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.

By GHALIB SUMAR

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.

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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.

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