By Abdulmalik Merchant
Alijah Zul Khoja: Lifetime Educator and Leader
It is with deep sadness that we announce the passing of an outstanding educator and leader of the Ismaili Muslim community, (Alijah) Zulfikarali M.A. Velji Khoja, in Ottawa, Canada, on Friday, September 4th, 2015. His funeral and burial ceremonies will take place in Ottawa on Wednesday, September 9.
Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Mr. Khoja was a skilled trainer, facilitator, educational consultant and mediator. His experience and training was diverse: with a post-graduate degree in Radio Chemistry from Carleton University, Ottawa, and professional designations from the Universities of Birmingham, Queens, Ottawa, Windsor and the London School of Economics, he travelled worldwide on many consulting assignments as a Mediator. These included: The Canadian Human Rights Commission, Better Business Bureau, Ottawa-Carleton Dispute Resolution Centre,and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.
This visit to the Aga Khan School in Dhaka took place during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s four day stay in Bangladesh in 1993. During the school visit Hazar Imam was accompanied by a Government Minister, The President of the Council, school board members. In this photo, Zul Khoja, the principal of the school from 1992-1994 is seen showing a curricular activity implemented to introduce creative and critical thinking among the students. Mawlana Hazar Imam took immense pride in this activity, known as the Mind Benders Club, and turned to his guests to explain the accomplishments in his school. Zul noted that when Mawlana Hazar Imam introduced him to the guests, it was done with a “full bio!” Mr. Khoja said that when he escorted the party into the school, it took the Imam less than 30 seconds to fully understand what was being accomplished in the school. One of the areas that the late Zul Khoja specialised in was the education of bright and gifted children. Please click on photo for Zul’s piece, Ismaili Penmanship. Photo: Zul Khoja Collection.
As an administrator, educator and trainer, Zul worked at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board. He was also headmaster, educator and trainer (Professional Development) to The Aga Khan Development Network, both in Bangladesh and Kenya. Zul’s voluntary service with the Ismaili Community and its institutions included several countries (South Africa, Kenya, Bangladesh and Canada). The services in Canada included training Management Auditors and conducting Management Audits. He also served as a Baitul Ilm teacher and held leadership positions with both the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board and the Aga Khan Council since his settlement in Ottawa in the 1970’s. Most recently he served as the Convener for Donor Services for the Aga Khan Foundation committee in Ottawa, where he resided with his wife, Khairunissa. He also leaves behind two children, a son, Sherali, and a daughter, Rozmin.
We pray that Allah may rest Alijah Zul Khoja’s soul in eternal peace, and that He may bless his entire family with courage and fortitude at this difficult time.
The late 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, seated on a wheelchair with members of his family with his successor, the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Others in the photo (l to r), grandson Prince Amyn Muhammad, and the late Imams two sons, the late Prince Sadruddin and Prince Aly Khan, who is seen holding his daughter Princes Yasmin Aga Khan. This rare photo was provided to Simerg by Alijah Zul Khoja.
Mr. Khoja had contributed to this blog in numerous ways including writing a memorable piece Ismaili Penmanship in 1906 for this website’s special series, I Wish I’d Been There.
Date posted (from Halifax, Nova Scotia): September 8, 2015.