Ibrahim Ali: A Charismatic and Visionary Technocrat from the Dawoodi Bohra Community

Ibrahim Ali: A Charismatic and Visionary Technocrat from the Dawoodi Bohra Community

A humble tribute to a Progressive and Forward looking leader

Obituary to Ibrahim Ali a graceful charismatic and visionary leader from Hindustan Zinc and Dawoodi Bohra Society

On Monday 8th April 2024 while returning from the Masjid, I was informed by my wife about the sad demise of Ibrahim Sahab, as he was fondly called in our community. The news shocked me because only a few days back I had met him at his residence and found him absolutely normal in conversation, although pretty weak physically. While leaving, I had told that I will meet again but as things stand, sadly, I am writing his obituary.

This piece is based on inputs from his family and my personal knowledge about him as well as his contributions to society in general and the local Bohra community in particular.

Before proceeding further, I feel it prudent to give a brief account of my personal knowledge about his personality and consequent respect for him.

Ahmed Saifee, the younger brother of Ibrahim Ali,  has ever since been one of my childhood friends, and as such very often, I used to go to their parental house in Basti Ram Ji ki Badi at Bohrawadi, where his brothers and sisters lived in a joint family. I remembered their names and even idiocyncracies of few of them. Ibrahim Sahab in particular impressed me the most. He was as calm and elegant then as he was in later life.

After I passed my middle school in the year 1960 from a Madrassa, I joined Fateh High School for my matriculation, then joined M.B. College for preuniversity. Ibrahim Sahab used to counter sign on the affidavit of my parental income, which entailed me concessions in school and college fees. This continued till he was Assistant Engineer in PWD before he joined Hindustan Zinc. On the occasion of the first signature he asked me only about marks scored in the examination. Thereafter no questions were asked.

Later on, in the final year of my Engineering course, I was selected as a Naval Officer in the Engineering branch of the Indian Navy and once again, Ibrahim Sahab obliged me by becoming  one of my two referees. Subsequent to that It so happened that I did my final year engineering industrial training in Hindustan Zinc Ltd Debari plant where I had the opportunity to observe his dominant managerial position.

During the first half of the 1970s, when I was posted in Mumbai and was involved in the Bohra Reformist (Bohra Youth) activities there, I had an opportunity to interact with the Udaipur Bohra Youth leadership, of which Ibrahim Sahab was an integral part.

Finally in years 1977-78, he was posted as Chief Project Manager of Hidustan Zinc Ltd’s new plant at Visakhapatnan - then under construction.  I was also posted that time as Engineer Officer of a warship based at Visakhapatnam and was living there with family. He came to our residence to meet us, which shows the height of his humility as he was by this time a towering personality in our community, had already achieved a commanding position in his career and many years elder to me. This gave me the opportunity to know him at the family level.

This narrative, primarily, is meant to display on one hand many facets of his sensitivity and on the other hand, my entitlement to pen his memorial.

Birth and Life Span

Born on 2nd June 1934 to Mulla Ali Mohammed ji and Kulsum Bai Sheikh Larji wala and died on 8th April 2024, Ibrahim Sahab lived a pretty long and fruitful life. However, as we know, every living being takes birth with death attached to it. Events in life are uncertain, but death, is certain. Therefore, it is not important as to how long one lives, to keep his or her memory alive. What is important is the contributions one makes to the society, which keeps him or her alive.

In this piece of writing my endeavour will be to cover his family background, educational and professional attainments and his contributions as a forward looking social activist.

Family background

He belonged to a notable Bohra family titled Sheikh Larji wala. This family has been historically considered as a reputed family belonging to the elite class in the Bohra community. However, Ibrahim Sahab was a rooted and humble individual.

Educational background

Ibrahim Ali took his primary education from a Bohra teacher and joined the Fateh High School at Udaipur and completed his matriculation in the year 1953 - it may be notable here that on one day of this examination, his father expired. He first attended his examination hall and then the burial of his father. Thereafter, he joined college for completing  his pre-university course in the year 1954. In the same year he joined MBM Engineering College at Jodhpur and obtained his bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in the year 1957. Moreover, while in service, he obtained a degree in Law as well.

Extracurricular interest

He was a prolific footballer during his Engineering college days and also captained the College Cricket team. He was given the name Ibrahim Ali Maqa.

Life Partner

It was during one of his visits for a cultural event at MB College in Udaipur in his Engineering college days, that he met Zubaida Hakim. Zubaida went on to subsequenly become his life partner for the next 65 years and whom he leaves behind.

Professional journey

After Engineering college, he served in PWD, Rajasthan at Churu and after a five year stint joined the Metal Corporation of India, a Public Sector company, which later went on to become Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL).

It is at HZL - whether as a PSU or later on under private sector with Vedanta Group, that added glory to the name and fame of Ibrahim Ali and where he became its inseparable part. Progressing rapidly in the heirarchy he rose to the level of a board member. All this he earned because of his hard work, dedication to his profession and sincerity of purpose.

Felicitation of Ibrahim Ali by the Field Club, Udaipur
Felicitation of Ibrahim Ali by the Field Club, Udaipur

Ibrahim Ali, having played  vital roles in Debari and Zawar Mines plants of Hindustan Zinc, was sent to Visakhapatnam as Chief Project Manager, so as to expedite and complete this slow moving project. He displayed his competence by commissiong this plant in 10 months. From then on, he was a Project Man. Thereafter, he was entrusted with the plants at Chanderiya, Rampura Agucha  and Ghosunda dam projects. His reputation reached a peak when HZL secured a 73 million pound funding from the UK government for Chanderiya plant on the condition that Ibrahim Ali will supervise its execution.

After his very succesful career in HZL, he joined Binani Industries and commissioned their cement plant and then finally RK mable group to commision their Wonder Cement plant.

From 1957 to April 2024 is a period of more than six decades of active service - perhaps a record for any engineer.

Contributions as a Social Activist

By nature and back ground, Ibrahim sahab was a progressive and forward looking man with a wide world view. As such  he wanted  his community as a whole should also unlock itself from the conservative environment and adopt a modern and  progressive outlook. Towards this end, he was instrumental in strenthening the reform movement in the Bohra community of Udaipur in the late 1960s, which by year 1970 had snowballed into a mass movement never witnessed before in the history of the reform struggle within the Bohra community, which had been going on since the late ninteenth century. This movement, though helmed by his maternal uncle Gulam Hussain, it is believed that the brain behind the movement was that of Ibrahim Sahab.

During the period he was part of the active leadership of the Bohra Youth Reform movement, he contributed in the establishment of two public schools, a public dispensary as a primary poly clinic, two mosques and one community hall for offering prayers. He is also known for his contribution to the Burhani Masjid in Fatehpura.

Ibrahim Ali Obituary Udaipur The Udaipur Urban Cooperative Bank Limited
Ibrahim Ali, Chairman of UUCB, donating Ambulance to Janta Dispensary and Maternity Home

His biggest social contribution however, has been the establishment of The Udaipur Urban Co-operative Bank Ltd in the year 1972 and as its Chairman he laid a solid foundation on which this banking institution has been earning laurels from every quarter, year after year. The Bank, over the last 52 years has expanded its operations through 13 branches in Udaipur, Rajsamand and Salumber district, paying handsome dividends to its share holders and is now at the threshold of competing with scheduled banks. It may not be an exageration to say that this bank revived the domination of the Bohra community as a business and trading community once again after its poverty ridden decades of post partition period. Renowned business houses of Udaipur turned to the UUCB for their financing needs due to the reputation of Ibrahim Ali and that of the community.

Ibrahim Ali Udaipur
Ibrahim Ali, Chairman of UUCB Inaugurating the Sumangal Showroom, a client of UUCB

His interest in community welfare was perhaps an integral part of his thought process. I witnessed one occasion when he called a meeting of all Engineers and Doctors in the Udaipur Bohra community and emphasised the necessity of their participation in helping the community in the form of specialists in their respective professions like for example Civil Engineers to help community members in building their homes and other constructions so that they are not cheated by contractors. Likewise, a specialist doctors should monitor the ailments and treatments being provided by hospitals. In fact his idea was that intellectuals within the community form think tanks and pass on their suggestions to the community leadership for the creation of a more dynamic community. Professionally too, as mentioned earlier, he dominated the environs he entered into, commanded respect and remained an active service provider till breathing his last.

During the currency of his life he had been instrumental in providing jobs and employment to hundreds of individuals and earned their gratitude.

His ideal in his life, as per one of his daughters, was Allama Iqbal and Iqbal’s concept ofKhudi”, especially the verse “Khudi ko kar buland itna ki har taqdeer se pehle; Khuda bande se khud poochhe bata teri raza kya hai”.

His advice to them was to work half of their life time for themselves and other half for society.     

There is, therefore, no hesitation to say that Ibrahim Sahab not only lived a fruitful life, he is leaving behind a treasure of contributions to society to keep his memory alive for the succeeding generations. This is what could be said while concluding his obituary.

He leaves behind his wife Zubaida Ali - a graceful lady in her own right, four well settled daughters with their families and an indebted community to keep his memory alive. May Allah, The Almighty, Bless his soul with peace in His heavely abode. Ameen!

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