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Commemorating Aga Khan's first visit to Badakhshan in 1995

1995 Flashback: The Aga Khan’s first visit to Badakhshan, a historic day the Ismailis will never forget

The Aga Khan wearing a black Persian hat, with a long, flowing purple coat covered with gold filigree, addresses his Ismaili followers during his visit to Tajikistan in 1995. Photo: The Ismaili, Special issue, 1995.The Aga Khan wearing a black Persian hat, with a long, flowing purple coat covered with gold filigree, addresses his Ismaili followers during his visit to Badakhshan in May 1995. Photo: The Ismaili.

Background: An Eyewitness Account of the Civil War

“I was at my uncle’s and there were about 15 of us living at his house. I didn’t understand why suddenly all the grownups started to cry and say SHUKR MAWLO, SHUKR MAWLO. Then the news said that humanitarian aids would be sent as soon as possible…Time went and we reached the most momentous day in our life: May 25, 1995, a historical date that no Badakhshani will ever forget. We were blessed with Mawla’s didar for the very first time…This was the day for which all our elderly and ancestors were longing, for centuries.”

BY GULNAR SARATBEKOVA

1992: THE CIVIL WAR IN TAJIKISTAN

There is nothing more devastating than a Civil War and it was indeed a path to devastation in my country. Neighbors were killing neighbors, people who were once friends, bore arms against each other. Too many innocent lives were taken and too much blood was shed. Children were left orphans and parents had to bear the loss of their children and grandchildren. The whole country turned completely black. Things we never imagined could happen in our land, happened, and unimaginable pain and grief filled most each and every home.

A WAR never comes alone; it’s ALWAYS followed by poverty, hunger, disease, despair, moral and physical damage, blockage…you name it. That’s exactly what happened in our country. It became something so normal to hear cries; and when you did, you knew that someone had been killed somewhere. The whole country came to mourn, and it continued to mourn. Thousands of people became refugees; my family and I were among them. We had to leave everything behind; our home, our clothes, our toys, our friends and our childhood.

My siblings and I were living with different relatives. My dad was the last one to make it to Khorog after the war had already started. We heard nothing about him for months. I remember clearly when one day I went to get some water not far from my uncle’s house where I was staying. I saw a strange, exhausted man with dirty clothes, long hair and beard come close to me and call my name. Only when he dropped on his knees and started talking to me and crying, that I realized it was my dad. I remember I could hardly breathe; the shock and joy that my daddy was alive was overwhelming. He had been trying to get to Khorog for weeks. He’d crossed mountains on foot together with several other people. The roads to Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomus Oblast (GBAO) were blocked and there were hundreds of checkpoints on the road that basically hunted men. Only women and children were allowed to leave Dushanbe and its surroundings. The only way for men to get to GBAO was by walking through the mountains or to hide inside trucks. I remember my aunt had to bring my 15 year old cousin under the bus seats covered with luggage. He looked older for his age and if he were unlucky to have been found, he would doubtlessly, have been killed just because he was Pamiri.

In short time, we were running out of clothes, food, medicine due to the blockade. People started to die because of starvation and illness. There was shortage of everything and I mean EVERYTHING. We hardly had food, especially during winter and spring. Those were the worst times, and there was hardly any electricity. I remember we had 1 pancake each (made of water, flour and salt) with tea in the morning and didn’t know if we’d have anything to eat for the night or the next day. Without power, people began to cut trees for wood to heat their houses. Since GBAO is mostly a mountainous region, after a while, there were hardly any trees left. Well-known politicians, professors, doctors, and scholars had to sell anything they could in order to survive. I remember I was very creative, so handy, that I made shoes for my sister and I with a piece of cloth and cut-off tires.

More than 2 years after the beginning of this chaos and nightmare, it seemed this was the end for us. We had lost all hope; life stopped making sense any more. Most people were convinced that if no help arrived soon enough, that this winter would be the last for many.

A MIRACLE

Then a miracle. I was approaching the age of 12 and it was  just before people lost complete hope.  I remember clearly when I saw Mawlana Hazar Imam on TV for the very first time (it was when we had electricity for some hours). I was at my uncle’s and there were about 15 of us living at his house. I didn’t understand why suddenly all the grownups started to cry and say SHUKR MAWLO, SHUKR MAWLO. Then the news said that humanitarian aids would be sent as soon as possible. I remember the day people ran to the main road to welcome all the trucks with AKF (Aga Khan Foundation) and WFP (World Food Programme) written on them. I remember seeing women cry, including my mother, because they finally had hope that they wouldn’t witness their children starving to death. We could finally eat as much bread as we wanted,  without thinking ‘we won’t have any left  for the next day’.

For us, the kids, the best part was clothes and shoes, even though they didn’t fit. We couldn’t believe how beautiful all those clothes were and that they were actually used! We couldn’t believe people would just give away  these clothes and shoes. I remember  an instance when we were all sitting, very anxiously, in our cold classroom and our teacher came in with a box. She opened it and without looking inside started putting one item on each table. It was like Christmas for us. I remember the  item placed on my desk was a pair of red overalls, about 5 size bigger, but oh boy, was I happy! I finally had “new” clothes!

FINALLY, MAY 25, 1995

Time went and we reached the most momentous day in our life: May 25, 1995, a historical date that no Badakhshani will ever forget. We were blessed with Mawla’s didar for the very first time. That is when we really knew that we would never be alone, ever again. This was the day for which all our elderly and ancestors were longing, for centuries. This is the date that changed our history forever. This is the day after which we knew that we would survive, no matter what, no matter how, no matter where. It’s amazing how lucky we are despite everything: because we are Mawla’s mureeds. We still have a long way to go even so many years after the war but I have hope for my country and people. I hope we will rise as high as the Pamiri mountains.

I end with a sincere prayer for all Ismailis around the world: May Mawla bless each one of us as we approach the celebration of his 60 years of Imamat, his Diamond Jubilee.

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Tajikistan

“In the years ahead, Insha’Allah, we will learn a great deal more about spiritual children from parts of the world with which we have had little or no contact, not only for decades but for centuries. And as they come forward, they will bring to us their traditions, their literature, their affection, their songs, their dress, their language, their practice; and this is what is so unique in our tariqah…we learn about the way the tradition has been continued even without contact with the Imam of the Time…A tradition that stems from Hazrat Ali.” – From remarks by His Highness the Aga Khan made in the 1980’s, and published in The Ismaili.

19950522-31_Aga Khan Portrait 1 of 4 200dpi Visit to Central Asia The Ismaili Special IssueHis Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims.

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

“The Aga Khan is coming here, to the vaulting, nearly unreachable Pamir Mountains. Since early evening his followers have been arriving on foot, by car, by tractor or packed like bolts of brightly colored cloth onto the backs of trucks. Happy and excited over their Imam’s visit, many travelled on foot for hours to see him, while others made to the site on the back of trucks. In the morning, 50,000 people will greet him, and the men are busy cooking enough rice in the great caldrons so every person can feast.” – Kathy Lally, Baltimore Sun, June 4, 1995.

19950522-31_Aga Khan Visit to Central Asia With Murids Arriving in Lorries The Ismaili Special IssueHappy and excited over the Aga Khan’s  visit to the vaulting, nearly unreachable Pamir Mountains, many Ismailis travelled on foot for hours to see him, while others made to the site on the back of trucks. Photo: The Ismaili.

Volunteers off-load mats in preparation for the Aga Khan’s mulaqat (meeting) with his Ismaili followers and other Muslims during his visit to Badakhshan, Tajikistan, in May 1995. To make it fit for this historic moment, the Pamiris cleared and smoothed the rocky ground with their bare hands before laying the mats on the ground. Photo: The Ismaili.

“In our Jamat there is a long history of voluntary service, when people are in need, everyone contributes to resolving the problem, because you are all brothers and sisters and that is correct that you should always help each other. And I know that during the difficulties – the difficult years you have lived – this effort to help each other has been there” –  His Highness the Aga Khan, Badakhshan, May 26, 1995. The Ismaili.

19950522-31_Aga Khan Visit to Central Asia Hospitality Volunteers Serving The Ismaili Special IssueVolunteers cooked enough rice in great caldrons so every person – approximately 60,000 – who had gathered in Porshnev, near Khorog,  could feast after the Aga Khan’s visit. Photo: The Ismaili.

“No single visit by the Imam in recent times has been quite as complex in its magnitude and logistics. Given the prevailing uncertainty in the region, the visit drew upon the finest skills, dedication and courage of the jamat, both in Central Asia and outside. Volunteers faced challenging objectives: assuring the visit’s effectiveness with minimal strain on the host countries and facilitating the participation in mulaqaats, of the jamat and of our Muslim brothers and sisters — often in significant but almost inaccessible concentrations – whilst assuring their safety and comfort.” – The Ismaili.

19950522-31_Aga Khan Visit to Central Asia Mothers with children await arrival The Ismaili Special IssueA great moment for Ismaili adults and children alike as they await the Aga Khan’s arrival. None of  their ancestors had seen him before or any other Imam in centuries. Photo: The Ismaili.

19950522-31_Aga Khan Visit to Central Asia Hospitality Taking Morsel of bread The Ismaili Special IssueThe Aga Khan accepts his hosts’ hospitality by partaking of a morsel of bread dipped in salt,  two essentials of life, representing that which is of most value. Photo: The Ismaili.

19950522-31_Aga Khan Visit to Central Asia Received by Jamati leaders in Khorog The Ismaili Special IssueThe Aga Khan is received by Ismaili leaders in Khorog, the capital of Tajkistan’s Autonomous Province of Gorno-Badakhshan. Photo: The Ismaili.

Ismailis sit on rugs spread out before the stage where their beloved Imam, the Aga Khan is seated. Photo: The Ismaili.

“Essential to the creation of a higher order of human relationships is the acceptance of pluralism. Within the Muslim world, for example, thoughtful and heartfelt differences exist in regard to the interpretation of the faith. Nothing is gained by imposing one interpretation upon people disposed to another. Indeed, the effect of such coercion is a denial of the principles of the faith. Religious plurality in the Ummah is a tribute to the richness of the faith, and a source of its strength. Shia and Sunni can co-exist and cooperate, true to their own interpretations of Islam but confederates in the faith. Similarly, people of particular ethnic, cultural or political groups must grow beyond narrow conceptions of clan rivalry to an acceptance of differences. Human genius is found in its variety, which is a work of Allah.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Khorog,  May 24, 1995.

The Aga Khan receives tokens symbolic of the Ismaili community’s historic cultural heritage during his visit to Badakhshan in May 1995. Photo: The Ismaili.

 In a setting of spectacular natural beauty, the Aga Khan on May 27, 1995,  addresses Ismailis and non-Ismaili Muslims in Ishkashim, Badakhshan. Photo: The Ismaili.

“The Qur’an refers very often to nature as a reflection of Allah’s power of creation, and it says, look at the mountains, look at the rivers, look at the trees, look at the flowers, as evidence of Allah’s love for the people whom He has created. Today, I look at this environment, and I say to YOU, I believe Allah is smiling upon you, and may His smile always be upon you.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Rushan, Badakhshan, May 27, 1995.

Uniting the legacy of the past and the promise of the future in a jubiliant celebration, the Aga Khan’s visit brought together the old and the young in the Ismaili community. Khalifas and elders of the community came to Khorog to pay homage to their beloved Imam. Photo: The Ismaili.

Aga Khan stage in Landar Badakhshan where he met his community 1995

In 1995, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, met with the jamats of Badakhshan for the first time. Langar was one of the places he visited. The photo above shows the stage which was set-up for Mawlana Hazar Imam for the mulaqat, adjacent to the prayer house that is shown in the preceding photos. The next photo, below, shows the space in front of the stage where murids had gathered to see their beloved 49th Imam. Photo: © Muslim Harji.

Aga Khan meeting location with his community in Langar Badakhshan, 1995 visit.

Looking out of the stage….the 1995 venue where Mawlana Hazar Imam gave a mulaqat to the Langar jamat in the Wakhan Corridor of Badakhshan. The mountains in the background are in Afghanistan. Badhakshan is a common region to both Tajikistan and Afghanistan. They are separated by the Panj River. Photo: © Muslim Harji.

Aga Khan gift Badakhshan 1995

Spectacular horns from a species of Badakhshan’s wild sheep. Local traditions say that the antler was presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam during his first ever mulaqat with the Langar jamat in 1995, and that Hazar Imam had requested the jamat to safekeep the unique gift. Photo: © Muslim Harji.

Kyrgyzstan

The Aga Khan’s visit to Kyrgyzstan was suffused with warmth and colour from the moment of his arrival. Photo: The Ismaili.

“Today, the Ummah is constituted of hundreds of millions of people who are Muslims and who are bound by their faith – the Shahada, La-illaha-Illallah-Muhammadur-Rasullillah- and yet who over centuries have come to live in different climates, speak different languages, live in diffrent contexts, and who differ in some interpretations of their faith.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Murghab, Badakhshan, May 26, 1995.

The Aga Khan in Murghab, Badakhshan, on May 26, 1995. Photo: The Ismaili.

Epilogue: Blessings and Prayers

“My deep and heartfelt prayers are with you for your happiness and well-being. Though I will be leaving you, please remember at all times you are in my heart, my thoughts and my prayers.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Porshnev, Badakhshan.

Years on – Celebrating the Legacy of the Aga Khan’s Visit to Badakhshan

19950522-31_Aga Khan Visit to Central Asia Celebration of NoorIsmaili girls proudly display a decorated frame holding a photo of their beloved 49th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The was was taken in Alichur , a village at an altitude of 4000 metres which is comprised mainly of Ismailis. The photo was taken during Didar (Invitation) – a celebration that takes place on 28th of May every year to commemorate the anniversary of the Aga Khan’s visit to Badakhshan. During the celebrations the villagers dress up, dance outdoors to the accordion and drums and sing ginane (religious songs), which tell of him being their Noor (light). The photograph was taken as these girls, dressed in bright atlas silk fabric with crowns on their heads, were going out to dance. Photo: © Matthieu Paley. 

Date posted: March 12, 2017.
Last updated: August 18, 2019 (new photos added).

Before departing this page please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 160 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family.

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About the author: Gulnor Saratbekova, author of Background: An Eyewitness Account of this post, was born in Yavan, near the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe. She fled to the predominant Ismaili town of Khorog due to the civil war in the early 1990’s. She has 3 siblings, 5 cousin-siblings whom she grew up with, a father and 2 mothers – her own bilogical mother, who passed away, and her aunt who then adopted and raised her.

The remainder of the material for the post was compiled and prepared by Abdulmalik Merchant from the following sources:

  1. The Ismaili (special issue), Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Visit to Central Asia, 22 – 31 May 1995, http://www.theismaili.org;
  2. The Baltimore Sun, http://www.baltimoresun.com; and
  3. The Economist, http://www.economist.com.

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From Hazrat Ali to Mawlana Shah Karim, His Highness the Aga Khan: A hereditary succession of Imams that commenced with Prophet Muhammad’s famous declaration at Ghadir Khum after his final pilgrimage

“MUHAMMAD SAID: ‘HE OF WHOM I AM THE MAWLA (PATRON), ALI IS HIS MAWLA. O GOD, BE THE FRIEND OF HIM WHO IS HIS FRIEND AND BE THE ENEMY OF HIS ENEMY.’ THIS BECAME THE PROOF TEXT FOR THE SHIA CLAIM THAT ALI, THE PROPHET’S COUSIN AND SON-IN-LAW, WAS THE PROPHET’S RIGHTFUL SUCCESSOR AFTER THE PROPHET’S DEATH IN 632. THE MEANING OF MAWLA HERE PROBABLY IMPLIES THE ROLE OF PATRON, LORD OR PROTECTOR…THROUGH THE USE OF THE TERM MAWLA, MUHAMMAD WAS GIVING ALI THE PARITY WITH HIMSELF IN THIS FUNCTION” — FROM HISTORY OF QUOTATIONS, BY M.J. COHEN AND JOHN MAJOR. THE BOOKS REFLECTS 5000 YEARS OF WORLD HISTORY.

Hadith Thaqalain - tradition of the prophet, the two weighty matters

Compiled and adapted by MALIK MERCHANT from readings on Simerg
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

[The featured image shown at the top of this page can be downloaded as an expandable pdf file by clicking on Ismaili Imamat chart and map with dates. It was prepared by Mr. Pyarali Jiwa of the UK as a tribute to his beloved late wife, Maleksultan. We sincerely thank him for giving us the privilege to include his magnificent work in this post for the benefit of our readers around the world. – Ed.]

Id-e-Ghadir is celebrated by the Shi ‘ite communities to mark the event that took place at Ghadir Khumm (Valley of the Pond) on the 18th Dhul-Hijjah (which falls on August 18th or 19th in 2019).

This event commemorates the appointment of Hazrat Ali (A.S.) as the ‘Amir-ul-Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithful) and Imamul-Muslimin’ (the Imam of the community of believers) at Ghadir Khumm when Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) was returning from his Last Pilgrimage (Hajjatul-Wida) in the year 632 AC. On this occasion, the Prophet publicly proclaimed Ali to be his successor in guiding the community after the end of the institution of Nubuwwah.

According to the Shi’a doctrine, tradition and interpretation of history, the designation of Hazrat Ali marked the beginning of the institution of Imamah. Each Imam in succession was to continue the ta’wil (interpretation) and talim (teaching) of Allah’s Final Message, i.e. the Holy Qur’an.

Accordingly, throughout the course of the history, the Shi’a have commemorated this historical occasion as a mark of recognition and acceptance of Allah’s mercy to mankind by bestowing continued guidance. The Sunni however are completely different, in that they do not accept the idea of continuity of religious leadership by members of the Prophet’s family.

Portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan
His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet appointed the Aga Khan’s ancestor Hazrat Ali as his successor on the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah at Ghadir Khumm. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

“The Imamat is an institution whose two-fold mission is to guarantee quality of life and to interpret the faith. The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself.”  — His Highness the Aga Khan, interview Politique Internationale, Spring 2010

From that early division between Shias and Sunnis, a host of further distinctions grew up within Shia Islam. For example, the first major distinction occured after Imam Jafar Sadiq (the 5th Imam according to the Nizari Ismailis, or 6th for Shias who regard Hazrat Hassan as the 2nd Imam) over the question of rightful leadership between his sons Ismail and Musa Qazim. The Ithna Ashari or Twelvers Shias accepted Musa Qazim as the successor whose line continued until the 12th Imam, the “hidden” Imam, who is thought to return on the Day of Judgment to take part in the final judgment. The Ismaili Shias on the other hand accepted Ismail’s Imamat, whose successors became caliphs of the Fatimid Empire in North Africa and Egypt.

The presence of the living Imam in continuous succession from Hazrat Ali and the Fatimid Imams makes the Ismaili Imamat unique. Each Imam, since the time of Hazrat Ali has designated his successor as highlighted in a magnificent downloadable and expandable .pdf file Ismaili Imamat chart and map with dates which was prepared by Mr. Pyarali Jiwa of the UK as a tribute to his late wife, Maleksultan.

Hazar Imam or the Imam-of-the-Time guides his followers according to the prevailing conditions. His function has always been to look after the welfare of the community both in spiritual and worldly matters. The Imam’s guidance to the Ismailis is that they should lead their lives in such a way so as to practice their faith with a sense of balance and harmony, ensuring that there is no conflict between the spiritual and worldly aspects of an individual’s life. The practice of the faith thus becomes the way of life.

Presently, the Shi’a Imami Ismaili Muslims celebrate the day of accession of their present Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to the office of Imamah as Yaum-e Imamat or Imamat Day which falls on July 11. The Ismailis recently celebrated the 62nd Imamat Day of His Highness.

However, the observance of Id-e-Ghadir continues to be celebrated historically by the Ismailis as a mark of gratitude to Allah in having bestowed His mercy and bounty, when the Holy Prophet was divinely ordained to appoint Hazrat Ali as his successor.

The succession of Imams after Hazrat Ali continues today under the leadership of the 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan. He provides guidance to keep his community on Sirat al-Mustaqim, the Straight Path.

The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet…today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet. — His Highness the Aga Khan, speech to Canadian Parliament, February 27, 2014.  

His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada
His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet appointed the Aga Khan’s ancestor Hazrat Ali as his successor on the 18th of Dhul-Hijjah at Ghadir Khumm. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

Date posted: August 14, 2019.
Last updated: August 18, 2019.

Before departing this page please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 160 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family.

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[The featured image shown at the top of this page can be downloaded as an expandable .pdf file by clicking on Ismaili Imamat chart and map with dates.]

Correction: An earlier version of this post mentioned Id-e-Ghadir as falling on August 19/20 in 2019. According to the Ismaili calendar of religious festivals, Ismailis in Canada will commemorate it on Sunday, August 18th.

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

This website, Barakah, is a special project by http://www.Simerg.com and is dedicated to to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family.

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His Highness the Aga Khan

Must see: The Aga Khan’s compassionate heart

“It is evident that His Highness the Aga Khan has built institutions not just with stones but with a heart full of compassion” – CCTV News

Having seen him in many many parts of the world, and having talked to him at length…there is one thing which distinguishes him, which is not in the buildings, not in the organization. It is the extraordinary sense of humanity that he has.” – James Wolfensohn

Before departing this page please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 160 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family.

Date posted: August 12, 2019.

_____________________

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

This website, Barakah, is a special project by http://www.Simerg.com and is dedicated to to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family.

His Highness the Aga Khan’s address at the extraordinary 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival is in US Senate’s Congressional Record

“Your Highness…The Silk Road Project and I admire you for many reasons. In your cultural work you have created the Aga Khan Prize for Architecture, you have supported and founded Universities around the world, and you are doing important restoration work in cities like Cairo and now Kabul. We are honored to be working with you and the Aga Khan Trust for Culture on this year’s Smithsonian Folklife Festival” — Yo-Yo Ma, June 26, 2002

Introduction

(Introduction adapted and compiled from article by Lawrence Small in the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival Program Book)

Crrowds at the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Crowds on the National Mall during the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the Silk Road. The annual Folklife Festival highlights grassroots cultures across the nation and around the world through performances and demonstrations of living traditions. The Festival, which began in 1967, occurs for two weeks every summer on the National Mall and attracts more than 1 million visitors. Photo: Jeff Tinsley/ Smithsonian Institution.

For ten days during the summer of 2002, the great geographical and cultural distance that lies between the heart of Europe and the far reaches of Asia was reduced to the length of a leisurely afternoon stroll on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

For the first time in its 36-year history, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival had a single — and remarkably ambitious — theme The Silk Road. The name denotes the network of trade routes, over both land and sea, along which merchants and travelers began to move across Asia and Europe some 2000 years ago. Along those staggering distances lay a wealth of cultures and traditions, which are still there today. They came to life in the heart of the US capital from June 26 through July 7, 2002.

Aga Khan and Colin Powell at 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Silk Roads Festival
His Highness the Aga Khan (left) and Secretary of State Colin Powell touring Samarkand Square, one of the main pavillions set up on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 2002 to celebrate the Silk Road and its culture. Photo: AKDN / Zahur Ramji
Aga Khan, Colin Powell and Edward Kennedy at the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival devoted to The Silk Road
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, His Highness the Aga Khan and the late Senator Edward Kennedy at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Senator Edward Kennedy, in his remarks, expressed deep appreciation of the role being played by His Highness the Aga Khan in the process of education and cultural understanding. “Now more than ever,” said Sen. Kennedy, “his is a voice that needs to heard and understood.” Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji
Musical performance at the Silk Roads Festival
Khongorzul, accompanied by Amartuvshin on the morin khuur, performs at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folkilife Festival, while Secretary of State Colin Powell and His Highness the Aga Khan (right) look on. AKDN/Zahur Ramji

Visitors who made the journey across the Festival site immersed themselves in the energy and larger educational purpose of the Festival: they had an opportunity to travel across continents, centuries, and cultures. They met with a diversity of artists who, through their demonstrations of skill — with silk, jewelry, ceramics, carpets, paintings, paper, calligraphy, food, and, not least, music — did more than merely affirm their cultural traditions. They embodied them. The 2002 Folklife Festival, like, every other, celebrated humanity and breathed a spirit of human engagement.

His Highness the Aga Khan’s Trust for Culture was lead funder and key creative partner of the Silk Roads Festival.

“I also join in welcoming His Highness the Aga Khan who was an early supporter of the Silk Road Project. He is an impressive leader for our time and I commend all that he has done, especially in the field of education and cultural exchange. Now, more than ever, his voice is one that needs to be acknowledged and understood. We are honored to have him with us today.” — Late Senator Edward Kennedy (1932-2009), June 26, 2002

Opening ceremony remarks in US Senate Congressional Record

Little is it known that remarks made by His Highness the Aga Khan, reproduced in full below, and others including Secretary of State Colin Powell, Senator Edward Kennedy and Yo-Yo Ma (see quotes, above) during the festival’s opening ceremony became part of the US Senate’s Congressional Record by unanimous consent, and ordered to be printed in the Senate Record. Dated July 17, 2002, it appears in the 107th Congress, 2nd Session Issue: Vol. 148, No. 97 — Daily Edition. Link to the official text/PDF file of the complete record of statements made at the opening ceremony is provided at the bottom of the post.

Binding people through the force of cultural pluralism

Aga Khan speaking in 2002 at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folklife Silk Road Festival
His Highness the Aga Khan speaking at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. “A search for new forces of stability,” was how the 49th Ismaili Imam, who is directly descended from Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s), described one of the pressing needs in Central Asia. One such force “that seems particularly essential,” he said, “is the validation and vigorous promotion of human and cultural pluralism ….For the new countries of Central Asia, the inherent pluralism of their societies can be an asset rather than a liability. In a wider sense, it can be a means for enlarging the frontiers of global pluralism… This is a goal, with which we can all associate and should all associate.” Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji

By HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

I am here to speak briefly about Central Asia. I wanted to share with you some of the reasons why the theme of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this year is so important. As you know, Central Asia has been an area of considerable concern and instability for the world. Over the past decade, Central Asian countries have come into existence in difficult circumstances. Frontiers have been changed, ethnic groups have been divided, old traditions have been modified by the Soviet presence, and all this has caused considerable difficulty in looking ahead in that part of the world.

This period of deep change at the national and regional levels has prompted a search for new forces of stability. One that seems particularly important, I think, to the United States and to all of us, is the validation and vigorous promotion of human and cultural pluralism. Historically the Silk Route was a link that interconnected diverse aspects of human society and culture from the Far East to Europe, and did so on the basis of mutual interest. This suggests that for the new countries of Central Asia, the inherent pluralism of their societies can be regarded as an asset rather than a liability. In the wider sense, it can be a means of enlarging the frontiers of global pluralism. This is a goal with which we all can and should associate.

The Aga Khan’s remarks continue after photo

Yo-Yo Ma performs at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folklife Silk Roads Festival in 2002
Yo-Yo Ma and members of the Silk Road Ensemble performing at the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian Folklife Festival with the former US Secretary of State Colin Powell and His Highness the Aga Khan looking on. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji

The remarkable work of Yo-Yo Ma has enthralled audiences, from all the countries of the Silk Route and beyond. By his leadership and imagination he has proved that the force of cultural pluralism to bind people is as necessary, powerful and achievable today as was the Silk Route in history.

It is my privilege and honour to be associated with the founder of the modern Silk Route, a cultural journey that inspires people to unity and joy through art.

Date posted: August 10, 2019.

Before departing this page please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 160 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family.

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Further reading:

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Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

This website, Barakah, is a special project by http://www.Simerg.com and is dedicated to to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family.

Calling All Canadian Ismailis: A Beautiful and Unique Frame of Philatelic Objects Honouring Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

“I have just opened the frame package and I am immensely impressed, the framing is beautifully done.” ….“Thank you. The frame is so beautiful and will be a wonderful memory for us.”

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

Portugal’s Prime Minister, António Costa and Mayor of Lisbon, Fernando Medina, with His Highness the Aga Khan and his brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan, at Foz Palace following a presentation by the Prime Minister to His Highness of commemorative limited edition First Day Diamond Jubilee stamps issued by the Postal Service of Portugal. Photo: AKDN.

During the year long celebration of his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat from July 11, 2017 to July 11, 2018, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the official invitation of various governments travelled to 11 countries. In 3 countries that he visited – Tanzania, Pakistan and Portugal – he was presented with official stamps, first day covers as well as related philatelic objects to honour him on his Diamond Jubilee.

Portugal, in particular, released some extraordinary and unique philatelic objects that included a stunning souvenir sheet embedded with a genuine 1.25 mm diamond, two first day covers, a stamp and a comprehensive profile of Mawlana Hazar Imam in English and Portuguese. 

Barakah and its sister website Simerg have captured this momentous Portuguese collection  in a beautiful frame that brings alive one of the most historical events in modern Ismaili history – the celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan. The frame has a unique permanence and is an enduring record of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Imamat to be cherished by present and future generations of Ismailis as well as friends of the community. Frame details follow.

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THE DIAMOND JUBILEE FRAME

Ismaili Collection - Portugal Diamond Jubilee Stamps

 Diamond Souvenir Sheet, First Day Covers, Stamp, and a comprehensive profile of His Highness the Aga Khan issued by Portugal. Frame size: 26.5″ x 20″. Photo: Copyright © Simerg/The Ismaili Collection. Image scan by Martin Photography, Ottawa.

Frame Contents: Souvenir sheet embedded with a genuine 1.25 mm Diamond; Official First Day Covers, a Mint Stamp, Stamp features including a profile of His Highness the Aga Khan in Portuguese and English. All objects original and issued by the Portugal Postal Service, CTT.

Frame Size: Appx. 26.5″ by 20″ (or appx. 67.3 cms by 50.8 cms). See photo above.

Frame Features: A high quality and durable pewter toned metallic frame; Made in the USA; protected with UV glass to prevent fading and mounted on acid-free board. Frame supplied with a wall hanging kit. Mounting done in Canada by Malen Framing, a distinguished framer in Ottawa, the nation’s capital.

Frame Inscription: The frame will come with a loose plate inscribed with the purchaser’s name (or, optionally, if it is a gift, the gift recipient’s name).

HOW TO PURCHASE THE FRAME

Availability: At the present time the frame is only available for shipment within Canada. All shipment will be done via UPS Courier Service. We welcome inquiries from the USA and overseas. Write to us at simergbooks@aol.comor call/text 1-613-799-5663.

Price: The purchase price of the frame is US $500.00 or C $660.00 (this includes delivery in Toronto and Ottawa). For all other locations in Canada the cost including packaging/shipping/insurance will be US $625.00 C $825.00. The frame will be expertly packaged by UPS. Prices include HST.

Paypal: Simerg is Paypal verified. To purchase via Paypal, please send a request to simergbooks@aol.com and a Paypal invoice will be generated. 

Email Transfer: To purchase the frame, please send a request to simergbooks@aol.com.  We will generate an invoice and request you to submit a payment via email transfer. 

Cheque Payments: We will also accept bank draft, postal order or certified cheque payments.

Delivery Method: The order will be processed upon receipt of payment and the CUSTOM MADE frame will be shipped within 2-4 weeks to a Canadian address by UPS land courier (allow 2-7 days for delivery from date of shipment).

Viewing the Frame: If you are in Ottawa or Toronto, we can arrange for you a personal viewing of the frame. It is truly impressive with a WOW factor; photos do not do justice to the beauty and elegance of the frame.

Questions: Please write to simergbooks@aol.com or call or send text to 1-613-799-5663. We will respond to your call or message promptly.

OUR COMMITMENT TO EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE

Over the years, Simerg, has offered numerous collection items including signed copies of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s “Animal Voyage” and “Diving Into Wildlife,” the award winning Central Asian book “With Our Own Hands” as well as beautiful frames of Golden Jubilee Stamps (sold out). We have attained a high degree and level of customer satisfaction. 

“My son was delighted with the excellent photography by Prince Hussain. We as a family will cherish this volume for a long time. Once again, thank you Simerg for making this book available in North America and your outstanding customer service and support.” Shamim Rajan, Richmond Hill, Ontario

“This is a beautiful piece of work!! The service was excellent. Very quick, safe and efficient turnaround and follow up. I recommend everyone to have a copy.” Nazir Alibhai, Markham, Ontario

“Thank you so much for the shipment – I received it today! I am impressed at how quickly the transaction went from the time of my order to the delivery. Great job!!” Zarah K.

Date posted: August 2, 2019.

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Must watch: Prince Hussain Aga Khan on unprecedented threats to environment and biodiversity, and impacts of climate change

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

Prince Hussain speaking at EAT forum

Prince Hussain Aga Khan speaking at EAT Food Forum held on June 12-13, 2019, in Stockholm, Sweden. Photo: EAT Forum (Extracted from video).

Prince Hussain Aga Khan, son of His Highness the Aga Khan and Princess Salimah Aga Khan, and brother to Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Aly Muhammad, was born on April 10 1974, in Geneva, Switzerland. He became an avid tropical fish hobbyist at the age of five, and an amphibian enthusiast when he was a teenager aged 14. At that time, he started scuba diving and developed a keen interest in conservation.

He started travelling to the tropics frequently at secondary school, and began taking photographs of fauna and flora on a trip to the Brazilian Amazon in 1996. His subsequent trips took him to several countries around the world, and he started taking photographs of land and sea animals which appeared in two books, Animal Voyage (2004 and 2007) and Diving Into Wildlife (2015). His photographs were also exhibited in Portugal, Kenya, USA and Switzerland, and appeared on numerous National Geographic blogs.

In 2014, he created his own organziation, Focused on Nature (FON), that has over the years supported the conservation of sharks, cetaceans and African elephants. Smaller or infrequent grants have also gone to the preservation of manta rays, rhinoceroses, orangutang, and endangered amphibians in Central America. It is his sincere hope, along with that of his secretary general, Nazir Sunderji, that FON will continue growing so that the organization can address rainforests, more great apes, more amphibians, and coral reefs. 

Barakah’s sister website, Simerg, has been delighted over the years to support the work of Prince Hussain by making signed and unsigned copies of his books Animal Voyage and Diving Into Wildlife available for sale. We have recently received beautiful scarves from FON that will be available shortly through our new initiative The Ismaili Collection.

Prince Hussain Aga Khan - Plastic is Everywhere in the Ocean, Wrapped around in a coral

Prince Hussain speaking at the EAT forum, with images in the backdrop showing that plastic is everywhere in the ocean; at left wrapped around a coral. See video, link below.

Prince Hussain was recently a speaker at the EAT organization’s annual flagship food forum held on June 12-13, in Stochholm, Sweden. EAT is the world’s leading platform for global food transformation and it is a carefully curated event which gathers top global thought leaders from science, politics, business, civil society and beyond. 

The Prince’s short 11 minute inspiring presentation is a call to each one of us to do everything we can to support the preservation of environment and conservation of biodiversity. Through a series of stunning images, the Prince depicts the beauty, fragility and diversity of marine life and brings to  our attention the necessity and urgency to protect, conserve and manage our oceanic heritage and resources. It is a video that everyone, especially the youth around the world, must watch. Please click below to watch Prince Husain’s presentation.

Date posted: July 26, 2019.

Before departing this website, please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 160 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family.

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Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

This website, Barakah, is a special project by http://www.Simerg.com and is dedicated to to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family.

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