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Updated on 28 November 2018
Eighteen years have passed since the passing away of Marhum Mulla Asgharali M. M. Jaffer.
Marhum Mulla Asghar, was renowned in the Muslim world for his learning, piety and the charitable work he conducted throughout his lifetime.
When Uganda's Asian community was expelled by Idi Amin in 1972, 5000 Khoja Shia Muslims were among the arrivals in England. It was the beginning of the presence of the Khojas in the West. In 1976, Marhum Mulla Asghar was the driving force in setting up The World Federation of Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Muslim communities in Stanmore, London.
As the first President of The World Federation, Marhum Mulla Asghar harnessed the community's entrepreneurial spirit working particulay on charitable, medical, housing projects, and the flagship educational scheme known as Zainabiya Child Sponsorship Scheme (ZCSS) which provided education for 25,000 students throughout India, Pakistan, Kenya, and Tanzania since its inception.
A personal reflection by: Dr Hasnain Walji, Chair – Khoja Heritage Project of the World Federation
AME SHU NE AMARI VAAT SHU TYAREJ SAMJASHE
UTHI CHALYA JAASHU TAMARI ANJUMAN MA THI
What we were and what we said will then be understood
When no longer, we will grace your sittings and assemblies.
Today, Mar 21, 18 years on and the priceless words of wisdom by Mulla Asghar still rings fresh in my mind. As the days go by, and as the community evolves from milestone to milestone, one cannot help but remember Mulla Asgher’s reminder to understand the need of the times: “Time has come” he said, “that we recognize our goal. What do we need? We need a society where every act of good-will is propelled and driven by the sincere intention to please Allah and none else.”
He also harkened on excellence in the Community, he stated that “…… we rise above the mean and the mediocre to that which is high and sublime.”
To achieve this, he boldly preached in the mid-seventies that “Unless the youth of this community are prepared and have girdled their loins to serve the community to the best of their abilities, this community left in the hands of the hardcore traditionalists will not be able to take any strides ahead.”
Mulla Asghar always held steadfastly to his principles, which, on occasion, led to decisions which seemed out of step with the prevailing trends at the time. That meant he pleased many and displeased some, or sometimes pleased a few and displeased many. But then who said Mulla Asghar was a fair-weather leader who backed down because of public opinion? Though he always stood for the unity of the community, he maintained that could not be done at expense of “compromising on the fundamentals….” He often said, “Weak partners will never make a strong team.”
Countless minds have been set in their thinking, as well as many lives changed by him. His impact on our society remains nothing short of phenomenal and understood correctly, until today his words continue to shift paradigms.
I pray his timeless words continue to guide the generations to come.
A personal reflection by Shaykh Kumail Rajani Deputy Chair – Khoja Heritage Project of the World Federation
Gujrat, India, early 90's, the Jamat notice board read that Mulla Asghar is expected to address the community on Sunday. Mahuva Community members would enthusiastically gather, in numbers, to listen to the person who would be talk of the town before he arrived. I could only learn about other community brothers and sisters residing in East Africa and West through his frequent visits. Remember, social media was an unknown entity then and electronic mail had not reached in those remote areas of Gujarat.
As a teenager, I still remember Mulla Asghar’s eloquent sermons. His discourses usually touched social and domestic issues, but the central theme was ‘unnati’ (progress) of the community.
Mulla Saheb, as we fondly used to call him, fervently believed in the upliftment of the entire Khoja Community. He also made sure that he visited the under privileged families and would listen to them with all affection and tenderness.
I then realised that being able to a reach at the helm of leadership does not necessarily make you sensitive to the sufferings of your own community members until you break bread with them and lend your ears to their stories. A rare quality which indeed Mulla possessed.
A two-part series by Shan E Abbas Hassam on The World Federation Office Bearer trip to Iraq in July 2017.