Editor’s note: Sultan Jessa, a regular contributor to Ismailimail, at one time worked for the East African Standard, the Tanganyika Standard, Nationalist, the Daily and Sunday Nation as well as Drum and Africa magazine.
While working for the Tanganyika Standard in Dar es Salaam, he was invited to cover Hazar Imam’s extensive visit to Tanzania.
And in 1972 while based in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, Sultan covered the Imam’s visit to East Africa, Rwanda and Burundi for the Nation group of newspapers.
Montreal: CANADA – HIS HIGHNESS the Aga Khan marks a historic milestone on July 11, 2017.
It was in 1957, he succeeded to the throne of Imamat at the tender age of 20 while he was still studying at Harvard University.
This is the diamond jubilee year.
Ismaili Muslims world-wide will celebrate this epochal milestone with special prayers, renewal of oath of allegiance to the leader as well as dandia and rasdas.
With the spirit of voluntarism, as a sign of deep appreciation and affection for their leader, Ismailis everywhere will offer gifts and services to the spiritual leader.
This will include devoting one’s time, knowledge and resources to those in need and those who are less privileged.
This is central to the life of an Ismailis.
The time and knowledge gift will subsequently be used for a host of planned development projects around the world.
These will mainly be directed towards strengthening educational institutions, hospitals, and healthcare centres and will be implemented in stages to alleviate poverty and hunger.
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is active in more than 30 countries providing employment to nearly 80,000 people in developing countries.
Apart from being a religious leader, the Aga Khan, who will turn 81 in December, is known around the globe for his philanthropic world through recognized charities like the Aga Khan Foundation.
The Aga Khan is no stranger to Canada.
He has established several highly visible projects in this vast country.
The Aga Khan is one of the world’s highly respected figures.
The Aga Khan Foundation’s development programs particularly in Africa and Asia are innovative and inspiring.
His Highness has a particular fondness for Canada where more than 80,000 of his followers live from coast to coast.
He has made generous commitments to the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto.
Ottawa, the nation’s capital, is also the home for the Delegation of Ismaili Imamat, which represents the Imamat institutions.
The Aga Khan was made an honorary citizen of Canada in 2009. This was a few years after he was bestowed with the Order of Canada, the country’s prestigious award.
Also in 2014, the Aga Khan addressed the joint session of Parliament and the Senate.
This was a rare honour.
The Aga Khan and Canada’s former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau became friend while attending Harvard University.
He was one of the pall bears along with the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro and former US President Jimmy Carter when the senior Trudeau passed away in 2000.
This friendship has continued over the years with the Trudeau family and the current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Trudeaus often spent their holidays in Sardinia, a resort formerly owned by the Aga Khan.
The current Prime Minister regards the Aga Khan as “uncle.”
Ismailis needed a safe haven in 1972 when they along with many others were expelled from Uganda by the former brutal dictator Idi Amin.
Aga Khan asked the world for help and Canada was among the first countries to help.
At the time more than 6,000 Ismailis settled in Canada.
Many have gone to become responsible citizens owning industries, businesses and real estate.
The Aga Khan’s role as a religious leader goes back 1400 years.
He is the 49th Imam of the Ismailis.