Introduced by the Writer and Director
2003 was the millennium birth anniversary of the Ismaili Dai Nasir Khusraw and an International Conference on his life and works had been planned for Tajikistan. I was unaware of this important milestone in Ismaili history, and a moment of inspiration gripped me in the same year, and prompted me to look at the intellectual facet of Islam and the Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah, and this resulted in the script of a play on Khusraw’s life, entitled “The Ruby Shines On.”
My inspiration for the script was Alice Hunsberger’s wonderful work on Nasir Khusraw, The Ruby of Badakshan.
“The Ruby Shines On” was the 3rd major production in as many years, and it was not easy to get a fully committed cast of volunteer actors. The core people who were talented and interested in the past were approached and after a full set of audition exercises we managed to settle down with the final cast. The result was a very successful musical production which included amazing backdrops of video projections, eg. of horses galloping in the desert, scenes of majestic Cairo or of Nasir Khusraw being stoned and falling wounded and brought out gasps from the audience. Live music and singing was the pulse of the show, as it had been in all the others.
Nasir Khusraw’s poetry flowed like a rippling stream and the poet in the production was breathtaking with the way she was prepared to exert her emotions into her recitations, bringing tears to some viewers’ eyes. Costumes were researched from books which showed how they were designed a 1000 years ago. For example, we researched daggers that were carried in that age, their shape, their length, etc; costumes were authentic, including how different segments of society wore their respective head gears. The result was breathtaking.
The telecast of “The Ruby Shines On”, the story of the extraordinary journey of faith and intellect undertaken by the celebrated Ismaili poet, philosopher and missionary Nasir Khusraw, is one of the most exciting events for this Website since it was launched just over two years ago.
At about the age of forty, during a period of personal turmoil, Khusraw was inspired by a dream to embark on a pilgrimage to the holy shrines of Mecca and Medina, hoping to find there a solution to his crisis. His journey of 19,000 kilometres which lasted seven years also took him to Cairo which was the residence of the Fatimid Imam/Caliph al-Mustansir Billah, ancestor of the current 49th Shia Ismaili Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan. Khusraw’s three years in the Fatimid capital imbued him with Ismaili doctrines. He returned to his native Khurassan to introduce these doctrines among the people there. Persecution forced him to flee, and he found refuge in the mountains of Badakhshan in Central Asia, where he gathered around him a considerable number of devoted adherents. His doctrines, traditions and poems have been passed by succeeding generations.
Amina Ishani’s work is based on information about Khusraw’s life that are well preserved by both hostile contemporary historians and subsequent historians, as well as in his surviving works such as the Diwan and Safarnama. We are confident that the telecast will bring the character of Nasir Khusraw and those around him to life, in the context of the time that he lived in. The play is rich with dialogues, passionate recitations of his poetry, costumes, and music. We hope it will captivate viewers and become an essential part of the learning experience of one of Ismaili history’s most renowned thinkers and missionaries.
We would like to express our gratitude to Amina Ishani for enabling Simerg to share this important play with our viewers. As mentioned earlier, our presentation of the play is indeed one of the most exciting projects that we have undertaken for the Website. Thank you. Malik Merchant (email@example.com)
Emotion, intellect and spirituality were all stimulated for the cast, musicians, technical personnel and the audience. On the stage, the personal lives of those who were fully engaged in the roles underwent a metamorphosis, inspired by the depth of Nasir Khusraw’s message. The show changed lives. Some individuals discovered an interest in dramatic arts, and were encouraged to move into creative arts as a career. Life long friendships were created and the book by Alice Hunsberger was sold out. Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike were captivated by this visually moving production on the life of one of Ismaili history’s most famous and influential personalities.
If I could encapsulate the essence of the play in Nasir’s own poetry;
‘On the body of your blessings,
Devotion is the head;
On the book of goodness, Devotion is the seal.
But devotion without knowledge is NOT devotion,
A mere wisp of wind in the morning.
Since you are two things –
Body and soul,
Then your devotion must also be twofold….
Knowledge and action,
For on Resurrection day these two shall surely save
All humankind from eternal fire’
I hope you enjoy the play which is being presented for the first time to a world-wide audience through this Website, Simerg.com, as well as on Simerg’s Youtube Channel, Simergculture. Please click Dai Nasir Khusraw on Youtube. For the benefit of readers I have decided to make the complete script of “The Ruby Shines On” available through this Website. Please click Script – “The Ruby Shines On” to download the PDF file. I encourage you to replicate the play for your own Jamat or community, wherever you are located. Kindly ensure that the Copyright notice is respected.
Please keep me informed via the feedback form below about the initiatives you take within your local community about the remarkable life and works of one of the greatest figures in Ismaili history, Dai Nasir Khusraw, and I pray that just as the title of the play says, the Light of the intellect will continue to shine in all our lives as does Nasir’s Ruby a 1000 years later.
Date article and play posted on Simerg: May 18, 2011
Last update: June 5, 2011 (Play now available on Youtube)
Download (pdf file): Script – “The Ruby Shines On”
Watch play in shorter 8-10 minute segments on Youtube: Dai Nasir Khusraw on Youtube
Copyright: Amina Ishani
About the writer and director: Amina Ishani, hails from Mumbai, India, where she completed a BA Honours degree before settling in the UK in 1971. After her marriage to Vazir Anil, she assisted in running a family business for a number of years. She then embarked on a sucessful career in Homeopathy after qualifying at the London College of Classical Homoeopathy (LCCH). She moved to Kenya in 1998 with her husband, where she has continued to practice in Homeopathy.
Amina has actively contributed towards the enrichment of religious education and drama within the Ismaili community both in the UK and Kenya. In addition to teaching, she enhanced her own skills with extensive continuing education in Islam and Ismailism.
Her drama contributions began with her direction and script of the children’s production of “Bilal, Beloved of the Prophet, The First Muezzin of Islam.” She took part in a Gujarati play in London called “Kon Thase Lakhpati,” a production of the Social Welfare Board of His Highness the Aga Khan Council for the UK. In Kenya, she wrote and directed “And Then There Was Light, Light upon Light,” “The Conference of the Birds,” and “The Ruby Shines On.” Her most recent contribution is a modern drama on human relationships and emotional intelligence entitled “I Witness.”
Among her other noteworthy contributions include being part of a team of five facilitators at the historic International Ismaili Youth Conference attended by Princess Zahra Aga Khan, arranging seminars, attending youth camps, and giving motivational talks. One of her more recent engagements was during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee events when she helped conceptualize and coordinate the execution of “Harmony and Diversity,” the opening and closing ceremony during the International Jubilee Games in Kenya.
Amina Ishani has two daughters, both born in the United Kingdom, and four grandchildren.
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Nasir Khusraw articles on this Web site:
Voices: Alice Hunsberger on Nasir Khushraw – Poet of Substance
Pir Nasir-i Khusraw on the Gateway and Key to Paradise
Pir Nasir Khusraw’s Theory of Intellectual Education
Pir Nasir Khusraw’s Concept of Intellect and Theory of Intellectual Education
“Riding Forth to Open the Canal” with Nasir Khusraw
“If You Perform the Pilgrimage…” – Nasir Khushraw’s Advice To a Pilgrim
Nasir Khushraw – “Foundations of the Faith of Muhammad”
Literary Reading: Nasir-i-Khushraw on The Excellence of ‘Ali
The Vision That Transformed Nasir Khushraw