January 4, 1990


The Canadian Ismaili notes with great sadness the passing away of Diwan Sir Eboo Pirbhai in London, England on Thursday, January 4, 1990 at the age of 85.

Diwan Sir Eboo was born in Bombay in 1905 and migrated with his family to East Africa in 1910. After receiving his education at the Duke of Gloucester (now Jamhuri High) School, he ventured into business.

Sir Eboo had a very active and distinguished public life. He was a member of the Nairobi City Council (1938-1943), the Kenya Legislative Council (1952-1960) and a number of government and Statutory Boards. He received the award of an O.B.E. from His Majesty the King of England in 1946 and he was Knighted by Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II in 1952 in recognition of his services. Sir Eboo also served as the President of the Central Muslim Association of Kenya. The title of "Brilliant Star of Zanzibar" was conferred on him by His Highness the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1956 and that of "Order of the Crescent Cross of the Comores" by the Sultan of Comores in 1966.

Within the Jamat, Sir Eboo's record of service was truly outstanding. He started as a Jamati volunteer in 1923. He was appointed a member of the Nairobi Provincial Council in 1937 and served as its President from 1945-1954. He also served as the President of the Supreme Council for Europe, Canada and USA since 1973. Upon Mawlana Hazar Imam's directive, he convened the first meeting of the Ismaili Leaders' International Forum in 1977 and acted as its Chairman since then. He was also a member of the Board of Governors of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London.

At the Silver Jubilee Darbar in London, UK in July 1983, Mowlana Hazar Imam graciously conferred upon Sir Eboo the title of Diwan' for his 50 plus years of selfless and dedicated service to the Jamat and the Imamat.

Sir Eboo was in a long line of Jamati leaders in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East who devoted a lifetime of voluntary services towards the vision of Hazrat Mawlana Sultan Mohammed Shah and Mowlana Hazar Imam for the upliftment and progress of the Jamat worldwide. Sir Eboo was among the group of supporters of the efforts initiated by Hazrat Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah, and since continued by Mowlana Hazar Imam, for the educational advancement of the indigenous East African Muslims as the most effective way of ensuring their participation in the national life of their countries.

Sir Eboo's role in the development of a diversified local economy in Kenya is noteworthy. He served as chairman of the Jubilee Insurance Company, a senior director of Industrial Promotion Services (IPS),Tourism Promotional Services (TPS), and the Diamond Trust, and Chairman of the Aga Khan Foundation (Kenya). An editorial in the Daily Nation' of Kenya on January 5, 1990 stated:

"The death of Sir Eboo Pirbhai in London yesterday after a long illness closes a chapter of Kenya's history - a history in which he played a distinguished role as one of the most influential leaders of the Asian communities in this country both before and since independence. A close confidant and friend of the late President Kenyatta and close friend of President Moi, Sir Eboo never sought the limelight of publicity. He will be remembered above all as a gentle and modest man. His influence was nonetheless profound and throughout his life, he worked persistently for moderation and racial harmony at home and abroad. Above all, he will be remembered for his tireless work as a leader of the Ismaili community worldwide and for a life-long devotion to his Imam. At an age when most men have long since retired from active work, Sir Eboo travelled constantly and he will be mourned today by a host of colleagues and friends across the globe. The Nation' salutes the passing of a distinguished Kenyan patriot, one man who devoted so much of his life to the service of his fellow man."

Sir Eboo's funeral service was held at the Parkland's Ismaili Cultural Centre Hall. It was attended by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Kenya, the Honourable Daniel Arap Moi, the Vice President and Minister of Finance, Professor George Saitoti, and a host of Cabinet Ministers, various members of the Parliament and civil service, and the British High Commissioner to Kenya. Various members of the Ismaili Leaders' International Forum, office bearers of the Aga Khan Foundation Geneva, staff from Mowlana Hazar Imam's Secretariat and office bearers of Imamat Institutions in Kenya and abroad were also present.

In a message to his family Mowlana Hazar Imam said: "Sir Eboo's leadership has been a major source of inspiration to members of my community in volunteering their services in various capacities to assist in improving the quality of life of all those among whom they live. Sir Eboo's life and work spanned the critical years of Kenya's recent history and the country's emergence to nationhood in which, as a member of the Legislative Council and a leader of the wider Muslim community, he played a significant role.

His quiet and gentle manner, his humility and above all his thoughtfulness and wisdom earned him the esteem and affection of all those, regardless of rank or position, who came in contact with him."

Sir Eboo is survived by his widow, Lady Eboo, three daughters, two sons, several grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Diwan Sir Eboo Pirbhai will be remembered by all members of the Jamat throughout the world for his devoted and untiring services to the Jamat and to the Imamat. We pray his soul rest in eternal peace.

Source: Canadian Ismaili (March 1990)

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