By: Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali
Platinum Jubilee of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III
Platinum is a soft, ductile and silver-white metallic element. The Spanish scientist Antonio de Ulloa discovered it in gold-bearing deposits in Columbia in 1735. The English chemist William Wollaston first obtained pure platinum in 1803; and was also the first to devise a way to produce platinum in a workable form suitable for commercial purposes. South Africa, Russia and Canada produce almost all of the world’s output of platinum. Its production began about in 1925, but it began to be used for jewelry in significant amounts in 1905. World production of platinum increased strongly in 1960 and in the beginning of 1970, reaching 2 million troy ounces (62 tons) per year. Since then, production has been spurred by greater demand for platinum.
To mark the completion of his seventy years of Imamate, the Ismailis decided to weigh the Imam in platinum. The Platinum Jubilee was celebrated in Karachi on 3rd February, 1954 in presence of 50,000 Ismailis.
The Imam appeared in a ceremonial high-walled black cap, a white tunic and a brown, embroidered robe. Sitting between Mata Salamat Umm Habibeh and his own wife, the Prime Minister Mohammad Ali recorded the whole ceremony with his 3-D camera, frequently shooting back at the photographers. After the recitation of the Holy Koran, the Imam rose and raised his hands in prayer before resuming his seat. The afternoon sun was blazing down and a servant of the Governor General’s household was holding a sunshade over the Imam.
Platinum is a costly metal and the Imam did not like to spent more funds in its purchasing, and insisted to use the platinum only tenth part of his weight. According to the adjustment of the scale, one ounce of platinum was to indicate a weight of 14 ratls. Thus, Wazir Ibrahim Manji, the President of Platinum Jubilee Association began to place the pieces of platinum one after another and the scale showed the weight of the Imam for 215 ratls, to which about 15 ounces platinum were used. The whole ceremony ended within ten minutes. The sum gifted to the Imam was returned to his followers to set up Finance and Investment Corporation.
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah made following speech in seven minutes:
“Your Excellency the Prime Minister, Your Excellency the Governor of Sind, Your Excellencies the Ambassadors and Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen:
First of all on behalf of all the Ismaili people allow me thank, His Excellency the Governor-General and the Government of Pakistan for all direct and indirect help, assistant and patronage give for the success of celebration of the Platinum Jubilee in Karachi. Every Ismaili is grateful for this and I myself thank them from the bottom of my heart. We all deplore the indisposition of His Excellency the Governor-General that has prevented him from gracing this occasion by his presence.
I also on behalf of all the Ismailis thank His Majesty the King of the Belgians and His Excellency the President of the French Republic, in whose territories so many Ismailis live happily and thrive, for their gracious messages by telegrams and letter of congratulations and I too thank them from the bottom of my heart for the same. I also thank His Excellency the Governor of Tanganyika for his kind invitation to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee in Dar-es-Salaam.
My dear spiritual children of Pakistan whose representatives have assembled here, I thank you as well as your committees for the organization of this celebration and for the very kind address you have presented me just now.
You Ismailis know perfectly well that it is a fundamental point in your religion that wherever you are, whatever the State where life and honour are protected, you must give your entire loyalty and devotion to the welfare and service of that country. You who have the honour of being the citizens of Pakistan, to you, I give this advice: do not interpret your citizenship purely in a passive form, but patriotism and loyalty must be active and productive. I realize fully that the overwhelming majority of the population has to look after their means of livelihood and the upbringing of the family but work, if carried out intensively, is service to God and the fatherland. Make your daily labour, labour of love howsoever difficult and hard it may be. Do remember that in democracy, voting and the rights of citizenship should be used with care and attention; with serious thought, howsoever humble: with the full realization to the best of your ability that not personal parochial or provincial interests are to be served, but the greater good and the welfare of the population as a whole and the security of the State as such.
If the people of a nation are united and self-sacrificing, there is no amount of difficulties and overwhelming misfortunes that cannot be overcome. We have seen how Turkey has come out stronger than ever before after 100 years of misfortunes and disasters. There are two other cases which should be an example and should not discourage anyone in the face of difficulties. Germany and Japan after the greatest defeats known to history have by hard work and devotion raised themselves to be honoured, respected and included among powerful members of the comity of nations. If every Ismaili living in Pakistan remembers and interprets his citizenship, howsoever humble his contributions may be, with the spirit o courage and devotion, then, indeed I am happy to think that after many years of surgical operations and illness, I am still alive to give you this fatherly advice.
From the religious point of view, though you must firmly stick to the tenets of your faith, you should not forget what I have always considered the most beautiful of all Muslim prayers, namely, that Allah Almighty in His infinite mercy may forgive sins of all Muslims.
My spiritual children of Pakistan, you have raised on this occasion a considerable amount; you have just mentioned it something like Rs. 2.5 million. This should not be frittered away. This should be the beginning of something like the Investment Trust in Africa, a purely financial body with the constitution so adjusted that by a target date, such as 1960, you will be able to build up a position by which, Ismailis both in East and West Pakistan, can be sure of at least employment.
In every society there is a small element that is unemployable, either through want of health and strength or a natural disinclination for regular work and occupation but unfortunately there are others who search for work who search for at least personal protection against ill health and misfortune, but who either by want of industry among the community or the necessary small capital, are unable to meet both ends. If you look to Africa, you will find that especially in the Congo and Madagascar. They have been able to build up a welfare organization which by co-operation and self-help protects them from the evil winds which blow on all peoples. It is for those who have formed this central co-operative financial body to commemorate the Platinum Jubilee, to study and make out a permanent instrument of safety and security for all the Ismailis of Pakistan.
I will not conclude without thanking all the citizens of Karachi for the gracious and friendly attitude they have shown towards these celebrations and if may say so, towards myself also.
I pray to Allah Almighty for the happiness, peace and prosperity of the people of Pakistan.”
In Africa, the ceremony was restricted to a token ceremony in Cairo on 20th February, 1955. It was performed in the Cleopatra Hall of Hotel Semiramese in presence of 62 delegates. It was a solemn spectacle of 20 minutes. The Ismaili leaders presented 70 gold coins to the Imam, which was graciously accepted. The Imam presented the same gold coins to the delegates.
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah sent a special message from Paris on May 28, 1954 that, “As you all know it is my greatest desire that by 1960 each family should be owner of their own house, flat or shop-residence and for this purpose you must continue to develop and create more and more cooperative societies and corporations. The middle and upper class should join with the poor class to buy their shares and every effort should be made towards this end.”
The Platinum jubilee ceremonies in India officiated by Prince Aly S. Khan due to the impaired health of the Imam, and these were again restricted to token presentations.
In Bombay, the ceremony was held on 2nd February, 1957 and from 20th to 26th February at eleven other centers. India’s Platinum jubilee final ceremony was however held in Paris Jamatkhana on Friday, June 14, 1957.
It appears that the purpose of weighing the Imam against gold, diamond and platinum was to generate enormous nazrana for establishing major educational and health centres in India and East Africa. In an article entitled, “The Aga Khan: from Curzon to Hitler, A Man always at the Centre of History,” Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan wrote, “For my father, education was understandably a priority and his community exemplifies the success of his policies. Ismaili men and women, the latter among the first to shed the veil, are well equipped in this respect. Ismaili institutions have provided a network of social, economic and cultural amenities which are unrivalled in many developing countries. These were made possible to a great extent by the wise administration of funds raised in connection with the traditional jubilee weighing ceremonies.” (“The Times”, November 5, 1977).
Under the glorious leadership of Mawlana Hazar Imam, the Ismailis have accelerated their economy to great extent, therefore, which paved a way for a large number of social projects more than expectation, and for its materialization, it was not required to the Imam to be weighed against the precious materials during his Silver Jubilee in 1982. Hence, the silver jubilee of Hazar Imam was marked with implementation of mass projects of health, education and other social projects in the world by generous contributions of the followers.
When asked, “Are you still given your weight in gold, platinum or diamonds?” the Imam said, “The financial contributions that resulted from these events (jubilees of the 48th Imam) were used for the local communities. It was through these nazrana that more than sixty schools here in Pakistan, a large hospital at Nairobi and financial institutions serving the community members in Africa and Asia were created…. The press has gone as far as pretending that this tradition is still maintained today, and that it even happens every year. At the twenty-fifth anniversary of my own Imamat, which was celebrated in 1982, there was no weighting; instead the community defined a certain number of new social projects to celebrate the event” (vide the article “Karim Aga Khan: l’imam au coeur d’or” and the accompanying interview appeared in the December 15, 1994 edition of Paris Match, pp. 82-87. The interview was conducted by Caroline Pigozzi and Jean-Claude Deutsch).
Next: Silver Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Aga Khan IV