Why I am Excited About the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park – Two Winning Essays

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.” Simerg welcomes your thoughts on the subject. Are you and your family planning to be one of the first to enter through the museum doors when the museum opens? Are you making a special trip from outside Toronto to attend the public opening? And if you live close to the museum or live in Toronto how excited do you feel about the projects as you pass the site? Please submit your feedback by clicking on Leave a comment.

WHY I AM EXCITED ABOUT THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM, THE ISMAILI CENTRE AND THEIR PARK

BY EMMANUEL IDUMA

A photo from April 2010 of the site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park as the trees were being removed to make room for the contruction. "No need to worry...the trees will be replaced," wrote Jim Bowie for a photo essay for Simerg. Photo: Jim Bowie. Copyright.

Early memories: A photo from April 2010 of the site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park as the trees were being removed to make room for the construction. “No need to worry…the trees will be replaced,” wrote Jim Bowie for a photo essay for Simerg. Photo: Jim Bowie. Copyright.


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.

Copyright: Simerg.com

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About the writer: 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).

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WHY I AM EXCITED ABOUT THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM, THE ISMAILI CENTRE AND THEIR PARK

BY ZOHRA NIZAMDIN

A depiction of the  Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park..

A depiction of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park..


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.

Copyright: Simerg.com

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About the writer: 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.

The Hijra: Movement of God’s People by Omid Safi

Standing outside the city, Muhammad looked back lovingly on Mecca and said: “Of all God’s earth, you are the dearest place unto me, and the dearest unto God. Had not my people driven me out from you, I would not have left you.”…Read more….The Quintessential Marking Point of Islamic History

An 1889 photo showing a view of the city of Mecca. Photograph attributed to al-Sayyid ʻAbd al-Ghaffār by scholar Claude Sui. (Source: "Travel to the Holy Land and photography in the nineteenth century" by Claude Sui. Chapter in: To the Holy Lands: Pilgrimage centres from Mecca and Medina to Jerusalem. Mannheim: Reiss-Engelhorn Museum, 2008, pages 56-63). Credit: USA Library of Congress. Please click on image for article by Omid Safi

A photo taken in 1889 showing a view of the city of Mecca. Photograph attributed to al-Sayyid ʻAbd al-Ghaffār by scholar Claude Sui. (Source: “Travel to the Holy Land and photography in the nineteenth century” by Claude Sui. Chapter in: To the Holy Lands: Pilgrimage centres from Mecca and Medina to Jerusalem. Mannheim: Reiss-Engelhorn Museum, 2008, pages 56-63). Credit: USA Library of Congress. Please click on image for article by Omid Safi

Eid Mubarak: Send a Greeting Card

Simerg rejoices with its readers all over the world on the auspicious occasion of Eid al-Fitr and invites you to send a festive card to your family members and friends through the official website of the Ismaili community by clicking on http://ecard.theismaili.org/Eid-ul-Fitr-2014 or the image below.

The Ismaili website contains varying themes for its eCards including a wonderful selection of images of Ismaili Jamatkhanas, including those of the high profile Ismaili centres.

The Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe was opened on 12 October 2009 by His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, and Mawlana Hazar Imam. It is the first such Centre in Central Asia — a region that has been home to Ismaili Muslims for more than a thousand years. The ceremony was attended by the Mayor of Dushanbe, Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, senior government officials, diplomats, scholars and leaders of faith communities. Representatives of the Ismaili community from around the world were also present.

The Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe was opened on 12 October 2009 by His Excellency Emomali Rahmon, President of the Republic of Tajikistan, and Mawlana Hazar Imam. It is the first such Centre in Central Asia — a region that has been home to Ismaili Muslims for more than a thousand years. The ceremony was attended by the Mayor of Dushanbe, Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev, senior government officials, diplomats, scholars and leaders of faith communities. Representatives of the Ismaili community from around the world were also present.

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EID AL-FITR

The fast of Ramadan ends with the Festival of Breaking Fast, Eid al-Fir, on the first day of the following month of Shawwal. The festival is also known as Bairam or Eid Ramadan. It is an occasion for celebration and rejoicing for Allah’s Bounty upon mankind for His revelation of the Qur’an. It is also a time for individuals to express their gratitude to Allah for having given them the strength, courage and resilience to complete the fast, and thus fulfilling the duty enjoined upon them by Allah.

The Festival begins with a festive prayer (Salatul-Fitr) with all the believers congregating at their respective places of worship. It is also an occasion for socialising and meeting with other Muslims and for fostering a sense of brotherhood and unity amongst the community (ummah). After the communal prayer, families gather together at home with relatives and friends and participate in exchanging gifts and partaking a meal.

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Please also visit Letter from China: Eid al-Fitr at the Huasheing Mosque in Guangzhou by Zulfikar Mulji.

Date posted: Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Reading for the Holy Night of Lailat al-Qadr with Links to Material on the Holy Qur’an

BY KARIMA MAGHRABY
(Additional material compiled by Simerg)

In his Khamsa, Shab-i Qadr (the Night of Power), the renowned Persian poet Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE) tells the story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the Laylat al-Qadr. This image is taken from a folio in the Aga Khan Museum collection; the Toronto museum is due to open in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum

In his Khamsa, Shab-i Qadr (the Night of Power), the renowned Persian poet Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE) tells the story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the Laylat al-Qadr. This image is taken from a folio in the Aga Khan Museum collection; the Toronto museum is due to open in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum

Laylat al-Qadr is the auspicious night when the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) first received the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, thereby conferring upon him the mantle of prophethood at the age of forty.

The Shia Ismaili Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadan, in keeping with traditions received through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and his wife Hazrat Bibi Fatimah (a.s.), and the Imams of the Fatimid dynasty. It is a night of special prayer, reflection and remembrance of Allah.

When Prophet Muhammad was 40 years old, he received his first divine revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel. When Angel Jibreel appeared to him, he said:

“Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created,
created, Man of a blood-clot.

Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Generous,
who taught by the Pen,
taught Man that he knew not” — Holy Qur’an, Al-Alaq, 96:1-5

The first revelation

Part of Al-Alaq (The Clot) – 96th sura of the Holy Qur’an – the first revelation received by Prophet Muhammad

The night of this first revelation is celebrated as Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power). The following verses from the Holy Qur’an describe the loftiness of this night and articulate the importance of the final revealed scripture to mankind:

“Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. What will convey unto you what the Night of Power is! The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels and the spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. Peace it is until the rising of the dawn.” — 94:5

Cave of Hira

A photo of Cave of Hira in the Mount of Light, near Mecca, where the Prophet would come for his devotions and meditations, and the sacred spot where the Holy Quran began to be revealed. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) had just stepped into the forty-first year of his life, when during the 23rd night in the month of Ramadan the first 5 verses of the Surah Al-Alaq (96) were revealed to him. The small cave is about 3.5 meters long and 2 meters wide. Hira was the Prophet Muhammad’s most adorable place for meditation.

“(This is) a Scripture which We have revealed unto you (Muhammad) that thereby you may bring forth mankind from darkness unto light, by the permission of their Lord, unto the path of the Mighty, the Owner of Praise” — 14:01

“And celebrate the name of thy Lord morning and evening. And part of the night, prostrate thyself to Him; and glorify Him a long night through. As to these, they love the fleeting life, and put away behind them a Day (that will be) hard.” — 76:25-27

Mountain of LightProphet Muhammad (s.a.s) received his first revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) in the Hira cave which is on Jabl al Nur (Mount of Light) shown in this photo. The peak is visible from a great distance. The Prophet used to climb this mountain often even before receiving his fist revelation from Allah.

“We sent it down during a Blessed Night” — 44:3

“Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong)” — 2:185

Hazrat Mawlana Murtaza Ali (a.s.) the successor of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) to the throne of Imamat is quoted as having said:

“Do not remember God absent-mindedly, nor forget Him in distraction; rather, remember Him with perfect remembrance (dhikran kamilan), a remembrance in which your heart and tongue are in harmony, and what you conceal conforms with what you reveal.” — quoted in Justice and Remembrance, Introducing the Spirituality of Imam Ali, by Reza Shah Kazemi, p. 162.

Date posted: Friday, July 18, 2014.

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Credits:
1. Wikipedia.org

2. Mecca.net
3. English Translation of the Qur’anic verses by Arthur John Arberry.

LINKS TO A SELECTION OF ADDITIONAL ARTICLES ON THE HOLY QUR’AN

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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.

The Imamat: By His Highness the Aga Khan, the Ismaili Constitution, Azim Nanji and Abbas Hamdani

“…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

His Highness Aga Khan signing his book "Where Hope Takes Root" for the Premier of British Columbia during his 2008 visit to the province to celebrate his Golden Jubilee. Ismailis will be celebrating his 57th Imamat Day on July 11, 2014. Please click on image for Imamat article. Photo: With permission of The Vancouver Sun. Copyright.

His Highness Aga Khan signing his book “Where Hope Takes Root” for the Premier of British Columbia during his 2008 visit to the province to celebrate his Golden Jubilee. Ismailis will be celebrating his 57th Imamat Day on July 11, 2014. Please click on image for Imamat article. Photo: With permission of The Vancouver Sun. Copyright.

Please click: On the Imamat and Ismailis: By His Highness the Aga Khan, the Ismaili Constitution, Azim Nanji and Abbas Hamdani

His Highness the Aga Khan on Tunisia’s New Constitution + the Constitution’s Preamble

“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

Please click: His Highness the Aga Khan on Tunisia’s New Constitution, with English Translation of the Constitution’s Preamble

Location of Tunisia in North Africa. Please click on map for remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan

Location of Tunisia in North Africa. Please click on map for remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan

Please click: His Highness the Aga Khan on Tunisia’s New Constitution, with English Translation of the Constitution’s Preamble

Insight: The Roots of Western Esoteric Movements in Islam’s Esoteric Tradition

“….throughout history we find people convinced the great religions are a necessary ‘outer shell’ veiling a Primordial Wisdom that alone can reveal humanity’s real origin, purpose and destiny….Some of Europe’s leading seekers after ancient secret wisdom were convinced that in the Muslim lands of the Orient could be found a Primordial Tradition transmitted from generation to generation within closed communities of initiates.”

An extraordinary insight into how Western esoteric movements may have roots in the esoteric tradition in Islam, including Sufism and Ismailism. Read More….

Please click on image for article.

Please click on image for article.

 PLEASE CLICK ON: Islam’s Esoteric Tradition and its Influence on European Esoteric Writers and Organizations

Ideas of One Humanity in World Religions: Comparative Study of Ginan “Hum dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase” by Shiraz Pradhan, With a Recitation

Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul….” – Holy Qur’an, 4:1

Instability is infectious, but so is hope. And that it is why it is so important for us to carry the torch of hope as we seek to share the gift of pluralism….Profound expressions about our common humanity are embedded in the world’s great religious traditions, including my own…” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Lisbon, June 12, 2014.

Credit: Istockphoto.com. Please click on image for "One Humanity"

Image Credit: Istockphoto.com. Copyright. Please click on image for “One Humanity”

PLEASE CLICK: Ideas of One Humanity, Love and Peace in World Religions: Comparative Study of Ginan “Hum dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase” with a Hindu Bhajan

The Holy Qur’an: An Anecdote from His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visit to an Ismaili Religious Night School

In this piece Kamaluddin Mohammed, a prominent and highly respected Ismaili scholar and missionary explains the importance of studying the Holy Qur’an, and gives an anecdote from a religious night school visit made by the current 49th Imam of the Ismailis, His Highness the Aga Khan, during his visit to India in 1967.

PLEASE CLICK:  Ismaili Children’s Understanding of the Holy Qur’an Gives Immense Happiness to Mawlana Hazar Imam

Calligraphy writing has been a preeminent Islamic art since the seventh century when the Qur'an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad and recorded in the Arabic language. Controlled, angular lettering called Kufic script was commonly employed in the writing of early Qurans. This folio from the Qur'an, is Sura 9, "Repentance" (al-Tauba), verses 31-32, Near East or North Africa, ca. 900. Photo:  Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Please click on image for article.

Calligraphy writing has been a preeminent Islamic art since the seventh century when the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad and recorded in the Arabic language. Controlled, angular lettering called Kufic script was commonly employed in the writing of early Qurans. This folio from the Qur’an, is Sura 9, “Repentance” (al-Tauba), verses 31-32, Near East or North Africa, ca. 900. Photo: Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Please click on image for article.