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Exclusive: Noorali Harji collection of rare photos of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, Prince Aly Khan and Mawlana Hazar Imam in Zanzibar and Mombasa

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Vancouver, Canada, 1978, Barakah.
Nizar Harji of Vancouver receives Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at a mulaqat in Vancouver during his first visit to Canada in 1978. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

The historical photos in this article are from the collection of Late Noorali Harji (1912-2006). They were presented for publication in Barakah by his son Nizar Harji (see his photo with Mawlana Hazar Imam, above) when I met him in Vancouver recently. Like other individuals and families before him who have submitted rare and historical photos for publication on this blog, Nizar re-ignited my long-held view that hundreds if not thousands of families have historical photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family in their archives that are waiting to be uncovered. As before, we again urge families to devote some time looking through their old photo albums and archives for gems and treasures from our recent history. Young boys and girls will be a great asset in this rewarding task. Unknown to you, the photos in your archives might be among the rarest as well as of significant historical importance. If you uncover a photo that you have not seen anywhere else, it is quite likely that it may be very rare! Please contact the writer at Simerg@aol.com, and you will receive an immediate response.

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 Noorali Harji and Noorbanu Suleman Bhanji
Wedding portrait of Noorali Harji and Noorbanu Suleman Bhanji. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

The story of Nizar’s family is fascinating and I listened to it with great interest. Very briefly, Nizar’s grandfather Gulamhusein Harji was one of the earliest Ismaili settlers in Zanzibar. Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, during his second visit to Zanzibar in 1905, created a council to run the community’s affairs and also established the first Zanzibar Jamatkhana. Gulamhusein Harji was appointed both as a Council member as well as the Jamatkhana’s Kamadia. At that time a panjebhai committee was also created and meetings were held at his house, where food was served. During a later visit by the Imam, the panjebhai committee was merged and a monthly Chandraat Majlis was instead established by the 48th Imam which continues to the present day.

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Aga Khan III, Zanzibar, 1905. Barakah.
Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah pictured with early Ismaili settlers from India during his second visit to Zanzibar in 1905. During the visit the Imam established the first Ismaili Council as well as the first Jamatkhana. Mukhi and Kamadia were appointed. Major Noorali Harji’s father, Gulamhusein Harji, standing 3rd from left, became the Kamadia and was also appointed as a Council member. During the visit the Imam also gave the Jamat its first ever constitution. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Kamadia Gulamhusein was killed in the line of duty serving as a volunteer while he was still in the council. He had joined other volunteers to guard the Jamat against a group of Muslims who used to hold anti-Ismaili parades outside the Jamatkhana premises on a regular basis. One day the enemies arrived in full force on their horses and Gulamhusein with two other Ismailis died during a confrontation with the undignified group. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah then sent a talika, with blessings. A photograph of the three deceased Ismailis was hung at the Zanzibar Jamatkhana entrance, as a reminder to all of their sacrificing spirit while defending the dignity of the Jamat. Nizar recollected during our meeting that the historical photo was present in the Jamatkhana during the 1980’s. Perhaps someone in Zanzibar can send us an image of the photo if it is still hanging on the wall.

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Aga Khan III Diamond JubiIee Committee, Mombasa
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s Diamond Jubilee celebration committee meet in a room under his portrait. Noorali Harji is seated second from left. The chairman of the committee was Count Lutafali Merali. Noorali Harji was involved in the logistics of chartering the steam ship “Vasna” to take murids from the Coast Region to Dar es Salaam and back for the Diamond Jubilee celebration. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Kamadia Gulamhusein’s son, Noorali, was born in Zanzibar in 1912. Noorali got married in 1935 to Noorbanu Suleman Bhanji. At that time, matriculation (Grade 11-12) was the highest level of education available in Zanzibar. Noorbanu, at the age of 18, passed the matriculation exams with the highest marks. Her accomplishment can be attributed to the importance that Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah placed on education. Aga Khan schools had already been established in East Africa by the time Noorbanu began schooling.

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Aga Khan III Diamond Jubilee Dar es Salaam 1945
Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah at the Diamond Jubilee Celebration in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika (now Tazania), 1945. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Noorali, with his new wife Noorbanu, then settled in Mombasa. Inspired by his father’s ethic of service, he too began a lifetime of service to the Ismaili community as well as external civil society bodies. His photographs with Mawlana Hazar Imam, Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and Prince Aly Khan are a wonderful testimony of his extraordinary and devoted honorary services to the Jamat. He was linked with many bodies and sporting committees. In civil society, he was instrumental in arguing for the case to prevent core member of Ismaili families from being called upon to serve in military campaigns against Kenya’s anti-colonial movement that included Mzee Jomo Kenyatta as its leader. No doubt, Noorali is seen travelling with Jomo Kenyatta in an Ismaili volunteer’s uniform, after the fighter’s release from a Mombasa prison.

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Jomo Kenyatta release from prison, Mombasa, Barakah.
Major Noorali Harji accompanies Jomo Kenyatta (centre) upon his release from a Mombasa prison. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Noorali moved to Canada in 1985 and began serving in his new country with determination and enthusiasm for which he was honoured with the Queen’s Jubilee Medal. He served to the last days of his life. While assisting Hon. Hedy Fry for her re-election to the Federal Parliament and after having introduced her to the voters at the meeting, Noorali suddenly felt ill and was hospitalised. He passed away four days later on January 26, 2006 at the age of 93 . We pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace.

We pay our deep respect and gratitude to late Noorali Harji for preserving this collection carefully for decades, and thank his son Nizar Harji of Vancouver for sharing this unique photo collection of his father with readers of Barakah.

Aga Khan III at Muslim meeting in Mombasa with the Begum. Barakah.
Scout Noorali Harji on duty in Mombasa as Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah arrives with Begum Om Habibeh Mata Salamat for a meeting with Muslim leaders. At left is Sunni Muslim leader Dr. Rana. During the visit to Mombasa, the Imam established the Mombasa Institute of Muslim Education at Tudor. It still exists as Madrasa school. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Prince Aly Khan

Prince Aly Khan, Mombasa, Barakah
Prince Aly Khan visits the Ismaili Housing Complex in Makupa, Mombasa. He randomly elected to go into one of the occupied flats for inspection. He ordered many trees to be planted in the open spaces. Photo: Nizar Harji/Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Prince Aly Khan at a tennis game in Mombasa, Barakah.
Prince Aly Khan pictured at a tennis game in Mombasa or Zanzibar. On either side of the Prince are Count Jindani (left) and Abdulrasul (Merry) Merali. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Prince Aly Khan with Ismaili Scouts Mombasa, Barakah.
Prince Aly Khan in a jovial mood at the Mombasa Aga Khan Club with a group of scouts. Rover Scout leader Noorali Harji is seated next to the Prince at right. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Aga Khan visit to Mombasa before becoming 49th Imam, Barakah.
Major Noorali Harji holds out an umbrella for Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as he arrives for a visit to Mombasa in 1956 prior to becoming the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Ismailis on July 11, 1957. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Major Noorali Harji introduces Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Captain Shamshudin Gillani. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, arrives for his first visit to Mombasa as the 49th Imam in November 1957. He is seen with Major Noorali Harji inspecting a guard of honour at the Mombasa airport. Mawlana HazAr Imam arrived from Nairobi on a chartered East African Airways Dakota plane seen in the background. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Major Noorali Harji introduces Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Captain Amir Hassan Juma. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Major Noorali Harji introduces Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Captain Mohamedali Mohan Amersi. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Major Noorali Harji introduces Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Scout Master Mohamedali Noormohamed and Girls Guide Captain Shirin Habib Alibhai. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, inspects a guard of honour at Mombasa airport with Major Noorali Harji. Following them is the British High Commissioner for the Coast Region. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan visit to Mombasa, Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, arrives at Mombasa’s Tudor Ismaili Housing Complex Jamatkhana. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.
Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Vancouver Canada, 1978. Barakah.
Nizar Harji of Vancouver bids farewell to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, following a Jamati majlis gathering during his first visit to Ismailis in Canada in 1978. Photo: Late Noorali Harji Family Collection.

Date posted: February 8, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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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 the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

A reflection on the recent publication of Farman Mubarak of Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan

Aga Khan, Diamond Jubilee
Mawlana Hazar Imam delivering a Farman at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Kenya. Top featured photo: Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in the UK. Photos: The Ismaili.

Jamat is deeply joyous on the publication of two Farman books

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

I was in Ottawa when a set of two Farman books first went on sale a couple of weeks ago.  There was a long queue at the literature counter immediately after the Jamati programming and events announcements were completed. The Jamati members were thrilled to secure their own copies of the precious books. It is the first time in more than 40 years that the guidance given by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to his spiritual children has been authorized in printed form. The two Farman books have been published by Islamic Publications Limited which is based at the new Aga Khan Centre in London. A note has been made that the Farmans are published under exclusive licence from Mawlana Hazar Imam.

The set of two books ($10.00 per set) contains Farmans made by Mawlana Hazar Imam from 2011 to 2018. The first book (116 pages) contains a total of 24 Farmans made by Mawlana Hazar Imam during his mulaqats with the Jamats in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Singapore, Bangladesh and India between July 5, 2011 and September 27, 2013. The second book (236 pages) commences with the Farman made on the inauguration of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee in Aiglemont France on July 11, 2017 – the 60th anniversary of his Imamat – and is followed by 44 Farmans made between October 10, 2017 and July 11, 2018 during his Diamond Jubilee visits to Uganda, Tanzania, Eastern Canada, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, India, USA, Kenya, Western Canada, France, the UK and Portugal. The Farmans are published in chronological sequence and there is a table of contents at the beginning of the book. However, there is no index in the two books, and that would be very useful to have moving forward.

It is hoped that Farmans made by Mawlana Hazar Imam before 2011 which have already been authorized and are read out in Jamatkkhanas will be published in the foreseeable future. This publication of the Farman books in printed form takes place almost 44 years after Farmans were last produced in 1976-77. The writer was very much involved with his late father, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant, in the production of that small volume by the Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom (now known as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board).

Many of us will recall our childhood years during the 1960’s, when our parents would advise us to read a Farman every night before going to bed. At that time we had the benefit of short excerpted Farmans by subject category in tiny books such as Precious Pearls and Precious Gems. In the absence of such books, parents can utilize the newly released Farman books by reading out short excerpts to their babies and young children on a regular basis. The Australian website raising children mentions that reading to babies and children help them to get to know sounds, words and language, and they develop early literacy skills. In our particular case of reading out Farmans to children, we can also say that by doing so we are building their attachment, affection and love for Mawlana Hazar Imam.

The website reading rockets states that when the rhythm and melody of language become a part of a child’s life, learning to read will be as natural as learning to walk and talk. It has been recommended that reading should take place at least once everyday at a scheduled time and if this cannot be done, then read to your child as often as you possibly can. The typeset in the Farman books is large enough for the grown up children to comfortably read the Farmans by themselves. Parents and older siblings must encourage them to do so.

In addition, we urge every member of the Jamat and especially the youth and professionals to devote a few moments on a regular basis to the reading of Farmans, reflecting on them and seeking out the blessings that the Imam is conveying. Encouraging others to do likewise is a very important step in fulfilling our role as a dai, that is, a communicator of matters of faith.

The obedience to the Imam-of-the-Time is a time honoured Ismaili tradition, and Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah had once observed that heaps of pearls are scattered when Imams give Farmans. When a murid of the Imam consciously listens to Farmans in Jamatkhana or reads them in the books such as the ones that have just been published, the listener or reader should treat the blessings conveyed by Mawlana Hazar Imam for all times, and not treat the blessings as if they were for the occasion when the Farman was delivered. Indeed, as you are reading through the two Farman books, you will come across references to the enduring nature of the Imam’s blessings in his own words.

In her wonderful piece published in Ilm in 1979 and reproduced in Simerg, Nadya Kassam contextualized the importance of Farmans through a verse of the following ginan by Pir Shams:

Satagur kahere amara vachan je manshe,
Te chhe amare galeka har.
Tene galeka har kari rakhasu,
Tis momanke sukhaka anta na par-re.

The Pir in the verse says that a murid who obeys the Imam’s Farmans is like a garland (around the neck of the Imam). Hazar Imam keeps such a person very near to him, and that the mu’min will be very happy in this world and the next.

Mawlana Hazar Imam speaks to his spiritual children in plain language, always maintaining a joyful and warm demeanor. As we read through Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Farmans, his inspiring and perfect guidance as well as munificent blessings should touch our hearts, and raise and renew our hopes and spirits every single day.

We welcome the publication of the Farman set, and express our profound and humble shukhrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam for his constant guidance and blessings for our spiritual and material well-being.

Date posted: February 3, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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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 the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

2020: For new year and a new decade, here are 10 guiding principles of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan, for a happy, rich and meaningful life in the years ahead

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

1. Life: An exalted destiny

Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.

2. Seek harmony with God

First, I would place spiritual happiness. A man must be at one with God. This may sound old-fashioned to some people. A few may think that they do not believe in God, and some others that it matters little to the individual in his daily life how he stands with regard to Him.

Ruling out the atheist, it is surely strange that a believer in an Omnipotent and Ever-Present Deity should fail to realise that how we stand this instant and every instant toward Him matters to us more than anything else in the universe.

That is the fundamental question: Are you in harmony with God? If you are – you are happy.

3. Appreciate nature

Next I would place appreciation and enjoyment of the glories of nature. All those sunrises and sunsets – all the intricate miracle of sky colour, from dawn to dusk….then comes night – “a night of stars.” I look up at night and I know – I know the glory of the stars. It is then that the stars speak to us. All that splendid spendthrift beauty…As a very rich man treasures the possession of some unique picture, so a man should treasure and exult in the possession – his individual possession – of the sights of this unique world.

4. Be literary minded

Then comes literature – above all poetry. Poetry is the voice of God speaking through the lips of man. If great painting puts you in touch with nature, great poetry puts you in direct touch with God. It is not a soft indulgence, you need to be wide awake, with all your wits about you, to share the poet’s joys. And, indeed, happiness is never a negative affair; it is to be won by men who are fully alive, full of the joy of living.

5. Be active

Next I would place the joys of rapid movement such as you get from games like golf, tennis, football…As with literature for the mind, so with games the body feels itself vividly, happily alive.

These are the independent means of happiness. Any man may worship God, wonder at the miracle of nature, exult when he hears (in literature) the sons of God shouting for joy, and give praise for the perfection of his body in rapid movement.

6. Don’t fear marriage and parenthood

When I speak of marriage, I need not emphasize the joys of a happy marriage and fortunate parentage. They are inextricably interwoven – warp and woof of the same pattern, and the pattern is the whole of life in miniature. He who refuses that venture because of the risk is refusing life.

7. Don’t be solitary

I have no liking for hermits and other solitaries who refuse all responsibilities. They may live in a town as likely as in a desert, and their avowed purpose may be to lead holy lives; but, in fact, if they have ecstasies, they are the ecstasies of self-indulgence. My concern is not with them.

8. Reject despondency and have hope

You must remember that life will have for you many disappointments. If one-fifth of one’s hopes are realised, one is extremely lucky and fortunate, so do not be discouraged by disappointments.

Failures should be forgotten and new efforts made. Despondency is a sin, and hope a necessary part of Iman (faith) both for material wealth and, above all, for progress to spiritual enlightenment.

9. Be grateful

I should have a word to say to those who deem themselves unfortunate from a worldly point of view. I should say to them, ‘Do not look up and lament that you are not as well off as those above you. Look down and congratulate yourself that you are better off than those below you’. To a man who looks with such eyes upon the world, it is not a prison but a garden. A marvelous garden – the garden of the Lord.

10. Make struggle a joy

Struggle is the meaning of life; defeat or victory is in the hands of God. But struggle itself is man’s duty and should be his joy.

Date posted: January 1, 2020.
Last updated: January 12, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

_____________________

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 the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

References:

  • Aga Khan interview with Daily Sketch, London, on November 2, 1931.
  • The Memoirs of Aga Khan, Cassel and Company Limited, London, 1954.
  • My Philosophy of Happiness by Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah.
  • Messages of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah – Message No. 1 published by Shia Imami Ismailia Association for Africa, 1955.
  • Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah’s Concept of Life by Kamaluddin A. Muhammad, Ilm, Volume 3, Number 2, November 1977.
  • Literary Reading: Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III – The Road to Happiness and The Concept of Life
Barakah Aga Khan articles 2019

His Highness the Aga Khan: 2019 stories behind the photos

Barakah published 64 posts in 2019. Below we provide links to 16 interesting, thoughtful and inspiring pieces. Please click on link or photo to see the corresponding article in full.

A VISIT TO A LAB IN CALIFORNIA

Barakah 2019 Aga Khan year in review

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A FASCINATING SPEECH IN THE PHILIPPINES

Barakah 2019 Aga Khan year in review Philipines

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A BEAUTIFUL REGALIA

2019 Aga Khan year in review

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THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD

Barakah 2019 Aga Khan year in review Prophet Muhammad

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THE FIRST MUSIC AWARDS

Barakah 2019 Aga Khan year in review

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PRINCES AND PRINCESSES IN ACTION

Barakah 2019 Aga Khan year in review

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RARE COLLECTION

Barakah 2019 Aga Khan year in review

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REMEMBERING TWO PRINCES

2019 Aga Khan year in review Barakah

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PASSION FOR PLURALISM

2019 Aga Khan year in review

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A CONVOCATION AND TRIBUTE IN RHODE ISLAND

The Aga Khan delivered the Baccalaureate Address at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, on May 26, 1996. On the following day, he was the recipient of Brown University’s Honourary Degree of Doctor of Laws for “service to Islam and to all of human kind.” In the photo, the Aga Khan is seen leading the Honorary Degree recipients in the Academic Procession, which also included Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman judge on the United States Supreme Court, and James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank.

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FIRST VISIT TO TATARSTAN

2019 Aga Khan year in review

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NEW AFRICAN INTERVIEW

New African editor-in-chief Anver Versi with His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: © New African / Anver Versi

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WEDDING IN GENEVA

2019 Aga Khan year in review

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AN HONOUR IN TEXAS

2019 Aga Khan year in review

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A UNIQUE PHOTO EXHIBITION

Hussain Aga Khan, His Highness the Aga Khan and President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, Living Sea, Barakah

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HONOURS FROM PORTUGAL ON TWO CONTINENTS

2019 Aga Khan year in review

Date posted: December 30, 2019.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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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 the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

Aga Khan III sketch, Barakah

The historic visit of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan, to Iran in 1951: Glimpses from a very rare Ismaili souvenir

Introduced and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

Portrait of Aga Khan in Iran souvenir, Barakah
Portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877 – 1957), in the special souvenir “H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951,” published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

The text and photos in this post are compiled and adapted from a special souvenir which was published in 1953 by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan to commemorate the historic visit made to Iran in 1951 by Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957). I discovered the rare and well-preserved original copy of this precious souvenir in the archives of my late father, Alwaez Jehangir A. Merchant (1928-2018). The material for the glossy 68 page book was written in Persian by the famous Iranian writer and journalist of the time, Mohsin Saee, and compiled and translated into English by Professor Abbas Sabzwari. Readers should note that the highlights of the visit which are presented here have been substantially condensed.

His Highness the Aga Khan in Iran

Front cover of special souvenir commemorating Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s visit to Iran in 1951. The glossy 68 page hardcover book was published in 1953 by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

All the material that follows has been compiled and adapted from a special 1953 Ismailia Association for Pakistan Souvenir authored by MOHSIN SAEE and translated by ABBAS SABZWARI

INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

In 1950, Prince Aga Khan, (1877-1957), was declared an Iranian citizen and was awarded the distinguished title of Hazratwala, or His Royal Highness, by the Shah of Iran, Muhammad Reza Pahlavi. This was ahead of the Shah’s second marriage in 1951 that Prince Aga Khan and Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan attended.

The dignified descendant of Hazrat Ali was elected in 1937 the President of the League of Nations. He is a man of letters. The poems of Hafiz, Shirazi, and verses of Sa’di, Qaani, Khaqani and others are stored up in his extensive memory. He has mastered the peculiarities of these poets and gained an insight into the mysteries of life.

Aga Khan III on horse, Barakah and Simerg
A captivating photo of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah on a horse which appears in the special souvenir marking the Imam’s visit to Iran in 1951. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

Prince Aga Khan is simple and unostentatious, noble and courteous, sweet and good natured. It is with these attributes that this great man gives a lead to the Ismailis of the world, who are devoted to him with greater faith and loyalty than is enjoyed even by kings.

Aga Khans I, II and III and Lady Aly Shah
Imam Shah Hassanali Shah (Aga Khan I), Imam Shah Ali Shah (Aga Khan II), Lady Aly Shah, and Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (His Highness the Aga Khan III). Photos: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

Four years after the death of Aga Hasan Ali Shah [Aga Khan I, the 46th Ismaili Imam], his illustrious son, Aga Ali Shah [Aga Khan II] also died. At that time Sultan Muhammad Shah was only eight years old. His wise prudent mother, Bibi Shamsul Muluk Khanum [Lady Aly Shah] became responsible for the training and education of her son in the best possible way. Prince Aga Khan Sultan Muhammad Shah has two sons. One of them is Prince Aly Khan [d. 1960] and the other Prince Sadruddin [d. 2003]. Prince Aly Khan has two sons named Prince Karim Aga Khan [b. 1936] and Prince Amyn Mohammad [b. 1937]. The real home of the forefathers of Prince Aga Khan is Mahallat, a few miles from Tehran. His forefathers owned several forts in Mahallat.

On the day of my visit to the fort, about 3,000 followers of Prince Aga Khan had assembled there from various parts of Iran. The fort was built more than 400 years ago. Thousands of families can easily pass a whole lifetime inside this fort. In almost all the rooms of the fort, there are fountains of sweet water.

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PRINCE AGA KHAN IN TEHRAN

Aga Khan III arrives in Tehran
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Begum Om Habibeh (Mata Salamat), alight from their plane upon arrival in Tehran in 1951. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

At the airport, a large number of his followers, from males and females of 80 years of age to blooming youths, were all eagerly waiting for the arrival of His Royal Highness. When Prince Aga Khan and his Begum [Om Habibeh, Mata Salamat] alighted from the aeroplane, loud cheers of joy and continued clapping of hands filled the air with deafening noise. Hakim-ul-Mulk, the Minister of the Royal Court, was the first to greet the distinguished guest. One of the relatives of Prince Aga Khan presented the Holy Qur’an and a bunch of flowers. When all the ceremonies of introduction were finished, the distinguished visitor looked to the sky and the scene around him and said with a smile, which only comes out of deep joy: “What a lovely and beautiful country I have! I had been cherishing for years the desire to visit my beloved native land.”

Aga Khan III at Shah's marriage ceremony in 1951, Barakah.
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah and Begum attend the marriage ceremony of the Shah of Iran. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.
Aga Khan III with ambassadors to Iran, 1951 visit  Barakah
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah pictured with diplomatic representatives of various countries in Iran. Standing second from left is the Turkish ambassador. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.
Aga Khan III at Pakistan Embassy
Mawlana Sultan Mahoned Shah is received by ambassador Ghazanfar Ali Khan and his staff as he arrives at the Pakistan Embassy in Tehran, Iran. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.
Begum Aga Khan at Pakistan Embassy in Iran flanked by a portrait of Pakistan's founder Quaid-i-Azam
Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan and Pakistan ambassador, Ghazanfar Ali Khan, flank a portrait of Pakistan’s founder Quaid-i-Azam, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, at the Pakistan Embassy in Iran. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.
Aga Khan III with Egyptian Ambassador to Iran, Barakah
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah in conversation with Egypt’s ambassador to Iran. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.
Aga Khan III at tomb of Sufi Safi Ali Shah
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah meets with Iranian religious leaders and scholars during his visit to the tomb of Safi Ali Shah (1835-1899) who founded the Nematollahi Safialishahi Sufi Order. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.
Aga Khan III at tomb of Safi Ali Shah
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah at the tomb of Safi Ali Shah (1835-1899), who founded the Nematollahi Safialishahi Sufi Order. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

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PRINCE AGA KHAN IN ISFAHAN

Aga Khan and Begum viewing ancient Iranian art, Barakah
Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan and Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah view pieces of ancient art in Isfahan. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan

His Royal Highness and the Begum’s arrival in Isfahan was delayed by a day due to the bitter cold and bitter winds in Tehran and Isfahan. He arrived by plane while the Begum was driven from Tehran in a car. In the afternoon he and the Begum visited the Royal Mosque, the matchless forty-pillar mansion and the bridges across the river. His Royal Highness was charmed by the beauty and artistic design of the 40-pillar building. He remarked several times that the building had no parallel in the world. The Begum who was equally charmed by the masterpieces of Iranian art said, “This construction shows an artistic taste of a rich and high order such as cannot be found even in the palaces of Cairo and in the Taj Mahal.” The Begum took many pictures of this building, and both of them stood there for several minutes admiring its structure. The Prince told the Begum about the Persian King Thmasp and his guest, King Humayun of India. [The restoration of the Mughal Emperor Humayun’s 16th century garden tomb, the jewel of Mughal architecture that predates the Taj Mahal, was completed by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, under the leadership of the present Ismaili Imam Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan – ed.]

Prince Aga Khan was so much charmed and enchanted by the masterly art of Iran that he directed his host to award prizes to those who had worked there. Prince Aga Khan and the Begum put their signatures in the visitors’ book, with the folllowing note in Persian from His Royal Highness:

“The soul of this slave of the House of the Prophet of God was enlivened by the sight of this old monument of the glorious period of the Safwi Kings.”

One of the most pleasant things which happened during the historic visit of Prince Aga Khan and the Begum to Isfahan was the Begum’s participation in the prayers with the congregation on Friday. The Juma mosque of Isfahan is the oldest and most splendid historic mosque of Isfahan. The Begum during her stay in Isfahan for a few days usually went to this mosque to join the congregational prayers. I hear from her companions that she recited the verses of the Holy Qur’an very well and always kept one beautiful rosary with her.

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PRINCE AGA KHAN MEETS WITH ISMAILIS OF IRAN IN MAHALLAT

Victory Gate Mahallat Iran, Aga Khan III visit, Barakh
At the Gate of Victory at Mahallat, officials and other distinguished personages await the arrival of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

At the entrance of the city, by the side of a splendid and dignified Victory Gate, Aga Ataullah Aga Khani, one of the cousins of Prince Aga Khan, and men of letters were waiting for the arrival of His Royal Highness to Mahallat. Aga Ataullah presented to the distinguished visitor as a token of welcome one beautiful golden key kept in a silver box. Prince Aga Khan took the key with great pleasure and handed it to the Begum. The sentiments of the people of Mahallat as expressed in their sincere welcome brought tears to the eyes of Prince Aga Khan. The whole city was one beautiful mass of decorations. The doors and walls were adorned with tri-colour flags and beautiful carpets. There were many welcome posters everywhere.

Ismaili women and children at Mahallat, Aga Khan III visit 1951, Barakah
A group of Ismaili women and children at Mahallat. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

Aga Ataullah Khan presented an address of welcome which read as follows:

“Welcome! Welcome! The pupil of my eye is your abode.

“May it please Your Highness,

“The people of Mahallat who are so much carried away by their joy at your arrival that they can hardly distinguish between their heads and feet had for long been waiting for your blessed visit very eagerly. They had hoped that your auspicious visit would synchronise with the season of spring when everyone would be in high spirits and would welcome you with heaps of flowers together with their sincere and unalloyed sentiments towards your Highness and would lay those flowers at your holy feet. But now when Providence has destined that the auspicious day of your arrival should fall during the winter season, I take the liberty to submit that by the grace of your holy feet a spiritual spring has permeated the atmosphere of this place and there is a spirit of joy in the hearts of the people.”

Mahallat is pride of the gardens of Paradise
It is verily the gardens of the whole universe.

A pretty city full of mirth and joy,
Such is Mahallat in spring or autumn.

Its soil from abundance of tulip and rose
Has turned crimson-coloured through and through.

The water that flows from its streams
Is like the water of ‘Kausar’, the river of Paradise

It is the mother country of Prince Aga Khan
The well-known celebrity of international fame.

His own person is like a lustrous pearl,
And Mahallat is doubtless its shell and cover.

Ismaili followers Aga Khan III visit Iran, Barakah
Expressions of joy by Ismailis during Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s visit to Mahallat. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.
Ismaili followers Aga Khan III visit Iran, Barakah
A group of Ismailis at Mahallat for mulaqat with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

The devoted followers of His Royal Highness had arrived in Mahallat from various corners of Iran. People of different areas wore their distinctive costumes.

In the compound of the gardens, thousands of males and females, old and young, took their seats in an orderly way and waited for the arrival of Prince Aga Khan. He passed in front of them in a special vehicle, and then took his seat facing towards them. The Begum also took her seat beside him and both of them had a brown canopy stretched over their heads.

Ismailis from Kirmand and Khorasan in Mahallat for the Aga Khan's visit, Barakah.
Ismaili murids of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah from Kirman and Khorasan. The old woman in the centre is more than 100 years old. She is one-eyed and her only desire before death was to have a glimpse (didar) of her spiritual lord. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

His Royal Highness asked the gathering: “Those who have come from Khorasan should raise their hands.” He then asked the people of Kirman to do the same, and so on till he came to know from what different parts of the country they had come.

Prince Aga Khan then made a short speech and said: “I would ask you to pay more attention towards the education and training of your children. You should bring them up in the best possible way.” He directed Aga Majid Khan to distribute one million riyal equally among the Ismaili children.

Begum Aga Khan in Iran, Barakah
Mata Salamat lovingly holds an Ismaili child at Mahallat. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

The followers then got up to present their offerings to him and to avoid overcrowding they arranged themselves in a line and came up one by one to the stage. He blessed them and caressed their children. The Begum also fondled the children with great care.

Aga Khan and Begum in Iran in 1951 Barakah
Mawlana Sultna Mahomed Shah gives his blessings to an Ismaili child, as the Begum lovingly extends her hand to the child. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

An incessant request made to Prince Aga Khan by his followers was that he may name their newly born children. They brought their children to him and asked for names. He mostly gave the names of Mohammad and Ali to the sons; to the daughters he gave the names Zuhra, Fatimah, Sakina and Zainab. A pregnant woman asked for a name for her prospective issue and Prince Aga Khan replied, “Call him Mohammad if it is a son and Fatimah if a daughter.”

A number of brides and bridegrooms who had recently been married at Mahallat also presented themselves before His Royal Highness for his blessings. Carried away by their sentiments of love for their spiritual leader, they shed tears of delight.

Aga Khan III in Iran 1951 Barakah
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah is surrounded by a group of Ismailis. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

Among those who had come to see His Royal Highness, there was a group of person wearing medals on their chests. They were people who had been to India or Africa and had been blessed by their Imam there. The medals they wore had the image of Prince Aga Khan on them, and great was the joy and pride they displayed as being in possession of those coveted medals of distinction.

The walls and doors of the historic fort of the city known as ‘The Aga Khan Fort’ were adorned and decorated in elegant manner by the followers of Prince Aga Khan. When he passed by the fort, the devotees wanted to sacrifice a big camel adorned with carpets and mirrors, but Prince Aga Khan prohibited it.

Ismailis celebrating the Aga Khan's visit to Mahallat 1951 Barakah
Expressions of joy by Ismaili murids (followers) of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah during his visit to Mahallat. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

In front of the fort, some Ismaili girls stood ready with their musical instruments for a dance. They clapped their hands and beat their feet rythmically on the ground. The Begum was hugely delighted and asked the cameraman, Aga Gul Surkhi, to take photographs of all these beautiful and exciting scenes.

He then passed through the city in the midst of loud cheers of joy from the residents of Mahallat. His Royal Highness was much gratified with the reception accorded to him and asked the people of Mahallat to send him their proposals for the improvement of the city.

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PRINCE AGA KHAN MEETS WITH EDITORS AND JOURNALISTS

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah giving an interview to an American correspondent, with Begum Aga Khan looking on. Photo: H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran 1951, published by the Ismailia Association for Pakistan.

PRINCE AGA KHAN ON HIS REASON TO VISIT IRAN
(in interview with Mohseen Saee, Ed. Daily Naseem Shimal)

In elegant Persian, His Royal Highness the Aga Khan said:

“A certain Irani whose forefathers belonged to Iran comes to his native land. There can be no reason for his visit except his attachment and love for the soil where his forefathers were born and brought up. I had been waiting for years to find a suitable time to visit Iran and the wedding ceremony provided the best possible opportunity to brighten my eyes with the sight of my motherland.”

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PRINCE AGA KHAN ON PAST STRUGGLES FOR FREEDOM AND WAY FORWARD WITH NEW MOTTO ‘SECURITY AND PROSPERITY’
(Tehran press conference, February 15, 1951, in presence of 50 editors and press correspondents)

One fascinating discussion was on the past struggles for freedom. His Royal Highness observed:

“Fifty years ago, when we were young and we struggled for freedom and staged our demonstrations, our motto was: ‘Do or Die’, ‘Death or Independence’; but now our motto should be: ‘Security and Prosperity’. We should do such things as may save people from dying untimely and prematurely of numerous ailments, and we should adopt such means as should help ameliorate the condition of the people and improve the lot of the young. None should die, except when it is inevitable and willed by God. When we have got relief from epidemics, we should try to enhance the prosperity of the State.”

Aqai Moqqar, a member of the Legislative Assembly of Iran, reflecting on Prince Aga Khan’s visit to Iran in the National Legislative Assembly stated as follows on February 18, 1951:

“His Highness has brought for us a very nice present. This gift is in the shape of the slogan ‘Security and Prosperity’ as against the former slogan of ‘Death or Independence’, which was the motto of the freedom-lovers of the period of tyranny. His advice to us is to make every effort in our power for the advancement and prosperity of our country.”

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PRINCE AGA KHAN ON THE STATE OF THE WORLD
(in interview with a correspondent of the daily Ittilaat)

“The world today is passing through a dangerous phase indeed, and there can be no doubt about it. But there is a source of satisfaction and hopelessness in the thought that the Governments of the world know fully well that another world war will cause such destruction and havoc as is beyond our mental calculation. I therefore think that another world conflagration will not come. There is no fear of a war taking place out of an accident this time; but if war does come accidentally, the reason will be that ‘practical peace’ has become rare and difficult under the circumstances. The number and quality of destructive weapons, the armed forces and unnecessary ammunitions of war have been increased to such an extent that one day either this side or that side will go to war because they will think that war is better than ‘forced peace’. If, God forbid, a day is reached when mental conflict increases and becomes intolerable, that day world war will become inevitable and will overtake the world.”

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PRINCE AGA KHAN ON THE MOST EXCITING EVENTS IN LIFE
(in interview with a correspondent of the daily Ittilaat)

“The incidents which have occurred during the 70 years of my life are numerous, but the events which came into existence during the last three years are very important in my opinion. These events are the migration of the English people from the seat of their old empire and the creation of two powerful states – India and Pakistan. These events are to be regarded as occurrences of a revolutionary nature. They have changed not only the face of Asia but also of the whole world. I may also say that the emergence of the New China, the powerful China of today, is also a major phenomenon in the history of the world.

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PRINCE AGA KHAN ON ISLAM
(at Press Conference in Isfahan)

“I wish you to convey my message to the learned men of the Shia sect and ask them to march ahead with the times. I wish to impress this point on them that the present practical world is different from the old world of a hundred years ago. Today, there is a danger facing Islam and the only way to meet this danger and overcome it is to remove disruption in our midst and to pay special attention to the acquisition of a knowledge of modern sciences.

“If we want to free ourselves, we must establish in our state such big educational institutions as have a blend of the old teachings and modern sciences. And we should give the best possible education to our students and religious leaders so that they may be able to steer clear of the shoals of narrow-mindedness, bigotry and irrational conservatism and may be able to face the hard realities of the practical world in a successful way.”

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PRINCE AGA KHAN DEPARTS FOR SYRIA

His Royal Highness left for Damascus in an Air France plane. He was scheduled to stay there for ten days to meet his followers and then proceed to Cairo to attend the marriage of King Farouk of Egypt. At the airport of Damascus, Prince Aga Khan was received by a large number of his followers. On his arrival at Damascus, His Royal Highness expressed himself as follows about the people of Iran:

“My Irani brethern showed such intense affection and regard for us as is beyond my power to explain.”

From Damascus, he sent a telegram to the Shah of Iran expressing his appreciation and gratefulness for the cordial reception accorded to him by His Majesty and other members of the royal family.

Date posted: December 28, 2019.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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

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