“We looked around in the crowd of people and stopped at the sight of a small booth.This small booth was quite different; it was just a big piece of cloth on the ground with a few fresh-looking oranges. We walked toward the booth and saw a young girl sitting on a stool, reading next to the booth. Her mind seemed to have whirled into the story, because she didn’t even notice us when we walked toward her….” – click Honesty by Zhang He
“What I propose to discuss with you is how cultural heritage can itself be a “trampoline” for social and economic development, in the same way that agriculture, water resources, power supplies or transportation systems have traditionally been perceived. Even in settings of abject poverty, cultural legacies, though once dormant, can become powerful catalysts for change.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, May 15, 2013, UNESCO Conference, Hangzhou, China.
“Culture is what makes us who we are, it gives us strength, and it provides answers to many of the challenges we face today,” said the Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, as her organization and China announced earlier this month an international congress on culture, which is now underway in Hangzhou, China.
The congress which began on May 15 for 3 days has brought together some 450 policymakers, leaders from development institutions, representatives of the private sector, civil society, academia, and the arts, and is expected to provide substantive input to the discussions on the framework for the post-2015 development agenda.
“The goal is to inspire Governments, civil society, businesses and communities to harness the power of culture in addressing the world’s most pressing challenges,” UNESCO said in its brief.
His Highness the Aga Khan in addressing the congress said, “UNESCO is to be saluted for keeping the work of cultural development high on the international agenda,” His Highness was received by Her Excellency Madame Liu Yandong, Vice-Premier of the People’s Republic of China (link to press release and speech given at end of post).
During her meeting with the UNESCO chief, the Chinese Vice Premier had said that education, science and culture were high on the agenda of the new Chinese government, and explained that China aspires to “provide people with better education, better living conditions, more satisfying jobs, better medical services and a better environment for people to live in. This aspiration is closely related to what you are doing in UNESCO.”
This was underscored by His Highness the Aga Khan in his address when he said, “I also want to recognise the important work that China has been doing, in cooperation with UNESCO and through its own advances in cultural development.”
The congress host city of Hangzhou has been a significant cultural center in Chinese history. It is considered as a UNESCO Creative City for Crafts & Folk Art, and is home to the West Lake Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With its mist-covered hills, willow-lined banks and ancient pagodas, pavilions, gardens and ornamental trees, as well as causeways and artificial islands, Hangzhou’s idealized, classic landscapes were conceived in an effort to manifest the perfect fusion, and harmony, between man and nature. The area has inspired famous poets, scholars and artists since the 9th century.
Date posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013.
Post compiled by Simerg.
To read press release as well as complete speech of His Highness the Aga Khan, please click AKDN – The Aga Khan Speaks at UNESCO China Conference.
“….if like me, you look at the face again after reading the 450-page tome, you would be forgiven for losing yourself in sheer rapture of the woman who has made you fall in love with her story. Why? Because a male writer has given birth to her in his book and clothed her with the ghosts and memories of Kenya history’s past” - Excerpt from a review by Cyprian Fernandes
THOUGHTS FOR MOTHER’S DAY
“We have enjoined on man and woman (to be good) to his/her parents; show gratitude to Me and thy parents.”
Holy Qur’an – 31:14
“Your heaven lies at the feet of your mother.”
A tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.)
“We have enjoined on man kindness to his parents; in pain did his mother bear him, and in pain did she give him birth.”
Holy Qur’an – 46:15
Please also visit THANKING ISMAILI HISTORICAL FIGURES.
It is with deep regret and sorrow that we announce the passing of Laila Lokhandwalla in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday May 5, 2013 at the age of 55. Our heartfelt condolences go to Ms. Lokhandwalla’s family and friends, and we pray for the eternal peace and rest of Laila’s soul. Her funeral ceremonies took place at the Scarborough Jamatkhana on Thursday, May 9th, with special religious ceremonies for the departed soul later during the evening at the Headquarters Jamatkhana.
Laila Lokhandwalla was born and raised in India. Following her graduation in the early 1980′s from the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, England, Laila moved to Canada where she served with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for a number of years. She obtained her B.A. in Sociology from York University, Toronto, and thereafter, her graduate level Certificate in Teaching ESL, from George Brown College, Toronto. Professionally she was a teacher of ESL (English as a Second Language).
An articulate and engaging teacher as well as an Alwaeza (missionary), Laila also wrote beautiful and stirring poetry. Several of her poems and writings were published in Ismaili literary magazines around the world, including the flagship quarterly periodical Ilm published by the UK Ismaili Tariqah Board. In many of her poems, she sought to capture her immense love, affection and devotion to Mawlana Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims).
Following the completion of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee, Laila penned a special poem “Reflections of the Golden Jubilee” which was published on this website, along with a personal statement expressing her fondness for writing.
We pay our respect and tribute to Laila Lokhandwalla by re-publishing some of her pieces below, and invite the readers to also click on A Spring Poem for Shah Karim. We begin though with reflections about Laila from her former colleagues at the Institute of Ismaili Studies.
Tributes to Laila from Her Colleagues
From Mumtaz Virani, Toronto
Further to the above sad announcement about Laila, I would like to inform readers that a collection of Laila’s poems that has been published is available on-line at the following link: http://thewisdomofourhearts.com/.
Laila had been a bright student during her school career. She had inherited melodious voice from her mother who used to sing at the radio station in 1960’s in India. Laila had a special flair for arts and culture and had a strong command on English language because of her convent education.
She loved music and dancing. We witnessed her Kathak dance presentations at the parties during our student days at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in early 80’s. When in good spirit she was a well rounded person and it was easy to fall in love with her.
We pray that her soul may rest in peace. Ameen.
* * *
From Alnoor B. Kassam
At heart, Laila was one of a kind… a flower ripe for He Who Is, departed at our loss, well before her time… Her effervescence of mind was known only to those who’d sat with her during sessions of learning. How she challenged anyone shy of intellectual rigour, and yet was always keen to adapt to innovative trends of thought! Hers was a life we may thus celebrate.
Sure, there were challenges. She bore them with grace. And we know that Allah SubhaanaHu wa Ta’ala is Gracious, and He has now bestowed her with liberation of spirit. As it says in the Qur’an ash-Sharif, those who have passed on are even more alive than we are in this world, only we lack capacity in that we neither sense nor fathom it…
Her zeal each time we had an IIS alumni conference will be held in fond memory. Her intellectual honesty coupled with dedication to her vocation, was just as remarkable as it was sincere.
May she have well earned rest, in eternal peace, grace and blessing…
Please also see comments.
My Interest and Love for Poetry
By Laila Lokhandwalla
I have been writing poetry in English since childhood. I started out with writing devotional poems in praise of Mawlana Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims), but I now have a collection of more than forty poems on various subjects, including politics, women’s and social issues as well as inspirational poems and poems celebrating nature. Besides poems, I have also written some geets (devotional songs set to music), in praise of Hazar Imam, in Gujarati and Urdu. I sometimes also write poetry in Gujarati and Urdu. However, most of my literary work is in the English language.
The love of religion, philosophy and social work, besides of course the pure love of language, especially the English language, have resulted in the poetry that has literally poured out of my soul. I have never really had to make an effort to write poetry. It has always automatically poured forth from my very being whenever I have been moved by anything in life. My poetry is the result of my life experiences and my feelings and thoughts on whatever I have experienced and lived.
Reflections on the Golden Jubilee
By Laila Lokhandwalla
The sun dawned in the East and slowly but surely,
Lighted up every corner of the globe, in stages, successively,
The earth looked like a newly wedded bride in its enlightened décor,
Even as my Mawla was visiting Jamats, scattered across the globe, one after another,
Illuminating hearts and sparking minds, spreading joy and enlightenment,
Bringing prosperity and progress, breeding hope and encouragement…
This was indeed a special dawn…the dawn of a golden era,
The celebration of the Golden Jubilee of my beloved Mawla!
Excitement within, the tempo building,
Hearts in unison, merrily dancing…
Celebrating in a multitude of ways,
These unique, precious, historic days!
Canada launches several projects new,
To commemorate and celebrate this event…
And to their Imam, their vows they renew,
Pledging love and loyalty with this golden advent!
The Aga Khan Museum and for Pluralism – The Global Centre,
The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat and The Ismaili Centre,
In their wake, planning a renewal,
A renaissance: cultural, social, intellectual and spiritual!
What exciting times, the future seems bright in prospect,
How immense the bounties, the blessings of the Imamat!
Could this be real, I am moved,
May I help build this future, as I am encouraged?
For that’s not all, there’s more to come…
My Imam directs, these things must be done:
Poverty must be eliminated,
Seniors must be supported,
Education and Religious Education, quality should reflect,
And walls that divide, must be replaced with bridges that unite…
Witnessing these times, I am blessed, I am thinking…
Even as I see the sun setting,
Slowly also setting upon this golden time…
Yet, the hope, the courage, the happiness, does not seem to dim!
The impact was so strong,
The memory shall linger on…
Forever more, to fuel energies and to inspire,
As to accomplish tasks and resolutions pledged, we thus aspire.
Spiritually renewed, yet humbled by all these graces,
I fall into a prayerful ecstasy, my heart races…
“Shukran, shukran, shukran”, repeats my inner soul’s voice,
In a rhythm that is endless and continuous…
For I envisage my Mawla, you’ve opened up the doors graciously,
To ever-increasing happiness and prosperity, endlessly…
Date posted: Tuesday May 7, 2013
Date updated: Saturday, May 11, 2013.
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Ten years after the Palermo Protocol, top world personalities convened from December 10-12, 2010, in an International Forum in Luxor, Egypt, to outline a roadmap for ending human trafficking. The Forum was organized by End Human Trafficking Now! and The Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking (UN.GIFT).
“I am convinced that, over time, the most effective weapon to combat human trafficking will be civil society’s rejection of these vile activities” – His Highness the Aga Khan
As part of this initiative the 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was among those in the jury (see photo, below) who presented the first-ever award in history to recognize a business executive‘s energy and commitment in tackling human trafficking.
The Ismaili Imam also delivered opening remarks at this forum, which are now been incorporated into our original piece Aga Khan in Prestigious Jury for First-Ever Business Leader’s Award to Fight Human Trafficking.
Date posted: Sunday, May 5, 2013.
“Unfortunately, in some parts of the Muslim world today, hostility to diverse interpretations of Islam, and lack of religious tolerance, have become chronic, and worsening, problems. Sometimes these attitudes have led to hatred and violence. At the root of the problem is an artificial notion amongst some Muslims, and other people, that there is, or could ever be, a restricted, monolithic reality called Islam.”….More
“Without an acceptance of diversity, without the ability to harness the creativity that stems from pluralism, the very spirit of the Knowledge Society is stifled. We must encourage, I believe, that Muslims of all communities come together, working collaboratively to tap into the vast endowment of knowledge available today, and without which progress is, if not halted, at least deferred. This cannot be done in the absence of open-mindedness and tolerance” — Prince Rahim Aga Khan….More
PRINCE RAHIM AGA KHAN – A BRIEF PROFILE
Date and place of birth: October 12, 1971, Geneva, Switzerland.
Relationship to His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam: Prince Rahim Aga Khan is His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan’s second of four children, the others being older sister Princess Zahra and younger brothers Prince Hussain Aga Khan (all three born to Begum Salimah Aga Khan) and Prince Aly Muhammad (born to Princess Inaara Aga Khan).
Post Secondary Education and Specialization:
(1) 1996 – Bachelor of Arts, Comparative Literature, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island;
(2) 2006 – Executive Development Programme, Management and Administration, University of Navarra IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain.
Current Responsibilities: Executive Director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED); Executive Director at the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance(AKAM).
Based at the Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan at Aiglemont, north of Paris, France, Prince Rahim is an executive Director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) — the economic development arm of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). He also serves as an Executive Director at the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM).
A graduate of Brown University, Rhode Island, USA with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Comparative Literature awarded in 1996, Prince Rahim received his secondary education at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. In 2006, Prince Rahim completed an executive development programme in Management and Administration at the University of Navarra IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Prince Rahim travels regularly to Asia and Africa to oversee the industrial plants, hotel properties and financial institutions, including microfinance programmes, of the Aga Khan Development Network.
The engagement of Prince Rahim to Ms Kendra Spears, of Seattle, Washington USA, was announced on Friday, April 26, 2013, to the joy of Ismailis around the world, who celebrated the news with sherbet and cake.
By Navyn Naran
there is an expectant joy in the air
as we welcome the news our Mawla has shared
and He is happy for a love of two
a new beginning for all, here paired.
this joy paralleled e’en by the spring
the breeze gently caressing the face of each
we share in their love and welcome the new
an understanding and acknowledgement in this niche.
our Prince has met a partner in life
and Benevolent the Grace enveloping this match
how happy we feel for that special bond and trust
and pray this development manifest strong in latch.
the sacred Truth as once was shared,
and Knowledge beckoned Adam and Hawa in this life
so meeting in mind, heart and soul in twain
is Blessed by the Creator as man takes wife
there is joy in our community for the Noorani family
sherbet and cake to enjoy for all
and cherry blossom beckon another fresh day
as brother and sister welcome this Call.
for the arduous tasks You take under Your wing
shall flourish and strengthen as this Bond to be
and mighty as Zulfiqar, the sword,
in Trust and Respect always between.
Khushamadeed Ms. Spears, Mubarak O Prince,
Mubarak! our hearts smile, Mubarak! and since
a Unity weaving as Iman does hope
we welcome you Kendra to this lineage’s rope.
our Mawla, Mubarak! devotedly we serve
Your happiness is ours also, let us not bend nor swerve
a nikkah is called, a love unending for two
Khushamadeed Kendra, a most respectful welcome to you.
Date posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013
Date updated: Monday, April 29, 2013 (typo)
For a contrasting style/format of this same piece, please click on the following:
“Mubarak…Khushamadeed”: A Poem for Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Ms. Kendra Spears
Simerphotos, the companion photo blog for this literary website, launches a series about India through the lens of Muslim Harji of Montreal, PQ, Canada. His previous photo essays on Iran, Syria and Jerusalem have been widely acclaimed by readers of Simerg and Simergphotos. The India series commences with a splendid photo essay about its street foods.
PLEASE CLICK: India’s Street Foods
BOOK REVIEW BY NIZAR MOTANI
This latest addition to the expanding frontier of Gujarati studies offers eleven masterly chapters written by thirteen scholars representing several disciplines…..Out of the eleven chapters three of them focus on the current Ismaili Imam’s leadership style and the geet and ginanic traditions of his followers of Gujarati origin….Read More