“I Wish I’d Been There”
by Ali Mohammad Rajput
I want to be taken back in time when my late father, missionary Inayat Ali, played a crucial role in the early conversion of the Punjab Ismaili jamat, in the second decade of the last century. This was when our forefathers left the gupti dharma (practicing the faith with restraint and in concealment), and recognized Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah, Aga Khan III, as their 48th Imam.
My father described to me in vivid terms how the Imam of the time had invited the leaders of the Punjab and North West Province Frontier (NWFP) gupti jamats to an audience with him at the Imam’s private residence in Mumbai. There were only a dozen or so of the murids who had been selected to go for this trip on behalf of the Jamat. My father was one of them. The time for the Mulaqat was set for midnight, and in total secrecy. The leaders were asked to wait in the garden of the campus in total darkness, and were separated and scattered in such a way that two delegates were not allowed to sit together. Complete silence was observed.
At the midnight hour, when the clock struck twelve, the delegates were summoned to rise and quietly proceed to the audience chamber of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah. The experience and feelings that my father described is similar in all respects to the experience of the first mulaqat of Nasir-Khusraw or Al-Muyyid fid-Din-Shirazi, who have left their account in the pages of history.
My father narrated to me that the delegates were briefed in advance about the etiquettes and manners they were supposed to observe. Our beloved 48th Imam welcomed the delegates, and spoke for nearly half an hour explaining the fundamentals and virtues of Islam. He explained how, for the past ten years, he had elaborated to the jamats of Panjab and NWFP about the truth and virtues of Islam, the sirat-ul-mustakim (straight path) and had allowed these jamats to observe taqiyya (practice the faith in concealment). He said there was no compulsion in matters of Din (religious matters). The period of probation was now over and that he would not be angry whatever path the murids chose to take and he had decided that he could now not allow the jamat to remain gupti (i.e. continue observing the taqiyya).
“You cannot have one leg in one boat and the second leg in another. Now what is your decision?”, the Imam asked.
All the delegates with one voice responded in the affirmative, and the Imam then accepted the Bayah (oath of allegiance) of the delegates. When the turn of my father came, Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah asked him:
“What is your name?”
“Khudavind, my name is Guran Ditta,” replied my father.
“From this day your name is Inayat Ali,” said our beloved 48th Imam.
This remarkable day in our history was narrated in vivid terms by my father as he was an eye witness. He was an active faithful who always spent three months in a year in Darkhana in Bombay. It was an emotional moment for me, when he recounted this incident for me and I Wish I’d Been There for this most auspicious day in my father’s life as well as the life of the Jamats in Punjab and NWPF.
About the writer: Dr Ali Mohammad Rajput was born on Navroz, 21st March, 1924, in Kalianwala, a small village where his father had built the first Jamatkhana in 1910. After completing his early education in a local village school, he pursued his University education at Lahore where he qualified with a Masters in Math and Statistics. In 1954, he had a unique opportunity to have a Mulaqat with Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah who asked him to go to the United Kingdom for further studies at the Imam’s expenses. During his journey to London he met the Imam once again at Yakimour which he says “left a vivid and lasting impression on my life.” He completed his PhD in 1957 in Mathematical Statistics and then another Masters degree in Islamics in 1985 . He retired from his university teaching career in Birmingham in 1983 and has devoted the rest of his life to a better understanding of his faith and service to the Ismaili community. In 1991, the current Imam asked him to visit his headquarters in Aiglemont, where Dr. Rajput was assigned to go on a mission to Tajikistan in March, 1991.
Ever since that time he has been in the service of the people of Badakhshan, where he works as a professor Emeritus at the University of Khorog.
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