Passings: Missionary Amirali Gillani (1944 – 2020)

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

Portrait Ismaili Missionary Amirali Gillani of Arusha and Toronto
Missionary Amirali Gillani (July 15, 1944 – April 8, 2020). Photo: Family Collection

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

It is with deep sadness that I inform readers of the passing away of Missionary Amirali Gillani on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at Toronto’s North York Hospital after a brave and long battle with cancer. He was 75. I learnt of his death from a family member earlier this morning through a text message.

Born in Arusha, Tanzania, he served Jamati institutions in both professional and honorary capacities for several decades, contributing his wisdom until the very last moments of his life. He travelled widely, and finally made his home in Toronto, Canada. Missionary Saheb is survived by four children and five grandchildren.

On April 1, 2020, exactly a week ago, he texted me from the hospital: “Ya Ali Madad. Hope you are well. I am in North York Hospital and my health has deteriorated. With affection, Missionary.” I wanted to visit him but the current state of restrictions in place prevented me from going to the hospital. I responded with a prayer for his strength and courage, and with the hope that I would see him out of the hospital soon. He replied: “Ya Ali Madad. Deeply touched by your prayers. I need His compassion to accept His Will with ease and pleasure. Ya Moula. Affectionately Missionary.” They were profound words.

An articulate missionary with a superb command of the English language, Amirali Gillani was always far ahead of his time in his vision of providing religious education to the Jamat. His ideas more than 50 years ago — and I am referring to the late 1960’s — of utilizing multi media and other technological trends of the day, including the power of TV as well as audio visual concepts, were highly impressive. My late dad, Jehangir Merchant, admired him for his brilliant mind as well as incredible foresight and ingenuity. Alas, we were simply not prepared or ready, even to think about his ideas!

As a close family friend, he would visit my parents whenever institutional duties or personal projects brought him to Dar es Salaam. His contemporaries with whom he graduated in the Waezin program in Pakistan in the 1960’s were Alwaez Nizar Chunara and Alwaez Amirally Mawji, and they would often accompany him.

My most recent — and unforgettable — memory of him was when I spent a couple of hours at his humble apartment in Toronto. A very large portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam adorned one of the walls, and he had told me a few days earlier before I went to his home, that I would feel the Imam’s presence in his apartment. That I certainly did, not only because of the portrait but also by Missionary Saheb’s overpowering faith, love and affection for Mawlana Hazar Imam. This pulled him through some of the most difficult times in the past few years.

This is a sad moment for the family, especially coming at a time when many of us want to pay our personal respects and be at his funeral, and simply can’t because of the restrictions that are in place due to the novel coronavirus. We convey our deepest heartfelt condolences to members of Missionary Gillani’s family for strength and courage to face his great loss. Our prayers are with them at this time of bereavement.

We pray that Missionary Amirali Gillani rest in eternal peace. Amen.

Date posted: April 8, 2020.

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97 thoughts on “Passings: Missionary Amirali Gillani (1944 – 2020)

  1. I remember Alwaez Gillani from Nairobi when I was in primary school in the late 60’s. He used to give waez to the students mandli in the upstairs hall in town Jamatkhana. The waez were in English and in his closing prayers he would ask that God grant the students lots of sweets and toys, so obviously I thought he was a cool young missionary. I also remember visiting his house/flat in Nairobi and if memory serves that was on Ngara Road near the Aga Khan Nursery School. I am inspired by his faith and devotion and pray that his soul rests in eternal peace.

    • So nice to read your story. Thank you for sharing and for your prayers. I’m Missionary’s stepdaughter. He truly was devoted to his faith and his waezes were definitely memorable. He always made them fun and current! He’s truly missed. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

  2. On April 8, 2020 our beloved brother Amirbhai passed into the consciousness. He was well known as Missionary Amirali Gillani but to his siblings he was a loved brother and just Amirbhai. We were taught to address our elder siblings in that manner. I never imagined this day would come and while we all know that no one is meant to live forever and that we have to one day, say goodbye to our family, friends and loved ones and that they have to do the same to us, however, the reality is much difficult then the awareness of this separation.

    It is not easy to find the right words to express our feelings when a loved one departs forever. Shock waves take over and the pain is so great that we cannot find words to say goodbye.

    We say this to our beloved dear brother, Amirbhai: “While understanding that Allah has called you back home, we pray for your eternal peace and that you reside in abode of peace, Ameen. You will always be in our prayers as we go about our days trying to understand what has just happened and grapple with our loss. Know that you are much loved, much missed and forever in our prayers and in our hearts. RUHE IN FRIEDEN MEIN LIEBER BRUDER.”

  3. Late Amirali missionary was a very honest, humble as well as a religious person. He also belonged to a family that performed a lot of Khidmat. May Mawla rest his soul rest in eternal peace. Amen

  4. I have known Missionary Gillani since I was little, in Arusha, then again in Nairobi and much later in Zanzibar. Always enjoyed his Waez’s and great talks. He will be dearly missed. Mowla give the family, strength to bear your loss. Ameen.

  5. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

    His younger brother Dr Subzali Gillani and me have been buddies since childhood. We sure will miss him.

    He was well versed in tariqah matters.

  6. May the Almighty Allah rest the deceased soul in eternal peace Ameen. And grant courage and strength to the bereaved family during this difficult time of parting with their beloved one. Ameen.

    Marhum Missionary Gillani will be fondly remembered in our Zanzibar Jamat. All of us pray for Shanti Amar Baksh for his Soul

  7. Amirbhajan, as your little sister, I send you this, my favorite Qasida in your honour and for you mayat today, with Dua and tears:

    Only twice, I have seen and talked with you as a grown-up. Kismat! Life passed too fast. When we last met, we talked about a few of our experiences and adventures.

    From what I read here, from the amount of people you knew and shared your knowledge with, you have had a rich adventurous life. Your memories will long accompany us. We send you our Salwats.
    May your soul rest in peace Bhajan.
    Ameen.

  8. Tout à fait d’accord avec le commentaire de M.Malik Merchant. J’ai connu M.Gillani en septembre 1971 lorsqu’il est passé dans notre ville, Farafangana (Madagascar)où mon père était mukhisaheb et le jamatkhana se tenait à notre domicile.Il était venu y faire des waez et surtout nous délivrer le message de Mawlana Hazar Imam afin de ne pas subir le sort des Ougandais chassés de leur pays et de se préparer à cette éventualité en mettant à jour nos documents de voyage. M. Gillani était très en avance sur les méthodes pédagogiques d’enseignement religieux (cassettes audio), sérieux et rigolo, et m’avait beaucoup impressionné. En remerciement de son séjour, il m’avait offert (comme il l’avait fait à tous les jamats visités de Madagascar une petite photo plastifiée de Mawlana Hazar Imam avec Bégum Salima tenant tous les deux dans leurs bras princesse Zahra bébé) et surtout un livret écrit par lui “ALI” avec une belle dédicace.En peu de jours j’avais beaucoup appris de lui en matière spirituelle. Deux ans plus tard, apatride, j’ai dû quitter Madagascar pour la France où je vis actuellement avec toute ma famille.

    Le jour même de son décès, je perds aussi en France par covid-19, une de mes amies, Goulzare Mitha, petite soeur de Alwaez Samsuddin Alidina de Toronto et qui était un pilier du jamat de France. Ce même jour un parent m’envoie votre article sur votre site que je ne connaissais pas! Coincidence? Pourquoi Mowla rappelle à Lui précocement ses meilleurs éléments? “Les voies du Seigneur sont impénétrables”!

    Que l’âme du Missionary Gillani repose en paix : ce sont les duas que je formule pour lui et toutes mes sincères condoléances à sa famille
    Merci à vous aussi.
    YA ALI MADAT
    Loutefaly dit “Gouvi”

    • Mes Sincères condoléances à toute la famille. Qu’il repose dans la paix eternelle. Prions à Allah qu’il en soit ainsi. Ameen

  9. I am Missionary’s eldest daughter, Zaheeda.

    On behalf of the family, thank you for your prayers and for sharing kind words and fond memories. We apologize for not responding to each message personally. Please know that each message has brought us great comfort.

    The funeral ceremony will be held on Tuesday, April 14, 2020. Due to current government restrictions, the ceremonies will be restricted to immediate family members. We only ask for your prayers.

    Cherish the time you spend with your family. Life is unexpected.

    • My deepest condolence to you and the entire family on the sad demise of Alwaez Amirali Gillani.

      He was a very good soul. He was very knowledgeable, kind, shared his knowledge unconditionally, and very respectful. Our prayers are with you and the family and we pray that Allah gives you the strength and courage to overcome the loss.

      He was one of a kind and I enjoyed his waez CD’s he gave me. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen

  10. A towering personality eager to share his knowledge and wisdom to members of the Jamat. I fondly remember his visits to Montreal.

    I met him last summer at the Ismaili Centre Toronto!

    May the family endure this great lost. Prayers for his soul to rest in eternal peace.

  11. Missionary Amirali Gillani was my younger brother in law and in the very recent months I worked with him on his vision of religious education for very small children. He had great insight and he had unsurpassed love for the Imam and Imam’s work. His absence is already being felt by the family and I look forward to continuing fulfilling his last wishes and aspirations for the work he was doing.

    Malik your amazing father and mother both taught me at the Aga Khan Girls School Dar es Salaam.

    • Thank you for your kind thoughts about my parents. May missionary Gillani’s soul rest in eternal peace, and may your entire family have immense strength during this time of bereavement. He was very close to my dad and mum.

  12. Our deepest heartfelt condolences on passing away of Missionary Amirali Gillani. May his soul rest in eternal peace and be Blessed with Mowla’s Deedar Ameen. I knew him for past few years and sat next to each other at Scarborough Jamatkhana. He was a constant source of encouragement and sound advice. He was full of warmth and knew everyone by their first names.

    I will miss him when I return to Toronto.. Mowla bless his soul.

    Bahadur Ali Virji and family

  13. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun. I pray his soul rest in eternal peace and he is Blessed with Light and Love of Imam-e Zaman. Pray also for his family for strength and well being.

  14. My husband and I knew Amir Gillani while we were in Arusha; we had many wonderful discussions. I met him a few months ago at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. My condolences to his family whom I know very well. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Amen.

    • Ya Ali Madad Sugra Bai. Thank you so much for your kind words about Amir. We pray Allah rests his soul in eternal peace Ameen

  15. May Allah bless the departed soul and keep you all safe and protected during these difficult times. Ameen. Sorry for your loss Benz.

  16. It is sad to know thé departure of my very best and very old friend and mentor, Missionary Amirali Gillani. Wé grew up together in thé same field of Jamati Sewa of teaching and preaching. I was fortunate to méet him at his place in Toronto early last month. He seemed frail but in hilarious spirit and there was no sign that he would lose thé battle so fast. My wife joins me to pray for eternal peace of his soul. Amen

  17. I had the pleasure of knowing him in Nairobi and Toronto and also had opportunity of working with him in Tariqah Board Committees. He will be missed by all. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Amen.

  18. May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace, Ameen. Inna lillahi wa inna lillahi rajeoon. He was a great soul.

  19. My deepest condolences. I have heard some of his most inspiring waezes while I was in Dar es salaam. May Mawla bless his soul with eternal peace and grant his family with strength and fortitude. Ameen

  20. We lost a very beautiful and a humble man with such knowledge and always smiling away. I remember him coming to Willowdale Jamatkhana and always full of joy. He will surely be missed. May Mowla rest his soul in eternal peace…ameen! May He give the strength and the courage to his family to bear this great loss. Ameen.

    Muslim I love the words of Osho…thanks for sharing.

  21. Our heartiest condolences to Missionary Gillani’s family. May Mawla rest his soul forever in eternal peace. Ameen

  22. I was saddened to hear the passing away of missionary Gillani. I went a couple of times with my brother to see him at his place in last 2 months. We spent quite a bit of time with him. He was very happy and joked around. We pray his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen
    Moez

  23. We convey heart felt condolences to the family of Missionary Amirali Gillani.

    We pray to Allah to give you strength, courage, wisdom to bear this great loss in this time of bereavement.

    We pray that Allah forgives Marhoom for any mistakes in his time of life.

    Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raaji’oone

    We pray that Missionary Amirali Gillani rest in eternal peace. Amen.

    Heartfelt condolences from
    Town Jamatkhana Nairobi, Kenya.
    Mukhisaheb Moez Manji and Mukhianisaheba Shairose Manji and Family.

  24. May Mowla rest your soul in eternal peace, amen. We are sorry to hear of his demise; he will be missed by the Arushawallas as you all connected with each other as family members.

  25. My sincere condolences to his family. Shukar. He had an unparalleled presence and will be sorely missed. He was very insightful and passionate about the upkeep of our Jamatkhana facilities. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen

  26. Ya Ali Madad: Please accept my condolence. May Mowlabapa rest his soul in eternal peace. Ameen .

    Mehtab Dawood
    Dar es Salaam & Vancouver

  27. Knew him for a long time and often listened to his waez in Jamatkhana. A humble and knowledgeable person indeed.

    May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace.

  28. Well sorry to hear about a great missionary with lots of knowledge. Very humble and gifted in waez . Shukar. I know him back from Morogoro. All his waezs were powerful and the his explanations were good. The other thing to add was his recitation of Dua, reading of Farman was something you would not want to miss. May Mawla rest the departed soul in eternal peace Ameen and may Mawla comfort the family and be with them. Ameen.

  29. My heartfelt condolences on the passing of our respected missionary Saheb. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

  30. My deepest condolences to the family. I got close to him giving him morning varas at Willowdale Jamatkhana. May his soul rest in eternal peace, Ameen, and Mowla give strength and courage to the family to face this difficult time.

  31. May his soul rest In peace. Ameen.

    Very kind, gentle and a humble person. He shared some of his profound knowledge with me.

    Sending love and blessings to the family.

  32. He was very knowledgeable missionary. We studied together in same school. He was a few classes ahead of me.

    May Mawla rest his soul in eternal peace. Ameen.

  33. I pray that Hazar Imam rests Missionary Amirali Gilani’s soul in eternal peace. Ameen. Missionary Gilani was one of the great missionaries and I know him from Nairobi.

  34. A kind soul and an amazing person. He will be missed dearly. Our deepest condolences and prayers for his soul to rest in eternal peace always. Ameen.

  35. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiooon….. Allah un ki maghfirat farmaye or un ko janat main aala muq’am ata farmaye…. ameen…

  36. Missionary Gillani will be dearly missed by the Jamat. We had many interesting conversations with him about our faith and our Hazar Imam.

    We pray that May Mowla bless his soul in eternal peace and grant the family strength and courage to deal with this loss. May Mowla accept all his seva.

  37. I felt deep sorrow in learning that Missionary Amirali Gillani passed away this morning. On behalf of myself and my family I convey our deepest sympathies to all his children, grandchildren and other beloved members of his family. My late husband, Jehangir, and I developed a deep friendship with him and two other missionaries Nizar Chunara and Amiraly Mawji once they returned to East Africa after having completed their waezin program abroad. In Jehangir’s opinion he was one of the brightest stars in the Jamat and as my son has already observed he had a vision for imparting religious education that no one at that time had thought of. He was on a horseback, while the rest lagged miles behind. He was an extra ordinary individual. Of course I remember his numerous waezes, and one of the most profound ones that he delivered was on the philosophy of Dua in Vancouver many years ago. He had a unique style and manner on the stage, and spoke in flawless English. He was kind and courteous to both Jehangir and me. He joins my husband in the next world, and I pray for the rest of his soul.

    (Alwaeza) Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant.

  38. Ya Ali Madad, I knew Missionary saheb from his requirements of IT trouble shooting. Having known him for last 2 years now, I was always astonished by his questions and new ideas even at this age and at this circumstances. Humble condolences to his family and may Allah rest his soul in peace.

  39. Missionary Amir Gilani was a good man and sincere.
    May Allah rest his soul in eternal peace. Ameen.

  40. May Mawla rest his soul in eternal peace Amen. Missionary Amir was my teacher and also my neighbor in Upanga, Dar es salaam. He was in house 53 and we were in 48 just behind the picturesque Upanga Jamatkhana. We had many interesting religious discussions.

  41. May ALLAH rest his soul eternal peace. Ameen! May Allah also give the family, courage and strength during this difficult period. Ameen!

  42. A brilliant missionary with a very inquisitive mind always seeking to know people and their backgrounds and their contribution to the jamath and the Imam.
    May Mowla rest his soul in eternal peace. Ameen.

  43. Pray for his soul to rest in eternal peace .
    Pass our condolences to the family.
    I am going to miss him. I became more in contact with him during my stay in Zanzibar 2009 /10. Often used to go to Zanzibar Jamatkhana together and talk about religion. With his vast knowledge he was able to explain explain religious concepts in a a beattiful way. He used to have insecticide business in Zanzibar near the Airport.

  44. He was a very compassionate person, and very knowledgeable. We we will miss him and his wisdom. May Maula rest his soul in eternal peace and may his family have the strength and courage to overcome this loss. Ameen.

  45. Our deepest condolences. May Almighty Allah rest the departed soul with eternal peace and give the family courage to bear this great loss. The jamat will truly miss his inspiring waezes and the knowledge that he shared with us.

    Mawla ruhani ja gunah maaf kare ane asal me vasal kare. Amen. Please let us know when the funeral is so we can recite more salwats togther.

  46. Sad to hear of Amirali passing away today in hospital. May his soul rest in eternal peace and Mowla bless his soul. Amirali was a people’s person and was loved by all who he came in contact with. He was a true gentleman with a bubbly personality and was friendly with one and all. Will be sadly missed by all his family and friends.

  47. May Mowla bless Missionary Saheb’s soul and rest in eternal peace . Ameen 🙏
    May his family have the courage and fortitude to bear this loss Ameen
    You will be remembered for teaching me Dua in Kisumu and for all your teachings 🙏

  48. Rest in Peace dear Alwaez Saheb
    You have left a legacy and you always had that smile of inspiration.
    We will miss you very dearly indeed.
    You had immense knowledge and wisdom.
    Allah Bless your soul.

  49. Condolences to the family! May Mowla bless the departed soul in eternal peace! Ameen. May Mowla also give strength and courage to the family to accept this tremendous loss.

  50. We lost a thoughtful leader who was generous with imparting knowledge and his dedicated services to the community. May his soul Rest In Peace.

  51. Missionary Gillani was a most humble man. We grew up in Nairobi listening to his waezes. I still remember the words “lend me your ears” when he wanted to stress something. Great loss to the Jamat and the family. Deepest condolences to the family. May Allah rest his soul in peace and give the family strength to bear this loss. Ameen.

  52. This is indeed a very big loss to us all, he was an excellent man, a great mentor and an elevated soul. He constantly shared his wisdom. I immensely enjoyed his company, his jokes and his religious knowledge. May Mowla forgive all his sins and Grant his soul an eternal peace.

    We pray his soul reaches Fannafillah. Inna lillahi wa inallah-e-raji’oon.

  53. I am very sorry to hear the passing away of Alwaez Dr. Amirali Gillani. He was part of the extended family but I have also enjoyed his vast knowledge in religious matters, his ability to read Farmans without even reading it and his waezs. I am aware that he had put an insecticide factory in Tanzania and was finding ways to export to Kenya. A great man. Blessed with lots of knowledge. We pray that his soul Rests in eternal peace. Ameen. Ameen.

  54. Ya Ali Madad Malik, thanks for sharing the memorable post of Missionary Amirali Gillani. As a member of the Scarborough Jamat Khana, we will all miss him dearly. I was fortunate and blessed to have had the opportunity to visit him two weeks ago, where I witnessed the large portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam on his wall and near his working desk.

    We sat and shared a lengthy conversation as always about faith and family. Like you, I was surprised to then receive the following text from him on Wednesday, April 1 at 10am regarding his hospitalization. I immediately responded to his text message to offer prayers and solace for his quick recovery and return to good health.

    We convey sincere and deepest sympathies and condolences to his family and pray for his soul to rest in eternal peace and tranquility in the gardens of heaven. Shukhar Mowla.

    Anis and Naj Hirani

  55. May Mowla rest his soul in eternal peace and give family courage to cope with our big loss. Ameen. He will be missed, but I know he is in a better place.. 🙏

  56. My deepest sympathies and prayers for strength through this challenging times. Missionary Sahib was an inspiration to many of us especially myself since I was a child. May Mowla grant his soul eternal peace …Ameen

    My parents, Al-waez Samsoudine Alidina and Al-waeza Gulshan Alidina also convey their prayers and sympathies to the family.

  57. Thanks for this prompt posting about the sad demise of Missionary Dr. Amirali Gillani.
    The following is part of the text of my email to family and friends group before I saw your posting:

    “Late Dr. Gillani had a doctorate from Rutherford University in Doctor of Religious Education. He was an accomplished lecturer and a dedicated scholar in religious teachings and a recipient of awards and appreciations from Canadian Provincial and Federal Governments, communities and faith groups.

    Late Dr. Gillani was a personal friend of mine for over 5 decades and we used to keep in touch with each other on many mutual matters. During my tenure as EO for ITREB Tanzania from 2008-2010 when I was in Dar es Salaam we were in touch very closely and he helped me to facilitate the shipment of school supplies, materials and books from Toronto to Zanzibar for the Madrassa Centres in Zanzibar. Alhamdulillah!

    Late Missionary Saheb Dr. Gillani will be missed by many family members and friends across the world and we pray that may his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen. We also pray for courage and fortitude to his entire family for this great loss. Ameen.”

  58. Our deepest condolences to the family on loss of our Missionary A. Gillani. We pray to Mawla to rest his soul in eternal peace, Ameen. It is a very big loss to our community.

  59. Selection of condolences on my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/malik.merchant.31)

    Niyat Ullah: Our unseen heroes . May Allah Almighty rest his soul in eternal peace 🙏
    Muneera Velji: May his soul Rest in peace! Aameen!
    Ahmad Majar: May his soul rest in the heaven…. رحمه الله واسكنه فسيح جناته
    Nasim Charania: May his soul rest in Eternal Peace Aameen
    Salim Ratanshi: God Bless His Soul. AMEN.
    Salim Kara: May his Soul Rest in Eternal Peace. Ameen. My heartfelt condolences to the family.
    Azmina Daya: Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un; “Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

  60. Our heartfelt condolences to Missionary Gillani’s family and friends. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

    He taught us how to practice ibadat properly. Our visit to his humble apartment a couple of years ago was life changing. He borrowed his own originally authored book “Ali the Magnificent”. As promised he returned the book with a lot of dua.
    Thank you Mr. Merchant for letting us know.
    God bless.

  61. We lost a good man today…May his soul rest in peace. Ameen Love, Light & Cheers.

    Muslim Harji
    “Since death is such a definite part of life why not accept it in an easy and natural fashion?” — Osho

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