A regularly updated collection of historical records and  from the Africa Federation archives.


The Genesis of World Federation – Part 1
A Personal Reflection of an Inspiring Journey


By: Hasnain Walji (Former Secretary General, Vice President and President 1978 – 2003)
The official date of the establishment of the World Federation is October 15 1976. However, the genesis is almost a year prior when In October 1975, a delegation from Africa sat down with some elders from Uganda and a group of young Khoja accountants and lawyers on the red carpet of the Hammersmith Imambargah in London.
As the Assistant Secretary of London Jamaat, along with the then Mukhi Saheb Anverbhai Jagani and Anverbhai Pirbhai, our duty, on that dull and damp October day, was to ensure that the delegation were suitably nourished, Khoja style, with steaming hot chai and samosas. As we poured them endless cups of tea, amidst the smoke from Rothmans Cigarettes, I overheard this motley group ponderously reflecting on the predicaments our Community had found itself in the wake of the 1972 Uganda Exodus. Over a thousand souls had now scattered across the globe trying to make a new life in these faraway places. Apart for London and Peterborough, most communities in UK and North America were yet to establish Jamaats and Imambargahs. Yet the Community spirit was strong as mumineen roiled out carpets from the trunks of their cars to sit in rented warehouses, basements or any place that would give them an opportunity and be spiritually uplifted through the recital of Dua e Kumail on Thursday nights. For living in city or town without a Jamaat, a Khoja individual was like a fish out of water and these small gatherings became the oasis of spirituality in the new land we found ourselves.

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Marhum Mulla Kermalli Alibhai - Dar es Salaam

One of the well-known amongst the community workers of the Dar es Salaam Jamaat was Marhum Mulla Kermalli Alibhai.
He will be remembered for his youthful enthusiasm and zeal in serving the community. In spite of his age, he was very active and would carry out duties that would put young people to shame.

He was born in Hadiyana, Kathiawar, India on 24 March 1889 and migrated to Africa at the age of 16. He was well known for his business acumen and he used this expertise in Jamaat matters taking good care of financial resources of the Jamaat.

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The Journey of Mulla Abdulla Karim Surti from India to Madagascar Island

Mulla Abdulla Karim Surti was born in India in 1862. He was the father of the famous Mulla Yusufali Abdulla of East Africa. He was also the nephew of the famous merchant who was known as the champion of the poor, Murrabbi Sheriff Jiwa Surti. Mulla Abdulla got married in Ahmedabad.
In 1900 he travelled to Madagascar with his uncle Murrabbi Sheriff.  He worked at his uncle’s branches at Diego Suarez, Nosibe and Analalava for a total period of 5 years. After the death of his wife, he went to India in 1904 for his second marriage.

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Daring and Adventurous Journey to East Africa – A brief Profile of Alhaj Remtulla Kassam Gulamali from Cutch Mundra, India


Remtulla Kassam Gulamali Bhagat was born in 1864 in Mundra, Cutch, India. In 1879, he and his brother Haji travelled to Pangani by dhow. The two brothers operated a partnership for two years. Remtulla decided to travel to Mogadishu, Somalia where he operated a business for five years. Finding no success in business, he moved to Merca, Somalia in 1886. At Merca, the business flourished very well and in a short period his concern became famous throughout the coast of East Africa.

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Since severing the umbilical cord with the mainstream Aga Khani Khojas which propounded Nizari Ismaili faith, the new splinter group of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheris in India were busily engaged in several fronts to identify, consolidate, and strengthen the infant community. The rivalry and confrontation between original and splinter group was rampant, occasionally violent and very often showed its ugly head in social mercantile activities of both the communities. The first pressing task of the leader of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community was to establish and widen network of Jamaats and with it Mosques, Imambarghas, and Madrassahs had to be acquired or built. To an acceptable degree this was achieved between 1880 and 1933. Under this climate the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community labored with a dream: to establish a federation that would unite the community. This was the vision of Seth Dawood Haji Nasser who created the Cutch Federation but due to the War, it was still-born and picked up its root in Africa where it flourished progressively. 

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After a long sea journey from India, Nasserbhai Pardhan arrived in Zanzibar in 1900. He lived there for four years followed by 18 months in Pemba and 18 months in Tanganyika before opening a shop at Changamwe, a suburb of Mombasa. After spending four months at Changamwe, he travelled to Kisumu by train and onwards to Jinja by boat.
In 1908 Jinja was a very small town. The houses were of two types, those made of iron sheets and those made of mud with thatched roofs. Our community members who had shops in Jinja were Walji Bhanji, Haji Merali, Abdulla Nathoo and Juma Muman. Nasser Pardhan joined in the employment of Haji Merali. Another employee was Suleman Esmail. Mohamed Manek was an employee of a famous entrepreneur Alidina Visram. Our community consisted of 7 families. 
Abdulla Nathoo had constructed a special room made of iron sheets in the compound of his house to be used for majlis. A famous Sunni Aalim Molvi Abdulla Shah used to recite majlis. Haji Tamachi Turk, a famous Sunni brother who had very friendly and cordial relations with our members used to sponsor nyaz and majlis. The Nyaz on 12th Muharram was regularly sponsored by him. His departure from Jinja in 1958 resulted in changes in our regular programme. There were four Bohra families who were close to our community. The nyaz on 9th Muharram was regularly sponsored by a Bohra community member Abdulhussein Kadarbhai. After 1958, the Bohra community started having their own programmes due to increase in their population.

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The late Gulamhusein Mohamed Valli Dharsi who later became famous by the use of the pen-name of “SALSABIL” was the eldest son of Mohamed Valli Dharsi and was born in Zanzibar in 1887. He was brought up by Janab Saleh Hassan, his maternal grandfather. After finishing his studies, he joined his father’s booming textile business, together with his two younger brothers Habib and Kassamali.

Mohamedbhai Valli Dharsi passed away in Zanzibar in 1923 after returning to Zanzibar from Ziyarat in Iraq, Gulamhuseinbhai and his two younger brothers managed their father’s business until 1930 when it was wound up.

Gulamhuseinbhai received his early education at Sir Euan Smith Madressa, (a famous Gujarati and English educational institution in Zanzibar, renamed Haile Selassie School after the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964). With his vast studies he could speak Urdu, English, Farsi, Gujarati, Arabic and Kiswahili. His fondness for reading and writing was remarkable. He soon built up his own private library which, at the time of his demise consisted of some 2000 (two thousand) books which included some rare and valuable collections in English, Gujarati, Urdu, and Arabic. His private Library also contained several important literary and classical works which he had won as prizes in school competitions.

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The Archives section under the Africa Federation Secretariat has resumed working on the digitization of documents, books and files in possession in the Archives section.  It is expected that once this exercise is completed, a directory of all such documents will be prepared for ease of reference.
The Africa Federation Secretariat is pleased to introduce and welcome the following three youths who have wholeheartedly come forward to provide the much needed voluntary services to the Archives section. This will also provide them with unique opportunity to learn and grasp history of our Community. They are the future torch-bearers of our Community and AFED is making all efforts to encourage the youths through Afed Youth Network (AYN) to develop in them sense of leadership leading to progress, productivity and prosperity.
In his remarks, Alhaj Murtaza Jivraj (Kerbala), the Sectional Secretary of Archives said - “I am very pleased to state that the work undertaken by these three dedicated hardworking Volunteers is progressing well. I applaud them for contributing their valuable time, and the commitment and enthusiasm they have shown in helping to sort out and record the historical documents in our possession. I look forward to the success of this assignment in the next 2 years which will make it convenient for all interested Community members to access the information”.

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Siwjibhai Somji was born on 21st December 1882 in India. At the age of 18, he travelled from India to Zanzibar in a dhow. He joined in employment of Gulamhussein Somji Lilani in Zanzibar at a salary of 100 rupees a year.
After one year he joined at Remtulla Allarakhia Tejani for 4 months. Siwjibhai left this job and travelled to Kilwa by ship named ‘Governor”. He then travelled from Kilwa to Songea on foot taking with him tents, laborers and food. He used to walk 6 hours every day. It took them 24 days to reach Songea – a distance of 320 miles. He started working at his brother Jaffer Somji’s shop in Songea. After a year he went back to India for marriage.

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An Account of the Brave Journey of Late Dawood Nasser Haji Mowjee from Aden in Yemen to Kutch in India

(By Roshanali Haji Dawood Nasser)

This is the story of how my father Dawood Nasser Haji Mowjee who was born on 12th March 1889 in Mukalla in Quaiti State which was in Eastern Aden British Protectorate (now Yemen) was brought to Mandvi Port in India by dhow.
My dearest grandmother Sakinabai died at Mukalla on 25th March 1889 when my father was about 13 days old.  My grandfather Haji Nasser Haji Mowjee was very much saddened by her death and the fact that he now had to leave Mukalla forever.   
As there was no steam-ship service in those days, my grandfather decided to leave with my father by a small sailing boat (dhow) of about 200 tons’ capacity which was sailing for Mandvi Port in India.

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Haji Mohamedbhai Manji Walli was born in 1910 in Kutch, Mundra in India.  Mohamedbhai came to East Africa in 1928. He first landed in Tanga and worked for Suleiman Khimji.

In 1933 he migrated to Dodoma. In Dodoma he worked for Remtulla Pirbhai.  While in Dodoma, he served Dodoma Jamaat as its Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Mukhi. He also looked after the Supreme Council properties in Dodoma and Kondoa.

In order to enliven and continue the mission of Imam Hussein (AS) in the town of Dodoma, Mohamedbhai initiated the construction of Dodoma Imambargha.

He sacrificed his time to supervise the project and worked heartily in collaboration with Haji Gulamabbas Pirbhai of Arusha and Haji Abdulrasul bhai Molu Chatoo of Dar es Salaam to collect funds from Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Moshi, Singida, Bukoba and Kigoma.

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