I am ambitious for you in the right way, just as a father and mother are ambitious for their children. Both a father and a mother want their children to work well, properly and ethically, and to carry these values throughout their lives. These are thoughts that I share with you, and although I will be leaving you physically today, I am always with you. I watch over you, I think of you, I pray for you, and I want you to know that I am always with my Jamath — Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, December 13, 2008.
Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
In recent months, I have been able to gain access to several Ismaili community magazines, books and journals that I had acquired prior to 2013. The older magazines as well as other religious and non-religious literature had been carefully stowed away in dozens of boxes while I spent the ensuing years as a musafir (traveller), without any fixed abode for long periods of time. My recent relocation to Alberta enabled me to unpack and begin reading Ismaili magazines and literature that I had not read for years. I could thus be labelled as a tsundoku — a Japanese term used to describe a person who owns a lot of unread literature. Well, I can now say that I am leaving that tsundoku phase, and my recent pieces on Princess Zahra Aga Khan and her younger brother, Prince Rahim, that contain material from the older magazines attest to that.
Among the beautiful and historical magazines that I have been very fortunate to easily find is a publication entitled “Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan Golden Jubilee 1957-2007,” published in 2012. It contains a very rich and illuminating pictorial gallery of His Highness the Aga Khan’s visits to 22 countries during the 17-month period from July 11, 2007 to December 13, 2008.
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In carefully reading through the entire 148-page hardcover publication I came across, on the very last page, a beautiful and inspiring handwritten message of Mawlana Hazar Imam dated December 13, 2008, his 72nd birthday, that also marked the end of his Golden Jubilee Year. It may be noted that Mawlana Hazar Imam will reach the age of 86 on December 13, 2022, and that he is the oldest living Imam in Ismaili history, although his grandfather Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III’s reign of 72 years is the longest — he inherited the Imamat in August 1885, when he was only 7 years old. When His Highness the Aga Khan (III) passed away on July 11, 1957, at the age of 79, he designated his grandson, Prince Karim, as his successor and 49th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. Two weeks later, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (d. September 2022) bestowed the new Imam with the title of His Highness in the tradition of her predecessors. The Ismailis respectfully and affectionately address His Highness as Mawlana Hazar Imam (Our Lord, the Present/Living Imam.)
Perhaps many readers may have read Mawlana Hazar Imam’s message when they acquired the colourful volume at literature counters in Ismaili Jamatkhanas. I do not recall reading it at that time, nor do I remember hearing it read out in Jamatkhanas. I am deeply touched by the message in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s own handwriting and feel that his timeless message to his followers should be disseminated among the wider Ismaili community around the world. To all other readers, who are non-Ismailis, the message reveals his intimate spiritual bond with his followers. Indeed, he addresses his Ismaili followers as My beloved spiritual children.
…. Because our institutions are growing very quickly, it is my hope and prayer that the Jamat’s capacity….. will be very significant indeed, and that is what the Shia Ismaili Tariqah of Islam should achieve in the world — Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, December 13, 2008.
One very important aspect that is contained in the message is Mawlana Hazar Imam’s love and sentiments for his spiritual children, for whom he desires nothing but the best. It should remind us of a Farman (guidance) made in Pakistan in 1964 in which he said, “My love for my Jamat [community] is a lot stronger than yours can ever be for me and I would like you to remember this….When I leave, each and every one of you will be in my heart, in my prayers, in my thoughts and you must remember that Imam loves you more, much more than you can ever love him and you must be strong in this knowledge.”
With these thoughts in mind, here then is Mawlana Hazar Imam’s handwritten letter, followed by a typed-out version (which is not part of the volume itself.)
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The 13th of December, 2008
I will be calling upon you from time to time in the future, to come to work with me, so that what we have decided to do together, from the end of the Golden Jubilee year onwards, actually and effectively, is carried forward. Because our institutions are growing very quickly, it is my hope and prayer that, 10 or 15 years from now, the Jamat’s capacity in most of the countries where it is living, will be very significant indeed, and that is what the Shia Ismaili Tariqah of Islam should achieve in the world. I am ambitious for you in the right way, just as a father and mother are ambitious for their children. Both a father and a mother want their children to work well, properly and ethically, and to carry these values throughout their lives. These are thoughts that I share with you, and although I will be leaving you physically today, I am always with you. I watch over you, I think of you, I pray for you, and I want you to know that I am always with my Jamath.
Date posted: August 14, 2018.
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