Ismailis in Hunza prepare in earnest for the Aga Khan: Photos & Videos @Barakah

The excitement for the didar has spilled into every corner of Hunza. There will be more Jamati members participating in this Darbar than ever before. The entire registration process began some months ago and this has proceeded very well. The spirit of the Jamat and volunteers particularly in central Hunza is extremely high. The darbar task force members are active at each of the villages. Transportation, crowd control, accommodation and lodging have become major challenges. Jamats living in remoter areas will start moving to Aliabad at least 4 days before darbar…..MORE

PLEASE CLICK: Ismailis on the roof of the world make incredible preparations for Diamond Jubilee Darbars of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Please click on photo for story, videos and more pictures.

Date posted: December 5, 2017.

Aga Khan’s forthcoming visit to remote Chitral: Photos with video @Barakah

PLEASE CLICK: Ismailis, as spiritual children of Mawlana Hazar Imam, always take to rejoicing when they hear about their Imam’s confirmed visits to other jurisdictions. Each visit by the Imam is filled with blessing for that particular jamat, as well as for other jamats around the world. I became truly conscious of this fact during an extraordinary moment in Montreal, just over a week ago, on the morning of November 21 — Read more at Barakah, a special project by Simerg dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan

Site of the Diamond Jubilee mulaqat of His Highness the Aga Khan with his jamat in Chitral. Please click for report, video and more photos.

His Highness the Aga Khan on the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) – with audio

INTRODUCTION: On February 18, 1976, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, accompanied by Begum Salimah Aga arrived in Pakistan for a month long visit that included several mulaqats with Ismailis around the country. During the visit they both attended numerous public and private events and engagements and Mawlana Hazar Imam announced the creation of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The first cycle of the award ceremony was held at the beautiful Shalimar Gardens in Lahore in 1980.

The extended 1976 visit also co-incided with Pakistan hosting the Seerat Conference over a 10 day period at which eminent scholars from around the world spoke in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi on various aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him). When the Aga Khan was invited by Mowlana Kausar Niazi, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Religious Affairs, to preside over the Seerat gathering that took place in Karachi on March 12, 1976, he noted at the beginning of his presidential that he felt both trepidation and joy at the opportunity, “trepidation because few subjects could be more awe inspiring for any Muslim to speak on, joy as few subjects could give greater happiness to be involved with.”

As hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world prepare to celebrate the life of the Prophet on the occasion of his birth anniversary that falls on the 12th of Rabi al-Awwal — between November 29 and December 3, 2017 — no piece would be more befitting for the auspicious anniversary than the inspiring and insightful words spoken at the Seerat Conference by the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad himself. We are pleased to present the following excerpts from 49th Ismaili Imam’s Seerat speech, following which we have included the audio of the speech.

The Aga Khan on Allah’s Last Messenger

Aga Khan speaking at Seerat Conference

His Highness the Aga Khan giving his Presidential Address at the Seerat Conference in Karachi on March 12, 1976. Photo: The Ismaili.

A request to the conference

“Few conferences can have gathered so many men of outstanding intellect, who have devoted so much time and wisdom to the study of Islam and the life of the Holy Prophet, peace be upon him….I will begin by making a request: One hundred and seventy two eminent scholars from forty-eight countries have gathered in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Karachi to present the results of their research and reflection on various aspects of the life of the Holy Prophet. From all these exchanges, from all the private debates which have preceded and succeeded the presentation of each paper, will have come an immense range of new thoughts, new ideas and new understanding of the Prophet’s life. I sincerely request that you have available to all Muslims a complete printed record of these papers and the subsequent debates.”

Responsibilities of rich Muslim countries

“The poorer countries of Islam have ahead of them years of increasingly hard work if they wish to progress materially to acceptable standards of every day life. The richer countries, especially those that have new means, will rapidly find that this wealth, blessing that it is, will impose upon them heavy new responsibilities. They will have to administrate this wealth wisely, in the best interest of their citizens, but also keeping in mind that they have a heavy responsibility to their less well endowed brother Muslim countries, and indeed to the human race at large. Thus it is my profound conviction that Islamic Society in the years ahead will find that our traditional concept of time, a limitless mirror in which to reflect on the eternal, will become a shrinking cage, an invisible trap from which fewer and fewer will escape.”

Holding firm the ship of life: Answers in the Qur’an and the Prophet

“I have observed in the Western world a deeply changing pattern of human relations. The anchors of moral behaviour appear to have dragged to such depths that they no longer hold firm the ship of life: what was once wrong is now simply unconventional, and for the sake of individual freedom must be tolerated. What is tolerated soon becomes accepted. Contrarily, what was once right is now viewed as outdated, old fashioned and is often the target of ridicule.”

“In the face of this changing world, which was once a universe to us and is now no more than an overcrowded island, confronted with a fundamental challenge to our understanding of time, surrounded by a foreign fleet of cultural and ideological ships which have broken loose, I ask, “Do we have a clear, firm and precise understanding of what Muslim Society is to be in times to come?” And if as I believe, the answer is uncertain, where else can we search then in the Holy Qur’an, and in the example of Allah’s last and final Prophet?

“There is no justification for delaying the search for the answer to this question by the Muslims of the world, because we have the knowledge that Islam is Allah’s final message, the Qur’an His final book and Muhammed His last Prophet. We are blessed that the answers drawn from these sources guarantee that neither now, nor at any time in the future will we be going astray. As the demands on his time increase, every Muslim will find it more and more difficult to seek for himself the answer to the fundamental question of how he should live his life for it to be truly Muslim. It is men such as you who will have to bring forth the answers, answers which will have to be practical and realistic in the world of today and tomorrow. Rather than let force of circumstance impose upon us through our default in not having suitably prepared ourselves for the future, ways of life which are not or should not be ours, we must ourselves design the path we should tread.”

Bearing fruits in the diverse Muslim world

“In seeking to define what our Islamic Society should be in times ahead, 50 and 100 and 200 years hence we should, I believe, be aware that the Muslims of this world cover such an amazing range of historical, ethnic and cultural backgrounds that a completely monolithic answer may not be found. I am convinced on the other hand, that we do want to avoid so much diversity that our Muslim countries are in conflict amongst themselves or that they are so divided that they are incapable successfully of facing common enemies, be they cultural, religious, national or otherwise. This is why I so applaud Pakistan for having organized the first Muslim Summit Conference, and now this Seerat Conference, for it is only through dialogue, personal contacts and continuous exchanges that the great diversity of cultures, knowledge, outlook and resources can be co-ordinated and brought to bear fruit for the Muslim world.”

Greatest opportunity for Muslim unity is now

“Let me return, now, to the question of what Muslim Society should seek to be in the years ahead. Islam, as even non-Muslims have observed, is a way of life. This means that every aspect of the individual’s daily existence is guided by Islam: his family relations, his business relations, his education, his health, the means and manner by which he gains his livelihood, his philanthropy, what he sees and hears around him, what he reads, the way he regulates his time, the buildings in which he lives, learns and earns.

“I cannot think of any time in Islamic history when Muslims have had a greater opportunity to unite, and to ensure that the society in which they live is that which they have defined and chosen for themselves.

“Not only are all forms of human communication easier than ever before in history, but rarely, if ever has the Muslim world had such means to ensure its future. Conferences such as this seeking inspiration from the life of the Holy Prophet could render no greater service to Islam than to assist in defining what steps can be taken, where, and how, to ensure that our people can live in the years ahead in greater peace, greater prosperity and in an Islamic Society which will not be overrun or simply taken by surprise, by forces, pressures or concepts which are totally alien and may damage us irretrievably.”

Searching for a solution through eminent men and women

“In our search for a solution, I am convinced that we must call upon our own men and women, who have achieved positions of eminence anywhere in the world, and persuade them to return, for us to benefit from their knowledge, their learning and their work. All too often in my journeys I have met or learnt of outstanding Muslim scholars, doctors, scientists, and architects who have remained abroad, or who, when they do come home, have failed to receive the support and encouragement necessary for them to bring to their nations’ benefit their Muslim outlook on key areas of modern progress.

“Any meaningful human endeavour, any original thinking, any authentic research, will require moral encouragement and material support. This we must provide, not only during the individual’s initial years of learning, but equally when he leaves the restricted life of his academic centre to enter into the wider world of national or international activity.”

The inspiring life of the Holy Prophet

“The Holy Prophet’s life gives us every fundamental guideline that we require to resolve the problem as successfully as our human minds and intellects can visualise. His example of integrity, loyalty, honesty, generosity both of means and of time, his solicitude for the poor, the weak and the sick, his steadfastness in friendship, his humility in success, his magnanimity in victory, his simplicity, his wisdom in conceiving new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam, surely all these are foundations which, correctly understood and sincerely interpreted, must enable us to conceive what should be a truly modern and dynamic Islamic Society in the years ahead.”

Audio of the Aga Khan speech made at the Seerat Conference

Date posted: November 30, 2017.

_____________________

Simerg welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com.

Note: This article also appears on http://www.barakah.com, a special Simerg project to celebrate 60 years or the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan.

 

A Post Didar Reflection: Using Avicenna’s Realm of Active Imagination for Keeping Evergreen the Consciousness of the Holy Encounter with Mawlana Hazar Imam

Aga Khan departure 2017

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, waves goodbye at Montreal airport at the end of his recent visit to Canada. Photo: The Ismaili/Moez Visram.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

It is natural that as we reflect and interiorize the joys of sights and sensations of mulaqats with Mawlana Hazar Imam including the most recent ones in Toronto and Montreal, the post-mulaqat vacuum may create a sense of post-padhramni sadness or what we call blues. The chores and demands of daily life which are put in abeyance during the anticipatory period of the mulaqat, once again begins to claim our attention and the bliss of mulaqat may begin to fade from the minds of some. The “presence” that had given joy to the heart begins to fade. These are the precursors to the onset of a sense of sadness. Lose not hope. There is a remedy. Glittering gems are scattered around to light our path, away from the blues. Let me explain.

In his commentary on the Visionary Recitals of Avicenna [1, 2], the renowned Orientalist Henry Corbin has recognized an essential bridge that gives rise to religious or mystical/spiritual consciousness. Corbin call this the faculty of Active Imagination. What does this term “Active Imagination” mean? In ordinary language, Active Imagination is the sum total of our mental faculties with imagination as its chief driver that allows us to configure the existence of a spiritual universe as a concrete reality. Without it the existence of such universes becomes doubtful. Visionary Recitals of Avicenna are renowned for promoting the realm of this Active Imagination which allow the flowering of spiritual symbolism in the heart that prepares it for an adventure into the unknown.

Sufism recognizes two different conditions of consciousness on the mystical path: the first of these known as al-Hal is a state of consciousness which is transient or passing. It could be a state of sadness, ecstasy, happiness or any other state dictated by the mind. Pir Sadardin’s epic granth Buj Niranjan (Chapter 20, Verse 4) describes such a state when a soul, intoxicated in divine love, vacillates between state of happiness and sadness:

Kabuek hanse aur kabuek rove
Kabuek lag piya gal sove……(4)

Translation:

Sometimes she cries, at others she laughs
Sometimes she is as if in embrace of the beloved……(4)

The other condition known as al-Maqam is a permanent station achieved by the desire and effort of the seeker and grace from above. These stations (pl. maqaamat) are necessary stages of progress along the path to spiritual enlightenment. At a deeper level, Active Imagination is at work in the attainment of the various states and stations of the path. The aim of those who are on the esoteric path is not to get bogged down in the transient, passing states but to steadfastly continue on the path to the encounter with the Higher Reality.

With this background we turn our attention to the post padhramni sadness we referred to earlier and to its cure(s). One Ginan that help us in this regard is Aji Hete Sun Milore Mara Munivero. [3] The beauty of this Ginan is that it does not require a complex philosophical project or spiritual mumbo-jumbo to deliver a simple elixir for the heart. The messages it conveys are profound truths of spiritual search and the practical engagement of the Active Imagination. The verses of our interest are 4, 5 and 8.

The key points of verse 4 are that Lord’s name is pure and divine; that one needs to invoke Him by this “Name” with regularity; that His “presence” is mingled intimately with the heart just as fragrance is an intimate essence of the flower.

Aji Paak saajeb ji nun naam chee
Tene jampi-e saas ussas
Dur ma dekho dil maahe vase
Jem chaampa phool mahe vaas……(4)

Translation:

Divine is the “Name” of the Lord
Invoke this “Name” with regularity,
Do not see Him far, He is intimately mingled in your heart
Just as fragrance is intimate with the Flower……(4)

Verse 5 reinforces what has been stated in Verse 4 and exemplifies and demands the engagement of the Active Imagination in the practice of the invocation of the “Name.” It states that every atom of the body is imbued with the divine presence.

So, in essence the “presence” never left! It is always there. The last line of the verse capitulates one of the remedies to counter the sadness: Perform devotion with the understanding that He, the Lord is always seated in the heart.

Aji rome rome maaro Shaah vase,
Ane antar nahi ek til
Evun jaanni bhgaataai kij-e
Shaah partake bethaa dil……(5)

Translation:

The Lord is mingled with every atom of your body.
Do not harbor delusion that you are separate from him
Perform your devotion with the knowledge that
He is forever seated in your heart……(5)

Faith is the ultimate essence of Active Imagination. In verse 8 of Hetesun Milore Mara Munivero we see this at play:

Aji raini ajvari chaand sun,
ane divas ajvaro sur
Tem Ghat ajvaro Iman sun……(8)

This verse provides an added,  joyful ingredient to the uplifting elixir provided by verses 4 and 5. It states that just as night is lighted by the moon and sun lights the day, so faith lights the heart. And such a heart is in continual bliss of rain of Nur (light).

What these verses of the Ginan indicate is that the “presence” of the Imam never left the heart. It is always there. A combination of faith and Active Imagination provides a continual reinforcement of the “presence.” But this requires the necessary action of continual remembrance with the understanding that He is ever present in the heart.

Date posted: November 29, 2017.

_____________

Notes:  

[1]. Avicenna and the Visionary Recital, translated from the French by Willard R. Trask, Bollingen Series, LXVI, 1960.
[2]. All the World an Icon: Henry Corbin and the Angelic Function of Beings by Tom Cheetham, North Atlantic Books,  Berkeley, California, 2012. Available also as a Kindle book.
[3]. http://ginans.usask.ca/.

Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.

We welcome your feedback. Please click LEAVE A COMMENT.

 

An open letter to all Ismaili brothers and sisters of Ontario who had a mulaqat with Mawlana Hazar Imam in Toronto; your stories and example have inspired us and we will think of you in Montreal

Mubaraki to the Ontario jamat, mubaraki to the volunteers and mubaraki to the leadership; and Mawlana Hazar Imam “Amen” for your immense love, care and blessings, as well as for assuring us that you are always with us!

By ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT

Qur’anic ayat inside front page of Mulaqat Canada 2017 information booklet.

PLEASE ALSO CLICK: Update #6: After a memorable 4-day encounter of the Ontario Ismailis with Mawlana Hazar Imam, 12,000 more strong souls await chance in Montreal to show their love for 49th Imam

I have arrived in Montreal! It’s Sunday evening. I can see the Palais des congrès de Montréal from the 10th floor of the apartment I have rented. The Palais des congrès, or the Convention Centre as it is also known, is in the north end of Old Montreal. This is a gigantic place and is capable of holding multiple events simultaneously. It is where the Ottawa jamat will be joining with the jamat of the Quebec and Maritime Provinces to undergo an experience of the kind the Ontario jamats have gone through in the last 72 hours or so. A total of approximately 12,000 murids, divided into 2 equal seatings, will be meeting with their beloved Imam on Tuesday, November 21st. The Quebec jamat is overwhelmingly of Afghan origin. I will be huddled with them and I am looking forward to that. I am confident their spirit, their kindness, their discipline and their voices of devotion will uplift me immensely.

My spirit is growing with each minute that passes by. Text messages and emails are coming from everywhere describing the joyful didars in Toronto. Murids of all ages are overwhelmed. A friend wrote to me: “It was very special; everyone is very happy and feeling blessed, it has been amazing; it has been amazing because of the superb organization and also the Jamat was very disciplined!”

Another family friend of Portuguese origin wrote to me and others: “You were in our thoughts and prayers. You were remembered individually and (we) submitted prayers for all deceased members, your families and relatives, the world Jamat as well as the entire humanity!”

There are other inspiring narratives that I keep on receiving, and they all share the same sentiments, including the great discipline of the jamat; the active participation in the intezari program because of the wonderful items that were selected for recitation and the high calibre of reciters. Their messages mention the intense interaction of the Jamat with the Imam as he walked around to shower his Noorani rain and blessings on the jamat.

The messages circulating the earth carry with them the blessings that Hazar Imam asked the jamats in Toronto to convey to their families (Amen, I respond most joyously and happily); his blessings on the volunteers for their superb work (they would get to their duty positions well before the halls opened, as early as 4:30 or 5 am); the blessings for the deceased souls of our family members; the Imam’s hopes for brotherhood and a spirit of unity around the world;  his guidance to the youth on the importance of education, prayers for the Jamats facing unrest and for mushkil aasan; his advice to us asking us to adopt  best practices in our lives; his desire to end poverty in the jamat. And of course there were instances of humour and laughter.

Mulaqat 2017 Canada Visit booklet

Table of contents in Mulaqat Canada 2017 information booklet produced by Ismaili institutions, one each for Montreal and Toronto mulaqats. Shown is the bilingual Montreal edition.

DSCF2883

Taufiq Karmaili (right) with a team of local Ismaili singers performing at a devotional evening in Montreal. Photo: Copyright Muslim Harji.

Canada Mulaqat

Mulaqat Canada 2017 information booklet produced by Ismaili institutions, one each for Montreal and Toronto mulaqats.

In Ottawa, I witnessed how well coordinated the leadership and the volunteers are with their Quebec counterparts. I attended on Friday an overview of preparations that are underway in Montreal. I was stunned! Everything has been thought of! Now imagine, the Toronto mulaqat hosted more than twice as many! The preparations leading to the mulaqat have been intense in all ways one can imagine. The registration process that got underway as soon as the visit was announced on October 27, was efficient, as was the delivery of the entrance cards this week; devotional evenings with the singing of qasidas, ginans and songs have set the tone for one of a kind spiritual experience; waezes have illuminated us on matters concerning discipline and importance of didar. Nothing has been overlooked or left out including regular notifications through jamati announcements and special Al-Akhbar newsletters as well as updates on the downloadable iiCanada app – and all this in a matter of weeks. This is awesome, an unbelievable accomplishment, and I await my chance in about 40 hours! I will remember everyone just as I was remembered by others during their mulaqats in Toronto!

Earlier today, I trusted the snow ploughs and salt trucks to make my trip to Montrael a safe one after last night’s freezing rain. I may get lost entering through one of the many entry points at the Palais des congrès. I may be a few hundred meters from the main mulaqat meeting point. But I know the volunteers will be there to guide me and thousands like me to our intended destination. Therefore I will go worry free and stress free!

I have an abundance of faith in the Jamat, in the volunteers and in the leadership at all levels to make this holy encounter potentially the most memorable one for me in my life. I say potentially because they have done their work, the remaining preparations are on my – and our – part. My preparations with prayers, supplications and a few hundred salwaats  in the time that is remaining will assist me for that joyful experience that everyone in Toronto had in the holy presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam, inshallah.

We congratulate the Ontario Jamat, and ask for your prayers that the 12,000 strong souls that will be gathered in Montreal will have as beautiful a didar as you experienced. MUBARAKI. And thank you for uplifting and inspiring us through everything you have done.

Date posted: November 19/20, 2017.

_____________

We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment

His Highness the Aga Khan: Exclusive photo essay by renowned photographer Jean-Marc Carisse

Global Pluralism Award Ceremony at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat

Having photographed His Highness the Aga Khan several times over the past decades, the Ismaili spiritual leader always struck me as an affable gentleman with his charismatically warm demeanour. This year alone, I attended two of his events. The award ceremony this past week, on November 15, at the beautiful Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex Drive in Ottawa was distinctively different…CLICK TO SEE PHOTOS BY JEAN-MARC CARISSE

Please click on image to read Jean-Marc Carisses’s exclusive piece for Barakah.

Date posted: November 19, 2017.

_________________

Ismailis of Eastern Canada are ready for their holy encounter with Mawlana Hazar Imam: At mulaqat, steal a glance of his sacred presence and soak in his light

(Two poems and a beautifully composed new song for mulaqat with Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan)

Didar

Tears of Joy: The Mulaqat at Montreal

A Tribute to the Imagery of Ibn Farid

By KARIM H. KARIM

As I turned to gaze
These orbs turned translucent;
Although sight betrayed me
In concealing your form,
Every atom spoke of your presence.

Whenever I stole a glance,
Your sublime vision
shattered this frail being:
Racking my frame and soothing my soul –
All in a searing instant.

Senseless with the spirit
Of your sacred presence,
I am sans reason
I am sans speech:
I only gaze in a glassy-eyed stupor.

This poem was written by Professor Karim H. Karim of Carleton University following Mawlana Hazar Imam’s first visit to the Canadian Jamat in November 1978. He was at that time majoring in Islamic Studies at Columbia University and had travelled to Montreal from New York for the mulaqat.

The poem is a tribute to the 12th century sufi mystic, Ibn al-Farid, who was famous for his composition of mystical qasidas depicting the torment and joys of the mystic lover. Farid’s imagery consists of hyperbolic treatment of the limbs and organs of the body, of tears that turn into overwhelming floods and the wine of spiritual ecstasy. The Divine Beloved of Ibn al-Farid is portrayed as treating him with disdain, whose mere sight inflicts severe wounds to the mystic; yet he only lives for the moment when the Beloved may deign lo look at him. The piece was originally published in Hikmat magazine.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Le Pluie

Drenched in Light

By NAVYN NARAN

Autour de moi,
Tout autour de moi
Around me, all around me,
In me and through me,
As if I do not exist, but IT does.

La lumière.
Les couleurs
Alit
je suis mouillée, je suis trempée
dans
sa présence

I am soaked, drenched in my tears and in His Light
He Arrives
Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad
Shah Jo Didar,
Shah Jo didar
Beneficent, and
Merciful
Blessings are showered

All around Him, all around Him
Our longing and salwaats for You. 

In these hearts and in these eyes, Noor
Autour de moi
Around and through
Bathed in light
We sit, we think, we quieten, we search. 

We await.
C’est la Noor, from Time im-memorial

Nous ne sommes pas
We are not.
YOU ARE. 
Allahu, Allahu
Ya Rahim, Ya Karim
Toward  you, is pulled my  heart. 

~~~~~~~~~

Hamaare Mawla Jo Araye…

Our Mawla who is coming

By RASHIDA DAMANI

 

The news of our beloved Mawla Hazar Imam’s visit for jamati work in Eastern Canada ignited a spark in Rashida Damani of Toronto which expressed itself into this devotional piece to convey our souls’ deep yearning for his Didar and its continuing ecstatic jubilations. The Ismailis of Eatern Canada who will gather in the cities of Toronto and Montreal over a 5 day period are jubilant at this time and every heart is rejoicing and dancing with joy. Our ailing hearts are craving an extension of their lives to witness the didar. The wind is ushering the news of his arrival touching the depths of my heart. All hearts are singing that its prayers will reach him at last and he will bless us with his glance that will enlighten our souls.

Date posted: November 16, 2017.

_______________

Aga Khan arrives, a photo tour of the Global Centre for Pluralism and more

Aga Khan Ottawa Arrival

Aga Khan arrival 2017-11-14-moez_visram_moe2382Mawlana Hazar Imam is received at Ottawa International Airport by the Aga Khan Development Network Representative for Canada, Mahmood Eboo (left), the President of the Aga Khan Council for Canada, Malik Talib, centre with Hazar Imam, and Karima Karmali, the Council’s Vice President. Photo: Moez Visram/The Ismaili.

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

His Highness the Aga Khan arrived in Ottawa Tuesday, November 14, to begin his week long trip to Canada during which he will meet with his Ismaili followers in Eastern Canada for religious meetings in Toronto and Montreal.

He will however first preside over the inaugural Pluralism Award ceremony at the iconic Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building located on Sussex Drive. Readers will be able to watch the ceremony live on Wednesday, November 15, starting at 6 P.M. EST.

A short photographic tour of the Global Centre for Pluralism

His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston in a jovial mood joke as they unveil the commemorative plaque of the official opening of the International Headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.Flashback: The unveiling of the plaque by His Highness the Aga Khan and the former Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, during the inauguration ceremony of the building on May 16, 2017. The plaque is now embedded in the right wall, just inside the main entrance to the building. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse.

In preparation for the press conference that was held yesterday (Tuesday, November 14), and this evening’s award ceremony, I decided to visit the Global Centre for Pluralism on Saturday, November 11, the last day the interior of the building was open for viewing by the public (it will reopen again next spring).

A short video presentation highlighting the purpose of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Above Princess Zahra Aga Khan. Note: Light streak is camera reflection. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

An immense transformation has taken place, while still preserving the historic features of the building. The Aga Khan during the official opening of the building on May 16, 2017, noted: “The architects, designers, engineers and so many others who have rehabilitated this wonderful Tudor Gothic building have taken enormous care to respect its distinctive historic character.”

A plaque highlighting the Global Centres connection to the Ottawa River, see following two photos. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

One of the major features that you are drawn to as you enter the building and climb its few steps is the large window that overlooks the Ottawa River. And the Aga Khan provided an insight on the topic too. In the same speech, he said:

“When I first visited this site, I went across the Ottawa River, to see things from the opposite side. From that perspective, I noticed that many buildings on the Ontario side had, over the years, turned their backs to the river. But as we began to plan, another possibility became evident. It seemed increasingly significant to open the site to the water.” This is precisely what the building offers every day to each person who walks in, perhaps with the thought: “Let me see the Ottawa River first.”

Visitors at the Global Centre on Saturday, November 11, 2017. One, far right end, is standing a few metres from the full-height window, and pointing to the Ottawa River, see next photo. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A beautiful view of the Ottawa River from the Global Centre’s full height window.See photo of plaque, above. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

pb112064-global-centre-plaque.jpgGlobal Centre for Pluralism was designated as one of 10 CONFEDERATION PAVILIONS, for 2017, the 150th anniversary of Canada. This plaque stands outside the building on Sussex Drive. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

The Global Centre for Pluralism was designated as one of the 10 Confederation Pavilions in the National Capital Region for the year 2017. The Commission identified buildings that had been dormant and then brought back to life. A passport booklet highlighting all  the 10 buildings has been published, as shown in the next image. It encourages everyone to visit the buildings and experience them for their architectural heritage.

Bilingual front cover of the passport booklet, with an insert (English shown) on the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

The Global Centre has been a National Historic Site since 1990, at which time it was the home of the Canadian War Museum. The PASSPORT booklet explains: “Today a $35 million investment from His Highness the Aga Khan has brought the building back to life as the new home of the Global Centre for Pluralism. This independent research and education centre, created in partnership with the Government of Canada, advances respect for diversity around the world. Become a pluralism champion; visit this heritage landmark, and explore the mission and work of the Centre.”

The historic Sir Arthur Doughty’s fireplace inside the Global Centre’s presentation room. See plaque, next photo, explaining the significance of the fireplace. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Fireplace plaque. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Chandelier in the hall by the main entrance. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A segment of a drawing, “Invincible before daybreak”, by Edward Pien (2007). Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Ceiling in seminar room, with all the high tech gadgets seamlessly incorporated. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A segment of a painting symbolizing past indigenous injustices. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Decorative designs on walls and windows symbolizing plurarity. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Painting (details soon). Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Contemplative garden. The Aga Khan in referring to this exterior space said, “a new garden in the forecourt, a tranquil space for contemplating the past and thinking about the future.” Background building is the Royal Canadian Mint. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A colourful plaque on wall explaining pluralism in all its aspects. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

The last of the beautiful fall colours shading the Global Centre for Pluralism on November 11, in a delayed autumn foliage. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakh/Simerg.

~~~~~~

Press Conference with winners of the 2017 Pluralism Award

Pluralism Award Winners with Mcnee and Clarke at press conference(l to r): Daniel Webb of Australia, Alice Wairimu Nderitu of Kenya, Leyner Palacios Asprilla of Colombia – all three are Pluralism Award Winners – Rt. Hon. Joe Clarke and John McNee.

Members of the media were invited on Tuesday morning for an hour long press conference at the Global Centre for Pluralism to meet with the winners of the first Pluralism Award. The opening remarks by the Centre’s Secretary General John McNee were followed by the introduction of each of the 3 winners by the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, Canada’s former Prime Minister. Mr. Clarke headed the jury that selected the 3 winners and 7 other honourable mentions from over 200 nominations that were submitted in 43 different countries.

Leyner Palacios Asprilla: The humble and courageous activist Leyner Asprilla of Colombia spoke about the the terrible massacre in May 2002 when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the guerilla movement known with the Spanish acronym FARC, launched gas cylinder bombs at a church in Bojayá full of civilians that was being used as a human shield by a paramilitary group. The bombs bursted the church killing 79 people including 48 infants and children. Asprilla survived the massacre but he emerged to find that 32 of his family members had been killed. Instead of becoming despondent over this cruel tragedy, Asprilla went on to found the Committee for the Rights of Victims of Bojayá, giving voice to over 11,000 victims of the conflict that live in the municipality of Bojayá, Chocó. As a result of his fight for social justice, Leyner was asked to represent Bojayá massacre victims during peace negotiations between guerilla forces and the government. One of the results was that FARC publicly acknowledged their role in the 2002 tragedy and, in a private ceremony in a Bojayá church, requested forgiveness.

leyner-palacios-asprilla-1-feature.jpgLeyner Palacios Asprilla. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

Asprilla organized assemblies with representatives from every community in Bojayá, even the most remote, and encouraged each community to include a female representative. Now, these remote communities have a united voice that takes their demand for human rights to the highest levels of government, and around the world. By bringing communities together in the fight for social justice, Leyner realized how powerful a chorus of diverse voices can be. Today, he continues to demand that Colombia embrace diversity by respecting the rights of all its citizens, particularly its most marginalized.

~~~~~~~~~

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlice Wairimu Nderitu. Photo:Barakah/Simerg.

Alice Wairimu Nderitu: The graceful Alice Nderitu of Kenya has been a tireless peacemaker, conflict mediator and gender equality advocate who believes that differences can be strengths, not weaknesses. She took a seat at the peace table with 100 elders from ten ethnic communities who had never negotiated peace with each other before. This was 18 months after violence erupted in Kenya’s Rift Valley when results of a flawed election were announced which ignited historic grievances over land and deep-seated ethnic tensions. As a child eavesdropping in a tree, Alice was told that as a woman she could not participate in the work of making peace. But Alice took her place at the table with male mediators and led the elders in a dialogue that resulted in the region’s first peaceful elections in 20 years Today, as a lead mediator brokering peace throughout Africa, she has proven again and again that making peace is very much women’s business; however she explained that she found it necessary to integrate attitudes generally reserved for man!

~~~~~~~~~

Daniel WebbDaniel Webb. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

Daniel Webb: The narrative by the articulate Australian Daniel Webb, a lawyer by training, was forceful. He was severely critical of the Australian Government for its decision to place every refugee arriving in boat in Australia’s offshore detention center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. The conditions in these detention centres are inhumane and demoralizing, with numerous reports of violence, medical neglect, suicide, self-harm. When Daniel visited the island he met many refugees and found out that they were inspiring people who could make great contributions to Australian society, if only given the chance to live on the mainland.

To tackle the offshore detention issue in Australia, Daniel has developed an innovative approach that combines legal action, media advocacy, public campaigns and United Nations engagement. Daniel’s work has helped to hold the Australian government accountable for breaches in international law. His work has not stopped there. He realized he needed to change the public perception of people seeking asylum. Australians had to understand that the people detained offshore were not threats, but rather human beings with their own stories, talents and families.

In addition to hearing stories of Leyner, Alice and Daniel, the media was also briefed about seven other individuals and corporations who received honourable mentions.

Press Conference Video

To access press conference, click on image below and then click again where its says “Watch this video on Youtube”

Date posted: November 15, 2017.

Note: Another version of this post, with enlarged photos, can be read at http://www.barakah.com

________________

Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: The importance of Salawat

Salawat Calligraphy

Salawat written in Nast’aliq calligraphy. Credit: Wikishia.

Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

(The author would like readers to note that this short piece was prepared from Khayal Aly’s excellent and elaborate essay on the Salawat titled “Realities of the Salawat.” We are also pleased to include with this piece a musical rendering of the Salawat composed by Fez Meghani, and sung by numerous Ismaili artists. The full composition is about 14 minutes long, and we are including only the first 5:31 minutes – ed.).

Whenever Mawlana Hazar Imam graces us with didar, his arrival and his presence are greeted with the soul-soothing hum of the recitation of the Salawaat:

“Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad,” meaning “O, Allah shower thy choicest blessings upon Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.”

This has been our tradition for centuries. The question arises: Why do we seek blessings upon the Prophet and his progeny?

When the verse of the Holy Qur’an (33:56)  “Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings upon (salloona ‘ala) the Prophet. O you who believe! Ask blessings upon him (salloo ‘alayhi) and salute him with a worthy salutation,” was revealed some of the companions of the Prophet asked him about it: “O Messenger of God, we know already how to greet you; but how should we invoke blessings upon you?”

The Prophet replied:

“You should say, ‘O God, bless Muhammad and his progeny (aal), even as you blessed Abraham and his progeny [O God], you are truly praiseworthy, great in glory’.” [1]

Further reinforcement of this invocation of blessing upon the Prophet and his progeny comes in the verse “Say: I ask you no reward (arjan) except love of the ‘near of kin (al-qurba)’. ” — 42:23

The key concept that emerges here is that of reward (arjan).

To understand this, we have to look at the fact that the Prophet was sent as a mercy to mankind  as attested in the verse:

“And we have sent you not, except as mercy to the world.” — 21:107

What then is the reason for asking the ummah to seek blessing upon the Prophet and his progeny? And what is the reason for the expectation of a reward?

In reality the reward that the Prophet is asking, namely the love for the Prophet and his progeny, is not for his own benefit, but rather, for the benefit of the ummah (Muslim community) itself. And here in lies the elegance and efficacy of the Salawat that we recite. Imam Al-Baqir explains this by citing a verse in which Allah tells the Prophet:

“Say, whatever I ask you with regard to my reward, it is [actually] for you. I rely for my reward on no one except God and He is witness to everything.” — 34:47

Several ginans sing about the joys and delights when the Imam graces his murids with his physical didar. In one of these ginans we come across this concept of “reward”. A verse in Pir Sadardin’s ginan Aji Sham kun avanta jo kahe reads:

Sami ke gale me haar hai, heera manek jaddi ya,
Jis re bhave tan ku dete hai,
Saheb hai dil daariya…

Translation:

The beloved has a necklace of diamonds and pearls,
He showers these on who so ever he chooses
The beloved’s generosity knows no bounds.

In the joyful assemblage of Imam’s holy presence and didar, not only does the Imam shower the “reward” of jewels of blessings upon the murids, but the recitation of the Salawat opens the gate of mercy and every recitation of the Salawat multiplies these blessings many many many fold. A tradition from Shia sources refers to the blessings of reciting Salawat as follows:

“Whoever sends ten salawats upon Muhammad and his family, God and His angels will send him a hundred salutations, and whoever sends a hundred salawats upon Muhammad and his family, God and His angels will send him a thousand.

The promise of reward goes even further. When a murid places his hands under the hand of the appointed spiritual authority of the time, Imam-e-Zaman, in an act of allegiance (bay‘at), “he indeed pledge his allegiance to Allah” (innama yubayi‘auna’lla). And thus, fulfilment of this bay’at merits nothing less than a great reward as promised by the verse 48:10 of the Qur’an that whosoever fulfils his bay’at with Allah shall merit a greater reward (arjan azim).

The first act of fulfilment of the bay’at is the declaration of the love for the Prophet and his progeny which is affirmed by the recitation of the Salawat. And its continuous recitation is a demonstration of this love between the murid and the Imam and the continuous shower of the jewels that Ginan Aji Sham kun avaanta jo kahe alludes to.

Date posted: November 11, 2017.

_____________

Reference:

[1]. Fatimid-Isma‘ili book of law, Da‘a’im al-Islam (Pillars of Islam) by Qadi Nu’man.

Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.

We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment.

Ismailis of Eastern Canada and their upcoming holy encounter with their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan: Important Notes on Baitul Khayal, Bol, the Soul and Imam’s Status

“The esoteric (batini) vision, realized through pious works and the constant remembrance of God during the nightly vigil, as well as the exoteric (zaheri) vision, and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, becomes the ultimate purpose of human life….Piety should be for the purpose of recognizing and beholding God, which is achieved through the recognition and vision of the Imam of one’s time.” — Imam Mustansir-Billah, 32nd Ismaili Imam

1. Ism’ul Azam and Baitul Khayal

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

In the Memoirs of Aga Khan, our beloved 48th Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah outlines the distinction between two human experiences as categorized by the Muslim philosopher Ibn-Rushd (Averroes):

“On the one hand, our experience of nature as we recognize it through our senses…and on the other hand, our immediate and imminent experience of something more real, less dependent on thought or on the processes of the mind, but directly given to us, which I believe to be religious experience.”

The craving for this direct experience is innate in all of us. Depth psychology which recognizes this craving in a totally different form states that human psyche has great capacity and an insatiable desire for love. The quest for this love molds human actions. In some it takes the form of material pursuits, in others it takes the form of religious and mystical pursuits. And in some souls’ this quest for divine love finds satisfaction in devotion and love for another human being.

Further in his Memoirs, the Imam expounds on this very theme and says:

 “We live, move and have our being in God…when we realize this, we are already preparing ourselves for the gift of the power of direct (mystical) experience…some men are born with such natural spiritual capacities and possibilities of development that they have direct experience of that great love, that all-embracing, all-consuming love which direct contact with reality gives to human soul.”

A question naturally arises in the mind: What about people who are not so gifted and not born with the natural capacity of development for spiritual experience?

Allah is mindful of this innate human desire for love and direct vision. Allah grants a gift and a means for this direct experience to all: “And to Allah belong the best names, so call on Him by them.” — Holy Qur’an, 7:180

The invocation of best names (Ism’ul-Azam) referred to in the above Sura are the most beautiful names of Allah, invocation of which provides the path to his mercy and direct experience. The Qur’an also enjoins constant remembrance of Allah:

“O you have faith, remember Allah with frequent remembrance and glorify him morning and evening.” — 33:41-42.

Bol is a Gujarati word for Ism’ul-Azam. In Ismailism, the path to direct experience of the divine reality of Allah through the Noor (Light) of Imamat becomes a very personal and private affair. Each murid has his personal connection with the Imam. The personal spiritual bond of bayah (allegiance) between the Imam and the murid is the cornerstone of this bond.

Every murid has a desire for this vision of Noor. This desire is weak in some and strong in others. The real quest for the vision of the Noor begins when a murid fights the buffeting currents and vicissitudes of daily life and begins to hear the call of the divine and the desire for vision of Noor possesses his heart. The thirst for love that philosophers had talked about becomes a reality. The most enchanting verses of a Ginan of Pir Sadardin which describe the agony of a love-thirsty soul resonate in his heart:

Sajan per hun sada balihari
Ke jine Sajan mohe nipat bhisari
Ab ko je me Sajan pau
Haide under Sej bichau
Milu usinku Noor sangath
Phir nav jalu duje ka haath.

TRANSLATION

(Sajan=Beloved)
I am forever ready to sacrifice my life for the Beloved,
That beloved who has so forgotten and forsaken me
If perchance I attain to the Beloved
I will spread a silk carpet in my heart
And meet him in a shower of Noor
Never again to thirst for aught.

When a soul become thus love-stricken, the path to enlightenment become visible to him and he seeks the Imam’s guidance. The Imam in his benevolence and love for the murid grants him a personal key to the spiritual universe and the possibility to ascend to that peak from whence he has potential of vision of Noor of Imamat and the quenching of that insatiable thirst for love. The key to this spiritual universe is Bol.

The remembrance (dhikr) of this Bol at prescribed time when the world rests is the essence of Baitul Khayal. “The honor and greatness of a believer lies in his praying at night,” said Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq. A number of verses in the Holy Qur’an attest to the importance of the night worship. Allah says, “and part of the night; bow down before Him and magnify Him through the long night. — 76:26 (tr. Arberry). This verse of the Holy Qur’an tells us to remember Allah at such a time when others are asleep.

The Holy Qur’an tells us:

“You have indeed in the Apostle of God a beautiful pattern of conduct.” –33:21.

Thus, as an example to be followed, the Prophet’s escape to Mount Hira for extended hours of contemplation as well as his experiences during the night journey, miraj, are indicative of the rise of the soul from the plane of material existence to the proximity of God. The night journey  emphatically proclaimed that if God has placed man on this earth, He has also set up a ladder for man to climb up to Him. Baitul Khayal accords us this opportunity.

Thus, the practice of Baitul Khyal sits at the crest of spiritual practice of Ismailism and is also referred to as Motu Kam (Big Work). As the prescribed practice becomes a routine, the spiritual universe begins to unfold and the bond between the Imam and murid becomes stronger, and the link that binds the murid to the Imam becomes shorter and shorter. It is a process of divine alchemy which is sung in the Ginan Jire vala, dhan re ghadi:

Paras perse to Loha raang pelte
To jagmag jyote jagaye.

TRANSLATION

That which was base metal
Transforms to gold and begins to shine
by divine alchemy

The experience of this transformation and the uplifment of the soul through the constant meditative practice of the Ism’ul-Azam is articulated in some of the verses of the Ginan Brahm Prakash composed by Pir Shamsh: 

“True Word” (or Ism’ul-Azam, Bol) is my Guide,
to which the world gives no recognition….1

Do meditate on the Word,
and recite Pirshah as often as possible…..2

And upon utterance of the Word,
the light of love shall be kindled,

and in the heart, great “Faith” will be generated….5

Where the Love flows so incessantly,
the devotee drinks of it and
becomes love-intoxicated….9

How shall I extol (for you) this divine ecstasy!
Its status is so great, that it defies all speech….11

No amount of literature read or listened to,
Could help to attain this experience of happiness….12

The skies in the West glow
and one witnesses a unique and
unparalled show (of “Light” – “Noor”)

_____________

2. The Imam’s True Status

Imam to be perceived with true heart cropped

Image credit: roseannapiter.com.

(Adapted from an ode by 33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al Salam)

The talisman that can open the treasure trove of spiritual meaning of the Holy Qur’an is the Imam. The true essence of the Imam cannot be recognized with earthly, fleshly eyes, for these can only see his physical form, perishing like all else with the passage of time.

His true face is to be perceived with the eyes of the heart. He has thousands of physical habitations, but his true home is traceless; he has had a thousand names, but all of them refer to one reality.

Today he is known as ‘Abd al-Salam, but tomorrow the physical body will be gone and the name will change, yet the essence will remain in the next Imam of the lineage.

Those who look at the Imam as they squint will consider him like any other human being, but as soon as the eyes of the heart perceive correctly, his true status is discovered. In form the Imams change, but in meaning and substance they are changeless. Human language cannot attain to the majesty of the Imams. The Imam is the most precious ingredient in the supreme elixir (miraculous substance) of eternal life-red sulphur. He is not simply a pearl, but the ocean that gives birth to pearls. The existence of the Imam, who leads humankind to a recognition of God, is the very pinnacle of creation. — Adapted from Ismaili in the Middle Ages by Shafique Virani.

3. The Importance of the Soul

By AL-MU’AYYAD AL-SHIRAZI

“Look at the trouble your parents have taken from the days of your childhood in the growth of your bodies and in the improvement of your physical life on earth. But for the interest they took in you, you would not have been what you are. Your souls are thousand times more important than your bodies. The Imams are your spiritual parents. Avail yourselves of a few days of life which are at your disposal here and look after your spiritual elevation under the care of your spiritual parents. “Once you miss this opportunity, you will repent forever. You will not be given a second chance to set things right.”

Date posted: November 9, 2017.

_________________

Note: This piece also appears on simerg’s special project http://www.barakah.com which is dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan.

Shiraz Pradhan PortraitShiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.