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2. Preface

PREFACE
LIVES OF GREAT MEN ALL REMIND US,
WE CAN MAKE OUR LIVES SUBLIME.
AND DEPARTING LEAVE BEHIND US,
FOOTPRINTS ON THE SANDS OF TIME.

The motive, which induced me to compose this volume, is to present reliable and well-documented biographies of one hundred and one Ismaili heroes of the late 19th and 20th centuries. This literary work is a first attempt hitherto in designing the biographies of eminent persons of the worldwide Ismaili community. Its main purpose is to glorify, honour, exalt their virtues and incredible services, and to kindle a more living spirit in the present generation. In the old times, the record of contemporary relied only onto the memory of men, and it was handed down by tradition from sire to son. The community paper in 1908, however utilized pens and cameras to chronicle events into an imperishable form.

A community of petty hawkers and traders over two centuries ago has produced a number of great men who have left their glorious print in constructing the Ismaili history. This volume is not an attempt to catalogue all their biographies, but to mention a few of the prominent ones whose spirit of services both inside and outside the community should be constant source of pride and inspiration in this age and in the future.

This unique volume unfolds the vivid history to refresh the memory of the Ismaili heroes from late 19th century down to this age, and to enlighten the minds of the new generations on whose shoulders lies the responsibility to serve the community.

Research into the lives of the Ismaili heroes is accompanied with special difficulties: scattered records and passing away of most of the old persons who have treasured reliable information of their memories. Instead, we find a romantic and edifying fiction. Their early lives have been the subject of much romance and conflicting traditions. Quite a cycle of legends has been grown and woven round it. Its study was extremely rugged with deep, narrow and tortuous valleys of disappointments on many occasions. The accessible written and oral materials have to be studied, analyzed and judged, which enabled the shaping of a quick reference work to the biographies of the more personalities. The compiler has thus endeavoured to include a list of names that are likely to be met in the course of reading or otherwise. The biographies of most of other Ismaili heroes have however been omitted: they will be included in the second volume of this book to avoid lengthening the present volume.

This book attempts to relate the story of one hundred and one greatest of the Ismaili individuals, who have built and are building the annals of the glorious edifice of honorary services within the community. Their lives are full of colour, which boldly discarded the age-long burden of illiteracy, which provided no reward in return.

This tract does not claim to be a comprehensive treatise, but it affords a glance at the history of great nobles through the windows of accessible written and oral sources.

Bear in mind that this is not a doctoral dissertation, but more like the denouement of an arduous work, labour, and interest of one individual. Like any plan of execution, I am fully conscious of my humanity; no doubt, my attention will soon focus onto certain errors that I have been called upon. However, if a single reader is thus persuaded and benefited by this labour of love, I should be amply rewarded.

Without the generous collaboration of several colleagues in the country and abroad, this book would not have been possible. I wish to express my deep gratitude to the pioneer efforts of particular individuals and institutions. I owe my deepest gratitude to Rai Rehman Kanji, the Chairman of the Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah & Religious Education Board for Pakistan for his kind cooperation. I also acknowledge my special appreciation to Dr. Rai Abu Aly A. Aziz (Vancouver) and Varas Kassim Ali Muhammad Jaffer (Karachi).

Over the course of my research, I benefited the assistance of individuals of all walks of life, who without restraint and reluctance have made contributions. I am truly indebted to them all for the many hours they spent with me. On this juncture, I will pray for the eternal peace of late Itmadi Nuruddin Baksh and late Alijah Rehamatullah Nasir Talib.

Without the painstaking reading of the original draft by the staff of the global renowned, HERITAGE SOCIETY, many parts comprising complex matters would have remained in need of further clarification. I cannot find appropriate words to express my gratitude for their minute observations on the materials. The preparation of this volume also involved commentary imprints of Mr. Noor Ali Valliani of Hyderabad, Mr. Zulfikar Meghani, Mr. Aziz A. Reimoo, Mrs. Noor Jahan Amir Baksh, Itmadi Vazir Ali Fakir Mohammad, Dr. Shafique N. Virani of Harvard University, Mr. Zain Al-Abidin Pyar Ali, Alijah Mansoor Ali Wazir Mukhi Jivabhai Bhanji Karimi (Atlanta) etc. for their valuable assistance and encouragement, and I express my gratitude to them.

Last, but by no means least, it would be ungracious of me not to recognize my debt to Alijah Sadruddin Dharas and Kamadia Salim Dharas (Albuquerque) for their invaluable assistance, both morally and financially in moments of crises. It will be a part and parcel of my life to remember the outstanding cooperations of the Dharas family - indeed a driving force of my study.

Wazir Ghulam Hussain S. Thavar (1907-1963) was one of the greatest writers. Seventy years ago, he cherished the desire to preserve the biographies of Ismaili heroes, and wrote an important article in the Ismaili periodical, Fidai (Bombay, 1928). His noble scheme wielded great influence, inducing me to incorporate his article in this volume as a Posthumous Foreword. I pray that Almighty may bestow eternal peace to his soul, Amen.

I conclude this preface with my preferred invocation. It bespeaks my vision:

'Speak the truth, even if it were against yourselves' (Koran, 4:134)

'Do not mind the fury of kings in speaking the truth before them.
They only possess your body, but they have no power over your soul.' (Bible, Luke: 12:4)

Mumtaz Ali Tajddin Sadik Ali (Alijah)
November, 2002
Email : alymumtaz@yahoo.com


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