Simerg Photo Contest Commemorates Opening of Magnificent New Aga Khan Museum

Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park Perfect Breeding Ground for superb photo taking and winning great prizes including free membership

By Malik Merchant, Editor

Te Aga Khan Museum Catalogue and special children's books at the Museum gift shop..

The Aga Khan Museum catalogue and special children’s books at the museum gift shop. Photo: Shellina Karmali.

Today, Thursday, September 18, 2014, marks the public opening of the new Aga Khan Museum located on Wynford Drive in Toronto. Simerg marks the opening with a special photo contest in which a maximum of 25 prizes including youth and family memberships will to be given away to the top entries selected by a panel of three independent professional photographers, all from Ontario. The contest is open to all residents of Canada.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harpur at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre on September 12, 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harpur at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre on September 12, 2014. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre were officially opened last Friday, September 12, in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, members of the 49th Ismaili Imam’s family and invited guests.

A maximum of 10 annual memberships each for the YOUTH and OPEN  categories for the top photos selected by a team of three professional photographers will be given to the winning entries. The submission deadline will be October 7, 2014. The winning photos will be announced on this website and simergphotos.com on or around October 30, 2014. In addition to the annual memberships, the judges will pick up  5 photos deserving merit awards. The merit winners will each receive a $50.00 gift voucher,  entitling  them to make purchases from the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop.

A selection of items at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop.

A selection of items at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop. Photo: Shellina Karmali

There will be two categories. The Youth Category will be open to anyone 19 and under. A maximum of 10 annual youth memberships to the Museum will be given to the winning entries.

The Open Category is for those over the age of 19. It will be for all amateur photographers and photography enthusiasts who like to shoot photographs, either using a camera or their smart hand-held devices and phones! For this category, each photo has to be accompanied by a 75 to 100 word narrative to encapsulate the photographer’s experience of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre or their Park. Only spaces where photos are allowed to be taken will be accepted for the contest.

Men's ties at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop.

A selection of  ties at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop. Photo: Shellina Karmali

The opening few weeks of the museum will be the perfect breeding ground for passionate picture taking and writing a brief narrative, and if you are selected as a winner in the Open Category you will be one of 10 to receive an annual family membership.

Here are some ideas for taking and submitting photos: artistic and architecture beauty and grandeur of the projects, interior spaces including art work (where permitted) , landscape, nature (as in the park), as well as spontaneous moments involving people!

Jewellery at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop.

Jewellery at the Aga Khan Museum Gift Shop. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The prizes are as a result of  gracious donations by numerous individuals and families in Canada and abroad. Simerg is deeply grateful to the sponsors of the prizes.

Each individual may submit up to 3 photos for consideration for the contest, all in high resolution. They should be mailed to simerg@aol.com, and accompanied by the photographer’s full name and address as well as telephone number(s) where they may be contacted.

Every photograph received (maximum 3 per individual) will be published on a special gallery page on this website. The judges will select the winners from the photos published in the photo gallery. The judges decision will be final.

Museum GiftshpWe are thrilled to host this contest and look forward to a fantastic response from the public.

Morning at the Park, Jamatkhana and the Museum by Navyn Naran

The Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum will be officially opened later this week in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. A series of poems celebrating the many aspects of the two majestic buildings as well as their Park, which is to be opened in 2015, will be published throughout the week. We begin with Navyn Naran’s contemplative piece, Morning at the New Park, Jamatkhana and Museum.

Astrolabe. Credit: Aga Khan Museum Collection

Astrolabe. Credit: Aga Khan Museum Collection

Simerg to Launch Photo Contest to Celebrate the Opening of the New Aga Khan Museum

An artistic rendering of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park. Photo: The Ismaili/Imara.

An artistic rendering of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park. Photo: The Ismaili/Imara.

Simerg is celebrating the public opening of the Aga Khan Museum on September 18, 2014, by launching a photography contest. A total of 25 photos, all related to the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park taken from the time the grounds become open to the public through to September 25, 2014, will be selected by an independent panel of judges and posted on this website on or around 7th October, 2014. The prizes will consist of a total of 20 free annual youth and family memberships to the museum as well as 5 merit prizes from the museum’s shop.

There will be two categories. The Youth Category will be open to anyone 19 and under. A total of 10 annual youth memberships will be given to the winning entries and, in addition, the judges will select 5 merit entries who will be awarded with the Aga Khan Museum catalogue.

The Open Category is for anyone over the age of 19. It will be for all amateur photographers and photography enthusiasts as well as anyone who likes to shoot photographs, either using a camera or their smart hand-held devices and phones! For this category we will expect each photo to be accompanied with a 75 to 100 word narrative to encapsulate the photographer’s experience of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre or their Park. Only spaces where photos are allowed to be taken will be accepted for the contest.

The opening days of the museum will be the perfect breeding ground for passionate picture taking and writing a brief narrative, and if you are selected as a winner in the Open Category you will be one of 10 to receive an annual family membership.

Here are some ideas for taking and submitting photos: artistic and architecture beauty and grandeur of the projects, interior spaces (where permitted), landscape, nature (as in the park), as well as spontaneous moments involving people!

The prizes that are to be given are from gracious donations by numerous individuals and families in Ontario. Further details of the contest, including the names of judges, will be published in the coming fortnight. Start preparing for this contest as communities in Ontario and Canada as well as around the world eagerly anticipate the opening of three unique cultural initiatives undertaken by His Highness the Aga Khan!

“What is Faith?” by Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah and “Love for the Imam” by Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq

1. FAITH

by Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah

Faith (Iman) is like a tree, the roots of which go into the heart: its trunk is in reason, and its branches are in the instincts, while imagination is its new shoots and leaves – (senses of) the body. The foundation (asl) of faith is love for the Imam-e-Zaman (the Imam of the Time). And if this foundation, that is, this love, and the roots of faith are strong and in good condition, all other parts of the tree, such as its trunk, its branches and leaves, can be expected to continue to flourish even if they are (accidentally) damaged. If, on the contrary, the roots are not well grounded, or even rotten, the whole tree will soon dry, and then will become good for nothing except to be used as fuel.

Thus love for Mawlana Hazar Imam is everything, being the root of faith. If it is not strong, all the acts of outward piety (a’mal-i zahiri) which are like leaves of the tree, will fade. If you have thousands of leaves, fresh and of good colour, they will dry in a short time, and then a very small fire will be sufficient to burn them completely.

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2. LOVE FOR HAZAR IMAM

by Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq

It is related from Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq (a.s.) that a group of Shias visited him one day. One in the group addressed the Imam and spoke of a man who was with them.

O Son of the Messenger of God: this man has love for you.”

On hearing these words, the Imam looked at the person and said:

“The best kind of love is the love for the sake of God and His Messenger. There is no gain in any other kind of love.”

The Imam then continued.

“Once the ansars [helpers] came to Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (s.a.s.) and said, ‘O Messenger of God! We were on the wrong path and Allah guided us through you. We were destitute and we prospered by your blessings. For this reason, you may ask of anything you desire from our belongings and we shall give it to you.’

“At this, the following verse was revealed by Allah, ‘Say (O Muhammad): No reward do I ask (for my favours) except your love for my kith and kin’.”

Moved to tears, Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq then raised his hands and exclaimed:

“Praise be to God, Who has exalted us above all.”

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“Faith” adapted from Risala dar haqiqat-i din by Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah Al-Husayni, translated as True Meaning of Religion by Wladimir Ivanow.  Pir Shihabu’d-Din Shah was the eldest son of the  47th Ismaili Imam, Aga Ali Shah, also known as Aga Khan II. The Pir was only 33 when he died due to a chest related illness, a few months before the demise of his own father, Imam Aga Ali Shah. Mawlana Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, then only 8 years old, succeeded to the throne of Imamat as the 48th Imam.

“Love for Imam” excerpted from article by Jehangir Merchant and Alnoor Bhatia published in Ilm, Volume 5, Number 1 (July 1979). The article was based on the Gujarati edition of Qadi al-Numan’s work, Da’aim al-Islam.

A Tribute to Mawlana Hazar Imam for Creating “Centres” of Soul at Wynford Drive in Toronto

On October 10, 2010, Bashir Fazal Ladha of the United Kingdom, during his visit to Toronto, went to Wynford Drive to see how the construction work of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park was coming along. He writes: “It was a thrilling moment and I was full of excitement when I saw the progress, and in a moment of inspiration I composed a poem which I have decided to share with readers of Simerg.” The opening of the museum to the public on September 18, 2014 was announced recently and we take the privilege to repost this beautiful and inspiring poem for all our readers.

Writing the History of Tomorrow

Please click to enlarge

A photo of the site captured on October 10, 2010 by Jim Bowie - the day Bashir Ladha visited the area and was thus inspired to write the poem. Photo: Jim Bowie

A photo of the site captured on October 10, 2010 – the day Bashir Ladha visited the area and was thus inspired to write the poem. Photo: Jim Bowie. Copyright.

BY BASHIR LADHA

A look down deep in the bowls of the earth
“A foundation being laid, a foundation of a building?” I ask
Not only, it is a foundation of a history to unfold…..

I bow my head in submission to
The Lord of  Time and Age
Yes the Lord of Time and Age
For indeed you are beyond time and space

The planets rotate in their orbits
Glorifying your majestic presence
In those momentous moments,
time and history are created

Not the history as in past,
but the unfolding of tomorrow

Lord you create  a new history brick by brick
As the form takes place…
The Majesty of your
awe-inspiring Light is Manifested

Stage by stage, the inner world is recreated
The plaster of your mercy,
the warmth of your love

All adorn the formless and
the formed building you built

You call these “centres”
Indeed these are “centres” of soul
where your name is mentioned

The light shines forth from its windows
Inviting the convenienced  and the stray
Inviting both to a new history of tomorrow
and recreating the event of
alastu*
Inviting to the life of paradise

Museum where the past will be enlivened
Prayer hall where the soul will be enriched
Park where the future will be contemplated
All this, a gift to humanity

Then why, Ya Mawla why do I neglect
Why do I remain unheeded
remaining a slave to my ego?

Teach me O Lord to submit,
to worship as if I see you

And if I do not see you,
to know that you see all

Wynford Drive, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
I walk with you to a future
A history of tomorrow
Blessed by the Lord of Time and Age

I walk in hope and faith
for a better world ahead
.

* The day of the Primordial Covenant or the Day of Alastu is when God addressed the people and said, “Am I not your Lord?”  (alastu bi Rabbikum). It was the day when hearts were given spiritual nourishment.

© Simerg.com

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About the writer: Bashir Ladha has served Ismaili Institutions for the past forty years as an Alwaez, teacher and writer. He has been with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom since 1983.

The Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park: Why I Like This Photo

As work commenced on the large empty plot that had formerly housed the Bata Shoe Company, the trees that lined the perimeter of the site were carefully removed, and gave way to heavy construction equipment and trucks as well as hundreds of skilled professionals for the multi-year construction phase of new Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Cranes illuminated the night sky. From a highrise building across the Don Valley Parkway, and from the beginning of the project, resident Jim Bowie began taking pictures of the site every single day from his balcony. When we published his highly acclaimed photo essay, In the Making: The Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park, we  invited  our readers to select a photo they liked. Here are reposts of two winning entries, as Canada and the world await the opening of the magnificent Aga Khan Museum to the public on September 18, 2014.

The Symbolism of the Halo

By Dana Lopez

Click to enlarge

A halo from the construction site of the new Ismaili Jamatkhana and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. The long exposure created this halo from the lights on November 29, 2010. It is not an effect that Jim Bowie created, and he can't quite explain it. Photo: Jim Bowie, Toronto.

A halo from the construction site of the new Ismaili Jamatkhana and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. The long exposure created this halo from the lights on November 29, 2010. It is not an effect that Jim Bowie created, and he can’t quite explain it. Photo: Jim Bowie, Toronto.


I enjoyed viewing Jim Bowie’s photo because of its symbolism. Two features are notable in particular. First, the area ringed by the halo appears calm, whereas the area outside the halo pulsates with heavy traffic. I came away with the impression that the haloed area represents a beacon in a hectic world. Second, the three bright lights inside the halo look like newborn stars, perhaps even a new universe. Viewed through this prism, the photo is asking us to make enlightenment the focal point of our daily lives. This interpretation is consistent with the desired impact of the center: to give strength to those of the Ismaili faith while beckoning others to explore the rich contributions of Islamic culture.

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Camera in Balcony

Click to enlarge

Jim Bowie's camera aimed at the construction site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Photo: Jim Bowie

Jim Bowie’s camera aimed at the construction site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park. Photo: Jim Bowie

By Kathreen Anne Lelis

I like this photo because it depicts the rising beauty ought to be discovered and deserves a future glory. The building site is surrounded by streets and industrialized buildings to mark new development – the Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Center and their Park built at the center to serve as EMBLEM of a country with unity amidst cultural diversity. The light from the site shows its glowing hope in building a strong foundation to create glory. The camera serves as the people’s excitement to capture the priceless beauty made for them. It is facing the horizon which means that people are ready to face the opportunities the buildings offer and travel from the past to discover the reason of their success towards the future.

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About the winners: At the time her winning entry was published, Dana Lopez was a law student studying to become a child advocate at the California Western School of Law. She was honored to participate in Simerg’s essay contest because she believes that replacing fear with hope for a brighter future is the best way to ensure a stable civil society. Kathreen Anne Lelis lives in Philippines where she studied at the San Pedro College of Davao City.

OTTAWA: The New Jamatkhana is 1 Year Old; An Ottawa Architect’s Favourite Building; and Iconic Sussex Drive

1. THE OTTAWA JAMATKHANA

Hundreds of Ismailis come by the busloads and personal automobiles to visit Ottawa during the summer months – for many the primary destinations are the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building and the beautiful new Ottawa Jamatkhana which opened exactly a year ago, on July 19, 2013. The visitors marvel at the Ottawa Jamatkhana’s spacious facilities for spiritual practices as well as the space it offers for social interaction and cultural programmes, including religious education classes.

As the Ottawa Jamat marks its first anniversary in the new Jamatkhana we repost on this page a link to Farouk Noormohamed’s statement and photos of the lovely building.

Speaking of Ottawa, local architect Kristopher Benes names his favourite building in the city, and we provide a link to a piece about Ottawa’s iconic Sussex Drive which is home to the Delegation Building.

Check out all the readings below and enjoy your summer in Ottawa, Canada’s Capital!

Please click: Exclusive: Architect’s Statement and Photos of the Fabulous New Ottawa Jamatkhana

IMG_1854~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

2. MY FAVOURITE OTTAWA BUILDING

By Kristopher Benes

As an architect I often get asked to name my favourite Ottawa building! Being a fan of minimalism I was often hard pressed to find anything non-residential that came immediately to my mind –- until that is, when the Ismaili Imamat Delegation building was completed in 2008.

Modern architecture often draws criticism for being too stark, extreme in its simplicity. However, it is its ability to highlight the world around us that I find to be so beautiful in modernism.

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building.

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building.

The clarity with which the play of shadows for instance may fall upon a crystal white surface allows architecture to behave as an ever-changing canvas, a reflector if one prefers, of what is going on all around. When the sun moves across the sky, the shadows dance along the building’s surfaces and when the sky takes on a different shade, the building glows in a completely different light.

Light can be a wonderful paint brush for those blank walls; it does not need any more complexity than that. And obviously, Fumihiko Maki, the building’s design architect, understands light better than I ever could hope to (after all he has won a Pritzker Prize for his contributions and has enjoyed a career spanning some 50 years).

I think it is this understanding of light and an ability to shape it so beautifully which speaks to me most about the Ismaili Imamat Delegation Building.

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3. ICONIC SUSSEX DRIVE

Please click: Photo Essay: Celebrating Sussex Drive, His Highness the Aga Khan and, Five Years on, the Crystalline Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building

Sussex Drive is denoted by the yellow line. Going East, you start at Rideau Street (blue line) where the 700 Sussex Condominium building is located. Between Rideau Street and #35 on the map, you pass the Connaught Building  (550 Sussex) and the US Embassy (490 Sussex). The National Gallery of Art (380 Sussex) and the Basilica (385 Sussex) as well as Reconciliation Monument are located at or around #35. Then just a hundred metres east of #35 are located the Global Centre for Pluralism (330 Sussex), the Royal Canadian Mint (320 Sussex) and the Embassy of Kuwait (333 Sussex). The Saudi Embassy (201 Sussex) and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building (199 Sussex) are at #36, with the Lester Pearson Building (125 Sussex) and the John G. Diefenbacker or the Old City Hall (111 Sussex) approximately 100-200 metres further east. At #37 you reach Rideau Falls Park (50 Sussex) and the French Embassy (42 Sussex).  Finally, Sussex Drive winds down (or starts if you are travelling South!) at #38, the residences of the Prime Minister (24 Sussex) and the Governor General (1 Sussex) as well as the High Commission of South Africa (15 Sussex). One of the pictures of the Delegation Building shown below was taken from Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, which is denoted by #30 on the map. Map credit: The National Capital Commission (with minor edits by Simergphotos to represent Sussex Drive more clearly).

Sussex Drive is denoted by the yellow line. Going East, you start at Rideau Street (blue line) where the 700 Sussex Condominium building is located. Between Rideau Street and #35 on the map, you pass the Connaught Building (550 Sussex) and the US Embassy (490 Sussex). The National Gallery of Art (380 Sussex) and the Basilica (385 Sussex) as well as Reconciliation Monument are located at or around #35. Then just a hundred metres east of #35 are located the Global Centre for Pluralism (330 Sussex), the Royal Canadian Mint (320 Sussex) and the Embassy of Kuwait (333 Sussex). The Saudi Embassy (201 Sussex) and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building (199 Sussex) are at #36, with the Lester Pearson Building (125 Sussex) and the John G. Diefenbacker or the Old City Hall (111 Sussex) approximately 100-200 metres further east. At #37 you reach Rideau Falls Park (50 Sussex) and the French Embassy (42 Sussex). Finally, Sussex Drive winds down (or starts if you are travelling South!) at #38, the residences of the Prime Minister (24 Sussex) and the Governor General (1 Sussex) as well as the High Commission of South Africa (15 Sussex). Map credit: The National Capital Commission (with minor edits by Simergphotos to represent Sussex Drive more clearly).

Date posted: Saturday, July 19, 2014.

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Simerg’s 5th Anniversary Series: Studying Ismaili History Through Objects

A special NEW series about objects that are linked to Ismaili history over the past 1400 years, from the dawn of Islam to the Imamat of the present forty-ninth Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Simerg Special 5th Anniversary Series: Studying Ismaili History Through Objects

INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg and Simergphotos

In his widely acclaimed and engagingly written “A History of the World in 100 Objects” published in 2010, Neil MacGregor, the Director of The British Museum, tries to tell a history of the world “by deciphering the messages which objects communicate across time – messages about peoples and places, environments and interactions, about different moments in history and about our own time as we reflect upon it.” On the fifth anniversary of Simerg, Studying Ismaili History Through Objects is a new series being launched today that takes its inspiration from MacGregor’s splendid book.

Since 2009, Simerg has launched a special new series to mark each anniversary. Over the past years, the themes that have been published are I Wish I’d Been ThereThe Jamatkhana – A Place of Spiritual and Social ConvergenceThanking Ismaili Historical Figures and Stories of Ismaili Volunteers. These series have continued to endure over the past years.

Studying Ismaili History Through Objects is, as the title states, a series about objects that are linked to Ismaili history over the past 1400 years, from the dawn of Islam to the Imamat of the present and manifest forty-ninth Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Studying Ismaili History Through Objects will focus on the material culture and heritage of the Ismailis. The object may be a small coin or a monumental building, it may be a single artefact of outstanding beauty and elaborate craftsmanship, or comprise a group of textile fragments or broken pottery shards. The object may be a mundane, ordinary thing created in a particular geographical space and historical setting, but that has taken on meanings that could never have been imagined at the outset. In other words, the object has become a document not just of the world for which it was made, but of the later periods which altered it.

Studying Ismaili History Through Objects will seek to provide a visually articulate approach and a direct link with the past in a tangible way that is both informative and profoundly moving. It is hoped that the contributions presented in this series will stimulate the imagination and provoke discussion. The objects presented may provide a meeting ground for official and formal versions of the past or a reflective personal experience. But they may also go beyond the level of history and personal memory. The objects will become tools towards understanding the importance of culture in the development of self-identity.

Studying Ismaili History Through Objects will also aim to provide an understanding and appreciation of the need to preserve Ismaili heritage and history. This point was emphasised by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the opening of Baltit Fort in Pakistan in October 1996 when he said: “…what has been inherited over nearly eight hundred years of history in that building should be known and understood and recorded and so it should be in many of the other aspects of our history.”

Studying Ismaili History Through Objects invites contributions from all readers. Your contribution will encourage thoughts about the past but also create a deeper awareness of the present. Objects are ‘signals from the past’ for explorations and discoveries, and are catalysts that should be regarded as just the beginning of an adventure, not the whole story. Through your participation, the objects will promote the exploration of the relationship between histories and memories, between culture and community. Inshallah, the objects presented by readers will serve as a link to the future that recognises its roots in the past, and the series will become a unique reference point on Ismaili history and heritage.

Please send your contribution to: Simerg@aol.com

Date posted: Wednesday, June 25, 2014.

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Mi’raj-e-Rasul – The Night Journey of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) by Jehangir A. Merchant

PLEASE CLICK: An Esoteric Interpretation of the Mi’raj and the Prophetic Tradition ‘I Have a Time with God’ (li ma’a Allah waqt) By Jehangir A. Merchant

This painted page from a manuscript shows the Archangel Gabriel with the Prophets Moses (left) and Muhammad (right). Surrounded by angels they discuss the question of daily prayers. This happened during Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven. Because it was forbidden to show Muhammad, his face is veiled. Image: Copyright Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF). Please click on image for literary reading.

This painted page from a manuscript shows the Archangel Gabriel with the Prophets Moses (left) and Muhammad (right). Surrounded by angels they discuss the question of daily prayers. This happened during Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven. Because it was forbidden to show Muhammad, his face is veiled. Image: Copyright Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF). Please click on image for literary reading.

DETAILS OF THE IMAGE

This single sheet probably came from a handwritten work completed for the Ottoman Sultan Murad III (r. AH 982–1003 / AD 1574–95), and is currently housed at the Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany. It features, between bands of script, the prophets Moses and Muhammad and the Archangel Gabriel conversing in heaven. Angels, perched on five clouds behind these three principal characters, appear to be listening. The scene portrayed is one from Muhammad’s visionary ascension to heaven. Muhammad stands on the right-hand side in a long green robe and turban, and Moses, wearing a long dark red robe, is on the left, in front of his heavenly throne, which is denoted by an inscription in Arabic lettering. Moses is gesturing his hands in speech. Muhammad, with whom he is conversing, stands on the opposite side. A white veil conceals his face, while his hands are hidden in the long sleeves of his gown. The heads of both prophets are crowned with halos, within which their names, written in a black script, can be deciphered. The Archangel Gabriel stands between Muhammad and Moses, turning towards Muhammad. He is characterised by a twin pair of multi-coloured wings and a crown. He is featured in the Old Testament as the gate-keeper of Paradise. As one of two angels standing in the presence of God (Luke 1:19), it was Gabriel who explained the story of the Messiah (Daniel 8:16ff.). In Muslim tradition, the angel brought the Divine Revelation of the Holy Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad. In Sura 2 verse 97 it is written that: Gabriel ‘has by God’s grace revealed it [the Qur’an] to you [Muhammad] to your heart’.

The text above the three personages, which describes the story, is written in Ottoman Turkish. It includes the account of Muhammad discussing with God the number of daily prayers. Both eventually agreed on five daily prayers. Moses is Muhammad’s heavenly adviser and Gabriel is his companion. The direct speech of all those involved is written in Arabic. The text is taken from a biography of the prophet which had appeared from the AH 1st century/AD 7th century on. The generic term for this type of biography is sira, which translates as ‘life facts’ or ‘way of life’.  (Text adapted from the website of MWNF – see link below).

Date posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014.

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For further information about the image shown above, please click on Page of Ottoman Manuscript. Please also click on http://www.museumwnf.org/.

Links to a selection of Jehangir Merchant’s pieces at Simerg:

Brown University’s Ogden Lecture, and a photo of His Highness the Aga Khan that I took in 1996 at Providence which will remain my greatest treasure!

Stephen A. Ogden Jr.

Stephen A. Ogden Jr.

INTRODUCTION: Founded in 1764, Brown University, the seventh-oldest college in the United States, is celebrating the 250th anniversary of its founding this year. As part of this anniversary, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, will deliver a Stephen A. Ogden Jr. ’60 Memorial Lecture on International Affairs at Brown University on Monday, March 10, 2014, at 5 p.m. The ceremony will be will be carried live  at http://www.brown.edu/web/livestream/.

Since 1965, the Ogden Lectures have been the most distinguished of their kind, serving both the Brown and Rhode Island communities in the field of International Relations.

Stephen A. Ogden Jr., an active member of the Brown class of 1960, was seriously injured in an automobile accident in the spring of his junior year. After a valiant fight for life, he died in 1963. Established by his family, the Ogden lectureship came into being two years later as a means of achieving in some small measure what Steve Ogden had hoped to accomplish in his life: the advancement of international peace and understanding.

The Ogden Lectures are a living tribute to the memory of a young man who had hoped to devote his abilities and energy to the field of international relations. These lectures have brought to the University and to Rhode Island a large number of U.S. and foreign diplomats as well as many other observers of the international scene. All have given lectures, free and open to the public, on current world topics.

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A Cherished Photo

By Abdulmalik J. Merchant
Publisher-Editor, www.simerg.com

Aga Khan IV, 49th Ismaili Imam, pictured at Brown University in May 1996. Photo: Akdn.org

His Highness the Aga Khan, the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) and 49th Imam, pictured at Brown University in May 1996. Photo: Akdn.org

A family member living overseas called me in Philadelphia, USA, during the third week of May in 1996, and asked me to obtain a speech that he thought Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, had already delivered at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, earlier that month. Without waiting another second, I called Brown’s main number, and was swiftly connected to a very kind and knowledgeable gentleman. When I requested for a copy of the speech, he informed me that the speech had not yet been delivered and that His Highness would be addressing the University’s Baccalaureate Service during the coming Memorial Day Weekend. Obviously, my next question was if I was permitted to attend the event, and without hesitation he asked me to come over and bring my friends too! He explained that the address would take place at the First Baptist Church, where sitting would be limited to the graduating students. However, all the visitors would be able to watch the videocast on a large-screen on the College Green. I thanked him with all my heart. But before wishing me good-bye, he thoughtfully asked me to spend an extra day in Providence, as Mawlana Hazar Imam along with eight other individuals would also be conferred with an Honorary Degree at a special University Ceremony on the same Green.

The Memorial weekend was only two days away! I rushed to get a rented car and prepared for the event, including purchasing a couple of $9.00 disposable cameras from a nearby drugstore in downtown Philadelphia, where I lived. I set out for the 6 hour drive on Saturday morning, May 25th. I first stopped at Scranton University and attended my cousin Akber’s graduation ceremony. I then proceeded to Connecticut to meet Anaar Naran, a close family friend who was my younger brother Fahar’s teacher at Dar-es-Salaam’s Aga Khan Boys Primary School in the 1960’s.

The following morning, Sunday, 26th May, upon reaching Providence, I first decided to locate the whereabouts of the Green. Satisfied, I checked into a nearby hotel and returned with immense excitement to the event site well before the start of the 1:30 pm Baccalaureate Service in the First Baptist Church.

May 26, 1996: His Highness the Aga Khan receives a standing ovation at the conclusion of the Baccalaureate Address at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Next to him is Vartan Gregorian who was then President of the University.

May 26, 1996: His Highness the Aga Khan receives a standing ovation at the conclusion of the Baccalaureate Address at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Next to him is Vartan Gregorian who was then President of the University.

Seated at the front of the Green, I witnessed the entire ceremony on the large screen that had been set-up. The ceremony  embraced lively expressions of thanksgiving, harmony, and rhythm and included music and spiritual readings from Islam, Christianity and Hinduism as well as other faiths, incorporating the many spiritual and cultural traditions of the Brown community. The program that was distributed contained the texts of the spiritual readings. I was captivated and deeply touched by the distinguished and dignified ceremony which respected and recognized world-faiths.

As I heard a Hindu reading which alluded to the Lord Vishnu as the Preserver of the Universe and one who would manifest himself again, my thoughts turned to that notion of manifestation as presented by Ismaili missionaries and Pirs in some of their ginans, which were aimed at converting Hindus to the Ismaili faith.

May 26, 1996: An audience at Brown Univeristy's "Green" watches a live telecast from the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church where the Aga Khan delivered the Baccalaureate Address to graduating class. Photo: Abdulmalik Merchant

May 26, 1996: An audience at Brown University’s “Green” watches a live telecast from the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church where the Aga Khan delivered the Baccalaureate Address to graduating class. Photo: Abdulmalik Merchant

The entire service including President Gregorian’s and Mawlana  Hazar Imam’s speeches (Vartan Gregorian’s Tribute to His Highness the Aga Khan at Brown University in 1996) was overpowering and unforgettable, and I was given an opportunity to share my thoughts about the complete event with the Philadelphia jamat a few days later at the invitation of the mukhi. During that talk I also read out the scripture excerpts from Brown’s programme booklet. Alas, the diskette with the hard-copy of my speech is in storage and not easily accessible.

The following morning on Monday, 27th May, bagpipers, highland drummers, marching bands and more than 5,000 graduates, alumni, faculty, parent educators and University guests marched in a mile-long procession that announced Brown University’s 228th Commencement exercises, in  one of the largest and most colorful academic pageants in the nation.

By approximately 11:45 all the three groups – the medical students, graduate students as well as undergraduates – had returned from their separate convocations for the University Ceremony on The College Green.

May 27, 2009: A section of the large crowd witnessing the University Ceremony at Brown University's "Green." The Honorary Degree recipients, including the Aga Khan, are on the stage in the distant. Photo: Malik Merchant

May 27, 1996: A section of the large crowd witnessing the University Ceremony at Brown University’s “Green.” The Honorary Degree recipients, including the Aga Khan, are on the stage in the distant. Photo: Malik Merchant

In the meantime I wandered around the Green, enjoying and soaking in the lively atmosphere. Near one end of the Green I spotted Mansoor Saleh, a class-mate from my 1964 primary school days in Dar-es-Salaam. He was with the Council for USA. I was meeting him after several years, and I greeted him with immense enthusiasm and excitement, not knowing who was around us. A few moments earlier I had seen Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Rahim Aga Khan, and I asked Mansoor where Hazar Imam might be. He asked me to turn to the left, and there standing just a few metres away was Mawlana Hazar Imam in the company of other distinguished individuals, who were also going to be conferred with honorary degrees. I should have been a little quieter in greeting Mansoor, I thought to myself! But then it was a meeting of brothers after years, I said to myself. Wouldn’t my Imam feel happy at that very warm brotherly encounter and greeting?

Dozens of academic staff passed by in the University’s regalia, and many stopped to greet Mawlana Hazar Imam and other dignitaries. I saw President Shams Kassim-Lakha, in his elegant Aga Khan University regalia, approaching Mawlana Hazar Imam and readied my camera to click them together. But a person blocked the scene, and I was momentarily delayed. I clicked as soon as the person had passed. I was uncertain about the shot I had taken and who might be in it. This wasn’t a digital camera – the film had to be sent to the lab to be processed! Everything happened too swiftly.

I thanked Mansoor, wished him goodbye, and proceeded to the back of the Green to watch the University ceremony during which President Vartan Gregorian presented special awards and honors as well as conferred honorary degrees to Mawlana Hazar Imam and eight others – namely Mary Chapin Carpenter, Edward D. Eddy, Timothy Forbes, Agnes Gund, Arthur Mitchell, Sandra Day O’Connor, Itzhak Perlman and James Wolfensohn. Flags from more than 50 nations, representing the homelands of the Class of 1996, were flown during the University ceremony which was filled with thousands of people. When Mawlana Hazar Imam was presented with the honorary degree, President Vartan Gregorian prompted the gathering to give him a special ovation.

A truly memorable event had come to an end. I returned to Philadelphia, and my first action was to submit the cameras for processing. I was quite clear about the contents of dozens of photos that I had captured, with the exception of one.

…AND THE PHOTO

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highnes the Aga Khan, pictured at "The Green" at Brown University, 1996. Photo: Abdulmalik Merchant

THE TREASURED PHOTO – please click for enlargement. Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with other honorary degree recipients before the ceremony at “The Green” at Brown University, 1996. Photo: Abdulmalik Merchant.

I soon collected the processed prints, and started flipping through the photos, which were essentially of average quality. I felt satisfied considering I had used a very rudimentary camera, a disposable one. Then as I neared the end of the second set of prints, I realized that President Shams Kassim-Lakha had been too fast for my shutter speed. I brought the photo closer to my eye. It filled me with immense joy and happiness. I didn’t know that the camera had harmoniously coordinated with other forces to capture the image. Either by fluke or providence this (‘posed’) photo of Mawlana Hazar Imam is one that I will cherish and treasure throughout my life.

Date posted: Sunday, March 9, 2014.

Copyright. Simerg.

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