THE DIAMOND JUBILEE – SIXTY YEARS OF IMAMAT
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in a message to the Aga Khan Legion Central Committee:
Sixty years have passed to the enthronement of the Imamat, which is a unique occasion. It is an incomparable occasion in the world. No occasion ever occurred in the world history like it.
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah in a message to the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir:
The Ismailia history has passed through several stages of development. My Diamond Jubilee marks such a stage in the present times. With it a phase of consolidation and co-operation has been achieved among my spiritual children in various countries, and now lies ahead a period of goodwill and expansion. With the Diamond Jubilee dawns a new era, full of hopes and opportunities for economics, educational, social and religious uplift of my beloved spiritual children all over the world. It is a time to go ahead and leave a mark on the world history like the glorious Ismailis of the past. Let the Diamond Jubilee message for my spiritual children be that of doing their best and devoting their best in the best cause of their beloved faith….
Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, writing in his Memoirs of Aga Khan:
…The sixtieth anniversary of my inheriting my Imamat and ascending the “Gadi” fell in 1945. But in the troubled conditions at the end of the Second World War it was neither possible nor suitable to arrange any elaborate celebrations of my Diamond Jubilee. We decided to have two ceremonies: one, including the weighing against Diamonds, in Bombay in March 1946, and another five months later, in Dar-es-Salaam, using the same diamonds.
When the time came, world conditions were only just beginning to improve…my followers gathered for a wonderful, and to me at least, quite an unforgettable occasion. There were Ismailis present from all over the Near and Middle East, from Central Asia and China; from Syria and Egypt; and from Burma and Malaya, as well as thousands of my Indian followers. Telegrams and letters of congratulation showered in on me from all over the Islamic world, from the heads of all the independent Muslim nations, and from the viceroy; I was proud and happy man to be thus reunited with those for whom across the years my affection and my responsibility have been so deep and so constant….
Sixty years of the benevolent reign of Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, gave his followers a chance to celebrate his Diamond Jubilee. On December 31, 1945, while speaking to his community’s Legion Central Committee, the Aga Khan said:
“Sixty years have passed to the enthronement of the Imamat, which is a unique occasion. It is an incomparable occasion in the world. No occasion ever occurred in the world history like it.”
Ten years earlier the Ismailis had marked the Golden Jubilee by weighing their Imam in gold – the sum of which was presented to the Imam only to be returned to them for their economic growth.
The Ismailis saw an opportunity to celebrate the jubilee like they had done before, and this time weighing their Imam against diamonds. Two weighing ceremonies were set for 1946 – the first one in Bombay, on March 10th and the second exactly five months later, on August 10th, in Dar-es-Salaam.
THE DIAMOND JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS IN BOMBAY AND DAR-ES-SALAAM; A DIAMOND JUBILEE SPEECH IN DAR-ES-SALAAM; SOME DIAMOND JUBILEE PROJECTS
1.Bombay, Braboune Stadium, 10th March 1946
At a quarter past five on the afternoon of Sunday, March 10, 1946, a deep hush fell upon the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay. Here over 100,000 people, from various parts of the world had come to witness one of those magnificent ceremonies which arouse wonder and amazement in the minds of men. It was on this day, and at this hour, that His Highness the Aga Khan was to be weighed in diamonds to celebrate the sixtieth year of his Imamat. Seldom before can Bombay, even in its pageantry and glory, have looked upon such pompous ceremonies, such splendour and colour. Vast congregations of people lined the routes and filled the great stands surrounding the central platform and figure. The huge multitude present in the ceremony included fourteen ruling princes, among them the Maharajas of Kashmir and Baroda and the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar.
The flags waved and the colours of His Highness – green and red – draped the buildings. For hours before the event the procession passed through the streets of Bombay to the Stadium to await the arrival, first of all, of the high notabilities and personalities who had come to pay homage and to look upon the magnificent spectacle, and then at 5.15 the Aga Khan with his retinue preceded by Her Highness the Begum Om Habiba Mata Salamat, wearing diamond studded sari, gems glittering in the gorgeous sunlight, strode into the arena, mounted the platform and took his place.
One by one the caskets of diamonds were raised on high and shown to the public, then placed on the scales. The scales tipped when 243k lbs. weight of diamonds were so placed. These diamonds were worth 640,000 British Pounds – a gift to His Highness from his many followers in India. His Highness received the gift and in his turn returned it, adding his blessing and his advice that the large sum of money should be used for the betterment of his followers.
Later that night, a magnificent display of fireworks was given at the sea-front.
In a message to Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Year Book, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah said:
“The Ismailia history has passed through several stages of development. My Diamond Jubilee marks such a stage in the present times. With it a phase of consolidation and co-operation has been achieved among my spiritual children in various countries, and now lies ahead a period of goodwill and expansion. With the Diamond Jubilee dawns a new era, full of hopes and opportunities for economics, educational, social and religious uplift of my beloved spiritual children all over the world. It is a time to go ahead and leave a mark on the world history like the glorious Ismailis of the past. Let the Diamond Jubilee message for my spiritual children be that of doing their best and devoting their best in the best cause of their beloved faith.”
2. Dar-es-Salaam: 10 August 1946
From The Khojas:
The flash of diamonds – thousands of diamonds – in small hermetically sealed glass containers, tantalised the huge gathering seated around the high platform erected in the middle of grounds that had been converted into “Diamondabad” in the city of Dar-es-Salaam….The crowd watched spellbound as container after container put on the scale shook the hand and forced it upwards…
The Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Dar-es-Salaam followed in August, 1946. Thousands of people came from all parts of the world, especially India, Europe and the Middle East. Hundreds made the journey by air, thousands by train, by car and by lorry, from all parts of Africa, many enduring hardships as they travelled from Belgian Congo and Uganda. Convoys of cars came from South Africa.The specially chartered mailboat, S.S. Vasna, flying the Ismaili flag, brought many thousands of Ismailis to Dar-es-Salaam. The celebrations lasted 10 days, opening with a ceremony in which Her Highness the Begum, accompanied by Lady Battershill, cut the tape at the official opening of the Jubilee Exhibition Park. Here there were pavilions showing fine needlework and other forms of local craftsmanship, including paintings, woodwork and toy-making. Other pavilions were on health, hygiene, child welfare and domestic science, and others catered to Scout and Girl Guide displays.The lighter side of the Exhibition took on the features of a grand country fair. Merry-go-rounds and miniature railways delighted the young and kept the old entertained. A day was also dedicated to a large procession, which included decorated floats, and a portrayal of the history and activities of the Ismailis.
However the highlight of the celebrations had to be the morning of August 10, 1946 when 70 000 pairs of eyes, mesmerised by the hand on the large round dial of an enormous weighing scale, watched as it inched its way up and up. The flash of diamonds – thousands of diamonds – in small hermetically sealed glass containers, tantalised the huge gathering seated around the high platform erected in the middle of grounds that had been converted into Diamondabad in the city of Dar-es-Salaam.
The first boxes of diamonds were placed on the scales by those who had contributed the highest amounts…Following this there were presentations by school children, bearing banners from all the African territories.
The crowd watched spellbound as container after container put on the scale shook the hand and forced it upwards. Some craned their necks, others squinted, and all focused on the dial, willing more and more diamonds onto the scale as the hand moved clockwise, very slowly towards its target – the weight of the regal person seated at the end of the platform, serenely awaiting the outcome. The Imam’s weight in diamonds would represent a fortune and the weighing-in was a sumptuous display of wealth, power and charity in one spectacular event.
Ismailis from all parts of the world sat tense with suppressed excitement. Finally the weight on the scale matched the weight of the Imam and a tremendous cheer broke from their lips in praise of their leader on the platform, His Highness, Sultan Mohammed Shah Aga Khan. He had succeeded to the Imamate at the age of eight in 1885 and they were celebrating his sixtieth anniversary as Imam.
The Aga Khan, moved by this presentation, explained how the gift would be used.
“As everyone is well aware, the value of these diamonds has been unconditionally presented to me on this occasion. I do not wish to take this money for myself but to use it for any object that I think is best for my spiritual children. After long reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the very best use that I can make of it is that after expenses of these celebrations, in the wider sense of the word, have been paid for, then the whole of the residue must be given as an absolute gift to the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust.”
He told them that the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust had been created to build up “a totally new financial outlook among the Ismailis. Co-operative Societies, Corporations, and, I hope and believe very soon, Building Societies, too, will draw from the Investment Trust sums equal to their capital but at a level of three per cent. And they are not allowed to charge more than six per cent under any conditions from their borrowers.”
With this internal banking system, the Aga Khan was setting up the means to ensure financial security for all his people. Stirred by his wisdom and his concern for them, his followers felt reaffirmed in their faith and in their leader. It was an occasion each individual would cherish forever.
After the weighing-in, the Aga Khan joined his family on the dais where the ceremony continued with speeches and special acknowledgment of the outstanding work of individual Ismailis in the fields of health, education and economic development in various communities throughout the world.
3. Speech, The Folly of Hate and Fear, Dar-es-Salaam, on August 10, 1946, at the Exhibition Theatre
Now one word, if I may be allowed to say it, of general advice to inhabitants here, whatever their race, colour or creed.
I have had some experience of the causes of strife and I was a very active member of the League of Nations and of the Disarmament Conference for some seven years. Why did it fail? Ultimately because of hate. And yet why did people hate each other? Fear. Where there is fear there is no love, but hate easily enters through the windows even if the door is shut.
I appeal to all of you, Africans, Europeans and Indians — do not fear each other. Work together. The country is big enough. There is virgin soil which has hardly been scratched. Unlike China, India and Europe, the population is still very small. We have no need to struggle for existence here for a century at least, so why foresee trouble for your great-grandchildren. There may be none. Thanks to the atom bomb and the progress of knowledge and science. And if things take a turn for good instead of evil, then the new forces of nature, we are certain, will make human relations easier and give each and all security.
To-day, strife here on racial lines is imaginary. The onlooker sees most of the game, and I have been here an onlooker. There is no getting away from it — if you will throw fear out of your minds and you will soon realise that white, black and brown are complementary members of a common body politic.
4. Diamond Jubilee Projects
His Highness the Aga Khan speaking at the Aga Khan Academy Foundation Ceremony, Karimabad, Hunza, May 13, 1983:
My Silver Jubilee is a celebration of years which have passed, but it is fitting that it should be commemorated by laying foundations for the future. As Ahmedali Merchant has reminded us, it was here that My Grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohammed Shah Aga Khan, initiated our education network for the Northern Areas. He did this with faith in the future. It therefore gives Me great pleasure that today we are inaugurating a completely new development in the system he originated…
Wrote Pakistan’s Dawn Newspaper:
…The single-most important factor that transformed the educational scene in Hunza was the contribution of Aga Khan III, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah. It was in 1946 that some 16 schools were established. They were called the Diamond Jubilee schools and they set the right momentum for bringing changes to education in Hunza….
(a) What is now known as the Diamond Trust Bank of Kenya was incorporated in 1946 as the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust (DJIT) to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the ascension to the Imamat by the late Aga Khan III. DJIT’s shares were subscribed by the Ismaili Community as well as the Aga Khan.
(b) In 1947, following India’s Independence from the British, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, established the Diamond Jubilee High School for Boys. Over the years, the School has established itself as an institution offering quality education to children of varied backgrounds and cultures.
(c) The Diamond Jubilee High School in Hyderabad, a co-educational English medium school, currently educates 1040 students from pre-primary through grade 10. The Primary School is situated at Nampally Station Road while the main school building is located at Chirag Ali Lane, beside the Collectorate office. The School was established in 1949 by the Youngmen Ismailia Education Board.
(d) Those who are familiar with the difficult terrain and relatively scarce resources in Hunza would be pleasantly surprised to know that the literacy rate in Hunza is around 77 per cent. This must have been unthinkable when the first primary school was established there in 1913 by the British in India. The single-most important factor that transformed the educational scene in Hunza was the contribution of Aga Khan III, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, who convinced the then Mirs of Hunza state to place greater emphasis on education.
It was in 1946 that some 16 schools were established. They were called the Diamond Jubilee schools and they set the right momentum for bringing changes to education in Hunza. Diamond Jubilee Schools for girls were also set up throughout the remote Northern Areas of Pakistan. In addition, scholarship programmes established at the time of the Golden Jubilee to give assistance to needy students were progressively expanded.
For platinum jubilee please click:
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. The Khojas A Vanished Community, for description of the weighing ceremony in Dar-es-Salaam, blog entry at http://gonashgo.blogspot.com
2. A Tribute to Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, by Bashir F. Ladha, Ilm magazine, November 1977, Volume 3 Number 2, Ismailia Association for the U.K. (now Ismaili Tariqah and religious Education Board)
3. Diamond Jubilee of Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali, http://www.articlesbase.com
4. Web site of the Aga Khan Development Network, http://www.akdn.org
5. Folly of Hate and Fear from The Aga Khan and Africa by Habib V. Keshavjee, Pretoria, 1946, and also Tanganyika Stamdard, Dar-es-Salaam, 11 August 1946.
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