“…my Silver Jubilee year should be dedicated to the social and economic improvement of the peoples of the Third World.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam
New Delhi, India, January 12, 1983
Mawlana Hazar Imam became Imam on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III. During his Imamat, there were rapid political, economic, and technological changes in newly-emerging nations from colonial rule that required bold initiatives and new programmes to reflect the developing national aspirations. Mawlana Hazar Imam continued the work of his grandfather in the fields of health care, education, and poverty alleviation in the poorest parts of Africa and Asia through agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) that he established. Today, the AKDN works in over thirty countries.
From July 1982 to 1983, to commemorate his Silver Jubilee, Mawlana Hazar Imam strengthened and expanded the education and social development initiatives to continue to improve the quality of life of humanity.
“On the occasion of my Silver Jubilee, I would be deeply happy if the members of my Jamat, wherever they are and whatever their age, would reaffirm in a visible and united manner their commitment to the principles of Islam which bind all Muslims together, and which are an unique example to mankind: Belief in Allah, the fulfillment of His message to man, respect and support for His creation, Man himself. In this way, let us establish even sounder foundations for a good and proper life and let us extend our support to those living in the developing areas of the world.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam
25 Years in Pictures, Silver Jubilee Publication
“You have been kind enough to refer to the guidance I give as Imam to my followers in the Ismaili community and to many philanthropic activities initiated by my grandfather,…activities which I have indeed endeavoured to expand and improve upon. …my Silver Jubilee year should be dedicated to the social and economic improvement of the peoples of the Third World and it is particularly pleasing to me that in addition to my family’s long and close historical ties with India I shall be either announcing or opening a number of new philanthropic projects during the Jubilee celebration. These include the completion of a major housing development for the urban poor of Bombay and the new Aga Khan Rural Support Programme for India, starting in the state of Gujarat.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam
Speech on “Improving Basic Conditions of Life for Rural Millions,” at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi, India, January 12, 1983
Speech published in Hikmat, Volume II, No. 3, 1984
“During the Jubilee year many new projects will be launched, which will impact the material quality of the life of Ismailis and indeed of many others, in the fields of health, education, housing and rural development, particularly in the Third World.
In the past 24 years, many hundreds of Ismaili Jamatkhanas have been built around the world. I have only very rarely attended the foundation ceremony of a Jamatkhana, and I have never travelled so far to do so. But this is the first project to be launched during this Jubilee year and it is very important that it is a place of worship.
Burnaby also has a particular significance since it was here…that the first congregation of my community was established in Canada. The significance of this ceremony is further enhanced by the fact that this is the first Jamatkhana to be built in North America – in Canada, a country of the New World which has extended the hand of friendship to countless peoples from all over the world, including Ismailis, welcoming them when turmoil, racialism, bigotry or envy were destroying their lives.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam
Foundation Ceremony, Ismaili Centre Burnaby, Canada
July 26, 1982
Speech at The Ismaili
Legacy of Hazar Imam’s Silver Jubilee:
- Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (1982 in Northern Pakistan,1983 in India).
- Establishment of the international Aga Khan University with its Faculty of Health Sciences and teaching hospital based in Karachi (1982).
- Expansion of the programmes and services at Aga Khan Hospital Dar-es Salaam, Tanzania (1982). Speech at AKDN.
- Expansion of the Aga Khan Medical Centre, Kisumu, Kenya (1982).
- Foundation of the Ismaili Centre Burnaby, Canada (1982), the first purpose-built permanent Jamatkhana in North America. Speech at The Ismaili.
- The Madrasa Early Childhood Programme (1982) AKDN.
- Expansion of schools and medical centres in the Hunza region, one of the remote parts of Northern Pakistan, including the Sherqilla School for girls (1983) (now Aga Khan Higher Secondary School), and Singal Medical School, Gilgit, Pakistan (1983)
- Opening of Aga Khan Baug (1983), a housing project in Bombay catering to 344 families. Speech at AKDN.
- Funding for the development of Aga Khan University and Aga Khan Hospital Karachi (1983). The seven-year loan to Aga Khan Foundation arranged by American Express International Banking Corporation, LLyods Bank International Ltd., and nine international banks was an unprecedented syndicated loan for the development of a major institution in the developing countries.
About the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP)
In 1982, when the first AKRSP was started in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral, in northern Pakistan, the rugged region was one of the poorest areas in the developing world. Isolated and bypassed by advancements elsewhere, these rural communities of different ethnic and religious backgrounds struggled to eke out a meagre living, farming small holdings in the harsh environment of this mountainous desert ecosystem.
Notable achievements include a significant increase in incomes, the construction of hundreds of bridges, irrigation channels and small infrastructure projects, and the planting of tens of millions of trees. The rural development interventions now reach over 8 million people living in remote and often marginalised areas in Central and South Asia, and East and West Africa.
“…the AKRSP has made invaluable contributions in improving the access of women to education, health resources and economic empowerment opportunities.”
Rabia Gul, Impact of Aga Khan Rural Support Program’s Gender Strategy on Rural Women in District Chitral
About the Madrasa Programme
During Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to East Africa in 1982, Muslim leaders from the Coast Province of Kenya requested him to help them address their worries about their children falling behind in education – which, therefore, affected their future life opportunities. A study done by the Aga Khan Foundation found that quality pre-school education for three-to-six year olds was critical to their future development.
In 1986, after planning and consultation with the various stakeholders, the first Madrasa Pre-school opened in the Liwatoni Mosque in Mombasa. The second centre opened in Zanzibar in 1990, and the third, in Kampala, Uganda in 1993.
Given the diversity of the Muslim Ummah in the three countries, and indeed across the world, the Madrasa Programme clarified it would not promote any one interpretation of Islam over another, but promotes “a secular, integrated curriculum based on the universal ethics and values of Islam and local cultural traditions.” The programme is open to girls and boys of all faiths.
In 2008, 203 pre-schools owned and operated by communities in Kenya, Zanzibar and Uganda had a combined enrolment for the year of more than 10,000 children with equal numbers of girls and boys.
Biography of His Highness the Aga Khan, AKDN
Farhad Daftary, The Ismaili Community, The Institute of Ismaili Studies
The Madrasa Early Childhood Programme, A Project of the Aga Khan Foundation
The Prairie Newsletter, Special Edition, April 1984
Compiled by Nimira Dewji