Al-hamdu-lillah, the first phase of the South C project, comprising a block of eight, three-bedroom residential apartments, one flat each for the maalim and caretaker, and a mosque is now complete.

Kokan is a hilly terrain on the west coast of the State of Maharashtra, India. One of the six regions which constitute Maharashtra is Kokan, the others being Nasik, Pune, Aurangabad, Amravati and Nagpur. Out of a total of 35 districts in the State, six districts, namely Mumbai, Mumbai and suburbs, Raigarh, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg and Thane, form Kokan, where lie the roots of the local Kokni Muslim Community.

Unlike the other local Indian communities who were indentured from India in thousands by the British colonizers towards the end of the 19th century, to build the Kenya-Uganda Railway, the pioneering Kokni Muslims are believed to have arrived in Kenya soon after the turn of the century. Prior to that, however, a large number of Kokni Muslims had already settled in other parts of Africa.

The dozen or so Kokni Muslims, who had moved from the Coast to Nairobi around the First World War, formed a body in 1925 and named it Kokani Muslim Jamaat. One of the very limited objectives of the Jamaat was to maintain a small library comprising mainly Urdu books. The library, housed in a rented room, was believed to be the first of its kind in East Africa. In 1936, the Jamaat was renamed as the Kokani Muslim Community and Free Library. As the overwhelming majority of the community then residing in Nairobi (estimated to be about one hundred), were working-class “married bachelors”, it was decided to venture into business by establishing the Kokni Muslim Community Share Company Ltd. in 1937. Unfortunately, the scheme was short-lived, for it fizzled out with the advent of World War II. There has since come into being its replacement, called Kokan Multi-purpose Co-operative Society Ltd.

The number of Kokni Muslims gradually grew as family members, who had hitherto been left behind in India, started joining their breadwinners in Kenya. The up and coming members of the community felt a need to form a sporting body and thus in 1949 they formed the Kokni Muslim Club. During the 1950’s there was a sudden influx in Kokni Muslim immigration and by the end of the decade the community’s population had risen to its highest level – some four hundred families.

All along the founding members of the community had but one vision – to have their own community building which would house, among other things, a bigger lending library and a large public reading hall. The pursuit of this vision goaded them to toil day and night, and their hard work finally bore fruit when the opening ceremony of the prestigious building, at the corner of Lagos and Latema roads, was performed in January 1951.

Kokani Muslim Hall soon became a household name as public meetings, poetic symposia, open table-tennis tournaments and religious gatherings, etc., were held in the Hall absolutely free of charge. However, the community was financially ill prepared for such generous public services, as there was insufficient provision for a regular source of income to cater for its needs. The rental income derived from a dilapidated residential house in Eastleigh was far from adequate. The writing was on the wall and it was the younger generation that initially saw the inevitable. Within twelve years of the opening of the community building, the Kokani Muslim Community and Free Library closed its doors to the public as from 1st January 1963. Another significant event that took a big toll on our manpower and resources was the infamous exodus of the 1960’s.

On a brighter note, this marked the beginning of a new era. The Kokani Muslim Community and Free Library changed its name to “Kokni Muslim Association” in 1964. The community building was converted into commercial premises and in the years, which followed, it underwent a complete transformation. It was finally sold in 2003 to pave way for the ongoing ambitious project in the city’s South C area.

Also noteworthy is the fact that for nearly fifty years there existed a parallel, sister organization called Kokni Muslim Union. This group of Kokni Muslims also invested into property, with the highlight being a 12-acre parcel of land in Namanga. On 2 acres of the Namanga property, a Mosque and Madrassa are being run, which are managed by an independent board of governors. The Association is presently working on re-possessing the other 10 acres from resident squatters. With the blessings of Allah the two bodies merged, at a historical meeting held on 28 April 2002, a move which made our numbers and our assets stronger. The recent sale of the Ngara property, an asset of the former Union, has also contributed towards the development of the South C plot.

Al-hamdu-lillah, the first phase of the South C project, comprising a block of eight, three-bedroom residential apartments, one flat each for the maalim and caretaker, and a mosque is now complete (a ghusl hall next to the mosque is awaiting donor funds). The completion of the remaining phase(s) will prove, partly, to be a fulfillment of the community’s long cherished dream – partly because …….

“Sitaron se aage jahan aur bhi hain”….

Sheikh Ismail