The Enabler of Tableegh in the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Community – Marhum Syed Hassan Naqvi


He was the son of a scholar, had the heart and humility of a scholar, and more so the passion for tableegh of a scholar. Marhum Syed Hassan Ansar Husein Naqvi, born on the 6th of November 1955 in Moshi, Tanzania, dedicated his life to the enabling of tableegh activities within Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Communities worldwide, particularly in Africa.

Marhum’s life was a litany of service. Emulating his father’s legacy, he started serving the community from a young age in Dodoma, where his father served as the resident Aalim for the community. Being the oldest of 10 siblings, Syed Hassan was only 27 when his father passed away in 1982.  He immediately took over the responsibility of his 7 sisters and 2 younger brothers, who mourn the death of a fatherly figure today.  Marhum is also survived by his wife and four children.

Still quite young, Marhum went on to serve as the President of Dodoma Jamaat, before moving to Dar es Salaam for a few years, where he worked for a leading airline company, whilst continuing to serve the community with his tableegh activities.

In 1997, Marhum migrated to Birmingham, where he served as the Hon Secretary of Birmingham Jamat for two terms, under various Presidents. In 2001, he established Karavan e Hujjat, which would have seen him celebrating its 20th anniversary later this year. Marhum was passionate about taking Hujjaaj and Zawaar for Hajj and Ziyaraa and continued to do so until the pandemic last year.

In 2002, Marhum moved back to Dar-es-Salam where he started a transportation business with a dear friend, but his love for community service did not stop.  He immediately began immersing himself into community activities and was appointed Head of Africa Federation Tableegh Board (AFTAB) – a position he held for 5 terms until his death on 12th February 2021. Very recently, he was also appointed as the Head of Tableegh for Dar es Salaam Jamaat, which he also served till he passed away.  He leaves a legacy of one of the longest- serving tableegh heads in our communities, who wore two official roles till his last breath, engaged in both regional and global tableegh activities both within and outside the community.

Marhum also served as the Electoral Commission of the World Federation 2011-2014 and stood for The World Federation Presidential elections in 2009.

Syed Hassan Naqvi with Eminent scholars, leaders and volunteers of the community at The World Federation’s Madrassa Retreat in Dubai 2011

Dr Asghar Moledina, Past President of the WF, fondly recollects memories of the Marhum:

 “What can I say about a dear, sincere friend, a brother and a colleague with whom I worked so closely over the past two decades or more? A pleasant, smiling, humble face who never showed an air of authority but appeared as a servant of Allah and his creation. How ironic that on waking up on that fateful Friday morning of 29th of  Jumada al-thani (12th February) I messaged his brother, Syed Ali, inquiring about Syed Hassan’s health. With no immediate response I began to sense the worst, only to receive the news of his sad passing away within the hour. This was the day when towards sunset I would be calling him or messaging him to inquire if there were any confirmed news of moon-sighting! And here our moon had left this transient world for his permanent abode, where he will surely see the fruits of his sincere deeds undertaken in this world.

Having had the opportunity to travel with him on several occasions, his simplicity, his humbleness and his genuine desire to serve solely for Allah’s pleasure struck me. Many a times he would work incognito behind the scenes to resolve impasse at meetings. Whenever requested to post a Zakir or an Alim to various centres he would go out of his way to oblige. His passion for Tableegh within and outside the community knew no bounds. Despite being co-contestants during the elections we continued to work together in harmony, for he realized and understood the bigger picture that ‘we exist to serve’.

For me, I have lost a dear friend and a brother, who always spoke to me in Kutchi for he knew how to make others comfortable and happy. Our sincere condolences to Syed Mohamed, Syed Ali, Marhum’s sisters, sons, daughters and the entire family.”

 Marhum’s love for tableegh pushed youngsters towards the recitation of the Qur’an, learning the Qur’an and deriving knowledge from it.  He was a pioneer in establishing the Qur’an Competition in Africa, which has now become global.  Sheikh Nuru Mohamed, Resident Aalim of Birmingham Jamaat, states “Marhum Syed Hassan was a friend, a true father figure, a charismatic leader and a role model. He was sincere a source of comfort to those around him. Syed Hassan loved the  Qur’an and he was willing to do the hard work it takes to instill the love of Qur’an in the community. He took the Africa Federation Annual Qur’an competition to another level. Marhum’s dedication and sincerity was unmatchable.  His love for the Qur’an will be missed, and he was so loyal to the annual competition whereby his speeches at the closing ceremony touched every child’s heart as he called them all winners.  He introduced the Ma’aref category to the competition to engage youth with the learning of the Qur’an.”

Marhum’s exemplary nature with the youth, allowed him to offer them counselling sessions, and he also was involved in resolving marital issues, whereby he remained unbiased and was always just. His dedication towards the orphans and widows was a true tribute to his akhlaq, whereby he used to arrange for them to go for pilgrimage free of cost, with the help of his dear friend, Al Haj MohamedReza Dewji.  Their criteria was set based upon the widows and orphans having no other means to arrange for pilgrimage on their own and were yearning to go for Ziyarah.  His service to them was profound, he used to serve them food, be with them, and as most were disabled, he used to personally push their wheelchairs and sort out all their logistics.

His family fondly recollects that once they accompanied Marhum during one of their Ziyaarah trips, and they did not get to spend any quality time as a family as Marhum was so busy serving and pleasing the zuwwaar of Aba Abdillah.

Al Hajj Safder Jaffer, President of the WF, pays tribute to Marhum Syed Hassan Naqvi:

“I have had the privilege of working with Marhum since 2003 when I was the Chairman of the Islamic Education Board of the World Federation of KSIMC (WF). I have yet to see someone so enthusiastic about the spiritual welfare of our community and enabling tableegh with utmost sincerity and humility. This was regardless his serving the zakireen, interacting with community members or driving programs for the propagation of faith. He knew how to extract the best from scholars, he understood the needs of the community and he ensured there was continuous education for the young and old alike. In simple terms, he was one of the most effective enablers of tableegh within the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri community in recent times.

I would like to share some key moments where I had close opportunities of working with Marhum and witnessing him in action in establishing legacies of tableegh activities in our communities:

  • Chair of AFTAB – Marhum was keen to transform the essence of teachings within the community through the posting of high calibre ulema in East Africa. He led the pace of bringing in knowledgeable and effective scholars from the Indian subcontinent to African Jamaats with great success in propagating the madhab of the Ahlul Bayt particularly amongst the middle to upper age bands of our communities in Africa. I recall many a times Marhum would call me to discuss some postings. The love for his community and the genuine desire to ensure they get the best resident ulema always shone through.
  • Quran Competition Pioneer in Africa – Marhum was key in promoting the recitation and teaching of the Holy Quran through the renowned Quran Competitions held in East Africa. Again, he was unique in bringing together the best of resources from amongst the UIema and community workers to organize these annual events.
  • Moonsighting – Marhum was on the forefront in providing guidance to the communities in East Africa when it came to the sighting of the crescent and rulings of Syed Sistani on the differing horizons which at time posed a great challenge to mu’mineen in East Africa. Calm as always, Marhum would mobilise community moonsighters, astronomers, and Ulema to ensure that full tahqeeq was carried out before any announcements were made ensuring the community was guided in good time so that necessary a’amal could be performed.
  • Tarbiya Curriculum rollout in Africa – When it came to the rollout of the Tarbiya Curriculum in Africa and in particular the activities of Madrasah Centre of Excellence, Marhum gave rock solid support to the World Federation. It is natural for the WF and regional federations to sometimes have divergent views as to roles and responsibilities. However, when it came to Syed Hassan, his philosophy was simple: ‘We are all one team – we all have one vision and ours is to give our kids the best Islamic religious education’. To this end, Marhum worked passionately and tirelessly to pave the way for MCE to work in Africa. He facilitated meetings to clear misconceptions, he promoted healthy discussions with respective members of the madaris, and he would always ask what more he could do. This is where I observed that Marhum truly worked FI SABILILLAH – never taking any credit and serving with the utmost humility and humbleness. His desire and aim was only that the children of the community should get the best Islamic religious education.
  • The Youths of Our Community – My fondest memory of Marhum was during my recent trip to Dar-es-Salam in December 2020. It is here that I had the opportunity of spending quality time with Syed Hassan. Together, with the president of the Dar-es-Salam Jamat Murabbi Mohamed Raza Masumali, we sat and discussed community matters at length. Marhum’s focus was entirely, ‘How can we get our youths back to our centres and interested in faith?’. He commended our recent trip to Najaf where Sheikh Murtadha Alidina and myself met with His Eminence, in which he provided us with guidance on numerous issues ranging from the increase in divorce cases to female involvement in community affairs. Out of all these issues, Marhum lauded most the guidance Agha provided on reconnecting with the disengaged youth and ensuring that we bring them back into the folds of the teachings of Ahlul Bayt, through various innovative means. His genuine pain on this issue and his heartfelt desire to really do something for the future of our youths was clearly apparent.

Our community is blessed with many Ulema, Alhamdulillah. Marhum had a unique talent: he was truly an enabler; able to extract the best out of our Ulema and ensure the community gets the best of their talent and knowledge. Marhum was one of those few volunteers gifted with this ability, to transform and manifest tableegh from mubaligheen. It will be very hard to replace such a transformative volunteer of our community, particularly in Africa, as he leaves a huge legacy and has set a high bar to follow for any future AFTAB Chair.

The mission of our 12th Imam (ATFS) continues and we all come from Allah and to Him we must return. Marhum has left his footprints of sustainable tableegh. It is up to us now to take this forward and continue his legacy for his perpetual reward. I will surely miss him.”

 The World Federation deeply mourns Marhum’s passing, and we offer our deepest condolences to the entire Naqvi family and to our community, on his loss to the Khoja community and beyond. We pray that Allah (swt) grants him a lofty status in Jannah, and for his family to cope with this unfillable gap in their lives with patience and strength.


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