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Indian Africa

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Adam Michel

Nizarite Ismailis in Kenya

Colette Le Cour Grandmaison

Texte intégral

  • 1 Most data for this chapter was collected from Ismaili institutions: namely the headquarters of the (...)
  • 2 Estimates of the number of Muslims in Kenya have been most contrasting and far-fetched, ranging fro (...)
  • 3 Le Monde, “Focus”, Wednesday 25/10/2006.
  • 4 The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London and the Shia Ismaili Council for France give an official (...)

1Nizarite Ismailis in Kenya form a community that is open to the modern world, quick to seize opportunities, adjust and innovate1. About 8,000 in number, it is only less than 0.3 % of the Kenyan Muslim population (about 3,000,000 people)2. Mainly urban, it is seen as the elite and actually holds a leading position in business, industry, finance and intellectual professions. This chapter aims to outline how the Ismaili society is organized. However, a historical detour while dwelling more on the 19th and 20th centuries is necessary. It is during this historic period that a new chapter in the Ismaili history was written under the auspices of the two Aga Khan; it was during this period that the Ismaili community as it is known today came into being, complete with an accomplished, rich organization with multiple projects and which is looking towards modernity. Like other Shias, Ismailis believe in the dynastic legitimacy of the Prophet’s family, namely Ali’s lineage, his cousin and his son-in-law, his daughter Fatima’s husband. Known in Arabic as shi’at Ali ( “from Ali” or, by ellipsis, shia), the Shias today are 216.1 million or 15 % of the world Muslim population3. Among them, the Nizarite Ismailis are a breakaway minority scattered in four continents and whose numerical importance is difficult to assess ranging between five and twenty million people4. Mostly settled in Asia, particularly in Central Asia, Bangladesh, numerous in Pakistan and India, Ismailis are scattered in the Middle East, Africa and North America.

The three schisms

2In the succession of Shia Imams after the Prophet the first schism between two factions took place in 765 (148 AH) after Imam al-Sadiq’s death. Imam Jafar al-Sadiq was the sixth imam after Ali: those who recognized his son Ismail as successor are the Ismailis or Septimamians. These are those who recognized Musa al-Kacim as the seventh imam who remained in power until the twelfth imam and died towards 873. The 12th imam, Mahdi, remains the only imam for a large majority of Shias today. The disciples of the twelve imams are called ithna ashari or duodecimans. In 1094 (487 AH), a second schism broke out after Imam Fatimid al-Mustansir’s death. His two sons fought for power: Nizar his appointed successor and Ahmed al-Mustali Billah. Two rival factions confronted one another: the Nizarite Ismailis who now recognize the Aga Khan’s authority and Mustalians, Ahmed al-Mustali’s followers. In 1130 (524 AH), a third schism emerged: the Mustalian faction split into two new groups, the Hâfizites and the Tayyibites (Yemen), today Bohras’ ancestors. “Ismailism develops an esoteric doctrine founded on the intimate meaning of the Koran, al-batin ta’wil, an interpretation of the inner, original meaning” (Daftary 1998: 345). “Besides their literal and obvious meaning, the precepts of the Koran and Tradition,” according to orientalist Bernard Lewis, “had in the Ismailis’ eyes a second, allegorical and esoteric significance, which was revealed by the imam and taught to insiders” (Lewis 1982: 64). The believer’s spiritual evolution punctuated with progressive initiations, leads him/her to the evident meaning of shari’a – the sacred Islamic law – towards the knowledge of hidden truths.

3The imam occupies a central place in the Ismaili system – whether it is in doctrinal matters in organization or when authority is required. “The imams were inspired by God and infallible, and were to a certain extent divine themselves since they were the microcosm, the personification of the metaphysical soul of the universe. As such, they were, and are, the source of knowledge and authority, of esoteric truths hidden from laymen and commandments that require total and blind obedience.” (Lewis 1982: 63).

4The Gnostic Ismaili thought considers time as a progression of cycles – dawr – and successive eras with a beginning and an end. The cyclic history contains concealment periods – satr – when imams are hidden from the eyes of their followers, and periods when the unveiled truth is revealed, resurrection – qiyama. This term has a double meaning: the end of the cycle and the end of time in the eschatological meaning of man’s end with the ultimate transformation of the world.

  • 5 Dai is also the title given today to the Bohra Shia imam “designate”.

5“The Islamic doctrine of dispensation (taqiyya: “prudence”, “precaution”) according to which a believer under constraint and threat is dispensed to fulfil religious obligations” corresponds to the practice of concealing beliefs that are likely to arouse hostility from the authorities or from the people (Lewis 1982: 61). It is what enabled Ismailis to escape persecution temporarily and also to carry out missionary activities under cover led by their “propagandist” preachers (dai)5.

Spaces conquered by Ismailism

6Initially confined to Syria and Iraq, the area covered by the subsequent spread of Ismailism included Egypt, Tripolitania and the Maghreb. Later the Ismaili doctrine conquered parts of Persia and high plateaux Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Northern Afghanistan, before making new converts in the Indian sub- continent: Sindh, today’s Pakistan, Northern India (Gujarat) and Bangladesh.

7According to Louis Massignon’s famous remark, “the 10th century (4th century AH), was Islam’s Ismaili century”. As André Miquel recalls, “the followers of the doctrine are split into two sects” (Miquel 1977: 105): on the one hand, the minority Qarmats, faithful to the hidden imam theory moved to Iraq before they founded a Community State in Bahrain. Or the other, the Fatimids, who founded an Ismaili State in North Africa between 909 and 1171, the period considered as the golden age of Ismailism.

8For the first time, an Alid, Ali’s descendants, acceded to the head of an important state. The Fatimid caliphate allowed the Ismaili faithful to practice their faith in broad daylight. The State set up an efficient administrative organization with a ministry of Finance, a ministry of Defence, of Justice, etc., which secured itself substantial revenues thanks to customs duty and property taxes, thus making a solid economic basis.

9It had its capital in Cairo, at the intersection of a wide road and trade network, with a fleet of ships, inland water shipping on the Nile and booming agriculture. During this period of intellectual, scientific, artistic bloom, some Ismailis became eminent scholars who contributed by their theological, philosophical and legal knowledge to enriching Islamic culture. Great importance was granted to education: conferences, sermons and public lecture sessions added to numerous writings in Arabic, the language of science and religion. In Cairo, which then had an estimated population of around 50,000 people, houses, palaces, gardens, caravan inns, mosques, including the famous Al-Azhar Mosque, were built. Once the persecutions were over, the State set up a policy of religious tolerance that did not impose Ismailism on Fatimid territories and welcomed other religious and ethnic communities such as the Armenians or the Jews. Religious mission work – dawa – attracted fresh adherents both in rural and urban areas. Beyond Egypt and Syria when at its apogee, the Fatimid Empire spread to parts of North Africa, Sicily, the Red Sea African coastline, Yemen and the Arab Hejaz, with the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

  • 6 Hasan Sabbah decided to set up his hideout in the Elbourz Mountain in northern Persia, and built th (...)
  • 7 Nickname given to Hasan Sabbah.
  • 8 Hachichi, in Arabic: the first meaning is dry grass or fodder. The next meaning of the term more sp (...)

10Following the death of Caliph al-Mustansir in 1094 (487 AH), a second schism pitted Nizarites against Mustalians. The Fatimid State supported Al-Mustali while Hasan Sabbah, a Fatimid preacher in Persia, rallied behind Nizar and established a new State: the Nizarite Ismailin State. After withdrawing to Alamut Fortress, Hasan Sabbah fought the Seljuk Turks and faced the Crusaders in a war. Resorting to martyr-fighters (fida’is), he initiated a new method of fighting: the selective killing of enemies and political opponents6. The Nizarites’ methods, which were reported by the Crusaders and Marco Polo, among others, have fed the Western imagination. Marco Polo himself, in his Book of Marvels (13th century), describes Alamut Fortress as follows: “In this Mulecte country, a place where Heretics dwell, according to the Saracen language, lived a very wicked Prince called ‘the Old Man of the Mountain’”7. On the threshold of the valley and at the entrance of the garden, he had such a solid and impenetrable castle that he feared no one in the world” (Marco Polo 2004: 114-115). According to the Crusaders, the fida’i had to be drugged to carry out their punitive expeditions. The term hachichi8, a pejorative word – probably a popular insult in Syria – might have been used against them by Syrians, which was never confirmed by any document. This reference contributed to feeding the legend according to which fida’is were hashish consumers. After being persecuted by Persians, Nizarite Ismailis were later reduced to a minority sect scattered in small communities in territories in far eastern Persia, northern Afghanistan and a few regions of central Asia.

Ismailis in India

  • 9 Small groups of Ismailis were already settled in Sindh by the 9th century (Salvadori 1989: 224).
  • 10 Khoja: derived from Arab khawaja, which means “lord”.

11While the Nizarites who led a semi-clandestine life, went on practicing taqiyya (hiding) “under the disguise of both Sufism and duodeciman Shiism” (Daftary 1998: 249), Ismailis soon gained impetus after they had settled in India at the end of the 14th century. Pir Sadr al-Din from Persia has been considered as the founder of the Nizarite community in India9. Originally his followers were members of the Lohana, who were a rich class of traders, also known as khoja, an honorary title used as the time to refer to all Nizarites10.

12The Nizarite State was successively led by three dais and five hujja (hujja: the imam’s first assistant). Rashid al-Din Sinan, a Syrian Nizarite, was appointed head of the Ismaili Syrian province where he set up a fidai body. His rise coincided with the third Crusade (1189-1192). Charitable and temple military orders did not fail to extort money from Nizarites settled in this “heretical refuge”. Towards 1220, the Nizarite State eventually weakened. In 1256 (656 AH), after a long siege, the Alamut Fortress fell into the hands of the Mongols. It was the end of the Nizarite State that had lasted 166 years.

13A special form of Nizarite Ismailism developed in India under the name “satpanh Ismailism”, the way to salvation, obviously inspired by Hindu spiritualism. The pirs, spiritual guides, practiced “an acculturation strategy which proved successful by including indigenous religious practices and concepts”, which attracted many adherents to them. The only accounts that relate Nizarite Ismaili activities in India are ginans, khoja religious poems, orally passed on by the pirs for centuries then transcribed, much later.

14Towards 1830, while Ismaili imams were still based in Persia, the 46th Imam Hasan Ali Shah, received from the Persian Monarch Qajar the honorary title of Aga Khan (Great Lord) which could be passed on to his descendants. After political setbacks, he bought refuge in Afghanistan before settling in Bombay in 1844 thus becoming the first Ismaili imam of his lineage to live in India. Some supporters protested and challenged his authority by taking the matter “Aga Khan Case”, to the High Court of Bombay in 1866. The judgment, which was in the imam’s favour, granted him the status of spiritual leader of the “Ismaili Shia Imamis” in British India and heir by direct descent to the Alamut imams. It confirmed his right to collect cannon fees (dime: dassond). The imam, who was enthroned Aga Khan I, died in 1881/1298 and was buried in Bombay. His son who succeeded him only reigned four years. In 1885/1302 Sultan Muhammad Shah became the 48th Ismaili imam under the title of Aga Khan III.

  • 11 By 1870, the Zanzibar Island already had more than 500 Ismailis (Sheriff 1987: 147; Nicholls 1971: (...)

15Under the reign of Aga Khan III the first major migration waves to East Africa took place. These migrations, which had remained sporadic up to then, were mainly headed for the prosperous island of Zanzibar, the epicentre of a commercial circle which included Eastern Africa coastal territories and at one time spread up to the eastern Congo basin. Aga Khan III confirmed the interest he had shown in the emigrant communities by paying them an official visit as early as 1899 and by promulgating the first Ismaili constitution in Zanzibar in 190511. This Constitution actually was Ismailim’s first political charter in the world. From Zanzibar, the first Ismaili settlers moved to Mombasa, then to Nairobi, Kisumu and Kampala. The first Ismaili community settlements were built in Mombasa in 1888, in Nairobi in 1903, and in Kisumu in 1905 (Salvadori 1989: 226). In 1914, there were already fourteen Ismaili communities in Kenya, scattered among the country’s main cities. The number of Ismailis, who had settled in Kenya, quickly rose from a few hundred at the beginning of the century to 20,000 by 1960 (Ibid: 226).

Messages from the Aga Khans

16As the supreme and infallible guide the Aga Khan alone can issue a contemporary interpretation of the sacred writings to his disciples, thus preventing any heresy. His disciples owe him full allegiance. In a 1952 declaration, Aga Khan III said: “Even though Koran words remain the same, every generation, every century, every period of history must have a fresh interpretation different from that of the past” (Boivin 1993: 791).

  • 12 Derived from the term ta liga in Arabic, talika refers to a comment, an opinion on a news event.

17Even though the last two Aga Khans religious messages confirm that the Ismailis still belong to the Muslim umma, they foretell the need for modernization and set up its main lines. It is worth mentioning that when Aga Khan ascended to the throne in 1885, most Ismaili immigrants were still illiterate and destitute. Therefore, the Aga Khan’s messages, talikas, had to be simple, and written in a familiar, intimate style. The talikas12 gave lots of practical advice and encouraged community members to lead their lives and carry out their business the best they could. They were first required, to remain faithful to Koranic principles, but were encouraged to adapt to East Africa’s changing aspects. By raising the level of education before anything else, they would open up their scope of activities.

  • 13 The first Ismaili School in Nairobi was set up in Parklands area in 1948. Cynthia Salvadori observe (...)

18In accordance with the Aga Khan’s directives, the female population was the first to benefit from such an education policy. Opened in Mombasa in 1918 the girls’ school preceded the school for boys which opened in the same city one year later. It took another twelve years actually in 1930, before other Ismaili schools opened in East Africa13.

  • 14 An anecdote illustrates this cultural gap between families and community leaders. During the 1950s, (...)

19In the years that followed World War II, Aga Khan III severely lambasted the fundamentalist conception of women’s status, which maintained then in slavery, imposing the veil and the burqah on them and confining them to an insignificant role in society (Boivin 1993: 768). He became the advocate of women’s education to prepare them for their role as mothers and managers of home life while he allowed them to do paid work. Although the Ismailis were supposed to submit to the talika instructions, the Aga Khan’s recommendations concerning female education came up against strong resistance14.

20As he was eager to go on ahead in matters of political evolution, as early as 1952, the Aga Khan, informed the members of the Ismaili community of the existence of independence movements in East Africa. In a talika addressed “to his spiritual and beloved children” – such were the terms he used to refer to his disciples – he carefully urged them to protect themselves against the social repercussions of such dissent: “These movements are like rain that is about to fall. One cannot stop rain but can protect oneself from it by putting a raincoat. For you, Ismailis, the raincoat consists in owning your walls and your houses, which whatever happens will remain your walls and houses, but it also means acquiring a better education” (Boivin 1993: 798).

  • 15 All Ismailis were subsequently enabled to access long-term loans with a view to encouraging investm (...)

21During this period before independence in African countries, Aga Khan III particularly emphasized the need for Ismailis to become owners of their means of production. To help them, he created the Investment Trust, the community financial institution which was supposed to grant attractive facilities to all the faithful. After setting up a real estate programme meant to build housing and business premises, a programme launched to celebrate Aga Khan III’s Diamond Jubilee, a community insurance company, the Jubilee Insurance Company widened the imamate’s government’s capacity to intervening financially while offering the Ismailis special offer rates in matters of protection15. In 1952, Aga Khan III organized a conference in Evian that brought together the Supreme Council secretary, the presidents of provincial councils and Ismaili associations, along with the heads of various institutions. The early signs of independence appeared in the distance. It had become urgent to look for new direction and select priorities. After this conference, the Aga Khan made a series of decisions involving the members of the community: firstly women to adopt western dress in their daily life. Secondly, English was to replace Gujarati as the teaching language in Ismaili schools. Thirdly, a scholarship programme was being set up to help poor and deserving pupils. As a religious leader keen on sparing the Ismailis the orthodox Muslim’s frequent criticism of giving in to syncretism, Aga Khan III demanded that his followers should give up the creeds and practices inherited from Hinduism.

  • 16 A financial institution aimed to promote the establishment of industrial businesses.

22After Aga Khan III’s death in 1957, his grandson and successor, Prince Karim Aga Khan, carried on his grandfather’s policy. Observing the demonstrated inclination the Ismailis interest in promoting businesses, Aga Khan IV encouraged them to innovate and invest, emphasizing the need for everyone to attain high-level professional training. “I no longer want you in the retail business”, he wrote to those of his followers who were still confined to this activity. At his instigation were launched the major industrial and financial development projects that today secure the Ismaili community’s position in the economy of East African countries. In 1963 the Industrial Promotion Services (I.P.S.)16 was created while banking and insurance activities were restructured internationally. In the same way in 1971 the Tourism Programme Service (T.P.S.), which runs one of East Africa’s largest hotel chains (Serena) was created. In 1984, the three agencies in charge of the manufacturing, insurance and tourism sectors were merged into a federal institution: the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), which works in partnership with development institutions, governmental agencies, the banks and industrial groups. The projects proposed were to be “economically viable” and “were to contribute to national development”. Aga Khan IV’s accession corresponded to a significant improvement in the average standard of living for the East African community. Access to property through cheap loans, housing improvement, the creation of dispensaries and schools even in the small towns, widely contributed to everyone’s greater welfare, which meant so much to Aga Khan III. While they were scattered all over the world and could be seen nearly everywhere as minorities directly threatened by the rise of nationalisms, the Ismailis could open up more to their host countries and demonstrate their commitment to philanthropic and cultural activities.

23In the historical context before African independence, greater importance had to be attached to the Indian minorities’ reputation since the Ismailis were particularly eager to blot out the image of predatory strangers and to appear loyal to their adopted countries. Given that a number of them had been in East Africa for several generations, were attached to their homeland and spoke East African languages including Swahili for most of them, they were able to claim the right to a higher status without disowning their cultural and religious uniqueness. When he became imam (1957), Aga Khan IV encouraged them to acquire citizenship of the countries they lived in.

Constitutions and present of organisation

  • 17 During the years before the constitution was drafted, a fresh wave of migration to East Africa was (...)

24Studying the constitutions since 1905 throws light on the stages of institutional change. Promulgated in 1905 in Zanzibar, the first Ismaili constitution redefines the Nizarite Ismaili identity compared to that of the Duodeciman Shias and the Sunnis while emphasizing the respect that must be granted to other Muslim communities17. It endowed the Ismaili community with a new administrative organization in the form of a hierarchical structure of councils whose powers and functions it defines (Daftary 1998: 294). The constitution instituted the principle of regular assessment whenever changes occurred in the political, social and economic contexts in every country of settlement.

  • 18 This council, which was then based in Zanzibar, was set up in Nairobi following the 1964 revolution
  • 19 In the traditional community organisation, the mukhi was both the religious and political head of a (...)

25The setting up of councils at all levels of the territorial constituencies (national, regional, local) was the first step of this new organization. These councils, whose limits of jurisdiction were defined, were placed under the authority of a supra-national board, the East African Council18. Whereas the leaders’ functions and roles had initially been devolved to traditional religious community leaders (mukhi and kamaria)19, they were later transferred to members of the civil society. The subsequent constitutions, that of 1927, 1937, 1946, 1952 and 1986, corresponded to the evolution of Aga Khan III’s wishes for a better organization and modernization at large.

  • 20 1961: Tanganyika’s independence; 1962: Uganda’s independence; 1963: Kenya’s and Zanzibar’s independ (...)
  • 21 Promulgated in November 1967, the Trade Licensing Act drastically reduced the business licenses iss (...)
  • 22 See in this volume the chapter by Laurent Nowik.

26Major historic events such as Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya’s independence, the Zanzibar revolution and the expulsion of Indians from Uganda had consequences on the rhythm of this process that was to extend to the three East African countries20. The various Indian minorities’ respective conditions of life were deeply and unequally changed. Political and economic measures triggered emigration of variable scale in Kenya and Tanzania. In Kenya, the restriction on commercial activities imposed by the 1967 Trade Licensing Act led within months to the departure of about 20 % of the Indian population (Prunier 1998: 203)21. In Tanzania, where the percentage of Indians who left rose to 25 %, the state control of external trade and the numerous nationalizations directly struck the Indian communities. In Uganda, the August 5, 1972 expulsion order led to massive emigration of at least 70,000 Indians to other African countries as well as towards the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States22. This cumulative effect of political, economic and demographic upheavals slowed down the implementation of the planned administrative and institutional organization, which was postponed until the beginning of the 1980s.

The jamatkhana organization and the 1986 constitution

27The term jamatkhana refers both to the community assembly itself and to the meeting place and worshipping place associated with every Ismaili community scattered throughout the world. Jamatkhana leaders are in charge of government functions and decentralized administration such as organizing community activities, conflict resolution, tax collection, etc. Keen to first and foremost maintain his authority over all his followers, Aga Khan III insisted on community religious practices being observed exclusively at meeting places under his control. In every jamatkhana the local religious or administrative leaders’ was limited to two years. As they were scattered throughout the vast East African region, Ismailis also had to report whenever they moved and to justify they had paid their of religious fees. As for, the jamatkhanas themselves they were urged to be vigilant and economical with their funds. Women’s committees played an increasing role within the jamatkhana, by helping children and ensuring their well being, by checking the quality of hygiene and teaching home economics, by developing charity and humanitarian activities. The rule of a biannual change of local leadership also applied to them.

  • 23 Submission whose almost unanimous nature had caught the attention of Western observers by the end o (...)

28In compensation for the restrictive rules imposed on members of local communities, the right to contest a council decision entitled them to lodge an appeal. Several legal proceedings were set up: regional council, supreme council and the Aga Khan’s judgement. Such innovation, however, did not question the community’s general submission to the imam’s directives23.

29In 1986, Aga Khan IV gave the Ismaili community a new constitution that marked a turning point in the community’s governance. Successive amendments aimed at setting up new administrative systems in the three East African countries, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania in order to improve the various education and public health programmes that had previously been implemented in the region, thus putting in action one of Aga Khan III’s precepts: “Ismailism has survived because it has always been flexible. Rigidity is contrary to our whole life and all our prospects”.

  • 24 Marriage and succession.
  • 25 Particularly cases of indiscipline against religion or a religious leader.
  • 26 Asia, Africa, Europe, North America. Ismaili communities are currently established in more than 25  (...)
  • 27 In Aiglemont, rural township near Chantilly, Oise Department.
  • 28 Thus Princess Zahra, the Aga Khan’s first-born daughter, is in charge of education programmes.

30Introducing private law24 and specifying the disciplinary action to be taken against individuals25, the 1986 constitution for the first time promulgated a mode of unique government for the Ismaili community in the world, some sort of “territory-less nation” on four continents (Adam 2004: 31)26. This central government is under the absolute authority of Mawlana Hazar Imam or Aga Khan IV (Constitution, Art.1). Based in France, about forty kilometres north of Paris27, the Ismaili government has several “ministerial” departments (general administration, religion, finance, justice, education, health, industrial and commercial development, etc.), whose management is partially entrusted to members of the Aga Khan family28.

31The fact that Ismailis are scattered in various parts of the world and the extremely wide variety of their businesses however implies decentralized administrative systems as well as a minimum of flexibility in exercising power, if not by the absolute supreme authority, at least in the application of rules according to the local context. Thus all Ismaili communities are divided into “provinces” (darkhana) which in most cases correspond to the main host countries: India, Pakistan, Tanzania, etc. Initially eleven, the darkhana are now fourteen (2005). In every darkhana, a local “governorate”, a governing body represents the Aga Khan’s authority. Every “national” governing body reproduces the central government structure, but on a joint basis involving every local community. Such local involvement remains under central authority. Partially elected, the so-called “national” councils are led by leaders, who are themselves appointed by the Aga Khan. Only three countries do not have this kind of structure: Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where resident Ismaili communities are led by special committees (Daftary 2003: 302). The national boards run every darkhana’s general affairs, but within the respect of every sovereign country’s national laws. Their essential duty is to preserve community’s interests (jamat), ensure its unity and well-being: education, health, encourage the tradition of voluntarism, strengthen the community cultural heritage and maintain ties with the Muslim umma while cooperating with other peoples. The national board also acts as go-between the Aga Khan and the resident communities they represent. They inform the Aga Khan of their specific situation: activities, areas of interest, difficulties and they submit some proposals to his agreement.

32The Leaders International Forum, which meets several times a year on dates set by the Aga Khan, brings together the leaders of national boards. This forum gives then the opportunity of strengthening their common and religious calling and gives the Aga Khan the opportunity of confirming and updating his policy’s guidelines.

33Whilst the national boards are charged with resident communities’ civil administration, the national boards for religious affairs (Tariqah and Religious Boards) are charged with religious matters. Like national boards, they are broken down into regional boards and local boards. Their duty is not limited to the administration and management of religious buildings. They organize religious teaching and teachers’ training as well as the publication of books and teaching aids. Another responsibility of religious boards is to ensure ritual uniformity within all national communities. Therefore they are bound to meet frequently.

34At the same provincial or national level, Grants and Review Boards control the use of budgetary resources and funds allocated by the Aga Khan to each jamat or to other decentralized institutions. Grants and Review Boards ensure conformity to procedures: proper allocation of funds, conformity to accounting regulations and check expenses according to objectives and order possible audits.

  • 29 Parallel to sovereign jurisdictions and unique to every country of settlement.

35Including five magistrates: a chairman and four assessors, National Conciliation and Arbitration Boards are courts dealing with commercial, domestic and family conflicts: marriage, divorce, custody of children, succession. Authorized to make enforceable rulings within the strict boundaries of Ismaili jamat, these community jurisdictions29 also act as appellate courts for regional or local boards of arbitration, these boards ruling first in cases of lesser importance. On the other hand, all cases involving parties from various national boards are heard by a kind of Supreme Court under the Aga Khan’s direct authority (International Conciliation and Arbitration Board). Such a Supreme Court (or “High Court”) is also the appellate authority for ruling given by national boards.

36Education Services and Health Services, the oldest of “ministerial departments”, are in charge of several schools and health services, hospitals and clinics, as well as national and health campaigns conducted locally under the Aga Khan’s aegis. Today they are completed by other “ministerial” administrations whose orientations reveal their preoccupation of taking into account present new demands such as youth and sports, the status of women, housing, heritage, etc.

Governance, community life, voluntary work: Kenya’s example

  • 30 Provincial boards are those in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Local in Kenya are the jamatkhanas of N (...)
  • 31 Eight members of the National board of Kenya carry out near “ministerial delegation” duties (commun (...)

37Kenya, the Ismaili Diaspora’s favourite country of settlement, is an illustration of this decentralized structure. Part of the fourteen regional constituencies we have already talked about, the Kenyan darkhana also includes the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC), Burundi’s, Rwanda’s and South African’s jamatkhana. With its headquarters in the historic jamatkhana premises of Moi Avenue, The Ismaili Board of Kenya runs the constituency and presides over regional and local boards30. The twenty-two-member board, which meets every three months, is assisted by an executive secretariat in charge of administrative tasks of coordination, management and financial administration31.

  • 32 Male titles (by descending hierarchical order): diwan, vazir, aitmadi, rai, alijah, huzur mukhi; fe (...)

38Despite efforts of social promotion within the community over the last decades, most of the positions of responsibility within the national board and community institutions are still handed down to heirs of old families and direct descendants of the “pioneers” whose dhows left India and reached the Kenyan shore around mid-19th century. These families, which are about twelve in number and whose fortunes date back to years before they emigrated from India, grew rich through their business activities. Most of their family names are prominent at Mombasa’s old jamatkhana, on the plaque where the names of successive religious leaders have been inscribed since 1888, which is considered as a charter of nobility within the community. Some of them have been awarded noble titles by the Aga Khan in recognition for their past or present achievements32.

  • 33 Let us mention Jubilee Fund in which five director positions are held by titled people.

39Even though thanks to the three-year term limit in community administration, a new team of leaders is regularly taking over, the permanence and number of positions held by this social minority suggests some sort of aristocracy. Thus the heads of the major institutions: (national board and ministerial agencies, except the education services) all hold noble titles. Whereas every ministerial agency has at least two title holders within its managerial committee, the National Board of Kenya has eight title holders out of twenty-two members33. Within this leading minority, the first stratum includes members (the grandsons or great grandsons of the old highly prestigious families) which have been ennobled for a long time. Whatever the position they hold, whether they are a jamatkhana mukhi, the member of the Ismailia Province Council or the head of the Indian Commercial Association, etc. recurring family names can be found in successive terms of office.

Social positions and matrimonial strategies in Kenya

40The persistence of class hierarchy and the maintenance of aristocratic precedence must not conceal the importance of social mobility within the community as a whole. Real social mobility has begun. The numbers of institutions created by governance, the abundance of available positions, the launching of new economic programmes, sustainable development projects have offered new generations a whole range of activities. The social promotion which has certainly been gained by individual effort is also the result of both an education policy carried out for decades and of a policy of material and financial assistance to poor background families. Young Ismaili graduates have formed a pool which business men draw their staff from and among which the Aga Khan administration chooses its leaders. These educated and qualified people, who have often been educated in the best Anglo-Saxon universities, can now apply for high-level positions, within and outside the community they come from.

  • 34 Preferential marriage: ego marriage with patrilineal parallel cousins (daughter of father’s brother (...)

41Whatever the social origin of the young elite – more particularly in the upper-class middle – matrimonial alliance strategies are an important means of preserving and strengthening social status. In this patrilineal Muslim society that the Ismaili community represents, the persistence of unions between relatives attests to the permanence of endogamy. The form of recommended unions in all Muslim societies, Ego’s preferential marriage with a parallel patrilateral cousin, the father’s brother’s daughter34, however seems to have now been replaced by the marriage between bilateral cousins. Once it has been extended to a broader family horizon, the relational endogamy rule seems to suit Ismaili aristocratic families willing to seize opportunistic unions without departing from the requirement of class equality. Custodians of old genealogies, the notables can only marry women or men of their standing. “Whoever seeks honour must make himself/herself accepted according to the idea he/she has himself/herself of his/her worth” (Pitt Rivers 1977: 18). One can mention the case of two old families that concluded five marriages between them within the same generation. Isogamic marriages not only endure but are highly considered within the Kenyan Ismaili community and the union interplay tallies with some family names in high-level positions.

  • 35 In the case mentioned, the girl accepted marriage arranged by her parents on condition that she wou (...)

42The geographical area covered by marriages now extends to Western countries, particularly the United Kingdom and Canada. Some Kenyan families who lived abroad agree to conclude distance marriages with young people who have remained in Kenya. Such was the case of a girl living in Canada and who settled in Kenya in order to marry the son of a family that was “close” to hers35.

43There are few marriages with spouses from outside the community but there are some. A few Ismailis, who had settled in Western countries, have married European women, particularly in the United Kingdom. Such marriages are scarce and most often occur between intellectuals. As for marriages with Africans, there are no more than a few dozens in Kenya. Such unions run counter to cultural and religious prohibitions since a very small number of African families have adopted the Ismaili religion so far. Mixed Ismaili-African marriages are concentrated on the coastal region and necessarily concern Ismaili men marrying Muslim African women. They hardly ever concern Ismaili women as Ismaili families would not accept to lose their offspring to the girl’s inlaws. The biographical notes that have been gathered corroborate these general observations.

Social and community life

44The importance of the time devoted to relationships is a leading aspect of the Ismaili society. Within the framework of community life any Ismaili participates in committees (for young people, women, etc.), charity sports circles, cultural associations; thus he weaves a network of close and permanent relationships associated with precise statute and function.

  • 36 The prophet says: “Goodwill implies that whenever you meet your brother you should be good-natured (...)

45Social life is characterized by extreme civility that governs interpersonal relations: deference to age and class, display of goodwill meant to avoid any conflict, complimentary comments, etc.36. “Cultivating peace and harmony among the members of the community” is one of the mukhi’s duties and it is stipulated in the 1986 Constitution. This code of good manners is expected to avert risks of endogenous implosion. In the same way as the pledge of allegiance to the Muslim umma is regularly professed in order to dispel, according to Gilles Kepel “discord within Islam” (fitna), the assertion of community unity guarantees the strength of the social fabric (Kepel 2004: 15).

46Community life is also governed by strict rules of adherence to religious practice and obedience to the imam’s prescriptions: daily prayers and major yearly celebrations, some being observed by all Muslims, such as the end of the Ramadan fasting, while others are particular to the Shias and Ismailis, such as the Nevroz (new year, celebrated on March 21) and the anniversary of the present imam’s enthronement (Aga Khan IV, 49th imam, July 11).

  • 37 Part of these fees is remitted to the Aga Khan. However, as Michel Adam observes, since the Aga Kha (...)

47One of the duties imposed on every Muslim faithful is charitable act of giving alms: cadaqa (voluntary alms) and zakât (statutory alms). Zakât, which is every believer’s participation in the community expenditure legally corresponds to the tenth of the taxpayer’s income, but he may choose to increase it substantially according to his resources. Among the Ismailis, zakât is completed by dasond, yearly fee equally assessed to the tenth of one’s income. Such fees represent the community’s budget for charities so important in its tradition37.

48Discipline is central to the community religious life. One of the articles of the 1986 Constitution lists the acts deserving disciplinary action: abusing Islam or the imam’s person; blasphemies, insulting sacred writings, failure of the faithful to meet obligations and religious duties. Those found guilty are heavily castigated and either threatened with suspension or excluded.

  • 38 After the lapse of the appellate period, a suspension order is sent to all jamatkhanas under the na (...)

49In addition, every country’s national board controls the public declarations and writings for all the faithful. No comment of religious nature can be published without permission. Any meeting or gathering held on behalf of the jamaat must also be approved. Any faithful found responsible for any conflict within the community because of his/her declarations or writings, is liable for disciplinary action by the Conciliation and Arbitration Board. Depending on how serious the matter is, the punishment can be simple admonition or temporary suspension from the jamatkhana38.

50Whereas the Aga Khan’s power is both religious and political, including, as already mentioned regalia such as justice, education and public health, and yet imposing on the cosmopolitan community supranational rules in civil, commercial and penal term. Another peculiarity of his consists in interfering in individual behaviour. Thus, assuring a patriarch’s role when addressing his children; the Aga Khan indulges in lavishing a father’s advice. In one of his December 2003 talika, the Aga Khan defined “the ideal Ismaili”: not only as an educate individual but curious about what surrounds him, resourceful, creative and bold.

  • 39 The Ismaili Africa, March 1998, p. 5.
  • 40 There are about a hundred such families in Kenya, which amounts to about 400 people.

51If there is any other community life obligation no Ismaili can be spared, it is voluntary work. Based as the word suggests in English, on the principle of voluntary work (voluntary help), voluntary work can be measured by the yardstick of the time that every faithful dedicates to community activities during his/her lifetime: religious ceremonies, social life, educational work, philanthropic undertakings, etc. In the name of such a principle, it is agreed that everybody, depending on their physical abilities, their skills, their knowledge and financial means, contributes to community life and to its cohesion reinforced by the conviction that, should they need it themselves, they would be able to benefit from other people’s assistance and help. “To give people the benefit of their skills and share with them their time and the intellectual and financial resources they have at their disposal can alleviate ordeals, relieve suffering or ignorance. Voluntary work is a deeply-rooted tradition that shapes the whole Ismaili community’s social conscience”39. Social voluntary work within the community means helping the elderly, poor families and the children who face academic difficulties. Thus poor families are supported when looking for employment and housing, their children’s education and healthcare for the whole family is assumed by the community40.

  • 41 However, it appears during professional activity, women’s participation is higher than men’s partic (...)
  • 42 For instance, a woman who taught at secondary school level for a period of about twenty years befor (...)

52Adults’ collaboration in community life is organized in the form of volunteer committees in which women and men are unequally involved41. The community members who participate in voluntary work as well. They adjust the amount of time they spend on it according to their obligations: from a few hours a week to a few hours a month if they belong to several committees. Volunteers’ tasks include mobilizing funds for the numerous joint activities or soliciting donations in kind for the organization of celebrations. According to needs, announcements are made in the jamatkhana premises to appeal for volunteers. The community knows it won’t run short of volunteers, just like there is a three-year turnover among the leaders; a volunteer does not usually fulfil a duty within the same institution beyond that length of time. On the other hand, a volunteer is used to carrying out one activity after the other within several institutions42. Just like community administration duties, the high-level voluntary tasks are generally entrusted to elderly men who have held important professional responsibilities.

  • 43 Since a couple of years, some women’s committees have also prepared cooked dishes which are sold ch (...)
  • 44 The men charged with religious teaching are chosen by an ad hoc committee from among the group of e (...)

53The volunteer committees’ first activity consists in taking care of the jamatkhana’s social life such as security, decorating and cleaning communal buildings, preparing festive meals. That is why the meals offered for funerals are prepared by volunteer women since it is a rule that on such occasion the deceased’s family should be relived from that task43. On the other hand, the men are expected to carry the body and lower it into the grave, while the mukhi leads the religious service. Men also have the responsibility of teaching children both religion and ginâns, the devotional poems inspired by the very old Khoja Nizarite tradition44.

  • 45 It is worth noting that this tendency is also desired by some liberal Sunni associations like the M (...)
  • 46 Another project was initiated in the Kibera slums for teenagers. The Kibera Girls Centre has a larg (...)

54Women’s committees are very active. In the name of Muslim unity (umma), some of the women committees have attempted to reach out to Sunni women’s with a view to carrying out charity work with them or celebrating major religious celebrations such as the Prophet’s birthday45. Nevertheless, one of the main activities of the women’s committees consists in implementing urban development programmes (Sustainable Development Programmes). Launched in Nairobi’s Mathare Valley and Kibera slums, two of these programmes aim at providing plots of land and seeds to young isolated women; so they are able to grow food crops and feed their families. Women’s committees have also come up with the forms of positive assistance. They produce cheap domestic fuel, pottery, crocheted dish covers, sewing machines, etc. Several associations, supported by clubs with a strong Indian membership in East Africa (East African Women’s Club, Kenya’s Rotary Club, Lions Club International and Hope Foundation)46 contribute to backing such projects. In addition to such committees, some well-off families have also created their own charity work centres, thus providing a place where women volunteers can occasionally take care of street children and dropouts (drug-addicts, alcoholics, prostitutes) and can occasionally teach the basic elements of education.

  • 47 The Tariqah Board, which supervises this organization, hold every year a week-long Religious Educat (...)

55Young children’s upbringing illustrates every Ismaili’s process of integration into the religious and social life of the community. Within their family and from a very early age, children are initiated to prayer and meditation. They are taught religion every Saturday either at school, if they attend an Ismaili school, or at the jamatkhana, if they attend a state-run school. Strict discipline is required when carrying out religious duties. Voluntary work which children participate in from a very early age helps integrate them into community life. Wearing different badges and uniforms, they are integrated from primary school age into the “cadets” group then into the “young volunteers”. In the community premises, they are initiated into petty communal activities: guiding elderly people, cleaning and arranging the premises, etc.47

56Created in 1977 by the Aga Khan and intended for six to ten year-old children, the Ta’lîm programme aims to familiarize them with the Muslim religion and Islamic culture. This programme complements involvement in voluntary activities while emphasizing the need to take on responsibilities and duties, both within the community and the general society of every country of residence.

Community policy

  • 48 “The deep and underlying reason behind the creation of this network is the moral principle that the (...)

57Heading all community policy activities at the international level, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is a kind of agency coordinating the network of Ismaili businesses some of them in the industrial and commercial sectors, while others work for charities often benefiting non-Ismailis48. AKDN officials have specific mandates “ranging from health and education to architecture, from rural development to business development in the private sector. They work together towards a common goal, which is to set up institutions and programmes likely to stand up to the challenge of social, economic and cultural change”.

58The AKDN, which has a complex structure, is a federation of several organizations: the Aga Khan Foundation (education and health), the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (culture and heritage), the Aga Khan for Economic Development or AKFED which coordinates industrial and business activities. As for some institutions in the economic development sector (AKFED), in the social development (Aga Khan Foundation or AKF) and culture (universities, Aga Khan Trust for Culture or AKTC), they have been grouped together transversely under the APEX, Karachi Aga Khan, the A.K. Development Fund (AKFED) and the A.K. Trust for Culture (AKTC).

Education and health policy

59Health and education are the Ismailis’ priority in matters of political commitments. In every country hosting the Aga Khan’s followers, everybody knows the Ismaili educational institutions and hospitals, which are well-known for quality service. Of course, the members of the Ismaili community are among the first to benefit from such a policy which they have widely financed. However, the departments that have been set up are open to every one although most patients have to pay for admission which can be expensive. Yet, as we have already mentioned, some services such as dispensaries, popular education programmes remain free for underprivileged populations, particularly African ones Long-term education policies initiated by Aga Khan III and taken up by his successor set up ambitious programmes since 1986. The rise in the standard of education since the beginning of the 20th century with the creation of schools in various cities and regions of the country, the present objectives of such a policy are to educate pupils likely to join East African universities and possibly Anglo-Saxon ones at the end of secondary education. The general direction of the education policy is the Aga Khan’s government’s responsibility. Such policies affect all the communities in the Diaspora while taking into account the regional peculiarities they strive to adjust to. At the level of every decentralized constituency, it is up to the regional education agencies (Education Planning Board) to make such adjustments.

60At the time of the British protectorate, the discrimination policies that dispatched “Asians” and Africans to few public schools motivated the Ismaili community to open its own schools. Although created in 1905 by Aga Khan III, regional and local education agencies were unable to set up independent courses of study. Opened as late as 1948, the Nairobi Ismaili School benefited from the funds allocated as early as 1920 by the British colonial authorities to Indian private schools. Under the impulse of Joan Aga Khan, the present Aga Khan’s mother, other schools were opened in Western Kenya (Kisumu: 1951; Eldoret: 1954). Today, the Ismaili community in Kenya boasts five primary schools: two in Nairobi, two in Mombasa, one in Kisumu and four secondary schools: two in Nairobi, two in Mombasa.

  • 49 Madrasa: school where mainly religious education is provided.
  • 50 In 1995, the Aga Khan Foundation created three regional nursery school teachers’ training centres ( (...)
  • 51 International Baccalaureate or IB comes after the fourth year of secondary education (Form 4). In K (...)
  • 52 Funding for complementary teachers training was mobilized from local communities. It is worth notin (...)

61Improving the quality of the education system has been a major and constant concern among community leaders. Course reviewing, curriculum rewriting and teachers’ training have been high priorities in the Education Planning Board’s agenda. For a while two specific areas: on the one hand very young children’s education, traditionally left to families and on the other religious initiation, provided by Koranic schools, were not controlled by the Ismaili Planning Board. After parents demanded the opening of nursery schools, the Aga Khan Foundation inaugurated a preschool madrasa49 for little children in Mombasa, in 1986, which combined secular education in the morning and religious education in the afternoon (Topan 1998: 299-305; Khamis 1998: 289- 297). The success of this experience exceeded its initiators’ expectations. When it spread to other East African countries, it aroused the Kenyan government’s interest and got World Bank support50. Besides, improving education standards in both the primary and secondary levels of education has been an absolute priority for the last twenty years. After setting up a complementary teacher-training programme (School Improvement Programme, 1990-2005), Ismaili secondary schools introduced the International Baccalaureate51 to make it easier for students who graduated from secondary school52 to enter Anglo-Saxon Universities.

  • 53 Situated in the middle of a campus overlooking the Indian Ocean, the Mombasa “Academy” occupies a s (...)

62The creation of excellence centres meant to train elite students was the next stage in perfecting the education system. The first of such centres known as “Academy” opened in Mombasa in 2003, heralding the creation of about twenty other “Academies” in Africa and Asia. Registering 600 pupils from primary to IB (International Baccalaureate), today this important school complex provides intensive education based on the mastery of languages and basic disciplines (mathematics, physics and life sciences, written and oral expression)53 in a luxurious environment.

  • 54 The feeling of superiority by the Ismaili is best described by the following extract from an articl (...)
  • 55 Among the university partners, it is worth mentioning Harvard, McGill, Toronto, Oxford, and Graduat (...)

63In the Ismail policy makers’ eyes, educating the young leading elite responds to the need of ensuring continuity and strengthening the economic, social and political foundation of a community characterized by its Diaspora situation. Equipped with the best Anglo-Saxon university degrees and capable of playing at the highest level the transnational interlocutors’ role, the future representatives of the community administration are both ready to launch into private careers and to remain faithful to the interests of their community54. The final aspect of education policies emphasized by the Aga Khan since 1999 is the need to create professional training centres, particularly for public education, rural development and health. Run from Dar-es-Salaam, several Professional Development Centres have been set up in the three East African countries. In the area of public education, such centres train school teachers, inspectors, heads and administration officials. Meant for young university graduates, training in rural development and public health policies has been the latest initiative (Young Development Professionals Programme). International academic partnerships support such programmes, and so do other international institutions55.

  • 56 Thanks to a 80 million-dollar allocation and a donation from Ismaili communities, the hospital rece (...)
  • 57 Established by Aga Khan IV in 1985, the University of Karachi has a large faculty of medicine, a nu (...)

64As far as health policy is concerned, dispensaries have been set up in Kenya since the beginning of the 20th century on Aga Khan III’s initiative. They soon proved insufficient to cater for “people at risk” such as pregnant women and infants. That’s the reason why Mombasa, Kisumu and Nairobi community hospitals were built (1957). Expanded and modernized between 2000 and 2004, the Ismaili Hospital in Nairobi, better known as Aga Khan Hospital, has since then become one of the most important hospitals in East Africa56. Bound by a cooperation agreement with the Karachi University’s Medical School, it employs 1,400 people and over one hundred doctors57.

  • 58 In 2004, the Aga Khan Health Services managed 325 health centres in East Africa (outside Kenya’s se (...)

65As for the network of dispensaries, it soon became obvious that, despite its modernization due to the Aga Khan Foundations’ support it was unable to implement a prevention policy including grassroots education on subjects such as the use of water, hygiene, nutrition and vaccination58.

  • 59 The goal of these schools is to train both highly qualified hospital nurses and rural nurses able t (...)
  • 60 Aga Khan IV received in June 2001 the prestigious Archon Award in recognition of his work to realiz (...)

66Kenya also faced serious difficulties owing to widespread infectious and parasitic diseases such as gastroenteritis, AIDS, malaria to a high mortality rate among women in childbirth and to the worsening of certain diseases, cardio-vascular conditions in particular. Such a situation required the training of qualified nurses, who would be able to diagnose serious medical situations and deal with them. This is what the cooperation agreement signed in 1992 between the Aga Khan and the Government of Kenya set out to achieve. Planned in 1993, a nursing-school common to the three East African countries was opened in Nairobi in 1999 with branches in Mombasa, Dar-es-Salaam and Kampala59. The Ismaili health services administration announced that between 2002 and 2007, 1,500 nurses would have completed their whole training and would have graduated. In order to adjust to the demands from various partners (the governments of the three countries, health departments, medical staff) it was decided that between 2008 and 2012 such programmes world be reviewed, with the aim of developing a common curriculum for all East African nurses60.

Cultural work

  • 61 Since its introduction, the Historic Cities Support Programme launched about twenty projects, inclu (...)
  • 62 Thus academic programmes on Islamic architecture have been funded at Harvard University and at MIT.

67The Aga Khan Trust for Culture oversees various programmes aimed at promoting education and restoring monuments and arts: the Education and Culture Programmes; the Aga Khan Award for Architecture; the Historic Cities Support Programme. Launched in 1962, that programme concentrated on the conservation and rehabilitation of urban areas and historic buildings in the Muslim world61. An international award for architecture was created to reward contemporary creators. Funds were set aside for the rehabilitation of Islamic architectural heritage while others were allocated to the collection and promotion of the traditional arts in Muslim countries, handicraft, music, dance, poetry62.

Be adventurous: Boom in economic activities

  • 63 The capital of the financial institutions is in principle composed of 50 % of funds belonging to th (...)

68What can be a better “close protection” for a family business (Castel 1995: 34) than being run by its creator’s direct descendants? The patrimonial nature of Indian businesses has not been an obstacle to “entrepreneurial” dynamism of which Ismailis are a remarkable example. Since the era of Aga Khan III’s imamate the encouragement of private business, particularly industrial enterprise, has indeed been a sort of leitmotiv of Ismaili policy, an objective that Aga Khan IV has largely embraced and amplified. Following the early creation of Jubilee Insurance Company in 1937 (insurance and property acquisition), the Investment Trust (middle and long term credit), the Industrial Promotion Services (1963), the Tourism Promotion Service (1971), the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (1984) are institutional and financial tools that serve the community, there are companies partially controlled by the Aga Khan’s government and for several of them working for him63.

69Although they serve private investment projects, the Industrial Promotion Service (IPS) set rules, that is to say namely: the preferential use of local resources without overexploiting them, respect for the environment, use of techniques adapted to local contexts; the training of local manpower, the exportation of a part of the production.

70The return to free enterprise in Tanzania in the early 1980s and the opening of a regional free trade area in 1981 offered the private sector unprecedented opportunities.

  • 64 With the volume of investments estimated at 86 million dollars, a joint venture was entered into wi (...)
  • 65 The Aga Khan Development Network in East Africa (2006: 23).

71The IPS’s success in East Africa, where it spread its network of subsidiaries, encouraged the group to develop strategies based on the experience gained: investment in infrastructure, more precisely in telecommunications and electricity generation. The construction of a power plant in Mombasa (Kipuvu II) called for a joint venture64. IPS-Uganda and IPS-Tanzania joined forces with IPS-Kenya to develop the entire industrial sector and launch projects at the level of East African economic space. The companies mastering local working conditions on one hand and the IPS guaranteeing thorough management, on the other, foreign investors were convinced to get involved in the sectors under its control. The number of partnership projects rose from sixty in 1990 to eighty in 200465. The Ismailis who were particularly active in the food industry (Premier Foods Industries, Farmer’s Choice), textiles (Kamyn Industries), mechanics (Ukulima Tools, Wire Products), plastics (Plastics and Rubber Industries), expanded their activities to other areas of production. Among the businesses that got IPS support, three had remarkable results. The leading exporter of packaged fresh vegetables, particularly French beans on European markets, Frigoken Company is supplied by African small- scale farmers (21,000 presently). Based in Nairobi and well-established on the East African markets, Kenya Litho Ltd specializes in the manufacture of packaging material and printing (soft and hard packaging material, labels, the printing of various brochures and books). After expanding to Tanzania (1994) and Uganda (1995) the Leather Industries of Kenya (Thika), became the main leather producer in East Africa and one of the leading exporters on the European market.

Table 5.1 Industrial Promotion Services, L.P.S

Name Place Area of activity
Allpack Industries Ltd Nairobi Manufacture of cardboard boxes and packaging material
Frigoken Nairobi Fresh and deep-frozen fresh vegetables
Kamyn Industries Ltd Mombasa Hosiery
Kenya Jojoba Industries Ltd Voi Jojoba growing, oil
Leather Industries Kenya
Ltd.
Thika Leather, Hide treatment
Novaskins Tannery Ltd. Thika Goat hide treatment
Plastics and Rubber Ind. Nairobi Manufacture of plastics and rubber
Premier Food Industries Ltd. Nairobi Tinned vegetables and fruits
Safari Lodge Properties Ltd. Nairobi Lodges and hotels
Services and Systems Ltd. Nairobi Services Company
Tourism Promotion Services Nairobi Tourism Direction
Ukulima Tools Ltd. Nairobi Manufacture of farm implements
Wire Products Ltd. Nairobi Wire works

Source: AKFED, brochure, 2003

  • 66 TPS works in partnership with the British Airways and Lufthansa.
  • 67 In Zanzibar, an old dispensary built back in 1880 was converted into a tourist attraction after it (...)
  • 68 These vagaries of weather were aggravated by destruction during lodge construction. The Aga Khan’s (...)
  • 69 AKFED (2003: 9).
  • 70 In 2003, there were only two foreigners (expatriates) out of the 1,300 employees in the tourism sec (...)
  • 71 Buoyed by the success it achieved in Kenya, the Serena Hotels Programme was extended to Pakistan wh (...)

72Another area of successful activity where Ismailis have drawn attention is tourism. As early as the 1970s, the Tourism Promotion Services (TPS) had begun building or buying hotels and lodges. In 2004, Ismailis owned five luxury hotels (Serena hotels) and five lodges based in animal reserves in East Africa66. This programme, which includes Tanzania, has even registered further growth (Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti Reserve and Zanzibar Island)67. Concerned about the environment and local architecture, the Aga Khan personally ensured that the style of construction was faithful to local tradition and personally did his best to use local labour resources. After many trees had been destroyed by vagaries of weather in one of the Kenyan reserves, the Tourism Promotion Services undertook to plant 20,000 trees in replacement68. “This respect for the environment was recognized by international organizations and recommended as a model for every other investor in East Africa”69. According to the Aga Khan, such “a cautious tourism” has had a number of positive effects: the revival of ancient traditions in construction, the respect of ecology and the environment, the creation of jobs, the training of skilled labour forces70. The maxim that projects must follow is: minimising impact on the environment and maximising socio- economic gains71.

73The expansion of industrial and business activities at the regional level spread to the insurance sector, in which Ismailis have been experienced for a long time. East Africa’s oldest insurance company, Jubilee Insurance went through the tumultuous 1960s while it had to close its Ugandan and Tanzanian branches. Listed in the Nairobi Stock Exchange since 1984, the Jubilee Insurance Company has become one of the most important insurance companies in East Africa. Following a significant surge in capital, it reopened its branches in Uganda and Tanzania.

Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development

74The press and the media more generally speaking, have long attracted the Ismailis. Created in 1960, the Nation Media Group is the largest media group in East Africa today. The Nation Newspaper Ltd, which is the Nairobi-based publisher of the Daily Nation the reference daily and its weekly edition Sunday Nation, also publishes the Taifa, the national weekly Coast Express and the regional weekly The East African. Owners of a television channel and radio station in Kenya (Nation TV and Nation Broadcasting), the Ismailis are also well established in the Ugandan and Tanzanian media sectors. In either country, they own a daily newspaper including one also published in Swahili: The Monitor (Kampala) and Mwananchi (The Citizen, Dar-es-Salaam) as well as a radio-station partly broadcasting in Swahili: Monitor FM (Kampala) and Radio Uhuru (Dar-es-Salaam).

  • 72 Running several property development projects (including a high-class residential property in Nairo (...)
  • 73 Dirty financial transactions have in different periods soiled the “reputation of the Indian communi (...)
  • 74 Eight countries in East and West Africa in addition to Madagascar and Mauritius, four countries in (...)
  • 75 AKDN, Le Réseau Aga Khan de développement (2008: 15).

75With a situation so favourable to free market business, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development has acted as a catalyst in the creation of a regional bank: the Diamond Trust Bank Kenya, (DTBK). The Aga Khan expanded his area of operation: investment funds, insurance companies, property development have been integrated into the DTBK72. Its interventions consist in funding medium and long-term loans, in assessing the projects that are put forward and relating with possible partners. One of the guiding principles is first and foremost to guarantee transparency in financial transactions so as to contribute to fighting money laundering, drug trafficking, the funding of terrorist activities73… Diamond Trust Bank now has many branches in Uganda and Tanzania. A holding company, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) directly or indirectly coordinates all economic activities controlled by Ismaili community administration. Operating in about 15 countries74 and in control of assets whose value is estimated to more than 1.5 billion dollars, the AKFED oversees the running of 90 companies which themselves employ 30,000 people75.

Table 5.2 Financial Institutions

Uganda Kenya Tanzania
Diamond Trust Bank Diamond Trust of Diamond Jubilee
Ltd. (Uganda) Kenya, Ltd Investment Trust Ltd.
(Tanzania)
Diamond Jubilee Diamond Trust
Investment Trust Properties Jubilee
Ltd. (Uganda) Jubilee Insurance Company
Insurance Company of
Uganda
Ltd.
Jubilee Investment Ltd.
(Uganda)
Industrial Promotion
Buildings

76Although the institution commits its own capital, it seek partners since the amount of money needed for investment usually exceeds its intervention potential in large scale projects (power-stations, etc.). It also helps bridge the gap between funds contributed by the AKFED and those occasionally approved by governments.

77Taking risks is among the Aga Khan’s recommendations. “Be adventurous”, he urges his followers. From the shopkeeper to the head of a company, everyone should remain on the alert to be able to assess the present situation and anticipate. Even though they fell victims to historical risks, the Ismailis have shown they could seize opportunities that arose, even though they may have been accused of being opportunists sometimes. Aware of new prospects of economic globalization, Ismailis can both rely on community protection and considerable transnational networks, since the Diaspora international scattering does not hinder experts: (engineers, IT experts, doctors and accountants) to interfere wherever they choose.

Table 5.3 AKDN partners in East Africa

African Medical and Research Foundation (AMREF)
Book Aid international
British Airways
Canadian international Development Agency (CIDA)
CARE (Kenya)
Charity Projects
Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC)
Deutsche Entwicklungsgesellschaft (DEG)
East African Development Bank
European Commission
European Investment Bank
Found Foundation
Government of the Republic of Kenya
Government of Japan
Government of the Republic of Uganda International Finance Corporation (IFC) Japan Labour Welfare Corporation Ministry of Education, Zanzibar
Department for International Development (DFID) Proparco
Rahimtulla Trust
United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO)

Source: The Aga Khan Development Network in East Africa, AKFED, 2003

Conclusion

78The last two Aga Khans have restored a centralised government that had long disappeared. Aga Khan III led his followers on the way to modernity surrounding them with care and affection: “Dear beloved spiritual children, Africa is always close to my heart and my mind” (Talika, Cannes, 1953). Not only was the spiritual leader who could show the way, he also became a pragmatic worldly leader who explained in details the work to be undertaken so that everyone could understand. He demanded that his disciples should partly abandon some of the cultural memories attached to their Indian past. Such memories that Ferdinand Braudel beautifully calls “the obstinate vegetation of previous diversity” impeded the accelerated modernisation he imposed on them, which according to him would result “in feeling better in a better world”.

79Aga Khan IV brought together all the Ismaili communities scattered on faraway lands; he gave them a framework of political, social, economic and cultural institutions. He committed his followers to a programme of educational projects, created higher education centres, launched numerous sustainable development programmes under the tutelage of the Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan Development Network. Finally, he encouraged the creation of businesses, which “in this globalized world” should take advantage of international economic and financial networks and extolled the opportunities offered by the expansion of the Islamic space. A champion of free enterprise market, he is a convinced leader who seems to be convincing.

80The Aga Khan’s writings all insist on the importance of volunteers in imamat activities. Based on community life, which cements the close relationship between the members of this minority community, voluntary work contributes to creating a remarkable cohesion and confirms the ties of solidarity among its members. One question lingers though; this community offers a seamless and apparently flawless façade. Truly, it went through a number of upheavals that shattered its balance in the 19th century but its life since then seems to have been inspired by “a spirit of friendship, courtesy and harmony”. The changes in behaviour imposed on them may have met with resistance; they might have fuelled tensions and might even have bred bitter resentments. However, to the outsider, nothing of the sort seems to have happened recently. Given that any expression of conflict might lead to the assumption that the community is weak, it should, according to the age-old taqiyya tradition, be “carefully” avoided.

81Ismailism seeks to extol tolerance as a virtue. Islam’s present image that some fundamentalists display to the world is a worrying and retrogressive idea. Not only does Ismailism choose to be discrete on the international scene but also reassuring, by offering the example of cultured, obviously affluent but also generous society.

The author thanks Said Zulficar, former member of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture organising committee, who introduced her to the representative of the Ismaili community in Gouvieux. When he was informed about the objectives of study, he gave the author an introduction letter that opened doors for her at the Institute of Ismaili Studies and the London Jamatkhana. Gratitude also goes to members of the Keshavjee family who accorded the author all their attention in Gouvieux, London and in Kenya. At the Nairobi Aga Khan Foundation (AKF), special thanks go to Mrs Nooreen Kassam, AKF director for East Africa, and Mrs Nasrin Shamji-Dewany, who contacted various people and personalities to meet. Friendly regards go to Dr Farouk Topan, lecturer at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, with whom the author conducted joint research on Swahili culture and worked as a team over a period of about ten years as part of the agreement between SOAS and the GDR 115 ( “Plural societies of East Africa”) of the CNRS.

Bibliographie

Bibliography

Ismaili Documents

• Documents published by the Aga Khan and community administration organs:

Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan, 2001, Accession à l’Imâmat du Prince Karim Khan. 4 pages, Aiglemont, 60270 Gouvieux, France.
 – 2001, View of Islam History, 2001, Aiglemont, 60270 Gouvieux, France.
 – Jamatkhana of London, 2004, Ismaili community, History of the Imamat. London, 7 pages.
 – Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2003-2004, Catalogue des Publications, London, 68 p.
 – 1987, The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. Nairobi (Kenya), Islamic Publication Ltd, 48 p.
 – 1998, The Ismaili Africa, Periodical, Nairobi, 5.
 – 2001, The Ismaili Africa, Periodical, Nairobi, 21.
 – 2002, The Ismaili France, Périodique, (publication by Jamats in France, Belgium and Switzerland), Paris, July.
 – 2005, Aga Khan of the Shia Ismailia Council of Kenya, Directory 2003-2005, Nairobi (Kenya), 54 p.

• Brochures distributed by the Aga Khan Foundation (Kenya):
 – 2000, East Africa, Madrasa Pre-School Programme. Nairobi (Kenya), October, 4 pag.
 – 2001, East Africa, Enhancing the Impact of Health Sector Reform. Nairobi (Kenya), April, 4 pag.

• 2001, East Africa, School Improvement Programme (SIP). Nairobi (Kenya), 4 pages .
 – 2001, East Africa, Improving the Quality of Basic Education. Nairobi (Kenya), January, 2 p.
 – 2001, East Africa, Rural Development. Nairobi (Kenya), 4 leaves

• Brochures distributed by the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN):
 – 2003, The Aga Khan Development Network in East Africa. Nairobi (Kenya), 18 p.
 – 2008, AKDN, le Réseau Aga Khan de développement. Genève, 30 p.
 – Aga Khan Education Services, 2003, Early Childhood Development. Nairobi (Kenya), January, 4 pag.
 – 2003, Institutions and programmes. Geneva, (Switzerland), 31 p.
 – 2003, Professional Development Centres in East Africa. Nairobi (Kenya), 4 pag. The Aga Khan Health Services, 2003, Advanced Nursing Studies Programme in East Africa. Nairobi (Kenya), January, 4 pag.

• Brochures distributed by the Aga Khan Fund (Kenya):
 – 2004, Industrial Promotion Services, IPS. 4 pag.
 – 2008, Tourism Promotion Services, TPS. 4 pag.

Books and Articles

ADAM Michel, 2004, « Qui sont les populations d’origine indienne au Kenya », Les Cahiers d’Afrique de l’Est, 24: 1-49.

2006, « Une minorité microcosmique : les Indo-Kenyans de Nairobi », in Charton-Bigot, Hélène and Rodriguez-Torres, Deyssi (éds.), Nairobi contemporain. Les paradoxes d’une ville fragmentée. Paris, Nairobi, Karthala-IFRA: 285-357.

BOIVIN, Michel, 1993, Shi’isme ismaélien et modernité chez Sultan Mohammad ShahAga Khan (1885-1957). Thèse + annexes I, II, III. Paris III, Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle.

CASTEL, Robert, 1995, Les métamorphose de la question sociale. Une chronique du salariat. Paris, Fayard ( « l’espace du politique »).

DAFTARY, Farhad, 1998, Les Ismaéliens. Histoire et traditions d’une communauté musulmane. Paris, trad. de l’anglais, Fayard.

GRIGNON, François, 1998, « Les années Nyayo. Racines de l’autoritarisme et graines de la démocratie (1978-1991) », in François Grignon & Gérard Prunier (eds), Le Kenya contemporain. Paris-Nairobi, Karthala-IFRA: 315-348.

KEPEL, Gilles, 2004, « Fitna ». Guerre au cœur de l’Islam. Paris, Gallimard.

KHAMIS K.S., 1998, « L’enseignement laïc », in Colette Le Cour Grandmaison & Ariel Crozon (eds), Zanzibar aujourd’hui. Paris, Nairobi, Karthala-IFRA: 289-297.

LEWIS, Bernard, 1982, Les Assassins, Terrorisme et politique dans l’Islam médiéval. Paris, Berger-Levraut, Complexes (Preface by Maxime Rodinson).

MIQUEL, André, 1982, L’Islam et sa civilisation, VII e-XVe siècles. Paris, Armand Colin.

NANJI, Azim 1974, « Modernization and Change in the Nizari Ismaeli Community in East Africa: A Perspective », Journal of Religion in Africa, VI (2): 123-139.

NICHOLS, C.S. 1971, The Swahili Coast. Politics, Diplomacy and Trade on the East African Littoral, 1798-1856. Saint Antony’s Publications, George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

OTENYO, Eric E. 1998, « Au cœur de l’accumulation kenyane. Du bon usage des banques en politique (1985-1995) », in François Grignon & Gérard Prunier (eds), Le Kenya contemporain. Paris-Nairobi, Karthala-IFRA: 273-284.

PITT-RIVERS, Julian 1983, Anthropologie de l’honneur. La mésaventure de Sichem. Paris, trad. de l’anglais, Le Sycomore.

POLO, Marco 2004, Le Devisement du monde. Le livre des merveilles. Paris, Editions de la Découverte, t. 1.

PRUNIER, Gérard 1998, « Les Communautés indiennes », in François Grignon & Gérard Prunier (eds), Le Kenya contemporain. Paris-Nairobi, Karthala-IFRA: 191-208.

RODRIGUEZ-TORRES, Deyssi (éds.), « Nairobi, entre Muthaiga et Mathare Valley », in François Grignon & Gérard Prunier (eds), Le Kenya contemporain. Paris-Nairobi, Karthala-IFRA: 209-230.

SALVADORI, Cynthia 1989 (1983), Through Open Doors. A View of Asian Cultures in Kenya. Nairobi, Kenway Publications.

SHERIFF, Abdul 1987, Slaves, Spices and Ivory in Zanzibar. Integration of an African Commercial Empire in the Economy. London, James Currey.

TOPAN, Farouk, 1998 « Comment devient-on musulman ? » in Colette Le Cour Grandmaison & Ariel Crozon. (eds), Zanzibar aujourd’hui. Paris, Nairobi, Karthala-IFRA: 299-305.

Notes

1 Most data for this chapter was collected from Ismaili institutions: namely the headquarters of the Aga Khan’s government in Gouvieux (France) and the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London) where we consulted documents accessible to non-Ismailis (May 2004). Documentary information was complemented by a field study and interviews carried out in Nairobi and Mombasa (Kenya) between July and September 2004. The various study visits were made possible by budget allocations made by the French Institute for Research in Africa based in Nairobi (IFRA).

2 Estimates of the number of Muslims in Kenya have been most contrasting and far-fetched, ranging from two and a half million, according to Western sources, to 12 million according to the Supreme Council of Kenya Muslims. Knowing that Muslims in Kenya are more concentrated in Coast and Nairobi provinces than in northeastern Kenya, which is very sparsely populated, the last census regional data clearly favour an integrated figure of between 2.5 and 3.5 million.

3 Le Monde, “Focus”, Wednesday 25/10/2006.

4 The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London and the Shia Ismaili Council for France give an official figure of 20 million Ismailis. In several of his interviews, the Aga Khân acknowledged that he does not know the exact number of his followers. For the entire African continent, the number of Ismailis does not perhaps exceed 40,000 people.

5 Dai is also the title given today to the Bohra Shia imam “designate”.

6 Hasan Sabbah decided to set up his hideout in the Elbourz Mountain in northern Persia, and built the Alamut Fortress at the opening of a narrow gorge 1,800 meters above sea level. In control of the scattered territories from Syria up to eastern Persia, Hasan Sabbah established an independent Nizarite state, sending missionaries and striving to conquer and set up strongholds even in distant outposts. He decided to make Persian the language of religious missions because it was understood by the targeted populations. These measures did not spare Ismailis from facing fierce fighting using all sorts of means: expeditions were sent to besiege their fortresses and starve their supporters; their immediate neighbours were set against them in a war of attrition that subjected them to incessant attacks. Hasan Sabbah designed a revolutionary strategy against his opponents; he ordered a series of individual aggression. Thus Vizir Nizam al-Mulk, who had got an Ismaili leader executed, was killed and became the first fida’i victim. Between 1101 and 1103, the “list of honour” of killings included that of the Mufti of Ispahan, the Bayhaq prefect, and in 1139, that of Caliph Abbasside al-Mustarshid and his son Al-Rachid. The killing of Conrad de Montferrat, King Jerusalem in Tyr is sometimes also attributed to Hasan Sabbah.

7 Nickname given to Hasan Sabbah.

8 Hachichi, in Arabic: the first meaning is dry grass or fodder. The next meaning of the term more specifically refers to Indian hemp, Cannabis sativa, whose narcotic effect was already known by Muslims in the Middle-Ages.

9 Small groups of Ismailis were already settled in Sindh by the 9th century (Salvadori 1989: 224).

10 Khoja: derived from Arab khawaja, which means “lord”.

11 By 1870, the Zanzibar Island already had more than 500 Ismailis (Sheriff 1987: 147; Nicholls 1971: 290).

12 Derived from the term ta liga in Arabic, talika refers to a comment, an opinion on a news event.

13 The first Ismaili School in Nairobi was set up in Parklands area in 1948. Cynthia Salvadori observes that during the colonial period, Ismailis opened about 90 schools in various towns in Kenya, often for limited periods due to the varying number of pupils (Salvadori 1989: 231, footnote 2).

14 An anecdote illustrates this cultural gap between families and community leaders. During the 1950s, three pupils from Zanzibar (two boys and one girl) were promised scholarships in the academic award scheme for excellent results. The scholarships would enable the two best pupils to be rewarded with opportunities to pursue studies abroad. Even though the girl was the best among three, the two scholarships were finally awarded to the boys, since the girl’s family refused to let her travel abroad.

15 All Ismailis were subsequently enabled to access long-term loans with a view to encouraging investment (Diamond Jubilee Trust, 1946).

16 A financial institution aimed to promote the establishment of industrial businesses.

17 During the years before the constitution was drafted, a fresh wave of migration to East Africa was set off by the construction of the Uganda Railway (1883-1901); an influx of Indian workers from many parts of the sub- continent (among them Sunni Muslims and Duodeciman Shias) resulted from the demand for manpower. Although most of these workers went back to Indian when their contracts expired, it is commonly admitted that those dates correspond to the beginning of sustained immigration which went up to the eve of independence.

18 This council, which was then based in Zanzibar, was set up in Nairobi following the 1964 revolution.

19 In the traditional community organisation, the mukhi was both the religious and political head of a local community (jamâ’a). He led ceremonies, officiated at family functions (weddings, funerals, etc.) and collected religious fees. The kamaria was his assistant.

20 1961: Tanganyika’s independence; 1962: Uganda’s independence; 1963: Kenya’s and Zanzibar’s independence; 1964: formation of the United Republic of Tanzania (Tanganyika and Zanzibar); 1967: Arusha Declaration.

21 Promulgated in November 1967, the Trade Licensing Act drastically reduced the business licenses issued to non-Kenyans. However, a number of Indian traders who had obtained Kenyan citizenship were also denied business licences.

22 See in this volume the chapter by Laurent Nowik.

23 Submission whose almost unanimous nature had caught the attention of Western observers by the end of the post-war period.

24 Marriage and succession.

25 Particularly cases of indiscipline against religion or a religious leader.

26 Asia, Africa, Europe, North America. Ismaili communities are currently established in more than 25 countries: in North America, Canada, United States; in Europe, United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Bosnia; in Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, Mali, Niger, Burkina-Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Madagascar; in Asia, Turkey, Syria, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh (according to AKDN, 2002, Country Locations).

27 In Aiglemont, rural township near Chantilly, Oise Department.

28 Thus Princess Zahra, the Aga Khan’s first-born daughter, is in charge of education programmes.

29 Parallel to sovereign jurisdictions and unique to every country of settlement.

30 Provincial boards are those in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu. Local in Kenya are the jamatkhanas of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, and Eldoret; including local boards of Kinshasa, Bujumbura, Kigali and Pretoria.

31 Eight members of the National board of Kenya carry out near “ministerial delegation” duties (communication, legal business, status of women, youth and sports, economy, education, health, welfare). Every “ministerial delegate” coordinates his work with those of local administrative boards previously mentioned: Tariqah and Religious Board (8 members), Grants and Review Board (6 members) Conciliation and Arbitration Board (6 members). The latter board covers four local boards situated in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Kinshasa.

32 Male titles (by descending hierarchical order): diwan, vazir, aitmadi, rai, alijah, huzur mukhi; female titles: diwan saheba, vazir saheba, etc. (Constitution: 37)

33 Let us mention Jubilee Fund in which five director positions are held by titled people.

34 Preferential marriage: ego marriage with patrilineal parallel cousins (daughter of father’s brother). Marriage with “cousins”: ego marriage with patrilineal cross-cousins (daughter of father’s sister), or even more widely ego marriage with patrilineal lineage “cousin”.

35 In the case mentioned, the girl accepted marriage arranged by her parents on condition that she would pursue her studies, which she had hardly started in Canada, in a Kenyan university. After becoming a lawyer, she was admitted to the Bar in Nairobi.

36 The prophet says: “Goodwill implies that whenever you meet your brother you should be good-natured towards him” (Hadith 593).

37 Part of these fees is remitted to the Aga Khan. However, as Michel Adam observes, since the Aga Khan settled in India more than a century and a half ago, he has gathered immense wealth, which makes him largely independent from the collection of the faithful’s incomes” (Adam 2006: 316).

38 After the lapse of the appellate period, a suspension order is sent to all jamatkhanas under the national board’s jurisdiction.

39 The Ismaili Africa, March 1998, p. 5.

40 There are about a hundred such families in Kenya, which amounts to about 400 people.

41 However, it appears during professional activity, women’s participation is higher than men’s participation.

42 For instance, a woman who taught at secondary school level for a period of about twenty years before becoming an assistant manager in a NGO after studying Economics was a member of the Nairobi Board for three years, honorary secretary of the National Board of Kenya and member of National Conciliation and Arbitration Board. These temporary responsibilities were in addition to constant involvement in a women’s committee started about thirty years ago.

43 Since a couple of years, some women’s committees have also prepared cooked dishes which are sold cheaply to students and women from modest backgrounds engaged in professional activity.

44 The men charged with religious teaching are chosen by an ad hoc committee from among the group of elders. Derived from Sanskrit, the term ginân refers to religious literature. The literary body of Ginâns comprises over 1,000 chanted poems. This tradition reflects historic, social, cultural and political contexts in the Indian sub-continent in the medieval times, especially in Sindh Province and other north-western Indian regions. “Created by religious leaders known then as Pirs, these hymns were initially passed on orally” (Daftary 2003: 267).

45 It is worth noting that this tendency is also desired by some liberal Sunni associations like the Muslim Civic Education Trust and the Muslim Mombasa Association. The latter declares that its mission is to open up to all Muslims, male and female, whatever their beliefs (August 20, 2004). The Muslim Civic Education Trust, which describes Mombasa as “Kenya’s un-crowned Muslim capital”, was established with the support of Professor Mohamed Hyder. Its aim was to get all Muslims to reflect and to participate in Kenya’s constitution review process with a view to achieving wider justice and a more tolerant and democratic society.

46 Another project was initiated in the Kibera slums for teenagers. The Kibera Girls Centre has a large piece of land – donated by Kenya Railways – on which two class rooms, sanitary facilities, an open-air kitchen were constructed and vegetable garden planted. The centre brings together female teenagers, who are frequently accompanied by their younger brothers and sisters, who generally do not go to school and live from begging. They receive basic education as well as sex education aimed to inform them about AIDS risks. They are also initiated to needlework (sewing, crocheting, and knitting) as well as to the production of key chains, necklaces and bracelets from colourful beads. At noon all the children are provided with one meal prepared by their elder sisters.

47 The Tariqah Board, which supervises this organization, hold every year a week-long Religious Education Festival bringing together about 300 youngsters from all over the country who meet in workshops. In addition to the workshops programme, there are studies on art history and Islamic architecture, manual work, and sports. Each day ends with the reading and study of religious writings. Young volunteers (known as “advisers”) run the festival under the authority of members of the Tariqah Board.

48 “The deep and underlying reason behind the creation of this network is the moral principle that the suffering of the needy in society must be shared by all”, The Aga Khan Development Network in East Africa. An Introduction Brochure (2003: 2).

49 Madrasa: school where mainly religious education is provided.

50 In 1995, the Aga Khan Foundation created three regional nursery school teachers’ training centres (Madrasa Resource Centres) in Mombasa, Zanzibar and Kampala. Leaving the running of the pre-school madrasa to local communities, the Madrasa Resource Centres signed partnership agreements with the latter. It became imperative to elect school committees. Community members and leaders had to participate in these elections. The school committees, which were charged with managing school premises, selected applicants for the teachers’ training (applicants had to have at least ten years of schooling experience and the successful applicants then received two-year training). After the signing of the partnership agreement, the Madrasa Resource Centre officials also carried out training for nursery school administrators and took charge of maintenance of the premises East Africa AKF, Nairobi, 2000: 3). In addition, the Aga Khan Foundation initiated collaboration with officials of the Kenya early childhood education programme funded by the World Bank. This cooperation resulted in interest beyond the Kenyan borders and East Africa. A conference held in Kampala in 1999 on this pilot project brought together education specialists from 26 countries and attracted several West African governments. In November 2001, the Aga Khan Foundation and the World Bank organized in Brussels a round table conference on Early Child Development which brought together 40 international experts, including European decision-makers, foundations, non-governmental organizations and representatives from the private sector.

51 International Baccalaureate or IB comes after the fourth year of secondary education (Form 4). In Kenya, like in other countries where there is British influence, the education system follows the “8-4-4” formula since 1984: eight years of primary education (Standard 1 to 8), four years of secondary education (Form 1 to 4) and four years of higher education. Access to secondary education is dependent on obtaining the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). Higher education is determined by the results obtained in the exam of the final year of secondary education (O level). This system replaced a previous system called “7-6-3”.

52 Funding for complementary teachers training was mobilized from local communities. It is worth noting that according to the terms of the partnership agreements with the Kenyan government, financial commitment by parents (school fees) covers 2/3 of the costs of education in 1998, with the Kenyan Ministry of the Education being responsible for the remuneration of teachers (East Africa, AKF. School Improvement Programme, 2002: 2).

53 Situated in the middle of a campus overlooking the Indian Ocean, the Mombasa “Academy” occupies a splendid building put up in two years by Ismaili architects. The school, which observes strict gender parity, is composed of 75 % of Kenyans (most of them of Indian origin) while 25 % are foreign students (from other African countries, Europe, etc.). Muslim pupils (accounting for 40 %, 12 % of which are Ismailis) are a minority, with the rest of the school (60 %) professing various religions (Hindu, Jains, Sikh, Christian). Boarding pupils are 40 % of the registered number. There are about sixty teachers. The pupils have ultra modern facilities comparable to those in the best Anglo-Saxon schools: sports grounds, swimming pools, science and language laboratories, computer rooms, art and music workshops, library, prayer area, theatre. Receiving a complete dominantly multilingual education (literature, languages, sciences and arts, sport), “they are destined”, says the school profile brochure, “to become citizens of the world, prepared to work in a globalized world” (The Aga Khan Academies. Excellence in Education, brochure 2003, p. 14 & The Ismaili, n° 37, mars 2004). The biography of the “Academy” director is an example of the extreme geographical mobility of many of the community leaders. Born in Pakistan, he went to high school and university in Canada and began his teaching career there before he was recruited as a school director in Nairobi. The transfer of Ismaili community officials from one Ismaili community to another and from one country to another is very frequent in all areas of activity.

54 The feeling of superiority by the Ismaili is best described by the following extract from an article written by an Ismaili author: “In their relations with other communities, (Ismailis) consider themselves more dynamic and progressive than others, who end up imitating them” (Azim Nanji 1974: 135).

55 Among the university partners, it is worth mentioning Harvard, McGill, Toronto, Oxford, and Graduate School of Public Development in South Africa. Technical and financial support has been proposed by private foundations and various international institutions: Ford Foundation, European Commission, UNICEF, World Bank.

56 Thanks to a 80 million-dollar allocation and a donation from Ismaili communities, the hospital recently acquired a new laboratory and MRI facilities.

57 Established by Aga Khan IV in 1985, the University of Karachi has a large faculty of medicine, a nursing school and a referral hospital. Doctor heads of departments at Nairobi’s Aga Khan Hospital, who are likely to be recruited locally and have many Africans in their ranks, are distributed into 77 resident doctors, 59 consultant doctors and 250 foreign doctors accredited by the hospital board. The hospital is administered by an Ismaili. The management board has eleven members, but only one non-Ismaili who is of Yemeni origin and head of the medical department.

58 In 2004, the Aga Khan Health Services managed 325 health centres in East Africa (outside Kenya’s semi-arid area).

59 The goal of these schools is to train both highly qualified hospital nurses and rural nurses able to handle cases of illnesses as just described (Aga Khan Foundation, Advanced Nursing Studies Programme, East Africa, April 2001: 1.)

60 Aga Khan IV received in June 2001 the prestigious Archon Award in recognition of his work to realize the nursing care programme. “ANS Programme”, East Africa, AKDN, January 2003.

61 Since its introduction, the Historic Cities Support Programme launched about twenty projects, including the creation of a park in Cairo, the rehabilitation of the old city of Zanzibar (Stone Town), the restoration of old forts in northern Pakistan and restoration of Alep and Samarkand urban centres. In Zanzibar, a Swedish agency participates in the restoration work. In 1988, the Aga Khan organized a seminary on housing in Zanzibar to which he invited international architects to put them on to Swahili culture – which he described in his opening speech as “a rich tapestry woven over centuries” – and arouse their interest in regional cultures. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is complemented by a programme that aims at establishing a list of major works that are likely to be targeted for conservation or rehabilitation.

62 Thus academic programmes on Islamic architecture have been funded at Harvard University and at MIT.

63 The capital of the financial institutions is in principle composed of 50 % of funds belonging to the Aga Khan, while the rest belongs to community faithful.

64 With the volume of investments estimated at 86 million dollars, a joint venture was entered into with Cinergy Power (American company), the International Finance Corporation, the Commonwealth Development Corporation and the Deutsche Entwicklungsgesellschaft.

65 The Aga Khan Development Network in East Africa (2006: 23).

66 TPS works in partnership with the British Airways and Lufthansa.

67 In Zanzibar, an old dispensary built back in 1880 was converted into a tourist attraction after it was renovated entirely according to local architecture.

68 These vagaries of weather were aggravated by destruction during lodge construction. The Aga Khan’s initiative earned him the “2000 Asta Environment Award”.

69 AKFED (2003: 9).

70 In 2003, there were only two foreigners (expatriates) out of the 1,300 employees in the tourism sector.

71 Buoyed by the success it achieved in Kenya, the Serena Hotels Programme was extended to Pakistan where six hotels were built. In Maputo (Mozambique), Hotel Polona was acquired from its South African owners and transformed into Serena.

72 Running several property development projects (including a high-class residential property in Nairobi’s Milimani area), the Industrial Promotion Building Ltd owns and manages buildings that house Ismaili institutions’ activities. Let us in particular mention the Nation Centre in Nairobi’s downtown.

73 Dirty financial transactions have in different periods soiled the “reputation of the Indian community as a whole” (Adam 2006: 294). In the 1980s, Indian communities, which remained sensitive to the volatile political situation in Kenya, expatriated their profits. These communities, which “controlled then about 70 % of the business in Nairobi”, were assured of support by the Indian middlemen around President Moi. The sum of their wealth abroad was such that the “IMF officially expressed concern to the Kenyan Government” (Grignon 1998: 335). Though confidence seemed to have been restored at the end of the decade, it dissipated once again in the 1990s when “Trade Bank, one of the country’s most modern and glamorous banks” lost political protection and became insoluble as its head fled to Canada (Otenyo 1998: 280).

74 Eight countries in East and West Africa in addition to Madagascar and Mauritius, four countries in Asia and three countries in Europe and America (United Kingdom, France and Canada).

75 AKDN, Le Réseau Aga Khan de développement (2008: 15).

Auteur

Honorary Director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS, France), former director of the French Institute for Research in Africa (IFRA-Nairobi, Kenya)

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