Two years ago, the oldest Ismaili Muslim community in Europe celebrated 100 years since it’s arrival on the continent. In July, an exhibition that recounts their story was inaugurated at the Ismaili Centre, Lisbon.
That the Spain Jamat is the oldest continuously settled Ismaili community in the Western world is a little known fact to many.
Ashad Ali Haji arrived in Europe in 1912 and settled in Paris. Born Ali Jamal Meghji and originally from Junagadh (in the British Indian province of Kathiawar), he was the only surviving son of the well-known Mukhi Jamal Meghji. With the eruption of World War I, he decided to move to Spain, a neutral country in that conflict. It was there that he established the first Ismaili community in Western Europe.
Today, the Spain Jamat come from diverse origins but is united in its Ismaili Muslim identity. The exhibition celebrates the remarkable story of the family of Ashad Ali Haji, which 102 years later is now in its fifth generation. Through stories shared and recounted by members of the family, it offers an important porthole on Ismaili history.
The inauguration coincided with the celebration of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 59th Imamat Day, and members of the Spain Jamat attended in large numbers. They were joined by the Jamat and institutional leaders from Portugal.
The opening of the exhibition was preceded by a dinner that celebrated the bonds that unite the Iberian Jamat.