A Proposal to Enhance the Wonderful Ideal of “One Jamat” for the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan

“As you have seen from recent days, here in Karachi, but also in other parts of Pakistan, the Jamat that has been here comes from many different countries, speaks many different languages, comes from different backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, but remember, please remember, that you are one Jamat; that you recognise the same Imam of the Time.” Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Karachi, Pakistan, October 27, 2000.

Ismaili Portrait by Matthieu Palley

“..remember, please remember, that you are one Jamat; that you recognise the same Imam of the Time…” Ismaili girls hold the photo of their beloved Imam as they celebrate the anniversary of the Aga Khan’s visit to their village in the Pamirs in the 1990s. During the celebrations the villagers dress up, dance outdoors to the accordion and drums and sing ginane (religious songs), which tell of him being their Noor (light). The photograph was taken as these girls, dressed in bright atlas silk fabric with crowns on their heads, were going out to dance. Photo: Matthieu Paley. Copyright.

More than 12 years ago in early 2004, the editor of this blog, with the assistance of his father Alwaez Jehangir Merchant, submitted to the Ismaili leadership a proposal for the celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Golden Jubilee, which was still 3 years away (July 11, 2007). The proposal did not find any traction but today we find a hash tag #OneJamat floating around, perhaps resulting from the momentous Ismaili Jubilee Games that were held in Dubai recently. The games brought thousands of Ismaili athletes from all over the world together in a spirit of friendship and brotherhood, and exemplified the spirit of “One Jamat” that Mawlana Hazar Imam or His Highness has spoken about throughout his Imamat.

I am happy to share with readers of this website the original proposal entitled “One Jamat” with a view that some of the components described in the proposal have the potential to enhance the notion of “One Jamat” even further beyond the Jubilee Games, as we prepare to celebrate 60 glorious years of Imamat or the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan on July 11, 2017. By coincidence, a few days earlier on July 1, Canada will be marking its 150th Anniversary of Confederation. For the past three years, the Canadian Government has been soliciting ideas from Canadians on how the country should celebrate its historic 150th birthday. With the recent announcement that Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee will be celebrated on July 11, 2017, it is hoped that the Ismaili leadership around the world will seek to engage with their respective constituents on ways to make the Diamond Jubilee a unique event in the life of each and every Ismaili living in the world today.

During his Golden Jubilee visits between July 11, 2007 and December 13, 2008, His Highness the Aga Khan, stressed on three matters to the worldwide Ismaili community:

  • The importance of forming business and professional partnerships in order to strengthen and sustain the economic well-being of the community, in favour of taking an individualistic approach which has been the mind-set of the Ismailis for decades;
  • Eliminating poverty wherever it exists in the jamat by coming up with specific poverty alleviation projects and programs; and
  • Addressing the needs of  the aging members of the jamat.

The “One Jamat” proposal, below, does not deal with any of these 3 critical and important issues, but over the next several months this website will propose ways to address these key areas of concern mentioned by Mawlana Hazar Imam during his Golden Jubilee (and even in the preceding decades). We hope readers will submit their feedback.

For example, there is no doubt that meetings and conferences have been held since the Golden Jubilee on ways to form business and professional partnerships, but each professional or business entity within the institutional framework has then taken its own path. No concrete steps have been taken to bring individuals, professionals and businesses together on a global scale, through an enterprise like Monster Worldwide, that would have an incredible impact on the world wide jamat in every aspect of human endeavour, and thus significantly strengthen the “One Jamat” ideal! A future article will elaborate on this internet idea for greater collaboration and cooperation between individuals, professionals and businesses around the world that would significantly improve the economic and social status of the jamat.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“ONE JAMAT”

A Proposal to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan (1957-2007)

Prepared and submitted in 2004 by Abdulmalik J. Merchant
with the assistance of

Alwaez Rai Jehangir A. Merchant

“As you have seen from recent days, here in Karachi, but also in other parts of Pakistan, the Jamat that has been here comes from many different countries, speaks many different languages, comes from different backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, but remember, please remember, that you are one Jamat; that you recognise the same Imam of the Time.” Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Karachi, Pakistan, October 27, 2000.

“ONE JAMAT” – PRELIMINARY REMARKS

Under the rubric “One Jamat”, this proposal articulates a number of ideas for celebrating, in a meaningful manner, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s fifty glorious and magnificent years of Imamat. “One Jamat” will bring the richness and diversity of the Ismaili world and the accomplishments of our beloved 49th Imam to the forefront of a world-wide audience. The notion, inspiration and motivation for “One Jamat” comes from farmans that Mawlana Hazar Imam has made where he has often used the term “One Jamat” (see the extract cited on the beginning of this proposal).

There will be many ideas on how the Jubilee can be celebrated. In our proposal to inculcate and enshrine the notion of “One Jamat” into the hearts and minds of the Jamats around the world, and with a view to making the notion of “One Jamat” viable and sustainable, we have identified seven themes, and have proposed seven projects to implement these themes, with an emphasis on social, educational and cultural dimensions. The themes and projects proposed hereunder are in engagement with the past, present and future of Ismaili communities worldwide.

Over the past few years, personal and institutional initiatives and encounters have contributed towards a realization of the ‘Unity in Diversity’ within the Jamat. However, the vitality of the notion of “One Jamat” can be fully realized only by and with the active participation of Jamats globally. A critically important factor in this participation is for Ismailis to become better informed and educated about the different social and cultural contexts within which they live around the world. This view is based on a statement made by Mawlana Hazar Imam in an address he delivered at the Prince Claus Conference in Amsterdam in September 2002:

“Development  is  sustainable  only  if  the  beneficiaries  become, in  a  gradual manner, the  masters  of  the process. This means that initiatives cannot be contemplated exclusively in terms of economics, but rather as an integrated program that encompasses social and cultural dimensions as well.”

How can we best celebrate this event to make it an enduring and enriching event? How can we be educated and, at the same time, be entertained? How can we pay our tribute to the phenomenal achievements of Mawlana Hazar Imam for the Jamat?  What legacy will we leave behind so that our beloved 49th Imam and the Jamat of the 20th and 21st centuries are thought of centuries hence?

“ONE JAMAT” – SEVEN THEMES

The following seven themes [1] will provide the controlling framework for “One Jamat”:

1. Peoples, Places, Culture and Tradition

This theme will examine the composition of the Jamat. Where are the Jamats located? Why are they located where they are? This study of human-environment interactions will assist individuals as they create their spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world. This theme will also describe ways in which languages and literature, music and art serve as expressions of tradition and culture and influence behavior of people living within a specific geographical region.

2. Community Ideals and Practices

What is the ethos of the Jamat as promulgated by Mawlana Hazar Imam? How are the values of compassion and generosity exemplified in our institutions and in individuals? Why is honorary service such a critical component in our lives? How are these ideals practiced around the world? What are its origins? How can we sustain this most wonderful aspect of our Ismaili tariqah? What is the role of din (the spiritual) and dunya (the temporal) and how are they interwoven into our ideals, ethics and practices?

3. Spiritual Power, Authority and Governance

This theme will seek to explore and address questions such as: What is Imamat? What forms does it take? What is legitimate authority in Shia Islam? How does the Imam create, maintain, and change institutions? How does the Imam govern the Jamat? How does he delegate responsibilities and what are his expectations of the leadership? What is the role of the Ismaili constitution, and how has it evolved and changed?

4. Time, Continuity and Change

Knowing how to read and reconstruct the past will allow one to develop a historical perspective and to answer questions such as: Who am I? What happened to the Jamat in the past and what challenges did it face? What contribution has the Imamat and the Jamat made in the spheres of human endeavor? How am I connected to those in the past? How has the Jamat changed and how might it change in the future?

5. Education, Meritocracy and the Role of Intellect

What are the educational trends of today and tomorrow and how is the Jamat adapting to the technological society and careers of the future? Why are meritocracy and education, including lifelong education, so critical and vital for our survival and security? What is the notion of meritocracy and how does it complement our belief system? How can we preserve our fundamental values and beliefs in a world that is rapidly becoming one technology-linked?

6. Individuals, Groups and Institutions

This theme will address questions such as: What is the role of institutions in Jamats around the world?  How am I influenced by institutions and how do they benefit me? How do institutions change? How can I play a positive role in institutional change? What is the contribution of the women and youth in Jamati and Imamat institutions? In addition, the role of Imamat institutions as civil society groups that seek to tackle in a coherent, collaborative and structured way the problems and needs of the citizens of the countries in which they are engaged in will be examined. How are the Muslim values of ethics, concern and generosity implemented within a context that not only values pluralism and individual liberties but also respects the citizen’s own vision of the common good?

7. Production and Consumption – Ismailis in the Modern World

This theme will explore how individuals and Jamats in both the rural and urban centers meet their daily needs and build for the future. If they are farmers, what do they produce and how is the production organized? How do they organize themselves in their own areas of expertise?  How are they competing and preparing in the global economy? What opportunities are available?

“ONE JAMAT” – SEVEN PROJECTS

“One Jamat” will be implemented through a series of seven ground breaking projects and will encompass all of today’s communications media. These projects will be an unprecedented accomplishment even by modern standards of entertainment and knowledge transmission. The seven themes briefly mentioned above will form the programming framework for the projects as the case may apply. The seven suggested projects are:

1. DVD

The “One Jamat” DVD (approximately 3 hours in duration), accompanied by a music CD (60 to 75 minutes in length), will seek to diffuse and educate through images, voices and music the notion of “One Jamat.” The DVD’s overall objective will be to provide education and entertainment of the highest quality through a thematic presentation of ideas, thoughts and music. It will feature Ismailis of all ages and from all walks of life (artists and musicians, singers and storytellers, writers and thinkers, school children and teachers, leaders and volunteers, seniors, business people and professionals). This component of “One Jamat” would, in some ways, resemble the award winning CD/DVD production 1 Giant Leap produced by Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman which was released in 2002 by Palm Pictures, with the theme “Unity in Diversity.”

2. Television/Radio Documentary Series

This project will be immense in scope, similar to the BBC/PBS series by Professor Mazrui entitled “The Africans.” A seven-part series, “The Ismailis,” would be produced for television and radio audiences around the world. A fully illustrated book would accompany this series. With a special foreword by Mawlana Hazar Imam, the text and stunning pictures will seek to capture the spirit of the Ismaili Jamats around the world and will put into perspective our rich history, culture and tradition.

3. Ismaili Ensemble and the One Jamat Festival

This project will bring together an ensemble of Ismaili musicians and singers along with other artisans from all traditions of the Jamat, who will perform live in front of Ismaili and non-Ismaili audiences in selected cities around the world. This will culminate with the “One Jamat” festival, similar to the highly successful  annual Silk Roads Festival held in Washington D.C., that will showcase and present works of art, cultural and musical events from around the Ismaili world. Artisans will have the opportunity to market their unique products to hundreds of thousands of visitors to the festival. The Ismaili Imamat and the Aga Khan Development Network will also feature prominently and there will be linkages to participating galleries and museums.

4. Leadership Conference

This project will bring together the Ismaili world’s leadership and future leaders from universities, business, labor, government, NGOs, civil society groups, education and the cultural sectors for a unique experience aimed at broadening their perspectives on work, career trends, leadership, their communities, and their respective Jamats. Participants will represent Ismailis from different countries, different perspectives and different careers. All will share one thing in common: they will be high potential individuals expected to achieve senior leadership positions in their organizations and communities. Participation will be open to all Ismaili youth and professionals. This one to two week brainstorming event will open up to a world of ideas, knowledge and experience and will pave future goals for the Jamat based on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s hidayat (guidance).

5. International Competition

Ismailis, young and old, from around the world will be invited to participate in a series of competitions on the notion of “One Jamat” wherein different art forms (pottery, woodwork, painting, sculpture, metalwork, etc.), as well as literary expressions (poetry, music, etc.) will be encouraged. A panel of judges comprising Ismaili and non-Ismaili individuals will select the winning entries, and these will be showcased on other related projects, such as museum exhibitions and the “One Jamat” festival.

6. Museum Exhibitions

A series of exhibitions (in Toronto, for example at the Aga Khan Museum, as well as in major cities throughout the world) will be inaugurated with a view to providing the Jamat and the general public about the accomplishments of the Ismaili Imamat. The ethos of the Ismaili Imamat and its institutions and the pluralistic nature of the community under the leadership of a living and manifest Imam will be communicated via visual and interactive displays, text, and short films. Exhibitions of manuscripts and objects from different periods of Ismaili history will be organized with selected museums worldwide.

7. Web Site

An official web site OneJamat.com [2] will complement all the above projects. In addition, it will keep Jamats worldwide informed about the events and news pertaining to the Jubilee celebrations. The web site will be a repository of music, sounds and images that could not be included in the DVD/CD, such as interviews and footage. It will be a long term commitment, extending beyond the Jubilee Year, as the notion of “One Jamat” continues to evolve and is understood and experienced through other dimensions of the Jamats’ lives.

CONCLUSION – MEETING THE “ONE JAMAT” CHALLENGE

“One Jamat” will be enriching, entertaining, educational. It will be an historical experience befitting the accomplishments of our 49th Imam. We will be leaving a magnificent legacy – that of having inculcated the ethic of “One Jamat” for ourselves and for future generations. The celebrations marking the Jubilee through the projects mentioned will enhance each individual’s experience of this unique occasion. It will be an opportunity to involve Ismaili youth from around the world to become engaged in its planning and implementation. New talents in the Jamat will develop; art and culture will be fortified as artists are inspired. These will be assets to the Jamat for the challenges that lie ahead.

“One Jamat” will be an unprecedented collaboration that will include the Imamat, its institutions, and a large number of Jamati and non-Jamati members from around the world. It will need to address and overcome many technical and logistical challenges and hurdles. We have an intellectual heritage, and the modern Jamat must meet the challenges of the time.

Date posted: Friday, September 2, 2016.

Copyright: Abdulmalik Merchant and Jehangir A. Merchant.

Note: This proposal was submitted to the Ismaili leadership in 2004, before any plans had been formalized to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan. The Golden Jubilee celebrations were held from July 11, 2007 until December 13, 2008.

______________

[1] Some of the material listed in the seven themes was inspired and extracted from a social studies section in a  paper at galileo.org. 

[2] The editor had reserved this domain name, with numerous variations, after this proposal was submitted. It has since been acquired by another individual when the editor overlooked the expiry date of extending the domain name.

One thought on “A Proposal to Enhance the Wonderful Ideal of “One Jamat” for the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s