HAJI EBRAHIM HUSSEIN SHARIFF DEWJI
A great leader remembered for his farsighted vision, wisdom and intellect; a selfless, devoted and sincere social worker of the Community.
Chairman AFED – 1958/1964
A tribute by the Chairman of Africa Federation, Alhaj Anwarali Dharamsi on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the death of “Mohsin-e-Qawm” Alhaj Ebrahim Hussein Shariff Dewji.
The sadness of the news of the sudden passing away of Al Hajj Ebrahim Hussein Sheriff Dewji on 9th January, 1964 in Zanzibar at a young age while in the position of the Chairmanship of AFED still echoes up to this day in the minds of many who knew him, it was a moment of great sadness and shock across the Shia Ithna-Asheri community in Africa, and beyond its borders.
As I read through in the Africa Federation Samachar of May, 1964, the accolades and tributes written by various leaders, friends and others from within and outside our community following his sudden death, I realize how great, humble and eminent this young devotee of the community was. He lived a short life but left magnificent and indelible footprints on the path of the history of our community in Africa and in the Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaats of Africa.
Ebrahimbhai was a unique and great leader, a visionary, a champion of unity and deeply mindful of the welfare of the community. “Ek Bano, Nek Bano” was his slogan. When he took over the helm of the Federation in 1958, he visited each and every Jamaat in East Africa; he also visited Madagascar, Mauritius, Somalia, India, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and several other countries. He always left favourable and lasting impression over those with whom he came across in contact; his logical and unique approach to problem solving was remarkable, he always strived with his dissecting and philosophical mind and intellect.
Among his memorable contributions that epitomize his two terms in office, they are:
- As Chairman of AFED he was the first to obtain an Ijaza from Marja e Taqleed of the time, Ayatollah Seyyed Muhsin al Hakim that paved the way for the centralization and disbursement of huquq funds.
- Reached out to Madagascar, Mauritius and Somalia leading to the involvement of the Indian Ocean Islands communities and the Somalia communities as members of AFED. The formation of the Madagascar Territorial Council in 1961 was a symbol of his unique efforts and commitment. Similarly on the other hand, the farsightedness and dedication of the elders of Majunga Jamaat helped in the process; among them was Alhaj Issoufaly Fazul Chenai, a prolific writer, an ardent advocate of unity who became an interim President of the Territorial Council in 1961. The Madagascar Territorial Council (later on became – Conseil Régional Des Khojas Shia Ithna- Asheri Jamates De L.Océan Indien) officially joined AFED in 1962 following a crucial meeting held in Tulear. Ebrahimbhai and his Madagascar counterparts played significant roles in bringing the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaats of Madagascar under one Institution and later on to become member of AFED. Alhaj Rajabaly Soundardjee was the first elected President of the Madagascar Territorial Council from 1962 to 1964. This was one of Ebrahimbhai’s several ambitions in life to unite the community to which he attained successfully.
- Under the aegis of AFED, several Ulema were recruited from the Indio-Pak sub-continent to be posted as resident Aalims in various Jamaats all over East Africa and Madagascar and also as head of religious education in community run schools.
- With the forthcoming independence of the East African territories, he foresaw the economic opportunities that lay ahead and encouraged business community to pool their resources for joint ventures on large scale. Thus the Kibo Match Factory Ltd., the Jamhuri Sisal Estate Ltd. and the National Investments Ltd. projects materialized.
- His services were not confined to our community only. He served also as Mayor of Arusha and as a nominated member of the then Tanganyika Legislative Council.
With his services within and outside the community in his short life span, he left behind an exemplary model of leadership to emulate. Truly, only few are blessed with the opportunity to leave such an imprint in life. Marhum Ebrahimbhai was one of such few.
Ebrahimbhai was born on 10th April 1923 in Zanzibar, in a renowned family of Shariff Dewji Jamal, his grandparent. Haji Dewji Jamal first came to Zanzibar from India in 1860 and soon settled on the Island of Zanzibar. Haji Dewji Jamal was one of the founders of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Community in Zanzibar in 1881.
The family sacrifices and their devotion towards imparting religious teachings and social services remains enshrined in the history of our community, going back to several generations.
May Allah by His infinite mercy and grace, place Marhum’s soul in eternal peace and an abode in the vicinity of our Fourteen Masoomeen (A.S.).
We request the Jamaats in Africa to organize Majlis on Thursday, 9th January, 2014 for the Isale-Thawab of Marhum Ebrahimbhai and all the past leaders and volunteers of the Federations and Jamaats who served the community in various capacities.
Please recite Sura-e-Fateha for Marhum Ebrahimbhai and all Marhumeens.