Mawlana Hazar Imam's memorable visit to London in August this year brought together jamats from around the world in a celebration of the ties that bind the community across frontiers and of our Imam-e-Zaman's affection and concern for the jamat worldwide. It was a happy, instructive inspiring visit that highlighted the resilience, institutional strength and commitment to the developing world of a jam well-established in the West.

Throughout the ten-day visit, Mawlana Imam had mulaquats with jamats from all over the United Kingdom, as well as those coming from South Africa and from various European countries under the jurisdiction of the Council for the United Kingdom. On the first and the last days of the visit, these jamats were joined by several thousand members from other jamats all over the world.

The mulaquats were held at the Ismaili Centre in London's historic borough of Kensington and at the Earl's Court 2 Exhibition Hall in West London. The interior of Earl's Court 2 had, for the purpose of this visit, been totally transformed into a striking replica of the Ismaili to that in the entrance hall of the Centre.

Innumerable volunteers from jamats across the United Kingdom, of all ages, worked tirelessly both during the preparatory period and throughout the visit to ensure excellent arrangements for transport, catering, information, first aid, safety, assistance to the elderly and the handicapped, and a varied and enjoyable thorough and expert organisational skills of the host jamat and the co-operation and unity that enabled it to meet the requirements of this visit.

During the visit, the Ismaili Council for the United Kingdom hosted a dinner at the Ismaili Centre in Mawlana Hazar Imam's honour, which was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, local civic dignitaries, representatives of non-governmental organisations, leaders of other Muslim communities in London, distinguished academics and prominent citizens. Speaking at the function, Hazar Imam expressed, on behalf of the jamat and the institutions of the Imamat, his sincere gratitude to the various organisations and individuals in the United Kingdom who had assisted the jamat in its settlement in the country. Describing the history of the jamat's settlement in the Western world, Mawlana Hazar Imam recalled the circumstances which had given rise to migrations from the developing world, when "following the dawn of newly independent Asian and African states, the hope of freedom was from time to time marred by political turmoil."

These circumstances notwithstanding, the jamat had, Hazar Imam pointed out, established itself with strong and credible institutions in the United Kingdom. Illustrating how these institutions were now mobilizing resources to assist the parts of the developing world from which they came, Mawlana Hazar Imam mentioned several initiatives in the developing world in which organisations in the United Kingdom such as the Overseas Development Administration, the Commonwealth Development Corporation and Oxford University had collaborated with institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network.

Referring to some of the challenges that faced the immigrant minorities as they settled in the Western world, Hazar Imam described the development of the new religious education curriculum by the Institute of Ismaili Studies as one response that would help the jamat address some of these concerns. He observed that "adaptation is neither a simple process, nor one that can be completed in one or two generations. Still, today, there are Ismaili children born in this country, who like many other immigrant children, grow up sometimes unable to speak their ethnic language and who learn and adopt as their own, ways which their parents always considered alien, or worse. Many of these young people themselves seek to preserve their cultural heritage and to strengthen their bonds to their communities of origin."

Hazar Imam concluded his remarks with the conviction that "the end of the Cold War will enable many countries in the developing world to move rapidly toward greater prosperity," with the hope that mnay of these countries "will adjust successfully to multiparty democracy, free market economics and a world likely to be restructured into regional trading alliances." "This, in turn," said Hazar Imam, "may ease the burdens of those immigrants, who, at times, have had to sustain families in their countries of origin. As those in the developing world assume greater control over their destinies, so their relatives in Britain will be freer to build a sounder and more stable future for themselves."

The celebratory mood of the visit permeated both the jamat's daily gatherings and a dinner in honour on Mawlana Hazar Imam held at Grosvenor House Hotel and attended by jamati and institutional leaders and Mukhis and Kamadias from all the jamats under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom Council. The dinner was preceded by an exhibition which Hazar Imam visited of photographs and artifacts reflecting Tajik culture. Following the dinner, Mawlana Hazar Imam and the guests watched a short presentation which drew upon themes from the jamat's diverse traditions of devotional poetry and upon music from Central and South Asia. This was followed by a performance by a newly formed Ismaili Youth Orchestra and Choir, which met with Hazar Imam's warm and effusive appreciation.

The institutions presented Mawlana Hazar Imam with a sculpture by the renowned artist Karl Schlamminger, entitled Mishkat Al-Nur (the Niche of Light), inspired by verses from Sura Nur of the Holy Quran. In his speech to the guests, Hazar Imam acknowledged the creativity of Karl Schlamminger, who he recalled was a Muslim of the Shia tradition. Mawlana Hazar Imam referred to the economic difficulties that the United Kingdom jamat had recently undergone, and emphasized the need for the institutions to plan ahead, anticipate change and uphold meritocracy. Commending the institutions represented at the dinner, Hazar Imam said,"it is your work, your affection, your commitment, your knowl-edge, your education and 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...I wanted to share these thoughts with your 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, insh'Allah, from strength to strength, even in adversity, in various parts of the world."

The highlight of the visit was the Darbar on Sunday, 14th August to which Mawlana Hazar Imam had graciously consented during the visit. The Darbar was an exceptional finale to a visit filled with joy for all those present and most significant for the definition that it gave to the establishment and future of the jamat in the United Kingdom and Europe. Confident now of the role of Imamat institutions in the United Kingdom and of their work for the developing world, the jamat learned of the opportunities to which the post-Cold War era was giving rise in the developing world, but also of the need for dialogue to replace conflict in those parts of the world still in strife. It was also able to understand both the benefits and the constraints of life in the Western world. Most importantly, however, the jamat was able to appreciate how its settlement in the Western world took nothing away from its ability to understand the role of the intellect in our faith, or from its ability to practice that faith, through prayer, through thought and through action.

Bringing a sense of history to the occasion of Darbar, the jamats under the United Kingdom Council's jurisdiction presented Hazar Imam with a coin minted in the name of Imam Nizar, whose Imamat straddled the Fatimid and Alamut epochs of Ismaili Muslim history, both of which hold particular significance for the jamat's understanding of its past and present.

(Source Ismaili Canada August 14/94)

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