The Memon Community is basically a peace loving, business community. A community which has a history as magnificent as the present and as promising future as can be (inshaAllah). The origin of Memon community is obsecure. There are many interesting stories about the origins of this community. Some say that in the 15th century about 700 families from the Lohana caste converted to Islam at Nagar, Thatha on the hands of Pir Yusufuddin. The converts were first called Momins or Mumins and the term, with the march of time, changed to Memons. This was also stated by Hussain Kassim Dada from his Presidential Chail at the first ever All India Memon Conference in Rajkotin the year 1931. Some say that they converted to Islam at Mansura during the reign of Hazrat Umar bin Abdul Aziz (RA). British historian Richard Burton wrote that they embraced Islam in Kutch. Some say that they did so during the period of Muhamad bin Qasim and that the “me” in the word “memon” stands for business and “mon” for diamonds. Some historians claim that the people belonging to the Banu Tamim tribe in Memna later settled in Thatta and were known as Memons. Some hold that the Halai Memons, left Hala district of Sindh for economic reasons and spread out to other parts of the world. Okhai Memons belonging to Okha port spread out to various parts of the world in search of bussiness in their ships and boats.That was perhaps the reasons why some historians used the phrae “sailor businessmen” for Memons.
Most members of the Memon community in the Indo-Pak subcontinent lived in Sindh, Gujarat and Kathiawar. They were known as Sindhi Memon, Gujarati Memon and Kathiawari Memon, respectively. Those living in Kenya are known as Nasarpuria Memon.
Memon community can be divided in three main groups. Those who traced their ancestors from Kutch region are identified as Kutchi Memon and they speak Kutchi dialects. Those who traced their ancestry to Kathiawar are identified as simply Memon or Kathiawadi Memons or Halai Memons and they speak the Memon language. Those Memon who remained in Sindh (their ancestor never migrated to neighboring regions such as Kutch and Kathiawar) are identified as Sindhi Memon and speak the Sindhi language. Many Memons, especially Kathiawadi Memons, further distinguished themselves into various sub-groups which generally refer to their ancestral villages or towns such as Kutyana Memons, originated from Kutyana in Junahgarh (now India). Bantva Memons, Jutpur Memons, Dhoraji Memons, Rajkot Memons with other 18 Jamaats are now collectively called Halari Memon which is the largest Jamaat of memons in Pakistan, Bombaywala Memon (whose ancestors used to live in the main city of Bombay and its suburbs) and Deeplai Memon. It is estimated that the number of Kathiawadi Memon, other than Kutchi and Sindhi Memon, worldwide are over one million.
All of these sub-groups or Jamaats have their central organization which are generally established for the social welfare of its members and development of the society which may include issuance of marriage license, matrimonial dispute resolution, adaptation and enforcement of the rules and guidelines against certain undesirable customs, establish healthcare and education centers, provides various facilities for the community need and also financial support and housing for the poor and needy members and sometime non-members.
Some famous organizations, welfare associations or Jamaats of the Memon community which generally refer to their ancestral town are:
- Halari Memon
- Jamnagar Memon Jamaat
- Morbi-Tankara Memon Association also called M.T.M.A
- Nasserpuria Memon Jamaat – Kenya
Memons are by nature generous, kind-hearted and charitable people. Not only do they support their less fortunate Jamaat fellows and community members by monthly maintenance allowances, scholarships and other necessities but also help humanity at large by establishing hospitals, maternity homes, orphanages, schools, colleges, industrial homes and other humanitarian activities, whose benefits are traditionally open for all persons without distinction of caste, color or creed. All large nation-wide funds start with the donations of Memons and generally they are among the topmost donors.
Wherever the Memons have settled they first built a mosque and schools and if in considerable numbers, also established a Jamaat. Many mosques built by Memons have become outstanding architectural landmarks of their particular cities. Such mosques include Zakaria Masjid of Calcutta, Minara Masjid of Bombay. New Memon Masjid ofKarachi and Bitul Muqarram Masjid of Dacca. Memons have also built large mosques in the countries spread fromJapan to South Africa. The Jama Masjid of Durban built by the Memons, is the largest mosque in the Southern Hemisphere.
Upon getting to know them better, one soon realizes that they are soft-spoken, amicable, kind and very patriotic. It would take a thick volume to describe all their services to the humanity and our country. Suffice it to say that whatever they have done for the economic, social welfare of Pakistanis since its creation is highly praiseworthy and to be proud of. Ordinary people connect the word “Memon” only with trade, but their services in other fields have been exemplary. After partition , they set up a number of important industrial units in East Pakistan: Bawa Jute Mills, Adamji Jute Mills, Adamji Tea Gardens, Karnafuli Paper Mills, Karnafuli Jute Mills, Dawood Rayon Mills and Chemical Factories, to name but a few.
After the seperation of East Pakistan (Now Bangladesh) many of them lost everything. However, they did not give up and concentrated all their efforts in building up the industrial infrastructure in (West) Pakistan. We are all familiar with names like Adamji, Pakola, Dawood, Fecto, Al-Noor, Dada, Hussain, Dadabhoy, Abdullah, Jaffer, Bawany, Machiara, Tabani, and many more.
According to available data, there are about 1-1/2 million Memons outside Pakistan. There are about 600,000 in Pakistan, about 700,000 in India, about 13,000 in America and about 25,000 in England.
It is debatable why a small community produced so many magnificient characters,but the number of highly successful people in this community is unmatched to any other community big or small. Some famous Memons, past and present, are Haji Sir Abdullah Haroon, Haji Abdul Sattar, Seth Adamji, Haji Dawood, Haji Abdul Ghani Beg Mohammad Bawani, Usman Isa Bhai Vakil, Haji Dada Wali Mohammad Modi, Ahmad E H Jafar, Yusuf Haroon, Mahmood Haroon, Ashraf Wali Mohammad Tabani, Zain Noorani, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Alhaj Zakaria Kamdar, Haji Hanif Tayyab, Kassim Parekh, Abdullah J Memon, Ghulam Ali Memon, Ahmad Dawood, Hussain Dawood, Abdul Qadir Lakhani, Aqil Karim Dhedhi, Razzaq Balwani, Aziz Tabba, Abdul Razzaq Thalpawala, Hussain Lawai, Amin Ghaziani, Justice A Hafeez Memon, Justice Rahim Bux Memon, Justice M Bachal Memon, Justice Rahim Bux Munshi, Ghulam Mohammad. Adamji Fecto, Ahmad Ibrahim Wali Mohammad Bawani, Haji Ilyas Memon, Hussain Ibrahim, Latif Ibrahim Jamal, M Ibrahim Tabani, Yaqub Tabani, Usman Salman, Haji Abdul Razzaq, Amin Lakhani and many more.