SPEECH AT THE INSTITUTIONAL DINNER GROSVENOR HOUSE HOTEL - 1994-08-17
President Sachedina, Leaders of the Jamat
Before I say things which are important I would like to remind you of the speech before dinner and ask you to make sure that there are no stray lions under your table. I was as unaware that I would speak after dinner as that ill-fated lion.
This is a particularly happy Padhramni for me, and a particularly happy visit. And I want to tell you why these feelings are so strong in me at this time. I think during the past years the leaders of the Jamat here in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, have been aware of my concerns, my sense of change in the world in which we are living. You have experienced change, and recently not very happy change, particularly in the economy of the United Kingdom. But there is world change, and the role of the Imam of the time, amongst others, is to guide the murids to live in their time, hopefully ahead of their time, prepare future generations to live well in the world as it will be when they grow up.
I have been concerned about the way our institutions anticipate change. I have mentioned many times to you recently, the issue of the meritocratic environment in which today, much more in the future, your children will be living. Meritocracy does not apply only to the individual. Meritocracy applies to institutions, to countries. I have been concerned at whether our institutions would themselves become meritocratic, and if they were going to become meritocratic, how was that going to occur? The answer is you in front of me this evening. It is your work, your affection, your commitment, your knowledge, your education, your wisdom which is enabling our institutions to harness the best of what is in the Jamat, and to prepare the Jamat for the future. And therefore, my happiness is seeing you this evening, is seeing the way in which I understand and perceive leadership carrying forward our institutions and our Jamat in the decades ahead. I hope that as time goes by, you will be more and more demanding upon yourselves, upon your institutions, more and more eager to bring competence and knowledge and wisdom and understanding from generation after generation into these institutions.
And I am well aware that the internal institutions of the Jamat are not publicly seen. Those that work outside are very publicly seen, but those that work inside are not publicly seen. You see them, I see them. My happiness is to watch their work, not just those that work outside the Jamat. And in saying this this evening, I want you, I hope, to understand that my perception is just as strong, indeed a great deal stronger, in the terms of the way in which the institutions of the Jamat develop and serve. And I am in great admiration for the work that you have done, and are doing, and I think our Jamat are extremely fortunate to have the leadership that they have. And I wanted to share these thoughts with you this evening, because it will explain to you why I am so happy during this Padhramni. Because I see in front of me the process which I believe will enable the Jamat to grow, Inshallah, from strength to strength even in adversity in various parts of the world.
Let me now say how touched I am by this magnificent gift. I don't know whether you know who Karl Schlamminger is. Karl Schlamminger is a man in his 60's today, of German origin who converted to Shia Islam. He made the choice to convert to Shia Islam and he is a practising Shia Muslim today. He is a very talented artist, artist who understands the symbolism of Shias. He worked on a number of aspects of The Ismaili Centre. His name actually I don't think is even attached to some of the wonderful things he has done for us. But that you had the kindness, the wisdom, the thoughtfulness to go back to Karl Schlamminger and to ask for this magnificent work of art to be prepared for me this evening fills me with joy. I will take this back to my home, and it will be in my home, and the candles will be lit, and the candles will be lit, so it will be light upon light in my home through the symbolism of this gesture. And I want to tell you again how touched I am by this magnificent art, its symbolism and how happy I will be to have it in my home.
This has been a very happy Padhramni. It is not finished and I know there is more happiness ahead and I would simply say that yes, it has been a long time since I visited the UK for a Padhramni. President Shafik said 15 years. If it really has been 15 years, I am not quite at one day for every year of absence. Maybe next time, if it is 15 years, it will be two weeks of presence here, not 10 days. But I don't think it will be 15 years. I am very, very happy, thanks to you.