Karim Kassim was the younger brother of Varas Bandali Kassim (1875-1956). He was born in 1878 in Karachi, where he acquired his formal education from Sind Madresa-tul-Islam School upto fourth class. He held a strong command in English, Gujrati and Sindhi languages. Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan was his classmate.
Karim Kassim left Karachi most probably in 1908 and made Hyderabad as his next home. He built a beautiful bungalow at Prince Aly Road, Hyderabad. The bungalow was an expensive and also an exclusive construction. Prince Aly Khan also stayed at the bungalow during his visit to Hyderabad. He had a vast flourishing leather business, and besides Karachi and Hyderabad he had its branches in Bombay, Delhi, Lahore, Agra, Kanpur, Quetta, etc. Karim Kassim was an owner of more than 100 acres of land on the bank of Phuleli river in Hyderabad, where he built beautiful gardens and residential buildings, decorated with latest swimming pools, known as Karim Bagh. He was the first in Hyderabad to introduce the motorcar and telephone.
Karim Kassim enjoyed prosperous and eventful life. He was a member of the Municipal Corporation in Hyderabad for 25 years and elected every year. He had cordial relations with the eminent individuals of his time, namely Nizam of Deccan, Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, Hakim Ajmal Khan, Sir Ghulam Hussain Hidayatullah, Sir Haji Abdullah Haroon, etc. He also had friendly relations with the feudal families of Sind, including Mir of Khairpur, Talpur, Mirs and others. He also had close contacts with influential British officers.
Karim Kassim was a dedicated social worker both inside and outside the community. The Viceroy of India also conferred upon him the title of Khan Bahadhur in 1918 for his meritorious services during the first world war.
On May 6, 1920, Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah said in the Kharadhar Jamatkhana, Karachi that, “I appoint Karim Kassim as my Wazir. Wazir Karim Kassim will execute his office as a Wazir of all over Sind and I tell to all the jamats of Sind to follow the orders of Wazir Karim Kassim and assist him in the community affairs.” The Imam also told him, “Wazir Karim Kassim, I congratulate for your office of the Wazir and bless you. Inshallah, you will work to enhance unity in the jamats.”
The Jamatkhana in Hyderabad was built in 1899, when there were about a hundred Ismailis in the town. The jamat increased after 25 years and reached upto 325. Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah donated Rs. 20,000/- for the new Jamatkhana. Varas Karim Kassim donated Rs. 10,000/- and other donors shared for Rs. 11,000/- The new plot was purchased for Rs. 18,000/- and Varas Karim Kassim laid its foundation stone on Tuesday, July 21, 1924. All the Ismailis, including Huzur Mukhi Hussain Alarakhia, Mukhi Rahmatullah Bana, Kamadia Vali Mohammad Suleman, Missionary Hamir Lakha, etc, attended the foundation ceremony.
Karim Kassim was appointed as the President of Khwaja Ismailia Sind School on January 20, 1926 and he was also the President of the Hyderabad branch of the Recreation Club Institute. He was also the first President of the Ismailia Association for Sind in 1928, formerly known as the Anjuman-e-Ishait-i Islam.
Karim Kassim also took active part to re-establish and re-settle a number of people who lived in the slum area in the interior parts of Sind. He extended his monetary support to set up and maintain small businesses for their livelihood. He also acted as the President of H.H. The Aga Khan Council for Hyderabad and Upper Sind, whose jurisdiction extended from time to time to Punjab and Frontier.
In 1941, the British India declared him as J.P. (Justice of Peace).
Karim Kassim is also credited to have arranged marriages in Sind and spent his own money in the ceremonies. Imam Sultan Mohammed Shah was so pleased with his noble service that he awarded him the special title of “Commissioner for Marriages” with a silver casket and a letter of appreciation in 1949.
He married twice. His first wife was Danabai, who gave birth of a son, Hussain and a daughter, Zainab or Jenubai. Zainab married to Dr. Ghulam Ali Allana. She was the first Muslim lady in India to be appointed as a parliamentary secretary in 1931, a post that she held upto 1951 in the Sind Government. She was also elected as a member of the Sind Legislative Assembly in 1937 at the time of the separation of Sind from Bombay Presidency and continued to be M.L.A. upto 1952.
His second wife was originally a Hindu Rajput, called Khushali. She embraced Ismailism by the hands of the Imam and was named, Kulsoom. She was well educated and interested in the Islamic History. She also performed waez locally in Hyderabad, and was also the founder President of Ladies Committee. She died in Hyderabad on October 8, 1955. She was the mother of a son and six daughters.
Varas Karim Kassim died on December 8, 1958.