Institute of Ismaili Studies: Historical Aspirations, Contemporary Possibilities

By KARIM  H. KARIM
(The author is Director of Carleton University’s Centre for the Study of Islam and former Co-Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies)

“… we find ourselves in the moment of transit, where space and time cross to produce complex figures of difference and identity, past and present, inside and outside, inclusion and exclusion.” Professor Homi K. Bhabha, former Master Jurist, Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Abstract: A former Co-Director of the IIS considers this key Ismaili institution’s way forward, following its Board of Governors’ recent reconstitution. Although substantial changes have been made, certain features regarding the diversity of office holders remain. The IIS’s past performance is briefly examined in the article, with respect to academic metrics as well as Ismaili history and values. There have been several achievements in last four decades but also some unexpected outcomes. The author discusses the importance of ethics and clarity in chains of authority. IIS’s reconstituted governance structure has the opportunity to put it on a path to globally-recognized excellence and long-lasting impact.

A New Phase

Recent appointments to the governance structures of the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) present an opportunity to consider its way forwards. The substantial reconstitution of the Board of Governors appears to initiate a new phase for this key Imamat institution, which occupies a unique place in-between Jamati and Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) organizations. This is a time of particular significance as the Governors are tasked with guiding the IIS towards its 50th anniversary in 2027.

1975 Ismailia Association Conference Aga Khan Establish Institute of Ismaili Studies, Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam met with leaders of the Ismailia Association and Ismaili scholars in April 1975 in Paris. A decision was taken at the world conference to establish the Institute of Ismaili Studies. Photo: Ilm magazine, October 1975.

The concept of the Institute was formally discussed in 1975 in the historic Paris Conference of the Ismaili Associations, at which Mawlana Hazar Imam presided. He announced the IIS’s establishment in a Talika to the international Jamat on December 13, 1977. The institution began with a very small staff occupying one floor of a London building. Growing and traversing the city for four decades, the IIS settled into its purpose-built home at the Aga Khan Centre in 2018. It currently has research, teaching and support staff of over a hundred and has seen some 650 graduate students pass through its doors. Scores of publications and several sets of curricular materials have been produced. Alumni work around the world in a variety of professions and have particularly enriched the knowledge base of the worldwide Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards (ITREBs).

Unintended Consequences

The Institute, which has a very distinct institutional character, operates in an organizationally and intellectually liminal space. Governors have played an unusual hands-on role in the operation of this academic organization. Although the IIS’s educational endeavours are limited to the community, it positions itself in the public sphere. Unlike similar scholarly bodies, it does not identify as a theological seminary or a divinity school. It is a post-graduate institution whose students receive degrees from various universities, including the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

IIS publishes materials on Ismaili, Shia, Quranic and Central Asian studies authored by its own researchers and external scholars. Islamic Publications Limited (IPL), an affiliate, produces them with the imprimaturs of presses such as I.B. Tauris and Oxford University Press. Whereas substantial work has been carried out in examining Arabic and Persian documents, the study of Indic manuscripts (bearing content such as Ginans) has been miniscule in the last four decades. Research is also conducted on the transnational Ismaili community’s living traditions, but it is not published for the most part. The Institute prioritizes a rationalistic and civilization-centred approach over faith perspectives in its course instruction and religious education curricula for the global Jamat.

These characteristics, viewed as appropriate for the IIS’s particular mandate, have, however, raised an air of ambivalence that has apparently produced unintended consequences. A number of students in the Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities (GPISH), who arrive at the Institute of Ismaili Studies expecting a faith-friendly academic approach undergo cognitive dissonance (Magout, 2020, chapter 6). Most alumni do not list the Institute on their CVs or LinkedIn profiles; faculty members have been leaving for university positions as soon as they secure them; and one of the two Co-Directors’ posts has remained unfilled for almost a decade. Furthermore, donors who have contributed substantially to the endowment are perplexed by the asymmetry in Ismaili areas of research.

Aspirations for Excellence

At its founding, the IIS was compared to learned institutions like the Dar al-Ilm and Al-Azhar University, which were established a thousand years ago under the aegis of Fatimid Imam-Caliphs. Al-Azhar survived the fall of the Fatimids and flourishes today as a prominent centre of Muslim learning. Can one expect that the IIS will also function for hundreds of years? Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether it will make a lasting impact. What will the role of the governance structure be in helping it achieve this?

Although the Institute is a globally-recognized hub of Ismaili Studies, it has some ways to travel before being acknowledged as a centre of scholarly excellence. It recently made a selection of books available electronically, but many important IIS contributions remain absent in cyberspace and from most bookstores as well as university and public libraries. It is also unfortunate that only a handful of its more than 120 books have done well in academic citation indices.

One could argue that standard scholarly metrics are inappropriate for an institution whose aspirations are drawn from millennial-long history. Is it more apt then to measure the Institute’s performance in terms of the Ismaili past? Of the many luminaries in previous eras, the most well-known outside the community are the Ikhwan al-Safa (circa 10th century), Nasir-i Khusraw (d. 1088) and Nasir al-Din Tusi (d. 1274). Satpanthi Pirs conducted ingenious syntheses of Indic and Islamic traditions that stand as major human achievements of pluralist engagement. These intellectuals are exemplars of excellence whose contributions have been of universal significance. They maintained a rigorous independence of thought within parameters of the Ismaili movement and its intellectual universe. Given the aspirations for the IIS, should we expect it to provide the conditions for nurturing scholars of similar calibre in our time?

Contemporary Values as Metrics

Contrarily, one can contend that it is not right to apply historical standards to 21st century contexts. Perhaps the benchmarks for success are to be drawn from the community’s current emphases on ethics, meritocracy, and pluralism. This topic is addressed here only with reference to IIS’s Boards.

IIS Institute of Ismaili Studies London Board of Governor Members
New Board of Governors of the Institute of Ismaili Studies, appointed by Mawlana Hazar Imam effective December 13, 2020. Top row (from left): Professor Ali Asani, Dr Nadia Eboo Jamal, Mrs Karina Govindji, Dr Arif Jamal, Mr Rahim Karim, Mr Alykhan Kassam, and Professor Nacim Pak-Shiraz. Bottom row (from left): Mr Amyn Kassim-Lakha, Professor Tashmin Khamis, Mr Naguib Kheraj, Dr Sharofat Mamadambarova, Dr Shogufa Mir Maleky, Mr Habib Motani, and Professor Farid F. Panjwani. Collage by Barakah from IIS profile photos

The new Governors are drawn from commercial and academic sectors, and they include some IIS alumni. Mawlana Hazar Imam continues as Chairman. Membership of the current Board of Governors (BoG), which began its term on December 13, 2020, is remarkably different from earlier ones in size, gender, age, ethnicity, geographic scope, and outlook. Although the IIS has been an international institution since inception, preceding Boards consisted almost entirely of middle aged men of British residence, with the balance tilting towards commercial worldviews. The incoming BoG’s average age has dropped considerably in comparison to the preceding one. There are now six women and eight men, and half of the Governors are currently located outside the UK. Eight newcomers are academics, most of whom have taught at universities. Several individuals have had experience in Jamati institutions, including ITREB, which is a major partner of the IIS. It is also noteworthy one Governor has professional expertise in diversity and inclusion.

There has been some non-Ismaili presence previously; however, this BoG’s members are all Ismaili. When Professor Mohammed Arkoun passed away in 2010, the remaining six Governors were all South Asian men of East African provenance. Whereas the new BoG is enriched by the presence of other ethnicities, all three members of the Board of Trustees (BoT), the IIS’s primary governing body and of which the BoG is a sub-committee, are UK residents of South Asian background, as are all four Board members of Islamic Publications Limited. Full time academics are absent from the BoT and IPL. The former does, however, have a female Trustee. There is much more pluralist inclusion than in earlier manifestations of the institution’s governance structures, but they have considerable room for improvement.

IIS Board Institute of Ismaili Studies
The IIS Board of Governors (1995-2020). From left to right: Mr Naguib Kheraj (who remains on the new board appointed on December 13, 2020), Dr Mohamed Keshavjee, Dr Shafik Sachedina, Dr Aziz Esmail, Mr Zauhar Meghji and Professor Afzal Ahmed. Missing in the photo is the Late Professor Mohammed Arkoun who was also a member on the Board. He passed away on September 14, 2010 at the age of 82. Photo: The IIS

A truly unique characteristic of the previous BoG was not identity but longevity. Its more than 25-year term was one of the lengthiest in the world. Whereas this provided continuity and familiarity with the work at hand, shorter tenures usually mitigate detrimental tendencies in such organizations. Stretches that are longer than seven years seem inadvisable.

The presence of new university-linked Governors should help to assert academic norms in matters such as standardized merit-based pay scales rather than particular arrangements for some employees; remuneration for performance adjudicated according to published benchmarks instead of bonuses based on ambiguous criteria; and discontinuation of consulting contracts with Governors. Notably, the current separation of Board members from IIS’s remunerated staff makes the organizational chart look less like the M.C. Escher lithograph “Relativity”.

Ethics, Ambiguity, and Credibility

Ismaili history has seen the development of ethical codes in the works of Qadi Nu’man (d. 974), dai Ahmad al-Naysaburi (d. circa 11th century), Pir Sadardin (d. circa 14th century), and Imam Mustansirbillah II (d. 1475). Writing at a time of deep corruption in the Fatimid state, al-Naysaburi warned that “chaos will reign” with the failure of integrity among the Imam’s leaders (Klemm and Walker, 2011, p. 75). The IIS developed an AKDN “ethical framework” two decades ago; however, this theoretical document does not provide guidance for actual deontological practice. There remains ambiguity about the pragmatics of ethics in contemporary Ismaili institutions. Narratives on this subject have sometimes drifted towards trivialization; for example, one Jamati periodical’s feature on an “Ethic of the Month” seemed to reduce long-term values to fleeting tastes (The Ismaili Bulletin, Issue 54, March 2018). Given the importance that the community gives to the subject of ethics, serious issues like conflicts of interest, cronyism, nepotism, harassment, and bullying, which unfortunately appear over time in most human organizations, will need to be dealt with effectively and coherently. These issues must be an integral part of a 21st century code of conduct that provides clear guidance for everyone involved with the work of Jamati as well as AKDN institutions.

Systemic deficiencies in institutional procedures have unpredictable outcomes and can be factors for reputational loss. Incoming academic Governors will know that ambiguous chains of authority in scholarly institutions lead to the unchecked promotion of pet projects with dubious merit. A book published in 2018 by the Institute (but not initiated by its Department of Academic Research and Publications) was reviewed in a recent issue of the journal Arabica. The reviewer, who is the Director of the University of Lausanne’s Institute of the History and Anthropology of Religions, assessed it to be “a book of propaganda … without method and completely devoid of critical analysis” (Halawi, 2020, 315). Such unfortunate situations can be avoided by instituting an academic editorial board that oversees IIS’s scholarly publications to replace largely ambiguous practices of vetting manuscripts for “sensitivities.” (Such an editorial board already exists for the Quranic Studies Series.) The new Governors will also be aware of the importance of ensuring that the institution’s faculty, students and academic visitors have ready access to library materials that reflect a plurality of views, including those that are considered to be “sensitive.” Such efforts will assist in enhancing the IIS’s scholarly credibility in academic circles.

Transparency and Demarcations of Authority

Despite the noblest of intentions, the tendency in human organizations is for power to accumulate in a few persons. Whereas the doubling of the number of Governors to 14 offers advantages, it may also produce the conditions for the emergence of a hierarchy and the marginalization of some individuals. A horizontal relationship and equitable sharing of information in the globally-constituted BoG is important. Fair and optimal participation by Governors can be ensured by upholding transparency. Transparency and disclosure will not only strengthen the corporate governance framework but also provide Mawlana Hazar Imam with all the pertinent information.  

It is expected that Hazar Imam will meet with the Governors and Directors once a year, with respective Board committees working on specific policy issues in the interim. The transnational BoG has the challenge of working efficiently across continents. Given these circumstances, safeguarding the greatest possible diversity in every committee will help ensure the pluralist expression of views. This should help to mitigate the influence of cliques and undue bias for or against specific issues and employees.

A key consideration facing the new Governors is the extent of the BoG’s involvement in operational matters. Healthy, well-functioning institutions are characterized by clear demarcations of authority and function, with Boards having confidence in duly-appointed Directors to take charge of administration. Clear protocols regarding Governors’ communications with employees, which rarely occur in universities, ensure that administrative authority is not undermined. Scholarly conventions should also determine the leadership of various organizational committees (academic, curricular, and community relations as well as finance and human resources).

 A Potential Turning Point

The strong presence of university-based academics in the Institute’s new BoG signals that scholarly priorities will be paramount in the years to come. This Board’s tenure has the potential for being a turning point. It has the opportunity to put the IIS on the path to globally-recognized excellence by moving closer to academic norms of organization and outlook. Professor Mohammed Arkoun used to speak of intellectual modernity in contemporary Muslim contexts. Such a disposition requires not only scholarly rigour but the confidence to conduct critical introspection. There are important discussions to be had about the adoption of greater academic freedom, critical inquiry, and the broaching of “sensitive” topics as well as about effective ways to engage with the transnational Jamat, with which the Institute has an integral relationship. Governors will constantly have to account for the dual contexts of community and public scholarship. This calls for skillful and conscientious navigation between the shores of the parochial and the universal. The likes of the Ikhwan al-Safa, Nasir-i Khusraw, Nasir al-Din Tusi and Pir Sadardin have shown us that this is eminently possible.

Date posted: January 10, 2021.
Last updated: January 11, 2021 (typos).

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Karim H. Karim

About the author: Professor Karim H. Karim is the Director of Carleton University’s Centre for the Study of Islam where he has held the International Ismaili Studies Conference. He previously served as Co-Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) and Director of Carleton’s School of Journalism & Communication. Dr. Karim has had visiting scholarly appointments at Harvard University, Aga Khan University/Simon Fraser University, and the IIS. He has also been an advisor for AKU and the Central Asian University and has been a member of the AKDN’s Higher Education Forum. Additionally, he has served in Kenyan, American, and Canadian Jamati institutions (Education, Ismaili Association, and Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board, ITREB). Professor Karim is an award-winning author, whose globally-cited writings include publications on Ismaili communities, institutions, and leadership. He has delivered distinguished lectures at venues around the world and has been honoured by the Government of Canada for promoting co-operation among faith communities. He studied at Aga Khan schools in East Africa and at the IIS, and holds degrees from Columbia and McGill universities in Islamic and Communication Studies.

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1975 Ismailia Association Conference Aga Khan Establish Institute of Ismaili Studies, Simerg

Simerg – 2020 in Pictures and Words: Blessings from His Highness the Aga Khan; Photos from Private Collections; and Tributes to Deceased

Prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Talikas 2020, Simerg and Barakh
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, pictured at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Kenya. Photo: The Ismaili

TALIKAS AND BLESSINGS FROM MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM

March 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam sends Talika on the occasion of Navroz with special blessings for mushkil asan, and prayers for the Jamat’s health and well-being

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, showers his paternal and maternal blessings on his spiritual children around the world in light of the present crisis 

April 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends message to his spiritual children around the world on Covid-19, with blessings for their protection from difficulty; multiple translations including Farsi, Dari, Arabic, Urdu, Gujarati and Russian

May 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam’s loving and inspiring Talika on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr shows his concern for his spiritual children in all facets of their lives 

July 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends Talika Mubarak to Ismailis around the world on the occasion of his 63rd Imamat Day

November 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in his message on November 2, 2020, tells his spiritual children “there is no room for complacency” over the risks posed by the coronavirus “for sometime to come” and send his blessings for mushkil-asan

December 2020

Please click: In Talika Mubarak on the occasion of his 84th birthday, Mawlana Hazar Imam asks us to draw comfort from the practice of our faith, appreciates the excellent work of volunteers, and conveys his paternal maternal blessings to the world wide Jamat

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PASSINGS

The following tributes/obituaries appeared in Simerg in 2020. Some of the deceased may have died before 2020.

Passings Simerg 2020 Year in Review
Top row (left to right): Mahebub Rupani, Nazeer Ladhani, Amirali Gillani, Salima Arthurs, Sultan Methanwalla, Goulzare Foui, Amirali Nagji; bottom row (left to right): Alnoor Ramji, Shamshu Jamal, Zubeda Jamal, Sultanali Mohamed, Razia Jamal, James Wolfensohn and Madatali Jamal. Image collage: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Please click: Mahebub Mohamed Juma Rupani

Please click: Nazeer Ladhani

Please click: Shamshu Jamal

Please click: Missionary Amirali Gillani

Please click: Alnoor Ramji, Goulzare Foui, Amirali S. Nagji, Sultan Piroj Maknojiya Methanwala, Salima Wanda Arthurs

Please click: Madatali Merali Jamal, Razia Jamal, Zubeda Ebrahim Jamal

Please click: James D. Wolfensohn

Please click: Alwaez Sultanali Mohamed

Please also click: Benjamin Mkapa (d. July 2020. As Tanzania’s President from 1995-2005, the late Benjamin Mkapa strongly supported the work of the Ismaili Imamat in his country as well as abroad. The support that he gave is clearly illustrated in a special piece about him in Barakah, a blog dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan)

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HISTORICAL PHOTOS OF MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM AND HIS FAMILY, IMAMAT PROJECTS AND OTHER EVENTS

2020 Year Simerg photos Aga Khan and Projects
Please click on image for 2020 stories and accompanying photos

Please click: Top photo selections from our 2020 stories: Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family, Covid-19 impact, Aga Khan projects, the four seasons, and other events

Date posted: December 27, 2020.
Last updated: December 28, 2020.

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As WHO Targets 100 Million Smokers to Quit the Habit, Let Us Be Mindful of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Advice on Smoking and Other Social Habits that Can Weaken the Community

“I say to you today, and particularly the younger generation, use your energy, use your imagination, use your strength, but do not waste it. Do not waste it in drinking, in smoking cigarettes, in eating, in smoking drugs or whatever it may be. This is not for our Jamat…. stay a healthy Jamat and face the problems without wasting your energy and time and money on these other habits. Remember this is a matter of importance, because these habits can weaken the Jamat.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Dar es Salaam, November 11, 1970*; also read Good principles articulated by the Aga Khan

The following piece as well as the photo featured at the top of this post is reproduced from a recent edition of the Voice of America. In the photo, bystanders look a replica of human skeleton smoking cigarette during an awareness rally on occasion of the “World No-Tobacco Day,” in Chennai, India, May 31, 2019.

By VOA News
Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The World Health Organization is calling on governments around the world to ensure their citizens have resources and tools to help them give up tobacco smoking as it launches a yearlong campaign aimed at helping 100 million people quit.

The campaign, Commit to Quit, is focusing on 22 countries including the United States, and it officially got under way Tuesday ahead of World No Tobacco Day 2021, in May.

A WHO statement said the Commit to Quit campaign is aimed at creating “healthier environments that are conducive” for people who want to give up smoking.

The WHO hopes to capitalize on users who have decided to quit since the novel coronavirus pandemic began by creating communities of peer quitters, according to the statement.

Earlier this year, the WHO warned that tobacco users are at high risk of dying from COVID-19.

About 780 million tobacco users say they want to quit, but just 30% have access to resources that can help them do so.

Director of Health Promotion Dr. Ruediger Krech said global health authorities must take full advantage of the millions of people who want to quit. He urged governments to “invest in services to help them be successful,” and “divest from the tobacco industry and their interests.”

Credit: Wellcome Collection, UK. The image is not part of the VOA article.

The WHO is employing digital tools such as the Quit Challenge on Whatsapp to provide social support. Also, the WHO’s 24/7 digital health worker to help people quit tobacco is available in English and soon will add five other languages.

The campaign is encouraging initiatives such as “strong tobacco cessation policies; increasing access to cessation services and raising awareness of tobacco industry tactics.” 

Tobacco is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes. Moreover, people living with these conditions are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

“Smoking kills 8 million people a year, but if users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted.

RELATED:

(1) VOA: Tobacco Causes One in Five Deaths from Heart Disease
(2) VOA: Stop Marketing Deadly Nicotine Products to Children
(3) Simerg: Aga Khan on good health and good judgement

Date posted: December 14, 2020.

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* References: Farman quote(s) from archives and notes of Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) on social habits.

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With resurgence of Covid-19, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, asks his spiritual children to avoid complacency, as he conveys his blessings for their protection from difficulties

The following message from Mawlana Hazar Imam is reproduced from the The Ismaili, the official website of the community. Following the message, please read our supplication to Mawlana Hazar Imam as well as listen to the Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea, beautifully recited by the late Shamshu Bandali Haji.

2 November 2020

My beloved spiritual children,

My Jamat is aware that the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic continues to pose challenges to the health and quality of life of societies around the world, including the Jamat. This situation remains of deep concern and, as Imam-of-the-Time, I receive regular updates from the Jamati and AKDN institutions and agencies about the impact on my Jamat, and also the mitigation measures being undertaken.

I am pleased that, in many countries, we have been able to re-open our Jamatkhanas in compliance with government and public health guidelines, but my Jamat should remain aware that there is no room for complacency over the risks posed by the highly contagious coronavirus. The need for wearing masks, observing physical distancing and adhering to all the required hygiene protocols remains paramount, and should be treated as part of normal life for some time to come. Many countries are now seeing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, which demands that my murids should take personal responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by carefully following the guidelines of the government and public health authorities.

The work on producing vaccines and other forms of therapies is advancing at a rapid pace and, Insha’Allah, over the coming months, we will see positive results which, in due course, will be beneficial to the Jamat and the population at large.

I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings for the good health, happiness, safety and well-being of all my murids, with best loving blessings for mushkil-asan.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

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Supplication to Mawlana Hazar Imam, with recitation of Ginan

We submit our humble gratitude to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for his blessings to the world wide Jamat on November 2, 2020.

We submit the following supplications from verse 1 of Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea:

“O brother! Listen, My Lord Ali has written and sent a Farman. The beloved Lord has remembered this servant today with kindness in his heart”

Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea sung by Late Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji. Credit: http://ginans.usask.ca/recitals/507030

For a complete version of this post with translations in Arabic, French, Farsi, Gujarati, Portuguese, Russian, Tajiki and Urdu please click Barakah.

Date posted: November 3, 2020.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam’s message and loving blessings to the worldwide Jamat on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr, with translations in 8 languages

The following message in English and all the translations that follow are reproduced from the The Ismaili, the official website of the community. After reading the message, please scroll to the bottom of this post to read our supplication to Mawlana Hazar Imam — it follows the Tajik translation. For another version of this post, please visit our sister website Barakah, which is exclusively dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family.

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (English)

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam

My beloved spiritual children,

On the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr, I send my special loving blessings to my Jamats throughout the world for your happiness, peace, safety, and good health. My family joins me in wishing you all Eid Mubarak.

As the Jamati and AKDN institutions continue their collaboration with various governments, public health authorities and other partners in the endeavor to overcome the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic, I would like my spiritual children to continue to exercise the utmost rigor in undertaking all personal measures to safeguard your own health, as recommended by the public health authorities and my Institutions.

At this difficult time, I applaud, with the highest admiration and gratefulness, the selfless services of all my Jamati volunteers, as well as the doctors, nurses, paramedics and support workers in the AKDN and other health facilities and related programmes: Their exemplary courage, commitment and dedication in extending care and comfort to my Jamat and others, and especially to those who are vulnerable and sick, is an outstanding actualization of the human values and ethics that all faiths cherish.

It is my wish that my Jamat should look to the future with hope and courage, in keeping with its age-old tradition of unity, generosity and mutual support which has at all times enabled it to move forward to a position of enhanced strength and resilience, from generation to generation.

My spiritual children should always remain mindful that it is the principles of our faith that will bring peace and solace in these times of uncertainty. I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.

I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings to all my Jamat – for happiness, good health, confidence and security in your lives ahead, and for mushkil-asan.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (French)

MESSAGE DE MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM


Le 23 Mai 2020,

Mes chers enfants spirituels,

En cette occasion de Eid-ul-Fitr, j’envoie mes bénédictions affectueuses spéciales aux Jamats du monde entier pour votre bonheur, pour la paix, la sécurité et pour une bonne santé. Ma famille se joint à moi pour vous souhaiter à tous Eid Mubarak.

Alors que les Institutions Jamaties et AKDN poursuivent leurs collaborations avec les gouvernements, les autorités de santé publique et d’autres partenaires pour surmonter le défi de la pandémie COVID-19, je voudrais que mes enfants spirituels continuent à appliquer avec la plus grande rigueur toutes les mesures personnelles pour protéger sa santé, en lien avec les recommandations des autorités de santé publique et de mes Institutions.

En ces temps difficiles, je rends hommage, avec ma plus grande admiration et reconnaissance, aux service dévoués de mes volontaires du Jamat, ainsi qu’aux médecins, infirmiers, personnels paramédicaux, et à tous ceux qui travaillent au sein d’AKDN, des autres établissements de santé et des programmes associés. Leur courage exemplaire, leur engagement et leur dévouement pour apporter soins et réconforts au Jamat et en dehors, et plus spécifiquement aux membres vulnérables et malades, sont une représentation exceptionnelle des valeurs humaines et de l’éthique chères à toutes les religions.

C’est mon souhait que mon Jamat regarde vers le futur avec espoir et courage, en gardant sa tradition séculaire d’unité, de générosité et d’entraide, qui nous a permis en tout temps d’accroître notre position de résilience et de force à travers les générations.

Mes enfants spirituels doivent toujours garder à l’esprit que ce sont les principes de notre foi qui nous apporteront la paix et le réconfort en ces temps incertains. Je suis avec mon Jamat en tout temps et, chacun de vous, individuellement, est toujours dans mon cœur, dans mes pensées et dans mes prières.

J’adresse à mon Jamat mes meilleures bénédictions paternelles et maternelles les plus affectueuses – pour le bonheur, pour une bonne santé, pour la confiance et la sécurité dans votre avenir, et pour Mushkil-asan.

Affectueusement,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Portuguese)

MENSAGEM DE MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM

23 de maio de 2020

Meus amados filhos espirituais, 

Por ocasião do Eid ul-Fitr, envio as minhas especiais e amorosas bençãos aos meus Jamats por todo o mundo, para a vossa felicidade, paz, segurança e boa saúde. A minha família junta-se a mim para vos desejar, a todos, Eid Mubarak. 

Enquanto as instituições Jamati e as da AKDN continuam a colaborar com os vários governos, autoridades de saúde pública e outros parceiros na tentativa de ultrapassar o desafio da pandemia da COVID-19, gostaria que os meus filhos espirituais continuassem a exercer o máximo rigor na tomada de todas as medidas individuais para salvaguardar a sua própria saúde, tal como recomendado pelas autoridades de saúde pública e pelas minhas Instituições.

Neste período difícil, aplaudo, com a maior admiração e gratidão, os generosos serviços prestados por todos os meus voluntários do Jamat, assim como os prestados pelos médicos, enfermeiros, paramédicos e pelos auxiliares quer na AKDN quer nas outras instituições de saúde e entidades relacionadas: A sua coragem exemplar, compromisso e dedicação na prestação de cuidados e conforto ao meu Jamat e aos outros, e em especial àqueles que são vulneráveis e doentes, é uma afirmação notável dos valores humanos e da ética que todas as fés partilham.

É meu desejo que o meu Jamat olhe para o futuro com esperança e coragem, mantendo a sua longa tradição de união, generosidade e apoio mútuo, que lhe permitiu, em todos os momentos, de geração em geração, seguir em frente para uma posição reforçada de força e resiliência.

Os meus filhos espirituais devem ter sempre em mente que são os princípios da nossa fé que nos trazem paz e consolo nestes tempos de incerteza. Estou com o meu Jamat em todos os momentos, e cada um de vocês, individualmente, está sempre no meu coração, nos meus pensamentos e nas minhas orações.

Envio as minhas mais afetuosas bênçãos paternais e maternais a todo o meu Jamat – para felicidade, boa saúde, confiança e segurança nas vossas vidas futuras, e para mushkil-asan.

Afetuosamente,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Farsi)

Aga Khan Eid ul-Fitr Message Farsi
Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Farsi)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Arabic)

Aga Khan Eid ul-Fitr Message Arabic
Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Arabic)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Gujarati)

Aga Khan Eid ul-Fitr Message Gujarati
Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Gujarati)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Russian)

Aga Khan Eid ul-Fitr Message Russian
Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Russian)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Urdu)

Aga Khan Eid ul-Fitr Message Urdu
Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Urdu)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Tajik)

Aga Khan Eid ul-Fitr Message Tajik
Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Tajik)

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Shukrana and Supplication

We submit our humble gratitude to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for his blessings to the world wide Jamat on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr

We submit the following supplications from verse 1 of Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea:

“O brother! Listen, My Lord Ali has written and sent a Farman. The beloved Lord has remembered this servant today with kindness in his heart”

Date posted: May 23, 2020.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends guidance on Covid-19, with affection and blessings to Ismailis around the world; text in 10 languages

The following message in English and all the translations that follow are reproduced from the The Ismaili, the official website of the community. After reading the message, please scroll to the bottom of this post to read our supplication to Mawlana Hazar Imam — it follows the Urdu translation.

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (English)

My beloved spiritual children,

My Jamat is aware that the Covid-19 virus has created a global crisis that is also affecting the Jamat worldwide. As Imam-of-the-Time, I have recommended the Jamati and AKDN institutions and agencies to closely monitor the impact of this pandemic, and to extend support and assistance to the Jamat and the communities in which they live.

The Covid-19 virus is highly contagious, and every day we are witnessing the damage it is inflicting on human lives and societies. In facing this threat, it is very important that all members of my Jamat should take personal responsibility for exercising all possible steps to protect their own good health, safety and wellbeing, and that of their family.

Among the most critical of the measures recommended by all government and health agencies are the maintenance of the best standards of personal hygiene, and practising the notion of physical distancing. While not easy, physical distancing is essential.

It is my wish that my murids, and all those among whom they live, should follow these as well as all other guidelines and recommendations that the government and health authorities issue.

It is my hope and prayer that, in due course, work on producing vaccines and other forms of medicine will yield positive results, and that we will see a gradual return to normal life in all societies.

As we focus now on overcoming the present challenges, the Jamat and all my institutions should plan to build for the future from a position of strength and wisdom.

I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings for the good health, safety, and well-being of all my murids, with best loving blessings for mushkil-asan.

My Jamat worldwide is constantly in my thoughts and in my prayers.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (French)

Mes Chers Enfants Spirituels,

Mon Jamat est conscient du fait que le virus Covid-19 a déclenché une crise globale qui affecte également le Jamat à travers le monde. En tant qu’Imam-du-Temps, j’ai recommandé aux institutions et agences Jamati et de l’AKDN de suivre de près l’impact de cette pandémie, et d’offrir aide et assistance au Jamat et aux communautés dans lesquelles ils vivent.

Le virus du Covid-19 est hautement contagieux, et chaque jour nous sommes témoins des dégâts qu’il cause sur les vies humaines et les sociétés. Face à cette menace, il est très important que tous les membres de mon Jamat s’engagent personnellement à prendre toutes les mesures possibles pour protéger leur propre santé, sécurité et bien-être, ainsi que ceux de leur famille.

Parmi les plus importantes des mesures recommandées par tous les gouvernements et agences de santé figurent le maintien des meilleurs standards d’hygiène personnelle, et le respect de la notion de distanciation sociale. Bien qu’elle ne soit pas facile, la distanciation sociale est essentielle.

C’est mon souhait que mes murids, et tous ceux parmi lesquels ils vivent, suivent ces mesures ainsi que toutes les autres directives et recommandations que le gouvernement et les autorités sanitaires émettent.

C’est mon espoir et ma prière que, en temps voulu, le travail mené pour produire des vaccins et d’autres formes de remèdes va produire des résultats positifs, et que nous verrons un retour graduel à la vie normale dans toutes les sociétés.

Alors que nous nous concentrons en ce moment à surmonter les défis actuels, le Jamat et toutes mes institutions devraient se préparer à construire pour l’avenir à partir d’une base solide et avec sagesse.

J’envoie mes plus affectueuses tendres bénédictions paternelles et maternelles pour la bonne santé, la sécurité, et le bien-être de tous mes murids, avec mes meilleures tendres bénédictions pour mushkil-asan.

Mon Jamat à travers le monde est constamment dans mes pensées et dans mes prières.

Affectueusement,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (Portuguese)

Meus amados filhos espirituais,

O meu Jamat está ciente de que o vírus Covid-19 criou uma crise global que está também a afetar o Jamat em todo o mundo. Como Imam do Tempo, recomendei às instituições e agências Jamati e da AKDN que monitorizassem de perto o impacto desta pandemia e prestassem apoio e assistência ao Jamat e às comunidades onde estes vivem.

O vírus Covid-19 é altamente contagioso e todos os dias assistimos aos danos que este está a infligir tanto nas vidas humanas como nas sociedades. Ao enfrentar esta ameaça, é muito importante que todos os membros do meu Jamat assumam a responsabilidade pessoal de colocar em prática todas as medidas possíveis para proteger a sua própria saúde, segurança e bem-estar, bem como as da sua família.

Entre as medidas mais críticas recomendadas por todas as agências governamentais e de saúde estão a manutenção dos melhores padrões de higiene pessoal e a prática da noção de distanciamento físico. Embora não seja fácil, o distanciamento físico é essencial.

É meu desejo que os meus murids, e todos aqueles entre os quais vivem, sigam estas e todas as outras orientações e recomendações que o governo e as autoridades de saúde emitem.

É minha esperança e oração que, a seu tempo, o trabalho na produção de vacinas e outras formas de medicina produzam resultados positivos e que se assista a um regresso gradual à vida normal em todas as sociedades.

Enquanto centramos as nossas atenções em ultrapassar os desafios atuais, o Jamat e todas as minhas instituições devem planear a construção para o futuro a partir de uma posição de força e sabedoria.

Envio as minha melhores bênçãos paternais e maternais para boa saúde, segurança e bem-estar de todos os meus murids, com as minhas melhores bênçãos para mushkil-asan.

O meu Jamat em todo o mundo está constantemente nos meus pensamentos e nas minhas orações. 

Afetuosamente

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (Farsi)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Farsi)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (Dari)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Dari)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (Arabic)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Arabic)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (Gujarati)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Gujarati)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (Russian)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Russian)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (Tajik)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Tajik)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Covid-19 (Urdu)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Urdu)

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Shukrana and Supplication to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, for Guidance on Covid-19

We submit our humble gratitude to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for his guidance on Covid-19 as well as his blessings to the world wide Jamat for mushkil-asan (protection from difficulty).

We submit the following supplications from verses 1 and 5 of Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea:

O brother! Listen, My Lord Ali has written and sent a Farman. The beloved Lord has remembered this servant today with kindness in his heart

O my Lord Ali! Listen! Remove all my sorrows and troubles. O Lord Ali, the great king! O Lord of infinity! Fulfill all my wishes.

Date posted: April 24, 2020.

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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.

Please like Simerg’s joint Facebook page with Barakah and follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, sends blessings to his worldwide followers, and tells them he is thinking of them “every minute of the day, each day”

Portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, with embedded message.
A portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan taken during his Diamond Jubilee, with the 2 columns containing his recent message to worldwide Ismailis. Image: The Ismaili. Please see text below.

[Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has sent a message with blessings for his global Ismaili followers, which is shared here by Malik Talib, Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum. The message is reproduced from the official website of the Ismaili community. – Ed.]

By MALIK TALIB
(Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum)

On the occasion of Navroz [March 21, 2020, New Year], our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam blessed us with a Talika Mubarak conveying special blessings for Mushkil Asan, and prayers for our health and well-being. Today, I am pleased to share with you that, recently, in a communication to the International Steering Group coordinating the efforts to ensure the Jamat’s safety and wellbeing, Mawlana Hazar Imam was pleased to bestow blessings for the Jamat as follows: 

“Please convey my best paternal and my best maternal loving blessings to my worldwide Jamat, and tell them that I think of them every minute of the day, each day, and I pray for Mushkil Asan [Protection from difficulty – Ed] and for their peace and happiness. We must remain strong and prepare to build, and to build well, when this crisis passes.”

It is in our Tariqah’s long-standing tradition that Mawlana Hazar Imam provides guidance to the Jamat at all times, including during crises, and the Jamat relies on the Imam of the Time’s blessings and direction. Hazar Imam’s message also stated the following:

“The world is facing a challenging time, and in these moments it is important that the Jamat remains united and focused on helping those who will need assistance and hand-holding.”

Hazar Imam expressed his happiness that all the institutions are working collectively to address the challenges that the Jamat is facing under the current circumstances, and reiterated that the Jamat’s safety, security and wellbeing is paramount.

As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread at an alarming rate, it is clear that the single most important action that we can take is to meticulously follow the advice of global health authorities by prioritising the requirements of “physical distancing” to protect ourselves, our families, and our Jamats. This means staying home as much as possible, and following the guidelines for washing hands regularly and thoroughly, avoiding contact with others, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and self-isolating if symptoms arise.

This is a difficult time. We all miss attending Jamatkhana and meeting our family and friends. But for their safety and your own, we must stay strong. Through this period, let us stay connected with our family, friends and neighbours over the phone or through technology. Physical distancing does not mean social distancing – we must stay united as One Jamat and support each other. And let us remember to draw at all times on our faith for comfort and solace by calling on the tasbih as guided by Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Looking forward, Mawlana Hazar Imam has encouraged us to turn our focus to rebuilding, and perhaps in some cases repositioning, when this crisis passes, and focus our efforts to build a stronger future for the global Jamat.

Let us submit our humble Shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam for his blessings, encouragement and hope, and pray for the global Jamat’s safety, well-being and Mushkil Asan.

Ameen.

Date posted: March 30, 2020.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends his blessings to world-wide Ismailis for Navroz and mushkil asan (protection from difficulties), with prayers for their health and well-being

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, pictured at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Kenya. Photo: The Ismaili,

By MALIK TALIB
(Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum)

On the occasion of Navroz, our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam has most graciously sent a Talika Mubarak to be shared with our global Jamat, which reads as follows:

My dear Malik,

On the occasion of Navroz, I send to my worldwide Jamat my best blessings for peace and happiness in their lives.

I am also sending my special blessings for Mushkil Asan for my Jamats wherever they may be, and I pray for their health and their well-being.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

I convey warm Mubarak to the global Jamat on the occasion of Navroz and, on behalf of all the murids world-wide, I express humble shukrana to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for the gracious Talika.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Guidance Central to Ismaili Institutions’ decision making during the COVID-19 crisis

….Malik Talib’s message continues below

The festival of Navroz is a time for hope, optimism, renewal, and faith – even in times of uncertainty and difficulty.

I would like to assure the Jamat that all Jamati institutions and leaders around the world are doing everything possible to ensure the Jamat’s safety and security.

For so many of us, the temporary suspension placed on Jamatkhana gatherings is perhaps the most difficult among the wide array of disruptions to our everyday lives. The decision to temporarily suspend our Jamatkhana gatherings was not taken lightly, and was implemented in accordance with Hazar Imam’s guidance to comply with government and public health guidelines around the world.

While we appreciate that this indeed is a very difficult disruption, and that we are no longer able to gather physically at the present time, we remain unified in our faith, in devotion and compassion.

These bonds of community have sustained throughout the vagaries of time and history, and will continue in the difficult weeks and months ahead. As we prepare ourselves, we will work together as a united Jamat.

It is of great importance that we follow the directions given by the Jamati institutions who are working with the AKDN [Aga Khan Development Network] to ensure compliance with government measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Ours is an esoteric faith. Our Imam has time and time again reminded us of the importance of spiritual contemplation, reflection, personal search and prayer. In these moments we will find peace and solace to overcome our current challenges. We would be well advised to recall Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Farmans regarding engaging in personal prayer, when we are unable to attend Jamatkhana. It is my conviction that adhering to this guidance will bring us comfort in these challenging times.

Virtual Jamatkhanas Inappropriate

Malik Talib. Ismaili Leaders' International Forum
Malik Talib, Chairman Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum

….Malik Talib’s message continues below

The temporary closure of our Jamatkhanas has resulted in the appearance of electronic and digital channels offering a “virtual Jamatkhana”. This is clearly inappropriate, as a Jamatkhana may only be established and function under the Imam’s authority, through his institutions and appointed Mukhi-Kamadias.

At this time in particular, it is critical that we understand the risks of misinformation and miscommunication, and rely only on credible government and Jamati institutional sources – including The Ismaili – the official website and social media channels for the Jamat.

At a time of increased economic anxiety, it is also imperative that we act rationally, with prudence and sound judgement.

COVID-19 pandemic at the forefront of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s thoughts

….Malik Talib’s message continues below

The current developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic have been at the forefront of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s thoughts, and I would like to inform the Jamat that, following Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance, an international Steering Group has been established to coordinate the efforts to ensure the Jamat’s safety and well-being, and to support the responses being undertaken in each national Jamati jurisdiction.
 
These are difficult times. However, as one Jamat, our faith unites us, and gives us the strength, courage and hope to face this adversity, and emerge from it, a stronger community, bound by our values, and our allegiance to the Imam-of-the-Time.

Let us offer shukrana for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s continued love, grace, protection and guidance, and pray for the Jamat’s safety, good health and Mushkil Asan.

Ameen.

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A Note from the Publisher/Editor of Simerg

By MALIK MERCHANT

Nothing can be more gratifying for a murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam than receiving his blessings on the occasion of Navroz, as well as special blessings for Mushkil Asan at this particular time of a world wide novel coronavirus pandemic. Instead of celebrating Navroz in Jamatkhanas, we will be observing it in our unique ways in our homes. This is unprecedented in recent history! However we have received the Imam’s Blessings as we would in Jamatkhanas. That should bring contentment and happiness in our hearts and give us immense strength and hope for the future.

The message from Malik Talib, the Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum, has outlined our responsibilities as members of a universal brotherhood. It is important that we follow the instructions of the leaders at this time of crisis, and act according to the wishes of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Date posted: March 21, 2019.

We invite our readers to share their feelings, Navroz greetings, and unique experiences during the extraordinary events that are taking place in light of COVID-19. Please complete the feedback below, and if you don’t see the form please click LEAVE A COMMENT

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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. In the past few days, we have published some excellent pieces on Navroz.

In worrying time of Covid-19 pandemic, let us seek compassion, help and hope from our scriptures and Mawlana Hazar Imam's Farmans that he is present with his murids all the time

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in Booni Chitral.
Mawlana Hazar Imam in Booni Chitral during his Diamond Jubilee visit to Pakistan in December 2017. Photo: The Ismaili/ Karim Sadruddin.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

As the world struggles to cope with the novel coronavirus pandemic, it is natural to become anxious. We live in extraordinary times. The closure of Jamatkhanas in almost all countries accentuates our anxiety.  I do not intend this article to be doom and gloom. To the contrary, I want to portray hope from our faith.

The emergence of this new virus and its global impact has demonstrated the intricate ways in which humanity is interconnected and how it has brought entire humanity to its knees and shown us the vulnerability of the ‘House of Cards’ that is our civilization. There is no ‘foreign virus’ as some have chosen to describe it. This virus is brutally merciless and does not recognize race, colour, gender, religion or national boundaries.  

There is already a disruption of social care and communal services as the pandemic progresses in Europe, North America and elsewhere. This will transfer the burden of care of the aged, less able and vulnerable to younger, and healthier family members who may ride through the illness with minor discomfort. The projected time periods are likely to be several months.

Bearing in mind all these factors, how should we react to the pandemic? Ours is an intellectual tradition. Allah possesses the power of miracles, but we do not relay on Allah’s miracle alone.

At this very moment, there are laboratories around the world racing against time to come up with a vaccine against the virus. Indeed, one was tested on a few patients a few days ago. May be the virus is temperature sensitive and as we, in temperate zones transition to spring and rising temperatures, it may abate the virus. May be the ‘herd immunization’ strategy that is talked about will work and lessen the impact of the new virus. As ordinary citizens, we sometimes feel helpless. Under such circumstances, after following all the advice we are given to protect ourselves and our beloved ones, the next tendency in people in troubled times is prayers.

Psychologists have long known this fact. It gives people tremendous hope and alleviates stress in face of adversity. Prayers work, and in this I am reminded of a Farman Mawlana Hazar Imam had made in the 1960’s when he said that those who prayed in difficult times knew how prayers had helped them during their difficulties. At the same time, he reminded us that we should not only pray when times are bad but also when times are good.

Our Ginans can also give us help during these difficult times. Several Ginans have powerful verses of supplication and pleading for Allah’s mercy and compassion and help. These verses are not parochial but are pleadings for Allah’s compassion and mercy for the entire humanity.  In the context of the pandemic, this fact comes out clear. It is our hope that this ‘One Humanity’ idea endures beyond the pandemic.

Some of the verses I present are well-known, but I include them for completeness. First is a verse that extols the virtue of congregational prayers. It is from Pir Hasan Kabir’s Anant Akhado, verse 115.

Aashaaji til dharam ne hasti paap
sohi gat utaare ji
Gat naa vachan te Nar ji maane
te maahaadan maanhe nahi puchhaaye.

Translation:

O Lord, our good deeds are minuscule, our sins monumental. These are forgiven in congregational prayers
The Lord listens to congregational prayers and spares the questioning on the Day of Judgement.

The physical separateness due to the closure of our Jamatkhanas does not preclude us from offering prayers for humanity in our hearts and/or with our families.

In Pir Hasan Kabir’s Ananta Akhado, verse 32, Pir says that in Lord’s Assembly, He grants you whatever you wish.

Aashaji jiya jem mango, tiya tem verse,
Satgur gher anand ji

Translation:

Whatever you ask for in His assembly, He grants.
There is joy and no one returns disappointed from His assembly.

In verse 127, the scope of the pleading and supplication expands and encompass the entire humanity.

Aashaji, Sansar serve Shrusti tamari, ane serve mankha jiv ji
Daya kari teme amne taaro, Sami serve jiv tamara ji

Translation:

O Lord, the entire creation is Yours,  as are the souls,
With compassion, save us, O Lord, we all are Your souls.

In Pir Hasan Kabir’s Venti Eji Aash Tamari Shree Ho, which is full of supplications and pleadings, the opening verse portrays the congregation, standing with hands folded, asking for Lord’s compassion:

Eji, Aash tamari Shree Ho Kayam Sami, 
Saheb Chinta kee je, Ya Shah
Sab Gatie Shah ke khde re umayo Shah
Raj Rikhisar Ghar Dejo

Translation:

O Lord, we are hopeful of and dependent on your compassion; O Lord, we beseech you, spare your thought for us; the entire congregation is standing in submission; O Lord, bestow prosperity and happiness upon us…

Next is a beautiful venti of sincere submission and heart rendering plea for help by Pir Hasan Kabir in Hum Dil Khalak ya Ali tu(n)hij:

Hum dil Khalak ya Ali tu(n)hij vase,
Ya Mawla tu(n)hij vase,
avar na dhuja koi,
jive pi(n)dhe jo tun(n)hij dhani;
Ya Mawla tu(n)hij dhani.
Jia(n) kari(n) tiya hoi
Maher karo mora saai ya
Ali hum tere aadhar
Tere aadhar ya Mawla tu(n)hij daatar
Maher karo mora saai ya
Ali hum tere aadhan

Translation:

Only you reside in my heart O Ali,
O Mawla only you,
Non-other I think of
You, who are master of my soul and body
O Mawla, truly you are the Master
Your wish and command prevail
Show mercy O Lord
Ali you are my support,
I am dependent in You;
O Mawla you are the provider (of all my needs)
Show mercy O Lord,
Ali you are my only support

The next powerful verse that we often recite to seek divine help  is  from Seyyad Imam Shah’s Ame Saaheb Saathe, Verse 6

Eji Tuj vinaa koi avar na dise,
Saami amne chhe tamaaro aadhaar-ji;
Tuj vinaa ame eklaa Saami,
Saami tame thaajo rakhvaarr-ji

Translation:

O Lord, You alone we see,
O Lord, we rely upon You
Without You we are all alone
Please be our protector (In these troubled times)

In addition to the Ginans, our daily Arabic Du’a has powerful pleas for help.  In part two we recite:

“O Allah, O our Lord from You is my help, upon You is my reliance. You alone we worship and You alone we seek for help. O Aly help me with your kindness.”

In part three of our Du’a, we recite:

“Seek at times of difficulty, the help of your Lord, the present living Imam, Shah Karim al Hussaini.”

In part 4 of our Du’a, we recite:

“O Allah: Forgive us our sins, give us our daily bread and have mercy upon us….”

In part five of our Du’a, we recite:

“Ya Shah Karim, O Mawla, from you is my strength…”

As we go through this difficult time we should take comfort from these Ginanic verses and our Holy Du’a as well the Farmans of Mawlana Hazar Imam that have been published recently. Repeatedly, he assures his murids of his constant presence with them. For example, in his Diamond Jubilee Farman made in Booni, Chitral, Pakistan, he lovingly tells us that he is always with his Jamat, every day, every minute, every second (Diamond Jubilee Farman book, page 57, also pages 51, 62). As such, we should seek to keep his enduring blessings for mushkil-asan (protection from difficulties) alive in our hearts all the time.

I pray that these trying times pass and that Allah in His compassion listens to our plea for help for humanity. His compassion and mercy know no bound.

Date posted: March 18, 2020.

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.

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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.

The author wishes to thank Platinum Rahemtulla for references to Ginanic verses and their translations that are quoted in the article.

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Abida Parveen – “the greatest female Sufi singer in history” – set to transport Melbourne this weekend + 1994 video clip of her performance before Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Please click on photo to read Ben Eltham’s excellent piece in The Guardian

Abida Parveen to perform February 29, 2020 at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall

There are few artists who are spoken about with the same rapturous fervour as Abida Parveen. Perhaps only her spiritual brother, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, has inspired the same level of devotion among fans.

Parveen has been described by The Guardian newspaper as “the greatest female Sufi singer in history” and by the BBC as “one of the most remarkable voices on the planet.” In his new piece for the Guardian, Ben Eltham writes, “The devotional singer is known to move audiences to a higher plane. Meeting her in Melbourne time went ‘all bendy and loose’.” Please click here to read The Guardian’s excellent piece.

Also read “The musical, ecstatic devotion of ‘Sufi queen’ Abida Parveen” by Nick Miller in The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Video clip: Abida Parveen performs before His Highness the Aga Khan in 1994

Date posted: February 27, 2020.
Last updated: March 1, 2020.

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More on the concert in Melbourne at Australian Exclusive – Arts Centre Melbourne.

Have you attended a performance by Abida Parveen? What are your impressions? Were you awed by her performance? We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment.