New Video: An Inspiring Moment that Will Never Be Forgotten as Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Blesses Murids in Kyrgyzstan

“I wish you all success, good health, happiness, everything you wish, everything you wish for, Best Blessings.” – Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Please see one minute video footage from October 19, 2016, below.


By Abdulmalik Merchant

Mawlana Hazar Imam pictured at the Olympia Hall, London, during his weeklong visit to the United Kingdom Jamat in September 1979. Seated next to him on the stage are Mukhi Noordin Jivraj and Kamadia Nizar Dhanani. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured at the Olympia Hall, London, during his weeklong visit to the United Kingdom Jamat in September 1979. Seated next to him on the stage are Mukhi Noordin Jivraj and Kamadia Nizar Dhanani. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

Some 37 years ago, my dad (Alwaez Rai Jehangir Merchant) wrote a piece for Ilm magazine on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s memorable week long visit to the United Kingdom jamats held at the beginning of September 1979. He mentioned about the unbounded joy originating from the souls of the members of the UK Ismailis when the visit was announced with a talika read in Jamatkhanas on July 7th, 1979. Then, describing the last few moments of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s final day of his seven day memorable stay in England, my dad wrote:

“In his infinite mercy and grace, Mawlana Hazar Imam then blessed the jamat for happiness, good health, unity, success in spiritual happiness, success in worldly happiness and for remaining on the Straight Path. What more would the mu’mins wish? Their Imam, their beloved Mawla had blessed them munificently. Tears were streaming from their eyes in reverence and devotion for their beloved Mawla for the immense love he had shown towards them….Very slowly and graciously, Mawla walked all around the [Olympia] hall to be as near to his spiritual children as possible for the last time during this visit. When he arrived at the exit of the hall, he majestically turned towards his spiritual children, stood there in all his glory for one brief moment, showered his Noor on the whole assembly of souls and then moved away from the sight of his beloved spiritual children who had all made him so very very happy.”

I mention this anecdote because something remarkable and inspiring happened a few days ago on October 19, 2016 in Kyrgyzstan as Mawlana Hazar Imam visited the new Naryn campus of the University of Central Asia. An amateur video footage that we have received captures the excitement, uncontrollable joy, happiness and emotion from a group of Ismaili murids as Mawlana Hazar Imam most graciously walks over to them, and from a very close distance, with hands stretched out, graciously and lovingly blesses them with the following words:

“I wish you all success, good health, happiness, everything you wish, everything you wish for, Best Blessings.”

The voices that we hear in the footage as Mawlana Hazar Imam steps in the direction of his followers (“Ya Hazar Imam”), and when he leaves them after fulfilling their dreams and filling their hearts, minds and souls with peace and unbounded spiritual happiness is a testament to the faith and love that each and every Ismaili around the world holds for his or her beloved Imam.


Inshallah, the jamats all over the world will be blessed with the Imam’s Holy Deedar during the forthcoming Diamond Jubilee Celebration as we commemorate 60 years of his glorious and magnificent reign as our 49th Imam on July 11, 2017.

It is not in vain that Ismaili Pirs and missionaries wrote how fortunate the Ismaili people are to attain the recognition of the Imam of the Time, who is the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.). Pir Sadardin wrote:

Eji Anand anand kariyo rikhisaro,
Awwal Shah tamey paya

Rejoice! O you who are on the True Path, rejoice!
For you have the Supreme Master.

On that note, we convey our heartiest felicitations and mubaraki to everyone who was present in Naryn to gain the Imam’s blessings, and wish to express our heartful thanks to the individual who has shared this video with us for the benefit of all our readers.

Date posted: October 21, 2016.


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His Highness the Aga Khan’s “Enduring Commitment to Afghanistan” – Watch Videos of Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan


His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan (right) with His Highness the Aga Khan, Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network and 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims. Photo: European Union. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, is attending the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan on Wednesday, 5 October, 2016. The conference is being co-hosted by the European Union and Afghanistan. Like previous conferences, this conference is the opportunity to signal sustained political and financial support to Afghan peace, state-building and development. Mawlana Hazar Imam has contributed significantly towards these purposes over the past several years, and has participated and spoken at previous such conferences held around the world.

We are pleased to provide links to videos of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s presence at the conference in Brussels, including his bilateral meetings with conference attendees, a “family photo” of conference participants and the statement that he has made.








If you encounter technical problems in watching any of the videos, please visit

Date posted: October 5, 2016.


For more photos and videos of the conference please visit

A Defining Moment – His Highness the Aga Khan on Strengths of a Global Citizen; (Transcript) the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in Conversation with the Ismaili Imam; and Medal Symbolism

By Abdulmalik Merchant
(Publisher-Editor,, and


Photo: The Ismaili/Lisa Sakulensky. Copyright. Note: Superimposition of text on photo by Simerg.

There were many cherishable and memorable moments on Wednesday, September 21, 2016, at   Koerner Hall in Toronto when the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship was presented to His Highness the Aga Khan. World renowned vocalist and songwriter Rufus Wainwright welcomed the audience with a wonderful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah. We were reminded by Rufus that September 21 also marked Cohen’s birthday – his 82nd. A video of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s congratulatory message to His Highness Aga Khan received a big applause from the packed auditorium hall, as did the actual presentation of the unique award to His Highness by Madame Clarkson. This was followed by her welcome speech and the 49th Ismaili Imam’s words of wisdom.


The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, Canada’s 26th Governor General from 1999-2005, awarding the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship to His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, in Toronto on September 21, 2016. Photo: The Ismaili/Vazir Karsan. Copyright.

But of all the absorbing moments that the event offered, there was one defining moment in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speech that I took to my heart. In concluding his speech, Mawlana Hazar Imam defined what it takes for each one of us to be a Global Citizen. He said:

“These are just a few thoughts as I look to the future of Global Citizenship. The challenges, in sum, will be many and continuing. What will they require of us?

“A short list might include these strengths: a vital sense of balance, an abundant capacity for compromise, more than a little sense of patience, an appropriate degree of humility, a good measure of forgiveness, and, of course, a genuine welcoming of human difference.”

It was with reference to this last sentence that Madame Clarkson then began her conversation with Mawlana Hazar Imam. The following is a transcript that Simerg has prepared from an audio recording of the event, and we invite our readers to view the video of the wonderful event through the links that we have provided at the bottom of this page.

(Prepared by Simerg from an audio recording)


His Highness the Aga Khan and the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in conversation following the presentation of the Global Citizenship Award to the Ismaili Imam on September 21, 2016, in Toronto. Photo: The Ismaili/Lisa Sakulensky. Copyright. Ismaili.

Adrienne Clarkson: Thank you so much for those words. They are so well thought out, and over the years as we have known each other, I am always impressed by your deep sense of humane commitment and feeling that you have when you talk about things like forgiveness, and that, that is part of what we are as a society……One of the things I am very interested in, and I think everybody here is interested too, is in the fact that you put so much faith in Canada; that you have put institutions in Canada, like the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa….And you have also put the Imamat in Ottawa. And when I think about it, I think: Is that because in 1972, we welcomed so many Ismailis. Is that the beginning of it, or is there something else about us: Is it that you are a secret fan of Mackenzie King.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: No, I think the answer to that is that as I look at the world around us, and I ask myself what would define countries where I would like to see my community reside. The first word that comes to my mind is countries of opportunity. And I believe Canada is one of the greatest countries of opportunity.

Adrienne Clarkson: I think that is true, and certainly the Ismaili community in Canada has made the most of the opportunities which all people who come to this country have. And that is the reason why I think people understand once they get here: that there lives are going to be different. And that is one of the interesting things too about what you talk about to the Jamat, to the community. And I think something that people should realise in the rest of Canada that you have your community, and it is very important; but that you emphasise how important it is to be part of the world outside your community. And why do you do that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Well, I have to go back to 1957. In 1957, many of the countries where my community was living were colonies. And those countries needed to go through the process of independence, needed to find the pathways forwards towards peace, towards development. And I have asked myself: How do countries achieve that? And if you go back to 1957, you look at the map of our world, and you try to define where all these countries that have now become independent, have created opportunity; I think one has to say that that has not been very successful.

Adrienne Clarkson: What have been the barriers? What are the barriers?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Oh, I think there is a multitude of barriers. First of all, I suppose national resources would be a major issue. The second would be the level of human ability within a given country, whether it has a human ability to develop its resources, to build opportunity. So in that sense we are looking at processes of change. And they have occurred; they have occurred. There are today countries of opportunity which either did not exist or one would not have thought of as being countries of opportunity in 1957 when my grandfather died.

Adrienne Clarkson: And that has changed.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: That has changed.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, you have had a lifetime of opportunity to see that. It is very rare to meet somebody who has had such an effect on the world, not only on a group of people, but in the world. Because that is what you have made it in sixty years. Next year will be your sixtieth anniversary as the Imam. And in sixty years, you have seen development, you have made development happen, you made resources available to places where there were absolutely no resources. And in doing that, it cannot have been easy to decide where that would happen, to decide who would be the collaborators, to bring along people who could understand and have the capacity to help with that development. How did you go about doing that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: [I think] what you try to do is look at circumstances on an on-going basis. And then you work through what I would call predictability, and you try to project into the future what countries have the ability to follow the path of peace and development. And where there are situations which are potentially difficult, and that, of course, is something which changes practically every day; and, of course, it has changed a lot since 1957.

Adrienne Clarkson: And they did not teach you that at Harvard.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I am not sure what they taught me at Harvard.

Adrienne Clarkson: We all wonder what we learned at university and how that was relevant to anything that we are doing today. But I think what is interesting in what you have been saying over the last, particularly over the last decade in your speeches, in your writings is that ignorance that we have. And I am always struck by the fact that we are, we speak out of such ignorance in a so-called western developed world, particularly about Islam. We do not know the varieties of the Muslim world at all, we seem not to be even interested in it, and the more people shout about it, the worse it becomes, because it is as though we shut out everything that could be various, that could be different, that could have any kind of nuance in it. How do you mitigate against that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think probably the first step would be to extract from Islamic history, from Islamic philosophy the great names, the great thinkers, the great astronomers, the great scientists, the great medical figures, who have influenced global knowledge. I remember courses which taught general humanities. And those general humanities caused one to read in French, or Italian, or German, or English. Arabic! Never heard of it; Urdu! Never heard of it; Farsi! We do not even know what that is. So, it was a frightening vacuum in general education at the time. And I think that that vacuum has had terrible results.

Adrienne Clarkson: No, of course it has. It is ridiculous. I mean, we met only a few years ago, William Polk who was the first translator of the great epic Bedouin poem. And to think that only practically in the 21st century did we have access to that in translation is frightening, almost. A lacunae of knowledge. Not even accessible to us in any way.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: And that I think is one of the really serious issues – is that the cultures of Islam, of the Islamic world are not present in global cultural (let us say, how would I call it) presence.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, of course, you have given us an enormous gift to Toronto in the Aga Khan Museum and the Jamatkhana, which is now virtually in the geographic centre of Metropolitan Toronto. And I think by those wonderful Islamic gardens with the pools of water, but using native Canadian trees, and native Canadian plants. I always think of you as somebody with a motto of: No idea too big, no detail too small. Because I know how you look at everything: you know, the grouting in the marble, the bulbs that will be planted, the colours of the bulbs. And, of course, that is an enriching thing for you to have that detail in your life, but also I think it enriches us. And when I think of the role that beauty and culture play in the message that you have to the world, I think we are enormously grateful to you…..


His Highness the Aga Khan and the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in conversation following the presentation of the Global Citizenship Award to the Ismaili Imam. on September 21, 2016 in Toronto. Photo: Simerg.

(The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson then went on to describe the restoration work carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture at the Humayun Gardens in New Delhi and the Babur Gardens in Kabul as well as the creation of Cairo’s new Al-Azhar Park from a site that had been used for many centuries as a landfill. The description is being skipped here. – Editor).

Adrienne Clarkson……..Why do you think beauty is so important to us, even when there are so many other needs around?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Well, I think, all faiths express themselves in some cultural form or the other. And Islam is a faith which has expressed itself in cultural manifestations over centuries in different parts of the world. And I think it is very important that those manifestations should be seen and should be, I hope, admired, and that they should inspire young people who are talented young architects, land planners, whatever it may be. So that they can inspire their own buildings with a sense of continuity, but of our time. And I think it is very important that we not try to plagiarise history. (Laughter). I would get a, what would it be, a D or an E at Harvard for plagiarization.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, of course, when you restore things or you make things new, you have to always avoid that. You have to say I am making something new. And that does not seem to fill you with any kind of fear.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: No, I think that every people in every given time should be encouraged to express themselves. And I remember that when the Pyramid was built in the Louvre, in the courtyard of the Louvre, there was immense debate as to whether this was appropriate or not. Well, it is there!

Adrienne Clarkson: Yes, yes, it is there. When we look at the world today….The rise of the Hard Right, of the really almost Fascist movements, reminds us sadly of times in the 1930s, and we have to really watch that because all that is to raise fear in people. And once fear rules people, they become blinded to all kinds of things. How do you deal with that? How do we deal with the fear?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think in this particular case, the issue is whether these countries have been willing to prepare themselves for this situation. Canada is a country that has permanent preparation. It is the way the country thinks. It welcomes people to come from outside, it has the institutions to support them when they arrive. It helps them integrate into Canadian society. That is not true of many western European countries, because they are facing economic constraint, because there are social tensions in various European countries also. Northern Europe does not speak the same language as Southern Europe, nor do they face the same problems. So I think we are living at a time when there are real difficulties, and my sense is that they are going to have to be analysed and solutions are going to have to be found. Because the movement of people is not going to stop. I do not see that stopping. It is driven by a number of factors, and I think in many of the countries which are sending people to Europe today, are dealing with populations who are seeking opportunity. There is a great sense of lack of opportunity. Opportunity is next door, it is not (around).

Adrienne Clarkson: (You know) When you were named as Imam in your grandfather’s will, he said he felt that he had to appoint somebody who was a young man, a man who was born in the atomic age, that is, the age of the 20th and 21st century. Has that influenced the way you think of things? Do you think of things in terms of a kind of millennial way, because you were appointed so young and you took on those duties so young. You knew you were expected to do something different. That is implicit in that will.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Right. At the time and even today, many of the questions that I ask myself and that I discuss with members of my community is medium- and long-term projecting. Where are we going? And are we going in the right direction in various countries? Are we being equitable in relation to the demography of the community? Are we over-committing in certain parts of the world and under-committing in others? Are there circumstances in regions which make it impossible for our institutions to function? Or, on the contrary, are there countries that would welcome them? So we are looking at, let’s say, a semi-global situation on an on-going basis. So, in that sense, we are looking at how to plan. And planning, I think, in our case requires institutional initiative. We need to get our institutions in place before people decide to move.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, that is the point. You are there before!

Mawlana Hazar Imam: We try.

Adrienne Clarkson: You are there before, because you have to then predict and you have to then say we are going to be out front, and when the tide is ready we will have the port built, so that the ships can arrive. How do you do that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: You pray that Idi Amin never comes back!

Adrienne Clarkson: Yes. Well, let’s hope that that was only once in a hundred years, at least. But the idea of a threat to so many people comes up over and over again. I mean we know more about it now, because we have instant communications. So we know when whole groups are threatened, when things happen like that. But, you know, the ignorance that I talked about earlier is almost terrifying. That people do not understand the Muslim world whatsoever. And they do not understand, as you touched on in your speech, they do not understand the differences in the Muslim world. They have never read the Koran, they would not think of reading it or taking a study course in it. And I think that sort of thing really means that ignorance is promulgated and continued. And then, you know when very careless media add to that, then you really do not understand. Also, the other thing that I always like to point out is that Islam is six hundred years younger than Christianity. So, Christians should think, you know, what was Christianity like in the 15th century. And who was talking then? And how were they divided? It is very interesting to think of it in the cycles of history, as opposed to, just thinking, it is now and we are all the same and we are all equal, etc. We are not, really, because we have different heritages.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: That is true, but there was also a lot of inter-faith communication in the Middle Ages.

Adrienne Clarkson: That is right. The inter-faith communication is..

Mawlana Hazar Imam: A great deal [of inter-faith communication], particularly in the field of mystic faith.

Adrienne Clarkson: Mysticism!

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes.

Adrienne Clarkson: Linking Sufism and so on with Christian mysticism.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes. Personal search.

Adrienne Clarkson: Why have we lost that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Probably, the requirements of modern life.

Adrienne Clarkson: Can we do anything about it? Should we be trying? Is that one of the things we should be trying, besides thinking of development, besides thinking of, you know, creating universities and schools. Can we do that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think we need to reflect over is generosity in society. Our faith, the faith of Islam teaches generosity. But, I think it is very important that generosity should be part of public psyche.

Adrienne Clarkson: And that means being brought up with it.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Means being brought up with it. Means recognising those in need of help. Means creating institutions to deliver that help. And, obviously, in poor countries, it is very difficult to achieve. But it should be a goal.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, the problem is that the gap between rich and poor is growing and growing and growing, and not just in the developing world, but in the developed world. That is one of the real problems now for us, I think, as a society in the West is that disparity between the haves and have-nots. And the more that grows, the more unjust society becomes. And there seems to be very little that people want to do about that, very little that they really want to do about it. And things become charity. Charity is not the right way to go about it; development is the right vehicle now, surely.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes. Well, in the faith of Islam the best charity is to give, to enable an individual or a family to become independent of their economic destiny. That is known as the best charity.

Adrienne Clarkson: How often is it? Does it happen?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I honestly do not know. I would have to ask our bankers.

Adrienne Clarkson: As a final thing, I would like to ask you: What do you really think will happen now in the medium term for our future as we see Britain wanting to leave Europe, as we see the rise of very hard Right in the European countries, as we see what is happening in the United States, which is hardly even mentionable. What can we hope for now? How can we as individuals who really want to make things better, as we are faced with all of this, how does it happen, for us now?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think we have to offer rational people, options. I think it is very important to put in front of public opinion, good options. Alternatives.

Adrienne Clarkson: Different ways of behaviour.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Different ways of behaving.

Adrienne Clarkson: And how do we do that? How do we make that? Is that through education? Is that through incentives? What is it? How is it done?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think it is through men and women coming forward to take positions of leadership. I think it is institutions who need to engage, rather than let the field open to anything. And, I have been very impressed since 1957 in developing countries, when elections had to be held or were held in circumstances where you would assume that the population did not have access to the information they would have, in our view, needed to express themselves rationally and competently. Well, I got it wrong. They are very, very wise. Public wisdom is not dependent on education.

Adrienne Clarkson: You are practically talking about Jung’s collective unconscious there. Is that, that there is a kind of wisdom that people share.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes.

Adrienne Clarkson: Because of their common humanity.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Because of the common humanity. Because of the common circumstance in which they are living.

Adrienne Clarkson: But does that bring us hope – as, you know, a collection of your speeches as ‘Where Hope Takes Root”. Is that where hope will take root?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes. I believe so. But it means that decision makers have to be responsive.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, it is very discouraging often when you look at the people who are elected in public office in different countries and the countries seem to vote for people that will harm them the most. Often, this is the most discouraging when you see in a democratic situation, even in free ones, where people will vote for something that is going to really harm them, and they do not seem to realise that it is very, very difficult, very difficult even because we have freedom of the press, we have enormous freedoms, particularly in North America and most of Europe. We have all those freedoms and yet we are in the dilemma that we are…Does that come back to the individual and their ability to do things?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think it comes back to the way the individual, or the family, rather than the individual, evaluate their position in society at a given time. Ultimately, the basic issue is: How does a family feed itself and educate the children, generation after generation? It is that clear, it is that important. And if society is able to provide that for the totality of the population in a given country, that is already a very sound foundation. But that is a condition sine qua non for a country to move ahead. If you have pockets of poverty, if you have populations or groups of populations who are marginalised, you are looking at a series of issues that one year are going to blow up. The predictability of crisis, in my view, in Third World countries is much higher than people would believe.

Adrienne Clarkson: You could predict them.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: You can predict them.

Adrienne Clarkson: Then why do not we avert them?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Ah, that is a different question. I think predicting them is something that you can do, averting them does depend on a lot of different issues. That is not always easy.

Adrienne Clarkson: Thank you so much, Your Highness.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Thank you. Thank you.




The medal presented to His Highness the Aga Khan for the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship was sculpted by Anna Williams. The photo and her statement (below) are from the program booklet “Six Degrees Citizen Space 2016,” published by

“Adrienne Clarkson asked me to create a medal for the Prize for Global Citizenship. I had the idea of bringing together the world of creation with that of the great mythological winged deities. Sedna is the Inuit goddess from whom all creatures of the sea spring. Atlanta, Nike, Lilith and the winged bearers of souls in Norse lore, the Valkyrie, each exist in an imperfect world. But through their strength, intelligence, independence, and compassion, they have created an iconography of champions and dissenters. Each in their own way is unyielding and stands apart as they chart a new course against buffeting waves. In the narrative of this medal, Sedna the creator emerges from the waves to pass a vulnerable world to the outstretched arms of our winged guardian.” — Anna Williams, sculptor.

Date posted: September 22, 2016.
Last updated: September 23, 2016, 15:25 (new photos added, completion of interview transcript and artist statement for Global Citizenship Medal).


Please visit and for extended coverage of the presentation ceremony.

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.



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.


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?


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” 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 [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.


“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 

[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.

His Highness the Aga Khan: A Visual and Textual Celebration, 1957-2017 @Barakah

Please click on photo or

© Ulstein Bild, Getty Images, 1960. Please click on photo for Barakah.

© Ulstein Bild, Getty Images, 1960. Please click on photo for Barakah.


In fifty-two weeks, on 11th July, 2017, Ismailis around the world, along with the wider societies within which they live, will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the accession to the Imamat of His Highness the Aga Khan. Over the course of the next year, Simerg’s new website, Barakah, will illustrate the remarkable and inspiring life of His Highness the Aga Khan through a unique project titled “His Highness the Aga Khan: A Visual and Textual Celebration, 1957-2017.”

Barakah will include rare photographs, eyewitness accounts, descriptive essays, in-depth articles, insightful interviews, detailed timelines, as well as audio and video recordings.

His Highness the Aga Khan, direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter, became the forty-ninth hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims at the age of twenty on 11th July, 1957.

Date posted: July 14, 2016.


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Copyright notice: The photo of His Highness the Aga Khan shown above is reproduced under a licensing arrangement with Getty Images. Reproduction or distribution of the photo without prior written permission from Getty Images is strictly prohibited.

Intezaar, 11th July 2016 Leading to 11th July 2017: The Guiding Light of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Diamonds Faceted Jubilee_s


This Imamat Day
O Mawla

Is a promise for a thirsty heart
Innumerable will be the facets of the Diamond Jubilee
As we in anticipation await humble of heart
Make us worthy of this blessing
O Mawla a prayer rises from my heart

At the feet of Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah
An innocent babe in naive anticipation
Your guiding light has lit the path
Path eased with access to health education
Let knowledge lead us to sat bhudhi
O Mawla a prayer emanates from my heart

Your protective shade sent light
Throughly the windows of our schools
Your wisdom in wise words led every step
Your vision sent us succour with words of hope
Your guiding hand gave hope after Uganda
A prayer of gratitude leaves my heart

Still you guide us through the bridge of River Panj
Through Syria to the Hindu Kush
From East To the West in every direction
Your helping hand O Mawla opens our heart
This four day life journey is so ephemeral
It is enriched by the Light of
Your Ever-present Noor- e-Ali

Oh Mawla we look towards thee
With empathetic hearts our face turns
To the Alfa and Omega of our life
Your ishara with vision and ‘aql
Enables door upon door to open up for us
To guide us into that which is the qalb
To beckon a prayer from our heart

O Mawla make us worthy of the trust you place
In our actions which often trip
In our words which wisdom oft lack
Keep us balanced in din and dunya
We pray from our heart

O Mawla our hands are raised
All ready to receive the pearls
Of wisdom, vision , love and ever caring hand
We are in intezaar of your
Diamond Faceted Jubilee
A prayer of gratitude leaves my heart

As we await let our zikr lead to fikr
Cleanse our hearts so it may sing
The praise of all human and sentient beings
Our life will be the lighter for
The aid you have given in years before
We beseech in prayer from
Our heart

Let our intellect understand unity
That we are all from One Soul
Let us internalise this oneness
So that our heart is prepared
In joyful presence to celebrate the Jubillee
A prayer from each heart

Lead us to fana through forgiveness to transcend
So we stand worthy of the many faceted diamond
In word and in deed in intention and action
O Mawla all this so we can raise
Our hands with a prayer from the heart

Our heads are held up high for you are our pride
As we are yours to fly your flag
Up high in all direction proud the world over
O Alfa O Omega the Ever-present
O Mawla we beseech that this
Diamond Faceted Jubillee
Be a diamond of Almas
Is our prayer rendered from the heart

Date posted: July 9, 2016.


Diamond Photo: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Glossary of terms used in the poem:

  • Almas – Muslim baby name, also means diamond.
  • Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
  • din and dunya – sacred and profane, religion and world.
  • fana – annihilation of the self.
  • fikr -contemplation, deep thought and reflection.
  • Imamat Day – the day an Ismaili Imam succeeds as his community’s spiritual leader by the designation (nass) of his predecessor.
  • ishara – sign, gesture.
  • Mawla – Master. Here the reference is to the current 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan, whose 60 years of reign will be celebrated on July 11, 2017.
  • Noor-e-Ali – Light of Ali (or the Light of Imamat).
  • qalb – heart
  • sat budh – pure knowledge or understanding of true essence or true nature of things.
  • Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah (d. 1957) – the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis.
  • zikr – remembrance of Allah, form of special devotion.

With His Highness the Aga Khan As Role Model, Ismaili Educators Provide Hope for Marginalized Children in Nairobi

“A great school will educate its students not merely to be personally successful but also to use their gifts to build their communities and enhance the common good to levels beyond our dreams.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Mombasa Aga Khan Academy Inauguration, December 20, 2003.

PLEASE CLICK: A Civil Society Endeavour: Ismaili Educators Helping Educate Marginalised Children in Nairobi

Please click on photo for story

Please click on photo for story

Inspired by His Highness the Aga Khan’s messages on education, a team of dedicated Ismaili educators set out to establish a school in Nairobi for poor children to give them a head start. Their vision is in keeping with the ethic of generosity in Islam, which is explained by Mawlana Hazar Imam as follows:

“Islam has a very clear message about the different forms of generosity. There is that with regard to the poor, which takes the form of gifts. But the recipient remains poor. There exists a second form of generosity that contributes to growing the independence of the person. This concept, in which the goal is to make the person the master of their destiny, is the most beneficial in the eyes of Allah.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, L’Express interview, July 4, 2007.

PLEASE CLICK: A Civil Society Endeavour: Ismaili Educators Helping Educate Marginalised Children in Nairobi

Date posted: June 12, 2016.


Premji Vaghela, Now a Centenarian, Shares Early Memories of Cricket in Dar-es-Salaam and a Rare Historical Photo of His Highness the Aga Khan

Editor’s note: Naren Varambhia, an avid reader of Simerg residing in London, England, recently brought to our attention a piece on cricket which Premji Vaghela had contributed for a “Dar-es-Salaam Jambo Reunion” that took place in Toronto, Canada, on August 9-10, 1997.

Mr. Premji Vaghela is now a hundred years old and lives in Toronto, Canada: Photo: Premji Vaghela Collection. Copyright.

Mr. Premji Vaghela is now a hundred years old and lives in Toronto, Canada: Photo: Premji Vaghela Collection. Copyright.

We are pleased to publish this highly interesting piece after contacting Mr. Vaghela’s sons, Rajnikant and Niranjan of London and Toronto respectively. We learnt from them that their beloved father has been living in Toronto since 1985, and that the family celebrated his 100th birthday last December! We offer our good wishes to Mr. Vaghela and his entire family for this blessing of a long life.

Both Rajni and Niru mentioned that they have stayed in touch with several Dar-es-Salaam cricketers, including Ismaili cricketers Hasnu Kalyan, Mamda Kassam and Badru Bhamji who played for the Aga Khan Club and Tanzanian national cricket squad for many years.

We are indebted to Mr. Vaghela’a family for this memorable and historical piece, which includes a very rare photo of the 48th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, meeting cricketers Mamda Kassam and Premji Vaghela, among others, at Dar-es-Salaam’s Gymkhana cricket ground.

Mr. Premji Vaghela was awarded the cup on the left for scoring 150 runs in a cricket match. The plaque on the right was given to him for his contribution to the Hindu Sports Club. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

Mr. Premji Vaghela was awarded the cup on the left for scoring 150 runs in a cricket match. The plaque on the right was given to him for his contribution to the Hindu Sports Club. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

My School Days and Cricket


I was born in Dar es Salaam in 1915 when the British were bombing Dar, when it was under German rule, and the people took shelter in the Jangwani Creek.

I started playing cricket bare-footed at the age of seven with a tennis ball and a locally made wooden bat. Dar streets were our  playgrounds and street lamp posts or dust-bins were our wickets. Those days, in the early twenties, the streets were safe to play in as there were no cars — only rickshaws. Few cars were seen after 1931.

I studied in a Gujarati school called Lokmanya Tilak Memorial School, where Arya Sukh Shanti Lodge is presently situated. After 1918, Tanganyika was called British Protected Territory. The Indian Central School (ICS) was built by the Government in 1929. All the teachers were recruited from India. All the students — boys and  girls — from Tilak school were transferred to this new school. The first headmaster of the new school was Mr. N. O. Mody, a very strict disciplinarian He introduced cricket in the school. It was this school that supplied the most cricketers to all the communal teams in Dar-es-Salaam till 1960.

I earned my name as a bowler and batsman. My first century came in 1932 against the Punjebhai Club (later known as the Aga Khan Club). We did well in the League Tournament. In the knockout tournament in 1934, the school came in the final against the British Gymkhana Club. I scored 150 runs and we piled up a huge score of over 300 runs. We won the knock-out Cup.

In 1932, Mr. A.A. M  Isherwood, then the Director of Education, donated a cup called the “Isherwood Cup”* (see note below) for cricket to be competed by the schools in Dar. There were only two schools at that time: the ICS and the Aga Khan School. We won the trophy  in 1932. It was a coincidence that in 1956 — almost after 25 years —  my son Rajni, when he was school captain, brought the same trophy home. I left the school in 1935. The school had a very good reputation in cricket.

Please click on photo for enlargement

His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 - 1957), 48th Imam of Ismailis, meeting with Mamda Kassam, Premji Vaghela and others at the Gymkhana Cricket Ground in Dar-es-Salaam. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 – 1957), 48th Imam of Ismailis, meeting with Mamda Kassam, Premji Vaghela and others at the Gymkhana Cricket Ground in Dar-es-Salaam. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

In 1936, I joined the Indian Sports Club. At that time there were few teams competing in the League Tournament – the “Sachu Pira Shield”. One of the conditions of League matches was that whichever team won for three consecutive years, would retain the Shield forever. In 1936, 1937 and 1938, the Indian Sports Club were the winners and won the Shield permanently. Today, the Shield is on  display in G.M. Sulemanji’s Hardware shop window on Independence Avenue (then Acacia Avenue).

Many young and promising players were coming out from the school, and there were not sufficient teams to accommodate them.  Consequently, the Indian Sports Club was split into two communal teams: the Hindus and the Bohras. The Goans, the Ithnasharis and the Aga Khan teams were already there. By 1940, many other teams cropped up; Punjab Sports Club, the Maratha Mandal, Sinhalese Sports Club  and Malabar Sports Club were new additions. Customs Sports Club and the P.W.D. also joined the cricket competition. The Khalsas and the Goans were the main hockey rivals.

On match days, the whole Asian population turned out on the Gymkhana and the Government Service cricket grounds which were adjacent to each other. The whole atmosphere was like festivals. Machunga (oranges), makai (corn), madafu (coconut), sekela-bafela jugu  (fried-boiled peanuts) and ndhizi (plantains) were always in demand.

I must also mention names of two Englishmen: Mr. F. H. Woodrow, the Director of P.W.D, and Mr. Hudson, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise. They both took keen interest in promoting cricket. There were not enough cricket grounds in Dar then. Mr. Woodrow gave the P.W.D. ground, and Karimjee donated the Bohra’s ground. I consider it only fair to mention the name of Seth Abdulkarim Y.A. Karimjee, of the wealthy and philanthropic Karimjee Jivanjee family. He always supported the cause of cricket  in Dar. He was a good cricketer himself and a thorough sportsman. He was kind, helpful and unassuming.

I should not also forget the grand old man, Count Kassum Sunderji Samji, who donated trophies to cricket and tennis competitions in Dar. He always supported sports one way or the other.

Cricket was the most popular sport in Dar. The competitors were keen and played in high spirit. Sometimes, the communal tension was high, particularly when the Hindus and the Aga Khan Clubs were playing. At times the police were called to control the overenthusiastic supporters of both sides! However, on and off the field, the personal relationship between the players was always cordial and friendly.

Cricket was also played in Mwanza, Tabora, Dodoma, Moshi and Tanga. Cricket was particularly popular in schools and carried on by kids playing in the streets.

Perhaps the most enjoyable competition, for almost all cricketers, was when Dar and Zanzibar used to visit each other every year in early August. Every alternate year we used to play in Zanzibar and vice versa. Many tourists used to accompany the teams and create considerable excitement and jubilation, just like a big festival!

In order to strengthen their side during the final or critical stage in the competition, it was a practice among certain teams to import players from Zanzibar, Mombasa and other centres, during the weekends. Such practices later on were banned by the Dar-es-Salaam Cricket Association.

Unfortunately, the status of cricket has changed considerably due to various reasons: shortage of cricket grounds, lack of encouragement in schools and the high cost of cricket gear·. Considering all these factors, I think cricket will eventually die out in Dar. This is the unfortunate reality of life.

During my cricket career in Dar-es-Salaam, I scored five centuries and taken a great many wickets. These were, undoubtedly, the happiest years of my life.

Date posted: June 5, 2016.

Copyright: Premji Vaghela.


*The Isherwood cup was played in Dar for many years until the late 1960’s. The editor of this blog played in the Isherwood cup for Shabaan Robert from 1967-1969, and featured prominently in the school’s victories during the 3 year period. Pranlal Divecha and Tahir along with Ismaili brothers Shiraz and Abdul Sumar were the top ranked players for Shabaan Robert when they shockingly defeated the favourites Aga Khan Secondary in the 1965 semi-finals/finals. All four went on to play for the Tanzanian squad. Prior to 1965, the cup was dominated for several years by Aga Khan School, whose arch rival was Azania School, located near Muhimbili Hospital. All rounder John Solanki was one of the most well-known players for Aga Khan Secondary — the all-rounder went on to play for England’s county team, Glamorgan, during the 1970’s. By 1971, the Isherwood cup became a non-entity, as there wasn’t any competitive spirit or interest left in the game at the school level. We will be happy to receive an update on the state of Tanzanian school cricket today, and whether the Isherwood has been revived– ed. 

Share your cricket memories of Dar-es-Salaam and other parts of East Africa. Click Leave a comment or write/send photos to All correspondence will be promptly acknowledged.

What is the state of cricket in Dar-es-Salaam today? Has cricket become a mainstream sport? Please submit your feedback at Leave a comment.

35 Historical and Rare Photos of His Highness the Aga Khan by “Papa Jaan” On One Image

Please click on the following image to zoom on an excellent PDF version of the photo

Please click on image to view PDF file. Copyright Simerg/Abdul M. Ismaily Family Collection.

Please click on image to view PDF file. Copyright Simerg/Abdul M. Ismaily Family Collection.

Simerg was thrilled and privileged to recently publish on its sister photoblog never-before-seen photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, which were captured by Abdul M. Ismaily (1926-1981) during Hazar Imam’s visits to Hunza, Uganda and Pakistan in the early 1960’s. The collection was provided for exclusive publication on Simerg by the family of the late “Papa Jaan,” through Muslim Harji of Montreal.

We pay a small tribute to the memory of “Papa Jaan” for his outstanding photos by presenting a PDF image (click image on top) which contains 35 images from more than fifty that appeared in the Hunza, Uganda and Pakistan pieces. First time visitors to this website as well as readers who may have overlooked one or more photo posts are invited to click on the following links:

Copyright. Simerg.

Date posted: February 23, 2016


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