Sadrudin Gulamali Jina [Madhavji] is most remembered by Tanga folks as the Mukhi (congregation chief) in 1968-69 when the present Aga Khan IV married.
Grandfather Jinabhai came by vaan (dhow) to East Africa from Gavidar, Kathiawad, India in 1905. His story is one of much migration from town to town, starting with Lamu on the Kenyan coast, north of Mombasa, where father Gulamali was born in 1910 and tragically the mother died in the same year. The family peregrinations, from the outbreak of World War I in 1914 until 1933 included Morogoro, Tanga, Moshi, Ngomeni, Tanga again, Morogoro again, Ujiji-Kigoma, finally Tanga again.
From her Tanga home, Sadrudin’s expecting mother Kursum (nee Rajabali Rawji) went to her maiden home in Kilwa on the Tanganyikan coast, south of Dar es Salaam, where Sadrudin was born. His was a breech-birth, of which the belief was that he could give relief by stepping on the aching back of a person lying prone – and indeed he did just that for grandfather Jinabhai’s backaches!
His generation represented a turning point in the Ismaili community’s outlook, in a few words, more educated, following the firmans (commandments) of Aga Khan III. And whereas the extended family lived under one roof, his generation began to see more and more nuclear families. Ground zero of the community upturn was the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Aga Khan III, from which arose the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust and many housing schemes. Thus, father Gulamali built Azim Mansion on Akida Street, between Barabara Tano and Barabara Sita in Ngamiani. He was among many other enterprising families, who all built multi-storey buildings up and down Akida Street.
By this time, their business was colourful kanga (printed cotton sheet). They advertised it, mounted on wooden frames on a pushed handcart announcing new designs, lit by a PetroMax lamp as it was done in the evening when people were home! But, independent Tanzania stopped imports (including kanga) from Japan in the mid 1960s, so as to give the import business to China, as part of the massive TanZam (Tanzania-Zambia) Railway being built by the Chinese, their biggest foreign aid at the time. Thus, Sadrudin, Kamadia (congregation assistant chief) Abdulsultan Walji Alibhai Karsan and a fellow businessman, went to Hong Kong 1968, taking a train to a trade exhibition in Canton where Kamadia Abdulsultan showed them a sample of kanga. Their supply was resumed!
Sadrudin’s service to his Ismaili community began, in earnest, with his appointment as secretary of the local Ismailia Association (the forerunner of the present Tariqah Board). This followed appointments to various Majlises (religious gatherings), culminating in becoming Tanga Mukhi.
His wife, Khatun (nee Gulamali Karim of Dar es Salaam, married 1960), represented the changing roles of women: she went to Teachers Training College and taught us pupils at the Aga Khan Primary School, Tanga, going home during recess to breastfeed her babies! She went on to become the headmistress, a pillar of the community.
In 1974, the Sadrudin Jina family moved to Canada, as the situation in Tanzania was untenable for them. But, tragedy struck early, when wife Khatun was diagnosed with cancer, to which she succumbed five years later.
Sadrudin Gulamali Jina passed away peacefully in his sleep, on January 10, 2020, in Burnaby, BC, surrounded by his sons and daughter, Altaf, Alkarim, and Shemina, and grandchildren Zain, Alyssa, brother Azim, cousin sister Azmina and Maurice.