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SPEECH AT THE TAKHT NASHINI CEREMONY - Bombay - 1958-03-11

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Event - 1958-03-11
Date: 
Tuesday, 1958, March 11
Location: 
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Author: 
Aga Khan IV (H.H. Prince Karim)

I cannot begin this reply to your welcome address without expressing my gratitude to the leaders and governments of this city, of Bombay State and of all India for the kindness with which they have received me. This is a very special occasion for the Ismailis of India, and I speak for them all when I say how much I have appreciated the friendly co-operation which my community has received in the many details of preparation. I would specially like to thank His Excellency the Governor, the Chief Minister and his colleagues, the Chief Justice and the Commissioner of Police. I look forward to meeting them all during my stay in this city. To all our distinguished guests present here this afternoon, I extend a very warm and sincere welcome to this ceremony.

Bombay, as you now have been reminded, has very close associations with my family. It was here, and here alone, that my grandfather was acclaimed as the forty-eighth Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis. That was 73 years ago and at that time he was only eight years old. What tremendous changes have come about since those days! The Ismaili community has grown and prospered almost beyond recognition. Thanks to my grandfather's guidance and wisdom, Ismaili families are to be found today all over the world, living peaceably beneath the flags of many nations, owing allegiance to a wide variety of governments.

In some ways, therefore, it could be said that Bombay is the birth-place of our modern, world-wide community. I hope that the Ismailis who live here will remember this fact and their duty to set an example which other communities abroad will be proud to follow.

I feel certain that great opportunities lie ahead for you in this country. For, while it is true that the Ismailis have developed and grown during the past eighty years, how much more evident is this of India herself. India was one of the five great Asian powers to win independence, and by voluntarily electing to associate herself with the Commonwealth of Nations, she was also the first to embrace wholeheartedly the concepts of individual liberty and parliamentary democracy.

To guarantee, as your government has done, that every man and woman should have the right to speak, write, vote and worship as he or she thinks best, subject only to the common rule of law, is a tremendous undertaking for any nation. For a country with a population of more than 350 million, a country with a civilization as old, and a government structure as new as this one, wrestling with what must often seem an almost intolerable burden of poverty and illiteracy, it is one of the most courageous political experiments the world has ever seen. The manner in which India has set about her task, both politically and economically, has captured the imagination of thinking people everywhere.

Of course, the picture is not uniformly bright; it never is. There are shadows born of the past as well as those which loom in the future. These are inevitable. They constitute an abiding challenge to the courage, integrity and foresight of India's leaders, both present and to come.

In all humility, I suggest that the challenge will most surely be faced and overcome if this nation stands fast by the liberal principles which it honours today. If India continues to uphold the simple rights of the individual, if she goes on tolerating the minority as well as the majority points of view, if she never falters in her determination to do everything possible to relieve poverty and human suffering, I feel sure she will triumph over her difficulties and set an example to all those other countries which face similar problems.

The Ismailis are a relatively small segment of the huge, complex tapestry we know as modern India. But I believe they will play a full and by no means unimportant part in the future development of this country.

To all Ismaili here today, I would say this. There is nothing exclusive about you. While your religious faith will always preserve a special identity, your secular loyalty is solely to India and to its elected government. I urge my community to keep this constantly in their minds. But they should do more still. The Ismailis have always prided themselves on their highly developed social conscience. Our faith teaches us that we have obligations far beyond our own or even our family's interests. If you remain united, work towards community progress, and respect your leaders, you will, I am sure, go far. As part of the nation of India, you must contribute your share to her advancement.

With humility, tolerance and respect for each other, by honest work and straight dealings, you will earn the true friendship of your fellows. It does not matter whether you are wealthy or poor, whether you are in business or the professions, whether you work with hands or brain, your spiritual obligations are equal. By the way you conduct your daily lives, by the compassion you show to your fellow men and women, and above all by your faith in God, you will ultimately be judged.


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