88. Rahimtullah Muhammad Sayani - page 355
He was born in Bombay on April 5, 1847. His grandfather Sayani was a respectable merchant in Kutchh and came to Bombay. His father, Muhammad Sayani admitted his son, Rahimtullah in Elphinstone School, where he matriculated at the age of 16 years. He passed his B.A. examination in 1866 and M. A. in 1868. He was not only the first Muslim who had obtained this honorable degree, but also no Muslim obtained it during the next 25 years.
During his college career, Rahimtullah Muhammad Sayani was the recipient of many prizes and awards, and was eventually appointed a fellow of the college. He was the favorite pupil of Sir Alexander Grant (1826-1884), the vice-chancellor of the Bombay University.
Rahimtullah Sayani passed his LL.B. examination in 1870, and was the Justice of Peace, and a Fellow of the Bombay University in the same year. He was not only one of the foremost members of the Senate in 1870, but also held various offices. He was a member of Syndicate (1891-1895), the member of the Board of Account of the University, and the trustee of the Elephinstone College.
In 1874, a Commission was appointed in order to recommend proposals with a view to amend the law relating to the Ismailis. Justice Sir Maxwell Melville (1834-1887), Justice Spencer and Rahimtullah Sayani were appointed members of this Commission. Afterwards at his suggestion, Imam Aga Ali Shah and three other prominent Ismaili leaders were co-opted as members.
His professional career began in 1878 when he passed his Solicitor's examination through the firm of Leath & Leath, which was represented by M/S Crawford & Co. He became a partner of Cumbroodin Tyab Ali, the elder brother of Justice Badruddin Tayyib Ali (1844-1906), who was the only Muslim Solicitor at that time.
During the first 15 years of his professional career, he was largely practicing as a pleader. Had he wished he might have obtained a seat on the High Court Bench. His professional and public career was dearer to him and prevented him from desiring so.
He was elected to the Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1876. He was subsequently elected a member of its Standing Committee (1879-1888). To mark their appreciations of his invaluable services to the city, his colleagues elected him President of the Corporation in 1888. It may be pointed out that he was the first Muslim who obtained the high honor of the civic chair.
He was one of that small band of cultured Muslim leaders who brought into existence that very useful body, known as the Anjuman-e-Islam, with its accessories of schools, hostels, gymkhana and club. He was for many years its Honorary Secretary and Vice-President.
In 1885, he became the first Muslim Sheriff of Bombay. He was also appointed a member of the Bombay Legislative Council in 1888, and was the first Ismaili to obtain this high honor.
In 1896, he was unanimously chosen the President of the National Congress at Calcutta; and was the second Muslim selected for this unique honor, the first being Justice Badruddin Tayyib Ali.
At the end of 1896, Sir Pherozshah Mehta resigned his seat on the Supreme Legislative Council; the unanimous choice of non-official members then fell on him. During the course of his two years term of office, several important matters came before that august body for disposal, notably the Epidemic Diseases Act, Amendment of the Criminal Procedure Code and Seditious Meetings Act.
The Khoja Ismaili Library in Bombay reached its prosperous condition due to the zealous assistance of Rahimtullah Sayani. From its foundation to the date of his death, he was the President and a zealous supporter of this useful institution. He was also a solicitor of the Imam.
It may be said without exaggeration that almost all the institutions of organized philanthropy among the Ismailis were either directly or indirectly due to his efforts. Urged by his shinning example, many generous Ismailis appeared in the field to establish charitable and educational institutions.
His simplicity of heart and piety occasionally made him liable to be the prey of unscrupulous people in spite of his great abilities. One of his greatest titles to the gratitude of the Ismaili community consisted in the fatherly encouragement he always used to give to poor but deserving brethren. Several Ismaili gentlemen who afterwards rose to eminence and a fair amount of material prosperity, owed largely to the constant encouragement and pecuniary assistance in the nick of time rendered to them by Rahimtullah Sayani.
Rahimtullah Sayani died on June 4, 1902 at Bombay. There was a spontaneous outburst of grief in numerous Ismaili homes and many a person felt that he had lost a sincere friend who was, as it were, a parent to them. Dr. Mackichan, the vice-chancellor of the Bombay University, during his convocation address, paid a glowing tribute to him that, 'This is not the place to speak of the late Mr. Sayani's services to the public life of the city. I would only observe that he combined in a manner that is not common, the civic and the academic spirit. The latter lent refinement to his public life, while his experience as a public spiritual citizen contributed in no small measure to the effectiveness of his services in the various offices which he filled in this University.'