In the early 1960s, a handful of families came to Pakistan from East Africa where most of them had well established businesses. After the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964, many families migrated to Karachi, and later, after the Union of Zanzibar and Tanganyika (now Tanzania), followed by nationalization of properties, industries and farming, more families migrated to Karachi.
Desirous of maintaining the same tradition of our majalis as in East Africa, these settlers faced a lot of hardship / adjustment problems in attending existing religious institutions. Further, there was no contact with each other in this new city of Karachi. The 1965 war between India and Pakistan further discouraged their morale. However, they stood their ground.
Among the few families settled in Karachi, Late Mohammed Sharif Dewji initiated a small gathering at his place every Sunday afternoon to exchange views and share experiences. Slowly this gathering gained momentum and it was converted into religious lectures by Mr.Abbas M. Alidina, followed by Maghrib prayers and dinner. During the month of Holy Ramadhan, nightly Dars used to take place for gents at Mohammed Sharif Dewji’s place, and for ladies at Mohammed Ali Hansarj’s place and at Mehmood M.R Fazal’s place. This continued till the early 1970s. Again the war between India and Pakistan during 1971 was a setback for some families who packed up and returned to East Africa.
In the year 1972, however, the need was felt to have a proper place for the social and religious needs of these families. Thus, a small group took the initiative and rented premises were acquired off Allama Iqbal Road. Thus, Mehfil-e-Murtaza was established on 13th Rajab 1393 (1973). Within a very short period, Mehfil-e-Murtaza gained recognition within the Khoja community and other Shia organizations as an institution because of its efficiency, organized system and excellent service to one and all.
In the year 1991, the community had to face another setback due to the civil war in Somalia. Our Khoja families had to be evacuated by ship to Mombasa with only clothes on their backs. A few of these families opted to settle in Karachi. Mehfil-e-Murtaza, and its subsidiary organizations, accepted the challenge and assisted these families by providing accommodation, education and other services. Due to tough economic climate and civil unrest in Karachi during mid 1990s many of these families migrated back to Africa or other places.
The constant instability and violence in Karachi during the 1990s affected every member of the community directly or indirectly. Mehfil-e-Murtaza had to curtail niaz program during Ashura & Ramadhan in the last few years and adjust timings of its programmes.
During the past 25 years, Mehfil-e-Murtaza took out various monthly and quarterly magazines but due to lack of interest and financial support we had to discontinue this. Publication of A’amals (both in Urdu and English) has facilitated participants in understanding the meaning of Duas and has become very popular. These books have been well appreciated abroad as well.
Bazm-e-Sakina is an independent body of our Lady members. It organizes Naat, Speech, Quiz, Mela programs to raise funds and assist the running of Madressa and Medical Clinic at Orangi. Recently it has undertaken the task constructing a Mosque / Imambargah / Madressa at Orangi.
In May, 1995, a group of concerned mothers found it necessary to start a Madressa which would cater for their children who found it difficult to study in Urdu as a medium. Hence the Al-Murtaza Madressa was started with a mere 10 children on Saturdays on a once a week basis to enable the children to spend some time learning religion in English language. Today, the Madressa boasts 210 children in 10 sections and is held at the Al-Murtaza School Senior Girls Branch.
The Ghusal/Kafan facilities and related arrangements at Mehfil have been rendering superb service to the Shia community at large.
The Al-Murtaza Senior Citizens
The Ladies Managing Committee of Mehfil-e-Murtaza looks after the Ladies’ affairs / events. Recently, they have introduced The Al-Murtaza Senior Citizens day on every Tuesday for all ladies above the age of 50 years.
The first ever programme of Jashn-e-Milad-un-Nabi (S.A.W.) and Ittehad-e-Bainul Muslimeen was introduced by Mehfil-e-Murtaza in Karachi in 1995 where scholars from different Islamic schools of thought within Pakistan were invited to participate between 12th and 17th Rabi-ul-Awaal. The programme regularly held every year and has gone from strength to strength. We at Mehfil-e-Murtaza feel proud that our innovative efforts have promoted religious tolerance and understanding in these difficult times.
The 15th night of Shaban / Fitra
Arrangement of obtaining Ariza at Mehfil and disposing the same on the 15th night of Shaban was introduced since 1973 when Mehfil-e-Murtaza was established, and so is the collection of Fitra and its timely disbursement to the deserving families. These arrangements have facilitated not only the members of Mehfil but the Shia community at large. Eid Lunch programmes were held regularly till 1981, but had to be discontinued due to war between Iran/Iraq. However the qurbani (goat sacrifice) facilities at Mehfil continued for a few more years, but had to be put to an end due to numerous problems faced by the Management.
Extension of our Present Building Complex
The recent influx of our community within the vicinity of Mehfil, to avail and benefit from the facilities provided, has highlighted our space constraints. Hence, the Managing Committee purchased the adjacent property for extension of our present building complex for the betterment of our future generations. By the Grace of Allah and Chaharda Masoomin (A.S) we obtained possession of the said plot on the 20th of Jamad-ul-Saani 1418 A.H. (23rd October 1997) coinciding with the Birth Anniversary of Janabe Fatima Zahera (A.S.) whereafter a brand new Ladies Imambargah (named Janabe Fatimatuzzehra (S.A.) Hall) and Ghusal Khana was inaugurated on 27th Ramadhan 1419 (16th January 1999). This particular achievement owes its all to the tireless efforts of Late Hussein I. Haji (Sheny Haji) our erstwhile President who initiated and executed the entire project prior to his untimely death.
Word of Thanks from the Present Managing Committee
All in all, these achievements during the past 25 years have been possible only with the co-operation, support, sacrifice, generous donations, untiring services, devotion and understanding of each member of Mehfil-e-Murtaza and the Community as a whole, without which we could not have established Mehfil-e-Murtaza as one of the best social religious institutions in Pakistan having world-wide recognition. Please accept thanks from the present Managing committee for your moral, social and financial contribution towards Mehfil-e-Murtaza. Wasalaam.
Vice President – Mehfil-e-Murtaza
13th Rajab 1431 A.H. (June, 2010)
Blood Donation on Ashura Day was introduced in Karachi during the year 1973 by Mehfil-e-Murtaza. The first batch of 17 donors donated at Jinnah Hospital. Thereafter, every year, arrangement were made for both ladies and gents which have continued to date. Husseini Blood Bank has assisted Mehfill-e-Murtaza since its establishment to arrange proper blood donation on 9th and 10th of each Muharram. In the year 1981, blood donation was also arrange for the Irani war victims and the same was airlifted to Iran.
Since Mehfil-e-Murtaza was established, Hussaini Society has covered commendable ground in imparting religious knowledge to the children. Indeed, it has produced some outstanding youths during the last 25 years.
During the initial short of span of three years, the then Managing Committee of Mehfil-e-Murtaza took a bold decision to acquire a plot in Block III, P.E.C.H.S. and build its own Mehfil premises. The foundation laying ceremony was performed on 13th Rajab 1396 (12th July 1976) by Al-Haj Juma Haji. Time was not wasted and construction work commenced very quickly which enabled the opening of Mehfil-e-Murtaza’s present premises on 23rd Zilhaj 1398 (25th November 1978) by Al-Haj Mustafa Gokal.
The 1400th Birth Anniversary of Imam Hussain (A.S.) was celebrated with full enthusiasm by the members of Mehfil-e-Murtaza. Both ladies and gents were honoured for their outstanding services to the Mehfil.
Hussaini Sports Club
The expulsion of Asians from Uganda in the year 1972 saw further inflow of our Khoja families into Karachi. (However, these families were fortunate as Mehfil-e-Murtaza was already under process of establishment and were able to benefit from its social and religious facilities).
It was during the same time that the sporting activities of a few individuals in the community were brought under one platform with the help of the elderly members of Mehfil-e-Murtaza. Thus TUKIS UNION (Tanzania Uganda Kenya Ishna-Asheri Sports Union) was formed and the first ever sports rally was organized for members of Mehfil at Society Ground. Thereafter, the Club’s name was changed at various times and finally Hussaini Sports Club established its permanence, which is now well recognized for the past sixteen years.
The Mehfil’s activities expanded in the field of Religious and Social activities. Mehfil-e-Murtaza established itself as one of the best institutions in Pakistan and gained recognition the world over. During the same period many families from Tanzania/Uganda again migrated from Pakistan towards Middle East, Europe, Canada and USA. However, the relationship and understanding between the locals and African Khojas became stronger and closer as inter-marriage between the families became common.
Al Murtaza School
Again Mehfil-e-Murtaza took the initiative during the said period to start a primary school for the community. Rented premises were acquired and Al-Murtaza School came into existence in the year 1982. Today, Al-Murtaza School possesses four custom built school premises (viz. Pre Primary Junior Branch, Senior Girls Branch and Senior Boys Branch) with all modern facilities (except a play ground). It is independently run and managed by a Board of Governors.
Zainabia Child Sponsorship Scheme
Zainabia Child Sponsorship Scheme first established in 1984, was revived in the year 1986. Initially funds were received in toto from the World Federation in London. However, after a few years, ZCSS switched entirely to on local donations. Today over 800 students, both Sadaat and Non-sadaat, from pre-nursery to professional level, are being sponsored.
Sensing the need of housing and better living conditions for the less fortunate members of the community, on the 1400th Birth Anniversary of Janabe Zainab Binte Ali (A.S), Zainabia Trust was formed to eradicate this problem. By the Grace of Allah and Chaharda Masoomin (A.S), this organization has done remarkable work for the community. It is hoped that in the near future, Zainabia Trust will achieve the goal of providing all the deserving members of the community with proper accommodation.
25th February 1995 (24th Mahe Ramadhan 1415 A.H.) will always be remembered as a day of profound grief and sorrow in the history of Mehfil-e- Murtaza. Fourteen of our Momineen were mercilessly martyred after Fajr prayer. In this catastrophe we lost some precious gems of our community besides Shaikh Ayub Sabri, our Pesh-Imam, Mr. Hameed Ali Bhojani, President of the Khoja (Pirhai) Shia Isna Asheri Jamaat, Mr. Mohammed Bashir Mohammed Taki Alibhai, a leading social worker and one of the founders of Al-Murtaza School, and other social workers and employees of Mehfil-e-Murtaza. (Please recite Sura-e-Fateha for these Shohada).