Marhum Mulla Ahmed Lakha was one of the distinguished and pre-eminent personalities of his era. He was a moving orator, an accomplished industrialist, a dedicated social servant and a pioneer in the advancement of education for both boys and girls. Above all else, he was a long-standing zakir of Imam Hussein (a.s) for over sixty years. In recognition of the changing needs of the community, he was one of the pioneers in making the transition for majaalis recitation from Urdu to Gujarati.
Mulla Ahmed Lakha was born in Zanzibar in 1901. Upon completing secular schooling, he joined his father’s business, Lakha Kanji & Company (established in 1775), whilst also pursuing studies in religion, Urdu, Farsi and Arabic. Mulla performed Hajj in 1921 and was amongst the last Khojas to have witnessed the zarihs in Janatul Baqi, over the holy graves of Bibi Fatema (a.s) and the four Imams (a.s).
In 1920, Mulla Ahmed married Sugrabai Kassamali Alibhai Somji. His two daughters, Zainab Datoo and Zehra Nasser were among the first women in the community to have completed high school education with the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate (COSC). They were contributors to the community both in East Africa and in London and are buried in the Watford cemetery, London. Like his father, the eldest son, Muhammad Hussein, joined the family business after obtaining the COSC. He too had been a zakir for over fifty years, rendered various communal services and passed away in Toronto in December 2002. His second son, Abdulrasul became the President of Africa Federation and was one of the early Khoja barristers from Lincoln’s Inn, London. He practiced in East Africa and was a Court of Appeal Judge in Kenya. He passed away in Nairobi in 2006. His third son, Muhammad Raza became a mechanical engineer and was involved in private welfare work in the Mombasa jamaat. He passed away in December 1999. His last son Murtaza also qualified as a barrister from Lincoln’s Inn. He practiced in East Africa and currently practices in London. He too delivers majaalis in English and Gujarati, as well as making other communal contributions. Mulla Ahmed has set an example in the importance of educating children who, in turn, encouraged others to seek knowledge. He himself served as the head of private colonial school committees and was a trustee of the Datoo Hemani communal school in Zanzibar.
Mulla Ahmed is also known for his varied and extensive communal services, including as a long serving President of the Hujjatul Islam Jamaat in Zanzibar and for being one of the founders and the first Vice-President of the East Africa Federation. Thereafter he served for many years on the Supreme Council of the Federation. In 1970 he migrated to Dar-es- Salaam with his family, where he served on a number of Jamaat committees, in particular the Matrimonial Conciliation Committee. Mulla Ahmed was also a consultative point of reference for the Quran and Fiqh. He had ability to relate complex ideas in simple terms.
As a successful and notable industrialist, Mulla Ahmed was keen to develop industry in Zanzibar, which was predominantly an agricultural island growing cloves and coconuts. Having developed several farms, he also established a bakery and several factories for coconut oil, soap and coir fibre. In addition to managing these industrial concerns, he was the Chairman of the Zanzibar Chamber of Commerce for a number of years.
Mulla Ahmed was devoted to public services. He served as President of the Zanzibar Social Welfare Society, the Zanzibar Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Zanzibar Society for the Blind. On the political front, he became the President of the Indian Association and was nominated as member of the Zanzibar Legislative Council. After the partition of India in 1947, he became the President of the Zanzibar Muslim Association. In appreciation of his extensive social services, in 1953 he was made a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (M. B. E.), upon the ascension to the throne by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth. The Sultan of Zanzibar also honoured him with medals for public service.
In a full life, he toured the world experiencing modern air travel and the wonders of the world, as well as a camel back ride to Mecca. He migrated to Stanmore, London, in 1988 and was buried in the Brookwood cemetery in June 1989. Mulla Ahmed Lakha had an impressive personality which signified piety and nobility, a befitting legacy for a zakir of the Ahlal-bayt (a.s).