Speech delivered at Zahira College Library Hall on 19th May, 1945

Dear Brethren,

It is my first duty to thank you, every one of you, for your kind presence in response to my letter dated 19th April, 1945. I know all of you have come at great inconvenience to yourselves, aggravated by the difficulties of transport in these days of emergency. Several of the donors and helpers have written to me to express their regret at being unable to attend and to wish the meeting all success. Their letters have already been read out. The other donors and helpers to whom letters have been sent are absent today perhaps because of the difficulties of travel during these days more probably because they are confident that we will go into the matter thoroughly and elect a competent Sub-Committee and therefore feel that their personal presence is not very essential on this occasion.

2.  I am now going to read my Progress Report referred to as the first item on the Agenda. And I must request you to pardon me any personal note in the Report which cannot be avoided in the special circumstances connected with the first appeal for funds. It has been my conviction for a long time that the most urgent need among us, whose backwardness in education is well-known and universally accepted, is some positive provision – comprehensive and adequate – for the education of Muslim boys, girls and adults, who are eminently fitted for post primary, secondary, higher, vocational, university or religious education etc., but are unable to obtain that education because of their poverty. As a result, their talents are lost to the Muslim community which cannot afford to lose them. I gave expression to these views in 1934 on the occasion of a farewell function organized by the Ceylon Muslim League Senate, and also in 1935 when I was one of the principal guests at a dinner at Galle Face Hotel soon after I assumed duties as a Cadet in the Ceylon Civil Service. Ten-years’ experience since that day, in Colombo as well as in outstations, and particularly in Kalmunai, a predominantly Muslim area, has amply confirmed the views I held in regard to the urgent necessity for a scheme of free scholarships or loans to deserving students. I feel strongly that such a scheme should be given priority A in any plan for the uplift of the Muslims.

3. It is necessary, I believe at this stage that the aims and scope of the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund should be discussed as fully as possible; for vagueness as regards aims inevitably leads to inefficiency in administration. I should like to take this opportunity of mentioning the important questions raised by a few of the donors. In a few cases I had to explain that the building or maintenance of a school or college or a similar institution was quite outside the scope of this Fund which deals with students or scholars and not with schools or institutions as such, with scholars who are poor but deserving and capable, who cannot continue their studies for want of money. The Fund is thus meant to make provision for scholarships to selected candidates and for the efficient management of the Fund. No other items of expenditure could possibly be envisaged. Personally I feel that it would be advisable to give as many as possible (or practically all) of the scholarships in the form of loans. A system of such loans has many advantages, both from the point of view of the Fund and from that of the scholarship holders. If they are of the right type they may be reasonably expected in course of time to secure such positions in life as will enable them not merely to return the money received from the Fund but also to make substantial donations themselves to the fund. In a few cases perhaps the scholarship holders may not be financially able to repay the loans. Those responsible for the administration of the Fund could, in such special circumstances, exempt the particular scholarship holders from the payments due. For the success of the scheme, it is also necessary in my opinion that the term “Scholarship” or “Scholarships” should receive such a wide interpretation as to admit of the inclusion of boarding fees, tuition fees, pocket expenses, expenses for the purchase of books and other necessary materials, expenses for clothing and food and other similar items e.g. medical expenses as well as the payment of subsistence allowances in special cases to the dependents of the scholarship holders.

4. It is essential that the religious aspect of education should receive not merely recognition but real prominence in the scheme. It should be made clear that no person is entitled to any form of assistance from the Fund unless the person satisfies the Committee concerned that he or she has received or is receiving satisfactory religious education suitable to his or her age.

5. I think we should now devote our attention to discussing the relationship that should exist between this Fund and other similar schemes already in existence catering to the educational needs of the Community. This Fund is more or less unique in the sense that its scope is restricted to the grant of financial assistance to individual Muslim scholars. They may be born in any part of Ceylon and may belong to any race. The other Funds or Trusts already in existence, as far as I am aware, are either wider in scope in that they deal not merely with scholarship-holders but with institutions as well and sometimes with the general relief of poverty and distress, scholarships being incidental to the general aim and if they deal with scholars, the scholarships are restricted to particular institutions or to particular localities. The distinctiveness of this Fund should not, I feel, blind us to its essentially supplementary nature in relation to the other Funds referred to above.

But there is a sphere where this Fund could be most useful and which could become the speciality of this Fund and that in my opinion is the search – continuous, sustained, energetic and systematic search by the administration of the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund – for deserving scholars in urgent need of financial assistance. I feel it should be the duty of the administrators of the Fund to go in search of the scholars and not expect the deserving scholars to come to them on their own initiative, for many of them may not have proper guidance or the necessary initiative, very often due to circumstances beyond their control. If this policy is carried out enthusiastically and satisfactorily, I am sure this Fund could reasonably expect to receive from other Funds and Trusts interested in the educational uplift of the Muslims special grants or allocations. At present the deserving scholars are many but theFunds are few and as such I feel that there is urgent need for the continued and active existence of this Fund, with ever increasing appeals and donations. If I may be permitted to take suggestions, I would recommend to those responsible for the administration of the Fund that they formulate such rules and procedure as well ensure adequate co-ordination of the activities of all the Funds referred to above. There should be for example provision made that no scholar who receives assistance from the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund is in receipt of similar assistance from other sources and more important than that when this Fund has no money of its own to help a deserving scholar or scholars the Managing Committee should approach the authorities of other Funds or Trusts, bringing to their notice the merits of the case or cases, and obtain assistance for such a scholar or scholars. In other words the Managing Committee of this fund  will in such cases be the trusted friend of the poor scholars and plead on their behalf before the authorities of other Funds and Trusts. The aim  of the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund is to see that no Muslim Scholar, capable and deserving, in any part of the Island is deprived of the education he or she deserves for want of money. I may boldly assert and assert without any reserve or hesitation that on the sustained and energetic pursuit of this aim depends the educational future of our community members of which due to educational backwardness are handicapped not merely in the educational sphere but in all spheres of life. The Managing Committee, I hope, will not merely provide the financial assistance required but will encourage and in special cases call upon the scholarship holders to pursue such studies as are of direct and immediate benefit to the Community.

6. Another question that has been raised by some is whether the Fund has any justifications in the face of the efforts of the Government of Ceylon to give free education to all citizens. This proposal is before the State Council but it deals with free education, in primary, post primary schools and Training College, Technical, Agricultural and trade schools and in the University but the free education contemplated is one of more or less free tuition, and tuition fees is only a part, small part, of one’s educational expenditure. We do not know for certain at this stage what exactly will happen in the State Council to the proposal and to what extent the Board of Ministers will implement its recommendations. Therefore it is necessary for us to discuss here all the logical possibilities. If the proposal is rejected or modified the question asked me does not arise; but if the proposal is accepted there will be certain types of education additionally provided free by Government, but there will yet be other types of Education outside the scope of the proposals. And even if we envisage the free provision by government of such education we can be certain that Government will not provide for the higher religious education of selected candidates in some of the world-famous Islamic Centres of learning such as the El Azhar University of Cairo. We may no doubt expect government to provide an increasing number of scholarships for training in higher education, particularly abroad, and we should have our funds to cater to the needs of the Muslim scholars who may just miss these Government scholarships. The number of open scholarships available at the then University College and the present University that have been so far won by Muslim candidates should remind us forcibly of our position in this matter. It will thus be seen that at no time could we find the Government providing for the needs of all the Muslim Scholars who deserve assistance and also providing for all types of education. There is therefore definitely scope for the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund, even with the increasing expenditure of Government on Education. At the same time we should remember that it would not be wise for us to spend money from the Fund in cases where the Government is committed to meeting the expenditure itself. Any duplication should therefore be prevented at all costs and I am sure the Managing Committee of the Fund will pay special attention to this aspect of the matter. In its broad outlines this problem is not peculiar to Education but is common to all the social service functions undertaken by Government in consonance with present trends all over the world, e.g. Public Health, Hospital Services, Old Age pensions etc.  

7. Some have asked me for a guarantee that this Fund will not tolerate any racial differences, and I felt personally that it was a superfluous question and I have readily given that guarantee on your behalf and I have every confidence that you will fully support me in this.

8. One other question that has been raised by about three of the donors was whether this Fund would not undertake to found scholarships in the name of or in memory of persons specially mentioned by the donors. In view of its implications I was not prepared to commit you to any particular line of action in regard to this matter. I have given, in the meantime, careful thought and I would strongly recommend that such wishes on the part of donors should be complied with, provided a donation, in one lump payment and not in instalments, of a sum of Rs. 5,000.00 or over is given; for I do not think it would be possible for the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund continuously to maintain a scholar for any sum less than Rs. 5,000.00.

9. My appeal, in the absence of an elected Committee, has naturally been confined to my friends and the friends of my friends. The first set of appeals in this connection was sent out in the third week of September, 1944 and many appeals personally addressed have gone since then. With the adoption of the Constitution and the election of a Board of Trustees and a Managing Committee the appeal should I think be made public and wide, and if I may be permitted to make a further suggestion I would recommend that the first public appeal be made during the forthcoming Ramazan and thereafter during the Ramazan month every year. Another suggestion that has been made by a few of my friends with which I am in entire agreement is that we should give an opportunity to all financial groups, the rich as well as the poor, and those who are neither rich nor poor to make donations according to their capacity to the Fund. Individual appeals to the rich will bring handsome sums and public appeals during the Ramazan month (including flag day collections) will enable the poor to contribute their mite. Those who are neither rich nor poor will like to make regular monthly contributions of a specified sum which, though not large, may amount to a large sum after a period of say 12 or 24 months. I would therefore recommend in addition to the other steps indicated above, that a list be prepared of such persons and a special appeal sent to them without delay.

10. With the limited time available at my disposal during these emergency days, when work is both urgent and heavy I have not been able personally to interview many whom otherwise I should have by this time met. But all those whom I saw responded readily and either made substantial donations or promised definitely substantial donations. To them my thanks are due. There are some who readily responded to my letters requesting donations from them. My thanks are due to them as well. There are other friends of mine who though not making substantial contributions themselves due to their circumstances, made substantial contributions to the Fund by personally seeing some of their rich friends and inducing them to contribute liberally at once or in the future. I should not fail to thank them as well. The work has been no doubt heavy, but the encouragement, believe me, has been most magnificent. And I am deeply grateful therefore to all donors and helpers. Praise be to Almighty Allah for the success that has been achieved by the Fund so far. It makes us very hopeful of the future. There was a period of about two weeks when, having drafted the appeal and realizing the immense work involved, I hesitated whether to send the appeal to my friends or to abandon the scheme altogether. But thanks to a few of my good friends and their encouragement, I am today in the proud position of announcing to you that the total amount that has been received up to date is Rs. 53,892.70. Those who have promised donations are sending them in instalments or will be sending them shortly. In this manner a sum of Rs. 30,000.00 is due over and above the sum of Rs. 53,892.70 received by me. The total thus comes to Rs. 84,000.00 and I would suggest that the Managing Committee fixes the target at Rs. 200,000.00 at the time of its first Ramazan appeal this year.

11. In view of the mention above of the Kalmunai Muslim Educational Society I should like to say a few words regarding it. It was inaugurated for the purpose of promoting education among the Muslims of Ceylon in general and of Kalmunai Emergency District in particular, and later it was decided by the Society that all its assets should be passed on to the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund in view of the all island-wide scope of the latter.

I have done my task and  trust I have your approval for all the steps taken by me on behalf of you and on behalf of the Fund. In conclusion let me assure the Managing Committee of all assistance in my power.



(The first meeting of the donors and helpers of the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund was held at Zahira College Library Hall at 5 p.m. on May 19, 1945 in response to a notice issued by Mr. A.M.A. Azeez, B.A. (Lond), C.C.S., the organizer of the Fund. A representative gathering from all parts of the Island was present. Mr. T.B. Jayah, B.A. (Lond), M.S.C., Principal, Zahira College, Colombo, was unanimously voted to the Chair pro-tem.

On being called upon by Mr. Jayah, Mr. Azeez read his Progress Report regarding the Fund.

Mr. Jayah paid a glowing tribute to Mr. Azeez for organizing the Fund and for having conceived the scheme on sound lines and collected such a large amount of money unassisted. He said that judging from the gathering present and also from the large number of letters received, he felt that the movement had the full support of the entire community, and that it would be a great success. He could not think, he added, of a more deserving cause for the uplift of the Muslims than the Ceylon Muslim Scholarship Fund.

At the First Annual General Meeting of the CMSF held on July 28, 1945, Dr. M.C.M. Kaleel was elected as the First President of the Board of Trustees)

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