Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Mahomet, Faiz (1848–1910)

by A. J. Koutsoukis

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

Faiz Mahomet (1848?-c.1910), camel-owner and carrier, son of Habbib Allah, was said to be of a wealthy and aristocratic Afghan family. The amir of Afghanistan was his wife's first cousin. He arrived in Australia about 1870 and managed Elder Smith & Co.'s camel station at Hergott Springs (Marree), South Australia. In 1880 he bought the station and operated it; the firm remained his friends and advisers. Nine years later he took his younger brother Tagh into partnership.

They left for Western Australia in 1892, bringing three steamers of camels from Adelaide and two from India, hoping to capitalize on the demand for camel transport following gold discoveries in the colony's driest regions. Trading as Faiz and Tagh Mahomet, they set up camel stations and shops in Coolgardie, Geraldton, Cue, Day Dawn and Mullewa. The largest was at Coolgardie where they had stores in Bayley Street, the town's main thoroughfare. They performed large government contracts. Faiz often staked miners by providing rations, shared the proceeds from any gold found, and saved the lives of many suffering from thirst and starvation.

He was prominent in civic affairs and both European and Afghan communities respected him. In 1895 he petitioned for the protection of his countrymen's lives and property against threats from hostile Europeans. Two years later Faiz applied for Muslim religious leaders to be allowed to migrate to minister to the growing Islamic community. He even assisted the chief inspector of stock by reporting on camels with lung complaints. Despite his civic usefulness his 1896 request for naturalization was refused.

On 10 January, while praying in the Coolgardie Mosque, Tagh was murdered by fellow Muslim Goulah Mahomet, who claimed to have been threatened by Tagh. Goulah was hanged at Fremantle Prison. Tagh's remains were later sent to Karachi, India, where he left a wife and four children.

Faiz bought out Tagh's estate, but he had a run of bad luck: many of his camels died; some of his best workers left; his new manager Sultan Raz Mahomet cheated him of substantial funds. Faiz tried to recoup by going to Karachi and importing camels from Quetta and Baluchistan in 1900. But the animals were refused entry to Western Australia because of fears of introducing foot and mouth disease and phobia about their Indian handlers. The set-back reduced his finances drastically and cost him his good name in Karachi. A 1902 select committee urged the government to take responsibility for misleading Faiz Mahomet by granting him permission to import, and then withdrawing it.

He became a merchant in Perth and in 1904 organized fellow Muslims to build a mosque there. He contributed heavily from his declining funds and travelled around the State collecting donations. He set the foundation stone on 13 November next year and soon retired, returning to India where he died.

The brothers' work benefited Western Australia; they brought supplies and water to the desolate outback, helping other pioneers to develop the interior.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (Western Australia), 1901-02, 4 (A24), 1902, 2 (A6)
  • Morning Herald (Perth), 13 Jan 1896.

Citation details

A. J. Koutsoukis, 'Mahomet, Faiz (1848–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/mahomet-faiz-7459/text12423, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 18 December 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (MUP), 1986

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Birth

1848

Death

1910
India

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation