B. APPENDIX I: speech of Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali
Gist of the speech of Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali, then Kamadia of Thana Jamatkhana, delivered on June 19, 1927 at Thana
Dear President & Gentlemen,
First of all, I am heartily thankful to you all gentlemen on behalf of our jamat to respond to our invitation for making here an assembly.
Gentlemen, you must have learnt from the invitation cards that we are gathered here to add an important and significant page in the Ismaili history, therefore, you have been bothered for it. I have no enough words to thank you for coming as far as from Bombay in the summer season and took pain to ornament our poor jamat with an incomparable honour. It is our prayers that the merciful Lord of the age may recommpense here and hereafter for the trouble you have taken. It is however confirmed that you also hold the importance of today's glorious occasion like us.
Gentlemen, you are well aware that our today's gathering is meant to unfurl the flag in our holy Jamatkhana with the kind consent of Saheb-i Zaman, Hadi al-Mahdi, Ulul Amr, Mawlana Dhani Salamat Datar, Saheb-i Amr wal Asr Sarcar Khudavind Aga Sultan Muhammad Shah Datar. The flag is a token of freedom, while its colours symbolize its authority. The freedom and authority are the emblems of sovereignty. Gentlemen, I will proceed with assertion that we will be fortunate to see an Ismaili empire in near future. I think that you will join in my auspicious dream. It will be not an exaggregate if I may name this flag as an "Ismaili Flag" because of getting its permission from the Imam.
Gentlemen, a fortunate enjoys an honour of the flag. The true fidais and champions gain this matchless honour in the battle. Perhaps you will surprise to know why the Imam instituted a unique honour to the poor jamat of Thana?
Gentlemen, this is the first occasion of unfurling the flag in the history of the Indian Ismailis, and we are fortunate to initiate in yielding the honour. Indeed, we are thankful to the Imam-e-Zaman. Our poor jamat is crowned with this honour; therefore, it will be not an exaggregate to present a brief history of our jamat on this auspicious occasion.
Gentlemen, a peep into the historical records reveals that a terrible famine devastated Kutchh in 1833 Samavat (1777 A.D.). Almost eight families on that time had emigrated and settled in Thana, such as the forefathers of Mukhi Teja, Pirbhai Bharmal, Haji Virji, Mulji Mannek, Bhimji Rahim, Lalji Ratansi, Hashim Mevawala and Nathu Jetha. They came in search of bread and butter with a shelter. The glory of the Thana jamat at that time was extra-ordinary. The scholars of history can explain you that today the city of Thana is not even a shadow of the Thana of that period. There had been a Thana of the Peshwas in Poona, and the outskirts of the Thana had become a famous in history for many times as a battlefield. With this importance, the mercantile activities of Thana were sound with immense prosperity. Our forefathers lived here and toiled as the gram-sellers and hawkers. It was not possible for them to join other fields because of coming from the famine-stricken region with no capital. Bombay was not a city, but a town and that too belonged to the fishermen. With insignificant initiative, the above eight families marched in the battle of improving their economy, and became not only the merchant princes, but also colonized the location of Thana. Alas! It was not acceptable to the nature! In 1900 A.D., a frightful fire devastated the market of Thana, which is still reckoned a historical fire. The hazard of fire will become clearer from the fact that it became a legendary proverb in Surat and Thana. This dangerous fire caused trembling and inestimable losses to our community and others. Almost all the houses of ownership, shops, the source of income and the residential flats, etc. were consumed to ash, and almost all families became wanderers. Some of them had gone to Malad and Kalwa to attend the marriages and were quite unknown of the destruction in their absence. What would have been occurred with them when they returned and heard the ruins of their assests? I feel it appropriate to assign you to imagine by yourselves the condition of their hearts.
Gentlemen, despite the complete disaster, our jamat had well treasured in minds the golden advices of patience, courage and struggle imparted by our Ismaili faith. They were not disheartened with its result and thanked that, "God's will shall prevail!" They girded up their loins and dispelled the clouds, and reverted to think of future. In the meantime, late President Khan Saheb Alijah Haji Ahmed Devji, J.P., late Alijah Kamadia Jafar Pradhan, J.P., late Nainsi Pirbhai, late Waiya Gangji, late Kanji Aloo, late Moloo Jan Mohammad and late Juma Jan Muhammad, J.P. roused in action in Bombay, and made a visit of our jamat with relief funds and instructions of our beloved Hazar Imam. Gentlemen, I relate with a sense of pride that the Thana jamat responded in clear words that, "He is a Lord. We do not need his monetary assistance. We are thirsty of his prayers, which can prosper many orphans." Indeed, the humble prayers of the Imam proved a boon for us, and accelerated our economical condition to great extent in the decade ahead. We thank Lord that we became capable to stand today at your service with his mercy.
Gentlemen, the best-known suit in our jamat was Bar Bhayia Case, which is not unknown to you. It is a privilege of our jamat to prosecute the case for the first time. This case originated in Thana. The Wadi and Jamatkhana were its main centres. The Jamatkhana at that time was situated at the corner of Jambadi in the market, which still speaks the pride of past splendour as an asset of the Imam. We won the above case and the plaintiffs were badly defeated. The Bombay case had a great concern with this case; therefore, they made an appeal and gained victory. The Imam of the age, Imam Hasan Ali Shah, while taking bath in Kurala River, had blessed to our poor jamat with warm congratulation and blessings. It is our belief that we have become today fortunate with these prayers for getting this unparalled honour with our stainless faces.
Gentlemen, you have come to respond to the invitation of that jamat, which is a poor but too old jamat, and you also knew what I have explained from the history. Its oldest books of 125 years are still accessible in jamat. We justifiably feel pride being the descendants of this old jamat. Besides, this location was favourite for Mawlana Aga Hasan Ali Shah and Aga Ali Shah for their hunting expeditions, where the tents were pitched and they enjoyed hunting trips therefrom. Once a big tiger roared and harassed the people, and none could face it. When it slept, it was awakened and hunted at the distance of about ten steps by Aga Ali Shah, and brought the people under his obligations. Since then, the sceders of our jamat could not resist in Thana jamat against us.
Gentlemen, I will now proceed to speak on this auspicious occasion. I have told you that we have gathered here to unfurl the Ismaili flag. Most of our brothers in Africa use the flags mostly in the villages. According to the oral report, the ground of their flag is red, on which the name of Mawlana Hazar Imam is written in white letters. This tradition is so prevalent that it is generally hoisted on the Jamatkhanas on every occasion and festival. During the gracious arrival of the Imam, his steamer and boat are decorated with these flags. The news of Imam's arrival is heralded through the signal of fluttering the flags. I have heard it from Jafar Ali Ghulam Hussain of Dar-es-Salaam, the son of Kamadia Ratansi Ibrahim of Kutchh and missionary Mohammad Abdullah etc. It apparently inspired me that why we should not introduce a like tradition in India?
Gentlemen, I have discussed accordingly with other persons in Thana, who appreciated, providing lot of potential force and courage to my idea. Later on, there arose difference of views in connection with the colours of the flag, and it also created controversial questions while approaching few leaders of our jamat. It was however resolved at last to include the matter to the Imam for kind permission in the cable message to be sent from Thana jamat during the birthday occasion. Accordingly, while asking for permission humbly with our proposals, Mawlana Hazar Imam became happy and approved specific colours after making due alterations. It is our good fortune to present it with pride as an accepted Ismaili flag that has been designed according to the holy guidance.
We can summon the world through this flag that here is the salvation of souls, equality, no superiority or inferiority, no partiality but equality. It has a universal love and unity.
Gentlemen, the Recreation Club Institute has been entrusted to convey the great message of Islam in the world, wherein the message of the Ismaili flag is also incorporated, therefore, we have quite reasonably decided to get it unfurled with the hands of its President. Hence, this flag will promulgate the holy message, which is assigned to the Recreation Club, and also spread its aims explicitly in the community and the community may also begin to work ahead in accordance with the objective of our beloved Lord.
Gentlemen, we pray from the merciful Lord that as we jamat has been assigned a unique credit of unfurling the flag, likewise he may also make us capable to retain its prestige. We are thankful with the core of hearts to Kader Hussain Merali Manji, Jafar Kassim Visram, Jafar Ali Juma Jan Muhammad, Ghulam Hussain Dariyaquli Haji, Merali Pirbhai, Hussain Karim, Ghulam Ali Merali, Ali Mohammad Ghulam Hussain, Karim Nazar Ali, Ghulam Hussain Jafar and Abdul Hussain Yaqub Ali for taking pain in making this programme successful.
Gentlemen, I have taken your much time and apologize with heart. Before concluding my speech, it will be appropriate to say the reason why this honorable task has been determined on today? You all must know that today is the holy day of Eid-i Ghadir. Today, while returning from Mecca after performing farewell pilgrimage, our holy Prophet had publicly declared Ali Murtza (spiritually) his equal and imparted the great teachings of Ismailism regarding an equality of Ali and the Prophet. It is a holy day when it was trumpeted in public to the Ismaili Imamate for the welfare and prosperity of the world. It is a blessed day when the successor of the Prophet was declared with an objective that no distinction in Islam would occur in future. Islam succeeded on this memorable day and the legitimate got his rights, inviting towards the true path, and Islam became perfect. On such great and holy day, the flag of Mawla Murtza Ali was flown, and similarly we also flutter the flag on that very day, which may become prosperous to the Ismailis and translate our dreams of prosperity.
Now, Major! I humbly request you on behalf of our Thana jamat to unfurl the Ismaili flag on this occasion of Eid-i Ghadir, which is a hope of our community, our pride and our dream of prosperity and add a brick in the foundation of future sovereignty.
FEW IMPORTANT NOTES EXPLAINED
1) Wazir Kassim Ali Fateh Ali was born in 1896. He was a renowned figure in Thana jamat. He served as a Kamadia, then a Mukhi of Thana Jamatkhana. He also rendered his valuable services to the Thana Local Council as a President for 18 years. He was also an Employment Secretary (1938-1942), Honorary Secretary (1944-1945) and Chief Secretary (1945-1946) of Recreation Club Institute. He was the Chairman of the Aga Khan Legion Executive Committee for 2 years, and also worked as a member of the Aga Khan Platinum Jubilee Committee. In appreciation of his outstanding services, he was bestowed with the title of Wazir. He was also a good orator and writer and a famous sportsman. He was expert also in playing the harmonium. He died on June 25, 1978 at the age of 82 years in Thana.
2) Thana, primarily a residential suburb as well as an agricultural hinterland of Bombay, is situated as a district in Maharashtra State at the mouth of the Thana River on western India. The district is spread in 3658 sq. miles and is bounded by the Arabian Sea on western side, and the Sahyadri Hills of the Western Ghats, about 22 miles from Bombay. The word "thana" means military checkpoint, garrision or military post. In earliest times it was a capital of a large kingdom. It was also visited by Marco Polo in 1298, and in the 16th century, it became a Portuguese settlement. It was taken by the Maratha in 1739. In 1775, the British forestalled a Portuguese attempt to recapture it by taking after a siege of three days. On March 6, 1775, it was ceded with the island of Salsette to Great Britain by the treaty of Surat. The English church here was consecrated by Bishop Beber in 1825.
3) In 1777 A.D., the ruler of Kutchh was Maharajadhiraja Mirza Maharao Sri Ghodaji II (1760-1778), and the eight Ismaili families most possibly emigrated to Thana during the rule of Maharajadhiraja M.M. Sri Rayadhan III (1778-1813).
4) The term "peshwa" is a Persian, meaning "foremost" and was introduced in Deccan by the Muslim rulers. After his coronation as a Maratha ruler (chhatrapati) in 1674, Shivaji appointed Moropant Pingle as a Peshwa (or prime minister). It was Bajirao (1720-1740), who virtually made the peshwaship hereditary in the Bhat family.
5) There is also a fertile track of 8 acres, called Wadi, situated at Agra Road, Thana.
Courtesy : The weekly "Ismaili" (Bombay, 26th June, & 3rd July 1927)