A Post Didar Reflection: Using Avicenna’s Realm of Active Imagination for Keeping Evergreen the Consciousness of the Holy Encounter with Mawlana Hazar Imam

Aga Khan departure 2017

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, waves goodbye at Montreal airport at the end of his recent visit to Canada. Photo: The Ismaili/Moez Visram.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

It is natural that as we reflect and interiorize the joys of sights and sensations of mulaqats with Mawlana Hazar Imam including the most recent ones in Toronto and Montreal, the post-mulaqat vacuum may create a sense of post-padhramni sadness or what we call blues. The chores and demands of daily life which are put in abeyance during the anticipatory period of the mulaqat, once again begins to claim our attention and the bliss of mulaqat may begin to fade from the minds of some. The “presence” that had given joy to the heart begins to fade. These are the precursors to the onset of a sense of sadness. Lose not hope. There is a remedy. Glittering gems are scattered around to light our path, away from the blues. Let me explain.

In his commentary on the Visionary Recitals of Avicenna [1, 2], the renowned Orientalist Henry Corbin has recognized an essential bridge that gives rise to religious or mystical/spiritual consciousness. Corbin call this the faculty of Active Imagination. What does this term “Active Imagination” mean? In ordinary language, Active Imagination is the sum total of our mental faculties with imagination as its chief driver that allows us to configure the existence of a spiritual universe as a concrete reality. Without it the existence of such universes becomes doubtful. Visionary Recitals of Avicenna are renowned for promoting the realm of this Active Imagination which allow the flowering of spiritual symbolism in the heart that prepares it for an adventure into the unknown.

Sufism recognizes two different conditions of consciousness on the mystical path: the first of these known as al-Hal is a state of consciousness which is transient or passing. It could be a state of sadness, ecstasy, happiness or any other state dictated by the mind. Pir Sadardin’s epic granth Buj Niranjan (Chapter 20, Verse 4) describes such a state when a soul, intoxicated in divine love, vacillates between state of happiness and sadness:

Kabuek hanse aur kabuek rove
Kabuek lag piya gal sove……(4)

Translation:

Sometimes she cries, at others she laughs
Sometimes she is as if in embrace of the beloved……(4)

The other condition known as al-Maqam is a permanent station achieved by the desire and effort of the seeker and grace from above. These stations (pl. maqaamat) are necessary stages of progress along the path to spiritual enlightenment. At a deeper level, Active Imagination is at work in the attainment of the various states and stations of the path. The aim of those who are on the esoteric path is not to get bogged down in the transient, passing states but to steadfastly continue on the path to the encounter with the Higher Reality.

With this background we turn our attention to the post padhramni sadness we referred to earlier and to its cure(s). One Ginan that help us in this regard is Aji Hete Sun Milore Mara Munivero. [3] The beauty of this Ginan is that it does not require a complex philosophical project or spiritual mumbo-jumbo to deliver a simple elixir for the heart. The messages it conveys are profound truths of spiritual search and the practical engagement of the Active Imagination. The verses of our interest are 4, 5 and 8.

The key points of verse 4 are that Lord’s name is pure and divine; that one needs to invoke Him by this “Name” with regularity; that His “presence” is mingled intimately with the heart just as fragrance is an intimate essence of the flower.

Aji Paak saajeb ji nun naam chee
Tene jampi-e saas ussas
Dur ma dekho dil maahe vase
Jem chaampa phool mahe vaas……(4)

Translation:

Divine is the “Name” of the Lord
Invoke this “Name” with regularity,
Do not see Him far, He is intimately mingled in your heart
Just as fragrance is intimate with the Flower……(4)

Verse 5 reinforces what has been stated in Verse 4 and exemplifies and demands the engagement of the Active Imagination in the practice of the invocation of the “Name.” It states that every atom of the body is imbued with the divine presence.

So, in essence the “presence” never left! It is always there. The last line of the verse capitulates one of the remedies to counter the sadness: Perform devotion with the understanding that He, the Lord is always seated in the heart.

Aji rome rome maaro Shaah vase,
Ane antar nahi ek til
Evun jaanni bhgaataai kij-e
Shaah partake bethaa dil……(5)

Translation:

The Lord is mingled with every atom of your body.
Do not harbor delusion that you are separate from him
Perform your devotion with the knowledge that
He is forever seated in your heart……(5)

Faith is the ultimate essence of Active Imagination. In verse 8 of Hetesun Milore Mara Munivero we see this at play:

Aji raini ajvari chaand sun,
ane divas ajvaro sur
Tem Ghat ajvaro Iman sun……(8)

This verse provides an added,  joyful ingredient to the uplifting elixir provided by verses 4 and 5. It states that just as night is lighted by the moon and sun lights the day, so faith lights the heart. And such a heart is in continual bliss of rain of Nur (light).

What these verses of the Ginan indicate is that the “presence” of the Imam never left the heart. It is always there. A combination of faith and Active Imagination provides a continual reinforcement of the “presence.” But this requires the necessary action of continual remembrance with the understanding that He is ever present in the heart.

Date posted: November 29, 2017.

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Notes:  

[1]. Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, translated from the French by Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series, LXVI, 1960.
[2]. All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings by Tom Cheetham, North Atlantic Books,  Berkeley, California, 2012. Available also as a Kindle book.
[3]. http://ginans.usask.ca/.

Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.

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An open letter to all Ismaili brothers and sisters of Ontario who had a mulaqat with Mawlana Hazar Imam in Toronto; your stories and example have inspired us and we will think of you in Montreal

Mubaraki to the Ontario jamat, mubaraki to the volunteers and mubaraki to the leadership; and Mawlana Hazar Imam “Amen” for your immense love, care and blessings, as well as for assuring us that you are always with us!

By ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT

Qur’anic ayat inside front page of Mulaqat Canada 2017 information booklet.

PLEASE ALSO CLICK: Update #6: After a memorable 4-day encounter of the Ontario Ismailis with Mawlana Hazar Imam, 12,000 more strong souls await chance in Montreal to show their love for 49th Imam

I have arrived in Montreal! It’s Sunday evening. I can see the Palais des congrès de Montréal from the 10th floor of the apartment I have rented. The Palais des congrès, or the Convention Centre as it is also known, is in the north end of Old Montreal. This is a gigantic place and is capable of holding multiple events simultaneously. It is where the Ottawa jamat will be joining with the jamat of the Quebec and Maritime Provinces to undergo an experience of the kind the Ontario jamats have gone through in the last 72 hours or so. A total of approximately 12,000 murids, divided into 2 equal seatings, will be meeting with their beloved Imam on Tuesday, November 21st. The Quebec jamat is overwhelmingly of Afghan origin. I will be huddled with them and I am looking forward to that. I am confident their spirit, their kindness, their discipline and their voices of devotion will uplift me immensely.

My spirit is growing with each minute that passes by. Text messages and emails are coming from everywhere describing the joyful didars in Toronto. Murids of all ages are overwhelmed. A friend wrote to me: “It was very special; everyone is very happy and feeling blessed, it has been amazing; it has been amazing because of the superb organization and also the Jamat was very disciplined!”

Another family friend of Portuguese origin wrote to me and others: “You were in our thoughts and prayers. You were remembered individually and (we) submitted prayers for all deceased members, your families and relatives, the world Jamat as well as the entire humanity!”

There are other inspiring narratives that I keep on receiving, and they all share the same sentiments, including the great discipline of the jamat; the active participation in the intezari program because of the wonderful items that were selected for recitation and the high calibre of reciters. Their messages mention the intense interaction of the Jamat with the Imam as he walked around to shower his Noorani rain and blessings on the jamat.

The messages circulating the earth carry with them the blessings that Hazar Imam asked the jamats in Toronto to convey to their families (Amen, I respond most joyously and happily); his blessings on the volunteers for their superb work (they would get to their duty positions well before the halls opened, as early as 4:30 or 5 am); the blessings for the deceased souls of our family members; the Imam’s hopes for brotherhood and a spirit of unity around the world;  his guidance to the youth on the importance of education, prayers for the Jamats facing unrest and for mushkil aasan; his advice to us asking us to adopt  best practices in our lives; his desire to end poverty in the jamat. And of course there were instances of humour and laughter.

Mulaqat 2017 Canada Visit booklet

Table of contents in Mulaqat Canada 2017 information booklet produced by Ismaili institutions, one each for Montreal and Toronto mulaqats. Shown is the bilingual Montreal edition.

DSCF2883

Taufiq Karmaili (right) with a team of local Ismaili singers performing at a devotional evening in Montreal. Photo: Copyright Muslim Harji.

Canada Mulaqat

Mulaqat Canada 2017 information booklet produced by Ismaili institutions, one each for Montreal and Toronto mulaqats.

In Ottawa, I witnessed how well coordinated the leadership and the volunteers are with their Quebec counterparts. I attended on Friday an overview of preparations that are underway in Montreal. I was stunned! Everything has been thought of! Now imagine, the Toronto mulaqat hosted more than twice as many! The preparations leading to the mulaqat have been intense in all ways one can imagine. The registration process that got underway as soon as the visit was announced on October 27, was efficient, as was the delivery of the entrance cards this week; devotional evenings with the singing of qasidas, ginans and songs have set the tone for one of a kind spiritual experience; waezes have illuminated us on matters concerning discipline and importance of didar. Nothing has been overlooked or left out including regular notifications through jamati announcements and special Al-Akhbar newsletters as well as updates on the downloadable iiCanada app – and all this in a matter of weeks. This is awesome, an unbelievable accomplishment, and I await my chance in about 40 hours! I will remember everyone just as I was remembered by others during their mulaqats in Toronto!

Earlier today, I trusted the snow ploughs and salt trucks to make my trip to Montrael a safe one after last night’s freezing rain. I may get lost entering through one of the many entry points at the Palais des congrès. I may be a few hundred meters from the main mulaqat meeting point. But I know the volunteers will be there to guide me and thousands like me to our intended destination. Therefore I will go worry free and stress free!

I have an abundance of faith in the Jamat, in the volunteers and in the leadership at all levels to make this holy encounter potentially the most memorable one for me in my life. I say potentially because they have done their work, the remaining preparations are on my – and our – part. My preparations with prayers, supplications and a few hundred salwaats  in the time that is remaining will assist me for that joyful experience that everyone in Toronto had in the holy presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam, inshallah.

We congratulate the Ontario Jamat, and ask for your prayers that the 12,000 strong souls that will be gathered in Montreal will have as beautiful a didar as you experienced. MUBARAKI. And thank you for uplifting and inspiring us through everything you have done.

Date posted: November 19/20, 2017.

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Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: Important Notes on Baitul Khayal, Bol, the Soul and Imam’s Status

“The esoteric (batini) vision, realized through pious works and the constant remembrance of God during the nightly vigil, as well as the exoteric (zaheri) vision, and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, becomes the ultimate purpose of human life….Piety should be for the purpose of recognizing and beholding God, which is achieved through the recognition and vision of the Imam of one’s time.” — Imam Mustansir-Billah, 32nd Ismaili Imam

1. Ism’ul Azam and Baitul Khayal

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

In the Memoirs of Aga Khan, our beloved 48th Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah outlines the distinction between two human experiences as categorized by the Muslim philosopher Ibn-Rushd (Averroes):

“On the one hand, our experience of nature as we recognize it through our senses…and on the other hand, our immediate and imminent experience of something more real, less dependent on thought or on the processes of the mind, but directly given to us, which I believe to be religious experience.”

The craving for this direct experience is innate in all of us. Depth psychology which recognizes this craving in a totally different form states that human psyche has great capacity and an insatiable desire for love. The quest for this love molds human actions. In some it takes the form of material pursuits, in others it takes the form of religious and mystical pursuits. And in some souls’ this quest for divine love finds satisfaction in devotion and love for another human being.

Further in his Memoirs, the Imam expounds on this very theme and says:

 “We live, move and have our being in God…when we realize this, we are already preparing ourselves for the gift of the power of direct (mystical) experience…some men are born with such natural spiritual capacities and possibilities of development that they have direct experience of that great love, that all-embracing, all-consuming love which direct contact with reality gives to human soul.”

A question naturally arises in the mind: What about people who are not so gifted and not born with the natural capacity of development for spiritual experience?

Allah is mindful of this innate human desire for love and direct vision. Allah grants a gift and a means for this direct experience to all: “And to Allah belong the best names, so call on Him by them.” — Holy Qur’an, 7:180

The invocation of best names (Ism’ul-Azam) referred to in the above Sura are the most beautiful names of Allah, invocation of which provides the path to his mercy and direct experience. The Qur’an also enjoins constant remembrance of Allah:

“O you have faith, remember Allah with frequent remembrance and glorify him morning and evening.” — 33:41-42.

Bol is a Gujarati word for Ism’ul-Azam. In Ismailism, the path to direct experience of the divine reality of Allah through the Noor (Light) of Imamat becomes a very personal and private affair. Each murid has his personal connection with the Imam. The personal spiritual bond of bayah (allegiance) between the Imam and the murid is the cornerstone of this bond.

Every murid has a desire for this vision of Noor. This desire is weak in some and strong in others. The real quest for the vision of the Noor begins when a murid fights the buffeting currents and vicissitudes of daily life and begins to hear the call of the divine and the desire for vision of Noor possesses his heart. The thirst for love that philosophers had talked about becomes a reality. The most enchanting verses of a Ginan of Pir Sadardin which describe the agony of a love-thirsty soul resonate in his heart:

Sajan per hun sada balihari
Ke jine Sajan mohe nipat bhisari
Ab ko je me Sajan pau
Haide under Sej bichau
Milu usinku Noor sangath
Phir nav jalu duje ka haath.

TRANSLATION

(Sajan=Beloved)
I am forever ready to sacrifice my life for the Beloved,
That beloved who has so forgotten and forsaken me
If perchance I attain to the Beloved
I will spread a silk carpet in my heart
And meet him in a shower of Noor
Never again to thirst for aught.

When a soul become thus love-stricken, the path to enlightenment become visible to him and he seeks the Imam’s guidance. The Imam in his benevolence and love for the murid grants him a personal key to the spiritual universe and the possibility to ascend to that peak from whence he has potential of vision of Noor of Imamat and the quenching of that insatiable thirst for love. The key to this spiritual universe is Bol.

The remembrance (dhikr) of this Bol at prescribed time when the world rests is the essence of Baitul Khayal. “The honor and greatness of a believer lies in his praying at night,” said Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq. A number of verses in the Holy Qur’an attest to the importance of the night worship. Allah says, “and part of the night; bow down before Him and magnify Him through the long night. — 76:26 (tr. Arberry). This verse of the Holy Qur’an tells us to remember Allah at such a time when others are asleep.

The Holy Qur’an tells us:

“You have indeed in the Apostle of God a beautiful pattern of conduct.” –33:21.

Thus, as an example to be followed, the Prophet’s escape to Mount Hira for extended hours of contemplation as well as his experiences during the night journey, miraj, are indicative of the rise of the soul from the plane of material existence to the proximity of God. The night journey  emphatically proclaimed that if God has placed man on this earth, He has also set up a ladder for man to climb up to Him. Baitul Khayal accords us this opportunity.

Thus, the practice of Baitul Khyal sits at the crest of spiritual practice of Ismailism and is also referred to as Motu Kam (Big Work). As the prescribed practice becomes a routine, the spiritual universe begins to unfold and the bond between the Imam and murid becomes stronger, and the link that binds the murid to the Imam becomes shorter and shorter. It is a process of divine alchemy which is sung in the Ginan Jire vala, dhan re ghadi:

Paras perse to Loha raang pelte
To jagmag jyote jagaye.

TRANSLATION

That which was base metal
Transforms to gold and begins to shine
by divine alchemy

The experience of this transformation and the uplifment of the soul through the constant meditative practice of the Ism’ul-Azam is articulated in some of the verses of the Ginan Brahm Prakash composed by Pir Shamsh: 

“True Word” (or Ism’ul-Azam, Bol) is my Guide,
to which the world gives no recognition….1

Do meditate on the Word,
and recite Pirshah as often as possible…..2

And upon utterance of the Word,
the light of love shall be kindled,

and in the heart, great “Faith” will be generated….5

Where the Love flows so incessantly,
the devotee drinks of it and
becomes love-intoxicated….9

How shall I extol (for you) this divine ecstasy!
Its status is so great, that it defies all speech….11

No amount of literature read or listened to,
Could help to attain this experience of happiness….12

The skies in the West glow
and one witnesses a unique and
unparalled show (of “Light” – “Noor”)

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2. The Imam’s True Status

Imam to be perceived with true heart cropped

Image credit: roseannapiter.com.

(Adapted from an ode by 33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al Salam)

The talisman that can open the treasure trove of spiritual meaning of the Holy Qur’an is the Imam. The true essence of the Imam cannot be recognized with earthly, fleshly eyes, for these can only see his physical form, perishing like all else with the passage of time.

His true face is to be perceived with the eyes of the heart. He has thousands of physical habitations, but his true home is traceless; he has had a thousand names, but all of them refer to one reality.

Today he is known as ‘Abd al-Salam, but tomorrow the physical body will be gone and the name will change, yet the essence will remain in the next Imam of the lineage.

Those who look at the Imam as they squint will consider him like any other human being, but as soon as the eyes of the heart perceive correctly, his true status is discovered. In form the Imams change, but in meaning and substance they are changeless. Human language cannot attain to the majesty of the Imams. The Imam is the most precious ingredient in the supreme elixir (miraculous substance) of eternal life-red sulphur. He is not simply a pearl, but the ocean that gives birth to pearls. The existence of the Imam, who leads humankind to a recognition of God, is the very pinnacle of creation. — Adapted from Ismaili in the Middle Ages by Shafique Virani.

3. The Importance of the Soul

By AL-MU’AYYAD AL-SHIRAZI

“Look at the trouble your parents have taken from the days of your childhood in the growth of your bodies and in the improvement of your physical life on earth. But for the interest they took in you, you would not have been what you are. Your souls are thousand times more important than your bodies. The Imams are your spiritual parents. Avail yourselves of a few days of life which are at your disposal here and look after your spiritual elevation under the care of your spiritual parents. “Once you miss this opportunity, you will repent forever. You will not be given a second chance to set things right.”

Date posted: November 9, 2017.

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Note: This piece also appears on simerg’s special project http://www.barakah.com which is dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan.

Shiraz Pradhan PortraitShiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.

Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: #1 – Forgiveness

LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

Eastern Canada Maps

Eastern Canada shown in green on map on left consists of the provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Quebec. The total population is 23,946,177 (2016), and approximately 40-45,000 Ismailis live in these provinces.  Map (left) Connormah – Wikipedia, CC BY 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19857457, and (right)  Natural Resources, Canada.

Lets us make the visit of Mawlana Hazar Imam a fantastic and happy one for us and our families, particularly our parents and children

 

By ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT

His Highness the Aga Khan, or Mawlana Hazar Imam as he is affectionately and respectfully addressed by his Ismaili Muslim community, will be meeting with tens of thousands of his followers living in Eastern Canada — an area stretching from Windsor in Ontario to Montreal in Quebec to Halifax and beyond in the Maritime Provinces — for religious gatherings in Toronto and Montreal from November 17 – 21, 2017.

The Ismailis use the term didar (lit. to have a glimpse of the Imam of the Time) for these intimate religious mulaqats (meetings or encounters). The didar with the Imam can be on an individual basis, in small or large settings or in ceremonial gatherings that are referred to as darbars. Most recently, His Highness visited the Ismailis in Uganda and Tanzania and graced them with darbars as part of his Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

Ismailis throughout their rich and eventful 1400 year history, from the time of the first Imam, Hazrat Ali, have sought to articulate their experiences of the didar  of their Imams through oral expressions of ginans, qasidas, poetry and songs as well wonderful narratives. These varied expressions have become sources of inspiration for Ismailis leading up to the moment of the didar.

Today, we commence the publication of a series consisting of short articles that we hope will contribute to making the mulaqat with Mawlana Shah Karim more meaningful and purposeful. Our material will center on the concept of Imamat as articulated in Ismaili and related Shia literature and we will also include stories and accounts of didars well as supplications from the oral traditions and other pertinent material.

We begin the series with what we feel is an important ethic that will help us benefit during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s coming holy visit: FORGIVENESS.

Let bygones be bygones: “If people have harmed you, forget and forgive…”

 

Mawlana Hazar Imam pictured at the Olympia Hall, London, during his weeklong visit to the United Kingdom Jamat in September 1979. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

The spirit of forgiveness is an ethic that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has articulated many times since his Imamat. In 1969, he said in Mumbai:

“As the world gets smaller, it is fundamental that people should work together and not against each other, and try to be a little bit more generous than you have been in the past. If people have made mistakes, forgive them their mistakes. If people have harmed you, forget and forgive. Do not hold grudges. Do not turn around and say, ‘he hurt me yesterday, so I will hurt him today’. This is not the spirit of Islam, and it is not as I understand that our faith should be practiced, and this is fundamental.”

The act of apologizing when one thinks that one was not at fault, and the act of exercising forgiveness when one feels that they have been wronged, are probably the most difficult to struggle with.

However, each one of us has to realize that when there are conflicts, especially within a family, the burden of disunity is the greatest on parents because their love for all their children is absolute. Now consider that in the context of Hazar Imam, who addresses all Ismailis as his spiritual children!

According to a popular tradition, when the Prophet Muhammad asked Angel Gabriel what was meant by the Qur’anic verse (7:199),

“Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant”

the Angel replied:

“It is God’s command to forgive those who have wronged you, to give to those who have deprived you, and to tie relations with those who severe theirs with you.”

Another tradition of the Prophet says:

“Show mercy and you shall be shown mercy. Forgive others and you shall be forgiven by God.”

When Mawlana Hazar Imam received the Adrienne Clarkson prize for Global Citizenship he shortlisted a good measure of forgiveness, along with an  abundant capacity for compromise, a little sense of patience and humility, as strengths for an aspiring global citizen. Accomplishing these would mean hard work, he said, “but no work would be more important.”

In a piece “Why Forgive” Fatima Ariadne in her blog Decoding Eden says that “forgiveness is about giving yourself permission to let go of the past….and giving that inner space in your heart for something more positive. We forgive because we deserve peace.”

Through our kind gesture of forgiving, we are also raising the consciousness of  this fundamental Islamic ethic in the hearts and minds of  the persons we are seeking to forgive. Speaking in Moscow in 1995 during his first physical presence among his community in Central Asia, Mawlana Hazar Imam said that “forgiving those who may have made a mistake or harmed you, will give them respect for your behaviour, and it will encourage them to follow your behaviour.”

Of course, Mawlana Hazar Imam was addressing an audience that had passed through a period of civil strife in Tajikistan. However, this principle is as fundamentally important in our daily attitudes to our families and friends.

Louis B. Smedes, professor emiritus of ethics and theology at Fuller Seminary in Pasadens, California and author of book Forgive and Forget wrote that, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” He further noted that “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”

The Qur’anic ayat quoted earlier “tie relations with those who severe theirs with you” imposes upon us  a moral obligation to forgive.

So as we approach the important day of the holy encounter with Hazar Imam it would be most appropriate for us to reach out to our friends and family members with whom we are seriously at odds and say, “Let unpleasant things that have happened in the past be forgotten.”

That act of courage would be in the truest and finest tradition of our faith. With that kind spirit in our heart, we will truly lavish in the love, grace, and blessing of Mawlana Hazar Imam when he is with us in a few days. Forgiveness will lead to greater unity within families and the jamat.

It is within the framework of united families and Jamats that Mawlana Hazar Imam wishes us to attain spiritual as well as worldly success and happiness.

Date posted: November 4, 2017.

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Building God’s Kingdom: The Aga Khan, Imam of the Atomic Age, on Patriotism and Community by Andrew Kosorok

PLEASE CLICK: “Muslims are charged with building God’s Kingdom on earth (one of the many implications of the term “vice-regent” used so often in the Qur’an to describe the role of human beings), as are Christians. This refers not to the forced institution of a theocracy, but to the active spreading of Divine ideals through our own individual actions….I profoundly appreciate the Aga Khan’s comments regarding our roles and responsibility in the never-ending process of building a better future — for ourselves, our families, our physical world, and our future spiritual well-being: “By the way you conduct your daily lives, by the compassion you show to your fellow men and women, and above all by your faith in God” (Aga Khan, 11 March 1958, Mumbai, India).” — READ MORE BY ANDREW KOSOROK

“The closer you come, the more you will see him.” A digital portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan by Akber Kanji. The portrait is composed of several hundred thumbnails representing a cross-section of events during the Aga Khan’s Imamat. Please click on image for Andrew Kosorok’s essay. Image: Akber Kanji. Copyright.

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The Imamat and Didar of Hazar Imam

“With hope I stand at thy door, O Ali! And sincerely beg of thee, bless me with thy holy didar, O great lord and benefactor! At thy feet I fall to prostrate”….MORE

PLEASE CLICK: Simerg’s Imamat and Didar Series (pdf)

The Jamat of Hunza accept the gracious didar (glimpse) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as he visits the Princely State in the Northern Areas of Pakistan in 1960. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily (papa jaan). Copyright.

“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.”….MORE

The Jamat of Hunza accept the gracious didar (glimpse) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as he visits the the Northern Areas of Pakistan in 1960. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily (Papa Jaan). Copyright.

Date posted: September 28, 2017.

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The Ismailis’ unmeasurable love for their 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

The Youtube link to the Diamond Jubilee Tribute Song to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is one you can play repeatedly and keep on enjoying forever. The expression of love for Mawlana Hazar Imam is visible on each musician’s face, and this is what is most inspiring about this video. What we might say is our “unmeasurable love” for Hazar Imam becomes even more unfathomable to grasp when we read what Hazar Imam said to his jamat (community) during his visit in 1964 to Pakistan that “my love for my Jamat is a lot stronger than yours can ever be for me and I would like you to remember this….When I leave, each and everyone of you will be in my heart, in my prayers, in my thoughts and you must remember that Imam loves you more, much more than you can ever love him and you must be strong in this knowledge.” Unmeasurable unmeasurable love indeed! We are all recipients of his care and barakah, 1000fold, nay a million fold….Happiness forever to all Ismailis.

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Date posted: June 8, 2017.

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Short readings to build your knowledge on Ismaili theology, esoterics and history

“THE ISMAILI IMAMAT REPRESENTS THE SUCCESSION OF IMAMS SINCE THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD” — HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN, 2014

Aga Khan Golden Jubilee Visit to Canada Vancouver

INTRODUCTION TO THE SERIES

Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan (pictured above), in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. From the time of the first Imam Ali, who was designated and appointed as such by the Holy Prophet, the Imams of the Ismaili Muslims have ruled over territories and peoples in various areas of the world at different periods of history in accordance with the Islamic precepts and ethics of unity, brotherhood, justice, tolerance and goodwill. The Ismaili Imam is therefore not only concerned with the material advancement and the improvement of the quality of life of his Ismaili followers, but also that of other Muslim communities and societies at large in which they live.

In accordance with historical and theological works and the teachings of their Imams, the Ismailis believe that each Imam is the bearer of the Light of Imamat (or Nur). This (spiritual) Light is with the Ahl al-bayt (i.e. the Imams from the Prophet Muhammad’s family). This Nur was with the first Shia Imam Ali and, for Shia Ismailis, is now with their present 49th Imam. Every Imam guides his followers during his time through the Nur of Imamat.

The Nur of Imamat is always there to guide through the physical presence of the Imam. The Imam holds his followers hands and leads and protects them in both difficult and good times. He shows them how they should live in a particular time and place. Just as the water of a river continues to flow, the Hereditary line of Imamat from Hazrat Ali never stops. That is, the Imam is always physically present and manifest on this earth. According to Shia tradition, the Imam is the threshold through which God and the creatures communicate. He is thus a cosmic necessity, the key and the center of the universal economy of the sacred: “The earth cannot be devoid of an Imam; without him, it could not last an hour. If there were only two men left in the world, one of them would be the Imam.”

One of the goals of each Ismaili is to strive to come closer to the spiritual light of the Imam. One can do so by fulfilling one’s material and spiritual responsibilities to the best of one’s ability. Praying regularly, living by the ethics of Islam, following the Imam’s guidance strengthens the Ismailis’ spiritual bond with their Imam, and through his Light, brings them closer to Allah.

In the coming days, weeks and months Simerg will endeavour to provide different perspectives on the Imamat and Ismaili contributions to Islamic culture and thought from various literary works on Ismaili philosophy, theology and history.

Beatific Vision of the Imam

The [Imam’s] beatific vision is of two kinds: one a physical meeting with the Imam and the other a spiritual recognition of his essence [Nur], through which God is recognized.

Speaking of the second of these, Pir Sadr al-Din, in his ginan [religious hymn] “Sakhi māhā pad keri vāt koek jānere”, writes:

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!

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Dazzled by the Light of Imamat

When Ismaili missionary al-Mu’ayyad-din Shirazi had left Shiraz in Persia for Fatimid Egypt, he was very hopeful that he would get the opportunity to see the Imam-Caliph Mustansir-bi-Allah, but at the same time he had also feared the intrigues of the ministers who did not permit any man of learning to see the Imam personally, unless he complied with their dictates and acknowledged their superiority.

On reaching Egypt he experienced all that he had feared. He was lodged in a small house and his visits to the court were short and limited to prevent him from seeing the Imam.

Disappointed, he finally decided to leave Egypt and wrote as follows to Tastari, one of the most powerful persons in the Fatimid State:

“I have not come to Egypt to seek wealth or gain any position. The promptings of my faith have brought me here. I have come to visit the Imam and not the Vaziers and their officials. Unfortunately, these people stop me from having a look at my Imam and now I am returning disappointed.”

The sudden death of Tastari gave al-Mu’ayyad another opportunity to renew his efforts to get some time to be in the holy presence of the Imam and with some help was finally able to pay respects to the Imam. Describing his experience, he writes:

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.

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Imam Mu’izz’s Arrival in Cairo

In 969 CE, Imam al-Mu‘izz, “an excellent planner, an efficient organiser and a statesman amply talented in diplomacy,” with the help of his general Jawhar Siqilli, acquired Egypt peacefully.

During this time the building of the new city of Cairo began and in 970 CE the foundation for the al-Azhar mosque was laid. The Imam himself arrived in Cairo in 973 CE in a very touching ceremony. His sons, brothers and uncles, and other descendants of Imam al-Mahdi, the first Fatimid caliph, made their entrance with him. Imam Mu’izz brought with him the coffins of his ancestors Imams al-Mahdi, al-Qa‘im and al-Mansur.

Stanley Lane-Poole’s description of Imam al-Mu‘izz may aid one to understand his successful reign:

He was a born statesman, able to grasp the conditions of success and to take advantage of every point in his favour. He was also highly educated, and not only wrote Arabic poetry and delighted in its literature, but studied Greek, mastered Berber and Sudani dialects, and is even said to have taught himself Salvonic … His eloquence was such as to move his audience to tears. To prudent statesmanship he added a large generosity, and his love of justice was among his noble qualities.

Cairo’s location between Africa and the Mediterranean ensured that it became a large, thriving commercial centre.

The greatness of the Fatimid Capital is described in the following words by Al-Muqaddassi, a notable medieval Arab geographer who lived in the tenth century.

Know that Baghdad was great in the past, but is now falling in ruins. It is full of troubles, and its glory is gone. I neither approve it nor admire it, and if I praise it, it is a mere convention. Fustat (today, part of old Cairo) is today where Baghdad was in the past, and I do not know of any greater city in all of Islam.

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Imams are our Spiritual Parents

In the Shia tradition, the teaching of the Imam (also referred to as the Ta’lim of the Imam) lights his follower’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision.

The spiritual enlightenment or the elevation of the soul gained by following the Imam’s guidance is described in many works by Shia theologians, and is particularly evident in the Ginans, Qasidas and narrative accounts written by Ismaili Pirs and missionaries.

The following excerpt is from a work by the Ismaili missionary, Muayyad-din-Shirazi:

Look at the trouble your parents have taken from the days of your childhood in the growth of your bodies and in the improvement of your physical life on earth. But for the interest they took in you, you would not have been what you are.

Your souls are thousand times more important than your bodies. The Imams are your spiritual parents.

Avail yourselves of a few days of life which are at your disposal here and look after your spiritual elevation under the care of your spiritual parents.

Once you miss this opportunity, you will repent forever. You will not be given a second chance to set things right.

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Imam’s Favours Cannot be Counted

From a work by renowned Fatimid scholar and jurist, Qadi Numan. 

Let us make a short survey of their favours on us. We were ignorant of everything and were spiritually dead. They brought us back to life and showed us the path of wisdom. We were blind, they gave us the eyes to see for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.

We were groping in the dark, they showed us the light. We had lost the track, they showed us the way to salvation. We were lacking in knowledge, they gave us knowledge. We were falling in hell-fire, they picked us up and put us in the middle of righteous.

In short, they have done us the favours which we cannot count.

They have given us all that is good in this world and the world to come.  

Date posted: May 1, 2017.

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The material for this post was compiled and adapted from the following sources:

  1.  Preamble Of  the Ismaili Constitution;
  2. The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation by Shafique N. Virani, Hardcover – May 3, 2007;
  3. Life and Lectures of Al Muayyad fid-din al Shirazi, edited by late Jawad Muscati and A.M. Moulvi, Ismailia Assocciation for Pakistan, 1950;
  4. The Divine Guide in Early Shi’ism by Mohamad Ali Amir-Moezzi, published by the State University of New York;
  5. Code of Conduct for the Followers of Imam by Qazi Noaman, translated by Prof. Jawad Muscati; and
  6. Ta’lim curriculum prepared for Ismaili children, published by Islamic Publications, London.

Note: Simerg has launched a sister website totally dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan. Please visit Barakah: “His Highness the Aga Khan A Visual and Textual Celebration”. Facebook page facebook.com/1000fold.

Aga Khan photos, essays and stories: A recap of what to read now at Barakah!

Barakah Title with logo and text

“The colossal work which you achieve day after day towards a better living standard in the most deprived countries is not unknown to us. The spirit on which this action is based is amongst the purest expressions of human fraternity.” — READ RENE LEVESQUE’S TRIBUTE TO THE AGA KHAN 

“To a non-Muslim the arguments were difficult to follow, but it was clear to me that a strong difference of opinion existed and that the Aga Khan would be called upon to resolve a ticklish point of theological doctrine.” — READ ANECDOTE “I WAS SERVING NO ORDINARY MAN” BY MICHAEL CURTIS

Prince Karim Aga Khan: “Just as we need food and water, so do the plants. Near our vegetable garden there are many large trees. The wind blows many leaves onto our crops. Young plants would get buried under the weight of these leaves, so every morning both of us collect all the leaves and burn them.” — READ SWEET AND ENDEARING CHILDHOOD STORIES OF PRINCE KARIM AGA KHAN

“[the Ismailis] represent in Islamic Ummah a very exceptional community. The reason is that you have since 1957, His Highness the Aga Khan as a spiritual guide, as an intellectual guide” — READ MOHAMMED ARKOUN’S ESSAY ON THE AGA KHAN

Gulnar Saratbekova: “Time went and we reached the most momentous day in our life: May 25, 1995, a historical date that no Badakhshani will ever forget. We were blessed with Mawla’s didar for the very first time. That is when we really knew that we would never be alone, ever again. This was the day for which all our elderly and ancestors were longing, for centuries. — READ THE AGA KHAN’S FIRST VISIT TO BADAKHSHAN

“We are receiving you here officially and not just as a friend because you are an important leader of the Muslim religion…What we admire in you is that you have been able to integrate a modern outlook with religion so that religion has been allowed its true role which is not merely to provide an all-embracing explanation of the universe but also to furnish the fundamental solutions of the problems which life poses us.” — READ LEOPOLD SENGHOR’S TRIBUTE TO THE AGA KHAN

Prince Sinan Aga Khan was born in London, England, on January 2, 2017. Sinan is an Arabic name for boys meaning spearhead and is derived from the root word S-N-N which is used in the Qur’an. Sinan is pronounced [(SI)mple] + [(NA)p + (N)ew] with emphasis on the second syllable. — READ PRINCE SINAN AGA KHAN OFFICIAL PHOTOS

“Through his inspiring words and innovative programs, the Aga Khan has meticulously laid the foundation of the seemingly insurmountable task of re-connecting Islam to its two elder Abrahamic siblings: Judaisim and Christianity, from which it has sadly become separated in the past decades. Clearly, if any person or entity can restore Islam to its rightful place, it would be AKDN under the enlightened, visionary, and revolutionary leadership of the 49th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and his successors.” — READ NIZAR MOTANI’S ESSAY: THE AGA KHAN – FROM AN ISMAILI MUSLIM IMAM TO A GLOBAL CITIZEN

Date posted: April 10, 2017.

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The Aga Khan: Prince with a Smile Who Fulfills True Role of Religion, A Tribute by Léopold Senghor

“What we admire in you above all is that you have been able to integrate a modern outlook with religion so that religion has been allowed its true role which is not merely to provide an all-embracing explanation of the universe but also to furnish the fundamental solutions of the problems which life poses us” — READ MORE @ Barakah His Highness the Aga Khan a Visual and Textual Celebration

Please click on image for article.

 Date posted: March 18, 2017.

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