1924 – 1977
Kindly written by Aliraza K Rajani (Toronto, Canada) with edits provided by Marhum’s daughter Mrs Parvin Barkatali Dinani. Additional history provided by Mustafa Pirmohamed
I remember Marhum Alihusein Nasser Jiwan (Alihusseinbhai or Alikaka) from my old days in Songea, where he was one of the highly respected. and loved person. He is the one who started the Madrasahs in Kampala, Dar es Salaam, Lindi, and later in Songea known as the ‘Husseini Society’.
These HS were very vibrant and would teach Islamic studies, History, Akhlaaqiyaat, and brotherhood as well as practice prayers. Other extracurricular activities like drama, celebrations and commemorations, picnics, mosque cleaning, visiting the sick, etc would be undertaken regularly. Marhum also used to organise the scouts at the time.
All the people who grew up in Lindi and Songea have undergone their childhood and teenage at these two Islamic learning centers. We all owe our gratitude to him for the foundation he built in our lives. If you see good in people from that area, the bulk of the credit goes to him.
A lot of simple rituals and good traditions in Songea were started by his initiatives.
I knew him as a humble, simple person with a lot of wisdom and interesting anecdotes. His presentation of these small stories would attract young and old to gather around him keenly to hear him.
After the twelve days of Muharram, he would start to narrate the popular and interesting ‘Mukhtar-Namo’. This would be a 20 minutes daily session for about 6 weeks.
We fondly remember him as Marhum Alikaka
Marhum Alihusein Nasser Jiwan arrived in Lindi around 1959. Soon after his arrival, he established the institution of “Husseini Society.”
The reason for starting the Society was to give the children training in Namaz recitation during evenings while their parents were offering prayers at the mosque. The children also attended the afternoon Madressa to learn the Quran. The “Society” was held daily, 365 days a year. During the early days, we would get pipi (candy) every day. Our uniform was white pajamas and a cap. We had to go to Marhum Alihussein’s shop at Fukoni, where his tailor took measurements and stitched pajamas for us. In later years, students did not bother to take the pajamas home. Some of the students stored their pajamas in a box behind the zarih (replica of the shrine). When the students reported to the Society in the evening, they had to look for their own pajamas from dozens in the box. Since the pajamas got mixed up there were also tiffs when boys took each other’s pajamas. Some of us kept our uniforms at home only.
It was customary to call a religious teacher “Mulla”. However, Alihusein Nasser Jiwan refused to be called such. He introduced a system of calling the teachers “Bhai” meaning elder brother. However, some called him Kaka (uncle in Gujarati). Later on, Alihussein Kaka became a familiar name. Our teachers in later years were called Akber Bhai, Safdar Bhai, etc. When I moved to Dar in 1974 and was in charge of Husseini Society, I found the teachers were called similarly – “bhai” added after their names. However, with the influx of students from Zanzibar, the teachers started being called “Maalim”.
The Husseini Society also held a Drama and Dialogue Day on 15 Shaaban every year. A separate article has been written about this event.
The Society teachers would take us on tours – I remember a tour to Narunyu sisal plantation (25 miles from Lindi) owned by the Rashid Versi family and also to Mtama Jamat (40 miles away). I also remember that we did a repeat performance of our 15th Shaaban Play on the front porch (baraza) of a shop at one of these places.
The Husseini Society of later years had fewer excursions. I remember having received my first English dictionary as a prize from Marhum Safderali Jaffer and Roshanali Gangji. As teachers, we remember Marhum Rafiq Hemraj with his Mukhtar Namu – the story of Mukhtar – it never ended. Marhum Akber Shaaban was very active. He used to edit our magazine called ‘Fulwadi’ and type using a Gujarati typewriter. We used to go to his home to print copies by using the cyclostyling machine. Articles would be typed on a stencil which we would place over a roller and put black ink by squeezing from a tube-like toothpaste. By the end of the day, our hands and clothes would be dirty with splashes of black ink.
At the society, when I was 12, I got promoted to become a volunteer and my first job was to take the attendance register. I had to be the first one to arrive at the Society. After opening the Imambara doors and windows, I would take the register. We had a system where each student was given a roll number e.g A3, B5, C10 – according to the three sections. The students would form a queue and say their numbers which I jotted down. A lot of pushing was done, sometimes deliberately by the naughty ones and I had to maintain discipline. A good starting job at the Society!
Sura Al Fateha is requested