Noorunisa Maherali (1929 – 2015): A Remarkable Ismaili Woman of Faith and Character


Mum's photo before she passed away

Noorunisa Maherali, before she died.

Mrs. Noorunisa Maherali, who passed away peacefully on May 25, 2015 in Singapore, was the youngest child and daughter of Mr. Val Mohammad Singapurwala, a wealthy ghee merchant of the Camel brand that was highly renowned in Singapore and Malaysia. She was also the oldest daughter-in-law of Mr. Nazarali Rahim Makani, a freedom fighter and gold medal recipient from Mahatma Gandhi, Father of India (see Remembering Nazarali Bapa: An Iron Craftsman Who Made a Spinning Wheel for Mahatma Gandhi),

Born in Mumbai on December 10, 1929, Noorunisa lived in Singapore, Bangkok, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and East Africa. She got married at a very young age to a Dar-es-Salaam businessman, but the marriage was annulled after a year. Noorunisa was determined that she would remain as independent as possible after her failed marriage, and instead of becoming a burden on her family, she returned to Mumbai and began earning her livelihood by becoming a driving instructor. During this period, when she was still in her early to mid-twenties,  she was involved in a remarkable rescue operation involving her best friend’s two children who had been forcibly abducted from Singapore to Karachi. Risking her own life, she made her way to Karachi, located the boys and delivered them safely to their uncle’s home. This heroic act earned her the gratitude and respect of the Akhtar household.

Noorunisa Maherali was well reputed for her culinary skills  It is this very trait that stole her next suitor’s heart who, when he had eaten her ‘daal gosht’ (mixed lentils with meat), proclaimed to his friends, “I am going to marry the lady who made this daal!”

With great determination, Mr. Maherali Gulam Husein Makani pursued this wonderful, kind-hearted and beautiful fashionable uptown and accomplished lady, until he finally won her heart, and married her. This marriage to Maherali took place ten years after Noorunisa’s first marriage. They had three children from the marriage, and seven grandchildren.

Mr and Mrs Makani

Maherali and Noorunisa Maherali. Photo: Khurshid Makani Collection.

Nooru, as she was fondly addressed by her kith and kin, was linguistically inclined, which she proudly passed on to her three children, who were raised with strong ethical values. She taught them to be courageous and face adversities whatever the challenges and toughness life brought onto them.  She, with her husband, had only one desire and that was to see their children and grand-children get good education in order to stand the best chance of becoming successful in life.

Nooru was involved for many years in the service to the Ismaili community. During the ten days of the Silver Jubilee celebrations of His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, which was celebrated in 1982-83, Mrs Noorunisa Maherali was called upon to make tea for hundreds of people from the Far East, South Asia as well as other Ismailis who had come to Singapore from far and wide. Sadly, her dedicated service during the period was overlooked. Unlike others who had served during the period and received a special gold coin, Nooru did not receive the service medal that she richly deserved. She did not take this matter to her heart and did not utter a word of her feeling, deciding to lead by example instead of seeking material gratification and recognition.

As is so often the case the Imam of the Time, at an appropriate time, found an opportunity to recognize her entire family during a special audience. Mrs. Maherali asked her youngest daughter to join her husband to present the family’s services and credentials before the Imam, as only 2 members were permitted to represent each family. When they reached the stage and when their family name was called, Mawlana Hazar Imam blessed the father and daughter by placing his hands on them, game them a beautiful smile and gently said, “A very special family.”

The family’s immense love and faith in their Imam was once again recognized during Mawlana Hazir Imam’s visit to Singapore in 2012. As he was leaving the hall, the Imam saw that Mrs. Noorunisa Maherali’s hands were shaking from her Parkinson’s condition as well as the anxiety that she felt over the imminent physical departure of the Imam after a joyous visit. At this sight, Mowlana Hazar Imam took her hand in his, and she put her other hand on his, and both were locked in a very special and profound spiritual moment that can only be experienced and not described in words. Many were a witness to this special incident and made a remark to the effect that “teri mummy bohot naseebdar hai” (your mother is extremely fortunate). This wonderful and beautiful event that took place can only be understood by one who loves Mawla Murtaza Ali’s Nur, the way a true faithful does!

Noorunisa Binti Val Mohammad-Maherali Makani is being missed by every member of her family. They were all deeply influenced and inspired by her noble actions and thoughts.

She leaves behind many family members including Son Humayun Maherali Gulam Husein Makani, daughters Razia Maherali Gulam Husein Makani (nee Mrs. Salim Dharani) and Khurshid Maherali Gulam Husein Makani; grandchildren Akbar Humayun Makani, Taufiq Humayun Makani, Amin Humayun Makani, Ahsan Salim Dharani, Saad ul Hassan Hashmi, Amreen Salim Dharani, Saher Rida Hashmi; daughter-in-law Parin BJ Keshvani (nee Mrs. Parin Humayun Makani); fathers of her grandchildren Salim Kamruddin Dharani and Waqar ul Hassan Hashmi;  brother-in-law Firoz Gulam Husein Makani and sister-in-law Parin Makani-Virani and last but not least her only living sister, Shakar Val Mohammad-Merchant.

May her soul rest in eternal peace.

Date posted: April 8, 2016.


Khurshid MakaniAbout the author: Khurshid Maherali Gulam Husein Makani is the youngest daughter of Nazarali Makani’s first grandson, Maherali Gulam Husein Makani. She was born and raised in Singapore, and trained in speech and drama as well as early childhood education. As an educator, she assumed the roles of a teacher and school principal, as well as taught English to foreign students.  She also operated two schools. During her teaching career she also travelled to China to teach English.

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