[NOTE FROM WRITER: I wish to clarify at the outset that I am not suggesting that we should be establishing Satadas in our own homes while the Jamatkhanas are closed. COVID-19 has impacted the religious and spiritual lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, who cannot attend their beautiful and inspiring houses of worship and prayers. Ismailis are also affected due to Jamatkhana closures. However, we can perform our obligatory prayers in our homes individually and with family members who are not in isolation.In this post, we suggest (1) extra prayers we may offer for our comfort, courage and happiness, (2) References to Farmans and Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talikas that we can read, and (3) Ginans we can listen to from outstanding resources that we have at our disposal such as Ginan Central at the University of Saskatchewan. NOTE: According to the Ismaili calendar the Satada would have begun in Jamatkhanas on April 3. However what is suggested in the post is applicable for all times, and not limited to the prayers performed only during Satadas.Hopefully the Satada that we must all unfortunately miss due to Covid-19 will be established when Jamatkhanas are re-opened after the pandemic is over.]
Thousands of Ismaili families across Canada are receiving phone calls from their respective Jamatkhana leadership including Mukhi/Mukhiani and Kamadia/Kamadiani inquiring about our well-being at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their concern has deeply touched our hearts, and we sincerely thank them for the time they are taking to speak to us, and to patiently listen to our experiences, needs and challenges. They are playing their leadership roles, as representatives of Mawlana Hazar Imam, with an immense amount of affection and love, which we can feel in their voices.
In an inspiring prayer filled phone call yesterday from the Ottawa Jamatkhana Kamadiani, I was informed that according to the 2020 religious festivals calendar, the weeklong Jamati Satada (communal congregational special prayers for 7 continuous days) in Canada would have commenced from Friday, April 3.
Jamati Satada are held twice a year across many parts of the Ismaili world (there are also individual Satadas which, in serious personal cases, can be held at any time of the year at the request of individuals seeking special prayers for members of their families).
During the seven days of Jamati Satada, tens of thousands of Ismailis, young and old alike, gather in Jamatkhanas around the world for special prayers and heartful supplications for protection from difficulties (or Mushkil Asan). The special prayers are not exclusively for Ismailis. They include supplications for the world at large. In addition to 2 Jamati Satadas in a year, special Jamati Satadas can be instituted in exceptional or extraordinary circumstances, such as major natural or man-made calamities.
With the Satada in Canada earmarked to start on Friday, April 3, we have provided for our readers an outline of prayers that may be offered in our homes or individual spaces. The summary reflects the Satada practice that would be normally conducted in the Jamatkhanas, with minor differences. One point to note is that different countries may have their own starting dates for the Satada. The important thing to remember, however, is that it is a continuous 7-day observation.
SUGGESTED PRAYERS FOR “PROTECTION FROM DIFFICULTIES”
1. Recite the two evening Du’a. Remember that in the Du’a, we recite Surah Al-Fatihah (opening of 1st part of Du’a) and Surah Al-Ikhlas (opening of 6th part), both of which are considered to be among the greatest Surahs in the Holy Qur’an. In our beautiful Du’a, we also utter phrases that call for Allah’s mercy and support as well as help and strength from the Imam of the Time, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan.
2. Recite the Satada Tasbih of Ya Ali to Rahem Kar, Ya Ali to Fazal Kar, meaning “O Ali be Merciful, O Lord [Ali] be gracious.”
3. Recite or play recordings of pertinent Ginans and Qasidas of supplication; one such Ginan sung by the Late Shamshudin Bandali Haji, with a link to its English transliteration and translation, is provided below.
5. Also, read Farmans from the recently printed Farman Mubarak books authorized by Mawlana Hazar Imam.
6. After 2nd Du’a, partake in Ab-e-Shifa (water of healing) if you have it with you.
Also, during the Coronavirus crisis, and also at other times when times are good:
7. Ask and motivate children and youth to learn and memorize the meaning of the Du’a. Seriously, consider this as one of the most important building block of our faith, and treat it as one of the most important missions that you have. When Mawlana Hazar Imam blessed my late dad Jehangir Merchant with a few precious minutes of his time in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), one of the first questions he put to him was whether children were being taught the meaning of the Du’a.
8. Make faith part of our daily life. Even if it be for a moment or a few seconds, say Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad or Ya Ali, or call on the names of our Imams, keeping in mind that all hereditary Imams from Hazrat Ali are bearers of the same Noor.
9. Recite the Salwat Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad, meaning “O, Allah shower thy choicest blessings upon Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.” This tasbih is recited on Chandraat.
10. Recite the tasbih of Bibi Fatimah. They are Allahu Akhbar meaning God is Great, Subhanallah meaning Glory be to God, and Alhamdulillah meaning All praise is due to Allah. According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) had recommended the tasbih to his beloved daughter Bibi Fatimah (A.S.), and hence its name. It is recited on Chandraat, along with the Salwaat.
11. Seek forgiveness by reciting Astaghafirullahi Rabbi Wa Atubu Ilayhi meaning “Verily, I seek the forgiveness of Allah, who is my Lord and Sustainer, and I turn to Him in repentance.” It is recited when prayers are offered for deceased souls.
12. If you are really fearful of what is going on around you, say the Nade Ali a few times for hope, courage and strength.
Nade Ali, Nade Ali, Nade Ali Nade Aliyyan mazhar al-ajaib Tajidahu awnan lakafin-nawaib Kullu hammin wa ghammin sayanj-i Ali Bi wilayatika, Ya Ali! Ya Ali! Ya Ali!
Call Ali call Ali call Ali, the manifestation of marvels He will be your helper in difficulty Every anxiety and sorrow will end Through your friendship. O Ali, O Ali, O Ali.
Recitation of Ginan by (Late) Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji
Date posted: April 2, 2020. Last updated: April 4, 2020 (editorial note, at top).
Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who served Jamati institutions for several decades.
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By MALIK TALIB (Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum)
On the occasion of Navroz, our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam has most graciously sent a Talika Mubarak to be shared with our global Jamat, which reads as follows:
My dear Malik,
On the occasion of Navroz, I send to my worldwide Jamat my best blessings for peace and happiness in their lives.
I am also sending my special blessings for Mushkil Asan for my Jamats wherever they may be, and I pray for their health and their well-being.
I convey warm Mubarak to the global Jamat on the occasion of Navroz and, on behalf of all the murids world-wide, I express humble shukrana to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for the gracious Talika.
Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Guidance Central to Ismaili Institutions’ decision making during the COVID-19 crisis
….Malik Talib’s message continues below
The festival of Navroz is a time for hope, optimism, renewal, and faith – even in times of uncertainty and difficulty.
I would like to assure the Jamat that all Jamati institutions and leaders around the world are doing everything possible to ensure the Jamat’s safety and security.
For so many of us, the temporary suspension placed on Jamatkhana gatherings is perhaps the most difficult among the wide array of disruptions to our everyday lives. The decision to temporarily suspend our Jamatkhana gatherings was not taken lightly, and was implemented in accordance with Hazar Imam’s guidance to comply with government and public health guidelines around the world.
While we appreciate that this indeed is a very difficult disruption, and that we are no longer able to gather physically at the present time, we remain unified in our faith, in devotion and compassion.
These bonds of community have sustained throughout the vagaries of time and history, and will continue in the difficult weeks and months ahead. As we prepare ourselves, we will work together as a united Jamat.
It is of great importance that we follow the directions given by the Jamati institutions who are working with the AKDN [Aga Khan Development Network] to ensure compliance with government measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.
Ours is an esoteric faith. Our Imam has time and time again reminded us of the importance of spiritual contemplation, reflection, personal search and prayer. In these moments we will find peace and solace to overcome our current challenges. We would be well advised to recall Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Farmans regarding engaging in personal prayer, when we are unable to attend Jamatkhana. It is my conviction that adhering to this guidance will bring us comfort in these challenging times.
Virtual Jamatkhanas Inappropriate
….Malik Talib’s message continues below
The temporary closure of our Jamatkhanas has resulted in the appearance of electronic and digital channels offering a “virtual Jamatkhana”. This is clearly inappropriate, as a Jamatkhana may only be established and function under the Imam’s authority, through his institutions and appointed Mukhi-Kamadias.
At this time in particular, it is critical that we understand the risks of misinformation and miscommunication, and rely only on credible government and Jamati institutional sources – including The Ismaili – the official website and social media channels for the Jamat.
At a time of increased economic anxiety, it is also imperative that we act rationally, with prudence and sound judgement.
COVID-19 pandemic at the forefront of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s thoughts
….Malik Talib’s message continues below
The current developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic have been at the forefront of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s thoughts, and I would like to inform the Jamat that, following Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance, an international Steering Group has been established to coordinate the efforts to ensure the Jamat’s safety and well-being, and to support the responses being undertaken in each national Jamati jurisdiction.
These are difficult times. However, as one Jamat, our faith unites us, and gives us the strength, courage and hope to face this adversity, and emerge from it, a stronger community, bound by our values, and our allegiance to the Imam-of-the-Time.
Let us offer shukrana for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s continued love, grace, protection and guidance, and pray for the Jamat’s safety, good health and Mushkil Asan.
A Note from the Publisher/Editor of Simerg
By MALIK MERCHANT
Nothing can be more gratifying for a murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam than receiving his blessings on the occasion of Navroz, as well as special blessings for Mushkil Asan at this particular time of a world wide novel coronavirus pandemic. Instead of celebrating Navroz in Jamatkhanas, we will be observing it in our unique ways in our homes. This is unprecedented in recent history! However we have received the Imam’s Blessings as we would in Jamatkhanas. That should bring contentment and happiness in our hearts and give us immense strength and hope for the future.
The message from Malik Talib, the Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum, has outlined our responsibilities as members of a universal brotherhood. It is important that we follow the instructions of the leaders at this time of crisis, and act according to the wishes of Mawlana Hazar Imam.
Date posted: March 21, 2019.
We invite our readers to share their feelings, Navroz greetings, and unique experiences during the extraordinary events that are taking place in light of COVID-19. Please complete the feedback below, and if you don’t see the form please click 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. In the past few days, we have published some excellent pieces on Navroz.
Abstract: Two beautiful recitations of the Navroz Ginan by Shamshudin Bandali Haji and Mumtaz Bhulji followed by an explanation by Sadruddin Hassam. In the Ginan, Sayyid Fatehali Shah relates the combined experience of the zahiri deedar (exoteric or physical glimpse or meeting) that he was granted by the 45th Ismaili Imam, Shah Khalilullah (peace be on him), and the inner joy of contentment and ecstasy that he experienced with the bestowal of Noorani (spiritual or esoteric) grace.
Were it not for the shutting down of Jamatkhanas because of the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of Ismailis around the world would be making their preparations for the Navroz celebrations in their respective Jamatkhanas on Saturday, March 21, 2020. The beautiful occasion of Navroz generates immense happiness and makes our hearts jump with joy as we receive blessings from Mawlana Hazar Imam together with roji and Ab-e-Shifa.
Included in the Navroz Jamatkhana ceremonies, is the recitation of selected verses of the traditional Navroz Ginan and verses from Qasidas.
We once again provide an explanation of the Ginan that many readers have read over and over again but still like to return to it because of its significance in the context of a murid’s yearning to be close to the Imam of the Time. We are pleased to include a full recitation of the Ginan by (Late) Alwaez Shamshudin Bandali Haji of Edmonton as well as a shorter recitation by Mumtaz Bhulji. At the beginning of his powerful recitation, Alwaez Shamshu Haji has incorrectly attributed the Ginan to Pir Shams. This misunderstanding is clarified in the piece on Navroz by Sadruddin Hassam that is produced below.
Navroz Ginan recitation by Shamshu Bandali Haji
Navroz Ginan recitation of selected verses by Mumtaz Bhulji
An attempt is made in this article to give an interpretation of the devotional Ginan Navroz na din Sohamna, which is recited by Ismaili Jamats in many parts of the world on the occasion of the celebration of the Persian New Year which falls on March 21st. In this ginan the composer, Sayyid Fatehali Shah, relates the combined experience of the zahiri deedar (exoteric or physical glimpse or meeting) that he was granted by the 45th Ismaili Imam, Shah Khalilullah (peace be on him), and the inner joy of contentment and ecstasy that he experienced with the bestowal of Noorani (spiritual or esoteric) grace. At the same time, he gently persuades the mu’min (a believer) to always strive for esoteric understanding as well as to develop a lasting spiritual relationship with the Imam of the Time. It may be noted that in Shia Imami Ismaili theology each Imam is the bearer of the same Divine Light (Noor). The Divine Institution of Imamat has its origins in the first Shia Imam, Hazrat Ali (peace be on him), who was declared as the successor to Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) at the famous historical event at Ghadir-e-Khumm.
As the composer has to narrate the exoteric experience as well as the ineffable esoteric relationship, the ginanic diction that he uses has to resort to the traditional and familiar imagery and symbolic expressions in order to convey his message. The words, the imagery and the symbolic expressions, however, blend beautifully in this ginan. This beauty, unfortunately, cannot be recreated in this prosaic interpretation. Nor can we go into the prosody of the ginan.
In this reading we shall first address a common held misunderstanding about the identity of the composer. We shall then make an attempt to describe the exoteric experience of the composer’s meeting with the Imam, as so wonderfully narrated in the ginan, and finally we shall examine and interpret some of the key words and expressions to convey the ineffable spiritual experience as well as the composer’s gentle persuasion to the mu’mins. One hopes that this brief reading will heighten the reader’s appreciation and understanding of this ginan.
A clarification about the composer and the period of composition
The composition of this ginan is sometimes wrongly attributed to Pir Shams al-Din who lived more than four centuries before the actual composer of this ginan, Sayyid Fatehali Shah. This mistake may have arisen because of the pen-name he has used in the second line of the last verse which reads:
Bhane Shamsi tamme sambhro rookhi.
It was a normal practice for the composer to mention his own name in the concluding verses of the ginan. But Shamsi here does not refer to Pir Shams al-Din – rather it was the pen-name of Sayyid Fatehali Shah.
He, like a number of other Sayyids, who did the work of da’wa (propagation and teaching) in India, may have been a descendant of Pir Hassan Kabirdin. Sayyid Fatehali Shah himself preached among the communities in Sind. He eventually died there and was buried near Jerruk which is south of Hyderabad in Pakistan.
The first two lines in verse seven give us the clues as to the period when this ginan was composed as well as validate the real name of the composer. These lines read:
Eji gaddh Chakwa ne kille Shah Khalilullah ramme Tiyaan Fatehali ne mayya karine bolaawiyya
Shah Khalilullah here refers to the forty-fifth Ismaili Imam, whose Imamat was from 1780 to 1817 A.C. He lived in Iran in the town of Mahallat, which is located approximately 362 kilometers from Tehran. The town is situated on the slope of a mountain. Mahallat is also amongst the most ancient residential areas in Iran and was an important base of the Ismailis; hence the many references to the 46th and 47th Imams (Aga Khan I and II) as Aga Khan Mahallati. Sayyids and murids of the Imam from various parts used to come to Mahallat to pay their respects. This ginan is therefore fairly recent, having been composed either towards the end of eighteenth century or early in the nineteenth century.
It appears that like many other murids, Sayyid Fatehali Shah travelled from Sind to Iran to meet Hazrat Imam Shah Khalilullah.
On arriving in Mahallat on the day of Navroz, he learns that the Imam has gone to the woods on a hunting expedition. The Sayyid naturally feels disappointed that having come all the way, he did not have the opportunity for the deedar. This feeling of sadness is lamented in the first stanza of the ginan. Despite this, there is an undercurrent of inner hope at the prospect of having the deedar by the mercy of the Imam.
The pangs of separation from the beloved and the yearning for reunion are a recurrent theme in Ismaili ginans and also in Sufi mystical poetry. In this ginan, there is the lament of this separation, but in keeping with the traditional ginanic function, there is also gentle persuasion and hope of spiritual union.
We shall now examine how Sayyid Fatehali Shah relates his zaheri deedar of the Imam and how this blends with his esoteric experience.
The meeting with the Imam of the Time in the woods and at the fort
In the following four verses (1, 2, 3 and 7), Sayyid Shamsi relates his quest for the Master which leads to his meeting with Imam Shah Khalilullah. The meetings (deedar) fulfilled his intense yearning.
Eji Navroz na din sohamna, Shah Ali Qayam shikaar ramwa vann gaya, Sevak na mann thaya oodassi, Praan Ali charne rahiya…..1
Interpretive Translation and Explanation
On a beautiful day of Navroz, Imam-e-Zaman had gone to the woods to hunt. (I) His murid (disciple) became sad at heart (for missing my Master), as my soul was yearning to be at the feet of the Imam. (An expression of respect and – obedience to the Imam)….1
Navruz (Navroz – Gujrati variation) is a Persian word meaning ‘New Year’s Day’ (twenty-first March). This is the first day of spring, hence the day is beautiful (sohamna). Shah Ali Qayam refers to Imam-e-Zaman (Imam of the Time) because Noor-e-Imama is everpresent (qayam). Shikaar ramwa gaya means ‘went hunting’ and vann means ‘woods.’ Sevak is ‘one who is ready to serve or obey,’ in this case a ‘disciple’ or a ‘murid.’ Praan means ‘inner life’ or ‘soul.’
Eji Shah Qayam preete jo chint baandhi Nar ne preete amme vann gaya Eva vann sohamna Nar Qayam ditha, Dela dai devanta rahiya …..2
Interpretive Translation and Explanation
Impatient because of my ardent and deep loving desire to meet the Imam, I also went into the woods, which in the presence of the Imam unfolded like heavenly gates looking angelically beautiful….2
The expression preete jo chint baandhi literally means ‘with love when (one) focuses on the remembrance (dhikr).’ Dela dai devanta rahiya is an idiomatic expression implying ‘the unveiling of angelic (devanta) beauty with the opening of gates (dela).’ When the murid (devotee) searches inwards for the murshid (master), spiritual insight keeps on unveiling the gates with ever-increasing beauty.
Eji bhalu thayu Saahebe soomat aali, Shah Ali Qayam saathe ramwa amme vann gaya. Anant aasha poori amaari Shah dil bhaave gamya….3
Interpretive Translation and Explanation
It was a blessing that the Master inspired in me the wisdom so that I went into the woods. My intense yearning was fulfilled because true bliss had blossomed in my heart…..3
Saahebe soomat aali means ‘the Master inspired in me the wisdom.’ Anant asha poori amaari means ‘my intense yearning (for deedar, both zahiri and batini) was fulfilled.’
Eji gaddh Chakwa ne kille Shah Khalilullah ramme, Tiyaan Fatehaline mayya kari ne bolaawiya, Anant aasha poori amaari Neet Ali Noore oothiya….7
Interpretive Translation and Explanation
Shah Khalilullah, pleasantly relaxing at the fortress in Chakwa, graciously summoned me (Fatehali) in his presence; then with the constant overflowing of His Noor, fulfilled my many ardent wishes (for spiritual growth)….7
The expression Neet Ali Noore oothiya implies ‘the mystical experience of the overflowing of the Noorani Deedar of Ali (The Imam Eternal) which was granted (to him).’
The inner search and experience
In the remaining four verses (4, 5, 6 and 8 ) of the ginan, Sayyid Shamsi, touches upon his own inner yearnings and gently persuades the listener to seek out the spiritual vision through the love and grace of the spiritual lord.
Eji hette Alisu hirakh baandho, Avichal ranga Sahebse girahiya, Evi chint baandhi Nar Qayam saathe, Sat bhandaar motiye bhariya….4
Interpretive Translation and Explanation
Be joyfully bound in the love of Ali And attain the unfading spiritual color (the state of bliss) from the Master; When my mind was bound to the Ever-Living Lord in contemplation Reality adorned (the Soul) with priceless treasure of (Noorani) pearls….4
Avichal ranga Sahebse girahiya means ‘the permanent state of bliss from the Lord’ and refers to the nafs-i-mutmainna or ‘the contented self’ (Holy Qur’an, 89:27). It is a state of mind which is serene because the self has understood the Reality. The verse of the Holy Qur’an reads: But ah! thou soul at peace! (translated M. Pickthall).
Eji amme Saheb saathe sahel kidha, Riddh siddhaj paamiya, Ek mann ginan je saambhre Aa jeev tena odhariya….5
Interpretive Translation and Explanation
I (Fatehali) relished the spiritual journey with the Master (the Imam), and (as a result) I was blessed with spiritual elevation and gnosis (spiritual insight). He who listens to the Ginans attentively (and strives for the contemplative knowledge), his soul finds the path to salvation….5
Here the Sayyid implies that a mu’min should strive for the batini deedar (spiritual reality of the Imam). One may achieve this with the blessing of the Imam.
Eji jeev jiyaare joogat paame, Praan popey ramm rahiya, Agar chandan prem rasiya, Hette hans sarowar zeeliya…..6
Interpretive Translation and Explanation
When the self understands reality, the soul blends beautifully like a flower and experiences musk and sandalwood-like fragrance. The self floats in ecstasy of love as a swan swims in a lake….6
This verse contains symbolic expressions and imagery to convey the ineffable serenity and the inner joy of the fortunate one who has been graced with the the batini (esoteric) experience. The life of such a person becomes beautiful like a flower.
The fragrance of musk (agar) and sandalwood (chandan) symbolizes good behavior of the gifted one through speech and good deeds.
The swan (hans) represents the soul that is pure. Through esoteric and ecstatic experiences it remains liberated and is in abiding love for the beloved.
Eji bhai re moman tamey bhaave araadho, Bhane Shamsi tamey saambhro rookhi, Saaheb na goon nahi wisaare, Tena praan nahi thashe dookhi….8
Interpretive Translation and Explanation
O momin brothers! With deep affection remember the Lord. Take heed and listen to what Shamsi says: “They who do not forget the batin of the Imam (realizable through Imam’s grace), their souls will never ever be miserable or unhappy”…..8
Sayyid Shamsi gently reminds his momin brothers (rookhi) always to remember the Lord with affection. Here, rookhi is probably the intimate form of the word rikhisar which is used in the ginans to refer to mu’min brothers. The word has been used thus to rhyme with the last word of the stanza dookhi (miserable).
The last two lines are to remind us not to forget the batin of the Imam but to strive towards it through regular prayers. Those who carry out these responsibilities with dedication and devotion can never be unhappy whatever the worldly life might impose upon them. Thus the souls of the true mu’mins will always be at peace within themselves, knowing that they are under the protection and guidance of a living manifest Imam.
“Remember the Day when we will summon all human beings with their Imam. …” – The Holy Qur’an 17:71
From the above discourse, we can see why the ginan is appropriate for the occasion of Navroz, which marks the commencement of a new year. The glorious transformation of nature in spring reminds us of the creative power of Allah, who continually showers His bounties for us. Thus, the festival of Navroz should effect a spiritual renewal in each one of us. It should inspire greater love for Imam-e-Zaman as is enjoined upon us by Allah and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him).
This Navroz ginan by Sayyid Fatehali Shah reminds us of our spiritual obligations for continuous search for enlightenment through the Ta’alim (teachings and guidance) of the Imam of the time.
Date posted: March 19, 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.
This reading has been adapted by Simerg from the original article, “Eji Navroz Na Din Sohamna – An Interpretation,” by Sadrudin K. Hassam, which appeared in Ilm, Volume 9, Number 2, (March 1985).
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.
[Before leaving this page, please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to a vast and rich collection of articles and photographs published on this blog as well as its two sister blogs Barakah and Simergphotos.]
…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. 
The festival of Eid ul-Fitr, 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 the current crisis humanity faces from the Covid-19 pandemic should end quickly, so that everyone’s lives may start returning to normal. Life after Covid-19 will never be the same as before due to the lifestyle changes we have gone through, and some measures such as physical distancing will probably remain with us for a long time.
We also pray 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 are foundation block 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
“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)
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 2020, this falls on May 15.
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: May 14, 2020.
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.
A Note to Readers: Please clickTable of Contents for links to all articles published on this blog since March 2009. Subscribe to this Website via the box near the top right of this page.
“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.