Special Series: “What Ismailis Believe”
The.Ismaili, the official website of the Ismaili Muslim community, recently started a series on the beliefs and practices of the Ismailis. We invite all our readers, Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike, to read the following articles published in the series so far:
(1) Article: Why Do Ismailis Recite Salawat for the Family of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)
(2) Video: The Exalted Status of the Ahl al-Bayt
(3) Video: Imam Ali in Islamic Traditions: No Hero Like Ali
(4) Video and article: Why do Ismailis Call Their Imam Khudavind
“…if there are any questions do not hesitate to ask. It is much better to ask and receive an answer than to have a feeling of frustration inside you”— Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan
“Ask Me Anything”
Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
If I am not mistaken, the Ask Me Anything (AMA) program has been active in Canada for quite some time — I have heard announcements in Jamatkhanas going back to pre-Covid-19 times — and I wonder how many Jamati members with questions pertaining to faith, beliefs and traditions have sought to seek answers to questions that have been or are on their minds. How much interaction, if any, is there between Jamati members today, and especially the youth, and those who are best equipped to answer their questions?
As a son of an Alwaez (Jehangir Merchant, d. 2018), who was also a religious education teacher, I recollect the frequency with which he was approached by members of the Jamat with questions, whether it was in Mozambique, Tanzania, Canada, the UK and in countries where he went for sermon duties. Often individuals would approach him in the Jamatkhana as he was about to depart but he patiently took his time to respond to the question. Both he and my mum (Mrs. Merchant, d. 2021) considered their students and members of the Jamat at the centre of their lives.
Of course, as a secondary school teacher, my dad would always engage in Q/A discussions with his students. If he did not have an answer, he would tell the students so and seek out a good and satisfactory response by conducting his own research or consulting with one of his learned colleagues. A leader of an Ismaili institution in Canada, in his tribute to my dad, wrote: “In the passing away of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant I have lost a confidant, a friend and a source of knowledge and wisdom that I will greatly miss. He was my Go-to person for Tariqah matters and was always willing to share.”
Often my parents would welcome Jamati members, young and old alike, to our homes to discuss religious issues and other personal and family matters that often required more time.
In my humble opinion, one of the most brilliant minds in my dad’s friend circle in Dar es Salaam was no other than Hassanali Bhaloo from Zanzibar, whose nickname was Din. A regular visitor to our home, he was an intellectual of the highest caliber, and although not a missionary, could take on any question on faith, science or ethic and answer it satisfactorily. He was also an outstanding Ginan reciter and watching him recite one in Jamatkhana would leave one with the impression he was in a heavenly realm.
On many occasions, the tone of questioning, especially on the part of youth, was harsh and while that would raise my dad’s eyebrows, Din would always respond with calmness and thoughtfulness that left the questioning student(s) with wonder and amazement. A very humble man, Din’s intellectual brilliance was recognized at a young age, and he was offered to study in one of America’s top schools upon completing his high school education. Alas, he had to forego the opportunity due to an untimely death in his family that forced him to attend to family matters for a number of years. He eventually joined the services of the Ismailia Association in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, after the mid 1960’s and worked with my dad on many projects. My dad even placed me in his good hands to strengthen my religious knowledge, a few months before I departed Dar es Salaam.
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Like Din in Dar es Salaam, we have many brilliant minds in the Ismaili Muslim community (Jamat) today who are highly qualified as ethicists, scientists as well as in Islamic and Ismaili studies as missionaries and scholars. I sincerely hope that the AMA team will revert to the right individuals to give direction to individuals who come forward with their questions or concerns, and not necessarily restrict the asking of questions only to the Waezeen, as the Al-Akhbar announcement reads.
The announcement about the Ask Me Anything program, dated November 6, 2022, appears in the latest two issues of the Al-Akhbar newsletter which is distributed among subscribers to announce local as well as national programs and events organized by Ismaili institutions which are of benefit to the Jamat. The announcement in Al-Akhbar is reproduced below and reads as follows: (please also read it at SOURCE)
“Have a question on faith that you need clarity on? The Ask Me Anything program is here to help. Do you need more guidance or resources on questions about the faith? The Ask Me Anything (AMA) program provides an accessible and virtual medium to ask a Waezeen for perspectives or resources on faith-based questions. Book a session either one-on-one or as a group (up to 5) to address questions on faith in a non-judgmental and safe space. Sign-up for spots are available for Saturday, November 26 or Sunday, November 27.”
My inspiration for writing this post comes from Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance that he gave to the students during his visit to Mombasa, Kenya, on October 4, 1959. Referring to the memorization of the Qur’an and Ginans, Mawlana Hazar Imam said:
“These pieces of memorization are good, and they are necessary in practice, but at the same time I want you to be able to understand your religion. And if there are any questions do not hesitate to ask. It is much better to ask and receive an answer than to have a feeling of frustration inside you.”
Thus, in keeping with Mawalana Hazar Imam’s wish, please do not feel reluctant to approach the Ask Me Anything program with your question. Please visit Al-Akhbar for further information and to register or click REGISTER for the next Ask Me Anything session go be held on November 25/26, 2022.
Date posted: November 13, 2022.
Last updated: November 15, 2022 (reformatting and link error.)
If you are a Canadian resident and have a question, please click REGISTER for a follow-up meeting with an Alwaez as mentioned in the announcement. The Ask Me Anything program is an Ismaili institution initiative, and NOT a Simerg project. If you live outside Canada, please consult your local Ismaili newsletter to find out if a program such as the one offered in Canada is available in your country.
Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought-provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.The editor may be reached via email at email@example.com.