Imam is “A Cosmic Necessity,” and Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is the “Living, Hereditary Imam in Direct Descent from the Prophet”

QUOTES

1. IMAM – A COSMIC NECESSITY

Imam is the Threshold through which God and the creatures communicate; Imam is a Cosmic Necessity and the earth cannot be devoid of an Imam – without an Imam the earth and the universe would crumble; The Imam is the Proof, the Manifestation and the Organ of God and he is the Means by which human beings can attain the knowledge of God — Excerpt from The Divine Guide in Early Shi’ism by Mohamad Ali Amir-Moezzi, pp 125-131, SUNY, 1994.

2. THE ROLE OF MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM

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…..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….Clauses (F) and (G) of the Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution ordained in 1986 [1].

3. HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN: THE LIVING IMAM

The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself. [2] The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet…today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet. [3]

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READINGS

1. THE NUR (LIGHT) OF IMAMAT

What is this special light that Allah refers to [in Holy Qur’an 4:174], which guides and makes things clear? For Shia Muslims, this light is the Light of Imamat. The Shias refer to it as the Nur of Imamat. Nur means light. The Nur of Imamat is a spiritual light….Click to read more

2. LOVE FOR THE IMAM

“Say (O Muhammad): No reward do I ask (for my favours) except your love for my kith and kin” – Holy Qur’an, 42:23

“He who loves us will be with us on the Day of Judgement” – Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq….Click to read more

3. THE FORMULATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF IMAMAT

Like his father and grandfather before him, Imam Ja’far remained politically quiescent and inactive…..it was in this period of political inactivity – to an extent – that the main religious ideas and doctrinal formation of Imamate concepts really crystallised….Click to read more

4. THE TERM IMAM IN THE HOLY QUR’AN

The term Imam is used seven times in the singular and five times in the plural form in the Holy Qur’an. It is not, however, used in the same sense every time. The different shades of meaning which it indicates therefore needs to be analysed….Click to read more

5. THE DOCTRINE OF IMAMAT DURING THE FATIMID PERIOD

The central doctrine of the Ismaili community has always been the doctrine of Imamat because around it are built all the goals of the community and the roles of the dais, but this doctrine is also not rigid, it has been evolving, particularly in the writings and preachings of the dais….Click to read more

6. IMAMAT IN ISMAILI GINANIC LITERATURE

According to the Ginans the Imam is the source of Guidance for mankind. He shows them the right path, saves the people from ignorance and acts as a Divine Light in the darkness….Click to read more

Date posted: Saturday, January 23, 2013 (this is a slightly updated version of a previous post).

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Reference:

[1] The Preamble of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”

[2] Voices: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale (English translation)

[3] In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race

His Highness the Aga Khan and Pope Benedict XVI: A Very Special Photo of Two Faith Leaders Meeting Each Other at the Institut De France in Paris

PREPARED AND COMPILED BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor http://www.simerg.com and http://www.simergphotos.com)

As part of his famous Apostolic Journey to France in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI, on September 13, paid a visit to the “Institut De France” in Paris. The Pope, who had been elected as the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in 2005, was presented with a gold medal by the Institut, and 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.”

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, was also in attendance at the Institut de France as the Associate Foreign Member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts (Academy of Fine Arts), one of five learned societies within the Institut which was founded in 1795.

Everyone’s attention in the hall was drawn to Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Pope, with an extraordinary sense of interest and keenness, as the two faith leaders greeted each other with a handshake. Simerg is pleased to present this licensed copyright photo with permission from Getty Images.

Pope Benedict XVI is seen greeting His Highness the Aga Khan on September 13 at the Institut de France in Paris during an official visit to France in 2008. Photo: Copyright. Getty Images. Published on Simerg/Simergphotos with a Licencing arrangement with Getty Images. Fench caption: Vue plongeante du pape BENOIT XVI serrant la main de l'AGA KHAN à son arrivée sous la coupole de l'Institut de France à PARIS entouré de nombreux académiciens et autres personnalités dont Gabriel DE BROGLIE, Hélène CARRERE D'ENCAUSSE, Jean-François JARRIGE, Jean-François BACH, Arnaud D'HAUTERIVES, Michel ALBERT, Christian PONCELET président du Sénat, Jean TULARD, Alain DECAUX, Pierre-Jean REMY, Michel MOHRT, Max GALLO, le cardinal André VINGT-TROIS archevêque de Paris et le cardinal Paul POUPARD. (Photo by Philippe Petit/Paris Match via Getty Images)

Everyone’s attention is drawn to Pope Benedict XVI and His Highness the Aga Khan as they greet each other on September 13, at the Institut de France in Paris during an official visit by the Pope to France in 2008. Photo: Copyright. Getty Images. Published on Simerg/Simergphotos with a Licensing arrangement with Getty Images. Fench caption: Vue plongeante du pape BENOIT XVI serrant la main de l’AGA KHAN à son arrive sous la coupole de l’Institut de France à PARIS entouré de nombreux académiciens et autres personnalités dont Gabriel DE BROGLIE, Hélène CARRERE D’ENCAUSSE, Jean-François JARRIGE, Jean-François BACH, Arnaud D’HAUTERIVES, Michel ALBERT, Christian PONCELET président du Sénat, Jean TULARD, Alain DECAUX, Pierre-Jean REMY, Michel MOHRT, Max GALLO, le cardinal André VINGT-TROIS archevêque de Paris et le cardinal Paul POUPARD. (Photo by Philippe Petit/Paris Match via Getty Images).

In 2013, Pope Benedict dramatically resigned his position as the Head of the Catholic Church due to his deteriorating strength, advanced age and the heavy demands of being Pope, and retired at the Mater Ecclesiae, a small monastery located inside the Vatican State City. His present successor is Pope Francis I, born Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

SOME BRIEF NOTES ON THE PAPACY AND THE IMAMAT, AND SIMON PETER IN THE ROMAN CATHOLIC AND ISMAILI TRADITIONS

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. The Ismailis regard their 49th hereditary Imam as the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s.). In a speech made at the Canadian Parliament in 2014, the Aga Khan declared that “the Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet.” And, in an interview with Politique International he said, “The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself.”

In the Catholic tradition, the foundation for the office of the Pope is found primarily in Matthew, where Jesus is quoted as telling Simon Peter:

“You are ‘Rock,’ and on this rock I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

This series of successions of the Pope is known as “Apostolic Succession,” with the line of Bishops stretching back to the apostles, who lived during the time of Jesus. Simon Peter is recognized as having been the first Pope. Early Christians reserved the title of “Pope” for St. Peter’s successors.

However, in branches of Shia theology as well as Ismailism, Simon Peter’s role is seen as the direct parallel to that of Hazrat Ali as the first Imam. Ismailis along with some other Shia groups maintain that every major Prophet had a spiritual legatee (Waṣi) or successor called the Asas (foundation) who taught the inner meaning to those who had the capacity to understand it. In this regard, Adam had Seth; Noah had Shem; Moses had Aaron, and Jesus had Simon Peter. A well known sacred tradition of the Prophet Muhammad says that “Ali is to me as Aaron was to Moses,” confirming that Ali held the same level of authority as Aaron did.

Date posted: December 31, 2015.
Last updated: January 1, 2015.

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We welcome your feedback, please click Leave a comment or send it to simerg@aol.com, subject: Aga Khan and Pope.  Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

The following were used as references for the compilation of this piece:

  1. Apostolic Journey to France: Greeting by the Holy Father during the visit at the Institut de France (September 13, 2008)
  2. The Popes: From St. Peter to Pope Frances by Rupert Matthews,  2014 Edition published by arrangement with Moseley Road Inc.
  3. http://www.catholic-pages.com/pope/peter.asp
  4. Peter in Islam, at Wikipedia.
  5. Comparing the Imamat and the Papacy: Some Short Notes (at Ismailignosis.com).
  6. The Delegation Decoded – An Esoteric Exegesis of the Delegation of the Isma‘ili Imamat, by Khalil Andani.
  7. Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, C. Glasse.
  8. Voices: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale (English translation)
  9. In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race

Also see the following important features to learn more about the Aga Khan and the Ismaili Imamat:

in which His Highness the Aga Khan responded to Pope Benedict’s controversial remarks concerning Islam that he had made in 2006; and Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat and Imam of the Time — (I) The Preamble of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

Prophet Muhammad in Ismaili Ginans

BY HAKIM VALI MOHAMMAD SURANI

A folio from a manuscript of Ginan Vaek Moto of Pir Shams. Ms. KM 125, 463 folios, 200 x 160 mm; Copied in 1897 Samvat/1841 by Dahio Surijiani. Credit: The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, http://www.iis.ac.uk

  1. INTRODUCTION

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.

2. NUBUWWAH

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”

Translation:

“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”

Translation:

“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”

Translation:

“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.”

Translation:

“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

Translation:

“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”

Translation:

“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.”

and,

“Eji Nabi to jeevo(n) ka datar hai, Jene Kalma sunaya sar; Je momin manshe to beheshti howenga, Baki gafil bhula gemar”

Translation:

“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”

Translation:

“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

Folio of Pir Sadr al-Din’s Ginan, Saloko Nano. 492 pages, 200 x 160 mm. Copied between 1924 Samvat/1867 and 1942 Samvat/1885 by various scribes including Khoaja Jafar Khiate Dhalani. Credit: http://www.iis.ac.uk

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”

Translation:

“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.”

Translation:

“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”

Translation:

“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”

Translation:

“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”

Translation:

“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.”

Translation:

“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.

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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.

Notes:

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.

Syad Imam Shah’s Ginan Naklanki Geeta, the Hadron Collider and Modern Scientific Ideas by Shiraz Pradhan

In this in-depth study of  Syad Imam Shah’s ancient ginan, Naklanki Geeta (generally referred to as granth because of its voluminous size), Shiraz Pradhan explores its much advanced scientific ideas compared to the contemporary knowledge of the era. Pradhan seeks to explain how the composition’s numerous verses might relate to cutting-edge scientific developments taking place today. Pradhan further explores the concept of Nur (Light), and  proposes bold and possible scientific explanations for this mystical concept….Click to read complete article

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and most powerful particle collider, the largest, most complex experimental facility ever built, and the largest single machine in the world. Published on the NASA website on February 25, 2008 as its image of the day. Image Credit & Copyright: Maximilien Brice, CERN

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider, the largest, most complex experimental facility ever built, and the largest single machine in the world. Published on the NASA website on February 25, 2008 as its image of the day. Image Credit & Copyright: Maximilien Brice, CERN. Please click on image to read Pradhan’s in-depth study.

 

Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat — (III) Ismaili Imams on Succession, the Noor of Imamat, and Imam’s True Reality

“The Imam’s 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.”
33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al-Salam, 15th Century

1. SUCCESSION

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III. Photo Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London by Elliott & Fry photograph.

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III. Photo Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London
by Elliott & Fry photograph.

 By Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah,
His Highness the Aga Khan III

“Ever since the time of my first ancestor Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants whether they be sons or remoter male issue.

“In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place including the discoveries of atomic science I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Shia Moslem Ismailian Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.

“I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my son Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to be the Imam and Pir of all my Shia Ismailian followers.”

2. THE MOMENT OF SUCCESSION, THE HEREDITARY INSTITUTION AND THE NOOR OF IMAMAT

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

By Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

“The [installation] ceremony is a public installation of the Imam. The Ismailis pay homage to the Imam and that is when you are recognised by the world at large as the Imam.

“Officially as soon as one Imam passes away, his successor takes on from the very minute the Imam has passed away .” [1]

~~~

“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet….today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.

“…As the 49th Imam, I have for the past 50 years, looked after two inseparable responsibilities: overseeing the spiritual wellbeing of Ismailis, as well, at the same time, as focusing on improving their quality of life and that of the people with whom they live.” [2]

~~~

“For hundreds of years, my spiritual children have been guided by the Rope of Imamat; you have looked to the Imam of the Age for advice and help in all matters and through your Imam’s immense love and affection for his spiritual children, his Noor has indicated to you where and in which direction you must turn so as to obtain spiritual and worldly satisfaction. [3]

3. TWO 15TH CENTURY ISMAILIS IMAMS ON ZAHERI AND BATINI DIDAR, AND IMAM’S ESSENCE

(a) Imam Mustansir bi’llah

Pandiyat-i- Jawanmardi or Counsels of Chivalry is a compilation of the guidance of the 32nd Ismaili Imam, Mustansir bi’llah, who lived in the 15th century. This book contains exhortations to the faithful on the necessity of recognising and obeying the current Imam and on how to live a truly ethical life. The circumstances that led to the compilation of the work are intriguing, and are alluded to in many of the manuscripts copies as follows:

When Pir Taj al-Din passed away, a number of people from the Sindhi Ismaili Community went to the Imam. Upon arrival they pleaded: “Our Pir Taj al-Din has passed away. Now we are in need of a Pir.” The Imam then had the Counsels of Chivalry compiled and gave it to them saying: “This is your Pir. Act according to its dictates.”

In one of the chapters, the Imam enumerates the importance of both the Zaheri and Batini aspects of the Imam’s Didar. He recognizes and acknowledges the sacrificing spirit of the Jamat, in serving him and in observing religious duties.

He says:

“They (the Jamat, the community) have given up their property, and even their lives. All of them have faithfully submitted their religious dues. Others have travelled long distances through arduous conditions by land and sea, braving storms and incurring great expense.

“Some attend religious assemblies to increase their knowledge while others, without any worldly motive, perform acts of charity to benefit the poor.

“Some have acted with noble actions in the cause of faith, including special devotions, worship and especially remembrance (zikr), continually invoking the Lord throughout the night, never neglecting God for even a moment, and worshipping him out of passionate devotion.

“All believers are urged to come into the presence of the Imam and to see him with their own eyes.

“Thus, 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, achieved by travelling to the Imam’s residence and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, become 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.”

(b) Imam ‘Abd al-Salam

There is an ode of the 33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al-Salam in which he says that the talisman (anything that has magical powers) that can open the treasure trove of spiritual meaning of the Holy Qur’an is the Imam. This ode is lucidly explained by Dr. Shafique Virani in his path breaking book, “The Ismailis in the Middle Ages.”

In the ode the Imam observes that 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.

The Imam continues by saying that 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 sulfur. 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.

Date posted: July 10, 2015.

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Previous posts in this special series:

References:

[1] Click http://www.nanowisdoms.org

[2] Click In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race

[3] Farman Mubarak Pakistan Visit 1964, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan. Quoted also in Ilm magazine,  July 1975, Volume 1, Number 1, page 27, published by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom (known since 1986 as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board or ITREB)

Note: Reading 3 compiled from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages, by Shafique N. Virani, and Pandiyat-i Jawanmardi, translated by Professor Vladimir Ivanow). Image courtesy of roseannapiter.com

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Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat — (II) The Beatific Vision of the Imam of the Time

INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

A very happy moment in my life when I visited Brown University in 1996. I snapped this picture of my beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and only realized that he was looking straight at my disposable nine dollar camera after I got the film processed in Philadelphia.  Photo by Abdulmalik Merchant

A very happy moment in my life when I travelled to Brown University from Philadelphia in 1996. I snapped this picture of my beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and only realized that he was looking straight at my camera after I got the film processed in Philadelphia a couple of days later. Photo 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.  

His Highness the Aga Khan pictured amongst his followers in Badakhshan in May 1995.

His Highness the Aga Khan pictured amongst his followers in Badakhshan in May 1995.

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

A folio from the manuscript of al-Shirazi's Sirat. Credit: The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

A folio from the manuscript of al-Shirazi’s Sirat. Credit: The Institute of Ismaili Studies.

“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

Folio of Pir Sadr al-Din's Saloko Nano at the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

Folio of Pir Sadr al-Din’s Saloko Nano at the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

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!”

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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.

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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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Three Reasons Why Ismailis Are An Exceptional Community in the Islamic Ummah by Mohammed Arkoun

“Coming from Algeria, which is my country, I can tell you that you represent in Muslim world, in Islamic Ummah a very exceptional community, exceptional community for three reasons.” — Professor Arkoun, please click to read article

“Heresiographic literature describes all the sects in Islam from one point of view, the Sunnite point of view, the Shiite point of view, telling that ‘we, we have the truth, and the others don’t have anything’. This is the heresiographic interpretation of Islam which is totally irrelevant for us today.” — Professor Arkoun, please click to read article

PLEASE CLICK: Three Reasons Why Ismailis Are An Exceptional Community in the Islamic Ummah

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Aab-i Shifaa, Water that Heals

The reference by the Persian Ismaili Missionary, Fida’i  Khurasani, of the distribution of healing water by Imam Islamshah (a.s.), the 30th Ismaili Imam, is significant, as the practice of drinking water blessed by the Imam is frequently attested in Ismaili Ginans and continues to form part of the Ismaili tradition to this day.

The use of such consecrated water is widely practiced in several religious traditions. Many Twelver Shi’a, for example, dissolve the dust of Karbala where Imam Husayn (a.s.) is buried, or that of Najaf, the resting place of the Imam ‘Ali (a.s.), and drink the resulting healing water (Aab-i Shifaa) as a cure for illness, both spiritual and physical.

In India, an offering (Nyaz) is conducted at many Muslim homes with great respect and devotion. Verses of the Holy Qur’an are recited  on the death of Muslim saints in whose name the Nyaz is held, and the person who performs the ritual of Nyaz keeps some water and food aside while reciting the Qur’anic verses. By association with the  recitation of the holy verses, the food is considered to become sacred and is shared with those present and even sent to friends and relatives. Whoever partakes of the Nyaz is considered fortunate since Nyaz is associated with barakat or blessing.

The Well of Zamzam is a well located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam. According to Islamic belief, it is a miraculously-generated source of water from God, which began thousands of years ago when Prophet Abraham's  infant son Ismail was thirsty and kept crying for water. Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages, in order to drink its water. The Zamzam well was excavated by hand, and is about 30 m (98 ft) deep and 1.08 to 2.66 m (3 ft 7 in to 8 ft 9 in) in diameter. It taps groundwater from the wadi alluvium and some from the bedrock. Originally water from the well was drawn via ropes and buckets, but today the well itself is in a basement room where it can be seen behind glass panels (visitors are not allowed to enter). Electric pumps draw the water, which is available throughout the Masjid al-Haram via water fountains and dispensing containers near the Tawaf area.Photo and Caption Credit: Wikipedia.

The Well of Zamzam is a well located within the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, 20 m (66 ft) east of the Kaaba, the holiest place in Islam. According to Islamic belief, it is a miraculously-generated source of water from God, which began thousands of years ago when Prophet Abraham’s infant son Ismail was thirsty and kept crying for water. Millions of pilgrims visit the well each year while performing the Hajj or Umrah pilgrimages, in order to drink its water. The Zamzam well was excavated by hand, and is about 30 m (98 ft) deep and 1.08 to 2.66 m (3 ft 7 in to 8 ft 9 in) in diameter. It taps groundwater from the wadi alluvium and some from the bedrock. Originally water from the well was drawn via ropes and buckets, but today the well itself is in a basement room where it can be seen behind glass panels (visitors are not allowed to enter). Electric pumps draw the water, which is available throughout the Masjid al-Haram via water fountains and dispensing containers near the Tawaf area. Photo and caption credit: Wikipedia.

The Ismaili emphasis on the spiritual aspect of this healing is clear from the names used to designate the water, which include Light (Nur) and ambrosia (Amiiras, Aamiijal) and Nyaz. Their use of the blessed water is also distinctive in another regard. It is taken in the name of the Imam of the Time (Imam-e-Zaman), who is always physically present on earth.

In the old prayer associated with this ritual, preserved in many of the manuscripts, the water is sanctified with the following formula when poured into the vessel:

Pure is the water,  pure is the wind
Pure is the earth,  pure is the sky
Pure is the moon,  pure is the sun
Pure is the Lord’s vessel,  pure is the Lord’s name
By the name of the Lord,  pure becomes the Lord’s congregation

In the remainder of this long prayer, the primordial existence of a manifest divine authority is repeatedly evoked. The lineage of this authority is traced through the cosmic ages and is ultimately affirmed to be vested in the living Imam of the age. The sections of the prayer end with a declaration that the Imam is alive and eternally present.

At this point the reciter of the prayer would announce the word farman, to which those in attendance would reply Shah-Pir-a reaffirmation of their allegiance to the command (Farman) of the reigning Imam (Shah) and his representative (Pir).

The current practice is similar, but the expression Shah-Pir has been replaced by Ya Ali-Ya  Muhammad.

In this manner, the community members voiced their allegiance, in the words of Nasir al-Din Tusi, not solely to the command, but to the Commander of their time, the Possessor of the Command.

Date posted: January 11, 2015.

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(An earlier version of this reading was posted on this website in 2009. It was adapted from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation by Shafique N. Virani, 2007, and Wikipedia’s article on Holy Water. This revised piece includes material from Frontiers of Embedded Muslim Communities in India, edited by Vinod K. Jairath).

Chapter Five of Nasir-i Khusraw’s Wajh-i Din: The Gateway and Key to Paradise by Rukhsana Ali

“By the generosity of the Imam of the time, we say that Paradise in truth is the Intellect, and the Gateway of paradise is the Prophet (peace and salutation be upon him) during his time, and his wasi, his rank, and the Imam of the time during his age. The Key to the gateway of paradise is the utterance of the phrase, La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadan rasul Allah.”

Please click:  Pir Nasir-i Khusraw on the Gateway and Key to Paradise

This statue of the Ismaili da’i and intellectual giant Nasir Khusraw stands in his memory in Badakhshan. Please click for article.

Mawlana Murtaza Ali (a.s.) to Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam – The People of the House of the Prophet and His Progeny or Ahl al-Bayt

The excerpts shown below from the Holy Qur’an, the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and speeches of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, are quite clear about who the term Ahl al-Bayt refers to. However, Farhad Husseinali Patni gives further light on the subject by providing examples and references from early Islamic History, going back to the life of the Prophet and Qur’anic revelation. Please read this important article by clicking on “Ahl al-Bayt” – An Understanding Based on the Holy Qur’an, Hadith and Historical Events or on the image below.

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