The highlight of the book is the history/storytelling of the Fatimid era….Goodreads….Al Khemir seduces readers with the manuscript’s mythical beauty and the philosophy of its art form…The Independent….A remarkable novel, skilfully and imaginatively weaving history and human lives across time and continents….The Guardian
“…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…”
Jamat and Volunteers Speak from the Heart on this Auspicious and Historical Day
BY MALIK MERCHANT
Editor, Simerg and Simergphotos
Happy Ismaili youth pictured at the Park at 10:30 pm after completing their volunteer duties at the Ismaili Centre on the opening day. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Happiness, happiness — it was all around me as I walked about with enthusiasm to capture the spirit of the jamat on the historic occasion of the opening of the new Ismaili Centre in Toronto. I heard mubarakis (congratulations) everywhere as joyous Ismailis greeted and hugged each other after hearing a Talika (a written communication) from their beloved 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam or His Highness the Aga Khan. The President of the Ismaili Council for Canada, Mr. Malik Talib, read the Talika, after which he conveyed the Canadian Jamat’s immense gratitude to the Imam for his benevolence, by gifting the Jamat with a marvellous new Ismaili Centre. The spirit of the occasion was overwhelming and I set out to capture happy moments and excitement with my camera. This, to me, would be inadequate. Photos alone could not do justice – I wanted to hear voices, words that would inspire me and readers of this website. I came across individuals during the course of 2 hours who enlightened me with their humility and wisdom as well as their dedication to the House of Imamat – whether they were volunteers or simply murids of the Imam. They spoke to me from the depths of their hearts. I hope this small post does a little bit of justice to the magnificent event that took place yesterday.
The Ismaili Centre glows and reflects in water on the night of the historic opening day for members of the Ismaili community. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
President Malik Talib and Vice President Moez Rajwani of Ismaili Council for Canada pictured in the Social Hall with a few of the many hundreds of volunteers who served at the Ismaili Centre in Toronto when it opened on Friday, September 19, 2014. The design in the background is based on an Ottoman textile. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
A team of Ismaili volunteers are seen pictured in the Social Hall of the new Ismaili Centre in Toronto which opened for the Ismaili community on Friday, September 19 , 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright
VOICES FROM THE JAMAT AND THE VOLUNTEERS (I)
A senior citizen enjoys a glass of sherbet as he celebrates the opening of the Ismaili Centre in Toronto. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
Mr. Ameeraly Ratansy and his wife, Mrs. Shirin Ratansy, at the Ismaili Centre on the opening day, Friday, September 19, 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
One of several meeting areas on the main floor of the Ismaili Centre in Toronto which opened to members of the Ismaili community on Friday, September 19, 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
Visitors standing in front of a sculptural calligraphy by the German Muslim artist Karl Schlamminger; this calligraphic composition represents Allah, Muhammad and Ali. Schlamminger’s works are also to be found at the Ismaili Centres in London, England, and Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
VOICES FROM THE JAMAT AND THE VOLUNTEERS (II)
VOICES FROM THE JAMAT AND THE VOLUNTEERS (III)
The Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board’s literature counter on the opening night of the Ismaili Centre. Tasbihs were among the most popular items. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
Visitors are seen receiving an explanation of calligraphies representing the names of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s), Hazrat Ali (a.s.), Hazrat Bibi Fatimah (a.s.), Hazrat Hassan (a.s.) and Imam Hussein (a.s.) located on the main floor of the new Ismaili Centre in Toronto. This calligraphy was designed by Minaz Nanji of Aiglemont. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
A view of the indoor parking garage of the new Ismaili Centre in Toronto. Hundreds of cars can be parked indoors. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
Entrance to the Ismaili Centre from the indoor parking garage. Facing the entrance is a fascinating work of Islamic calligraphy representing the opening of the Holy Qur’an, the Basmallah as seen in the next photo. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
The Basmallah is repeated four times in this iconic piece designed by German Muslim artist Karl Schlamminger. The calligraphy is the first piece that members will see as they enter the building from the indoor parking garage – see previous photo. Above and below are angled photos taken from either side. Photos: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
VOICES FROM THE JAMAT AND THE VOLUNTEERS (IV)
Visitors view two calligraphies on the lower level of the Ismaili Centre. They are by German Muslim artist Karl Schlamminger; they depict the Basmallah and the the Qur’anic phrase Nurun ala Nur (Light upon Light). Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
VOICES FROM THE JAMAT AND THE VOLUNTEERS (V)
Jamati members on the move as they try to see as much of the Ismaili Centre when its doors opened for the first time for members of the Ismaili community. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
Visitors take time to view one of the many wall exhibits displayed at the Ismaili Centre. This montage provides an overview of the construction phases of the Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
A unique blend of art work, calligraphy and photos are exhibited along the corridor spaces of the Ismaili Centre. A visitor walks by one such exhibit, giving the Centre the feel of a Gallery in certain areas. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
After spending several hours at the Ismaili Centre visitors rest their tired feet on the seating located in front of the reading lounge. Many had arrived as early as 5 pm to ensure that they had a place to sit inside the Jamatkhana. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
A view of the reading lounge. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
The Social Hall, where the official inauguration ceremony of the Ismaili Centre took place on Friday, September 12, 2014, in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, became the central meeting place for yesterday’s opening. Ismailis gathered here and were served sherbet (a sweetened milk drink reserved for happy occasions). Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
VOICES FROM THE JAMAT AND THE VOLUNTEERS (VI)
The sherbet stand at the Ismaili Centre’s Social Hall at its opening on Friday, September 19, 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
Ismaili volunteers cheerfully raise their glasses to celebrate the Ismaili Centre’s first day for members of the Ismaili community. The volunteers bring smiles to countless members within their own community as well as to other communities through numerous outreach programs. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
VOICES FROM THE JAMAT AND THE VOLUNTEERS (VII)
VOICES FROM THE JAMAT AND THE VOLUNTEERS (VIII)
Taking comfort and rest: An elder from the jamat of Afghanistan, now settled in Canada. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
….With her family and friends. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
VOICES FROM THE JAMAT AND THE VOLUNTEERS (IX)
Approximately 10 pm. The crowds subside as the Centre prepares to close its doors after an extraordinary day in the life of the Canadian Ismaili community. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
One of the last vehicles to depart the Ismaili Centre following the historic day. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
Members of the jamat pose for a photo at the Park after the conclusion of the evening’s celebration at the Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
Alykhan (centre) is pictured in the Park with his dad and mum, Shafiq Dhanji and Rozina Dhanji, after the conclusion of the evening celebrations at the Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg. Copyright.
LAST WORDS – FROM A VOLUNTEER (AND MAJOR) WHO HAS SERVED THE JAMAT FOR FIFTY YEARS
Date posted: Saturday, September 20, 2014.
Last updated: Sunday, September 21, 2014, 13:45 (incorrect photo caption, see below).
Copyright: Simerg. 2014.
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Correction: In an earlier version of this post, Shafiq Dhanji, his wife Rozina and their son Alykhan were captioned under a different photo. Their photo was missing altogether. Our apologies to them and other families for any confusion this may have caused.
Rachael Kohn: Hello, this is “The Ark”, and I am Rachael Kohn. A thousand years ago a Persian poet defied the conventions of the day. His name was Nasir Khusraw, an Ismaili Muslim, a branch of Shi’a Islam. Instead of lavishing praise on the sultan or his horse, he praised learning and spiritual purity…..Click to read the Australian broadcaster’s interview with Nasir Khusraw specialist Alice Hunsberger
FATIMID APPROACHES TO KNOWLEDGE
Within the Islamic tradition, the pursuit of knowledge, the patronage of learning, the promotion of education, and the desire to seek out the truth in all its multifaceted forms was prevalent from the very earliest times. Within this milieu, the Shia Ismaili community of the Fatimid times excelled and achieved a level of literary output far beyond their relatively small size and minority status. According to Heinz Halm, the Fatimid period was “one of the most brilliant periods of Islamic history, both politically and in terms of its literary, economic, artistic, and scientific achievements.”
For the Ismailis, knowledge was not merely ancillary to their tradition but at the very heart of it — to the extent that their entire religio-political mission (the da’wa) revolved around the idea of knowledge as the single most important factor in their journey towards the knowledge of God in his absolute oneness (Tawhid). This paper explores the Fatimid approach to knowledge and demonstrates the courageous approach which the Ismaili thinkers like Abu Yaʿqub al-Sijistani took towards the new knowledge which was being encountered from Greek and Hellenistic traditions….Read more
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.
“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.
A special NEW series about objects that are linked to Ismaili history over the past 1400 years, from the dawn of Islam to the Imamat of the present forty-ninth Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan.
INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg and Simergphotos
In his widely acclaimed and engagingly written “A History of the World in 100 Objects” published in 2010, Neil MacGregor, the Director of The British Museum, tries to tell a history of the world “by deciphering the messages which objects communicate across time – messages about peoples and places, environments and interactions, about different moments in history and about our own time as we reflect upon it.” On the fifth anniversary of Simerg, Studying Ismaili History Through Objects is a new series being launched today that takes its inspiration from MacGregor’s splendid book.
Since 2009, Simerg has launched a special new series to mark each anniversary. Over the past years, the themes that have been published are I Wish I’d Been There, The Jamatkhana – A Place of Spiritual and Social Convergence, Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures and Stories of Ismaili Volunteers. These series have continued to endure over the past years.
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects is, as the title states, a series about objects that are linked to Ismaili history over the past 1400 years, from the dawn of Islam to the Imamat of the present and manifest forty-ninth Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan.
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects will focus on the material culture and heritage of the Ismailis. The object may be a small coin or a monumental building, it may be a single artefact of outstanding beauty and elaborate craftsmanship, or comprise a group of textile fragments or broken pottery shards. The object may be a mundane, ordinary thing created in a particular geographical space and historical setting, but that has taken on meanings that could never have been imagined at the outset. In other words, the object has become a document not just of the world for which it was made, but of the later periods which altered it.
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects will seek to provide a visually articulate approach and a direct link with the past in a tangible way that is both informative and profoundly moving. It is hoped that the contributions presented in this series will stimulate the imagination and provoke discussion. The objects presented may provide a meeting ground for official and formal versions of the past or a reflective personal experience. But they may also go beyond the level of history and personal memory. The objects will become tools towards understanding the importance of culture in the development of self-identity.
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects will also aim to provide an understanding and appreciation of the need to preserve Ismaili heritage and history. This point was emphasised by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the opening of Baltit Fort in Pakistan in October 1996 when he said: “…what has been inherited over nearly eight hundred years of history in that building should be known and understood and recorded and so it should be in many of the other aspects of our history.”
Studying Ismaili History Through Objects invites contributions from all readers. Your contribution will encourage thoughts about the past but also create a deeper awareness of the present. Objects are ‘signals from the past’ for explorations and discoveries, and are catalysts that should be regarded as just the beginning of an adventure, not the whole story. Through your participation, the objects will promote the exploration of the relationship between histories and memories, between culture and community. Inshallah, the objects presented by readers will serve as a link to the future that recognises its roots in the past, and the series will become a unique reference point on Ismaili history and heritage.
Please send your contribution to: Simerg@aol.com
Date posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014.
In this special piece for Simerg, erudite Ismaili missionary and scholar, Alwaez Kamaluddin of Pakistan, provides a short but very interesting insight on the subject of Qur’anic teachings in the Ginan, while highlighting the features of his most recent book published in English.