Passings: Sadru Velji – Our Beloved Nana

Sadru Velji
Sadrudin Velji (30 October, 1933 – 26 January, 2021). Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.


Just over a month ago, on January 26, 2021, we lost our beloved Nana at the age of 87.

He was big-hearted and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. My Dad tells us that when we were born, our grandfather was so excited, he came over and played with us everyday, and as we grew, he was someone we joked with all our lives.

Instead of telling us he loved us very much, Nana used to say he loves us “magar” (crocodile) much.

When Nana’s Alzheimers set in about 5 years ago, this aspect of his personality somehow stayed. People were often surprised he had this disease because he made jokes and was still funnier than the rest of us.

Even as Nana lost his memory, he somehow was able to remember anything that had to do with my grandmother, Nani. When he started going to the Adult Day Care every week, (which he used to call “Chakula ya Bure” (“food for free” in Swahili), he pocketed half his sandwich to bring home for my grandmother.

I wish I knew more of the thousands of stories Nana had to tell. I remember him telling me once how his mother passed away when he was little. He seemed really attached to her. Times were hard for him and his five siblings after that, but his stories were still so mischievous and Nana-spirited. He told us once that when he was a kid he snuck into the movies and said his Dua after the lights went down because he felt bad it was Jamatkhana time. That was our Nana.

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Aga Khan performs marriage ceremony
A garlanded Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan joins Sadrudin and Sakerkhanu Velji’s hands in marriage during his Takhtnashini visit to Dar es Salaam in October 1957. Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.
Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection
Sadrudin and Sakerkhanu Velji. Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.

One thing about Nana is how much his faith in things bigger than himself seemed to sustain him through a lifetime. Maybe that’s what helped him be able to give so much to other people. His license plate when we were growing up even used to say “Seva” (meaning service). When you saw that license plate in the parking lot, you knew it was our Nana.

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Sadru Velji vacuuming Ismaili Jamatkhana Photo: © Sadruddin Velji Family Collection.
Sadru Velji considered it an honour to vacuum the Jamatkhanas in Vancouver. Here he is seen performing duties at the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana. Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.

When Nana came to Canada from Tanzania in the 1970s, he opened a drycleaners with my grandmother, served as one of the first Mukhis of the no-longer-existent Jamatkhana on East Hastings Street, and also spent a huge percentage of his life vacuuming the Jamatkhana — volunteer work he considered an honor and did quietly for many, many, many, years, well into his eighties until Jamatkhanas were closed due to Covid-19. He had a kind of generosity that doesn’t exist in a lot of people generally, and is fading even more with our generation.

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Sadrudin Velji and President Nyerere
In this very rare photo, date unknown, Sadrudin Velji is seen greeting Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere, as a watchful crowd looks on. Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.

One summer about 10 years ago, I brought ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ by Shel Silverstein to Nana’s house and read them aloud to him. Shel Silverstein’s poems remind me of Nana. Since Nana had the kind of heart that loved to laugh, he liked and understood them right away, and I’ll always remember how he lit up to how full of wonder and light they were, like so much of him. We’ll miss you Nana.

Love you “magar” much.
Zahida, Shehin, Husein and Alisha


Beloved Papaji

Sadrudin Velji, Vancouver origically of Tanzania
Sadrudin Velji (1933 – 2021). Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.


Your Nanabapa [referring to tribute by grandchildren, above], my Papaji, was indeed a special and unique human being. While growing up, I didn’t have my grandparents around, so I lived vicariously through you all.

What a blessing that he was part of our lives for a long time. With his wit and positivity, he made spending time with him some of the happiest moments for me. I don’t know too many Dads who would agree to do many things that I would make him do!

For example, Tuesday senior’s chair yoga at Darkhana. Even during his Alzheimers, he would take a lot of pride following the exercises properly, asking, “Am I doing this correctly?”.

Or come with me on Thursdays for vacuum Seva at the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana. The group of ladies were surprised that at his stage, he was so passionate about volunteering. They welcomed him openly often giving him the chance to say Dua before sharing food. After, he would call my Mom and say proudly how he did a good job.

He spoke “pure” Swahili and would recall words that even Mom might have forgotten when he tried to teach me. His lesson would always accompany a long Swahili tale. He’d say “haraka, haraka, haina barakha”, elaborating the saying, basically meaning “haste is waste” or “if you are going to offer me chai with one hand then offer me a snack with the other mkono (hand),” another saying in Swahili.

The greatest gift that he gave me is hanging out with me for long periods. The many videos are memories that will be treasured of such a unique Dad.

When we decided to turn down the Long Term Care spot, I had the opportunity to spend practically every day with Nana and with Nani. I am grateful to you grandkids and especially to Salim for not only supporting this but encouraging it. Salim often says that he felt blessed to have a Dad once again in his life after his Dad passed away in 1983. Nana, for all of us, you brought happiness into our home as there was always laughter when you were around.

Dad, Bwana Kubwa, we love you very much.
Your daughter Nasreen


A Personal Tribute to Mukhi Sadrudin Velji


My late parents, Jehangir Merchant (d. May 2018) and Malek Merchant or Mrs. Merchant (d. January 2021) had a special friendship with the family of Mukhi Sadru Velji, who passed away in Vancouver on January 26, 2021, just five days after my mum’s demise. 

Mrs. Sakerkhanu Velji (Mukhianima) and my mum talked to each other everyday. These daily phone calls continued until the very last day of my mum’s life. The Velji family inspired my mother, and felt that a family member was indeed around in the absence of her children who were thousands of kilometres away. If my parents were unwell or an incident had occurred that left me worried, Mukhianima would ease my anxiety, and assured me that she, Sadrubhai as well as her daughters Nasreen, Shellina and Zahra would always be there for my parents.

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Veljis and Merchants at Jehangir's birthday parthy
Malek Merchant (d. January 2021) cuts the birthday cake for her husband Jehangir (d. May 2018) as he celebrates his 89th birthday on December 13, 2017 surrounded by family friends Sadru Velji (d. January 2021) and his wife Sakerkhanu. The Velji family were pillars of strength for the Merchants. Photo: Nasreen Rahemtulla.

The Veljis became an integral part of the family, and their kindness, generosity and affection is etched in my memory. I visited them regularly during my stays in Vancouver. During my previous two month visit to  Vancouver, Nasreen, gave me her new car to use for several weeks. Anything cooked at their place would find a way to my mum’s table, 18 kms away. They also paid regular visits to my dad when he was unwell, and Nasreen would find a way to have my father recite her favorite ginans.

I watched the funeral ceremony of Sadrubhai with deep emotion — my mum’s was scheduled to be held on the following day. I would have liked to have been present for both of them but circumstances did not allow me to fly to Vancouver. It is so gratifying that technology has allowed us to participate in the ceremonies from afar during the Covid-19 pandemic. I shed tears as the coffins for the two funerals were being led to the hearse. It was a very sad moment.

I convey my deepest condolences to Mukhianima and her family and pray that Sadrubhai’s soul may rest in eternal peace and that the family be granted strength and courage to  bear the loss.

I had witnessed with my own eyes how Mukhianima and her children as well as grand children provided Sadrubhai the support, inspiration and courage that he needed during the most difficult period in his life. My special prayers that Allah shower His choicest blessings on the entire family for their dedication to a beloved husband, father and nana who will also be remembered by everyone who knew him here in Canada and around the world.

Date posted: March 1, 2021.
Last updated: March 3, 2021 (daughter Nasreen’s tribute added).


We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Sadrudin Velji. To pen your reflection please click on his profile photo shown below or click on Leave a Comment.

Sadrudin Velji Simerg Passings
Sadrudin Velji (30 October, 1933 – 26 January, 2021). Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection. Please click on photo to pen your tribute to Sadrudin Veji.

Simerg invites Ismaili families to submit obituaries and tributes for deceased members of their families. For guidelines, please click Passings.

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22 thoughts on “Passings: Sadru Velji – Our Beloved Nana

  1. I knew Mr. Velji growing up and he was so kind to me. As I got older, I used to get my dry cleaning done at his shop and he always gave a break on the price. I remember him as Mukhi at Hastings Jamatkhana.

    I am sorry that he passed away; he was such a great soul and may God bless him.

    • Thanks, I will share it with Mom and the Kids.

      On Mon, Oct 25, 2021 at 10:48 AM Simerg – Insights from Around the World wrote:

      > Mohammed Karim Visram commented: “Rest In Peace Sadrubhai. May Mowla bless > your soul.” >

  2. I pray that Sadru Chacha’s soul may rest in eternal peace. Ameen 🙏 Chacha was very friendly, caring & joyful and loving. Chacha shared great stories & memories with me about my late dad Remu, his eldest brother. Chacha helped our family to come to Canada, and we’re very grateful. We will miss you.

  3. Memories go back many years but to me they are ever present. Sadrubha and myself enjoyed chai nusu at A Tea Shop quite often while on walk in Dar es Saaam. I also remember Kitchener. The values he had are reflected in Sakerbai, Nasreen, Shelina and Zahra.

    To me Sadrubha was an elder brother, Sakerbai an elder sister whereas Nasreen is younger sister and a friend. To me the family has been always close to me and always will be.

    Sadrubha may Mowla grant your soul oneness with him. I shall miss you.

  4. When I think of Sadru uncle: Citizen of the world is what comes to mind instantly. He had a presence, I think a spiritual aura. He understood to do seva is to be a servant of God. It was easy to communicate with him ; I remember this as a child in Nansio, Tanzania and later as a student in Vancouver. I have fond memories of him. There are not many people around like Sadru uncle and Saker aunty. The love between Saker aunty and Sadru uncle can not be described in words; it is a soul connection.

    I feel unfortunate I was not able to keep in touch with him over the years. I can not fathom that he had Alzhheimers, but then God works in mysterious ways. The testimony of Zahida, Shehin, Husein and Alisha is proof that he was comfortable with children, respected them and aspired them.. His jovial nature was an asset to his family and to every one he knew. Both uncle and aunty raised a beautiful family in Nasreen, Shellina and Zahra.

    Saker aunty: both you and uncle aged gracefully; he is in a good place and watching over you.

    Lots of Love

  5. There are no words sufficient to express how much Sadru will be missed as he enters a new stage of life and I would like to say ” THANK YOU GOD” for bringing his family to mine.

  6. To add to my aunt Sakuma’s tribute to Sadru Mukhi, I must say that he and his beloved wife Sakerkhanu as well as members of their family were the pillars of Malek Aunty and Jehangir Uncle for decades. Their dedication and seva was incredible towards my uncle and aunty and others too.

    Malek aunty always spoke very highly of them and how they continued their support her till the very last day.

    May Mowla bless Mukhisaheb’s soul to rest in eternal peace and give his family to bear this great loss.

  7. May Sadru Mukhi’s soul rest in eternal peace. My dear sister Maleksultan — Mrs Merchant — always spoke highly about Mukhisaheb & Mukhianima Sakerkhanu. During my visits to her every year I noticed the bond of love and friendship in their telephonic talks every day. They were always there for her doing her errands. Never a day passed without her praising them. T here are not enough words to express their kindness.

    May Mowla bless them all & give them courage to face this irreparable loss, Ameen.

  8. Sadrubha was one of the greatest man I knew. His brother Nizarbha got married to my sister late Zarin. This was in 1970. My sister passed away 10 months after she got married and left a 10 day old baby. Sadrubha and Sakerbhabhi looked after her and eventually adopted her as Nizarbha wanted to get remarried. They have looked after my niece Zahara with so much love and affection and educated her so well. Rest in peace Sadrubha. May Mowla accept all your wonderful sevas.

  9. I knew Mukhi Sadru Velji and his families since their days in Nansio ,Ukerewe,Tanzania, in my several visits and there after in Vancouver. His modest and full of passion style of communication was unique. Very noble and dedicated Volunteer with loveand very strong in his faith. May His soul rest in eternal Peaced. Ameen.

  10. Malik,

    Thanks for your generous tribute honouring our Dad. Your words mean a lot at a time of this loss.

    I feel blessed that I got to know Alwaeza. She was a pillar of strength and role modelled it for many of us. I miss conversing with her. We were planning to have a long visit after everything settled down.

    Along with your Dad, Abually Missionary, Sultan Missionary, and many others are the last of the legends who taught many generations. Prayers for all the Ruhani Souls


  11. More selections of condolences received on the social media:

    Naseem Dhanani: Sadru Mukhi was a great soul. Since he lived in the same building as me, I met him all the time. And I saw him all the time at Council offices too, doing his voluntary work. He vacuumed, fixed all vacuums that needed fixing in Darkhana etc. Pray for his soul to rest in eternal peace and his family be granted strength and courage to bear the loss.
    Sadrudin Ladhani: May his soul rest in eternal Peace. Ameen. Great noble and philanthropic soul knew him and his families from Nansio Tanzania. Dedicated Volunteer and full of generosity. Will be missed. May HE Bless his families and give them courage to sustain the loss. Ameen. Ya Ali Madad.
    Shafic Bhimji: May his soul Rest In Peace Ameen
    Rosemin Bapoo: 🙏🙏
    Mohammedali Samnani: May the departed Soul rest in eternal Peace! Ameen
    Abdul Jabee: May his beautiful soul rest in eternal peace in asal mubarak & blessed with Noorani deedar and give bereaved family the courage to bear this irreparable loss. Ameen!
    Parviz N. Habib: May Mowla rest his soul in eternal peace Ameen. Deepest condolences to the family.
    Shirin Dharani: May mawla rest his soul in eternal peace. Ameen.
    Roshan Dewji: May mawla rest his soul in peace Ameen
    Nasser-Hadi Velshi Keshavjee: RIP
    Azmina Visconti: May his soul rest in eternal peace, Ameen
    Zubeda Bhagat: May his soul Rest In Peace, ameen
    Azim Rajabali: Ya Mowla Rest His Soul in Eternal Peace and Forgive all His Sins, Ameen 🤲

  12. A selection of condolences received on the social media:

    Nargis Mitha: May his soul rest in eternal peace..ameen. I enjoyed talking with Sadrubhai at the BC Ismaili Council office. He would stop by to chat after completing his seva. He was very proud of volunteering . I will miss him.
    Salima Kara: May his soul Rest In Peace Ameen. He was such a lovely person ♥️
    Khayam Juma: May his soul rest in peace and condolences to the entire family 🙏
    Bud Esmail: Accept our sincere condolences. May his soul rest in eternal peace (Ameen)
    Saif Ali Bachani: May his soul rest in eternal peace, Ameen.
    Gulfroze Valli: RIEP Ameen
    Diamond Hass: Ameen. Prayers for qul ruhani souls to rest in eternal peace ameen
    Karima Mawji: May Allah rest his Soul in Eternal Peace. Ammen
    Al-Noor Jaffer: He was a great person! Let’s pray for his amar shanti🤲🏼. Ameen. Gone but will not be forgotten.
    Mirza Yaqub Musofer: May Allah rest his beautiful soul in eternal peace
    Shanaz Moloo: May his soul rest in eternal peace
    Aziz Ali: May his soul rest in eternal peace
    Malik Fidai: May his soul rest in eternal peace
    Hamida Dhrolia: May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen🙏
    Rose Zee: Rest In eternal peace
    Nasreen Assar Alidina: May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen🙏
    Farida Ladhani: May his soul rest in eternal peace Amen 🙏
    Nafisha Momin: Rip
    Galib Walji: Mowla bless his soul to Rest In Peace
    Tazmin Rajabali Shariff: Rest in peace Ameen Ameen
    Salina Jadevji: Prayers all ruhani souls to rest in eternal abode peacefully 🤲
    Parvin Damji: Inna Lillahi Wa Inna Ilayhi Raji’un
    Rozy Devji: May his soul rest in eternal peace Ameen
    Tazim Jamal: Rest in eternal peace. Ameen
    Karima Lalani: May Mowla rest his soul in Eternal peace. Ameen
    Shaida Thaver: May Allah rest their souls in eternal peace ameen, Sadru Mukhi and your [Malik’s] mom
    Shamim Sivani Merrigan: RIP🙏🙏🙏
    Ikram Beg: Rest in eternal peace
    Shemin Macchiwalla: May his soul rest in eternal peace.Ameen
    Bhagesh Valambhia: Rest in Peace Ameen
    Naznin Meghji: May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen
    Kara Sultana Rea: May he rest in eternal peace and may his family find comfort and strength..
    Naznin Hajee: May his soul rest in eternal peace 🙏
    Nimet Karim: May his soul rest in eternal peace
    Gulie Dhalla: Rest in peace Ameen
    Manizha Yaqubi: May his soul rest in eternal peace Ameen

  13. I have known both Sadru Mukhi and Mukhiani with the 3 totos from Kariakoo; Dar-es-Salaam; Tanzania. He was a wonderful and caring person. My wife Yasmin was serving as a Captain at East Hastings khane during their term. We both pray that his soul rest in eternal peace and give Sakar Mukhiani and the children the strength and courage.

  14. A very helpful person, he used to once own a dry cleaning shop in Brentwood Mall.

    May Mowla Rest him in Eternal Peace Amen!.

  15. May Mukhi Sadru Velji’s soul rest in eternal peace. His service was impeccable. Our condolences to his family.

  16. A very beautiful tribute from Sadru Velji’s grandchildren and Malik. After reading it, I feel as if I know him personally….what a lovely soul. May he rest in eternal peace.

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