The Aga Khan as a Junior at Harvard: “My College Room Mate Rules 10 Million”

His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims graduated from Harvard University in 1959. History. Photograph: © Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images. Please click on photo for article by John Fell Stevenson.

By John Fell Stevenson

“Karim impressed me when first we met as freshmen because he had a purpose — he wanted to help people. It wasn’t adolescent sentimentality or showing off: he meant it; and he has meant it ever since….I was able to observe K’s study habits at close quarters. He worked hard, was almost always the last to bed and first to rise. When he was assigned a paper, we would seldom see him except when he rushed into the living room to get more books. I took one course with K that year and I must confess that I came to rely heavily on his excellent notes” — READ MORE

Date posted: August 5, 2022.

__________________

Please See Our Table of Contents and Visit Simerg’s Two Sister Websites

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos for beautiful photographs on diverse themes including nature and culture.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

“Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Encounters of Hope from Kampala to Vancouver” by Jalal Jaffer; Reviewed by Atlanta’s Nizar Motani

________________________________________________

Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Encounters of Hope from Kampala to Vancouver By Jalal Jaffer, Q.C.
336 pp. FriesenPress, 2022
US$ 29.99 (Hardcover), US$ 19.99 (Paperback) and US$ 6.99 (eBook) as listed on the publisher’s website FriesenPress; also available at Amazon.ca (Hardcover, C$ 33.70; Paperback, C$ 26.57; Kindle C$ 8.91); and at Indigo.ca (as a Kobo Ebook for C$ 8.99). Note: Various formats of the book may sell for less. Please also see Jalal Jaffer’s website for more options to purchase.
________________________________________________

[Nizar Motani’s review of Jalal Jaffer’s Memoirs comes to us for publication close to the 50th anniversary of the announcement on August 4, 1972 by Idi Amin to expel Asians from Uganda; the decree took effect on August 9th. The early major settlement of the first group of Ugandan Asians in Canada has been listed by Carleton University’s special Uganda Asian’s project as follows: Vancouver (1,034); Montreal (480); Toronto (440); Winnipeg (205); and Ottawa (124) — Ed.]


BOOK REVIEW BY NIZAR MOTANI, PhD

Being a diarist since his schooldays; a gifted writer and a poet; a voracious reader; a disciplined life of service, gratitude and contentment with its rewards; and a firm belief that the Divine hand has always been on his shoulder, Jalal Jaffer would be expected to chronicle an exceptional memoir. And he has done it splendidly!

His life story is centered on three overlapping, intertwining, love stories, which beautify and fortify each other. The first love story is about the wonderful family he was born into and his abiding deeply reciprocal love for his parents and eight siblings.

Besides his biological family, he developed a special bond with his spiritual father, the present 49th hereditary Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan IV. However, its foundation was serendipitously laid in his predecessor’s spiritual rein, when the 48th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan III, named him Jalaluddin, at age sixteen days, during his visit to Kisumu, Kenya, in 1945!

The final love story is about his own biological family, in Vancouver, Canada, after his marriage with Shamshad P.K. Pirani, which remarkably was performed by the 49th Imam, in February 1972, at Kampala, Uganda, Jamatkhana — just six months before Idi Amin’s mass Asian Expulsion order of August 4.

Jalaluddin’s name got shortened to Jalal, who has “tried to traverse through life with prayers and conviction that the Divine hand is, and has always been, on my shoulders to help me, guide me and protect me” (p. 1X). The Divine hand can be seen throughout his autobiography. It came to his rescue when he seriously injured his left hand in an accident, at age six, helping to turn this tragedy into a lifelong triumph, which enabled him to excel at everything; it was at the hotel in Bangkok where two young students he kindly invited into his hotel room to learn about their lives and dreams for the future,  instead they drugged and robbed him but could not kidnap or kill him; it was evident at the beach in Karachi where he and his young son, Jamil, could have drowned; and throughout his and his family’s lives.

The Foreword by Dr. Farouk Mitha and The Prologue by the author whet the readers’ appetite for the thirty-three chapters that follow. In the interest of brevity this review will highlight only the most salient aspects of the three love stories, mentioned earlier.

His abiding love for his families (parents’ and his own) is poetically portrayed in Chapter 29: Loving Family and Friends, and Chapter 32: Encounters. ”My encounter with my parents must rank as the most impactful experience and the highest form of learning in my life” (p 299). His biological father passed away at the age of 96. At the lunch after the funeral, Alwaez Sultanali Nazerali delivered a poignant eulogy describing Ali Jaffer Esmail as a saintly person: “an angel in human form”. Jalal has beautifully translated and summarized it in English (p. 297).

Memoirs of a Ugandan Refugee Jalal Jaffer
“Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” by Jalal Jaffer, 336 pp., FriesenPress, First Edition 2022. Amazon.ca (Hardcover, C$33.70; Paperback, C$ 26.57, Kindle C$ 8.91); and at Indigo.ca (as a Kobo Ebook for C$ 8.99); book may sell for less. Also, visit the website of Jalal Jaffer.

Since their auspicious February 20, 1972 marriage, Shamshad, his beloved “Sham”, and the author, Jalal, have been on many adventurous honeymoons. In a poem titled The Lioness’ Journey, he shares his special love and appreciation for Sham, his bride, wife and partner (p.178-180). Such poetic expressions of his love, for all, appear frequently enhancing the value of this alluring autobiography.

An equivalent of a professional knighthood, Queen’s Counsel (Q.C.), was conferred on him in 2016. It was a great honor and he can and does proudly exhibit it. However, his heart was given to seva (service), in any capacity, at any level, to his murshid (his spiritual leader, the Aga Khan) and to his fellow murids (devotees).

To his amazement, he was blessed with eighteen years of seva at local, national, and international levels (1987-2005). “I was far from exhausted, but my cup was full. I had been blessed to have had these enormously important leadership positions for such a long period…shukar” (p. 210).

For his seva in “these enormously important leadership positions,” which were Imamat-appointed, he reaped enormous “once in a lifetime” meva (reward/blessing, recognition): an invitation to the majestic Diamond Jubilee Homage Ceremony at Aiglemont, France, on July 11, 2017, followed by special seating at the Darbar in Lisbon, Portugal, on July 11, 2018. Both these historic events inevitably moved Jalal to capture his feelings and thoughts in two trademark poems.

Chapter 24: Politics, describes his “insatiable appetite for world affairs and politics” from his childhood days. Of all the conflicts and turmoil engulfing the world, he was sufficiently outraged by the Israeli brutality and inhumanity towards the defenseless Palestinians in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip. This led him to chide the “chosen people’ in a “short poem” called I Wonder (p. 220-221). It is a subtle  poem but readers will judge its “length” as Jalal’s concept of “short” and “a few words” is uniquely his own!

Two paragraphs to indicate his and his bride’s love, friendship, and respect for their friends will end this not-so-short a review. Chapter 31 captures the astonishing natural beauty of Khorog, Tajikistan, and the surrounding Pamir Mountains and some of its inhabitants. They were guests of Shamim and Iqbal Talib who for almost a decade were engaged in boosting the local economy and had established a spacious second home with ideal accommodation for the rare guests who venture out to Khorog. The Talibs’ unforgettable hospitality competed with the high mountains, and the Jaffers left with fabulous memories and new knowledge of this exotic Ismaili enclave.

However, on another occasion of honoring friendships, he was distinctly derailed when some friends asked him to emcee the wedding of their children. He remembers saying “a few words” that he has recounted over seven meandering pages (271-278)! His captive audience may have endured or even enjoyed his “few words” but his readers could skim through this aberration and enjoy the rest of this memorable memoir.

Date posted: July 30, 2022.
Last updated: July 31, 2022.

Correction: In our earlier version of this post, the title of the book was incorrectly referred to as “Memoirs of a Ugandan Refugee….”; the correct title is “Memories of a Ugandan Refugee….” which is now reflected in this latest update of the post.

________________________

Contributor

Nizar A. Motani has a doctorate from the University of London (SOAS) in African history, specializing in British colonial rule in East Africa. He has been a college professor at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME) and Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI). He was the first Publication Officer at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London, UK). He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Motani’s previous pieces on Simerg and its sister website Barakah are: 

_____________________

Feedback

Simerg welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

_____________________

Please visit Simerg’s Table of Contents and its Sister Websites

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Simerg’s editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Photos: Driving Through the Scenic Backcountry Gravel Hwy 742, the Smith-Dorrien Trail, in Kananaskis Country

Malik Merchant subjects his Mazda 6 Sedan through 60 kms of rough gravel road, the Hwy 742 or the Smith-Dorrien Trail, to experience some stunning mountain scenery and wildlife in Alberta’s spectacular Kananaskis region. Please click HERE or on photo below to read his report of a memorable 3 hour trip that ended with the greatest rib-eye steak in his life at the Rustica restaurant in Canmore, with the magnificent Three Sisters Mountains smiling on him. Kananaskis is a very short drive from Calgary, and having made 3 trips to the region in as many days (!) Merchant highly recommends everyone to discover this beautiful section of Alberta that brims with natural beauty, easy to moderate to the most strenuous hiking trails as well as great wildlife!….. Read More

A memorial bench at Sprays Lake Reservoir on Hwy 742, the Smith-Dorrien Trail, that starts at the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park, Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada. Please click on image for full report and photographs

Date posted: July 27, 2022.

________________________

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Reach the editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com

Momentous Day for Ismaili Mountaineer Samina Baig As She Scales K2 — “The Savage Mountain” — with 4 Other Muslim Female Climbers; 5 More Ismailis in Team Also Reach Summit

“We are extremely proud to announce that Samina Baig, with her strong Pakistani team, successfully summited the world’s most fascinating and dangerous mountain known as the savage mountain” — Statement by Samina Baig’s Team

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos

Rahim and Zahra Aga Khan with Ismaili mountaineers
Mountaineer-siblings Samina and Mirza Ali Baig present a memento to Princess Zahra and Prince Rahim at an institutional dinner hosted by the Ismaili Council for Pakistan during their visit to Pakistan in May 2016. Photograph: Rahil Imtiaz Ali/The Ismaili

Just over nine years ago, on May 19, 2013, at precisely 7:40 am, Samina Baig became the first Pakistani woman to reach the peak of the world`s highest mountain, Everest, and proudly place on it the flag of Pakistan as well as that of the Ismaili community. She spent 10 minutes on the summit as her mentor, trainer and proud older brother, Mirza Ali Baig, watched her unique accomplishment from a few hundred metres away, not wishing to scale the peak until a later date, to give the singular honour of the summit’s ascent to his beloved sister. Samina and Mirza then granted Simerg an exclusive interview which can be read HERE.

Samina Baig Mt Mckinley Alaska Simerg
Mirza Ali and his sister Samina Baig hoist the Ismaili Flag after reaching the summit of North America’s highest mountain, Mt. McKinley, in Alaska, on June 28, 2014. Photo: Malik Mirza/Samina Baig.

Samina’s accomplishments over the years have been many, and we have just learned that today, Friday July 22, 2022, Samina has scaled K2. Here are excerpts from a report by Ayaz Gul of the Voice of America (VOA).

Female Climbers From Pakistan, Iran Make History by Scaling K2

Voice of America’s Urdu channel carried a dispatch about Samina Baig and her brother, Mirza Ali in a news segment in 2011 after she had climber a 6300m peak near Hunza in Northern Pakistan, which was then was named after her. Photo: Samina Baig’s Facebook page.

By AYAZ GUL
(Voice of America, July 22, 2022)

[Note: The photographs accompanying this post are from Simerg’s archives and other external sources that are credited, and are not part of the latest VOA report by Ayaz Gul; his full report may be read on the VOA website HERE. The following are excerpts from Gul’s report – Ed.].

The first female climbers from Pakistan and Iran on Friday reached the top of K2, the world’s second-highest peak, at 8,611 meters [28,251.31 ft] above sea level known as the “savage mountain.”

Two Pakistanis, Samina Baig and Naila Kiyani, Iranian Afsaneh Hesamifard, Lebanese-Arab Nelly Attar and Bangladeshi Wasifa Nazreen, were among the five women who achieved the milestone, said a spokesman for the Alpine Club of Pakistan.

“They are also the first Muslim mountaineers to have scaled K2,” Karrar Haidri told VOA.

Baig and Hesamifard have already summited the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest, in Nepal.

“We are extremely proud to announce that Samina Baig, with her strong Pakistani team, successfully summited the world’s most fascinating and dangerous mountain known as the savage mountain,” Baig’s team said in a statement.

“Grateful and blessed that K2 allowed her to stand atop this incredible mountain.”

Pakistani government officials and foreign diplomatic missions, including the U.S. embassy, in Islamabad took to Twitter to congratulate the Pakistani women climbers for setting foot on the world’s second-highest mountain.

“A momentous day and achievement for Pakistani women!” the U.S. embassy said.

K2 has gained its reputation as the savage mountain among international climbers. It has one of the deadliest records, with most climbers dying on the way down. Only a few hundred have successfully reached its summit, while Everest has been scaled more than 9,000 times. The rocky mountain is also known as the deadliest of the five highest peaks in the world because about one person dies on K2 for every four who reach the summit.

While the sheerness of the slopes and overall exposure create a technically challenging climb, mountaineers say weather is always “the great opponent” on K2 year-round.

Pakistan hosts five of the 14 highest peaks on Earth, including K2; eight others are in Nepal, including Everest, and one along the border of Nepal and the Tibetan region of China.

________________

K2
K2 North Ridge. Photograph: Kuno Lechner, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Gari Khan writes from Pakistan:

Along with Samina Baig, 5 other Ismailis were also part of her team that completed the climb on Friday, July 22, 2022 at 7:42 AM. The complete list of Ismailis, all from Shimsal (Hunza), is as follows:

  1. Samina Baig
  2. Eid Muhammad
  3. Bulbul Karim
  4. Ahmed Baig
  5. Rizwan Dad
  6. Waqar Ali

The seventh person in the team, Hussain Sadparda, is from Skardu and not an Ismaili.

Shimsal: Village located in Gojal Tehsil of Hunza District, in the Gilgit–Baltistan region of Pakistan. It lies at an altitude of 3,100 m above sea level and is the highest settlement in the district; Skardu: City located in Gilgit−Baltistan, Pakistan, and serves as the capital of Skardu District and the Baltistan Division. Skardu is situated at an elevation of nearly 2,500 metres in the Skardu Valley, at the confluence of the Indus and Shigar Rivers (in formation from Wikipedia).

___________________

Breathtaking Video: K2 – The World’s Most Dangerous Mountain | Eddie Bauer

“K2 is a savage mountain that tries to kill you.” That is how climber George Bell described the infamous peak after the first American expedition in 1953–forever giving the mountain its nickname–The Savage Mountain. Sixty-six years later, Eddie Bauer mountain guides Adrian Ballinger and Carla Perez aim to summit the 8611-meter peak and join a community of explorers fewer in number than those who have been to outer space. Even more incredible, they both will attempt the feat without the use of supplemental oxygen. Every step of the way the team faces hazardous conditions, terrifying setbacks, and crushing misfortunes. But as Ballinger puts it, “I’ll go until the mountain tells me I can’t go anymore.”

Date posted: July 22, 2022.
Last updated: July 23, 2022 (new information from Gari Khan, and video added)

______________________

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Reach the editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com

The Lancet: Alcohol Consumption Carries Significant Health Risks and No Benefits for Young People; Ismaili Imams Have Advised Their Jamats to Stay Away from Facile Social Habits

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos

Over the past week, the media around the world has taken note of an important worldwide study published in the July 14, 2022 issue of The Lancet (see News Release) which says that the consumption of alcohol in any amount carried significant health risks and no benefits to young people. The Lancet is among the world’s oldest and best-known general medical journals. Some of the headlines in the media, with links to detailed reports (that are accessible without a subscription), were as follows:

  • Alcohol is never good for people under 40, global study finds (The Guardian)
  • Alcohol, Even in Moderation, Carries Health Risks for People Under 40 (Healthline)
  • No amount of alcohol is healthy if you’re under 40, study says (CNN)
  • Drinking just 3 cans of beer a week may be linked to cognitive decline (Medical News Today)
  • Young people should not drink’: World study challenges alcohol guidelines (Global News)
  • Drinking Any Amount of Alcohol Isn’t Good for People Under 40, New Global Study Finds (People Magazine)
  • Sobering new study says that those under age 40 shouldn’t drink alcohol at all (Fox News)

In October 2018, when Canada legalized the recreational use of marihuana, we expressed our concern on the matter, and asked the Ismaili Jamat and its youth to seek to be wary, and apply principles of good health in our daily lives, in view of the very easy access to the drug, and temptations to try it out.

Both Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, have articulated their feelings and concerns about social habits and their harmful effects during their Imamat. When speaking to the Transvaal Muslim League in the Johannesburg City Hall on August 12, 1945, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah asked his Muslim audience to avoid alcohol at all costs. He said:

“The greatest danger, to every Muslim citizen — I have not the least hesitation in saying it — is alcohol. Time has shown that it is an injury to you; an injury to your person; an injury to your health. It is forbidden because it carries greater evil than good. Believe me, in a community like yours, alcohol is a very grave danger. Once you got into the alcohol habit, I do not know where it would lead you. A handful, here and there, of the weak, or of the unhappy, find their way to this terrible poison. Avoid it at all costs. Avoid it, I say, for in this country you cannot afford to lose one man.”

Speaking to the Jamat and addressing the youth in particular the present 49th Imam has said:

“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.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, Dar es Salaam, November 11, 1970 [1]

And:

“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.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, August 3, 1969 in London, England [2]

With a reputable journal such as The Lancet now suggesting that young people should not drink, we urge the Ismaili youth and its young professionals to avoid alcohol at all costs, and seek to abide by Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance to 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.”

During his Takht Nashini visit to Kampala, Uganda, on October 27, 1957, Mawlana Hazar Imam said:

“My Beloved Spiritual Children,

Your care and welfare will always be my concern. I am certain that you and your children, will benefit if you follow the advice I have given you.”

Throughout his Imamat of 65 years, Mawlana Hazar Imam has always sought that the characteristic of the Jamat should be such that we should seek at all times for the best in worldly matters and the best in spiritual matters, and that so long as the Jamat continued in this search for the best in both the worlds and followed his Famans we would always have a happy and prosperous future. (Dacca, December 8, 1964).

Date posted: July 21, 2022.

________________________

Notes:

[1, 2] – Farman quotes from archives and notes of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) on social habits. See also this article Applying Good Principles in our Daily Living.

_________________________

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Reach the editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com

Two Must-Watch Short Videos: Why is Ghadir Khumm in Arabia Important; and Why Do Ismailis Address their Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as Khudavind

[This post includes material from The.Ismaili, the official website of the Ismaili community – Ed. ]

Map and Video: Ghadir Khumm

According to Shia belief, by declaring Hazrat Ali as Mawla after him at Ghadir Khumm, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) transferred his own spiritual authority bestowed upon him by Allah to Hazrat Ali, making him — and all the Imams that follow — the Amirul Mu’minin, or Master of the Believers. Please see map for location of Ghadir Khumm and watch the short video on the importance of Ghadir Khumm.

Click on map for enlargement

Saudi Arabia Map with location of Ghadir Khumm where the Prophet appointed Ali as his successor
Political map of Saudi Arabia and surrounding countries. The approximate location of Ghadir Khumm near the modern day town of Ragibh (known in the past as Al-Juhfah) has been highlighted in red. Driving distances: Mecca to Ghadir Khumm (location where Prophet Muhammad appointed Hazrat Ali as his successor) appx. 208 Kms; and distance from Ghadir Khumm to Medina, appx. 300 kms. Credit: Map adapted by Simerg from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas Libraries.

~~~~~~~~~~

__________________

Video: Khudavind

The Persian word khudavind or khudawand means, “a king, prince, lord, master; or man of great authority.” Many Persian and Central Asian empires used this term throughout history to refer to people of high standing, including, at times, the sultan (ruler), wazir, government officials, and patrons. The Ismaili Imams lived in Persia (modern-day Iran) from the 12th to the 19th centuries. During this period, the community adopted the term khudawand to refer to the Imam. Its meaning is similar to the Arabic term mawla, which also means “master” or “lord.” (for more see the.Ismaili).

Date posted: July 18, 2022.

Related:

________________________

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Reach the editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com

A Tribute to the Aga Khan 50 Years Ago, as He Celebrated 15 Years as the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims

“If it be true that a true test of really great man, as Brougham teaches usis that he be endowed with three remarkable attributes, namely, (a) generosity in design; (b) humanity in execution; and (c) moderation in success, then I have not the ­slightest hesitation in saying that the Aga Khan answers that test adequately. He is an inde­fatigable worker and has a tre­mendous power of uptake. He has a way of bearing the burdens of the leadership he is called upon to provide, cheerfully. He is calmest in storms, and most fearless under menace and his reliance on truth, on virtue and on God who, after all is their source and sanction, is ever so unfaltering” — A. K. BROHI, JULY 11, 1972 – READ BROHI’S TRIBUTE BY CLICKING HERE OR ON PHOTO BELOW

Aga Khan Kampala 1972
In this photograph, taken in Kampala, Uganda, in February 1972, the Aga Khan walks by a very happy and cheerful group of young Ismaili girl guide brownies who are lined up on the steps of Kampala’s chief (or Darkhana) Ismaili Jamatkhana. Photo: © Amir Kanji.

Date posted: July 18, 2022.

____________________

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Reach the editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com

Description and Photographs of the Magnificent 17th Century Standard Presented to the Aga Khan: The ‘Alam is Symbolic of the Foundational Principles of the Shia Ismaili Muslim Faith

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos

In the space of seven days, Ismaili Muslims around the world have come together in their respective Jamatkhana prayer and social halls as well as outdoors to celebrate three historic festivals and events. Last Saturday, Ismailis joined other Muslim communities in Canada and around the world to celebrate Eid al-Adha, to commemorate the historic event thousands of years ago when Prophet Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismail, to test his faith and loyalty to God. In Calgary, the Ismailis hosted the wider Canadian community to a Stampede/Eid al-Adha breakfast at its Headquarters Jamatkhana.

Then, on Monday July 11, Ismailis celebrated the 65th anniversary of the spiritual leadership (Imamat) of their 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, who is respectfully and lovingly addressed by the Ismailis as Mawlana Hazar Imam (our lord, present/living Imam). Indeed, the appellation of “Hazar Imam” is so appropriate, because the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family). On behalf of the world wide Ismaili community, the Ismaili leadership presented a beautiful ‘Alam to their Imam in Lisbon.

The Prophet Muhammad's proclamation Man kuntu mawlahu fa aliyyun mawlahu (He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla) in square Kufi. Design by Karim Ismaili, Toronto.
The Prophet Muhammad’s proclamation “Man kuntu mawlahu fa aliyyun mawlahu” (He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla) in square Kufi. Design by Karim Ismail, Toronto.

Coincidentally, this week, and specifically on Saturday July 16th, marks the historic day when the Prophet designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. Hazrat Ali became the first Imam, and the continuity of the Imamat is reflected in the present manifest Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The historic event is known as Eid e-Ghadir, when the Prophet proclaimed “Man kuntu mawlahu fa aliyyun mawlahu” meaning: “He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla.” The Prophet then prayed: “O Allah, be a friend of whoever is his friend and extend your support to those who support him.” A very famous tradition of the Prophet says:

“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).

_______________

The ‘Alam Presented to His Highness the Aga Khan on His 65th Anniversary of Imamat

Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Steel Processional Standard (‘Alam) on stand presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the occasion of his 65th anniversary of accession to the Imamat of the Ismaili Muslims. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.

The steel processional standard (‘Alam) presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam by the Ismaili leadership on behalf of the worldwide Ismaili Muslims on the 65th anniversary of his Imamat comprises a central drop-shaped panel decorated with a calligraphic inscription in elegant thuluth on a scrolling vine background. The inscription reads “Allah, Muhammad, Ali”, with the hijri date 1061 (equivalent to 1651 of the Common Era) inscribed below. A smaller cartouche at the top of the ‘Alam also reads “Allah, Muhammad, Ali”. A panel at the base is inscribed with the name of the maker, Muhammad Ardabili. The inner framing and outer band has foliate patterned openwork, and each side of the standard has a dragon-headed cast steel terminal facing outwards.

Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Bespoke presentation case. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
The ‘Alam placed inside the presentation case. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Title of gift on lower part of right side of the presentation case. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.

The inscriptions on this standard — Allah, Muhammad, Ali — symbolise the foundational principles of the Shia Ismaili Muslim tariqah: the concepts of tawhidnubuwwa and imama.

Another important Shia aspect that is reflected in the inscriptions on this ‘Alam is the concept of a single, pre-eternal spiritual light, the Nur Muhammad. According to this concept, Allah created a light from His Divine Light. When the angels asked about this light, Allah answered: “This is a light out of My Light; its main part is prophethood, and its ray is the imamate. The nubuwwa is for Muhammad, My servant and messenger, and the imama is for Ali, My hujja and My wali. Were it not for them, I would not have created My creation.” [1] This notion of light is beautifully represented on the ‘Alam by the dragon heads flanking each side of the standard. For, in Islamic art, one of the primary meanings of the dragon is as a producer and a symbol of light and protection.

Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
The central drop-shaped panel decorated with a calligraphic inscription in elegant thuluth on a scrolling vine background. The inscription reads “Allah, Muhammad, Ali” with the hijri date inscribed below (see detail, next photo). Photograph: © Steve Wakeham
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
The detail of the hijri date 1061 (equivalent to 1651 of the Common Era) inscribed in the ‘Alam. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
A smaller cartouche at the top of the ‘Alam also reads “Allah, Muhammad, Ali”. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Detail of the top of the ‘Alam which is also inscribed with the names of Allah, Muhammad and Ali. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Each side of the ‘Alam has a dragon-headed cast steel terminal facing outwards. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Detail of dragon head. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.

We also invite you to view a video of the ‘Alam on the.Ismaili, the official website of the Ismaili Muslim community.

Date posted: July 16, 2022.

______________________

Footnote(s):

[1] For this Hadith and the concept of Nur Muhammad, see Uri Rubin, “Pre-existence and light. Aspects of the Concept of Nur Muhammad“, Israel Oriental Studies, 5 (1975), pages 62-119, especially 112-113.

Note: A slightly different version of this post also appears on our sister blog, Barakah, which is dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

FEEDBACK

Simerg welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Simerg’s editor Malik can be contacted by email at mmerchant@simerg.com

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Artistic Greeting Cards in Arabic Scripts for His Highness the Aga Khan’s 65th Imamat Day Revolve Around a Phrase from the Qur’an

By KARIM ISMAIL
with MALIK MERCHANT

Simerg and its sister websites, Barakah and Simergphotos, convey heartiest felicitations to Ismailis and friends of the Ismaili community in Canada and around the world on the auspicious occasion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 65th Imamat Day anniversary (July 11, 2022). He succeeded to the Throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20 upon the death of his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III, whose Imamat (spiritual leadership) of 71 years is the longest in the 1400 year history of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

According to well-known Muslim traditions, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S) said:

“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).

The Prophet appointed Hazrat Ali (A.S.) to be his successor as the Imam, and His Highness the Aga Khan, who is respectfully addressed by the Ismailis as Mawlana Hazar Imam, is the 49th Hereditary Imam in direct succession of Imams since Imam Ali.

In the Ismaili Ginan (hymn) Girbah Vali, attributed to the Ismaili missionary Pir Sadr al-Din, the Pir says:

“If the Imam did not have his feet on this earth for even a moment, then the world, moon, sun would vanish and nothing would exist, neither the heaven nor the earth.”

The notion of the cosmic necessity of an Imam, expressed by the Pir, is also found in famous traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (cited in “The Divine Guide in Early Shi’ism,”  pp 125-131):

“The earth cannot be devoid of an Imam; without him, it could not last an hour” and also “If there were only two men left in the world, one of them would be the Imam.” 

The two calligraphies that Karim Ismail has created express another important notion of the Imam based on the Qur’anic phrase: Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm (those firmly rooted in knowledge). According to the Ismaili Baitul Ilm Secondary Curriculum, Volume 1, produced by the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, the phrase, in the Shia tradition, is understood to be referring to the Imam descended from the Prophet’s family.

The first calligraphy has the Qur’anic phrase Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm in Fatimid Kufi script on all the 4 sides of Karim Ismail’s artwork. The Fatimids were rulers of Egypt and North Africa in the 10th through the 12th centuries. The Fatimid Imams or Caliphs were ancestors of the current Aga Khan.

Calligraphy with the Qur'anic phrase Al-rasikhul fi'l-ilm (Those well grounded in knowledge); by Karim Ismail Toronto.
The Qur’anic phrase Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm (Those firmly rooted in knowledge) on all 4 sides of the art work. Calligraphy and design by Karim Ismail. Toronto.

The second calligraphy, shown below, has the same phrase on the top and bottom borders in Fatimid Kufi script, as above. The centre has the same phrase in Thuluth script. We sincerely thank Karim Ismail for conceiving these pieces of art for Imamat Day.

Calligraphy with the Qur'anic phrase Al-rasikhul fi'l-ilm (Those well grounded in knowledge); by Karim Ismail Toronto.
The Qur’anic phrase Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm (Those firmly rooted in knowledge) on top and bottom of the art work in Fatimid Kufi script; the centre of the art work has the same phrase in Thuluth script. Calligraphy and design by Karim Ismail, Toronto.

We wish all our readers a very Happy Imamat Day, with prayers for everyone’s good health, strength in Iman (faith), family unity and the fulfillment of all our wishes. May we fulfill the aspirations that Mawlana Hazar Imam has of each one of us of staying on the path of Sirat al Mustaqim (the Straight Path), excelling in our studies and endeavours, and keeping the right balance between our material and spiritual lives.

As we celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 65th Imamat Day, may we always remain under his guidance, loving care and protection. Ameen.

Date posted: July 11, 2022.

___________________

FEEDBACK

Simerg welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click on COMMENT. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

CONTRIBUTORS

Karim Ismail portrait for Barakah
Karim Ismail

Originally from Uganda, Karim Ismail lived in England before settling in Canada. By profession, he is a Pharmacist (retired).  It was in England, in 1986, that he came across the artwork of a German Muslim, Karl Schlamminger (1935-2017), at the Ismaili Centre London. Karl’s artwork on calligraphy and geometrics, had a profound effect on Karim. He is frequently seen conducting calligraphy workshops for children at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Karim is also active on the literature counter at the Ismaili Centre Toronto.

Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher and editor of Barakah (2017) as well as its two sister websites Simerg (2009) and Simergphotos (2012). His interest for literature and community publications began in his childhood years in Tanzania through the work of his late parents Jehangir (d. May 2017, aged 89) and Malek Merchant (d. January 2021, also 89), who both devoted their lives to the service of the Ismaili community, its institutions and the Imam-of-the-Time, His Highness the Aga Khan, as missionaries and religious education teachers. In the UK, Malik edited the flagship Ismaili magazine, ILM, with his father. A resident of Ontario since 1983, he relocated to Alberta in January 2022. He has an animal loving daughter Dr. Nurin Merchant; she is a vet and practices in Ontario. Malik can be contacted by email at mmerchant@simerg.com. He can also be reached — and followed — @twitter and @facebook.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

A Historic Post on His Highness the Aga Khan Prepared from a Very Rare East African Souvenir

Aga Khan Souvenir Simerg

Our sister website, Barakah presents a beautiful piece on the ceremonial installation of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. The post is on events that took place in October 1957 in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Kampala. It brings together photographs and textual material that many of our regular as well as new readers may not have seen or read before. Please click HERE or on the images on this page to read Barakah’s informative and inspiring article.

We wish Ismailis around the world a very happy 65th Imamat Day Mubarak. We have the knowledge that we are under the loving care of the Imam-of-the-Time, whose hand is always on our shoulders. At the same time, we should remain grateful for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s constant blessings for our material and spiritual comfort and well being as well as protection from difficulties. We wish all Ismailis success in all their endeavours, with a sincere wish that we follow the Imam’s advice to us to keep the right balance between matters of the world (dunya) and faith (din).

Please click on photo for special article in Barakah.

Date posted: July 11, 2022

_____________________