Exclusive and Rare Photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Historical Visit to Pemba in November 1957 from Kamrudin Rashid and Shah Abdulla Collections

Map of Pemba with Chake Chake and Wete, and also Zanzibar Tanzania and Kenya Indian Ocean Barakah
The island of Pemba, known as ‘Al Jazeera Al Khadra’ (the green island) in Arabic, is an island forming part of the Zanzibar archipelago, lying east of Mainland Tanzania. It is situated about 50 kilometres to the north Zanzibar. In 1964 Zanzibar was united with the former Protected Territory of Tanganyika to form Tanzania. Zanzibar lies 71 kilometres north-west of Dar-es-Salaam. Together with Mafia Island (south of Zanzibar), these three islands form the Spice Islands. Most of Pemba, which is hillier and more fertile than Zanzibar, is dominated by small scale farming. There is large scale farming of cash crops such as cloves — there are over 3 million clove trees. Text credit: Wikipedia Image Credit: Perry-Castañeda Library, Map Collection, University of Texas Libraries. Annotations added to highlight Chake Chake and Wete which was visited by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan on November 18, 1957, just over 4 months after he became 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

Editor’s note: We are deeply indebted to Kamrudin A. Rashid and Shahbanu Shiraz Abdulla, both originally from Pemba and now residing in Toronto and Ottawa respectively, for this special article featuring photographs from their albums of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Chake Chake and Wete in the island of Pemba (see map, above). Efforts were also made to gather digitized copies of photos from other sources, and in this regard we are thankful for the contribution made by Amin Mohammedali Ismail Hirji of Edmonton. We invite other individuals and families to come forward with their collections for publication in Barakah, a site dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat. We consider photos posted below as khajanas (gems), and look forward to an even greater response from our worldwide readers, Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike, for the benefit of all Jamats everywhere — Malik Merchant, Publisher/Editor, Barakah

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mawlana Shah Karim: Bearers of the Same Noor of Imamat

A portrait of the new 49th Ismaili Imam taken shortly after he succeeded his late grandfather to the throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of twenty. A framed portrait of the late 48th Imam who served the community for 72 years is seen in the background. Photo © Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

By KAMRUDIN RASHID and SHAHBANU SHIRAZ ABDULLA

Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s reign of 72 years was the longest in Ismaili history. The Jamats in many parts around the world had participated in three of his monumental Jubilees Golden, Diamond and Platinum as well received mulaqats by the Imam several times. The long reign made the Jamats particularly attached to him. When he passed away on July 11, 1957 the Jamats were overcome with deep emotion and sadness. The official will of the late Imam was then read out in Geneva, and Mawlana Shah Karim al Husseini was recognized the world over on July 13 as the 49th Imam. However, Mawlana Hazar Imam in an interview, just before his first Takhtnashini in Dar es Salaam, had this to say:

“Officially as one Imam passes away, his successor takes on from the very minute that the Imam has passed away.”

Aga Khan Pemba Wete Barakah
A historical photo of Ismaili ladies outside Wete Jamatkhana with a portrait of the then Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. Photo: Kamrudn A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.

While the Jamat was struck with grief, the announcement of Mawlana Shah Karim becoming the “Imam of the Atomic Age” brought a sense of immense relief and hope. Grief and sorrow mingled with joy and gladness. Mawlana Shah Karim was now the bearer of the same Noor of Imamat that was with Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, and was indeed before with each of the Hereditary Imams going back 1400 years in history to Hazrat Ali (A.S.), the first Shia Imam. As we pondered on the transition from one Imam to the next, we remembered the Hadith, “The earth cannot be devoid of an Imam; without him, it could not last an hour,” and “If there were only two men left in the world, one of them would be the Imam.” This concept of the ever present, living and manifest Imam is also explained in the Ginan Girbah Vali composed by Pir Sadr al-Din, which says:

“If the Imam did not have his feet on this earth for even a moment, then the world, moon, sun would vanish and nothing would exist, neither the heaven nor the earth.”

Aga Khan Wete Jamatkhana Barakah
A historical photo of Ismaili ladies outside Wete Jamatkhana with a portrait of the then Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.

Thus, while many of us and especially the elderly felt sad for some days, the announcement of the new Imam was transformative and inspiring. There was happiness and joy in everyone’s hearts.

We also learnt that the 49th Imam would soon be coming to Pemba. Noordin Versi, in responding to Kamrudin Rashid’s original piece, had said this about the 1957 Pemba visit:

“It was a proud moment when our present Imam visited Pemba soon after becoming the Imam and kept the promise of our late Imam who had told Pemba Jamat that he would definitely visit Pemba.”

Yes the Imam was coming! He was going to be in Pemba and visit the towns of Chake Chake and Wete, 28 kms apart, on November 18, 1957. Chake Chake is where the Imam would land; it had the only airport in the entire Pemba Island.

aga khan portrait
A historical photo of Ismaili ladies and children in front of a framed portrait of the new 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Visit to Pemba

By KAMRUDIN RASHID and SHAHBANU SHIRAZ ABDULLA

Dedication

Maleksultan and Jehangir Merchant
Maleksultan and Jehangir Merchant

We feel privileged and honoured to dedicate this post to Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (d. May 2018) and his wife Alwaeza Maleksultan J. Merchant who passed away four weeks ago on January 21, 2021 at the age of 89. The tributes that the couple have received from around the world attest to their outstanding services to the Jamat, its institutions and the Imam-of-the-Time. They will always be remembered with fondness and admiration for their contribution as waezin and religious education teachers as well as for their devotion to Mawlana Hazar Imam. They were personally very well known to us, with Kamru having participated in Ismailia Association activities with Alwaez Jehangir in Dar es Salaam during the 1960’s and the early 1970’s, while Shah and some of her sisters were students of Mrs. Merchant in Dar es Salaam. Alwaez and Alwaeza Merchant were also close friends of Shah’s parents, Master Abdul Jaffer Devani and Sakarkhanu Devani. We pray their souls as well as the souls of all ruhani (deceased) members of the Jamat rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

Introduction and Background

Aga Khan Pemba Visit
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

An earlier version of this post contributed by Kamrudin Rashid — one of two co-authors of this piece — was first published in Simerg nearly 10 years ago, on February 20, 2011 to be exact. With the exception of the arrival photos at Chake Chake, the post carried pictures of Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to Wete. Then, quite recently Shah Abdulla of Ottawa unearthed photos related to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Chake Chake. Kamru also discovered new photos in his archives. We decided to collaborate and submit this exclusive piece with photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to the two towns for publication in Barakah — a website that is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. The single day visit to the two towns on November 18, 1957 in Pemba took place just over four months after Mawlana Hazar Imam became the 49th Imam on July 11, 1957.

Mawlana Hazar Imam Arrives at Chake Chake Airport

Aga Khan in Chake Chake Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, being received on November 18, 1957 at Pemba’s Chake Chake airport by Late Mukhi Fatehali Mitha and Late Kamadia Mohammedali Hirji. Photo: Amin Hirji Collection, Edmonton..
aga khan pemba chake chake airport karume airport
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is being greeted by the District Commissioner of Pemba at Chake Chake airport. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
aga khan chake chake pemba barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is received on his arrival at the Chake Chake airport in Pemba by the Commissioner of Police (left), the District Commissioner of Pemba (in hat) and Late Alijah Sadrudin Dharas (dark glasses). Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.

Aga Khan in Pemba 1957 Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is received by leaders of diverse communities as he arrives in Chake Chake on November 18, 1957 for a one-day visit to Pemba. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Aga Khan Chake Chake Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan prepares to depart for a mulaqat with the Chake Chake Jamat shortly after his arrival at the town’s airport. Photo: Kamrudin A, Rashid Collection, Toronto.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Gives Mulaqat to Chake Chake Jamat

As soon as the Jamats of Chake Chake and Wete heard that Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam would be visiting Pemba, they started planning and preparing for this auspicious day. The entire street outside of the Chake Chake Jamatkhana was decorated with an Arc, flags of the Ismaili Imamat (then referred to as “My Flag”), Ismaili crests and sparkling lightings. Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived at Chake Chake airport on the morning of November 18, 1957 and proceeded to the Chake Chake Jamat to bless the Jamat with his mulaqat.

Chake Chake Ismaili Jamatkhana Pemba Barakah
Chake Chake Jamatkhana. It has now been converted into a Public Library. The second door on the right was the entrance of Master Abdul Jaffer Devani’s residence. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.

The Jamat in Chake Chake was very small, some 30-40 families (approximately 150 members). Most of them had come from Zanzibar. They were managing small farms and businesses. After the guidance of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed on education for all, the Aga Khan Primary School was established in mid-1930’s. There were no secondary schools on the island until 1961. After the 1964 Revolution in Zanzibar and Pemba, most of the Ismailis left the island and re-settled in other parts of East Africa. Later in 1971, after the nationalization of personal properties in Tanzania and the 1972 exodus of Ugandan Asians, many Ismailis from Tanzania also immigrated to Europe, America and Canada. Most of the Chake Chake families currently live in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.

Aga Khan in Pemba Barakah and Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is received by Mukhi Fatehali Karim Mitha and Kamadia Mohammedali Ismaiil Hirji as he arrives at the Chake Chake Jamatkhana for a mulaqat with the Jamat on November 18, 1957. Photo: Amin Hirji Collection, Edmonton.
Aga Khan Chake Chake Pemba Barakah
Mukhi and Kamadiasahebs take a group photo with Pemba’s Chake Chake Jamati members during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to the town on November 18, 1957. Photo: Shah Abdulla Collection, Ottawa.
Aga Khan in Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, giving a mulaqat inside Pemba’s Chake Chake Jamatkhana. Sitting with the Imam are: Late Sir Eboo Pirbhai, Late Mukhi Fatehali Karim Mitha and Late Kamadia Mohammedali Ismaii Hirji. Photo: Amin Hirji Collection, Edmonton, and Shah Abdulla Collection, Ottawa.
Aga Khan Chake Chake Barakah Pemba
Mukhiani and Kamadiani Sahebas take a group photo with Pemba’s Chake Chake Jamati members during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to the town on November 18, 1957. Photo: Shah Abdulla Collection, Ottawa.
Aga Khan in Pemba Barakah Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, departs Chake Chake Jamatkhana after a mulaqat with the Jamat on November 18, 1957. Photo: Amin Hirji Collection, Edmonton.
Aga Khan Club Pemba Complex Barakah
H. H. The Aga Khan Club built in 1939 with a small recreation complex Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Ismaili students at Aga Khan Club in Pemba Barakah
A later 1961 photo of Ismaili students of Chake Chake pictured at the Agakhan Club with Master Abdul Jaffer Devani, father of Shah Abdulla, co-author of this post. Photo: Shah Abdulla Collection, Ottawa.

**********

Mawlana Hazar Imam Visits Wete, Attends Public Functions, and Gives Mulaqat to the Jamats of Wete and Chake Chake

After giving a mulaqat to the Chake Chake Jamat, Mawlana Hazar Imam travelled to Wete, some 28 kms away where he attended public functions as well as performed religious work at the Wete Jamatkhana. The Jamat from Chake Chake, who had earlier been granted a mulaqat, also joined the Wete Jamat for religious ceremonies.

In one of the public functions, Sheikh Sir Said bin Ali al-Mugheri presented Mawlana Hazar Imma a casket, bearing the words:

“THESE HISTORICAL LANDMARKS  SHALL FOR EVER REMAIN AS FOUNTAINS OF SPIRITUAL AND SECULAR ENLIGHTENMENT.”

Aga Khan Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, listens to a welcome address by a local leader during his visit to Wete on November 18, 1957. Seated left to right: District Commissioner of Pemba Island, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Sheikh Sir Said bin Ali al-Mugheri, Distict Officer of Pemba. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collecion, Toronto.
Aga Khan Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is being presented with a casket by Sir Seyed bin Ali al-Mugheri on behalf of the residents of Pemba on November 18, 1957 in Wete. Standing next to him is the President of the Hindu Community. The casket contained the words, “These historical landmarks shall for ever remain as fountains of spiritual and secular enlightenment.” Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Aga Khan Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in a group photo with leaders of the Pemba community on November 18, 1957 in Wete. The group includes Sheikh Mohammed Shamte (second left with glasses and jacket) who became the first Prime Minister of independent Zanzibar in December 1963. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Aga Khan Pemba Wete Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, walking through the park in Wete, Pemba on November 18, 1957. L to R: The District Commissioner of Pemba, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Sir Seyed Ali Bin Mugheiri and the District Officer of Pemba. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Aga Khan Hazar Imam visits Pemba in 1957
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, having coffee with the District Commissioner of Pemba during his visit to Wete on November 18, 1957. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Aga Khan in Wete Pemba Barakah Tea Party
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at a tea party at Sheikh Hilal Bin Seif’s Residence in Mkanjuni on November 18, 1957. L to R: Late Count Abdulla Hassam Gangji, tbe District Commissioner of Pemba, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Sheikh Hilal Bin Seif and a Muslim leader, Mohamed Ayoub. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Aga Khan Wete Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at a gathering with leaders of various communities in Wete, Pemba. on November 18, 1957. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Aga Khan Wete Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, entering Pemba’s Wete Jamatkhana for a mulaqat with the Jamat during his one day visit to the island on November 18, 1957. At the front is the then Mukhisaheb of Wete Jamat, late Huzur Mukhi Amirali Bhimji Jiwa. who later settled in Toronto. He passed away in 2020. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Aga Khan Wete Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, seen leaving Wete Jamatkhana after a mulaqat with the Jamat in which he also performed religious ceremonies for both the Wete Jamat as well as the neighbouring Chake Chake Jamat. At left is Abdulkarim Mohamed Shivji. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto
Aga Khan Wete Pemba Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, departs Wete Jamatkhana after his one day visit to Pemba on November 18, 1957, as Jamati members look from the second floor of the Jamatkhana building. Walking behind him (not in order) are Jamati leaders Mukhi Amirali Bhimji Jiwa of Wete Jamat, Mukhi Fatehali Mitha of Chake Chake Jamat, Count Abdulla Hassam Gangji and Mr. Abdulkarim Mohamed Shivji. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.
Aga Khan Wete Pemba Barakah
Jamati members watch from the second floor of the Wete Jamatkhana building as Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, departs after his one day visit to Pemba on November 18, 1957. From left to right: Abdulkarim Mohamed Shivji, Mukhi Amirali Bhimji Jiwa of Wete Jamat, MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM, Mukhi Fatehali Mitha of Chake Chake Jamat and Count Abdulla Hassam Gangji. Photo: Kamrudin A. Rashid Collection, Toronto.

___________________________

A Supplication

Aga Khan portrait Barakah

Our desires are fulfilled at the glory of your sight
The stars retreat because you shine so bright
You raise our souls to the uppermost height
— NADIM PABANI —

Date posted: February 18, 2021.
Last updated: February 25, 2021 (remove duplicate text).

__________________

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Our Contributors

Kamrudin Rashid Toronto Barakah
Kamrudin Rashid of Toronto

Born in Zanzibar, Kamrudin Rashid lived in both Zanzibar as well in Pemba from 1946 until after 1964 Zanzibar Revolution that saw the island merge with mainland Tanganyika into a unified country called Tanzania. He then settled in Dar es Salaam, before making Canada his home in early 1975. Kamru was in Pemba during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s historic visit on November 18th, 1957. Kamru has served the Ismaili community in honorary and professional positions for over six decades, and today continues to serve and contribute to the Ismaili institutions.   

Shah Abdulla Ottawa Barakah
Shah Abdulla of Ottawa

Born in India, Shahbanu Shiraz Abdulla, daughter of the wellknown Master Devani, grew up in Pemba and Zanzibar. She lived in Pemba during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s historic visit to the island on November 18, 1957. After successfully completing her post secondary education in Nairobi, she was offered an opportunity to work with the Canadian organization CUSO in Dar es Salaam. In 1972 she welcomed a transfer to CUSO’s offices in Ottawa, Canada, and then became involved with the Immigration and Refugees Department in the settlement of new comers from Uganda. Over the next five decades, she worked in international development and now holds a position with Global Affairs Canada. Within the Ismaili community, Shah has held numerous positions in Ismaili institutions such as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board. She was also the Chair of the Settlement Portfolio in the Ottawa Aga Khan Council during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee era. She finds happiness in service to others and hopes to continue serving her community for many more years.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg. 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, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

Before departing this website please visit our exclusive collections of photos that we have received from individuals and families from around the world as well as take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 250 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

11 comments

  1. Dear Malik, Thank you for sharing this wonderful collection of photos. Our heart felt thanks to Kamrudin Rashid and Shah Abdulla for your kindness and generosity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an exceptional and remarkable contribution to the Ismaili Community. Our past is an important link to how our Jamat migrated and settled in these very important places. The pictures are truly magical when you see our Jamat of that time. The best part was to see the Jamatkhanas – indeed a rare collection. Kamrubhai has always been very generous in sharing a lot of material at all times. We are very much indebted to him, Shah Abdulla and Barakah for bringing these to light. Thank you so much.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dearest Shah Abdulla. Very proud of you and Kamrudinbhai for the interesting article and photographs you have shared with the Global jamat. Was happy to know your parents friendship with Malik’s parents. May Mawlana Hazar Imam keep both your families as well as Kamrudinbhai’s under his care and shower upon you his choicest blessings. Your contribution is greatly appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Many thanks to Kamrudin Bhai and Shah Bahen for these photographs which bring back excellent memories for everyone who was part of the Pemba Jamat in 1957. Such photographs also help Ismailis in other parts of the world learn about their sister Jamats.

    I must also commend Malik, the editor of Barakah, for his effort and time to bring these beautiful memories for all of us to enjoy.

    Thank you very much
    Taj Kothari

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Kamru Rashid and Shah Abdulla: What a marvelous contribution by both of you to bring alive a visit that I didn’t know anything about. Congratulations for unearthing these historical photographs that have left me gasping for more. And thanks to Barakah for bringing such rare collections to our notice, with assistance from Jamati members like Kamru and Shah.

    Like

  6. Wow! What a rare collection, and our heartiest thanks to Kamrudin Rashid and Shah Abdulla for dedicating this memorable and treasured piece in honour of my beloved sister, Maleksultan, and her husband and my brother Jehangirbhai. The collection is excellent and the authors have done a fantastic job! Keep it up.

    Like

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