Sep 26, 2007

Golden Jubilee Imamat Day - North America

Golden Jubilee Imamat Day

The celebrations began early on the morning of 11 July 2007 across North America as the long-awaited day finally dawned. It was the start of the Golden Jubilee, a day of celebration for all Ismailis around the world in commemoration of 50 years of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Imamat.

Children enjoying traditional dandia raas at Chicago’s celebrations. Photo: Ismaili Council for the USAMany young members of the Jamat managed only a few hours of sleep, excited about the celebrations planned for the following day. In Canada, people awoke early to participate in morning devotional recitations and ceremonies. In major centres across the USA, Australia and New Zealand, the anticipation was palpable as performers, young and old, dressed up in their country's traditional attire battling not only ribbons and buttons but also the butterflies in their stomachs! After all, the Golden Jubilee opening ceremonies and the cultural dances were only hours away.

Volunteers also had an early start to the day. “At four in the morning, I was already dressed in my uniform,” said Nisara Bandali, a volunteer in Toronto. “When I arrived at Jamatkhana, other volunteers were hugging and wishing each other Khushiali Mubarak. They all had huge smiles spread across their faces and a special glint in their eyes.”

Young volunteers roll out the carpet in preparation for the celebration in Calgary. Photo: Amir JessaniThis spirit reflected the feelings of Ismailis around the world to be part of this very special Imamat Day. For Ismailis in Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand, these sentiments were even more profound given that Mawlana Hazar Imam’s benevolence, grace and guidance have led the Jamat to not only settle, but also to thrive in some of the world’s most meritocratic societies.

An Ottawa volunteer noted that although she had spent the last year helping to prepare for this day, the feelings were overwhelming as she embarked on “one of the most memorable days” of her life. In particular, the global telecast of the inaugural ceremony held at Aiglemont, France, earlier that day was an emotional and awe-inspiring experience. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime celebration. We are so lucky to participate in this joyous and most memorable occasion,” said Noorjehan Kassam Mulji of Montreal. Similar sentiments were echoed by Rafiq Kuwaja of Melbourne, Australia: “Even though we are a tiny Jamat, we feel overjoyed to celebrate this momentous occasion alongside the worldwide Jamat.”

The youth in the Jamat participated wholeheartedly as young volunteers served boxed lunches, handed out water in the Intezari hall, listened intently to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s address, and even let loose on the raas floor. While programs such as the Golden Voyage had been raising the youth’s awareness of the Imam’s work, the viewing of the Homage Ceremony had a far-reaching impact: “To see Hazar Imam so poised and content felt amazing” said young Rita Habibabi. “His words were simply inspiring, his care for all of humanity is unprecedented, and his actions untouchable, but I am committed to helping make a difference in any way I can,” added her brother Riyaz.

The celebrations had a profound effect on 28 year-old Tariq Schmidt of Vancouver. He became an Ismaili 18 months ago after feeling an immediate connection to the faith. “It was incredible to see thousands of people working together for a collective greater cause,” he said. ”I’d never been a part of something like that before.”

The BC Youth Choir sets the tone for the day. Photo: Aziz Ladha“The Jamat was extremely happy, and the atmosphere was enlightened with love and laughter,” said Nisara Bandali. “Many members of the Jamat got dressed up especially for Khushiali; however, for me it was an honour to wear my volunteer uniform.” In the USA, volunteers wore gold and white ribbons specially made by volunteers in Karachi, Pakistan. “This is a wonderful gesture, and I want to express our gratitude,” said Dr. Amirali Popatia, President of the Council for the Southwestern United States, “as it demonstrates the links we have with one another across the world.”

These linkages and the diversity of the worldwide Ismaili community were represented by members of the Jamat across the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as well as by the different traditions celebrated. In South Florida, the diversity of the Jamat was epitomised in the dance routines. Sheriar Mohammed, an Iranian Ismaili and a dance participant, was particularly moved by the different traditions such as African, Arab, Central Asian, Indo-Pak and Western included in the ceremonies.

The joy of this occasion was also felt in California, where Jamati members of all ages came together to celebrate our Imam’s Golden Jubilee. Seniors in wheelchairs were rolled in to the middle of the raas circles so others could dance around them. In a corner, little children played their own version of dandia. Teenagers taught their parents new moves, while the parents reciprocated by showing them the moves of their yesteryears.

The celebrations provided an occasion to be creative and to learn about the work of the Imam. The Jamats in the USA, Australia and New Zealand had submitted prose, poetry and art for the “Expressions of Love and Devotion” initiative. Colourful quilts, art and inspiring poems, created by the very young to seniors, adorned the walls of a gallery, alongside images of the work of the Aga Khan Development Network. In Canada, students recited devotional poetry and a special Golden Jubilee song for the Jamat while showcasing lanterns they had uniquely decorated during religious education classes. Canadians also had an opportunity to take “A Walk Down Golden Memory Lane” and view photos and memorabilia submitted by Jamati members from their personal encounters with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of the Imam's family.

The Southwest USA Jamat bids mubarakbadis to the world-wide Jamat. Photo: Ismaili Council for the USA

While the massive task of organising the logistics of this day had taken many months, the countless hours of planning and preparation proved their worth as the Jamat thoroughly enjoyed this memorable event. Many expressed thanks to the volunteers who worked so hard to put this incredible event together. All felt a deep sense of gratitude to the Imam of the Time and connection with the worldwide Jamat, which, though divided by space, was united in celebrating this momentous occasion.

Ismailiworld - Be Unite

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