Interview Takibhai Jeraj with Hasnain Davdani

Question 1: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where were you born and where did you grow up?

Answer: I was born and brought up in Kampala, Uganda in the holy month of Shaban, and we migrated to Kinshasa, Zaire. With turmoil in Uganda in 1972, migrated to Canada with Family in 1972 and settled in Toronto the same year.

Question 2: When did you start volunteering for the Jamaat? What kind of volunteer work did you start with?

Answer: I started volunteering at the age of 13-14 in Kampala, Uganda in Ghusl, Kaffan Recitation of Marsiyas, Nawhas, and Matam. I started reciting Majlis in 1962 in Kisanagani, Zaire.

Question 3: When did you arrive in Canada? What city did you first settle in?

Answer: I moved in 1972 from Congo and settled in Toronto in the same year.

Question 4: What challenges did you and your family face when you came to Canada?

Answer: Initially we felt lonely, but at that time I was being invited to people’s homes to recite majlis.

Question 5: Did anybody from our community help you in any way to settle in Toronto?

Answer: I did not get any help from anyone because everyone was in the same boat as me.

Question 6: Did you help organize and attend our first community gatherings? In what way did you contribute for these gatherings?

Answer: Once elected as Mukhi 1974 of JIC I started organizing Majlis and Ghusl programs in Toronto to help communities in Kitchener, Montreal and Vancouver.

As a result, I was made a life member, and after Dr. Aziz Bhai left Toronto I was Director of Religion. I had the opportunity of serving the community as an Alim, as we did not have anyone else, by performing Salat, reciting Majlis, performing the burial, marriage Nikah services and much more.

Question 7: Where did our community gather for religious events in the early years from 1972 onward till we got a centre at Bayview?

Answer: In Bayview starting 1978, and before that 5050 Yonge and somewhere on Kennedy Street, and many private halls.

Question 8: Why was it important to you that we gather for religious services?

Answer: My belief in humanity, serving messages of Imam Hussein AS, teaching youths and keeping the community together. It was possible to initialize the reciting of the Duas during the month of Ramadan by the ladies themselves with no interference from the gents sections- the program was very successful with the help of chairlady and should be continued.

Question 9:What about Madressa? Did you help set that up in any way for our community?

Answer: I was invited to Madressa to give lectures to youth and children and fulfil their need, also providing professional scholars for lectures.

Question 10: When we acquired the Bayview centre. Tell us how all that happened and what you felt about that event?

Answer: The JIC mosque was constructed by MIC. Later after so many months of discussing with Mr. Murtaza Gokal they transferred to JIC. 

Question 11: In what capacity did you help volunteer at the Bayview Mosque (JIC)? Director of Religion / Mukhi. What else?

Answer: I used to contribute by conducting all religious functions like burial, reciting Majlis, Conducting Nikah ceremonies, helping with maintenance and first time setting up the Zarih room at Bayview and now at 9000 Bathurst Street as well.

Question 12: While you were the Mukhi of the Bayview Mosque what worked very well at Bayview?

Answer: All my duties that I conducted at Bayview worked well for me and I used to encourage a lot of people to volunteer as well. I felt honoured to be appointed Wakil of Syed Ayatulla Khoie RA and after him from Ayatulla Syed Mohamed Raza Gulpaygani RA, both letters were (Eajaza) presented at their residence when they invited me to Iraq and Iran.

Question 13: What did not work very well at Bayview?

Answer: I hope I have more opportunities to serve and encourage others as well.

Question 14: For Azadari you staged the Imam Bargha very well? Why was this important to you? 

Answer: This was going an extra mile- for me the Majlise Azaa was too important to me, and I used to help the community as well in our duties to keep Imambargah clean. Especially 45 feet Alam of Hazarat Abbas AS was installed outside the centre at Bayview centre.

Question 15: What other traditions were you proud to include while doing Azadari at Bayview? 

Answer: We as a community used to help our members and I was always there for community be it burial, Nikah or Majlis and much more.

Question 16: Tell us how our Jamaat has evolved over the last 50 years and what are your hopes for its future? 

Answer: I would like to see some of the expenses go down. And our membership should be affordable to all. We should encourage our local reciters. Alhamdulillah we have many amazing youth reciters in our community, so there is no need to call from outside. They should get the opportunity.