Noman Contractor

A true well wisher of the community

by Saifuddin Insaf

Due to the unprecedented growth of science and impact of industrial revolution a new civilization emerged at the start of 20th century. It rocked our economy, changed political power equations and shattered our values. It blasted the basis of divine rights of the rulers and led to the establishment of democratic governments all over the world.

The impact of liberal thoughts during British rule in India was highly beneficial which had started many reform movements in the Indian societies against religious domination and superstition and in favor of social causes as this explosive change brought with it an altered consciousness. There were people who felt the impact of this new dashing civilization and adopted it. There are still some people who are trying to restore the dying world of the past.

The reform movement in the Dawoodi Bohra community stared as the elites in the community, according to the need of time, tried to establish educational institutions to spread the western education, which was opposed most vehemently by the orthodox clergy. This brought many forerunners on the scene that created a history. Matters even went to the British courts and were fought from both sides with all the force at their command. Thousands and thousands of Bohra men and women suffered during this struggle for reform, whose names have been written in the golden letters in the history of the Bohra reform movement. Among them, was a towering person, Noman Contractor, who had become a legend in his own lifetime.

Noman Lukmanjee Contractor was conscious of this changing scenario. An eminent industrialist and essentially a hard working man, Noman Contractor was also a visionary, a deep thinker, grasping the essential with a profound instinct. Leavened by his varied knowledge and experience, he had the capacity to go to the root of every problem. And above all it was his gentle, ever-smiling, persuasive personality which evoked affection and friendship.

I had known Nomanbhai since 1965, when he was agitating for the awareness of reforms in the Bohra community, by tirelessly organizing meetings, prabhat pheris, protest rallies and conferences against the wicked and very powerful religious clergy. He was then actively working for the Bohra Bulletin, which became a household name in the entire community and remains so even today. The impact is such that the Bohra Chronicle, even after its publication for more than 30 years is referred as 'Bohra Bulletin' by many.

He worked as a true well-wisher of the community. He gathered round him a very large number of supporters, donors and workers and started working for the social and economical upliftment of the community. He along with the help of other philanthropists founded the Kandivali Housing Colony, Mohammedi Foundation Trust, Ikhwanus-Safa Trust and the Progressive Printing Press. He even wanted to establish a co-operative bank but it did not materialize in his lifetime.

His selfless revolutionary zeal, his courage of conviction and his methodical working inspired many and inspires me even today when I have taken up the responsibility of editing The Bohra Chronicle. Noman Lukmanjee Contractor is not dead. He lives in our faith and our hearts and will always continue to inspire us.