“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. By virtue of his office and in accordance with the faith and belief of the Ismaili Muslims, the Imam enjoys full authority of governance over and in respect of all religious and Jamati matters of the Ismaili Muslims”…from the Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution, 1986
Introduced by Abdulmalik Merchant
Andrew Kosorok, an artist living in Utah made this poignant observation about the 49th Ismaili Imam on this Website: “The more I read about His Highness, the greater my respect. When someone can literally do whatever it is he wants, or can literally have anything his heart desires, whatever that is, says a lot about the person. It is a consistent source of hope to see to what ends the Aga Khan uses the resources at his disposal. I am grateful for a world leader of such stature, with a heart such as his.”
These are highly complimentary words for His Highness the Aga Khan, who explained his role in an interview with Politique Internationale:
“…The Imam’s responsibility covers both domains….his first concern is for the security of his followers; his second is for their freedom to practice their religion; his third is for their quality of life, as I have just mentioned. I repeat, the Imamat is an institution whose two-fold mission is to guarantee quality of life and to interpret the faith….”
If we consider the last half of this year alone, we see how the Ismaili Imam is fulfilling his mandate. In June and July, he spent an extended period of time with his followers in East Africa to perform religious ceremonies and inspire them with words of wisdom for their spiritual and material well-being. Then, in a very short period between October 29th and November 7th, His Highness the Aga Khan visited half-a-dozen countries for Imamat related projects, which fall under the aegis of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), of which he is the chairman and founder. He began his tour in New Delhi to review progress on the restoration of Humayun’s Tomb and the work at Sunder Nursery in the capital region of Delhi; his next stop was Kabul where he met with President Karzai to discuss the progress of AKDN activities in Afghanistan. This was followed by a brief two day visit to Tajikistan where he witnessed the inauguration of the Dushanbe Serena Hotel as well as participated in the foundation-stone ceremony of a new bridge connecting Afghanistan and Tajikistan to be built with AKDN support.
Not more than 72 hours after, he was in Ottawa to preside over a meeting with the directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism and also to meet with the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird to discuss the Canadian Government’s priority to establish the Office of Religious Freedom. At the wink of the eye, he was in Chicago signing an Agreement of Cooperation between the State of Illinois and the Ismaili Imamat. The visit to Chicago also included talks on early childhood education and media and communications.
Such has been the life of His Highness since he began his reign as the Ismaili community’s 49th spiritual leader at the age of twenty. He has over the past 54 years, guided the spiritual growth of his Ismaili followers as well as helped them achieve a better material life through economic, social, and cultural progress. The Aga Khan has articulated that education, self-help, unity, character and generosity as well as the ethic of keeping a balance between the spiritual (din) and temporal (dunya) are the elements which keep a community vibrant and healthy and lead to enlightenment and dignity. His tireless endeavours for his global community have also led to the improvement, well-being and dignity of human beings in some of the world’s poorest, most deprived and most diverse communities regardless of faith, origin or gender.
“THE CLOSER YOU COME THE MORE YOU WILL SEE HIM”
It is impossible to do adequate justice to his vast and monumental work in any form. Akber Kanji of Toronto sought to capture some of the numerous projects of the Ismaili Imam through a highly creative digital work which he titled “The Closer You Come the More You Will See Him.” We published his remarkable image last March, and do so again in this brief tribute so that our readers may get a glimpse and seek to understand and appreciate the scope and depth of the work of His Highness the Aga Khan.
Ismailis around the world have a very deep sense of affection and love as well as engagemnent with their beloved Imam. However, we all realize that even in ordinary lives the affection that parents have for their children is unsurpassed and cannot be equally recipocrated. The same holds for the Ismaili Imam. The Prophet and his successor, the Imams, are regarded as the spiritual parents of their respective communities, and for this reason Mawlana Hazar Imam has himself said: “When I leave this evening I would like that you should remember two things. One, that I will take with me in my heart the remembrance of each and everyone of you, the face of each and everyone of you. Secondly, that my love for my Jamat is a lot stronger than yours can ever be for me and I would like you to remember this…you must remember that Imam loves you more, much more than you can ever love him and you must be strong in this knowledge.”….Farman Mubarak, Pakistan visit 1964, Ismailia Association for Pakistan.
These words convey hope and inspire confidence amongst his followers around the world.
To honour His Highness the Aga Khan on his 75th birthday, we present this short tribute that encaspulates the life of the Ismaili community from the earliest times to the present through images, photos and pertinent quotes. We join Ismailis and other well wishers around the world in one voice to wish His Highness the Aga Khan a very happy birthday and a very long life. Ismailis eagerly await the celebration of his Diamond Jubilee in 2017.
“Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all people – offspring, one of the other, and Allah knows and hears all things.” (Holy Qur’an, 3:33-34)
“The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community”….His Highness the Aga Khan, Politique Internationale
THE PROPHET OF ISLAM AND HAZRAT ALI
“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”….His Highness the Aga Khan, Pakistan, Seerat Conference, 1976.
“This is a time of new freedoms, but it is also one in which new choices must be made wisely. In exercising freedom and making choices, our institutions must be guided, as they have been in the past, by the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace of Allah be upon him), and the tradition of our tariqah, which is the tradition of Hazrat Ali: A thinking Islam and a spiritual Islam – an Islam that teaches compassion, tolerance and the dignity of man – Allah’s noblest creation.” ….His Highness the Aga Khan, May 14, 1992
NORTH AFRICA AND EGYPT
“The future of the Ismaili Faith rests in the hands of the youths of your age and mine. Are we to follow the example of those, who in Egypt, Iran and Sind raised the flag of Ismaili Imams high enough for the world to see its glory? I say, ‘Yes’. We should not fail where our ancestors achieved glorious success” – the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan
“A thousand years ago, my forefathers, the Fatimid imam-caliphs of Egypt, founded al-Azhar University and the Academy of Knowledge in Cairo. In the Islamic tradition, they viewed the discovery of knowledge as a way to understand, so as to serve better God’s creation, to apply knowledge and reason to build society and shape human aspirations” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Mozambique, June 25, 2004
“Dr. Kurwa earlier, presented to me some coins from the Fatimid Caliphate. This was a period of great glory and great pride, and I would like to express to all my students my very deep gratitude for the gift that you have offered. It is a link to the past, but it is also an ideal to be achieved, an ideal of strength, an ideal of performance, an ideal of happiness.”…..His Highness the Aga Khan, London, September 1979
“Bequeathing a legacy that to this day enlightens the region’s intellectual traditions Nasir Khusraw was among the premier thinkers whose contributions will be celebrated in the space that we initiate today.”…His Highness the Aga Khan, Foundation Ceremony, Ismaili Centre, Dushanbe, August 2003
“I would be surprised if ever such a big Mehfil-e-Ginan has ever been held…many times I have recommended to my spiritual children that they should remember ginans, that they should understand the meanings of these ginans and they should carry these meanings in their hearts. It is most important that my spiritual children…hold to this tradition which is so special, so unique and so important to my Jamat….I have been deeply happy tonight, deeply happy because I have seen the happiness in the hearts of my Jamat and this is what makes Imam happy”…His Highness the Aga Khan, Karachi, December 16, 1964, Farman Mubarak, Pakistan visit 1964, Ismailia Association Pakistan
ANCESTRY AND SUCCESSION – 19TH AND 20TH CENTURIES
“Each Imam presents to the world of his time that facet of the multi-faceted splendour the Ismailis call Imamat. All Ismaili philosophers have emphasized the principle of the Unity of Imamat under the superficial diversity exhibited by each Imam of the Time. It is in this sense that the Ismailis believe that Imam is the same irrespective of his own age or the time he lives in”…Esmail Thawerbhoy, Ismaili author
“Ever since the time of my first ancestor Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants whether they be sons or remoter male issue.
“In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place including the discoveries of atomic science I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Shia Moslem Ismailian Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.
“I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my son Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to be the Imam and Pir of all my Shia Ismailian followers.”….His Highness the Aga Khan III
“My grandfather dedicated his life to the Imamat and Islam, both of which came first, and above all other considerations. While I was prepared that one day I might be designated the Aga Khan I did not expect it so soon. I follow a great man in a great responsibility and he could have given me no more appreciated honour than to bequeath me this spiritual leadership. My life, as his, will be dedicated to the service of my followers.”….His Highness the Aga Khan
CEREMONIAL INSTALLATION: DAR-ES-SALAAM AND KAMPALA
Dar-es-Salaam: Clad in a white high-necked tunic, black trousers and astrakhan cap, Mawlana Hazar Imam mounted the dais upon which the 48th Imam, Hazrat Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, was weighed in diamonds in 1946. Mawlana Hazar Imam gave his permission to commence the ceremony with the recitation of verses from the Holy Qur’an.
The robbing ceremony was performed by putting the red and grey robe over the shoulders of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The robe had been worn by Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah during his Jubilee celebrations. The Chief Mukhi of Dar-es-Salaam, Najmuddin Devji, made the presentation of the black astrakhan cap to which was pinned a golden ‘taj’ inlaid with 49 diamonds and precious stones. The beautifully ornamented and jewelled ‘Sword of Justice’ was placed in the hands of Mawlana Hazar Imam and it signified that Imam is the ‘Defender of the Faith.’ Mawlana Hazar Imam was then presented with a golden chain with 49 links which represented the lineal descent of the Imam.
The last of the pageant rites was performed when a signet ring was placed on the finger of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The ring had been used as a seal for communications from Imams to his murids (followers) throughout Ismaili history, particularly during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries and specially to communicate with the Ismailis who were difficult to contact in places such as Central Asia where extra authority, apart from signature, was needed.
Mawlana Hazar Imam then rose to address the Jamat and spoke of the unbounded sources of energy which would be made available to mankind and of the changes that would surely come with them, and added: “I shall devote my life to guiding the community in all the problems which these rapid changes will bring in their wake.”
THE 49TH IMAM: SOME EARLY PORTRAITS AND PHOTOS
IMAMAT ENDEAVOURS FOR HUMAN PROGRESS
The Aga Khan Development Network and its numerous agencies are a recent phenomena. In the 1960’s and 1970’s much of the mandate was carried out by the Aga Khan Foundation. Subsequently, other agencies were added to meet the diverse needs and spread of the Ismaili community and the population among whom they lived. The following chart illustrates the magnitude and scope of the work of the Ismaili Imamat today.
An explanation of the Seal: The circular form of the Seal, with its different levels of imagery contained in concentric circles, has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. The circle also symbolises the world and reflects the internationality of the University. At the centre of the Seal is a star, or sun. Light is a universal symbol for the enlightenment that education provides.
The light emanating from the star is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light). The star incorporates 49 points to commemorate the University’s founding by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the forty-ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.
The outer ring circumscribes a Quranic Ayat rendered in classic thuluth script and reads as follows:
“And hold fast, All together, by the rope Which God (stretches out for you), And be not divided among yourselves. And remember with gratitude God’s favour on you: For ye were enemies And He joined your hearts In love, so that by His grace Ye became brethren.”
HAPPY ISMAILI PEOPLE
Date posted: Monday, December 12, 2011.
Date updated: Wednesday, December 14, 2011
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