Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad on the Pumpkin, as the Aga Khan Museum Uses it to Decorate its Courtyard

By MALIK MERCHANT
Editor/Publisher SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

The Aga Khan Museum is one of the few museums in Toronto that has been able to implement Covid-19 protocols and make the museum safe for its visitors. The visiting times were revised this past week, and it is now open from Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

In recent weeks, Simerg and its sister websites have produced a superb collection of photos of the Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Park, which divides the two magnificent buildings. Readers have been uplifted to see the photos of the 3 magnificent projects, built by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, under the full moon, crescent moon, as well as at the peak of the autumn foliage season.

Aga Khan Museum Courtyard Pumpkin Decoration Simerg Malik Merchant
Aga Khan Museum Toronto Courtyard decorated with pumpkins. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

On a fine day, there is no better place in the museum than to be sitting in its open air courtyard, while enjoying a delicious cup of latte.

October 23, 2020 was one such day. It actually felt like summer, with blue skies and very warm temperatures. The magnificent courtyard was a perfect place for my morning coffee as well as a late breakfast — an egg salad croissant, slightly grilled. I was thrilled to enter the courtyard, and noticed pumpkin decorations in one corner of the courtyard. Of course, pumpkins are to be seen everywhere at this time of the year. It is one of the most popular desserts served during Thanksgiving holidays in Canada (October 12, 2020) and the USA (November 26, 2020), and I wondered how the food was viewed in Islam. My little bit of research led me to numerous traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) on the pumpkin, and I am delighted to post adaptations of some that I read.

“I saw the Prophet being served with soup and containing gourd (pumpkin or squash) and cured meat, and I saw him picking and eating the pieces of gourd.” — Bukhari Volume 7, Book 65, Number 348.

It is related that a sailor once invited Prophet Muhammad to eat some food that he had prepared. Anas bin Malik who accompanied the Prophet, noted that the Prophet was served barley bread and a soup with pumpkin in it. The Prophet keenly ate the pumpkin around the dish, and from that day Anas made it his favourite food. Traditions also note that whenever a a dish of bread, meat and broth was presented to the Prophet and it contained pumpkin, the Prophet would pick up the pumpkin because he really liked it, and made the heart strong. Other Muslim traditions note that the pumpkin increases brain function and brain strength.

Ibn Ridwan, in a medical treatise written during the Fatimid period, recommended the pumpkin as a diet for healthy living along with several other fruits and vegetables such as celery, carrots, lentils and cucumbers.

Interestingly, there is also a general consensus among scholars about the Arabic word yaqteen that is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. They say that it refers to the pumpkin — a food that nourished and helped heal Prophet Yunus (A.S.), after he was cast into the wilderness while he was sick (see Qur’an, 37:144-146, at Corpus Quran English Translation).

The website healthline mentions that pumpkin is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and is incredibly healthy. Moreover its low calorie content makes it a weight-loss-friendly food. It goes on to add that “its nutrients and antioxidants may boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, lower your risk of certain cancers and promote heart and skin health.”

After about an hour at the museum’s courtyard, I could not return home without walking around the Aga Khan Park. As I looked up in the blue sky above the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome, I saw two birds beautifully gliding at the dome’s left. I was left wondering: Were they turkey vultures, eagles or hawks? Alas, I wasn’t carrying a powerful lens to get a better and sharper close-up.

Please click on photo for enlargement

Headquarters Jamatkhana Toronto at the Ismaili Centre, with birds overhead.
Two birds seen gliding at left of the dome of the Toronto Headquarters Ismaili Jamatkhana, part of the Ismaili Centre. Click on image for enlargement. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Returning to the museum’s courtyard on Sunday October 25, offered a much different kind of experience, as the temperature had dropped from Friday’s 22°C to only 8°C. But the museum had that in mind too! Blue lounge blue chairs had been placed in the courtyard, with portable fireplaces where visitors mingled with their family members over light refreshments.

Aga Khan Museum Courtyard
Visitors keep warm at a portable fireplace at the Aga Khan Museum’s courtyard as temperatures take a dip on Sunday, October 25. 2020. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

The overall experience at the three Aga Khan projects during recent weeks has been overwhelming.

As we all seek good health, I dedicate this post to the humble pumpkin which supports heart and eye health, and boosts immunity, among other benefits.

And, without the pumpkin’s presence in the museum’s courtyard, it may have never occurred to me to search out the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) that have showed that he really liked the pumpkin. As Muslims around the world celebrate his birth anniversary — the Milad un Nabi — on or around October 29, let us seek to learn more about his inspiring life and leadership as well as his faith in God whom he served as the last messenger for 23 long and devoted years, bringing to Muslims the blessing of the Holy Qur’an.

Date posted: October 24, 2020.
Last updated: October 25, 2020 (new photo/information added)

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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.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or, if you don’t see the box, please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Mouth Watering Ismaili Owned Restaurants in Vancouver with an East African Touch

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Editor/Publisher Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

Established as the news, lifestyle, and entertainment weekly in Vancouver for 50 years, the weekly Georgia Straight is an integral part of the active urban West Coast lifestyle with over 816,000 unduplicated readers/visitors print and website per week.

Recently, the paper published an overview of four Ismaili owned restaurants known for their distinct East African based Indian cuisines. The restaurants highlighted in the paper with corresponding website links are Ember Indian Kitchen, Jambo Grill, Simba’s Grill and Cayenne Bistro.

Missing in the Straight report are two restaurants that the editor of Simerg frequents whenever he visits Vancouver. These are the award winning Safari Snack House on Canada Way located near the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana, known for its delicious black kebabs, and James Street Café & Grill, also on Canada Way, but closer to the Ismaili Centre Vancouver. Straight’s review can be read by clicking HERE or on the following image.

Please click on image for Straight.com article on Ismaili owned restaurants in Vancouver

We take this opportunity to invite owners of Ismaili restaurants in Canada and the USA specializing in South Asian, East African and Central Asian cuisine to write to us with a comprehensive 100-200 word overview of their restaurant, a picture of the restaurant as well as a photo of their most popular dish, along with a link to their website. Simerg will be most happy to provide a listing of their established eatery in a future piece. The description submitted should be accurate and complete, as any material that needs an extended amount of editorial changes will not be accepted for publication. Please write in confidence to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com.

Date posted: October 22, 2020.

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We invite our readers from around the world to submit feedback on their favourite Ismaili owned restaurants — in any part of the world! Please complete the submission form below or click on Leave a comment.

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.

Aga Khan Park

Let Storms Beware

Karim H. Karim’s beautiful poem is followed by a brief note from the editor as well as some pictures that he set off to take at Toronto’s Aga Khan Park, shortly after he had been inspired by the poem.

 By KARIM H. KARIM

(Dedicated to all who are sad)

Sweetest are the songs
That we sing in sorrows;
Tears swell in our eyes
Even when joy overflows.

Naïve folk fear the thorns
Where flowers do flourish,
Fresh with hues of hope.

Dawn’s light is nearest
When sadness is darkest,
Sings the black night
In stars’ silent twinkle.

Embrace the aching pain,
Learn to laugh a little
And to comfort others.

Let storms beware
That we are lighting
The lamps of love.

Date posted: October 20, 2020.
Last updated: October 22, 2020.

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(Based on Shankardas Shailendra’s (1923-1966) “Hain Sabse Madhur Wo Geet,” which evokes Percy Shelley’s (1792-1822) line “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of the saddest thought.”)

Karim H. Karim Carleton University
Karim H. Karim

About the author: Karim H. Karim is the Director of the Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam and a Professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication.

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Editor’s note: I was truly feeling sad earlier today (October 20), thinking about my daughter and my mother whom I haven’t visited for several months due to Covid-19. I was lonely, and also worried about my health in these uncertain times! My friend Karim H. Karim who is nearly 450 kms from me must have sensed that. I was waiting for another article from him altogether, not a piece dedicated for those who are sad. In my reply to his humble submission, I told him I would review it in a few days time! However, I decided to read it straight away, and his piece truly cheered me up. And in that moment of becoming a lot less sad, I gained some energy and headed to my favourite place! Yes, the Aga Khan Park, with two incredible buildings, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum around it — gracious gifts from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Admittedly, I haven’t been to the Park for a number of weeks, passing by it only in my car. The photographs that I took during my visit to the Park, represent my joyous moments, that I owe to Karim’s beautiful rendition. As I walked to the park, I was reminded of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s quote where he says that if one has faith, one may be worried, one may at times feel sad but one will never be unhappy. How true! Enjoy the photos, which were inspired by the poem.

Note: The following photos — and more — can be viewed in larger format at Simerg’s special photo blog. Please click Bidding Farewell to Vibrant Autumn Colours at Aga Khan Park. If you haven’t visited the blog please click Simergphotos for an outstanding collection of photo essays!

The Flag of the Ismaili Imamat
The flag of the Ismaili Imamat by maple trees at the peak of autumn colours. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
A close up of autumn colours on a maple tree at the Aga Khan Park. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Museum and Aga Khan Park
The Aga Khan Museum building as seen from the edge of the Aga Khan Park at the Wynford Drive bridge over the Don Valley Parkway. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Big Heech Aga Khan Museum
The famous Big Heech sculpture by the north end of the Aga Khan Museum, with maple trees in the background exhibiting their fall colours. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Park
A gorgeous view of the dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana, with rich autumn colours at the Aga Khan Park adding to the beauty of entire area. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Park Autumn Foliage Malik Merchant
Beautiful trees with rich autumn colours at the Aga Khan Park. To the left and not shown is the dome of the Ismaili Centre. See previous photo. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg
Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome and Aga Khan Park
A close up of the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome with a maple tree rich in autumn colours in the foreground. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Evergreen Brick Works
A view of CN Tower from the Evergreen Brick Works located in the Don River Valley on 550 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, a 10 minute drive from the Aga Khan Park. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Red maples Aga Khan Park
A beautiful view of red maple trees lined up at the edge of the Aga Khan Park along Wynford Drive, from the Aga Khan Museum (near end) to the Ismaili Centre. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg
Red Maples Aga Khan Park
Red maples reach the peak of their fall colours at the Aga Khan Park, with a view of the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome at left. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Park, Flags of Canada and the Ismaili Imamat
From left to right, flags of the Ismaili Imamat, the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario and Canada, with its famous Maple Leaf. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Date posted: October 20, 2020.
Last updated: October 21, 2020 (new link).

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or, if you don’t see the box, please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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.

Short Videos: Ismailis Keep Unique Culture Alive on Roof of the World; and 2 Canadians Bike Through Wilderness of the Pamirs

In the 11th century, Nasir Khushraw came to the Pamirs, and brought the Shiite Ismaili branch of Islam to the region. Today, two religious traditions 2000-3000 years apart, continue to co-exist in a remote corner of the earth. Watch the short cultural video in RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty by clicking HERE or on image below. Next, watch a video of two Canadians, Christian Meier and Peter Gaskill, taking on the remote Pamir landscape on their bicycles.

Video: Ismailis Keep Unique Culture Alive

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Video: Canadians Christian Meier and Peter Gaskill Ride Through the Pamirs

Suggestion: Watch Tajikistan video in full screen mode.

Date posted: October 18, 2020.

Featured photo at top of post: Narrow and winding roads from Khorough to Raushan in the Pamirs. Photo: © Muslim Harji. Please also see Harji’s photo essay Landscapes of Tajikistan.

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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.

A Comprehensive Guide by Two University of Virginia Medicine Professors on What Doctors Know Works for All Stages of the Covid-19 Illness

This article was updated on October 5, 2020 with the new details of President Trump’s COVID-19 treatments. It is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. You may read the original article by clicking HERE. Note: The featured image shown at top of this post and the first image shown below are reproduced from the website of USA’s Centre for Disease Control — they are not part of the original article in The Conversation.

BY WILLIAM PETRI, Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia and JEFFREY M. STUREK, Assistant Professor of Medicine University of Virginia

With 74-year-old President Trump and 50-year-old first lady Melania Trump testing positive for the coronavirus, what are the best proven treatments for them and other patients?

We are both physicianscientists at the University of Virginia. We care for COVID-19 patients and conduct research to find better ways to diagnose and treat COVID-19.

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-section through the viral genome, seen as black dots. Image Credit: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, USA (cdc.gov.).

Here we are sharing what physicians have learned over the past eight months treating various stages of this disease. Early in the year, there were few known treatments for people who showed severe COVID-19 symptoms apart from sustaining them on ventilators. Now, several months later, there are a handful of treatments, including drugs, that give doctors far better tools to heal patients, particularly very ill ones.

Who is at greatest risk for severe COVID-19?

Men are one-and-a-half times more likely to die, and an 80-year-old has a twentyfold greater risk of death than a 50-year-old. In addition to age and male gender, obesity; diabetes; recent cancer diagnosis; chronic heart, lung and liver disease; stroke; and dementia all are associated with an increased risk of dying from COVID-19. Based on these criteria, the president falls into a higher-risk category based on male gender and age.

Is treatment different depending upon how sick one is?

The approach to therapy differs depending on the stage of the illness.

It is therefore important to not only diagnose COVID-19 but to define whether the infection is asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Also, how sick a person is – whether it’s a mild, moderate, severe or critical case – changes how a patient is treated.

What treatment is there for asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infection?

Asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infection is defined as having a positive diagnostic test for COVID-19 (a PCR or antigen detection test) without symptoms of infection.

There is currently no known effective treatment for this stage. Someone with asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infection should isolate themself at home for 10 days so as not to expose others.

What are the symptoms of mild disease, and what treatments work?

Symptoms of mild COVID-19 infection can include fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, congestion and runny nose.

Someone with mild COVID-19 does not have shortness of breath, chest pain or evidence of pneumonia during a chest X-ray. The exception to this is children with mild disease who may still have an abnormal X-ray.

There are no treatments that have been demonstrated to benefit those with mild disease. However, such patients should be well versed on the symptoms of moderate illness, so that they and others recognize if they progress to moderate illness. This is important because progression to more severe disease can be rapid – typically five to 10 days after initial symptoms.

Moderate illness

Moderate illness is defined as shortness of breath, chest pain, or on a chest X-ray, evidence of pneumonia but without hypoxia (low blood oxygen levels).

There currently is no known effective therapy for moderate illness.

Severe illness

Severe illness is identified by a rapid breathing rate (greater than 30 breaths per minute) or low oxygen levels in the blood, which is called hypoxia. Also, evidence of pneumonia affecting more than half of the lungs, as diagnosed on a chest X-ray, is a sign of a severe case.

Controlled clinical trials have demonstrated that the antiviral drug remdesivir hastens recovery for patients with severe but not critical illness.

In addition the anti-inflammatory steroid medicine dexamethasone (a prednisone-like drug) decreases mortality.

Critical illness

Critical illness occurs when the patient becomes so sick that vital organs begin to fail and they require medicines or other therapies to support these vital functions.

If failure of the lungs is severe enough, physicians may put the patient on a mechanical ventilator or high quantities of oxygen. There is no evidence that remdesivir treatment is beneficial during this critical phase. Dexamethasone is still recommended for treatment because it has been shown to decrease mortality.

What therapies don’t work or are still being tested?

Some treatments that have been shown to be ineffective include chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

Other potential treatments are still in the middle of clinical trials to test whether they are effective. These include human convalescent plasma, which contains antibodies that should bind to the virus and prevent it from entering cells.

There are also drugs to modulate the immune response, such as interferons and inhibitors of IL-6, which in some cases may prevent a harmful overreaction of the immune system, commonly referred to as cytokine storm.

A nurse collects convalescent plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient to help the healing process of other COVID-19 patients in Indonesia. Budiono,/ Sijori images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Newer treatments, including one President Trump has been given

Right now there is no approved treatment for outpatients with asymptomatic or mild to moderate COVID-19. But this appears to be changing, with Eli Lilly’s and Regeneron’s release of clinical trial data on the use of laboratory-manufactured antibodies against the spike glycoprotein of the new coronavirus.

In this approach, as with convalescent plasma, the antibodies work by binding to the virus and blocking it from entering cells and multiplying. This could be particularly effective early on in infection before illness becomes severe.

In an early preview of data from an ongoing phase three clinical trial, subjects with COVID-19 who received an injection of a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein had symptoms that lasted only seven days rather than 13. The amount of virus remaining in the nasopharynx – the upper part of the throat behind the nose – was also reduced.

An update from the president’s physician on the afternoon of Oct. 2 indicated that, as a precautionary measure, the president received an infusion of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail. This treatment is not widely available, and can be given only under what is called compassionate use.

On the same day, the president reportedly also received supplemental oxygen and a first dose of the antiviral drug Remdesivir. Research shows this antiviral can decrease the length of COVID-19 patients’ hospital stays, but only when given prior to the patient needing mechanical ventilation.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, the president received a second dose of Remdesivir and a first dose of the steroid dexamethasone. Dexamethasone is an anti-inflammatory medicine in the same class as prednisone. It decreases mortality in patients with COVID-19 that is severe enough to require supplemental oxygen, but may actually worsen disease in those who are not as severely ill.

All of this suggests that the president is receiving state-of-the-art therapies.

Other External Link(s)

Please read:

1. BBC: Covid and Trump: The president’s healthcare v the average American’s
2. New York Times: President Trump Says He’s ‘Better’ From Covid-19. Doctors Aren’t So Sure
3. New York Times: How Much Would Trump’s Coronavirus Treatment Cost Most Americans?

Date posted: October 6, 2020.
Last updated: October 7, 2020 (new external links).

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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.

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s signed copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” and exclusive scarves inspired by his beautiful photography are available for viewing – and purchase – in Toronto

Hussain Aga Khan
Prince Hussain

For a decade, Simerg has officially supported the initiatives of Prince Hussain Aga Khan to his satisfaction. When we received his signed book “Animal Voyage” ten years ago, they were snapped up within a few days. Then, more recently, his signed copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” containing sea animal photos were also sold out shortly after they were made available to Simerg. We have now received very limited quantities of his signed as well as unsigned copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” for sale in Canada.

Diving Into Wildlife by Hussain Aga Khan
Cover Page of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Diving Into Wildlife.

In addition, we have also received for sale in Canada an entire collection of Italian made scarves inspired by Prince Hussain’s photography.

The beautiful STENNELA produced scarves were conceived by Valérie Maurice and designed by Kirsten Synge, exclusively for the Prince’s organization Focused on Nature (abbr. FON). Simerg can arrange to show you the entire collection in person in Toronto. You may then purchase them. Please contact Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com to arrange a viewing in Toronto (or in Ottawa, when he travels to Ottawa). All social distancing rules will be adhered to. As in the past, the entire proceeds from the sales of scarves and books will be submitted to FON, which assists in the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species, as well as habitat conservation efforts.

Focused on Nature Scarves
200×140 cm – 85% modal – 15% silk 250 € or appx. $US 290.00; Italian made and produced by STENELLA brand for Prince Hussain’s organization FON. Other sizes are also available and priced from $US 90.00. Please contact Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com to view – and purchase – the scarves in person in Toronto.

Once again, to view and purchase the books or the scarves, please write to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com. Signed and unsigned copies of Diving Into Wildlife are priced at $US 125.00 and $US 25.00, respectively. Payments can be made by cheques, e-transfers or via Paypal (Simerg is Paypal verified). The prices of scarves range from approximately $US 95.00 – $US 295.00, depending on material (silk or silk/cotton) and size. The entire collection can be viewed online at the Prince’s FON website by clicking HERE. As mentioned, you can try the scarves in Toronto – and buy them in person in Toronto from the complete range we are carrying. We can also ship the books and scarves across Canada, and shipping charges will apply. Please write to Malik at Simerg@aol.com.

Date posted: September 26, 2020.

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click on Leave a comment . Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

For objects shown in this post and to purchase them please write in confidence to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com.

“Largesse” of Mawlana Hazar Imam, and Photos of Fall Colours and Waxing Moon at 3 Unique Aga Khan Projects in Toronto

Watch a short 90 second interview in which a non-Ismaili speaks about Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and then view a collection of superb photos of the waxing moon rising above the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana as well as a display of autumn colours at Aga Khan Park…MORE AT SIMERGPHOTOS

Click on image for interview, story and more photos

Date posted: September 26, 2020.

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Poem by Farah Tejani Celebrating the Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum’s 6th Anniversary, and the LAPIS Event

Note: The Lapis event is now over

The Aga Khan Museum has been hosting the annual fund raising LAPIS event for the past few years, with Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan honouring the event by personally attending it. Now due to Covid-19, the signature event has been reinvented with a broadcast from the Aga Khan Museum that everyone is invited to register for free.

The program on Thursday September 24, 2020 will be live streamed at 8 PM ET, and include remarks from Prince Amyn, Chairman of the Aga Khan Museum Board, meaningful conversations with acclaimed international artists on art in a changing world and four breathtaking performances with diverse talent from around the world.

The Aga Khan Museum invites you to join with friends and family from around the world as together it shares a unique message of hope, resilience and light. Please click HERE TO REGISTER.

Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre 6th Anniversary

And while we are on the subject of the Aga Khan Museum, let us remind our readers that September 12, 2020 marked the 6th anniversary of the inauguration of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the then Prime Minister of Canada the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper. The Museum officially opened to the public on September 18, 2014, with the Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana (known as the Toronto Headquarters Jamatkhana) opening to Ismaili community for prayers on Friday, September 19, 2014.

To commemorate the openings of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre as well as the annual Lapis event, we are delighted to present this thoughtful poem by Farah Tejani of Vancouver.

Celebrating the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre in Toronto

Ismaili Imamat Projects on Wynford Drive, Toronto, Canada. The Ismaili Centre (with glass dome), the Aga Khan Museum and the Aga Khan Park.

By FARAH TEJANI

Two complementary sister structures of architectural elegance and splendor
Jut out and pierce the heart of Toronto’s sky.
The Aga Khan Museum and
The Ismaili Centre.

United are they for the beneficial purpose of extending a hand
Of Everlasting Friendship,
Between Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.
Uniting the Muslim Ummah,
The World Ummah,
With Cultural and Religious Tolerance and Respect…

Dispelling all deplorable depictions of Islam in the Media,
By propagating the Truth:

Peace, Love, Brotherhood, Compassion, Spirituality and Prayer.

Yes, we extend a hospitable, gracious, loving hand of friendship,
Celebrating Cultural Diversity,
Historical Traditions,
Arts and Artifacts,
Awe-inspiring Calligraphic Designs and Structures,
Tours, Recitals, Exhibitions, Theatre, Films and
Educational and Cultural Activities.

The Ismaili Centre has unique and grand tiled floors
Laced with elaborate, poignant calligraphy,
Upon entering the prayer hall
We begin every act beseeching God to
Bless and Accept
All Our Endeavours.

The Prayer Hall’s distinctive
And elegant Crystalline dome,
Illuminates the night sky,
Reflecting itself into the pond,
While angels come together to lift and carry,
Each and every Murid’s,
Most Earnest and Heartfelt Prayer
To the stars:
Just Outside Allah’s Door.

Comprising one fifth of the world,
We are Muslims…
Yet there is little known of our faith and traditions.
These two buildings will stand side by side like Doves of Peace,
Aiming to bridge the gap and promote Compassion and Understanding,
Welcome, one and all.

Housing Well-Preserved Priceless Works of Art:
Objects and Artifacts,
From the Aga Khan and his Family’s Personal Collection,
The Aga Khan Museum’s Relics will tell of themselves,
For countless years to come.

Tradition and Modernity,
Come and join together to create these Majestic Timeless Landmarks,
For people from all parts of the world to enjoy.

As His Highness the Aga Khan said at the Opening Ceremony:
“We are, after all, a community that WELCOMES THE SMILE!”
With His Grace, many outdated notions of what Islam is
Will be Demystified,
And the Exemplary Fundamental Truths Unveiled
For all to see.

So again we say Welcome…
We extend a hand of Loyal and Loving Friendship,
With Peace, Brotherhood, Unity and Prayer at the Core of Our Existence.
And from the Heart of each and every individual Ismaili,
We welcome you to
Our Wonderful Universal and Timeless Tradition.
Come discover, share and learn.

Date posted: September 29, 2020.

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Farah graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia in May of 1997 and earned top Honors for her Thesis on Short Fiction. With the help of her agent Barbara Graham she then went on to publish a collection of short stories published by Trafford, called, “Make Your Own Chai, Mama’s Boy!” — ten short stories dealing with different dilemmas South Asians face. Farah also wrote and co-directed her stage play, “Safeway Samosas,” which won “The Best of Brave New Playwrights Award” in July 1995. Her short story , “Too Hot” won third place in the “Canada-Wide Best Short Fiction Award.” and was read at The Vancouver Writers Festival. Currently, Farah is working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called, “Elastic Embrace” to be published in 2021. Her most recent poetic pieces are Behold the Light of Ali and The Great Sacrifice.

2020 Autumn Foliage is Here! Amidst Covid-19, Awaken Your Senses With Day Trip to Beautiful Algonquin Park

DISTANCES: Algonquin Park from Toronto, 276 km; from Ottawa, 245 km.

Its been a tough summer for everyone. While we are still partially locked down due to Covid-19, do something safe and extraordinary this autumn by yourself, with your partner or your family with children who have a day off due to rotating classes. Yes, escape to Ontario’s Algonquin Park for a day, and let the magic of autumn foliage bring happiness to your hearts and soothe your eyes. Pick a weekday to visit the Park and drive through its 56 km Highway 60 corridor from the West to the East Entrances (or vice versa). The Park is only 2.5 to 3 hour drive from Ottawa or Toronto.

Aga Khan Park foliage
A tree by a pond at the Aga Khan Park on Wynford Drive in Toronto exhibiting its fall colours on September 24, 2020. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Park Fall Colours waxing moon Wynford Drive Toronto
Trees at Aga Khan Park exhibiting fall colours on the night of September 24, 2020 under a waxing moon seen in the sky above the dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana on Wynford Drive in Toronto. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Fall colours are already visible at various locations in Toronto and Ottawa (see two photos, above). So what is it like in Algonquin Park, as of this final week in September of the Covid-19 year? According to the official website of The Friends of Algonquin Park, “Sugar and Red Maples are off to a quick start with their fall colour change in Algonquin Park as a result of shortening daylight length, recent frost, and below freezing conditions….the maple canopy (tops) and forest edges are showing the best fall colour in Algonquin Park.”

The colours are expected to brighten in the coming days, and the 2020 foliage promises to be as fabulous as it was when Nurin and Malik Merchant spent a full day in October 2019 at the Park! Click on the link to see their report, photos and guide of how you can spend a beautiful day at the Park in 2020. And what about the impact of Covid-19? The guide has links to that information, and they tell you what is closed in 2020, based on their fabulous visit a year ago! Really, other than the Algonquin Art Centre every other place along the 56 kms corridor they drove through is OPEN, but do pick up a weekday as Nurin and Malik did!

Click HERE or on Photo for Day Trip Suggestion to Algonquin Park

2020 Algonquin Park Foliage Simerg

Date posted: September 25, 2020 (photos of foliage at Aga Khan Park on Wynford Drive in Toronto added).

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The Three Shams in Ismaili History: Imam Shamsuddin, Pir Shams and Shams Tabriz

Editor’s Note: Malik Mirza’s recent piece, Exclusive Photo Essay: The Mausoleum of Pir Shams in Multan, resulted in comments from our readers concerning the status of the shrine today, its role within the Ismaili community, the miracles attributed to Pir Shams, as well as confusion over the identities of Pir Shams and Shams Tabriz. Simerg turned to Mumtaz Ali Tajddin for some answers, and we are pleased to publish his piece that sheds light on the subject.

By RAI MUMTAZ ALI TAJDDIN S. ALI
Special to Simerg

In the contemporary period of 13th century, there is a confusion on the name “Shams” as there were three personalities existing at the same time. These were Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad, Pir Sham Sebzewari and Shams Tabriz, which is discussed in this paper. 

1. IMAM SHAMSUDDIN MUHAMMAD

Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad (1257-1310), the 28th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis is said to have been born in 646/1230 in the fortress of Maimundiz. He was known as Agha Shams in Syria and Shah Shams in India. He is also known as Shamsu’l Haq in a few Iranian poems. Poet Nizari Kohistani (d. 1320) called him Shamsuddin Shah Nimroz Ali and Shah Shams. He was also known as Shams Zardozi due to residing in a village called Zardoz in Azerbaijan, but another tradition suggests that he had adopted the profession of embroidery, and as such the term zardoz (embroiderer) became his epithet. 

JUVAINI AND MODERN HISTORIANS’ VIEWS ON ISMAILIS AND THE IMAMAT

Ata Malik Juvaini, the Persian historian who wrote an account of the Mongol Empire, wrongly considers the butchery of the Ismailis conducted by the Mongols in Qazwin and Rudhbar following the reduction of Alamut in 1256, as an end of the Ismailis and unbroken line of the Imamate as well. It is however, ascertained from reliable sources that Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad had left the fortress of Maimundiz probably on 11th Shawal, 654/November 1, 1256; the Mongols reached there on 17th Shawal, 654/November 7, 1256.

Ata Malik Juvaini joined the Mongols after 12th Zilkada, 654/December 2, 1256, and as is well known entered the library at Alamut, and upon the orders of Mongol leader burnt the entire library, sparing only a few copies of the Qur’an and some other works, just enough to fit into a small wheelbarrow.

According to Bernard Lewis in The Assassins (London, 1967, p. 63), “The extirpation of the Ismailis in Persia was not quite as thorough as Juvaini suggests. In the eyes of the sectarians, Rukn al-Din’s small son succeeded him as Imam on his death and lived to sire a line of Imams.” Marshall Hodgson also writes in The Order of Assassins (Netherland, 1955. pp. 270 and 275) that, “Juvaini assures himself that every Ismaili was killed; yet even if all the members of garrison were in fact killed, a great many other will have escaped.”  He further adds, “but their spirit was more nearly indomitable; as it is from among them that the great future of Nizari Ismailism sprouted again. It is said the child Imam was carried to Adharbayjan, where the Imams lived for some time.” According to W. Montgomery Watt in Islam and the Integration of Society (London, 1961, p. 77), “In 1256, Alamut was surrounded, and was destroyed and in the following year the Imam met his death and there was a widespread massacre of the Nizaris. It may be further mentioned that, despite this catastrophe and the fact that it has never since had a territory of its own, the community was not exterminated and the line of Imams was maintained unbroken.” 

Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad went to Daylam, and thence moved to Ardabil. It is said that he also lived in Ahar, about 150 miles west of Ardabil. He had been also in Tabriz, which he most possibly evacuated in the early months of 1257 as Halagu invaded Tabriz on July 26, 1257. It seems that he became known as Shams Tabriz in the Sufic circle in Tabriz. Pir Shihabuddin Shah (d. 1884) writes in Khitabat-i Alliya (Tehran, 1963, p. 42) that, “Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad who lived in Tabriz, was compared by the local people to the sun, because of his handsome countenance, and thus he came to be called Shams (the sun) of Tabriz. This gave rise to the confusion between him and Shams Tabrizi, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, but they were always in reality two different persons.” 

The tradition has it that Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad most probably lived from one to another place under different mantles in the province of Azerbaijan. The veritable locality of his residence, however, has not been substantiated. Azerbaijan was an ideal land for the growing Sufi circles, and the Imam had settled in northern region with his family, where he professed in the embroidery works. 

Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad is reported to have betrothed to a Sufi lady at Daylam in 1276, or in the next year. His sons, Momin Shah and Kiya Shah operated Ismaili mission as far as Gilan. Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad died in 1310 in Azerbaijan after vesting the office of Imamate to his son, Kassim Shah.

2. PIR SHAMS

The mausoleum of Pir Shams in Multan, Pakistan. Photo: © Malik Mirza. Simerg.
The mausoleum of Pir Shams in Multan, Pakistan. Photo: © Malik Mirza.

Pir Shams was born most probably in Sebzewar, a town in Khorasan, lying 64 miles west of Nishapur. His father Syed Salauddin had been deputed in Baltistan by Imam Kassim Shah, who most probably came into the contact of Taj Mughal in Badakhshan. Kamaluddin Mujahri of Sebzewar writes in Malfuz-i Kamalia that Pir Syed Muinuddin Hasan of Sebzewar of Ajmer had a meeting with Syed Salauddin in Sebzewar in 1165. It is recounted that Pir Shams had gone to Badakhshan with his father at the age of 19 years, and thence he proceeded to Tibet and returned back to Sebzewar.

It is said that after the death of Syed Salauddin, Imam Kassim Shah commissioned Pir Shams as the hujjat of Sind and Hind at Daylam. In referencing the Imam, Pir Shams says: “Adore sincerely the true guiding light manifested in the person of Kassim Shah, the Lord of the Time.” (vide, Garbi, 5:17).

The earliest description of Pir Shams is found in the treatise of the biographies of Sufis, entitled Nafahat al-Uns (comp. 1478) by Nuruddin Abdur Rahman Jami (1414-1492), the last classic poet of Iran. Nurullah bin Sharif Shushtari (d. 1610) in his Majalis al-Mominin (comp. 1604) traces his ancestry back to the Ismaili root. Some details are also found in Tarikh-i Firishta (comp. 1606). The great Sufi saint Bulleh Shah (1680-1758) also referred to Pir Shams in his poetry.

It is indeterminable point in the modern sources as to when Pir Shams was born? The extant materials however don’t afford one to draw a safe conclusion. His death in 1356 however is indisputable, based on the plaque at the mausoleum in Multan. The most confusing and unsolved point is to locate his date of birth. Most of the scholars concur in his age for 115 years, but it however seems that Pir Shams had lived to an advanced age beyond 115 years. Syed Bawa Ahmad Ali Khaki writes in his Dar-i Khuld-i Bari (Ahmadabad, 1905, p. 123) on the basis of an old manuscript that the span of Pir Shams’s life was for 171 years. If the date of his demise in 1356 may be considered genuine, it means that his birth would have been taken place around 1175 during the period of Imam Ala Muhammad (1166-1210). The genealogy of Pir Shams given in the Shajara, preserved in the shrine at Multan, indicates the birth of Pir Shams in 1165, which is also corroborative.

Pir Shams arrived from Daylam to Badakhshan, where he is said to have brought many followers of Momin Shahi sect into the Ismaili fold. He visited Gilgit and proceeded to Tibet and as far as the ranges of the Himalayas. He came back to Ghazna, where he deputed the local converted prince to Badakhshan on mission work. Pir Shams also converted a bulk of the Hindus during their dasera festival after singing garbis (songs) in a temple for ten consecutive nights in the village called Analvad. W. Ivanow places its location in Gujrat, called Anilvad, not far from Ahmadabad. Pir Shams also visited Kashmir in 1316 and converted the Chak and Changad tribes, thence he proceeded to Multan in 1326 for the first time.

Pir Shams Mausoleum in Multan Pakistan, Simerg
A board on a wall of the mausoleum of Pir Shams which briefly describes short incidents from the life of Pir Shams. He is referred to him as ‘Hazrat Shamshuddin Tabrizi Sabzwari’ which has resulted in confusion over his identity Photo: © Malik Mirza.

In Multan, many miracles of Pir Shams are reported, but not potential for historical value. It needs interpretation to translate the miracles. It is therefore difficult to penetrate through the mist of legends, which formed even during the lifetime of Pir Shams and thickened rapidly after his death. The most popular miracle was the bringing down of the sun on earth, which earned him an epithet of taparez (burning) in Punjab. The word taparez is so coherent with that of Tabriz that it began to be pronounced as Tabriz, contriving a wrong theory to merge these two into one. Since Pir Shams and Shams Tabriz were proximate to each other in time, it is probable that Pir Shams, also known as Shams Taprez was confused with that of Shams Tabriz. It is believed that Shams Tabriz, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, left Konya and then died in in Khoy, where he was buried. A false tradition arose that he moved from Konya to Multan, thus charactering Pir Shams and Shams Tabriz as the same and one, which is absolutely untrue.

Among the Sufis, there existed four principal orders in India, viz. Chisti, Qadari, Suharwardi and Naqashbandi. The period of Pir Shams was thus noted for the several skilled exponents of Sufi thought. He therefore launched his brisk and pervasive mission during the eve of the growing Sufi circles in Punjab. In the villages of Punjab, he mostly converted the Aror or Rohra, a leading caste in south-western part of the Punjab, i.e., of the lower reaches of the five rivers and below their junction, extending through Bahawalpur into Sind. They were mostly cultivators, and their large portion on the lower Chinab were purely agricultures, while in the western Punjab, they were mostly tailors, weavers of mats and baskets, makers of vessels of brass and copper and goldsmiths. Pir Shams appointed musafir (one who travels) in different regions to collect the religious dues, and also built prayer-halls (khana) and appointed their Mukhis. He also introduced the daily prayer in Sairaki dilect, which continued to be recited till the period of his son, Pir Sadarddin. Pir Shams expired in 1356 and was buried at Multan.

MAUSOLEUM OF PIR SHAMS AND ITS RECONSTRUCTION

The mausoleum of Pir Shams is located on the high bank of the old bed of the river Ravi. The tomb is square, 300 feet in height surmounted by a hemispherical dome. It is decorated with ornamental glazed tiles.

Seth Mehr Ali was a prominent person in Sind. His later life was quite different from his early life, which sounds his great leaning towards the doctrine of the Kaysania sect. In spite of the diversity in the oral traditions, there is a common story that Seth Mehr Ali had visited Bombay and then proceeded to Pirana, and came into the contact of the Kaka (headman) of the Imam Shahi sect, named Syed Sharif (d. 1795). This contact would have created his strong disposition towards the veneration of the shrines. Soon after his return, he visited Multan and became the disciple of Makhdum Safdar Ali alias Jiwan Shah, the custodian of the mausoleum of Pir Shams. This contact prompted Seth Mehr Ali to rebuild the mausoleum of Pir Shams. A sum of Rs. 75,000 was spent in its renovation, which he procured through donation in Sind in 1779. He posed himself as a Syed to win the hearts of the people. This is the reason that he is called Syed Mehr Ali in Tawarikh-i Zila’e Multan (Lahore, 1884, p. 85) by Munshi Hukam Chand and Multan: History and Architecture (Islamabad, 1983, p. 206) by Dr. Ahmad Nabi Khan.

CULTURE OF VENERATNG SHRINES AND ISMAILI RESPONSE

Syed Mehr Ali intended that the mausoleum should be crowded on the first Friday after 15th Shaban. He therefore he invited the local Shi’ites and the Ismailis of Sadiqabad, Uchh Sharif and Sind, but his objective was foiled. The Shi’ites venerated it and took its possession, but few Ismailis responded.

The culture of veneration and vows gradually continued to thicken. The custodian of the shrine gave thread and so called sacred water. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah visited Multan on February 16, 1950, the Mukhi humbly requested the Imam that some local Ismaili attended the shrine of Pir Shams, claiming that there was power, which fulfilled the vows. The Imam asked the Mukhi to make an announcement in the Jamatkhana that he would visit the shrine of Pir Shams, and the Jamat was also invited to be there

On the next day, before noon, Ismailis gathered outside the mausoleum. The Imam also came and entered alone, while the Ismailis were outside. It is said that the Imam made seven rounds around the grave of Pir Shams, and came out and said to the Ismailis, “You claim that there is power in the shrine.” Then the Imam raised his right hand and put inside his pocket and said, “I have picked up all the power. Hence, there is nothing in the shrine, therefore, don’t come here and make your vows in the Jamatkhana.” Since then, the Ismailis didn’t go to make the vows at the shrine of Pir Shams as well as other shrines of Pir Sadardin and Pir Hasan Kabirdin in Uchh.

The shrines of Pir Shams, Pir Sadardin and Pir Hasan Kabirdin are under control of the local Muslims.

3. SHAMS TABRIZ OR SHAMSUDDIN TABRIZI, MASTER OF JALALUDDIN RUMI

Shams Tabriz Tomb
Tomb of Shams Tabriz in Khoy, South Azerbaijan province, Iran. Photo: Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Shams Tabriz was born either in Daylam or Tabriz in 1165. He was called Parinda (flying bird), because he was always traveling from place to place.

In 1244, while Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi was teaching his pupils in an open courtyard next to a fountain in Konya, a shabbily externally dressed but perfectly internally adorned Sufi Shams Tabriz came to their assembly and watched them. He saw Maulana Rumi was referring to a large stack of handwritten books in the course of his teaching. Shams Tabriz asked him as to what was in the books. Rumi scoffed and replied, “O! Sufi. This contains knowledge that is beyond your comprehension, so you continue to recite your rosary.” Unnoticed by Rumi, Shams Tabriz threw the stack of books into a nearby pond of water. When Rumi’s students saw what had occurred they began beating Shams Tabriz. Rumi complained that all his valuable knowledge had been destroyed. Shams Tabriz said, “I will give back your books.”

A visibly dejected Rumi conceded to the request thinking that this was impossible. He was surprised to see that Shams Tabriz lifted the drenched books from the pond, blew dust of them and returned the books intact. He asked Shams Tabriz as to how he did this. Shams Tabriz replied, “This knowledge is beyond your comprehension, so you continue to teach your pupils.” Rumi fell at his feet and was swept into the currents of love. The presence of this ragged Sufi, Shams Tabriz, changed Rumi from a respected professor of theology into a lover of God. This event made Rumi to become a disciple of Shams Tabriz.

Hence, Rumi left orthodox teaching of his disciples, and learnt esoteric treasure from Shams Tabriz. One day, Shams Tabriz mysteriously disappeared, and was never seen again. Some say that he was killed by close disciples of Rumi, who were jealous of the close relation between Rumi and Shams. Other also assert that in the plot of his murder, Sultan Walad, the son of Rumi was involved. Shams Tabriz the master of Jalaluddin Rumi (d. 1273), was not traceable after 1247 in Konya. Shamsuddin Aflaki, who wrote in 1353, stated that the death of Shams Tabriz took place in Konya in 1247.

However a group of Sufis maintained that after leaving Konya, Shams Tabriz travelled to Tabriz, about 900 miles to the east. Interestingly, a tomb of Shams Tabriz that had remained obscure for many centuries was discovered in Khoy in the Western Azerbaijan Province in Iran. It has been nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The distance from Khoy to Tabriz is approximately 100 miles.

Shams Tabriz Tomb
Bust, monument tower, and Tomb of Shams Tabrizi — in Khoy, South Azerbaijan province, Iran. Photo: Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

As we have noted previously, Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad died in 1310. When Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad was in Tabriz, he became known as Shams Tabriz.

Rida Quli Khan (d. 1872), a 19th century poet, scholar and literary historian in the service of Qajar kings, writes in Majmau’l Fusaha that, “Shaikh Abu Hamid Awhadu’ddin Kirmani had seen and met Shams Tabriz in Tabriz.”

It is therefore quite likely that Shaikh Abu Hamid had actually seen Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad in the mantle of Shams Tabriz, and that the Imam’s identity began to be equated with that of Shams Tabriz. Henceforward, the presence of two Shams Tabriz during the same period became perplexing and puzzling. 

When Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad was identified as the “son of the last ruler of Alamut”, he was made the “son of Alauddin Muhammad,” incorporating him in the above report. 

The scrutiny of the sources indicates that a bulk of the frightened Muslims began to evacuate the vicinity of Rudhbar and Kohistan during the period of Imam Alauddin Muhammad (1221-1255) to escape the main brunt of the Mongols.

The stampede of the Muslims also carried away with them, the then latest report that, “Alauddin Muhammad is the ruler of Alamut, and the Mongols are about to come to reduce Alamut.”

These Muslims ultimately settled down in Qazwin, Daylam and Tabriz, where they came to know the fall of Alamut by the Mongols in 1256. They seem to have generalized an image in mind that the Alamut’s fall would have taken place in the time of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, and this story continued to prevail for many years in Qazwin, Rudhbar and Tabriz, making Imam Alauddin Muhammad as the last ruler of Alamut.

Marco Polo (1254-1324) passed by these regions in 1272, and heard these fantastic stories from these orbits, which he noted in his diary as follows, “I will tell you his story just as I Messer Marco, have heard it told by many people…The Shaikh was called in their language Alaodin…So they were taken, and the Shaikh, Alaodin, was put to death with all his men.” (vide, The Travels of Marco Polo (London, 1958, pp.40-42) by Ronald Latham. 

When the people conclusively identified Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah as the last ruler of Alamut, most probably after 1272, one other tradition seems to have originated to distinguish these two characters. Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad was deleted from that story from being the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, but Shams Tabriz was made known as the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad instead. Being influenced with this tradition, Daulatshah (d. 1494) was the first to show Shams Tabriz, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, as the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, in his Tazkertu’sh Shu’ara.

A question then arises, who was Shams Tabriz?  He indeed was an Ismaili, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, but not the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad. As to the early life of Shams Tabriz, we are yet in dark. Shamsuddin Aflaki (1310-1354) in Manaqibu’l Arifin and Abdur Rahman Jami (d. 1493) in Nafhatu’l Uns concur that Shams Tabriz was the son of a certain Muhammad bin Ali bin Malikad. Rida Quli Khan (d. 1872) in his Majmau’l Fusaha also relied on Aflaki and Jami. According to Silsilatu’ad-Dhahab, it is wrong to allege Shams Tabriz to have been the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad. It was only Daulatshah, who made him the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad.

Prof. Muhammad Iqbal of Punjab University, who prepared the Lahore edition of Daulatshah’s work, makes his remarks that: “It is evident that Daulatshah has not written historical facts carefully in his book. He has accepted all sorts of traditions, right or wrong, owing to which several errors have crept into his work.” The British orientalist Edward G. Browne writes in A Literary History of Persia (3:436) that “This is an entertaining but inaccurate work, containing a good selection of historical errors.” 

It is also curious that Daulatshah quoted another tradition of parentage of Shams Tabriz that, “Some people say that he was originally a native of Khorasan and belonged to the town of Bazar. His father had settled in Tabriz for the purpose of doing business in cloth.” It is probable that Shams Tabriz was the son of Muhammad bin Ali bin Malikad according to Aflaki and Jami, and he seems to be a native of Khorasan as per another tradition cited by Daulatshah.

Nurullah Shustari (d. 1610) in his Majalis al-Mominin (6:291) states that Shams Tabriz descended from “Ismaili headman” (da’iyani Ismailiyya budand). His father had settled in Tabriz, and was a cloth merchant. Shams Tabriz was indeed an Ismaili like his father. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah delivered a historical speech on 20th July, 1945 at Dar es Salam during the Ismaili Mission Conference in which he said, “Jalaluddin Rumi himself was not an Ismaili, but a murid (disciple) of an Ismaili (Shams Tabriz)”. It clearly means that Shams Tabriz was the master of Jalaluddin Rumi.

There is also a reason to believe that Jalaluddin Rumi must have known both Shams Tabriz and Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad, but did not describe that palpably in his Diwan. He however addresses Shams as the heir of the Prophet (verse no. 2473) and compares him to Ali (verse no. 1944), which seems to have been referred only to the Imam. 

Rumi has repeatedly said in his Mathnawi and Diwan that it was not him but Shams talking through him. That is why he did not use his name in any of the verses out of more than 50,000 verses that he left behind. Rumi ends most of his poems with the name of Shams of Tabriz.

Finally, I may humbly note that the above write-up is not conclusive; it still needs further research.

Date posted: September 23, 2020.
Last updated: September 25, 2020 (typo, wrong birthdate was given for Shams Tabriz).

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Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

About the author: Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali is a prolific writer based in Pakistan. He majored in Islamic history with a Masters degree. Over the past several decades, he has contributed numerous articles to Ismaili literary journals, and is also the author of several books including 101-Ismailis Heroes, Encyclopaedia of Ismailism, and Ismaili Pirs,  Sayeds, Vakils of South Asian Region. Most recently his Brief History of Ismaili Imams was serialized on the website Ismaili Digest. Within Ismaili institutions, he has served as a religious education teacher at the Karachi Religious Centre in Kharadar as well as an Honorary Lecturer/Waezeen with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) for Pakistan. In addition, he is a curator of Hashoo Museum in Karachi which is dedicated to memorabilia from recent Ismaili history. For his long and devoted services to the Ismaili community, he has been bestowed with the titles of Huzur Mukhi (1986), Alijah (1996) and Rai (2010) by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

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