Jawatta Arabic Inscription

Jawatta Arabic Inscription
Jawatta Arabic Inscription (Sinhala: ජාවත්ත අරාබි සොහොන්ගල් සෙල්ලිපිය) is one of the Arabic Inscriptions in Sri Lanka. This is considered the first Arabic epigraph found in the country (Dasanayaka, 2017).

A tombstone
This stone slab which has been identified as a tombstone is said to have been discovered in a cemetery in Jawatta (probably Jawatta Mosque Premises) in Colombo District (Kalus & Guillot, 2006). Around 1787, the slab was moved along with other stones to be used as a walk in the house of a Dutch official [(Collector of Colombo) Dasanayaka, 2017; Kalus & Guillot, 2006]. There are no clear reports about the original inscription and only a facsimile by Sir Alexander Johnston is remaining today (Johnston, 1826; Kalus & Guillot, 2006).

The slab is believed to be rectangular in shape and its dimensions are not known (Kalus & Guillot, 2006). The writing has been engraved within a rectangular frame with an arch-shaped top. Fifteen lines of writing are visible on the slab and the first two lines are engraved inside the arch.

The stone is dated on 5th Rajab AH 337 (some sources say it 317) and has been erected in memory of Khalid Ibn Abu Bakaya (Dasanayaka, 2017; Kalus & Guillot, 2006). He is said to have been sent to Sri Lanka from Baghdad (Iraq) by Caliph Al-Muktafi bi'llah as a religious teacher in 940 A.D. at the request of the Muslims (Dasanayaka, 2017; Kalus & Guillot, 2006). He died 17 years after he left Baghdad and buried in Colombo (Kalus & Guillot, 2006). On his death, the Caliph sent a stone inscribed in Arabic (Kufic) giving particulars about his teacher and it was placed on the grave of Abu Bakaya by the Muslim community in Colombo (Dasanayaka, 2017; Dewaraja, 1994). The stone is said to be there undisturbed for nearly 800 years, till a Dutch official removed it along with other stones to be used as a walk-in his house (Dasanayaka, 2017; Dewaraja, 1994).

After knowing about this inscribed stone, Sir Alexander Johnston, the Chief Justice of Ceylon (1806-1819 A.D.) took a facsimile of it and sent to England for translation (Dasanayaka, 2017; Johnston, 1826). It was translated by Sir Samuel Lee Professor of Arabic in the University of Cambridge and his translation into English was as follows;
In the name of the compassionate and merciful GOD. There is no God but God. Mohammed is the prophet of God. May the blessing and peace of God be upon him. O God pardon, have mercy upon, and pass away from (the sins of) a servant, the son of thy servant, Khalid Ibn Abu Bakdya (Takaya or Nakaya), (who) has left the world, and (who) was dependent on thee; but thou wast sufficient without him : (who) has departed to thee, and thou art his best place of departure. O God pardon his sin, that his piety may remain, and grant him his last (reward), and that he may be justified. And protect thou, and multiply favour and security to him. And may he (God) appoint our excellent prophet supreme, that he may afford to us and shew us the truth clearly ; for he has admonished with the established word, and his decision has obtained, and his resistance is (as) the (depth) lake of reproach. Amen. Lord of Worlds. It was written on the second day (of the week) five nights taken out of (the month) Rejeb (i. e. on the 5th of Rejeb) in the year 337.* And in the vicinity he completed a security for religion with (other) conveniences, in the year 317. May God give blessing and peace upon his prophet Mohammed
Citation: Lee, 1827. p.546.

1) Dasanayaka, R., 2017. Arabs in Serandib: Trade relations between Sri Lanka and West Asia from ancient time to 15th century A. D.: Historical and Archaeological Survey. S. Godage & Brothers. ISBN: 978-955-30. p.145-148.
2) Dewaraja, L.S., 1994. The Muslims of Sri Lanka: one thousand years of ethnic harmony, 900-1915. Lanka Islamic Foundation.pp.27-28.
3) Johnston, A., 1826. A letter to the Secretary relating to the preceding inscription. Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1(2), pp.537-548.
4) Kalus, L. and Guillot, C., 2006. Réinterprétation des plus anciennes stèles funéraires islamiques nousantariennes: III. Sri Lanka (In French). Archipel, 72(1), pp.29-40.
5) Lee, S., 1827. A Cufic Inscription found in Ceylon, communicated by Sir A. JOHNSTON, V.P.R.A.S.; with a Translation by the Rev. SAMUEL LEE, A.M., Professor of Arabic in the University of Cambridge. Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1(2), pp.545-548.

This page was last updated on 20 July 2022

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