“Seat of the Ismaili Imamat” — Text of the Historic Agreement Between the Ismaili Imamat and the Portuguese Republic

Introduced by Abdulmalik Merchant
Publisher-Editor, Simerg.com

Mawlana Hazar Imam thanking the government for inviting the Ismaili Imamat to establish its permanent Seat in Portugal. TheIsmaili/Gary Otte

June 3, 2015: Mawlana Hazar Imam thanking the government for inviting the Ismaili Imamat to establish its permanent Seat in Portugal. TheIsmaili/Gary Otte

On Thursday June 4, 2015, in a piece entitled History in the Making: Establishment of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal, we informed our readers about a landmark agreement that was signed a day earlier by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, and Portugal’s Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Rui Machete, at the historic Necessidades Palace in Lisbon. The Agreement marked the first such accord in the Ismaili Imamat’s modern history.

We are pleased to inform our readers that we now have access to this milestone agreement which is being reproduced in full below based on the text of the original English version of the document, which appears on the website of the Portuguese Parliament.

The Agreement is divided into 5 chapters dealing with (1) General Provision; (2) The Seat of Imamat; (3) Prerogatives of the Imam and the Members of the Seat; (4) Cooperation; and (5) Final Provisions, and consists of  21 articles. The Agreement, reflecting the mutual trust and esteem which has traditionally characterised the relationship between the Republic of Portugal and Mawlana Hazar Imam, affirms the recognition of the legal personality of the Ismaili Imamat.

During the signing on June 3, His Highness the Aga Khan hailed the agreement as a historic milestone in the Imamat’s history and said:

“Today is a unique and important occasion, where for the first time in our history we will have the opportunity to work with a partner with whom we share so many values, so many hopes and so many desires.”

________________

AGREEMENT BETWEEN
THE PORTUGUESE REPUBLIC
AND
THE ISMAILI IMAMAT
FOR
THE ESTABLISHMENT OF
THE SEAT OF THE ISMAILI IMAMAT IN PORTUGAL

Mawlana Hazar Imam and Portugal’s Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Rui Machete sign a landmark agreement establishing a formal Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal. TheIsmaili/Gary Otte

Mawlana Hazar Imam and Portugal’s Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Rui Machete sign a landmark agreement on June 3, 2015, establishing a formal Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal. TheIsmaili/Gary Otte

The Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat, hereinafter referred to as “Parties”,

Considering the Protocol of Co-operation between the Government of the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat, signed in Lisbon on 19 December 2005 and considering further the Protocol of International Co-operation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat signed on 11 July 2008;

Recalling the Agreement between the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat, signed in Lisbon, on 8 May 2009, whereby the legal personality of the Ismaili Imamat is recognised;

Having in mind the common purpose of strengthening the historical ties uniting both Parties, as well as of promoting enhanced enabling conditions for the activities of the Ismaili Imamat, its governance bodies and its dependent institutions, in particular the member entities of the Aga Khan Development Network;

Furthermore having in mind the promotion of the quality of life of the global Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim Community and more generally of the people of the countries where the Ismaili Imamat or its dependent institutions are or may become active, including Portugal and the Portuguese people in particular;

Considering that both Parties assume, as common objectives, the defence of human dignity, economic and social development, interfaith dialogue and the peaceful resolution of conflicts, as ways of achieving justice and peace;

Affirming the interest of both Parties in the establishment of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in the territory of the Portuguese Republic and their common will mutually to respect each other’s autonomy in the context of the mutual trust and esteem which has traditionally characterised their relationship;

Believing in the historic significance of such a decision for both Parties and fully appreciating the long term implications and complexities that such a decision entails;

Considering that the privileges, immunities and facilities recognised are not granted for the personal benefit of their holders, but merely in order to contribute to the effective and independent performance of their official and institutional functions on Portuguese territory;

Agree as follows:

Chapter I: General Provisions

ARTICLE 1

Definitions

For the purposes of this Agreement, the following terms shall have the meaning set forth below:

a) “Ismaili Imamat”, a legal entity, means the institution or office of the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims established in accordance with the applicable customary law;

b) “Imam” means the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, embodying the Ismaili Imamat at any given time in history, designated in accordance with the said customary law;

c) “Dependent Institutions” means the instrumentalities of the Ismaili Imamat, in particular the member entities of the Aga Khan Development Network around the world, more particularly Fundação Aga Khan, a Portuguese foundation created by decree-law in 1996;

d) “Seat” means the global head office of the Ismaili Imamat, as further defined in the present Agreement;

e) “Members of the Seat” means the Senior Officials and the Staff Members of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat;

f) “Senior Officials” means the Heads of the Ismaili Imamat Departments;

g) “Staff Members” means the Members of the Seat employed in the administrative and technical service of the Seat;

h) “Premises of the Seat” means the buildings or parts of buildings and the land ancillary thereto used exclusively for carrying out the official mission and performing the official functions of the Ismaili Imamat, including the central Seat premises, the premises of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Lisbon and the official residence of the Imam.

ARTICLE 2

Object

1. The Portuguese Republic acknowledges the legal personality and capacity of the Ismaili Imamat to act in international relations and welcomes the decision of the Imam to establish the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal.

2. This Agreement establishes the privileges, immunities and facilities extended by the Portuguese Republic to the Ismaili Imamat, the Imam, the Senior Officials and the Staff Members, as well as to its Seat and assets, with a view to ensuring the performance of their official functions in Portugal and facilitating the same internationally.

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Chapter II: Seat of the Ismaili Imamat

ARTICLE 3

Seat

1. The Portuguese Republic shall ensure the conditions for the establishment of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat within its territory as well as for the exercise of its functions, in accordance with the present agreement.

2. The location of the Premises of the Seat shall be subject to mutual agreement between the Parties. Pending the construction or acquisition of the central Premises of the Seat, and within a period of five (5) years, the Seat may be established in Lisbon, in the existing premises of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat. The Imam shall notify his decision in this respect to the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

ARTICLE 4

Function of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat

The function of the Seat is to serve as the global head office of the Ismaili Imamat with a view to:

a) Facilitating the spiritual and secular guidance of the Imam to the Ismaili Community globally;

b) Promoting the quality of life of the Ismaili Community globally and more generally of the people of the countries where the Ismaili Imamat or its Dependent Institutions are active;

c) Enhancing international relations and co-operation with States, International Organisations and other entities.

ARTICLE 5

Appointment of the Members of the Seat

1. The appointment of the Senior Officials of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat by the Imam shall be preceded by a consultation with the Portuguese Government and shall be notified to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs according to the procedures applicable to members of diplomatic missions accredited in the Portuguese Republic.

2. The number of Members of the Seat shall be determined by the Imam as may be necessary to enable the Ismaili Imamat to carry out its functions. The Ismaili Imamat will review such number with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

3. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs shall issue diplomatic identity cards to the Members of the Seat, according to the functions they perform, the highest level being attributed to Senior Officials and the other levels to the other Members of the Seat as the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Imam shall establish.

ARTICLE 6

Inviolability of the Premises of the Seat

1. The Portuguese authorities shall take all appropriate steps to protect the Premises of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat against any intrusion, threats or damage.

2. The Premises of the Seat, as well as the Ismaili Imamat land, air or sea vehicles used for its official functions, are inviolable, except in emergency situations that endanger public order and security, in case of a serious incident or any other event requiring immediate protective measures.

3. The Premises of the Seat cannot be used as a place of refuge for any individual prosecuted for a crime or flagrante delicto or subject to a court warrant, criminal conviction or a deportation order issued by the Portuguese authorities.

ARTICLE 7

Inviolability of files and correspondence

The files and documents as well as the official correspondence of the Ismaili Imamat are inviolable at any time and wherever located within Portuguese territory.

ARTICLE 8

Use of distinctive signs

The Ismaili Imamat shall be entitled to use distinctive signs, flags and emblems, in the Premises of the Seat as well as on any of the said official vehicles, which shall enjoy a registration status no less favourable than that accorded by the Portuguese Republic to diplomatic missions.

ARTICLE 9

Facilities in respect of communications

The Ismaili Imamat shall enjoy on the territory of the Portuguese Republic, for the purposes of its official communications and correspondence, treatment no less favourable than that accorded by the Portuguese Republic to diplomatic missions.

ARTICLE 10

Immunity from jurisdiction and from execution

The Ismaili Imamat and its assets shall enjoy immunity from jurisdiction and execution within the scope of its official activities, except:

a) When the Ismaili Imamat expressly waives those immunities;

b) In the context of cases related to employment contracts;

c) In a lawsuit brought by a third party with a view to obtaining financial compensation for death and injuries suffered as a result of an accident caused by vehicles owned or used by the Seat, or in case of any offence involving one of those vehicles.

ARTICLE 11

Fiscal exemptions

1. Gifts and bequests made by the Ismaili Imamat or the Imam within the context of their official functions or received by the Ismaili Imamat or the Imam, as well as income received by them, including capital gains, as well as the assets held by the Ismaili Imamat or the Imam, shall not be subject to any tax, including income or wealth tax.

2. Without prejudice to the application of more favourable provisions, granted by the Portuguese Republic to any other religious institution, the provisions of paragraph 1 shall not extend to:

a) Income deriving from any business activity directly exercised in Portugal neither to the assets connected to such activity;

b) Interest and other investment income, either due or paid by any resident in Portugal or effectively connected with the activity of a permanent establishment or fixed base in Portugal, as foreseen in the Portuguese corporate income tax code.

3. The income referred to in paragraph 2 (b) shall be subject to withholding tax, of a final character, in accordance with the corporate income tax legislation of the Portuguese Republic.

4. The Ismaili Imamat shall be exempt from any national or local tax on immovable property as regards the Premises of the Seat.

5. The Ismaili Imamat and the Imam shall be exempt from stamp duty, as well as from any other transfer tax, on the acquisition or sale of movable or immovable properties used or to be used for their official functions.

6. The Ismaili Imamat and the Imam shall be exempt from any taxes or duties on the purchase, ownership, registration, use or sale of land, air or sea vehicles, including spare parts and consumables, used for its official functions.

7. The Ismaili Imamat shall be entitled to a refund of the amounts corresponding to VAT paid on goods, including the vehicles above-mentioned, and services purchased or imported for its official use. The Portuguese Republic will establish the conditions and procedures for the application of such refund.

8. Gifts made to the Ismaili Imamat shall be tax deductible according to the Portuguese legislation applicable to gifts made to religious institutions.

ARTICLE 12

Funds, foreign currency and assets

1. Subject always to the laws and regulations of the Portuguese Republic and of the European Union, namely those regarding the fight against money laundering and terrorism, the Ismaili Imamat may hold funds, securities, gold and other precious metals, or foreign currencies.

2. The Ismaili Imamat shall be free to receive any such values from within or from outside Portugal and hold and transfer the same within Portugal or from Portugal to any country and to convert any currency held or bought into any other currency.

3. This does not preclude the Portuguese Republic from adopting any requirements resulting from its membership of the European Union, including measures prohibiting, restricting or limiting the movement of capital to or from any third country.

Continued after photo below

The agreement establishing Portugal as the seat of the Ismaili Imamat took place at the Palace of Necessidades. It  is a historical building in the Largo do Rilvas, a public square in Lisbon, Portugal. It serves as headquarters of the Portuguese Foreign Ministry. Palace Photo Photo: Wikipedia.

The agreement establishing Portugal as the seat of the Ismaili Imamat took place at the Palace of Necessidades. It is a historical building in the Largo do Rilvas, a public square in Lisbon, Portugal. It serves as headquarters of the Portuguese Foreign Ministry. Palace photo: Wikipedia.

Chapter III: Prerogatives of the Imam and the Members of the Seat

ARTICLE 13

Prerogatives of the Imam

1. The Imam shall be granted the following prerogatives:

a) Ceremonial diplomatic treatment accorded in Portugal to foreign High Entities;

b) His official residence shall enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the premises of the Seat;

c) Inviolability of any type of papers, documents or materials as well as of any communications;

d) Immunity from any judicial action and legal proceedings in respect of acts done in the performance of his functions for the Ismaili Imamat, including immunity from any measures of execution;

2. The direct family members of the Imam shall be accorded the appropriate facilities and courtesy treatment.

ARTICLE 14

Prerogatives of the Senior Officials

The Senior Officials of the Seat shall enjoy such privileges, immunities and facilities as are necessary for the performance of their functions, such as:

a) Ceremonial treatment accorded to diplomatic representatives of equivalent level and in the same circumstances;

b) Their residence shall enjoy the same inviolability and protection as the Premises of the Seat;

c) Inviolability of any type of papers, documents or materials relating to the functions of the Ismaili Imamat, as well as of any communications;

d) Immunity from any judicial action and legal proceedings, including immunity from any measures of execution, in respect of acts done by them in the performance of their functions for the Ismaili Imamat;

e) Exemption from all direct taxes and social charges on salaries, wages and other similar remuneration paid to them in their capacity as Senior Officials by the Ismaili Imamat or its Dependent Institutions;

f) When required by Portuguese or European legislation, facilitation of issuance of visas and residence permits, extended to direct family members.

ARTICLE 15

Prerogatives of the Staff Members

The Portuguese authorities guarantee the protection and necessary assistance to the Staff Members of the Seat with a view to securing the efficient performance of their official functions, including, when required by Portuguese or European legislation, facilitation of issuance of visas and residence permits.

Chapter IV: Cooperation

ARTICLE 16

Support for scientific and economic development

1. The Ismaili Imamat shall actively support the efforts of the Portuguese Republic to improve the quality of life of all those living in Portugal, particularly through the development in Portugal of world-class research projects in the said area, but more generally on subjects of common interest to the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat.

2. In view of the above, the Ismaili Imamat shall cause its highest level Dependent Institutions to create a special window devoted to achieving the objectives set out above in cooperation with the relevant Ministries or other entities of the Portuguese Government.

Chapter V: Final Provisions

ARTICLE 17

Joint Committee and Settlement of disputes

The Parties shall establish a Joint Committee composed of six (6) members, three (3) appointed by the Portuguese Republic and three (3) by the Ismaili Imamat, for the following purposes:

a) Aiming to guarantee the implementation of the present Agreement;

b) Settling any differences or disputes concerning the interpretation or application of the present Agreement, with the understanding that, if an agreed solution cannot be found in the context of the Joint Committee, the matter shall be brought to direct negotiation between the Parties.

ARTICLE 18

Amendments

1. The present Agreement may be amended by the Parties by written mutual consent.

2. The amendments shall enter into force in accordance with the terms specified in Article 21 of the present Agreement.

ARTICLE 19

Duration and termination

1. The present Agreement shall remain in force for an unlimited period of time.

2. Either Party may, after an initial period of twenty-five (25) years, terminate the present Agreement upon prior written notice of four (4) years, to be communicated through diplomatic channels. The Parties may by written agreement, modify the length of the said notice time.

ARTICLE 20

Cooperation with competent authorities

The Ismaili Imamat shall fully co-operate with the competent Portuguese authorities, without prejudice to this Agreement, with a view to complying with Portuguese legislation and preventing abuse of the privileges, immunities and facilities granted under the present Agreement.

ARTICLE 21

Entry into force

The present Agreement shall enter into force thirty (30) days after the date of notification in writing by the Portuguese Republic to the Ismaili Imamat, conveying the completion of the constitutional procedures of the Portuguese Republic required for that purpose.

Done in Portuguese and English, in Lisbon, on the 3rd day of June 2015.

For the Portuguese Republic

His Excellency Rui Chancerelle de Machete
Ministry of State and Foreign Affairs

For the Ismaili Imamat

His Highness Shah Karim al-Hussaini Prince Aga Khan, Forty-Ninth Hereditary Imam
of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

Date posted: August 3, 2015.

___________________

The PDF version of the June 3, 2015 Agreement is in the public domain, and may be viewed by clicking on English Text of the Agreement, PDF File, website of the Government of Portugal.

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please click Leave a comment. For links to articles posted on this Web site since its launch in March 2009, please click Table of Contents.

Ismaili Historical Insights: (I) 1925: Mahatma Gandhi on the Meritorious Deed of a Khoja Ismaili

Letter From Publisher

Simerg's Merchant

Simerg’s Merchant

By Abdulmalik J. Merchant

Simerg’s new feature Short Historical Insights is intended to make history educational, interesting and stimulating for readers through anecdotes, facts, stories as well as images related to Ismailis and their Imams, in no more than  500 words. Information in the series will be unearthed from a maze of documents, including those that are not easily accessible due to their sheer size or location, or material which, in the broader scope, would be of interest for research on specific themes. Of course, we will also rely on other well-known (or lesser-known) treatises and texts as well as libraries and museums for this new feature.

For the first episode, we go to a massive work called The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi and reveal a story that appears in Volume 33, which is dedicated to the period from September 1925 to February 1926 in Gandhi’s life. During his visit to Mundra in Gujarat, the father of India, is frustrated with members of his own faith with respect to their treatment of the Untouchables* and, somewhat grudgingly, praises the work of one Khoja (Ismaili) named Ibrahim Pradhan Saheb, who has unselfishly built a school for the outcast children.

This anecdote, by none other than Mahatma Gandhi, is an excellent example of the Ismaili spirit of loyalty to their countries of birth or adoption, a matter which Ismaili Imams have placed on their followers as one of their two principal obligations during their lifetime, the other being their loyalty to the Ismaili Muslim faith. Ibrahim Pradhan was an exemplary Ismaili in this regard, and we are pleased to provide a short account of his contribution from Mahatma’s own two speeches made in 1925.

Readers are invited to contribute to this new feature by submitting their pieces to  Simerg@aol.com. We always acknowledges letters and submissions from non-anonymous sources.

Ibrahim Pradhan’s Meritorious Deed As Recorded By Mahatma Gandhi

102 – Gandhi’s Speech at Mundra, November 1, 1925, page 177 – 181

Mahatma Gandhi spinning yarn in the 1920's. Photo: Wikipedia.

Mahatma Gandhi spinning yarn in the 1920’s. Photo: Wikipedia.

(It is noted by Mahadev Desai that Mahatma Gandhi began his speech with “Antyaja brothers and sisters, their sympathizers, and other Hindu brothers and sisters”)

” ….It is wrong to invite me to a place where the entire public believes in untouchability. It is an insult to invite me to a place where the untouchables are treated with nothing but contempt. After having come here, I heard of the school for the untouchables. I felt that at such a place the Antyajas [lit. the last born – ed] would receive service. I would congratulate Ibrahim Pradhan Saheb on the school but the Hindu public deserves no such congratulations. Its existence puts the Hindus to shame. It is a matter of shame for me if a Muslim builds a Siva temple for my benefit. I was pleased to see the school’s activity of spinning and weaving; however, I immediately felt that neither I nor the Hindus could take credit for this meritorious deed. I can have no sense of satisfaction if a Muslim recites the Gayatri mantra instead of me. I can only feel satisfied when a Brahmin comes along and offers to recite the  Gayatri for me. However, in this case, the Khojas are doing the work that should be done by Hindus. Here, no one is bothered in the least about the Antyajas. I do not see any non-Antyajas except the guests sitting among the  Antyajas here before me. Even those who go around with me during the day have abandoned them and are seated in the enclosure for high-caste gentlemen. If you could rip open my heart today, you would find it crying — ‘O Lord! Could this be the Hindu dharma, where no one cares for the Antyajas? Is there not a single person in the town who will come to their rescue’?…

103 – Gandhi’s Reminiscences of Kutch, November 1, 1925, pages 181-187

Location of Mundra in the Kutch district of  India's Gujarat State. Image: Wikipedia.

Location of Mundra in the Kutch district of India’s Gujarat State. Image: Wikipedia.

I had my bitterest experience in Mundra. I found only hypocrisy, insincerity and play-acting there. Even Muslims were made to sit in the enclosure for those who supported untouchability as if they too believed in it. Hence, only my companions and the Muslim volunteers remained in the section reserved for Antyajas. Many among the Hindu volunteers, though they claimed that they did not believe in untouchability at all, were nevertheless kept in the enclosure meant for those who did believe in it.

There is a school for the Antyajas in Mundra but it is a philanthropic Muslim gentleman, Sheth Ibrahim Pradhan, who runs it at his own expense. The school may be regarded as good up to a point. The children are kept very clean. The building is in the centre of the city. The children had even been taught Sanskrit verses, [which they recited] in a broken accent. Spinning, carding, ginning and weaving were taught in the school itself. Only children’s clothes were not made of khadi [handspun and hand-woven cloth – ed.]; however, the organizers had gone in for the cloth believing it to be pure khadi. The reader might perhaps conclude that this school would give me some satisfaction. It gave me no satisfaction but caused me grief, rather, as the credit for it would not go to a Hindu. I have already mentioned the name of the gentleman who finances it.

Yerawada (or Aga Khan) Palace, now the Gandhi Memorial, was built by the 48th Ismaili Imam to provide a means of livelihood to the famine stricken people in Pune. Historically, the palace holds great significance. Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary Mahadev Desai were interned in the palace from 9 August 1942 to 6 May 1944.  In 1969, the current 49th Ismaili Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, donated the Palace to the Indian people as a mark of respect to Gandhi and his philosophy. Today, the palace houses a memorial on Gandhi where his ashes were kept.

Yerawada (or Aga Khan) Palace, now the Gandhi Memorial, was built by the 48th Ismaili Imam to provide a means of livelihood to the famine stricken people in Pune. Historically, the palace holds great significance. Mahatma Gandhi, his wife Kasturba Gandhi and his secretary Mahadev Desai were interned in the palace from 9 August 1942 to 6 May 1944. In 1969, the current 49th Ismaili Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, donated the Palace to the Indian people as a mark of respect to Gandhi and his philosophy. Today, the palace houses a memorial on Gandhi where his ashes were kept.

The gentleman in charge of this school is the heir of the Aga Khan in Mundra. Sheth Ibrahim Pradhan deserves all praise for his charity, as I was informed that this school is not being run for the purpose of converting the untouchables or schoolchildren to Islam, but in order to enable them to make progress as Hindus. The people of Mundra also informed me that the gentleman in charge, Mauledina Meghji was a Vedantin [belonging to a school of Indian philosophy – ed.] and a learned person. All this must be regarded as satisfactory. However, what is the contribution of the Hindus? Untouchability is an ugly blot on the Hindu religion, it is a sin. The Hindus alone can do prayaschitta [atonement for sins] for it. The dirt on my body will go only when I myself remove it.

This institution adds to the prestige of Sheth Ibrahim Pradhan, and to that extent to the shame of the Hindus.

Date posted: July 26, 2015, word count, appx. 400 words.

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Notes and references:

*Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings. Prejudice defines their lives, particularly in the rural areas, where nearly three-quarters of India’s people live….Although the Indian constitution makes caste discrimination illegal, Untouchables living at the bottom of society are subjected to indignities” — from http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0306/feature1/

See complete volume 33 at http://www.gandhiserve.org/cwmg/VOL033.PDF.

@Simergphotos: The Silk Road Through the Lens of Muslim Harji and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Simergphotos presents An Anthology of the Silk Road Through the Lens of Muslim Harji and Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival with magnificent photos taken by Harji during his recent visits to the iconic Silk Road cities of Samarkand and Bokhara in Uzbekistan. Then the post steps back in time and brings you wonderful memories from the Smithsonian Institution’s Annual Folklife Festival held in Washington D.C. in 2002, which was entirely dedicated to one single subject: The Silk Road. The post contains photos from the opening day, which was attended by His Highness the Aga Khan, as well as an excellent thematic anthology covering many aspects of the exciting Silk Road!…More at Simergphotos.

Please click on image for Silk Roads Photo Essay.

Please click on image for Silk Roads Photo Essay.

PLEASE CLICK: An Anthology of the Silk Road Through the Lens of Muslim Harji and Smithsonian’s Folklife Festival

Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Silk Roads Festival in Washington D.C. IN 2002. Please click for more photos.

Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Silk Roads Festival in Washington D.C. IN 2002. Please click for more photos.

Condensed Explanation of the Ismaili Munajat, “Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas”

Editor’s note: This is a very condensed, yet comprehensive, post on the munajat, Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas. For the complete version, which offers much more in terms of the ginan’s history, composition, style, and explanation with a glossary, please click Original article.

By Sadrudin K. Hassam

INTRODUCTION

Popular tradition has it that the munajat, Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas, was first recited during the enthronement ceremony of the 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, which took place at Aga Hall at Mazagon Road in Mumbai in September 1885. Another tradition says that the recitation first took place when the young Imam met his followers at the main Ismaili Jamatkhana in Mumbai, known as the Darkhana. In any case, the munajat became very much part of the Ismaili tradition in many parts of the world to recite it in jamati gatherings (mijalas) to commemorate the enthronement of their 48th Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, the late Aga Khan III (1877 – 1957). Continuing with this tradition, this Munajat, with slight variations, is now recited on the occasion of the anniversary of the ascension of Mawlana Shah Karim al-Husseini (His Highness the Aga Khan IV) as the 49th Ismaili Imam.  July 11th, 2015 marks his 58th Imamat anniversary.

The Arabic word munajat is formed from the root word na-ja-wa which means ‘to converse secretly’ or ‘confidentially’. From the context of the ginanic literature of the Ismailis, the term munajat would be equivalent to venti (supplication). Apart from conveying this basic idea of venti, the term munajat also has the connotation of conveying mubaraki (greetings) and adoration or reverence to a holy person, in this case the Ismaili Imam.

The complete munajat has eight stanzas of four lines each, the chopai. At the end of each stanza there is a warani (refrain) of four lines which ends with the words ‘Mubarak hove’. This refrain is repeated at the end of each stanza for collective recitation and participation of the Jamat.

EXPLANATION

It is not an easy task to explain and translate a Ginan or Qasida from one language to another. For this munajat which is a blend of several languages and is suffused with deep feelings and sublime supplication, the task becomes even more daunting. A conscious effort has been made to be as close to the original as possible and we hope that this explanation will impart our readers with some understanding about Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas.

Each of the transliterated verse (no accents) is accompanied with its translation. [Key glossary terms are included in the detailed Original article — ed.].

VERSE ONE

Transliteration

Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas Zinat Karake
Farasha Bichhai Gali,
Aan Baithe Hay Takht-Ke Upar
Shah Karim Shah Vali

Refrain

Aaj Raj Mubarak Hove,
Noor Ain Alikun Raj Mubarak Hove,
Shah Aal-e Nabi Kun Raaj Mubarak Hove,
Hove Hove Aaj Raj Mubarak Hove.

Explanation

O Ali! In the fair assembly,
gloriously adorned with carpets spread on the floor,
Our Lord Shah Karim sits on the takht,
our Lord Shah Karim our Guardian.

Refrain

Today blessed be your rule
Oh the light of Ali’s eye,
Blessed be your rule
Shah, the descendant of the Holy Prophet,
Blessed be your rule today
Blessed be your rule today.

VERSE TWO

Transliteration

Ya Ali Didar Lenekun Aye Shah Teri,
Hindi Jama-et Sari,
Sijada Baja Kar Najaran Deve
Jan Apniku Vari…. Aaj.

Explanation

O Ali! To be blessed with didar (glimpse of the Imam)
your whole Indian jamat have assembled.
They prostrate and they offer nazrana (homage)
devoting their lives to you.

VERSE THREE

Transliteration

Ya Ali Tera Nasiba Roje Awal-Se,
Deta Haire Kamali,
Shah Sultan Shah Ke Mukhamen Se Nikala,
Shah Karim Shah Vali….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! Your fortune from the very first day (right from the beginning)
has bestowed perfection upon you,
Hazrat Imam Shah Sultan Muhammad Shah declared that
Mawlana Shah Karim is the Lord and the Guardian.

VERSE FOUR

Transliteration

Ya Ali Shah Kahun To Tujakun Baja Hay,
Bakhta Bulanda Peshani,
Chhoti Umarmen Aali Marataba,
Taluki Hay Nishani….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! To call you Lord is your due.
Your fortune and greatness is evident on your forehead.
Your exalted status at the young age
is a sign of greatness.

VERSE FIVE

Transliteration

Ya Ali Takhta Ne Chhatra Tujakun Mubarak,
Zaheraji-Ke Piyare,
Abul Hasan Shah Karani So Teri
Jannat Aap Sanvare….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! May your throne and canopy (exalted position) be blessed,
the dear one of Fatimatuz Zahra.
O Mawla Ali! All this is because of your glorious deeds.
Paradise is embellished by your presence.

VERSE SIX

Transliteration

Ya Ali Takht ne Chhatra sunake tere
Falakase Barase Nooran,
Moti Tabaka Hathunmen Lekar,
Shah KunVadhave Huran….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! At the news of your Takht Nashini (Takhta ne Chhatra)
the heavens shower Light,
with trays of pearls in their hands,
the houris (chaste heavenly maidens) greet the Lord.

VERSE SEVEN

Transliteration

Ya Ali Maheman Khanemen Momankun Jab
La-i ‘Id Musal-le
Shamsi Jo Salavat Pada Kar
Marafat-Ki Khushiyali….Aaj

Explanation

In the guest-house when the celebration
of your Takht Nashini takes place,

the momins celebrate like ‘Id.
They recite the Shamsi prayer, the salwat,
and they experience the ecstasy of spiritual enlightenment.

VERSE EIGHT

Transliteration

Ya Ali Teri Mubarak Badike Khatar,
Sayyad Karte Munajat,
Shah Najaf Tere Pushta Panah
Tere Dushman Hove Fanah….Aaj

Explanation

O Ali! To offer greetings,
the Sayyads make their humble supplication (munajat)
O Ali, the Lord of Najaf, may your progeny be protected
and your enemies be destroyed.

Date posted: July 11, 2015.

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Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat — (III) Ismaili Imams on Succession, the Noor of Imamat, and Imam’s True Reality

“The Imam’s true face is to be perceived with the eyes of the heart.
He has thousands of physical habitations, but his true home is traceless;
He has had a thousand names, but all of them refer to one reality.”
33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al-Salam, 15th Century

1. SUCCESSION

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III. Photo Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London by Elliott & Fry photograph.

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III. Photo Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London
by Elliott & Fry photograph.

 By Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah,
His Highness the Aga Khan III

“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.”

2. THE MOMENT OF SUCCESSION, THE HEREDITARY INSTITUTION AND THE NOOR OF IMAMAT

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

By Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

“The [installation] ceremony is a public installation of the Imam. The Ismailis pay homage to the Imam and that is when you are recognised by the world at large as the Imam.

“Officially as soon as one Imam passes away, his successor takes on from the very minute the Imam has passed away .” [1]

~~~

“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet….today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.

“…As the 49th Imam, I have for the past 50 years, looked after two inseparable responsibilities: overseeing the spiritual wellbeing of Ismailis, as well, at the same time, as focusing on improving their quality of life and that of the people with whom they live.” [2]

~~~

“For hundreds of years, my spiritual children have been guided by the Rope of Imamat; you have looked to the Imam of the Age for advice and help in all matters and through your Imam’s immense love and affection for his spiritual children, his Noor has indicated to you where and in which direction you must turn so as to obtain spiritual and worldly satisfaction. [3]

3. TWO 15TH CENTURY ISMAILIS IMAMS ON ZAHERI AND BATINI DIDAR, AND IMAM’S ESSENCE

(a) Imam Mustansir bi’llah

Pandiyat-i- Jawanmardi or Counsels of Chivalry is a compilation of the guidance of the 32nd Ismaili Imam, Mustansir bi’llah, who lived in the 15th century. This book contains exhortations to the faithful on the necessity of recognising and obeying the current Imam and on how to live a truly ethical life. The circumstances that led to the compilation of the work are intriguing, and are alluded to in many of the manuscripts copies as follows:

When Pir Taj al-Din passed away, a number of people from the Sindhi Ismaili Community went to the Imam. Upon arrival they pleaded: “Our Pir Taj al-Din has passed away. Now we are in need of a Pir.” The Imam then had the Counsels of Chivalry compiled and gave it to them saying: “This is your Pir. Act according to its dictates.”

In one of the chapters, the Imam enumerates the importance of both the Zaheri and Batini aspects of the Imam’s Didar. He recognizes and acknowledges the sacrificing spirit of the Jamat, in serving him and in observing religious duties.

He says:

“They (the Jamat, the community) have given up their property, and even their lives. All of them have faithfully submitted their religious dues. Others have travelled long distances through arduous conditions by land and sea, braving storms and incurring great expense.

“Some attend religious assemblies to increase their knowledge while others, without any worldly motive, perform acts of charity to benefit the poor.

“Some have acted with noble actions in the cause of faith, including special devotions, worship and especially remembrance (zikr), continually invoking the Lord throughout the night, never neglecting God for even a moment, and worshipping him out of passionate devotion.

“All believers are urged to come into the presence of the Imam and to see him with their own eyes.

“Thus, the esoteric (batini) vision, realized through pious works and the constant remembrance of God during the nightly vigil, as well as the exoteric (zaheri) vision, achieved by travelling to the Imam’s residence and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, become the ultimate purpose of human life.

“Piety should be for the purpose of recognizing and beholding God, which is achieved through the recognition and vision of the Imam of one’s time.”

(b) Imam ‘Abd al-Salam

There is an ode of the 33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al-Salam in which he says that the talisman (anything that has magical powers) that can open the treasure trove of spiritual meaning of the Holy Qur’an is the Imam. This ode is lucidly explained by Dr. Shafique Virani in his path breaking book, “The Ismailis in the Middle Ages.”

In the ode the Imam observes that the true essence of the Imam cannot be recognized with earthly, fleshly eyes, for these can only see his physical form, perishing like all else with the passage of time. His true face is to be perceived with the eyes of the heart. He has thousands of physical habitations, but his true home is traceless; he has had a thousand names, but all of them refer to one reality.

The Imam continues by saying that today he is known as ‘Abd al-Salam, but tomorrow the physical body will be gone and the name will change, yet the essence will remain in the next Imam of the lineage. Those who look at the Imam as they squint will consider him like any other human being, but as soon as the eyes of the heart perceive correctly, his true status is discovered. In form the Imams change, but in meaning and substance they are changeless. Human language cannot attain to the majesty of the Imams.

The Imam is the most precious ingredient in the supreme elixir (miraculous substance) of eternal life-red sulfur. He is not simply a pearl, but the ocean that gives birth to pearls. The existence of the Imam, who leads humankind to a recognition of God, is the very pinnacle of creation.

Date posted: July 10, 2015.

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Previous posts in this special series:

References:

[1] Click http://www.nanowisdoms.org

[2] Click In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race

[3] Farman Mubarak Pakistan Visit 1964, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan. Quoted also in Ilm magazine,  July 1975, Volume 1, Number 1, page 27, published by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom (known since 1986 as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board or ITREB)

Note: Reading 3 compiled from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages, by Shafique N. Virani, and Pandiyat-i Jawanmardi, translated by Professor Vladimir Ivanow). Image courtesy of roseannapiter.com

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The Long-Long Awaited Book, “The Children of Time: The Aga Khan and the Ismailis” by Malise Ruthven and Gerard Wilkinson

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

By Abdulmalik Merchant

Cover page, Children of Time - the Aga Khan and the Ismailis. originally scheduled for publication during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan, is 8 years overdue.

Cover page, Children of Time – the Aga Khan and the Ismailis. originally scheduled for publication during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan, is 8 years overdue.

For almost 8 years now, I have been awaiting the release of “Children of Time” which was scheduled to be published by I.B. Tauris, on the occasion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 50th Imamat Anniversary held during  2007-2008. Tauris is the familiar publisher of many of the scholarly publications of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, England.

The  publisher had first announced the publication of the book with the following review, which continues to appear on its website:

“From highland peasant farmers in Central Asia to Canadian industrialists, South Asian businessmen and Europe-based scholars, the Nizari Ismailis are one of the Muslim world’s most diverse Shi’a communities. With adherents living in more than twenty-five countries in Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, Europe and North America, they embrace peoples of widely different ethnic and linguistic backgrounds. The spiritual leadership of this highly dynamic community has in recent generations come to be known as the ‘Aga Khan’.This book, which coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the present Aga Khan’s succession as Imam, or spiritual leader, of the Ismailis, assesses the achievements of his ‘Imamat’ in modernising the communities’ institutions and creating one of the world’s leading development agencies, the Aga Khan Development Network. In the process the book explores how the present Harvard-educated Aga Khan has attempted to preserve and build on a religious tradition rooted in medieval theology while at the same time embracing the modern world without loss of faith or cultural identity.”

Originally, if memory serves me right, the book was going to be authored by Malise Ruthven, who is noted by the publisher as “one of the leading writers on Islam in English and is the author of ‘Islam in the World’, ‘A Fury for God: the Islamist Attack on America’, ‘Fundamentalism: A Very Short Introduction’ and several other highly praised books.” Then, Gerard Wilkinson, who has had  a  distinguished thirty-year career with the Aga Khan in Kenya, Italy and latterly with his secretariat in France, was added as the co-author.

I have been tracking the publication of this title on Amazon since it was first announced, and I have noted that the publication date has been changing ever since. As of today, I note that the Amazon gives the publication date as May 30, 2015, while the I.B. Tauris website gives the book’s release date as September 30, 2015,* with the hardback selling price of $45.00 (£24.50). The Canadian Amazon site lists one hardback copy as being available at C$58.95 but when you click on the link to purchase the book, it is listed as being temporarily out of stock. Perhaps! May 30 has passed, September 30 is 8 weeks in the distant, so it is all rather confusing!

Under the circumstances, Vali Jamal can be forgiven for the delay in publishing his long-awaited wrist-breaking 1600 page plus book “Uganda Asians: Then and Now, Here and There, We Contributed, We Contribute” which I had first announced on this website sometime in 2012, with a publication date of October 2012. It is now scheduled to be released in November of this year.

Hopefully, both the books, Children of Time by Ruthven and Uganda Asians by Jamal will be perfectly timed for autumn of this year for fantastic reading for the holiday season!

Date posted: July 8, 2015.
Date updated: July 12, 2015 (typo and revised publication date).

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*I have noted as of July 12, 2015, that the September 30, 2015 publication date was removed from the book’s primary page. However the bibliographical info cites the publication date as December 18, 2015. The IB Tauris “Religion New and Recent Books 2015″ catalogue mentions March 2015 as the publication date.

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Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat and Imam of the Time — (I) The Preamble of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

By Abdulmalik Merchant

Canada’s Confederation Day, the American Independence Day, Tanzania’s Saba Saba celebrations and the Imamat Day of His Highness the Aga Khan, all fall in the month of July.

Canada is already preparing for its 150th birthday two years hence when Ismailis around the world will, inshallah, celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of their beloved 49th Imam, whom they respectfully address as Mawlana Hazar Imam.

 A portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, with a framed portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in the background. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright.

A portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, with a framed portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in the background. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright.

His Highness the Aga Khan succeeded to the 49th hereditary throne of Imamat at the age of twenty by the will of his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, who served as the 48th Ismaili Imam for a record 71 years (August 17, 1885 – July 11, 1957).

Over the next week, Simerg will provide an insight into the principles of Imamat through short readings. We begin the series by posting the Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution, which is an introductory succinct statement giving the historical roots of the Ismaili Imamat, the principle of Imamat succession, and the permanency of the spiritual bond that exists between the Imam and his followers.

Another theme that will be explored in the coming few days through the writings of Ismaili Pirs, missionaries and philosophers is the principle of the Unity of Imamat, that is the Ismaili belief and understanding that each Imam, being the bearer of the Noor (Light) of Imamat, is the same irrespective of his own age or the time he lives in.

Finally, another aspect that will become apparent from the readings to follow is that the hereditary institution of Imamat can never become extinct. This is in accordance with the well known Muslim prophetic tradition, hadith thaqalain, which says, “I leave behind me two weighty things: The Book of Allah and my Progeny. If you keep yourselves attached to these two, never, never will you go astray. Both are tied with a long rope and cannot be separated until the Day of Judgement.”

The Preamble of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

Please click on photo for enlargement

December 13, 1986, Geneva: On his 50th birthday, His Highness the Aga Khan is seen ordaining a new constitution for the worldwide Ismaili community.

December 13, 1986, Geneva: On his 50th birthday, His Highness the Aga Khan is seen ordaining a new constitution for the worldwide Ismaili community.

“Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.”

BACKGROUND

In 1905, the 48th Ismaili Imam, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, issued a written set of ‘Rules and Regulations’ for the Ismailis of East Africa which effectively served as their communal constitution. This constitution re-affirmed the centrality of the Imam’s authority over the affairs of his community and also articulated the distinctive religious identity of the Ismailis. This document was revised and published several times until 1954, and was made available to Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike. Similar rules were given to the Ismaili community in British India.

During the 1960’s, the 48th Imam’s grandson and successor, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan IV, gave Constitutions to his followers in Africa and Pakistan in 1962, and to the Jamat in India in 1967.

A constitution review committee was then formed in the early 1980’s, and after exhaustive review, Mawlana Hazar Imam, in 1986, ordained a new Ismaili Constitution known as “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.”

The Ismaili Constitution became applicable throughout the world, linking all Ismailis to the Imamat. His Highness did this with the belief that the Constitution would provide a strong institutional and organizational framework through which his community would be able to contribute to the harmonious development of the Muslim Ummah and of the societies in which his followers lived. He expressed confidence that the Ismaili Constitution would give a stronger integrated identity to his community, and that in abiding by it in letter and spirit, the Ismailis would achieve greater peace, unity, happiness, security and wellbeing. He futher hoped that the Constitution would become an enabling document for all his murids (followers) for an active role in institution building, for creative application of their abilities, for personal development and for intellectual and spiritual satisfaction.

The new constitution was ordained, signed and sealed by Mawlana Hazar Imam on December 13th, 1986, his fiftieth Salgirah (birthday) and thirtieth year of Imamat. The Constitution was revised by Mawlana Hazar Imam on July 11, 1998, when he completed forty one years of his spiritual leadership.

THE PREAMBLE

(A) The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims affirm the shahādah lā ilāha illa-llāh, Muhammadur rasulu-llāh, the Tawhid therein and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) is the last and final Prophet of Allah. Islam, as revealed in the Holy Quran, is the final message of Allah to mankind, and is universal and eternal. The Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through the divine revelation from Allah prescribed rules governing spiritual and temporal matters.

(B) In accordance with Shia doctrine, tradition, and interpretation of history, the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Mawlana Ali Amiru-l-Mu’minin (a.s), to be the first Imam to continue the Ta’wīl and Ta‘līm of Allah’s final message and to guide the murids, and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s) and his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s).

(C) Succession of Imamat is by way of Nass, it being the absolute prerogative of the Imam of the time to appoint his successor from amongst any of his male descendents whether they be sons or remoter issue.

(D) The authority of the Imam in the Ismaili Tariqah is testified by Bay‘ah by the murid to the Imam which is the act of acceptance by the murid of the permanent spiritual bond between the Imam and the murid. This allegiance unites all Ismaili Muslims worldwide in their loyalty, devotion and obedience to the Imam within the Islamic concept of universal brotherhood. It is distinct from the allegiance of the individual murid to his land of abode.

(E) From the time of the Imamat of Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s), the Imams of the Ismaili Muslims have ruled over territories and peoples in various areas of the world at different periods of history and, in accordance with the needs of the time, have given rules of conduct and constitution in conformity with the Islamic concepts of unity, brotherhood, justice, tolerance and goodwill.

(F) Historically and in accordance with Ismaili tradition, the Imam of the time is concerned with spiritual advancement as well as improvement of the quality of life of his murids. The imam’s ta‘lim lights the murid’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision. In temporal matters, the Imam guides the murids, and motivates them to develop their potential.

(G) Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.

(H) By virtue of his office and in accordance with the faith and belief of the Ismaili Muslims, the Imam enjoys full authority of governance over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismaili Muslims.

(I) It is the desire and Hidāyat of Mawlana Hazar Imam that the constitutions presently applicable to the Ismaili Muslims in different countries be superseded and that the Ismaili Muslims worldwide be given this constitution in order better to secure their peace and unity, religious and social welfare, to foster fruitful collaboration between different peoples, to optimise the use of resources, and to enable the Ismaili Muslims to make a valid and meaningful contribution to the improvement of the quality of life of the Ummah and the societies in which they live.

Date posted: Saturday, July 4, 2015.

© Simerg.com

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References for this post:

(1) The Ismailis: An Illustrated History by Farhad Daftary and Zulfikar Hirji, published by Azimuth editions in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies (2008).

(2) Wikipedia article on Imamah, with link to website, http://www.salmanspiritual.com/

(3) http://www.kamalzar.com, website of Alwaez Kamaluddin Muhammad and Alwaeza Zarina Kamaludin.

Reminiscences of Two Great Ismaili Missionaries of the 20th Century – Pir Sabzali and Meghji Missionary

“[Pir Sabzali and Meghji Missionary] drew all their courage and strength from their intense and ardent practice of Ibadat and went out to accomplish their missions with intelligence and knowledge, and with the firm belief that the help of Hazar Imam was always with them.”

A youthful portrait of the Ismaili missionary, Meghji Maherali (1881 – 1941), of Mombasa, Kenya. Photo Credit: Archives of the family of Meghji Missionary. Copyright.

BY IZAT VELJI

My profound gratitude and thanks [to the late Ameer Janmohamed] for sharing so much about Pir Sabzali – it is indeed a living history. The personal comments and recollections made his Thank You Letter to Pir Sabzali all the more interesting and real. The group picture shown below of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah with Ismaili missionaries astonished me because there in the photo staring back at me is my nanabapa [maternal grandfather]. I happen to be the proud grand-daughter of Missionary Meghji Maherali, seated at the extreme left in the centre row. In the same row, third from right, is Pir Sabzali.

Every time missionary Pir Sabzali came into Mombasa, he never left without visiting nanabapa. The two had ever so much to share. There was no rivalry, competition or one-upmanship between them. This was very evident from everything that my mother, Noorbanu, shared with us kids.

Mum said that at the dining table, Pir Sabzali and nanabapa shared stories about their travels and advised and helped each other on how to improve each other’s skills in establishing the various jamats they visited. They also discussed ways of improving their waezes [sermons] and participation in discussions so as to become more effective. Apparently, there was a lot of gentleness and warmth as well as mutual respect between them, and they had a soft sense of humour when they recounted personal anecdotes. It seems like they really fed off each other. Pir Sabzali would relay messages of blessings to nanabapa’s family from Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah.

Please click to enlarge and read caption. Photo: (Late) Ameer Janmohamed Collection. UK.

Later, they would retire to the front room where nanima would send a tray of chai and ‘goodies’ via my mum, who was then seven or eight years old. She remembered all this with so much pride and joy. My mum passed away in 2000. She said that the two missionaries would sit for hours apparently discussing all matters Ibadat (special worship prayers).

They drew all their courage and strength from their intense and ardent practice of Ibadat and went out to accomplish their missions with intelligence and knowledge, and with the firm belief that the help of Hazar Imam was always with them. With missionary Sabzali’s encouragement and help, nanabapa established a school of waezins in Mombasa, one of his recruits being my father, Noordin Koorjee. Even back then, our missionary leaders practised ‘succession planning’ so that Imam’s work would not come to a standstill after they passed on.

These two ashaqs [devotees] were very sincere in their service to Mawla, and deeply loyal to their Mashuq (the lord of the devotee).

STANDING BACK ROW- l to r: Missionary’s sons Gulamhussein, Fatehali, Sherali, Hussein; 2nd child Mehdi Gulamali is not in picture; SITTING ON CHAIRS – l to r: Daughters Khatija, Fatma, Missionary Meghji Maherali, wife Zainub with Hussein’s 3rd child Shirin, Hussein’s wife, Sikina; SITTING ON FLOOR – l to r: Dolat – Hussein’s 1st child, daughter Noorbanu (mother of Izat Velji, author of this article). Photo Credit: Archives of the family of Meghji Missionary. Copyright.

When Pir Sabzali’s health deteriorated and he was in his last days, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah sent him a message saying that he still wished to send Sabzali to Africa. Missionary Sabzali died a few days later. This came verbally from my parents, not once but several times. I have no way of authenticating this statement, but if it’s true then only Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mawlana Shah Karim, the present Imam, would know the true import and reach of this message to Pir Sabzali.

When nanabapa died, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah sent a telegram to the Mombasa Council that “Missionary Meghji’s funeral be held with a lot of pomp because of Meghji’s long and wonderful service to the Mombasa jamat.” So, out came the Scouts Band, all spit and polish followed by the cubs and scouts troops followed by the jamat giving kandh to nanabapa all the way from Chief jamat khana to the cemetery. That’s a long distance.

Today, almost eighty years later, I stand head bowed, in sheer admiration for nanabapa and Missionary Sabzali, whose soul was granted Piratan by Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah. Incidents and events like these are simply overwhelming and sometimes difficult to grasp and comprehend. It is their spirit and devotion which keep the Jamat inspired.

Copyright: Izat Velji/Simerg.

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Editor’s note: Izat Velji’s piece originally appeared on this website in response to Ameer Janmohamed’s Thank You Letter to Pir Sabzali and the Ismaili Pirs of the Ginanic Tradition, which was  published as part of this website’s highly acclaimed third anniversary series on thanking Ismaili historical figures.

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About the writer: Izat Velji spent her early childhood years in Kenya and Tanzania. After completing her secondary schooling in Kenya, she pursued a degree in education and teaching at the University of Nairobi. She then settled in Canada where she completed her degree in Medical Lab Sciences. Later, she was recruited into the faculty of the Aga Khan School of Nursing in Karachi where she taught a number of science subjects including Clinical Microbiology and Basic Immunology. During her tenure in Karachi, she was very fortunate to have met His Highness the Aga Khan who visited her lab and class, once with the late Pakistani President Zia ul-Haqq, and on another occasion with his brother Prince Amyn. Encouraged by her husband, Izat also undertook voluntary assignments with the Aga Khan Health Board for Karachi to develop, conduct feasibilities as well as implement Health Education materials for the province of Sindh and the Northern Areas of Pakistan including Hunza and Chitral. The material that she helped prepare continues to be used today by AKDN Agencies such as Focus in their teaching modules. Since returning to Canada, Izat has been very active with the Ismaili community as a volunteer and especially with the Duke of Edinburgh’s program for youth aged 14 to 25. Most recently in 2011, she was acknowledged by the Governor General at the Gold Award Ceremony.

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Triumphal Moments in Ismaili History: Jawhar’s Conquest of Egypt and Imam al-Muizz’s Resplendent Darbar in Cairo

“I WISH I’D BEEN THERE”

1970: Mansoor Ladha, veteran award winning journalist, writer and author, interviewing His Highness the Aga Khan for Tanzania’s daily, The Standard (now Daily News). Photo: Mansoor Ladha Collection. Copyright.

BY MANSOOR LADHA

As a journalist, a writer and an author, what better time to be than reporting milestones and significant events during the Fatimid Period or the “Golden Age” of Ismailism, when Ismaili Imams ruled over a vast empire and when Ismaili literature, philosophy and law flourished. It was during the Fatimid Period that the Ismaili scholars and authors produced what were to become the classic texts of Ismaili literature dealing with a multitude of exoteric and esoteric subjects. I think I might have made Ismaili fiqh (jurisprudence) my area of specialization, because it had not existed during the pre-Fatimid period. It was codified and became catalogued during the early Fatimid period. It was during the Fatimid period that Ismailis made their important contributions to Islamic theology and philosophy in general and to Shia thought in particular. Modern recovery of Ismaili literature clearly attests to the richness and diversity of the literary and intellectual traditions of the Ismailis.

Egypt became the center of the Fatimid empire that included at its peak North Africa, Sicily, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, the Red Sea coast of Africa, Yemen and the Hejaz. Egypt flourished as the Fatimids developed an extensive trade and diplomatic network and ties which extended all the way to China. Map: Wikipedia; click to enlarge

But, I think, for me of all the events that I would have reported, there are a number of related incidents that stand out, and which I would have liked to witness in the company of Imam Muizz’s trusted commander, Jawhar al-Siqilli. He was of Sicilian descent.

He had been entrusted by the Imam to conquer Egypt. With a 100,000 men assembled and equipped at a cost of 24 million dinars, he set out for Egypt on February 5th, 969.

Embedded I would be, like the modern journalists in this vast army, alongside my hero! The road to Egypt had been well ascertained, forts had been built through the route at specific places. Jawhar was carrying with him a thousand caskets filled with silver. Camels carried gold ingots in plain sight, cast in the shape of millstones, to impress the crowds and the local peoples through which the army passed. Then four months later, in June of the same year, I would arrive with Jawhar in Egypt, and hardly witness any resistance!

As the first measures after the conquest, I see him issue a proclamation promising financial reforms and an end to injustice. He reached out to Sunnis, Jews and Christians and offered them protection.

Then I had been with him as he crossed the Nile, and on July 6 of the same year, he marched through Fustat, and established himself north of the city in the plain that would become his new capital – a capital that Imam Muizz had expressed a wish would rule the world.

Fatimid Cairo with an outline of Jawhar’s wall shown by dashes (Please click to enlarge)

This site was empty except for a monastery and a castle. On the very night of Jawhar’s arrival in this empty spot, I would have seen the Sicilian mark the perimeter of the city with wooden stakes strung together with belled ropes. A crow would land on the rope and set the bells jingling. The ground breaking work would commence at that spot for what would eventually become known as al-Qahira (“The Triumphant”). I would see the birth of what is now modern Cairo!

But the epochal incident, the Grand Darbar, would come four years later. During this interim time I would see Jawhar establish the new capital, pacify the provinces, institute financial reform, defeat the Qarmats in December 971, and introduce new religious observances in conformity with the Shia Ismaili faith. This would include a call to prayers containing the Shiite invitation to “come to the best prayer.”

Now that all had been done, no further time would be spent. There was nothing left to do but to invite Imam al-Muizz.

In 973, the Imam leaves the Maghreb on his way to Egypt with his sons and relatives with him, along with coffins of his ancestors. One of his stops is Alexandria, where the Imam resolves to dedicate his life in the exercise of good works. He then preaches to them in a manner which draws tears from many who are present.

He departs after spending three days in Alexandria, and on June 6, 973, he reaches a place known as Mina. Jawhar is there to receive him. I see him go forth to meet his master and I witness him drawing near the Imam, dismounting from his horse and kissing the ground before the Imam in a show of loyalty, humility and submission to the Amirul Muminin. This is affection and love for the Imam I see at the highest and deepest level. It is a profound experience and a joy to behold, which I would report.

The Imam would then cross the Nile on the Rawdah bridge, bypass Fustat, and proceed straight to Cairo and take possession of the palace or fort that Jawhar had constructed for the Imam.

It is Ramadhan – year AH 362. The feast marking its end is underway. I’d see Imam Muizz conduct his prayers at the new mosque in Cairo, and then ascend the pulpit to give his sermon, with Jawhar on the steps of the pulpit. I would feel the emotions as the crowds weep and sob at hearing the Imam’s sermon.

Outside, the Imam would then mount his horse surrounded by his four armoured and helmeted sons, while two elephants led the procession. Destination – the fort, and I on my heels to get there for the Darbar!

Then, at the fort, all the citizens eagerly await to pay their allegiance to the new Caliph. Jawhar would be within my sight, and very close to the Imam, to his right.

I would witness the Imam majestically seated on his golden throne as he received all the nobles, Qadis, Vazirs and Ulemas of his city. They would present the Imam with their beautiful gifts as well as a robe made from a rare yarn that is known to grow only in Tunis. The material has a special shine and is gilded with gold and silver. The Imam would then be presented a Turban of a similar material and he would adorn the robe and the Turban. A resplendent Darbar for me to record and report as a journalist!

My friend, Jawhar, would get his turn. I would see him present the Imam, al-Muizz, with the best breed of 150 horses gilded with saddles and bridles of gold and diamonds as well as camels and ponies, saddled with boxes filled with all rare items in Egypt.

Then the Imam Muizz in a remarkable gesture of magnanimity and forgiveness would announce the release of about 1000 of his prisoners and present robes and Khalat to all his nobles and officers.

Would Jawhar be forgotten in the sight of the Imam? No. I would be exuberant to see my beloved Imam’s immense love for someone responsible for conquering Egypt some four years earlier. Jawhar would be honoured as he is presented with a golden Khalat and a turban. Imam Muizz then would tie a sword on Jawhar’s waist and present him with 20 horses with golden saddles, 50 thousand dinars and 200,000 dirhams.

With this Darbar, Egypt and Cairo enter a new era that would last almost two centuries and constitute one of the most brilliant periods in Ismaili history and Islamic Civilization.

Indeed a monumental and epochal event to witness and report! What a story and I Wish I’d Been There with Jawhar.

© Simerg.com

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Front cover of Ladha’s work

About the Writer: Mansoor Ladha is an award-winning journalist based in Calgary, Canada. He has held several senior editorial positions with daily and weekly newspapers in Canada, Kenya and Tanzania, which included the Edmonton Journal, Morinville Mirror, Redwater Tribune, Daily Nation, Kenya, and Daily News, Tanzania. Currently, he freelances for the Calgary Herald, the Vancouver Sun, and the Calgary Senior newspapers and travel magazines. He has also published a book entitled A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims and is currently working on memoirs on his life in East Africa and in Canada. Last year, he was one of the several writers, scholars and journalists invited to contribute a chapter in the book called, The Story That Brought Me Here. He has served on several public and voluntary bodies in Canada. His complete profile can be viewed on his Web site www.mansoorladha.ca.

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This piece by Mansoor Ladha is one of 32 succinct pieces on Ismaili history that appeared in this blog’s highly acclaimed first anniversary special series, I Wish I’d Been There.

2. We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please click Leave a comment, or email it to simerg@aol.com. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

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Narrative references:

1. Cairo by Andre Raymond, translated by Willard Wood, published by Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 2000.

Also note: Cairo map shown is from this book

2. Jawhar as-Siqilli by Zawahir Nooraly in book Great Ismaili Heroes, Pakistan. The complete article is also available on-line at:  http://www.amaana.org/heroes/note010.htm

Triumphal Moments in Ismaili History: The Unveiling of the 11th Imam, al-Mahdi, in North Africa — the Realization of a Dream 1100 Hundred Years Ago that Became the Fatimid Caliphate

“I WISH I’D BEEN THERE”

To witness that moment of unveiling when Imam al-Mahdi rode out to meet his followers stands for me above all the other moments of glory, intrigue and devastation  throughout Ismaili history….
And those followers at Sijilmasa fell at his feet in the most sincere devotion to their spiritual guide.”

Sijilmasa was a mediaeval trade entrepôt at the Western edge of the Maghreb in what is now Morocco

BY ALEEM KARMALI

Standing out in the heat of the desert, a group of conquering Berber tribesmen waited anxiously for their Imam to emerge from the city of Sijilmasa in North Africa. The year was 909 and they had successfully overthrown the Aghlabid rulers at Raqqada. Now was the moment they had longed for – they had come to retrieve their Imam from Sijilmasa, where he had been under arrest, and install him as their new Caliph. They dreamt and prayed that the world would finally achieve peace and justice under the rule of a divinely-guided descendant of the Prophet.

Until that moment, the Ismaili Imams had been in hiding for four generations, so few people could recognize them. In order to identify him at Sijilmasa, it was agreed that if someone rode out into the desert, the tribesmen would dismount from their horses. If that person did not respond by also dismounting, they would know it was their Imam.

To witness that moment of unveiling when Imam al-Mahdi rode out to meet his followers stands for me above all the other moments of glory, intrigue and devastation throughout Ismaili history. The image of a long-hidden Imam remaining atop his mount when all his awestruck followers dismounted is among the most powerful symbols of the authority of the Shi‘a Imams. In that instant, over a century of hiding and persecution was cast aside, and a new era would begin for the Ismailis. For most, the Imam had long been an idea rather than a living person, but now he was real and right in front of them. He was present and living. And those followers at Sijilmasa fell at his feet in the most sincere devotion to their spiritual guide.

This moment was the culmination of over a century of work by the Imams and the Ismaili da‘wa. In the aftermath of the succession dispute following Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq’s death in 765, there was disarray amongst the Shi‘a. But that moment in the desert was proof that they had succeeded in carving from that disarray a distinct Ismaili doctrine and identity.

To use an analogy of the theatre, they had prepared and rehearsed for this play for over a hundred years, and this was the moment when the curtains were drawn on opening night. This was the first unveiling of the Ismailis to the world, and the realization of a dream that became the Fatimid Caliphate.

© Simerg.com

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This piece by Aleem Karmaili is one of 32 succinct pieces on Ismaili history that appeared in this blog’s highly acclaimed first anniversary special series, “I Wish I’d Been There.”

Aleem Karmali - I Wish I'd Been There - The Unveiling at SijilmasaAbout the writer: Mr. Aleem Karmali, a documentary filmmaker and founder of Crescent Productions, completed the Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London and has an MA in Visual Anthropology at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He also has a BA Honours in Communication Studies and Sociology from Wilfrid Laurier University, and has been working in audio and video production since 1997.