Speech by H.H. the Aga Khan at Institutional Dinner - 2008-05-18
I would like you to know how deeply touched I am by this wonderful evening and by the celebration of My Golden Jubilee here in India. It has been a time of enormous happiness, but also a time of thinking back to the status of the Jamat in 1957 in India, Pakistan, East Africa, Central Asia, and I say to myself, Alhamdullilah, the Jamat has made progress.It lives in greater security, it lives in countries where there is greater hope, greater stability, and there will always be problems, that we all know. But the fact that this can be said by the Imam of the time today is due to the leadership of the Jamat, to the unity of the Jamat, to the efforts, decade after decade, to move forwards, to build capacity, to build institutions, to follow a sense of direction in life. And this I want to say this evening, because I see amongst the Jamat here this evening, many leaders of the past, the leaders of today, and I think back to what was the time that they led, and what were the problems they had to deal with, and how leadership is built from generation to generation in continuity, towards the sorts of results we had all hoped and prayed for.
I would also like to say that this evening was humorous. How could there ever have been a Golden Jubilee evening without biryani and dandiya raas?
It wouldn’t have been a Golden Jubilee evening would it? And I won’t compare the Jamati Biryani with the Leela Biryani…that’s a judgement you can make yourselves.
I would also say that this has to be an occasion of joy, an occasion of happiness, and I want to again to repeat My gratitude to the government, the central government, the government of the states, all the authorities, the state organizations, to the extremely warm and generous way in which they have received Me here in India, and to tell you that this friendship, because it is a genuine sincere friendship, will carry outside India, will not remain in India, it will carry outside India and we will work together to try to establish a place, places in the world where people can live in plurality, in happiness, and in security.
As I look forward to the decades ahead, I ask Myself are there issues that need to be addressed? And there is one issue I want to share with the leadership of My Jamat in India, but it is not specific to the Jamat in India, it is specific to the Jamat in many various countries. We are fortunate that a number of institutions in the past 50 years have grown into becoming either state institutions in the sense that they work within a larger area, or they have become national institutions. And as they have become bigger institutions, there has been a possibility, that they would lose contact with the Jamat, because they are operating in the wider dimension of the bigger world, of the wider world. I welcome that. I consider it essential that those institutions that can have a national purpose or a regional purpose, or whether a global purpose. After all, a great university has a global purpose, it seems to Me that that is something which is to the benefit of the Jamat, is to the benefit of the countries in which we live, the regions and so on and so forth. But I as the Imam, am not going to accept that the specific needs of the Jamat in individual countries of the world, should somehow be left aside because there are concentrations on the bigger horizon of things.
Therefore, what I am hoping for is that we will develop the capacity in the decades ahead to address the duality of these issues, allow the entities to grow which have a destiny to grow, let them grow as big as they would grow, let them render public service wherever it is appropriate that they should render public service. But let us not forget also, that there is a Jamat for whom the Imam has responsibility, the leaders of the Jamat have responsibility, and they are appointed to fulfill that responsibility. And therefore I am saying to My Jamat in India, not only in India, this is an issue which we need to look at together, we need to make sure that the two domains of support work in harmony and that everybody benefits from the duality of these initiatives. And it is a matter which I am very, very happy to say, we can speak about openly and frankly, there is no reason not to follow those two agendas in an intelligent and constructive way. Because ultimately they actually live together, and if they didn’t live together, then we would have a problem. But if they do live together as they do, then we can look to the future, in a context in which we can say we can contribute to national growth, national development, but in serving, we keep our eyes and our hearts and our ears very close to the Jamat to make sure that we do not let our growth-scale take us away from the needs of the Jamat around the world. And this is an issue I wanted to mention to the Jamati leaders here in India. But as I said it is not specific to the issues here in India.
I would also like to say how very happy I am to see the magnificent progress that you have made since I was last in India and we will continue to build, to try to expand activities where they need to be expanded. I am still concerned about the quality of the education, access to education of our younger generations, particularly in the rural environments. I am concerned about economic support for people who are not yet independent in their destiny, in their economic destinies. There is much to be done, but I have a sense of confidence, a sense of great confidence, because India is moving forwards, because the Jamat is moving forwards and it has built and it will continue to build strong institutions. And ultimately it is strong institutions, which enable countries, communities, families, to establish a permanency of progress, Ultimately, that is what we are talking about, the permanency of progress.
There are so many leaders here this evening that I would be unable to mention all of them but I simply want to tell you how grateful I am as the Imam for the magnificent work that you have done. I congratulate you, I send to you and your families My affection, My love, and above all My gratitude for what you have done for the Jamat and for the Imam.
I have attempted in the past 50 years to build institutional capacity within the Jamats of various parts of the world, and in such a way that the Imamat itself has the ability to achieve goals which seem to be important. That I think has made good progress. We have got capacity today, capacity to act nationally, capacity to act regionally, capacity even to act globally if and when it is necessary. But that capacity needs to be handled with very great care, very great tact, very great discretion. We do not need to be in the front of the scene. It is much more effective that we work effectively, quietly, discreetly, and not brag about results. Let institutions achieve results. Let people demonstrate that institutions are serving well. But let us not become vain and self-promoting in an environment where we don’t need that. As Muslims we don’t need that, as members of the Jamat we don’t need that, I don’t need that. Let us move together, in peace, discretion and effectiveness.
I have had a wonderful visit to India and I will not forget this Golden Jubilee. The only comment I would make is that in the first dance the jockeys were too big for the horses.
(Leaders Laugh and Applauded)
I have to tell you if that ever happened in My stables I would never win a race in My life. So I have enjoyed the evening enormously. I have enjoyed the dances. I congratulate the youth and I hope that they will carry forward the humor and the joy of this evening.
(His Highness was presented with a gift. Then He said the following)