15. Alidina Kanji Ramji, Wazir - page 47
Kanji Ramji originated from Samaghoga, about 14 miles from Mundra, Kutchh. He had a religious proclivity since childhood. His habits were very simple and he lived a saintly life till last breath, so much so that the Imam during his first visit to East Africa said, 'What should be the momin's qualities, habits and manners are seen in Kanji Ramji. Everyone must follow them accordingly.' (Zanzibar: July 5, 1899). He was also the Mukhi and became known as the 'Dini Darwish of Kutchh' due to his pious life.
His son Alidina was born in 1843 in Samaghoga. Kanji Ramji set out for a journey with his 12 years old son, Alidina in 1855 and sailed from Mandavi to Zanzibar after the difficult trip of 21 days. Alidina was confided to the care of his uncle Ismail Ramji. Alidina slowly managed the shop. After being satisfied that his son had mastered his profession, Kanji Ramji returned to India.
In 1857, Alidina accompanied by his uncle and aunt, left Zanzibar for India, where he go married at the age of 14 years to a girl named Lalbai. He returned to Zanzibar and centered his attention to his business and jamati services.
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah made a tour of East African countries for 3 months and 10 days in 1905. The Imam appointed Alidina Kanji as a member of the first Ismaili Council on August 20, 1905. The Imam also consigned him charge of the Aga Khan Club. He was finally appointed Mukhi of the Zanzibar Jamatkhana on March 19, 1914 with the gift of a traditional robe, a turban and a gold watch in appreciation of his meritorious services.
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah arrived in Zanzibar on January 31, 1937. During the didar, the Imam summoned Wazir Mukhi Alidina Kanji by his side and said, 'I am pleased to see you. You have very well served the jamat and Imam. Due to this service you are very healthy. I am much pleased with you. You have rendered a lot of service.' To this, he said, 'Mawla, it is due to your blessings that I have such a good health and even at this age I can see clearly, walk and go to Jamatkhana. I can discharge my duties of prayers and Ibadat in sitting posture on the ground.' The Imam said, 'I am much pleased with you and shower my blessings upon you. I shall summon you to my bungalow. I have to tell you many things.'
Clad in robe and turban, Mukhi Alidina arrived at the bungalow at the prescribed time. The Imam asked Captain Majid Khan (d. 1956), Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai (d. 1971) and Chief Wazir Hasan Ali Kassim Ali Javeri (d. 1968) and others who were in attendance, to leave. The Imam ordered for tea and asked Mukhi Alidina to drink it. He expressed his inability, but the Imam insisted him to drink. Then, the Imam said, 'It is said that you are 92 to 93 years old. Is it true?' The Mukhi agreed. The Imam said, 'Who can say that you are so old? God has blessed you with good health, so you still look young.' The Mukhi said, 'Mawla, you and only you are my Lord. I am enjoying such a healthy life only due to your kind and merciful blessings.' The Imam said, 'You have a perfect faith like your father Kanji Ramji. He was also a great devotee. Hearing your talk, I remember the soul of your father.' When the Imam mentioned the name of his father, Mukhi Alidina wept profusely and tears burst out of his eyes. The Imam took a handkerchief from Mukhi's jacket and wiped his tears with his own hand.
When Wazir Mukhi Alidina gained peace and composure, he humbly said, 'Mawla, I have three wishes.' The Imam allowed him to state the wishes with the assurance that they would be granted. He said, 'Mawla, my first desire is to extend the span of my life up to your Diamond Jubilee.' The Imam said, 'How can that be possible? You have already attained 92 to 93 years of age. You are asking for 10 years more of life. Even the Insurance Company will decline the risk of your life. How is it possible?' Mukhi said reverently that he cherished the desire to see the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee. The Imam said, 'Alright, your wish is granted. Inshallah, you will certainly see my Diamond Jubilee. Now let me know your second wish.' The Mukhi said, 'Grant an integrity of my Iman till I breathe my last.' The Imam said, 'Your wish is granted.' In his third wish, he urged that the name of the Mawla should remain on his tongue at the time of parting forever from this earthy world. The Imam repeatedly granted all the three wishes with assurance and best blessings.
The Imam attended a garden party on February 7, 1937, hosted by Count Ghulam Hussain Jindani (1891-1983) at the Aga Khan Club. The distinguished persons, including the ruler of Zanzibar attended it, Sultan Sayed Khalifa bin Harun, the Resident (Governor) Sir Richard Renkins, etc. The Imam introduced Mukhi Alidina to them and said, 'Look at my young devotee. How healthy he is at such an advanced age? He has served my father, grandfather and grandmother.' The Sultan said, 'He has friendly relations with us as well as my forefathers who had come from Muscat. Our relation with Alidina is still as healthy as it was then.' When the party was over, Mukhi Alidina set foot towards the Jamatkhana about three miles away from the Aga Khan Club. On the way near the entrance, the Imam's car overtook him. The Imam made the car stopped and asked him to shake hands with his Begum, saying that she was very happy to see you in fine fettle at this advanced age. The Imam then said, 'Alidina, I am proud to see that you have served my forefathers and now you have been serving me. I see you have a true faith, as such I am very happy.' Mukhi Alidina bent down in reverence. Then, the Imam went on his way.
Mukhi Alidina was hale and hearty even at an advanced age. He could read and write without assistance and retained clear visions and was able to chew sugarcane with his original socket of teeth. He was attending regularly Jamatkhana and maintained accounts and records himself. He enjoyed a robust health, and took a pretty long walk every day. His indefatigable energy, his shinning enthusiasm for every work made him more active than many a young man. He had wonderfully defied old age, and kept it at bay. His physical and mental powers were as alert as ever.
On May 5, 1945, the Imam said to the jamat, 'The old people should walk extensively at least once a week. For the advantages of such exercise, you turn to Mukhi Alidina Kanji, who is over a hundred years of age. How healthy he is? His late father Kanji Ramji used to walk from Poona to Mahabaleshwar, a distance of about 50 miles for the didar of the Imam. I don't mean that you must also undertake such an adventure. I say is that you must also have enough walking twice or thrice a week.'
The Imam gave an audience for didar at the Aga Khan Club in Zanzibar on June 26, 1945. The Imam asked Count Ghulam Hussain Jindani to bring Mukhi Alidina onto stage. The Imam said to him, 'Mukhi, this time after the jamati works are over, I shall come to your shop. I am very happy to see you. How are you now?' He said, 'Mawla, my health is very good due to your blessings. I go to Jamatkhana and sit on the ground for Ibadat. I have received full benefits of the blessings you have very mercifully bestowed upon me.' After having performed jamati works, the Imam walked to the shop of Mukhi Alidina. It was close by. The Imam said that he had come to see the workings of his shop. The Imam also said, 'Now you consign all business works to Jaffer Ali and keep your mind in peace and free from worries. Do you remember that my Diamond Jubilee will take place next year. You will have to come to Dar-es-Salaam at that time.' The Imam also saw the books of account maintained by Mukhi Alidina, and said that he needed not to trouble himself with writing them. Jaffer Ali would take care of it. The Imam also advised him to take rest and live happily. The Imam said, 'Come to my bungalow with your family today, in the evening. I shall bestow upon you the honour of being photographed with me along with your family.' Wazir Mukhi Alidina Kanji and his family went to the bungalow, where the Imam was photographed with them.
On August 2, 1946, he was called in presence of the Imam through Count Jindani. The Imam said that on August 10th, the Diamond Jubilee would be celebrated and added, 'Mukhi, I have conferred you the titles of Wazir upon the persons whose services are less than yours. However, when I mentioned about granting the title of Wazir on you, you have asked for blessings instead of the title. I have bestowed many blessings on you.' Putting his blessed hand on his shoulder and head, the Imam said that all his wishes had been accomplished, and asked if there were any more. Mukhi implored in reverence, 'Mawla, give me life till you come again.' The Imam smiled and said that since all his wishes had been fulfilled, it was enough. However, the Mukhi was not disappointed, and the Imam continued to say, 'I don't say that you will be alive till I visit Zanzibar again, but Inshallah, you will be very much there when I visit Africa again. Then you will be free.'
During the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee in 1946, the Imam also graced a didar to the jamat in the Club. The Imam made Wazir Mukhi Alidina Kanji sit by his side and told the jamat, 'Today, the jamats of the entire world see Mukhi Alidina. All the jamats see my great devotee who is about 103 years old. He has rendered excellent services to me. All the jamats should see Mukhi Alidina Kanji, who is on stage, before returning home.' The Imam repeated once again, 'Look, Mukhi Alidina Kanji with your own eyes, Khana Abad.'
In Zanzibar, the 'Tanganyika Standard' published in its issue of May 20, 1948 that, 'Vizier Alidina Kanji, a well known Zanzibar merchant and follower of H.H. the Aga Khan celebrated his 107th birth day last week. He came to Zanzibar 92 years ago and during the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in Dar-es-Salaam, His Highness the Aga Khan conferred him the title of Wazir'
The Imam visited Kampala on July 6, 1948. However, Wazir Mukhi Alidina was suffering from urinary problems. He was admitted to a hospital. The doctor said to Jaffer Ali that such an ailment was common to young people. As Mukhi, though very old, retained health and spirit, he should feel relieved by a minor operation. After three days he was discharged from the hospital, but it was followed by a trouble with digestion.
He was fully conscious till the end. Shortly before the final curtain, he sipped the holy water and some milk. He spoke at the final moment, 'Ya Sultan Muhammad Shah, I beseech your protection.' The name of the Imam was on his tongue till his soul left the earthy body for ever. In the meantime, Count Abdullah Hashim Gangji (1906-1982) came to see Wazir Mukhi Alidina on July 16, 1948. He said to the Mukhi that he had been commanded to see him in Nairobi before going to see the Imam. The Imam also told him to enquire whether the Mukhi had to make any request. The Mukhi said that there was nothing and that his time to bid farewell to this world was near. The Mukhi also said, 'I am very highly indebted to Mawla for keeping my faith safe till the end. I wish to submit my humble thanks for that blessings.'
Finally, on July 23, 1948, he left for the heavenly abode.
The Imam sent the following message from Kampala on July 26, 1948: -
Convey my most loving blessings and affectionate thoughts for the soul to the family of the beloved Vazir Alidina Kanji. I am happy that he lived till I came to Africa. I hope his grandson will follow the tradition of his grandfather and great-grandfather.
On August 16, 1948, the Imam gave a didar in Zanzibar. While ascending the stairs up the stage with his hand on Jaffer Ali's shoulder, the Imam enquired about the demise of Wazir Mukhi Alidina. Jaffer Ali said, 'He was fully conscious till the end, imploring for the integrity of his faith and marched out from this world with your name on his tongue.' The Imam was pleased to hear and said, 'He was fully devoted and a perfect believer. I am pleased that all his desires were satisfied. He has rendered excellent services. You have performed a very difficult task of looking after such an old person, therefore, you shall flourish in life. For this, I give my special blessings to you.'
After the plane carrying the Imam from Tanga for Zanzibar, the Imam told to Mata Salamat that he summoned Mukhi Alidina Kanji all the time as soon as he reached Zanzibar. He was no more then. The Imam said, 'Give me my tasbih from my pocket, so that I may converse with his soul and bestow blessings on him.' This incident was related to Jaffer Ali by Hajiani Zainab, Mrs. Rai Mohammad Ali Rashid, the Secretary to Mata Salamat. She also said that the Imam remembered Wazir Mukhi Alidina as soon as the plane neared Zanzibar.
Wazir Mukhi Alidina Kanji had five daughters, all of whom predeceased him. His fifth daughter, Khatija expired in 1945, just a few days before the Imam's visit, who sent a message from Mombasa on June 12, 1945 to Mukhi Bhaloo of Zanzibar Jamatkhana that, 'Best blessing to Huzur Mukhi Alidina Kanji and give him consolation that his daughter is with me in my presence and he should not fret. Looking forward to meeting him.'
Khatija, the wife of Dhalla Kassim left behind six sons and three daughters, the eldest among them being Jaffer Ali, an honorary missionary since 1935. The Imam showered blessings on him in 1937 in Zanzibar for his success in his waez activities. In 1959, Hazar Imam honoured him with the title of Wazir.