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Recreation Club Institute

Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

"In 1322/1904, an enthusiastic group of the young Ismailis had formed the Young Ismaili Vidhya Vinod Club (or V.V. Club) at Bombay for literary and other communal activities. The Vidhya Vinod Club was the center of the patrons of literature and they discussed burning topics of the day from different angles. They arranged lectures on varied subjects on every Saturday. They dived to fathom the vast ocean of religious literature and analyzed big social questions like affection and brotherhood towards mankind.

In 1330/1912, the Central Board of Missions of Bombay was also existed with its President Virji Madhani and Hon. Secretary Chief Missionary Hussaini Pir Muhammad and Rahim Moloo as Joint Secretary. The Khoja Ismaili Missionary Mandal established in 1910 under Bhagat Juma Bhai Ismail was also merged in it. Later, Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Rehamtullah Macklai (1894-1971) was elected its President.

In 1337/1919, it wanted to add certain tinge of manliness to its activities. Thus, the V.V. Club inaugurated an organization of disciplined Volunteer Corps. For carrying out the religious activities efficiently with a maximum benefit to the jamat, the Recreation Club was established in 1919, which sprang from the Central Board of Missions of Bombay. With these changes, the literary portfolio of V.V. Club was consigned to the Recreation Club under Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Rehmatullah. In fact, the V.V. Club was the progenitor of the Recreation Club.

In its early stage, the activities of the Recreation Club were carried on in a house at Dhupelia Building, near Bhindi Bazar, Bombay. They were asked to discuss such subjects as religion, history, education, social and cultural affairs of the community.

With this new mandate, the name of the Recreation Club was changed into the Recreation Club Institute on February 10, 1921 with the President Ali Muhammad Macklai and the Chief Secretary Alijah Hasan Lalji Devraj. "It is given the name of Recreation Club Institute," said the Imam to the members, "so that you can work for the world at day time, and for the religious at night honour." Later, they were authorized to train regular missionaries, waezeens and religion teachers. Many eminent missionaries joined the Institute, such as the Chief Missionary Hussaini Pir Muhammad, Pir Sabzali Ramzan Ali, Ibrahim Jusab Varteji, Alidina Mamoo, Muhammad Murad Ali Juma, Ali Bhai Nanji, Jamal Virji, Manji Bhai Lalji Nayani, Muhammad Abdullah, Abdul Hussain Bachal, Khuda Bakhsh Talib, Hakam Ali Ishaq Ali, Jafar Ali Gokal, Haji Muhammad Fazal, Muhammad Jamal Babwani, Ghulam Hussain Gulu and many others.

The Imam took his first visit in the Recreation Club Institute on August 10, 1923 and examined its activities. He also wrote a Persian verse in the diary of Ali Muhammad with his own hand, the only known verse written by the Imam, which is as under: -
Aatish bejan afrokhtan, az bahree jaanan sukhtan,
Az man baist amukhtan, en karha karee man ast.

"means, "How to kindle a fire in the soul and burn oneself for one's beloved, should be learnt from me as this is one of my jobs."

The Imam also visited the Institute on November 24, 1923 and February 23, 1924 and was satisfied while inspecting its working and donated one lac rupees. During his next visit on March 12, 1924, he said in presence of about 900 members as under:-


I spoke here last year when I had given as a motto a well-known Persian verse, which I am sure you have not forgotten. Today, I will give you a small motto and that is "work no words." Labour for the welfare of other is the best way of improving oneself, because its results are sure and certain. If you work for yourself, you are never happy. This is not a new idea, but an outcome of the experience of thousand years of history.


Come and take interest in this Institute; give your ideas, advice and help to this Institute more especially to its Industrial Department, which will bring bread and butter, happiness and satisfaction to many of you. With these few words, I will ask the President to announce the gifts offered by different persons to this Institute.

The Recreation Club Institute launched a Subjects Committee during a grand missionary conference on September 28, 1923 and passed a resolution that the missionaries should be taught the doctrines of world religions and framed its curriculum. It was also resolved that the test of the missionaries would be taken in every year and then their grade would be fixed. In its 7th resolution, it was decided to give training to the young boys of 14 years.

The Recreation Club Institute also started the publication of the well-known weekly magazine, Ismaili. The first issue of the Ismaili came out on Sunday, the 25th Safar, 1342/October 7, 1923 both in English and Gujrati into 12 pages. Valibhai Nanji Hooda was appointed its organizer and Wazir Ali Mahomed Jan Mahomed Chunara as the editor under its Educational Department. The Institute also started its own printing press on January 1, 1924 under Hussain Sharif, Rehmatullah Virji and Abdullah Kassim Mewawala of the Press Department. The Institute provided the missionaries in different quarters of India, and helped the new converts with the income of the Industrial Department, and gradually became a leading institution in the community. On November 22, 1923, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Maulavi Hakim Syed Abul Yousuf Ispahani took visit of the Recreation Club, and it was followed by the visits of Maulana Muhammad Ali on November 24, 1923, Maulana Azid Subhani on April 21, 1924, the Palestinian Delegation on May 1, 1924, Maulvi Muhammad Abdul Bari Firangi Mahl Lucknowi on May 21, 1924, etc.

The old records reveal that the well-known missionaries in 1923 in the Institute Club were Hussaini Pir Muhammad and Alidina Mamu (for Bombay district), Jamal Virji (for Bhalzalavad district), Khuda Bakash Taleb (for Burma), Hamir Lakha (for Sind division), Hakim Ali Ismail and Ghulam Hussain Hashim (for Punjab and North-west Frontier), Ibrahim Yousuf Varteji (for Kathiawar), Din Muhammad Dayal (for Gujrat district), and Thavar Ghulam Hussain, Abdul Hussain Bachal, Nur Muhammad Javair, Hyder Kassim Ali etc. Besides, Pir Sabzali Ramzan Ali (Karachi), Moloo Kanji (Jamnagar) and Bande Ali Juma Bhagat (Bombay) extended their honorary services.

During the new appointments on April 1, 1924, the Institute created new cells, such as Mission, Finance, Foreign, Provincial, Home, Publicity and Literature, Industrial and Commerce, General, Press, Audit, Educational, Ginan Mandal, Suburb, Helping, Hall and Office, Cloth Sales, Library, Employment and Refreshment departments. Each department was looked after by an Incharge, secretary and members. Besides, Ghulam Ali G. Merchant was made the legal advisor, Abdullah B. Pir Muhammad as honorary engineer and Ali Muhammad Juma Jan Muhammad as honorary doctor.

The Imam also assigned to look after the waezeen activities in the African jamat. Thus, Missionary Juma Bhagat Ismail, Missionary Moloo and Missionary Megji Merali were sent to Bombay to acquire training in the Institute.

In 1933, Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai reorganized its framework. The Bombay office of the Institute represented its branches in Poona, Ahmednagar, Gujrat, Ahmadabad, Karachi, Kathiawar, Punjab, Birar and Burma, virtually the whole India. The Institute also conducted the cultural and social services. It also maintained orphanages, a department of information for trade and commerce, a large library, the handing out of scholarships to the Muslims of Kera, and an employment department. In a reception to honour the Imam on Thursday, December 21, 1933 in Bombay, the Imam said, "The bright future of the Recreation Club is ahead. It is my blessings that its spiritual flag may hoist in the whole world from here."

Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai continued to serve as a President between 1912 and 1936. Varas Chhotubhai (1904-1978) was appointed the next President, who served between 1936 and 1937. Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai was once again elected its President in 1937.

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