Mohammad Ali Bin Marafie
1842 – 1937
Born into the Marafie neighbourhood in the year 1842 A.D.,
Mohammad Ali spent his remarkable 95 years of life as an accomplished and industrious Nonagenarian until 1937 when he
breathed his last. He was survived by three sons:
Ismael: Born in the year 1870 Ismael, the eldest of the
three sons of the Marafie couple, lived for 73 years before
he was called to eternity in the year 1943.
Ibrahim: Born in 1874, he had only a short span of life.
Having lived to a ripe age of 38, he was called to the
heavenly abode in 1912.
Saleh: The youngest of the three, Saleh had significantly
spanned from 1894 - 1951
Having inherited his father’s ‘Arms Trade Business’ with its
earlier location in Muscat, Mohammad Ali eventually became
the think-tank and was instrumental in promoting new
business avenues & ventures with India and the Ports of
Arabian Peninsula as his close business associates. Eminent
personnel from Kuwait, Oman and also from India were
privileged to execute their responsibilities under the close
supervision of Hajie Najaf Ben Ghalib, his nephew.
Mohammad Ali’s Trade business comprised commodities like
timber, rice, spices and wheat. His expertise in Arms
trading inspired him to import the same from countries like
Europe, India and Muscat while Ibrahim, his son, and
Abdulmohsen; his nephew, were appointed by him as his Muscat
based Office Supervisors. Later, Ibrahim who took over had
been instrumental in reshaping the fortunes of Marafie which
subsequently flourished into Muscat and reached to India as
Mohammad Ali as a seasoned gentleman, a shrewd business
person and a great philanthropist thus captured the hearts
Mohammad Ali being trustworthy to the core, was asked by The
Amir; Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber to nominate one of his sons as
his direct agent. His attributes of morality, integrity and
loyalty were dearly acknowledged as one- of- a- kind, God
given personality by the then Elite Society of Kuwait. This
has further inspired The Amir; Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber with
the request to appoint a direct Business Agent either from
among his three sons or amongst his relatives. Though
Mohammad Ali fully endorsed Amir’s high valued gesture, he
courteously nominated his nephew Mr. Abulkareem Abul instead
of his sons since they were totally engaged in the family
oriented business concerns. Sheikh Ahmad Al-Jaber
acknowledged his offer with gratitude.
Pilgrimage to Mecca: It is remembered that Sheikh Salem Al-Mubarak, during
his reign, when had come to know of the Pilgrimage Ordinance
of his friend Mohammad Ali Marafie he summoned the court of
Pilgrims before the Amir to elaborate their duties & utmost
care and assistance to be rendered towards while
accompanying Mohammad Ali who was affectionately addressed
as ‘his brother.’ Mohammad Ali Marafie was indeed fortunate
to have his friend Abdul Rahman Al-Roumi as his travel
companion. Another mention of significance according to
Alzulfie People’s Resources is of the great honour &
reverence with which Mohammad Ali was received in Mecca &
Medina as well that alone illustrates his deep intimacy with
King Abdulaziz Ben Saud, whom he had supported with the
generous supply of arms to the first Saudi army leading to
the unification of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
built by Mohammad Ali Marafie by the end of nineteenth
century, it was considered the first of its kind in
Sharq area; measuring to fifty yards long and nine yards
wide, and was extended into the sea bracing the low
tides. The kharoor with half yard depth at its start
attracted small & medium vessels to "Nig'at Marafie." It
was considered as an extension to this Nig'ah.
Maintenance of the same was meticulously carried out at
least once or twice a year.
Mansour Al-Hajri, in one of his publications give mention to
four waterways ‘kharoors’, namely Kharoor Al-Khurafie,
Kharoor Nig’at Almae or Nig’at Al-Abduljalil, Kharoor
Al-Sager and Kharoor Al-Bader; all located at Jiblah area
(west); whereas the fifth Kharoor of Marafie that had been
named by Sheikh Sabah Al-Nasser as ‘Nig’at Marafie’ was the
only one at Sharq coastal area with its key location as
Khalifa mosque right in front of.
Significance in the life of Mohammad Ali Marafie
Khalaf Pasha Al-Naqeeb
Mohammad Ali Marafie in his flourishing trade with Indian
companies, and with the Kuwaitis living in India, would
receive the value of imported commodities such as sugar,
tea, spices and timber… etc., through a system which was
popularly known as ‘Alzad’ that was timely & faithfully
executed through his friend Khalaf Pasha Al-Naqeeb. Khalaf
Pasha Al-Naqeeb, in Marafie’s mercantile affairs, was
considered equally or more proficient than that of the
present day ‘Online Fund Transfer’ system, in transferring
Mohammad Ali Marafie valued friendship and personal
relationship intensely. He was known for his selflessness,
cordial and close relationship without any tint of
prejudice. His deep & inseparable companionship with Shaheen
Al-Ghanim is a perfect example for it. Relationship of this
nature stands as a vivid example of the Hadeeth Shareef "Two
Men Liked Each Other For The Sake of God and Would Apart
Thereon. Such strong relationship thus established & enjoyed
as one accord had its roots from their grandfathers who
carried out maritime trade as a part & parcel of life. This
undivided intimacy compelled one to think of them as sharing
the same spirit too. Also they enjoyed eating at each
other’s residence everyday.
Astonishingly, once when Mohammad Ali was extended the
lucrative offer of the Kerosene agency in Kuwait by the then
Abadan Oil Company General Director, foreseeing the
distaste/disharmony an offer of this nature would bring to
upset their strong friendship in the long run, he humbly
turned down the request and nominated his friend Shaheen Al-Ghanim.
Nevertheless, Shaheen Al-Ghanim too refrained from this
offer stating his sole interest in Timber & Ships in line
Mohammad Ali. No better illustration would be more befitting
here to convey the true bond of intimacy established between the two beyond all material
achievements. They lived as men of principles and values.
-Mohammad Ali and the Pearl Divers:
People of Kuwait, prior to the discovery of oil, were mainly
dependant on pearl diving as their means of livelihood.
Pearling was the main source of living for many Kuwaitis
those days, while the majority were on a meagre hand to
mouth existence. Earlier, Pearling trips were financed by
the then affluent Kuwaiti businessmen. As a guarantee; the
divers’ houses, their sole possession, was demanded as
mortgage until the repayment was made in the form of
precious pearls on their return. Among those who returned as
hapless empty handed divers, having failed to settle the
dues, were left homeless. In order to undo this prevailing
atrocious system meted upon the pearl divers, not alone by
salvaging the divers’ shelter but also by attempting to
emancipate the impoverished, Mohammad Ali along with other
tradesmen of Kuwait convened to discuss on the various ways
of tackling the situation.
To fend off the dire situation, they paid to the then
Pearling Master Abdulrahman Al-Roumi an amount of Rs.
130,000/- though only Rs. 100,000/- could be recovered.
Shattering all dreams even when the following Pearl Season
ran lean, it virtually cornered the divers from all around.
This crisis invariably invited the sympathy and compassion
of the tradesmen who mooted Charity funds. The Fund System
thus established freed them from anymore mortgage, bondage
or similar practice.
Thus, the high moral values & gracious sense of generosity
inculcated by the forerunners into the following generations
as a bright torch leading others to the right path of care,
compassion & courtesy topped with sincere love and good
manners is something that we all ought to cherish, practise
and enjoy in our God given life.
Languor stricken Najd
and Northern Arabian Peninsula:
The end of 18th century and the beginning of 19th
century was a period that witnessed severe drought and
famine in these areas. When tribal sheiks of Arabian
Peninsula approached for aid to alleviate the severity, it
is said that Marafie family, by leaving the doors of his
ration store of wheat and dates wide open with utmost
generosity, extended all feasible support and help enabling
them to overcome the calamity.
Mohammad Ali with all his noteworthy attributes thus
endeared him into the hearts of all.
This Well at Alshamiya area owned by Mohammad Ali, is a
valuable gift from Sheikh Ali Al-Khalifa as a mark of his
genuine friendship and confidence maintained. Due to its
close proximity to sea though the well water would turn
saline in summer, the monsoons would turn it potable. Using
camels & donkeys it was distributed among the family,
neighbourhood, friends and those who frequented the Marafie
Diwan. To his credit Marafie also had another family dredged
well in the same area where they resided.
His Association with
the British High Commissioner:
The High Commissioner of Great Britain demanded a fair
amount from Sheikh Salem Al-Mubarak for payroll and as
donations towards the welfare of the tribal leaders around
Kuwait. In the year 1917, Sheikh Salem had approached
country's elite and wealthy businessmen of that period and
discussed the issue at length since the amount requested was
not available in country's vault at that time. However,
businessmen wholeheartedly consented to the idea, and the
payment was made in two instalments by Sheikh Salem. Among
the businessmen, who donated the amount, were Al-Sager
family, Al-Bader family, Al-Othman family, Marafie family,
Al-Ghanim family, Al-Ass'oussi family, and Al-Abduljalil
When Sheikh Salem wanted to repay the amount, they refused
and considered it as donation towards the development,
security and welfare of the Kuwaiti people.
Family Guest House in
Among his various other achievements include the Summer
Mansion built near his property in Fallahiya area (Arabistan
area). The marine rocks, that were needed to build such a
stately home, had been shipped from Kuwait together with a
master of architecture. Ali Zaid Al-Shiejy manufactured the
required doors and shipped them ready made to Fallahiya.
He along with friends would spend the entire summer here.
This mansion stood exceptional with its luxuriously
outstanding feature of a swimming pool. His friend Shaheen
and the elite social circle of Kuwait would gather here.
Among them were, captains (Nokhathas), businessmen and
members of the ruling family (Al-Sabah). Apart from this,
even Sheikhs of Ben Ka’ab tribe would visit this Summer
Interestingly, this Summer House had a huge Safe that held
enormous sum of cash which had been easily plundered when it
was left deserted in winter time. Owing to this, his
grandson, Mohammad Taqi Marafie had to abandon this mansion.
‘The Safe’ of the
Mohammad Ali Marafie had a safe bought from India, the one
of its kind; that could hold enormous amount of Riyals at a
time. Due to its inexplicable holding capacity it is
believed that Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah eyed at it
as a perfect piece that could hold all official documents
securely, a safe of the only kind…that had found its long
way through many locations until it had its ‘safe landing’
in the Government’s Finance Department. Though the
whereabouts of this Safe is little known ever since,
according to Ibrahim Jassim Marafie, (born on 01/08/1923)
Ismael Marafie had been using this as a locker to keep
golden pounds in safe custody.
Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak
Al-Sabah and the Reclamation of the Sea:
During the reign of Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak, Sheikh gave
permission to Mohammad Ali Marafie to reclaim the sea in
front of his Palace. But due to shortage of rocks, proper
expertise and high cost, reclamation could be carried out
only to the extent of three meters of dredging. Therefore,
he restored around 70 meters of Alsief street inside the sea
with 40 meters width, on which he built several homes in
addition to storage area for timber.
The technical skills, and engineering possibilities of such
a grand project left the then People of Kuwait spellbound.
Mohammad Ali built a dwelling for the family on top of his
house, facing the beach. Colloquially it was called "Mokhtassar".
It comprised a large room with three windows ornate with
coloured glass called "badceer". This had enhanced proper
ventilation. Additionally, the walls too were covered with
mirrors imported from India. The room was elegantly
furnished with exquisite cushions and ornamented pillows.
This dwelling was built towards the end of the 19th
century. The exterior walls were constructed with the
specially imported Basra bricks. Sheikh Mubarak, whenever
frequented here along with other dignitaries upon a
sumptuous meal, expressed his wholehearted admiration at the
architectural splendour as a true reflection of his
meticulous planning and wise thinking on the feasibility of
how to make life more constructive and enjoyable with one’s
Ice Making Machine
entrepreneur then imported an ice making machine that
had its debut manufacture in India. Though he installed
it in Hussain Marafie’s building, being a Jew, people
refrained buying the ice from him. This coerced him to
sell the device to Mohammad Ali Marafie who availed this
opportunity for the optimum benefit of the Kuwaitis at
large. This event took place during the reign of Sheikh
- His Relation with
King Abdulaziz Al-Saud:
When King Abdulaziz Al-Saud faced intense economic crisis
during the period of the kingdom’s unification process,
Mohammad Ali readily stretched his whole hearted support.
Having known of the sound financial stability & status of
Mohammad Ali, who was then known as "Mahdalie," King
Abdulaziz sent an Al-Sarhan family member as an envoy to
Mohammad Ali with the request of provision of arms towards
the strengthening of his efforts of unification. As was the
custom, he closed the message by offering his sword to
Mohammad Ali as a collateral security until the forthcoming
Spring Season during the period when the sum could hopefully
be returned. Such gestures which are always symbolized as a
perfect embodiment of the high moral values of honour,
integrity and reverence though, Mohammad Ali, in due respect
to King Abdulaziz Al-Saud’s prestigious status, refused any
collateral security. Instead he had instantly given orders
for the sanction of the supply of arms and ammunitions
imported from India & Muscat.
The commendation Mohammad Ali achieved from the King, for
his sincere cooperation rendered in order to fulfil King’s
goal of achieving the Country’s Unification, is undoubtedly
King Abdulaziz Al-Saud timely reciprocated Mohammad Ali’s
ever memorable favour by showering the optimum royal
assistance, support and reception during his pilgrimage to
Mecca. Mohammad Ali was received at the borders by the
King’s Personnel. On reaching Alzulfie, the King received
him personally and extended a royal red carpet welcome to
Saudi Arabia. Moreover, as a tribute, the King did organize
a grand official farewell upon his departure to Kuwait.
Sa'ad Sultan Al-Salem recollecting the narrations of his
father Sultan Al-Salem who was the then officer in charge
of Naif Palace, had said that when King Abdulaziz approached
Sheikh Mubarak for support, Sheikh immediately referred him
to Mohammad Ali who was in his capacity as a full fledged
arm merchant. Without a second thought Mohammad Ali is
stated to have made a generous, cost free supply with 2000
rifles and ammunition.
- Sheikh Mubarak’s
Letter to Najaf Ben Ghalib 1332 Hijri (1914 A.D.):
Najaf Ben Ghalib, the nephew of Mohammad Ali Marafie, He had numerous business offices around. In Muscat
he held two offices, one for himself and the other in
partnership with Mohammad Ali. His other offices were
located at Bushaher Port, Bandar Ma'shoor, and in Kuwait.
His ardent loyalty & faithfulness inspired Sheikh Mubarak to entrust him his private & confidential affairs
– transporting arms, ammunition and even wheat. On Rajab 30th,
1332 (Hijri) i.e., on June 23rd, 1914 Sheikh made
a special request to Mohammad Ali to contact the British
High Commissioner Major Naler Palioz for the
shipping of 151 boxes of ammunitions to Kuwait.