|Tajddin, Mumtaz Ali Sadik Ali: 101 Ismaili Heroes, Vol.1, Islamic Book Publisher, Karachi, January 2003, p 422|
Hirji was a famous for collecting religious dues in Indian villages during the
period of Imam Hasan Ali Shah and visited Mahallat to deliver it. His son
Varind was also a devoted and became the Mukhi of Kandi Mola Jamatkhana, Bombay
and served in the period of three Imams. His devotion can be measured from the
saying of Imam Hasan Ali Shah at Wadi, Bombay that, “ My son Aly Shah is my
one eye, while Varind Mukhi represents my second eye.”
Varind Mukhi had three sons, Nanji, Ghulam Ali and Pir Muhammad. His elder son, Nanji was also the Mukhi, while his younger son Ghulam Ali was a scribe, who visited with the Imam in all places and noted down the farmans. The farmans that were published into the Khojki script in Bombay, were the original collection of Ghulam Ali. Nothing is known about the third son, Pir Muhammad.
Nanji (d. 1916), the elder son of Varind Mukhi, was a well-known personage. He left behind seven sons, viz. Kanji, Ramzan Ali (d. 1956), Hyder Ali (d. 1938), Rai Ghulam Hussain (d. 1960), Alijah Faizullah (d. 1937), Jaffer (d. 1938) and Rai Muhammad (d. 1968).
Kanji assumed the Burmese name, U Kan Gyi soon after the farman of the Imam in 1938. In Burma, a man above 25 years is called maung, from 25 to 40 years as ko and from 40 years and above as u, means the elder one. Thus, Kanji came to be known as U Kan Gyi.
Wazir U Kan Gyi was born in Kandi Mola, Bombay in 1870. In 1947, Wazir U Kan Gyi visited Paris for 40 days to see the Imam in the hospital. During his visit, the Imam asked him, “Do you remember that once your grandfather (Varind Mukhi) had taken you in presence of my grandfather in Wadi, Bombay. My grandfather took you in his lap and fed you with his own hand.” Wazir U Kan Gyi engulfed into thoughts to recollect and said, “Mawla, I remember that Imam Hasan Ali Shah took me in his lap and fed me one mouthful.” The Imam said, “Not one, but two mouthfuls.”
He got his formal education in Bombay. He has related several times to his friends that Pir Shihabuddin Shah had taught him the old daily prayer at Wadi, Bombay. His relatives resided mostly in Porebandar, therefore, he had to visit it several times. His wedlock was solemnized with Varasiani Domia Sonbai on March 6, 1892 in Bombay. She was born in September 13, 1877 in the village of Jamrawal in Saurashtra. Soon after the marriage, both came in Rangoon in 1893 for business purpose. In those days, a handful Ismailis resided in Burma and most of them were the merchants of glassware, cutlery, grocery, etc. He started his own store in 1894, located at 559, Dalhousie Street in Rangoon, dealing in high power lamp, lanterns with spare parts, all kinds of glassware, aluminum ware, enamel ware, Ever-ready & Hong Kong torches, batteries, etc. He also ventured in dealing the real estates and imports. With his buying power, he could excel in importing large quantities at substantially lower price. He was also a landlord of prime properties – 68 of them in his portfolio in Rangoon – free and clear in outright ownership. He also owned several shops of lampware, patromax and glassware and procured rapid progress within few years.
He was an ordinary social worker and a missionary during the first visit of the Imam in Rangoon on June 6, 1900. When the Imam made his second visit on February 7, 1914, the Rangoon jamat humbly presented a sum of Rs. 10,000/- to the Imam for his motor car on February 8, 1914, in which Wazir U Kan Gyi also made his contribution. He also shared in the Memorial Funds for the annual majalis, which was also presented to the Imam. In appreciation of his inestimable services, the Imam graciously presented him a shawl and khilat on February 17, 1914.
Wazir U Kan Gyi was a devoted person and inherited the tradition of the service of his illustrated ancestors. He had also a tremendous potential for performing waez, and became an honorary missionary of the Recreation Club. He was a sparkling conversationalist and a brilliant orator. Besides, he was also appointed the member of the newly formed H.H. The Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Burma on January 8, 1910. In 1920, he became the managing member of the Ismaili Girls School in Rangoon, where the young girls were given training of embroidery, sewing and knitting.
Alijah Ali Muhammad, the member of the Ismaili Council once arranged a dinner party at his bungalow, called Noorani Bagh on March 27, 1921. He invited the prominent Burmese leaders, viz. Wazir Mukhi Jivabhai Bhanji, Alijah Alibhai Hakimji, Baghwan Mukhi Merali, Walji Ahmad, Fajula Mukhi Nanji, Ismail of Goa & Sons and Wazir U Kan Gyi, etc. Alijah Ali Muhammad made a speech soon after the dinner and spoke different measures to be taken for the progress of the Ismailis in Burma. Wazir Jivabhai Bhanji seconded his proposal and it was resolved to establish The Burma Ismaili Trading Company to help the petty dealers and poor Ismailis. On that occasion, a sum of Rs. 4,00,000/- was recorded as an initial capital for the project, in which Wazir U Kan Gyi contributed Rs. 5000/-
The Imam visited Bombay from Europe with Mata Salamat and Prince Aly S. Khan on December 14, 1933, where an elephantine concourse of the Ismailis flocked for having the didar. Wazir U Kan Gyi also arrived in Bombay with his family. He got the chance to participate in the mehmani ceremony at the Aga Hall, Nesbit Road on Wednesday, December 21, 1933. With his mehmani, the Imam also accepted the mehmani of Mukhi Jaffer Nanji of Merqui jamat and Alijah Faizullah Nanji of Mandalay jamat. Both Wazir U Kan Gyi and Mukhi Jaffer Nanji reverently submitted the accounts of the Merqui jamat and earned best loving blessings.
On that occasion, the Imam asked few questions to Wazir U Kan Gyi. The Imam said, “What is your business and from where do you import the items?” He said, “I import them from Germany and Japan.” The Imam asked, “Which items are more cheap, Germany or Japan?” To this, he said, “Japan is more cheaper than Germany” The Imam made the third question, “Is the glassware of Japan durable?” He answered affirmatively. The Imam conferred on him with best loving blessings.
On that occasion, Mrs. Rehmatbai Mukhi Jaffer Nanji, Varasiani Domia Sonbai U Kan Gyi Nanji and Mrs. Mongibai Alijah Faizullah Nanji submissively presented the Imam the gold chains. The Imam graciously accepted, and returned a gold ring as a token of his own gift to Alijah Faizullah Nanji.
The Imam resumed his conversation with Wazir U Kan Gyi and asked, “What is your opinion about the separation of Burma from India?” He said, “I think that the separation will be far better.” The Imam said, “Will the Burmese jamats get benefit of the separation?” He said, “Of course!” The Imam blessed them with paternal maternal best loving blessings.
On January 1, 1939, Wazir U Kan Gyi humbly presented a mehmani to the Imam in Bombay. The Imam said, “You are rendering much services and I tender you my compliments.” The Imam added, “I want to make a farman for the people of Rangoon and will explain it now.” In his farman, the Imam said, “Learn Burmese language and skills. Attract their hearts towards you. Live amicably with them. You have passed many years in prosperity and procured profit. It is the land of these (Burmese) people. Make your hearts big, not narrow. Tolerate the remaining few hardships. You always respect to your officers and behave in a manner they advised you to. Time is very critical. Maintain discipline. You must obey your officers instructions. If you find injustice, you write to me through the Council as per rule. Hooks and cooks subsisted in past, but the condition of Burma is not so ideal at present. It is necessary to maintain discipline and respect the officers while following their advices.”
On the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee in 1946, the Imam appointed him his Estate Agent for Burma in place of Rai Mukhi Hussain Ali Ibrahim Virji (1938-1946), and conferred upon him the title of Rai.
The British had launched heavy bombardment on Rangoon during the second world war, resulting a heavy devastation of the Jamatkhana, situated at Mughal Street with the innocent casualties of 31 Ismailis on April 19, 1943. The Imam crowned the martyrs with the title of Shahids. When the war ended, Wazir U Kan Gyi renovated the Jamatkhana in 1949 with his own expenses. When it was under renovation, the Ismailis offered the prayers at the residence of Mukhi Rai Muhammad Nanji, the younger brother of Wazir U Kan Gyi. On December 22, 1949, the Imam sent a message from Cairo, addressing to the Supreme Council, Rangoon, showing his happiness upon the completion of the Jamatkhana, and blessed Wazir U Kan Gyi for his great services. The Imam also told to get its opening ceremony by the hands of the President or Prime Minister of the Republic.
When the new Jamatkhana built up, Wazir U Kan Gyi and the Supreme Council for Burma humbly implored the Imam to visit Rangoon to perform its opening ceremony. The Imam sent his message on December 14, 1949 and told him, while conveying best blessings, that he would visit Burma soon after visiting Pakistan and India. Hence, the opening ceremony of the new Jamatkhana was performed on January 5, 1950 by Thakin Nun, the Prime Minister of Burma. The Prime Minister invited the Imam in his speech as a state guest. The Imam also sent a message on October 27, 1954 to the Council of Burma that he used to think for those bold persons who were martyred during the war. The Imam also advised to place a memorial plate, bearing their names outside the wall of the Jamatkhana or in the library.
In July, 1947, the health of the Imam impaired in Paris and was hospitalized. Wazir U Kan Gyi immediately left Burma and reached Paris. He stayed in Paris, for 40 days. The Imam summoned him daily and talked with him while being at the hospital. He is reported to have asked about 70 questions during his stay, which he related several times in his waez. Some of the questions are given below:-
He asked, “Pir Sadruddin imparts in the ginan that the believers shall earn nav nand (nine boons) when the Imam is pleased upon them. Mawla, what are these nine boons?” The Imam said, “Each nand contains one-fourth of the daily prosperity of the world. Pir Sadruddin had yet curtailed in his commitment. When I become happy, I shower upon the believers all nand, not nine.”
He again asked, “What is an ideal diet to be healthy?” The Imam said, “Do you have curd, milk and rice in Burma?” He said, “These are plenty in our land.” The Imam said, “Eat curd and rice and drink milk in your daily meal. You will conquer the world.”
He questioned, “What measures should be followed to modernize the waez?” The Imam said, “When you deliver waez, you must exhort to the jamat the importance of the health for few minutes.”
He asked, “When we sip the holy water, we pray for ourselves, our relatives and the jamats. Each person in the line has a long list of prayer, resulting other persons behind the line to wait for their turns. What measure should be followed?” The Imam said, “You must curtail and pray that, Ya Mawla, you may have mercy and become happy upon us and the Ismailis, because all the blessings of religion and world are contained in my mercy and happiness.”
When the health recovered, the Imam summoned him at his residence and invested him with the title of Wazir.
The Imam is reported to have said on one occasion that, “Most of the Ismailis come to me and ask for their worldly problems, and none of them asked on religion matters or on spiritual progress. Whenever my one servant, my follower and my missionary come to me from Burma, he always inquires on religious matters only and takes away a heap of pearls. He is Wazir U Kan Gyi Nanji.”
The Imam visited Burma between January 20, 1951 and January 26, 1951. This was the last visit of the Imam in Burma during his Imamate period. Wazir U Kan Gyi humbly offered the Imam to let him bear his whole expenses from Europe to Burma with return expenses. The Imam said, “Well, I allow you only to bear my expenses with return from Bombay to Burma. I will count it being the expenses from Europe to Burma and return too.”
The Imam summoned a conference of the Ismaili delegates in Cairo to review the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee upon the completion of 70 years of his Imamate. Wazir U Kan Gyi represented the Burmese jamats with his wife. They left Rangoon and arrived at Bombay and left for Cairo with the Indian leaders, Wazir Abdul Hamir Hasan Ali, Alijah A.C. Rahimtullah and Itmadi Mukhi Kassim Ali Giga. They reached Cairo on March 13, 1951.The delegates discussed mutually in the morning and met the Imam at evening on March 15, 1951 in Hotel Semiramese. The Imam emphasized that the program should be worked out on the pattern of Golden and Diamond Jubilees to improve the social and economical conditions of the Ismailis. The Imam, Mata Salamat and Prince Aly Khan invited them on next day for a lunch at Mohamedali Club and graced them with a photograph. He also obtained permission from the Imam to celebrate the token ceremony of the Platinum Jubilee in Rangoon, which was festivated on February 25, 1954. During his visit in Cairo, he also went to see Al-Azhar University, museum and other historical places of the Fatimid period with other leaders. The delegates also met Dr. Kamil Hussain, who showed them the historical places
The Imam left Cairo for France with Mata Salamat on March 17, 1951. Prince Aly Khan offered the Ismaili delegates to join him on his visit to Syria on March 18, 1851. Wazir U Kan Gyi accepted it with other 11 leaders and arrived in Salamia, where he learnt much about the Syrian Ismailis.
He also submitted a humble request to the Imam on behalf of the jamat to accord permission to raise funds for Platinum Jubilee in Burma. The Imam said in laughter, “Why do you need Platinum Jubilee? I do not see a poor Ismaili in Burma. What will you do for such funds? I have never seen a single woman void of gold bangles in Burma.” It is also said that he made a request to fix a target of Rs. 20,00,000/- for Burma, in which he alone would its half. The Imam however reduced it and made the target of collecting Rs. 14,00,000/- and told him to contribute not more than Rs. 6,00,000/- and let the Burmese jamats to participate in it.
It is also to be noted that Huzur Mukhi Hashim Kassim Bhanji, the Hon. Secretary of The Aga Khan Legion Committee for Burma, attended the meeting of The Platinum Jubilee Celebration Committee at Bombay on February 25, 1954. He declared in the meeting the program of the jubilee celebration and the collection of the funds in Burma. He said, “The Imam fixed a target of Rs. 14,00,000/- to be collected in Burma, which almost have been declared by the donors. One magnificent donor has alone contributed Rs. 6,00,000/- We have received so far Rs. 10,00,000/- out of Rs. 14,00,000/- For the welfare of about one thousand Ismailis residing in Burma, as per Imam’s farman, the plan for establishing the cooperative societies has been made. One like society has been registered. Besides, the movement of erecting the societies for the scouts and the jamat is in operation.” (“Platinum Jubilee Bulletin”, Bombay, March 15, 1954, p. 35)
With the kind permission of the Imam, he celebrated a Diamond Wedding Function upon completion of 60 years of his marriage. On that occasion, a grand majalis was organized at the Rangoon Jamatkhana on Sunday, March 22, 1953. Missionary Aziz Habib delivered a waez on the obedience of the Imam’s guidance.
He had a scheme in his mind to organize a lunch party on the first Sunday of every month in Rangoon with a view to discuss the progress of the jamat. He worked out his scheme and sent his report to the Imam for approval. The Imam was highly delighted in his scheme and approved it through a message from Canes on March 30, 1953.
Wazir U Kan Gyi was also the Principal of the Mission Class in Rangoon and nerved the promising waezeens to serve the jamat. He also arranged Mission Assemblies in Rangoon and the last one on August 30, 1953. He presided the assembly, wherein 26 young waezeens of Rangoon and Thingangyun jamats had participated. He formed an examination committee of three persons, viz. Alijah M.K. Jamal, Ghulam Ali and Varas Sadruddin Faizullah.
The Platinum Jubilee of the Imam was celebrated with great pomp on Wednesday, February 3, 1954 at Karachi. Wazir U Kan Gyi attended the jubilee with his wife and returned to Rangoon on February 23, 1954. He submitted his services to the Imam through the Supreme Council for Burma on that day, reporting to have returned safely to Rangoon after attending the jubilee. The Imam sent his message from Canes on March 4, 1954 and gave best loving blessings for his safe return and the service.
In March, 1954, the health of his wife, Varasiani Domia Sonbai shattered. She was given necessary treatment in Rangoon. Meanwhile, Wazir U Kan Gyi sent her medical report to the Imam for gracious guidance. The Imam sent him the following message from Canes on March 27, 1954: -
My dear Vizir,
I send you and Varasiani my best paternal maternal blessings for Samar Chanta on her behalf. Also best loving blessings to you, Varasiani and your family for service on Norooz occasion.
I was very sorry to hear of the sad news about Varasiani’s health and I pray for the restoration of her health. She should seriously follow the doctor’s advice – only eat what he says and very little food at a time; not drink too much water during meals and drink at least one hour before.
My best loving blessings to you all and to all Burma beloved spiritual children; you are ever near my heart and thoughts.
With the gracious blessings of the Imam, Varasiani Domia Sonbai recovered within few days. Wazir U Kan Gyi sent her latest medical report to the Imam through the Supreme Council for Burma. The Imam sent his message from Canes on April 6, 1954, informing the Supreme Council to convey his best blessings to Wazir U Kan Gyi and his family for the services of the restoration of the health of Varasiani Domia Sonbai.
Unfortunately, Varasiani Domia Sonbai expired on April 24, 1954 in Rangoon at the age of 77 years. The Imam sent an urgent telegraphic message of blessing to the departed soul from Canes on April 27, 1954. She was a dedicated social worker and served as a Lieutenant for three years and a Captain for one year in H.H. The Aga Khan’s Young Ladies Volunteer Corps for Burma. She was a patron of Bombay Volunteer Corps and was awarded a gold medal by the Imam for her valuable service. She had witnessed with her husband the Golden, Diamond and Platinum jubilees.
Wazir U Kan Gyi was destined twice to visit Europe with his wife, including East African countries in 1947 and 1954, and had the audience of the Imam, Mata Salamat and Prince Aly S. Khan and his two beloved sons.
He was also invited in Cairo to attend the token ceremony of the Platinum Jubilee on February 20, 1955. The ceremony was held in the Cleopatra Hall of Hotel Semiramese, attended by 62 delegates. It was a solemn spectacle of 20 minutes. The Ismaili leaders most humbly presented 70 gold ginnies to the Imam, which was graciously accepted. The Imam presented the same gold ginnies to the delegates.
He intended to visit Cairo to see the Imam and wrote an urgent letter, asking for kind appointment of the meeting. The Imam sent him a reply from Cairo on February 7, 1956 that, “You may come when you like, but I am going to leave Cairo on 14th for Europe, and meanwhile I am very very engaged for the works of the African and Syrian murids and time is short for others.” He postponed his trip to Cairo and attended the first Ismailia Conference of Burma held on 18th, 19th and 20th February, 1956 at Rangoon. It was organized by the Council and attended by 45 delegates, including 6 ladies, who represented 17 villages of Burma
Prince Aly S. Khan visited Pakistan on February 22, 1956 and then in India on February 29, 1956. He proceeded to Colombo on March 3, 1956 and to Dacca on March 6, 1956. Rangoon was not included in his programme. Wazir U Kan Gyi wrote a letter to the Imam on January 20, 1956 and made a humble request to make programme of Prince Aly Khan in Rangoon. The Imam sent him a reply from Aswan on January 30, 1956 that, “I have received your letter of 20th January. Prince Aly has to do much work and it is not advisable that he may go to Burma. I send you my blessings.”
Mukhi Alijah Ali Muhammad Ibrahim Virji donated a sum of Rs. 60,000/- in 1928 for the plot of the Jamatkhana in Rangoon. The Imam made a farman to place his photo with a marble plate in the Jamatkhana. The Imam allowed to place the photo of Mukhi Alijah Ali Muhammad in the Jamatkhana when he visited Rangoon in 1951. During the Ruhani Majalis of Mukhi Alijah Ali Muhammad on July 29, 1956, his photo was placed and unveiled with the hands of Wazir U Kan Gyi in a ceremony.
He also went to Aswan to attend the burial ceremony of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah on July 18, 1957. He was present with other leaders to receive the coffin box. He left Cairo on July 21, 1957 and again visited Aswan with his son Alijah Zulfikar to attend the official resting of the body of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in a mausoleum on February 20, 1959. This time he was confined to the wheel chair due to weakness.
The Burmese delegation left Rangoon on January 19, 1958 and arrived in Karachi to attend the Takhat Nashini of Hazar Imam on January 23, 1958. The Delegation comprised of five leading persons, viz. Varas Sadruddin Faizullah, the President of the Council, Wazir U Kan Gyi, Mukhi Ghulam Hussain Alibhai, Dr. Mrs. Jenuma, Alijah Zulfikar Ali U Kan Gyi. The Imam graced them an audience, whom they humbly requested to visit Burma with his family.
Prince Sadruddin had been on a trip of Rangoon in October, 1959 and took a visit of the store of Wazir U Kan Gyi. Soon afterwards, Wazir U Kan Gyi wrote a letter to Hazar Imam on October 9, 1959 alongwith a beautiful album of the photos of the visit of Prince Sadruddin. The Imam graciously sent him a letter on October 22, 1959 and expressed his paternal maternal best loving blessings for the service and also delighted to get the above album.
Wazir U Kan Gyi Nanji wrote a letter in the beginning of 1960 to the Imam, requesting reverently to make a gracious arrival in Burma. In his message, the Imam said, “I am free from March 16 to March 24. Is my jamat ready for my didar mubarak?” Upon receipt of the message, the leaders held a meeting at his residence to work out the programme. The Council made its reply to the Imam that the jamat would be very pleased for Hazar Imam’s didar mubarak. Unfortunately, he lived no longer to behold the Imam in Rangoon.
Wazir U Kan Gyi Nanji died on February 26, 1960 in Rangoon at the age of 90 years. The Imam sent the following telegraphic message to the family members:-
Gustaad : March 2, 1960
Learnt with deepest sorrow passing away of beloved Vazir U Kan Gyi. Late Vazir had served greatly to my grandfather and myself. Late Vazir will be missed by all my spiritual children of Burma. Pray for his eternal peace. Affectionate loving blessings to all his family members for devoted services.
The Imam also sent another telegraphic message to the President of H.H. The Aga Khan Supreme Council for Burma from Gustaad on March 2, 1960 and conferred paternal maternal best loving blessings and prayed for the eternal peace of the soul of Wazir U Kan Gyi. The Imam also sent one more message to the family members from Marseilles on May 19, 1960.
It should be known that the Imam made his first gracious visit to Rangoon very soon and gave the didar to the jamat on March 21, 1960 and March 24, 1960. On Monday, March 21, 1960, the Imam said at the conclusion of his farman that, “Today, I want also to remind you of the many years of service, which the late Vazir U Kan Gyi has done for this jamat and take him also as an example, for he did many years of fine services.”
During his visit in Burma, the Imam used the old Humber car of late Wazir U Kan Gyi. It was of great sentimental value for his family.
Later on, the family members of late Wazir U Kan Gyi humbly sent an album, containing the photos of the Imam’s visit to Rangoon. The Imam acknowledged receipt of the album and sent his message on June 27, 1960 from Gustaad and expressed his immense pleasure, and said,“This album is like a wonderful souvenir.”
Wazir U Kan Gyi had six sons, viz. Hussain (d. 1918), Alijah Suleman (d. 1972), Mukhi Ghulam Ali of Rangoon Jamatkhana (1945-1951) and a member of the Council (1946-1965), who died in 1988, Abdul Rasul (d. 1947), who had gone to London and became Bar-at-Law and was the President of the Supreme Council for Burma (1945-1947), Alijah Zulfikar (d. 1980) and Rai Manji, who is now an Estate Agent of the Imam in Rangoon. He had also a daughter, called Shireen, who died in 1998.