03. Brief Biography of Alijah Ramzan Ali Alibhai
His name was Ragu Nath Parsotam and born in a Hindu family at Navsari on 1883. Nothing is known of his early life. It seems however probable that he took his early education in Navsari. His father was a tailor and had gone in Bulawayo, Rhodesia. In 1901, his father called for him in Rhodesia. Thus, he left India and made his trip of East African Countries. He had been in Mombasa, Zanzibar, Dar-es-Salaam, Mozambique, Buhera and Hevnali. He also went to Salisbury, Gwelo and finally reached to Bulawayo, Rhodesia.
They stayed for about two to three years, then his father returned to India. When he found that his profession procured no sizable profit, he travelled to another place to try his luck. He went to Kimberly by train. Soon afterwards, he went to live in Port Elizabeth, where many Indians resided, including the Ismailis. His three roommates were the gupti Ismailis of Surat.
In 1905, the Imam made a visit of East Africa. His roommates regularly received the farman of the Imam by post, and kept it secret from him. He however perceived that his three roommates were the converted Muslims. He began to discuss with them and criticized the Imam.
Meanwhile, one another roommate from Haripur, India of the Imam-Shahi sect also joined their company. They resided together regardless of caste and creed. He discussed with him, but was rebuked. Later on, the mutual discussion began among themselves. The gupti Ismailis imparted him the Ismaili faith, and his heart began to melt with great leaning towards Ismailism.
In 1906, he returned to India with those three gupti Ismailis, and participated in the secret grand majalis of the gupti Ismailis in Bombay. It touched him so deep that his faith on Ismailism became steadfast. He stayed with his uncle in Bombay and did not speak to him the change of his mind. He went to Navsari and visited Bombay occasionally. Meanwhile, the Imam visited Bombay to grace didar, and he also took a chance to behold the radiant face of the Imam. It impressed him so deep that he firmly determined to embrace Ismailism officially. He went to Surat and held a long meeting with Chief Wazir Kassim Ali Hasan Ali Javeri (1877-1968) about his final decision.
In 1914, he was to change his name and expose as an Ismaili. His relatives approached him and tried in vain to prevent him. It caused him however some delay, but he joined the first betch of 70 guptis of Surat and declared his identity as the Ismaili Muslim on June 10, 1915. He assumed the name of Ramzan Ali with his late father's name Alibhai.
He married to a Hindu lady. His wife and mother-in-law also embraced Ismailism. In sum, it cost him a loss of contact for five years with his relatives soon after becoming an Ismaili. His mother became seriously ill in Navsari. He got a telegram about the impairing health of his mother. He took holy water and reached Navsari. She sipped it and was cured on next day. He returned to Bombay after two days.
He continued to visit Navsari after every two months with holy water, which caused an interruption in his business. He brought his mother in Bombay at the end of 1920, but she resided with her brother's house. About eight days following her arrival to Bombay, her health became serious, and with the advice of a local Ismaili leader, he took with him the Kamadia of the Bombay jamatkhana to the house of his mother. In presence of the Kamadia, she embraced Ismailism before death. No sooner did the Kamadia walk out than she breathed her last.
Ramzan Ali Alibhai had rendered invaluable services in Bombay in every field between 1916 and 1920 with great deal of zeal and fervour. Sometimes, he had to go in the villages of Gujrat and Kathiawar. He came into the contact of Pir Sabzali (1871-1938) in 1922. He was famous for his honesty, dedication and hard working. Whenever Pir Sabzali had been out of Bombay, he enjoined upon him his pending works to be carried out.
In 1923, the Imam made a farman to Pir Sabzali to go on the visit of Central Asia, Ramzan Ali was the first choice of Pir Sabzali to join him as his personal Secretary. Ramzan Ali left his tailoring shop on the mercy of the Imam in Bombay and proceeded on the historical voyage in 1923. While concluding his journey, he returned to Bombay from Lahore on December 6, 1923 by Punjab Mail. He was well received at the Koloba Station. The other Ismailis of Badakhshan were lodged in Hasanabad. Pir Sabzali however reached Bombay from Karachi by Mail Steamer on December 29, 1923. Both were feted a reception by Seth Abdullah Kassim Mevawala and Seth Navroz Ali Hirji Plumber. It was presided by Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj in the hall of the Recreation Club. Recreation Club Institute also gave them a grand reception with a dinner in presence of 150 guests on January 6, 1924.
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah arrived at Bombay from Europe by sea on January 13, 1924, and had an audience to them on January 19, 1924 at Poona. The Imam awarded Ramzan Ali a silver medal. The Imam was happy with his outstanding services with Pir Sabzali, and said, "This new follower has gone to see the old followers. The vizier of emperor Akbar was a Hindu. The governor of Kabul was also a Hindu. It is a matter of happiness that an origin of Hindu and converted as a Muslim, my new follower has gone to see and impart my old Mawlai followers." The Imam also appreciated for his significant courage. Mukhi Ahmed of Punjab, Mulla Kurban, Mulla Hyder and Nadir Shah Abdul Hussain were also awarded the silver medals.
In 1925, the Imam graciously awarded him a gold medal with best blessings. He was also invested the title of Huzur Mukhi during the Golden Jubilee of the Imam in 1936 in appreciation of his outstanding services. He continued his services and was conferred with the title of Alijah during the Diamond Jubilee in 1946.
Alijah Ramzan Ali Alibhai got the account of the journey published in the "Platinum Jubilee Bulletin" (Bombay) between July 15, 1953 and October 1, 1953, which was edited by Jafar Ali H. Lakhani. His version of the voyage has been translated in the following pages.