The ethic of voluntary service has a long-enduring history in our Jamat. Besides reflecting the values of our Tariqah, this centuries-old tradition of giving of one’s time and resources encourages initiative, develops leadership capacity, and offers opportunities for an individual’s personal and professional development.
First formally established in Mumbai and Karachi in 1919, the Ismaili Volunteer Corps (IVC) was honoured by Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah by way of authorisation for the use of his own crest, the Taj, as its emblem in 1920, which marked the initiation of the tradition of uniformed volunteer service in the Jamat.
For over a century, uniformed volunteers have been a vital mainstay of endeavours for the wellbeing and progress of our community. In all Jamati geographies and cultures, volunteers spare no effort in serving the Jamat in diverse situations and contexts, within and outside Jamatkhana. Time and again, Mawlana Hazar Imam has taken the opportunity to recognise and appreciate the importance and value of such service.
Mawlana Hazar Imam, in setting out new principles for the Jamat’s paradigm of uniformed volunteering, said in his recent message to the Jamat that the aim is “to bring about standardisation and parity in the various elements relating to the organisation of the uniformed volunteers, without compromising their spirit of service.” Hazar Imam also emphasised that the new guidelines will fully respect the global Jamat's socio-cultural diversity.
Among the key elements that Hazar Imam has approved are a new name, “Ismaili Volunteers” (removing the term ‘Corps’), and a new motto, khidma.
Khidma (Arabic for ‘service’) expresses the core value of Ismaili volunteers and will serve to strengthen the bond of this shared ethos among Ismaili volunteers across all countries, ages, and cultures. Rendered as khidmat in Jamats of Persian and Indic language usage, this term succinctly expresses the notion of unconditional service.
A new visual identity that Mawlana Hazar Imam has approved is a motif of contemporary design and outlook that resonates with other Jamati and AKDN logos. This motif, which will be adapted for diverse types of applications including a new volunteer badge, consists of a stylised presentation of the name “Lillaah” (for Allah), artfully arranged, and repeated seven times in a composition of calligraphic brushes.
The connective nature of the motif symbolises the achievement of a unified goal, and the interlinking of din and duniya, faith and world. The final letter of Lillaah is rendered in the shape of a leaf and, along with the deep green colour, aims to remind us of our responsibility to care for the natural environment. The round outer shape suggests a globe, recalling that, despite our differences, we share one world – the Earth – as our home. Keen observers may also spot shapes resembling the English ‘i’ for Ismaili and ‘v’ for volunteers.
The range of designs for a new volunteer uniform will accommodate the Jamat’s socio-cultural diversity and take account of cost, functionality, and climate adaptability. While adapting to contemporary times and contexts, the designs recognise the historical legacy and contributions of uniformed volunteers over the course of more than a century.
Over the coming months, the National Councils will oversee an orderly transition by our uniformed volunteers to the new elements that Mawlana Hazar Imam has approved. Their spirit of service will continue to shine under a unified banner, as a reflection of our Imam’s aspiration that “Our volunteers should continue being viewed as an organisation that adapts to changing times and circumstances while upholding an age-old tradition.”
We offer congratulations and Mubarak to all Ismaili Volunteers on the occasion of this special news.