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

By KARIM ISMAIL
with MALIK MERCHANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: July 11, 2022.

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CONTRIBUTORS

Karim Ismail portrait for Barakah
Karim Ismail

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

Malik Merchant

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

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Noah’s Ark by (Late) Jehangir Merchant

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

When the much talked and anticipated Hollywood movie “Noah” hit theatres in North America on March 28, 2014, there was widespread criticism of the movie by numerous Muslim and Christian religious groups. Movie goers had mixed reactions, rating it as high as “A” and “B” and as low as “D”. Google’s numbers indicate that 68% liked the movies. The UK Guardian gave it 3 stars out of 5. A number of Muslim countries including Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population numbering some 231 million (2021) banned the movie for its depiction of Noah. The BBC noted that a number of Arab States including UAE, Qatar and Bahrain were among Middle Eastern countries that banned Noah as it broke Islam’s taboo of depicting a prophet. “There are scenes that contradict Islam and the Bible, so we decided not to show it,” said Juma Al-Leem of Juma Al-Leem UAE’s National Media Centre. Mary Fairchild writing for About.com hinted that the movie would be replete with inaccuracies, and suggested reading the “authentic” story in the Bible.

Simerg has a version of the story from the Qur’an, presented by the well-known late Ismaili Muslim teacher, missionary and writer (Alwaez) Rai Jehangir A. Merchant (December 13, 1928 – May 27, 2018), who dedicated his life to the service of his community for more than 60 years, both in professional and honorary capacities. He passed away on May 27, 2018, exactly 4 years ago, and this popular piece, that has received more than 80,000 views over the years, is being shared by Jehangir’s son Malik, the editor of this website who along with Alwaez’s family members fondly remember him on the 4th anniversary of his passing.

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Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an

A Mughal miniature of Noah's Ark in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
A Mughal miniature of Noah’s Ark in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

[This is a revised version of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant’s original article which was published in Ilm magazine, July 1976, under his pen name Jami. He edited and wrote extensively for the flagship UK Ismaili magazine — Ed.]

By LATE JEHANGIR A. MERCHANT
(1928-2018)

Prophets are the messengers of Allah who came from time to time to guide mankind to the way of Allah, the path of righteousness. Amongst the many who came as guides and warners to the people, Prophet Noah (Alaihisalam) [1] was one of them. He lived long before the time of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu alaihi wasalam), the last of the prophets. [2]

God appointed Noah as the prophet for his people, so as to guide them to the right path and turn them away from their evil ways. The Holy Qur’an tells us the story of Prophet Noah and his people in a number of suras [3], namely sura 71 (Nuh), sura 11 (Hud), and sura 23 (al-Mu’minun), and many ayats [4] therein. It tells us of the strong faith which the Prophet had in Almighty God and about the final destruction of those who ignored the Divine Message.

Commanding Prophet Noah to warn his people, God said:

“Warn your people before there comes upon them a grievous penalty.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:1

Obeying the command of God, Prophet Noah went to his people and said:

“I have come to you with a clear warning that you worship none but God. Verily I fear for you the penalty of a grievous day.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:25-26

The chiefs fearing they would lose their power and authority over the people they ruled, did not approve of what Prophet Noah was preaching and sought to detract the people from the True Path. They argued with the Prophet saying:

“We see nothing special in you except as a man like ourselves. Nor do we see any who have followed you but those who are the meanest amongst us and immature in judgment. Nor do we see in you any excellence over us; in fact we think you are a liar.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:27

Prophet Noah was not perturbed by their derogatory remarks and continued his divine mission purposefully. He called upon his people in a very polite and loving manner to mend their ways. He also warned them of the grievous consequences which would follow if they continued to worship the false gods and lead an immoral life. Assuring them that he was not seeking any wealth or power or favours from them, he said:

“And O my people! I ask you for no wealth in return: my reward is from none but God.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:29

But the chiefs continued to hinder Prophet Noah in his mission by instigating doubts about Noah. They would say to the people:

“He is no more than a man like yourselves. His wish is to assert superiority over you. If God had wished (to send messengers), He could have sent down Angels. Never did we hear such a thing (as he says), among our ancestors of old.” — Holy Qur’an, 23:24. [5]

The chiefs would then turn in anger towards the Prophet and challenge him arrogantly:

“O Noah! Indeed you have disputed with us and you have prolonged the dispute: now bring upon us what you have threatened us with, if you are of the Truthful Ones.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:32

Prophet Noah would then remind them that it was not in his but God’s power to punish them for their evil ways.

“Truly God will bring it on you if He wills, — and then, you will not be able to frustrate it.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:33

But all his warnings, his good advices and counsels seemed to fall on deaf ears. Except for a very few who had followed his guidance, others continued to worship the idols of stone with different names as attested in the following verse:

“And they have said (to each other) ‘Abandon not your gods: abandon neither Wadd nor Suwa, neither Yaguth nor Yauq, nor Nasr.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:23

Prophet Noah re-doubled his efforts but all to no avail. He would then cry out to his Lord:

“O my Lord! I have called to my people by night and by day, but my call only (increases their) flight (from the True Path). And every time I have called to them, that You may forgive them, they have thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, grown obstinate and given themselves up to arrogance. So, I have called to them aloud: further I have spoken to them in public and secretly in private.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:5-9

As the people became more obstinate and refused to accept God’s message accusing Prophet Noah of falsehood, God decided to bring down His punishment upon the unbelievers. To Prophet Noah, God commanded:

“Construct the Ark within Our sight and under Our guidance. Then when comes Our command, and the fountains of the earth gush forth, take on board pairs of every species, male and female, and your people except those of them against whom the Word has already been issued: and address Me not in respect of those who are unjust; for verily they shall be drowned (in the flood).” — Holy Qur’an, 23:27

Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “Noah’s Ark”, Herat 1425. Leaf: 42.3 × 32.6 cm. The scene on the stormy sea is quite dramatic, with the fluttering sail, the ark breaking out of the picture frame, and the swollen bodies. The animals that are to populate the earth are rendered both humorously and fairly realistically. Photo: The David Collection, Denmark.
Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “Noah’s Ark”, Herat 1425. Leaf: 42.3 × 32.6 cm. The scene on the stormy sea is quite dramatic, with the fluttering sail, the ark breaking out of the picture frame, and the swollen bodies. The animals that are to populate the earth are rendered both humorously and fairly realistically. Photo: The David Collection, Denmark.

As commanded, Prophet Noah now set upon the task of building the Ark with the help of the small group of believers. The sight of Prophet Noah and his men constructing the Ark seemed to amuse the chiefs and unbelievers. They did not realise the seriousness of the situation but only laughed and jeered.

“Whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they mocked at him…” — Holy Qur’an, 11:38

Prophet Noah would now answer back to their mocking comments in a very bold and straight-forward manner:

“…If you ridicule us now, verily we too shall mock at you, even as you mock (at us). But soon will you know who it is on whom will descend a penalty which will cover them with shame and upon whom will fall a lasting penalty.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:38-39

When the Ark was completed, Prophet Noah took with him his family and the believers, and a pair of every creature that was found on the land around him. Now God’s warning to the people that He would send floods upon them came to pass.

“At length, behold! there came our Command, and the fountains of the earth gushed forth.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:40

The flood waters began to rise. Believers who had so far suffered at the hands of the chiefs and idol worshippers found themselves safe in Noah’s Ark. They offered their prayers and prostration to Almighty God as thanksgiving for the Mercy He had bestowed upon them. The unbelievers who had ignored God’s guidance were in a grievous state. All was lost to them. The heavy downpour of rain, the strong winds, the deafening thunder and the blinding lightning created confusion in their minds and fear in their hearts. They ran helter-skelter in search for safety. They climbed the roof-tops and the trees but nothing could save them now as the waters rose higher and higher.

Amongst the unbelievers was Prophet Noah’s own son, and he too was desperately trying to save himself from the flood waters. Prophet Noah’s Ark with all aboard was sailing safely on the waters and just when the Prophet saw his son he called out to him and said:

‘O my son! embark with us and be not with the unbelievers’. The son replied: ‘I will betake myself to some mountain, it will save me from the flood’. And Noah said: ‘This day nothing can save you from what God has decreed, for only those on whom He has Mercy will be saved’. And the waves came between them and the son was among the drowned ones.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:42-43

Finally, when all the unbelievers were drowned in the flood, God commanded:

“O Earth! swallow up your water, and O Sky! withhold your rain! and the water abated and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi.” [6] — Holy Qur’an, 11:44

A mausoleum dedicated to Prophet Noah in Azerbaijan. Photo: Wikipedia.
A mausoleum dedicated to Prophet Noah in Azerbaijan. Photo: Wikipedia.

As the ark rested on Mount Judi, Prophet Noah prayed:

“O my Lord! enable me to disembark with Your Blessings, for You are the Best of all to enable us to disembark.” — Holy Qur’an, 23:29

This story from the Holy Qur’an is as a sign from God to the whole of humanity living in different times. It reminds us of the great powers of God. This is not to say that God only possesses the powers to destroy and punish; more so, it tells us of God’s Infinite Love, Care and Mercy He has for all mankind, for it is He Who sends His Guidance to every race and every people.

“And there never was a people, without a Warner, having lived among them.” — Holy Qur’an, Sura Al-Fatir, 35:24.

Date posted: May 27, 2022.

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Notes:

[1] Alaihisalam (abbreviation AS) means ‘Peace be upon him’. Salallahu alaihi wasalam (abbreviation SAWS or SAS) means ‘God’s blessings and peace be upon him’.

[2] Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was the last in the line of the Prophets. There will be no prophet after him and he is therefore called Khatam al-nabiyyin – the Seal of the Prophets. The Holy Qur’an says: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men but he is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets, and God has full knowledge of all things’ (33:40, Sura Al-Ahzab).

[3] Sura means ‘Chapter’. There are 114 chapters in the Holy Qur’an.

[4] Ayat means ‘Verse’. Each Quranic chapter contains a number of verses. The total number of verses in the Holy Qur’an is 6240, or including the 113 ‘Bismillahi-r-Rahmanir-Rahim’ with which the chapters open, 6353. Every chapter except the ninth opens with the ‘Bismillah’. There also exists a slight difference in the numbering of verses. Kufah readers count them 6329, Basrah 6204, Syria 6225, Mecca 6219, Medina 6211. But this is a difference of computation only, some readers marking the end of a verse where others do not.

[5] The wrong doers who never wanted to desist from evil and give up their false worship always questioned as to why Angels were not sent to them as Messengers. They would ask: “What sort of an apostle is this, who eats food and walks though the streets’? Why has not an angel been sent down to give admonition with him’? (Holy Qur’an, 25:7, Sura Al-Furqan).

The Arabs during the time of Prophet Muhammad brought forward the same argument and God commanded our Holy Prophet to answer: “If there were settled on earth, angels walking about in peace and quiet, We should certainly have sent for them an Angel for an apostle down from the heavens” (17:95, Sura Bani-Israel).

Because men inhabit this earth it is only natural that Prophets who bring God’s message to Mankind are also men and not angels.

[6] Jabal (Mount) Judi is situated in the modern Turkish district of Bohtan. The great mountain mass of the Ararat Plateau dominates the district. This mountain system “is unique in the Old World in containing great sheets of water that are bitter lakes without outlets, Lake Van and Lake Urumiya being the chief.” (Encyclopaedia Brittanica). Such would be the very region for a stupendous deluge if the usual scanty rainfall were to be changed into a very heavy downpour. The region has many local traditions connected with Noah and the flood.

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A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mawlana Hazar Imam and Jehangir Merchant
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan listens intently as Alwaez Jehangir explains the material used to impart religious education to Ismaili youth in Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), while Ismaili leaders look on. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Alwaez Jehangir (d. May 27, 2018, age 89) and his wife Alwaeza Maleksultan (d. January 21, 2021, age 89) served the Ismailia Association (now the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board, ITREB) in Mozambique, Tanzania and the UK from 1954 until 1992, and continued to serve Ismaili institutions on an honorary basis until the last years of their lives. Jehangir A. Merchant passed away in May 2018 at the age of 89. Please see Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) 

For articles by Alwaez Jehangir on this Website please click:

  1. I Wish I’d Been There: Ghadir-Khumm and the Two Weighty Matters
  2. An Esoteric Interpretation of the Mi’raj
  3. The Establishment of the Fatimid Caliphate
  4. The Parable of Moses and Khidr in the Holy Qur’an
  5. Jehangir Merchant’s Thank You Letter to Da’i Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi
  6. Text and Explanation of “Eji Shah Islamshah Amne Maliya”
  7. A Translation and Brief Commentary of Pir Sadardin’s Ginan “Jem Jem Jugatsu Preet Kareva”
  8. The Frontispiece of the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Mashhad, Iran

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a fewPlease also visit our sister website Barakah, dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and our photo blog Simergphotos.

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

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears at the bottom of this page or click LEAVE A COMMENT. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

(1) The Immaculate Conception of Jesus in the Qura’n and its Impact on a Christian Emperor by Barnaby Rogerson; and (2) Jesus Through a Muslim Lens by Michael Wolfe

“Muhammad, who could do nothing to alleviate the suffering of his small embattled community of believers, at last advised some of his followers to leave sacred Mecca and take refuge elsewhere”…. Read Barnaby Rogerson’s Piece

The Altar of the Nativity, beneath which is the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright. Please click on image for Barnaby Rogerson's piece.
The Altar of the Nativity, beneath which is the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Photo: Copyright Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Please click on image for Barnaby Rogerson’s piece.

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“Christians may be surprised to learn that Muslims believe in the Virgin Birth and Jesus’ miracles”….. Read Michael Wolfe’s Piece

Left: Virgin Mary nurtured by a palm tree in a Turkish miniature, as described in the Qur'an; right: Mary and Jesus in a Persian miniature. Please click on image for Michael Wolfe's article "Jesus Through a Muslim Lens." Images: Wikipedia.
Left: Virgin Mary nurtured by a palm tree in a Turkish miniature, as described in the Qur’an; right: Mary and Jesus in a Persian miniature. Please click on image for Michael Wolfe’s article “Jesus Through a Muslim Lens.” Images: Wikipedia.

Date posted: May 23, 2022.

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Laylat al-Qadr: The Night of Power

BY KARIMA MAGHRABY
(Additional material compiled by Simerg)

In his Khamsa, Shab-i Qadr (the Night of Power), the renowned Persian poet Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE) tells the story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the Laylat al-Qadr. This image is taken from a folio in the Aga Khan Museum collection; the Toronto museum is due to open in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum
In his Khamsa, Shab-i Qadr (the Night of Power), the renowned Persian poet Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE) tells the story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the Laylat al-Qadr. This image is taken from a folio in the Aga Khan Museum collection.

Laylat al-Qadr is the auspicious night 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 Shia Ismaili Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadan, in keeping with traditions received through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and his wife Hazrat Bibi Fatimah (a.s.), and the Imams of the Fatimid dynasty. It is a night of special prayer, reflection and remembrance of Allah. In 2022, this falls on Saturday, April 23.

When Prophet Muhammad was 40 years old, he received his first divine revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel. When Angel Jibreel appeared to him, he said:

“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, Al-Alaq, 96:1-5

The first revelation
Part of Al-Alaq (The Clot) – 96th sura of the Holy Qur’an – the first revelation received by Prophet Muhammad

The night of this first revelation is celebrated as Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power). The following verses from the Holy Qur’an describe the loftiness of this night and articulate the importance of the final revealed scripture to mankind:

“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

Cave of Hira
A photo of Cave of Hira in the Mount of Light, near Mecca, where the Prophet would come for his devotions and meditations, and the sacred spot where the Holy Quran began to be revealed. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) had just stepped into the forty-first year of his life, when during the 23rd night in the month of Ramadan the first 5 verses of the Surah Al-Alaq (96) were revealed to him. The small cave is about 3.5 meters long and 2 meters wide. Hira was the Prophet Muhammad’s most adorable place for meditation.

“(This is) a Scripture which We have revealed unto you (Muhammad) that thereby you may bring forth mankind from darkness unto light, by the permission of their Lord, unto the path of the Mighty, the Owner of Praise.” — 14:01

“And celebrate the name of thy Lord morning and evening. And part of the night, prostrate thyself to Him; and glorify Him a long night through. As to these, they love the fleeting life, and put away behind them a Day (that will be) hard.” — 76:25-27

Mountain of Light
Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) received his first revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) in the Hira cave which is on Jabl al Nur (Mount of Light) shown in this photo. The peak is visible from a great distance. The Prophet used to climb this mountain often even before receiving his fist revelation from Allah.

“We sent it down during a Blessed Night” — 44:3

“Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong)” — 2:185

Hazrat Mawlana Murtaza Ali (a.s.) the successor of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) to the throne of Imamat is quoted as having said:

“Do not remember God absent-mindedly, nor forget Him in distraction; rather, remember Him with perfect remembrance (dhikran kamilan), a remembrance in which your heart and tongue are in harmony, and what you conceal conforms with what you reveal.” — quoted in Justice and Remembrance, Introducing the Spirituality of Imam Ali, by Reza Shah Kazemi, p. 162.

Date first posted: July 18, 2014.
Last updated: April 23, 2022.

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Credits:
1. Wikipedia.org

2. Mecca.net
3. English Translation of the Qur’anic verses by Arthur John Arberry.

LINKS TO A SELECTION OF ADDITIONAL ARTICLES ON THE HOLY QUR’AN

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The Hawk at Aga Khan Park: Beautiful Photos from Simerg’s 2021 Collection

Hast thou not seen how that whatsoever is in the heavens and in the earth extols God, and the birds spreading their wings? Each — He knows its prayer and its extolling; and God knows the things they do — Holy Qur’an, 24:41, Sura An-Nur

Hawk at Aga Khan Park
Please click on image for more beautiful photos of the hawk’s visit to Aga Khan Park in August 2021.

Date posted: December 23, 2021.

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

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

Eid-e Ghadir Mubarak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eid Mubarak!

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Ginan: Imam Must Be Present on Earth

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

Translation:

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

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Objects Commemorating the Idd-e Ghadir

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

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At the Ghadir Khumm Campsite

By BARNABY ROGERSON

Barnaby Rogerson

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

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

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

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

Date posted: July 26, 2021.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The Birth of Jesus Christ in the Qur’an and Its Impact on a Christian Emperor by Barnaby Rogerson

The Altar of the Nativity, beneath which is the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright. Please click on image for Barnaby Rogerson's piece.
The Altar of the Nativity, beneath which is the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Photo: © Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Please click on image for complete article.

Verses from the Holy Qur’an on the Immaculate Conception of Jesus Christ

19:17 Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man.

19:18 She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing.

19:19 He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son.

19:20 She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste?

19:21 He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained.

19:22 And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place.

19:23 And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm-tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died ere this and had become a thing of naught, forgotten!

[Mary complains to a palm tree about the pains of childbirth. The tree tells her to shake its trunk and ripe dates will fall.]

19:24 Then (one) cried unto her from below her, saying: Grieve not! Thy Lord hath placed a rivulet beneath thee,

19:25 And shake the trunk of the palm-tree toward thee, thou wilt cause ripe dates to fall upon thee.

19:26 So eat and drink and be consoled. And if thou meetest any mortal, say: Lo! I have vowed a fast unto the Beneficent, and may not speak this day to any mortal.

19:27 Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing……CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE

Date posted: December 25, 2020.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is tasbih and what are its origins in Islam?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted:  April 6, 2020.

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

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

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The lonely death of 20th century Qur’an translator A. Yusuf Ali; assessing Qur’an translations; and interview with music artist Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)

Yusuf Ali, Quran translator
Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Photo: Wikipedia.

“On a frigid December morning in 1953, a policeman found a half-conscious old man slumped on a street bench in the Westminster area of London. That man was Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the famous 20th-century translator of the Quran. He died alone, homeless, and with no one by his side…Generations of Muslims in English-speaking countries have grown up reading Yusuf Ali’s interpretation of the Quran…Read Saad Hasan’s piece in TRTWORLD. 

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Assessing Qur'an translations
Please click on image for article.

Multiple translations of the Qur’an line shelves at book stores. Because of the growing Muslim communities in English-speaking countries, as well as greater academic interest in Islam, there has been a blossoming in recent years of English translation. Since fewer than 20 percent of Muslims speak Arabic, this means that most Muslims study the text only in translation. So how accurate are the Qur’an’s renderings into English? The record is mixed…Read more of this informative piece in Simerg (includes a note on Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation).

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TRT World Showcase Special with Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens – Why he picked up the guitar again.

“…When the people have nothing, that’s the moment when you have to sing…” — Yusuf Islam

Video: Yusuf Islam

Considered a legend in the music world, Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens opens up to TRT World about his spiritual journey, and shares his thoughts about the world. Please watch the interview, above.

Date posted: October 5, 2019.

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Kaba textile fragment at Aga Khan Museum Toronto

Outstanding 100 year old Ka’ba textile on display at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum until September 9, 2019

The following piece has been compiled and adapted from material supplied by the Aga Khan Museum; it incorporates notes by Dr. Ulrike al-Khamis, the Museum’s Director of Collections and Public Programs.

From Mecca to Toronto

Ka’ba in Mecca. Photo: Aga Khan Museum; Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Rian Dewji.

On display for the first time in Toronto is a 100-year-old silk fragment from a hizam — part of a ceremonial draping that covers the Ka’ba, Islam’s holiest site to which millions of Muslims made the annual pilgrimage on Friday August 9, 2019.

The Ka’ba is draped in a black ceremonial covering known as the kiswa, and around the upper part of the kiswa runs the hizam — an ornamented belt embroidered  in silver and silver-gilt thread with Qur’anic verses relating to the pilgrimage.

This hizam is one of the Aga Khan Museum’s most significant textiles and is on special display until September 9, 2019. Measuring eight metres long and nearly one metre tall, it once belonged to a kiswa that measured 47 meters and was made in Cairo around the early 20th century.

Aga Khan Museum Textile from the Kaba
This textile from the Ka’ba is on display at the Aga Khan Museum until September 9, 2019. Free viewing was available during celebrations marking the Hajj and Eid al-Adha from August 10-14. Photo: The Aga Khan Museum.

As one of the most prominent kiswa ornaments, the hizam traditionally runs the length of the Ka‘ba’s upper perimeter. The inscription here contains verses 27-29 from chapter 22 (Al-Hajj) of the Qur’an:

“And proclaim to mankind the hajj. They will come to you on foot and on every lean camel, they will come from every deep and distant mountain highway. That they may witness things that are of benefit to them, and mention the name of Allah on appointed days, over the beast of cattle that He has provided for them. Then eat thereof and feed therewith the poor who have a very hard time. Then let them complete their prescribed duties and perform their vows, and circumambulate the Ancient House.”

The roundels contain further Qur’anic references that mention ‘God the Eternal’ as well as the Prophet Muhammad.

The Ka‘ba receives a new drape every year during the pilgrimage season. After it ends, the kiswa is taken down, divided and either gifted to dignitaries or sold to raise money for charity.

Note: The museum is open everyday from 10 am to 6 pm (8 pm on Wednesdays). It is closed on Mondays, except holiday Mondays.

19th/20th Century Views of Ka’ba

A bird’s eye view of the Ka’ba as photographed in 1889. Note the hizam that runs around the upper part of the Ka’ba. Photo: US Library of Congress.
ca. 1910. A close-up photo of the Ka’ba with the hizam running around the upper part of the black cloth (the kiswa). Photo: US Library of Congress.

Date posted: August 7, 2019.
Last updated: August 15, 2019.

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