Pandemic, Prayers, Pluralism, and Partnerships

By NIZAR A MOTANI, Ph.D

This pandemic has brought the world humbling and tumbling to its knees, which is actually the best position from which to beg for the Supreme Being’s forgiveness, mercy, and blessings. Its economies have been battered and shattered and almost all of the world’s citizens have been imprisoned in their dwellings. He alone will eventually empower our scientists and secular and sacred leaders to find effective vaccines to successfully overcome this calamity.

Guidance from a seventh century ruler to his regional governors entrusted with administering a new and rapidly expanding empire has timeless relevance to our pandemic times. Hazrat Ali was the first hereditary Shia Muslim Imam, as well as the fourth caliph of all Muslims, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.), in 632 A.C. His letter enumerated a host of principles of good governance. He urged his subordinates to rule with intelligence and wisdom; justice, truth, and forgiveness; compassion and forbearance; humility and patience in calamity; consultation and wise counsel; piety and prayers; and above all to seek Divine Guidance. These are lessons which still apply today. [1]

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Folio Hazrat Ali's Nahj al-Balagha
A folio from Hazrat Ali’s Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence).

Remarkably, during the Prophet Muhammad’s time (570-632 A.C.), he had strongly recommended territorial quarantine and stricter personal hygiene, such as frequent hand washing during contagion. Later Muslim scientists and doctors had done the same, and Europe subsequently learned this practice from them. [2]

Turning to the current pandemic, this silent, inscrutable, and insidious enemy with unhindered Global Entry has awakened and heightened the need for prayers and some critical aspects of pluralism, which include public-private partnerships at all levels, to address the current dire situation engulfing almost every country.

Prayers have shown effectiveness since biblical times, and pluralism is inherent, in various forms, in all religious teachings. Some countries even have pluralism embodied in their constitutions, but sadly it often gets ignored.

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Karen Armstrong at Aga Khan Centre London
The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor-General of Canada, and GCP Board Member thanks Karen Armstrong for delivering the GCP 2018 Annual Pluralism Lecture. Photo: AKDN / Anya Campbell

Karen Armstrong, the renowned historian and scholar of religions, has described the Qur’an as the most pluralistic scriptural book, which teaches not just tolerance of diversity, but beyond this a universal brotherhood, empathy, and an inclusive approach that harnesses the intelligence of all in society (annual pluralism lecture at the new Aga Khan Centre, London, 2018). Pluralism entails inclusion of all of God’s children who inhabit our shared planet, as an integral part of the community. Hardly any country is totally homogenous – most are quite heterogeneous with racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse minorities. Accommodating such diversity is best addressed through dialogue, mutual respect, research, and collaboration to promote a better understanding of differences as strengths.

The idea of defining, promoting and giving pluralism an international platform emerged, significantly, after another calamity, namely the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, that shook the world and drastically changed lives and livelihoods. In January 2002, the then Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien and the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, discussed the desirability of jointly creating a formal body to study, explain, and promote pluralistic values across the world and to prevent escalations of conflicts between the West and the Muslim countries. A decade later the Global Centre for Pluralism was formally established in Ottawa, Canada.

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His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston at the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism
His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston look at each other as they applaud a splendid musical performance by the children’s band Orkidstra during the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa on Tuesday May 16, 2017. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

Pluralism, essential in ordinary times to promote mutual understanding, respect, and acceptance of differences, is even more critical in extraordinary times, such as the present, where widespread panic has driven many to act without regard for the wellbeing of others.

Equally alarming, Asian Americans have collectively been demonized and blamed for the virus. Fortunately, there have also been numerous wonderful and inspiring examples of collaboration, innovation, ingenuity, generosity, and volunteering to help those on the frontlines and those thrust onto food line.

However, let us not forget the other endemic and mutating virus of scammers and fraudsters preying on the most desperate of our fellow countrymen. We need more vigilance, prayers, partnerships and pluralism to combat both of these common enemies. Until God’s mercy results in effective vaccines, the best interim vaccines are the three Ps and gratitude.

Coincidentally, during this month of Ramadan, some fundamental practices of Islam are more evident now than at other times: fasting, prayer, and charity towards all — especially the weak, the sick, the poor, orphans, widows, and other most disadvantaged members of society. This constitutes the social conscience of Islam.

It is this Atlanta-based writer’s hope that Muslims and non-Muslims alike will share their relief/stimulus checks, if possible, with those in greater need. Unfortunately, their numbers are exploding, and they largely depend on such charities as the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Atlanta Union Mission, Salvation Army, and Red Cross among many others. Atlanta-based CARE is internationally active, as is the Aga Khan Foundation USA, which is a part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) – the world’s largest, most cost-effective, private, multifaceted network with hundreds of partners including the US Government.

May God Bless America and our interconnected planet.

Date posted: May 19, 2020.
Last updated: May 20, 2020 (Revisions by author)

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Notes:

[1] Nahjul Balagha, Peak of Eloquence; Sermons, Letters, and Sayings of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, Elmhurst NY, 1981.
[2] Article by Yahia Hatim, Moroccan Times, April 4th, 2020. See also March 17, 2020 Newsweek article by Craig Considine.

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The writer, who was born in Uganda, has a doctorate from the University of London, U.K. in African History. He has taught at Bowdoin College (Maine) and Western Michigan University. Later he worked at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in the U.K. A lifetime member of the Global South Studies Association and a longtime resident of Atlanta, he is a volunteer and donor for AKDN.

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Author’s recommendation: For a superb explanation of pluralism in the Qur’an, see Rahim Snow’s highly acclaimed book “Remember Who You Are: 28 Spiritual Verses from the Holy Quran to Help You Discover Your True Identity, Purpose, and Nourishment in God,” published  by Remembrance Studio, 2017, Pp. 213. Please visit his website by clicking Rahim Snow .

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Must Participate: Links to live streams to Laylat al-Qadr programs organized by ITREBs of UK, France, Portugal, Canada and USA

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

Jamats around the world must participate in this unique venture undertaken by Ismaili Institutions for this most extraordinary night commemorating the revelation of the Holy Qur’an

There is a very impressive array of programming organized for the night of Laylat al-Qadr by the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards in the UK, Canada and the USA. Each jurisdiction has its own set of presentations and Simerg urges everyone — wherever they be — to avail themselves of outstanding recitations, sermons, interviews and stories as well as participate in quiet reflective moments that have been designated at specific times. A lot of effort has been put into this programming catered to every member of the Jamat, young and old alike.

Since this is an on-line presentation, viewers will be able to toggle to watch specific programs offered outside their own regions. Please click on the following images or links to see what the ITREBs in North America, the UK and Europe are offering on this truly auspicious and holy night of Laylat al-Qadr. The program can also be seen — for all jurisdictions — on a staggered basis on the website Ismaili TV, where time-zones are common, for example Canada and USA.

UNITED KINGDOM AND JURISDICTION, PORTUGAL AND FRANCE

Laylat al-Qadr UK Simerg
Please click on image for link to Laylat al-Qadr UK., France and Portugal

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CANADA

Laylat al-Qadr Canada Simerg
Please click on image for link to Laylat al-Qadr Canada

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USA

Laylat al-Qadr USA Simerg
Please click on image for link to Laylat al-Qadr USA

Date posted: May 15, 2020.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

The Echoes of Nature

By NAVYN NARAN

Cave of Hira, Saudi Arabia

The echoes of Nature
Bring us back to the cave
Wherein spirituality harkens the soul
Hush
What is this ?
To “Read”?
Not yet.
First to calm down
Slow down the thoughts
And attend the Divine Intellect
That which emanates within each of our souls
Within the bear of this Magnificent body
That is all too human
But never humanly created.

The echoes of Nature
Bring us back to the cave
To will the calm.
Creating space to calm the Will.
The physical jamat Khana is closed today
The spiritual space wide open
The windows to spring invite us in
To quiet the mind for moments within

The echoes of Nature
Light our world
Let fresh air be a gift to enjoy.
Within the chaos we must remember our Peace
The time is given
To slow the rat race.
Echoes of Nature
Harken the soul
Can you hear?
Perhaps outside in nature
Or your child’s face asleep
Or the eyes of a pet by your side

Pause
Come in.

© Navyn Naran. 2020.

Date posted: May 14, 2020.

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Dr. Navyn Naran

About the author: A regular contributor to this website, Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar (1936-2017) and Badrudin Naran (1930-1979). She is currently in Toronto working in pediatrics and volunteering at the Aga Khan Museum.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

Devotion Through Dhikr

By ROXANA JAFFER

Heart in a pulsating mode; in rhythm with the breath
Mind reaching its zenith; as thoughts meet their death

Gratefulness taking over; Conveying lightness to the body
Entire body in smiles; Perhaps the spiritual light in embody

All because of the Dhikr, the constant chanting
His attributes in tempo, energy in sync; all else negating

Dhikr:
What an effect on the waves of the Gamma and the Theta
Both leave defeated, allowing the take-over by the wave of
relaxing Alpha

Dhikr:
Bringing an awareness of His elements; so many …..Ninety-nine
An inner need arises; to ascribe, to impute these traits divine

Dhikr:
My heart is in a pulsating mode, in sync with the mind
Now there is total unity; as mind, body and soul are totally entwined.

Date posted: May 13, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Editor’s note: We welcome Roxana Jaffer as our new contributor. Dhikr, penned by her in March 2020, is the first of her several poems we will be publishing in the coming weeks.

Roxana Jaffer, Simerg

A Kenyan born girl, brought up in the UK and now residing in UAE, Roxana Jaffer has many awards to her name including “Global Inspirational Leadership Award”, “Best Best Woman in Hospitality UAE Award”, and “The Most Influential Women Leader  Award 2019”. She was also recognized as one of the “Indian Super 100 Women Achievers in the Middle East & Africa”. She partners with UN World food program, and her endeavours have managed to feed over 460,000 hungry children in the world. She is instrumental in Holiday Inn Dubai attaining the coveted  CSR Arabia award, four years running out of 13 Arab countries.

An Accountant by profession she has an MBA from University of Liverpool in Leadership and is a scholar of the Harvard Business School for Executive Education.

Roxana epitomises the best in human endeavour -– fun, laughter, hard work, creativity, caring for others, leading with a social conscience and above all, striving to make the world a better place and is the founder of the NGO -– ‘abc: an Advent for Building human Capital’ (see www.myabcfoundation.org) which accords English to the unemployed in Hunza and Delhi, resulting in a 70% impact as youth get growth.

Her creativity is taking a different turn as she expresses spirituality through poetry she pens.

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Calgary’s Muslim Mayor Naheed Nenshi Responds to Request for the Recitation of the Adhan During Ramadhan

Mayor Nenshi taking a selfie at the 2017 Global Pluralism Award in Ottawa.
Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi, seen taking a selfie at the inaugural ceremony of the Global Pluralism Award held in Ottawa, Canada on November 15, 2017 during the Diamond Jubilee Year of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The Mayor served as a member of the jury that selected winners and honourable mentions for the Award. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

CBC reported that history was made in Windsor, Ontario, when the Muslim Adhan (call to prayer) was allowed to be recited over a loudspeaker on the roof of the city’s mosque during the remaining days of Ramadhan. Now the beautiful and heart warming Islamic call to prayer will also be heard at participating Calgary mosques once a day during the sunset prayer.

The following is Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s response to a request from the Muslim community:

Mayor Nahid Nenshi's for the Islamic Adhan Adhan
Part of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s letter: “In response to your email, and as an effort to spark some joy and community spirit in the Ummah, I have reached out to our Bylaw Team….I am pleased to advise you that an exemption under the Bylaw will be granted once per day for sunset prayer for reminder of Ramadan…”

Editor’s Note: Calling Calgarians — have you taken a very good video recording of the recitation of the Adhan in Calgary? If so, please submit it to Malik Merchant at email Simerg@aol.com, Subject: Adhan recording in Calgary. We will review your submission, and publish some of very best ones from across the city on this website. Please specify mosque location, date and time of the Adhan.

Date posted: May 10, 2020.
Last updated: May 11, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends guidance on Covid-19, with affection and blessings to Ismailis around the world; text in 10 languages

The following message in English and all the translations that follow are reproduced from the The Ismaili, the official website of the community. After reading the message, please scroll to the bottom of this post to read our supplication to Mawlana Hazar Imam — it follows the Urdu translation.

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (English)

My beloved spiritual children,

My Jamat is aware that the Covid-19 virus has created a global crisis that is also affecting the Jamat worldwide. As Imam-of-the-Time, I have recommended the Jamati and AKDN institutions and agencies to closely monitor the impact of this pandemic, and to extend support and assistance to the Jamat and the communities in which they live.

The Covid-19 virus is highly contagious, and every day we are witnessing the damage it is inflicting on human lives and societies. In facing this threat, it is very important that all members of my Jamat should take personal responsibility for exercising all possible steps to protect their own good health, safety and wellbeing, and that of their family.

Among the most critical of the measures recommended by all government and health agencies are the maintenance of the best standards of personal hygiene, and practising the notion of physical distancing. While not easy, physical distancing is essential.

It is my wish that my murids, and all those among whom they live, should follow these as well as all other guidelines and recommendations that the government and health authorities issue.

It is my hope and prayer that, in due course, work on producing vaccines and other forms of medicine will yield positive results, and that we will see a gradual return to normal life in all societies.

As we focus now on overcoming the present challenges, the Jamat and all my institutions should plan to build for the future from a position of strength and wisdom.

I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings for the good health, safety, and well-being of all my murids, with best loving blessings for mushkil-asan.

My Jamat worldwide is constantly in my thoughts and in my prayers.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (French)

Mes Chers Enfants Spirituels,

Mon Jamat est conscient du fait que le virus Covid-19 a déclenché une crise globale qui affecte également le Jamat à travers le monde. En tant qu’Imam-du-Temps, j’ai recommandé aux institutions et agences Jamati et de l’AKDN de suivre de près l’impact de cette pandémie, et d’offrir aide et assistance au Jamat et aux communautés dans lesquelles ils vivent.

Le virus du Covid-19 est hautement contagieux, et chaque jour nous sommes témoins des dégâts qu’il cause sur les vies humaines et les sociétés. Face à cette menace, il est très important que tous les membres de mon Jamat s’engagent personnellement à prendre toutes les mesures possibles pour protéger leur propre santé, sécurité et bien-être, ainsi que ceux de leur famille.

Parmi les plus importantes des mesures recommandées par tous les gouvernements et agences de santé figurent le maintien des meilleurs standards d’hygiène personnelle, et le respect de la notion de distanciation sociale. Bien qu’elle ne soit pas facile, la distanciation sociale est essentielle.

C’est mon souhait que mes murids, et tous ceux parmi lesquels ils vivent, suivent ces mesures ainsi que toutes les autres directives et recommandations que le gouvernement et les autorités sanitaires émettent.

C’est mon espoir et ma prière que, en temps voulu, le travail mené pour produire des vaccins et d’autres formes de remèdes va produire des résultats positifs, et que nous verrons un retour graduel à la vie normale dans toutes les sociétés.

Alors que nous nous concentrons en ce moment à surmonter les défis actuels, le Jamat et toutes mes institutions devraient se préparer à construire pour l’avenir à partir d’une base solide et avec sagesse.

J’envoie mes plus affectueuses tendres bénédictions paternelles et maternelles pour la bonne santé, la sécurité, et le bien-être de tous mes murids, avec mes meilleures tendres bénédictions pour mushkil-asan.

Mon Jamat à travers le monde est constamment dans mes pensées et dans mes prières.

Affectueusement,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Portuguese)

Meus amados filhos espirituais,

O meu Jamat está ciente de que o vírus Covid-19 criou uma crise global que está também a afetar o Jamat em todo o mundo. Como Imam do Tempo, recomendei às instituições e agências Jamati e da AKDN que monitorizassem de perto o impacto desta pandemia e prestassem apoio e assistência ao Jamat e às comunidades onde estes vivem.

O vírus Covid-19 é altamente contagioso e todos os dias assistimos aos danos que este está a infligir tanto nas vidas humanas como nas sociedades. Ao enfrentar esta ameaça, é muito importante que todos os membros do meu Jamat assumam a responsabilidade pessoal de colocar em prática todas as medidas possíveis para proteger a sua própria saúde, segurança e bem-estar, bem como as da sua família.

Entre as medidas mais críticas recomendadas por todas as agências governamentais e de saúde estão a manutenção dos melhores padrões de higiene pessoal e a prática da noção de distanciamento físico. Embora não seja fácil, o distanciamento físico é essencial.

É meu desejo que os meus murids, e todos aqueles entre os quais vivem, sigam estas e todas as outras orientações e recomendações que o governo e as autoridades de saúde emitem.

É minha esperança e oração que, a seu tempo, o trabalho na produção de vacinas e outras formas de medicina produzam resultados positivos e que se assista a um regresso gradual à vida normal em todas as sociedades.

Enquanto centramos as nossas atenções em ultrapassar os desafios atuais, o Jamat e todas as minhas instituições devem planear a construção para o futuro a partir de uma posição de força e sabedoria.

Envio as minha melhores bênçãos paternais e maternais para boa saúde, segurança e bem-estar de todos os meus murids, com as minhas melhores bênçãos para mushkil-asan.

O meu Jamat em todo o mundo está constantemente nos meus pensamentos e nas minhas orações. 

Afetuosamente

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Farsi)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Farsi)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Dari)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Dari)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Arabic)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Arabic)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Gujarati)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Gujarati)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Russian)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Russian)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Tajik)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Tajik)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Urdu)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Urdu)

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Shukrana and Supplication

We submit our humble gratitude to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for his guidance on Covid-19 as well as his blessings to the world wide Jamat for mushkil-asan (protection from difficulty).

We submit the following supplications from verses 1 and 5 of Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea:

O brother! Listen, My Lord Ali has written and sent a Farman. The beloved Lord has remembered this servant today with kindness in his heart

O my Lord Ali! Listen! Remove all my sorrows and troubles. O Lord Ali, the great king! O Lord of infinity! Fulfill all my wishes.

Date posted: April 24, 2020.

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The Funeral of Missionary Amirali Gillani in the Midst of Covid-19 Restrictions

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

Ismaili Missionary Amirali Gillani Simerg tribute
Missionary Amirali Gillani passed away on April 8, 2020, and was buried in Toronto on April 14. Photo: Family Collection.

A Safe and Dignified Funeral

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

On Tuesday April 14, 2020, Missionary Amirali Gillani’s shrouded body rested inside a grey coloured coffin in the funeral hall of the Scarborough Jamatkhana. He had passed away from cancer on April 8 at the age of 75.

Only the missionary’s peaceful face was in view. The rest of his body which was covered in the white shroud, was under the coffin cover. The coffin did not rest on the floor. It had been placed on a strong roll away frame. Volunteers recited the Salwat in unison continuously, and gave comfort to the small size of mourners, a limit imposed by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario.

There were a total of 16 mourners in attendance for the funeral’s two separate viewing opportunities and the funeral rites. One viewing, including the funeral rites, was for immediate family members, and the second viewing was for other family members and friends. In both the viewings the mourners sat in groups of 4 in two rows in front of the body, keeping the required physical distance. At a normal funeral, there would have been several hundred in attendance. A dilsoji — a condolence gathering a day or two ahead of the funeral — would have attracted a large Ismaili crowd from across Toronto.

Missionary Gillani’s funeral became the first funeral to be made available for online viewing via a dedicated Youtube channel. The viewing was offered, following a trial period, to very close family members who could not physically be at the funeral due to provincial restrictions limiting gatherings to 5 or 10.

Wearing a face mask and gloves on their hands, each of the persons who had come to missionary Gillani’s funeral presented himself or herself beside the coffin, a meter or two away. In solitude, the mourner would spend between 60 to 80 seconds in contemplation, before giving way to the next person. Other Jamati funerals taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic have similar rules and restrictions in place.

Once the viewing and giving of last respects had ended, and the funeral rites were completed, the Muslim funeral procession prayer La Ilaha Illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah commenced. In a normal funeral, men line up in the large foyer of the Jamatkhana to touch or momentarily hold the coffin on their shoulders, uttering prayers for the soul of the deceased before it is transferred to a hearse. However, here there was no one in the foyer of the Jamatkhana. It was empty. The body was wheeled by the Mukhi, volunteers and male mourners into the hearse parked outside, for its 22 km journey to its final resting place — the picturesque Elgin Mills Cemetery.

A view of Elgin Mills Cemetery. Photo: Mount Plesant Group

At the gate of the cemetery, a guard verified each arriving guest against the list of names that he had been given by the Ismaili funeral committee. He guided the arriving mourners to Section 16 of the cemetery. At the site, there were only a few scattered cars, no more than eight. The hearse carrying the body then arrived. This time, instead of wheeling the coffin, as the ground gradient and conditions presented challenges, the volunteers carefully carried it to the grave. Mourners followed and gathered around the coffin, keeping a safe physical distance between one another. The Mukhisaheb of Scarborough Jamatkhana and a family member then each took a heap of soil in a spade, and spread it across the coffin. The Surah Ikhlas was recited (Ch. 112; Translation: “In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. Say: He is God, the One. God, the Absolute. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is nothing comparable to Him”).

Normally the crowd would wait to see the body lowered into the grave, while continuing to recite Salwats and other prayers. Two volunteers would then descend into the grave to ensure its proper placement, stability and also conduct some last rites.

Physical distancing prevented that from occurring and the mourners returned to their cars. Using the same soil that had been been dug up to create the 6 foot deep grave, a tractor arrived to fill it. Once the on-site staff had completed their task of filling the grave and removing wooden planks and other objects around it, we were each handed incense sticks as we walked back to the burial site. Water was then poured on top of the freshly replaced soil by a family member and the Mukhisaheb of Scarborough Jamatkhana. We then honoured and paid respect to the missionary by placing the lit incense sticks we had been given over the top of the missionary’s final resting place.

All ten of us stepped back about 40 metres, and a Fateha for the deceased was then recited. We were standing in rows and kept our safe 2 metre distance from one another. During the recitation of the Fateha, my attention was suddenly drawn to two doves that landed 25 metres to my left. Their sounds in the midst of the Fateha being recited were beautiful and joyous to hear. Only Allah understands the language of birds, animals and insects, as well as everything that has life on this earth. A second Fateha was then recited for all of the deceased members of the Jamat. By then, the birds had flown away.

Mukhisaheb then gave everyone special blessings for attending the burial, and also prayed for the soul of the deceased. As much as we would have loved to, we left the site without shaking hands of the family and embracing them. We consoled them by placing our hands on our hearts, befitting the Islamic ethics of gratitude, humility and affection.

It was a different kind of a funeral to attend. However the dignity of the entire funeral ceremony was preserved. The Jamat has to thank the burial committee for the professionalism with which they are carrying out this extraordinary and noble service to bring comfort and peace to the mourning families and their friends, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Their communication in every respect was outstanding, and emails and telephone calls received prompt attention.

As I headed back home, I thought of the two birds that had landed nearby as the Fateha for Missionary Gillani was being recited. They conveyed to me a profound message: Missionary Amirali Gillani had been ushered into the abode of peace.

Date posted: April 15, 2020.
Last updated: April 15, 2020 (10 AM ET: additional material added; factual corrections; typos).

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We received several tributes to Amirali Gillani when we first announced his death. They may be read by clicking HERE. Further tributes as well as your reactions with regard to recent passings during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how you and your family members dealt with the situation amid the challenges you faced, may be submitted by completing the feedback form below. If the form does not show, please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

The Nature of Prayer: Significance of the Tasbih, and carrying it to practice the faith by calling on the name of Allah, Muhammad, Ali or the names of Imams

T'The Nature of Prayer'  by Nurin Merchant. Golden Jubilee art for His Highness the Aga Khan's Golden Jubilee
‘The Nature of Prayer’ is a 14″ x 10″ mixed media acrylic painting on canvas. Secured on the canvas with gesso, a strong glue, are a handmade tasbih (prayer beads), and 3 dried leaves bearing the Arabic inscriptions reading from bottom to top, Allah, Muhammad and Ali. The whole piece represents keeping the memory of Allah, and making sure that every day there is in our minds the presence of our faith in our hearts and souls which in itself is a prayer, hence the title of the painting ‘The Nature of Prayer’. This work was Nurin Merchant’s contribution for Colours of Love, an art and culture initiative by the Ismaili Council for Canada in 2008 during the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

By DR. V. A. LALANI
with additional material by MALIK MERCHANT

In response to a recent piece on the impact of Jamatkhana closures, we were pleased to receive a very inspiring recommendation from Omar Kassam of Vancouver who suggested that we slowly recite the Surah Al-Fatihah while we spend 20 seconds thoroughly washing our hands – the #1 health guideline during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Such is the nature of prayer –- that we can seek out small moments of 1 second, 5 seconds or 20 seconds to the remembrance of God, to exalt Him, and to seek His help. The Surah is regarded as one of greatest Surahs in the Holy Qur’an, along with Surah Al-Ikhlas. The wisdom and prayers contained in this small seven verse Surah are absolutely remarkable.

There are many other opportune moments that we have throughout the day, and Mawlana Hazar Imam has often recommended to us to carry the tasbih with us –- in our pockets or handbags –- and seek out moments of happiness by calling on the name of Allah, Hazrat Ali, Prophet Muhammad or the names of the Imams. He has also asked us to invoke these names during any difficulty we are facing.

What is tasbih and what are its origins in Islam?

The Arabic word tasbih means to exalt God, praise God or to pray to God. It is supererogatory prayer, that is, an act which is considered to be good and beyond the call of duty, and not something that is strictly required.

The word tasbih is also given to the beads strung together in the form of a circle which are used in the process of praying.

The tasbih consists of a string of beads that is looped into a circle. The two ends are passed through a larger, decorative bead where they are tied or woven into a knot. This is the starting point of a tasbih.

Almost all the religions in the world today possess some form of this object which differ a little in size, number and arrangement of beads. Calling it by different names (for example, rosary, in Christianity), they make use of it for the purpose of reciting the name of the deity in whom they believe.

Although tasbih is a constant companion and an object of daily use by the believers, its origin, development and purpose has remained so obscure to most of us that I shall discuss some of the details of this small, but important object.

Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!”Holy Qur’an, 13:28

It is said that the first tasbih (supererogatory prayer) was given by the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) to his beloved daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatima (A.S.), the wife of Hazrat Mawla Murtaza Ali (A.S.). This comprise of the praises of Allah, namely, Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great), Subhan Allah (Glory be to Allah) and Al-Hamdu-lillah (All praise is due to Allah). Each of these was to be recited thirty-three times in succession. This is known as Tasbih-e Bibi Fatima.

In the absence of any circular object like the present day tasbih, it is said that Bibi Fatima used to recite these praises taking help of thirty-three stones of dates or thirty-three pebbles.

Later on, as it was found to be very inconvenient to keep loose stones or pebbles, or have to collect them when needed, it was probably decided to string together thirty-three stones of dates or some such object to make a rosary giving it a circular appearance. At a later period, at the point where the knot was tied, a more decorative, larger bead was added, forming what we recognize as the tasbih today. Tasbih prayer beads are made of various materials, including different stones, sterling silver, wood, etc.

The larger bead at the tasbih’s crown is called imam which means ‘a leader’ and it is so called because all recitations start at this point. Imam leads and all the other small beads follow.

In the ordinary Islamic tasbih, the number of beads varies widely from 99 to 102. The 99 bead tasbih may have 2 extra small beads as dividers, after each group of 33 beads. The 102 bead tasbih used in some tariqahs is divided in parts of 12, 22, 34, 22 and 12. Then, of course, we have the commonly used smaller tasbih with 33 beads that is considered in conformity with our Holy Prophet Muhammad’s original conception of tasbih.

As in the 99 bead tasbih, the 33 bead also carries 2 extra beads after each 11 beads, as dividers. The extra small beads act as an informer when the required number of recitations are completed. These are called mui’zin in Arabic which means ‘an informer’ (like the informer who calls Muslims to prayer). In the Indian sub-continent, these two beads are called banga, bangi or bango which all mean ‘a caller’ or ‘an informer’.

Tasbihs
A selection of tasbihs produced during the Diamond Jubilee (left) and Golden Jubilee celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Photo: The Ismaili.

Among the numerous memorabilia objects that were produced for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2007 and 2017, the tasbih was the most sought after item. The Diamond Jubilee tasbihs came with a finely-detailed floral pattern interwoven with intricate and diverging leaves inspired by a Fatimid wood carving. The 33 bead Golden Jubilee tasbihs came in twenty-three varieties of semi-precious stone with the top stem adapted from a 16th century alam (emblem or standard).

“O believers, remember God oft and give Him glory at the dawn and in the evening” —
Holy Qur’an, 33:41-42

The last and most important point about tasbih is its purpose. The purpose of tasbih is quite evident and that is to remember Allah.

Over the past 35 years, Mawlana Hazar Imam has sought to encourage us to keep the remembrance of our faith as an integral part of our daily life, and to seek from this remembrance spiritual happiness on an ongoing basis. His most recent reference regarding using the tasbih for calling out the name of Allah, the name of Prophet Muhammad, or Hazrat Ali was in a Farman Mubarak that he made in India in 2018 (see page 144, para. 3, in Diamond Jubilee Farman Mubarak book)

While we all face and feel the effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic with the rest of humanity, let us all recall the message that Mawlana Hazar Imam conveyed to us at the commencement of the Diamond Jubilee year, when he said that the faith of our forefathers would help us to face life’s challenges in times of crisis and rapid changes (see page 12, para. 2, in Diamond Jubilee Farman Mubarak book).

“Sitting, sleeping, going about, take the Lord’s name, take the Lord’s name” —
Ginan, Pir Hasan Kabirdin

An illustrious piece of advice regarding our faith comes from none other than our illustrious forefather Pir Hasan Kabirdin, composer of hundreds of Ginans that have illuminated millions of Ismailis over the past seven centuries. In the second verse of Dur Desh Thee Aayo Vannjaaro, he says: “Sitting, sleeping, going about, take the Lord’s name, take the Lord’s name.” (Translation, Aziz Esmail, in his Scent of Sandalwood)

Ginan Dur Desh…sung by Late Shamshu Bandali Haji. Credit: Ginan Central

Carrying the tasbih with us will act as reminder for us to contemplate on the names of Allah, the Prophet and the Imams during any moment in our lifetime. That is the nature of prayer.

Date posted:  April 6, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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This piece contains material from the March 1986 issue of Al-Misbah magazine published by the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom (ITREB). The magazine, like all other religious magazines published by ITREB in numerous countries around the world, ceased publication in the early 1990’s.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, sends blessings to his worldwide followers, and tells them he is thinking of them “every minute of the day, each day”

Portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, with embedded message.
A portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan taken during his Diamond Jubilee, with the 2 columns containing his recent message to worldwide Ismailis. Image: The Ismaili. Please see text below.

[Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has sent a message with blessings for his global Ismaili followers, which is shared here by Malik Talib, Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum. The message is reproduced from the official website of the Ismaili community. – Ed.]

By MALIK TALIB
(Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum)

On the occasion of Navroz [March 21, 2020, New Year], our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam blessed us with a Talika Mubarak conveying special blessings for Mushkil Asan, and prayers for our health and well-being. Today, I am pleased to share with you that, recently, in a communication to the International Steering Group coordinating the efforts to ensure the Jamat’s safety and wellbeing, Mawlana Hazar Imam was pleased to bestow blessings for the Jamat as follows: 

“Please convey my best paternal and my best maternal loving blessings to my worldwide Jamat, and tell them that I think of them every minute of the day, each day, and I pray for Mushkil Asan [Protection from difficulty – Ed] and for their peace and happiness. We must remain strong and prepare to build, and to build well, when this crisis passes.”

It is in our Tariqah’s long-standing tradition that Mawlana Hazar Imam provides guidance to the Jamat at all times, including during crises, and the Jamat relies on the Imam of the Time’s blessings and direction. Hazar Imam’s message also stated the following:

“The world is facing a challenging time, and in these moments it is important that the Jamat remains united and focused on helping those who will need assistance and hand-holding.”

Hazar Imam expressed his happiness that all the institutions are working collectively to address the challenges that the Jamat is facing under the current circumstances, and reiterated that the Jamat’s safety, security and wellbeing is paramount.

As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread at an alarming rate, it is clear that the single most important action that we can take is to meticulously follow the advice of global health authorities by prioritising the requirements of “physical distancing” to protect ourselves, our families, and our Jamats. This means staying home as much as possible, and following the guidelines for washing hands regularly and thoroughly, avoiding contact with others, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and self-isolating if symptoms arise.

This is a difficult time. We all miss attending Jamatkhana and meeting our family and friends. But for their safety and your own, we must stay strong. Through this period, let us stay connected with our family, friends and neighbours over the phone or through technology. Physical distancing does not mean social distancing – we must stay united as One Jamat and support each other. And let us remember to draw at all times on our faith for comfort and solace by calling on the tasbih as guided by Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Looking forward, Mawlana Hazar Imam has encouraged us to turn our focus to rebuilding, and perhaps in some cases repositioning, when this crisis passes, and focus our efforts to build a stronger future for the global Jamat.

Let us submit our humble Shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam for his blessings, encouragement and hope, and pray for the global Jamat’s safety, well-being and Mushkil Asan.

Ameen.

Date posted: March 30, 2020.

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The Month of Ramadhan: A New Leaf Everyday for a Better World

Note from the editor: “A New Leaf Everyday” is a compilation by Simerg of verses from the Holy Qur’an, the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) and excerpts from speeches and farmans of Ismaili Imams (or their family members) that are pertinent to the message on a different leaf which has been presented (almost) everyday on this page since the start of the month of Ramadhan on June 6, 2016.  The photos of the leaves were either taken by us during our visits to the Aga Khan Foundation’s Together-Ensemble mobile exhibition, which is currently on a cross-Canada tour, or sent to us by the exhibition’s tour manager, François Grenier, to whom we express our deep gratitude. The leaf messages were penned down by visitors to the exhibition.

(IX): CHARITY

Together-Ensemble8 year old Hannah Saikaley’s wants to help by “Donating food, money, drinks and clothes and by cleaning the earth.”

“And perform the prayer, and pay the alms; whatever good you shall forward to your souls’ account, you shall find it with God; assuredly God sees the things you do.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:110, Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow), Translation by A.J. Arberry.

“Those who believe and do deeds of righteousness, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms — their wage awaits them with their Lord, and no fear shall be on them, neither shall they sorrow.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:277, Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow), Translation by A.J. Arberry.

“If you publish your freewill offerings, it is excellent; but if you conceal them, and give them to the poor, that is better for you, and will acquit you of your evil deeds; God is aware of the things you do.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:271, Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow), Translation by A.J. Arberry.

“Charity obliterates sins just as water extinguishes fire…Save yourself from the (Hell) Fire even with half a date (to be given in charity); and if you do not find a half date, then with a good pleasant word.” — Traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), 570 CE – 632 CE

“Do not feel ashamed if the amount of charity is small…Charity and alms are the best remedy for ailments and calamities…If you want to pray to Allah for better means of subsistence, then first give something in charity” — Hazrat Ali (a.s.), 599 CE -661 CE, 1st Shia Imam.

Date posted: June 17, 2016.

Recommended: Please visit Qur’anic Corpus for several parallel translations of the Holy Qur’an in English, verse by verse.

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(VIII). BE NICE

“A kind word with forgiveness is better than almsgiving followed by injury. Allah is Absolute, Clement.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:263, Sura Al-Baqarah (The Cow), Translation by M. Pickthall.

“The servants of the All-merciful are those who walk in the earth modestly and who, when the ignorant address them, say, ‘Peace'” — Holy Qur’an, 25:63, Sura al-Furqan (The Criterion), Translation by A.J. Arberry.

“When a (courteous) greeting is offered you, meet it with a greeting still more courteous, or (at least) of equal courtesy. Allah takes careful account of all things.” — Holy Qur’an, 4:86, Sura An-Nisa (The Women), Translation by Yusuf Ali.

Ramadhan - A New Leaf Everyday - VIII To be nice

“The believer does not defame, abuse, disparage, nor vilify…The strong person is not he who has physical strength but the person is strong if he can control his anger.” — Traditions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), 570 CE – 632 CE

“You should not speak ill of other religions or ridicule anybody” — His Highness the Aga Khan III, (1877-1957), 48th Ismaili Imam, Precious Pearls, #66, Page 47, Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

“Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant.” — Holy Qur’an, 7:199, Sura Al-A’raf (The Heights), Translation by M. Pickthall.

“The best deed of a great man is to forgive and forget…Courtesy costs nothing, but buys everything.” — Hazrat Ali (a.s.), 599 CE -661 CE, 1st Shia Imam.

“You should be united. Our religion preaches that we should let bygones be bygones. Even if one harms you, you should forgive him.” — His Highness the Aga Khan III, Precious Pearls, #85, Page 57, Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

“I would also like you also to remember that you should at all times live within the spirit of Islam. This means that you are brothers and sisters and that whenever any one of you has difficulties, troubles or needs help or wants guidance, you should always help each other.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, Gujranwalla, Pakistan, November 26, 1964, Farman Mubarak, Ismailia Association Pakistan, Part II, Pg. 22.

“You must be humble, as it is one of the greatest [forms of] worship.” — Hazrat Ali (a.s.).

Date posted: June 15, 2016.

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(VII). HELPING PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD
Ramadhan - A New Leaf Everyday - VII Serving Around the World

Reflection(s) from Aga Khan Foundation’s mobile exhibition Together-Ensemble which is currently on a cross-country Canada tour.

“I have been impressed by recent studies showing the activity of voluntary institutions and not-for-profit organisations in Canada to be among the highest in the world. This Canadian spirit resonates with a cherished principle in Shia Ismaili culture — the importance of contributing one’s individual energies on a voluntary basis to improving the lives of others.

“This is not a matter of philanthropy, but rather of self-fulfillment — ‘enlightened self-fulfillment’.

“During my Golden Jubilee — and this is important — six years ago Ismailis from around the world volunteered their gifts, not only of wealth, but most notably of time and knowledge, in support of our work. We established a Time and Knowledge framework, a structured process for engaging an immense pool of expertise involving tens of thousands of volunteers. Many of them traveled to developing countries as part of this outpouring of service — one third of those were Canadians. Their impact has been enormous in helping us to achieve best practice standards in our institutions and programmes, making us we hope an even better partner for Canada!” — His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, Ottawa, Canada, February 27, 2014.

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“In the Shia Ismaili Muslim tradition, voluntary service to others is viewed as an integral and positive part of daily life, and never as a burdensome obligation or an elective activity. Service is a means for each individual to actualise Islam’s ethics of inclusiveness, of compassion, of sharing, of the respect for life, and of personal responsibility for sustaining a healthy physical, social, and cultural environment.

“Generosity is fundamental to this concept of volunteerism: generosity of material resources, of time, of thought and of knowledge. The importance of the donation of time and financial resources is widely recognised. The other two elements are not. Thought helps others to help themselves. Knowledge enables the educated to provide technical information to the less educated on how to meet their own needs better and serve others.” — Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Edmonton, Canada, August 25, 1998.

Date posted: June 13, 2016.

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(VI). HOW TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE
Ramadhan - A New Leaf Everyday - VI Make World A Better Place

Reflection(s) from Aga Khan Foundation’s mobile exhibition Together-Ensemble which is currently on a cross-country Canada tour.

“If our animosities are born out of fear, then confident generosity is born out of hope. One of the central lessons I have learned after a half century of working in the developing world is that the replacement of fear by hope is probably the single most powerful trampoline of progress.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, Germany, May 20, 2006.

“The effective world of the future will be one of pluralism, a world that understands, appreciates and builds on diversity. The rejection of pluralism plays a significant role in breeding destructive conflicts, from which no continent has been spared in recent decades. But pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are a product of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all of civil society in recognising and celebrating the diversity of the world’s peoples.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Oslo, Norway, April 7, 2005.

Date posted: June 11, 2016.

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(IV) AND (V). POVERTY AND BEING HELPFUL: ISLAM’S CLEAR MESSAGE WITH AN EXAMPLE FROM THE LIFE OF THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD (MAY PEACE BE UPON HIM)

Ramadhan - A New Leaf Everyday - IV Less Poverty and How to Help

Reflection(s) from Aga Khan Foundation’s mobile exhibition Together-Ensemble which is currently on a cross-country Canada tour.

“…A state of poverty is a state of deprivation with respect to health and nutrition, education and security, housing and credit, and all the other conditions which are essential to human well-being.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, Berlin, Germany, November 13, 2007.

“Our duty is to try to free people from poverty. And to me, poverty means being without hope of ever controlling one’s own destiny. This means condemning one’s children and grandchildren to unacceptable living conditions.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, November 27, 2007, Madagascar.

“Islam has a very clear message about the different forms of generosity. There is that with regard to the poor, which takes the form of gifts. But the recipient remains poor. There exists a second form of generosity that contributes to growing the independence of the person. This concept, in which the goal is to make the person the master of their destiny, is the most beneficial in the eyes of Allah” [see example from the life of Prophet Muhmmad, below – ed]. — His Highness the Aga Khan, Interview L’Express, July 4, 2007.

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Firewood

It is related that when an Ansar (Helper) came to Prophet Muhammad and begged from him, he asked him whether he had nothing in his house. When the Ansar said that he had a piece of cloth, which he used for wearing as well as for spreading on the ground, and a wooden bowl from which he drank water, the Prophet told him to bring them to him, and when he did so he took them in his hand and asked, “Who will buy these?” When a man offered a dirham, the Prophet asked twice or thrice. “Who will offer more than a dirham?” and the Prophet gave them to a man who offered two dirhams. He then took the two dirhams and giving them to the Ansari he said, “Buy food with one of them and hand it to your family, and buy an axe with the other and bring it to me.”

When he bought the axe, Prophet Muhammad fixed a handle on it with his own hand and said, “Go gather firewood and sell it, and don’t let me see you for a fortnight.” The man went away and gathered firewood and sold it. When he had earned ten dirhams he came to the Prophet and bought a garment with some of them and food with others.

Date posted: June 9/10, 2016.

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(III). TOGETHER AND PARTNERSHIP

Ramadhan - A New Leaf Everyday - III Together-Unity
Reflection from Aga Khan Foundation’s mobile exhibition Together-Ensemble which is currently on a cross-country Canada tour.

“And obey Allah and His messenger, and dispute not one with another lest ye falter and your strength depart from you; but be steadfast! Lo! Allah is with the steadfast.” — Holy Qur’an, 8:46, Sura Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War), Translation by M. Pickthall.

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“One event which I witnessed was a boxing match between two Ismaili boys – one African, one Asian. I saw a good fight and, at the end, I think each of them thought he had won….At the end of this sporting event, the two boys shook hands and stood together to be photographed. To me this symbolised the partnership between different races which I am convinced is the only condition of peace and prosperity….I most strongly urge the Ismaili community to work hand in hand with all other citizens” — His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, Kampala, Uganda, Ceremonial installation (Takhtnashini), October 25, 1957.

“With humility, tolerance and respect for each other, by honest work and straight dealings, you will earn the true friendship of your fellows…By the way you conduct your daily lives, by the compassion you show to your fellow men and women, and above all by your faith in God – you will ultimately be judged” — His Highness the Aga Khan, Takhtnashini, Mumbai, March 11, 1958.

Date posted: June 8, 2016.

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(II). NATURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Ramadhan - A New Leaf Everyday

“It is He who sent down out of heaven water, and thereby We have brought forth the shoot of every plant, and then We have brought forth the green leaf of it, bringing forth from it close-compounded grain, and out of the palm-tree, from the spathe of it, dates thick-lustered, ready to the hand, and gardens of vines, olives, pomegranates, like each to each, and each unlike to each. Look upon their fruits when they fructify and ripen! Surely, in all this are signs for a people who do believe.” — Holy Qur’an, 6:99, Sura An-An’am (The Cattle), Translation by A.J. Arberry.

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“The Qur’an refers very often to nature as a reflection of Allah’s power of creation, and it says, look at the mountains, the rivers, the trees, the flowers, as evidence of Allah’s love for the people whom He has created. Today, I look at the environment and I say to you, I believe Allah is smiling upon you, and may His smile always be upon you.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, speaking in a mountainous setting in Badakhshan in 1995.

“There are many, many interpretations of Islam within the wider Islamic community, but I think one on which there is greatest consensus, is the fact that we are trustees of God’s creation, and we are instructed to seek to leave the world a better place than it was when we came into it. Therefore, the question is: What is a ‘better place’, in physical terms? And that ‘better place’, in physical terms, clearly means trying to bring values into environments, buildings and contexts, which make the quality of life better for future generations than it is today.” — His Highness the Aga Khan in an interview with Robert Ivy, Editor in Chief, Architectural Record, conducted on August 31, 2001, at Aiglemont, France.

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“Islam is fundamentally in its very nature a natural religion. Throughout the Quran God’s signs (Ayats) are referred to as the natural phenomenon, the law and order of the universe, the exactitudes and consequences of the relations between natural phenomenon in cause and effect. Over and over, the stars, sun, moon, earthquakes, fruits of the earth and trees are mentioned as the signs of divine power, divine law and divine order.” – His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877 – 1957), 48th Ismaili Imam.

Date posted: June 7, 2016.

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(I) UNITY OF OUR HUMAN RACE

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From the mobile exhibition Together-Ensemble currently on a cross-country Canada tour. My better world includes….”God created man from One Soul. Everybody should help each other.”

“Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women; and fear God by whom you demand one of another, and the wombs; surely God ever watches over you.” — Holy Qur’an, 4:1, Sura an-Nisa  (The Women), Translation by A.J. Arberry.

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“…As you build your lives, for yourselves and others, you will come to rest upon certain principles. Central to my life has been a verse in the Holy Qur’an which addresses itself to the whole of humanity. It says: “Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women.

“…I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race — born indeed from a single soul.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, February 27, 2014, Parliament of Canada.

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“All men, rich and poor, must aid one another materially and personally. This fraternity is absolute, and it comprises men of all colours and all races: black, white, yellow, tawny; all are the sons of Adam in the flesh and all carry in them spark of the Divine Light. Everyone should strive his best to see that this spark be not extinguished but rather developed to that full Companionship-on-High.” — His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Ismaili Imam.

Date posted: June 6, 2016.

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