Varas Karim Ismail Mansawala

Period (1867-1956)

Varas Karim Ismail Mansawala, the first title holder of Varas among the gupti Ismailis of North Gujrat, was born in 1867 in Mansa, Gujrat and came with his family to Bombay at the age of 6 years in 1873.

He witnessed last 14 years of the Imamate of Imam Hasan Ali Shah, and blessed with the dastboshi. When Imam Hasan Ali Shah passed away, in 1881 and was buried in Hasanabad, he joined with the labourers in the construction of the mausoleum. Varas Karim Ismail Mansawala also present during the ascension of Imam Aga Ali Shah and took oath of allegiance.

His father, Ismail used to make the shoes of Pir Shihabuddin Shah, he also accompanied his father at the residence of Pir Shihabuddin Shah. When Pir Shihabuddin Shah passed away in 1884 and his infant son, Abul Hasan Shah was declared as a Pir at the age of 3 months, the Ismailis went to see the new Pir, who was in the arms of his mother. Varas Karim also took chance to see the infant Pir. When Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah ascended in 1885, Varas Karim was about 18 years old and had seen the Imam ascending to the throne.

Varas Karim Ismail served the jamat silently for 27 years. In 1912 when he was 45 years old, he was appointed the President of the newly formed Visnagar-Mansa Division Council, where he served till 1933. In the meantime, the council was transformed into Sidhpur District Council, and he was again given chance to serve as its President, which he did for 22 years till his last breath. He played prominent role to bring the Ismailis of Sidhpur jamats on a steady progress.

The tradition has it that a shoe-maker, called Harji Mochi was a devoted follower of Pir Shams. The descent of Harji Mochi is said to have flourished in Sidhpur in North Gujrat, mostly involved in the leather business. Varas Karim Ismail traced his lineage from the line of Mochi Momins. In 1920, he sewed with his own hands a pair of slippers for the Imam in Bombay in memory of his ancestor, Harji Mochi and presented to Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah. The Imam accepted it and blessed him. The Imam also invested him the title of Varas for the gupti jamat of North Gujrat in appreciation of his long and inestimable services.

Varas Karim Ismail Mansawala was appointed the member of the Industrial and Commerce Department of the Recreation Club Institute on April 1, 1924. He also served as the Provincial Secretary (1925-1933) of Recreation Club Institute, Bombay.

The Imam graciously visited his bungalow on January 10, 1934. Imam Sultan Mohammamed Shah blessed his family members. His son Abdul Aziz presented the Imam a fine stick, which the Imam accepted and returned it to him as a gift.

In 1936, during the occasion of the Golden Jubilee, he also visited the villages of Kathiawar with Pir Sabzali to collect donations. In 1944-45, he was conferred to be incharge of the whole Saurashtra to collect donation for the Diamond Jubilee, and lastly he also worked hard to raise funds for the Platinum jubilee in the villages of Sidhpur district.

In 1950, Varas Karim Ismail Mansawala was 83 years old and had a chance to see the Imam in Hasanabad, Bombay during the didar program. The Imam called for him and asked his age. Instead of showing his age for 83 years, he erroneously said 50 years. The Imam asked, “Did you see Shah Hasan Ali?” To this, he replied affirmatively. The Imam calculated on the fingers and said, “Your age should be 83 years.” He became highly surprised and said, “Mawla, now I have became an old man and please accept my resignation from the post of Council.” Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah said, “You are still young, you are not old.” He continued his services with the Council till his death.

In 1954, Prince Aly Khan visited Bandra, Bombay. Varas Karim Ismail was sitting with other individuals in the Jamatkhana. When Prince Aly Khan saw him, he came near and sat down on the floor with him and talked with him for few minutes.

During the last years of his life, he retired from his business of leather works. Varas Karim Ismail died on April 8, 1956 at the age of 92 years, and left behind two sons and a daughter. In his message from Canes on April 13, 1956, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah said, “I pray my best maternal and paternal blessings to late Varas Karim for his life long devoted services. I pray for the soul. Best blessings for services.”