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14. Alidina Ali Muhammad Asani - page 41

Ali Muhammad Alidina, the son of Mukhi Alidina Asani (1793-1881) was an eminent contractor in Karachi. In addition, his brothers and himself managed a business of hides and skins. They extended their mercantile activity as far as Burma. Ali Muhammad was an influential person, sharing a close friendship with the British officers in Karachi. He was also in good terms with Muhammad Rawjee (1830-1897), Sir Karim Ibrahim (1840-1924), and some other eminent persons of the Persian Gulf. Upon the visit of emperor George V in Karachi in 1905 when the monarch was only Prince of Wales, Ali Muhammad lodged him in the Panjibhai Club house, located in the Garden area at his own expenses. The Commissioner of Sind expressed officially his gratitude for his great hospitality by making an announcement in the 'Gazette of Sind' in 1905. In addition, he hosted a warm reception for the Prince of Wales with 500 guests in Karachi on March 19, 1908. He also took a leading part in community affairs. He filed a suit against the Twelvers in Karachi, claiming for his rights on a plot lying in Rampart Raw. Later on, in 1912, the court proclaimed being in favor of the Ismailis after his death. He was popularly nicknamed 'Alu Seth' and died in 1910.
Ali Muhammad married thrice. His son Alidina was born on March 4, 1884, in Karachi from his first wife. He had a son and a daughter with his second wife. Abbas and Hasan Ali were the sons whom his third wife gave birth to. Alidina received his early education in Sind Madressa School, Karachi and then joined his father's business.

Alidina Ali Muhammad married to Zainab, the daughter of Dr. Datoo Mukhi Ramzan Ismail (d. 1939) in 1900 in the presence of the Imam. The Khoja Panjibhai Club came into existence in Karachi on June 26, 1905 his nomination as the first Hon. Secretary followed. He became later on President as well. He was also Councilor of the Karachi Municipal at the end of 1906. The Khoja Panjibhai Library was the first Ismaili library in Karachi, which was established on July 1, 1908. He was made its first President with Dr. Datoo Mukhi Ramzan Ismail as Vice-President, Missionary Hussaini Pir Muhammad as Hon. Secretary and Kamadia Hussain Alarakhia as a member. The Imam appointed him as a member of the Ismaili Council in 1909, and also as a member of the Constitution Committee of the Council to frame rules and regulations. He was also appointed Hon. Secretary of the Council in 1910.

The Imam honored Alidina Ali Muhammad Asani with the title of Alijah on January 18, 1912. Being the Honorary Secretary of the Council, he had the privilege to read the welcome address before the Imam in Karachi on February 17, 1912 at the premises of the Khoja Panjibhai Club in the Garden area. The Imam again visited the Panjibhai Club in the afternoon on the same day, where he humbly told the Imam that, 'The plan of a new construction for the Baitul Khiyal has been prepared,' after which he presented its design. The Imam scrutinized it and said, 'Is its foundation strong?' He replied, 'Yes, Mawla.' Then he read the names of the donors as per Imam's order, i.e., Alidina Ali Muhammad, Rehmatullah Lalji of Bombay and Muhammad Jaffer Karmali donated Rs. 10,000/- each and Varas Muhammad Remu and Mukhi Muhammad Abdullah of Gwadar contributed Rs. 500/- each. The Imam congratulated and blessed them, and laid its foundation on next day.

He also became President of the Ismaili Supreme Council for Karachi on September 1, 1913 for a period of a year according to the new rules. The Imam extended his mandate for another year, therefore being dismissed from his functions continued on August 31, 1915 instead. He was appointed President of the Supreme Council for the second time between September 1, 1917 and August 31, 1918. His mandate was further extended up to September, 1917. When an annual report of the Council alongwith his services were submitted, the Imam became happy and congratulated him through a telegraphic message from Europe.

He possessed an open heart and a generous hand like his father. He also promoted secular education amongst students and awarded them prizes every year in loving memory of his father. With the help of his friends, he built the top floor of the Kharadhar Jamatkhana in Karachi in 1918. When the Imam visited Karachi on May 15, 1918, Alidina Ali Muhammad designed a plan to enlarge and build a second floor to the Kharadhar Jamatkhana, which cost was Rs. 45000/- to which he contributed Rs. 15000/- . He himself supervised the construction works. It was opened on June 30, 1919.

His wife Zainab and his daughter were social workers. She practiced during the world war for the Sind Women Branch for Relief Fund. In 1916, for the first time, the governor of Bombay, Mr. and Mrs. Wilmington visited Karachi. The Sind Women Branch hosted a reception for Mrs. Wilmington at the Frere Hall, Karachi. Mrs. Vestropani, the wife of the Karachi Commissioner consigned Zainab to present a splendid locket of flower to Mrs. Wilmington. When Lord Wilmington became the governor of Madras, his wife Mrs. Wilmington presented a beautiful broach to Zainab in appreciation of her valuable services during the world war.

On January 18, 1919, Alidina Ali Muhammad laid the foundation of the top floor of the Garden Jamatkhana, Karachi. The two brothers, Itmadi Bhula Khimani (1860-1922) and Merali Khimani (d. 1941), donated Rs. 30,000/- for its construction. Alidina Ali Muhammad laid the foundation stone in the presence of about 700 Ismailis. He supervised the whole construction process till its completion and donated required materials. When its report was sent through the Council in Europe, the Imam sent a telegraphic message from Canes on January 21, 1919:

Paternal blessings all dear children. Very glad my letter of thirty August (1918) about proposed Garden building and hearty congratulations. Thanks for generous donation to donors.

Once ready, it was opened for religious service. The Imam sent the following message from Paris on July 9th, 1919:

Hearty congratulations my beloved children with my sons and daughters on opening ceremony. Paternal blessings to donors and thanks for entertainment. Convey publicly my thanks and blessings Garden quarters for opening and entertainment. Convey publicly my paternal love and blessings Bundally for services. Tell him I accept his offerings with blessings. Sending this message through you as his address not given. Inform all children hope soon be with you in body. I am always with you in thought and heart.

In March 1919, British India issued a Gazette, designating him an Honorary Second Class Magistrate. The Young Khoja Ismailia Kathiawadi Mitr Mandal came into existence in 1912 in the Kharadhar are, which inaugurated a night school for children. On April 21, 1919, a grand function presided by Alidina Ali Muhammad was organized to perform its opening ceremony.

On April 30, 1919, the Working Committee of the Ismaili Women of the Sind Women Branch for War Relief Fund arranged a function in the Garden area in Karachi. Mrs. Lawrence, the Vice-President and the wife of the Commissioner of Sind honored Zainab, the wife of Alidina Ali Muhammad for her meritorious services.

The H.H. The Aga Khan Volunteer Corps and the Reading Room was founded on May 3, 1919. He presided the function of the opening ceremonies of the above institutions.

The Afghans raided British India in Delhi and committed slaughter, violating the treaty between the Afghanistan and British India. On that juncture, the Imam advanced his support to King George and advised his followers to demonstrate their loyalty in a message released from Europe on May 24, 1919. The Ismaili Council in Kharadhar, Karachi also reacted and held a grand meeting, presided by Alidina Ali Muhammad on June 4, 1919. The house resolved that, 'The Ismailis, the followers of the Aga Khan declare their dedication and loyalty for the King of England, condemn the attacks of the Afghans in Delhi, breaking the friendship of late Amir Abdur Rahman with British India, and assured to give their services to restore peace and order.' The copies of the resolution were forwarded to the Viceroy of India, the Governor of Bombay and the Commissioner of Sind.

Varas Bandali Kassim (1875-1956) and Alidina Ali Muhammad were famous generous persons in Karachi. A certain Rajan Dossa was highly touched with their towering generosity and dedication in rendering services. He composed a poem to pay them a well-deserved tribute, which was published in the 'Ismaili Satpanth Prakash' (Bombay) on August 27, 1919.

The Imam arrived in Bombay from Europe on March 2, 1920. On that occasion, a deputation from Karachi went to Bombay to make a humble submission for the Imam's gracious visit in Karachi. The deputation was comprised of Varas Bandali Kassim, Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad, Kamadia Ghulam Hussain Varas Vali, Chief Mukhi Rehmatullah Lutf Ali, Mukhi Hussain Mukhi Alarakhia, Kamadia Kassim Shalu, Kamadia Sajan, Dr. Datoo Mukhi Ramzan Ismail, Mamu Mukhi Alarakhia, Fakir Muhammad Vali, Basaria Piru, Huzur Mukhi Ratoo Thavar, Ali Karim, Rahim Basaria , etc. Thus, about 40 persons from Karachi, Makran coast and Sind were granted an audience with the Imam, after which their humble request was acceded.

On that occasion, the Khoja Panjibhai Club of Bombay in collaboration with the Vidhiya Vinod Club, Sahitiya Utejak Mandal and other institutions, arranged a grand assembly at Hasanabad, Bombay, where the Mukhis, Kamadias, leaders and titleholders of different parts of India also participated. This grand gathering was presided by Alidina Ali Muhammad. The house resolved to hold the All India Khoja Ismailia Conference for the enhancement of education, economy and welfare of the Ismailis.

The Imam arrived in Karachi on April 10, 1920 and visited firstly the Kharadhar Jamatkhana on Sunday, April 11, 1920 where he said,'Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad has offered to build a girls school in his late father's name, Ali Muhammad Alidina. It will cost about Rs. 60,000/- to Rs. 70,000/- and Alidina Ali Muhammad will pay half of the costs and the remaining will be procured in the form of a grant from the government. Alidina Ali Muhammad is serving very much and his late father, Ali Muhammad had served the Imam exceedingly well since his childhood, and his grandfather, Mukhi Alidina had also served the Imam very much since his childhood and continued it excellently till his last breath. (Both of them) have served me very much since childhood. Alijah Alidina surpassed those two in the field of service since his childhood; therefore, I give him much blessings.'

He also continued his services as the managing member of the Ismaili Library and the School Board. He toiled hard to promote education among the female population in Karachi according to the guidance of the Imam. He insisted on having a separate Girls School, therefore, he got a plot located in the Kharadhar area from Municipality, measuring 3000 sq. yards. With the help of his brothers, Itmadi Hasan Ali (d. 1949) and Varas Abbas, he built the 'Ali Mahomed Mukhi Alidina Khoja Ismailia Girls School.' The Imam laid the foundation stone on April 11, 1920. Mr. P.R. Cadell, the Commissioner of Sind, Mr. Martin, the Collector, Mr. Steven, the civil surgeon, the leaders and the jamats participated at that function. On that occasion, the Imam said the following about Alidina Ali Muhammad, 'He put the community under his obligation with his generosity.' At the mehmani of Varas Bandali Kassim on Sunday, April 25, 1920, the Imam also said at the Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi, 'Alijah Alidina has also done two righteous works, i.e. he started the additional portion of the Jamatkhana, built it, and shared the expenses with President Bandali for the additional portion of the school. Likewise, he cherished the desire to spend a large amount to start a new school for girls. I give Alijah Alidina more and more blessings and congratulate him. You have done extremely well and righteous works, and I pray for you. You will see good occasions and children of your daughters and sons. I give much blessings, Khanavadan.'

On Tuesday, April 20, 1920, Alidina Ali Muhammad presented his mehmani. The Imam said, 'This Alijah has served me to a great extent. His late father, Ali Muhammad and grandfather, Mukhi Alidina had also served the house of the Imam very much. Alijah Alidina has been serving this jamat since he became a member of the Council and tried orienting all of the jamati works. He has also served in the reforms, relating to the Ismailism. I give him much blessings and grace you Khanavadan.' On that occasion, he had the chance to put on a gold chain to the Imam.

During the concluding days of the tour, the Imam said on Thursday, May 6, 1920 that, 'You Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad are the Imam's army. You always served me very much like Jibrail. I am happy with your work. Once again, I tell you that you have served me absolutely round the clock to a great extent, and I give you much blessings, Khanavadan.'

The Imam also said on April 11, 1920 that, 'When the girls school has been built up, it is incumbent upon all women to take the benefits of this school.'

On Thursday, May 6, 1920, the Imam also said about these two prominent leaders in Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi: 'President Bandali Kassim and Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad took a leading part in all righteous works. I have said in the mehmani ceremony yesterday that President Bandali Kassim and Alidina Ali Muhammad shared all the righteous works. There is not a single righteous and benevolent work, in which they are excluded. I give more and more blessings to both of them.'

It is also a known fact that during the 27 days visit of the Imam in Karachi between April 10, 1920 and May 6, 1920, Alidina Ali Muhammad assumed all of the expenses of the Imam's stay in Karachi along with the staff members.

The school was built on the pattern of The Khoja Ismailia Girls School in Nairobi. P.R. Cadell, the Commissioner of Sind opened it on Saturday, May 11, 1926. With the opening of the new girls' school in Kharadhar, the Shia Imami Ismaili Girls School, founded in 1906 in the Jamatkhana was liquidated. During its inauguration, there were only 87 female students, and soon afterwards, peaked at 224 students. The Imam granted Rs. 3000/- per year, in which Rs. 1400/- was for the Kharadhar Girls School and Rs. 1600/- for the Garden School. The Karachi Municipal Corporation granted Rs. 425/- and the Sind Education Board, Rs. 800/-

He was also honored with the title of Khan Saheb by the British government on January 1, 1921. In view of his meritorious civil services, the road between the old Light House Cinema and the K.M.C. Building at M.A. Jinnah Road, Karachi was named as 'Alidina Ali Muhammad Road' by the Sind government in 1921.

Varas Bandali Kassim hosted a banquet at Garden on August 26, 1921 to glorify his invaluable services. It was presided by Dr. S.G. Haji (d. 1924). The British India also appointed him First Class Honorary Magistrate in 1925.

During the issue of the Patadi Murder Case in Gujrat, the Ismailis were harshly persecuted by the Kori caste. On August 4, 1925, Alidina Ali Muhammad held a general protest meeting in Karachi under his presidentship in the presence of 2500 Ismailis and condemned the Patadi Murder Case.

He was again appointed President of the Supreme Council for the third time between April 17, 1928 and July 25, 1935.

He was appointed President of the Recreation Club for Karachi office in 1933. He also led a deputation of Karachi and Sind in Bombay where he presented a mehmani to the Imam on December, 1933 with a humble request to pay a gracious visit of Sind. The Imam said that, 'I give my paternal blessings to my beloved spiritual children of Sind. I intend to visit Iran for some important works, and will come in Karachi on those days to give didar to the jamat.'

It appears through different reports that his business went bankrupt. The Imam is reported to have advised him to proceed to Nairobi to regain his fortune. In August 1935, he left Karachi with his family members and arrived in Nairobi with the Imam's letter, addressed to the governor, to whom Alidina Ali Muhammad was related. As long as he inhabited Nairobi, the government regarded him a VIP and invited him in all receptions and banquets. In those days, Pir Sabzali was visiting African countries as a Special Commissioner of the Imam. The Young Ismailia Recreation Institute accorded a banquet to Pir Sabzali on October 28, 1935 at the Assembly Hall of the H.H. The Aga Khan High School, Mombasa. On that occasion, Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad was also invited. With the request of President Jaffer Ali Mohammad, Alijah Alidina garlanded Pir Sabzali.

It was his endeavour that the African Provident Funds Society Ltd. came into existence in Mombasa on October 1935. He also laid the foundation stone of the house of Hasham Ismail Lakhani in Kisumu on October 28, 1935.

He was also blessed with the title of Rai at the end of 1936 for his incredible services.

He started his fresh business in construction works in Nairobi. He also served the jamat in different fields. He visited Bombay to attend the Diamond Jubilee of the Imam in 1946.

He died at the age of 68 years in Nairobi on August, 1952. He left behind two sons, Jaffer Ali and Sultan Ali. Jaffer Ali had four sons, Muhammad, Amin, Mirza and Karim; while Sultan Ali had three sons, Ali, Muhammad and Karim.

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Alidina Ali Muhammad Asani

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