Mission and purpose
The .IMAMAT TLD is being sought as a way to bring together on-line activities of the Ismaili Imamat. By way of context, the following provides some historical background to the institution of the Ismaili Imamat.
Throughout their history, the Ismailis have been led by a living, hereditary Imam. They trace the line of Imamat in hereditary succession from Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him). The followers of Ali, or Shia, already in existence during the lifetime of the Prophet, maintained that while the revelation ceased at the Prophet’s death, the need for spiritual and moral guidance of the community continued. They firmly believed that the legacy of Prophet Muhammad could only be entrusted to a member of his own family, in whom the Prophet had invested his authority through designation before his death. That person was Ali, Prophet Muhammad’s cousin, the husband of his daughter and only surviving child, Fatima. The institution of Imamat was to continue thereafter on a hereditary basis, succession being based on designation by the Imam of the Time.
In time, the Shia were sub-divided. The Ismailis are the second largest Shia Muslim community. The Ismailis gave their allegiance to Imam Jafar as-Sadiq’s eldest son Ismail, from whom they derive their name. The Ismailis trace the line of Imamat in continuing hereditary succession from Ismail to His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, who is their present, 49th Imam in direct lineal descent from Prophet Muhammad.
The Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living hereditary Imam; it is the presence of the living Imam that makes the Ismaili Imamat unique. Hence the term “Imamat” refers to more than just the concept of Imamat, but rather to the institution of the Ismaili Imamat, which today encompasses numerous activities and organisations, including the institutions of the Ismaili Muslim community around the world and the agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).
The Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private, international, non-denominational agencies working to improve living conditions and opportunities for people in some of the poorest parts of the developing world, in Central Asia, South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. AKDN institutions serve mandates in education (pre school to tertiary including research); health (from primary to tertiary care, including teaching and research); culture; rural development; human habitat; crises response; micro finance; and economic development.
In the 1400-year Muslim tradition of leadership, an Imam is concerned not only with interpreting the faith to those who refer to him, but also taking the lead in improving the security and the quality of life of his community and all those amongst whom it lives.
To the Ismaili Imamat therefore, “quality of life” represents a holistic vision that encompasses the entire ethical and social context in which people live. This entails investing with a social conscience in people, in their efforts to foster pluralism, in their intellectual pursuit and search for new and useful knowledge as much as investing towards improvements in their material condition. It is in this context that the present Imam has established and presides over the Ismaili constitutional institutions and over the organizations and agencies of AKDN which seek to respond to the changing complexities of modern development processes.
This sense of common purpose underlies the Ismaili Imamat’s collaboration with national governments, their regional groupings, (including, for instance, the European Union and the East African Community), international public agencies and a myriad of non-governmental organizations, all sharing the conviction that, as long as vast swathes of humanity remain hopelessly trapped in poverty and ignorance, and the world’s pluralist cultures are under threat, global peace is a fragile illusion.
It is in this light, and in recognition of the Ismaili Imamat’s track record, that governments, as well as supranational and international agencies, have extended to the Imamat the courtesies and privileges of diplomatic recognition. Furthermore, protocols of co-operation have been exchanged between countries and the Ismaili Imamat, directly, and through the instrumentality of the AKDN institutions. Among countries and states that have entered into protocol relationships with the Ismaili Imamat are, for example, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brazil, the European Commission, France, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Mali, Pakistan, Portugal, Syria, Tajikistan as well as the States of California, Illinois and Texas.
Such protocol arrangements highlight the character of the AKDN as an independent, self governing system of non-denominational institutions, agencies and programmes under the leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan. Whilst the protocols are generally rooted nationally, their scope is regional and international. A significant feature of the institutions of the Ismaili Imamat is their ability to harness the energy, dedication and skills of volunteers and remunerated professionals, drawing upon the talents of people of all faiths.
AKDN Representatives, accredited to the countries where diplomatic courtesies have been granted, are active members of the local diplomatic corps, and enjoy excellent relations with fellow ambassadors and consular staff, liaising together on matters of common interest.
In addition to the protocols mentioned above, recently, the parliament of the Republic of Portugal unanimously ratified a landmark Faith Agreement with the Ismaili Imamat, with both parties committing themselves to working together in pursuing their shared goals and responsibilities to promote and uphold human dignity and pluralism, eliminate conflict, and improve the quality of life of the vulnerable, in Portugal and elsewhere. This agreement recognises the religious identity of the Ismaili Imamat and the Ismaili community, and confers formal recognition on the community’s constitutional bodies as established by the Imam of the Time. Similar agreements are currently being negotiated with other countries.
The Ismaili Imamat has also signed an International Treaty and Charter with the Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyztan and Tajikistan, which was ratified by the respective parliaments and registered with the United Nations, to establish the University of Central Asia, a secular and private regional University.
In addition, the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat has been established in Ottawa, Canada and offers a centre for building relationships, enabling quiet diplomacy, disseminating knowledge and information, while reflecting the wide-ranging humanistic and humanitarian agenda of the AKDN. The Global Centre for Pluralism is a further initiative of the Ismaili Imamat in partnership with the Government of Canada. Dedicated to the creation of successful societies, the Centre is founded on the premise that tolerance, openness and understanding towards the cultures, social structures, values and faiths of other peoples are essential to the very survival of an interdependent world. Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for progress and development, it is vital to our existence.
The institutions of the Ismaili Imamat also include those operating under the aegis of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, established by His Highness the Aga Khan in 1986. The Constitution, which brings together the social governance of the worldwide Ismaili community, describes the various Institutions of the Ismaili community which are appointed by His Highness the Aga Khan in different parts of the world.
The AGA KHAN FOUNDATION, under the direction of its Chairman, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam, seeks the .IMAMAT TLD to support and promote all the activities discussed above.