Posted: Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:13 pm Post subject: Evian Conference 1952
If you have the minutes of the Evian Conference, post it in this section please.
Encyclopaedia of Ismailism by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah had called a Conference in Evian, France known as the Evian Conference between July 4, 1952 and July 8, 1952 to discuss various economic and social problems confronting the African Ismailis and also to make necessary amendments in the Constitution of the African Councils. It was attended by 40 members including the President and the Secretary of the Supreme Council, the Presidents of the Provincial Councils and of the Ismailia Association, educational administrators, the managing director of the Jubilee Insurance Company, and three members of the East African Legislative Council.
The health of the Imam was impaired and confined to bed. Even in this state of health, he spared five complete days to hear the verbal and written reports and had a total sitting of 18 hours with the delegates. One of the major decisions reached at the Conference urged all Ismaili women of East Africa to adopt western dress for political and economic reasons. At the end of the Conference, the Imam sent following cable message:-
Very glad to hear various excellent resolutions Evian Conference carried out in spirit and letter. All those who help receive double blessings. Very glad ladies intend when new clothes ordered have western fashion economic material clothes made as Burma for all unity with new western African ideals. For economic reasons old-fashioned clothes should be worn till used up by time and age when new clothes ordered new fashion should become general
Soon after the Conference, the wives of the leaders responded thereby setting an example for the rest of the community. The Ismailia Association arranged lectures by missionaries in the Jamatkhana to encourage women to adopt western dress. This particular guidance is a good illustration of the Imam's reasoning in urging change on his people. He saw that adopting western dress would make it easier for Ismailis to be identified with and assimilated into the indigenous population. Various changes were also brought about in the school curriculum. Gujrati was gradually replaced by English as the medium of instruction. It was decided to introduce French as the second language. Emphasis was also placed on the teaching of commercial subjects for boys and domestic science for girls. Changes were made also to help Ismailis obtain higher education. The Gold Grant Committee of 1937 was taken over by the Central Committee in 1946 with a fund of $. 44,860 and an annual grant of $. 13,458 from the Imam. The grant was later raised to $. 157,000. Because of limited communal resources, it was decided after the Evian Conference that bursaries would be granted for those professions only of direct benefit to the community. Further, changes in the distribution of education at a time when education became more important for material success gave rise to new interest groups. Economic power was no longer associated only with business but also with the professions. A corollary effect of increased educational opportunity was the changing role of women, which in turn had its effect on the family. Unlike other Muslim women, the Ismaili women were no longer limited to the traditional role of housewife. But the main effect of educational opportunity on the woman's changing role was to open a broader range of career possibilities. The change in the role of women, then, was more in terms of a climate of opinion which allowed them increasing latitude and independence.
Clearly, the Imam's own willingness to accept new ideas, his skill in translating them into guidance and in channeling them through the councils, while communicating with his people at large, were important forces in creating change while perpetuating continuity. Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah lived at a time when vast changes were occurring, and he realized that the success of his followers depended on their capacity for accommodating to these changes while maintaining their cultural identity. The Imam also said, "Ismailism has survived because it has always been fluid. Rigidity is contrary to our whole life and outlook" (Memoirs of Aga Khan, p. 185).
Last edited by Admin on Tue Jan 20, 2015 9:35 pm, edited 1 time in total
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah had called a Conference in Evian, France known as the Evian Conference between July 4, 1952 and July 8, 1952 to discuss various economic and social problems confronting the African Ismailis and also to make necessary amendments in the Constitution of the African Councils. It was attended by 40 members including the President and the Secretary of the Supreme Council, the Presidents of the Provincial Councils and of the Ismailia Association, educational administrators, the managing director of the Jubilee Insurance Company, and three members of the East African Legislative Council. Many important decisions were taken regarding the future of Jamat in East Africa. Major changes were recommended about the dress code for women( to adopt simple western type dresses), to introduce English as first language in Aga Khan Schools and to have good relations with African community and some changes were also made to Ismaili constitution. (All these changes helped the community to adopt when the independence was given to East African countries and above all it helped us to move to western countries when we were forced to leave Uganda). When the leaders returned to East Africa all the changes recommended were implemented and the Jamats all over East Africa were asked to follow. But there were a few who were not happy with some decisions taken by the conference. One gentleman who did not agree with the decisions, wrote a letter to Mowlana Sultan Mohamed Shah. It is not known what he wrote in that letter but Mowlana Sultan Mohamed Shah sent a reply to his letter to the Council and advised the Council to tell this gentleman about the Imam`s reply. Here is the letter written to the Council and the replies given by Mowlana Sultan Mohamed Shah will give you some idea about what questions he raised in his letter. This is a very interesting letter and gives a detailed explanation of our beliefs and traditions. Read the whole letter and you will get the picture of our faith. Here is the copy of the letter.
My Dear President and Members,
The gentleman in question calls himself an Ismaili, but his whole education
has been such that he knows nothing about Isrnailisrn. Had he known anything about it, and of the books that have been written by Ismailia Association, by Professor Ivanow, by European Historians, and even by our enemies in Persia and Arabia, he would not have written such a letter. He must either give up the Views expressed in his letter or sign that he is not an Ismaili and leave the Jamat. The Ismailis have been known as Batiniyoon from the very first. The Ismaili Imams' whole Faith is One revolt against the Formalism and the want of Spiritual Faith and Mental Prayers, to which the Imams felt Islam had been reduced after the fall of the Omayyad Dynasty.
Today in every Moslem country the struggle is between those who want progress on Western lines and identification with the Western way of life in worldly and material things and keep the spiritual side of Islam on the one hand, and those who want the Formalism of the past and what is called the Molevis and Mullahs as Islamic way of life.
Every Moslem country, including Pakistan is not sure of its future. It is either like Northern Africa, French Colonies or like the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan in danger of being suppressed either by Russia or falling into the hands of Western Imperialism; or like Turkey which has sincerely changed and has become part of the West and is today strong respected and sure of its future. No fear of Turkey becoming either a Russian or a Western Colony. This struggle goes on everywhere and in Pakistan I myself have made a speech in which I have placed before the public that it is either Western material life plus Islamic spiritual life, or keeping Formalism and even losing to Hindu India.
This gentleman (and I suppose a few other like him) would like us to have, part from our public joining in feasts, the ceremonies of the kind which is practised by the Ithna Asharis and other Moslems in Africa, of which alone he knows. But see where these ways of life and ceremonies and want of spiritual light have got the Moslems in Africa to. Compare the position of the Moslem African or the Arab African, who came as a conqueror, with the Christian African who was once a slave and a savage 50 years ago. The Christian African with free social life and freedom of women is one generation in everything in advance of the Moslem African including those of mixed Arab race.
The so-called pious Moslems which this gentleman and others like him admire never raised a single finger to help and advance Islam in Africa; It was only under Imami Ismaili leadership and initiative that the Moslem Welfare has been started and some attempts made to raise the Moslems o the standard of the Christians and to save them from being converted by Christianity by he hopeless and so - called orthodox Formalism which he admires.
Atta Turk and Rezza Shah in Iran and I myself from 1902 at the Moslem Conference and the Moslem League in Delhi and other places, we have always told the Moslems that they must remember the fundamental saying of our Holy Prophet, namely:
That then in Arabia if they give up one per cent of the laws and customs introduced by the Prophet they would be ruined, while the time would come that if they kept more than one per cent of these laws and customs they would be ruined.' This gentleman has talked of the vices of Hollywood coming amongst the young ladies of the Jamat. I hate the vices of Hollywood. But what about the worst vice of the slavery of women in purdah, burqah and zenana where women are reduced to the moral insignificance of vegetables and physical wrecks, of diseases such as tuberculosis etc. God does not consider anybody moral who is put in a cage or box and locked up. The only morality is those who resist temptation of evil and with honour carry their head high, having seen the attraction of the bad and chosen the good.
I fully realise that our religious customs are not the same as those of the other Moslems of Africa or India, of the conservative Moslems brought up under Abbaside traditions and Formalism. The time is coming as it has come in Turkey, as it has come in Persia and to a great extent in Pakistan when people like Liaquat Ali Khan if he had lived, a very strong element amongst the governing class. And leaders of thought are coming to our ways of looking rather than we go theirs. Already some of the most conservative Moslem sects in Africa even are here and there giving liberty to their ladies. To ask us to change our religion of Batiniyoon and become formalists is to ask us to be no more Ismailis. Men like this gentleman and others must either change their views or leave the Jamat, as I already said. We cannot allow such believers in Formalism to remain in our Congregation.
It has not been my rule to accept blindly all that is called Western way of
life. More than anybody I have condemned the two terrible poisons of the West (poison which Ismailis should avoid if they want to live). Poisons that kill body and soul - Alcohol and Tobacco. These are the evils of the West, but the liberty to choose between moral evil and moral good is the necessary part of the battle of the soul of each individuals.
This gentleman objects to the Nandi because he thinks it should go to the poor, but he does not seem to understand that the way to treat the poor is
o teach them co-operatives, where by union they will get economic strength.
Like labour societies and workers, who are individually poor, have done all over the West. If he really wants the poor to become economically strong, ask them to associate with each other and not cut each others throat by competition. Then there are the large funds which at low interest can help, but only to corporate united bodies.
This gentleman apparently attaches importance to the Koran. Will he swear on Koran that he has never taken and will never take interest on capital? If he reads the Koran, interest on capital is as much forbidden as eating pork-both go together in one and single place. Interest on capital is much more formally forbidden than wine and gambling which are only said should not be done instead of being told not to be done. Yet today is it possible in capitalist or communist countries where economic conditions and development have reached such a point for one to live without interest? It is impossible. The Pakistan State Bank call it profit but it is interest because it is on idle money lying in its coffers, so there is no profit it is interest. The change of mind does not change the fact.
It should once and for all be proved to this gentleman that while the words of the Koran remain the same, every generation, every century, every period must have a new and different interpretation to that of the past, otherwise Islam will die and will not survive the competition of some healthy less rigid competitors.
I am sending herewith a copy of a letter that one of the most eminent
leaders of Islam in Pakistan, Mr. Amjad Ali, Counsellor of Embassy, Charge d'Affairs and Minister in Washington, sent me. The substance of it should be read to this man to open his eyes that the thinkers even in Pakistan realise that the rigidity of formal Islamic customs and religious ceremonies kills and has killed all Moslem states and Nations in the past.
Historic Photo Taken at the Evian Conference with All Attendees:
Mowlana Hazar Imam Aga Sultan Muhammad Shah, Mata Salamat, Princes Karim and Amin Mohamed
Vizir Fatehali Dhala, Mombasa
Vizir Sir Eboo Pirbhai, OBE, Nairobi
Itmadi Vizir Abdulla Hassam Gangji, Zanzibar
Count Di w an MN Jindani, Mombasa
Court Kassum Sunderji Samji, Dar es salam
Vizir Kassamali Paroo, Mombasa
Vizir VM Nazerali, OBE, Dar es salaam
Vizir AG Abdulhussein, Dar es salaam
Vizir Allibhai Kassam Lakha, Mombasa
Vizir Merali Ramji, Mombasa
Vizir Bahadurali Remtulla Samji, Majunga
Vizir Abdulraheman Da w ood Nathoo, Tananarive
Vizir Fazal Bhanji, Zanzibar
Vizir Abdulla Jivraj Bhojani, Dodoma
Vizir Moolji Nazerali, Moshi
Vizir Hassan Kassim Lakha, Kampala
Vizir Jafferali Ali Megji, Dar es saalam
Vizir Huseinali Nathu, Kampala
Vizir Gulamhussein Moledina, Bombay
Rai Ibrahim Esmail Nathu, Nairobi
Rai Bahadurali KS Verjee, Kampala
Alijah Ibrahim Mitha Shivji, Mbale
Alijah Kassam Amersi, Mwanza
Alijah Mahomed Ismail Sokota, Tananarive
Alijah Jadavaji Haji, Pretoria
Rai Ebrahim Jamal, Kisumu
Huzurmukhi Remtulla K Sheriff, Usumbura
Huzurmukhi Shariff Karsan, Tanga
Huzurmukhi Abdulmahomed Kamadia, Tabora
Mr. GK Ishani, Nairobi
Mr. Abdulrasul Allibhai Kassim Lakha, Nairobi
Mr. Noordin Merali Ji w an, Masaka
Paris Mukhi Rai Piarali Remtulla Samji
Paris Kamdia Alijah Mohamedaly Pirbay
Secretary Abdulsultan D Shariff, Mombasa
It is no good all Presidents come here if these Presidents do not preach all the time to Jamats all my advices and Guidance given here, when they go back. In Jamatkhana, Clubs, etc. you must become worldly missionaries. ... Continue preaching continously just like pouring water on stone:
Mawlana Sultan Mohammad Shah, Evian 7-7-1952
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