This weekend, we marked 15 years since Marhum Mulla Asghar passed away. Members of the community worldwide remembered him and the impact he had on their lives.
We continue to remember Marhum Mulla Asghar with memories recollected by Brother Hasnain Walji and Brother Hassan Jaffer.
Brother Hasnain Walji, Producer of ‘The Khojas: A Journey of Faith’ and former President, Vice President and Secretary General of The World Federation
‘As was our custom for over two decades, we met every Wednesday afternoon at The WF offices in Stanmore for the weekly meeting of the Office Bearers. This particular Wednesday, we saw that he was suffering from a bad cold and said he felt feverish.
When we finished the meeting at 4pm I offered to drive him back to his home. He declined stating that a certain gentleman would pick him up to go to a place two hours away somewhere near Croydon. I protested that he was not well enough to brave the rush hour traffic through central and south London:
"I need to go because I have to recite a nikah" he said. Ahmed Daya suggested that he could ask Maulana Kalbe Abbas to stand in for him. When he declined, I remember asking him tersely " Mulla Saheb - help me understand why do you HAVE to recite nikah and driving 2 hours in rush hour traffic when you are not feeling well?"
Putting on his black cap, which usually signalled the end of a discussion, he looked me in the eye admonishingly and said: "I had a tiff with the late grandfather of the bride some 40 odd years ago and after a long time the family has invited me to their house. Now, if I do not go, they will think I still bear a grudge after all those years. Hence I have no choice but to go!"
Here lies the greatness and compassion of a man who was as concerned about not hurting the feelings of a mumin as much as he was about the welfare of the entire Shia Community that he served with such sincerity and simplicity’.
Brother Hassan Jaffer, author of ‘Relentless Endeavours - Reflection on Mulla Asgharali M. M. Jaffer (1936-2000)
Some lighthearted moments!
Mulla Asghar has narrated that he was once invited by a feuding couple to help resolve their matrimonial dispute. As Mulla Asghar met with the couple, the lady was spouting all fire and brimstones, willing to settle for nothing short of an immediate divorce while the husband displayed haughty indifference.
While verbal acrobatics raged between the two, Mulla sat through quietly watching the fracas.
Suddenly the husband bellowed:” Mulla Saheb, do you know the real cause of the dispute? I love her mother in law more that I love my own other in law!”
For a moment there was dead silence. When the full import of the comment registered, even the irate lady burst out laughing.
As the saying goes: Mia.n bibi razi, to kya kare Qazi?
If the 120,000 Khoja settled all over the world appreciate the value of collective endeavour within structured organizations, choosing to elect the right leaders in their local and global organizations and taking a focused approach towards clear cut ideals and objectives, it is not difficult to imagine what this small band could achieve in harnessing their talents.
At a ‘World Ahlul Bait League’ meeting in London in 1983, various delegates from different parts of the world paid public tribute to The World Federation of the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri Community, and urged others to emulate their organizational skills. Vice President of the Burma Shia Association made a telling observation in his presentation on the state of the Shia community in Burma. No organization from any part of the world cared about their Shia brethren in Burma. When Ayatullah Syed Muhsin Al Hakim passed away, the only source of information they had was from the circulars of the Khoja community.
One of the close friends of Mulla Asghar was Anver Valimohamed of Mombasa, nicknamed ”Mulla Annu”.
I recall an amusing incident in Dar-es-Salaam in 1986. At an informal gathering, late Akberali Rajpar pointing towards Mulla Anver asked Mulla Asghar, “Who is this person with such a grim look sitting next to you?” Anverbhai had a slight bout of Asthma and did not look his normal cheerful best that day.
Looking at his friend, Mulla Asghar quietly responded. “Akber, you do not know this man? This is Mulla Anver of Mombasa. He has a very commanding voice that sends out sharp vibrations of grief when he recites anything. He is particularly famous for his rendering of Kalema during funeral processions. His rendering of Kalema sends shivers down the spine of the people following the procession.
One day he was not in a very good mood, as he is today. In a funeral procession instead of reciting ‘La ilaha Illallah he started off with 'Asalamu Alaik...”
The reaction was a sight to behold. Mulla Anver erupted like a volcano and let go a barrage of invectives towards Mulla Asghar. Very quietly, Mulla Asghar removed his cap and spectacles and covered his face with a large handkerchief to hide his mirth.
When Mulla Anver had finished his outburst and stopped abruptly to regain his breath, Mulla Asghar looked at him inquisitively and asked “What did you say Mulla saheb”, much to the amazement and amusement of all those present.
Such hilarious scenes apart, the bond of childhood friendship between Mulla Anver and Mulla Asghar endured to the end. Both cherished each other’s company. At very difficult and distressing moments, Mulla Asghar would crave the company of Mulla Anver to help lighten his burden. The attachment of Mulla Anver towards his friend was abiding.
During the 1988 conference of the World Federation held in London, I was once talking to Muhsin Dharamsi during a lunch break. We were reviewing a suggestion that it would provide light relief if a short video clip highlighting comical scenes captured during the three day deliberations could be prepared. The idea was inspired from short farcical clips shown on national TV covering the Wimbledon Tennis matches. As we both laughed at the thought, Mulla Asghar happened to pass by. He stopped to inquire about the joke that made us both laugh so much. When we explained the idea, Mulla Asghar was not amused as he said: “Please do not do such a thing. If any participant is offended as a result, I will end up being punished for your sins!”
To purchase a copy of the book, ‘Relentless Endeavours - Reflection on Mulla Asgharali M. M. Jaffer (1936-2000), please visit The WFShop