S.H.M. JAMEEL – AN INTELLECTUAL OF OUR TIMES – By Ali Azeez

Jameel

The sudden demise of Al-Haj Shahul Hameed Muhammad Jameel on 27th April 2015 was a great loss to the community and to myself personally. He led a well accomplished and illustrious life. His contributions as an eminent educationist, administrator, scholar, orator, researcher, archivist, writer, author, publisher et al will be remembered for a long time to come. Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilaihi Rajioon.

Jameel was felicitated by his grateful students and well wishers at a meeting held on 10th November 2013. His comprehensive biography “A Village Boy’s Journey” in Tamil was released at this meeting, which contains all information and nothing seems to have been left out. However, I wish to emphasize his yeoman service rendered to the Dr. A.M.A. Azeez Foundation and as a Member of the Committee of Management and President of The Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund he reorganized the entire office systems, which was long overdue. These were well appreciated.

Jameel was born on 18th October 1940 in Sainthamaruthu in the East of Sri Lanka to a leading family. He started his primary education at Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya in Karaitivu, secondary education at Fathima College in Kalmunai and then joined  Zahira College, Colombo when my father Marhoom Dr. A.M.A. Azeez was the Principal. He entered the University of Ceylon and graduated with a Special Degree in Economics in 1964, and later obtained the Diploma in Education from the same university. He was conferred the MA Degree in Education by the University of Jaffna. He had a great admiration for Dr. Azeez and has written many articles and delivered speeches about him.

I first met Jameel as a student at Zahira which school I visited frequently. We sat for the University Entrance Examination in December 1959 and both entered the University of Ceylon in June 1960. Jameel joined the Arts Faculty in Peradeniya from Zahira College and I entered the Science Faculty in Colombo from Royal College. Our friendship developed as undergraduates and we became very close to each other in later years until his demise.

At the University Entrance and HSC examinations in December 1959, A.C.L. Ameer Ali and S.H.M. Jameel, both from Zahira, received the All-Island highest marks for Tamil and received the C.Y. Thamotherampillai Memorial Prize. At the University GAQ examination in April 1961 three Muslims won the first three places for Tamil with ‘A’ Grades out of 75 students, namely S.H.M. Jameel and A.C.L. Ameer Ali from Zahira and M.M. Maqbool from Vaidyeshwara Vidyalaya in Jaffna (Dr. Azeez’s old school), over a large number of Tamil undergraduates. Jameel won the Francis Kingsbury Prize for Tamil and the marks he obtained have not been surpassed. In April 1962 it was another Muslim, M.A.M. Shukri from Zahira, who was placed first with ‘A’ Grade in Tamil. These were the results of Zahira having excellent teachers on their staff. Dr. Azeez, a Tamil scholar himself, was thrilled with the performance of his students.

Jameel gave me a copy of the letter sent to him by Dr. Azeez as Zahira’s Principal, congratulating him on entering the University and wishing him well. Probably all the successful Zahirians would have received similar letters. Dr. Azeez was a member of the University Senate and attended the monthly meetings on a Saturday afternoon at Peradeniya, when his family joined him for an outing in Kandy. Dr. Azeez informed the Zahirians in the campus of his visits beforehand, and met them at a convenient location. Such was his interest in his students and there are many such instances.

After graduation Jameel joined the Education Service and held key posts in leading institutions in the East. As the Principal of Zahira College, Kalmunai and Teachers’ Training College, Addalaichenai he contributed immensely to these institutions. In 1986 he was appointed as the first Registrar of the Eastern University. These were times of unrest and there were moves to kidnap him. He moved to Colombo hastily and was appointed as Secretary to the Ministry of Muslim Affairs and retired later as the Advisor to the Ministry of Religious and Cultural Affairs. In all these positions he excelled as an able administrator and contributed a great deal to the community.

Although many of their colleagues and contemporaries obtained their PhD Degrees in their chosen fields, Jameel and Dr. Azeez did not qualify for the doctorates, despite their ample research, though they deserved the higher degree. Jameel registered for his PhD with the University of Jaffna, but could not proceed due to the ethnic problems and travel restrictions to Jaffna. Dr. Azeez registered for his PhD with the University of London and renewed this a few times, but due to his active life and other commitments did not get down to writing his thesis. It is quite apparent that a doctorate is not the criterion to attain academic and intellectual status.

The ‘Haji A.M.A. Azeez Memorial Committee’ was formed in the year 1975 under the auspices of the All Ceylon YMMA Conference, initiated by Mr. S.M. Kamaldeen, a close associate and confidante of Dr. A.M.A. Azeez. Former District Judge M.A.M. Hussain was elected as the President. The first A.M.A. Azeez Memorial Oration was delivered by Dr. A.K. Brohi of Pakistan on 6th January 1976. Thereafter annual memorial orations by prominent persons were organized by the Committee in collaboration with the YMMA. Radio talks and newspaper articles were also arranged.

From the very inception the objectives of the Azeez Foundation were to publish the valuable articles, speeches and other academic and literary contributions of Dr. Azeez. An attempt was made in 1989 which did not materialize fully. Except for the annual commemoration meetings, the Memorial Committee was dormant. In 1990 it was revived and named as the ‘Dr. A.M.A. Azeez Foundation’.

In 1994 Mr. Hussain decided to go back to his home town of  Kalmunai and Prof. M.T.A. Furkhan was elected as the President. He invited leading personalities to deliver the annual orations, initiated Ramazan Appeals and granted scholarships to needy undergraduates. During this time Jameel joined as a Committee Member of the Dr. A.M.A. Azeez Foundation. He was keen to publish the contributions of Dr. Azeez and discussed this matter at length with me. I was encouraged by his ideas.

Be that as it may, Dr. Azeez had meticulously preserved all his documents. He had a large library of books of which most were donated to the Zahira College library during his tenure as Principal. Later his books were donated in batches to Jamia Naleemiah in Beruwela. After his death the remaining books were donated to this institution but his important books and valuable documents were retained by me. Due to my busy working life and being sent by my employers on frequent assignments overseas, I was not able to delve into my father’s records but preserved them very carefully wherever I resided.

In 2007 Prof. Furkhan requested to be relieved as President of the Dr. A.M.A. Azeez Foundation after 14 years and proposed that Jameel be elected as President. It was unanimously agreed and Prof. Furkhan continued as a Committee Member. Almost immediately Jameel wanted to implement his ideas and the Ramazan Appeal 2007 conveyed the message of publishing the contributions of Dr. Azeez. It was well received. Jameel and I were encouraged and I delved into my father’s records to give a ‘kick-start’ to the project. To finance the first publication “A.M.A, Azeez – A Profile” I contacted Eng. A.G.A. Barrie in Canada, a grateful and sincere student of Dr. Azeez, who responded immediately with his donation. Thereafter he has contributed generous amounts annually to continue the project. With the invaluable experience of Jameel we have published eleven books which were released at the annual commemoration meetings since 2007. Eng. Barrie also initiated the website www.azeezfoundation.com in 2010 which contains a valuable collection of information including photographs and audio speeches. The site also includes the pdf versions of the books published.

Jameel was much sought after by many institutions and organizations to deliver speeches in English and Tamil. Wherever relevant he never failed to mention about Dr. Azeez. Whenever I was present in the audience he would always make a few comments about me. That was his style.

When I met Jameel recently I asked him as to what we should publish this year. Jameel proudly expressed that there is no other personality about whom so many publications have been released – certainly a credit to Jameel – and that a comprehensive website is also available. Therefore, he inquired whether we have any more contributions of importance to be published. He did mention about publishing A.I. Marikar’s book on Islamic Banking. I informed him that I will compile some Life Sketches on A.M.A. Azeez to be published, since I felt that these must be recorded including copies of his academic and other certificates, invitations and other material which I found in his records. Jameel agreed and said that it will be a good idea to do so.

Over the last two years Jameel donated his valuable collection of books and documents to the South Eastern University. He was also giving up gradually his involvements in many spheres, and quite recently told me that he wants to give up everything and retain his interest only in the Azeez Foundation. However, about a year ago he suggested that he prefers Khalid M. Farouk to succeed him as President of the Azeez Foundation of which he was the Secretary. Jameel said that Farouk was his classmate at Zahira, past President of the YMMA, sincere worker and a student and great admirer of Dr. Azeez. We agreed that we will do so, after the commemoration meeting in 2014.

To deliver the Azeez Memorial Oration in October 2014 I requested A.I. Marikar, my close friend and classmate and contemporary of Jameel at Zahira and the University respectively, to do so on Islamic Banking. He was a leading banker and in my opinion, he is the foremost authority on Islamic Banking in this country. After the oration Jameel had requested Marikar to expand on the subject and that the Azeez Foundation will publish the book. I wholeheartedly agreed and the draft is already with me.

The next Committee Meeting of the Azeez Foundation was fixed at 5.00 p.m. on 27th April 2015 at the YMMA Headquarters in Dematagoda. I wanted to call Jameel in the morning to say that I will pick him up and go together to the Meeting. His daughter-in-law called me at about 7.15 a.m. on that day and informed amidst sobs that Jameel just passed away after a severe heart attack. I was speechless for some time, sat down and gradually got back to my senses, and immediately informed Khalid Farouk. I am wondering whether Jameel had a premonition of his early end.

Jameel was a close and sincere friend and I enjoyed the frequent discussions we had on various topics which were a treat. I liked his sarcasm on our leaders and community. He led a simple family life and was a gentleman to his finger tips. He will be sorely missed.

The burial took place at Dehiwela Mosque grounds after Isha prayers in the presence of a large crowd, one of the largest seen in recent times.

May Almighty Allah grant him Jennathul Firdouse – Aameen!

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