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37. Ghulam Ali Shah, Missionary - page 144

Ghulam Ali Shah was the son of Sayed Muhammad Shah, a native of Qaimpur, about 10 miles from Khairpur in Bhawalpur State, founded by Qaim Khan Arabni in 1747. Sayed Muhammad Shah was a famous landowner. He was a Twelver and well rooted in Islamic studies, and he had over 6000 followers in his village.
Sayed Muhammad Shah was a learned scholar. He thoroughly studied the concept of the Imamate. Over time his thoughts became wrapped up in the presence of an Apparent Imam in the world. In 1911, he left Qaimpur and proceeded to Middle East in search of an Imam. He would wander like a restless man, looking lost and forlorn, with an agitated mind. After many years he reached in Najaf and paid homage to the shrine of Hazrat Ali. It was during this period that the pendulum at last swung on other side. He prayed, 'Mawla! Your Noor is ever present on earth. Unfortunately, I cannot recognize it. I am disappointed with earthy life. Either give me death or your recognition.' With this prayer, he slept and dreamt, and was inspired to return to India, where his search would materialize.

Sayed Muhammad Shah came to India and held a meeting with Khwaja Hasan Nizami in Delhi, who directed him to see the Aga Khan in Bombay. He paid no attention and proceeded to Hyderabad, Sind in 1920, where he opened a Unani Dawakhana in Shahi Bazar. He became a close friend of Varas Karim Kassim (1878-1958) and exchanged religious knowledge with him.

Once he discussed with Varas Karim Kassim about the Imam, who took him to Karachi where the Imam was to come for didar between April 10, 1920 and May 8, 1920. A large gathering of Ismailis flocked at the seaport and accorded a standing ovation to the Imam. He saw the radiant face of the Imam and admitted that it was the very image he had seen in the dream. On that juncture, a complete change revolved in his mind. Itmadi Nazar Ali Abdullah managed to bring him and Maulavi Abdul Hussain Bachal in the pendol for Imam's didar for Ismailis only. He was convinced and he forwarded a written application to the Karachi Council for embracing Ismailism, but received no response.

In 1922, the Imam was in Bombay, where he went and forwarded a fresh application to the Bombay Council, but failed to get any response. He at last slept at Kandi Mola, Bombay for three days without food and water, and supplicated. The Imam sent his servant to bring Gulam Ali Shah to his residence. He was brought before the Imam, where he took an oath of allegiance. He also offered his 6000 followers of Qaimpur, but the Imam refused and said that he only accepted his family, not his followers. He said, 'I also take the bayt of my family members, but I don't know what happened to them during last 12 years.' The Imam said, 'You should not worry. Your family members are alive. I accept them as my followers.'

Sayed Muhammad Shah joined the Recreation Club Institute with the order of the Imam and taught Arabic, Persian and Urdu to the young missionaries. He himself also became a regular missionary very soon. During his visit to the Recreation Club Institute at Bombay on March 27, 1922, the Imam said, 'Sayed Muhammad Shah will stay at one place, which will be profitable if he works there, and you observe his working.' The Imam also advised him to work in Saranpur, Ludiana, Ambala, Ferozpur, Jalalbad, Gujranwala and Sind, and to send his report to the Central Board every six months.

Sayed Muhammad Shah also conducted the mission classes in Pandervada, Kawda and C.P. Brar. He often said to his students that, 'Dear children, I have yet a lot of religious treasure, which you must learn at once. You will repent after my death, lamenting that you missed to take its advantage. Take away as much knowledge as you can.' The famous students among them who had become the missionaries were Alijah Hadi Muhammad K. Virani, Alibhai Hashim, Nur Muhammad Hashim, etc. Itmadi Hashim Lalu (1880-1961) was one of his close associates. Sayed Muhammad Shah retired in the middle of 1945 and returned to Bombay where he died at the end of 1945.

His son, also named Ghulam Ali Shah was born in 1910 in Qaimpur in Bhawalpur State during the period of Amir General Sir Sadik Muhammad Khan V Abbasi (1907-1947), the 13th Nawab of Bhawalpur State.

He learnt the Koranic teaching from his father and studied the works of Rumi, Hafiz and Shams Tabriz at home. After completing his education, he joined the police department in Bhawalpur State, but his father brought him to Bombay in 1928 when he was about 18 years old. Ghulam Ali Shah also took missionary training in Bombay. Having attained excellence as a regular missionary in 1932, he visited Punjab with Pir Sabzali (1884-1938) and delivered his first waez in the Jamatkhana of Gadi Kapura in the district of Mardan. He also entered into literary deliberations with the Araya Samaj and other Muslim theologians in Punjab.

He served the Ismaili community for about four decades as a missionary. He had good command in Arabic, Persian, English, Sindhi, Urdu and Gujrati. He was a born orator.

He married Gulbanu, the granddaughter of Kamadia Talshi in Kathiawar in 1934. In 1936, he took a visit of East Africa for two years. In 1938, he also joined the mission of conversion in India.

He was also a poet and his poetic name was Azhar. His famous composition was published in 'Fidai' (Bombay, Dec., 1939), in which he paid rich tribute to Pir Sabzali.

In Karachi, Wazir Dr. Pir Muhammad Hoodbhoy supervised the Mission Class since 1944 as Chairman on behalf of the Ismailia Association for India. He asked for an efficient missionary to conduct the class. Missionary Ghulam Ali Shah had been sent to Karachi from Bombay. He conducted the class till the end of 1953, and produced many prominent missionaries.

He visited East Africa in 1954 and resided in Mombasa. He delivered waez in different quarters of East African countries, and conducted the Ismaili Gents and Ladies Mission Classes in Dar-es-Salaam as a Principal for 18 months and trained about 40 new young waezeens. After completing the waez training course, he returned to Mombasa on October 21, 1954. He stayed in East Africa up to 1966 and during this period, he visited India, Pakistan, Chitral, and other parts of Africa.

In January, 1964, the Imam gave permission to start a 'Mission Training Centre' in Dar-es-Salaam. Accordingly, Wazir Ramzan Ali Hussain Megji Dossa, the President of the Ismailia Association for Kenya spoke in the main Jamatkhana of Mombasa on the importance of the Mission Training Centre plan. He said that with the cooperation of Wazir Al-Noor Kassim, the Education Administrator of Tanganyika, a wing was allotted in the newly built hostel for this training programme. He also declared that it would be initially started with 20 students and Missionary Ghulam Ali Shah would be the tutor-incharge for two years. During the opening ceremony of the Waezeen Centre in Dar-es-Salaam on May 5, 1964, he had been specially invited, and Rai Shamsuddin Tejpar, the President of Ismailia Association for Tanganyika appreciated his inestimable services in Africa to bring forth promising waezeens. On January 8, 1964, the Conference of all the Presidents of the Ismailia Associations of the world was held in Mombasa and the delegates were shown the Mission Training Centre. The Ismailia Association for Tanzania submitted a report of the Mission Centre to the Imam on May 7, 1965. The Imam sent following message:-

th Dec., 1965

My dear President,

I have received your letter of 7th May, with the report of your Association which I read with great interest.

I give my best paternal maternal loving blessings to all beloved spiritual children mentioned in your report for their devoted services.

Kindly convey my most affectionate loving blessings to Alijah al-waez Gulamali Shah for his devoted services to the Mission Centre.

The Imam also sent another message, which reads:-

21st Dec., 1965

My dear President,

I have received your letter of 30th November, with the report of your Mission Centre at Dar-es-Salaam which I read with much interest and pleasure.

I send my most affectionate loving blessings to al-waez Ghulam Ali Shah Muhammashah for his devoted services.

Ghulam Ali Shah retired in Africa and returned to Karachi in the beginning of 1966. He remained active in giving benefit of his knowledge to the jamats in Pakistan. In 1966, the Ismailia Association for Pakistan deputed him to Punjab to conduct the waez training. With the collaboration of the Ismailia Association, he started a Mission Class for 37 students at his residence in Nizari Society, Karachi in 1967. The President sent its report to the Imam on January 10, 1967. The Imam sent the following message on January 22, 1967:

My dear President,

I was happy to receive your letter of 10th January and to know of the opening of a mission class with the able teaching of Al-Waiz Ghulam Ali Shah in the Nizari area.

Kindly convey my most loving paternal maternal blessings for service on this occasion to Al-Waiz Ghulam Ali Shah and the 37 girl and boy students of the new class.

He was a frequent contributor to the different periodicals. His 'Taqalid means Itahat' ('Ismaili', Bombay, November 1951) and 'Ismaili Pir and their Conversion' appeared in the 'Paigham,' Karachi on November 15, 1963 and March 23, 1964. His last article was 'Pak Hastio' ('Ismaili Crescent,' Dar-es-Salaam, May 2, 1965 and Sep. 10, 1965). His booklet, 'Sada'i Haq' (Call to Truth) was published into English by The Ismailia Association for Tanganyika in Dar-es-Salaam.

A week before his death, he delivered his last waez in the Satara Brotherhood in Kharadhar Jamatkhana for seven days. His health deteriorated and on October 1, 1968 and he was admitted in the epidemic disease hospital with history of septic tooth and diabetes. He was diagnosed as case of tetanus, which proved fatal, and he died on Thursday, October 3, 1968 in Karachi at the age of 58 years. The Imam sent following message to the Ismailia Association for Pakistan:

October 24, 1968

I have received your letter of 8th October, and was much grieved to hear of the sad demise of al-waez Alijah Ghulam Ali Shah. I send my most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings for the soul of late Alijah Ghulam Ali Shah and pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace.

Late Alijah Ghulam Ali Shah's devoted services to my jamats in various countries will always be remembered by my jamats and myself and he will be missed by us all.

On that day, the office of the Ismailia Association for Pakistan was closed. News of his death was reported by telegraphic messages to Sir Eboo Pirbhai, the President of Executive Council for Africa and all the Ismailia Associations and Mawlana Hazar Imam. When the news of his sad demise reached East Africa, the Advisory Board, Head Quarter Department, Dar-es-Salaam Committees and Section, the Waezeens and Teachers and the Staff of the Ismailia Association for Tanzania passed their condolences and its copies were endorsed to the Executive Council for Africa, the Ismailia Associations, his family, etc.

His wife Gulbanu died in 1966 and they had had no children. They had adopted an African girl, called Anisa in 1954 when she was two years old.

Ghulam Ali Shah, Missionary

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