Registration is now on for Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon

WELCOME MESSAGE FROM PRESIDENT OF HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN SHIA IMAMI ISMAILI COUNCIL FOR PORTUGAL

_________________

 LISBON REGISTRATION

PLEASE VISIT THE OFFICIAL ISMAILI WEBSITE FOR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND REGISTRATION

Finally, the REGISTRATION DAY is here and the President of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Portugal has sent a warm and special message of welcome to the worldwide Jamats! Thousands of Ismailis around the world who have already made arrangements to travel to Lisbon or have been anxiously waiting for the registration to commence before finalizing their air and hotel bookings, can now begin to REGISTER at the official website of the Ismaili community. The Darbar and Diamond Jubilee events will take place in Lisbon between July 5th and 11th, 2018. We recommend that you visit FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS first for answers to numerous questions about the visit, the registration process and how to complete the registration form. If you encounter technical or other issues, please click on CONTACT US hyperlink at bottom of FAQ page. Here is the link: CONTACT US.

_______________

NEW BLOG ALL THINGS LISBOA

Simerg, together with its sister website Barakah, has launched a special blog All Things Lisboa that will be a point of reference for Ismailis travelling to Lisbon to celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee. It will offer comprehensive information about the events planned in Lisbon as well as provide links to the official website of the Ismaili community, http://theismaili.org.

All Things Lisboa will help you enjoy the best of Portuguese culture and will seek to provide ideas to enhance your experience of the historic city — its sights, sounds and tastes. While the focus of attention for tens of thousands of Ismailis of Portugal and around the world will be on the Diamond Jubilee events from July 5th until July 11th, 2018, including a grand Darbar, we think that you can take advantage of your stay to explore Lisbon by bus, foot, tram or with guided tours. All Things Lisboa also provides a listing of Ismailis offering professional travelling services as well as a list of other reliable options for reserving accommodation etc..

First things first: Please FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS and REGISTER FOR THE DARBAR.

We will provide you good information about Lisbon in the coming weeks!

Date posted: May 7, 2018.
Last updated: May 8, 2018.

____________

Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam in Lisbon: Prepare & book your trip NOW for the “highest point” of the celebrations

BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos, .com)

Nurin Merchant Ismaili Centre Lisbon Golden Jubilee Photos 001

Friends meeting friends at the magnificent Lisbon Ismaili Centre during the Golden Jubilee celebrations of His Highness the Aga Khan in 2008. Photo: Nurin Merchant.

Note: This post will be updated at regular intervals as more information become available.

Lisbon: The “highest point” of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations

Flights to Lisbon are becoming harder to find on specific travelling dates in early July, and hotels are now quickly filling up as Jamati members respond to the official LIF (Ismaili Leaders International Forum) announcement made on Navroz, March 21, 2018 that, with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s approval, the Jamats around the world would be welcome to join the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon. Some weeks earlier, Nazim Ahmed, the AKDN representative to Portugal and one of the 5 senior officials of the Imamat to Portugal, made a statement to Portugal’s Ministry of External Affairs that the celebrations in Lisbon would be the highest point of the celebrations of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee. This set off a flood inquiries about what form the celebration would take, and many even started preparing for the trip then.

We want to tell you not to despair about flight and hotel bookings yet, but urge you NOT TO DELAY despite the fact that registration details for the Portugal Darbar have not yet been announced on the official Ismaili community website. The Ismaili, however, has launched a special website that presently informs the Jamat about events that are planned in Lisbon. There are seats available on some of Air Canada’s return flights from Toronto; and TAP, the Portuguese airline flies directly from Boston. Please get in touch with your airlines or travel agents, many of whom are offering complete packages from various cities around North America. Of course if you are in Europe, distances are shorter and many residing there may drive or take the train, as alternatives to flying!

My recent searches at some of the hotel booking sites that I have provided below — and that I have used many times — show that there are rooms available in Lisbon’s downtown at varying prices — from as low as CAD $55.00 per night to a high of CAD $1700.00 per night.

(Note: There may be visa requirements to travel to Portugal from your country, so you have to resolve that before making any kind of booking).

From the Jamat’s perspective, while the Darbar would undoubtedly be the high point of the visit, we want to say that there are plenty of interesting activities such as the Diamond Jubilee Festival that will be staged in Lisbon during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s presence in Lisbon. The official community website, the Ismaili, mentions that the Festival will include concerts featuring world-renowned performers; an international Jamati Talent Showcase; an Art Gallery; a Film Festival; and a general Imamat Day celebration. Also, a carry forward from the Golden Jubilee is the Rays of Light exhibition depicting Mawlana Hazar Imam’s commitment to improve the human condition during his 60 years of Imamat. A Mela (get together space) for friends and family to meet, relax, and share experiences will be the central hub of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

The Portuguese Jamat, as we learn, are very excited about welcoming the world wide Jamat for the “high point of the Diamond Jubilee celebration.”

Reasons to be in Lisbon

Over the weekend of March 24-25, 2018, I attended in Toronto the Canadian Jubilee arts festival and was impressed with stage performances and visual art exhibits. Now, that talent will converge in Lisbon from Ismaili Jamats who held local and national Jubilee events in their respective countries.

National Ismaili Arts Festival Canada

A painting at the Jubilee Arts National Festival held in Toronto on March 24-25. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

Canada Jubilee Arts Festival

An amazing and graceful performance by Azaz Hussain (in wheelchair) and Rehana Meru at the Canada Jubilee Arts National Festival on March 25, 2018. Photo: Simerg/Malik Merchant.

Lisbon hosts the third high profile Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre to be built after the London and Burnaby Ismaili Centres. So visiting the Festival and seeing the Ismaili Centre during Hazar Imam’s presence, meeting thousands at the Festival grounds, enjoying Portuguese delicacies at the site and Lisbon restaurants, visiting historic sites in and around Lisbon as well as shopping are some of the wonderful memories that you will take back with you, Darbar aside.

Moreover, the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat is being established in Lisbon, and we would all be very excited to visit its location in the heart of Lisbon.

palc3a1cio-henrique-de-mendonc3a7a-featured-image1

The exquisite Henrique Mendonça Palace in Portugal that will house the Seat of Ismaili Imamat. Situated in an extremely exclusive neighbourhood, the Henrique Mendonça palace won the Valmor Prize in 1909, and is part of a panoramic green area of ​​three hectares in the heart of Lisbon.

The city of Lisbon itself is enchanting and has a lot to offer. Not far from Lisbon, approximately 300 kms away, is Portugal’s Algarve, one of the most spectacular coastlines in the world. Spain’s Cordoba is 500 kms from Lisbon. Then, from there it is another 2 hours to the architectural wonder of Alhambra, in Granada.

My Past Memories

Eusebio in action

The Benfica and Portuguese superstar Eusébio in action in the 1960’s. Photo: Fifa

Lisbon has been at the centre of my heart for almost 56 years and it all started with Eusébio (1942-2014), the football player, who was essentially “kidnapped” from Mozambique by the great Portuguese team of the time, Benfica. Soon after joining Benfica he led the team to a 5-3 win over Real Madrid in the finals of the European Cup (now known as the UEFA Champions Cup) on May 2, 1962 in Amsterdam. As an 8 year old, I stayed awake to listen to the live commentary in Lourenço Marques (LM) at my friend Aziz Noorali’s place at the other end of the apartment complex where we stayed. “Golo de Benfica” – yes that was when I first fell in love with Lisboa! Eusébio broke the 3-3 tie, scoring the last 2 goals that made Benfica victorious, and a side to be reckoned with for the next few years with him as its superstar, like today’s Portuguese Ronaldo who  plays for Real Madrid.

Alwaez Merchant with Loureco Marques Friends large 2

The author’s father, Jehangir Merchant (2nd from left) with friends including the late Noordin Ahmed Keshavjee (left), Haider Ali Issa (right) and Tajdin Hussein (centre with glasses, second row)  at the gate of Lourenço Marques Jamatkhana. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Nizar Ahmed Mahmed (d. appx 1960)

A portrait of Ismaili soldier Nizar Ahmed who died when the ship he was sailing in sunk off the coast of Mozambique around the year 1960. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Chaganbhai of Lourenco Marques

Remembering Chaganbhai of Lourenço Marques Jamatkhana. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Lourenco Marques Aga Khan Club Cricket Team

The Lourenço Marques Aga Khan Club cricket team. Jehangir Merchant is in the front row at extreme right and standing behind him is the great Ismaili football player, Satar, who represented the Mozambique national team as a defender on many occasions including in a game against Benfica (and Eusébio). Photo: Late 1950’s, Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Ismaili Ladies Volunteers Lourenço Marques Jamat late 1950's

Ismaili lady volunteers of the Lourenço Marques Jamat, late 1950’s. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

A few years later in the 1970’s the small Ismaili Jamat started leaving Mozambique for settlement in Portugal, and my first glimpse of Lisbon was in 1977 when I travelled there from London. The Keshavjee family hosted me, and Lutafbhai spent hours showing me the city, taking me to its most historical and charming sites. His older brother, the late Madatbhai, took me to other points of interest as well as to a coastal restaurant, where I enjoyed the tiger prawns that I had missed in Tanzania and London since leaving Mozambique.

Alwaez Merchant joining in a student recitation in Lourenco Marques

A recitation by Ismaili students at a Jamati gathering in Lourenço Marques. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

I vividly remember one night during that first trip to Lisbon when more than a dozen family members from the Keshavjee clan took me to a very traditional Portuguese restaurant where I experienced a wide variety of local delicacies. The weight gain from that meal has not been lost to this day! During my subsequent visits, I was welcomed to Lisbon with hugs and kisses, because my parents had served the LM Jamat admirably and with distinction during their 8 year tenure there in the 1950’s! Then, in 2008, I took my daughter with me to Lisbon for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee.

Prince Aly Khan admiring a needlework by an Ismaili Student during his visit to Lourenco Marques

Prince Aly Khan admiring needlework by an Ismaili student during his visit to Lourenço Marques in 1957. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

prince-aly-khan-lm-being-greeted

Prince Aly Khan bids farewell as he leaves the Lourenço Marques Jamatkhana during his visit in 1957. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

mawlana-hazar-imam-being-shown-needle-work

In May 1958, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited the Jamats in South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar. Here he is shown a display of needlework and crafts prepared by Ismaili students during his visit to Lourenço Marques. His beloved father, Prince Aly Khan (13 June 1911 – 12 May 1960), had visited the Jamat in 1957, a few months before Mawlana Hazar Imam became the Imam on July 11, 1957. See previous 2 photos. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

His Highness the Aga Khan, in front row in white suit, seen with leaders and teachers of the Lourenço Marques during his 1958 visit to Portuguese East Africa

1958, Lourenço Marques: Mawlana Hazar Imam, then 21 years of age, pictured with leaders and teachers of Lourenço Marques at the front staircase of the Jamatkhana entrance. Mrs. Merchant is in second row at left, and Mr. Merchant is seen immediately behind Mawlana Hazar Imam. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Mawlana Hazar Imam entering a classroom in Lourence Marques

Mawlana Hazar Imam meets with Ismaili students during his visit to Lourenço Marques in May 1958. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Lisbon and Mozambique today

Cristiano_Ronaldo_20120609

Today’s Portuguese and Real Madrid superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, pictured playing against Germany at Euro 2012. Photo: Football.ua [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0), CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

What about today’s Mozambique and Portugal Jamats? I am happy to share a warm invitational letter from Aly Faruque in response to an earlier version of this post published on Barakah. He writes:

“As a Portuguese citizen currently residing in Mozambique, I would like to, in the first instance to welcome you to Portugal. We all look forward to receiving our brothers and sisters, and to experience together this incredible moment of history that our Community is celebrating.

“Your words, comments, and memories deeply touched us [referring to my Barakah post], by your humility and availability to share precious and valuable information. The history and the past that you shared from our Countries bring us nostalgia and willingness to remember even further our great memories from the past, as well as when looking at pictures that connect us back to our roots and traditions. This is indeed very heartwarming.

“But our history and tradition did not stop in the second half of the 20th century. Mozambique currently has a vibrant Ismaili community spread across the country, that includes 7 (and growing) Jamatkhanas, and, Portugal, where our community has prospered, is now the home of many brothers and sisters that are well integrated and without any doubt a part of the socio-economic fabric of the Portuguese society.

“In addition, and although Eusebio is still well respected, we are currently living the most glorious years of our football history. Portugal is the current holder of the European Cup and the best player in the world, perhaps of all times, is named Cristiano Ronaldo and started his career in Sporting Clube of Portugal, probably the best school of football talents in the world.

“As for the city of Lisbon, the highlights you mentioned are brilliant and definitely a must-see during a visit to our beautiful country and city. There are other places, those that are not on the itinerary of tour guides, and that could be a more genuine view of the Lisbon vibrant hospitality. Some of these places would be the Mercado de Campo de Ourique, where you can have a gourmet experience in an informal environment, the LX Factory, where you can visit some of the trendiest restaurants in Lisbon, and the Bairro Alto, Principe Real, Chiado and Cais do Sodre neighborhoods, suitable for both day and night experience.

“We look forward to receiving you all.”

Aly would like readers to note that his views about sightseeing and places to visit in Lisbon are personal. Readers who want more information about the city, from his perspective, may contact him at aly.faruque@gmail.com.

Aga Khan Arrives in Portugal

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan arrives in Lisbon on July 19, 2017, ahead of two ceremonies on July 20, when the Universidade NOVA de Lisboa in Portugal honoured the Aga Khan with a doctorate honoris causa and the President of Portugal bestowed upon him the Gra-cruz da ordem de Liberdade. Following him, at left, is Nazim Ahmed, the AKDN representative in Portugal and one of five senior Imamat officials introduced by His Highness the Aga Khan to Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousain in May 2016. Photo: The Ismaili.

Today the city’s (and the country’s) institutions have recognized Hazar Imam’s contribution and have bestowed him with honours. The Ismaili Imamat and the Portugese government signed a historical agreement to establish the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal. Long before that, Lisbon already had established the third high profile Ismaili Centre in the world.

July 20 2017 Aga Khan and Portugal President

On July 20, 2017, Portugal’s President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa presented His Highness the Aga Khan with the Gra-cruz da ordem de Liberdade in recognition of his service to uplifting lives around the world. Photo: AKDN/Antonio Pedrosa.

Enjoy Lisbon to the fullest!

There are plenty of things to do in and around Lisbon, and I would suggest that anyone travelling to the city experience its history and architecture by taking day tours or simply jumping on Tram 28 to see the best of Lisbon! Hop on and off buses are available! Aly Faruque has also provided unique insights in his letter, above.

Amin Jiná has sent me a link to the exclusive ground transportation that he offers through http://www.amiroad.pt. I normally don’t endorse services that I have not utilized myself but I would be inclined to use his services due to the extremely positive reviews and high ratings he has received at https://www.tripadvisor.ca/Attraction_Review-g189158-d7134166-Reviews-Amiroad_Luxury_Transports-Lisbon_Lisbon_District_Central_Portugal.html.

1920px-Alfama-CCBY

View of Alfama from the Miradouro of Santa Luzia in Lisbon, Portugal. Photo: Wikipedia/Miguel Vieira. This image was originally posted to Flickr by MiguelVieira at https://www.flickr.com/photos/11563230@N04/1224473888. It was reviewed on 27 August 2007 by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0.

Lisbon’s subway system is great (see map, below). With regard to accommodations do not necessarily look for one closest to the Ismaili Centre. There are lovely hotels and charming Airbnb rooms and apartments available in centre city and other historical areas of the city such as Alfama. Taking a cab to the Ismaili Centre or the site of the Darbar from downtown Lisbon (or Baixa) will not take you more than 20 minutes! So be an intrepid traveller – not a boring one! Kids love excitement, remember that, if you are travelling with children and youth. And of course staying in the more traditional and popular areas of the city will allow you to walk to nearby restaurants for great coffees and pastries, and make sightseeing and shopping exciting as well as easier.

Hotel Booking Websites

I have made bookings over the past several years through all the websites listed below, with a very high level (95%) of satisfaction. Where a hotel has not met the expected star level or service as indicated at the site where the reservation was made, their customer service representatives have been extremely considerate in fixing the problem or applying credits for subsequent stays. I have also stayed at many Airbnb accommodations over the past 2 years that have been positively reviewed and I don’t have anything to complain about. With the oncoming rush many new properties will be listed that do not yet carry reviews. If they look good in photos and the person you communicate with is responsive, go for it. Here are the sites I have made bookings through. Note that many properties offer cancellations!

Tip: Use filters (eg. price range, dates of stay, star rating, location from city centre or major attractions etc.) to narrow down search

  • http://www.booking.com (excellent, and one good thing is that it offers cancellations on many bookings or pay at property)
  • http://www.hotels.com (again, an excellent website)
  • http://www.trivago.ca (scans partner hotel booking sites for best rates, and lists the top few)
  • http://www.priceline.com (you can name your own price and, if lucky, be rewarded or get up to 60% off express deals; no refunds once booked on special deals)
  • http://www.hotwire.com (offers very competitive rates that once booked are not refundable)
  • http://www.tripadvisor.com (an amazing site that also provides reliable reviews of everything travel related — things to do, hotels, restaurants etc.)
  • http://www.expedia.com (excellent and offers special discounts for registered users)
  • http://www.airbnb.com (private hosts who offer their rooms/apartments for short term or long term stays)
  • NOTE: The author has used all the sites listed above without any major issues; concerns raised, eg. incorrect property description/star rating, have been addressed satisfactorily!

Other Lisbon Notes

  • Sources indicate that the 1998 Expo World Fair site, PARQUE DAS NAÇÕES (Park of Nations), is where the Diamond Jubilee events will be taking place;
  • The site is appx. 9-10 kms and a 15-20 minute drive from the Ismaili Centre (Nº1, Av. Lusíada, 1600-001 Lisboa, Portugal);
  • Appx. distance to the Ismaili Centre from downtown Lisbon (or Baixa) is 9 km, 20 minutes by car; and from downtown to PARQUE DAS NAÇÕES, 10-12 kms, 26-30 minutes;
  • For a beginners guide to downtown Lisbon, please click: https://www.pousadasofportugal.com/a-beginners-guide-to-lisbons-downtown-district/;
  • Write to aly.faruque@gmail.com for a more genuine and authentic view of Lisbon’s vibrant hospitality normally not found on guided tour itinerary;
  • Visit Amin Jiná’s http://www.amiroad.pt, highly rated on tripadvisor, for exclusive tours and ground transportation;
  • Avenide de Liberdade is one of the main streets through Lisbon and well known for designer shops. It is a good base for a hotel to have access to all parts of the city;
  • The Alfama is the oldest district of Lisbon, spreading on the slope between the São Jorge Castle and the Tejo river. Its name comes from the Arabic Al-hamma, meaning “hot fountains” or “baths”;
  • Details and registration procedures will be communicated to the Jamat globally on the official website of the Ismaili community, https://the.ismaili/ (NOTE: no Darbar registration information yet;  info for Jubilee Arts Festival in Lisbon is now posted)

ENJOY Lisbon and Portugal. Make your plans, don’t delay!

Date posted: March 29, 2018.

__________________

Note: This is an updated version of a piece that was first published at http://www.barakah.com. Both the pieces now contain almost identical information.

We welcome your feedback. To leave a comment please click Leave a comment.

Please visit our sister website www,barakah.com, which is dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan for his Diamond Jubilee. Also join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Hunza: An Eyewitness Account

We convey Salgirah* Mubarak to all Ismailis and friends of the Ismailis on the occasion of the 81st birthday of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, who is currently visiting Pakistan for his Diamond Jubilee. At the age of 81, His Highness is the oldest serving Imam in Ismaili history, since the time of the first Imam, Hazrat Ali (a.s.). We are pleased to publish on http://www.barakah.com an account of the Darbar of the Aga Khan that took place on Sunday, December 10, 2017, in Aliabad, Hunza. The piece was specially contributed for Barakah by Faqir Ullah Khan of Hunza.

PLEASE CLICK: His Highness the Aga Khan in Pakistan: Zahiri-u-Noorani didar – A personal reflection of the darbar in Hunza

A panoramic view of the Didargah or the Darbar grounds in Aliabad Hunza where the Aga Khan graced his followers with his Didar (lit. glimpse) on December 10, 2017.

Date posted: December 13, 2017.

______________

* In Urdu, Salgirah is used for the occasion of someone’s birthday.

 

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

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.

Important Notes on Baitul Khayal, Bol, the Soul and Imam’s Status as Ismailis around the world continue to receive Hazar Imam’s Didar and Blessings

“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.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Bless Ismailis in Eastern Canada with Didar in November 2017

2017 Aga Khan Tanzania Darbar zr1_web_4823

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, at the Dar es Salaam Darbar in October 2017. He will grace the Eastern Canadian Ismailis with his didar in November 2017.

Ismailis gasp in delight and shed tears of joy at announcement of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Canada in November 2017

By Malik Merchant, Editor

(Note: We will have regular updates leading upto the visit; here are the latest updates for this blog):

 

 

Ismailis in Eastern Canada will, inshallah, be graced with the holy visit of their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, during the month of November 2017. The announcement of the visit by the Ismaili Leadership International Forum (LIF) came as a big surprise, and thousands who were present in Jamatkhanas across Canada on Friday, October 27,  gasped with delight when the news of the visit was read out. At the Ismaili Centre in Toronto, the Jamat was informed about the visit  by the Chairman of the LIF, Mahmoud Eboo, who is also the representative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) in Canada.

The exact dates and details of the visit were not announced on Friday. However, an update on Saturday October 28th, stated that Mawlana Hazar Imam’s mulaqats with the Eastern Canada Jamat, which will include religious work, will take place in Toronto for the Ontario region and in Montreal for the Quebec and Maritime Provinces.  Although located in Ontario, the Jamat in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, will join hands with the Jamats of the Quebec and Maritime Provinces in Montreal.

This will be the third visit by the Aga Khan to his followers during his Diamond Jubilee year that commenced on July 11, 2017, when he completed 60 years of his reign. Earlier in October, he made official visits to Uganda and Tanzania at the invitation of the two governments. During the five day tour that began on October 8th, Mawlana Hazar Imam graced the Ismailis with momentous Darbars (lit. a court or audience chamber where kings had formal or informal meetings) in Kampala and Dar es Salaam.

On this most auspicious and joyous news of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s forthcoming visit to Canada, we convey our heartiest felicitations to Ismailis in Canada and around the world and offer a humble supplication with the following words taken from a Ginan by Pir Hasan Kabirdin (14th century).

Transliteration

Eji, Aash Karine Ya Ali* hun tere dar ubhi,
Kar jodine em mangu Ya Shah;
Dejo didar tusi mahavar datar Shah,
Hama tere charane lagu.

Translation

With hope O Ali I stand at Thy door,
With palms joined I sincerely beg of Thee;
Bless me with Thy Holy Didar, O Great Lord and Benefactor!
At Thy Feet I fall to prostrate.

*Ismaili doctrine emphasizes 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. Thus, the name of the first Imam, Hazrat Ali, is commonly invoked for each Imam of the Time.

The proverbial valour and exemplary statesmanship of Imam Mawla Murtaza Ali, the encyclopaedic erudition of Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq, the extraordinary intellectual brilliance of Imam al-Hakim bi Amrillah, the administrative ability of Imam Mustansir Billah (during the first half of his Khilafat), the political acumen of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III (he defied geography and created history), the organizing genius of the present Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Husayni, are only some of the more spectacular characteristics exhibited by the Imam of the Time in accordance with the exigencies of the situations facing him.

Date posted: October 27, 2017.
Last updated: October 29, 2017.

Related updated post: Ottawa Celebrates Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Forthcoming Visit to Canada, @Barakah.com

_____________

We invite our readers to download Simerg’s special PDF publication Imamat and Didar Series.

We welcome your feedback. Please click LEAVE A COMMENT

The Ismailis’ unmeasurable love for their 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

The Youtube link to the Diamond Jubilee Tribute Song to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is one you can play repeatedly and keep on enjoying forever. The expression of love for Mawlana Hazar Imam is visible on each musician’s face, and this is what is most inspiring about this video. What we might say is our “unmeasurable love” for Hazar Imam becomes even more unfathomable to grasp when we read what Hazar Imam said to his jamat (community) during his visit in 1964 to Pakistan 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….When I leave, each and everyone of you will be in my heart, in my prayers, in my thoughts and you must remember that Imam loves you more, much more than you can ever love him and you must be strong in this knowledge.” Unmeasurable unmeasurable love indeed! We are all recipients of his care and barakah, 1000fold, nay a million fold….Happiness forever to all Ismailis.

We welcome your feedback…. Please LEAVE A COMMENT.

Please also visit http://www.facebook.com/1000fold, a page dedicated to the Visual and Textual Celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan, with a corresponding website, http://www.barakah.com.

Date posted: June 8, 2017.

___________________

For feedback, please click LEAVE A COMMENT

December 16, 2016: Hazar Imam’s Landmark 80th Birthday Celebration, With a Special Touch from Gulgee

“The medium Gulgee used in these mosaics is blue lapis lazuli stones. He had to pick through thousands of pieces of blue stone, in varying colors and shapes and sizes. Then, he had to arrange them in such a way that they formed a perfect portrait of a living person. He described it as being similar to a giant jigsaw puzzle.” Read More…

PLEASE CLICK: AN EXCEPTIONAL GIFT TO HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN FOR HIS LANDMARK 80TH BIRTHDAY

Please click on image for article and more photos.

Please click on image for article and more photos.