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100. Sultanali Nazarali Walji, Missionary - page 408

Missionary Sultanali Nazarali Walji traces his lineage from a certain dedicated person, called Uka, an origin of Badin, Sind. He migrated with his family in Kathiawar and adopted profession of cultivation. Uka had five sons, Savji, Vali, Abram, Jiva and Alibhai. It is related that once Imam Aga Ali Shah had gone to Kathiawar on a hunting excursion. The Imam stayed in the farm of Abram Uka in the village of Tithwa when he was tired, thirsty and hungry. The traditional curry as well as vegetable curry and rice with lassi and onions were served to the Imam and his entourage. Clean beds under the shade of trees with cool air blowing made the Imam and his retinue very restful and fresh. Upon departure, Uka and his son Abram made an offering. The Imam was much touched with their devoted hospitality and asked them to make a wish and blessed them.
Walji, the son of Abram Uka was an ordinary farmer, a man who worked, toiled and laboured on the small farm, a few acres with a few bullocks and cows. He was helped by his only son, Nazarali, who walked, sometimes rode on horseback with his father to school, a Gamthi School. Nazarali then joined Middle School in Vancaner.

Walji had also four daughters, Amarbai, Sakinabai, Manibai, Jenabai. Walji sent his son Nazarali in Moshi in Tanganyika, while himself went to Moshi in 1926 for a year. Nazarali had three daughters, Rabana, Mariam, Amina and six sons, Pyarali, Ramzan, Rajabali, Sultanali, Mohammad Ali and Sabzali.

Nazarali Walji travelled to Tanga by a sailing ship from Jamanagar and settled for a short time in Korogwe as a 24-hour worker with Seth Abdullah Nathoo. He was honest and active worker. Being a religious man, he would spend a lot of money in various religious causes from his monthly stipend of Rs. 30/- He left the job and went to Moshi and joined the school as a teacher, earning Rs. 60/- per month in 1918, where he became known as Master Nazarali. His hobby was reading and was steeped in mathematical calculations. He died in March, 1951. His wife Khatija Megji was an origin of district Than, near Chotila in Rajkot. She knew some 500 ginans by heart. She expired in March, 1953.

Sultanali, the son of Nazarali Walji was born on June 13, 1929 in Moshi, Tanzania. He was handsome and tiny in infancy. He was very sentimental, shy and timid, but raised to be a religious boy. He however did not like to go school and escaped several times from class. It sounds that the teaching of Master Ramzan influenced him a lot, who was a strict disciplinarian, highly devoted, moral and ethical person. Of the several teachers who visited Moshi from time to time, the visit of Pir Sabzali (1884-1938) left an indelible impact in the life of Sultanali Nazarali. He used to listen to him attentively and remained with him all the time. He still proudly claims that there was one person who had a total influence on his career in the community services who was beyond doubt Pir Sabzali. His parents however taught him most of the values and ethics at home.

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah visited Moshi in 1937 when he was 8 years old. In 1945, he intended to study at a high school in Dar-es-Salaam in the Aga Khan Boarding House. He managed to obtain admission despite his economical hardship and stayed there for about 1000 days. In August 3, 1945, he presented a mehmani in Dar-es-Salaam with his mates, Sadruddin, Akbar and Mohammad. Each implored blessings for pursuing a career in the fields of medicine, engineering and architecture after completion of high school diploma. Sultanali however mentioned in his memorandum that he would like to become an honorary missionary. The Imam nerved him with immense support, blessings and guidance; and approved for him to become an honorary missionary. This was certainly an early brick of the foundation of his life-long itinerary of service and a search for the Truth.

In the meantime, the Mission Conference held at Dar-es-Salaam on July 20, 1945 in the auditorium of the Aga Khan High School, presided over by Count Nimji Zaver. The Imam addressed in its last session. Sultanali attended it as a scout, serving water and tea to the delegates. It was at this conference that he came into the contact of Maji Bachbai Tejpar, who inspired him a great deal when she learnt that he had candidated for becoming a missionary.

During the Diamond Jubilee in August, 1946, he served as a volunteer in the camp for a month and also participated to decorate the Upanga section of the city of Dar-es-Salaam. There were occasions when the Imam spoke to individual families. His family members received best blessings in their turn of mehmani. His father presented him to the Imam, saying that he wanted to give his child in service to the Imam and would train him as an al-waez, who would work for the Imam. The Imam blessed them too much for the enthusiasm being shown in the field of mission work. It will be interesting to learn that the Imam regretted for not visiting Moshi during the visit of 1946 due to a tight schedule. The Imam promised Nazarali that he would send his son, Prince Aly Khan in the near future in Moshi, who would lay foundation of their residential building. In 1950, Prince Aly Khan visited East Africa and when he visited Moshi on a hunting expedition, Nazarali approached the Council and reminded the words of the Imam given to him in 1946 in Dar-es-Salaam. After some discussion, the Council finally agreed to leave the matter for the Prince to decide. Prince Aly Khan readily accepted the proposal, and came to their plot and laid the foundation stone of their building in Moshi downtown.

In 1947, he completed his high school and joined the Religious Centre, whose Incharge was Missionary Abu Aly Aziz. When the Imam made a gracious visit of Nairobi in 1948, he sought an opportunity to recite a ginan in the presence of the Imam in the Jamatkhana. He also earned a chance to read a few verses he had just composed. The Imam and Mata Salamat were much touched and said, 'Who composed the poem in English?' He said, 'With your blessings, I have composed it.' The Imam said, 'Bravo! You are a poet of my house.' In Nairobi, he wrote to the Imam about his ambition of becoming an honorary missionary. He received a prompt reply from the Imam, who directed him to go back to Dar-es-Salaam and rejoin the Centre. He went Dar-es-Salaam in August, 1948.

He arrived in Lindi in 1948 with 30 shillings in his pocket. He approached the office of OFC, the groundnut scheme, which was hiring people. He got a job as a clearing and forwarding departmental clerk. He also became the Secretary of the Muslim Association and created a scout group in Lindi, where he stayed for a year and saved enough money to make a trip of England.

In August, 1949, his engagement took place with Gulie Bhatia, and then proceeded alone in London. Before boarding a ship for Dar-es-Salaam, he went to Moshi to bid farewell to his parents. His mother cried, 'Sultan, I allow you to go, but when you come back, I may be not alive. So this is our last meeting, but my blessings and prayers will always be with you.'

He sailed for London and reached Marseilles via Genoa, and finally arrived to Villa Yakimour in Cannes. The house-keeper phoned Mata Salamat for permission to show him the Villa. He saw it and left some non-perishable food items and dry fruits for the Imam and Mata Salamat with his London address, and a humble request for an appointment. He received a letter from the office of the Imam through his Secretary, Miss Blaine, confirming his appointment with the Imam at the Ritz Hotel on September 13, 1949. The Imam graciously gave him an audience at the Ritz Hotel. The Imam recognized him, accepted his offerings and gave blessings. He submitted his plan of qualifying himself as a lawyer or something as well as qualifying himself as an honorary al-waez. The Imam asked why did he come to England for becoming al-waez? He explained that he had no chance but to pursue his studies in England after he met and consulted with his Imam. The Imam said that becoming a lawyer was good, but why not become an honorary lawyer and an al-waez of the house of Hazrat Ali. He replied that he could go to al-Azhar University in Cairo. But the Imam said that he should go to Pakistan and he would give him a letter addressed to Wazir Dr. Pir Muhammad Hoodbhoy (1905-1956), the President of the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

Accordingly, he wrote to Dr. Hoodbhoy in Karachi, reporting his arrival with Imam's letter. Varas Sherali Alidina received him at the seaport in Karachi. He stayed in the Kashmir Hotel in Saddar and went to Kharadhar on the same evening and met Dr. Hoodbhoy, whom he delivered the Imam's letter. Dr. Hoodbhoy read it five to six times and said, 'Sultanali, welcome to Pakistan, welcome to Karachi, welcome to the Ismailia Association, welcome to our family. We are honoured by the Imam to have you as our guest. We will look after you as a guest from the Imam.'

In sum, he came to live in a room at Hoodbhoy Villa in Garden area like a family member of Dr. Hoodbhoy. He had been given an office in the premises of the Ismailia Association. He began his study with great deal of interest and came into the contact of Prof. Jawad Muscati, Prof. A.M. Molvi and Hafiz Abdul Ghafoor. Missionary Alibhai Nanji and Jafferali K. Lalani helped him too much in his study in the farmans and ginans. He finally obtained a senior certification of an al-waez.

The Imam visited Pakistan for the first time after independence on February 4, 1950. The Imam wished to train 500 waezeens. Soon after Imam's departure, a programme of recruiting young boys and girls started. Dr. Hoodbhoy signed him up as a Waezeen Instructor. Thus, Sultanali exhorted to the students the important Islamic aspects and Ismaili history.

During his visit to Pakistan, the Imam also told the Ismailia Association to open a branch in Dacca. Dr. Pir Muhammad Hoodbhoy told him to go to Dacca. He arrived in Dacca and started his working by opening a branch of the Ismailia Association. With the help of his colleagues, he started the first religious centre in Dacca with a library. He also started the first Co-operative Society and launched a successful campaign of the Platinum Jubilee Fund collection. He used to send the report of his activities to the Ismailia Association in Karachi from time to time. He also travelled in Sylhet, Memonsingh, Barisal, Bogra, Chittagong, Khulna, etc., where he also availed an opportunity of doing some very pioneering works..

In 1951, he had gone to Rangoon, Burma as a representative of the Ismailia Association for Pakistan from Dacca. He started his assignments and worked round the clock. There were two points he submitted in his report to the Imam. One related to the artificial jewellery, on which the ladies used to spend a fortune. The Imam sent a message to this effect to the Burmese jamats, forbidding them not to waste money on artificial jewellery. The second point was to place a plaque on the loggia of Jamatkhana in Rangoon, commemorating the Ismaili martyrs who had been killed during the 2nd world war due to the bombardment, which also damaged the premises of Jamatkhana. On October 27, 1954, the Imam sent a message to the Council that he used to think for those bold persons who were martyred during the war. The Imam also advised to place a memorial plaque of their names outside the wall of the Jamatkhana or in the library.

U Ban Tin, U Chit Shwe, Rai Hussain Khan Mohammad, Hasanali Jasraj and Ko Khin Maung helped him tremendously in his assignments. He also established religious classes, a kindergarten school and a cooperative society for the needy persons. His sojourn was very productive for Rangoon jamat. Itmadi U Ba Maung also took him to see the Prime Minister, Thankin Nu for tea on two occasions.

He then visited Singapore from Rangoon, and was the first missionary to have gone as far as Singapore and Malaysia. Soon after his short visit, he returned to Rangoon. After completion of his assignments with great deal of dedication, he came back to Dacca and ultimately returned to Karachi.

The Imam visited Karachi and stayed at the Metropole Hotel, where he met with the Imam. He reported details of his visits and received best blessings on February 7, 1951. The Imam told him to go to Bombay, Poona and Hyderabad in India and see him in Delhi. He visited Bombay and delivered his waez and lectures before the concourse of the jamats. He then proceeded to Poona and Hyderabad. Khan Bahadhur Aladdin arranged his meeting with the Nizam of Hyderabad. At length, he came in Delhi and met the Imam at Imperial Hotel. On that occasion, the leaders of Agra and Kanpur jamats insisted him to pay visit among their jamats. Thus, he went to Agra and Kanpur and delivered waez.

He returned to Karachi via Delhi and resumed his services with the Ismailia Association for Pakistan. He also continued to work in refugee areas with the Hunza, Gilgit and Chitral people. The refugee rehabilitation work soon began to show results. The sewing machines, the larries and the small shop cabins were provided to the families.

On December 23, 1951, the 28th Mission Assembly organized by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan in Ranchhorline Jamatkhana, Karachi. He presided the function and said in his address that, 'We were the porters in the period of Imam Hasan Ali Shah, but now prospered beyond measure in the world. It is the need of the time to kill our great enemy, i.e., slander and enmity among us, the main weapons of disunity.'

His significant activities in the field of waez training program continued till the Association reached the target of 500 waezeens. Wazir Dr. Hoodbhoy wrote to the Imam that he had satisfied all requirements of Sultanali Nazarali alongwith a report of his services in Pakistan, India, Burma, Singapore and Malaysia; and also showed his readiness for any further assignments. He also wrote that he could return to East Africa via Syria, where he would get an intense course in Arabic. Within a few weeks followed a reply from the Imam that, 'Let him return to East Africa and continue his good work there. The knowledge of Arabic can be pursued later on.'

On the eve of his departure from Karachi to East Africa on July 2, 1952, al-waez Sultanali Nazarali was accorded a farewell party with four other African waezeens. He arrived in Bombay, where he was also given a warm reception. He left Bombay with his grandfather. Huzur Wazir Ali Muhammad Macklai (1894-1971) came to see him at seaport. He arrived at Mombasa after an absence of 1000 days from East Africa. He stayed with Count Kassam Jivraj. Soon afterwards, he came in Moshi where the jamat hailed him in a princely reception.

In the meantime, he got a part-time job at the East African Muslim Welfare Society. Soon after the birth of his first child, his wife also found a job with Guntzel and Schumaker, a Dutch firm in Mombasa.

He also worked tremendously in the campaign to generate funds for the Platinum Jubilee of the Imam and collected a princely sum. He worked closely with Count Kassim Ali Paroo (1906-1998) in mission field. Once Count Paroo offered him an agency of the Jubilee Insurance Company. He accepted it, which was crucial in changing his destiny. He visited Kampala for three months, where he also sold a large quantity of the life insurance policies, and broke all records in Jubilee's life portfolio - 5.5 million shillings, and procured 250,000 shillings as the commission. He returned to Mombasa and wrote the Imam about his record life insurance business with a merit certificate of the Company. In reply, the Imam granted him gracious compliments. He continued to sell life insurance policies in daytime and serve the jamat at evening till late night hour.

He opened his office, namely 'African Continent Assurance' in Mombasa and employed three persons. He also became an honorary General Secretary of the Muslim Welfare Society in Mombasa. It will be interesting to note an example of a donor, who wanted Sultanali to erect a clock tower in Mombasa to be called 'Aga Khan Tower' and offered a massive amount for it. When Sultanali wrote to the Imam, he declined the offer and said not to the clock tower, but the money be used for education purpose.

In 1957, the first visit of Hazar Imam took place in East Africa after assuming the Imamate. The Imam arrived in Nairobi at first, where Sultanali Nazarali and Jaffer Ali Sufi were active in their assignments. Both have also rendered valuable services in Nairobi during the bayt ceremony in 1958. He was bequeathed the duty in Dar-es-Salaam on October 19, 1957 during the occasion of the Takhat Nashini.

About 2700 Ismailis from 20 countries were gathered at Aswan to pay last tribute to the 48th Imam, whose official resting of body took place in a mausoleum on February 20, 1959. Sultanali Nazarali was also in Aswan with his wife. Soon after the ceremony, Mata Salamat summoned some members of the international jamats in her lounge. She went into a room and brought some clothes for the guests to be distributed. She gave him a silk shirt with an initial AK on the front left side and said, 'Make this to your size and wear it with pride. It will bring you lot of luck.'

In 1963, he got an offer by a business group in Zaire (Congo) to work with them in partnership to develop industries in Zaire. In the meantime, he visited Gastaad, Switzerland, where he got the company of Wazir Mukhi Mohammad Ali Pirbhai of Paris and his wife, Fatimabai. The Mukhi received a phone call from the office of the Imam for their appointment on next day on February 9, 1963. The Imam told him at the meeting to move to Zaire for good, and accept the offer of the business group. Hence, he went to Geneva and then to Zaire, Bujumbura and then drove back to Mombasa. He sold his business and left Mombasa by car for Kampala and boarded the plane to Zaire from Entebbe and settled there. He used to make trips to Brussels, Belgium, Milan and Stuttgart to study industries and earn for his livelihood in the money exchange business.

In 1974, he moved to North America and arrived in Vancouver, Canada. He came into the contact of Amin Dossani in Seattle, who spoke to him about the Travel Lodge in Pullman, Washington. He accepted the deal and purchased it. Soon afterwards, he also bought a motel from Richard Hanna in December, 1974, whose final deal executed in February, 1975. He came to Pullman and took possession of the Travel Lodge. His new enterprise however did not effect his religious activities both in United State and Canada.

He made a flying visit in Dacca in 1977 with his family during the didar programme of the Imam. He reached Dacca, where he was invited to go to airport with the leaders to receive the Imam. The Imam came ahead of the crowd towards the car and extended his hand to him and his wife and said, 'Missionary, I am glad you are here.' The Imam's visit in Dacca lasted for five days, and he got a chance to see the Imam during one of the ceremonies, where the Imam held his right hand and gave blessings.

Soon after his return from Dacca, he acquired another property of WIL-RU, i.e. Wilma-Ruth and William Rusty, the initial names of two principal owners of the property, where he shifted with his family. In sum, he had a real estate sale license and a unique exposure to motels, apartment complexes and business for sale.

In November, 1978, the Imam launched a historical visit of Canada. He worked hard in the jamat, and was deputed in Calgary on November 16, 1978, Edmonton and Winnipeg on November 18, 1978 for organizing and inspiring the jamats. He had an occasion to talk with the Imam. He took his two sons, Shafiq and Maqbool to the Imam to bless them to follow on his footsteps and become missionaries, just as his father had offered him to Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in 1946. The Imam said, 'Missionary, let them make their own decisions.' So saying, the Imam blessed his sons. He had a point wandering in his mind to be clarified and said, 'Mawla, are you displeased with me?' The Imam said, 'Not at all.' So saying, he blessed him and said, 'I am with you all the time, every hour, every minute, every second of life. You are doing some very good work for me and my jamats. I am fully conscious of your work. Continue your work.'

During the historic Silver Jubilee of the Imam, two major fund collection drives took place, where he played significant role. He helped to raise donation for the Khadak Jamatkhana, Bombay as well as the silver jubilee fund. He pledged his resources and collected funds from Canada, United States and other jamats.

In 1985, the Imam made an opening ceremony of the Darkhana Jamatkhana in Vancouver at the hands of the Prime Minister Brian Malroney. He shared a large amount for the new Jamatkhana in Vancouver. With President Bahadhur M.M. Karim and his team, including Wazir Malick Lakha and others, they all became instrumental in raising of the colossal amount for the project.

There was a luncheon party in West Vancouver at the house of President Itmadi Farouk Verjee. He was standing with other persons when the Imam entered the small decorated tent. The Imam came before the standing persons and all of a sudden asked him, 'Missionary, what do you think of the Burnaby Darkhana?' He was flabbergasted and was taken by surprise and words gushed out from his lips that, 'Mawla, Pir Sadr al-Din said some 600 years ago in the ginan, 'Utar Khand mahe'n Shah'ni Jiyot jagewa' (the Light of the Imam will shine from the North).' The Imam laughed and said, 'You are right, Shahbash Missionary.' The Imam patted him on his back and said, 'But don't forget from the West also.'

Henceforward, it was a time of his intense travels, speeches, seminars and meetings. He was also appointed a Waezeen Coordinator for the United States.

In 1986, the Imam visited United States. He worked hard and travelled all over the United States. He had a moment with the Imam in his residence in Chicago. The Imam stayed at President Dr. Zul Ismail's antique heritage mansion.

In 1990, he visited India and delivered touching lectures and waez. In 1992, he secured a chance to visit Salamia and Damascus, Syria. He delivered waez in English, which was translated into Arabic by Ahmed Yaghi. He also made flying visit of the historical places in Syria, notably the fort of Masiyaf. He had been in New Zealand and Australia in 1998, where he prepared 13 new waezeens during his short stay.

His waez activities and multiple roles in welfare arena continued unaffected. He is a nominated Paul Harris Fellow, a benefactor of the Rotary Foundation. He also gives to the Salvation Army and United Way. His support also goes to Partnership Walk, the Aga Khan Foundation, Aga Khan University, Karachi, Institute of Ismaili Studies, London and Focus Canada for various charities. He is a regular donor of Vancouver Hospital, UBC and Royal Colombian Hospitals. He, along with others, became also involved in helping Boarding Houses in India and almost 40 years later, founded two Boarding Houses in Bhuj, Kutchh, Gujrat in India, one for boys and another for girls.

Recently, his family donated large resources to the Aga Khan University and Focus in Pakistan. To respond to the increasing number of outpatients and provide them with greater access to various medical services, the Aga Khan Hospital, Karachi approved the design and construction of a 24000 sq.ft. building, as a first phase of new Ambulatory Care Services at AKU. It will comprise of 31 consulting rooms for Cardiology, Medicine and Executive Clinics, and will have a blood specimen collection station, a basic radiology room and a pharmacy. Missionary Sultan Nazarali Walji and his family have very graciously pledged US 3 millions towards the total cost of $. 4.3 million for the Nazarali Walji Building. During his visit to Pakistan, the Imam and Begum Inara laid foundation stone of the building on October 20, 2000 at Karachi.

On the following day, the Imam said in his speech during the Annual Convocation that three new buildings were inaugurated on yesterday, bringing much needed facilities to the campus, the Juma Building, Ibn Ridwan Building and Nazarali Walji Building. The Imam said for the Nazarali Walji Building that, 'The foundation stone for the new Nazarali Walji Building was also laid yesterday. It is the first phase of new ambulatory care services at AKU in response to the increasing number of outpatients and give them greater access to various medical services. Those at AKU responsible for supervising their construction deserve our thanks.'

Al-waez Rai Sultanali Nazarali Walji is a born fund-generator and ever ready volunteer. He is a kind-hearted, articulate, witty and a humble man with great sense of humour. He rolled in a sea of generosity all his life almost in all parts of the world in knowledge and resources are credible. Pride he has none - he is a simple man in whom are embodied all the qualities of a prudent gentleman. His role as an al-waez has held first priority in his life, a sacred function he considers.

During last 50 years he has travelled over 55 countries with his wife, and delivered waez, lectures and trained new waezeens. He had delivered over 15000 lectures, spoke for hours in over 2000 different places, emphasizing the practice of Ismaili faith. He had a rare collection of 1000 tapes of waez he delivered during last 25 years.

Missionary Sultanali Nazarali had three sons, Maqbool, Shafiq and Altaf. He confesses without a shadow of doubt that his sons gave him happiness, comfort and satisfaction. They too share with his father in all virtuous works to leave a legacy that has been a tradition in the Ukani family. May Hazar Imam grant him long life, health and courage to serve the Ismaili world more and more till his last breath, Amen.

Sultanali Nazarali Walji, Missionary

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