Another “Ijma‘=Concord” project expedition (India/Kerala, Tamilnadu―Sri Lanka―Maldives): preliminary results
From March 3rd―18th, 2009 within the framework of the media and scholarly project “Ijma‘=Concord” a historical and ethnological expedition along the basic itinerary India/Kerala, Tamil-Nadu―Sri Lanka―Maldives was realized. The expedition route was developed in a way that allowed visiting a number of most important cultural and religious centers of the central part of the Great Silk Road. The latter was described in detail by the famous medieval traveler Ibn Battuta (1304—1369 or 1377). During twelve days of field work the expedition took six flights and covered about a thousand kilometers on ground and sea transportation.
The expedition aimed at collecting materials on communication strategies (interaction or isolationism) of the regional Muslim communities living in multi-ethnic and multi-confessional milieu. The studies of Islamic syncretism that started during the expeditions to the South-Eastern regions of Ethiopia and Chinese Turkestan (both – 2008) were continued also.
Other major tasks of the expedition included building partner relations with colleagues from specialized scholarly centers, purchasing new collections for the Museum, and collecting video and photo materials for a future exhibition and for scholarly projects.
In India the expedition worked in Thiruvananthapuram, the Kerala capital (Juma and Rose mosques), and in the Islamic settlements of the Southern India seaboard, which include the famous mausoleum (maqbara) of Ahmad Wali Allah from Kadiriyya brotherhood who preached here six hundred years ago according to the local traditions. The mausoleum is situated in the mixed Hindu-Muslim settlement Panathura-Pachalloor. The history of the saint and his mausoleum was presented by Abdul Rahim Maulavi, Imam of local Muhiyuadeen Masjid, in the short video interview. The aftereffects of the terrorist attack to Mumbai (November 26―29, 2008) along with other important problems are discussed in the video interview by Mavlavi Jamaludeen Mankada, Friday Mosque Imam in Thiruvananthapuram and a distinguished Muslim preacher. The expedition visited the Southern Hindustan extremity — Cape Comorin, where the waters of the Arabic Sea, Bengal Bay and the Indian Ocean meet. The southernmost mosque of India is also currently being built there close to the Kumari Amman Hindu Temple and a Catholic cathedral. The expedition worked in the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple (Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala), the Thanumalayan temple (Suchindrum, Tamilnadu), and visited local Catholic and Syro-Jacobite churches.
In Sri Lanka expedition members, together with representatives of four religions, climbed Adam’s Peak (2240 meters) by the light of a full moon. On the top of the cone-shaped mountain one can find a temple with a huge foot print (160 × 75 cm) in the rock. According to Muslim legend, this is the place where Adam was brought down to Earth. This is known as the footprint of Adam to Muslims, that of Buddha to Buddhists, that of Shiva to Hindus, and that of Saint Thomas to Christians. The traditions of the Muslim pilgrimage to Adam’s Peak are discussed in the short video interview by imams of local mosques in the small town of Gompola. In Kandy, the ancient capital of the country, the expedition had a chance to work in the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) and in the 14th century Natha Devale Hindu temple.
In Male, the capital of Maldives, the expedition worked at many places, including the Old Friday Mosque (Hukuru Miskiiy, 1656), the modern Grand Friday Mosque, the Islamic Center Library, Medhu Ziyaarath (the tomb of Abu al-Barakat, a North African scholar who, according to the local tradition, brought Islam to Maldives in 1153), and the tomb of Mohammed Thakurufaanu (ruler of Maldives from 1573―1585 who liberated the country from the Portuguese). The visit to the Male Center for the Holy Qur’an provided an opportunity to study and to document parts of the unique and as of yet un-researched collection of Qur’anic manuscripts. The visit to Maldives coincided with intensive debates concerning the results of the country’s first free presidential elections on October 28, 2008. The people elected Mohammed Nasheed, the famous oppositionist, human rights activist, and Amnesty International’s 1991 “Prisoner of Conscience.” He replaced Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, the sole ruler of Maldives for the previous 30 years. Dr. Adbul Majeed Abdul Bari, Maldives Minister of Religious Affairs, and Mrs. Jennifer Latheef, human rights defender and former political prisoner, allowed the “Ijma‘=Concord” project to interview them.
The expedition filmed about 7 hours of video materials and took more than two thousand professional-quality pictures as well as collections connected with the applied art and written culture of the Indian Muslims. The detailed expedition report will be published, as usual, in the “60th parallel” magazine, a regular partner of “Ijma‘=Concord” project.
The expedition was realized due to the support of the group of “Ijma‘=Concord” project Friends (Moscow). We express sincere gratitude to Dr. Suhail Ummer, Mr. H.M.A. Khader, Mr. B. Tharif, Mr. Ahmed Zaker, Mr. Mohammad Didi, and to “Dhivehi Observer” editor Mr Ahmed Moosa.