At the Ismaili Centre
by Izzat Muneyb
As soon as I enter the Ismaili Centre,
What do I see in Arabic calligraphy?
Is what I see. ”In the name of Allah
Most Kind, Most Merciful.”
In the name of Allah I begin all things,
In the name of Allah I conceive all thoughts;
In the name of Allah I complete all deeds.
As soon as I enter the Ismaili Centre,
What do I see in shining marble
And white plaster?
I see a star-shaped fountain, pouring out water.
The fountain is so clear,
And the water so pure…
We too must be pure in body and soul
And polish the mirror of our hearts!
Why is the fountain seven-sided?
What does it mean?
Seven is the number of perfection
And seven times seven gives us
Our forty-ninth Imam.
The guidance of the Imam of the time -
And his portrait in mosaic, crafted from lapis,
Glowing with gentle radiance reminds us -
Helps us to grow closer to Allah.
But, have you seen the grey interlace design
Around the fountain?
Yes, it is a flower of beauty.
Al-kathratu fi’l wahdati,
Wa’l wahdatu fi’l kathrati
Is what it means.
The One has originated
The multiplicity of creation;
Now, from that multiplicity we move
Towards the Unity of the One.
And as I climb the stairs of the Ismaili Centre,
What do I see hanging from the ceiling?
I see lamps luminous and gleaming,
Full of light and full of meaning.
By the light of the lamp
We read the Qur’an.
With the light of the Lamp
We begin to know.
The light of the Lamp
Leads us to the Light of God
As I climb to the next level,
What do I see?
I see a painting, vibrant,
Swirling in colour.
It tells of the Verse of Light,
The Aayat’un Noor,
It hints at the mystery of
Noorun ‘alaa Noor.
As I enter the prayer hall
What do I see on the qiblah wall
In dark columns tall?
Carved in wood and written in space,
The panels say, Allah, Muhammad and Ali,
Allah, Muhammad and Ali.
These Beautiful Names invite me
To take my place with the Jamat,
They become my rosary.
As I sit down, as I close my eyes,
What do I do? What do I say?
I remember Allah.
I say,“Ya Muhammad”, “Ya Ali”,
I say, Salawaatu’llaahi alayhumaa
The Grace of God fills the hall,
The Light of God bathes us all.
Cleansed in thought and spirit,
I feel the presence of God
And am filled with His peace.
© Copyright: Izzat Muneyb
Date posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011.
Date updated: Monday, January, 2, 2012.
Editorial Note: The poem was first published in July 1987 in Ilm, Volume 11, No. 2, p. 39-41. It was originally written for the younger members of the Jamat, to be recited either by an individual, or as a choric or part poem. Older members of the Jamat might find the movement of the poem interesting. As the individual climbs higher through the various levels of the London Ismaili Centre to the Jamatkhana hall, so also the poem marks an inner journey from a physical to a devotional and then to a spiritual plane of being.
About the writer: Izzat Muneyb has an Honours degree in English from Birmingham University, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education from Kings College, London and a Masters in Curriculum Studies from London University, England. She has had a varied career, working in the fields of education, health, commerce and public order. She has served on various Jamati institutions, including the Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah Board, Mombasa, His Highness the Aga Khan Provincial Tribunal and His Highness Aga Khan Education Board in Nairobi. As an Education Board member, she originated the concept of, and edited, the Commemorative Issue 1977-78, to celebrate sixty years of Ismaili education in Kenya. From 1983–1994, she worked at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London as a Member of the Education Unit and contributed to the Ta’lim Curriculum.
She now lives in London and focuses on her own creative writing.
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