Marhum Aliraza Mohamedhussein Nanji, fondly referred to as ‘Ada’ was born in Lamu, Kenya in 1936 but spent most of the early part of his life in Masaka, Uganda, where his family had a business.
Ada had a special place in his heart for Tabligh or religious propagation and lived his life completely immersed in such activities, but always maintained a low profile, not preferring any limelight whatsoever. He was modest in his dress code, always in a white shirt and trousers, and preferred to keep simplicity a code of his life, till his passing away in 2009.
He is credited with starting or running several religious institutions, but his most recognisable role was as the Principal of the Haydari Madrasah in Nairobi, Kenya, a role he endeared till the last days of his life, and one which he rendered with total devotion and commitment. He was a disciplinarian, a facilitator and a forward-looking leader who always thought ahead of his time. This publication, The Community on Friday, in part owes its origin to Marhum’s desire to have ‘Friday supplements’ started in the new name of Friday Faculty, a predecessor to this current-day publication.
Apart from the Madrasah, Marhum was instrumental in setting up an Islamic Book library near his daytime workplace on Tom Mboya Street, and he later enabled the setting up of a library within the Haydari Madrasah too.
But starting madaaris was not a goal he realised after moving to Nairobi, in his earlier days in 1975, when residing in Toronto, Canada, Marhum Aliraza leased school premises to start Sunday classes, where he personally prepared the content, established prayers for the children and was even seen carrying the carpets before and after salaat time.
But because he spent more time in Nairobi, he will be remembered how the Haydari Madrasah took roots at the Park Road-based Muslim Girls School, and then eventually solicited funds to build a Madrasah opposite the school, annexed to the masjid and Imambada. In later years, when the Jamaat expanded and moved to the plush suburb of Lavington, he organised the new setup, supervising the entire process.
Ada will also be remembered for his single-handed leadership in putting together a comprehensive syllabus for all age groups in the late 1980s, a series that remained in effective use for over two decades, serving as a model curriculum for many Jamaats worldwide. He also translated these into Gujrati so that they could be used in India and then also in French for Madagascar.
In 1983, he established the famous Haj Assistance Committee, HAC, which was specifically formed to help khoja pilgrims arriving from different parts of the world. The organisation in service to the Guests of God carried on even after his demise until 2019 when the government of Saudi Arabia changed regulations.
More recently, he chaired the Bilal Board of the Africa Federation before recommending the split of the functions of Tabligh and Da’wa, leading to the ultimate creation of AFTab. He also overlooked the running of the Bilal Muslim Mission in Nakuru, Kenya, where up to 13 centres were purchased, built and managed by the Mulla Nanji Trust Fund.
At the time of his demise, Aliraza Mohamedhussein Nanji was survived by his wife and three children Kaniz Mavani, Onali Nanji and Mohamed Nanji
May Allah SWT repose the departed soul in the abundance of His mercy and rest him amongst the chosen ones – Ameen. We request our readers to remember marhum and all the Marhumeen with Sura-e-Fateha.