“For hundreds of years my spiritual children have been guided by the Rope of Imamat; you have looked to the Imam of the Age for advice and help in all matters and through your Imam’s immense love and affection for his spiritual children, his Noor has indicated to you where and in which direction you must turn so as to obtain spiritual and worldly satisfaction…” (Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Salgirah Darbar, Karachi, 13th December, 1964, held on the occasion of his 28th birthday).
“The closer you come, the more you will see him.” A digital portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan by Akber Kanji. The portrait is composed of several hundred thumbnails representing a cross-section of events during the Aga Khan Imamat. Image: Akber Kanji. Copyright.
Spread in various countries around the world, the Shia Imami Ismailis have their own innumerable ways for celebrating important religious occasions according to their various cultural, social and religious traditions and backgrounds. One very important occasion in the annual calendar of the Ismailis is the Salgirah, or the birthday of their spiritual leader (Imam). His Highness the Aga Khan is their present Imam, and Ismailis around the world will be marking his 82nd Salgirah on December 13, 2018. The following readings will enhance the readers’ understanding about the occasion as well as the special relationship that binds the Imam with his Ismaili followers, whom he addresses as his spiritual children.
The Ginan has attained a very special status because it is primarily recited during the festivities marking the Salgirah of the Imam. The appropriateness of reciting Eji Dhan Dhan Aajano during the Salgirah will become apparent as we try to understand the ginan and its underlying spiritual teachings.
The term Salgirah is of Persian origin. Sal means anniversary and girah means knot and hence Salgirah literally means ‘an anniversary knot added on to a string kept for the purpose’. This article approaches the subject of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s birthday in terms of the Imam’s love for his murids and the love and devotion of the murids for their Imam.
The new Ismaili Constitution was ordained, signed and sealed by His Highness the Aga Khan on December 13th, 1986, his 50th birthday. His Highness did this with the belief that the Constitution would provide a strong institutional and organizational framework for his Ismaili community to contribute meaningfully to the societies among whom they live.
Date posted: December 10, 2018.
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“Often when I see members of the Ismaili community, they start by thanking me and thanking my father specifically, and I always have to turn it around and say no, no, no, thank you. Thank you for being the embodiment of the vision that my father and so many others had” — Prime Minister of Canada, March 21, 2018, Ismaili Centre.
(Video, followed by transcript)
Transcript of remarks made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Ismaili Centre, Toronto on the occasion of Navroz, March 21, 2018
Thank you. Thank you my friends. Navroz Mubarak. Hello everyone, and thank you for that incredibly warm welcome. I want to begin by thanking Malik Talib, President of the Ismaili Council for Canada, for his invitation, for his kind words. I want to thank my colleagues Arif Virani, Alli Al Hasi, Yasmin Ratansi, who are here with me today, for all the incredible work they do in their communities and across the country.
And I want to thank all of you for being here today. This is always a wonderful moment for me to come to this beautiful centre to see friends, old and new, and to celebrate a community that, for me, represents some of the very best of Canada. The sense of connection, the sense of service, the deep values that fold into every action of this community is, I think, a testament to both the success of this country and those upon whom this success rests. Often when I see members of the Ismaili community, they start by, as Arif did, thanking me and thanking my father specifically, and I always have to turn it around and say no, no, no, thank you. Thank you for being the embodiment of the vision that my father and so many others had. Thank you for the incredible….
Thank you for showing not just Canadians, but the world, with and through your success and your devotion, both to your own identities but also to this shared identity we build as Canadians, what it is to be open and to prosper through being welcoming and engaging with the world and not closing oneself off. You are an extraordinary example of the very best of Canada, and every day I thank you for it.
And I think there is no better example of that than, as Malik pointed out, the over one million hours of community and volunteer service to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary that this community accomplished — it is an extraordinary achievement and a perfect example of the commitment that all you, but all of us should have every day to contributing to the community, to the country that surrounds us. It is a beautiful testament to the dedication to this country and to all its citizens.
It’s quite fitting we celebrate Navroz here, as the Ismaili community is known around the world for its commitment to pluralism. Tens of thousands of people see this symbol of diversity off the Don Valley Parkway every day. Navroz is a chance for all Canadians to honour the many communities that have observed this tradition for generations and the many contributions you have all made to Canada. This event is a testimony to the diversity that makes Canada stronger and Canadians better.
So thank you for gathering here today. I’ve been giving some thought to the idea of Navroz, which marks the start of the New Year and the beginning of spring. The idea of new beginnings is central to Navroz.
How can we create and take advantage of opportunities throughout the new year? How can we maintain hope? How can we remain optimistic in the face of adversity? How can we foster openness and understanding, not just today but every day? While there may be … more than one answer to these questions, they give us pause to reflect on the past year. And this reflection may allow us to move forward as we welcome a new year.
This led me to think back on a meeting I had just a few weeks ago with the Afghan Girls Robotics Team. By the time they arrived in Canada, these incredibly smart and driven young women had already been awarded the top prize at Robotics competitions around the world, gaining international recognition for their accomplishments in STEM. They spoke of their successes with pride and shared their plans for the future with optimism and hope. They spoke of their aspirations, not only for themselves, but also for their community, for Afghanistan, and for other women in their field.
(Applause, speech continues after photo)
Prime Minister Trudeau at Navroz celebrations held on March 21, 2018 at the Toronto Ismaili Centre. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.
I am sharing their stories with you today because the path to success was far from easy for these young women. But despite the obstacles, they have remained optimistic, strong and full of hope. Brilliant, kind and proud.
I mention that Afghan Girls Robotics Team because in a way they embody the spirit of Navroz. These twelve young women were beyond ready for the next chapter of their journey here in Canada and ever so eager for new beginnings. And as it so happens, we met on the last day of February, on the eve of this month of renewal. Now, I know we can’t all claim to be leaders in robotics, but do not let their extraordinary circumstances and abilities distract you from the more familiar elements of their story.
For generations, people have come to Canada to realize their dreams. Some faced impossible odds for a chance to build a better life for themselves, while others made considerable sacrifices to ensure the success of their children and grandchildren. As we mark Navroz today in the Ismaili Centre, I want to recognize that everyone in this room can relate to these stories.
Take the Ismaili community, for example, many of whom were welcomed in Canada in 1972, after being forcibly expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin. This is a community like so many others that overcame significant obstacles, and of course its members are leaders in every profession across the country today.
Indeed, the story of hope and hard work is one that Canadians from all backgrounds can relate to. One that lives on in our communities and hopefully transcends our borders.
While Navroz is a time of celebration and new beginnings, it also reminds us of our privilege during this time of change. As Canadians, we are fortunate to live in a country where our rights are enshrined in the Constitution, where our freedoms are entrenched in laws. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms ensures that all Canadians can speak their mind, practice their faith, and stand up for what they believe in. Because of the Charter, every Canadian is entitled to a new beginning.
I want to end by sharing with you the wise words of the Persian poet, Hafez, which I believe capture the spirit of this occasion.
“Spring and all its flowers now joyously break their vow of silence. It is time for celebration, not for lying low.”
Once again, thank you for having me here today to join in this celebration. To all those who have gathered around the Haft-Seen table this week and are gathering in Jamat Kalmas (ph?) this evening. I wish you all peace, health, happiness, and prosperity in the New Year.
Navroz Mubarak. May peace and blessings be upon you.
HUNZA’S FAQIR ULLAH KHAN in a special report for Barakah provides a lively update with great photos of the Darbar preparations that are underway in Aliabad, Hunza. Read his wonderful piece and share it with all your friends…..MORE
INTRODUCTION: On February 18, 1976, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, accompanied by Begum Salimah Aga arrived in Pakistan for a month long visit that included several mulaqats with Ismailis around the country. During the visit they both attended numerous public and private events and engagements and Mawlana Hazar Imam announced the creation of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The first cycle of the award ceremony was held at the beautiful Shalimar Gardens in Lahore in 1980.
The extended 1976 visit also co-incided with Pakistan hosting the Seerat Conference over a 10 day period at which eminent scholars from around the world spoke in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi on various aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him). When the Aga Khan was invited by Mowlana Kausar Niazi, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, to preside over the Seerat gathering that took place in Karachi on March 12, 1976, he noted at the beginning of his presidential that he felt both trepidation and joy at the opportunity, “trepidation because few subjects could be more awe inspiring for any Muslim to speak on, joy as few subjects could give greater happiness to be involved with.”
As hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate the life of the Prophet on the occasion of his birth anniversary that falls on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal — between November 29 and December 3, 2017 — no piece would be more befitting for the auspicious anniversary than the inspiring and insightful words spoken at the Seerat Conference by the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad himself. We are pleased to present the following excerpts from 49th Ismaili Imam’s Seerat speech, following which we have included the audio of the speech.
The Aga Khan on Allah’s Last Messenger
His Highness the Aga Khan giving his Presidential Address at the Seerat Conference in Karachi on March 12, 1976. Photo: The Ismaili.
A request to the conference
“Few conferences can have gathered so many men of outstanding intellect, who have devoted so much time and wisdom to the study of Islam and the life of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him….I will begin by making a request: One hundred and seventy two eminent scholars from forty-eight countries have gathered in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi to present the results of their research and reflection on various aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet. From all these exchanges, from all the private debates which have preceded and succeeded the presentation of each paper, will have come an immense range of new thoughts, new ideas and new understanding of the Prophet’s life. I sincerely request that you have available to all Muslims a complete printed record of these papers and the subsequent debates.”
Responsibilities of rich Muslim countries
“The poorer countries of Islam have ahead of them years of increasingly hard work if they wish to progress materially to acceptable standards of every day life. The richer countries, especially those that have new means, will rapidly find that this wealth, blessing that it is, will impose upon them heavy new responsibilities. They will have to administrate this wealth wisely, in the best interest of their citizens, but also keeping in mind that they have a heavy responsibility to their less well endowed brother Muslim countries, and indeed to the human race at large. Thus it is my profound conviction that Islamic Society in the years ahead will find that our traditional concept of time, a limitless mirror in which to reflect on the eternal, will become a shrinking cage, an invisible trap from which fewer and fewer will escape.”
Holding firm the ship of life: Answers in the Qur’an and the Prophet
“I have observed in the Western world a deeply changing pattern of human relations. The anchors of moral behaviour appear to have dragged to such depths that they no longer hold firm the ship of life: what was once wrong is now simply unconventional, and for the sake of individual freedom must be tolerated. What is tolerated soon becomes accepted. Contrarily, what was once right is now viewed as outdated, old fashioned and is often the target of ridicule.”
“In the face of this changing world, which was once a universe to us and is now no more than an overcrowded island, confronted with a fundamental challenge to our understanding of time, surrounded by a foreign fleet of cultural and ideological ships which have broken loose, I ask, “Do we have a clear, firm and precise understanding of what Muslim Society is to be in times to come?” And if as I believe, the answer is uncertain, where else can we search then in the Holy Qur’an, and in the example of Allah’s last and final Prophet?
“There is no justification for delaying the search for the answer to this question by the Muslims of the world, because we have the knowledge that Islam is Allah’s final message, the Qur’an His final book and Muhammed His last Prophet. We are blessed that the answers drawn from these sources guarantee that neither now, nor at any time in the future will we be going astray. As the demands on his time increase, every Muslim will find it more and more difficult to seek for himself the answer to the fundamental question of how he should live his life for it to be truly Muslim. It is men such as you who will have to bring forth the answers, answers which will have to be practical and realistic in the world of today and tomorrow. Rather than let force of circumstance impose upon us through our default in not having suitably prepared ourselves for the future, ways of life which are not or should not be ours, we must ourselves design the path we should tread.”
Bearing fruits in the diverse Muslim world
“In seeking to define what our Islamic Society should be in times ahead, 50 and 100 and 200 years hence we should, I believe, be aware that the Muslims of this world cover such an amazing range of historical, ethnic and cultural backgrounds that a completely monolithic answer may not be found. I am convinced on the other hand, that we do want to avoid so much diversity that our Muslim countries are in conflict amongst themselves or that they are so divided that they are incapable successfully of facing common enemies, be they cultural, religious, national or otherwise. This is why I so applaud Pakistan for having organized the first Muslim Summit Conference, and now this Seerat Conference, for it is only through dialogue, personal contacts and continuous exchanges that the great diversity of cultures, knowledge, outlook and resources can be co-ordinated and brought to bear fruit for the Muslim world.”
Greatest opportunity for Muslim unity is now
“Let me return, now, to the question of what Muslim Society should seek to be in the years ahead. Islam, as even non-Muslims have observed, is a way of life. This means that every aspect of the individual’s daily existence is guided by Islam: his family relations, his business relations, his education, his health, the means and manner by which he gains his livelihood, his philanthropy, what he sees and hears around him, what he reads, the way he regulates his time, the buildings in which he lives, learns and earns.
“I cannot think of any time in Islamic history when Muslims have had a greater opportunity to unite, and to ensure that the society in which they live is that which they have defined and chosen for themselves.
“Not only are all forms of human communication easier than ever before in history, but rarely, if ever has the Muslim world had such means to ensure its future. Conferences such as this seeking inspiration from the life of the Holy Prophet could render no greater service to Islam than to assist in defining what steps can be taken, where, and how, to ensure that our people can live in the years ahead in greater peace, greater prosperity and in an Islamic Society which will not be overrun or simply taken by surprise, by forces, pressures or concepts which are totally alien and may damage us irretrievably.”
Searching for a solution through eminent men and women
“In our search for a solution, I am convinced that we must call upon our own men and women, who have achieved positions of eminence anywhere in the world, and persuade them to return, for us to benefit from their knowledge, their learning and their work. All too often in my journeys I have met or learnt of outstanding Muslim scholars, doctors, scientists, and architects who have remained abroad, or who, when they do come home, have failed to receive the support and encouragement necessary for them to bring to their nations’ benefit their Muslim outlook on key areas of modern progress.
“Any meaningful human endeavour, any original thinking, any authentic research, will require moral encouragement and material support. This we must provide, not only during the individual’s initial years of learning, but equally when he leaves the restricted life of his academic centre to enter into the wider world of national or international activity.”
The inspiring life of the Holy Prophet
“The Holy Prophet’s life gives us every fundamental guideline that we require to resolve the problem as successfully as our human minds and intellects can visualise. His example of integrity, loyalty, honesty, generosity both of means and of time, his solicitude for the poor, the weak and the sick, his steadfastness in friendship, his humility in success, his magnanimity in victory, his simplicity, his wisdom in conceiving new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam, surely all these are foundations which, correctly understood and sincerely interpreted, must enable us to conceive what should be a truly modern and dynamic Islamic Society in the years ahead.”
Audio of the Aga Khan speech made at the Seerat Conference
Date posted: November 30, 2017.
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Note: This article also appears on http://www.barakah.com, a special Simerg project to celebrate 60 years or the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan.
The Youtube link to the Diamond Jubilee Tribute Song to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is one you can play repeatedly and keep on enjoying forever. The expression of love for Mawlana Hazar Imam is visible on each musician’s face, and this is what is most inspiring about this video. What we might say is our “unmeasurable love” for Hazar Imam becomes even more unfathomable to grasp when we read what Hazar Imam said to his jamat (community) during his visit in 1964 to Pakistan that “my love for my Jamat is a lot stronger than yours can ever be for me and I would like you to remember this….When I leave, each and everyone of you will be in my heart, in my prayers, in my thoughts and you must remember that Imam loves you more, much more than you can ever love him and you must be strong in this knowledge.” Unmeasurable unmeasurable love indeed! We are all recipients of his care and barakah, 1000fold, nay a million fold….Happiness forever to all Ismailis.
A photo taken at a UN concert celebrating Nowruz (also Novruz, Navruz, Nooroz, Nevruz, Nauryz). In 2010 the UN General Assembly proclaimed International Nowruz Day at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday — Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan. Inscribed in 2009 — and renewed in 2016 — on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as a cultural tradition. Observed by over 300 million people, Nowruz is an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. It promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
(In the following story, Sarkari Dawlatamamad from Siponj, Bartang, describes the beauty of the celebration that heralds the New Year in the Pamirs. The story will be familiar to many Pamiris, even if in other villages the tradition is different, or only exists now in stories told by their parents and grandparents. The inspiration of the story was drawn from the beautiful documentary film SHOGUN, made by Pamiri filmaker Tolik Gadomamadov. The story has been adapted below from the highly acclaimed award winning book “With Our Own Hands” authored by Frederik van Oudenhoven and Jamila Haider.
BY FREDERIK VAN OUDENHOVEN AND JAMILA HAIDER
WITH SARKORI DOWLATAMAMAD
To understand how we celebrate Nawruz in the Pamirs and how important the holiday is to us, it is necessary first to tell you about time as we experience it in the Pamirs. Our time is different from time elsewhere; it differs even from valley to valley. Our experience of time is conditioned by our dependence on our lands, and our need to predict seasonal changes to coordinate our work in the fields. This is why our ancestors developed special calendars that follow the changes in the land: the passage of the sun through the villages and valleys; the behaviour of plants, animals and spirits; and the influences of these changes on the human body. The body and time are inseparable: you might say that our calendar records the procession of life rather than time, and individual days take meaning from their place in that procession. So, Nawruz, our New Year, is not simply a day of celebration, but the culmination of all the days leading up to it.
Preparations begin already on the darkest day of the year, the winter solstice, which marks the beginning of a period of intense cold in the Pamirs. This period is called chilla and lasts for forty days. When, towards the end of January, the sun shining through the skylight, or roetz, reaches the first mark on the wall, the chilla ends. This is the first sign that spring is coming and we celebrate Khir-pichor.
On the first day of Khir-pichor no guests are allowed to enter the house. Only on the second day, early in the morning, a cousin or niece can visit the house, bringing two kulcha (wedding bread), which they place next to the kitsor (traditional oven). We prepare his or her favourite food — kamoch-tarit (butter bread), khomnigul, baht (sweet festive porridge), boj (celebratory soup with meat, if we have meat) — and offer a present as well. Afterwards, more people come and bring kulcha. We call this custom salom-salom. Later in the day, the community comes together to eat lunch and the khalifa (religious leader) performs du’a (act of worship for the fulfillment of specific needs, forgiveness or protection).
The Pamiri calendar begins on the second day of Khir-pichor, which literally means ‘sun-in-man’. From now on, the sun will slowly begin to gain in strength, marked by the symbolic passage of the sun‘s rays through the human body. It starts with the sole of the foot or the toenails and gradually climbs up towards the top of the head, before moving down again. The toenails, the top of the foot, the ankles, the shin, the calves of the legs…each part of the body indicates a period of three days. After approximately three weeks, when the sun reaches the knee and the next marking on the wall, we celebrate the second sign of the arrival of Nawruz, Khir-chizon (‘sun-in-knee’).
During Khir-chizon, we put a handful of seeds into the fire of the kitsor and after the fire has finished burning, we look for any remaining seeds in the ashes. These surviving seeds tell us our fortune; they help us know which crops to sow in the New Year. Afterwards we take the ashes and seeds outside and scatter them over the snow.
“Like the majority of the inhabitants of the Western Pamirs, the Bartangi also speak dialects of the family of the Indo-European, non-written Pamir languages. Religiously, they belong to the denomination of the Nizari-Ismailis, a sub-confession of Shia Islam. Nizari-Ismailis consider Aga Khan IV as the closest male descendent alive of the prophet Muhammad and as ephiphany of the divine light. His orders are absolutely binding. The Aga Khan propagates a version of Islam open to progress and to intellectual discourse with the west. His faith is practised even in the remote Bartang valley, enriched with some locally specific practices.” — Excerpt from the website http://www.bartang-has-future.com.
On the first day of Khir-chizon, we prepare boj, and share it with our neighbours. On the second day, we prepare baht. That is why, in our village in Bartang, we also refer to this holiday as Baht ayom.
When, finally, the snow begins to melt and the sun rises over the point on the mountain which we call amalkhana, it is time to celebrate Nawruz in our calendar, the Sun has reached the Heart.
We celebrate Nawruz with great happiness and intensity; Nawruz is the end of a long and difficult winter and the beginning of a new cycle of growth. It reminds us of our great dependence on the Earth, the Sun and Water, and each celebration is an occasion to ask God and the angels to grant us good harvests and healthy, productive animals.
The women and girls will clean every corner of the house and use brooms blessed with wheat flour to chase away the bad spirits that have taken shelter in the nooks and crannies of the wood. Flour is also used to decorate the beams of the ceilings which have been blackened by smoke over time: simple hand prints, old Zoroastrian patterns whose meaning has often been forgotten, or drawings of sheep and shepherds so that the house will not be without shepherd and a flock of sheep this year. Juniper twigs adorn the pillars of the houses, they bring fertility and blessings.
The men cut the bark of willow branches and weave them into flowers which, once the cleaning is finished and they are allowed back into the house, they offer to the women, with the traditional New Year greeting. The willow is associated with the productivity while the flower is the symbol of joy, abundance and people’s harmony with nature. In every household in the village women will prepare sumanak (pudding made from germinated wheat). It is one of the most well-known new year dishes in Central Asia.
Report compiled by Abdulmalik Merchant
Poem by Shariffa Keshavjee
In a special talika (written message) read out in Ismaili jamatkhanas on Friday, January 13, 2017, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, informed his world-wide community that Princess Salwa gave birth to a baby boy named Sinan in London, England, on January 2, 2017. The Princess is married to Prince Rahim Aga Khan, the 49th Ismaili Imam’s oldest son. The couple was married in a nikah ceremony in September 2013, and their first child Prince Irfan was born in Geneva, Switzerland, on 11 April, 2015.
Prince Rahim has an older sister, Princess Zahra, and two brothers younger than him, Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad.
Princess Salwa and Prince Rahim, who is holding Prince Irfan, pictured recently during the 80th birthday celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan (right) held in Aiglemont. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.
“Prince Sinan’s birth has brought immense joy to our family,” wrote Mawlana Hazar Imam in the talika, and added that “We are most touched by your kind thoughts and prayers over the period leading to Sinan’s birth.” In the talika, he conveyed his affectionate loving blessings to his followers, whom he addresses as his spiritual children.
Hello magazine reported the birth of Prince Sinan as the world’s first royal baby of 2017!
We rejoice with our thousands of readers around the world on the wonderful news of the birth of Prince Sinan, and join with jamats around the world to congratulate Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa as well as their son Prince Irfan, and all the members of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s and Princess Salwa’s families.
We sincerely hope and pray that the birth of Prince Sinan may bring immense barakah to jamats worldwide. We also pray for Prince Sinan’s long life and wellbeing.
The Meaning of Sinan
Sinan is an Arabic name for boys meaning spearhead. It is derived from the root word S-N-N which is used in the Qur’an. Sinan is pronounced [(SI)mple] + [(NA)p + (N)ew] with emphasis on the second syllable. Wikipedia mentions that the name might also be related to the Ancient Greek name Sinon.
In Ismaili history, the name Sinan is associated with the revered personality of Rashid al-din Sinan, one of the greatest and most valiant of the Syrian Isma’ili da’is of the thirteenth century A.C.
By Shariffa Keshavjee
A miracle, a gift today a child that comes to us
Our bending is of gladness in the archers hand to us
He loves the arrow that flies, the bow so stable for us
The archer sees the mark upon the path for us
Bends it with his might, the arrow goes far for us
The name of Sinan brings the memory of
Aleppo and Masyaf to us
His philosophy as dai forever imprinted on us
The balance of the zahir and batin as it come to us
A reciprocal social relationship of balance within us
Weaving a tapestry of din-dunia
In this our Diamond Jubilee year, your birth bring to us
Great tidings of gladness and joy within us
Our many faceted diamond is aglow for us.
Date posted: Saturday, January 14, 2017.
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This compiled piece contains material from the following sources:
It is said that Avicenna, the famed Muslim philosopher, medical expert and scientist, whom Ismailis like to claim as their own, created the first ever recipe for the Pilaf (Pilau, Plov, Palov, Oshi Palav etc.). He was born in Bukhara in modern day Uzbekistan. Now more than a 1000 years later, the much beloved Central Asian dish has been recognized by UNESCO as part of Tajikistan’s and Uzbekistan’s intangible cultural heritage. Read this story and also try out a pilaf recipe from Khorog, Tajikistan, which is provided below.
Osh, generically known as plov (pilaf),is a rice dish made with shredded yellow turnip or carrot, and pieces of meat, all fried together in vegetable oil or mutton fat in a special qazan (a wok-shaped cauldron) over an open flame. The meat is cubed, the carrots are chopped finely into long strips, and the rice is colored yellow or orange by the frying carrots and the oil. The dish is eaten communally, often with one’s hands in the traditional way from a single large plate placed at the center of the table. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.
Material for this piece was compiled and adapted
by Abdulmalik Merchant, Editor, Simerg.
UNESCO’s Plov Inscription
Tajikistan’s “Oshi Palav” and Uzbekistan’s “Palov” (versions of the dish commonly called Plov in Central Asia) were both inscribed on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity when UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage met at its 11th annual session in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, during the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Conference held from 28 November to 2 December 2016.
Both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan had separately applied to UNESCO in 2015 — within a few weeks of each other — to have the plov recognized as part of their nation’s intangible cultural heritage. Readers will be interested to learn that UNESCO has inscribed numerous foods, including beverages such as coffee, as well as festivals such as Nauroz in its Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Across Central Asia, the deceptively simple plov dish is based around lamb, rice, onions and carrots simmered in broth, and accompanies every meaningful life-cycle event. Food historians have noted that versions of plov are spread across Asia. The Turkish pilav, Persian polow and Indian pilau –- and even Spanish paella — are all related, with versions including dried fruit, paprika, garlic, tomato, beans and spices.
Preparations for Plov (pilaf)…cleaning and cutting carrots. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.
With regard to Tajikistan’s application for inscription of the Palav as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, the UNESCO committee noted that the ‘Oshi Palav’ is a traditional dish of communities in Tajikistan and recognized it as a part of their cultural heritage and practice that aims to bring people of different backgrounds together. The dish is prepared to be enjoyed at regular mealtimes as well as social gatherings, celebrations and rituals. Known as the ‘King of Meals’, the Palav is based on a recipe using vegetables, rice, meat and spices but up to 200 varieties of the dish exist.
The importance of the dish to communities in Tajikistan is indicative in sayings such as “No Oshi Palav, no acquaintance” or “If you have eaten Oshi Palav from somebody, you must respect them for 40 years”!
Groups of men or women prepare the dish either in their homes or at tea houses while socializing or playing music and singing. Knowledge and skills associated with the practice is transmitted on an inter-generational basis in families, in addition to cooking schools from master to apprentice. Once an apprentice masters Oshi Palav, the apprentice hosts a dinner for the trainer and guests during which the trainer receives a skull-cap and traditional dress while the apprentice receives a skimmer (a tool for cooking Oshi Palav) symbolizing the apprentice’s independence.
Frederik van Oudenhoven happily displaying “With Our Own Hands” that he co-authored with Jamila Haider. Photo: Facebook page, PamirFoodandLife. The magnificent volume is now out of print, but may be obtained through resellers at Amazon.
Readers of this website may recall an award winning book called “With Our Own Hands – A Celebration of Food and Life in the Pamir Mountains of Afghanistan and Tajikistan” which we featured and also offered for sale last spring. It quickly sold out and the book is now out of print. A recipe from the book for the Plov that is prepared in Khorog, Tajikistan, is reproduced below. The Pamiri people living to the south of the Panj River in neighbouring Afghanistan use a slightly different recipe for their Palao, as it is known there, and making a good Palao is considered the most essential culinary skill a woman should possess to be a good wife!
A Note on Rice
“Rice was, and in some places still is, a food reserved still reserved for the most esteemed guests. No matter how many other dishes are prepared for the guests, if there is no rice the meal will still be considered poor…..Like salt, rice could not be produced from the soils of Western Pamirs…Shali was the name of the rice that was most commonly brought, a delicious variety that was exchanged for large quantities of Pamiri wool. It was so valuable that in the Wakhan valley, dropping even a single grain of rice was likened to dropping the relic of a saint.” — excerpt from With Our Own Hands, p. 287.
Plov – How it is Prepared in Khorog
(Material and recipe adapted from “With Our Own Hands,” pp. 607-609)
Plov in the Tajik Pamirs is a much loved rice dish for celebrations and offering to guests. Good quality rice that doesn’t absorb too much moisture is an important part of this dish. The plov cooked with ozgensky rice (from the city of Uzgen in the Fergana Valley of Southern Kyrgyzstan) is truly delicious. Orgencky rice is sometimes available in the Khorog market but more common, due to its affordability, is the poorer quality Chinese rice.
Plov is one of the most popular dishes at the bazaar in Khorog, the capital of the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region in Tajikistan. Khorog, with a population of approximately 32,000, is mostly inhabited by Ismailis. Photo: “With Our Own Hands,” page 607.
4 cups rice; 1 cup chickpeas; 1 small cup vegetable oil; 2 onions; 1-1.5 tbsp. cumin; 6 carrots; 2–3 cups mutton; 8 cups water; 1 head of garlic; and salt to taste.
MAKING THE KHOROG PLOV
Soak the chickpeas overnight;
wash and drain the rice, chop onions, cut the carrot into strips and the meat into bite sized pieces (meat is often left in the bone);
Heat the oil in a kazan (or large cooking pot, something like a wok, see photo) and cook the meat for 20-30 minutes with the lid closed then add the onions and salt towards the end;
Add the carrots, chickpeas and sprinkle cumin over the top. DO NOT STIR;
Cover the pan and cook for another 7-10 minutes;
Add 8 cups of water (less if rice needs less water to cook) and then pour in the rice;
Make sure the rice is spread evenly over the other ingredients, but STILL DO NOT STIR;
Place the unpeeled head of garlic on top of the rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes;
Now heap up the rice towards the centre of the pot (that is, it is still on top of the other ingredients);
Make several holes through the (heaped) rice down to the bottom to allow the steam and flavours from the meat and vegetables to circulate through the pan;
Keep the garlic head on top of the rice;
Put the lid on and seal well, with a cloth if necessary. Simmer for another 20 minutes, without opening the lid; and
Finally, mix all the ingredients and serve on a large plate with the garlic, accompanied by a fresh salad of spring onions, tomatoes, green chili and salt.
Plov in Uzbekistan
The finest Plov in Samarkand, Uzbekistan. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.
There is a saying in Uzbekistan that guests can only leave their host’s house after palov has been offered. Palov is a traditional dish made and shared throughout rural and urban communities of Uzbekistan. It is prepared with ingredients such as rice, meat, spices and vegetables and in addition to be enjoyed as a regular meal, is served as a gesture of hospitality, to celebrate special occasions like weddings and new year, to help those in need who are underprivileged, or to honour loved ones who have passed away. Palov may also feature at events alongside other rituals taking place such as prayer and performances of traditional music. It is a dish that is cooked by men and women regardless of age or social status. Knowledge and skills associated with the practice are handed down from older to younger generations formally and informally using a master-apprentice model or by demonstration and participation within families, peer groups, community-based establishments, religious organizations and vocational educational institutions. The making and sharing of the traditional dish acts to strengthen social ties, promote values including solidarity and unity and assist in the continuity of local traditions that form a part of the community’s cultural identity.
Date posted: Saturday, January 7, 2017. Last updated: January 8, 2017 (9:15 EST).
FORTHCOMING (week of January 9, 2017): Shariffa Keshavjee of Nairobi, Kenya, reflects on the highly acclaimed and award winning book “With Our Own Hands.”
Material for the post was compiled from numerous sources including: