Fazal Janmohamed Master

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Fazal Janmohamed Master
Fazal Janmohamed Master.png
All Nicknames
  • Master
Town of birth
Province of birth
Country of birth
Date of Birth
  • 1873
Date of Death
  • 1920
Place of Death
Province of death
Country of death
Source of Information
  • The History of Samachar by Arif Master.
Place of longest stay
Profession or occupation carriedout for the longest period in life
  • Editor
  • Teacher
Where-City or Country

Born in 1873 Hyderabad

The late Fazal Janmohamed Master, founder of The Samachar newspaper was born in 1873 in Hyderabad in Sind, India.

In 1890, Fazal, aged 17, came to Zanzibar and he was fortunate enough to get a job in the Customs under Mr Robertson who was in charge in the Customs. After serving for some time in this post, he joined Sir Euan Smith Madrasah as an assistant teacher and was so successful in the teaching profession that he was given the title Master, as "Master" in Gujarati means "good teacher". Since that time, "Master" became the surname synonymous not only to Fazal Janmohamed, but also to his entire family. Mr Yavarhusein was the Headmaster of the Madrasah at the time.

The Primary School, Sir Euan Smith Madrasah (ESM), now Haile Selassie School

All this happened within five years. But Fazal was not satisfied with the work he was doing, either in the Customs or in the school. His abilities, along with his irrepressible interest in, and passion for, journalism, awaited a suitable opportunity and in 1895, he bought a press in partnership with Mr Saleh Chagpar, a prominent member of the Khoja Ithnasheri Community of Zanzibar and some other influential gentlemen. Sadly the press did not remain in their hands for very long was sold to Messrs Esmailjee Jivanjee & Co who called it Taibi Press.

But during the short time that the press was in the hands of the first partners, Fazal got his first lessons in the art of printing, under the guidance of Mr Saleh Chagpar. The printing press,thereforehad served a very useful purpose.

At the time, there was a newspaper published in Zanzibar called Zanzibar Akbar.It was a difficult prospect for a person of meagre financial resources like Fazal, but fortune smiled on him. Seeing his zeal, Messrs Valabhdas Kalyanji and Gokaldas Hansraj came forward and undertook to provide him with a printing press.The press was set up and he was able to start his own newspaper, the Islam Samachar, the first issue of which appeared on 28th July 1901.

Later on, he was constantly helped by Messers. Karimjee Jivanjee & Co, in acquiring printing plates and other materials. Mr Yusufali A. Karimjee Jivanjee, especially, always used to help Fazal, not only through his company but also in a personal capacity. The help of Mr Jivanjee and his firm was noteworthy and essential in Fazal’s future career.

The newspaper continued to 30th July 1903 as a purely Gujarati language newspaper and from August 1903, the newspaper was called Zanzibar Samachar. It carried on up to 30th July 1906 as a newspaper with a weekly circulation.

From August 1906, however, Fazal changed The Samachar to a daily newspaper and it went onas a daily for two more years. Circumstances however were not favourable for a daily newspaper and Fazal also failed in his attempts to have some English columns incorporated therein. So on 1st November 1908, it was again changed to a weekly newspaper and went on until October 1911, completing ten years of its existence by that time.

After running thus for ten years, the newspaper had to be stopped for some time, as Fazal wanted to go to India for a vacation. On his returntoZanzibar, he resumed publishing the newspaper, but under the name of El Islam & Samachar. It continued initially as a daily, and then, subsequently as a weekly publication for two years.

However, a time came when Fazal could no longer get sufficient printing work to carry on his Press. At that time, there were four printing presses in Zanzibar; The Union, The Meher, The Najah and The De Lord Press. In addition to these, the Government Press also used to accept private work in those days. The market for printing work was thus divided between five companies, not counting his own press; whilst he recognised that there was not enough work, he was never discouraged.

This was his greatest characteristic and quality. He never admitted to, or accepted, being beaten. Instead he decided to take his business to Mombasa at the end of 1913 and, when he was settled there, he re-established his newspaper in Mombasa, calling it The East Africa Samachar.

It was a daily newspaper and the first issue appeared on 29th January 1914. His Press and his newspaper flourished. But his restless nature would not allow him to be content. He went on a marketing trip as far as Uganda and secured many orders for printing work and also subscribers for his newspaper. He successfully acquired customers as far afield as Mwanza and Bukoba in Tanganyika. The business began to expand wonderfully, but then another blow came.

The First World War began in 1914. Fazal lost much of his business. Times changed and Fazal found himself in difficulty once again, but his resourcefulness, as before came to his rescue. He started publishing a daily Gujarati translation of Reuter's cables and as the war was in progress, he got many subscribers, which kept his business going.

At this point, unfortunately, the wartime regime of Martial Law was introduced in Mombasa. Fazal saw that the wisest thing to do at this stage was to stop his newspaper altogether, as the whole political atmosphere was too uncertain for a newspaper like his to continue.

With the discontinuation of the newspaper however, Fazal also lost his means of livelihood and maintenance. But he was not a man to brood over his difficulties, however great and crushing. He managed to acquire a sewing machine and transformed himself into a tailor.In this way he managed to out his existence until he was able to return to his beloved Zanzibar.

This became possible in the year 1916. In that year, he made Zanzibar his headquarters and brought his press back home. Orders for printing work began to pour in and once more he could indulge in his favourite luxury of producing a newspaper of his own.

In the fifteenth year of his career as a journalist, Fazal started another newspaper; this time called simply,The Samachar and the first issue appeared in Zanzibar on 1st May 1917. The issue was known as the 15th Volume of the newspaper, since the period of several vicissitudes that the newspaper had faced to that point, described above came to 14 years, thus The Samachar came into circulation again in Zanzibar as a weekly edition.

It was still, at that time, a purely Gujarati based newspaper. Fazal, once again tried to introduce English columns, but was unsuccessful and so The Samachar continued to be a newspaper containing Gujrati columns only. Nevertheless, the newspaper was published regularly, the press received regular work orders and Fazal was thus free from his financial anxieties.-

It had always been his ambition to make his newspaper an uplifting power for good, for public welfare and as a positive and inspiring influence for the population in general; with of course particular attention to Islamic matters and, more specifically, to those relating to the community he belonged to, namely the Khoja Ithnasheri community of East Africa, especially of Zanzibar. Public grievances without distinction of class or creed always found a strong supporter in The Samachar and Fazal never let go of an opportunity to bring them to the attention of the authorities concerned. He was an inveterate foe of injustice and was always the first to expose instances of injustice in any shape or form in the columns of The Samachar and the old files bear ample testimony to this trait of his character.

It would not be out of place if we give here a few instances of Fazal’s intrepid nature in this respect, though we have to go back a little in time to do so. During the time of the war between Turkey and Italy during the year 1912, he was a joint Secretary of the local Red Crescent society. While in this capacity, he was once threatened with deportation from Zanzibar. Regardless of any ramifications, he continued discharging what he considered to be his duty towards Islam and towards his own community and towards the general population of Zanzibar and East Africa.

His physical courage and fearlessness of heart had always been greater than that of the average person. He was never perturbed, either when it seemed as if the cases were going against him, with the prospect of a long term ofimprisonment ahead, or when he got no work for the press and even when he had to close it, as happened when he was in Mombasa during the war when martial law was declared. Had it not been for this trait in his character, his favourite newspaper The Samachar would have ceased to appear a long time before.

The Samachar had now humbly been playing its part in Zanzibar and mainland Tanganyika for over a quarter of a century, generally educating, informing and raising the spirits of the people of these provinces, and especially the Indians. During these 25 years, several other Indian newspapers appeared and then closed after only a short period of publication in Zanzibar, as well as on the mainland.

It was Fazal's newspaper and as he was not a man to ever give up, it is no wonder that his newspaper The Samachar also endured, and was imbued with the same characteristic.

We now come to the close of Fazal's eventful career. After leading a strenuous and demanding life for about a quarter of a century, and after being assured that his favourite Samachar was firmly established, Fazal finally decided to travel. He had by this time also trained his adopted son, Mr Hassanali F Master, as the next Proprietor of The Samachar, and was confident in his abilities.

As he had not been to India for a long time, Fazal decided to visit India first and visit his native birthplace Kutch and then proceed to Iraq for pilgrimage. So he and his wife Sat-bai left Zanzibar on 12thJuly 1920 by B.I. boat S.S Karapara.

After landing at Bombay, Fazal took the train to Kutch Bhuj with the intention of visiting his father's birthplace. Unfortunately, Fazal on reaching Jamnagar in Kathiawar, on his way to Kutch, had a heart attack and tragically succumbed to this fatal attack, breathing his last breath in Jamnagar at 9pm on 18th August 1920 at the age of 48.

HISTORY OF THE SAMACHAR 1901-1967 By Arif Roshanali Master (FBDO).

The first Asian newspaper of East Africa was apparently issued in Zanzibar in 1894 by an Ithnasheri tailor (teacher ed.), Fazal Janmohamed Master. Printed in Gujarati on a small, hand-run machine, the paper consisted only of a single sheet, had no advertisements, appeared irregularly, and was produced only as a hobby for four or five years, however, until financial difficulties forced it to close. Quest for Equality - ASIAN POLITICS IN EAST AFRICA. 1900 1967 BY ROBERT G. GREGORY - PG 166

In the annals of Zanzibar history the inscription ‘Samachar’ is marked out as Zanzibar’s oldest paper... However, Fazal had a passion for journalism that led him to quit his teaching job and buy a press, and the first issue of SAMACHAR appearing in Zanzibar in 1901. That was a historical event as Samachar was the first ever paper in Zanzibar, and the Zanzibar Archives bears testimony to it.

The paper only ceased publication in 1967, when the revolutionary Government of Zanzibar tried to make it a mouthpiece for them. Master was imprisoned and managed to escape with the help of many friends.