92. Sabzali Ramzan Ali, Pir - page 364
predecessors of Pir Sabzali hailed from Mundra, Kutchh. In his ancestry we find
a certain Sabzali Hansraj, the grandfather of Pir Sabzali, a small trader in
Kutchh. He was a dedicated social worker. His son Ramzan Ali (d. 1886) had
three sons, Mahomed Jaffer (1874-1918), Rahim (1880-1929), Pir Sabzali
(1884-1938) and three daughters, Fatimabai, Jainabai and Sonbai. Ramzan Ali had
come to Bombay, where he started his own business and was also a social worker
in the community.
dates of the birth of Pir Sabzali sound in written and oral traditions, such as
1871 or 1873. It ensues from a legal document of Bombay Court (1915) that he
was born in 1884. He was two years old when his father died in Bombay. His
mother, Maghbai (1850-1945) brought up her children and instilled in them the
impulse of services to the Imam and jamat.
She was a frequent visitor to Lady Aly Shah at Wadi, Bombay. Lady Aly Shah
liked the bread of millet, which she got prepared from Maghbai.
appears that Pir Sabzali took no interest in his formal education. He would
wend his unwilling way to school. He would often play truant in company with
others of same frame of mind. This slipshod schooling continued for about
couple of years mainly under the pressure of his elder brother. When Mahomed
Jaffer was convinced that his younger brother was not literary genius and the
futility of forcing him to continue his schooling, he thought out plans for
him. And it dawned upon him that Pir Sabzali had wasted the most precious
period of his early life in vain wandering.
Muhammad Remu (1860-1924), the most versatile genius in Gwadar was a frequent
visitor to Lady Ali Shah and the Imam in Bombay. Close intimacy and friendship
subsisted between him and the family of Maghbai, who always arranged his
lodging in Hasanabad. In 1897, Maghbai and Mahomed Jaffer, the elder brother of
Pir Sabzali invited Varas Muhammad Remu at a dinner, where they expressed their
worries for young Pir Sabzali. Varas Muhammad Remu offered them to send him in
Gwadar, assuring to look after him. Another view sounds that the Imam told to
Maghbai to send Pir Sabzali in Gwadar under Varas Muhammad Remu. In sum, he was
sent to Gwadar in 1898 when he was 14 years old. By this time he had scarcely
finished four books of Gujrati and only two of English. He came in Karachi with
an Ismaili trader, and thence proceeded to Gwadar in a dhow.
faced scanty of water and was to be procured in the well lying outside the town.
The Ismaili workers brought water in water-skins for the Jamatkhana on every
morning, and an old blind woman, called Sonabai washed the utensils and swept
the Jamatkhana. Once Pir Sabzali entered the Jamatkhana in the morning for
drinking water. Sonabai heard the noise and asked, to which he identified
himself. She said, "Sabu! you have made the glass impure. I will have to
wash it again." Being asked, how the glass polluted, she said, "I
have heard that you smoke and your impure lips have touched the glass."
Her words struck him deeply. To quote him, "These words absolutely touched
my heart. I began to hate myself and resolved to abstain from smoking ever
since." This was the first stage of change in his life, which transformed
him in religious awakening.
imbibed religious training by sitting almost daily at the feet of Varas
Muhammad Remu. Simultaneously, he also learnt the mechanism of fish business.
This was the second stage of the changes in his life and the latent tendencies
emerged very soon in his personality.
Varas Muhammad Remu satisfied with his aptitude, sincerity and sense of
responsibility, he posted him in Pasani to look after his firm. He also
appointed him the Kamadia of the Pasani Jamatkhana in 1904 with Khuda Baksh Rahmatullah as a Mukhi. In
the absence of the missionary in Pasani, he himself performed waez on many occasions. When Imam Sultan
Muhammad Shah visited Gwadar for the second time on April 1, 1905, he
graciously presented him a shawl in
Gwadar on April 15, 1905 and told him, “You live like the jamat of Gwadar.” In 1907, he was appointed the Mukhi of Pasani
Jamatkhana with Muhammad Meruani as
Gwadar Council deputed him in Ormada from Pasani in January 6, 1909 to
propagate the importance of education. He delivered his speech in Ormada
Jamatkhana and moved the listeners. The leaders of Ormada soon launched a
scheme of a school and wrote the Gwadar Council for its permission. Thus, the
first school in Ormada inaugurated in February, 1909 with 40 students in a
grand function presided by Mukhi Ghulam Ali Mohammadi. On that juncture, Pir
Sabzali recollected his early days he passed in wandering in Bombay, and wept
profusely as the wheel now ran on reverse side that he was propagating for it.
conducted the business of Varas Muhammad Remu as his agent in Pasani and served
the jamat as a Mukhi till 1912. In
1912, Varas Muhammad Remu promoted him as his agent as well as the Mukhi of
Ormada jamat. Ormada is located at
the shore of Arabian sea, 140 nautical miles west of Karachi and at the same
distance east of Gwadar. This was the third stage of change in his life, making
him quite a responsible person. He became an expert merchant, a missionary and
a devoted social worker. He is noted for organizing functions, inviting the
parents and distributed sweets and prizes to the students. The last function
held on August 5, 1918 was a historic for the Ormada jamat. It appears from different versions that he would take flying
visits of Karachi from Ormada several times and cemented contacts with the
leaders of Karachi.
passed about 20 years in Gwadar, Pasani and Ormada. He was an ordinary worker
in the firm of Varas Muhammad Remu, and then became his agent, earning Rs.
700/= per month. He had so deep respect for Varas Muhammad Remu that in
speaking of him, he always called him “my
father” and authorized him to take the initiative in every affair and bring
to a conclusion. He referred to him in terms of admiration and gratitude and
acknowledged his debt for the initiation he had received from him.
reached the stage when he could carve out his own career, and resolved to start
his own business in Karachi. In the meantime, his elder brother, Mahomed Jaffer
expired in Bombay on October 27, 1918, who lived in Valkesar, Bombay. He was a
trader and generous and made a will to build a sanatorium in Panchgani at the
cost of one lac rupees. He went to Bombay for few months. He took an
opportunity to perform his waez in
Bombay and Kathiawar for the first time and impressed the jamat. He returned to Karachi and started his business of fish in
1919. Very soon, he also became an exporter of cotton yarn of Sind to Bombay.
Karachi, he was also the director of the newly formed the Khoja Ismaili Trading
Co. in 1918. He was a generous and provided furniture and fixture to the
Ismaili institutions. He also shared his donation to The Young Ismaili Vidhiya
Vinod Club since its existence on April 1, 1915.
appointed the President of The Ismailia Library of Kharadhar, Karachi between
1919 and 1921 with Ghulam Hussain
Rahmatullah as Hon. Secretary. He was once again appointed its President on
April 1, 1927.
1919, a fierce storm raged among the Ismailis in Karachi whether mixed public
meetings of men and women were not mischievous innovation in the community,
fraught with immense possible social harm. Pir Sabzali came forward to shake
the stronghold of orthodoxy, for he had organized one such meeting for the
first time in Kharadhar Boy's School in Karachi. He invited an eminent accomplished
Ismaili lady to preside over the joint gathering. Something seemed to be on the
verge of happening. But the only thing that happened was that the
oppositionists were loudly clapping, and the sceptics were converted the
wonderful oration that Pir Sabzali delivered at the beginning of the meeting.
The house gave it its unstinted support.
encouraged the newly formed The Young Khoja Ismailia Kathiawadi Mitr Mandal,
Kharadhar, Karachi on April 21, 1919 with handsome donation.
Imam visited Zanzibar between July 15, 1914 and August 6, 1914 and made some
strict farmans to abstain from
alcohol and smoking, and emphasized to lead simple life within the resources.
Pir Sabzali published the selected farmans
in March, 1920 in Karachi, entitled “Nasiat-i
Imam” and distributed its ten thousand copies in India and Africa.
Sabzali had close ties with N.M. Budhwani, the editor of the Ismaili Aftab of Dhoraji, Kathiawar. On
March 21, 1923, he went to Dhoraji and visited the Girls School with Budhwani.
In a prize distribution function on March 28, 1923, he gave away cash prizes to
106 students, and declared that he would award gold watch to the winner who
would deliver good lecture in the Jamatkhana during the 43rd Salgirah of the Imam. On that occasion,
N.M. Budhwani called him in his speech, the “Champion of Religion”
vide “Ismaili Aftab” (Dhoraji, July,
1927, p. 37) During his visit, he delivered penetrative waez that the people of
Dhoraji remembered it for a long time.
Sultan Muhammad Shah arrived in Karachi on April 10, 1920 for 27 days. On April
29, 1920, Chief Mukhi Rahmatullah Lutf Ali (1914-1928) said to the Imam, "Mawla, we gained much with the advent
of Bhagat Sabzali over here." The Imam became happy and said smilingly
that, "I know all this. Not only in
Karachi, but he had worked hard in Bombay, Kathiawar and Makran."
Sabzali also presented his mehmani on
the same day. The Imam said to him, “You
are working hard. You are living in Kharadhar, therefore you perform here waez and exhort the spiritual meaning of
becoming fana fi’lillah, and also go
to Garden among the Kutchhi brethren and deliver waez, Khanavadan. I give
you much blessings.” Varas Bandali Kassim, Varas Rahim Basaria and Alijah
Alidina Ali Muhammad were also present, who reported the Imam that Missionary
Sabzali had worked excellently.
Imam put his blessed hand on his shoulder, and tendered his congratulations.
Dr. Suleman Ghulam Hussain Haji (d. 1924) submitted a humble service that,
"I have invested a title of Tuti-i Sind to Missionary
Sabzali." The Imam said, "But
I give him a title of Tuti-i Bagh-i
Bahisht instead of Tuti-i Sind."
The Imam again graced his compliment to him. Sonibai, the wife of Pir
Sabzali stood with a gold chain in hands. The Imam blessed her and took the
gold chain from her hand and put it on his own neck and blessed her.
6, 1920, the Imam said to him, “Sabzali,
you continue to perform waez in the
Jamatkhanas of Karachi and Sind as usual. You have been appointed a member of
the Council for Makran, but the jamat
of Karachi insists that you reside in Karachi.”
learnt that when the Imam arrived in Bombay on March 2, 1920, the Panjibhai
Club had arranged a grand assembly at Hasanabad with the help of Sahitiya
Utejak Mandal, Vidhiya Vinod Club and other institutions. The Mukhis, Kamadias
and the leaders, including Pir Sabzali, attended it. Alijah Alidina Ali
Muhammad of Karachi presided the assembly. The house resolved to summon the All
India Khoja Ismailia Conference for the welfare of the Ismailis. When the Imam
was in Karachi and graced a group photograph with the members of the library on
Thursday, May 6, 1920, Pir Sabzali as the President of the library sat on the
right side of the Imam. He took an opportunity and revealed the plan of above
conference. The Imam said, “Well, you
arrange the first meeting of All India Khoja Ismailia Conference in Karachi,
because Karachi is my birth-place, it should be instituted from here. Pir
Sadruddin also arrived from Uchh Sharif and operated proselytizing mission from
Karachi at first. You inaugurate the conference in Karachi. The conference is
necessary.” When Pir Sabzali asked to propose the date of its inauguration,
the Imam said, “Navroz is an ideal
occasion. You arrange its first meeting on next Navroz. Then the conference
should be held in Bombay, Kathiawar, Rangoon and other places.”
appears that the Imam bequeathed much responsibilities to Pir Sabzali between
1920 and 1924 and had to make extensive tours, therefore, the plan of the conference
could not be materialized.
the auspicious visit of the Imam in Karachi in 1920, Alijah Shahban Mohib
declared his donation of a house of Rs. 5000/- for the school in Ormada. The
Imam accepted it graciously and blessed him. On that occasion, Pir Sabzali also
gave donation of Rs. 1000/- and a plot of Ormada of equal cost. He also
collected a fund of Rs. 1000/- from different individuals for the school.
The tug of the first World
War (1914-1919) had badly shaken the business in India for many years. In 1920,
the British reserved the railway wagons for the military even after an end of
war. Thus, a huge bales of cotton of Pir Sabzali was lying in the railway
godowns, and worried for its transportation. On that day, Wazir Rahim Basaria
(1885-1927) informed him the gracious wish of the Imam to go on the trip of
Punjab and the Northwest Frontier as a Special
Commissioner of the Imam. Pir Sabzali did not speak his business worries
and obeyed it servilely. He girded up his loins when the call of duty beckoned
him for action. He left his merchandise at railway yards on the mercy of the
Imam and left Karachi on next morning at 7.30 a.m. by Quetta Mail on October 6,
Soon after the visit of
Lahore and Multan in 1911, the Imam seems to have determined that the gupti Ismailis in Punjab should expose
and subscribe to the Ismaili faith openly. He wished that his gupti followers should purge non-Islamic
elements, which had quietly crept in their social milieu. He sent several
messages and prepared them mentally for the action. The extreme orthodox class
among them however delayed to shed off the old tendencies embodied in their
society. On January 14, 1920, the Imam summoned some eight prominent leaders of
the gupti in Poona and ordered them
to cut down the old girdle of Hindu tendencies to immerse in Islamic
traditions, and come up palpably without fear. The Imam also gave an audience
to 300 gupti Ismailis on January 23,
1920, and commissioned them the promulgation Imam’s message in the villages of
Punjab. When the news spread among the Hindus, their leaders came into the
action. Seth Bhawani Das Narayan Das Motiwala and Dr. Kalyan Das J. Dessai sent
a telegram to the Imam, appealing to withdraw his orders for the interest of
the Hinduism. Later on, Zaver Chand Amatha Chand, the Vice-President of Arya
Samaj and Manilal Bakor Viyas with Damodar Das Chunilal Dalal hatched
widespread propaganda against the exposition of the gupti Ismailis. Sri Radha Krishna, the leader of the Arya Samaj,
had a vein of animosity in his character for the Ismailis, and put many hurdles
and hitches. It resulted the chaotic condition of the Ismailis. Imam Sultan
Muhammad Shah sent Pir Sabzali in Punjab to cope with the situation. In order
to thwart the bitter opposition of Arya Samaj, Pir Sabzali deliberated with
indomitable talent along with other learned Ismailis, who were vigorous in
their cogent arguments. Missionary Varasiani Ghulam Fatima of Gujranwala also
operated proselytizing mission with Pir Sabzali in Punjab. She was the first
Ismaili lady to deliberate with trenchant arguments in public with the
propagandists of the Arya Samaj. He weathered the storms and returned to
Karachi and submitted his report to Wazir Rahim Basaria. On January 6, 1921,
the Imam sent a telegraphic message from Canes that, “Happy congratulations to all. Inform Sabzali happy upon receipt of good
report of Panjab. Coming India soon.”
February 8, 1921, the Imam told to the members of the Recreation Club in Bombay
that, “You now operate the proselytizing
mission in Punjab.” The Imam also told to Pir Sabzali to make another trip
in Punjab during the majalis, and
inspect a suitable location for the Orphanage and School.
1922, the Recreation Club branch of Karachi sent him to Gwadar for waez, and by now onwards, he also began
to reside in Bombay.
H.H. The Aga Khan Bombay Volunteer Corps came into existence in 1919 and soon
afterwards, it passed through some hitches, and it was almost on the verge of
liquidation. It was only Pir Sabzali’s good offices that saved the volunteer
corps from a critical situation. He
made the gloomy clouds disappeared hovering upon the volunteer corps and
bravely weathered the storm with sincere intermediary. Lt. Col. Pir Mohammad V.
Madhani writes in “Ismaili Volunteers,
Scouts and Guides Souvenir” (Bombay, 1954) that, “We take this opportunity
to thank late Pir Sabzali, whose timely arrival at Bombay before the auspicious
arrival of H.R.H. The Prince Aga Khan made the cloud of gloom disappear from
over the volunteer corps. His favors are unforgettable and it is impossible for
us to repay same much as we may try to do so, because, unfortunately he is no
more with us.”
1922, he was appointed the President of the Provincial Committee for Punjab on
behalf of the Recreation Club Institute, Bombay.
the meeting of the Recreation Club in Bombay on March 2, 1923, the Imam formed
a committee for Punjab and appointed Pir Sabzali as its President with Karam
Hussain as Hon. Secretary. On March 27, 1923, the Imam told to Hussain Sherif,
Merali Pirbhai, Gangji Kurji and Pir Sabzali that, “When I passed through the
Deccan state, I have seen many destitute people with no clothes. You give them
looms and watch them on every six months and report to the Central Board.”
We now arrive
to the part which can be claimed the crowning glory of his service career in
the community, and that is his historical itinerary in Central Asia. On March
7, 1923, the Imam graced didar to the
Ismailis of Badakhshan in Poona. Pir Sabzali was also summoned on that
occasion. The Imam said to him, "I
shall be very happy if you prepare to go on a journey to Central Asia."
To this, he bowed his head in reverence, exhibiting his palpable acceptance.
The Imam said, "Well, you go to
that region, and I will give you my talika."
Sabzali rejoiced beyond all bounds and measures in his selection for an
adventurous service, and began to pass his days as if years. The news of his
journey spread rapidly in public. He was however told that the region of
Central Asia was mountainous with dangerous routes and too appalling to travel.
He also heard that not a single Indian language was spoken there except the
Persian. Hearkening the dreadful informations, he was engulfed in deep
thinking, the most striking feature of his worries was the language problem. He
did not know Persian, and never heard or read about the Central Asia. In sum,
the people from all walk of life set before him the most awful image of Central
Asia. The galaxy of leaping thoughts revolved in his mind and fastened him all
around. For the happiness of the Imam, he determined tenaciously to venture in
awesome regions, why not it cost him his life.
those days, some Ismailis of Badakhshan had arrived in Bombay from Poona after
taking the didar and lodged at
Hasanabad. Pir Sabzali started to see them at every night, and tried to
converse with them in Persian. Sometimes he slept with them due to late night
hours. He chatted in Persian, and collected latest news of the Central Asia.
The frightful picture of Central Asia however continued to wander in his
thoughts. His heart beat more than normal motion and passed sleepless nights,
and ate little. He however did not show a little sign of his inner worries on
his face, and procured assurance in the words of the Imam. He now refrained
from hearing anything to cause heart breaking, and centered his attention in
the preparations of the journey.
his stay at Bombay, the Imam summoned him several times and gave necessary
instructions. The Imam also asked one of his entourages to prepare necessary
papers of his journey. It seems that there was a certain amount of inertia in
preparations of papers. When the Imam tended to ask for it, he was told that
Sabzali was nerveless. The Imam called
for Pir Sabzali and asked, "Are you
really frightened to this journey? Don’t be fearful and bound for it"
Gently but firmly he answered, "Not at all! I am ready. The late
preparation of the papers is the main reason of my delay.”
Imam told to Aga Rukh Shah, the son of Imam's uncle Akbar Shah to execute the
documents and papers of Pir Sabzali. The papers were made ready on very next
Imam said to him, "Are you appalled
Sabzali?" He replied negatively. To this, the Imam said, "Listen, I had deputed three dais in that part of the world, i.e.
Nasir Khusaro, Pir Shams and Pir Sadruddin. They were also human beings like
you, but I represented their tongues. Don’t be afraid and bound for it."
Sabzali had come in Bombay from Karachi since December, 1922. He made a programme
to go to Karachi first to see his family and consign his business to someone,
and then start for his journey. Meanwhile, the annual majalis in Sialkot was about to be organized, the Imam told him on
April 5, 1923 while delivering him his special talika into Persian for the jamats
of Central Asia that, "You go from
here to Sialkot to attend the majalis,
and thence you proceed for your journey." He dropped his programme of
Karachi, and resolved to go Sialkot from Bombay.
April 6, 1923, the Imam visited the Jamatkhana in Bombay before leaving for
Europe. While the Imam was getting out from the elevator, he turned to Pir
Sabzali and said, "Are you
frightened to go alone? Listen, one has nothing to care who goes on my
behalf." Pir Sabzali received much potency afresh and his worries
disappeared and gained a natural vigour and courage. The Imam also told to the
Ismailis of Badakhshan who accompanied him that, “Listen, I consign you Sabzali. Bring him here in the same state as you
took him with you.”
April 7, 1923, the Recreation Club Institute accorded him a party at late
evening. The President, members, the leaders of Bombay Council and the officers
of the jamat attended the farewell
party. Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai, the President made a speech and wished
his success and garlanded him. With the termination of the party, almost all of
them joined with Pir Sabzali at the Bori Bunder Station to bid him farewell.
The party of Pir Sabzali departed by Delhi Express at 9.00 p.m. for Lahore.
Alijah Ramzan Ali Alibhai, Huzur Mukhi Ghulam Ali Arab (1906-1983), Sayed Murad
Ali, who sat in the car of the Imam, Gulu Kurban and other four to five
Ismailis of Badakhshan accompanied him. There were also seven Badakhshani
Ismaili passengers going to Peshawar. The Imam had given them a talika into Persian, and Gulu Kurban was
assigned to read it before the jamats
of the Central Asia. The Imam authorized Pir Sabzali to accept the tithes and
offerings of the jamats and the dastboshi
on behalf of the Imam. They also took with them a box containing sugar cubes to
be given to the jamats. He had
prepared a red robe and a turban of filigree as per Imam's instructions. It is
related that Nasir Khusaro had foretold to the people of Central Asia that an
ambassador of the Imam would arrive, attired in red robe and a turban of
historical caravan departed from Bombay on April 7, 1923 by Delhi Express and
on that day, the Imam also left for Europe. Pir Sabzali reached Lahore and then
in Rawalpindi and finally proceeded to Sialkot. The members of Sialkot jamat and volunteers received him at the
station. He attended the majalis for
three days and delivered waez. The
Arya Samaj had created some troubles in Pind Dad Khan, therefore, Pir Sabzali
left Sialkot on April 14, 1923 and arrived in Pind Dad Khan, where he stayed
for two days and restored peace.
arrived in Rawalpindi with his colleagues on April 17, 1923 for a day.
Missionary Hakim Ali also joined him till Peshawar, where they arrived on April
18, 1923. This marked with exactitude the date of commencing his journey.
sent a message to Ahmad, the son of the Kamadia of Garhi Kapura in district
Mardan to buy few necessary items and reach at Dir, where he would collect
dared the dangers of rushing torrents in the impenetrable hilly tracks, the
freezing cold of merciless winters of Central Asia, the steep and snow-covered
mountains, etc. is no mean a great achievement. His historical journey wrought
a miracle in the Central Asia. Within a short time since he set foot on that
region, where he had never been before, the territory of Central Asia was
breathing and pulsating with life and spirit. It procured a close link between
the followers of that region with the Imam.
He had also executed some jamati
organizational works in Central Asia and established Council Committees and
built Jamatkhanas. Later on, the Imam appointed Mir Muhammad Jamal Khan, the
ruler of Hunza, as the President of Central Asian Ismaili jamats. After an end of their journey, they returned in Peshawar on
December 12, 1923, which suggests that the span of his itinerary was for 8
months and 5 days.
to Karachi on December 12, 1923 from Punjab to see his relatives, while Ramzan
Ali and others reached Bombay on December 12, 1923. When he reached at Karachi,
he was warmly greeted at the station. The Council of Karachi accorded him a
reception at the Wadi in Garden area and presented him the befitting welcome
address written on a hand-woven cloth in a silver casket. The Young Khoja
Ismaili Volunteer Corps, The Saddar Bazar Khoja Panjibhai and the Recreation
Club's branch in Karachi feted a dinner party in his honour.
Sabzali reached Bombay on December 29, 1923 by a Mail Steamer, where he was
well received by the leaders. Seth Abdullah Kassim Mevawala and Seth Navroz Ali
Hirji jointly honoured Pir Sabzali and Alijah Ramzan Ali, a grand party in the
hall of the Recreation Club, presided by Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj (1842-1930).
The Recreation Club also honored them on January 6, 1924 in presence of 150
guests. He conceived highest respect for Varas Muhammad Remu. No sooner did he
see him in the gathering than he bowed down his head servilely and earned his
meantime, the Imam arrived at Bombay from Europe on Sunday, January 13, 1924.
Pir Sabzali presented the report of his journey. The Imam was delighted for
this noble venture and blessed him. The Imam crowned him with the title of Alijah at Poona on January 29, 1924
with an award of a gold medal and silver medals to his associates. Upon receipt
of the title, the Recreation Club hosted him a warm reception on February 18,
1924, which was presided by Varas Muhammad Remu.
accounts of his journey to Central Asia appeared in the weekly "Ismaili" (Bombay) between February
17, 1924 and October 12, 1924. The "Platinum
Jubilee Bulletin" (Bombay) also published the accounts of his journey
from July 15, 1953 to October 1, 1953. The weekly "Ismaili" once again published it on March 21, 1967 to October
6, 1967. The weekly "Ismaili
Crescent" (Dar-es-Salaam) published it between January 8, 1967 and
April 21, 1968. It was reproduced in the fortnightly "Paigham" (Karachi) between February 15, 1967 and April 15,
1970. In the meantime, Alijah Sultan V. Nur Muhammad compiled the accounts of
Pir Sabzali's journey to Central Asia through Ismailia Association for India,
Bombay on 1968, entitled "Pir
Sabzali'ni Madhiya Asia'ni Musafari", whose materials are not reliable
and contrary to the original version. For its full detail, vide “Voyage of Pir Sabzali in Central Asia”
Sabzali gained considerable informations of the Ismailis in different centers,
he was consigned the Foreign Department of the Recreation Club on April 1,
sounds that he had become an adventurerous itinerant. He made a personal tour
of Europe and Middle East with Varas Chhotubhai, Habib Rawjee, Abdullah Kassim
Mevawala and Hasan Ali Mukhi Megji. Huzur Wazir Muhammad Macklai honoured them
a farewell party in Taj Mahal Hotel, Bombay on May 23, 1924. They sailed from
Bombay by Mail Steamer, Caledonia of
P & Co., and visited England, Italy, France, Austria, Hungary, Switzerland,
Germany, Syria and Egypt.
arrived in Syria, he was warmly hailed in Salamia and was accorded the Guard of
Honour in presence of Mir Mirza Haji Kamadia Mustapha and Haji Musa bin Jiraf.
Varas Mir Suleman, Mir Mirza Haji Kamadia Mustapha and Ali Jindi made excellent
lodging arrangements for Pir Sabzali and his associates.
having a successful tour, they returned to Bombay on Wednesday, November 5,
1924. The Recreation Club Institute arranged a grand party, presided by Kadar
Hussain Mehr Ali Manji, who in his opening speech paid rich tribute to late
Varas Muhammad Remu of Gwadar, and expressed brief account of the tour of Pir
Sabzali. On November 9, 1924 and November 16, 1924, the weekly "Ismaili" covered a brief
report of his journey and his interview of 21 questions.
delivered a long lecture on his historical journey to Central Asia, Europe and
Syria in the hall of the Recreation Club Institute on November 9, 1924. It was
attended by huge crowd of the Ismailis and the leaders and earned their
appreciations for getting rare informations of the Ismailis living in other
parts of the world.
Bombay for Karachi on November 10, 1924 and offered fatiha at the grave of Varas Muhammad Remu, who expired on November
5, 1924. He also made a flying visit of Gwadar to see the family members of
Varas Muhammad Remu.
his first East African visit with Wazir Rahim Basaria (1885-1927), Missionary
Hamir Lakha (1881-1963) and Missionary Hussaini Pir Muhammad (1878-1951), and
sailed from Bombay on January 7, 1925. The Imam arrived in Zanzibar for didar on February 9, 1925. Kamadia Mulji
Nazar Ali had built a new Jamatkhana in Moshi for 35,000/- shillings. The jamat humbly invited the Imam to perform
its opening ceremony, but the Imam could not go and asked Pir Sabzali to
represent him. Pir Sabzali performed the opening ceremony of Moshi Jamatkhana
on March 24, 1925. The jamat
presented a shawl and gold ring
to Kamadia Mulji Nazar Ali. Pir Sabzali
also gifted him a gold watch. Missionary Hamir Lakha and Itmadi Jivan delivered
waez. Pir Sabzali left Moshi for
Nairobi on March 25, 1925, where he also delivered waez. He returned to Bombay
with Hamir Lakha on April 18, 1925.
played a key role during the incident of the Patadi Murder Case. On July 10,
1925, a son of the Kori in the village of Patadi, Gujrat disappeared. The
enemies of the Ismailis propagated that the Ismailis had killed the child. The
dead body of the child however was found on July 12, 1925, but the stimulated
gang harassed the local Ismailis. They damaged the Jamatkhana and destroyed the
religious books. The enemies charged that Magan Alibhai and Somji Kassim were
responsible and prepared fictitious witnesses against them. On October 28,
1925, the hearing of the case began in Fatehwadi, near Ahmedabad. Muhammad Ali
Jinnah was the pleader of the Ismailis. The next hearing began on December 7,
1925 and lasted for six days. In its verdict, the court acquitted the accused
ones. Between July 10, 1925 and December 7, 1925, Pir Sabzali was in Patadi and
adroitly tackled the situation and restored peace within the jamat.
power of creating permanent and indelible impressions upon the people was one
of the striking feature in the personality of Pir Sabzali. We find in his life
a person who had not only an immense capacity for constructive work and service
to the community, but also that spark of greatness, which every one recognized,
which evades description. He was a brilliant speaker. Those who heard him on
the platform in his vigor and hey-day are conscious of the brilliance of his
unmatched oratory. He was truly an ambassador of peace, unity and love for the
Ismailis of the world. He brought light and love where previously darkness and
hatred subsisted. Whenever he intervened, the breach was easily healed. None
could perish in fractional quarrels, when confronted by his sincere intermediary.
not only an accomplished and fluent orator, but also rendered many other
services in the community. Sometimes, he offered nikah of the Ismaili couples in presence of the Imam. He acted also
an interpreter between the Imam and the followers during the mehmanis. He could also speak Persian
and the dialects of the Central Asia, and served as an interpreter when the
Ismailis from Central Asia visited Bombay.
To listen to him, when he
opened the treasure-box of his varied personal experiences culled from an
eventful life and travels in scores of land, was to lose count of time. For,
from his inexhaustible storehouse he would pick out treasures one after
another, garb them in moving and vivid language and keep his listeners reverted
to their seats for hours on end. Sometimes, he became so engrossed in his
delivery that he rose emotionally on the bending fingers of his legs.
famous for having a loud and sweet voice. The Imam joined him in the didar programs in different areas for
reciting his farman loudly before the
jamat. He was also commissioned to
convey the written messages of the Imam for the didar programs in different parts of India.
won the hearts of the Ismailis of Kutchh, whom he showed and exhorted the
rules, regulation and constitution of the Ismaili community. Once he told to
Missionary Hamir Lakha that, "Kutchh is the land of our forefathers. We
must work for those who are misguided".
laboured hard to collect donations (amount of Rs. 4000/-) in October, 1924 for
the construction of a new Jamatkhana in Sialkot. It was built under the
supervision of Karam Hussain of Multan, and upon completion in 1926, Pir
Sabzali performed its opening ceremony. On that occasion, he also formed H.H. The Aga Khan Ismailia Volunteer Corps
Sabzali submitted his papers to contest the election of the Municipal
Corporation on April 9, 1927 in Karachi. He was suggested to withdraw in ward
no. 2. His withdrawal paved a way for Alidina Ali Muhammad and Walji Alarakhia
to become successful.
his talent out of the community circle, Dr. G.Allana, the Secretary of the
Seerat Committee of Karachi, offered him to speak on the life of the Prophet
Muhammad in the year 1927. It was just a few hours before the function was to
commence in Hindu Gymkhana. Pir Sabzali readily accepted with no sign of fear.
About ten thousand Muslims, squatting on the ground, strained their necks to
catch a glimpse of the speakers as they came on the stage one after the other.
All were hushed in silence, for one speaker just finished. The President
announced the name "Janab Sabzali Saheb" as the next speaker. He
appeared on the stage and spoke so forcefully and lucidly on the life of the
Prophet that, as he sat down, all else for a full few minutes was drowned in a
crescendo of full-throated cries of "Allah-o-Akbar."
In sum, the gymkhana shook with the cries that thundered from Muslim throats.
credit to start the annual majalis in
Sialkot goes to Pir Sabzali. It instituted in 1921 with a view to unite the
scattered Ismaili jamats of Punjab.
Gradually, the annual majalis began
to be organized on the pattern of the majalis
of other parts of India. Pir Sabzali cordially invited Varas Dayabhai Velji of
Ahmednagar, the President of All India Majalis Committee, and Alijah Hasan Ali
Devraj to attend the majalis on 6th,
7th and 8th May, 1928 and make their observations on the
management. On May 13, 1928, the weekly “Ismaili”
(pp. 13-14) published its report and the noble services of Pir Sabzali that,
“The Ismaili jamats in Punjab were
absolutely isolated from one another. Alijah Sabzali united them with his
genuine efforts. He put his business aside and worked for the jamats. He spent thousand of rupees for
it. He passed sleepless nights to reconcile the diverse communal matters,
making arrangements for food and delivering waez.
The leaders of Bombay appreciated his services.”
1929, Sind experienced a flood due to heavy rain of 30 inches. The Ismailis
became homeless and their cattles were swept into water. At once, he wrote
abroad, appealing the donors to share in the noble cause. He collected massive
funds for the welfare of Ismailis.
Ragat, one of the notorious persons had a vein of animosity in his character
for the Ismailis in Gwadar. On March 24, 1929, he killed Khimji Remu, the elder
foster brother of Varas Muhammad Remu on the account of baseless rumours against Ismailis. The
Ismailis closed their business and harbored in the Jamatkhana for about two weeks, and were threatened with fatal
attacks on their lives. The Imam was sent a report of the tragic incident in
Bombay, who contacted the Viceroy of India about it. The Viceroy ordered Taymur
bin Faisal, the Sultan of Muscat to prevent further casualties, insisting to
establish peace in Gwadar. The Sultan neglected in his measures. Meanwhile, he
abandoned the throne in favour of his son, Sultan Saeed on February 11, 1930.
dismay yet prevailed in town, where the Ismailis were yet insecure. Essa Ragat
once again attacked on an Ismaili, called Bana Ibrahim on January 5, 1930 and
cut down his shoulder with a sword. The nerveless Ismailis once again sent a
report to the Imam in Bombay. The Imam deputed Maulana Shaukat Ali (1872-1938),
Mukhi Itmadi Hoodbhoy Shaluani (d. 1937) and Pir Sabzali in Gwadar on January,
1930 to cope with the situation, which was going from bad to worse. They held a
grand gathering of about 2000 people from all walk of life, and made effective
speeches on the Muslim brotherhood and unity. The principal speakers were Maulana
Shaukat Ali, Muhammad Irfan, Mir Muhammad Baloch, Maulvi Uthman and Pir
Sabzali. Their mission created salutary effect upon people, and appeased the
flames of animosity kindled against the Ismailis.
dispute arose in the jamat of Agra in
1930, Pir Sabzali went there and brought an amicable reconciliation in the jamat. With his piercing personality and
aptitude, he also dispelled differences in Calcutta.
February 13, 1931, a conference of the Ismaili officers of the Punjab jamat held in Sialkot under the
presidentship of Pir Sabzali to discuss the measures for accelerating the
economical and social conditions of the Ismailis in Punjab and Frontier
Provinces. The draft of the proposals was submitted to the Imam for approval.
After a thorough study, the Imam approved it. In Raiwand, the Imam said to the
Ismailis of Punjab jamat on January
24, 1938 that, "I have given approval of the laws and regulations, the
constitutions of the local and supreme councils for your progress."
second session of the historical Round Table Conference of the Indian political
leaders was held on September 7, 1931 in the Picture Gallery at Buckingham
Palace in London. On those days, the Imam had summoned Pir Sabzali in London,
where he stayed for a week. He was also
present when the Imam and Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1947) held a historical meeting
in Ritz Hotel.
Masalawala Co-operative Bank Ltd. formerly known as The Ismaili Masalawala
Sahakari Mandal Ltd. came into existence in 1929 by a handful grocers of
Bombay, and registered it on September 3, 1930. On November 13, 1931, a grand
gathering was held in the hall of the Recreation Club under the presidentship
of Ahmad Fazalbhoy Karimbhoy. Pir Sabzali was invited in special case to
deliver an impressive lecture on the importance of the Ismaili Co-operative
Bank. He vehemently appealed to the audience to become its members. It infused
an impulse in the Ismailis and evinced keen interest in this venture.
Aly S. Khan visited India on November 21, 1931. Pir Sabzali made excellent
arrangements with other leaders to accord warm welcome in Bombay. He remained
with Prince Aly Khan during the visit.
1932, he had been appointed the Mission Secretary of Recreation Club Institute
for the year 1932 and 1933.
April 5, 1905, the Imam established a Committee for 18 councils in Kutchh with
Varas Moledina Megji (1854-1926) as
its Chairman, who was followed by his son, Varas Ghulam Hussain (d. 1973). The
Committee was void of a comprehensive constitution, and executed its working on
old rules and customs. On the other hand, Varas Ghulam Hussain was occupied in
his business in Bombay since 1929, and could not regularly attend the community
affairs in Kutchh. He referred his problems to the Imam in Bombay and proposed
Pir Sabzali to make constant visits in Kutchh for about two years to deal with
the affairs. The Imam commissioned Pir Sabzali to visit the villages of Kutchh
from time to time. It deemed desirable that the affairs of the jamats in Kutchh be managed and
conducted regularly and systematically. On October 22, 1932, Pir Sabzali held a
meeting in Nigar, attended by 150 leaders representing different villages. It
was broadly discussed for two days to ordain a constitution of the Council, a
resolution was passed to this effect. The next meeting was held in Bharapur
after two months under Pir Sabzali, where further amendments were included in
the resolution of the first meeting. Finally, they unanimously approved a
resolution regarding the constitution of the Council to be enforced in Kutchh,
and it was forwarded to the Imam for final approval in the beginning of 1933.
When it was approved, the President published the rules and regulations of the
Council in February, 1934. Accordingly, the Council Committee was divided into
two parts i.e., the District Committee and the General Committee. The District
Committees were set up in six places, i.e., Mundra, Bharapur, Bhuj, Anjar,
Wagad and Abdasa. Alijah Hasan Ali Devraj was appointed the President of the
Council Committee with Mukhi Hashim Bhimji as Honorary Secretary, both belonged
February 15, 1933, Prince Aly Khan left Bombay for Gwadar, accompanied by Pir
Sabzali and Hashim Hood. The airplane landed at Gwadar airport at 11.30 a.m., where the Ismailis accorded a
rousing welcome to him. He stayed for one hour only, and returned to Europe.
Pir Sabzali returned to Bombay via Karachi.
Gwadar jamat sent a humble letter to
the Imam in London on September 12, 1933 for making a gracious visit of Gwadar.
The Imam sent his message on September 21, 1933 as follows:-
Best loving blessings for your letter of 12th
Sep. and entertainment. Make Gujrati as a second language in Persian regions
and teach only Persian and Urdu in future under your supervision.
the mehmani of Gwadar jamat in Bombay on December 19, 1933,
the Imam said, “Make friendship with the Baluchis. Don’t teach Gujrati in your
school and teach Persian and Urdu. Baluchistan will now liberate. Teach Urdu to
the above guidance, the Imam also asked Pir Sabzali in December, 1933 to
propagate the notion of Urdu in Gwadar in place of Gujrati in the school. The
Imam also advised Pir Sabzali to arrange talented Urdu teachers from Punjab.
Pir Sabzali was an influential figure in Punjab and recruited few teachers,
viz. Muhammad Uthman, Shamsuddin Mukhi Ali Muhammad and his wife, Asghar Ali
and his wife, Hussain, Fazal Illahi, Muhammad Yaqub, etc. He also fixed their
stipends with free accommodations in Gwadar.
Imam was in Delhi in 1934. Pir Sabzali also arrived on February 20, 1934. The
enemies waged propaganda in Delhi against the Imam and the Ismailis. Pir
Sabzali was certainly sensitive to the baseless charges of irreligiously
levelled against the Ismailis by some extremists. He broached the doctrines of
the Ismailis in a press conference with Wafi Ahmad, the President of the
Sialkot Council, Karam Hussain and few other African missionaries. He clarified
that the Ismailis followed the principles of Islam and there was no distinction
between Ismailis and Muslims. Nay, it was a Muslim community, exhorting to
revere all religions and Islamic sects, and was therefore tolerant towards all
and inimical to none.
Sabzali toured in Burma between March 7, 1934 and March 16, 1934 with the Imam.
He also made his second visit to Burma in 1935 for raising funds for the Golden
gone to Punjab to attend the first meeting of the Imami Ismaili Supreme Council
for Punjab on April 7, 1934, whose first President was Wafi Ahmad of Jamu, K.
Nazar Ali of Multan as Vice-President and Barkat Ali of Talwandi as Hon.
Secretary. The President forwarded the report of the meeting to the Imam, and
received the following telegraphic message:
Cannes : April 13, 1934
Ismailia Council, Sialkot
Best blessing all Punjab spiritual children inaugural
arrived in Gwadar by air on April 19, 1934 and was well received by Major
Bramner, the present political agent and the consul of Muscat. He stayed at the
bungalow of Mr. Thomson and left for Karachi by the steamer “Baroda” on April 22, 1934 and delivered
waez in his three days visit. In the
same year, he made a trip to Europe with his wife, Sonibai and Varasiani
Ghulshakarbai, the wife of Wazir Rahim Basaria.
been commissioned a campaign in East African countries as a Special
Commissioner of the Imam, which was his second visit. In his telegraphic
message released from Paris on May 17, 1934, the Imam stated: "Most paternal affectionate thoughts for all
in Africa. I have sent Alijah as special commissioner on my behalf to bring
message of my paternal constant thoughts and my particular desire of careful
useful cooperation in worldly and religious matters amongst all Ismailis during
these hard times of crisis of world depression."
he landed at Tanganyika and started his activities emphatically. Shafique
Literary Society gave him a reception on September 18, 1934 at H.H. The Aga
Khan Girls School in Dar-es-Salaam. Varas Abdullah Sharif, the President of the
Supreme Council, attended it with the members of the local council, the members
of Educational Board, Mukhi Zaver Karshan, Kamadia Abbas Moledina, Ramzan Ali
and Vali Virani, the barristors, Mr. Habib Jamal, Alijah Moloo Alarakhia, and
the members and patrons of Shafique Literary Society.
on his flying visit of Dodoma and presided over the general function of the
local library on October 2, 1934 at the Girls School.
October, 1934, he gave an interview to “Tanganyika
Herald” in Dar-es-Salaam and said that, “The principal topics of my waez are to exhort the importance of
improving economical condition, competition in business and education. I have
visited almost in all the countries in the world. I was also present during the
meeting of the Aga Khan and Gandhi (1869-1947) in London on the issues of the
community. The objective of both leaders was to create unity between Muslims
and Hindus. But some impudants laid hindrance in it. It is natural that the Aga
Khan is a leader of the Muslims, the Islamic spirit emanates in his
personality. But I will say with great confidence that he has an equal regard
for all the communities. The status of Banaras Hindu University in his list of
charity and his recommendation for the sacrifice of the cow in the Muslim
Conference in Delhi, are the unique examples for it.”
arrived at Tanga on October 17, 1934 by Mira
Steamer. He was feted warm welcome by the jamat
at the port, and was brought to the city in a procession. He lodged at the
residence of the President Ismail Jetha. He delivered waez and raised a yearly donation scheme on monthly payment of one
hundred shillings for the welfare of the poor Ismailis. He also emphasized to
establish a volunteer corps in Tanga jamat,
and as a result, about 40 men and 38 women offered their services in this
arrived at Mombasa on October 21, 1934 from Tanga by car. Alijah Kassim Khimji,
the President of the Council arranged his stay at his bungalow at Niyalina
Bridge. He stayed 15 days in Mombasa and delivered an impressive waez
thrice every day. With the efforts of Ghulam Hussain and Missionary
Megji Merali, a Mission Center was planned to be set up by the Council in
Mombasa, to train about a hundred young students. Pir Sabzali gave important
advices and suggestions for the Mission Center. The Council honored him in a
reception on October 27, 1934. The volunteers, ladies committee, ladies
volunteer corps and other institutions also gave him parties. The Recreation
Club Institute honoured him at a reception on October 28, 1934 in the Assembly
Hall of the H.H. The Aga Khan High School, Mombasa. President Jaffer Ali
Mohammad and Honorary Secretary Noorudin Ali Merali gave him a warm honour with
Mombasa on November 5, 1934 for Moshi. He was escorted at Voy, about 100 miles
from Mombasa by the Council’s President, Alijah Kassim Khimji, Honorary
Secretary Hussain Vellani, Kassim Suleman Damji, etc. He performed waez at Voy and Matati for one day and
then arrived at Moshi and Taweta. He then proceeded to Kisumu in November 22,
1934, where he reorganized the ladies and gents volunteer corps. He had an
honour to lay the foundation of the building of Rehmatullah Punja in the new
market of Kisumu. The local leaders gave him a grand reception in presence of
500 guests. On behalf of the Council, Seth Mohammad Kassim Lakha made a speech
to admire his exceptional services in the Ismaili world for last 29 years. He
visited Uganda on November 29, 1934, where he delivered waez in the Jamatkhana of Kampala and visited the Ismaili
institutions. He then proceeded towards Masaka and Mwanza.
he returned to Bombay on December 29, 1934 and was greeted at Belardpier by
Haji Mohammad Juma Jan Mohammad, Alijah Ismail Mohammad Jaffer, Hasan Datoo,
Kamadia Chatoor Bhanji, Missionary Hamir Lakha, Missionary Alidina Mukhi Mamu,
etc. In his productive campaign, he collected five lac shillings in East Africa
as a Special Commissioner of the Imam. The Imam arrived in Bombay on January 3,
1935 from Europe. Pir Sabzali submitted his report of East African tour to the
October 16, 1935, a meeting was held in Poona, presided by Lady Ali Shah, for
the formation of All India Golden
Jubilee Celebration Committee with its President Sir Ibrahim Rahmatullah
(1862-1942) and the Vice-President as Ghulam Ali Merchant. To make a concerted
drive for the collection of funds in India, a Working Committee was launched
under Pir Sabzali’s wing. Accordingly, he started his noble campaign on October
23, 1935 from Kathiawar and delivered his very impressive waez first in Dhoraji. He then proceeded to Junagadh, Manawadar,
Rajkot, Jamanagar, Viraval, Una, Majewadi, Jetpur, Virpur, Supedi, Vadwan,
Chotila, etc. In other words, he made his trip in 17 villages and collected
85,000 rupees in Kathiawar, Gujrat and Kutchh. The local jubilee committee of
Dhoraji Division, in the meantime, sent a report to the Imam. The Imam sent
them a telegraphic message from London on December 13, 1935 as under:-
Give most paternal loving blessings for the service. I
am much happy to know the detail of the
funds collected by the committee for the celebration of my jubilee. I give my
blessings to each donor.”
proceeded to Sind and Punjab and other parts of India and collected a colossal
fund for the Golden Jubilee celebration. His mode of collection can safely be
compared with that of the Imam, who collected three million rupees for the
be noted that all the preparations were given a final shape for the celebration
of the Golden Jubilee of the Imam during the completion of 50 years of Imamate.
For this celebration, Pir Sabzali received much response from the jamats more than expected, who flooded
money and ornaments before him. When the collection reached upto five lac of
rupees, a special meeting of the Golden Jubilee Celebration Committee was held
on December 8, 1935 at the premises of the Central Board. President Ghulam Ali
Merchant read the telegraphic message of the Imam and also announced the
collection of five lac rupees. The members hailed the report in jubilation. On
that occasion, Pir Sabzali put a proposal not only to celebrate the occasion of
the golden jubilee, but the Imam should be weighed against the gold. N.M.
Budhwani supported his proposal and it was unanimously resolved also in the
meeting. The Ismailis gaped with wonder with the news that the occasion of the
Golden Jubilee hit would weigh the Imam in gold for the first time the
headlights of newspapers.
cannot be disputed that the credit for raising a massive fund for the Golden
jubilee within a short period of three months from all over India goes to Pir
Sabzali. The scaptics who were diffident of success began to rub their eyes in
wonder. He paved the way and the impossible had been made possible. They did
not know what unfathomable depths of dynamic and infectious energy Pir Sabzali
In appreciation of his unstinted services, the Imam awarded him Gold
Medal with “Straight Bar” in 1936
during the historical occasion of Golden Jubilee.
launched his third and last itinerary to the African countries from January 5,
1937 as a Special Commissioner of the Imam, where he exhausted six months to
remove off the old customs of the community. He prepared a report and published
duly approved by the Imam.
attended the Golden Jubilee of the Imam in Nairobi on March 1, 1937. He is
credited to have put the gold bars into his hands and addressed to the audience
on microphone and spoke the importance of the occasion.
the Golden Jubilee at Nairobi, the Economic Conference in accordance with the
guidance of the Imam drew up the plans for the economic welfare of the
community. Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad R. Macklai was appointed its Chairman. Pir
Sabzali however presided the Economic Conference in Nairobi as an Acting
his visit, he established four Co-operative Societies and most important was
the establishment of an Insurance Company.
It was his last visit to East Africa and is reported to have said to the
jamat in his waez that, "When the
Diamond Jubilee of the Imam will be celebrated, the Africa will be so
prosperous that the Ismailis will easily weigh the Imam in diamonds without any
year 1937 was revolutionary for East African Ismailis, as it was then that the
target or first stage of their progress in economic fields was set. Among them
was Jubilee Insurance Co. Ltd., which took its birth from the historic occasion
of the Golden Jubilee. The growth and success of the company are to be
attributed to the keen interest, hard work and foresight of the stalwarts like
Dewan Ghulam Hussain Jindani (1891-1983), Count Paroo, Count Fateh Ali Dhala,
Dewan Sir Eboo Pirbhai, Count Hasan K. Lakha, Count A.G. Abdul Hussain and
other directors. The initial honor however must go to Pir Sabzali who, at the
command of the Imam, took upon himself the onerous task of enlisting the new
company's shareholders as well as business, and travelled widely through the
length and breadth of Africa. He arranged to raise a capital of 2 million
shillings and also brought the insurance business for about 20 million shillings.
He deserved an official privilege of the commission for shillings 40,000, but
he did not claim for it. It will be not exaggerated to write that Lord Michel,
the governor of Kenya performed an opening ceremony of the modern edifice of
the Jubilee Insurance Co. Ltd. at Mombasa on September 10, 1951. The occasion
marked an important milestone in the progress of the Company. Count Paroo
(1906-1998), the Managing Director spoke in his address that, “The Aga Khan,
the Spiritual Leader of the Ismailis had stressed before 15 years to venture in
the insurance business for sharing in the economic building of the country
which they had accepted as their motherland. This is the best outcome of his
guidance. This Insurance Company came into existence with the constant efforts
of late Pir Sabzali. In 1937, its capital was 25000/- pounds, and now it
reached to 8 million pounds.”
21, 1937, he had also attended the first session of the Ismailia Supreme
Council for Africa in Zanzibar. It was presided by Count Abdullah Sharif.
He stayed in Africa for 23
months. He visited Pemba-Wete on May 10, 1938 and delivered waez for five days. With the help of
Wazir Ghulam Hussain Dharas, the President of the Provincial Council, he sold
2000 shares of the Jubilee Insurance Company. In Tanga, he made an opening
ceremony of the Ismailia Cooperative Society. The Aga Khan’s Ismaili Ladies
Committee organized a fair in Tanga to entertain the children on June 16, 1938,
which was presided by him. He also was destined to open the newly built
Jamatkhana of Masuka. Kisumu was destitute of an Ismaili dispensary since long.
During his visit, he tenaciously made an appeal to the donors to come forward
for this noble project. A certain Motibai Kurji Vali was deeply touched with
it. She donated 5000 shillings for the dispensary to the Aga Khan Provincial
Council, which she had saved for many years.
When Nuruddin, the son of
Alijah Datoo Meru was leaving Bombay for Nairobi, Sonibai, the wife of Pir
Sabzali gave him a message for Pir Sabzali that it had taken much time to him
in Africa, so he should return to Bombay. When Nuruddin delivered her message
to Pir Sabzali in Nairobi, he said, “Are you not the son of Alijah Datoo Meru?
You must know how one can curtail his services. The community’s service is my
life-blood, which I cannot put aside uncompleted.” It is also related that once
he told to the Imam, “Mawla! you pray that I succeed in the work whatever you
consigned me.” The Imam is reported to have blessed him.
His health became none of
the best and shattered by the heavy strain of work and ceaseless tours from one
to another village. He bound for Bombay for treatment in November, 1938. He
left behind word to the African jamats
to come back within three months. He hardly breathed a sigh of relief in three
days when the Imam’s telegram received, informing his gracious arrival in
Bombay from London. He rejoiced beyond all bounds and came into the action and
delivered an impressive speech in the Kandi Mola Jamatkhana, Bombay for ten
minutes. This was fated to be his last public oratory. He visited the room of
Recreation Club Institute, where after 30 minutes, he felt acute chest pain and
fainted nimbly. He was taken to the bungalow of his close relative, Wazir
Muhammad Ibrahim Muhammad Rawjee (1900-1965) for treatment.
Imam visited Bombay and when he heard of the health condition of Pir Sabzali
impaired, he went to see him on December 10, 1938. The Imam caught his hand for
ten minutes while standing, then put his blessed hand on his forehead and gave
him a chhanta. The tears streamed
from his eyes. The Imam said, "Sabzali, do you feel pain?"
"Mawla! not at all,” he answered, “rather feel happiness. Alas! you came
to my house, but I cannot set myself erect to welcome you. This is the only
reason of tears bursting in my eyes." The Imam soothed him, quieted him,
and cast his merciful eyes upon him. Who can know what bounty was then
conferred on him? If the words which the Imam in that moment addressed to him
should fall upon the ears of night, night would cease to be night, night would
become day radiant as dawn.
two days, he passed away on December 12, 1938 at 8.25 a.m. His sudden demise
occasioned deep grief among all classes and communities. The fifty-five years
of his life was packed with accomplishments, which shall always remain a source
of pride to the Ismailis. He strove to advance the interest of the community at
every available opportunity. He piloted the ship with skill and courage and
brought it safely ashore. He left behind an enviable record of services.
December 14, 1938, the Imam said to the Bombay jamat that, "Itmadi
Sabzali has reached God's mercy. I give my blessings for him. His name will
always remain immortalized in history. He was a chief dai of the present jamat
like the dais of the past, and
glorified the Ismaili faith in Africa, Sind, Punjab, Gwadar and India.
Itmadi Sabzali has revealed his spiritual power to the
thousands of people and also to other sister communities. He has exhorted the tariqah of our religion to other
communities. During the occasion of Golden jubilee, he had visited one to
another city and imparted our jamat
and other communities.
Itmadi Sabzali was the standard bearer of the haqiqi momins. He departed from the
world, putting the world in great loss. He has gone into the real bliss. It is
a matter of happiness that he has no worldly problem till last breath of his
December 15, 1938, the Imam said, "The
photo of late Itmadi Sabzali be placed in the Jamatkhana. His photos also be
kept in the Jamatkhanas of Karachi, Punjab and Sialkot."
occasion of the unveiling ceremony of his photo in the Recreation Club
Institute on January 18, 1939, the Imam made the following historical
"Itmadi Sabzali has served me in such a manner that
after his death, I honor him the title of a Pir. If others would render such
services, they too shall secure a like status. During the stretch of 54 years
of my Imamate, to only one Pir Sabzali, I honor such a status."
(d. 1946), the daughter of Jaffer Bhanji was the wife of Pir Sabzali, having no
child. In 1927, they had adopted Fatima (1925-1950), the daughter of Mukhi
Muhammad Ali, when she was hardly three years old. The marriage of Fatima was
solemnized with Alijah Hussain Ghulam (1918-1981) in Karachi. Pir Sabzali also
adopted another girl, called Nurbanu Hussain Nanji.