30. Datoo Meru, Alijah - page 106
Lakhpat, an oldest port of Kutchh, lying near the Indus river was a native soil of his family tree. The population dropped from 15000 to 2500 persons in 1851 due to severe famine, and the area became almost desolated. His grandfather, Thavar walked down to Badin, Sind with some Ismaili families. Later on, Thavar is reported to have gone to Muscat, located on the Gulf of Oman coast and isolated by a hill range. Thavar is believed to have worked with Baledina Asani (1802-1896), the Estate Agent of Imam Hasan Ali Shah in Muscat. He made Gwadar as his next home, where he died. He was survived by three sons, and Mehr Ali was a famous figure among them, who was also called Meruani or Meru and he had three sons, Muhammad, Datoo and Bana.
Datoo, the son of Meru of great talent and merit and striking calibre was born probably in 1868. Religion was a deep and abiding place in his heart since childhood. Born and bred in Gwadar, he took little education at home. He however knew Kutchhi, Sindhi, Gujrati and English to some extent. He could also speak Persian soon after his journey in Iran in 1923. He married to Kaisarbai, the sister of Varas Muhammad Remu (1860-1924). He was an ordinary fish and cotton merchant, and associated for a long time in the business of Varas Muhammad Remu as a partner. Soon after the death of Varas Muhammad Remu in 1924, his business remained to the extent of fish.
Alijah Datoo Meru was appointed the Kamadia of Gwadar jamat (1900-1910) at the age of 32 years. During the gracious visit of the Imam in Gwadar on April 1, 1905, he was presented a shawl on April 15, 1905. When the first Council in Gwadar was established, he became its founder Honorary Secretary (1905-1924).
In 1905, the first major project of the Gwadar Council was to establish the school. Alijah Datoo became the first President of the School Board. The name of the school was 'Imami Ismaili Khoja Jamat School', where English and Gujrati were taught.
In 1910, he was appointed Kamadia of Pasani Jamatkhana with Pir Sabzali (1884-1938) as a Mukhi. On January 6, 1912, the Imam presented the shawls to the persons, who had donated large amounts to the construction of Gwadar Jamatkhana, viz. Kamadia Datoo Meru, Mukhi Tajar Mukhi Ahmed, Varas Muhammad Remu, Mukhi Muhammad Abdullah and Badruddin Hamirani.
With the consultation of the School Board, Alijah Datoo Meru cordially invited Col. A.B. Dew, an agent of the Governor General and Assistant Political Agent of the Vizir of Baluchistan on January 17, 1921, to make a visit of the Ismaili school. He inspected the mode of education and emphasized on the teaching of Persian. The students sang a song, 'God may save our gracious king.' Col. A.B. Dew appreciated the President of the Council and other leaders. He wrote his remarks on the Visitors Book that, 'I visited the school today at the kind invitation of managing committee of the Khoja Institute. I was a great pleasure to see the instances and generosity of the H.H. Aga Khan Saheb and a good sound education is being given to the children. And I venture to congratulate His Highness in the loyal cooperation of his followers in so enthusiastically carrying out his wishes.'
He became the Mukhi of Gwadar Jamatkhana (1920-1923), and played important role in the building of the Gwadar Jamatkhana.
The Imam came to Bombay from Europe in 1923. Prince Aly Khan also came at the age of 12 years for the first time in India with his mother Princess Theresa. The Imam made an extensive tour of Kathiawar, where the Ismailis of all over India had arrived. The Imam arrived in Anand on February 5, 1923 and Rajkot on February 6, 1923, where over 30,000 Ismailis assembled. The Imam also visited Kesod on February 16, 1923, and also gave didar in Upleta, Bhayavadar, Jam Jodhpur and Porebander. He came in Limadi on February 22, 1923. In sum, the Imam returned to Bombay on February 26, 1923 after a tour of 20 days. Immediately, the Imam proceeded for Madras on March 3, 1923. Alijah Datoo Meru also went to Kathiawar with his family and returned to Karachi, where he received an urgent telegram of Pir Sabzali from Bombay on March 22, 1923. It read: 'Come Bombay soon. Imam summoned you. Don't delay and haste to catch first arriving steamer.' The gracious call of duty beckoned him for action as he prepared to go to Bombay instead of Gwadar.
It appears that the Imam was in Bombay after the visit of Kathiawar between February 26, 1923 and March 3, 1923 and during these days, he made a programme to depute a person on his behalf in Iran and Alijah Datoo was recommended for it. The Imam seems to have told to Pir Sabzali to summon Alijah Datoo to Bombay after completion of his visit to Madras. It is said that Pir Sabzali made a search of Alijah Datoo in Kathiawar and eventually came to know that he had set out for Karachi. Thus, Pir Sabzali sent an urgent telegram to Alijah Datoo in Karachi at the address of the Recreation Club's office on March 22, 1923.
Alijah Datoo Meru reached Bombay with his family on March 28, 1923. He asked Pir Sabzali the reasons of his urgent call. To this, Pir Sabzali said, 'Imam will summon you soon after the trip of Madras to make a farman for you. Be prepared for Iran.' He said, 'I am ever ready to go anywhere provided I am ordered by the Imam.'
The Imam returned to Bombay on April 2, 1923 and graced a didar to his Iranian followers, known as the Khalu at Hasanabad on April 3, 1923, where Alijah Datoo was also summoned. The Imam told him, 'Datoo, you have to go Iran. Thousands of my followers reside in Iran. You must see them and convey them my blessings, and submit me a report of their conditions, what you observed.'
Alijah Datoo at once bowed his head to indicate his readiness. Few questions however crowded in his mind as he had never been in Iran ever before, and knew Urdu and English a little, and also how far he should go inside Iran. And a moment had scarcely elapsed when the Imam asked, 'Datoo, are you afraid of going alone? Whom will you take along?' To this, he replied, 'To whom you Khudawind recommend.' The Imam selected five Khalu followers, and asked, 'Wherever will you go?' Khalu Kassim Mukhi Yaqub Ali made its reply that, 'Sirjan, Kahek, Babak, Kirman, Khorasan, etc. will be ideal places to visit. Mahallat is at a furthest distance, where we cannot go.' The Imam said, 'Why not? You must go to Mahallat. Make a journey of Iran for six months. There is now transport of motor and car etc.'
The formalities of passports and papers executed on April 7, 1923 and Alijah Datoo decided to leave Bombay on April 19, 1923 by Bhimora steamer. The Recreation Club Institute hosted a warm reception to him on April 18, 1923, participated by the members, leaders of Council and jamat.
The caravan of Alijah Datoo Meru composed of five Khalu Ismailis, Ali Khan Masum Ali, Kassim Mukhi Yaqub Ali, Muhammad Hussain Ghulam Hussain Sherkani, Abbas Ibrahim Khorasani and Hasan Ali Abbas Khorasani. The Bhimora vessel sailed from Bombay on April 19, 1923 and reached Karachi on April 22, where Varas Muhammad Remu already informed the jamat through a telegram. The members of Recreation Club and leaders received him at the port, notably Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad (1884-1952), Varas Fadhu Piru Khalikdina (1885-1936), etc. Proceeded thence to Gwadar, he was given there a rousing welcome on April 23, 1923 by Kamadia Abdullah Nandu Pratani, Mukhi Tajar Muhammad, Kamadia A'ali Rahmatullah, Bandali Hamir, Abdul Hussain Mukhi Khuda Baksh, Bandali and Kamadia Muhammad, etc. Varas Muhammad Remu from Bombay also informed the leaders of the Gwadar jamat through a telegram. Alijah Datoo left his family in Gwadar and sailed for Muscat on April 26, 1923.
Alijah Datoo Meru arrived at Port Abbas on April 27, and left on May 11, 1923. He passed through different towns and villages till he reached Shahr-i Babak on May 19. His caravan at last arrived in Kirman on May 20, Yazd on September 26, Ispahan on October 3, and Mahallat on October 15, including Kahek, Tehran and Qumm on November 5. He departed from Tehran on November 12, and came in Mashhad, and thus, he crossed a distance of 600 miles during 20 days. He departed from Mashhad on December 25, and reached Quetta by train on January 31, 1924. He arrived in Karachi by train on February 3, 1924 and went to Bombay by sea. The hospitality that he received from the Iranian Ismailis was unprecedented. He submitted a report of his journey of 11 months to the Imam, who was immensely happy for his successful mission.
On March 7, 1924, he merited the title of Alijah and earned blessings and benedictions of the Imam. It was indeed his useful mission he ventured in Iranian towns, villages and cities. The worth of his mission can be measured from the farman of the Imam, which was made before the Gwadar jamat at Bombay on April 7, 1924 that, 'It is also for you whatever have been spoken for Mukhi Datoo of Gwadar. Pir Sadruddin came to India from Iran for religious dawat for you. Likewise, Mukhi Datoo has gone to Iran for the dawat of the followers. This is a very great work.'
The original narrative of his journey was published for the first time into Gujrati in weekly 'Ismaili,' Bombay (July 12, 1925 to July 19, 1925) under the title of 'Mumbai'thi Mahallat.' This important material was shrouded for over 24 years. It appeared for the second time in 'Ismaili Crescent' (Dar-es-Salaam) on September 14, 1969, incorporated with some insignificant additions and changes. Over 55 years later, Shihabuddin Gwadari translated the text into Urdu in 'Gohar-e-Gwadar' (Karachi, 1994). For its English translation, vide 'Travels of Alijah Datoo Meru in Iran' (Karachi, 2001) by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin Sadik Ali.
The Recreation Club Institute honoured a grand party to Alijah Datoo Meru and Pir Sabzali for blessed with the titles of Alijah. The function was presided by Ahmed Rahim on March 12, 1924. Both were presented the welcome address written on the hand-woven cloth encased in silver caskets.
The Imam left Bombay for Europe on March 15, 1924 by a mail steamer 'Cledonia' of P&O Co., and Alijah Datoo Meru also left for Gwadar on March 17, 1924. In Gwadar, the jamat hailed him in princely reception on June 14, 1924, presided by Mukhi Tajar Muhammad, the Vice-President of the Council.
He visited Chahbar as a member of the Council with Mukhi Tajar Mukhi Mohammad to survey the economical condition of the Ismailis. It is a seaport on the coast of Gulf of Oman on southeast of Iran. They left Gwadar on August 3, 1924 and trekked for eight days on camels. They performed waez in the villages populated by the Ismailis. They left Chahbar on August 20, 1924 and arrived in Muscat by ship, called Bankura, where they held about 19 majalis and delivered waez in the time of Chief Mukhi Itmadi Khalfan Murad Ali (1877-1953) and Kamadia Mohammad Abdul Karim.
Varas Muhammad Remu, the founder President of the Gwadar Council (1905-1924) was diabetic. His health was getting worse in October 1924. He was taken to Karachi with Alijah Datoo Meru for necessary treatment on November 2, 1924. He unfortunately expired on November 5, 1924. The Karachi Council sent an urgent telegraphic message to the Imam in Paris. In his urgent message of November 6, 1924, the Imam blessed the departed soul, and added, 'Appoint after full consultation Karachi Council and Coast (for) new President in his place till I come India.' Alijah Datoo Meru was in Karachi and with the consultation of the members of Makran Coast; a resolution was passed to appoint him as an Acting President for Gwadar Council. Soon after the arrival of the Imam from Europe to Bombay on January 22, 1926, the services of Alijah Datoo Meru was confirmed as a President of the Council. He continued to serve in Council till 1937, and was followed by his elder son, Varas Ibrahim (1901-1982).
On July 10, 1925, a son of the Kori in the village of Patadi in Gujrat disappeared. The rival group propagated that the Ismailis had killed him, and they damaged the premises of Jamatkhana and destroyed the religious books. The Ismailis in all parts of India condemned the incident, which affected the Gwadar jamat. Alijah Datoo Meru called a meeting of the Council on August 22, 1925 and condemned the event. He also raised funds for the Ismailis of Gujrat. The incident is known as Patadi Murder Case, and in its verdict on December 7, 1925, the Court declared the Ismailis innocent. It may be noted that Muhammad Ali Jinnah pleaded for the Ismailis.
It will be interesting to learn that in 1926, a certain Hindu, called Ishvardas Karam Chand heard the lecture of an Ismaili, Abdullah at Naklank Lecture Hall in Gwadar. The gathering was presided by Kamadia Ahmad Aali Rehmatullah, the manager of C.J. Hoodbhai in B.I.S. & Co. Ltd. The lecture touched the heart of Ishvardas, who embraced Ismailism on next day with the hands of Alijah Datoo Meru.
It appears that the health of the Imam did not allow him to make constant long tour of India from Europe. He deputed Prince Aly Khan in India as a Valiahad to represent him. On that occasion, Alijah Datoo Meru sent following telegraphic message to the Imam:-
Sep. 15, 1930
H.H. The Aga Khan,
For auspicious occasion Prince Aga Ali Shah designated Waliahad behalf of Gwadur jamat respectfully crave permission to tender sincerest congratulations to him and most submissively offer entertainment from jamat. Earnestly praying Khudawand for kind acceptance and benediction.
In his reply, the Imam sent following telegram:-
Sep. 19, 1930
President Alijah Datoo Meiroo,
On this occasion best paternal blessings and always night and day thinking of all dear Gulf spiritual children.
The Imam also appointed him as his estate agent in 1932 for Gwadar, Ormada and Pasani jamats.
In 1932, the British Empire designed a master plan to build an airport at Gwadar, and Alijah Datoo Meru was given its contract.
Prince Aly Khan visited Gwadar for three times, when he was the President of Gwadar Council (1924-1937). The first visit of Prince Aly Khan for one hour took place on February 15, 1933 with Pir Sabzali and Hashim Hood. The airport was at the distance of 9 miles from town. The jamat reached at airport before two days on camels, where the tents were erected for temporary lodging. Prince Aly Khan gave an audience to the jamat in a decorated tent and accepted their mehmani. He said through Pir Sabzali that, 'I accept the mehmani on behalf of my father with best loving blessings.' Prince Aly Khan also said, 'You are delighted to see me, but I am delighted thousand times more than you. I have never dreamt for visiting here, but your love has fetched me over here.' Captain Ibrahim Datoo Meru then read a welcome speech on behalf of the Council. In his reply, Prince Aly Khan said, 'I am happy to know how your Council is working. I have never thought of an existence of a school in this barren village, but it gave me immense happiness for it.' On that occasion, Alijah Datoo Meru garlanded him on behalf of the Council and Mukhi Tajar Mohammad on behalf of the jamat.
During the mehmani at Bombay on December 18, 1933, the Imam appreciated the Gwadar jamat for the befitting welcome of Prince Aly Khan. The Imam also said that after the visit of the wife of the Viceroy of India in Gwadar, she admired it before him in London for the warm welcome accorded to her.
Prince Aly Khan launched his next trip in Gwadar on January 18, 1934. His third visit took place with his Begum on January 26, 1937. Alijah Datoo Meru greeted him all the times as a President of the Council and administered the whole management.
He was certainly a silent social worker. Ever present, helpful and full of kindness were specific features in his life. The faith in Ismailism burned with steady flame in his heart till his last breath. He played prominent roles in the jamats of Gwadar, Muscat, Pasani and Ormada, Karachi and Sind. He was also noted for his valuable services in Karachi and Bombay. He died in Muscat on August 25, 1939, where he was buried.
His sons continued the legacy of the services with the jamats all the times. His elder son, Varas Mukhi Ibrahim Datoo was born on November 4, 1901 in Gwadar, where he took his formal education. He resided in Karachi for three years to learn English in St. Patrick School. He mostly served as a member of Panjibhai Club in Gwadar since 1920, which became the Volunteer Corps, of which he was the Captain. Soon after the retirement of his father, he was appointed the President of the Gwadar Council (1937-1946). After the Diamond Jubilee of Imam in 1946, he migrated towards Colombo, where he was appointed as a Kamadia in 1950 with Wazir Mukhi Saboor Chatoor (1899-1967). He donated a princely amount in building the new Jamatkhana in Colombo. Mukhi Saboor Chatoor reported the Imam the progress of its construction on May 27, 1952. In his message on June 1, 1952, the Imam graciously blessed the donors. Sir Oliver Gontal, the minister of Foods & Agriculture on November 30, 1952, performed the opening ceremony of the new Jamatkhana. On that occasion, Varas Ibrahim Datoo delivered a touching speech.
He became the Mukhi of Colombo Jamatkhana after the retirement of Wazir Mukhi Saboor Chatoor on July 11, 1966. He also attended the marriage of the Imam in Paris on October 28, 1969. He also visited Salamia to attend the burial ceremony of Prince Aly Khan on July 10, 1972. It seems that he was a literary person and compiled 'Why not A.D., But A.H., A.C. or C.E.' (Ilm, London, vol. 4, no. 2, Dec., 1978, pp. 34-5)
Varas Ibrahim Datoo was honored with the title of Wazir and died on March 24, 1982 in Colombo.
The second son of Alijah Datoo Meru was Rai Mukhi Shamsuddin, who was also born in Gwadar on January 6, 1915, where he got his early education. He served as a member and Captain of the Volunteer Corps for several years. He became a member of the Council. He migrated towards Hyderabad Deccan in 1946, where he continued his services with Volunteer Corps. According to the guidance of the Imam, he joined the Mission Course, and became a talented missionary. He arrived in Karachi in 1951, where he started his business as far as Gwadar. He also became the Vice-President of Gwadar Council (1956-1961) and the Mukhi (1961-1976). He passed rest of his life in Karachi, where he died on December 31, 1988.
Itmadi Kamadia Badruddin, another son of Alijah Datoo Meru was born on July 20, 1917 in Gwadar. He too was an active worker in Volunteer Corps and became the member of the Council. He served as the Kamadia (1952-1961) and as President of the Council (1966-1972). He came to live in Karachi, where he extended his outstanding services in the construction of the Nizari Jamatkhana. He died on October 27, 1999 in Karachi.
Nuruddin was the youngest son of Alijah Datoo Meru, who was also born in Gwadar in 1918. He was interested in decorative and engraving skills and took leading part in decoration of the Jamatkhana on festive occasions. He migrated towards Nairobi in view of the guidance of the Imam. He then proceeded to Vancouver, Canada, where he died a few years ago.