KHOJAS & MEMONS
<<By the way, I am keen to trace my ancestry from Jamnagar in Gujarat. I know that my great great grand father sailed from there to East Africa. That’s it, not much to go on. But I’m certain there must be a line that was left back that still continues.>>
<<If i were you, I would go to Jamnagar and meet your community people/organization. They can send out feelers of enquiry in the community.>>
<< Did the Khojas in Pakistan migrate from India (and elsewhere), or they have been there before the partition? I wonder how they are treated in Pakistan, knowing that the Mohajirs (Indian Muslims who migrated to Pakistan) don't get along well with the indigenous Pakistanis. I have heard of some horror stories of how the Mohajirs have been treated in Pakistan, from a friend whose family migrated to Pakistan just after the partition. >>
<<PS - The figure of 15 million Ismailis is banded about, but this figure is highly questionable as the actual number is likely to be significantly lower than this. There isn't an actual census, although there are in Canada, US, UK, Portugal, EA; 97% in these jurisdictions are Khojas and together number some 125,000 - 150,000.>>
Ali, the bulk of our community (Khojas) from Kutch and Kathiawad had moved to East Africa in the nineteenth century. Most of those who had remained formed part of the exodus to Pakistan during the partition in 1947. Thus those left behind after the partition were not many and must have got scattered here and there. Presently in Jamnagar there are very few Khojas (Ithnashris & Ismailis put together) and most of them are not of Jamnagar origin but had moved only in the recent past from neighbouring spots like Jodia and Jamburo.
Having adopted East Africa as our home most of us had lost the traces of relatives and contacts after three generations (we're into six generations now). The best person to check with would be some elderly person in your family or community.
Yes Kirit, the Khojas in the wake of partition in 1947 migrated to Pakistan (those already there before the partition were Sindhi Khojas). Being Gujaratis and with their business acumen they soon prevailed over its economy. Some of Pakistan's leading businessmen are Khojas. Habib Kansara of Habib Bank are Khojas, and so are the Jetha Gokals (one of them being a minister in the past). The founder of Pakistan, Mohamedali Jinnah, was a Khoja. Pakistan owes a lot to the Agakhan. He had backed and funded Pakistan through its thick and thin. One of Asia's top rated hospitals is in Karachi, Pakistan and built by the Agakhan. Some of the most sophisticated housing complex in Karachi is attributed to the Khojas. The late Prince Aly Khan and Prince Sadruddin had represented Pakistan in various capacities at the United Nations.
The question of Mohajirs is intense and complicated, just as the treatment meted out to the Gujaratis and South Indians in Maharashtra in the initial stages had the regional element playing its part in the conflict. Would you believe Pakistan's economy was once controlled by the Memons who were originally from Gujarat, India?
Farouk, the actual figure of Khoja Ismailis could be more than 125,000 -150,000, for even Khoja Ithnashris number that much. Khoja Ismailis need be in the region of 200,000 to 250,000. The bulk of them are concentrated in Canada, the States and the UK. In the subcontinent if I’m not mistaken Pakistan accommodates more Khojas than India. The figure in East Africa has dwindled considerably. Take for instance Zanzibar where hardly 5 to 10 Khoja Ismaili families are left.
Zanzibar was the place where in the mid nineteenth century the Khojas had descended from Kutch and Kathiawad. Even H.H.Sultan Mohamed Shah spent considerable time in Zanzibar. Its Jamaatkhana is historic and probably one of the most spacious in the world, stretching all the way from one road to another and forming terminus for several by ways and lanes. Today it is desolate and bereft of the huge audience that once attended its prayer sessions in the evening when it would be humming with excitement.
There are several Khoja monuments in Zanzibar and even controversy surrounds over some of them as it was here that the dissident movement was at its severest. These monuments are mostly attributed to Sir Tharia Topan and Nasser Noormohamed who were formidable and affluent in their own way. In fact the Kuwwat Jamaat of Zanzibar became the first ever Khoja Shia Ithnashri Jamaat in the world in 1881 when the Khojas in the subcontinent were still facing opposition to establish their separate identity.
<< Talking about Memons, a Memon [unmarried - a status not readily accepted in that community] lady friend of mine, originally from Malawi had attended a Memon conference organised in Karachi some years ago. Not only was she an only female speaker but there was hardly any female in the audience. Memons from Malawi have rich businesses in Britain - there are quite a few in Tooting area in South London, >>
Bhadra, it is understood that Memons were originally 'Vaniyas' and Lohanas (there could be other versions too), just as Khojas were Lohanas or Bohoras were Brahmins. Memons from Kutch are called 'Kutchi Memons' while those from Kathiawad and Gujarat are termed 'Halai Memon'. The ones we had in Zanzibar (Haji Abdulla, Zakaria, Jusbani, 'Good Luck Store', Haji Omar Mithaiwala etc) were Kutchi Memons. There were probably no Halai Memons in Zanzibar. Kutchi Memons speak Kutchi while Halai Memons speak Gujarati.
The patron of Memon and the president of the Kutchi Memon Jamaat in Zanzibar was Haji Tayyab. His ‘Haji Abdulla’ on the Kiponda/Darajani corner (taken over by Muzammil in the post Revolution phase) dealt in various electrical items and was one of Zanzibar’s leading shops. The owners of ‘Zakaria Provisional Store’ and ‘Good Luck Store’ located in the market were Memons. Jusbanis had a big garage along Hollis Road. Haji Omar Mithaiwala’s ‘mithai’ shop in Mkunazini was famous for its ‘halua ya badamu’ (almond sweetmeat). It cost shs. 7 a pound, a lot of money in those days, but it commanded ‘brand image’ and was sought after even in the distant UK in the fifties and sixties.
The concentration of Halai Memons was mostly in the Southern part of Africa (Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, South Africa). Those thriving in Pakistan and associated with the 'Industrial Group' were mostly Halai Memons (Adamji, Dawood etc). They had prospered during the time of Ayub Khan in the 60s. The renowned philanthropist Haji Abdul Sattar Edhi is a Halai Memon. The famed Pakistani cricketers 'Mohamed Brothers'(Wazir, Hanif, Mushtaq & Sadiq) were Halai Memon, and so were Javed Miandad and Iqbal Qasim. In the present team it is Faisal Iqbal who is a Memon.
The Memons in Karachi also stage 'Gujarati Natak'
as they do in Bombay. The Radio Pakistan
Gujarati Service for East Africa (broadcast in
the fifties and sixties) announcers, Yunus
Maqsood and Abdulsattar Paryani, were Memons.
The famous lady announcer Fatma Mansouri could
have been either a Memon or a Khoja.
|Last updated March 2008
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