Prophet Muhammad in Ismaili Ginans


A folio from a manuscript of Ginan Vaek Moto of Pir Shams. Ms. KM 125, 463 folios, 200 x 160 mm; Copied in 1897 Samvat/1841 by Dahio Surijiani. Credit: The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London,


The ginanic literature of the Ismailis emerged when Ismaili Pirs (missionaries) came to India to spread the teachings of Islam and the Shia Ismaili Tariqah. The task which lay before the Pirs was to introduce the teachings of their faith in a form which would not be completely alien to the people to whom they were preaching. The ginans were therefore composed on a ‘synthetic pattern’ of the prevalent religious poetry. The Pirs took the local religious terms as conceptual tools to introduce Ismaili and Islamic teachings to the masses and, in so doing, they achieved good results. The method they adopted was most logical and quite in the spirit of the universal nature of Islam. The Holy Qur’an says:

“Call unto the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching; and reason with them in ways that are best.” — Holy Qur’an, 16:125

Thus the Ismaili Pirs brought the Hindu mind to a logical understanding of the fundamental concepts of Islam. Professor Ivanow makes the following observation on the approach taken by the Ismaili Pirs:

“Either by intuition, or sound and clever reasoning, the Nizari Ismaili missionaries devised some methods which helped them to overcome such local obstacles…One was their bold tactics in separating the meaning and spirit of Islam from its hard Arab shell…They explained the high ideals of Islam in the familiar terms of ancestral religion, Hinduism….They brought the matter a step further by proclaiming Islam the crowning phase of the whole development of Hinduism. According to them, the Qur’an (together with the ta’wil system) was the last and final Ved, completing the earlier revelations. Thus, from a purely Islamic view point, the method of bridging the difference between Islam and Hinduism adopted by Ismaili missionaries was perfectly correct, in no way conflicting with orthodox ideas.” — quote excerpts from Ismaili Da’wa in India, by W. Ivanow, Ilm, Volume 4, Number 2

In this brief article, we will present only a few of the several verses that reference Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) in the ginanic literature of the Ismailis. Links to recitations of some of the ginans mentioned in this piece are provided below.


Among the concepts presented by Ismaili Pirs in the ginans was the concept of Nubuwwah (Prophethood).

In the Holy Qur’an this concept is explained with reference to the last Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (may peace be upon him). By giving an analogy of Sirajum-Munira to the Nabi (Prophet) as in the following verse, the Holy Qur’an relates the concept of Nubuwwah with the symbol of Noor (light):

“And as one who invites unto Allah by His permission, and as a lamp that gives light (Sirajum-Munira).” — Holy Qur’an, 33:46

While the Holy Qur’an describes the Nabi as ‘Bright Lamp’, the ginans use the symbol of ‘Chandni’ (Moon Light) for the Prophet. Both in the Holy Qur’an and the ginans, the Prophet is seen as a Rahemat (Mercy) to mankind. The Qur’an says:

“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to all the nations.” — Holy Qur’an, 21:107

Obedience to the Prophet is obedience to God and it is also made a necessary condition for the love for God. Those who disobey the Prophet are called the ignorant ones. The ginans also speak in the same vein. The similarities show that the teachings of Ismaili Pirs had their foundations in the Holy Qur’an.


“An Apostle who rehearses to you the Signs of God containing clear explanations, that he may lead forth those who believe and do good works from darkness unto light.” — Holy Qur’an, 65:11

In the verse quoted above, the Prophet is the source of guidance for mankind. He shows them the right path, removes the veil of ignorance and brings them to Light. In the ginan Satveni Moti, Syed Imam Shah says:

“Nabi Muhammad iis joog mahe aviyaa, tis-thi chand-roona marag paya”


“Prophet Muhammad has come in this period, and through this moon-like Light, the Way has been made bright.”

The Pir says that the Institution of Nubuwwah, through the last of the Prophets, is like a moon which expels darkness and shows the way to the travellers. It determines a way of action for salvation, because we are liable to errors and may go astray in this world of many complexities.

The Prophet’s manifestation as God’s Bounty and Mercy is shown by the following verse of the ginan Alaf Nirale Khalaq Raja by Pir Sadr al-Din:

“Bujo-re bhai chhatra kon tana, Chhatra Nabi Muhammad Mustafa tana”


“Through whom is the care and protection? Know, O Brothers! The care and protection is through Nabi Muhammad Mustafa (the Chosen).”

This clearly resonates with the Qur’anic verse:

“Allah verily has shown grace to the believers by sending unto them a messenger of their own who recites unto them His revelations, and causes them to grow, and teaches them the Scripture and wisdom.” — Holy Qur’an, 3:164

And Pir Hasan Kabiruddin in his monumental composition, Anant Akhado, says:

“Ashaji Nabi chale Nooraj warsey, Rikhisar ne sir chhai(n)-ji”


“There are showers of Noor where Nabi walks and the believers have his protection over them.”

Thus the ginans describe the Prophet’s care and protection as chhatra and chhai(n) respectively. His guidance is Noor (Light), which helps to dispel darkness and makes visible the path leading to reunion with God.


“And those whom they invoke besides God have no power of intercession save he who bears witness to the Truth and they know (him).” — Holy Qur’an, 43:86

“O Muhammad! Raise your head and speak, and you shall be granted your desire, and intercede and your intercession shall be accepted.” — Hadith, Bukhari, 81:51

Since the Institution of Nubuwwah is a Blessing given by Allah, believers will have the intercession of the Prophet on the Day of Judgement. This (intercession) will bring them spiritual bounties in the life hereafter. In the Ginan Yara Shafayat Muhammad Karshe , Pir Sadr al-Din says:

“Yara shafayat Muhammad karsey, Mu’min bahest lahenga.”


“O friends! Muhammad will intercede (on the Day of Judgement), and the mu’min (believer) will earn the abode in heaven.”

In Buj Niranjan, the Pir says:

“Jo Nabi Muhammad karey shafayat, Ja(n)ko hai ummat ki riayat” — verse 6, lines 9-10


“If Prophet Muhammad intercedes then his followers will find ease (on the Day of Judgement).”

However, a pre-condition of earning the intercession of the Prophet Muhammad is for one to accept his Prophetic role and to follow his guidance. This is beautifully explained in Kalma Kahore Momano by Pir Satgur Noor:

“Eji Nam Nabi-ka mitha hai, jaisa sakar dudh, Kalma kaho dil saach soo(n), to bando shafayat mool”


“O mumin! the name of our Nabi is as sweet as sugar and milk. Recite the Kalma with a true and sincere heart. This, indeed, will provide for you the intercession of the Prophet.”


“Eji Nabi to jeevo(n) ka datar hai, Jene Kalma sunaya sar; Je momin manshe to beheshti howenga, Baki gafil bhula gemar”


“Nabi is the redeemer of all the souls and he has taught the kalma to you. A mumin who declares his faith in the kalma will earn the heavenly abode but the rest, who ignore the kalma, will be lost and, indeed, they are the foolish ones.”

The consequences of not obeying the Prophet Muhammad to those who have paid allegiance to Islam is provided in the following verse of Syed Imam Shah:

“Nabi Muhammad kahya jeene na kiya, dozakh-ma(n) darwaza une liya”


“He who does not obey the teachings of Prophet Muhammad has taken for himself the path towards the gates of hell.”

And, in this vein, the Qur’an declares:

“Establish worship and pay the poor-due and obey the messenger, that you may find mercy. Think not that the unbelievers, are going to frustrate (God’s plan) on earth. Fire will be their home – and it is indeed an evil refuge.” — Holy Qur’an, 24: 56-57

Folio of Pir Sadr al-Din’s Ginan, Saloko Nano. 492 pages, 200 x 160 mm. Copied between 1924 Samvat/1867 and 1942 Samvat/1885 by various scribes including Khoaja Jafar Khiate Dhalani. Credit:


(a) Earlier Revelations

“Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which has been revealed to us and in that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Issac and Jacob and the tribes, and in what that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the Prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:136

Belief in Prophet Muhammad as the last of Allah’s Messenger renders it necessary for a believer to accept all the earlier prophets, as shown in the above verse. This essential principle as well as some of the references that the Qur’an makes about the earlier prophets is also found in ginans as shown in the following compositions:

In the Ginan Virabhai Saheb Kero Bhed Na Bujere Koi, Pir Sadr al-Din observes:

“Eji ek lakh-ne chovis hazaar-mahe paigumbar sardar”


“Amongst the 124,000 (Prophets), the Prophet (Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa) is the chief.”

This is in accordance with a well known tradition of the Prophet Muhammad which states that there were 124,000 prophets; the Holy Qur’an mentions only about twenty-five prophets.

(b) Hazrat Adam (a.s.)

“They (Adam and his wife) said: ‘Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost’.” — Holy Qur’an, 7: 23

A corresponding verse is found in Pir Hasan Kabiruddin’s Eji Sarve Jivu-na Lekha Leshey:

“Eji Dada Adam mota barvant kahiye, Tap mota tena kahiye.”


“Hazrat Adam was indeed very strong (spiritually), and his penance was complete.”

(c) Hazrat Musa (a.s.)

“And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and his Lord had spoken unto him, he said: ‘My Lord! Show me (Thyself) that I may gaze upon Thee.” — Holy Qur’an, 7:143

Pir Hasan Kabiruddin, speaking about Hazrat Musa, says:

“Eji Musa Nabi Shah-ku bahot pyara, Niti nit darshan karna”


“Prophet Musa was the beloved of the Lord. He always sought and prayed for the vision of Allah.”

(d) Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.)

“Say: Allah speaketh truth. So follow the religion of Abraham, the upright.” — Holy Qur’an, 3:95

And about Hazrat Ibrahim, Pir Hasan Kabiruddin says:

“Eji Ibrahim Nabiji-ki bataj suniye, Karna aiysa kaam”


“Listen to the story of Prophet Ibrahim and do such deeds as he did.”


“Behold, your Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a Vicegerent on earth’.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:30

“O mankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: for We have sent unto you a light that is manifest.” — Holy Qur’an, 4:174

“He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla.” — Hadith

Finally, it would be appropriate to add a few ginanic verses which speak about the continuity of the Divine Guidance through the Institution of Imamat after the demise of Allah’s last Prophet, Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa (may peace be upon him). True, there would be no Prophet after Prophet Muhammad, but God’s guidance for mankind had to continue, or else how could God’s Infinite Mercy and Absolute Justice be explained?

The continuous and perpetual guidance mentioned in the Qur’anic verse:

“O mankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: for we have sent you a light that is manifest” — Holy Qur’an, 4:74

is stated by Pir Hasan Kabiruddin as follows:

“Noore-Khalifa iis joog-ma(n)hey awiya, Ta(n)ki amar jyot likhai ji”


“Vicegerent of God (Imam) has come in this period and His Light is Eternal.”

However, the belief in and the recognition of  Prophet Muhammad is a pre-requisite for a belief in the Imamat and this is reinforced in Pir Hasan Kabiruddin’s Allah Ek Khasam Sabuka:

“Nabi Muhammad bujo bhai, to tamey pamo Imam.”


“O brothers! know Nabi Muhammad, i.e. know the teachings of Nabi Muhammad, for it is then that you will gain the recognition of the Imam of the time.”

Date posted: November 25, 2015.



To listen to some of the ginans mentioned in the above piece, and to more than 700 other ginans by multiple reciters from around the world, please click on

This is a unique resource that should be of interest to everyone researching or studying ginans, as well as everyone who is inspired by ginans composed by Ismaili Pirs and Syads.


1. This reading has been adapted from Hakim Vali Mohammad Surani’s piece Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) in the Light of Ginans, which was originally published in Ilm, March 1980, Volume 5, Number 4, by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom.

2. Further references to all the ginans quoted in this reading are provided in the original Ilm article.

Two Absolutely Essential Messages in His Highness the Aga Khan’s Harvard Lecture: “The Cosmopolitan Ethic” and the Timeless Truth that “Humanity is Born of a Single Soul”

Ticket holders line up to listen to His Highness the Aga Khan at Harvard University on November 12, 2015. Photo: Azeem Maherali.

Ticket holders line up to listen to His Highness the Aga Khan at Harvard University on November 12, 2015. Photo: Azeem Maherali.

Editor’s note: Thematic excerpts from speeches made by His Highness the Aga Khan are highly popular with our readers, and we are pleased to present this feature once again for the recent Jodi lecture that was delivered by the 49th Ismaili Imam at Harvard University on Thursday, November 12, 2015. We begin with excerpts from introductory remarks made by Professor Ali Asani’s in welcoming His Highness to Harvard.



“Your Highness, I am one of those children who many years ago was a student attending Aga Khan schools in Kenya, and with your support and guidance, went on to study and teach here at Harvard. Thank you.”  — Dr. Ali Asani, November 12, 2015.

Professor Ali Asani introduces His Highness the Aga Khan before the 2015 Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University. Photo: Navyn Naran.

Professor Ali Asani introduces His Highness the Aga Khan before the 2015 Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University. Photo: Navyn Naran.

“It is my honour and privilege to be here today, and to introduce to you — and to welcome back to Harvard — our guest speaker, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, Harvard class of 1959.

“For nearly six decades, the Aga Khan has been responsible for both the spiritual guidance and the material welfare of millions of Ismaili Muslims residing in over 25 countries, sometimes in contexts of conflict and poverty. Under his leadership, this multicultural, multiethnic, multilingual, and transnational community — or Jamat — has witnessed the greatest transformation in its history. He has guided the Ismailis through a dramatic metamorphosis that has impacted the lives of each and every member of his community.

“However, His Highness’s concerns have extended well beyond the communities of his followers to the larger societies in which they live….[He] has made it possible for hundreds of thousands of children of different religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds to study in Aga Khan kindergarten, primary and secondary schools, and academies located both in Africa and Asia. He has created two international universities and endowed professorships at major institutions of higher education — including Harvard.

Audience applauds as His Highness the Aga Khan is welcomed to Harvard by Professor Ali Asani. Photo: The Ismaili/Farhez Rayani

Audience applauds as His Highness the Aga Khan is welcomed to Harvard by Professor Ali Asani. Photo: The Ismaili/Farhez Rayani

“His Highness has made every sector and aspect of the human existence a part of his concern. His institutional efforts are deployed to meet the holistic and multiple needs of millions of people around the world, irrespective of their religion, race or nationality.

“According to a well-known saying attributed to the Aga Khan’s ancestor, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” In keeping with ancient Islamic traditions of nurturing the arts, His Highness has also enriched the lives of people around the world by giving the priceless gift of beauty.

“While some wanton elements in our world today are sadly intent on destroying humanity’s cultural heritage, the Aga Khan’s institutions have been restoring historic monuments, beautifying urban landscapes with magnificent gardens and stunning award-winning buildings, reviving traditions of music and promoting the role of the arts as bridges of cultural understanding.

“Today, we live in an increasingly polarised world in which people are unable to tolerate difference, let alone understand and engage with it. The lives of one-and-a-half billion Muslims, and perhaps everyone on this planet, have been changed by the machinations of powerful geopolitical forces.

“Your Highness, in our world of increasing division orchestrated by small cells of radical extremists, and often manipulated by powerful forces with consequences that reverberate in large parts of the world, we cherish and honour your lifetime commitment to pluralism and the betterment of society, and look forward to your thoughts on The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome His Highness the Aga Khan.”



His Highness the Aga Khan spoke on November 12, 2015 at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs on "The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World". Photo: AKDN / Farhez Rayani

His Highness the Aga Khan speaks on November 12, 2015 at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs on “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World”. Photo: AKDN / Farhez Rayani



Thank you for your warm welcome. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to return to Harvard and this wonderful campus. I am honored as well, to be giving the Jodidi Lecture for 2015, and to join the distinguished list of those who have given this lecture over the past 60 years.

….in 1957 I was a junior when I became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims — when my grandfather designated me to succeed him.

…What does it mean to become an Imam in the Ismaili tradition?…. it is an inherited role of spiritual leadership. As you may know, the Ismailis are the only Muslim community that has been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from Prophet Muhammad.

That spiritual role, however, does not imply a separation from practical responsibilities. In fact for Muslims the opposite is true: the spiritual and material worlds are inextricably connected. Leadership in the spiritual realm — for all Imams, whether they are Sunni or Shia — implies responsibility in worldly affairs; a calling to improve the quality of human life.



As I prepared for this new role in the late 1950s, Harvard was very helpful. The University allowed me — having prudently verified that I was a student “in good standing” — to take eighteen months away to meet the leaders of the Ismaili community in some 25 countries where most of the Ismailis then lived, and to speak with their government leaders.

I returned here after that experience with a solid sense of the issues I would have to address, especially the endemic poverty in which much of my community lived. And I also returned with a vivid sense of the new political realities that were shaping their lives, including the rise of African independence movements, the perilous relations between India and Pakistan and the sad fact that many Ismailis were locked behind the Iron Curtain and thus removed from regular contact with the Imamat.

When I returned to Harvard, it was not only to complete my degree, but I was fortunate to audit a number of courses that were highly relevant to my new responsibilities. So as an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to benefit from the complete spectrum of courses offered by this great university.

….Harvard has continued to be a highly valued partner for our Network since this time. The University played a key role in developing the blueprint thirty years ago for the Aga Khan University — working first in the fields of medicine and nursing education, and now offering a broad variety of degrees on three continents. Another close Harvard relationship has involved the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, launched here and at MIT in 1977.

Regularity in Class Attendance

Incidentally, I must have been the only Harvard undergraduate to have two secretaries and a personal assistant working with me. And I have always been very proud of the fact that I never sent any of them to take notes for me at my class!


Through all of these years, my objective has been to understand more thoroughly the developing countries of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and to prepare initiatives that will help them become countries of opportunity, for all of their peoples.

Concern For Islamic Architecture: Lack of Processes for its Renewal

My concern for the future of Islamic architecture grew out of my travels between 1957 and 1977 in countries with large Muslim populations. What I observed was a near total disconnect between the new built environment I encountered and Islam’s rich architectural legacy. There was no process of renewal, no teaching in architectural schools, no practices that were rooted in our own traditions. Except for the occasional minaret or dome, one of the world’s great cultural inheritances was largely confined to coffee-table books. It seemed to me that this state of affairs represented a monumental menace to our world’s cultural pluralism, as well as a dangerous loss of identity for Muslim communities.

The Aga Khan Programme for Islamic Architecture was one response to this situation, as was the creation of the Aga Khan architectural award, which also continues today. Bringing the art and architecture of the Islamic world to be understood and admired in the West, as it had been in the past, was a goal that also inspired the creation, just one year ago, of the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto — the only museum in the western hemisphere devoted entirely to Islamic culture.

AKDN Objective in One Word, “Opportunity”, and Thus Hope for Future

Today, the Aga Khan Development Network embraces many facets and functions. But, if I were trying to sum up in a single word its central objective, I would focus on the word “opportunity”. For what the peoples of the developing world seek above all else is hope for a better future.

Too often however, true opportunity has been a distant hope — perhaps for some, not even more than a dream. Endemic poverty, in my view, remains the world’s single most important challenge. It is manifested in many ways, including persistent refugee crises of the sort we have recently seen in such an acute form. And of course confounding new challenges continue to mount, such as the looming threat of climate change. My interest in climate change has been sharpened by recent studies linking it to the threat of earthquakes. This could be an issue in the high mountain areas of South Asia for example, where so many Ismailis live and are concentrated.

Sixty years ago as I took up my responsibilities, the problems of the developing world, for many observers, seemed intractable. It was widely claimed that places like China and India were destined to remain among the world’s “basket cases” — incapable of feeding themselves let alone being able to industrialise or achieve economic self-sustainability. If this had been true, of course, then there would have been no way for the people of my community, in India and China and in many other places, to look for a better future.

Aga Khan Jodi Lecture Harvard

His Highness the Aga Khan spoke as part of the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture series, which provides for “the delivery of lectures by eminent and well-qualified persons for the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations, and the peace of the world. Photo: AKDN

Political realities presented further complications. Most of the poorest countries were living under distant colonial or protectorate or communist regimes. The monetary market was totally unpredictable. Volatile currencies were shifting constantly in value, making it almost impossible to plan ahead. And while I thought of all the Ismailis as part of one religious community, the realities of their daily lives were deeply distinctive and decidedly local.

Nor did most people yet see the full potential for addressing these problems through non-profit, private organisations — what we today call “civil society.”

And yet, it was also clear that stronger coordination across these lines of division could help open new doors of opportunity. We could see how renovated educational systems, based on best practices, could reach across frontiers of politics and language. We could see how global science could address changing medical challenges, including the growing threat of non-communicable disease. We could see, in sum, how a truly pluralistic outlook could leverage the best experiences of local communities through an effective international network.

But we also learned that the creation of effective international networks in a highly diversified environment can be a daunting matter. It took a great deal of considered effort to meld older values of continuity and local cohesion, with the promise of new cross-border integration.


Cosmopolitan Ethic

What was required — and is still required — was a readiness to work across frontiers of distinction and distance without trying to erase them. What we were looking for, even then, were ways of building an effective “cosmopolitan ethic in a fragmented world.”

This often meant working from the bottom up, learning to follow what was sometimes called “field logic.” Most of our initiatives began at a local, community level, and then grew into regional, national and international institutions.

Working in Partnerships

As we moved forward, we learned a number of important lessons. We learned that lifting health and education services to world class standards was a global promise that could inspire local support. We learned to attack poverty simultaneously with multiple inputs, on a variety of fronts. We learned to work with effective partners — including the not-for-profit institutions of civil society. We learned to see our role as one of supporting the public sector, not competing with it. And we learned the importance of measuring carefully the outcomes of our efforts, and then applying that knowledge.

All of these approaches were facilitated by a determination to overcome linguistic barriers through a language policy that promoted better use of the national language, and network-wide English as a strong connecting tool.

And so our Network grew. Today it embraces a group of agencies — non-governmental and non-denominational — operating in 35 countries. They work in fields ranging from education and medical care, to job creation and energy production; from transport and tourism, to media and technology; from the fine arts and cultural heritage, to banking and microfinance. But they are all working together toward a single overarching objective: improving the quality of human life.


Hope for International Cooperation

Meanwhile, in the Industrialised West, many things were happening that paralleled our AKDN experience. For one thing, an impulse for international cooperation was advancing in the late 1950s at an impressive pace. After half a century of violent confrontation, determined leaders talked hopefully about global integration. New international organisations and cross-border alliances blossomed. And Harvard University decisively expanded its own involvement in world affairs.

When the Jodidi Lectureship was established here in 1955, its explicit purpose (and I quote) was “the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations.” And that seemed to be the way history was moving. Surely, we thought, we had learned the terrible price of division and discord, and certainly the great technological revolutions of the 20th century would bring us more closely together.

Technological Promises and the New World Order

In looking back to my Harvard days, I recall how a powerful sense of technological promise was in the air — a faith that human invention would continue its ever-accelerating conquest of time and space. I recall too, how this confidence was accompanied by what was described as a “revolution of rising expectations” and the fall of colonial empires. And of course, this trend seemed to culminate some years later with the end of the Cold War and the “new world order” that it promised.



But even as old barriers crumbled and new connections expanded, a paradoxical trend set in, one that we see today at every hand. At the same time that the world was becoming more interconnected, it also become more fragmented.

We have been mesmerised on one hand by the explosive pace of what we call “globalisation,” a centripetal force putting us as closely in touch with people who live across the world as we are to those who live next to us. But at the same time, a set of centrifugal forces have been gaining on us, producing a growing sense — between and within societies — of disintegration.


Whether we are looking at a more fragile European Union, a more polarised United States, a more fervid Sunni-Shia conflict, intensified tribal rivalries in much of Africa and Asia, or other splintering threats in every corner of the planet, the word “fragmentation” seems to define our times.

Confrontation and Disconnection

Global promise, it can be said, has been matched by tribal wariness. We have more communication, but we also have more confrontation. Even as we exclaim about growing connectivity we seem to experience greater disconnection.

Perhaps what we did not see so clearly 60 years ago is the fact that technological advance does not necessarily mean human progress. Sometimes it can mean the reverse.


The more we communicate, the harder it can sometimes be to evaluate what we are saying. More information often means less context and more confusion. More than that, the increased pace of human interaction means that we encounter the stranger more often, and more directly. What is different is no longer abstract and distant. Even for the most tolerant among us, difference, more and more, can be up close and in your face.

Aga Khan Jodi Lecture Harvard 2

His Highness the Aga Khan speaks at Harvard University on November 12, 2015. Photo: AKDN.


The Terms Tolerance, Pluralism and Cosmopolitan

What all of this means is that the challenge of living well together — a challenge as old as the human-race — can seem more and more complicated. And so we ask ourselves, what are the resources that we might now draw upon to counter this trend? How can we go beyond our bold words and address the mystery of why our ideals still elude us?

In responding to that question, I would ask you to think with me about the term I have used in the title for this lecture: “The Cosmopolitan Ethic.”

For a very long time, as you know, the term most often used in describing the search for human understanding was the word “tolerance.” In fact, it was one of the words that was used in 1955 text to describe one of the objectives of this Jodidi Lecture.

In recent years our vocabulary in discussing this subject has evolved. One word that we have come to use more often in this regard is the word “pluralism.” And the other is the word “cosmopolitan.”

You may know that our AKDN Network, a decade ago, cooperated with the Government of Canada to create a new Global Centre for Pluralism based in Ottawa, designed to study more closely the conditions under which pluralist societies can thrive.

What is a Pluralist, Cosmopolitan Society?

A pluralist, cosmopolitan society is a society which not only accepts difference, but actively seeks to understand it and to learn from it. In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.

A cosmopolitan society regards the distinctive threads of our particular identities as elements that bring beauty to the larger social fabric. A cosmopolitan ethic accepts our ultimate moral responsibility to the whole of humanity, rather than absolutising a presumably exceptional part.

Perhaps it is a natural condition of an insecure human race to seek security in a sense of superiority. But in a world where cultures increasingly interpenetrate one another, a more confident and a more generous outlook is needed.

Readiness to Dialog and to Listen to Everyone

What this means, perhaps above all else, is a readiness to participate in a true dialog with diversity, not only in our personal relationships, but in institutional and international relationships also. But that takes work, and it takes patience. Above all, it implies a readiness to listen.

What is needed, as the former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson has said, and I quote, is a readiness “to listen to your neighbour, even when you may not particularly like him.” Is that message clear? You listen to people you don’t like!

Differences Between the Concept of Globalization vs Thoughtful Cosmopolitan Ethic

A thoughtful cosmopolitan ethic is something quite different from some attitudes that have become associated with the concept of globalisation in recent years. Too often, that term has been linked to an abstract universalism, perhaps well-meaning but often naïve. In emphasising all that the human race had in common, it was easy to depreciate the identities that differentiated us. We sometimes talked so much about how we are all alike that we neglected the wonderful ways in which we can be different.

One result of this superficial view of homogenised, global harmony, was an unhappy counter-reaction. Some took it to mean the spread of a popular, Americanised global culture — that was unfair and an assessment that was erroneous. Others feared that their individual, ethnic or religious identities might be washed away by a super-competitive economic order, or by some supranational political regime. And the frequent reaction was a fierce defense of older identities. If cooperation meant homogenisation, then a lot of people found themselves saying “No.”

But an either-or-choice between the global and the tribal — between the concept of universal belonging and the value of particular identities — was in fact a false choice. The road to a more cooperative world does not require us to erase our differences, but to understand them.

What is a Responsible, Thoughtful Process of Globalization?

A responsible, thoughtful process of globalisation, in my view, is one that is truly cosmopolitan, respecting both what we have in common and what makes us different.

It is perhaps in our nature to see life as a series of choices between sharply defined dualities, but in fact life is more often a matter of avoiding false dichotomies, which can lead to dangerous extremes. The truth of the matter is that we can address the dysfunctions of fragmentation without obscuring the values of diversity.


Sensitivity to Economic Insecurity

A cosmopolitan ethic will also be sensitive to the problem of economic insecurity in our world. It is an enormous contributing factor to the problems I have been discussing. Endemic poverty still corrodes any meaningful sense of opportunity for many millions. And even in less impoverished societies, a rising tide of economic anxiety can make it difficult for fearful people to respect, let alone embrace, that which is new or different.

Addressing Human Longevity

This problem has been compounded by the very advances that have long been the source of so much hope. I am thinking here for example about medical advances that have dramatically increased human longevity. People live longer, but they often find that they have outlived their resources.

The developing world is now facing a major challenge: how does it care for the elderly? Even in more developed societies, social changes have eroded some of the domestic support that once eased the burdens of the aging. How, we must all ask, will we manage the new challenges of longevity?

Leadership Responsibilities

All of these considerations will place special obligations on those who play leadership roles in our societies. Sadly, some would-be leaders all across the world have been tempted to exploit difference and magnify division. It is always easier to unite followers in a negative cause than a positive one. But the consequences can be a perilous polarisation.

Quality of Education in the Midst of Information Explosion

The information explosion itself has sometimes become an information glut, putting even more of a premium on being first and getting attention, rather than being right and earning respect. It is not easy to retain one’s faith in a healthy, cosmopolitan marketplace of ideas when the flow of information is increasingly trivialised.

One answer to these temptations will be found, I am convinced, in the quality of our education. It will lie with our universities at one end of the spectrum, and early childhood education at the other — a field to which our Development Network has been giving special attention.

Quality of Education to Overcome Clash of Ignorance

Let me mention one more specific issue where a sustained educational effort will be especially important. I refer to the debate — one that has involved many in this audience — about the prospect of some fundamental clash of civilisations between Islam and the West. In my view, the deeper problem behind any prospective “clash of civilisations” is a profound “clash of ignorances”. And in that struggle, education will be an indispensable weapon.


The Heart of the Islamic Message: Common Humanity

Finally, I would emphasise that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that resonates with the world’s great ethical and religious traditions.

A passage from the Holy Qur’an that has been central to my life is addressed to the whole of humanity. It says: “Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women…”

At the very heart of the Islamic faith is a conviction that we are all born “of a single soul.” We are “spread abroad” to be sure in all of our diversity, but we share, in a most profound sense, a common humanity.

Outlook From Islamic History

This outlook has been central to the history of Islam. For many hundreds of years, the greatest Islamic societies were decidedly pluralistic, drawing strength from people of many religions and cultural backgrounds. My own ancestors, the Fatimid Caliphs, founded the city of Cairo, and the great Al Azhar University there, a thousand years ago in this same spirit.

That pluralistic outlook remains a central ideal for most Muslims today.

There are many, of course, some non-Muslims and some Muslims alike, who have perpetrated different impressions.

Hopes from the Voices of Islam

At the same time, institutions such as those that have welcomed me here today, have eloquently addressed these misimpressions. My hope is that the voices of Islam itself will continue to remind the world of a tradition that, over so many centuries, has so often advanced pluralistic outlooks and built some of the most remarkable societies in human history.


Let me repeat, in conclusion, that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that will honour both our common humanity and our distinctive Identities — each reinforcing the other as part of the same high moral calling.

The central lesson of my own personal journey — over many miles and many years — is the indispensability of such an ethic in our changing world, based on the timeless truth that we are — each of us and all of us — “born of a single soul.”

Date posted: November 18, 2015.


For a comprehensive video of the event, please click on the following image.

For speech transcripts, please visit and

Glimpses of His Highness the Aga Khan from Harvard, as he prepares to speak at the University on November 12th, 2015

His Highness the Aga Khan will deliver the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs on 12 November. Entitled “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World”, his lecture is expected to cover the challenges to pluralism and cosmopolitanism. After the lecture there will be a conversation with Diana L. Eck

Although tickets for the lecture are no longer available, the entire event will be webcast live on starting at 4pm EST.

Please check this website again on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, for speech and interview excerpts as well as a fine selection of photographs related to the event.

His Highness the Aga Khan graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honours in Islamic History. This is his portrait in a Harvard University blazer as he smiles with an armful of books, on the Harvard Campus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1958. Copyright: Photo by Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

His Highness the Aga Khan graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honours in Islamic History. This is his portrait in a Harvard University blazer as he smiles with an armful of books, on the Harvard Campus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1958. Copyright: Photo by Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.


“The summer before his senior year, Prince Karim Khan ’58 received unexpected news. His grandfather, His Highness Aga Khan III, had died, and his will named Karim — fondly known by his classmates as ‘K’ — as his successor, making him Aga Khan IV. And so, at 20 years old, Karim became the leader of the Ismaili Muslims, a sect of Shia Islam with over 15 million followers who consider him a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

“Once Karim became the Aga Khan, the Islamic history concentrator no longer led a student’s life. 

“[Aga Khan III] plucked K right out of the College,” said David H. Rhinelander ’58, one of Karim’s freshman roommates in Wigglesworth Hall. “He moved to a hotel and had to begin to run his empire while he was a student.” — Excerpts from an article by Nini S Moorhead published in the Harvard Crimson, June 2008.



“The varsity soccer team opens its season this afternoon against Tufts and the game will be one of experimentation for Crimson coach Bruce Munro. He has had to revamp his lineup several times because of an alarming number of injured personnel, including Karim Aga Khan, the starting outside left. Larry Ekpebu will start for Khan at outside left, while Ken Marmar will open at outside right.” — Harvard Crimson, October 1, 1958.



“Karim Aga Khan ’59, who graduates with the Class of 1959 tomorrow, has established a ten-year program of scholarships for students attending Harvard from India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Persia, and East Africa.

“In a statement, the Aga Khan said that he will never regret his decision, after succeeding to his grandfather’s title, to return to Harvard to his studies. He added that he was ‘particularly impressed by the recent growth of facilities for the study of Middle Eastern and Asian affairs’.” — Harvard Crimson, June 10, 1959.



“The Aga Khan ’59, spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims, joined the presidents of Harvard and MIT Friday to launch the world’s largest online resource for scholars of Islamic architecture.

“The resource, called ArchNet, contains over 600,000 images of Islamic architecture, tools for discussion and collaboration online among scholars and access to key journals of Islamic architecture. Harvard served as one of the primary collaborators in the creation of the site.

“Those speaking at Friday’s launch said they hoped the free site would provide architects, urban-planners and academics in resource-poor areas the tools they need to study, and give the Western public an opportunity to experience Islamic culture.

“In a brilliant way, [ArchNet] combines new technology and ancient culture to do something that is really quite important,” University President Lawrence H. Summers said in his remarks to the 150-person audience at MIT’s Media Laboratory.” — Harvard Crimson, September 30, 2002.



His Highness the Aga Khan receives an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo: AKDN.

His Highness the Aga Khan receives an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo: AKDN.



“The Aga Khan, world-famous leader of the Ismaili Community, a sect of the Moslem religion, has endowed a professorship of Iranian at the University, President Pusey announced yesterday.

“The chair, to be known as the Aga Khan Professorship of Iranian, will be devoted to the study of the history and civilization of Iran. Its purpose, according to the Khan, is “to preserve and transmit to future generations knowledge of the rich heritage of the Iranian past.”

“At the same time, Sadruddin Aga Khan, son of the Aga Khan, has established the Ismaili Community Fellowships for the study of the Middle East here.

“In announcing the gifts, Pusey said, ‘The sentiment of the Aga Khan and his son, Sadruddin, in thus fostering the growth of understanding between the East and the West is one we all deeply share. Certainly, all peoples around the world need to know and better understand the cultural heritage of those who are our neighbors in the modern age’.” — Excerpts from the Harvard Crimson, December 6, 1956

Date posted: November 11-12, 2015.


Please visit – the daily newspaper of Harvard

His Highness the Aga Khan on the Imamat and the Unity of Mankind; Id-e-Ghadir – The Designation of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) as Commander of the Faithful

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

Mawlana Hazar Imam thanking the government of Portual for inviting the Ismaili Imamat to establish its permanent Seat in the country. Photo: TheIsmaili/Gary Otte. See text of agreement, click on note 4 below.

“The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself.” [1]


“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet. But let me clarify something more about the history of that role, in both the Sunni and Shia interpretations of the Muslim faith. The Sunni position is that the Prophet nominated no successor, and that spiritual-moral authority belongs to those who are learned in matters of religious law. As a result, there are many Sunni imams in a given time and place. But others believed that the Prophet had designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up — but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that 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 you build your lives, for yourselves and others, you will come to rest upon certain principles. Central to my life has been a verse in the Holy Quran which addresses itself to the whole of humanity. It says: “Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women…”

“I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race — born indeed from a single soul.” [2]



The twelve months of the Muslim calendar and major Muslim festivals. Image by Simerg.

The twelve months of the Muslim calendar and major Muslim festivals. Image by Simerg.

‘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 (which falls on September 30 or October 1 in 2015). 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 [3] 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.

This stamp, issued by Iran in 1990, includes the Shahada, Qur'anic ayats and the declaration made by Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir-e Khumm

This stamp, issued by Iran in 1990, includes the Shahada, Qur’anic ayats and the declaration made by Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir-e Khumm “Mun Koontu Mawla, Fa Hada, Aliyun Mawla” (He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is also the Mawla). Image not exact stamp size.

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).

Date re-posted: September 30, 2015 (The Id-e-Ghadir article had first appeared on this blog in 2013, and has been adapted from Ilm magazine, December 1989).



[1] Voices: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale (English translation)

[2] 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] Vagglieri, Ghadir Khumm, The Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol II, E.J. Brill, 1965, pp. 993-994

[4] “Seat of the Ismaili Imamat” — Text of the Historic Agreement Between the Ismaili Imamat and the Portuguese Republic.

@Simergphotos: The Ismaili Centre in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Through the Lens of Canadian Photographer Muslim Harji

PLEASE CLICK: Dushanbe’s Ismaili Centre Through the Lens of Muslim Harji

Happy Children Faces at the Dushnabe Ismaili Centre. Please click on image for Muslim Harji's Photo Essay.

Happy young faces at the Dushanbe Ismaili Centre. Please click on image for Muslim Harji’s Photo Essay.

Please click on image for Muslim Harji's Photo Essay.

Please click on image for Muslim Harji’s Photo Essay.

Date posted: September 27, 2015.

A UCSF Video Introduction to His Highness the Aga Khan: “He Does Good Work and Moves Quickly”

“[the] Aga Khan and his network have done such remarkable development work across the world, especially in Asia and East Africa, and we’re delighted to play a part in spreading our knowledge throughout the world with partners like him.” — Sam Hawgood, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco (UCSF)

PLEASE CLICK: The Aga Khan Visits UCSF to Strengthen Partnership to Advance Global Health

A Shia Muslim Perspective on Embryonic Stem Cell Research and the Rights of a Foetus

Editor’s note: For the month of September 2015, Simerg will be publishing new posts on a less frequent basis. Normal publication will resume in October. The following piece first appeared on this website in 2012.


Ever since researchers in 1998 discovered that stem cells extracted from embryonic tissue could regenerate to become any type of cell, there has been a deep divide on the morality of such research. When stem cells are taken from an embryo, the embryo loses its viability: it cannot become implanted into a womb or develop into a fetus. To knowingly damage an embryo in order to remove stem cells is, for some, equal to destroying human life. For others, who see great promise in what stem cells might do to cure illnesses it is immoral not to move forward with such research. What is Islam’s position on this ethical question? Read how Iran, a Shia Muslim country, has responded to this debate.

Please click Embryonic Stem Cell Research and the Rights of a Foetus: A Shia Muslim Perspective from Iran or on the image below.

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is promising or emerging. Please click for article

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is promising or emerging. Please click for article “A Shia Muslim Perspective on Stem Cell Research.” Image: Wikipedia.

Ginan Central: A Portal to the Ismaili Community’s Ginanic Literature

University of Saskatchewan Library
Special to Simerg

Ginan Central is a web portal developed at the University of Saskatchewan Library with the goal of digitally preserving and providing access to ginanic literature in order to promote research and education. The projects undertaken and shared on Ginan Central are diverse and ongoing. For example, the Ginan Index and Search Tool or GIST initiative is a web-based application developed for researchers and scholars to locate and digitally access textual sources such as manuscripts and lithographs of ginans. The Ginan Recitals project, on the other hand, focuses on making oral sources of ginans available to students and researchers. Work is also underway to bring together these textual and oral sources to create an evidence-based master list of ginans in order to ascertain how many unique ginans and granths (titled ginans) are available and accessible today. In addition to these projects, the Ginanic Studies section on Ginan Central is dedicated to compiling and maintaining an online bibliography of research outcomes pertaining to ginans. In terms of education and outreach, the Ginan Central portal also hosts a multimedia Khojki Guide for those who are interested in learning the Khojki script to decipher ginan manuscripts.

Please click on image for enlargement

Ginan Central CEM

The Ginan Central portal uses the University of Saskatchewan Library’s Community Engagement Model (CEM), which was recently presented at the Ismaili Studies Conference, held at the University of Chicago in 2014. The CEM model uses the roles of protector and promoter as two contrasting endpoints to illustrate various possibilities and levels of individual and institutional collaboration to digitally share sacred traditions and literature. At one end of the CEM continuum is the role of an idealistic protector, whose basic instinct is to protect the sanctity of knowledge by limiting access as a security measure against real and imaginary threats. On the opposite end of this continuum is the role of an optimistic promoter who is driven by the sentiment of sharing literature to advance human knowledge.

At Ginan Central, we recognize and appreciate this paradoxical dynamic amongst community individuals and institutions. This is why collaborating and sharing collections with Ginan Central does not require our partners to forgo their identity or control over their collections. Our goal is not to appropriate collections or build massive repositories, instead we strive to build partnerships and processes that can unify and link disparate collections and repositories by leveraging work of our partners to advance study of ginans.

Aga Khan Quote

Collaboration, respect, and trust remain the guiding principles for Ginan Central to be able to carry out its purpose of preserving and providing access to ginanic literature. Libraries have been involved in digitally harvesting community knowledge for decades. At the University of Saskatchewan Library as well, we are capable of utilizing modern day technologies in responsible and respectful ways to balance the need of protecting the sanctity of sacred traditions and providing the necessary access to students and researchers to advance the study of ginans.

 Date posted: September 21, 2015.


Please visit Ginan Central, and for more information on Ginan Central, please contact

Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat — (IV) Contemporary Poetry and a Thank You Letter to the Person of the Institution of Imamat

His Highness the Aga Khan: Ceremonial installation, Kampala, Uganda

His Highness the Aga Khan: Ceremonial installation, Kampala, Uganda

On July 11, 2015, which coincides with the 25th day of Ramadan, Ismailis around the world are celebrating the 58th Imamat Anniversary of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

The poetry and thank you letter produced in this post are expressions of gratitude and love the Ismailis carry in their hearts for their Imam of the Time. Such expressions have resonated throughout Ismaili history, because Ismailis affirm the Principle of the Unity of Imamat, that is the belief and understanding that each Imam, from the time of Hazrat Ali (a.s.), is the bearer of the Noor (Light) of Imamat; he is the same irrespective of his own age or the time he lives in.

On this happy and momentous day, we convey Imamat Day Mubarak to all our readers, and wish everyone barakah (happiness) and success in all aspects of life.



عندما تأتي يأتي النور

Victoria Niema Alhaj

Victoria Niema Alhaj

عندما تأتي يأتي النور
إمامي أنت مولانا
معك نشعر بالسعادة والامان
أنت إمامي
أنت حبيبي
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 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.



By Zainul Nasser

Takhtnashini in Nairobi
An event so momentous,
So significant
My heart is filled with wonder
And childish piety

Giving Bay’ah in Mombasa
Hazar Imam’s gentle hand
On my bowed shoulder
Benign, protective

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
Surround us
A constant, reassuring presence

Childhood ends
And with it certainty
New ideas, new experiences
Overwhelm me
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
So fortunate
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
Journeys on
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



Ayat and Rope

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,
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.

Moez Mitha

Moez Mitha

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.”



INTRODUCTION: The following traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) speak about the Person of the Institution of Imamat: “I am leaving amongst you two weighty things after me, the Qur’an and my Progeny (ahl al-bayt). Verily, if you hold fast to them both you will never go astray. Both are tied with a long rope and cannot be separated till the Day of Judgement,” and, “He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is also the Mawla.”

Thus, the Person of the Institution of Imamat is the direct descendant of Hazrat Ali (a.s.). The preamble of the Shia Imami Ismaili Constitution states: “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.”

In Simerg’s special series dedicated to Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures, Dr. Aziz Kurwa, a retired medical practitioner and a long serving member of the Ismaili community in the United Kingdom, gives his “heartfelt thanks” to the Person of the Institution of Imamat who is responsible for guiding the Ismaili community through the ages, since the time of the first Imam, Hazrat Ali (a.s.). The wisdom of the Imam has inspired and motivated individuals such as Pir Sadardin, Pir Nasir Khusraw and Hasan bin Sabah, and continues to nourish the present-day Jamat.


Wa Kulla Shay’in Ahsayanhu Fi Imamim-Mubin

(Holy Qur’an, Sura Yaseen, 36:12)

May it Please the Person of the Institution of Imamat,

Thank you for blessing us with an understanding of the miracle and gift of the Person of Imamat, that we may more fully appreciate the miracles of Allah, and our place in His creation. The Person of Imamat is endowed with Knowledge and Wisdom that Allah has bestowed through centuries and the Imam-e-Zaman guides those who believe in Him with the benefit of this wisdom and knowledge .

This wisdom is for the benefit of the murids of the Imam and the Ummah; it is for the individual to access this wisdom and knowledge, and he who uses this wisdom benefits himself as well. Any person can access this but it is according to his or her understanding and ability to use that knowledge for good deeds to be achieved.

I am particularly conscious of this and whenever possible I give shukhrana to Allah for allowing me to learn and to implement the Imam’s guidance. The Imam carries the wisdom and knowledge of the ages and allows us to access this knowledge. It is our duty to acknowledge this and be thankful for the inspiration to act according to the wisdom and knowledge we acquire. As a humble servant of the Imam, I am most grateful for this barakah and constantly pray that I am inspired by it.

Throughout the ages there have been Ismaili Heroes who had the good fortune to access this wisdom and if they were alive today, they would also sing their thanks.

Thus, Pir Nasir Khusraw would be thanking the Fatimid Imams for the esoteric knowledge that led him to Central Asia, to train the murids in Ismaili gnosis, and to write literature and poetry filled with a deep understanding of the Imamat—from which, even today, we draw our inspiration.

Dai Hasan ibn Sabah would have been thankful to the Imam of the time for the initiative to establish the kingdom of Alamut, to train a group of fidai to protect the Ismaili dawa, to establish the programme of talim from which we are benefitting even now—and many such innovations.

Pir Sadardin and other Nizari Pirs, leaders of all those who are now Ismailis of Satpanth tradition in the Indian sub-continent—they would be thanking Imam Islam Shah and other Imams for inspiring them and sending them on such a marvellous journey.

In these modern times, all those who have led the whole Ismaili Jamat with their selfless service must express deep gratitude for the guidance and inspiration from Hazrat Imam Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah and Imam-e-Zaman. These good works and service have been extended through National Councils, Tariqah Boards and the Institute of Ismaili Studies, AKDN Hospitals, Universities, academies and Financial Institutions, all primarily led by honorary members who have been blessed by Imamat inspiration.

By this inspiration, and with hard intellectual effort, we, the Jamat, have come into the most ambitious and envious position in the World to benefit peoples in all countries in the developing world—with no discrimination. All such excellent volunteers are thankful for the guidance from the Imamat and its Institutions. They are the heroes for whom we are thankful, and the heroes in their turn thank the ultimate source of knowledge that is the Divine Institution of Imamat.

The list goes on and will continue to be extended as long as there is an Ismaili Imam to guide the murids. The uniqueness of Ismaili tariqah comes from its thriving on centuries of cumulative knowledge and wisdom, through which all of mankind may be blessed—because of the guidance of the Imams.

Thank you, with all my heart,

Dr. Aziz Kurwa,
London, England.


Dr. Aziz Kurwa

About the writer: Aitmadi Dr. Aziz Rajabali Kurwa has served the Ismaili jamat in numerous capacities. In brief, he was appointed in 1979 by Mawlana Hazar Imam as the President of the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom. A true visionary, as Ismailia Association’s chief, Dr. Kurwa developed the concept of Baitul Ilm during the Silver Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, which to this day continues to have a tremendous impact on the U.K. Jamat. Dr. Kurwa and his wife, Aitmadibanu Shirin Aziz Kurwa, reside in London.