Surrender and Realization: Imam Ali on the conditions for true religious understanding

Hazrat Ali Calligraphy by Karim Ismail
Calligraphy by Toronto’s Karim Ismail to commemorate the birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali on February 3, 2023 (13th Rajab)

[EDITOR’S NOTE: Like all Shia Muslims across the world, the Shia Imami Ismailis will be observing with deep reverence the birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali (peace be upon him) on or around Friday February 3, 2023 (13th day of Rajab — the 7th month in the Muslim calendar.) This insightful essay by Professor James W. Morris was first published on this website in 2010, with his permission. We now present it in a greatly improved format with larger fonts and better spacing. The piece is Copyright © James W. Morris.]

By JAMES WINSTON MORRIS

“Do not seek to know the Truth (al-Haqq) according to other people. Rather first come to know the Truth — and only then will you recognize Its people.” — Imam ‘Alī Ibn Abī Tālib [1]

One of the most striking characteristics about those surviving oral traditions that have come down to us from the earliest periods of each of the world-religions — as with the Gospels, the earliest Buddhist teachings, or the Prophetic hadith — is the distinctive directness, simplicity, and extreme concision of those original oral teachings. It is as though everything else that follows is only a kind of endlessly extended commentary on those few simple words. Certainly this is true of many of the surviving sayings attributed to ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 40/660) — including the short, but highly memorable passage that is the subject of this study, which has inspired repeated commentaries and elaborate theological and even dramatic interpretations down through the centuries. [2]

The wider significance of this particular passage is that it illustrates so perfectly Ali’s emblematic role as the fountainhead of virtually all the esoteric traditions of Islamic spirituality, both among the many branches of Shiite Islam (which revere him as their first Imam) and throughout the even more numerous Sufi paths, where his name is almost always included as the initial transmitter of the Prophetic baraka in each order’s chain of transmission. That central initiatic role is beautifully summarized in the famous Prophetic saying:

‘I am the City of (divine) knowing, and Ali is its doorway.’ 

And perhaps the most important literary vehicle in the wider transmission of Ali’s teachings, since it has been equally revered by both Sunni and Shiite audiences down to our own time, is the Nahj al-Balāgha (‘Pathway of Eloquence’), a wide-ranging collection of various sermons, letters, and wise sayings attributed to Ali, that was assembled several centuries later by the famous scholar and poet al-Sharíf al-Rādí (d. 406/1016). [3]

The famous saying of Ali placed as the epigraph for this study, with which al-Ghazālí begins his own spiritual autobiography, highlights the indispensable — if somewhat paradoxical — starting point for any well-grounded discussion of religious and spiritual understanding. For all problems of inter-religious understanding — and perhaps even more important, of that initial ‘intra-religious’ understanding on which all further dialogue depends — necessarily come back to this fundamental question: What is the ultimate divine Reality (al-Haqq), and how we can come to know and properly conform to what It requires of us (‘the Right’, which in Arabic is also an inseparable dimension of the divine Haqq)? Almost all the extensive sermons and teachings of the Nahj al-Balāgha are devoted to one or another of the equally essential dimensions of this question — to that ongoing interaction between our purified actions and intentions (‘amal), and our maturing spiritual understanding (‘ilm), which together constitute each person’s uniquely individual, spiralling process of spiritual realization (tahqíq).

Now one of the most important keys to approaching this primordial question in the Nahj al-Balāgha is the famous passage (translated in full in the Appendix at the end of this study) describing Ali’s intimate advice to one of his closest companions and disciples, Kumayl ibn Ziyād al-Nakhā’ī. [4] The difficulty and intrinsic dangers of that unique lesson are emphasized already in its dramatic setting.  Kumayl, who recounts the story, stresses the great pains Ali takes to assure his privacy and solitude, leading his disciple out to the cemetery beyond the city wall of Kufa: that is, to the symbolic home of those who — like those rare true Knowers of God described in the rest of Ali’s saying — are spiritually already at once ‘alone with God’ and ‘dead to this world.’ In addition, the wider historical setting at that particular moment in time — so full of religious intrigues, claims, betrayals, and prolonged bloody civil wars among the triumphant Arabs — only highlights the profound wealth of concrete earthly experience which underlies the Imam’s conclusions and intimate teachings summarized in this saying.

No other text of the Nahj al-Balāgha is so pointedly set in the same kind of strictest privacy and intimacy. As a result, this famous testament to Kumayl constitutes the indispensable link between the more public, relatively exoteric teachings of the Nahj al-Balāgha and the wealth of more intimate, often esoteric spiritual teachings of  Ali that were eventually preserved — at first orally, and eventually often in writing — in both Shiite and Sufi Islamic traditions.

The contents of  Ali’s lesson to Kumayl are all presented as a clarification of his opening statement that:

There are three sorts of people (with regard to Religion, al-Dīn). A divinely inspired Knower (‘ālim rabbānī); the person who is seeking (that true spiritual) Knowing (muta‘allim) along the path of salvation; and the riffraff and rabble, the followers of every screaming voice, those who bend with every wind, who have not sought to be illuminated by the Light of (divine) Knowing and who have not had recourse to a solid support.

In the remainder of his lesson, Imam Ali goes on to explain some of the basic conditions for these three radically different levels of (and potentials for) true religious understanding. Each of his points here — as throughout the Nahj al-Balāgha — is of course profoundly rooted in the central teachings of the Qur’an. However here we can only summarize his most essential observations in the simplest possible terms.

First, and most importantly, it is human Hearts (the Qur’anic qalb al-insān) that are the locus of true spiritual ‘Knowing’ (‘ilm) and of our awareness of God and Truth: that is, it is not simply our mind or intellect or passion. Hence the decisive practical importance, throughout the Nahj al-Balāgha, of Ali’s constant stress on the purification of our hearts, through inner surrender to the divine Will (taslīm), as the underlying spiritual purpose of the many divine commandments. Divine, inspired ‘Knowing,’ however it is outwardly acquired, can only be perceived as such by the Heart that has been ‘polished,’ emptied of this world’s distractions and attachments, and thereby opened up to the full significance and reality of the divine Word — and to the further rights and obligations (another dimension of the Arabic al-Haqq) flowing from that opening.

Second, the practically indispensable key to this human potential for religious Knowing is the real existence and efforts of a limited number of divinely guided individuals — again, not of particular books, rituals, doctrines or worldly institutions, none of which are even mentioned in this intimate, highly personal lesson.  Ali refers here to those very special human doorways to true religious understanding by several profoundly significant Qur’anic expressions: the ‘divine Knowers’; the ‘Friends of God’ (awliyā’ Allāh); God’s ‘Proofs’ or ‘Clear Signs’ on Earth (hujja, bayyina); God’s ‘True Servants’ (‘ibād Allāh); and finally as God’s true earthly ‘stand-ins’ or ‘Stewards’ (khalīfat Allāh).

The Imam tells us several other very important things in his description of these true ‘Friends of God:’

  • They are always present on earth, ‘whether openly or in secret.’ [5]
  • They are directly inspired by the divine ‘Spirit of Certainty’ (rūh al-yaqīn).
  • Therefore they pre-eminently possess true spiritual Insight (haqīqat al-basīra) into the deeper spiritual realities underlying earthly events and experiences, into the actual meanings of the infinite divine ‘Signs’ constituting our existence.
  • Their spiritual task and mission on earth is to pass on this divine Knowing to those properly qualified souls who are truly ready for and receptive to their divinely inspired teachings.

In contrast to these particular points of Alī’s teaching here, it is surely essential to recall all those manifold dimensions of what we ordinarily, unthinkingly call or presume to be ‘religion’ which in fact are not central to the particular divine mission of these inspired individuals as it is described in this lesson.

Third, Ali describes the divine ‘Knowing’ that can be conveyed uniquely by these specially missioned individuals as having the following qualities:

  • It is the ‘Dīn (true Religion/true Justice) by which God is truly worshipped and served.’
  • It is the indispensable key to realising what the Qur’an constantly describes as our ultimate human purpose: i.e., to transforming the mortal biped or ‘human-animal’ (bashar) into the theomorphic, truly human being (insān), who alone can freely follow and truly obey God (the inner state of itā‘a), eventually becoming a pure manifestation of the divine Will.
  • Their divinely inspired Knowing is the true ‘Judge’ or Criterion for rightly perceiving and employing all the illusory possessions (māl) of this world .

Fourth, the ‘true Seekers’ (muta‘allimūn) of that divine Knowing have at least the following basic pre-requisites, each of which distinguishes them from the large majority of ordinary souls (al-nās). One might therefore say that each of these following five points mentioned by Ali here is in itself an essential pre-condition for acquiring true religious understanding:

  • Those true religious Seekers have a rare natural spiritual capacity to recognize, absorb, and actualize the inspired teachings of the Friends of God.
  • They know that they need the indispensable guidance of God’s Friends (the awliyā’), and therefore actively seek it out.  That is to say, they actually realize that they are spiritually ‘ignorant’ and needy.
  • They are willing and able to submit to the guidance of those divine Knowers and Bearers of Truth, especially with regard to acknowledging the true, ultimate aims of this inspired spiritual Knowing.  In other words, they have the indispensable humility to recognize their inner ignorance and to overcome the central spiritual obstacle of pride.
  • They have the practical insight and active spiritual perspicacity (basīra) to ‘see though’ the ongoing divine ‘private lessons’, the most essential divine ‘Signs’ (āyāt) of each soul’s life.  (This particular point is one that  Ali especially stresses throughout all the sermons and teachings of the Nahj al-Balāgha.)
  • They are not secretly governed by their desires for power and domination, qualities which  Ali stresses (along with pride) as the particular psychic passions most likely to trip up the otherwise apt potential spiritual seekers of this group.

Finally, the rest of humanity are clearly — indeed even vehemently — said to lack, for the time being, the above-mentioned prerequisites for realized spiritual learning and illumination, because of the current domination of their hearts by their psychic passions of the nafs: for power, pleasure, possessions, and the attractions ‘this lower world’ (al-dunyā) in general. In this particular context,  Ali does not openly clarify whether or not ‘purification’ of our hearts from such worldly passions is in itself the only obstacle to deeper spiritual and religious realization, or whether some individuals are simply born with dramatically greater, relatively unique spiritual capacities and potential. However, his recurrent and insistent practical stress on the ethically purifying dimensions of Islamic ritual and devotional practice throughout much of the rest of the Nahj al-Balāgha is a strong indication that revealed prescriptions for religious teaching and practice can and should be understood as well as an indispensable preparatory discipline that can be used to move at least some individuals toward the receptive inner state of these true ‘seekers.’

Now the practical consequences of all of  Ali’s observations briefly enumerated here are quite visible in the particular structure and emphases of almost all his longer sermons and discourses throughout the Nahj al-Balāgha. To put it in the simplest possible form, each longer text in that work typically stresses the dual religious dimensions of both taslīm (‘surrender’) and tahqīq (‘realization’). [6] That is, almost all of Imam Ali’s teachings are directed at the same time toward both (1) the essential purification of our own will — i.e., the discovery and gradual distillation of the true human/divine irāda from the endless promptings of our domineering ego-self or nafs — through true inner conformity and surrender (taslīm) to the authentic divine commandments; and (2) the subsequent stage of more active ‘realization’ (tahqīq) of the divinely inspired teachings that can only come about when an individual has developed enough humility and inner awareness of their spiritual ignorance to recognize their unavoidable need for a divine Guide and Knower, along with the many other essential qualities of the ‘seeker on the path of salvation’ that have just been summarized above.  From this perspective, all of the Nahj al-Balāgha constitutes an extended, lifelong example of the sort of essential spiritual teaching and guidance (ta‘līm) alluded to here in Ali’s private advice to his close disciple.

In conclusion, we cannot help but notice that Ali’s remarks to Kumayl ibn Ziyād here provide a radical contrast to many prevailing modern-day assumptions about ‘religious understanding’ and religious teaching, whether our focus happens to be on ‘inter-’ or ‘intra-’religious concerns. Here I can mention only a few of the most salient points of contrast between popular contemporary conceptions of inter-religious understanding and Ali’s own teachings on this subject, without entering into a more detailed discussion of the deeper philosophic underpinnings and presuppositions on either side.

To begin with, the primary focus of most modern attempts at inter-religious understanding is either intellectual and theological, where formal doctrines and religious symbols are concerned; or else on ‘social ethics,’ where certain historically accumulated external practical precepts and rituals of two religious traditions are being compared. In either case, the particular comparison (or ‘understanding’) of the religious traditions concerned is typically carried out in an external, reductive social, historical or political way that supposedly reveals the ‘real,’ common meanings and functions of the religious phenomena in question. In this widespread approach, the aims of those particular practical or theological dimensions of a given religion are usually reduced, explicitly or implicitly, to a given, presumably familiar and universally accessible set of historical, this-worldly (dunyawī) social, political, or even psychic ends.

What is key in each such case, of course, is the reductive, socio-political emphasis and assumptions shared by virtually all such modern approaches. Now no rational observer would deny that every historical religion does indeed ‘function’ in such ways in this world — in ways that are in fact so poignantly illustrated by the endless ‘religious’ polemics, strife, and open civil warfare of early Islamic history during Ali’s own lifetime, seminal events that are recorded in such thorough detail throughout the Nahj al-Balāgha. But modern writers unfortunately too often tend to ignore the equally obvious limits of such reductive forms of interpretation and understanding: what is it, one might ask all the same, that also differentiates, for example, a genuine Sufi tarīqa from a social club, real spiritual guidance from psychotherapy, or transformative spiritual music (dhikr and samā‘ in their primordial sense) from any other concert performance?

In dramatic contrast to such popular contemporary approaches to ‘religious understanding’, Ali’s remarks in this passage focus on radically different, spiritually distinctive and difficultly attainable — but nonetheless fundamental — aspects of religious life and understanding, whatever the particular historical traditions in question:

First, for Ali, true inter-religious understanding — at any of the three levels he distinguishes here — is always between individuals, growing out of each soul’s individual encounter with the ‘other’ and their common spiritual reality and relationship with al-Haqq (God, Reality, and Truth). From this perspective, therefore, true religious understanding is always the ultimate fruit of a sort of ‘tri-alogue’ — not a worldly dialogue — in which both the human parties, the Knower and the properly prepared disciple, share and gradually discover their common divine Ground of reality and true being.

Secondly, the possibilities of religious understanding (again whether inter- or intra-religious) are essentially limited above all by the intrinsic barrier of the specific spiritual capacities, shortcomings and level of realization of each individual. As in the familiar imagery of so many hadith and later Islamic writings, souls here are indeed revealed as mirrors, who can only see in the ‘other’ — whether that be a religious phenomenon or anything else — their own reflection.  Therefore the basharic ‘rabble’ of whom  Ali speaks so painfully here — whatever their particular religion or historical situation — are necessarily and unavoidably in the position so aptly described in Rumi’s famous tale of the blind men and the elephant.

Thirdly, for Ali, even the first beginnings of our approach to a true, immediate awareness of God and the divine Religion (dīn) are necessarily grounded above all in humility, in an awareness of one’s own essential spiritual ignorance and limitations — and therefore not in the acquisition of some further external form of knowledge, ritual, or belief. In other words, the greatest, primordial obstacle to any serious religious understanding — as Socrates and so many other inspired teachers have repeatedly reminded us down through the ages — is our own ‘compound ignorance’ (jahl murakkab), our own illusion that we truly ‘know’ so much that we in fact only believe or imagine.

Finally, if  Ali teaches us — as this story itself so dramatically illustrates — that the keys to the deepest and most profound forms of religious understanding are to be found in seeking out God’s true ‘Knowers’ and Guides and our own intimate spiritual relation to them, then the corresponding area of human religious life and experience most likely to lead to genuine inter-religious understanding is that of our particular individual devotional life and prayer, of each soul’s unique, ongoing inner relationship with its Guide and source of Light, in what has traditionally been termed ‘practical spirituality’ (‘irfān-i ‘amalī). Not surprisingly, this domain of our personal spiritual experience and practice, where God is so obviously and unavoidably the ultimate ‘Actor’ and Creator, in reality exhibits an extraordinary phenomenological similarity across all external historical and credal boundaries and socio-political divisions….

These brief reflections on some of the central teachings of the Nahj al-Balāgha cannot help but remind us of one of the most remarkable Qur’anic verses on the subject of humankind’s recurrent religious misunderstandings and their ultimate resolution in and by the Truly Real (al-Haqq). Not surprisingly, this verse also serves well as a remarkable symbolic allusion to the strife-torn historical events and conflicts among the early Muslims, those critical, paradigmatic ‘tests’ (fitan) that are so vividly illustrated and evoked throughout the remainder of the Nahj al-Balāgha — and which continue to recur, with such poignancy, in our own and every age.

The verse in question (al-Baqara, 2:213) begins with the reminder that ‘all people were one religious community,’ but then:

God sent prophets bearing good news and warning, and He revealed through them the Scripture with Truth (Haqq), so that He might judge among the people concerning that about which they differed. And only those differed concerning It to whom (the Scripture) was brought, after the Clear Proofs came to them, out of strife and rebellion among themselves. But then God guided those who had faith to the Truth about which they had differed, through His permission. For God guides whoever He wishes to a Straight Path!

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Appendix: Ali’s Speech to Kumayl ibn Ziyād al-Nakhā’ī [7]

Kumayl ibn Ziyād said: The Commander of the Faithful — Peace be upon him! — took my hand and brought me out to the cemetery (beyond the city walls).  So when he had entered the desert he let out a great sigh, and then he said:

O Kumayl ibn Ziyād, these Hearts are containers: the best of them is the one that holds the most. So remember well what I am going to say to you!

The people are (divided into) three groups: a lordly (divinely inspired) Knower [8]; one seeking Knowing along the path of salvation; and the riffraff and rabble, the followers of every screaming voice, those who bend with every wind, who have not sought to be illuminated by the Light of Knowing and who have not had recourse to a solid Support.

O Kumayl, Knowing is better than possessions: Knowing protects you, but you must guard possessions.  Possessions are diminished as they’re spent, but Knowing multiplies (or ‘purifies’) as it is shared. But whoever makes the possessions disappears as they do!

O Kumayl ibn Ziyād, the awareness/recognition (ma‘rifa) of Knowing is a Religion (dīn) by which (God) is worshipped and served: through it the truly human being (insān) acquires willing obedience (to God) during their life (here), and a beautiful, wonderful state after their passing away. For Knowing is the Judge, and possessions are what is adjudged!

O Kumayl, those who accumulate possessions have perished, even while they are still alive.  But the Knowers endure for all eternity: their particular-instances [9] are lost, but their likenesses are found in the Hearts. O what Knowledge abounding there is right here! — and he pointed with his hand to his breast [10] — if only I could reach those who are its (rightful) bearers.

True, I’ve reached a quick-learner who couldn’t be trusted with It, who would seek to use the instrument of Religion for this world — who would try to use God’s blessings to dominate His (true) servants and His proofs to overcome His Friends. [11] Or someone submissive to the bearers of the divine Truth (al-Haqq), but without any true Insight (basīra) into Its twists and curves, whose Heart is consumed by doubt at the first onset of some difficulty.  But alas, neither this one nor that (can truly bear the Truth)! Or someone greedy for pleasures, easily led by their passions? Or someone engrossed in acquiring and accumulating (worldly possessions)? Those two are not among the guardians [12] of Religion in any respect — the closest semblance to that sort are the grazing cattle! Thus Knowing dies with the death of those who bear it.

Yet indeed, O my God, the world is never without one upholding the Evidence [13] for God, either outwardly and known to all, or secretly and in obscurity, [14] so that God’s Evidences and His illuminating-manifestations may not come to nought. But how many are these, and where are they!?

By God, these (true Knowers) are the fewest in number, but the greatest of all in their rank with God!  Through them God preserves His Evidences and His Illuminating-manifestations, so that these (Knowers) may entrust them to their (true) peers and sow them in the Hearts of those like them. Through (those Knowers) Knowing penetrates to the inner reality of true Insight (haqīqat al-basīra). They are in touch with the Spirit of Certainty (rūh al-yaqīn). They make clear what the lovers of comfort had obscured. They are at home with what distresses the ignorant. And their bodies keep company with this world, while their spirits are connected to the Loftiest Station.

Those are the ones who are (truly) God’s Stewards [15] on the earth, who are calling (the people) to His Religion. Oh, how I long to see them! Go on now, Kumayl, if you want.


[1] A well-known saying commonly attributed to Imam ‘Alī Ibn Abī Tālib, quoted here as it is cited by al-Ghazālī at the beginning of his famous spiritual autobiography, the Munqidh min al-Dalāl.

[2] Many of these same points were later developed by the famous religious author Ghazālí (Abū Hāmid al-Ghazālī) in the influential closing section of his Mīzān al-‘Amal (‘The Scale of [Right] Action’). Already a century before the actual collection of Nahj al-Balāgha, this same story of Ali and Kumayl provided the architectonic framework for a highly creative dramatic reworking of these spiritual lessons in Ja‘far ibn Mansūr’s Kitāb al-‘Alim wa’l-ghulām (see our translation and Arabic edition, The Master and the Disciple: An Early Islamic Spiritual Dialogue, London, I. B. Tauris, 2001).

[3] To give some idea of the ongoing popular importance and relative familiarity of that text even today, one finds beautifully calligraphed Arabic proverbs and epigrams drawn from the Nahj al-Balāgha on the walls of homes in every part of the Muslim world, framed for sale in suqs and bazaars, and even being sold as postcards. Even more tellingly, the owners (or sellers) of that calligraphy will often explain that this or that saying is simply ‘a hadith’.

[4] Saying number 147 in the final section of short maxims, corresponding to pages 600-601 in the complete English translation by Sayed Ali Reza (Peak of Eloquence, NY, 1978). (Details on the Arabic text in the Appendix below.)

[5] It is perhaps important to note that this last qualification (sirran, ‘secretly’) can be understood to refer not simply to the outward modesty and relative social and historical ‘invisibility’ of the vast majority of the true ‘Friends of God’ — a point also strongly emphasised in the famous Prophetic hadith about the qualities of the walí — but also to their ongoing spiritual presence, actions and effects, even more visible and widespread long after their bodily sojourn on earth, which is of course central to the manifest spiritual role of the prophets and ‘Friends’ (awliyā’ Allâh) throughout every authentic religious tradition.

[6] See the more adequate discussion of this key polyvalent term in our Introduction to Orientations: Islamic Thought in a World Civilisation (London, Archetype, 2004).

[7] This particular well-known passage from Nahj al-Balāgha, the famous later compilation (by al-Sharīf al-Rādī, 359/970-406/1016) of the many letters, teachings, sermons and proverbs attributed to Alī ibn Abī Tālib, is also included in almost identical form in a number of earlier extant Shiite works, in both the Imami and the Ismaili traditions. The text translated here is from a popular Beirut edition of Nahj al-Balāgha (Dār al-Andalus, 1980), pp. 593-595, numbered 147 in the long later section of ‘Wise Sayings’ (hikam). The setting of this particular lesson is apparently outside the new Arab settlement of Kufa (on the edge of the desert in southern Iraq), during one of the drawn-out, bloody civil wars that divided the nascent Muslim community throughout the period of Ali’s official Imamate.

[8] ‘Alim rabbānī: ‘Knower’ here is used in the strong and inclusive Qur’anic sense, to refer to profound, God-given spiritual Knowing (‘ilm). The qualifier recalls the Qur’anic term rabbānīyūn and apparently is related both to the Arabic root referring to God as ‘Lord’ (rabb, hence ‘divine’ or ‘god-like’), and to another Arabic root referring to spiritual teaching and education in the very broadest sense (r-b-y). The latter meaning is emphasized at Qur’ān 3:79, which probably underlies the special usage here: …Be rabbānīyūn through your teaching the Book and through your studying (It).

[9] A‘yān (pl. of ‘ayn): that is, their individual, temporal earthly manifestation, as opposed to their ‘images’ or ‘likenesses’ (amthāl, or ‘symbols’) in the Hearts of other human individuals after them. Here we can see how Alí’s perspective parallels — and at the same time embodies — the Qur’anic understanding of the relationship between the archetypal divine ‘Names’ (which ultimately constitute this Knowing) and their infinitely re-created individual manifestations.

[10] Here, as in the Qur’an, the term ‘breast’ or ‘chest’ (sadr) is virtually synonymous with the ‘Heart’ (qalb) as the locus of all true perception, selfhood, etc.

[11] Awliyā Allāh: see the Qur’anic use of this key term (10:62).

[12] Or ‘shepherds’, ‘pastors’: ru‘āt.

[13] Or ‘Proof’ (al-Hujja) — but in the sense of the indisputable living human Manifestation, not any sort of logical or rhetorical ‘argument’; this is another central Qur’anic concept (4:165, 6:149) frequently alluded to in other teachings of Imam Ali in the Nahj al-Balāgha. The Qur’anic expression bayyināt (‘Illuminating-manifestations’) used several times in the immediately following passage seems to refer to the same key spiritual figures in this context.

[14] Literally, ‘in fear’ (used in the Qur’an, for example, of the young Moses fleeing Egypt for Midian) and ‘submerged’ (by the power of earthly tyranny).

[15] This famous Qur’anic phrase (khalīfat Allāh) is variously applied to prophets (Adam, at 2:30; David, at 38:27) and to ‘you-all’ (= all of humanity), at 6:165, 10:14 and 73; 35:39; 27:62; etc.  Within a short time after the death of the Prophet — and certainly by the time of this story — it had taken on a highly charged and disputed political significance in the long and violent decades of protracted civil wars over the worldly leadership of the nascent Arab-Muslim political community.

Date posted: January 30, 2023.

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James Morris, Islamic Studies Professor, Institute of Ismaili Studies, essay on Imam Ali, Simerg

About the writer: Dr. James Morris is Professor of Islamic Studies at Boston University’s Theology department and Islamic Civilization and Societies program. Prior to that he held the Sharjah Chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. He has also taught at Princeton University, Oberlin College, Temple University, and the Institute of Ismaili Studies in Paris and London. He has served as visiting professor at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris), University of Malaya, and University of Sarajevo, and he lectures and gives workshops widely throughout Europe and the Muslim world. Professor Morris serves on numerous international editorial, consulting, and examining boards in his fields. Professor Morris‘ interests in Islamic thought and religious studies date from his BA work at the University of Chicago. After further studies in Morocco, Egypt and France, he completed his PhD work at Harvard University and did advanced research at the Academy of Islamic Philosophy in Tehran.

Professor Morris is a prolific author, having written dozens of journal articles along with thirteen books, including most recently, The Reflective Heart: Discovering Spiritual Intelligence in Ibn Arabī’s Meccan Illuminations’; Orientations: Islamic Thought in a World Civilization; and The Master and the Disciple: An Early Islamic Spiritual Dialogue. He has often interviewed on current issues for the BBC and international journals and newspapers dealing with the Middle East. 

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

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

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Hazrat Ali Calligraphy by Karim Ismail
Calligraphy by Toronto’s Karim Ismail to on the birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali. Please click on image for reading.

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Boeing 747 photo essay honoring the, Jumbo,  Malik Merchant, Simerg, News of Beings last plane.
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Date posted: January 30, 2023.

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

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

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Aga Khan Kyrgyzstan blessings simerg and barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, blesses a crowd during his visit to Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, in October 2016. Please click on photo for inspiring stories from 1979 and 2016

Featured image at top of post: A snapshot from a digital portrait rendition of His Highness the Aga Khan by Toronto’s Ismaili artist Akbar Kanji that, through hundreds of thumbnails, features the Ismaili Imam’s contribution to his community and the world at large. The work is dated 2011. For the artist, the concept is to “portray our Imam’s entire life and his dedications at a glance which we cannot imagine until we come closer to him.”

Date posted: January 27, 2023.

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

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

Report & Tweet: AKDN Representative Meets With Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, January 19, 2023

The Khaama Press News Agency, the largest online news service for Afghanistan, reports in a dispatch dated January 19, 2023, that Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, met with Akbar Ali Pasnani, Special Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Afghanistan on Thursday, January 19, 2023.

AKDN Afghanistan update, Simerg, Aga Khan Development
Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi meets with Akbar Ali Pasnani Special Representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Afghanistan on Thursday, January 19, 2023.

AKDN has been functioning in most parts of Afghanistan with a wide range of services aimed at improving the living conditions of people in the rural and urban parts of the country. It is one of the few international organizations which maintained its agencies operational in Afghanistan since the Taliban seized power in August 2021. The aid organization’s continued support has been of paramount importance for the lives of thousands of vulnerable families across the country… READ MORE ON KHAAMA.

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Date posted: January 26, 2023.

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

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

Taniya Dharani, founder Artany Art Gallery and Advisory, Simerg, Ismaili artisitic expressions, Malik Merchant

Taniya Dharani Creates an Inspirational Platform for Ismaili as Well as Emerging Global Artists from Around the World

“Supporting the Ismaili Artist Community is enormously valuable to me. I wanted to create a platform that I wish I had when I was an aspiring artist…Students in high school and college who are interested in the arts can also apply for internships at Artany within the department of graphic design, marketing, content creation, website management, and business development. In order to provide internships, we have now collaborated with the Aga Khan Academy in Hyderabad” — Taniya Dharani, Founder, Artany Art Gallery and Advisory

Taniya Dharani, founder Artany Art Gallery and Advisory. Ismaili artistic expressions, Simerg, Insights from Around the world
Taniya Dharani, founder of Artany Art Gallery and Advisory.

By ARTANY ART GALLERY AND ADVISORY
(Special to Simerg)

“Supporting the Ismaili Artist Community is enormously valuable to me. I wanted to create a platform that I wish I had when I was an aspiring artist,” says Taniya Dharani, founder of Artany Art Gallery and Advisory (AAGA).

A digital gallery space and art consultancy, AAGA focuses on emerging Ismaili artists with a global audience and specializes in contemporary art. The artistic narratives and skills of up-and-coming artists from various multicultural origins are artistically rendered by Artany. Along with supporting the Ismaili artistic community, we mentor them and aim to elucidate their work on a global scale.

How did she find her way into the artistic world?

Taniya explains: “Without the support of their family, friends, and loved ones, I don’t believe anyone can become a practicing professional artist. I consider myself fortunate to have a family who supports what I do, has faith in my artistic and entrepreneurial approach, and is very understanding of my development.”

Having thus found a way to build a solid platform, AAGA now seeks to encourage both the global emerging artist community and the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

Taniya obtained a Master’s degree in Art Business from the Sotheby’s Institute of Art in London with an emphasis on establishing a platform for commercial as well as aesthetic promotion, encouragement, and instruction of up-and-coming artists. Having come from a diverse and cosmopolitan background, Taniya seeks to use her vast knowledge and professional experience to bridge the gap between Eastern and Western cultures. She is able to interact effectively and appropriately with a wide range of stakeholders due to her bilingual skills and understanding of both Far Eastern and Western cultures, including those of India, Namibia, and England.

Aga Khan by Taniya Dharani, Ismaili artistic expressions simerg insights from around the world
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, by Taniya Dharani, UK. Credit: Artany Art Gallery and Advisory.

Taniya grew aware of the necessity for a mentor and a platform for the encouragement of artists. After identifying a market gap, she made the decision to further her education by enrolling in the “Fundamentals of the Gallery Business” programme at the Sotheby’s Institute in Manhattan, New York, followed by a Masters in Art Business from the same Institute in London, England.

Her goal and objective is to make sure Artany’s team is in tune with both the contemporary and diverse Ismaili community and the larger world of artists.

Taniya Dharani, Ismaili artistic expressions simerg insights from around the world
Portrait by Taniya Dharani, UK. Credit: Artany Art Gallery and Advisory.

Today, Artany offers a portfolio of art investment collections that include original works by Ismail Gulgee, limited-edition “Ashtavinayak” serigraphs by Maqbool Fida Husain, and authentic Vaikuntham Thota.

The gallery continues to expand with works by Aquil Virani of Toronto, up-and-coming artists Zainab Khuwaja and Nizar Macojia from Texas, Dr. Mubarak Muhammad Ali from Pakistan, and Rukshana Hooda from India, to name a few. Their artistic styles of Islamic calligraphy, Sufi art, geometric patterns, realism, and contemporary are just a few of the several artistic genres they work in.

Ismaili artistic expressions simerg, insights from around the world
Painting by Rukshana Hooda, India. Credit: Artany Art Gallery and Advisory.

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Ismaili artistic expressions simerg, pakistani decorated bus, insights from around the world
Painting by Dr. Mubarak Muhammad Ali, Pakistan. Credit: Artany Art Gallery and Advisory.

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Ismaili artistic expressions simerg, insights from around the world
Calligraphy by Zainab Khuwaja. Texas, USA. Credit: Artany Art Gallery and Advisory.

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Nizar Macojia, Texas, USA, Ismaili artists, Simerg, insights from around the world
Nizar Macojia, Texas, USA. Credit: Artany Art Gallery and Advisory.

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Aquil Virani, Ismaili artists and designer, artistic expressions, Simerg Insights from around the world
Aquil Virani, Toronto. Credit: Artany Art Gallery and Advisory.

Students in high school and college who are interested in the arts can also apply for internships within Artany in the departments of graphic design, marketing, content creation, website management, and business development. In order to provide internships, we have now collaborated with the Aga Khan Academy in Hyderabad. We encourage Ismaili artists at all levels and of all ages to collaborate with Artany by either contacting Taniya Dharani or registering as an artist.

Date posted: January 24, 2023.

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Taniya Dharani is founder of Artany Art Gallery and Advisory, Ismaili artistic expressions, Simerg Insights from Around the world
Taniya Dharani

Taniya Dharani is founder of Artany Art Gallery and Advisory. She has worked as a contemporary artist, curator, and mentor for up-and-coming artists. She is a member of the associate team for the International Art Gallery at Global Encounters and is presently studying at the Bares Atelier in London to become a traditional classical realist artist. You can collaborate or sign up as an Artany artist, by clicking HERE. Please also visit Artany’s Gallery on Instagram.

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

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

Ismaili Cultural Centre, Port Moddy, News, Simerg

New Ismaili Cultural Centre Being Proposed for Port Moody, British Columbia – Details and Excellent Artistic Renderings

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

According to Wikipedia, “Port Moody is a city in British Columbia, Canada, and a member municipality of the Metro Vancouver Regional District. It envelops the east end of Burrard Inlet and is the smallest of the Tri-Cities, bordered by Coquitlam on the east and south and by Burnaby on the west.”

A new Ismaili Cultural Centre housing a Jamatkhana is being proposed in the city to replace the one further to the west that had to close down due to structural problems. Veteran journalist Mario Bartel presents a report dated January 18, 2023 in TRICITY News about the proposed cultural centre that would also include a 12-sorey residential rental tower. Please read Bartel’s report by clicking HERE or on image below.

Also, click on Anthem Properties: Rental housing tower with Jamatkhana cultural hub proposed for Port Moody for an excellent presentation of the proposed Ismaili Cultural Centre, including maps, street views and a number of artistic renderings.

Ismaili Cultural Centre, Port Moddy, News, Simerg
Artistic rendering of the proposed Ismaili Cultural Centre to be located at 3180 St. Johns Street, Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada. Photograph: IBI Group/Anthem Properties.

Date posted: January 21, 2023.

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Related: Please click Anthem Properties: Rental housing tower with Jamatkhana cultural hub proposed for Port Moody

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

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

Maleksultan and Jehangir Merchant’s Contribution to the IIS: Cataloguing Khojki Manuscripts and Gujarati Translation of Farhad Daftary’s Short History of the Ismailis

By MALIK MERCHANT

January 21, 2023, marks the 2nd anniversary of the death of my beloved mother, “Mrs. Merchant“. She and my late dad, Jehangir, who passed away in May 2018, worked hand in hand for over 60 years in the service of the Ismaili community, its institutions and the Imam-of-the-Time, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. In their service, they also contributed to the work of the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS.)

My mum could read the Khojki script, and she and my dad undertook the task of cataloguing the Khojki manuscripts at the IIS. As the manuscripts had been transferred onto microfiche, the IIS provided my parents with a microfiche reader which enabled them to catalogue the manuscripts.

mr and mrs merchant
Photograph: Tribute album prepared by the BUI students of London, England, on the retirement of Mr. and Mrs. Merchant. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

On January 20, Simerg’s sister website produced a piece about the honour that was given to Dr. Farhad Daftary on January 18, 2023, for his devoted services to the Institute of Ismaili Studies, which he joined in 1988.

Prince Rahim Aga Khan was present at the event and expressed everyone’s gratitude to Dr. Daftary for his lifetime of work to the field of Ismaili studies. During his long tenure at the IIS, Dr. Daftary authored or edited 23 books and oversaw the publication of 150 books as well as contributed countless articles in scholarly journals and encyclopedias.

Most recently, in 2020, Dr. Daftary published a much anticipated volume entitled The Ismaili Imams: A Biographical History. The much sought book, unfortunately, has been a hard find at literature counters in Calgary and in other parts of Canada. I think very little effort has been made to restock the title, as I get a blank stare from literature counter members when I ask about the availability of the book and when they are expected to receive more stock! Perhaps, this important book is out of print and if that be the case then the IIS should certainly reprint it. This is one work that the Jamat had waited for more than 40 years since the IIS was established on December 13, 1977.

However, of all the books that Daftary published over the past 30 years, there is one that will always remain his seminal contribution to Ismaili studies. Entitled The Ismalis: Their History and Doctrines, the first edition was published in the early 1990’s and the 2nd edition came out in 2007. The voluminous 800 page book was more suited to scholars, researchers and keen readers of history. A few years later, in 1998, Dr. Daftary published a shorter version of the volume under the title A Short History of the Ismailis. Translations were done in numerous European languages.

Front and back cover flap of the Gujarati translation of Dr. Farhad Daftary’s work A Short History of the Ismailis. The translation was done under the title Ismailiono Toonk Itihas by Ismaili missionaries Jehangir Merchant and Sultanali Mohamed.

My dad was approached and whole heartedly accepted the challenge to do the Gujarati translation of the work. His Gujarati was very good but he was a very humble man. He sought the help of his missionary colleague Sultanali Mohamed to assist him and improve the translation even further.

Until the commencement of this project, my dad had looked after himself well physically. Such was his stamina that my daughter, Nurin, who went to visit him before he began the translation told me that during her morning walks with her grandad, he would outpace her leaving her metres behind. All this physical activity that he had conducted for years, came to a standstill once he undertook the Gujarati translation. He devoted day and night to the translation. He wanted the translation to be as perfect as possible and ensure that it adhered to Dr. Daftary’s style of writing. It wasn’t easy but he did it sincerely and from the bottom of his heart.

Missionary Sultanali Mohamed (1927-2020), co-translator with Jehangir Merchant of Farhad Daftary’s Short History of the Ismailis.

Sultanali missionary and my mum were very closely involved in the translation. The book went to India for printing and my dad insisted that he should see the proofs before the book was published.

What a shock when the proofs came back! The translation had been altered in many parts of the book and mistakes had been introduced. He decided to withdraw his name as the translator if the book was to be published in its sub-standard revised form without his approval He was deeply hurt, and responded to Dr. Daftary citing examples of the alterations that had been made in many parts of the book that were not acceptable to him. Moreover, numerous errors had been introduced. He found it hard to understand why the changes were made. He and Sultanali would have accepted the proof if it was better than the translation they had submitted for publication.

Dr. Daftary respectfully requested my dad to do the needful to bring the translation to its original form. My dad spent the next several weeks and reworked on the proofs that he had been provided. Throughout his dedicated time, he would have in front of him Gujarati-English dictionaries to ensure the best possible translation. He and my mum were thorough in all the services they rendered to Jamati institutions which they had begun in the early 1950’s after qualifying as missionaries and religious education teachers. Their first professional job was as teachers in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique.

Finally, after weeks of additional hard work, my dad and Sultanali’s translation was published and I have published, above, an image of the cover of the book. It doesn’t carry their names on the cover flap. However, they are listed in the inside title page of the book, shown below.

A cropped image of the inside title page of the Gujarati translation of Dr. Farhad Daftary's book A Short History of the Ismailis. The names of translators, Jehangir Alibhai Merchant and Sultanali Mohamed, appear on the last two lines of the page. Simerg
A cropped image of the inside title page of the Gujarati translation of Dr. Farhad Daftary’s book A Short History of the Ismailis. The names of translators, Jehangir Alibhai Merchant and Sultanali Mohamed, appear on the last two lines of the page.

I vividly recollect his dedication to Dr. Daftary’s book. Even I was ignored during my visits to Vancouver. Such was his love and dedication during his service to institutions. We were their “secondary children”, their students always receiving the highest priority but we accepted that throughout our lives. They sought and did everything for our education and to raise us to be good murids of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

On this day, we as a family pray for the rest of their souls in eternal peace. Their contribution to the Jamat was sincere. They worked hard for Jamati institutions and did the very best to set the best possible standards for themselves and their students. My mum is still fondly remembered by her students for the number of times she would call them when they had recitation duties in Jamatkhana — whether it was delivering prayers, ginans, waeze’s (sermons) or any other literary or religious recital. She wanted to ensure they were well prepared and fully ready for their recitations.

My parents had aspirations for their children and grandchildren as well as the youth of the Jamat, and I sincerely hope that we are able to fulfill their hopes and expectations of being good Ismaili Muslims, following its ethics and maintaining our devotion and love for Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Date posted: January 20, 2023.
Last updated: January 21, 2023 (see correction note below.)

Correction: An earlier version of the post stated that Mrs. Merchant was involved in the transliteration of titles of Khojki manuscripts at the IIS. She was actually involved in cataloguing the manuscripts with her husband, Jehangir. The oversight is regretted and the post has been revised.

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

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

Must Attend Event in Calgary, Saturday, January 21, 2023: Screening of Aleem Karmali’s Acclaimed Film “Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda” – Please Watch Trailer and Reserve Your Tickets Now

“What an absolutely marvelous job you did in creating this work… How very important it was for you to do this because I think it gives a truer picture of what actually happened… Your film should be more widely distributed – especially to schools. To learn that our decisions can have significant repercussions is an important idea to understand” — Jennifer Shelley, Edmonton

Note: The event is now over.

[Simerg is delighted to inform its readers, especially those living in and around the Calgary area, that Edmonton based filmmaker Aleem Karmali is travelling to Calgary for the screening of his highly acclaimed film “Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda”, on Saturday, January 21, 2023, at the Globe Cinema located at 617 8 Ave SW, Calgary. The doors to the cinema will open at 1:00 PM and the film will commence shortly thereafter. At the screening, Aleem will engage in a discussion with Honourable Salma Lakhani, the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, whose appointment to the position was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on June 30, 2020. Salma herself became stateless when Idi Amin announced the expulsion of Asians from Uganda in August 1972. As readers may be aware, Simerg had carried a special article on Salma Lakhani with a link to an interview she gave to the Canadian Geographic magazine. We sincerely hope Calgary residents will fill up the cinema for Karmali’s film. Tickets are only $10.00 and can be purchased by clicking on EVENTBRITE. At Simerg’s invitation, Aleem Karmali has prepared the following short introductory piece about the film he is screening in Calgary — Ed.]

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The Ugandan Asian Refugees: Canada’s First Major Movement of Non-European Refugees

Ugandan refugees at the Montreal Longue Pointe reception centre. Aleem Karmali fiml story on Simerg
Ugandan refugees at the Montreal Longue Pointe reception centre. Photograph: Library and Archives Canada, sourced from https://recherche-collection-search.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/home/record?app=fonandcol&IdNumber=4332941, Creative Commons.

By ALEEM KARMALI

The story of the Ugandan Asian refugees has received a fair amount of coverage in the past year, marking the 50th anniversary of Idi Amin’s expulsion of South Asians from Uganda in 1972. The expulsion targeted around 50 thousand people from a diverse array of ethnic and religious backgrounds, including several thousand Ismaili Muslims. 

Often when these stories are told, they focus on the experiences of the refugees during the expulsion, their settlement in the UK, Canada, or other countries, and their contributions to their new societies. Typically, the story begins with Idi Amin’s expulsion order and they rarely engage with the damaging legacy of British colonialism in shaping the tangled historical context leading up to the expulsion. 

In Canada specifically, the stories often focus specifically on Ismailis. However, while the Ismailis were the largest group that came to Canada, this was actually a diverse community, including many Goans, Hindus, Sikhs, and other Muslims. 

DOCUMENTING AN UNTOLD CANADIAN STORY 

When I set out to make a documentary film about the expulsion, I wanted to tell the Canadian story in a slightly different way than others had generally approached it. I approached the expulsion as a key moment in Canadian refugee and immigration history. 

The Ugandan Asians were the first major movement of non-European and non-white refugees accepted in Canadian history. We tend to view Canada today as a multicultural, diverse, and pluralistic society. However, it was not always so. 

Canada’s early history had very exclusionary immigration policies rooted in Canada’s history as a British colony. Eventually, Canadian immigration policies began to change, laying the foundations for Canada’s decision to accept almost 8,000 Ugandan refugees. 

The Uganda movement also left a legacy in Canada. The generally positive perception of the Ugandan refugees opened the door to more, and larger, refugee movements from outside Europe, including the Boat People in the late 1970s, and later movements from Afghanistan and Syria. 

Another legacy is that the experiences of Canadian immigration officials on the ground in Uganda led to new policies, particularly the world’s first policy of private sponsorship of refugees. 

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THE FILM: “THROWN INTO CANADA”

The film, Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda,” is a 77-minute feature-length documentary, which premiered in November 2022 in Edmonton. It has also been featured at Carleton University’s “Beyond Resettlement” conference and was a selection in the Waterloo Region Migration Film Festival

The film features interviews with historians, Canadian immigration officials, and former Ugandan refugees from the Ismaili, Goan, and Hindu communities. Notable interviews include Dr. Shezan Muhammedi, Prof. Karim H. Karim, Senator Mobina Jaffer, and Her Honour, the Honourable Salma Lakhani, the 19th Lieutenant Governor of Alberta. 

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Watch Trailer

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CALGARY SCREENING: JANUARY 21, 2023, GLOBE CINEMA, DOORS OPEN 1:00 PM; AND LINK TO PURCHASE TICKETS

An upcoming screening will be held on Saturday, January 21 in Calgary at the Globe Cinema617 8 Ave SW, Calgary — followed by a panel discussion with Her Honour Salma Lakhani and myself. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased by clicking on EVENTBRITE.

The film is independently-produced with grant funding from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Edmonton Arts Council.

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TESTIMONIALS ON THE FILM

The following is feedback received from previous screenings of the film:

“I want to compliment you on a superb documentary.” — Michael Molloy, Canadian Immigration Official in Kampala in 1972

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“It is beautifully told – written and visual. I love many creative elements you’ve included and I was so happy to hear so many voices.” — Shelley Ayres, Producer/Director of “Expelled: My Roots in Uganda” (CTV)

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“The film was so well made, and I learned so much.” — Ikhlas Hussain, Waterloo Public Library

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“What a wonderful contribution!!”  — Dr. Shenila Khoja-Moolji, Associate Professor of Muslim Societies at Georgetown University

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“What an absolutely marvelous job you did in creating this work… How very important it was for you to do this because I think it gives a truer picture of what actually happened… Your film should be more widely distributed – especially to schools. To learn that our decisions can have significant repercussions is an important idea to understand.” — Jennifer Shelley, Edmonton Resident

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PURCHASE TICKETS

Again, tickets for the film can be purchased by clicking on EVENTBRITE.

Date posted: January 17, 2023.
Last updated: January 20, 2023 (trailer added.)

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Aleem Karmali is a filmmaker, writer and educator based in Edmonton, Canada, Thrown into Canada: The Settlement of Asian Refugees from Uganda
Aleem Karmali

Aleem Karmali is an independent documentary filmmaker, writer and educator based in Edmonton, Canada. Through his company Crescent Productions, his films generally explore the intersections of history, diversity, culture and religion, with a particular focus on the contributions of Muslim civilizations to the world. He is also an alumnus of The Institute of Ismaili Studies and has produced several projects for The.Ismaili and the Aga Khan Development Network over the years. He also contributed The Unveiling at Sijilmasa for Simerg’s acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There.

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

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

Morant’s Curve: One of the World’s Premiere Train Lookout Points in Banff National Park’s Bow Valley Parkway

Malik Merchant returns to Banff National Park after 15 long years, and this time at the start of 2023 in the thick of winter. His photographs will bring you closer to one of Canada’s top destinations and you will be awed with what you learn and see about Morant’s Curve as well as a rare endangered snail that only lives in Banff’s sulphur springs….and, of course, we have other Rocky Mountain photographs too! You must read and share this beautiful post. CLICK FOR MORE! Or click on photos, below.

Can you spot the endangered snail? Click on image for more photographs from the Cave and Basin National Historic Site in Banff’. Photograph: Malik Merchant.

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Morant's Curve, Malik Merchant Simerg Photos.
Morant’s Curve, Bow Valley Parkway, Hwy 1A, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada. Please click on photo for more beautiful photographs. Photograph: Malik Merchant.

Date posted: January 14, 2023.

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

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

His Highness the Aga Khan: Anchor Links to 2021-2022 Stories on the 49th Ismaili Imam and a New Page for 2023

More than 35 stories can now be easily accessed through anchor links on Barakah’s revised page covering 2021-2022 news events related to His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family. Please click July 13, 2021 – December 31, 2021: Aga Khan or on image below, following which we have a link to the start-up page for 2023 events.

Aga Khan News: Anchor Links 2021- 2022 Stories

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Aga Khan News 2023: Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Princess Zahra at UN Conference Climate Resilient Pakistan

Climate Resilient Pakistan January 9 2023, Geneva, Palais des Nations, Simerg News
A view of delegates attending “Climate Resilient Pakistan” in the conference hall at the UN building in Geneva, Palais des Nations, on January 9, 2023. Photograph: UN Photo/Violaine Martin.

Featured photo at top of post: Prince Rahim Aga Khan, oldest son of the Aga Khan, visits the Vatican, November 2022.

Date posted: January 10, 2023.

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

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