Passings: Izzat Muneyb remembered through her poetic reflections on Prophet Muhammad, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah and the London Ismaili Centre

Izzat Muneyb (d. May 20, 2017)

By Abdulmalik Merchant

(NOTE: You may submit a condolence by clicking the COMMENTS box shown above left, beside the title — thank you, ed.).

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Izzat Muneyb on May 20th, 2017 in London, England, at the age of 75. Izzat was buried at the Ismaili cemetery at Brookwood in Surrey immediately following a funeral ceremony held at the West London Jamatkhana on Saturday, May 27th at 10:45 a.m.

We convey our heartfelt condolences to Izzat’s surviving sisters Zarin and Gulzar and their families, as well as all who knew her in the U.K. and many other parts of the world. We pray for the eternal peace and rest of Izzat’s soul.

Izzat Muneyb was raised in Mombasa, Kenya, and then pursued her further studies in the UK where she obtained an Honours degree in English from Birmingham University, a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education from Kings College, London and a Masters in Curriculum Studies from London University, England. She had a varied career, working in the fields of education, health, commerce and public order. She served on various Ismaili community institutions, including the Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah Board, Mombasa, His Highness the Aga Khan Provincial Tribunal and His Highness Aga Khan Education Board in Nairobi. As an Education Board member, she originated the concept of, and edited, the Commemorative Issue 1977-78, to celebrate sixty years of Ismaili education in Kenya. From 1983–1994, she worked at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London as a Member of the Education Unit and contributed to the Ta’lim Curriculum which is used throughout the Ismaili world to impart religious education  Over the last few years, she focused on her own creative writing in London.

Izzat contributed numerous pieces for this website, and we are pleased to re-publish her thoughtful reflections on the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), the Prophet’s mosque in Madinah and the first purpose built Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana in the Western World that is located in London.

WE  WELCOME READERS’ TRIBUTES IN MEMORY OF IZZAT MUNEYB

We invite your tributes and messages of condolences in memory of Izzat Muneyb. You may do that by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT (that is also shown at left of the title of this post, at top). Should you run into issues while submitting your comment, then please send it via email to simerg@aol.com, Subject: Izzat Muneyb.

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1. In Praise of Prophet Muhammad
(May Peace Be Upon Him)

BY IZZAT MUNEYB

Author’s note: This song introduces us to some of the titles by which Prophet Muhammad came to be known. They are: ‘Ahmad’, ‘Mustafa’, ‘Rahmatan li’l-‘aalameen and ‘King of law laak’. The words ‘law laak’ in Arabic mean, “Were it not for…” There is a Hadith of Prophet Muhammad, where Allah speaking to His prophet, says, “Were it not for you, I would not have created the universe – law laaka lamaa khalaqtu’l-aflaaka.” [1]

N.B: The lines marked * are sung twice.

Muhammad, Muhammad,
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*

Shall we call you Ahmad?*
He who is praised in heaven
Shall be praised here on earth.

Muhammad, Muhammad,
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*

Shall we call you Mustafa?*
The Chosen of God on earth,
You have brought us the Qur’an.

Muhammad, Muhammad,
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*

Shall we call you Rahmatan li’l-‘aalameen?*
God sent you as a Mercy
To the whole of creation.

Muhammad, Muhammad,
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*

Shall we call you the ‘King of law laak’?*
Even God says He created
The universe for you.

Muhammad, Muhammad,
How shall we praise you, Muhammad?*

© Copyright: Izzat Muneyb.

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Notes:

[1] Source: Sukheel Sharif, The Jawziyyah Institute, 2006

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2. Building the Prophet’s Mosque — Masjeedun Nabee — in Madinah

An Islamic miniature from Siyer-i Nebi (16th century, Turkey), depicting Bilal giving the call to prayer. Photo: Wikipedia.

BY IZZAT MUNEYB

Author’s Note: This ballad tells the story of how the first mosque in Islam, the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah, Masjeedun-Nabee, was built and how the first Muslims were called to prayer, with Bilal, a black Muslim, reciting the first adhaan. [1] The Prophet (Peace be upon Him) let his she-camel, Qaswaa’, who was “under the command of God”, choose the site. This allowed him to not have to accept land from, and thus show partiality to, any of the influential clans in Madinah.

N.B: The first line of each verse is sung twice. The ballad should ideally be sung to the accompaniment of a guitar.

Qaswaa’ the camel has chosen the ground,
Dig here, O Muslims and level the ground.        Qaswaa’.…….1

Muhammad has said, “O, here will I stay,
Here build my mosque and here shall I die”.         ..…….………2

Cut down the trees and make the pillars,
Lay down the bricks and cement with mortar.      ……………….3

The Muhaajiroon [2] and the Ansaar [3]
Work with a will in the spirit of Islam.                   ……………….4

Aly then asks how to ‘complete’ the mosque,
“How shall we call the believers to prayer?”          ..…………….5

The Muslims think hard, “O shall we use bells [4]
If not a Jewish horn, then a trumpet perhaps.”     ………………6

Then, humble and meek, Abdallah did speak,
“I dreamt, Ya Rasool, a human voice, I pray.”       ..…………….7

Muhammad then said: “O my faithful Bilal,
It is you who must say the very first Adhaan.”      ..………….…8

And so did Bilal God’s praises sing
And his powerful voice in Madinah did ring.          ..……………9

Here endeth my tale of Masjeedun-Nabee,
It still stands today in Madinah city.                       …………….10

© Copyright: Izzat Muneyb
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[1] Adhaan is the Muslim call to prayer. Bilal climbed up a palm tree, to recite the first adhaan, because he wanted his voice to carry far and wide. Minarets appeared around eighty years after the Prophet’s death, to call the faithful to prayer.
[2] Muhaajiroon– The Emigrants, Muslims who made the hijrah or migrated from Makkah to Madinah, because of the persecution of the Makkan Quraysh. The Prophet finally made the hijrah during September 622 A.C., after all the Muslims, except Imam Ali, had left Makkah.
[3] Ansaar – The Helpers, Madinan Muslims, who helped the Makkan Muslims settle in Madinah.
[4] Ringing church bells is a Christian practice – the Muslim call to prayer had to be unique to Islam.

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3. At the Ismaili Centre

Ismaili centre bismillah Entrance

The Entrance Hall of the London Ismaili Centre.

BY IZZAT MUNEYB

As soon as I enter the Ismaili Centre,
What do I see in Arabic calligraphy?

Bismi’llaahir-Rahmaanir-Raheem
Is what I see. ”In the name of Allah
Most Kind, Most Merciful.”

In the name of Allah I begin all things,
In the name of Allah I conceive all thoughts;
In the name of Allah I complete all deeds.

As soon as I enter the Ismaili Centre,
What do I see in shining marble
And white plaster?

I see a star-shaped fountain, pouring out water.

The fountain is so clear,
And the water so pure…

We too must be pure in body and soul
And polish the mirror of our hearts!

Why is the fountain seven-sided?
What does it mean?

Seven is the number of perfection
And seven times seven gives us
Our forty-ninth Imam.

The guidance of the Imam of the time –
And his portrait in mosaic, crafted from lapis,
Glowing with gentle radiance reminds us –
Helps us to grow closer to Allah.

But, have you seen the grey interlace design
Around the fountain?

Yes, it is a flower of beauty.

Al-kathratu fi’l wahdati,
Wa’l wahdatu fi’l kathrati
Is what it means.

The One has originated
The multiplicity of creation;
Now, from that multiplicity we move
Towards the Unity of the One.

And as I climb the stairs of the Ismaili Centre,
What do I see hanging from the ceiling?

I see lamps luminous and gleaming,
Full of light and full of meaning.

By the light of the lamp
We read the Qur’an.
With the light of the Lamp
We begin to know.
The light of the Lamp
Leads us to the Light of God

As I climb to the next level,
What do I see?

I see a painting, vibrant,
Swirling in colour.

It tells of the Verse of Light,
The Aayat’un Noor,
It hints at the mystery of
Noorun ‘alaa Noor.

As I enter the prayer hall
What do I see on the qiblah wall
In dark columns tall?

Carved in wood and written in space,
The panels say, Allah, Muhammad and Ali,
Allah, Muhammad and Ali.

These Beautiful Names invite me
To take my place with the Jamat,
They become my rosary.

As I sit down, as I close my eyes,
What do I do? What do I say?

I remember Allah.
I say,“Ya Muhammad”, “Ya Ali”,
I say, Salawaatu’llaahi alayhumaa
Salawaatu’llaahi alayhumaa.

The Grace of God fills the hall,
The Light of God bathes us all.

Cleansed in thought and spirit,
I feel the presence of God
And am filled with His peace.

© Copyright: Izzat Muneyb.

Date posted: May 27, 2017.
Last updated: May 30, 2017 (formatting and new comments).

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Editorial Note: The poem was first published in July 1987 in Ilm, Volume 11, No. 2, p. 39-41. It was originally written for the younger members of the Jamat, to be recited either by an individual, or as a choric or part poem. Readers might find the movement of the poem interesting. As the individual climbs higher through the various levels of the London Ismaili Centre to the Jamatkhana hall, so also the poem marks an inner journey from a physical to a devotional and then to a spiritual plane of being.

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Your tribute to Izzat Muneyb

We invite your tributes and messages of condolences in memory of Izzat Muneyb whose funeral took place on Saturday, May 27, 2017 in London, England. Readers may do so by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT. If you encounter problems in submitting your comment, then please send it to simerg@aol.com, Subject Izzat Muneyb.

Intezaar, 11th July 2016 Leading to 11th July 2017: The Guiding Light of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Diamonds Faceted Jubilee_s

BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE

This Imamat Day
O Mawla

Is a promise for a thirsty heart
Innumerable will be the facets of the Diamond Jubilee
As we in anticipation await humble of heart
Make us worthy of this blessing
O Mawla a prayer rises from my heart

At the feet of Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah
An innocent babe in naive anticipation
Your guiding light has lit the path
Path eased with access to health education
Let knowledge lead us to sat bhudhi
O Mawla a prayer emanates from my heart

Your protective shade sent light
Throughly the windows of our schools
Your wisdom in wise words led every step
Your vision sent us succour with words of hope
Your guiding hand gave hope after Uganda
A prayer of gratitude leaves my heart

Still you guide us through the bridge of River Panj
Through Syria to the Hindu Kush
From East To the West in every direction
Your helping hand O Mawla opens our heart
This four day life journey is so ephemeral
It is enriched by the Light of
Your Ever-present Noor- e-Ali

Oh Mawla we look towards thee
With empathetic hearts our face turns
To the Alfa and Omega of our life
Your ishara with vision and ‘aql
Enables door upon door to open up for us
To guide us into that which is the qalb
To beckon a prayer from our heart

O Mawla make us worthy of the trust you place
In our actions which often trip
In our words which wisdom oft lack
Keep us balanced in din and dunya
We pray from our heart

O Mawla our hands are raised
All ready to receive the pearls
Of wisdom, vision , love and ever caring hand
We are in intezaar of your
Diamond Faceted Jubilee
A prayer of gratitude leaves my heart

As we await let our zikr lead to fikr
Cleanse our hearts so it may sing
The praise of all human and sentient beings
Our life will be the lighter for
The aid you have given in years before
We beseech in prayer from
Our heart

Let our intellect understand unity
That we are all from One Soul
Let us internalise this oneness
So that our heart is prepared
In joyful presence to celebrate the Jubillee
A prayer from each heart

Lead us to fana through forgiveness to transcend
So we stand worthy of the many faceted diamond
In word and in deed in intention and action
O Mawla all this so we can raise
Our hands with a prayer from the heart

Our heads are held up high for you are our pride
As we are yours to fly your flag
Up high in all direction proud the world over
O Alfa O Omega the Ever-present
O Mawla we beseech that this
Diamond Faceted Jubillee
Be a diamond of Almas
Is our prayer rendered from the heart

Date posted: July 9, 2016.

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Diamond Photo: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Glossary of terms used in the poem:

  • Almas – Muslim baby name, also means diamond.
  • Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
  • din and dunya – sacred and profane, religion and world.
  • fana – annihilation of the self.
  • fikr -contemplation, deep thought and reflection.
  • Imamat Day – the day an Ismaili Imam succeeds as his community’s spiritual leader by the designation (nass) of his predecessor.
  • ishara – sign, gesture.
  • Mawla – Master. Here the reference is to the current 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan, whose 60 years of reign will be celebrated on July 11, 2017.
  • Noor-e-Ali – Light of Ali (or the Light of Imamat).
  • qalb – heart
  • sat budh – pure knowledge or understanding of true essence or true nature of things.
  • Shah Sultan Mahomed Shah (d. 1957) – the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis.
  • zikr – remembrance of Allah, form of special devotion.

Poems “Anand” and “Intezaar” in Joyous Anticipation of the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on July 11, 2017

Anand

The Imam Blessing with Hand on Shoulder

BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE

Oft I sing Anand Anand
Lip service alone stirs
Not the heart to joy
Enshrined in us all
Is the primordial joy
Who will awaken it ?

Come ye Gardner of
The soul awaken in me
Open the door of joy
Lift the veil so I may see
The joy of perfection
In each cell the miracle

I am not so worthy
I need not strive
I live in the perfection
Of your creation
For you have laid
Your hand upon
My shoulder bowed

This Jubilee I await
To feel at depth
That resonance
That symphony
Come together in
Perfect harmony
Sat chit Anand

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Jubilee Intezaar

A prayer left my lip

Being asked
Is your heart jumping with joy?
My heart in reflective pause
Shed a tear of inquiry
Nay! where is joy I asked
It is in your visage?
A prayer left my lip

I asked
Is joy a heart searching seed
Is it locked in the bud of the rose
In the first ray of sunlight
In the rising companion star
Counting hues of green in nature
A prayer left my lip

I asked
Will it grow for me?
Experience a petal of the rose
The hint of morning light
A naked sight the first star
In ever surrounding verdure
A prayer left my lip

The answer came
There it ever is
In the heart of man
In every sinew and pore
In every breath
In every smiling blink

The prayer left my lip
Travelling heavenward
Ricocheting resounding
Hymnal songs of yore
It came back
To settle in my heart
Poured forth in song

In joy is enshrined
A dance of creation
A harmonious rhythm
A fine tuned fork
A Resonating universe
Is my Gods love
Is in my prayer

Life no Ponderous task
For in its joy of being
The incredible lightness
Leads moment to moment
To the Sirat of sat chit anand
The prayer left my lip
The answer is yout Jubilee

Date posted: December 15, 2015.

Copyright: Farida Keshavjee/Simerg.

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Sat – Truth; pure and eternal that never changes.
Chit –
Vision, knowledge.
Anand – Ecstasy, bliss, happiness.

Shariffa KeshavjeeEditor’s note:  Shariffa Keshavjee of Kenya, a regular contributor to Simerg, recently heard a tape of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee Farman that was made in Kenya in which he asked “Are your hearts jumping with joy?” Tears flowed and the intezaar of the coming Diamond Jubilee came to her mind, inspiring Shariffa to pen the two poems. The Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan, inshallah, will be celebrated on July 11, 2017, when he will complete 60 years as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, in direct lineal descent of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and Mawlana Ali (a.s.), the first Imam. Co-incidentally, on July 1, 2017, Canadians will begin celebrating the 150th anniversary of their country with major events, festivities and programs around the country.

Simerg welcome’s your feedback. Please click Leave a comment.

Two Mystical Stories by Farid al-Din Attar

Editor’s note: The following two mystical stories have been adapted from the August-September 1981 issue of The Unesco Courier magazine, which was dedicated to Islam and the Muslim world.

INTRODUCTION
(compiled from UNESCO Courier)

A manuscript by Farid Al Din Attar kept in Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany. Photo: Wikipedia.

A manuscript by Farid Al Din Attar kept in Pergamon Museum, Berlin, Germany. Photo: Wikipedia.

We present two extracts from The llahi-nama or Book of God by the great Persian mystic poet Farid al-Din Attar (circa 537-627 AH, 1140-1230 AC) translated into English by John Andrew Boyle. The translation, with a foreword by Annemarie Schimmel, was published by the Manchester University Press in 1976 and forms part of the Unesco Collection of Representative Works.

Doctor, pharmacist and perfumer, Attar, whose name means “He who trades in perfumes”, wrote a prose work containing much information on the mystics, Tadhkirat ul-Auliya (abridged English translation, Biographies of the Saints, 1961) as well as several major works of poetry. In the West his best-known work is Mantiq-ut-Tair (The Conference of the Birds), an allegorical poem describing, the quest of birds for the Simorgh, or Divine Bird, led by the hoopoe, the wisest of them all. But ‘Attar’s masterpiece is doubtless the Mosibat-nameh (“Book of Affliction”), which describes the quest of the soul, embodied by the Pilgrim, for unity.

1. ZUBAIDA AND THE SUFI
A miniature painting by Bihzad illustrating the funeral of the elderly Attar of Nishapur after he was held captive and killed by a . Mongol invader. Photo: Wikipedia.

A miniature painting by Bihzad illustrating the funeral of the elderly Attar of Nishapur after he was held captive and killed by a Mongol invader. Photo: Wikipedia.

Zubaida was seated on a camel-lifter, journeying auspiciously upon the Pilgrimage. A gust of wind blew the curtain to one side: a Sufi caught sight of her and fell headlong to the ground.

He set up such a crying and commotion that no one could silence him. Perceiving that, Sufi Zubaida whispered to a eunuch*: “Free me quickly from his noise even though it cost thee much gold”.

The eunuch offered the man a purse of gold: he would not take it, but when he was offered ten purses he gave way. Having accepted the ten purses of gold, he ceased at once to cry and to utter pitiful moans.

Zubaida, perceiving the true state of affairs, that that Sufi had turned away from the mystery of love, told the eunuch to bind his hands and to break his seven limbs with blows of the rod.

He cried out: “What then did I do that I should suffer these endless blows?”

Said Zubaida:

“0 lover of thyself, what wilt thou do henceforth, liar that thou art?

“Thou didst pretend to love such a one as I, and yet when thou wert shown gold thou hadst enough of loving me. I have found thee nought but pretense from head to feet, and I find thy pretense to be false.

“Thou shouldst have sought after me; since thou didst not I knew for certain that thou wert feeble in action. Hadst thou sought after me, all my goods and property, all my gold and silver, would have been thine absolutely.

“But since thou soldest me I resolved to punish thy ardour. Thou shouldst have sought after me, 0 foolish man, and then all would have been thine at once.”

Fix thy heart on God and thou shalt be saved; if thou fix thy heart on men thou shalt be afflicted. Close tightly to thyself all other doors; seek out His door and fix thy heart upon it entirely, So that through the dark cloud of separation may shine the light of the dawn of knowledge. If thou find that light thou shalt find also the way to knowledge.

The saints that raised their heads to the moon were guided by the light of knowledge.

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2. STORY OF BISHR HAFI
The Mausoleum of Attar in Nishapur, Iran. Attar had an immense and lasting influence on Persian poetry and Sufism. Photo: Wikipedia.

The Mausoleum of Attar in Nishapur, Iran. Attar had an immense and lasting influence on Persian poetry and Sufism. Photo: Wikipedia.

Bishr Hafi was walking along early one morning drunk with the lees of wine and yet pure in his soul, when he found lying in the road a piece of paper on which was written the name of God.

All he had in the world was a single grain. He sold it for musk. See what gain! At nightfall that God-seeking man perfumed the name of God with his musk.

That night, just before dawn, he dreamt that there came a Voice to him saying:

“0 thou who didst raise My name from the dust and with reverence didst both perfume and purify it, I have made thee a seeker of the truth; I have both perfumed and purified thee”.

0 Lord this sweet-singing ‘Attar has perfumed Thy name with the perfume of his poetry. And yet what though he sang sweetly? Thy name has always been perfumed. Still by Thy grace make him the dust of Thy doorway; make him famous with Thy name. He can expect nothing save from Thy grace, for he can produce not a single act of devotion.

Date posted: Friday, August 14, 2015.

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Credits: Introduction and stories compiled and reproduced from The Unesco Courier. Please visit the magazine website at http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco-courier/. Photos taken from Wikipedia, please visit http://www.wikipedia.org.

* A man who has been castrated, especially (in the past) one employed to guard the women’s living areas at an oriental court.

Reflections on the Opening of the New Aga Khan Park: “Where Nature Gifts the Outdoors” by Navyn Naran and “Trinity” by Ikhwan Allani

WHERE NATURE GIFTS THE OUTDOORS

The Aga Khan Park. Photo: AKDN/Moez Visram. Copyright.

The Aga Khan Park. Photo: AKDN/Moez Visram. Copyright.

BY NAVYN NARAN

Its a place for contemplation,
for enjoyment,
for reflection,
In quiet pools with glimmering surfaces,
and bubbling of laughter.
In the presence of oneself or a group of others,
Welcome to the garden.

For nightime quiet,
For morning awakening,
And daytime walks
For enjoying the green earth,
the fresh smell of shrubs,
A place to sit
Where God is.
Where Nature gifts the outdoors.
Where my mind is at ease
and the murmur of the water,
the ripples from the raindrops
remind me how connected everything is.
How a central rhythm reverberates
twanging like a musical chord
in our individual auras…
Where does that send us?
I like the feeling that silhouettes these buildings
and transmits an energy reflected inside.
We are divine,
We are respectful,
We are compassionate,
We are all beautiful,
if we are only aware of who we are.

If sadness comes over you,
Come to the park.
And to the one side rises a spiritual space,
And to the other, a creative one.
Even in a busy place.
there is space.

Lines and curves, patios and earth.
It is,
My Park.
My museum.
A gift .
I too can enjoy the beauty and awakening.

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TRINITY

An aerial view of the Aga Khan Museum (left), the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre. Photo: AKDN/Geoff Grenville. Copyright.

An aerial view of the Aga Khan Museum (left), the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre. Photo: AKDN/Geoff Grenville. Copyright.

BY IKHWAN ALLANI

Bismillah-ir Rahman-ir Rahim

Alas,
Three spaces that lift the spirit,
Have come to life.
Ah, how my soul has been eager,
For this blessed day to arrive.

Masha’Allah

The Museum stands as a symbol
Of culture and knowledge,

A beautiful expression of the Islamic heritage.
Every art piece reflects our wonderful tradition,
Cherishing poets, scientists and mathematicians.
1400 years of Islamic history,
coming together as one,

Step by step, piece by piece,
what a collection this has become.

Blessed I am, to witness the past in the present,
O soul, breathe, Be one with this moment!

Subhan’Allah

The Park is majestic, a sight of pure aesthetic beauty,
Humbly sowing the seeds of brotherhood and unity.
Every blade of grass promises a new conversation,
As fresh gusts of wind whisper new information.
Flowing water pledges
a cleansing of the mind and spirit,

Every thought, every action, one with the universe,
no limits.

Blessed I am, to experience this natural ornament,
O soul, breathe, Be one with this moment!

Al-hamdulillah

The Ismaili Centre is the abode of the soul, paradise,
Where the Lord and His believer
become one, synchronize.

The flawless rock crystal
is the epitome of perfection above,

Where light and shadow blissfully coexist,
intoxicated in love.

Ya Allah, Ya Ali, Ya Muhammad,
resonate with every heartbeat,

Humbled, I prostrate before The One,
I am now complete!

Blessed I am, to free my mind
From worldly involvement,

O soul, breathe, Be one with this moment!

Shukran’Allah

May the Museum inspire the mind,
May the Park energize the body,
And may the Prayer hall purify the soul.

Ameen!

Date posted: May 26, 2015.
Last updated: May 31, 2015 (formatting)

Copyright.

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About the writers: A regular contributor to this website, Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar and Badrudin Naran. After beginning her high school in the UK, her family immigrated to the USA where she has lived since. Dr. Naran went to medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA. She currently works in the Paediatric field.

Ikhwan Allani graduated from the University of Toronto, with a Bachelors of Science Degree in Mental Health Studies. He currently works as a Medical Assistant at Appletree Medical Group, and has previously worked as a Research Consultant for The Centre for Mindfulness Studies, and as a Research Assistant at the University of Toronto.

A Welcome Poem for Mawlana Hazar Imam for the Opening of the Aga Khan Park

REFLECTIVE POOLS IN THE GARDEN,
WELCOME TO THE PARK

IMG_1815 Aga Khan Museum ParkBy Navyn Naran

The park has been busy with many preparations,
t’was a sunny bright day and the place was a-buzz,
No honey bees in sight, trees, crisp in their posture
Readying for the performance, the opening of the park.

Excitement and interest, can be seen and be heard
At the museum and center, delightful and clean
The beauty and grace and calculated thought
In art, materials sustainable, masterpieces sought.
Today clouds flirt in our skies, but hearts are filled,
the sun is watching, the ground freshly tilled.
Welcome my Mawla, welcome to your park!

Welcome, my Mawla
Welcome to this garden.
The outdoors “where God IS”,
as you, hidden in my heart.
The green is yet young,
as is my soul’s quiet space,
the roots stretching free,
a new baby unfurling in perfect place.

Water pools, invite clarity and clear thought,
peace, contemplation facing east, west, south and north,
in this space, feeling happy, your Love’s blessing, you are near,
there is pleasure, here is Grace,
we come to play, pray, see and hear.
in ice cold, and thunderstorm, we are healed in this space,
i come here seeking freshness, spaciousness from the “rat-race”,
i have danced, skipped and run across the green grass, and the paths,
we are awed at the care and beauty shared,
marble, light, skill and art.

a haven of peace, in the contours of this garden
now thawed in the sunlight, now moist earth, not hardened.
These young shrubs, balanced sensually
‘twixt museum and spiritual center,
like twine intermingling, as we exit and enter.
As the double-stranded DNA bonded by electronic attraction,
magnetic forces of creation spiral energies, radiant interaction

Welcome your Highness, Prince Amyn, Prince Hussain
Welcome to your park, again and again,
Your gait and your mission, your arms lifted as your greet
your smile brings barakah,
and our hearts feel complete.
What have you not given, not improved which lives?
all cultures, all peoples, one earth, many tribes
in such  gardens we seek time, a place to unwind
a reflection, and rest enjoying the child in our mind.

As santoor plucks a melody, expressive, a lilt,
And rabab strums a movement, brown-orange bridging rifts,
An edge igniting spirit, mysteries of the mind
so the garden offers expansion and life of a necessary kind.

It is in this I the garden gives to life,
Welcome to your Park,
It is in this eye, the garden lifts my heart
Welcome to my Park
Every eye wishes to meet your eye.
Welcome to Our Park
Welcome your Highness, welcome to our hearts.

Date posted: May 25, 2015.

Copyright: Navyn Naran/Simerg. 2015.

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Navyn Naran

Navyn Naran

About the writer: Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar and Badrudin Naran. After beginning her high school in the UK, her family immigrated to the USA where she has lived since. Dr. Naran went to medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA. She currently works in the Paediatric field.

A Fine Balance: An Anthology of Poetry by Yasmin Hasan

Yasmin Hasan’s poems span two decades covering numerous themes based on her life experiences. In fact, she composed one as her life hung in the balance during a serious illness. Another one was written during the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam and, more than a decade earlier, she had composed one after Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to the UK Jamats in 1994, an event which she says has filled her life with inner barakah. Simerg invites Ismaili authors to submit their poems for publication on this website. Please visit Art|Poetry.

PLEASE CLICK: Fine Balance: An Anthology of Poetry by Yasmin Hasan

One of Yasmin Hasan's poems is dedicated to her grandson, Kian, pictured above. Please click on photo for her anthology. Photo: Yasmin Hasan.

One of Yasmin Hasan’s poems is dedicated to her grandson, Kian, pictured above. Please click on photo for her anthology. Photo: Yasmin Hasan.

The Jamatkhana in Toronto — “A Seed of Faith Planted…” by Shariffa Keshavjee

The Jamatkhana Toronto

The “Muqarnas” is a finely crafted corbelled ceiling whose skylight provides a subtle transition from the outside to the serene Jamatkhana inside.

BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE

A thousand years and  more
A seed of faith planted
In Khadak in Mumbai
Transplanted to many soils
India, Pakistan, Afghanistan
Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Mombasa
Now the park on Wynford Drive

The murid murshid seed
Planted and transplanted

Now sacred space of meeting
People, stories, histories
Identities, languages
Fused, bonded, shared
Nascent unity love and care
For the highest potential
Nurturing and flourishing

The murid murshid seed
Nurtured flourishes

When  open arms welcome
Pluralism of mind and heart
Where ideas take root
A Mission is in bloom
The intellect soars
The vision expands
In the park in Canada

The murid murshid  spark
A strong foundation

A screen made from ribbons of steel separates the anteroom from the prayer hall.  It repeats an 8 sided pattern exhibiting a geometric tool used by Muslim artists to create order and rhythm for contemplation.

When vision, mission, ideas
Empathetic understanding
In harmonious symphony rise
The universe conspires
The crucible swells
Then there is alchemy
In Toronto in the park

The murid murshid love
Consecrated to Thee

A park, ineffable light, a sacred space,
Where nature, man, knowledge
Come together in unison
Of mind, body and spirit
Of dialogue and collaboration
A mosaic of cultures, languages
Inspiring hope and harmony

The murid murshid bond
Reaches out to man and nature

Circle of infinity encompasses
A Jamatkhana for supplication
The jamat comes together
To submit in humility before the Divine
The hymnal voice rising into the dome
Reaching heavenward ascending
To arrive into the silence  of the heart

The murid murshid bond
Reverberating beyond time

Inside the Jamatkhana, the central skylight panel descends to a white translucent onyx block.

The sound of prayer ascends
Reaches a crescendo
From the dome to beyond
Through the crystal clear
To the Divine Light matrix
Into the heart of  Divinity
Enlightened luminescence

The bond of murid murshid
Sets free the heart of man

Those who come together in dialogue
Those who contemplate and reflect
Welcome to the open arms of wonder
Sacred space, the crucible
That transmutes base to pure
That nurtures and gives flight
To the wings of the souls

The soul of murid to murshid
Transcends human understanding

Had we but wings
We would fly in the sky
To search  for the light
Neither of North, South
East and West
To flutter and land
In the windowsill
Of the Divine Master

Where murid murshid
Blend and Unite

Date posted: Monday, September 22, 2014.

Copyright: Shariffa Keshavjee/Simerg. 2014.

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The images shown in the poem may be clicked for enlargement. Image captions are as follows:

Top image – The “Muqarnas” is a finely crafted corbelled ceiling whose skylight provides a subtle transition from the outside to the serene Jamatkhana inside. Photo: Copyright Gary Otte.
Centre image – A screen made from ribbons of steel separates the anteroom from the prayer hall.  It repeats an 8 sided pattern exhibiting a geometric tool used by Muslim artists to create order and rhythm for contemplation. Photo: Copyright Gary Otte
Bottom image – Inside the Jamatkhana, the central skylight panel descends to a white translucent onyx block. Photo: Copyright Shai Gil.

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About the writer: Shariffa Keshavjee is  a philanthropist and an entrepreneur with an objective to help women empower themselves. Raised in Kisumu, she considers herself a “pakaa” Kenyan. She is now based in the nation’s capital, Nairobi. Her other interest is in visual arts where she delights in painting on wood, silk  and porcelain using water colours, oils and acrylics. She also likes writing, especially for children, and bird watching.

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A Gift….September 12, 2014

EXCITEMENT IN THE AIR

by Navyn Naran

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There is excitement, magic in the air.
the Imam has arrived,
the buildings are washed and rewashed with rain,
the winds have combed out snarls and veils
Gray, opaque clouds, as if cotton wool
had been soaked in water
and strewn over the ceiling here.
ahh, cloudbreak.

In the horizon, a peek of baby blue,
tinged with light cream;
the clouds moving elsewhere.
Leaves green, having just been cleansed
by buckets of water overnight,
freshly manicured, ready to welcome
Him to Wynford Drive.
It’s as of the whole area has
returned from a morning jaunt,
refreshed and nicely sore,
rejuvenated for this day!

Prince Karim (left) posing for a birthday photo with his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, and his younger brother Prince Amyn

Which Day?
This day, the 12th of September 2014,
Prince Amyn Mohamed Aga Khan’s Birthday
He was born within a year of the Imam,
adoring the brother he followed as a child.
Whatever Karim does, this ginger colored head
and Trustworthy, Loyal Heart, wanted to do
an adoring brother, he could only be
as Ali to Muhammad, attached:
The elders remember him; a playful, sweet child,
a flair, a flamboyance, detailed care.

As specialized cardiac cells continuously fire ,
beat by beat, and in rhythm,
Prince Amyn, a shadow-like of the Form,
as the gardener of the Master’s land
in His highest esteem.
No laurels; much humor and style.
and it is on this very day, a historic gift to the globe .
77 Wynford Drive on this 77th Birthday.

photo 2

The Aga Khan Museum. The Ismaili Centre. The Park.
In the present, a present,
and presence of leaders, donors, volunteers
and a very Special Eye.
Who’d have thought it in Uganda in 1970?
Who’d have thought it in Canada in 2000?
this is not a facade to name or number,
it is to be understood.
For some perhaps piece by piece.
For others, a space for contemplation.
For opening the eyes.

I remember the barren, grey dirt being overturned,
the harsh, cold winters, icy,
unthawing, unrelenting,
when yellow hatted men worked tirelessly,
from below ground up.
Pieces of structure in an architect’s mind,
in the Architect’s Mind, comes alive.
Work. Many hours and stressors,
much negotiated and coordinated.

Shah Nameh s

One would never know.
Simple lines, soft color and a
sense of cleanliness and peace.
Magnificent.
Day or night. Lights enter and open,
leave everything behind.
Enter. Come. Ayez…

Come reflect, details of the shahnameh,
the kufic script in a Blue Qur’an,
the magic of art and calligraphy.
Rest a while, be seated. Read.
in the hush of the quiet,
only footsteps of men and women,
children and elders, absorbing.
Perhaps it is only history. Past.
If the skills and beauty compose a piece,
this civilisation is to be included,
to be modeled, continued.
Pluralistic.

It is a day of celebration. Come, Enter, Ayez…

Copyright: Navyn Naran/Simerg

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“A FABULOUS, GLORIOUS GIFT BY HIS HIGHNESS”

By Malik Merchant
Editor, Simerg

Alex Sarris. Photo" Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Alex Sarris. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Alex Sarris, the facility operator at the site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and their Park was a few feet away from me. He was discussing with one of his colleagues a hitch that had occurred and which could possibly take a few hours to resolve. I was tantalized by the breathtaking Museum and the Centre that I had earlier walked through as a member of the media invited for the pre-opening review. The view of the two buildings on either side of the Park was stunning. The architectural contrast and splendour could only  be truly appreciated when looking at them from the Park. The calm water of the pond in front of me soothed me. I listened to Alex as I took my final bites of a deliciously chunky roast beef sandwich that had been served to the media earlier at the museum as part of a light lunch. I had wrapped it and tucked it in my computer bag. I was hungry enough again after walking through the museum galleries and the Ismaili Centre! Food! Yes, the ultimate delight when deliciously served!

Part of main exhibition hall, Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

Part of main exhibition hall, Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

I thought about the challenges Alex and his team faced during the years they had worked  at the site, under some harsh winter weather! How might have these workers coped, I wondered, like many hundreds and thousands of workers who work on outdoor construction projects. But here was a frustrating delay less than 48  hours before its opening by His Highness the Aga Khan. There was also so much work being done both outside and inside the buildings, I would have thought the opening day was  still several weeks away. Alex soon left  his colleague brimming with confidence and with a cheerful face. I called him aside, and asked him to describe what he saw around him and how he felt. He looked at the two buildings and the park and said, “Fabulous, glorious, a gift by His Highness the Aga Khan befitting a united society cooperating and working together to advance the ideals of pluralism.”

The Park and the Ismaili Centre. Photo:  Malik Merchant/Simerg.

The Park and the Ismaili Centre. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

“And what about the final few hours to finish the job?” I asked him. He replied, “Two days of diligent working will bring the site up to the highest standards established by His Highness.”  He had greeted me earlier with “Ya Ali Madad” and departed with “Mubaraki to all Ismailis and to all Canadians on this unique occasion.” In all these years, I have not learnt more than 2 or 3 French or Spanish words but I knew Alex had learnt quite a few new words from the on site ‘Ismaili dictionary’ when he had used, in reference to the hitch, the word “mushkil-asaan,” an Arabic phrase used in Ismaili prayers meaning resolution of difficulty. He was seeking a resolution to his immediate problem as well any other outstanding issues that they all faced collectively as a team.

I was grateful for his openness and humility, and was touched and inspired by his cheerful and positive outlook. I bid this wonderfully articulate person good bye, as he graciously permitted me to take his photo with my mobile! 

Date posted: Friday, September 12, 2014.

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