This is the 81st year of birth of Marhoom Al Haj A.M.A. Azeez who passed away in the year 1973. He was a product of Jaffna where he was born on October 4, 1911 to a well known Muslim family. His father S.M. Aboobucker, a leading lawyer of Jaffna, was a Quazi, a member of the Jaffna Urban Council being its Vice President in 1941 and was also President of the All Ceylon Muslim League.
Some of us will remember Marhoom Azeez as the debonair principal of Zahira College, Colombo, some will remember him as a competent colleague in the Ceylon Civil service and yet others will remember him as a Senator and a leading politician of the 50’s. However, it is for his contribution to the Muslim community and its uplift that Mr. Azeez is given the greatest credit.
It is at Zahira College, Colombo, where he succeeded Marhoom Dr. T.B. Jayah that Mr. azeez gained name and fame as a leading stalwart of the Muslim community. I was in school when Mr. Azeez took over from Dr. T.B. Jayah and I will recall the high standards in studies, sports and discipline that he regularly maintained at the college.
I will also always remember him for his personality and his leadership that he provided to the entire staff and children of Zahira College, Colombo.
The late Mr. Azeez was a man of vision, who realized that the future of the Muslim community was dependent on the attention that the community was prepared to pay to the all-important subject of education. While devoting all his efforts to the regeneration of the Muslim community by reviving the interest in the Holy Quran, he relentlessly pursued the prospects of institutionalizing the activities of the Muslim community by inaugurating a number of organizations which remain as lasting monuments to his untiring efforts.
Mr. Azeez had his early education at Vaidyeshwara Vidyalaya and thereafter at Jaffna Hindu College and having entered the University in 1929 he completed his degree with honours. Immediately thereafter he left for the Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. He abandoned his studies at that famous university to return to Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was known at that time, to join the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service. He was the first Muslim in the CCS.
He served the government in various executive capacities for an unbroken period of 13 years from 1935 and resigned from the service in 1948 to take up the position of Principal, Zahira College, Colombo, which position he held until 1961 when the government of Sri Lanka took over Zahira College.
Generations of Zahirians who benefited from the years in which the late Mr. Azeez was Principal of the school will bear testimony to the glorious 13 years up to 1961 in which Zahira’s name and fame, both in the academic field and in sports, remain unsurpassed to this date.
The Muslim community will equally remember that it was Mr. Azeez who started the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund in 1945 through which fund several leading doctors, engineers, lawyers and civil servants of today benefited. In addition to the Scholarship Fund Mr. Azeez also inaugurated the All Ceylon YMMA Conference in 1950, the Ceylon Muslim Cultural Centre at Zahira College in 1958, and in his final years contributed to the establishment of the Jamiah Naleemiah in Beruwela.
Both in intellectual stature and physical appearance Mr. Azeez stood out in a crowd. In as much as in the educational field he also excelled in the political arena. In recognition of his position as a leader of the Muslim community he was appointed as a Senator in 1952 and was awarded the MBE.
As a member of the working committee of the United National Party he participated actively in national politics and eventually, over a difference of opinion over the Official Language Bill, Mr. Azeez resigned from the UNP in 1956.
As a man who has travelled widely both in Sri Lanka and overseas he made friends among a very wide circle of people. He also published several books on various subjects both in English and Tamil. He was a fluent speaker; he also contributed regularly to the press and the radio which were the only organs of the media at that time.
A man who has devoted the best part of his life for the social, educational, cultural and economic uplift of the larger community for years to come and a man who was born with a mission which he accomplished. Mr. Azeez will be remembered by many generations. In memory lane his name will stand out in golden letters for ever more.
(Prof. M.T.A. Furkhan hails from Balapitiya and was a student of Zahira College, Colombo  during the Azeez era. He qualified as a Management Accountant and obtained the J Dip MA. He is a leading personality in the hospitality trade, and has held many positions in leading professional bodies and other organizations. He was later conferred the title of Desamanya. He was President of the Dr. A.M.A. Azeez Foundation from 1994 to 2007).

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