The Jamatkhana in Toronto — “A Seed of Faith Planted…” by Shariffa Keshavjee

The Jamatkhana Toronto

The “Muqarnas” is a finely crafted corbelled ceiling whose skylight provides a subtle transition from the outside to the serene Jamatkhana inside.

BY SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE

A thousand years and  more
A seed of faith planted
In Khadak in Mumbai
Transplanted to many soils
India, Pakistan, Afghanistan
Bagamoyo, Zanzibar, Mombasa
Now the park on Wynford Drive

The murid murshid seed
Planted and transplanted

Now sacred space of meeting
People, stories, histories
Identities, languages
Fused, bonded, shared
Nascent unity love and care
For the highest potential
Nurturing and flourishing

The murid murshid seed
Nurtured flourishes

When  open arms welcome
Pluralism of mind and heart
Where ideas take root
A Mission is in bloom
The intellect soars
The vision expands
In the park in Canada

The murid murshid  spark
A strong foundation

A screen made from ribbons of steel separates the anteroom from the prayer hall.  It repeats an 8 sided pattern exhibiting a geometric tool used by Muslim artists to create order and rhythm for contemplation.

When vision, mission, ideas
Empathetic understanding
In harmonious symphony rise
The universe conspires
The crucible swells
Then there is alchemy
In Toronto in the park

The murid murshid love
Consecrated to Thee

A park, ineffable light, a sacred space,
Where nature, man, knowledge
Come together in unison
Of mind, body and spirit
Of dialogue and collaboration
A mosaic of cultures, languages
Inspiring hope and harmony

The murid murshid bond
Reaches out to man and nature

Circle of infinity encompasses
A Jamatkhana for supplication
The jamat comes together
To submit in humility before the Divine
The hymnal voice rising into the dome
Reaching heavenward ascending
To arrive into the silence  of the heart

The murid murshid bond
Reverberating beyond time

Inside the Jamatkhana, the central skylight panel descends to a white translucent onyx block.

The sound of prayer ascends
Reaches a crescendo
From the dome to beyond
Through the crystal clear
To the Divine Light matrix
Into the heart of  Divinity
Enlightened luminescence

The bond of murid murshid
Sets free the heart of man

Those who come together in dialogue
Those who contemplate and reflect
Welcome to the open arms of wonder
Sacred space, the crucible
That transmutes base to pure
That nurtures and gives flight
To the wings of the souls

The soul of murid to murshid
Transcends human understanding

Had we but wings
We would fly in the sky
To search  for the light
Neither of North, South
East and West
To flutter and land
In the windowsill
Of the Divine Master

Where murid murshid
Blend and Unite

Date posted: Monday, September 22, 2014.

Copyright: Shariffa Keshavjee/Simerg. 2014.

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The images shown in the poem may be clicked for enlargement. Image captions are as follows:

Top image – The “Muqarnas” is a finely crafted corbelled ceiling whose skylight provides a subtle transition from the outside to the serene Jamatkhana inside. Photo: Copyright Gary Otte.
Centre image – A screen made from ribbons of steel separates the anteroom from the prayer hall.  It repeats an 8 sided pattern exhibiting a geometric tool used by Muslim artists to create order and rhythm for contemplation. Photo: Copyright Gary Otte
Bottom image – Inside the Jamatkhana, the central skylight panel descends to a white translucent onyx block. Photo: Copyright Shai Gil.

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About the writer: Shariffa Keshavjee is  a philanthropist and an entrepreneur with an objective to help women empower themselves. Raised in Kisumu, she considers herself a “pakaa” Kenyan. She is now based in the nation’s capital, Nairobi. Her other interest is in visual arts where she delights in painting on wood, silk  and porcelain using water colours, oils and acrylics. She also likes writing, especially for children, and bird watching.

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Morning at the Park, Jamatkhana and the Museum by Navyn Naran

The Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum will be officially opened later this week in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. A series of poems celebrating the many aspects of the two majestic buildings as well as their Park, which is to be opened in 2015, will be published throughout the week. We begin with Navyn Naran’s contemplative piece, Morning at the New Park, Jamatkhana and Museum.

Astrolabe. Credit: Aga Khan Museum Collection

Astrolabe. Credit: Aga Khan Museum Collection

Spring, Let My Eye Twinkle in Your Joy

SPRING HITHER

By Navyn Naran

do i hear the trickle of spring?
do i see this first dawn welcoming the first warmth?
the peering of the shoot,
and  tenacity of the hidden root,
a glimpse of the sniffing, soft nose of the cotton-tailed rabbit..
delightful!
Nature is all-knowing

220px-Cucumber_leaf

how did the world turn one day from winter to spring?
how did just the right distance from the sun bring warmth to our earth?
how did this One Gesture bring us shanti,
laughter to the cold temperature of many hearts?
color to paint, and fragrance into flowers?
how can man imbue this Grace into his own beating pump?
ejecting  warmth, joy and
shared abundance into his breath ?
bridging smiles and hands for his own Spring
— and so the Spring of the world?

is it possible?
One Soul?
from One Soul!
a verse spoken over and over..who hears?
“words without thoughts never to heaven go”

you were aware of this once as a child i know it
knowledge of machinations of man’s world
has surely tainted your innocence!

Bank_Hall_Snowdrops

the winter has teased its Time further ,
— hark; Spring follows hence;
the rotation continues uninterrupted.
sshhh….do you see its entrance  ?
first, the barren vineyard treetops
bear the lightest green, then tinge of pink,
and maybe next week, crimson.
doesn’t a lover spontaneously touch his love with the softest kiss?
O spontaneous spring, surprise me!

hark, listen to the child,
truthfully telling all-
secrets his parents want to hide

Tree_Roots_at_Riverside

so spring tells all;
transparent,
as the eye ,
transilluminated be!
hide not my friend, verdantly let go.

sshhh! do i hear it coming?
the trickle of spring?
come hither and let my eye twinkle  in your joy.
radiance!
that, is the dress in which I will robe
Spring!
Spring! welcome
to our One World

Date posted: Sunday, April 13, 2014.

Copyright: Navyn Naran.

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Remembering Laila Lokhandwalla Through Her Loving Golden Jubilee Tribute to Mawlana Hazar Imam

LAILA LOKHANDWALLA

It is with deep regret and sorrow that we announce the passing of Laila Lokhandwalla in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday May 5, 2013 at the age of 55. Our heartfelt condolences go to Ms. Lokhandwalla’s family and friends, and we pray for the eternal peace and rest of Laila’s soul. Her funeral ceremonies took place at the Scarborough Jamatkhana on Thursday, May 9th, with special religious ceremonies for the departed soul later during the evening at the Headquarters Jamatkhana.

Laila Lokhandwalla was born and raised in India. Following her graduation in the early 1980’s from the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, England, Laila moved to Canada where she served with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for a number of years. She obtained her B.A. in Sociology from York University, Toronto, and thereafter, her graduate level Certificate in Teaching ESL, from George Brown College, Toronto. Professionally she was a teacher of ESL (English as a Second Language).

An articulate and engaging teacher as well as an Alwaeza (missionary), Laila also wrote beautiful and stirring poetry. Several of her poems and writings were published in Ismaili literary magazines around the world, including the flagship quarterly periodical Ilm published by the UK Ismaili Tariqah Board. In many of her poems, she sought to capture her immense love, affection and devotion to Mawlana Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims).

Following the completion of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee, Laila penned a special poem “Reflections of the Golden Jubilee” which was published on this website, along with a personal statement expressing her fondness for writing.

We pay our respect and tribute to Laila Lokhandwalla by re-publishing some of her pieces below, and invite the readers to also click on A Spring Poem for Shah Karim. We begin though with reflections about Laila from her former colleagues at the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

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Tributes to Laila from Her Colleagues

From Mumtaz Virani, Toronto

Further to the above sad announcement about Laila, I would like to inform readers that a collection of Laila’s poems that has been published is available on-line at the following link: http://thewisdomofourhearts.com/.

Laila had been a bright student during her school career. She had inherited melodious voice from her mother who used to sing at the radio station in 1960’s in India. Laila had a special flair for arts and culture and had a strong command on English language because of her convent education.

She loved music and dancing. We witnessed her Kathak dance presentations at the parties during our student days at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in early 80’s. When in good spirit she was a well rounded person and it was easy to fall in love with her.

We pray that her soul may rest in peace. Ameen.

* * *

From Alnoor B. Kassam

At heart, Laila was one of a kind… a flower ripe for He Who Is, departed at our loss, well before her time…  Her effervescence of mind was known only to those who’d sat with her during sessions of learning.  How she challenged anyone shy of intellectual rigour, and yet was always keen to adapt to innovative trends of thought!  Hers was a life we may thus celebrate.

Sure, there were challenges.  She bore them with grace.  And we know that Allah SubhaanaHu wa Ta’ala is Gracious, and He has now bestowed her with liberation of spirit.  As it says in the Qur’an ash-Sharif, those who have passed on are even more alive than we are in this world, only we lack capacity in that we neither sense nor fathom it…

Her zeal each time we had an IIS alumni conference will be held in fond memory.  Her intellectual honesty coupled with dedication to her vocation, was just as remarkable as it was sincere.

May she have well earned rest, in eternal peace, grace and blessing…

Please also see comments.

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My Interest and Love for Poetry

By Laila Lokhandwalla

I have been writing poetry in English since childhood. I started out with writing devotional poems in praise of Mawlana Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims), but I now have a collection of more than forty poems on various subjects, including politics, women’s and social issues as well as inspirational poems and poems celebrating nature. Besides poems, I have also written some geets (devotional songs set to music), in praise of Hazar Imam, in Gujarati and Urdu. I sometimes also write poetry in Gujarati and Urdu. However, most of my literary work is in the English language.

The love of religion, philosophy and social work, besides of course the pure love of language, especially the English language, have resulted in the poetry that has literally poured out of my soul. I have never really had to make an effort to write poetry. It has always automatically poured forth from my very being whenever I have been moved by anything in life. My poetry is the result of my life experiences and my feelings and thoughts on whatever I have experienced and lived.

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Reflections on the Golden Jubilee

By Laila Lokhandwalla

The sun dawned in the East and slowly but surely,

Lighted up every corner of the globe, in stages, successively,

The earth looked like a newly wedded bride in its enlightened décor,

Even as my Mawla was visiting Jamats, scattered across the globe, one after another,

Illuminating hearts and sparking minds, spreading joy and enlightenment,

Bringing prosperity and progress, breeding hope and encouragement…

This was indeed a special dawn…the dawn of a golden era,

The celebration of the Golden Jubilee of my beloved Mawla!

Excitement within, the tempo building,

Hearts in unison, merrily dancing…

Celebrating in a multitude of ways,

These unique, precious, historic days!

Canada launches several projects new,

To commemorate and celebrate this event…

And to their Imam, their vows they renew,

Pledging love and loyalty with this golden advent!

The Aga Khan Museum and for Pluralism – The Global Centre,

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat and The Ismaili Centre,

In their wake, planning a renewal,

A renaissance: cultural, social, intellectual and spiritual!

What exciting times, the future seems bright in prospect,

How immense the bounties, the blessings of the Imamat!

Could this be real, I am moved,

May I help build this future, as I am encouraged?

For that’s not all, there’s more to come…

My Imam directs, these things must be done:

Poverty must be eliminated,

Seniors must be supported,

Education and Religious Education, quality should reflect,

And walls that divide, must be replaced with bridges that unite…

Witnessing these times, I am blessed, I am thinking…

Even as I see the sun setting,

Slowly also setting upon this golden time…

Yet, the hope, the courage, the happiness, does not seem to dim!

The impact was so strong,

The memory shall linger on…

Forever more, to fuel energies and to inspire,

As to accomplish tasks and resolutions pledged, we thus aspire.

Spiritually renewed, yet humbled by all these graces,

I fall into a prayerful ecstasy, my heart races…

“Shukran, shukran, shukran”, repeats my inner soul’s voice,

In a rhythm that is endless and continuous…

For I envisage my Mawla, you’ve opened up the doors graciously,

To ever-increasing happiness and prosperity, endlessly…

Shukranalhamdulillah!

Date posted: Tuesday May 7, 2013
Date updated: Saturday, May 11, 2013.

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Simerg’s Third Anniversary and the Blog’s Most Popular Pieces (Part 1 of 2)

To mark this blog’s third anniversary, we recently launched the series, “Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures,” with the publication of three letters by Andrew Kosorok (Makers of the Fatimid Blue Qur’an), Mohezin Tejani (Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan) and Aziz Kurwa (The Person of the Institution of Imamat). Several “Thank You Letters” will be published over the coming weeks and months, and cover numeous historical figures during the past 1400 years.

What did this blog begin with, and which are the pieces that have been viewed the most since our launch in the spring of 2009? We wish to present some twenty-four selections in two instalments from over 600 fine articles. Motivation does not necessarily come from anything that is lavish and extravagant. Lasting impressions and effects often come from small things, and in this regard there are two short and wonderful anecdotes that set the website rolling. “Thank You” to the Ismaili historical figures Muayyad din Shirazi and Nasir Khusraw for the momentum and inspiration they provided. Both the anecdotes are definitely worth a read, and should provide the readers with an appetite to read the remaining contents of this blog, as and when time permits. Please share this page and the website with your contacts around the world.

SIMERG BEGINNINGS

Dazzled by the Light of Imamat

The Missing Mount Nasir Khusraw

Here is an array of some dozen top reads, not in any order, that will be of interest to readers who have joined us recently as well as those who may have missed the readings altogether. The remaining twelve popular post links will be provided later during the week.

POPULAR POSTS (I)

Mehboob Dewji: Islamic Patterns

H.H. the Aga Khan's historic Badakhshan visit

Arif Babul Interview: Creation, Science, God

H.H the Aga Khan III: Long Reign Ends

Nazim Bhimani Poem: Hurricane Katrina

Bruno Freschi Interview: Darkhana Canada

Tashkorgan Jamatkhana, China

Karim Master's Legacy Lives On

Ismaili Constitution Preamble

Diwan Sir Eboo Pirbhai

Politique Interview with H.H. The Aga Khan

The Memoirs of Aga Khan in 7 Languages

A Note to Readers: Please scroll down or click Home page for other recent posts and click What’s New for links to all articles published on this blog since March 2009. Subscribe to this Website via the box near the top right of this page.

Follow up: Simerg’s Third Anniversary and the Blog’s Popular Pieces (2/2)