Simerg’s Highly Popular Articles Over the Years: (1) 7 Great Pieces Including Daman’s Khoja Ismailis, Rumi’s Snake Catcher Story and Aga Khan’s Road to Happiness

BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor, Simerg

On an occasional basis, Simerg will be drawing its readers’ attention to popular pieces published on this website over the past almost eight years. Likewise, in the course of this series I shall be informing readers about many extraordinary pieces that have not received the readership they deserve. For now, here are links to 7 pieces with more than 9,000 views each. Other popular articles will be mentioned, 7 at a time, in the coming year.

(for articles, please click on links or photos)

11,000 Views

1. PLEASE CLICK: A Brief History of the Khoja Ismaili Community in Daman, India, from the Portuguese Period to the Present by Toral Pradhan, first published October 7, 2013.

The original Daman jamatkhana, above, and a neighbouring Parsee house, below. The jamatkhana was closed in the 1960′s due to its condition.

Old jamatkhana – Daman Khoja history.

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9,000 Views

2. PLEASE CLICK: Two Tales from Rumi: The Snake-Catcher and the Serpent & The Elephant and the Travellers by Zayn Kassam, March 3, 2011.

Illustration by Fatima Hirji. Copyright.

Rumi’s Snake Catcher Story.

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12,000 Views

3. PLEASE CLICK: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale, August 18, 2010.

His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo Credit: Politique Interntional

Aga Khan Interview: Power of Wisdom.

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15,800 Views

4. PLEASE CLICK: Timeline of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Awards and Honour by Mohib Ebrahim, January 2010.

Aga Khan Timeline

Aga Khan Timeline

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31,000 Views

5. PLEASE CLICK: The Story of Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an by Jehangir Merchant (Revised), Originally published on October 6, 2011.

Noah's Ark.

Noah’s Ark.

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20,000 Views

6. PLEASE CLICK: The Road to Happiness and The Concept of Life by His Highness the Aga Khan III, November 14, 2009.

Road to Happiness

Road to Happiness

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11,000 Views

7. PLEASE CLICK: The Preamble Of “The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”, December 10, 2010.

Preamble Ismaili Constitution

Preamble Ismaili Constitution

We wish to record our deep appreciation to thousands of readers who visit Simerg and its sister websites regularly and send us feedback, and to all our contributors for the great articles and photo essays that they have submitted for publication for the reading pleasure and enjoyment of our readers around the world — we have gained richly from their knowledge and the fresh insights they have provided.

We wish everyone a very happy and prosperous new year.

At the same time we pray for peace in lands where there are brutal conflicts resulting in loss of life and unimaginable injuries, and where people, especially children, have to endure pain and sorrow everyday.

Date posted: Friday, December 30, 2016.
Last updated: December 31, 2016 (2:35 am EST, corrected stats).

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The Miraj: A Powerful Metaphor for Our Spiritual Journey

While ascent (al-ma’arij) in its simple meaning gives a clue to the upward direction of the Prophet’s journey, it proclaims very emphatically that if God has placed man on this earth, He has also set up a ladder for man to climb up to Him. No wonder Allah calls Himself the Lord of the Ways of Ascent (Dhu ’l-ma‘arij).” —  Read More

It is believed that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) prayed at this mosque (which is in the basement of present day Al Aqsa Mosque) before he took the night journey to heaven. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright.

It is believed that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) prayed at this mosque (which is in the basement of present day Al Aqsa, see next photo) before he took the night journey to heaven. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright. Please click on image for article on Miraj.

A view of old Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock in the foreground. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright.

A view of old Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock as the centerpiece. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright.

Date posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
Last updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

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Two Mystical Stories by Farid al-Din Attar

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

INTRODUCTION
(compiled from UNESCO Courier)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Said Zubaida:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: Friday, August 14, 2015.

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

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

Prophet Muhammad’s Miraj: A Powerful Metaphor for Our Spiritual Journey

Photo: The Trustees of the British Museum. Copyright.

Photo: The Trustees of the British Museum. Copyright. Click on image for article, I Have a Time with God

“While ascent (al-ma’arij) in its simple meaning gives a clue to the upward direction of the Prophet’s journey, it proclaims very emphatically that if God has placed man on this earth, He has also set up a ladder for man to climb up to Him. No wonder Allah calls Himself the Lord of the Ways of Ascent (Dhu ’l-ma‘arij).”Read more

This is an unusual example of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) pictured in an Islamic manuscript. It comes from a royal miniature made to illustrate a copy of the poems of the celebrated Persian Nizami, and depicts the Prophet’s ascension to heaven on the horse Buraq, guided by the archangel Gabriel, with an escort of angels. According to tradition, the face of the Prophet is blanked out in the miniature.

“In spiritual life, serial time no longer exists. The moment a soul breaks through created time and reaches the ‘Eternal Now in God’, everything created is annihilated in its experience. The serial time is torn. Finally, the Prophet says: ‘And He revealed to me secrets that I am not allowed to communicate to you’” — Read more

The identity of the artist who created the illustration is not known. The calligraphy in this piece was created by Shah Mahmud Nishapuri (d. 1564-5) for Shah Tahmasp (r. 1524-76) — the ruler of Iran who at one point owned the Koh-i-noor diamond, then the world’s largest, and now in the Tower of London.

“His yearning for the ‘exalted station’ becomes intense, and as often as he feels this longing he turns to Bilal and says: “O Bilal, comfort us by the call to prayer.” Thus to the Prophet every time of prayer is an ascension (mi’raj) and a new nearness to God.” — Read more

The story of Prophet Muhammad’s journey has had a profound influence on Islamic thought, and Sufism and other esoteric traditions in Islam particular see it as a powerful metaphor for man’s spiritual journey. Please read The Prophetic Tradition ‘I Have a Time with God’ (li ma’a Allah waqt).

Text for image compiled from the website of the British Museum. Please visit http://www.britishmuseum.org.

Date posted: Sunday, May 10, 2015

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