Photo Essay: Celebrating the Ismaili Flag and the Personal Standard of His Highness the Aga Khan Through 70+ Historical and Memorable Photos from Around the World

An artistic rendition of the Ismaili Flag. Please click on image for photo essay.

Under the new Ismaili Constitution that was ordained by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in 1986 — and revised in 1998 — the popular flag of the Ismailis that had been referred to by many Ismaili Jamats around the world for decades as the “My Flag” officially acquired a new name, “The Ismaili Flag.” There was no specific Imamat flag before 1986 — the “My Flag” with its red and green colours was used during ceremonial and other events where Hazar Imam was present. But with the new constitution, the crest (or taj) of Mawlana Hazar Imam was incorporated into the “The Ismaili Flag” and this flag with the crest is referred to as the “Personal Standard of Mawlana Hazar Imam.” Barakah’s photo essay seeks to explain the colours red and green in “The Ismaili Flag” and, through dozens of photos from around the world, illustrates the usage of the “Personal Standard of Mawlana Hazar Imam.”

Read and share Barakah’s post by clicking on Celebrating the Ismaili Flag and the Beautiful Personal Standard of Mawlana Hazar Imam; the Ismaili Ethos of Valour and Peace Are Representative of the Flag’s Red and Green Colours.

Flag of the Ismaili Imamat Aga Khan portrait by Jean-Marc Carisse
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, poses in front of his Personal Standard bearing the gold crest of the Imam. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse, Ottawa. Please click on photo for photo essay

Date posted: August 7, 2021.

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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. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Video: His Highness the Aga Khan and the Vision Behind the Aga Khan Historic Cities Program by Cameron Rashti

The Edinburgh International Culture Summit held virtually from August 24-26, 2020 brought together the world’s leading minds in the fields of culture, the sciences and politics to discuss issues which effect nations around the world. Cameron Rashti, the Director of Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, was one of the participants and reflected on “Culture in Vibrant Communities” providing interesting insights into the goal and purpose of the Aga Khan Historic Cities programs in Central Asia, the Middles East, South Asia, and Africa.

As well as watching Rashti’s 14:41 minute Youtube presentation, below, may we suggest that readers also click on STORIES and ARTISTS IN CONVERSATION IN THE AGE OF COVID which are two other important and inspiring components of the Edinburgh International Culture Summit website.

Date posted: July 16, 2021.

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Cameron Rashti

Cameron Rashti joined the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in 1994. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Pratt Institute and Columbia University, he is a registered architect in the USA and the UK. Prior to joining the Trust, he held senior positions on major architectural and urban redevelopment projects in New York (1979-89) and in London (1989-94), as Vice President of Perkins & Will International. On behalf of AKTC, Rashti oversees a portfolio of diverse urban conservation and redevelopment projects in historic cities and heritage sites across the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and the Far East and teams of dedicated professionals in each location. He has served since 2010 as Delegate of the President of the Foundation of Chantilly, mandated with the safeguarding and redevelopment of the Domaine de Chantilly. Rashti has coordinated and contributed to a series of publications produced with Prestel on the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme’s work and development models.

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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. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

DOORS By Shiraz Bandali, Simergphotos

“DOORS” of Morocco, Spain and Portugal Through the Lens of Late Shiraz Bandali: A Tribute to an Ismaili Photographer

Shiraz Bandali (1959-2016)
Shiraz Bandali (1959-2016)

Shiraz Bandali of Edmonton, Canada, passed away at the age of 56. A passionate photographer, he captured “DOORS” during a family trip to Morocco, Portugal and Spain, and shared them with Simergphotos. We pay a tribute to Shiraz through his beautiful collection. Please click DOORS or on the image below.

"DOORS" by Shiraz Bandali Simerg
“DOORS” by Shiraz Bandali. Please click on image to see collection.

Date posted: April 2, 2021.

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Navroz Books for Your Children to Enjoy

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

With March 21, 2021 only ten days away, Simerg is pleased to compile this list of Navroz books for children. The books will give families opportunities to experience the different aspects of the great cultural tradition of Navroz. All the books listed here can be delivered as early as next week!

Books on Nowruz, Nourooz, Navroz, Persian New Year
Paperback, 48 pages, pub. Arshan Publishing. English.

This book, like others listed below, receives a high score on Amazon. Gail Hejazi, a teacher in Princeton, New Jersey, was inspired to write this book when her daughter was in kindergarten and the teacher invited parents to come in and share their holiday traditions with the class. One reviewer notes that the book is engaging and gives the reader a chance to read and experience all aspects of Persian New Year. Check out the book at Amazon.ca and other worldwide Amazon websites including Amazon.com. Book available for delivery in North America within days with Prime membership (30 day free trial available)! For the UK, please click HERE.

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Books on Nowruz, Nourooz, Navroz, Persian New Year
Paperback, 110 pages, English.

Nowruz, also Navroz, Norooz, Nawruz, Noruz etc. is a time to freshen your home, plant new seeds, cook a feast, give gifts to friends, and welcome the brand-new year! The book invites you to learn about and celebrate the Persian New Year with Leila and her family. Normally celebrated by more than 300 million people across Central and Southern Asia as well as all around the world, our celebrations of Nowruz in 2021 are going to be limited due to Covid-19 restrictions that are in force around the world, preventing open family and community gatherings as in the past. This book by Solmaz Parveen, a second generation Persian American who has a long-standing obsession with puzzles and games, is a fun activity book that in these times will allow family members to explore the traditions surrounding Nowruz while encouraging creativity and learning. The book has over 100 pages filled with word and number games, drawing and doodling activities, mazes, coloring pages, and more. Check out book at Amazon.ca and other worldwide Amazon websites including Amazon.com. Book available for delivery in North America within days!

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40 pages, Hardcover, Penguin Young Readers Group, English.

New for 2021, this picture book celebrating Persian New Year and the tradition of Haft-Seen is by Missouri based award-winning author Adib Khorram. Haft-seen is a Nowruz tradition in Iran where families gather around a specially prepared holiday table to make wishes for the coming months. The book is illustrated by Zainab Faidhi, a conceptual artist, illustrator, animator, and architect whose work includes the feature film The Breadwinner, which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The book is available at the Chapters-Indigo website as well as at Amazon.ca and its worldwide websites including Amazon.com. Book available for delivery in North America within days!

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Books on Nowruz, Nourooz, Navroz, Persian New Year
36 pages, Kindle, Paperback, English.

Graphic designer Mojgan Roohani’s passion for children’s books gradually took her deeper and deeper into the realms of storytelling and book illustration. The idea for her book published in 2018 was in her mind for many years and evolved from Nowruz to Nowruz as her children grew up and passed from preschool to kindergarten to elementary school and beyond! They and their teachers always wanted something cultural and colorful to share in the classroom along with one of the activities such as decorating eggs or preparing to grow a dish of green shoots! So Mojgan felt great joy that she finally was able to complete her labor of love! Check out the book at Amazon.ca and other worldwide websites including Amazon.com. Book available for delivery in North America within days!

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Books on Nowruz, Nourooz, Navroz, Persian New Year
33 pages, Paperback, large print, English

Ellie Frad explains the Persian ancient ceremony of the Nourooz for children age 3-5 through Grace, a character who loves to learn about everything. In this book, Grace gets familiar with Haft-seen, a Nourooz tradition in Iran where families gather around a specially prepared holiday table to make wishes for the coming months. Items on the table refer to new life and renewal, and they are based around the number seven. Grace seeks to learn about the elements of Haft-seen and the book also teaches its readers a few words in the Farsi language. The book has been recommended for toddlers because of its nice pictures, and some have found it adorable to read it out aloud. Check out the book at Amazon.ca and other worldwide websites including Amazon.com. Book available for delivery in North America within days!

Date posted: March 11, 2021.

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Do you have a book to recommend for Navroz that is not listed in this post? Please submit your recommendations by completing the feedback form below or by clicking 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. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Discovery of Abbasid and Fatimid gold coins in jug in Old Jerusalem reflect shifting political power of the 2 dynasties

“The profile of the coins found in the juglet are a near perfect reflection of the historical events. This is a time of great political change as control of Israel shifts from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, which sits in Baghdad, Iraq, to ​​its Shiite rivals, the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa.” — Robert Cole

[The following compiled piece includes material released by the Israel Antiques Authority. Also, the website livescience has prepared a short video highlighting the discovery of the Abbasid and Fatimid coins. Please watch the video HERE — Ed.]

In 2015, in a post entitled Sea of Gold, Simerg provided a link to a special on-line exhibit about the discovery by a group of divers of a hoard of Fatimid gold dinars lying on the seabed in the ancient harbor in Caesarea National Park. The divers alerted marine archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who conducted a salvage excavation at the site and recovered more than 2,580 Fatimid coins of pure (24 karat) gold weighing a total of 7.5 kg.

The IAA then noted as follows: “The coins are of the finest 24-karat gold (96-99% pure gold). They lay on the sea-bed for a 1000 years but required almost no cleaning, as pure gold cannot corrode. Particularly important for the Fatimid rulers, who were Shi’ites, is the mention of Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law considered by the Shi’a as the first Imam after Muhammad, as ‘God’s intimate’. Also, the name of the mint and the date of issue appear on these coins, making them extremely important historical documents.”

Just over a month ago, on November 9 2020, IAA archaeologists reported another very significant find at a site where an elevator is being built at the Old City of Jerusalem in the Jewish quarter to make the Western Wall more accessible.

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Excavation of a jug containing 4 coins from the Abbasid and Fatimid periods
The juglet and the four gold coins found recently in Old Jerusalem. Photo: Dafna Gazit / Israel Antiquities Authority.

David Gellman, the director of the excavation observed, “We seem to have found an ancient savings bank!” He was actually referring to a small pottery urn containing four pure gold coins more than a thousand years old that was found by the inspector of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Yevgenia Kapil, during preliminary work that was carried out at the site during the holidays. Gellman says that when he emptied the jug a few weeks later, the four glittering gold coins along with sand were washed into his hands. This was the first time that Gellman, as an archaeologist, had discovered gold and he was immensely excited by the discovery.

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spot where the gold-filled jug was found opposite the Western Wall Plaza. Photo: Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority.
Excavation director David Gellman with the Israel Antiquities Authority points to the spot where the gold-filled jug was found opposite the Western Wall Plaza in Old Jerusalem. Photo: Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority.

Dr. Robert Cole, an expert on coins at the IAA, noted as follows about the four coins: “The coins were preserved in excellent condition and could be read immediately even without being cleaned. The profile of the coins found in the juglet are a near perfect reflection of the historical events. The coins date to a relatively brief period, from the late 940s to the 970s CE.  This is a time of great political change as control of Israel shifts from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, which sits in Baghdad, Iraq, to ​​its Shiite rivals, the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa, which in those days conquered Egypt, Syria and Israel. These historical events are reflected almost perfectly in the distribution of the coins discovered in the jug: two gold dinars were minted in Ramla, under the rule of the Caliph Matia (946 – 974 CE) and the governor on his behalf, Abu al-Qassem ibn al-Ihshid Onuhar (946 – 961 CE). The other two gold coins were minted in Cairo, by the Fatimid rulers al-Mu’iz (953 – 975 CE), and his successor — al-Aziz (975 – 996 CE).”

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Examination of coins unearthed in Jerusalem
IAA coin expert Robert Kool examines one of the gold coins found in a small pottery urn. The coins were preserved in excellent condition and could be read immediately even without being cleaned. Photo: Shai Halevi / Israel Antiquities Authority.

He also explained that “the four gold dinars was a considerable sum of money for most of the population, who lived under difficult conditions at the time. It was equal to the monthly salary of a minor official, or four months’ salary for a common laborer.” This is the first time in fifty years that gold coins from the Fatimid period have been discovered in Jerusalem’s Old City. The previous find of 5 coins and jewellery hoards from the Fatimid period took place after the Six Day War south of the Temple Mount, not far from the recent new discovery.

Date posted: December 22, 2020.

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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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The Magnificent Shahnameh, “The Book of Kings,” and a Note on Aga Khan Museum’s New Exhibit REMASTERED

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

“I would take my students on a field trip to Toronto to see this miracle of miniature painting, one that continues to fascinate when greatly magnified. It features extraordinary details of flora and fauna, as well as a rainbow coalition of human beings from every continent and culture, much as one sees on the streets of Toronto.” — Gary Tinterow, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, on the Shahnameh Folio ‘Court of Gayumars’ at the Aga Khan Museum

When I first started learning English upon my arrival in the early 1960’s in Dar es Salaam from Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique, where I had received instructions in Portuguese at my primary school, in Gujarati at today’s equivalent of Baitul Ilm classes, and spoke Hindi at home, my dad presented me with a hardback version of the story of Rustum (or Rustam) and Sohrab (Suhrab). It was a large print book with beautiful illustrations. However, it was also story of tragedy. Rustum had been separated from his princess (Tahmina) for a long time, and did not know that he had a son named Sohrab from her. Several years later, the father and his son met on one to one combat on opposing sides, where Rustum wrestled Sohrab to the ground and fatally injured him. Rustum, to his horror, realised the truth when he saw his own arm bracelet on Sohrab, which he had given to Tahmina many years before and which she had in turn given to Sohrab before the battle, in the hope that it might protect him.

Little did I know then, that this was a story from Shahnameh, The Book of Kings, written by Ferdowsi, now some 1030 years ago.

Rustam and Shorab, Shahnameh,
The hero Rustam was unaware that he had a son, Suhrab, by Princess Tahmina. It came to pass that the two met in battle, fighting on opposing sides. They struggled in single combat until Rustum stabbed Suhrab fatally. Rustum realized that he had slain his own son when he saw Suhrab’s arm bracelet, which he himself had given to Tahmina many years before. Tahmina had given it to Suhrab before the battle, hoping it would protect him. Photo: Wikipedia, CCO 1.0 Public Domain.

The illustration from the book, which my beloved late father Jehangir Merchant had given me, of a father standing above his son, whom he has just mistakenly killed in a combat, is one of the most powerful and saddest images I have seen in storytelling. The folio of the father and son in tragic combat that is shown above is from the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Aga Khan Museum Remastered Exhibition Shahnameh and more
Remastered at Aga Khan Museum until March 21, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant /Simerg

The Aga Khan Museum does not have any folios from the Shahnameh depicting this specific battle scene, but some other outstanding loose folios from the Shahnameh form part of a new exhibition under the theme REMASTERED in the museum’s upper gallery (running until March 21, 2021). In addition, the permanent collection on the main floor of the museum contains other magnificent folios from a number of illustrated manuscripts of the Shahnameh that were produced during the 13th-16th centuries. These folios are located just at the right of the Wagner carpet exhibit.

Missing from display, at the moment, is what is considered to be one of the finest folios from the Shahnameh, called The Court of Gayumars. Apollo Magazine, in its issue dated August 29, 2018 recommended the Gayumars as “one of the pieces that every school kid in the USA needs to see.” Writing for the issue, Gary Tinterow, Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, stated:

“I would take my students on a field trip to Toronto to see this miracle of miniature painting, one that continues to fascinate when greatly magnified. It features extraordinary details of flora and fauna, as well as a rainbow coalition of human beings from every continent and culture, much as one sees on the streets of Toronto.” He has also recommended that when the folio is exhibited, it should contain a little bit of commentary.

And speaking of the new REMASTERED exhibition itself, Ulrike al-Khamis, the acting Director and CEO of the Aga Khan Museum, in a recent press release stated: “We have created one of the most innovative showcases of Islamic manuscript paintings ever to have been assembled. Remastered invites viewers to immerse themselves in the beauty of some of the most impressive masterpieces in the Islamic tradition and find new meaning in centuries-old stories of heroism, love and principled living.”

Remastered at Aga Khan Museum
Aga Khan Museum’s introduction to the new Remastered Exhibition, on until March 21, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.
A view of the Remastered Exhibition that runs on the second floor of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto until March 21, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.
A display at the Remastered exhibition which was launched recently at the Aga Khan Museum, and continues to March 21, 2021. Here the jackal Dimneh is brought before the Lion-King and his mother. Illustration from a manuscript of Anvar-i Suhaili, Iran 1593. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Over the coming weeks, we plan to publish special features on the folios in the Remastered exhibition that powerfully present tales of courage, stories of the heart, and exemplary living or model life, along with their corresponding digitally engaging panels prepared by Ryerson University library that offer new ways of understanding the manuscripts.

Ferdowsi is everything we expect of a great poet…, for he teaches us both what people are and what they should become” — Federico Mayor

The focus of this post is on the Shahnameh, which forms an integral and important component of Remastered. What is the Shahnameh and who was Ferdowsi? Of course, readers will find many resources on the internet but I have come across a fantastic address delivered by UNESCOS’s former Director General, Federico Mayor in 1990 on the 1000th anniversary of the completion of the Book of Kings. His piece, below, is a must read.

Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh: The Book of Kings

Court of Gayumars, Shahnameh, Aga Khan Museum, Firdawsi Book of Kings, Persian Poet
An image of folio Court of Gayumar from Firdawsi’s Book of Kings. This page is considered as one of the most exquisite pieces in the Aga Khan Museum collection, and has been recommended as one that every student must be taken to see. Photo: The Aga Khan Museum.

“The ‘intellect’, which Ferdowsi calls Kherad, demands more than ‘intelligence’ in the common meaning of the term: it includes the ability to perceive good, a deep-seated and generous wisdom and a serenity that comes from balance and self-control. The concept of Kherad runs through the entire book, being at one and the same time its dominant theme, the spirit that animates it and the good it extols” — Federico Mayor

By FEDERICO MAYOR

The following article has been adapted from an address delivered in Tehran on December 22, 1990 by Mr Federico Mayor, to mark the celebration of the 1000th anniversary of the completion of the manuscript of the Book of Kings (the Shanameh by Firdausi). At the time, Mr. Mayor was the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Mr. Mayor’s complete address can be read at the organization’s website HERE.

‘Be Name Khodavande Jano Kherad’ (‘In the name of the Lord of the soul and of wisdom’). These majestic words open the Shahnameh, The Book of Kings, that monument of universal literature. And as I read on I discover, immediately after the glorification of the Creator, a passage on this second page that forces me to stop, taken aback with amazement, wonder and near disbelief: the words before me sing the praises of intelligence!

Can it really be that a thousand years ago, an Iranian poet was exalting above all else the process of thought based on knowledge? And he did it with such conviction and felicitous expression that he cannot fail to convince:

‘The intellect is the greatest of all the gifts of God…It is the source of your joys and your sorrows, of ‘your profits and your losses…It is the guardian of the soul, and to it is thanksgiving due’. “

At that instant, I knew I had come across a work and a man of exceptional qualities. This ‘intellect’, which Ferdowsi calls Kherad, demands more than ‘intelligence’ in the common meaning of the term: it includes the ability to perceive good, a deep-seated and generous wisdom and a serenity that comes from balance and self-control. The concept of Kherad runs through the entire book, being at one and the same time its dominant theme, the spirit that animates it and the good it extols.

“Can it really be that a thousand years ago, an Iranian poet was exalting above all else the process of thought based on knowledge? And he did it with such conviction and felicitous expression that he cannot fail to convince” — Federico Mayor

There are few books in the world and in history that have become, like The Book of Kings, an expression of national identity. Ferdowsi’s poem is both the reflection and the leaven of a culture that is in many respects reconciled with itself.

In terms of language, it forms a reservoir, an encyclopaedia of inexhaustible wealth. In terms of historical perspective, it reconciles past and present. In terms of historical perspective, reconciles past and present, integrating in a unified culture the pre-Islamic tradition and the contributions of Islam; that is an achievement whose importance is not perhaps sufficiently appreciated, for the resulting fusion, with its creative repercussions, was to prove most prolific.

Lastly, in terms of literary genre, it is an epic that blends in a single creation the true and the legendary, the observable and the imaginary. Ferdowsi reconciles history and myth, resembling at one moment Herodotus and at the next Homer. As a historian, he relates an episode with the same fervour and magical inspiration as if it were a tale; as a mythologist, he describes an adventure with the same precision and concern for details as if it were drawn from real life.

Ferdowsi thus bequeathed to his country a heritage that has been transmitted from one generation to the next in all its vitality. There are few civilizations in which a poetic work has become so ‘popular’, that is to say both widely known and deeply loved.

Let me say how much I regret that my ignorance of your language prevents me from savouring in full the subtlety of these lines, their majesty and their secret music.

“The 1000th anniversary of the completion of the manuscript continues a long-standing tradition whereby, ever since the death of the poet, scholars have attempted to make amends for the ingratitude of the Sultan to whom Ferdowsi offered this treasure and who failed to appreciate its true value” — Federico Mayor

But even when translated Ferdowsi’s poetry preserves an inimitable charm. The Book of Kings, which was translated into Arabic in the 12th century of the Christian Era, has been avidly read, studied and commented on. Historians, linguists, poets, writers, painters and miniaturists have used it as the source material for the work of several lifetimes. Jules Mohl translated it in its entirety into French in the 19th century, and thanks should be rendered to him for devoting 30 years of his life to the translation of the 60,000 verses that Ferdowsi had spent 30 years perfecting 800 years before.

The task was so tremendous that not all the volumes were published until two years after the translator’s death. Mohl has been the benefactor of countless scholars in Western Europe — he has enabled them to discover one of the summits of world literature.

0n 11 February 1850 the French writer, Sainte-Beuve, in one of his Causeries du lundi (Monday conversations), urged the resumption of publication by the Imprimerie rationale (national publishing house) of what he called ‘the magnificent book’. Stressing the popularity of the work in Iran, he enthusiastically presented the author, his themes and a few episodes, based on his reading of Jules Mohl. His enthusiasm proved to be contagious: the English poet, critic and essayist, Matthew Arnold, became immersed in all the available historical and geographical works on Persia, reread the Iliad, and in 1853 published a splendid poem entitled Sohrab and Rustum, relating the tragic episode of the hero’s killing of his son on the field of battle. A complete translation into English of The Book of Kings was published in 1925; the translation was an enormous task that had been carried out by two brothers, Arthur and Edmund Warner.

Shahnameh Book of Kings Gallery Aga Khan Museum near Wagner Garden
A view of the Aga Khan Museum’s folios from manuscripts of Shahnameh, The Books of Kings, that were produced between 13th-16h centuries. At the near end is the famous Wagner Carpet depicting “Islamic Garden of Eternal Bliss.” Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

In Germany, the great lyrical poet and orientalist Friedrich Rückert translated the tragedy of Rustum and Sohrab, at the beginning of the 19th century. Another German poet, Schack, translated the entire epic part of the work, the translation being published in 1853. Complete translations of The Book of Kings exist today in all the widely spoken languages, and numerous translations of extracts exist in some 40 languages.

The 1000th anniversary of the completion of the manuscript continues a long-standing tradition whereby, ever since the death of the poet, scholars have attempted to make amends for the ingratitude of the Sultan to whom Ferdowsi offered this treasure and who failed to appreciate its true value.

And today here, in this hall that bears the poet’s name, we ourselves have now come together from the four corners of the world, to carry on and give new impetus to that tradition. But what is it in The Book of Kings that draws us together, captivates our hearts and enables its author to triumph over both time and place?

0f many outstanding passages in the work, one might mention the meeting of the hero Rustum and his son Sohrab, a beautiful and poignant story of two beings related by blood and brought by destiny to a fatal confrontation. Following in the footsteps of Sophocles, who gave voice to the sufferings experienced by Oedipus when he had murdered his father and then married his mother, Ferdowsi paints the picture of Rustum discovering that he has just killed his own son. This is a perfect example of what Aristotle meant by ‘tragedy’: it is a story that arouses in us feelings of both pity and horror, for Rustum, during the three days of the duel between them, has come to admire the qualities of his adversary — agility, intelligence in combat, nobility and chivalry.

On several occasions, father and son are on the point of recognizing one another; their speeches are tinged with admiration and tenderness, but Fate will not be cheated. When Sohrab dies under Rustum’s blows and Rustum discovers the identity of his victim all Ferdowsi’s readers shudder; all are fathers who have just killed their sons. We can see why this great tragic theme has attracted the attention of poets of all periods and civilizations: the feelings to which it gives rise are common to all times and all countries.

In celebration of the millennium of Ferdowsi’s birth a solemn tribute was paid to him at the Sorbonne, where French poets emphasized the lesson of wisdom he dispensed:

‘This poet is not only an enchanter: he is a scholar; he is not only a scholar: he is a sage. While our heads are still humming with all the wonders he has filled them with our spirits retain the lessons he has given us. Even when the enchantment of his tale fades and we fall back into the normal world from the fairyland into which he had carried us we are not disoriented: on the contrary, the poet deposits us on a well-marked road with a sturdy staff in our hand. Ferdowsi is everything we expect of a great poet…, for he teaches us both what people are and what they should become’.

The Book of Kings is indeed studded with precepts, and it is not uncommon for an episode to be accompanied, in the same enchanting style, by a moral for the reader’s edification.

“the characteristic of Ferdowsi by which he appears eminently modern to us is without doubt, first of all, his faith in the ability of people to rise above hostility, contempt, suspicion and hatred by an impulse of fellow feeling and compassion” — Federico Mayor

Statue of Ferdowsi in Tus,_Iran
Statue of Ferdowsi in Tus, Iran. Photo: Wikipidea / CC by 4.0.

Princes, for example, are exhorted to be humble, in a concept of power in which the notion of ‘service’ predominates. ‘When you become a sovereign,’ says Ferdowsi, ‘behave as a humble servant’. Addressing the mighty, the poet reminds them of the ephemeral nature of all things, like the slave who, in ancient Rome, had to accompany the victor on his triumphal chariot and whisper to him from time to time: Memento quia pulvis es (‘Remember that thou art but dust’). Nevertheless, the characteristic of Ferdowsi by which he appears eminently modern to us is without doubt, first of all, his faith in the ability of people to rise above hostility, contempt, suspicion and hatred by an impulse of fellow feeling and compassion. The French poet Lamartine, moved by the moral qualities with which Ferdowsi endows his heroes, wrote of them: ‘They are more than kings, for kings reign only for a time — and these heroes reign over the future’.

In The Book of Kings there are many colourful battle scenes, but they never glorify vanity nor the thirst for violence. On the contrary, Ferdowsi depicts in them the absurdity of conflict and struggle. We have seen the pain in which the duel between Rustum and Sohrab ends. Elsewhere, Alexander the Great goes to the bedside of his mortally wounded enemy, Darius III. Moved by compassion, he swears to the dying man that he will re-establish peace between the Persians and the Greeks, and when Darius is dead, he organizes his funeral with great ceremonial. In another scene Isfendyar, mortally wounded by Rustum, sees in a flash that his killer is only the instrument of fate and is not truly responsible for his death. Before dying therefore, he entrusts to him the education of his son, Bahman.

Ferdowsi shows his respect for and appreciation of others, with their different religious, ethnic and social backgrounds. Would it not be worth while to relay and amplify this message Asia has passed on to the world down the centuries?

Shahnameh gallery Aga Khan Museum, Simerg
Another view of the Shahnameh folios on the main floor of the Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

I personally think that The Book of Kings should be distributed as widely as possible. This work is not only part of the human heritage but can also help men and women of the 20th century — what am I saying, the 21st century — to improve and to live in greater peace with themselves and with others. I would in particular want to see it brought to the knowledge of young people throughout  the world.  By exposing young people to the humanism  of Ferdowsi we sow the seeds of wisdom in the minds of those who will forge the future.

‘It is through peace that men achieve happiness’, said Ferdowsi, ‘may those who preach war vanish from our midst’.

Peace, not violence. Temperance, not excess. Mercy, not cruelty. Remember the passage in which the young Iredj sets out in a spirit of peace and wisdom to find his brothers, whose evil designs are known to him. When one of them hits him in anger and is about to kill him Iredj says to him gently ‘Have you no fear of God or pity for our father?…What? You are alive and you want to take the life of another? How can you reconcile these two things? Harm not an ant that is dragging a grain of wheat, for it is alive, and life is sweet and good’ .

This love of life is love of one’s fellow, of all others. Ferdawsi, the Persian national poet, is not a chauvinistic poet. This is why the Arabs, the Turks and the Indians have adopted Ferdawsi, translating him into their languages. He is becoming universal, he belongs to everyone. That is what makes Ferdowsi an inspired forerunner of today’s world, in which the spirit of war may be vanquished only by the spirit of tolerance and in which it is UNESCO’s task to ensure that peoples achieve a better understanding of each other through an ever-deeper knowledge of their respective cultures, which represent their most precious heritage.

Indeed, it was with lines by Ferdowsi that Mr Golan Ali Raadi, the then Chairman of the Executive Board, welcomed the ceremonial inauguration of UNESCO Headquarters on 3 November, 1958:

‘The best-constructed buildings crumble under
the action of the rain and burning sun,
But neither wind nor rain shall have any hold
on the monument my verse has built.’

Just as Ferdowsi’s words are in striking accord with the intention of UNESCO’s founders, so I hope that the Organization will pursue its action in accordance with the ideals that inspired the poet: a sense of honour and human dignity, a demand for justice in the exercise of power, tolerance, compassion for the weak and the vanquished, serenity and wisdom — in a word, Kherad.

Date posted: November 15, 2020.

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Federico Mayor Zaragoza
Federico Mayor. Wikipedia CC BY 2.0

Federico Mayor Zaragoza (born 27 January 1934 in Barcelona) is a Spanish scientist, scholar, politician, diplomat, and poet. He served as director-general of UNESCO from 1987 to 1999. He is currently the chairman of the Foundation for a Culture of Peace and member of the Honorary Board of the International Decade for the Promotion of a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World as well as the honorary chairman of the Académie de la Paix. According to 1995 issue of the Ismaili magazine, during his tenure as UNESCO’s Director General, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was invited to address a full session of its Executive Board, which met at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Mr. Mayor paid tribute to the Aga Khan Development Network’s success in building capacity and empowering people — especially women — to manage their own development according to local models that respect the diversity of needs and resources. (Profile excerpted from Wikipedia and the Ismaili, 1995).

Please click on Toronto.com and Toronto Star to read reviews of Aga Khan Museum’s new exhibition Remastered (on until March 21, 2021). Please also visit the Aga Khan Museum website for the latest information and details about visiting the museum — it is open Thursday-Sunday, with a pay as you wish entrance.

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.

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. For 2020, Muslims around the world will celebrate his birth anniversary — the Milad un Nabi — between October 28-30. It is an appropriate time 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.

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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Jamatkhana Ismaili Centre Toronto and Aga Khan Park, Simerg, Photo Malik Merchant

A Poem Inspired by the Reopening of Jamatkhanas

As We Reopen

By Parin Verjee

Approaching the doors of the Jamatkhana
Heads bowed in all humility
Lower your gaze
Pause a moment
Softly say a heartfelt prayer
Shukhrana, Al Hamdu’lillah
The blessed day has arrived
Quieten your thoughts
Touch your heart
Hand on your heart
Smile with your eyes
Greet gently
Gracious to one and all
Carry your mehmani in your heart
Let Allah’s light guide you
To His threshold
Let divine grace
Touch your praying hands
Embrace the silence
Be at peace
The sacred space
Awaits your soulful zikr

Date posted: August 16, 2020.

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About the author: Parin’s love of books, music, theatre, and travel sometimes leads her to writing about her experiences, and the reopening of Jamatkhanas inspired her to pen a few lines here. Originally from Kenya, she studied at Makerere University, Kampala, and at the University of Dijon, France, and lived in Oxford, England, before moving to Canada. She has been in Doha, Qatar, for the last 12 years and living in the Middle East has enhanced her appreciation of Islamic art and culture. She is presently back in Calgary.

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.

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The featured photo shown at the top of this post was taken on the night of Friday August 14, 2020, when the Headquarters Jamatkhana dome at the Ismaili Centre Toronto was lit up for the first time since mid-March when Jamatkhanas across Canada closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The spectacular lit up dome is visible from the busy Don Valley Parkway, and is much admired by pedestrians and drivers alike as they drive through the Parkway or walk along Eglinton Avenue and Wynford Drive. The photo and the beautiful poem penned by Parin Verjee celebrate the opening of the Headquarters Jamatkahana on Monday August 17, as well as other Jamatkhanas that have opened in recent days or will be opening in the coming days.

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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.

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

The Drape, and an Invitation to Singers to Set up a Geet

By S. GIGA PATNEY
Special to Simerg  

A hundred years ago Katchhi and Kathiawadi Ismaili Khoja Muslims sailed to Africa and Zanzibar to make a living. Today, they have prospered in America, Canada and Europe. They wear western clothes, live in palatial homes and drive expensive cars but in the homes they still speak their rustic dialect and they remember the ‘pacchedi’ (Khoja Muslim head drape) their mothers wore.

The ‘Pacchedi Geet’ in a folk song form, is written in Gujarati, ‘transcreated’ in English, and transliterated in Roman script. The song is composed to remember and celebrate the pioneers who left India a century ago but kept memories of their homeland alive.

My thanks to Sultan Somjee for permission to use the bandhani image, and Zahir Dhalla for transcribing in Gujarati script.

I welcome singers to set up a geet with the lyrics that have been provided below. Recordings or questions regarding the geet may be sent directly to me at safder8@gmail.com or to the editor of Simerg at simerg@aol.com.

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

Drape
(Khoja Pacched̨̨i)

Kohl-grey silk
Studded with white stars
A border of a thousand flowers.
Mother, how many colours under your drape?

Milk, oudh and attar
Strands of jasmine hanging,
Underneath, I sleep in deep slumber.
Mother, these are the colours under your drape.

Ghee, molasses,
Apricots and raisins.
Mother, your bread tastes so sweet.
Mother, what colours under your drape?

Storms, thunder
And lightening!
Frightened, I hide under your drape.
Mother, colours like these under your drape.

Witches, warlocks
Ghosts and giants
Scare me not under the shade of your drape.
Mother, colours like these under your drape.

With tables and chairs
We built boats
And flew sails made out of your drape.
Mother, how many colours under your drape?

Leaving home
We crossed the seas.
We spread Giga Patney’s patola.
Mother, how can I break from the ties of your drape?

Your eyes closed,
Your soul departed.
We draped you in rosy pink.
Mother, colours like these under your drape.

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પછેડી
(Gujarati)

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

સુરમય રેશમ
માથે ધોળા તારા
ચારે કોર હજાર ફૂલ ની પટ્ટી …..૧
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પાછળ કેટલા રંગ ?

દૂધ ઊધ ને અંતર
માથે ટાંક્યા મોતિયા
છાયેં હું સુવું ઊંડી નીંદરે …..૨
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પાછળ એવા રંગ!

ઘી ગોળ અને
સૂકો મેવો
મા, મને મીઠી લાગે તારી રોટલી …..૩
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની નીચે કેવા રંગ ?

વાયુ વીજળી
મેધા ઘરજે
હું ડરી સંતાઉ પછેડી ની નીચે …..૪
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પાછળ એવા રંગ!

ડાકણ દઈંત
ભૂત રાક્ષસ
મને ન ડરાવે પછેડી ના છાયેં …..૫
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પાછળ તેવા રંગ.

મેજ ખુરસી ના
વાણ બનાવયા
ઊપર ઊડાડીયા પછેડી ના સઢ …..૬
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની નીચે તેવા રંગ.

દેસ છોડી
દરિયા તરીયા
ગીગા પટણી ના પટોળા પાથરીયા …..૭
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની પછળ કેમ છોળું ?

આંખ મીચાણી
જીવ ઊડયાં
ઓઢાળી તને ગુલાબી પછેડી…..૮
માઈં તારી પછેડી ની નીચે એવા રંગ.

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Pached̨i
(Gujarati transliteration)

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

Surmai resham
Mathé d̨̨hod̨a tara
Chąré kor hajjar ful ni putti
Maai tari pacched̨I ni pacchad̨ ketla rung

Dooth, oodh ne antar
Mathé tankya motia
Cchayeñ huñ suwuuñ oondi ninderé
Maai tari pacched̨i ni pacchad ewa rung

Ghee, ghor̨̨
Ané sooko mewo
Ma mané mith̨I lagé tari rotli
Maai tari pached̨i ni niché kewa rung

Wayuñ, wijad̨i
Megha gharajé
Huñ santauñ durri pacched̨I ni niché
Maai tari pached̨i ni niché kewa rung

Dakan̨, dayint
Bhoot, rakshas
Mané na darawé pachced̨I na cchayeñ
Maai tari pacched̨̨i ni pacchad̨ tewa rung

Mej khud̨si na
Waan̨ banawya
Ooper oodad̨̨iya pacched̨̨I na suddh
Maai tari pacched̨i ni niché kewa rung

Des cchod̨̨i
Dariya tariyañ
Giga Patney na patol̨a pathariyañ
Ma tari pacched̨i ni pucchud̨ kem cchod̨uñ?

Aankhyuñ michan̨̨i
Jeev oodiyañ
Odh̨ad̨̨i tunné gulabi pacched̨̨i
Ma tari pacched̨i ni niché ewa rung

Retroflex d̨, n̨ as in fud̨ (fruit) and pan̨i (water)
Nasal ñ as in French ‘pain’ and Portuguese ‘paű’ (bread)
Dental t as in tű (you) and d as in diwas (day)

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Pached̨i
(Kachchhi transliteration)

Drape Pacchedi Simerg

Surmai resham
Muthé d̨̨hod̨a tara
Chąré kor hajjar ful ji putti
Maai toji pacched̨I ji pudthia kitra rung?

Dooth, oodh ne antar
Muthé tungya motia
Cchayeñ niche awuñ suwañ oondi ninder mé
Maai tojii pacched̨i ji pudthia heda rung

Ghee, ghor̨̨
né sooko mewo
Ma muké mith̨i lagé tojii mani
Maai tojii pached̨i ji niché heda rung

Wayuñ, wijad̨i
Megha gharajé
Awuñ dhirji santayañ pacched̨I ji niché
Maai toji pached̨i ji niché heda rung

Dakan̨, dayint
Bhoot, rakshas
Muké na dhirjai pachced̨I ja cchayeñ
Maai tojii pacched̨̨i ji pudthia heda rung

Mej khud̨si ja
Waan̨ banayasi
Ooper oodariasi pacched̨̨I ja suddh
Maai toji pacched̨i ji niché keda rung?

Des cchod̨̨i
Dariyo tariyasi
Giga Patney ja patol̨a pathariyañsi
Maai toii pacched̨i ji pucchud̨ kiñ cchod̨yañ?

Aankhyuñ michan̨̨i
Jeev oodiyañ
Odh̨ad̨̨i toké gulabi pacched̨̨i
Maai toji pacched̨i ji niché heda rung

Retroflex d̨, n̨ as in fud̨ (fruit) and pan̨i (water)
Nasal ñ as in French ‘pain’ and Portuguese ‘paű’ (bread)
Dental t as in tű (you) and d as in diwas (day)

Date posted: August 15, 2020.

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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This piece is also available as a PDF File, and may be downloaded by clicking on The Drape PDF.

S. Giga Patney, Simerg The Drape Pacchedi
S. Giga Patney

S. Giga Patney has taught English as a Foreign Language in Japan, Portugal and England; and English as a Second Language in England and Canada. He won the Teacher Fellowship at the University of London Institute of Education when he was a teacher with the Inner London Education Authority. He was Head of Language Service In Berkshire, UK and Principal Lecturer in the Department of Teaching Studies at The University of North London. He joined the Department of Language Education at the University of British Columbia, Canada to teach on their post-graduate program. He has now retired and lives in the interior of British Columbia where he does his creative writing.

Books by the author:

Literary Fiction:
The Shiv-Shivani Trilogy:
Book 1: Shiva – Lord of Dance – A Novel in Raga Bhairava
Book 2: Shivani’s Story – A Novel in Raga Bhairavi
Book 3: Shivani’s Dance of Destruction – A Novel in Four Movements.

Fact-fiction:
Ties of Bandhana- The Story of Alladin Bapu

Facetiae:
The Alchemist Quartet
Book 1: The Alchemist and the Prince – A Story of the Prince With a Nut in His Navel
Book 2: The Alchemist’s Manuscript – Of the Travels of the Merchant of Yemen & His servant in the Erythrean Sea as Related to the Alchemist of Gozo, the Younger
Book 3: The Alchemist and the Empire of Evil
Book 4 (Forthcoming): The Alchemist and the Indian Boy

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