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Dost Mohammad Bhojani

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DOST MOHAMMAD BHOJANI: A TRIBUTE

Karachi Jamaat has a unique place among the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri communities world wide. With a population figure estimated at around forty thousand, Karachi Jamaat is by far the largest Jamaat. Karachi constitutes over one third of the total Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri population world wide. The world wide population of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri is realistically estimated at around 110,000 heads.

Two historic records stand out for the Karachi Jamaat. The first Khoja martyr to be assassinated for resolutely practicing and promoting the Shia Ithna-Asheri faith was from Karachi. He was Lalan Alidina. On March 2, 1876 Lalan was attacked leading to serious head injuries. After surgery Lalan survived the murderous assault. Two years later, on February 28, 1878, he was shot and killed. His remains were later transferred to Kerbala for permanent burial. Another Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri lad born in Karachi on December 25th 1876 grew up to carve out a new nation and change the map of the world. He was none other than Quaid-e-Azam Mohamedali Jinnah, the founding father of Pakistan.

With a population of less than 3,000 at the time of partition of India in 1947, Karachi Jamaat has since grown into a community of around 40,000 as a result of the influx of Khoja migrants from India and Africa.

For long activities of the Karachi Jamaat and developments taking place in Karachi were little known to the outside community living in Africa, Europe and in North America. Major Jamaats in India and Pakistan were too preoccupied in the aftermath of the partition of India in 1947 and the mass migration that followed to look beyond their confines to establish contacts with their compatriots overseas. They also took little interest in the well being of their brethren living in Africa who went through some harrowing moments with the tragic episodes taking place in Zanzibar in 1962, Uganda 1972, and later on in Zaire, Mozambique, Madagascar and Somalia.

All this changed in 1989 with the emergence of Shaheed Hamidbhai Bojani as President of the Karachi Jamaat. The first thing Hamidbhai did was to shed the introvert outlook and adopt a global perspective in this fast changing world. He traveled around the world to meet with the community members settled overseas. He persuaded Karachi Jamaat to join the World Federation of K.S.I.M.C. In the process, he forged links with the world wide fraternity to make them aware of the situation in Pakistan and the development projects that the Karachi Jamaat was undertaking. In a short time, the dynamic personality of Hamidbhai Bhojani and the progressive activities of a revived vibrant Karachi Jamaat were known all over.

I had the privilege to know Hamidbhai Bhojani as President of Karachi Jamaat and Dostmohamedbhai Bhojani, then Hon.Secretary of the Jamaat. During my visits to Karachi we exchanged views and further renewed contacts when Hamdibhai Bhojani visited Africa. My younger brother Ahmed Jaffer, who lived in Karachi for twelve years, worked closely with Hamidbhai and later on with Dostmohamedbhai who succeeded Hamidbhai to serve as President of the Karachi Jamaat from 1995 to 2006.

One thing that strikes me most about the qualities of their leadership was the spirit of enthusiasm and a burning desire that propelled them to structure Karachi Jamaat with the corporate management style and bring about centralized planning and pooling of resources and energies for the long-term common good.

In the spirit of “Ood bun bun ke jala hai, dile soza.N mera,” Hamidbhai Bhojani yearned to improve the quality of education and cater for the problems of youths in finding attractive employment opportunities for them both locally and overseas. Above all, he was focused on endeavors at targeting for the economic improvement of the less endowed members of the society and for the overall social welfare of the community.

I recall a touching moment during the first visit of Hamidbhai Bhojani to Mombasa in 1989. After a meeting with the Committee members of the Ithna-Asheri Young Men’s Union and the Jaffery Sports Club, as we were leaving the grounds of the Sports Club, it was time for Maghrib prayers and Azaan could be heard. Immediately Hamidbhai told me: “It is maghrib time. We are under the open sky. I will offer a dua. Please say aamin to it” As he raised his hands in supplication, this is what Hamidbhai had to say.: ‘Ilahi, grant me the tawfeeq to build a grand school like the one I have seen in Mombasa and a spacious Sports Club like this one for our children in Karachi.’

Soon after his return to Karachi he took steps to prepare for a volleyball ground at an open plot of Baghe-e-Zehra and plans for the setting up of the Fatemi Girls School were set in motion. Today, this educational institution has grown and acquired a status of pride for the Community in Karachi. Martyrs in the cause the community is not only a history of the past. As fate would have it, Hamidbhai was shot and killed along with a number of other momineen inside the Mosque at Mehfile Murtaza in February, 1995.

The legacy of centralized planning, co-ordination of resources and energies and the momentum in the overall development coupled with rapport with the world wide community was kept up commendably by marhum Dostmohamed bhai Bhojani. The level of respect and trust he enjoyed is amply illustrated by the fact that he was elected as President of the Karachi Jamaat for three successive terms until he opted not to seek re-election for the fourth term on health grounds.

I recall his role in the Dubai Conferences of the World Federation held in 2003. Given to few words, Dostmohamed bhai endeared himself well in the deliberations to be admired and respected as an elder statesman.

During my visit to Karachi in May, 2004, I reviewed with him the global phenomenon of growing matrimonial disputes ending up in divorces. Added to this we were also confronted with the question of cases where despite the breakdown of marriage, girls are denied divorce and maintenance allowance in order to force them into suing for Khula. It was also recognized that the influence of the family units and of the society in general was diminishing. Sharia provided for marriage contract to be drawn at the time of performing nikah that would equitably safeguard the interests of especially the hapless girls being tormented as a result. There was need for a collective global approach in this context. Guidance obtained from the Maraje’ were also reviewed.

Marhum Dostmohamedbhai welcomed the idea and appointed a sub-committee to take appropriate steps for drawing up of a workable marriage contact.

This task is yet to be accomplished. As we remember marhum Dostmohamed Bhojani and pay tribute to his record of long and meritorious services to the community, it would only be appropriate for the community to complete this unfinished task as a befitting tribute to his memory.

By: Hassan Ali M. Jaffer. (Mombasa).

(From the special edition of: “A Tribute to Dost Mohammad Bhojani – Khoja (Pirhai) Shia Isna Asheri Jamaat - Karachi. June 2007)

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