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ASH SHEIK USMAN IBNU ABDUR RAHMAN SIDDIQEE VOLIYULLAH THE MUSLIM SAINT OF DEWATAGAHA JUMMA MOSQUE & SHRINE

As a matter of historical fact there lies beneath the Shrine, a great venerated Muslim Saint by the name of Ash Sheik Usman Volliyullah whose blessings are invoked by millions of Muslims and Non-Muslims in Sri Lanka and abroad. This Shrine which has been in existence for several centuries, is a place of great significance and veneration by Muslims as well as large number of Buddhists, Hindus and Christians. This is manifestly clear and can be evidenced by the large crowds that throng the Dharga on Thursdays and Sundays, to invoke the blessings of the great Saint, who accordingly to many sources and their personal experiences have received success from Allah, by this Saints intercession. The Shrine is a monument to this Saint, and has been maintained as a place of veneration for several centuries.

Although this saint's resting place was discovered in 1802, it is not certain when he actually came to Sri Lanka to settle down. All that is available through spiritual means is that he came to the island on a direction of the Holy Prophet sal Allahu alaihi wa sallam. He came overland and is supposed to have spent some time in Hind (India), from where he set out to Sailan, in the company of one Ibrahim. Nothing is known about the companion, whether be too settled in Sailan or went back to India.

His father, though a tribal chief, was a person of piety and saintly qualities, descending from the first Caliph of Islam, Hadrat Abu Bakr Siddiq radi Allahu anhu, while his mother descended from Rasool-ullah sal Allahu alaihi Wa sallam.

The existence of a Ziyaram in the heart of a Cinnamon Estate was first discovered in 1802. A Sinhalese woman selling oil from Maradana used to go along this estate to the other side of the road to sell oil for houses. One day this woman while passing the estate as usual, tripped over the root of a caju tree and fell down. The pot with oil she was carrying fell and broke into pieces. The woman being the sole wage earner of the family, having no way of earning for the day, sat in a corner and was deeply contemplating. A t the time, this Saint with a green garb and long grey beard, appeared in front of her and asked her to bring a new pot to collect the oil. This lady ran to Maradana and brought a pot and stood in the place where she met him (the Saint) who was yet there. She was trembling with fear. He pressed the ground with his feet and the oil gushed from the ground and filled the pot. Happily she turned to the stranger in gratitude and offered obeisance. The Saint then asked the woman to go to her customers and sell oil and also inform her Muslim customers what had happened, and also to show them the place where the incident took place. She took the oil to her usual places and after selling, she went to her residential area in Maradana.

There was a physician by the name of Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar at that time in Maradana who was respected by all in the Maradan area, as he was very religious and pious. This woman who had seen the Saint met Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar and related the incident. During Asar time, he gathered a few of his companions and under the guidance of the woman oil monger, came to see the spot where the miracle took place. What they saw was a DEWETA TREE and a fruitless date palm tree. They recited "YASEEN" and a Fathiha at this place and went home. From this day group of devotees visited the place daily and conducted Zikr. Every day more Muslims were attracted to the place from far away areas. There was no trace of the grave but the devotees who went there, kept the place clean, where the Saint stood and spoke to the oil monger.

Before long Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriar dreamt, and the noble Saint revealed his name and his genealogical background to him. The Saint described the place where he was buried as follows:- "There was a huge Dewata tree a few yards away from the foot end of the grave and fruitless date palm a few yards away from the head end of the grave"

In the morning Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriar, his family members and the neighbours went to the Sacred place and marked out the grave as directed. The place was fenced and an oil lamp was lighted. People in the Maradana area now started paying regular visits to the graveyard.

Some months later, one evening the Superintendent of the Police, an Englishmen happened to pass the graveyard on his horse back, and saw an oil lamp burning. He approached the place and found a man seated in deep devotion and absorbed in some recitals. Angered by the sight, the S.P dismounted from the horse, kicked the oil lamp and beat Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar and flattened the fence. Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar was driven away with a warning not to come to that place again.

Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar returned home in severe pain, dazed and broken hearted. He related the incident that took place at the graveyard to his home folk. He was very much depressed and wondered how he could reach the place again. Words went out soon and his neighbours and some devotees began to gather round him.

That night Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar dreamt the Saint. He instructed Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar to get back of the graveyard after Fajr prayers and take possessions of the place, since the matter has been settled. He got up from his sleep and was thinking who had settled the matter. However, without disobeying the Saint's instructions, he went to the graveyard with a fairly large crowd.

To their surprise, they found the Superintendent of Police with some labourers, trying to mend the place. On seeing Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar, the S.P walked to him with great respect and tendered his apology for beating him, breaking up the place and destroying the oil lamp. The S.P then told the crowd that he was beaten in his dream by an Arab in the like manner, how he (S.P) beat the man in devotion by the graveyard. He was also warned to get back to the spot, clear up the place and allow the Muslim devotees to congregate there regularly. When he woke up, he found some cane marks on his body and hastened with some labourers to put the place in order. He also offered some money to buy an oil lamp.

From that day onwards the S.P visited the graveyard often, till he left the island. He also permitted Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar to put up a shed over the grave where an oil lamp burned throughout the day and night, and also permitted the devotees to stay the nights to conduct Zikr and other recitals. The land was still owned by the crown.

Forty five years later in the year 1847 His Holiness Sheik Ali Jabarooth Mowlana who was a living Saint at that time, came from Moghrib. He was on a brief visit to this island and stayed at the Maradana Jumma Mosque in Colombo. The miracle of the Saint of Cinnamon Gardens, was related to him. On Friday after Jumma Prayers a party of Muslims led by the Mowlana visited the sight of the shrine, which was now looked after by Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriya's son Packeer Thamby Marikkar. Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriyar was old and feeble and could not get about freely.

His Holiness Sheik Ali Jabarooth Mowlana on reaching the place, shrouded himself with a flowing Jubba he was wearing and sought communion with the Saint. After over an hour, His Holiness Sheik Ali Jabarooth Mowlana raised his head ablaze with divine light. He turned to the crowd and proclaimed:-

"This is a venerable Saint and that a noble one. He came here on the request of the Holy Prophet Sallalahu Alaihi Wa Sallam. Having accomplished his Spiritual Mission and rituals to Adams Peak, he was guided to stay at this place. His name is Sheik Usman Ibnu Abdur Rahmaan, a direct decendent of Abu Bucker Siddeeq (Ral). He is attended to by a number of Jinns and a few of whom are yet around the place".

His Holiness Sheik Ali Jabarooth Mowlana then said in rejoice, "Let us celebrate this August day- a day all Muslims must remember every year". His Holiness Sheik Ali Jabarooth Mowlana gave a gold coin to one of the devotees and requested him to bring rice and ghee. He tore a portion of his white turban, tied to a bamboo and planted by the graveside as a flag. The devotees gathered round and recited Subhana Mowlid and ghee rice was distributed. From that day onwards Mowlid-un-Nabi was recited for ten days in the month of Zul Khaida every year, and ghee rice distributed amongst those present.

In the year 1848 the government acquired the land another area owned by Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriar for constructions of a road. The government was prepared to compensate the owner. Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriar from his sick bed sought only one compensation, having foregone vast stretches of land, for the site of the Shrine. The request was granted in 1863 by Governor Sir Charles Justin McCarthy, by placing his seal on the Deed of Gift on 9th February, 1863 and was registered at the Colombo Kachcheri under No.A/16/381. Mamina Lebbai Mesthiriar's grand son Cassim Bawa (Son of Packir Thamby) procured the adjoining part by Crown Grant of waste land on 10th February, 1891.

An exclusive Prayer Hall was built in 1840 by Packir Thamby Marikkar to accommodate the large gathering of devotees to observe their daily prayers.

From the year 1880 His Holiness Imamul Aroos Ash Sheik Seyyed Muhammed Mapillai Lebbai Alim was a frequent visitor to this Dharga. The Qaseeda on Sheik Usman Voliyullah which is recited to date, was composed by His Holiness Imamul Aroos Ash Sheik Seyyed Muhammed Mapillai Lebbai Alim (Ral) in the year 1882.

In the 1890's His Holiness Seyyad Muhammed Gul Rasool Dadil Khurasani Moulana used the Dewatagaha Mosque to re-activate the Tariqatun Naqshbandhia. His Holiness Sheikh Haman Maghdoomy, a sheikh of the Naqshbadhia Order, often visited this place to seek inspiration and solace from the saint of the Siddiqiyya Sufi Sheikh Usman Voliullah.

His Holiness, Ahamed Bafaghih Moulana of Medina was another Naqshbandhia Sheikh who called at De­watagaha Mosque during his frequent visits to Lanka. In the 1920s a Sufi saint of high caliber, hailing from Kabul, sought spiritual refuge at the shrine of Sheikh Usman Voliullah. He had claimed to belong to the blood stock of the saint.

In the 1930s His Holiness Pallak Voliullah spent many hours at the graveside of the Dewatagaha saint, when he called on Quthub-us-Sailan. He conversed with the saint at length, and exhorted those who called on him, to frequently visit Dewatagaha Mosque.

The Mosque was vested in the year 1983 by Al Haj M.H.Mohamed M.P. then Minister of Transport and Minister of Muslim Religious and Cultural Affairs and handed over to the Wakf Board. Al Haj A W M Ameer was appointed the First Chairman of the board of trustees and there after this role was taken over by Alhaj A.M .Siddique . The first step taken, was to build a Jumma Mosque on the premises. The old prayer mosque was demolished, and a spacious 3 storied modern mosque was built, as it now stands. The new management took adequate steps to conduct all Thareeka activities and has ensured facilities to conduct the Naqshabandhiya Rathib, Idroosiyathul Quadiriya Rathib, , Jalaliya Rathib, Refai Rathib, Kottar Thakkiya Rathib, Quthubiyathul Quadiriya Rathib, each day of the week. In addition, monthly recitals are also held, with flag hosting, remembering the Saints of those particular months.

A grand feast in Honour of Shaikh Usman Voliyullah, is held every year. This great feast is conducted for 12 days commencing with the recital of "Subhana Mowlid", Manaqibs and Qaseedas in Honour of the Saints, recited daily, and the Thamam held on the 13th day. The feast ends with the recital of "Thalai Fathiha".

Let our prayer be that, this Sheik Usman Voliyullah Dharga Sheriff, should forever remain, a radiating centre of Ahlus-Sunnath-Wal-Jama'ath

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