Passings: Dr. Vali Jamal (d. July 11, 2021)

A Personal Reflection by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

Vali Jamal
Dr. Vali Jamal

I have learnt with deep sadness that Dr. Vali Jamal, a noted economist at the United Nations from the 1970’s to 1990’s, an author and a valuable contributor to Simerg’s acclaimed series on Ismaili Jamatkhanas and Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures, passed away in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2021, at the age of 80.

In 2011, when we published his pieces on 5 Palace Gate, the iconic address in London’s South Kensington that was the centre of Ismaili culture and spiritual life in the UK, and the Kampala Darkhana Jamatkhana, Vali was in the midst of completing a book on Ugandan Asians that was scheduled to be published later that year. Vali was deeply devoted to the book, and very passionate about the subject of the history of Asians and their rich contributions to Uganda. He kept on expanding the book in the ensuing years with the result that the book reached a page count of almost 3000, containing thousands of images.

A version of the cover page of Vali Jamal’s painstaking work on the Ugandan Asians

He jokingly remarked it was a fist breaker because of its size and weight. The dream of launching the book in Uganda and elsewhere was never realized during his lifetime.

I sincerely hope that the book is ultimately published for the amount of authentic and important visual and textual information that Vali painstakingly gathered over the years from primary and first hand sources as well as from individual Asian families he connected with and wrote to him.

Vali Jamal and friends outside Uganda House, London, summer 1962. Clockwise from standing: Amin Chatur, Mansur Lalani, Vali Jamal, Zuli Rajan, Nurdin Juma Jutha and Sikander (aka Pyaralli) Ismail. Photo: Vali Jamal.

Vali, a devoted murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, never failed to appreciate and recognize the contribution of the Ismaili Imam’s uncle, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, in the resettlement of the Ugandan refugees, and wrote a touching tribute piece to the Prince in Simerg’s Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures. In his email exchanges he would often also quote how Mawlana Hazar Imam was personally involved in the resettlement of thousands of Ugandan Asians in Canada through the Government of Canada and Canada’s Prime Minister at the time, the Late Pierre Trudeau, father of the present Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about whom he sent us a special piece when he was elected as the Prime Minister for the first time in 2015.

Dr. Vali Jamal was a Senior Economist at the International Labour Organization of the United Nations from 1976 to 2001. He completed his BA at Cambridge University and PhD at Stanford University, California. He then began working on his book and participated in discussions on the Ugandan Asians through email exchanges as well in the social media.

Images that Simerg created linking them to Vali Jamal’s 3 pieces for the website. See links below.

We would like to remember and recollect Dr. Vali Jamal through the wonderful pieces he contributed to this website. Please read the following pieces:

We pray that Dr. Vali Jamal’s soul may rest in eternal peace. We convey our sincere condolences to all his family members, friends and supporters around the world. We welcome tributes and messages of condolences to Dr. Jamal in our feedback form below.

Date posted: July 12, 2021.


We invite our readers to submit their condolences, memories and tributes to Dr. Vali Jamal. To pen your reflection please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment.

Links to article(s) by Vali Jamal on external websites:

Kibedi: Story of a man who was misunderstood

Links to his other pieces will be added as received.


Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

10 thoughts on “Passings: Dr. Vali Jamal (d. July 11, 2021)

  1. This news of the passing of Dr Valli Jamal is very sad indeed. May His Soul Rest in Eternal Peace. As an Economics And History Graduate, I enjoyed reading his articles on the Pre and Post Expulsion Uganda and the Asian and Ismaili Community he used to write about. His perspectives were very informative and reflected his academic education. His 2011 article on his Memories of Kampala Jamat Khana inspired me to write a similar article on my recollections of the Old Nairobi Darkhana, now Town Jamatkhana. He also made an interesting comment on the earticle. Rest in Peace Dr Vali Jamal. You made a significant contribution to the writing of the19th, 20th and 21st Century Ismaili History.

  2. Oh, what a loss to the Indian community of East Africa. I salute him for his obsession of documenting the East African Indian history and more importantly their contribution in the development of East African countries of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania.

    Exactly a year ago he wrote a nice positive comment on my article I wrote about Iringa Jamatkhana. I never met him personally but read about his interview written by Simon Kasyate (dated 9th March 2014) and was very impressed.

    I was very saddened to hear that he passed away. I pray and desire that his long awaited book gets published. Dr Vali Jamal will surely be missed and we pray for his soul to rest in eternal peace.

    Dr Mohamed F. Manji
    Clinical Associate Professor University Of British Columbia

  3. I never met Vali Jamal. But got to know of him as he was writing about the Baluchis in Uganda for his book. He had interviewed my uncle, Abdulrazak Nasser and my brother, Badru Khalfan, in Kampala. He has an item about them in his book. Around that time I wrote to him correcting some info about one of the peoples he wrote about. Much, much later, I reached out to him for help in getting a photo of Mr Gurdial Singh of Arua, Uganda.

    I was, at the time, in the process of writing about my own grandfather’s story and his, his sons, and grand sons contribution to Arua, West Nile, and Uganda. I thought, at the time, that given his wide research, and photo collection, he might have Mr Singh’s photo in his archive. Unfortunately, he didn’t, but kindly offered to circulate my request on his Facebook account.

    He then asked me to contribute a piece on my grandfather for his book. I did. He then asked me to write another piece on a former Ugandan Baluchi who is in Tanzania. I did that too. He was relentless in his pursuit to prod me to keep on adding more and more. He shared a number of the emails with me that were copied to most of those on this email list. I’m writing all this to show how committed he was to his Uganda Asian project, given the numerous obstacles he encountered, criticisms, and according to him, personal threats on his life.

    He never gave up. He was an astute writer and picky editor, always catching a factual error, or questioning the timeline of a claim. He left me with a clear impression of an editor who always felt the material needed one more edit. I never could figure out at what point he decided to stop, or exactly what made him think that.

    He deserves to be remembered as a devoted Ugandan, a researcher and historian, who worked tirelessly to chronicle the numerous stories of the Ugandan Asians’ contribution to Uganda and their failures in connecting with their fellow African Ugandans, a thought which, it seems, some didn’t want him to deal with.

    It’s really sad that he passed away just as he was about to oversee the launching of his book in Uganda, England, and Canada.

    I sincerely hope his family will take on this job and as many of us as possible should commit ourselves to purchasing his book. It’s not about the book’s financial success. It’s about it being read by those who he meant to write it for.

    I pray to Allah to have Mercy on his soul, to place him in a favoured place, and to soothe his family with patience.

    Zulf M Khalfan
    Nepean, Ontario

    • Can you name the person baluchi since I am in Dar es Salaam. My mama Abdul Nathoo and his wife Zulekha ( Baluchi) were there during the Idi AmIn era

  4. Dear Friends and family members of Vali Jamal.

    It is with deep sorrow that we learnt about the sad demise of Vali Jamal.

    I never met him but his continuous epistolary ambience for the last several years made him a friend. The vast accumulation of photos and historical records of Uganda’s development made him a hero but also a person of criticism. His deep rooted faith in God that his book will be published kept him alive. Many of his close friends will suffer sombre depression for the vacuum he has left behind. I will miss an unseen friend who had taken his heart to write the history of Uganda. He lives behind an emptiness where there was once his omnipresence spread with his words from Uganda.

    Vali’s passing away would certainly touch everyone who hoped to see the new history of Uganda completed.

    My heartfelt condolences are for his family and close friends. May he rest in peace.

    Nilesh Nathwani,

  5. Sorry to hear about the passing away of Vali Jamal. I contributed to his book by sending some articles and photos. Hope his long hard work comes to fruition.

  6. I am deeply saddened to learn about Vali’s sudden passing. We have been friends from Kampala then Norwich. Norfolk, UK, Canada, back in Kampala.

    At Norwich City College, Vali, Aziz Ratansi and I continued our friendship. Vali remembered me in 2010 when he was planning to write his Magnum Opus and asked me to contribute a chapter on Jains’ contribution to the development of Uganda. He acknowledged my efforts with great appreciation.

    I shall miss his lively emails, his passionate cataloguing Asian contribution to the development of Uganda and most of all, his lively spirit and enthusiasm.

    Rest in peace, my friend, my school and college mate and my friendly Editor.

  7. I am saddened by the demise of Dr. Vali Jamal as I have known him and his family as we were all from Kampala, Uganda and attended the Kampala Jamatkhana. His sister Gulzar was my schoolmate at the Agakhan Secondary School in Kamapal, Uganda.
    May his soul rest in eternal peace, Ameen.

    Yasmina Jamal nee Yasmina Panjwani

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