INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
(with material from The Ismaili website)
“No ocean, no mountain, and no desert can keep the Imam from his murids,” was the caring message that Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, delivered to his spiritual children, the Ismailis, during one of the many visits which he undertook to his global community during his Golden Jubilee Celebrations. The Jubilee began on July 11, 2007, when he completed 50 years of his reign as the 49th hereditary Imam, directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), and ended on December 13, 2008, on the exact day of his 72nd birthday. He was born in Geneva in 1936.
Eight years on, on Saturday December 17, 2016, the harsh elements of nature — snow, freezing rain, and cold — did not subdue or keep tens of thousands of Ismailis in Canada, from attending the video showing of their beloved Imam’s 80th birthday celebration that had taken place just a day earlier at his estate and the Imamat headquarters in Aiglemont, France.
Ismaili leaders from around the world, including President Malik Talib of Canada, travelled to France on behalf of their constituents to personally offer congratulations, express shukrana (thanks), and to reaffirm the Jamat’s bayyah (oath of allegiance) to the 49th Ismaili Imam. Also attending the birthday celebration, were members of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family – Prince Amyn Muhammad, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and his wife Princess Salwa along with their son Prince Irfan, Prince Hussain, Prince Aly Muhammad and Princess Zahra’s children, Sara and Ilyan.
Earlier during the week, on December 13, the actual day of his birthday, Ismailis had gathered in their local jamatkhanas for special prayers and ceremonies to affirm their loyalty and love for their Imam. Mawlana Hazar Imam, in becoming 80, has established himself as the oldest serving Imam in Ismaili history!
The celebration in Aiglemont was housed in specially designed marquee, with a protective dome that signified the guidance and shelter that Hazar Imam constantly provides. The dome itself was inspired by an icosahedron — a geometric structure composed of 20 triangles. Each triangle symbolised one of the 20 national Ismaili Councils appointed by the Imam to oversee the community’s well-being.
Reflecting on the progress of the Jamat over the past several decades, Hazar Imam said, “I think we can conclude today that the Jamat is a strong community. It is a global community. It is a community with strong institutions, with strong ethics and it is respected around the world. This evening is an extraordinarily special occasion for the global Jamat and for the leaders who are here present tonight who are representing them.”
He said that his wish for the decades ahead was that “you stand firmly by the principles and ethics of our faith. Wherever you are, whatever age you are, whatever you do in your lives, it is essentially important to me that the principles of our faith should be respected everyday of your lives.”
When Mawlana Hazar Imam cut a birthday cake presented on behalf of the global Jamat, he was serenaded by all those gathered with Happy Birthday sung in two languages. Hazar Imam was also presented with a gift of art — a mosaic of horses by the late Ismail Gulgee that was commissioned in 1989. It was selected “because of Hazar Imam’s passion for horses, the history of horses within Islamic civilisation and the history even within Mawlana Hazar Imam’s own family,” explained Chairman Eboo.
Mawlana Hazar Imam expressed great happiness at the celebration of his 80th birthday. “If I had known it was going to be so wonderful, I would have tried to bring it forward,” he joked, “and I would have tried to multiply it!” He said, “I hope that in the decades ahead, you will remember this occasion as one of special happiness, as I do.”
CELEBRATION AT THE ISMAILI CENTRE, BURNABY, DARKHANA OF CANADA
The jamat at the Darkhana, where I was present for the showing, watched the entire program with awe and absolute discipline.We then proceeded in an orderly fashion to a specially constructed tent in the parking lot to partake of the feast (jaman) prepared by a team of special volunteers of the jamat – the randhan committee. It consisted of fresh lettuce, vegetable and chicken biryanis with kachumber (diced tomatoes and onions), a dessert (barfi), soft drinks and chai! The tent was heated and very comfortable, protecting everyone from the freezing temperatures. The senior citizens of the jamat were served their dinner at the jamatkhana’s social hall on the second floor. After the feast, members of the jamat joined for a dandhia raas (stick dancing and hand clapping) program!
The 80th birthday celebration has generated the momentum for yet another significant milestone in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s life – the celebration of his Diamond Jubilee beginning July 11, 2017, which will take place as Canada begins celebrating its 150th birthday on July 1, 2017.
Date posted: December 20, 2016.
For a video of the 80th birthday celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan held in Aiglemont, France, on December 16, 2016, please visit http://www.theismaili.org, the official website of the Ismaili community. Readers will also find there a gallery of more than 30 photographs of the celebration.