Alwaez Rajwani’s Very Special Bond with Mrs and Mr Merchant

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Between 1963, soon after my parents settled in Dar es Salaam — having previously served for over 8 years as teachers in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique — and around 1967 at which time my dad purchased a car, it became a regular weekend routine for our family of 5 to walk either from Tanganyika Flats and, later Islamabad Flats (on Cameroon Road renamed as United Nations Road), to the complex of flats near Upanga Jamatkhana where 3 Ismaili families lived in close proximity. 

Malik Merchant of Simerg with parents Mr and Mrs Merchant
Abdulmalik (aka Malik), founding publisher and editor of this website, with his parents Mr. and Mrs. Merchant, at a park in Lourenço Marques, Mozambique, when he was 3 years old. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

It was a visit that I, as a young boy, deeply cherished. The families of Alwaez Rajwani, Mr. Dharsee and the Ismail’s — Shiraz, Firoz, Razia and primary school teacher Late Gulzar Ismail Walji (d. 1978) — may not remember our visits to their homes, but I do.

With Mr. Dharsee, who wrote special feature articles on the Ismaili Imamat and Ismaili history for the Tanganyika Standard, the talks centred on Ismaili philosophy and other religious subjects. My dad extracted as much knowledge from this brilliant mind, who would keep his signature cheroot cigar aside during our visits. His inquiring and intelligent mind would respond to all questions my dad asked him. His daughter, Alwaeza Gulshan and son in law, Alwaez Shamshu Allidina, are the Ismaili couple famously known as the “Missionaries from Madagascar.”

At the Ismail family’s home, it was fun time. Razia [Pullen], one of my dad’s Aga Khan Girls Secondary School students in the early 1960’s, and her siblings would lay out a beautiful table of fruits and biscuits with plenty of juices, soft drinks, as well as chai, of course.

Abdulrahim Rajwani and Maleksultan Merchant
Alwaez Abdulrahim Rajwani visiting Alwaeza Mrs. Maleksultan Merchant at her home in 2019. Photo: Zarina Rajwani / Abdulrahim Rajwani Collection.

At Alwaez Rajwani’s residence located at the Jamati flat complex, the conversations centred around their waezin colleagues, past and current, as well as on-going waezin activities in Dar es Salaam and other parts of Tanzania. Years later after our families had migrated to the Western world, Alwaez Rajwani would place a regular call to my parents to find out how they were doing. Following my mum’s recent death on January 21, 2021, Alwaez submitted the following letter along with two photographs that he and his daughter took with my mum during one of their visits to Vancouver.

I take deep happiness in publishing the letter and thank Alwaez Abdulrahim and his daughter, Zarina, for the care, concern as well as affection that they showed to both my parents for many, many years. May all their prayers and wishes be fulfilled. Alwaeza’s wife Zenab passed away in 2006 at the age of 81 but Abdulrahim now continues to live a full and complete life in Toronto. He is 90, and I wish him a long and healthy life.

Fond Memories of Alwaez Jehangir and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant

Mrs. Merchant, centre, with Abdulrahim Rajwani and his daughter Zarina
Alwaeza Mrs. Merchant, centre, is visited by Alwaez Abdulrahim Rajwani and his daughter Zarina. Photo: Abdulrahim Rajwani Collection.

By ALWAEZ ABDULRAHIM RAJWANI

Ya Ali Madad, dear Malik.

Although we have spoken on the phone, I also wanted to express my condolences to you, Fahar, Alnoor and your families, as well as pay my respects, honour your parents and share a few memories in writing. It has taken me a while, as I was filled with sadness and nostalgia, remembering the closeness of my loving relationship and friendship with both your parents over the many decades. Also, I had just spoken to mum a few days before she passed away. Zarina, Aziz and I offer prayers for the eternal rest of their souls.

Your parents, Alwaeza Maleksultan (1931-2021) and Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018), were both close friends from Bombay (now Mumbai). I remember meeting mum in the early forties, when we used to have waez competitions between the Religious Night Schools of Greater Bombay. Either she or one of her sisters (Shahsultan or Sakuma) would represent Hasnabaad, and I would represent Kandimohalla (now Karimabad). I remember your dad and Late Alwaez Sultanali Mohamed (1927-2020) attending mission classes in the early fifties, run by Ismailia Association in Kandimohalla, where dad’s eldest brother Mahomedbhai was Mukhi for several years. I was already an Honorary Missionary at that time.

Article continues below

Aga Khan in Mumbai and Ismaili Missionaries
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is welcomed by Mukhisaheb of Karimabad Jamatkhana Mahomed Alibhoy, Alwaez Merchant’s oldest brother; and Mrs and Mr Merchant (seated, 3rd and 5th from left) with Waezin team and lecturers before their departure for Lourenço Marques in 1954. Alwaez Sultanali is standing 4th from left. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

I have many fond and happy memories of our friendship over the decades, and in particular, I remember coming to the ship to disembark your parents, with you as a 5 month baby, when their ship made a stop at Dar es Salaam on its way to Lourenço Marques. That was in very early 1954, and I myself settled in Dar es Salaam two years earlier in 1952.

While we all served as waezin together, I will always regard both mum and dad with the highest respect, honour and love. Their service was outstanding and exemplary. They always kept up with their knowledge and learning. Their way of communicating and conveying this knowledge individually, in small groups and to large Jamati audiences was remarkable. They were able to make this knowledge relevant and personal to individuals, and inspire and uplift them in a highly impactful and significant way. And they selflessly served the Jamat and the Imam-of-the-Time with care and kindness, with devotion and utmost dedication.

I have been speaking to your parents over the years, and to mum regularly, particularly around Navroz, Imamat Day, Salgirah and Eids. I will miss talking to her now, but will always remember her and pray for her soul. Over the years, whenever I was in Vancouver, we would always visit them and more recently mum. It was always a delight to chat and catch up with her. Zarina and I last visited her in September 2019. I am attaching a couple of pictures with her from that visit. I will dearly miss our decades-long incredible friendship and affection.

With fond and loving memories of them both and prayers for their souls,

(Alwaez) Abdulrahim Rajwani.

Date posted: February 7, 2021.

_____________________

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.


Varas Ismaili Gangji: The Turning Point by Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant

Editor’s note: While I constantly think of my mum, Alwaeza Maleksultan J. Merchant, as she continues her recovery at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, near Vancouver, from an open heart surgery some 5 weeks ago, I felt I should re-post her excellent piece on Varas Ismail Gangji that she contributed as part of Simerg’s highly acclaimed “I Wish I’d Been There” series. Her photo, left at image below, was taken by my brother, Alnoor, when he visited her at the RCH a few days ago. To read her inspiring piece, please click on the photo or on Varas Ismail Gangji: The Turning Point

Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, 83, shown at left in image above seen recovering at the Royal Columbian Hospital following her triple bypass surgery. Please click on photo for her article on the great Ismaili hero Varas Ismail Gangji. Photo/image: Alnoor Merchant/Nurin Merchant.

Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, 83, shown at left in this image, is seen recovering at the Royal Columbian Hospital following her triple bypass surgery. Please click on image for her article on the great Ismaili hero Varas Ismail Gangji. Photo/image: Alnoor Merchant/Nurin Merchant.