A Century of Addresses to Canada’s Parliament: J. Patrick Boyer on the Aga Khan, and why his address is one of the most important of all speeches

Foreign Voices in the House

Abdulmalik Merchant: From all those you have heard and met during your lifetime, what would you say to his followers about their own Imam?

J. Patrick Boyer: All around the world there are individuals holding office….But being an office holder does not make someone a leader. The Aga Khan is a leader. To have the opportunity to follow him and advance the vital causes he identifies, as Ismaili Muslims do, is a rare opportunity.”

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His Highness the Aga Khan delivers a historic address to a joint session of the Parliament of Canada on 27 February 2014, at the invitation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

I was privileged to meet J. Patrick Boyer at the launching of his book “Foreign Voices in the House: A Century of Addresses to Canada’s Parliament by World Leaders” at the wonderful café and photo gallery of my friend Jean-Marc Carisse. Boyer is author of 23 books on Canadian history law, politics and governance, and his Foreign Voices in the House is unique because it is the first such book published that provides a complete record of high level oratory delivered by world leaders to Canadians at their own doorstep. The first speech was delivered one hundred years ago in 1917! I later interviewed Boyer and published the complete interview on Barakah, a website dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan for his Diamond Jubilee.

In the following condensed version of the interview, Boyer gives his insightful and thought provoking analysis of the Aga Khan’s 2014 address to the Canadian Parliament and makes the readers aware of the Aga Khan’s sole right, as hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, to provide authoritative guidance on matters of faith and to interpret the Qur’an. Boyer’s astute awareness of the Ismaili Imam’s role is drawn from articles of the Preamble of the Ismaili Constitution, which was ordained on December 13, 1986, on the anniversary of the Aga Khan’s 50th birthday.

Foreign Voices in the House (Dundurn, 2017. 600 pages, photographs. ISBN 9781459736856 Can$35.00), is available at Perfect Books located on 258 Elgin Street, Ottawa, phone (613) 231-6468. Other sources for obtaining the book are Amazon and Chapters-Indigo. A Kindle edition is available for C$9.99.

Exclusive Interview: J. Patrick Boyer on His Highness the Aga Khan

“[The Aga Khan’s] accomplishments stand apart from whether others accord him “official recognition” or not, and will endure with or without a Nobel Peace Prize….Sir Edmund Hillary treasured above all others an enormous decorative star, very bright and very colourful, hammered from tin and presented by the Kathmandu Taxi Drivers Association. I think the Aga Khan would likewise treasure something from people who have their feet on the ground, their hearts in harmony with others, and wanting to honour courageous action.”

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Abdulmalik J. Merchant, publisher of digital Ismaili magazines Simerg and Barakah, buys a copy of Foreign Voices in the House for The Aga Khan while author J. Patrick Boyer opens this first-ever publication of speeches by world leaders in the Commons to the page showing the Ismaili spiritual leader, just before his address, with Prime Minister Harper. [Photo © J.M.Carisse 2017]

Abdulmalik Merchant: This book is uniquely Canadian because you are a Canadian and the book has also been printed and bound in Canada. You must be truly proud of it.

J. Patrick Boyer: You’re right. I am proud, for my country, having created this unique book.

During my years as a member of Canada’s House of Commons, a dozen world leaders delivered major addresses. Pérez de Cuéllar of the United Nations, Prime Minister Nakasone of Japan, President Reagan of the U.S., President Mitterrand of France, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, Chancellor Kohl of Germany, Prime Minister Thatcher of the U.K., President Herzog of Israel, King Hussein of Jordan, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, President Salinas of Mexico, and President Yeltsin of Russia. That was an imposing, impressive parade of players on the international scene.

Each was at the height of his or her power, advancing major policies for the world, seeking Canadian support for sharing their vision. Their messages also offered snapshots of history in the making. Indeed, the influence they had on political Ottawa made their speeches intrinsic to Canada’s evolution in world affairs. This is clear when you read what they said over an entire century in a dynamic world context.

So rather than see them fade away, I decided to gather and publish all such speeches in a single collective work. That, too, makes Foreign Voices in the House “uniquely Canadian.” All addresses by world leaders to Canadian parliamentarians over the last century are now available in one book for the first time.

Merchant: When did the idea first occur to you to gather the speeches and publish them in a book form?

Boyer: The idea came when I was witnessing, at close range, U.S. President Ronald Reagan deliver a masterful performance. So there is an exact answer to your question – April 6, 1987….That’s a long stretch to be working on a book, isn’t it? But the explanation is that the further back I went, the more speeches I kept finding! And meanwhile, coming forward in time, fifteen more leaders – including His Highness the Aga Khan in 2014 – arrived in Ottawa to speak from Canada’s most prestigious podium. So the list kept growing, at both ends.

Yet even though the project kept expanding, I decided 2017 was an ideal year to publish Foreign Voices. It’s a full century since René Viviani of France in 1917 became the first foreign leader to speak in our House of Commons. And in 2017 Canadians reflected on 150 years of Confederation and what has taken to make us the people we are. And as you already realize, Abdulmalik, Foreign Voices in the House documents that journey the way nothing else can.

“Given the state of world affairs today, [the Aga Khan’s]….address is one of the most important of all speeches delivered to the audience of Canadian parliamentarians over the last hundred years.”

Merchant: You have been writing since 1975 on a wide range of subjects – election issues, justice, democracy and leadership, among many other themes. What particular challenges did Foreign Voices present to you – gathering the speeches, or the search for material for your insightful introductory remarks before each speech?

Boyer: The first challenge was finding all the speeches foreign leaders had delivered. After I asked researchers in the Parliamentary Library about this, they became as curious as I was. Their existing list at the time seemed scant, so they looked for more, and found quite a few.

Next, not all were printed in parliamentary records. For example, the 1964 address by United Nations Secretary-General Thant, was one I had to obtain through other sources. Other times the speech didn’t get printed in the parliamentary proceedings for weeks, or months. Even after the Library researchers thought all had been found – and posted on Parliament’s official website that Winston Churchill’s 1941 speech was the first – I still found earlier ones. For instance, not only did France’s René Viviani speak in 1917, but so did Britain’s Arthur Balfour

Another challenge was tracking down photographs of each world leader in Canada’s parliament. Readers are astonished to see such legendary figures as Franklin Roosevelt, Sukarno, Nehru, Liaquat Ali Khan, Charles de Gaulle, and Madame Chiang Kai-shek in Canada’s House of Commons…..Tracing all those photographs proved harder than one might think.

Writing the biographies of each leader which accompany his or her speech, to which you refer, was utterly enjoyable….My short biographies help readers who might not know the fascinating stories of these human individuals delivering their urgent messages.

Merchant: In your introduction to the volume, you note two important contexts involving any speech that is delivered: the Occasion and the Audience. Would you elaborate on these two core elements for the speech that the Aga Khan delivered, and how important it was for him to address the Canadian Parliament?

Boyer: Yes, putting a speech in context is essential to understanding it. This requires seeing the crises and events of transcending significance at the time the leader spoke…..

When the Aga Khan addressed Canadian parliamentarians, the world was awakening to new challenges relating to the Muslim world, the Ummah, in its many complexities. It is, frankly, quite sad how little a great many people actually know about Islam and its accomplishments over many centuries, leaving them more open to fear and misunderstandings. He addressed our House of Commons, moreover, in a special category of “world leader.” On three occasions, secretaries-general of the United Nations (Thant, Perez de Cuellar, and Kofi Annan) presented a global frame of reference for Canada’s international relations and transnational conditions. They did not speak for another country but rather the comity of all nations. It is in their company that the Aga Khan delivered his message, and why I group all four, in Foreign Voices, in a section called “Transnational Leaders.”

Given the state of world affairs today, his rational, specific, historically based, and ultimately inspiration address is one of the most important of all speeches delivered to the audience of Canadian parliamentarians over the last hundred years.

Merchant: What duties do Parliamentarians have to convey his message to their citizens?

Boyer: It’s in the interest of all Canadians to understand the constructive work of The Aga Khan foundations and Ismaili Muslims, both in our country and around the world. This extends from training nurses, building schools, establishing universities, and relocating refugees to the work of the Centre for Global Pluralism in Ottawa which honours and advances pluralistic outlooks, and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto which promotes cultural awareness of Islam’s rich heritage over many centuries. It’s vital for Canadians to see how this dovetails with the pluralism of Canada’s society.

The Aga Khan said on February 27, 2014 that he believed Canada “uniquely able to articulate and exemplify three critical underpinnings of a quality civil society,” noting that these are “commitment to pluralism, to meritocracy, and to a cosmopolitan ethic.” That point, and many others from his remarkable address, deserve wide dissemination by parliamentarians.

That’s why, as a former parliamentarian, I included the Aga Khan’s speech in Foreign Voices, to spread his message about people with different values living in greater harmony.

Merchant: Is this being done, considering that the Ismaili Imam touched on so many issues that are relevant and important for Canadians – civil society, pluralism, democracy, and Canada’s involvement in the world?

Boyer: The extent to which parliamentarians are spreading his message is impossible to measure. I do what I can, because as you note Malik, his speech addresses so many issues so freshly and constructively. The Aga Khan spirit reflects what I call “optimistic realism.” By publishing his full speech, to repeat, I’m trying to ensure that readers of Foreign Voices in the House will get the full extent of his teachings.

Merchant: Remarkably there are 64 speeches in your volume including some 8 by British Prime Ministers between 1917 and 2011; 10 by US Presidents between 1943 and 2016, and dozens by world leaders from every continent. Besides all the leaders who delivered the speeches, who else would you have liked to have seen deliver a speech at the Parliament?

Boyer: I would have found it inspirational to hear Mahatma Ghandi, and Martin Luther King Jr.

But you know, Brian MacArthur said in his 1995 Penguin Book of Historic Speeches that addresses by “contemporary leaders” – among whom he mentioned Bill Clinton, Helmut Kohl, François Mitterrand, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Vaclav Havel, and Nelson Mandela – “transcend national boundaries and inspire mankind.” Those seven all spoke in Canada’s House of Commons. Their speeches are in Foreign Voices in the House, along with their photographs and biographies.

So my point would be that, with the many speeches already on record in Foreign Voices, there’s more than enough to inform, inspire, and fuel introspection.

“[The Ismaili Constitution] is a step forward in what the Aga Khan, in his speech to our Parliament, envisages as creating “a cosmopolitan ethic” for our cosmopolitan society. The Constitution seeks allegiance, within this universal brotherhood, through loyalty and obedience to the Imam.”

Merchant: As you know the Aga Khan has been honoured with titles and awards as well as honorary degrees from renowned institutions around the world. In a recent piece in the Huffington Post, a writer stated that the Ismaili Imam is one of the most deserving individuals of the Nobel Peace Prize. Would you agree with that statement? If that does not happen during his lifetime, would you think the impact of his contribution to humanity is diminished in any manner?

Boyer: Without question the Aga Khan is deserving of respectful honour and due recognition for his leadership in fashioning a better world. However, his accomplishments stand apart from whether others accord him “official recognition” or not, and will endure with or without a Nobel Peace Prize.

Sir Edmund Hillary was showered with high honours after climbing Mount Everest with Sherpa Tenzing in 1953. Thirty years later when visiting Toronto he told me the one presentation he treasured above all others was an enormous decorative star, very bright and very colourful, hammered from tin and presented by the Kathmandu Taxi Drivers Association.

I think the Aga Khan would likewise treasure something from people who have their feet on the ground, their hearts in harmony with others, and wanting to honour courageous action.

Sir Edmund continued with exciting adventures, but slowly found his values changing. Increasingly important to him were human relationships. He became involved in assistance programs in Nepal – building schools and hospitals, bridges and water pipelines. “To help others improve their way of life became a prime target,” he said. “Getting involved with people and their problems” was “very satisfying.”

This same theme is in the Aga Khan’s speech. “The Canadian spirit resonates with a cherished principle in Shia Ismaili culture,” he explained. “The importance of contributing one’s individual energies, on a voluntary basis, to improving the lives of others…a matter of enlightened self-fulfillment.”

I believe such men act because of their values, not because they value recognition.

Merchant: I found your references to the Aga Khan’s ecclesiastical role very pertinent as you have based it on the Preamble of the current Ismaili Constitution that was ordained in 1986, on the anniversary of his 50th birthday (he was born December 13, 1936). Would you elaborate on that based on your reading of the Preamble.

Boyer: The role of religious codes and institutions is highly problematic in a world where millions have been slaughtered for their beliefs and millions more shackled with guilt and punishment by those whose pretense is to interpret divine intent in judging others.

However, in this domain, the Ismaili Constitution stands apart. Its Preamble seeks to establish by proclamation the legitimacy of a divine lineage and the ultimate status of rules governing spiritual and temporal matters for all Ismaili Muslims.

To me, as a non-believer in any particular organized religion, the importance of this Constitution lies in providing an institutional and structural world-wide framework so that followers can contribute to harmonious development – both throughout the Muslim Ummah and within the societies of countries where they are citizens. This integrated identity is hugely important for world harmony and predictability, especially for adherents of a religious faith lacking any specific territorial grounding but existing, instead, across global boundaries.

For the universe of Ismaili Muslims, as well as for those sharing the planet with them, this Constitution is a positive advance in global society. It is a step forward in what the Aga Khan, in his speech to our Parliament, envisages as creating “a cosmopolitan ethic” for our cosmopolitan society. The Constitution seeks allegiance, within this universal brotherhood, through loyalty and obedience to the Imam. The overarching goal is to secure the peace and unity of followers, as well as their religious and social welfare. It also seeks fruitful collaboration between different peoples, optimal use of resources, and a pathway for Ismaili Muslims to make contributions that improve quality of life in the Ummah as well as in the societies where they live.

Only by understanding full picture can the true role of the Aga Khan be grasped for its ecclesiastical and secular importance.

Merchant: What are key points from the Aga Khan’s speech that you would want the readers to reflect on?

Boyer: That “pluralism” is to embrace others without having to give up one’s own identity. That lofty principles, if they are to have any meaning, cannot exist in some abstract sphere but must take meaning in real peoples’ daily lives – in homes, schools, factories, offices, and on playing fields and buses. If they have no meaning in places so small they cannot be seen on any map of the world, they have no meaning anywhere.

Merchant: From all those you have heard and met during your lifetime, what would you say to his followers about their own Imam?

Boyer: I would point out that all around the world there are individuals holding office in governments, religious organizations, business corporations, educational institutions, sports organizations, and so forth. But being an office holder does not make someone a leader. The Aga Khan is a leader. To have the opportunity to follow him and advance the vital causes he identifies, as Ismaili Muslims do, is a rare opportunity.

I myself am delighted to have made your acquaintance through the official launch in Ottawa of my book Foreign Voices. I salute your dedicated contributions as editor and publisher of the digital magazines Simerg and Barakah. Through them, I am also happy to connect with your readers. Thank you for this opportunity.!”

Date posted: December 18, 2017.
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Portrait Patrick Boyer

J. Patrick Boyer. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse

Patrick Boyer has been a printer, lawyer, Member of Parliament, parliamentary secretary for Foreign Affairs, parliamentary secretary for National Defence, and chairman of three parliamentary committees dealing with equality rights, the status of disabled persons, and election law reform.

He is the author of some 24 books, hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, and as a broadcast journalist had his own TV shows. He has also taught at four universities, and worked on democratic development projects in Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Bulgaria, Ukraine, and Iraq. He chaired an international committee of parliamentarians on the global spread of democracy. He is founder of the Corinne Boyer Fund for Ovarian Cancer Research and Treatment, today’s Ovarian Cancer Canada.

In public affairs, Patrick has a track record of commitment to nuclear disarmament, democratic renewal, women’s health issues, the cultural heritage of Canadians, and individuals with mental and physical disabilities. His website is: http://www.patrickboyer.ca.

READER’S FEEDBACK

We welcome your feedback on this VERY important interview, where the author has provided insights into His Highness the Aga Khan. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or CLICK HERE. If you encounter technical issues, send your comment to simerg@aol.com, Subject: Patrick Boyer interview with the Aga Khan.

The Aga Khan in Pakistan: (2) A thorough and comprehensive coverage of his Diamond Jubilee visit to Karachi, December 14-19, 2017

2017-12-14-Karachi Home decorated for Aga Khan visit

A house in a Karachi neighbourhood is beautifully decorated to mark the Aga Khan’s visit to his Ismaili community after 17 long years. Photo: Simerg.

PAGE LAST UPDATED: December 20, 08:25 AM EST (in Karachi +10h, December 20, 06:25 PM).

The purpose of this post is to provide external links to media coverage of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee visit to Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and its commercial capital. We we will make every effort to ensure that we skip on links that contain repetitive information – often the same news agency report is shared  by different media.

COVERAGE OF AGA KHAN’S VISIT TO NORTHERN PAKISTAN: Pertinent external site links for Prince Karim Aga Khan’s visit from December 7–14, 2017 to Islamabad, Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan in the northern areas of Pakistan are available at The Aga Khan in Pakistan: (1) A thorough and comprehensive coverage of his Diamond Jubilee visit to Northern Pakistan, Dec. 7-14, 2017

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DECEMBER 19, 2017

Videos: Conclusion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Momentous Visit

 

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Media Coverage

Dawn Aga Khan Community Members Enjoy Visit

Community members celebrate Aga Khan’s presence in city. Photo: Dawn, Karachi, Metro South. Click on link below for story.

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December 18, 2017

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His Highness the Aga Khan pictured meeting with former Pakistan President, Asi Ali Zardari, during his current visit to Karachi. Zardari presented the Aga Khan Sindhi topi (cap) and ajrak, a unique form of blockprinted shawl.

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December 16/17, 2017

Media Coverage

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December 16, 2017

Media Coverage

Story about the inauguration of a health care education centre at AKU. See link below to view complete newspaper.

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December 14/15, 2017

Media Coverage

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The Aga Khan at a dinner hosted in his honour by Muhammad Zubair, Governor of Sindh, at the Governor’s House Karachi. Syed Murad Ali Shah, Chief Minister of Sindh, and Ismaili institutional leaders were also present. Photo: The Ismaili/Arif Hussain. See link below for more photos.

Regional Times Photo

His Highness the Aga Khan and the Governor of Sindh Muhammad Zubair at Jinnah Airport Terminal. Photo: Regional Times of Sindh. See link below.

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Aga Khan Video: Phenomenal motorcade clip

 

 

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Ag Khan Video: Airport lounge meeting (1)

 

 

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Aga Khan Video: Airport lounge meeting (2)

 

 

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Aga Khan Video: Karachi arrival and welcome

 

 

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Aga Khan Video: Plane Taxiing

 

 

Date posted: December 14, 2017
Last updated: December 20, 2017, 08:25 AM EST

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We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment

The Aga Khan in Pakistan: (1) A thorough and comprehensive coverage of his Diamond Jubilee visit to Northern Pakistan, Dec. 7- 14, 2017

Latest updates were applied at 00:47 AM on Thursday, December 14, 2017.

The purpose of this post is to provide external links to media coverage of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee visit to Pakistan. This post will specifically cover his visit to Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan in the northern areas of Pakistan. We we will make every effort to ensure that we skip on links that contain repetitive information – often the same news agency report is shared  by different media.

NOTE TO OUR READERS: All material related to his Karachi visit will now be covered in a new post dedicated to Karachi. The link will be available shortly.

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Darbar attendances

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A bird’s-eye view of the Darbar at Aliabad, Hunza. Photo: The Ismaili

Newspaper reports suggest the following darbar attendances in Gilgit-Baltistan: 150,000 in Yasin (Ghizr District) and 100,000 in Aliabad (Hunza District). Also, original estimates for Chitral, 2 locations — Booni and Garam Chashma – were 140,000.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

(a) Media Coverage

NOTE: All material related to his Karachi visit will be covered in a new post dedicated to Karachi!

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Tuesday/Wednesday, December 12/13, 2017

(a) Media Coverage

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Mawlana Hazar Imam walks through the Jamat during the Darbar at Garamchashma, Lower Chitral Photo: The Ismaili/Amirali Rimjee

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Entrance of a Darbar gate in Hunza decorated with traditional hats and flowers.

(a) Media Coverage

(b) Daily Motion Video: Welcome message to the Aga Khan from Shia Community

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

(a) AKDN Initiative

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(b) First page coverage (Urdu newspaper)

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Front page of Gilgit’s Urdu newspaper, dailybaadeshimal.com, that extensively covers Hazar Imam’s visit to Yasin and Hunza. First column, second photo down, shows Hazar Imam greeting Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan, with his wife in centre. Mir Ghazanfar belongs to the ruling family of Hunza. He is the son of Last Mir of Hunza, Muhammad Jamal Khan. See more photos of Hazar Imam with the Mir and his wife, below.

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(c) Photos with Governor Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan

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Mawlana Hazar Imam with Mir Ghazanfar Ali Khan and his wife. The Mir currently holds the office of Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan. He was appointed to the position of governor on November 24, 2015 by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif.

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(d) Gilgit arrival, a Gbee News Twitter video (must watch, photos with children)

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(e) Media Coverage

Aga Khan Photo Face Book Page of Hunza News

Hunza News Facebook Page. See more photos at link above.

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Booni, Chitral, Darbar, December 9, 2017. See more photos at Chitral Times Urdu link, above.

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(f) Hunza preparations ahead of visit

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Saturday, December 9, 2017

(a) Booni Darbar video

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(b) Helicopter departure video (from town of Chitral to Booni)

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(c). Booni pre-darbar photos

booni didargah before Darbar on December 9

Tens of thousands of people pack the Didargah in Booni, Chitral, on December 9, before the arrival of Mawlana Hazar Imam for the Darbar. Photo: Pamir Times/Shuja Raza.

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(d) Flight Delay in Islamabad: “The C130 aircraft in which he was supposed to fly could not takeoff from Islamabad in time. The AKF Helicopter Wing however took over and proved its worth by promptly dashing over to Islamabad in marginal weather and ferried the Imam and his entourage to grace Chitral and allay the anxiety of tens of thousands of the waiting faithful at Garam Chashma and Booni. Due to the four hour delay in scheduled departure from Islamabad and extended ceremonies at both the Deedar Gahs, the Imam decided to stay overnight in Chitral” — Excerpt from ChitralNews.com

(e) Media Coverage

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Friday, December 8, 2017

(a) Chitral preparations ahead of Darbar

booni didargah

(b) Comment on the volunteers

“Volunteers from the community have been working day and night for weeks on, to clean the area and upgrade roads and prepare two grand ‘deedar gahs’ (congregation areas) at Booni and Garam chashma, which will hold thousands of disciples of the Imam of the Ismailia community. Ismailis from all over Chitral with their women folk and children have converged on Booni and Garam Chashma the two venues where the Ag Khan would address his followers. The scathing cold has not deterred the faithful to brave the weather and catch a glimpse of their Imam.” — Excerpt from Chitralnews.com

 (c) Media Coverage

Tribune ecopy page Aga Khan visit

December 9th issue of Pakistan Tribune, Twin Cities Section. See story below.

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(d) Social Media Tweet by Marvi Mennon

Marvi Memon, aged 45,  is a Pakistani politician who serves as the Minister of State/Chairperson of the Benazir Income Support Programme. She has been a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan since 2013 as a member of Pakistan Muslim League.

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(e) Video (Urdu news on Aga Khan arrival in Pakistan + meeting government leaders)

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(e) Expressions (Song honouring Mawlana Hazar Imam)

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

(a) Conventional or Social Media Coverage

(b) Video

Date posted: December 9, 2017.
Last updated: December 13, 2017, 11:42 PM EST.

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A Chitral boy’s special moment with his beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, @Barakah

A young boy from Chitral presented a bouquet of flowers to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan on December 7, 2017. What then followed is a brief conversation the boy will remember all his life.

PLEASE CLICK: His Highness the Aga Khan in Pakistan: A Chitral boy’s story of a beautiful moment with his beloved 49th Imam

Please click on photo for story and video.

Date posted: December 9, 2017.

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Fabulous preparations for the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Aliabad, Hunza, with photos of his arrival in Pakistan @Barakah

HUNZA’S FAQIR ULLAH KHAN in a special report for Barakah provides a lively update with great photos of the Darbar preparations that are underway in Aliabad, Hunza. Read his wonderful piece and share it with all your friends…..MORE

PLEASE CLICK: Amazing photos of the Diamond Jubilee darbar preparations in Hunza

Please click on photo for report, photos and story.

Date posted: December 7, 2017.

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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.

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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