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49. Ibrahim Rahimtullah, Sir - page 203

Ibrahim Rahimtullah, Sir

Ibrahim Rahimtullah was a son of Rahmatullah Kadar, a well-known merchant in Bombay. Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah was born in Bombay on May, 1862 in a family having no political tradition. He took his education in Elphinstone High School. He was a diligent student and showed particular aptitude for arithmetic, algebra and geometry. His failure in the Matriculation examination in 1897 marked an end of his scholastic career, and he joined his elder brother, Muhammad Rahmatullah in business. The death of his father in 1880 was a great calamity for the young brothers, who were left without any experience in business.
Ibrahim Rahimtullah chalked out a different field for himself. It was a beginning of a busy and changing age in India; and there was enough animation in the city life of Bombay. In the meantime, the All Indian National Congress came into existence in 1885, therefore, his youthful days were cast in auspicious times.

Ibrahim Rahimtullah had slowly but steadily paved his way to the front until he was honoured to be described by the Imam as 'the most distinguished member our community has produced in Western India.' In 1892, he joined Bombay Municipal on behalf of the Mandavi Board. His association with the Corporation therefore covered an uninterrupted period of 26 years of strenuous work.

In 1895, he foretold an incoming danger of the plague in Bombay, but the British India ignored it. Eventually, the disease broke out in 1897, making the victims of countless lives. He became the President of the Standing Committee of Bombay Municipal in 1898, and was elected as a Mayor of Bombay in 1899 and received great deal of encouragement from Sir Pherozesha Mehta. His services for his city were manifold, and there was hardly a single subject of civic importance, which he did not deal within a spirit of broad statesmanship. In 1898, the Bombay Municipal deputed him as a representative in Bombay City Improvement Trust, where he served for 20 years (1898-1918). In 1899, he was honoured as J.P. When he became a member of the Provincial Parliament, the Ismailis honoured him in a grand banquet on August 4, 1900.

Ibrahim Rahimtullah was a member of Bombay Legislative Council (1899-1912), Imperial Legislative Council (1913-1916), Government's Executive Council for Education and Local Self-Government (1918-1923), the President of Legislative Council, Bombay (1923-1928), Member of Indian Legislative Assembly in 1931, whose President in 1931 to 1933, the Chairman of Indian Fiscal Committee (1921) and he became the first Indian Muslim to hold this post; the member of Royal Commission on Labour in 1929 and also delegated to Round Table Conference, London in 1930.

In 1904, during the conference of the Congress at Bombay, he was elected to a committee of that body to consider its constitution. All through the stormy period of 1907-1910, when the bulk of the Muslims held aloof from the Indian National Congress, he lent his support equally to the Congress and the Muslim League. In 1904, he became the Sheriff of Bombay, and was also honoured the title of C.I.E. in 1907. In May, 1908, he proceeded to England for treatment and returned in October, 1908.

With the advent of the Morley-Minto Reforms, he widened his activities to take full advantage of the added privileges. He was the first, at any rate in the Bombay Council to use the right of introducing private Bills. His Bill for the registration of charities introduced in 1910. Lord Thomas Sydenham, the then governor, the chief justice of Bombay High Court, the Press and the general public supported the Bill. In 1911, the British India granted him the title of Knighthood.

In the end of 1912, he sought election to the Imperial Legislative Council, and was also elected for the second time in 1916. His most enduring work in the Imperial Legislative Council was in the sphere of India's commercial and industrial progress. It was due largely to his efforts that the three important commissions - The Industrial, Railway and Fiscal Commissions, which have assisted to shape the Indian government's policy in regard to industries, railways and tariff, were appointed. He was appointed the President of the Fiscal Commission on October, 1921.

Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah also proposed the British India to take due measure for the defence of vast Indian sea-coast. He published his article in 'The Times of India' in January, 1918 and emphasized the creation of the Indian Navy. The Imam also buttressed his views and according to N.M. Dumasia in 'The Aga Khan and His Ancestors' (Bombay, 1939, p. 237) that, 'The Aga Khan is strongly in favour of the view advanced by Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah that for the defence of the extensive sea-coast of India, there should be sufficient Indian material.'

When in the beginning of 1918, Sir Mahadev Chaubal retired from his membership of the government of Bombay, the choice fell on him to fill that vacancy. It was a tribute to his eminence in public life and reputation for statesmanship. He also was an ordinary fellow of Bombay University in 1921. The British India honoured him with the title of K.C.S.I. (Knights of the Star of India) on November 21, 1924. He was also awarded a silver medal of Kaisar-i Hind for his valuable services and generosity.

It was his intention to seek election to the Legislative Assembly after his retirement. But suddenly in May, 1923, two months after his retirement from the Executive Council, came the news of the demise of Sir Narayan Chandavarkar Ganesh (1855-1923), the nominated President of the Bombay Legislative Council. At the earnest request of Sir George Lloyd, the then governor, Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah accepted the presidentship of the Legislative Council. His term of the office terminated on February 18, 1925.

The governor as a non-official member of the Council nominated him with a view to his eventual election as its President. When the nominations were announced on February 19, 1925, no one opposed the nomination. He became the first elected President of the Bombay Legislative Council.

Ibrahim Rahimtullah also took a prominent part in the deliberations of the All-India Muslim League and he favoured free and compulsory education during the 4th session at Nagpur in December, 1910. He was a delegate to the first Hindu-Muslim Unity Conference, Allahabad, 1911 under the Presidentship of Sir William Waddarburn. He also became the President of AIML during the 7th session in Agra, 1913, and the Vice-President during the 9th session in Lucknow in December, 1916. He also presided the All India Muslim Educational Conference in Bombay on December 27, 1924. According to 'The Aga Khan and His Ancestors' (Bombay, 1939, p. 180), 'In the Bombay Presidency the community over which the Aga Khan presided with such distinction possess such eminent leaders as Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah who, like his revered leader, valiantly pressed Muslim claims.'

Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah was also a member of Joint School Commission, the President of Muslim Gymkhana, Vice-President of Anujman-e-Islam, and the President of Mulji Jivraj Library.

He died in June, 1942 at Bombay. He had one son and a daughter by his first wife. He married second time in 1903, having three sons and three daughters.

It is to be noted that the Bombay Municipality has given the name of the road as Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah Road between the J.J. Hospital and Bhindi Bazar.

Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah Opthalmic Department opened in the Ismaili General Hospital on December 20, 1959. S.C. Bhut, the Charity Commissioner of Bombay, in a gathering in Aga Hall, Bombay, performed its inauguration ceremony. The trustees of late Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah have donated a sum of Rs. 48,000/- for it. On that occasion, the Imam sent following telegraphic message :

Gastaad : 18th Dec., 1959

Lt. President
Ismaili Hospital
C/o Convivial,

Most happy at opening of Opthalmic Department in our hospital. This has been much needed service for many years. I sincerely thank His Excellency Charity Commissioner for opening the new wing and hope it will achieve every success.

Prince Aly Khan also sent following message from New York:-

New York : 17th Dec., 1959
Lt. President
Ismaili General Hospital
C/o Convivial,

Send warmest affectionate greetings and blessings on happy occasion opening twentieth December in name of donor late Sir Ebrahim Rahimtoola of Opthalmic Department for outdoor patients of all community. This will be wonderful service to people.

Few words must be added for his son, Wazir Ibrahim Rahimtullah. He was born on March 10, 1912 at Bombay. He was a close associate of Muhammad Ali Jinnah. After the partition of India, he came in Pakistan and played important role in the politics. He was the governor of Sind and Punjab and a Federal Minister. He became the first High Commissioner of Pakistan to England at the age of 35 years in 1950. Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah has described him in his Memoirs as the brilliant son of a brilliant father. The Imam conferred upon him the title of Wazir in 1954. He died in Karachi on January 2, 1991 at the age of 78 years.

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