His Highness the Aga Khan: Exclusive photo essay by renowned photographer Jean-Marc Carisse

Global Pluralism Award Ceremony at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat

Having photographed His Highness the Aga Khan several times over the past decades, the Ismaili spiritual leader always struck me as an affable gentleman with his charismatically warm demeanour. This year alone, I attended two of his events. The award ceremony this past week, on November 15, at the beautiful Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex Drive in Ottawa was distinctively different…CLICK TO SEE PHOTOS BY JEAN-MARC CARISSE

Please click on image to read Jean-Marc Carisses’s exclusive piece for Barakah.

Date posted: November 19, 2017.

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Ismailis of Eastern Canada are ready for their holy encounter with Mawlana Hazar Imam: At mulaqat, steal a glance of his sacred presence and soak in his light

(Two poems and a beautifully composed new song for mulaqat with Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan)

Didar

Tears of Joy: The Mulaqat at Montreal

A Tribute to the Imagery of Ibn Farid

By KARIM H. KARIM

As I turned to gaze
These orbs turned translucent;
Although sight betrayed me
In concealing your form,
Every atom spoke of your presence.

Whenever I stole a glance,
Your sublime vision
shattered this frail being:
Racking my frame and soothing my soul –
All in a searing instant.

Senseless with the spirit
Of your sacred presence,
I am sans reason
I am sans speech:
I only gaze in a glassy-eyed stupor.

This poem was written by Professor Karim H. Karim of Carleton University following Mawlana Hazar Imam’s first visit to the Canadian Jamat in November 1978. He was at that time majoring in Islamic Studies at Columbia University and had travelled to Montreal from New York for the mulaqat.

The poem is a tribute to the 12th century sufi mystic, Ibn al-Farid, who was famous for his composition of mystical qasidas depicting the torment and joys of the mystic lover. Farid’s imagery consists of hyperbolic treatment of the limbs and organs of the body, of tears that turn into overwhelming floods and the wine of spiritual ecstasy. The Divine Beloved of Ibn al-Farid is portrayed as treating him with disdain, whose mere sight inflicts severe wounds to the mystic; yet he only lives for the moment when the Beloved may deign lo look at him. The piece was originally published in Hikmat magazine.

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Le Pluie

Drenched in Light

By NAVYN NARAN

Autour de moi,
Tout autour de moi
Around me, all around me,
In me and through me,
As if I do not exist, but IT does.

La lumière.
Les couleurs
Alit
je suis mouillée, je suis trempée
dans
sa présence

I am soaked, drenched in my tears and in His Light
He Arrives
Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad
Shah Jo Didar,
Shah Jo didar
Beneficent, and
Merciful
Blessings are showered

All around Him, all around Him
Our longing and salwaats for You. 

In these hearts and in these eyes, Noor
Autour de moi
Around and through
Bathed in light
We sit, we think, we quieten, we search. 

We await.
C’est la Noor, from Time im-memorial

Nous ne sommes pas
We are not.
YOU ARE. 
Allahu, Allahu
Ya Rahim, Ya Karim
Toward  you, is pulled my  heart. 

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Hamaare Mawla Jo Araye…

Our Mawla who is coming

By RASHIDA DAMANI

 

The news of our beloved Mawla Hazar Imam’s visit for jamati work in Eastern Canada ignited a spark in Rashida Damani of Toronto which expressed itself into this devotional piece to convey our souls’ deep yearning for his Didar and its continuing ecstatic jubilations. The Ismailis of Eatern Canada who will gather in the cities of Toronto and Montreal over a 5 day period are jubilant at this time and every heart is rejoicing and dancing with joy. Our ailing hearts are craving an extension of their lives to witness the didar. The wind is ushering the news of his arrival touching the depths of my heart. All hearts are singing that its prayers will reach him at last and he will bless us with his glance that will enlighten our souls.

Date posted: November 16, 2017.

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Aga Khan arrives, a photo tour of the Global Centre for Pluralism and more

Aga Khan Ottawa Arrival

Aga Khan arrival 2017-11-14-moez_visram_moe2382Mawlana Hazar Imam is received at Ottawa International Airport by the Aga Khan Development Network Representative for Canada, Mahmood Eboo (left), the President of the Aga Khan Council for Canada, Malik Talib, centre with Hazar Imam, and Karima Karmali, the Council’s Vice President. Photo: Moez Visram/The Ismaili.

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

His Highness the Aga Khan arrived in Ottawa Tuesday, November 14, to begin his week long trip to Canada during which he will meet with his Ismaili followers in Eastern Canada for religious meetings in Toronto and Montreal.

He will however first preside over the inaugural Pluralism Award ceremony at the iconic Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building located on Sussex Drive. Readers will be able to watch the ceremony live on Wednesday, November 15, starting at 6 P.M. EST.

A short photographic tour of the Global Centre for Pluralism

His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston in a jovial mood joke as they unveil the commemorative plaque of the official opening of the International Headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.Flashback: The unveiling of the plaque by His Highness the Aga Khan and the former Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, during the inauguration ceremony of the building on May 16, 2017. The plaque is now embedded in the right wall, just inside the main entrance to the building. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse.

In preparation for the press conference that was held yesterday (Tuesday, November 14), and this evening’s award ceremony, I decided to visit the Global Centre for Pluralism on Saturday, November 11, the last day the interior of the building was open for viewing by the public (it will reopen again next spring).

A short video presentation highlighting the purpose of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Above Princess Zahra Aga Khan. Note: Light streak is camera reflection. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

An immense transformation has taken place, while still preserving the historic features of the building. The Aga Khan during the official opening of the building on May 16, 2017, noted: “The architects, designers, engineers and so many others who have rehabilitated this wonderful Tudor Gothic building have taken enormous care to respect its distinctive historic character.”

A plaque highlighting the Global Centres connection to the Ottawa River, see following two photos. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

One of the major features that you are drawn to as you enter the building and climb its few steps is the large window that overlooks the Ottawa River. And the Aga Khan provided an insight on the topic too. In the same speech, he said:

“When I first visited this site, I went across the Ottawa River, to see things from the opposite side. From that perspective, I noticed that many buildings on the Ontario side had, over the years, turned their backs to the river. But as we began to plan, another possibility became evident. It seemed increasingly significant to open the site to the water.” This is precisely what the building offers every day to each person who walks in, perhaps with the thought: “Let me see the Ottawa River first.”

Visitors at the Global Centre on Saturday, November 11, 2017. One, far right end, is standing a few metres from the full-height window, and pointing to the Ottawa River, see next photo. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A beautiful view of the Ottawa River from the Global Centre’s full height window.See photo of plaque, above. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

pb112064-global-centre-plaque.jpgGlobal Centre for Pluralism was designated as one of 10 CONFEDERATION PAVILIONS, for 2017, the 150th anniversary of Canada. This plaque stands outside the building on Sussex Drive. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

The Global Centre for Pluralism was designated as one of the 10 Confederation Pavilions in the National Capital Region for the year 2017. The Commission identified buildings that had been dormant and then brought back to life. A passport booklet highlighting all  the 10 buildings has been published, as shown in the next image. It encourages everyone to visit the buildings and experience them for their architectural heritage.

Bilingual front cover of the passport booklet, with an insert (English shown) on the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

The Global Centre has been a National Historic Site since 1990, at which time it was the home of the Canadian War Museum. The PASSPORT booklet explains: “Today a $35 million investment from His Highness the Aga Khan has brought the building back to life as the new home of the Global Centre for Pluralism. This independent research and education centre, created in partnership with the Government of Canada, advances respect for diversity around the world. Become a pluralism champion; visit this heritage landmark, and explore the mission and work of the Centre.”

The historic Sir Arthur Doughty’s fireplace inside the Global Centre’s presentation room. See plaque, next photo, explaining the significance of the fireplace. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Fireplace plaque. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Chandelier in the hall by the main entrance. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A segment of a drawing, “Invincible before daybreak”, by Edward Pien (2007). Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Ceiling in seminar room, with all the high tech gadgets seamlessly incorporated. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A segment of a painting symbolizing past indigenous injustices. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Decorative designs on walls and windows symbolizing plurarity. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Painting (details soon). Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Contemplative garden. The Aga Khan in referring to this exterior space said, “a new garden in the forecourt, a tranquil space for contemplating the past and thinking about the future.” Background building is the Royal Canadian Mint. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A colourful plaque on wall explaining pluralism in all its aspects. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

The last of the beautiful fall colours shading the Global Centre for Pluralism on November 11, in a delayed autumn foliage. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakh/Simerg.

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Press Conference with winners of the 2017 Pluralism Award

Pluralism Award Winners with Mcnee and Clarke at press conference(l to r): Daniel Webb of Australia, Alice Wairimu Nderitu of Kenya, Leyner Palacios Asprilla of Colombia – all three are Pluralism Award Winners – Rt. Hon. Joe Clarke and John McNee.

Members of the media were invited on Tuesday morning for an hour long press conference at the Global Centre for Pluralism to meet with the winners of the first Pluralism Award. The opening remarks by the Centre’s Secretary General John McNee were followed by the introduction of each of the 3 winners by the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, Canada’s former Prime Minister. Mr. Clarke headed the jury that selected the 3 winners and 7 other honourable mentions from over 200 nominations that were submitted in 43 different countries.

Leyner Palacios Asprilla: The humble and courageous activist Leyner Asprilla of Colombia spoke about the the terrible massacre in May 2002 when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the guerilla movement known with the Spanish acronym FARC, launched gas cylinder bombs at a church in Bojayá full of civilians that was being used as a human shield by a paramilitary group. The bombs bursted the church killing 79 people including 48 infants and children. Asprilla survived the massacre but he emerged to find that 32 of his family members had been killed. Instead of becoming despondent over this cruel tragedy, Asprilla went on to found the Committee for the Rights of Victims of Bojayá, giving voice to over 11,000 victims of the conflict that live in the municipality of Bojayá, Chocó. As a result of his fight for social justice, Leyner was asked to represent Bojayá massacre victims during peace negotiations between guerilla forces and the government. One of the results was that FARC publicly acknowledged their role in the 2002 tragedy and, in a private ceremony in a Bojayá church, requested forgiveness.

leyner-palacios-asprilla-1-feature.jpgLeyner Palacios Asprilla. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

Asprilla organized assemblies with representatives from every community in Bojayá, even the most remote, and encouraged each community to include a female representative. Now, these remote communities have a united voice that takes their demand for human rights to the highest levels of government, and around the world. By bringing communities together in the fight for social justice, Leyner realized how powerful a chorus of diverse voices can be. Today, he continues to demand that Colombia embrace diversity by respecting the rights of all its citizens, particularly its most marginalized.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlice Wairimu Nderitu. Photo:Barakah/Simerg.

Alice Wairimu Nderitu: The graceful Alice Nderitu of Kenya has been a tireless peacemaker, conflict mediator and gender equality advocate who believes that differences can be strengths, not weaknesses. She took a seat at the peace table with 100 elders from ten ethnic communities who had never negotiated peace with each other before. This was 18 months after violence erupted in Kenya’s Rift Valley when results of a flawed election were announced which ignited historic grievances over land and deep-seated ethnic tensions. As a child eavesdropping in a tree, Alice was told that as a woman she could not participate in the work of making peace. But Alice took her place at the table with male mediators and led the elders in a dialogue that resulted in the region’s first peaceful elections in 20 years Today, as a lead mediator brokering peace throughout Africa, she has proven again and again that making peace is very much women’s business; however she explained that she found it necessary to integrate attitudes generally reserved for man!

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Daniel WebbDaniel Webb. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

Daniel Webb: The narrative by the articulate Australian Daniel Webb, a lawyer by training, was forceful. He was severely critical of the Australian Government for its decision to place every refugee arriving in boat in Australia’s offshore detention center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. The conditions in these detention centres are inhumane and demoralizing, with numerous reports of violence, medical neglect, suicide, self-harm. When Daniel visited the island he met many refugees and found out that they were inspiring people who could make great contributions to Australian society, if only given the chance to live on the mainland.

To tackle the offshore detention issue in Australia, Daniel has developed an innovative approach that combines legal action, media advocacy, public campaigns and United Nations engagement. Daniel’s work has helped to hold the Australian government accountable for breaches in international law. His work has not stopped there. He realized he needed to change the public perception of people seeking asylum. Australians had to understand that the people detained offshore were not threats, but rather human beings with their own stories, talents and families.

In addition to hearing stories of Leyner, Alice and Daniel, the media was also briefed about seven other individuals and corporations who received honourable mentions.

Press Conference Video

To access press conference, click on image below and then click again where its says “Watch this video on Youtube”

Date posted: November 15, 2017.

Note: Another version of this post, with enlarged photos, can be read at http://www.barakah.com

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Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: The importance of Salawat

Salawat Calligraphy

Salawat written in Nast’aliq calligraphy. Credit: Wikishia.

Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

(The author would like readers to note that this short piece was prepared from Khayal Aly’s excellent and elaborate essay on the Salawat titled “Realities of the Salawat.” We are also pleased to include with this piece a musical rendering of the Salawat composed by Fez Meghani, and sung by numerous Ismaili artists. The full composition is about 14 minutes long, and we are including only the first 5:31 minutes – ed.).

Whenever Mawlana Hazar Imam graces us with didar, his arrival and his presence are greeted with the soul-soothing hum of the recitation of the Salawaat:

“Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad,” meaning “O, Allah shower thy choicest blessings upon Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.”

This has been our tradition for centuries. The question arises: Why do we seek blessings upon the Prophet and his progeny?

When the verse of the Holy Qur’an (33:56)  “Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings upon (salloona ‘ala) the Prophet. O you who believe! Ask blessings upon him (salloo ‘alayhi) and salute him with a worthy salutation,” was revealed some of the companions of the Prophet asked him about it: “O Messenger of God, we know already how to greet you; but how should we invoke blessings upon you?”

The Prophet replied:

“You should say, ‘O God, bless Muhammad and his progeny (aal), even as you blessed Abraham and his progeny [O God], you are truly praiseworthy, great in glory’.” [1]

Further reinforcement of this invocation of blessing upon the Prophet and his progeny comes in the verse “Say: I ask you no reward (arjan) except love of the ‘near of kin (al-qurba)’. ” — 42:23

The key concept that emerges here is that of reward (arjan).

To understand this, we have to look at the fact that the Prophet was sent as a mercy to mankind  as attested in the verse:

“And we have sent you not, except as mercy to the world.” — 21:107

What then is the reason for asking the ummah to seek blessing upon the Prophet and his progeny? And what is the reason for the expectation of a reward?

In reality the reward that the Prophet is asking, namely the love for the Prophet and his progeny, is not for his own benefit, but rather, for the benefit of the ummah (Muslim community) itself. And here in lies the elegance and efficacy of the Salawat that we recite. Imam Al-Baqir explains this by citing a verse in which Allah tells the Prophet:

“Say, whatever I ask you with regard to my reward, it is [actually] for you. I rely for my reward on no one except God and He is witness to everything.” — 34:47

Several ginans sing about the joys and delights when the Imam graces his murids with his physical didar. In one of these ginans we come across this concept of “reward”. A verse in Pir Sadardin’s ginan Aji Sham kun avanta jo kahe reads:

Sami ke gale me haar hai, heera manek jaddi ya,
Jis re bhave tan ku dete hai,
Saheb hai dil daariya…

Translation:

The beloved has a necklace of diamonds and pearls,
He showers these on who so ever he chooses
The beloved’s generosity knows no bounds.

In the joyful assemblage of Imam’s holy presence and didar, not only does the Imam shower the “reward” of jewels of blessings upon the murids, but the recitation of the Salawat opens the gate of mercy and every recitation of the Salawat multiplies these blessings many many many fold. A tradition from Shia sources refers to the blessings of reciting Salawat as follows:

“Whoever sends ten salawats upon Muhammad and his family, God and His angels will send him a hundred salutations, and whoever sends a hundred salawats upon Muhammad and his family, God and His angels will send him a thousand.

The promise of reward goes even further. When a murid places his hands under the hand of the appointed spiritual authority of the time, Imam-e-Zaman, in an act of allegiance (bay‘at), “he indeed pledge his allegiance to Allah” (innama yubayi‘auna’lla). And thus, fulfilment of this bay’at merits nothing less than a great reward as promised by the verse 48:10 of the Qur’an that whosoever fulfils his bay’at with Allah shall merit a greater reward (arjan azim).

The first act of fulfilment of the bay’at is the declaration of the love for the Prophet and his progeny which is affirmed by the recitation of the Salawat. And its continuous recitation is a demonstration of this love between the murid and the Imam and the continuous shower of the jewels that Ginan Aji Sham kun avaanta jo kahe alludes to.

Date posted: November 11, 2017.

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Reference:

[1]. Fatimid-Isma‘ili book of law, Da‘a’im al-Islam (Pillars of Islam) by Qadi Nu’man.

Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.

We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment.

Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: Important Notes on Baitul Khayal, Bol, the Soul and Imam’s Status

“The esoteric (batini) vision, realized through pious works and the constant remembrance of God during the nightly vigil, as well as the exoteric (zaheri) vision, and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, becomes the ultimate purpose of human life….Piety should be for the purpose of recognizing and beholding God, which is achieved through the recognition and vision of the Imam of one’s time.” — Imam Mustansir-Billah, 32nd Ismaili Imam

1. Ism’ul Azam and Baitul Khayal

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

In the Memoirs of Aga Khan, our beloved 48th Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah outlines the distinction between two human experiences as categorized by the Muslim philosopher Ibn-Rushd (Averroes):

“On the one hand, our experience of nature as we recognize it through our senses…and on the other hand, our immediate and imminent experience of something more real, less dependent on thought or on the processes of the mind, but directly given to us, which I believe to be religious experience.”

The craving for this direct experience is innate in all of us. Depth psychology which recognizes this craving in a totally different form states that human psyche has great capacity and an insatiable desire for love. The quest for this love molds human actions. In some it takes the form of material pursuits, in others it takes the form of religious and mystical pursuits. And in some souls’ this quest for divine love finds satisfaction in devotion and love for another human being.

Further in his Memoirs, the Imam expounds on this very theme and says:

 “We live, move and have our being in God…when we realize this, we are already preparing ourselves for the gift of the power of direct (mystical) experience…some men are born with such natural spiritual capacities and possibilities of development that they have direct experience of that great love, that all-embracing, all-consuming love which direct contact with reality gives to human soul.”

A question naturally arises in the mind: What about people who are not so gifted and not born with the natural capacity of development for spiritual experience?

Allah is mindful of this innate human desire for love and direct vision. Allah grants a gift and a means for this direct experience to all: “And to Allah belong the best names, so call on Him by them.” — Holy Qur’an, 7:180

The invocation of best names (Ism’ul-Azam) referred to in the above Sura are the most beautiful names of Allah, invocation of which provides the path to his mercy and direct experience. The Qur’an also enjoins constant remembrance of Allah:

“O you have faith, remember Allah with frequent remembrance and glorify him morning and evening.” — 33:41-42.

Bol is a Gujarati word for Ism’ul-Azam. In Ismailism, the path to direct experience of the divine reality of Allah through the Noor (Light) of Imamat becomes a very personal and private affair. Each murid has his personal connection with the Imam. The personal spiritual bond of bayah (allegiance) between the Imam and the murid is the cornerstone of this bond.

Every murid has a desire for this vision of Noor. This desire is weak in some and strong in others. The real quest for the vision of the Noor begins when a murid fights the buffeting currents and vicissitudes of daily life and begins to hear the call of the divine and the desire for vision of Noor possesses his heart. The thirst for love that philosophers had talked about becomes a reality. The most enchanting verses of a Ginan of Pir Sadardin which describe the agony of a love-thirsty soul resonate in his heart:

Sajan per hun sada balihari
Ke jine Sajan mohe nipat bhisari
Ab ko je me Sajan pau
Haide under Sej bichau
Milu usinku Noor sangath
Phir nav jalu duje ka haath.

TRANSLATION

(Sajan=Beloved)
I am forever ready to sacrifice my life for the Beloved,
That beloved who has so forgotten and forsaken me
If perchance I attain to the Beloved
I will spread a silk carpet in my heart
And meet him in a shower of Noor
Never again to thirst for aught.

When a soul become thus love-stricken, the path to enlightenment become visible to him and he seeks the Imam’s guidance. The Imam in his benevolence and love for the murid grants him a personal key to the spiritual universe and the possibility to ascend to that peak from whence he has potential of vision of Noor of Imamat and the quenching of that insatiable thirst for love. The key to this spiritual universe is Bol.

The remembrance (dhikr) of this Bol at prescribed time when the world rests is the essence of Baitul Khayal. “The honor and greatness of a believer lies in his praying at night,” said Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq. A number of verses in the Holy Qur’an attest to the importance of the night worship. Allah says, “and part of the night; bow down before Him and magnify Him through the long night. — 76:26 (tr. Arberry). This verse of the Holy Qur’an tells us to remember Allah at such a time when others are asleep.

The Holy Qur’an tells us:

“You have indeed in the Apostle of God a beautiful pattern of conduct.” –33:21.

Thus, as an example to be followed, the Prophet’s escape to Mount Hira for extended hours of contemplation as well as his experiences during the night journey, miraj, are indicative of the rise of the soul from the plane of material existence to the proximity of God. The night journey  emphatically proclaimed that if God has placed man on this earth, He has also set up a ladder for man to climb up to Him. Baitul Khayal accords us this opportunity.

Thus, the practice of Baitul Khyal sits at the crest of spiritual practice of Ismailism and is also referred to as Motu Kam (Big Work). As the prescribed practice becomes a routine, the spiritual universe begins to unfold and the bond between the Imam and murid becomes stronger, and the link that binds the murid to the Imam becomes shorter and shorter. It is a process of divine alchemy which is sung in the Ginan Jire vala, dhan re ghadi:

Paras perse to Loha raang pelte
To jagmag jyote jagaye.

TRANSLATION

That which was base metal
Transforms to gold and begins to shine
by divine alchemy

The experience of this transformation and the uplifment of the soul through the constant meditative practice of the Ism’ul-Azam is articulated in some of the verses of the Ginan Brahm Prakash composed by Pir Shamsh: 

“True Word” (or Ism’ul-Azam, Bol) is my Guide,
to which the world gives no recognition….1

Do meditate on the Word,
and recite Pirshah as often as possible…..2

And upon utterance of the Word,
the light of love shall be kindled,

and in the heart, great “Faith” will be generated….5

Where the Love flows so incessantly,
the devotee drinks of it and
becomes love-intoxicated….9

How shall I extol (for you) this divine ecstasy!
Its status is so great, that it defies all speech….11

No amount of literature read or listened to,
Could help to attain this experience of happiness….12

The skies in the West glow
and one witnesses a unique and
unparalled show (of “Light” – “Noor”)

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2. The Imam’s True Status

Imam to be perceived with true heart cropped

Image credit: roseannapiter.com.

(Adapted from an ode by 33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al Salam)

The talisman that can open the treasure trove of spiritual meaning of the Holy Qur’an is the Imam. The true essence of the Imam cannot be recognized with earthly, fleshly eyes, for these can only see his physical form, perishing like all else with the passage of time.

His true face is to be perceived with the eyes of the heart. He has thousands of physical habitations, but his true home is traceless; he has had a thousand names, but all of them refer to one reality.

Today he is known as ‘Abd al-Salam, but tomorrow the physical body will be gone and the name will change, yet the essence will remain in the next Imam of the lineage.

Those who look at the Imam as they squint will consider him like any other human being, but as soon as the eyes of the heart perceive correctly, his true status is discovered. In form the Imams change, but in meaning and substance they are changeless. Human language cannot attain to the majesty of the Imams. The Imam is the most precious ingredient in the supreme elixir (miraculous substance) of eternal life-red sulphur. He is not simply a pearl, but the ocean that gives birth to pearls. The existence of the Imam, who leads humankind to a recognition of God, is the very pinnacle of creation. — Adapted from Ismaili in the Middle Ages by Shafique Virani.

3. The Importance of the Soul

By AL-MU’AYYAD AL-SHIRAZI

“Look at the trouble your parents have taken from the days of your childhood in the growth of your bodies and in the improvement of your physical life on earth. But for the interest they took in you, you would not have been what you are. Your souls are thousand times more important than your bodies. The Imams are your spiritual parents. Avail yourselves of a few days of life which are at your disposal here and look after your spiritual elevation under the care of your spiritual parents. “Once you miss this opportunity, you will repent forever. You will not be given a second chance to set things right.”

Date posted: November 9, 2017.

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Note: This piece also appears on simerg’s special project http://www.barakah.com which is dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan.

Shiraz Pradhan PortraitShiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.

New Story on BBC Travel: The Discovery of Fatimid Gold Coins in Israel

Here are links to 2 amazing stories about the discovery off the coast of Israel of 2580  dinars minted during the reigns of Fatimid Ismaili Imams Al-Hakim and Al-Zahir. The BBC story has just been posted on the BBC travel website. A link to an earlier story appears after the BBC link.

1. From the BBC: The city with a hoard of Fatimid gold

On an overcast morning in February 2015, Zvika Fayer was scuba diving off the ancient Israeli port town of Caesarea when he saw a glimmer on the sand. Fayer reasoned that the gleam must have been a discarded sweet wrapper….But as he swept the sand away and picked the item up, he saw that he was wrong. This wasn’t a piece of foil; it was a real gold coin with Arabic script on both sides. The dates minted on them show that they were manufactured during the reigns of Caliphs al-Hakim (996–1021AD) and his son al-Zahir (1021–1036AD) when Caesarea was part of the Islamic Fatimid Dynasty.

PLEASE CLICK: The Israeli city with a hoard of gold

Please click on image for story in BBC travel.

2. Earlier story: Fatimid Gold from the sea

In February 2015, divers off the coast of Caesarea spotted by chance a group of gold coins lying on the seabed. They immediately alerted marine archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who conducted a salvage excavation at the site and recovered more than 2,580 Fatimid coins of pure (24 karat) gold weighing a total of 7.5 kg.

Please click on the image to view an on-line exhibit of the discovery.

Please click on the image to view an on-line exhibit of the discovery.

The coins date from the mid-9th to the early 11th century CE. They were minted by the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt, and include dinars minted in al-Qayrawan, on the Tunisian coast, by Imam al-Mahdi (AH 297–322 = 910–934 CE), the founder of the Fatimid caliphate as well as a much larger collection belonging to the Fatimid caliphs Imam Al-Hakim (AH 386–411 = 996–1021 CE) and his successor Imam Al-Zahir (AH 411–427 = 1021–1036 CE).

Following the discovery, an exhibition was held from June to December 2015 at the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing of The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Some very interesting data and information about the Fatimid coins was also posted on the Museum’s website, which includes topics such as the inscription on the coins, the coin’s purchasing power, the script, and the purity of the coins. We invite our readers to visit the website by clicking on http://www.imj.org.il/exhibitions/2015/caesarea/ or on the image shown above.

Date posted: November 9, 2017.

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Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: #2 – Go, run to the ‘Manifest Light’ and ‘Ship of Salvation’ with joy and hope

This is the second article in a special series that we hope will contribute to making the forthcoming mulaqat with Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam more meaningful and purposeful. If you missed any of the previous post(s), here are the links:

  1. Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: #1 – FORGIVENESS
Aga Khan Eastern Canada Upcoming Visit

Eastern Canada shown in green on map (left) consists of the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. The total population is 23,946,177 (2016), and approximately 40-45,000 Ismailis live in these provinces, with the largest concentration in Ontario and Quebec. Credits: Map (left) yy Connormah – Wikipedia, CC BY 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19857457, and (right) Department of Natural Resources.

1. By Shaykh Khudr, contemporary of 40th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Nizar

The people of the House of Prophethood
are the Manifestations of Light;

They are that which exists forever
and in what has already elapsed;

They are the ships of salvation for those
who come running to them with hope;

They are the rain abundant in moisture
and their grace is the best of springs;

The essence of their souls is knowledge
from a world beyond the intellects;

Indeed, it is their invitation which rescues
souls from the pit of destruction.

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2. By Muayyad Al-Shirazi, Fatimid period

“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.

“I tried to speak but my tongue refused to move. People asked me to say what I wished to say. I could say nothing. The Imam said, ‘Leave him. Let his fear and awe subside’. After this, I rose. I took the holy hand of the Imam [Mustansir-billah], placed it on my eyes and on my chest and then kissed it. I left the place with immense joy.”

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3. By Fidai Khurasani

He is always present
a witness with his followers;

but who has seen his beauty
except the blessed?

He who is the cupbearer of
the fount of paradise

is aware altogether of
the hearts of his followers

He is the Imam of the time
the guide and comforter

the protector of his followers
whether young or old

Like the sun in the sky
he is manifest in the world

but the blind bat cannot see
his luminous face

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4. By Imam Mustansir-Billah, 32nd Ismaili Imam

“All believers are urged to come into the presence of the Imam and to see him with their own eyes. Thus, the esoteric (batini) vision, realized through pious works and the constant remembrance of God during the nightly vigil, as well as the exoteric (zaheri) vision, achieved by travelling to the Imam’s residence and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, becomes the ultimate purpose of human life.

“Piety should be for the purpose of recognizing and beholding God, which is achieved through the recognition and vision of the Imam of one’s time.”

Date posted: November 6, 2017.

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Related: Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: #1 – Forgiveness

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Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: #1 – Forgiveness

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

Eastern Canada Maps

Eastern Canada shown in green on map on left consists of the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. The total population is 23,946,177 (2016), and approximately 40-45,000 Ismailis live in these provinces.  Map (left) Connormah – Wikipedia, CC BY 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19857457, and (right)  Natural Resources, Canada.

Lets us make the visit of Mawlana Hazar Imam a fantastic and happy one for us and our families, particularly our parents and children

 

By ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT

His Highness the Aga Khan, or Mawlana Hazar Imam as he is affectionately and respectfully addressed by his Ismaili Muslim community, will be meeting with tens of thousands of his followers living in Eastern Canada — an area stretching from Windsor in Ontario to Montreal in Quebec to Halifax and beyond in the Maritime Provinces — for religious gatherings in Toronto and Montreal from November 17 – 21, 2017.

The Ismailis use the term didar (lit. to have a glimpse of the Imam of the Time) for these intimate religious mulaqats (meetings or encounters). The didar with the Imam can be on an individual basis, in small or large settings or in ceremonial gatherings that are referred to as darbars. Most recently, His Highness visited the Ismailis in Uganda and Tanzania and graced them with darbars as part of his Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Ismailis throughout their rich and eventful 1400 year history, from the time of the first Imam, Hazrat Ali, have sought to articulate their experiences of the didar  of their Imams through oral expressions of ginans, qasidas, poetry and songs as well wonderful narratives. These varied expressions have become sources of inspiration for Ismailis leading up to the moment of the didar.

Today, we commence the publication of a series consisting of short articles that we hope will contribute to making the mulaqat with Mawlana Shah Karim more meaningful and purposeful. Our material will center on the concept of Imamat as articulated in Ismaili and related Shia literature and we will also include stories and accounts of didars well as supplications from the oral traditions and other pertinent material.

We begin the series with what we feel is an important ethic that will help us benefit during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s coming holy visit: FORGIVENESS.

Let bygones be bygones: “If people have harmed you, forget and forgive…”

 

Mawlana Hazar Imam pictured at the Olympia Hall, London, during his weeklong visit to the United Kingdom Jamat in September 1979. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

The spirit of forgiveness is an ethic that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has articulated many times since his Imamat. In 1969, he said in Mumbai:

“As the world gets smaller, it is fundamental that people should work together and not against each other, and try to be a little bit more generous than you have been in the past. If people have made mistakes, forgive them their mistakes. If people have harmed you, forget and forgive. Do not hold grudges. Do not turn around and say, ‘he hurt me yesterday, so I will hurt him today’. This is not the spirit of Islam, and it is not as I understand that our faith should be practiced, and this is fundamental.”

The act of apologizing when one thinks that one was not at fault, and the act of exercising forgiveness when one feels that they have been wronged, are probably the most difficult to struggle with.

However, each one of us has to realize that when there are conflicts, especially within a family, the burden of disunity is the greatest on parents because their love for all their children is absolute. Now consider that in the context of Hazar Imam, who addresses all Ismailis as his spiritual children!

According to a popular tradition, when the Prophet Muhammad asked Angel Gabriel what was meant by the Qur’anic verse (7:199),

“Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant”

the Angel replied:

“It is God’s command to forgive those who have wronged you, to give to those who have deprived you, and to tie relations with those who severe theirs with you.”

Another tradition of the Prophet says:

“Show mercy and you shall be shown mercy. Forgive others and you shall be forgiven by God.”

When Mawlana Hazar Imam received the Adrienne Clarkson prize for Global Citizenship he shortlisted a good measure of forgiveness, along with an  abundant capacity for compromise, a little sense of patience and humility, as strengths for an aspiring global citizen. Accomplishing these would mean hard work, he said, “but no work would be more important.”

In a piece “Why Forgive” Fatima Ariadne in her blog Decoding Eden says that “forgiveness is about giving yourself permission to let go of the past….and giving that inner space in your heart for something more positive. We forgive because we deserve peace.”

Through our kind gesture of forgiving, we are also raising the consciousness of  this fundamental Islamic ethic in the hearts and minds of  the persons we are seeking to forgive. Speaking in Moscow in 1995 during his first physical presence among his community in Central Asia, Mawlana Hazar Imam said that “forgiving those who may have made a mistake or harmed you, will give them respect for your behaviour, and it will encourage them to follow your behaviour.”

Of course, Mawlana Hazar Imam was addressing an audience that had passed through a period of civil strife in Tajikistan. However, this principle is as fundamentally important in our daily attitudes to our families and friends.

Louis B. Smedes, professor emiritus of ethics and theology at Fuller Seminary in Pasadens, California and author of book Forgive and Forget wrote that, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” He further noted that “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”

The Qur’anic ayat quoted earlier “tie relations with those who severe theirs with you” imposes upon us  a moral obligation to forgive.

So as we approach the important day of the holy encounter with Hazar Imam it would be most appropriate for us to reach out to our friends and family members with whom we are seriously at odds and say, “Let unpleasant things that have happened in the past be forgotten.”

That act of courage would be in the truest and finest tradition of our faith. With that kind spirit in our heart, we will truly lavish in the love, grace, and blessing of Mawlana Hazar Imam when he is with us in a few days. Forgiveness will lead to greater unity within families and the jamat.

It is within the framework of united families and Jamats that Mawlana Hazar Imam wishes us to attain spiritual as well as worldly success and happiness.

Date posted: November 4, 2017.

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His Highness the Aga Khan: What we are now reading @Barakah.com

Please click on photos or Barakah

Aga Khan receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Asia Society.

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140 years: From birth of Aga Khan III to Diamond Jubilee of Aga Khan IV.

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Aga Khan 1979 Asia Society Speech: “Building City of God and Man”

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AGA KHAN’S FORTHCOMING VISIT TO EASTERN CANADA

GOD’S KINGDOM: AGA KHAN ON PATRIOTISM

AGA KHAN’S VIEW OF THE WORLD

A LONG ASSOCIATION: AGA KHAN AND JOHNSTON

AGA KHAN IN EAST AFRICA: 5 DAYS TO REMEMBER

1946 JUBILEE: ISMAILI WOMEN OF TIME REMINISCE

A PEARL FOR MONARCH OF FAITH AND PRACTICALITY

Date posted: November 2, 2017.
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