The Khoja Heritage Team in Mumbai Dr. Sadiq Uttanwala, Dr. Nasreen and Asad Virani, have been interviewing seniors of the Khoja Shia as well as Ismaili communities
Once in a decade we come across a Gem, A PRECIOUS GEM in the form of a human. Though, we can preserve the Gem physically in our treasuries. But, the human gem is preserved in our memories, in our heart, in our breath and in our thoughts till our last breath.
One of the rarest of the rare Gem, an angel in form of human being was the late Mulla Asghar, he was the gem with devotion, dedication and commitment to render selfless social service to the members of Shia community with absolute transparency especially in the field of education. The late Mulla Saheb, as he was fondly called with utmost love and affection by one and all associated with him found him to be the man of vision. His predictions and thoughts are coming true today as if he read the future aspects dictated to him step by step by none other than the Imam of our time.
The late Mulla saheb is no more with us and it is extremely hard to digest that we are now observing his sixteenth death anniversary. He always held a love, affection and a special place in his heart for HUSAINI EDUCATION & WELFARE SOCIETY TRUST, Bhavnagar. He rendered us courage in our difficult times.
One of his visionary revelation was that in near future, India would be absolutely self sufficient and the Shia community in India would be in position to render financial and technical help to the Shia community abroad. Slowly and steadily, we pray that the vision of Mulla Saheb comes true.
Second visionary revelation made by Mulla Saheb was to promote Higher Education barring any restriction or limitation, he had special mention to impart higher education to the sisters of our community. This revelation is almost achieved.
Last but not the least the late Mulla Saheb wanted the students to take up the course for which they had desire and inclination and not to take up the course which was forced upon them and which course the student had no interest or inclination. This suggestion of Mulla Saheb is practically motivated with fruitful outcome.
Works of Mulla Saheb are inscribed with golden letters in the hearts of those associated with him, he went miles and miles irrespective of sun or rain, from village to village either on foot or bullock cart or whatever means of transport was available in those good old days, with or without proper food but with only motive SERVE THE SHIA COMMUNITY along with his associates late Gulamali Bhanji our beloved Babae Quam Aunalibhai Saleh Mohammed and others and so stands The World Federation of K S I Jamat today. Please join me to recite Sure Fateha in the name of late Mulla Asgar on his 16th death anniversary.
Sajjad V Varteji
It seems hard to believe that it is already 16 years since the sad passing away of my friend and colleague Marhum Mulla Asghar . When I think back it does not seem as if that much time has passed, and when I look at his legacy in India, to me he is still alive through his work and his dedication and sacrifices.
I was privileged to call him my friend, and he used to call me hid ‘eyes and ears in India’. Whenever people asked him to open an office in India, he used to reply by saying that he did not need an office in India as he already had Aunalibhai, who was his eyes and ears in India.
I as very attached to him as a person and also I was very inspired by his dedication to eradicating poverty in India , and indeed I accompanied him on all of his visits to India. As a result, I have many anecdotes and stories that I can mention, but to keep this article concise I will only mention some of the important and memorable instances that have left a lasting impression on me till today;
Whenever he visited India, hundreds of people would flock to meet him and sit with him and listen to his lectures and discuss various issues with him, including politics, charity , and religious matters. He seem to have knowledge of all the issues and would give very deep insight into topics being discussed. Amongst the people who visited him, there were many Aalims and Molvis who used to visit and discuss and debate with him. After his passing away, there have been no such gatherings.
He had a great passion for education, and he always used to say that , our boys and girls should not be deprived of education for the sack of lack of funds. To facilitate the education of the poor children in our community, he started the Zainabia Child Sponsorship Scheme and through this scheme, many hundreds of children have been educated and until today, the scheme is still benefitting the children of our community.
He always had time for the poor in our society, and he would go and visit the poor families in their houses. In many places he could not tolerate the level of extreme poverty and he would actually cry at the plight of these families. I clearly remember a time in Kareempur in Karnataka, when Mulla had visited the home of a very poor family whose bread winner was sick as well, that he cried like a child for a long time, and then when he had composed himself, he told me not to show him any more homes of poor families but just to tell him about it, and he promised to do something about relieving poverty. Indeed, in his life time he was responsible for many housing projects for the poor, in Gujarat as well as in Karnataka and till today there are many housing estates for poor that were constructed by World federation under Mulla’s instructions, and these stand proud in giving testimony to Mulla’s determination to alleviate poverty.
I remember that during his last visit in Feb 2000, he had taken a lot of pain for the members of the community especially sadats, and inspite of his ill health, he was visiting Sadat houses at 2am at night in a village in UP. Although there were no lights in this village he patiently listened to the plight of the sadats and on his return to UK, he arranged for assistance for the sadat families.
There are very many more instances and anecdotes, but to list them all would fill a whole book! The last time I spoke to Mulla was on the 20th of March 2000, the day before he passed away. I was with Marhum Chotubhai Dosani, and we were discussing the affairs of the Bhavnagar jamaat. Even in that conversation, he told marhum chottubhai that he has told everybody that we will only work in India with Aunalibhai Salehmohamed and that he would not do anything until he had spoken to me and asked for my opinion. To me that was the greatest endorsement, and his unwavering trust in me , and it is something that I will remember and cherish for the rest of my life. Mulla Saheb was indeed a unique personality and a genius, and I don’t think that I will ever meet anyone quite like him in future. I am indeed lucky that I got an opportunity to work with him closely and the fact that he actually thought of me as his friend and a confidant is a matter of pride and honour for me.
Amongst the many accolades and honours that were given to Mulla Saheb, the following is a list of the few;
1989 Certificate of honours by Kutch at Kera in Kutch
1989 Certificate of honours by the Council of Gujarat at Mahuva
1994 Certificate of Honours by KSI jamaat Surat
1996 Title of ‘AMUDUL MILLAT’ and certificate of Honours by KSI Sarkhej Jamaat Ahmedabad
1996 Certificate of Honours by KSI Jamat Bhavnagar
1996 Certificate and accolades by Immamia Education and Welfare Trust Bangalore
1997 Title of ‘RUHUL MILLAT’ by the Council of Gujarat
23rd Jan 2000 Certificate of honours by Council of Gujarat at Talaja
26th Jan 2000 certificate of ‘REHBERE MILLAT’ by Kutch federation at Kera
He was also honoured by many dozens of shawls and hundreds of garlands. In my opinion the greatest accolade he got was that he managed to win the hearts and minds of the community at large and made a special place in the hearts of the poor in our community. No other leader in our community has managed to achieve as much since his passing away.
I of course was very close to Marhum Mulla Sahib, and we shared many moments, some difficult, some light hearted and some that were so important for our community.
Please find below my contribution to a person that I admired and feel was so instrumental in bringing our communities together.
Marhum Mulla Sahib was a great friend, leader and Father.
He was a great man, the like of which we will never see again. Even when people disagreed with him, they had utmost respect for him.
When he spoke, he spoke with dignity, with respect and most of all he spoke sense.
He was a true leader who worked tirelessly for charity and for the development of his community.
He had a vision that was revolutionary for his time and devoted all his efforts to implement what he believed so passionately about.
He gave us (london Jamaat) his utmost support, provided us his time, his knowledge and the direction that we required.
He was a rock in the development of London Jamaat and would never waiver from his desire to develop the community he belonged to.
Whatever was asked from him, he delivered.
The Stanmore mosque we call our foundation was facilitated by his enthusiasm and love that he always showed for his people.
He was always available for the people, whoever you were and treated everyone with the same respect and dignity.
His charity work was incredible and the fruits of all his hard work is visible for all to see, until today.
He had a mission to unite the Khoja communities all over the world and undoubtedly achieved this through the world federation.
He taught us how to behave with each other and how to have empathy and humbleness.
Personally I was honoured to have had the opportunity to have known him, to have worked with him and to have been able to call him my friend. In fact when my son got married, he referred to me as his son in law. A reference I cherish until today.
There was of course a very different side to him that very few people had the opportunity to experience.
Marhum Mulla Sahib was able to converse at all levels, he was a preacher, he gave advise, but he also was very humorous. I recall times when he would keep a small group of us entertained after iftar during Ramadan.
He would join the baraza that I was part of and people would stop joking and be serious as Marhum Mulla Sahib had joined the group, but true in his character, he would sit and use his humour through jokes or funny stories that would put all around him at ease.
I leave you with a very short story that sits with me, but was typical of his humour.
Marhum Mulla Sahib was very non confrontational, whenever things got heated or he was upset, he would have a habit of picking up his hat and leaving the venue where he was.. It was his way of coping without being drawn into confrontation.
We had a meeting at his house once which was going to be difficult and it was inevitable that emotions would ride high.
When we were sitting in the house, to break the ice, I said " Mullah Sahib, today we are in your house, please do not forget.... So if you get upset what are you going to do"
He replied without even changing his facial expression...."easy Ahmed, I will remind you all that this is my front room... And calmly ask you all to pick up your hats and leave"
Such was the man.
I pray Allah keeps him amongst the chosen ones and his legacy remains in our hearts, in our community and across the whole world.
I hope this gives you a small insight to how great this man was and all he stood for.
With Duas and salaams
AME SHU NE AMARI VAAT SHU TYAREJ SAMJASHE UTHI CHALYA JAASHU TAMARI ANJUMAN MA THI
What we were and what we said will then be understood
When no longer, we will grace your sittings and assemblies.
As we mark yet another death anniversary of Marhum Mulla Saheb, I am reminded of his timeless words on the timely need to understand the need of the times to recognize the goals of this community:
“Time has come” he said, “that we recognize our goal. What do we need? We need a society where every act of good-will is propelled and driven by the sincere intention to please Allah and none else.”
At the same time, demonstrating a commitment to excellence in the Community, he stated that “…… we rise above the mean and the mediocre to that which is high and sublime.”
In order to achieve this he boldly opined as early as 1975 that “Unless the youth of this community are prepared and have girdled their loins to serve the community to the best of their abilities, this community left in the hands of the hardcore traditionalists will not be able to take any strides ahead.”
Mulla always held tenaciously to his principles, which, on occasion, led to decisions which seemed out of step with prevailing trends. That meant he pleased many and displeased some, or sometimes pleased a few and displeased many. But then who said Mulla was a fair-weather leader who backed down because of public opinion. Though he was always for the unity of the community, he maintained that could not be done at expense of “Compromising on the basic fundamentals….” He said, “Weak partners will never make a strong team.”
In 1987, he penned a tribute to Mulla Thawara, which rings so true about himself:
AME SHU NE AMARI VAAT SHU TYAREJ SAMJASHE UTHI CHALYA JAASHU TAMARI ANJUMAN MA THI
What we were and what we said will then be understood When no longer, we will grace your sittings and assemblies.
Countless minds were set thinking, many lives changed by him. His impact on our society remains nothing short of phenomenal and understood correctly his words continue to shift paradigms.
Read about the journey to the Iraq through the eyes of, A Level Student, Salmaan Jaffer.
The newly established Youth Network of Federation of Khoja Isna Asheri Jamaats of Pakistan conducted two successful sessions for youth in Karachi and Hyderabad. These sessions, were part of the inaugural series to activate the platform built to connect Khoja youth all over Pakistan and plan activities that can result in their upliftment. Read more here.