Imamat Day Mubarak: The House of Imran and the Progeny of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s)

Chapter 3 Surat al ʿIm'ran - The Family of Imran - 33 and 34

~~~~~~~~~Art work Nurin Merchant, Credit: Infinity design povray.org

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“We search for a union with the family of the Chosen (Prophet Muhammad). We search for the truth of son after son. We are totally obedient to his offspring, one of the other. There is no other thing we can add to this but itself. We endeavour in our faith so that we do not turn out to be faithless.”
Ismaili poet NIZAR QUHISTANI

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Aga Khan III

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, is pictured above at his enthronement as 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Ismaili Muslims in Bombay at the age of seven. His reign lasted for 72 years. In his will, he proclaimed Prince Karim Aga Khan as the 49th Imam with the following words:

“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.”

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Aga Khan IV enthronement at Villa Barakat in Geneva

Through the special designation (or the Nass) of the late Imam, Shah Karim al-Hussaini became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Nizari Ismailis at the age of twenty.

Shortly after, the newly enthroned Imam met Ismaili leaders and representatives from around the world, and also made the following statement:

“My grandfather dedicated his life to the Imamat and Islam, both of which came first, and above all other considerations. While I was prepared that one day I might be designated the Aga Khan I did not expect it so soon. I follow a great man in a great responsibility and he could have given me no more appreciated honour than to bequeath me this spiritual leadership. My life, as his, will be dedicated to the service of my followers.”

Date posted: July 10, 2014, 23:26 EDT.

For Victoria Day, A Small Dedication to Queen Victoria, with Reflections on Her Majesty by the Aga Khans

Post compiled by Malik Merchant,
Publisher-Editor, Simergphotos.com and Simerg,com

Introduction: Victoria Day is a Federal Canadian public holiday celebrated on the last Monday before May 25, in honour of Queen Victoria’s birthday. Queen Victoria was born on May 24, 1819. Following the death of three uncles and her father, she became Queen of the United Kingdom on June 20, 1837 and reigned for 63 years until her death on January 22, 1901. Queen Victoria is still the longest-reigning monarch of the United Kingdom.

OTTAWA, CANADA

Queen Victoria Monument

Queen Victoria officially chose Ottawa as Canada’s capital in 1857. Nearly forty years later, a monument to Queen Victoria, intended as part of a lavish celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the sixtieth year of her reign, was proposed for the Hill. The competition for this monument was only open to Canadian sculptors. Louis-Philippe Hébert, a sculptor from Quebec, won the contract. Before being placed on Parliament Hill, the statue was first displayed at the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1900.

HISTORICAL FAMILY PHOTO OF QUEEN VICTORIAQueen Victoria

Queen Victoria and family. Copyrighted by Boussod Valadon & Co. Painting by John Philip. Date created/published c.1897. Credit: USA Library of Congress Collection

QUEEN VICTORIA’S VISIT TO THE ARCTIC SHIP RESOLUTE

Queen Victoria visIts Resolute

HMS Resolute was a mid-19th-century barque-rigged ship of the British Royal Navy, specially outfitted for Arctic exploration. Resolute became trapped in the ice and was abandoned. Recovered by an American whaler, she was returned to Queen Victoria in 1856. This is an illustration of the visit of Her Majesty Queen Victoria to the Resolute on December 16th, 1856, to whom this engraving is by special permission respectfully dedicated by her obedient servants, P. & D. Colnaghi & Co. Credit: USA Library of Congress

AN INCREDIBLE TECHNOLOGICAL
ACHIEVEMENT 150 YEARS AGO

Queen Victoria and President Buchanan Telegraphic Exchange

A telegraphic message of Queen Victoria and a reply by US President James Buchanan by trans-Atlantic telegraph cable on 16 August 1858. The Queen’s message congratulates the President for the completion of an electrical cable between the two nations, and wishes prosperity for the United States. In response, President Buchanan says that the accomplishment “is a triumph more glorious, because far more useful for mankind, than was ever won by a conqueror on the battlefield.” He continues, “May the Atlantic Telegraph under the Blessings of Heaven prove to be a bond of perpetual peace and friendship between the kindred nations, and an instrument destined by Divine Providence to diffuse religion, civilization, liberty and law throughout the world.” Date work created/published: 1858. Medium: 1 print : wood engraving. With vignette busts of the principals and scenes of the event; also inscribed are the names of 4 men who made the even possible: [Benj.] “Franklin”, [S.F.B.] “Morse”, [Cyrus] “Field”, and [Hans Christian] “Oersted”. Credit: USA Library of Congress Collection

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THE AGA KHANS ON QUEEN VICTORIA

0459_001-s-nf-THUMB- I -

“Over a century ago, my grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, worked closely with Her Majesty Queen Victoria and her governments in the pursuit of common ideals. These ties were further strengthened by the strong presence of the Ismaili community – initially in places which later became Commonwealth countries, and later, here in the United Kingdom.

“It is striking to me that in 1957, there were only about 100 Ismaili residents in this country, and most of them were students. Today, there are fourteen thousand Ismailis permanently living here and of all ages and walks of life.

“In 1957, there was only one Ismaili space here for congregational prayer – and that was on leased premises! Creating places of prayer as centres for community life was fundamental to ensuring the cohesion of the community, and there are now over 40 such places. Among them, of course, a central focal point is The Ismaili Centre, located in South Kensington.

All of these comments, then, speak to the context in which we gather tonight – a rich history of partnership reaching deeply into the past – and extending, we hope and trust, into an even more productive future….” — Excerpts from a speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Golden Jubilee Banquet in London, UK, July 3, 2008.

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Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957), direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) and 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. Photo: Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London.

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957), direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) and 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. Photo: Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London.

- II -

“The first deep impression of my life was undoubtedly when I had dinner with Queen Victoria. I was in my 20th year and that was my first visit to London. The queen was fond of Indian potentates and she kindly invited out to Windsor to dine and spend the night. She placed me next to her at the table. The queen was most gracious. She arranged that the food was served by Indians, and she spoke to me about the problems of India, the plague and all that. She was especially interested in the plague. I was young and I was particularly interested by her human element. She was then 79, you know, and the dinner was very long, with three sweet courses at the end, but she ate everything. She was dressed in black, with a white-collar. She wore a huge bracelet having a medallion of her husband, Prince Albert, on it, and one large diamond ring and several smaller diamonds. She did not wear glasses but she saw clearly and she had beautiful hearing — she could hear a whisper. She was a remarkable woman — yes, undoubtedly, I must be one of the few left alive who have dined with her” — His Highness the Aga Khan, quoted in Life Magazine, May 16, 1949.

- III -

“My life in many ways has been a bridge across vastly differing epochs. Looking at it for the moment simply from the Western point of view — I had a full life in the Victorian era, and I am leading now an equally full life in this new Elizabethan era. When I was a young man I sat next to Queen Victoria at a dinner party and talked to her throughout it; the other day I sat next to Queen Elizabeth II at a tea party and talked to her throughout it.

“In my youth the internal combustion engine was in its early, experimental phase, and the first motor cars were objects of ridicule; now we all take supersonic jet propulsion for granted, and interplanetary travel is far more seriously discussed today than was even the smallest flying venture at a time when I was quite grown up and had already lived a full and active life. I had the great honor of knowing Lord Kelvin, in his time the greatest physicist in the world; he assured me solemnly and deliberately that flying was a physical impossibility for human beings and quite unattainable. Even H. G. Wells in his early book, Anticipations, put off the conquest of the air and the discovery of atomic power for two or three centuries. Yet these and much more have come to pass in a brief half century” — His Highness the Aga Khan III, writing in Memoirs of Aga Khan, 1954.

His Highness the Aga Khan received the title “His Highness” from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on July 26th 1957. Here he is pictured with Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip when the Queen hosted a dinner hosted to mark the Ismaili Imam’s Golden Jubilee and to acknowledge the close relationship he and his family have had over generations with the British Monarchy and the UK. Photo Credit: Akdn.org

- IV -

“Queen Victoria herself was of course sharply conscious of the responsibilities, not only political but personal and social, which she had assumed with the splendid title of Empress of India. She insisted that Indian Princes and Indian gentlefolk should receive the respect and the dignified status accorded in those days to European princes and gentlefolk. The Duke of Connaught faithfully practiced her principles during his time in India. The Viceroy and Vicereine, Lord and Lady Dufferin, were, like Lord and Lady Reay, people of kind and gentle sensibility, warm hearts and graceful manners. A tone thus set could not be ignored, and Indo-British relationships in general were in this pattern.

“There is an outstanding example that I recall: Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy, a notable figure in the Parsee community in Bombay, gave a reception for the Viceroy and Vicereine, Lord and Lady Dufferin, for the Governor of Bombay and his wife, Lord and Lady Reay, and for the Duke and Duchess of Connaught. Sir Jeejeebhoy, as host, offered his arm to Lady Dufferin and went into the supper room, and the Viceroy followed with his hostess, Lady Jeejeebhoy, and everyone else went after in turn. A few years later – and thereafter, until the end of the Indian Empire — it would have been inconceivable that the Viceroy, a Prince of the British Royal House and the Governor of the great province of British India, would have gone to a reception at the house of a Parsee gentleman, however distinguished, and allowed him to lead the Vicereine in first and then have followed with his hostess.” — His Highness the Aga Khan III, writing in Memoirs of Aga Khan, 1954

HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN’S GIFT TO QUEEN VICTORIA

Queen Victoria Tiara

All photos: Princess Louise, Duchess of Connaught and Strathearn

“In 1896, a year before her Diamond Jubilee, an inventory of Queen Victoria’s jewels was made by Garrard, the crown jeweler. There weren’t many tiaras on the list — only five. But one of the five on the list was this one: the tiara given to her by the Aga Khan.

“The inventory describes the tiara as, ‘A pearl and diamond tiara with 12 Bouton and 12 pear-shaped pearls with a diamond chain to form a necklace, presented by Aga Khan’.

“To my knowledge, there are no images, painted or photographed, of Victoria in this tiara. However, we do know that Victoria bequeathed the tiara to one of her daughters-in-law: Princess Louise of Prussia, the wife of Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn – Elia Kay writing in her blog Tiara a Day, please click The Victorian Aga Khan Tiara.

Date posted: Saturday, May 17, 2014, for Victoria Day Holiday Weekend, Canada. The post is repeated with minor updates from an earlier version which appeared at the photoblog, http://www.simergphotos.com.

 

Exclusive: The Myanmar Jamatkhana by Muslim Harji @Simergphotos

PLEASE CLICK: Photo Essay: The Ismaili Jamatkhana in Myanmar, With Notes on the Community’s Patriotic Spirit

Also, publishing on Sunday, April 20, 2014: Concepts of Modern Cosmology
and Astrophysics in the Ginans

Please click on image for photo essay. Copyright: Muslim Harji

Please click on image for photo essay. Copyright: Muslim Harji

 

“Work No Words” by His Highness the Aga Khan, and Other Rare Ismaili Historical Quotes on Service

Compiled and prepared by Abdulmalik J. Merchant
Publisher-Editor, Simerg.com

As Canada pays its respect to the volunteers by marking the week of April 6, 2014, as Volunteer Week, we bring you some very rare historical quotations on service and voluntary work which appeared in a special Ismaili Volunteers, Scouts and Guides Souvenir published in 1954 to jointly commemorate the 48th Ismaili Imam’s Platinum Jubilee and the 35th anniversary  of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Bombay Volunteer Corps.

WORK NO WORDS

His Highness the Aga Khan III, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah (1877 - 1957)

“Today I will give you  a small motto and that is “Work No Words”. Labour for the welfare of others  is the best way of improving ourselves, because results are sure and certain. If you work for yourselves, you are never happy. This is not a new idea, but this is an outcome of the experience of thousands of years of history.” –  48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957)

DISCIPLINE AND SERVICE

My dear Hazar Imam’s Spiritual Child,

I enclose the photo which you ask for the Souvenir Number of the Ismaili Volunteers, Scouts and Guides.

My message to the Volunteers, Scouts and Guides is:

“I ask you all to remember the great opportunities you have for discipline and service in your organization. Discipline is very important in life, and by making good use of the training you now have, you are laying the foundations for useful and happy lives. I send my loving thoughts and best wishes to you all.”

Yours affectionately,

Om Habibeh,
Mata Salamat
The Begum Aga Khan (1906-2000)

NOBLE WORK

The New Prince Karim Aga Khan IV in Switzerland after the passing away of  the Aga Khan III.

“Your patriotism and loyalty must be sincere, active, and productive. Please follow this advice, be industrious and hardworking. The work done for the good of the community is always noble and verily we are taught that all good deeds shall be compensated four-fold.” — His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan (the present 49th Ismaili Imam)

PIR SABZALI

Pir Sabzali (1871 - 1938) - bestowed with the title of a Pir by Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan.

“Itmadi Sabzali has revealed his spiritual power to thousands of people. He was the standard-bearer of the devotees. He passed away leaving a permanent void in this world but his soul has attained salvation.

“Itmadi Sabzali has rendered such service to us that after his death we have given him the status of Pir.  If others also render like service, they too shall attain such a status. During the period of 54 years of my Imamat,  to only one person have I given this status.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan

ONE BIG FAMILY

Aga Khan III Platinum Jubilee in India, officiated by son Prince Aly Khan

“Every Ismaili, man and woman, and child should grow up with the feeling and certain knowledge that they are a member of one great family, powerful and respected throughout the world, beyond the hills and across the seas…If each person is aware of this fact, it will give them extra courage and self-assurance.” – Prince Aly S. Khan (1911-1960)

RESPONSIBILITIES OF
THE RICH

“I would suggest that the richer and more fortunate a man is, the more he should be thinking of others and not himself. It is the duty of rich Ismailis to think of their poor brethren and give them a much-needed lift in life.”  — Prince Aly S. Khan

EXCELLENT SERVICE

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

“I have great pleasure in enclosing my photograph and congratulate Pirmahomed V. Madhani and the various members of the Volunteer Corps for the excellent services they have rendered to their Imam and their brother Ismailis.” — Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933-2003)

RAISING THE BANNER OF FAITH

“The future of Ismailism depends on those of your age and mine. Are we to follow the example of those who in Egypt, in Iran and in Sind, on different occasions by their faith and devotion, raised the banner of the Hazar Imam till the whole world saw its light? I say, Yes. For we young men must not fail where our fathers succeeded so gloriously.” — Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

LESSONS FROM HISTORY

This thoughtful study of the late Aga Khan was done in clay by his late wife, the Begum Aga Khan. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

“Ismailis under Imams did great things in past. With same devotion, unity, obedience and discipline – and no jealousy – similar occasions will arise for greater deeds.”  – Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan

PERFORM YOUR BEST

“Everyone must follow the ideal of performing the greatest amount of work and service to the Ismaili faith. I, therefore, expect every Ismaili to consider the work allotted to him his sacred duty to perform to the best of his abilities, and to do utmost. He who serves me most becomes nearer to me.” – Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan

YOUTH RESPONSIBILITIES

“Young people ought to be explained that besides lucrative jobs, there should be aim of service to the community.” – Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan

TIME

A man’s chief capital is time and that if he wastes time, he wastes his greatest asset which can never be recouped.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan

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PLEDGE
Front Cover of 1954 Souvenir

Front Cover of 1954 Souvenir. Photo: Noordin Babul

THE FOLLOWING IS THE 1954 VOLUNTEER PLEDGE OF LOYALTY TAKEN BEFORE A CANDIDATE WAS ADMITTED AS AN ISMAILI VOLUNTEER

“Believing in the Omnipresence of God,
I hereby solemnly give this pledge
To ever remain faithful
And leave no stone unturned
to serve Mawlana Hazar Imam, our community,
our country, and our volunteer corps.”

Date posted: Friday, April 11, 2014.

Note: With the exception of the image of the cover page, the last photo shown, none of the portrait thumbnail photos shown in the piece belong to the souvenir.

______________________

All quotations taken from “Ismaili Volunteers , Scouts and Guides Souvenir in Commemoration of His Royal Highness Prince Aga Khan’s Platinum Jubilee and Completion of 35 Years of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Bombay Volunteers Corps” published by Lt. Col. Pirmohamed Madhani, 1954. The rare copy of the souvenir was submitted to Simerg by Mr. Noordin Babul and family, originally of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique, and now residing in Texas.

 

 

 

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

“As we all know, Canada is home to a well-established and
fast-growing Ismaili community. His Highness has therefore
become an increasingly frequent visitor, and always a welcome one.”
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper walk the Hall of Honour at the Parliament of Canada. where His Highness delivered an address to both the Houses on Thursday, February 27, 2014. This impressive ceremonial hall is used for state occasions, parliamentary events, and formal processions such as the Speaker's Parade. The Hall of Honour is part of the central axis of the Centre Block, joining Confederation Hall to the Library of Parliament, and providing access to the main committee rooms. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper walk the Hall of Honour at the Parliament of Canada. where His Highness delivered an address to both the Houses on Thursday, February 27, 2014. This impressive ceremonial hall is used for state occasions, parliamentary events, and formal processions such as the Speaker’s Parade. The Hall of Honour is part of the central axis of the Centre Block, joining Confederation Hall to the Library of Parliament, and providing access to the main committee rooms. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

Material compiled and presented by Abdulmalik Merchant
Publisher-Editor, www.simerg.com

The following are thematic excerpts from His Highness the Aga Khan’s address to the Parliament of Canada on Thursday, February 27, 2014. A collection of selected links to the full speech text, the speech video as well as information related to the events that took place at the Parliament is provided at the end of this piece. Note - several photos are clickable for enlargement. See also new post His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada: Selected Excerpts from the Live English Translation of Remarks Made in French

1. THE ISMAILI IMAMAT REPRESENTS THE SUCCESSION OF IMAMS SINCE THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD

His Highness the Aga Khan is applauded by the Prime Minister, Members of the House, as well as other distinguished visitors as he arrives  in the House of Commons on Thursday, February 27, 2014 to deliver a rare address - the first by a faith leader in 75 years. The Ottawa Citizen published a similar photo on its front page of Friday February 28, giving it the title "In Divine Company." Alongside the Ismaili Imam are his daughter Princess Zahra and the Prime Minister's wife, Laureen Harper. Others in the photo, in rows adjacent to Mrs. Harper (l to r) -- 1st row: The Aga Khan's younger brother, Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin, Former Governor General of Canada, The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, and renowned Canadian author, intellectual and philosopher,  John Ralston Saul; 2nd row (l to r). President Malik Talib of the Aga Khan Ismaili Councli for Canada, Prince Hussain Aga Khan, Princess Salwa Aga Khan and her husband Prince Rahim Aga Khan - with both the Princes in the photo being the Aga Khan's children. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

His Highness the Aga Khan is applauded by the Prime Minister, Members of the House, as well as other distinguished visitors as he arrives in the House of Commons on Thursday, February 27, 2014 to deliver a rare address – the first by a faith leader in 75 years. The Ottawa Citizen published a similar photo on its front page of Friday February 28, giving it the title “In Divine Company.” Alongside the Ismaili Imam are his daughter Princess Zahra and the Prime Minister’s wife, Laureen Harper. Others in the photo, in rows adjacent to Mrs. Harper (l to r) — 1st row: The Aga Khan’s younger brother, Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, The Right Honourable Beverly McLachlin, Former Governor General of Canada, The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, and renowned Canadian author, intellectual and philosopher, John Ralston Saul; 2nd row (l to r). President Malik Talib of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada, Prince Hussain Aga Khan, Princess Salwa Aga Khan and her husband Prince Rahim Aga Khan – with both the Princes in the row being the Aga Khan’s children. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim

I propose today to give you some background about myself and my role, and then to reflect about what we call the Ummah — the entirety of Muslim communities around the world.

I will comment, as a faith leader, on the crisis of governance in so much of the world today, before concluding with some thoughts about the values that can assist countries of crisis to develop into countries of opportunity, and how Canada can help shape that process.

First then, a few personal words. I was born into a Muslim family, linked by heredity to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family). My education blended Islamic and Western traditions, and I was studying at Harvard some 50 years ago (yes 50 years ago — actually 56 years ago!) when I became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

His Highness the Aga Khan at the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014. Photo: Copyright Jean-Marc Carisse.

His Highness the Aga Khan at the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014. Photo: Copyright Jean-Marc Carisse.

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.

An expression of gratitude and humility by His Highness the Aga Khan as he accepts a standing ovation at the Canadian Parliament on Thursday February 24, 2014. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seen applauding, with Princess Zahra, the daughter of His Highness, and Laureen Harper, the Prime Minister's wife, standing alongside the 49th Ismaili Imam. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

An expression of gratitude and humility by His Highness the Aga Khan as he accepts a standing ovation at the Canadian Parliament on Thursday February 27, 2014. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is seen applauding, with Princess Zahra, the daughter of His Highness, and Laureen Ann Harper, the Prime Minister’s wife, standing alongside the 49th Ismaili Imam. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada

The role of the Ismaili Imam is a spiritual one; his authority is that of religious interpretation. It is not a political role. I do not govern any land. At the same time, Islam believes fundamentally that the spiritual and material worlds are inextricably connected. Faith does not remove Muslims — or their Imams — from daily, practical matters in family life, in business, in community affairs.

Faith, rather, is a force that should deepen our concern for our worldly habitat, for embracing its challenges, and for improving the quality of human life.

This Muslim belief in the fusion of Faith and World is why much of my attention has been committed to the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.

2. COMMUNITY IN 1957 AND NOW, WORLD CONFLICTS AND THE RESILIENCE OF THE ISMAILI PEOPLE

In 1957, when I succeeded my grandfather as Imam, the Ismaili community lived for the most part in the colonies or ex-colonies of France, Belgium and the British Empire, or behind the Iron Curtain. They are still a highly diverse community, in terms of ethnicity, language, culture, and geography. They continue to live mostly in the developing world, though increasing numbers now live in Europe and North America.

Before 1957, individual Ismaili communities had their own social and economic institutions where that was allowed. There was no intent for them to grow to national prominence, and even less a vision to coordinate their activities across frontiers.

Today, however, that situation has changed, and the Aga Khan Development Network has a strong presence in several dozen countries, where appropriate regional coordination is also useful.

His Highness the Aga Khan and the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, face eager cameras at the Canadian Parliament Building on Thursday, 27 February, 2014. An oil on canvas painting of The Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, Prime Minister (1867-1873; 1878-1891) adorns a wall as part of the House of Commons Heritage Collection, while the Ismaili Imamat and Canadian Flags form a backdrop in this historical photo. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

His Highness the Aga Khan and the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the Prime Minister of Canada, face eager cameras at the Canadian Parliament Building on Thursday, 27 February, 2014. An oil on canvas painting of The Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald, Prime Minister (1867-1873; 1878-1891) adorns a wall as part of the House of Commons Heritage Collection, while the Ismaili Imamat and Canadian Flags form a backdrop in this historical photo. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

The AKDN — as we call it — is composed of a variety of private, non-governmental, non-denominational agencies implementing many of the Imamat’s responsibilities….Most of our AKDN activities have been born from the grass-roots of developing countries, reflecting their aspirations and their fragilities. Through the years, of course, this landscape has changed fundamentally, with the creation of new states like Bangladesh, the horrors of ethnic cleansing in Uganda, the collapse of the Soviet empire and the emergence of new countries with large Ismaili populations such as Tajikistan.

More recently, of course, we have faced the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria. But through all of these experiences, the Ismaili peoples have demonstrated an impressive capacity to persevere and to progress.

3. COMMON DENOMINATORS OF THE HUMAN RACE,
CANADA’S LEADERSHIP AND COLLABORATIVE WORK

Our work has always been people-driven. It grows out of the age-old Islamic ethic, committed to goals with universal relevance: the elimination of poverty, access to education, and social peace in a pluralist environment. The AKDN’s fundamental objective is to improve the quality of human life.

Amongst the great common denominators of the human race is a shared aspiration, a common hope, for a better quality of life. I was struck a few years ago to read about a UNDP survey of 18 South American states where the majority of the people were less interested in their forms of government, than in the quality of their lives. Even autocratic governments that improved their quality of life would be more acceptable for most of those polled than ineffective democratic governments.

I cite that study, of course, with due respect to governmental institutions that have had a more successful history — including certain very distinguished parliaments!

But the sad fact behind so much instability in our world today is that governments are seen to be inadequate to these challenges. A much happier fact is that, in the global effort to change this picture, Canada is an exemplary leader.

His Highness the Aga Khan seen smiling in a lighter moment  during his address to both the Houses of the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014. Referring to the two gold medals won by the Canadian hockey teams in the Sochi Olympics, the Ismaili Imam remarked, "As an ex-player myself I was hoping you would require your honorary citizens to join your team. I am convinced that the Dalai Lama and I would have been a formidable defence.  Photo credit : The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

His Highness the Aga Khan seen smiling in a lighter moment during his address to both the Houses of the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014. Referring to the two gold medals won by the Canadian hockey teams in the Sochi Olympics, the Ismaili Imam remarked, “As an ex-player myself I was hoping you would require your honorary citizens to join your team. I am convinced that the Dalai Lama and I would have been a formidable defence.” Photo credit : The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

One of our earliest collaborations was to establish the first private nursing school in Pakistan, in cooperation with McMaster and the CIDA of that time. It was the first component of the Aga Khan University — the first private university in that country. The nursing school’s impact has been enormous; many of those who now head other nursing programmes and hospitals in the whole of the region — not just Pakistan — are graduates of our school. Canada was also one of the first donors to the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Northern Pakistan, tripling incomes in this remote, marginalised area….

I could speak about our close ties with Canadian universities also, such as McMaster, McGill, the University of Toronto, and the University of Alberta, enhancing our own institutions of tertiary education — the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia.

The latter institution has resulted from the Imamat’s unique, tripartite treaty with the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It serves some 22 million people who live in Central Asia, in hillside and high mountain environments, areas of acute seismic and economic vulnerability.

I could list many more examples in cultural development and in scientific research. And we are especially proud of the Global Centre for Pluralism here in Ottawa, a joint project of the Imamat and the Canadian government.

4. CANADA’S 150TH ANNIVERSARY AND THE IMAMAT PARTNERSHIP WITH CANADA

In just three years, Canada will mark its 150th anniversary, and the whole world will be ready to celebrate with you. Sharing Canada’s robust pluralistic history, is a core mission of our Global Centre, and 2017 will be a major opportunity for doing so, operating from its headquarters in the former War Museum on Sussex Drive. Perhaps 2017 and the celebrations can be a catalyst with our neighbours to improve the entire riverfront area around that building.

Our partnership in Canada has been immensely strengthened, of course, by the presence for more than four decades of a significant Ismaili community. Like most historic global communities the Ismaili peoples have a variegated history, but surely our experience in Canada has been a particularly positive chapter.

His Highness the Aga Khan signs the visitors books for the House of Commons and the Senate in the Canadian Parliament Rotunda as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his wife Laureen Harper, The Honourable Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons and the Honourable Noël Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate look on. Photo credit: TheIsmaili/Gary Otte.

His Highness the Aga Khan signs the visitors books for the House of Commons and the Senate in the Canadian Parliament Rotunda as Prime Minister Stephen Harper, his wife Laureen Harper, The Honourable Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons and the Honourable Noël Kinsella, Speaker of the Senate, and other individuals look on. Photo credit: TheIsmaili/Gary Otte.

I happily recall the establishment of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat here in 2008 and the Prime Minister’s description that day of our collaborative efforts to make Canada “the headquarters of the global effort to foster peace, prosperity, and equality through pluralism.”

We are deeply pleased that we can sign today a new Protocol with your Government — further strengthening our ongoing platform for cooperation.

As we look to the next 25 years of the AKDN, we believe that our permanent presence in the developing world will make us a dependable partner, especially in meeting the difficult challenges of predictability.

5. THE ISLAMIC UMMAH AND INCLUSIVENESS OF OTHER FAITHS DURING THE ABBASID AND FATIMID ERAS

Against this background, let me move on to the broad international sphere, including the role of relations between the countries and cultures of Islam — what we call the Ummah — and non-Islamic societies. It is central to the shape of global affairs in our time.

I would begin by emphasising a central point about the Ummah often unseen elsewhere: the fundamental fact of its immense diversity. Muslim demography has expanded dramatically in recent years, and Muslims today have highly differing views on many questions.

Essential among them is that they do not share some common, overarching impression of the West. It has become commonplace for some to talk about an inevitable clash of the industrial West and Islamic civilizations. But Muslims don’t see things in this way. Those whose words and deeds feed into that point of view are a small and extreme minority. For most of us, it is simply not true. We find singularly little in our theological interpretations that would clash with the other Abrahamic faiths — with Christianity and Judaism. Indeed, there is much that is in profound harmony.

Officers of the Royal Mounted Canadian Police Salute as His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Harper walk up the stairs at Parliament Hill on Thursday, February 24, 2014. COC Photo by Jason Ransom

Officers of the Royal Mounted Canadian Police Salute as His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Harper walk up the stairs at Parliament Hill on Thursday, February 27, 2014. COC Photo by Jason Ransom

The complexity of the Ummah has a long history. Some of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history were purposefully built on the principle of inclusiveness — it was a matter of state policy to pursue excellence through pluralism. This was true from the time of the Abbasids in Baghdad and the Fatimids in Cairo over 1,000 years ago. It was true in Afghanistan and Timbuktu in Mali, and later with the Safavids in Iran, the Mughals in India, the Uzbeks in Bukhara, and Ottomans in Turkey. From the 8th to the 16th century, al-Andalus thrived on the Iberian Peninsula — under Muslim aegis — but also deeply welcoming to Christian and Jewish peoples.

Today, these Islamic traditions have been obscured in many places, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

6. AGA KHAN TRUST FOR CULTURE
AND THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM

A depiction of the  Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre which  are nearing completion in Toronto, Canada.

A depiction of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre which are nearing completion in Toronto, Canada.

The work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture….is to revive the memory of this inclusive inheritance. Another immediate initiative is the Aga Khan Museum which will open this year in Toronto, an important testimonial in a Canadian setting to the immense diversity of Islamic cultures.

7. SUNNI AND SHIA TENSIONS AND IMPORTANCE FOR NON-MUSLIMS TO COMMUNICATE WITH BOTH PARTIES

Perhaps the most important area of incomprehension, outside the Ummah, is the conflict between Sunni and Shia interpretations of Islam and the consequences for the Sunni and Shia peoples.

This powerful tension is sometimes even more profound than conflicts between Muslims and other faiths. It has increased massively in scope and intensity recently, and has been further exacerbated by external interventions. In Pakistan and Malaysia, in Iraq and Syria, in Lebanon and Bahrain, in Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan it is becoming a disaster. It is important, therefore, for non-Muslims who are dealing with the Ummah to communicate with both Sunni and Shia voices. To be oblivious to this reality would be like ignoring over many centuries that there were differences between Catholics and Protestants, or trying to resolve the civil war in Northern Ireland without engaging both Christian communities. What would have been the consequences if the Protestant-Catholic struggle in Ireland had spread throughout the Christian world, as is happening today between Shia and Sunni Muslims in more than nine countries? It is of the highest priority that these dangerous trends be well understood and resisted, and that the fundamental legitimacy of pluralistic outlooks be honoured in all aspects of our lives together — including matters of faith.

8. THE WORLD HAS TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO CIVIL SOCIETY

By Civil Society I mean an array of institutions which operate on a private, voluntary basis, but are motivated by high public purposes. They include institutions devoted to education, culture, science and research; to commercial, labor, ethnic and religious concerns; as well as professional societies in law, accounting, banking, engineering and medicine. Civil Society encompasses groups that work on health and safety and environmental matters, organisations that are engaged in humanitarian service, or in the arts or the media.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Harper in a conversation as they proceed to the signing ceremony of  the protocol of understanding between the Ismaili Imamat and Canada. They are flanked on either side by the flags of the red and green flags of the Ismaili Imamat and the maple leaf of Canada. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Harper in a conversation as they proceed to the signing ceremony of the protocol of understanding between the Ismaili Imamat and Canada. They are flanked on either side by the red and green flag of the Ismaili Imamat and the maple leaf flag of Canada. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

We see it expanding in many places, from Sub-Saharan Africa to Tunisia and Egypt, from Iran to Bangladesh. At a time of extreme danger in Kenya a few years ago — the beginnings of a civil war — the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, led the way to a peaceful solution which rested heavily on the strength of Kenya’s Civil Society.

Increasingly, I believe, the voices of Civil Society are voices for change, where change has been overdue. They have been voices of hope for people living in fear.

They are voices that can help transform countries of crisis into countries of opportunity. There are too many societies where too many people live in a culture of fear, condemned to a life of poverty. Addressing that fear, and replacing it with hope, will be a major step to the elimination of poverty. And often the call for hope to replace fear will come from the voices of Civil Society.

9. UNDERPINNINGS OF A QUALITY CIVIL SOCIETY

I believe that Canada is uniquely able to articulate and exemplify three critical underpinnings of a quality Civil Society — a commitment to pluralism, to meritocracy, and to a cosmopolitan ethic.

A cosmopolitan ethic is one that welcomes the complexity of human society. It balances rights and duties, freedom and responsibility. It is an ethic for all peoples, the familiar and the Other, whether they live across the street or across the planet.

Quality education is fundamental to the development of a meritocratic Civil Society, and thus to the development of pluralistic attitudes.

The history of Canada has a great deal to teach us in this regard, including the long, incremental processes through which quality civil societies and committed cultures of pluralism are built. One of the watchwords of our new Global Centre for Pluralism is that “Pluralism is a Process and not a Product.” I know that many Canadians would describe their own pluralism as a “work in progress,” but it is also an asset of enormous global quality.

The Old Canadian War Museum will become the future site of the Global Centre for Pluralism, once renovations  are completed inside the building. The Centre is governed by an international Board of Directors chaired by His Highness the Aga Khan. The Global Centre for Pluralism was inspired by the example of Canada’s inclusive approach to citizenship, and works to advance respect for diversity worldwide, believing that openness and understanding toward the cultures, social structures, values and faiths of other peoples are essential to the survival of an interdependent world.

The Old Canadian War Museum will become the future site of the Global Centre for Pluralism, once renovations are completed inside the building. The Centre is governed by an international Board of Directors chaired by His Highness the Aga Khan. The Global Centre for Pluralism was inspired by the example of Canada’s inclusive approach to citizenship, and works to advance respect for diversity worldwide, believing that openness and understanding toward the cultures, social structures, values and faiths of other peoples are essential to the survival of an interdependent world.

What more will a quality Civil Society now require of us? Sadly, the world is becoming more pluralist in fact, but not necessarily in spirit. “Cosmopolitan” social patterns have not yet been matched by “a cosmopolitan ethic.” In fact, one harsh reality is that religious hostility and intolerance seems to be on the rise in many places — from the Central African Republic, to South Sudan, to Nigeria, to Myanmar, the Philippines and other countries — both between major religious groups and within them.

Again, Canada has responded in notable ways, including the establishment — just one year ago — of the Office of Religious Freedom. Its challenges, like those facing the Centre for Global Pluralism, are enormous and its contributions will be warmly welcomed. And surely it will also serve as a worthy model for other countries.

In sum, I believe that Civil Society is one of the most powerful forces in our time, one that will become an increasingly universal influence, engulfing more countries, influencing, reshaping and sometimes even replacing ineffective regimes. And I also believe that Civil Society around the world should be vigorously encouraged and wisely nurtured by those who have made it work most successfully — Canada first amongst all.

10. THANK YOU PRIME MINISTER

The Aga Khan Development Network has worked over five decades to assist in the enhancement of Civil Society. And as we look to its future, we are honoured that Canada views us as a valued partner. Thank you Prime Minister. One key to Canada’s success in building a meritocratic Civil Society is your recognition that democratic societies require more than democratic governments.

11. “ENLIGHTENED FULFILLEMENT”
THROUGH VOLUNTARY SERVICES

I have been impressed by recent studies showing the activity of voluntary institutions and not-for-profit organisations in Canada to be among the highest in the world. This Canadian spirit resonates with a cherished principle in Shia Ismaili culture — the importance of contributing one’s individual energies on a voluntary basis to improving the lives of others.

This is not a matter of philanthropy, but rather of self-fulfillment — “enlightened self-fulfillment.”

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper sign a Protocol of Understanding further strengthening the ongoing platform of cooperation between the Ismaili Imamat and Canada. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper sign a Protocol of Understanding further strengthening the ongoing platform of cooperation between the Ismaili Imamat and Canada. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

During my Golden Jubilee — and this is important — six years ago Ismailis from around the world volunteered their gifts, not only of wealth, but most notably of time and knowledge, in support of our work. We established a Time and Knowledge framework, a structured process for engaging an immense pool of expertise involving tens of thousands of volunteers. Many of them traveled to developing countries as part of this outpouring of service — one third of those were Canadians. Their impact has been enormous in helping us to achieve best practice standards in our institutions and programmes, making us we hope an even better partner for Canada!

The Aga Khan University in Karachi and East Africa are expanding to create a new Liberal Arts faculty, and to establish eight new post-graduate schools in collaboration with several Canadian universities.

12. SALUTING FRASER MUSTARD FOR HIS WORK
ON EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT

We also share with Canada a deep appreciation for the potential of early childhood education. It is the period of the greatest development of the brain. This education is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the quality of life for rural as well as urban populations. Congratulations, Prime Minister, for your initiative on this.

In this regard, let me take a moment to salute the late Dr Fraser Mustard, whose work in Early Childhood Development will impact millions of people around the world. The AKDN has been fortunate to have been inspired and counselled by this great Canadian scientist and humanist.

13. THE OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS TO THE PARLIAMENT

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulate each other after signing a Protocol of Understanding between the Ismaili Imamat, a 1400 year hereditary Institution, and Canada. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulate each other after signing a Protocol of Understanding between the Ismaili Imamat, a 1400 year hereditary Institution, and Canada. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

I am most grateful to the Prime Minister and to you who have given me this opportunity to share — from a faith perspective — some of the issues that preoccupy me when looking ahead. I hope I have explained why I am convinced about the global validity of our partnership for human development.

14. A BEAUTIFUL EXPRESSION FROM THE HOLY QUR’AN

His Highness the Aga Khan seen addressing at the House of Commons Chambers to both the houses of Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 24, 2014. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

His Highness the Aga Khan seen addressing at the House of Commons Chambers to both the houses of Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014. Photo credit: The Office of the Prime Minister of Canada.

Let me end with a personal thought. 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.

Date posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014. Copyright.
Date last update: Sunday, March 2, 2014, 09:30 EST (new related links, below)

Related:

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For non-comparable referral links to all things Ismaili as well as material about His Highness the Aga Khan’s recent official visit to Canada, please visit ismailimail. For past and recent speeches of Ismaili Imams please visit www.nanowisdoms.org.

Also click on the following links for some extraordinary official coverage of the visit including photographs, videos and speeches:

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A Brief Introduction to the Spiritual and Temporal Dimensions of the Ismaili Imamat, and its Precious Work Under the Leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan

Compiled and presented by Abdulmalik J. Merchant
Publisher-Editor, www.simerg.com

A portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, with a framed portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in the background. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright.

An early portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, with a framed photo of his grandfather, the 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah (1877-1957) in the background. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright.

His Highness the Aga Khan is the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) and also the current 49th Imam of a religious office, the Imamat, that he has inherited and which has its origins in the earliest history of Islam. He will be addressing both the Houses of the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at the invitation of the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. As a precursor to this week’s historical event, the aim of this piece is  to introduce readers to the  Imamat and to highlight its vision and precious work under the leadership of His Highness. This is done with the assistance of short excerpts from articles as well as speeches and interviews given by the Ismaili Imam.

(Please also see His Highness the Aga Khan to Become 5th Muslim Since 1939 to Address Joint Session of Canadian Parliament on February 27, 2014: The ABC’s of the Event Including Past Distinguished Speakers)

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BACKGROUND

By Azim Nanji

Islam

The last in the line of the Abrahamic family of revealed traditions, Islam emerged in the early decades of the seventh century. Its message, addressed in perpetuity, calls upon people to seek in their daily life, in the very diversity of humankind, signs that point to the Creator and Sustainer of all creation. Revealed to Prophet Muhammad in Arabia, Islam’s influence spread rapidly, bringing into its fold, within just over a century of its birth, the inhabitants of the lands stretching from the central regions of Asia to the Iberian Peninsula in Europe.

Leadership

During his lifetime, Prophet Muhammad was both the recipient and the expounder of Divine revelation. His death marked the conclusion of the line of prophecy, and the beginning of the critical debate on the question of the rightful leadership to continue his mission for the future generations. In essence, the position of the group that eventually coalesced into the majority, the Sunni branch, which comprises several different juridical schools, was that the Prophet had not nominated a successor, as the revelation contained in the Qur’an was sufficient guidance for the community.

The Party of Ali

The Shi‘at ‘Ali or the ‘party’ of ‘Ali, already in existence during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, maintained that while the revelation ceased at his death, the need for spiritual and moral guidance of the community, through an ongoing interpretation of the Islamic message, continued. For them, the legacy of Prophet Muhammad could only be entrusted to a member of his own family, in whom the Prophet had invested his authority through designation. That person was ‘Ali, the Prophet’s cousin, and the husband of his daughter and only surviving child, Fatima. ‘Ali was also the Prophet’s first supporter who devoutly championed the cause of Islam.

The Ismailis

In common with all major Shi‘a groups, the Ismailis believe that the Imamate is a divinely sanctioned and guided institution, through whose agency Muslims are enabled to contextualize the practice of their faith and to understand fully the exoteric and esoteric dimensions of the Qur’an. The Imamate exists to complement prophethood and to ensure that the divine purpose is fulfilled on earth at all times and in all places. — Background Excerpts, Azim Nanji [1]

~~~~~~~~

THE ISMAILI DOCTRINE OF IMAMAT

“In accordance with Shia doctrine, tradition, and interpretation of history, the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Mawlana Ali Amiru-l-Mu’minin (a.s), to be the first Imam to continue the Ta’wīl and Ta‘līm of Allah’s final message and to guide the murids, and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s) and his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s).” — Ismaili Constitution [2]

SUCCESSION OF IMAMAT

“Succession of Imamat is by way of Nass [designation], it being the absolute prerogative of the Imam of the time to appoint his successor from amongst any of his male descendants whether they be sons or remoter issue.” — Ismaili Constitution [2]

THE PUBLIC INSTALLATION VS THE INSTANCE OF BECOMING THE IMAM

“Well the ceremony [of enthronement] 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. I will probably wear the robes that my grandfather wore during his last jubilee and I will receive a sword which is the sword of justice of the Imamat. I will be given these robes and the sword by the leading members of the community and they will present an address at the same time.

“Officially as soon as one Imam passes away, his successor takes on from the very minute that the Imam has passed away.” — Aga Khan [3]

THE NATURE OF IMAMAT

“As Imam of the Ismaili sect, I am in a position to adapt the teachings of the Qur’an to the modern condition. On the question of modernity the issue is essentially whether one is affecting the fundamental moral fabric of society or whether one is affecting the fundamentals of religious practice. As long as these two aspects are safeguarded the rest can be subject to adjustment.” — Aga Khan [4]

“In Islam, imams whether they are Shia or Sunni, they have a duty to serve people. That is the nature of Imamat and, therefore, in countries where the Ismaili Imamat can bring support and help, it is our duty to do so and we’re very happy to do so in Central Asia, like we are doing so in the Indian sub-continent, we’re doing so in East Africa, in West Africa. So it’s part of the mandate of any Imam. But it’s a big mistake to think that you can do development only for Muslim communities. Many countries have mixed communities and therefore you have to do development for all the people within a given area whether they are Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Hindu or Sikh. You have what I would call a civil responsibility.” — Aga Khan [5]

THE ALLEGIANCE TO THE IMAM OF THE TIME

“The authority of the Imam in the Ismaili Tariqah is testified by Bay‘ah [allegiance] by the murid [follower] to the Imam which is the act of acceptance by the murid of the permanent spiritual bond between the Imam and the murid. This allegiance unites all Ismaili Muslims worldwide in their loyalty, devotion and obedience to the Imam within the Islamic concept of universal brotherhood. It is distinct from the allegiance of the individual murid to his land of abode.” — Ismaili Constitution [2]

THE GOVERNANCE OF THE IMAM OVER HIS COMMUNITY

“Historically and in accordance with Ismaili tradition, the Imam of the time is concerned with spiritual advancement as well as improvement of the quality of life of his murids. The Imam’s ta‘lim lights the murid’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision. In temporal matters, the Imam guides the murids, and motivates them to develop their potential….By virtue of his office and in accordance with the faith and belief of the Ismaili Muslims, the Imam enjoys full authority of governance over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismaili Muslims.” — Ismaili Constitution [2]

THE LIVING IMAM -
MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM, HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

“Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.” — Ismaili Constitution [2]

“Well the Shia history has followed the same sort of historical developments all hereditary offices have followed, where there have been differences of opinion on who was the legitimate successor to the predecessor, whether it was a secular or religious office. In the case of the Shia Muslims, the Shia branch of Islam split and one branch of the Shia Muslims accepted the concept of the Imam in hiding, the invisible Imam, because the twelfth Imam disappeared as a very young child, and our branch of Shia Islam, in that particular generation of the family, accepted the legitimacy of the eldest son, Ismail, as being the appointed Imam to succeed and that is why they are known as Ismailis. And that branch of the family has continued today hereditarily and that is why there is a living Imam for the Ismaili Muslims.” — Aga Khan [6]

COLLABORATION WITH OTHER COMMUNITIES

“It is the desire and Hidāyat of Mawlana Hazar Imam that the constitutions presently applicable to the Ismaili Muslims in different countries be superseded and that the Ismaili Muslims worldwide be given this constitution in order better to secure their peace and unity, religious and social welfare, to foster fruitful collaboration between different peoples, to optimise the use of resources, and to enable the Ismaili Muslims to make a valid and meaningful contribution to the improvement of the quality of life of the Ummah and the societies in which they live.” — Ismaili Constitution [2]

“If I had to take stock of my life, my feeling would be that I have structured the Ismaili Imamat, for which I was given responsibility nearly 50 years ago, in such a way as to provide it with the institutional means to work for the good of Ismaili communities and the countries in which we are involved.” — Aga Khan [7]

THE ISMAILI COMMUNITY – 50 YEARS AGO AND NOW

“I was still a student at Harvard when I inherited the responsibilities of the Ismaili Imamat from my grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah. It seemed inconceivable then that there would ever be substantial communities in the West. The Ismailis were too deeply rooted in their ancestral homes, indeed frozen there by the Cold War in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. But dislocations in the wake of decolonisation, and more recently the collapse of the Soviet Union and the prolonged difficulties in Afghanistan, have caused a number of Ismailis to seek new lands and homes. These migratory movements over the last half-century have resulted in a substantial Ismaili presence in Russia, in Western Europe, the United Kingdom and Portugal, and particularly in the United States and Canada. In these settings Ismailis have found themselves rejoicing with new opportunities, but also confronted by new challenges. Bolstered by a long tradition of self-reliance, and a strong system of community organisations, Ismailis have established themselves quickly as productive members of society in their new homelands.” — Aga Khan [8]

MATERIAL COMFORT AND BALANCE BETWEEN MATTER AND SPIRIT

“In Islam there is nothing wrong in the search for comfort, but the accumulation of wealth for the specific purpose of accumulating wealth or personal power is something which Islam does not like to see. If you are fortunate enough to go past what you personally need then share what you have.” — Aga Khan [9]

“I have been involved in the field of development for nearly four decades. This engagement has been grounded in my responsibilities as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Community, and Islam’s message of the fundamental unity of “din and dunia”, of spirit and of life. Throughout its long history, the Ismaili Imamat has emphasised the importance of activities that reflect the social conscience of Islam, that contribute to the well-being of Allah’s greatest creation — mankind, and the responsibility which Islam places on the fortunate and the strong to assist those less fortunate.” — Aga Khan [10]

A more recent portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan, taken on June 22, 2012 in Chantilly, France. Photo by Philippe Petit/Paris Match via Getty Images.

A more recent portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan, taken on June 22, 2012 in Chantilly, France. Photo by Philippe Petit/Paris Match via Getty Images.

THE NOTION OF QUALITY OF LIFE

“The quality of life is determined by a number of different factors that are, in my view, not limited to the World Bank indicators on longevity, or health, or the economic welfare of an individual, or a community. To the Imamat, the meaning of “quality of life” extends to the entire ethical and social context in which people live, and not only to their material well-being, measured generation after generation. Consequently, the Imamat’s is a holistic vision of development, as is prescribed by the faith of Islam. It is about investing in people, in their pluralism, in their intellectual pursuit, and search for new and useful knowledge, just as much as in material resources. But it is also about investing with a social conscience inspired by the ethics of Islam. It is work that benefits all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality or background.” — Aga Khan [11]

ON-GOING CHALLENGES

“A new president comes to power. What does he do? He contacts me immediately and tells me ‘Come back and help me rebuild my country.’ So, if you want, time changes situations, makes them different. Thus the institution that I represent, the Imamat, has to adapt according to the needs. It has to go beyond, it should anticipate situations. It has to be in a position to say that such and such area of the world is at great social, economic, political risk, whatever. Other areas are stable. These are areas where people live in acceptable conditions.” — Aga Khan [12]

MERITOCRATIC LEADERSHIP

“There was a time, earlier in my Imamat, when mediocrity was considered tolerable here because it was “good enough for Africa”. I remember my apprehension at the time, my concern that among all the goals that were set for Africa in those days, the achievement of normal world-class standards was not seen as realistic. But in the rapidly globalising world of the 21st century, the progress of every country and continent will depend on its ability to meet universal standards. To settle for less is an increasingly dangerous decision.” — Aga Khan [13]

“Education has been important to my family for a long time. My forefathers founded al-Azhar University in Cairo some 1,000 years ago, at the time of the Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt. Discovery of knowledge was seen by those founders as an embodiment of religious faith, and faith as reinforced by knowledge of workings of the Creator’s physical world. The form of universities has changed over those 1,000 years, but that reciprocity between faith and knowledge remains a source of strength.” — Aga Khan [14]

“The conviction that home-grown intellectual leadership of exceptional calibre is the best driver of a society’s destiny, underpins the Ismaili Imamat’s endeavour to create catalytic centres of educational excellence.” — Aga Khan [15]

THE UNITY OF MANKIND – A GIFT OF GOD

“I would turn to those words from my grandfather which were quoted in two earlier Peterson Lectures. He included them in a speech he gave as President of the League of Nations in Geneva some 70 years ago. They come originally from the Persian poet, Sadi, who wrote:

‘The children of Adam, created of the self-same clay, are members of one body. When one member suffers, all members suffer, likewise. O Thou, who art indifferent to the suffering of the fellow, thou art unworthy to be called a man’.

“You will readily understand why such words seem appropriate for a Peterson Lecture. They speak to the fundamental value of a universal human bond — a gift of the Creator — which both requires and validates our efforts to educate for global citizenship. I would also like to quote an infinitely more powerful statement about the unity of mankind, because it comes directly from the Holy Qur’an, and which I would ask you to think about. The Holy Qur’an addresses itself not only to Muslims, but to the entirety of the human race, when it says:

‘O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from one single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women’.

“These words reflect a deeply spiritual insight — a Divine imperative if you will — which, in my view, should under gird our educational commitments. It is because we see humankind, despite our differences, as children of God and born from one soul, that we insist on reaching beyond traditional boundaries as we deliberate, communicate, and educate internationally.” — Aga Khan [16]

HOMOGENIZATION VS DIVERSITY

“Why would homogenization be such a danger? Because diversity and variety constitute one of the most beautiful gifts of the Creator, and because a deep commitment to our own particularity is part of what it means to be human. Yes, we need to establish connecting bonds across cultures, but each culture must also honour a special sense of self. The downside of globalisation is the threat it can present to cultural identities.

“But there is also a second great challenge which is intensifying in our world. In some ways it is the exact opposite of the globalising impulse. I refer to a growing tendency toward fragmentation and confrontation among peoples. In a time of mounting insecurity, cultural pride can turn, too often, into an endeavour to normatise one’s culture. The quest for identity can then become an exclusionary process — so that we define ourselves less by what we are for and more by whom we are against. When this happens, diversity turns quickly from a source of beauty to a cause of discord.I believe that the coexistence of these two surging impulses — what one might call a new globalism on one hand and a new tribalism on the other — will be a central challenge for educational leaders in the years ahead. And this will be particularly true in the developing world with its kaleidoscope of different identities.As you may know, the developing world has been at the centre of my thinking and my work throughout my lifetime. And I inherited a tradition of educational commitment from my grandfather. It was a century ago that he began to build a network of some 300 schools in the developing world, the Aga Khan Education Services.” — Aga Khan [16]

TOWARDS A PEACEFUL WORLD: A MESSAGE TO MUSLIMS AND NON-MUSLIMS

“What some describe as a clash of civilisations in our modern world is, in my view, a clash of ignorances. This is why education about religious and cultural heritage is so critically important — and why we will continue to invest in these institutions. We deeply believe that scholarship, publication and instruction — of high quality and generous breadth — can provide important pathways toward a more pluralistic and peaceful world.” — Aga Khan [17]

“From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, the Muslim civilisations dominated world culture, accepting, adopting, using and preserving all preceding study of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and astronomy, among other areas of learning. The Islamic field of thought and knowledge included and added to much of the information on which all civilisations are founded. And yet this fact is seldom acknowledged today, be it in the West or in the Muslim world, and this amnesia has left a six hundred year gap in the history of human thought….” — Aga Khan [18]

“As I look to the future of the Ismaili community worldwide, living in many parts of Central Asia, and in more than 25 different countries, and as I look to the future of Tajikistan, with its variegated population, and as I look at the Ummah, I conclude that every and all those peoples, if they wish to achieve a better life for themselves in the generations ahead, must absolutely achieve peace within their societies, and because we are Muslim, conflict must be replaced by a peace which is predicated on the ethics of our faith. We must not kill to resolve our differences, whatever they may be. They must be resolved, as I have said, within the ethic of our faith through dialogue, through compassion, through tolerance, through generosity and forgiveness. These are the pillars on which to build a strong society in modern times — not through weapons.” — Aga Khan [19]

RELIGIOUS EXPRESSION – THE HIJAB

(a) Individual Expressions…

“My own sense is that if an individual wishes to associate publicly with a faith, that’s the right of that individual to do that, whether he’s a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim. That is, to me, something which is important.” — Aga Khan [20]

(b) vs. Compulsion

“To go from there to an imposed process by forces in society, to me is unacceptable. It’s got to be the choice of the individual who wishes to associate with his faith or her faith. I have great respect for any individual who wants in the right way to be associated with his own faith. I accept that totally and I would never challenge it.” — Aga Khan [20]

ENVIRONMENT – MAN’S RESPONSIBILITY

“There is an often quoted ayat [of the Qur'an] which says that you should leave the world in a better environment than you found it. You have a responsibility of legacy of God’s creation of the world, to improve that legacy from generation to generation. So there’s an ethical premise to it.” — Aga Khan [21]

“Islam does not deal in dichotomies but in all-encompassing unity. Spirit and body are one, man and nature are one. What is more, man is answerable to God for what man has created. Since all that we see and do resonates on the faith, the aesthetics of the environments we build and the quality of the interactions that take place within them reverberate on our spiritual lives. As the leader of a Muslim community, and particularly one that now resides in twenty-five countries on four continents, the physical representation of Islamic values is particularly important to me. It should reflect who we are in terms of our beliefs, our cultural heritage and our relation to the needs and contexts in which we live in today’s world.” — Aga Khan [22]

A MESSAGE TO HIS FOLLOWERS

“In a world where quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms there is risk that the essential value system of Islam will be eroded, or even threatened with disappearance. Political situations with a theological overlay are also causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so amongst different faiths. Where we can build bridges with other tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.” — Aga Khan [23]

ENCOUNTERS

“Encounters. When two people meet. Or two particles. Or two cultures. In that crucial moment of interaction the results of an encounter are determined. In the simplest of encounters — say, with two billiard balls — the outcome is a predictable result of position, velocity and mass. But the encounters that interest me most are not so simple. In the encounters of people and cultures, much depends on the path that each has taken to that point. These are not stochastic processes. The subjects have histories. The encounter has complexity and rich dimensionality. The result of an encounter between two people or between two cultures is shaped by the assumptions of each, by their respective goals and — perhaps most directly relevant to a university — by the repertoire of responses that each has learned. Encounters therefore have aspects of both the general and the specific. What makes our current time distinctive are the new combinations of people and cultures that are participating in these encounters.” — Aga Khan [24]

THE ROLE OF THE NEW GENERATION

“As the young men and women from this Aga Khan Academy, and over time from its sister schools, grow and assume leadership in their societies, it is my hope that it will be members of this new generation who, driven by their own wide knowledge and inspiration, will change their societies; that they will gradually replace many of the external forces that appear, and sometimes seek, to control our destinies. These young men and women, I am sure, will become leaders in the governments and the institutions of civil society in their own countries, in international organisations and in all those institutions, academic, economic and artistic that create positive change in our world.” — Aga Khan [25]

THE ISMAILI IMAMAT’S OPERATIONAL STRUCTURE

Please click on image for enlargement. Credit: Aga Khan Development Network, www.akdn.org

Please click on image for enlargement. Credit: Aga Khan Development Network, http://www.akdn.org

“In Islamic thought and practice, the world of the spirit and the world of daily life are inseparably intertwined. This is why, over a half century, my role as a spiritual leader has also required me to act in a host of social, economic and cultural endeavours, in order to secure and enhance the well-being of the Ismailis and the communities amongst which they live….The approach we take in the Aga Khan Development Network is non-denominational and holistic. It encompasses both the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors. We seek to catalyse the creation of necessary basic infrastructure, together with the provision of good quality education and healthcare. We are concerned with ensuring access to appropriate credit for the poor at the same time as we are working to sustain the arts and culture.” – Aga Khan [26]

Date posted: Sunday, February, 24, 2014.
Last updated: February, 24, 2014, 18:15 EST (footnote corrections)

This piece is subject to frequent updates (ed.)

___________________

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Excluding the background material taken from Dr. Azim Nanji’s articles and clauses from the Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution, the numerous excerpts of His Highness the Aga Khan are taken from the following sources available at Nanowisdoms, an excellent website dedicated to speeches, interviews and writings of Ismaili Imams:

  1. The Imamat in Ismailism and What is Shia Islam? by Dr. Azim Nanji, Lifelong Learning Articles at the Institute of Ismaili Studies
  2. The Preamble Of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”
  3. Interview with an unidentified media outlet 9 days prior to the first Takht Nashini (Enthronement) Ceremony in Dar es Salaam, Interview in Tanzania or London, 19 October 1957, Nanowisdoms
  4. India Today Interview, Aroon Purie (India), February 1989, Nanowisdoms
  5. Press Remarks published at nanowisdoms with an unidentified media outlet, Central Asia, Nanowisdoms
  6. CBC Interview, Man Alive with Roy Bonisteel, Canada, 8 October 1986, Nanowisdoms
  7. Paris Match interview, 3 February 2005, Nanowisdoms
  8. Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony, Houston, Texas, USA, 23 June 2002, Nanowisdoms, www.akdn.org
  9. Life Magazine Interview, Margot Dougherty and Richard B. Stolley, ‘In Him, East and
    West Meet’, Nanowisdoms
  10. Address to the Annual Meeting of The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, 5 May 2003, Nanowisdoms
  11. Al Watan Interview, Waddah Abed Rabbo, Damascus, Syria, 27 August, 2008, Nanowisdoms
  12. Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International Interview, Aleppo, Syria and Lebanon, Nanowisdoms
  13. Banquet Hosted in Honour of the President of Uganda, Kampala, Uganda, 22 August 2007, www.akdn.org and Nanowisdoms
  14. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Commencement Ceremony, Cambridge, USA, 27 May 1994, Nanowisdoms
  15. Aga Khan Academy, Maputo, Foundation Stone Ceremony, Mozambique, 25 June
    2004, www.akdn.org and Nanowisdoms
  16. ‘The Peterson Lecture’ at the Annual Meeting of the International Baccalaureate, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 18 April 2008, www.akdn.org and Nanowisdoms
  17. Imamat dinner for senior members of the Government, diplomats … etc. London, United Kingdom, July 3, 2008, www.akdn.org and Nanowisdoms
  18. Brown University Commencement Ceremony, Providence, Rhode Island, USA, 26 May 1996, www.akdn.org and Nanowisdoms
  19. Public Address, Rushan, Badakhshan, Tajikistan, 27 May 1995, Nanowisdoms
  20. Irish Times Interview, Alison Healy, ‘Jubilee for an imam among equals’, Maynooth, Ireland, Nanowisdoms
  21. Interview featured in PBS/E2 Series, ‘A Garden in Cairo’, USA, 2 September 2008, Nanowisdoms
  22. Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony, Houston, Texas, USA, 23 June 2002, www.akdn.org and Nanowisdoms
  23. Golden Jubilee Inaugural Ceremony, Aiglemont, France, 11 July 2007, Nanowisdoms
  24. Massachusetts Institute of Technology Commencement Ceremony, Cambridge, USA, 27 May 1994, Nanowisdoms
  25. Aga Khan Academy, Kilindini, Opening Ceremony, Mombasa, Kenya, 20 December 2003 www.akdn.org and Nanowisdoms
  26. Imamat dinner for senior members of the Government, diplomats … etc. London, United Kingdom, July 3, 2008, www.akdn.org and Nanowisdoms

Note that several speeches made by the Aga Khan can also be read by clicking on www.akdn.org.

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers on the essay. Please use the Comments  LEAVE A REPLY box which appears below. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Please visit the Simerg Home page for links to articles posted most recently. For links to articles posted on this Web site since its launch in March 2009, please click Table of Contents. Sign-up for blog subscription at top right of this page.

His Highness the Aga Khan’s “Never-To-Be-Forgotten” Message to Ismaili Youth – “Keep Clean Soul in a Clean Body”

The following image is a copy of the original message sent to Ismaili youth by the 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 – 1957) on the occasion of the Students’ Rally held in Nairobi, and  appeared in the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir, 1946. Another version of the image along with the cover page of the souvenir issue can be viewed by clicking on Historical Images: The 48th Ismaili Imam’s “Never-to-be-Forgotten” Message to Ismaili Youth or on the following image.

The above image of the message sent to Ismaili Youth appears in the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Yearbook published in Dar-es-Salaam on August 10th 1946. Pleas click on image to view a larger version of the image with a transcript and the cover page of the special issue.

The above image of the message sent to Ismaili Youth appears in the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir Yearbook published in Dar-es-Salaam on August 10th 1946. Please click on image to view a larger version of the image as well as the cover page of the special issue.

UNEDITED TRANSCRIPT

“To My Spiritual children taking part in The Rally 

Blessings and Welcome – I am sorry my health does not permit me to be with you but I have followed your programme with great interest. Remember that according to our Ismailia Faith the body is the Temple of God for it carries the soul that receives Divine Light so great care of body its health and cleanliness are to guide you in later life care of your inside and outside cleanliness – mouth, eyes, ears and on first signs of infection to the dispensary. Later in life sports will become difficult for you but you can do much by going about your business, shopping etc on foot and carrying yourselves straight. The times of prayer should not be forgotten if you can do go to Jamatkana, if not say your Tesbih wherever you be. So keep clean soul in a clean body Blessings Aga Khan”

Date posted: Sunday, January 19, 2014.

His Highness the Aga Khan III: Historic First Landings in East Africa in 1899 and the USA in 1906

The Old Boma where His Highness the Aga Khan was received with great honours by the Chief of the District, Surgeon-Major Gaertner, and all the Europeans, among them the author of the article. Please click on image to read both the East Africa and USA accounts.

The Old Boma where His Highness the Aga Khan was received with great honours by the Chief of the District, Surgeon-Major Gaertner, and all the Europeans, among them the author of the article. Please click on image to read accounts of both the East Africa and USA visits.

“….The enthusiasm and veneration for His Highness at his arrival [in Bagamoyo] as well as during his whole stay was tremendous and will linger in the memories of all who, like me, had the honour to be present” – Otto Mahnke…Read More

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Clip of page from the Washington Herald dated January 27, 1907 containing article on His Highness the Aga Khan. Please click on image to read accounts of both USA and East Africa visits.

Clip of page from the Washington Herald dated January 27, 1907 containing article on His Highness the Aga Khan. Please click on image to read accounts of both USA and East Africa visits.

“The Pope and the Dalai Lama of Tibet are great spiritual chiefs, but in them the principle of inheritance is absent” — The Washington Herald, 1907…Read More

Unique Moments from the Extraordinary Life of His Highness the Aga Khan III – the Beloved 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

“On 2nd November, 1877 my beloved grandfather was born here in Karachi. Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity….Many many memories come to our minds as we think of him. He achieved in his life, for our community that which could only have been accomplished normally in a period of many generations. The tributes that the world has paid him bear honest testimony to his great life and work” — His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam

The late 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, seated on a wheelchair with members of his family with his successor, the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Others in the photo (l to r), grandson Prince Amyn Muhammad ,and the late Imams two sons, the late Prince Sadruddin and Prince Aly Khan, who is seen holding his daughter Princes Yasmin Aga Khan Photo: Zul Khoja Collection, Ottawa.

The 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 – 1957), seated on a wheelchair with members of his family with his successor, the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Others in the photo (l to r), grandson Prince Amyn Muhammad , and the 48th Imam’s  two sons, the late Prince Sadruddin and Prince Aly Khan who is seen holding his daughter Princes Yasmin Aga Khan. Photo: Zul Khoja Collection, Ottawa.

November 2, 2013 marks the 136th birth anniversary of the 48th Ismaili Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III. Born in Karachi in 1877, he assumed the reign of Imamat at the age of seven, and ruled the Ismailis  for 72 years, becoming the community’s longest-serving Imam. He passed away on July 11, 1957, and willed that the mantle of Imamat should pass to his grandson, the present 49th Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV.

We are pleased to provide our readers with links to diverse articles, stories and photo essays related to the beloved 48th Imam, who has been described in one of the pieces as the Imam of the Socio-Economic Revolution. Please click on the following selections:

COMPREHENSIVE BIOGRAPHY AND DECORATIONS

His Highness the Aga Khan III,  48th Imam of Shia Imami Ismailis, in full regalia. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

His Highness the Aga Khan III, 48th Imam of Shia Imami Ismailis, in full regalia. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

1. Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah – An Astonishing and Extraordinary Personality

2. Titles, Decorations and Honours Conferred on 48th Ismaili Imam; 72 Year Reign Spanned Six British Monarchs and Seventeen PM’s

INSPIRING STORIES BY THE YOUTH

The late Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III pictured with Badrudin Adatia. Recalls Adatia: "I wanted to take picture of him with us and I asked his permission. The room was dim, however, and I didn’t have a flash on my camera. Although he was very sick and could not even walk, he told me he would head toward the window where there would be better light. Imagine! I clasped my hands with respect and said, “No Khudavind. I will take the picture just as we are.” Photo: Badrudin Adatia collection.

The late Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III pictured with Badrudin Adatia. Recalls Adatia: “I wanted to take picture of him with us and I asked his permission. The room was dim, however, and I didn’t have a flash on my camera. Although he was very sick and could not even walk, he told me he would head toward the window where there would be better light. Imagine! I clasped my hands with respect and said, “No Khudavind. I will take the picture just as we are.” Photo: Badrudin Adatia collection.

3. Yakimour 1954: A Golden Moment for an Aspiring Student – An Audience with the 48th Ismaili Imam, Aga Khan

4. “Mawla Fulfilled My Wish”

5. On Meeting the Noorani Family – My Voyage to Europe

6. An Ismaili Youth’s Rare Moment With Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah

PHOTO ESSAYS: EXTRA ORDINARY VISITS AND THE JUBILEES

His Highness the Aga Khan at a reception by the Ismaili community in South Africa.

His Highness the Aga Khan at a reception by the Ismaili community in South Africa.

7. Imam’s Message in South Africa Addressed Artificial Barriers, Unity, Education for All, and Damaging Social Habits

8. Historical American Newspapers on His Highness the Aga Khan’s ‘Incognito’ Visit to the USA in 1906-1907

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

10. World Renowned Photographer Sarite Sanders Portrays Mysterious Radiance of a Fatimid Tomb and the Elegance of the Aga Khan Mausoleum

EXAMPLE SETTER AND DEDICATION TO ISLAM AND THE MUSLIM WORLD

A group comprising doctors, health and public officials gathered on a street in Bombay about to begin the day's work, during an outbreak of plague. Photo Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images. Copyright.

A group comprising doctors, health and public officials gathered on a street in Bombay about to begin the day’s work, during an outbreak of plague. Photo Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Copyright.

11. His Highness the Aga Khan and the Bubonic Plague of 1897: How the Ismaili Imam’s Courage and Leadership Saved Countless Lives

12. Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – A “Mendicant” Who Transformed a Dream into Reality and Stirred the Soul of a Bitter Critic

13. Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – A Muslim’s Analysis of Lessons that Can be Learnt from the 48th Ismaili Imam

56th Imamat Anniversary: Magnificent Historical Portraits of His Highness the Aga Khan, with Quotes on the Nature of Imamat and Succession

Compiled by Malik Merchant
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg and Simergphotos)

MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM, HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

A portrait of the new 49th Ismaili Imam taken shortly after he succeeded his late grandfather to the throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of twenty. A framed portrait of the late 48th Imam who served the community for 72 years is seen in the background. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright. Please click on image for full enlargement.

A portrait of the new 49th Ismaili Imam taken shortly after he succeeded his late grandfather to the throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of twenty. A framed portrait of the late 48th Imam who served the community for 72 years is seen in the background. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright. Please click on image for full enlargement.

THE WILL OF IMAM MAWLANA SULTAN MAHOMED SHAH, THE 48TH IMAM

“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.

This thoughtful study of the late Aga Khan was done in clay by his late wife, the Begum Aga Khan. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS. Please click for enlargement.

This thoughtful study of the late 48th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah  was done in clay by his late wife, the Begum Aga Khan. Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS. Please click for enlargement.

“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.

The late 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, seated on a wheelchair, is pictured with members of his family including his successor, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Photo: Zul Khoja Collection, Ottawa.

The late 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, seated on a wheelchair, is pictured with members of his family including his successor, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Photo: Zul Khoja Collection, Ottawa.

“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.”….His Highness the Aga Khan III.

SUCCESSION AND THE NATURE OF IMAMAT

Ceremonial installation of the 49th Imam in Kampala, Uganda.

One of the several ceremonial installations of the 49th Imam that took place around the world. This photo is from the installation (Takht Nashini) that took place in Kampala, Uganda.

“…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.” — His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan [1]

A TRIBUTE TO THE 48TH IMAM, AND THE NEW IMAM’S DEDICATION

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957), direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) and 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. Photo: Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London.

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957), direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) and 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He ruled the Ismailis for 72 years. Photo: Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London.

“My grandfather dedicated his life to the Imamat and Islam, both of which came first, and above all other considerations. While I was prepared that one day I might be designated the Aga Khan I did not expect it so soon. I follow a great man in a great responsibility and he could have given me no more appreciated honour than to bequeath me this spiritual leadership. My life, as his, will be dedicated to the service of my followers.”….His Highness the Aga Khan.

DEDICATION FULFILLED

"The closer you come the more you will see him." A digital representation of some of His Highness the Aga Khan's activities during his Imamat. Please click ofr enlargement. Copyright: Akber Kanji.

“The closer you come the more you will see him.” A pixel snapshot from a digital portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan representing some of his activities as the 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims. Please click for enlargement. Copyright: Akber Kanji, Toronto, Canada.

 THE LOVE FOR THE IMAM OF THE TIME

Ismaili girls in Central Asia proudly and lovingly display a decorated frame holding a photo of their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Please click for enlargement. Photo: Matthieu Paley. Copyright.

Ismaili girls in Central Asia proudly and lovingly display a decorated frame holding a photo of their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Please click for enlargement. Photo: Matthieu Paley. Copyright.

In all four ages,
I went about,
looking hard.
I found none
to match you, my lord.

My lord,
my heart
is fond of you. [2]

~~~

MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM, HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

A portrait of the new 49th Ismaili Imam taken shortly after he succeeded his late grandfather to the throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of twenty. A framed portrait of the late 48th Imam who served the community for 72 years is seen in the background. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright. Please click on image to enlarge

A portrait of the new 49th Ismaili Imam taken shortly after he succeeded his late grandfather to the throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of twenty. A framed portrait of the late 48th Imam who served the community for 72 years is seen in the background. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright. Please click on image to enlarge

Date posted: Monday, July 9, 2013.

© All photos are Copyright by the respective copyright owners. Reproduction strictly prohibited without licensing agreement(s) from the copyright sources mentioned in the photo captions.

For an extra-ordinary version of this photo essay please visit our sister blog Simergphotos. Please click For 56th Imamat Anniversary, Magnificent and Unique Historical Portraits of His Highness the Aga Khan

__________

References:

[1] http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/10260/

[2] Verse 3 translation of Saiyad Imamshah’s ginan Sahebaji tun more mana bhave,  from “A Scent of Sandalwood” by Dr. Aziz Esmail

For other Imamat related readings including an explanation of the Munajat recited during Imamat Day please click on the following links:

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears below. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters. Please visit the Simerg Home page for links to articles posted most recently. For links to articles posted on this Web site since its launch in March 2009, please click What’s New.