Continuing to talk about the traditions of the Isma’ili Khojas, we reach their divorce, organization, and business that we are going to discuss in this article.
In the Isma’ili Khoja community, divorce is not allowed without the jamaat’s permission, and the jama’at usually requires the consent of both parties to permit the divorce. A second wife is not allowed during the lifetime of the first without the jamaat’s permission, which is only granted if 2,000 rupees are deposited for the first wife’s expenses.
The Isma’ili Khoja community has a fiscal centralization form of organization around a sacred person called Agha Khan, but there is complete congregational independence in administrative matters, including even questions of ex-communication. Every congregation has its own jama’at khana, which is a meetinghouse and a mosque as well. The officers of these Jama’at Khanas are usually appointed by the Agha Khan, but they are often elected by the members of the community. The offerings that are paid by the community members for their imam are collected through these officers. These comprise the fixed dasandh or tithe and various minor dues on special occasions, either recurring or occasional.
Khojas enjoy a good business reputation and are believed to have a keen sense of competition. They are described as neat, clean, sober, thrifty, ambitious, enterprising, cool, and resourceful in trade. They are great travelers by land and sea, visiting and settling in distant countries for trade purposes. They have business connections with the traders of Punjab, Sind, Calcutta, Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, China, and Japan; ports of the Persian Gulf, Arabia, East Africa, England, the United States, and Australia. Khojah youths go as apprentices in foreign Khojah firms on salaries of 200 to 2,000 rupees a year with board and lodging. Nowadays, the Khojas enjoy powerful positions in ivory, horn, cotton, hide, mother-of-pearl, grain, spice, fish maws, shark fins, cottonseed, furniture, opium, and silk trades. They have also gained high places in the professions like doctors, engineers, and lawyers in societies.
Enthoven, Reginald E. (1921). “Kojah.” In The Tribes and Castes of Bombay, edited by Reginald E. Enthoven. Vol. 2, 218-230. Bombay: Government Central Press.