68. Khuda Baksh Talib, Missionary - page 265
Khuda Baksh Talib's forefathers came from Talhar, Sind who migrated to Lasbela via Karachi, then Ormada and made Gwadar finally as their home. His grandfather Karami had four sons, namely Talib, Pir Baksh, Fazal and Datoo. Talib's main source of income was in the dealing of dried fish. He had five sons, Nasir, Ghulam Hussain, Fakir Mohammad, Abdul Hussain and Khuda Baksh. Khairibai, the mother of Khuda Baksh was a renowned lady missionary.
Khuda Baksh Talib was born in Gwadar in 1890, where he obtained his formal education, and also learnt Arabic, Persian and Gujrati. He had a deep interest in the literature and regularly read the Ismaili Satpanth Prakash, (Bombay), published by Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj. His interest in literature can be judged from the instance that The Shia Imami Ismaili Mitr Mandal had published a book, 'Qaumi Chitr' by Ghulam Ali Lalji in 1919. Khuda Baksh went through it and wrote his observations on September 4, 1919, which were published in the Ismaili Satpanth Prakash (September 25, 1919). He wrote, 'If all the Ismailis may read this book, there will be no distinction between those who have a firm belief and those who don't in our community.' He also quoted the farman of the Imam in his letter that, 'No complaint in the hearts of the poor, and no pride in the minds of rich will prevail.'
Abdul Hussain Talib, the elder brother of Khuda Baksh was an enthusiastic social worker. He was also a devoted missionary, having good command in Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit and Gujrati. He was also well versed in the mathnawi of Rumi. He was also a Mukhi of Baitul Khiyal and Chand Raat Panjibhai Brotherhoods. It appears that he was a prolific writer and published few articles in the 'Ismaili Sitaro' in 1911 in Khojki. When Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah made a visit of the Khoja Panjibhai Club in Karachi on February 17, 1912, he had a photograph with four eminent missionaries, viz. Abdul Hussain Talib, Hussaini Pir Muhammad of Karachi, Juma Bhagat of East Africa and Sharif Shivji of Kathiawar. On October 21, 1918, there was an outbreak of influenza in Gwadar, resulting 13 casualties in the Ismaili community within 15 days. Abdul Hussain was one of those victims, and died on October 30, 1918.
Khuda Baksh married in 1912 and was employed in the firms of Kamadia Ibrahim and Kamadia Alibhai Rehmatullah in Gwadar. He could not concentrate in his job, because his restless mind was in quest of some purposeful pursuit, which could make his life meaningful. After the death of his brother, Abdul Hussain Talib, he came to Bombay with his wife, Zawer at the end of 1919 and resided at Hasanabad. He was employed in a firm in the Bombay bullion market at first, and also began to take interest in religious study. He studied Hindu literature and came into the contact of the renowned missionaries.
He is reported to have helped Ibrahim Jusab Varteji during the compilation 'Vedic Islam' in 1921 for verifying the Koranic quotations. He is mentioned and given credit in the preface of the book.
On February 8, 1921, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah ordered the Recreation Club that, 'You open an orphanage in Anand for 75 to 80 children of depressed class, for children over five years. Employ a native doctor for which a grant of one thousand rupees have been approved.' Accordingly, an institution, called Naklank Ashram was raised in Anand, near Ahmedabad to exhort the tenents of Ismailism to the new converts. Khuda Baksh also worked in the Naklank Ashram with Missionary Haji Muhammad Fazal. His mode of presentation was so lucid and effective that thousands of people were impressed and waited for his waez. He was well rooted in Hindu literature and presented Islamic message to the Hindus masses. On those days, his health deteriorated in Anand. The Imam was notified of his illness in Bombay on March 27, 1922. The Imam asked, 'Have you appointed a native or English doctor in Anand?' To this, the Imam was told that a doctor had been hired. The Imam said, 'Who is he?' The Imam was told that he was a Christian doctor. The Imam said, 'Don't appoint such doctor. Appoint an expert one or a native doctor.' When he recovered, the Imam enjoined upon him to train Ali Mohammad Vali Najar as a missionary.
In one Gujrati article, 'Saru Sahitiya Surshti-ma Sumitr' by Rahim Karim Varteji, published in the weekly 'Ismaili' on February 18, 1934, it sounds that Khuda Baksh Talib was in Karachi in 1923 and propagated the need of the periodical in the community. He also made an appeal as a chief guest in the functions of the Kharadhar Library, Karachi in this context. He also brought new subscribers for the newly published 'Ismaili' weekly of Bombay.
On October 24, 1923, a grand function was organized in the hall of the Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi. It was presided by Varas Muhammad Remu Mawji. It was attended by a large gathering, including Alijah Alidina Ali Muhammad, Dr. Haji, etc. On that occasion, Khuda Baksh Talib lectured on 'The aims of Recreation Club and the duties of the Ismailis', which was destined to be his first public oratory.
The Recreation Club Institute organized a Missionary Conference between September 28, 1923 and September 30, 1923, in which a Subject Committee was formed under Ali Mohammad Jan Mohammad Chunara. It added 20 members, including Missionary Khuda Baksh Talib. He put his proposal in the Subject Committee on September 30, 1923 seconded by Haji Mohammad Rahmatullah and I.J. Varteji, Nur Mohammad Zaver, Kara Ruda, Mukhtar Nanji and Hasan Datoo. His proposal was acceded and resolved that, 'The need of creating new missionaries is acutely needed, a centre for it must be opened around the location of Bombay, where necessary training may be given to the young boys of above 14 years of age.'
Khuda Baksh Talib also visited Rangoon, Burma for about 15 days, where he performed waez and lectured in the assemblies. He participated in the 10th Annual Majalis in Rangoon on 6th to 8th December, 1923. He delivered waez with Missionary Rajab Ali Khan Mohammad and Missionary U Kan Gyi Nanji. On that occasion, the Mukhi and Kamadia of Gondia jamat arrived to raise funds for a new Jamatkhana. Khuda Baksh made a humble appeal to the jamat to share in this noble cause. The jamat contributed a big fund for the Gondia Jamatkhana. On December 10, 1923 he also presided the function of the Ismaili Religious Library and spoke on the importance of the libraries in the community. He also visited Thazi, about 306 miles from Rangoon. He returned to Madras on December 24, 1923 where he stayed for 8 days and went to Banglore.
After the completion of his historic visit of Jamnagar, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah reached Sidhpur by a special train on February 14, 1924 for the didar programme. Kuda Baksh Talib was specially commissioned for waez. These four days of waez were one of the most memorable occasions of his life. Facing the open site of the bungalow of Mulla Muhammad Ali Shaikh Sarf Harerwala, an eminent Bohra leader, a grand tent was pitched, where five thousand Ismailis from twenty villages around Sidhpur, strained their necks to catch a glimpse of the young missionary. He delivered waez so forcefully and lucidly that no one stirred. He prepared a tight schedule of waez and started four days in advance. It took two hours at evening and one hour at midnight and one hour before morning prayer. The people from Bohra community were also allowed to listen his waez. They too came in a large numbers dressed in their traditional golden turbans and they stood around the congregation.
On the second day, the Imam arrived in the camp at 10.30 a.m. Khuda Baksh Talib introduced a Harijan family before the Imam, saying that they were professing Ismailism in secret for one year, and now they wished to embrace Ismailism publicly. He also implored the Imam to bless them with new Islamic names. The six members of the family, comprised of a husband, a wife and four children and they were asked to come near the Imam's chair. The Imam showered best blessings upon them. The man was given the name of Safar Ali and his wife as Rehmat. The Imam told them to get the names of the four children from the Mukhi of the jamat.
In Sidhpur, some prominent members of local Bohra jamat, namely Mulla Ghulam Ali Jivanji Essaji Madraswala and others arranged a tea-party in Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah's honour at evening on February 15, 1924 at Mohibi Bagh. They warmly welcomed the Imam and presented a big plate of silver coins. They insisted suavely that Khuda Baksh Talib must address exclusively their community in their mosque. The permission was granted, and Imam told to Khuda Baksh Talib, 'Listen, whatever knowledge you possess, make it exhorted.' He went to Bohra mosque on next day. Thousands of Bohras heard him for about two and half hours in engrossed attention. He explained the continued series of the Imamate and emphasized upon the need of the Imam in every age. His arguments were irrefutable and based on historical facts, touching the audience to great extent.
It is learnt that some people of other community hated Khuda Baksh Talib's association with the Naklank Ashram. His opponents befriended him at first and hatched a plan to poison him through covert friendly means. He however warded off the danger, and became sick for three days. When it was brought to the attention of the Imam, he said that, 'The poison was so fatal that he could not have survived, but I removed the poison when it was being poured.' In the meantime, the Imam curtailed the activities of Naklank Ashram in 1925.
Khuda Baksh Talib led a simple life, having peaceful and polite nature. He ate simple food and was a strict observer of the principles. His voice was so sweet that he won the hearts of million peoples. His life was devoted to a cause, an implicit and unwavering loyalty to the Imam. He was a brilliant speaker. To listen to him, when he opened the treasure-box of his knowledge, was to lose count of time. From his inexhaustible storehouse he would pick out treasures one after another, dress them in moving and vivid styles and keep the audience riveted to their seats for hours. He was most dutiful and his greatness can be judged from an example referred to by the President, Wazir Ghulam Hussain Thavar, during the 19th conference of the Ismailia Association for India on October 29, 1951-- once Khuda Baksh Talib's duty was issued in Hasanabad, Bombay, where he was told, 'The attendance of the jamat is only 20 to 25 persons and it will perhaps not suit you. We should recite the ginans instead'. He replied, 'I may not have thousand people present, but will still deliver a waez for these 20-25 persons. I will perform waez if there are only two listeners. If no one will come to listen me, I will go to jungle and stand before a tree and perform waez.'
Zawer, the wife of Khuda Baksh Talib, expired all of a sudden at Bombay on Monday, March 23, 1925 at the age of 30 years due to the skin disease. When the news of her death spread, his relatives, friends and well-wishers from abroad sent him a bulk of letters of condolence. Khuda Baksh himself was highly shocked and was not feeling well. He received numerous letters of condolences from his friends, family and well wishers, and since he could not reply each one individually, he published his statement in the weekly 'Ismailis' on March 29, 1925 that, 'My wife expired on March 23, 1925. It is my duty to reply these telegrams and letters, but due to my impairing health, I cannot do that. I am thankful through this paper from the core of my heart to all brothers who have sent me their messages.'
The Arya Samaj celebrated the anniversary of Dayanand on April 9, 1925 in Bombay, inviting the Muslims, Hindus, Parsi and Christians to participate in the programme. Dr. Kalyandas J. Desai, the Convenor of the Arya Samaj of Bombay, offered Dayanand to preside over the function. Dayanand said that it was a conference of all the religions, but no Muslim, Parsi or Christian participated. The eyes of the people dilated narrowly in wonder when one young man of slim physique, wearing a Turkish cap, stood up boldly and exclaimed, 'I am a Muslim present over here.' Dr. Kalyandas asked his name. He said, 'Khuda Baksh Talib Gwadari' and asked for a permission to speak. He was asked, 'What do you want to speak?' To this, he said, 'I will first discuss about Arya Samaj, then I will divulge my faith before the audience.' He was asked 'Will you speak on six handy topics.?' He said, 'I am ready to speak on the topic prescribed for me.' Dr. Kalyandas talked with some other pandits and let him to prepare his written topic to be read for 30 minutes on next day.
On April 10, 1925, Khuda Baksh came and asked three questions from the book, 'Satyarth Prakash' to Pandit Ramchandra. The pandit sought advices from other pandits, but failed to reply in the given five minutes. The pandits admitted that they knew nothing about the creation of the universe. On that occasion, the pandits could not withstand and terminated the function.
During the celebration of the 48th Salgirah of Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah, the Merchant Club of Bombay at Fazal Ladha Building organized a grand function on Tuesday, May 26, 1925. The prominent and the distinguished guests were Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj, Ali Muhammad Macklai, Ghulam Hussain Bandali Samji, A.J. Chunara, etc. The function was presided by Manji Ghulam Hussain. On that occasion, Khuda Baksh Talib lectured on 'Ismailism'. He began his lectures with these words, 'My today's lecture deals with what is Ismailism? I will declare that I have recently joined the mission works. It is a tradition in Islam that one who is a learned, he can lead the prayers. But the tradition in our religion is different, where a child can lead the prayers in presence of the elders. Likewise, my status before you is same.' Then he spoke on the Ismailism and its origin with full confidence and impressed the audience. This was fated to be his last public lecture.
The Imam started his visit to East African countries and reached Nairobi on February 9, 1925. He sent a telegraphic message through Wazir Rahim Basaria to Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai that, 'Send Missionary Khuda Baksh in Africa, where his services are urgently needed.' Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai was in his chamber, puzzled with the telegram. How would convey the Imam's desire, especially at this time when Khuda Baksh was so distraught over his wife's death and the added responsibility of his children. Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai and Alijah Hasan Ali Devraj conveyed him the Imam's massage. Khuda Baksh Talib responded it promptly.
He left behind his four sons and a daughter. The elder Amir Ali was 13 years old. The second son, Aman Ali was 9 years old, the third son Didar Ali was 4 years, the fourth son Yaqub Ali was the youngest among them, while his only daughter, Mariam was hardly 7 years old. The officers of the Recreation Club came at sea-port to bid him farewell. It was the time for the steamer to sail and it gave its first signal. The visitors started dismounting, but the children of the missionary did not get down and remained embraced with the breast of their father. When the second signal came on the hooter, the officers of the Recreation Club began to part the weeping children till the third final signal was heard. He lovingly patted his children and said, 'Khuda Hafiz my dear children.' None perceived that it was destined to be their last meeting. The father and the children suffered terribly the pangs of separation.
He left his children on the mercy of God. His children lived few days with Ali Muhammad Macklai till their aunt, Kulsoom came from Gwadar to look after them.
Missionary Hussaini Pir Muhammad Asani, Sayed Munir, Juma Ismail, Lalji Dossa and Muhammad Abdullah, etc. were active in their mission at that time in the different centres of East Africa.
Khuda Baksh Talib sailed for Africa in the company of Missionary Alibhai Nanji. He reached Zanzibar on October 11, 1925 and began to deliver his impressive waez in the different jamats. He had to travel into the villages where it was difficult to travel. Sometimes he travelled 500 to 1000 miles to complete a round of duty.
There was only one private Boarding in Africa under Bhagat Mohammed Premji of Junagadh. It was necessary to raise a Boarding with a school on community level, therefore, the Imam told to the Council on February 16, 1925 to work out its plan. Accordingly, Khuda Baksh as a representative of the Ismaili Council for Dar-es-Salaam and Varas Mukhi Karam Ali Daya, the member of the local Council were consigned to search a suitable location for the Ismaili Central Boarding and School in the territory of Tanganyika. It was announced in the Council's meeting, 'Who will accompany Khuda Baksh Talib?' Varas Mukhi Karam Ali Daya was the only one to volunteer to accompany Kudha Baksh Talib. The Council made their itinerary from Dar-es-Salaam to Kilosa and then Mwanza.
Few words must be added for Varas Mukhi Karam Ali Daya. He was a businessman in Dar-es-Salaam, and was invested the title of Varas in 1914, and his name is also mentioned in the book of the Farmans for Zanzibar. He was also the Mukhi of Dar-es-Salaam Jamatkhana, and served as a President of local council. He continued his services as a member of the Supreme Council in 1925. He was also the President of the local Aga Khan School. In Kilosa, Huzur Mukhi Megji Visram built a school, whose opening ceremony was also performed by Varas Mukhi Karam Ali Daya on May 18, 1925. He was very generous with his wealth, and he donated a large amount for the library in Dar-es-Salaam. He left behind his wife and four daughters. He was an ex-President of the local Indian Association, therefore, he was paid a glowing tribute upon his death and the report of the resolution was also published in the local newspapers.
Both Khuda Baksh Talib and Varas Mukhi Karam Ali Daya started their journey on November 21, 1925 and visited many villages in search of a location for the project. They arrived at Kilosa, where Mukhi Bhimji Hamir honoured them. Then they had to proceed to Iringa, and then back to Dar-es-Salaam. Kilosa is a district, producing best quality of cotton in Tanganyika. It is comprised of three main villages, viz. Kilosa Bomani, where only 150 Ismailis lived at that time, Kilosa Kotani, where 45-50 Ismailis resided and Kilosa Morogoro, where hardly 15 to 17 Ismailis lived. Khuda Baksh Talib and Mukhi Karam Ali Daya had been in Kilosa Bomani, about 150 miles west of Dar-es-Salaam.
On the other hand, according to the report of August 17, 1924, no missionary had visited Iringa for last 20 years due to bad transportation. There was a railway line between Dar-es-Salaam and Kilosa, but no proper route existed between Kilosa and Iringa. Most of the people had to travel for 10 days from Kilosa to Iringa on foot through bush roads, which were quite dangerous. On June 28, 1924, Missionary Jairaj Merali reached Iringa after facing many hardships, where he stayed for 8 days. He had to go Kilosa and was not familiar with the routes, therefore, Lalji Ladha Punjani escorted him for Kilosa.
It was the same Lalji Ladha Punjani, who came from Iringa to take Khuda Baksh Talib and Mukhi Karam Ali Daya to Iringa. Nothing is known about Lalji Ladha Punjani. There was no school in Iringa, the jamat raised a fund from 18 donors, amounting 20,010 shillings, in which Lalji Ladha Punjani shared for 210 shillings. When Khuda Baksh Talib and Varas Mukhi Karam Ali were in Kilosa, Mukhi Motilal Patel in the Jamatkhana of Iringa made an announcement, 'Who will voluntarily go to Kilosa to bring Khuda Baksh Talib and Varas Mukhi Karam Ali?' None came forward, because of the bad weather and heavy rain. It was Lalji Ladha Punjani alone who willingly offered his services. The Mukhi gave him a car to bring them to Iringa.
Lalji Ladha Punjani managed to reach Kilosa during the heavy rains. Then the three of them started from Kilosa on December 12, 1925. On account of heavy raining, the main road was badly damaged, and after a slow driving of three hours, their car unfortunately skidded into a deep trench of water. The accident proved fatal victimizing all the three of them. The local villagers in the jungle had seen the car falling into the trench, and they rushed back to Kilosa to report it. Before the Ismaili leaders and workers reached, they were all found dead. With the help of the local people, the three dead bodies were lifted from the pit and taken back to Kilosa for burial.
The tragic news spread rapidly in Tanganyika, and it was mourned by all the different communities. The Ismailis closed their business and transactions. M.O. Abbasi, the editor of the weekly 'African Comrade' published a special report of the accident. The Supreme Council for Dar-es-Salaam routed an urgent telegram to the Imam on December 15, 1925, which received a prompt reply that: 'Those who have sacrificed their life for Allah and religion are in first rank of Shahids. Keep the photographs of the desceased persons in all the Jamatkhanas of Africa.' The text of the telegram was engraved in a marble plate, and placed where the accident took place. In his another cable message on the same day from Nice, the Imam said, 'Three victims accident gave their lives as martyr heroes for Master and Religion. Their place is with the martyrs who died for religion. All honour this funeral occasion. My thoughts are with them. The Imam also said in another telegram on December 19, 1925 that, 'Inform that these Shahids are close to my thoughts. Their photographs should be kept in all the important prayer-halls.'
It is worthwhile to know that the Imam had made a meaningful farman to the missionaries during his last visit to East Africa, about ten months before the above incident that, 'You are the missionaries and have offered me your bodies and wealths. The meaning of the missionary is that, he should offer his body and wealth' (Zanzibar: 18/2/1925). And, this is exactly what happened with Lalji Ladha Punjani, Kudha Baksh Talib and Varas Mukhi Karam Ali.
The wise old men relate that it was the oft-repeated words of Shahid Khuda Baksh that, 'The valiants always cherish desire for the field. If one dies, he must die in the field rather than on the bed in illness. It is better to die in the services than in the suffering.'
In the meantime, the Gents and Ladies Volunteers Corps for Dar-es-Salaam also submitted individual services to the Imam for the departed souls.
Khuda Baksh Talib remained in Africa for about 61 days and died as a shahid. In Tanganyika, a fund was established for the welfare of his children.
Paying a rich tribute to Khuda Baksh, Ismail M. Pradhan of Zanzibar in his article in the 'Ismaili Satpanth Prakash' (Bombay, 10:4, 1925) writes that, 'An excellent diamond in the mine of the Recreation Club, which came into being by the grace of the Imam, was deputed for us. Alas! there must be a shortfall in our deeds and trials. Comparing Islam and Ismailism, the Koranic translation and the style of his delivery with unrelenting power were so significant that we tried to find out his shortcoming, but we failed. It needs a great adoration to equal him. It is our prayers from the core of our hearts that Mawla may create missionaries like Khuda Baksh.' Rajab Ali S. Bhanani, the editor of 'Ismaili Satpanth Prakash' (Bombay, 10:4, 1925) paid his tribute in these words: 'Missionary Khuda Baksh Talib was not rich or millionaire, he was a missionary. God knows best that what sort of attraction embodied in a slim person of 80 pounds that all the persons associated with him are mourning today.'
On July 16, 1927, a grand function was organized by Alidina Datoo Patel in the location of the library in Dar-es-Salaam, attended by Kanji Nanji, the President of the Council and many other prominent individuals. Dhanani, the head-master of the Ismailia School made an opening speech and spoke on the past services of the great Ismailis heroes and concluded with few words for Khuda Baksh Talib. Another speakers, Major Murji and Mukhi Akbar Ali Ratansi Kanji, followed him. The latter made a humble appeal to the audience to build a musafarkhana in Dar-es-Salaam, or make a new floor of the existing one in loving memory of Khuda Baksh Talib. In conclusion, it was announced that the Imam had been apprised through the Council of a memorial in loving memory of the three shahids, including the collection of the welfare funds for the children of Khuda Baksh and Lalji Ladha in Tanganyika with the effort of the Mukhi Akbar Ali Ratansi Kanji. In reply, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah blessed the jamats of Tanganyika for this noble initiative.
Eventually, in 1932, a monument was erected in the Ismaili grave-yard of Dar-es-Salaam in memory of these three fidais. Alijah Mukhi Kanji Nanji, the President of the Ismaili Council for Dar-es-Salaam, performed the opening ceremony of the memorial.
In 1947, missionary Alibhai Nanji published, 'Chirag-i Sirat al-Mustaqim' which he dedicated in loving memory of Shahid Khuda Baksh Talib and Pir Sabzali.
It will be befitting if we may call him as Sayed Shahid Khuda Baksh in view of the Imam's farman, who said in Bombay on March 27, 1922 that, 'He is a Sayed, who dies for the Recreation Club.'
Missionary Khuda Baksh's children became orphans within 8 months and 17 days. His eldest son, Amir Ali however continued to follow his father's footsteps and became a missionary. He also went to East Africa under Ismailia Association, and then he visited India several times. He died in 1959. The other three sons of Shahid Khuda Baksh Talib and a daughter settled in Canada with their families.