price. This land was generously donated by Mr. Hizbullah to the mosque. The proceeds from this building, along with two other complexes belonging to the mosque, are earmarked for the maintenance of Al Aqsa Grand Jumma Masjith.

Since Al Aqsa Mosque came under Israeli control, stringent restrictions have been imposed, preventing people from visiting. In Kattankudi, however, a serene atmosphere prevails, attracting crowds who come to witness the grandeur of the miniature version of Masjid Al Aqsa in Jerusalem

Heritage Museum of Kattankudy

Heritage museums play a pivotal role in preserving our cultural legacy by safeguarding rare documents and artifacts for future generations. The Heritage Museum of Kattankudy is the brainchild of Mr. M.L.A.M. Hizbullah, who single-handedly conceptualized and made painstaking efforts island-wide to collect all the rare artifacts, meticulously documented and authenticated.

Opened in 2015, the Heritage Museum spans three floors, exhibiting relics that date back to the earliest arrival of Arab traders and settlers on the island of Serendib (the name used by the old Arabs). It also highlights Muslims’ contributions to Sri Lanka, including the Kandyan kingdom, along with a host of other historical facts about the Muslim community.

The museum recreates and displays everything from old household items to ceramics, trading goods brought by the Arabs, 3D art displaying an old-time lifestyle of people in Sri Lanka, models, artifacts, rare Ola-leaf manuscripts, a diverse collection of old weapons including guns and swords, a traditional wooden fishing boat, and life-size clay models depicting cultural events of the community.

The depiction of a Muslim woman’s ordeal in a mural is praiseworthy, manifesting her unwavering loyalty to the country of her birth. A valiant Muslim woman gallantly sacrificed her life to shield King Rajasinghe II (1636 – 1687) when he sought refuge within the recesses of a colossal Jak tree. When Portuguese soldiers, inquiring about the whereabouts of King Rajasinghe II, confronted her, her steadfast refusal to cooperate incited their wrath. In response, they callously took her life, dismembering her body into pieces.

The surviving king, having narrowly escaped with his own life, was overcome with grief upon learning of her tragic demise. In homage to her bravery and sacrifice, King Rajasinghe II magnanimously bestowed a significant expanse of land upon the Muslim community residing in Panagaragammana.

This Heritage Museum serves as custodians of history, fostering a connection between the past and present. By methodically documenting and curating diverse elements of our heritage, museums become invaluable educational resources, inspiring a sense of identity and pride and fostering an appreciation for the significance of our collective history among present and future generations.

Today, the Al Aqsa Grand Jumma Masjith and the Heritage Museum in Kattankudy have become the cynosure, attracting people from different parts of the country who visit and patronize it.

Credit is due to Mr. Hizbullah, whose unwavering commitment, missionary zeal, and indomitable will have turned the dream project of Al Aqsa Grand Jumma Masjith and the Heritage Museum of Kattankudy into a reality.

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