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


Part one of four parts 

Author’s Note:
A chance meeting outside Fort Jesus, Mombasa, with Cynthia Salvadori, author of the remarkable three volumes We Came in Dhows, was what first inspired me to record stories and anecdotes about Ithna-Asheri pioneers at the turn of the century. Cynthia was fortunate enough to interview late Hussein Abdalla Jaffer and late Gulamali G.A. Datoo; scions of two pioneer Ithna-Asheri families of Mombasa. I decided to carry on where she left off and began to interview as many old members of the community as I could. Of course I never intended to nor indeed was it possible to record every story. The few I did are published here along with historical notes, photographs and newspaper clippings.

Ramadan 1429/September 2008

 Mombasa, Kenya

Lamu- In about 1870, Dewji Jamal, a rich Ithna-Asheri merchant of Bombay and Zanzibar established a branch of his company Dewji Jamal & Co in Lamu which was then the chief port of Kenya. Besides this solitary venture there is no record of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheris on the island until 1880. The period 1880-1890 witnessed a large number of Ithna-asheri arrivals in Lamu. Most of the new arrivals came from Kutch or Kathiawad but some also came from older Khoja settlements along the East African coast like Bagamoyo, Zanzibar and Kilwa.
When they arrived most were already “Ithna-Asheri” and it is likely that only a very small number of Khojas actually seceded in Lamu. Late Hussein Abdalla Jaffer, a great-grandson of Dewji Jamal remembers that while his grandfather Jaffer Dewji was in Lamu he often used to help Ismaili Khojas and invite them for religious majlises (discourses). After sometime a number of them left the Jamatkhana and joined the Ithna-Asheris. (From an interview with Hassan Ali M. Jaffer.)




Jamaat Group Photograph in first mosque built in Tulear - Year 1920

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Mohammadali bhai was born in Ujiji-Kigoma in the year 1915. After his primary education he went to Zanzibar for his secondary education. In Zanzibar he stayed with his uncle Jaffer Ladak Mullani, he also learnt Quran and Dinyat from Maaalim Raza Rashid Nathani. Zanzibar was well known for its high standard in religious and secular education.

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Anjuman - e- Khuddamul Qur’an – 1937
(Great Emphasis in Reciting and Understanding the Holy Qur’an)

In the year 1937 the Anjuman-e-Khuddamul Qur’an was started in Mumbai, India with the aim of teaching Quran in proper recitation and with the translation. Selected Aya’ts from the Holy Qur’an were being translated in three languages English, Urdu and Gujarati.  A special department was created to translate the Holy Qur’an according to guidance and hadith of Ayma-e-Tahereen (A.S.). Every Friday the translation bulletins were being circulated in all the mosques. The title of the bulletin was “Back to Qur’an”. The bulletin became so popular that they had to increase the number. The distribution was solely being handled by Habib Esmail Benevolent Trust. The distribution department was being handled by Haji Dawoodbhai Habib, Haji Mohmmedali Habib, Haji Rajabali P. Ebrahim, Haji Dawood Haji Nasser, Haji A.U. Botawalla and Haji Abdul Hussein Thariyani.

Trustees of Benevolent Trust were Haji Ahmed Habib, Haji Dawood Habib, Haji Mohmmedali Habib, Haji Gulamali Habib and Abdulhussein Thariyani.

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It is believed that our community started settling in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (formerly Tanganyika) around 1875 when there were two Indian families at Mji Mwema, outside Dar es Salaam.  In 1900, an Imambara was constructed from corrugated iron sheets at the plot which is currently occupied by Pirbhai Jiwa Bharwani building on Mosque Street. Majalis were held at this place but due to inconveniences and upon advice from the German authorities, it was transferred behind Telephone House (Kaluta Street).
The German Governor knew that our community was facing problems and that it needed a place of worship. Once in 1904, when he was passing by our current masjid plot (Makunganya Street, presently Indira Gandhi Street), he found Marhum Sachoo Peera and Suleman bin Nasser Lemky standing on the plot. The Governor asked Marhum Sachoo Peera whether he needed the plot on which he was standing. Marhum replied positively and was asked to visit him in Government House the next day when the plot was given to him which he donated to Dar es Salaam Jamaat.

The foundation stone for the mosque was laid in 1904 by Marhum Sachoo Peera.  He started construction of the mosque under his personal supervision. However, in 1907, he passed away and his sons, Noormohamed and Abdulrasul continued supervising the construction work. During those days, the practice was to hold the roof with wooden poles called Boriti in Kiswahili. However, Noormohamed Sachoo imported steel structure to use for the mosque. Due to their intense efforts, the mosque was ready in 1908 and the opening ceremony was conducted by the cousin of the Aga Khan, Shah Kuchak.  At that time there were 9 families in Dar es Salaam. They were: Haji Sachoo Peera, Haji Nasser Mawji, Haji Nasser Rattansi, Haji Molu Kanji, Nasser Bhalloo, Merali Muraj, Pirbhai Rattansi, Dhalla Nanji and Alibhai Walli. The earliest community workers were a trio - Sachoo Peera, Versi Advani and Nasser Mawji.
The population of our community in Dar es Salaam was very small compared to Zanzibar which at the time had the largest population of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheries in Africa.

The Imambara was renovated in 1944, commemorating the 1300th anniversary of the Tragedy of Karbala which fell in 1942 (1361 AH).


The First Africa Federation Sports Festival was held in Dar-es-Salaam from 22nd to 26th December 1984 introduced during the tenure of Alhaj Mohamed bhai Dhirani’s Chairmanship of the Africa Federation. Alhaj Gulamabbas Janmohamed was then the President of Dar-es-Salaam Jamaat. This inaugural AFED Sports Festival truly made a Dream Debut leaving cherished memories with all the participants, officials and organizers.
The Festival was organized under the auspices of Ithna-Asheri Union headed by Alhaj Hussein H. Peera and Union Sports Club Chairman was the late Alhaj Ibrahim A. Jivraj. The present Vice Chairman of Africa Federation, Alhaj Aunali Khalfan was a member of the Organizing Committee of this first AFED Sports Festival.

The holding of “All Africa Sports Festival is a milestone in this respect as it will gather sportsmen from all over Africa at one place.  It will not only arouse greater interest in sports but will lead to strengthening the bonds between youths of different Jamaats.

(Extract of the Message of AFED Chairman Mohamed Dhirani – Sports Festival Souvenir Booklet) 


Among the early Pioneers who shall be remembered for the Vision, Foresight and Developments.

Haji Merali Mawji was born in Khandna, India in 1888. At the age of 12 he left his parents to vie for better prospects by sailing to Kilwa where he worked at Esmail Bhalloo. In 1906, he went to India to get married and on his return went to Njinjo, a village near Kilwa where he opened a small shop. In 1909 he moved to Kilwa.

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Marhum Jaffer Allarakhia Rahim will be remembered for his notable services to the Supreme Council since its inception. He also served as President of Kuwwat Jamaat of Zanzibar and as President of Education Board of the Federation.
Jafferbhai was one of the elderly descendant of Ablani, one of the first Khoja converts. The Rahim family has a lot of contribution to its record in the field of social, religious and educational services to the community.

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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.

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The Legendary and Brilliant Star of the Community – Alhaj Mulla Hussein Allarakhia Rahim of Zanzibar

Alhaj Mulla Hussein Allarakhia Rahim was born in Zanzibar in 1900. He was a famous and well-known personality in Zanzibar Island.  He was President of the Kuwwat ul Islam Jamaat (Juni Misit) of Zanzibar for many years. He served many other institutions in Zanzibar including as President of the
Faize Ithna-Asheri which provided various services to the community. After the Second World War he introduced the Ithna-Asheri Volunteer Corps with Alhaj Ebrahim Hussein Sheriff as its Chairman, Ali Ebrahim Jivraj as Secretary and Abbas Tejani as Treasurer.

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Ithna-Asheri Students’ Union of East Africa
at Aligarh Muslim University, India - 1965 to 1974

After the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964, about 7 students from Zanzibar with the support of their parents journeyed to India to pursue higher education at the Aligarh Muslim University in Aligarh, in Uttar Pradesh, India. This was most profound idea. Later on, they were joined by several other students from Lindi, Mombasa, Moshi, Mwanza, Kampala and Zanzibar numbering to about 20 who were encouraged by their counterparts who took key initiatives earlier. Few among them received financial support from Supreme Council. At the time the AFED Secretariat was based in Mombasa, Kenya.
Amongst the students who later pursued medical profession degrees at different Medical Institutions were Dr. Asgharali Moledina from Mombasa, who is also the immediate past President of the World Federation, Dr. Hassan Amirali, Dr. Shabbir Karim and Dr. Rafia Yusuf Juma, all from Zanzibar.

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