LETTER FROM PUBLISHER
Lets us make the visit of Mawlana Hazar Imam a fantastic and happy one for us and our families, particularly our parents and children
By ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
His Highness the Aga Khan, or Mawlana Hazar Imam as he is affectionately and respectfully addressed by his Ismaili Muslim community, will be meeting with tens of thousands of his followers living in Eastern Canada — an area stretching from Windsor in Ontario to Montreal in Quebec to Halifax and beyond in the Maritime Provinces — for religious gatherings in Toronto and Montreal from November 17 – 21, 2017.
The Ismailis use the term didar (lit. to have a glimpse of the Imam of the Time) for these intimate religious mulaqats (meetings or encounters). The didar with the Imam can be on an individual basis, in small or large settings or in ceremonial gatherings that are referred to as darbars. Most recently, His Highness visited the Ismailis in Uganda and Tanzania and graced them with darbars as part of his Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
Ismailis throughout their rich and eventful 1400 year history, from the time of the first Imam, Hazrat Ali, have sought to articulate their experiences of the didar of their Imams through oral expressions of ginans, qasidas, poetry and songs as well wonderful narratives. These varied expressions have become sources of inspiration for Ismailis leading up to the moment of the didar.
Today, we commence the publication of a series consisting of short articles that we hope will contribute to making the mulaqat with Mawlana Shah Karim more meaningful and purposeful. Our material will center on the concept of Imamat as articulated in Ismaili and related Shia literature and we will also include stories and accounts of didars well as supplications from the oral traditions and other pertinent material.
We begin the series with what we feel is an important ethic that will help us benefit during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s coming holy visit: FORGIVENESS.
Let bygones be bygones: “If people have harmed you, forget and forgive…”
The spirit of forgiveness is an ethic that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has articulated many times since his Imamat. In 1969, he said in Mumbai:
“As the world gets smaller, it is fundamental that people should work together and not against each other, and try to be a little bit 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, and it is not as I understand that our faith should be practiced, and this is fundamental.”
The act of apologizing when one thinks that one was not at fault, and the act of exercising forgiveness when one feels that they have been wronged, are probably the most difficult to struggle with.
However, each one of us has to realize that when there are conflicts, especially within a family, the burden of disunity is the greatest on parents because their love for all their children is absolute. Now consider that in the context of Hazar Imam, who addresses all Ismailis as his spiritual children!
According to a popular tradition, when the Prophet Muhammad asked Angel Gabriel what was meant by the Qur’anic verse (7:199),
“Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant”
the Angel replied:
“It is God’s command to forgive those who have wronged you, to give to those who have deprived you, and to tie relations with those who severe theirs with you.”
Another tradition of the Prophet says:
“Show mercy and you shall be shown mercy. Forgive others and you shall be forgiven by God.”
When Mawlana Hazar Imam received the Adrienne Clarkson prize for Global Citizenship he shortlisted a good measure of forgiveness, along with an abundant capacity for compromise, a little sense of patience and humility, as strengths for an aspiring global citizen. Accomplishing these would mean hard work, he said, “but no work would be more important.”
In a piece “Why Forgive” Fatima Ariadne in her blog Decoding Eden says that “forgiveness is about giving yourself permission to let go of the past….and giving that inner space in your heart for something more positive. We forgive because we deserve peace.”
Through our kind gesture of forgiving, we are also raising the consciousness of this fundamental Islamic ethic in the hearts and minds of the persons we are seeking to forgive. Speaking in Moscow in 1995 during his first physical presence among his community in Central Asia, Mawlana Hazar Imam said that “forgiving those who may have made a mistake or harmed you, will give them respect for your behaviour, and it will encourage them to follow your behaviour.”
Of course, Mawlana Hazar Imam was addressing an audience that had passed through a period of civil strife in Tajikistan. However, this principle is as fundamentally important in our daily attitudes to our families and friends.
Louis B. Smedes, professor emiritus of ethics and theology at Fuller Seminary in Pasadens, California and author of book Forgive and Forget wrote that, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” He further noted that “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”
The Qur’anic ayat quoted earlier “tie relations with those who severe theirs with you” imposes upon us a moral obligation to forgive.
So as we approach the important day of the holy encounter with Hazar Imam it would be most appropriate for us to reach out to our friends and family members with whom we are seriously at odds and say, “Let unpleasant things that have happened in the past be forgotten.”
That act of courage would be in the truest and finest tradition of our faith. With that kind spirit in our heart, we will truly lavish in the love, grace, and blessing of Mawlana Hazar Imam when he is with us in a few days. Forgiveness will lead to greater unity within families and the jamat.
It is within the framework of united families and Jamats that Mawlana Hazar Imam wishes us to attain spiritual as well as worldly success and happiness.
Date posted: November 4, 2017.
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