Date posted: December 26, 2017
Date posted: December 26, 2017
Date posted: November 2, 2017.
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
Date posted: August 19, 2017.
BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
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)
“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
“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
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
“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
“….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
“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
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.
BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
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)
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).
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.
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.
BY PREMJI VAGHELA
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
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.
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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.
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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Curtis_(journalist), and the references cited in the article.
Date posted: November 26, 2015
His Highness the Aga Khan will deliver the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs on 12 November. Entitled “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World”, his lecture is expected to cover the challenges to pluralism and cosmopolitanism. After the lecture there will be a conversation with Diana L. Eck
Although tickets for the lecture are no longer available, the entire event will be webcast live on http://www.akdn.org starting at 4pm EST.
Please check this website again on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, for speech and interview excerpts as well as a fine selection of photographs related to the event.
ON HIM BECOMING THE 49TH IMAM
“The summer before his senior year, Prince Karim Khan ’58 received unexpected news. His grandfather, His Highness Aga Khan III, had died, and his will named Karim — fondly known by his classmates as ‘K’ — as his successor, making him Aga Khan IV. And so, at 20 years old, Karim became the leader of the Ismaili Muslims, a sect of Shia Islam with over 15 million followers who consider him a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
“Once Karim became the Aga Khan, the Islamic history concentrator no longer led a student’s life.
“[Aga Khan III] plucked K right out of the College,” said David H. Rhinelander ’58, one of Karim’s freshman roommates in Wigglesworth Hall. “He moved to a hotel and had to begin to run his empire while he was a student.” — Excerpts from an article by Nini S Moorhead published in the Harvard Crimson, June 2008.
“The varsity soccer team opens its season this afternoon against Tufts and the game will be one of experimentation for Crimson coach Bruce Munro. He has had to revamp his lineup several times because of an alarming number of injured personnel, including Karim Aga Khan, the starting outside left. Larry Ekpebu will start for Khan at outside left, while Ken Marmar will open at outside right.” — Harvard Crimson, October 1, 1958.
“Karim Aga Khan ’59, who graduates with the Class of 1959 tomorrow, has established a ten-year program of scholarships for students attending Harvard from India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Persia, and East Africa.
“In a statement, the Aga Khan said that he will never regret his decision, after succeeding to his grandfather’s title, to return to Harvard to his studies. He added that he was ‘particularly impressed by the recent growth of facilities for the study of Middle Eastern and Asian affairs’.” — Harvard Crimson, June 10, 1959.
LAUNCH OF ARCHNET
“The Aga Khan ’59, spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims, joined the presidents of Harvard and MIT Friday to launch the world’s largest online resource for scholars of Islamic architecture.
“The resource, called ArchNet, contains over 600,000 images of Islamic architecture, tools for discussion and collaboration online among scholars and access to key journals of Islamic architecture. Harvard served as one of the primary collaborators in the creation of the site.
“Those speaking at Friday’s launch said they hoped the free site would provide architects, urban-planners and academics in resource-poor areas the tools they need to study, and give the Western public an opportunity to experience Islamic culture.
“In a brilliant way, [ArchNet] combines new technology and ancient culture to do something that is really quite important,” University President Lawrence H. Summers said in his remarks to the 150-person audience at MIT’s Media Laboratory.” — Harvard Crimson, September 30, 2002.
HONORARY DOCTOR OF LAWS DEGREE
FLASHBACK TO THE 48TH IMAM AND HARVARD
“The Aga Khan, world-famous leader of the Ismaili Community, a sect of the Moslem religion, has endowed a professorship of Iranian at the University, President Pusey announced yesterday.
“The chair, to be known as the Aga Khan Professorship of Iranian, will be devoted to the study of the history and civilization of Iran. Its purpose, according to the Khan, is “to preserve and transmit to future generations knowledge of the rich heritage of the Iranian past.”
“At the same time, Sadruddin Aga Khan, son of the Aga Khan, has established the Ismaili Community Fellowships for the study of the Middle East here.
“In announcing the gifts, Pusey said, ‘The sentiment of the Aga Khan and his son, Sadruddin, in thus fostering the growth of understanding between the East and the West is one we all deeply share. Certainly, all peoples around the world need to know and better understand the cultural heritage of those who are our neighbors in the modern age’.” — Excerpts from the Harvard Crimson, December 6, 1956
Date posted: November 11-12, 2015.
Please visit http://www.thecrimson.com – the daily newspaper of Harvard
IRRESPECTIVE OF AGE, THE ISMAILI IMAM’S STATUS IS EXALTED
“O Jamat do not consider me small. I am the descendant of the Prophet and my grandfather is Hazrat Amirul Mominin (Hazrat Ali) and my grandmother is Khatoon-e-Janat (the Lady of Paradise) Hazrat Bibi Fatima. I am the Light (Nur) of both Hazrat Ali and the Prophet (Muhammad). Though young in age I am exalted. We Imams change the physical bodies in this world but our Nur is eternal and originates from the very beginning. You should therefore take it as one Nur. The Light of God is ever present. The Throne of the Imamat of Mawlana Murtaza Ali continues and it will remain till the Day of Judgement.” — Quoted in “Le Renovation du Shiisme Ismailien en Inde et au Pakistan” by Michele Boivien. Click to Read More in a Special Photo Essay.
In about 20 months, on July 11, 2017, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan (addressed as Mawlana Hazar Imam by his Ismaili community) will, inshallah, complete 60 years of his reign as the 49th hereditary Imam of his worldwide followers. He became the Imam upon the death of his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, who had reigned the community for 72 years, having become the 48th Imam in August 1885 at the age of 7. The quotes mentioned at the top of this post refer to his young age when he became Imam. He was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877.
The late Imam went on to describe his own Diamond Jubilee, 60 years of Imamat, as an “incomparable occasion.” In this piece, we mark Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s 138th birth anniversary (which falls on November 2, 2015) with a collection of memorable photos, messages and quotes, particularly as they relate to his Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees that the Ismailis celebrated during his life time.
Date posted: November 1, 2015.