By: Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali
Silver Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Aga Khan IV
On 11th July, 982, the global Ismaili jamat celebrated the Silver Jubilee of the Present Imam. The jubilees celebrated by the 48th Imam resulted in the establishment of major new institutions for the material benefit and progress of the Ismailis. The Ismaili communities throughout the world looked forward to the Present Imam’s first jubilee with much enthusiasm. Unlike his grandfather, the Present Imam did not wish to be weighed in gold. He however used the occasion to introduce new priorities and directions for the Ismailis to pursue for their own progress as well as for the progress of the world at large, particularly the third world.
Sunday, July 11, 1982 was one such day that will remain forever in the memories of those who came from far and wide: from the remotest areas of the globe to Aiglemont, to convey the felicitations and express the happiness of millions of the Ismailis to their Imam. It was on this day exactly 25 years ago, the Imam acceded to the throne of Imamate. Leaders of the jamats had come representing Bangladesh, Canada, Europe, India, Kuwait, Kenya, Malagasy Republic, the Middle East, Malaysia, Pakistan, Portugal, Rwanda, Brundi, Syria, Singapore, South Africa, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States and Zaire – more countries than at any other previous jubilee. Dressed in beautiful red ceremonial jubas and gold-braided pagris, they filed into the living room of Imam’s house on the morning of 11th July and waited eagerly for the Imam. Dressed in the Imamate Robe and an astrakhan hat, reminiscent of the historic Takhat Nashini ceremonies of darbar with Begum Salima, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain. Sitting on either side of the Imam and Begum Saheba were members of the Noorani Family, Princess Tajudawla, Mata Salamat Umm Habibeh, Princess Yasmin and Prince Amyn Muhammad.
The scene was picturesque, the atmosphere was charged and the exuberance and boundless. Dewan Sir Eboo Pirbhai (1905-1990), Chairman of the World Leaders’ Forum had the honour to address on behalf of the world jamats and said, “It feels as though it was only yesterday that the young Prince Karim became our 49th Imam. On the other hand the sheer scope and weight of your achievements in this brief time-span makes us feel as impossible for so much to be achieved in so brief a time-span. For him, this day constituted as milestone in the continuation of the vast work done by Mawlana Hazar Imam’s grandfather. The sheer magnitude of the achievements that were to come could not then be comprehended by the jamat. For, as the 49th Ismaili Imam, you have given unstintedly of your time and energy in guiding us on the Siratul Mustaqim. You are doing so with the paternal, maternal concern and benevolence and with indulgence that has been the foundation of the unique link between the Imam and the jamat since time immemorial.”
The Imam referred to that day as a “historical occasion,” on which his thoughts turned to his grandfather, whose “understanding of Islam, wisdom and hopes for his jamat have been such a great source of inspiration.” Reflecting on the past quarter century since which time the jamat had become more widely spread across the world, the Imam said that in the social and economic development fields, new projects and new programs were being created. “Introversion and isolation have changed into outreach. Walls are removed to be replaced by bridges – to other communities, to other tariqa, to new countries.”
Referring to the future, the Imam said, “We must continue to build and on solid foundations. Let us strengthen today’s fabric of institutions and programs so as to have them contribute the full impact of their potential on our quality of life.” Hazar Imam referred to issues which will have to be addressed in the future and said this should be done with “faith and courage, guided by the true spirit and meaning of Islam – to the precepts of which we should demonstrate our attachment in every facet of our lives.”
The Imam through his many philanthropic projects throughout the world has built bridges of love and friendship specifically during the Silver Jubilee Year. Beginning in Kenya on October 4, 1982, Tanzania, Bangladesh, Singapore, India, Portugal, Dubai, Pakistan, Canada, wherever Imam graciously visited for the silver jubilee commemoration, he has laid great stress on unity, brotherhood and understanding. Wherever he went, national newspapers have given much importance to his visits, editorials have been written in glowing terms and his philanthropic projects through the Aga Khan Foundation and other avenues highly spoken of, respected and cited by Presidents of these countries, Prime Ministers and Ministers, as exemplary for others who are in a position to give in philanthropy with an open heart. Some of the major silver jubilee projects inaugurated during the year have been a low cost housing settlement in Versova near Bombay, a Medical Centre in Kisumu, a Jamatkhana in Burnaby, Vancouver, the Ismaili Centre in London, a Medical Centre in Hyderabad, Pakistan, two Serena Hotels in Pakistan – one in Faisalabad and the other in Quetta, three projects in the Northern Himalayan regions of Pakistan – a school at Sherquilla, a Medical Centre at Singal, a Girls Academy at Baltit in Hunza. The biggest and most prestigious of all the projects was the Aga Khan University. The President Zia-ul-Haq of Pakistan handed over the Charter of the Aga Khan University to the Imam on March 16, 1983, according to which the Aga Khan Medical College, the Aga Khan School of Nursing and the Aga Khan Hospital, became a leading teaching hospital, known as the Aga Khan University.
Next: Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Aga Khan IV