A Defining Moment – His Highness the Aga Khan on Strengths of a Global Citizen; (Transcript) the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in Conversation with the Ismaili Imam; and Medal Symbolism

By Abdulmalik Merchant
(Publisher-Editor, http://www.simerg.com, http://www.simergphotos.com and http://www.barakah.com)

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Photo: The Ismaili/Lisa Sakulensky. Copyright. Note: Superimposition of text on photo by Simerg.

There were many cherishable and memorable moments on Wednesday, September 21, 2016, at   Koerner Hall in Toronto when the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship was presented to His Highness the Aga Khan. World renowned vocalist and songwriter Rufus Wainwright welcomed the audience with a wonderful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah. We were reminded by Rufus that September 21 also marked Cohen’s birthday – his 82nd. A video of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s congratulatory message to His Highness Aga Khan received a big applause from the packed auditorium hall, as did the actual presentation of the unique award to His Highness by Madame Clarkson. This was followed by her welcome speech and the 49th Ismaili Imam’s words of wisdom.

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The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, Canada’s 26th Governor General from 1999-2005, awarding the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship to His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, in Toronto on September 21, 2016. Photo: The Ismaili/Vazir Karsan. Copyright.

But of all the absorbing moments that the event offered, there was one defining moment in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speech that I took to my heart. In concluding his speech, Mawlana Hazar Imam defined what it takes for each one of us to be a Global Citizen. He said:

“These are just a few thoughts as I look to the future of Global Citizenship. The challenges, in sum, will be many and continuing. What will they require of us?

“A short list might include these strengths: a vital sense of balance, an abundant capacity for compromise, more than a little sense of patience, an appropriate degree of humility, a good measure of forgiveness, and, of course, a genuine welcoming of human difference.”

It was with reference to this last sentence that Madame Clarkson then began her conversation with Mawlana Hazar Imam. The following is a transcript that Simerg has prepared from an audio recording of the event, and we invite our readers to view the video of the wonderful event through the links that we have provided at the bottom of this page.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE CONVERSATION
(Prepared by Simerg from an audio recording)

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His Highness the Aga Khan and the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in conversation following the presentation of the Global Citizenship Award to the Ismaili Imam on September 21, 2016, in Toronto. Photo: The Ismaili/Lisa Sakulensky. Copyright. Ismaili.

Adrienne Clarkson: Thank you so much for those words. They are so well thought out, and over the years as we have known each other, I am always impressed by your deep sense of humane commitment and feeling that you have when you talk about things like forgiveness, and that, that is part of what we are as a society……One of the things I am very interested in, and I think everybody here is interested too, is in the fact that you put so much faith in Canada; that you have put institutions in Canada, like the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa….And you have also put the Imamat in Ottawa. And when I think about it, I think: Is that because in 1972, we welcomed so many Ismailis. Is that the beginning of it, or is there something else about us: Is it that you are a secret fan of Mackenzie King.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: No, I think the answer to that is that as I look at the world around us, and I ask myself what would define countries where I would like to see my community reside. The first word that comes to my mind is countries of opportunity. And I believe Canada is one of the greatest countries of opportunity.

Adrienne Clarkson: I think that is true, and certainly the Ismaili community in Canada has made the most of the opportunities which all people who come to this country have. And that is the reason why I think people understand once they get here: that there lives are going to be different. And that is one of the interesting things too about what you talk about to the Jamat, to the community. And I think something that people should realise in the rest of Canada that you have your community, and it is very important; but that you emphasise how important it is to be part of the world outside your community. And why do you do that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Well, I have to go back to 1957. In 1957, many of the countries where my community was living were colonies. And those countries needed to go through the process of independence, needed to find the pathways forwards towards peace, towards development. And I have asked myself: How do countries achieve that? And if you go back to 1957, you look at the map of our world, and you try to define where all these countries that have now become independent, have created opportunity; I think one has to say that that has not been very successful.

Adrienne Clarkson: What have been the barriers? What are the barriers?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Oh, I think there is a multitude of barriers. First of all, I suppose national resources would be a major issue. The second would be the level of human ability within a given country, whether it has a human ability to develop its resources, to build opportunity. So in that sense we are looking at processes of change. And they have occurred; they have occurred. There are today countries of opportunity which either did not exist or one would not have thought of as being countries of opportunity in 1957 when my grandfather died.

Adrienne Clarkson: And that has changed.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: That has changed.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, you have had a lifetime of opportunity to see that. It is very rare to meet somebody who has had such an effect on the world, not only on a group of people, but in the world. Because that is what you have made it in sixty years. Next year will be your sixtieth anniversary as the Imam. And in sixty years, you have seen development, you have made development happen, you made resources available to places where there were absolutely no resources. And in doing that, it cannot have been easy to decide where that would happen, to decide who would be the collaborators, to bring along people who could understand and have the capacity to help with that development. How did you go about doing that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: [I think] what you try to do is look at circumstances on an on-going basis. And then you work through what I would call predictability, and you try to project into the future what countries have the ability to follow the path of peace and development. And where there are situations which are potentially difficult, and that, of course, is something which changes practically every day; and, of course, it has changed a lot since 1957.

Adrienne Clarkson: And they did not teach you that at Harvard.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I am not sure what they taught me at Harvard.

Adrienne Clarkson: We all wonder what we learned at university and how that was relevant to anything that we are doing today. But I think what is interesting in what you have been saying over the last, particularly over the last decade in your speeches, in your writings is that ignorance that we have. And I am always struck by the fact that we are, we speak out of such ignorance in a so-called western developed world, particularly about Islam. We do not know the varieties of the Muslim world at all, we seem not to be even interested in it, and the more people shout about it, the worse it becomes, because it is as though we shut out everything that could be various, that could be different, that could have any kind of nuance in it. How do you mitigate against that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think probably the first step would be to extract from Islamic history, from Islamic philosophy the great names, the great thinkers, the great astronomers, the great scientists, the great medical figures, who have influenced global knowledge. I remember courses which taught general humanities. And those general humanities caused one to read in French, or Italian, or German, or English. Arabic! Never heard of it; Urdu! Never heard of it; Farsi! We do not even know what that is. So, it was a frightening vacuum in general education at the time. And I think that that vacuum has had terrible results.

Adrienne Clarkson: No, of course it has. It is ridiculous. I mean, we met only a few years ago, William Polk who was the first translator of the great epic Bedouin poem. And to think that only practically in the 21st century did we have access to that in translation is frightening, almost. A lacunae of knowledge. Not even accessible to us in any way.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: And that I think is one of the really serious issues – is that the cultures of Islam, of the Islamic world are not present in global cultural (let us say, how would I call it) presence.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, of course, you have given us an enormous gift to Toronto in the Aga Khan Museum and the Jamatkhana, which is now virtually in the geographic centre of Metropolitan Toronto. And I think by those wonderful Islamic gardens with the pools of water, but using native Canadian trees, and native Canadian plants. I always think of you as somebody with a motto of: No idea too big, no detail too small. Because I know how you look at everything: you know, the grouting in the marble, the bulbs that will be planted, the colours of the bulbs. And, of course, that is an enriching thing for you to have that detail in your life, but also I think it enriches us. And when I think of the role that beauty and culture play in the message that you have to the world, I think we are enormously grateful to you…..

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His Highness the Aga Khan and the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in conversation following the presentation of the Global Citizenship Award to the Ismaili Imam. on September 21, 2016 in Toronto. Photo: Simerg.

(The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson then went on to describe the restoration work carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture at the Humayun Gardens in New Delhi and the Babur Gardens in Kabul as well as the creation of Cairo’s new Al-Azhar Park from a site that had been used for many centuries as a landfill. The description is being skipped here. – Editor).

Adrienne Clarkson……..Why do you think beauty is so important to us, even when there are so many other needs around?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Well, I think, all faiths express themselves in some cultural form or the other. And Islam is a faith which has expressed itself in cultural manifestations over centuries in different parts of the world. And I think it is very important that those manifestations should be seen and should be, I hope, admired, and that they should inspire young people who are talented young architects, land planners, whatever it may be. So that they can inspire their own buildings with a sense of continuity, but of our time. And I think it is very important that we not try to plagiarise history. (Laughter). I would get a, what would it be, a D or an E at Harvard for plagiarization.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, of course, when you restore things or you make things new, you have to always avoid that. You have to say I am making something new. And that does not seem to fill you with any kind of fear.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: No, I think that every people in every given time should be encouraged to express themselves. And I remember that when the Pyramid was built in the Louvre, in the courtyard of the Louvre, there was immense debate as to whether this was appropriate or not. Well, it is there!

Adrienne Clarkson: Yes, yes, it is there. When we look at the world today….The rise of the Hard Right, of the really almost Fascist movements, reminds us sadly of times in the 1930s, and we have to really watch that because all that is to raise fear in people. And once fear rules people, they become blinded to all kinds of things. How do you deal with that? How do we deal with the fear?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think in this particular case, the issue is whether these countries have been willing to prepare themselves for this situation. Canada is a country that has permanent preparation. It is the way the country thinks. It welcomes people to come from outside, it has the institutions to support them when they arrive. It helps them integrate into Canadian society. That is not true of many western European countries, because they are facing economic constraint, because there are social tensions in various European countries also. Northern Europe does not speak the same language as Southern Europe, nor do they face the same problems. So I think we are living at a time when there are real difficulties, and my sense is that they are going to have to be analysed and solutions are going to have to be found. Because the movement of people is not going to stop. I do not see that stopping. It is driven by a number of factors, and I think in many of the countries which are sending people to Europe today, are dealing with populations who are seeking opportunity. There is a great sense of lack of opportunity. Opportunity is next door, it is not (around).

Adrienne Clarkson: (You know) When you were named as Imam in your grandfather’s will, he said he felt that he had to appoint somebody who was a young man, a man who was born in the atomic age, that is, the age of the 20th and 21st century. Has that influenced the way you think of things? Do you think of things in terms of a kind of millennial way, because you were appointed so young and you took on those duties so young. You knew you were expected to do something different. That is implicit in that will.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Right. At the time and even today, many of the questions that I ask myself and that I discuss with members of my community is medium- and long-term projecting. Where are we going? And are we going in the right direction in various countries? Are we being equitable in relation to the demography of the community? Are we over-committing in certain parts of the world and under-committing in others? Are there circumstances in regions which make it impossible for our institutions to function? Or, on the contrary, are there countries that would welcome them? So we are looking at, let’s say, a semi-global situation on an on-going basis. So, in that sense, we are looking at how to plan. And planning, I think, in our case requires institutional initiative. We need to get our institutions in place before people decide to move.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, that is the point. You are there before!

Mawlana Hazar Imam: We try.

Adrienne Clarkson: You are there before, because you have to then predict and you have to then say we are going to be out front, and when the tide is ready we will have the port built, so that the ships can arrive. How do you do that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: You pray that Idi Amin never comes back!

Adrienne Clarkson: Yes. Well, let’s hope that that was only once in a hundred years, at least. But the idea of a threat to so many people comes up over and over again. I mean we know more about it now, because we have instant communications. So we know when whole groups are threatened, when things happen like that. But, you know, the ignorance that I talked about earlier is almost terrifying. That people do not understand the Muslim world whatsoever. And they do not understand, as you touched on in your speech, they do not understand the differences in the Muslim world. They have never read the Koran, they would not think of reading it or taking a study course in it. And I think that sort of thing really means that ignorance is promulgated and continued. And then, you know when very careless media add to that, then you really do not understand. Also, the other thing that I always like to point out is that Islam is six hundred years younger than Christianity. So, Christians should think, you know, what was Christianity like in the 15th century. And who was talking then? And how were they divided? It is very interesting to think of it in the cycles of history, as opposed to, just thinking, it is now and we are all the same and we are all equal, etc. We are not, really, because we have different heritages.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: That is true, but there was also a lot of inter-faith communication in the Middle Ages.

Adrienne Clarkson: That is right. The inter-faith communication is..

Mawlana Hazar Imam: A great deal [of inter-faith communication], particularly in the field of mystic faith.

Adrienne Clarkson: Mysticism!

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes.

Adrienne Clarkson: Linking Sufism and so on with Christian mysticism.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes. Personal search.

Adrienne Clarkson: Why have we lost that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Probably, the requirements of modern life.

Adrienne Clarkson: Can we do anything about it? Should we be trying? Is that one of the things we should be trying, besides thinking of development, besides thinking of, you know, creating universities and schools. Can we do that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think we need to reflect over is generosity in society. Our faith, the faith of Islam teaches generosity. But, I think it is very important that generosity should be part of public psyche.

Adrienne Clarkson: And that means being brought up with it.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Means being brought up with it. Means recognising those in need of help. Means creating institutions to deliver that help. And, obviously, in poor countries, it is very difficult to achieve. But it should be a goal.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, the problem is that the gap between rich and poor is growing and growing and growing, and not just in the developing world, but in the developed world. That is one of the real problems now for us, I think, as a society in the West is that disparity between the haves and have-nots. And the more that grows, the more unjust society becomes. And there seems to be very little that people want to do about that, very little that they really want to do about it. And things become charity. Charity is not the right way to go about it; development is the right vehicle now, surely.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes. Well, in the faith of Islam the best charity is to give, to enable an individual or a family to become independent of their economic destiny. That is known as the best charity.

Adrienne Clarkson: How often is it? Does it happen?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I honestly do not know. I would have to ask our bankers.

Adrienne Clarkson: As a final thing, I would like to ask you: What do you really think will happen now in the medium term for our future as we see Britain wanting to leave Europe, as we see the rise of very hard Right in the European countries, as we see what is happening in the United States, which is hardly even mentionable. What can we hope for now? How can we as individuals who really want to make things better, as we are faced with all of this, how does it happen, for us now?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think we have to offer rational people, options. I think it is very important to put in front of public opinion, good options. Alternatives.

Adrienne Clarkson: Different ways of behaviour.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Different ways of behaving.

Adrienne Clarkson: And how do we do that? How do we make that? Is that through education? Is that through incentives? What is it? How is it done?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think it is through men and women coming forward to take positions of leadership. I think it is institutions who need to engage, rather than let the field open to anything. And, I have been very impressed since 1957 in developing countries, when elections had to be held or were held in circumstances where you would assume that the population did not have access to the information they would have, in our view, needed to express themselves rationally and competently. Well, I got it wrong. They are very, very wise. Public wisdom is not dependent on education.

Adrienne Clarkson: You are practically talking about Jung’s collective unconscious there. Is that, that there is a kind of wisdom that people share.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes.

Adrienne Clarkson: Because of their common humanity.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Because of the common humanity. Because of the common circumstance in which they are living.

Adrienne Clarkson: But does that bring us hope – as, you know, a collection of your speeches as ‘Where Hope Takes Root”. Is that where hope will take root?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes. I believe so. But it means that decision makers have to be responsive.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, it is very discouraging often when you look at the people who are elected in public office in different countries and the countries seem to vote for people that will harm them the most. Often, this is the most discouraging when you see in a democratic situation, even in free ones, where people will vote for something that is going to really harm them, and they do not seem to realise that it is very, very difficult, very difficult even because we have freedom of the press, we have enormous freedoms, particularly in North America and most of Europe. We have all those freedoms and yet we are in the dilemma that we are…Does that come back to the individual and their ability to do things?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think it comes back to the way the individual, or the family, rather than the individual, evaluate their position in society at a given time. Ultimately, the basic issue is: How does a family feed itself and educate the children, generation after generation? It is that clear, it is that important. And if society is able to provide that for the totality of the population in a given country, that is already a very sound foundation. But that is a condition sine qua non for a country to move ahead. If you have pockets of poverty, if you have populations or groups of populations who are marginalised, you are looking at a series of issues that one year are going to blow up. The predictability of crisis, in my view, in Third World countries is much higher than people would believe.

Adrienne Clarkson: You could predict them.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: You can predict them.

Adrienne Clarkson: Then why do not we avert them?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Ah, that is a different question. I think predicting them is something that you can do, averting them does depend on a lot of different issues. That is not always easy.

Adrienne Clarkson: Thank you so much, Your Highness.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Thank you. Thank you.

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STATEMENT BY ANNA WILLIAMS, SCULPTOR OF THE MEDAL PRESENTED TO HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

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The medal presented to His Highness the Aga Khan for the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship was sculpted by Anna Williams. The photo and her statement (below) are from the program booklet “Six Degrees Citizen Space 2016,” published by 6DegreesTO.com.

“Adrienne Clarkson asked me to create a medal for the Prize for Global Citizenship. I had the idea of bringing together the world of creation with that of the great mythological winged deities. Sedna is the Inuit goddess from whom all creatures of the sea spring. Atlanta, Nike, Lilith and the winged bearers of souls in Norse lore, the Valkyrie, each exist in an imperfect world. But through their strength, intelligence, independence, and compassion, they have created an iconography of champions and dissenters. Each in their own way is unyielding and stands apart as they chart a new course against buffeting waves. In the narrative of this medal, Sedna the creator emerges from the waves to pass a vulnerable world to the outstretched arms of our winged guardian.” — Anna Williams, sculptor.

Date posted: September 22, 2016.
Last updated: September 23, 2016, 15:25 (new photos added, completion of interview transcript and artist statement for Global Citizenship Medal).

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Please visit http://www.theismaili.org and http://www.akdn.org for extended coverage of the presentation ceremony.

Aga Khan To Be Awarded Inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship; and the 26th Governor General’s Reflections on the Sacred and Physical Roles of the Ismaili Imam

“He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He is a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, through the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali, the first Imam and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter…Through his words, through his actions, and through the results obtained by the institutions that he has pioneered, he is a beacon of light in much of the world’s conflicting darkness.” — The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, 26th Governor General of Canada

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured before he was presented with the Order of Canada decoration by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson in Ottawa on June 6, 2005. Photo credit: Sgt Eric Jolin, Rideau Hall

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured before he was presented with the Order of Canada decoration by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson in Ottawa on June 6, 2005. Photo credit: Sgt Eric Jolin, Rideau Hall

Named honorary companion of the Order of Canada in 2005 by the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, His Highness the Aga Khan will be awarded the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship on Wednesday September 21, 2016 at Koerner Hall in Toronto.

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada from 1999-2005 is presenting the Order of Canada decoration to His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo credit: Sgt Eric Jolin, Rideau Hall.

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada from 1999-2005, is presenting the Order of Canada decoration to His Highness the Aga Khan on June 6, 2005. Photo: Sgt Eric Jolin, Rideau Hall.

The prize is a new public initiative of the Institute of Canadian Citizenship, which was co-founded by Madame Clarkson with her husband John Ralston Saul after she left the office of Governor General in 2005. It will be given annually to an individual who has, through thought and dialogue, encouraged approaches and strategies that strive to remove barriers, change attitudes, and reinforce the principles of tolerance and respect.

A media release published at http://www.6degreesto.com states that “the symbolic importance of this prize has never been greater. In a time of unprecedented movement, displacement and re-settlement by immigrants and refugees, one of the central challenges we face is how we all live together.”

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Governor General of Canada is presenting the Order of Canada decoration to His Highness the Aga Khan on June 6, 2005. Photo credit: Sgt Eric Jolin, Rideau Hall

The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, the 26th Governor General of Canada from 1999-2005, presenting the Order of Canada decoration to His Highness the Aga Khan on June 6, 2005. Photo: Sgt Eric Jolin, Rideau Hall.

At the award ceremony, His Highness the Aga Khan will receive the prize from the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, and will share his wisdom and experiences with the audience on issues confronting the world today. He will then be joined on stage for a conversation with Madame Clarkson.

Remarking on the prize and the selection of the recipient, Adrienne Clarkson says: “Through his words, through his actions, and through the results obtained by the institutions that he has pioneered, he is a beacon of light in much of the world’s conflicting darkness.”

The internationally-acclaimed vocalist and songwriter Rufus Wainwright will perform in honour of the prize recipient.

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THE RIGHT HONOURABLE ADRIENNE CLARKSON ON HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN AND HIS ISMAILI FOLLOWERS

“In his own being, His Highness encompasses the world….Through the physical dispersal of their community through the centuries, their spiritual allegiance to the Imam and their adherence to the Shia Imami Ismaili branch of Islam was their greatest strength.”

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His Highness the Aga Khan with the Honourable Bill Graham, chancellor of Trinity College (at left) when he was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Sacred Letters on November 25, 2013, for his service to humanity. Photo: AKDN.

I. Excerpts from a Citation for His Highness the Aga Khan Delivered by the Rt.  Hon. Adrienne Clarkson at  Special Convocation, Trinity College, 25 November 2013.

I am deeply honoured to present today His Highness the Aga Khan, the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

It was here at Trinity College in my first year, and actually in the living room at St. Hilda’s College across the street where I was living, when I first saw the picture of the young man aged 20 – also an undergraduate but at Harvard – who had just been named successor to his grandfather, the 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. I remember then thinking how extraordinary it was that someone almost my age would be taking on the leadership of 14 million people around the world on several continents, in diverse countries.

In this College the ideal and the beliefs we hold dear are held within the same ethical framework as that of His Highness.

The recipient of this Doctor of Sacred Letters today has two distinct roles in this world: one as spiritual leader which he has inherited as an extraordinary charge and has held now for 56 years, and the other in the world that we all live, in that he has built upon and recreated, involving all of us. He manifests the creative relationship of spiritual values and material concern which is unique in the world today.

He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He is a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, through the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law Ali, the first Imam and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter. He is the spiritual leader of 14 million Ismailis living all over the world…We are fortunate in Canada to count 100,000 Ismailis who are Canadian citizens. In his own being, His Highness encompasses the world.

Historically, the Ismailis developed a state that concentrated on arts, science and trade centered in Cairo for a number of centuries. But in the 13th century, the Ismailis were dispersed, a diaspora that spread to Persia, Central Asia, Syria, India, and eventually Africa. It is out of this dramatic dispersal and the necessary knowledge of living as a community to whom faith shows itself in works that the far-ranging and extraordinary activities of the present Aga Khan emerge.

Through the physical dispersal of their community through the centuries, their spiritual allegiance to the Imam and their adherence to the Shia Imami Ismaili branch of Islam was their greatest strength. The Ismaili community has developed through centuries an ethos of self-reliance, unity and common identity.

Ismailis have often been uprooted by radical changes in their respective countries, particularly on the Indian subcontinent and in East Africa where new nation states caused the dislocation of Ismaili populations. In 1972 when Idi Amin was president of Uganda, Ismailis and other Asians despite their citizenship and having lived there for several generations were expelled. So, fortunately for us, the Aga Khan took personal steps to find homes for the Ismailis not only in Asia but particularly in Canada and Europe. His personal appeal to Prime Minister Trudeau led to 10 000 Ismailis coming here in 1972. We did not realise as Canadians at the time how important this injection of Ismailis to our national and civic life would be. Who here does not have at least one Ismaili friend now? We have Ismaili students here at Trinity.

Christians and Jews in this country share in the Abrahamic tradition of Islam and we have much to learn from Quranic teachings. From the way in which the sacred and secular are knit together, and how it places a value on maintaining equilibrium between the spiritual well-being of an individual and the quality of their daily life. One thing that we who have been in Canada a little longer, notice about Ismailis is their devotion to community wherever they are and their willingness to give their time to volunteer activities. It springs from the Ismaili belief in man’s dignity and the idea that we are all human and that we must behave as though we are common members of that humanity. Therefore lending their skills, sharing their spare time, giving money, giving ideas to help relieve hardship, pain or ignorance is part of the DNA of the social consciousness of the Ismaili Muslim community.

In this place which all of us here who call ourselves Trinity graduates so treasure, it is deeply moving and appropriate for us to welcome as an honorary graduate a man who is perhaps the only person in the world to whom everyone listens. The Aga Khan remains an outstanding bulwark against ignorance, partisanship, and selfishness. He is honoured by civilisations that need not clash out of ignorance but can and must work together to fulfill God’s promise that we his people are one.

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“He not only celebrates diversity, he also honours the differences between people that can paradoxically give them their greatest bond….With the Aga Khan and what he represents, we are a better country.”

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His Highness the Aga Khan and Mr John Ralston Saul, prominent Canadian essayist and novelist during a conversation on the challenges of pluralism which followed the lecture. Photo: AKDN/ Zahur Ramji.

II. Excerpts from an introduction by The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson at the LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium, Toronto, Canada, on 15 October 2010.

He [the Aga Khan] embodies the values that we Canadians most cherish, and the actions that have created the country that we are. He not only celebrates diversity, he also honours the differences between people that can paradoxically give them their greatest bond. He has two roles in this world; one which he has inherited as an extraordinary charge, and the other that he has built upon and recreated, that now involves all of us. He manifests the creative relationship of spiritual values and material concern, which is unique in the world today, and is a model for all of us.

Ismaili tradition means that their Imam leads in the interpretation of matters of faith and the relationship of that faith to the conditions in the world in which we are living, the world in which we find ourselves. It is grounded in the ethics of Islam in which economic, social and cultural all come together to determine the quality of life for human beings. As the Aga Khan often says, “we have been created as one by a single Creator.”

Since 1957, projects have been initiated and always supported by the communities served no matter how diverse. They are aimed towards becoming self-sustaining, and frequently involve partnerships outside the Ismailis. Anyone who knows Ismailis in Canada, knows that they are the first to volunteer and give of themselves to causes which involve the common good. This is within their tradition and is admired by everyone in Canada. Through the Aga Khan Development Network, enormous work has been done because as His Highness has said, “development is sustainable, only if the beneficiaries become, in a gradual manner, the masters of the process.”

The Aga Khan Health Network has 168 centres in countries like Pakistan, India, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. The Aga Khan Development Network is inclusive of the enormously different cultural traditions in all the countries and areas in which it all operates. And if you think about them, they’re so varied, that they are the very definition of diversity and plurality itself. In all these works, the Aga Khan seeks to create bridges, between the developed and the developing world. This is done with a very conscious sense of the dignity of all human beings. The consciousness that we are all human and nobody is more human than any other and the right of all human beings to the best that life has to offer in this world in culture, in health, in education, in participation.

I was very pleased that the Aga Khan accepted to be an honorary companion of the Order of Canada while I was Governor General in 2005 and during my last year in Ottawa I assisted as he put the spade in the ground for the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex Drive which is now open and is a beautiful architectural example on that very prominent roadway in Ottawa. Recently I was at the Foundation ceremony here in Toronto where ground was turned for the new Ismaili Centre and for the Museum for Islamic art which will grace a wonderful place just beside the Don Valley Parkway. In 2009, he was made an honorary citizen of Canada. Last week the Global Centre for Pluralism which is a partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network and the Government of Canada had its first meeting. I am delighted to be on that Board and to chair the Executive Committee to help forward His Highness’ vision with the partnership of Canada about plurality and diversity, making us all stronger. Canada should be very proud that he has chosen us as the centre for this work, which he holds very dear to his heart. On behalf of all Canadians, I thank him for this.

We could have no finer citizen and we could have no finer bearer of the motto of the Order of Canada: “they desire a better country.” With the Aga Khan and what he represents, we are a better country.

Date posted: September 19, 2016.

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A Proposal to Enhance the Wonderful Ideal of “One Jamat” for the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan

“As you have seen from recent days, here in Karachi, but also in other parts of Pakistan, the Jamat that has been here comes from many different countries, speaks many different languages, comes from different backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, but remember, please remember, that you are one Jamat; that you recognise the same Imam of the Time.” Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Karachi, Pakistan, October 27, 2000.

Ismaili Portrait by Matthieu Palley

“..remember, please remember, that you are one Jamat; that you recognise the same Imam of the Time…” Ismaili girls hold the photo of their beloved Imam as they celebrate the anniversary of the Aga Khan’s visit to their village in the Pamirs in the 1990s. During the celebrations the villagers dress up, dance outdoors to the accordion and drums and sing ginane (religious songs), which tell of him being their Noor (light). The photograph was taken as these girls, dressed in bright atlas silk fabric with crowns on their heads, were going out to dance. Photo: Matthieu Paley. Copyright.

More than 12 years ago in early 2004, the editor of this blog, with the assistance of his father Alwaez Jehangir Merchant, submitted to the Ismaili leadership a proposal for the celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Golden Jubilee, which was still 3 years away (July 11, 2007). The proposal did not find any traction but today we find a hash tag #OneJamat floating around, perhaps resulting from the momentous Ismaili Jubilee Games that were held in Dubai recently. The games brought thousands of Ismaili athletes from all over the world together in a spirit of friendship and brotherhood, and exemplified the spirit of “One Jamat” that Mawlana Hazar Imam or His Highness has spoken about throughout his Imamat.

I am happy to share with readers of this website the original proposal entitled “One Jamat” with a view that some of the components described in the proposal have the potential to enhance the notion of “One Jamat” even further beyond the Jubilee Games, as we prepare to celebrate 60 glorious years of Imamat or the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan on July 11, 2017. By coincidence, a few days earlier on July 1, Canada will be marking its 150th Anniversary of Confederation. For the past three years, the Canadian Government has been soliciting ideas from Canadians on how the country should celebrate its historic 150th birthday. With the recent announcement that Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee will be celebrated on July 11, 2017, it is hoped that the Ismaili leadership around the world will seek to engage with their respective constituents on ways to make the Diamond Jubilee a unique event in the life of each and every Ismaili living in the world today.

During his Golden Jubilee visits between July 11, 2007 and December 13, 2008, His Highness the Aga Khan, stressed on three matters to the worldwide Ismaili community:

  • The importance of forming business and professional partnerships in order to strengthen and sustain the economic well-being of the community, in favour of taking an individualistic approach which has been the mind-set of the Ismailis for decades;
  • Eliminating poverty wherever it exists in the jamat by coming up with specific poverty alleviation projects and programs; and
  • Addressing the needs of  the aging members of the jamat.

The “One Jamat” proposal, below, does not deal with any of these 3 critical and important issues, but over the next several months this website will propose ways to address these key areas of concern mentioned by Mawlana Hazar Imam during his Golden Jubilee (and even in the preceding decades). We hope readers will submit their feedback.

For example, there is no doubt that meetings and conferences have been held since the Golden Jubilee on ways to form business and professional partnerships, but each professional or business entity within the institutional framework has then taken its own path. No concrete steps have been taken to bring individuals, professionals and businesses together on a global scale, through an enterprise like Monster Worldwide, that would have an incredible impact on the world wide jamat in every aspect of human endeavour, and thus significantly strengthen the “One Jamat” ideal! A future article will elaborate on this internet idea for greater collaboration and cooperation between individuals, professionals and businesses around the world that would significantly improve the economic and social status of the jamat.

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“ONE JAMAT”

A Proposal to Celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan (1957-2007)

Prepared and submitted in 2004 by Abdulmalik J. Merchant
with the assistance of

Alwaez Rai Jehangir A. Merchant

“As you have seen from recent days, here in Karachi, but also in other parts of Pakistan, the Jamat that has been here comes from many different countries, speaks many different languages, comes from different backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, but remember, please remember, that you are one Jamat; that you recognise the same Imam of the Time.” Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Karachi, Pakistan, October 27, 2000.

“ONE JAMAT” – PRELIMINARY REMARKS

Under the rubric “One Jamat”, this proposal articulates a number of ideas for celebrating, in a meaningful manner, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s fifty glorious and magnificent years of Imamat. “One Jamat” will bring the richness and diversity of the Ismaili world and the accomplishments of our beloved 49th Imam to the forefront of a world-wide audience. The notion, inspiration and motivation for “One Jamat” comes from farmans that Mawlana Hazar Imam has made where he has often used the term “One Jamat” (see the extract cited on the beginning of this proposal).

There will be many ideas on how the Jubilee can be celebrated. In our proposal to inculcate and enshrine the notion of “One Jamat” into the hearts and minds of the Jamats around the world, and with a view to making the notion of “One Jamat” viable and sustainable, we have identified seven themes, and have proposed seven projects to implement these themes, with an emphasis on social, educational and cultural dimensions. The themes and projects proposed hereunder are in engagement with the past, present and future of Ismaili communities worldwide.

Over the past few years, personal and institutional initiatives and encounters have contributed towards a realization of the ‘Unity in Diversity’ within the Jamat. However, the vitality of the notion of “One Jamat” can be fully realized only by and with the active participation of Jamats globally. A critically important factor in this participation is for Ismailis to become better informed and educated about the different social and cultural contexts within which they live around the world. This view is based on a statement made by Mawlana Hazar Imam in an address he delivered at the Prince Claus Conference in Amsterdam in September 2002:

“Development  is  sustainable  only  if  the  beneficiaries  become, in  a  gradual manner, the  masters  of  the process. This means that initiatives cannot be contemplated exclusively in terms of economics, but rather as an integrated program that encompasses social and cultural dimensions as well.”

How can we best celebrate this event to make it an enduring and enriching event? How can we be educated and, at the same time, be entertained? How can we pay our tribute to the phenomenal achievements of Mawlana Hazar Imam for the Jamat?  What legacy will we leave behind so that our beloved 49th Imam and the Jamat of the 20th and 21st centuries are thought of centuries hence?

“ONE JAMAT” – SEVEN THEMES

The following seven themes [1] will provide the controlling framework for “One Jamat”:

1. Peoples, Places, Culture and Tradition

This theme will examine the composition of the Jamat. Where are the Jamats located? Why are they located where they are? This study of human-environment interactions will assist individuals as they create their spatial views and geographic perspectives of the world. This theme will also describe ways in which languages and literature, music and art serve as expressions of tradition and culture and influence behavior of people living within a specific geographical region.

2. Community Ideals and Practices

What is the ethos of the Jamat as promulgated by Mawlana Hazar Imam? How are the values of compassion and generosity exemplified in our institutions and in individuals? Why is honorary service such a critical component in our lives? How are these ideals practiced around the world? What are its origins? How can we sustain this most wonderful aspect of our Ismaili tariqah? What is the role of din (the spiritual) and dunya (the temporal) and how are they interwoven into our ideals, ethics and practices?

3. Spiritual Power, Authority and Governance

This theme will seek to explore and address questions such as: What is Imamat? What forms does it take? What is legitimate authority in Shia Islam? How does the Imam create, maintain, and change institutions? How does the Imam govern the Jamat? How does he delegate responsibilities and what are his expectations of the leadership? What is the role of the Ismaili constitution, and how has it evolved and changed?

4. Time, Continuity and Change

Knowing how to read and reconstruct the past will allow one to develop a historical perspective and to answer questions such as: Who am I? What happened to the Jamat in the past and what challenges did it face? What contribution has the Imamat and the Jamat made in the spheres of human endeavor? How am I connected to those in the past? How has the Jamat changed and how might it change in the future?

5. Education, Meritocracy and the Role of Intellect

What are the educational trends of today and tomorrow and how is the Jamat adapting to the technological society and careers of the future? Why are meritocracy and education, including lifelong education, so critical and vital for our survival and security? What is the notion of meritocracy and how does it complement our belief system? How can we preserve our fundamental values and beliefs in a world that is rapidly becoming one technology-linked?

6. Individuals, Groups and Institutions

This theme will address questions such as: What is the role of institutions in Jamats around the world?  How am I influenced by institutions and how do they benefit me? How do institutions change? How can I play a positive role in institutional change? What is the contribution of the women and youth in Jamati and Imamat institutions? In addition, the role of Imamat institutions as civil society groups that seek to tackle in a coherent, collaborative and structured way the problems and needs of the citizens of the countries in which they are engaged in will be examined. How are the Muslim values of ethics, concern and generosity implemented within a context that not only values pluralism and individual liberties but also respects the citizen’s own vision of the common good?

7. Production and Consumption – Ismailis in the Modern World

This theme will explore how individuals and Jamats in both the rural and urban centers meet their daily needs and build for the future. If they are farmers, what do they produce and how is the production organized? How do they organize themselves in their own areas of expertise?  How are they competing and preparing in the global economy? What opportunities are available?

“ONE JAMAT” – SEVEN PROJECTS

“One Jamat” will be implemented through a series of seven ground breaking projects and will encompass all of today’s communications media. These projects will be an unprecedented accomplishment even by modern standards of entertainment and knowledge transmission. The seven themes briefly mentioned above will form the programming framework for the projects as the case may apply. The seven suggested projects are:

1. DVD

The “One Jamat” DVD (approximately 3 hours in duration), accompanied by a music CD (60 to 75 minutes in length), will seek to diffuse and educate through images, voices and music the notion of “One Jamat.” The DVD’s overall objective will be to provide education and entertainment of the highest quality through a thematic presentation of ideas, thoughts and music. It will feature Ismailis of all ages and from all walks of life (artists and musicians, singers and storytellers, writers and thinkers, school children and teachers, leaders and volunteers, seniors, business people and professionals). This component of “One Jamat” would, in some ways, resemble the award winning CD/DVD production 1 Giant Leap produced by Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman which was released in 2002 by Palm Pictures, with the theme “Unity in Diversity.”

2. Television/Radio Documentary Series

This project will be immense in scope, similar to the BBC/PBS series by Professor Mazrui entitled “The Africans.” A seven-part series, “The Ismailis,” would be produced for television and radio audiences around the world. A fully illustrated book would accompany this series. With a special foreword by Mawlana Hazar Imam, the text and stunning pictures will seek to capture the spirit of the Ismaili Jamats around the world and will put into perspective our rich history, culture and tradition.

3. Ismaili Ensemble and the One Jamat Festival

This project will bring together an ensemble of Ismaili musicians and singers along with other artisans from all traditions of the Jamat, who will perform live in front of Ismaili and non-Ismaili audiences in selected cities around the world. This will culminate with the “One Jamat” festival, similar to the highly successful  annual Silk Roads Festival held in Washington D.C., that will showcase and present works of art, cultural and musical events from around the Ismaili world. Artisans will have the opportunity to market their unique products to hundreds of thousands of visitors to the festival. The Ismaili Imamat and the Aga Khan Development Network will also feature prominently and there will be linkages to participating galleries and museums.

4. Leadership Conference

This project will bring together the Ismaili world’s leadership and future leaders from universities, business, labor, government, NGOs, civil society groups, education and the cultural sectors for a unique experience aimed at broadening their perspectives on work, career trends, leadership, their communities, and their respective Jamats. Participants will represent Ismailis from different countries, different perspectives and different careers. All will share one thing in common: they will be high potential individuals expected to achieve senior leadership positions in their organizations and communities. Participation will be open to all Ismaili youth and professionals. This one to two week brainstorming event will open up to a world of ideas, knowledge and experience and will pave future goals for the Jamat based on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s hidayat (guidance).

5. International Competition

Ismailis, young and old, from around the world will be invited to participate in a series of competitions on the notion of “One Jamat” wherein different art forms (pottery, woodwork, painting, sculpture, metalwork, etc.), as well as literary expressions (poetry, music, etc.) will be encouraged. A panel of judges comprising Ismaili and non-Ismaili individuals will select the winning entries, and these will be showcased on other related projects, such as museum exhibitions and the “One Jamat” festival.

6. Museum Exhibitions

A series of exhibitions (in Toronto, for example at the Aga Khan Museum, as well as in major cities throughout the world) will be inaugurated with a view to providing the Jamat and the general public about the accomplishments of the Ismaili Imamat. The ethos of the Ismaili Imamat and its institutions and the pluralistic nature of the community under the leadership of a living and manifest Imam will be communicated via visual and interactive displays, text, and short films. Exhibitions of manuscripts and objects from different periods of Ismaili history will be organized with selected museums worldwide.

7. Web Site

An official web site OneJamat.com [2] will complement all the above projects. In addition, it will keep Jamats worldwide informed about the events and news pertaining to the Jubilee celebrations. The web site will be a repository of music, sounds and images that could not be included in the DVD/CD, such as interviews and footage. It will be a long term commitment, extending beyond the Jubilee Year, as the notion of “One Jamat” continues to evolve and is understood and experienced through other dimensions of the Jamats’ lives.

CONCLUSION – MEETING THE “ONE JAMAT” CHALLENGE

“One Jamat” will be enriching, entertaining, educational. It will be an historical experience befitting the accomplishments of our 49th Imam. We will be leaving a magnificent legacy – that of having inculcated the ethic of “One Jamat” for ourselves and for future generations. The celebrations marking the Jubilee through the projects mentioned will enhance each individual’s experience of this unique occasion. It will be an opportunity to involve Ismaili youth from around the world to become engaged in its planning and implementation. New talents in the Jamat will develop; art and culture will be fortified as artists are inspired. These will be assets to the Jamat for the challenges that lie ahead.

“One Jamat” will be an unprecedented collaboration that will include the Imamat, its institutions, and a large number of Jamati and non-Jamati members from around the world. It will need to address and overcome many technical and logistical challenges and hurdles. We have an intellectual heritage, and the modern Jamat must meet the challenges of the time.

Date posted: Friday, September 2, 2016.

Copyright: Abdulmalik Merchant and Jehangir A. Merchant.

Note: This proposal was submitted to the Ismaili leadership in 2004, before any plans had been formalized to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan. The Golden Jubilee celebrations were held from July 11, 2007 until December 13, 2008.

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[1] Some of the material listed in the seven themes was inspired and extracted from a social studies section in a  paper at galileo.org. 

[2] The editor had reserved this domain name, with numerous variations, after this proposal was submitted. It has since been acquired by another individual when the editor overlooked the expiry date of extending the domain name.

An Exploration of Eight Ismaili Ginans on Science, Spirituality and Pluralism

Note from the Publisher/Editor (August 28, 2016): Lately, it has not been possible for Simerg to publish new articles that have been submitted by numerous authors, and for this we offer our sincerest apologies to our contributors and readers around the world. Normal publication on this website and Simerg’s two sister websites, simergphotos.com and barakah.com authors will resume  during the latter half of October. In the meantime, we invite you to click on Table of Contents for links to over 900 timeless articles and photo essays.

ARTICLES BY SHIRAZ PRADHAN

Mawlana Hazar Imam on Ginans

SPIRITUALITY

Many Ismaili ginans relate the spiritual experiences of Ismaili Pirs and describe the meditative techniques used as an aid in the spiritual journey, and also the important milestones and inner cosmology corresponding to the different stages (maqamat). However, the Pirs emphatically have stated that the experiences of higher spiritual stations are not describable in rational language to people who are not initiated in the tariqa (path) and who have not experienced the different stations themselves. Pradhan uses two ginans by Pir Shams and Pir Sadardin to develop this theme.

PLEASE CLICK: The Inward Odyssey in Two Key Ismaili Ginans, “Brahma Prakash” and “Sakhi Mahapada”

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Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957), had once said that “In your heart is a heap of fireworks, if you do not light it, how will you get Light (Roshni) in your heart?” The theme of the re-orientation of the soul and its migration towards the “Country of the Beloved” is captured beautifully in “Ek Shabda suno mere bhai….”

PLEASE CLICK: Ismaili Spirituality in Pir Shams Shabzwari’s Ginan “Ek Shabada Suno Mere Bhai”, accompanied with recitation

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Continuing on the theme of spirituality and self-understanding in Ismaili Ginans, Pradhan  uses a parable from a Ginan of a young lion cub who grows up in the flock of sheep, and starts behaving like a sheep until it sees its own reflection in a pool to know its true identity.

PLEASE CLICK: An Explanation of the Ismaili Ginan “Kesri Sinha Sarup Bhulayo”

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COSMOLOGY AND SCIENCE

Are the answers to secrets that Hadron Collider will reveal already in the Ginans? Pradhan’s study focuses on a granth composed by Syad Imam Shah around 1400 CE that he regards as one of the most scientifically advanced and compact ancient document, besides the Ikhwa-al safa.

PLEASE CLICK: Cutting-Edge Science in Syad Imam Shah’s Naklanki Geeta — Are the answers to secrets that Hadron Collider will reveal already in the Ginan?

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Based on the acceptance by modern science of the Big Bang origin of our universe, Pradhan proceeds to analyse two Ismaili Ginans that have striking parallels of modern cosmology and astrophysics in them.

PLEASE CLICK: Concepts of Modern Cosmology and Astrophysics in Two Ismaili Ginans, Choghadia and Mul Gayatri

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PLURALISM AND UNITY OF MANKIND

Our happiness and satisfaction must be anchored on pluralism and the underlying unity of faiths of mankind. Pradhan explores two different old traditions which echo these messages. One is from the Shia Ismaili Ginanic tradition and the other is from the Hindu Gujarati tradition.

PLEASE CLICK: Ideas of One Humanity, Love and Peace in World Religions: Comparative Study of Ginan “Hum dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase” with a Hindu Bhajan

Date posted: August 15, 2016.
Date updated: August 28, 2016 (please see editor’s note at top of page).

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How an Athlete at the Ismaili Jubilee Games Became a Hero to a Young Boy

Adnan Dahlvani of the USA Basketball Team had a deep impact and inspired 8-year old Riyaan Maherali to follow him to every basketball that he played in. Read Riyaan’s story, where he explains why he will never forget Adnan for the rest of his life.

PLEASE CLICK: Riyaan Maherali: My Ismaili Jubilee Games Hero – Adnan Dahlvani of Team USA Blue

Please click on image for story.

Please click on image for story.

Date posted: August 15, 2016.

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Your Opportunity to Acquire a Highly Acclaimed Beautiful New Book About the People and Food of the Pamirs

Co-Author holding "With Our Own Hands"Frederik van Oudenhoven happily displaying the 688 page book “With Our Own Hands” that he co-authored with Jamila Haider. Photo: Facebook page, PamirFoodandLife

“Those of us reading this book several thousand miles away from the Pamir Mountains cannot fail to be moved by the celebration of human diversity and dignity. I hope this book will act as a spur to other such works, and to the preservation and celebration of other such ancient cultures, wherever they are in the world” — HRH The Prince of Wales in Foreword to “With Our Own Hands.”

“These mountains [the Pamirs] have had a strong influence on the culture and practices surrounding the Pamiri Ismaili faith. While 15 millions Ismaili Muslims live around the world, the Pamir mountains is the only region in the world where they form a majority of the population.” — Excerpt from “With Our Own Hands,” page 382.

A book that began as a simple 30 page recipe book to fulfill a promise to a grandmother has grown to a magnificent volume of almost 700 pages telling the cultural and agricultural history of the Afghan and Tajik Pamirs, one of the world’s least known and most isolated civilizations. Through the lens of local recipes, essays and stories, and accompanied by the work of three award-winning photographs, “With Our Own Hands” describes Pamiri food and its origins, people’s daily lives, their struggle and celebrations. Simerg carried a special feature on the making of the book (see link at end of this post). The highly acclaimed and award winning work by Frederik van Oudenhoven and Jamila Haider was beautifully featured on BBC a few weeks ago. Jamila Haider says that everyone who has seen the book, has asked how to get one.

12316071_440190226178538_2484686561241700908_nThe authors ensured that each of the 1800 communities of the Pamirs received a copy of “With Our Own Hands.” In this photo, schoolgirls in the Bartang valley are standing with a copy of the book. The authors have noted that they were received time and time again with the warmest hospitality one could ever imagine. Photo: Facebook page, PamirFoodandLife.

ACCOLADES FOR THE BOOK

“This…may be one of the most beautiful books I have ever read..!” — Frénk van der Linden.

“People touch the book and stroke it, and it is as if there is no distance between them and the pages…it’s very touching to see.” – Facebook comment

In size, rigor and thoughtfulness [this book] has become a touching piece of art.” — Geerdt Magiels, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

TO BUY “WITH OUR OWN HANDS”

WOHcover1s

We take great delight in informing our readers that with great luck and timing, we have managed to obtain a few copies of “With Our Own Hands” that were in stock in North America. We are grateful to the book’s Canadian distributors, the UBCpress, for making 21 copies of the book available to us. The book is out of stock at Amazon.com, but numerous sellers are offering the book from US$120.00 and up. Simerg is offering the book to interested Canadian readers on a first-come first-served basis at Cdn$85.00 per copy plus taxes/shipping/insurance (which will vary across Canada). The book may be reserved/purchased as follow:

NOTE: We wish to inform our readers that the book is sold out. Request a copy by writing to simergbooks@aol.com, and we will notify you as soon as we have more information from the book’s distributors in North America about its availability in Canada.

Payment Methods:

Paypal: Simergbooks has been verified by Paypal. To purchase a copy of “With Our Own Hands”, please send a request to  simergbooks@aol.com and an invoice will be generated through Paypal provided we still have the book in stock. You can then pay via Paypal. In view of the limited quantities, payment should be received within 24 hours after the invoice.

Email Transfer: To purchase a copy via email fund transfer, please send a request to simergbooks@aol.com. Once we have confirmed to you via email that we have the book in stock, we will request you to send the payment via email transfer. In view of the limited quantities payment should be received within 24 hours after the invoice.

AN EXTRAORDINARY BOOK FOR YOUR HOME

This book will remain for a long time on your family’s shelf by virtue of its extraordinary quality and for its portrayal in a respectable manner of the food, culture and traditions of the beautiful people of the Pamirs.

Date posted: Sunday, August 7, 2016.
Last updated: Monday, August 22, 2016.

NOTE: We wish to inform our readers that the book is sold out. Request a copy by writing to simergbooks@aol.com, and we will notify you as soon as we have more information from the book’s distributors in North America about its availability in Canada.

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Related: With Our Own Hands – A Celebration of Food and Life in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan

His Highness the Aga Khan: A Visual and Textual Celebration, 1957-2017 @Barakah

Please click on photo or www.Barakah.com

© Ulstein Bild, Getty Images, 1960. Please click on photo for Barakah.

© Ulstein Bild, Getty Images, 1960. Please click on photo for Barakah.

SIMERG LAUNCHES BARAKAH TO CELEBRATE INSPIRING LIFE OF 49TH ISMAILI IMAM

In fifty-two weeks, on 11th July, 2017, Ismailis around the world, along with the wider societies within which they live, will celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of the accession to the Imamat of His Highness the Aga Khan. Over the course of the next year, Simerg’s new website, Barakah, will illustrate the remarkable and inspiring life of His Highness the Aga Khan through a unique project titled “His Highness the Aga Khan: A Visual and Textual Celebration, 1957-2017.”

Barakah will include rare photographs, eyewitness accounts, descriptive essays, in-depth articles, insightful interviews, detailed timelines, as well as audio and video recordings.

His Highness the Aga Khan, direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family), through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter, became the forty-ninth hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims at the age of twenty on 11th July, 1957.

Date posted: July 14, 2016.

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We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment.

Copyright notice: The photo of His Highness the Aga Khan shown above is reproduced under a licensing arrangement with Getty Images. Reproduction or distribution of the photo without prior written permission from Getty Images is strictly prohibited.

The Nur (Light) of Imamat

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

The doctrine of Imamat has been central in Shia Islam since the designation by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) as his successor at Ghadir-Khumm. Among the various interpretations in Shia Islam, the Ismaili Muslims believe in the continuity of the Imamat through a living hereditary Imam descended from Hazrat Ali, through the prophet’s daughter Bibi Fatima (a.s). The current Imam of the Ismailis is His Highness the Aga Khan, who completes his 59th Imamat anniversary as the Ismaili community’s 49th Imam on July 11, 2016. To mark this occasion, we are pleased to provide short selections on the Imamat drawn from numerous writings of historians, theologians, philosophers and poets, Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike. But we begin, on this page, with a short piece prepared for younger readers, followed by a link to other pieces that includes the transliteration and translation of the Munajaat which is recited in many parts of the world specifically for the Imamat Day celebration.  

We wish Ismailis around the world Imamat Day Mubarak, and pray that the Imamat of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, may continue for several more years beyond the celebration of his Diamond Jubilee on July 11, 2017, which is now exactly 52 weeks away.

The Nur (Light) of Imamat

The sun is extremely important for all life on earth. It gives us light, warmth and energy. The sun however is not the final source of life. It is Allah who gives life to all living things. It is God who has created the sun and the stars and everything that is in the universe.

The Quran teaches that Allah is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. Allah guides mankind towards Him through His light. While Allah has created the physical light, He has also provided mankind another kind of light.

Allah says in the Quran:

“O Mankind! Truly there has come to you a proof from your Lord, and We have sent down to you a clear Light.” (Chapter 4, Verse 174)

What is this special light that Allah refers to, which guides and makes things clear? For Shia Muslims, this light is the Light of Imamat. The Shias refer to it as the Nur of Imamat. Nur means light. The Nur of Imamat is a spiritual light.

This spiritual light is with the Ahl al-bayt, the Imams from the Prophet Muhammad’s family. This light was with the first Shia Imam, Hazrat Murtaza Ali and, for Shia Imami Ismailis, it is now with their present 49th Imam, Shah Karim al-Husayni, His Highness the Aga Khan IV. The Imam guides his murids (followers) with his Nur.

The Imam’s Nur is not like ordinary light. It is a different light altogether. It is a spiritual light. Physical light, such as sunlight, helps everyone see things in the physical world. The Imam’s Nur guides his murids both in the spiritual and worldly aspects of their lives. Above all, the Imam’s Nur leads his followers towards inner peace and happiness.

Ever since the time of Hazrat Ali, the Ismaili Imams have guided their followers in succession, one after another. There have been forty-nine Imams up to the present time, but the Nur of Imamat is one, and it remains the same.

The Nur of Imamat is always there to guide through the physical presence of the Imam. The Imam holds his followers hands and leads them through both difficult and good times. He gives them guidance about how they should live in a particular time and place.

Just as the water of a river continues to flow, the line of Imamat never stops. That is, the Nur of Imamat is there to stay eternally.

One of the goals of the murid of the Imam should be to strive to come closer to the spiritual light of the Imam. This, one can do by fulfilling one’s material and spiritual responsibilities to the best of one’s ability. Praying regularly, living by the ethics of Islam, following the Imam’s guidance and thinking about Allah constantly can bring us closer and closer to the Nur of Imamat.

Source: Article adapted from multiple literary sources including the Ta’lim curriculum published by Islamic Publications, London.

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PLEASE CLICK: The Munajaat and Imamat As Depicted Through the Ages in Ismaili and non-Ismaili Writings

IMAMS ARE SHIPS OF SALVATION

Feluccas on the Nile in Aswan. The ship occupies a unique position in the Islamic tradition. The Qur’an counts it among the ayat (miracles) of God and devotes twenty-eight verses enumerating its benefits to mankind. For Shaykh Khudr, a contemporary of the Ismaili Imam Nizar, Imams are the Ships of Salvation. Please click on image for numerous selections on Imamat.

Date posted: July 10, 2016.

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Intezaar, 11th July 2016 Leading to 11th July 2017: The Guiding Light of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Diamonds Faceted Jubilee_s

BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE

This Imamat Day
O Mawla

Is a promise for a thirsty heart
Innumerable will be the facets of the Diamond Jubilee
As we in anticipation await humble of heart
Make us worthy of this blessing
O Mawla a prayer rises from my heart

At the feet of Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah
An innocent babe in naive anticipation
Your guiding light has lit the path
Path eased with access to health education
Let knowledge lead us to sat bhudhi
O Mawla a prayer emanates from my heart

Your protective shade sent light
Throughly the windows of our schools
Your wisdom in wise words led every step
Your vision sent us succour with words of hope
Your guiding hand gave hope after Uganda
A prayer of gratitude leaves my heart

Still you guide us through the bridge of River Panj
Through Syria to the Hindu Kush
From East To the West in every direction
Your helping hand O Mawla opens our heart
This four day life journey is so ephemeral
It is enriched by the Light of
Your Ever-present Noor- e-Ali

Oh Mawla we look towards thee
With empathetic hearts our face turns
To the Alfa and Omega of our life
Your ishara with vision and ‘aql
Enables door upon door to open up for us
To guide us into that which is the qalb
To beckon a prayer from our heart

O Mawla make us worthy of the trust you place
In our actions which often trip
In our words which wisdom oft lack
Keep us balanced in din and dunya
We pray from our heart

O Mawla our hands are raised
All ready to receive the pearls
Of wisdom, vision , love and ever caring hand
We are in intezaar of your
Diamond Faceted Jubilee
A prayer of gratitude leaves my heart

As we await let our zikr lead to fikr
Cleanse our hearts so it may sing
The praise of all human and sentient beings
Our life will be the lighter for
The aid you have given in years before
We beseech in prayer from
Our heart

Let our intellect understand unity
That we are all from One Soul
Let us internalise this oneness
So that our heart is prepared
In joyful presence to celebrate the Jubillee
A prayer from each heart

Lead us to fana through forgiveness to transcend
So we stand worthy of the many faceted diamond
In word and in deed in intention and action
O Mawla all this so we can raise
Our hands with a prayer from the heart

Our heads are held up high for you are our pride
As we are yours to fly your flag
Up high in all direction proud the world over
O Alfa O Omega the Ever-present
O Mawla we beseech that this
Diamond Faceted Jubillee
Be a diamond of Almas
Is our prayer rendered from the heart

Date posted: July 9, 2016.

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Diamond Photo: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Glossary of terms used in the poem:

  • Almas – Muslim baby name, also means diamond.
  • Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
  • din and dunya – sacred and profane, religion and world.
  • fana – annihilation of the self.
  • fikr -contemplation, deep thought and reflection.
  • Imamat Day – the day an Ismaili Imam succeeds as his community’s spiritual leader by the designation (nass) of his predecessor.
  • ishara – sign, gesture.
  • Mawla – Master. Here the reference is to the current 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan, whose 60 years of reign will be celebrated on July 11, 2017.
  • Noor-e-Ali – Light of Ali (or the Light of Imamat).
  • qalb – heart
  • sat budh – pure knowledge or understanding of true essence or true nature of things.
  • Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah (d. 1957) – the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis.
  • zikr – remembrance of Allah, form of special devotion.

Eid ul-Fitr Should Foster Brotherhood in the Muslim Umma and Provide Spark of Hope For the Less Privileged

“A Muslim must play an active role in helping his family and the brotherhood of believers. The object is not to achieve status, wealth and power, but to contribute to society’s overall development. This implies moral responsibility to help the weaker, less fortunate members.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Toronto, May 14, 1987. [1]

EID MUBARAK

ISS028-E-20073-NASA Photo

A new Moon occurs when all of the Sun’s light is reflected away from Earth, and the side of the Moon facing Earth is barely visible, as illustrated in the above photo. Sometimes the dark face of the Moon catches Earth’s reflected glow and returns that light. The phenomenon is called earthshine. This Astronaut Photograph was taken on July 31, 2011, on board the International Space Station and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center.

The festival of Eid, also known as Bairam or Eid Ramadan is one of the most joyous days in the Islamic calendar. It is an occasion for celebration and rejoicing for Allah’s Bounty upon mankind for His revelation of the Holy Qur’an during the month of Ramadan. It is also a time for individuals to express their gratitude to Allah for having given them the strength, courage and resilience to complete the fast, and thus fulfilling the duty enjoined upon them by Allah.

On this joyous occasion, we convey our heartiest felicitations and Eid Mubarak to all our readers as well as Muslims around the world, with the fervent hope and prayer that peace and harmony should prevail over many areas of the Muslim world afflicted by horrible conflicts, which are resulting in the loss of lives and contributing to unbearable hardships and struggles. The Islamic ethic of forgiveness, generosity, and peaceful co-existence and unity through dialogue are keys by which conflicts can be resolved, whereby every Muslim can aspire for a life of material and spiritual well-being and happiness.

The excerpts produced in this post from the Holy Qur’an and the hadith as well as from the farmans, writings and speeches of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and Mawlana Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan) are foundation blocks for building harmonious societies around the world. The acts of charity and generosity mentioned in the quotes will facilitate those who are underprivileged to manage their own destinies, thereby leading them to a life of dignity, befitting Allah’s greatest creation.

PROFOUND TEACHINGS OF ISLAM

Conceptual image for the holy month of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr.

Conceptual image for the holy month of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr. Photo: Istockphoto

“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteous is the one who believes in Allah and the Last Day, and the angels and the Books and the prophets, and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and set slaves free.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:177

“And whatever good you may spend on others is for your own good, provided that you spend only out of a longing for God’s countenance.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:272

“You will not enter paradise till you believe, and you will not believe till you love one another. Let me guide you to something by doing which you will love one another: Salute and sundry among you.”  — Tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.)

“A great river is not made turbid by a stone. A religious man who takes to heart an injury is as yet, but shallow water. If any misfortune befalls you, bear with it, that by forgiving others you may yourself obtain pardon. O my brother! seeing that we are at last to return to earth, let us humble ourselves in ashes before we are changed into dust.” — Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s.). [2]

“…As the world gets smaller, it is fundamental that people should work together and not against each other, and try to be a little more generous than you have been in the past. If people have made mistakes, forgive them their mistakes. If people have harmed you, forget and forgive. Do not hold grudges. Do not turn around and say, ‘he hurt me yesterday, so I will hurt him today’. This is not the spirit of Islam…” His Highness the Aga Khan, Farman Mubarak, Mumbai, 1969, Precious Gems.

“…when you are studying the Qur’an, when you are studying the history of Imams, when you are studying the history of pre-Islamic Arabia, I would like you to take from this history that which will help you to live within the spirit of Islam. This means to live honestly, to live purely, to know that you are brothers and sisters, to be available at all times when one or the other needs help, to be generous, to be honest. These are the qualities which you can trace throughout Qur’an-e Shariff, throughout the life of the Prophet, throughout the lives of the Imams. And this is something which I would like you to follow, not only in letter but also in spirit, because it is this spirit which cannot be changed, and which I would like my spiritual children to understand fully…” Farman Mubarak, His Highness the Aga Khan, Karachi, November 29, 1964. [3]

“There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot. Unless these unfortunate ones can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.” —  His Highness the Aga Khan, speech, Housing and Development, Mumbai, January 17, 1983.

Date posted: July 6, 2016.

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References:

[1] Quoted in Ilm, July 1986, page 17.

[2] Ilm, Volume 13, Number 1, July 1990, page 45-46.

[3] Farman Mubarak Pakistan Visit 1964, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan, quoted also in Ilm, Volume 13, Number 1, July 1990, page 38.