Simerg is celebrating the public opening of the Aga Khan Museum on September 18, 2014, by launching a photography contest. A total of 25 photos, all related to the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park taken from the time the grounds become open to the public through to September 25, 2014, will be selected by an independent panel of judges and posted on this website on or around 7th October, 2014. The prizes will consist of a total of 20 free annual youth and family memberships to the museum as well as 5 merit prizes from the museum’s shop.
There will be two categories. The Youth Category will be open to anyone 19 and under. A total of 10 annual youth memberships will be given to the winning entries and, in addition, the judges will select 5 merit entries who will be awarded with the Aga Khan Museum catalogue.
The Open Category is for anyone over the age of 19. It will be for all amateur photographers and photography enthusiasts as well as anyone who likes to shoot photographs, either using a camera or their smart hand-held devices and phones! For this category we will expect each photo to be accompanied with a 75 to 100 word narrative to encapsulate the photographer’s experience of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre or their Park. Only spaces where photos are allowed to be taken will be accepted for the contest.
The opening days of the museum will be the perfect breeding ground for passionate picture taking and writing a brief narrative, and if you are selected as a winner in the Open Category you will be one of 10 to receive an annual family membership.
Here are some ideas for taking and submitting photos: artistic and architecture beauty and grandeur of the projects, interior spaces (where permitted), landscape, nature (as in the park), as well as spontaneous moments involving people!
The prizes that are to be given are from gracious donations by numerous individuals and families in Ontario. Further details of the contest, including the names of judges, will be published in the coming fortnight. Start preparing for this contest as communities in Ontario and Canada as well as around the world eagerly anticipate the opening of three unique cultural initiatives undertaken by His Highness the Aga Khan!
On October 10, 2010, Bashir Fazal Ladha of the United Kingdom, during his visit to Toronto, went to Wynford Drive to see how the construction work of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park was coming along. He writes: “It was a thrilling moment and I was full of excitement when I saw the progress, and in a moment of inspiration I composed a poem which I have decided to share with readers of Simerg.” The opening of the museum to the public on September 18, 2014 was announced recently and we take the privilege to repost this beautiful and inspiring poem for all our readers.
Writing the History of Tomorrow
Please click to enlarge
BY BASHIR LADHA
A look down deep in the bowls of the earth
“A foundation being laid, a foundation of a building?” I ask
Not only, it is a foundation of a history to unfold…..
I bow my head in submission to
The Lord of Time and Age
Yes the Lord of Time and Age
For indeed you are beyond time and space
The planets rotate in their orbits
Glorifying your majestic presence
In those momentous moments,
time and history are created
Not the history as in past,
but the unfolding of tomorrow
Lord you create a new history brick by brick
As the form takes place…
The Majesty of your
awe-inspiring Light is Manifested
Stage by stage, the inner world is recreated
The plaster of your mercy,
the warmth of your love
All adorn the formless and
the formed building you built
You call these “centres”
Indeed these are “centres” of soul
where your name is mentioned
The light shines forth from its windows
Inviting the convenienced and the stray
Inviting both to a new history of tomorrow
and recreating the event of alastu*
Inviting to the life of paradise
Museum where the past will be enlivened
Prayer hall where the soul will be enriched
Park where the future will be contemplated
All this, a gift to humanity
Then why, Ya Mawla why do I neglect
Why do I remain unheeded
remaining a slave to my ego?
Teach me O Lord to submit,
to worship as if I see you
And if I do not see you,
to know that you see all
Wynford Drive, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I walk with you to a future
A history of tomorrow
Blessed by the Lord of Time and Age
I walk in hope and faith
for a better world ahead.
* The day of the Primordial Covenant or the Day of Alastu is when God addressed the people and said, “Am I not your Lord?” (alastu bi Rabbikum). It was the day when hearts were given spiritual nourishment.
About the writer: Bashir Ladha has served Ismaili Institutions for the past forty years as an Alwaez, teacher and writer. He has been with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom since 1983.
As work commenced on the large empty plot that had formerly housed the Bata Shoe Company, the trees that lined the perimeter of the site were carefully removed, and gave way to heavy construction equipment and trucks as well as hundreds of skilled professionals for the multi-year construction phase of new Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Cranes illuminated the night sky. From a highrise building across the Don Valley Parkway, and from the beginning of the project, resident Jim Bowie began taking pictures of the site every single day from his balcony. When we published his highly acclaimed photo essay, In the Making: The Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park, we invited our readers to select a photo they liked. Here are reposts of two winning entries, as Canada and the world await the opening of the magnificent Aga Khan Museum to the public on September 18, 2014.
The Symbolism of the Halo
By Dana Lopez
Click to enlarge
I enjoyed viewing Jim Bowie’s photo because of its symbolism. Two features are notable in particular. First, the area ringed by the halo appears calm, whereas the area outside the halo pulsates with heavy traffic. I came away with the impression that the haloed area represents a beacon in a hectic world. Second, the three bright lights inside the halo look like newborn stars, perhaps even a new universe. Viewed through this prism, the photo is asking us to make enlightenment the focal point of our daily lives. This interpretation is consistent with the desired impact of the center: to give strength to those of the Ismaili faith while beckoning others to explore the rich contributions of Islamic culture.
Camera in Balcony
Click to enlarge
By Kathreen Anne Lelis
I like this photo because it depicts the rising beauty ought to be discovered and deserves a future glory. The building site is surrounded by streets and industrialized buildings to mark new development – the Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Center and their Park built at the center to serve as EMBLEM of a country with unity amidst cultural diversity. The light from the site shows its glowing hope in building a strong foundation to create glory. The camera serves as the people’s excitement to capture the priceless beauty made for them. It is facing the horizon which means that people are ready to face the opportunities the buildings offer and travel from the past to discover the reason of their success towards the future.
About the winners: At the time her winning entry was published, Dana Lopez was a law student studying to become a child advocate at the California Western School of Law. She was honored to participate in Simerg’s essay contest because she believes that replacing fear with hope for a brighter future is the best way to ensure a stable civil society. Kathreen Anne Lelis lives in Philippines where she studied at the San Pedro College of Davao City.
The opening of the Aga Khan Museum to the public on September 18, 2014 has just been announced. To mark this special announcement, we repost below two winning essays by Emmanuel Iduma of Nigeria and Zohra Nizamdin of the USA from Simerg’s essay competition on the subject “Why I am Excited About the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park.”
WHY I AM EXCITED ABOUT THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM, THE ISMAILI CENTRE AND THEIR PARK
BY EMMANUEL IDUMA
Excitement is the wrong word to use in describing how I feel about these projects. I am seeking for the right word. Yet, there are two tasks before me – first, to argue briefly on what interests me about the projects; second, to make a case for why these projects must remain important in the global scheme of things.
I am interested in diversity, in a multi-cultural existence, in life as seen from the lens of globalization. I believe, also, that diversity is a necessary part of human life. What these projects represent is diversity, as perfect as that can be – a merging of cultures, a fusion of civilizations, and nothing less. Thus, understanding that these projects were instituted to, in The Aga Khan’s words, “express a profound commitment to inter-cultural engagement, and international cooperation” establishes my claim that in the first place there is something uniquely global about these projects that make them worth reckoning.
Yet, the first conception becomes incisive when I consider it in the light of the contribution the projects would make to Canada, and hopefully, to the world. Each of the projects deserves a concise elucidation.
First, the Aga Khan Museum calls attention to the human need to share and to sustain. These qualities are often lacking in human interaction at all levels. On the individual level, we can learn to allow others partake in our life. Interestingly, the kind of sharing evinced by the Museum does more than allowing individuals to partake; it calls for civilizations to share their blessings with others. In this regard, it appears to me that sharing connotes sustainability. There is worldwide clamour for sustainability, and the Museum will become a beacon of lengthening what is notable about the Ismaili Imamat institution.
And what about the Ismaili Centre? Is there something irresistible about the fact that the Centre would feature a deep religious conviction? In a world plagued by scepticism and God-hating, I find it nourishing that the Centre would be significant for the significant reason that it is “dedicated to spiritual reflection.” I am in doubt that such reflection is not a basic human need – and should be added to Maslow’s list.
Wonderfully, what ties these three projects together is the architectural grandeur each exudes. The Park, for instance, draws upon a rich Islamic architectural heritage. A well-known fact is that Islam has provided the world with lovable masterpieces. I make bold to say that the Park would be another. Taken altogether, it exhilarates me to imagine the site of the projects being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Eliot believes that in-between dreams and reality lurks shadows. Yet, I find that these projects require us to keep dreaming, despite the fact that they are being realized, or the lurking shadows. And this is necessary because Canada and the rest of the world is in need of the spiritual, natural and artistic splendour the Projects offer.
WHY I AM EXCITED ABOUT THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM, THE ISMAILI CENTRE AND THEIR PARK
BY ZOHRA NIZAMDIN
Just as the wings of a butterfly flap can have large effects on the other side of the world, I believe that the combination of Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre, and their Park will have a positive impact of epic proportions throughout dimensions of space and time. There are a plethora of reasons why I am ecstatic about this project but there are some that really speak to my soul. Some of these reasons include my involvement in making history, the cultivation of art in Islam and the expression of pluralism.
When I was a young girl, I would always wonder what it would be like to live in the times of Imam Muizz and the Fatimid period. It would be such a spectacle to see the first Fatimid gold coin, the birth of the first university, and the Ismaili contributions to culture and the advancement of sciences in areas such as chemistry and physics. Many of our Pirs and Dais played a major role in shaping the history of our rich culture which has been cultivated throughout time. Although it would have been astonishing to be alive in that era, it is just as awe-inspiring to be alive today. The Aga Khan legacy has paved the path for the betterment of society in the future. His Highness the Aga Khan has devoted his entire life to advance humanity so that the generations to come will have valuable assets to look after.
The contents of the museum will encompass contemporary Islamic art to the origin of our faith, 14oo years ago. Art is the representation of the philosophy of a certain population at given period in time. The Aga Khan Museum will display the rich culture and timeline of Islam through solidified philosophies in the form of various artifacts. Some of the art will be personally donated from His Highness the Aga Khan, which will add to the magnificence of the collection. Such assortment of beauty and culture will shed light on the humanities of Islam and display the peaceful and affluent history of Islam.
The main reason I am so excited about this amazing endeavor is because of its promotion of pluralism in the Western world in regards to Islam. The exhibit of various pieces from different backgrounds and ethnicities will serve to broaden the horizons of the Islamic perspective as well as other point of views. It is my deepest desire that this combination of Museum, Ismaili Center and Park functions to bring all of humanity together under a common purpose: to learn and appreciate Islam for what it is, a peaceful and unifying religion.
I am honored and delighted to see all of these wondrous ideals coming together to form the mosaic of peace and understanding. A center of worship, an art platform and a park of natural beauty to tie all the inner and outer spaces together into one location that can provide realization and deep, inner peace.
About the writers: Emmanuel Iduma holds a Bachelor’s degree in Law (LL.B) from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria. At the time he wrote the essay, he was studying to be called to the Nigerian Bar in the Nigerian Law School, Enugu. His writing has been published online and in print, including in Saraba, which he co-publishes (www.sarabamag.com).
Zohra Nizamdin was born in Doha, Qatar, and studied at the Pak Shama School. After coming to the United States, she went to Brook Haven College where she received her Associate degree in Science and Arts. She is currently based in San Antonio, Texas.
Are you in Toronto? Do you plan to attend the museum’s opening day? What excites you about the museum’s opening? Please click Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.
As part of one of our previous annual anniversary series, we had asked our readers to tell us how a particular Jamatkahana has impacted their lives. Links to some of the reflections that we published are provided below. Ismailis and Toronto residents alike eagerly await and are excited about the opening of the new Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Toronto, along with the Aga Khan Museum and the Park, all located at one site. Thousands walk or drive by the magnificent buildings, and Simerg welcomes your thoughts and reflections on these projects which, Inshallah, will be opening soon. In this regard, readers will also wish to read Jim Bowie’s superb piece of the photos he had been taking of the construction site since its inception. Please click In the Making: The Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Alternatively, to download a PDF file (5mb) please click on the image below.
A MYSTICAL HALO (AND A GLITTERING STAR) AT THE SITE OF
THE NEW TORONTO ISMAILI CENTRE AND JAMATKHANA
PDF Photo essay: Click on image
SIMERG’S JAMATKHANA SERIES
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Date posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014.
We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please click on Leave a comment.
Editor’s note: Among the photos we recently published of His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to the Aga Khan Primary School, Nairobi (see link at bottom of this page), was a unique, previously unpublished portrait of the Aga Khan. We are pleased to inform readers that the photographer of that portrait, Sarfraz Sadaruddin of Vancouver, Canada, has approached us and generously provided us not only with permission to publish his photograph, but also a sister portrait taken at the same time (both of which are reproduced below). He has also provided special permission, under a Creative Commons License, for others to use these portraits, subject to the conditions and restrictions laid out below.
Ismaili readers of this website will be particularly happy to see these two unique portraits of their beloved 49th Imam as they prepare to celebrate Eid al-Fitr. Simerg takes this opportunity to offer congratulations to all Ismailis as well as the entire Muslim world on the most auspicious occasion of Eid al-Fitr marking the end of Ramadhan, and wishes everyone barakah (happiness) and success in all walks of life. We pray for peace and unity amongst Muslims everywhere to please Almighty God, and thus gain more from Allah’s continuous and endless wonderful blessings to mankind.
THE PORTRAITS OF HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN BY SARFRAZ SADARUDDIN
By Mohib Ebrahim
During His Highness the Aga Khan’s 1957 visit to East Africa — his first after becoming Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, the Aga Khan hosted a private function at his residence for many dignitaries — including the late Tom Mboya — and Ismaili community leaders. Sarfraz Sadaruddin, then 19, was one of the photographers covering the event and, never one to be shy, requested the Aga Khan if he could take some portraits of him. The Aga Khan graciously agreed, asking Sarfraz to proceed to the rear garden where he could take the pictures he needed while the Aga Khan was engaged with his guests there and this was when and where these two portraits were taken.
Sarfraz Sadaruddin, son of the late Rai A.M. Sadaruddin (see Voices: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – Eloquent Persian Quatrain by 48th Ismaili Imam Graces a 1923 Invitation For Talk About Imamat), was born in Nairobi, Kenya where he developed a passion for photography in his mid-teens and apprenticed with Kodak Limited for five years before moving to Hamburg, Germany, in 1960 where, on scholarship, he attended Agfa’s training college. Later, he moved to London to continue his photography studies at Ealing Technical College and then worked as a professional, freelance photographer, in the U.K. and continent, for newspapers, advertising firms and Royalty. In 1980, he moved to Vancouver, Canada, where he now resides and continues covering events.
In Kenya, since the Aga Khan’s coronation in 1957 until he left in the 1960s, Sarfraz was a key, official photographer at the Aga Khan’s functions in Nairobi. He covered the 49th Ismaili Imam’s Nairobi Enthronement (Takhtnashini) Ceremony, the opening ceremony of the Platinum Jubilee Hospital, now the Aga Khan University Hospital, and the entire Kenya leg of the 1959 visit including opening ceremony of the Aga Khan High School. He was also invited to cover the Aga Khan’s visit to the Aga Khan Primary School and many other private events the Aga Khan attended or hosted.
In London, Sarfraz was invited to cover the Foundation Stone ceremony of the Ismaili Centre as well as the Aga Khan’s community visits and functions.
In Vancouver, Sarfraz continued to cover the Ismaili Imam’s visits, including extensive coverage of the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby, which took place in the presence of then Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, then British Columbia Premier, Bill Bennett, and His Highness the Aga Khan.
Also in Vancouver, outside of the community, Sarfraz was an official press photographer for many visits of Royalty as well as the World Expo, 1986. Key Expo events he covered include the opening by His Royal Highness Prince of Wales and the late Princess Diana and twenty “National Days.” He was complimented by the then Lieutenant Governor of BC, The Hon. Robert G. Rogers, for his outstanding work.
Simerg welcomes feedback on this post. Please click on Comment.
LIMITED PERMISSION TO REUSE THE PORTRAITS
In order that the Jamat may enjoy and use these two portraits, Sarfraz is releasing them under under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND) — the first time, to my knowledge, photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam, have been so generously shared for the Jamat to enjoy without fear of copyright infringement. Please note the images are still copyright and not in the public domain, but the license does allow them to be re-used non-commercially, without modification and with credit as embedded in the images and set out as below, including the web-link:
His Highness the Aga Khan portrait, Kenya, 1957 by Sarfraz Sadaruddin, © 1957 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).
Sarfraz kindly requests that all those who have copied and republished his photograph from the original posting on Simerg and its sister photoblog Simergphotos, to please add the above credit and replace their images with the one published here.
Date posted: Saturday, July 26, 2014.
Copyright: Mohib Ebrahim. 2014.
About the Author: Mohib Ebrahim is Sarfraz’s nephew, grandson of the late Rai A.M. Sadaruddin and founder of the NanoWisdoms Archive (http://www.nanowisdoms.org), a unique website dedicated solely to the Ismaili Imamat’s speeches, interviews and writings launched in 2011 upon receiving special permission from Aiglemont to publish the Aga Khan’s speeches. With over 500 readings and thousands of quotes it is the most comprehensive, public collection of Imamat knowledge available today.
Some of Mohib’s other articles on this website:
Link to photos taken at the Aga Khan Primary School:
“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
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.”
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.
“…The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet…” -- His Highness the Aga Khan, February 2014
“In Tunisia…a new ‘consensus’ constitution with 94 per cent approval from the elected Constituent Assembly reaffirmed the Islamic identity of the Tunisian state, while also protecting the human rights of religious and ethnic minorities” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Ogden Lecture, Brown University, March 10, 2014
OTTAWA’S EMERGING SKYLINE
Please click on images for enlargement
His Highness the Aga Khan on Canada
A VISION FOR THE OTTAWA RIVERFRONT?…. ISMAILI COMMUNITY AND 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.
“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. 
CANADA – A HAVEN OF PEACE
“Canada is an international power who takes her responsibilities seriously and whose policies have never in her history been tainted by the cruder forms of colonialism, racialism or isolationism. 
“Successful experience with democracy, civil society and pluralism are the national genius of Canada of which much of the developing world is in dire need. 
“Canada remains for the rest of the world an enviable haven. A haven of peace, and of immense natural beauty and wealth. The wealth I speak of, is not merely its natural resources but the peoples of Canada, steeped in your tradition of tolerance, generosity and compassion in alleviating human suffering and respect for diversity of thought and culture.” 
CANADA – MOST SUCCESSFUL PLURALIST SOCIETY ON EARTH
“Canada is a country that has invested in making this potential liability [of pluralism] become an asset, and I think that Canada has been perhaps too humble in its own appreciation of this global asset. It’s a global asset, and few countries, if any have been as successful as Canada has. 
“Canada is today the most successful pluralist society on the face of our world. Without any doubt in my mind. You have created the perfect pluralist society where minorities, generally speaking, are welcome, they feel comfortable, they assimilate the Canadian psyche, they are allowed to move forward within civil society in an equitable manner, their children are educated. So Canada has succeeded in putting together a form of pluralist society which has been remarkably successful. I’m not the one who’s making a judgement.” 
Date posted: July 1, 2014.
 House of Commons, Thursday, February 27, 2014.
 Diplomatic Banquet (Toronto, Canada), 19 November 1978.
 The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Foundation Stone Ceremony (Ottawa, Canada), 6 June 2005.
 Diplomatic Corps Banquet (Toronto, Canada), 19 August 1992.
 CBC Interview, One-on-One with Peter Mansbridge (Ottawa, Canada), 28 October 2006. Click One on One: Peter Mansbridge Interview with His Highness the Aga Khan
 Globe and Mail Interview (3rd), John Stackhouse and Patrick Martin (Toronto, Canada), 30 January 2002