8. Ahmed Devji, Haji - page 18
He was born in 1859 it Porebandar and came to Bombay at the age of 15 years. He worked in a furniture store and gained sufficient experience to become one of the leading furniture merchants. He maintained the quality and standards of his furniture so well that he received large orders several times from the Indian rulers. The Amir of Afghanistan once ordered for new furniture on February 1907, for the decoration of his newly built palace in Kabul. His firm was known as M/S Ahmed Devji Bros.
He was one of the founder members of the Khoja Panjibhai Club, Bombay which was established on May 28, 1900. He is remembered for his generosity and helping hand during the famine in Kutchh in 1900-1. He clothed, fed and housed about 1500 Ismailis, who migrated from Kutchh to Bombay. He also funded the burial of the deceased ones. In 1908, the British India granted him the title of J.P., and the Imam also presented him a khilat to appreciate his excellent services. When he received these rewards, about 150 members of the Khoja Panjibhai Club honoured him in a reception, where his noble services were applauded.
When Missionary Ibrahim Jusab Varteji (1870-1953) was still out of the Ismaili fold, Seth Vali Muhammad Pir Muhammad invited him to the programme of Mulbai Pirbhai Haji Charitable Dispensary in Bombay on May 29, 1900, which was also attended by the Imam. Missionary Varteji presented a Persian quatrain to glorify the Imam. Ahmed Devji introduced Varteji for the first time to the Imam at the end of the programme.
Ahmed Devji also played a primary role in the Khoja Panjibhai Club, and was once appointed as its Chairman. He also built the Khoja Sanitarium at Porebandar, whose opening ceremony was performed by the Imam on March 29, 1905. On that occasion, he took 1500 guests with him from Bombay to Porebandar at his own expenses to witness the opening ceremony of the sanitarium. The Imam also arrived in Porebander with 300 guests by a chartered steamer.
Ahmed Devji was also the first appointed Honorary Secretary of the newly formed Ismaili Council in Bombay on April 9, 1906 with Varas Ibrahim Muhammad Rawjee (1862-1911) as its President.
He donated furniture and Rs. 5000/- to the Kandi Mola School, Bombay, that was opened on January 16, 1909.
During the annual majalis at Poona when the Imam officially declared the Constitution of the Ismaili Council in front of 5000 Ismailis on January 8, 1910, he was bestowed the title of Alijah. He was also appointed the President of the Council in 1911 with Dr. Rajab Ali Ramji Lakhdhir as Honorary Secretary, and remained on post till his death. His secret tendency of rendering remarkable service further emerged in his personality when he was associated with the Council. He also travelled to Europe several times to see the Imam for community matters.
Ahmed Devji took a leading role in the first All-India Muslim Educational Conference. The Bombay government awarded him the title of Khan Bahadur and Kaisar-i Hind.
In 1918, a terrible famine broke out in Kathiawar. He contributed a colossal amount to the relief funds and also collected a donation of Rs. 1,25,000/- in Bombay.
Indeed, he was one of the beloved leaders of the Imam. When he became ill, the Imam visited his house in Bombay four times.
The Afghans raided British India in Delhi and conducted slaughter, violating the treaty negotiated between Afghanistan and British India. The situation was going from bad to worse in the country. Meanwhile, the Imam released his statement from Europe on May 24, 1919, emphasizing upon his followers to demonstrate their loyalty to King George. The Ismaili Council also reacted in Bombay. Ahmed Devji wrote a telegram on June 4, 1919 along with the Imam's message as far as Chitral to Mukhi Shah Abdul Mian, who conveyed it to the Ismailis. The Mukhi sent the following telegraphic message to Ahmed Devji on June 18, 1919:
Haji Ahmed Devji,
President Ismailia Council,
Received your telegram of June 4th with orders from Sir Aga Khan. Thanks very much. Kindly convey my best respects to Sir Aga Khan and request that I have proclaimed word by word his orders to all peoples and children widely from Chitral to Badakhshan and all men considered themselves good fortunates hearing these words and all are gladly ready to sacrifice themselves for British Government as soon as they hear more from His Highness. Mukhi Shah Abdul Mian.
Ahmed Devji was a member of the All-India Central Khilafat Committee in Bombay in 1920 with Fazal Karim Ibrahim, Muhammad Karim, Muhammad Haji, Sharif Devji Kanji, Muhammad Chhotani, Rehmatullah Merali Chinai, etc.
Hashim Premji offered Rs. 10,000/- with a piece of land to build a new Jamatkhana in Porebandar when the Imam graciously visited his bungalow in Poona on March 13, 1920. The Imam accepted with blessings and told him to dispose off the old Jamatkhana and spend its proceeds in the construction of the new Jamatkhana. The Imam confided the supervision of the construction to Ahmed Devji and his brother, Ismail Devji.
His health was none of the best due to heavy strain of work. Eventually, he retired from the Council, but the Imam did not appoint a new President to take his place, and declared him an Honorary President.
In 1925, he had gone to Iraq and died in Najaf, where he was buried.
His son, Itmadi Ghulam Hussain (1896-1960) joined the business of his father in the prime of his life. In 1934, he visited Iran and Iraq and became an eminent businessman. The British India awarded him the title of J.P.. Like his father, he continued to serve the jamat in different fields. His career in the arena of community services began in the Central Education Board in 1935, where he served for several years. He was a member for 18 years and then Vice-President of the Aga Khan Gymkhana, Bombay. He was also a member for five years, then the President for over five years in the Supreme Council for Kathiawar. He was also the managing member of the Ismaili General Hospital and the President of the Kathiawar Girls Orphanage, Rajkot. He also rendered valuable services during the Golden and Diamond Jubilee occasions. He died on July 14, 1960 at the age of 64 years.