I was most gratified when Alijahbanu Khairunissa Khoja, wife of late Alijah Zulfikarali M.A. Velji Khoja (1938-2015), recently handed me a box of historic photos related to the Jamats of South and East Africa as well as visits made by Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah to South Africa and Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam to East Africa. The collection also has photos from the temporary and permanent burial ceremonies for Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah that took place in Aswan, Egypt, on July 19, 1957 and February 1959, respectively.
“….we can trace the story of Ismaili engagement with Portugal back many years – even to the time when Ismailis settled in Portuguese Territories in India in the 17th Century, or when later Ismaili settlers came to Mozambique” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Portuguese Parliament, July 2018.
One photo in the collection in particular that looks like it came out of the studio yesterday — literally, it is that good — is a group photo of Ismaili leaders taken in 1939 in Pretoria with the visiting President of Portugal, His Excellency General Antonio Oscar De Fragosa Carmona. The photo is a clear affirmation of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s statement made to the Parliament of Portugal during his Diamond Jubilee visit about the Jamat’s long engagement with Portugal. This is truly a remarkable photo, and at the time of the publication of this post (August 18, 2020) the photo was exactly 81 years old!
Many photos published in this post do not include information about the event and date of the photos, and Alijah Zul is being dearly missed for that information. However, I sincerely hope family members and friends will come forward and provide historical contexts to some of the photos that are published here, and also help us update the captions with the correct information; if we have erred, I offer my sincere apologies. Please write to me at Simerg@aol.com. (Update November 2, 2020: We have been provided with completed captions for most of the photos shown in this post. The post will be updated in in the coming weeks).
A person of significant importance to my family is Mr. Goolamally Rawjee, who appears in the historical 1939 photo in the second row, first person at left. He and his wife and children will always be in our hearts for the care they provided to our family when my dad, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant, was interned in a camp on the outskirts of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) with thousands of other Indian Citizens for more than 5 months, immediately after India’s annexation of Goa in December 1961. This internment of Indian nationals was Portugal’s retaliation to the Indian take-over, and my parents were the only Ismailis holding Indian passports. My mum was interned too, but she was soon transferred to a hospital for the birth of my youngest brother, Alnoor. She remained there for the entire period that my dad was in the camp. Mr. Rawjee and his family looked after my brother, Fahar, and I for 5 months without ever making distinctions between us and their own children who lived in the home. It was a happy stay for us. Of course, there were other families who also looked after us such as taking us to visit our friends at their homes, driving us to see our dad and mum and thus easing their worry about our care and well-being. Missing school for more than 6 months was extremely hard on me — I was then in my ninth year — and I can sense the concern parents today have about their own children who haven’t attended school for so many months due to Covid-19. Disruption in education at a young age is devastating because it erodes the strong foundation you grow up with.
Mawlana Hazar Imam with Sherbanoo Mohamedali Alibhai Khoja, Pretoria (1958), and Zulfikarali Khoja, Dacca (1993)
I sincerely thank Alijahbanu Khairunissa Khoja for submitting her late husband’s photographic collection for publication in Barakah, and I wish her and her family good health and success in all walks of their lives. I continue to remember my beloved friend Alijah Zul regularly, and this post is a tribute to him and his beautiful family who miss him immensely. Born on August 2, 1938, he passed away on September 4, 2015 in Ottawa, Canada.
May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen.
1. Portraits: The Family of His Highness the Aga Khan
2. His Highness the Aga Khan South Africa Visit 1945
An Anecdote by Zulfikarali Khoja: “Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Visits Our Shop“
By LATE ALIJAH ZULFIKARALI KHOJA
[The following anecdote originally appeared in 2009 on our sister website Simerg. It is republished here with minor edits – Ed.]
The is a picture of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah when he came to our shop during his South African visit in 1945. I remember some things very vividly. We were all very excited about the visit and the mulaqat with the Imam. The Jamati leaders, in their wisdom, decided that the Imam would visit every business to bestow his blessings for barakah, and have a picture taken with the family. Our shop floor was red cement. We spent several days applying red polish and made sure that it was clean and shiny. The entire store was cleaned, dusted and spotless. When the day arrived we were not too sure of the exact time, because Mawla sometimes spoke to the family members a little longer than others. When he arrived in front of the store, we immediately took our places and there he was in His Majesty! He immediately sat down in the chair reserved for him and it so happened that the sun was shining very bright that day (why wouldn’t it?) and it reflected off the red shiny floor. Hence the Imam looking up. It was a truly memorable experience and his visit is still vivid today!
3. Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan, is Laid to Rest in Aswan: July 1957 and February 1959
1957: Temporary Burial of His Highness the Aga Khan III
1959: Permanent Burial of His Highness the Aga Khan III
4. Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in East Africa
Mawlana Hazar Imam at Nairobi Airport: 4 Rare Photos in Sequence
Date posted: August 18, 2020. Last updated: November 2, 2020 (We have been provided with completed captions for most of the photos shown in this post. The post will be updated in the near future)
COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT: The display of the beautiful portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, that previously occupied an image above which states “Removal of Photo…” is being discontinued due to a “copyright infringement” on our part. The largely popular photo that has adorned many many Ismaili homes and family albums for decades, including the albums of the late Alijah Zul Khoja from whose collection the photos on this page are reproduced, was taken by photographer Mohamed Lalji Ramji of Studio Moonlight in a special sitting in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, on the day of the Takhtnashini held on October 19, 1957.
When Barakah or any of its sister websites is offered photographs for publication from family collections, we always try and seek out the photographs and their respective photographers on the internet to ensure that they are not copyright. We were unable to locate the specific portrait photo on the internet and did not know whose photograph it might be. The back of the photo that we have does not contain the studio’s name. Considering that Tanganyika (now Tanzania), like many African and Asian countries including India, did not have copyright laws until well into the late 1960’s and 1970’s — even as late as the 1990’s — we proceeded to published the photo in good faith. We have been contacted by Zahur Ramji to remove the photo, despite our request to retain the photograph on the website with an appropriate acknowledgement to the photographer. We are removing the picture with great sadness in that new and future readers will not be able to see this inspiring photo effective August 24, 2020. We apologize to the family of the photographer for any “copyright infringement” on our part. The photographer was unknown to us until we were contacted by the family.
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 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 Mozambique, Tanzania, Pakistan, the UK and Canada in both professional and honorary capacities. Malik’s daughter, Dr. Nurin Merchant, is a veterinarian and supports his endeavours as an honorary editor of the three websites.
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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.
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.