Ibrahim Rahimtoola

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Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola
Ibrahim Rahimtoola.jpg
Honorary Titles
  • Wazir
Town of birth
Country of birth
Date of Birth
  • May 1862
Date of Death
  • 1942
Place of Death
Place of longest stay
Profession or occupation carriedout for the longest period in life
  • Industrialist
  • Mayor
  • Philantrophist
Where-City or Country

Born in 1862 Bombay

Source: 101 Ismaili Heroes - Volume 1 By Mumtaz Tajddin

Ibrahim Rahimtullah was a son of Rahmatullah Kadar, a well-known Bombay merchant.

Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah was born in Bombay on May 1862 in a family having no political tradition. He took his education at Elphinstone High School. He was a diligent student and showed a particular aptitude for arithmetic, algebra and geometry. His failure in the Matriculation examination in 1897 marked an end of his scholastic career, and he joined his elder brother, Muhammad Rahmatullah in business. The death of his father in 1880 was a great calamity for the young brothers, who were left without any experience in business.

Ibrahim Rahimtullah chalked out a different field for himself. It was a beginning of a busy and changing age in India, and there was enough animation in the city life of Bombay. In the meantime, the All Indian National Congress came into existence in 1885, therefore, his youthful days were cast in auspicious times.

Ibrahim Rahimtullah had slowly but steadily paved his way to the front until he was honoured to be described by the Imam as 'the most distinguished member our community has produced in Western India.' In 1892, he joined Bombay Municipal on behalf of the Mandavi Board. His association with the Corporation, therefore, covered an uninterrupted period of 26 years of strenuous work.

In 1895, he foretold an incoming danger of the plague in Bombay, but British India ignored it. Eventually, the disease broke out in 1897, making the victims of countless lives. He became the President of the Standing Committee of Bombay Municipal in 1898, and was elected as a Mayor of Bombay in 1899 and received a great deal of encouragement from Sir Pherozesha Mehta. His services for his city were manifold, and there was hardly a single subject of civic importance, which he did not deal within a spirit of broad statesmanship. In 1898, the Bombay Municipal deputed him as a representative in Bombay City Improvement Trust, where he served for 20 years (1898-1918). In 1899, he was honoured as J.P. When he became a member of the Provincial Parliament, the Ismailis honoured him in a grand banquet on August 4, 1900.

Ibrahim Rahimtullah was a member of Bombay Legislative Council (1899-1912), Imperial Legislative Council (1913-1916), Government's Executive Council for Education and Local Self-Government (1918-1923), the President of Legislative Council, Bombay (1923-1928), Member of Indian Legislative Assembly in 1931, whose President in 1931 to 1933, the Chairman of Indian Fiscal Committee (1921) and he became the first Indian Muslim to hold this post; the member of Royal Commission on Labour in 1929 and also delegated to Round Table Conference, London in 1930.

In 1904, during the conference of the Congress at Bombay, he was elected to a committee of that body to consider its constitution. All through the stormy period of 1907-1910, when the bulk of the Muslims held aloof from the Indian National Congress, he lent his support equally to the Congress and the Muslim League. In 1904, he became the Sheriff of Bombay and was also honoured the title of C.I.E. in 1907.

In May 1908, he proceeded to England for treatment and returned in October 1908.

With the advent of the Morley-Minto Reforms, he widened his activities to take full advantage of the added privileges. He was the first, at any rate in the Bombay Council to use the right of introducing private Bills. His Bill for the registration of charities introduced in 1910. Lord Thomas Sydenham, the then governor, the chief justice of Bombay High Court, the Press and the general public supported the Bill.

In 1911, British India granted him the title of Knighthood.

In the end of 1912, he sought election to the Imperial Legislative Council and was also elected for the second time in 1916. His most enduring work in the Imperial Legislative Council was in the sphere of India's commercial and industrial progress. It was due largely to his efforts that the three important commissions - The Industrial, Railway and Fiscal Commissions, which have assisted to shape the Indian government's policy in regard to industries, railways and tariff, were appointed. He was appointed the President of the Fiscal Commission on October 1921.

Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah also proposed British India to take due measure for the defence of vast Indian sea-coast. He published his article in 'The Times of India' in January 1918 and emphasized the creation of the Indian Navy. The Imam also buttressed his views and according to N.M. Dumasia in 'The Aga Khan and His Ancestors' (Bombay, 1939, p. 237) that, 'The Aga Khan is strongly in favour of the view advanced by Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah that for the defence of the extensive sea-coast of India, there should be sufficient Indian material.'

When in the beginning of 1918, Sir Mahadev Chaubal retired from his membership of the government of Bombay, the choice fell on him to fill that vacancy. It was a tribute to his eminence in public life and reputation for statesmanship. He also was an ordinary fellow of Bombay University in 1921. British India honoured him with the title of K.C.S.I. (Knights of the Star of India) on November 21, 1924. He was also awarded a silver medal of Kaisar-i Hind for his valuable services and generosity.

It was his intention to seek election to the Legislative Assembly after his retirement. But suddenly in May 1923, two months after his retirement from the Executive Council, came the news of the demise of Sir Narayan Chandavarkar Ganesh (1855-1923), the nominated President of the Bombay Legislative Council. At the earnest request of Sir George Lloyd, the then governor, Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah accepted the presidentship of the Legislative Council. His term of the office terminated on February 18, 1925.

The governor as a non-official member of the Council nominated him with a view to his eventual election as its President. When the nominations were announced on February 19, 1925, no one opposed the nomination. He became the first elected President of the Bombay Legislative Council.

Ibrahim Rahimtullah also took a prominent part in the deliberations of the All-India Muslim League and he favoured free and compulsory education during the 4th session at Nagpur in December 1910. He was a delegate to the first Hindu-Muslim Unity Conference, Allahabad, 1911 under the Presidentship of Sir William Waddarburn. He also became the President of AIML during the 7th session in Agra, 1913, and the Vice-President during the 9th session in Lucknow in December 1916. He also presided the All India Muslim Educational Conference in Bombay on December 27, 1924. According to 'The Aga Khan and His Ancestors' (Bombay, 1939, p. 180), 'In the Bombay Presidency, the community over which the Aga Khan presided with such distinction possess such eminent leaders as Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah who, like his revered leader, valiantly pressed Muslim claims.'

Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah was also a member of Joint School Commission, the President of Muslim Gymkhana, Vice-President of Anujman-e-Islam, and the President of Mulji Jivraj Library.

He died in June 1942 at Bombay. He had one son and a daughter by his first wife. He married a second time in 1903, having three sons and three daughters.

It is to be noted that the Bombay Municipality has given the name of the road as Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah Road between the J.J. Hospital and Bhindi Bazar.

Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah Ophthalmic Department opened in the Ismaili General Hospital on December 20, 1959. S.C. Bhut, the Charity Commissioner of Bombay, in a gathering in Aga Hall, Bombay, performed its inauguration ceremony. The trustees of late Sir Ibrahim Rahimtullah have donated a sum of Rs. 48,000/- for it.

I enclose a 5 part series on the life of my grandfather Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola.

I wish to thank my extended family for all the photographs they sent me, and which are included in this collection

May I thank my daughter Minal and son Hasan for all the help they gave me putting this together.

A request : could you forward this to as many of Sir Ibrahim’s progeny as you can think of.

Warm Regards

Maqbool Rahimtoola (1433/2011) Karachi, Pakistan



BOMBAY - Modern Period (1840-1947)

Shri K. K. Chaudhari, Executive Editor and Secretary, Gazetteers Department.

The industrialists as a group could also exercise influence because of their economic power, and the Government was dependent upon them for political support. Many of the Governors of Bombay impressed upon the Viceroy or the Secretary of State about the importance of maintaining the friendship Of the Bombay interests. The industrialists had extended financial support to the War Loans. Naturally many times the Governors were compelled to persuade the British Govern¬ment not to offend them on tariff and fiscal matters. Sir Leslie Wilson (Governor, 1923-28), was faced with such a predicament in 1927 when he wrote to Lord Irwin (Wilson to Irwin, 22 June 1927, MSS. EUR. D. 703 (15) to do something to retain the goodwill of these people. Sir Frederick Sykes (Governor, 1928-33), had similarly to urge to Lord Irwin (Sykes to Irwin, 16 April 1930, MSS. EUR. F. 150 (2).) on several occasions that the Bombay industrialists should not be alienated by Government fiscal policy. Besides, the powerful industrialists such as Sir Purshottamdas Thakurdas and Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola and Sir Fazulbhoy Currimbhoy could influence bureaucrats in the Presidency as well as at New Delhi. Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola was in close association with Lord Willingdon and Sir George Lloyd. Sir Fazulbhoy Currimbhoy had the ear of Sir Leslie Wilson, and Sir Ness Wadia was almost an adviser of Frederick Sykes in the matters relating to cotton industry and trade.

Municipal Reforms : It may be necessary at this stage to examine the movement for municipal reforms as it developed after 1918.

The reforms was led initially by the Municipal Reform Association under the leadership of Joseph Baptista and the European Association. The former wanted a wholly elected civic body and a wholly elected standing committee. A Franchise Sub-Committee was appointed to go into the problem of enlarging franchise. The sub-committee comprised eight nationalists, i.e., the followers of the Congress and the Home Rule Leagues. Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola, a member of the Governor's Council, had aligned himself with the landlord faction. In the end, Bombay Act IV of 1922, which established the new Corporation, fixed the franchise at Rs. 10 and the total number of corporators at 106, 80 elected by the ratepayers, the Chambers of Commerce and the University, 17 nominated by the Government and 10 co-opted. (A. D. D. Gordon, op. cit., p. 137.)

The Municipal Reforms Association wanted a wholly elected corporation to avoid the situation wherein the nominated members were servile instruments of the Municipal Commissioner. George Lloyd, the Governor, was also urging for a wide extension of franchise, in 1919, to reform the landlord dominated civic body. The landlord faction in the Corporation received the support of Sir Ibrahim Rahimtoola, a member of the Governor's Council in charge of the General Department (A. D. D. Gordon, p. 136). He was one of the biggest landlords in the city and had a great influence over the civic body. At one stage Lloyd was " in constant friction with Sir Ibrahim over the housing scheme."

There was some kind of polarization of forces in the Corporation, and a more expected result of the reforms was a surge of nationalists into the body. It was against this background that the emergence of the Municipal Nationalist Party was an important factor.)







Sir Ibrahim attended a High School in Bombay but, having failed in the Matriculation examination, could not go to College. Years later, when he was knighted, he said, at a public reception given in his honour by the Muslims of Bombay, that he was he was an M.P. and explained that he did not mean a Member of Parliament but “Matric Plucked”.

Ibrahim, as a young lad, joined his father in the yarn business and he and his older brother Mohamed built up the family business and fortune to Rs. 9,00,000/-til the time of Mohamed’s death in 1901. After Mohamed’s death, Ibrahim continued the family business till about 1917-18 when the family (Ibrahim and his children and the children of his deceased younger brother Jaffar) separated. At the time, the family fortune was about Rs.40,00,000/-. In the 1930’s, Ibrahim lost a considerable amount of his share of the family fortune but he did not lose heart. He started all over again and ultimately left a fortune of about Rs.1,00,00,000/- when he died in 1942.

In 1917-18 when the family separated, Ibrahim moved to his new bungalow, also at Peddar Road, and the family of his deceased younger brother Jaffar retained the old bungalow at Peddar Road. The old bungalow at Peddar Road was sold in 1942 when Hooseinally, Cassumalli and Suleman, the 3 sons of Jaffer, separated and moved into separate apartments. (Hasham, another son of Jaffer, had separated many years earlier). The new bungalow of Sir Ibrahim at Peddar Road was sold towards the end of the 1950’s.

Sir Ibrahim, in spite of the lack of academic education, was a towering personality and a genius. His intelligence, his clear thinking, his subtle mind, his analytical capabilities, his foresight and his hard work were all recognized and from 1892 till his death in 1942, Sir Ibrahim played a very prominent role and was a respected figure in public life.

In 1892 he became a number of the Bombay Municipal Corporation and later its President;

  • a Justice of the Peace in 1894;
  • a number of the Governor’s Legislative Council of Bombay from 1899,
  • the Sheriff of Bombay in 1904,
  • member of the Executive Council of the Government of Bombay in 1918 to 1923,
  • President of the Bombay Legislative Council from 1923 to 1926 and
  • President of the Indian Legislative Assembly from 1931 to 1932.

Besides, he was appointed Chairman of number of all important Committees set up by the Government.

He was knighted and was the recipient of the titles of C.I.E. (Companion (of the Order) of the Indian Empire), K.C.S.I. (Knight Commander (of the Order) of the Star of India) and G.B.E. (Knight Grand Cross (of the Order) of the British Empire) bestowed by the King Emperor of British India.

Sir Ibrahim was the President of the Islam Gymkhana for very many years. He was also the President of His Highness The Aga Khan’s Golden Jubilee Celebration Committee. Sir Ibrahim was on the Board of Directors of some big public limited companies.

Mr. Hooseinally M. Rahimtoola had round about 1940, prepared some Family Notes. He had also kept, prior to his departure for Africa, some rough notes with his younger brother Suleman and, later on, some more notes with his son Jaffar.

This paper is an attempt to put together the available data for future generations of the family. It is hoped that the younger members of the family will periodically up-date this paper.

Sultanali Rahimtoola, Bombay 1988

[[Category:Personal histories]