The following piece has been compiled and adapted from material supplied by the Aga Khan Museum; it incorporates notes by Dr. Ulrike al-Khamis, the Museum’s Director of Collections and Public Programs.
From Mecca to Toronto
On display for the first time in Toronto is a 100-year-old silk fragment from a hizam — part of a ceremonial draping that covers the Ka’ba, Islam’s holiest site to which millions of Muslims made the annual pilgrimage on Friday August 9, 2019.
The Ka’ba is draped in a black ceremonial covering known as the kiswa, and around the upper part of the kiswa runs the hizam — an ornamented belt embroidered in silver and silver-gilt thread with Qur’anic verses relating to the pilgrimage.
This hizam is one of the Aga Khan Museum’s most significant textiles and is on special display until September 9, 2019. Measuring eight metres long and nearly one metre tall, it once belonged to a kiswa that measured 47 meters and was made in Cairo around the early 20th century.
As one of the most prominent kiswa ornaments, the hizam traditionally runs the length of the Ka‘ba’s upper perimeter. The inscription here contains verses 27-29 from chapter 22 (Al-Hajj) of the Qur’an:
“And proclaim to mankind the hajj. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant mountain highway. That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days, over the beast of cattle that He has provided for them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor who have a very hard time. Then let them complete their prescribed duties and perform their vows, and circumambulate the Ancient House.”
The roundels contain further Qur’anic references that mention ‘God the Eternal’ as well as the Prophet Muhammad.
The Ka‘ba receives a new drape every year during the pilgrimage season. After it ends, the kiswa is taken down, divided and either gifted to dignitaries or sold to raise money for charity.
Note: The museum is open everyday from 10 am to 6 pm (8 pm on Wednesdays). It is closed on Mondays, except holiday Mondays.
19th/20th Century Views of Ka’ba
Date posted: August 7, 2019. Last updated: August 15, 2019.
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…Whereas Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, is an Islamic holiday which honors Abraham’s symbolic sacrifice of his son to God, as referenced in the Quran, Old Testament, and New Testament…Whereas Islam is one of the world’s major religions, sharing the belief in one God and one humanity….
For 2019, Muslims will perform the annual pilgrimage to the Kaaba starting August 9. This will culminate with the celebration of the Eid al-Adha on August 11. We would like to wish all our readers a joyous Eid, with prayers that the holy occasion will foster greater unity and understanding among all Muslims and that Muslim communities everywhere, keeping in mind that Muslims practice a universal faith, will seek to end conflicts, strive for peace and assist in the progress and development of humankind wherever they live.
Many of our readers in North America and around the world may not be aware that in 2010, as Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha from November 16 until November 20, the House of Representatives of the US Congress passed the following resolution recognizing the cultural and religious significance of Eid al-Adha.
111TH CONGRESS 2D SESSION
H. RES. 1719
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
NOVEMBER 16, 2010
Mr. HONDA (for himself, Mr. CARSON of Indiana, and Mr. ELLISON) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
Recognizing the cultural and religious significance of Eid al-Adha and wishing Muslim-Americans and Muslims around the world a prosperous holiday.
Whereas Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of the Sacrifice, is an Islamic holiday which honors Abraham’s symbolic sacrifice of his son to God, as referenced in the Quran, Old Testament, and New Testament;
Whereas Abraham is a respected figure in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam;
Whereas for more than 14 centuries, Eid al-Adha has been observed;
Whereas Eid al-Adha is a holiday of great importance to millions of Muslim-Americans and approximately 1,500,000,000 Muslims around the world;
Whereas during Eid al-Adha, Muslim-Americans recognize the importance of sacrifice, freedom, and justice;
Whereas Eid al-Adha is celebrated around the world with prayers, charity and social events;
Whereas many communities across the United States hold day-long festivals in observance of Eid al-Adha;
Whereas Islam is one of the world’s major religions, sharing the belief in one God and one humanity;
Whereas Muslim-Americans have made significant contributions to the flourishing of the United States, including as ambassadors to foreign nations, award winning scientists, doctors, and engineers, and athletes;
Whereas Muslim-Americans have contributed to the defense of the United States with an estimated 10,000 Muslim-Americans serving in the United States Armed Forces;
Whereas Muslim-Americans contribute to the success and pluralism of the United States: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the House of Representatives—
(1) recognizes the cultural and religious significance of Eid al-Adha;
(2) expresses its appreciation and respect for the contributions of Muslim-Americans to the United States; and
(3) wishes Muslim-Americans and Muslims around the world who observe Eid al-Adha a prosperous holiday.
Date posted: August 6, 2019.
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“A Muslim must play an active role in helping his family and the brotherhood of believers. The object is not to achieve status, wealth and power, but to contribute to society’s overall development. This implies moral responsibility to help the weaker, less fortunate members.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Toronto, May 14, 1987. 
A new Moon occurs when all of the Sun’s light is reflected away from Earth, and the side of the Moon facing Earth is barely visible, as illustrated in the above photo. Sometimes the dark face of the Moon catches Earth’s reflected glow and returns that light. The phenomenon is called earthshine. This Astronaut Photograph was taken on July 31, 2011, on board the International Space Station and is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center.
The festival of Eid, also known as Bairam or Eid Ramadan is one of the most joyous days in the Islamic calendar. It is an occasion for celebration and rejoicing for Allah’s Bounty upon mankind for His revelation of the Holy Qur’an during the month of Ramadan. It is also a time for individuals to express their gratitude to Allah for having given them the strength, courage and resilience to complete the fast, and thus fulfilling the duty enjoined upon them by Allah.
On this joyous occasion, we convey our heartiest felicitations and Eid Mubarak to all our readers as well as Muslims around the world, with the fervent hope and prayer that peace and harmony should prevail over many areas of the Muslim world afflicted by horrible conflicts, which are resulting in the loss of lives and contributing to unbearable hardships and struggles. The Islamic ethic of forgiveness, generosity, and peaceful co-existence and unity through dialogue are keys by which conflicts can be resolved, whereby every Muslim can aspire for a life of material and spiritual well-being and happiness.
The excerpts produced in this post from the Holy Qur’an and the hadith as well as from the farmans, writings and speeches of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and Mawlana Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan) are foundation blocks for building harmonious societies around the world. The acts of charity and generosity mentioned in the quotes will facilitate those who are underprivileged to manage their own destinies, thereby leading them to a life of dignity, befitting Allah’s greatest creation.
PROFOUND TEACHINGS OF ISLAM
Conceptual image for the holy month of Ramadan and Eid al Fitr. Photo: Istockphoto
“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteous is the one who believes in Allah and the Last Day, and the angels and the Books and the prophets, and gives away wealth out of love for Him to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask and set slaves free.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:177
“And whatever good you may spend on others is for your own good, provided that you spend only out of a longing for God’s countenance.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:272
“You will not enter paradise till you believe, and you will not believe till you love one another. Let me guide you to something by doing which you will love one another: Salute and sundry among you.” — Tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.)
“A great river is not made turbid by a stone. A religious man who takes to heart an injury is as yet, but shallow water. If any misfortune befalls you, bear with it, that by forgiving others you may yourself obtain pardon. O my brother! seeing that we are at last to return to earth, let us humble ourselves in ashes before we are changed into dust.” — Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s.). 
“…As the world gets smaller, it is fundamental that people should work together and not against each other, and try to be a little more generous than you have been in the past. If people have made mistakes, forgive them their mistakes. If people have harmed you, forget and forgive. Do not hold grudges. Do not turn around and say, ‘he hurt me yesterday, so I will hurt him today’. This is not the spirit of Islam…” His Highness the Aga Khan, Farman Mubarak, Mumbai, 1969, Precious Gems.
“…when you are studying the Qur’an, when you are studying the history of Imams, when you are studying the history of pre-Islamic Arabia, I would like you to take from this history that which will help you to live within the spirit of Islam. This means to live honestly, to live purely, to know that you are brothers and sisters, to be available at all times when one or the other needs help, to be generous, to be honest. These are the qualities which you can trace throughout Qur’an-e Shariff, throughout the life of the Prophet, throughout the lives of the Imams. And this is something which I would like you to follow, not only in letter but also in spirit, because it is this spirit which cannot be changed, and which I would like my spiritual children to understand fully…” Farman Mubarak, His Highness the Aga Khan, Karachi, November 29, 1964. 
“There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both the means and the motivation to improve their lot. Unless these unfortunate ones can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink back into renewed apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, speech, Housing and Development, Mumbai, January 17, 1983.
BY KARIMA MAGHRABY (Additional material compiled by Simerg)
In his Khamsa, Shab-i Qadr (the Night of Power), the renowned Persian poet Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE) tells the story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the Laylat al-Qadr. This image is taken from a folio in the Aga Khan Museum collection; the Toronto museum is due to open in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum
Laylat al-Qadr is the auspicious night when the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) first received the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, thereby conferring upon him the mantle of prophethood at the age of forty.
The Shia Ismaili Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadan, in keeping with traditions received through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and his wife Hazrat Bibi Fatimah (a.s.), and the Imams of the Fatimid dynasty. It is a night of special prayer, reflection and remembrance of Allah. In 2019, this falls on May 27, 2019.
When Prophet Muhammad was 40 years old, he received his first divine revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel. When Angel Jibreel appeared to him, he said:
“Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created,
created, Man of a blood-clot. Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by the Pen, taught Man that he knew not” — Holy Qur’an, Al-Alaq, 96:1-5
Part of Al-Alaq (The Clot) – 96th sura of the Holy Qur’an – the first revelation received by Prophet Muhammad
The night of this first revelation is celebrated as Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power). The following verses from the Holy Qur’an describe the loftiness of this night and articulate the importance of the final revealed scripture to mankind:
“Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. What will convey unto you what the Night of Power is! The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels and the spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. Peace it is until the rising of the dawn.” — 94:5
A photo of Cave of Hira in the Mount of Light, near Mecca, where the Prophet would come for his devotions and meditations, and the sacred spot where the Holy Quran began to be revealed. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) had just stepped into the forty-first year of his life, when during the 23rd night in the month of Ramadan the first 5 verses of the Surah Al-Alaq (96) were revealed to him. The small cave is about 3.5 meters long and 2 meters wide. Hira was the Prophet Muhammad’s most adorable place for meditation.
“(This is) a Scripture which We have revealed unto you (Muhammad) that thereby you may bring forth mankind from darkness unto light, by the permission of their Lord, unto the path of the Mighty, the Owner of Praise.” — 14:01
“And celebrate the name of thy Lord morning and evening. And part of the night, prostrate thyself to Him; and glorify Him a long night through. As to these, they love the fleeting life, and put away behind them a Day (that will be) hard.” — 76:25-27
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) received his first revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) in the Hira cave which is on Jabl al Nur (Mount of Light) shown in this photo. The peak is visible from a great distance. The Prophet used to climb this mountain often even before receiving his fist revelation from Allah.
“We sent it down during a Blessed Night” — 44:3
“Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong)” — 2:185
Hazrat Mawlana Murtaza Ali (a.s.) the successor of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) to the throne of Imamat is quoted as having said:
“Do not remember God absent-mindedly, nor forget Him in distraction; rather, remember Him with perfect remembrance (dhikran kamilan), a remembrance in which your heart and tongue are in harmony, and what you conceal conforms with what you reveal.” — quoted in Justice and Remembrance, Introducing the Spirituality of Imam Ali, by Reza Shah Kazemi, p. 162.
Date posted: July 18, 2014. Last updated: June 24, 2019.
1. Wikipedia.org 2. Mecca.net 3. English Translation of the Qur’anic verses by Arthur John Arberry.
LINKS TO A SELECTION OF ADDITIONAL ARTICLES ON THE HOLY QUR’AN
The following piece has been adapted from the NASA website; see notes  and  for links
One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s OPPORTUNITY rover mission came to an end in February 2019 after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.
The OPPORTUNITY rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive OPPORTUNITY in February 2019, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.
“It is because of trailblazing missions such as OPPORTUNITY that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.” And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of OPPORTUNITY, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration.”
Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), the rover vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.
This image taken by the panoramic camera aboard the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows the rover’s empty lander, the Challenger Memorial Station, at Meridiani Planum, Mars. The image was acquired on the rover’s 24 sol, or Martian day. Time. This mosaic image consists of 12 color images acquired with the camera’s red, green and blue filters. The color balance has been set to approximate the colors that a human eye would see. Opportunity is celebrating its seventh anniversary on the Red Planet, having landed on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time (Jan. 24, Pacific Time), for what was to be a 90-day mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell
During one of its drives on the surface, the rover examined soil targets that were designated as “Mobarak” in honor of Persian New Year for a period of 3 sols between March 25 – March 27, 2005. (The term sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on Mars. A mean Martian solar day, or “sol”, is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds).
OPPORTUNITY had its head down in a trough trying to figure out what the trough soil is made of. Two days later, the rover studied two other targets, “Norooz” and “Mayberooz,” again studying the soil properties.
It may be of interest to note that several craters on the moon are named after famous Muslim scientists including Fatimid astronomers Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) and Ibn Yunus, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and the Alamut scholar Nasir al-Din al-Tusi.
Excerpts from NASA
Sol-by-sol summaries: Sols 415 to 417 (March 25-27, 2005):
Zeroing in on a soil target called “Mobarak” in honor of Persian New Year, Opportunity has had its head down in a trough for three sols trying to figure out what the trough soil is made of. During an observation like this, it uses all of its in-situ instruments taking microscopic images, alpha particle X-ray spectrometer readings and Moessbauer spectrometer readings.
After Opportunity had looked at the soil in the trough, it was time to examine the soil at the top of the ripple. The rover planners perfectly executed a 7-meter (23-foot) drive that placed the rover right at the top of the ripple. Opportunity deployed its arm once again and inspected the soil.
Sols 419 and 420:
Here, Opportunity has the chance to look at two targets, “Norooz” and “Mayberooz,” again studying the soil properties.
“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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