Photos from Karim Master’s Original Copy of “Fidai” Magazine Published in 1936 to Commemorate the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan

Publisher-Editor Simergphotos and Simerg

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Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan in full regalia

A previous piece about a 1936 Ismaili journal called Rahe Rast (see link below) resulted in an outpouring of affection for the iconic religious education teacher from Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, Alwaez Karim M. Pirani (1910 – 1985) popularly known as Karim Master. His son Sadru, who lives in Ottawa, surprised me yet again when he showed me a copy of another extremely rare issue of the journal Fidai that was published in 1936 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877 – 1957), who served as the 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims for seventy-two years from 1885, when he was only seven years old, until he passed away in 1957. His reign was the longest in Ismaili history. His successor, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, assumed the leadership and has reigned the community for 56 years. Ismailis celebrated his 77th birthday on Friday, December 13, 2013.


We are indeed grateful to Sadru Pirani for sharing with the readers of this blog the illustrated Fidai journal that once belonged to his father, as shown in the following image. Published by the Kandi Mawla Ismaili Student’s Library under the editorship of Gulam Husein S. Thawer Peermohamed, the 155 page Fidai Golden Jubilee Number has a mix of Gujarati and English articles as well as messages from Muslim and non-Muslim leaders who were very well aquaninted with the work of the Imam. Among the messages  for the special issue, there is also one telegram from the Imam himself conveying his best wishes for a succcessful publication. Fidai  also features a very extensive 22 page biographical sketch of the 48th Imam by Gulamali Allana. The cover page and the inside tri-colour insets were printed at Taj Printing Works which was located in Mumbai’s Fort Area. Many of the coloured photographs have a protective transparent film, found in vintage albums.


Karim Master’s ownership of the journal dated back to 1936. It is now in the possession of his son,
Sadru, who has shared the magazine with Simerg/Simergphotos for the benefit of its world-wide readers.

At the time the special issue was published, the famous Fidai Academy and Orphanage was already functioning. This is noted in one of the Gujarati images shown on this page. The word or the title Fidai is a long and honourable tradition in Ismaili history, and may best be understood by reading the following short story contributed by two Vancouver Ismaili sisters, Shazia’Ayn and Aliya-Nur Babul. Their imaginative piece with a powerpoint slide presentation (see link at bottom) appeared in Simerg’s ground-breaking series I Wish I’d Been There. The sisters’ story is an excellent introduction to the work the Fidais did in order to protect the Jamat, first from adversaries such as Saladin and, later in history, from the invading Mongol army whose ruthless leader had issued a decree against the Ismailis which chillingly stated, “None of that people should be spared, not even the baby in the cradle.” We hope the readers will benefit from the story, and also appreciate the dedication of individuals such as Sadru Pirani in safeguarding and preserving historical journals for posterity. We urge our readers not to recycle any of the community magazines and important newsletters. They will be appreciated by our future generations. First we have the story, followed by more images from Pirani’s contribution.


By Shazia’Ayn and Aliya-Nur Babul

My sister and I have always been captivated by stories of the Ismaili fidai’s who lived in strongholds in Syria. Different groups were always trying to persecute the Ismailis, and in the struggle to survive they trained fidai’s to sneak into enemy camps to frighten enemies and ensure that they retreated without attacking. These stories of great bravery, love and sacrifice for the Imam have captivated my sister and myself and sent our imagination whirring with ideas and stories.

I watch the camp from afar, the fires flicker and I can hear loud and confident laughter. I have been given a mission, my first mission as a fida’i, and now all I have to do is wait. Saladin has put the Ismaili fortress under siege, and he will attack in the morning. The future of all the Ismailis that are in our castle depends on me. From my watch, I can see the fires slowly winking out as the soldiers go to sleep. The last orange glow goes out and it is time to go. But I can’t move. Fear unfurls itself in my chest spreading like fire throughout my body.

Please continue reading story after image….


The cover page of the Fidai Golden Jubilee Number with a photo of the 48th Ismaili Imam and
images of Ismaili fidais who protected the Ismaili community from their enemies.The special
issue was published on January 21, 1936, its 10th year..

…..A Fidai’s mission continued

I have to move, otherwise all the Ismailis will die; Saladin won’t spare them. This is the only way! Questions swirl through my mind. What will happen if a soldier sees me? What if I get caught? What will they do to me? Fear engulfs me but my love for my Imam keeps me from turning back.

I freeze as I hear two soldiers coming up the hill for a walk.

‘We’ll beat them so easily! They have no way to defend against our army. This is our first real battle. I wonder what it will be like? Maybe we will go home as heroes!’, I hear them say as they pass me.

I realize what I have to do. This is the only way to stop the attack, and not hurt anyone. I sneak down from my cave, run into the camp, around the tents and into the biggest tent of all. Here Saladin sleeps. I creep into the tent, my heart pounding, and I rest a letter beside his head which simply says:


I secure the letter into the cushion. In the morning, Saladin will find the letter. He will be so scared that he will retreat. The mission is complete.




References to the Fidai Boarding and Orphanage which was founded on December 13, 1928.



The heading expresses the joy and love the Jamats have for their Imam of the Time,
as this picture captures the arrival of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and the Begum
(Princess Andree Carron – Prince Sadruddin’s mother)  to Mumbai on January 10, 1936.


Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s telegraphic message conveying
success for the special edition of the Fidai magazine


A message to the magazine




A selection of two advertisement from the magazine. The shoes shown on the top photo resemble modern footwear but the Chevrolet Sedan is quite exceptional, and a classic in today’s market. The advertisement states that 3 Chevrolet models are available, and that the vehicles feature a steel body, powerful engine and  GM ventilation!


A tribute to the monarch of the time, King George V and Queen Mary



A portrait of the 48th Imam


The first page of a 23-page English piece on His Highness the Aga Khan by Gulamali Allana of Karachi



Prince Aly Khan at a very young age, held tenderly by his mother, Princess Theresa.


A portrait of Prince Alykhan as a young man


Prince Aly Khan as a ‘cool’ young boy

Fidaigj020rsPrince Sadruddin Aga Khan with his mother Princess Andree Carron.


Prince Sadruddin with Alijah Hassanali Zaveri at a London Garden



His Highness the Aga Khan, the Begum Aga Khan (Princess Andree Carron) with Sir Gulamhusein and Lady Hidayatullah at a party in Juhu, near Mumbai.

Fidaigj012rsA striking photo of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah by Fayer of Vienna that was on exhibition at the time at Dorland House located on Regent Street in London.


A striking portrait of Prince Aly Khan, father of the current 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan




Fidaigj019rsTop: The Golden Jubilee medal that was distributed by Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah to
thousands of Ismaili children. Bottom: An explanation of the medal in English,
Farsi (Gujerati transliteration) and Gujerati


The Aga Khan Ladies Volunteer Corps and Girl Guides of Mumbai’s Chief Jamatkhana pictured with His Highness the Aga Khan.


The Aga Khan Ladies Volunteer Corps and Girl Guides of Mumbai’s Kandi Mawla (now Karimabad) Jamatkhana pictured with His Highness the Aga Khan.


“Work No Words” is a theme that also runs in the modern Ismaili volunteer corps.

Date posted: Saturday, December 14, 2013.
Last updated: Sunday, March 30, 2014.


Also see Literary Reading: Karim Master’s Legacy Lives on Through Students He Taught…and a Beautifully Illustrated Journal, “Rahe Rast”


For a complete list as well as links to photo essays published on this blog please click on Table of Contents or visit the Home Page.

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Shazia’Ayn and Aliya-Nur Babul are two sisters who live in Vancouver. One of their stories concerns the rescue of certain important books from the Alamut castle before the Mongols torched the library. The story is presented in Powerpoint format in 18 delightful and imaginative slides. Please read the story and share it with your children by clicking on the following image:

Please click image for a slide show presentation