Description and Photographs of the Magnificent 17th Century Standard Presented to the Aga Khan: The ‘Alam is Symbolic of the Foundational Principles of the Shia Ismaili Muslim Faith

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos

In the space of seven days, Ismaili Muslims around the world have come together in their respective Jamatkhana prayer and social halls as well as outdoors to celebrate three historic festivals and events. Last Saturday, Ismailis joined other Muslim communities in Canada and around the world to celebrate Eid al-Adha, to commemorate the historic event thousands of years ago when Prophet Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismail, to test his faith and loyalty to God. In Calgary, the Ismailis hosted the wider Canadian community to a Stampede/Eid al-Adha breakfast at its Headquarters Jamatkhana.

Then, on Monday July 11, Ismailis celebrated the 65th anniversary of the spiritual leadership (Imamat) of their 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, who is respectfully and lovingly addressed by the Ismailis as Mawlana Hazar Imam (our lord, present/living Imam). Indeed, the appellation of “Hazar Imam” is so appropriate, because the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family). On behalf of the world wide Ismaili community, the Ismaili leadership presented a beautiful ‘Alam to their Imam in Lisbon.

The Prophet Muhammad's proclamation Man kuntu mawlahu fa aliyyun mawlahu (He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla) in square Kufi. Design by Karim Ismaili, Toronto.
The Prophet Muhammad’s proclamation “Man kuntu mawlahu fa aliyyun mawlahu” (He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla) in square Kufi. Design by Karim Ismail, Toronto.

Coincidentally, this week, and specifically on Saturday July 16th, marks the historic day when the Prophet designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. Hazrat Ali became the first Imam, and the continuity of the Imamat is reflected in the present manifest Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The historic event is known as Eid e-Ghadir, when the Prophet proclaimed “Man kuntu mawlahu fa aliyyun mawlahu” meaning: “He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla.” The Prophet then prayed: “O Allah, be a friend of whoever is his friend and extend your support to those who support him.” A very famous tradition of the Prophet says:

“I am leaving amongst you two weighty things after me, the Qur’an and my Progeny (ahl al-bayt). Verily, if you hold fast to them both you will never go astray. Both are tied with a long rope and cannot be separated till the Day of Judgement.” (Muslim, Vol. II, pg. 279).

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The ‘Alam Presented to His Highness the Aga Khan on His 65th Anniversary of Imamat

Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Steel Processional Standard (‘Alam) on stand presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the occasion of his 65th anniversary of accession to the Imamat of the Ismaili Muslims. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.

The steel processional standard (‘Alam) presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam by the Ismaili leadership on behalf of the worldwide Ismaili Muslims on the 65th anniversary of his Imamat comprises a central drop-shaped panel decorated with a calligraphic inscription in elegant thuluth on a scrolling vine background. The inscription reads “Allah, Muhammad, Ali”, with the hijri date 1061 (equivalent to 1651 of the Common Era) inscribed below. A smaller cartouche at the top of the ‘Alam also reads “Allah, Muhammad, Ali”. A panel at the base is inscribed with the name of the maker, Muhammad Ardabili. The inner framing and outer band has foliate patterned openwork, and each side of the standard has a dragon-headed cast steel terminal facing outwards.

Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Bespoke presentation case. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
The ‘Alam placed inside the presentation case. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Title of gift on lower part of right side of the presentation case. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.

The inscriptions on this standard — Allah, Muhammad, Ali — symbolise the foundational principles of the Shia Ismaili Muslim tariqah: the concepts of tawhidnubuwwa and imama.

Another important Shia aspect that is reflected in the inscriptions on this ‘Alam is the concept of a single, pre-eternal spiritual light, the Nur Muhammad. According to this concept, Allah created a light from His Divine Light. When the angels asked about this light, Allah answered: “This is a light out of My Light; its main part is prophethood, and its ray is the imamate. The nubuwwa is for Muhammad, My servant and messenger, and the imama is for Ali, My hujja and My wali. Were it not for them, I would not have created My creation.” [1] This notion of light is beautifully represented on the ‘Alam by the dragon heads flanking each side of the standard. For, in Islamic art, one of the primary meanings of the dragon is as a producer and a symbol of light and protection.

Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
The central drop-shaped panel decorated with a calligraphic inscription in elegant thuluth on a scrolling vine background. The inscription reads “Allah, Muhammad, Ali” with the hijri date inscribed below (see detail, next photo). Photograph: © Steve Wakeham
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
The detail of the hijri date 1061 (equivalent to 1651 of the Common Era) inscribed in the ‘Alam. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
A smaller cartouche at the top of the ‘Alam also reads “Allah, Muhammad, Ali”. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Detail of the top of the ‘Alam which is also inscribed with the names of Allah, Muhammad and Ali. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Each side of the ‘Alam has a dragon-headed cast steel terminal facing outwards. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.
Alam or standard presented to the Aga Khan, Imamat Day July 11 2022 Barakah and Simerg
Detail of dragon head. Photograph: © Steve Wakeham.

We also invite you to view a video of the ‘Alam on the.Ismaili, the official website of the Ismaili Muslim community.

Date posted: July 16, 2022.

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Footnote(s):

[1] For this Hadith and the concept of Nur Muhammad, see Uri Rubin, “Pre-existence and light. Aspects of the Concept of Nur Muhammad“, Israel Oriental Studies, 5 (1975), pages 62-119, especially 112-113.

Note: A slightly different version of this post also appears on our sister blog, Barakah, which is dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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Simerg welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Simerg’s editor Malik can be contacted by email at mmerchant@simerg.com

REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

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. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Artistic Greeting Cards in Arabic Scripts for His Highness the Aga Khan’s 65th Imamat Day Revolve Around a Phrase from the Qur’an

By KARIM ISMAIL
with MALIK MERCHANT

Simerg and its sister websites, Barakah and Simergphotos, convey heartiest felicitations to Ismailis and friends of the Ismaili community in Canada and around the world on the auspicious occasion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 65th Imamat Day anniversary (July 11, 2022). He succeeded to the Throne of Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20 upon the death of his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III, whose Imamat (spiritual leadership) of 71 years is the longest in the 1400 year history of the Shia Ismaili Muslims.

According to well-known Muslim traditions, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S) said:

“I am leaving amongst you two weighty things after me, the Qur’an and my Progeny (ahl al-bayt). Verily, if you hold fast to them both you will never go astray. Both are tied with a long rope and cannot be separated till the Day of Judgement.” (Muslim, Vol. II, pg. 279).

The Prophet appointed Hazrat Ali (A.S.) to be his successor as the Imam, and His Highness the Aga Khan, who is respectfully addressed by the Ismailis as Mawlana Hazar Imam, is the 49th Hereditary Imam in direct succession of Imams since Imam Ali.

In the Ismaili Ginan (hymn) Girbah Vali, attributed to the Ismaili missionary Pir Sadr al-Din, the Pir says:

“If the Imam did not have his feet on this earth for even a moment, then the world, moon, sun would vanish and nothing would exist, neither the heaven nor the earth.”

The notion of the cosmic necessity of an Imam, expressed by the Pir, is also found in famous traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (cited in “The Divine Guide in Early Shi’ism,”  pp 125-131):

“The earth cannot be devoid of an Imam; without him, it could not last an hour” and also “If there were only two men left in the world, one of them would be the Imam.” 

The two calligraphies that Karim Ismail has created express another important notion of the Imam based on the Qur’anic phrase: Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm (those firmly rooted in knowledge). According to the Ismaili Baitul Ilm Secondary Curriculum, Volume 1, produced by the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, the phrase, in the Shia tradition, is understood to be referring to the Imam descended from the Prophet’s family.

The first calligraphy has the Qur’anic phrase Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm in Fatimid Kufi script on all the 4 sides of Karim Ismail’s artwork. The Fatimids were rulers of Egypt and North Africa in the 10th through the 12th centuries. The Fatimid Imams or Caliphs were ancestors of the current Aga Khan.

Calligraphy with the Qur'anic phrase Al-rasikhul fi'l-ilm (Those well grounded in knowledge); by Karim Ismail Toronto.
The Qur’anic phrase Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm (Those firmly rooted in knowledge) on all 4 sides of the art work. Calligraphy and design by Karim Ismail. Toronto.

The second calligraphy, shown below, has the same phrase on the top and bottom borders in Fatimid Kufi script, as above. The centre has the same phrase in Thuluth script. We sincerely thank Karim Ismail for conceiving these pieces of art for Imamat Day.

Calligraphy with the Qur'anic phrase Al-rasikhul fi'l-ilm (Those well grounded in knowledge); by Karim Ismail Toronto.
The Qur’anic phrase Al-rasikhun fi’l-ilm (Those firmly rooted in knowledge) on top and bottom of the art work in Fatimid Kufi script; the centre of the art work has the same phrase in Thuluth script. Calligraphy and design by Karim Ismail, Toronto.

We wish all our readers a very Happy Imamat Day, with prayers for everyone’s good health, strength in Iman (faith), family unity and the fulfillment of all our wishes. May we fulfill the aspirations that Mawlana Hazar Imam has of each one of us of staying on the path of Sirat al Mustaqim (the Straight Path), excelling in our studies and endeavours, and keeping the right balance between our material and spiritual lives.

As we celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 65th Imamat Day, may we always remain under his guidance, loving care and protection. Ameen.

Date posted: July 11, 2022.

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FEEDBACK

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CONTRIBUTORS

Karim Ismail portrait for Barakah
Karim Ismail

Originally from Uganda, Karim Ismail lived in England before settling in Canada. By profession, he is a Pharmacist (retired).  It was in England, in 1986, that he came across the artwork of a German Muslim, Karl Schlamminger (1935-2017), at the Ismaili Centre London. Karl’s artwork on calligraphy and geometrics, had a profound effect on Karim. He is frequently seen conducting calligraphy workshops for children at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Karim is also active on the literature counter at the Ismaili Centre Toronto.

Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher and editor of Barakah (2017) as well as its two sister websites Simerg (2009) and Simergphotos (2012). His interest for literature and community publications began in his childhood years in Tanzania through the work of his late parents Jehangir (d. May 2017, aged 89) and Malek Merchant (d. January 2021, also 89), who both devoted their lives to the service of the Ismaili community, its institutions and the Imam-of-the-Time, His Highness the Aga Khan, as missionaries and religious education teachers. In the UK, Malik edited the flagship Ismaili magazine, ILM, with his father. A resident of Ontario since 1983, he relocated to Alberta in January 2022. He has an animal loving daughter Dr. Nurin Merchant; she is a vet and practices in Ontario. Malik can be contacted by email at mmerchant@simerg.com. He can also be reached — and followed — @twitter and @facebook.

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. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

“Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens,” a Once-in-a-Lifetime Book that Brings the 49th Ismaili Imam’s History and Spiritual Leadership to Life

“As he says in his own introduction to the book, Otte engaged in a deep research of the photo archives of the Aga Khan, finding images chosen for their quality but also for the fascinating story they tell. The result is a unique collection of photos, many of which have not been published before, but which, taken together, form a visual biography. It is a book about His Highness the Aga Khan, but it is also a portrait in time and space of the world seen from a different perspective, one of endless change and movement, but also one of hope” — Philip Jodidio, Preface, p. ix, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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DEPTH OF FIELD: THE AGA KHAN BEYOND THE LENS, edited by Gary Otte with texts by Bruno Freschi, Philip Jodidio, Don Cayo and Gary Otte
Hardcover 260 pp. Published by Prestel, February 2022; 220 colour illustrations. To purchase the book, please see links provided immediately after the article.

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Reflections

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg
Cover jacket of Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens; Hardcover, 260 pages, 25 x 30 cms, 220 colour illustrations; published by Prestel, February 2022.

By NIZAR A MOTANI, PhD

I have used the Aga Khan and Hazar Imam interchangeably in my reflections about this visual biography of him, by Gary Otte  

When I finally received the long-awaited book about Hazar Imam, I gleefully looked at the cover, actually the “jacket,” with his picture. It was intriguing that this photograph portraying Hazar Imam had part of his shoulder hidden: it was found in the inside “folding”, which also has an extract from the Preface. The complete photograph appears on page 121. Then, I instinctively and happily thumbed through this delightful “coffee table” edition, as if it was just an album, though about a familiar figure, without much thought and not reading most of the captions. It soon became apparent that the three essays preceding the photographs must have a purpose and should be read before taking a second closer look at them. In my humble opinion, this is what every viewer should do since these textual and contextual commentaries guide the viewer to not only how to view the images, but also, and more importantly, to ponder over them to see beyond these images, which collectively constitute a pictorial biography of the Aga Khan.

The editor of this milestone photographic record, Gary Otte, explains in the Introduction, that as the Aga Khan’s principal photographer for some thirty years, he had ample, varied and exhausting opportunities to capture a lot of “interesting stuff.” He witnessed happenings at “exotic and iconic locations; global leaders and ordinary folks”; — and events of great historical, cultural, religious and economic significance (p. xi).

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

“In an age dominated by moving images, still photographs continue to carry remarkable power. Nothing captures a moment as memorably. There is no movement to miss, no soundtrack to distract. It is the still photograph that becomes iconic – a fraction of a second with great impact that people can readily call to mind. Few moments in film or video imprint themselves so clearly. It is that single frame from a vivid scene that we carry with us… Like all the photographers who covered the life of the Aga Khan, I benefitted from his acceptance of us as chroniclers of history” — Gary Otte, Introduction, p. xiii, “Depth of Field, The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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The two hundred twenty meticulously selected photographs — ninety by him and 130 taken by some fifty other photographers — take the viewers on a panoramic tour of all aspects of the Aga Khan’s amazing life. They are not chronologically presented but were chosen because they were deemed “technically, compositionally, and editorially excellent” and were “more representative of geography, subject area and decades.” (p. xi).

Otte recommends viewers to inspect and revisit all the photographs because “every long look can reveal something new as you discover or imagine, what is happening.” (p. xi).

Philip Jodidio, a prolific author and an expert on contemporary art and architecture, has written a glowing Preface in which he comprehensively and chronologically portrays the major initiatives of Hazar Imam, who is described as “one of the most fascinating personalities in the world….he is a spiritual leader, the driving force behind numerous humanitarian and cultural organizations” as well as “one of the most important figures who has sought to bridge the divide between the Muslim world and the West” (p. v).

By reading this essay, themes and patterns will emerge in the two hundred twenty otherwise randomly presented photographs. The renowned Bruno Freschi’s brief but telling Foreword is centered on his deep respect for Otte’s superb photographic skills as well as his profound admiration of Otte’s extraordinary subject’s (The Aga Khan’s) ambitious, multidimensional, multifaceted mission, which has been so diligently and visually portrayed.

The Aga Khan’s mission, or more appropriately, his mandate as the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, has been succinctly conveyed in excerpts from one of his numerous speeches (p. xvii) and from his historic address to the special joint session of the Canadian Parliament, on February 27, 2014. Thankfully, Jodidio has excerpted the essence of this speech in his Preface (p. v).

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

“Gary’s photography and his curation have produced a collection with a magical quality. The reader/viewer is transported into the event-image reality. The photography is the doorway into the spirit of the frozen moment. These event-moments are the curtain in the great theatre of life. Once the curtain is raised it reveals the compelling life story of the Aga Khan, an elegant portrait of his historic mission” — Bruno Freschi, Foreword, p. xv, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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In my reflections on just a few of the photographs in this non-chronological historical biography, I hope to be faithful to the sound, revealing guidance on how to embrace each image. Evidently, beyond and behind the photographs, there must be careful and plentiful preparation and coordination, prior to, during, and even after each different event: airport arrivals and departures; protocols; media liaison; motorcade escorts; security arrangements; translators, meetings with heads of state and other leaders; banquets and speeches — to think of just a few. The photograph on page 212 shows Dr. Shafik Sachedina, Head of the Department of Jamati Institutions at the Diwan of the Ismaili Imamat, and Dr. Mohammed Khesavjee, who served as the Information Officer at Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Secretariat at Aiglemont for many years, playing complementary roles behind and at the scene. Most photographs do not show such senior and other personnel in the Aga Khan’s entourage doing the critical groundwork.

The photograph on page 163 shows Hazar Imam thanking the police escort for his motorcade. He is always mindful of the very many individuals, institutions and organizations involved during his official visits as the state guest of the host governments, and he is known to unfailingly acknowledge his gratitude to all of them. Only some of them can be seen in some of the photographs, but they were there and we have to imagine them, as explained by the editor.

Article continues below

Jacket, "Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens," 220 photographs, pictorial biography, Barakah, Nizar Motani reflection
Jacket, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens,” 220 photographs

In 1983 and 2008, the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim spiritual leader paid official visits as the guest of the ruling Sunni family of the emirate of Dubai (pp. 134 and 135). Significantly, the 2008 occasion was the opening ceremony of the new Ismaili Centre. We can only imagine the elaborate preparations and protocols for this historic event. Being invited as a virtual head of state by governments across the world is an unmistakable theme of this fascinating volume. So much planning and coordination by so many unseen volunteers and paid staff within and outside the Ismaili jamat is always the case.

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READERS SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ON “THE AGA KHAN BEYOND THE LENS”

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

This fabulous book with its layout, font, selection of photos and essays is extraordinary — Moez Murji 

The photographs chosen are not only beautiful but were also very carefully selected, and each carries a deeper message of the Aga Khan’s incredible — and farsighted — vision. It’s indeed remarkable and an occasion of immense happiness for the Ismailis that the unbelievable results that have been achieved by Mawlana Hazar Imam in so many countries around the world are finally covered in such a well condensed pictorial book — Amin Jaffer

In this 280-page bumper pictorial biography of Mawlana Hazar Imam, which I ordered and have already received it as one of my living room’s table top collections, some of the pictures will bring alive our individual and family memories — Kamruddin Rashid

Beautiful! Now [after reading Nizar Motani’s reflections] I have to go back to the Visual Biography (love that!!) and look at it differently! Different viewers may have different meanings to different pictures. Great job Mr Gary Otte for the book and Nizar Motani for his reflections on the book — Mirza Smile 

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Gary Otte’s very first illustration is a two-page panoramic view of the October 1957 Dar es Salaam Takht Nashini. It requires deep individual contemplation to merely “digest” the thousands in attendance. And much more imagining of the hundreds more involved in numerous aspects of staging this majestic enthronement ceremony, in a British colonial African country, with several non-African immigrant minorities among the heterogeneous African populations, can be a challenging mental exercise!

It is almost on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the August 4th 1972 mass Asian Expulsion by Uganda’s mercurial megalomaniac military dictator, Idi Amin Dada, that I am encountering Hazar Imam’s somber photograph with Amin. It was taken during Hazar Imam’s critical February 1972 visit to Kampala (p. 59). I was still in London completing my doctoral dissertation on the topic of Uganda’s African Civil Service, hoping to teach African History at Makerere. It so happened that I returned on that fateful day — August 4th 1972, not to a much anticipated warmest welcome at the Entebbe Airport, but to most somber news, from my parents, about the expulsion order issued just prior to my arrival!

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

Such an epic volume should be an occasion of immense pride and happiness for every Ismaili murid. Gary Otte has clearly acknowledged that Hazar Imam remained very accommodating and patient during the long period of compiling this unprecedented collection…and has thanked Hazar Imam for taking the time to offer suggestions on choosing the photographs and the book’s design. Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain gave their time and advice on selection of photographs and the final draft of images and the text. Hence this official authorized visual biography of our 49th  Imam and a once in a life time publication, should belong in our homes — Dr Nizar Motani, author of this post

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Therefore being absent from Uganda during Hazar Imam’s February visit, I can only imagine the challenging task of the local Ismaili entourage and leadership on how to brief Hazar Imam for any meeting with such a vainglorious man controlling the destiny of all Ugandans. Could Amin have given any clear signal about what was brewing in his mind prior to the alleged dream to ethnically cleanse Uganda of its much maligned Asian minorities? Could Hazar Imam have sensed any forebodings in order to prepare for all eventualities — since the expulsion order’s short deadline was met with fairly well-organized and timely evacuation under the most harrowing circumstances? I was one of the lucky ones who chose to and could leave, within a week, for the USA, but remained tormented and concerned about the rest of the family’s fate who had to plan their escape. This image on page 59 may linger for a long while but with deep gratitude that almost all Asians escaped relatively physically unscathed.

I will conclude my brief reflections about this unique official  pictorial biography of the Aga  Khan, our beloved Hazar Imam, by simply stating that such an epic  volume should be an occasion of immense pride and happiness for every Ismaili murid. The editor, Gary Otte, has clearly acknowledged that Hazar Imam remained very accommodating and patient during the long period of compiling this unprecedented collection of mostly previously unpublished photographs, from his childhood in Kenya to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in various parts of the world, where he was welcomed by the host countries’ Heads of State as a virtual visiting head of state.

Gary Otte has thanked Hazar Imam for taking the time to offer suggestions on choosing the photographs and the book’s design. Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain gave their time and advice on selection of photographs and the final draft of images and the text.

Hence this official authorized visual biography of our 49th  Imam and a once in a life time publication, should belong in our homes. It also makes a wonderful gift to give to  thoughtfully selected non-Ismaili friends and colleagues to increase their awareness of the Aga Khan which Jodidio has stated may be  lacking in the general public. But even we, his murids, will be be astonished and overjoyed to learn so much that we cannot possibly already know about or have seen images of his multifarious undertaking, as well as his personal life.

One final thought, as I take the elderly members of the Jamat into consideration. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s life, through the photographs in this book, spans three generations. How exciting and inspiring might it be for the elders, were their children and grandchildren to sit alongside them and leaf through all the beautiful photographs of their beloved Imam, not once but on multiple occasions. Old memories would be revived and new stories, narratives, anecdotes, and perspectives would emerge, individually and collectively, adding to our knowledge of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s glorious life and Imamat. This book MUST occupy a place in all Ismaili homes.

Date posted: June 18, 2022.

A slightly different version of this piece appeared recently on Simerg’s sister website Barakah under the title Reflections on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Pictorial Biography, “Depth of Field – The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens” by Nizar Motani.

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PURCHASING THE AGA KHAN’S BEAUTIFUL PICTORIAL BIOGRAPHY

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg
The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens; Hardcover, 260 pages, 25 x 30 cms, 220 colour illustrations; published by Prestel, February 2022.

The publisher’s recommended retail price for Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens is US $ 60.00; £ 45.00 but retailers and on-line book sellers may sell it for less. To purchase the book in Canada, click Aga Khan Museum Shop, Amazon.ca or Indigo.ca; in the USA, click Amazon.com; in the UK and other European countries, click Amazon.co.uk; and in Spain and Portugal click Amazon.es. Elsewhere, see if there is a local Amazon chapter serving your location or visit Amazon’s global page. Note that the book is also available for members of the Ismaili community at Jamatkhana literature counters around the world or through the local Jamatkhana leadership.

FEEDBACK

Simerg welcomes your feedback, review and reflections on The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nizar Motani, Barakah, Dedicated to the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam
Nizar Motani

Nizar A. Motani has a doctorate from the University of London (SOAS) in African history, specializing in British colonial rule in East Africa. He has been a college professor at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME) and Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI). He was the first Publication Officer at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London, UK). He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Motani’s previous pieces on Simerg and its sister website Barakah are: 

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A SHORT Youtube Presentation: Gary Otte on the Making of the Book

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to more than 1500 pieces posted since the website was founded in the spring of 2009. Also visit our two sister websites, Barakah and Simergphotos.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com. Please follow Malik @Facebook and @Twitter.

Two Insightful and Profound Interviews of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Ismaili Muslims belong to the Shia branch of Islam, the other branch being the Sunnis who form the Muslim majority. His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th Hereditary spiritual leader or Imam of the Ismailis and is directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) through his son-in-law, Ali (A.S.), who was married to the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima (A.S.). Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali were also first cousins — their respective fathers Abd al-Muttalib and  Abu Talib were brothers.

According to Shia Muslims, the Prophet had designated Ali to succeed him as the Imam. The Sunnis dispute this, and Muslims have remained divided over this contentious matter for centuries. However, in their book, “History in Quotations”, which reflects five thousand years of World History, the authors M. J. Cohen and John Major write as follows: 

“Muhammad said: ‘He of whom I am the Mawla (patron), Ali is his Mawla. O God, be the friend of him who is his friend and be the enemy of his enemy.’ 

“This became the proof text for the Shia claim that Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, was the Prophet’s rightful successor after the Prophet’s death in 632. The meaning of Mawla here probably implies the role of patron, lord or protector.” 

The authors, Cohen and Major, sum up by stating that through the use of the term Mawla, Muhammad was giving Ali the parity with himself in this function.

Over the course of history, the Shia Muslims split into a number of branches over the succession of Imams descended from Ali. The first major split occurred during the 8th century, two centuries after the passing of Prophet Muhammad, following the reign of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, when one group considered his son Musa Kazim as the rightful Imam. The other group regarded Imam Ja’far’s elder son, Ismail, as the rightful successor. Musa Kazim’s successors continued until the 12th Imam, who is then said to have gone into hiding. This group of Shia Muslims, awaiting the re-appearance of the hidden 12th Imam to take part in the final judgement, forms the Shia majority in Iran and Iraq. They are known as the Twelver Shias or Ithnashries.

The group that held to Imam Ismail became known as the Ismailis and continue to thrive today under the Hereditary leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan, who is respectfully addressed by his Ismaili Muslim followers as Hazar Imam (the present living Imam). Thus, the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely the Aga Khan.

Naheed Nenshi Mayor Calgary Simerg
Naheed Nenshi, left, at an event in Ottawa.

Having recently re-established myself as a resident of Alberta after 40 years, and to put the Ismailis and their Hereditary 49th Imam, the Aga Khan, into an Albertan perspective, I should like to mention that Naheed Nenshi, who served as Calgary’s mayor for three terms from 2010 until 2021 is an Ismaili Muslim. Readers are invited to read his piece in the Globe and Mail, Why I’m grateful for the Aga Khan’s extraordinary service to humanity (a subscription or registration may be required to read the article).

Salma Lakhani, 19th Lieutenant Governor Alberta, Simerg
The Honourable Salma Lakhani

It is noteworthy that Her Honour, the Honourable Salma Lakhani, who was installed as the 19th Lieutenant Governor on August 26, 2020, is also an Ismaili Muslim, and her profile can be read on this website by clicking HERE. The piece also has a link to an interview that Canadian Geographic conducted with her.

In Edmonton, the spectacular 4.8-hectare Aga Khan Garden within the University of Alberta’s Botanic Garden was gifted by the Aga Khan as “a symbol of the continued intellectual, educational and cultural collaboration between the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan Development Network.” The Botanic Garden will open for the 2022 season on May 7th, and is a MUST visit site, according to Hundreds of Google and Tripadvisor reviews. I look forward to publishing a special photo essay in the near future on the Botanic Garden, with a focus on the Aga Khan Garden.

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Aga Khan Garden Edmonton, part of Aga Khan interviews piece in Simerg
Views of the beautiful Aga Khan Garden in Edmonton. The Garden is scheduled to open for the 2022 season on May 7. Photos: Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

And elsewhere in Canada, His Highness the Aga Khan’s projects include the Global Centre for Pluralism and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building, both located on Sussex Drive in Ottawa; the Aga Khan Museum, the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre on Wynford Drive in Toronto; and the Ismaili Centre Vancouver on Canada Way in Burnaby.

Canada is home to more than 100,000 Ismailis, with around 12,000 in Calgary.

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Aga Khan Projects Canada Simerg
Clockwise from top left: Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum, both in Toronto (ponds in foreground in both photos are part of the Aga Khan Park); Ismaili Centre Vancouver, Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa, Global Centre for Pluralism, Ottawa, and Aga Khan Park Toronto. Collage: Simerg.

With these preliminary remarks on the Aga Khan and his Ismaili Muslim followers, I now invite you to read two excellent interviews that France’s Politique International and Canada’s Peter Mansbridge conducted with the Aga Khan. Both the interviews have appeared on this website with the publishers’ permission.

The Aga Khan’s Absorbing Interview with Politique International

Aga Khan, Politique Internationale, Simerg
Click on image for “Power of Wisdom”

“We are a long way from the democratization of nuclear energy. Maybe I’m naïve but I advocate another approach, which I call “positive proliferation.” The positive proliferation that I would dearly love to see happen is based on a simple principle: yes to energy, no to arms” — To read full interview, click Politique Internationale: The Power of Wisdom

The Aga Khan’s One on One Interview with Peter Mansbridge

Aga Khan University of Alberta, Simerg
Click on image for “One on One”

Peter Mansbridge: What is the quality that you most admire about this country?

The Aga Khan: I think a number of qualities. First of all, it’s a pluralist society that has invested in building pluralism, where communities from all different backgrounds and faiths are happy. It’s a modern country that deals with modern issues, not running away from the tough ones. And a global commitment to values, to Canadian values, which I think are very important. — To read the interview and the story behind the interview, please click Peter Mansbridge: One on One.

Date posted: May 6, 2022.
Last updated: May 9, 2022 (caption updates and typos).

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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. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. 

Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Map of Cairo showing Islamic monuments.

David Rumsey Map Collection: Historical Map Showing 600 Years of Islamic Monuments in Cairo from the Rise of the Fatimid Empire in North Africa in 909

Compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergSimergphotos and Barakah

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection focuses on 16th through 21st century maps of North and and South America, as well as maps of the World, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. Atlases, globes, school geographies, maritime charts, and a variety of separate maps including pocket, wall, children’s and manuscript maps are present on the website. The depth and breath of the digital collection is impressive, and is continuously growing. The website notes that the actual physical map collection is housed at the David Rumsey Map Center at the Stanford University Library.

My search on the website using the term “Fatimid” yielded one result. It is a map produced in 1924 by the Survey of Egypt, which was once regarded as “one of the most professional mapping agencies in the World, predicated upon the synergy of the most authoritative topographical and urban mapping combined with the latest archaeological surveys.”

Simerg is pleased to reproduce the map, along with an interesting narrative that accompanies the map on the David Rumsey Map Center website. We also invite readers to click on the link to enrich their viewing experience of the map, download the map (by using the Export Function) as well as to explore other maps that may be of interest to readers or to provide them with further information in their specific area of research.

Cairo During the Islamic Golden Age

Please click on image for enlargement

Map of Cairo showing Islamic monuments.
Map of Cairo showing Islamic monuments, with the ‘Fatimid and Pre-Fatimid Monuments’ (909 – 1171), shaded in Red; the ‘Aiyubid [Ayyubid] Monuments’ (1171 – 1260), shaded in Green; and the ‘Mameluke Monuments’ (1260 – 1517), shaded in Blue. Credit: David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Cairo was the greatest centre of culture, learning and commerce during the ‘Islamic Golden age’. Commencing in the early 20th Century professional archaeologists as well as art and architectural historians became interested in scientifically recording Cairo’s sensational Islamic buildings and monuments.

The map employs colours to denote sites built across the city during the eras of the three great Islamic empires that controlled Cairo prior to the arrival of the Ottomans in 1517: the ‘Fatimid and Pre-Fatimid Monuments’ (909 – 1171), shaded in Red; the ‘Aiyubid [Ayyubid] Monuments’ (1171 – 1260), shaded in Green; and the ‘Mameluke Monuments’ (1260 – 1517), shaded in Blue.

These mosques, palaces, madrassas, and fortifications appear amidst the otherwise buff-coloured city which generally consisted of buildings built during the subsequent Ottoman and British Protectorate periods.

The map shows that many of the greatest edifices from the periods of the three great Islamic empires have survived, although only traces of the vast Fatimid Place can be found amongst the foundations of newer buildings. Each of the historical sites is named in Gothic script and features a corresponding numeral which refers to that which appears upon the plaques affixed to each building by the civic authorities. The two insets on the left-hand side showcase sites in areas outside of the city proper. We understand that the first edition the map was issued in 1924, while an Arabic language version was published in 1948. The present revised, official edition was issued in 1950-1 (correction, this copy is the first edition, issued in 1924), while several facsimile (unofficial) versions have been issued since then. The Survey of Egypt followed the initial production of the present issue of the map with a small booklet, Index to Mohammedan monuments appearing on the special 1:5000 scale maps of Cairo (Cairo, 1951), that is not present here, but seems to have been issued with the latter-releases of the map.

Cairo during the ‘Islamic Golden Age’ Cairo was traditionally the largest and most culturally and economically important city in the Islamic world. The Muslim conquest of Byzantine Egypt occurred between 639 and 646 AD. While the Cairo area has been settled for thousands of years, with the key Ancient Egyptian cities of Giza and Memphis located nearby, the city proper was not founded until 969, when it became the principal city, and sometimes capital, of the Fatimid Caliphate, a Shia Muslim empire which controlled much of North Africa, the Levant and Hejaz between 909 and 1171.

Cairo rapidly rose to become a centre of great wealth, at the nexus of global trade routes as well as home to some of the world’s foremost centres of education and the arts. Befitting its importance, great monuments of Islamic architecture were built across the city.

The Al-Azhar Madrassa (no. 97 on the map), which later grew into a university, was founded in 970-2 and today remains the world’s most prestigious institute of Islamic learning. The map notes some Islamic monuments made before 969, as the pre-Cairo rural landscape featured some small mosques, houses and fortifications.

The Fatimids were replaced by the Ayyubid Dynasty (1171 – 1260), a regime of Kurdish origin, founded by the legendary conqueror Saladin, whereupon Cairo remained the prosperous centre of an empire spanning much of the Middle East.

The Mamelukes were an elite class of soldier-bureaucrats descended from former Christian slaves. In 1250, they took over Egypt, the Levant and Hejaz, forming the Mameluke Sultanate, with its capital in Cairo. It was during the early part of their regime that Cairo reached its zenith as the principal centre of the Islamic Golden Age.

The epicentre of a global trading network that spanned from India to Spain, Cairo far surpassed all European cities in wealth and cultural sophistication, and many exquisite works of architecture were built to reflect this glorious state. The Mameluke Sultanate was conquered by the Ottomans in 1517 and Cairo ceased to be an imperial capital. However, while technically subject to the Sublime Porte, Egypt maintained a high degree of autonomy and was the wealthiest and most prosperous part of the Ottoman Empire; Cairo remained a highly important centre.

Fortunately, as the repent map reveals, the survival rate of Cairo’s great works of Islamic architecture from the Fatimid, Ayyubid and Mameluke periods is impressively high, and many sites can be visited today. References: OCLC: 17543226. (Alexander Johnson, 2020).

Date posted: February 22, 2022.

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Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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. Also, visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos that features photos and videos from around the world.

Malik, the founding publisher and editor of the 3 websites, may be reached at his email address, mmerchant@barakah.com.

Hazrat Ali Calligraphy by Karim Ismail

Yawm-e Ali: Quotes and Recitation of Ginanic Verses on the Anniversary of Hazrat Ali’s Birth

The Imams

We are the tree of Prophethood,
the place of descent
of Divine revelation,
the place of frequenting
of the angels,
and the mainsprings of knowledge.
Those who help us and love us
await (God’s) mercy…..Hazrat Ali

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The Tradition of the Ismaili Tariqah is the Tradition of Hazrat Ali

Aga Khan Digital Portrait, Simerg by Akbar Kanji
“The closer you come, the more you will see him.” A digital portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali, by Toronto’s Akber Kanji. The portrait is composed of several hundred thumbnails representing a cross-section of events during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Imamat. Photo: Copyright: Akber Kanji.

“This is a time of new freedoms, but it is also one in which new choices must be made wisely. In exercising freedom and making choices, our institutions must be guided, as they have been in the past, by the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace of Allah be upon him), and the tradition of our tariqah, which is the tradition of Hazrat Ali: A thinking Islam and a spiritual Islam — an Islam that teaches compassion, tolerance and the dignity of man — Allah’s noblest creation.” — His Highness the Aga Khan, May 14, 1992, Aga Khan Foundation 25th anniversary.

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The Ant

By God,
were I given all the seven heavens
with all they contain
in order that
I may disobey God
by depriving an ant
from the husk of a grain of barley,
I would not do it…..Hazrat Ali

The Prophet’s Household

To them (the Household of the Prophet)
pertain the noblest of human virtues described in the Qur’an,
and they are the treasures of the Beneficent Allah.
When they speak, they speak the truth,
but when they keep quiet, no one can out strip them…..Hazrat Ali

Patience

One who perseveres patiently
will not be without success,
even if it takes a long time…..Hazrat Ali

The Headstrong

One who is headstrong and opinionated perishes,
while one who seeks the advice of others
becomes a partner in their understanding…..Hazrat Ali

The Blessed

Blessed is one
who is humble regarding himself,

whose livelihood is good,
whose inner thoughts are virtuous,
whose character is good,
who spends the surplus from his wealth
and removes superfluity from his speech,
who keeps his evil away from people…Hazrat Ali

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Recitations of Ginanic Verses by Late Shamshu Bandali Haji

Iconic Ismaili Ginan reciter - Shamshu Bandali Haji
Iconic Ismaili Ginan reciter, the Late Shamshu Bandali Haji of Nairobi and Edmonton.

Simerg is pleased to present a selection of verses from the Ginan Muman Chetamni composed by Syed Imam Shah that relate to the birth of Hazrat Ali (a.s.). The recitations are taken from Ginans Central, a truly exceptional website which curates Ginans for “long-term access and preservation to foster research and learning in the digital era.” The inspiration behind this unique project is Karim Tharani (read ARTICLE). Here are recitations of three verses followed by a link to the page containing many more Ginan recitations by Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji as well as other reciters from around the world.

Verse Eji te Murtaza Ali….recited by Shamshu Bandali Haji
Verse Eji Mataji Gayata Bait…recited by Shamshu Bandali Haji
Verse Eji Tare Salaam Kidha…..recited by Shamshu Bandali Haji

Please click HERE for beautiful recitations by Alwaez Shamshu and other great Ismaili reciters from around the world. Also, please visit  Ginans Central Home Page, then scroll down the page and see links to Ginan collections as well as tools and resources.

Date Posted: February 11, 2022.

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Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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. Also, visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor of the 3 websites, Malik, may be reached at mmerchant@barakah.com.

Readings on Imam Hussain (A.S.): “The Foremost Among the Youths of Paradise”

INTRODUCTION: The Muslim New Year begins with the month of Muharram. In most of the countries, the celebrations are not marked by a public holiday. However, the coming of the New Year is observed by offering of special prayers at night and reflection on the life and times of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.). His emigration (Hijrah) from Mecca to Medina in the year 622 AC was a significant event and later adopted to mark the beginning of the Muslim Era.

Amongst the Shi’a Muslims, the first part of the month of Muharram is also an occasion which is marked with a sense of sorrow and solemnity. The 10th of Muharram was the day when Hazrat Imam Hussain (A.S.) together with most of the members of his family and close companions were martyred on the fields of Karbala.

For 2021, the month of Muharram commenced on Monday or Tuesday August 2 or 3. We provide below links to two articles posted in this website.

I

“I want to know how, after God says the Prophet is a beautiful role-model (33:21), that so many of the earliest Muslims turned against his family. To kill the family of the Prophet became a sport from within the community. I wish I had been there to understand that, because no historian will be able to answer the question.” — Hussein Rashid

Please click: Muslim and non-Muslim Expressions on Imam Hussain

Please click for “Muslim and non-Muslim Expressions on Imam Hussain” and also see below for link to second piece. Credit: “Ya Hussain” calligraphy from wallpaper designed by Mohammad Sajjad, Sajjadsgraphics.blogspot.com. Reproduced with permission.

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II

Ibn-e-Sa’d: If you pay homage to Yazid, everything will go well for you and whatever worldly comforts and priviliges you desire will be at your disposal

Imam Hussain: Tell Yazid to tempt with the worldly comforts those who are after this world. I am the Imam, the representative of the Apostle of God. Hussain will cheerfully meet any catastrophe but never surrender Truth to falsehood.

Please click: Karbala Tragedy

Last updated: August 12, 2021.

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Featured image at top of post: This image of an oil on canvas painting by Abbas Al-Musavi commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein at the Battle of Karbala. Its focus is his half-brother Abbas ibn Ali on a white horse. This image was uploaded into Wikipedia Commons as a donation by the Brooklyn Museum and is a faithful photographic reproduction of a two-dimensional, public domain work of art. The painting is a gift of K. Thomas Elghanayan in honor of Nourollah Elghanayan.

A Note to Readers: Please click Table of Contents for links to all articles published on this blog since March 2009. Subscribe to this Website via the box near the top right of this page.

Ghadir Khumm and the Designation of Hazrat Ali as the Successor of Prophet Muhammad

We have two short pieces on the festival of Eid-e Ghadir, which is commemorated on the 18th of the Islamic month Dhul Hijja (in 2021 falling on or around Tuesday July 27). The first piece, along with the ambigram at the top, is reproduced from The Ismaili, the official website of the Ismaili Muslim community. The ambigram, which is in the Arabic script, can be read as ‘Muhammad’ and, upside down, as ‘Ali’. The second piece, At the Ghadir Khumm Campsite, by British writer Barnaby Rogerson first appeared in Simerg’s acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been that can be downloaded as a PDF file. We have also embedded excerpts from the Ismaili Constitution as well as an Ismaili Ginan that are pertinent to the occasion.

Eid-e Ghadir Mubarak

Eid-e Ghadir calligraphy by Karim Ismaili
Outer border: The famous tradition of Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm — Mun Kuntu Mawlahu, Fa Aliyyun Mawlahu (He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla); Centre: The name Muhammad (in middle), and the name Ali repeated seven times in Eastern Kufi calligraphy. Calligraphy and design: © Karim Ismail, Toronto, Canada.

This week, Shia Muslims across the world observe Eid-e Ghadir, marking the anniversary of an important event in Muslim history. According to Shia belief, tradition, and interpretation of history, this occasion commemorates the pivotal gathering at Ghadir Khumm, when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) — based on a divine command from Allah — designated Hazrat Ali as his successor and the first in the continuing line of hereditary Imams.

In historical sources, it is recorded that on the way back to Medina after performing a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Prophet received a revelation — Surah al-Ma’ida (sura 5 ayat 67) — that we recite in our daily prayers:

“O Messenger, deliver [to the people] what has been revealed to you from your Lord, and if you do not do so, then you will not have delivered His message …”

Numerous reliable hadith sources — both Shia and Sunni — record this event, which took place in the year 632 CE. Upon receiving this revelation, the Holy Prophet stopped at an oasis known as Ghadir Khumm, and addressed a large gathering of Muslims who had accompanied him. It is said that The Prophet proclaimed: “Man kuntu mawlahu fa aliyyun mawlahu” meaning: “He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla.” The Prophet then prayed: “O Allah, be a friend of whoever is his friend and extend your support to those who support him.”

Article continues below

Ismaili Constitution Imamat Aga Khan, Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is seen signing a new constitution for the worldwide Ismaili community on his 50th birthday, December 13, 1986. The preamble excerpts produced in this post are from this constitution.

In accordance with Shia doctrine, tradition, and interpretation of history, the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Mawlana Ali Amiru-l-Mu’minin (a.s), to be the first Imam to continue the Ta’wīl and Ta‘līm of Allah’s final message and to guide the murids, and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s) and his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s).Preamble, Ismaili Constitution

According to Shia belief, by declaring Hazrat Ali as Mawla after him, the Prophet transferred his own spiritual authority bestowed upon him by Allah to Hazrat Ali, making him — and all the Imams that follow — the Amirul Mu’minin, or Master of the Believers.

On instruction from Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Ali received baiyat (the oath of allegiance), from the Muslims assembled there. According to Shia traditions and sources, following the proclamation, the final verse of the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet:

“On this day, I have perfected for you your religion, completed my favours upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”

This marks the end of the period of nabuwwa, or Prophethood, and the historical beginning of the Institution of Imamat. Eid-e Ghadir is an anniversary of special significance to all Shia Muslims, as it is also associated with the well-attested tradition in which the Prophet is said to have proclaimed:

“I am leaving among you two matters of great weight (al-thaqalayn), the Book of Allah and my kindred (itrati), the People of my House (Ahl al-Bayt), and these two shall never be separated until they return to me at the Pool [of Kawthar in Paradise on the Day of Judgement]…”

Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.Preamble, Ismaili Constitution

The Shia Ismaili tradition bears witness to the continuity of the authority vested at Ghadir Khumm. Today, this leadership and authority is vested in Mawlana Hazar Imam. The rope of Imamat has continued over 1,400 years, from Hazrat Ali, to the present 49th hereditary Imam and direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad through Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Bibi Fatima al-Zahra, Khatun-i Jannat.

In commemorating Eid-e Ghadir, the Jamat celebrates the seminal event of Ghadir Khumm, reaffirming our allegiance to the Imam-of-the-Time as the direct lineal successor and inheritor of the authority of Hazrat Ali.

Eid Mubarak!

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Ginan: Imam Must Be Present on Earth

Purush shan matra pag dharani na dharante,
Sansaar, chandra, suraj na dhrashtante,
Kuchh na dhrashtante,
Bhom kar, megh, dharti na aakaash bhave 

Translation:

If the Imam did not have his feet on this earth for even a moment,
then the world, moon, sun would vanish
and nothing would exist,
neither the heaven nor the earth.

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Objects Commemorating the Idd-e Ghadir

Images of some stamps and coins issued by the Islamic Republic of Iran between 1990 and 2010 commemorating the Idd-e-Ghadir. The inscriptions inlude the Shahada, Qur'anic ayats and the declaration made by Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm, "Mun Koontu Mawla, Fa Hada, Aliyun Mawla" meaning "He of whom I am the Mawla Ali is also the Mawla." Simerg
Images of some stamps and coins issued by the Islamic Republic of Iran between 1990 and 2010 commemorating the Idd-e-Ghadir. The inscriptions inlude the Shahada, Qur’anic ayats and the declaration made by Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm, “Mun Koontu Mawla, Fa Hada, Aliyun Mawla” meaning “He of whom I am the Mawla Ali is also the Mawla.”

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At the Ghadir Khumm Campsite

By BARNABY ROGERSON

Barnaby Rogerson

What an offer! To travel back in time and return as a true witness to the history that I have so often thought and dreamed about. Perhaps I could travel in the habit of a Christian envoy from some Celtic island monastery off the west coast of the British Isles, sent east to seek advice from the wise holy man of whom we had heard, far off in Arabia. For in my homeland the light of civilization seems on the point of extinction, as Barbarian invaders appear like devils from out of the German sea.

I would arrive in the oasis of Medina at a time of peace, when all of Arabia was sending delegations to seek peace and instruction. Here, in my imagination, I would be befriended by Ali and taken back to his home, where I would witness how this battle-scarred warrior was also content in his role as a young father, playing with his boys Hussein and Hassan on the reed mats in his humble hut amongst the palm groves.

Then, in a flurry of energy, I receive a last-minute invitation to join the Prophet’s Last Pilgrimage to the holy shrine at Mecca. Although I am not permitted to approach the shrine itself and am left at a campsite just outside the pilgrimage city, I make certain to record the events as told by the eyewitnesses I travelled with.

On the journey back, I bear witness to the exact succession of events at the Ghadir Khumm campsite: the blessings, the sermon and the ritual actions of the Prophet ordaining Ali as his successor. These I faithfully record in the pages of my journal, before hurriedly departing and returning to my homeland. There, the account of my travels is neatly copied out onto vellum and placed in the monastery library. Years later, the monastery is sacked by raiders coming out of the sea, who in their fury destroyed even the walls of this holy place. But this was fortunate in a way, for the domed roof of the library collapsed preserving all the books, which lie there still…

Date posted: July 26, 2021.

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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. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

His Highness the Aga Khan’s Messages to His Ismaili Muslim Spiritual Children Around the World Since March 2020

Simerg’s sister website, Barakah, has created a special new Talika page with links to all the Talikas (written messages) that Mawlana Hazar Imam has sent to his Jamats around the world since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Talika page will be updated whenever a new Talika is received from Mawlana Hazar Imam. However, for a start we are also providing the links to all the Talikas from March 2020 to Current (July 2021) hereunder; they are listed in reverse chronological order:

JULY 2021

In a Wide Ranging Imamat Day Talika, Mawlana Hazar Imam Sends Blessings for the Souls of His Deceased Spiritual Children, the Jamats Around the World as Well as Everyone Involved in Combatting Covid-19; Tells Jamats Not to Hesitate in Getting Vaccinated and Expresses Happiness At Two Recent Events in Universities That He Has Built – Barakah

MARCH 2021

In Navroz Talika, Mawlana Hazar Imam tells Jamats that he has been vaccinated against Covid-19, recommends that Jamats do the same without giving credence to comparisons between officially sanctioned vaccines, and gives blessings for barakah in our spiritual and material lives with prayers that Navroz will herald a new beginning – Barakah

DECEMBER 2020

In Talika Mubarak on the occasion of his 84th birthday, Mawlana Hazar Imam asks us to draw comfort from the practice of our faith, appreciates the excellent work of volunteers, and conveys his loving paternal maternal blessings to the world wide Jamat – Barakah

NOVEMBER 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in his message on November 2, 2020, tells his spiritual children “there is no room for complacency” over the risks posed by the coronavirus “for sometime to come” and send his blessings for mushkil-asan – Barakah

JULY 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends Talika Mubarak to Ismailis around the world on the occasion of his 63rd Imamat Day – Barakah

MAY 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s loving and inspiring Talika on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr shows his concern for his spiritual children in all facets of their lives – Barakah

APRIL 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends message to his spiritual children around the world on Covid-19, with blessings for their protection from difficulty; text in 10 languages – Barakah

MARCH 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, showers his paternal and maternal blessings on his spiritual children around the world in light of the present crisis – Barakah; and

Mawlana Hazar Imam sends talika on the occasion of Navroz with special blessings for mushkil asan, and prayers for the Jamat’s health and well-being – Barakah

Date posted: July 21, 2021.

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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. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

A Unique Imamat Day Card and a Pictorial Presentation of Years 61-64 of the Aga Khan’s Imamat, a Divine Institution that is Rooted in a Proclamation Made by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S) 1389 Years Ago

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

Shia Ismaili Muslims all over the world will commemorate the 64th Imamat Day anniversary of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Sunday July 11, 2021.

From the day our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) passed away on June 8, 632, and Hazrat Ali (A.S.) became the first Imam on the Divine Commandment that the Prophet had received at Ghadir Khumm, there have been forty-nine Ismaili Imams in continuous Hereditary Succession, spanning a period of 1389 years in Islamic history.

Upper row: Imam Shah Hassanali Shah (Aga Khan I) and Imam Shah Ali Shah (Aga Khan II). Lower row: Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (Aga Khan III) and Mawlana Shah Karim Al Hussaini (Aga Khan IV). Total reign of the four Imams 203 years from 1817 to current year (2021). Longest reign Aga Khan III, 71 years; followed by Aga Khan I and Aga Khan IV, each 64 years.

Mawlana Hazar Imam and his immediate three predecessors have reigned the Jamat for a total of 203 years or 14.6 % of the entire span as follows:

1. Mawlana Shah Karim Al Hussaini Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan IV, Imam from 1957 – Current, 64 years, he became the 49th Imam at the age of 20); 
2. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (His Highness the Aga Khan III, Imam from 1885 – 1957, Imam for 71 years, he became the 48th Imam at the age of 7 years);
3. Imam Shah Ali Shah (Aga Khan II, 1881 – 1885, Imam for 4 years, he became the 47th Imam at the age of 51 years); and
4. Imam Shah Hassanali Shah (Aga Khan I, 1817 – 1881, Imam for 64 years, he became the 46th Imam at the age of 13 years).

This 203 year period of the reign of 4 successive Ismaili Imams accounts for more time than does the entire Fatimid period, reigned by 8 Imams from Imam Mehdi (11th Imam, North Africa) to Imam Mustansir bi Allah (18th Imam, Cairo)!

On that historical and interesting statistical fact, we convey to Ismaili Jamats around the world as well as friends and supporters of the community Imamat Day Mubarak through a beautifully designed card by Toronto’s Karim Ismail.

The design carries a rich and significant meaning for all Shia Ismaili Muslims as explained in Ismail’s brief note below. We sincerely thank him for sharing this very special and extraordinary work with us and our readers around the world.

We would be remiss if we did not mention the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on humanity at large. Many of us have lost four beloved friends and family members to Covid-19 or other illnesses and causes, and social distancing, travelling and restrictive gathering rules have prevented us from fully participating in funerals. We pray that the souls of the deceased may rest in eternal peace and that their family members may find strength and courage to overcome the grief over the loss.

On this 64th Imamat Day of Mawlana Hazar Imam, we also pray for the fulfillment of our readers’ wishes and that everyone’s lives are filled with barakah (happiness) and success. We particularly wish families with young children and youth success in their studies.

2021 Imamat Day Card

Click on image for enlargement

Imamat Day Card by Karim Ismail Simerg and Barakah His Highness the Aga Khan Mawlana Hazar Imam Prince Karim

Explanatory Note of the 2021 Imamat Day Card

By KARIM ISMAIL

In Shi’i tradition, “The Rope of Allah” (Qur’an 3:103) refers to the “Ahl al Bayt” — the Imams from the House of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S).

This important tradition appears in the card within heptagonal geometry (seven-sided polygon) about which the (Late) Karl Schlamminger, creator of extraordinary designs and distinctive calligraphies for the Ismaili Centres in London, Lisbon and Toronto, observed as follows in an essay for Arts & The Islamic World (volume 3, number 3, page 25-26):

“The floor of the outer entrance hall [of the Ismaili Centre London] has an open ended pattern in heptagonal form which rises at the focus of the room to create a fountain: such a pattern in such space is of course a completely classical Islamic response — but I have never heard of a heptagonal pattern anywhere in Islamic architecture.

“The number seven symbolizes for Ismailis the values of its essential philosophy — but has never been used in an architectural context. Here the sevenness of the design is no superficial effigy or naturalistic picture of an idea, but — as always in Islam — is expressed in geometry (literally: measurement of the earth).”

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Photo Essay: Years 61-64 of the Aga Khan’s Imamat

We now invite readers to visit Simerg’s sister website Barakah for a very special four-part pictorial series on years 61 to 64 of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Imamat.

Date posted: July 10, 2021.

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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. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Karim Ismail Calligraphy, Ismaili artist simerg and barakah
Karim Ismail

Originally from Uganda, Karim Ismail lived in England before settling in Canada. By profession, he is a Pharmacist (retired). It was in England, in 1986, that he came across the artwork of a German Muslim, Karl Schlamminger (1935-2017), at the Ismaili Centre London. Karl’s artwork on calligraphy and geometrics, had a profound effect on Karim. He is frequently seen conducting calligraphy workshops for children at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, which is currently closed due to Covid-19. Karim was also active on the literature counter at the Ismaili Centre Toronto, before the closure of Jamatkhanas due to Covid-19.