An extraordinary short film on the first Ismaili settlement in Europe – Sí, es España!

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/editor SimergSimergphotos  and Barakah

My Spanish cousins, Yasmin and Shamsah, recently reminded me to watch a special program on Ismaili TV which among other things portrayed their grandfather’s arrival in Spain in 1914, and how he raised a beautiful family that has now lived in Spain for more than 106 years!

The 20-minute Spanish historical segment of the program is presented in the Youtube link below, and we sincerely thank the Aga Khan Development Network’s communication department for arranging to send us the clip. It will familiarize our viewers about an important phase in the Ismaili settlement in Europe, a narrative that been missing when discussing recent Ismaili migrations to Europe.

My aunt Sakina, who is 93, introduces the film with great insight, wisdom and passion, and one quickly realizes her immense faith and love for Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

story continues after video link

Youtube Video on Jamat in Spain

As the story goes, Sakina aunty accompanied her father, Ashad Ali Haji, to India in 1947. The trip lasted 3 months and during this time she met my father Jehangir’s older brother, Abdulmahomed, whom she would marry 3 years later. They would spend the next 10 years in India, mainly in Calcutta.

The couple then lived in London, England, until the mid 1960’s before settling down with their four children — Abdulsultan Yasmin, Gulammahomed and Shamsah — in Madrid.

While in London, Abdulmahomed uncle served as Kamadiasaheb and Mukhisaheb of the Jamat during the early 1960’s. He and my father both passed away six months apart, less than 3 years ago. Apparently, because they used different surnames, many Jamati members do not know the family link — my uncle used the surname Allibhoy Mahomed and my father used Merchant. Their father manufactured leather goods and traded as a leather merchant, and I suspect that’s how I have Merchant as my surname.

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Abdulmahomed and Jehangir
Photo taken in Madrid at wedding of Gulammahomed (missing in photo). From left to right: Maria Jose, Abdulsultan, Yasmin, Jehangir Alibhai Merchant, Shamsah, Abdulmahomed Allibhoy Mahomed, Sakina, Gulbanu and Felipe. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Over the past 43 years, I have had the privilege of meeting Abdulmahomed uncle, Sakina aunty, and my four cousins as well as their families several times. Our most recent get together was in Lisbon in July 2018, during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee visit. Abdulmahomed uncle is buried in Lisbon, and we all went to his burial site to pay homage to him and pray for his soul. He is seen in the film, walking by his beloved wife of more than 70 years, Sakina (see featured photo at top of this post).

Sakina aunty has a photographic memory, whereby she can recount with precise detail every important incident from the 1940’s onwards. Once she starts telling stories, you want keep on hearing. She accompanied her father and siblings to a number of mulaqats with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah. This blessing of mulaqats continued after Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam succeeded to the throne of Imamat in 1957. Incidents from the mulaqats are in themselves deeply touching, and some that were articulated to me related to the continuity of the Imamat from Hazrat Ali, and attested to the fact that the Imams are bearers of the same Noor (Light). The Spanish Jamat exhibition that was held in Lisbon 4 years ago included some rare photographs of those mulaqats.

Hopefully, Sakinas aunty’s rich and detailed accounts of memorable moments will be captured by her family members in the coming months, and we sincerely hope that other families around the world have started documenting stories of their parents and grandparents, before they leave this earth. The younger generation can draw immense wisdom from the faith of their forefathers.

The Jamat in Spain has grown to several hundred in the past 30 years, and live in different cities, and the film highlights this. If you visit Spain, please obtain the contact information of my aunt and her family as well as other Mukhisahebs or institutional representatives in Spain from the Ismaili council in your jurisdiction. Note that due to Covid-19, Jamatkhanas in Spain may be closed, as is the case in many other parts of the world. Gradual reopening of Jamatkhanas is taking place, as in Portugal.

Youtube Video on Jamat in Spain

Watch this amazing Youtube presentation by The Ismaili.

Date posted: July 5, 2020.
Last updated: July 6, 2020 (clarity to story as per feedback).

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Simerg’s Merchant

Malik Merchant is the editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions together for several decades in professional and honorary capacities. His daughter, Nurin Merchant, is a veterinarian based in Ottawa. Malik may be contacted at