“…it was quite something to perform in front of him [Mawlana Hazar Imam] and be in his presence. It was truly, truly magical. I think it was one of our most prestigious performances” — Salim Merchant
“…The Nav Chugga are our choice. In the poem, if all goes well, the inevitability is for the butterfly (or silk moth) to emerge and do its butterfly thing, remembering its delicate wings can intricately avert the forces of evil with strength of flight and purpose. Only by guidance, reflection and intention can this occur for the ruh (spirit)…”
For series, please click Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures
“By the generosity of the Imam of the time, we say that Paradise in truth is the Intellect, and the Gateway of paradise is the Prophet (peace and salutation be upon him) during his time, and his wasi, his rank, and the Imam of the time during his age. The Key to the gateway of paradise is the utterance of the phrase, La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadan rasul Allah.”
Please click: Pir Nasir-i Khusraw on the Gateway and Key to Paradise
The excerpts shown below from the Holy Qur’an, the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and speeches of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, are quite clear about who the term Ahl al-Bayt refers to. However, Farhad Husseinali Patni gives further light on the subject by providing examples and references from early Islamic History, going back to the life of the Prophet and Qur’anic revelation. Please read this important article by clicking on “Ahl al-Bayt” – An Understanding Based on the Holy Qur’an, Hadith and Historical Events or on the image below.
THE FUNDAMENTAL MESSAGE OF RELIGION
By Dr. Farouk Topan
The pace of life today is said to be much faster than it was just a few decades ago. This is an axiom of our times. What, however, is not axiomatic is the corollary that is often assumed to stem from it, namely that spiritual value and worth get diminished in proportion to the increase of pace. It is not uncommon to hear the lament that nowadays people have no time for religion. Many people actually believe this, and that is a great pity. For religion is not a ‘thing’ one ‘does’ if one has time. Religion is a commitment, an involvement of one’s being and personality, utterly, totally and completely.
Human nature, however, accepts few commitments gladly and it abhors those which are seen as imposed externally. Some people consider religion as a process forced upon them from outside themselves. To view religion as an imposition is to misunderstand its message and its function.
The fundamental message of religion to Man is to be at peace — at peace with himself, with his fellow human beings, and at peace with his Creator; the fundamental function of religion is to enable a person to understand and to know his own nature, his environment and to begin to recognise and to know his Creator. Knowledge and peace are interlinked. One makes the attainment of the other possible and a person who attains a degree of both becomes a potential recipient of God’s most valuable gifts to Man: wisdom. Tranquility is a reflection of wisdom.
“I do not believe that we should fear material progress, nor should we condemn it. The danger is that it could become an obsession in our lives and that it could dominate our way of thinking” — Mawlana Hazar Imam 
“The day we no longer know how, nor have the time nor the faith to bow in prayer to Allah because the human soul that He has told us is eternal is no longer of sufficient importance to us to be worthy of an hour of our daily working, profit-seeking time, will be a sunless day of despair” — Mawlana Hazar Imam 
An essential aspect of knowledge is the understanding that even a tiny part of our lives cannot be isolated from what is termed ‘religion'; for religion properly understood, is nothing less – and even more – than life itself. We, as Muslims, are not and cannot be ‘outside’ of Islam. Islam involves us completely; that, indeed, is the essence of our existence.
The realization of this simple fact is the basis for experiencing an inner calm and tranquility. Then the pace of life around a person becomes largely immaterial, and its varied speed becomes a matter of petty insignificance. This is not to underestimate the powerful attractions of the style of life prevalent in many parts of the world; it is simply to point out that, if one wants to stop oneself from being drifted away aimlessly by the currents of materialism, one can stabilize oneself through the teachings and practices of Islam and Ismailism.
Date posted: Thursday, November 6, 2014.
The essay has been adapted from Ilm, Volume 2, Number 1, published by the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) for the United Kingdom, where it appeared under the title “Islam and the Modern Pace of Life.” Excerpts from the speeches of His Highness the Aga Khan were not part of the original piece by Dr. Topan.
 His Highness the Aga Khan, Takht Nashini (ceremonial installation), Karachi, Pakistan, January 23, 2958.
 His Highness the Aga Khan, Convocation Address, Peshawar University, Pakistan, November 30, 1967.
Links for speeches of His Highness the Aga Khan:
“…This tale belongs to ages past. It goes back to the era of Hazrat Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s.), our third Imam, from whose veins was to ensue the Divine Line of the Imams. He was the Imam who, on the battlefield of Karbala, received the nass of Imamat from his father, Hazrat Imam Hussain (a.s.) with the blessing: “Through you the line of Imamat will continue till the Day of Judgment…”
The Jamatkhana Toronto
BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE
A thousand years and more
A seed of faith planted
In Khadak in Mumbai
Transplanted to many soils
India, Pakistan, Afghanistan
Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Mombasa
Now the park on Wynford Drive
The murid murshid seed
Planted and transplanted
Now sacred space of meeting
People, stories, histories
Fused, bonded, shared
Nascent unity love and care
For the highest potential
Nurturing and flourishing
The murid murshid seed
When open arms welcome
Pluralism of mind and heart
Where ideas take root
A Mission is in bloom
The intellect soars
The vision expands
In the park in Canada
The murid murshid spark
A strong foundation
When vision, mission, ideas
In harmonious symphony rise
The universe conspires
The crucible swells
Then there is alchemy
In Toronto in the park
The murid murshid love
Consecrated to Thee
A park, ineffable light, a sacred space,
Where nature, man, knowledge
Come together in unison
Of mind, body and spirit
Of dialogue and collaboration
A mosaic of cultures, languages
Inspiring hope and harmony
The murid murshid bond
Reaches out to man and nature
Circle of infinity encompasses
A Jamatkhana for supplication
The jamat comes together
To submit in humility before the Divine
The hymnal voice rising into the dome
Reaching heavenward ascending
To arrive into the silence of the heart
The murid murshid bond
Reverberating beyond time
The sound of prayer ascends
Reaches a crescendo
From the dome to beyond
Through the crystal clear
To the Divine Light matrix
Into the heart of Divinity
The bond of murid murshid
Sets free the heart of man
Those who come together in dialogue
Those who contemplate and reflect
Welcome to the open arms of wonder
Sacred space, the crucible
That transmutes base to pure
That nurtures and gives flight
To the wings of the souls
The soul of murid to murshid
Transcends human understanding
Had we but wings
We would fly in the sky
To search for the light
Neither of North, South
East and West
To flutter and land
In the windowsill
Of the Divine Master
Where murid murshid
Blend and Unite
Date posted: Monday, September 22, 2014.
Copyright: Shariffa Keshavjee/Simerg. 2014.
The images shown in the poem may be clicked for enlargement. Image captions are as follows:
Top image - The “Muqarnas” is a finely crafted corbelled ceiling whose skylight provides a subtle transition from the outside to the serene Jamatkhana inside. Photo: Copyright Gary Otte.
Centre image - A screen made from ribbons of steel separates the anteroom from the prayer hall. It repeats an 8 sided pattern exhibiting a geometric tool used by Muslim artists to create order and rhythm for contemplation. Photo: Copyright Gary Otte
Bottom image - Inside the Jamatkhana, the central skylight panel descends to a white translucent onyx block. Photo: Copyright Shai Gil.
About the writer: Shariffa Keshavjee is a philanthropist and an entrepreneur with an objective to help women empower themselves. Raised in Kisumu, she considers herself a “pakaa” Kenyan. She is now based in the nation’s capital, Nairobi. Her other interest is in visual arts where she delights in painting on wood, silk and porcelain using water colours, oils and acrylics. She also likes writing, especially for children, and bird watching.
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EXCITEMENT IN THE AIR
by Navyn Naran
There is excitement, magic in the air.
the Imam has arrived,
the buildings are washed and rewashed with rain,
the winds have combed out snarls and veils
Gray, opaque clouds, as if cotton wool
had been soaked in water
and strewn over the ceiling here.
In the horizon, a peek of baby blue,
tinged with light cream;
the clouds moving elsewhere.
Leaves green, having just been cleansed
by buckets of water overnight,
freshly manicured, ready to welcome
Him to Wynford Drive.
It’s as of the whole area has
returned from a morning jaunt,
refreshed and nicely sore,
rejuvenated for this day!
This day, the 12th of September 2014,
Prince Amyn Mohamed Aga Khan’s Birthday
He was born within a year of the Imam,
adoring the brother he followed as a child.
Whatever Karim does, this ginger colored head
and Trustworthy, Loyal Heart, wanted to do
an adoring brother, he could only be
as Ali to Muhammad, attached:
The elders remember him; a playful, sweet child,
a flair, a flamboyance, detailed care.
As specialized cardiac cells continuously fire ,
beat by beat, and in rhythm,
Prince Amyn, a shadow-like of the Form,
as the gardener of the Master’s land
in His highest esteem.
No laurels; much humor and style.
and it is on this very day, a historic gift to the globe .
77 Wynford Drive on this 77th Birthday.
The Aga Khan Museum. The Ismaili Centre. The Park.
In the present, a present,
and presence of leaders, donors, volunteers
and a very Special Eye.
Who’d have thought it in Uganda in 1970?
Who’d have thought it in Canada in 2000?
this is not a facade to name or number,
it is to be understood.
For some perhaps piece by piece.
For others, a space for contemplation.
For opening the eyes.
I remember the barren, grey dirt being overturned,
the harsh, cold winters, icy,
when yellow hatted men worked tirelessly,
from below ground up.
Pieces of structure in an architect’s mind,
in the Architect’s Mind, comes alive.
Work. Many hours and stressors,
much negotiated and coordinated.
One would never know.
Simple lines, soft color and a
sense of cleanliness and peace.
Day or night. Lights enter and open,
leave everything behind.
Enter. Come. Ayez…
Come reflect, details of the shahnameh,
the kufic script in a Blue Qur’an,
the magic of art and calligraphy.
Rest a while, be seated. Read.
in the hush of the quiet,
only footsteps of men and women,
children and elders, absorbing.
Perhaps it is only history. Past.
If the skills and beauty compose a piece,
this civilisation is to be included,
to be modeled, continued.
It is a day of celebration. Come, Enter, Ayez…
Copyright: Navyn Naran/Simerg
“A FABULOUS, GLORIOUS GIFT BY HIS HIGHNESS”
By Malik Merchant
Alex Sarris, the facility operator at the site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park was a few feet away from me. He was discussing with one of his colleagues a hitch that had occurred and which could possibly take a few hours to resolve. I was tantalized by the breathtaking Museum and the Centre that I had earlier walked through as a member of the media invited for the pre-opening review. The view of the two buildings on either side of the Park was stunning. The architectural contrast and splendour could only be truly appreciated when looking at them from the Park. The calm water of the pond in front of me soothed me. I listened to Alex as I took my final bites of a deliciously chunky roast beef sandwich that had been served to the media earlier at the museum as part of a light lunch. I had wrapped it and tucked it in my computer bag. I was hungry enough again after walking through the museum galleries and the Ismaili Centre! Food! Yes, the ultimate delight when deliciously served!
I thought about the challenges Alex and his team faced during the years they had worked at the site, under some harsh winter weather! How might have these workers coped, I wondered, like many hundreds and thousands of workers who work on outdoor construction projects. But here was a frustrating delay less than 48 hours before its opening by His Highness the Aga Khan. There was also so much work being done both outside and inside the buildings, I would have thought the opening day was still several weeks away. Alex soon left his colleague brimming with confidence and with a cheerful face. I called him aside, and asked him to describe what he saw around him and how he felt. He looked at the two buildings and the park and said, “Fabulous, glorious, a gift by His Highness the Aga Khan befitting a united society cooperating and working together to advance the ideals of pluralism.”
“And what about the final few hours to finish the job?” I asked him. He replied, “Two days of diligent working will bring the site up to the highest standards established by His Highness.” He had greeted me earlier with “Ya Ali Madad” and departed with “Mubaraki to all Ismailis and to all Canadians on this unique occasion.” In all these years, I have not learnt more than 2 or 3 French or Spanish words but I knew Alex had learnt quite a few new words from the on site ‘Ismaili dictionary’ when he had used, in reference to the hitch, the word “mushkil-asaan,” an Arabic phrase used in Ismaili prayers meaning resolution of difficulty. He was seeking a resolution to his immediate problem as well any other outstanding issues that they all faced collectively as a team.
I was grateful for his openness and humility, and was touched and inspired by his cheerful and positive outlook. I bid this wonderfully articulate person good bye, as he graciously permitted me to take his photo with my mobile!
Date posted: Friday, September 12, 2014.
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.