The Meaning of Irfan: The Name of the New Prince Welcomed by Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Princess Salwa Aga Khan

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa during their nikah ceremony in September 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa during their nikah ceremony in September 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

Following last October’s happy announcement by Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Princess Salwa that that they were expecting their first child, a son named Prince Irfan, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on 11 April, 2015. The couple were married in September 2013 in the grounds of the Château de Bellerive, overlooking the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. An official announcement on the community’s website, http://www.theismaili.org, said that both Princess Salwa and Prince Irfan were in good health. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s special message to the global Jamat on this occasion expressed the great happiness of both his as well as the family of Princess Salwa. Jamats around the world received the news of Prince Irfan’s birth with immense joy and traditional celebrations.

The Meaning of Irfan

Irfan is an indirect Qur’anic name for boys. Irfan means “wisdom”, or more correctly, Wisdom with a capital W. It refers to all that is good and true of thoughts and deeds. It is derived from the Ain-R-F root (to know, to recognize), which is used in many places in the Holy Qu’ran, [1] as in the following verse:

Transliteration:

Wa Jā’a ‘Ikhwatu Yūsufa Fadakhalū `Alayhi Fa`arafahum Wa Hum Lahu Munkirūna — Sura Yusuf, Chapter 12, Verse 58

Translation:

And the brethren of Joseph came, and entered unto him, and he knew them, but they knew him not — Holy Qur’an, 12:15, translation by A.J. Arberry.

The Term Irfan in Islamic Mysticism

The term ‘irfan (gnosis), which literally meaning knowledge, is widely applied in Islamic mysticism. In the mystical context, like another term in the same family, mari’fa, which is also translated as gnosis, the knowledge is of certain kind which can be achieved neither through the senses nor experience, nor through reason nor narration, but rather is acquired by inner witnessings and interior unveilings. [2] It is that knowledge that unites man with God after penetrating and transforming him completely.

The famous prayer of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) sums up the end toward which the gnostic strives with all his mind, soul and body:

“O God, deliver us from preoccupations with worldly vanities and show us the nature of things ‘as they really are’. Remove from our eyes the veil of ignorance, and show us things as they really are…Deliver us from ourselves, and accord us intimate knowledge of Thee.” [3]

Simerg and its thousands of readers around the world rejoice on the wonderful news of the birth of Prince Irfan, and join with jamats around the world to congratulate Mawlana Hazar Imam, the new parents and their families, with prayers for Prince Irfan’s long life and well being.

We also sincerely hope and pray that the birth of Prince Irfan, may bring immense barakah and peace to jamats worldwide.

We encourage readers to express their wishes and thoughts on the birth of Prince Irfan by clicking on Leave a comment or scrolling down to the comments box below.

Date posted: Friday, April 17, 2014.

____________________

See also:

A Nikah in the Noorani Family: Prince Rahim Aga Khan Weds Ms. Kendra Salwa Spears by Navyn Naran

References:

[1] http://quranicnames.com/irfan/
[2] http://www.alseraj.net/
[3] http://www.allamaiqbal.com/publications/journals/review/apr89/7.htm

Prayers for Syria – An Aid in Righteous Resistance Against Enemies

This calligraphy by an Ottoman artists  Fakhri ibn Vali el-Brusevi has the following inscription on it:  "Call upon Ali who causes wonders to appear, you will find him a help to you in adversity, all anguish and sorrow will disappear through your friendship oh Ali, oh Ali, oh Ali." Photo Credit: The Trustees of the British Museum. Copyright.

This calligraphy by an Ottoman artist Fakhri ibn Vali el-Brusevi has the following inscription on it: “Call upon Ali who causes wonders to appear, you will find him a help to you in adversity, all anguish and sorrow will disappear through your friendship oh Ali, oh Ali, oh Ali.” Photo Credit: The Trustees of the British Museum. Copyright.

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

Simerg’s most recent piece A Message to Our Beloved Ismaili Brothers and Sisters in Syria: Our Hearts and Prayers are With You, You are Never Alone! resulted in more than 30 touching responses from  readers from around the world. We also heard from various members of the Syrian jamat, who have appreciated the readers’ good wishes and prayers for their jamat. Indeed, one teacher went on to state that prayers was all that they needed.

Over the centuries, wars against enemies who are definitely at fault, has not been won by prayers alone. But there are examples which illustrate that a righteous show of resistance against any intruding enemy, such as the one that we may witness in Salamiyah, can be aided by prayers.

When the Sino-Japanese war broke out in August 1894, Tanaka Giichi, an officer in the Imperial Japanese Army  — who then became Japan’s Prime Minister in 1927 — and several of his followers went to a small deserted island called Sakurajima located near Osaka. They built a two-stories platform and enshrined a sword in front of a statue of Nichiren (a Japanese monk in the 13th century) on an altar set to face Peking. The cutting edge of the sword was also made to face the Chinese capital.

Three times a day for over a month, they prayed for the defeat of the enemy, and on the day they concluded the services, word was received that Pyongyang had fallen to the victorious Japanese army. This was powerful vindication of the invocation prayer which called for  the wisdom of the Buddha to be brought to bear upon the evil sphere of China.[1]

Centuries earlier, according to a story in the Islamic tradition narrated by Hussain Rashid in a piece for this website, [2] the Prophet Muhammad laid siege to the fort of Khaybar, but the walls were so well-fortified that the army could not break through. The Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet Muhammad and told him to recite the Naad-e Ali:

“Nade Ali, Nade Ali, Nade Ali
Nade Aliyyan mazhar al-ajaib
Tajidahu awnan lakafin-nawaib
Kullu hammin wa ghammin
sayanj-i Ali Bi wilayatika,
Ya Ali! Ya Ali! Ya Ali!”

“Call Ali call Ali call Ali,
the manifestation of marvels
He will be your helper in difficulty
Every anxiety and sorrow will end
Through your friendship.
O Ali, O Ali, O Ali.”

Hazrat Ali came to the Prophet’s aid, and in an act of heroism he tore down the gate of the fort, and the army of the Prophet crossed over and successfully ended the siege. Ali, of course, was a valiant fighter within the fort and when victory was achieved, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Prophet Muhammad again and said to him:

“There is no hero but Ali; there is no sword but Dhu’lfiqar.”

The prayer of Naad-e-Ali is a very strong Shia tradition, and can be recited today under different circumstances, such as the one we have today in Syria and other parts of the Muslim world. It can be recited when one is surrounded by enemies, as well as when one is facing personal troubles and tribulations. Like the power of prayer witnessed during the Sino-Japanese war, Naad-e-Ali’s recitation even 3 to 5 times daily, will empower those engaged in resisting the enemy, and Inshallah avert the grave crisis from children, women and men who remain close to the frontline.

The constant and regular recitation of Naad-e-Ali, particularly at this difficult time, will infuse within us a deeper commitment to prayer, and a selfless awareness of the needs and struggles of thousands of our brothers and sisters in Syria and other parts of the world.

Date posted: Thursday, April 9, 2015.

________________

[1] Episode quoted from “The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture”, page 206, originally mentioned in Tanaka Chicagu Jide.
[2] See Rashid’s Historical Images: The Naad-e-Ali, “Call Upon Ali….oh Ali, oh Ali, oh Ali,” in Ottoman Calligraphy, and Other Shia Inscriptions in the British Museum’s Islamic Collection

YOUR FEEDBACK: We invite our readers to offer their solidarity with the Ismaili jamat in Syria and the people of Syria by conveying their heartfelt prayers by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT or in the comment box below. If you encounter any difficulty in submitting your comment, please email your comment for publication to Simerg@aol.com, subject “Syria.”

A Message to Our Beloved Ismaili Brothers and Sisters in Syria: Our Hearts and Prayers are With You, You are Never Alone!

Click for enlargement

Salamiyah and surrounding areas shaded in yellow. Map: Adapted from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please click for enlargement.

Salamiyah and surrounding areas shaded in yellow. Map: Adapted by Simerg from a map produced by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please click for enlargement.

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

In a special post on January 30, 2013, we had mourned the death of numerous members of the Jamat who were brutally killed in Salamiyah, Syria, by suicide bombers. Simerg had paid tribute to these Jamati members with a thoughtful poem (republished below), and sincerely hoped and prayed that peace would return to Syria.

For those not familiar with Ismaili history, the groundwork for the establishment of Fatimid Caliphate over a thousand years ago was laid in Salamiyah — such is its importance and place in Ismaili history. The 11th Imam, al-Mahdi, set out from Salamiyah in the late  ninth century for the long 3,500km caravan journey to Sijilmasa in North Africa, as a first step in establishing the Caliphate. For over 1200 years, Salamiyah (pop. 187,123, by 2004 census) has been home to tens of thousands of Ismailis, who have lived peacefully, side by side, with Sunni and other Shia Muslims as well as the non-Muslim communities. Indeed, the Ismaili Imamat projects in Syria are designed for the well-being and progress of the entire Syrian nation.

The recent beheadings of Westerners, as well as deeply humiliating treatment, torture and beheadings of Shia and Sunni Muslims opposed to IS (Islamic State), including the burning of a Jordanian air pilot captured by ISIS militants, indicate that the ISIS acts of barbarism are not likely to cease.

Letter to ISIS from Muslim scholarsWe now report with utmost dismay, sadness and profound sorrow that during the last 2 weeks, Ismailis along with members of Sunni and other Shia communities have become victims of IS terror once again. The website of the US Secretary of State, Mr. John Kerry, reports in a new release dated April 3, 2015, that “ISIL recently massacred over 40 people in Mabuja in Hama province – reportedly Ismailis and Alawites, including women and children”. [2]

The Canadian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, in his statement issued on April 2, noted that “…the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] has demonstrated its contempt for the sanctity of human life through its March 31 attack on the Syrian town of Al Maboujeh, on the outskirts of Salamiyeh. Reports indicate that over 40 people, mostly civilians, were killed, and that dozens more were injured. An unknown number of civilians were also reportedly abducted by the terrorist group. As ISIL continues its campaign to seize territory in Syria, innocent people such as those in Salamiyeh are at risk. Al Maboujeh is largely populated by religious and ethnic minority communities, including Christians, Druze, Alawites, Sunni Bedouins, Shi’a Ismailis, among others, who have been systematically targeted and persecuted by ISIL terrorists.” [3]

A view of Salamiyah. Photo: Wikipedia.

A view of Salamiyah. Photo: Wikipedia.

The website SYRIA DEEPLY, which provides an overview of the latest news, says in a summary that “according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, ISIS militants had killed Alawite, Ismaili and Sunni residents of Mabouja by ‘burning, beheading, and firing on them’.”

It further notes in its dispatch that “IS has been moving westward across Syria in a bid to eventually take Salamiyah, a town east of Hama city” (see map above). The report includes a statement by an anonymous IS militant to Reuters that the Hama campaign is aimed eventually to take Salamiyah. “The ultimate goal is to liberate Salamiyah and Hama but it will not happen before Islamic State is 100 percent ready.” [4]

This is very worrying for all residents of Salamiyah, and everyone around the world who have family members in and around Salamiyah and elsewhere in Syria.

As a united and a deeply loyal community under Mawlana Hazar Imam’s leadership, we deeply feel for our  Syrian brothers and sisters, especially when lives are lost in such senseless acts by IS. We reassure the Syrian Jamat of our concern for them, as well as our deep affection and love for them. Mawlana Hazar Imam himself has articulated that as Imam “his first concern is for the security of his followers.” [5]

We pray for the souls of all those individuals who have lost their lives, and assure the Syrian Jamat of our constant prayers for their strength of faith and courage at such a difficult time in their history. We sincerely offer prayers that peace returns to their homeland soon. This can only occur when political leaders who are opposed to each other come together for the greater welfare of people of Syria. Dialogue, which has failed in the past, is the only solution for peace and long-term stability in the country. Compromise is an essential component in this process towards stability and peace.

____________

YOUR FEEDBACK: We invite our readers to offer their solidarity with the Ismaili jamat in Syria and the people of Syria by expressing their sorrows and feelings by clicking on Leave a Comment or in the comment box below. If you encounter any difficulty in submitting your comment, please email your comment for publication to Simerg@aol.com, subject “Syria.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SALAMIYAH AND SYRIA
“Peace Will Be Again”

Dates in season - Salamiyya, Syria

BY ELIA BADRUDIN

Salaam , al Salaam, O salaam
to all of humanity, Peace

al Salamiyeh , KNOW that Peace will be again.
the heavens will smile on you again.
all humanity which speaks for Peace
has promised that
the planet has your place

al Salamiyeh, more than a thousand years before
prayers were seeds of this ground
a grassland lying on Syrian steppes
a fertile plain of hope
a soft quiet spawning the golden age
a diverse Ummah immersed with the Fatimids…
you’ve nurtured yourself for the heavens here
and it is not all gone today.
you are not lost to us; neither sand grain lost to the sky.
as hearts are the stronger carrying yours
as anguish is balanced with resolute prayer
transformed, you will return, al Salamiyeh
the world is not asleep.

we are an entire Ummah living together in al Salamiyeh
the world has not left you
nor any other facing terror —
“you may feel alone
but you are not alone”
does not your date tree stand strong in windstorm?
and your smile not nourish your child?
He is “Always with you, Always with you”
remember.
and the world will not sleep.

not dogma, not terror,
there’s no martyrdom in suicide!
whosoever taketh life of another..
brutal condemnation
the bestiality of his own cowardly nature
who will betray your homeland and ours
has fallen to the brainwashing of his idols
and their very own envy

not even an animal kills but of hunger
leave them to their desolate running.
only, the ends of the earth are round
and of the heavens, eternal.
where will they go?

and the world will not sleep
all day and all night
across our globe
Ismailis holding hands with every other faith
for all of Syria and for all your families.
“you are not alone, you are never alone”

our seven days, a satado,
are seven ages of pain vanquished
are hearts awry yet steadfast
and hope takes root in this action
then Time too will make space..

and these fools will not rule
fear not the evils, for though they have drained innocent blood,
their souls and hearts are for His Taking

Salaam , al Salaam, O salaam
to all of humanity, Peace.

Date posted: Sunday, April 5, 2015.
Last updated: April 5, 2015 (quote from a letter from Muslim scholars to ISIS).

Note: The poem by Elia Badrudin was originally published on January 30, 2013 following the deaths of several Ismailis from a suicide bomb attack in Salamiyah.

_______________

We invite our readers to offer their solidarity with the Ismaili jamat in Syria and the people of Syria by expressing their sorrows and feelings by clicking on Leave a Comment or in the comment box below. If you encounter any difficulty in submitting your comment, please email your comment for publication to Simerg@aol.com, subject “Syria.”

_______________

Quotation References:

[1] English text of complete letter to ISIS at http://www.lettertobaghdadi.com/14/english-v14.pdf.
[2] http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2015/04/240326.htm
[3] http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?nid=958439
[4] http://www.syriadeeply.org/articles/2015/04/7041/syria-executive-summary-41/
[5] Voices: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale

Related:

Great Moments in Ismaili History: The Establishment of the Fatimid Caliphate by Jehangir A. Merchant.

________________

Please note that Simerg is an independent initiative. It is not affiliated with any organizations or institutions, and thus the views expressed here are those of the authors.

A Fine Balance: An Anthology of Poetry by Yasmin Hasan

Yasmin Hasan’s poems span two decades covering numerous themes based on her life experiences. In fact, she composed one as her life hung in the balance during a serious illness. Another one was written during the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam and, more than a decade earlier, she had composed one after Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to the UK Jamats in 1994, an event which she says has filled her life with inner barakah. Simerg invites Ismaili authors to submit their poems for publication on this website. Please visit Art|Poetry.

PLEASE CLICK: Fine Balance: An Anthology of Poetry by Yasmin Hasan

One of Yasmin Hasan's poems is dedicated to her grandson, Kian, pictured above. Please click on photo for her anthology. Photo: Yasmin Hasan.

One of Yasmin Hasan’s poems is dedicated to her grandson, Kian, pictured above. Please click on photo for her anthology. Photo: Yasmin Hasan.

A Brief Note on a Manuscript at the Library of Congress Dedicated to Fatimid Imam al-Hakim bi Amr-Allah

A view of the African and Middle Eastern Reading Room at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Inset the Main Building. Photo: Library of Congress, USA.

A view of the African and Middle Eastern Reading Room at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. Inset the Main Building. Photo: Library of Congress, USA.

INTRODUCTION

In 1945, the US Library of Congress (LOC) purchased a collection of printed books and manuscripts form Shaykh Mahmud al-Iman al-Mansuri, professor of religion at the al-Azhar University, Cairo. Assembled by the Shaykh from sources in the Middle East, Africa, and Europe, the collection deals with virtually every aspect of Qur’anic and Islamic studies and includes commentaries, biographies, dictionaries, and works on history, literature, and philosophy. Approximately 1,300 of the 5,000 volumes that comprise the collection are book manuscripts. The collection is known as the Mansuri Collection.

MANUSCRIPT DEDICATED TO IMAM AL-HAKIM

Among the thousands of items in the Mansuri Collection, is a work on astronomy dedicated to the 16th Ismaili Imam (or the 6th Fatimid Caliph), al-Hakim bi Amr-Allah (d. 411AH/1021 CE). The text is a popular exposition on the study of the order of events in time, and the order in which they occur, especially in those related to astronomical movements and the measurement of time.

A folio from a manuscript whose original work was dedicated to Ismaili Imam al-Hakim. Photo: Library of Congress, USA.

A folio from a manuscript whose original work was dedicated to Ismaili Imam al-Hakim. Photo: Library of Congress, USA.

Note on fol. 2a says that the author, Ibn Jahhaf al-Ḥusayn ibn Zayd ibn ʻAli, was a famous astronomer during the reign of the 6th Fatimid Caliph al-Ḥakim bi-‘Amr Allah (996–1021). The manuscript is yellowed cream, with watermarks, and is in bad condition due to damage from humidity. Edges of some leaves have been repaired. There are dark stains on edges of paper and the last few leaves are missing. The title page is black and red ink; and the colour of the text is black, red, green and yellow. There are occasional diacritical marks, with notes on title page and marginal notes. There are catchwords on rectos.

SUMMARY

Personal Name
Ibn Jaḥhaf, al-Ḥusayn ibn Zayd ibn ʻAli.

Related names
Watari, Muḥammad ʻAli ibn Zahir, former owner.
Ibn al-ʻAttaar, Muḥammad ibn Muḥammad, active 1426. Kashf al-qina firasm al-arba.
Mansuri Collection (Library of Congress) DLC.

Uniform title
Yawaqit fi maʻrifat al-mawaqii

Main title
Kitab al-yawaqit fi maʻrifat al-mawaqit

Description
8 leaves (33 lines), bound : paper ; 20 x 15 cm.

Binding:
New cardboard covered with cloth; leather spine.

Acquisition source, purchase:
Mahmud al-Mansuri ; 1945.

Additional formats:
Also available in digital form on the Library of Congress website.

LC control no:
2008401930

Geographic area code:
n-us-dc

Type of material:
Rare Book or Manuscript

Date posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2015.

__________________

Please click on either of the following two Library of Congress links for additional images of the manuscript:

Exclusive Photo Essay: Exceptional Work of Ismaili Volunteers by Muslim Harji

Volunteers are the backbone of the Ismaili community. From the very young to some of the oldest members of the jamat, volunteers are always present to support whatever work they are called upon to do. Montreal’s Muslim Harji offers a photo insight into the exceptional work of Ismaili volunteers at a jamati feast…. More

PLEASE CLICK: Working Behind the Scenes – The Exceptional Work of Ismaili Volunteers

Junior Ismaili Volunteers serving juice at a jamati jaman (feast). Please click on photo for photo essay. Photo: Muslim Harji.

Junior Ismaili Volunteers serving juice at a jaman (feast). Please click on image for photo essay. Photo: Muslim Harji.

Short Video Presentation: Recent Six Kilo Find of Fatimid Gold Coins is “a Scientific, Cultural Treasure”

The recent discovery of 2000 gold coins from the Fatimid Period has received world wide media coverage. The following three minute video presentation summarizes the coin findings as well as conveys the feelings of Dr. Robert Kool, curator of coins at the Israel Antiquities Authority.

For a detailed piece and photos about this Fatimid treasure find please see Phys.org’s article Largest Find of Medieval Gold Coins.

Also of interest: Discovery of Fatimid Glass in a Byzantine Shipwreck.

Date posted: March 25, 2015.

_____________

Please also see:

Exclusive Photo Essay: Montreal’s Beautiful 2015 Navroz Celebrations by Muslim Harji

Photographer Muslim Harji captures the spirit of the Navroz celebrations in Canada’s 2nd largest city, Montreal, with  a series of photographs portraying the beauty, diversity and happiness of the Ismaili jamat. The city is host to the largest contingency of Ismailis from Afghanistan in the Western world, and has been home to hundreds of Ismailis of South Asian origin, mainly from Africa, since the early 1970’s…..More

PLEASE CLICK: Exclusive Photo Essay: 2015 Navroz Celebrations in Montreal

Please click on photo for Montreal Navroz Celebrations.

Please click on photo for Montreal Navroz Celebrations.

A Simerg Brief: “I Absolutely Admire the Aga Khan” — Howard Shearer

Howard Shearer

Howard Shearer

Highly accomplished, Jamaican born Howard Shearer served as a member of McMaster University’s Board of Governors while heading Hitachi Canada Ltd. as its President and CEO. In an interview with the University’s McMaster Times for its 2008 Winter/Spring edition, Mr. Shearer talked about “Leading by a Moral Compass” that readers of this website will find interesting.

When asked, “What living person do you most admire?”, Howard Shearer replied:

His Highness the Aga Khan

His Highness the Aga Khan

“I have to say my mother. She dared us to imagine what is possible. That’s crucial. I absolutely admire the Aga Khan. He established a moral compass in terms of his teaching and his commitment to social responsibility – for contributing to society.”

As for his motto, Shearer explains, “Carpe diem. The opportunity to do something always exists today. I encourage people to make every effort to seize the opportunities that are in front of them and not to wait until tomorrow, because tomorrow will bring its own opportunities.”

To read Mr. Shearer’s inspiring interview, please click: Leading by a moral compass, and scroll to page 16.

Date posted: Monday, March 23, 2015.

____________

Nowruz Messages from Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and US President Barack Obama

STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER STEPHEN HARPER

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seen walking past the water pond of the Park located between the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum during the opening ceremony in September 2014 of the two cultural landmarks built by the 49th Ismaili Imam. Photo: The website of the Prime Minister of Canada, www.pm.gc.ca.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, seen walking past the water pond of the Park located between the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum during the opening ceremony in September 2014 of the two cultural gems built by the 49th Ismaili Imam. Photo: The website of the Prime Minister of Canada. See photo and video links below.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper on March 21, 2015 issued the following statement on the celebration of Nowruz:

“Laureen and I would like to offer our best wishes to everyone celebrating Nowruz both here in Canada and around the world.

“Nowruz, or ‘new day,’ is a festival that has been celebrated for thousands of years by Persian, Kurdish, Central Asian and Ismaili communities. It marks the beginning of spring and a New Year, and is an opportunity to reflect upon the past year, recognize good fortune, and look to the year ahead with hope. Our Government shares your optimism for the future and will continue to work to help create a year of peace and prosperity for all Canadians.

“Nowruz traditions include a spring cleaning of the home, preparation of the haft-seen table, the gathering of families and friends to share meals and gifts, as well as musical and dance performances. In addition, shortly before Nowruz bonfires are lit and individuals recite a special phrase that helps to symbolically carry away the hardships of the past year with the flames.

“Nowruz is an opportunity for all Canadians to learn about the ancient Persian festival and recognize the important contributions of Iranian-Canadian, Central Asian and Ismaili communities to building a peaceful, pluralistic and prosperous Canada.

“On behalf of all Canadians, I wish everyone celebrating Nowruz a happy and healthy New Year.

“Nowruzetan Pirouz!”

For more photos and a comprehensive 10 minute video of the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, please click on the following links:

________________

MESSAGES BY FIRST LADY, MRS MICHELLE OBAMA, AND PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

President Barack Obama hugs First Lady Michelle Obama in the Red Room of the White House prior to the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) reception on March 20, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama hugs First Lady Michelle Obama in the Red Room of the White House prior to the National Newspaper Publishers Association reception on March 20, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Excerpts from remarks by the First Lady, Mrs. Michelle Obama, at the White House on March 11, 2015:

“I think it’s so fitting that we’re holding this celebration here today because one of my favorite things about the White House is how it is truly the People’s House — a house that reflects the diversity of culture and traditions that make us who we are as a country. And Nowruz is one of those traditions.

“For more than 3,000 years, families and communities in the Middle East, Asia, and all around the world, including here in the United States, have celebrated this holiday to mark the renewal of the earth in springtime — and we’re finally feeling spring! To reflect on the year before, and to make new commitments for good health, prosperity in the year ahead.

“And just like in many of your homes, we have created our own White House Haft-Seen. As you all know, Haft-Seen [see Simerg’s piece The Beautiful Nowruz (Navroz) Tradition of Haft Sin – ed.] essentially means “Seven S’s,” and each “S” represents a different hope for the New Year — a hope for blessings like patience and love and sweetness. For example, we’ve got grass sprouts that represent rebirth and renewal of nature. We’ve got an apple for health and beauty. We have crushed berry spice that represents the sunrise and the spice of life.”

~~~~~

MESSAGE BY PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Date posted: March 22, 2015

_________________