Editor’s note: In Part II of a special series on the 49th Ismaili Imam’s visits to numerous countries that he undertook during 2015, we cover India (April), Canada (May) and Greece (September). Please click A Marvellous Collection of Photos of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visits to Canada, India and Greece.
Mawlid or Miladun Nabi is the observance of the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad, and is celebrated on the 12th day of Rabi’ al-awwal, the third month in the Islamic calendar. With the Islamic lunar calendar consisting of 354 days over a 12 month period, this celebration occurred earlier in 2015 during the first week in January, and will be commemorated once again on December 22 or 23.
To mark the Mawlid, we present you pieces by two fine writers, Michael Wolfe of the USA, who produced the highly acclaimed documentary Muhammad Legacy of the Prophet, and Izzat Muneyb of England, who contributed to the Ta’lim curriculum developed at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London.
As we remember our beloved Prophet, the Khatim an-Nabiyin (the seal of the Prophets) and the Al-Amin (the Trustworthy), we wish everyone a very happy and joyful Milad. The readings commence with a very pertinent message on the Prophet Muhammad by none other than His Highness the Aga Khan, the present 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismailis, who is lineally descended from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the first Imam.
THE HOLY PROPHET
By His Highness the Aga Khan
I have observed in the Western world a deeply changing pattern of human relations. The anchors of moral behaviour appear to have dragged to such depths that they no longer hold firm the ship of life: what was once wrong is now simply unconventional, and for the sake of individual freedom must be tolerated. What is tolerated soon becomes accepted. Contrarily, what was once right is now viewed as outdated, old-fashioned and is often the target of ridicule.
In the face of this changing world, which was once a universe to us and is now no more than an overcrowded island, confronted with a fundamental challenge to our understanding of time, surrounded by a foreign fleet of cultural and ideological ships which have broken loose, I ask, “Do we have a clear, firm and precise understanding of what Muslim Society is to be in times to come?” And if as I believe, the answer is uncertain, where else can we search then in the Holy Qur’an, and in the example of Allah’s last and final Prophet?
There is no justification for delaying the search for the answer to this question by the Muslims of the world, because we have the knowledge that Islam is Allah’s final message, the Qur’an His final book and Muhammad His last Prophet. We are blessed that the answers drawn from these sources guarantee that neither now, nor at any time in the future will we be going astray.
The Holy Prophet’s life gives us every fundamental guideline that we require to resolve the problem as successfully as our human minds and intellects can visualise. His example of integrity, loyalty, honesty, generosity both of means and of time, his solicitude for the poor, the weak and the sick, his steadfastness in friendship, his humility in success, his magnanimity in victory, his simplicity, his wisdom in conceiving new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam, surely all these are foundations which, correctly understood and sincerely interpreted, must enable us to conceive what should be a truly modern and dynamic Islamic Society in the years ahead….Excerpt from Presidential Address by His Highness the Aga Khan, Seerat Conference, Pakistan, 1976.
HOW A MUSLIM SEES MUHAMMAD
By Michael Wolfe
A lot of non-Muslims who know something about Islam as a religious practice are nonetheless in the dark when it comes to real knowledge of Muhammad. This, despite the fact that Muhammad is the guiding, human spirit of the religion.
Muslims see Muhammad as a human being who became a prophet and yet remained human all his life. He had a special access to God’s words, but he also worked for a living, married, and had children, led his people out of oppression and died at the age of 63 with his family at his side. They see him, that is, not the way Christians view Jesus but rather in the tradition of prophets like Abraham and Moses.
Muhammad never claimed to be divine, and he never attributed supernatural powers to himself. From the age of forty until his death, his mission was simply to convey a message, contained in the Qur’an, and to illustrate its spirit in his daily life. Muhammad received the Qur’an a few verses at a time, intermittently, over this long, eventful period, and he rendered it into language people could understand. That, he said, was his only miracle. He did not defy gravity or return the dead to life. He rebuked anyone who suggested otherwise.
Muslims have no pictures to suggest what he may have looked like. Their focus is on his message, not his face. If you spend any time at all with Muslims, you soon begin to see that they know Muhammad’s words and actions and quote them frequently.
This quotable aspect of the tradition is seemingly inexhaustible, running to thousands of pages. Together with the Qur’an, they form a cannon on which Islamic Law is based. In a less formal way, these reports of what Muhammad said and did are put to use daily as a yardstick against which people measure their actions and intentions.
Just as the words of Jesus are woven into the fabric of every European language so that, believer or not, most everyone knows who to credit with phrases like “Turn the other cheek,” “the meek shall inherit the earth,” and “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s,” so too for many Muslims the words of Muhammad are on the tips of their tongues and easily recognized.
In the published collections, these reports are often grouped by category, in sections with titles like “The Book Of Knowledge,” or “The Book of Prayer.”
“The Book of Knowledge” is both instructive and occasionally wry. What better sentence to write on the black board, for instance, than “Asking good questions is half of learning.” A page or two later, the value of knowledge is summed up in these terms: “People with knowledge and those who seek it are the only two groups of any use to humanity.” While truth’s poor keepers are succinctly dismissed, as in this gem: “Three agents destroy religion: an ill-tempered scholar, a tyrannical leader, and an ignorant theologian.”
“The Book of Charity” contains this unexpected advice: “Happy are those who find fault with themselves instead of finding fault with others.”
Morality is often expressed in terms so simple they arrest you, as in this maxim: “Avoid anything that requires an excuse.” At other times, the terms are earthy and even humorous: “If people had been forbidden to make porridge of camel dung, they would do it, saying that it wouldn’t be forbidden unless there was some good in it.”
And here is Muhammad on Humility: “Strength does not lie in carrying heavy loads: a camel can do that. The essence of strength lies in taming your temper and your anger.”
These statements full of wisdom were mostly coined on the spot, in response to particular situations, by a man aware of the limits of his knowledge. He only knew, he said, what God would show him.
Here is what God showed Muhammad about prayer: “During prayer, God lifts the veils and opens the gates of the invisible, so that His servant is standing in front of Him. Prayer creates a secret connection between the one praying and the One prayed to – Prayer is a threshold at the entrance to God’s reality.”
And what does the great Hindu sage Mahatma Gandhi say about Muhammad’s words? “They are among the treasures of Mankind, not merely Muslims…. A reverent study of the sayings of the different teachers of mankind is a step in the direction of… mutual respect.”
© Copyright: Michael Wolfe. Reproduced with the kind permission of Michael Wolfe.
IN PRAISE OF PROPHET MUHAMMAD
(May Peace Be Upon Him)
By Izzat Muneyb
Author’s note: This song introduces us to some of the titles by which Prophet Muhammad came to be known. They are: ‘Ahmad’, ‘Mustafa’, ‘Rahmatan li’l-‘aalameen and ‘King of law laak’. The words ‘law laak’ in Arabic mean, “Were it not for…” There is a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, where Allah speaking to His prophet, says, “Were it not for you, I would not have created the universe – law laaka lamaa khalaqtu’l-aflaaka.” 
N.B: The lines marked * are sung twice.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
Shall we call you Ahmad?*
He who is praised in heaven
Shall be praised here on earth.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
Shall we call you Mustafa?*
The Chosen of God on earth,
You have brought us the Qur’an.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
Shall we call you Rahmatan li’l-‘aalameen?*
God sent you as a Mercy
To the whole of creation.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
Shall we call you the ‘King of law laak’?*
Even God says He created
The universe for you.
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*
© Copyright: Izzat Muneyb.
Date posted: December 20, 2015.
 Source: Sukheel Sharif, The Jawziyyah Institute, 2006
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RELATED: Please also click Nativity of the Prophet Muhammad: The Mevlud/Mawlid Tradition to read an excellent piece contributed by Omid Safi.
BY HAKIM VALI MOHAMMAD SURANI
The ginanic literature of the Ismailis emerged when Ismaili Pirs (missionaries) came to India to spread the teachings of Islam and the Shia Ismaili Tariqah. The task which lay before the Pirs was to introduce the teachings of their faith in a form which would not be completely alien to the people to whom they were preaching. The ginans were therefore composed on a ‘synthetic pattern’ of the prevalent religious poetry. The Pirs took the local religious terms as conceptual tools to introduce Ismaili and Islamic teachings to the masses and, in so doing, they achieved good results. The method they adopted was most logical and quite in the spirit of the universal nature of Islam. The Holy Qur’an says:
“Call unto the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching; and reason with them in ways that are best.” — Holy Qur’an, 16:125
Thus the Ismaili Pirs brought the Hindu mind to a logical understanding of the fundamental concepts of Islam. Professor Ivanow makes the following observation on the approach taken by the Ismaili Pirs:
“Either by intuition, or sound and clever reasoning, the Nizari Ismaili missionaries devised some methods which helped them to overcome such local obstacles…One was their bold tactics in separating the meaning and spirit of Islam from its hard Arab shell…They explained the high ideals of Islam in the familiar terms of ancestral religion, Hinduism….They brought the matter a step further by proclaiming Islam the crowning phase of the whole development of Hinduism. According to them, the Qur’an (together with the ta’wil system) was the last and final Ved, completing the earlier revelations. Thus, from a purely Islamic view point, the method of bridging the difference between Islam and Hinduism adopted by Ismaili missionaries was perfectly correct, in no way conflicting with orthodox ideas.” — quote excerpts from Ismaili Da’wa in India, by W. Ivanow, Ilm, Volume 4, Number 2
In this brief article, we will present only a few of the several verses that reference Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) in the ginanic literature of the Ismailis. Links to recitations of some of the ginans mentioned in this piece are provided below.
Among the concepts presented by Ismaili Pirs in the ginans was the concept of Nubuwwah (Prophethood).
In the Holy Qur’an this concept is explained with reference to the last Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (may peace be upon him). By giving an analogy of Sirajum-Munira to the Nabi (Prophet) as in the following verse, the Holy Qur’an relates the concept of Nubuwwah with the symbol of Noor (light):
“And as one who invites unto Allah by His permission, and as a lamp that gives light (Sirajum-Munira).” — Holy Qur’an, 33:46
While the Holy Qur’an describes the Nabi as ‘Bright Lamp’, the ginans use the symbol of ‘Chandni’ (Moon Light) for the Prophet. Both in the Holy Qur’an and the ginans, the Prophet is seen as a Rahemat (Mercy) to mankind. The Qur’an says:
“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to all the nations.” — Holy Qur’an, 21:107
Obedience to the Prophet is obedience to God and it is also made a necessary condition for the love for God. Those who disobey the Prophet are called the ignorant ones. The ginans also speak in the same vein. The similarities show that the teachings of Ismaili Pirs had their foundations in the Holy Qur’an.
3. THE PROPHET AS MERCY TO MANKIND AND LIGHT
“An Apostle who rehearses to you the Signs of God containing clear explanations, that he may lead forth those who believe and do good works from darkness unto light.” — Holy Qur’an, 65:11
In the verse quoted above, the Prophet is the source of guidance for mankind. He shows them the right path, removes the veil of ignorance and brings them to Light. In the ginan Satveni Moti, Syed Imam Shah says:
“Nabi Muhammad iis joog mahe aviyaa, tis-thi chand-roona marag paya”
“Prophet Muhammad has come in this period, and through this moon-like Light, the Way has been made bright.”
The Pir says that the Institution of Nubuwwah, through the last of the Prophets, is like a moon which expels darkness and shows the way to the travellers. It determines a way of action for salvation, because we are liable to errors and may go astray in this world of many complexities.
The Prophet’s manifestation as God’s Bounty and Mercy is shown by the following verse of the ginan Alaf Nirale Khalaq Raja by Pir Sadr al-Din:
“Bujo-re bhai chhatra kon tana, Chhatra Nabi Muhammad Mustafa tana”
“Through whom is the care and protection? Know, O Brothers! The care and protection is through Nabi Muhammad Mustafa (the Chosen).”
This clearly resonates with the Qur’anic verse:
“Allah verily has shown grace to the believers by sending unto them a messenger of their own who recites unto them His revelations, and causes them to grow, and teaches them the Scripture and wisdom.” — Holy Qur’an, 3:164
And Pir Hasan Kabiruddin in his monumental composition, Anant Akhado, says:
“Ashaji Nabi chale Nooraj warsey, Rikhisar ne sir chhai(n)-ji”
“There are showers of Noor where Nabi walks and the believers have his protection over them.”
Thus the ginans describe the Prophet’s care and protection as chhatra and chhai(n) respectively. His guidance is Noor (Light), which helps to dispel darkness and makes visible the path leading to reunion with God.
4. THE PROPHET AS INTERCESSOR AND REDEEMER OF SOULS
“And those whom they invoke besides God have no power of intercession save he who bears witness to the Truth and they know (him).” — Holy Qur’an, 43:86
“O Muhammad! Raise your head and speak, and you shall be granted your desire, and intercede and your intercession shall be accepted.” — Hadith, Bukhari, 81:51
Since the Institution of Nubuwwah is a Blessing given by Allah, believers will have the intercession of the Prophet on the Day of Judgement. This (intercession) will bring them spiritual bounties in the life hereafter. In the Ginan Yara Shafayat Muhammad Karshe , Pir Sadr al-Din says:
“Yara shafayat Muhammad karsey, Mu’min bahest lahenga.”
“O friends! Muhammad will intercede (on the Day of Judgement), and the mu’min (believer) will earn the abode in heaven.”
In Buj Niranjan, the Pir says:
“Jo Nabi Muhammad karey shafayat, Ja(n)ko hai ummat ki riayat” — verse 6, lines 9-10
“If Prophet Muhammad intercedes then his followers will find ease (on the Day of Judgement).”
However, a pre-condition of earning the intercession of the Prophet Muhammad is for one to accept his Prophetic role and to follow his guidance. This is beautifully explained in Kalma Kahore Momano by Pir Satgur Noor:
“Eji Nam Nabi-ka mitha hai, jaisa sakar dudh, Kalma kaho dil saach soo(n), to bando shafayat mool”
“O mumin! the name of our Nabi is as sweet as sugar and milk. Recite the Kalma with a true and sincere heart. This, indeed, will provide for you the intercession of the Prophet.”
“Eji Nabi to jeevo(n) ka datar hai, Jene Kalma sunaya sar; Je momin manshe to beheshti howenga, Baki gafil bhula gemar”
“Nabi is the redeemer of all the souls and he has taught the kalma to you. A mumin who declares his faith in the kalma will earn the heavenly abode but the rest, who ignore the kalma, will be lost and, indeed, they are the foolish ones.”
The consequences of not obeying the Prophet Muhammad to those who have paid allegiance to Islam is provided in the following verse of Syed Imam Shah:
“Nabi Muhammad kahya jeene na kiya, dozakh-ma(n) darwaza une liya”
“He who does not obey the teachings of Prophet Muhammad has taken for himself the path towards the gates of hell.”
And, in this vein, the Qur’an declares:
“Establish worship and pay the poor-due and obey the messenger, that you may find mercy. Think not that the unbelievers, are going to frustrate (God’s plan) on earth. Fire will be their home – and it is indeed an evil refuge.” — Holy Qur’an, 24: 56-57
5. BELIEF IN PRE-ISLAMIC REVELATIONS AND PROPHETS
(a) Earlier Revelations
“Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which has been revealed to us and in that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Issac and Jacob and the tribes, and in what that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the Prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:136
Belief in Prophet Muhammad as the last of Allah’s Messenger renders it necessary for a believer to accept all the earlier prophets, as shown in the above verse. This essential principle as well as some of the references that the Qur’an makes about the earlier prophets is also found in ginans as shown in the following compositions:
In the Ginan Virabhai Saheb Kero Bhed Na Bujere Koi, Pir Sadr al-Din observes:
“Eji ek lakh-ne chovis hazaar-mahe paigumbar sardar”
“Amongst the 124,000 (Prophets), the Prophet (Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa) is the chief.”
This is in accordance with a well known tradition of the Prophet Muhammad which states that there were 124,000 prophets; the Holy Qur’an mentions only about twenty-five prophets.
(b) Hazrat Adam (a.s.)
“They (Adam and his wife) said: ‘Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost’.” — Holy Qur’an, 7: 23
A corresponding verse is found in Pir Hasan Kabiruddin’s Eji Sarve Jivu-na Lekha Leshey:
“Eji Dada Adam mota barvant kahiye, Tap mota tena kahiye.”
“Hazrat Adam was indeed very strong (spiritually), and his penance was complete.”
(c) Hazrat Musa (a.s.)
“And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and his Lord had spoken unto him, he said: ‘My Lord! Show me (Thyself) that I may gaze upon Thee.” — Holy Qur’an, 7:143
Pir Hasan Kabiruddin, speaking about Hazrat Musa, says:
“Eji Musa Nabi Shah-ku bahot pyara, Niti nit darshan karna”
“Prophet Musa was the beloved of the Lord. He always sought and prayed for the vision of Allah.”
(d) Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.)
“Say: Allah speaketh truth. So follow the religion of Abraham, the upright.” — Holy Qur’an, 3:95
And about Hazrat Ibrahim, Pir Hasan Kabiruddin says:
“Eji Ibrahim Nabiji-ki bataj suniye, Karna aiysa kaam”
“Listen to the story of Prophet Ibrahim and do such deeds as he did.”
6. FROM NUBUWWAH TO IMAMAT
“Behold, your Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a Vicegerent on earth’.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:30
“O mankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: for We have sent unto you a light that is manifest.” — Holy Qur’an, 4:174
“He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla.” — Hadith
Finally, it would be appropriate to add a few ginanic verses which speak about the continuity of the Divine Guidance through the Institution of Imamat after the demise of Allah’s last Prophet, Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa (may peace be upon him). True, there would be no Prophet after Prophet Muhammad, but God’s guidance for mankind had to continue, or else how could God’s Infinite Mercy and Absolute Justice be explained?
The continuous and perpetual guidance mentioned in the Qur’anic verse:
“O mankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: for we have sent you a light that is manifest” — Holy Qur’an, 4:74
is stated by Pir Hasan Kabiruddin as follows:
“Noore-Khalifa iis joog-ma(n)hey awiya, Ta(n)ki amar jyot likhai ji”
“Vicegerent of God (Imam) has come in this period and His Light is Eternal.”
However, the belief in and the recognition of Prophet Muhammad is a pre-requisite for a belief in the Imamat and this is reinforced in Pir Hasan Kabiruddin’s Allah Ek Khasam Sabuka:
“Nabi Muhammad bujo bhai, to tamey pamo Imam.”
“O brothers! know Nabi Muhammad, i.e. know the teachings of Nabi Muhammad, for it is then that you will gain the recognition of the Imam of the time.”
Date posted: November 25, 2015.
GINAN RECITATIONS AT GINAN CENTRAL: A PORTAL OF THE ISMAILI COMMUNITY’S GINANIC LITERATURE
To listen to some of the ginans mentioned in the above piece, and to more than 700 other ginans by multiple reciters from around the world, please click on http://ginans.usask.ca/recitals/ginans.php?id=0
This is a unique resource that should be of interest to everyone researching or studying ginans, as well as everyone who is inspired by ginans composed by Ismaili Pirs and Syads.
1. This reading has been adapted from Hakim Vali Mohammad Surani’s piece Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) in the Light of Ginans, which was originally published in Ilm, March 1980, Volume 5, Number 4, by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom.
2. Further references to all the ginans quoted in this reading are provided in the original Ilm article.
INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Every Ismaili yearns to see the Imam of the Time. It’s a dream of a lifetime. Throughout history, past and present, Ismailis have travelled far and wide to earn this special moment of grace and barakah (happiness) in their lives. Since the advent of the 20th century, the 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, and the current 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim (His Highness the Aga Khan), have graciously travelled to lands around the world to give their beloved murids (followers) this blessed opportunity. Scientific and technological advancements have speeded up and shortened the time-gap between visits of Mawlana Hazar Imam with his jamats, though even in these situations, some jamats such as those living in Central Asia, did not have the opportunity of a meeting with the present Imam and his predecessors for decades and centuries. What sustained their faith, sometimes under extremely difficult and extra ordinary circumstances, was their spiritual bond with the Imam of the Time.
A cornerstone of Ismaili doctrines has been the principle of the Unity of Imamat, that is the Ismaili belief and understanding that each Imam, being the bearer of the Noor (Light) of Imamat, is the same irrespective of his own age or the time he lives in. Thus in Ismaili writings, in addition to the importance of the physical didar (or glimpse) of the Imam, a strong emphasis has been laid on the followers to seek to attain the Beatific Vision of the Imam of the Time through special prayers, in addition to the ritual prayers. This idea is also conveyed in the sixth article of the Preamble of the Constitution of the Ismailis, which states:
“Historically and in accordance with Ismaili tradition, the Imam of the time is concerned with spiritual advancement as well as improvement of the quality of life of his murids. The imam’s ta‘lim lights the murid’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision…”
The following collection of writings from Ismaili history articulates the importance of both the physical as well as the spiritual glimpse of the Imam of the Time. Our next reading in this short four-part series to commemorate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 58th Imamat Day will consist of excerpts from the writings of Ismaili Imams on the subject of Imamat. This will be followed by contemporary voices on Imamat by members of the jamat.
1. An Inspiring Anecdote: Da’i Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi ‘s Mulaqat with the 18th Ismaili Imam (or 8th Fatimid Caliph), Imam al-Mustansir Billah
“I was taken near the place where from I saw the bright Light of the Prophethood. My eyes were dazzled by the Light. I shed tears of joy and felt as if I was looking at the face of the Prophet of Allah and of the Commander of the Faithful, Hazrat Ali. I prostrated myself before the one who is the fittest person to bow to. I wanted to say something, but I was awe-struck.
“I tried to speak but my tongue refused to move. People asked me to say what I wished to say. I could say nothing. The Imam said, ‘Leave him. Let his fear and awe subside’.
“After this, I rose. I took the holy hand of the Imam, placed it on my eyes and on my chest and then kissed it. I left the place with immense joy.”
The same dai, in the following entreaty to Imam Mustansir, typifies an Ismaili’s impatience to behold the face of the Imam of one’s time, and the urgency of this beyond any possible worldly consideration. He states:
“I swear, were you to crown me, and were you to grant me dominion over the world entire and say to me ‘Let our meeting be postponed but an hour’, I would reply: ‘O my Mawla, let us meet instead! For your delay of but an hour has turned my hair gray’.”
2. A Pilgrim’s Experience
During the reign of the 34th Ismaili Imam Gharib Mirza, a pilgrim tracked his way to Anjudan to see the Imam on behalf of the jamats in Khurasan. The identity of the pilgrim is not very clear due to the poor quality of the manuscript but the ode to the Imam reads as follows:
“Greetings! O Emperor of the Realm of Faith and World; I come from Khurasan to behold your face. All I have is a soul imperfect, sins and transgressions galore.
“Despite such worthless goods, I long for your grace, hoping that through me you may forgive the trespasses of your servants-one and all.
“As you are the sovereign and governor of all creation, this being testified to by the Qur’an itself, your proper name has been made manifest to all the faithful.
“You are Shah Gharib and Mustansir, the inheritor of Shah Salam!”
3. Pir Sadr al-Din on the True Guide, the Beatific Vision of the Imam, and the Alchemy of Transformation from Contact with the Imam
The following is a translation of Pir Sadr al-Din’s ginanic compositiom “Sakhi māhā pad keri vāt koek jānere.”
“Friend! None but a few know of the exalted station. Indeed, they alone recognize it who have found the true guide.
“Friend! Within the heart, at the confluence of the three spiritual rivers, there is an imperishable light. There – a shimmering effulgence, pearls are showered.
“Friend! I completely lost consciousness of my physical self when my meditation mounted the empyrean, bursting forth.
“Friend! I beheld the place of the lofty throne, I saw the seven islands, the nine continents.
“Friend! The religious scriptures and books cannot fathom this, for there is neither day there, nor night, neither sun, nor shade.
“Friend! My Lord is not such that He can be spoken of. He is to be seen – for He is indescribable, and nameless.
“Friend! How sweet is that Lord, indescribable, nameless. Says Pir Sadr al-Din, truly, with my own eyes, I have seen Him!”
And the following is a translation of a verse from Sab Ghat Sami Maaro Bharpur Betha on spiritual transformation:
“O Brother, The True Preceptor is like the philosopher’s stone and the followers are like copper.
“When the copper comes in contact with the philosopher’s stone it becomes gold.
“The followers gain spiritual enlightenment from the contact of the Imam. He is the only Glorious, O brother.”
4. Nizar Quhistani on the Imam of the Time As the Source of Salvation, and on the Continuity of Imamat
“Salvation is to be found in the Imam of the Time.
“Ever since I found the Imamate, permanently in human form, I have known no other guide than the living, everlasting Imam.
“For in his command, I have found peace in both the worlds.
“My lover appears in different forms,
“Because for each period there comes a new guidance;
“One after the other, there follows another Qaim Imam Ali.
“I have given up everything except that contained in the Qur’anic verse ‘offspring, one of the other’.”
Date posted: July 8, 2015.
Readings adapted from The Life and Lectures of the Grand Missionary al-Muayyad-fid-Din al-Shirazi and The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation by Shafique N. Virani, Hardcover, May 3, 2007.
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LETTER FROM PUBLISHER
By Abdulmalik Merchant
Canada’s Confederation Day, the American Independence Day, Tanzania’s Saba Saba celebrations and the Imamat Day of His Highness the Aga Khan, all fall in the month of July.
Canada is already preparing for its 150th birthday two years hence when Ismailis around the world will, inshallah, celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of their beloved 49th Imam, whom they respectfully address as Mawlana Hazar Imam.
His Highness the Aga Khan succeeded to the 49th hereditary throne of Imamat at the age of twenty by the will of his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, who served as the 48th Ismaili Imam for a record 71 years (August 17, 1885 – July 11, 1957).
Over the next week, Simerg will provide an insight into the principles of Imamat through short readings. We begin the series by posting the Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution, which is an introductory succinct statement giving the historical roots of the Ismaili Imamat, the principle of Imamat succession, and the permanency of the spiritual bond that exists between the Imam and his followers.
Another theme that will be explored in the coming few days through the writings of Ismaili Pirs, missionaries and philosophers is the principle of the Unity of Imamat, that is the Ismaili belief and understanding that each Imam, being the bearer of the Noor (Light) of Imamat, is the same irrespective of his own age or the time he lives in.
Finally, another aspect that will become apparent from the readings to follow is that the hereditary institution of Imamat can never become extinct. This is in accordance with the well known Muslim prophetic tradition, hadith thaqalain, which says, “I leave behind me two weighty things: The Book of Allah and my Progeny. If you keep yourselves attached to these two, never, never will you go astray. Both are tied with a long rope and cannot be separated until the Day of Judgement.”
The Preamble of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims
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“Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.”
In 1905, the 48th Ismaili Imam, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, issued a written set of ‘Rules and Regulations’ for the Ismailis of East Africa which effectively served as their communal constitution. This constitution re-affirmed the centrality of the Imam’s authority over the affairs of his community and also articulated the distinctive religious identity of the Ismailis. This document was revised and published several times until 1954, and was made available to Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike. Similar rules were given to the Ismaili community in British India.
During the 1960’s, the 48th Imam’s grandson and successor, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan IV, gave Constitutions to his followers in Africa and Pakistan in 1962, and to the Jamat in India in 1967.
A constitution review committee was then formed in the early 1980’s, and after exhaustive review, Mawlana Hazar Imam, in 1986, ordained a new Ismaili Constitution known as “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.”
The Ismaili Constitution became applicable throughout the world, linking all Ismailis to the Imamat. His Highness did this with the belief that the Constitution would provide a strong institutional and organizational framework through which his community would be able to contribute to the harmonious development of the Muslim Ummah and of the societies in which his followers lived. He expressed confidence that the Ismaili Constitution would give a stronger integrated identity to his community, and that in abiding by it in letter and spirit, the Ismailis would achieve greater peace, unity, happiness, security and wellbeing. He futher hoped that the Constitution would become an enabling document for all his murids (followers) for an active role in institution building, for creative application of their abilities, for personal development and for intellectual and spiritual satisfaction.
The new constitution was ordained, signed and sealed by Mawlana Hazar Imam on December 13th, 1986, his fiftieth Salgirah (birthday) and thirtieth year of Imamat. The Constitution was revised by Mawlana Hazar Imam on July 11, 1998, when he completed forty one years of his spiritual leadership.
(A) The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims affirm the shahādah lā ilāha illa-llāh, Muhammadur rasulu-llāh, the Tawhid therein and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) is the last and final Prophet of Allah. Islam, as revealed in the Holy Quran, is the final message of Allah to mankind, and is universal and eternal. The Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through the divine revelation from Allah prescribed rules governing spiritual and temporal matters.
(B) In accordance with Shia doctrine, tradition, and interpretation of history, the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Mawlana Ali Amiru-l-Mu’minin (a.s), to be the first Imam to continue the Ta’wīl and Ta‘līm of Allah’s final message and to guide the murids, and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s) and his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s).
(C) Succession of Imamat is by way of Nass, it being the absolute prerogative of the Imam of the time to appoint his successor from amongst any of his male descendents whether they be sons or remoter issue.
(D) The authority of the Imam in the Ismaili Tariqah is testified by Bay‘ah by the murid to the Imam which is the act of acceptance by the murid of the permanent spiritual bond between the Imam and the murid. This allegiance unites all Ismaili Muslims worldwide in their loyalty, devotion and obedience to the Imam within the Islamic concept of universal brotherhood. It is distinct from the allegiance of the individual murid to his land of abode.
(E) From the time of the Imamat of Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s), the Imams of the Ismaili Muslims have ruled over territories and peoples in various areas of the world at different periods of history and, in accordance with the needs of the time, have given rules of conduct and constitution in conformity with the Islamic concepts of unity, brotherhood, justice, tolerance and goodwill.
(F) Historically and in accordance with Ismaili tradition, the Imam of the time is concerned with spiritual advancement as well as improvement of the quality of life of his murids. The imam’s ta‘lim lights the murid’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision. In temporal matters, the Imam guides the murids, and motivates them to develop their potential.
(G) Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.
(H) By virtue of his office and in accordance with the faith and belief of the Ismaili Muslims, the Imam enjoys full authority of governance over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismaili Muslims.
(I) It is the desire and Hidāyat of Mawlana Hazar Imam that the constitutions presently applicable to the Ismaili Muslims in different countries be superseded and that the Ismaili Muslims worldwide be given this constitution in order better to secure their peace and unity, religious and social welfare, to foster fruitful collaboration between different peoples, to optimise the use of resources, and to enable the Ismaili Muslims to make a valid and meaningful contribution to the improvement of the quality of life of the Ummah and the societies in which they live.
Date posted: Saturday, July 4, 2015.
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References for this post:
(1) The Ismailis: An Illustrated History by Farhad Daftary and Zulfikar Hirji, published by Azimuth editions in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies (2008).
(2) Wikipedia article on Imamah, with link to website, http://www.salmanspiritual.com/
(3) http://www.kamalzar.com, website of Alwaez Kamaluddin Muhammad and Alwaeza Zarina Kamaludin.
“While ascent (al-ma’arij) in its simple meaning gives a clue to the upward direction of the Prophet’s journey, it proclaims very emphatically that if God has placed man on this earth, He has also set up a ladder for man to climb up to Him. No wonder Allah calls Himself the Lord of the Ways of Ascent (Dhu ’l-ma‘arij).” — Read more
This is an unusual example of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) pictured in an Islamic manuscript. It comes from a royal miniature made to illustrate a copy of the poems of the celebrated Persian Nizami, and depicts the Prophet’s ascension to heaven on the horse Buraq, guided by the archangel Gabriel, with an escort of angels. According to tradition, the face of the Prophet is blanked out in the miniature.
“In spiritual life, serial time no longer exists. The moment a soul breaks through created time and reaches the ‘Eternal Now in God’, everything created is annihilated in its experience. The serial time is torn. Finally, the Prophet says: ‘And He revealed to me secrets that I am not allowed to communicate to you’” — Read more
The identity of the artist who created the illustration is not known. The calligraphy in this piece was created by Shah Mahmud Nishapuri (d. 1564-5) for Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-76) — the ruler of Iran who at one point owned the Koh-i-noor diamond, then the world’s largest, and now in the Tower of London.
“His yearning for the ‘exalted station’ becomes intense, and as often as he feels this longing he turns to Bilal and says: “O Bilal, comfort us by the call to prayer.” Thus to the Prophet every time of prayer is an ascension (mi’raj) and a new nearness to God.” — Read more
The story of Prophet Muhammad’s journey has had a profound influence on Islamic thought, and Sufism and other esoteric traditions in Islam particular see it as a powerful metaphor for man’s spiritual journey. Please read The Prophetic Tradition ‘I Have a Time with God’ (li ma’a Allah waqt).
Text for image compiled from the website of the British Museum. Please visit http://www.britishmuseum.org.
Date posted: Sunday, May 10, 2015