Saturday, October 19, 1957, will remain a memorable and an eventful day in the history of the Ismailis. Dar-es-Salaam, usually quiet and peaceful as its name suggests, suddenly found itself bubbling all over with life and excitement. The city was in a festive mood as thousands of Ismailis from all around the country and abroad poured into the city to witness the colourful and historic Takht-Nashini ceremonial installation of Shah Karim al-Hussayni, His Highness The Aga Khan IV, direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad (SAWS), as their Imam-e-Zaman (Imam of the Age), forty ninth in the line of Hazrat Mawlana Murtaza Ali (AS).
A day that at first appeared to be cloudy and showery turned out to be a pleasant day with clear blue skies and a gentle cool breeze blowing from the Indian Ocean.
The site on which Upanga Jamat Khana presently stands was the venue of the first of a number of similar Takht-Nashini ceremonies to be held in Africa and the Indo-Pak sub-continent. Ismailis started arriving at the grounds from the early morning hours and by noon the ground was jam-packed. The number of non-Ismailis who showed up for the festive occasion was far greater than had been anticipated and when an appeal was made to the Ismailis to give up their seats for the guests, it was met with an immediate response in a most disciplined manner as expected of them.
In the gaily festooned grandstands, leaders of the Ismaili community in their gold turbans and crimson robes moved about the crowd and looked as colourful as their womenfolk in flowering saris of a hundred shades lavishly embroidered with gold and silver thread and sparkling diamante. There were hundreds of children, too, among the crowd. Some were bewildered and baffled, some looked for friends and made merry whilst the very tiny ones slept peacefully in their mothers’ arms.
The houses around the area provided wonderful grandstand view of the whole proceedings. Their decorated balconies were packed with people and many more stood and sat on the roof tops, unmindful of any dangers.
Mata Salamat (Begum Aga Khan), Prince Aly S. Khan (Mawlana Hazar Imam’s father) and Princess Tajudaulah (Mawlana Hazar Imam’s mother) were given a rousing welcome as they came and took their seats.
President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania (then President of TANU), Governor and Lady Twining, Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd, the Colonial Secretary (now Lord Boyd), Prince Seyyid Abdulla, representing his father, the Sultan of Zanzibar, Sir Bruce and Lady Hutt, Mayor of Dar-es-Salaam, the Liwali, Councillors and many other prominent people were among the distinguished guests.
A thunderous applause and shouts of “Nara-e Takbeer – Allah -o- Akbar” greeted the arrival of Mawlana Hazar Imam.
Clad in a white high-necked tunic, black trousers and astrakhan cap, Mawlana Hazar Imam mounted the dais upon which the 48th Imam, Hazrat Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, was weighed in diamonds in 1946. Having taken his seat in full-view of the huge gathering, Mawlana Hazar Imam gave his permission to commence the ceremony with the recitation of verses from the Holy Qur’an.
P. V. Rajani, the President of the Ismaili Supreme Council for Tanganyika, then performed the robbing ceremony by putting the red and grey robe over the shoulders of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The robe had been worn by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah during his Jubilee celebrations. The Chief Mukhi of Dar-es-Salaam, Najmuddin Devji, made the presentation of the black astrakhan cap to which was pinned a golden ‘taj’ inlaid with 49 diamonds and precious stones.
The beautifully ornamented and jewelled ‘Sword of Justice’ was placed in the hands of Mawlana Hazar Imam by Count Fatehali Dhahla. This sword was also worn by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah when he was installed the Imam and signified that Imam is the ‘Defender of the Faith.’
Count A. G. Abdulhussein then presented Mowlana Hazar Imam with a golden chain with 49 links which represented the lineal descent of the Imam.
The last of the pageant rites was performed by President Hassinati Kassum of the Ismailia Provincial Council who mounted the dais and placed a signet ring on the finger of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The ring had been used as a seal for communications from Imams to his Murids (followers) throughout Ismaili history, particularly during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries and specially to communicate with the Ismailis who were difficult to contact in places such as Central Asia where extra authority, apart from signature, was needed.
Then came the addresses from the Jamat and members of other communities. The address from the Ismaili Jamat of Tanganyika was presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam in a beautiful carved ivory casket bearing 49 golden studs and surmounted with an ornate gold crown and orb.
Mawlana Hazar Imam then rose to address the Jamat and to thank the people of Dar-es-Salaam for the welcome given to him. Mawlana Hazar Imam Imam spoke of the unbounded sources of energy which would be made available to mankind and of the changes that would surely come with them, and added:
“I shall devote my life to guiding the community in all the problems which these rapid changes will bring in their wake.”
The ceremony ended with a march past by the Aga Khan Pipe Band and the Aga Khan Scouts Band. Mawlana Hazar Imam then greeted the distinguished guests before he returned to Government House.
Takht-Nashini ceremonies were also held in Nairobi (Kenya) on October 22, 1957; Kampala (Uganda) on October 25, 1957; Karachi (Pakistan) on January 23, 1958; Dacca (East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) on February 12, 1958 and in Mumbai (India) on March 11, 1958.
Above narrative adapted by Simerg from “An Historical Event Twenty Years Ago,” published in Ilm, July 1977, Volume 3, Number 1.
Watch Karachi enthronement at http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=35056
Watch Mumbai enthronement http://www.britishpathe.com/record.php?id=60568
Simerg also invites you to read a selection of articles on Imamat published on this Web site:
The Munajat – Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas
“Dazzled by the Light” – An Encounter with the Imam of the Time
The Devotion of Nizar Quhistani
Beholding the Face of the Imam
The Historical Roots of Imamat
Doctrine of Imamat During the Fatimid Period
Imam as Divine Guide, Proof of God and Source of Salvation in Ismaili Ginanic Literature
The Noor of Imamat
Imams are Ships of Salvation
The Imam, Manifest in the World
Where there is Bliss and Prosperity
Beholding the Face of the Imam
Pir Sadr al-Din on the Beatific Vision of the Imam
Spiritual Enlightenment Under the Imam’s Guidance