Prince Rahim Aga Khan On How Muslims Can Harness the Creativity of Our Knowledge Society to Impact Humanity

On the occasion of Prince Rahim Aga Khan’s 44th birthday on Monday, October 12, 2015, we are pleased to produce excerpts from his commencement address that he delivered at the Graduation Ceremony of the Institute of the Ismaili Studies held in London, England, in September 2007.

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa on their wedding day on August 31, 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte.

Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Princess Salwa on their wedding day on August 31, 2013. They have one child, son Prince Irfan, who was born on April 11, 2015. Photo Credit: TheIsmaili /Gary Otte. Copyright.

Prince Rahim is the eldest son of the 49th hereditary Ismaili Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and Begum Salimah Aga Khan. Prince Rahim graduated from Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1990, and from Brown University in the United States in 1995. Based at the Secretariat of His Highness at Aiglemont, north of Paris, France, Prince Rahim is an executive Director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development — the economic development arm of the Aga Khan Development Network.

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Islam Enjoins Us To Make a Positive and Visible Impact on the World

“…Absolutist, exclusivist, and rejectionist claims to the truth, especially to religious truth, are increasingly heard from all quarters. Rather than seeing religion as a humble process of growth in faith, some people presume to claim that they have arrived at the end of that journey and can therefore speak with near-divine authority…”

Prince Rahim Aga Khan delivering his commencement address for the Graduation Ceremony of the Institute of Ismaili Studies held at the Ismaili Centre in London in 2007.

Prince Rahim Aga Khan delivering his commencement address at the Graduation Ceremony of the Institute of Ismaili Studies held in London in 2007 at the Ismaili Centre.

BY PRINCE RAHIM AGA KHAN

I am thrilled to join the graduation ceremony in honour of those completing the IIS [Institute of Ismaili Studies] Graduate Programme in Islamic Studies and Humanities. To you, to your families and to all those who have helped you in this achievement, I say mash’Allah.

I am convinced that the institutions of the Imamat and of the Jamat could benefit directly from the contribution of each of you, either in a professional or a voluntary capacity. Such a contribution would certainly be in keeping with the ethic of our faith that makes it incumbent upon each of us to use our blessings –- be they material or intellectual –- to assist our families, to serve the Jamat and the Ummah, and to help improve society, and indeed, all of humanity. The Jamat and its institutions need young and dynamic women and men like you, who are able to draw on the rich heritage of our past, and on the best educations of the present, to address the challenges of the future.

Education, international studies and diplomacy, non-profit leadership, media, development, law, and regional studies will all be among the most relevant fields of expertise in the decades ahead. This will be particularly true in the developing world.

I was impressed to learn that amongst you are represented five different nationalities, as are several diverse cultural traditions of our Jamat. I am certain that this diversity has enhanced your classroom experience, and I am confident that it will have given you a deeper appreciation of the meaning and value of diversity itself.

We are all aware that we live in a world where diversity is often evoked as a threat and, more particularly, where diversity in the interpretation of a faith can be seen as a sign of disloyalty. This phenomenon is sometimes perceived to apply principally to Muslims, but it also exists in other societies. Absolutist, exclusivist, and rejectionist claims to the truth, especially to religious truth, are increasingly heard from all quarters. Rather than seeing religion as a humble process of growth in faith, some people presume to claim that they have arrived at the end of that journey and can therefore speak with near-divine authority.

Unfortunately, in some parts of the Muslim world today, hostility to diverse interpretations of Islam, and lack of religious tolerance, have become chronic, and worsening, problems. Sometimes these attitudes have led to hatred and violence. At the root of the problem is an artificial notion amongst some Muslims, and other people, that there is, or could ever be, a restricted, monolithic reality called Islam.

Our Ismaili tradition, however, has always accepted the spirit of pluralism among schools of interpretation of the faith, and seen this not as a negative value, but as a true reflection of divine plenitude. Indeed, pluralism is seen as essential to the very survival of humanity. Through your studies you have known the many Qur’anic verses and hadiths of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that acknowledge and extol the value of diversity within human societies. You all know, I am sure, the hadith to the effect that differences of interpretation between Muslim traditions should be seen as a sign of the mercy of Allah.

It should also be clear to anyone who has studied Islamic history or literature, that Islam is, and has always been, a quest that has taken many forms. It has manifested itself in many ways — in different times, amongst different peoples, with changing and evolving emphases, responding to changing human needs, preoccupations, and aspirations.

Even during the early centuries of Islam, there was diversity of intellectual approaches among Muslims. Today, however — both outside the Islamic world and inside it — many people have lost sight of, or wish to be blind to, Islam’s diversity, and to its historical evolution in time and place along a multitude of paths. It befalls us, then, to help those outside the Muslim World to understand Islamic diversity, even as we provide an intellectual counterpoint to those within Islam who would reject it.

I hope that you, as graduates of this programme, will include this message in your own ways in the years ahead, through your work and your words, by your attitudes, by your actions, and by example.

The untrue and unfair, but increasingly widespread equating of the words “Islam” and “Muslim” with “intolerance”, sometimes even with the word “terrorism”, could lead some Muslims to feel despair, indignation, or even shame. To me, however, the current global focus on the Muslim world, and on Islam itself, presents a golden opportunity for us to educate and enlighten, while actively exemplifying the counterpoint I mentioned before. To my eyes, it creates an opportunity, and an even-greater obligation for us to make a positive and visible impact on the world – on culture and art, science and philosophy, politics and ecology, among others.

In order to respond to this opportunity, it will be crucial to reverse another damaging consequence of intolerance, which has been the dissuasion of many Muslim populations from seeking access to what has been called the Knowledge Society. Without an acceptance of diversity, without the ability to harness the creativity that stems from pluralism, the very spirit of the Knowledge Society is stifled. We must encourage, I believe, that Muslims of all communities come together, working collaboratively to tap into the vast endowment of knowledge available today, and without which progress is, if not halted, at least deferred. This cannot be done in the absence of open-mindedness and tolerance.

Implicit in this approach is the need for humility, which is also a central Muslim value. We must all search for the answers to the challenges of our generation, within the ethical framework of our faith, and without pre-judging one another or arbitrarily limiting the scope of that search. Like the great Muslim artists, philosophers and scientists of centuries past, we must enthusiastically pursue knowledge on every hand, always ready to embrace a better understanding of Allah’s creation, and always ready to harness this knowledge in improving the quality of life of all peoples.

As you look towards the future, I hope that you will remember that intellectual pursuits should, wherever possible, seek to address the universal aspirations of humankind, both spiritual and concrete. Those aspirations, for our generation more than for any before, are intertwined in a single global community.

It can be overwhelming at times to ponder the vast array of new problems which seem to multiply in this globalised world.

These include the implications of new technologies and new scientific insights, raising new ethical and legal questions. They include delicate and complex ecological issues, such as the great challenge of climate change. They include matters ranging from the widening gap between rich and poor, to issues of proper governance and effective, fair, and representative government, and to the spread of rampant consumerism and greed, at the expense of others, or of our environment. In some communities, illiteracy and innumeracy are not only continuing problems but are even growing problems. And our challenges also include the increasing difficulty of nurturing pluralism in the face of strong normative trends – finding ways to accommodate our differences – even as hugely differing peoples find themselves in much closer contact with one another.

You have been engaged in studies, some of which analysed the achievements of past Muslim civilisations. What I hope you have come to see is that understanding past Muslim achievements, traditions, values, and ethics should also have equipped you exceptionally well to address the great emerging issues of our own times.

As you now graduate into this challenging world, you will be taking with you the hopes of those who founded, and of those who now drive this study programme. Their central hope is that you will become global leaders in a variety of fields, bearing with you as you go, and applying always, the open-mindedness of our tradition, and the ethics of our faith.

Date posted: Monday, October 12, 2015.

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The Meaning of Irfan, the Name of the New Prince Welcomed by Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Princess Salwa Aga Khan

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa during their nikah ceremony in September 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa during their nikah ceremony in September 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

Compiled by Simerg

Following last October’s happy announcement by Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Princess Salwa that that they were expecting their first child, a son named Prince Irfan, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on 11 April, 2015. The couple were married in September 2013 in the grounds of the Château de Bellerive, overlooking the shores of Lake Geneva in Switzerland.

An official announcement on the community’s website, http://www.theismaili.org, said that both Princess Salwa and Prince Irfan were in good health. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s special message to the global Jamat on this occasion expressed the great happiness of both his as well as the family of Princess Salwa. Jamats around the world received the news of Prince Irfan’s birth with immense joy and traditional celebrations.

The Meaning of Irfan

Irfan is an indirect Qur’anic name for boys. Irfan means “wisdom”, or more correctly, Wisdom with a capital W. It refers to all that is good and true of thoughts and deeds. It is derived from the Ain-R-F root (to know, to recognize), which is used in many places in the Holy Qu’ran, [1] as in the following verse:

Transliteration:

Wa Jā’a ‘Ikhwatu Yūsufa Fadakhalū `Alayhi Fa`arafahum Wa Hum Lahu Munkirūna — Sura Yusuf, Chapter 12, Verse 58

Translation:

And the brethren of Joseph came, and entered unto him, and he knew them, but they knew him not — Holy Qur’an, 12:15, translation by A.J. Arberry.

The Term Irfan in Islamic Mysticism

The term ‘irfan (gnosis), which literally meaning knowledge, is widely applied in Islamic mysticism. In the mystical context, like another term in the same family, mari’fa, which is also translated as gnosis, the knowledge is of certain kind which can be achieved neither through the senses nor experience, nor through reason nor narration, but rather is acquired by inner witnessings and interior unveilings. [2] It is that knowledge that unites man with God after penetrating and transforming him completely.

The famous prayer of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) sums up the end toward which the gnostic strives with all his mind, soul and body:

“O God, deliver us from preoccupations with worldly vanities and show us the nature of things ‘as they really are’. Remove from our eyes the veil of ignorance, and show us things as they really are…Deliver us from ourselves, and accord us intimate knowledge of Thee.” [3]

We rejoice with our thousands of  readers around the world on the wonderful news of the birth of Prince Irfan, and join with jamats around the world to congratulate Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prince Rahim, Princess Salwa and their families, with prayers for Prince Irfan’s long life and well being.

We also sincerely hope and pray that the birth of Prince Irfan may bring immense barakah and peace to jamats worldwide.

We encourage readers to express their wishes and thoughts on the birth of Prince Irfan by clicking on Leave a comment or scrolling down to the comments box below.

Date posted: Friday, April 17, 2015.
Last updated: Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

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This compiled piece contains excerpts from the following sources:

[1] http://quranicnames.com/irfan/
[2] http://www.alseraj.net/
[3] http://www.allamaiqbal.com/publications/journals/review/apr89/7.htm

See also:

A Nikah in the Noorani Family: Prince Rahim Aga Khan Weds Ms. Kendra Salwa Spears by Navyn Naran

A Nikah in the Noorani Family: Prince Rahim Aga Khan Weds Ms. Kendra Salwa Spears by Navyn Naran

Earlier in August, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims announced that the Nikah of his eldest son, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, to Ms. Kendra Salwa Spears would take place in Geneva on August 31, 2013.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prince Rahim, Princess Salwa and members of the Imam’s family pose for a photograph with the members of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum after the nikah ceremony. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prince Rahim, Princess Salwa and members of the Imam’s family pose for a photograph with the members of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum after the nikah ceremony. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

The day finally arrived with the Nikah taking place as announced in Geneva, Switzerland, in a private ceremony attended by members and friends of both families. At the request of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the Chairman and Members of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum (LIF), see photo above, represented the global Ismaili community at the event held on the shores of Lake Geneva, on the grounds of the Château de Bellerive — the residence of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s uncle, the late Prince Sadruddin and his wife Princess Aliya.

Ismailis around the world rejoice with their beloved Imam and his family as well as the family of the bride, and wish  Prince Rahim Aga Khan and his beloved bride, Princess Salwa peace and happiness in their life together.

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa on their wedding day on August 31, 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte.

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa on their wedding day on August 31, 2013. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte.

In Islam, the Nikah is a solemn and sacred social contract between the bride and the groom; each has the “liberty to define various terms and conditions of their liking and make them a part of this marriage contract.” [1]

We convey our heartiest felicitations to all our readers on this happy occasion and encourage readers to express their wishes and thoughts by clicking on Leave a Comment. What follows is one such piece, in the form of a poem.

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NIKAH

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa during their nikah ceremony. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa during their nikah ceremony. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

By Navyn Naran

And the symphony of great angels
gathered between stars of pure light
as if brass, woodwind or strings of meticulous clarity
spiritual music, sparkling in this Blessed light….[2]

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It is the dawn of a glorious day
as petals are unfurling
the Jamat is delighted to welcome a Prince’s Bride.
Khushamadeed!
how Joyous our Imam and His Family.
Mubarak!
Mubarak, Salwa, Mubarak kareem!
Mubarak Rahim, Mubarak kareem!

In Geneva, dawn has risen, lilies awaken from rest
It is day of jubilance, solemn promise and grace
The bee readies her honey for this very special occasion
Dew evaporates from tall grasses,
while in Aiglemont, majestic trees await grandly at their station.

Around the world it is a day like Eid
Remembering our history, Khadijah and Muhammad Nabi,
Our first Imam Ali and Bibi Fatima by his side
A bond nourished and unbreakable, as beam of light

Walkways strewn with rose petals, fresh for this day
Canopies of wisteria frame entrances of gates
Saffron and nutmeg are prepared for the sweets
Badam and pista for nut-filled date treats.

Love is an expression of personal dimension,
‘Tis a light in the eye that harkens the soul
A delight and understanding without apprehension
A precious connection as each partner stays whole

Lily of the vallley. Istockphoto. Copyright.

A civil contract, then Nikah, the marriage contract and true
No dowry but a mahr, and an acknowledgement between two
The husband will care and provide for his wife
The wife whole internally, softens (and strengthens) his life.

Our Mawla, we affirm our love and devotion,
On this grand occasion, the Jamat prepares a delicate sherbet potion
Our elders rejoicing, ambrosial sherbet and cake we share
Our Beloved Noorani family, your Jamat is with you there.

Many mornings have accompanied their journeys and now
A Nikah, a prayer, a ring and a vow
And around the world, salwaats are being prayed
Murids’ wishes for happiness for the Noorani couple this day

Softly, gently in tempo as breeze flows with grace
She walks by his side, radiant is her face
May joy, trust and respect Bless their joint life
As Prince takes Princess for his beloved wife.

Sun blushing in laughter, fountains dancing in flow
This bond is hope rooted, and dreams will grow…
Hafiz Loves the spaces eyesight cannot see
Love is a truth stronger, it sees the unseen.

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The newly married couple enjoy a moment together on their wedding day. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

The newly married couple enjoy a moment together on their wedding day. Photo: TheIsmaili / Gary Otte

Date posted: Saturday, August 31, 2013.
Date updated: Saturday, August 31, 2013 (new photo)
Copyright: Navyn Naran/Simerg. August 2013.

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[1] See Marriage in Islam: Nikah – Sound Vision

[2] The first lines set the stage; indeed, angels have arrived in the celestial sky and because of them even the starlight is brighter; and with this dawn breaks, and it is time for a wedding. In the unseen, the orchestra of angels and starlight are showering special blessings, akin to an unseen or hidden orchestra playing its resounding symphony. Metaphorically, the occasion is set…i.e. Allah has set the stage.

To express your wishes and thoughts on Prince Rahim’s marriage to Ms. Spears, please click on Leave a Comment. The link also appears at the top left of this post.

Please also visit the official website of the Ismaili community, www.theismaili.org.

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Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar and Badrudin Naran. After beginning her high school in the UK, her family immigrated to the USA where she has lived since. Dr. Naran went to medical school at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, MA. She currently works in Paediatric Critical Care.

Related post: “Mubarak…Khushamadeed” – A Poem for Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Ms. Kendra Spears as their Engagement is Announced by His Highness the Aga Khan.

We encourage readers to express their wishes and thoughts. Please click on “Leave a Comment” at the top left of this page or Leave a Comment.

Prince Rahim Aga Khan: How Muslims Can Harness the Creativity of Our Knowledge Society to Impact Humanity

“Unfortunately, in some parts of the Muslim world today, hostility to diverse interpretations of Islam, and lack of religious tolerance, have become chronic, and worsening, problems. Sometimes these attitudes have led to hatred and violence. At the root of the problem is an artificial notion amongst some Muslims, and other people, that there is, or could ever be, a restricted, monolithic reality called Islam.”….More

Prince Rahim Aga Khan“Without an acceptance of diversity, without the ability to harness the creativity that stems from pluralism, the very spirit of the Knowledge Society is stifled. We must encourage, I believe, that Muslims of all communities come together, working collaboratively to tap into the vast endowment of knowledge available today, and without which progress is, if not halted, at least deferred. This cannot be done in the absence of open-mindedness and tolerance” — Prince Rahim Aga Khan….More

“Mubarak…Khushamadeed” – A Poem for Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Ms. Kendra Spears as their Engagement is Announced by His Highness the Aga Khan

PRINCE RAHIM AGA KHAN – A BRIEF PROFILE

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prince Rahim touring the Sosuco sugar factory in Banfora, Burkina Faso. - Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

His Highness the Aga Khan and his oldest son Prince Rahim touring the Sosuco sugar factory in Banfora, Burkina Faso. – Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

Date and place of birth: October 12, 1971, Geneva, Switzerland.

Relationship to His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam: Prince Rahim Aga Khan is His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan’s second of four children, the others being older sister Princess Zahra and younger brothers Prince Hussain Aga Khan (all three born to Begum Salimah Aga Khan) and Prince Aly Muhammad (born to Princess Inaara Aga Khan).

Post Secondary Education and Specialization:

(1) 1996 – Bachelor of Arts, Comparative Literature, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island;
(2) 2006 – Executive Development Programme, Management and Administration, University of Navarra IESE Business School, Barcelona, Spain.

Current Responsibilities: Executive Director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED); Executive Director at the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance(AKAM).

His Highness the Aga Khan presents Prince Rahim Aga Khan to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Foundation Ceremony of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre being constructed in Toronto. Photo: Gary Otte. Aha Khan Development Network.

His Highness the Aga Khan presents Prince Rahim Aga Khan to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Foundation Ceremony of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre being constructed in Toronto.   Prince Hussain Aga Khan is seen at left. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

Based at the Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan at Aiglemont, north of Paris, France, Prince Rahim is an executive Director of the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) — the economic development arm of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). He also serves as an Executive Director at the Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM).

His Highness the Aga Khan presents his brother Prince Amyn and his son Prince Rahim to Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, who welcomed them to Buckingham Palace during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

His Highness the Aga Khan presents his brother Prince Amyn and his son Prince Rahim to Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, who welcomed them to Buckingham Palace during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

A graduate of Brown University, Rhode Island, USA with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Comparative Literature awarded in 1996, Prince Rahim received his secondary education at Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. In 2006, Prince Rahim completed an executive development programme in Management and Administration at the University of Navarra IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain. Prince Rahim travels regularly to Asia and Africa to oversee the industrial plants, hotel properties and financial institutions, including microfinance programmes, of the Aga Khan Development Network.

His Highness the Aga Khan, center, with his son Prince Rahim and daughter Princess Zahra overlooking the entrance hall of the Ismaili Centre Dubai from the balcony above on the opening day on March 26, 2008. Photo: akdn/Gary Otte.

His Highness the Aga Khan, center, with his son Prince Rahim and daughter Princess Zahra overlooking the entrance hall of the Ismaili Centre Dubai from the balcony above on the opening day on March 26, 2008. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

The engagement of Prince Rahim to  Ms Kendra Spears, of Seattle, Washington USA, was announced on Friday, April 26, 2013, to the joy of Ismailis around the world, who celebrated the news with sherbet and cake.

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“Mubarak…Khushamadeed”

On 26 April 2013, His Highness the Aga Khan announced the engagement of his eldest son, Prince Rahim, to Ms Kendra Spears of Seattle, Washington, the United States. Photo: Gary Otte/The Ismail

On 26 April 2013, His Highness the Aga Khan announced the engagement of his eldest son, Prince Rahim, to Ms Kendra Spears of Seattle, Washington, the United States. Photo: The Ismaili/Gary Otte.

By Navyn Naran

there is an expectant joy in the air
as we welcome the news our Mawla has shared
and He is happy for a love of two
a new beginning for all, here paired.
this joy paralleled e’en by the spring
the breeze gently caressing the face of each
we share in their love and welcome the new
an understanding and acknowledgement in this niche.

our Prince has met a partner in life
and Benevolent the Grace enveloping this match
how happy we feel for that special bond and trust
and pray this development manifest strong in latch.
the sacred Truth as once was shared,
and Knowledge beckoned Adam and Hawa in this life
so meeting in mind, heart and soul in twain
is Blessed by the Creator as man takes wife

Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Ms. Kendra Spears

there is joy in our community for the Noorani family
sherbet and cake to enjoy for all
and cherry blossom beckon another fresh day
as brother and sister welcome this Call.
for the arduous tasks You take under Your wing
shall flourish and strengthen as this Bond to be
 and mighty as Zulfiqar, the sword,
in Trust and Respect always between.

Khushamadeed Ms. Spears, Mubarak O Prince,
Mubarak! our hearts smile, Mubarak! and since
a Unity weaving as Iman does hope
we welcome you Kendra to this lineage’s rope.

our Mawla, Mubarak! devotedly we serve
Your happiness is ours also, let us not bend nor swerve
a nikkah is called, a love unending for two
Khushamadeed Kendra, a most respectful welcome to you.

Date posted: Sunday, April 28, 2013
Date updated: Monday, April 29, 2013 (typo)

Copyright.

For a contrasting style/format of this same piece, please click on the following:
“Mubarak…Khushamadeed”: A Poem for Prince Rahim Aga Khan and Ms. Kendra Spears

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Please visit http://www.theismaili.org to view more photos of Prince Rahim Aga Khan and his fiance, Ms. Kendra Spears. Please click on http://www.akdn.org for a press release, with photo.