Saturday October 19, 1957

An Historical Event Twenty Years Ago Takht Nashini At Dar-Es-Salaam

Saturday October 19, 1957, will remain a memorable one and an eventful day in th history of the Ismailis. Dar-es-Salaam (The Haven of Peace), capital city of Tanganyika (now Tanzania), which usually remained quiet and peaceful, suddenly found itself bubbling all over with life and excitement. The city was in a festive mood. Thousands of Ismailis from all over the country and outside poured into the city to witness the most colourful and historic Takht-Nashini, the ceremonial installation of Shah Karim al-Huusayni, His Highness the Aga Khan IV, direct descendent of Prophet Mohammed (s.a.s) as their Imam-e-Zamam (Imam of the Age), forty-ninth in the line of Hazart Mowlana Murtaza Ali.

At first the day had threatened to be cloudy and showery but gradually it became fine and sunny with clear blue skies. The day was made all the more pleasant by the cool and gentle breeze blowing from the Indian Ocean.

The site in which Upanga Jamat Khan presently stands was the venue of the first of a number of similar Takht-Nashini ceremonies to be held in Africa and in the Indo-Pak sun-continent. It was from the early hours of the morning that Ismailis had started to make their way to the ceremonial area and by noon-time the ground was packed to bursting point. The number of non-Ismailis who had turned up for this ocassion was far greater than had been anticipated and when an appeal was made to the Ismailis to give up their seats for the guests, it was met with an immediate response in a most disciplined manner as expected of them. To make this ocassion a great success and to save it from any confusion, thousands gave up their seats and squatted on the sandy ground.

In the gaily festooned grandstands, leaders of the Ismaili community in their gold turbans and crimson robes moved about the crowd and looked as colourful as thier womenfolk in flowering sairs of a hundred shades, lavishly embroidered with gold and silver thread and sparkling diamante. There were hundreds of children too, among the crowd. Some were bewildered and baffled, some looked for friends and made merry while the very tiny ones slept peacefully in thier mother's arms.

The houses around the area provided wonderful grandstand view of the whole proceedings. Their decorated balconies were packed with people, and many more stood and sat on the rooftops, unmindful of any dangers.

Mata Salamat Umme Habiba, Prince Aly S. Khan and Princess Tajudaulah were given a rousing welcome as they came and took their seats.

President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania (then President of TANU), Governor and Lady Twining, Mr. Alan Lennox-Boyd, the Colonial Secretary, (now Lord Boyd), Prince Seyyid Abdulla, representing his father, the Sultan of Zanzibar, Sir Bruce and Lagy Hutt, Mayor of Dar-es-Salaam, the Liwali, Councillors and many other prominent people were among the distinguished guests.

A thunderous applause and shouts of "Nara-e-Takbir" - "Allaho Akbar" greeted the arrival of Mowlana Shah Karim al-Hussayni Hazar Imam.

Clad in a white high-necked tunic, black trousers and astrakhan cap, Mowlana Hazar Imam mounted the dais upon which Hazrat Mowlana Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah was weighed in diamonds in 1946. Having taken his seat in full view of the huge gathering, Mowlana Hazar Imam gave his permission to commence the ceremony.

After the recitation from the Holy Qur'an President P.V. Rajani of the Ismaili Supreme Council for Tanganyika performed the robing ceremony by putting the red and grey robe over the shoulders of Mowlana Hazar Imam. The robe was worn by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah during his Jubilee celebrations.

Then came the presentation of the black astrakhan cap to which was pinned a golden "Taj" inlaid with 49 diamonds and precious stones. This was offered by Chief Mukhi of Dar-es-Salaam Najmuddin Devji.

The beautifully ornamented and jewelled "Sword of Justice" was placed in the hands of Mowlana Hazar Imam by Count Fatehali Dhalla. This sword was also worn by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah when he was installed the Imam and signified that Imam is the "Defender of Faith".

Count A.G. Abdulhussein then presented Mowlana Hazar Imam with the golden chain with 49 links which represented the lineal descent of the Imam.

The last of the pageant rites was performed by President Hassanati Kassum of the Ismailia Provincial Council, who mounted the dais and placed the signet ring on the finger of Mowlana Hazar Imam. The ring had been used as a seal for communications from Imams to the followers throughout Ismaili history, particularly during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries and specially to communicate with the Ismailis who were difficult to contact in places such as Afghanistan, and Turkistan, where extra authority, apart from signature was needed.

Then came the addresses from the Jamat and members of other communities. The address from the Ismaili Jamat of Tanganyika was presented to Mowlana Hazar Imam in a beautiful carved ivory casket bearing 49 golden studs and surmounted with an ornate gold crown and orb.

Mowlana Hazar Imam then rose to address the Jamat and to thank the people of Dar-es-Salaam for the welcome given to him. Mowlana Hazar Imam spoke of the unbounded sources of energy which will be available to mankind and of the changes that will come with them, and added:

"I shall devote my life to guiding the community in all the problems which these rapid changes will bring in their wake".

The ceremony ended with a march past by the Aga Khan Pipe Band and the Aga Khan Scouts Band. Mowlana Hazar Imam then shook hands with the distinguished guests before he returned to Government House.

The Takht-Nashini ceremony was held in Nairobi (Kenya) on October 22, 1957, in Kampala (Uganda) on October 25, 1957, in Karachi (Pakistan) on January 23, 1958, in Dacca (E. Pakistan now Bangla Desh) on February 12, 1958 and in Bombay (India) on March 11, 1958.

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