11. Ali Muhammad R. Macklai, Huzur Wazir - page 25
Rahmatullah Mulji Macklai was born in Kera, Kutchh in 1843, but came to Bombay for business purposes. He was a self-made man, whose business of gold and silver flourished due to his efforts. He was the first merchant to introduce the gold bars, bearing the seal of the royal mint to save the people from buying imitation gold. His services in the religious field were incredible. In 1913, he retired and consigned his business to his sons. He died in 1928 at Versova at the ripe age of 85 years and was buried in Bombay.
The most prominent son of Rahmatullah Mulji Macklai was Ali Muhammad Macklai, who was born in Kera, Kutchh in 1894. He left school in 1909 after metric and joined his father's bullion business in 1913. He became one of the most famous broker managers of Finance and Bullion Exchange in Bombay. His vast experience in the field can be judged from the fact that the government of Iraq once invited him in Baghdad for necessary advices. He was also a leading broker in the Stock Exchange in Bombay. He was a member of the Committee of The Indian Merchants Chamber. His enterprise, Ali Muhammad Macklai & Sons, acted as a representative of North British and Mercantile Insurance Co. Ltd. for a long time.
Ali Muhammad Macklai joined the Ismaili Dharmic Library in 1912 as a member, and was elected its Honorary Secretary with Dr. Ali Muhammad Nasser Karamsey as President. He also erected volunteers corps in 1912, whose members wore silver medals as a symbol of their allegiance.
The Central Board of Missions of Bombay came into existence in 1912. Its President was Ismail Virji Madhani with Missionary Hussaini Pir Muhammad as Honorary Secretary and Rahim Moloo as Joint Secretary. Later on, Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai became its President. Many Ismaili historical events pushed individuals to serve the community with great zeal. For carrying out the religious activities efficiently with a maximum of benefit for the jamats, the Recreation Club was established in 1919 under his control, which sprang from the Central Board of Missions of Bombay. Its activities were carried in a house at Dhupelia Building, near Bhindi Bazar, Bombay.
In 1914, he became an Honorary Secretary of the Ismaili Dharmic Library, publishing a monthly 'Ismaili Sitaro' since 1908.
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah ascended to the throne of Imamate on Monday, August 17, 1885 in Bombay Darkhana Jamatkhana at the age of 8 years. On that occasion, a group photo of the eminent persons present and the Imam was shot. This photo remained unpublished for 30 years. In 1915, the Imam gave the photo to Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai to be published for the first time in the 'Ismaili Sitaro' (Bombay, 7:4, 1915).
The name of the Recreation Club was changed into the Recreation Club Institute on February 10, 1921 with a mandate to train the regular missionaries and teachers. The Imam officially announced Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Rahmatullah Macklai as its first President with Alijah Hasan Ali Lalji Devraj as its Chief Honorary Secretary. The Imam who commented the following gave the name Recreation Club Institute: 'So that you can work for the material world in day time, and for the religious world at night.'
The Imam visited the Recreation Club Institute for the first time on August 5, 1923 and inspected its workings. The Imam wrote a Persian quatrain in the personal diary of Huzur Wazir Macklai with his own handwriting, the only known verse written by the Imam, which reads:
Atish bjan afrokhtan, az bahray janan sokhtan,
Az man baist amokhtan, in karha karay man ast.
'How to kindle a fire in the soul and burn oneself for one's beloved should be learnt from me as this is one of my jobs'
He was the President of The Central Education Board in 1920 and was also appointed as a member of the Panjibhai Club, Bombay on September 23, 1923.
The Imam made his next visit to the Institute on November 24, 1923 and February 23, 1924, where he was satisfied on each occasion to see its working, hence donating one lac rupees. During his next visit on March 12, 1924, the Imam said in presence of 900 guests:
I spoke here last year when I had given as a motto a well-known Persian verse, which I am sure you have not forgotten. Today, I will give you a small motto and that is 'Work no Words.' Labour for the welfare of other is the best way of improving oneself, because its results are sure and certain. If you work for yourself, you are never happy. This is not a new idea, but an outcome of the experience of thousand years of history.
Come and take interest in this Institute; give your ideas, advice, and help to this Institute more especially to its Industrial Department, which will bring bread and butter, happiness, and satisfaction to many of you. With these few words, I will ask the President to announce the gifts offered by different persons to this Institute.
The Imam appointed him as an Honorary Major of the H.H. The Aga Khan Young Volunteer Corps, Bombay on March 14, 1924 on the recommendation of the volunteer corps.
In 1926, the British India crowned him the title of J.P. On Sunday, June 19, 1927 during the historic occasion of Eid-i-Ghadir, the first unfurling ceremony of the Ismaili Flag (My Flag) was performed by his hands according to the order of the Imam in Thana Jamatkhana, near Bombay. It was performed in the presence of eminent leaders and began at 4.30 p.m. with the inauguration speech of Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali (1896-1978), Kamadia of Thana Jamatkhana. It was followed by the speech of Huzur Wazir Macklai. He performed the historical unfurling ceremony with the traditional music of the band. On that occasion, the Imam's telegraphic message was also read before the audience.
He visited Europe and the United States and returned after five months on November 18, 1930. During his visit, he was granted audiences with the Imam in Europe on several occasions. On October 26, 1930, the Imam graced him an audience before his departure and he brought the Imam's messages of blessings to the Indian jamats.
In July 1931, a group in the Rajkot jamat, called themselves 'The Rajkot Khoja Yuvak Mandal' emerged in opposition to the Ismaili Council, headed by Ismail Kanji Hirani. It was a rebellion against the peaceful machinery of the local council. These half-crazed instigators launched a crusade against the leaders through pamphlets, letters, and speeches. Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai paid a visit to Rajkot with Alijah Hasan Ali Devraj in accordance with the orders of the Imam. He delivered impressive speeches in different places to save the Ismailis from being misguided. He suppressed the rival group and restored peace in Rajkot.
In 1933, he re-organized the framework of the Recreation Club Institute. Accordingly, the Bombay office of the Recreation Club represented its branches in Poona, Ahmadnagar, Gujrat, Ahmadabad, Karachi, Kathiawar, Punjab, Birar, and Burma, virtually the whole India. The Institute represented the cultural and social services. It also maintained orphanages, a department of information for trade and commerce, a large library, the handing out of scholarships to the Muslims of Kera, and an employment department. In a reception to honor the Imam hosted by the Recreation Club Institute on Thursday, December 21, 1933 it Bombay, the Imam remarked, 'The bright future of the Recreation Club is ahead. It is my blessings that its spiritual flag may hoist in the whole world from here.'
Huzur Wazir Macklai was also founder and President of the Islamic Research Association in Bombay, established on February 1, 1933. Dr. M.B. Rehman, Dr. U.M. Daudpotta, Saif F.B. Taiyabji, W. Ivanow were its founding members along with A.A.A. Fyzee as the Secretary. The Imam was the Patron of the Islamic Research Association with Sir Ross Masud, the Vice-Chanceller of Aligarh University as the Vice-Patron.
He also visited Europe, and on the eve of his departure, a large number of the Ismaili leaders came to see him on April 7, 1934. The Imam graced him an audience and sent the following telegraphic message for the Bombay jamat:
Cannes: April 22, 1934
I received Major Macklai today. On behalf jamat kissed hand. I send my paternal blessings all Bombay spiritual children. Hope to come out end November.
He was awarded a gold medal in 1936, with 'Straight Bar' in view of his invaluable services during the Golden jubilee. During the same year, he was appointed Private Secretary of the Imam and Mata Salamat. He was also appointed member of the Council for Bombay on February 29, 1936.
He visited South India in 1936 and held a meeting with Sir Mirza Ismail, the dewan of Mysore at his residence. He was shown the rare collection of the Persian paintings, where he found the painted picture of the Ismaili Imam Nizar II (1585-1628), which he brought and published in the weekly 'Ismaili', Bombay for the first time in the Golden Jubilee Number of January 9, 1937.
He attended the Golden Jubilee of the Imam on March 1, 1937 in Nairobi. He had the honour of standing near the weighing scale and declaring the Imam's weight (3200 ounces) before the jamat. On that occasion, he was awarded the Gold Medal of Chevron with Straight Bar.
The Ismailis prospered considerably in East Africa soon after the celebration of the Golden Jubilee in Nairobi on March 1, 1937. On that occasion, an Economic Conference was held under his chairmanship to draw up the plans for the economic welfare of the community in East Africa.
Huzur Wazir Macklai was the first President of The Aga Khan Legion in 1940, which was set up for the organization of the Diamond jubilee in Bombay. He worked incessantly from its inception covering a period of three years until the organization was fully functional.
He continued to serve the Recreation Club Institute as President between 1912 and 1936. Varas Chhotubhai (1904-1978) was appointed the next President, served between 1936 and 1937. Huzur Wazir Macklai was once again appointed President between 1937 and 1948. In view of his long exceptional services, the Imam crowned him with the unique title of Commander-in-Chief.
In April 1943, he had worked quietly during the explosion in Bombay, and went to all the pharmacies to collect medicine and bandages and to treat the injured, who were pulled out of the wreckage.
During the first Ismaili Mission Conference held in Dar-es-Salaam on July 20, 1945, to which he was specially invited, the Imam paid a rich tribute to his noble works in his speech. 'I cannot go further without telling you at once that we all owe a great debt of gratitude to Mr. Macklai who has accomplished a wonderful work. He has, like anybody else, weaknesses but he has done a great deal of work that will remain historical, and has made a great name for Ismailis amongst all learned circles by establishing the Islamic Research Association and by getting men like Dr. Ivanow and Mr. Fyzee to look into the ancient documents. And, I think, we cannot do better than pass a resolution of thanking and appreciating the work done by Mr. Macklai.'
It must be recollected that the name of the Recreation Club Institute was changed into the Ismailia Association for India in 1944. He was appointed the President of Ismailia Association for India with Alijah Rajab Ali Mohammad Dandawala as Vice-President and Itmadi Rehmatullah Virjee as Hon.Secretary.
The Imam intended to extend the activities of the Ismailia Association beyond the Indian sub-continent to other parts of the world. During the Mission Conference in Dar-es-Salaam on July 21, 1945, the Imam ordered the leaders of Nairobi that, 'You must establish an Ismailia Association similar to the one in Bombay. Mr. Macklai, the President of the Ismailia Association in Bombay, has much served the community, and in doing so, has spread the light of the Ismaili faith. His name shall forever be remembered in history on account of his services.'
Accordingly, the All-African Ismailia Association came into existence in 1946 with Count Mohammad Ali Dhalla as President and Wazir Ramzan Ali H.M. Dossa as Hon. Secretary. Its headquarters was first in Nairobi, then Mombasa.
He retired in 1946 from the Ismailia Association for India as President. The Imam appointed Itmadi Abdullah Sumar Shivji as the next President with Itmadi Rehmatullah Virjee as Vice-President and Huzur Mukhi Yusuf Ali E. Dossa as Chief Secretary. Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai was appointed the 'World Head' of the International Ismailia Associations in 1946. Under his new mandate, he became the World Head of the Ismailia Association for Kenya, Tanganyika, Uganda, India and Pakistan, with a branch in Dacca.
He was also the founder and President of The Ismaili Society of Bombay, to which Prof. W. Ivanow played a major role in its establishment on February 16, 1946. The British India also designated him an Honorary Magistrate.
In February 1948, Huzur Wazir Macklai received a letter from the Imam, wanting him to come in Africa. He left Bombay by a Kampala Steamer in July 1948 and arrived in Mombasa, where he stayed for four days, and then went to Nairobi by train. The Imam arrived in Nairobi on August 1, 1948 and gave a didar to the Ismailis in the evening. On that occasion, the Imam discussed the Constitution of the Ismailia Associations with him, and he graciously presented an automatic Omega gold watch, which the Imam put into his wrist. He then went to Dar-es-Salaam, while the Imam went to Mombasa and Zanzibar and reached Dar-es-Salaam, where he presented a draft of the Constitution to the Imam.
On August 25, 1948, a grand didar programme was arranged in Dar-es-Salaam, where, the Imam announced the introduction of the Constitution of the Ismailia Associations for Africa and appointed three Presidents for three Associations for Africa. The Imam also gave orders for the constitution to be accepted and followed in India, Pakistan and other parts of the world.
The Imam went to Kampala, whereas Ali Muhammad R. Macklai was sent to Cairo by the Imam. There, he encountered the University's renowned professors, with whom he discussed research works on Ismailism. He then set foot in Alexandria, where he met the University of Alexandria's vice-chancellor and other scholars. He visited the museum of Cairo and inspected the rare monuments of the Fatimid Caliphate. He also toured Fuad University's campus, including its library. His Imperial Majesty the Shahinshah of Iran declared Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah an Iranian citizen with a distinguished title of Hazratwala, i.e. His Royal Highness in 1949. As the World Head of the International Ismailia Associations, Huzur Wazir Macklai sent a telegraphic message to the emperor of Iran on December 23, 1949:
Minister in Waiting,
His Imperial Majesty Shahinshah of Iran,
Most respectfully beg to submit on behalf of the Ismailia Associations all over the world our expressions of gratitude and appreciation for the recognition bestowal on our most beloved and revered Hazar Imam His Royal Highness The Prince Aga Khan by His Gracious Majesty The Shahinshah and His Government. All the followers of His Royal Highness have been most pleased and happy at the renewed contact with your great country. We pray the Almighty God for a long life of His Imperial Majesty and a prosperous Iran.
Ali Mahomed MacklaiAli Mahomed Macklai
World Head, Bombay.
In reply to the above letter, he received following message:
Your telegram of gratitude to His Imperial Majesty The Shahinshah on the occasion of His Majesty's bestowal of title to His Highness The Aga Khan is greatly appreciated and I am commanded by my August Sovereign to convey His Imperial Majesty's satisfaction for your kind expression.
Imperial Court Minister.
In appreciation of his long and meritorious services, the Imam conferred upon Ali Muhammad R. Macklai the unique title of Huzur Wazir (minister in presence) during the Saligrah Darbar in 1950. He was the first Ismaili to be graced with such grand title.
It was his hobby to collect rare historical documents. He came across a Koranic manuscript of the Mughal emperor Jahangir's period, which was written in beautiful letters with thin layers of gold, and a pictorial book of that period. He consigned these collections to Alijah A.C. Rahmatullah (1902-1963) to be presented to Mata Salamat on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee Conference of the Ismaili leaders in Cairo on March 15, 1953.
He also visited Karachi during the occasion of the Platinum jubilee on February 3rd, 1954 with his wife Huzur Wazirbanu Jenubai.
He continued to serve as the World Head for six years, between 1946 and 1954. In conclusion, he worked for 40 years to fulfill the Ismaili mission.
Huzur Wazir Macklai thus retired from the post of the World Head of the Association in August 1954 when he was in Africa. He came in Karachi, where Chief Mukhi Wazir Chagla (1885-1966) garlanded him at the request of Wazir Dr. Pir Muhammad Hoodbhoy (1905-1956) on October 30, 1954 at a reception. In his speech, he said, 'I am retired from all the institutions since last three months, and I have seen many things during my years of service.'
After assuming the Imamate on July 11, 1957, Hazar Imam visited Karachi on August 4, 1957. On that occasion, Huzur Wazir Macklai got an audience with the Imam, where he discussed important matters.
Huzur Wazir Macklai was not a regular writer; nevertheless, he was a frequent contributor to periodicals. His article 'Discipline' was published in the weekly 'Ismaili' on May 8, 1926. His last article, 'Ismaili Research Studies' appeared in the Imamate Day issue of 'African Ismaili' on July 1970 and 'Ismailis in Human Society' in 'Ismaili Digest' on September 1956.
In summary, Huzur Wazir Macklai was a J.P., Hon. Magistrate, Founder President of the Recreation Club Institute, of the Islamic Research Association, of The Ismaili Society and of The Aga Khan Legion, a Member of the Local Council, a Honorary Major of H.H. The Aga Khan's Bombay Volunteer Corps, etc.
He died at the age of 77 years on Wednesday, July 21, 1971 in Bombay. In his message sent to the Ismailia Federal Council for India, in which after bestowing blessings for his soul, prayer for his eternal peace, and sympathy to his family for their great loss, the Imam said, 'Wazir Macklai's devoted service to the jamat will always be remembered by my jamat and by myself and he will be deeply missed by all.'
Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad R. Macklai got married twice. His first wife, Fatima gave birth to three sons: Aziz, Ramzan Ali, and Shaukat. With his second wife, Jainab, he had Sultan Ali, Abdul Sultan, Sultan Ahmed, Habib, Nizar, Shiraz, and a daughter, named Shamsi.