“…it was quite something to perform in front of him [Mawlana Hazar Imam] and be in his presence. It was truly, truly magical. I think it was one of our most prestigious performances” — Salim Merchant
As part of Simerg’s special series on Jamatkhanas, we published a piece under the title Happy Days in Hasanabad (please click to read the historic piece). We mention this because the Jamats in Western India have just witnessed and experienced the happiest days of their lives in the historic Hasanabad complex in the intimate company of their beloved 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan, whose magnificent 11-day visit to India concluded on September 28, 2013.
In the coming days we hope to be able to present accounts and narratives from members of the Indian Jamat on various aspects of the visit, including the immensely happy days that they spent with their Imam in Hasanabad.
In the meantime, we invite our readers to view the official video of the banquet ceremony that was hosted in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s honour by the Indian Jamati institutions. The happiness of our beloved Imam is indeed evident as he attentively listens to two live musical pieces “Bismilllah” and “La Fatah Ila Ali La Saif Ila Zulfiqar” (there is no hero except Ali, and no sword except Zulfiqar) that were presented during the banquet. In Shia Ismaili theology, all Imams are generally referred to as Ali (the first Shia Imam) because each Imam is the bearer of the same Noor (light) in the continuum that is Imamat – a Divine Institution that was ordained by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) at Ghadir-Khumm with the proclamation “Man kuntu mawlahu fa Ali mawlahu” (He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is also the Mawla).
To watch the video, please click on the following image or The Ismaili – Banquet Video.
Date posted: Sunday, September 29, 2013.
EXPRESSIONS OF MYSTICAL AND ESOTERIC LOVE FOR HAZAR IMAM
Ismailis throughout the world celebrated the Golden Jubilee of their 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini, during the period July 11, 2007 – December 13, 2008. Part of the commemorative festivities in Europe included an exclusive project, entitled “Festival of Poetic Expressions”, produced and directed by Aitmadi Dr. Aziz Kurwa, under the aegis of the His Highness the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for the United Kingdom.
The common theme underlying each performance was the expression of mystical and esoteric love the Ismailis have for their Imam of the Time.
Such expressions have resonated throughout Ismaili history, because Ismaili doctrine has always emphasized the principle of the Unity of Imamat where the Ismailis affirm that each Imam, as bearer of the Noor of Imamat starting with Hazrat Ali (a.s.), is the same irrespective of his own age or the time he lives.
Thus the poems selected below are timeless, and we hope they instill happiness in the heart of every Ismaili as they celebrate the 56th Imamat Day of Mawlana Hazar Imam on July 11th.
MY ULTIMATE DESIRE
عندما تأتي يأتي النور
عندما تأتي يأتي النور
إمامي أنت مولانا
معك نشعر بالسعادة والامان
أحب أن أراك دائما
لك حبي ياشاه كريم
By Niema Victoria Alhaj
O my Imam
when you come
comes the Nur.
You’re our Mawla,
and you give us
happiness and protection.
O Shah Karim,
you are my beloved Imam,
and to see you
is my ultimate desire.
Niema, pictured above, was born in Stockholm, to Syrian parents. Niema knows many Arabic Qasidas and Qur’anic Surahs by heart. She also has many talents including composing poetry, writing short stories, painting, and sports including Taekwondo (gained green belt) and swimming (has many diplomas).
KALEIDOSCOPE OF FAITH
By Zainul Nasser
Takhtnashini in Nairobi
An event so momentous,
My heart is filled with wonder
And childish piety
Giving Bay’ah in Mombasa
Hazar Imam’s gentle hand
On my bowed shoulder
The kaleidoscope is set
In simple, comforting patterns
Glowing brightly throughout childhood
Religion is woven
Through our lives
Jamatkhana as familiar
As our homes
Pictures of Hazar Imam
A constant, reassuring presence
And with it certainty
New ideas, new experiences
For a while, my inattentive soul
Loses its way
The familiar patterns
Seem blurred and distorted
But I am blessed
At Palace Gate we students
Sit at Hazar Imam’s feet
In this small, intimate setting
Hazar Imam’s gaze
Seems to rest on me
Infinitely understanding, infinitely merciful
My struggling soul is rewarded
Focus is restored
The patterns in the kaleidoscope
Acquire coherence, depth and sparkle
And over the years
The colours dim or brighten
But the patterns remain steady
And my hopeful soul
Golden Jubilee Imamat day
We come together
In joyous anticipation
Our hearts beguiled
By fervent Zikr tasbis, qasidah
And the rousing ‘Munajat’
We are shown
Hazar Imam’s untiring efforts
To help the needy
To bring hope and harmony and beauty
A shining beacon in a time of darkness
Our hearts sing with pride
We are inspired
We are humbled
And we are blessed
With the Irshad
So caring and compassionate
So full of love, wisdom and goodness
The kaleidoscope clicks
Into perfect symmetry
The colours polished to a lustrous luminescence
The child in me
Exults in the jewelled splendour
My imperfect soul
Is filled with gratitude
At this gift, this grace
And prays for it to last.
Zainul Nasser ( nee Karmali ) was born in Mombasa and grew up there. She came to the U.K. as an undergraduate and has lived here ever since.
Zainul has an Honours degree in English from Bristol University and a Postgraduate Degree in Education. She taught English in secondary schools in Birmingham for several years. She also served on various committees including Education and Women’s activities.
Zainul is married with three grown up children. She now lives in Sutton Coldfield, indulging her passion for reading and occasionally writing poetry.
THE MORNING SUN
By Zahira Virani
Excited, mesmerised momins, full of expectancy,
full of love and joy
Communal love beyond any I have ever witnessed
An empty reservoir waiting to be filled
A hungry child awaiting its delayed meal
The desert gasping for its monsoon
Roses, jasmine and freesia release clouds
from the intoxicating agarbati
Rising and raising me higher and higher
till I land on a cloud
I become an eagle that soars
to dazzling heights in expectation
That knows the further it goes
the more bounteous its reward
Down to earth, bustling shuffling,
quick fire steps of volunteers Salwaat continuous,
rolling around in echoes and ripples of anticipation
Waezeen moving off the stage and evoking
a collective in-take of breath
Then chokingly a salwaat comes out
trickling water on a dry plant
Gently, gently but truly, truly
A teasing moment till it spills forth
the presence of Our Lord!
Overwhelmingly a wave upon a wave
of heat envelopes my heart and my mind
I lose my ability to focus,
through an uncontrollable gush of tears
I find my head bows,
surely my eyes are not worthy
To glimpse his face
Yet the presence opens a door in my heart,
where I can see glory
beyond my dreams
The family of momins around me
embrace me without arms, we are one
I am in union with them and my Lord
We are a garden of flowers resplendent
in the glory of the morning sun
THE DANCING HEART
By Greg Traynor
Come [let’s] celebrate this golden year with sitar, lute and tabla
Clear the well-spring maple floor for dandia and rasra.
Tread the flattened, reddened earth.
The verdant grass, the seashore.
Clap your hands, Lift up your feet
– Be happy!
From mountain top in high Pamir to Ganges’ muddy waters,
From old folks in Portugal to Toronto’s sons and daughters
Will all join hands and navigate
Their way around the dance floor
Our hearts exult, our souls inspired.
– We are happy!
Pale ghosts of Alamut arise! Come, join in this occasion!
Scholars of al-Azhar’s red towers and saints of every nation!
Raise up your voices, all in praise.
Our Imam’s life to cherish
We, the living, wish to dance and sing
– So happy!
Our Imam’s fifty golden years witness his dedication,
His Dancing Heart has guided the formation
Of our joyous souls,
His thoughtful words have nourished and
His Farmans have enlightened.
Our dance will show we want to make
Greg Traynor presented the Dancing Heart as a non-Ismaili spouse. He lives in Ireland.
THE SPIRIT WITHIN
By Moez Mitha
To the Rope of Imamat,
we must remember to hold strong,
With this Rope as our guide,
we will never go wrong.
From our spiritual responsibilities,
we must never go astray,
The balance between Din and Duniya
we should uphold everyday.
We love our Hazar Imam and in our hearts
he is always near,
How fortunate we are to be witness
of this Golden Jubilee year!
Magnificent are the works of our Imam
and to him we must show
That with our time and knowledge
the further we will be able to go.
We live in a world where we sometimes forget
how fortunate we really are,
And even the smallest of contributions
can help people go so far.
Our Mawla, he guides, he leads the way
and to us he always says,
“Remember your prayers and
take your tasbih any time during the day.”
In this year some of us may see
that it’s time to make a new start,
But in doing so we must show
that our allegiance is from the heart.
When it’s time for the Day of Judgment,
there’s something we all know,
Physically we will cease to exist
and to Him our spirit we must bestow.
Mawlana Hazar Imam has often reminded
us of our key role:
“In the practice of your faith,
you should seek to enlighten your soul.”
Date posted: Saturday, July 6, 2013.
Last updated: July 24, 2015.
Please also click The Festival of Poetic Expressions to learn about the festival and read more poems presented at the festival.
In my piece below about Ismaili songs in Kiswahili archived at the SAMAP, I mistakenly attributed the songs to Mukhi Allidina Jamal of Upanga Jamatkhana in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. My attention has been drawn by the family of the actual composer and singer, Allidina Jamal Walji Luvungivalla, that the (late) Mukhi Allidina Jamal, who I attributed the songs to, and the (late) Allidina Jamal Luvungivalla were different individuals. I convey my apologies to the readers as well as members of the two families for this confusion, and appreciate Allidina Jamal Luvungivalla family’s kind reaction and understanding in this matter of mistaken identity. I hope to obtain information about the actual composer in due course, with some background notes about the context of the compilations.
Needless to say, the short description I have provided in the piece about the singer of Anant Akhado, Mukhi Allidina Jamal, is fair and accurate, except that he is not the composer and singer of the Kiswahili songs — Malik Merchant, Editor, Simerg.com
Simerg.com is pleased to bring to its worlwide viewers a unique link to a series of devotional Ismaili songs in Kiswahili which have been archived with the South African Music Archives Project (SAMAP), which aims to promote multidisciplinary research in the field of popular music and culture.
The songs were composed and sung by the iconic Tanzanian personality, Allidina Jamal (please see correction note at top of this page), who was the Mukhi of Dar-es-Salaam’s Upanga Ismaili Jamatkhana during the 1960’s. Before assuming the post as Mukhi, he would be regularly called upon to recite verses from Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s composition “Anant Akhado” to the delight of the Jamat. The few verses that he sung from this monumental composition before the first Dua provided immense inspiration to everyone in attendance, setting the stage and religious fervour for the prayers that followed.
The 1952 recordings were done on the brittle Shellac gramophone records, although the much better Vinyl technology had been introduced by then.
Friends and admirers of Mukhi Allidina Jamal as well as viewers who speak or understand Swahili will be thrilled to hear these songs of devotion which include titles such as Mubarak-mubarak imame-zaman, Kwimbho ya zilsile ya imamat, Kwimbho ya Nooran Mubbin and Kwimbho ya sifu ya imam.
We invite you to click Allidina Jamal Kiswahili Song Archives at SAMAP
Readers are also invited to submit comments on this unique memory that Mukhi Jamal has left behind as well as other fond recollections with respect to his recitations in Jamatkahanas around the world.