An amusing account – Kampala 1942

Excerpts from a ten part section of a chapter on the growth of the KSI community in Uganda - from the forthcoming book: “Sustained Struggle” - on the life and times of MohamedJaffer Sheriff Dewji - 1889-1961 - by Hassan Ali M. Jaffer.
(Reproduced with permission of the author)


In 1961, I was visiting Kampala when I went over to see a friend, Gulamali Manji, who introduced me to his father, Manjibhai Walji. When Manjibhai recognized me, he asked: “How is your grandfather?” Before I could respond, Manjibhai quipped: “Tell him to come back to Kampala. There is Allah in Kampala now!” The words used in Cutchi were:  Toje Dade ke cho, bhale pacha ache. Hane Allah hida achi vyo aae!
I was stunned at this comment and did not know how to react. As I stared at Manjibhai in utter disbelief, with a smile, Manjibhai beckoned me to sit down and explained to me what he meant by this comment.
‘Your grandfather came here once for the month of Muharram (in 1942). We had our old Imambara then, part of which was used as Baituassalaat, since we did not have a proper Masjid.
‘In his Muharram Majalis, for ten days, your grandfather lectured us with stress on one subject only – Salaat. He talked about the importance of Salaat, the need for offering Salaat on time and the importance of offering Salaat in a Masjid. He talked about Sawab for building a Mosque and the ajr of Baaqeatussalehaat for such charity. He also stressed on the importance of paying religious dues, Zakaat, Khums and for making donations for good causes.’ He made a sarcastic remark about Kampala in Gujarati: ‘Imam Hussein che; Khuda nathi!’ - This comment irked.

‘In Kampala there are many well to do businessmen. He cautioned us about the consequences of not paying religious dues. It was not the usual traditional type of Majalis that we were accustomed to for the months of Muharram. Besides, he was talking in Gujarati and drove home his points well. Ladies also took much interest in his Majalis as they could also understand him well in Gujarati.’
‘Mohamedali Alibhai Ramji and Nazerali Jamal Ramji approached your grandfather requesting him to stop labouring the point as they promised to build a proper Mosque soon.’
On behalf of Haji Alibhai Ramji Charitable Trust, Mohamedali Haji Alibhai Ramji, Pyarali Mohamedali Haji Alibhai, Trustees handed over the newly built Masjid to the Jamaat.
With sardonic humour, Manjibhai concluded: ‘Ask your grandfather to come back. We have since found Allah in Kampala!’
Haji Mohamedjaffer did not live longer to visit Kampala again. His death took place in Zanzibar towards the end of the same year, on December, 18, 1961 at the age of 72.

The Old Imambara building (this being the third one) part of which was also being used as Baituassalaat, was built in 1930 and the foundation stone of which was laid by Kurji Jetha, (grandfather of Dr. Jafferali Asaria). Prior to the building of this Imambara, Kampala Jamaat used to have an Imambara made of corrugated Iron sheets – a common feature in those days when many dwellings were made of corrugated Iron Sheets.

Above Left: Well designed Kampala Mosque, situated at an elevation, overlooking open ground and the new Imambara on the side. Foundation Stone for the construction of the Mosque was laid in 1959 by Mirza Ahmed Hassan Kazmaini. Upon completion in 1960, it was formally opened by Maulana Seyed Tahzibul Hassan Saheb.
Above Right:  Inside view of the Mosque during maghribayn prayers. Although almost the entire KSI community left Uganda in 1972, the Mosque continues to be used by local Shia, migrant Shia who settled in Uganda and several Khoja families remaining in Kampala and those who have since returned to Uganda.

Above: Looking down from the Mosque is this new spacious Imambara, which is the fourth Imambara built in Kampala. The first one made of corrugated Iron Sheets was opened in 1920. This Imambara was formally opened by Haji Ebrahim Hussein Sheriff, President of Africa Federation, on February 21, 1959.

Gujarati caption reads: “Picture shows participants attending a Majlis organised by the Volunteer Corp to mark opening of “Sabile Hussein” on 9th Muharram, 1361 A.H. (Monday, 26 January, 1942).         


Identified in the photograph are: Marhum Mulla Mohamed Jaffer Sheriff Dewji (on Mimber), Marhum Haji Esmail and Marhum Mulla Jaffer Pardhan (both standing on each side holding Alam Mubarak).

Among those seated are, Marhum Haji Mehrali, Marhum Alarakhiabhai Kassam, Marhum Karabhai Walli, Marhum Rajabalibhai Salemohamed, Marhum Gulamhussein Remtulla, Marhum Shariffbhai Mawji, Marhum Bachubhai, Marhum Alibhai Kaba, Marhum Jamalbhai Walji, Marhum Abdulrasulbhai, Marhum Moh’dalibhai Haji Mehrali, Marhum Nazeralibhai Jamal Ramji, Marhum Ahmedbhai Mulla Najafi, Marhum Husseinbhai Jetha Damji, Marhum Gulamhusseinbhai Dataredina, Marhum Mohamedbhai (Bagamoyo), Marhum Rajabalibhai Rashid, Marhum Mohamedali Ahmad Kassam, Marhum Gulam (Babubhai) Manji Walji, Marhum Husseinbhai Mulla Najafi (Late father of current AFED Chairman, Shabir bhai Najafi), Haji Ebrahimbhai Ladha Kassam (current AFED Trustee from Uganda), Haji Amirbhai Ahmad Kassam, Haji Mohamed Taqi Jeraj.

(Scanned copy of the photograph from a Gujarati magazine provided by courtesy of Mohamed Taqi Jeraj, Toronto. Names of individuals in the picture identified by Mohamed Taqi Jeraj, Toronto, with assistance from Ebrahim Ladha Kassam (Kampala) and Hussein Habib Kara (Toronto)


We pray to Allah (SWT) by His grace and mercy to grant Marhum Haji Mohamedjaffer Sheriff Dewji high status amongst His chosen ones, and shower His blessings and maghferat upon him and all the past leaders, volunteers and elders of our community of Uganda Jamaats who have served the community at different times in one way or the other, and all Marhumeen. Please recite Sura-e-Fateha for their maghferat.  

8th September 2017 (17th Zilhajj 1438 AH)

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