The Remarkable and True Story of Mukhi Megji Mulji (1861 – 1933): An Example of Faith, Piety and Service to the Imam of the Time

THE REWARD OF THE TWO MANGOES

A Story from Pyara Imam Ni Pyari Wato

By Sairab Abuturabi and Jaferali Bhalwani
(English translation by Sakar H. Datoo)

Outside Walkeshwar in the Blazing Sun

Walkeshvar is situated on the top of Malabar Hill in Bombay (now Mumbai) the shores of which are caressed by the waters of the Arabian Sea. Once, in that place, in a small but beautiful bungalow, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, the beloved 48th Imam of the Ismailis, had established a sojourn. In the warm heart of that bungalow are cherished quite a few vivid memories o{ the personage of Noor Mawlana Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah. As and when the Imam graced the place with his presence, it used to become a rare centre of devotion for the Ismailis of India and abroad.

This story goes back to years past. When our beloved 48th Imam was embarking  upon the threshold of youth, the beautiful edifice ol Walkeshvar had been newly erected.

One afternoon at that time a poor Ismaili couple, looking somewhat subdued was seen  standing in front of the bungalow. Both were clad in simple clothes. The man held a handkerchief in which were tied two big mangoes. Holding  their hands against their eyes to keep sway the burning sun from their faces, they were gazing intently toward the bungalow.

The Guard’s Attitude

At the entrance of the bungalow stood a man – a guard – who frequently kept looking at the couple. After some time, the man approached the poor couple and with his finger, in rather a spiteful and scornful manner, summoned the man to him: “Whom do you want and what do you want?”

Haven’t we heard of such stories before? The Imam is a goldmine of love and faith to the believers but the access to this goldmine is barred to those who try to approach it. Indeed, only those who love the Imam completely and sincerely are able to overcome such obstacles that are put in the way. The bearer of mangoes was neither daunted nor intimidated. He answered calmly, “We would like to see ‘Saheb’. These mangoes…”

Before he could completely the sentence, the guard growled, “You want to see Saheb? Go away and go home.'” Snatching the handkerchief from the man’s hand, he removed the mangoes and raised them up to his upturned nostrils and howled,  “You have brought such sour and green mangoes, and you say that you want to s€ee Saheb? Go away. Get out of here€.”

“We are only standing outside here, and we have not stepped inside at all,” the poor man replied meekly.

The fellow loudly slammed the gate and the man and his wife, crossing the road, went and stood in front of the bungalow. Both looked saddened and disappointed. Mumbling something softly, they kept looking at the bungalow. On their fluttering lips were the words “Ya Ali”, the beautiful name of the Imam of the Age, from which one derives courage and patience to bear the slings of hunger, thirst, cold or heat, pain and insults. Repeating “Ya Ali, Ya Ali”, the couple stood in a patient wait. More than an hour passed, but the couple did not think of leaving. They did not give up waiting.

The Imam’s Response

Inside the bungalow, Mawla was already seated at the table to partake of his repast. The various courses on the menu had been served. The guard having discarded the poor couple from the doors of the Imam’s sojourn was also there, running to and fro with folded hands, feigning, “Yes, Sarkar y€es, Sarkar.”

Somehow on this day, the Imam’s face looked grave. A trace of pain was evident on the divine countenance. What happiness would you expect from a man whom you garland with flowers after having slapped his son: If one cannot deceive an ordinary man, how can one expect to do so with the all-knowing Imam?

How can one please the Imam? Only by pleasing his spiritual children by loving and serving them, without blowing one’s own trumpets. Only then can one expect to make the Imam happy.

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah cast one glance at the table and asked, “Where are the mangoes?” “Saheb… Sarkar..Mawla..” The man was puzzled and was obviously at loss for words, “The mangoes, they were not available.” He did not admit that he had forgotten to get them; rather, he uttered a lie, “The mangoes were not available.”

It matters not that the man lied, for the Imam himself is well-aware of everything. The spiritual as well as worldly matters are always known to him. This is why Pir Sadardin has said, Parade betha, Shah sabku pichane (Concealed, behind a veil, Shah knows all.) The abode of the Imam is the monument of light, not darkness. His home is a pillar of patience and he acts not with haste or indiscretion.

The Imam Summons the Couple

Mawla asked, “In Bombay mangoes are available all year round, and you did not get them? All right, but now look, in front of the bungalow, there are two Ismailis, a man and a woman, who are my spiritual children. They are as dear to me as you are, perhaps dearer. They have mangoes.”

The man stood spell-bound. His countenance froze. Mawla went on, “They have been standing hungry aud thirsty since morning. Go and bring them to me.”

What alternative did the man have but to usher the couple into the Lord’s presence. And the believer couple’s hearts began to dance with joy. They forgot their hunge€r, their thirst and indeed their long wait in the hot, blazing sun outside.

“Really!” They exclaimed in elated disbelief, “Our Lord has summoned us in! Has he really called us? Have these bearers of sour mangoes been called in? Could the star of our destiny have shone this soon?” To be able to approach him, to be able to lay eyes on his divine face, the Pirs had to subject themselves to austere penances. “Has our ever-present Imam favoured these Pirs by summoning us to his divine presence?” With such thoughts  in mind, the two entered the bungalow. In perfect humility, reciting the ‘Salwat’ and seeking forgiveness, wiping the tears which veiled their eyes and folding their trembling palms, they climbed the steps.

In the Holy Presence of the Imam

Inside the dining room, sat their Mawla waiting for them with a smile on his lips. As they entered, Mawla enquired happily; “Come in. What have you brought?”

“My Lord,” with trembling hands the man placed the mangoes on the table, “These mangoes.”

“Look,” commented the Imam looking at that so-called devotee, “You said that the mangoes were not available whereas look, what lovely mangoes this Megji has brought for me.” And turning to Mr. Megji, the Imam remarked, “I hope these mangoes are not sour!”

An air of incredible excitement reigned. Mawla knew even the name of the bearer of the mangoes! Thinking so the man stood flabbergasted. Besides, Mawla was also aware of the fact that he had scorned the mangoes as sour!

The couple who had brought the mangoes stood there, smiling and fighting tears at the same time. Clearing his throat, Mr. Megji spoke slowly, “Oh, Lord, our mangoes may perhaps be sour but since Saheb’s eye has beheld them, and since Saheb’s holy hand has touched them, they shall become sweet.”

And in a choked voice he slowly quoted the following verse from Pir Sadardin’s ginan:

Swami mara ji
mitha so mitha
ne kadwa bi mitha
jo hove najar tumariya

My Lord,
sweet becomes more sweet,
and sour becomes sweet,
when there is Thy attentive Eye

“Indeed, Pir Sadardin has spoken the truth. I have seen these mangoes and they appear very sweet.” Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah then handed both mangoes to the butler who in a few minutes returned with them sliced into small pieces on a plate. Placing a serviette upon his lap, Mawla said to the couple, “Megji, both of you sit and dine with me.”

“No, my Lord, forgive us. We cannot sit…We are full of sins.”

Mawla prevailed upon them to sit, but they did not. To be sure, they had not read Qazi Noman’s Code of Conduct, but their belief, their devotion and their obedience forbade them to do so. Unlike the present-day devotees, they did not relish a desire to rush and shake hands with Hazar Imam.

Struggles, Faith and Hope

Who were these fortunate man and woman? They were Ismailis of lowly origin from Bombay. By selling grams and parched rice on a little moveable stall, Mr. Megji struggled all day along to make ends meet. For a long time they had cherished a desire to carry some mangoes to Mawla at his bungalow and witness him eat the same. “But who would let us enter the bungalow?” Perturbed by these thoughts and yet ignoring them on this specific day, with hope and faith they set out early in the morning with the mangoes. They took a tram to Chowpati, whence they climbed the Malabar Hill on foot until they reached their destination. And here they were at the feet of the Imam oI the Age. There was no more distance to overcome. They were absolutely in the divine presence of the Imam!

Very kindly and affectionately, Mawla placed the mangoe slices into His mouth and commented: “They are very sweet, Megji. Your mangoes are very sweet.” After a while, having finished his lunch, Mawla rose, “Look, Megji, you also stay here and have your food.” No, Khudavand, how can we?”

“Megji! consider this it to be Tabaruk [juro]. This will bring plenty to you.” And then Mawla stepped into the adjacent room and Megji and his wife, with love and joy, partook of the food from the plate on the table as a symbol of abundance from the Imam.

Imam’s Blessings

Then Mawla summoned them into the drawing-room. Both entered and stood respectfully in front of the Imam. Pointing at the chairs in front of him, Mawla commanded, “Sit down.” But with folded hands they sat on the ground.

“I give you my best loving blessings. Khanavadan. You have made this offering to me and there shall be abundance in your home everyday.  Khanavadan. Khanavadan.”

The ocean of compassion had risen in waves of mercy drowning the pain and difficulties of generations for Megji. Merciful blessings and bounties had flowed from the Imam’s generous heart.

The man who slaved by selling roasted grams and rice became spiritually and materially wealthy. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah appointed Mr. Megji the Mukhi of the main Jamat and awarded him the title of Vizier. The Holy Qur’an  says that God grants plenty to those who strive continuously and in solidarity in His cause.

For many years, Mukhi Megji served the Imam and his Jamat. He had the tower of Khadak Jamatkhana in Bombay built and presented to the Imam.

Resignation…and a Change of Heart

But one day he tendered his resignation as Mukhi to Hazar Imam because he seemed to encounter numerous obstructions aud interferences from those who were jealous of him. His resignation contained complaints to this effect.

A mood of deep sadness and disappointment was visible upon the countenance of the Imam.

“Mukhi, are these people really harassing you so much? Please try to endure for the sake of your service to me.” The Mukhi remained silent. With a sigh Hazar Imam continued, “Every one comes to me with his difficulties but there is no one to comprehend my difficulties and my problems. There was only one Ismaili who understood my problems. That person was Vizier Ismail of Junaghadh. Mukhi, I had considered you to be Vizier Ismail – but no…”

“Oh Lord! Forgive me, My Lord! I erred! Forgive me my Lord, I have made a mistake. Now I will never complain about anyone.”

And he withdrew his resignation. For years to come with unwavering devotion and strong determination, he continued to serve the Imam and his people. Thenceforth, Mukhi Megji Mulji never uttered a word of complaint.

Loss of Son and Salgirah Celebrations

Death snatched his only son, Hassanali, but without complaining he bore the tragic blow bravely. He grieved in silence and did not show his sorrow in public. Streams of tears ran off the eyes of people but this staunch believer himself consoled those who came to condole him by quoting the Qur’anic verse, Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (We all are from Allah and to Him is our return.)

The birthday celebrations of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah were underway and that too in Bombay. And further more, Mawlana Hazar Imam was present in his person. What more could any one expect? It was as if gold had acquired lovely fragrance. The celebration of an anniversary in Bombay was no ordinary affair. From all the corners of the sub-continent, Ismailis of all ages had flocked into the city to participate in the occasion on November 2nd which that year happened to be the 25th day of Shawaal. Ismailis had Bombay in their hands that day! Merry-making amidst ornamental decorations of flags, buntings and scallops bearing the lines of poetry by the respected and popular missionary-poets Ibrahim Jusab Virteji and ‘Abd’ added colour to the districts of Palagali, Bhindi Bazar, Dongeri, Kandi Mohalla, Mazagaon and Mohammedali Road. At all these places the red and green flags overhead brought gaiety and joy to the mood and atmosphere.

On the anniversary day, in the afternoon, a joyous procession including all the traditional items like dandhia (stick-dancing) led by the Ismailia band, headed towards the Jamatkhana. From the Jamatkhana, the joyous birthday procession left once again for Vadi, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s previous residence. At the head of the procession were leaders, Mukhi and Kamadia, and the title-holders whose richly woven red robes and gold turbans enhanced the dignity of the occasion. As the procession passed by the Ismailia buildings, women sprinkled rice and silver coins upon the participants and they ev€en rocked the air with the noise of their cracking knuckles in a gesture of blessings and felicitations.

The happy procession arrived at the gate of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s bungalow. Our beloved Imam was seated on a sofa outside on the lawn by a fountain The procession entered the lawn in the midst of multi-coloured fireworks illuminating the very firmament, and joyful stick-dancers danced to the exciting music from the band. Such supreme joy and excitement reigned that even I, as a poet, would have to fumble for words to describe the incredible occasion! Seven centuries ago, Pir Sadardin said:

 Firat Neja, tambal wajshe,
 chadiya dev niranjana,
 chandra suraj pawan pani
sangah chale sahu jana

The banners are flying; the drums are beating;
The (Unseen) Lord is mounted
The moon, sun, air and water
All march together

Mawla was seated upon the sofa and at his feet in humble service sat Mukhi Megji Mulji. The divine countenance of the Imam seemed to radiate like a full moon. Night had descended, but the entire lawn was lit up by the lights installed in the trees and by the glow of the multi-coloured fireworks. While from the band emanated a musical parade, the dandhia participants swayed joyously leaving the Ismailis in the presence of their beloved Imam mesmerized and drowned in complete happiness.

Amidst the Celebrations, a Shade of Grief

The Imam looked at the Mukhi and was startled: “Mukhi! What is the matter?” Tears were trickling down from the Mukhi’s eyes “Mukhi, are you crying?” Hastily wiping away the tears the Mukhi replied, “My heart is full with joy, Mawla.” And more tears streamed from his eyes.

“‘But what is the reason for crying?” asked the Imam, keeping his holy hand on Mukhi’s shoulder. Mawla’s touch seemed to break all restraints and he burst out freely. Hazar Imam sent for a glass of water for Mukhi. “Drink this water Mukhi. Look, the whole Jamat is happy celebrating my salgirah and you are crying. Why are you sad?”

“Not at all my Lord,” returned the Mukhi. After taking a sip of water he went on, “My Lord, why should I be sad? Today is Khudavand’s birthday, and the Master of the two worlds, the bearer of the Noor, is right is here in our presence. Today, on this joyous occasion, the very earth, the sky, the angels, the entire Universe seem astir with joy. The very gates of Paradise are swung open..but the remembrance of my son Hassanali has come to my mind.”

Indeed, don’t we all remember our dear departed ones in times of happiness? Likewise, the memory of the son flashed across the Mukhi’s mind with a thought that had he been alive then he too might either have been playing in the band or participating joyfully in the dandhiya.

“Hassanali is present here,” commented Hazar Imam with an affectionate smile, “All those who have passed away from ages past are here today. Mukhi, be thankful that you are fortunate to have my love and to be of service to the Imam.”

Without hesitation the Mukhi submitted his heartfelt gratitude and pleaded affectionately, “But my Lord, I am old now, and who knows when the time will come for my life to be out? At that time who will look after me? Who will give me a drink of water?”

“Mukhi! Fear not, at that time my son will come to nurse you, to give you water…”

And the Mukhi’s head fell in humble submission and devotion upon the holy feet of the Imam.

A number of years passed after the above incident. Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah was in Europe now. To enquire after his Indian spiritual children he dispatched his son Prince Aly Solomon Khan to India. A delegation of prominent Indian Ismailis led by Mukhi Vizier Megji Mulji arrived in Karachi to accord due welcome to Prince Aly. But after coming to Karachi, the Mukhi fell ill and had to be admitted into the hospital.

The Mukhi’s Passing and Prince Aly Khan

As soon as Prince Aly Khan landed in Karachi, the first task he performed was to visit the Mukhi in the hospital. On entering the hospital ward, the Prince noticed that the Mukhi lay with his eyes closed on his hospital bed. Beside him stood a nurse applying some cologne on his head and recording something on a chart nearby. The Prince moved to the Mukhi’s bed and taking a seat by him began to apply the cologne on the Mukhi’s head. Then in a very sweet and kind tone he asked, “Mukhisaheb, how are you?”

Mukhi Mulji opened his eyes. The Imam had kept his word. He had sent a piece of his heart to nurse his true servant. The Mukhi attempted to sit up and exclaimed, “Is this really true?” In reply, Prince Aly Khan tendered a glass of water to his lips.

The Prince did not permit him to sit up nor to say anything. He said, “It was my father’s specific instruction to me that I come to Karachi to look after Mukhi Megji of the main Bombay Jamat. And I have come.”

What more was needed? The taste of Heavens was in the air. An ocean of Divine Light spread across the atmosphere, and the Mukhi casting grateful eyes on the Prince and feasting his eyes with the sight of his beloved Imam’s son left this word! “Indeed death must claim us all one day. The night has passed. Wake up! The day has dawned.” And so, the Night of Mukhi’s life had passed giving way to a bright day, an eternal day beyond!

Allahuma salli ala Muhammadin wa Ale Muhammad.

The next day thousands of Ismailis and non-Ismailis attended the funeral procession in respectful homage from Sadar to Kemari. From end of the town to the other, a multitude of men came to pay their last respects to the departed man. For hours the procession moved to the wharf whence the body was taken aboard a Bombay bound steamer, for with the command of Hazar Imam, the body was to be taken to Bombay.

Waiting at the Ballard Pier in Bombay were members of the Bombay and suburban Jamats who, upon witnessing their ‘warrior dead’ brought home, could not control their emotions and broke into tears.

From the pier, once more in a solemn and dignified procession, attended by thousands of Ismailis and non-Ismailis, the Mukhi’s body was carried to the graveyard situated on Sandhurst Road and was laid to rest in eternal peace.

Date posted: Saturday, March 9, 2013

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About the authors and translator: Sairab Turabi and Jaferali Bhalwani were the authors of  the Gujarati work Pyara Imam ni Pyari Wato which contained anecdotes from the lives of Ismaili Imams. Sakar H. Datoo renditioned into English several stories from the famed work for the Ismailia Association for Tanzania’s weekly magazine Ismaili Crescent. Ms. Datoo served as an educator with the Aga Khan educational institutions around the world for many years. She was the principal of the Aga Khan Mzizima Secondary School in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, from 1967-1976.

This piece has been adapted by Simerg from “The Reward of the Two Mangoes” which appeared in the Ismaili Crescent in three parts in issues dated November 10, 17 and 24, 1968.

Other great storries: 9 Inspiring Ismaili Stories That You SHOULD Read and SHARE with Your Family and Friends

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12 thoughts on “The Remarkable and True Story of Mukhi Megji Mulji (1861 – 1933): An Example of Faith, Piety and Service to the Imam of the Time

  1. Very well coveyed indeed. My humble thanks to you, having read the authors’ account written with rich symbolism, poignant feeling and profound, immense love and affection, as to bring tear to the eye one moment, and smile to the lips the very next. May we today also, be blessed with stalwart, staunch, hidden Dais and warriors, who are worthy of the trust and blessing of Imam of the time. Thank you.

  2. Dear Malik, As a Navroz gift to my list, I shall send this moving story to my lists of contacts as I often do as it also gives me so much meaning in life to push on. While I wish your parent’s and your daughter’s good health, I have my eldest brother Shamsudeen whose 90th Birthday we celebrated here in Birmingham and I joined it in London last May. I had to help him to move to a Care Home in London on my visit for a fortnight. All this was heart-rendering as he is my only sibling in UK and a second one under Care, We were 8, we are 3 alive. Who will help me when my time comes?

  3. I have read some stories of this book on this website and liked them. I Like to get this book “Pyara Imam ni Pyari Wato” in English, gujarati or urdu.

  4. Ya Ali Madad Brother Malik very spiritual and informative. Great keep going.

    The writings are very faded and it is very hard for the eyes. If you can please
    kindly make them more readable & (seeable) would be very mush be appriciated.

    Navroz Mubaraki to you and your family. May Mawla fulfill all your good wishes. Amen.

  5. Thank you. I read it this morning and cried, because for a few years now I feel a latent love for our Imam but having a struggle to express it.

  6. Dearest Malik: I pray that you continue this excellent work as long as you are able to. You are continuing the work of your parents and you have our prayers to continue doing so. May He grant you strength to carry on. Amen. Nauruz Mubarak to you, your daughter and your parents.

    • Mashaallah! Mashaallah!
      Mere pas alfaz nahim hay, Mukhisaheb Bohot Khusnasib Thay
      Mashaallah!

      ___________

      Dear Malik,

      Ya Ali Madad, Nauruz Mubarak, please continue this excellent work. Ya Ali Madad

  7. A great thought-provoking and an inspirational piece for today’s I.T Generation!

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