Thoughtful Interviews and Inspiring Stories by Ismaili Youth of Meetings with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah

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BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor, Simerg

Thousands of readers have been clicking in recent weeks to read earlier pieces published on this website, which was was founded some 8 years ago. The interest in older articles has encouraged us to continue with this second part in an on-going series that is designed to draw our readers’ attention to previously published articles that may have been overlooked or forgotten. Also, over the years our readership has grown, and this is an opportunity for new readers to review and read material from the earlier years. Of course, our Table of Contents is another way to access more than 900 pieces!

Here, we provide links to three thoughtful interviews as well as four extraordinary and inspiring accounts of Ismaili youth who visited Europe during the 1950’s, and had golden opportunities of meeting the 48th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah.

(Please click on links or photos to read the pieces)

 1. Astrophysicist Arif Babul on Galaxies, God, Science Education and Community Aspirations (20,000 Views)

Arif Babul

Arif Babul

“Imagine you’re sitting in a bubble bath full of big bubbles, and you have a whole bunch of bubbles stacked up against each other. If you took some glitter and sprinkled it over these bubbles, the sparkly little bits of paper would stick to the bubbles’ surface. Inside the bubbles there would be no flakes, but the surfaces of the bubbles would be coated with them. That’s a good description of the way galaxies are distributed throughout our universe – think of the flack of glitter as galaxies.”…Read More

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2. Maria Cook on the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat (10,000 Views)

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat which was opened on December 8, 2008.

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat which was opened on December 8, 2008.

“I asked him [His Highness the Aga Khan] how he kept his focus and energy. He replied that he surrounded himself with people who were very good at what they do and also many dedicated volunteers. He said he was inspired every day by their efforts and devotion to excellence.”….Read More

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3. Architect Bruno Freschi on the Burnaby Ismaili Centre (3,700 Views)

Mr. Freschi with His Highness the Aga Khan and the Honourable Henry Bell-Irving, Lieutenant-Governor General of British Columbia

Mr. Freschi with His Highness the Aga Khan and the Honourable Henry Bell-Irving, Lieutenant-Governor General of British Columbia

In a personal message to Mr. Bruno Freschi dated 20th October, 1985, His Highness the Aga Khan wrote: “With my deep and sincere gratitude for conceiving, designing and buiding a Jamatkhana and Centre which represent our respect for our past, our belief of today, and our hope for the future.The Ismaili Jamath worldwide, and I, are proud of your remarkable achievement.”….Read More

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4. On Meeting the Noorani Family – My Voyage to Europe by Badrudin Adatia (15,400 Views)

The late Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III pictured with Badrudin Adatia.

The late Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III pictured with Badrudin Adatia.

“I wanted to take picture of him [His Highness the Aga Khan] with us and I asked his permission. The room was dim, however, and I didn’t have a flash on my camera. Although he was very sick and could not even walk, he told me he would head toward the window where there would be better light. Imagine! I clasped my hands with respect and said, “No Khudavind. I will take the picture just as we are.” …Read More

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5. Rare Moment With Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah by Akber Premji  (3,500 Views)

Mr. Akber Premji seated next to Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Begum Aga Khan.

Mr. Akber Premji seated next to Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Begum Aga Khan.

“….I got an opportunity of a photo with Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat. First, I went and sat on the ground and the Imam did not quite consent to this. Then, I went and stood behind them and this was also not accepted. The Imam directed that I come and sit between him and Mata Salamat. With great reluctance, I squeezed myself in. What an opportunity and a blessing!”….Read More

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6. An Audience with the 48th Ismaili Imam by Ali Rajput (3,600 Views)

Dr. Rajput at Yakimour, with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat

Dr. Rajput at Yakimour, with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mata Salamat

“My child, you are going to UK, very different to your country of origin, always remember my words of advice and never forget as it is for your own good. Pick up their good principles and make them your own, and leave their vices and bad habits to them alone. The good habits, you should adopt are their truthfulness, punctuality, sense of duty and the bad habits you must reject are, drinking, smoking, gambling and other vices. Your foremost duty is to attend to your educational activities and never forget your religious obligation.”…. Read More

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7. Fond Memories of Salamieh and Yakymour by Abdul Mamdani (2,200 Views)

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah with Abdul Mamdani.

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah with Abdul Mamdani.

Now, when in Salamieh, Emir Muhammad Mulheim had taken me to a room in his house where his mother was waiting to see me. I was requested to look at the mother and told that should I be blessed with Mawla’s Didar in Europe, she wanted me to remember her face so she could attain Mawla’s Didar through my eyes. Regrettably, in the Imam’s presence I failed to recall this request. However, Mawla asked me, “And who else did you see?” I was surprised at this question and took a minute or so to think. Then, it came to me and I replied: “Mawla, I saw Prince Muhammad Mulheim’s mother,” and Mawla patted my shoulder and said “Khanavadhan, Khanavadhan”….Read More

Date posted: February 5, 2017.
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Glimpses of His Highness the Aga Khan from Harvard, as he prepares to speak at the University on November 12th, 2015

His Highness the Aga Khan will deliver the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs on 12 November. Entitled “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World”, his lecture is expected to cover the challenges to pluralism and cosmopolitanism. After the lecture there will be a conversation with Diana L. Eck

Although tickets for the lecture are no longer available, the entire event will be webcast live on http://www.akdn.org starting at 4pm EST.

Please check this website again on Wednesday, November 18, 2015, for speech and interview excerpts as well as a fine selection of photographs related to the event.

His Highness the Aga Khan graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honours in Islamic History. This is his portrait in a Harvard University blazer as he smiles with an armful of books, on the Harvard Campus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1958. Copyright: Photo by Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

His Highness the Aga Khan graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honours in Islamic History. This is his portrait in a Harvard University blazer as he smiles with an armful of books, on the Harvard Campus, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1958. Copyright: Photo by Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images.

ON HIM BECOMING THE 49TH IMAM

“The summer before his senior year, Prince Karim Khan ’58 received unexpected news. His grandfather, His Highness Aga Khan III, had died, and his will named Karim — fondly known by his classmates as ‘K’ — as his successor, making him Aga Khan IV. And so, at 20 years old, Karim became the leader of the Ismaili Muslims, a sect of Shia Islam with over 15 million followers who consider him a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

“Once Karim became the Aga Khan, the Islamic history concentrator no longer led a student’s life. 

“[Aga Khan III] plucked K right out of the College,” said David H. Rhinelander ’58, one of Karim’s freshman roommates in Wigglesworth Hall. “He moved to a hotel and had to begin to run his empire while he was a student.” — Excerpts from an article by Nini S Moorhead published in the Harvard Crimson, June 2008.

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SOCCER TEAM

“The varsity soccer team opens its season this afternoon against Tufts and the game will be one of experimentation for Crimson coach Bruce Munro. He has had to revamp his lineup several times because of an alarming number of injured personnel, including Karim Aga Khan, the starting outside left. Larry Ekpebu will start for Khan at outside left, while Ken Marmar will open at outside right.” — Harvard Crimson, October 1, 1958.

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SCHOLARSHIP ESTABLISHMENT

“Karim Aga Khan ’59, who graduates with the Class of 1959 tomorrow, has established a ten-year program of scholarships for students attending Harvard from India, Pakistan, the Middle East, Persia, and East Africa.

“In a statement, the Aga Khan said that he will never regret his decision, after succeeding to his grandfather’s title, to return to Harvard to his studies. He added that he was ‘particularly impressed by the recent growth of facilities for the study of Middle Eastern and Asian affairs’.” — Harvard Crimson, June 10, 1959.

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LAUNCH OF ARCHNET

“The Aga Khan ’59, spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims, joined the presidents of Harvard and MIT Friday to launch the world’s largest online resource for scholars of Islamic architecture.

“The resource, called ArchNet, contains over 600,000 images of Islamic architecture, tools for discussion and collaboration online among scholars and access to key journals of Islamic architecture. Harvard served as one of the primary collaborators in the creation of the site.

“Those speaking at Friday’s launch said they hoped the free site would provide architects, urban-planners and academics in resource-poor areas the tools they need to study, and give the Western public an opportunity to experience Islamic culture.

“In a brilliant way, [ArchNet] combines new technology and ancient culture to do something that is really quite important,” University President Lawrence H. Summers said in his remarks to the 150-person audience at MIT’s Media Laboratory.” — Harvard Crimson, September 30, 2002.

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HONORARY DOCTOR OF LAWS DEGREE

His Highness the Aga Khan receives an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo: AKDN.

His Highness the Aga Khan receives an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Harvard University at commencement ceremonies June 5, 2008, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Photo: AKDN.

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FLASHBACK TO THE 48TH IMAM AND HARVARD

“The Aga Khan, world-famous leader of the Ismaili Community, a sect of the Moslem religion, has endowed a professorship of Iranian at the University, President Pusey announced yesterday.

“The chair, to be known as the Aga Khan Professorship of Iranian, will be devoted to the study of the history and civilization of Iran. Its purpose, according to the Khan, is “to preserve and transmit to future generations knowledge of the rich heritage of the Iranian past.”

“At the same time, Sadruddin Aga Khan, son of the Aga Khan, has established the Ismaili Community Fellowships for the study of the Middle East here.

“In announcing the gifts, Pusey said, ‘The sentiment of the Aga Khan and his son, Sadruddin, in thus fostering the growth of understanding between the East and the West is one we all deeply share. Certainly, all peoples around the world need to know and better understand the cultural heritage of those who are our neighbors in the modern age’.” — Excerpts from the Harvard Crimson, December 6, 1956

Date posted: November 11-12, 2015.

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Please visit http://www.thecrimson.com – the daily newspaper of Harvard

Aldous Huxley’s Expression “Man’s Inhumanity to Man” and its Relevance to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Messages on the Refugee Crisis

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 - 2003). Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 – 2003). Photo: Wikipedia Commons.

Excerpts from a selection of statements, interviews and speeches that the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan gave when he was the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Links to a fuller version of this article as well as all his UNHCR speeches and statements are provided below. Please also read our earlier post (1) His Highness the Aga Khan visits UNHCR and (2) UN material related to his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, whose name became synonymous with UNHCR,

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“What is wealth without wisdom, or development without freedom? Every day selfishness, intolerance, lack of understanding and discrimination continue to add tragic pages to the history of our time.”

The late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan with Secretary-General U Thant at his home on 23 June 1971. Photo: Teddy Chan, United Nations.

The late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan with Secretary-General U Thant at his home on 23 June 1971. Photo: Teddy Chan, United Nations.

 “When I was watching television during the tremendous Apollo experience recently and saw the world as a tiny sphere, it seemed incredible that, after so many years, it had not learned to live in peace, that men were still fighting, perpetrating injustice, committing crimes against humanity and persecuting individuals. It is, as I say, incredible that despite all the tremendous progress which has been achieved, men still resort to violence instead of to mediation and dialogue, within or outside the United Nations, and that this violence should produce refugees.”

“This century has been greatly guilty in its disrespect for the inalienable rights of man. None know this better than the millions of refugees, the unfortunate human beings who have been forced to seek safety outside their own country because of persecution and intolerance.”

“It is just as important to translate the articles inscribed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into everyday practice as it is to spread science and knowledge or to build dams and create new sources of power. For what is wealth without wisdom, or development without freedom?

“All nations desire peace, progress and justice – yet every day selfishness, intolerance, lack of understanding and discrimination continue to add tragic pages to the history of our time. Indeed, this century has been greatly guilty in its disrespect for the inalienable rights of man. None know this better than the millions of refugees, the unfortunate human beings who have been forced to seek safety outside their own country because of persecution and intolerance. How were they received? The nations were not always generous towards refugees, and in the past untold tragedies sometimes followed the arrival in countries of asylum.

“If there were to be more tolerance and more justice and more respect for the basic rights of human beings everywhere, there would be fewer problems of refugees in the world.”

The Canadian Tribute to Human Rights Monument in the Nelson Mandela Square on Elgin Street in Ottawa. It bears an inscription from the 1st article of the Universal Declaration of Human Riights which states that All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

The Canadian Human Rights Monument at Nelson Mandela Square on Elgin Street in Ottawa which bears the inscription “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” This is part of Article 1 of the Declaration of Human Rights which goes on to state that we are all endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in the spirit of brotherhood. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

“And what about the causes of refugee movements? Have they disappeared today? When asking myself this question I have in mind that persecution does not always take the extreme form of threatening life and liberty: it is also persecution when a person is hindered in the exercise of his economic activity because he belongs to a particular social groups or confesses to a particular religion or because of his ethnic origins; or when for the same reasons a group of individuals is segregated in crowded and unhealthy areas; or when parents are prevented from bringing up their children in accordance with their wishes.

“The resulting picture is a dark and wide canvas of human suffering that covers nearly all continents of our planet.”

Refugee children from Syria at a clinic in Ramtha, northern Jordan. Photo: Wikipedia.

Refugee children from Syria at a clinic in Ramtha, northern Jordan. Photo: Wikipedia.

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Confined to the wheelchair and blind in both eyes, the only important thing that Alia, below, brought with her ‘is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.’

Alia sits in her wheelchair in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The 24-year-old was living with her family in Daraa, Syria, when fighting forced them to flee their home. Confined to the wheelchair and blind in both eyes, Alia says she was terrified by what was happening around her. 'Men in uniforms came and killed our cow. They fought outside our house and there were many dead soldiers. I cried and cried,' she says. Alia says the only important thing that she brought with her 'is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.' When asked about her wheelchair, she seems surprised, saying she considers it an extension of her body, not an object. Photo UNHCR/B.Sokol. Copyright.

Alia sits in her wheelchair in Domiz refugee camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The 24-year-old was living with her family in Daraa, Syria, when fighting forced them to flee their home. Confined to the wheelchair and blind in both eyes, Alia says she was terrified by what was happening around her. ‘Men in uniforms came and killed our cow. They fought outside our house and there were many dead soldiers. I cried and cried,’ she says. Alia says the only important thing that she brought with her ‘is my soul, nothing more – nothing material.’ When asked about her wheelchair, she seems surprised, saying she considers it an extension of her body, not an object. Photo UNHCR/B.Sokol. Copyright.

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Ten-day-old Hawler is held by her mother, a Syrian Kurd who named her after a region in Kurdistan. The family's makeshift campsite in the park is situated next to a mosquite ridden pool of water. Photo: UNHCR/S. Baldwin. Copyright.

Ten-day-old Hawler is held by her mother, a Syrian Kurd who named her after a region in Kurdistan. The family’s makeshift campsite in the park is situated next to a mosquite ridden pool of water. Photo: UNHCR/S. Baldwin. Copyright.

“Here one is forced to admit that the causes of refugee problems are not diminishing, particularly when we remember that people also become refugees because of enmity between groups of different ethnic origin, or different religions, living in the same land; intolerance and hatred which create such tensions and personal conflicts that normal life for members of one of the groups becomes almost impossible and causes them to seek safety elsewhere. We must also remember the refugees who flee the repression and disturbances which accompany struggles for civic rights or national independence in several parts of the world. The resulting picture is a dark and wide canvas of human suffering that covers nearly all continents of our planet.

“We can only hope that gatherings such as this will bring the time nearer when Man will no longer have to fear what Aldous Huxley so well expressed as ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’.”

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadruddin Aga Khan, and Abel Alier, President of the Provisional High Executive council of the South Sudan visit the village of Kajo Kaji, South Sudan. Photo Credit: UN Photo/1972

UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadruddin Aga Khan, and Abel Alier, President of the Provisional High Executive council of the South Sudan visit the village of Kajo Kaji, South Sudan. Photo Credit: UN Photo/1972

“There is no doubt that, if there were to be more tolerance and more justice and more respect for the basic rights of human beings everywhere, there would be fewer problems of refugees in the world. But the day when we shall not have to think of refugees, unfortunately, would still appear to be far off; we can only hope that gatherings such as this will bring the time nearer when Man will no longer have to fear what Aldous Huxley so well expressed as ‘Man’s inhumanity to Man’.”

Date posted: November 7, 2015.

Please also see our post published earlier today, (1) His Highness the Aga Khan visits UNHCR and (2) UN material related to his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, whose name became synonymous with UNHCR

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For a full version of this article, please click Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Some of the Causes for the Refugee Crisis – Injustice, Intolerance and Lack of Respect for Human Rights.

Speech excerpts compiled from UNHCR. Please click Speeches by Prince Sadruddin.

(1) His Highness the Aga Khan visits UNHCR and (2) UN material related to his uncle, Prince Sadruddin, whose name became synonymous with UNHCR

“We must do everything possible to prevent human suffering”

His Highness the Aga Khan with UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres at UNHCR Headquarters. Photo: The Ismaili.

His Highness the Aga Khan with UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres at UNHCR Headquarters. Photo: The Ismaili.

His Highness the Aga Khan visited the UNHCR headquarters on November 6, 2015 to meet UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, and discuss past and future cooperation in emergency operations around the world. His Highness is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and nephew of the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, who was high commissioner for refugees from 1965-77, a pivotal period in the organization’s history.

His Highness was greeted by UNHCR staff before he held private talks with the High Commissioner  followed by a meeting with senior UNHCR officials on the long-standing partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the UN refugee agency.

The two sides looked at ways of further strengthening their partnership in the Middle East, Asia and East Africa. They discussed possible new joint initiatives in areas such as contingency planning; pluralism and diverse societies; and country specific cooperation in areas where AKDN is active as well as global advocacy to bridge the humanitarian-development divide.

They also discussed the global political situation and the effects of extremism and sectarianism on previously tolerant and diverse societies.

“We must do everything possible to prevent human suffering,” said the Aga Khan. “But preempting humanitarian emergencies requires investments, equipment and the necessary resources to ensure the response system is already in place when the crisis hits.”

The High Commissioner agreed, noting that “UNHCR and the Aga Khan Development Network have a lot in common. It is partnerships like ours that can help broaden the way the international community responds to crises today through a stronger humanitarian-development link, and by promoting closer cooperation with actors from different cultural and geographical backgrounds.”

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Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan
“AN EXCEPTIONAL MAN”

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 - 2003). Photo: UNesco Courier. Copyright

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933 – 2003). Photo: Unesco Courier. Copyright

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, uncle of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, led the UN refugee agency during 12 years in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving an indelible print on UNHCR’s history. He led the agency through some of the most challenging moments, and his name became synonymous with UNHCR.

Prince Sadruddin became High Commissioner in January of 1966 at the age of 33 the youngest person ever to lead UNHCR. Prior to becoming High Commissioner, he served for three years as Deputy High Commissioner. He was at the helm of the UN refugee agency during one of its most difficult periods. This included the 1971 the Bangladesh crisis, which uprooted 10 million people, the 1972 exodus of hundreds of thousands of Hutus from Burundi to Tanzania and the Indochinese boat people tragedy of the mid-1970s. In 1972, Prince Sadruddin played a key role in finding new homes for tens of thousands of South Asians expelled from Uganda by Idi Amin.

Prince Sadruddin’s entire adult life was devoted to humanitarian work. After leaving UNHCR at the end of 1977 at his own request, he served in various capacities, dealing with humanitarian situations in many parts of the world on behalf of the United Nations. These included Afghanistan and Iraq during the first Gulf war. He was also a trustee of a number of charity organisations. He published several books and received numerous national and international decorations, including the French Légion d’honneur and the United Nations Human Rights Award.

Simerg has come across many pieces of letters and documents on Prince Sadruddin in the UN archives, and we reproduce two below that serve as reminders of his priceless services to the United Nations.

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[I] EXTENSION OF APPOINTMENT LETTER

“This extension…constitutes a new fixed term appointment on a $1 a year basis…” 

Please click on image for enlargement

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Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Extension of Appointment

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[2]  “AN EXCEPTIONAL MAN”

“Prince Sadruddin was a statesman in the truest sense of the word. By focusing on the protection of refugees, he represented the moral and compassionate side of the international community…He worked on behalf of the poor and dispossessed, while celebrating humanity through culture and art…”

Please click on image for enlargement

Kofi Annan Message for Prince Sadruddin Aga KhanDate posted: Saturday, November 7, 2015.

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We welcome your feedback, please click Leave a comment.

Credits:

  1. Report of His Highness Aga Khan’s visit to UNHCR and Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s profile compiled and adapted from the website of http://www.unhcr.org.
  2. United Nations Archives at https://archives.un.org/

Please also see the following articles on Prince Sadruddin posted on this website:

Prince Rahim Aga Khan On How Muslims Can Harness the Creativity of Our Knowledge Society to Impact Humanity

On the occasion of Prince Rahim Aga Khan’s 44th birthday on Monday, October 12, 2015, we are pleased to produce excerpts from his commencement address that he delivered at the Graduation Ceremony of the Institute of the Ismaili Studies held in London, England, in September 2007.

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa on their wedding day on August 31, 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte.

Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Princess Salwa on their wedding day on August 31, 2013. They have one child, son Prince Irfan, who was born on April 11, 2015. Photo Credit: TheIsmaili /Gary Otte. Copyright.

Prince Rahim is the eldest son of the 49th hereditary Ismaili Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and Begum Salimah Aga Khan. Prince Rahim graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1990, and from Brown University in the United States in 1995. Based at the Secretariat of His Highness at Aiglemont, north of Paris, France, Prince Rahim is an executive Director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development — the economic development arm of the Aga Khan Development Network.

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Islam Enjoins Us To Make a Positive and Visible Impact on the World

“…Absolutist, exclusivist, and rejectionist claims to the truth, especially to religious truth, are increasingly heard from all quarters. Rather than seeing religion as a humble process of growth in faith, some people presume to claim that they have arrived at the end of that journey and can therefore speak with near-divine authority…”

Prince Rahim Aga Khan delivering his commencement address for the Graduation Ceremony of the Institute of Ismaili Studies held at the Ismaili Centre in London in 2007.

Prince Rahim Aga Khan delivering his commencement address at the Graduation Ceremony of the Institute of Ismaili Studies held in London in 2007 at the Ismaili Centre.

BY PRINCE RAHIM AGA KHAN

I am thrilled to join the graduation ceremony in honour of those completing the IIS [Institute of Ismaili Studies] Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities. To you, to your families and to all those who have helped you in this achievement, I say mash’Allah.

I am convinced that the institutions of the Imamat and of the Jamat could benefit directly from the contribution of each of you, either in a professional or a voluntary capacity. Such a contribution would certainly be in keeping with the ethic of our faith that makes it incumbent upon each of us to use our blessings –- be they material or intellectual –- to assist our families, to serve the Jamat and the Ummah, and to help improve society, and indeed, all of humanity. The Jamat and its institutions need young and dynamic women and men like you, who are able to draw on the rich heritage of our past, and on the best educations of the present, to address the challenges of the future.

Education, international studies and diplomacy, non-profit leadership, media, development, law, and regional studies will all be among the most relevant fields of expertise in the decades ahead. This will be particularly true in the developing world.

I was impressed to learn that amongst you are represented five different nationalities, as are several diverse cultural traditions of our Jamat. I am certain that this diversity has enhanced your classroom experience, and I am confident that it will have given you a deeper appreciation of the meaning and value of diversity itself.

We are all aware that we live in a world where diversity is often evoked as a threat and, more particularly, where diversity in the interpretation of a faith can be seen as a sign of disloyalty. This phenomenon is sometimes perceived to apply principally to Muslims, but it also exists in other societies. Absolutist, exclusivist, and rejectionist claims to the truth, especially to religious truth, are increasingly heard from all quarters. Rather than seeing religion as a humble process of growth in faith, some people presume to claim that they have arrived at the end of that journey and can therefore speak with near-divine authority.

Unfortunately, in some parts of the Muslim world today, hostility to diverse interpretations of Islam, and lack of religious tolerance, have become chronic, and worsening, problems. Sometimes these attitudes have led to hatred and violence. At the root of the problem is an artificial notion amongst some Muslims, and other people, that there is, or could ever be, a restricted, monolithic reality called Islam.

Our Ismaili tradition, however, has always accepted the spirit of pluralism among schools of interpretation of the faith, and seen this not as a negative value, but as a true reflection of divine plenitude. Indeed, pluralism is seen as essential to the very survival of humanity. Through your studies you have known the many Qur’anic verses and hadiths of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that acknowledge and extol the value of diversity within human societies. You all know, I am sure, the hadith to the effect that differences of interpretation between Muslim traditions should be seen as a sign of the mercy of Allah.

It should also be clear to anyone who has studied Islamic history or literature, that Islam is, and has always been, a quest that has taken many forms. It has manifested itself in many ways — in different times, amongst different peoples, with changing and evolving emphases, responding to changing human needs, preoccupations, and aspirations.

Even during the early centuries of Islam, there was diversity of intellectual approaches among Muslims. Today, however — both outside the Islamic world and inside it — many people have lost sight of, or wish to be blind to, Islam’s diversity, and to its historical evolution in time and place along a multitude of paths. It befalls us, then, to help those outside the Muslim World to understand Islamic diversity, even as we provide an intellectual counterpoint to those within Islam who would reject it.

I hope that you, as graduates of this programme, will include this message in your own ways in the years ahead, through your work and your words, by your attitudes, by your actions, and by example.

The untrue and unfair, but increasingly widespread equating of the words “Islam” and “Muslim” with “intolerance”, sometimes even with the word “terrorism”, could lead some Muslims to feel despair, indignation, or even shame. To me, however, the current global focus on the Muslim world, and on Islam itself, presents a golden opportunity for us to educate and enlighten, while actively exemplifying the counterpoint I mentioned before. To my eyes, it creates an opportunity, and an even-greater obligation for us to make a positive and visible impact on the world – on culture and art, science and philosophy, politics and ecology, among others.

In order to respond to this opportunity, it will be crucial to reverse another damaging consequence of intolerance, which has been the dissuasion of many Muslim populations from seeking access to what has been called the Knowledge Society. Without an acceptance of diversity, without the ability to harness the creativity that stems from pluralism, the very spirit of the Knowledge Society is stifled. We must encourage, I believe, that Muslims of all communities come together, working collaboratively to tap into the vast endowment of knowledge available today, and without which progress is, if not halted, at least deferred. This cannot be done in the absence of open-mindedness and tolerance.

Implicit in this approach is the need for humility, which is also a central Muslim value. We must all search for the answers to the challenges of our generation, within the ethical framework of our faith, and without pre-judging one another or arbitrarily limiting the scope of that search. Like the great Muslim artists, philosophers and scientists of centuries past, we must enthusiastically pursue knowledge on every hand, always ready to embrace a better understanding of Allah’s creation, and always ready to harness this knowledge in improving the quality of life of all peoples.

As you look towards the future, I hope that you will remember that intellectual pursuits should, wherever possible, seek to address the universal aspirations of humankind, both spiritual and concrete. Those aspirations, for our generation more than for any before, are intertwined in a single global community.

It can be overwhelming at times to ponder the vast array of new problems which seem to multiply in this globalised world.

These include the implications of new technologies and new scientific insights, raising new ethical and legal questions. They include delicate and complex ecological issues, such as the great challenge of climate change. They include matters ranging from the widening gap between rich and poor, to issues of proper governance and effective, fair, and representative government, and to the spread of rampant consumerism and greed, at the expense of others, or of our environment. In some communities, illiteracy and innumeracy are not only continuing problems but are even growing problems. And our challenges also include the increasing difficulty of nurturing pluralism in the face of strong normative trends – finding ways to accommodate our differences – even as hugely differing peoples find themselves in much closer contact with one another.

You have been engaged in studies, some of which analysed the achievements of past Muslim civilisations. What I hope you have come to see is that understanding past Muslim achievements, traditions, values, and ethics should also have equipped you exceptionally well to address the great emerging issues of our own times.

As you now graduate into this challenging world, you will be taking with you the hopes of those who founded, and of those who now drive this study programme. Their central hope is that you will become global leaders in a variety of fields, bearing with you as you go, and applying always, the open-mindedness of our tradition, and the ethics of our faith.

Date posted: Monday, October 12, 2015.

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

REFLECTIVE POOLS IN THE GARDEN,
WELCOME TO THE PARK

IMG_1815 Aga Khan Museum ParkBy Navyn Naran

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: May 25, 2015.

Copyright: Navyn Naran/Simerg. 2015.

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Navyn Naran

Navyn Naran

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

Simerg’s Photo Features: Prince Amyn Aga Khan, Fatimid Glass, Alamut and Bagamoyo Jamatkhana

This website’s photo blog, Simergphotos, was launched just over three years ago. Together, Simerg with Simergphotos, has achieved a combined viewership of over two million – 1.8 million and 306,000 since 2009 and 2011 respectively. During the course of this time we have published memorable photo essays covering a vast array of subjects. Beginning this week, we bring you links to highly informative and educational pieces. Our journey commences with Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s Investiture as Head of Ismaili Scouts, the Discovery of Fatimid Glass in a Byzantine Shipwreck, Alamut Where Every Stone Tells a Story, and A Journey to Bagamoyo Jamatkhana. Please click on the images below for these fascinating historical stories.

000 Prince Amyn Investiture~~~~~

002 Fatimid Glass~~~~~

001 Alamut~~~~~

003 Bagamoyo

Special Photo Essay: A Collection of 48 (Plus One) Images from the Glorious Life of the 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

PLEASE CLICK: A Collection of 48 (Plus 1) Memorable Images from the Life of the 48th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, His Highness the Aga Khan III

Post Layout Aga Khan Special Collection 2Our beloved 48th Imam, Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.), His Highness the Aga Khan, was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877. He assumed the Imamat at the age of 7 in August 1885, and became the longest-serving Imam in Ismaili history. He passed away on July 11, 1957, at the age of 79, bequeathing the hereditary throne of Imamat to his grandson, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan, the current 49th Imam who has been on the throne for 57 years. In his tribute to his grandfather, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity.”…..Photo Collection

A Collection of Readings on Imam Hussein and Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan – Two Ismaili Imams Who Lived 1250 Years Apart

IMAM SULTAN MAHOMED SHAH, HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN (1877 – 1957)

Aga Khan Post ImageOur beloved 48th Imam, Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.) was born in Karachi on November 2, 1877. He assumed the Imamat at the age of 7 in August 1885, and became the longest serving Imam in Ismaili history. He passed away on July 11, 1957, at the age of 79, bequeathing the hereditary throne of Imamat to his grandson, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan, the current 49th Imam who has been on the throne for 57 years. In his tribute to his grandfather, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity.”…..Read More

IMAM HUSSEIN (626 – 680 CE)

Imam Hussein Post LinkOur beloved second Imam, Hazrat Hussein (a.s.) was born on January 8, 626 AC. He began his reign as the 2nd Ismaili Imam* on the death of his father, Hazrat Ali, on January 27, 661. Imam Hussein was martyred in the Battle of Karbala on the 10th day of the Muslim month of Muharram, or October 10, 680, at the age of 54. He was succeeded to the hereditary throne of Imamat by Imam Zainul Abideen. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, and thus shorter than the 365 day solar calendar. This year (2014), the 10th day of the Muharram falls on or around November 3/4……Read more

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*Note: Although Shia Nizari Ismailis consider Imam Hussein (a.s.) as the second Imam, he is generally regarded as the 3rd Imam by other Shia Muslims, who treat his brother Hazrat Hassan (a.s.) as the second Imam.

Happiness of the Talika by Navyn Naran

On the occasion of Prince Rahim Aga Khan’s marriage to Princess Salwa on August 31, 2013, Simerg had published a special photo feature and poem honouring their union. Ismailis around the world now rejoice with their beloved Imam and his family as well as the family of Princess Salwa with the announcement that the couple are  expecting their first child.

We offer our congratulations to Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa, the entire Noorani family as well as Ismailis all around the word on the talika that was received from Mawlana Hazar Imam yesterday. The poem by Navyn Naran may reflect the happiness of the Jamat on receiving this talika. Esoteric in meaning, the poem shares the amazement and happiness of new life.

Form; Hidden-Intermingled; Formless; Untenable-Present

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa on their wedding day on August 31, 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte.

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa on their wedding day on August 31, 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte.

By Navyn Naran

It was as if Blessings were falling from the sky!
manna  arriving from heaven?
onto an earth parched and dry.
Happiness

Spiritual in physical presence
when submerging,
melting,
now hidden from sight
water
a new journey, a New Life

it takes much Energy to evaporate, doesn’t it?
Formless now, your drop is unseen in the earth,
and on that Moment, when Time is here for you to emerge,
the heat carries you.
and entranced, in a trance,  you rise  up
still un seen,
rise away…mmmm

Looking for you i travel,
in cotton white i see you, can’t touch,
a cool lightness of being,
in facade of the cloud.

yet now, as i look up and see this emanation falling,
Unique you arrive,  physical form, enthralling.
in sunlight you are beautiful,
in the quiet, silently,
MY Happiness

Lily of the vallley. Istockphoto. Copyright.

Unique, a snowflake,
Blessings!
a skip in my step, a faster heart beat,
i feel your presence and i melt
“you are the cat’s meow, the ow in my WOW, the lilt in my step”
Snowflake.

A Blessing is coming,
Here you are!
and i see
a Snowflake mixed with the new
confetti snow.
Happiness

Date posted: Saturday, October 25, 2014.

Copyright: Navyn Naran/Simerg. 2014.

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

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