About KSIJDAR

Our Faith

Islam is one of the major world religions. Every fifth person on the face of this earth is a Muslim. Muslims are found in the Middle East, in north, west and east Africa, in Asia and Eastern Europe. In modern times, Muslims are found in large numbers in Western Europe, the Americas and Australia through immigration as well as conversion. Recent statistics show that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the USA. With the vast world turning into a “global village,” such a wide-spread religion followed by over a billion people indeed deserves a careful study.

DAR Jamaat History and Present

It is believed that our community started settling in Dar es Salaam around 1875.  In 1900, there was an Imambara made of corrugated iron sheets at the plot which is currently occupied by Pirbhai Jiwa Bharwani bldg. Majalis were held at this place but due to inconveniences and upon advice from the German authorities, it was transferred behind Telephone House.

The German governor knew that our community was facing problems and were in need for a place of worship. Once in 1904, when he was passing by our current masjid plot, he found Marhum Sachoo Peera and Suleiman bin Nasser Lemky were 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 Jamaat.

History of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheries

Some 600 years ago a missionary by the name of Pir Sadruddin arrived in Sind in India. There are a number of myths about his origins. The most common consensus among historians is that he was Dai (representative or emissary) of the Nizari branch of the Ismaili sect. Some have suggested that he was a sufi teacher from Iran. There is even a story that he was a Hindu priest by the name Sahdev who had been caught stealing in the temple and hence disgraced and defrocked. He then left the temple, changed his appearance and took on the name of Sadr Din.

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Our Faith

In the name of Allãh, the Kind, Merciful. All Praise is due to Allãh, the Lord of the Universe. May God shower His blessings upon Prophet Muhammad & his progeny.

INTRODUCTION

Islam is one of the major world religions. Every fifth person on the face of this earth is a Muslim. Muslims are found in the Middle East, in north, west and east Africa, in Asia and Eastern Europe. In modern times, Muslims are found in large numbers in Western Europe, the Americas and Australia through immigration as well as conversion. Recent statistics show that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the USA. With the vast world turning into a “global village,” such a wide-spread religion followed by over a billion people indeed deserves a careful study.

WHAT IS ISLAM?

Islam is not just a religion in the conventional sense of the word; it is a way of life—it guides it followers in every aspect of their lives.

The name “Islãm” is an Arab name. (“Islaam” is pronounced with “s” sound and not with “z” as in “Izlaam”.) It comes from the root word “as-silm” which means “peace”. “Islãm” itself means “submission to the will of God”. It means that real peace comes only after a person submits himself to the will of God.

Although Islam started fourteen centuries ago in Arabia, for Muslims it is not a new beginning—Islam, for Muslims, is the culmination of the message of God for human society. Muslims believe that God from day one of human creation sent prophets and messengers to guide the human society. Many prophets were sent to various regions of the world. Muslims are required to have faith in the prophethood of all of them. The most famous of the past prophets were: Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus.

The essential message of all the prophets was the same:

Belief in One God;
Belief in the prophets of God and in their teachings;
Belief in the eternal life in hereafter.

After Prophet Jesus, God sent Muhammad as the Final Prophet and Messenger of God. With his prophethood, the process of guidance reached its peak and perfection.

Prophet Muhammad was born in the city of Mecca in Arabia in the family which traced its lineage to Prophet Abraham through his son Ishmael. At the age of forty, Prophet Muhammad reached the first revelation from God through the Arch-Angel Gabriel.

He called the people of Mecca who were mostly idol-worshippers to the worship of One God, and to a life based on laws of God which would guarantee peace and harmony in inter human relationship. Majority of the people of Mecca refused to accept his message. The small number of his followers did not deter the Prophet from continuing his mission. Muhammad was fully supported in his mission by close family members, in particular his wife, Khadīja, and cousin, ‘Ali.

The leaders of idol-worshippers of Mecca, who did not want any change in the status-quo, started a campaign against Prophet Muhammad and the religion of Islam:

  • First they started propaganda against Prophet Muhammad;

  • Then they started social and economic embargo against Muslims;

  • Finally they planned to assassinate the Prophet himself.

In the meanwhile, the Prophet’s message found a very receptive audience among the people of Medina, a city in northern Arabia. So after thirteen years of hard work in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad migrated to Medina where he lived for the last eleven years of his life.

It was in Medina that the Prophet founded

  • The revelation which Prophet Muhammad received from God during almost twenty three years of his mission was compiled in a book form and is considered by all Muslims as the Holy Scripture of Islam. This revelation is known as “The Qur’ãn”.
  • The Qur’ãn has been preserved by the Muslims in its original form. Muslims have preserved it in writing as well in memory in each generation for the last fourteen centuries. Even those Muslims who are not familiar with the Arabic words learn how to recite the holy Book in Arabic.
  • Islam is a monotheistic religion. It teaches that there is only One God who is the origin and creator of the universe. The concept of belief in One God is known as “Tawhid”. This is the foundation stone of Islam, and is reflected in the famous creed which a Muslim child learns at a very early age. The creed says: lã ilaha il-lal Lãh — there is no god but Allãh.
  • “Allãh” is the Arabic name of God. Since the Qur’ãn is in Arabic, Muslims like to use the Arabic name for God. Even Christians in the Arab world use the name “Allãh” in their prayers.
  • By teaching that there is only One God for all humans, Islam promotes the sense of brotherhood and equality in human society—all are equally related to God in the same way. The Qur’ãn has very beautifully presented the concept of monotheism in a short chapter. It says: Say: He, Allãh, is One. Allãh is Eternal. He neither begets nor is He begotten. And there is no one equal to Him. (The Qur’ãn, chapter # 112)
  • Our life on this earth has a specific purpose; it is not the result of nature’s accident, nor is it a punishment for eating the fruit of the forbidden tree. We are here according to God’s plan: to attain a blissful eternal life in the hereafter. Prophet Muhammad said, “You have not been created to perish; on the contrary, you have been created for eternal life.”
  • However, in order to attain the bliss and grace in the eternal life, we have to go through test and trial in this world. The test is to see how much willingly we do submit ourselves to the commands of God. Everything that we do is a test and trial for us. If we follow God’s commandment, then we succeed; otherwise, we will get the eternal life but without any bliss or grace in it.

PRIME CREATION : Human being is the prime creation of God. He says, “We have indeed honoured the children of Adam; spread them in the land and the sea, provided them with good things; and preferred them in esteem over many things that We have created.” (17:70)

BORN SINLESS : Islam teaches that every human being is born sinless; no child carries the burden of his or her ancestor’s sins. God says, “No carrier shall carry the burden of others.” (35:18) Each human being is born with a pure conscience which can absorb and accept the true message of God. It is only the social and familial influences which take a person away from God’s message.

ACCOUNTABILITY : Islam also emphasizes on the issue of responsibility and accountability of human beings—each person is responsible for his or her own actions. Although Islam teaches that God has predetermined the span of our life and the time of our death, but this does not mean that even our actions are predetermined by Him. We surely are free in our actions and are, therefore, accountable for them. God only provides guidance for us to know what is good and what is bad. He says, “We created man of a water-drop…Surely We guided them to the right way—now whether he (follows it and) be grateful or (goes astray and) be ungrateful is up to him.” (76:3)

RACE : Islam very categorically rejects racial discrimination. It promotes the feeling of brotherhood and equality among its followers. God clearly says, “O Mankind! We have created you from one male and one female, and then We made you into different races and tribes so that you may know (and easily recognize) each other.” Therefore, no one can claim any superiority over others based on racial or tribal differences. A person is to be judged by his character, not by his colour or race. God continues, “Surely the most honourable of you in God’s sight is the person who is most upright in character among you.” (49:13)

GENDER : Even gender does not count as a criterion of superiority. In Islam, women are as human as men. They are not evaluated on basis of their gender, but on basis of their faith and character. Fourteen hundred years ago, the Qur’ãn recorded God’s clear statements on this issue. Out of four verses, I will just quote one: “Whoever, be it a male or a female, does good deeds and he or she is a believer, then they will enter the Paradise.” (4:124) So there is no difference in the degree or level of woman’s humanity or honour in Islam.

The only difference there exists is concerning the role which Islam has envisioned for man and woman. This has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority. In Islam, man and woman are equal in rights; but equality is not synonymous to similarity.

Islam believes that man and woman are equal but dissimilar. Islam looks at their different roles in society not as superior or inferior but as complementary to each other.

  • As reflected in its name, Islam is a religion of peace. Muslims are taught to greet each other by saying “salãmun ‘alaykum — peace be upon you”. The daily prayers also end with the same sentence. In Islam, one of the names by which God is known is “As-Salãm” which means peace.
  • However, one must realize that peace, on a social level, is inter-twined with justice. Peace can only exists if justice is maintained in society.
  • Unfortunately, because of the Middle Eastern events of last fifty years, Islam has been branded by the western media as a religion of violence. In recent years, the word “Islamic” has become one of the adjectives of “terrorism”.
  • In this backdrop, firstly, one must realize that the events of the Middle East can be fairly and fully understood only in the light of the post-World War One history of that region, in particular the unfulfilled promises given by the British to the Arabs in order to incite them to rebel against their own Muslim rulers.
  • Secondly, no fair-minded person would allow himself to blame the religion of Islam for the wrong-doings of those who call themselves as Muslims. It is just like saying that the Catholic Church promotes violence and terrorism because of the Irish Republican Army’s activities!
  • * * * These were the teachings of Islam, the religion sent by God to Prophet Muhammad. It has been preserved in its originality by the leaders who came from the family of the Prophet. On this note, I would like to end with one of the last important messages of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) where he says: “I am leaving behind two important things among you: one is the Book of Allãh (the Qur’ãn) and the other is my family, the Ahlul Bayt. As long as you hold on fast to both of them, you will not go astray.”* * *

1967 Jamaat Report

It is believed that our community started settling in Dar es Salaam around 1875.  In 1900, there was an Imambara made of corrugated iron sheets at the plot which is currently occupied by Pirbhai Jiwa Bharwani bldg. Majalis were held at this place but due to inconveniences and upon advice from the German authorities, it was transferred behind Telephone House.

The German governor knew that our community was facing problems and were in need for a place of worship. Once in 1904, when he was passing by our current masjid plot, he found Marhum Sachoo Peera and Suleiman bin Nasser Lemky were 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 Jamaat.

Marhum Sachoo Peera laid the foundation stone in 1904.  He started construction along with Versi Advani and Nasser Mawji of the mosque under their personal supervision. However in 1906, he passed away and his sons, Noormohamed and Abdulrasul continued supervising the construction work. Due to their intense efforts, the mosque was ready in 1908 and the brother of the Aga Khan, Shah Kuchak, conducted the opening ceremony.  At that time there were 9 families.

Despite having 9 families, they had constructed a colossal mosque, which we used until 1968 when a new mosque was built in its place. During those days, the practice was to hold the roof with wooden poles called Boriti. However Noormohamed Sachoo imported steel to use for the mosque.

Due to increasing population, the Jamaat decided to construct a new mosque and Imambara in 1968. Marhum Mohamedali Janmohamed was instrumental in encouraging collecting contribution from members for the two projects.  The new mosque was four times larger than the old mosque.

The collection of funds for the mosque started with donation of Shs 5,000/- by Marhum Mohamedali Meghji, President of Africa Federation.  Marhum Mulla Asgharali M M Jaffer made an appeal from the pulpit for contributions for the project and Marhum Mohamedali Janmohamed together with Jamaat officials started visiting shops to collect the funds.  Marhum Mohamedbaker Somji provided a lot of assistance.

The approved tender for the construction was Shs. 375,000/-.  Marhum Noormohamed Jessa laid the foundation stone on 24 Zilhaj 1387. Maulana Aqa Haider of Zanzibar blessed the opening with duas.

Today, Dar-es-salaam Jamaat boasts a population of 8,500 members with a state of the art school system, a full-fledged hospital, a classy Musafir Khana, a fully functional gym and several projects under construction. Dar-es-salaam Jamaat is getting ready to hand over 2 apartment complexes, a parkade and a recreational center with an Olympic sized swimming pool.

Progress is in the air!

The Beginning

Some 600 years ago a missionary by the name of Pir Sadruddin arrived in Sind in India. There are a number of myths about his origins. The most common consensus among historians is that he was Dai (representative or emissary) of the Nizari branch of the Ismaili sect. Some have suggested that he was a sufi teacher from Iran. There is even a story that he was a Hindu priest by the name Sahdev who had been caught stealing in the temple and hence disgraced and defrocked. He then left the temple, changed his appearance and took on the name of Sadr Din.

Pir Sadar din lived for some time amongst the rich Hindu landowners called Thakkers. He studied their way of life and of worship. The Thakkers believed that the god Vishnu had lived through nine incarnations on this earth. They were waiting for the tenth. Pir Sadruddin managed to convince them that Hazrat Ali (AS.) was the Dasmo Awtaar of Vishnu (The Tenth Incarnation). He converted quite a number of the Thakkers into a faith called Satpanth (True Path) – a peculiar admixture of Sufic/Hindu ideas. (The main book called Das Awtar was considered a primary text for the followers of the Aga Khan until very recently.)

Some historians maintain that he converted the Thakkers to Nizari Ismailis. Whatever may be the case, these converts could no longer be called Thakkers in the Hindu community and Pir Sadruddin gave them the title of Khwaja. The word Khoja is a phonetic corruption of the word Khwaja.

Over a period of time, several pirs came after Sadrudin and gradually, the beliefs crystallised to those of the Ismaili Nizari faith; particularly after the arrival of the Aga Khan 1 from Iran to India in the first half of the 19th Century. By this time the Khojas had spread all over over Kutch and Gujarat. Some had also moved to Bombay and Muscat. They paid their dues to the Ismaili Jamaat Khaana and lived quite harmoniously within their society. The main place of worship was the Jamaat Khaana and the (Jamaat) community was organised round the Jamaat Khaana – which served as a religious as well as a social centre.

With the arrival of the Aga Khan 1 in India, greater control was exercised by the Aga Khan in the affairs of the community. This led to certain groups dissenting and being ousted from the Jamaat Khaana. The most celebrated one was the case of the Bar Bhaya where an influential family by the name of Habib Ibrahim refused to accept the dictate (firman) by the Aga Khan that all the property that belonged to the Jamaat would now vest in the Aga Khan. Eventually this group was out-casted and influenced by the Sunni Aalims they became Sunnites.

This was followed by several court cases and much commotion in the community, In the early 1800s some Khojas went for Ziyarat and while in Najaf they met the Mujtahid of the time, Sheikh Zainul Aabedeen Mazandarani. During their discussions they realised that there was a need for a teacher to come to India to teach the community Islam. Soon after, at the behest of Sheikh Mazandarani, Mulla Kader Hussein arrived in India and some Khoja families left the Ismaili sect and learnt from Mulla Kader the principles of Shia Ithnaasheri faith.

From these few families the community has now grown to well over 100,000 Khoja Shia Ithnaasheries. The overall number is still very small when considering that there are an estimated 60 – 90 million Shia Ithnaasheries in the world today. The Ismaili Khojas number over 270 thousand and there are still a handful of Sunni Khojas.

Migration to Africa

It is a well known fact that for hundreds of years Indians sailed down the East African coast in their sailships during the North Eastern Monsoons. There were young Khojas amongst these early sailors and some of them stayed behind in East Africa and exploited opportunities in commerce and trade.

While the new land offered limitless opportunities to the Khojas, the new environment and prevailing influences called for an orientation. The majority of them converted from Ismaili after arriving in East Africa and were novices in a complete sense of the term:-

Jamaats

Against all odds, the Khojas settled all over Eastern Africa and with help from each other they prospered. And wherever they settled they soon formed themselves into a Khoja Shia Ithnaasheri Community, commonly known as the Jamaat, guarded by a sense of territorial jealousy.

They advised each other and invited their families, friends and fellow men from India to join them and share in their venture.

Retention of Identity

Under the subsequent German rule in Tanganyika, British rule in other parts of East Africa, French rule in Madagascar, Italian rule in Somalia, Belgian rule in the Congo and Portuguese rule in Mozambique, these early settlers were subjected to a variety of influences and experience.

The thrust of these influences was great, engendering a fear in the minds of the Khoja of losing their identity. It served to drive them farther inwards into the precincts of their society, instead of mobilizing any worthwhile change. Hence the persistent perseverence by the Khojas to remain within a well-knit framework of the Jamaat, allowing no intrusion.

Religious Centres

Members of the Jamaat engaged in religious activities, first with modesty appropriate to their means; but as their fortunes grew, they became vigorously activated, building Mosques, Imambaras, Madressas and Schools.

Beyond Africa

In the same manner, that the young Khojas had braved the monsoons in search for better pastures, the Khoja Community has now spread all over the world. An International Directory published some two years ago has entries from most North America, Australia, New Zealand in addition to Western Europe and not forgetting Norway near the north pole. The directory also contains some entries from South America and Eastern Europe.

The African experience has been replicated in almost all the places that they have settled in so far as organising Jamaats and religious centres. The efficient system of managing the affairs of the community remains virtually unchanged.

However, now the community faces a new challenge, particularly in the West. The new generation, born and bred in the West is questioning the modus operandi and the insularity of the community whilst the old guard insists upon retaining what has worked well for the community for almost a century. What is clear is that both groups need to focus on the best way of ensuring that the future generations can retain the values and teachings as taught by the Ahlul Bait (AS). For that is and can be the only objective.

Replicated from “The World Federation of KSIMC” website.