history of Shias in Zanzibar
Agha, your fore-fathers have devoted their lives to serve Madhhabe Ahlul-Beit
a.s. Can you relate to us a short history of their services to Shias of
Unfortunately our fore-fathers did not maintain a diary nor did the Jamat
maintain a chronology or the records of the events in the history and the
development of the Khoja community. I shall therefore not be able to give you
a detailed history. I shall narrate certain well known developments that
occurred which I heard from my grandfather Syyyid Hussein Shushtary.
1301 A.H. Marhum Haji Dewji Jamal requested Ayatollah Zainul Abeideen
Mazindarani who was the Marja of the time, to send somebody in Bombay
and Zanzibar to teach the tenets of religion
to those of the Khoja Community who had accepted the Shia Madhheb during that
period of that time.
sent Sheikh Muhammad Najafi to Bombay
(the well known Mujtahid of Bombay) and Sayyid
Abdulhussain Ali Asgher Mar'ashi to Zanzibar . They left by the same ship from
Basra. Sayyid Abdulhussain arrived in Zanzibar with his wife, a daughter and
that time there were only four Khoja families in Zanzibar
who had accepted the Shia Madhab, but many more
families went to accept the Madhab and joined the Community.
people amongst who were Haji Muhammad Walji and Sheriff Dewji who built the
first Shia mosque at Kiponda, Zanzibar.
Sayyid Abdulhussain wrote a letter giving the names of four people and
requested the Marja, Sheikh Mazindarani to accept the nominees as the trustees
of the mosque. In reply he wrote "my trust worthy Wakil Sayyid
Abdulhussain has written to me to appoint these people as Trustees – and I
accept and herby appoint them as Trustees.
more families join the Jamat, hostile behavior from the Ismaili community
towards the prospering Jamat increased. Marhum Sayyid Abdulhussain on the way
to the mosque had to endure abusive language and was often attacked. They used
to pile dirt on him and on many occasions been forced to return home to change
his clothes before going back to the mosque.
Abdulhussain wrote "sharh" on book Najatul Ibad (4 volumes). Marja
of the time Sayyid Kadhim Yazdi Tabatabai was very pleased with his work.
the reign of Seyid Barghash, there was a famine in Zanzibar
. The Sultan requested all the communities to pray for the rain. All the
communities went in groups to pray for the rain but famine persisted. He then
enquired if any community had not gone out to pray and he was informed that
the Shia community had not done so.
called Sayyid Abdulhussain and requested to pray for rain and the famine be
put to an end Sayyid Abdulhussain made the following conditions.
There should not be Fisk or Fujur for three days.
That all people fast for three days.
That all people should make Istighfar.
the third day he came out in congregation with the Shia community and led the
namaz e Istiska at Mnazimoja ground when it started pouring and continued for
rain continued for many days and the persistent rain was damaging the crops..
Sultan requested Agha this time to pray that the rain should stop. He agreed
and did so. After this incident the Sultan held Sayyid Abdulhussain in very
to our mosque, a property was being developed, the Sultan and Qalbe Ali Khan
(who was from Urmiya
Province in Iran) his Commander-in-Chief helped our Jamat to purchase the
property for Rupees 65,000. This was to be used as Imambargha. After sometime
Haji Ali Nathoo built an extra storey. The Imambargha is still in use until
Zanzibar was an
Ibadhi State , it was through the efforts and
influence of Qalbe Ali Khan that Shia could recite "Ashaduanna Amirul
Moaomeen Alliyun Walliullah" in the azan openly, without any problem or
fear. The first person who recited the first Azan was also a Persian. He was a
teacher and was well known as Maalim Maulidi and
brother of Bulbul.
Ibadhi Aa'alim Shiekh Seif Nasser Suleiman Kharusi asked Sayyid Abdulhussain a
question in writing about the Shia Akida on Allah. Agha wrote two books in
reply which were then printed. (These books were in the library of Sayyid
Hussain .All the books from his library were sent to the Supreme Council in
Mombassa after the Zanzibar
Abdulhussain wrote a letter to Ayatollah Mazindarani to find a Sayyid youth
among his pupils to wed his daughter Bibi Zahra. He selected Sayyid Hussain
Habibullah Shushtary (my grandfather). He came to Zanzibar
and married Bibi Zahra. The wedding took place at the Musafarkhna of Haji
Remtullah Tejani and then the groom left with his wife to continue his studies
1322 Sayyid Abdulhussain proceeded to Hajj along with others, where he felt
sick and died in Mecca.
He was buried at the feet of Hazrat Abu Talib.a.s. at Jannatul Mualla.
this Kafela reached Najaf Ayatollah Mazindarani passed away and Ayatollah
Mirza Hussain Khalili became Ma'arja.
the zawwars arrived at Najaf – prominent among them was Haji Remtullah
Tejani requested the Ma'arjah to send Sayyid Hussain (the son-in-law of Sayyid
Abdulhussain) to Zanzibar
to take the place of Sayyid Abdulhussain.
Sayyid Hussain arrived in Zanzibar
in 1344 A.H. with his wife and children to serve the
community. He too was highly respected by the community for his Taqwa and
passed away in 1366 and his remains were carried above the head and shoulders
of the people all the way to "Chunga Khan" where he was buried.
the time I was in Kerbala, Marhum Ayatulaah Sayyid Abull Isfahani, the great
Ma'arja of the time, kept fatiha khwani for three days ant Najaf and informed
me by telegram
above as excerpts of an interview by Fidahusai Hameer, Editor of the
"Light Magazine with the late Agha Mehdi)