Shia Ismaili Muslims celebrated “Imamat day”, or the anniversary of their 49th Imam’s accession to the Ismaili Imamat (spiritual leadership) on 11th of July.
In this connection, this article stands as a tribute to the Ismaili community all over the world. It is not just a tribute, but it also summarizes my acknowledgement of the universal services of the Aga Khan, a great spiritual leader working to develop the life standard of human beings by using available sources, be it spiritual or monetary.
God, the creator of this cosmos, finally revealed His eternal guidance to the humanity through Muhammad (PBUH), His last messenger (Paighambar). Muhammad, the last prophet, announced Islam, the last divine religion as per directives of God, communicated to the people of Mecca and guided them to come into ambit of Islam.
The Arabic society at that time was tribal. Mighty tribesmen were enjoying unchallengeable powers of their own without practicing laws and rules. Oppressed and weak people, like womenfolk, were, in fact, slaves of big tribes. There was no educational and social system in place; the words of the tribal chieftains were the ‘orders of the day’. People in Mecca particularly and entire Arab peninsula generally had forgotten the teachings of Deen-e-Ibrahimi. As such, the Arab society had sunk into the darkness of apostasy.
Initially, the mighty tribes in Mecca thought of Islam as a threat to their sovereignty and rejected the reformative message of Muhammad (PBUH). But, lastly, the beacon of light prevailed and the darkness vanished.
Islam introduced a justice system, social equality, and emphasized on education. Womenfolk and oppressed people got their rights as revealed in Quran Pak. Muhammad (PBUH) succeeded in His mission of introducing and implementing a reformed and advanced system with the guidance of Almighty God based on “Adal”, or justice.
Islam introduced reforms 14 centuries ago and changed the lifestyle of that society; mighty chieftains bowed before universal principles of Islam and ignorance turned into enlightenment but it cannot be denied that past remains not for all times. Human societies face present and future also in all ages. Reforms made in past might require some changes in present and more changes would be required for future which is a natural phenomenon of human life and Islam being a religion of nature does not prevent Muslims from such required reforms for present or future in the light of heaven guidance.
Indeed, Islam is a religion of reforms and advancement for all times and ages, while keeping intact the fundamentals revealed in Quran and Sunnah. Islam being a divine religion possesses ample substance to meet the needs of all ages up to the doomsday.
Despite of Islam’s universality and timelessness, some clerical misinterpretations prevented Muslim societies from reforming and preparing to meet the needs of the day, in the light of the teachings of Quran. As such, the Muslims remained backward and other communities gripped advancement in education and scientific research.
Islam has never remained without scholars and leaders, in any century, who understood the real spirit of Islam. Such scholars endeavored to bring the Muslims at par with the contemporary world, emphasizing on them to get latest education of the day. They did so with the hope of leading the Muslim communities to a bright future without transgressing Islamic fundamentals.
Unfortunately, the number of people leading the Islamic community to a brighter future have remained lesser compared to the clerics and rulers who tend to live in the past. Mullahs and dictators leading the Muslim countries have kept the citizens ignorant, trapped in the past, to be able to rule them. This has barred the Muslims from bringing the golden principles of Islam in their daily practices.
Islam has various sects and in every sect such true scholars are found who endeavor to guide their followers and make them understand that Islam is a religion of progress and intellect, and against scientific studies. Such leaders use verses and chapters of Quran to explain the emphasis laid by the Almighty God on exploring, researching, learning and utilizing the bounties of nature.
His Highness the Aga Khan (his full name is Shah Karim al-Husaini) leads the Shia Ismaili Muslim sect at present as their Imam. I, like other people belonging to different sects of Islam, may have faith differences with the Ismaili sect, just like an Ismaili faithful may have differences with other sects of Islam academically. But, no one can deny the futuristic leadership approach of the Aga Khan.
I have gone through some “farmans” (directives) of the Aga Khan whereby I understood that he prepares his followers for the future, emphasizes on them to get latest education, guides them to serve humanity and always demands hard work from them.
Apart from this, he also properly utilizes “Maal-e-Imam” (similar to khums or zakat) sent to him by his followers from all over the world.
The Aga Khan has famed institutions working under the Aga Khan Development Network, like the Aga Khan University, Aga Khan Health Services, the Aga Khan Rural Support Program, and the Aga Khan Cultural Services, to name a few.
The Aga Khan himself serves humanity irrespective of cast, creed and religion. The Aga Khan has provided best health services all over the world without any discrimination. In recognition of his services for humanity, he has been given the status of a state guest by various countries. Whenever he visits any country he is treated as a state guest, in recognition of his positive role for humanity, as a spiritual authority.
The contributor is a former judge of the Supreme Appellate Court of Gilgit-Baltistan.