An Opportunity of a Lifetime – Recitation of Qur’anic Verses in the Presence of His Highness the Aga Khan

By Ahamed Ismail

Ahamed Ismail, left, recited Qur’anic suras in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, centre, at the opening of the Aga Khan Primary School in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania (then Tanganyika). At right is Alnoor Kassum, the education administrator. Photo: Ahamed Ismail Family Collection.

I have noted with interest the numerous tributes in response to Simerg’s informative and enlightening piece on the late Karim Moledina Pirani (please click Literary Reading: Karim Master’s Legacy Lives on Through Illustrated Journal, “Rahe Rast” ), who was popularly known as Karim Master (25 December, 1909 – 28 June, 1985). Karim Master was instrumental in imparting religious education in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to Ismaili students. I was one of his countless students.

I arrived in Dar-es-Salaam for further studies from the small town of Musoma in 1956. Karim Master was the head teacher of religious studies, and I soon came to know him. I found that he took a keen interest in every student. He expected us to learn our history well, and recite the Dua, Ginans and the Eid Namaz in the best possible manner. Though strict, he was extremely kind hearted and fair. He greatly helped and encouraged me to sing Ginans and learn their meanings. Within a short period after my arrival, he taught and prepared me to recite the Eid Namaz in Dar-es-Salaam’s Darkhana Jamatkhana in 1956.

Ahamed Ismail seen reciting Qur’anic verses with His Highness the Aga Khan standing next to him during the opening of the Aga Khan Primary School in Dar-es-Salaam. Photo: Ahamed Ismail Family Collection.

In 1957, Mawlana Hazar Imam, as I recollect, visited Dar-es-Salaam twice. The first visit was for the ceremonial installation (or the Takhtnashini) as our 49th Imam, and the later visit was for numerous other events, including the opening of the newly built Aga Khan Primary School. In preparation for this event Karim Master chose me to recite ayats from the Holy Qur’an in the presence of our beloved Imam. Karim Master selected the Sura Fateha and the Sura Ikhlas. He would call me into his office every day for almost two weeks, and ensured that my recitation was perfect for the big day

On the day of the opening of the Aga Khan Primary School, I went straight from my class to the site in my secondary school uniform – I was then in Grade 10. The opening was attended by numerous dignitaries including the Education Administrator, (Vazir) Alnoor Kassum, and the Liwali of Dar-es-Salaam. The recital went really well and at its conclusion, I was glad to learn that someone had taken photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam with me. I give my humble shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam for this wonderful blessing. I owe this unique lifetime opportunity to one of the greatest and finest human beings I have known in my life – the iconic Karim Master who inspired my religious outlook and understanding.

Date posted: Wednesday, August 15, 2012.

Copyright: Ahamed Ismail. August 2012.


About the writer: Ahamed Ismail grew up in Musoma, Tanzania, before moving to Dar-es-Salaam to pursue his secondary education. Upon completing his Senior Cambridge in 1959, he returned to his home town where he became a teacher. He then switched his career to banking and joined Barclays Bank, obtaining his designations as an Associate of the Institute of Bankers, England, and a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators, England. In 1972, he moved to Vancouver, Canada, with his wife Nasim where he continued in Banking before serving  the Ismaili Council for Canada, first as a member and then as its Executive Officer. When the Ismaili Council was relocated to Toronto, he moved to the city with his family to assist with the setting up of the new offices. He then moved back into financial industry until retiring in 2005. Ahamed and Nasim have two children, Aly and Feyzi, who were both born in Canada.


Other narratives of interest:

1. Baba Ismail: The First Shamsi Convert in the History of the Gupti Ismailis of Punjab
2. On Meeting the Noorani Family – My Voyage to Europe
The 1955 “Jubilee Ball” of His Highness the Aga Khan III at the Savoy
4. An Ismaili Youth’s Rare Moment With Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah
5. Yakimour 1954: A Golden Moment for an Aspiring Student

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4 thoughts on “An Opportunity of a Lifetime – Recitation of Qur’anic Verses in the Presence of His Highness the Aga Khan

  1. Thank you Ahamed, for the article. Though only 7 years of age, at that time, I very vividly remember that opening ceremony of the school, the Scouts marching band, the gymnastics performed for the Imam, and so much more.
    As for Karim Master, Well what can I say? Strict as he was, he put a lot of us on the path that has brought us were we are today as far as Religion is concerned. He was also the first ‘Group Scout Master’ of the 1st Dar-es-Salaam Aga-Khan Scouts group of which I was a proud member. On my visit to Dar in 1984 I went to see Karim Master at his resident. I wanted to do a write up of how Scouting started in Dar. But he did not remember much. He had grown quite frail and I could not converse much with him as he soon got tired. May his soul rest in peace. Amen.

    Mansur Rahemtullah
    Ontario, Canada.

  2. Ya Ali Madad
    Thanks for bringing back the memories of those wonderful days. Some of the other teachers were Mr Firoz Bhaghat, Karim and Aziz Ratansi, Sadru Remtulla, Zera Daya, Anar Naran and Zubeda Bhimji…
    Later after crossing over (passing Grade 8-Territorial Exams) we went over to the Aga Khan Boys Secondary School (presently known as Tambaza-as opposed to the Aga Khan Girls Secondary School which was a separate entity)..Ahamed I had a fellow classmate from Musoma , Azim Ismail any relation of yours? Unfortunately my friend Azim, the top student passed away in a MVA during that period…
    Alnoor Chagpar

  3. Thank you Ahamed for this interesting and historical article. I attended the Aga Khan Primary school in Dar in the early 1960’s and recall how newly built the school looked. I was always curious about its opening ceremony and your article provides answers to many of my questions. I recall the first or second headmaster of the school was a Mr Rawji who had a funny way of addressing the students at morning assembly. Years ago I recall reading an article in the Ismaili Canada about his teaching career in Alberta, Canada.

    Zahir Dharsee
    Ontario Canada

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