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!
by Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah
Faith (Iman) is like a tree, the roots of which go into the heart: its trunk is in reason, and its branches are in the instincts, while imagination is its new shoots and leaves – (senses of) the body. The foundation (asl) of faith is love for the Imam-e-Zaman (the Imam of the Time). And if this foundation, that is, this love, and the roots of faith are strong and in good condition, all other parts of the tree, such as its trunk, its branches and leaves, can be expected to continue to flourish even if they are (accidentally) damaged. If, on the contrary, the roots are not well grounded, or even rotten, the whole tree will soon dry, and then will become good for nothing except to be used as fuel.
Thus love for Mawlana Hazar Imam is everything, being the root of faith. If it is not strong, all the acts of outward piety (a’mal-i zahiri) which are like leaves of the tree, will fade. If you have thousands of leaves, fresh and of good colour, they will dry in a short time, and then a very small fire will be sufficient to burn them completely.
2. LOVE FOR HAZAR IMAM
by Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq
It is related from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that a group of Shias visited him one day. One in the group addressed the Imam and spoke of a man who was with them.
“O Son of the Messenger of God: this man has love for you.”
On hearing these words, the Imam looked at the person and said:
“The best kind of love is the love for the sake of God and His Messenger. There is no gain in any other kind of love.”
The Imam then continued.
“Once the ansars [helpers] came to Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.s.) and said, ‘O Messenger of God! We were on the wrong path and Allah guided us through you. We were destitute and we prospered by your blessings. For this reason, you may ask of anything you desire from our belongings and we shall give it to you.’
“At this, the following verse was revealed by Allah, ‘Say (O Muhammad): No reward do I ask (for my favours) except your love for my kith and kin’.”
Moved to tears, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq then raised his hands and exclaimed:
“Praise be to God, Who has exalted us above all.”
“Faith” adapted from Risala dar haqiqat-i din by Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah Al-Husayni, translated as True Meaning of Religion by Wladimir Ivanow. Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah was the eldest son of the 47th Ismaili Imam, Aga Ali Shah, also known as Aga Khan II. The Pir was only 33 when he died due to a chest related illness, a few months before the demise of his own father, Imam Aga Ali Shah. Mawlana Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, then only 8 years old, succeeded to the throne of Imamat as the 48th Imam.
“Love for Imam” excerpted from article by Jehangir Merchant and Alnoor Bhatia published in Ilm, Volume 5, Number 1 (July 1979). The article was based on the Gujarati edition of Qadi al-Numan’s work, Da’aim al-Islam.
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.
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
BY KARIMA MAGHRABY
(Additional material compiled by Simerg)
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
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
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
Prophet 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.
3. English Translation of the Qur’anic verses by Arthur John Arberry.
LINKS TO A SELECTION OF ADDITIONAL ARTICLES ON THE HOLY QUR’AN
- Assessing English Translations of the Qur’an, and Links to Translations on the Internet by Khaleel Mohammed
- The Noble Qur’an – An Inexhaustible Well-Spring of Inspiration and Knowledge by His Highness the Aga Khan
- Anecdote: Ismaili Children’s Understanding of the Holy Qur’an Gives Immense Happiness to Mawlana Hazar Imam by Kamaluddin A. Mohammed
- Literary Reading: Some Considerations of the Term ‘Imam’ in the Holy Qur’an by Dishad Keshwani
- The Parable of Moses and Khidr in the Holy Qur’an: An Esoteric Interpretation by Jehangir A. Merchant
- Literary Reading: Fatimid Scientist, Al Hazen, Inspired by the Spirit of the Qur’an
- “The Blue Manuscript” by Sabiha Al Khemir – An Intriguing Fiction About the Hunt for a Priceless Fatimid Qur’an by David Skinner
- “Thank You” Letter to the Makers of the Blue Qur’an by Andrew Kosorok
- The Story of Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an by Jehangir A. Merchant
- Historical Images: President Thomas Jefferson’s Copy of the Qur’an
“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
“….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….