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Event - 1958-02-12
Wednesday, 1958, February 12
Aga Khan IV (H.H. Prince Karim)

Your Excellencies, Your Highness, Ladies and Gentlemen, My spiritual children

May I say how glad I am to be back in Dacca for the purpose of publicly celebrating my installation as forty-ninth Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailis.

This visit to the capital city of East Pakistan comes very near the end of a tour which has taken me through most of the main centres of population in the country. My one great regret is that it has proved impossible on this occasion to arrange a visit to Hunza, whose ruler honours us with his presence this afternoon. But when the Mir returns to his beautiful domain, he will take with him my promise to visit Hunza personally as soon as I can.

The position which I hold has no political significance. The Ismailis are scattered all over the world, owing allegiance to many flags and serving beneath many different forms of government. In taking up my new duties, it has been a tremendous inspiration for me to experience the hospitality and personal kindness so readily offered by national leaders wherever I go. This has been very true in Pakistan, and I want to express my thanks to their Excellencies the Governors of East and West Pakistan, and again to your President. I know how much this kindness is due to the respect in which the world holds the memory of my beloved grandfather. I can only hope to justify the faith he placed in me.

One point which has struck me during this present tour is how tenuous are the physical ties which unite the two halves of Pakistan into one nation. A few aeroplanes, a handful of ships, a fragile radio link - these are all it seems that you have to rely upon to bridge the gulf of 1200 miles. That, of course, is only a superficial view. Beneath the surface are the incalculable depths of a single religious faith, a faith which demands in its turn a common way of life. These are bonds which no man can break, bonds which will endure until the end of time. All this is true, but we should not underestimate the handicap imposed by the geographical division of Pakistan. Unless constant efforts are made to surmount these handicaps, they will begin to assume unwarranted importance.

To my own community, therefore, I say this. I believe it is your duty, as Ismailis and as citizens of Pakistan, to do all in your power to spread a sense of national consciousness and to strengthen the links between the eastern and western halves of your country. For example, if the means of transportation were more readily available, I believe that much more could be done to expand the commercial ties between them. I hope my own community will play a vigorous role in this direction. Again, although 1200 miles sounds and is a great distance, modern means of communication -- atomic-powered ships, faster and faster jet aeroplanes and the magic of television -- are reducing the distance daily. This process will continue and I see no reason why its pace should slacken.

That is why all of you, and particularly the younger generation, should think of your country as something more than a cradle in which to be born, to grow up, make money, marry, have children and die.

This nation is a living thing, not yet a generation old, courageously grappling with the chain of problems which encompass it. Do not think of these problems as being outside your concern, as something which 'they', the statesmen and politicians will look after. It does not matter if your work is unconnected with administrative or political affairs. You can play your part as an employer or as a worker in commerce or in the professions, by the way you conduct your daily life. The behaviour of each individual, however humble he may be, is reflected ultimately in the progress or otherwise of the country to which he owes allegiance.

If you think of Pakistan as your country, then all her problems are your problems. No nation can prosper unless its people are alive to the civic responsibilities. Certainly no Muslim nation can endure unless its leaders, its teachers, its parents and its youth hold fast to the faith which should inspire their whole outlook.

This has been said to you before - and by men who are more experienced and better qualified to speak than I. As a young man, however, perhaps I may be permitted to add this further reflection. Without Islam, the very idea of Pakistan would have been an absurdity. But as a modern state striving to establish itself in an uncertain world, I feel sure that her Muslim inspiration must move with the times. The recent decision to make Islamic teaching compulsory in the schools will, I believe, prove a very wise one. But its benefits will not be fully experienced if that religious instruction is too hidebound by dogmas of the past. There is no need to discard the great traditions of our faith. There is every need to adapt and invigorate them in the light of the quite altered circumstances of today.

We should not be afraid of material progress. The less-advanced nations need its fruits desperately in their fight against poverty and disease. If Muslims will accept this need, and at the same time ensure that the living essence of their faith infuses every field of human activity, you will rediscover the ancient glories of Islam.

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