41. Hamir Lakha, Missionary - page 168
Lakhpat was the oldest port of Kutchh, situated near Indus river. It depopulated from 15000 to 2500 in 1847 during a famine and became absolutely desolated. Hamir Lakha's grandfather migrated from the depopulated region of Lakhpat and came in Sind, where he rendered valuable services in different villages. It is related that Bibi Mariam (1744-1832), the mother of Imam Hasan Ali Shah visited India with Mirza Abul Kassim in 1829 to resolve the internal strifes of the community in Bombay. She arrived in Karachi via Muscat, and reached Lakhpat after visiting Jerruk. The temperature of Lakhpat was so scorching that the people travelled at night on camels. It was the grandfather of Missionary Hamir Lakha, who arranged her nocturnal journey between Ramki Bazar and Lakhpat. He well cushioned the camels and made the journey of Bibi Mariam comfortable.
Ramki Bazar was a small village between Sind and Kutchh in district Tharparkar, about 32 miles from Badin. It was an ancient town and a bustling commercial center where trade caravans came from all parts of India. All kinds of grains and cottage butter were brought from interior Sind and transported on camels in Bhuj, Mundra, Mandavi, etc. It appears that 250 to 300 Ismailis of Kutchh lived in this area. His grandfather had come from Lakhpat and settled in the village called Nindo, near Badin, with his 18 year old son Lakho (1829-1928). Lakho was well built and very muscular. He also held a natural command on mathematics and was competent in maintaining the accounts. Seth Rahmatullah was an Ismaili merchant in Ramki Bazar, who learnt the talent and honesty of Lakho. He employed him in his firm to maintain the accounts.
Wrestling was a popular pastime among the people in Sind. Lakho was tall and well built. Once he is said to have fought with a renowned champion of Ramki Bazar and hurled him on the ground at first attempt, but this was no ordinary fall. The stricken champion lay motionless on the ground. Seth Rahmatullah was so amazed with Lakho's honesty that he blessed the marriage of his daughter Lalbai married to him. They had a son - Hamir Lakha.
Hamid Lakho, Hamid Lakhani or better known as Hamir Lakha was born on Monday, January 23, 1888. He had three brothers, Piru (elder), Nazar Ali and Piru (younger). His elder brother Piru expired during the outbreak of the plague in India in 1900. It aggrieved his mother, Lalbai to great extent, and when his younger brother was born, he was named as Piru (younger), whom his mother placed in the service of the mausoleum of Pir Tajuddin in Badin at the age of 15 years. He became known as Mukhi Piru, who served for 70 years and died at the age of 85 years.
Once his mother sent him in the jungle to cut the wood. He went with an axe, but suffered with fever on account of scorching heat. His mother told that she would never send him for wood-cutting. There was no facility of education in district Tharparkar. When Hamir Lakha was 9 years old, his father Lakho sent him to his relative in Bhuj, Kutchh for education. He learnt Gujrati in the school, returned and joined his father's small business. Hamir Lakha heard many waez in Kutchh.
It was some time later that his family came to live in Hyderabad, Sind, where he acquired further education, and then ventured in the leather business. He was the honorary secretary of Anjuman-e-Islam in Hyderabad with Varas Fadhu Piru Khalikdina as its President in 1915. In 1920, he started his services as a volunteer in Hyderabad, and also became its Captain. He was also the Incharge of The Khoja Ismailia Library in Hyderabad in 1922.
In 1919, Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah sent a message for the youths of Sind through Varas Fadhu Piru Khalikdina (1885-1936) to join the mission centre. Hamir Lakha rejoiced to hear it, but could not offer, as he was much occupied in his business. Unfortunately, he met a great loss and lost his capital in the business deal.
Hamir Lakha, the down-trodden leather merchant went to Bombay for the didar of the Imam in January, 1920. In his mehmani, the Imam put his both hands on his shoulders and said, 'Hamir, how are you? Will you now become a missionary? Both your shoulders are now equal.' He bowed his head with humility and said, 'Mawla, I must become a missionary and will serve you till last breath as your true and sincere servant.'
Hamir Lakha joined the Recreation Club Institute and came into the contact of the eminent missionaries and scholars. With this influence, Hamir Lakha transformed into a renowned missionary. On February 8, 1921, the Imam told the Recreation Club to make his stay in Bombay for two months only. He toured all over India and won the hearts of the listeners.
During the meeting of the Recreation Club on March 27, 1922, he informed the Imam that there were about eight hundred people in Sakaro, Sind and million of people resided in Tharparkar, which should be proselytized. The Imam said, 'Tharparkar is much beneficial. Listen, you go there, where 1200 people live, not 800. You make a trip of Tharparkar in this year and gather informations, which is a region under British domain.' After a short while, the Imam also said, 'You take help of your brother, Ramzan Ali in Tharparkar. Do not seek assistance from the Khatri caste or other wicked people.' The Imam also told him, 'You are allowed to acquire new associate members. Do not do work that may cause displeasure to the people - regardless of their age. You write to Varas Daybhai Velji, he will arrange for it.' During the mehmani of the Recreation Club at Mazgon, Bombay on April 1, 1922, Hamir Lakha lyrically expressed his ardent love for the Imam. Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah blessed him and said, 'You direct the route of Tharparkar to the Hyderabad Committee.' To this, he said that he had recommended few capable persons to the Karachi Committee. The Imam said, 'You will find such persons who are not true Ismailis, therefore, you take away those who will not be helpful to the Recreation Club.' He immediately embarked on the new mandate, and operated proselytizing mission among the depressed class of Tharparkar for two years.
In 1923, he is said to have humbly requested to the Imam that his memory was weak and he was forgetting all that he had learnt. Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah asked him to open the buttons of his shirt and marked on his breast with his finger, and said, 'You will never forget and enjoy good command in your memory.' With the blessings of the Imam, he gained a natural extraordinary memory.
On January 30, 1924, Hamir Lakha selected five young Ismaili boys in Sind according to the advice of the Imam and took them to Varas Dayabhai Velji in Ahmadnagar, where he arranged their marriages with the orphan girls. Even though he had to make tour in different parts of India, he assigned this noble work to other responsible people and returned to Karachi.
With the cooperation of Major Paria Rahim Dino of Hyderabad, missionary Hamir Lakha established a new volunteer corps at Shah Turel, Sind on August 15, 1924. The President of the Volunteer Corps was Ahmad Mukhi Fadhu with a Vice-President Karim Mukhi Hasham and Honorary Secretary as Master Tharu Mukhi Alidina. The Volunteer Corp started with 17 members.
Hamir Lakha's services were great in the community as a missionary and as a writer. The management of library organized a reception on December 14, 1924 at Madras, presided by Vali Mohammed Ibrahim Karim Chhatriwala to accord a warm honour to Missionary Hamir Lakha. Vali Mohammed Ibrahim, Abdullah Sumar Shivji, Premji Giga, Isa Lalji Devraj, Alibhai Kara, etc. delivered their speeches and spoke of the worthy services of Missionary Hamir Lakha.
Alijah Kassim Manji built a big hall with five underground lodging chambers for the Baitul Khiyal Brotherhood in Bharapur, Kutchh in loving memory of his father, Patel Manji Dhanidina. Hamir Lakha was on his waez duty in those days in Kutchh, and he was given an honour to make its opening ceremony in 1925.
He also visited East African countries with Wazir Rahim Basaria, Pir Sabzali and Missionary Hussaini Pir Muhammad, and left Bombay on January 7, 1925. Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah arrived in Zanzibar on February 9, 1925. Hamir Lakha returned to Bombay with Pir Sabzali on April 18, 1925.
After a long journey of India and East Africa for 17 months, he returned to Hyderabad, Sind in June, 1925. Mukhi Rahmatullah Bana, Maria Rahimdina, the President of Council and other 30 dignitaries warmly received him at the station.
Hamir Lakha was bold to hold public discussion with the opponents of the Ismailis. In 1926, he challenged in public Haji Naji and Ali Rajan, the famous writers of the Twelvers and offered to elucidate from their books that they believed in the divinity of Ali as well as their amazing belief about Holy Koran. He also proposed the names of some eminent scholars to make impartial judication of the proceeding, viz. Khwaja Hasan Nizami, Maulana Muhammad Ali, Maulana Shaukat Ali, Maulana Abdul Majid Badauni, Maulana Nazir Ahmad Khujadi, Pir Ghulam Mujadid, Nasir al-Islam Kazi Asadullah Shah, etc. He also recommended Ahmadabad as the venue of deliberations. He was well prepared to resolve the matter once for all, but his challenge was not accepted. Before leaving for Iraq, Hamir Lakha once again challenged to Haji Naji and Ali Rajan on January 2, 1927 through a publicity in the Ismaili periodical, but his enemies stood in awe of him and did not respond to it.
Hamir Lakha visited Basra in the end of February, 1927 and delivered waez in the jamat. During his departure, the Managing Committee of the Ismaili Library accorded him a warm reception on March 13, 1927. Hasan Ali Abji, the President paid rich tribute to his services. He left Basra for India on March 15, 1927.
He was also a prolific writer and a frequent contributor to the leading periodicals. On August 1, 1929, Hamir Lakha was also declared a best writer in the quarterly 'Fidai' and obtained first and second ranks at a time. He was awarded the first prize of 'gold moon' presented by Lt. Col. Itmadi Pir Muhammad V. Madhani (1896-1959) on behalf of The Kandi Mola Ismaili Students Library.
The Mundra, Kutchh Council held a meeting on November 28, 1934 and on November 29, 1934 to review the latest condition of the Ismailis in Kutchh. It was presided by Suleman Haji Kassim, the port officer of Kandla port. During the meeting of the local council, Missionary Hamir Lakha was especially invited. In his lecture, he said, 'Looking at the councils in Kutchh and its rules and regulations, an awakening came up among the Khoja Ithna Asharis, and they are compelled to establish similar councils and rules for their own community. I am confident that those who speak against the Ismaili rules and regulations will have to repent either now or later.'
During the second world war, Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah sent a telegram to Huzur Wazir Macklai, the President of Recreation Club Institute in Bombay, to depute an expert missionary in East Africa. Huzur Wazir Macklai sent a telegram to Missionary Jamal Virji in Rajkot, who could not respond in time. He urgently called for Hamir Lakha in Hyderabad, Sind by a telegram, where he was contacted within three days. Hamir Lakha sailed to Africa on a ship that was leaving on the same day. The journey by sea was dangerous due to the war, but he reached Africa with full determination in 1944. He visited almost 114 villages, traveled by car in jungles for more than 5000 miles.
The first 'Ismaili Mission Conference' was held in the auditorium of the Aga Khan High School, Dar-es-Salaam presided by Count Nimji Zaver on July 20, 1945. Missionary Hamir Lakha was also invited in it. During his speech in the last session, Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah said, 'As rightly said by one of our missionaries, Mr. Hamir Lakha, that with regard to religion you must never reason with people who have no religion. This is perfectly true because Islam and Ismailism are built on Iman and Momin.'
Missionary Hamir Lakha was sitting right in front of the Imam, and did not understand English language. He was perplexed and confused as to why his name came up. He had mixed feelings of happiness and fear. Happiness because the Imam referred to him in the speech. Fearful because what if he had done something wrong resulting in the Imam mentioning his name. He was told that the Imam brought up his name with reference to the notice that with regards to religion, one must never reason with people who have no faith.
In 1946, he was nominated as a member of The Aga Khan Legion Committee to generate funds for the Diamond Jubilee in East Africa, in which he discharged his duties with enthusiasm. For his devoted services, Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah conferred upon him the title of Alijah at Nairobi in 1946.
Missionary Hamir Lakha continued his services as a regular missionary until 1947. He also gave his services to the Estate Office of the Imam in 1950 in Karachi. He also delivered waez on big occasions in Pakistan.
In 1950, he also started his services in the mission department of the Ismailia Association for Pakistan, which he continued till his death. In 1951, the Imam said in Karachi in a mehmani of the missionaries that, 'Hamir Lakha is a speaking book.' He was also given the title of Rai in 1954 by Imam Sultan Muhammed Shah.
Hamir Lakha visited many different cities and villages of India, Pakistan, East Africa, Iraq, Burma, Gwadar and Makran coast.
In 1960, when Hamir Lakha was in Sultanabad, Sind some robbers entered the Jamatkhana shooting in the air. The robbers thought that he was the leader and asked him to deliver the keys. One of them pointed a gun to his chest. Hamir Lakha boldly said, 'Well, you shoot me.' When it was fired, the bullet did not pass through the gun. The robber tried again and again but failed. Hence, they fled from the premises.
Hamir Lakha fulfilled the promise he had given to the Imam in 1920 that he would remain as a missionary till his last breath. During the last period of his life, he was unable to stand for long time due to pain in his knees; he would sit on the chair or at the window side of the Jamatkhana while performing waez.
He dressed in white throughout his life and led a simple life. He was a brilliant speaker. Those who heard him are aware of the brilliance of his unmatched oratory. He had also good knowledge of Arabic and Persian. His memory being so tenacious and gifted, that he had only to read once in order to learn by heart. Hamir Lakha was gifted with vivid intellect with and literary talent. In the choice of books, sometimes he would exhibit an uncanny aptitude and he would have a small library when he traveled. He would say, 'I shall part with friends, not with my books.'
He became famous with article Khudai Jalvo which was published in 'Ismaili Satpanth Prakash' for six years from 1920 to 1926. Thus, his reputation as a writer was soon established and he was approached by the editors to write for their periodicals.
His other famous write-up in 'Nizari' entitled, 'Ahwal-i Karbala' continued to be published for four years from 1926 to 1930. He also possessed the poetic faculty, and composed few poems for the Ismaili periodicals.
It may be noted that when he prepared his first article to be published in the Ismaili journal, he wrote his name Hamid Lakha Musannif as an author. The word musannif means author or writer, but the Gujrati composer, who didn't know Urdu, published his name into Gujrati as Hamir Lakha (mu) sinnaf, omitting mu in the musinnaf. In Persian, the term sinnaf or sannaf means kind, manner, form or sort. He liked it and adopted Sinnaf as his pen-name.
He possessed superior abilities and was well informed in literature. In application of writing skills to his services, he attained an almost equal eminence. He compiled several books in Gujrati and Sindhi. The most famous were 'Muraslat Number' (Part I, 1920), 'Muraslat Number' (Part II, 1921), 'Shahadat'jo Sacho Matlab' (1926), 'Ithna Ashari Sadaqat' (1927), 'Bootparsto-ni Behayai' (1928), and 'Karim Ghulam Ali'je Kharji Khiyal'ji Tardid' (1928), 'Mian Karim Ghulam Ali Fadhwani-ji Khul-e Khat-jo Javab' (1928), etc. In 1951, he also compiled his own biography, entitled 'Halat-i Zindgani Hamir likhi' which is not accessible.
He also published in Mombasa a Souvenir in English and Gujrati on the auspicious occasion of Diamond Jubilee on August 10, 1946. The Souvenir itself speaks of how much he was popular among the jamats in East Africa.
He was regular in his attendance of Jamatkhana both in the morning and evening. He died on March 16, 1963 in Hyderabad, Sind at 4.10 a.m. in the Jamatkhana, at the age of 74 years
It is to be noted that three eminent people passed away in Pakistan within 17 days. All three were connected with the Ismailia Association for Pakistan. The Ismailia Association arranged a grand majalis on April 7, 1963 for the departed souls in Garden Jamatkhana, Karachi viz. Missionary Hamir Lakha (d. March 16, 1963), Missionary Jaffer Ali Sufi (d. March 18, 1963) and Wazir A.C. Rahimtullah (d. April 1, 1963). Wazir Ghulam Hyder Bandali (1905-1986), the President sent a humble service to Hazar Imam with a report on April 9, 1963. In his reply, the Imam sent following message on April 20, 1963:
My dear President,
I have received your letter of April 9th.
Kindly convey to the office bearers and members of the Ismailia Association, waezeen and religious teacher my best loving paternal maternal blessings for service, with best blessings for the souls of the late:
Rai Hamir Lakha
Alijah Jafarali Sufi
Vazir A.C. Rahamtoola of Khulna
I pray that their souls may rest in eternal peace. My three spiritual children had rendered truly excellent services to myself and my jamats. They lived fine lives of hard work and service and were exemplary spiritual children.