An Ismaili Youth’s Rare Moment With Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah

By Akber Premji

May 1951: Mr. Akber Premji was asked to sit himself between His Highness the Aga Khan and the Begum during his audience at the Ritz in London with the late 48th Ismaili Imam. Photo: Akber Premji Collection. Copyright.

My family known as the Premjis, is popularly known in India as Tyrewala. My late father has been included in Mumtaz Ali Tajdin’s work called “100 Ismaili Heroes”, a compilation of the lives of some Ismailis from recent history. There is even a road in Mumbai called the “Alibhai Premji Road” running from August Kranti (or Grant Road) Railway Station, which cuts across Lamington Road, and is close to our business quarters.

In October 1950, we constructed our own spacious showrooms and sent a written submission to our beloved 48th Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, for his blessings. Our telegraph ended with our telegraphic address “TYRETUBE”. When the Imam visited Mumbai in 1950/51, we had an opportunity to submit a mehmani in his presence. The very first sentence the Imam said in Hindi was:

“Tumhara Telegraphic Address Tyretube hai na?” (meaning, “Your telegraphic address is Tyretube, isn’t it?”)

His tremendous memory of instantly recalling the word left us amazed and speechless.

In May 1951, I visited London and requested for an audience with the Imam through Itmadi Husseinali Jhaveri, which I was granted. When I stood before the Imam, he asked me why I had come to England. I replied that our family wanted to start a motorcycle business. His immediate response was:

“Motorcycle? Italy jao. Inshallah, bahot fayeda hoga.” (meaning, “Go to Italy, if Allah wills, you will benefit a lot”)

I, for one, thought that Britain was the country for motorcycles. It was then the number one manufacturer and exporter of motorcycles. Italy was nowhere with Lambretta and Vespa Scooters, which were imported by some dealers in Bombay. They were hardly selling, and being as young and naïve as I was, I did not act upon Imam’s guidance.

Time bears witness. Not more than a few years later, between 1953/56, we saw Lambretta and Vespa setting up plants for the progressive manufacture of two wheelers with their Indian counterparts.

During the same mulaqat at the Ritz, I got an opportunity of a photo with Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat. First, I went and sat on the ground and the Imam did not quite consent to this. Then I went and stood behind them and this was also not accepted. The Imam directed that I come and sit between him and Mata Salamat. With great reluctance, I squeezed myself in. What an opportunity and a blessing!

Over the past few years, I have settled in Canada and felt I should share this brief anecdote and unique photograph from my family collection with readers of this blog.

Date article posted: December 2, 2011.

Copyright: Akber Premji/Simerg. December 2011.

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15 thoughts on “An Ismaili Youth’s Rare Moment With Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah

  1. The Fidai boarding mentioned above is where I am studying today and it is such a nice place to be at. And yes I must acknowledge the blessing showered upon Mr. Akbar Premji. Congratulations.

  2. Akber uncle is my youngest sister’s father in law. He is our family, But even before this relationship was established,I have admired him for his selfless seva for the Fidai boarding. He was there every Sunday from morning till amost evening, looking after all the big and small problems of the orphans.

    As a young girl I used to go to help the girls do their English home work and when uncle came we used to just be quiet and noiseless,taking care of business. He had and still has an intimidating but humble personality. When we came closer to him I was amazed at how jovial and friendly he was. I said to him “Uncle I was always , intimidated by your presence,” he said ,”have you changed your opinion now?”

    “Yes, of course” was my answer. I saw him last year at his grand daughter’s wedding in Atlanta and he is just the same. We are in touch via email and his memory is still sharp. A man of great experience and goodness that cannot be fathomed. We love you Akber uncle.

    • Zainab, this Fidai boarding you mention, is it the same as Jeraj Pirbhoy Boarding? Sorry for my ignorance. You have a lucky uncle. Get him to tell you his experiences.

  3. Shukran Al-Hamdulillah……..What a unique moment. But Farman Bardari of our Beloved Imame Zaman, who is awal, akhir, zaher and batin, is paramount.
    Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah has said, amara oopar poore pooro wisas rakhjo, and Mawlana Hazar Imam said Iman waghrana manasni kimat dhoot (dust) misal che. May Mawla, in His infinite mercy, keep us staunch on Sirat al Mustaqim. Ameen

  4. Dear All,

    The occasion as shared by Akber Premji with all of us, and further strengthened by Dr. Rajput’s piece, teach us lessons about the immense amount of blessings of the Imam of the Time for his spiritual children. While these were physical encounters, with of course the spiritual barakah of the Imam being ever present, can one ever fathom the spiritual affection and love the Imam carries for each one of his murids?

    During my appointment period of twenty years or so, I have been fortunate to meet ordinary members of the Jamat with qualities that are absolutely outstanding. There are others though that I have come across, including those in positions of responsibilities within the Jamat, that need to reflect a little bit more about their actions, words and deeds as well as try and live by the ethics and expectations of the Imam of the Time.

    In any case, I shall say that the sincere work that our fathers and forefathers did for the Jamat are benefitting us all, and the work we do with our hearts will help the future generations.

  5. Congratulations for sharing your memorable experience with Hazrat Mawlana Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah and Mata Salamt. Simerg has created a site that is bringing a lot of us closer. I knew your family in Mumbai as Alibhai Premji Tyrewala but did not have the good luck to get to know you. The editor of Simerg, Malik, prompted me to ask you to write, as as he did to me. We may come across many in this pleasant way. Now we communicate regularly.

  6. I was 29 yrs old and was travelling from Pakistan to UK for Ph D studies; I was travelling on French Rivera Express train to UK. The train stopped at Cannes where our Imam had his residence. I stepped out of the train and phoned Yakemour with a request for an audience of the Imam for the holy deedar. This was refused as the Imam had a temperature and was in bed. I pleaded with Mata-Salamat but the result was no different, although she agreed to take my request to the Imam. To her great surprise He instructed me to come to His Audience immediately.

    Thus, I was fortunate to have an audience of one hour and twenty minutes.I believe that He wanted to implant an unforgettable impression on the mind of the young Mureeds, his utmost love and affection for them and left His guidance for the rest of their lives.

    I felt guilty of engaging the Imam with his temperature for such a long time; I stood up asking His permission to leave. He, with His utmost kindness said, “Would you not like to have a photograph with your Imam”. How kind our Imam is!!

  7. I personally know this family right from Mumbai where the family had their roots. I know Akber’s mother Zarinabai as the most active social worker in those days and I am sure the entire jamat owes them a very big gratitude.

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