PLEASE CLICK: The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in Uganda and Tanzania
Date posted: October 15, 2017.
PLEASE CLICK: The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in Uganda and Tanzania
Date posted: October 15, 2017.
AUDIO OF REMARKS BY HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN UPON RECEIVING UGANDA’S HIGHEST HONOUR
PHOTOS OF MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM’S ARRIVAL AND FLASHBACK: THE AGA KHAN AND UGANDA
Zahida and Salim Rahemtulla of Vancouver read through over 140 of the speeches of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, for Barakah’s special project celebrating his Diamond Jubilee. Please click here or on photo for a selection of gems from the speeches made during 2000-2017…MORE
Date posted: October 7, 2017.
Anaar Naran (1936-2017) passed away peacefully on September 14, 2017 in Richmond, Virginia. Many readers responded to the post and on the social media with messages of condolences to her family as well as prayers for the eternal peace of her soul. We publish below an edited version of a eulogy presented by her son Amyn. — Ed.
By AMYN NARAN
My mom was like a superhero to me. No not the fly-through-the-air kind but the kind that gave me unconditional love, nothing I could say or do would diminish me.
We would talk almost everyday for a few minutes. It was important to me that she knew I cared. The phone greeting ‘hi Amyn’ or just plain ‘hi’ was sweet and gentle…the ‘love u’/ “love you ma” at the end was equally sweet. Sometimes I would just pause and say “I love you mah, you know that right ? “and she would say ‘I love you too’.
A little background on my mum, Anaar Naran: Rheumatic fever in early childhood (its bad), death of a father at 7, new father figure, limitations because she was female, 2 miscarriages, moving continents with young kids, moving continents again 7 years later, losing a husband soon after, financial challenges, loss of a father figure, loss of mother, brother, important members of her family, surgeries to back, brain, heart, multiple heart-attacks, multiple strokes, more surgeries and countless procedures.
To have had so many headwinds in life, the least I could do was provide a little love…but my love was nothing compared to that I received. NOTHING! this is what my superhero gave me – unconditional love. There is a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad that says, “Paradise lies at the feet of your mother.” Indeed!
The thing that had provided MOM sustenance was her faith; the work, resources and love for her faith were herculean. Her care for others superseded that of herself. Without a doubt that without her faith, without her faith, I don’t think she would have lived as long and been part of our lives.
Throughout my life MOM has been a fabric, a connection to the past, a connection to lives and experiences of the different members of my family…my dad, my grandmas, my chachas. Losing her is also losing all that.
On the phone we would reminisce, I’d make up stories and listened to her recent escapades. I didn’t realize I talked too fast…she ‘d tell me and I wouldn’t always get it. Y
Strokes affect the brain health..and continue to deteriorate the brain. Mom’s strokes had robbed her of sight in a strange way, her field of vision was inconsistent…imagine if you couldn’t predict what you walked on: it was there or maybe it was there ? That made her feel dizzy, and she had to cope with that problem every day.
The spoken word was both hard to process and hard to find and speak and that is why sometimes her words were sharp, and I didn’t fully get that. Sometimes on the phone she’d say how much she hurt, and that was unbearable to hear. The options she had because of all her medications were few.
Even with all the hurdles, Mom was fiercely independent and loathed the need to be dependent on anyone for help. One time when I was visiting in New Canaan, I took her to a bank. She walked to a teller and said: ‘I’ve had a stroke so please be patient with me’. A couple of times on visits to the bank, I’d just wait outside the bank and she would appreciate that because it proved she was independent. Her determination was incredible.
I say to my mum: Mom please forgive me, as whilst I loved you from the bottom of my heart, I was not perfect…I just knew that everyday, I wanted to hear your voice and make you feel loved, you, my superhero.
We often shared the following ginans and prayers. Unch thi Ayo, Kalpat Jalpat, Tarye Tu Taran, Ya Raballa, Ya Ali Aghisani, Ya Ali to Rahem Kar, Ya Rahman Ya Rahim. As I mentioned previously, her faith sustained her!
Ma, I love and will love you with all my heart till the day I die. I hope I see you on the other side.
Date posted: October 5, 2017.
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By ALNOOR JEHANGIR MERCHANT
Simerg’s recent post titled Awesome and Rare Collection of Ismaili Ginans with Music at the British Library and a number of related online contributions, especially Aly Sunderji’s sharing of the equally rare and exceptional audio recordings of devotional songs produced in Tanganyika in 1946 commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III (link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqxUDlY_pis&index=1&list=PL8-KGtAvEpq5s1nBIplLQA3j1RDptQ5GJ) is an opportune moment to add some further remarks on the recordings of ginans and geets* produced during the first half of the 20th century. It is hoped that these remarks and, more particularly, the recordings themselves, will provide an impetus in documenting and preserving the diversity of the Ismaili community’s musical heritage and traditions.
It is difficult to give a precise dating as to when the ginans digitised by The British Library as part of their Endangered Archives Programme (EPA) Project were originally recorded. The ‘Young India’ record label which, according to the British Library catalogue, published these recordings was established around 1935 and continued for approximately 20 years; thus, the recordings should be dated to the period 1935-1955. An examination of the images of the disc labels, however, provides additional information that seems to have been overlooked in the cataloguing process.
On three of the ginan recordings, the disc label states ‘Ismailia Record’, along with the following: Manufactured by National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company, Bombay, India [and] Sole Distributers [sic], The King Record Company, Kalbadevi, Bombay. The ‘Ismailia Record’ ginan recordings are in the voice of Master Jumma Kakali. On the fourth ginan recording, the disc label states ‘Best Ismaili Record’, along with the following: Manufactured for the Bombay Record Company by the National Gramophone Record Company Limited, Bombay.
As all four ginan recordings do not mention ‘Young India’ on the disc label, it may be that ‘Ismailia Record’ and ‘Best Ismaili Record’ were independent record producers. Unfortunately, the disc labels do not contain any information on the date of production of the records. However, according to Hussain Jasani, who has undertaken some research, there is evidence to suggest that these recordings were produced during 1938. According to Jasani, one of the volumes of the community’s magazine, Ismaili, published during that year, refers to these recordings. [Paper presented by Hussain Jasani, “Preserving Community Heritage; The Oldest-known Ginan (Audio) Recordings”, IIS Alumni Association, European Chapter Group, Annual Meeting, London, 29th September 2017].
Are these the earliest recordings, musical or otherwise, of ginans? In her essay titled “Sacred Songs of Khoja Muslims: Sounded and Embodied Liturgy and Devotion”, (published in: Ethnomusicology, 48, 2 [Spring/Summer 2004]: 251-270), Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy suggests that a number of ginan recordings made by the Dutch ethnomusicologist and pioneer in the study of South Asian music, Arnold Adriaan Bake, are the earliest. She states (p. 256):
“Probably the earliest ginan recordings were made by Arnold Bake in Karachi in 1939. These as yet unpublished field recordings were sung individually by teenaged boys, presumably found at the Karachi jama‘at (community) school.”
Three of Bake’s Karachi recordings dated 11 March 1939, which he catalogued as ‘Khoja devotional song’ have been identified as:
Jasani’s research suggests that the Bombay recordings, and not the Karachi ones, are the earliest. While the ginan recordings produced (most likely in 1938) as part of the ‘Ismailia Record’ and ‘Best Ismaili Record’ labels or those in the Bake collection (recorded in March 1939) may be among the earliest, it would not be out-of-place to suggest that there could be earlier recordings of ginans, musical or otherwise, which remain to be ‘discovered’.
It is known that sound recordings from South Asia began to be produced at the turn of the 20th century, with the earliest known dating to around 1899. The foremost researcher of early Indian sound recordings is Michael Kinnear. His two books, The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings 1899-1907 (Bombay, 1994) and The Gramophone Company’s Indian Recordings 1908-1910 (London, 2000) document not only the history of the Gramophone Company and its successor companies’ activities in India, as well as the recording expeditions it undertook in the country, but the two volumes also provide complete listings of all known and traceable recordings taken on those expeditions. In one of his other encyclopaedic works titled The 78 RPM Record Labels of India (Apollo Bay, 2016), Kinnear covers all known record labels and histories of the companies from 1899 to the late 1960s. Perhaps, an analysis of the listings contained in Kinnear’s works will lead to the identification of ginan recordings from the first decades of the 20th century. Another important resource could be the various magazines published within the Ismaili community at the time. The Society of Indian Record Collectors may also be an avenue worth exploring. Indeed, it is from the collection of one of the members of the Society of Indian Record Collectors, Suresh Chandvakar, that some of The British Library’s ginan recordings have been digitised.
With respect to the recordings of geets, little research has been carried out. Ali Asani, in the chapter ‘The Git Tradition: A Testimony of Love’ in his work titled Ecstasy and Enlightenment: The Ismaili Devotional Literature of South Asia (London, 2002) writes (p. 71):
“The tradition of composing gits, as we know in its present form, has been associated particularly with Nizari Ismaili communities of South Asian origin….Unfortunately, we know precious little about its development. As is the case with many folk traditions that have been orally transmitted, its historical origins are quite obscure. Moreover, the gits themselves have never been systematically collected and documented.”
In his essay, Asani predominantly refers to geet recordings from the 1980s onwards. And, Amy Catlin Jairazbhoy, states that the Khoja geet emerged “at some uncertain time in the twentieth century” (p. 262). In her essay titled “Songs of Praise: the Git Tradition of the Nizari Ismaili Muslims”, in Gujarati Communities Across the Globe: Memory, Identity and Continuity, ed. by Sharmina Mawani and Anjoom A. Mukaddam (Stoke-on-Trent, 2012), pages 59-78, Sharmina Mawani writes that “few authors have focused on gits…. and the way in which this creative form of expression has flourished from one generation to another” (p. 59). Although her discussion focuses on post-1960 geets, Mawani does refer to a geet by Fateh Ali Ismail Ibrahim titled Aayi Aayi re Sakhi written specifically for the Diamond Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah in 1946, the original lyrics and tune of which “were inspired by the joyous and celebratory nature of the occasion” (pp. 71-72). Indeed, one of the recordings placed online by Aly Sunderji is of this geet (please click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-GnZn4UC7A&index=5&list=PL8-KGtAvEpq5s1nBIplLQA3j1RDptQ5GJ)
The audio recordings shared by Aly Sunderji of devotional songs produced in Tanganyika in 1946 commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah provide us with important information on the geet tradition. And, significantly, in Suresh Chandvakar’s collection, there are a number of recordings that are also most certainly part of this tradition, but which are slightly earlier date-wise.
An examination of the listing of the individual recordings from Chandvakar’s collection identifies five enigmatic entries: Aavo Sultan Raj, Golden Jubilee Part 01, Golden Jubilee Part 02, and two listed as Captain Lakhpati. Further, the disc labels on these recordings provide some fascinating information. The disc label for Aavo Sultan Raj states: Compiled by ‘Best Ismaili Record’; the disc labels for Golden Jubilee and Captain Lakhpati state: Compiled by ‘Captain Lakhpaty’. This, undoubtedly, refers to Abdullah Jaffer Lakhpati, who is considered among the founders of the H. H. the Aga Khan Bombay Volunteer Corps, and who was also a versatile poet and artist. It is known that Lakhpati was appointed as Captain of the Volunteer Corps in February 1936. With this reference date, as well as upon listening to the recordings, it is clear that these geets were most likely composed to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, in 1935-36. To date, therefore, these are the earliest musical recordings of geets.
As to the performers, Ahmed Dilawar and Prabhakar, it has not been possible, as yet, to locate any further information on these individuals. It is likely that the various publications issued by the community, such as Ismaili and Fidai, could shed more light on these specific compositions and the performer(s), as well as on the tradition and history of geets.
One final point: All the disc labels of the ginan and geet recordings identified in this article and that posted previously share a common feature. What may be considered as the ‘Headline’ banner in the top half of the disc label is either an illustration depicting an image of Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah in the centre with the red and green Ismaili standard on either side, or the Imamat Crest in the centre, again with the Ismaili standard on either side. Does this not suggest that the recordings were officially produced for circulation?
All the ginan and geet recordings, (links to the geets are provided hereunder), along with Aly Sunderji’s sharing of the Diamond Jubilee geets, provide a fascinating insight into the historical development of this tradition, and allow us to reflect anew on this musical heritage.
Link to Aavo Sultan Raj
Link to Golden Jubilee Part 01
Link to Golden Jubilee Part 02
Link to Captain Lakhpati
Link to Captain Lakhpati
Date posted: October 1, 2017.
Last updated: October 5, 2017 (additional source(s) added by the author, Alnoor Merchant, in paragraph referencing Sharmina Mawani’s essay).
*The term used to describe a devotional ‘folk song’ is git; however, the more commoner spelling form, geet, is used in this article.
About the author: Alnoor Jehangir Merchant is an independent researcher on Ismaili studies, and a specialist advisor on rare books, coins, photographs and objets d’art relating to the worlds of Islam.
We welcome your feedback. To leave a comment please click LEAVE A COMMENT. If you encounter a technical issue, send your comment to Simerg@aol.com, Subject: Ginans and Geets.
PLEASE CLICK: Simerg’s Imamat and Didar Series (pdf)
“I was taken near the place where from I saw the bright Light of the Prophethood. My eyes were dazzled by the Light. I shed tears of joy and felt as if I was looking at the face of the Prophet of Allah and of the Commander of the Faithful, Hazrat Ali. I prostrated myself before the one who is the fittest person to bow to. I wanted to say something, but I was awe-struck.”….MORE
Date posted: September 28, 2017.
(Material compiled from the British Library, Endangered Archives Project)
Simerg has come across an extremely rare collection of ginans that were recorded on 78-rpm shellac gramophone records in Mumbai, India between 1935-1955. The ginans accompanied by music are part of a huge collection of almost 1427 original film, music, classical music, folk music, publicity and educational material that have so far been digitized by the British Library in London, England as part of their Endangered Archives project. A 24 month grant of £21,300 (sterling pounds) for this project was awarded to an independent researcher, Dr. Suresh Chandvankar, in 2008.
During 1930-55, the British and German record manufacturing companies were well established and had a major share of disc manufacturing in India. The ‘Young India’ record label was an ‘indigenous’ effort at record production by ‘The National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company Ltd. Bombay’ and during the twenty year period produced 10,000 titles on hundreds of 78-rpm shellac gramophone records in Mumbai. Mainly amateur and upcoming artists were recorded under the ‘Young India’ label. The company ceased to function in 1955 so these recordings were never reissued on audio tapes and CDs. Hence, the British Library felt it important and relevant to preserve these invaluable recordings and the associated documents.
The repertoire covered music from different regions of India and sung in many different languages. During the long tenure of over twenty years, Indian citizens witnessed several important events such as the movement and struggle for freedom, Indian Independence in 1947, World War II and the beginning of the romantic period of independent India. This was also reflected in the records produced. Thus, there are speeches of great leaders, ballads, skits and dialogues on a number of subjects depicting changing social and political situations.
In late 1948, the ‘National Gramophone Record’ factory at Wadala was experiencing both technical and financial problems which severely curtailed its production capacity. The situation worsened slowly and by late 1955, the factory had closed down with stocks left over at the factory sold off at greatly reduced prices to a number of agencies. With time, the records and catalogues were either destroyed or scrapped. Slowly, all the material related to this company began to disappear.
It is estimated that over 1,000 records are available in the private collections of record collectors, located in Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, and are only available on 78-rpm breakable shellac discs. In addition, over 100 catalogues, booklets and record sleeves are held by private collectors and it is possible to collect or borrow them for this project. These have never been sold commercially, with the result that very few copies have survived to the present.
Through the British Library project endangered archival material pertaining to ‘Young India’ record label will be restored, digitised and thus preserved for posterity.
The project succeeded in locating and digitising over 725 discs (1450 songs) of the ‘Young India’ record label. A large number of catalogues and advertising material was located at many places and more than 1,000 digital images have been taken of documents and disc labels. This will form a very valuable reference source for researchers in the future.
Here are the links to the recitation of Ginans performed by numerous individuals including Master Jumma, Rama, Kumari, and Rahemali.
(Note: Once you are on the British Library page when you have clicked on a Ginan link below, remain on that page and click under Related Items to listen to other Ginans – you need not use the back arrow to return to this page for links to other recordings).
Date posted: Sunday, September 24, 2017, 03:45 am
Last updated: September 24, 2017, 03:51 am) – Correction: In the first version of this post it was incorrectly mentioned on the title and elsewhere in the article that the archives are at the British Museum. The Endangered Archives Project is an initiative of the British Library and not the British Museum. We apologize for this oversight.
We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment. Do you have any information about Master Jumma, Rama, Kumari, Rahemali, and others who were involved in the singing of the ginans? Let us know! If you encounter any technical issues in submitting your comment, please send your feedback to Simerg@aol.com, Subject: Ginan archives.
INTRODUCED BY HUSSEIN RASHID
Who is the Ali, the universal hero of Islam? The last of those who are known as the Rightly Guided Caliphs, the greatness of Imam Ali (a.s) is best represented by story of Khaybar. The story begins that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) laid siege to the fort of Khaybar, but the walls were so well-fortified that the army could not break through. The Angel Gabriel came to the Prophet Muhammad and told him to recite the naad-e ali:
Nade Ali, Nade Ali, Nade Ali
Nade Aliyyan mazhar al-ajaib
Tajidahu awnan lakafin-nawaib
Kullu hammin wa ghammin
sayanj-i Ali Bi wilayatika,
Ya Ali! Ya Ali! Ya Ali!
Call Ali call Ali call Ali,
the manifestation of marvels
He will be your helper in difficulty
Every anxiety and sorrow will end
Through your friendship.
O Ali, O Ali, O Ali
And Hazrat Ali came to the Prophet’s aid, in an act of heroism commemorated in the lines of a qawwali:
The walls shake; the doors quake. Now all of Khaybar trembles hearing the name of Ali?
Ali came and tore down the gate of the fort, and the army of the Prophet crossed over and successfully ended the siege. Ali, of course, was a valiant fighter within in the fort and when victory was achieved, the Angel Gabriel appeared to Prophet Muhammad again and said to him:
There is no hero but Ali; there is no sword but Dhu’lfiqar
In this one story, how much do we learn about the value of Hazrat Ali in the Muslim tradition? We learn that the Angel Gabriel taught the Prophet a prayer for help and support, and that help and support comes through Imam Ali. One of the most popular stories of the Prophet Muhammad’s battles has as its hero Imam Ali. A fort shakes at the mention of the Imam’s name, because even at this point in the early Islamic period, the power and chivalry of Ali ibn Abi Talib was legendary. And that exceptional position was affirmed by the Angel Gabriel once more when he said, “there is no hero but Ali; there is no sword but Dhu’lfiqar.”
Date posted in Simerg: September 21, 2017.
The following article is reproduced from http://www.barakah.com, a website with the theme “His Highness the Aga Khan: A Visual and Textual Celebration, 1957-2017.”
Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers and Artists by Michael Hamilton Morgan with a Foreword by His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan.
BY MICHAEL HAMILTON MORGAN
When I published my book “Lost History” in 2007, only 6 years after the attacks of 9/11 and while the US and allies were still fighting wars in the ancient Islamic treasure-houses of Iraq and Afghanistan, I thought that non-Muslims were finally beginning to be open to the breadth and depth — and global debt owed — to historical Muslim culture.
My publishers and editors — while firmly supportive of the book — had been privately concerned that the book might trigger angry reactions both from conservative Muslims and from Islamophobes.
Their concerns were not borne out. Contemporary antagonists on both sides chose to ignore my historical discussions, or to focus on other disputes. My argument showing how much the modern digital world owes to the ancient Muslim-sponsored thinkers in Baghdad, Aleppo, Isfahan, Cairo, Palermo, Cordoba, Bukhara, Isfahan, Delhi and many other cities was well received. The surprise to me was how well received it was in the Muslim world, being translated into languages like Arabic and Indonesian, as well as for faraway non-Muslim readers in Japan and even Korea.
If only that modest success could have been sustained. But then came the continuing disintegration of Iraq and Syria, the rise of ISIS, floods of refugees and horrific Islamophobic political demagoguery in both Europe and the US. It was as though one beheading could erase all the slow progress made in getting non-Muslims to understand that ISIS and its fellow travelers were not the spokesmen for the faith of Islam that most Muslims know and practice — or that history teaches us.
Perhaps there is no hope of counteracting the sensationalism of terrorism with a book…or even a parade of books. Perhaps the only way is through decades — or even centuries — of hard work in the areas of education, scientific research, medicine, public works, charity, economic development and entrepreneurship.
Believe it or not, those are the behavioral pillars of historical Muslim culture. Though most non-Muslims don’t realize, it was those pillars and others that made Muslim culture the single most progressive force in the world from about 650 to 1500 of the current era. Those pillars seeded the European Renaissance and Enlightenment and gave us things like the algorithm, data mining, evidence-based medicine, universities, hospitals, psychotherapy, modern optics, space travel and a thousand other things that we think come exclusively from the West.
And it would be dishonest to say that all those things were purely Muslim-generated. Instead, they were Muslim sponsored — the fruits of a vision of Islam that opened its intellectual doors to all good ideas and thinkers, no matter where they came from or which deity they worshipped. In hadith, the Prophet Mohammad is quoted as saying, “even if ye must go to China, seek knowledge,” and “The ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr”. These were the scriptural guides that drove these centuries of invention and discovery.
In fact, I argue that Islam was the most intellectual of the three Abrahamic faiths, and perhaps of any religion in human history. For hundreds of years, mainstream Islam taught that the secrets of God’s universe could be unlocked with reason and logic — that those intellectual tools were in fact keys to divine revelation. Classical Muslim thinkers saw no contradiction between reason and divine revelation — for them, logic and revelation were one and the same. Unfortunately, that lesson seems lost now, even in that direct product of the European Enlightenment, the United States, where state legislatures and US Senators argue that science should be ignored when it comes to climate change and Darwin’s theory of evolution. On top of that, no one remembers that Darwin had been previewed by Al Jahiz’ theory of natural selection in Baghdad 1,000 years earlier.
This ancient Muslim religious devotion to science, ideas, openness and empirical evidence has indeed been obscured in the mainstream. In the West, the loss of this connection has come from the hard separation of science from faith, and both have suffered. Faith for many in fundamentalist Christianity has become an anti-intellectual thing, when there need not be such a dichotomy. On the scientific side, the compartmentalization of Western intellectual tradition means that science has become very secular. Career scientists are generally uneasy to have their faith mixed into science: many see the two as directly contradictory.
And in the Muslim world, incomplete popular understanding of the faith of Islam has weakened understanding of the importance of logic and reason to the Islamic tradition.
But some have always been quietly swimming against that popular tide of prejudice and misunderstanding. Whether they will be able to offset the currents of ignorance and mistrust that dominate the media and politics remains to be seen — but it is certain that among those most directly touched by their work, the lesson of logic, reason, openness and peace is resonating.
In this vast tapestry of the interaction of Muslims with each other, and with other cultures and faiths, there is one tradition that unfailingly continues the progressive heritage of classical Islam — profoundly intellectual, open, tolerant, pacific — and in particular one leader who has made it especially attuned to the many difficulties of the world today.
That would be Ismailism and its revered Imam, the current Aga Khan IV.As a minority within a minority of Islam, Ismailism does not enjoy hundreds of millions of followers. Its adherents today number about 15 million — though they are dispersed to many corners of the world — South and Central Asia, Africa, Canada and elsewhere. This is only a drop in the ocean of greater Islam that may number 1.6 billion worldwide.
Additionally, Ismailism is not well understood, even by mainstream Shiites, much less majority Sunnis. In some ways its situation is similar to Christian misunderstanding of Judaism, which is hugely outnumbered by its Christian and Muslim descendants. Like Judaism with its pogroms and anti-Semitism, Ismailism has suffered historical persecution at the hands of the majorities. As with Jews in the Holocaust, Ismailis in the 13th century were even threatened with extermination, first at the hands of the Sunni majority and then at the hands of the Mongol invaders of Persia. For centuries, Ismailis survived in Persia and elsewhere either in mountaintop redoubts or underground and or in nearly permanent exile.
But to the benefit of today’s world and many millions of people, the Ismailis have not been exterminated or absorbed. In some ways, their intellectualism may have been intensified by the centuries of persecution. Today, the Aga Khan and the Ismailis have bent over backward — and at great risk — to nurture the elements of progressive Islam that changed the world 1000 years ago.
The fruit of all this historical tumult is the Ismailism of today, and the Aga Khan. He and his followers continually remind the world that quiet good work can be more powerful than loud rhetoric and sensational acts, that the intellect and reason are the keys to progress, that openness and tolerance heal the world, and that peace is the expression of the divine on earth.
Since the Aga Khan was crowned in 1957, he has devoted his time, energy, fortune and the efforts and contributions of his followers to major global efforts in education, economic development, entrepreneurialism, charity, medicine and other fields.
By no coincidence, all these fields are at the core of classical Muslim culture and greatness. They have done more for the world than blind piety and xenophobia ever could.
His Highness was explicit on the powerful intellectual tradition of Islam when interviewed by Der Spiegel in 2006:
SPIEGEL: Does Islam have a problem with reason?
Aga Khan: Not at all. Indeed, I would say the contrary. Of the Abrahamic faiths, Islam is probably the one that places the greatest emphasis on knowledge. The purpose is to understand God’s creation, and therefore it is a faith which is eminently logical. Islam is a faith of reason.
And His Highness has spent his lifetime walking the talk of that. Through global institutions like the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), he has founded and inspired multiple initiatives like the Aga Khan University, the University of Central Asia, the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the Aga Khan Foundation, the Aga Khan Health Services, the Aga Khan Education Services, the Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, and the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance. One of the companies where AKFED is the main shareholder is Serena Hotels Group.
The Aga Khan Development Network, which coordinates the activities of over 200 agencies and institutions, employs approximately 80,000 staff, the majority based in developing countries. AKDN is dedicated to improving living conditions and opportunities for the poor, without regard to their creed, ethnicity or gender. The AKDN’s annual budget for non-profit development activities in 2010 was estimated to be US$625 million. The network operates in more than 35 of the poorest countries in the world
Each one of these efforts would merit articles longer than this. But one that should be singled out and explained is the AKDN’s business activities like Serena Hotels.
Many coming from the Christian tradition will find a religious group’s investment in business puzzling to say the least. That is because Christianity, unlike Islam, has always had an ambivalent view of business. Witness Jesus’ statement, “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Islam never had that antipathy to business, owing in large part to the Prophet himself, who was aided in promoting his religious vision after marrying caravan entrepreneur Khadija. Although Islam has strong requirements to devote a share of one’s wealth to public charity and to the faith, it has never had the antipathy to commerce that Christianity did.
Although many in the West have argued that business can be a force for change, few have explicitly based their business activities in religious faith. I would argue that the Aga Khan has showed that religiously-inspired business can be a progressive force in society, by creating jobs, spreading wealth, providing needed services, stimulating economic growth and higher tax revenues and social progress.
His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency President Museveni speak to Mr Expedito Wakibulla at the opening of the Kampala Serena Hotel. Mr. Wakibulla is a renowned Ugandan wood carver, whose artworks are used extensively throughout the Kampala Serena. Shown at the left are the Serena Lodges at Lake Manyara (top) and Serengeti National Parks. Photos: AKDN/Gary Otte.
His efforts in education — for how can logic and reason advance without education — are equally admirable. Founded in 1983 by Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, Aga Khan University launched a medical college and a teaching hospital in Pakistan. The university grew to be international, and in 2004 established a teaching hospital in Nairobi and in 2016 another one in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. In 2002, the university established a campus in London dedicated to the study of the Muslim Civilizations. In 2015, the university established the Institute for Human Development. In 2016, the university launched the East African Institute. The university’s clinical laboratories in Karachi are the only in Pakistan to be accredited by the College of American Pathologists.
The university’s campus in Karachi is ranked among the top universities in Asia and among the top 300 in the world for medicine. Pakistan ranks the university as the top medical school in Pakistan. The university runs one of the world’s largest networks of accredited teaching hospitals, with 14 hospitals in Pakistan, East Africa and Afghanistan. In 2016, these hospitals treated an estimated 1.75 million patients.
But there’s more to this story. The University of Central Asia (UCA) was founded in 2000. The Presidents of Tajikistan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan and the Aga Khan signed the treaty establishing this secular, not-for-profit, private university. The Presidents are Patrons of UCA and His Highness the Aga Khan is the Chancellor.
His Highness the Aga Khan, the Chancellor of the University of Central Asia (UCA), accompanied by Kyrgyzstan’s Minister for Education Mr Kanat Sadykov, Naryn Governor Mr Amanbay Kayipov, Mayor Mr Rakhat Adiyev, the Akim of the Naryn District Zhanboev Tugolbai and UCA leadership as the delegation reviewed the first campus of UCA in Naryn in November 2014. The campus was inaugurated by the Aga Khan on October 19, 2016. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.
UCA’s mission is to foster the socio-economic development of Central Asia, particularly its mountain societies, while helping the peoples of the region preserve and draw upon their rich cultural heritages as assets for the future. The university is advancing construction of three campuses in Khorog, Tajikistan; Tekeli, Kazakhstan and Naryn, Kyrgyz Republic (which was inaugurated in October 2016).
The three campuses, hosting academic, administrative, residential, library, cultural and athletic facilities, will serve almost 4000 students, faculty and staff.
Let us hope that all these noble efforts will finally begin to undermine the mis-named “clash of civilizations” and the mis-named “Islamic terrorism”. We will not know for some time.
This article started by referring to the deep misunderstanding in the world and even among Muslims about what Islam is and what Islam has given to the world. ISIS and fellow travelers continue to steal the headlines with their acts of violence. But the Aga Khan showed us the way out of this fog of ignorance in the same interview with Der Spiegel. I will close the article with his words:
SPIEGEL: “The West (will stand) against the Rest” wrote Professor Samuel Huntington in his famous book “Clash of Civilizations.” Is such a conflict, such a clash inevitable?
Aga Khan: I prefer to talk about a clash of ignorance. There is so much horrible, damaging, dangerous ignorance.
SPIEGEL: Which side is responsible?
Aga Khan: Both. But essentially the Western world. You would think that an educated person in the 21st century should know something about Islam; but you look at education in the Western world and you see that Islamic civilizations have been absent. What is taught about Islam? As far as I know — nothing. What was known about Shiism before the Iranian revolution? What was known about the radical Sunni Wahhabism before the rise of the Taliban? We need a big educational effort to overcome this. Rather than shouting at each other, we should be learning to listen to each other. In the way we used to do it, by working together, with mutual give-and-take. Together we brought about some of the highest achievements of human civilization. There is a lot to build on. But I think you cannot build on ignorance.
Date posted on Simerg: September 19, 2017.
Copyright: Michael H. Morgan/Simerg. 2017.
International speaker, author, business advisor and award-winning former U.S. diplomat Michael Morgan currently advises companies in the U.S., Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia-Pacific seeking capital and partnerships — in industries like energy, infrastructure, telecom, pharmaceuticals, entertainment, sports and real estate. Morgan is a member of the Advisory Board of Proximera Fund/Fuchs Group (www.fuchsgroup.com) in Luxembourg, CBT Fund in Shanghai and is Head of Investor Relations at Aseare Health (www.aseare.com).
Since 2007, Morgan has been a keynote speaker at the Arab Business Council, British Parliament, World Economic Forum, U.S. Treasury, Georgetown University, UCLA, University of Virginia, the Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation in Dubai, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, the Asia Society and many other venues.
Morgan’s 2007 book Lost History: the Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers and Artists (National Geographic/Random House) has reached thousands of readers around the world, and has been translated into Arabic, Indonesian, Urdu, Bosnian, Japanese, Korean and other languages. Morgan received Egypt’s Presidential award for the Arts & Sciences in 2008. Morgan’s 2002 book Collision with History: the Search for John F. Kennedy’s PT 109 has been optioned as a feature film by Atmosphere Entertainment in Hollywood.
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BY MALIK MERCHANT
It is with deep sadness that I announce the passing of a beloved family friend, educator and teacher par excellence, Anaar Naran, at the age of 81. She passed away peacefully in Richmond, Virginia, USA, on the morning of Thursday, September 14, 2017. Her funeral ceremonies will be held on Monday, September 18, 2017 at 2 pm in Richmond.
She leaves behind her children Amyn, Navyn and Naaznyn. She was predeceased by her husband Mr. Badrudin Naran in 1979 at the age of 48, and brother Zafar. She also leaves behind her brother Fazli and sister Farida.
Anaar Naran will be remembered by her students, their parents and her colleagues as a fine and inspiring teacher during her tenure at the Aga Khan Primary School in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, during the 1960’s. Her friends and family members will remember her as a committed and hard-working educator throughout her lifetime. She always carried a beautiful smile and exuded warmth and happiness. Anaar was absolutely dedicated to her faith as an Ismaili Muslim, and her love for Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was immense that when she talked about him, her face glowed with happiness. She remained an avid reader of literature until the last days of her life, encouraging even her daughter Navyn to produce poems.
At this sad time, our thoughts go to Mrs. Naran’s children and grandchildren, and we convey our condolences to the family of the deceased.
We pray for the eternal peace of the soul of Mrs. Anaar Naran, and for the strength of her family members at this difficult time.
Date posted: September 18, 2017.
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