Film review by Hassanbhai Jaffer
The worldwide KSIMC numbering less than 150,000 are today scattered in about 40 countries as nationals of over 20 states. When, where, why and how a new breed of Indian tribe known Khoja emerged is often unknown to many members of the Khoja community.
This documentary directed by Dr Hasnain Walji revealed to the surprise of many that 600 years ago our ancestors were Hindu who were converted by Muslim Sufi Missionaries and given a fresh tribal identity as ‘Khwaja.” This mouthful of foreign sounding name was later converted to a simpler Indianised name of “Khoja.”
From Hindu converts to followers of Satpanthi belief which believed in reincarnation, to Ismaili, Sunni, Shia Ithna-Asheri and on to a blend of all factions with heavy sprinkling of ancestral Hindu traditions continued for almost four centuries. It was only during the second half of the nineteenth century, that further divisions emerged among the once united Khoja community to emerge as three distinct communities to be known as Satpanthi and Ismaili, Sunni. As a follow up to the pilgrimage to Karbala the distinct Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community as it is known today emerged in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
All these developments and the related trials and tribulations, effects of socio economic boycotts and even cases assassinations in Karachi and Mumbai are graphically illustrated in this well produced film as viewers are transported through the time line dating back to 650 years.
To jet set people of this age, the sight of bullock carts in which their elders used to travel while in India, the type of sailing crafts and the hardships of sailors and passengers as they sailed out from western shores of India to settle in East Africa and Madagascar is a reality check of their origins.
The month long journey by sea, firsthand account of early sailors recalling that for the month long sea journey, supply of fresh water would often be restricted to one cup a day come a shock to viewers.
Building of the first Mosque and establishment of Jamaat in Zanzibar in 1880, followed by Lamu, Karachi, Bagamoyo, Mumbai and Nagalpur and in Madgascar are shown. Contributions of individuals in national and in international scene are recounted with examples of Jinnah as the founding father of Pakistan of Haji Gulamali Haji Esmail of Rahe Najaat fame and many Mulla and Zakirs are recalled.
The film also depicts tragic scene related to post partition migration in 1947 from India to Pakistan, growth of Karachi Jamaat from 3,000 at the time of partition to 40,000 todays, the consequence of the Zanzibar revolution in 1964, Uganda Exodus in 1972, Somali revolution and seaborne evacuation in 1991 and resettlement of the community members from Africa and the Indian sub-continent in Europe and North America come to life with vivid pictures and touching commentary.
The concluding part highlights the often ignored role of women in our society and their contributions in the development of respective families as they migrated to settle in Africa and later on to the West.
A labour of love that Hasnain spent ten months travelling round the world, interviewing and then converting the nearly 100 hour footage into two hour condensed account.
The trailer for the documentary can be viewed below:
For more information, please visit http://www.khojajourneyoffaith.org/