Remembering a community stalwart who reinvigorated pride and enthusiasm within the Khoja community. 

Hassanbhai Ali Mohamed M Jaffer
1932 - 2018
Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilyahi Rajeoon 

Marhum Hassanbhai Ali Mohamed M Jaffer

The World Federation expresses its deep sorrow at the passing of Hassan Ali Mohammed Jaffer. Sadly, this marks an end of the era of towering leaders with whom Hassanbhai served for almost seven decades. He was amongst the last of the illustrious figures such as Marhum Mohamedali Meghji, Marhum Abdulrasul Lakha, Marhum Mulla Asgher not to mention his own father Alibhai Mohamed Jaffer amongst others, who were instrumental in shaping the modern KSI Community. As their close confidant, they sought his wise counsel then and over more than half a century he continued to remain the most sought-after sage and savant for many succeeding leaders until today.

 

"Marhum Hassan Jaffer has been a tower of strength for this community and its leaders. I fondly recall his detailed and often quite direct advice. He was always on hand to provide frank, clear and honest feedback with a unique level of incisiveness. His work the Endangered Species book has set alight a reinvigoration of Khoja pride and cultural enthusiasm.” - Shan E Abbas Hassam, Secretary General of The World Federation

There are many words to describe this remarkable personality. None will be eloquent enough to do justice to this multifaceted individual who encompassed so many rare qualities. A voracious reader, he was at the same time a prolific writer. An outstanding intellectual, he was also a down to earth outspoken farsighted member of the community. He was a profound thinker exuding wisdom and at the same time adept at envisioning paradoxes. He enjoyed poetry and prose but eschewed small talk, preferring straight talk. He was an insightful historian but skillfully linked the past with the present. As a Khoja stalwart, his words were polite and respectful, but when needed was not afraid to call a spade a spade. He was of the pre-baby boomer era but his engagement with all generations, from baby boomers to the millennial generation was seamless. As a keen analytical observer, he was well known for his candid and oftentimes rather acidic analysis of the state of the Community and has migrated many of us into discomfort zones. 

 

“I can never forget the lesson he imparted upon learning of my bid for the presidency of The World Federation. His advice was blunt: “Don't ever try to wear someone else's shoes. Wear your own. They will be more comfortable and you will take greater strides.” Later he shared that this manner of straight talk was from his shipping experience: “When space is asked in a cargo ship and none is available, there is only one way to say it: NO!" Hassan Bhai’s grasp of the community’s contemporary challenges, his lucid way of analyzing the situations and his art of proffering remedies without embellishment have all left a deep mark on me.” Ahmed Hassam, Former President of The World Federation.

Born in Zanzibar in 1932, Hassan Bhai spent most of his life in Mombasa. His services to the Community span almost seven decades, and commenced when he was elected Honorary Secretary of the Jaffery Sports Club, Mombasa in the early fifties. He went on to serve as Chairman of the Debate and Education Section of the Ithna-Asheri Young Men’s Union, Hon Secretary and Chairman of the Education Board of Alibhai Panju school. He also served as Vice Chairman of the Mombasa Jamaat and Hon. Treasurer of the Africa Federation in the mid-sixties under the Chairmanship of late Alhaj Mohammedali Meghji and the late Mulla Asgher as Hon. Secretary of Africa Federation.

 

"The passing away of Hassanbhai Alimohamed Jaffer is indeed an irreplaceable loss for the entire Khoja Shia community.
He was an academician, a historian, a social worker and above all an intellectual with a zeal for humanitarian work. He always searched for an opportunity to serve and always found these and delivered to perfection! 
His academic interests kept him in touch with many leading universities both in the west & Islamic world. He would always share many interesting and aspiring work with his friends and colleagues. He read extensively and was an author extraordinaire, as exemplified in his books that he wrote!
Above all his humble advice whenever and wherever required was delivered with courtesy and the highest level of humility!
He will be sadly missed by all of us! - Dr Asgarali G K Moledina, Former President of The World Federation.

He was instrumental in the formation of The World Federation, having participated in many preparatory meetings as well as a key advisor to Mulla Asgher at the first Constitutional Conference in 1976.  He was elected as a member of the first Executive Council of The World Federation and continued his engagement with the world body in many capacities. His presence and eloquent submissions at the meetings of The WF were always memorable and got the audience thinking out of the box, as he reframed the conversation to be relevant to the times. On the global scene, while he espoused interactions the wider Shia Muslim causes, he always reminded the Community to focus on its own priorities first.

 

“Murabbi Hassanbhai withstood the test of the time to amplify his voice, loud and clear, that we, as a Khoja community, have an equal share in the wider Shia Ithna Asheri Muslim community. Deploying the analogy of his shipping business, he captivated Ayatullahs of Qum and Najaf by his unique style of narrating the history. His unwavering commitment and dedication to the Khoja community compelled him to caution community leaders and religious scholars alike when the legacy of KSI was compromised or underestimated.” Shaykh Kumail Rajani, Former Head of Islamic Education and Current Deputy Chair of the Khoja Heritage Project.?

Of late, he was also on the advisory board of the Khoja Heritage Project of The World Federation. Remarkably, having an erstwhile ancestor like Haji Devji Jamal made Hassan Bhai very much an integral part of our history as the Shia IthnaAsheri Community. His lifelong labour of love, The Endangered Species was the first comprehensive book of Khoja history in almost a century, when the likes of Sachedina Nanjiani and Adelji Dhanji Kaba put pen to paper in the mid 19th century.  His ‘out of the box’ thinking about community affairs is also reflected in his unique turn of phrase in this book, not found in manuals of creative writing.

 

“His seminal work The Endangered Species is not just a mere narration of Khoja History but paints insightful visage of the Khoja Community and it’s arc of history demonstrating the past and comparing it with the present. It is an insider’s look at the opportunities and challenges of keeping faith and culture in balance on the path of progress. The epilogue of the book is worth revisiting. It is a bittersweet reflection of who we have become as a people and where should we go” Hasnain Walji, Former President of the World Federation and current Chair Khoja Heritage Project.?

When elder statesmen like Hassan Bhai pass away, they leave a colossal vacuum in the Community, and much valuable knowledge, memories and experience is interred with them. The paradox is: only after their passing we wish we had recorded these memories and experiences. Perhaps, acutely aware of this, he ensured that his thoughts, knowledge and guidance remain after him in the form of books, lectures and interviews. Thankfully many of his works, interviews and speeches have been preserved. All these will be invaluable for many generations to come to learn to form his into the past and the present state of the Community.  His contribution to the preservation of the history of the KSI Community is truly monumental and without a parallel.  

The World Federation coveys its heartfelt condolences to his wife, sons, daughter, siblings and his many grandchildren. May the Almighty (swt) bless him with His Mercy and a place in the proximity of the Masoomin (AS).

The World Federation thanks Dr. Hasnain Walji for compiling this obituary of Marhum Alhaj Hassan Ali Mohamed Jaffer.

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