The ummah as a just, inclusive, pluralistic community is rooted in the origins of Islam. Its profound sense of social responsibility, particularly towards the most marginalised members of society, is reflected in the Ismaili Muslims’ deeply-held tradition of voluntary service rendered through community organisations and through civil society institutions that benefit all.
Millions of people throughout Pakistan have been devastated by heavy downpours and massive flooding that has been described as one of the worst disasters in the country’s history. But in the face of calamity, communities, institutions, government and civil society are coming together to help one another and rebuild lives.
Sixteen-month-old Jimla Kasenga and 61-year-old Mukadi Kabengele both have a reason to smile. Each of them underwent facial reconstructive surgery at Operation Smile’s recent medical mission to Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The week-long mission was broadly supported by members of the local Ismaili community.
The Jamat in Dubai includes a disproportionate number of bachelors and young families, who, with all the pressures of work and modern life, find it difficult to prepare traditional home cooked meals. Meanwhile, many older women in the Jamat possess exceptional cooking skills and an enterprising spirit. The opportunity to come together was obvious, and led to the creation of a Golden Alliance.
In April, 13 students from Madagascar travelled to Kenya for a week-long visit. It was an opportunity for them to experience a culture outside their own, meet Ismaili students from another country, and to immerse themselves in an environment where they could improve their spoken and written English.
Earlier this year, Focus Humanitarian Assistance in North America conducted disaster management and leadership training in Houston and Toronto, for their Regional Disaster Management Teams. As a key component of the Disaster Management Programme, the training prepared community stakeholders to effectively respond to natural and man-made disasters.
Through civic engagement, humankind has refined agricultural practices, reformed education, rebuilt communities after natural disasters, and strengthened civil society. In countries around the world, Ismaili Muslims have made their own mark on history through community involvement, voluntary service, youth education and political engagement.
This year, the Girl Guide movement turns 98. Over the years, the organisation’s impact on the physical, mental and spiritual development of girls and young women has been phenomenal. Many Ismaili Muslim women who are part of the movement have become inspiring role models and leaders in their communities and the world.
In December, ten Ismaili Muslim Boy Scouts in Texas earned the prestigious Eagle Scout Award for performing outstanding community service that demonstrated initiative, commitment to help those in need, and extraordinary leadership skills. This prestigious rank is achieved by only five per cent of all Boy Scouts in the United States.
In January, a magnitude 7.0 earthquake shattered the Republic of Haiti. Horrified by the disaster, countries, civil society organisations and individual donors responded with desperately needed help. Among them were many Ismailis who used their resources and skills to find creative ways to provide timely assistance to Haitians.
Life in the Hunza valley was changed forever when a landslide buried the entire village of Attabad in the Northern Pakistan territory of Gilgit-Baltistan earlier this year. Despite extensive relief efforts, the future remains uncertain as a lake resulting from the landslide swallows villages and threatens the lives of thousands downstream.
As a Muslim community, giving of our time and helping others is integral to our way of life. From a young age, Ismailis are surrounded by examples of volunteers in action. In the UK, the Youth, Cultural and Social Network has launched an initiative that provides opportunities for the Jamat to give back to the society in which they live.
Last November, four dedicated participants from the Partnership Walk & Run in the United Kingdom had a chance to see the impact of their efforts firsthand. They spent seven days in India, where they visited one of the projects selected to receive funds from the event. They recently shared their impressions with TheIsmaili.org.
Imagine swimming 750 metres, then biking 20 kilometres, and finally running 5 kilometres in a span of a few hours. Sounds like an intense physical challenge? How about taking this on without your sense of sight? Rozina Issani shares her inspiring personal story.
In Tajikistan, the celebration of Imamat Day — or Roz-e Takht Nishini in Tajik — traditionally includes family and neighbourhood gatherings with shared meals, music and dancing. In July 2009 the Aga Khan Development Network Resident Representative Office contributed to the festivities by hosting an education-themed Imamat Day reception.
During the course of the Golden Jubilee, many murids around the world pledged a nazrana of Time and Knowledge to Mawlana Hazar Imam. Shaheen Tejani reflects on the completion of her recent TKN engagement with the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance.
Anyone who has visited the Canadian province of Alberta will have been touched by the Spirit of the West. In the best tradition of that spirit, the Jamat in Alberta has worked to make the province and the country a better place for all.
Nestled among the narrow streets of Old Town Mombasa is a little gem of a place that radiates the hopefulness of a new generation. Founded by three Aga Khan Academy teachers, the Jahazi Coffee House is making an effort to improve life in the surrounding community.
Reflecting on Mawlana Hazar Imam's speech at the 2009 Conference of the Global Philanthropy Forum, Asif Penwala explores the connection between philanthropy, the ethic of compassion and voluntary service. He observes how this relationship comes together within the Jamat, as well as the wider sphere of the Ismaili Imamat. Also see the video.
Sixty-nine people participated in the 2008 FOCUS Challenge event, cycling some 550 kilometres from Mumbai to Goa along the Konkan Coast. This photo essay documents their journey.
According to the WHO, more than 90 per cent of visually impaired people live in developing countries. One Ismaili doctor is making eye health services accessible to some of them and improving the quality of their lives.