Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – 48th Ismaili Imam’s Platinum Jubilee: World Evolved from Candle Lights and Horse Carriages to Nuclear Physics and Jet Travel

The Platinum Jubilee – Seventy Years of Imamat
(1885-1955)

The 48th Ismaili Imam, Aga Khan III, acknowledges the affection of his followers who had gathered in their thousands to mark his Platinum Jubilee celebration at the Aga Khan Gymkhana in Karachi.

THE PLATINUM JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS IN KARACHI WITH SPEECHES AND MESSAGES; TOKEN CEREMONY IN CAIRO WITH SPEECHES AND MESSAGES;
THE PLATINUM JUBILEE HOSPITAL, NAIROBI; TOKEN CEREMONY IN INDIA

1. Karachi, February 3, 1954

To mark the completion of  the Aga Khan’s seventy years of Imamat, the Ismailis decided to weigh their 48th Imam, who had guided them through seventy years of benevolent rule, in platinum. The preparations were set afoot to surpass all the celebrations of the previous two Jubilees but Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah gave explicit orders not to over spend on illuminations and festivities.

February 3, 1954: The Karachi Platinum Celebration was witnessed by 50,000 people.

Wishing a Long Life to the Imam of the Socio-Economic Revolution, whose reign of 72 years was the longest in Ismaili history.

The Platinum Jubilee was celebrated at the Aga Khan Gymkhana in Karachi, the birthplace of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, on 3rd February, 1954 in the presence of 50,000 Ismailis.

The Imam appeared in a ceremonial high-walled black cap, a white tunic and a brown, embroidered robe. Mata Salamat Om Habibah and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Mohammad Ali were also present for the ceremony.

Being the costliest metal, it was determined that every one once would represent 14 pounds in weight. The scales were adjusted accordingly and Wazir Ibrahim Manji, the President of the Platinum Jubilee Association, placed a total of 15 ounces of platinum to match the Imam’s weight of 215 pounds. The weighing ceremony itself was brief, lasting ten minutes. Once again, as had been the case with the Golden and Diamond Jubilees to celebrate 50 and 60 years of Imamat respectively, the sum gifted to the Imam was returned for the community’s Finance and Investment Corporations.

2. In Karachi Speech, Imam Asks Ismailis to be Patriotic, Hardworking, United and to Abide by Tenets of Faith

…Work if carried out intensively, is service to God and Fatherland. Make your daily labour, labour of love howsoever difficult and hard it may be…If every Ismaili living in Pakistan remembers and interprets his citizenship, howsoever humble his contributions may be, with the spirit of courage and devotion, then indeed I am happy to think that after many years of surgical operations and illness, I am still alive to give you this fatherly advice….though you must firmly stick to the tenets of your Faith, yet you should not forget what I have always considered the most beautiful of all Muslim prayers namely, that Allah Almighty in His infinite mercy may forgive the sins of all Muslims.

The 48th Imam, blessing the Ismailis during the historical celebration in Karachi marking his 70th Imamat aniversary

“I am proud and happy that I was born in Karachi, the city which had the honour of being the birth place of the Father of the Nation, the late Quaid-e-Azam, whose untimely and early death we all so deplore and whose loss I particularly feel with personal grief, for shortly before his death, he had asked me to take up the general direction and supervision of Pakistan representation in Europe and America, which alas, then my health was so bad that not only myself but all my doctors and family expected my death before his.

“You Ismailis know perfectly well that it is a fundamental point in your religion that wherever you be, whatever the state where life and honour are protected, you must give your entire loyalty and devotion to the welfare and service of that country. You who have the honour of being citizens of Pakistan, to you, I give this advice: do not interpret your citizenship purely in a passive form but patriotism and loyalty must be active and productive.

A magnificent day for the Imam and his Murids who marked his 70 years of Imamat by weighing him in Platinum. The Karachi ceremony was the only full-fledged event. The ceremonies in India and Africa were token ceremonies.

“I realise fully that the overwhelming majority of the population have to look after their means of livelihood and the up-bringing of your children, but work if carried out intensively, is service to God and Fatherland. Make your daily labour, labour of love howsoever difficult and hard it may be. Do remember that in a democracy, voting and the rights of citizenship should be used with care and attention with serious thought howsoever humble with the full realisation to the best of your ability that not personal, parochial or provincial interests are to be served but the greater good and the welfare of the population as a whole and the security of the state as such. If the people of a nation are united and self-sacrificing, any amount of difficulties and overwhelming misfortunes can be overcome. We have seen how Turkey has come out stronger than ever after a hundred years of misfortunes and disasters. There are two other cases which should be an example and should not discourage anyone in the face of difficulties. Germany and Japan after the greatest defeats known to history have by hard work and devotion raised themselves to be honoured, respected and powerful members of the comity of nations. If every Ismaili living in Pakistan remembers and interprets his citizenship, howsoever humble his contributions may be, with the spirit of courage and devotion, then indeed I am happy to think that after many years of surgical operations and illness, I am still alive to give you this fatherly advice.

“From the religious point of view, though you must firmly stick to the tenets of your Faith, yet you should not forget what I have always considered the most beautiful of all Muslim prayers namely, that Allah Almighty in His infinite mercy may forgive the sins of all Muslims.”

3.Commemorative Souvenir Carries Imam’s Special Message (please click images to enlarge):

A message by the 48th Ismaili Imam published in the Platinum Jubilee Souvenir Issue asks his followers to set examples of fratenity and goodwill. Credit for souvenir images: Nizar Noorali Collection, Pakistan

Transcript of the message:

In these 70 years of my Imamat men’s material condition has totally changed. There has been an immense increase in power over nature but, as we see, with strifes everywhere spiritual power has not increased.

It is my hope that my spiritual children, the Ismailis, will, by example of their own higher enlightenment and helpful co-operative movement amongst themselves, set to the world an example of better fraternity and brotherhood which alone can free men from the fear and dangers of moral and mental discord which leads to disaster for all.

Aga Khan

The cover page of the Special Souvenir in which Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah's message was produced

The souvenir, as seen in the contents above, covered many aspects of the 48th Imam's life

The members responsible for producing the souvenir issue

_____________________

4. Africa, Cairo, February 20th 1955

Due to the Imam’s ill-health – he was 78 – the ceremonies in Africa and India were restricted to token ceremonies. For the Africa Jamat, the token ceremony took place in Cairo on 20th February, 1955. Earlier, on May 28th 1954, the Aga Khan had sent a special Platinum Jubilee message from Paris to the Africa Jamat:

As you all know it is my greatest desire that by 1960 each family should be owner of their own house, flat or shop-residence and for this purpose you must continue to develop and create more and more co-operative societies and corporations. The middle and upper class should join with the poor class to buy their shares and every effort should be made towards this end.

The following are Egyptian newspaper clippings and photos of the ceremony held in Cairo as well as the address that was presented to the Imam on behalf of the African Jamats:

Saturday, February 12, 1955: A story concerning the Imam's health makes the headline in the French paper, "La Bourse Egyptienne", a week before the Platinum Jubilee in Cairo. Credit: Motani Collection, Ottawa.

Saturday, February 12, 1955: A complete version of story shown above. Click images for enlargement.

February 20, 1945: Aga Khan III, 48th Ismaili Imam, with Begum Om Habiba Mata Salamat and Prince Aly Khan at the Platinum Jubilee ceremony in Cairo. The Platinum coins are placed on the cushion. Photo: Motani Collection, Ottawa

The text of the address delivered by the Aga Khan's Africa Legion at the Imam's Platinum Jubilee in Cairo. Please click to enlarge (image may be further magnified). Credit: Motani Collection, Ottawa.

The ivory gift set and the addresses presented by the Legion members are elegantly displayed.

Monday, February, 21, 1955: Front page photo in the English Daily "The Egyptian Gazette", following the token Platinum Jubilee ceremony held in Cairo the previous day. Credit: Motani Collection, Ottawa.

Story accompanying next photo, below. See also full transcript below.

Monday, February 21, 1955, "The Egyptian Gazette": A report of the Platinum Jubilee Celebrations in the English daily, page 5. Click images for enlargement.

The following is the transcript of the report published in “The Egyptian Gazette” (see corresponding image above):

Ismaili sect acclaims its leader

The Cleopatra Lounge of the Semiramis Hotel yesterday afternoon witnessed an impressive ceremony when the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili sect, was symbolically ‘weighed’ in the presence of a large number of his followers.

At 4 p.m. the Aga Khan, dressed in a dark grey suit and carrying a walking stick, entered the Lounge amidst the applause of the Ismaili representatives. He took his seat on a special rostrum, with the Begum on his right and his son, Prince Aly Khan, on his left.

The ceremony opened with the recital by Count Hassa Hassi [sic] Lakha of Uganda of the opening chapter of the Koran (Al Fatiha). The Aga Khan, after thanking those present for coming to Egypt to attend the ceremony, expressed his gratitude to the Government of Egypt for its hospitality and announced that he was donating L.E. 1,000 for the poor of Cairo.

Speeches were made by two leading members of the Ismaili sect…story continues after photo..Ivory Scales

Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah being presented with an ivory gift set containing 48 platinum pieces which included the names of his 47 predecessors inscribed on them.

Ivory scales

The Aga Khan was then presented with ivory scales and 48 pieces of platinum with the names of his 47 predecessors inscribed on them. On top of the scales were three small platinum balls bearing the inscriptions “Silver Jubilee,” [sic] “Golden Jubilee”, and “Platinum Jubilee.”

Members of the Ismaili sect in turn kissed the Aga Khan’s hand and presented him with a platinum medals with his effigy on one side and the date of the ceremony on the other side.

On behalf of his father, Prince Aly Khan made a speech in which he described the projects that had been carried out with the help of the money collected during the past two weighing ceremonies.

5. In Cairo Platinum Jubilee Speech, Imam Alludes to a Balanced Life and Says, that by Necessity, the Consequence of Spiritual Enlightenment is Love, Tenderness and Gentleness Towards All

“On this unique occasion when you make this wonderful offering of platinum and its equivalent as an unconditional gift, I must immediately tell you that I give it to the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust as further addition to its capital. You have referred to my seventy years Imamat which, indeed, is unique in the history of the forty eight Ismaili Imams by its long duration, but also it began in another world, the world of horse carriages and candle lights, and today we are in the world of nuclear power, physics, jet air-travel and serious discussion amongst the most learned as to how and when we can visit the stars and the moon.

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah , the Begum and Prince Aly Khan at the Cairo Ceremony

“But, as I have explained in my Memoirs for the whole world to understand there are two worlds — the world of material intelligence and the world of spiritual enlightenment. The world of spiritual enlightenment is fundamentally different from the world of material intellectualism and it is the pride of the Ismailis that we firmly believe that the world of spiritual enlightenment has come as a truth from the inception of Islam to this day with the Imamat and carries with it as one of its necessary consequences love, tenderness, kindliness and gentleness towards firsts our brother and sister Muslims of all sects and, secondly, to those who live in righteousness conscience and justice towards their fellow men. These religious principles of Ismailism are well known to you for you have heard them from me and through your fathers and grandfathers and from my father and grandfather until I fear that by long familiarity with these teachings some of you forget the necessity of re-examination of your heart and religious experience.

“But, as I started by telling you, there is also the world of matter and intellect which go side by side with reason and deductive and inductive powers. I have never, as you say in your own address, neglected to encourage schools and universities, and by welfare societies for the health of children, maternity, and more and more up to date needs that you may have, as far as it is possible in the areas in which you live, to get both mental and physical training that will make you capable of meeting the more and more difficult conditions of life and competition….”

6. In Message to Ismailis from Cairo, Imam is Categorical About Treating Every Muslim with Respect Despite Differences in Interpretation – No One Must Be Publicly Condemned or Abused

"The Spirit of Unity in Islam", Platinum Jubilee message to Ismailis, Cairo, 20 February, 1955.

7. The Platinum Jubilee Hospital, Nairobi

The Aga Khan Platinum Jubilee Hospital was built with funds raised by the Ismaili community, together with a contribution from the Kenya Government, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the installation of His Highness Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah as the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili community. Photo: Agakhanhospitals.org


The following is an excerpt from “Nothing but the Truth” by Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood

…As I started working in the [Platinum Jubilee Hospital] hospital and getting to know it better it also became obvious to me that it was ahead of its time. Strangely enough its origins were both archaic and radical. The money had come from members of the Ismaili community in East Africa who had weighed their late Imam in platinum to celebrate seventy years of his spiritual leadership. The community had previously used gold and diamonds to appropriately celebrate the length of time he had acted as sheppard of the flock. He had now been weighed in the most precious metal and the full official name of the hospital was therefore the Aga Khan Platinum Jubilee Hospital. The revolutionary part was the Aga Khan’s decision on how best to utilize this philanthropic gesture on the part of his community. In his wisdom he decided to build a modern hospital in Nairobi which was open to all races.

Unfortunately he died before the hospital was built and it fell upon his chosen successor and grandson, Karim Aga Khan, to open the hospital in 1958. This was indeed a great step, because until then, hospitals in Nairobi and other big towns catered for the needs of one ethnic community only. Into this compartmentalized health care, the entry of the well built, well equipped and well staffed Aga Khan Hospital with its multi-racial concept was a progressive move….

 

Editor’s Note: In this book the author provides some interesting details about being offered a position to work at the hospital while he was in the United Kingdom, and the soul searching he did before finally accepting the position. He found the current Imam very considerate in the concerns that he raised about moving to Kenya given the situation he was facing at the time. Dr. Dawood further gives an interesting picture of the hospital in its early days, the challenges it faced  and how the hospital came to gain credibility over a period of time. An interesting account is also given of a very  sick lady whom the Imam visited at Dr. Dawood’s request, just before she passed away.

Note: The Hospital is now part of the Aga Khan Development Network and is known as the  Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi.

8. The Platinum Jubilee Celebrations in India

February 2, 1957: Prince Aly Khan displays the Platinum Plaque which he received on behalf of his father, Aga Khan III, on the occasion of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in Bombay

Because of the Imam’s ill-health, the Platinum Jubilee ceremonies in India were officiated by Prince Aly Khan, and these were again restricted to token presentations. The Bombay ceremony was held on February 2, 1957 followed by ceremonies at eleven other centres from February 20 to 26.

Date updated: December 23, 2011

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Other recent additions to this website:

Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III: The Face of Imamat

Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Long Reign Ends

A note to all readers:

Please visit the What’s New page for all articles posted in this website, including the ones in the Aga Khan III series.

And do visit the Home page if you are visiting the website for the first time.

References and Preview Films:

1. Platinum Jubilee speech in Karachi,  Dawn, Karachi, 4 February 1954; Sultanali Nazerali El-Africi (ed.), H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan III, Mombasa, 1955, pp. 43—5; and Message to the World of Islam by Aga Khan III, Karachi, 1977, pp. 47—8.
2. Platinum Jubilee Speech in Cairo, Ismaili, Bombay, 6 March 1955.
3. Ilm, Volume 3, Number 2 – November 1977 – A Tribute to Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah by Bashir F. Ladha

Please watch the following preview movies of the Platinum Jubilee ceremonies in Cairo and Karachi:

Aga Khan’s Platinum Jubilee in Cairo

Aga Khan III Platinum Jubilee in Cairo

Various shots of guests seated awaiting arrival of Aga Khan (aka Sir Mahomed Shah). The Aga Khan, Begum (his wife) and Prince Ali arriving and seated in gilt chairs. Followers watching. The Aga Khan receiving a gift from his followers. The Aga Khan shaking hands with followers. Ivory gift on table. A scroll. Date on original record is 24/02/1955.

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=63402

Aga Khan’s Platinum Jubilee 1954

Aga Khan III Platinum Jubilee 1954

Crowd (several shots). Girl with sunglasses. crowd from around the world. Aga Khan arriving. Aga Khan walking up to dais (several shots). Aga Khan seated on scales waving to crowd. Dignitaries arriving, and crowd. Aga Khan seated on scales. Aga Khan leaving dais. Various shots Aga Khan walking to and entering car. Aga Khan leaving. Platinum Jubilee Arch.

http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=31603

12 thoughts on “Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – 48th Ismaili Imam’s Platinum Jubilee: World Evolved from Candle Lights and Horse Carriages to Nuclear Physics and Jet Travel

  1. May Moula bless all those murids whose untiring efforts have shown excellent results for the future generations to come. May you be blessed for your hard and commendable work on this project. God bless you all. Amen.

  2. Wonderful things happen on this site. I am researching things about jubilees in relation to the Queen of England’s Diamond Jubilee in June. The BBC article today was so Eurocentric as though jubilees were only celebrated by and for European monarchs. I shall write in. At the secular level we find at the Golden Jubilee in Bombay 3200 ounces of gold were placed on the scale, costing 23,000 pounds sterling. So the Imam weighed 200 lbs. At the Diamond Jubilee in India the value of the diamonds was 640,000 punds sterling; at the second ceremony in Dar es Salaam it was 684 thousand pounds. The price of diamonds increased and/or the weight. I remember reading the wight was 222 lbs at Dar es Salaam? At the Platinum Jubilee, we are told 1 oz represented 14 oz and 15 pieces were used = 220 lb. At Cairo no weighing was done. The Imam said the world went from candle power to nuclear power and now in this imamat we don’t do the weighings. Even with gold at – what is it >$1000 per oz? – it should be very affordable, given how rich our community became in the diaspora after leaving East Africa from the late 1960s, culminating in the pivotal event, the Uganda expulsion. Am I being too EA-centric?

  3. I want to know where the Platinum Jubilee was celebrated in Karachi, Aga Khan Gymkhana or the National Stadium.

  4. Nice work brother. Thank you. The site is great – keep it up. You are becoming the source of Noorani deedar of Mawla, you are reserving the seat for youself in a sacred sanctuary. Great, may mawla bless you and lead you to find the truth of Mawla. Ameen.

  5. These pictures as well as the information you have provided is just excellent and I need to thank all who have compiled the series for people like us who were not born at the time of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga khan III. Thank you.

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