The Aptness of the Isa Award

It was a very solemn occasion. With immense pleasure, I witnessed yesterday, the first Isa Award for Services to Humanity being presented by His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, the founder of the Malaysian Medical Relief Society (MERCY Malaysia).

Dr Jemilah was almost in tears while accepting the award from the King, at a special event held at Isa Cultural Hall . 

Her words that she was genuinely humbled to be the recipient of the first Isa Award, and that she was also proud to become a part of Bahrain’s history did not leave anyone in the audience emotionally untouched.

I was particularly impacted and impressed by two things – the amazing story of her service, and the warm words of our King – about his father, the late Amir HH Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, in whose honour this award has been instituted. 

Dr Jemilah’s selfless service in the establishment of a maternity and health centre for women in Darfur, Sudan, and her rebuilding of 13 health centers in cooperation with the Health Ministry in Myanmar, after Cyclone Nargis in 2008, make her an icon of service.

Even her great work in health-care, in Malaysia and Indonesia, after the tsunami of December 2004 and the earthquake of March 2005, showed me that she stands much taller in stature than she physically looks.

She is really making dwarves, of the many men who cannot easily match up to her high attitude of self-less service. 

And I believe, therefore, that she is well-deserved to be honoured with this first ‘Isa Award’, from Bahrain, which carries with it a gold medal and US$1 million cash.

Established by a Royal Decree in 2009, the Isa Award honours individuals and organisations around the globe that provide outstanding services to humanity regardless of their race, religion, culture, beliefs, or locations.

What also touched my heart was the warmth with which His Majesty the King spoke about his father the late Amir,  HH Shaikh Isa , and how his father had had a genuine concern for his people.

Having been personally associated with the late Amir very closely for several years, and having experienced his personal touch, I was immediately transported into the past, as I realized how apt it is that this award should be named as “Isa Award for Services to Humanity.”

Since 1981, when I accompanied him during his first state visit to India, the late Amir always made it a point to encourage me whenever he saw me.

During a special audience I had with him in Mumbai, following his state visit to New Delhi, he asked me to attend his Majlis which he used to hold every alternate Tuesday.

After I returned from India, where I had had the special privilege of winning an exclusive interview with the then Prime Minister of India  the late  Indira Gandhi,  I never missed attending the late Amir’s  bi-weekly Majlis regularly until his sad demise in 1999.

But, for two months, when I missed attending his Majlis due to health reasons, because of a problem with my eye, I remember the affection with which he received me. He asked me how my eye was. I experienced a genuine attitude of fatherhood from his side, when he said he was willing to get me treated at any place in the world if I so desire.

This was but just a small example of the late Amir’s real and genuine feeling for others. And what better name can there be, for this award given for service to humanity than ‘Isa Award’?

I sincerely hope the world will embrace the institution of this ‘Isa Award’ from Bahrain, for services to humanity, like they do the ‘Ramon Magsasay Award’ from Philippines for integrity in government, courageous service to the people, and pragmatic idealism or like they do the ‘Jawaharlal Nehru Award’ from India, for International Understanding.’