Shirin Mohamedali Khimji (1935 – 2019): A Remarkable Ismaili Widow and Woman of Faith and Character

Portrait of Shirin Khimji

A portrait of Shirin Mohamedali Khimji (1935-2019). Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.


Shirin Mohamedali Khimji of Kutch, Dodoma and Toronto, passed away peacefully at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on February 6, 2019. She was the much-loved wife of late Mohamedali Khimji, father of Sadrudin, Moez, Rosmin and Tazim, grandmaa to Nisara, Abida, Fayaz, Sameer, Juliana, Adam, Arif and Ghalib and great grandmaa to Nasiha. The last rites were held at Scarborough Jamatkhana on February 9, 2019 and she was later buried the same day at Elgin Mills Cemetery in Richmond Hill.

Born on March 5, 1935 in Kutch Mundra, Gujarat, India, Maa, as we fondly called her, was raised in an impoverished town and got married to the only love of her life, her husband, the late Mohamedali Khimji in 1949. Her first child, Sadrudin, was born in 1951 and following the guidance of the late Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, they decided to move to Kimamba, a small town outside of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in July 1951 by ship.

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Shirin M. Khimji with her husband Late Mohamedali Khimji and children Moez, Sadrudin and Rosmin. Tazim, the 4th child, was not born yet. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

A few years later on November 14, 1956, when she was only 21, her husband passed away due to heart complications and she lived courageously and selflessly as a widow, raising and blossoming the lives of her four children and several grandchildren throughout her lifetime.

There are many thoughts and recollections that come to mind as we honour and celebrate the life of Maa, a transcendent soul which enlightened the lives of many everyday. Maa always looked after the well-being of others before herself and because of that she was able to build an inclusive and welcoming community wherever she lived.

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Shirin M. Khimji having an enjoyable moment with her four children: Tazim, Sadrudin, Rosmin and Moez. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

From approximately 1973 to 1983, as an assistant matron at the Aga Khan Boarding Hostel in Dar es Salaam, she transformed and improved the lives of her boarders and earned their respect and trust due to her humble deeds. Maa ensured the rooms were cleaned and was responsible for preparing the daily and weekly menu which included popular Ismaili East African dishes such as kuku paka, ugali and daal bhajia to name a few.

Following her migration to Canada, she continued to serve and enrich the community in numerous ways. For example, at 1420 Victoria Park Avenue, a well-known seniors housing building in Toronto with a significant Ismaili senior population, she once again brought the community together by serving meals and looking after her friends. Maa was remembered for her dedication in feeding those who kept rojo (fast) and would make 150 parathas to ensure those who kept the fast were fed properly. I remember her telling me that there was a big sawab (spiritual reward or blessing) in feeding members  who had observed the fast.

One of Maa’s favourite memories was being able to spend quality time with her children and grandchildren. She would call all her children and grandchildren on an almost daily basis and always inquired about their whereabouts and well-being.

Family Collage 2 Shirin Khimji

A collage of photos representing Shirin M. Khimji with members of her family at various times during her lifetime. Photos: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection. Collage by Simerg.

I was truly fortunate to build a strong and loving bond with her and in October 2017, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited Dar es Salaam for his Diamond Jubilee visit and celebrations. Maa was blessed to have seen the Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

We had talked about the Jubilees in detail on several occasions and we decided that we would bring her back home to celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee in Tanzania. We were able to make that dream a reality. Maa was extremely happy to be back in Tanzania and to see old acquaintances and friends she had not seen for over 30 years.

A crowning moment and memory of the Diamond Jubilee that will forever be etched in our hearts was when Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade was passing by Dar es Salaam’s Upanga Jamatkhana and Maa was yearning to welcome and see her beloved Imam. A few moments later, he waved to her and the countless Ismailis who just wanted a glimpse of their Imam.

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Shirin M. Khimji on her final trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with her grandson Ghalib and two daughters Rosmin and Tazim. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

Maa was a selfless individual and she impacted innumerable lives through her humble actions, words and deeds. She prayed for the well being of others everyday until her last breath. Throughout her 84 years of life, Maa brought smiles and laughter to everyone that knew her. 

Our beloved Maa’s luminous legacy and impact will be felt for years and generations and her values of integrity, kindness, generosity, looking after the needy as well as selfless service to the community wherever she lived will always be admired by all.

Her entire life truly epitomized the meaning of ‘selfless service’ and her wise words and counsel are forever illuminated in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. She will always be remembered for her noble actions and deeds as well as an unflinching devotion to community harmony. She touched people of all ages throughout her life, and will be held in the utmost of respect and deep admiration. 

The passing away of our late Maa, Shirin Mohamedali Khimji, is a difficult moment for the family. Today, the family would like to celebrate the physical life of Maa, who most sincerely dedicated her life to the Ismaili Imamat and Jamats worldwide, and we express our humble shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam.

May her soul forever and eternally rest in peace. Ameen.

Date posted: March 5, 2019.


We welcome tributes and messages of condolence for the late Shirin Mohamedali Khimji. Please complete the feedback form below or click LEAVE A COMMENT.

About the writer: Ghalib Sumar is the beloved grandson of Maa, the late Shirin Mohamedali Khimji. Born and raised in Toronto, he is now located in Calgary and volunteers his time extensively on the Communications & Publications Portfolio of the Aga Khan Council for Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Health Studies degrees and is a communications and marketing professional.

We graciously publish tributes to honour deceased member(s) of your family. Please see Simerg Invites Obituaries / Tributes to Honour Past / Recent Deceased Ismailis. The feature is provided free of charge. 

Anaar Naran (1936-2017): A Teacher Par Excellence at the Aga Khan Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania


Anaar Naran (1936 – 2017) pictured at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now known as the Canadian Museum of History) during her visit to Ottawa, Canada, in 2011. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

It is with deep sadness that I announce the passing of a beloved family friend, educator and teacher par excellence, Anaar Naran, at the age of 81. She passed away peacefully in Richmond, Virginia, USA, on the morning of Thursday, September 14, 2017. Her funeral ceremonies will be held on Monday, September 18, 2017 at 2 pm in Richmond.

She leaves behind her children Amyn, Navyn and Naaznyn. She was predeceased by her husband Mr. Badrudin Naran in 1979 at the age of 48, and brother Zafar. She also leaves behind her brother Fazli and sister Farida.

Anaar Naran will be remembered by her students, their parents and her colleagues as a fine and inspiring teacher during her tenure at the Aga Khan Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, during the 1960’s. Her friends and family members will remember her as a committed and hard-working educator throughout her lifetime. She always carried a beautiful smile and exuded warmth and happiness. Anaar was absolutely dedicated to her faith as an Ismaili Muslim, and her love for Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was immense that when she talked about him, her face glowed with happiness. She remained an avid reader of literature until the last days of her life, encouraging even her daughter Navyn to produce poems.

At this sad time, our thoughts go to Mrs. Naran’s children and grandchildren, and we convey our condolences to the family of the deceased.

We pray for the eternal peace of the soul of Mrs. Anaar Naran, and for the strength of her family members at this difficult time.

Date posted: September 18, 2017.


We invite your tributes and messages of condolences in memory of Anaar Naran by clicking on Leave a comment. Should you encounter technical or other difficulties submitting your feedback, please email your message of condolence to under the subject heading Anaar Naran

Premji Vaghela, Now a Centenarian, Shares Early Memories of Cricket in Dar-es-Salaam and a Rare Historical Photo of His Highness the Aga Khan

Editor’s note: Naren Varambhia, an avid reader of Simerg residing in London, England, recently brought to our attention a piece on cricket which Premji Vaghela had contributed for a “Dar-es-Salaam Jambo Reunion” that took place in Toronto, Canada, on August 9-10, 1997.

Mr. Premji Vaghela is now a hundred years old and lives in Toronto, Canada: Photo: Premji Vaghela Collection. Copyright.

Mr. Premji Vaghela is now a hundred years old and lives in Toronto, Canada: Photo: Premji Vaghela Collection. Copyright.

We are pleased to publish this highly interesting piece after contacting Mr. Vaghela’s sons, Rajnikant and Niranjan of London and Toronto respectively. We learnt from them that their beloved father has been living in Toronto since 1985, and that the family celebrated his 100th birthday last December! We offer our good wishes to Mr. Vaghela and his entire family for this blessing of a long life.

Both Rajni and Niru mentioned that they have stayed in touch with several Dar-es-Salaam cricketers, including Ismaili cricketers Hasnu Kalyan, Mamda Kassam and Badru Bhamji who played for the Aga Khan Club and Tanzanian national cricket squad for many years.

We are indebted to Mr. Vaghela’a family for this memorable and historical piece, which includes a very rare photo of the 48th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, meeting cricketers Mamda Kassam and Premji Vaghela, among others, at Dar-es-Salaam’s Gymkhana cricket ground.

Mr. Premji Vaghela was awarded the cup on the left for scoring 150 runs in a cricket match. The plaque on the right was given to him for his contribution to the Hindu Sports Club. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

Mr. Premji Vaghela was awarded the cup on the left for scoring 150 runs in a cricket match. The plaque on the right was given to him for his contribution to the Hindu Sports Club. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

My School Days and Cricket


I was born in Dar es Salaam in 1915 when the British were bombing Dar, when it was under German rule, and the people took shelter in the Jangwani Creek.

I started playing cricket bare-footed at the age of seven with a tennis ball and a locally made wooden bat. Dar streets were our  playgrounds and street lamp posts or dust-bins were our wickets. Those days, in the early twenties, the streets were safe to play in as there were no cars — only rickshaws. Few cars were seen after 1931.

I studied in a Gujarati school called Lokmanya Tilak Memorial School, where Arya Sukh Shanti Lodge is presently situated. After 1918, Tanganyika was called British Protected Territory. The Indian Central School (ICS) was built by the Government in 1929. All the teachers were recruited from India. All the students — boys and  girls — from Tilak school were transferred to this new school. The first headmaster of the new school was Mr. N. O. Mody, a very strict disciplinarian He introduced cricket in the school. It was this school that supplied the most cricketers to all the communal teams in Dar-es-Salaam till 1960.

I earned my name as a bowler and batsman. My first century came in 1932 against the Punjebhai Club (later known as the Aga Khan Club). We did well in the League Tournament. In the knockout tournament in 1934, the school came in the final against the British Gymkhana Club. I scored 150 runs and we piled up a huge score of over 300 runs. We won the knock-out Cup.

In 1932, Mr. A.A. M  Isherwood, then the Director of Education, donated a cup called the “Isherwood Cup”* (see note below) for cricket to be competed by the schools in Dar. There were only two schools at that time: the ICS and the Aga Khan School. We won the trophy  in 1932. It was a coincidence that in 1956 — almost after 25 years —  my son Rajni, when he was school captain, brought the same trophy home. I left the school in 1935. The school had a very good reputation in cricket.

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His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 - 1957), 48th Imam of Ismailis, meeting with Mamda Kassam, Premji Vaghela and others at the Gymkhana Cricket Ground in Dar-es-Salaam. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 – 1957), 48th Imam of Ismailis, meeting with Mamda Kassam, Premji Vaghela and others at the Gymkhana Cricket Ground in Dar-es-Salaam. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

In 1936, I joined the Indian Sports Club. At that time there were few teams competing in the League Tournament – the “Sachu Pira Shield”. One of the conditions of League matches was that whichever team won for three consecutive years, would retain the Shield forever. In 1936, 1937 and 1938, the Indian Sports Club were the winners and won the Shield permanently. Today, the Shield is on  display in G.M. Sulemanji’s Hardware shop window on Independence Avenue (then Acacia Avenue).

Many young and promising players were coming out from the school, and there were not sufficient teams to accommodate them.  Consequently, the Indian Sports Club was split into two communal teams: the Hindus and the Bohras. The Goans, the Ithnasharis and the Aga Khan teams were already there. By 1940, many other teams cropped up; Punjab Sports Club, the Maratha Mandal, Sinhalese Sports Club  and Malabar Sports Club were new additions. Customs Sports Club and the P.W.D. also joined the cricket competition. The Khalsas and the Goans were the main hockey rivals.

On match days, the whole Asian population turned out on the Gymkhana and the Government Service cricket grounds which were adjacent to each other. The whole atmosphere was like festivals. Machunga (oranges), makai (corn), madafu (coconut), sekela-bafela jugu  (fried-boiled peanuts) and ndhizi (plantains) were always in demand.

I must also mention names of two Englishmen: Mr. F. H. Woodrow, the Director of P.W.D, and Mr. Hudson, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise. They both took keen interest in promoting cricket. There were not enough cricket grounds in Dar then. Mr. Woodrow gave the P.W.D. ground, and Karimjee donated the Bohra’s ground. I consider it only fair to mention the name of Seth Abdulkarim Y.A. Karimjee, of the wealthy and philanthropic Karimjee Jivanjee family. He always supported the cause of cricket  in Dar. He was a good cricketer himself and a thorough sportsman. He was kind, helpful and unassuming.

I should not also forget the grand old man, Count Kassum Sunderji Samji, who donated trophies to cricket and tennis competitions in Dar. He always supported sports one way or the other.

Cricket was the most popular sport in Dar. The competitors were keen and played in high spirit. Sometimes, the communal tension was high, particularly when the Hindus and the Aga Khan Clubs were playing. At times the police were called to control the overenthusiastic supporters of both sides! However, on and off the field, the personal relationship between the players was always cordial and friendly.

Cricket was also played in Mwanza, Tabora, Dodoma, Moshi and Tanga. Cricket was particularly popular in schools and carried on by kids playing in the streets.

Perhaps the most enjoyable competition, for almost all cricketers, was when Dar and Zanzibar used to visit each other every year in early August. Every alternate year we used to play in Zanzibar and vice versa. Many tourists used to accompany the teams and create considerable excitement and jubilation, just like a big festival!

In order to strengthen their side during the final or critical stage in the competition, it was a practice among certain teams to import players from Zanzibar, Mombasa and other centres, during the weekends. Such practices later on were banned by the Dar-es-Salaam Cricket Association.

Unfortunately, the status of cricket has changed considerably due to various reasons: shortage of cricket grounds, lack of encouragement in schools and the high cost of cricket gear·. Considering all these factors, I think cricket will eventually die out in Dar. This is the unfortunate reality of life.

During my cricket career in Dar-es-Salaam, I scored five centuries and taken a great many wickets. These were, undoubtedly, the happiest years of my life.

Date posted: June 5, 2016.

Copyright: Premji Vaghela.


*The Isherwood cup was played in Dar for many years until the late 1960’s. The editor of this blog played in the Isherwood cup for Shabaan Robert from 1967-1969, and featured prominently in the school’s victories during the 3 year period. Pranlal Divecha and Tahir along with Ismaili brothers Shiraz and Abdul Sumar were the top ranked players for Shabaan Robert when they shockingly defeated the favourites Aga Khan Secondary in the 1965 semi-finals/finals. All four went on to play for the Tanzanian squad. Prior to 1965, the cup was dominated for several years by Aga Khan School, whose arch rival was Azania School, located near Muhimbili Hospital. All rounder John Solanki was one of the most well-known players for Aga Khan Secondary — the all-rounder went on to play for England’s county team, Glamorgan, during the 1970’s. By 1971, the Isherwood cup became a non-entity, as there wasn’t any competitive spirit or interest left in the game at the school level. We will be happy to receive an update on the state of Tanzanian school cricket today, and whether the Isherwood has been revived– ed. 

Share your cricket memories of Dar-es-Salaam and other parts of East Africa. Click Leave a comment or write/send photos to All correspondence will be promptly acknowledged.

What is the state of cricket in Dar-es-Salaam today? Has cricket become a mainstream sport? Please submit your feedback at Leave a comment.

Exclusive Photos of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Visit to Dar-es-Salaam by Rai Abdul M. Ismaily @Simergphotos

Please click: Exclusive: Photos of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Visit to Dar-es-Salaam by the Late Abdul M. Ismaily (“Papa Jaan”)

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, UNHCR, visit to Tanzania

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan being greeted by President Shamshu Tejapr of the Ismailia Association for Tanzania during a visit to Dar-es-Salaam in the 1960’s. Please click on image for more photos of the Prince’s visit.

Date posted: March 16, 2016.


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Please click on image for photo essay on Fidai magazine

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Please click for “Fire” by Mohezin Tejani


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Forthcoming (in “Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures”):
The Greatness of Isma‘ili Muslim Thought: A Tribute to the School of Isma‘ili Philosophers by Khalil Andani