Editor’s note: In Part II of a special series on the 49th Ismaili Imam’s visits to numerous countries that he undertook during 2015, we cover India (April), Canada (May) and Greece (September). Please click A Marvellous Collection of Photos of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visits to Canada, India and Greece.
Mawlid or Miladun Nabi is the observance of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, and is celebrated on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar. With the Islamic lunar calendar consisting of 354 days over a 12 month period, this celebration occurred earlier in 2015 during the first week in January, and will be commemorated once again on December 22 or 23.
To mark the Mawlid, we present you pieces by two fine writers, Michael Wolfe of the USA, who produced the highly acclaimed documentary Muhammad Legacy of the Prophet, and Izzat Muneyb of England, who contributed to the Ta’lim curriculum developed at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London.
As we remember our beloved Prophet, the Khatim an-Nabiyin (the seal of the Prophets) and the Al-Amin (the Trustworthy), we wish everyone a very happy and joyful Milad. The readings commence with a very pertinent message on the Prophet Muhammad by none other than His Highness the Aga Khan, the present 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismailis, who is lineally descended from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the first Imam.
THE HOLY PROPHET
By His Highness the Aga Khan
I have observed in the Western world a deeply changing pattern of human relations. The anchors of moral behaviour appear to have dragged to such depths that they no longer hold firm the ship of life: what was once wrong is now simply unconventional, and for the sake of individual freedom must be tolerated. What is tolerated soon becomes accepted. Contrarily, what was once right is now viewed as outdated, old-fashioned and is often the target of ridicule.
In the face of this changing world, which was once a universe to us and is now no more than an overcrowded island, confronted with a fundamental challenge to our understanding of time, surrounded by a foreign fleet of cultural and ideological ships which have broken loose, I ask, “Do we have a clear, firm and precise understanding of what Muslim Society is to be in times to come?” And if as I believe, the answer is uncertain, where else can we search then in the Holy Qur’an, and in the example of Allah’s last and final Prophet?
There is no justification for delaying the search for the answer to this question by the Muslims of the world, because we have the knowledge that Islam is Allah’s final message, the Qur’an His final book and Muhammad His last Prophet. We are blessed that the answers drawn from these sources guarantee that neither now, nor at any time in the future will we be going astray.
The Holy Prophet’s life gives us every fundamental guideline that we require to resolve the problem as successfully as our human minds and intellects can visualise. His example of integrity, loyalty, honesty, generosity both of means and of time, his solicitude for the poor, the weak and the sick, his steadfastness in friendship, his humility in success, his magnanimity in victory, his simplicity, his wisdom in conceiving new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam, surely all these are foundations which, correctly understood and sincerely interpreted, must enable us to conceive what should be a truly modern and dynamic Islamic Society in the years ahead….Excerpt from Presidential Address by His Highness the Aga Khan, Seerat Conference, Pakistan, 1976.
HOW A MUSLIM SEES MUHAMMAD
By Michael Wolfe
A lot of non-Muslims who know something about Islam as a religious practice are nonetheless in the dark when it comes to real knowledge of Muhammad. This, despite the fact that Muhammad is the guiding, human spirit of the religion.
Muslims see Muhammad as a human being who became a prophet and yet remained human all his life. He had a special access to God’s words, but he also worked for a living, married, and had children, led his people out of oppression and died at the age of 63 with his family at his side. They see him, that is, not the way Christians view Jesus but rather in the tradition of prophets like Abraham and Moses.
Muhammad never claimed to be divine, and he never attributed supernatural powers to himself. From the age of forty until his death, his mission was simply to convey a message, contained in the Qur’an, and to illustrate its spirit in his daily life. Muhammad received the Qur’an a few verses at a time, intermittently, over this long, eventful period, and he rendered it into language people could understand. That, he said, was his only miracle. He did not defy gravity or return the dead to life. He rebuked anyone who suggested otherwise.
Muslims have no pictures to suggest what he may have looked like. Their focus is on his message, not his face. If you spend any time at all with Muslims, you soon begin to see that they know Muhammad’s words and actions and quote them frequently.
This quotable aspect of the tradition is seemingly inexhaustible, running to thousands of pages. Together with the Qur’an, they form a cannon on which Islamic Law is based. In a less formal way, these reports of what Muhammad said and did are put to use daily as a yardstick against which people measure their actions and intentions.
Just as the words of Jesus are woven into the fabric of every European language so that, believer or not, most everyone knows who to credit with phrases like “Turn the other cheek,” “the meek shall inherit the earth,” and “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” so too for many Muslims the words of Muhammad are on the tips of their tongues and easily recognized.
In the published collections, these reports are often grouped by category, in sections with titles like “The Book Of Knowledge,” or “The Book of Prayer.”
“The Book of Knowledge” is both instructive and occasionally wry. What better sentence to write on the black board, for instance, than “Asking good questions is half of learning.” A page or two later, the value of knowledge is summed up in these terms: “People with knowledge and those who seek it are the only two groups of any use to humanity.” While truth’s poor keepers are succinctly dismissed, as in this gem: “Three agents destroy religion: an ill-tempered scholar, a tyrannical leader, and an ignorant theologian.”
“The Book of Charity” contains this unexpected advice: “Happy are those who find fault with themselves instead of finding fault with others.”
Morality is often expressed in terms so simple they arrest you, as in this maxim: “Avoid anything that requires an excuse.” At other times, the terms are earthy and even humorous: “If people had been forbidden to make porridge of camel dung, they would do it, saying that it wouldn’t be forbidden unless there was some good in it.”
And here is Muhammad on Humility: “Strength does not lie in carrying heavy loads: a camel can do that. The essence of strength lies in taming your temper and your anger.”
These statements full of wisdom were mostly coined on the spot, in response to particular situations, by a man aware of the limits of his knowledge. He only knew, he said, what God would show him.
Here is what God showed Muhammad about prayer: “During prayer, God lifts the veils and opens the gates of the invisible, so that His servant is standing in front of Him. Prayer creates a secret connection between the one praying and the One prayed to – Prayer is a threshold at the entrance to God’s reality.”
And what does the great Hindu sage Mahatma Gandhi say about Muhammad’s words? “They are among the treasures of Mankind, not merely Muslims…. A reverent study of the sayings of the different teachers of mankind is a step in the direction of… mutual respect.”
© Copyright: Michael Wolfe. Reproduced with the kind permission of Michael Wolfe.
IN PRAISE OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD
(May Peace Be Upon Him)
By Izzat Muneyb
Author’s note: This song introduces us to some of the titles by which Prophet Muhammad came to be known. They are: ‘Ahmad’, ‘Mustafa’, ‘Rahmatan li’l-‘aalameen and ‘King of law laak’. The words ‘law laak’ in Arabic mean, “Were it not for…” There is a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, where Allah speaking to His prophet, says, “Were it not for you, I would not have created the universe – law laaka lamaa khalaqtu’l-aflaaka.” 
N.B: The lines marked * are sung twice.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
Shall we call you Ahmad?*
He who is praised in heaven
Shall be praised here on earth.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
Shall we call you Mustafa?*
The Chosen of God on earth,
You have brought us the Qur’an.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
Shall we call you Rahmatan li’l-‘aalameen?*
God sent you as a Mercy
To the whole of creation.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
Shall we call you the ‘King of law laak’?*
Even God says He created
The universe for you.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
© Copyright: Izzat Muneyb.
Date posted: December 20, 2015.
 Source: Sukheel Sharif, The Jawziyyah Institute, 2006
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RELATED: Please also click Nativity of the Prophet Muhammad: The Mevlud/Mawlid Tradition to read an excellent piece contributed by Omid Safi.
BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE
Oft I sing Anand Anand
Lip service alone stirs
Not the heart to joy
Enshrined in us all
Is the primordial joy
Who will awaken it ?
Come ye Gardner of
The soul awaken in me
Open the door of joy
Lift the veil so I may see
The joy of perfection
In each cell the miracle
I am not so worthy
I need not strive
I live in the perfection
Of your creation
For you have laid
Your hand upon
My shoulder bowed
This Jubilee I await
To feel at depth
Come together in
Sat chit Anand
A prayer left my lip
Is your heart jumping with joy?
My heart in reflective pause
Shed a tear of inquiry
Nay! where is joy I asked
It is in your visage?
A prayer left my lip
Is joy a heart searching seed
Is it locked in the bud of the rose
In the first ray of sunlight
In the rising companion star
Counting hues of green in nature
A prayer left my lip
Will it grow for me?
Experience a petal of the rose
The hint of morning light
A naked sight the first star
In ever surrounding verdure
A prayer left my lip
The answer came
There it ever is
In the heart of man
In every sinew and pore
In every breath
In every smiling blink
The prayer left my lip
Hymnal songs of yore
It came back
To settle in my heart
Poured forth in song
In joy is enshrined
A dance of creation
A harmonious rhythm
A fine tuned fork
A Resonating universe
Is my Gods love
Is in my prayer
Life no Ponderous task
For in its joy of being
The incredible lightness
Leads moment to moment
To the Sirat of sat chit anand
The prayer left my lip
The answer is yout Jubilee
Date posted: December 15, 2015.
Copyright: Farida Keshavjee/Simerg.
Sat – Truth; pure and eternal that never changes.
Chit – Vision, knowledge.
Anand – Ecstasy, bliss, happiness.
Editor’s note: Shariffa Keshavjee of Kenya, a regular contributor to Simerg, recently heard a tape of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee Farman that was made in Kenya in which he asked “Are your hearts jumping with joy?” Tears flowed and the intezaar of the coming Diamond Jubilee came to her mind, inspiring Shariffa to pen the two poems. The Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan, inshallah, will be celebrated on July 11, 2017, when he will complete 60 years as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, in direct lineal descent of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and Mawlana Ali (a.s.), the first Imam. Co-incidentally, on July 1, 2017, Canadians will begin celebrating the 150th anniversary of their country with major events, festivities and programs around the country.
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The Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, issued the following statement on December 13, 2015, on the 79th birthday of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan:
“Today, we celebrate the birthday of His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, who has dedicated his life to the promotion of peace, pluralism, and compassion around the world.
“For over fifty years, the Aga Khan has been an inspiration to millions, working tirelessly to improve the health and education of those living in some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. As a global humanitarian leader, he has worked with many partners – including Canada – to implement vital programs that advance long-term solutions to poverty, illiteracy, and disease.
“I have seen first-hand the Aga Khan’s commitment to the ideals of diversity and inclusion. As a nation, we are proud His Highness was granted honourary Canadian citizenship for the leadership he has shown to advance development, pluralism, and tolerance – values that are at the core of our national identity.
“The world needs champions of diversity and compassion. Today, we are delighted to thank our good friend, the Aga Khan, for all that he has done to help those in need, and wish him good health, happiness, and peace on this special day.”
“Happy Birthday to the Hazar Imam” – Yasmin Rattansi, MP Don Valley E.
“Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to thank the constituents of Don Valley East for re- electing me to Parliament.
“My riding is proud to house three architectural jewels of Toronto: the Aga Khan Museum, the lsmaili Centre, and the Aga Khan Park built in Canada by His Highness the Aga Khan with his own funds.
“On December 13, His Highness will be celebrating his 79th birthday. I rise today in the House to pay a special tribute to a remarkable human being. His tireless efforts in building bridges across the globe, his commitment to eradicating poverty and ignorance for millions of people, irrespective of race or religion, through the AKDN network are unparalleled.
“I was fortunate to have worked with His Highness in establishing the Global Centre for Pluralism here in Ottawa.
“Happy birthday to the Hazar Imam. May all who come in touch with him benefit from his integrity, humility, honesty, and courage to do good.”
A Message and Tweets from the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne, and Arif Virani, MP Parkdale–High Park.
….and a Tweet from the 2 Ismaili Mountaineers, Mirza Ali and Samina Baig, who conquered the “Seven Summits”, i.e. the highest mountain in each of the 7 continents
Date posted: December 13, 2015.
Last updated: December 14, 2015 (Message from Ontario Premier)
BY DELIA CORTESE
Please read the PDF version of this article in History Compass at the Wiley Online Library by clicking on the above image or http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/hic3.12210/pdf.
Abstract (from History Compass): The Fatimids have been consistently studied as powerful contenders in the commercial and political control of the Mediterranean Sea. It is therefore surprising to find that only passing attention has been paid so far to the use of the Nile the Fatimids made as the ‘avenue’ through which goods from Africa and the Indian Ocean could be transported from Upper Egypt, to Cairo, then Alexandria and from there distributed to other Mediterranean ports. My argument in this paper is that the imperial aspirations of the Fatimids in Cairo and beyond were in many ways dependant on the unpredictability of the natural cycles that are characteristic of the river to this day but also on the Fatimids’ success or failure in politically and economically managing the varied social, political and trading activities that took place along the Egyptian section of the Nile valley. Beside commercial navigation, throughout the history of Egypt during the Fatimid period, the river was used for transport of people, water supply, the staging of state rituals and parades, as holiday destination for the imam-caliphs and their courts but also as a vehicle through which pilgrims form various regions of the Islamic world continued to penetrate Egypt whilst back and forth on their way to Mecca.
Read article in History Compass at the Wiley Online Library. Please click: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/hic3.12210/pdf.
Date posted: December 6, 2015
“When I leave this evening I would like that you should remember two things. One, that I will take with me in my heart the remembrance of each and everyone of you, the face of each and everyone of you. Secondly, that my love for my Jamat is a lot stronger than yours can ever be for me and I would like you to remember this…you must remember that Imam loves you more, much more than you can ever love him and you must be strong in this knowledge.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, Karachi, December 26, 1964.
Spread in various countries around the world, the Shia Imami Ismailis have their own innumerable ways for celebrating important religious occasions according to their various cultural, social and religious traditions and backgrounds. One very important occasion in the annual calendar of the Ismailis is the Salgirah, or the birthday of their spiritual leader (Imam). His Highness the Aga Khan is their present Imam, and Ismailis around the world will be marking his 79th Salgirah on December 13, 2015. The following readings will enhance the readers’ understanding about the occasion as well as the special relationship that binds the Imam of the Time with his spiritual children.
The term Salgirah is of Persian origin. Sal means anniversary and girah means knot and hence Salgirah literally means ‘an anniversary knot added on to a string kept for the purpose’. This article approaches the subject of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s birthday in terms of the Imam’s love for his murids and the love and devotion of the murids for their Imam.
+ Listen to ginan at Ginan Central
Eji Dhan Dhan Aajano has attained a very special status because it is primarily recited during the festivities marking the birthday of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The appropriateness of reciting the ginan during Salgirah will become apparent as we try to understand the ginan and its underlying spiritual teachings. To listen to various renditions of Eji Dhan Dhan (#160), as well as over 760 other ginans please click http://ginans.usask.ca/recitals/ginans.php?id=0.
The new Ismaili Constitution was ordained, signed and sealed by His Highness the Aga Khan on December 13th, 1986, his 50th birthday. His Highness did this with the belief that the Constitution would provide a strong institutional and organizational framework for his Ismaili community to contribute meaningfully to the societies among whom they live.
On the occasion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 75th birthday on December 13, 2011, Simerg published a three-part photo essay tribute to the 49th Ismaili Imam. For those who may have missed, the series has been consolidated into a captivating one piece photo essay, which can be read by clicking on the above link.
Date posted: November 28, 2015.
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Archives: Please click Table of Contents for links to all articles published on this blog since March 2009. Subscribe to this Website via the box near the top right of this page.
Date posted: November 26, 2015
IRRESPECTIVE OF AGE, THE ISMAILI IMAM’S STATUS IS EXALTED
“O Jamat do not consider me small. I am the descendant of the Prophet and my grandfather is Hazrat Amirul Mominin (Hazrat Ali) and my grandmother is Khatoon-e-Janat (the Lady of Paradise) Hazrat Bibi Fatima. I am the Light (Nur) of both Hazrat Ali and the Prophet (Muhammad). Though young in age I am exalted. We Imams change the physical bodies in this world but our Nur is eternal and originates from the very beginning. You should therefore take it as one Nur. The Light of God is ever present. The Throne of the Imamat of Mawlana Murtaza Ali continues and it will remain till the Day of Judgement.” — Quoted in “Le Renovation du Shiisme Ismailien en Inde et au Pakistan” by Michele Boivien. Click to Read More in a Special Photo Essay.
In about 20 months, on July 11, 2017, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan (addressed as Mawlana Hazar Imam by his Ismaili community) will, inshallah, complete 60 years of his reign as the 49th hereditary Imam of his worldwide followers. He became the Imam upon the death of his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, who had reigned the community for 72 years, having become the 48th Imam in August 1885 at the age of 7. The quotes mentioned at the top of this post refer to his young age when he became Imam. He was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877.
The late Imam went on to describe his own Diamond Jubilee, 60 years of Imamat, as an “incomparable occasion.” In this piece, we mark Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s 138th birth anniversary (which falls on November 2, 2015) with a collection of memorable photos, messages and quotes, particularly as they relate to his Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees that the Ismailis celebrated during his life time.
Date posted: November 1, 2015.
“The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself.” 
“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet. But let me clarify something more about the history of that role, in both the Sunni and Shia interpretations of the Muslim faith. The Sunni position is that the Prophet nominated no successor, and that spiritual-moral authority belongs to those who are learned in matters of religious law. As a result, there are many Sunni imams in a given time and place. But others believed that the Prophet had designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up — but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.
“…As you build your lives, for yourselves and others, you will come to rest upon certain principles. Central to my life has been a verse in the Holy Quran which addresses itself to the whole of humanity. It says: “Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women…”
“I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race — born indeed from a single soul.” 
‘Id-e-Ghadir is celebrated by the Shi ‘ite communities to mark the event that took place at Ghadir Khumm (Valley of the Pond) on the 18th Dhul-Hijjah (which falls on September 30 or October 1 in 2015). This event commemorates the designation (appointment by way of nass) of Hazrat All as the ‘Amir-ul-Mu’minin (commander of the faithful) and Imamul-Muslimin’ (the Imam of the community of believers) at Ghadir-i Khumm when the Prophet (s.a.s.) was returning from his Last Pilgrimage (hajjatul-wida) in the year 632 AC. On this occasion, the Prophet publicly proclaimed Ali to be his successor  in guiding the community after the end of the institution of Nubuwwah. According to the Shi’a doctrine, tradition and interpretation of history, the designation of Hazrat Ali marked the beginning of the institution of Imamah. The designated Imam was to continue the ta’wil (interpretation) and talim (teaching) of Allah’s Final Message, i.e. the Holy Qur’an.
Accordingly, throughout the course of the history, the Shi’a have commemorated this occasion as a mark of recognition and acceptance of Allah’s mercy to mankind by bestowing continued guidance. Each Imam, since the time of Hazrat Ali has designated his successor. The Imam in his time has continued to guide his followers according to the prevailing conditions. His function has always been to look after the welfare of the community both in spiritual and worldly (material) matters. His guidance to his followers is that they should lead their lives in such a way so as to practice their Faith with a sense of balance and harmony, ensuring that there is no conflict between the two aspects of an individual’s life. The practice of the Faith thus becomes the way of life.
Presently, the Shi’a Imami Ismaili Muslims celebrate the day of accession of their present Imam to the office of Imamah as Yaum-e Imamat or Imamat Day. This occasion is celebrated as a mark of gratitude to Allah in having bestowed His mercy and bounty in guiding them through the office of the Imam on Sirat al-Mustaqim (the Straight Path).
Date re-posted: September 30, 2015 (The Id-e-Ghadir article had first appeared on this blog in 2013, and has been adapted from Ilm magazine, December 1989).
 Voices: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale (English translation)
 In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race
 Vagglieri, Ghadir Khumm, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol II, E.J. Brill, 1965, pp. 993-994
“….The tallest mountain near Mecca is Abu Qubays, which is round like a dome, so that if you shoot an arrow from the foot of the mountain it reaches its top.…Having come into the city, you enter the Haram Mosque, approach the Ka’ba, and circumambulate….. always keeping the Ka‘ba to your left [shoulder]. Then you go to the corner containing the Black Stone, kiss it, and pass on….”
PLEASE CLICK: Naser-e Khosraw’s Pilgrimages to Mecca
Date posted: September 17, 2015.