Syed Ali Raza, 1913-2005

This Obituary is in honor of our father who died nine years ago today.


by Azra Raza

AliSyed Ali Raza, Retired Director, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan, died peacefully in his sleep at Musa House, Karachi, on Wednesday, January 5th, 2005 at 2:25 a.m. The youngest of four children of Syed Zamarrud Hussain (1876-1932) and Hashmi Begum (1885-1956), he was born in Bijnor, India, on November 29th, 1913. His paternal lineage is Rizvi Syed, tracing back to the Prophet Muhammad through Imam Ali Raza whose descendent Shah Syed Hassan Rasoolnuma arrived in Bengal from Sabzwar, Iran, in 1355 AD. Apparently he so impressed the ruling monarch Badshah Ghiassuddin with his charm and intellect that the King gave him the hand of the Royal Princess in marriage. The ruler of Delhi, Mubarak Shah, then invited Shah Syed Hassan to his Court where he served faithfully by overpowering the rebellion mounted by a smaller Principality. He was rewarded by being given the properties of Jarcha and Chols in Bulandsheher, UP. Shah Syed Hassan’s grandson, Syed Shah Jalal distinguished himself even further through his exceptional scholarship, courage, intellect, and leadership such that both Hindus and Muslims viewed him with the respect and awe accorded a spiritual leader or Pir in his lifetime. His mausoleum in Bijnor became a site for worship and elaborate annual rites commemorate his many and varied accomplishments to this day. The maternal side of Syed Ali Raza’s lineage is Zaidi Syed, his maternal great-grandfather Syed Muzaffar Ali was attached to the Oudh court with extensive landholdings in Muzaffar Nagar. Stories of his extraordinary wealth circulated including the reputation of his wife for leaving behind enough gold and silver threads which fell from her exotic dresses, for the servants to fight over each time she left a party. Ali Raza’s parents lost 6 children (ranging in age from 1-16 years, named Zainul Ibad, Ali Murad, Ali Imjad, Ali Ibad, Sadiqa Khatoon and Muhammad Raza) to the epidemics of plague, influenza and typhoid over a decade. The extreme grief affected both parents, but especially disheartened Ali Raza’s father Syed Zamarrud Hussain, who simultaneously lost his 28 year old brother, 26 year old sister-in-law and their only child. Inconsolable and anguished by the deep sorrow of losing practically his entire close family, he left the ancestral home accompanied by his wife, for a more or less nomadic existence, wandering for several years through Dehradoon and smaller villages (Kandhra, Kirana, Shamli) of Muzaffar Nagar. Three more children were born during this period, and the family finally returned to Bijnor where Ali Raza was born in 1913.

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