Rare Video: A Glimpse of the Hajj from 61 Years Ago, With Footage of Mata Salamat, the Begum Aga Khan

Mata Salamat Begum Aga Khan at the Hajj

Om Habibeh, Mata Salamat, the Begum Aga Khan (1906-2000) at the Hajj in 1954. According to the footage she was accompanied by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan (Mohammad Ali Bogra). Click on image below to watch the rare video

Date posted: November 26, 2015

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Glimpses of His Highness the Aga Khan from Harvard, as he prepares to speak at the University on November 12th, 2015

His Highness the Aga Khan will deliver the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs on 12 November. Entitled “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World”, his lecture is expected to cover the challenges to pluralism and cosmopolitanism. After the lecture there will be a conversation with Diana L. Eck

Although tickets for the lecture are no longer available, the entire event will be webcast live on http://www.akdn.org starting at 4pm EST.

Please check this website again on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, for speech and interview excerpts as well as a fine selection of photographs related to the event.

His Highness the Aga Khan graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honours in Islamic History. This is his portrait in a Harvard University blazer as he smiles with an armful of books, on the Harvard Campus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1958. Copyright: Photo by Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

His Highness the Aga Khan graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honours in Islamic History. This is his portrait in a Harvard University blazer as he smiles with an armful of books, on the Harvard Campus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1958. Copyright: Photo by Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

ON HIM BECOMING THE 49TH IMAM

“The summer before his senior year, Prince Karim Khan ’58 received unexpected news. His grandfather, His Highness Aga Khan III, had died, and his will named Karim — fondly known by his classmates as ‘K’ — as his successor, making him Aga Khan IV. And so, at 20 years old, Karim became the leader of the Ismaili Muslims, a sect of Shia Islam with over 15 million followers who consider him a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

“Once Karim became the Aga Khan, the Islamic history concentrator no longer led a student’s life. 

“[Aga Khan III] plucked K right out of the College,” said David H. Rhinelander ’58, one of Karim’s freshman roommates in Wigglesworth Hall. “He moved to a hotel and had to begin to run his empire while he was a student.” — Excerpts from an article by Nini S Moorhead published in the Harvard Crimson, June 2008.

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SOCCER TEAM

“The varsity soccer team opens its season this afternoon against Tufts and the game will be one of experimentation for Crimson coach Bruce Munro. He has had to revamp his lineup several times because of an alarming number of injured personnel, including Karim Aga Khan, the starting outside left. Larry Ekpebu will start for Khan at outside left, while Ken Marmar will open at outside right.” — Harvard Crimson, October 1, 1958.

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SCHOLARSHIP ESTABLISHMENT

“Karim Aga Khan ’59, who graduates with the Class of 1959 tomorrow, has established a ten-year program of scholarships for students attending Harvard from India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Persia, and East Africa.

“In a statement, the Aga Khan said that he will never regret his decision, after succeeding to his grandfather’s title, to return to Harvard to his studies. He added that he was ‘particularly impressed by the recent growth of facilities for the study of Middle Eastern and Asian affairs’.” — Harvard Crimson, June 10, 1959.

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LAUNCH OF ARCHNET

“The Aga Khan ’59, spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims, joined the presidents of Harvard and MIT Friday to launch the world’s largest online resource for scholars of Islamic architecture.

“The resource, called ArchNet, contains over 600,000 images of Islamic architecture, tools for discussion and collaboration online among scholars and access to key journals of Islamic architecture. Harvard served as one of the primary collaborators in the creation of the site.

“Those speaking at Friday’s launch said they hoped the free site would provide architects, urban-planners and academics in resource-poor areas the tools they need to study, and give the Western public an opportunity to experience Islamic culture.

“In a brilliant way, [ArchNet] combines new technology and ancient culture to do something that is really quite important,” University President Lawrence H. Summers said in his remarks to the 150-person audience at MIT’s Media Laboratory.” — Harvard Crimson, September 30, 2002.

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HONORARY DOCTOR OF LAWS DEGREE

His Highness the Aga Khan receives an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo: AKDN.

His Highness the Aga Khan receives an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo: AKDN.

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FLASHBACK TO THE 48TH IMAM AND HARVARD

“The Aga Khan, world-famous leader of the Ismaili Community, a sect of the Moslem religion, has endowed a professorship of Iranian at the University, President Pusey announced yesterday.

“The chair, to be known as the Aga Khan Professorship of Iranian, will be devoted to the study of the history and civilization of Iran. Its purpose, according to the Khan, is “to preserve and transmit to future generations knowledge of the rich heritage of the Iranian past.”

“At the same time, Sadruddin Aga Khan, son of the Aga Khan, has established the Ismaili Community Fellowships for the study of the Middle East here.

“In announcing the gifts, Pusey said, ‘The sentiment of the Aga Khan and his son, Sadruddin, in thus fostering the growth of understanding between the East and the West is one we all deeply share. Certainly, all peoples around the world need to know and better understand the cultural heritage of those who are our neighbors in the modern age’.” — Excerpts from the Harvard Crimson, December 6, 1956

Date posted: November 11-12, 2015.

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Please visit http://www.thecrimson.com – the daily newspaper of Harvard

Memorable Photos, Quotes and Messages of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III

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.

Reverse of a medal commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Aga Khan III. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, Pakistan

Reverse of a medal commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan III. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, Pakistan. Please click on photo for article on the Jubilees.

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.

PLEASE CLICK: Photo Essay: The Historical Jubilees of His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957), the Imam of the Socio-Economic Revolution

Date posted: November 1, 2015.

Ismaili Historical Insights: (I) 1925: Mahatma Gandhi on the Meritorious Deed of a Khoja Ismaili

Letter From Publisher

Simerg's Merchant

Simerg’s Merchant

By Abdulmalik J. Merchant

Simerg’s new feature Short Historical Insights is intended to make history educational, interesting and stimulating for readers through anecdotes, facts, stories as well as images related to Ismailis and their Imams, in no more than  500 words. Information in the series will be unearthed from a maze of documents, including those that are not easily accessible due to their sheer size or location, or material which, in the broader scope, would be of interest for research on specific themes. Of course, we will also rely on other well-known (or lesser-known) treatises and texts as well as libraries and museums for this new feature.

For the first episode, we go to a massive work called The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi and reveal a story that appears in Volume 33, which is dedicated to the period from September 1925 to February 1926 in Gandhi’s life. During his visit to Mundra in Gujarat, the father of India, is frustrated with members of his own faith with respect to their treatment of the Untouchables* and, somewhat grudgingly, praises the work of one Khoja (Ismaili) named Ibrahim Pradhan Saheb, who has unselfishly built a school for the outcast children.

This anecdote, by none other than Mahatma Gandhi, is an excellent example of the Ismaili spirit of loyalty to their countries of birth or adoption, a matter which Ismaili Imams have placed on their followers as one of their two principal obligations during their lifetime, the other being their loyalty to the Ismaili Muslim faith. Ibrahim Pradhan was an exemplary Ismaili in this regard, and we are pleased to provide a short account of his contribution from Mahatma’s own two speeches made in 1925.

Readers are invited to contribute to this new feature by submitting their pieces to  Simerg@aol.com. We always acknowledges letters and submissions from non-anonymous sources.

Ibrahim Pradhan’s Meritorious Deed As Recorded By Mahatma Gandhi

102 – Gandhi’s Speech at Mundra, November 1, 1925, page 177 – 181

Mahatma Gandhi spinning yarn in the 1920's. Photo: Wikipedia.

Mahatma Gandhi spinning yarn in the 1920’s. Photo: Wikipedia.

(It is noted by Mahadev Desai that Mahatma Gandhi began his speech with “Antyaja brothers and sisters, their sympathizers, and other Hindu brothers and sisters”)

” ….It is wrong to invite me to a place where the entire public believes in untouchability. It is an insult to invite me to a place where the untouchables are treated with nothing but contempt. After having come here, I heard of the school for the untouchables. I felt that at such a place the Antyajas [lit. the last born – ed] would receive service. I would congratulate Ibrahim Pradhan Saheb on the school but the Hindu public deserves no such congratulations. Its existence puts the Hindus to shame. It is a matter of shame for me if a Muslim builds a Siva temple for my benefit. I was pleased to see the school’s activity of spinning and weaving; however, I immediately felt that neither I nor the Hindus could take credit for this meritorious deed. I can have no sense of satisfaction if a Muslim recites the Gayatri mantra instead of me. I can only feel satisfied when a Brahmin comes along and offers to recite the  Gayatri for me. However, in this case, the Khojas are doing the work that should be done by Hindus. Here, no one is bothered in the least about the Antyajas. I do not see any non-Antyajas except the guests sitting among the  Antyajas here before me. Even those who go around with me during the day have abandoned them and are seated in the enclosure for high-caste gentlemen. If you could rip open my heart today, you would find it crying — ‘O Lord! Could this be the Hindu dharma, where no one cares for the Antyajas? Is there not a single person in the town who will come to their rescue’?…

103 – Gandhi’s Reminiscences of Kutch, November 1, 1925, pages 181-187

Location of Mundra in the Kutch district of  India's Gujarat State. Image: Wikipedia.

Location of Mundra in the Kutch district of India’s Gujarat State. Image: Wikipedia.

I had my bitterest experience in Mundra. I found only hypocrisy, insincerity and play-acting there. Even Muslims were made to sit in the enclosure for those who supported untouchability as if they too believed in it. Hence, only my companions and the Muslim volunteers remained in the section reserved for Antyajas. Many among the Hindu volunteers, though they claimed that they did not believe in untouchability at all, were nevertheless kept in the enclosure meant for those who did believe in it.

There is a school for the Antyajas in Mundra but it is a philanthropic Muslim gentleman, Sheth Ibrahim Pradhan, who runs it at his own expense. The school may be regarded as good up to a point. The children are kept very clean. The building is in the centre of the city. The children had even been taught Sanskrit verses, [which they recited] in a broken accent. Spinning, carding, ginning and weaving were taught in the school itself. Only children’s clothes were not made of khadi [handspun and hand-woven cloth – ed.]; however, the organizers had gone in for the cloth believing it to be pure khadi. The reader might perhaps conclude that this school would give me some satisfaction. It gave me no satisfaction but caused me grief, rather, as the credit for it would not go to a Hindu. I have already mentioned the name of the gentleman who finances it.

Yerawada (or Aga Khan) Palace, now the Gandhi Memorial, was built by the 48th Ismaili Imam to provide a means of livelihood to the famine stricken people in Pune. Historically, the palace holds great significance. Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary Mahadev Desai were interned in the palace from 9 August 1942 to 6 May 1944.  In 1969, the current 49th Ismaili Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, donated the Palace to the Indian people as a mark of respect to Gandhi and his philosophy. Today, the palace houses a memorial on Gandhi where his ashes were kept.

Yerawada (or Aga Khan) Palace, now the Gandhi Memorial, was built by the 48th Ismaili Imam to provide a means of livelihood to the famine stricken people in Pune. Historically, the palace holds great significance. Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary Mahadev Desai were interned in the palace from 9 August 1942 to 6 May 1944. In 1969, the current 49th Ismaili Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, donated the Palace to the Indian people as a mark of respect to Gandhi and his philosophy. Today, the palace houses a memorial on Gandhi where his ashes were kept.

The gentleman in charge of this school is the heir of the Aga Khan in Mundra. Sheth Ibrahim Pradhan deserves all praise for his charity, as I was informed that this school is not being run for the purpose of converting the untouchables or schoolchildren to Islam, but in order to enable them to make progress as Hindus. The people of Mundra also informed me that the gentleman in charge, Mauledina Meghji was a Vedantin [belonging to a school of Indian philosophy – ed.] and a learned person. All this must be regarded as satisfactory. However, what is the contribution of the Hindus? Untouchability is an ugly blot on the Hindu religion, it is a sin. The Hindus alone can do prayaschitta [atonement for sins] for it. The dirt on my body will go only when I myself remove it.

This institution adds to the prestige of Sheth Ibrahim Pradhan, and to that extent to the shame of the Hindus.

Date posted: July 26, 2015, word count, appx. 400 words.

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Notes and references:

*Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India’s people live….Although the Indian constitution makes caste discrimination illegal, Untouchables living at the bottom of society are subjected to indignities” — from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0306/feature1/

See complete volume 33 at http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL033.PDF.

Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat — (III) Ismaili Imams on Succession, the Noor of Imamat, and Imam’s True Reality

“The Imam’s true face is to be perceived with the eyes of the heart.
He has thousands of physical habitations, but his true home is traceless;
He has had a thousand names, but all of them refer to one reality.”
33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al-Salam, 15th Century

1. SUCCESSION

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III. Photo Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London by Elliott & Fry photograph.

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III. Photo Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London
by Elliott & Fry photograph.

 By Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah,
His Highness the Aga Khan III

“Ever since the time of my first ancestor Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants whether they be sons or remoter male issue.

“In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place including the discoveries of atomic science I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Shia Moslem Ismailian Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.

“I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my son Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to be the Imam and Pir of all my Shia Ismailian followers.”

2. THE MOMENT OF SUCCESSION, THE HEREDITARY INSTITUTION AND THE NOOR OF IMAMAT

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

By Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

“The [installation] ceremony is a public installation of the Imam. The Ismailis pay homage to the Imam and that is when you are recognised by the world at large as the Imam.

“Officially as soon as one Imam passes away, his successor takes on from the very minute the Imam has passed away .” [1]

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“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet….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 the 49th Imam, I have for the past 50 years, looked after two inseparable responsibilities: overseeing the spiritual wellbeing of Ismailis, as well, at the same time, as focusing on improving their quality of life and that of the people with whom they live.” [2]

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“For hundreds of years, my spiritual children have been guided by the Rope of Imamat; you have looked to the Imam of the Age for advice and help in all matters and through your Imam’s immense love and affection for his spiritual children, his Noor has indicated to you where and in which direction you must turn so as to obtain spiritual and worldly satisfaction. [3]

3. TWO 15TH CENTURY ISMAILIS IMAMS ON ZAHERI AND BATINI DIDAR, AND IMAM’S ESSENCE

(a) Imam Mustansir bi’llah

Pandiyat-i- Jawanmardi or Counsels of Chivalry is a compilation of the guidance of the 32nd Ismaili Imam, Mustansir bi’llah, who lived in the 15th century. This book contains exhortations to the faithful on the necessity of recognising and obeying the current Imam and on how to live a truly ethical life. The circumstances that led to the compilation of the work are intriguing, and are alluded to in many of the manuscripts copies as follows:

When Pir Taj al-Din passed away, a number of people from the Sindhi Ismaili Community went to the Imam. Upon arrival they pleaded: “Our Pir Taj al-Din has passed away. Now we are in need of a Pir.” The Imam then had the Counsels of Chivalry compiled and gave it to them saying: “This is your Pir. Act according to its dictates.”

In one of the chapters, the Imam enumerates the importance of both the Zaheri and Batini aspects of the Imam’s Didar. He recognizes and acknowledges the sacrificing spirit of the Jamat, in serving him and in observing religious duties.

He says:

“They (the Jamat, the community) have given up their property, and even their lives. All of them have faithfully submitted their religious dues. Others have travelled long distances through arduous conditions by land and sea, braving storms and incurring great expense.

“Some attend religious assemblies to increase their knowledge while others, without any worldly motive, perform acts of charity to benefit the poor.

“Some have acted with noble actions in the cause of faith, including special devotions, worship and especially remembrance (zikr), continually invoking the Lord throughout the night, never neglecting God for even a moment, and worshipping him out of passionate devotion.

“All believers are urged to come into the presence of the Imam and to see him with their own eyes.

“Thus, the esoteric (batini) vision, realized through pious works and the constant remembrance of God during the nightly vigil, as well as the exoteric (zaheri) vision, achieved by travelling to the Imam’s residence and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, become the ultimate purpose of human life.

“Piety should be for the purpose of recognizing and beholding God, which is achieved through the recognition and vision of the Imam of one’s time.”

(b) Imam ‘Abd al-Salam

There is an ode of the 33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al-Salam in which he says that the talisman (anything that has magical powers) that can open the treasure trove of spiritual meaning of the Holy Qur’an is the Imam. This ode is lucidly explained by Dr. Shafique Virani in his path breaking book, “The Ismailis in the Middle Ages.”

In the ode the Imam observes that the true essence of the Imam cannot be recognized with earthly, fleshly eyes, for these can only see his physical form, perishing like all else with the passage of time. His true face is to be perceived with the eyes of the heart. He has thousands of physical habitations, but his true home is traceless; he has had a thousand names, but all of them refer to one reality.

The Imam continues by saying that today he is known as ‘Abd al-Salam, but tomorrow the physical body will be gone and the name will change, yet the essence will remain in the next Imam of the lineage. Those who look at the Imam as they squint will consider him like any other human being, but as soon as the eyes of the heart perceive correctly, his true status is discovered. In form the Imams change, but in meaning and substance they are changeless. Human language cannot attain to the majesty of the Imams.

The Imam is the most precious ingredient in the supreme elixir (miraculous substance) of eternal life-red sulfur. He is not simply a pearl, but the ocean that gives birth to pearls. The existence of the Imam, who leads humankind to a recognition of God, is the very pinnacle of creation.

Date posted: July 10, 2015.

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Previous posts in this special series:

References:

[1] Click http://www.nanowisdoms.org

[2] Click 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

[3] Farman Mubarak Pakistan Visit 1964, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan. Quoted also in Ilm magazine,  July 1975, Volume 1, Number 1, page 27, published by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom (known since 1986 as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board or ITREB)

Note: Reading 3 compiled from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages, by Shafique N. Virani, and Pandiyat-i Jawanmardi, translated by Professor Vladimir Ivanow). Image courtesy of roseannapiter.com

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Reminiscences of Two Great Ismaili Missionaries of the 20th Century – Pir Sabzali and Meghji Missionary

“[Pir Sabzali and Meghji Missionary] drew all their courage and strength from their intense and ardent practice of Ibadat and went out to accomplish their missions with intelligence and knowledge, and with the firm belief that the help of Hazar Imam was always with them.”

A youthful portrait of the Ismaili missionary, Meghji Maherali (1881 – 1941), of Mombasa, Kenya. Photo Credit: Archives of the family of Meghji Missionary. Copyright.

BY IZAT VELJI

My profound gratitude and thanks [to the late Ameer Janmohamed] for sharing so much about Pir Sabzali – it is indeed a living history. The personal comments and recollections made his Thank You Letter to Pir Sabzali all the more interesting and real. The group picture shown below of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah with Ismaili missionaries astonished me because there in the photo staring back at me is my nanabapa [maternal grandfather]. I happen to be the proud grand-daughter of Missionary Meghji Maherali, seated at the extreme left in the centre row. In the same row, third from right, is Pir Sabzali.

Every time missionary Pir Sabzali came into Mombasa, he never left without visiting nanabapa. The two had ever so much to share. There was no rivalry, competition or one-upmanship between them. This was very evident from everything that my mother, Noorbanu, shared with us kids.

Mum said that at the dining table, Pir Sabzali and nanabapa shared stories about their travels and advised and helped each other on how to improve each other’s skills in establishing the various jamats they visited. They also discussed ways of improving their waezes [sermons] and participation in discussions so as to become more effective. Apparently, there was a lot of gentleness and warmth as well as mutual respect between them, and they had a soft sense of humour when they recounted personal anecdotes. It seems like they really fed off each other. Pir Sabzali would relay messages of blessings to nanabapa’s family from Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah.

Please click to enlarge and read caption. Photo: (Late) Ameer Janmohamed Collection. UK.

Later, they would retire to the front room where nanima would send a tray of chai and ‘goodies’ via my mum, who was then seven or eight years old. She remembered all this with so much pride and joy. My mum passed away in 2000. She said that the two missionaries would sit for hours apparently discussing all matters Ibadat (special worship prayers).

They drew all their courage and strength from their intense and ardent practice of Ibadat and went out to accomplish their missions with intelligence and knowledge, and with the firm belief that the help of Hazar Imam was always with them. With missionary Sabzali’s encouragement and help, nanabapa established a school of waezins in Mombasa, one of his recruits being my father, Noordin Koorjee. Even back then, our missionary leaders practised ‘succession planning’ so that Imam’s work would not come to a standstill after they passed on.

These two ashaqs [devotees] were very sincere in their service to Mawla, and deeply loyal to their Mashuq (the lord of the devotee).

STANDING BACK ROW- l to r: Missionary’s sons Gulamhussein, Fatehali, Sherali, Hussein; 2nd child Mehdi Gulamali is not in picture; SITTING ON CHAIRS – l to r: Daughters Khatija, Fatma, Missionary Meghji Maherali, wife Zainub with Hussein’s 3rd child Shirin, Hussein’s wife, Sikina; SITTING ON FLOOR – l to r: Dolat – Hussein’s 1st child, daughter Noorbanu (mother of Izat Velji, author of this article). Photo Credit: Archives of the family of Meghji Missionary. Copyright.

When Pir Sabzali’s health deteriorated and he was in his last days, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah sent him a message saying that he still wished to send Sabzali to Africa. Missionary Sabzali died a few days later. This came verbally from my parents, not once but several times. I have no way of authenticating this statement, but if it’s true then only Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mawlana Shah Karim, the present Imam, would know the true import and reach of this message to Pir Sabzali.

When nanabapa died, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah sent a telegram to the Mombasa Council that “Missionary Meghji’s funeral be held with a lot of pomp because of Meghji’s long and wonderful service to the Mombasa jamat.” So, out came the Scouts Band, all spit and polish followed by the cubs and scouts troops followed by the jamat giving kandh to nanabapa all the way from Chief jamat khana to the cemetery. That’s a long distance.

Today, almost eighty years later, I stand head bowed, in sheer admiration for nanabapa and Missionary Sabzali, whose soul was granted Piratan by Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah. Incidents and events like these are simply overwhelming and sometimes difficult to grasp and comprehend. It is their spirit and devotion which keep the Jamat inspired.

Copyright: Izat Velji/Simerg.

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Editor’s note: Izat Velji’s piece originally appeared on this website in response to Ameer Janmohamed’s Thank You Letter to Pir Sabzali and the Ismaili Pirs of the Ginanic Tradition, which was  published as part of this website’s highly acclaimed third anniversary series on thanking Ismaili historical figures.

We welcome your feedback – please click Leave a comment.

About the writer: Izat Velji spent her early childhood years in Kenya and Tanzania. After completing her secondary schooling in Kenya, she pursued a degree in education and teaching at the University of Nairobi. She then settled in Canada where she completed her degree in Medical Lab Sciences. Later, she was recruited into the faculty of the Aga Khan School of Nursing in Karachi where she taught a number of science subjects including Clinical Microbiology and Basic Immunology. During her tenure in Karachi, she was very fortunate to have met His Highness the Aga Khan who visited her lab and class, once with the late Pakistani President Zia ul-Haqq, and on another occasion with his brother Prince Amyn. Encouraged by her husband, Izat also undertook voluntary assignments with the Aga Khan Health Board for Karachi to develop, conduct feasibilities as well as implement Health Education materials for the province of Sindh and the Northern Areas of Pakistan including Hunza and Chitral. The material that she helped prepare continues to be used today by AKDN Agencies such as Focus in their teaching modules. Since returning to Canada, Izat has been very active with the Ismaili community as a volunteer and especially with the Duke of Edinburgh’s program for youth aged 14 to 25. Most recently in 2011, she was acknowledged by the Governor General at the Gold Award Ceremony.

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History in the Making: Establishment of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal

COMPILED BY SIMERG

Please click on photo for enlargement

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims  directly descended from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.). Photo: AKDN/Anya Campbell. Copyright.

A portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of Shia Ismaili Muslims. Photo: AKDN/Anya Campbell. Copyright.

In an unprecedented historical event, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, and Portugal’s Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Rui Machete, came together at the historic Necessidades Palace in Lisbon on Wednesday June 3, 2015, to sign a landmark agreement to establish the Seat of the Imamat in Portugal. The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s).

The Agreement marks the first such accord in the Ismaili Imamat’s modern history. It will come into effect once it has been approved by Portugal’s Parliament and ratified by the President of the Portuguese Republic. Present at the signing ceremony was Portugal’s Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho and other senior government officials.

Thanking the government for inviting the Ismaili Imamat to establish its permanent seat in Portugal, His Highness the Aga Khan (known to his 15 millions Ismaili followers as Mawlana Hazar Imam), hailed the agreement as a historic milestone in the Imamat’s history and said:

“Today is a unique and important occasion, where for the first time in our history we will have the opportunity to work with a partner with whom we share so many values, so many hopes and so many desires.”

He expressed the hope that the agreement would be approved by the Portuguese Parliament  through the democratic process, and that once it was ratified both the Imamat and Portugal could work together to achieve results that could not be achieved by working alone. His Highness also mentioned his community’s great respect and admiration for Portugal, a country where faith is integrated with civil society, a country where all people are happy, or at least the majority are happy, in a world where happiness is unusual.

The agreement establishing Portugal as the seat of Imamat took place at the Palace of Necessidades. It  is a historical building in the Largo do Rilvas, a public square in Lisbon, Portugal. It serves as headquarters of the Portuguese Foreign Ministry. Palace Photo Photo: Wikipedia.

The agreement establishing Portugal as the seat of Imamat took place at the Palace of Necessidades. It is a historical building in the Largo do Rilvas, a public square in Lisbon, Portugal. It serves as headquarters of the Portuguese Foreign Ministry. Palace Photo: Wikipedia.

The Institution of the Ismaili Imamat goes back 1400 years when, according to Shia Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Ali Ibn Talib (a.s.) to be the first Imam, and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Imam Ali and his daughter Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra (a.s).

The Ismailis are the only Shia Muslim community led by a living Imam who is vested with global religious authority and has the responsibility for the community’s spiritual and material well-being.

The succession of Imamat is by way of Nass [designation], it being the absolute prerogative of the current Imam to appoint his successor from amongst any of his male descendants whether they be sons or remoter issue.

The present 49th Imam, Prince Karim, succeeded to the throne of Imamat at the age of twenty on July 11, 1957 upon the demise of his late grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, who  served the community for 72 years, beginning in 1885 when he was only seven years old.

The historical accord will result in intensified cooperation between Portugal and the Ismaili Imamat in supporting research and the knowledge society and in improving the quality of life of Portugal’s inhabitants.

Responding to the historic signing, the Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho said at Wednesday’s ceremony:

“The decisive step taken today will enable the deepening of cooperation, until today essential focused on the social area, with the Imamat Ismaili community beginning to support Portuguese institutions dedicated to excellent research on a wide variety of fields of knowledge.

“I am present here today due to it being a historic moment which brings a long and intense relation existing between Portugal and the Ismaili community to a new level, reflecting particularly the importance of the Ismaili community that resides in our country and Portuguese speaking African countries.”

The Prime Minister also pointed out Mawlana Hazar Imam’s role in “promoting a more tolerant world,” and also said that the choice of Portugal as the seat of the Ismaili Imamat was an acknowledgment of the Portuguese community’s ability to promote dialogue and tolerance between peoples, cultures and beliefs.

2014 Twelve Piece Collection from Simergphotos: Selected Photos Spanning the Reign of Two Ismaili Imams – Glimpses of 130 Years of Ismaili History

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Photo Essay: The Ismaili Centre – “Peace Through Prayer” and “A Splendid Reality”

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Photos and Videos: Simerg Captures the Spirit of the Jamat on the Opening Day of the Ismaili Centre in Toronto, Canada

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The message appeared in the Diamond Jubilee Yearbook published in Dar-es-Salaam on 10th August 1946. See cover of special issue following message transcript below.

Special Photo Essay: A Collection of 48 (Plus One) Images from the Glorious Life of the 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

PLEASE CLICK: A Collection of 48 (Plus 1) Memorable Images from the Life of the 48th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan III

Post Layout Aga Khan Special Collection 2Our beloved 48th Imam, Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.), His Highness the Aga Khan, was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877. He assumed the Imamat at the age of 7 in August 1885, and became the longest-serving Imam in Ismaili history. He passed away on July 11, 1957, at the age of 79, bequeathing the hereditary throne of Imamat to his grandson, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan, the current 49th Imam who has been on the throne for 57 years. In his tribute to his grandfather, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity.”…..Photo Collection

A Collection of Readings on Imam Hussein and Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan – Two Ismaili Imams Who Lived 1250 Years Apart

IMAM SULTAN MAHOMED SHAH, HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN (1877 – 1957)

Aga Khan Post ImageOur beloved 48th Imam, Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.) was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877. He assumed the Imamat at the age of 7 in August 1885, and became the longest serving Imam in Ismaili history. He passed away on July 11, 1957, at the age of 79, bequeathing the hereditary throne of Imamat to his grandson, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan, the current 49th Imam who has been on the throne for 57 years. In his tribute to his grandfather, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity.”…..Read More

IMAM HUSSEIN (626 – 680 CE)

Imam Hussein Post LinkOur beloved second Imam, Hazrat Hussein (a.s.) was born on January 8, 626 AC. He began his reign as the 2nd Ismaili Imam* on the death of his father, Hazrat Ali, on January 27, 661. Imam Hussein was martyred in the Battle of Karbala on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram, or October 10, 680, at the age of 54. He was succeeded to the hereditary throne of Imamat by Imam Zainul Abideen. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and thus shorter than the 365 day solar calendar. This year (2014), the 10th day of the Muharram falls on or around November 3/4……Read more

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*Note: Although Shia Nizari Ismailis consider Imam Hussein (a.s.) as the second Imam, he is generally regarded as the 3rd Imam by other Shia Muslims, who treat his brother Hazrat Hassan (a.s.) as the second Imam.

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