[In 2017 Salim and Zahida Rahemtulla of Vancouver spent hours studying more than 140 speeches made by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, from the years 2000-2017. Their compilation, The Aga Khan’s view of the World – Gems from the 49th Ismaili Imam’s Speeches, was widely read and appreciated. This post and several more to come will focus on speeches that Mawlana Hazar Imam made from 1957-2000].
By HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN
Gems from Aga Khan’s speeches made in Pakistan in 1957/58
1. Memories of the 48th Imam
This country is in my heart, for as you all know my beloved grandfather was born here. Many, many memories come to our minds as we think of him. He achieved in his life, for our community, that which could only have been accomplished normally in a period of many generations. He will always be my ideal and example and I shall do my best to follow faithfully in his footsteps.
2. Imam’s dedication
I want to assure you all, that you are near me and ever present in my heart and thoughts. I have dedicated my life to the upliftment and progress of the Ismailis all over the world and I pray for all your happiness and success.
3. Advice to Ismailis
To my own community I would say this: We may be relatively small in numbers, but our influence is great. It is your duty to use that influence, not simply for the advancement of yourselves as individuals, nor even for the whole of Ismailis, but you must use it also for the benefit of Pakistan. As a community, our faith will always preserve our special identity, but there should be nothing exclusive in what you should do.
To partake more thoroughly in this country’s development, I hope to see my spiritual children spread out in all the walks of life. All the fields are open to you; it is for you to sow the seeds and to reap the fruit.
4. New frontiers
In Europe, America and Russia, there has been a…..revolution in technology and industrial power. The huge new atomic power stations, the Sputniks and the vast throbbing machines of modern industrial life are symbols of a fresh chapter in material progress….The end of the chapter is unforeseen.
5. Faith and material progress
I do not believe that we should fear material progress nor should we condemn it. The danger is that it should become an obsession in our lives, and that it should dominate our way of thinking. There is no reason why our traditions and our faith should stop us from moving with our times, nor in fact why we should not lead our fellow men to new spheres of knowledge and learning.
6. Responsibilities of businesses and industries
A very great responsibility lies upon the shoulders of the business and industrial community of any country….That responsibility consists not only in contributing to the material well-being of the nation but also in setting a course based on moral and humanitarian values which will make you an honoured part of the fabric of the nation. I have in mind not only the observance of business ethics but also here the pursuit of social welfare and other progressive measures.
If there is industrial development….its impact should be felt and its benefits enjoyed by the common man in the remotest parts of the country. You can play a decisive part in bringing this about. Once you do this, you could feel justly proud of the achievements made by this country.
7. Coming to terms with the modern world
Pakistan is a young nation and the essence of a healthy youth is a willingness to accept and promote change.
The fatal thing for this country would be to assume, having achieved political independence, that everything else will follow.
It will not.
To hold its own in the modern world, to come to terms with the highest and the latest developments in science and technology, a radically new approach will be needed.
If Islam aspires, as I believe she must, to recapture the glories of the past, she must be ready to adapt — I do not say abandon — her own traditions to the entirely different circumstances of today. If we fail to do this, not only shall we fail to progress ourselves, but the younger generation will become disillusioned.
8. Recreational centres
The provision of recreational centres and playing grounds are much more important to the student than is often realised. Together with sound academic instruction and a progressive teaching of our Islamic faith, they can help build a young generation which understands the art of living in its most complete sense.
9. Pakistan’s Two Halves
One point which has struck me during this present tour is how tenuous are the physical ties which unite the two halves of Pakistan into one nation. A few aeroplanes, a handful of ships, a fragile radio link – these are all it seems that you have to rely upon to bridge the gulf of 1200 miles. That, of course, is only a superficial view. Beneath the surface are the incalculable depths of a single religious faith, a faith which demands in its turn a common way of life. These are bonds which no man can break, bonds which will endure until the end of time.
All this is true, but we should not underestimate the handicap imposed by the geographical division of Pakistan. Unless constant efforts are made to surmount these handicaps, they will begin to assume unwarranted importance.
10. Responsibility to country and individual behaviour
….All of you, and particularly the younger generation, should think of your country as something more than a cradle in which to be born, to grow up, make money, marry, have children and die.
This nation is a living thing….courageously grappling with the chain of problems which encompass it. Do not think of these problems as being outside your concern, as something which “they”, the statesmen and politicians will look after.
It does not matter if your work is unconnected with administrative or political affairs. You can play your part as an employer or as a worker in commerce or in the professions, by the way you conduct your daily life.
The behaviour of each individual, however humble he may be, is reflected ultimately in the progress or otherwise of the country to which he owes allegiance.
11. Proper religious education and material progress
Without Islam, the very idea of Pakistan would have been an absurdity. But as a modern state striving to establish itself in an uncertain world, I feel sure that her Muslim inspiration must move with the times. The recent decision to make Islamic teaching compulsory in the schools will, I believe, prove a very wise one. But its benefits will not be fully experienced if that religious instruction is too hidebound by dogmas of the past. There is no need to discard the great traditions of our faith. There is every need to adapt and invigorate them in the light of the quite altered circumstances of today.
We should not be afraid of material progress. The less-advanced nations need its fruits desperately in their fight against poverty and disease. If Muslims will accept this need, and at the same time ensure that the living essence of their faith infuses every field of human activity, you will rediscover the ancient glories of Islam.
Gems from Aga Khan’s speeches made in India in 1958
12. Bombay and the modern Ismaili community
Bombay, as you now have been reminded, has very close associations with my family. It was here, and here alone, that my grandfather was acclaimed as the forty-eighth Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis. That was 73 years ago  and at that time he was only eight years old.
What tremendous changes have come about since those days! The Ismaili community has grown and prospered almost beyond recognition.
Thanks to my grandfather’s guidance and wisdom, Ismaili families are to be found today all over the world, living peaceably beneath the flags of many nations, owing allegiance to a wide variety of governments.
In some ways, therefore, it could be said that Bombay is the birth-place of our modern, world-wide community. I hope that the Ismailis who live here will remember this fact and their duty to set an example which other communities abroad will be proud to follow.
13. India’s political courage
To guarantee, as your government has done, that every man and woman should have the right to speak, write, vote and worship as he or she thinks best, subject only to the common rule of law, is a tremendous undertaking for any nation. For a country….with a civilization as old, and a government structure as new as this one, wrestling with what must often seem an almost intolerable burden of poverty and illiteracy, it is one of the most courageous political experiments the world has ever seen.
14. Our obligations and the ethic by which we should live
The Ismailis have always prided themselves on their highly developed social conscience. Our faith teaches us that we have obligations far beyond our own or even our family’s interests. If you remain united, work towards community progress, and respect your leaders, you will, I am sure, go far. As part of the nation of India, you must contribute your share to her advancement.
With humility, tolerance and respect for each other, by honest work and straight dealings, you will earn the true friendship of your fellows. It does not matter whether you are wealthy or poor, whether you are in business or the professions, whether you work with hands or brain, your spiritual obligations are equal. By the way you conduct your daily lives, by the compassion you show to your fellow men and women, and above all by your faith in God, you will ultimately be judged.
15. Duties of Asians in Africa
I believe that the Asians of Africa have a duty to work wholeheartedly for the countries of their adoption, to play a full part in building up their economies and to live their lives, not as a separate race but as part and parcel of their national community. If they succeed in this the concept of a multi-racial society will become a reality which will have an incalculable effect on the development of all Africa.
Date posted: January 27, 2019.
Barakah has an excellent array of thoughtful articles, videos and beautiful photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Don’t leave the website before checking out Barakah’s Table of Contents.
- Quotes 1, 2: Karachi, Pakistan, August 4, 1957.
- Quotes 3, 4, 5: Karachi, January 23, 1958, takhtnashini (enthronement) ceremony.
- Quote 6: Karachi, January 28, 1958, Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
- Quote 7: Karachi, January 29, 1958, Pakistan Institute of International Affairs.
- Quote 8: Karachi, January 30, 1958, Karachi Municipal Corporation Reception.
- Quotes 9, 10, 11: Dacca (then in East Pakistan, now Bangladesh), February 13, 1958, enthronement.
- Quotes 12, 13, 14: Bombay (now Mumbai), March 11, 1958, enthronement.
- Quote 15: Bombay, March 25, 1958, Rotary Club.
Quotes have been adapted from speeches published on http://www.Ismaili.net whose original source included Paigham-e-Imamat (published by the Ismailia Association for Edmonton, Alberta, on the occasion of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Silver Jubilee).
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