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60. Karam Hussain, Missionary - page 235

Karam Hussain, Missionary

The Shamsi Ismailis in Punjab, the followers of Pir Shams (d. 1356), mostly practiced the Ismaili faith in solitude in the garb of the Hindus, and became known as the gupti (secretive). These gupti Ismailis mostly resided in 73 different villages in Punjab. Most of them revealed themselves from the Hindu culture, and emerged in public and assumed the Islamic names soon after the orders of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in 1910. The Imam is reported to have issued his next orders in 1912, 1914 and 1916 to cut down the old customs of Hindu customs and become practicing Muslims. In 1914, with the help of missionary Pir Muhammad Hussaini Asani (1878-1951), a certain Mahesh Das or Mahesh Chand dropped his name and assumed the name, Shamsuddin. His ancestors came from a Rajput and he passed early period of his life in Jhang, Pakistan, where he became known as Jhangi Rajput. He left Jhang and settled in the village of Pir-i da Kot in Kalayanwala. Later on, he moved in the village of Haria Hatiyada in Hafizabad.
Mahesh Das assumed the name of Shamsuddin and his five sons also followed him, such as Mithra Das became Ali by name, Kirpa Ram as Rahim Baksh, Javanda Ram as Karam Hussain, Piramal Das as Karim Baksh and Wazir Chand as Muhammad Ismaili. The most prominent among them was Karam Hussain.

Karam Hussain was born most probably in 1882 in the village of Pir-i da Kot in Kalayanwala, near Hafizabad in district Gujranwala. He then came to live in Hafizabad and finally settled in Multan, where he got his formal education. Soon after his education, he worked as a T.T. in the railway department in Multan. Later on, he left the government job and started his own jewellery shop on a small scale.

Karam Hussain was interested in religious literature, and made very deep study on Ismailism. He gave religious education to the children and he himself delivered waez in the Jamatkhana. He was also noted to have held deliberations with eminent scholars of Arya Samaj, a vigorous reform sect of modern Hinduism, founded in 1875 by Dayananda Sarasvati (1824-1883), whose aim was to revive the Vedic rules in India. Karam Hussain also held many public discussions with the Hindu pandits in Punjab to justify Ismailism and Islam.

The tradition of the annual majalis brought good results in some places in India to unite the scattered Ismailis. In Punjab, the similar annual majalis for three days also started in Sialkot and Hazro with the guidance of the Imam. On each occasion, two lambs were slaughtered in Sialkot. Once after the lambs were slaughtered, some local Hindus started propaganda that the local followers of the Aga Khan had killed a cow. This resulted in a dispute within the whole community both the Ismailis and the Hindus. The Hindus declared a social boycott with the Ismailis of Sialkot, Jalalpur Bhatia, Pind Dad Khan and Multan. When their prestige was at stake, the Ismailis reported to Lady Aly Shah in Bombay by telegram about the social ostracism. She contacted to the Governor by telephone, to which the soldiers were sent in Sialkot. It was judicated at length that it was an awful superstition to ascribe to the members of a peaceful and civilized community that they had killed a cow. The court fined some Hindu leaders and most of them apologized.

Pandit Radha Krishan, the head of Arya Samaj was a gupti Ismaili by birth and came from Cambalpur, near Rawalpindi. He was not much in favour of the gupti Ismailis declaring themselves as Muslims. He troubled the Ismailis with the help of the Hindus. Radha Krishan published 'Aga Khan aur uske karishm'e' from Punjab into Urdu. The Ismaili missionary Varteji replied him through a book, 'Aga Khani Khudai'no Zarkat' in 1919 from Bombay. When the aggressive propaganda reached its climax, it provoked and inspired the Ismailis to fight back. Karam Hussain designed a plan to begin a literary deliberations with Radha Krishan. He did not like to put the Ismailis at the mercy of the opposition of the Arya Samaj.

Karam Hussain came to Bombay and revealed his plan to the Imam. Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah told him,, 'You leave him - a divine decision will resolve the issue' Within a few days, the British India arrested Radha Krishan for violating peace and order and he was imprisoned, where he died in 1921. Radha Krishan however appealed to the Imam from prison for his release, but his attempts failed. Karam Hussain visited Bombay the following year, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah asked him about Radha Krishan. He said that he had died in prison. The Imam said, 'This was a divine decision. Was it not excellent?' He reverently bowed his head in humility.

It would seem that the principal weapon in Arya Samaj against the Ismailis was their propaganda through the media of newspapers. Hence, Kesh Ram emerged in Punjab and propagated in the newspapers. The Ismailis approached the literary circles from Karam Hussain to Sir Muhammad Shafi, a famous advocate in Lahore, who assured that Kesh Ram could not withstand before the noble personality of the Aga Khan. Some Ismailis also visited Bombay and reported the anti-propaganda of Kesh Ram to Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah, asking 'We intend to file a suit against him.' The Imam said, 'Let the dogs bark. Leave them alone and do nothing. People of Punjab are my followers.'

On January 2, 1917, the members of the Arya Samaj informed Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) that, 'The Hindus are embracing the faith of the Aga Khan in multitude, therefore, you prevent them.' Gandhi was in Bombay at that time, he summoned these Hindus who were converted recently, and advised them not to abandon Hinduism. He also told them, 'I do not interfere in your faith, but suggest you keep an open mind that the Hinduism is a good religion, and it is not advisable to exceed its boundary.' They replied him, 'We have not abandoned our community, but reached in an original abode. You should also enter this original house, because we found in the Aga Khan whatever was in Ram, Krishna or Vishnu. Why should we live in the house of images, absolutely void of light. Why we do not enter the house, which is the house of the living light, the apparent and protective house of the light.'

Soon afterwards, the members of the Arya Samaj made an approach of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. He visited Multan with his friends and Hindu leaders at the end of 1917 and summoned the new converted Ismailis. Karam Hussain, Nazar Ali Sharaf, Sadruddin, Missionary Ghulam Ali Zafar Hyderi, Muhammad and Rahmat Ali Sharaf, etc. went to see him. Nehru told them, 'You continue to adore the Aga Khan, but do not assume the Islamic names.' Nazar Ali Sharaf said, 'We have a mazhar of God in presence. Do you have, or at least its match? If so, let us see?' The aim of Nahru failed in convincing them.

In 1922, Karam Hussain visited Shahpur in district Mianwali in Punjab and met Karam Chand, who asked him five religious questions in writing. In reply, he was vigorous in his cogent arguments as revealed from his book, 'Mazhar-i Dhat-i Haq' (Part I).

Karam Hussain visited Bombay in 1923 and learnt much about Ismailism from Pir Sabzali. During the Conference of the Recreation Club in Bombay on March 2, 1923, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah formed a Committee of the Recreation Club for Punjab, and appointed Pir Sabzali as its President with Karam Hussain as Hon. Secretary.

By the end of 1923, Karam Hussain founded The Punjab Ismailia Mission Club in Multan, and became its first President with Rai A.M. Sadruddin as an Honorary Secretary. The Mission Club began to publish useful books into Urdu.

Dr. Naqal Sin wrote him a letter on June 13, 1924 from Sialkot, asking different religious questions, which he excellently replied in his book. Dr. Naqal Sin once again wrote him on July 17, 1924 and it was also answered through his book with arguments and references. In the meantime, the Arya Samaj published few books against the Ismailis in 1929, viz. 'Aga Khani Gupt Panth', 'Da'm Fareb', 'Dhul'ki Pol' etc. The religious sentiment of the Ismailis was rudely shaken in Punjab by the onslaught of these literatures. Karam Hussain dealt with them through literary encounters and calmed them down very soon.

The overt hostility of the Arya Samaj continued. In the first week of April, 1925, they organized a grand function in Sialkot, in which Pandit Pariyanand of Baroda spoke ill words against the Ismailis, branding them non-Muslims. The local Ismaili jamats took its serious notice. Karam Hussain was in Multan in those days and wrote to the jamats the measures to be taken against the Arya Samaj. The jamats issued a hand-bill that Missionary Abdul Hussain Bachal of Sind with other Muslim scholars would give lecture in the theatre at Sabzi Mandi, Sialkot on 5th, 6th and 7th April, 1925 to refute the allegations of the Arya Samaj. Thousands of people assembled at the prescribed venue, where the propaganda of the Arya Samaj was not only repudiated, but evidences were shown that the Ismailis were the true Muslims.

In October, 1924, Pir Sabzali collected a donation of Rs. 4000/- in Punjab for building a new Jamatkhana in Sialkot. Ghulam Hussain Jivraj of Karachi built it under the supervision of Karam Hussain, and his brother, Rai Muhammad Ismail and Missionary Inayat Ali of Kalayanwala, also assisted him. He left his jewellery shop to his elder son in Multan and resided in Sialkot with his brother. Both built the Jamatkhana within 22 months. This new Jamatkhana was completed and opened by the hands of Pir Sabzali in 1926.

Karam Hussain was appointed as the first President of the Ismaili District Council for Multan on March 21, 1928. He also became known as President Karam Hussain among the Punjabi Ismailis. He remained busy in dealing with the opponents and had to stay few months in Sialkot and other cities. On account of his constant absence in Multan, Varas Nazar Ali, the Vice-President and some other members of the Council passed a resolution in 1930 against him for the appointment of a new President. A copy of the resolution was forwarded to the Imam in Bombay. In his reply, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah wrote that, 'Karam Hussain is a life-president of the District Council for Multan, and there will be no replacement for him.'

Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah arrived in Delhi on February 20, 1934, where about 2000 Ismailis from Punjab and Frontier jamats assembled for didar, including Karam Hussain. The Imam told them, 'It is my blessings and prayers that you remain happy. God is One. Muhammad is His apostle. Koran is a true book. Kaba is a direction for all. Imam is present before you and is with you. You are Muslims. Live together with other Muslims. Utter Salam Alaikum to the Muslims. You have come from far. I was to come to you. I can never part myself from you.'

In Delhi, the opponents started their opposition against the Ismailis and waged propaganda against the Ismailis and the Imam. In order to impede them, Pir Sabzali, Wafi Ahmad, the President of the Sialkot Council, Karam Hussain and some missionaries of East Africa clarified through a press conference that the Ismailis followed the principles of Islam and there was no distinction between the Ismailis and the Muslims.

Karam Hussain had generated friendly terms with Sayed Muhammad Shah, the father of Missionary Ghulam Ali Shah. They exchanged their religious knowledge several times on different occasions.

Karam Hussain was noted for his piety and regularity in attendance in Jamatkhana. He suffered from diabetes at the later period of his life. Once a tumor was diagnosed on his waist. He mostly depended on domestic medicines, but it was not cured. He then consulted to Dr. Vashu Ram, who examined and suggested for an operation. Karam Hussain did not smell chloroform and told to inform him just 15 minutes before an operation. When he was informed, he closed his eyes and started meditating. Dr. Vashu Ram performed the operation , which lasted for almost two and half-hours. The doctor was amazed at the calmness of Karam Hussain's body during the operation and when he asked him how he maintained such a state, Karam Hussain replied that he remembered the name of his spiritual master.

His untiring services in the exposition of the gupti Ismailis with other eminent missionaries cannot be ignored. The last known group of the gupti visited Bombay, and in their mehmani on January 27, 1935, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah said, 'The Khojas became revealed as the Ismailis with the preaching of Pir Sadruddin, while you were revealed with my farmans. Likewise, the jamat of Surat was also revealed with my farmans. I am very happy with the jamat of Punjab and Surat and give them many congratulations.'

The last few years of Karam Hussain's life were marred by illness and physical affliction, which he bore with tranquility and peace of mind. He died in a room, now a library in the Jamatkhana at Pak Gate, Multan at 7.00 a.m. on September 3, 1934 at the age of 52 years. In his message through Mukhi Hussain, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah said, 'The soul of late Karam Hussain reached my presence.'

Pir Sabzali came in Multan from Hyderabad, Sind on September 27, 1934 to pay condolence to his son Mukhi Shamsuddin. He left Multan for Amritsar on September 29, 1934. According to his will to his son, the place where he died was donated for the Jamatkhana, which was built under the supervision of Rai Juma.

He had five sons, viz. Ahmad, Safdar Ali, Muhammad, Ghulam Ali and Mukhi Shamsuddin.

It is to be noted that the sister of Karam Hussain had served as a Mukhiani in Multan Jamatkhana for over 25 years. She was the mother of Rai A.M. Sadruddin. When she died in 1951, the Imam graciously remembered her as a Lady Mariam in a cable message to Rai A.M. Sadruddin.

Karam Hussain had a rare ability to keep his mind focused steadily on the distance horizon, and at the same time concentrated his whole effort on what was practically possible. When he resolved to accomplish something, he seldom gave up its pursuit. Swift in thought and action, he could formulate his plans on the spur of the moment. He was ambitious, but it was never personal. He laboured for his faith not for own sake. Upto the moment of his last breath, he placed his heart and soul in the service of the Imam and the Ismailis. He was one of those rare men who combined theory with practice.

Karam Hussain was a prolific writer of his time, and published many books through Ismaili Mission Club, Multan. His best known work is 'Mazhar-i Dhat-i Haq' (Part I, II & III) published in 1923, and its third part known as 'Naklank Darpan' appeared in 1924. His other books were 'Shri Naklank Maharaj ka Shankar', 'Qandil-i Rah'i Rast' (Part I, II & III), and the translation of 'Si Harfi' of Syed Muhammad Shah into Urdu. He was also a frequent contributor to the periodicals of Multan, Lahore and Delhi.

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