Timeless and Inspirational Pieces on Imam Ali: Essays, Art, Ginans, Songs, Stories and Quotes

Over the years, Simerg and its sister websites have published numerous enlightening and reflective pieces on Hazrat Ali (peace be upon him), the first Imam of Shia Muslims, whose birth anniversary falls on the 13th day of the Islamic month of Rajab. The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle and this translates to February 3, 2023 in the Gregorian calendar. We are pleased to provide the following links to a selection of timeless pieces on the Imam:

Date posted: February 3, 2023.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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

Ethics in Hazrat Ali’s Kalam-i Mawla

Editor’s note: Like all Shia Muslims across the world, the Shia Imami Ismailis will be observing with deep reverence the birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali on the 13th of Rajab, corresponding to February 3, 2023, in Canada and many other parts of the world. The Ismailis are led by His Highness the Aga Khan who is the 49th Hereditary Imam in the succession of Imams from Ali, who was appointed by Prophet Muhammad — may peace be upon him and his family — to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. Today, the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely the Aga Khan, and hence the Ismailis refer to him as Hazar Imam (the Imam-of-the-Time or the Present/Living Imam.). The Kalam-i Mawla article by Dr Farouk Topan first appeared in printed form in Vol 13, Number 1, July 1990, of Ilm, the flagship Ismaili religious periodical published by the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the UK — or ITREB — between 1975 and 1992. This second reproduction of the article on SIMERG has an improved format for ease of reading. Readers should take note that the images shown in this post are not part of the original article published in Ilm magazine.

By FAROUK M. TOPAN

Introduction

The relationship between man and God forms the focus of most religious literature. Of paramount importance to the relationship is the conduct, behaviour and action of man during his sojourn on earth. What he says and does is deemed to affect that relationship: good deeds strengthen it, bad deeds impair it. It is thus considered crucial that man be made aware of what he may and may not do, that he be made to understand the limitations of his actions beyond which he may not transgress without placing in jeopardy the health of that relationship. Such awareness is made explicit not only in scriptures and holy texts but also in books, epistles, treatises and poems composed by men of faith and learning. The Kalam-i Mawla falls under the latter category.

The Kalam-i Mawla (hence referred to as Kalam) is a poem of 327 verses, composed in Hindi, whose content draws inspiration from the sayings, speeches and sermons of Mawlana Ali (may peace be upon him.) The actual composer of the verse is not known. Unlike the practice followed in some compositions, — for example, in the Ginans — where the composer mentions his name within the body of the text, the composer of Kalam has refrained from doing so. His action may have been dictated by modesty, or even piety, in not wishing his personal attribution to impinge upon the considered authorship of the first Imam. Thus the authoritative status of the verses, as expressing the Kalami (speech/sayings) of the Lord, Mawla, has been preserved.

The predominant message conveyed in Kalam is ethical. One could say that the text is a manual of ethics for a believer, stating the virtues to be cultivated and the vices to be shunned. The ethical emphasis is brought into an even sharper focus in the printed editions of Kalam-i Mawla. A comparison, for instance, between the earlier manuscript of the Kalam dated 1801, and the latest printed version published in Karachi in 1984 by Ismailia Association for Pakistan shows a re-arrangement of the verses in the latter to reflect an ethical direction of the message.

The Karachi edition, which is itself the latest in a long chain of printed versions dating from 1873, divides the text into 23 chapters, each with its own title. The first chapter is on truth, the second on brotherhood, the third on the virtues of good manners or discipline, the fourth on generosity, the fifth on miserliness, the sixth on greed and so on. Among the subjects included are the way of the heart (ch.7); the beauty and marvel of knowledge (ch.10); the path of injustice (ch.11) and of justice (ch.12); prayers (ch.14) patience and gratitude (ch.16); jealousy (ch.22) and courage (ch.23).

The Kalam-i Mawla, however, does not confine itself simply to conveying the ethical message. If it did, it would have been incomplete in a fundamental way for ethical injunctions derive their meaning from the assumptions and pre-suppositions of belief. To state what man ought to do and not do, without placing these imperatives within the parameters of belief would be to deprive them of their rationale and justification. They would lack conviction. The composer of the Kalam has avoided such a pitfall and has created a vibrant text by focusing, not on one, but on three interlinked dimensions, each supporting the others. These dimensions are  (1) the Doctrinal (2) the Esoteric and (3) the Ethical.

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The Doctrinal and Esoteric Dimensions in the Kalam-i Mawla

The first dimension may be termed doctrinal; its expression is interspersed throughout the poem as the basis for man’s action. Two examples may suffice for our purpose here. The opening verse of Kalam-i Mawla sets out a theological hierarchy. The first remembrance (Zikr), it says, is of Allah; the second profession (kalma) is of Muhammad and the third is of the Mawla who narrates “his kalam, a treasure of jewels revealed to us.” Thus God, the Prophet and the Imam are mentioned from the beginning. In verse 5 the concepts of Tawhid, Nabuwwa and Imamah are expressed explicitly: “Know that Allah, the Sustainer is One; that Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah; after the Prophet (comes) the Lord of the Imamat, Murtaza Ali; believe in him with truth.”

The second dimension in Kalam-i Mawla is the esoteric. One finds verses of deep mystical meaning in the poem which encourage the reader to aspire to a higher spiritual reality. The emphasis is again on action: through prayer, bandagi and acquisition of knowledge. Prayers undertaken at (or after) midnight are given a special mention (verse 168) as they bring ‘light’ to the very being of a person, a light reflected on one’s face; then, on the Day of Judgement, one will be counted among those whose faces are white (of. Qur’an 3:105-106). A believer who is regular in his prayers and bandagi will be graced with the vision of his Lord (verse 170). If such a mu’min is a true beloved of the Lord, then he too will be granted the spiritual bliss of the mi’raj experienced by the Prophet (verses 170/171).

But a believer who wishes to attain such spiritual bliss must first have a guide, a murshid, to open the gates of esoteric knowledge for him. Even a tiny and minute amount of such knowledge — “mere dot (nukta) of marifah” as it is stated in verse 101 — is enough, if given by the murshid himself, to lead a mu’min back to his origin, to the essence of Truth (haqq). Only then will he be able to transcend the state of duality (“The duality of You and me” and merge into a state of Unity and become One with Him who is the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden, He who will continue to exist when all else perishes (verse 327).

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The Ethical Dimensions in the Kalam-i Mawla: Theme of Charity and Generosity

The third, and predominant, dimension in Kalam-i Mawla is the ethical one, which is expressed in the poem in a number of ways. The most common way is by injunctions stated in the name of Mawlana Ali (a.s) whose status is sometimes further explained through the use of particular titles such as:

Shah-e Awliya (verses 2 & 182) — the Lord of the friends (of God)

Sahib-e Zulfiqar (verse 15) — Master of (the sword) Dhulfiqar

Wali Maqbul (verse 34) — the accepted friend (of God)

Sahib-e Israr (verse 98) — Master of the (spiritual) mysteries or secrets

Kawsar-e Saqi (verses 102 & 107) — the pourer (of water) at the Pond of Kawthar (in Paradise)

Shah-e Dul Dul Sawar (verses 113 & 130) — the rider of (the horse) Dul Dul; etc.

Such titles are almost always given in the last or penultimate line of the verse as a forceful culmination to the advice given in the previous lines; they are thus introduced by phrases such as “and so has spoken….” or “So commands….”

The (ethical) injunctions themselves vary in content and even in the style in which they are expressed. In terms of content, almost every major aspect of a Muslim’s way of life has been covered. The headings of some of the chapters cited in the previous reading, give an indication of the variety of the themes: the sub-themes are even more pervasive.

Let us take chapter four as an example and consider its contents which deal with the theme of charity and generosity (sakhawat). While each of its seventeen verses is pertinent to that theme, its exposition relates to different aspects of the subject.

Man is placed — as indeed he must — at the centre of the injunctions. But around him are constructed premises or arguments to help him see the benefits of being generous, benefits to be gained both in this world and the next, benefits both material and spiritual. Thus, generosity expressed also as acts of charity and philanthropy, is made a cornerstone of the relationship not only between man and God but also between man and man. The two are interlinked, the one expressed in terms of the other, as we shall see below.

In so doing, the verses (18 to 34) also address themselves to fundamental questions of the theme: what is charity; to whom should one be charitable; in what way; and, perhaps most important, why.

The arguments setting out the rationale for the act of charity or generosity — the ‘why’ — may be summarised as follows:

Since God has given wealth to a person through His bounty, His barakah, one should not hide or gourd that wealth but spend from it ‘in the way of God’; for, vast amounts of wealth which are either concealed from others or spent entirely on oneself eventually turn to dust and do not benefit other human beings. If, on the other hand, one gives generously in charity or is philanthropic in action, one is rewarded both in this world and the next. The act of giving is compared to ‘the philosopher’s stone’ (paras): just as the latter turns to gold what is rubbed against it, so does the generous character of a person bring him the good things of life.

People come to respect and love such a person and accord him a high position in this world and offer prayers for his well-being. And God — as the Razzaq, the Provider — grants him prosperity in wealth, family, household and rank in society. A philanthropist is the beloved (habib) of God who will grant him a rank close to Himself in the abode of the Hereafter and whose name will not perish in this world.

How should one give? A short answer from the verses is that charity ought to be given with a smile, with a feeling of happiness. The aim is to make the recipient happy. It is stated repeatedly in these verses that a donor must not make the recipient feel obligated to the giver nor should he hurt his feelings in any way. If these injunctions are violated, his charity will be considered “lost”, that is nullified in the eyes of God. Such a way of giving requires a disciplined heart, a heart that is under control from pride and arrogance. Feelings of kindness in the heart of the donor are gradually accompanied by respect and love for the recipients.

And who are the recipients? Although the verses do not give details of their identity, two broad categories are mentioned: the orphans and the weak who should be approached ‘by the strong’ with a view to aiding them in whatever ails them.

The onus of taking the initiative is placed on the strong. It is interesting to note that charity is conceived, not only in terms of the giving of material wealth to those who are poor, but also in helping to redress the wrongs committed against the weak, to bring justice to those whose rights have been infringed.

Verse 28 states pithily: “The weapon of the weak is to grieve, and to shout out laments to all” but, it goes on to ask: if the grieving do not possess the wealth or the strength to defend themselves, and they continue to be oppressed with suffering and pain, what can be done about it? The implication is clear: the weak need those with a sense of fair play to stand up for them. That too, would be an act of charity.

Article continues below

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Imam Ali Kalam-i Mawla IIS
A page from a Kalam-i Mawla manuscript in the collection of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London.

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Shi`ite Prayer Manual LOC
Shi`ite Prayer Manual – One of the most revered religious and holy figures of Islam is ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (ca. 601–661), whose honorary name, Amīr al-Mu‘minīn, translates into Persian as the “prince of the believers.” Written works by ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib and sayings attributed to him are sacred to the Shi`ite faithful, particularly among Persian-speakers. This hand-written prayer manual displays the words of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib in the original Arabic in the Naskh calligraphic style and in a smaller-font Persian translation in red in the Nasta‘liq calligraphic style by Abū al-Qāsim Shīrāzī. Credit: Library of Congress.

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The Stylistic Features Employed in the Kalam-i Mawla

We said earlier that the ethical injunctions in the Kalam-i Mawla are presented in varied styles. Three such stylistic features may be mentioned as illustrations. The first is definitional. A subject, or a moral premise, is defined in a way that includes the type of action one ought to pursue. The following are some examples:

Chapter 1, Verse 3 (1:3) — “He is a true friend who truly keeps his promise”

2:9 — “He is your brother who remains with you during times of hardship”

and, conversely,

2:10 — “He is not a brother to you who brings shame on you, though you belong to the same (father’s) progeny”

4:22 — “The best of wealth is that which is spent in the Name and way of the Lord”

The second feature employs the conditional as a literary device in the construction of a moral premise along the lines “if this…..then this ……” or “if this..then do this ……”. Some examples on different topics are given below.

The first depicts a person who listens more to his ‘heart’, here meaning his baser instincts, than to what has been taught to him. Note, incidentally, the use of the word ‘heart’ in these examples and the variations of meaning given to it, from a place of lower instincts to a noble residence of the Lord in the human body:

7:5 — “If you are blind to knowledge
and your heart becomes your guide
(then) your conduct will be dictated by its desires
and you will be driven into a deep well.”

Thinking about death is the subject of the second example:

17:238: “If you want advice for your heart think of death —
remembrance of death is splendid advice:
remember that you will die and make the grave your
home and none of your friends will accompany you”

On the protection generated by a person’s attitude towards his friends and towards God:

8:248 —“The evil deeds of your enemies will not reach you
if you are sincere and good to your friends:
the wicked world, with its calamities, will avoid you
if you let Allah, the One, reside in your heart.”

The third stylistic feature employed in the Kalam is a common literary tool of using particular images to convey certain meanings and messages. The images themselves may be ordinary ones drawn from nature and daily human activities, or else special ones located in the poet’s culture. The examples given below, as indeed those cited above, represent but a small portion of the spectrum available in the Kalam-i Mawla.

We may take the ‘ordinary’ examples first where the poet uses stone, grass, trees, river, boat, gold, silver, silk and dust to convey his ideas. (The translation given here, as elsewhere in this article, is not a literal one):

3:15 — “Good conduct adorns a person as gold and silver adorn a woman…”

3:16 — “Gold remains in this world but right conduct (adab) enable you to meet your lord…”

4:22 — “Wealth (misspent in this world) turns to dust…” (cf. 6:40)

5:36: “The wealth of a miser is like a stone…”

5:47 — “When the boat of the heart comes upon a storm,
change direction, and lead it to the shore”

8:16 — “Be as soft as silk…”

8:67 — “Have a tender heart,
as tender as a fistful of green grass;
be not arrogant and stiff as a tree
upright in a forest;

tree is toppled in a storm,
but grass bends and sways happily with the wind.”

7:234 — “The waters of a river do not turn back; neither does one’s age…”

Examples of ‘cultural’ images need an explanation. The first is drawn from 4:32 where we are advised to partake of our food with others. The way the meal is served forms the theme for the poet’s injunction in this verse, for he sees people sitting around a single large plate or vessel and eating together from it, as was — and in parts still is — the custom in the East. The custom, we are told, has two benefits. People eating together are blessed with the bounty of God, barakah and, secondly, the food itself can be made to be sufficient for an additional person; for example, four people could eat with satisfaction the food meant for three.

Other examples may be drawn from one verse: 12:129. The verse begins with advice on eating ‘lawful’ food, lawful not only in the sense of halal (in the spirit of the verses of the Qur’an 2:172 and 2:173) but also in relation to one’s income and earning. A free translation of the verse, 12:129, may be rendered as follows:

“Be cautious, brother, and make your meals lawful
for the light of the heart comes through lawful eating

Darkness enters the heart and faith
when forbidden wealth is consumed;

The heart is the lamp in the temple of the body:
where there is darkness, there is loss of faith

None is conscious of the activities
perpetrated in a village enveloped in darkness:
five thieves together could rob it completely.”

A translation is generally but a poor substitute for the original. That would certainly be the case in the rendition of 12:129 given above, particularly as, on its own, it does not reflect the tight metrical borders and the rhyme scheme within which the poet functions in the original language. And yet — however defective the transfer of the linguistic medium — the poet’s skill of combining different idioms is self-evident.

Three sets of ideas are employed: the notions of right and wrong, of light and darkness, and of the gradual loss of faith. The paradigms drawn from the notions are arranged symmetrically: indulgence in that which is prohibited leads to darkness in the heart which, in turn, leads to a loss of faith (Iman): conversely, deeds undertaken within the boundaries of what is permitted lead to enlightenment in the heart and security of faith.

The paradigms are expressed in the cultural images familiar to the audience of the poet. The body as a temple is one example. Just as a lamp (diwo) is an important ingredient in the temple, investing it with a symbolic (and functional) light, so does the heart perform that function symbolically in the body. But the lamp is not safe. It is threatened by the actions of the person himself: the more he flouts the ethical injunctions taught to him, the dimmer becomes the light in his heart.

This vulnerability is expressed in the metaphor of the body as a village where darkness enables five thieves to combine in a stealthy incursion to steal its valuables, the most worthy of which is faith (Iman).The five ‘thieves’ are mentioned elsewhere — that is in the Ginans — as personifying five vices, panj bhu: of lust (kam); anger (krodh); greed (labh); temptation or single minded attachment to the material aspects of the world (moh) and pride (madh).

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Conclusion

The ethical dimension in the Kalam-i Mawla is expressed at three interlinked levels. The first level situates the ethics of the faith within the doctrines and beliefs of Shi’a Islam. These form the foundation upon which the ethics are based, an embodiment of the ‘charter’ that provides the rationale for the ethical development of a Shi’a Muslim. And, perhaps more important, the beliefs and doctrines also reveal — indeed, proclaim — the sanctions that await the transgression of the enunciated ethical injunctions and the reward for their observance.

The second level involves the pronouncement of the moral injunctions themselves. In a work of prose, the pronouncement could perhaps be made at length, with explanatory notes and cross-references to weightier texts, including the Qur’an itself. In poetry, however, an exposition of the theme is governed by such literary constraints as the rhyming scheme and control of the required number of metres per line. The poet has thus to be economical with his choice of words which in turn, ‘forces’ him to make a selection of the themes of priority. What we thus have in the Kalam-i Mawla is the poet’s own choice of what he considers to be important injunctions to be conveyed to a Muslim.

The third level is the literary. We have referred above to the constraint — and challenge — imposed on the poet by the prosodic tradition and convention prevalent in his culture. The poet functions within the prosodic framework to convey his message and ideas. But the framework, at best, is no more than a skeleton in need of flesh and blood to give it form and meaning. And the poet provides this drawing on the idioms of his culture, society and everyday expressions of daily living. The choice of vocabulary, images and metaphors combined with the poet’s own skill of wielding them into verses meant to be read and intoned make the Kalam-i Mawla a truly enjoyable poem to be read for pleasure, instruction and inspiration.

The presentation given in these readings, in relation to the ethical injunctions in the poem, represents but a tiny sample of a vast corpus.

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A note of acknowledgement by Dr. Farouk M. Topan:

I am grateful to Mr Akbar Rupani of the ITREB for India, to Mr Hoosain Khan Mohamed, formerly of Karachi, and to a gentleman who wishes to remain anonymous, for their kindness in checking the translation of the Kalam-i Mawla that I had undertaken a few years ago. Their help, given with unstinted generosity, was most encouraging; but may I also state that it does not associate them in any way with any errors of translation that may arise out of my choice of meaning. I am also grateful to Izzat Muneyb (d. May 20, 2017) for her comments on an earlier draft of this article.

Date posted: February 2, 2023.

Featured image at top of post: Panel presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, by the Canadian Ismaili Muslim community on the auspicious occasions of his Golden Jubilee visit to Canada in 2008. Please see a brief note about the panel HERE. The panel contains an inscription of Hadith Qudsi, whose translation is shown in the featured image.

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Dr. Farouk M. Topan is pictured at left being awarded an Honorary Fellowship in recognition of his contribution to the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). We recommend our readers to read Dr. Topan’s recent interview with the Ismaili in which he reflects on his life in teaching, academia, and service to the Jamat. We also invite readers to read Simerg’s brief feature piece on Dr Topan, following UNESCO’s designation of July 7 as Kiswahili Day. Dr. Topan contributed significantly to the study of Kiswahili language and its literature.

Other articles by Dr. Topan in Simerg:

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

“Ya Ali To Rahem Kar, Ya Mawla Tu Fazal Kar” and “Cry Aloud to Ali”: Beautiful and Inspiring Songs to Mark the Birth Anniversary of Imam Ali

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

In both the beautiful songs presented below, there are prayers, supplications and references to Ali, the first Shia Imam whose birth anniversary will be observed with reverence on the 13th of Rajab (on or around February 3, 2023).

However, in Ismaili theology, the Imams descended from Imam Ali are the bearers of the same Light (Noor) of Imamat. Thus, an Ismaili living during the period of any Imam, when uttering the name of Ali, has in his heart and mind the presence of the Imam-of-the-Time. Currently, the holder of the Divine Authority of the Imamat is Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan, or Mawlana Hazar Imam (Our Lord, the Present Imam). He is the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Ismailis and the Ismailis are the only Shia community to have a Living Imam.

The lyrics in the first video song entitled “Ameen — A Global Prayer of Hope” are in multiple languages including the sign language, and the expressions by musicians and singers, young and old alike, show the love that each participant in the video has for his or her Imam. Listeners will feel totally immersed as they watch and listen to the song. Please watch the entire video (10:32 minutes), because the different components carry their own special messages. We then present another song “Cry Aloud to Ali.”

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Song: A Global Prayer of Hope

(excerpts from lyric)

…. We are never alone
Never have been
Never will be
Ameen …..

…. Khudawanda tu Sultane Karimi ….
(Lord: You are the King of Generosity)

…. I look to you, I pray to you for hope, I love you ….

…. Ya Ali tu Rahem Kar, Ya Mawla tu Fazal Kar ….
(O Ali, shower us with your mercy, O Mawla, shower us with your grace)

Ya Ale Nabi, Aulad-e-Nabi, Ya Mushkil Kusha, Ya Hazar Imam
(O Progeny of the Prophet, O the Progeny of Ali, O reliever of difficulties, O Hazar Imam)

Ameen

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Ali’s love for his spiritual children is constant, and we are in his prayers and heart every moment. This has been articulated by Mawlana Shah Karim throughout his Imamat and I quote from a message that Malik Talib, the Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders International Forum (LIF), was asked to convey to the Jamat. Hazar Imam said:

Please convey my best paternal and my best maternal loving blessings to my worldwide Jamat, and tell them that I think of them every minute of the day, each day, and I pray for Mushkil Asan and for their peace and happiness.

On another occasion, Mawlana Hazar Imam said:

“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.”

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Song: Naad e Ali

[Note: The lyrics in the song in both Arabic and English are slightly different from the transliteration and translation published below – Ed.]

Nade Ali, Nade Ali, Nade Ali
Nade Aliyyan mazhar al-ajaib
Tajidahu awnan lakafin-nawaib
Kullu hammin wa ghammin
sayanj-i Ali Bi wilayatika,
Ya Ali! Ya Ali! Ya Ali!

Translation

Call Ali call Ali call Ali,
the manifestation of marvels
He will be your helper in difficulty
Every anxiety and sorrow will end
Through your friendship.
O Ali, O Ali, O Ali.

Date posted: February 1, 2023.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Flashback 2016, Photograph and Video: Tears of Joy in Kyrgyzstan as His Highness the Aga Khan Blesses Ismailis

In a spontaneous moment, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad — may peace be upon him and his family — walks towards his Ismaili followers and gives them blessings for everything they wish for. Please click MORE or on photo below to read stories and photographs from 1979 (London, England) and 2016 (Naryn, Kyrgyzstan.)

Aga Khan Kyrgyzstan blessings simerg and barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, blesses a crowd during his visit to Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, in October 2016. Please click on photo for inspiring stories from 1979 and 2016

Featured image at top of post: A snapshot from a digital portrait rendition of His Highness the Aga Khan by Toronto’s Ismaili artist Akbar Kanji that, through hundreds of thumbnails, features the Ismaili Imam’s contribution to his community and the world at large. The work is dated 2011. For the artist, the concept is to “portray our Imam’s entire life and his dedications at a glance which we cannot imagine until we come closer to him.”

Date posted: January 27, 2023.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Ismaili Cultural Centre, Port Moddy, News, Simerg

New Ismaili Cultural Centre Being Proposed for Port Moody, British Columbia – Details and Excellent Artistic Renderings

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

According to Wikipedia, “Port Moody is a city in British Columbia, Canada, and a member municipality of the Metro Vancouver Regional District. It envelops the east end of Burrard Inlet and is the smallest of the Tri-Cities, bordered by Coquitlam on the east and south and by Burnaby on the west.”

A new Ismaili Cultural Centre housing a Jamatkhana is being proposed in the city to replace the one further to the west that had to close down due to structural problems. Veteran journalist Mario Bartel presents a report dated January 18, 2023 in TRICITY News about the proposed cultural centre that would also include a 12-sorey residential rental tower. Please read Bartel’s report by clicking HERE or on image below.

Also, click on Anthem Properties: Rental housing tower with Jamatkhana cultural hub proposed for Port Moody for an excellent presentation of the proposed Ismaili Cultural Centre, including maps, street views and a number of artistic renderings.

Ismaili Cultural Centre, Port Moddy, News, Simerg
Artistic rendering of the proposed Ismaili Cultural Centre to be located at 3180 St. Johns Street, Port Moody, British Columbia, Canada. Photograph: IBI Group/Anthem Properties.

Date posted: January 21, 2023.

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Related: Please click Anthem Properties: Rental housing tower with Jamatkhana cultural hub proposed for Port Moody

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

His Highness the Aga Khan: Anchor Links to 2021-2022 Stories on the 49th Ismaili Imam and a New Page for 2023

More than 35 stories can now be easily accessed through anchor links on Barakah’s revised page covering 2021-2022 news events related to His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family. Please click July 13, 2021 – December 31, 2021: Aga Khan or on image below, following which we have a link to the start-up page for 2023 events.

Aga Khan News: Anchor Links 2021- 2022 Stories

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Aga Khan News 2023: Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Princess Zahra at UN Conference Climate Resilient Pakistan

Climate Resilient Pakistan January 9 2023, Geneva, Palais des Nations, Simerg News
A view of delegates attending “Climate Resilient Pakistan” in the conference hall at the UN building in Geneva, Palais des Nations, on January 9, 2023. Photograph: UN Photo/Violaine Martin.

Featured photo at top of post: Prince Rahim Aga Khan, oldest son of the Aga Khan, visits the Vatican, November 2022.

Date posted: January 10, 2023.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

The Aga Khan and Cultural Historian Oleg Grabar

“Oleg Grabar has done more to define the field of Islamic art and architecture than almost anyone else alive. The questions he has asked, the hypotheses he has proposed and the theories he has developed, over a career that now spans more than six decades, have shaped and defined the way we understand the Islamic world’s rich architectural heritage” — Chairman’s Award Citation, Aga Khan Award for Architecture Ceremony, November 2010, Qatar

January 8, 2023, the date of this post, marks exactly 12 years since the passing of Professor Oleg Grabar at the age of 81. Simerg’s sister website, Barakah, presents 3 rare photographs connecting the late Harvard and Princeton scholar with His Highness the Aga Khan and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA ) as well as includes the full citation of the honour that was bestowed on Grabar by the Aga Khan during the presentation ceremony of the world’s biggest architecture prize on November 24, 2010 — READ MORE

Aga Khan Award for Architecture Lifetime Achievement Award to Oleg Grabar, Simerg
His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the then Emir of Qatar, presents a certificate to Professor Oleg Grabar who was awarded the Chairman’s Award in recognition of his lifetime contribution to the field of Islamic art and architecture, as Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and His Highness the Aga Khan look on. The Award ceremony took place in Qatar November 24, 2010. Photograph: AKDN/Gary Otte. Please click on photo for Citation and more photographs.

Date posted: January 8, 2023.

Featured photo at top of post: The Aga Khan and his younger brother Prince Amyn with Oleg Grabar. Photograph: © Christopher Little.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Gülru Necipoğlu, Harvard’s Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Architecture, to Receive Freer’s 2023 Lifetime Achievement Medal; Oleg Grabar, 1st Aga Khan Professor was Honoured with the Freer Medal in 2001

Compiled and adapted from News Release, National Museum of Asian Art, January 3, 2023

The National Museum of Asian Art has announced its 2023 recipients of the Freer Medal, a lifetime achievement award that honors individuals who have substantially contributed to the understanding of the arts of Asia throughout their career. This year, the institution’s centennial, the honor will go to Vidya Dehejia, the Barbara Stoler Miller Professor Emerita of Indian and South Asian Art at Columbia University, and Gülru Necipoğlu, the Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University’s History of Art and Architecture Department. They will be honored for their lifetime work in South Asian art and arts of the Islamic world, respectively. The medal will be presented to Dehejia April 28 and to Necipoğlu Oct. 27.

Named after the museum’s founder, Charles Lang Freer, the Freer Medal has been awarded 14 times since its inception in 1956. This is the first time that a scholar of South Asian and another of Middle Eastern descent will receive the award. Only two other women have previously received the Freer Medal: It was awarded to Dame Jessica Rawson, professor of Chinese art and archaeology at the University of Oxford, in 2017 and to Stella Kramrisch, Czech art historian and leading specialist on South Asian art, in 1985.

“The Freer Medal is an important way in which our museum encourages and exemplifies excellence in Asian art scholarship,” said Chase F. Robinson, Dame Jillian Sackler Director of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and Freer Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Asian Art. “We are pleased to recognize the enormous contributions that these scholars have made to their fields. It is long overdue that women of Middle Eastern and Asian heritages receive the Freer Medal. The museum congratulates Vidya Dehejia and Gülru Necipoğlu on this award during the landmark occasion of our centennial.”

About Gülru Necipoğlu

Gülru Necipoğlu, 2023 Freer Medal, Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art, Simerg, News
Gülru Necipoğlu. Photograph: Via National Museum of Asian Art

Necipoğlu earned her doctorate from Harvard University in 1986 and has served there as the Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture since 1993. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Wesleyan University and a Master of Arts from Harvard University. Necipoğlu specializes in the arts and architecture of the pre-modern Islamic lands, with a focus on the Mediterranean world and the cross-cultural and artistic exchanges between the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires in the 16th and 17th centuries. Grounded in rigorous archival research, her multi-disciplinary studies have addressed the aesthetic interconnections of Byzantium and Renaissance Europe, pre-modern architectural practices and the role and function of ornament in the Islamic world and beyond, offering new and highly original perspectives on the arts and architecture of the region. Throughout her illustrious career, Necipoğlu has also trained and mentored numerous students, who have continued to transform the field. 

Since 1993, Necipoğlu has also served as editor of Muqarnas: An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World and its supplements, the pre-eminent publication in the field, which has transformed the study of the arts and architecture of the Islamic world. Her own publications comprise studies in monumental architecture to intricate designs on portable objects and have changed the understanding of the arts of the Islamic world. They include Architecture, Ceremonial and Power: The Topkapı Palace (1991), The Topkapı Scroll–Geometry and Ornament in Islamic Architecture (1995), The Age of Sinan: Architectural Culture in the Ottoman Empire (2005, 2011), Treasures of Knowledge: An Inventory of the Ottoman Palace Library (1502/3–1503/4) (2 vols, 2019, coeditors Cemal Kafadar and Cornell H. Fleischer), The Arts of Ornamental Geometry: A Persian Compendium on Similar and Complementary Interlocking Figures (2017), A Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, in the Wiley-Blackwell Companions to Art History (coeditor F. Barry Flood, 2017) and Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local (coeditor Alina Payne, 2016).

In recognition of her distinguished scholarly career, Necipoğlu is an elected member of the British Academy, the American Philosophical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio in Vicenza, Italy.

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Oleg Grabar: One of 14 Previous Recipients of the Freer Medal , was Instrumental in Founding Harvard’s Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture

The following piece about Oleg Grabar includes material from a memorial meeting held by Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences on May 1, 2012Co-incidentally, we are publishing this piece almost 12 years to the day of Grabar’s death on January 8, 2011.

Oleg Grabar. Photograph: Archnet
Oleg Grabar. Photograph: Archnet

Among the fourteen previous recipients of the Freer Medal is Professor Oleg Grabar (1929-2011), who received the eleventh presentation of the medal on April 5, 2001. A special award booklet dedicated to Professor Grabar was published and can be downloaded by clicking HERE.

On November 24, 2010, at the Aga Khan Award for Architecture ceremony held in Qatar, His Highness the Aga Khan presented the Chairman’s Award to Professor Oleg Grabar in recognition of his lifetime contribution to the field of Islamic art and architecture. Less than two months later, on January 8, 2011, Oleg Grabar passed away at his home in Princeton, New Jersey, at the age of eighty-one.

Professor Grabar was recognized by the Islamic art and architecture community as one of the field’s most influential and insightful scholars. He was professor emeritus of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study, and Aga Khan Professor, Emeritus, at Harvard University.

Professor Grabar, who taught in the Harvard Department of Fine Arts (now History of Art and Architecture) for twenty-one years (1969–1990), was instrumental in founding Harvard’s Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture. There are few, if any, Islamicists who have not profited from the scholarly contributions of this extraordinary man, who was larger-than-life. He was the first Aga Khan Professor of Islamic Art at Harvard (1980–1990) — a position now held as mentioned in the previous section above by Gülru Necipoğlu — and subsequently joined the faculty of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, where he remained active in research and publication until his second retirement in 1998, and over the following thirteen years as well. Grabar’s continuing post-retirement intellectual productivity and capacity to inspire were officially recognized when he received His Highness the Aga Khan’s Chairman’s Award in Doha, Qatar, in 2010.

Please click on photo for enlargement

Aga Khan Award for Architecture Lifetime Achievement Award to Oleg Grabar, Simerg
His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, the then Emir of Qatar, presents a certificate to Professor Oleg Grabar who was awarded the Chairman’s Award in recognition of his lifetime contribution to the field of Islamic art and architecture, as Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and His Highness the Aga Khan look on. The Award ceremony took place in Qatar November 24, 2010. Photograph: AKDN/Gary Otte.

Date posted: January 6, 2023.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

The Aga Khan, Pope Benedict XVI, the Ismaili Imamat, the Papacy and Simon (St.) Peter

Aga Khan, Pope Benedict, Papacy, Ismaili Imamat and Simon Peter
Simon Peter. Click on image to read article

As part of his famous Apostolic Journey to France in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI — who died on December 31, 2022 — paid a visit to the “Institut De France” in Paris where he was presented with a gold medal by the Institut. Pope Benedict also unveiled a plaque commemorating his visit. During his very brief remarks to the audience, the Pope expressed his gratitude to the Institut “both personally and as the successor of [Simon] Peter.” The Aga Khan met the Late Pope, with everyone’s attention drawn to their handshake…Over the past 15 years, there has been an increased collaboration between Catholic institutions and the work of the Ismaili Imamat, through the Aga Khan Development Network…The Catholics adhere to the belief that the Pope is a successor of St. Peter. The succession of the Pope is determined by a college of cardinals who elect the Pope, while the office of the Imam of the Ismailis is a hereditary position.  — READ MORE

Date posted: January 1, 2023.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

The Aga Khan: Barakah’s 2022 Stories, Articles and Photos to Revisit

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

As we enter the year 2023 this weekend, we present links to articles we posted in 2022 on Simerg’s sister website, Barakah, which is dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. The Aga Khan is the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, and is directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family) through his son-in-law Imam Ali, the first Imam of all Shia Muslims, who was married to the Prophet’s daughter, Fatimah.

We commence the presentation with an image containing a verse from the Qur’an, a tradition (hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad and excerpts from the Aga Khan’s speeches and/or interviews. This is followed with links to more than thirty must read 2022 pieces.

The Ismaili Imamat is Unique

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Note: All photos may be clicked for enlargement. Preceding each photograph is a link to the corresponding piece. Please click on the links and read the articles.

Please click: Princess Yasmin Aga Khan: Birthday and Knighthood

Yasmin Aga Khan

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Please click: Ode to the Imam of the Present Time: His Highness the Aga Khan

The Aga Khan

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Please click:

Hussain Aga Khan

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Please click: The Hereditary Imamat and the Aga Khan’s 86th Birthday

Greeting for the Aga Khan's birthday

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Please click: 2010 Photo Flashback: The Aga Khan Award for Architecture in Qatar

Aga Khan in Qatar

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Please click: The Life of the 48th Ismaili Imam, Aga Khan III

Aga Khan III

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Please click: Oman’s 3-Day Feast of Culture: The Aga Khan Awards

Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2022

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Please click: A Handwritten Message of Hope and Prayer from the Aga Khan

Aga Khan Portrait

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Please click: Prince Rahim Aga Khan: 51 Years in Pictures

Prince Rahim Aga Khan

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Please click: Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Princess Zahra in British Columbia

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Please click: The Aga Khans, the Ismaili Imamat and the British Crown

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Please click: Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Her Work for the Ismaili Imamat

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Please click: A Review of the Aga Khan’s “Where Hope Takes Root”

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Please click: The Silver Jubilee Service Set Presented to the Aga Khan

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Please click: The Aga Khan: Modern Personification of Historical Islamic Rationalism, Charity and Peace

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Please click: The Aga Khan’s View of the World

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Please click: The Aga Khan Stands Out as an Icon of Action

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Please click: The Aga Khan at Harvard

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Please click: A Tribute to the Aga Khan

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Please click: Gift of a Standard to the Aga Khan and its Significance

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Please click: World Leaders’ Congratulatory Messages to the Aga Khan

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Please click: The Aga Khan’s Installation Ceremony from a Rare Magazine

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Please click: Reflections on “Depth of Field – The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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Please click: Dolly Jamani’s Memorable Photograph with the Aga Khan

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Please click: Message from the Aga Khan to His Followers in Tajikistan

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Please click: The Aga Khan Recites Eid ul-Fitr Prayers at Age 7

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Please click: The Aga Khan and Late Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki

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Please click: Irfan Aga Khan: The Seven Year Old Prince’s Name and its Roots

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Please click: Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Journey of Sea Exploration

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Please click: Yasmin Aga Khan: A Princess with a Mission

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Please click: The Aga Khan and Late Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

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Please click: March 21, 1960: The Aga Khan in Burma

Begum Aga Khan

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Please click: An Unforgettable Meeeting with Om Habibeh Aga Khan

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Please click: 22nd Birthday of Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan

Prince Aliy Muhammad Aga Khan

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Please click: Reminiscing the Aga Khan’s Participation in the 1964 Winter Olympic Games

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Please click: January – December 2022: News Coverage

With this post, we welcome new readers to our 3 websites – Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos – and wish them as well as all our existing readers a very happy, peaceful and prosperous 2023.

Date posted: December 29, 2022.

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.