REMEMBERING AN ISMAILI MAN OF LETTERS
By Abdulmalik J. Merchant
“And for those of you who are young and who tend to say ‘I will fulfill this duty tomorrow’, tomorrow does not return. And for those of you who are old and who say ‘I am too old to do this now’, remember that you are never too old, never too old, that so long as you are alive, every day is a day that must be lived, and in that day you must fulfill your [material and spiritual]* responsibilities to the best of your ability. So do not let time pass without being aware that once it has passed, it has gone for ever. This is something you should all keep in mind.” Mumbai, Darkhana Jamatkhana, November 27, 1973 (Excerpt from “Farman Mubarak – 1973 India and 1976 Kenya Visits”, published by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom, 1976).
(Alijah) Ameer Kassam Janmohamed, who passed away in London, England on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at the age of 82, remained unwavering throughout his life in his commitment to the principles that His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Ismaili Imam and the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s), has sought to inculcate in his followers throughout his 57 years of leadership – the principle of living life to the fullest and keeping a balance between the material and spiritual facets of one’s life whatever one’s age. No where else, in my recollection, has good ethical and moral behaviour, and the need for a proper balance between din (the spirit) and dunya (the world) been more strongly espoused by the Ismaili Imam than in the Mumbai farman of 1973, an excerpt from which I have quoted above.
Born in Kisumu, Kenya, to Rabhiabai and Kassam Janmohamed on June 6, 1931, Ameer Kassam Janmohamed was kind and generous and true to the responsibilities he had to his family and friends, his faith and the noble causes he undertook in public life from his youthful days. His long time service to the Rotarians was particularly significant.
Until the last days of his life, he acknowledged all the emails he received, and generously shared his knowledge and wisdom with all his contacts He possessed a wealth of historical archives, and shared all information that came his way. His six great literary pieces for this website were significant and unique as without his contributions (see links to articles, below) many of the recent and previous events in Ismaili history would have gone un-recorded and largely unknown. In addition, he created a website www.ameerjanmohamed.com in 2013 which is dedicated to his personal thoughts and writings, family memories as well as historical notes that include rare insights and informative anecdotes.
Among the numerous articles and books that he published, including the three-volume set of “AKJ Collection of Cynical Wisdom,” his wonderfully written “A Regal Romance and Other Memories”, published in London in 2008 contained a rich tapestry of vividly told personal and family vignettes from 19th century onwards as well as insights of life in Kenya before and after independence.
Besides being a man of letters, Mr. Janmohamed had a vast record of services to his credit, both within and outside the Ismaili community. He was initiated into the Rotary club in Mombasa when he was a youth, and subsequently got elected as President and later as District Governor of Rotary International, a position which covered nine African and Indian Ocean countries. One of the major milestones during his term of office was the completion of a World Community Service project, which was handing over of an air-plane ambulance, a Cessna 206, to the Flying Doctor Service of Tanzania. The project had been initiated by Rotary Clubs of Moshi and Arusha. He continued to be involved with the Rotary after he moved to London, UK, in 1973, and acted as the President of the Kensington Club in 1981/1982. At the time of his passing away, he was the oldest surviving member of this chapter.
Within the Ismaili community, he served as a past Governor of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, which was established by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1977, and director of the Zamana Gallery, both in London. Earlier in Kenya, he served in the capacity as Kamadia and subsequently as Mukhi of the Mombasa Chief Jamatkhana between 1962 to 1966, and later became the President of the Mombasa Aga Khan Provincial Council from 1968-1971. He was also a director of the Diamond Trust. He was an alumnus of Mombasa’s Aga Khan High School.
One of his life’s greatest passions was the recitation of ginans in Ismaili jamatkhanas around the world, which he described as follows in a piece contributed for this blog’s highly acclaimed series, “I Wish I’d Been There”:
“I have recited Ginans in numerous Jamatkhanas in 12 different countries of the world. Each time I have experienced this indescribable thrill when members of the Jamat in diverse places have joined in with me in reciting the Ginans, for they have known the words and the ragas. From Mumbai to Melbourne, Miami to Mombasa, Karachi to Kampala, Pune to Portimao, from Andheri to Upanga, each time I have had this exalting experience. One is suffused with a feeling of oneness and community each time one is privileged to undergo this experience.”
In noting Mr. Ameer Kassam Janmohamed’s passing away, we convey our heart-felt condolences to his wife, Mrs. Zeenat Janmohamed, and all his family members, relatives and friends around the world. He touched the hearts and souls of people everywhere through numerous channels, and we pray for the eternal peace and rest of his soul. Amen.
Date posted: Monday, January 27, 2014.
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LINKS TO SIX GREAT ESSAYS BY AMEER JANMOHAMED ON THIS WEB SITE
1. Thank You Letter to Pir Sabzali and Ismaili Pirs of the Ginanic Tradition (Contributed for “Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures” Series).
2. The Faith of My Forefathers (contributed for “I Wish I’d Been There” Series)
more links after photo…
A historical photo from the archives of the late Ameer Janmohamed
Date posted: Monday, January 27, 2014.
Date updated: Sunday, February 16, 2014 (post relocated to PASSINGS category).
*Note – bracketed text is Simerg’s, in the context that the entire firman was dedicated to living life responsibly and ethically, with the emphasis being on keeping a proper balance between the spiritual (din) and material (dunya) aspects of our lives.
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