‘Lower the sails’ is the meaning of the name Beruwala!
It is assumed that Arab traders from the Arabian Peninsula settled for the first time in Sri Lanka on the South Western coast in Beruwala around 920 AD. At the same time it marks the moment that Islam was introduced in Sri Lanka. It is not so that they came suddenly, no, there had already been a lot of trade connections between the Arabs and the Singhalese.When these first settlers arrived in the area at that time, they realized that they needed a place to perform their daily prayers, which is very important for Muslims.
After arrival in Beruwala, they also extended their presence into the inland area and settled up till a small town called Pinhera thanks to the hospitality of the Singhalese population. Here they actually built the first small mosque, but nothing is left of it. Of the various small praying places in Beruwala nothing remained as well, except the one on the place of the current Beruwala Maradana Masjidul Abrar Jumma Mosque, which has been reconstructed three times since 920. What remained is the ancient burial place where many of the first Arab traders have been buried. The graveyard is also the last resting place for so called ‘awliyas’ (saints), including the tomb of Assheik Sihabbudeen Waliyallah, a widely respected and worshipped holy man.
So, the current mosque is not the original one, it was built in 1865 and has seen many changes and extensions over time. It is a National Cultural Heritage Site. Nowadays it can accommodate around 3000 worshippers. The large pond in front of the building is an extraordinary part of the premises, not much seen anywhere else in Sri Lanka and makes everything together a perfect picturesque scene. The grandeur of this huge and at the same time elegant, rectangular building lays in its simplicity. It is neither dominated by a huge dome nor by imposing minarets (towers), which gives the mosque a humble appearance.
The interior reflects the outside in its simplicity and elegance. The yellow coloured ground floor gives a warm intimate feeling. In the center of the hall a majestic chandelier dominates the room, it has been there as a part of the original decoration, just as the ‘mimbar’, that is the pulpit from which the imam offers his sermons. The first floor is all white and so creating an image of space and brightness.
Originally the green coloured pond had never been part of the original architectural plan. It was made due to the massive amount of sand that was taken from the land in front of the mosque, needed for the construction of the this building. The pit was ultimately filled with water and so the pond was created, and it seemed as if it was meant to make the picture complete.
The Maradana Abrar mosque, situated just behind the coast, south of the fishing harbour, has its own series of festivals annually. During the holy month of Ramazan flocks of worshippers habit the mosque, which is open 24 hours per day from the start of the festival till the end of the fasting month, the Eid-al-Fitr.