“Coming from Algeria, which is my country, I can tell you that you represent in Muslim world, in Islamic Ummah a very exceptional community, exceptional community for three reasons.” — Professor Arkoun, please click to read article
“Heresiographic literature describes all the sects in Islam from one point of view, the Sunnite point of view, the Shiite point of view, telling that ‘we, we have the truth, and the others don’t have anything’. This is the heresiographic interpretation of Islam which is totally irrelevant for us today.” — Professor Arkoun, please click to read article
LETTER FROM PUBLISHER
By Abdulmalik J. Merchant
As a young boy with a rudimentary understanding about the planets in our solar system, I was always interested in high-flying objects and space. I often wondered why Mawlana Hazar Imam would have made a reference to Venus during his address in Dar-es-Salaam in 1959, as in the following quote:
“During your lifetime, you and probably more your children are going to face a revolution which will be somewhat like the Industrial Revolution in Britain, but it will be of a far greater consequence. For those in astronomy, geology, mechanics, radio, television, printing, this is such a thorough revolution that if you want to be able to comprehend it and yet to be able to keep for your children the values which you have in life, you have to have a source for these values which your children can live to. When you think that you will be able to leave this world, and spend the weekend on the moon or Venus or something like that, this is a fact which may be very far from you today, but I want you to understand this is not a thought which will be far from your children” — Mawlana Hazar Imam 
A reference to Mars might not have intrigued me, as it has always been the most-talked of all the planets that we earthlings might one day visit, but Venus, I said to myself, seemed to be out-of-place at 500 degrees Celcius, where its scorching heat can melt lead!
However, during the past week, media around the world — including the BBC, CNN and CBC — have carried a story about NASA’s possible future venture into Venus with significant importance. The following excerpt from Sputniknews is one of many reports on the subject, which was first released by the renowned professional scientific organization IEEE :
“Much of the recent focus on interplanetary travel has been on manned missions to Mars. But Venus is much closer — and the upper atmosphere of that planet is remarkably like Earth’s. That’s why NASA scientists are proposing a mission to study our next-door neighbor in giant airships.”
Sputniknews then lightly adds:
“Are you looking to get out-of-town after the holiday season?…If you’re looking to really escape, you might want to consider a trip to Venus. At a mere 38 million kilometers (24 million miles), it’s the closest planet to Earth. But it’s not exactly a vacation destination. With an average temperature of about 860 degrees, you’d burn to a crisp before you had a chance to get your tan on. Still, if you’re really convinced Venus is the place to be, NASA has you covered.” 
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, our beloved 48th Imam, had once said that when Imams open their mouths to speak, heaps of pearls (moti na dagla) flow. The Imam’s words often carry pointers to what might follow later. As my beloved father often told me, the Imam of the Time can see over a high wall — a distance away that we can never see.
On reading the story about Venus, I thought I might share with readers of this blog some of the images that NASA has put out to show how they intend to build a colony above Venus, which offers an earth-like environment and where one day, perhaps, our great-grandchildren may wander.
For me, at least, the reference to the moon and Venus by Mawlana Hazar Imam, is an affirmation of the Imam’s broader insight and vision, that his knowledge is all-encompassing, and that if we, as his murids, hold strong to the Rope of Imamat we shall always remain on Sirat -al-Mustaqeem (the straight path) regardless of the age and time we live in — the atomic age, the space age or something even beyond that.
With this thought, I wish all contributors, readers and subscribers of Simerg as well as its sister blog, Simergphotos, a Blessed and Happy New Year!
FIVE STEPS IN BUILDING A VENUS COLONY
Date posted: December 28, 2014.
- Precious Gems, Volume 1, Published by His Highness Prince Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismailia Association for Canada, pp 17-18.
- http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/space-flight/nasa-study-proposes-airships-cloud-cities-for-venus-exploration (IEEE)
Please also see:
“By the generosity of the Imam of the time, we say that Paradise in truth is the Intellect, and the Gateway of paradise is the Prophet (peace and salutation be upon him) during his time, and his wasi, his rank, and the Imam of the time during his age. The Key to the gateway of paradise is the utterance of the phrase, La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadan rasul Allah.”
Please click: Pir Nasir-i Khusraw on the Gateway and Key to Paradise
The excerpts shown below from the Holy Qur’an, the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and speeches of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, are quite clear about who the term Ahl al-Bayt refers to. However, Farhad Husseinali Patni gives further light on the subject by providing examples and references from early Islamic History, going back to the life of the Prophet and Qur’anic revelation. Please read this important article by clicking on “Ahl al-Bayt” – An Understanding Based on the Holy Qur’an, Hadith and Historical Events or on the image below.
IMAM SULTAN MAHOMED SHAH, HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN (1877 – 1957)
Our beloved 48th Imam, Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.) was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877. He assumed the Imamat at the age of 7 in August 1885, and became the longest serving Imam in Ismaili history. He passed away on July 11, 1957, at the age of 79, bequeathing the hereditary throne of Imamat to his grandson, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan, the current 49th Imam who has been on the throne for 57 years. In his tribute to his grandfather, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity.”…..Read More
IMAM HUSSEIN (626 – 680 CE)
Our beloved second Imam, Hazrat Hussein (a.s.) was born on January 8, 626 AC. He began his reign as the 2nd Ismaili Imam* on the death of his father, Hazrat Ali, on January 27, 661. Imam Hussein was martyred in the Battle of Karbala on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram, or October 10, 680, at the age of 54. He was succeeded to the hereditary throne of Imamat by Imam Zainul Abideen. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and thus shorter than the 365 day solar calendar. This year (2014), the 10th day of the Muharram falls on or around November 3/4……Read more
*Note: Although Shia Nizari Ismailis consider Imam Hussein (a.s.) as the second Imam, he is generally regarded as the 3rd Imam by other Shia Muslims, who treat his brother Hazrat Hassan (a.s.) as the second Imam.
Please click: Muslim and non-Muslim Expressions on Imam Hussein (a.s.)
The emigration (Hijrah) of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 AC was a significant event and later adopted to mark the beginning of the Muslim Era. The Muslim New Year begins with the month of Muharram (In 2014, October 24). Amongst the Shi’a Muslims, the first part of the month of Muharram is an occasion which is marked with a sense of sorrow and solemnity. The 10th of Muharram was the day when Hazrat Imam Hussein (a.s.) together with most of the members of his family and close companions were martyred on the fields of Karbala….Read more
“Allah chose him, was pleased with him, and selected him. Allah gave him keys of knowledge and sent him as mercy for people and as spring for the country…..Allah, the Exalted, crowned him with solemnity, covered him with the Light of His might. He made a rope to stretch up to heaven. Nothing can be obtained from what is with Allah but through the Imam.”
PLEASE CLICK: Orations of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq (a.s.)
‘Id-e-Ghadir is celebrated by the Shi ‘ite communities to mark the event that took place at Ghadir Khumm (Valley of the Pond) on the 18th Dhul-Hijjah. This event commemorates the designation (appointment by way of nass) of Hazrat All as the ‘Amir-ul-Mu’minin (commander of the faithful) and Imamul-Muslimin’ (the Imam of the community of believers) at Ghadir-i Khumm when the Prophet (s.a.s.) was returning from his Last Pilgrimage (hajjatul-wida) in the year 632 AC. On this occasion, the Prophet publicly proclaimed Ali to be his successor  in guiding the community after the end of the institution of Nubuwwah. According to the Shi’a doctrine, tradition and interpretation of history, the designation of Hazrat Ali marked the beginning of the institution of Imamah. The designated Imam was to continue the ta’wil (interpretation) and talim (teaching) of Allah’s Final Message, i.e. the Holy Qur’an.
Accordingly, throughout the course of the history, the Shi’a have commemorated this occasion as a mark of recognition and acceptance of Allah’s mercy to mankind by bestowing continued guidance. Each Imam, since the time of Hazrat Ali has designated his successor. The Imam in his time has continued to guide his followers according to the prevailing conditions. His function has always been to look after the welfare of the community both in spiritual and worldly (material) matters. His guidance to his followers is that they should lead their lives in such a way so as to practice their Faith with a sense of balance and harmony, ensuring that there is no conflict between the two aspects of an individual’s life. The practice of the Faith thus becomes the way of life.
Presently, the Shi’a Imami Ismaili Muslims celebrate the day of accession of their present Imam to the office of Imamah as Yaum-e Imamat or Imamat Day. This occasion is celebrated as a mark of gratitude to Allah in having bestowed His mercy and bounty in guiding them through the office of the Imam on Sirat al-Mustaqim (the Straight Path).
“Muhammad said: ‘He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is his Mawla. O God, be the friend of him who is his friend and be the enemy of his enemy.’
“This became the proof text for the Shia claim that Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, was the Prophet’s rightful successor after the Prophet’s death in 632. The meaning of Mawla here probably implies the role of patron, lord or protector.” – History in Quotations by M. J. Cohen and John Major.
“…As you know, the Shi’a divided from the Sunni after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, was, in Shi’a belief, named by the Prophet to be the Legitimate Authority for the interpretation of the faith. For the Shi’a today, all over the world, he is regarded as the first Imam.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Tutzing Evangelical Academy, May 20, 2006. 
“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).” – The Preamble of The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. 
“The Ismaili Imamat is a hereditary institution of Muslim leadership, linked to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) by direct lineal descent through Hazrat Ali, his cousin and son in law. The line of Ismaili Imams has continued uninterrupted by hereditary succession from Hazrat Ali through to the present, 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.” – The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) , Brazil and the Ismaili Imamat sign a Protocol. 
“Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all people – offspring, one of the other, and Allah knows and hears all things.” (Sura 3, Ayats 33-34).
With regard to the above verse, the Ismaili poet Nizar Quhistani explained:
“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.” – Quoted in Ismailis in the Middle Ages by Shafique Virani.
 To read this and other published speeches at the AKDN Website, please click Tolerance Award from the Evangelical Academy of Tutzing and Speech Archives.
 To read background story and complete preamble, please click The Preamble Of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”.
 See The Ismaili Imamat note in AKDN–Brazil Protocol.
“…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.