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Ismaili Khojas Customs

Learning about Ismaili Khojas Customs is vital due to the significance of this ethnic group from India and Pakistan, previously a Hindu trading caste founded in the fourteenth century. They follow the Agha Khan, the spiritual leader of the Ismaili sect.

Khojas are the major Muslim trading caste in western India. The Khojas of Punjab are Sunnis, and the Khojas of Bombay are Shia and followers of the Agha Khan.

The Khojas of western India and east Africa form a closely organized community. They are in direct touch with the Agha Khan, which has isolated them from the influence of Muslim religious orders.

Khojas have many observances and customs which are different from those of other Muslims. Below some of these Ismaili Khojas Customs are described.


This is a sixth-day rite after birth. On that day, a bajot or wooden stool is placed next to the new mother’s bed, on which the child and mother are bathed and dressed. On the evening of the sixth day, some more items are placed on the stool: a red pen, an inkstand or blank book, a knife, and a garland of flowers. The pen, ink, and paper symbolize the goddess of fortune, who is believed to write down the destiny of the newborn baby. Along with the wooden stool, a chaumukh (a four-sided butter-fed dough lamp) is also placed, and next to it is a box of Chinese firecrackers. As each family relative comes to visit, they strew a little rice near the stool, laying their gift of gold or silver anklets and bracelets on the floor. Then each female visitor bends over the mother and baby and takes their balayen or ills upon herself by passing her hands over them and cracking their finger joints against her temples. The baby is then laid on the floor on the strewn rice. The mother rises and worships the child by bowing toward it and the chaumukh. Then the firecrackers are ignited, and the child is laid on its mother’s lap.



Ismaili Khojas customs of marriage, divorce, and funeral are different from Islam’s general law and customs. To announce a man and a woman as a married couple, the fathers or male guardians of the marrying pair should meet three or four days before at the jama’at khana or assembly lodge accompanied by their friends and relatives and the mukhi or another jama’at officer. The officer registers the names of the bride and the groom under the order of the Agha Khan. The bridegroom’s father gives a token of 5.25 rupees to the bride’s father. The sum is taken by the girl’s father and handed to the jama’at officer to contribute to the fund. The groom’s friends place a copper or brass vessel in front of the jama’at officer containing 5 to 10 seers of sugars. After repeating the names of the five holy people, or the Panj-tan —the Prophet Mohammed, Imam Ali, Lady Fatima, Imam Hassan, and Imam Hussein— the sugar tray is put before the bride’s father as a sign of accepting the compact. He tastes it, and then it is distributed among those present.

The following day a written agreement is prepared, starting with the names of the Panj-tan and the names of the four archangels in the four corners: Diabrail, Israfil, Azra’il, and Mikail. This is sometimes performed by the Agha Khan, or, side Bombay, by his officers. A marriage certificate in due form is issued in Gujarati with the names of the four archangels on it.

Source: “Kojah” by Reginald E. Enthoven


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