At Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos: 1946 Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Medal, 1957 Aga Khan Pemba Visit, Hazrat Ali, Aga Khan Park, Ismaili Authors and Mrs. Merchant

1946 His Highness the Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee

Photographs and story of a historical gold medal that was presented to a British Colonial Officer at the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in 1946 (READ ARTICLE).


Ismaili Authors: Zeni Shariff

Little One, You Are the Universe by Ismaili author Zeni Shariff of Toronto Canada

Toronto based Ismaili artist and author introduces “Little One, You are the Universe,” the latest of her three books, by answering a series of short question (READ ARTICLE).


1957 Pemba Visit by His Highness the Aga Khan

Kamruddin Rashid and Shah Abdulla, both originally from Pemba, share their rare photo collection of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 1957 historical visit to the towns of Chake Chake and Wete in the Island of Pemba (READ ARTICLE).


Ginan for Hazrat Ali’s Birth Anniversary

The unforgettable (Late) Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji inspires us with selected Ginanic verses as we commemorate the birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the 1st Shia Imam (READ ARTICLE).


Calligraphy, Hazrat Ali Quotes and Imamat for Yawm-e Ali

Hazrat Ali Calligraphy by Karim Ismail

Karim Ismail of Toronto creates a beautiful calligraphy in commemoration of Hazrat Ali’s birth anniversary. The post includes inspiring quotes by Hazrat Ali and his direct descendant His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Hereditary Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. There is also a calligraphy of the prayer of Nadi Ali (READ ARTICLE).


Aga Khan Park on Valentine’s Day

Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome.

Close to his heart, the Aga Khan Park is where Malik Merchant heads to for a Valentine’s Day celebration (READ ARTICLE).


Ismaili Authors: Shamas Nanji

Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity" by Edmonton based Shamas Nanji

Edmonton based Ismaili author and philosopher answers a series of question about his book Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity through which readers will learn about the Canadian past from outside the boxes of patriarchy and whiteness (READ ARTICLE).


Passings: Mrs. Merchant

Mrs. Merchant

Creative writer Farah Tejani pens a poetic tribute to the iconic Ismaili religious education teacher and missionary Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant who passed away recently at the age of 89 (READ ARTICLE).

Date posted: February 27, 2021.


Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah: Download Our Book and Listen to an Audio

November 2, 2020 marks the 143rd birth anniversary of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, the 48th hereditary Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. We invite you to download our marvellous publication “The Imam of the Socio-Economic Revolution” which is bundled with plenty of inspiring and informative stories, articles and unique points of view. Please click HERE to download the book, and listen to the following presentation of a small piece from the book.

Audio Reading: The Face of Imamat

A short reading on Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan

For the full version of this post, including a transcript of the audio, please click on Barakah.

Date posted: November 2, 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.

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

2017 Collection: 30+ Photos including 1899 Bagamoyo Landing Site of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and 2017 Diamond Jubilee Visits of Mawlana Hazar Imam

PLEASE CLICK: From the Bagamoyo Landing Site of the 48th Ismaili Imam to the Diamond Jubilee visits of the 49th Imam His Highness the Aga Khan

Photo: Asia Society, New York. Please click for a selection of more photos as well as videos and quotes from our 2017 posts.

Date posted: December 26, 2017


His Highness the Aga Khan: What we are now reading

Please click on photos or Barakah

Aga Khan receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Asia Society.


140 years: From birth of Aga Khan III to Diamond Jubilee of Aga Khan IV.


Aga Khan 1979 Asia Society Speech: “Building City of God and Man”









Date posted: November 2, 2017.

Bagamoyo Beach Landing: Where Aga Khan III first arrived to East African Soil by Zahir Dhalla

It was here, well over a century ago, in 1899, that a young 22-year-old Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, came by yacht from Zanzibar, the first Ismaili Imam ever to set foot on East African soil, in the then German East Africa….READ MORE

Bagamoyo Beach Landing from the Jamatkhana/Cemetery grounds. Photo: © Copyright Zahir K. Dhalla 2017. Please click on photo for article.

Date posted: August 19, 2017.



Thoughtful Interviews and Inspiring Stories by Ismaili Youth of Meetings with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah

Great Stories and Conversations.png

Publisher/Editor, Simerg

Thousands of readers have been clicking in recent weeks to read earlier pieces published on this website, which was was founded some 8 years ago. The interest in older articles has encouraged us to continue with this second part in an on-going series that is designed to draw our readers’ attention to previously published articles that may have been overlooked or forgotten. Also, over the years our readership has grown, and this is an opportunity for new readers to review and read material from the earlier years. Of course, our Table of Contents is another way to access more than 900 pieces!

Here, we provide links to three thoughtful interviews as well as four extraordinary and inspiring accounts of Ismaili youth who visited Europe during the 1950’s, and had golden opportunities of meeting the 48th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah.

(Please click on links or photos to read the pieces)

 1. Astrophysicist Arif Babul on Galaxies, God, Science Education and Community Aspirations (20,000 Views)

Arif Babul

Arif Babul

“Imagine you’re sitting in a bubble bath full of big bubbles, and you have a whole bunch of bubbles stacked up against each other. If you took some glitter and sprinkled it over these bubbles, the sparkly little bits of paper would stick to the bubbles’ surface. Inside the bubbles there would be no flakes, but the surfaces of the bubbles would be coated with them. That’s a good description of the way galaxies are distributed throughout our universe – think of the flack of glitter as galaxies.”…Read More


2. Maria Cook on the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat (10,000 Views)

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat which was opened on December 8, 2008.

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat which was opened on December 8, 2008.

“I asked him [His Highness the Aga Khan] how he kept his focus and energy. He replied that he surrounded himself with people who were very good at what they do and also many dedicated volunteers. He said he was inspired every day by their efforts and devotion to excellence.”….Read More


3. Architect Bruno Freschi on the Burnaby Ismaili Centre (3,700 Views)

Mr. Freschi with His Highness the Aga Khan and the Honourable Henry Bell-Irving, Lieutenant-Governor General of British Columbia

Mr. Freschi with His Highness the Aga Khan and the Honourable Henry Bell-Irving, Lieutenant-Governor General of British Columbia

In a personal message to Mr. Bruno Freschi dated 20th October, 1985, His Highness the Aga Khan wrote: “With my deep and sincere gratitude for conceiving, designing and buiding a Jamatkhana and Centre which represent our respect for our past, our belief of today, and our hope for the future.The Ismaili Jamath worldwide, and I, are proud of your remarkable achievement.”….Read More


4. On Meeting the Noorani Family – My Voyage to Europe by Badrudin Adatia (15,400 Views)

The late Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III pictured with Badrudin Adatia.

The late Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III pictured with Badrudin Adatia.

“I wanted to take picture of him [His Highness the Aga Khan] with us and I asked his permission. The room was dim, however, and I didn’t have a flash on my camera. Although he was very sick and could not even walk, he told me he would head toward the window where there would be better light. Imagine! I clasped my hands with respect and said, “No Khudavind. I will take the picture just as we are.” …Read More


5. Rare Moment With Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah by Akber Premji  (3,500 Views)

Mr. Akber Premji seated next to Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Begum Aga Khan.

Mr. Akber Premji seated next to Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Begum Aga Khan.

“….I got an opportunity of a photo with Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat. First, I went and sat on the ground and the Imam did not quite consent to this. Then, I went and stood behind them and this was also not accepted. The Imam directed that I come and sit between him and Mata Salamat. With great reluctance, I squeezed myself in. What an opportunity and a blessing!”….Read More


6. An Audience with the 48th Ismaili Imam by Ali Rajput (3,600 Views)

Dr. Rajput at Yakimour, with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat

Dr. Rajput at Yakimour, with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat

“My child, you are going to UK, very different to your country of origin, always remember my words of advice and never forget as it is for your own good. Pick up their good principles and make them your own, and leave their vices and bad habits to them alone. The good habits, you should adopt are their truthfulness, punctuality, sense of duty and the bad habits you must reject are, drinking, smoking, gambling and other vices. Your foremost duty is to attend to your educational activities and never forget your religious obligation.”…. Read More


7. Fond Memories of Salamieh and Yakymour by Abdul Mamdani (2,200 Views)

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah with Abdul Mamdani.

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah with Abdul Mamdani.

Now, when in Salamieh, Emir Muhammad Mulheim had taken me to a room in his house where his mother was waiting to see me. I was requested to look at the mother and told that should I be blessed with Mawla’s Didar in Europe, she wanted me to remember her face so she could attain Mawla’s Didar through my eyes. Regrettably, in the Imam’s presence I failed to recall this request. However, Mawla asked me, “And who else did you see?” I was surprised at this question and took a minute or so to think. Then, it came to me and I replied: “Mawla, I saw Prince Muhammad Mulheim’s mother,” and Mawla patted my shoulder and said “Khanavadhan, Khanavadhan”….Read More

Date posted: February 5, 2017.

Simerg’s Highly Popular Articles Over the Years: (1) 7 Great Pieces Including Daman’s Khoja Ismailis, Rumi’s Snake Catcher Story and Aga Khan’s Road to Happiness

Publisher/Editor, Simerg

On an occasional basis, Simerg will be drawing its readers’ attention to popular pieces published on this website over the past almost eight years. Likewise, in the course of this series I shall be informing readers about many extraordinary pieces that have not received the readership they deserve. For now, here are links to 7 pieces with more than 9,000 views each. Other popular articles will be mentioned, 7 at a time, in the coming year.

(for articles, please click on links or photos)


1. PLEASE CLICK: A Brief History of the Khoja Ismaili Community in Daman, India, from the Portuguese Period to the Present by Toral Pradhan, first published October 7, 2013.

The original Daman jamatkhana, above, and a neighbouring Parsee house, below. The jamatkhana was closed in the 1960′s due to its condition.

Old jamatkhana – Daman Khoja history.



2. PLEASE CLICK: Two Tales from Rumi: The Snake-Catcher and the Serpent & The Elephant and the Travellers by Zayn Kassam, March 3, 2011.

Illustration by Fatima Hirji. Copyright.

Rumi’s Snake Catcher Story.



3. PLEASE CLICK: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale, August 18, 2010.

His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo Credit: Politique Interntional

Aga Khan Interview: Power of Wisdom.



4. PLEASE CLICK: Timeline of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Awards and Honour by Mohib Ebrahim, January 2010.

Aga Khan Timeline

Aga Khan Timeline



5. PLEASE CLICK: The Story of Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an by Jehangir Merchant (Revised), Originally published on October 6, 2011.

Noah's Ark.

Noah’s Ark.



6. PLEASE CLICK: The Road to Happiness and The Concept of Life by His Highness the Aga Khan III, November 14, 2009.

Road to Happiness

Road to Happiness



7. PLEASE CLICK: The Preamble Of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”, December 10, 2010.

Preamble Ismaili Constitution

Preamble Ismaili Constitution

We wish to record our deep appreciation to thousands of readers who visit Simerg and its sister websites regularly and send us feedback, and to all our contributors for the great articles and photo essays that they have submitted for publication for the reading pleasure and enjoyment of our readers around the world — we have gained richly from their knowledge and the fresh insights they have provided.

We wish everyone a very happy and prosperous new year.

At the same time we pray for peace in lands where there are brutal conflicts resulting in loss of life and unimaginable injuries, and where people, especially children, have to endure pain and sorrow everyday.

Date posted: Friday, December 30, 2016.
Last updated: December 31, 2016 (2:35 am EST, corrected stats).


Premji Vaghela, Now a Centenarian, Shares Early Memories of Cricket in Dar-es-Salaam and a Rare Historical Photo of His Highness the Aga Khan

Editor’s note: Naren Varambhia, an avid reader of Simerg residing in London, England, recently brought to our attention a piece on cricket which Premji Vaghela had contributed for a “Dar-es-Salaam Jambo Reunion” that took place in Toronto, Canada, on August 9-10, 1997.

Mr. Premji Vaghela is now a hundred years old and lives in Toronto, Canada: Photo: Premji Vaghela Collection. Copyright.

Mr. Premji Vaghela is now a hundred years old and lives in Toronto, Canada: Photo: Premji Vaghela Collection. Copyright.

We are pleased to publish this highly interesting piece after contacting Mr. Vaghela’s sons, Rajnikant and Niranjan of London and Toronto respectively. We learnt from them that their beloved father has been living in Toronto since 1985, and that the family celebrated his 100th birthday last December! We offer our good wishes to Mr. Vaghela and his entire family for this blessing of a long life.

Both Rajni and Niru mentioned that they have stayed in touch with several Dar-es-Salaam cricketers, including Ismaili cricketers Hasnu Kalyan, Mamda Kassam and Badru Bhamji who played for the Aga Khan Club and Tanzanian national cricket squad for many years.

We are indebted to Mr. Vaghela’a family for this memorable and historical piece, which includes a very rare photo of the 48th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, meeting cricketers Mamda Kassam and Premji Vaghela, among others, at Dar-es-Salaam’s Gymkhana cricket ground.

Mr. Premji Vaghela was awarded the cup on the left for scoring 150 runs in a cricket match. The plaque on the right was given to him for his contribution to the Hindu Sports Club. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

Mr. Premji Vaghela was awarded the cup on the left for scoring 150 runs in a cricket match. The plaque on the right was given to him for his contribution to the Hindu Sports Club. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

My School Days and Cricket


I was born in Dar es Salaam in 1915 when the British were bombing Dar, when it was under German rule, and the people took shelter in the Jangwani Creek.

I started playing cricket bare-footed at the age of seven with a tennis ball and a locally made wooden bat. Dar streets were our  playgrounds and street lamp posts or dust-bins were our wickets. Those days, in the early twenties, the streets were safe to play in as there were no cars — only rickshaws. Few cars were seen after 1931.

I studied in a Gujarati school called Lokmanya Tilak Memorial School, where Arya Sukh Shanti Lodge is presently situated. After 1918, Tanganyika was called British Protected Territory. The Indian Central School (ICS) was built by the Government in 1929. All the teachers were recruited from India. All the students — boys and  girls — from Tilak school were transferred to this new school. The first headmaster of the new school was Mr. N. O. Mody, a very strict disciplinarian He introduced cricket in the school. It was this school that supplied the most cricketers to all the communal teams in Dar-es-Salaam till 1960.

I earned my name as a bowler and batsman. My first century came in 1932 against the Punjebhai Club (later known as the Aga Khan Club). We did well in the League Tournament. In the knockout tournament in 1934, the school came in the final against the British Gymkhana Club. I scored 150 runs and we piled up a huge score of over 300 runs. We won the knock-out Cup.

In 1932, Mr. A.A. M  Isherwood, then the Director of Education, donated a cup called the “Isherwood Cup”* (see note below) for cricket to be competed by the schools in Dar. There were only two schools at that time: the ICS and the Aga Khan School. We won the trophy  in 1932. It was a coincidence that in 1956 — almost after 25 years —  my son Rajni, when he was school captain, brought the same trophy home. I left the school in 1935. The school had a very good reputation in cricket.

Please click on photo for enlargement

His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 - 1957), 48th Imam of Ismailis, meeting with Mamda Kassam, Premji Vaghela and others at the Gymkhana Cricket Ground in Dar-es-Salaam. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 – 1957), 48th Imam of Ismailis, meeting with Mamda Kassam, Premji Vaghela and others at the Gymkhana Cricket Ground in Dar-es-Salaam. Photo: Premji Vaghela Family Collection. Copyright.

In 1936, I joined the Indian Sports Club. At that time there were few teams competing in the League Tournament – the “Sachu Pira Shield”. One of the conditions of League matches was that whichever team won for three consecutive years, would retain the Shield forever. In 1936, 1937 and 1938, the Indian Sports Club were the winners and won the Shield permanently. Today, the Shield is on  display in G.M. Sulemanji’s Hardware shop window on Independence Avenue (then Acacia Avenue).

Many young and promising players were coming out from the school, and there were not sufficient teams to accommodate them.  Consequently, the Indian Sports Club was split into two communal teams: the Hindus and the Bohras. The Goans, the Ithnasharis and the Aga Khan teams were already there. By 1940, many other teams cropped up; Punjab Sports Club, the Maratha Mandal, Sinhalese Sports Club  and Malabar Sports Club were new additions. Customs Sports Club and the P.W.D. also joined the cricket competition. The Khalsas and the Goans were the main hockey rivals.

On match days, the whole Asian population turned out on the Gymkhana and the Government Service cricket grounds which were adjacent to each other. The whole atmosphere was like festivals. Machunga (oranges), makai (corn), madafu (coconut), sekela-bafela jugu  (fried-boiled peanuts) and ndhizi (plantains) were always in demand.

I must also mention names of two Englishmen: Mr. F. H. Woodrow, the Director of P.W.D, and Mr. Hudson, the Commissioner of Customs and Excise. They both took keen interest in promoting cricket. There were not enough cricket grounds in Dar then. Mr. Woodrow gave the P.W.D. ground, and Karimjee donated the Bohra’s ground. I consider it only fair to mention the name of Seth Abdulkarim Y.A. Karimjee, of the wealthy and philanthropic Karimjee Jivanjee family. He always supported the cause of cricket  in Dar. He was a good cricketer himself and a thorough sportsman. He was kind, helpful and unassuming.

I should not also forget the grand old man, Count Kassum Sunderji Samji, who donated trophies to cricket and tennis competitions in Dar. He always supported sports one way or the other.

Cricket was the most popular sport in Dar. The competitors were keen and played in high spirit. Sometimes, the communal tension was high, particularly when the Hindus and the Aga Khan Clubs were playing. At times the police were called to control the overenthusiastic supporters of both sides! However, on and off the field, the personal relationship between the players was always cordial and friendly.

Cricket was also played in Mwanza, Tabora, Dodoma, Moshi and Tanga. Cricket was particularly popular in schools and carried on by kids playing in the streets.

Perhaps the most enjoyable competition, for almost all cricketers, was when Dar and Zanzibar used to visit each other every year in early August. Every alternate year we used to play in Zanzibar and vice versa. Many tourists used to accompany the teams and create considerable excitement and jubilation, just like a big festival!

In order to strengthen their side during the final or critical stage in the competition, it was a practice among certain teams to import players from Zanzibar, Mombasa and other centres, during the weekends. Such practices later on were banned by the Dar-es-Salaam Cricket Association.

Unfortunately, the status of cricket has changed considerably due to various reasons: shortage of cricket grounds, lack of encouragement in schools and the high cost of cricket gear·. Considering all these factors, I think cricket will eventually die out in Dar. This is the unfortunate reality of life.

During my cricket career in Dar-es-Salaam, I scored five centuries and taken a great many wickets. These were, undoubtedly, the happiest years of my life.

Date posted: June 5, 2016.

Copyright: Premji Vaghela.


*The Isherwood cup was played in Dar for many years until the late 1960’s. The editor of this blog played in the Isherwood cup for Shabaan Robert from 1967-1969, and featured prominently in the school’s victories during the 3 year period. Pranlal Divecha and Tahir along with Ismaili brothers Shiraz and Abdul Sumar were the top ranked players for Shabaan Robert when they shockingly defeated the favourites Aga Khan Secondary in the 1965 semi-finals/finals. All four went on to play for the Tanzanian squad. Prior to 1965, the cup was dominated for several years by Aga Khan School, whose arch rival was Azania School, located near Muhimbili Hospital. All rounder John Solanki was one of the most well-known players for Aga Khan Secondary — the all-rounder went on to play for England’s county team, Glamorgan, during the 1970’s. By 1971, the Isherwood cup became a non-entity, as there wasn’t any competitive spirit or interest left in the game at the school level. We will be happy to receive an update on the state of Tanzanian school cricket today, and whether the Isherwood has been revived– ed. 

Share your cricket memories of Dar-es-Salaam and other parts of East Africa. Click Leave a comment or write/send photos to All correspondence will be promptly acknowledged.

What is the state of cricket in Dar-es-Salaam today? Has cricket become a mainstream sport? Please submit your feedback at Leave a comment.

An Anecdote Illustrating the Wisdom and Judgement of His Highness the Aga Khan: “I was Serving No Ordinary Man” by the Late Michael Curtis

Aga Khan Photos by Azhar Chaudhry - 004

His Highness the Aga Khan being greeted by Mr. Michael Curtis of the Nation Group. Photo: Azhar Chaudhry. Sultan Jessa Collection.

Mr. Michael Curtis, a British Fleet Street editor and executive, was introduced to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, just as he had been proclaimed the 49th Ismaili Imam by his grandfather, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III.  His recruitment as a staff of His Highness was intended as a short term assignment as a speech writer and publicity organizer during a series of public appearances in Asia and Africa related to the Aga Khan’s installation as Imam. This brief assignment, however, grew into an engagement with His Highness that spanned several decades. The visionary Michael Curtis — who was noted by UK’s Guardian Newspaper as being 50 years ahead of his time in the paper’s obituary to the journalist — was asked to establish the Nation Media Group, which started publishing the Sunday Nation and subsequently the Daily Nation in Kenya, competing successfully with the existing colonial newspapers, the Tanganyika Standard and the East African Standard. At the culmination of the process of Africanising the Nation Group, Michael Curtis stepped down in 1977, after pioneering the introduction of the first web-offset presses installed outside the United States as well as increasing the Nation’s circulation to 165,000 and a readership reputed to touch three million.

Mr. Curtis moved to His Highness the Aga Khan’s Headquarters in Aiglemont, France, where he oversaw the Ismaili Imamat’s rapidly expanding non-denominational health and educational activities throughout South Asia and East Africa, until his retirement in 1994.

Michael Howard Curtis, who was born in Cambridge in 1920, died from cancer in 2004 at the age 84.

The following is an excerpt from a piece written by Mr. Michael Curtis for the Daily Nation’s special souvenir published on the occasion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s wedding in 1969 to Princess Salimah.

“I was Serving No Ordinary Man”

BY MICHAEL CURTIS (1920 – 2004)

It was 12 years ago in Dar-es-Salaam in October 1957. Prince Karim, His Highness the Aga Khan, was to be installed as successor to his grandfather in the first of a series of elaborate ceremonies to be held that year throughout Africa and Asia.

As personal aide to His Highness, I had gone ahead as part of an advance party and was greeted by the local leaders who told me that a serious problem had arisen. The only other such ceremony in living memory had taken place 72 years before in Bombay, when Aga Khan III had succeeded to the Imamate.

Not surprisingly, there was some doubt about the form the service would take and it seemed that an acute difference of opinion had arisen as to which verses of the Koran should be included. There was clearly nothing to be done but to await a ruling from the Aga Khan himself.

It was an unforgettable scene and took place in one of the state rooms of Government House where the Aga Khan was guest of the Colonial Governor at that time, the late Lord Twining. The Ismaili leaders were seated, as is their custom, cross-legged in a semi-circle around their young Imam and the two factions elaborated their different points of view.

To a non-Muslim the arguments were difficult to follow, but it was clear to me that a strong difference of opinion existed and that the Aga Khan would be called upon to resolve a ticklish point of theological doctrine.

This was the first occasion on which he had been called to exercise the responsibilities bequeathed to him by his grandfather. Still an undergraduate at Harvard, he looked very young, a trifle pale and tense as he listened to the rival claimants. There was a pause as they finished. Then the Aga Khan asked a question which obviously puzzled his followers. “Who,” he asked, “will recite the verses you wish me to decide upon?”

A chorus of voices assured him that a young man from Zanzibar had been procured for the recitation and that his fame as a psalmodist of the Koran was acclaimed far and wide.

“If that is so,” said His Highness, “let this young man suggest those verses in which his ability is most outstanding and thereafter I shall decide which particular chapters and verses will be selected.”

It was a solution that delighted everyone. The opposing factions accepted it gladly, for neither had lost face. The choirboy for certain would sing as he had never sung before — which in truth he did the following afternoon. It was a decision which reflected the instinctive simplicity of true wisdom and first revealed to me that I was serving no ordinary man.

I have related this tale before, and if I repeat it today it is because I know of no other anecdote which more aptly illustrates his wisdom and judgement.

Date posted: February 15, 2016.


Profile of Mr. Michael Curtis compiled from Wikipedia, The Guardian and the Daily Telegraph. Please click on, and the references cited in the article.

Rare Video: A Glimpse of the Hajj from 61 Years Ago, With Footage of Mata Salamat, the Begum Aga Khan

Mata Salamat Begum Aga Khan at the Hajj

Om Habibeh, Mata Salamat, the Begum Aga Khan (1906-2000) at the Hajj in 1954. According to the footage she was accompanied by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan (Mohammad Ali Bogra). Click on image below to watch the rare video

Date posted: November 26, 2015