Moors' Islamic Cultural Home (MICH)

Dr. Colenda Marikar Muhammad Zubair

First Ceylon Moor Doctor

"The Ceylonese" of Thursday, January 25, 1917, published a news item under the heading "Death of a Ceylonese Doctor in Scotland: Dr CMM Zubair". It read,

"News has been received in Ceylon that Dr CMM Zubair, who passed the MB ChB, at Glasgow recently and was about to leave for Ceylon in about a fornights time, died of meningitis.

He was the first member of the Mooirsh community in Ceylon to obtain British medical qualifications. He left Ceylon a few years ago, having put in a course at the Ceylon Medical College, where he passed the Junior final.

The sad news has been cables to Mr CMA Hassan of Dematagoda by Mr Gunaratne, a medical student in Edinburgh. Mr Hassan has wired back requesting that the remains of Mr Zubair be buried according to Mohammedan rites.

Considering that at present there are many Egyptians and other of the Muslim faith in Edinburgh there should be no difficulty in according the late Mr Zubair  a Mohammedan burial.

We extend our sympathies to the members of the bereaved family."

Thus the Ceylon Moor community's first Western qualified doctor was fated not to return to Ceylon and to his family with the unique distinction he had gained.

This old boy of St Joseph's College, Colombo, was one of its outstanding cricketers, excelling in bowling along with C Horan. He helped St Joseph's College to beat both Royal College and St Thomas' College, to emerge schools champions in 1905.

His best feats were 4 for 18 vs Royal, 2 for 31 vs Wesley, and 3 for 23 vs St Thomas'. Describing the schools match against Bloomfield C and AC, the press reported: "Zubair for St Joseph's College bowled with remarkable success, taking 5 wickets for 16 runs."

That year he was picked as twelfth man for the Combined Colleges team, that played the Colts. The Combined Colleges team comprised the following:-

ROYAL COLLEGE: F Fonseka, HW Pieris, E Ondaatje

ST THOMAS' COLLEGE: CA Perera, W Don Abraham, S Gunasekera

St JOSEPH'S COLLEGE: LS Mendis, B Ohlmus and CMM Zubair (12th man)

The "Ceylon Sports Annual" (edited by PL Bartholomeusz of the "Times of Ceylon: with cricket notes by EW Foenander) said of the 1906 St Joseph's College cricket team:-

"There were three thoroughly reliable bowlers in S de Silva, C Horan and CM Zubair (sic). The trio presented the variety that is so udeful in cricket. Zubair was hardly as effective as in 1905, but Horan, a left handed medium to slow bowler was more so and de Silva did some remarkable performances at times.

Still, with these three, the bowling was hardly strong enough on the good run getting matting wickets on which most of the college matches were played... In batting, Zubair occasionally came to the rescue of the side at a pinch..."

His mentors at St Joseph's College followed his scholastic career right to the end. When he was successful in the preliminary examination to enter Medical College, the Rector of St Joseph's College, in a letter dated January 28, 1909, counselled him:-

"My dear Zubair, I was very glad to hear from you again and especially to hear that you have passed your prelim. I am sure you will get on excellently at the Medical College. It is very wise to work up your science subjects before joining. That will give you a good start. I wish you every success and very many Happy New Years...

Have you given up your cricket altogether? I don't know what we are going to do this year. Well, I hope."

After his death, the St Joseph's College magazine, "Blue and White", No 13 of October 1917, had this "In Memoriam" citation:-

"Dr CMM Zubair died in Edinburgh almost on the eve of his expected return to Ceylon. he left for England on March 31, 1912, and had a career of uninterrupted success at the University of Edinburgh until he passed the final degree of MB and ChB, in July 1916.

He was the first Ceylonese Mohammedan doctor with British qualifications and was Vice President of the Ceylon Students' Union in Edinburgh.

The news of his untimely death was a severe shock to his relatives and many friends who were looking forward to his return home as a distinguished doctor.

He fell ill about the beginning of January at a seaside place some miles away from Edinburgh. He completely underrated the serious nature of his illness, until, on the pressing advice of a friend, he called in a doctor. As Typhoid was suspected he was removed to the city hospital where he was attended to by several famous doctors.

Finally, it became evident that his case was one of meningitis and in spite of all possible attention and the best treatment, he expired on 22nd January 1917, at the age of twenty four years."

After Zubair, followed Dr SM jabir, MRCS (England), LRCP (London) in 1917, and Dr MCM Kaleel, MB ChB (Edinburgh) in 1926. Dr M Shafi Hassen was also a contemporary of Dr kaleel in Edinburgh.

Dr Zubair, who was the son of Mr and Mrs Hassen (Assen) Lebbe Colenda Marikar of Dematagoda, Colombo 9, had four brothers and three sisters - CM Abdul Hassan and CMM Salih (businessmen), CMM Maharoof (who took to medicine but later became a proctor), CMMS Mackeen (shroff at Apothecaries Ltd), Fathima (Mrs ALM Mohideen), Nafeesa (Mrs Hassan bin Ibrahim) and Razeena (Mrs SLM Mohideen).

It was Mackeen's only daughter, Mufthiha, who emulated her paternal uncle's pioneering achievement in 1970 by being the first Ceylon Moor woman to obtain a Bachelor of Dental Surgery degree at the University of Ceylon, Peradeniya. While being a Senior Prefect at Bishop's College, Colombo 2, she won prizes in science, zoology and chemistry and also took the coveted Dr GH Soysa Memorial Prize for Science. Like her uncle she too excelled in sport, playing in the university's tennis and hockey teams.