About a week ago, Edmonton’s Amin Jaffer sent me a small box of magazines that had been in his collection for decades. The box was personally delivered to me in Calgary by one of his family members. Amin, may I note, is one of the most avid readers of Barakah and its two sister websites, and has contributed widely acclaimed photo pieces of Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family. While I may one day come across some of the magazines that Amin sent me in my or my parents collection, there was one beautiful souvenir from December 1957 published by the Aga Khan Education Boards of Tanganyika (now Tanzania), Kenya and Uganda that I had never seen before. The souvenir was published to celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 21st birthday on December 13, 1957, and its focus was on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to East Africa from October – December 1957, which included the three ceremonial installation ceremonies that took place in Tanganyika, Kenya and Uganda. We are grateful to Amin Jaffer for his dedication in preserving Ismaili literature, and for his precious contribution to Barakah.
We have chosen to focus on the Takht Nashini ceremonies, as we celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 65th Imamat Day on July 11, 2022, and hope to publish more pieces from the historical souvenir in the coming months
In preparing this piece, we have sought to retain the textual material from the souvenir as it was published in 1957, correcting typos where applicable. However, photo captions have been updated to bring more clarity about the place and date of the event, and those facts are taken from the material presented in the souvenir. We warmly invite you to share this post with all your friends and family members.
Extract from the Will of His Late Highness, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan
“Ever since the time of my ancestor Aly the first Imam — that is to say over a period of some 1,300 years — it has always been the tradition that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from among sons or remoter male issue, and in these circumstances and in view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place, including the discoveries of atomic science, I am convinced that it is in the interest of the Shia Muslim lsmaili community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.”
Takht Nashini in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tannzania)
EXCERPTS FROM THE SOUVENIR
Thousands of Ismailis from many parts of East Africa, South Africa, Madagascar and distant Pakistan made the long pilgrimage to Dar-es-Salaam to pay homage to the “Imam of the Atomic Age.” As the first artificial satellite sailed through the night sky over the capital, all must have been aware of His Highness the late Aga Khan’s wisdom in choosing a young man to lead his people in the anxious years ahead.
And, on October 17, it was a smiling, serious-minded young man that vast crowds greeted at the new airport. They saw a religious leader with the boldness of youth and the ability to listen.
His Highness Prince Karim Shah Al-Hussaini Aga Khan IV, who was met by the Governor, Sir Edward Twining, inspected a guard of honour of Scouts and Girl Guides, then drove seven miles into Dar-es-Salaam where cheering crowds lined the main route to Government House.
Welcome banners and triumphant arches bridged the streets and the spirit of carnival was in the air. The town was gay with decorations and everything poised for the biggest celebration since the visit of H.R.H. Princess Margaret. Yet, in spite of this, the thousands that had made their way to the capital by air, sea, road and rail were conscious of the solemnity of the occasion and vast numbers attended Jamatkhana.
The simple, but solemn accession ceremony [on October 19, 1957] — the first in any country — was a moving spectacle watched by more than 30,000.
The ceremony under a blazing sun was screened and broadcast and stories were cabled to papers all over the world, but it is the simple, informal moments during the Aga Khan’s visit that will be remembered.
His warmth and unaffected charm impressed all who met him when he was host at a giant reception later the same evening. Some 800 people from all communities were present and thousands of fairylights cast a magic glow on shimmering silks, and gold and silver saris. The Aga Khan moved among his guests, stopping to speak for a few moments with the famed and unknown. Gradually, the evening became a social triumph-not only for the Aga Khan, but for a self-possessed young man who won the respect and admiration of everyone.
Before leaving on the next stage of his tour, the Aga Khan attended a Durbar at which he presented gold rings for loyal outstanding services to the community.
Airport crowds watched silently as the Aga Khan’s plane flew northwards; they were sad, but comforted by the knowledge that their young leader would be returning soon.
Excerpts from Speech Made by His Highness the Aga Khan at the First Installation Ceremony Held at Dar es Salaam on October 19, 1957
My grandfather often reminded you that we are living in the atomic age. But what in fact do we mean when we say this ? Certainly we mean more than the age of “the red moon”. The most significant thing about the atomic age is the new and unbounded sources of energy which are released for the use of mankind. In Europe and America to-day, power stations are springing up which need no coal, nor oil, nor water power to run them. They feed themselves. This is close to the secret of perpetual motion.
In my life time, it is almost certain that such atomic power stations will be exported, very likely to countries like Tanganyika. From them will flow the energy which will create new towns, railways, factories and all the foundations of modern industrial progress. These things are still far off. But they will come. They will affect all your lives in the next half century. With this material progress will come many difficulties as well as many blessings. This will affect, not only the Ismailis, but all who live in this territory, and perhaps even the whole of Africa.
I shall devote my life to guiding the community in all the problems which these rapid changes will bring in their wake.
However, it should not be believed that material progress is all that counts. As so many advanced nations are finding to their cost, man’s mastery of physical forces has far outstripped his mastery of himself. His mind cannot grapple with the complexities his hands have created. That is why my grandfather attached so much importance to education in our community.
Today, I believe education is more important than ever before. But remember that education does not stop at the school room; it continues through the newspapers, the radio, films and particularly television. One teacher can reach hundreds of thousands of children at the same moment through the T.V. set. Sooner or later the same thing will happen here in Tanganyika. The Ismaili community must prepare itself for changes of this magnitude. We must identify ourselves with Tanganyika and move forward with all the other communities in this rapidly advancing country.
I do not think that the great progress I have spoken about will make our lives any less happy than in the past. The Faith by which we live is the only sure guarantee that our problems will be surmounted. The younger people among you must be especially aware of this. Only the Faith of your fathers will enable you to live in peace.
Takht Nashini in Nairobi, Kenya
For the second time in East Africa, His Highness the Aga Khan was formally installed as the 49th Imam of the Ismailis at the Nairobi Aga Khan Club on 22nd October, 1957.
The ceremony, was witnessed by over 18,000 people from tiered stands.
By road, rail and air, Ismailis from all over the Colony arrived in large numbers to witness the installation of their Imam. By the afternoon 8,000 Ismailis had reached the City.
The women, many of them in gaily-coloured saris and others in white, made a bank of colour in the seats of the tiered stands which surrounded the ground. The red and green motif of the Ismaili colours was to be seen everywhere, from the official rosettes to the small flags which fluttered in the cool breeze.
As the hour drew nearer, the clouds became darker and then followed drizzling rain but a minute before cheers and applause greeted the Imam, the rain lifted. The installation ceremony began by the recitation from the Holy Koran.
Then followed the presentation of the Robe, Pagri, Sword of Justice, Chain of Office, and finally the traditional signet ring
His Highness received a warm welcome as he walked slowly to the high dias, lavishly decorated with flowers. It was indeed a memorable day and the unanimous verdict of all who witnessed this unique event was that the ceremony had been extremely successful and was a great tribute to the organising ability of all those who for days had laboured to set the stage for the installation of their Imam.
Excerpts from Speech Made by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Second Installation Ceremony Held at Nairobi on October 22, 1957
Never before in the history of man has there been such an age of technical progress. Only thirty years ago it was an adventure to fly in an aeroplane. Today there are machines that travel faster than sound. Before long the oceans will be scattered with atomic powered ships travelling on and beneath the sea. New and undreamed of changes in the means of transport and communication lie in the future.
All of this will create new markets and new fields of enterprise for Africa. Fresh outlooks and unforeseen influences will follow in their train. It is most important for the future of this country that the various races face these changes together and with mutual understanding.
How do we Ismailis fit into this picture ?
Our faith keeps us a united community. That is essential to out spiritual welfare. But in every other way you must remember that you are citizens of Kenya. It is to this country and to its Government that you owe allegiance. Although as a community the Ismailis will never be involved in politics, individually they may well play a constructive part their country’s political developments. Some of your leaders here are doing this with great distinction. They should remember above all how important it is to encourage and promote good relations among the different races who live here together.
Let me give you a practical example — behind, you can see the structure of a great new hospital which is almost completed. It will be one of the best equipped hospitals in East Africa. Half of it has been paid for by the Ismaili community and half by the Government. It will be, like our schools, available for all races. I hope that this will be only one of many other ventures in which the spirit of partnership will always prevail.
The years of development and change which lie ahead are certain to throw up many new problems. We should not be afraid of these. You will surely surmount them if you stand by your Faith and meet your difficulties in the spirit of humility and tolerance that your religion demands of us. This is specially important for the younger generations who will have to carry the future on their shoulders.
Only the Faith of your fathers can sustain you and enable you to live in peace here in this world and the next.
Message by His Highness the Aga Khan to the Ismailis
The following is a text of recording made by His Highness the Aga Khan at Nairobi.
My Beloved Spiritual Children,
As true lsmailis you must remember that you will always have two principal obligations. The first and paramount of these is your religious obligation to Islam and to your Imam.
Your second obligation is a secular one. You must always be loyal to the country of your adoption and to whatever Government is responsible for your security and well being.
This is advice which my beloved grandfather often gave to you. I believe it is as wise and true today as it was when he was alive. It constitutes the surest guarantee by which you can maintain your faith and your civic identity. By your loyalty to these two vital principles our community’s prosperity will in the last resort depend.
And by prosperity, I am not thinking simply in a material sense. Wealth and material blessings are very far from being the only touchstones of true success.
The life of a poor man with faith is more valuable than the life of a rich man with none.
Each Jamat is composed of a number of individuals and it is they who will ultimately colour and influence the community as a whole.
What then are your duties as individuals and what must you do for your own personal welfare? Education must come first. Not simply the education we receive by book-learning at schools when we are young. But the education which we should be receiving every day of our existence by the very act of living. You do not have to be a learned scholar to discover, in the every-day contacts of human life, the value of such qualities as integrity, honesty, discipline and humility.
Second, I want to emphasize the tremendous importance of good health. And good health is not something which just happens. The human body is a very complex mechanism. It needs continual care, not just when something goes wrong. So go to the doctor regularly for check ups and do the same with your children.
What I have said is of necessity in broad and general terms.
If you keep to the principles I have outlined I firmly believe your lives will become fuller and happier. That is always my hope and prayer for my belove spiritual children.
The East African Muslim Welfare Society
“I will give you the help that should satisfy everybody here. I shall double whatever you will collect for the cause of Islam; that is if you will contribute £1 for the erection of mosques and schools and for Tabligh, I will give you a personal donation of £1 from myself and make the sum of £2!!”
Thus declared the late Highness Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Agakhan Ill, when in that historic year 1945, His late Highness laid the foundation of the East African Muslim Welfare Society, which has done so much since then for the uplift and general welfare of the African Muslims, in the East African Territories. Speaking at the Annual General meeting of the Society in Mombasa on Saturday 16th November, 1957, which was attended by His Highness Karim Aga Khan, Mr. Abdulkarim Y. A. Karimjee, the President of the Society said:
“As your Highness is aware, this unique and unparalleled institution was conceived as far back as 1937 in a conference of Muslim leaders of Nairobi and was reorganised with vim and vigour in the subsequent Muslim Conference at Mombasa 1945 under the chairmanship of His late Highness Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan.
“The stirring, inspiring and eloquent words of our noble Founder, the late Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah, are still ringing in our ears and his generosity in offering pound for pound in doubling its funds is responsible for the wonderful and far-reaching work the society has been able to do since that time to this date.
“In all, we have so far collected 9,000,000/- of which 4,000,000/- has been so generously donated by our kind-hearted late Founder. We have been able to build 150 mosques, including the magnificent mosques of Kibuli, Kisumu, Tanga and Zanzibar, and 150 schools including three secondary schools and a teachers’ training college.
“The ideals we have been pursuing are not only to help Muslims in their religious sphere but to see that we produce enlightened, capable, devout and progressive Muslims who can start shoulder to shoulder with other communities and conspicuously play their part in the development of these East African territories in all fields — religious, social, economic, industrial, cultural and above all humanitarian. We hope to carry out our above aims with Your Highness’s lead, direction and advice.”
Nairobi School Visits
Takht Nashini in Kampala, Uganda
Then came that memorable day — October 25th — when for the third time in East Africa with solemn dignity His Highness the Aga Khan at a very simple but most moving ceremony, was formally installed as the 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis, on the Holy grounds of the Ismaili Jamatkhana [Kampala Darkhana]. The ceremony was witnessed by 10,000 Ismailis and over 6,000 invited guests representing all the sections of the various communities residing in the Protectorate…..
Excerpts from Speech Made by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Third Installation Ceremony Held at Kampala on October 25, 1957
I must congratulate all those who have worked to make these celebrations a success. As you all know I felt it desirable to change the arena of this ceremony at very short notice. Some of our community have been working day and night to achieve this transformation and this is a great tribute to their devotion.
The procession last night was a wonderful and most moving spectacle. I congratulate the police on the good-humoured way they controlled such large and exuberant crowds.
Today’s ceremony is of a very different nature. We are assembled on the Holy grounds of the Jamatkhana for an installation whose significance is entirely religious. The position which I occupy as Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis here in Uganda, and in other countries all over the world beneath the flags of many nations, with widely different forms of government, is not and never will be a political one.
The Ismaili community in Uganda is closely knit. This is essential for your spiritual welfare. But apart from your religious faith, your allegiance in all other matters must be to your Local and Provincial authorities and through them to the Government of Uganda as a whole.
Apart from the Ismaili community, there are a million or more African Muslims in this territory. Through the Muslim Welfare Society, my grandfather took a deep interest in their spiritual and social welfare.
Yesterday I visited the magnificent new Aga Khan educational institution. I was shown enough of its work to convince me that this school compared with the finest in the world. One event which I witnessed was a boxing match between two Ismaili boys — one African, one Asian. It was a good fight and at the end I think each of them thought he had won. Perhaps both were right!
To me this friendly contest reflected something of tremendous importance to our community. It reflected first the qualities of determination and endurance which are demanded by our faith. These qualities are also necessary to the future leaders of the community and for the country as a whole.
At the end of this sporting event the two boys shook hands and stood together to be photographed. To me this symbolised the partnership between different races which I am convinced is the only condition of peace and prosperity.
Uganda is a predominantly African State and when it becomes autonomous the Government will, I understand, be mainly African. If this is accepted by the other races, and provided they in their turn are given a legitimate role in the development of the country they seek to serve, Uganda will prosper as never before.
If on the other hand, the different races fall out and quarrel, there will be no confidence, foreign capital will not be attracted, development will be slowed, and the country’s progress impeded in every way.
That is why I most strongly urge the Ismaili community to work hand in hand with all other citizens.
Finally, I would like to speak of your spiritual welfare. We think a great deal today of material advancement. In Uganda most of our community is prospering. This is a tribute to its skill and industry-particularly to the wise advice and guidance it received from my beloved grandfather.
But wealth is not all that matters. Our religion teaches us that a spirit of humility and devotion is of first importance.
You must work together with mutual forebearance and with respect for each other. Only thus shall we achieve the harmony and happiness which is necessary for the true advancement of our faith.
Long Live the Imam
[The three ceremonial installation ceremonies of Mawlana Hazar Imam that took place in Dar es Salaam (October, 19, 1957), Nairobi (October 22) and Kampala (October 23) are captured in the following piece that was published in the special souvenir under the title “Long Live the Imam” — Ed.]
And so it was to be! His Highness the Aga Khan Mowlana Shah Karim Al Hussaini has now been formally installed as the 49th Imam and leader of twenty million Shia Imami Ismailis.
The memories of the great splendour and pageantry of the installation ceremonies held in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Kampala will for ever linger! In years to come, the Ismailis, as indeed all the other communities in the East African Territories will recall how the tall slim young figure, dressed in a white high-necked tunic, black trousers and a black astrakhan cap, with dignity and solemn bearing, mounted the high dias in each territory to be installed in his high office as the Imam of the Ismailis and to receive the spiritual homage of his 50,000 followers in East Africa. The three ceremonies were all identical — simple, yet full of historic solemnity and provided a spectacle of pageantry. After the recitation from the Holy Koran, His Highness Aga Khan was robed in the red and grey robe which had been worn by his Grandfather at his Diamond Jubilee in 1946, when he was weighed against diamonds by his spiritual followers.
Then came the presentation of the black astrakhan cap to which was pinned a golden brooch in the form of a crown inlaid with 49 diamonds and with pearls and emeralds.
The golden sword of justice signifying his position as Defender of the Faith, was next received by His Highness, followed by the golden Imamat chain, containing 49 links, representing his lineal descent as the 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis, in an unbroken line of succession through Ali, the husband of Fatima, the only daughter of the Holy Prophet Mohamed.
After that came the presentation of the signet ring, which was used to seal communications from the Imam to His followers throughout Ismaili history, particularly during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries.
This was followed by addresses from his spiritual followers, the Mayor and citizens of each town concerned and other leading Moslem and non-Moslem public organisations.
Finally, came the homage from the leaders of the Community who in a procession marched up the dais and pledged their loyalty to their Imam.
In this way, His Highness the Aga Khan, having been installed as the 49th Imam of 20 million Ismailis, assumed, for his age, the world’s greatest burden of responsibility.
LONG LIVE THE IMAM
An Excerpt from the Souvenir’s Article “Our Beloved Spiritual Father“
In a statement issued at Geneva on the 15th day of July this year , upon being proclaimed the 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis, His Highness said, “my grandfather dedicated his life to the Jamat and Islam both of which for him always came first and above all other considerations. While I was prepared that one day, I might be designated the Aga Khan, I did not expect it to be so soon. To follow a great man in a great responsibility has given me no more appreciated honour than to bequeath me His Spiritual leadership. My life as his, will be dedicated to the service of my followers. In the last months that I have spent with my grandfather and in our many other times together, I have been privileged to work with him and his guidance and wisdom will be of great help to me.
May His Highness live long to fulfil his exalted destiny and May Almighty Allah sustain him in his great and noble mission.
Date posted: July 11, 2022.
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Born in Mbulu and raised in Arusha, Tanzania, Amin Jaffer pursued his studies in agriculture at Kenya’s renowned Egerton College, where he graduated in the class of 1964. He then worked in the Plant Pathology Lab at the Tropical Pesticide Research Institute near Arusha before migrating to Canada in 1974 where he decided to establish a career in the photographic field. He now lives in Edmonton. He takes a very keen interest in locating and collecting rare and historical photographs of the Ismaili community, especially those relating to His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family. His contributions to Barakah include Photos of Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s 1968 visits to Arusha and Egerton College; the Jan Karmali Photo Collection; and Prince Aly Khan’s 1951 visit to Arusha.
Malik Merchant is the founding publisher and editor of Barakah (2017) as well as its two sister websites Simerg (2009) and Simergphotos (2012). His interest for literature and community publications began in his childhood years through the work of his late parents Jehangir (d. May 2017, aged 89) and Malek Merchant (d. January 2021, also 89), who both devoted their lives to the service of the Ismaili community, its institutions and the Imam-of-the-Time, His Highness the Aga Khan, as missionaries and religious education teachers. In the UK, Malik edited the flagship Ismaili magazine, ILM, with his father. A resident of Ontario since 1983, he relocated to Alberta in January 2022. He has an animal loving daughter Dr. Nurin Merchant; she is a vet and practices in Ontario. Malik can be contacted by email at email@example.com. He can also be reached — and followed — @twitter and @facebook.
REVIEW BARAKAH’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES
Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 275 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. Also visit our two sister websites, Simerg and Simergphotos. Barakah’s editor may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please follow Malik @Facebook and @Twitter.