66. Kassim Ali Muhammad Jaffer, Missionary - page 254
Saboo, the great grandfather of Varas Kassim Ali lived in Jerruk, Sind. His grandfather, Karmali and his family known as the Sabooani family migrated to Karachi and settled in the location of Kharadhar. The father of Varas Kassim Ali was Muhammad Jaffer (1856-1946), served as a volunteer, and supplied the vegetables and fruits daily in the Honeymoon Lodge for Imam's family. In 1920, he generously contributed funds in the building of the premises of the Baitul Khiyal in Kharadhar Jamatkhana.
Muhammad Jaffer died in 1946 at the age of 90 years. He had married twice and had no child from his first wife, called Virbai. He is reported to have sought permission from the Council with the consent of his wife for the second marriage. When he made a humble submission, the Imam asked the reasons. He said that he wanted children. The Imam conceded on a condition that as the children came; the wealth would disappear, what he would prefer? He gave choice for the children.
Muhammad Jaffer proceeded to Ahmednagar with his wife at the invitation of his close friend, Varas Dayabhai Velji (1870-1937). He married Fatimabai of the Sultania Orphanage. From this marriage, he was blessed with seven sons, Fateh Ali, Sadruddin, Shamsuddin, Kassim Ali, Ghulam Hyder, Ashiq Ali and Noor Ali; and four daughters, Khatoo, Malek, Gulshakar and Noorbanu. The most prominent personage among them under our review is Varas Kassim Ali Muhammad Jaffer.
Varas Kassim Ali, the sixth child, was born on January 26, 1925 at Janbai Maternity Home, Kharadhar, Karachi. During four years of secondary education, he remained as a boarder in Wazir Rahim Basaria Boarding, Garden, Karachi. He finished his MA from Bombay University in 1942. In 1944, when he was a member of the Aga Khan Band, his father preferred him to become a missionary, adding that he would serve him with a cup of milk with his own hands. Indeed, the achievements show that his father spoke symbolically and aimed for him much sweeter things than milk.
Kassim Ali joined as a religious teacher of Kharadhar Night School in 1942 till 1948. He was also a Cub Master of Kharadhar Cub Pack and was one of the leaders to take the cub band to Bombay to attend the Diamond jubilee of the Imam in 1946. He also joined the Waez Class Training Course in 1944 in Karachi for one year, sponsored by the Ismailia Association for India. On March 21, 1948, he emerged not only as an honorary missionary of the newly formed Ismailia Association for Pakistan, but also became its founder member. In 1950, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah expressed a desire to have 500 waezeens instead of 5 waezeens. Varas Kassim Ali played an important role in organizing waezeen classes for both gents and ladies through out Pakistan. He also became the Honorary Joint Secretary and then Honorary Secretary of the Ismailia Association for Pakistan between 1953 and 1966.
Varas Kassim Ali is credited to have recited the Holy Koran during the Platinum Jubilee on February 3, 1954 in Karachi. He had also an honour of Tilawat-e-Koran during the Takhat Nashini of the Imam on January 23, 1958 at Karachi and Bombay on March 11, 1958. The Imam also promoted him in the Ismailia Association for Pakistan by appointing him its Vice-President (1963-1972). In 1972, he became the President of the Ismailia Association for Pakistan for eight years (1972-1980). During the time of his office as the Vice-President and President, various programs were organized, where the waezeens were trained for India, East Africa, Iran and Syria.
Varas Kassim Ali launched his first ex-Pakistan visit in East Africa on September 3, 1954, which was his personal visit. When he was returning, Count Lutaf Ali Merali Lalji, the President (1960-1963) of the Ismailia Association for Kenya requested him to extend his stay to deliver waez in different quarters in East African countries with his own expenses. He accepted it and visited different places with Count Lutaf Ali Merali Lalji and delivered waez. Count Lutaf Ali sent its report to the Imam in Europe and the Imam appreciated the services of Varas Kassim Ali in a message.
He returned Karachi via Bombay, where he also delivered waez and Rai Mahdi Hasan Ali, the Mukhi of Darkhana Jamatkhana presented him a gold ring.
On October 31, 1954, an assembly was arranged at Garden Jamatkhana to honour the invaluable services of Varas Kassim Ali Muhammad Jaffer in presence of distinguished leaders, such as Chief Mukhi Wazir Chagla Vali Muhammad (1885-1966), Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai (1894-1971), etc. Wazir Dr. Pir Muhammad Hoodbhoy (1905-1956) mentioned his services in his speech and read following farman of the Imam:-
The President and Members,
My dear President and Members,
I give my best loving blessings to Hon. Missionary Huzurmukhi Kassimali Jaffar for the good work he has done in Africa; also to yourselves for sending such an able member of your own Brotherhood there.
I give special blessings for his zeal and convincing preaching and all the trouble he took to travel by air, rail etc., to many different centres.
On that occasion, a copy of the above holy message in a frame was presented to him by the hands of Chief Mukhi Wazir Chagla Vali Muhammad.
With the request of the East African Ismailia Associations, he visited East Africa on April, 1959. He delivered waez for over 8 months in Kenya, Uganda and Tanganyika. On the eve of his departure from Nairobi, he was honoured in a banquet of the Ismailia Association for Kenya in Nairobi on Saturday, January 16, 1960 at the Diamond Jubilee Hall. It was attended by 250 guests. Wazir Lutaf Ali Merali, the President of the Ismailia Association for Kenya made an opening speech, enumerating his meritorious services for eight months in East Africa. In his speech, Count Kassim Ali Paroo said, 'Sometimes, I become tired listening to the waez of the missionaries, but Missionary Kassim Ali has sweetness in his eloquence and an art of presenting. The sweet echo of his melodious voice still lingers in our ears.' He left Zanzibar on January 18, 1960.
The Ismailia Association for Kenya sent a report of his waez to the Imam on January 18, 1960. In his reply, the Imam said:
My dear President and Members,
I have read your report of 18th January with much interest.
I am very happy with the good work you are doing, and I give my best loving blessings to all the members of the Ismailia Association for their devoted services.
Kindly convey my best paternal maternal blessings to Missionary Kassamali M. Jaffer and all those who accompanied him during his tour of East Africa, and offered travelling expenses.
Varas Kassim Ali Muhammad Jaffer also participated in Ph.D. scholars' deliberations to work out establishment of the Institute of Ismaili Studies and submitted its report in the World Ismailia Associations Conference chaired by the Imam in 1975 at Paris. He was also appointed as the member of the Review Committee of the Institute of Ismaili Studies Ltd., London in 1978 and was graciously blessed with the personal message of the Imam.
About 2700 Ismailis from 20 countries gathered to pay last tribute to the 48th Imam at Aswan, whose official resting of body was to take place in a mausoleum. Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived in Cairo on February 18, 1959 and held a meeting with President Nasser of Egypt. In Aswan, a tent was pitched for a didar. Hazar Imam was to reach from Cairo to Aswan at 5.00 p.m. on February 19, 1959, but the train was late and reached at 9.30 p.m. The jamat was waiting anxiously in the tent from 6.00 p.m. On that occasion, Varas Kassim Ali delivered waez with the recitation of Holy Koran. The jamat waited anxiously till 11.30 p.m. then the Imam regretted for not coming for didar. The Imam visited the tent on next day at 8.30 a.m. and graced the didar. The bier of the 48th Imam was lifted on that day at 3.00 p.m. from Nur al-Salaam to the mausoleum on the hill. Varas Kassim Ali recited the verses from Holy Koran, including the verse from Sura Noor inside the mausoleum.
The Imam visited Goa for the first time on October 27, 1960. On that occasion, the Imam commanded him to recite Sura Ikhlas at the opening ceremony of the new Jamatkhana.
His honorary services were never confined to his homeland, and made several tours abroad to deliver waez on several occasions. He visited East Africa in 1954, 1959, 1965 and 1966, Syria in 1965 and 1972, Europe in 1984, a long tour of 75 days in United States of America and Canada in 1981, in 1989 for 72 days, in 1992 for 15 days, in 1994 for 20 days, in 1996, 1998, 2000 and lastly in 2002.
His long tour with Professor Jawad Muscati in 1965 was a historical. He left Karachi on February 24, 1965 for East Africa and visited various cities. He left East Africa on March 13, 1965 and reached Cairo, where he stayed for six days. He visited al-Azhar Mosque and the universities and he also held meetings with the famous scholars and professors on Islamic studies. He left Cairo on March 19 and arrived in Beirut for one day. He proceeded to Salamia, Syria on March 21, 1965 where he performed waez and arranged many gatherings. He left Salamia on March 26, 1965 for Khawabi. On the way to Khawabi, he took an opportunity to see the town of Masiyaf. After visiting Khawabi, he arrived in Damascus on March 29, 1965, and took visit of the universities and libraries. He returned to Beirut on April 1, 1965 and came in London on April 4, 1965. Then he proceeded to Paris on April 20, 1965. The Imam graced him an audience on May 4, 1965, where he submitted the report. He was fortunate to have another audience with the Imam on next day. On his way back to homeland journey, he also visited Lausanne jamat in Switzerland, and then reached Kuwait, where he stayed for five days and delivered waez, and finally returned to Karachi.
Varas Kassim Ali had an opportunity to make a trip of Chitral in the same year. It must be noted that he had four hours drive on 33 miles mountainous road along Kivu Lake, while going from Uganda to Congo and the view point at the height of 8170 feet. He had also been on Usumbara mountains while going to Lushoto in Tanzania and also travelled on Lebanon hills along Mediterranean as well as on the loftiest mountains of Khwabi in Syria. But his trip of Chitral in Pakistan surpassed in all respects. He started his journey from Peshawar on October 20, 1965 with a deputation headed by Varas Captain Amir Ali (1910-1978), who was commissioned by the Imam for the welfare of the Ismailis in Chitral. The deputation comprised of Professor Jawad Muscati, Itmadi Qamaruddin M. Hashwani and Akbar Allana for economic problems.
Varas Kassim Ali left Peshawar with the deputation on October 20, 1965 by jeeps and after travelling 150 miles via Mardan and Malakand, reached Dhir. Before reaching Darosh, they passed through Lawari peak, about 8000 feet high. They passed steep hilly tracks with scores of dangerous blind curves. They reached Chitral on October 21, 1965 and had a meeting with the ruler of Chitral on next day. On October 23, 1965 they resumed their journey and after passing a passage of 55 miles, they reached Buni in Mastuj Tehsil, and then returned back to Chitral on October 25, 1965. They also visited Lotku, about 30 miles from Chitral, 15 miles by jeeps and 15 miles on horses. They finally returned to Chitral on October 28, 1965 and then took return journey on next day.
The Imam made the visit of the East African countries on October 18, 1966. The Imam summoned him especially for translating the farmans into Gujrati before the jamat in East Africa. At the end of the tour, the Imam sent him following message on December 16, 1966 that:-
My dear Missionary Kassamali,
I was very happy indeed with your excellent work during my visit to East Africa. I send you my most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings for your good work and devoted services.
With regards to all the problems you have referred to me, I will write to you again giving you my decisions, once I have been able to consider the matters.
Your work in East Africa was excellent and I could not have been happier with it.
It will be interesting to cite an incident that during his auspicious visit of East Africa between October 18, 1966 and December 11, 1966, Hazar Imam made many farmans against the degrading habits of drinking and smoking. Varas Kassim Ali was on his duty in East Africa, and when he returned, he explained the gist of the farmans in Aden and Karachi Jamatkhanas. He also emphasized upon those who were smokers and addicts of alcohol. His delivery struck the hearts of the listeners, and most of them abandoned the diabolic habits. Among them was an individual, an addict of drinking and smoking for 16 years. It was not so easy to give up old habit in an instant, but he was determined to give it up in view of Imam's orders. On fourth day following his abandonment, he suffered with a fatal heart trouble and expired. Varas Kassim Ali prepared a report of his tour of East Africa, Aden and Karachi and sent to the Imam on January 20, 1967, including the incident of the above person in particular. The Imam sent following message on January 24, 1967 that:-
My dear Missionary Kassimali,
I have received your two letters dated 20th January, and have read the contents with great interest.
I am very happy indeed with your good work, and I give you my most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings for your devoted services.
I am happy to hear that you were able to stop in Aden on your way to Karachi and that my jamat in Aden was able to listen to your wa'z.
I give my most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings to the deceased spiritual child mentioned in your report, and I pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace. I send him my special loving blessings for having given up his 16 years' old habit of drinking and smoking.
The Imam made a gracious visit of India for 23 days on November 5, 1967. The Imam intended that Missionary Kassim Ali should accompany him in the Indian tour for making translation of the farmans during the didar programme. The Imam sent following message to Varas Amir Ali Karim, the Estate Agent of the Imam in Pakistan on October 2, 1967 that:-
My dear Amirali,
I would like you to inform Missionary Kassamali to accompany me during my visit to India next month.
Missionary Kassamali should be available from 5th November to 28th November in India.
During his Indian tour, he also attended the grand waezeen assembly at Bombay on December 10, 1967, presided by Itmadi Ghulam Ali S. Morani, the President of Ismailia Association for India. On that occasion, he delivered a waez and explained the gist of the farmans of the Imam. The President sent its report to the Imam on January 10, 1968. The Imam sent following message:-
My dear President,
I have received your letter of 10th January, and have read your report with much interest.
I am happy to hear that the Waezeen Assembly held on the 10th December at Darkhana Jamatkhana, was well attended by my spiritual children and I give my best loving blessings to all beloved spiritual children who participated the Waezeen Assembly.
I give my best paternal maternal loving blessings to the following missionaries for their devoted services to my India jamat:-
Missionary Kassim Ali M.J.
Missionary Abu Aly
Missionary Noormohamed Rahimtoola
Missionary Noordin Amlani
In 1969, Varas Kassim Ali was one of the two well-informed waezeens who were desired by the Imam to attend the First World Ismailia Association Conference at Paris, and also attended the dinner reception hosted by the Imam. On that occasion, Hazar Imam introduced him to Begum Salimah and said, 'This missionary has travelled thousands and thousands miles with me to various countries.'
It was in the month of June, 1972 that Hazar Imam asked him to go to Damascus. He made the trip of the historical city, where he met Kamal Khan, the estate manager of the Imam. Kamal Khan escorted him to Salamia, where he stayed for a few days. He was also told to study the rites and ceremonies of the Syrian jamat and prepare its report. In those days, the final burial ceremony of Prince Aly Khan was also performed on July 10, 1972. He had an honour to recite the fatiha. Later on, he went to Sardinia with Kamal Khan to see the Imam. Kamal Khan returned and he alone met the Imam and submitted the report. He then introduced the changes recommended by the Imam for the Syrian jamats.
In 1988, Varas Kassim Ali was appointed the National Convenor for the Senior Citizens' Activities Committee under the Aga Khan Social Welfare Board for Pakistan in 1989.
In 1989, Hazar Imam mentioned to the jamat in Hyderabad, Sind for him that, 'He was the President, but I preferred to call him a Missionary.' It is indeed one of the pleasing and gracious remarks for him.
Varas Kassim Ali attained unique opportunities of translating the holy farmans during the didar programmes of the Imam in Rangoon, Pakistan and Goa (1960), India (1962 and 1967), East Africa at Commore Island and Madagascar (1966), London (1979), Portugal (1983), Singapore (1986), Bangladesh (1986 and 1993) and Pakistan (1964, 1970, 1976, 1989 and 1991). This is one of the privileged services of his career.
His contributions in the literary field are equally fruitful. Apart from compiling different articles for the Ismaili periodicals, he also composed 'Precious Pearls' (1954) and 'Precious Gems' (1959) the holy farmans of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah and Hazar Imam in 1954. In 1955, he wrote a thesis on the Imamate entitled, 'Ever Living Guide' duly approved by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah. He is also well versed in the study of the ginans and compiled the selection from 'Saloko Moto', 'Saloko Nano' and 'Anant Akhado'. In 1993, his another work, 'Jawahir-e-Ginan' was compiled with different themes, and the compilation of over 350 verses sorted over 17 chapters with introduction and explanation on each chapter in Urdu based on Holy Koran in 1986. The Ismailia Association for Pakistan published all these works.
Varas Kassim Ali made an excellent attempt of the English rendering of the 'Moti Venti' of Pir Hasan Kabiruddin with meaning, and also started the English rendering of 'Jawahir-e-Ginan.' In August, 1995, he compiled subject-wise 250 verses of the Holy Koran, entitled 'Guidelines from Holy Quran,' spread over 14 chapters on fundamental concepts, practices, ethics, etc. with introduction of each chapter. Pre-published copies of the three precious works have however been distributed to colleagues and friends world over.
In conclusion, the services of Varas Kassim Ali Muhammad Jaffer in the field analyzed above, are so invaluable and worth-mentioning that it is beyond words to elaborate in details. He has continued his services without respite till today.
He was vested the title of Huzur Kamadia and Alijah, he was later blessed with the titles of Rai and Itmadi. Varas Kassim Ali was vested with the title of Varas on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Imam in 1983.
May Mawlana Hazar Imam grant him longer life, health and courage to serve the world Ismaili community more and more till his last breath, Amen.