The exemplary volunteer service and dedication of Nazir Nensi to the Jamat and Mawlana Hazar Imam, and two cherished photos with the Imam

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

Over the past few years, Barakah and its sister websites Simerg and Simergphotos have had the privilege of publishing rare photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family that have been in private collections for years. We have asked Jamati members and others to come forward and share their memories with our readers at large. [if you have khajanas (treasures) to share, please write in confidence to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com; we will reply promptly.]

At my special request, Dr. Nazir Nensi, my dear friend and mentor for many years came up with two photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam from his personal collection. While they are of a personal nature, I felt it important to produce them here, and say something about Nazir who has served Jamati institutions in Tanzania, the UK and Canada as well as other parts of the world for nearly six decades.

I remember Nazir Nensi from the late 1960’s onwards. First as a cricketer, in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, who opened the batting for the Young Ismailis cricket team (later named Young Cricketers). My late dad, Jehangir, also played for the team. A decent opening start always gives the later batsmen more confidence to play their game, and Nazir did this quite well by scoring double digit runs on a regular basis. He also went on to captain the Dar es Salaam University cricket team.

Then, I remember Nazir as a Math teacher. My mum, Maleksultan, taught at the Aga Khan Girls Secondary School as a religious education teacher, but many of her students would tell her about the difficulties they were having with Math. She turned to Nazir, who took special classes to assist the challenged girls. They still remember him for his excellent teaching. Today, Nazir vividly remembers how much he was moved when he was approached to teach orphaned Ismaili children at the Aga Khan Hostel in Dar es Salaam.

He also taught me. I was at the Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School doing my ‘A’ levels when, in 1971, a large contingency of students left to go abroad after the Tanzanian government nationalized houses, and the quality of education started deteriorating. Foreign exams such as the Cambridge School Certificate were banned. Out of the more than 25 students in my class, there were only a handful left. Our math and physics teachers also left, and we had no one to teach us. It was left to Nazir and a couple of other very bright Ismailis of his age to prepare us for the Tanzanian administered exams, which were not recognized in the UK.

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Upanga Ismaili Jamatkhana, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Nazir Nensi’s volunteerism began at a young age when he began serving at Dar-es-Salaam’s Upanga Jamatkhana, pictured above. Photo: Archnet.

Born in Dar es Salaam in 1948, Nazir became an active volunteer at the Upanga Jamatkhana in his teenage years. He went on to hold the position of a lieutenant at the Jamatkhana. When he moved to London, England, his basement apartment at 64 Longridge Road in Earl’s Court was the stopping point for many new arrivals from Africa. I think it was one of the most well-known addresses in London, after 5 Palace Gate. I myself stayed there for a year or so in 1975-76. Nazir was ever so helpful to me whenever I sought him out for mathematical and computing problems while I was studying for my computing degree.

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3-5 Palace Gate Ismaili Jamatkhana London
5 Palace Gate Jamatkhana in London, England, where Nazir continued serving as an Ismaili volunteer after leaving Dar es Salaam. He was appointed the Major of the UK Ismaili Volunteer Corps in 1975. Photo: London Metropolitan Archives; © City of London.

Nazir was also dedicated to his own studies. He worked very hard and diligently to complete his Ph.D at the University of London, and would later hold the position of a Senior lecturer in Computer Science at the University. Despite his secular challenges, he continued to remain active in Jamati services. He became the Major of the UK Ismaili Volunteer Corps in 1975. He was then appointed as member of the National Council for the UK. He then migrated to Canada where he has worked professionally as a technology advisor for IBM and CGI.

His commitment to the Ismaili community as a volunteer has been unflinching. Even as a newcomer to Canada, he continued to support the work of Ismaili institutions. During Mawlana Hazar Imam’s first visit to Canada in 1978 and as Member of Council for Eastern Canada during the Silver Jubileee visit (in 1983), he evaluated the challenges that Ismaili high school and university students faced with regard to their career selection and path.

Nazir reviewed with Mawlana Hazar the challenges faced by the students for which he provided guidance during the students mulaqat.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, and Nazir Nensi 1985 visit, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with Dr. Nazir Nensi and his wife Farida during his visit to Canada in 1985. Nensi was then a member of the Aga Khan Council for Canada. Photo: © Amin Hemraj.

He was instrumental, with guidance from Mawlana Hazar Imam, in ensuring the Ismaili students from Iran were admitted to Faculty of Medicine in Canada to complete their final year of studies.

Besides holding positions as the Chair of the Aga Khan Education Board, he was also appointed as a member of the the Aga Khan Regional Council for Ontario and the Aga Khan National Council for Canada. In addition, Nazir also served as the Hon. Secretary of the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for Ontario (ITREB), and coordinated the work of the admissions committee as its chair. Other important positions that he held included being the Chair of the Canadian Ismaili Magazine (now The Ismaili), in 1983, the Chair of the Ismaili Volunteer Corp during the 1982/83 Silver Jubilee Year of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Chair of the Ismaili Boy Scouts and Chair of Aga Khan Foundation World Partnership Walk in 1994-95. Outside the community, he was member on the United Nations Communication Co-ordinator for the Toronto Chapter.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam and Nazir Nensi
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan,is greeted by Dr. Nazir Nensi during his visit to Canada in 1992. Dr. Nensi was at the time the Honorary Secretary of the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for Ontario. Photo: © Amin Hemraj.

He later became the Jamati Mukhisaheb of Bayview Jamatkhana in Toronto — a position that holds deep reverence among the Ismaili Jamat around the world.

Following the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam in 2008, Nazir embarked on his Time and Knowledge Nazrana (TKN) mission. His major accomplishments were completing the Engineering and Computer Science curriculum for the University of Central Asia and the Design and Construction model for the Aga Khan Academies. 

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Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Centre, Barakah and Simerg
Nazir Nensi was involved with the Imara Design and Construction team during the development phases of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa (left), the Aga Khan Museum (centre), and the Ismaili Centre, both in Toronto. Photos: AKDN and Malik Merchant (Ismaili Centre).

Nazir was involved with the Imara Design and Construction as a volunteer during the development and construction phases for the magnificent Delegation of Ismaili Imamat building in Ottawa (December 2008) and also the superb Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre in Toronto (both opened in September 2014). At the same time he has mentored students who apply for entrance to the University of Toronto School.

Who among us who were present in Lisbon in July 2018 can ever forget the magnificent Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam? Nazir was there too acting as the operations lead for the phenomenal event! Today, Nazir serves as Regional Chair of Aga Khan Foundation Donor Services for Ontario. 

The TKN experience and other volunteer engagements for the past 6 decades have resulted in a strong track record of volunteerism for Nazir. Throughout his endeavours he has been remarkably supported by his wife Farida. He has 3 children, Karim Nensi, Ali Nensi and Zahra Nensi

For all his services he has been bestowed with the title of Rai.

In addition to professional growth and his commitment as a volunteer in the Ismaili community, he has maintained his presence in Jamatkhana on a regular basis. This is where Nazir says he has experienced personal and spiritual fulfillment as well as enlightenment.

For Nazir, all the opportunities that have come his way are “a blessing.” He often feels that he takes away more than he can give to his beloved Imam and the Jamat.

His service record from his teenage years until today has been truly remarkable. He has always remained humble, and we pray for Nazir and his family’s continued service to Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Jamat.

Date posted: May 7, 2020.
Last updated: May 8, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 200 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

Also, we invite you to search your archives, and share with readers of Barakah historical photograpahs of Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family. Please write in confidence to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com for a prompt response.

___________________

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com if you don’t see the comment box. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please follow us at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and http://twitter.com/simerg. 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.

Malik Merchant, Publisher and Editor of Simerg, Barakkah and Simergphotos

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions together for several decades in professional and honorary capacities. His daughter, Dr. Nurin Merchant, is a veterinarian.

18 comments

  1. I am thrilled to see this tribute to the indefatigable Nazir Nensi mentioning the unique safe haven at Earls Court!

    I rarely, if ever, post on blogs or comment sheets, and wanted to write to echo your remarks about his magnanimity and generosity in welcoming new comers to 64 Longridge Road.

    My lifelong friend, Zahir Dossa, and I were among the dozens hosted in the basement suite for a few days during 1971.

    Being our first mid term break from school, we arrived in London only to find out that our B&B room booking had been cancelled.

    We went to an acquaintance from Dar es Salaam who immediately walked us over to Longridge Road and showed us what part of the wall to wall mattresses we could sleep on. The coming few days were surreal with perhaps a dozen persons, almost all Tanzanian, including at least one studying at Imperial College, milled about continuously talking, cooking and laughing….

    Three days later, as we left to return to School, ALL the people who received us upon arrival were away at work or studying so we left as we had arrived – anonymously!

    We left humbled and profoundly grateful for our hosts grace, hospitality and generosity in spite of their involuntary displacement from Tanzania over the past several months.

    Little did we dream that less than a year later, Ugandans would face an even more traumatic expulsion.

    Shukhran – wonderful to see Nazir’s genuine sincerity and innate leadership skills translate into over 5 decades of Seva.

    Mumbarak on all your accomplishments and a very, very belated thank you for the 3 magical days 49 years ago.

    Nazim Shivji
    Kampala

    Like

  2. It is gratifying and a privilege to join the voices in this column acknowledging the immense breadth of voluntary service and leadership of Raisaheb Nazir Nensi’s service to Jamat. While nothing that I can add could do proper justice, let me mention an additional aspect which is the significant and foundational impact of his exemplary leadership on early Canadian Ismaili students. A debt of gratitude, so to speak.

    During the formation and development of our fledgling campus bodies, terms of reference, and inauguration of campus Jamatkhanas in Ontario, he and his colleagues in the Jamati institutions were instrumental. He himself was constantly smiling, supporting, encouraging and guiding us. He continued to contribute his time and knowledge tirelessly in order to ensure a sound foundation for the experience of Ismaili campus life.

    As a result, our unity, moral strength and pluck were the envy of everyone on campus. Given the vast generational leap we had just made from distant homelands and cultures to build a new future, it was a proud and exhilarating experience for all of us, the pioneers as it were. Ever since that time and up to the present time, his example, guidance and encouragement have been inspiring and exceptional.

    However humble and unassuming, the impact of his stalwart leadership and kindness is everlasting and evergreen and I wish him many more decades of service and self-fulfilment, while enjoying the best of health and hard-earned, well-deserved success.

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  3. We see so many of these folks so often in various Jamatkhanas and can see that they are serving or have served long time merely from the noor on their faces due to the services to our Imam. Thank you for sharing and keeping us in the know how!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Today, if we have a strong global Ismaili community that is well-grounded and anchored in the spirit of volunteerism it is because we have always had strong role models like Nazir and others who walked the talk. They have raised the bar high and never compromised on mediocrity. Thank you Nazir and all dedicated volunteers.

    Mehrun (Mary) Hassanali
    Calgary

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  5. Excellent article written by Mr. Malik Merchant regarding Mr. (Rai) Nazir Nensi sewa/ services to the various Institutions. I congratulate him and salute him for the wonderful sewa. May Mawlana Hazar Imam bless him and his families for good health and for mushkilasaan.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Mubaraki for your exemplary service. Rai Nazir Nensi is very humble and down to earth. I am working with Raisaheb as a member of Donor Services of Aga khan Foundation and he always encourages me. It is a privilege to work with him. Shukher

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sardar Khan Hunzai: Surely, Hazar Imam feels proud of his voluntary workers.
    Fida Ali: Mubarak to bhai Nazir Nensi.
    Tazeem Jivraj: Makes me proud. Awesome write up.
    Didarali Allidina: Worked along side him. Very down to earth. Mowla nek umedo purikare. Ya Ali Madad.
    Hussein Jay Juma: Beautiful, thank you for sharing. So nice to read.
    Nazneen Bandali: A truly blessed soul 🙏🙏🙏😇😇
    Gulam Juma: I remember Nazir Nensi from Dar days when he was volunteer in Upanga Jamatakhana… Exemplary service.
    Mousa Ullah Khan:: Mawlana Hazar Imam bless volunteers with barakath
    Fida Hussain Oh Maola, my life can be sacrificed for you.
    Maryam Farman: Shukar ya Moula pak
    Noorullah Kamruddin: We are proud of such volunteers.
    Alikhan Gulamhussein: Allahamdulillah Masha Allah.
    Elias Khalaf: Mubaraki.

    Like

  8. A good profile and written article on Nazir. I remember him from my days on the Ontario Council Education Committee in the early 1980’s. Ameerally Kassim Lakha, the current Aga Khan Council President for Canada, was also a member on the committee. .

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    • A recollection I have while on this Education Committee, was Nazir’s concerns for Ismaili students from Tanzania, studying or wanting to come to Canada for higher education, and whose prospects were being affected by the stringent foreign exchange controls that were being imposed by the Tanzanian Government.

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  9. Ya Ali Madad to all Ismaili Family! Indeed this person is an icon of inspiration for young generation of Ismailis. May Mawla shower his blessings and happiness to him and his family!

    Like

  10. Just excellent presentation and lovely reading about our Volunteers of the Global World. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  11. I have known Nazir in his capacity as a dedicated volunteer since my childhood days in Upanga Jamatkhana, Dar es Salaam. Thank you for the article.

    Like

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