Image: Africa Ismaili cover and Best of Africa Ismaili logos, Mohib Ebrahim (With permission) (Bill C-11, Section 29.21 http://bit.ly/1yRu6UZ)

Editorial: “The Sad Story Of Ismaili Journalism”

When a new publication is launched it is customary for its Editor(s) to pen an inaugural Editorial explaining the vision, rationale and mandate of the publication. Today, on websites, this is typically done via the website’s About page, as ours does here. Therefore, what we would like to do here, with our inaugural Editorial, is take stock of Ismaili journalism and focus on what we perceive are two important issues with it. To clarify, by Ismaili journalism we mean journalism about Ismailis and Ismailism, by Ismailis, for Ismailis.

Prior to the advent of the Internet and the World Wide Web, news, knowledge and information about and relevant to the community were published in various community magazines — a few private but mostly official. Today private Ismaili journals and magazines have been replaced by private Ismaili websites. However, what is not well known — if at all — is that every single one these past magazines (numbering around 200, yes 200 1), whether private or official, were generally given little or no support from the institutions themselves or the community at large. This continues to be the case for private Ismaili websites. For official magazines, however, the pendulum swung to the other extreme and today our official community magazines are official institutions unto themselves, complete with their own, unavoidable bureaucracy. However, in their transformation, the tenor and character of the official magazines changed and, we feel, something vitally important was lost. Several things actually and these are the first issues we wish to focus on.

However, what is not well known — if at all — is that every single one these past magazines (numbering around 200, yes 200), whether private or official, were generally given little or no support from the institutions themselves or the community at large.

The second issue we wish to focus on are unnecessary, long standing challenges — such as those as mentioned above — that community focused, journalistic initiatives have historically faced. And when we say long, we mean over 100 years. The underlying reasons for these remain today and, for private Ismaili websites, continue their negative reverberations.

However, not one to present problems without solutions, we suggest a buffet of solutions, each of which, by themselves, would go a long way to resolving, if not actually resolve, these two issues once and for all.

Of losses

In 2002, in Syria, at the Eighth Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony, Mawlana Hazar Imam talked of memories of past achievements and expressed similar feelings of losses. He said:

Many Muslims today, of which I am one, carry with them a memory of the historical achievements of Islamic civilisations. What is the significance of this historical memory for the Ummah in the contemporary world with its many and varied challenges? How can we look back and reinvigorate aspects of it, and what level of significance should be accorded to it? Since there is this general feeling that something has been lost, it is critical to look back in order to look forward. This is the debate that must occur, in which there must be broad participation on a basis that, like that used in the Award, provides freedom for full exchange. The goal should be to turn this great resource into an intellectual trampoline to generate ideas for building the future productively and constructively in terms that will be meaningful and beneficial for Muslims generally.

Mawlana Hazar Imam
Eighth Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (The Citadel, Aleppo, Syria), 6 November 2001

Similarly, to understand these two stories — the original, paradoxical lack of support and the loss from institutionalisation — and The Essential Ismaili‘s response to them, it is “critical” for us to also “look back in order to look forward” so we too can see which aspects of our past to “reinvigorate.” And also, similarly, this too is an exercise and a “debate that must occur,” with “broad participation” and “freedom for full exchange,” so we too can “turn this [past] resource into an intellectual trampoline to generate ideas for building the future productively and constructively in terms that will be meaningful and beneficial” to the community.

To this end, we have quoted below excerpts from 15 frank and candid articles, written in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, that speak to the challenges Ismaili journalism has historically faced. All were written by no less than the Editors of our official community magazines, high officials of the community, the who’s who from Ismaili journalism with over 25 years experience each, and other scholars, some of whom — like Dr. Aziz Esmail — are recognizable today. These 15, along with many more, were published in Africa Ismaili — the highly acclaimed, official community magazine in Africa, praised repeatedly by the Noorani family and which Mawlana Hazar Imam said must continue being published, and mostly in its still unique, special, commemorative issue, of November 12, 1970 (whose cover appears above), dedicated to Ismaili journalism.

That it was even possible for so many of our luminaries to express such thoughts, publicly, in such unequivocal terms, in no less than the official community magazines and journals of the time, is remarkable.

Right here at the outset, we wish to highlight their candour as the first lesson they teach us as an example of just what has been lost. And it is not just what they had to say, but the very fact they could even say it at all. That it was even possible for so many of our luminaries to express such thoughts, publicly, in such unequivocal terms, in no less than the official community magazines and journals of the time, is remarkable. It is unassailable evidence of the tolerant, liberal and open atmosphere the official magazines enjoyed in the 1970’s, which were, therefore, to some extent, the equivalent of what today we call a “free and independent press.”

The second lesson of what has been lost, was foretold in the following prescient remark by Dr. Mutapha Ghalib, of Beirut:

I hope that the Ismaili Press will not confine itself to the publications of photographs and of party news because we want it to be a press that incarnates words, and uplifts them to the treatment of important subjects and fair and unbiased criticism …

Sadly, what Dr. Ghalib feared is to a large extent exactly what happened. As one Editor of our official magazines told us several years ago, the magazines are generally not even read, but only perused for the photographs (though not of parties, but of Hazar Imam). And though the magazines did not degenerate into society papers, reporting on parties per se, by and large, they report on the communities current affairs and events. Matters that are of little consequence within a few weeks, let alone years later. Leaving aside today’s magazines are generally published only 3 times a year, articles about our faith — not Islam’s or Ismailism’s culture or history or ethics — are not only rare but cold, clinical and sanitised. Spiritually sterile. Frank and candid opinions or criticisms — like those cited below — are, of course, no where to be found. In other words, today our official magazines have little substantive material and appear to be more like a “state controlled media” than the “free and independent press” they were of the past. This 2006 remark of Hazar Imam comes to mind:

[T]he media tell audiences what they want to know rather than what they ought to know. And what too many people want today is not to be informed — but to be entertained.

Mawlana Hazar Imam
Address to the Evora University Symposium (Evora, Portugal), 12 February 2006

Leaving aside today’s magazines are generally published only 3 times a year, articles about our faith — not Islam’s or Ismailism’s culture or history or ethics — are not only rare but cold, clinical and sanitised. Spiritually sterile.

By contrast, if one picks up a 40 year old issue of Africa Ismaili or Ilm (from the UK, but no longer published) one continues to learn, to be “informed” and intellectually stimulated. However, as Dr. Esmail points out, the other extreme is also to be avoided:

If a periodic publication intended for relaxed reading confines itself to “religious” matters it is sure to run the risk of becoming arid and unpopular.

And perhaps this is where Ilm and Hikmat (from Canada and also no longer published) failed. And what of IIS, the Institute of Ismaili Studies? The books they produce are without doubt essential works and necessary, but they are directed at undergraduate and post-graduate academic audiences, and understandably so given IIS is, first and foremost, an academic institution. The content of its books is generally heavy and not intended for the “relaxed reading” by lay audiences, Dr. Esmail mentions, and so general readership among the jamat is known to be low. In a similar vein, Mawlana Hazar Imam, speaking about Mimar — of the 1980’s and sponsored by him — said:

[Mimar was] too elite a voice and a publication for the expression of the concerns of history, tradition and identity raised by the [Aga Khan Award for Architecture]. It quite simply did not reach enough people because it was too expensive.

Mawlana Hazar Imam
Oleg Grabar Interview (Boston, USA), 1998

An additional problem with books — heavy or not — is pointed out by Rai A. M. Sadaruddin below, when he recalls an incident with Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah:

[Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah said] that people did not have time to read big books, but such pamphlets [that he had in his hand at the Ismaili library he was visiting in Nairobi] were quickly read and, therefore, more effective.

Therefore, in response to these well known concerns about IIS books, the IIS website publishes shorter articles, however these do not touch on questions and issues the jamat have about the faith, as born out from surveys, are often simply excerpts from their books or reprints of academic papers not for lay audiences, and are infrequent. Consider, for example, that, despite its difficulties, Africa Ismaili published so many articles in its first four years, that over 150 were pulled and republished just for its 860 page, 11 volume Best of Africa Ismaili series. And, over its 15 year life, Ilm published some 270 articles. Contrast these to IIS’ Lifelong Learning page of articles. The page launched in 2000 with 10 articles, all of which were reprints from academic books. Today, 15 years later, it has just 90 articles. So in 15 years, only 80 articles have been added. In other words, the Best of Africa Ismaili series alone accounts for about 36 articles a year, Ilm about 18 a year while the IIS website (re)publishes — despite their articles’ attendant problems just outlined — about 5 a year. And remember, Africa Ismaili (which was essentially the efforts of one man — Rai A. M. Sadaruddin) not only published several original articles, from many authors, every week, it also, every week, physically printed and distributed its magazine, in hard copy, throughout East Africa and abroad.

Consider, for example, that, despite its difficulties, Africa Ismaili published so many articles in its first four years, that over 150 were pulled and republished just for its 860 page, 11 volume Best of Africa Ismaili series.

And so, what was lost, when the official magazines lost their autonomy and were institutionalised, remains lost.

Of challenges

Perhaps Vazir Alimohamed Janmohamed Chunara — who, as a pioneer of Ismaili journalism and steadfast defender of the faith when attacked, needs no introduction — best summarized the challenges the Ismaili journals and journalists have persistently faced in his blunt and forthright article (whose title we borrow for this Editorial). Although republished by Africa Ismaili in 1970, it was originally written in 1945 and highlights the state of affairs of the previous 40 years, that is, going back to the early 1900’s. Although today’s independent Ismaili websites don’t face the financial challenges which even the official journals had to cope with, they still face all the other challenges — summarized below — the authors raise in their articles. In fact, some may even be more of an impediment today than the past. Take just this Editorial, for example. It will, itself, create a certain trepidation in some quarters. However, that very weariness itself only confirms its message and its importance.

Although republished by Africa Ismaili in 1970, [Vazir Alimohamed Janmohamed Chunara’s blunt and forthright article (whose title we borrow for this Editorial)] was originally written in 1945 and highlights the state of affairs of the previous 40 years, that is, going back to the early 1900’s.

Although we can’t encourage you enough to read all the article excerpts quoted below, we would like to draw your attention to a summary of several recurring themes you’ll find in them:

  • the importance of an Ismaili press — reinforced by both Hazar Imam and Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah,
  • the need for freedom to criticise responsibly,
  • the fear of speaking freely,
  • the lack of institutional and community support, across the board,
  • the unnecessary demise of some 200 Ismaili journals, itself an epitaph to the frustration and disillusionment of hundreds of selfless volunteers behind them,
  • the lack of progress, quality and maturity of the journals after decades of efforts,
  • the lack of a guild or organisation of Ismaili journalists.

In contrast to the above challenges Ismaili journals and journalists faced, consider Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 1969 message of support and encouragement to Ismaili journalists in Mumbai, to whom he granted a special audience:

I look forward to the future with equanimity and happiness being confident of considerable support which you, journalists, can bring to the jamats and our new jamati programmes.

As Alijah Sultan V. Nurmohamed — Editor of the Ismaili from Mumbai — explains, there are two points in this message. “The first is that journals can be significantly helpful in the work and programmes of the community, and journalists should play a significant role in the welfare of the jamat.” Weekly institutional publications now inform the jamat of community events, and so that role of the past journals is one today’s independent websites no longer have to concern themselves with — although for even this one narrow purpose of collating global Ismaili news, Ismailimail — and before it ismaili.net — utterly eclipse the institutional organs.

However, Hazar Imam also spoke of the “considerable support” Ismaili journalists — now producing private Ismaili websites rather than journals — can bring to the jamat. This is because they have more, much more, to offer beyond being just a news aggregator or diary of community events. This can not be better demonstrated than by the example of Africa Ismaili itself, which as mentioned earned the praise of the Noorani family, time and again. However, as explained above, although Africa Ismaili continues to be published — rechristened as Ismaili Africa, today it, like all other national magazines, is a very different magazine from what it was when it started in 1969, under the editorship of Rai A. M. Sadaruddin, at the very time the Imam gave the above message of support to the Ismaili journalists in Mumbai.

However, Hazar Imam also spoke of the “considerable support” Ismaili journalists — now producing private Ismaili websites rather than journals — can bring to the jamat.

Of solutions

The losses — outlined in the above, brief comparison of Ismaili journalism as it was yesterday and as it is today — are neither insignificant nor minor and both we and the community feel we are all poorer for them. Losses, however, present an opportunity and the motivation for new responses. The Essential Ismaili is one such response and, in part, it is these losses which drive and inspire The Essential Ismaili‘s editorial agenda, as outlined on our About page, here.

And what of the challenges outlined? Can those deep-seated, long standing issues really be resolved and, if so, how? … Fortunately, we already have all the solutions we need in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s own advices.

And what of the challenges outlined? Can those deep-seated, long standing issues really be resolved and, if so, how? It is self-evident they need resolution because the alternative — that they remain, say, for another 100 years, or, worse, become part of the permanent fabric of our community — is not an option. Fortunately, we already have all the solutions we need in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s own advices:

  • In his persistent calls for a spirit of “partnership,” “collaboration,” “cooperation” and “mutual trust” between people and institutions.
  • In his astute observations that the time of top-heavy, monolithic, centralised, “top-down systems of command and control” structures is over and that “the limits of centralised direction and control are now accepted.”
  • In his articulation of the “‘dominant player fallacy’: a tendency to place too much reliance in national governments and other institutions.”
  • In his advice that in the knowledge society, “power itself is widely dispersed.”
  • In his plea to “trust in people” because the “most powerful force is people changing their own environment.”
  • In his insistence “to open our minds to what others can teach us.”
  • In his recommendation that institutions “tap the widest possible range of energies and insights” and “harness the very best contributions from whomever and wherever they may come.”
  • In his reminder that “progress is possible when complex issues are subjected to competent, intelligent, nuanced and sophisticated analysis, free from dogmatism.”
  • And, above all, in his call for an Enabling Environment to encourage private initiative and “create the conditions of confidence, predictability and mutual trust that will enable people and institutions to realise their full potential.”

Since citing his full remarks on all these, and other related advices, would be beyond the scope of this article, below is just one example of his clear and unambiguous advice which captures his sentiments on all these issues. For his full remarks, from where the above highlighted passages were culled, we direct you to review the selection of NanoWisdoms Extended Quote collections listed in the Further Readings at the end. As a minimum, we suggest reading Mawlana Hazar Imam’s advices for leaders which enables sound national and community progress and development, which can also be found here. We hope all his advices in these quote collections are taken to heart for the community’s future benefit and growth.

A vast decentralisation of decision-making is already occurring in many countries; it has the advantage of placing new responsibilities in the hands of local communities…. For the key to future progress will lie less in traditional top-down systems of command and control — and more in a broad, bottom-up spirit of coordination and cooperation….

Social progress, in the long run, will not be found by delegating an all-dominant role to any one player — but rather through multi-sector partnerships. And within each sector of society, diversity should be a watchword…. The world … increasingly resembles a vast web in which everything connects to everything else — where even the smallest groups and loneliest voices can exercise new influence, and where no single source of power can claim substantial control…. [T]he key to intellectual progress will not lie in any single body of instruction, but in a spirit of openness to new expression and fresh insights….

[The Ummah] must become full and even leading participants in the Knowledge Society of the 21st Century. That will mean embracing the values of collaboration and co-ordination, openness and partnership, choice and diversity — which will under-gird the Knowledge Society…. [I]n the Knowledge Society, productive research is most often partnership research … sharing agendas and exchanging insights.

Mawlana Hazar Imam
2006 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan), 2 December 2006

And so as we leave you to reflect on the losses, the challenges, the solutions and the continued relevance and importance of the wise words and opinions, from the past, cited below, we’ll just remind you of Hazar Imam’s recommendation that we “look back in order to look forward” and that we engage in the debate to “reinvigorate” lost, but relevant, aspects of our past which can benefit us today.

Note: The quotes below are unedited, save for minor corrections to grammar, spelling and standardisation of nomenclature to today’s norms.

“Golden Jubilee” Of My Writing: Personal Reminiscences

Rai A. M. Sadaruddin, Founder and Editor, Africa Ismaili, lifetime Ismaili journalist

Before I came to Africa, I met the late Shaheed Budhwani (editor of Ismaili Aftab) at one of the public lectures I had given at the Recreation Club. From Dar es Salaam I remained in touch with him as well as with the late Vazir A. J. Chunara, but being preoccupied with my publications here I only occasionally contributed articles to Ismaili Aftab and Ismaili though I did send to both of them, particularly to the Ismaili, abundance of news. Vazir Chunara printed my Qasidas on the front pages of one or two Special Numbers and reprinted in full my brochure in English Do you know your history? From Nairobi, when I was chairman of the Ismailia Students’ Union (the publishers of Zahur) and of the Aga Khan Library, I had published about half a dozen such brochures. These were also liked by Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah when he visited the Library. He remarked that people did not have time to read big books, but such pamphlets were quickly read and, therefore, more effective.

I had published about half a dozen such brochures. These were also liked by Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah when he visited the Library. He remarked that people did not have time to read big books, but such pamphlets were quickly read and, therefore, more effective.

I have often heard people complaining that there is a control on writing in the Ismailia community. If there were, there would not have appeared 200 odd magazines mentioned in this issue. During several decades that I have been writing, not once was any of my articles checked, censored or rejected. On the contrary my comments and advice have been sought on the material meant for the press by the institutions and the officials of the community.

My 25 Years In Journalism

Dr. Mutapha Ghalib, Beirut

I am asked by my dear spiritual brother Sadaruddin the editor-in-chief of Africa Ismaili to write something on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of East Africa’s first Ismaili magazine….

I hope that the Ismaili Press will not confine itself to the publications of photographs and of party news because we want it to be a press that incarnates words, and uplifts them to the treatment of important subjects and fair and unbiased criticism …

I hope that the Ismaili Press will not confine itself to the publications of photographs and of party news because we want it to be a press that incarnates words, and uplifts them to the treatment of important subjects and fair and unbiased criticism and the dissemination of truth and knowledge throughout the world. We also want it to strive towards Islamic Unity, so much valued and worked for by the late Imam and which also is the aim of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Sad Story Of Ismaili Journalism

An editorial by (late) Vazir Alimohamed Janmohamed Chunara

[English translation of Gujarati editorial of Al-Islah, dated 15th April, 1945 — The Editor, Africa Ismaili.
Note, that given the original date of 1945 and also that the Chunara highlights lack of support Ismaili journals have had over the prior 40 years, the issues — still present today — go back 115 years, to the start of the 1900s. — The Editors, The Essential Ismaili]

Literature is the radiance of the world, the way to knowing God, the Prophet and the Imam, and of understanding religion. Those who have used literature and the written word have attained ranks of the first order in the world, and have won fame and glory. On the other hand, those who have not been enthusiastic about literature, those who have [not] been sensitive to it and have refused to take account of it, have failed to help the community in any way and have failed to fulfil their religious obligations. Despite having faith, they have not understood their religion.

In other communities, people become regular subscribers of the communal journal in order to support it. They hunt for new subscribers, and advertise their businesses in the journal even when there is no need for advertising. The journals of other communities are flourishing today, and are filled with advertisements which is a sign of the support given to them.

Those who do not understand the value and worth of literature, be they millionaires, big businessmen or directors of numerous organisations, do not even possess a penny to support literature. If one meets them accidentally anywhere, they will spout long tales of “no goods in stock” or “no budget” or “no business” or “income tax” or “we don’t advertise.” It is highly unlikely that literature will ever progress in conditions which are so pathetic.

Hazar Imam’s generosity

The communal journals running at present are sustained by Mawlana Hazar Imam’s generosity, but there is no support from the community to enable them to stand on their own feet. Only when the enthusiasm will rise in the community to become regular subscribers and persuade others to subscribe, and to advertise liberally, only then will communal journals be raised from their deathbeds to become strong and healthy contributors to the welfare of the community.

For the past forty years, our communal papers have followed each other into extinction. Here are a few names from memory: Khoja Dost, Khoja Mitra, Ismaili Sitaro, Khoja Hitdarshak, Khoja Reformer, Ismaili Satpanth Prakas, Ismaili Akhbar, Awaaj, Nizari, Dass, Vishal Drashti, Fidai, etc. Making calculations, we see the one journal has martyred itself for the community once every two years. On the other hand, the journals of other communities have passed centuries and are still going strong.

Mowlana Hazar Imam (Mowlana Sultan Mohamed Shah) has declared that “a newspaper is the tongue of the community.” This means that a body minus a tongue is dumb.

Mowlana Hazar Imam (Mowlana Sultan Mohamed Shah) has declared that “a newspaper is the tongue of the community.” This means that a body minus a tongue is dumb. Keeping this in mind, if lovers of literature make efforts to keep journals alive, the journals will always speak out for the Imam, the religion and the community. To teach the truth, to rectify wrongs, to refute the taunts of opponents, and to keep evil away, journals can reach the ears of thousands. The age of darkness has ended. Let us awake in this age of enlightenment and encourage literature, which is the key to the community’s progress. This is the sad story of Ismaili journals. Will the community awake?

Official Versus Private Journals

Salim A. Chunara, Karachi

[Mr. Chunara is an ex-Hon. Editor of Paigham who entered journalism at a young age and has been following in his father’s footsteps by contributing significantly to Ismaili journalism. His writings have aroused interest and discussion at numerous times. — The Editor, Africa Ismaili]

The Ismaili community is considered an adventurous trading community throughout the world. They are considered loyal citizens of all the countries they have settled in. India, Pakistan and Africa in particular have sizable Ismaili populations which are advanced and educated. It is, therefore, natural that the Ismailis in these places, because of their interest in literature, should be attracted to the sphere of journalism. However, casting a look back at the last half-century, it is noticed that a good number of journals have appeared only to disappear, having become victims of circumstances. It is vital to seek the main reason for this, so that people attracted to this sphere in future become aware of this mystery….

Over the past fifty years, numerous writers and journalists of high calibre have plunged into literary activity because of their love for it, only to eke out a living in tragic conditions till death, or to opt out of the field. There are a few yet who, with some exceptions, are existing in pitiable conditions. For them this love and adventure (of journalism) has become the proverbial cross, and we do not know how many more writers will become martyrs to this activity.

Two groups

The reason for this is both interesting and sad. Generally, those going into journalism can be divided into two groups. The first group is that which, keeping in mind the need to make a living, do not shine the red light in the face of malpractices or authoritarianism from leading personalities (be they industrialists or high officials of the community) and from the top strata of society. They do not train in themselves this moral courage, but, keeping their sights firmly on just one side of the shield, are inspired to write only that which is safe. They consequently not only cause displeasure among the masses, but also in the higher circles, which causes the writing of these conformists to be too soft and insipid. Altogether, they receive very little encouragement from either quarter.

The first group [of journalists], keeping in mind the need to make a living, do not shine the red light in the face of malpractices or authoritarianism from leading personalities (be they industrialists or high officials of the community) and from the top strata of society…. [They] are inspired to write only that which is safe…. The second group [present] the other side of the shield. Although these journalists initially cause a great demand for their wares, they lose in the long run because the leaders of the community as well as the trading class do not welcome them and, besides openly rejecting them, bring to bear upon them various other pressures.

The second group is that which plunges into journalism out of sheer love and interest, presenting under attractive headings the other side of the shield. Although these journalists initially cause a great demand for their wares, they lose in the long run because the leaders of the community as well as the trading class do not welcome them and, besides openly rejecting them, bring to bear upon them various other pressures. As a result, such people grow weaker financially and do not last long.

Another interesting case of journalism during the period under review occurred when certain wealthy members of the community came together and launched a publication for the first time. Despite the money spent on the publication, there were no obvious returns and the project failed, as the managers had no business sense. In fifty years of Ismaili journalism there has not since been another such instance of a number of wealthy people coming together to launch a publication!

A few journalists continue to stick to the “balancing act.” They have not entered journalism either out of interest or as a means of livelihood, but seek to use journalism as a means of uniting the leaders, the masses, the trading class and high society, and achieve mediocre success. However, these journalists should keep in mind the great necessity for requisite equipment in this field, and for devotion and dedication. In the absence of these, the publication could easily fold up.

One thing is certain, that at present only a communal organisation is in a position to take in hand the publication of a journal, like the Indian Ismailia Association which has published Ismaili uninterruptedly over the past half-century. However, whether an individual plunging into journalism on his own will ever succeed remains a question without answer.

An Important Page Of Ismaili Journalism

Huzur Vazir Ali Mohamed Mecklai, J.P., Mumbai

About the year 1912 I was greatly attracted to religious literature by reading ginans and hearing sermons in jamatkhanas. I took the opportunity of making certain submissions to the late Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, who gave me every encouragement and graciously approved the founding of the Recreation Club Institute now the Ismailia Association [and now Ismailia Tariqah and Education Board, ITREB].

The monthly Ismaili Sitaro was changed into a weekly Ismaili under the editorship of Vazir Alimahomed Janmahomed Chunara. Incidentally, Mr. Chunara and his colleagues who had rooms opposite to my residence held regular discussions with me. All of them were from the middle class people, with only elementary education, but had great enthusiasm and courage, and deep feelings for religion and devotion and love for the Imam.

This was the period of Swamy Ramtirath, Vavekanand and the Aray Samajists who in their zeal tried to attack Ismailism in the North, thinking it to be a weak link of Islam. But Mr. Chunara and his colleagues took up the challenge and held open debates and discussions in which the Ismaili paper played a great part to protect our culture and tried to answer and refute the false allegations hurled against the Ismailis.

Criticism

The other papers which came out about this period were the Ismaili Aftab from Kathiawar, Khoja Reformer a private paper which carried on some anti-Ismaili propaganda using or misusing our ginans, but it could not survive. Ismaili Aftab also closed down. The only paper now left from Mumbai is the Ismaili.

Criticism is always welcome but criticism should be constructive and not destructive as has been the case in the past. Sensible criticism will surely be appreciated.

I feel sorry to note that the standard of Ismaili Journalism has remained static except for the Africa Ismaili and I believe that much more needs to be done to improve the standard of reading material and information. Criticism is always welcome but criticism should be constructive and not destructive as has been the case in the past. Sensible criticism will surely be appreciated.

I hope serious efforts will be made to improve our publications as other people are doing especially the Indian community in India.

Ismaili Journalism In India And Pakistan

Mr. Sadiq, Editor, Vatan, Karachi

The journal of a community whether a daily, a weekly, a fortnightly or a monthly magazine — is its mirror. It must publish the truth and not cover up untruth. Otherwise this mirror will give an untrue and blurred picture.

During the past fifty years, as a journalist, I have had the opportunity of watching the pace of the progress of the Ismaili community. The progress that has been achieved generally so far is, no doubt, unique. My disappointment is related to the field of journalism. Ismaili journalists, writers and poets have largely remained un-progressive.

Backward in journalism

A look at those Ismaili papers that can pride themselves on being the old ones, will show that they have to achieve any improvement since their inception, and, in some cases, they have even deteriorated. It is painful to think how the Ismaili community with its astonishing progress in its various other activities has remained backward in the field of journalism. The causes are manifold. I mention only one that is quite apparent. The community has failed to welcome its journals with sufficient zeal. Those at the helm of Ismaili journals have not been given the necessary encouragement by the community to keep alive their enthusiasm and inspiration. The members of the community have withheld their most needed financial support in the form of subscriptions and advertisements….

The community has failed to welcome its journals with sufficient zeal. Those at the helm of Ismaili journals have not been given the necessary encouragement by the community to keep alive their enthusiasm and inspiration.

The Ismaili community has an abundance of wealth. It has many affluent members who are the support of the community. If they had lent a helping hand in this direction, it would certainly have enhanced their prestige and the community would have made great progress in this cultural field.

Our Journals and Journalists What They Mean To You

Alijah Sultan V. Nurmohamed, Editor, Ismaili, Mumbai

In a state, in a community, and in the life of an individual, journals and journalists command a very significant place. Indeed, what journalists have been able to achieve and are capable of achieving has been universally accepted, and it is for this very reason that they have always occupied a special place and position. However, over the decades, many journals have come into being in our community and have subsequently ceased to function. It is not even remembered that at a certain time there was a certain journalist, and as a result we do not have available today a chronological record of Ismaili journalism, nor do we have details of the services done to the community by journalists and their journals. Although the older generation might today recall certain journals, this generation is rapidly disappearing and the new generation, which has no knowledge of its journals and journalists, will not have in the future any similar reminiscences.

What is the reason for this?

My view is that the mutual integration which must occur between our journals and community has not come about. The manner in which public journals and journalists have integrated in the life of the state and the community, and have gone on to become the reflection of this life, has not been emulated in our community, nor have the conditions arisen to make this possible. Such conditions and opportunities having arisen for public journals, and there having arisen on the other side a similar attraction and eagerness, the public always remains avid to know what journals and journalists have to say about various matters. On the other hand, there is no such avidness with regard to our matters, because there is total indifference to the notion of establishing the required relationship between the community and its journalists. Why is it so?

[T]here is total indifference to the notion of establishing the required relationship between the community and its journalists. Why is it so?

Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, explaining the importance of journals, had said that the journal was “the tongue of the community.” This means that the communal journal voices the feelings and sentiments of the community….

Journalists as leaders

This is not to say that the usefulness of journals and journalists rests only in presenting the needs of the people according to the times. They are also instrumental in the task of organising the community. When, after having been adequately voiced by the journal, the needs of the people are adequately fulfilled and their rights satisfied, the journal and journalists attain a permanent position in the people’s hearts. It is then that journalists become the leaders of their readership and are in the forefront of giving support to efforts for communal welfare. This is how journalists can contribute to the organisation of the community.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, after granting an audience on 23rd February, 1969 to Ismaili journalists in Mumbai, sent the following special message from New Delhi to them:

I look forward to the future with equanimity and happiness being confident of considerable support which you, journalists, can bring to the jamats and our new jamati programmes.

There are two points in this message. The first is that journals can be significantly helpful in the work and programmes of the community, and journalists should play a significant role in the welfare of the jamat.

There are two points in [Mawlana Hazar Imam’s] message. The first is that journals can be significantly helpful in the work and programmes of the community, and journalists should play a significant role in the welfare of the jamat.

These two can happen only with mutual trust and help. Journals should study carefully the daily needs and wishes of the community in order to present them in the right quarters. In this way, the journal does not belong merely to its editor or journalists but to the whole community, and the editor or journalist becomes a family member, indeed, a leader, of the community. After this he should make use of his commanding position to lead the people on the path of service and welfare, and should harness together the strength of the community to present it for the service of the community….

[A]ll sectors of the community should give encouragement to the potentially powerful and useful journalist. Each individual should convey his feelings to his journal, should present his view-point and explain it. The journal is his second tongue, and he should accept it as the instrument for voicing his sentiments. Disregard and lack of respect to a journal often become disregard and lack of respect for the self.

Journalists being prevented from being useful

Talking about disregard and lack of respect, all journals and journalists over the decades have experienced it. The interest which communal journals deserve has never been displayed; in fact, no interest at all has been displayed. As a result, even journalists with pure motives and much potential have not been able to play their role in the life of the community, and their potential has been wasted.

The community’s journals are not read widely, which is proved by their limited circulation. I do not know of any case, even an exceptional one, of anyone befriending the journalist clinging on to his profession in the face of numerous difficulties and setbacks. Large public organisations, and even governments, take notice of the services of journalists and accept and befriend them. We have not even taken the initial step towards this state of affairs. Taking journalists in their confidence, presenting them with all the facts and winning their good-will are some important aspects of public relations.

If this is accepted, journalists can be given an accurate picture of the community’s affairs. In its absence, misunderstandings and misconceptions arise. Where are the things like press conferences in the community and releases from our organisations and institutions?

Africa Ismaili’s special issue devoted to Ismaili journalism is perhaps the first venture ever of its kind. It seems that the aim of this special issue is to encourage interest in Ismaili journalism, and, by increasing the awareness of the community and journalists to the significance of journalism in this modern age, to establish a support between them. However, whether this issue will be read in the same spirit is open to doubt, because there is no limit to the indifference towards [Ismaili] journalism.

However, if we wish to keep pace with the fast-moving world, this profession will have to be accepted.

Ismaili Journalism As I See It

Alijah Noormohamed Bhamani, Former Editor, Ismaili Mirror, Karachi

The Editor of Africa Ismaili, Rai A. M. Sadaruddin, has requested me to write on “Ismaili Journalism,” but behind this simple request is hidden a deep meaning of which, perhaps, none is more conscious than myself. While a great deal can be said about journalism generally, what can one say about Ismaili journalism except that the indifference shown by our community towards it is unpardonable? While accepting that over the past eight decades about 22 principal Ismaili journals have appeared from India, Pakistan and Africa, none of them, in my view, did really achieve any notable distinction.

Unpardonable communal apathy

Looking far into the past, we see that journals like Ismaili Aftab, Satpanth Prakash, Ismaili Darpan, Ismaili Prakash, Ismaili Bhomiyo, Khoja Bandhu, Momin Bandhu, Mithi Moj, Yuwan, Fidai, Elan, Al Islah, Al Amin, Zulfikar Ismaili and Platinum Bulletin have all in their own time made themselves felt only to whither away eventually due to lack of the necessary communal support. Out of all these, only the Ismaili Aftab was able to complete a span of 25 years. From a small centre like Dhoraji in Kathiawad, late Alijah N. M. Budhwani, and after him, his son Mr. Tajdin Budhwani succeeded in publishing it for so long. However, despite all their efforts, where is that journal today? …

The two existing journals

In the foregoing list of “old” Ismaili journals, I have deliberately not mentioned the Ismaili of Mumbai, for the simple reason that it is still being published. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the Mumbai-published Ismaili is the only shining example in Ismaili journalism, for having been able to complete 50 years of its existence. Another communal journal which has recently completed 25 years is Africa Ismaili which formerly used to appear as Ismaili Prakash. However, this journal has not had an easy passage also over its 25 years’ existence!

One cannot forget the late Vazir Alimohamed J. Chunara when talking of the Ismaili, which is now in its fiftieth year. However, the fact that some time back the editorial charge of even this journal had to be given to a non-Ismaili non-Muslim does not reflect any credit on the prestige of Ismaili journalistic movement. The Khoja Samaj, from Mumbai, was also once edited by the famous journalist Mr. Sadiq, who presently edits the Karachi evening paper Watan. Mr. Sadiq is an experienced journalist but he is not an Ismaili …

Un-progressive journalism

As far as the Ismaili community is concerned, I do not hesitate to say that its journals have remained confined within the community. I would even say that the community has accepted its journals not out of any enthusiasm but merely because they were journals of the community. This is why the Ismaili journals have remained undeveloped and their sphere so limited….

Lack of official support

[I]t is unpardonable that communal organisations are unwilling to provide even news to our journals.

The reason why so many communal journals have been published in Pakistan only to fold up is the indifference of the community towards its journals. The handful of journals which appear presently are not very satisfactorily produced. Leaving aside support for communal journals through advertisements, it is unpardonable that communal organisations are unwilling to provide even news to our journals. Those concerned with these periodicals make numerous trips to the offices of the organisations and call upon officials, but seldom obtain any worthwhile news items. While it is commendable not to seek publicity, the indifference towards publishing the community activities is hardly commendable. The result of this carelessness is that sometimes news which is obtained after great efforts is months old when printed in our periodicals.

Current Writing In The Community

Dr. Aziz Esmail

I am glad, therefore, to contribute a few thoughts and suggestions regarding issues which I believe to be vital to the community at this stage of its social and spiritual evolution, when it is undergoing changes of a crucial nature, at an almost feverish pace.

Role of journalists

Journalistic expression is far from being an appendix to other, generally accepted and well-recognised, undertakings of the community. It is a vital exercise in self-expression. It is also a basic mode of interpreting the ethos of the community on a more articulate and self-conscious level. It is, in fact, an adventure in interpretation on two levels: interpretation of the ideals, the consciousness, and the goals of the community to others, as well as a form of self-interpretation, whereby awareness of the community’s history as well as present position is heightened and stimulated. In this sense, journalistic enterprise has a provoking as well as a reinforcing role to play. In other words, it has the unique character of being in the position of creating a new way of looking at things, as well as confirming and consolidating all that is deemed worthy of remembrance and record in the history of the community….

Sense of identity

No society, no group of people can survive without a sense of identity. No doubt, such a sense of identity may be clung to with a rigid defensiveness shutting out all healthy influence from the outside. Such a state of paranoid isolation, leading ultimately to panic and disintegration has by no means been rare….

It is in times of change that individuals or whole groups or communities of people stand in special need of conscious experience of their history. It is important for them to be rooted in historical consciousness; it is essential that they are anchored in an unchanging core which can act as a pivot round which the shifting mass of social and cultural items can be given some order and design. It is also important that there is a grade of significance, along which different ingredients in the community’s interest are rated and assessed. All these things are important if that terrifying state of vacuity, where nothing matters and nothing means anything, where there is a colossal drift and a jumble of events rather than programmed change, is to be avoided. It is, therefore, only right and healthy that more of our people are now turning their attention to our history, in a vigorous search for those ancient cultural and spiritual forces that have helped to mould our habits, our values and our religious world-view. The roots from which our identity has sprung and which has constantly nourished a sense of continuity have to be dug up, examined and properly understood. It is necessary to understand the past in order to avoid being confused by the present. It is essential to experience both the past and the present in undivided wholeness in order to ensure a future which neither shirks necessary change nor loses an essential hold on an unchanging core. In this process, it is also necessary to sort out various facets of our religious and social life, and to distinguish the fundamentals from those elements which are secondary and incidental. In this task, good literary output in the community, provided it is sound, bold and forward-looking, can turn out to be not only helpful but formative.

Very wide field

A very encouraging sign of recent Ismaili literary activity (I am particularly referring to the Africa Ismaili), is that the subject matter of the articles tends to cover a very wide field. This indeed is what it should be. The distinction between “religion” and what is sometimes dismissed as “mundane matters” is in many ways artificial and undesirable. If a periodic publication intended for relaxed reading confines itself to “religious” matters it is sure to run the risk of becoming arid and unpopular. If one were to put it simply, everything under the sun worth serious attention should come within the province of the writer….

If a periodic publication intended for relaxed reading confines itself to “religious” matters it is sure to run the risk of becoming arid and unpopular.

If our publications avoid the fatal mistake of narrow pre-occupation with theological matters to the exclusion of all other facts of human life, it may well turn out to be the crucial factor in averting a split between “other-worldly” religion and everyday living….

Critical sensibility

It is important that all classes of the community (and I do mean ALL) should feel themselves drawn together in common cause. The general run of the community should be made to feel that their voice is not only counted but needed. From the leaders what is necessary is a genuine, unpretentious attitude, free from a defensive stance or from a condescending posture. Similarly, what we want from the intellectuals — and there is a growing number of them — is a seriousness and a willingness to participate. In turn, they should be made to feel that the community and its leaders are willing to foster that climate in which academic thought is not ill at ease with itself, or where the intellectual members of the community do not feel that they cannot speak freely or sincerely. Again, a publication like Africa Ismaili can succeed where individual efforts are bound to fail. It is highly significant and an extremely encouraging sign that the contributors to recent Africa Ismaili editions are drawn from a wide section of the community.

From the leaders what is necessary is a genuine, unpretentious attitude, free from a defensive stance or from a condescending posture…. [I]ntellectual members of the community do not feel that they cannot speak freely or sincerely.

Finally, it is extremely vital for us to bear in mind that the world being what it is, perfection, uniqueness and Utopia are nonexistent. Glib slogans about total success and absolute perfection cannot convey anything worth serious consideration, and an opportunity should be given to people to state not so much what they want to see is the case, but what is in reality the case as they see it. It is important that complacency has no place in any section of the community. The constant drive should be for improvement, and mistakes and shortcomings should be squarely faced. It is going to be extremely crucial whether or not we approve that degree of alertness and that critical faculty which is bound to come with time and education. A minimum of critical sensibility is necessary all-round (this need not turn into cynicism — feeble and destructive sentiment, after all). Indeed, it is only by promoting and welcoming a certain measure of criticism and constructive advice that we can avoid extremes. And it is only by giving free outlet to the valuable energies of all sections of the community that we can provide that idealism, the conviction that here we have a scope for sincere effort and constructive endeavour, that is necessary for the flowering of the individual spirit as well as collective enterprise.

Journalism And The Community

Mr. B. T. Chhatnwalla, Editor, Volunteer, Mumbai

Right at the beginning, I should like to put the following questions to the general Ismaili world. Does journalism hold its rightful place in our community? How widely are Ismaili journals read? How much unselfish support has the Ismaili community given to its journalists? …

On this occasion, when for the first time the whole question of Ismaili journalism is being discussed openly, I have doubts regarding my ability to do justice to this question. However, it will be my humble effort to present. coherently what I have seen, heard and experienced on the platforms of the community over the past twenty-five or thirty years. Since journalism, journalists and journals are inextricably bound together, I present them here in a like manner. Among the various facets of Ismaili journalism the following are the two main ones: Journals supported by the organisation, and independent journals. The former outnumber the latter.

Our past history shows that our leaders had such detestation and fear of journalists and journals that they always tried to nip in the bud any independent effort to enter this field.

Our past history shows that our leaders had such detestation and fear of journalists and journals that they always tried to nip in the bud any independent effort to enter this field.

Between the years 1900 and 1940, within that period of four decades, there were numerous unsavoury allegations from other communities regarding us, and numerous journals came into existence to counter them and present the facts, and numerous books were written. Though these journals lived briefly, they served to reveal the potency of our writers and journalists.

On the other hand, the need was also felt to publicise the efforts of the community, with the result that such leaders, in order to retain their grip on the outgoing information about the community, continued to support sympathetic journalists working under the wing of the organisations. Even then these Ismaili journalists were not given half the recognition and benefit as was accorded to the non-Ismaili papers.

Ups And Downs In Journalism

Vazir Kassamali F. Thanazvalla, J. P., Thana

Ever since the days of the late Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj and his “Sindhi Printing Press” in Mumbai, I have watched the Aroh and Auroh — i.e. ups and downs — of our Ismaili papers and journalism. Let us examine the causes of the downfall of some of them.

Except the Ismaili of Mumbai, which has enjoyed solid official backing, none of our other papers has survived. Even the magazine like Das (servant) edited by the well-known writer and speaker, Mr. Kaderhusein Merali Manji and the Ismaili Aftab edited by the late Alijah Budhwani of Dhoraji (Kathiawad) had to close down. So did some others, including numerous pamphlets issued in Mumbai by several enthusiasts. Why? One or two reasons are obvious and I venture to mention them here.

The Ismaili was edited from its very inception by that astute, experienced and unassuming person, the late Vazir Alimohamed Janmohamed Chunara. We were colleagues in the old Recreation Club Institute, renamed as Ismailia Association many years later.

Unfortunately, somehow or other, all the three of our best editors mentioned earlier could never agree. There was no co-operation between them. This disunity did last a long time and, I think, it could have been one of the reasons amongst others, of their non-survival. I believe, however, that the main cause of their disappearance was lack of funds and financial backing. Besides, for regular publication of a paper, it is most essential that it should have its own printing press. It can be a very great handicap, indeed, when it has to depend on others for printing. These two were the main causes of their disappearance, as I see them….

Criticism

In Mumbai, we have now two or three independent monthly publications edited by enthusiastic and clever persons. Apparently, they do need support to survive. But it seems unfortunate the popularity in some quarters is not accorded to them.

Criticism, if any, must be healthy and constructive. This must be the fundamental and constant policy. It must never be forgotten that journalism is not all roses, more so for our Ismaili Journalists.

It is very necessary for every journal to use dignified language for all purposes. Criticism, if any, must be healthy and constructive. This must be the fundamental and constant policy. It must never be forgotten that journalism is not all roses, more so for our Ismaili Journalists. Hence great caution is necessary for their success. I would unhesitatingly recommend them to emulate the Africa Ismaili paper in this respect. It is so very intelligently conducted and edited by one of my dearest friends.

Words, Words, Words

Eqbal Rupani

It must be granted, however, that Ismaili readership has a duty to perform here, by realising the need to support Ismaili journals. Secondly, Ismaili journalists have to ensure that they do not become victims of the universal trend of uniformity and standardisation. If they offer to their readership only that which is easily, probably more attractively, available elsewhere, the reader cannot be blamed for his indifference. The third, and most vital, function of the Ismaili journalist is that of shaping new areas of awareness and knowledge for the community. Most of the foregoing article is directed towards this point. If language has given man his “man-ness” by creating for him culture and ethics, and if the Ismaili journalist is the chief purveyor of language in the community, his responsibility is tremendous. His first duty is to study deeply the Ismaili culture, tradition and ethics and attract his readers to them and then create new forms of thought and argument to achieve an extension of all these factors.

[The Ismaili journalist’s] first duty is to study deeply the Ismaili culture, tradition and ethics and attract his readers to them and then create new forms of thought and argument to achieve an extension of all these factors.

His role does not cease here. He has the key, as it were, to the doors which could lead the community into new states of awareness on a much wider scale. He should move to wider horizons and try to win respect and admiration even of readership outside the community.

Ismaili Editors’ Conference

Eqbal Rupani

In view of the crucial role which mass communications media can play in the cohesive running of any community or organisation, I was interested to note your suggestion in a recent issue of your magazine calling for a joint conference of the world Ismaili editors. Previous to this, you had suggested the formation of a guild of Ismaili journalists.

The opinion is widespread among our community’s youth that the process of modernisation within the community must have in its vanguard our communal publications.

Both your suggestions are extremely relevant in the context of the growth and development of Ismaili journals and journalism. The opinion is widespread among our community’s youth that the process of modernisation within the community must have in its vanguard our communal publications. While many people privately express sentiments similar to yours regarding the organising of Ismaili journalists into a powerful and united force, there appears to exist a marked reluctance to do anything concrete about it. I am of the opinion, sir, that the time for idle thought is past, and that something should be done in this direction without delay.

The Press, Publicity And Public Relations: An Interview With The Editor and Founder of Africa Ismaili

Miss Z. Nooraly: Rai Sadaruddin, you have been writing for 50 years, starting with magazines in Indo-Pakistan, could you tell me something of your experiences in publishing, with particular reference to the Africa Ismaili of which you are now the Hon. Editor?

Rai A. M. Sadaruddin: I have been writing since my school days but journalism has never been my profession. I learnt it by experience and pursued it for the love of it. It is not easy to tell you all my experiences in magazine printing in one brief answer, but I have enjoyed writing and that is the secret of my success It was never “work” for me. Africa Ismaili in its original form as Ismaili Prakash was started more than 25 years ago. The name Africa Ismaili was given to it recently to make it more popular and to give it a wider scope….

Miss Z. Nooraly: I have always wondered why this magazine has lately been rather irregular when it has been universally acclaimed as the best magazine so far produced in the Ismaili community? Could you tell me the reasons?

Rai A. M. Sadaruddin: Almost three decades ago, Ismaili Prakash was started as a “one sheet” news bulletin. Then, in the form of magazine, it became monthly and sometimes fortnightly. Three years ago we made it a weekly “news and feature” magazine and published it regularly every week for two years. But we had not foreseen the printing difficulties which were likely to arise. Our printers secured a heavy Government contract which kept them busy for about two or three months. Actually during that time they were working double — day and night — shifts to finish the job and meet the dead line. That was the first time our publication was interrupted for several months. When we restarted, the momentum had broken. We found several of our advertisers had withdrawn their support. Meanwhile, the cost of printing had gone up and we also had a big credit outstanding to us from our agents and advertisers. Additional funds were not made available to us and the magazine again stopped for a while. But we were able to start it again as a fortnightly.

Meanwhile, the cost of printing had gone up and we also had a big credit outstanding to us from our agents and advertisers. Additional funds were not made available to us and [Africa Ismaili] again stopped for a while.

Miss Z. Nooraly: I see you have published some excellent Special Issues which have quite a number of advertisements. Why do you not get enough advertisements for your regular issues?

Rai A. M. Sadaruddin: I am glad you asked that. Special Numbers are issued on special occasions. Many people do not mind giving an advertisement once in a while. Regular advertisements are usually given by big concerns. They unfortunately think that advertising in our magazine does not help them from a business point of view as it is primarily circulated amongst our community and is a sort of religious paper. This, of course, is not quite correct. Even if it is a religious paper and confined to our community, it is read by people with a good standard of living and spending power. There are several church papers in this and other countries which are always full of advertisements. Why not in our case? …

Miss Z. Nooraly: In your article 50 Years of My Writing you have stated that you had prepared a scheme for an Ismaili press for Africa in 1934, almost forty years ago. Why was no press established here even when the Ismailia Association has been in existence in this country now for 27 years. I believe, the first Association in Africa was established in 1945 and three years later, in 1948, we had the first Association in Pakistan.

Rai A. M. Sadaruddin: Isn’t it surprising? During these last forty years, about forty or more magazines have been published here, some lasting only for a few week. In spite of this the community has never thought of starting an official printing press. I really cannot understand the reason. Looking to the amount of printing community needs for its institutions, schools, industrial and commercial concerns, one should have thought that such an enterprise would have not only been a paying concern but would have also helped in printing a community journal regularly and without any loss….

Miss Z. Nooraly: I think you should publish your memoirs.

Rai A. M. Sadaruddin: You are not the first person to suggest it. Our President Dr. Walji has been saying this for years. But I think memoirs should be published if they can be of use and interest to others. To publish reminiscences for self-glorification is meaningless. At present I am waiting to complete a more useful work — a “Bibliography of books which deal with Ismaili history and faith.” It may take years to complete but it is worth doing. Probably you have read Willi Frischauer’s The Aga Khans. His opening paragraph refers to this bibliographical work when he says that he did not realise the vastness of this subject until he had met an Ismaili journalist in Nairobi. Of course, he did not mention my name then, although he did so elsewhere in another context in the book….

Miss Z. Nooraly: Why were so many of our newspapers stopped in India, Pakistan and Africa? You must have studied the causes?

Briefly, our people are not press-minded…. Our leaders look at it with suspicion. I have never understood the real reasons of their fear. hey think it can be misused. This is so. But if someone cuts his throat with a knife instead of cutting the bread, which would give him nourishment, is it the fault of the knife? It is for the community so see that a newspaper is in the right hands. To have no newspaper at all is not the answer.

Rai A. M. Sadaruddin: You must have read our Special Silver Jubilee Number on Journalism. But I suggest you read it again some time. So many people from so many places wrote about these problems. This interview will fill up the whole issue if I repeated them. Briefly, our people are not press-minded. They do not understand the value of publicity in the world of today. Some of those who do understand it, act for self-publicity and become their own “Public Relation” men. To do it for others and for the community is the real thing. However, as a result of our indifference to the press, it has not found its proper place in our activities. Our circulation is always limited. We get very few advertisements. Our leaders look at it with suspicion. I have never understood the real reasons of their fear. They think it can be misused. This is so. But if someone cuts his throat with a knife instead of cutting the bread, which would give him nourishment, is it the fault of the knife? It is for the community so see that a newspaper is in the right hands. To have no newspaper at all is not the answer….

Miss Z. Nooraly: You have maintained a very high standard of your magazine, still you have been complaining that you have not been getting proper co-operation from people. What do you really mean by that?

Rai A. M. Sadaruddin: I did not complain so much for my magazine as for others. Almost every magazine from India, Pakistan and East Africa wrote to me that our community did not give the Ismaili journalists due respect and to their papers their rightful place. Their status was not recognised. Their reporters were not sent the invitations to functions and they did not receive the reports of functions; during the visits of Mowlana Hazar Imam to various countries they learnt of the functions from the public papers; the reporters and photographers of public papers were always present even at the private parties. They wrote to me that our people did not take us into their confidence. They did not give them any information. They did not call any Press conference. How do they expect us to help them?

Miss Z. Nooraly: When you interview people, you invariably ask them what they think about your magazine. What do you think yourself about it?

Rai A. M. Sadaruddin: I think it is full of faults! I would like people to tell me what they find wrong with it instead of only paying compliments. It may be a better magazine than others of the community. But it is nowhere near the best when compared with some world magazines. The other day a former Ismaili student sent me a copy of an old issue in which he had marked a number of proofreading mistakes and with it sent me his telephone number. I was greatly impressed and rang him up and asked him to join my paper.

An Agenda For Ismaili Journalism

Vazir Abdulla H. K. Tejpar, Dar es Salaam

Since my childhood I have been a regular reader of our various Ismaili papers, and I must say that, even with limited resources at their disposal, the publishers have done a wonderful job in promoting the interests of the jamat in the field of Ismaili literature. Since the last few years the trend of journalism has completely changed. To maintain the interest of its readers all the time, when science is progressing at such an enormous speed, it is necessary for every journal to cultivate modern outlook and thinking. At the same time it is necessary for our magazines to educate our present generation in religion. In this direction they can play a vital role.

Leading role

I have noticed that some of our youths have also taken up Journalism as a profession and are now playing their rightful part by serving with various newspapers. It is a good sign. We should encourage more of them to go into this field. Some of them can play a useful part also in Ismaili journalism.

Africa Ismaili has started to play a leading role in this field and I hope with the help of our educated and enthusiastic young men and women who are interested in journalism it can serve our jamat, and others who wish to know more about us with useful and informative articles.

I would like to see in Africa Ismaili more articles on such subjects as:

  • Our holy Ismaili faith.
  • Ismaili history.
  • Islamic history.
  • Lives of various Prophets, Imams and their teachings.
  • Our pirs and their teachings.
  • Our holy ginans related to Holy Qur’an.
  • Knowledge based on Holy Qur’an.
  • Science and religion.
  • Islamic scholars and Poets — reprints from their valuable writings.
  • Personal experiences from one’s own life in relation to Religion.
  • Questions and Answers on the above subjects.
  • Occasional literary competitions on the above subjects.
Credits

Article excerpts: Originally published in Africa Ismaili, November 12, 1970 and republished in the mid-1970’s series Best of Africa Ismaili, Volume 10: Ismaili Journalism (Permitted use) (Fair use/dealing)

Image: Africa Ismaili cover and Best of Africa Ismaili logos, Mohib Ebrahim (With permission) (Bill C-11, Section 29.21 http://bit.ly/1yRu6UZ)

Footnotes
  1. Listed below are more than 100 of the mostly private, and some official, 200+ Ismaili journals that have come and gone during the past 115 years. Their demise, as well as that of some 100 others, was, as mentioned in the article excerpts cited above, unnecessary and an epitaph to the frustration and disillusionment of hundreds of selfless volunteers who were behind them. Source: Mumtaz Ali Tajddin, Encyclopaedia of Ismailism (Karachi, 2006, p. 265).
    India

    Ismaili Sitaro (1908), Khoja Bandhu, Khoja Mitr (1910), Khoja Hitvardak (1910), Satpanth Prakash (1916), Ismaili Aftab (1919), Ismaili Akhbar (1920), Khoja Saundariya (1920), Ismaili (1923), Satpanth Prakash, Ismaili Darpan, Ismaili Prakash, Ismaili Bhomiyo, Khoja Sansar (1924), Hindi Panch Himayati (1924), Ismaili Sadaqat (1924, in Urdu), Khoja Reformer (1925), Khoja Vahevar (1925), Awaaj, Nizari (1925), Yuwan, Fidai (1927), Yuvan (1930), Dass (1930), Khoja Jagrutti (1933), Vishal, Drashti (1935), My Flag (1935, in Sindhi), Searching Light (1940), Al-Islah (1943), Momin Bandhu (1948), Al-Amin, Zulfikar Ismaili, Dass, Elan (1950), Ismaili Digest (1950), Aina (1950), Volunteer (1950), Waezeen Digest (1951), Platinum Jubilee Bulletin (1951), Jagrutti (1955), Fidai Darshan (1968), Khoja Bulletin (1970), Ismaili Abhyuday, Nur-i Roshan (1977), etc.

    Pakistan

    Al-Islam (1948), Platinum Jubilee Review (1951), Fidai Chronicle (Dacca, 1953), Mahrab (1954), Paigham (1955), Sayani, Parwaz (1958, Dacca), Sargam (1958), Ismaili Mirror (1962), Ismaili World (1964), Al-Qandeel (1965, Peshawar), Al-Ismailia (1967), Shining Stars (1980), Phoolvadi (1980), Sevak (1989).

    Official publications: Ismaili Bulletin (1974), Hidayat (1982), Waezeen Digest (some time after Hidayat).

    East Africa

    Africa Comrade (1925), Ismailia Bhagyodaya (1925), Jagrutti (1931), Chatanya Yug (1932), Tarun (1932), Mithi Mauj (1933), Chaitanya Yuga (1933), Ismaili Yuvak (1933), Young Tanganika (1934), Shafiq (1934), Gulshan-e-Ilm (1935), Ismaili Voice (1936), Africa Tribune (1938), Zahur (1939), Education Bulletin (1939), Old Boys Education Bulletin (1939), Ismaili Mission Message (1940), Ismaili Welfare Bulletin (1940), Jubilee Bulletin (1945) renamed Ismaili Prakash (1947), Zaban, Awaz (1945), Old Boys (1945), Pukar (1945), Special Number (1946, Jinja), Nuten Jyoti (1946), Diamond Jubilee Souvenir (1946), Majlis (circ. 1946), Al-Hussain (1947), Bhawi Praja (1947), Mithi Mauj (1947), Paigham (1948), Awaz (1950), Ismaili News (1953), Imamat (1956), My Flag (1956), Unity (1959, Mwanza), Waezeen Digest (1960), Mission Digest (1962), Awake (1964), Una Voc (“One Voice”) (1965), On the March (1968), Ismaili Bagyada’I (unknown), etc.

    All of them disappeared within a few years, some of them lasted only a few months.

    Official publications: African Sentinel (1941), Khidmat and Platinum(1951) both renamed as Ismaili Crescent (1961), Al-Noor (1980, Portugal), Al-Kitab (1985, Portugal), Al-Hidayat (1984, Zaire).

    Canada

    Official publications: Hikmat (1976), The Canadian Ismaili (1976), Ismaili Canada (1995), The Al-Risalah (1981, Montreal).

    France

    The Ismaili France (1990), Ismaili Contact (1992).

    United States

    Official publications: Roshni (1980), The American Ismaili (1980), The American Waezeen Digest (1987).

    United Kingdom

    Official publications: Ilm(1975), Al-Misbah (1981), Ismaili Forum (1980), UK Ismaili (1984).

    Middle East

    Al-Ghadir (1953).

Further Readings

One thought on “Editorial: “The Sad Story Of Ismaili Journalism”

  1. We are are indebted to you for this essential, profound service to the community and its future. Indeed I am indebted, nay all students in search of Knowledge (in the wider sense encompassing Truth, Beauty, Justice, Enlightenment) are indebted to you and your team.

    May Allah crown your efforts with success.

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