Kutub Kassam served Ismaili Imamat Institutions as curriculum developer, editor, writer and researcher for 40 years

“It is my sad duty to inform you of the passing away of our colleague Kutub Kassam. He served IIS [Institute of Ismaili Studies] and the Jamat most faithfully for more than thirty years. May his soul rest in peace” — Dr. Farhad Daftary, Director, IIS, London, England, March 25, 2019.

Kutub Kassam (1944-2019)

Kutub Kassam (1944-2019)

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

It is with deep sadness that Simerg records the passing away of Kutubdin (Kutub) Aladin Kassam, on March 24, 2019 in London, England, at the age of 75 after serving Ismaili Imamat institutions for 40 years. Of these, he spent 35 years at the Institute of Ismaili Studies for which he was congratulated and recognized by Prince Rahim Aga Khan during the Institute’s 40th anniversary celebration held in London in November 2017.

Kutub’s funeral services were held on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the West London Jamatkhana. He was then buried at Brookwood cemetery in Surrey, following which post burial ceremonies of samar and zyarat were conducted for his departed soul at London’s North West Jamatkhana.

Kutub Kassam was born on January 21, 1944 in Mombasa, Kenya, and received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of East Africa at a ceremony held at the University College Nairobi in 1967.  

In Kenya, he contributed in developing an international curriculum on religious education for the global Ismaili community. He wrote an insightful piece about the challenges of creating the new International Religious Education Program (IREP) in a special commemorative issue celebrating sixty years of Ismaili education in Kenya.

In 1982, Kutub commenced his long tenure with the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, where his first task was to coordinate the activities of the newly established Education Unit (later Department of Education). In that capacity, Kutub was responsible for overseeing the development of the Primary Talim materials.

From 1993 onwards, until his retirement in 2018, Kutub played the role of a researcher and senior editor where he provided invaluable input to scholars who were completing their books. He left his imprint in almost every publication that the IIS published during the past 25 years.

The pivotal role that Kutub played at the IIS as a senior editor was noted with affection by several authors in their book forewords or prefaces, showing how much they respected him for his analysis and insightful suggestions for improving their works before they got published.  

For example, Dr. Aziz Esmail, author of A Scent of Sandalwood: Indo-Ismaili Religious Lyrics wrote: “Kutub Kassam helped the work through, in the final stage, by applying his meticulous regard for the conventions of language, his feel for poetry, and his fine appreciation of the subject, to the text of the work. My thanks are due to him for the sustained effort he put in, and the suggestions he made for the improvement, in several places, of the penultimate text.”

Reza Shah-Kazemi, author of Justice and Remembrance: the Spirituality of Imam Ali thanked Kutub for going beyond the normal editing of the text by contributing to its intellectual content which resulted in a significantly improved text. Mohamed Keshavjee, a member of the Board of the IIS and author of Islam, Sharia and Alternative Dispute Resolution praised Kutub for meticulously reading his manuscript and suggesting extra sources for the book.

The late Peter Willey, one of the earliest contemporary scholars on the Alamut period and author of the highly readable work Eagle’s Nest: Ismaili Castle in Iran and Syria complimented by noting that Kutub was his “ever-patient and judicious editor at The Institute of Ismaili Studies who has always been a tower of strength.” The Vancouver based Amyn Sajoo, author of  Civil Society in the Muslim World: Comparative Perspectives, said he had benefited from Kutub Kassam’s “pragmatic insights and encouragement, which on more than one occasion helped keep the project on track.”

In addition to leaving his imprint in almost every IIS publication,  Kutub himself co-authored and edited Shimmering Light (1996) and An Anthology of Ismaili Literature (2008). 

Kutub’s influence was felt beyond the confines of the IIS. Al Noor Kassum, a prominent Ismaili leader in Tanzania, recognized Kutub’s contribution to his memoirs Africa’s Winds of Change: Memoirs of an International Tanzanian in the following terms: “….I am heavily indebted to Kutub Kassam for the highly professional input that he has provided in every chapter of the book with in-depth analysis that could only have been done by someone of his calibre. I am truly, truly grateful to him because, as a result, I have learnt a great deal, too.”

Aside from providing editorial expertise to authors, Kutub was himself a prolific writer and contributed rich literary articles and poems that appeared in numerous Ismaili publications around the world.

As our tribute to an inspiring and illuminating Ismaili individual of the modern times who served the Imamat for four decades, we bring you this beautiful poem by Kutub that we discovered in the Commemorative Issue 1977-1978: Celebrating Sixty Years of Ismaili Education in Kenya. 

Come, who will walk with me?

By KUTUB KASSAM
(1944-2019)

Come, who will walk with me?
A path there is over hills and dales,
Through avenues of purple, green and gold;
It pauses not where the thickets press,
Nor hesitates
To plunge into the forest gloom.

A place there is concealed
Of leaf and bough and tender grass,
Where the enraptured birds sing and dance;
In the still waters of pool appears
The sky inverted,
That conceals deeper depths.

Come, will you walk with me?
Leave all cares and sorrows behind;
All ambition, ornament and pride renounce;
Property, wealth, work, all abandon:
Come companion,
Put on your wings and let us fly.

Away from this world of
Fever and fret and fear of death,
This wretched city where men toil oppressed
And the memories of innocence drown
Where even the best
Lack compassion or conviction;

To another world where
Man and bird and beast dwell free
In accordance with love, beauty and truth,
Where birth and death, sun and moon
Declare the life
A continuous spiritual ecstasy.

Kutub Kassam’s impact on Ismaili Jamats through his work at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London will last for generations and he will be deeply missed.

We join the Director and staff of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in praying for the eternal peace of the soul of Kutub Kassam. We convey our heartfelt  condolences to Kutub’s family members, colleagues and friends around the world.

Date posted: March 25, 2019.
Last updated: April 1, 2019 (updated portrait photo of the Late Kutub Kassam).

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Readers who wish to express condolences and share memories of Kutub Kassam may do so by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT. Alternatively, if you have difficulties using the feedback feature, please send your comment by email to Simerg@aol.com (Subject: Kutub Kassam), and we will publish it on your behalf.

The Work of the Ismaili Imamat at a Glance, and the Most Famous Logos of the Aga Khan Development Network

University of Ottawa confers an Honorary Degree on His Highness the Aga Khan

“His Highness has used his own faith background to speak directly to the goodness of all people.” — President Alan Rock, University of Ottawa, January 13, 2012. Photo: University of Ottawa. Copyright.

For over 60 years the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), under the leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismailis in direct lineal descent of the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him), has been building institutions and delivering essential services by creating schools and hospitals, newspapers and electricity generation plants, and social programmes of all kinds. These services have helped improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people of all races and faiths in places as varied as Cairo, Kabul, Delhi and Bamako.

We provide an organizational chart highlighting the breadth of the work of the Ismaili Imamat, and compile a piece about the most identifiable emblems, logos and seals of the AKDN.

Please click on image to enlarge

Work of Ismaili Imamat and AKDN

Credit AKDN*

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FAMOUS LOGOS, SEALS AND EMBLEMS OF AKDN AGENCIES AND INSTITUTIONS

1. Aga Khan University (AKU)

aku-seal

The Seal of Aga Khan University is a visual representation of the principles which underlie the founding of the University. The circular form of the Seal, with its different levels of imagery contained in concentric circles, has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. The circle also symbolises the world and reflects the international presence of the University.

At the centre of the Seal is a star, or sun. Light is a universal symbol for the enlightenment that education provides.The light emanating from the star is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light).

The star incorporates 49 points to commemorate the University’s founding by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan. The outer ring circumscribes a Qur’anic ayat rendered in classic thuluth script and reads as follows:

“And hold fast, All together, by the rope
Which God (stretches out for you),
And be not divided among yourselves,
And remember with gratitude
God’s favour on you:
For ye were enemies
And He joined your hearts
In love, so that by His grace
Ye became brethren” — Sura 3, Ayat 103.

2. Aga Khan Foundation (AKF)

akf-logos

In every language there are idioms and proverbs illustrating the importance of the right hand as an instrument of human skill, achievement and caring.

The Aga Khan Foundation logo is based on the right hand, and represents the humanitarian and positive philosophy underlying the Foundation and its activities.

In Islam, the hand has a number of meanings: its shape reflects its comprehensive and positive character, while its constituents represent the five principles of Islam and the five senses of the human body. The stylized fingers represent “Allah” in the Kufic script, and the interlacing beneath the fingers correspond to the anatomy of the hand and also delineates the sign, which in Chinese stands for Wisdom.

The logo of the Aga Khan Foundation was designed by Mr. Zahoor-ul-Akhlaq of Pakistan.

3. Aga Khan Health Services (AKHS)

Aga Khan Health Services

Photo: Isabelle Prondzynski. Copyright.

The emblem of the Aga Khan Health Services shown on the cup and saucer represents health care and compassion. The crescent is an ancient icon which, when used in red, has become the equivalent of the International Red Cross. The three-crescent design in its simple, poetic form creates an internal space symbolising how institutions and programmes using the symbol surround, attend and care for those in need.

4. Aga Khan Award for Architecture (AKAA)

AKAA Logo

The logo of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was designed by Karl Schlamminger, a German Muslim of the Shia tradition.

The Name of Allah in Kufic script, reflecting Itself and repeating Itself, forms the basis of the logo design.

Date posted: April 7, 2016.

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*For original chart and related material please visit the Aga Khan Development Network link at http://www.akdn.org/publications/2015_akdn_overview.pdf.

Special Series: Ismaili Expressions on the Imamat — (III) Ismaili Imams on Succession, the Noor of Imamat, and Imam’s True Reality

“The Imam’s 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.”
33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al-Salam, 15th Century

1. SUCCESSION

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III. Photo Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London by Elliott & Fry photograph.

Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III. Photo Copyright National Portrait Gallery, London
by Elliott & Fry photograph.

 By Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah,
His Highness the Aga Khan III

“Ever since the time of my first ancestor Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants whether they be sons or remoter male issue.

“In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place including the discoveries of atomic science I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Shia Moslem Ismailian Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.

“I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my son Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to be the Imam and Pir of all my Shia Ismailian followers.”

2. THE MOMENT OF SUCCESSION, THE HEREDITARY INSTITUTION AND THE NOOR OF IMAMAT

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

A portrait of Prince Karim Aga Khan IV during his enthronement in Geneva, Switzerland after his grandfather, His Highness the Aga Khan III, passed away on July 11, 1957. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images.

By Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

“The [installation] ceremony is a public installation of the Imam. The Ismailis pay homage to the Imam and that is when you are recognised by the world at large as the Imam.

“Officially as soon as one Imam passes away, his successor takes on from the very minute the Imam has passed away .” [1]

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“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet….today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.

“…As the 49th Imam, I have for the past 50 years, looked after two inseparable responsibilities: overseeing the spiritual wellbeing of Ismailis, as well, at the same time, as focusing on improving their quality of life and that of the people with whom they live.” [2]

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“For hundreds of years, my spiritual children have been guided by the Rope of Imamat; you have looked to the Imam of the Age for advice and help in all matters and through your Imam’s immense love and affection for his spiritual children, his Noor has indicated to you where and in which direction you must turn so as to obtain spiritual and worldly satisfaction. [3]

3. TWO 15TH CENTURY ISMAILIS IMAMS ON ZAHERI AND BATINI DIDAR, AND IMAM’S ESSENCE

(a) Imam Mustansir bi’llah

Pandiyat-i- Jawanmardi or Counsels of Chivalry is a compilation of the guidance of the 32nd Ismaili Imam, Mustansir bi’llah, who lived in the 15th century. This book contains exhortations to the faithful on the necessity of recognising and obeying the current Imam and on how to live a truly ethical life. The circumstances that led to the compilation of the work are intriguing, and are alluded to in many of the manuscripts copies as follows:

When Pir Taj al-Din passed away, a number of people from the Sindhi Ismaili Community went to the Imam. Upon arrival they pleaded: “Our Pir Taj al-Din has passed away. Now we are in need of a Pir.” The Imam then had the Counsels of Chivalry compiled and gave it to them saying: “This is your Pir. Act according to its dictates.”

In one of the chapters, the Imam enumerates the importance of both the Zaheri and Batini aspects of the Imam’s Didar. He recognizes and acknowledges the sacrificing spirit of the Jamat, in serving him and in observing religious duties.

He says:

“They (the Jamat, the community) have given up their property, and even their lives. All of them have faithfully submitted their religious dues. Others have travelled long distances through arduous conditions by land and sea, braving storms and incurring great expense.

“Some attend religious assemblies to increase their knowledge while others, without any worldly motive, perform acts of charity to benefit the poor.

“Some have acted with noble actions in the cause of faith, including special devotions, worship and especially remembrance (zikr), continually invoking the Lord throughout the night, never neglecting God for even a moment, and worshipping him out of passionate devotion.

“All believers are urged to come into the presence of the Imam and to see him with their own eyes.

“Thus, 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, achieved by travelling to the Imam’s residence and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, become 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.”

(b) Imam ‘Abd al-Salam

There is an ode of the 33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al-Salam in which he says that the talisman (anything that has magical powers) that can open the treasure trove of spiritual meaning of the Holy Qur’an is the Imam. This ode is lucidly explained by Dr. Shafique Virani in his path breaking book, “The Ismailis in the Middle Ages.”

In the ode the Imam observes that 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.

The Imam continues by saying that 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 sulfur. 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.

Date posted: July 10, 2015.

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Previous posts in this special series:

References:

[1] Click http://www.nanowisdoms.org

[2] Click In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race

[3] Farman Mubarak Pakistan Visit 1964, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan. Quoted also in Ilm magazine,  July 1975, Volume 1, Number 1, page 27, published by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom (known since 1986 as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board or ITREB)

Note: Reading 3 compiled from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages, by Shafique N. Virani, and Pandiyat-i Jawanmardi, translated by Professor Vladimir Ivanow). Image courtesy of roseannapiter.com

To give a feedback, please click Leave a comment.

OTTAWA: The New Jamatkhana is 1 Year Old; An Ottawa Architect’s Favourite Building; and Iconic Sussex Drive

1. THE OTTAWA JAMATKHANA

Hundreds of Ismailis come by the busloads and personal automobiles to visit Ottawa during the summer months – for many the primary destinations are the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building and the beautiful new Ottawa Jamatkhana which opened exactly a year ago, on July 19, 2013. The visitors marvel at the Ottawa Jamatkhana’s spacious facilities for spiritual practices as well as the space it offers for social interaction and cultural programmes, including religious education classes.

As the Ottawa Jamat marks its first anniversary in the new Jamatkhana we repost on this page a link to Farouk Noormohamed’s statement and photos of the lovely building.

Speaking of Ottawa, local architect Kristopher Benes names his favourite building in the city, and we provide a link to a piece about Ottawa’s iconic Sussex Drive which is home to the Delegation Building.

Check out all the readings below and enjoy your summer in Ottawa, Canada’s Capital!

Please click: Exclusive: Architect’s Statement and Photos of the Fabulous New Ottawa Jamatkhana

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2. MY FAVOURITE OTTAWA BUILDING

By Kristopher Benes

As an architect I often get asked to name my favourite Ottawa building! Being a fan of minimalism I was often hard pressed to find anything non-residential that came immediately to my mind –- until that is, when the Ismaili Imamat Delegation building was completed in 2008.

Modern architecture often draws criticism for being too stark, extreme in its simplicity. However, it is its ability to highlight the world around us that I find to be so beautiful in modernism.

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building.

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building.

The clarity with which the play of shadows for instance may fall upon a crystal white surface allows architecture to behave as an ever-changing canvas, a reflector if one prefers, of what is going on all around. When the sun moves across the sky, the shadows dance along the building’s surfaces and when the sky takes on a different shade, the building glows in a completely different light.

Light can be a wonderful paint brush for those blank walls; it does not need any more complexity than that. And obviously, Fumihiko Maki, the building’s design architect, understands light better than I ever could hope to (after all he has won a Pritzker Prize for his contributions and has enjoyed a career spanning some 50 years).

I think it is this understanding of light and an ability to shape it so beautifully which speaks to me most about the Ismaili Imamat Delegation Building.

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3. ICONIC SUSSEX DRIVE

Please click: Photo Essay: Celebrating Sussex Drive, His Highness the Aga Khan and, Five Years on, the Crystalline Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building

Sussex Drive is denoted by the yellow line. Going East, you start at Rideau Street (blue line) where the 700 Sussex Condominium building is located. Between Rideau Street and #35 on the map, you pass the Connaught Building  (550 Sussex) and the US Embassy (490 Sussex). The National Gallery of Art (380 Sussex) and the Basilica (385 Sussex) as well as Reconciliation Monument are located at or around #35. Then just a hundred metres east of #35 are located the Global Centre for Pluralism (330 Sussex), the Royal Canadian Mint (320 Sussex) and the Embassy of Kuwait (333 Sussex). The Saudi Embassy (201 Sussex) and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building (199 Sussex) are at #36, with the Lester Pearson Building (125 Sussex) and the John G. Diefenbacker or the Old City Hall (111 Sussex) approximately 100-200 metres further east. At #37 you reach Rideau Falls Park (50 Sussex) and the French Embassy (42 Sussex).  Finally, Sussex Drive winds down (or starts if you are travelling South!) at #38, the residences of the Prime Minister (24 Sussex) and the Governor General (1 Sussex) as well as the High Commission of South Africa (15 Sussex). One of the pictures of the Delegation Building shown below was taken from Jacques-Cartier Park in Gatineau, which is denoted by #30 on the map. Map credit: The National Capital Commission (with minor edits by Simergphotos to represent Sussex Drive more clearly).

Sussex Drive is denoted by the yellow line. Going East, you start at Rideau Street (blue line) where the 700 Sussex Condominium building is located. Between Rideau Street and #35 on the map, you pass the Connaught Building (550 Sussex) and the US Embassy (490 Sussex). The National Gallery of Art (380 Sussex) and the Basilica (385 Sussex) as well as Reconciliation Monument are located at or around #35. Then just a hundred metres east of #35 are located the Global Centre for Pluralism (330 Sussex), the Royal Canadian Mint (320 Sussex) and the Embassy of Kuwait (333 Sussex). The Saudi Embassy (201 Sussex) and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building (199 Sussex) are at #36, with the Lester Pearson Building (125 Sussex) and the John G. Diefenbacker or the Old City Hall (111 Sussex) approximately 100-200 metres further east. At #37 you reach Rideau Falls Park (50 Sussex) and the French Embassy (42 Sussex). Finally, Sussex Drive winds down (or starts if you are travelling South!) at #38, the residences of the Prime Minister (24 Sussex) and the Governor General (1 Sussex) as well as the High Commission of South Africa (15 Sussex). Map credit: The National Capital Commission (with minor edits by Simergphotos to represent Sussex Drive more clearly).

Date posted: Saturday, July 19, 2014.

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Photo Essays: His Highness the Aga Khan in Alberta and His Past Meetings with Leaders of US and Canada

Simerg’s photo blog, www.simergphotos.com, brings you two more informative photo essays following the publication recently of some magnificent photos of Chateau de Chantilly and His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to France’s cultural gem. Please click on the following links or images to read the latest photo essays, as well other previously published posts.

Photo Essay: Historic Signing of Agreement in Alberta Between His Highness the Aga Khan and Premier Alison Redford

Please click for Alberta photo essay

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From John F. Kennedy to Pierre E. Trudeau to Stephen E. Harper – A Selection of Photos and Videos of His Highness the Aga Khan with USA Presidents and Canadian Prime Ministers

Please click for photo essay, His Highness the Aga Khan with North American Leaders

A Thank You Letter Inspired by Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s Exceptional Service to the Imamat by Azeem Maherali @Simerg

“…Prince, we have witnessed and continue to witness your immense love, loyalty and respect for our beloved Hazar Imam. You continue to be an epitome of inspiration in the service of the Imam, Imamat, worldwide Jamats, greater Muslim Ummah and humanity…..

A Thank You Letter Inspired by Prince Amyn Mohammad Aga Khan’s Exceptional Service to the Imamat

Please click for ‘Thank You” Letter

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To read published letters, please click Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures