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Kharadhar - Oldest Jamat in Karachi

KARACHI, the biggest city of Pakistan is the Alexander’s haven, the Liverpool of Sub-continent or the Croydon of the East. It is the only city in the world, which became known over thirty times. Crochey, Krotchey Bay, Carnjee, Koratchey, Currachee, Kurrachee and Karachi are its notable appellations, the last however being an official according to The Imperial Gazetteer of India. When Iran did the Greeks under Alexander conquer in the 4th century B.C., the whole Sind came under his supremacy. Alexander returned via Lahore, while his naval force under Nearchus had to halt for one day on October 8, 326 B.C. due to the onslaught of the monsoon, somewhere near Karachi, a place which is spoken as Alexander’s haven. Krokala is another Greek name, with which Karachi is also identified.

Karachi came under the British occupation in 1839 and annexed with the British Empire in 1843. Sir Charles Napier, the then governor of Sind (1843-1847) visualized the development potential of Karachi, and contemplated a number of measures for making it a first-rate port and city. Karachi earned thus the grade of a city in 1925.

The Old Town is an oldest location of Karachi, spreading over 35 acres on a lofty place, between the Kharadhar and Mithadhar areas. It is listed as 1st quarter out of 26 quarters since 1842. Kharadhar and Mithadhar are originally the names of the two gates of the wall fortified around the town in 1729. This was a fishing village known as Kalachi’jo Goath. The fortified enclosure contained about 30 to 35 acres. Its one gate faced west towards the sea was known as Kharadhar (the gate of saltiest water). The other faced the north-east towards the Lyari River was Mithadhar (the gate of sweet water). The wall was broken down in 1860 to enlarge the town, but the locations of Kharadhar and Mithadhar are still existed, representing the oldest sites of the town. Since the existence of KMC in 1852, the location of Kharadhar also became known as Ghulam Hussain Kassim quarter, the 2nd out of 26 quarters of Karachi, spreading in 24.37 acres.

The origin of early Ismaili settlers in Karachi may be traced from Kutchh, Kathiawar, Muscat, Gwadar and lower and upper Sind during 16th and 17th century. They used to launch their mercantile trips in Karachi, and some of them resided in the town without having any community significance. Syed Ghulam Ali Shah or Ghulmali Shah from the Kadiwala family was a prominent missionary in Sind, Kutchh and Kathiawar. He died in Karachi in 1792 when there was handful Ismailis. His body was transported to Kera in Kutchh for burial.

Kutchh is reported to have gripped in a dust bowl, followed by a terrible famine, and as a result, a retinue of ten thousand Ismailis trekked down in Sind and settled in Mulla Katiar and Rehari. In 1820, a caravan of Alleno Jiand, also called Lutf Ali Alleno migrated to Karachi from Rehari and settled at the edge of the town near the sea, called the Kharadhar.

These 200 to 250 Ismailis, who formed a small community in Karachi, evolved a well-defined institutional framework through which they made a far-reaching progress. They owned a plot no. G.T. 9/83 at Old Town in Kagzi Bazar in 1825 for the Jamatkhana. It was flat-roofed, and built of mud, mixed up with a large quantity of chopped grass, plastered over a framework of wood. The water was procured daily from Mithadhar.

In the period of Mukhi Ramzan Ismail, a plot of 2500 sq. yards was acquired for the new Jamatkhana between Harris Road and Imamwada Street, Kharadhar, Karachi. The new Jamatkhana was built into five phases, therefore, the old Jamatkhana of Kagzi Bazar temporarily shifted at plot no. 3/40-41 (now Rahmatullah Manzil) at the junction of Kasssim Street and Khalikdina Street, then at Khalikdina Street (now Mahfil-e-Masumeen Street) for few months. The new Jamatkhana came to be used soon after the completion of its first phase in November 2, 1882.

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This Jamatkhana was called as the Karachi Jamatkhana, Main Jamatkhana or Chief Jamatkhana in India. The Imam however referred to it for the first time as Karachi Jamatkhana on January 1, 1912 in view of the fact that the Ismailis of the Garden area used to call Kharadhar as Karachi.

When Imam Aga Ali Shah expired in Poona on August 17, 1885, his holy body transported from Bombay to Najaf for burial. The coffin was boarded in a ship on October 28, 1885 and anchored at Karachi. The cortege procession brought it safely in the town and kept in the new Jamatkhana for three days. Mukhi Kassim Musa (d. 1901), the estate agent of Bombay was consigned its responsibilities. He writes in his handwritten book, “Bombay to Najaf” that, “The Ismailis reside thickly at the edge of the town in Kharadhar. They have just built a big Jamatkhana and presented to the Imam, where the coffin of Imam Aga Ali Shah was kept for three days, where the people were flocking through the day. The food of niaz was cooked at Kharadhar Jamatkhana for the jamat.”

In the period of Mukhi Mohammad Ali Ghulamani, the hon’ble title of the Chief Mukhi began to be governed by the Mukhi of Kharadhar Jamatkhana according to an expressed guidance of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in 1902.

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah visited the Panjibhai Club at Wadi (now the Aga Khan Gymkhana, Karachi) on January 17, 1912, where Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad Asani (1884-1952) reported that the plan for raising the chamber for Baitual Khiyal in the Jamatkhana had been ready. When its design was presented, the Imam said, “Is its foundation strong enough?” To this, he replied in affirmative. The Imam asked, “Who are the persons who shared in the expenses of its construction?” The Imam was told that Rs. 1000/- was donated by Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad Asani, Rs. 1000/- by Rahmatullah Lalji of Bombay, Rs. 1000/- by Mohammad Jaffar Karamani, Rs. 500/- by Varas Muhammad Remu of Gwadar and Rs. 500/- by Mohammad Abdullah of Gwadar. The Imam was also informed that Mohammad Jaffar Karmani had offered to pay the deficit amount of Rs. 1000/- to Rs. 1500/- if required. The Imam blessed them.

The Imam visited in the Jamatkhana next day on January 18, 1912 and laid the foundation of the chamber of Baitul Khiyal by putting concrete with his own hands. The Imam also took a big stone and inserted into the foundation and blessed the jamat.

Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad also started a campaign of building the 2nd floor of the Jamatkhana on May 15, 1916. It cost Rs. 45000/- in which he contributed Rs. 15000/- He was assigned to supervise its construction.

Merali Kassim had also built a chamber of Baitul Khiyal for ladies in 1918, costing Rs. 30000/- Dr. Datoo Mukhi Ramzan Ismail (d. 1939) also donated Rs. 10000/- for constructing another chamber of Baitul Khiyal for gents, whose opening ceremony was performed by Varas Basaria Fadhu (1818-1918) on August 3, 1918. The Imam blessed them during the next visit in Karachi on April 11, 1920.

It was announced on April 11, 1920 in presence of the Imam that the expenses of extension of the Jamatkhana with a school at ground floor would cost Rs. 51,000/- in which Rs. 34,000/- was donated by Varas Bandali Kassim (1875-1956) and Rs. 17,000/- by Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad. The Imam showered best blessings upon the donors.
The premises of the Jamatkhana further underwent renovation and repairing. It was inaugurated by Prince Aly Khan on January 28, 1934.

For extending the ladies site in the Jamatkhana, Seith Khatau Keshav presented Rs. 10,000/- to the Imam on January 16, 1934 in Bombay. The Imam summoned his estate agent, Senior Wazir Karim (1881-1968) and Kamadia Ghulam Hussain Varas Vali to start its construction, and then said for Seith Khatau Keshav that, “HE IS A MOMIN AND HAS OFFERED THE FUNDS FOR THE RIGHTEOUS WORK. CONGRATULATION.” Chief Mukhi Hussaini Mukhi Mamu performed its foundation ceremony on June 23, 1934. The Council sent its report to the Imam in London. In his telegraphic message of July 7, 1934, the Imam said, “BEST BLESSINGS HAPPY OCCASION AND ENTERTAINMENT. CONVEY SAME KHATAU KESHAV.”

In the period of Chief Mukhi Wazir Chagla Vali Mohammad, the Imam sent a telegraphic message from Europe on December 6, 1946, declaring the Kharadhar Jamatkhana as a Dharkhana. The message reads, “LOVING PATERNAL MATERNAL BLESSINGS SPIRITUAL CHILDREN NOW IN DARKHANA KARACHI.”

The coveted title of “Chief Mukhi” also came to an end with the retirement of Chief Mukhi Wazir Chagla Vali Mohammad on March 21, 1960. It means that it remained in force for 58 years among the six Mukhis.

The Imam appointed Mukhi Wazir Chagla Vali Mohammad as the President of the Jamatkhana Construction Advisory Committee to raise funds for the new Jamatkhana in Kharadhar as well as the new Jamatkhana in Garden.

The meritorious services of Chief Mukhi Wazir Chagla Vali Mohammad (1885-1966) shall be ever remained in the history of Ismailis of Karachi. In his message of March 7, 1966, the Imam said, “THE LATE MUKHI RENDERED UNIQUE SERVICES TO MY JAMAT AND MYSELF AND HE HAD AND ALWAYS WILL HAVE A UNIQUE PLACE IN MY HEART AND AFFECTION. HE WILL ALWAYS BE IN MY THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS.”

A tragic incident of the out-worn three-storied Nanji Kurji building’s collapse took place in Kassim Hamir Street, Kharadhar on March 31, 1963 at 11.00 a.m., in which three Ismailis in the ration shop at ground floor were killed in the debris, viz. Rehmatullah Devji (72 years), Ahmed Rehmatullah (50 years) and Hakam Ali Aziz Rehmatullah ( 18 years). Being alarmed with it and in view of the depilatory condition of the old Jamatkhana at Harris Road, Mukhi Wazir Rahmatullah Bashir took a resolute measure, and immediately decided to vacate and shift it to the ground floor of the new Jamatkhana, which was yet under construction. Besides, the KDA also declared old Jamatkhana building as dangerous and unsuitable for use on April 2, 1963.

The shifting took place on Friday, April 5, 1963. It also required to shift the Imam’s holy gadi with due reverence. Chief Mukhi Wazir Chagla Vali Muhammad was assigned to conduct the traditional ceremony. Attired in golden robe, he took the gadi in his hands at 6.48 p.m. from the old Jamatkhana with Varasiani Gul Shakar Wazir Rahim Basaria. Taking the gadi in hands, he walked down to the entrance of the Harris Road, where a huge crowd assembled. With the slow recitation of the Chogadia Ginan, the small procession trekked down towards the new Jamatkhana. He alone entered the premises at first, where the jamat stood with due respect. He walked towards Mukhi Wazir Rahmatullah Bashir and handed over him the holy gadi amidst the recitation of Hai Zinda and Qaim Paya. The first Dua over here was offered at 7.02 p.m. This was a ceremony not to establish the gadi, but to transfer the established gadi from one to another place.

On December 13, 1986, the office of the Dharkhana shifted from Kharadhar to Garden, Karachi. Thus, the Kharadhar Jamatkhana officiated as the Dharkhana for 40 years (1946-1986) in Pakistan.

MUKHIS/KAMADIAS OF THE KHARADHAR JAMATKHANA

Between the year 1825 and 1855, the justi (traditional council) of the elders selected following Mukhis for the Kagzi Bazar Jamatkhana, Karachi.

1. Mukhi Datoo Chandu Varind 1825 - 1838
2. Mukhi Alarakhia Sajan 1838 - 1844
3. Mukhi Mohib Ali Jiand 1844 - 1855

When Mukhi Mohib Ali Jiand died in 1855, Juma Vali, the estate agent in Bombay brought a farman of the Imam written on parchment, indicating an official appointment of Alidina, the son of Assa (d. 1843), also called Alidina Asani as the Mukhi. The jamat hailed the news in jubilation and celebrated the occasion for three days. Henceforward, the tradition of the following appointments of the Mukhi by the Imam started in Karachi.


1. Mukhi Alidina Asani 1855 - 1873
2. Mukhi Alleno Jiand 1873 - 1882
3. Mukhi Ramzan Ismail Baledina 1882 - 1900
4. Chief Mukhi Mohammad Ali Ghulamani 1900 - 1910
5. Chief Mukhi Rahmatullah Ramzan Ismail 1910 - 1914
6. Chief Mukhi Rahmatullah Lutf Ali 1914 - 1928
7. Chief Mukhi Hussaini Mukhi Mamu 1928 - 1934
8. Chief Mukhi Ghulam Hussain Varoo 1934 - 1937
9. Chief Mukhi Mehr Ali Alarakhia 1937 - 1942
10. Chief Mukhi Khimji Lawji 1942 - 1946

11. Chief Mukhi Wazir Chagla Vali Mohammad 1946 - 1960
Kamadia Wazir Hussain Jan Mohammad
Joint Kamadia Itmadi Nazarali Nanji

12. Mukhi Wazir Rahmatullah Bashir 1960 - 1969
Kamadia Itmadi Essac Alijah Musa
Joint Mukhi Alijah Hassanali Ramji Rudani

13. Mukhi Itmadi Essac Alijah Musa 1969 - 1972
Kamadia Alijah Shamsuddin Lakhani
Joint Mukhi Alijah Noorali Itmadi Kassim Jaffar

14. Mukhi Rai Mohammad Rai Shahban Datoo 1972 - 1976
Kamadia Rai Mohammad Wazir A.J. Chunara
Joint Kamadia Ashraf A.M. Jiven

15. Mukhi Rai Mohammad Rai Shahban Datoo 1976 - 1980
Kamadia Alijah Abdul Rahim Itmadi K. Allana
Joint Kamadia Ghulam Hussain Lalani

16. Mukhi Rai Sherali Jaffarali Valliani 1980 - 1983
Kamadia Alijah Anwarali Rai Rajab Ali Boolani
Joint Kamadia Alijah Abdul Malik Varas A. Aziz

17. Mukhi Alijah Anwarali Rai Rajab Ali Boolani 1983 - 1987
Kamadia Alijah Abdul Malik Varas A. Aziz
Joint Kamadia Abdul Rehman Itmadi Kassim Jafar

18. Mukhi Rai Ahmed Ali Alijah Essa Valliani 1987 - 1996
Kamadia Alijah Najmuddin E. Gowani

19. Mukhi Alijah Najmuddin E. Gowani 1996 - 2002
Kamadia Saleem Sher Ali Ahmed

20. Mukhi Huzur Mukhi Akhtar Shamsuddin Shirazi since 2002
Kamadia Zulfikar Ashiq Ali Hussaini

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