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.

An Interview on Nasir Khusraw: Australian Broadcaster in Conversation with Alice Hunsberger

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

A statue of the famous Ismaili dai Nasir Khusraw in Badakhshan. Please click on image for interview.

A statue of the famous Ismaili dai Nasir Khusraw in Badakhshan. Please click on image for interview.

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

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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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Ideas of One Humanity in World Religions: Comparative Study of Ginan “Hum dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase” by Shiraz Pradhan, With a Recitation

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.

Credit: Istockphoto.com. Please click on image for "One Humanity"

Image Credit: Istockphoto.com. Copyright. Please click on image for “One Humanity”

PLEASE CLICK: Ideas of One Humanity, Love and Peace in World Religions: Comparative Study of Ginan “Hum dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase” with a Hindu Bhajan

Photo Essay: Karim Master’s Original Copy of “Fidai” Magazine Published in 1936 to Commemorate the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan

Karim Master’s Original Copy of “Fidai” Magazine Published in 1936 to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan

Please click on image for photo essay on Fidai magazine

Please click on image for photo essay on Fidai magazine

The Ismaili Munajat Ya Ali Khuba Mijalas: Translation and Explanation by Sadrudin K. Hassam

 YA ALI KHUBA MIJALAS

“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

His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, will complete his 56 years of Imamat on July 11, 2013. He is seen above on October 19, 1957 at the Takht Nashini celebrations in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, shortly after he became Imam at the age of 21. Please click for Munajat reading. Photo Credit: Ilm Magazine, July 1977.

His Highness the Aga Khan, the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) and 49th Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, will complete his 56 years of Imamat on July 11, 2013. He is seen above on October 19, 1957 at the Takht Nashini (coronation) celebrations in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, shortly after he became Imam at the age of 21. Please click for Munajat reading. Photo Credit: Ilm Magazine, July 1977.

“I Wish I’d Been There” – Volunteeering at the Dawn of the Age of Imamat by Aziz R. Kurwa

In History in Quotations, which reflects five thousand years of World History, authors M. J. Cohen and John Major write as follows:

“Muhammad said:

‘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

London, 1979: His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismailis and direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) receiving Fatimid Gold dinars from Dr. Aziz Kurwa, a long serving leader of the Ismaili community who was at the time President of the Ismailia Association for the U.K.

Tales of Ismaili Women of Shimshal – a Remote Village in Pakistan by Pam Henson

“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

Remarkable Tales of Ismaili Women from Shimshal, a Remote Village in the Karakoram

Please click for Women of Shimshal

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.

A Story from ‘Pyara Imam ni Pyari Wato': Historical Memories by Sairab Abuturabi and Jaferali Bhalwani

Loving Tales of our Beloved Imams: (I) Farazdaq’s Praise and Support of Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s.)

“…This tale belongs to ages past. It goes back to the era of Hazrat Imam Zainul Abideen (a.s.), our third Imam, from whose veins was to ensue the Divine Line of the best Imams. He was the Imam who, on the battlefield of Karbala, received the nass of Imamat from his father, Hazrat Imam Hussain (a.s.) with the blessing: “Through you the line of Imamat will continue till the Day of Judgment…”

Please click for story

His Highness the Aga Khan – “The Smile of a Prince” by President Léopold Sédar Senghor…and more

Flashback into the 1960′s: Admiration for His Highness the Aga Khan by President Senghor and A K Brohi

“….What we admire in you above all is the fact not that you have a modernised religion, but that you have been able to integrate a modern outlook with religion so that religion has been allowed its true role which is not merely to provide an all-embracing explanation of the universe but also to furnish the fundamental solutions of the problems which life poses us…”

Please click for “Admiration for His Highness the Aga Khan”