By Khizar Hayat
The Shamsi Ismailis in Punjab, who were converted by Hazrat Pir Shams Sabzwa’ri, mostly practiced the Ismaili faith in solitude in the garb of the Hindus, and became known as the Gupti (secretive). These Gupti Ismailis mostly resided in different cities, towns and villages in Punjab and Frontier. 
In 1910 a young man in twenties went to see the 48th Ismaili Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III (1877 – 1957), at the Aga Khan Palace, Poona (see author’s update note below – editor). Fortunately, he got the opportunity to have a personal audience with the Imam of the time. When asked for the purpose of his visit, he said (in Urdu) “Ya Mawla, I am a Shamsi Ismaili from Multan and wish that Mawlana Hazar Imam give me a Muslim name.” Mawlana Sultan Mohammed Shah looked at him and asked “Tumhara kya naam hai” (What is your name). “Wazir Chand,” he replied.
Mawla laughed aloud and said “tum bahut hoshyar aur imandar ho” (you are very intelligent and faithful). Putting his finger in the center of Wazir Chand’s chest the Imam said, “Tumhara naam Muhammad Ismail” (Your name is Muhammad Ismail). Muhammad Ismail (formally Wazir Chand) thus became the first convert Ismaili in the history of Gupti Ismailis of Punjab and Frontier, who was given a Muslim name by the Imam of the time. 
After this event, in January 1912, the Imam summoned eight prominent leaders of Shamsis from Punjab and Frontier at the Poona Palace, and gave them Muslim names. In the years 1912, 1914 and 1916, in accordance with the instructions of the Imam of the time, Pir Sabzali and missionary Muhammad Husayni Asani went to Punjab and Frontier and changed the name of the Shamsis (the Gupti Ismaili Jamat), who pledged to practice the Ismaili faith openly. 
Once again, after forty years, in 1950, that young man had an opportunity to meet Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah at Governor House, in Karachi. The Imam immediately recognised him and said “Tum Muhammad Ismail ho?” (Are you Muhammad Ismail?) He replied, “Baly Khudawand” (yes Khudawand). He then had a long meeting with Imam before leaving the next day for Multan.
While crossing the road near Multan Railway Station, Ismail was struck by a heavy truck and was taken to Nishtar Hospital, Multan, in a critical condition. The doctors gave 24 hours for his life. When he became conscious, he said to his son, “Don’t worry I will be alright, I will live another twenty years,” and he made it. Miraculously, he recovered quickly and lived a normal life. Muhammad Ismail was awarded with the title of “Rai Sahib” by Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, and was known as Baba Ismail all over Punjab. He devoted his whole life in the love of Imam-e-Zaman. Almost twenty years later he left this world taking his last breath inside the Pak Darwazah Jamatkhana in Multan, on September 19, 1969 at 4.00 A.M.
I had met him in early 1969 for the last time when he visited our home in Nazimabad, Karachi. He astonished me with his great memory of the past and an amazing knowledge of the Mathnavi of Rumi. Baba Ismail was the youngest amongst the five brothers and two sisters – one of them was my grandfather, Karim Bukhsh, and one of his sisters was Lady Mariam, the beloved mother of the late Rai A.M. Sadruddin, who edited Nairobi’s Africa Ismaili. During his visit to our home he told us how he could still feel the touch of Imam’s finger in the middle of his chest, even though the incident had taken place some sixty years earlier. This has remained for me an unforgettable moment from the life of a simple devout man.
Date posted: Saturday, August 4, 2012.
Date updated: Friday, June 21, 2013 (The article now reflects the change mentioned in the following note from Mr. Hayat).
During my recent visit to Pakistan [January 2013] I came across some important written material documented by my late beloved father, Shamsuddin son of Karim Bukhsh regarding Baba Ismail. I feel it necessary to point with respect to the above piece which was originally published on August 2012.
The material belongs to two different diaries which were written in Urdu language by his hand. None of them has any citation of date and place. However, the writing shows that the diaries were written in two different time periods. The first one is on the letter head of the Eskay industries and is comprised of 9 pages, whereas the second one is a Note Book, which is comprised of 46 pages. It seems that the former was written in 1970s and the later was penned during 1980s.
The material in the diaries confirms that the Wazir Chand (Baba Ismail) had an audience with Mawlana Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah. However, it reports that the audience was held at Aga Khan Palace, Poona, and not at Walkeshwar, Bombay, as mentioned in my original version of August 4, 2012. Thus it was at Poona, when in the presence of Haji Kamadia, Wazir Chand was given the name Muhammad Ismail. Since the sources of the material come from Wazir Chand’s nephew and his adopted son I would consider this information as a correction to my original reference to Walkeshwar.
June 21, 2013.
Copyright: Khizar Hayat/Simerg. August 2012.
 N.W.F.P (North West Province Frontier), now known as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
 Muhammad Ismail is the youngest brother of my paternal grandfather, who related this instance quite a few times.
 Shamsis: The Gupti Ismailis of Punjab and Frontier by Alwaez Khizar Hayat.
About the writer: Khizar Hayat has been an Honorary Alwaez (missionary) since 1962, and served Ismaili institutions in Pakistan and Canada in numerous capacities. In Pakistan, he served as a member of the Executive Board for Ismailia Association (now known as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board or ITREB) from 1973 until 1976. During this period he obtained his Masters Degree in History from Karachi University, and then relocated to Canada in 1976 where he has lived ever since. He served in Canada as an active member with the Ismailia Association (now ITREB Canada) from 1979 to 1997, during which time he also arranged exhibitions on the life of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah in numerous Canadian and American cities. In 1992, he founded and edited a fine Islamic magazine, Qalam, which ceased publication in 1994 due to lack of financial resources. Currently, in his retirement, Alwaez Hayat is dedicating his time to the study of the life of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah from his home in Brampton, Ontario.
A Unique Moment in the Life of the Punjab Jamat by A.M. Rajput
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