Great leaders are essential to create a thriving society as it is through their foresight, wisdom and selflessness that a sturdy foundation is built and the community flourishes. When we think of such leaders, we cannot be oblivious amongst several personalities who have played pivotal roles in the Community, and one of them being Raziyabai Gulamabbas Janmohammed.
Raziyabai was born in Lamu on 23rd July 1944 to Marhum Pyarali Mohammedali Merali and Marhuma Fatmabai Fazal Remtulla Mawji. She is one of the five siblings namely Mohammedtaqi Merali, Marhum Anwer Merali, Hassan Merali, Hussein Merali and Marhuma Zaynab Amirali Panju.
Raziyabai’s parents moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tanzania) in 1946. She completed her primary education at Mtendeni Primary School, which was a Gujarati medium school. In 1960, she completed her secondary education at the Indian Secondary School with good ranks.
When she was in Form 2, her teachers realized her academic capabilities and offered her a double promotion to Form 4. Her favorite subject was Physics, so much so that she was the top scorer in her grade. In 1961, she joined Teachers Training College located in Chang’ombe for a five-year course. Raziyabai was quite an all-rounder; in her second year, she went to climb the world famous Mount Kilimanjaro and reached the Gilman’s Peak. Once she completed her course, she taught at various schools such as Shaaban Robert, Mtendeni School and St. Joseph School in Dar es Salaam.
In 1964, she got married to Marhum Gulamabbas Mohammedali Janmohammed. She took up the family responsibilities at a very young age. In 1966, she self-studied accounting at home; undertook a hairdressing course and learnt stitching at Ruby’s Tailoring.
In 1976, Marhum Mohamedbhai Dhirani, the President of the Dar es Salaam Jamaat at the time approached her to start a Madrassah for girls; she happily accepted this mammoth task. She was assisted by four other teachers; namely Munirabai Kassam, Batulbai Fazal, Khairoonbai (Kekibai) Alibhai and Lailabai Chagani. They first started conducting classes at the Imambargha for four years as they did not have an allocated building, nor did they have a set syllabus. The classes initially were focused on wajibaat. They started off with 92 girls from ages 5 to 15 years old. When she took up this task, she started self-studying all the subjects the Madrasah planned on introducing. Raziyabai used her experience from her Teachers Training College to conduct annual training workshops for all the Madrassah teachers, a practice that the Madrassah conducts until today.
In the same year (1976), she was approached once again by Marhum Mohamedbhai Dhirani, this time to take up the responsibility of becoming the first Chairlady of the Ladies Managing Committee (LMC) of the Dar es Salaam Jamaat and she was assisted by Kekibai Alibhai. She officially began her term in 1978 having spent two years setting up a system and forming a Ladies Committee. She served for two consecutive terms strengthening the system that continues till today. Seven years later in 1983 when her husband took up the post of the President of Dar es Salaam Jamaat, she was once again requested to serve as the Chairlady for one more term. Once she finished her tenure as Chairlady, she served as an Advisor to the LMC.
Raziyabai has been an active learner; she has dedicated her weekends to self study the Qur’an. Currently, she is taking two online courses in the Arabic language (Mafahim). Furthermore, she has been running Tadabbur classes for the last 25 years; she started off with 5 ladies and now caters to over 100 ladies at Mehfile Abbas once a week on Tuesdays for two hours. In the first hour, she teaches the Arabic language and in the second, she conducts Qur’an Tadabbur.
Since the Coronavirus pandemic, Raziyabai has been conducting her Tadabbur lessons virtually and has received listeners from all over the world. The sessions are recorded and then shared on WhatsApp groups. Additionally, she facilitates online Qur’an recitation for ladies on Friday nights under the Ladies Managing Committee.
What is more remarkable is that she has compiled five volumes on Qur’an Tadabbur based on her own research over the years. In 2009, Raziyabai was approached by Marhum Syed Hassan Naqvi to join the AFTAB Board as the head of the annually held AFED Qur’an competitions and since then she has been playing a leading role during these competitions and serves as an Advisor to this day.
She also attends to the well-being of the Community and offers private counseling. Six months back, she joined the Marriage Reconciliation Board KSIJ Dar es Salaam on the request of the Jamaat President Alhaj Mohamedrazabhai Dewji.
Raziyabai’s illustrious history of Community services has not gone unnoticed. She has received numerous awards over the years, the following are a few to name:
- The World Federation (WF) awarded her with the unique Mulla Asgher memorial award for excellent service in the women’s category;
- The Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Jamaats of Africa (AFED) bestowed her the “Fatema Medal” on 13th April 2001;,
- The KSIJ of Dar-es-Salam in the year 2018 named the entire fifth floor of the Tabligh building in her honor.
Raziyabai headed the Madrassah for 38 years. It was her love for the Holy Qur’an and the betterment of the Community that inspired her to live a life in complete servitude to the AhlulBayt (A’). In her journey, Raziyabai’s sturdiest support was her late husband Gulamabbasbhai, who always supported and encouraged her. She also extends her gratefulness to the Dar es Salaam Jamaat for their continuous support and guidance throughout her journey.
We pray to Allah (SWT) to reward Raziyabai amply for all her years of her devoted services in the community and to grant her long, healthy and successful life with more tawfeeqat to continue serving the community with greater zeal and commitment, Ameen.
A request for Sura-e-Fateha for Marhum Gulamabbas Janmohamed and all the Marhumeen.
Article by: Sukaina Samir Habib – Daughter of Marhum Murtaza Jivraj (Kerbala) of Archives Section of Africa Federation
ARCHIVES SECTION OF THE AFRICA FEDERATION
6th August 2021 / 26th Zilhajj 1442 A.H