The Alhambra: Photos of Spain’s most visited monument by Muslim Harji

With 8,500 thousand people visiting the Alhambra everyday, it is Spain’s most visited monument. Muslim and Nevin Harji made it a point to see Islam’s crown jewel in Spain when they visited Lisbon to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan.

PLEASE CLICK:  SPAIN’S ARCHITECTURAL MASTERPIECES: THE AL HAMBRA PALACE IN GRANADA AND THE GREAT MOSQUE IN CORDOBA THROUGH THE LENS OF MUSLIM HARJI

Please click on image for Muslim Harji’s photo essay,

Date posted: November 4, 2018.
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As Canada legalizes recreational use of marijuana, the Ismaili Jamat and its youth must seek to apply principles of good health and good judgement as articulated by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

By Abdulmalik Merchant

Effective October 17, 2018, Canada is legalizing the recreational use of cannabis or marijuana. The current Federal Liberal Government led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has justified legalization “to better protect the health and safety of Canadians, to keep cannabis out of the hands of youth and to keep profits out of the hands of criminals and organized crime.” Canada is only the second nation in the world to implement legislation to permit a nationwide marijuana market.

This website is deeply concerned about the new law and what the health effects will mean in the years and decades to come. There has been a worrisome assumption that the recreational use of marijuana enjoys the same level of safety and oversight as the doctor-prescribed use of medical marijuana.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has been very clear that the overall principle of Islam of health and well-being must never be abandoned. He emphasized that in a Farman made on Sunday, August 3, 1969 in London, England:

“Do not abandon the overall principle of good health, of good morality which Islam has taught all the members of its faith. To the young, I say, remember that one day you will be parents, and ask yourselves if you will authorize your children to participate in certain habits which are prevalent in the Western World, and I am sure the answer will be in the vast majority, no. Because our Jamat is a strong Jamat, and I want you to be absolutely clear in your minds that when you come to another society, you must have the wisdom to absorb that which is good and to ignore or reject that which would be detrimental to you or to your family.”

On November 11, 1970, he made the following remarks at the Darkhana Jamatkhana, Dar es Salaam:

“In the past I have said to you, do not squander your money on social habits which are of no interest and which are harmful and I have mentioned smoking, I have mentioned drinking. I now add to the list drug-taking.

“I say to you today, and particularly the younger generation, use your energy, use your imagination, use your strength, but do not waste it. Do not waste it in drinking, in smoking cigarettes, in eating, in smoking drugs or whatever it may be. This is not for our Jamat. I say to you stay a healthy Jamat and face the problems without wasting your energy and time and money on these other habits. Remember this is a matter of importance, because these habits can weaken the Jamat.”

On November 13, 1985, Mawlana Hazar Imam laid out the following path for his Jamat around the world:

“The Imam-of-the-Time guides his spiritual children on matters of importance during their lifetime and in the past I have recommended to you to live a disciplined life. The Industrialized world and other parts of the world are beginning to suffer from an increasing production and consumption of drugs and I wish to recommend to my Jamat strongly today, most strongly, most vigorously, not to grow any form of agricultural product that can be transformed into drugs, not to trade in drugs, and not to consume drugs. It damages the individual, it damages his family, it damages society, it damages future generations. So I say to my spiritual children today in Pakistan and elsewhere, forego everything that has to do with drugs.” [*]

We publish below DrugFacts on marijuana from the website of the US National Institute on Drug Abuse. The article neither condones nor attacks the recreational use of cannabis. However, we wish our readers to keep the above principles laid out by Mawlana Hazar Imam foremost in their minds before contemplating or engaging in any recreational use of marijuana.

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DrugFacts: Marijuana

By National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

What is marijuana?

Photo of marijuana leaves.

Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant. The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other similar compounds. Extracts can also be made from the cannabis plant (see Marijuana Extracts, below).

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. [1] Its use is widespread among young people. In 2015, more than 11 million young adults ages 18 to 25 used marijuana in the past year. [1] According to the Monitoring the Future survey, rates of marijuana use among middle and high school students have dropped or leveled off in the past few years after several years of increase. However, the number of young people who believe regular marijuana use is risky is decreasing. [2]

Legalization of marijuana for medical use or adult recreational use in a growing number of states may affect these views. Read more about marijuana as medicine in DrugFacts: Marijuana as Medicine.

How do people use marijuana?

People smoke marijuana in hand-rolled cigarettes (joints) or in pipes or water pipes (bongs). They also smoke it in blunts — emptied cigars that have been partly or completely refilled with marijuana. To avoid inhaling smoke, some people are using vaporizers. These devices pull the active ingredients (including THC) from the marijuana and collect their vapor in a storage unit. A person then inhales the vapor, not the smoke. Some vaporizers use a liquid marijuana extract.

People can mix marijuana in food (edibles), such as brownies, cookies, or candy, or brew it as a tea. A newly popular method of use is smoking or eating different forms of THC-rich resins (see Marijuana Extracts, below).

MARIJUANA EXTRACTS

Smoking THC-rich resins extracted from the marijuana plant is on the rise. People call this practice dabbing. These extracts come in various forms, such as:

  • hash oil or honey oil — a gooey liquid
  • wax or budder&mdsh; a soft solid with a texture like lip balm
  • shatter — a hard, amber-colored solid

These extracts can deliver extremely large amounts of THC to the body, and their use has sent some people to the emergency room. Another danger is in preparing these extracts, which usually involves butane (lighter fluid). A number of people have caused fires and explosions and have been seriously burned from using butane to make extracts at home. [3], [4]

How does marijuana affect the brain?

Marijuana has both short-and long-term effects on the brain.

Image of a cross section of the brain with marked areas that are affected by THC.THC acts on numerous areas in the brain (in yellow). Image by NIDA

Short-Term Effects

When a person smokes marijuana, THC quickly passes from the lungs into the bloodstream. The blood carries the chemical to the brain and other organs throughout the body. The body absorbs THC more slowly when the person eats or drinks it. In that case, they generally feel the effects after 30 minutes to 1 hour.

THC acts on specific brain cell receptors that ordinarily react to natural THC-like chemicals. These natural chemicals play a role in normal brain development and function.

Marijuana overactivates parts of the brain that contain the highest number of these receptors. This causes the “high” that people feel. Other effects include:

  • altered senses (for example, seeing brighter colors)
  • altered sense of time
  • changes in mood
  • impaired body movement
  • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
  • impaired memory
  • hallucinations (when taken in high doses)
  • delusions (when taken in high doses)
  • psychosis (when taken in high doses)

Long-Term Effects

Marijuana also affects brain development. When people begin using marijuana as teenagers, the drug may impair thinking, memory, and learning functions and affect how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. Researchers are still studying how long marijuana’s effects last and whether some changes may be permanent.

For example, a study from New Zealand conducted in part by researchers at Duke University showed that people who started smoking marijuana heavily in their teens and had an ongoing marijuana use disorder lost an average of 8 IQ points between ages 13 and 38. The lost mental abilities didn’t fully return in those who quit marijuana as adults. Those who started smoking marijuana as adults didn’t show notable IQ declines. [5]

In another recent study on twins, those who used marijuana showed a significant decline in general knowledge and in verbal ability (equivalent to 4 IQ points) between the preteen years and early adulthood, but no predictable difference was found between twins when one used marijuana and the other didn’t. This suggests that the IQ decline in marijuana users may be caused by something other than marijuana, such as shared familial factors (e.g., genetics, family environment). [6] NIDA’s Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study, a major longitudinal study, is tracking a large sample of young Americans from late childhood to early adulthood to help clarify how and to what extent marijuana and other substances, alone and in combination, affect adolescent brain development. Read more about the ABCD study on our  Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Brain and Cognitive Development (ABCD Study) webpage.

A RISE IN MARIJUANA’S THC LEVELS

The amount of THC in marijuana has been increasing steadily over the past few decades. [7] For a person who’s new to marijuana use, this may mean exposure to higher THC levels with a greater chance of a harmful reaction. Higher THC levels may explain the rise in emergency room visits involving marijuana use.

The popularity of edibles also increases the chance of harmful reactions. Edibles take longer to digest and produce a high. Therefore, people may consume more to feel the effects faster, leading to dangerous results.

Higher THC levels may also mean a greater risk for addiction if people are regularly exposing themselves to high doses.

What are the other health effects of marijuana?

Marijuana use may have a wide range of effects, both physical and mental.

PHYSICAL EFFECTS

Breathing problems

Marijuana smoke irritates the lungs, and people who smoke marijuana frequently can have the same breathing problems as those who smoke tobacco. These problems include daily cough and phlegm, more frequent lung illness, and a higher risk of lung infections. Researchers so far haven’t found a higher risk for lung cancer in people who smoke marijuana. [8]

Increased heart rate

Marijuana raises heart rate for up to 3 hours after smoking. This effect may increase the chance of heart attack. Older people and those with heart problems may be at higher risk.

Problems with child development during and after pregnancy

One study found that about 20% of pregnant women 24-years-old and younger screened positive for marijuana. However, this study also found that women were about twice as likely to screen positive for marijuana use via a drug test than they state in self-reported measures. [9] This suggests that self-reported rates of marijuana use in pregnant females is not an accurate measure of marijuana use and may be underreporting their use. Additionally, in one study of dispensaries, nonmedical personnel at marijuana dispensaries were recommending marijuana to pregnant women for nausea, but medical experts warn against it. This concerns medical experts because marijuana use during pregnancy is linked to lower birth weight [10] and increased risk of both brain and behavioral problems in babies. If a pregnant woman uses marijuana, the drug may affect certain developing parts of the fetus’s brain. Children exposed to marijuana in the womb have an increased risk of problems with attention, [11] memory, and problem-solving compared to unexposed children. [12] Some research also suggests that moderate amounts of THC are excreted into the breast milk of nursing mothers. [13] With regular use, THC can reach amounts in breast milk that could affect the baby’s developing brain. More research is needed. Read our Marijuana Research Report for more information about marijuana and pregnancy.

Intense Nausea and Vomiting

Regular, long-term marijuana use can lead to some people to develop Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. This causes users to experience regular cycles of severe nausea, vomiting, and dehydration, sometimes requiring emergency medical attention. [14]

MENTAL EFFECTS

Long-term marijuana use has been linked to mental illness in some people, such as:

  • temporary hallucinations
  • temporary paranoia
  • worsening symptoms in patients with schizophrenia—a severe mental disorder with symptoms such as hallucinations, paranoia, and disorganized thinking

Marijuana use has also been linked to other mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts among teens. However, study findings have been mixed.

Are there effects of inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke?

Failing a Drug Test?

While it’s possible to fail a drug test after inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke, it’s unlikely. Studies show that very little THC is released in the air when a person exhales. Research findings suggest that, unless people are in an enclosed room, breathing in lots of smoke for hours at close range, they aren’t likely to fail a drug test. [15], [16] Even if some THC was found in the blood, it wouldn’t be enough to fail a test.

Getting high from passive exposure?

Similarly, it’s unlikely that secondhand marijuana smoke would give nonsmoking people in a confined space a high from passive exposure. Studies have shown that people who don’t use marijuana report only mild effects of the drug from a nearby smoker, under extreme conditions (breathing in lots of marijuana smoke for hours in an enclosed room). [17]

Other Health Effects?

More research is needed to know if secondhand marijuana smoke has similar health risks as secondhand tobacco smoke. A recent study on rats suggests that secondhand marijuana smoke can do as much damage to the heart and blood vessels as secondhand tobacco smoke. [20] But researchers haven’t fully explored the effect of secondhand marijuana smoke on humans. What they do know is that the toxins and tar found in marijuana smoke could affect vulnerable people, such as children or people with asthma.

HOW DOES MARIJUANA AFFECT A PERSON’S LIFE?

Compared to those who don’t use marijuana, those who frequently use large amounts report the following:

  • lower life satisfaction
  • poorer mental health
  • poorer physical health
  • more relationship problems

People also report less academic and career success. For example, marijuana use is linked to a higher likelihood of dropping out of school. [18] It’s also linked to more job absences, accidents, and injuries. [19].

Is marijuana a gateway drug?

Use of alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana are likely to come before use of other drugs. [21], [22] Animal studies have shown that early exposure to addictive substances, including THC, may change how the brain responds to other drugs. For example, when rodents are repeatedly exposed to THC when they’re young, they later show an enhanced response to other addictive substances—such as morphine or nicotine—in the areas of the brain that control reward, and they’re more likely to show addiction-like behaviors. [23], [24]

Although these findings support the idea of marijuana as a “gateway drug,” the majority of people who use marijuana don’t go on to use other “harder” drugs. It’s also important to note that other factors besides biological mechanisms, such as a person’s social environment, are also critical in a person’s risk for drug use and addiction. Read more about marijuana as a gateway drug in our Marijuana Research Report.

Can a person overdose on marijuana?

An overdose occurs when a person uses enough of the drug to produce life-threatening symptoms or death. There are no reports of teens or adults dying from marijuana alone. However, some people who use marijuana can feel some very uncomfortable side effects, especially when using marijuana products with high THC levels. People have reported symptoms such as anxiety and paranoia, and in rare cases, an extreme psychotic reaction (which can include delusions and hallucinations) that can lead them to seek treatment in an emergency room.

While a psychotic reaction can occur following any method of use, emergency room responders have seen an increasing number of cases involving marijuana edibles. Some people (especially preteens and teens) who know very little about edibles don’t realize that it takes longer for the body to feel marijuana’s effects when eaten rather than smoked. So they consume more of the edible, trying to get high faster or thinking they haven’t taken enough. In addition, some babies and toddlers have been seriously ill after ingesting marijuana or marijuana edibles left around the house.

Is marijuana addictive?

Marijuana use can lead to the development of a substance use disorder, a medical illness in which the person is unable to stop using even though it’s causing health and social problems in their life. Severe substance use disorders are also known as addiction. Research suggests that between 9 and 30 percent of those who use marijuana may develop some degree of marijuana use disorder. [25] People who begin using marijuana before age 18 are four to seven times more likely than adults to develop a marijuana use disorder.26

Many people who use marijuana long term and are trying to quit report mild withdrawal symptoms that make quitting difficult. These include:

  • grouchiness
  • sleeplessness
  • decreased appetite
  • anxiety
  • cravings

What treatments are available for marijuana use disorder?

No medications are currently available to treat marijuana use disorder, but behavioral support has been shown to be effective. Examples include therapy and motivational incentives (providing rewards to patients who remain drug-free). Continuing research may lead to new medications that help ease withdrawal symptoms, block the effects of marijuana, and prevent relapse.

POINTS TO REMEMBER

  • Marijuana refers to the dried leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds from the Cannabis sativa or Cannabis indica plant.
  • The plant contains the mind-altering chemical THC and other related compounds.
  • People use marijuana by smoking, eating, drinking, or inhaling it.
  • Smoking and vaping THC-rich extracts from the marijuana plant (a practice called dabbing) is on the rise.
  • THC overactivates certain brain cell receptors, resulting in effects such as:
    • altered senses
    • changes in mood
    • impaired body movement
    • difficulty with thinking and problem-solving
    • impaired memory and learning
  • Marijuana use can have a wide range of health effects, including:
    • hallucinations and paranoia
    • breathing problems
    • possible harm to a fetus’s brain in pregnant women
  • The amount of THC in marijuana has been increasing steadily in recent decades, creating more harmful effects in some people.
  • It’s unlikely that a person will fail a drug test or get high from passive exposure by inhaling secondhand marijuana smoke.
  • There aren’t any reports of teens and adults dying from using marijuana alone, but marijuana use can cause some very uncomfortable side effects, such as anxiety and paranoia and, in rare cases, extreme psychotic reactions.
  • Marijuana use can lead to a substance use disorder, which can develop into an addiction in severe cases.
  • No medications are currently available to treat marijuana use disorder, but behavioral support can be effective.

Date posted: October 13, 2018

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LEARN MORE

For more information about marijuana and marijuana use, visit

REFERENCES

[*] Farman quotes from archives and notes of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) on social habits.

[1] Substance Abuse Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Results from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables. SAMHSA. https://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015/NSDUH-DetTabs-2015.pdf. Published September 8, 2016. Accessed January 18, 2017.

[2] Johnston L, O’Malley P, Miech R, Bachman J, Schulenberg J. Monitoring the Future National Survey Results on Drug Use: 1975-2015: Overview: Key Findings on Adolescent Drug Use. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan; 2015.

[3] Bell C, Slim J, Flaten HK, Lindberg G, Arek W, Monte AA. Butane Hash Oil Burns Associated with Marijuana Liberalization in Colorado. J Med Toxicol Off J Am Coll Med Toxicol. 2015;11(4):422-425. doi:10.1007/s13181-015-0501-0.

[4] Romanowski KS, Barsun A, Kwan P, et al. Butane Hash Oil Burns: A 7-Year Perspective on a Growing Problem. J Burn Care Res Off Publ Am Burn Assoc. 2017;38(1):e165-e171. doi:10.1097/BCR.0000000000000334.

[5] Meier MH, Caspi A, Ambler A, et al. Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109(40):E2657-E2664. doi:10.1073/pnas.1206820109.

[6] Jackson NJ, Isen JD, Khoddam R, et al. Impact of adolescent marijuana use on intelligence: Results from two longitudinal twin studies. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016;113(5):E500-E508. doi:10.1073/pnas.1516648113.

[7] Mehmedic Z, Chandra S, Slade D, et al. Potency trends of Δ9-THC and other cannabinoids in confiscated cannabis preparations from 1993 to 2008. J Forensic Sci. 2010;55(5):1209-1217. doi:10.1111/j.1556-4029.2010.01441.x.

[8] National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2017.

[9] Young-Wolff KC, Tucker L-Y, Alexeeff S, et al. Trends in Self-reported and Biochemically Tested Marijuana Use Among Pregnant Females in California From 2009-2016. JAMA. 2017;318(24):2490. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.17225

[10] The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Health and Medicine Division, Board on Population Health and Public Health Practice, Committee on the Health Effects of Marijuana: An Evidence Review and Research Agenda. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/Reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx. Accessed January 19, 2017.

[11] Goldschmidt L, Day NL, Richardson GA. Effects of prenatal marijuana exposure on child behavior problems at age 10. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2000;22(3):325-336.

[12] Richardson GA, Ryan C, Willford J, Day NL, Goldschmidt L. Prenatal alcohol and marijuana exposure: effects on neuropsychological outcomes at 10 years. Neurotoxicol Teratol. 2002;24(3):309-320.

[13] Perez-Reyes M, Wall ME. Presence of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in human milk. N Engl J Med. 1982;307(13):819-820. doi:10.1056/NEJM198209233071311.

[14] Galli JA, Sawaya RA, Friedenberg FK. Cannabinoid Hyperemesis Syndrome. Curr Drug Abuse Rev. 2011;4(4):241-249.

[15] Röhrich J, Schimmel I, Zörntlein S, et al. Concentrations of delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol and 11-nor-9-carboxytetrahydrocannabinol in blood and urine after passive exposure to Cannabis smoke in a coffee shop. J Anal Toxicol. 2010;34(4):196-203.

[16] Cone EJ, Bigelow GE, Herrmann ES, et al. Non-smoker exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke. I. Urine screening and confirmation results. J Anal Toxicol. 2015;39(1):1-12. doi:10.1093/jat/bku116.

[17] Herrmann ES, Cone EJ, Mitchell JM, et al. Non-smoker exposure to secondhand cannabis smoke II: Effect of room ventilation on the physiological, subjective, and behavioral/cognitive effects. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2015;151:194-202. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2015.03.019.

[18] McCaffrey DF, Pacula RL, Han B, Ellickson P. Marijuana Use and High School Dropout: The Influence of Unobservables. Health Econ. 2010;19(11):1281-1299. doi:10.1002/hec.1561.

[19] Zwerling C, Ryan J, Orav EJ. The efficacy of preemployment drug screening for marijuana and cocaine in predicting employment outcome. JAMA. 1990;264(20):2639-2643.

[20] Wang X, Derakhshandeh R, Liu J, et al. One Minute of Marijuana Secondhand Smoke Exposure Substantially Impairs Vascular Endothelial Function. J Am Heart Assoc. 2016;5(8). doi:10.1161/JAHA.116.003858.

[21] Secades-Villa R, Garcia-Rodríguez O, Jin CJ, Wang S, Blanco C. Probability and predictors of the cannabis gateway effect: a national study. Int J Drug Policy. 2015;26(2):135-142. doi:10.1016/j.drugpo.2014.07.011.

[22] Levine A, Huang Y, Drisaldi B, et al. Molecular mechanism for a gateway drug: epigenetic changes initiated by nicotine prime gene expression by cocaine. Sci Transl Med. 2011;3(107):107ra109. doi:10.1126/scitranslmed.3003062.

[23] Panlilio LV, Zanettini C, Barnes C, Solinas M, Goldberg SR. Prior exposure to THC increases the addictive effects of nicotine in rats. Neuropsychopharmacol Off Publ Am Coll Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013;38(7):1198-1208. doi:10.1038/npp.2013.16.

[24] Cadoni C, Pisanu A, Solinas M, Acquas E, Di Chiara G. Behavioural sensitization after repeated exposure to Delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cross-sensitization with morphine. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2001;158(3):259-266. doi:10.1007/s002130100875.

[25] Hasin DS, Saha TD, Kerridge BT, et al. Prevalence of Marijuana Use Disorders in the United States Between 2001-2002 and 2012-2013. JAMA Psychiatry. 2015;72(12):1235-1242. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.1858.

[26] Winters KC, Lee C-YS. Likelihood of developing an alcohol and cannabis use disorder during youth: association with recent use and age. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2008;92(1-3):239-247. doi:10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2007.08.005.

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The above piece on marijuana may be reproduced in its entirety without permission from the NIDA. Citation of the source is appreciated, using the following language: Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The Life of Jehangir Merchant: Ismaili missionary who rendered long and dedicated services to the Jamat and the Imam-of-the-Time

PLEASE CLICK: “Life of Jehangir” – includes historical photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam

Please click on image for “Life of Jehangir” in photos.

Date posted: September 11, 2018.

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Ghadir-Khumm by Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and the Imamat by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Aga Khan

NOTICE TO OUR READERS

This is to inform our readers that no new posts will be published on Simerg and its sister websites barakah and simergphotos, until the week of September 10, 2018. We invite our readers to click on  Table of Contents for links to hundreds of interesting pieces that have appeared on all the three websites.

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(The following post celebrates Id-e-Ghadir, a major festival in the Shia calendar which falls on 18th Dhul-Hijjah, Tuesday, August 28, 2018). 

For our highly acclaimed series “I Wish I’d Been There”, we invited historians, authors,  and educators as well as our readers to be fly on the wall and answer the question: What is the one scene, incident or event in Ismaili history you would like to have witnessed — and why? One of the thirty-one contributors for the series, Ismaili missionary, teacher and writer Late Jehangir Merchant, went back 1400 years to the beginnings of Islamic history and imaginatively constructed a picture of the iconic event when Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) raised the hand of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and declared, “He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is also the Mawla!” Alwaez Jehangir’s skillful writing brings alive a pivotal time in human history. The long serving educator passed away recently at the age of 89, and will be greatly missed by all.

The Two Weighty Matters

By JEHANGIR A. MERCHANT (1928-2018)

A huge caravan of around 100,000 Muslim pilgrims, spread over many miles of the desert, is returning to Medina after completing the Hajj in Mecca. As it reaches Ghadir-Khumm, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) is commanded by Allah to deliver one of the last verses of the Holy Qur’an:

“O Messenger of Allah, make known what has been revealed to you from your Lord, for if you do not, you will not have conveyed His message. Allah will protect you from mankind.” (Holy Qur’an, 5 : 67)

00 Jehangir Merchant Portrait Queen Elizabeth Park Vancouver Cropped for Simerg

Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018)

The date is March 16, 632 C.E. A camp is then decreed at this valley, and the caravan gathers together in a vast open space. A platform is constructed from which the Prophet would speak.

The revelation of the verse renders this as one of the most unique messages in the Prophet’s entire mission. It is crucial, and failing to deliver the message will make his prophetic mission incomplete. The Prophet mounts the rudimentary platform with Hazrat Ali (a.s.) by his side. The murmuring in the crowd turns to a silence.

As the Prophet begins his speech, he pronounces the verse he has received from Allah. He then seeks a confirmation from the pilgrims as to whether he has indeed proclaimed all of God’s commands. They affirm this with a resounding voice. Looking up into the desert sky, the Prophet says, “O God! You be our witness to this day.”

“What could this be all about, with Ali on the stage beside the Prophet? A revelation of twenty three years nullified and judged incomplete without the announcement he is about to make!” I might have pondered, had I been there.

The Holy Prophet’s subsequent actions and words provide the context of Hazrat Ali’s presence on the stage. The Prophet takes Hazrat Ali by his hand and raising it pronounces in his high, clear and firm tone:

“He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is also the Mawla. O Allah! Be the friend of him who is his friend and the enemy of him who is his enemy. O Allah! Help the one who helps Ali and forsake the one who forsakes Ali!”

This singularly important Message from Allah, and the words of the Prophet find further clarity as he adds the following pronouncement:

“I am leaving amongst you two weighty things after me, the Qur’an and my Progeny (ahl al-bayt). Verily, if you hold fast to them both you will never go astray. Both are tied with a long rope and cannot be separated till the Day of Judgement.” (Muslim, Vol. II, pg. 279)

With these pronouncements, the Prophet lays the foundation for a new Divine Order. The two weighty matters (thaqalain) – Allah’s final Book and the Holy Prophet’s progeny through Hazrat Ali – are new partners till the Day of Judgement.

Before descending from the pulpit, the Holy Prophet commands every one of the returning pilgrims to offer their baiyah (oath of allegiance) to Mawla Ali. Omar ibne Khuttab, who later became the second Caliph, was the first to congratulate and offer his baiyah to Mawla Ali saying:

‘‘Congratulations! Congratulations! O son of Abu Taleb, you have now become my Mawla (Master) and Mawla of every faithful man and every faithful woman.” (Ghazzali, Sirrul-Alameen)

Hearing the words of felicitations offered by Omar to Ali, our Holy Prophet asks him to address Ali not as ‘son of Abu Taleb’ but as Amirul-Mu’mineen (the Lord Commander of the faithfuls).

Thereafter, the pilgrims present offer their baiyah. The Prophet also commands them that on their return they ask those not present to acknowledge Ali as their Amirul-Mu’mineen.

This momentous event at Ghadir-Khumm, almost at the end of Prophet Muhammad’s successful mission as the Last and Final Prophet of Allah, culminates thousands of years of Divine Revelations through God’s appointed Messengers. And thus, the revelation:

“This day have I perfected your religion for you and have completed My favours upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Holy Qur’an, 5:3)

Thus, Ali becomes the guardian (Wali) and the master (Mawla) of all believing men and women, and the Prophet’s successor. Allah’s favours upon mankind are completed, and Islam becomes the perfect religion in His sight.

A bilateral Guardianship (al-Walaya) between Hazrat Ali and the Muslim community is established. Al-Walaya is so crucial that many generations later, the 4th Imam, Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) says:

“The last obligatory duty that Allah sent down was al-Walaya (adherence to the guardian designated by Allah). Then, He sent down the verse: ‘Today, I have completed your religion ….’” (Holy Qur’an, 5:3).

The oath of allegiance offered to Hazrat Ali at Ghadir-Khumm as well as the Qur’anic verse (48:10) concerning the bayah is too important to be ignored, and some five centuries later a thinking Nasir Khushraw, who is not yet an Ismaili, demands answers for questions that bother him:

“Why should later believers be deprived of this reward (of bayah)? What fault was it of theirs that they were not born in the time of the Prophet? Why should God allow that hand to disappear? There has to be someone at whose hand the oath to Allah can be pledged.”

Nasir Khusraw does not despair. His resolve and quest take him to Cairo where the hand of the Fatimid Imam al-Mustansir bi Allah (a.s.) awaits him.

The complete event at Ghadir-Khumm — the caravan halt arising for the revelation 5:67, the gathering at one location of widely dispersed pilgrims, the construction of a rudimentary platform, Allah’s Message revealed by our Holy Prophet Muhammad giving Hazrat Ali the parity with himself by ascribing him the attribute of Mawla as well as instructing Muslims to hold fast to both the Holy Qur’an and his progeny, the raising by the Holy Prophet of Hazrat Ali’s hand followed by the bayah to Hazrat Ali — make this a singular event for me and I Wish I’d Been There.

But, at the same time, my mind wonders about the events that followed soon after the spirit of our Holy Prophet took flight to the Blessed Companionship on High. About eighty days had passed since the event at Ghadir-Khumm, when our Holy Prophet had made Allah a witness to his call and had seen the bayah pledged to Hazrat Ali. Why now was there a doubt and unwillingness to accept Ali as their Mawla? And why did Omar, who was the first to offer bayah to Mawla Ali, declare his support for Abu-Bakr as the Caliph at Saqa-e-fae-bani Saa’ada?

Nonetheless, the Divine Plan of continual Guidance established at this epoch-making incident has continued to flourish uninterruptedly under Divine Protection for over 1400 years. This principle of direct hereditary descent of the Imam from the Prophet was championed centuries later by the Ismaili poet Nizar Quhistani, often with the support of the following Quranic verse:

“Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all people – offspring, one of the other, and Allah knows and hears all things.” (Holy Qur’an, 3:33-34)

Quhistani explained:

“We search for a union with the family of the Chosen (Prophet Muhammad). We search for the truth of son after son. We are totally obedient to his offspring, one of the other. There is no other thing we can add to this but itself. We endeavour in our faith so that we do not turn out to be faithless.”

Thus millions of murids over time have been beneficiaries of the Imams’ guardianship and today we feel this intimate loving care from our 49th Imam, Noor Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam.

I Wish I’d Been There for that epochal event of March 16, 632, when our beloved Prophet Muhammad laid the foundation for the Institution of Imamat which will stay with Mankind forever as affirmed by the Hadith Thaqalain and the Qur’anic verses mentioned above. To conclude, Allah declares in the Holy Qur’an:

“Their intention is to extinguish God’s Light (by blowing) with their mouths; But God has willed to spread His Light in all its fullness however hateful this may be to all who deny the Truth.” (Holy Qur’an, 61:8).

Copyright: Simerg.com

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His Highness the Aga Khan on the Imamat

Aga Khan Speaking at the Signing of Historic Agreement Seat of Imamat in Portugal

His Highness the Aga Khan

“…As you know, the Shi’a divided from the Sunni after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, was, in Shi’a belief, named by the Prophet to be the Legitimate Authority for the interpretation of the faith. For the Shi’a today, all over the world, he is regarded as the first Imam.” [1]  His Highness the Aga Khan, Tutzing Evangelical Academy, May 20, 2006.

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“The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself.” [2]

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“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet. But let me clarify something more about the history of that role, in both the Sunni and Shia interpretations of the Muslim faith. The Sunni position is that the Prophet nominated no successor, and that spiritual-moral authority belongs to those who are learned in matters of religious law. As a result, there are many Sunni imams in a given time and place. But others believed that the Prophet had designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up — but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet. [3]

Date posted: August 27, 2018.

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Notes/References:

[1]. His Highness the Aga Khan, Tutzing Evangelical Academy, May 20, 2006. See Speech Archives.

[2].  Voices: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale

[3] In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race

Read individual articles at  I Wish I’d Been There or download PDF.

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Kofi Annan (1938-2018): Excerpts from an introduction by His Highness the Aga Khan and rare letters from His Highness and Prince Sadruddin to the former Secretary General

Kofi Annan (1938-2018): A Statement by the Annan Family

Kofi Annan

Photo: Kofi Annan Foundation.

It is with immense sadness that the Annan family and the Kofi Annan Foundation announce that Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Nobel Peace Laureate, passed away peacefully on Saturday 18th August after a short illness. His wife Nane and their children Ama, Kojo and Nina were by his side during his last days.

Kofi Annan was a global statesman and a deeply committed internationalist who fought throughout his life for a fairer and more peaceful world. During his distinguished career and leadership of the United Nations he was an ardent champion of peace, sustainable development, human rights and the rule of law.

After stepping down from the United Nations, he continued to work tirelessly in the cause of peace through his chairmanship of the Kofi Annan Foundation and as chair of The Elders, the group founded by Nelson Mandela. He was an inspiration to young and old alike.

Kofi Annan was a son of Ghana and felt a special responsibility towards Africa. He was particularly committed to African development and deeply engaged in many initiatives, including his chairmanship of the Africa Progress Panel and his early leadership of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

Wherever there was suffering or need, he reached out and touched many people with his deep compassion and empathy. He selflessly placed others first, radiating genuine kindness, warmth and brilliance in all he did. He will be greatly missed by so many around the world, as well as his staff at the Foundation and his many former colleagues in the United Nations system. He will remain in our hearts forever.

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Aga Khan Attends Kofi Annan’s Funeral

Kofi Annan Funeral

Surrounded by family, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s widow Nane pays final respects to her late husband in Accra, Ghana on 13 September 2018. Photo: UN Photo/Ben Malor.

The following report is adapted from http://www.Akdn.org.

His Highness the Aga Khan, at the invitation of the President of Ghana, His Excellency Nana Akufo-Addo, on September 13, 2018 joined world leaders to pay tribute to former Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan.  Mr Annan was laid to rest at a State funeral in Accra, Ghana earlier on September 13.

The Aga Khan, Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and founder of the Aga Khan Development Network, was accompanied by his daughter Princess Zahra Aga Khan.

Mr Annan was a friend of the family and a valued partner of the Aga Khan Development Network. In 2010, he was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism, founded by the Aga Khan in Ottawa Canada, in partnership with the Government of Canada. The Centre was created to advance positive responses to the challenge of living peacefully and productively together in diverse societies. 

His Highness thanked the Government of Ghana for bringing together dignitaries, friends and colleagues from around the world to honour Mr Annan’s accomplishments.

He paid tribute to Mr Annan’s service to the cause of peace and tolerance. “Kofi Annan fought for peace, dignity, and respect, traits which he embodied throughout his life’s work. Mr Annan was a unique leader, who, as Secretary General of the United Nations, as a member of the Elders and through the Kofi Annan Foundation, had an impact on world events which will be remembered for their contribution to help bring stability and hope to so many parts of the globe.  He was a remarkably generous individual and trusted friend.  He will be greatly missed.”

Princess Zahra, who served on the Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism with Kofi Annan, also expressed her deep sadness at the loss of the visionary leader.

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Excerpts from an introduction of Kofi Annan given by His Highness the Aga Khan

2013-05-Canada-6822_Aga Khan and Kofi Annan

His Highness the Aga Khan, Chairman of the Board of the Global Centre of the Pluralism (GCP), Kofi Annan, a member of the GCP Board with Secretary General of the GCP John McNee, shortly after Mr Anan delivered the Global Centre for Pluralism’s second annual Pluralism Lecture on May 24, 2013 at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa. Photo: AKDN.

MAY 24, 2013, OTTAWA: As you know, Kofi Annan retired from his official post [UN Secretary General] six years ago. But he has in no way retired from his role as an active global statesman – tirelessly working to foster peaceful dialogue around the world.

I remember vividly – and I know you do also – the role he played when violence erupted in Kenya after the 2007 election. He led the way in bringing clashing voices together, and the result was a successful power-sharing arrangement which ended the crisis and paved the way for major constitutional reform.

Now, six years later, another election in Kenya has recently come and gone – this time without major violence. I think we all have recognized and remembered – as the Kenyan people do – how important have been the foundations that Kofi Annan did so much to build in 2007.

We also recall the political violence in Cote D’Ivoire in 2011, when Kofi Annan, in his capacity as an Elder, once again pressed for resolution. And these dramatic moments are only particular examples of his continuing efforts – day by day and year by year – in the service of global harmony.

Our honoree also leads the Kofi Annan Foundation in dealing with critical global issues such as food security, governance, climate change, drug-trafficking and HIV/AIDS. And you may know as well about his leadership role in chairing the Africa Progress Panel.

The Panel – just this month – issued a deeply stirring report. Its study testifies eloquently to Africa’s profound potential for development, but it also squarely identifies the scourge of corruption, and calls powerfully for a new strengthening of transparency and accountability, nationally and internationally, in the public and private sectors alike.

In welcoming Kofi Annan this evening, I want to emphasize what his personal example has meant to all of us. He has truly been an inspiration, demonstrating the power of patience and persistence – of a willingness always to listen – and a refusal to give up hope.

Our Global Centre for Pluralism was founded here in Ottawa in 2006 to address what I believe is the central challenge of our time – learning to live peacefully and constructively in a highly diversified and rapidly shrinking world.

aga-khan-johnson-anan-and-clarkson

During the inaugural board meeting of the Global Centre for Pluralism in October 2010, His Highness the Aga Khan and the Board were hosted at Rideau Hall, the official Governor General’s residence in Ottawa. Shown in the picture are, from left to right, the then Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, his wife, Mrs. Sharon Johnston, the Aga Khan, former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and the former Governor General, Adrienne Clarkson. Photo: AKDN/Denis Drever.

As Kofi Annan has taught us, pluralism requires constant dialogue, a readiness to compromise, and an understanding that pluralism is not an end in itself, but a continuous process.

The Global Centre for Pluralism was established in partnership with the Government of Canada, and was inspired in part by Canada’s experience as a highly diverse society. We want the Centre to be a place where we can all learn from one another about the challenges of diversity – and where we can share the lessons of successful pluralism.

And on evenings like this, we also help realize the Centre’s potential as a destination for dialogue, a place where we can exchange ideas with true champions of global pluralism, like Kofi Annan.

Ladies and Gentlemen, together with you, I eagerly look forward to hearing from the Centre’s honored Lecturer for 2013, Kofi Annan.

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The Aga Khan’s Letter to Kofi Annan: “The World’s Drug Problem Must Remain a Matter of Permanent Concern”

“…For all clear thinking individuals, wherever they may be, the world’s drug problem must remain a matter of permanent concern. With the density of the Ismaili population in Gorno-Badakhshan, in Afghan Badakshan, in Chitral and Hunza and elsewhere in South West Asia and Africa, the leaders of the Ismaili Community, its institutions and I, as the Imam, must be particularly concerned with this aggressive and damaging problem…” — Excerpt from Aga Khan’s letter to Kofi Annan. Please download complete letter in PDF format below.

Please click Letter to Kofi Annan from His Highness the Aga Khan

Also, please click Letter to Kofi Annan from Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan

Date posted: August 18, 2018.
Last updated: September 14, 2018.

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President de Sousa at Aga Khan’s Darbar in Lisbon: Remarks with a video clip

We now have, alhamdulillah, Portugal as our partner” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Please click on photo for Azeem Maherali’s article on remarks at Darbar in Lisbon.

The entire Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was filled with beautiful and surprising moments that will be deeply entrenched in everyone’s hearts, carrying indelible memories….Of course, as a murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam, every moment of his holy presence was touching and deeply inspiring. However the moment that particularly stood out for me was the Portuguese President’s surprise visit at the Darbar.Read Azeem Maherali’s personal account and watch a short video of the remarks made during the Darbar

Date posted: August 8, 2018

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Wonderful reads about His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon

A  unique catalogue sheet studded with a diamond, 50+ magnificent photos, and Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Darbar stories

PLEASE CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINKS

  1. Portugal Postal Service releases Aga Khan Jubilee souvenir embedded with a genuine diamond……MORE by Abdulmalik Merchant
  2. 50+ magnificent photos of the Aga Khan with the President of Portugal…..MORE
  3. A poetic piece on the Jubilee finale in Lisbon……MORE by Jalal Jaffer
  4. Memories of a modern day pilgrimage to Lisbon…...MORE by Rahim Hirji
  5. Darbar narrative (in 2 parts)…….MORE by Zafeera Kassam
  6. Complete Table of Contents

Date posted: August 4, 2018.

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Memories of the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon

A modern day Ismaili pilgrimage

For those of us who had just had Darbar in London, we were still riding that wave. That Darbar itself was a magical experience. We all knew that Lisbon would be different, but no-one really knew quite what to expect. Many were changing summer plans to give themselves the opportunity to go, and many were basing their summer holiday around the Portugal Darbar. When it came to us, it just took my daughter to say — “How can we not go?”— school would be out for summer, and this was an opportunity of a lifetime….Read Rahim Hirji’s Memories of a modern day pilgrimage to Lisbon

Princes Hussain and Aly Muhammad at the Rays of Light Exhibition. Please click on photo for Rahim Hirji’s Memories of the Lisbon Diamond Jubilee.

Date posted: July 29, 2018.

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Exclusive: The concluding piece of the Aga Khan’s Darbar in Lisbon

11 July, 2018: The “Highest Point” of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee

My astonishment quickly evaporated into unbridled, quintessential euphoria. Hazar Imam was granting us another audience! Together with the Noorani Family again! Together with the President of Portugal! Unbelievable! What had we done to have the heavens open up and grant us such a unique and invaluable boon? Yet again, Hazar Imam fulfilled a whimsical wish many had nurtured in their hearts  that, once, just once, he chooses to return to his Jamat instead of departing. Alhamdulillah! The salwats picked up fervour, indeed in the presence of a non-Ismaili…..Read more of Zafeera Kassam’s extraordinary account of a unique Darbar in Lisbon on July 11, 2018 – the “highest point” of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee

Please click on image to read Zafeera’s concluding narrative.

Date posted: July 27, 2018.

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Exclusive: The Diamond Jubilee Darbar of His Highness the Aga Khan in Lisbon

So, here I was setting out with the expectation of enduring huge crowds, endless queues and a squashed place to sit, all exacerbated by the heat wave. But my heart was joyous and I was ready to face any and all discomforts because, ultimately, I was fortunate to have been able to come to Lisbon and be a part of history in the making….READ MORE of Part 1 of Zafeera Kassam’s inspiring and moving account of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Darbar in Lisbon on July 11, 2018.

Please click on photo for Zafeera Kassam’s exclusive narrative of the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon.

Date posted: July 24, 2018.

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