Introduction

Let us through this short post relive the 48th Imam’s “incomparable” Diamond Jubilee, and make a commitment to ensure that each one of us today — from the very youngest to the oldest — is present and united behind the 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to make his Diamond Jubilee the happiest event in his life.

September 1, 1885: The 7-year-old Aga Khan III at his enthronement ceremony as 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Ismaili Muslims in Bombay. He is surrounded by community elders. Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, CopyrightSeptember 1, 1885: The 7-year-old Aga Khan III at his enthronement ceremony as 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Ismaili Muslims in Bombay. He is surrounded by community elders. Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, Copyright.

INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
(publisher/editor barakah, simerg and simergphotos)

This website is dedicated to the current 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan. He was entrusted with the sacred hereditary authority of Imamat on July 11, 1957 by his predecessor, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, whose 72 year reign that began in 1885, when he was 7 years old, included the celebration of three glorious jubilees — golden, diamond and platinum — to mark the completion of his 50, 60 and 70 years of Imamat. 

As we are now about to commence the Diamond Jubilee year of the current Imam, we felt it appropriate to bring you glimpses from the last “Ismaili” Diamond Jubilee celebrated some 71 years ago! The combined reign of the 48th and 49th Imams is 132 years. Can one imagine that there are still thousands of Ismailis who were present for the last Diamond Jubilee as very young children, teenagers or youth in their 20’s or perhaps even 30’s and are still alive! This year, those who are fortunate to be alive, will take part in the (second) Diamond Jubilee of successive Imams!

The late Imam had described his Diamond Jubilee as an incomparable occasion. 

Let us through this short post relive the 48th Imam’s “incomparable” Diamond Jubilee, and make a commitment to ensure that each one of us today — from the very youngest to the oldest — is present and united behind the 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to make his Diamond Jubilee the happiest event in his life.

Aga Khan III Jubilee Dates

The jubilees of the late Aga Khan were often described in fantastic terms by the media around the world for their pomp and the precious metals — gold, diamond and platinum — that were used to weigh him. The were equated with the golden jubilees of other potentates in India, who were weighed in gold, as was customary.

The Ismailis, however, saw these celebrations as a symbolic affirmation of the spiritual ties that linked them with their beloved Imam. The Imam had guided them in spiritual and temporal matters for decades and had been responsible for their material and spiritual advancement, keeping them on the course of the straight path (siratal mustaqim). While the first half of the 20th century resulted in significant development for the Ismaili community under the leadership of the 48th Imam, the greatest impact resulted from the proceeds that the Imam gave back to the community from the three Jubilee events weighing him in gold, diamond and platinum.

Troubled world conditions delayed the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in Bombay and Dar es Salaam

The Memoirs of Aga Khan in seven languages. A gujarati translation was also published.
The Memoirs of Aga Khan in 7 languages. A gujarati translation was also published.

Recalling his own Diamond Jubilee, the late Aga Khan wrote in his Memoirs in 1954:

“The sixtieth anniversary of my inheriting my Imamat and ascending the “Gadi” [throne] fell in 1945. But in the troubled conditions at the end of the Second World War it was neither possible nor suitable to arrange any elaborate celebrations of my Diamond Jubilee. We decided to have two ceremonies: one, including the weighing against Diamonds, in Bombay in March 1946, and another five months later, in Dar es Salaam, using the same diamonds.

“When the time came, world conditions were only just beginning to improve…my followers gathered for a wonderful, and to me at least, quite an unforgettable occasion. There were Ismailis present from all over the Near and Middle East, from Central Asia and China; from Syria and Egypt; and from Burma and Malaya, as well as thousands of my Indian followers. Telegrams and letters of congratulation showered in on me from all over the Islamic world, from the heads of all the independent Muslim nations, and from the viceroy; I was proud and happy man to be thus reunited with those for whom across the years my affection and my responsibility have been so deep and so constant.”

The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee vision of goodwill and expansion

With the Diamond Jubilee dawns a new era, full of hopes and opportunities for economics, educational, social and religious uplift of my beloved spiritual children all over the world. It is a time to go ahead and leave a mark on the world history like the glorious Ismailis of the past – The Aga Khan

The Aga Khan in full regaliaHis Highness the Aga Khan (November 2, 1877 – July 11, 1957), pictured in full regalia, became 48th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims in August 1885 at the age of 7. His reign lasted a total of 72 years during which he celebrated three jubilees marking 50, 60 and 70 years of his reign. He was the longest serving Imam in Ismaili history. He entrusted his throne to his grandson, Prince Karim Aga Khan, who at the age of 80 is the oldest serving Imam in Ismaili history. Photo: Golden Jubilee Souvenir, Fidai magazine.

In a special message to the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir the Aga Khan said: 

“The Ismailia history has passed through several stages of development. My Diamond Jubilee marks such a stage in the present times. With it a phase of consolidation and co-operation has been achieved among my spiritual children in various countries, and now lies ahead a period of goodwill and expansion. With the Diamond Jubilee dawns a new era, full of hopes and opportunities for economics, educational, social and religious uplift of my beloved spiritual children all over the world. It is a time to go ahead and leave a mark on the world history like the glorious Ismailis of the past. Let the Diamond Jubilee message for my spiritual children be that of doing their best and devoting their best in the best cause of their beloved faith.”

Artistic and literary expressions for the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee

Through these sixty historic years of his rule His Highness has had a career of the utmost devotion and untiring service to the cause of human welfare. The Ismailis owe their all to his profound wisdom and  most enlightened leadership…Even though diamonds are the most precious and the most valuable of all minerals, their value is of insignificance compared to the value of the boundless affection and loyalty which the Ismailia community has for him.

Aga Khan III Diamond Jubilee Medal obverse & reverseObverse and reverse views of the medal produced to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the Aga Khan. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, Pakistan.

Obverse of a medal commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Aga Khan III. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, PakistanA close-up of  the obverse of the medal commemorating the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, Pakistan.

An intriguing poster created in the 1940's by Major Lakhpaty. Poster from the Abdulmalik Thawer Collection. Photo Scan by: Guy Martin Studio, Ottawa.An intriguing poster created in the 1940’s by Major Lakhpaty to commemorate the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee. Poster credit: Abdulmalik Thawer Collection. Photo: Scanned by Guy Martin Studio, Ottawa.

Daimond Jubilee SouvenirCover of  the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir published by the Ismailia Association of Africa in 1946. See genealogical chart from the magazine, below.

The All-Africa Celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of the 48th Ismaili Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III took place in Dar-es-Salaam on August 10, 1946. The Ismailia Association of Africa published a special souvenir issue (partial cover page is shown above) with the following forward:
A page from the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir published by the Ismailia Association of Africa in 1946. See genealogical chart from the magazine, below.

Excerpts from the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir:

“In this eighth month of the year 1946 we are witnessing an even which is as historic as it is unique. In this year, His Highness the Rt. Hon Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, P.C., G.C.V.O., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., LL.D., etc., is being weighed against diamonds for the second time. The Aga Khan ascended the Holy Throne of Imamate in the year 1885 at the tender age of seven years. In the year 1945 he completed sixty glorious years of his Imamate. The Ismailis of India weighed His Highness against diamonds during March of this year. Now the Ismailis of Africa are paying their homage to their spiritual father by weighing him against diamonds for the second time. Through these sixty historic years of his rule His Highness has had a career of the utmost devotion and untiring service to the cause of human welfare. The Ismailis owe their all to his profound wisdom and  most enlightened leadership.

“Even though diamonds are the most precious and the most valuable of all minerals, their value is of insignificance compared to the value of the boundless affection and loyalty which the Ismailia community has for him.

To mark the Diamond Jubilee or sixty years of Imamat of Prince Karim’s predecessor, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, a genealogical chart of the forty-eight Ismaili Imams was published in a special 1946 souvenir issue. The genealogy represents and defines the principle of direct hereditary descent of the Ismaili Imam from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), starting with Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the first Shia Imam.To mark the Diamond Jubilee or sixty years of Imamat of the Aga Khan, the genealogical chart shown above was published in a special 1946 souvenir magazine published by the Ismailia Association for Africa. The chart represents the principle of direct hereditary descent of  forty-eight Ismaili Imams from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), starting with Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the first Imam, to the Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 48th Imam. 

Examining the diamonds before the weighing 

Aga Khan III examining the diamonds that would be used to weigh him in both Bombay and Dar es Salaam. Photo: Ilm, London.
At his residence in Bombay, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah examines some of the diamonds before the day of the Diamond Jubilee Ceremony at Bombay’s Brabourne Stadium.

10th March, 1946: The Jubilee in Bombay

The Aga Khan received the gift and returned it to the Ismailis, adding his blessing and his advice that the large sum of money should be used for their betterment.

10 March 1946: 48th Imam of the Ismailis, His Highness the Aga Khan III, accompanied by smiling Ismaili leaders, walks by a cheerful and happy group of volunteers at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations held in Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium. The diamonds that he was weighed against were worth 640,000 British pounds and the money was returned by the Imam for the community's social uplifment programs. Photo Credit: Karim Jassani Collection, Ottawa. Mr. Jassani's late father, Itmadi Ebrahim Meherally Jassani, is seen at the right, and walking immediately behind him with a stick is Vazir Kassamali Javeri. In the centre is Varas Daya Vellji, holding an envelope.10 March 1946: The Aga Khan, accompanied by smiling Ismaili leaders, walks by a cheerful and happy group of volunteers at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations held in Bombay’s Brabourne Stadium. The diamonds that he was weighed against were worth 640,000 British pounds and the money was returned by the Imam for the community’s social uplifment programs. Photo: Karim Jassani Collection, Ottawa. Note: Mr. Jassani’s late father, Itmadi Ebrahim Meherally Jassani, is seen at the right, and walking immediately behind him with a stick is Vazir Kassamali Javeri. In the centre, holding an envelope, is Varas Daya Vellji.

At a quarter past five on the afternoon of Sunday, March 10, 1946, a deep hush fell upon the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay. Here, over 100,000 people from various parts of the world had come to witness one of those magnificent ceremonies which arouse wonder and amazement in the minds of men. It was on this day, and at this hour, that His Highness the Aga Khan was to be weighed in diamonds to celebrate the sixtieth year of his Imamat. Seldom before can Bombay, even in its pageantry and glory, have looked upon such pompous ceremonies, such splendour and colour. Vast congregations of people lined the routes and filled the great stands surrounding the central platform and figure. The huge multitude present in the ceremony included fourteen ruling princes, among them the Maharajas of Kashmir and Baroda and the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar.

aga-khan-iii-dj-brabourne-stadium-bombay1The value of diamonds was 640,000 British pounds at the Bombay weighing ceremony on  March 10, 1946 which was attended by 100,000 people. Photo: Jehangir Merchant collection.

The flags waved and the colours of the Aga Khan — green and red — draped the buildings. For hours before the event the procession passed through the streets of Bombay to the stadium to await the arrival, first of all, of the high notabilities and personalities who had come to pay homage and to look upon the magnificent spectacle, and then at 5.15 the Aga Khan with his retinue preceded by Her Highness the Begum Om Habiba Mata Salamat strode into the arena, mounted the platform and took his place.

10 March 1946: His Highness the Aga Khan III shows his appreciation and blesses the crowd after the diamond weighing ceremony at Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium to mark his 60 years of Imamat. Credit for Photo: Karim Jassani Collection, Ottawa. Mr. Jassani's late father, Itmadi Ebrahim Meherally Jassani, is seen at the right of the scale.His Highness the Aga Khan III shows his appreciation and blesses the crowd after the diamond weighing ceremony at Bombay’s Brabourne Stadium to mark his 60 years of Imamat. Photo: Karim Jassani Collection, Ottawa.

Once the Aga Khan had mounted the stage, the caskets of diamonds were raised on high one by one, shown to the public, and then placed on the scales. The scales tipped when 243 lbs. weight of diamonds were so placed. These diamonds were worth 640,000 British Pounds — a gift to their Imam from the Ismailis in India. The Aga Khan received the gift and returned it to the Ismailis, adding his blessing and his advice that the large sum of money should be used for their betterment.

10 August, 1946: The Jubilee in Dar es Salaam

The Imam’s weight in diamonds would represent a fortune and the weighing-in was a sumptuous display of wealth, power and charity in one spectacular event.

aga-khan-iii-ng-motani-version-crowdA section of a large crowd at the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee held in Dar es Salaam.  Photo: David Carnegie, National Geographic, March 1947.

Exactly 5 months after the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Bombay, Tanganyika’s capital, Dar es Salaam, hosted its Jubilee celebrations for the Aga Khan on August 10, 1946. Thousands of people came from all parts of the world, especially India, Europe and the Middle East. Hundreds made the journey by air, thousands by train, by car and by lorry, from all parts of Africa, many enduring hardships as they travelled from Belgian Congo and Uganda. Convoys of cars came from South Africa.

The specially chartered mailboat, S.S. Vasna, flew the Ismaili flag, and brought thousands of Ismailis to Dar es Salaam. The celebrations lasted 10 days with a special exhibition that highlighted needlework, local craftsmanship, artistic works and toy-making. Merry-go-rounds and miniature railways delighted the young and kept the old entertained. A day was dedicated to a large procession, which included decorated floats, and a portrayal of the history and activities of the Ismailis.

A cA close up of the Diamond Jubilee arch, shown in the previous photo.A close-up of the Diamond Jubilee arch in full illumination.

aga-khan-iii-npg-08“A dark eyed beauty” was how the National Geographic described this lady, adding that “her tolerant leader champions women’s education; opposes their segregation in purdah.” Photo: David Carnegie, National Geographic, March 1947.

Fezzed Tanganyika Police Keep Order and Guard a fabulous Diamond treasure at the Jubilee celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan in Dar-es-Salaam on August 10, 1946. National Geographic Magazine, March 1947.Fezzed Tanganyika Police keep order and guard a fabulous diamond treasure. Photo: The National Geographic, March 1947.

The highlight of the celebrations had to be the morning of August 10, 1946 when 70,000 pairs of eyes, mesmerised by the hand on the large round dial of an enormous weighing scale, watched as it inched its way up and up. The flash of diamonds — thousands of diamonds — in small hermetically sealed glass containers, tantalised the huge gathering seated around the high platform erected in the middle of grounds that had been converted into Diamondabad in the city of Dar es Salaam.

aga-khan-iii-npg-03The Aga Khan facing the scale at his Diamond Jubilee weigh-in ceremony held in Dar es Salaam on August 10, 1946. Photo: National Geographic, March 1947.

The crowd watched spellbound as container after container put on the scale shook the hand and forced it upwards. Some craned their necks, others squinted, and all focused on the dial, willing more and more diamonds onto the scale as the hand moved clockwise, very slowly towards its target – the weight of the regal person seated at the end of the platform, serenely awaiting the outcome.

The Imam’s weight in diamonds would represent a fortune and the weighing-in was a sumptuous display of wealth, power and charity in one spectacular event.

Ismailis from all parts of the world sat tense with suppressed excitement. Finally the weight on the scale matched the weight of the Imam and a tremendous cheer broke from their lips in praise of their leader on the platform, His Highness, Sultan Mahmed Shah Aga Khan. He had succeeded to the Imamate at the age of eight in 1885 and they were celebrating his sixtieth anniversary as Imam.

Bulletproof caskets of transparent plastic rest on the scale. These contain industrial diamonds on loan from London for the weighing. The setting was Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, East Africa, a stronghold of the Ismailis. Scarlet-robed members of the Aga Khan Legion surround the Imam. Photo: National Geographic, March 1947Bulletproof caskets of transparent plastic rest on the scale in Dar es Salaam. These contain industrial diamonds on loan from London for the weighing. The setting was Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, East Africa, a stronghold of the Ismailis. Scarlet-robed members of the Aga Khan Legion surround the Imam. Photo: National Geographic, March 1947.

His Highness the Aga Khan speaks into a “Mike” at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Dar-es-Salaam. His weight in diamonds was the equivalent of over 640,000 Britsh pounds Photo: David Carnegie for the National Geographic, March 1947.The Aga Khan speaks into a “mike” at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Dar es Salaam. His weight in diamonds was the equivalent of over 640,000 Britsh pounds Photo: David Carnegie for the National Geographic, March 1947.

The Aga Khan, moved by this presentation, explained how the gift would be used.

“As everyone is well aware, the value of these diamonds has been unconditionally presented to me on this occasion. I do not wish to take this money for myself but to use it for any object that I think is best for my spiritual children. After long reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the very best use that I can make of it is that after expenses of these celebrations, in the wider sense of the word, have been paid for, then the whole of the residue must be given as an absolute gift to the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust.” He added that it had been created to build up “a totally new financial outlook among the Ismailis. Co-operative Societies, Corporations, and, I hope and believe very soon, Building Societies, too, will draw from the Investment Trust sums equal to their capital but at a level of three per cent. And they are not allowed to charge more than six per cent under any conditions from their borrowers.”

With this internal banking system, the Aga Khan was setting up the means to ensure financial security for all his people. Stirred by his wisdom and his concern for them, his followers  felt reaffirmed in their faith and in their leader. It was an occasion each individual would cherish forever.

Aga Khan: “White, black and brown are complementary members of a common body politic”

Where there is fear there is no love, but hate easily enters through the windows even if the door is shut.

Aga Khan 036
A message from the Aga Khan dated July 7, 1946, before the Diamond Jubilee celebrations were held in Dar es Salaaam on August 10, 1946.

Complementing the above message, are the following remarks that were made by the Aga Khan at Dar es Salaam’s Exhibition Theatre on August 10, 1946: 

“Now one word, if I may be allowed to say it, of general advice to inhabitants here, whatever their race, colour or creed.

“I have had some experience of the causes of strife and I was a very active member of the League of Nations and of the Disarmament Conference for some seven years. Why did it fail? Ultimately because of hate. And yet why did people hate each other? Fear. Where there is fear there is no love, but hate easily enters through the windows even if the door is shut.

“I appeal to all of you, Africans, Europeans and Indians — do not fear each other. Work together. The country is big enough. There is virgin soil which has hardly been scratched. Unlike China, India and Europe, the population is still very small. We have no need to struggle for existence here for a century at least, so why foresee trouble for your great-grandchildren. There may be none. 

“To-day, strife here on racial lines is imaginary. The onlooker sees most of the game, and I have been here an onlooker. There is no getting away from it — if you will throw fear out of your minds and you will soon realise that white, black and brown are complementary members of a common body politic.”

Date posted: May 6, 2017.
Last updated:
May 9, 2017 (typo corrections).

_________________

For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

_________________

Material for this post was adapted and compiled from the following sources:

1. The Khojas A Vanished Community, for description of the weighing ceremony in Dar-es-Salaam, blog entry at http://gonashgo.blogspot.com

2. A Tribute to Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, by Bashir F. Ladha, Ilm magazine, November 1977, Volume 3 Number 2, Ismailia Association for the U.K. (now Ismaili Tariqah and religious Education Board)

3. Diamond Jubilee of Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali. 

4. Web site of the Aga Khan Development Network, http://www.akdn.org

5. Folly of Hate and Fear from The Aga Khan and Africa by Habib V. Keshavjee, Pretoria, 1946, and also Tanganyika Standard, Dar-es-Salaam, 11 August 1946.

_________________