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Second, they have been successful precisely because they have managed to draw in powerful networks and institutions from outside northern Pakistan, while applying their intimate knowledge of local social and political settings. In this process they have fundamentally contributed to changes in living conditions, as well as to access to education, healthcare and mobility.
They have also taken part in the creation of new forms of inequality and the reshuffling of local power struggles. Apart from its historical depth, the case of Haji Qudratullah Beg vividly illustrates the complexity of humanitarian genealogies: on the one hand, his life and work are comparatively well-documented through his own writing as well as in sources produced outside the region, particularly the colonial archive.
This view allows us to look at humanitarianism in northern Pakistan not only as a movement that has established new and sometimes violent sectarian and ethnic boundaries Varley Varley, Emma.
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Bielefeld : Transcript. On a grey, cloudy day in March I met the descendants of Haji Qudratullah Beg in their winter residence in Rawalpindi. Qudratullah Beg was born in and passed away in He travelled extensively, not only in India, but also in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East. New Haven : Yale University Press. They host a blog discussing everything from development, local NGOs, and relief initiatives to the importance of solar panels for Hunza. They also organize Whatsapp groups in which they share and discuss NGO-related news from northern Pakistan, and they initiate the collection of donations to fund projects in local Muslim assembly halls in Hunza.
Baltit : no publisher. The introduction of new Ismaili institutions alongside humanitarian projects in northern Pakistan is thus as much a history of transforming the local Ismaili community as it is a history of the navigation of local and translocal political and sectarian forces. It also is a local product of British colonial rule and a monument to a bygone era in which political and cultural boundaries between Central and South Asia had not yet attained Cold War petrification.
Qudratullah Beg connected himself to and highlighted a geographically far-reaching Ismaili identity at a crucial point in time when it — in the context of the British Empire — provided the resources to establish political, material and financial links to a world beyond the northern frontier. Being only one Muslim group amongst others that included Twelver Shias and Sunnis, Ismailis were scattered across a vast territory — predominantly the areas north of Gilgit in Hunza, in Chitral, and in parts of Afghanistan, China and the Soviet Union Beben Beben, Daniel.
Peacock , — Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press. However, actual ties to the embodied centres of spiritual authority — successive Ismaili Imams tracing their lineages back to the Prophet Muhammad — had often been loose. The loyalty of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Ismaili Imams to the British government and their residency in Bombay radically altered their standing in relation to followers living in different parts of the British Empire, of which the Ismailis at the northern frontier had become a part in the late nineteenth century.
Ismailism and Islam in Modern South Asia. Cambridge : Harvard University Press. In , at the age of twenty-six, Qudratullah Beg travelled from his mountainous homeland to the lowlands of British-ruled India. Indiana University.
In addition, he argued that he would also need to construct an Ismaili assembly hall as well as a guest house. Locations outside the British sphere of influence were also out of the question, as Ismaili political and financial affiliations were closely linked to British rule. Despite a promising start, it took Qudratullah Beg and his companions more than a decade to complete the construction of the assembly hall in Gilgit, which remains a landmark in the town to this day.
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As India Office records of the British Library show, the construction of the Ismaili assembly hall in Gilgit occurred at a time of intensive infrastructural development at the northern frontier. View all notes Technological change, as well as anxieties over nearby Soviet rule and construction activities, brought plans of new roads, bridges and airports to the region.
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View all notes Meanwhile, the Ismaili assembly hall in Gilgit stands as a reminder of the complex relationship between large-scale, state-sponsored infrastructural projects and smaller yet no less consequential efforts that often remain understudied. Without imperial roads and railways, the assembly hall of Gilgit would probably have never been built and inaugurated. Thus, while colonial infrastructure facilitated the itinerant aspects of local life, the assembly hall fostered the entrenchment of institutions that later engaged in large-scale humanitarian interventions in the area.
From the start this process has been both an Ismaili endeavour and one that addresses people across religious boundaries. In the following section I trace the early stages of this ambivalent process, which not only led to the transformation of Ismailism in northern Pakistan, but also gave way to much broader social and political change, institutionalization, and the affective force of humanitarian thought. As pointed out in much anthropological literature, modern infrastructures often oscillate between qualities of functionality and poetics Larkin Larkin, Brian.
Similarly, the Ismaili assembly hall in Gilgit, for which Qudratullah Beg so fervently advocated, fulfilled the basic function of providing a space to gather, pray and learn for Ismailis. At the same time, the building was also a local materialization of the widely dispersed, mid-twentieth-century Ismaili-Muslim community that was under reconstruction by increasingly centralized institutions Devji Devji, Faisal. London : Hurst and Company.
As such, the assembly hall also tells the tale of immense resources and powerful institutions that would inhabit northern Pakistan for years to come through a process that Steinberg Steinberg, Jonah.
In his historical narrative, Qudratullah Beg mentions how he once again travelled from Gilgit to Bombay shortly after the official opening of the assembly hall in Qudratullah Beg, accompanied by fellow travellers, set off to cross the snow-covered passes of Kashmir in December.
This event in Bombay received global media coverage; it attracted a large crowd of guests and was followed by a second gathering in Dar-es-Salaam in East Africa six months later. By the end of century, a large part of the Ismaili establishment was constituted by Khoja merchants navigating along the Indian Ocean trading networks of the time. View all notes Crossing the frozen landscape of Kashmir on foot for weeks on end, Qudratullah Beg was motivated by more than his desire to be part of a historical celebration; he also had further funding requests for scholarships and education in mind, which he planned to propose to the Aga Khan.
After Qudratullah Beg and his travelling companions had traversed the mountains of the Karakoram-Himalaya on foot, crossed Wular Lake by boat, and covered the final stretch to Rawalpindi by horse carriage tanga and lorry, they boarded a train to Bombay where they arrived on 29 December According to Qudratullah Beg, by the end of January the Aga Khan had already promised 8, rupees for the maintenance of two schools in Hunza and 4, rupees for educational scholarships.
Having received this confirmation, Qudratullah Beg mentions in his writing that he felt emotional and overjoyed by the news and began to recite poetry by Nasir-i Khusraw, the early Ismaili philosopher and missionary of Badakhshan, to express his state of gratitude. Shortly thereafter, on 10 March , the Diamond Jubilee ceremony brought together , guests, including Ismailis from all over India, the northern frontier, Iran, Syria and Africa.
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On occasions when Ismaili Imams meet their followers, offerings nazrana and donations chanda , as well as redistribution within and beyond the Ismaili community, are to be expected. Yet the Diamond Jubilee in brought novelty to this exchange: on both celebratory occasions — in Bombay and in Dar-es-Salaam — the Aga Khan III was literally weighed in industrial diamonds, whose worth was then donated by wealthy Ismailis to communal institutions.
Thus, the event in Bombay, which is documented in media accounts, Ismaili platforms see, e. Coughlan Coughlan, Robert. Online, Accessed October 12, Files in the India Office records of the British Library give evidence of the process of making this politically and economically highly symbolic occasion possible.
In the early stages of this exchange, clerks at the Ministry of Supply and the India Office attempted to make sense of the loan request. For instance, in June A. Lee from the Ministry of Supply asked A. Sitting in the Brabourne Cricket Stadium in Bombay, watching the performance of Quran recitations and devotional hymns ginan , Qudratullah Beg was part of an event that was embedded in both longer histories of Ismaili giving and imperial modernity Mukherjee Mukherjee, Soumen.
Once the opening ceremony was over, the Aga Khan was seated on a rotating scale mizan and weighed in these British-owned diamonds, the value of which was to be matched by communal contributions. However, for Qudratullah Beg, and for people in Hunza and Gilgit more generally, the Diamond Jubilee was of particular significance. For Qudratullah Beg, the funds raised in Bombay changed the nature of his initiatives and confirmed the power that the oversight of these investments bestowed upon him. In Hunza, these funds were largely invested in schools and signalled the beginning of the material and moral presence of Ismaili institutions that has continued unabated to this day Hussain Hussain, Shafqat.
Berlin : Dietrich Reimer Verlag. Wiesbaden : Harrassowitz. The man who sat on the rotating scale on that day in March , the Aga Khan III, had — for many years — not just expressed grand plans of economic progress and poverty reduction for his Ismaili followers in various parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East; he was also involved in aspirational endeavours to change the fate of humanity at large.
That which weakens one weakens all. That which is a gain to one is surely a gain to all. In this regard, he saw Muslims, and Ismailis more specifically, as core propagators of equality and common humanity Shah Shah, Sultan Muhammad. London : Cassell and Company. The idea that being Muslim implies a profound sense of humanity — and indeed of human rights — amidst various political and socio-economic fault lines is visible in the events that followed the Diamond Jubilee, and remains important in Ismaili discourse today.
The donations linked to the weighing ceremonies in March in Bombay and six months later in Dar-es-Salaam amounted to an estimated , British pounds each. The Ismaili Community. Come here for breaking stories about the arts , coverage of I ve events , interviews with leading cultural figures , critical reviews , multimedia extravaganzas and much more. For those of you who have n't , learn fast! If people did n't realise which countries came in between those two cities that was n't my problem , right? But now that I 've been and made it safely home , people are curious about the summer I spent travelling , often alone and a woman to boot , along the so - called axis of evil.
Their first question is usually - was it safe? What is there to see except sand and camels?
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