Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Hunza: An Eyewitness Account

We convey Salgirah Mubarak to all Ismailis and friends of the Ismailis on the occasion of the 81st birthday of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, who is currently visiting Pakistan on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee. He became the 49th Ismaili Imam on July 11, 1957, and has now served the community for sixty years. At the age of 81, His Highness is the oldest serving Imam in Ismaili history, since the time of the first Imam, Hazrat Ali (a.s.). We are pleased to publish on http://www.barakah.com an account of the Darbar of the Aga Khan that took place on Sunday, December 10, 2017, in Aliabad, Hunza. The piece was specially contributed for Barakah by Faqir Ullah Khan of Hunza.

PLEASE CLICK: His Highness the Aga Khan in Pakistan: Zahiri-u-Noorani didar – A personal reflection of the darbar in Hunza

A panoramic view of the Didargah or the Darbar grounds in Aliabad Hunza where the Aga Khan graced his followers with his Didar (lit. glimpse) on December 10, 2017.

Date posted: December 13, 2017.

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Ismailis in Hunza prepare in earnest for the Aga Khan: Photos & Videos @Barakah

The excitement for the didar has spilled into every corner of Hunza. There will be more Jamati members participating in this Darbar than ever before. The entire registration process began some months ago and this has proceeded very well. The spirit of the Jamat and volunteers particularly in central Hunza is extremely high. The darbar task force members are active at each of the villages. Transportation, crowd control, accommodation and lodging have become major challenges. Jamats living in remoter areas will start moving to Aliabad at least 4 days before darbar…..MORE

PLEASE CLICK: Ismailis on the roof of the world make incredible preparations for Diamond Jubilee Darbars of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Please click on photo for story, videos and more pictures.

Date posted: December 5, 2017.

His Highness the Aga Khan on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) – with audio

INTRODUCTION: On February 18, 1976, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, accompanied by Begum Salimah Aga arrived in Pakistan for a month long visit that included several mulaqats with Ismailis around the country. During the visit they both attended numerous public and private events and engagements and Mawlana Hazar Imam announced the creation of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The first cycle of the award ceremony was held at the beautiful Shalimar Gardens in Lahore in 1980.

The extended 1976 visit also co-incided with Pakistan hosting the Seerat Conference over a 10 day period at which eminent scholars from around the world spoke in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi on various aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him). When the Aga Khan was invited by Mowlana Kausar Niazi, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, to preside over the Seerat gathering that took place in Karachi on March 12, 1976, he noted at the beginning of his presidential that he felt both trepidation and joy at the opportunity, “trepidation because few subjects could be more awe inspiring for any Muslim to speak on, joy as few subjects could give greater happiness to be involved with.”

As hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate the life of the Prophet on the occasion of his birth anniversary that falls on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal — between November 29 and December 3, 2017 — no piece would be more befitting for the auspicious anniversary than the inspiring and insightful words spoken at the Seerat Conference by the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad himself. We are pleased to present the following excerpts from 49th Ismaili Imam’s Seerat speech, following which we have included the audio of the speech.

The Aga Khan on Allah’s Last Messenger

Aga Khan speaking at Seerat Conference

His Highness the Aga Khan giving his Presidential Address at the Seerat Conference in Karachi on March 12, 1976. Photo: The Ismaili.

A request to the conference

“Few conferences can have gathered so many men of outstanding intellect, who have devoted so much time and wisdom to the study of Islam and the life of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him….I will begin by making a request: One hundred and seventy two eminent scholars from forty-eight countries have gathered in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi to present the results of their research and reflection on various aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet. From all these exchanges, from all the private debates which have preceded and succeeded the presentation of each paper, will have come an immense range of new thoughts, new ideas and new understanding of the Prophet’s life. I sincerely request that you have available to all Muslims a complete printed record of these papers and the subsequent debates.”

Responsibilities of rich Muslim countries

“The poorer countries of Islam have ahead of them years of increasingly hard work if they wish to progress materially to acceptable standards of every day life. The richer countries, especially those that have new means, will rapidly find that this wealth, blessing that it is, will impose upon them heavy new responsibilities. They will have to administrate this wealth wisely, in the best interest of their citizens, but also keeping in mind that they have a heavy responsibility to their less well endowed brother Muslim countries, and indeed to the human race at large. Thus it is my profound conviction that Islamic Society in the years ahead will find that our traditional concept of time, a limitless mirror in which to reflect on the eternal, will become a shrinking cage, an invisible trap from which fewer and fewer will escape.”

Holding firm the ship of life: Answers in the Qur’an and the Prophet

“I have observed in the Western world a deeply changing pattern of human relations. The anchors of moral behaviour appear to have dragged to such depths that they no longer hold firm the ship of life: what was once wrong is now simply unconventional, and for the sake of individual freedom must be tolerated. What is tolerated soon becomes accepted. Contrarily, what was once right is now viewed as outdated, old fashioned and is often the target of ridicule.”

“In the face of this changing world, which was once a universe to us and is now no more than an overcrowded island, confronted with a fundamental challenge to our understanding of time, surrounded by a foreign fleet of cultural and ideological ships which have broken loose, I ask, “Do we have a clear, firm and precise understanding of what Muslim Society is to be in times to come?” And if as I believe, the answer is uncertain, where else can we search then in the Holy Qur’an, and in the example of Allah’s last and final Prophet?

“There is no justification for delaying the search for the answer to this question by the Muslims of the world, because we have the knowledge that Islam is Allah’s final message, the Qur’an His final book and Muhammed His last Prophet. We are blessed that the answers drawn from these sources guarantee that neither now, nor at any time in the future will we be going astray. As the demands on his time increase, every Muslim will find it more and more difficult to seek for himself the answer to the fundamental question of how he should live his life for it to be truly Muslim. It is men such as you who will have to bring forth the answers, answers which will have to be practical and realistic in the world of today and tomorrow. Rather than let force of circumstance impose upon us through our default in not having suitably prepared ourselves for the future, ways of life which are not or should not be ours, we must ourselves design the path we should tread.”

Bearing fruits in the diverse Muslim world

“In seeking to define what our Islamic Society should be in times ahead, 50 and 100 and 200 years hence we should, I believe, be aware that the Muslims of this world cover such an amazing range of historical, ethnic and cultural backgrounds that a completely monolithic answer may not be found. I am convinced on the other hand, that we do want to avoid so much diversity that our Muslim countries are in conflict amongst themselves or that they are so divided that they are incapable successfully of facing common enemies, be they cultural, religious, national or otherwise. This is why I so applaud Pakistan for having organized the first Muslim Summit Conference, and now this Seerat Conference, for it is only through dialogue, personal contacts and continuous exchanges that the great diversity of cultures, knowledge, outlook and resources can be co-ordinated and brought to bear fruit for the Muslim world.”

Greatest opportunity for Muslim unity is now

“Let me return, now, to the question of what Muslim Society should seek to be in the years ahead. Islam, as even non-Muslims have observed, is a way of life. This means that every aspect of the individual’s daily existence is guided by Islam: his family relations, his business relations, his education, his health, the means and manner by which he gains his livelihood, his philanthropy, what he sees and hears around him, what he reads, the way he regulates his time, the buildings in which he lives, learns and earns.

“I cannot think of any time in Islamic history when Muslims have had a greater opportunity to unite, and to ensure that the society in which they live is that which they have defined and chosen for themselves.

“Not only are all forms of human communication easier than ever before in history, but rarely, if ever has the Muslim world had such means to ensure its future. Conferences such as this seeking inspiration from the life of the Holy Prophet could render no greater service to Islam than to assist in defining what steps can be taken, where, and how, to ensure that our people can live in the years ahead in greater peace, greater prosperity and in an Islamic Society which will not be overrun or simply taken by surprise, by forces, pressures or concepts which are totally alien and may damage us irretrievably.”

Searching for a solution through eminent men and women

“In our search for a solution, I am convinced that we must call upon our own men and women, who have achieved positions of eminence anywhere in the world, and persuade them to return, for us to benefit from their knowledge, their learning and their work. All too often in my journeys I have met or learnt of outstanding Muslim scholars, doctors, scientists, and architects who have remained abroad, or who, when they do come home, have failed to receive the support and encouragement necessary for them to bring to their nations’ benefit their Muslim outlook on key areas of modern progress.

“Any meaningful human endeavour, any original thinking, any authentic research, will require moral encouragement and material support. This we must provide, not only during the individual’s initial years of learning, but equally when he leaves the restricted life of his academic centre to enter into the wider world of national or international activity.”

The inspiring life of the Holy Prophet

“The Holy Prophet’s life gives us every fundamental guideline that we require to resolve the problem as successfully as our human minds and intellects can visualise. His example of integrity, loyalty, honesty, generosity both of means and of time, his solicitude for the poor, the weak and the sick, his steadfastness in friendship, his humility in success, his magnanimity in victory, his simplicity, his wisdom in conceiving new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam, surely all these are foundations which, correctly understood and sincerely interpreted, must enable us to conceive what should be a truly modern and dynamic Islamic Society in the years ahead.”

Audio of the Aga Khan speech made at the Seerat Conference

Date posted: November 30, 2017.

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Note: This article also appears on http://www.barakah.com, a special Simerg project to celebrate 60 years or the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan.

 

Aga Khan arrives, a photo tour of the Global Centre for Pluralism and more

Aga Khan Ottawa Arrival

Aga Khan arrival 2017-11-14-moez_visram_moe2382Mawlana Hazar Imam is received at Ottawa International Airport by the Aga Khan Development Network Representative for Canada, Mahmood Eboo (left), the President of the Aga Khan Council for Canada, Malik Talib, centre with Hazar Imam, and Karima Karmali, the Council’s Vice President. Photo: Moez Visram/The Ismaili.

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

His Highness the Aga Khan arrived in Ottawa Tuesday, November 14, to begin his week long trip to Canada during which he will meet with his Ismaili followers in Eastern Canada for religious meetings in Toronto and Montreal.

He will however first preside over the inaugural Pluralism Award ceremony at the iconic Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building located on Sussex Drive. Readers will be able to watch the ceremony live on Wednesday, November 15, starting at 6 P.M. EST.

A short photographic tour of the Global Centre for Pluralism

His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston in a jovial mood joke as they unveil the commemorative plaque of the official opening of the International Headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.Flashback: The unveiling of the plaque by His Highness the Aga Khan and the former Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, during the inauguration ceremony of the building on May 16, 2017. The plaque is now embedded in the right wall, just inside the main entrance to the building. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse.

In preparation for the press conference that was held yesterday (Tuesday, November 14), and this evening’s award ceremony, I decided to visit the Global Centre for Pluralism on Saturday, November 11, the last day the interior of the building was open for viewing by the public (it will reopen again next spring).

A short video presentation highlighting the purpose of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Above Princess Zahra Aga Khan. Note: Light streak is camera reflection. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

An immense transformation has taken place, while still preserving the historic features of the building. The Aga Khan during the official opening of the building on May 16, 2017, noted: “The architects, designers, engineers and so many others who have rehabilitated this wonderful Tudor Gothic building have taken enormous care to respect its distinctive historic character.”

A plaque highlighting the Global Centres connection to the Ottawa River, see following two photos. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

One of the major features that you are drawn to as you enter the building and climb its few steps is the large window that overlooks the Ottawa River. And the Aga Khan provided an insight on the topic too. In the same speech, he said:

“When I first visited this site, I went across the Ottawa River, to see things from the opposite side. From that perspective, I noticed that many buildings on the Ontario side had, over the years, turned their backs to the river. But as we began to plan, another possibility became evident. It seemed increasingly significant to open the site to the water.” This is precisely what the building offers every day to each person who walks in, perhaps with the thought: “Let me see the Ottawa River first.”

Visitors at the Global Centre on Saturday, November 11, 2017. One, far right end, is standing a few metres from the full-height window, and pointing to the Ottawa River, see next photo. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A beautiful view of the Ottawa River from the Global Centre’s full height window.See photo of plaque, above. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

pb112064-global-centre-plaque.jpgGlobal Centre for Pluralism was designated as one of 10 CONFEDERATION PAVILIONS, for 2017, the 150th anniversary of Canada. This plaque stands outside the building on Sussex Drive. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

The Global Centre for Pluralism was designated as one of the 10 Confederation Pavilions in the National Capital Region for the year 2017. The Commission identified buildings that had been dormant and then brought back to life. A passport booklet highlighting all  the 10 buildings has been published, as shown in the next image. It encourages everyone to visit the buildings and experience them for their architectural heritage.

Bilingual front cover of the passport booklet, with an insert (English shown) on the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

The Global Centre has been a National Historic Site since 1990, at which time it was the home of the Canadian War Museum. The PASSPORT booklet explains: “Today a $35 million investment from His Highness the Aga Khan has brought the building back to life as the new home of the Global Centre for Pluralism. This independent research and education centre, created in partnership with the Government of Canada, advances respect for diversity around the world. Become a pluralism champion; visit this heritage landmark, and explore the mission and work of the Centre.”

The historic Sir Arthur Doughty’s fireplace inside the Global Centre’s presentation room. See plaque, next photo, explaining the significance of the fireplace. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Fireplace plaque. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Chandelier in the hall by the main entrance. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A segment of a drawing, “Invincible before daybreak”, by Edward Pien (2007). Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Ceiling in seminar room, with all the high tech gadgets seamlessly incorporated. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A segment of a painting symbolizing past indigenous injustices. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Decorative designs on walls and windows symbolizing plurarity. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Painting (details soon). Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Contemplative garden. The Aga Khan in referring to this exterior space said, “a new garden in the forecourt, a tranquil space for contemplating the past and thinking about the future.” Background building is the Royal Canadian Mint. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A colourful plaque on wall explaining pluralism in all its aspects. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

The last of the beautiful fall colours shading the Global Centre for Pluralism on November 11, in a delayed autumn foliage. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakh/Simerg.

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Press Conference with winners of the 2017 Pluralism Award

Pluralism Award Winners with Mcnee and Clarke at press conference(l to r): Daniel Webb of Australia, Alice Wairimu Nderitu of Kenya, Leyner Palacios Asprilla of Colombia – all three are Pluralism Award Winners – Rt. Hon. Joe Clarke and John McNee.

Members of the media were invited on Tuesday morning for an hour long press conference at the Global Centre for Pluralism to meet with the winners of the first Pluralism Award. The opening remarks by the Centre’s Secretary General John McNee were followed by the introduction of each of the 3 winners by the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, Canada’s former Prime Minister. Mr. Clarke headed the jury that selected the 3 winners and 7 other honourable mentions from over 200 nominations that were submitted in 43 different countries.

Leyner Palacios Asprilla: The humble and courageous activist Leyner Asprilla of Colombia spoke about the the terrible massacre in May 2002 when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the guerilla movement known with the Spanish acronym FARC, launched gas cylinder bombs at a church in Bojayá full of civilians that was being used as a human shield by a paramilitary group. The bombs bursted the church killing 79 people including 48 infants and children. Asprilla survived the massacre but he emerged to find that 32 of his family members had been killed. Instead of becoming despondent over this cruel tragedy, Asprilla went on to found the Committee for the Rights of Victims of Bojayá, giving voice to over 11,000 victims of the conflict that live in the municipality of Bojayá, Chocó. As a result of his fight for social justice, Leyner was asked to represent Bojayá massacre victims during peace negotiations between guerilla forces and the government. One of the results was that FARC publicly acknowledged their role in the 2002 tragedy and, in a private ceremony in a Bojayá church, requested forgiveness.

leyner-palacios-asprilla-1-feature.jpgLeyner Palacios Asprilla. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

Asprilla organized assemblies with representatives from every community in Bojayá, even the most remote, and encouraged each community to include a female representative. Now, these remote communities have a united voice that takes their demand for human rights to the highest levels of government, and around the world. By bringing communities together in the fight for social justice, Leyner realized how powerful a chorus of diverse voices can be. Today, he continues to demand that Colombia embrace diversity by respecting the rights of all its citizens, particularly its most marginalized.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlice Wairimu Nderitu. Photo:Barakah/Simerg.

Alice Wairimu Nderitu: The graceful Alice Nderitu of Kenya has been a tireless peacemaker, conflict mediator and gender equality advocate who believes that differences can be strengths, not weaknesses. She took a seat at the peace table with 100 elders from ten ethnic communities who had never negotiated peace with each other before. This was 18 months after violence erupted in Kenya’s Rift Valley when results of a flawed election were announced which ignited historic grievances over land and deep-seated ethnic tensions. As a child eavesdropping in a tree, Alice was told that as a woman she could not participate in the work of making peace. But Alice took her place at the table with male mediators and led the elders in a dialogue that resulted in the region’s first peaceful elections in 20 years Today, as a lead mediator brokering peace throughout Africa, she has proven again and again that making peace is very much women’s business; however she explained that she found it necessary to integrate attitudes generally reserved for man!

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Daniel WebbDaniel Webb. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

Daniel Webb: The narrative by the articulate Australian Daniel Webb, a lawyer by training, was forceful. He was severely critical of the Australian Government for its decision to place every refugee arriving in boat in Australia’s offshore detention center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. The conditions in these detention centres are inhumane and demoralizing, with numerous reports of violence, medical neglect, suicide, self-harm. When Daniel visited the island he met many refugees and found out that they were inspiring people who could make great contributions to Australian society, if only given the chance to live on the mainland.

To tackle the offshore detention issue in Australia, Daniel has developed an innovative approach that combines legal action, media advocacy, public campaigns and United Nations engagement. Daniel’s work has helped to hold the Australian government accountable for breaches in international law. His work has not stopped there. He realized he needed to change the public perception of people seeking asylum. Australians had to understand that the people detained offshore were not threats, but rather human beings with their own stories, talents and families.

In addition to hearing stories of Leyner, Alice and Daniel, the media was also briefed about seven other individuals and corporations who received honourable mentions.

Press Conference Video

To access press conference, click on image below and then click again where its says “Watch this video on Youtube”

Date posted: November 15, 2017.

Note: Another version of this post, with enlarged photos, can be read at http://www.barakah.com

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Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: The importance of Salawat

Salawat Calligraphy

Salawat written in Nast’aliq calligraphy. Credit: Wikishia.

Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

(The author would like readers to note that this short piece was prepared from Khayal Aly’s excellent and elaborate essay on the Salawat titled “Realities of the Salawat.” We are also pleased to include with this piece a musical rendering of the Salawat composed by Fez Meghani, and sung by numerous Ismaili artists. The full composition is about 14 minutes long, and we are including only the first 5:31 minutes – ed.).

Whenever Mawlana Hazar Imam graces us with didar, his arrival and his presence are greeted with the soul-soothing hum of the recitation of the Salawaat:

“Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad,” meaning “O, Allah shower thy choicest blessings upon Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.”

This has been our tradition for centuries. The question arises: Why do we seek blessings upon the Prophet and his progeny?

When the verse of the Holy Qur’an (33:56)  “Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings upon (salloona ‘ala) the Prophet. O you who believe! Ask blessings upon him (salloo ‘alayhi) and salute him with a worthy salutation,” was revealed some of the companions of the Prophet asked him about it: “O Messenger of God, we know already how to greet you; but how should we invoke blessings upon you?”

The Prophet replied:

“You should say, ‘O God, bless Muhammad and his progeny (aal), even as you blessed Abraham and his progeny [O God], you are truly praiseworthy, great in glory’.” [1]

Further reinforcement of this invocation of blessing upon the Prophet and his progeny comes in the verse “Say: I ask you no reward (arjan) except love of the ‘near of kin (al-qurba)’. ” — 42:23

The key concept that emerges here is that of reward (arjan).

To understand this, we have to look at the fact that the Prophet was sent as a mercy to mankind  as attested in the verse:

“And we have sent you not, except as mercy to the world.” — 21:107

What then is the reason for asking the ummah to seek blessing upon the Prophet and his progeny? And what is the reason for the expectation of a reward?

In reality the reward that the Prophet is asking, namely the love for the Prophet and his progeny, is not for his own benefit, but rather, for the benefit of the ummah (Muslim community) itself. And here in lies the elegance and efficacy of the Salawat that we recite. Imam Al-Baqir explains this by citing a verse in which Allah tells the Prophet:

“Say, whatever I ask you with regard to my reward, it is [actually] for you. I rely for my reward on no one except God and He is witness to everything.” — 34:47

Several ginans sing about the joys and delights when the Imam graces his murids with his physical didar. In one of these ginans we come across this concept of “reward”. A verse in Pir Sadardin’s ginan Aji Sham kun avanta jo kahe reads:

Sami ke gale me haar hai, heera manek jaddi ya,
Jis re bhave tan ku dete hai,
Saheb hai dil daariya…

Translation:

The beloved has a necklace of diamonds and pearls,
He showers these on who so ever he chooses
The beloved’s generosity knows no bounds.

In the joyful assemblage of Imam’s holy presence and didar, not only does the Imam shower the “reward” of jewels of blessings upon the murids, but the recitation of the Salawat opens the gate of mercy and every recitation of the Salawat multiplies these blessings many many many fold. A tradition from Shia sources refers to the blessings of reciting Salawat as follows:

“Whoever sends ten salawats upon Muhammad and his family, God and His angels will send him a hundred salutations, and whoever sends a hundred salawats upon Muhammad and his family, God and His angels will send him a thousand.

The promise of reward goes even further. When a murid places his hands under the hand of the appointed spiritual authority of the time, Imam-e-Zaman, in an act of allegiance (bay‘at), “he indeed pledge his allegiance to Allah” (innama yubayi‘auna’lla). And thus, fulfilment of this bay’at merits nothing less than a great reward as promised by the verse 48:10 of the Qur’an that whosoever fulfils his bay’at with Allah shall merit a greater reward (arjan azim).

The first act of fulfilment of the bay’at is the declaration of the love for the Prophet and his progeny which is affirmed by the recitation of the Salawat. And its continuous recitation is a demonstration of this love between the murid and the Imam and the continuous shower of the jewels that Ginan Aji Sham kun avaanta jo kahe alludes to.

Date posted: November 11, 2017.

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Reference:

[1]. Fatimid-Isma‘ili book of law, Da‘a’im al-Islam (Pillars of Islam) by Qadi Nu’man.

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.

We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment.

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: #2 – Go, run to the ‘Manifest Light’ and ‘Ship of Salvation’ with joy and hope

This is the second article in a special series that we hope will contribute to making the forthcoming mulaqat with Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam more meaningful and purposeful. If you missed any of the previous post(s), here are the links:

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

Eastern Canada shown in green on map (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, with the largest concentration in Ontario and Quebec. Credits: Map (left) yy Connormah – Wikipedia, CC BY 1.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19857457, and (right) Department of Natural Resources.

1. By Shaykh Khudr, contemporary of 40th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Nizar

The people of the House of Prophethood
are the Manifestations of Light;

They are that which exists forever
and in what has already elapsed;

They are the ships of salvation for those
who come running to them with hope;

They are the rain abundant in moisture
and their grace is the best of springs;

The essence of their souls is knowledge
from a world beyond the intellects;

Indeed, it is their invitation which rescues
souls from the pit of destruction.

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2. By Muayyad Al-Shirazi, Fatimid period

“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 [Mustansir-billah], placed it on my eyes and on my chest and then kissed it. I left the place with immense joy.”

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3. By Fidai Khurasani

He is always present
a witness with his followers;

but who has seen his beauty
except the blessed?

He who is the cupbearer of
the fount of paradise

is aware altogether of
the hearts of his followers

He is the Imam of the time
the guide and comforter

the protector of his followers
whether young or old

Like the sun in the sky
he is manifest in the world

but the blind bat cannot see
his luminous face

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4. By Imam Mustansir-Billah, 32nd Ismaili Imam

“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, 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.”

Date posted: November 6, 2017.

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

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His Highness the Aga Khan: What we are now reading @Barakah.com

Please click on photos or Barakah

Aga Khan receives Lifetime Achievement Award from Asia Society.

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140 years: From birth of Aga Khan III to Diamond Jubilee of Aga Khan IV.

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Aga Khan 1979 Asia Society Speech: “Building City of God and Man”

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AGA KHAN’S FORTHCOMING VISIT TO EASTERN CANADA

GOD’S KINGDOM: AGA KHAN ON PATRIOTISM

AGA KHAN’S VIEW OF THE WORLD

A LONG ASSOCIATION: AGA KHAN AND JOHNSTON

AGA KHAN IN EAST AFRICA: 5 DAYS TO REMEMBER

1946 JUBILEE: ISMAILI WOMEN OF TIME REMINISCE

A PEARL FOR MONARCH OF FAITH AND PRACTICALITY

Date posted: November 2, 2017.
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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Bless Ismailis in Eastern Canada with Didar in November 2017

2017 Aga Khan Tanzania Darbar zr1_web_4823

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, at the Dar es Salaam Darbar in October 2017. He will grace the Eastern Canadian Ismailis with his didar in November 2017.

Ismailis gasp in delight and shed tears of joy at announcement of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Canada in November 2017

By Malik Merchant, Editor

(Note: We will have regular updates leading upto the visit; here are the latest updates for this blog):

 

 

Ismailis in Eastern Canada will, inshallah, be graced with the holy visit of their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, during the month of November 2017. The announcement of the visit by the Ismaili Leadership International Forum (LIF) came as a big surprise, and thousands who were present in Jamatkhanas across Canada on Friday, October 27,  gasped with delight when the news of the visit was read out. At the Ismaili Centre in Toronto, the Jamat was informed about the visit  by the Chairman of the LIF, Mahmoud Eboo, who is also the representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Canada.

The exact dates and details of the visit were not announced on Friday. However, an update on Saturday October 28th, stated that Mawlana Hazar Imam’s mulaqats with the Eastern Canada Jamat, which will include religious work, will take place in Toronto for the Ontario region and in Montreal for the Quebec and Maritime Provinces.  Although located in Ontario, the Jamat in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, will join hands with the Jamats of the Quebec and Maritime Provinces in Montreal.

This will be the third visit by the Aga Khan to his followers during his Diamond Jubilee year that commenced on July 11, 2017, when he completed 60 years of his reign. Earlier in October, he made official visits to Uganda and Tanzania at the invitation of the two governments. During the five day tour that began on October 8th, Mawlana Hazar Imam graced the Ismailis with momentous Darbars (lit. a court or audience chamber where kings had formal or informal meetings) in Kampala and Dar es Salaam.

On this most auspicious and joyous news of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s forthcoming visit to Canada, we convey our heartiest felicitations to Ismailis in Canada and around the world and offer a humble supplication with the following words taken from a Ginan by Pir Hasan Kabirdin (14th century).

Transliteration

Eji, Aash Karine Ya Ali* hun tere dar ubhi,
Kar jodine em mangu Ya Shah;
Dejo didar tusi mahavar datar Shah,
Hama tere charane lagu.

Translation

With hope O Ali I stand at Thy door,
With palms joined I sincerely beg of Thee;
Bless me with Thy Holy Didar, O Great Lord and Benefactor!
At Thy Feet I fall to prostrate.

*Ismaili doctrine emphasizes the principle of the Unity of Imamat under the superficial diversity exhibited by each Imam of the Time. It is in this sense that the Ismailis believe that Imam is the same irrespective of his own age or the time he lives in. Thus, the name of the first Imam, Hazrat Ali, is commonly invoked for each Imam of the Time.

The proverbial valour and exemplary statesmanship of Imam Mawla Murtaza Ali, the encyclopaedic erudition of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq, the extraordinary intellectual brilliance of Imam al-Hakim bi Amrillah, the administrative ability of Imam Mustansir Billah (during the first half of his Khilafat), the political acumen of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III (he defied geography and created history), the organizing genius of the present Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Husayni, are only some of the more spectacular characteristics exhibited by the Imam of the Time in accordance with the exigencies of the situations facing him.

Date posted: October 27, 2017.
Last updated: October 29, 2017.

Related updated post: Ottawa Celebrates Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Forthcoming Visit to Canada, @Barakah.com

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We invite our readers to download Simerg’s special PDF publication Imamat and Didar Series.

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Ismaili Heritage and Traditions: Fascinating Insights into Early Recordings of Ginans and Geets

By ALNOOR JEHANGIR MERCHANT

Simerg’s recent post titled Awesome and Rare Collection of Ismaili Ginans with Music at the British Library and a number of related online contributions, especially Aly Sunderji’s sharing of the equally rare and exceptional audio recordings of devotional songs produced in Tanganyika in 1946 commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III (link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqxUDlY_pis&index=1&list=PL8-KGtAvEpq5s1nBIplLQA3j1RDptQ5GJ) is an opportune moment to add some further remarks on the recordings of ginans and geets* produced during the first half of the 20th century. It is hoped that these remarks and, more particularly, the recordings themselves, will provide an impetus in documenting and preserving the diversity of the Ismaili community’s musical heritage and traditions.

Original disc labels of four ginan recordings that are part of a digitization project being carried out by the British Library (clockwise from top left): Satgur miliya mune aje composed by Bibi Imam Begum and sung by Rama and Rahim Ali; Ho jire mara hansa composed by Pir Sadardin; Ab teri mohobat lagi composed by Pir Shams; and Marna hai zarur composed by Pir Imam Shah and all sung by Master Juma Kakali. Images: The British Library (collage by Simerg).

It is difficult to give a precise dating as to when the ginans digitised by The British Library as part of their Endangered Archives Programme (EPA) Project were originally recorded. The ‘Young India’ record label which, according to the British Library catalogue, published these recordings was established around 1935 and continued for approximately 20 years; thus, the recordings should be dated to the period 1935-1955. An examination of the images of the disc labels, however, provides additional information that seems to have been overlooked in the cataloguing process.

On three of the ginan recordings, the disc label states ‘Ismailia Record’, along with the following: Manufactured by National Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company, Bombay, India [and] Sole Distributers [sic], The King Record Company, Kalbadevi, Bombay. The ‘Ismailia Record’ ginan recordings are in the voice of Master Jumma Kakali. On the fourth ginan recording, the disc label states ‘Best Ismaili Record’, along with the following: Manufactured for the Bombay Record Company by the National Gramophone Record Company Limited, Bombay.

As all four ginan recordings do not mention ‘Young India’ on the disc label, it may be that ‘Ismailia Record’ and ‘Best Ismaili Record’ were independent record producers. Unfortunately, the disc labels do not contain any information on the date of production of the records. However, according to Hussain Jasani, who has undertaken some research, there is evidence to suggest that these recordings were produced during 1938. According to Jasani, one of the volumes of the community’s magazine, Ismaili, published during that year, refers to these recordings. [Paper presented by Hussain Jasani, “Preserving Community Heritage; The Oldest-known Ginan (Audio) Recordings”, IIS Alumni Association, European Chapter Group, Annual Meeting, London, 29th September 2017].

Are these the earliest recordings, musical or otherwise, of ginans? In her essay titled “Sacred Songs of Khoja Muslims: Sounded and Embodied Liturgy and Devotion”, (published in: Ethnomusicology, 48, 2 [Spring/Summer 2004]: 251-270), Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy suggests that a number of ginan recordings made by the Dutch ethnomusicologist and pioneer in the study of South Asian music, Arnold Adriaan Bake, are the earliest. She states (p. 256):

“Probably the earliest ginan recordings were made by Arnold Bake in Karachi in 1939. These as yet unpublished field recordings were sung individually by teenaged boys, presumably found at the Karachi jama‘at (community) school.”

Three of Bake’s Karachi recordings dated 11 March 1939, which he catalogued as ‘Khoja devotional song’ have been identified as:

  • Satgur avya kai apne dwar, sung by a 14-year old boy, Karim Ali Muhammad
  • Hamdil khaleq, sung by a 14-year old boy, Rahim Ali Muhammad
  • Haq tu pak tu, sung by Sadulli M. Abdulla.

Jasani’s research suggests that the Bombay recordings, and not the Karachi ones, are the earliest. While the ginan recordings produced (most likely in 1938) as part of the ‘Ismailia Record’ and ‘Best Ismaili Record’ labels or those in the Bake collection (recorded in March 1939) may be among the earliest, it would not be out-of-place to suggest that there could be earlier recordings of ginans, musical or otherwise, which remain to be ‘discovered’.

It is known that sound recordings from South Asia began to be produced at the turn of the 20th century, with the earliest known dating to around 1899. The foremost researcher of early Indian sound recordings is Michael Kinnear. His two books, The Gramophone Company’s First Indian Recordings 1899-1907 (Bombay, 1994) and The Gramophone Company’s Indian Recordings 1908-1910 (London, 2000) document not only the history of the Gramophone Company and its successor companies’ activities in India, as well as the recording expeditions it undertook in the country, but the two volumes also provide complete listings of all known and traceable recordings taken on those expeditions. In one of his other encyclopaedic works titled The 78 RPM Record Labels of India (Apollo Bay, 2016), Kinnear covers all known record labels and histories of the companies from 1899 to the late 1960s. Perhaps, an analysis of the listings contained in Kinnear’s works will lead to the identification of ginan recordings from the first decades of the 20th century. Another important resource could be the various magazines published within the Ismaili community at the time. The Society of Indian Record Collectors may also be an avenue worth exploring. Indeed, it is from the collection of one of the members of the Society of Indian Record Collectors, Suresh Chandvakar, that some of The British Library’s ginan recordings have been digitised.

With respect to the recordings of geets, little research has been carried out. Ali Asani, in the chapter ‘The Git Tradition: A Testimony of Love’ in his work titled Ecstasy and Enlightenment: The Ismaili Devotional Literature of South Asia (London, 2002) writes (p. 71):

“The tradition of composing gits, as we know in its present form, has been associated particularly with Nizari Ismaili communities of South Asian origin….Unfortunately, we know precious little about its development. As is the case with many folk traditions that have been orally transmitted, its historical origins are quite obscure. Moreover, the gits themselves have never been systematically collected and documented.”

In his essay, Asani predominantly refers to geet recordings from the 1980s onwards. And, Amy Catlin Jairazbhoy, states that the Khoja geet emerged “at some uncertain time in the twentieth century” (p. 262). In her essay titled “Songs of Praise: the Git Tradition of the Nizari Ismaili Muslims”, in Gujarati Communities Across the Globe: Memory, Identity and Continuity, ed. by Sharmina Mawani and Anjoom A. Mukaddam (Stoke-on-Trent, 2012), pages 59-78, Sharmina Mawani writes that “few authors have focused on gits…. and the way in which this creative form of expression has flourished from one generation to another” (p. 59). Although her discussion focuses on post-1960 geets, Mawani does refer to a geet by Fateh Ali Ismail Ibrahim titled Aayi Aayi re Sakhi written specifically for the Diamond Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah in 1946, the original lyrics and tune of which “were inspired by the joyous and celebratory nature of the occasion” (pp. 71-72). Indeed, one of the recordings placed online by Aly Sunderji is of this geet (please click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-GnZn4UC7A&index=5&list=PL8-KGtAvEpq5s1nBIplLQA3j1RDptQ5GJ)

The audio recordings shared by Aly Sunderji of devotional songs produced in Tanganyika in 1946 commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah provide us with important information on the geet tradition. And, significantly, in Suresh Chandvakar’s collection, there are a number of recordings that are also most certainly part of this tradition, but which are slightly earlier date-wise.

Original disc labels of geet recordings that are part of a digitization project being carried out by the British Library. Images: The British Library (collage by Simerg).

An examination of the listing of the individual recordings from Chandvakar’s collection identifies five enigmatic entries: Aavo Sultan Raj, Golden Jubilee Part 01, Golden Jubilee Part 02, and two listed as Captain Lakhpati. Further, the disc labels on these recordings provide some fascinating information. The disc label for Aavo Sultan Raj states: Compiled by ‘Best Ismaili Record’; the disc labels for Golden Jubilee and Captain Lakhpati state: Compiled by ‘Captain Lakhpaty’. This, undoubtedly, refers to Abdullah Jaffer Lakhpati, who is considered among the founders of the H. H. the Aga Khan Bombay Volunteer Corps, and who was also a versatile poet and artist. It is known that Lakhpati was appointed as Captain of the Volunteer Corps in February 1936. With this reference date, as well as upon listening to the recordings, it is clear that these geets were most likely composed to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, in 1935-36. To date, therefore, these are the earliest musical recordings of geets.

As to the performers, Ahmed Dilawar and Prabhakar, it has not been possible, as yet, to locate any further information on these individuals. It is likely that the various publications issued by the community, such as Ismaili and Fidai, could shed more light on these specific compositions and the performer(s), as well as on the tradition and history of geets.

One final point: All the disc labels of the ginan and geet recordings identified in this article and that posted previously share a common feature. What may be considered as the ‘Headline’ banner in the top half of the disc label is either an illustration depicting an image of Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah in the centre with the red and green Ismaili standard on either side, or the Imamat Crest in the centre, again with the Ismaili standard on either side. Does this not suggest that the recordings were officially produced for circulation?

All the ginan and geet recordings, (links to the geets are provided hereunder), along with Aly Sunderji’s sharing of the Diamond Jubilee geets, provide a fascinating insight into the historical development of this tradition, and allow us to reflect anew on this musical heritage.

Link to Aavo Sultan Raj

http://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Young-India-record-label-collection/025M-CEAP190X7X07-008ZV0

Link to Golden Jubilee Part 01

http://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Young-India-record-label-collection/025M-CEAP190X7X06-001ZV0

Link to Golden Jubilee Part 02

http://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Young-India-record-label-collection/025M-CEAP190X7X06-002ZV0

Link to Captain Lakhpati

http://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Young-India-record-label-collection/025M-CEAP190X7X06-003ZV0

Link to Captain Lakhpati

http://sounds.bl.uk/World-and-traditional-music/Young-India-record-label-collection/025M-CEAP190X7X06-004ZV0

Date posted: October 1, 2017.
Last updated: October 5, 2017 (additional source(s) added by the author, Alnoor Merchant, in paragraph referencing Sharmina Mawani’s essay).

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*The term used to describe a devotional ‘folk song’ is git; however, the more commoner spelling form, geet, is used in this article.

About the author: Alnoor Jehangir Merchant is an independent researcher on Ismaili studies, and a specialist advisor on rare books, coins, photographs and objets d’art relating to the worlds of Islam.

We welcome your feedback. To leave a comment please click LEAVE A COMMENT. If you encounter a technical issue, send your comment to Simerg@aol.com, Subject: Ginans and Geets.