Photo Gallery: Ismaili Portraits From Tajikistan (I)

TAJIKISTAN’S RURAL ISMAILIS

By Ali M. Rajput

Special to Simerg

Eighty-eight year old Dr. Ali M. Rajput pictured at his quarters in Khorog, Badakhshan, where he makes annual visits from Birmingham, England, to serve the Jamat in his own capacity.

Introduction

For over six decades, from the time that I crossed my teenage years, I have sought to develop bonds of friendship with Ismailis wherever they may be. My association and love for the Jamat from different part of the world goes back to the time of the jubilees of our beloved 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan (1877 – 1957), when Ismaili dignitaries from around the world would gather at important centres like Mumbai and Karachi. I would make it a point of meeting our brothers in faith from all over the globe, and I was able to strengthen the bond of friendship by writing to them on a regular basis. This bond is intact today.

Health permitting, I continue to visit distant Jamats and places of historical interest. I am into my 88th year! Four years ago, I visited Iran and climbed to the top of Alamut. My story along with some photos was captured on this website sometime ago under the title My Climb to Sacred Alamut (see link below). Over the years I have been undertaking annual trips to Tajikistan to provide assistance to the Jamat wherever I can. I have immense love for the Jamat. They are very warm and affectionate. Times passes very fast, and I am now in the midst of preparing for my next journey to Badakhshan beginning later this month. What appears on this page is a small selection from several hundred photos and videos from my last year’s visit. Hopefully, more photos will be published in the coming days and weeks.

A Note on Some Rural Ismailis of Tajikistan

For my trip of 2011, I was accompanied by my son Dr. Karim Rajput. We were received at Dushanbe airport on April 24th by Mr. Innat Ullah who is a young Ismaili man from Yougat (or Yoged), and Alijah Iqbal Shah, deputy khalifa of Yougat, a much respected Jamati member. Mr. Innat Ullah had travelled all the way from Moscow, where he now works, to take us around in his Honda. Our party of four travelled together to visit various Jamats in Tajikistan.

Key: 1 - Sughd Province; 2 - Districts of Republican Subordination, capital Dushanbe; 3 - Khatlon Province; 4 - Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province. Image Credit: Wikipedia

The entire Jamat of Tajikistan originates from the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan, see map above, and over the years settled in many different places in the country. Many of the Jamats we visited live mainly amongst other Muslim groups, predominantly Sunnis. The Khatlon province (pop. 2,579,300) in Tajikistan comprises of considerable Ismaili settlements in Kurganteppa (pop. 97,435), Kumsangir (12,000), Jilikul (6,258) and Kolkhozabad (pop. 13,376). Then in the district of Darvoz (pop. 23,600) located in the extreme Northwest of Gorno-Badakhshan, there are Ismaili settlements in Yoged (pop. 745), Shirgovad (pop. 745), Dashtak (pop. 745), Qala-i-Khumb (pop. 1,909) and Qul’ai Khusayn (pop. 809).

During the civil war in Tajikistan, properties belonging to Ismailis living outside Gorno-Badakhshan or the Pamir sector were looted and several persons were killed. One Ismaili mother told me a tragic story of her son’s death in Dushanbe, only fifty meters away from her home. She sent her son to buy a loaf of bread in broad day light. Some sniper took an aim at his head and shot him dead. He was recognised to be an Ismaili (a Pamiri) from the cape he was wearing. During the civil war, I was myself staying in Dushanbe in a flat near the city centre. It was about 2.00 am when the tanks began rumbling, and I heard noise and shouting outside the window. The telephone then rang and a friend advised me not to step outside the flat. He asked me to keep the doors locked and secure. I was confined to my flat for two days. Soldiers from the Russian army then took us out of the flat, and whisked us to the airport from where I flew to Moscow, and on to London.

At that time the Ismailis who managed to escape, arrived in the Pamirs as refugees. When peace finally returned they moved back to their original habitations. In fact, I first visited these Jamats in March 1991, over twenty years ago, when Mawlana Hazar Imam sent me there before the civil war had begun. I was very happy to see some old familiar faces once again during my recent visit. The Jamatkhana of Kumsangir located in the province of Khatlon is an old registered place of worship with the government. Its catchments area includes 250 Ismaili families of roughly 1000 persons, and the name of the khalifa is Emomnazar.

During my initial visit to a village called Jilikul, again in Khatlon, I developed a very deep bond with khalifa Fukhraruddin Shah, a man of deep insight and learning. Unfortunately he died a few years ago, and has since been succeeded by his son Sayyyed Munir. I should say that he is as equally talented as his father, and I am glad to foster contacts with him. There is a tomb of our 3rd Imam Zainul Abedin in his neighbourhood, and we went there to say the Fateah. However, I am not very much convinced about the authenticity of the tomb. Whichever Jamat we visited during the recent visit, we made it a point to assemble together and say our prayers in a congregation – often under the shade of trees.

Driving towards the autonomous province of Gorno-Badakhshan, we reached the village of Yoged (pop. 745), an exclusively Ismaili Jamat which I should say is very well organized. The khalifa there is Qalandar Shah, a great scholar of the Qur’anic Sciences.

We visited most of the above Ismaili Jamats in the areas I have mentioned, and finally arrived in Khorog (pop. 30,000), the capital of Gorno-Badakhshan, where the Ismailis are in a majority – in fact over 95% are Ismailis. We were very warmly received, and I was greeted with a welcome song by a little girl. It was very moving indeed. I spent much of my remaining time in Khorog at the Dar-al-Noor, a cultural centre which I helped to establish.

The photos shown on this website are of the handsome Ismaili people of Tajikisan, and I hope readers will enjoy this small selection of images of Ismailis from different age groups – infants, sweet young boys and girls, slightly older  students and youth full of confidence, as well as adults and seniors of my age. My son and I were touched by the brotherly affection that was shown to us. I spent several months and was sad to leave in September for my home in Birmingham. My happiness was knowing that, Inshallah, I would be returning once again. It has always been my sincere desire to serve the Ismaili Jamat, and I beg to remain in the service of the Jamat.

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A TRADITIONAL WELCOME


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PLEASE WATCH FOLLOWING VIDEO – CLICK ON IMAGE TO PLAY


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ALLAH’S GIFT AND BLESSING

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ISMAILI CHILDREN

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CONTEMPLATION AND PRAYERS

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WORDS OF WISDOM AND THEIR POWER ON THE LISTENERS

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CHILDREN AND YOUTH AT WORK, PLAY AND… MORE

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ARTISTIC AND CULTURAL EXPRESSIONS

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ASSEMBLIES, FAMILY AND GROUP PHOTOS

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ISMAILI ELDERS

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BADAKHSHAN’S RUBY – NASIR KHUSRAW

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Date posted: Saturday, April 7, 2012.
Last update: Sunday, April 8, 2012.

Copyright: All material and photographs on this page are Copyright A. M. Rajput/Karim Rajput and Simerg.com, and may not be reproduced without their written consent.

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Note: Please see reader’s feedback at bottom of page and submit your own comment; click Home page (and scroll down) for our recent posts; visit What’s New fo a complete collection of articles on this website; share article via liink below; and subscribe to Simerg.com at top right of this page.

Other contributions by Dr. A. M. Rajput on this website:

51 Kensington Court, and a Memorable Function Hosted by His Highness the Aga Khan III at London’s Savoy
A Unique Moment in the Life of the Punjab Jamat (includes profile of Dr. Rajput)
Yakimour 1954: A Golden Moment for an Aspiring Student – An Audience with the 48th Ismaili Imam, Aga Khan
My Climb to ‘Sacred’ Alamut, Where Every Stone Tells a Story
A Letter from Badakhshan
The Ismailis: From the Earliest Times to the Fall of the Fatimid Empire
Exchange of Letters Between Sultan Malik Shah and Hasan-i-Sabbah

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19 thoughts on “Photo Gallery: Ismaili Portraits From Tajikistan (I)

  1. Really beautiful pictures, very good work Simerg. Thank you. I know Mr Innat Ullah, he is very good man, and really helps to people (Jamat). And of course Dr. Rajput……We love him.

  2. Wonderful,inspiring story through photographs!! The photos are just wonderful! Thanks so much for sharing!

    Rashida Kanji

    Toronto, Ontario

  3. Just amazing to see and meet Ismailis, in areas once totally closed off from the rest of the World. Thank you for this insight.

  4. A wonderfull article from Dr. Rajput about the Ismaili families in Tajikistan. May Mawlana Hazar Imam bless the Tajikistan jamat. May the younger members of the Jamat be uplifted through good programmes for their future livelihood. Amen. Ya Ali Madad. Jusabali Lakhani (senior).

  5. Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim!

    Dr. Ali Muhammad Rajput is brilliant person and his visit to Tajikistan is always symbol of happiness, hope, and love for all Ismaili communities in Tajikistan. We love him so much and always looking forward to see him and to talk, pray and serve. Thank you very much to Mr. Malik Merchant and thanks a lot to Dr. Rajput for this great historical contribution.

    Best of all to all of you!

  6. As I have said on this website before and tell him often by phone, Dr Ali M. Rajput is a unique member of Ismaili Jamat in Birmingham; sadly very few enthusiasts know much about his mission and dedication in life. Some indeed do, those who spare time to sit and listen to what he gives. I am proud to say that my late father Mr Gulamhusein Bhatia, eldest brother Shamsudeen Bhatia from London (reaching his 90th year very soon) and my dear nephew Shamir Bhatia from Vancouver have all been entertained at various opportunities in his cosy home, spending hours at hand with so much wisdom and knowledge he imparts. My visits have been countless.

    I immediately recognised Begum Rajput in the first photo on the wall and Dr Karim Rajput his son as I went along. He is a gift to our global brotherhood that knows no geographical or language frontiers as he knows several languages and is a retired Professor in Mathematics from one of local universities. Often after his visits he phones me and gives a summary of his latest venture and news. Dr Rajput is truly a gift from Allah! May he live a very long life with good health. Ameen.

  7. Simerg is to be congratulated for providing such a beautiful account and pictures by Dr. Rajput and his son Dr. Karim in Tajikistan. Dr. Rajput knows the people and has earned their affection and respect. Without such accounts we get only superifical information. More of such individual efforts to bring the jamats closer must be welcome.

  8. Bravo Dr. Rajput and Mr. Merchant!! Your efforts have brought Tajikistan’s Ismailis/Jamat at our home through the marvelous photo gallery! A very inspiring article, and a great job done by Dr. Rajput. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Tajikistan is a very beautiful country with nice and generous people. These pictures bring back my memories of my visit to Khorog in September 2003 under the shade of Pamir Mountains and near Banj River.

  10. Wow, I saw all the portraits on this mail. I think I and my family are luckiest to be Ismailis as we have huge Ismaili families in the world. And we have the Master to take care of our families.

  11. A wonderful, inspiring and loving story (of our own) through photographs, thank you for posting them. This venue of communication brings us all much more closer and closer. Alhamdulillah!
    Thank you again.
    Sadruddin Noorani
    Chicago

  12. These pictures tell a nice story, of friendship, bonding and respect.

    I was not familiar with A.M.Rajput until he was introduced through Simerg. I look forward to Simerg providing an opportunity to its readers to hear and see Dr. Rajput speak to us through audio or video.

  13. You always go back; I did: I could see just one girl who didn’t cover up – I mean post-teen. A few older women are scarf-less. The young men are building a home. The three kids are just adorable, particularly the one who wears beads. They compose themselves differently for different photos. A picture speaks a thousand words, but it’d’ve been nice to get more detailed captions. I am just saying!

    • I agree about the captions. Dr. Rajput provided me with three DVD’s from which I selected these for the first part, and I look forward to receiving detailed captions from Dr. Rajput himself to fully complete the photo story. He is busy preparing for his departure for Tajikistan.

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