Mawlana Hazar Imam arrives in Ottawa to open the Global Centre for Pluralism; latest photos from 330 Sussex Drive

PLEASE CLICK: Aga Khan arrives to open Global Centre for Pluralism; and photos of the setting for the opening ceremony

Global Centre for Pluralism building pictured on Monday May 15, 2017, one day before it is to be officially inaugurated by His Highness the Aga Khan. Please click on image for more photos.

 Date posted: May 15, 2017.

_________________

A Christian reflects on the Aga Khan: Not all heroes wear capes by Andrew Kosorok

Barakah Title with logo and text

The Prophet Muhammad taught: “The doors of goodness are many: enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms.” And the Aga Khan has accepted this hadith as a personal job description...Many prophets of the Bible recorded their prophetic lineage, just as Matthew and Luke in the New Testament stressed Jesus’s ancestry. In similar vein, Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan, is the 49th Imam directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad. — More by Andrew Kosorok

PLEASE CLICK: Not All Heroes Wear Capes – A Christian Reflects on the Aga Khan

Photo: Ullstein Bild via Getty Images. Copyright.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Links to More Posts on the Aga Khan at Barakah:

“[the Ismailis] represent in Islamic Ummah a very exceptional community. The reason is that you have since 1957, His Highness the Aga Khan as a spiritual guide, as an intellectual guide” — READ MOHAMMED ARKOUN’S ESSAY ON THE AGA KHAN

“Through his inspiring words and innovative programs, the Aga Khan has meticulously laid the foundation of the seemingly insurmountable task of re-connecting Islam to its two elder Abrahamic siblings: Judaisim and Christianity, from which it has sadly become separated in the past decades. Clearly, if any person or entity can restore Islam to its rightful place, it would be AKDN under the enlightened, visionary, and revolutionary leadership of the 49th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and his successors.” — READ NIZAR MOTANI’S ESSAY: THE AGA KHAN – FROM AN ISMAILI MUSLIM IMAM TO A GLOBAL CITIZEN

“The colossal work which you achieve day after day towards a better living standard in the most deprived countries is not unknown to us. The spirit on which this action is based is amongst the purest expressions of human fraternity.” — READ RENE LEVESQUE’S TRIBUTE TO THE AGA KHAN

“To a non-Muslim the arguments were difficult to follow, but it was clear to me that a strong difference of opinion existed and that the Aga Khan would be called upon to resolve a ticklish point of theological doctrine.” — READ ANECDOTE “I WAS SERVING NO ORDINARY MAN” BY MICHAEL CURTIS

Prince Karim Aga Khan: “Just as we need food and water, so do the plants. Near our vegetable garden there are many large trees. The wind blows many leaves onto our crops. Young plants would get buried under the weight of these leaves, so every morning both of us collect all the leaves and burn them.” — READ SWEET AND ENDEARING CHILDHOOD STORIES OF PRINCE KARIM AGA KHAN

Gulnar Saratbekova: “Time went and we reached the most momentous day in our life: May 25, 1995, a historical date that no Badakhshani will ever forget. We were blessed with Mawla’s didar for the very first time. That is when we really knew that we would never be alone, ever again. This was the day for which all our elderly and ancestors were longing, for centuries. — READ THE AGA KHAN’S FIRST VISIT TO BADAKHSHAN

“We are receiving you here officially and not just as a friend because you are an important leader of the Muslim religion…What we admire in you is 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.” — READ LEOPOLD SENGHOR’S TRIBUTE TO THE AGA KHAN

Prince Sinan Aga Khan was born in London, England, on January 2, 2017. Sinan is an Arabic name for boys meaning spearhead and is derived from the root word S-N-N which is used in the Qur’an. Sinan is pronounced [(SI)mple] + [(NA)p + (N)ew] with emphasis on the second syllable. — VIEW PRINCE SINAN AGA KHAN PHOTOS

Date posted: May 10, 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Short readings to build your knowledge on Ismaili theology, esoterics and history

“THE ISMAILI IMAMAT REPRESENTS THE SUCCESSION OF IMAMS SINCE THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD” — HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN, 2014

Aga Khan Golden Jubilee Visit to Canada Vancouver

INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES

Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan (pictured above), in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. From the time of the first Imam Ali, who was designated and appointed as such by the Holy Prophet, the Imams of the Ismaili Muslims have ruled over territories and peoples in various areas of the world at different periods of history in accordance with the Islamic precepts and ethics of unity, brotherhood, justice, tolerance and goodwill. The Ismaili Imam is therefore not only concerned with the material advancement and the improvement of the quality of life of his Ismaili followers, but also that of other Muslim communities and societies at large in which they live.

In accordance with historical and theological works and the teachings of their Imams, the Ismailis believe that each Imam is the bearer of the Light of Imamat (or Nur). This (spiritual) Light is with the Ahl al-bayt (i.e. the Imams from the Prophet Muhammad’s family). This Nur was with the first Shia Imam Ali and, for Shia Ismailis, is now with their present 49th Imam. Every Imam guides his followers during his time through the Nur of Imamat.

The Nur of Imamat is always there to guide through the physical presence of the Imam. The Imam holds his followers hands and leads and protects them in both difficult and good times. He shows them how they should live in a particular time and place. Just as the water of a river continues to flow, the Hereditary line of Imamat from Hazrat Ali never stops. That is, the Imam is always physically present and manifest on this earth. According to Shia tradition, the Imam is the threshold through which God and the creatures communicate. He is thus a cosmic necessity, the key and the center of the universal economy of the sacred: “The earth cannot be devoid of an Imam; without him, it could not last an hour. If there were only two men left in the world, one of them would be the Imam.”

One of the goals of each Ismaili is to strive to come closer to the spiritual light of the Imam. One can do so by fulfilling one’s material and spiritual responsibilities to the best of one’s ability. Praying regularly, living by the ethics of Islam, following the Imam’s guidance strengthens the Ismailis’ spiritual bond with their Imam, and through his Light, brings them closer to Allah.

In the coming days, weeks and months Simerg will endeavour to provide different perspectives on the Imamat and Ismaili contributions to Islamic culture and thought from various literary works on Ismaili philosophy, theology and history.

Beatific Vision of the Imam

The [Imam’s] beatific vision is of two kinds: one a physical meeting with the Imam and the other a spiritual recognition of his essence [Nur], through which God is recognized.

Speaking of the second of these, Pir Sadr al-Din, in his ginan [religious hymn] “Sakhi māhā pad keri vāt koek jānere”, writes:

Friend! None but a few know of the exalted station. Indeed, they alone recognize it who have found the true guide.

Friend! Within the heart, at the confluence of the three spiritual rivers, there is an imperishable light. There – a shimmering effulgence, pearls are showered.

Friend! I completely lost consciousness of my physical self when my meditation mounted the empyrean, bursting forth.

Friend! I beheld the place of the lofty throne, I saw the seven islands, the nine continents.

Friend! The religious scriptures and books cannot fathom this, for there is neither day there, nor night, neither sun, nor shade.

Friend! My Lord is not such that He can be spoken of. He is to be seen – for He is indescribable, and nameless.

Friend! How sweet is that Lord, indescribable, nameless. Says Pir Sadr al-Din, truly, with my own eyes, I have seen Him!

~~~~~~

Dazzled by the Light of Imamat

When Ismaili missionary al-Mu’ayyad-din Shirazi had left Shiraz in Persia for Fatimid Egypt, he was very hopeful that he would get the opportunity to see the Imam-Caliph Mustansir-bi-Allah, but at the same time he had also feared the intrigues of the ministers who did not permit any man of learning to see the Imam personally, unless he complied with their dictates and acknowledged their superiority.

On reaching Egypt he experienced all that he had feared. He was lodged in a small house and his visits to the court were short and limited to prevent him from seeing the Imam.

Disappointed, he finally decided to leave Egypt and wrote as follows to Tastari, one of the most powerful persons in the Fatimid State:

“I have not come to Egypt to seek wealth or gain any position. The promptings of my faith have brought me here. I have come to visit the Imam and not the Vaziers and their officials. Unfortunately, these people stop me from having a look at my Imam and now I am returning disappointed.”

The sudden death of Tastari gave al-Mu’ayyad another opportunity to renew his efforts to get some time to be in the holy presence of the Imam and with some help was finally able to pay respects to the Imam. Describing his experience, he writes:

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, placed it on my eyes and on my chest and then kissed it. I left the place with immense joy.

~~~~~~

Imam Mu’izz’s Arrival in Cairo

In 969 CE, Imam al-Mu‘izz, “an excellent planner, an efficient organiser and a statesman amply talented in diplomacy,” with the help of his general Jawhar Siqilli, acquired Egypt peacefully.

During this time the building of the new city of Cairo began and in 970 CE the foundation for the al-Azhar mosque was laid. The Imam himself arrived in Cairo in 973 CE in a very touching ceremony. His sons, brothers and uncles, and other descendants of Imam al-Mahdi, the first Fatimid caliph, made their entrance with him. Imam Mu’izz brought with him the coffins of his ancestors Imams al-Mahdi, al-Qa‘im and al-Mansur.

Stanley Lane-Poole’s description of Imam al-Mu‘izz may aid one to understand his successful reign:

He was a born statesman, able to grasp the conditions of success and to take advantage of every point in his favour. He was also highly educated, and not only wrote Arabic poetry and delighted in its literature, but studied Greek, mastered Berber and Sudani dialects, and is even said to have taught himself Salvonic … His eloquence was such as to move his audience to tears. To prudent statesmanship he added a large generosity, and his love of justice was among his noble qualities.

Cairo’s location between Africa and the Mediterranean ensured that it became a large, thriving commercial centre.

The greatness of the Fatimid Capital is described in the following words by Al-Muqaddassi, a notable medieval Arab geographer who lived in the tenth century.

Know that Baghdad was great in the past, but is now falling in ruins. It is full of troubles, and its glory is gone. I neither approve it nor admire it, and if I praise it, it is a mere convention. Fustat (today, part of old Cairo) is today where Baghdad was in the past, and I do not know of any greater city in all of Islam.

~~~~~~~

Imams are our Spiritual Parents

In the Shia tradition, the teaching of the Imam (also referred to as the Ta’lim of the Imam) lights his follower’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision.

The spiritual enlightenment or the elevation of the soul gained by following the Imam’s guidance is described in many works by Shia theologians, and is particularly evident in the Ginans, Qasidas and narrative accounts written by Ismaili Pirs and missionaries.

The following excerpt is from a work by the Ismaili missionary, Muayyad-din-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.

~~~~~

Imam’s Favours Cannot be Counted

From a work by renowned Fatimid scholar and jurist, Qadi Numan. 

Let us make a short survey of their favours on us. We were ignorant of everything and were spiritually dead. They brought us back to life and showed us the path of wisdom. We were blind, they gave us the eyes to see for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.

We were groping in the dark, they showed us the light. We had lost the track, they showed us the way to salvation. We were lacking in knowledge, they gave us knowledge. We were falling in hell-fire, they picked us up and put us in the middle of righteous.

In short, they have done us the favours which we cannot count.

They have given us all that is good in this world and the world to come.  

Date posted: May 1, 2017.

________________________

The material for this post was compiled and adapted from the following sources:

  1.  Preamble Of  the Ismaili Constitution;
  2. The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation by Shafique N. Virani, Hardcover – May 3, 2007;
  3. Life and Lectures of Al Muayyad fid-din al Shirazi, edited by late Jawad Muscati and A.M. Moulvi, Ismailia Assocciation for Pakistan, 1950;
  4. The Divine Guide in Early Shi’ism by Mohamad Ali Amir-Moezzi, published by the State University of New York;
  5. Code of Conduct for the Followers of Imam by Qazi Noaman, translated by Prof. Jawad Muscati; and
  6. Ta’lim curriculum prepared for Ismaili children, published by Islamic Publications, London.

Note: Simerg has launched a sister website totally dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan. Please visit Barakah: “His Highness the Aga Khan A Visual and Textual Celebration”. Facebook page facebook.com/1000fold.

Available from Simerg: Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s “Diving Into Wildlife”

“From the first Costeau film I saw and the fish I started keeping at the age of five, the first octopus and cuttlefish that squirted ink at me….I knew I couldn’t, wouldn’t stop exploring the sea” — Prince Hussain Aga Khan, from foreword to his book Diving Into Wildlife.

“The work of Hussain Aga Khan is visual poetry created in the sea that seduces the viewer to discover her mysteries and leads people to care. And when people care, change becomes possible” — Brian Skerry

As readers may be aware, we had offered for sale through this website, a very limited number of signed as well as a Special Edition of signed and numbered copies of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s  book Diving Into Wildlife containing a collection of extraordinary underwater photographs taken by the Prince in recent years in  the Maldives, Tonga, Malaysia, Bahamas, Mexico and Egypt. The entire proceeds from the sales were submitted to Prince Hussain’s organization called Focused on Nature (FON), whose mission is to “assist in the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species, as well as habitat conservation efforts when and where possible.”

FON fulfills its mission by providing grants to projects around the world which the FON team has identified and vetted as having immediate impacts in wildlife conservation, protection, preservation, and education. The money that is distributed by FON to deserving organizations is raised by either direct contributions to FON or from the sale of unique and fine objects including limited edition photographs, art, clothing articles and books such as “Diving Into Wildlife.”

The signed and the special edition have been sold out. We have a limited number of unsigned copies available, and once again the sales from these books will continue to support the work of FON. We encourage interested individuals who were not able to acquire a signed copy to consider purchasing the unsigned copy of this beautiful volume by Prince Hussain Aga Khan.

The book is being offered across North America at US$30.00 (plus packaging and airmail shipping cost of US$25.00). Each shipment will be trackable through the website of Canada Post. Request for orders for delivery outside of North America will be forwarded to FON for shipment from Europe, provided the book is still available.

HOW TO PURCHASE THE BOOK

Payment Methods:

  1. Paypal: Simergbooks has been verified by Paypal. To purchase a copy, please send a request to Simergbooks@aol.com, and an invoice will be generated from Paypal provided we have the book in stock. In view of the limited quantities, payment should then be received within 24 hours after the invoice.
  2. Email Transfer: To purchase a copy, please send a request to Simergbooks@aol.com. Once we have confirmed that a book is available, we will request you to submit a payment via email transfer. In view of the limited quantities payment should then be received within 24 hours after the invoice.

SIMERG’S EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE (ANIMAL VOYAGE)

My son was delighted with the excellent photography by Prince Hussain. We as a family will cherish this volume (Animal Voyage) for a long time. Once again, thank you for making this book available in North America and your outstanding customer service and support. Shamim Rajan, Richmond Hill, Ontario.

This is a beautiful piece of work!! The service was excellent. Very quick, safe and efficient turnaround and follow up. I recommend everyone to have a copy. Nazir Alibhai, Markham, Ontario

“Outstanding customer service, superfast delivery, and the book is great addition to any library.” Yaar, Toronto.

Date posted: April 27, 2017.

____________

Moscow, April 20, 2017 – Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at talks with the Aga Khan

The following is an announcement posted on the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation. Simerg will update this post as and when other details, photos and videos become available. The link to the Ministry’s website is provided below. With regard to the Minister’s mention of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s forthcoming Diamond Jubilee, we invite all our readers to visit Simerg’s new initiative, www.barakah.com – His Highness the Aga Khan A Visual and Textual Celebration 1957-2017.

Aga Khan in Moscow April 20 2017April 20, 2017: His Highness the Aga Khan at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

20 April 2017 11:12

Your Highness,

Friends,

Welcome to Moscow. I would like to begin by saying that on July 11 we will mark 60 years of your mission as the Spiritual Leader and Imam of the Nizari Ismailis.

You are a good friend who often visits us. We highly appreciate your views on Afghanistan and also on many other modern issues. We treasure your sagacious and wise views as you are a man with great experience. We see that your actions are guided not only by a desire to protect the interests of Ismailis around the world, but also to help settle the acute international issues that have been accumulating for the past decade. We hope to have a useful meeting.

I am happy to see you.

VIDEO – REMARKS BY SERGEI LAVROV AND THE AGA KHAN 

Date posted: April 20, 2017.

_____________

Please visit Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s opening remarks at talks with Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, Spiritual Leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim Community, Moscow, April 20, 2017

Please also visit  www.barakah.com – His Highness the Aga Khan A Visual and Textual Celebration 1957-2017.

Aga Khan photos, essays and stories: A recap of what to read now at Barakah!

Barakah Title with logo and text

“The colossal work which you achieve day after day towards a better living standard in the most deprived countries is not unknown to us. The spirit on which this action is based is amongst the purest expressions of human fraternity.” — READ RENE LEVESQUE’S TRIBUTE TO THE AGA KHAN 

“To a non-Muslim the arguments were difficult to follow, but it was clear to me that a strong difference of opinion existed and that the Aga Khan would be called upon to resolve a ticklish point of theological doctrine.” — READ ANECDOTE “I WAS SERVING NO ORDINARY MAN” BY MICHAEL CURTIS

Prince Karim Aga Khan: “Just as we need food and water, so do the plants. Near our vegetable garden there are many large trees. The wind blows many leaves onto our crops. Young plants would get buried under the weight of these leaves, so every morning both of us collect all the leaves and burn them.” — READ SWEET AND ENDEARING CHILDHOOD STORIES OF PRINCE KARIM AGA KHAN

“[the Ismailis] represent in Islamic Ummah a very exceptional community. The reason is that you have since 1957, His Highness the Aga Khan as a spiritual guide, as an intellectual guide” — READ MOHAMMED ARKOUN’S ESSAY ON THE AGA KHAN

Gulnar Saratbekova: “Time went and we reached the most momentous day in our life: May 25, 1995, a historical date that no Badakhshani will ever forget. We were blessed with Mawla’s didar for the very first time. That is when we really knew that we would never be alone, ever again. This was the day for which all our elderly and ancestors were longing, for centuries. — READ THE AGA KHAN’S FIRST VISIT TO BADAKHSHAN

“We are receiving you here officially and not just as a friend because you are an important leader of the Muslim religion…What we admire in you is 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.” — READ LEOPOLD SENGHOR’S TRIBUTE TO THE AGA KHAN

Prince Sinan Aga Khan was born in London, England, on January 2, 2017. Sinan is an Arabic name for boys meaning spearhead and is derived from the root word S-N-N which is used in the Qur’an. Sinan is pronounced [(SI)mple] + [(NA)p + (N)ew] with emphasis on the second syllable. — READ PRINCE SINAN AGA KHAN OFFICIAL PHOTOS

“Through his inspiring words and innovative programs, the Aga Khan has meticulously laid the foundation of the seemingly insurmountable task of re-connecting Islam to its two elder Abrahamic siblings: Judaisim and Christianity, from which it has sadly become separated in the past decades. Clearly, if any person or entity can restore Islam to its rightful place, it would be AKDN under the enlightened, visionary, and revolutionary leadership of the 49th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and his successors.” — READ NIZAR MOTANI’S ESSAY: THE AGA KHAN – FROM AN ISMAILI MUSLIM IMAM TO A GLOBAL CITIZEN

Date posted: April 10, 2017.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Like and share Barakah on Facebook: Please visit: http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

3 Endearing and Inspiring Stories of the Aga Khan from His “Toto” Days in Kenya

The three sweet stories were recorded in a diary kept by Kaderali B. Patel, who was responsible for imparting religious training to Prince Karim and Prince Amyn while they were in Kenya during the 2nd World War. They are produced at Barakah, Simerg’s Special Project “His Highness the Aga Khan A Visual and Textual Celebration”

PLEASE CLICK: The Aga Khan –  Sweet stories of his childhood days in Kenya 

Prince Karim Aga Khan on a rocking horse. Please click on photo for stories.

Date posted: March 30, 2017.

________________

A Story About a Celebration that Heralds Nawruz in a Remote Village in Pamirs

Concert Celebrating Nowruz

A photo taken at a UN concert celebrating Nowruz (also Novruz, Navruz, Nooroz, Nevruz, Nauryz). In 2010 the UN General Assembly proclaimed International Nowruz Day at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday — Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan. Inscribed in 2009 — and renewed in 2016 — on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as a cultural tradition. Observed by over 300 million people, Nowruz is an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. It promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

(In the following story, Sarkari Dawlatamamad from Siponj, Bartang,  describes the beauty of the celebration that heralds the New Year in the Pamirs. The story will be familiar to many Pamiris, even if in other villages the tradition is different, or only exists now in stories told by their parents and grandparents. The inspiration of the story was drawn from the beautiful documentary film SHOGUN, made by Pamiri filmaker Tolik Gadomamadov. The story has been adapted below from the highly acclaimed award winning book “With Our Own Hands” authored by Frederik van Oudenhoven and Jamila Haider.

BY FREDERIK VAN OUDENHOVEN AND JAMILA HAIDER
WITH SARKORI DOWLATAMAMAD

To understand how we celebrate Nawruz in the Pamirs and how important the holiday is to us, it is necessary first to tell you about time as we experience it in the Pamirs. Our time is different from time elsewhere; it differs even from valley to valley. Our experience of time is conditioned by our dependence on our lands, and our need to predict seasonal changes to coordinate our work in the fields. This is why our ancestors developed special calendars that follow the changes in the land: the passage of the sun through the villages and valleys; the behaviour of plants, animals and spirits; and the influences of these changes on the human body. The body and time are inseparable: you might say that our calendar records the procession of life rather than time, and individual days take meaning from their place in that procession. So, Nawruz, our New Year, is not simply a day of celebration, but the culmination of all the days leading up to it.

Preparations begin already on the darkest day of the year, the winter solstice, which marks the beginning of a period of intense cold in the Pamirs. This period is called chilla and lasts for forty days. When, towards the end of January, the sun shining through the skylight, or roetz, reaches the first mark on the wall, the chilla ends. This is the first sign that spring is coming and we celebrate Khir-pichor.

On the first day of Khir-pichor no guests are allowed to enter the house. Only on the second day, early in the morning, a cousin or niece can visit the house, bringing two kulcha (wedding bread), which they place next to the kitsor (traditional oven). We prepare his or her favourite food — kamoch-tarit (butter bread), khomnigul,  baht (sweet festive porridge), boj (celebratory soup with meat, if we have meat) — and offer a present as well. Afterwards, more people come and bring kulcha. We call this custom salom-salom. Later in the day, the community comes together to eat lunch and the khalifa (religious leader) performs du’a (act of worship for the fulfillment of specific needs, forgiveness or protection).

The Pamiri calendar begins on the second day of Khir-pichor, which literally means ‘sun-in-man’. From now on, the sun will slowly begin to gain in strength, marked by the symbolic passage of the sun‘s rays through the human body. It starts with the sole of the foot or the toenails and gradually climbs up towards the top of the head, before moving down again. The toenails, the top of the foot, the ankles, the shin, the calves of the legs…each part of the body indicates a period of three days. After approximately three weeks, when the sun reaches the knee and the next marking on the wall, we celebrate the second sign of the arrival of Nawruz, Khir-chizon (‘sun-in-knee’).

During Khir-chizon, we put a handful of seeds into the fire of the kitsor and after the fire has finished burning, we look for any remaining seeds in the ashes. These surviving seeds tell us our fortune; they help us know which crops to sow in the New Year. Afterwards we take the ashes and seeds outside and scatter them over the snow.

“Like the majority of the inhabitants of the Western Pamirs, the Bartangi also speak dialects of the family of the Indo-European, non-written Pamir languages. Religiously, they belong to the denomination of the Nizari-Ismailis, a sub-confession of Shia Islam. Nizari-Ismailis consider Aga Khan IV as the closest male descendent alive of the prophet Muhammad and as ephiphany of the divine light. His orders are absolutely binding. The Aga Khan propagates a version of Islam open to progress and to intellectual discourse with the west. His faith is practised even in the remote Bartang valley, enriched with some locally specific practices.” — Excerpt from the website http://www.bartang-has-future.com.

On the first day of Khir-chizon, we prepare boj, and share it with our neighbours. On the second day, we prepare baht. That is why, in our village in Bartang, we also refer to this holiday as Baht ayom.

When, finally, the snow begins to melt and the sun rises over the point on the mountain which we call amalkhana, it is time to celebrate Nawruz in our calendar, the Sun has reached the Heart.

We celebrate Nawruz with great happiness and intensity; Nawruz is the end of a long and difficult winter and the beginning of a new cycle of growth. It reminds us of our great dependence on the Earth, the Sun and Water, and each celebration is an occasion to ask God and the angels to grant us good harvests and healthy, productive animals.

The women and girls will clean every corner of the house and use brooms blessed with wheat flour to chase away the bad spirits that have taken shelter in the nooks and crannies of the wood. Flour is also used to decorate the beams of the ceilings which have been blackened by smoke over time: simple hand prints, old  Zoroastrian patterns whose meaning has often been forgotten, or drawings of sheep and shepherds so that the house will not be without shepherd and a flock of sheep this year. Juniper twigs adorn the pillars of the houses, they bring fertility and blessings.

The men cut the bark of willow branches and weave them into flowers which, once the cleaning is finished and they are allowed back into the house, they offer to the women, with the traditional New Year greeting. The willow is associated with the productivity while the flower is the symbol of joy, abundance and people’s harmony with nature. In every household in the village women will prepare sumanak (pudding made from germinated wheat). It is one of the most well-known new year dishes in Central Asia.

Date posted: March 21, 2017

________________

The Aga Khan: Prince with a Smile Who Fulfills True Role of Religion, A Tribute by Léopold Senghor

“What we admire in you above all is 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” — READ MORE @ Barakah His Highness the Aga Khan a Visual and Textual Celebration

Please click on image for article.

 Date posted: March 18, 2017.

_________________

Timeline 1995: The Aga Khan’s First Visit to Badakhshan, a Historic Day His Ismaili Followers Will Never Forget

“I was at my uncle’s and there were about 15 of us living at his house. I didn’t understand why suddenly all the grownups started to cry and say SHUKR MAWLO, SHUKR MAWLO. Then the news said that humanitarian aides would be sent as soon as possible…Time went and we reached the most momentous day in our life: May 25, 1995, a historical date that no Badakhshani will ever forget. We were blessed with Mawla’s didar for the very first time.” —  READ MORE @ Barakah: His Highness the Aga Khan A Visual and Textual Celebration

PLEASE CLICK: The Aga Khan’s First Visit to Badakhshan, A Historic Day the Ismailis Will Never Forget

Please click on image for story and photos.

Date posted: Sunday, March 12, 2017.

_________________