In 2016, His Highness the Aga Khan’s 80th Birthday and the Commemoration of the Milad of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) are Only Hours Apart

Papa Jan Photo: His Highness the Aga Khan Hunza Visit

The Jamat of Hunza accept the gracious deedar (glimpse) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as he visits the Princely State in the Northern Areas of Pakistan in 1960. Hunza was then governed by the Mir of Hunza, who is seen following Hazar Imam. Photo: Abdul M. Ismaily. Copyright.

INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Editor/Publisher, http://www.simerg.com

For the first time in recent Ismaili history since the accession on July 11, 1957 of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Highness the Aga Khan, to the throne of Imamat, millions of Shia Imami Ismailis around the world will be celebrating his 80th birthday or salgirah on December 13, 2016, just after the commemoration of the milad or birthday of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) which falls on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi al-Awwal. These two important festivals haven’t been as close to each other as now in the Ismaili calendar, based on information we have gathered.

In India December 13th, 2016, has been designated as a gazetted holiday for the celebration of the milad, while in numerous other Muslim countries and Western countries, the commemoration of the birthday of  the Prophet falls anywhere between December 11th and December 14th. The Ismaili community in Canada will be observing the milad on Sunday, December 11, 2016.

To mark these two very happy and inspiring days that raise our consciousness about the accomplishments of Prophet Muhammad and Mawlana Hazar Imam, we shall be featuring special pieces on this literary website as well as on Simerg’s two sister websites, http://www.simergphotos.com and http://www.barakah.com. It may be noted that barakah has been dedicated for the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

We begin with a piece from Ismaili ginanic sources on the Divine Institution of Nabuwwat (or Prophethood), which was precursor to the Divine Institution of Imamat.

It is Shia Muslim belief that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) designated his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Ali to be the first Imam (Ghadir-Khumm and the Two Weighty Matters) . Thereafter, the Imamat has continued by heredity through Imam Ali (a.s.) and his wife and Prophet’s daughter, Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s). Today, the Ismailis are the only Shia community in this hereditary lineage led by a living Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The forefathers of His Highness ruled in North Africa and Egypt as the Fatimid Caliphs, and were founders of Cairo and the Al-Azhar University.

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Prophet Muhammad in Ismaili Ginans

BY HAKIM VALI MOHAMMAD SURANI

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

Introduction

The ginanic literature of the Ismailis emerged when Ismaili Pirs (missionaries) came to India to spread the teachings of Islam and the Shia Ismaili Tariqah. The task which lay before the Pirs was to introduce the teachings of their faith in a form which would not be completely alien to the people to whom they were preaching. The ginans were therefore composed on a ‘synthetic pattern’ of the prevalent religious poetry. The Pirs took the local religious terms as conceptual tools to introduce Ismaili and Islamic teachings to the masses and, in so doing, they achieved good results. The method they adopted was most logical and quite in the spirit of the universal nature of Islam. The Holy Qur’an says:

“Call unto the Way of your Lord with wisdom and fair preaching; and reason with them in ways that are best.” — Holy Qur’an, 16:125

Thus the Ismaili Pirs brought the Hindu mind to a logical understanding of the fundamental concepts of Islam. Professor Ivanow makes the following observation on the approach taken by the Ismaili Pirs:

“Either by intuition, or sound and clever reasoning, the Nizari Ismaili missionaries devised some methods which helped them to overcome such local obstacles…One was their bold tactics in separating the meaning and spirit of Islam from its hard Arab shell…They explained the high ideals of Islam in the familiar terms of ancestral religion, Hinduism….They brought the matter a step further by proclaiming Islam the crowning phase of the whole development of Hinduism. According to them, the Qur’an (together with the ta’wil system) was the last and final Ved, completing the earlier revelations. Thus, from a purely Islamic view point, the method of bridging the difference between Islam and Hinduism adopted by Ismaili missionaries was perfectly correct, in no way conflicting with orthodox ideas.” — Excerpts from Ismaili Da’wa in India, by W. Ivanow, Ilm, Volume 4, Number 2.

In this brief article, we will present only a few of the several verses that reference Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) in the ginanic literature of the Ismailis.

Nubuwwah

Among the concepts presented by Ismaili Pirs in the ginans was the concept of Nubuwwah (Prophethood).

In the Holy Qur’an this concept is explained with reference to the last Prophet, Hazrat Muhammad Mustafa (may peace be upon him). By giving an analogy of Sirajum-Munira to the Nabi (Prophet) as in the following verse, the Holy Qur’an relates the concept of Nubuwwah with the symbol of Noor (light):

“And as one who invites unto Allah by His permission, and as a lamp that gives light (Sirajum-Munira).” — Holy Qur’an, 33:46.

While the Holy Qur’an describes the Nabi as ‘Bright Lamp’, the ginans use the symbol of ‘Chandni’ (Moon Light) for the Prophet. Both in the Holy Qur’an and the ginans, the Prophet is seen as a Rahemat (Mercy) to mankind. The Qur’an says:

“And We have not sent you but as a mercy to all the nations.” — Holy Qur’an, 21:107.

Obedience to the Prophet is obedience to God and it is also made a necessary condition for the love for God. Those who disobey the Prophet are called the ignorant ones. The ginans also speak in the same vein. The similarities show that the teachings of Ismaili Pirs had their foundations in the Holy Qur’an.

Mercy to Mankind

“An Apostle who rehearses to you the Signs of God containing clear explanations, that he may lead forth those who believe and do good works from darkness unto light.” — Holy Qur’an, 65:11

In the verse quoted above, the Prophet is the source of guidance for mankind. He shows them the right path, removes the veil of ignorance and brings them to Light. In the ginan Satveni Moti, Syed Imam Shah says:

“Nabi Muhammad iis joog mahe aviyaa, tis-thi chand-roona marag paya”

Translation:

“Prophet Muhammad has come in this period, and through this moon-like Light, the Way has been made bright.”

The Pir says that the Institution of Nubuwwah, through the last of the Prophets, is like a moon which expels darkness and shows the way to the travellers. It determines a way of action for salvation, because we are liable to errors and may go astray in this world of many complexities.

The Prophet’s manifestation as God’s Bounty and Mercy is shown by the following verse of the ginan Alaf Nirale Khalaq Raja by Pir Sadr al-Din:

“Bujo-re bhai chhatra kon tana, Chhatra Nabi Muhammad Mustafa tana”

Translation:

“Through whom is the care and protection? Know, O Brothers! The care and protection is through Nabi Muhammad Mustafa (the Chosen).”

This clearly resonates with the Qur’anic verse:

“Allah verily has shown grace to the believers by sending unto them a messenger of their own who recites unto them His revelations, and causes them to grow, and teaches them the Scripture and wisdom.” — Holy Qur’an, 3:164

And Pir Hasan Kabiruddin in his monumental composition, Anant Akhado, says:

“Ashaji Nabi chale Nooraj warsey, Rikhisar ne sir chhai(n)-ji”

Translation:

“There are showers of Noor where Nabi walks and the believers have his protection over them.”

Thus the ginans describe the Prophet’s care and protection as chhatra and chhai(n) respectively. His guidance is Noor (Light), which helps to dispel darkness and makes visible the path leading to reunion with God.

Redeemer

“And those whom they invoke besides God have no power of intercession save he who bears witness to the Truth and they know (him).” — Holy Qur’an, 43:86

“O Muhammad! Raise your head and speak, and you shall be granted your desire, and intercede and your intercession shall be accepted.” — Hadith, Bukhari, 81:51

Since the Institution of Nubuwwah is a Blessing given by Allah, believers will have the intercession of the Prophet on the Day of Judgement. This (intercession) will bring them spiritual bounties in the life hereafter. In the Ginan Yara Shafayat Muhammad Karshe , Pir Sadr al-Din says:

“Yara shafayat Muhammad karsey, Mu’min bahest lahenga.”

Translation:

“O friends! Muhammad will intercede (on the Day of Judgement), and the mu’min (believer) will earn the abode in heaven.”

In Buj Niranjan, the Pir says:

“Jo Nabi Muhammad karey shafayat, Ja(n)ko hai ummat ki riayat” — verse 6, lines 9-10

Translation:

“If Prophet Muhammad intercedes then his followers will find ease (on the Day of Judgement).”

However, a pre-condition of earning the intercession of the Prophet Muhammad is for one to accept his Prophetic role and to follow his guidance. This is beautifully explained in Kalma Kahore Momano by Pir Satgur Noor:

“Eji Nam Nabi-ka mitha hai, jaisa sakar dudh, Kalma kaho dil saach soo(n), to bando shafayat mool”

Translation:

“O mumin! the name of our Nabi is as sweet as sugar and milk. Recite the Kalma with a true and sincere heart. This, indeed, will provide for you the intercession of the Prophet.”

and,

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

Translation:

“Nabi is the redeemer of all the souls and he has taught the kalma to you. A mumin who declares his faith in the kalma will earn the heavenly abode but the rest, who ignore the kalma, will be lost and, indeed, they are the foolish ones.”

The consequences of not obeying the Prophet Muhammad to those who have paid allegiance to Islam is provided in the following verse of Syed Imam Shah:

“Nabi Muhammad kahya jeene na kiya, dozakh-ma(n) darwaza une liya”

Translation:

“He who does not obey the teachings of Prophet Muhammad has taken for himself the path towards the gates of hell.”

And, in this vein, the Qur’an declares:

“Establish worship and pay the poor-due and obey the messenger, that you may find mercy. Think not that the unbelievers, are going to frustrate (God’s plan) on earth. Fire will be their home – and it is indeed an evil refuge.” — Holy Qur’an, 24: 56-57.

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

Pre-Islamic Prophets

(a) Earlier Revelations

“Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which has been revealed to us and in that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Issac and Jacob and the tribes, and in what that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the Prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:136

Belief in Prophet Muhammad as the last of Allah’s Messenger renders it necessary for a believer to accept all the earlier prophets, as shown in the above verse. This essential principle as well as some of the references that the Qur’an makes about the earlier prophets is also found in ginans as shown in the following compositions:

In the Ginan Virabhai Saheb Kero Bhed Na Bujere Koi, Pir Sadr al-Din observes:

“Eji ek lakh-ne chovis hazaar-mahe paigumbar sardar”

Translation:

“Amongst the 124,000 (Prophets), the Prophet (Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa) is the chief.”

This is in accordance with a well known tradition of the Prophet Muhammad which states that there were 124,000 prophets; the Holy Qur’an mentions only about twenty-five prophets.

(b) Hazrat Adam (a.s.)

“They (Adam and his wife) said: ‘Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If Thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost’.” — Holy Qur’an, 7: 23

A corresponding verse is found in Pir Hasan Kabiruddin’s Eji Sarve Jivu-na Lekha Leshey:

“Eji Dada Adam mota barvant kahiye, Tap mota tena kahiye.”

Translation:

“Hazrat Adam was indeed very strong (spiritually), and his penance was complete.”

(c) Hazrat Musa (a.s.)

“And when Moses came to Our appointed tryst and his Lord had spoken unto him, he said: ‘My Lord! Show me (Thyself) that I may gaze upon Thee.” — Holy Qur’an, 7:143

Pir Hasan Kabiruddin, speaking about Hazrat Musa, says:

“Eji Musa Nabi Shah-ku bahot pyara, Niti nit darshan karna”

Translation:

“Prophet Musa was the beloved of the Lord. He always sought and prayed for the vision of Allah.”

(d) Hazrat Ibrahim (a.s.)

“Say: Allah speaketh truth. So follow the religion of Abraham, the upright.” — Holy Qur’an, 3:95

And about Hazrat Ibrahim, Pir Hasan Kabiruddin says:

“Eji Ibrahim Nabiji-ki bataj suniye, Karna aiysa kaam”

Translation:

“Listen to the story of Prophet Ibrahim and do such deeds as he did.”

Nubuwwah to Imamat

“Behold, your Lord said to the angels: ‘I will create a Vicegerent on earth’.” — Holy Qur’an, 2:30

“O mankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: for We have sent unto you a light that is manifest.” — Holy Qur’an, 4:174

“He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla.” — Hadith

Finally, it would be appropriate to add a few ginanic verses which speak about the continuity of the Divine Guidance through the Institution of Imamat after the demise of Allah’s last Prophet, Hazrat Nabi Muhammad Mustafa (may peace be upon him). True, there would be no Prophet after Prophet Muhammad, but God’s guidance for mankind had to continue, or else how could God’s Infinite Mercy and Absolute Justice be explained?

The continuous and perpetual guidance mentioned in the Qur’anic verse:

“O mankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord: for we have sent you a light that is manifest” — Holy Qur’an, 4:74

is stated by Pir Hasan Kabiruddin as follows:

“Noore-Khalifa iis joog-ma(n)hey awiya, Ta(n)ki amar jyot likhai ji”

Translation:

“Vicegerent of God (Imam) has come in this period and His Light is Eternal.”

However, the belief in and the recognition of Prophet Muhammad is a pre-requisite for a belief in the Imamat and this is reinforced in Pir Hasan Kabiruddin’s Allah Ek Khasam Sabuka:

“Nabi Muhammad bujo bhai, to tamey pamo Imam.”

Translation:

“O brothers! know Nabi Muhammad, i.e. know the teachings of Nabi Muhammad, for it is then that you will gain the recognition of the Imam of the time.”

Date posted: Friday, December 2, 2016.

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This ginanic reading has been adapted from Hakim Vali Mohammad Surani’s piece Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) in the Light of Ginans, which was originally published in Ilm, March 1980, Volume 5, Number 4, by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom, now known as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB). References to all the ginans quoted in this reading are provided in the original Ilm article.

http://ginans.usask.ca/ is an outstanding research resource for ginans and includes recitations of hundreds of ginans by multiple reciters from around the world.

Aga Khan’s Inspiring Interview on PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly is Worth Revisiting (Now Includes Transcript)

This Interesting and Well Presented PBS Program is Worth Watching [and Rewatching]

Click on image or on any text below for link to interview/transcript.

INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

With an Advisory Aboard consisting of distinguished educators and scholars representing different faiths, the Religion & Ethic Newsweekly of PBS has set itself apart by providing distinctive, cutting-edge news coverage and analysis of national and international events in the ever-changing religious world. “The show has become something of a blueprint for how to accurately report on religion,” noted the Des Moines Register.

This fairly accurate perspective on the Ismaili faith and its hereditary leader, His Highness the Aga Khan, was provided by PBS in a comprehensive and extraordinary ten minute program featuring segments from an interview with the Ismaili Imam as well as insights from numerous individuals familiar with Ismaili history and the work of the Aga Khan. All in 10 minutes! Readers who didn’t watch the episode when it was aired in 2015 should not miss the program, and  those who have already seen it should see it again, as the special PBS feature was updated this year, and now includes a transcript. Please click  anywhere on this text for interview and transcript. For the extended interview please click on the next photo, below.

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Now Watch the Extended Interview

pbs-aga-khan-interview-2Date posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2016.

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An Exploration of Eight Ismaili Ginans on Science, Spirituality and Pluralism

Note from the Publisher/Editor (August 28, 2016): Lately, it has not been possible for Simerg to publish new articles that have been submitted by numerous authors, and for this we offer our sincerest apologies to our contributors and readers around the world. Normal publication on this website and Simerg’s two sister websites, simergphotos.com and barakah.com authors will resume  during the latter half of October. In the meantime, we invite you to click on Table of Contents for links to over 900 timeless articles and photo essays.

ARTICLES BY SHIRAZ PRADHAN

Mawlana Hazar Imam on Ginans

SPIRITUALITY

Many Ismaili ginans relate the spiritual experiences of Ismaili Pirs and describe the meditative techniques used as an aid in the spiritual journey, and also the important milestones and inner cosmology corresponding to the different stages (maqamat). However, the Pirs emphatically have stated that the experiences of higher spiritual stations are not describable in rational language to people who are not initiated in the tariqa (path) and who have not experienced the different stations themselves. Pradhan uses two ginans by Pir Shams and Pir Sadardin to develop this theme.

PLEASE CLICK: The Inward Odyssey in Two Key Ismaili Ginans, “Brahma Prakash” and “Sakhi Mahapada”

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Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957), had once said that “In your heart is a heap of fireworks, if you do not light it, how will you get Light (Roshni) in your heart?” The theme of the re-orientation of the soul and its migration towards the “Country of the Beloved” is captured beautifully in “Ek Shabda suno mere bhai….”

PLEASE CLICK: Ismaili Spirituality in Pir Shams Shabzwari’s Ginan “Ek Shabada Suno Mere Bhai”, accompanied with recitation

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Continuing on the theme of spirituality and self-understanding in Ismaili Ginans, Pradhan  uses a parable from a Ginan of a young lion cub who grows up in the flock of sheep, and starts behaving like a sheep until it sees its own reflection in a pool to know its true identity.

PLEASE CLICK: An Explanation of the Ismaili Ginan “Kesri Sinha Sarup Bhulayo”

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COSMOLOGY AND SCIENCE

Are the answers to secrets that Hadron Collider will reveal already in the Ginans? Pradhan’s study focuses on a granth composed by Syad Imam Shah around 1400 CE that he regards as one of the most scientifically advanced and compact ancient document, besides the Ikhwa-al safa.

PLEASE CLICK: Cutting-Edge Science in Syad Imam Shah’s Naklanki Geeta — Are the answers to secrets that Hadron Collider will reveal already in the Ginan?

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Based on the acceptance by modern science of the Big Bang origin of our universe, Pradhan proceeds to analyse two Ismaili Ginans that have striking parallels of modern cosmology and astrophysics in them.

PLEASE CLICK: Concepts of Modern Cosmology and Astrophysics in Two Ismaili Ginans, Choghadia and Mul Gayatri

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PLURALISM AND UNITY OF MANKIND

Our happiness and satisfaction must be anchored on pluralism and the underlying unity of faiths of mankind. Pradhan explores two different old traditions which echo these messages. One is from the Shia Ismaili Ginanic tradition and the other is from the Hindu Gujarati tradition.

PLEASE CLICK: Ideas of One Humanity, Love and Peace in World Religions: Comparative Study of Ginan “Hum dil Khalak Allah Sohi Vase” with a Hindu Bhajan

Date posted: August 15, 2016.
Date updated: August 28, 2016 (please see editor’s note at top of page).

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The Nur (Light) of Imamat

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

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

The doctrine of Imamat has been central in Shia Islam since the designation by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) as his successor at Ghadir-Khumm. Among the various interpretations in Shia Islam, the Ismaili Muslims believe in the continuity of the Imamat through a living hereditary Imam descended from Hazrat Ali, through the prophet’s daughter Bibi Fatima (a.s). The current Imam of the Ismailis is His Highness the Aga Khan, who completes his 59th Imamat anniversary as the Ismaili community’s 49th Imam on July 11, 2016. To mark this occasion, we are pleased to provide short selections on the Imamat drawn from numerous writings of historians, theologians, philosophers and poets, Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike. But we begin, on this page, with a short piece prepared for younger readers, followed by a link to other pieces that includes the transliteration and translation of the Munajaat which is recited in many parts of the world specifically for the Imamat Day celebration.  

We wish Ismailis around the world Imamat Day Mubarak, and pray that the Imamat of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, may continue for several more years beyond the celebration of his Diamond Jubilee on July 11, 2017, which is now exactly 52 weeks away.

The Nur (Light) of Imamat

The sun is extremely important for all life on earth. It gives us light, warmth and energy. The sun however is not the final source of life. It is Allah who gives life to all living things. It is God who has created the sun and the stars and everything that is in the universe.

The Quran teaches that Allah is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. Allah guides mankind towards Him through His light. While Allah has created the physical light, He has also provided mankind another kind of light.

Allah says in the Quran:

“O Mankind! Truly there has come to you a proof from your Lord, and We have sent down to you a clear Light.” (Chapter 4, Verse 174)

What is this special light that Allah refers to, which guides and makes things clear? For Shia Muslims, this light is the Light of Imamat. The Shias refer to it as the Nur of Imamat. Nur means light. The Nur of Imamat is a spiritual light.

This spiritual light is with the Ahl al-bayt, the Imams from the Prophet Muhammad’s family. This light was with the first Shia Imam, Hazrat Murtaza Ali and, for Shia Imami Ismailis, it is now with their present 49th Imam, Shah Karim al-Husayni, His Highness the Aga Khan IV. The Imam guides his murids (followers) with his Nur.

The Imam’s Nur is not like ordinary light. It is a different light altogether. It is a spiritual light. Physical light, such as sunlight, helps everyone see things in the physical world. The Imam’s Nur guides his murids both in the spiritual and worldly aspects of their lives. Above all, the Imam’s Nur leads his followers towards inner peace and happiness.

Ever since the time of Hazrat Ali, the Ismaili Imams have guided their followers in succession, one after another. There have been forty-nine Imams up to the present time, but the Nur of Imamat is one, and it remains the same.

The Nur of Imamat is always there to guide through the physical presence of the Imam. The Imam holds his followers hands and leads them through both difficult and good times. He gives them guidance about how they should live in a particular time and place.

Just as the water of a river continues to flow, the line of Imamat never stops. That is, the Nur of Imamat is there to stay eternally.

One of the goals of the murid of the Imam should be to strive to come closer to the spiritual light of the Imam. This, one can do by fulfilling one’s material and spiritual responsibilities to the best of one’s ability. Praying regularly, living by the ethics of Islam, following the Imam’s guidance and thinking about Allah constantly can bring us closer and closer to the Nur of Imamat.

Source: Article adapted from multiple literary sources including the Ta’lim curriculum published by Islamic Publications, London.

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PLEASE CLICK: The Munajaat and Imamat As Depicted Through the Ages in Ismaili and non-Ismaili Writings

IMAMS ARE SHIPS OF SALVATION

Feluccas on the Nile in Aswan. The ship occupies a unique position in the Islamic tradition. The Qur’an counts it among the ayat (miracles) of God and devotes twenty-eight verses enumerating its benefits to mankind. For Shaykh Khudr, a contemporary of the Ismaili Imam Nizar, Imams are the Ships of Salvation. Please click on image for numerous selections on Imamat.

Date posted: July 10, 2016.

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Supplications of Imam Zayn al-Abidin

“Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created, created Man of a blood-clot. Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Generous, who taught by the Pen, taught Man that he knew not.” — Holy Qur’an, Sura al-Alaq, 96:1-5, translation by A.J. Arberry.

An Egyptian calligraphy of the first lines of Sura Al-Alaq (The Clot) – 96th sura of the Holy Qur’an. Verses 1-5 of the sura form the first revelation received by Prophet Muhammad at the Cave of Hira. Photo: Wikipedia.

An Egyptian calligraphy of the first lines of Sura Al-Alaq (The Clot) – the 96th sura of the Holy Qur’an. Verses 1-5 of the sura form the first revelation received by Prophet Muhammad at the Cave of Hira. Photo: Wikipedia.

Compiled and prepared by Abdulmalik Merchant
Publisher/Editor, Simerg

Laylat al-Qadr is the auspicious night during the month of Ramadhan when the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) first received the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, thereby conferring upon him the mantle of Prophethood at the age of forty. The following verse from the Holy Qur’an describe the loftiness of this night:

“Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. What will convey unto you what the Night of Power is! The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels and the spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. Peace it is until the rising of the dawn.” — 94:5

The Shia Ismaili Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadan, in keeping  with traditions received through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatimah (a.s.), and the Imams of the Fatimid dynasty. It is a night of special prayers of supplication to thank God for  His Blessings, to petition Him for the forgiveness of our sins, to plead for things for ourselves and our families, and to pray for others. In the Qur’anic verse, 40:60, God says: “Your Lord has said: Supplicate Me and I will respond to you.” A tradition of the Prophet speaks of supplication as the weapon of the man of faith, the centrepole of religion and the light of the heavens and the earth. When the first Shia Imam Hazrat Ali was asked which speech was the best in God’s eyes, he replied: “A great amount of dhikr (remembrance of God), pleading and supplication.” His great grandson, Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) said: “God loves nothing better than that His servants ask from Him.”

As we mark Laylat al-Qadr, we bring you a selection of supplications attributed to Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin (a.s.), who succeeded Imam Husayn (a.s.) after he was martyred in the Battle of Karbala. Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin’s severe illness at the time of the battle disabled him from bearing arms, and moreover Imam Husayn had also refused him to take part in the battle as he was to be the next Imam.

Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin is known as the ‘Ornament of the Worshipers’ and ‘the Imam of the Carpet’ because of the time he spent in prayer. His prayers and supplications have been brought together under the title The Prayers of Imam Zayn al-‘Abidin or As-Sahifa Al-Sajjadiyya, and are impressive for their spirit of devotion.

A SELECTION OF SUPPLICATIONS OF IMAM ZAYN AL-‘ABIDIN

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
respond to my supplication, come near my call,
have mercy on my pleading,
listen to my voice

O God,
take to Yourself, from my soul
what will purify it. And leave for my soul
which will set it right, for surely,
my soul will perish unless you protect it.

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
clothe me in Thy well-being,
wrap me in Thy well-being,
fortify me through Thy well-being,
honour me with Thy well-being,
free me from need through Thy well-being,
donate to me Thy well-being,
bestow upon me Thy well-being,
spread out for me Thy well-being,
set Thy well-being right for me,
and separate me not from Thy well-being
in this world and the next!

O God, I ask pardon from Thee for
the person wronged in my presence
whom I did not help,
the favour conferred upon me
for which I returned no thanks,
the evildoer who asked pardon from me
and whom I did not pardon,
the needy person who asked from me
and whom I preferred not over myself,
the fault of a believer which became evident to me
and which I did not conceal,
and every sin which presented itself to me
and which I failed to avoid.

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household.
Ward away [evil] from me, by Your gentleness,
feed me through Your favor,
reform me through Your generosity,
heal me through Your goodness,
shade me in Your shelter,
and wrap me in Your pleasure,
and give me success to reach
the most guided of affairs
when affairs confuse me.

O Reliever of worry!
O Remover of grief!
O Merciful in this world and the next
and Compassionate in both!
Bless Muhammad and his Household,
relieve my worry,
and remove my grief!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
provide us with the day’s good companionship
and preserve us against parting from it badly
by doing a misdeed
or committing a sin, whether small or great!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household
and make this
the most fortunate day we have known,
the most excellent companion we have accompanied,
and the best time in which we have lingered!

Thou art All-kind with immensity,
the Forgiver of the great,
and Thou art more merciful
than every possessor of mercy!
So bless Muhammad and his Household,
the good, the pure, the chosen, the most distinguished!

So bless Muhammad and his Household,
open for me, my Lord, the door of relief
through Thy graciousness,
break from me the authority
of worry by Thy strength,
confer the beauty of Thy gaze
upon my complaint,
let me taste the sweetness
of benefaction in what I ask,
give me from Thyself mercy
and wholesome relief,
and appoint for me from
Thyself a quick way out!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
empty my heart for Thy love,
occupy it with remembering Thee,
animate it with fear of Thee
and quaking before Thee,
strengthen it with beseeching Thee,
incline it to Thy obedience,
set it running in the path
most beloved to Thee,
and subdue it through desire
for what is with Thee
all the days of my life!

O God,
bless Muhammad and his Household,
rid me of envy,
encircle me against sins,
make me abstain from things unlawful,
give me not the boldness of disobedient acts,
assign me love for that which is with Thee
and satisfaction with that
which comes to me from Thee,
bless me in
that which Thou providest me,
that which Thou conferrest upon me,
and that through which Thou favourest me,
and make me in all my states
safeguarded, watched,
covered, defended,
given refuge, and granted sanctuary!

Make my tongue utter Thy praise,
Thy thanksgiving, Thy remembrance,
and Thy excellent laudation,
and expand my heart
toward the right goals of Thy religion!

God, lower before them [my parents] my voice,
make agreeable to them my words,
make mild before them my temper,
make tender toward them my heart,
and turn me into their kind companion,
their loving friend!

O God,
thank them for my upbringing,
reward them for honouring me,
and guard them as they guarded me in my infancy!

O God,
I ask from Thee the best in Thy knowledge,
so bless Muhammad and his Household
and decree for me the best!

O Reliever of worry!
O Remover of grief!
O Merciful in this world and the next
and Compassionate in both!
Bless Muhammad and his Household,
relieve my worry,
and remove my grief!

O God,
bless Muhammad and the Household of Muhammad,
take my soul while it is firm in sincerity,
cut off my need for this world,
make my desire for what is with Thee
become a yearning to meet Thee,
and give me true confidence in Thee!

O God,
some rise in the morning
having trust or hope in other than Thee.
I rise in the morning,
and Thou art my trust and my hope in all affairs,
so decree for me those which are best in outcome
and deliver me from misguiding trials,
O Most Merciful of the merciful!

O God, O He Who
singled out Muhammad and his Household for honour,
appointed them the heirs to the prophets,
sealed with them the executors and the Imams,
taught them the knowledge of what has been
and what remains to be,
and made the hearts of the
people incline toward them!

Bless Muhammad and his Household, the pure,
and act toward us with that of which Thou art worthy
in religion, in this world, and in the next world!
Thou art powerful over everything.

Date posted: June 26, 2016.

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The material for this reading was compiled from the following sources:

  1. Hazrat Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq, Ilm, Volume 8, Number 1 (July – November 1982).
  2. https://www.al-islam.org/sahifa-al-kamilah-sajjadiyya-imam-zain-ul-abideen/supplications.
  3. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al-Sahifa_al-Sajjadiyya.

Hazrat Ali (a.s.): “Have a Tender Heart, as Tender as a Fistful of Green Grass”

MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM ON HAZRAT ALI

His Highness the Aga Khan

“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 on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Aga Khan Foundation, May 14, 1992.

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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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THE KALAM-I MAWLA OF HAZRAT ALI

A page from a manuscript of Kalam-i Mawla. The Institute of Ismaili Studies collection.

Hazrat Ali’s aphorisms and wise counsels got translated into numerous languages across the Muslim world. The Kalame Mawla is a moving poetic rendition of his teachings in Hindustani. The work exhorts the believers to observe virtues such as brotherhood, honesty and generosity. The image shown above is from the manuscript  collection at the Institute of Ismaili Studies and written in a beautiful Khojki hand in Bombay. It was copied in 1908 samvat/1851 by Khoja Alahrakhea Koriji.

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Titles of Hazrat Ali in Kalam-i Mawla

  1. Shah-e Awliya (verses 2 & 182) – the Lord of the friends (of God)
  2. Sahib-e Zulfiqar (verse 15) – Master of (the sword) Dhulfiqar
  3. Wali Maqbul (verse 34) – the accepted friend (of God)
  4. Sahib-e Israr (verse 98) – Master of the (spiritual) mysteries or secrets
  5. Kawsar-e Saqi (verses 102 & 107) – the pourer (of water) at the Pond of Kawthar (in Paradise)
  6. Shah-e Dul Dul Sawar (verses 113 & 130) – the rider of (the horse) Dul Dul; etc.

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Thoughtful Teachings of Hazrat Ali from Kalam-i Mawla

Have a tender heart,
as tender as a fistful of green grass;
be not arrogant and stiff as a tree
upright in a forest;

A tree is toppled in a storm,
but grass bends and sways happily with the wind. — 8:67

When the boat of the heart comes upon a storm,
change direction, and lead it to the shore — 6:47

Gold remains in this world but right conduct (adab) enable you to meet your lord — 3:16

Be as soft as silk — 8:16

The best of wealth is that which is spent in the Name and way of the Lord — 4:22

The waters of a river do not turn back; neither does one’s age — 7:234

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INVOCATION
Nade Ali

Photo: The Trustees of the British Museum. Copyright.

Nadi Ali, Nadi Ali, Nadi Ali
Nadi Aliyyan mazhar al-ajaib
Tajidahu aunan lakafin-nawaib
Kullu hammin wa ghammin
sayanj-i Ali Bi wilayatika
Ya Ali, Ya Ali, Ya Ali

Call Ali, Call Ali, Call Ali
Call Ali who is the manifestation of marvels;
You will find him your helper in calamities.
Every anxiety and grief will come to an end
Through your friendship,
O Ali, O Ali, O Ali.

Date posted: April 19, 2016.

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The Work of the Ismaili Imamat at a Glance, and the Most Famous Logos of the Aga Khan Development Network

University of Ottawa confers an Honorary Degree on His Highness the Aga Khan

“His Highness has used his own faith background to speak directly to the goodness of all people.” — President Alan Rock, University of Ottawa, January 13, 2012. Photo: University of Ottawa. Copyright.

For over 60 years the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), under the leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismailis in direct lineal descent of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him), has been building institutions and delivering essential services by creating schools and hospitals, newspapers and electricity generation plants, and social programmes of all kinds. These services have helped improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people of all races and faiths in places as varied as Cairo, Kabul, Delhi and Bamako.

We provide an organizational chart highlighting the breadth of the work of the Ismaili Imamat, and compile a piece about the most identifiable emblems, logos and seals of the AKDN.

Please click on image to enlarge

Work of Ismaili Imamat and AKDN

Credit AKDN*

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FAMOUS LOGOS, SEALS AND EMBLEMS OF AKDN AGENCIES AND INSTITUTIONS

1. Aga Khan University (AKU)

aku-seal

The Seal of Aga Khan University is a visual representation of the principles which underlie the founding of the University. The circular form of the Seal, with its different levels of imagery contained in concentric circles, has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. The circle also symbolises the world and reflects the international presence of the University.

At the centre of the Seal is a star, or sun. Light is a universal symbol for the enlightenment that education provides.The light emanating from the star is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light).

The star incorporates 49 points to commemorate the University’s founding by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan. The outer ring circumscribes a Qur’anic ayat rendered in classic thuluth script and reads as follows:

“And hold fast, All together, by the rope
Which God (stretches out for you),
And be not divided among yourselves,
And remember with gratitude
God’s favour on you:
For ye were enemies
And He joined your hearts
In love, so that by His grace
Ye became brethren” — Sura 3, Ayat 103.

2. Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)

akf-logos

In every language there are idioms and proverbs illustrating the importance of the right hand as an instrument of human skill, achievement and caring.

The Aga Khan Foundation logo is based on the right hand, and represents the humanitarian and positive philosophy underlying the Foundation and its activities.

In Islam, the hand has a number of meanings: its shape reflects its comprehensive and positive character, while its constituents represent the five principles of Islam and the five senses of the human body. The stylized fingers represent “Allah” in the Kufic script, and the interlacing beneath the fingers correspond to the anatomy of the hand and also delineates the sign, which in Chinese stands for Wisdom.

The logo of the Aga Khan Foundation was designed by Mr. Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq of Pakistan.

3. Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS)

Aga Khan Health Services

Photo: Isabelle Prondzynski. Copyright.

The emblem of the Aga Khan Health Services shown on the cup and saucer represents health care and compassion. The crescent is an ancient icon which, when used in red, has become the equivalent of the International Red Cross. The three-crescent design in its simple, poetic form creates an internal space symbolising how institutions and programmes using the symbol surround, attend and care for those in need.

4. Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)

AKAA Logo

The logo of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was designed by Karl Schlamminger, a German Muslim of the Shia tradition.

The Name of Allah in Kufic script, reflecting Itself and repeating Itself, forms the basis of the logo design.

Date posted: April 7, 2016.

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*For original chart and related material please visit the Aga Khan Development Network link at http://www.akdn.org/publications/2015_akdn_overview.pdf.

Sea of Gold: An Exhibit of Newfound Fatimid Treasures in Caesarea

In February 2015, divers off the coast of Caesarea spotted by chance a group of gold coins lying on the seabed. They immediately alerted marine archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who conducted a salvage excavation at the site and recovered more than 2,580 Fatimid coins of pure (24 karat) gold weighing a total of 7.5 kg.

Please click on the image to view an on-line exhibit of the discovery.

Please click on the image to view an on-line exhibit of the discovery.

The coins date from the mid-9th to the early 11th century CE. They were minted by the Fatimid caliphs of Egypt, and include dinars minted in al-Qayrawan, on the Tunisian coast, by Imam al-Mahdi (AH 297–322 = 910–934 CE), the founder of the Fatimid caliphate as well as a much larger collection belonging to the Fatimid caliphs Imam Al-Hakim (AH 386–411 = 996–1021 CE) and his successor Imam Al-Zahir (AH 411–427 = 1021–1036 CE).

Following the discovery, an exhibition was held from June to December 2015 at the Samuel and Saidye Bronfman Archaeology Wing of The Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Some very interesting data and information about the Fatimid coins was also posted on the Museum’s website, which includes topics such as the inscription on the coins, the coin’s purchasing power, the script, and the purity of the coins. We invite our readers to visit the website by clicking on http://www.imj.org.il/exhibitions/2015/caesarea/ or on the image shown above.

Date posted: March 4, 2016.

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

QUOTES

1. IMAM – A COSMIC NECESSITY

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

2. THE ROLE OF MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM

Historically and in accordance with Ismaili tradition, the Imam of the time is concerned with spiritual advancement as well as improvement of the quality of life of his murids. The imam’s ta‘lim lights the murid’s path to spiritual enlightenment and vision. In temporal matters, the Imam guides the murids, and motivates them to develop their potential…..Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims….Clauses (F) and (G) of the Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution ordained in 1986 [1].

3. HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN: THE LIVING IMAM

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

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READINGS

1. THE NUR (LIGHT) OF IMAMAT

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

2. LOVE FOR THE IMAM

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

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

3. THE FORMULATION OF THE DOCTRINE OF IMAMAT

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

4. THE TERM IMAM IN THE HOLY QUR’AN

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

5. THE DOCTRINE OF IMAMAT DURING THE FATIMID PERIOD

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

6. IMAMAT IN ISMAILI GINANIC LITERATURE

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

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

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Reference:

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

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

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

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

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

As part of his famous Apostolic Journey to France in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI, on September 13, paid a visit to the “Institut De France” in Paris. The Pope, who had been elected as the 265th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church in 2005, was presented with a gold medal by the Institut, and also unveiled a plaque commemorating his visit. During his very brief remarks to the audience, the Pope expressed his gratitude to the Institut “both personally and as the successor of [Simon] Peter.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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