Exclusive: Noorali Harji collection of rare photos of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, Prince Aly Khan and Mawlana Hazar Imam in Zanzibar and Mombasa

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Vancouver, Canada, 1978, Barakah.
Nizar Harji of Vancouver receives Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at a mulaqat in Vancouver during his first visit to Canada in 1978. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

The historical photos in this article are from the collection of Late Noorali Harji (1912-2006). They were presented for publication in Barakah by his son Nizar Harji (see his photo with Mawlana Hazar Imam, above) when I met him in Vancouver recently. Like other individuals and families before him who have submitted rare and historical photos for publication on this blog, Nizar re-ignited my long-held view that hundreds if not thousands of families have historical photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family in their archives that are waiting to be uncovered. As before, we again urge families to devote some time looking through their old photo albums and archives for gems and treasures from our recent history. Young boys and girls will be a great asset in this rewarding task. Unknown to you, the photos in your archives might be among the rarest as well as of significant historical importance. If you uncover a photo that you have not seen anywhere else, it is quite likely that it may be very rare! Please contact the writer at Simerg@aol.com, and you will receive an immediate response.

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 Noorali Harji and Noorbanu Suleman Bhanji
Wedding portrait of Noorali Harji and Noorbanu Suleman Bhanji. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

The story of Nizar’s family is fascinating and I listened to it with great interest. Very briefly, Nizar’s grandfather Gulamhusein Harji was one of the earliest Ismaili settlers in Zanzibar. Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, during his second visit to Zanzibar in 1905, created a council to run the community’s affairs and also established the first Zanzibar Jamatkhana. Gulamhusein Harji was appointed both as a Council member as well as the Jamatkhana’s Kamadia. At that time a panjebhai committee was also created and meetings were held at his house, where food was served. During a later visit by the Imam, the panjebhai committee was merged and a monthly Chandraat Majlis was instead established by the 48th Imam which continues to the present day.

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Aga Khan III, Zanzibar, 1905. Barakah.
Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah pictured with early Ismaili settlers from India during his second visit to Zanzibar in 1905. During the visit the Imam established the first Ismaili Council as well as the first Jamatkhana. Mukhi and Kamadia were appointed. Major Noorali Harji’s father, Gulamhusein Harji, standing 3rd from left, became the Kamadia and was also appointed as a Council member. During the visit the Imam also gave the Jamat its first ever constitution. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Kamadia Gulamhusein was killed in the line of duty serving as a volunteer while he was still in the council. He had joined other volunteers to guard the Jamat against a group of Muslims who used to hold anti-Ismaili parades outside the Jamatkhana premises on a regular basis. One day the enemies arrived in full force on their horses and Gulamhusein with two other Ismailis died during a confrontation with the undignified group. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah then sent a talika, with blessings. A photograph of the three deceased Ismailis was hung at the Zanzibar Jamatkhana entrance, as a reminder to all of their sacrificing spirit while defending the dignity of the Jamat. Nizar recollected during our meeting that the historical photo was present in the Jamatkhana during the 1980’s. Perhaps someone in Zanzibar can send us an image of the photo if it is still hanging on the wall.

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Aga Khan III Diamond JubiIee Committee, Mombasa
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s Diamond Jubilee celebration committee meet in a room under his portrait. Noorali Harji is seated second from left. The chairman of the committee was Count Lutafali Merali. Noorali Harji was involved in the logistics of chartering the steam ship “Vasna” to take murids from the Coast Region to Dar es Salaam and back for the Diamond Jubilee celebration. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Kamadia Gulamhusein’s son, Noorali, was born in Zanzibar in 1912. Noorali got married in 1935 to Noorbanu Suleman Bhanji. At that time, matriculation (Grade 11-12) was the highest level of education available in Zanzibar. Noorbanu, at the age of 18, passed the matriculation exams with the highest marks. Her accomplishment can be attributed to the importance that Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah placed on education. Aga Khan schools had already been established in East Africa by the time Noorbanu began schooling.

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Aga Khan III Diamond Jubilee Dar es Salaam 1945
Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah at the Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tazania), 1945. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Noorali, with his new wife Noorbanu, then settled in Mombasa. Inspired by his father’s ethic of service, he too began a lifetime of service to the Ismaili community as well as external civil society bodies. His photographs with Mawlana Hazar Imam, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and Prince Aly Khan are a wonderful testimony of his extraordinary and devoted honorary services to the Jamat. He was linked with many bodies and sporting committees. In civil society, he was instrumental in arguing for the case to prevent core member of Ismaili families from being called upon to serve in military campaigns against Kenya’s anti-colonial movement that included Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as its leader. No doubt, Noorali is seen travelling with Jomo Kenyatta in an Ismaili volunteer’s uniform, after the fighter’s release from a Mombasa prison.

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Jomo Kenyatta release from prison, Mombasa, Barakah.
Major Noorali Harji accompanies Jomo Kenyatta (centre) upon his release from a Mombasa prison. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Noorali moved to Canada in 1985 and began serving in his new country with determination and enthusiasm for which he was honoured with the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. He served to the last days of his life. While assisting Hon. Hedy Fry for her re-election to the Federal Parliament and after having introduced her to the voters at the meeting, Noorali suddenly felt ill and was hospitalised. He passed away four days later on January 26, 2006 at the age of 93 . We pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace.

We pay our deep respect and gratitude to late Noorali Harji for preserving this collection carefully for decades, and thank his son Nizar Harji of Vancouver for sharing this unique photo collection of his father with readers of Barakah.

Aga Khan III at Muslim meeting in Mombasa with the Begum. Barakah.
Scout Noorali Harji on duty in Mombasa as Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah arrives with Begum Om Habibeh Mata Salamat for a meeting with Muslim leaders. At left is Sunni Muslim leader Dr. Rana. During the visit to Mombasa, the Imam established the Mombasa Institute of Muslim Education at Tudor. It still exists as Madrasa school. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Prince Aly Khan

Prince Aly Khan, Mombasa, Barakah
Prince Aly Khan visits the Ismaili Housing Complex in Makupa, Mombasa. He randomly elected to go into one of the occupied flats for inspection. He ordered many trees to be planted in the open spaces. Photo: Nizar Harji/Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Prince Aly Khan at a tennis game in Mombasa, Barakah.
Prince Aly Khan pictured at a tennis game in Mombasa or Zanzibar. On either side of the Prince are Count Jindani (left) and Abdulrasul (Merry) Merali. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Prince Aly Khan with Ismaili Scouts Mombasa, Barakah.
Prince Aly Khan in a jovial mood at the Mombasa Aga Khan Club with a group of scouts. Rover Scout leader Noorali Harji is seated next to the Prince at right. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Aga Khan visit to Mombasa before becoming 49th Imam, Barakah.
Major Noorali Harji holds out an umbrella for Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as he arrives for a visit to Mombasa in 1956 prior to becoming the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Ismailis on July 11, 1957. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Major Noorali Harji introduces Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Captain Shamshudin Gillani. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, arrives for his first visit to Mombasa as the 49th Imam in November 1957. He is seen with Major Noorali Harji inspecting a guard of honour at the Mombasa airport. Mawlana HazAr Imam arrived from Nairobi on a chartered East African Airways Dakota plane seen in the background. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Major Noorali Harji introduces Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Captain Amir Hassan Juma. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Major Noorali Harji introduces Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Captain Mohamedali Mohan Amersi. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Major Noorali Harji introduces Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Scout Master Mohamedali Noormohamed and Girls Guide Captain Shirin Habib Alibhai. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, inspects a guard of honour at Mombasa airport with Major Noorali Harji. Following them is the British High Commissioner for the Coast Region. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, arrives at Mombasa’s Tudor Ismaili Housing Complex Jamatkhana. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Vancouver Canada, 1978. Barakah.
Nizar Harji of Vancouver bids farewell to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, following a Jamati majlis gathering during his first visit to Ismailis in Canada in 1978. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Date posted: February 8, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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This website, Barakah, is a special project by http://www.Simerg.com and is dedicated to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

3 comments

  1. Re:The 3rd photo of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in 1905 with council members. Gulamhusein Harji [Sumar Walji Jendhani] was my paternal grandmother Sakarbai’s, paternal grandfather. Sakarbai’s maiden name was Sakarbai Ali Gulamhusein Harji [Sumar…].

    Noorali Harji, whom we all called Mamma Chacha, was Sakarbai’s chacha, younger half-brother of her father. His wife, Nurbanu Suleman Bhanji, was the granddaughter of Peera Dewji, whose biography was written by Judy Aldrick: see my review of it by clicking on https://ismailimail.blog/2017/01/20/book-review-by-zahir-k-dhalla-the-sultans-spymaster-peera-dewji-of-zanzibar/

    There is another family member in this photo: Itmadi Jiwan Lalji, squatting in the first row, 1st from the right of the three squatters. He was, again, Sakarbai’s stepmother Khatibai’s, father. Jiwan Lalji helped many Ismailis settle on the mainland e.g. Jina Madhavji, having come from Gavidar, India by vaan (dhow) to Zanzibar in 1905, was helped by Jiwan Lalji to settle on the coast on Lamu Island, British East Africa (now Kenya).

    There is a huge framed full-length photo of Gulamhusein Harji [Sumar…], in the big storage room of the Zanzibar Jamatkhana! He was a pawn-broker, his shop being in the Soko Mahogo neighbourhood of Stone Town.

    A bit of trivia: the full name of Hanif Harji, the well-known restaurateur (https://torontolife.com/tag/hanif-harji/), is Hanif Gulamali Saleh Gulamhusein Harji [Sumar…], making him the great grandson of our above subject.

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  2. My uncle Noorali Hariji was a very active man in Mombasa and continued helping everyone who needed help after he came to Canada. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

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  3. A very historical collection of pictures and information for every one of us to go through and enjoy. The pictures are indeed very rare. Pray that may the soul of Late Noorali Harji rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

    The efforts by Barakah.com are also very commendable and best wishes for future endeavors. Keep up the spread of knowledge.

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