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.
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.
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.”
“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.
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
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.
Camera in Balcony
Click to enlarge
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.
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.
Rachael Kohn: Hello, this is “The Ark”, and I am Rachael Kohn. A thousand years ago a Persian poet defied the conventions of the day. His name was Nasir Khusraw, an Ismaili Muslim, a branch of Shi’a Islam. Instead of lavishing praise on the sultan or his horse, he praised learning and spiritual purity…..Click to read the Australian broadcaster’s interview with Nasir Khusraw specialist Alice Hunsberger
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!
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 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.
3. ICONIC SUSSEX DRIVE
Date posted: Saturday, July 19, 2014.
“Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul….” – Holy Qur’an, 4:1
“Instability is infectious, but so is hope. And that it is why it is so important for us to carry the torch of hope as we seek to share the gift of pluralism….Profound expressions about our common humanity are embedded in the world’s great religious traditions, including my own…” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Lisbon, June 12, 2014.
“In Ismaili poetical literature comprising of Ginans and Qasidas, some of the most profound philosophical thoughts and sublime mystical insights are very tersely and beautifully expressed in verses. Moreover, this poetic literature effectively emphasizes the renewal and strengthening of the spiritual relationship between each murid (follower) in the community and Kamil Murshid (The Perfect Guide), Hazar Imam (The Living Imam)….
“The tradition of reciting the Munajat, Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas, began over a hundred years ago. It was recited in various jamati gatherings (mijalas) by Ismailis in many parts of the world to commemorate the enthronement of their 48th Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, the late Aga Khan III (1877 – 1957). Continuing with this tradition, this Munajat, with slight variations, is now recited on the occasion of the anniversary of the ascension of Shah Karim al-Husseini (His Highness the Aga Khan IV) as the 49th Imam of The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims….”
Please click: The Munajat – Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas
In History in Quotations, which reflects five thousand years of World History, authors M. J. Cohen and John Major write as follows:
‘He of whom I am the Mawla (patron), Ali is his Mawla. O God, be the friend of him who is his friend and be the enemy of his enemy.’
“This became the proof text for the Shia claim that Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, was the Prophet’s rightful successor after the Prophet’s death in 632. The meaning of Mawla here probably implies the role of patron, lord or protector.”
The authors then sum up by stating that through the use of the term Mawla, Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) was giving Mawlana Ali (a.s.) the parity with himself in this function. Dr. Aziz Kurwa, a long serving member of the Ismaili community, takes us to the beginning of Islamic and Ismaili history and imaginatively constructs the role he played as a volunteer on that eventful and historic occasion, a day which was described by one of our readers as “an introduction to a new world order”. Aziz Kurwa was among the thirty-one who contributed to Simerg’s highly acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There.
Please click on image below or: Volunteering at the Dawn of the Age of Imamat
“I don’t read or write but I am very interested in animal husbandry and I have always worked hard on the farm. It was my dream for my children to be educated so I worked hard and provided for their education…” — Guljon Bibi
This is a fascinating collection of autobiographical tales told by women from the Ismaili village of Shimshal, in the remote Karakoram mountains. On the eastern border of Pakistan, the women of Shimshal live peaceful lives of extreme hardship and good-humoured tolerance.