While this reading is primarily aimed at the younger readership, we think everyone can benefit from it.
The Holy Qur’an teaches that human beings have a great responsibility. One of the biggest responsibilities is for human beings to look after His creation. After all, human beings are the most important part of Allah’s creation. Allah wants human beings to support and help each other. He wishes us to care for our families, our community and all the people around us.
When Prophet Muhammad explained Allah’s message to the people he encouraged them to fulfill their duties towards one another. The Prophet taught people to be generous and kind by examples in his own life. He helped people in need and was generous with his time and wealth.
Throughout Ismaili history, since the time of Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali, the Ismaili Imams have taught their followers to act with understanding and care towards fellow human beings. The Imams were patrons of learning and culture during the Fatimid and Alamut periods of Muslim History. They built new cities and towns, and constructed mosques, colleges and libraries. They also supported scholars and scientists in their endeavours.
In recent times during the leadership of the late 48th Ismaili Imam, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, hospitals, maternity homes, clinics, schools and housing projects were established to provide important services for people. Many of the institutions he founded are still serving people today.
Like his grandfather, the present 49th Imam of the Ismailis, Prince Karim Aga Khan, is also working hard to improve the quality of life of his followers and the people amongst whom they live.
The Imam has asked his community to be mindful of the people who are in need, and has reminded them about Islam’s emphasis for their responsibilities towards the poor, the sick, the weak and the elderly.
In keeping with new challenges and issues confronting humanity, the current Aga Khan has created newer and more modern institutions to serve millions of people around the world more effectively. These institutions help people to look after their health, receive a good education, live in decent homes and improve their lives in many other ways such as modernizing in areas like farming and agriculture.
All these institutions that the Aga Khan has created form the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
The institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network derive their impetus from the ethics of Islam which bridge the two realms of the faith, din and dunya, the spiritual and the material.
The central emphasis of Islam’s ethical ideal is enablement of each person to live up to his exalted status as vicegerent of God on earth, in whom God has breathed His own spirit and to whom He has made whatever is in the heavens and the earth, an object of trust and quest.
A person’s ultimate worth depends on how he or she responds to these Divine favours.
Din is the spiritual relationship of willing submission of a reasoning creature to his Lord who creates, sustains and guides. For the truly discerning, the earthly life, dunya, is a gift to cherish in as much as it is a bridge to, and preparation for, the life to come. Otherwise it is an enticement, distracting man from service of God which is the true purpose of life.
Service of God is not only worship, but also service to humanity, and abiding by the duty of trust towards the rest of creation.
Righteousness, says the Holy Qur’an, is not only fulfilling one’s religious obligations. Without social responsibility, religiosity is a show of conceit.
Islam is, therefore, both din and dunya, spirit and matter, distinct but linked, neither to be forsaken. This balance is enshrined in the guidance and work of His Highness the Aga Khan.
Reading adapted from the Ta’lim Series, published by Islamic Publications, UK. The Ta’lim programme is a professionally designed curriculum which is used to impart education to Ismaili children on all aspects of the Islamic Faith, the Shia Ismaili Tariqah and Muslim Civilizations.
For more information about this programme please visit the website of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, www.iis.ac.uk, or click Introduction to the Ta’lim Programme.