by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos
Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Canadian writer M. Ali Lakhani’s book “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat”. We follow the same Q/A format as our recent presentations of books written by Nizar Sultan, Nargis Fazal, Nazlin Rahemtulla, Azmina Suleman, Alnasir Rajan, Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We invite Ismaili authors around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at Simerg@aol.com.
Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?
M. Ali Lakhani: The book is the first major survey of the ideas of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, based on his public statements over the last six decades. It illustrates how the ethos of the Ismaili Imamat is derived from the principle of tawhid, what the Imam calls an “all-encompassing unity” which is the essence of the faith of Islam. Ethics is the way of translating faith into action, of bringing our faith into the world; which is why the Imam defines ethics as the bridge between faith (din) and the world (duniya). The title of my book reflects this principal theme.
Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?
Lakhani: The book will, it is hoped, explain the key messages of the Ismaili Imam to both Ismailis and to non-Ismaili audiences. It addresses the themes of, for example, tradition and modernity, the modernist ethos, Islam and the West, cosmopolitanism and pluralism, and harmonizing identity and belonging through culture.
Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?
Lakhani: I was invited by the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) to write the book in order to expand on the ideas of my essay, published in volume 34 of my journal, Sacred Web titled ‘Living the Ethics of One’s Faith: The Aga Khan’s Integral Vision’. (Read article)
I have also spoken about these ideas at the Royal Asiatic Society (for the Temenos Academy) and have written about them for the Doha International Centre in an article titled ‘Integral Pluralism as the Basis for Harmony: The Approach of His Highness The Aga Khan’ (Read article).
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M. Ali Lakhani’s “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” examines how the ideas and actions of the 49th Ismaili Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, provide an Islamic response to the challenges that face Muslims in the modern era.
Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?
Lakhani: The book was published by the IIS and IB Tauris in 2017, and is available in hardcover format from Amazon Canada, and as a Kobo Ebook at Chapters-Indigo. Both the Kindle and hardcover editions are also available at Amazon.com, and Barnes and Nobles has the book available in hardback as well as a NOOK book. Prices vary from store to store.
[The book may be eligible for delivery within Canada in your area by July 7, 2021; please click Amazon Canada, free delivery is available with Amazon prime membership; the other option is to purchase it as an ebook, as noted above — Ed.]
Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?
Lakhani: The book was commissioned by the publisher, the IIS. I accepted the commission on condition that it would be my independent work of scholarship, free of any influence regarding its content by the IIS.
Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?
Lakhani: I handpicked the illustrations, including the splendid cover illustration, whose marvelous original is housed at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, and which depicts the ethical human being, a major theme of the book (as I explain in the text).
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Praise for Ali Lakhani’s Book
Lakhani’s lengthy discussion of the Aga Khan’s cosmopolitan approach to modern conflict simultaneously has the wider application of demonstrating to outsiders that Islam in the orthodox, Quranic sense is a religion of unity and justice, not of persecution and oppression…. Islam as presented in the Quran and by the Muslim sages is anything but pitiless and fanatical; it is joyful, intellectually rigorous and compassionate….The Aga Khan’s ethical teachings as presented in this book are especially applicable to the challenges presented by religious pluralism and to encouraging dialogue between religious perspectives, and to calm down reactions to polemics between religious people and secularists, but less so for conflict resolution that requires shared epistemological and ontological principles…. Lakhani’s book is valuable for the insight it offers into Islam’s rich pluralistic and tolerant tradition.” — Andrew Frisardi, American writer whose essays and reviews have appeared in numerous U.S. magazines and journals, including the Atlantic Monthly, Hudson Review, the New Republic and the New Yorker (Read full review)
Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?
Lakhani: This was my third published book of a total of four books by me. It was an honor to have this book published by the IIS on the occasion of the Imam’s Diamond Jubilee.
My other three publications are:
The Sacred Foundations of Justice in Islam contains my First Prize essay on Imam Ali from the 2001 Imam Ali International Conference. That essay and Dr. Reza Shah Kazemi’s Second Prize essay were hailed by Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr to be among the best writings in English on Imam Ali.
The Timeless Relevance of Traditional Wisdom contains many of my writings on metaphysics, religion, philosophy, tradition and modernity, gathered from my biannual book-form journal, Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition and Modernity (www.sacredweb.com).
When the Rose Blooms (The Matheson Trust, London, 2021), my latest book, is a collection of spiritual aphorisms which I wrote more than three decades ago. The book includes beautiful illustrations which were designed by Nigel Jackson.
Synopsis of the Book
Shi`i Ismaili Muslims are unique in following a living, hereditary Imam (spiritual leader), whom they believe to be directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad. The Imam’s duty has been to guide his community with Islamic principles that apply to the needs of the time.
In this insightful book, M. Ali Lakhani examines how the ideas and actions of the current Ismaili Imam, and fourth Aga Khan, Prince Karim al-Hussaini, provide an Islamic response to the challenges that face Muslims in the modern era. Prince Karim’s programmes, implemented mainly through the broad institutional framework of the Aga Khan Development Network, are aimed at improving the quality of human life among the disadvantaged, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Addressing global issues ranging from healthcare and education to culture and civil society, the Aga Khan’s initiatives are founded on core Islamic principles and values. This book is the first to provide an extensive survey of the Aga Khan’s aspirations, showing how the values of integrity and dignity are at the forefront of his work, with the traditional Muslim concepts of cosmopolitanism and social justice guiding his response to the stark challenges of the modern age.
At a time when criticisms and misrepresentation surrounding Islam abound, Faith and Ethics explores the religion’s universal principles and values, which the author believes can make a positive impact both among Muslims and non-Muslims. The book will be of special interest to scholars researching Islam, Muslim faith and ethics and the Ismailis, and to general readers wanting a deeper understanding of Islam.
Date posted: July 4, 2021.
M. Ali Lakhani, QC, graduated from Cambridge University and has been practising as a barrister in Vancouver for the last forty years. Interested in applying metaphysics to modern world issues, in 1998 he founded Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition and Modernity, a leading journal in the field that has published articles by the Prince of Wales, the Dalai Lama, Karen Armstrong, Huston Smith, Seyyed Hossein Nasr and William C. Chittick, among others.
Calling all Ismaili Authors
We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.
The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):
- “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
- “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
- “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
- “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
- “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
- “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
- “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
- “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
- “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
- “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
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