The Sowing And
Reaping Of Destiny
With ABCD Syndrome: Whither Khoja
Hassan Ali M. Jaffer
Copyright © by Hassan Ali M. Jaffer
First Edition 2008
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be
reproduced, or transmitted in any form on by
any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying
or otherwise, without the permission of author.
ISBN No - 978 - 9987 - 512 - 23 - 2
P O Box - 19701, Dar es salaam.Tanzania.
Tel: +255 22 2110640
Tel/Fax: +255 22 2127555
Online Shopping: www.alitrah.info
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .2
Issues and concerns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4
North American scene . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .5
Historic realities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .6
Indian scene . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .8
Colonial heritage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .10
Khoja identity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .11
History of minorities . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .13
Wandering Gypsies . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .14
Attitude . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16
Khoja migratory patterns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .17
Generation chart . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .22
Khoja population . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .25
Reforms . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .28
Female higher education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .29
Marriage . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
Tussle. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .31
Harnessing talents and potentials . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .32
General complaint . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .34
Hijab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36
Leadership . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .36
Danger signals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .38
Great challenges . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .39
Ingrained philosophy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .42
Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .45
Until recent times, books on Islamic subjects published in English language were
available mostly from Western sources. Books written by non Muslim writers
were often laced with the usual bias. There is growing demand for materials on
topical issues written by Islamic Scholars and thinkers who address common
concerns affecting the daily lives of individuals and societies from the Islamic
The need for producing such materials economically in English and in the East
African lingua franca known as the Swahili language has been long felt.
With the formation of Al Itrah Foundation in Daressalaam, Tanzania, in 2002, we
have undertaken the task of filling the void.
During the past six years, we have been able to translate and publish so far 80
titles in Kiswahili language. This will be the first book being published in English
Al Itrah is dedicated to the spread of education through learning process, focusing
especially on the indigenous people of East Africa. Since its inception in October
2002, the Foundation has made great strides towards this goal. Teachings of the
Holy Qur'an provide the main driving force behind the various activities of the
One of the main objectives of Al`Itrah Foundation is to ensure that adequate
literature is readily available and accessible to the common masses. In so doing,
we hope to develop the culture of reading. Besides, for easy accessibility, Arabic
resource materials are also distributed to the Muballigheen in East Africa.
With the collaboration of the Islamic College for Advanced Studies (ICAS) based
in the UK, Al Itrah has embarked upon an ambitious program of donating Islamic
books on various academic themes and subjects to university and public libraries
throughout East Africa.
Recently Al`Itrah Foundation has launched its own cable TV channel called IBN
(Itrah Broadcasting Network), which airs its programs though the courtesy of
CTV. IBN airs Islamic programs 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It provides
viewers with a healthier alternative to the mainstream television. At the same
time, it helps in educating the public about the divine message of Islam as
received through the blessed Prophet (saw) and the Aimmah (AS).
Hassan Ali M. Jaffer who has been active in community services for the past five
decades has taken keen interest in promoting Islamic studies and in tabligh related
activates. Over the years, he has contributed a number of articles and discussion
papers at various forums. Among them:
“The Role of Madrassah”. (1994)
“The Role of Majalis and Mimber.” (1994)
“Case for Survival - A challenge facing the community in North America.
(A discussion paper presented to NASIMCO and other Community workers and
“A reality we can ill afford to ignore.” - Comments on the Muballigh training
program initiated by the W.F. (2007)
In this publication called: “The Sowing and Reaping of Destiny - With ABCD
syndrome, whither Khoja” the writer has endeavoured to highlight issues
affecting the community, especially for those who are settled in the West.
It is hoped that the material produced here will provide food for thought and
encourage readers to have an introspective look at the working of our societies in
different parts of the world. Some of the issues raised are equally applicable to the
communities living in Africa.
The writer succinctly sums up the central thrust of his presentation with the
“The very basis of the emergence of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community
evolves around their faith. Without attempts at practicing and promotion of their
faith, mere survival of the community as an ethnic entity only is irrelevant. No
faith. No Community. No structured organizations. That is the bottom line every
individual member of the community has to bear in mind”
In so doing, he poses a challenge that call for serious attention.
Mehboob Jaffer Somji
30th November, 2008
ISSUES AND CONCERNS
During my visit to Canada, in February, 2008, initial draft of this paper was circulated
to a group of friends as a basis for discussion. Later, I gave the draft to a group of
youngsters in New York and Toronto for their input.
Youngsters born in the West could not relate to various observations especially those
related to the developments and outlook prevailing in the East and their linkage with the
current outlook among the community members living in the West. To help clarify
issues, especially for the youngsters, various historical narratives and examples have
since been included in this revised draft.
Also included is a “Generation Chart” with some comments. Quoted also are the type
of challenges facing the migrant Muslim communities living in North America and a
message quoting Ayatullah Seyed Ali Seestani.
The writer is in the process of finalizing arrangements for the publication of two books:
A biographical review of the life and times of Mulla Asgharali M. M. Jaffer.
“The Endangered Species”
Evolution of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Community. Their origin, current
state and future challenges.
Issues facing Muslim communities living in the West have occupied the minds of many.
In an introduction to the: “Muslims on the Americanization Path” John L. Esposito
writes that “many Muslims have not solved the problem of the relationship of their faith
to national identity either: will they remain Muslims in America or become American
Muslims”1 This and the related questions that arise provide cause for concern to all
thinking Muslims. In this context, how does the miniscule community known as the
Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Community living in the West adapt to the prevalent
realities Could they sufficiently integrate or assimilate with the local societies, without
losing their identity as a Community and as Muslims In the following pages an attempt
has been made to review various aspects affecting this small community.
This is essentially a discussion paper aimed at encouraging an introspective look at our
society. Some of the observations made here may raise eyebrows and probably draw
strong reaction. A useful purpose would be served if it helps in generating lively
discussions for the way forward. The writer would appreciate input and suggestions in
Hassan Ali M. Jaffer
NORTH AMERICAN SCENE
Writers with an experience of North American Islam describe the immigrant
Muslim settlers as “cultural Muslims” who can thrive only by clinging to their
past in an alien environment. Their progeny, known as “ABCD's (American
born confused Desi's)” are products of a dichotomy torn between two opposing
cultural heritages. 2
It is this dilemma that is not adequately understood and addressed from the
pulpit and by society at large. Consequently, the community finds itself adrift
and yet too proud to admit and recognize realities on the ground.
The plight of Muslims in the West is not too dissimilar to that of the confused
Pakistani politicians driven by their diverse interests. With reactionary
attitudes, as Pakistani leaders are preoccupied in promoting their own short
term goals they end up missing out on the bigger picture for the nation. While
people moan and bicker, the nation remains adrift.
(Acknowledgement: Reproduced here
is a cartoon from “Dawn” Newspaper,
Pakistan - that says it all.)
A serious challenge now facing Muslim
communities living in the West is: How
would their progeny survive in the West in
years to come Would they be able to
integrate into the Western societies
satisfactorily while still retaining their
cultural and spiritual base Or would they end
up fully assimilated into the Western societies
losing much of their cultural and spiritual
identities in the process This is what
happened to various waves of migrants that
settled in North America before them. Would the current wave of Muslim
migrants fare any better
Do they have a definitive vision for the type of society they would like to
evolve To achieve their defined objective how relevant and realistic are they
in their planning for the way forward
For analytical review of the related aspects, we have to recall some historic
It is recognized that evolution of human societies, the rise and fall of great
civilizations and development of cultures and traditions generally take time to
mature to leave any lasting impact. Great civilizations and cultures develop
over a long period of time. Their eventual decline, at times much faster than
their development phase, is generally accentuated as a result of a steady erosion
of moral values and discipline.
The word 'morality' is often narrowly viewed in terms of sexual morality only.
Here we are talking of morality in the broadest sense of the word encompassing
overall human behaviour in all walks of life.
A close look at the rise and fall of great empires and civilizations, Greek,
Roman, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Persian and Chinese civilizations are
examples of this pattern. In more recent times, history records Arab expansion,
emergence of the Islamic civilization and the rise and fall of the Arab and
Muslim empires such as the Umayyad, Abbaside and Fatimid. After the fall of
these dynastic powers, the Turkish Ottoman Empire emerged in 15th century to
rule over the Balkans and much of the Muslim world in the Middle East until
the first quarter of the twentieth century.
Simultaneously, with the emergence of Ottoman rule in Turkey, Safavid reigned
in Iran and Moguls consolidated their hold in India.
Despite wielding so much power and influence over a vast expanse of the
Muslim world, Ottoman rule is remembered today for being the “sick man of
Europe” - an expression of its decadence towards its end.
As Europe woke up to the age of renaissance that ushered in the industrial age,
the period that followed is known as 'modern age'. Today we are living in what
is aptly described as 'post modern age.'
At a critical period in human history, introvert outlook of the Ottoman
Caliphate and the Islamic clergy within its domain left behind a legacy that has
contributed much to the widespread backwardness witnessed in the Muslim
A review of the history of printing press and attitude of the Muslim rulers and
Ulema at the time, illustrate the point.
“In 1485, a decree by the Ottoman Sultan, Bayazid II, banned this
new invention, on the grounds that it would be sacrilegious to use
the Arabic language in mechanical equipment. A press was sent
from Germany to the court of Turkey to print Koran. The Ulema
were called in to give a verdict (Fatwa) if such a contraption of
infidels can be used to print a holy scripture. The unanimous
opinion was NO. For the next four centuries, Muslims were
deprived of this privilege. Christians and Jews could use the
printing presses in Muslim lands and they could control the
learning henceforth. The Caliph needed accountants for his
business and not a single Muslim could apply for this job. All the
applicants were Christians and Jews.”
“The Koran and Arabic were so closely entwined that the
language itself demanded pious treatment, which it wasn't likely
to get from printers. Furthermore, printing threatened Islamic
calligraphers, who became its powerful enemies. Jewish
publishers could operate in Turkey only so long as they did not
use Arabic. Printing in Arabic was illegal until the first half of the
18th century, and even then it grew slowly. When Napoleon
arrived in Egypt in 1798, Cairo had no presses. By then, European
thinkers had been educating one another through books for more
than two centuries.” 3
Refusal to appreciate the need for reformation and change compatible with the
requirements of the time led to stagnation that ultimately contributed to the
decline of Muslim power. 4
Husein Haqqani summarizes the consequence of this trend:
“Muslim use of the printing press did not start until 1727 causing
the Muslims to lose more than 270 years in the world's greatest
explosion of knowledge. The Persian, Moghul, and Ottoman
empires controlled vast lands and resources, but important
scientific discoveries and inventions that had occurred since 15th
century came about in Europe and not in the Muslim lands.” 5
In similar vein, on the Indian sub-continent, we see the splendour of the Mogul
rule in its early stages and its eventual demise with a thud that left Muslims of
India stymied in their imaginary past glory.
The Fatimids in Egypt are remembered for creating Al-Azhar in tenth century
as an institution of learning that has survived for a millennium. In India, Moguls
are mostly remembered for the splendid monuments they created like the Taj
Mahal in Agra, Red Fort and Jamia Masjid in Delhi and Badshahi Masjid and
Shalimar Gardens in Lahore. Mogul rule also bequeathed to India a new
language, known as Urdu.
In the past 500 years, as in the case of Turkey and in the rest of the Muslim
world, in India also, Muslim aristocracy and Ulema contributed much towards
stifling process of modernization. They failed to promote education in keeping
with the changing times.
It is widely held that in the past 500 years, Muslim world has produced more
reactionary thinkers with fixations for the revival of their perceived “golden
age” instead of applying themselves to address to the current realities. Even
today there are elements that advocate revival of an Islamic “Khilafat.” There
are politicians while riding the democratic chariot are on record having aspired
to arrogate to themselves the accolade of “Ameerul Momineen” when in power.
6 Satirical comments heard in Pakistan in this context suggest that among the
ruling class, Islam is often used as a vehicle to grab power in Islamabad!
Afraid to ask question that could disturb their
traditional ‘comfort zone’
Muslim society has been generally
reluctant to think out of the box. They
have been afraid to ask questions that
could disturb their traditional 'comfort
zone.' Feeble sounds emerging from
time to time that question long held
stereo typed concepts are often drowned
in the din of fanatical crescendo. 7
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, against many odds, Sir Seyed Ahmad
Khan led the Aligarh movement that helped establish Aligarh Muslim
University in India. But for this development, the plight of Muslims of the
Indian sub continent today would have been much worse.
Consequence of this introvert policy was also to be felt by Indian Muslims
settled in Africa from nineteenth century. It continues to be felt by Muslims in
India, Pakistan and Bangladesh even now.
While allowances could be made for progress made by individuals, especially
in the sphere of medicine and technology, this has been mostly attained with
education acquired in the West or from western oriented institutes. Overall,
Muslim societies in the Indian sub Continent continue to be educationally far
behind their non Muslim compatriots.
Asians who migrated to the West from Africa will recall that until almost mid
1940's, majority of Muslim business houses in Africa had to engage non-
Muslims as their accountants since they could not easily find educated Muslims
to handle their accounts. The central role of 'Mehtaji,' (accountant) in Muslim
commercial enterprises in Africa are well known. Low level of education
amongst Muslims was further illustrated by the fact that majority of the
expatriate teachers in Indian schools in Africa were non Muslims.
An added unfortunate trend among Muslim communities in Africa was that
once settled, they did not easily reach out to their compatriots in India the way
other communities did. This is amply reflected in the growing disparity
between Muslim and non Muslim migrants settling in Africa in the early
decades of the twentieth century.
These examples speak volumes and underline challenges facing the community
now settled in the West not to repeat the historic follies. The community living
in the West can ill afford to be out of tune with the current realities. It would be
disastrous for the community in the long run, were they to severe contacts with
the rest of the community members worldwide - a growing tendency that is
noted with concern.
An added aspect worth pondering upon here is that community members from
Africa now settled in the West need not forget a debt of gratitude they owe to
the continent of Africa. Their settlement in Africa for over a century has been
the main contributory factor in their relative better standard of education and
economic well being. Left in India, their condition would not have been any
different from that of their compatriots now living in Cutch, Kathiawad, Gujarat
and in Mumbai. Those who have visited India during the past thirty years will
be able to appreciate this aspect better.
With the onset of the industrial age, over the past three centuries, we have seen
European colonization of the world, the zenith of their power and now their
decline. Western conquest of the world has, however, left a lasting impact.
Collapse of the Soviet Union and disappearance of Communism are significant
developments in recent history. Today, countries in the East, including Muslim
states “are in reality outposts of the West.” 8 While Muslim masses watch
helplessly, everywhere, Islamic values continue to be eroded. At the same time,
in many countries, Muslim leadership and Ulema continue to play politics with
each other, jockeying for position and power to perpetuate their hold over the
perplexed societies. Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, among other
Muslim countries, are glaring examples in this context.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr paints a grim picture of the dilemma facing the Muslim
“Numerous Muslims, especially the young, journey to the West in
quest of modern education. Many others confront the challenge of
the modern world itself within educational institutions and certain
social circles which, although in Muslim lands, are in reality
outposts of the West. Many are alienated from Islam as a result of
the crushing influence of alien ideologies, while others react mostly
with emotional outbursts and occasional violence. But few gain
deep enough knowledge of the modern world to be able to preserve
Islam in the light of the challenges of that world and to succeed in
providing the necessary Islamic response posed by current
ideologies. There are very few maps of the modern “intellectual”
landscape which would allow Muslims to travel through this
landscape without becoming lost and without losing their faith (al-
Iman), that most precious of divine gifts, in the process.” 9
In this paper an attempt is made to focus specific attention on the evolution of
the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim community. It is recognized that for any
one to focus in isolation on a factional group only in an attempt at evaluating
the evolution and current state of a small, regional and ethnic based society
known as the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Community would be a folly.
One cannot remain oblivious of the changes taking place around them. After all
Khoja are not a separate entity on this planet that could remain unaffected by
the historical and environmental changes taking place around them.
Khoja are not a race or a tribe to claim any unique culture. They are essentially
a sub sect of a society that historical circumstances of ancestral Indian cultural
heritage and subsequent colonization and politicization of race, ethnicity and
class has allowed to exist. One is born as a Khoja. It is not a religion or a sect
to which one could be inducted. Born as Hindu, when their ancestors converted
to Islam some 600/700 years ago, they were to be called as 'Khoja'. Thus a new
Indian sub-tribe or clan was born.
Religion practiced by early Khoja Muslims was a loose form of Islam that could
be described as a combination of Islamic beliefs spiced with Sufi outlook and
with some remnants of Hindu beliefs and practices blended together. Majority
of them were gradually inducted to become followers of the Nizari Ismaili faith
with adaptations to suit local environments. They are now better known as
Ismaili followers of the Aga Khan. A smaller number amongst them had
leanings towards either Sunni or Shia Ithna-Asheri faith.
The three Khoja factions coexisted harmoniously for some time. Eventually,
when queries were raised about the fundamentals of the faith espoused by the
community leadership and over attempts by the Ismaili hierarchy at exercising
control over the community assets, the latter two factions were
excommunicated from the once united Khoja community.
Those who did not agree to toe the line and insisted upon upholding their
specific denominational leanings were obliged to branch out to form their
specific communities while still retaining their overall Khoja identity.
Until the first quarter of the nineteenth century, the united Khoja community
tolerated such mixed sectarian leanings. Disputes arose as early as 1828 and
again in 1848 questioning the hegemony of the Aga Khan. These were
successfully pacified or quelled. When the Aga Khan tried to enforce an oath of
allegiance to his authority, many objected. In 1862, one group openly distanced
itself from the united Khoja community to proclaim itself as Sunni Khoja
Jamaat. A decade later, another group emerged as Shia Ithna-Asheri Khoja
A Khoja converting to any religion still remains a Khoja. While practicing their
specific beliefs, all three groups, Ismaili, Sunni and Ithna-Asheri groups
retained their Khoja identity.
Two more groups from Gujarat (India) to be converted to Islam at around the
same period as the early Khoja were however not classified as Khoja.
Those converts who originated from the Lohana tribe were known as 'Khoja'.
There are groups that are not different from the Khoja “either culturally or in
terms of religious doctrines, but nonetheless are not Khoja, i.e. Momnas,
Kunbis or Shamsis. These subgroups are converts from non Lohana casts.” 10
Among theses groups also, there are adherents of the Ismaili, Sunni and Ithna-
Momna converts to Shia Ithna-Asheri faith organised themselves as “Shia
Ithna-Asheri Momin Jamaat” in Gujarat (India) and in Karachi (Pakistan).
Individuals from the Momin Jamaat who settled in Africa and later moved on
to the West are fully assimilated with the Khoja community.
Another group from the same areas of Gujarat to be converted to Islam was that
of the Mustali Ismaili. They are now better known as Dawoodi Bohra. Unlike
the Nizari Ismaili in India, the Mustali Ismaili converts were not classified as
Common to all migrant communities, as soon as they leave their protective
environments, because of their small number and widespread dispersal, they
begin to disintegrate. Their distinct ethnic entities are put to test. They are
forced to make choices. Khoja migrants to the West fall within this category.
They have an option to retain their identity in some loose form provided they
broaden their outlook and adapt to the current realities.
The second option for them is to become part of the larger and dominant
western society where many of them now live and strive to make their
ideological impact therein as practicing Muslims and not necessarily as Khoja
Failure to recognize the inevitable trends amount to risk degenerating and
disappearing in time by holding on to the old ways of doing things - especially
in managing the next generation.
HISTORY OF MINORITIES
This is the historical outcome of all minorities coming in contact with dominant
cultures, traditions and societies. Where they lack supportive community
organizations, the poor integrate into the mainstream more readily for they feel
they have nothing to look up to for protection. The middle classes survive
longer because they have their wealth to protect them. Mauritius, Malaysia, Fiji,
and the West Indies are examples of such Indian (dis)integration.
USA is another stark example of the fate that befell African Muslims from West
Africa who were initially brought in as slaves. A similar fate also befell a large
community of Arabs who settled in North and South America after the first
World War, 1914-1918.
Commenting on my initial draft paper circulated to some friends in February
this year, I received a letter from a friend who graphically illustrates the
problem affecting the Arab and Irani communities settled in North America.
“I fully concur with your observation about the radical
transformation and loss of identity in North America of
Iranians, Iraqis and Lebanese. A few years ago I visited a
place in North America and attended a funeral of an Iranian
doctor. As usual, it was Khoja who performed all the
funeral rites. I just could not believe what I saw and that
experience really gave me a jolt. The behaviour and the
dress of the Iranian men and women were typically those
that you normally see at a funeral in a Church. For once I
thought I was in a Church gathering facing a very
expensive coffin when I conducted Salatul Mayyit in a
hired Church hall. At the grave yard, the doctor's son
reinforced my bewilderment. He could not even read Surah
Al-Fatihah on his father's grave and I had to literally read
it and ask him to repeat after me. A member of our
community told me afterwards that such was the sad state
of affairs in that country. He painted a pretty bleak picture
of the Lebanese youth whose parents settled there about 50
years ago. He told me that nothing Islamic or Lebanese
remained about them.” 11
Situation in mainland Europe and also in the British Isles is not too dissimilar.
A study of the North African Arabs settled in France and of Lebanese settled in
West Africa and Australia and in other parts of Europe and also of Irani,
Afghans, Turks, Bangaleshis, Indians, Pakistanis, West Africans and
Malayasians will be equally revealing.
As an immigrant community settled in the West, how well does the small Khoja
Shia Ithna-Asheri community fare today It would be unfortunate for the
community to operate with an “ostrich” mentality under the notion that because
of their community structures, they could possibly remain immune to the
environmental influences. What affected other communities could indeed affect
them too. Time has a tendency of taking a heavy toll on the unawares.
As a distinct Indian community that came into existence within the last one and
a half century, Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community does not appear to have
recovered fully from its birth pangs. About to step into adolescence and venture
out of the sheltered nursery of the home based Indian environment, the
community, constrained by its limited number, has undergone traumatic
experiences one after the other.
Emerging initially as a group within sheltered, Indian, caste based society, they
were restricted to the narrow confines of Cutch, Kathiawad, Gujarat, Mumbai,
Karachi, and in parts of Sindh. From mid nineteenth century, economic realities
compelled many among them to venture out to settle in Africa and on the
Ostracized by the larger Khoja community because of their doctrinal differences,
they suffered from the effects of social and economic boycott practiced against
them by their immediate cousins as they strived to structure themselves as an
alternative organized community based on their faith.
Displaced again from India at the time of partition in 1947, many sought shelter
in Pakistan. From 1960 onwards, they were to be uprooted once more from
Africa and partly also from Pakistan, in what until then, looked like their
alternative mother lands after India. Many families were thus to be displaced
from Africa and from India and Pakistan to be scattered in different parts of the
world. In the process, many lost touch with their close relatives. They also
began to lose their mother tongue, Cutchi and Gujarati.
With the loss of language, over a period of time, much of their cultural heritage
also ended up being diluted.
An attempt at reviewing the psychosis of the Khoja emotive drive in this
context would provide for some fascinating revelations.
Recalling their early emergence as a distinct Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri
community, their innate sense of insecurity made them strive to improve their
economic circumstances and also their educational standards. At one stage in
1880's, they were described as the “least organized Asian community in
Africa.” 12 In order to acquire a sense of self esteem and respectability, they
worked hard, against many odds, to structure themselves as an organized
community. At the same time, in keeping with the Indian cultural heritage, they
clung to a wide range of traditions and ritualistic forms ostensibly in the good
name of religion that could not be explained away easily. This early background
would continue to influence much of their thinking for long.
Indian communities settled in Africa operated in a make believe replication of
the Indian communal based societies with all their ethnic based outlook and
practices. Call it tolerance or political expediency, colonial masters in Africa
assisted in perpetuating their Indian heritage as it fitted into the wider imperial
strategy of promoting racial segregation. South Africa, Rhodesia and Kenya,
among other Colonial territories in Africa provide many examples.
The Ithna-Asheri Khoja community is an offshoot from amongst the followers
of the Aga Khan Ismaili Khoja Community. In order to practice their faith freely,
those among them professing to practice the Shia Ithna-Asheri faith were
obliged to severe their links with close family connections as they disassociated
themselves with the hereditary leadership of the Aga Khan as their temporal and
spiritual leader. Instead of one “Aga Khan” as their central icon, they soon
acquired scores of symbolic “Agas” and pseudo mini “Agas” also, minus the
socio-spiritual hold of a pontificating “Aga Khan.”
While he was still in Iran, the 46th Ismaili Imam Hassan Ali Shah was
appointed Governor of Kirman and was given the title of 'Agha Khan' by Qajaar
ruler of the time. “Henceforth Hassan Ali Shah became generally known Agha
Khan Mahallati and the title of Agha Khan remained hereditary amongst the
successors, the Nizari Imams of the modern times” 13 Aga Khan Mahallati is
also known as Agha Khan I.
Persian language known as 'Farsi' is a flowery language. Apart from the
honorific title, the word “Aga” or more appropriately, “Agha,” is commonly
used in Iran when individuals address another male person. Women are
addressed as “Khanum.”
The word “Agha” could be loosely translated as “Respected Gentleman”. The
nearest similarity in English language would be the use of prefix “Sir” when
individuals deferentially address an elder.
Towards the latter part of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the
twentieth century, Irani Ulema and Seyyed coming to Africa and India were
thus, in keeping with the Irani tradition, respectfully addressed as 'Agha'
followed by the respective names of the individuals. With the passage of time,
among Khoja, the word “Agha” came to be associated with Ulema or Sadaat.
Indian Ulema and Sadaat coming to Africa were also deferentially referred to
With this background in mind, an amusing incident is recounted of a young
Khoja lad from Africa on his first visit to Iran. The inquisitive young man was
astonished to notice all Irani males addressing each other with the prefix of
“Agha” and loudly wondered if all Irani were indeed learned Ulema qualified
to be called Agha! To the young man, only turban wearing Ulema and Seyyed
qualified to be called Agha. The sight of commoners freely using the prefix in
addressing each other was perplexing to him.
This outlook, compounded by the ingrained complexes inherited from the age
old Indian, class prone system and the history of their past association as
followers of the Aga Khan at times coloured their outlook in life.
Has their wandering in search of greener pastures ended for them to finally
settle down and assimilate fully within their adopted environments
At times a question that haunts people is whether fate has some more wandering
in store for them The post 9/11 and post 7/7 anti Muslim backlash witnessed
in North America and Europe are pointers towards gathering storm over the
horizon. Evolving international scene cast further shadow in this context.
This migratory history affects many communities who have undergone similar
experiences. It gives rise to a mentality of 'rootedness,' where no place is
considered a permanent home. Their response then is to devise mental formulas
of the host countries/communities as different or even backward, in order to
retain their 'purity.' This is how Indian, Arab and European immigrants behaved
KHOJA MIGRATORY PATTERNS
Phase (1) 17th Century Gujarat
Phase (2) – Mid 18th Century To : Bombay (Mumbai) & Karachi
Phase (3) – late 18th / early 19th Century
To : Iran coast, Oman, Yemen, Burma
Phase (4) – 1820 onwards To : Zanzibar,
also 1840 & 1860 To : Madagascar
Phase (5) – 1860 onwards Into East Africa
Phase (6) – 1947 + 1960 onwards - more dispersals
In the West, eastern immigrant communities may behave somewhat differently.
Many among them suffer from some form of inferiority complexes arising out
of the legacy of their colonial past. While they were in Africa, during colonial
days, Asian immigrant communities would discriminate against the indigenous
people of African origin. At the same time they would sheepishly tolerate all
forms of discrimination practiced against them by their colonial masters and the
Europeans settlers in Africa. Even after independence of the African territories,
this mentality persists to a variable degree.
For the immigrants, at the back of their minds there is always a nagging fear
that should circumstances compel, they need to be ready for the next move out.
In managing their communities, there is a mob psychology at work as well -
keep the community tightly bound to a structured set up they have known so far
and to the few leaders and rich members of the society in some form of
different/puristic religious and cultural bond. This could be true of all
communities in similar circumstances. This mentality applies also to Khoja
The recurring question of great concern for the Khoja community, especially
for those settled in the West is whether their progeny would survive as
practicing Muslims fifty years from now. It is this concern that has made them
hold on to the preservation of their Khoja identity - an outlook that has served
them well in sustaining their faith over the past century.
However, increasingly, the new generation born and bred in the West is
questioning what they perceive as narrow-mindedness and insularity of the old
guard in the community who insist upon retaining the social and cultural ethos
and modus operandi which has worked well for the community in Africa and in
the India sub continent so far. Younger generation, born in the West develop a
sense of belonging to their places of abode. They do not have lingering of any
sentimental leanings noticed among their parents now living in the West.
It is interesting to observe here that among the former East African residents of
Indian origin from different communities now living in the West, there are
many who would not wish to be introduced as “overseas Indians”. They would
rather be called as overseas East Africans, Tanzanian, Ugandans or Kenyans.
Indians in East Africa are said to have been once described by Nehru, the first
Prime Minister of India as "a bit of East and a bit of West, and at home in
In an Africana discussion forum (September, 12, 2008) Ramnik Shah of Surrey,
England, makes an interesting observation in this context.
"After three generations, the Hindu Lohana community in East
Africa has developed a unique self-determined combination of
Swahili, European, and South Asian elements. This community
does not identify with the Indian diaspora nor with the culture of
their ancestors in India. Their home is Africa and their outlook is
'international.' Whether we agree with this assertion or not, the
fact remains that there is some basis for his analysis of how the
Lohanas, and by analogy and extension, other Indian subcommunities
in East Africa have transformed themselves into a
somewhat different species.”
To what extent does this description of the Lohana community apply also to
members of the Khoja community With this background in mind it is not
therefore difficult to comprehend how would youngsters born and bred in the
West feel, two to three generations down the line.
Thus it is against this background of balancing out the nervousness of the older
members of the community and the concerns of the younger generation that call
for attention. Torn between the pressures of integration and influence of alien
cultures on the one hand and the struggle for the maintenance and survival of
tradition and identity of the community on the other, historical legacy and
identity of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community emerges as an important
That they may ultimately lose much
of their cultural base and also their
current ethnic identity, especially in
the West, is understood and
grudgingly accepted. A similar trend,
at a relatively slower pace is noticed
in Africa and to some extent in
Pakistan and India also. Here they
appear to be resigned to the
inevitable - though too proud to
admit. Like the proverbial Ostrich
they appear to be in a state of denial.
Like the proverbial Ostrich
they appear to be in a state of denial
In terms of ensuring survival of their faith, they appear to be somewhat
confused and uncertain as to the best way forward. They are afraid to recognize
and identify the dangers posed in this context. With an escapist attitude, they
are hesitant to discuss the issues freely. Instead, they are inclined to indulge in
pious platitudes while hoping for mother 'luck' to sustain them.
In their current approach and in managing their community affairs, do they
sufficiently recognize the challenges that lie ahead for them
In my paper - “Case for Survival” - submitted to NASIMCO on 20th January,
1999, I made following observations.
“To analyze this question, let us study the following “Generation Chart” and
ask ourselves a few more questions.
“(1) Why, when, and where, did we first emerge as a Community”
“(2) Why, if at all, should we concern ourselves to work towards the retention
and further development of the Community in its present form”
“Are we succeeding in our current endeavors What could happen, if we
cease to exist as such”
“(3) What are our ideals in life and what is our vision for the type of society
that we wish to evolve for our progeny”
“(4) Having agreed upon the vision for the type of society we wish to evolve
for our progeny in North America, what are we doing positively to
achieve this objective”
“For people in the right age bracket, they can easily look back at the past fifty
years and recall their childhood memories. The question is how well can we
look ahead and try to visualize the period and the shape of things to come
during the next 50 years A look at the following chart may help to focus our
attention to crystallize the concept.”
“ What we do today and how we now go about evolving our
society will go a long way in shaping the destiny for our progeny,
five to six generations down the line.”
“A youth in the age category “D”, “E” and “F” today, will have a
great role to play in shaping the destiny of the succeeding
generations and a heavy burden of responsibility in this context
will eventually rest on their shoulders. The question one needs to
ask here is: “Do I feel confident with the upbringing of my own
children within this age bracket How do I feel about their
outlook, understanding and behavior If I feel satisfied with their
development so far, then there is hope for my offspring to live up
to my expectations 50 years from today. On the other hand, if, for
any reason, I feel concerned or somewhat unhappy with the
current state, outlook and development of my children in the age
category “D”, “E” and “F”, and somehow, I do feel that they do
not quite measure up to my expectations for the type of children I
would ideally wish them to be, what are the prospects for my
progeny in the category “G”, 50 years from today”
“Primary crucial role of individual parents and influence of
respective family-life environment are generally recognized. It is
only appropriate to ask here how supportive, relevant and
effective is the collective role of the society, operating as a
structured Community as we continue to gravitate around its everloosening
fold. In this context it is only appropriate to ask how
relevant and effective are the local Jamaats, regional Federations
and the World Federation as umbrella bodies in moulding
progressive thought process”
Above all, there is need to query how appropriate, relevant and effective are the
people who wield influence in the development of thought process in our
society, i.e. the elected leaders, behind the scene power barons, vocal influence
peddlers, the Ulema and religious leaders of diverse statures.
A follow up question calls for attention. Who elected the leaders we now tend
to hold responsible for any shortcomings Who elevated and tolerated the
power barons and influence peddlers whom we now decry Here, a serious
question mark hangs over the role of the otherwise docile silent majority.
Khumar Barabankvi, an Urdu poet has commented on the role of the silent
majority in these words:
- Jafao.n pe ghut ghut ke chup rehne waalo,
- Khamoshi jafa ki ta'eed hi to hai.
- O those, (who, despite their gut feelings) opt to remain silent over the
- Your silence amounts to condoning the wrongful acts.
Members of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community who number not more
than 110,000 all over the world trace their origin from Gujarat (India) and Sindh
(Pakistan). They are also known as Gujarati/Cutchi/Sindhi speaking Khoja.
Almost half this number continues to reside between India and Pakistan. An
almost equal number are dispersed in different parts of the world.
Those remaining in the Indian sub continent are facing additional challenges
peculiar to their local environments.
Outside the Indo-Pak sub continent, wherever Khoja settled, they formed local
communities and tried to operate under the umbrella of democratically run
structured organizations known as “Jamaat.” In developing such institutions,
they have always adopted an apolitical stance focusing only on economic,
social and religious wellbeing of the local communities. In this they have been
careful as a community not to be drawn into or influenced by nationalistic
trends emanating from their countries of origin. With this approach, at times
they have been accused of being too localized in their outlook to the extent of
virtually severing their links with their compatriots in other parts of the world.
Leaders of the Community have always advised the membership to opt for local
nationality and to owe their allegiance to the countries of their abode. Such has
been their approach wherever they settled, be it in Africa, Europe or in North
America. This outlook has served them well. Despite being a very small
community scattered widely in the East African territories, during the colonial
and post-colonial independent Africa, members of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri
community domiciled in various African countries have produced various
individuals of standing in local public life. Among them they have produced
Councilors and Mayors in local Governments; as members of the Colonial
Legislative Council and East African Legislative Assembly; as members of post
independent Parliaments and as assistant Ministers; as members of the
Government appointed public Commissions and as heads of the state run public
organizations; as Judges of the Industrial Court and the appellate Court and also
as Ambassadors. In Pakistan, they have produced Ministers in the Federal
Government and Senator in Pakistan Parliament. 14
For the current trends among the community members settled in Europe and in
North America, this is what I have written in an epilogue to my forthcoming
book “The Endangered Species” – a review of the evolution of the Khoja Shia
Ithna-Asheri Muslim Community.
During my visits to North America, I would ask my grandchildren in New York
and in Toronto what they aspired to be in life. While each one outlined a
preference for careers of their choice, my ten year old grandson from Toronto
snapped back with a very confident response: “Prime Minster!” When asked to
explain if he knew what it meant to be Prime Minister of Canada, his response
was: “Yes. Like President of America.”
The outlook of the growing North American youths can be further illustrated
with following examples which I personally experienced.
In 1996, I took my four grandchildren on a trip for 'Umra' and 'Ziayart'. While
in Iran, they encountered the usual chant, “Marg bar America”. In response to
a query as to what it meant, before I could respond, an elder grandson from
Canada, pointing towards his American cousins, teasingly commented that it
meant “Death to you American.” My nine year old grandson from New York
was visibly agitated as a result. He stood up and shaking his clenched fist,
yelled back: “Nooo. I am American”, much to the confusion of the Iranis
Another incident observed was during the World Cup football match between
Iran and the United States in 1998. Iran was leading after half time by 2 goals
to 1. My grandchildren in New York, who were watching the game on
Television along with their parents, soon lost interest in the game. One after the
other, quietly they started retiring to their bedrooms. When told by their parents
that after all it was only a game and anything could happen until the last minute,
their response was: “Yes, we know it is only a game. But America is losing!”
As Americans, it was too hard for them to accept defeat! This happened in two
distinctly separate homes. In Britain, similar reaction is noticed among Asian
youths. During cricket matches between England and India or Pakistan, they
are resolutely cheering the English team.
Many young Muslims, men and women, have been fully integrated into the
European and North American societies. They include a healthy number from
among members of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri communities who can trace
their settlement in the West to not more than forty years. Apart from a variety
of professions they have specialized in, many have acquired respectable
positions in the corporate world. Others have joined the public services, in the
academia and in scientific fields. Some have acquired religious training to fill
the roles as home grown local religious leaders. Some may join the armed
forces as a G.I., or be accepted in Sandhurst or the West Point as Officer Cadets.
Already a few have joined political parties and are active in local politics in the
U.K., Canada and the U.S.A. There are few who have also acquired positions
in local public life. In years to come it would not be surprising to see individuals
from the Community who are elected as members of local Councils and even
as members of Parliaments or as Congressmen and Senators. In their outlook
and devotion to duty, youngsters born in the West operate as indigenous, loyal,
British, American or Canadian citizens. For a small community of just over
110,000 individuals spread out in different parts of the world, the Community
can look upon such promising individuals with a sense of pride and satisfaction.
Election of President of Obama as President of the United States of America has
fried the imagination of youngsters everywhere. It also speaks well of the
American system at the same time for the degree of maturity and tolerance
displayed by the electorate. If a Kenyan of African decent born in America can
become President of the United States, there is no reason why our children
cannot similarly assimilate fully into the local societies and aspire for the
highest office. That is how our children are thinking. We need to recognize and
encourage such outlook.
Common with all immigrant societies, while evolving local communities in the
West, they feverishly strived to re-live their cultural past as they struggled to
replicate the customs, traditions and practices they have known in the Indo-Pak
sub continent and in Africa as the only model for the way forward.
A common phenomenon with members of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri
Community is that (and this could be true of many other communities also)
while trying to survive as a community they have been generally conservative
in their outlook and slow to recognize the need for change in keeping with the
times. As a result, they have often been slow in initiating plans to evaluate
emerging trends and work towards evolving reforms that would at the same
time help to safeguard and entrench their values, for which they came into
existence as a distinct community. Arising out of the fear of the unknown, this
reticence on their part has often led to reactionary attitudes.
Vocal elements purporting to be holier than thou, driven by their sanctimonious
attitudes and the assertive rich and influential members of the society at times
have no qualms in flexing their muscles as they expediently join forces to assert
the beleaguered self with their narrow perspectives and short term objectives.
Consequently, the community has often failed to manage or moderate reforms
to introduce timely changes for their own good.
A dispassionate review of all changes that have come about in the community
over the past century in their social, religious and customary practices and
outlook will illustrate the point. One could end up with some startling
revelations that many such reforms and changes have slowly crept into the
fabric of the society either by accident, compulsion or filtered through the
windows and cracks in the walls of a passive group watching helplessly. A
closer review of the related developments over the past fifty years, which will
be easier to recall, will provide some graphic details.
For example, until the early 1950's, the community in Africa and also in the
Indo-Pak sub-continent widely tended to equate family planning to abortion, as
it is still so considered by many Muslim sections in different parts of the world.
A similar view prevailed over life insurance which was equated to a form of
speculative trade or gambling and considered forbidden. Until the points were
cleared in the mid 1950's, many among those who practiced family planning or
took out life insurance before that did so with a 'guilt' conscience.
On the question of education, female education was basically restricted to
primary education. Secondary education for girls was only encouraged in
domestic science and related courses. Girls were not allowed to drive vehicles
or work in offices.
Lacking in analytical review in devising
educational and social policies for the community,
the society, led often by elected leaders least suited
to head the various departments, ended up reaping
a harvest of unknown and unmanaged changes
across a broad front - at times with no holds
barred. Here they were paying the price of
practicing democracy with abandon. While vocal
elements often called the tune, the silent majority
opted to remain as passive spectators. Apathy
could be a recipe for disaster. That related
decisions made in the name of the community would affect them too is often
lost on the silent majority.
It is now common to see girls driving and taking up employment. At the same
time, the concept of hijab has gained wider acceptance and momentum, albeit,
with adaptations for a liberal modern touch!
FEMALE HIGHER EDUCATION
Many girls are now acquiring higher education. In many cases girls are viewed
to be more intellectually inclined and brighter than the boys. For variable
reasons, this is a general tendency everywhere.
In their enthusiasm to acquire higher education, many girls hastily opt for
careers which, for various reasons, they are unable to sustain in the long run.
For many, complexities arise when they recognize that careers they have chosen
are after all not to their liking or suitable for them in practical life. Additional
complexities arise also after matrimony with a clash of interest over family
Matrimonial disputes arise where women are encouraged to work outside and
become bread earners while the traditional male chauvinistic attitudes prevent
males from sharing in domestic chores. People wish to live in the West and
adopt western life styles, but are reluctant to let go of the ingrained eastern
attitudes towards women. Issues of this nature contribute to increasing cases of
Issues related to career choice, especially for women, call for a detailed study
and constant review. Input from women sharing their practical experiences
would be of great help to the emerging younger generations. This trend is not
an exclusively Khoja experience. It is common with other communities also.
Children go to schools and attend Sunday classes where they develop friendship
across the sectarian, religious, racial and ethnic divide. They are not burdened
with the prejudices known to their parents. As a result, the ratio of intermarriage
where boys and girls from Khoja community marry into non-Khoja, Shia and
Sunni Communities of Indo-Pak origin, into Hindu and other non Muslim
societies and also across the racial divide with Arab, Persian and those of
European origin are not uncommon. This trend appears to be on the increase. This
is an issue that is often brushed under the carpet as people are reluctant to discuss
their long term sociological impact on the society.
From an Islamic point of view there could be no objection to intermarriage
where it does not compromise faith. The overall guiding principle is
compatibility and ultimate welfare of their progeny. Here, cultural dichotomy
comes into play in numerous forms. Obligations of parents towards their
progeny for inculcating spiritual values cannot be ignored.
Laudable progress has been made by the community in the economic and
educational spheres over the past fifty years. Besides, commendable structured
organizations have been evolved worldwide to manage their social and
Despite this progress, one often notices an air of despondency pervading where
the broad masses somehow tend to sense unidentified inadequacies. While they
recognize that they may be better placed than many other communities with
similar background, somehow they do not appear to be fully satisfied with the
way the community functions. They yearn for more reforms and changes.
Something where they expect of some invisible hands to emerge that would
undertake the task on their behalf in which they, with typical 'silent majority'
attitude, would not come forward to soil their hands!
There is a silent tussle going on between those who advocate for reforms and
forces that are content with the maintenance of the status quo for re-living their
past. In this silent tussle, stifling intellectual consideration, propelled by
emotions and distracted by the trivia, society often finds itself adrift like a
rudderless ship on high seas.
Among Muslim societies across North America, certain traditionalist oriented
centers are satirically dubbed as “Home Sick Masjid” or “Home Sick Mehfils.”
Within this framework many Khoja Centers can also be classified.
For imparting Islamic education to children, Sunday classes or Sunday
Madrasah are operating with variable degree of success. Voluntary teachers
devoting their time and energy are doing commendable work. Society owes a
debt of gratitude to them.
Overall environment in the West is not conducive to the development of
Islamic values and ethos. Peer pressure outside the home provide for negative
effect. To entirely depend on Sunday classes or the Jamaat institution only to
impart Islamic education to children would be asking for too much.
Role of the family life and the amount of quality time parents can devote to
their children is crucial in this context. For children to grow up as practicing
Muslims in the West, parents have first to set an example in their home
environment with set standards. Families need to cultivate an atmosphere at
home that nurtures learning and practice of Islamic values. Negligence on the
part of parents in cultivating core values at early stages is often reflected in later
lives. Loosening of family bonds in the long run are pointers in this direction.
There is no short cut to success. Already, we are witnessing diminishing
contacts between once closely knit families living in the same area. To stave off
the malady of isolationist tendencies, efforts need to be made to develop and
cement ties with other Muslim communities for our own betterment.
Much has been written by experienced and learned scholars. It would be well
worth for Muslim families living in the West to study at least two books that
address relevant questions with clarity and frankness.
“In Fraternity - A Message to Muslims in America”
by Hassan Hathouth, Ph.D., M.D., Fathi Osman, Ph.D., Maher Hathouth, M.D.,
published by the Minaret Publishing House, The Islamic Center of South
“A Young Muslim's Guide to the Modern World”
by: Syed Hossein Nasr.
Published by Kazi Publication. Chicago.
Having settled in the West, many parents proclaim that their main purpose of
settling in the West has been to educate their children. What youths often fail to
recognize is that many parents have struggled hard and undergone many
hardships to achieve this objective.
Educated youths born and bred in the West at the same time feel that having
acquired higher education, elders are not generally prepared to listen to their
views and involve them effectively in community affairs for evolving policies
and approaches. This is essential for a smooth transition in passing over the
baton to the younger generation.
As a result, a growing sense of disenchantment is emerging everywhere
amongst the educated youths who consequently tend to run shy of the
community. This is glaringly reflected in their poor attendance at various
community functions and at the general meetings of the Jamaat. What this
portends for the future is a moot question that cannot be taken lightly. A cynical
view held by some youngsters that a “Jamaat is a special type of institution run
by its own inmates” calls for some soul searching.
HARNESSING TALENTS AND POTENTIALS
Running of Jamaat institutions is viewed as being too cumbersome and taxing
on those who volunteer to serve, consuming much of their time and energies.
This reality often discourages young professionals, recently married and with
children to bring up. They cannot afford to spare enough time away from their
families and their jobs to devote in the service of the community with their
longwinded meetings and fruitless debates.
To a variable degree, Jamaats in the West appear to be operating in similar
manner as they used to operate in Africa or in the Indo-Pak sub-Continent. In
order to attract younger generations of the educated professionals in community
services, a more pragmatic approach will have to be devised.
There is need for some form of continuity where experienced personnel are
replaced in phases and not overthrown completely as it often happens in
elections. To groom youngsters into community service, a system could be
devised whereby young professionals are enlisted for specific tasks for a given
period of time. Having accomplished their task, they can exercise the option to
step back or volunteer their services for additional assignments. This will
provide youngsters exposure to community work and gain experience in the
process. It will also provide them with a sense of involvement, belonging and
ownership that is so crucial to the development of a vibrant society. In the
process, it may also help to instill fresh outlook overall. Such policies are better
devised in consultations with the younger generation.
Elders need to recognize the fact that many of them before settling in the West
had no experience or track record in community service. Yet, out of necessity,
many individuals have successfully emerged as community leaders, as religious
leaders leading congregational prayers, delivering sermons and teaching in
Sunday Schools. Some of them have also proved themselves effective social
workers. Lacking in first hand experience in community service while they
were in Africa or in the Indian sub continent, elders could recall and draw from
the experience of others in what they had seen in their places of origin and adapt
to local environments.
By the same token, it is to be recognized that their offspring, born and bred in
the West, lacking in any exposure of the cultural environments from where their
parents came from can be classified as products of the "bifurcation of cultures"
i.e., Indo/East African Khoja and now to Indo/East African, British/European,
American/Canadian, Australian etc., Khoja blend! As a result they are often
unable to understand and relate to outlook promoted by their parents which they
sometimes find alien.
A great challenge faces elders on this score. It calls for understanding,
tolerance, compassionate and loving approach in moulding younger generations
in understanding and appreciating ingrained values and cultural background
that elders wish to inculcate. A domineering approach by elders leads to
disenchantment and even rebellion. This has to be avoided.
An important economic aspect is often overlooked here. Among the new breed
of young professionals, there are many who earn six figures and above. When
this segment of the society distances itself from involving in community affairs,
they do not feel an urge to contribute towards community funds. Some well
meaning youngsters end up being exploited by sweet talking 'Smart Alecs'
promoting pet projects where accountability is never queried.
The community will always remain grateful to many philanthropists from
among the successful business families who have, over the years, contributed
generously to the community projects. It is a unique culture of donating and
creating endowments in the form of 'Trust' and 'Waqf' that the community can
be justly proud of.
At the same time this emerging additional potential source cannot be ignored.
If professional youngsters get increasingly involved, they have a great potential
to play positive role in the development of the community. Once actively
involved, they will acquire a sense of ownership and will thus be more inclined
to provide financial support also. Apart from the additional financial input that
this segment of the society can provide, professional expertise that they will
bring along will provide for some fresh air and open up new avenues for the
community without any one promoting personal agendas.
For the community settled in the West, a general complaint against a section of
the migrants from Africa is that they tend to consider themselves as an elitist
group who wittingly or otherwise discriminate against their compatriots from
India and Pakistan. This attitude, taken to its logical conclusion two generations
down the line would give rise to parochial tendencies where people living in
North America would end up viewing themselves as superior to or different
from those living in Europe, Africa and the Indian sub continent, not
withstanding the fact that after all, they all originate from the same source.
The East African Khoja on the other hand complain of their Indo-Pakistani
brothers as being too traditionalists and not amenable to adaptations. Do East
Africans feel too insecure within themselves to cling only to their own limited
circles is a question that is often asked
An interesting observation made about the state of the Muslim communities in
the West is that many Muslim Community centers, Masjids, Mehfils are
established by well meaning individuals, among them either Ulema or wealthy
families who set up endowments. Unlike in the Khoja Community, where all
such Trusts and Waqf are held in the name of the Jamaat or the community
membership, majority of such centers established by the Indo-Pakistani,
Afghan, Arab and Irani communities are held in the name of individual
founders or private Trusts. The Boards of Directors or the Boards of Trustees
appointed are widely viewed as decorative figures with little effective say in
formulating policies. It is the founders who are the effective owners of the place
and who ultimately dictate policy and management.
This trend, has been widely practiced in the Indo-Pak subcontinent, much to
the disadvantage of the local communities. For whatever reasons, similar
practice is now followed in the West also by certain factions. In the process, it
is becoming increasingly fashionable as others also try emulate them. Despite
their best intentions in promoting pet projects, in applying such individualistic
attitudes, they often fail to draw lessons from the past. In the process, they
remain oblivious of the possibility of long-term adverse effect. In terms of
social services to the community, overall organization and management, the
plight of the Muslim and especially the Shia communities in India and Pakistan
today will help illustrate the point.
We live in the world that has progressed faster in the last 20 years than at
anytime in history. The changing world has actually brought us closer together
and made us part of the most diverse society as one large community.
Pragmatism calls for collective endeavours in planning and application. That
would take us a long way in fulfilling our needs and in effectively reaching out
to the needy. In so doing the community can become stronger to meet the
requirements of the time and at the same time abide by the laws of the land and
maintain dignity and honour.
A painful scenario here is of little co-ordination among various Islamic centers
despite espousing common faith and common ideals. Many such centers,
among the wider Indo-Pakistani-Bangladeshi communities have emerged as a
result of friction or disputes and end up being at loggerheads with each other.
Similarly Arab and Irani centers operate with their nationalistic leanings. More
often than not, there is growing rivalry and competition between the
protagonists of such centers to the detriment of the overall long term interest of
the wider community. Here, the Khoja, despite their limitations, stand out as a
unique community operating on democratic principles and with transparency
and open accountability. This innate realization among the Khoja and their
desire to hold on to their outlook at times tend to play negative role towards
their progressive involvement across the ethnic, linguistic and racial divide.
With parochial outlook gaining momentum everywhere, in North America, Europe,
Africa, the Arabian Gulf, and also in the Indo-Pak sub continent, all for different
reasons, are they missing out on the bigger picture A comment received from a
seasoned Khoja social worker is revealing: “The more I interact with the wider
society the more I realize how entrapped we are in our cocoon and how badly we
suffer from a chip on our shoulder that we are superior.”
While this assessment may be hotly disputed by some people, what are the long-term
ramifications of the prevalent outlook How would such outlook affect the cohesion
of this miniscule Khoja community globally in years to come
In Africa during 1950's the concept of 'purdah' or 'hijab' was gradually
diminishing. In the Indo-Pak sub continent it was not widely practiced in urban
centers. In the aftermath of the post Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, the
concept of hijab gained wider acceptance throughout the Muslim world. It also
became increasingly fashionable.
In the West, today, the concept of hijab, unlike the traditional head to toe
covering of the type widely used in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Somalia is
reduced to a head scarf only while the dress code has acquired a 'modern,
western, practical touch'. The Quranic call of - “yaghuddhu min ubsarikum”
and “yaghuddhuna min ubsarikum” - (24:30 and 31) -'lower your gaze' -
applicable to men and women, appear to have been mostly forgotten.
Pragmatism has made 'permissible' what at one stage was considered
For the armchair detractors, a common apologetic lament is to blame the lack
of good leadership in the community for all shortcomings.
What good leadership is and how could such good leadership be acquired at
local, regional and at global levels are questions that are seldom debated.
Good or popular leadership at local Jamaat levels are viewed only in the context
of the past - what they have known before - masjid, majlis, nyaz, sports,
expensive marriage practices incorporating the best and the worst of both
eastern and western traditions, - keep everyone busy and occupied with
innovative traditional practices and ritualistic pursuits. Petty bourgeois,
collecting toys like cars and household appliances, in order to keep up with the
Joneses, chewing 'paan' or 'mavo', or 'qat', smoking ‘shisha’, eating out,
engaging in Jamaat politics plus indulging in the easiest pastime of all -
'community bashing' - are the occupations that keep all and sundry preoccupied.
As soon as one has made quick money, individuals seek recognition by taking
sides. Often the two “R's” - the 'rich' and the effervescent or overtly 'religious'
- find it convenient to join forces to entrench their hegemony over the gullible
society in a spirit of the Farsi saying: 'Too mara Qazi beguyam. Mun tora Haji
begu.' - You call me Qazi while I call you Haji.
Corporate outlook in collective planning and application with specialized input
based on merits are often trampled upon as egocentric attitudes gain
ascendancy. Some factions try to register their identity by always damning all
that is in the unknown. Others relish in criticizing the West without
understanding why - though they would not opt to return to their countries of
origin, forsaking the western comforts and security to face local music. This is
the mob psychology that propels individuals around the community with its
ever loosening fold.
An overall atmosphere of mutual respect, tolerance and understanding has to be
cultivated to attract good capable leaders amongst members. Those who are
capable do not have the stomach for pettiness and personal attacks. (Both
antithesis to Islamic values.)
This lament of poor leadership, oft repeated, tends to underscore the need to
recognize the inherited psychosis that people are hesitant to talk about. Until
this factor is adequately recognized and addressed, the drift currently witnessed
everywhere may continue unabated.
Dr. Hasnain Walji writing in a prologue to a capacity building document has
succinctly summed up the challenge we face in this direction.
“I can not help but vividly recall the profound words of Marhum
Mulla Asgher (RA), at the defining 1990 Conference on
Leadership, when he said that the leadership that espoused the
twin virtues of taqwa and adalah which the Community deserved,
would not 'drop from the sky' but would have to emerge from
within the Community. The capacity building program is the long
awaited vehicle to realize that vision.”
Success of the Khoja community in various spheres is greatly admired in many
circles. At the same time there are elements among some external forces that are
content to take the community for granted as good 'suckers'. They find the
community's attempt at collective planning, centralization and accountability
unpalatable as it tends to send out strong signals that raise questions for them in
their societies. Consequently such elements relish in maligning the community as
being too self-centered.
Because of the overall deferential attitude adopted by the Khoja towards others,
especially towards the Ulema and the Sadaat, some of them end up operating with
a 'class priesthood' mentality - a concept that in not necessarily in keeping with
Islamic outlook. Some elements from amongst such forces end up being too
patronizing in their dealings with members of the community. This situation is
further compounded by unfortunate elements from within the Khoja community
suffering from unrecognized mentality of blind subservience. Such elements have
no qualms in passively accepting and at times even encouraging external
blandishments. Some, from among such elements, appear to excel in the art of
community bashing without being constructive, as if they are ashamed to belong
to this community!
Was it in reference to such developments that Ayatollah Seestani cautioned the
community this year
During April, 2008, a group of 67 Zuwwar, ladies and gents, visited Ayatullah
Seestani in Najaf. I had the privilege to be in this group. Following notes made
of the meeting may interest readers and provide food for some thought.
- After courtesies, good wishes and dua, Ayatullah Seestani made
following observations directed towards the Khoja Community which
were translated into English.
- Complimented the Community for their organization and unity which was
looked upon with respect and was the envy of other Shia communities.
- Cautioned the community against forces that would rejoice to find
friction and division in the community and urged the community
members to be vigilant about such negative trends and strive to maintain
- While appreciating the fact the Khoja Community operated under a
democratic process, Ayatullah Seestani stressed that the overall objective
of the unity of the community and their desire to uphold their religion
and to promote religious education must be upheld regardless of the
democratic changes in the leadership of the community.
- Ayatullah Seestani stressed that he was disturbed by reports he was
receiving from different sources about the growing disputes and
disaffection emerging within the community. Some one present asked if
he was alluding to any particular development to which Ayatullah stated
that he was not going to discuss the specifics but was pained to hear such
news and cautioned the community members to pay heed to his advice.
- Ayatullah referred to the situation in Iraq stating that the situation had
somewhat improved with room for further improvement and urged
Zuwwar to remember the people of Iraq in their prayers.
On the question of the survival of our faith for our progeny, especially for those
living in the West, following excerpts from “In Fraternity” would provide food
for some thought.
Commenting on the situation of the immigrant Muslims settled in North
America, authors of “In Fraternity” make some interesting and sobering
“They are genuine, proud Americans aspiring to save, serve and
guide their country. But what will happen if they do not grow up
as Muslims and discard Islam as they leave the nest This is not
an apprehension but a fact that has been observed in many
• “Our children and grandchildren are our guaranteed
biological link with the future. But are they going to
be our Islamic progeny”
"Islam did not come to America only in our
generation. It came before, more than once, and
disappeared. It came with the slave trade as Muslims
were kidnapped from West Africa and shipped to
America to work on the plantations. Some of them
tried hard to cling to Islam, but the hostile
conditions and abhorrent treatment were too much
for their endurance and most of them lost their Islam
almost within one generation.”
• “In the period between and around the two world
wars, there was a sizable immigration to America
from the Middle East. The immigrants included
many Muslims. The goal of the migrants was to
secure a fortune in this land of plenty. Many of them
were quick to get rid of their Muslim identity. They
changed their names and those of their children.
They embraced the existing materialistically geared
social customs and norms.”
• “They did not care whether their new identity was in
tune with Islam or not. They were lost and their new
surroundings completely digested them. They
multiplied in numbers, but their descendents
remained completely outside the realm of Islam.
America now witnesses the third wave of Muslims.
It is a wave that runs into millions and includes
highly educated committed Muslims. Their presence
is already felt and growing.”
• “In the period between and around the two world
wars, there was a sizable immigration to America
from the Middle East and South Asia. "Will Islam
stay or will it disappear as happened before by the
end of this generation The answer entirely depends
on whether our children will or will not grow up as
• “In America, to stick to Islam runs against many
social norms, lifestyles and peer pressure. To retain
Islam our children have to be specially prepared.
They should be tought to swim against the current.
They need to know what to accept and what to reject
from a full spectrum of social and moral values. This
cannot be attained by chance. It requires a wellplanned,
intelligently executed and very broad
process of upbringing.”
Challenge 6 - Prepare Children
• “We cannot live Islam through yielding to our
environment. Nor can we depend on social
conditions to groom our youngsters as Muslims as is
the case in mother countries. In those countries it is
of little importance whether a person is observant of
Islam or not. The issue is whether Muslims are
aware that they are Muslims and know the Islamic
• “In America, to stick to Islam runs against many
social norms, lifestyles and peer pressure. To retain
Islam our children have to be specially prepared.
They should be taught to swim against the current.”
Challenge 7 - Build Institutions
• “In order to be a true representative of the divine
call, Muslim Americans must organize their
institutions and build up their centers with clarity of
vision. Islam is not an eastern ideology. It is a
universal religion. Islam is not an ancient cult but an
• “It might mean that the third wave of Muslims will
also break and vanish as the two previous waves did.
It might mean the current multi-million generation
of Muslims would prove infertile, living and dying,
but not leaving Muslims behind them. It might mean
that hundreds of Mosques built and under
construction will have to be sold some time in the
future for the lack of congregation.”
• “A major issue, indeed a serious one, the immigrant
Muslim American will face is: Did our decision to
come to America and make it our home result in a
wider acquaintance of more people with Islam, or
did it result in our own children getting out of Islam
- an outcome we could have avoided by staying back
Here the Khoja community may wish to recall their history in Africa. During
their stay in Uganda and Somalia for over century, for numerous reasons, they
failed to promote “wider acceptance” of the Shiite faith in Islam with the
indigenous local population. As a result, when Asians were forced to quit
Uganda in 1971 and from Somalia in 1991, there were no indigenous people to
look after their Mosques and to keep the faith alive. Belated success in
promoting the Shia faith in Uganda is as a result of the dedication and
enthusiasm displayed by indigenous Ugandans who had acquired training under
Maulana Zafar Abbas Malik at the Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya in
Mombasa. That history could repeat itself in any form in the West will be very
The philosophy under which the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Community came into
existence must never be forgotten. During the latter half of the nineteenth century,
they said good-bye to the ancestral regimented society and opted for a new vision
and a clear ideal to openly practice the Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim faith. They also
adopted democratic processes for managing their community affairs based on
equity, justice and open accountability. In pursuit of this ideal, the structures of the
Jamaat and the leaderships of the Jamaats and the Community as such are
supposed to be functioning as agents for the Imame Zamana (A.S) in working
towards evolving a just and equitable society.
The very basis of the emergence of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community
evolves around their faith. Without attempts at practicing and promotion of their
faith, mere survival of the community as an ethnic entity only is irrelevant. No
faith. No Community. No structured organizations. That is the bottom line every
individual member of the community has to bear in mind.
The Holy Quran is explicit on this score: “This is how we ordained you to be: a
people justly balanced that you be (a model) and a witness to others as the Prophet
is (a model) and witness to you.” (Ch.2: V.143).
Despite its proclaimed faith and the democratic process under which the
community operates, would it be wrong to state here that the lament of the poor
leadership underscores a deep seated spirit of the “old love die hard” mentality
In yearning for a firm hand to lead them down the dotted lines, is the community
betraying its faith and at the same time proclaiming its incompetence in selecting
the right caliber of leaders from among themselves and in committing their
sustained support to their chosen leaders
The Khoja community is passing through a critical phase in its history. Unless
community members recognize the challenges facing them and apply themselves
to grapple with the issues at hand with clarity of vision and enlightened approach,
fifty years down the line this community may end up losing much in terms of its
ethnic and religious identity, especially in the West.
The community has recognized that the Ulema and religious scholars serving the
communities are mostly moulded into the traditional regional outlook. These
Religious leaders are not specifically trained for and equipped to apply themselves
in relevant terms to meet the spiritual needs of the community settled in the West.
There is a universal consensus of opinion across the board on this score.
It is often left to the individual scholars to strive and adapt themselves to meet the
requirements of the communities they serve. There is no institutional approach in
producing Ulema suited for the specific needs of the diverse societies located in
different parts of the world.
The World Federation of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim Communities has
embarked upon an ambitious program with the setting up of the Islamic Institute
for Postgraduate Studies in Damascus. The Institute provides for traditional
Islamic teaching. Besides, the Institute is also linked to a recognized British
University. Those completing their education at the Damascus Institute will not
only receive traditional Islamic 'Hawza' degrees, they would, at the same time,
acquire MA degree from a British University.
The idea of this innovative project being that the graduates from the Institute
would be able to fulfill the role of a resident Aalim in any Jamaat, in addition to
having an opportunity at a later stage to join the academia for research and as
lecturers in Western Universities.
The project has received the
blessing and support from a number
of leading Ulema who have seen the
value of this approach. For
inexplicable reasons, there are
factions within the society that are
beating war drums against the
project. It is to be hoped that in not
too distant a future, within a decade
at the most, this innovative approach
promoted by the community will
soon be emulated elsewhere, in
Najaf and Qom also. When this
happens, it will be a proud legacy
bequeathed by the Khoja
community to the Shia world.
What is the way forward and what are the obligations of every individual member
of the community towards shaping the future of the community is a question that
needs to occupy our minds.
Time to reflect.
1 “Muslims on the Americanization Path” Edited by Yyonne Yazbeck
Haddad and John L.Espositio. Published in 2000 by Oxford University
Press, New York, 198 Madison Avenue, New York. 10016. p.3
2. Syed Ehtesham. “Pakistan Post”, New York. 17th January, 2008.
www.Paksitanpost.net. See “Life and Times of Pakistani Diaspora.
Understanding our sons and daughters.” Page 6.
3. History of the printing Press. Marshall McLuhan.
4. See also “Islam- a Short History” by Karen Armstrong, section under
“Ottoman Empire” Pages 113/114.
5. Husein Haqqani writing in his “Afterword” in “Chasing a mirage” by
Tarek Fatah. p.343
6. There are many voices advocating revival of the concept of Khilafat.
Among them, a leading Muslim Scholar from Pakistan, Dr. Israr Ahmed,
well known for his TV talk shows, is a strong advocate. Ardeshir
Cowasjee, writing in DAWN, Karachi, June, 30, 2008, refers to the
lingering aspirations of Nawaz Sharif. “The emerging Taliban is not as
worrying for Nawaz as his latent tendencies, going by his record, swing
towards the Taliban way of life. We must not forget his 15th 'ameer-ulmomineen'
amendment bill which luckily for us came to naught. We
must also never forget Nawaz's tampering with the judiciary during his
second round as prime minister. A very fine and precise narrative of the
events leading up to the storming of the Supreme Court on Nov 28, 1997
and how it evolved is given in Shuja Nawaz's book, Crossed Swords,
which should be on every shelf.”
Going back to 1920's, Jawed Naqvi makes a candid observation. “No
less a person than Mohandas Gandhi revealed early symptoms of this
nexus between liberal ideology and mediaeval worldview, when he
supported the Khilafat Movement to spur his anti-colonial campaign. He
thus worked overtime to endorse an anachronistic worldview whose time
was long over. That Muslim stalwarts like Kamal Ataturk and
Mohammed Ali Jinnah rejected the movement as undesirable in the new
social context is something that is not usually discussed or applauded by
the Indian state or its educational paraphernalia.” DAWN, July 28, 2008
from Jawed Naqvi column under the heading: How the state connives
with fanaticism, instead of fighting it
Naqvi, writing in DAWN, Karachi, July, 28, 2008.
7. Writing on: “How the state connives with fanaticism, instead of fighting
it” Jawed Naqvi, writing in DAWN, Karachi, July, 28, 2008.
“Their chances of finding a worthwhile vocation are further weakened
by a conviction that goes back to the discourse of Maulana Maudoodi.
The former Amir of Jamaat-i-Islami had told the Justice Munir
Commission in the 1950s, in the context of anti-Qadiani violence in
Pakistani Punjab, that non-Muslims should not be allowed to work for an
Islamic state and, conversely, Muslims in a secular (he said Kafir)
country like India should not be given jobs by the state there. He would
be happy if the Indian Muslims were treated instead like shudras, he said.
The recommendations of the Amir are still pursued by some groups
among India's varied Muslims and they shun state jobs such as the army
and civil services even if they are otherwise qualified for them. I am not
sure if the Justice Sachchar Commission took up this issue at all when it
recently recommended the need to open more government jobs for
8. Seyyed Hossein Nasr. “A Young Muslim's Guide to the Modern World.”
Kazi Publication. Chicago. 1993. Introduction. P.viii.
10. See Ali S. Asani, Harvard University, on “The Khojki Script: A legacy of
Ismaili Islam in the Indo-Pak subcontinent” quoting from “Khodja”,
Shorter Encyclopedia of Islam, p.256.
11. Comments from a social worker from London visiting North America.
12. Farhad Daftary. “The Ismailis - Their history and doctrines.” Cambridge
University Press. 1990. P.524.
13. ibid. p.505
14. During Colonial days, Ahmed Lakha Kanji and Anwer Hassan Virjee
served as nominated members of the Zanzibar Legislative Council. In
Kenya, A. H. Nurmohamed served as a nominated member of the Kenya
Legislative Council. In Uganda H. K. Jaffer served for long as a
nominated member of the East African Legislative Assembly. In pre
independent Tanganyika, Jaffer Mohamed Versi, Ebrahim Husein Sheriff
and Mohamed Banadali Versi served as nominated members of the
Tanganyika Legislative Council
In local Governments, in Tangnyika, Ramzan Rajabali Jaffer served as
an elected member and Chairman of the Daressalaam Muncipal Council
before it was elevated to City status while Ebrahim Husein Sheriff was
elected as Mayor of Arusha.
In Uganda, Mohamedali Hansraj was elected as the first Mayor of
Mbale. In Kenya, A. H. Nurmohamed who had taken active part in local
politics and in the Indian National Congress served for long as a member
of the Mombasa Municipal Council. He was followed by Husein Abdulla
Jaffer. In post independent Tanzania Shaukat Jaffer was elected to the
Dar es Salaam City Council in the last term.
In Zanzibar, during the Colonial days, Hussein Allarakhia Rahim who
served for some time as a Magistrate was later elevated as a Judge fo the
Zanzibar High Court and Hussein Nazerali served as the Registrar of the
Zanzibar High Court while Ahmed Abdulrasul Datoo served as
Commissioner of Customs.
In the first Zanzibar Government (after achieving independence in Dec,
1963 and before the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964) Amir Abdulrasul
Dewji was made one of the Ministers and Mohamedali Fazal Meghji
(Mohamedali 'Poz') was elected as the deputy Speaker in Zanzibar's first
Parliament. They functioned for barely a month before the Zanzibar
revolution swept aside the elected Government.
In independent Tanzania, Abbas Gulamali, Hassnain Murji, Hassanain
Dewji, Yasmin Alloo and Mohamed Gulamabbas Dewji have been
elected as members of the Tanzania Parliament. Yasmin Alloo has been
a leading member of the Women's Wing of the Umoja ya Wanawake in
Zanzibar and she was nominated as Women's representative to the
In post independent Kenya, Sajjad Rashid served as a nominated
member of Kenya Parliament and as an Assistant Minster.
Sajjad Rashid also served as Chairman of Kenya Ports Authority while
Murtaza Jaffer served as a CEO of the Legal Aid Centre (Kituo Cha
Sheria), as CEO of the National Council of NGO's in Kenya, as a
member of the Kenya Constitutional Review Commission, as Chairman
of the Export Promotion Zone Authority and as a member of the
Advisory Board of the Kenya Anti-Corruption Authority.
From Tanzania, Bashir Hassanali Allarkhia Rahim served as Chief
Parliamentary Draughtsman and as a Magisrate before he was appointed
Ambassador Plenipotentiary to the EEC in Brussels while Mahmood
Nasser Rattansi one of the few leading Indians to take active part in the
Tanzanian independence struggle was later appointed as Ambassador to
In Kenya Judiciary, Abdulrasul Ahmed Lakha served as a Judge of the
Kenya Appellate Court and Murtaza Jaffer as a Judge of the Industrial
In Pakistan the name of Quid-e-Azam Mohamed Ali Jinnah, the
founding father of Pakistan stands out as a luminary son of the Khoja
Shia Ithna-Asheri Community. Others who have held high offices in
Pakistan are Mustafa K. Gokul and Hamid D. Habib who have served as
Ministers in the Pakistan Federal Government while Maulana Abbas
Kumaili from Karachi has been elected as a Senator.
In Britain Nazir Jessa, has been nominated the High Sheriff of
Bedfordshire, UK for the year 2008. A number of individuals in the
United kingdom and in Canada and the United States are also active in
public life rendering social services.
(It is possible I might have missed out certain names. I stand corrected
and would welcome any input to help update the records.)
15. “In Fraternity” p.50/51
New York, November, 2008.