Why Moors Are


The Tamils of Sri Lanka, throughout history, have attempted to categorize the Sri Lankan Moors as belonging to the Tamil ethnic group.

However many feel that this is wrong and that many Arab traders adopted the Tamil language when they settled in Sri Lanka.

This meant that mistakenly Tamils concluded that the Moors were from their race. The features of Sri Lankan Moors are also very different, they commonly have lighter skin tone, somehow Related to Golden Hue, Like their Co Arab People living in Present day Oman and Yemen.

The name moor has been given by the romans to the inhabitants of noth africa from the actual morocco to the actual mauritania the word is from: am- mori the descendants of Amor the fourth son of Kana the lived first in Palestine and immigrated on the third millenaire to North africa. To the Newly Arrived Portuguess all of the Arabs were Known to be Moors, the traditional enemies of Portuguess from Al Hambra, Spain. So the Portuguess suggested the name Moor for the Maritime Arabs settled in Sri Lanka.

According to the Physical Anthropology of Sri Lanka, a comprehensive work dealing with the physical characteristicsof the country’s various races, the skin colour of over thirty Moor subjects of the Puttalam District measured in the survey approximated that of the Aryan clan which would suggest that they derive from a somewhat fair- skinned race.(Aryans are Fair skinned people)The work further shows that the Moors are a broad- headed or brachycephalic people as distinct from the long-headed or dolococephalic Native Sri lankans.32 Moors from Puttalam District measured in the survey showed a brachycephaly (flat Heads)It is more likely that it originated from Southern Arabia or Iraq, especially as there is literary evidence to show that many of the forbears of the Moors hailed from these regions.

The Arabs of the Northern Arabian Peninsula and Sinai are predominantly long-headed while those of the south such as the Yemen are predominantly broad- headed.Citing anthropologicalevidence obtained from skeletal remains, he states that the Northern Arabs have been predominantly long- headed for the last 2000 years. The South Arabian brachycephaly, he believes to have derived from the “Armenoid” (Will be Discussed more about the Armenoids in the Last part of this Article) type found largely in the great brachycephalic area of Western Asia, viz. Asia Minor and Mesopotamia.

The aquiline nose, a characteristic of Semitic races such as the Arabs and Jews, is also prominent among the South Arabians. This too is significant as there are many Moors to-day who do possess prominent aquiline noses.


Armenoids were said to be found throughout Eurasia. However, the largest concentrations occurred within Asia Minor, Transcaucasia and Mesopotamia. Known as the “true” Caucasians, Armenoids were relatively tall, usually with medium to dark brown or black hair, light to medium skin colour, large round eyes that were usually brown; a round, brachycephalic head shape with a straight backing (planocciput), (Hence Moors of Sri Lanka has a Yellowish-BrownComplexion) , high cheekbones and non-prominent chins. Lips were full, and noses were sometimes aquiline.

This racial type was believed to be prevalent among the Armenians, Assyrians, Georgians and Iraqis. It was also an element in Southern Europe. Armenoid was also identified as the dominant type of the indigenous Semitic groups of Syria and Mesopotamia: the ancient Amorites, the modern Assyrians, Syriacs, and Chaldeans, the religious minorities of Lebanon and Syria, and the Lebanese and Syrians of mountainous regions were all identified as being of the Armenoid type. The Neo- Assyrian and Mesopotamian and Babylonians are Somehow Armenoid race with Broad Heads and Goldish Skin tone. They are Largely a Warriors, Seafaring People and a Conquering Race.

After the Arab Islamic invasion and conquest, Many Armenoid Assyrians Converted to Islam and Arab Generals married the Assyrian Armenoid Women. they also contributed hugely to the Arab Islamic Civilization during the Ummayads and the Abbasids by translating works of Greek philosophers to Syriac and afterwards to Arabic. Many of the books found in the Baghdad Library was said to be Written by the Assyrians. They also excelled in philosophy, science and theology ( such as Tatian, Bar Daisan, Babai the Great, Nestorius, Toma bar Yacoub etc.) and the personal physicians of the Abbasid Caliphs were often Iraqian People.

M. S. Ismail Effendi has also cited substantial genealogical evidence showing the Arab origins of prominent Moor families. An Alutgama family, for example, traced its lineage to the first Caliph of the Islamic Commonwealth Abu Bakr (573-634 A.C.), while another traced its descent to one Badrudeen who evidently hailed from Iraq. Yet another family traced its descent to one Prince Jamaldeen, an Arab from Konia, who arrived in the country in 1016. Such patronymics as Baghdadi (the one from Baghdad) and Yemeni ( the Yemenite) which figure among the prominent Moor families cited in Effendi’s work indicate the diverse origins of the Moorish folk settled in Sri Lanka. The Nicholson Cove Tombstone inscription at Trincomalee refers to the deceased as the grand-daughter of Hussain Ibn Ali Al-Halabi, showing that her family hailed from Halab (Aleppo) in Syria. It is also well known that the Moors of Akurana trace their descent to three Arabian mercenaries during the reign of King Rajasinha II.The Gopala (Betge Nilame) family of Moors domiciled in Getaberiya in the Kegalle District likewise claim descent from Arab physicians (hakims) who arrived in the country from Sind during the reign of King Parakramabahu II (1236-1270) of Dambadeniya.

Epigraphic evidence may also be cited in this connection. Noteworthy is the Arabic tombstone inscription in Kufic characters concerning an Islamic cleric named Khalid Ibn Abu [B]akaya dated the Hijri year 337 A.H.(10th century) found at the Moorish burial ground near Colombo.

The appellation given to the Moors by themselves as well as by others also indicate their Arab origin. The Moors have traditionally referred to themselves as Sonahar in their peculiar patois of Tamil, the pure Tamil form of which, Sonagar, refers to a native of Arabia (Sonagam).

The Sinhala term for the Moors Yon is related to the Sanskritic Yavana and Prakritic Yona used by the Indians to denote foreign peoples, especially the Arabs, Greeks and those who belonged to the vast Graeco-Bactrian region between Greece and India following Alexander’s conquests in the fourth century B.C.

In Sinhala, however, the term yon appears to have been associated with the Arabs and Moors. Fernao de Queyroz in his Conquista Temporal e Espiritual de Ceylao (1687) has noted that the Sinhalese generally called the Moors Iona. That the term is closely connected with the Arabs is suggested by the Sinhala term for the ‘date palm’ yon-indi. Also consider the place-names Yon-vidiya ‘Moor Street’ and Yon-gala ‘Moor rock’.Anthropological evidence may also be cited in this connection. The Kovul Sandeshaya (19th century) refers to Yon liya (Arab or Moor women) of golden hue (ranvan) at a city called Chilaw with its thriving bazaar full of traders, suggesting that these Yon were a relatively fair- complexioned folk, much like the true Arabs.

The adoption of Tamil on the part of the Moors is not inexplicable. It is probable that with the fall of Baghdad – the seat of the Abbasid Caliphate- to the Mongol hordes in the 13th century, the Arab merchants and settlers in the country and their descendants would have had little option but to cease connections with their old home country and increasingly turn towards their South Indian, Dravidian-speaking co- religionists for commercial and cultural intercourse.

Being a largely mercantile community themselves, they would have established and maintained close relations with the Muslim trading settlements in the South Indian coastal areas, especially since their livelihood depended largely on maritime trade. Tamil, it should be pointed out was the lingua franca of commerce in the region at the time. Such a situation could have easily led to the acceptance by the Moors, of Tamil as their spoken language over a period of time. Thus it would have been due to obvious reasons of convenience that the Moors came to speak Tamil as their ‘Home language’.

The period of the Abbasid Caliphate (750-1258 A.C.) is regarded as the golden age of Arabian culture, science and commerce. The sacking of Baghdad by the Mongols in 1258 and the other destructive acts perpetrated by them is said to have resulted in the downfall of the Arabian political and cultural heritage in the eastern part of the Arab world as well as in neighbouring countries like Iran. Indeed, the period from 1258 to the 18th century is known as the age of decadence of Arabic language, literature and the sciences. As such, it is not surprising that the Arabs and Moors established in the country should have ceased connections with the rest of the Arab world and eschewed their native Arab speech for a completely different and non-related language – Tamil. This process which is known as linguistic regression is not unknown amongst other nations and has taken place due to various political, social and economic factors. This has been the case with the Parsis of Western India who have eschewed their native Iranian speech for Gujarati and the Cape Malays of South Africa whose native Malay speech has been superseded by Afrikaans, an offshoot of Dutch. It is however interesting to note that Tamil is fast dying out as the home language of the Moor youth of the Christian- majority provinces and is being fast replaced by English mainly due to education in the English vernacular. This trend is particularly evident in the upcountry and in the Southern and Western parts of the country. It is therefore clear that whatever their spoken language might be, the Moors form a distinct community with a religious and cultural identity of their own.


Our Origins were Destroyed by the Dutch and Portuguess Almeida’s, Even our Moor Shrines were Eradicated by the Local people of Sri Lanka, no one could throw light on our colourful History but ourselves only.

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By : Mohammed Jehan Khan

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