He touched our lives with his erudition and wisdom
by Fazlehusein Kapasi
The following is the speech Fazlehusein Kapasi made at the Chalisma of Ahmed Luqmani who passed away on March 29th, 2009.
Ladies and Gentlemen
At Ahmed Luqmani’s funeral we talked about how he has touched the lives of most of us in one form or another.
We talked about how the late Sayadna had deprived him of education during his childhood, how his family home in Surat was attacked by Sayadna’s goondas, how lucky they were to survive the attack and the family’s subsequent move to Burhanpur for safety. We also covered his achievements in the fields of accountancy, IT and religious studies
We recalled the wonderful books he has left behind for us from which we derive guidance and religious knowledge. Some of the books have become an integral part of our daily lives and will remain so for our future generations to come. We talked about his being one of the founder members of DBWS and the treasurer and trustee of 1986 BRT and his commitment, services and dedication to both organizations. We recalled his selfless and free service to the reformist community for over three decades. Today I would like to share some more achievements and facts of his life with you.
Mr. Luqmani was born on 14th January 1917. His father was Ismailbhai Luqmani and his grandfather was Syedi Luqmani. His mother was Sugrabai d/o Sheikh Faizulabhai. His ancestors are of Yemeni origin and they moved from Yemen to India some 200 years ago. His Grandfather Syedi Luqmani had spent some years in Zanzibar and on his return to India had brought with him an African maid called Mahuwa. It was Mahuwa who literally brought up Mr. Luqmani and with such affection that he came to recognize her as his mother.
Mr. Luqmani’s father was the same age as the late Sayadna and they knew each other very well. In fact the late Sayadna was married to Mr. Luqmani’s fai Huseina Ai. This makes Mr. Luqmani and the present Dai cousins. It was the death of Mr. Luqmani’s fai in very suspicious circumstances, his father’s opposition to the exploitation of the community by the late Sayadna and his participation in the famous Chandabhai Galla case as witness against the Sayadna that led to the ending of his relationship with the late Dai. As a consequence the family suffered enormous hardships. Mr. Luqmani’s father, later in his life, joined Mr. Luqmani in the U.K. He died in 1969 and is buried in Tottenham Park cemetery. His father left a will which Mr. Luqmani has translated into English and has been published. It makes interesting reading and throws light on the dirty tricks of the Kothar.
In Burhanpur Mr. Luqmani stayed in the boarding house of Hakimiya Coronation High School. All the students in the boarding house were given numbers and were expected to use the numbers and not their names as their ID. Mr. Saifuddin Marazban was at the boarding house at the same time. Mr. Luqmani’s ID number was 713 and Mr. Marazban’s was 733. Both became good friends.
Having obtained excellent results in Burhanpur, Mr. Luqmani moved to Bombay for further studies. Unfortunately he did not do so well in Bombay and was forced to abandon his studies and look for work. He tried his hand at selling a new product, failed to sell, and gave up.
He then saw an advert for the post of headmaster, applied for it and at the age of 19 was appointed headmaster for the Anglo Urdu School in Kurla near Bombay. He stayed there for a short time only and then joined the Indian railways as a clerk. He was soon promoted to Inspector of Accounts for the railways and the job gave him the opportunity to travel all over India.
He married his first wife Sharifabai in 1942 in Udaipur. In 1947 when India became independent and was partitioned he opted to work on the railways in Pakistan. His first posting was in Lahore. He was not very happy there and quickly moved to Karachi. He did get a taste of the horrors that were perpetuated during the partition. It was in Karachi that he developed a liking for accountancy and studied it in very difficult family circumstances. He became a qualified accountant and started his own practice called "A. I. Luqmani & Co." Sharifabai had suffered ill health for a considerable time and passed away in 1956. Mr. Luqmani was left alone to take care of 3 children, Annis – 13, Hamid – 10 & Yunus only 3.
With the encouragement of his in-laws he started to look for a partner who could look after his children. In Gulbanooben he found such a partner and their marriage took place in Bombay on 30th June 1958. It was the day when the Pakistani Embassy was to close its doors in Bombay and he had to get visa for Gulbanooben to travel to Karachi. Their Nikah day was spent running around without food or drinks and without any receptions or celebrations. At the end of the day they were married, tired and completely exhausted and went their separate ways to their places of residence. Gulbanooben established very good rapport with the children. Gulbanooben gave birth to Rashid in Karachi in May 1959.
It was to provide better education for their children that they decided to move to the U.K. First the family took a holiday in India and then set off from Bombay in a ship in mid-February 1961. They travelled with 13 suitcases, one filled with spices. The family arrived at Tilbury docks on 12th March 1961.
On arrival they experienced the typical discriminations that all immigrants at that time experienced. However Mr. Luqmani landed his first job at £6.00 per week. His Pakistani qualifications as an accountant were not recognized in the U.K. and so he had to spend some years studying and finally qualified as a fully fledged Chartered accountant in 1973 at the age of 54.
In order to accumulate the deposit for their own home, the family worked very hard. They pooled their salaries, did paper rounds, sold samosas and worked week-ends. Eventually they managed to buy a house and moved in 1963 to their present house.
When the Dawoodi Bohra Jamaat was first established in the U.K. by Kothar, Mr. Luqmani was appointed a committee member. You can all imagine why he did not last long as a committee member. It was no place for a forthright and honest person.
Now before I return to our experience of Mr. Luqmani, I would like to share some lighter episodes of his life with you.
One day he and his college friends were in the College canteen in Bombay. They were discussing the subject of food. Someone suggested that no one could eat more than 5 chapaties at a time. A challenge was thrown for anyone who could eat 10 or more. Mr. Luqmani accepted the challenge. Can anyone guess how many he ate? 21.
On another occasion one of his relatives offered free cinema tickets to him and two of his friends if any one of them could eat 12 raw eggs in one go. Again Mr. Luqmani won the day and they all enjoyed the free movie. Little wonder that for Gulbanooben, cooking for London Jamaat was no problem at all.
Just as the family was getting settled in their new home in Limes Avenue, Javaid lost his patience. He could wait no longer and showed up on 10th April 1964. To impress the nurses he came with a head full of hair and the nurses took him on a tour of the maternity wards for other Moms and nurses to wonder at him.
My first contact with Mr. Luqmani was in 1973, when we requested him to perform the Nikah ceremony for my sister. This was the first time he had done this and he did a splendid and a memorable job. Since then he has solemnized over 150 marriages including marriages for the Ithna-asri and & Sunni brethren.
Besides serving the Reformist brethren, he has served as secretary and president of the Islamic Association of North Finchley. He was also a committee member and auditor of the Union of Muslim Organizations in the U.K. and Eire and a Muslim Chaplin in the North London Hospice. He met her Majesty the Queen in 1998 when she visited the Hospice. With Gulbanooben, they have fostered a number of children. We all know he has always made himself available for our burials, Sadakallas, Misaks and Nikahs. He has led prayers for us and delivered Moharram sermons and organized and delivered seminars on burials and religious education.
During Canadian Bill S-13 I had sought his help in translating articles from Urdu and Guajarati into English. At times this had to be done overnight and he never failed. The translated documents were circulated to each and every Canadian Senator and I dare say it had a profound impact in moving the Senators’ opinions in our favor.
Once, one of our own had made a submission to the Senate Committee with an error in it. The error was damaging to our case. I discussed this with Mr. Luqmani, and with persuasion and patience, he arranged for the withdrawal of the error.
Mr. Luqmani was a man of very high stature. He was learned but without pride of his knowledge. He was always willing to share his knowledge and never tried to impose it. His dignity rose above pettiness. Whenever something was circulated against him or the 1986 BRT he kept his calm. Not only that, he even helped those who tried to undermine him. He was a modern man who accepted changing times and never forced orthodoxy. He knew the weaknesses in some of us but tolerated it and helped us to get along.
He was modest, principled determined and yet a polite man. When the Kothar approached him to join up with them, he had the opportunity to ask for anything and he would have got it. His simple reply to them was ‘mane fari war aa babtma phone na karjo.’ Please do not ring me again on this matter.
He was prolific in Arabic, English, Urdu and Guajarati. We will continue to derive the benefits of these special skills for many generations to come.
He was a generous man. He never counted the cost of serving meals to many guests who came to his house for Missaks, Nikahs, Guidance, and meetings. His was an open house with hospitality always flowing in full force with smiling faces. He happily traveled to distant locations to perform religious ceremonies using his own transport and never expected any reward or compensation.
He was patient and forgiving. When false allegations of fraud and money laundering were made against the 1986 BRT, it was probable that, him being the treasurer of the Trust and his home being the registered office of the Trust, it would be raided by the police. In the face of this serious threat he remained calm and ultimately we managed to clear and close the issue. I dare say he never broke off with those he had suspected of instigating this.
He was a very humble person. Lately in some of our functions when music was played too loud, he could not bear it. If he had chosen to request to lower the volume I am sure this would have been done. Instead he chose to sit far away from the loud speakers or leave for home.
He had tremendous personality. With his fur cap, his silver beard, his long coat, he made a formidable figure, yet he was very approachable. His presence was felt in the entire hall, even when he was sitting in a quiet corner.
Above all he was a man of wisdom. Many have pretty good knowledge in their fields and at times use it to impress or intimidate others. Only a wise man is able to contain his knowledge and allow its fragrance to flow in a pleasant and amicable way. Mr. Luqmani was certainly one very wise man.
To end on a personal note, Mr. Luqmani was an elder brother to me and I am proud and privileged to have known him. I will always cherish the times we spent together working for DWBS, for 1986 BRT, in the publications of his books, during Bill S-13 and in promoting reformism.
May Allah accept our prayers and may He welcome our brother in His Kingdom and bestow upon him the choicest place and may He give solace to his family and friends.