Two Insightful and Profound Interviews of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Ismaili Muslims belong to the Shia branch of Islam, the other branch being the Sunnis who form the Muslim majority. His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th Hereditary spiritual leader or Imam of the Ismailis and is directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) through his son-in-law, Ali (A.S.), who was married to the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima (A.S.). Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali were also first cousins — their respective fathers Abd al-Muttalib and  Abu Talib were brothers.

According to Shia Muslims, the Prophet had designated Ali to succeed him as the Imam. The Sunnis dispute this, and Muslims have remained divided over this contentious matter for centuries. However, in their book, “History in Quotations”, which reflects five thousand years of World History, the authors M. J. Cohen and John Major write as follows: 

“Muhammad said: ‘He of whom I am the Mawla (patron), Ali is his Mawla. O God, be the friend of him who is his friend and be the enemy of his enemy.’ 

“This became the proof text for the Shia claim that Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, was the Prophet’s rightful successor after the Prophet’s death in 632. The meaning of Mawla here probably implies the role of patron, lord or protector.” 

The authors, Cohen and Major, sum up by stating that through the use of the term Mawla, Muhammad was giving Ali the parity with himself in this function.

Over the course of history, the Shia Muslims split into a number of branches over the succession of Imams descended from Ali. The first major split occurred during the 8th century, two centuries after the passing of Prophet Muhammad, following the reign of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, when one group considered his son Musa Kazim as the rightful Imam. The other group regarded Imam Ja’far’s elder son, Ismail, as the rightful successor. Musa Kazim’s successors continued until the 12th Imam, who is then said to have gone into hiding. This group of Shia Muslims, awaiting the re-appearance of the hidden 12th Imam to take part in the final judgement, forms the Shia majority in Iran and Iraq. They are known as the Twelver Shias or Ithnashries.

The group that held to Imam Ismail became known as the Ismailis and continue to thrive today under the Hereditary leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan, who is respectfully addressed by his Ismaili Muslim followers as Hazar Imam (the present living Imam). Thus, the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely the Aga Khan.

Naheed Nenshi Mayor Calgary Simerg
Naheed Nenshi, left, at an event in Ottawa.

Having recently re-established myself as a resident of Alberta after 40 years, and to put the Ismailis and their Hereditary 49th Imam, the Aga Khan, into an Albertan perspective, I should like to mention that Naheed Nenshi, who served as Calgary’s mayor for three terms from 2010 until 2021 is an Ismaili Muslim. Readers are invited to read his piece in the Globe and Mail, Why I’m grateful for the Aga Khan’s extraordinary service to humanity (a subscription or registration may be required to read the article).

Salma Lakhani, 19th Lieutenant Governor Alberta, Simerg
The Honourable Salma Lakhani

It is noteworthy that Her Honour, the Honourable Salma Lakhani, who was installed as the 19th Lieutenant Governor on August 26, 2020, is also an Ismaili Muslim, and her profile can be read on this website by clicking HERE. The piece also has a link to an interview that Canadian Geographic conducted with her.

In Edmonton, the spectacular 4.8-hectare Aga Khan Garden within the University of Alberta’s Botanic Garden was gifted by the Aga Khan as “a symbol of the continued intellectual, educational and cultural collaboration between the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan Development Network.” The Botanic Garden will open for the 2022 season on May 7th, and is a MUST visit site, according to Hundreds of Google and Tripadvisor reviews. I look forward to publishing a special photo essay in the near future on the Botanic Garden, with a focus on the Aga Khan Garden.

Story continues below

Aga Khan Garden Edmonton, part of Aga Khan interviews piece in Simerg
Views of the beautiful Aga Khan Garden in Edmonton. The Garden is scheduled to open for the 2022 season on May 7. Photos: Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

And elsewhere in Canada, His Highness the Aga Khan’s projects include the Global Centre for Pluralism and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building, both located on Sussex Drive in Ottawa; the Aga Khan Museum, the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre on Wynford Drive in Toronto; and the Ismaili Centre Vancouver on Canada Way in Burnaby.

Canada is home to more than 100,000 Ismailis, with around 12,000 in Calgary.

Story continues below

Aga Khan Projects Canada Simerg
Clockwise from top left: Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum, both in Toronto (ponds in foreground in both photos are part of the Aga Khan Park); Ismaili Centre Vancouver, Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa, Global Centre for Pluralism, Ottawa, and Aga Khan Park Toronto. Collage: Simerg.

With these preliminary remarks on the Aga Khan and his Ismaili Muslim followers, I now invite you to read two excellent interviews that France’s Politique International and Canada’s Peter Mansbridge conducted with the Aga Khan. Both the interviews have appeared on this website with the publishers’ permission.

The Aga Khan’s Absorbing Interview with Politique International

Aga Khan, Politique Internationale, Simerg
Click on image for “Power of Wisdom”

“We are a long way from the democratization of nuclear energy. Maybe I’m naïve but I advocate another approach, which I call “positive proliferation.” The positive proliferation that I would dearly love to see happen is based on a simple principle: yes to energy, no to arms” — To read full interview, click Politique Internationale: The Power of Wisdom

The Aga Khan’s One on One Interview with Peter Mansbridge

Aga Khan University of Alberta, Simerg
Click on image for “One on One”

Peter Mansbridge: What is the quality that you most admire about this country?

The Aga Khan: I think a number of qualities. First of all, it’s a pluralist society that has invested in building pluralism, where communities from all different backgrounds and faiths are happy. It’s a modern country that deals with modern issues, not running away from the tough ones. And a global commitment to values, to Canadian values, which I think are very important. — To read the interview and the story behind the interview, please click Peter Mansbridge: One on One.

Date posted: May 6, 2022.
Last updated: May 9, 2022 (caption updates and typos).

_______________________

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. 

Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com.

New moon Calgary 2022

Eid Mubarak: Eid ul-Fitr Talika of 2020, and an Exquisite Painting of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

My spiritual children should always remain mindful that it is the principles of our faith that will bring peace and solace in these times of uncertainty. I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, May 23, 2020

Introduced and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and SimergphotosBarakah

According to the websites Griffith Observatory and Time and Date, the New Moon that has just marked the end of Ramadan actually occurred on April 30, but as Time and Date mentions the illumination was 0% making the crescent invisible to the naked eye. However, on Sunday, May 1, at the time of writing this post, the illumination has increased to around 1.2%, again making the new moon crescent virtually impossible to see. The moon is scheduled to set at 10:18 pm (Mountain Daylight Time — Calgary), so following this evening’s sunset at around 8:58 pm, I hope to be able to focus my eyes on the sky in the direction 300 WNW, knowing that the crescent moon is there, and that Eid ul-Fitr will be observed by Ismaili Muslims as well as many other Muslim communities in Canada and other parts of the world tomorrow, Monday May 2, 2022.

On this auspicious occasion of Eid ul-Fitr, my family joins me in wishing all our friends and readers of Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos a very joyous Eid, with a very sincere hope and prayer that the uncertainty, wars, and tribulations that the world is facing should come to an end.

On that note, I leave readers with Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s blessings to his spiritual children around the world on the occasion of Eid-u-Fitr on May 23, 2020. As murids of Mawlana Hazar Imam, we should always keep in mind that the Imam’s blessings are with us all the time, and we should seek to constantly remember his words and keep the blessings in our hearts, minds and souls for constant inspiration and happiness, and for courage and strength to cope with difficulties that may come our way. As Mawlana Hazar Imam says in his holy Talika, “I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.”

STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Please click on photo for enlargement

New moon Calgary start of ramadan 2020, simerg
New moon in the sky above the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, April 2, 2022, 09:47 pm, shortly after the month of Ramadan commenced. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Along with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s benevolent blessings, I am pleased to include photos of the crescent moon that I captured in Calgary about a month ago that marked the start of the month of Ramadan. I am also particularly happy to include a photo of a painting of Mawlana Hazar Imam completed earlier this year by Ismaili artist Mobina Marani (Jamani). The painting along with several other pieces of work by the artist were especially submitted for publication in Simerg. Mobina’s beautiful rendition of Mawlana Hazar Imam, below, is based on a portrait taken during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2018. We hope to be able to publish her submissions in the near future.

Mawlana Haza Imam’s Eid ul-Fitr Talika Mubarak to the Worldwide Jamats, May 23, 2020

Please click on photo for enlargement

Aga Khan Mawlana Hazar Imam by Mobina Marani
A rendering of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s portrait by Ismaili artist Mobina Marani (nee Jamani) of Crystal Beach, Ontario. Mobina completed this 13″ x 17″ acrylic painting on composite wood in January 2022.

My beloved spiritual children,

“On the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr, I send my special loving blessings to my Jamats throughout the world for your happiness, peace, safety, and good health. My family joins me in wishing you all Eid Mubarak.

“At this difficult time, I applaud, with the highest admiration and gratefulness, the selfless services of all my Jamati volunteers, as well as the doctors, nurses, paramedics and support workers in the AKDN and other health facilities and related programmes: Their exemplary courage, commitment and dedication in extending care and comfort to my Jamat and others, and especially to those who are vulnerable and sick, is an outstanding actualization of the human values and ethics that all faiths cherish.

“It is my wish that my Jamat should look to the future with hope and courage, in keeping with its age-old tradition of unity, generosity and mutual support which has at all times enabled it to move forward to a position of enhanced strength and resilience, from generation to generation.”

“My spiritual children should always remain mindful that it is the principles of our faith that will bring peace and solace in these times of uncertainty. I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.

“I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings to all my Jamat – for happiness, good health, confidence and security in your lives ahead, and for mushkil-asan.”

Date posted: May 1, 2022.

Please visit our sister website Barakah to read all the Talikas sent by Mawlana Hazar Imam to his Jamats throughout the world and published online during the Covid-19 lockdown https://barakah.com/talikas/.

___________________

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. Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com

Why is His Highness the Aga Khan’s Navroz Encounter on March 21, 1960 With the Ismailis in Burma a Historic Day in His Imamat?

Our sister website Barakah is pleased to launch a new series entitled “Historic days in the life of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan”. We commence the series with his visit to Burma (now Myanmar) sixty-two years ago when he celebrated the Iranian New Year or Navroz with his community on March 21, 1960. Why does Barakah consider it to be a historic day? To find out, please CLICK HERE or on the image below, and feel free to submit your feedback through Barakah’s comment box.

The Aga Khan in a traditional Burmese dress during his visit to Burma in 1960.
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Hereditary Ismaili Imam, pictured in a Burmese traditional dress during his visit to Burma in March 1960. Please click on photo for article.

Date posted: March 20, 2022.

___________________

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.

Simerg’s editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Insights from Around the World: The 1992-97 Civil War in Tajikistan and the Architecture of International Involvement in the Peace Process

“Given the great moral authority of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan over the Ismaili population of Badakhshan, Special Envoy Piriz-Ballon [of UN Secretary General Boutro Boutro Ghali], and Special Representative Gerd Merrem [of Germany] consulted him on issues related to the peace process. His visits to the country, informal mediating role and moderating influence significantly contributed to the success of the peace process. The Aga Khan Foundation made major contributions to alleviating the humanitarian crisis, particularly in the eastern part of the country [i.e Gorno-Badakhshan, see map, below].” — Vladimir Goryayev (note: words in square brackets inserted for clarity — ed.)

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

Some readers, and especially those engaged in the research and study of Tajikistan, may already be familiar with the details of the civil war that broke out in 1992 following Tajikistan’s withdrawal from the Soviet Union on September 9, 1991. The civil war was at its peak during its first year and dragged on for five years, with different interest groups vying for control of the new state. An estimated 20,000 to 100,000 people were killed by June 1997 and about 10 to 20 percent of the population were internally displaced. The war devastated the country.

Very little, however, may be known about the peace process that was underway during this period of civil unrest. In the Accord issue of April 2001, published by Conciliation Resources, numerous authors take an in-depth look at what was an exceptionally well-coordinated peace process that involved local civil society, the international community and a newly established Commission for National Reconciliation. The 100 page PDF publication, “Politics of Compromise: The Tajikistan Peace Process” edited by Kamoludin Abdullaev and Catherine Barnes may be downloaded by clicking HERE.

Story continues below

Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas.
Map of Tajikistan with surrounding countries from the Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection, University of Texas. Click on map for enlargement.

In a chapter entitled “Architecture of International Involvement in the Tajik Peace Process,” from which the quote on Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the beginning of this post is taken, author Vladimir Goryayev examines the role of regional intergovernmental organisations, international NGOs, regional peacekeepers, and the UN’s special envoys, departments and humanitarian agencies played in the peace process. He concludes by setting out the widely acknowledged strengths of the Tajik model of international involvement as well as some lesser known problems with it. Please click HERE to download Vladimir Goryayev PDF article or read the article by visiting THIS PAGE.

Date posted: March 1, 2022.

_____________________

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.

____________________

Featured photo at top of post

Aga Khan in Tajikistan, the Ismaili, simerg,
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, pictured in Tajikistan during his first historic visit to the country in May 1995. Photo: The Ismaili, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Visit to Central Asia, 22-31 May 1995.
Ismaili Jamtkhana and Center Houston, Simerg

A Must Read Article in the “Texas Monthly” on Houston’s New Ismaili Center: A Lush Centre and a Spiritual Retreat for All

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

An excellent piece by Molly Glentzer on the Houston Ismaili Center appeared in the Texas Monthly shortly after the lead architect Farshid Moussavi came to the city in November 2021 to unveil her design for the building. Subscribers to Texas Monthly can click on the link provided in this post and read Molly’s piece. If you are not a subscriber, Texas Monthly allows you to read 2 free articles. Many readers might qualify for the two free reads, and may even consider subscribing. Please click Texas Monthly on the Ismaili Centre Houston or on on any of the two images shown below. This is a great piece, with wonderful insights by the architect as well as leaders of the city.

Ismaili Centre Houston Imara Aga Khan Simerg
The new Ismaili Center in Houston will feature beautiful spaces, intricate geometry, and highly crafted work In this photo. In this depiction, the forecourt garden with its reflecting pool at the entrance of the building creates a contemplative atmosphere. IMAGE: IMARA HOUSTON INC. / IPL via the Ismaili

Ismaili centers are an invention of the Aga Khan. “They are places that reflect his belief in the power of architecture to improve lives,” Moussavi says. Each holds a jamatkhana, or prayer hall, but also serves as a brick-and-mortar ambassador for expressing the Ismailis’ commitment to uniting diverse people and cultures. Houston’s center will be the most public-focused yet — Excerpt from Texas Monthly

Ismaili Center Centre Houston Simerg Imara
From wherever one enters the site, visitors will be welcomed by garden spaces. The Center’s landscaped gardens will provide a sense of serenity and peace, offering a respite from its urban surroundings. IMAGE: IMARA HOUSTON INC. / IPL via The Ismaili

Date posted: February 22, 2022.

___________________

Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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 that features photos and videos from around the world.

Malik, the founding publisher and editor of the 3 websites, may be reached at his email address, mmerchant@simerg.com.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, skied for Iran in the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria

As the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing come to a close, Zahir Dharsee and Malik Merchant reminisce about Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s passion for skiing and sports in general. The piece appears on Simerg’s sister website, Barakah, which is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. The piece also includes an excerpt from an excellent narrative on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Iringa that mentions a skiing accident that had taken place earlier. Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived in Iringa with a cast on his foot. Please click MEMORIES or on photo below.

Aga Khan playing ice hockey in Switzerland, Simerg and Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam playing ice hockey. Please click on photo for article.

Date posted: February 19, 2021.

_________________

Photographs and Description of the 85th Birthday Gift Presented to His Highness the Aga Khan by His Worldwide Ismaili Community

[A similar version of this piece also appears on Simerg’s sister website Barakah that was inaugurated in 2017 to celebrate the Hereditary Leadership (or Imamat) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The origins of the Divine Institution of Imamat that His Highness leads go back to the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) who designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law, Hazrat Ali (a.s.), to continue to govern the Muslim community in spiritual and temporal matters. His Highness is the 49th Imam in this succession of Hereditary Imams — Ed.]

Compiled and Prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergphotosSimerg and Barakah

In the Talika Mubarak (holy written message) of December 10, 2021 that was sent to the world-wide Jamat on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday on December 13, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, said: “I am most touched that on the occasion of my birthday, senior Jamati leaders have presented a beautiful gift on behalf of my global Jamat, which I accept with appreciation and gratitude.” 

Porcelain vases Aga Khan birthday present Simerg Malik Merchant
Porcelain vases presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on his 85th birthday on December 13, 2021. Photo: The Ismaili.

The ‘beautiful gift’ referred to by the Imam was a pair of porcelain vases, and The Ismaili provided a brief description and photograph of the two vases in a post dated December 12, 2021.

However, the happiest moment was for the Jamats worldwide to see Mawlana Hazar Imam himself holding one of the two vases in a garden setting at his Lisbon residence, with what appears to be an orange or clementine tree in the background. What a beautiful photo Fernando Costa captured for all of us to see, and give us so much joy.

Aga Khan holding gift of porcelain vase presented to him on his 85th birthday
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, is seen holding one of the two 19th century porcelain vases that was presented to him by leading Ismaili leaders on behalf of the global Ismaili community on the occasion of his 85th auspicious birthday on December 13, 2021. Photo: Fernando Costa / IPL via The Ismaili.

This pair of porcelain lavender-ground vases were made in 1874 at the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, which became the preeminent porcelain manufacturer in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. During the 19th century, the Sèvres factory’s output reflected an ongoing desire for technical innovation as well as a wide embrace of diverse decorative and historical styles. The shape and design of these vases is based on a Persian metal prototype and, as such, they are recorded in the Sèvres Archives as ‘Vase Bouteille Persane’. Eighteen similar vases were entered for sale in January 1874 and described as ‘fond sous couverte et décor en or’ (under cover and gold decoration) at a cost of 95 francs each. [1]

Gift to Aga Khan from Ismailis on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday, December 13, 2021.
Detail of vase presented by the worldwide Ismaili community to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday, December 13, 2021.

Of Islamic shape, the ovoid body of each vase continues in a long narrow elongated tapered neck, all made in three sections and each joined with two slender fillets of ormolu. The vases are decorated with elaborate Persian gold-powder motifs  in the form of interlacing scrollwork and arabesques on the body and ornamented fillets on the neck in heightened relief against a pale lavender or ‘fond changeant’ ground. Designed by the important Parisian sculptor, Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887), the vases exist in several versions that differ according to their colour and decoration.

The lavender colour of the vases presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam is very unusual — it changes according to the light under which it is placed, from purple/grey in daylight to pale pink in artificial light. This change of colour according to its exposure to light is due to a mixture of vanadium oxide and cerium oxide. This use of the ‘chameleon’ paste was invented in 1848 by the Sèvres factory chemist Alphonse Louis Salvetat for the 1862 Universal Exhibition held in London to promote the savoir-faire (know how) of the world’s rapidly expanding industries.

Close up of the vase presented by the world wide Ismaili community to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday, December 13, 2021.
Detail of vase presented by the worldwide Ismaili community to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday, December 13, 2021.

While similar vases in blue and white are to be found in private and museum collections, vases in this pale lavender colour are exceptionally rare. The vases bear, on the underside, green printed lozenge and iron-red decore marks, as well as various incised potters inscriptions, of the Sèvres factory. The vases, each of which is 55 cm in height, are in extremely fine condition. Using the same techniques pioneered during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres continues to produce some of the most high quality works of porcelain art — vases, painted plaques, dinner services, figures — to this day, and it is therefore not surprising that Sèvres is such an integral part of the landscape of the decorative arts today.

Date posted: December 25, 2021.

_________________

[1] Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres Archive, Registre Vr, 1 iere serie, vol.2, fol. 247.17.

~~~~~~~~~~

Simerg welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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.

This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1853

19 December in World History: In 1846, Canada’s First Telegraphic Message; In 1961, India’s Invasion of Goa; Plus Samuel Morse and the Aga Khan on the Power of Instant Communication

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

December holds many significant historical memories for me. The month is of particular importance for Ismailis around the world. On December 13, 1936 Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Muslims was born in Geneva, Switzerland. Ismailis celebrated their Imam’s 85th birthday (or Salgirah) last week and presented him with two beautiful porcelain vases. My dad Jehangir, who died in May 2018, was born on exactly the same day in 1928. Were he alive, he would have celebrated his 93rd birthday this year.

Also in December, in 1961 India annexed the Portuguese territories of Goa, Daman and Diu, in what the Portuguese called an invasion, while the Indians called it a liberation. A consequence of this action by India was that all its citizens in Mozambique, a Portuguese colony, were interned for more than 5 months in a camp located a few miles outside Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). My parents, Jehangir and Malek Merchant, were the only Ismailis in Mozambique carrying Indian passports, and were severely affected by this measure. My dad was taken to the camp with 5,000 other Indian citizens. Being a teacher, he was able to conduct special classes for young children and other students during his stay. During the same month, my mother gave birth to my brother Alnoor (pictured below with our parents). She was thus spared from the camp, and was looked after at a hospital for the entire period that my dad was in internment. Then, following their release from internment, Indian nationals were asked to leave the country within 90 days. My parents left for Tanzania (then Tanganyika), where they continued their service to the Imamat and Jamati institutions as religious education teachers and honorary missionaries.

Article continues below

Alnoor Merchant and Jehangir and Malek
Alnoor, centre, pictured with his parents Jehangir and Malek Merchant, during the Silver Jubilee visit of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to London, England in July 1983. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Going much further back in history, December 19, 1846 marked the inauguration of the telegraph in Canada, with a line from Toronto to Queenston carrying the first message. A plaque marking this historic day has been placed outside on the entrance wall of St Lawrence Market located in Toronto’s Front Street (see photo, below).

Article continues below

Plaque commemorating the inauguration of the telegraph in Canada on December 19, 1846, Malik Merchant, Simerg
Plaque commemorating the inauguration of the telegraph in Canada on December 19, 1846, on the front entrance wall of Toronto’s St Lawrence Market; December 18, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

It may be noted however, that the first telegraphic message was sent by its inventor, Samuel Morse, two years earlier in May 24, 1844 which simply read: “What God Wrought?” He credited the message to his friend’s daughter, Annie Ellsworth, who found it in the Bible. It is an expression of awe for God [for inspiring the invention].

Article continues below

When decoded, this paper tape recording of the historic message transmitted on May 24, 1844 by Samuel F. B. Morse reads, “What hath God wrought?” Morse sent it from the Supreme Court room in the U.S. Capitol in Washington to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore. Photo: US Library of Congress.
This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1853
Telegraph stations in the United States, the Canadas & Nova Scotia, 1853. This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1853, only nine years after the first message, shown in the previous image. By this time, only one state east of the Mississippi, Florida, was not connected by telegraph. The legend on the left offers the list of message rates from Pittsburgh. By 1861, telegraph lines crossed the American continent; by 1866, the transatlantic cable connected America and Europe. Credit: Chas. B. Barr, Pittsburgh, Pa. Wegner & Buechner lith., 1853. Col. map 59 x 85 cm. Scale ca. 1:4,200,000 Geography and Map Division, via US Library of Congress.

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah was a frequent user of the telegraphic services. On December 29, 1948, he sent a telegram conferring Count Jindani with the title of Diwan for his great services. There are numerous other examples of telegraphic messages that the late Imam sent to Ismaili individuals and institutions. A few from Ismaili magazines appear on this website.

Article continues below

A telegram from Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, 48th Imam of the Ismailis, conferring the title of Diwan on (Count) Gulamhussein Mohamed Naser Jindani.
A telegram from Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan conferring the title of Diwan on (Count) Gulamhussein Mohamed Naser Jindani. Photo: Mohamed Jindani Collection, London, UK.

In a brief historical overview on communications technology as they have evolved over the last few hundred years, a piece on the website of Elon University states:

“The printing press was the big innovation in communications until the telegraph was developed. Printing remained the key format for mass messages for years afterward, but the telegraph allowed instant communication over vast distances for the first time in human history. Telegraph usage faded as radio became easy to use and popularized; as radio was being developed, the telephone quickly became the fastest way to communicate person-to-person; after television was perfected and content for it was well developed, it became the dominant form of mass-communication technology; the internet came next, and newspapers, radio, telephones, and television are being rolled into this far-reaching information medium.”

In response to the invention of the telegraph, Charles F. Briggs and Augustus Maverick wrote in their 1858 book “The Story of the Telegraph”:

“Of all the marvelous achievements of modern science the electric telegraph is transcendentally the greatest and most serviceable to mankind … The whole earth will be belted with the electric current, palpitating with human thoughts and emotions … How potent a power, then, is the telegraphic destined to become in the civilization of the world! This binds together by a vital cord all the nations of the earth. It is impossible that old prejudices and hostilities should longer exist, while such an instrument has been created for an exchange of thought between all the nations of the earth.” (emphasis added)

Morse, however, had anticipated much earlier that a communications technology such as the one he had invented could be misused. In a letter to Francis O.J. Smith in 1838, Morse wrote:

“This mode of instantaneous communication must inevitably become an instrument of immense power, to be wielded for good or for evil, as it shall be properly or improperly directed.”

Article continues below

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, delivering Brown University’s Ogden lecture on March 10, 2014.

Looking at the power the internet holds today, how accurate was Morse! And let’s elaborate on this by studying what Mawlana Hazar Imam has said with regard to the innovation of technologies and different disruptive forces that are at play. In his March 10, 2014 Stephen Ogden Lecture at Brown University, he said:

“We often think about technological innovation as a great source of hope for the world. We hear about how the internet can reach out across boundaries, helping us all to stay in touch, and giving us access to information from every imaginable source.

“But it is worth remembering that the same affirmations have greeted new communication technologies for centuries, from the printing press to the telegraph to television and radio. Yet in each case, while many hopes were fulfilled, many were also disappointed. In the final analysis, the key to human cooperation and concord has not depended on advances in the technologies of communication, but rather on how human beings go about using – or abusing – their technological tools.

“Among the risks of our new communications world is its potential contribution to what I would call the growing “centrifugal forces” in our time – the forces of “fragmentation.” These forces, I believe, can threaten the coherence of democratic societies and the effectiveness of democratic institutions.

“Yes, the Information Revolution, for individuals and for communities, can be a great liberating influence. But it also carries some important risks.

“More information at our fingertips can mean more knowledge and understanding. But it can also mean more fleeting attention-spans, more impulsive judgments, and more dependence on superficial snapshots of events. Communicating more often and more easily can bring people closer together, but it can also tempt us to live more of our lives inside smaller information bubbles, in more intense but often more isolated groupings.

“We see more people everywhere these days, standing or sitting or walking alone, absorbed in their hand-held screens. But, I wonder whether, in some larger sense, they are really more “in touch?” Greater “connectivity” does not necessarily mean greater “connection.”

“Information travels more quickly, in greater quantities these days. But the incalculable multiplication of information can also mean more error, more exaggeration, more misinformation, more disinformation, more propaganda. The world may be right there on our laptops, but the truth about the world may be further and further away.”

Mawlana Hazar Imam then discusses some of the conflicts that are taking place in the world today, and asks, “How can we respond to such tendencies?” He says:

“The response, I would emphasise today is a thoughtful, renewed commitment to the concept of pluralism and to the closely related potential of civil society. A pluralist commitment is rooted in the essential unity of the human race. Does the Holy Qur’an not say that mankind is descended from “a single soul?” In an increasingly cosmopolitan world, it is essential that we live by a “cosmopolitan ethic,” one that addresses the age-old need to balance the particular and the universal, to honour both human rights and social duties, to advance personal freedom and to accept human responsibility.”

Please read Mawlana Hazar Imam’s complete speech by clicking HERE, in which he recommends ways to overcome the challenges of miscommunication and misinformation we are dealing with.

Date posted: December 18, 2021.

_________________________

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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.

The Beautiful Gift Presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam, and a Reflection for His 85th Birthday on a Gorgeous Blue Sky Morning

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

I went to bed late last night and my eyes did not open for me to be able to attend this morning’s (December 13, 2021) Baitul Khayal Salgirah Majlis for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 85th birthday. When I woke up at 5:45 am and looked out, the skies in Toronto were covered with clouds, except in the horizon where it was clear. The weather forecast had called for a clear sunny day, and trusting it I set forth in my car for the Port Union Waterfront Park. When I reached there, the sky situation was reversed. The horizon was cloudy but the skies above me were clear. Really, nothing can beat the twilight when there are some clouds in the horizon.

Sunrise Port Union Waterfront Park
Shortly after sunrise, Lake Ontario, Port Union Waterfront Park, Toronto, 7:51 AM, December 13, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I reached the Park 45 minutes before sunrise. The clear waters of Lake Ontario and strong waves added to my excitement and anticipation of the sunrise. When the sun rose at exactly 7:42 AM, 147 million kilometres from earth, it created a beautiful streak on the clouds that were in the horizon. Birds flew around joyfully.

Porcelain vases Aga Khan birthday present Simerg Malik Merchant
Porcelain vases presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on his 85th birthday on December 13, 2021. Photo: The Ismaili.

Before I had left home, I had read the Ismaili piece about the world wide Jamat presenting Mawlana Hazar Imam with the 85th birthday gift consisting of a pair of porcelain vases made in the nineteenth century in Paris. The article mentions that the vases “are decorated with elaborate Islamic Persian motifs of gilt scrollwork, arabesques, and stylised flowers in heightened relief against a pale lavender background.”  It further says: “The lavender colour of the vases is extremely unusual — changing according to the light under which it is placed, from purple/grey in daylight to pale pink in artificial light.” I thought about this gift and wondered as I was taking photos of the twilight and the sunrise, how the vases might look if they were placed on a piece of rock near where I was standing, with the morning sunlight shining on them.

Ismaili Flag at Aga Khan Park. Play video and also listen to Nashid al Imamah. Video by Malik Merchant/Simerg, December 13, 2021. The Nashid played by the 116th Army Band during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s arrival in Atlanta, USA, 2018, for his Diamond Jubilee.
The crystalline dome of the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana, Toronto, December 13, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
The crystalline dome of the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana under blue skies, Toronto, December 13, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Driving back home, the sun was now higher up, and the sky was blue everywhere without a cloud in sight. How could I not stop at the Aga Khan Park to see my favourite objects — the Ismaili Flag and the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome? The flag was shining under the sunlight, and the dome was particularly inspiring under blue skies. Seeing the flag, I felt particularly proud and recollected the recording of the Nashid al Imamah played by the USA 116th Army Band when Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived in Atlanta for his Diamond Jubilee visit in 2018. I took a video of the Ismaili flag and incorporated the recording of the Nashid into the video (watch video above).

Lourenço Marques, 1958: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and current 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims is seen taking a keen interest as Alwaez Jehangir explains the Gujarati history texts that were used to impart religious education to Ismaili youth in Mozambique. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Today, as Mawlana Hazar Imam celebrates his 85th birthday, my beloved late papa Jehangir would have turned 93. He died in May 2018 at the age of 89. And of course I remembered my late mum Malek (Mrs. Merchant), who would write loving cards for him on his birthday. Together, they had served the Imam of the Time, the Jamat and its institutions for more than 60 years. I did one thing at Port Union Waterfront Park. I walked an extra 174 steps, the sum of the two birthdays my family is celebrating today. Fortunately, I have good recollections of my childhood. When I was very little, aged less than 5 years and in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), I one day asked my dad very innocently, how come Mawlana Hazar Imam was much younger than him. And his reply was that the age of the Imam was immaterial because he is the bearer of the Noor of Imamat, and all the Imams are the same because they have the same Light. He also gave me a little history lesson that Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah was only 7 when he became the Imam in August 1885. That faith and belief have been with me ever since, and you can read more about the philosophical and historical perspective on the Noor of Imamat HERE.

Happy Salgirah Mubarak to Ismailis around the world.

Date posted: December 13, 2021.

_________________

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment . Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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 is the Bearer of the Noor (Light) of Imamat; and a Beautiful Calligraphy for His Auspicious 85th Birthday

Simerg’s sister website Barakah which is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat, is pleased to present a profound reading on the subject of Imamat along with a special piece of art by Karim Ismail on the auspicious occasion of Hazar Imam’s 85th Salgirah. The post includes the singing of the Ginan (Hymn) Dhan Dhan Aajno by the (Late) Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji, and also has links to its explanation as well as 25 other recitations of the same Ginan by Ismaili singers from around the world. Please click 85th Salgirah Mubarak or on the image below.

Aga Khan 85th birthday Salgirah of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Simer
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is in his 65th year of Imamat and celebrates his 85th birthday on December 13, 2021. Please click on image for Imamat reading.

Date posted: December 11, 2021.

_________________

Featured image at top of post: In centre, a calligraphy by Toronto’s Karim Ismail and on either side of the art work two paintings of Mawlana Hazar Imam by Vancouver based artist Azeez Khanbhai, who was featured recently in Barakah.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.