The Endangered Species
The most famous celebrated book on the history of Khoja Shia Ithna Ashari by Hassan Jaffer. A short description of the book reads this way:
“Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheris (KSI) are spread over five continents and number just under 125,000. Despite being a miniscule percentage of the 200 million Shia Ithna-Asheris worldwide, their perceived influence and fame belies their numbers- hence the title, The Endangered Species. The author, Hassan A M Jaffer, deftly delves into a narrative based on the characteristic migratory patterns of the Khojas, hailing from Kutch and Kathiawad, who ventured towards the then unknown continent of Africa during the 19th century and beyond to the West in the past 4 decades.”
“This book, subtitled An Account of the Journey of Faith by the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Community, represents a labour of love over almost a decade by a remarkable personality nurtured within the Khoja Community. Hassan Jaffer has had the good fortune of experiencing much of this transition first hand, for the past 75 years. He offers answers to some burning questions, while weaving a unique tapestry of personalities, events and ideas that has shaped the KSI community.”
“The book illustrates how, upon their arrival in Africa, beginning the late 19th Century, the Khojas coped with the daunting prospects on a vast unexplored tract of land within the milieu of African and Arab cultures. Through the prism of real life Khoja experiences, the book highlights the challenges of these pioneers who were subjected to German, British, French Italian, Belgian and Portuguese colonial rules, and yet against all odds managed to emerge with their identities virtually intact. The book also illustrates how in the wake of the partition of the sub-continent,(led by a Khoja – Mohamed Ali Jinnah) how the Indian and Pakistani Khojas developed under different influences and cultures.”
“All in all this is an interesting analysis of five generations and five continents later, what factors contributed to help retain its identity and optimized its social capital. Equally importantly, the book addresses the dispersal of the community and what future lies ahead for it.”
An another review of the book by Jamal M. Moosa, Academy of International Studies, Jamia Milla Islamia, New Delhi, Diaspora Studies:
HASSAN ALI M JAFFAR, 2012. The Endangered Species: An Account of the Journey of Faith by the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Community, Toronto (ON), Mulla Asghar Memorial Library & Islamic Resource Centre, xi + 514 pages.
This volume, as the title suggests, is the account of a rather small community's journey of survival, a community which has undergone two transitions over the last century or so. The first transition was that of relocation, being scattered across the world. However, the second more important transition was that of faith. The text is written in a lucid and easy style with many photographs targeted at the community's youth. The primary objective is to introduce the current generation to the complex and traumatic processes of evolution, as a result of which the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community established itself and prospered in different parts of the world. It recounts anything that an elder or community leader feels would be essential reading in this community's history, evolution, belief systems, salient features and peculiarities. More importantly, it endeavours to pass on to the next generation those traits that are making them different from others. The author's underlying fear is that although the community has experienced great prosperity, its continued existence is rather uncertain, even endangered. The Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community is between 100,000 and 120,000 strong, which is just 0.5 percent of the world's Shia population. However, despite (heir rather insignificant numbers, they exercise considerable influence and are admired around the world. Thus, the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri was the first group of pilgrims permitted by the Saddam Hussein regime, after the first Iraqi war of 1990-1991, to visit Najaf, because of the particular status they enjoy and because of their apolitical stance. Quite pointedly, a leading Indian Shia scholar and leader, Kalbe Sadiq, is quoted as saying that one must not question Allah's ways, but he wished that he was a Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri so that he would be able to do all that he could for the community's development.
Diaspora Studies 5. 2 (2012): 215-229 Organisation for Diaspora Initiatives, New Delhi