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Speaking to Post-Secular Society: The Aga Khan’s Public Discourse

By KARIM H. KARIM

[This is an amended version of a book chapter that was published in The Relevance of Islamic Identity in Canada edited by Nurjehan Aziz (Mawenzi House, 2015)].

Is there a place for religious discourse in secular society? Even though church and state are viewed as being separate in the public sphere, the statements of certain religious figures about the contemporary world are reported widely by journalists. The global media frequently cover the discourses of the Pope and occasionally those of the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop of Canterbury. In recent years, the Canadian media have  given His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Ismaili Imam of the Ismaili Muslims an increased amount of coverage. This paper examines how this Muslim leader engages discursively with the public sphere.

The Aga Khan frequently delivers speeches in “post-secular” [1] contexts on topics that include architecture, civil society, democracy, development, good governance, meritocracy, pluralism, public ethics, and Western-Muslim relations. In addressing non-Muslim audiences in North America and Europe, he speaks from a Muslim perspective but prominently expresses humanistic values that appeal to a broad audience. An excellent example of this approach is demonstrated in the following quotation from his 2006 speech at a Columbia University graduation ceremony:

“A passion for justice, the quest for equality, a respect for tolerance, a dedication to human dignity — these are universal human values which are broadly shared across divisions of class, race, language, faith and geography. They constitute what classical philosophers — in the East and West alike — have described as human ‘virtue’ — not merely the absence of negative restraints on individual freedom, but also a set of positive responsibilities, moral disciplines which prevent liberty from turning into license.” [2]

Writing in the introduction to a book of the Aga Khan’s public speeches, Adrienne Clarkson, a former Governor General of Canada, observed that the Ismaili Imam promotes the development of “a universal ethical sensibility.” [3]

2014-02-Aga Khan Parliament of Canada 2014 small

His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of Ismaili Muslims, giving his address at the Parliament of Canada, 2014.

The Nizari Ismailis (henceforth referred to as Ismailis) are a branch of Shia Islam. Members of this group have migrated to Canada and other Western industrialized nations from various African countries, South Asia, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Tajikistan and some other locations. [4] The Aga Khan is accepted by his adherents as a descendant of Prophet Muhammad and the 49th Ismaili Imam in a lineage beginning with the Prophet’s son-in-law Ali ibn Abi Talib. Canada and the USA are important destinations in his travels. Some 100,000 Nizari Ismailis are estimated to reside in Canada and the USA, respectively. The Aga Khan’s first official visit to his Canadian followers was in 1978 when he advised them to make Canada their home. Ismailis  have engaged with Western secular society while seeking to maintain their traditional values. A number of them have achieved a relatively high level of success in areas such as academia, business, journalism, literature, politics, the professions and public service. Ismaili communal institutions also have a significant degree of interaction with secular society.

The Ismaili leader has also established non-communal organizations such as the Aga Khan Foundation and Focus Humanitarian Assistance in several Western countries. The Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto also engage with various publics. The Aga Khan’s positioning of such institutions vis-à-vis secular society has been very deliberate as indicated in this quotation from a speech at foundation ceremony of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building:

“The Delegation in the city of Ottawa will serve a representational role for the Imamat and the non-denominational philanthropic and development agencies that constitute the Aga Khan Development Network. An open, secular facility, the Delegation will be a sanctuary for peaceful, quiet diplomacy, informed by the Imamat’s outlook of global convergence and the development of civil society.” [5]

In announcing the function of a structure named after the “Ismaili Imamat” as secular the Aga Khan indicated his active engagement with aspects of public life that are not usually considered to be preoccupations of religious leaders.

SECULAR AND POST-SECULAR SOCIETY

Before proceeding to discuss the Aga Khan’s discursive engagement with post-secular society, it is useful to consider ideas about secularity. Political thought in the last few centuries in Western has favoured the separation of church and state. Such leanings towards the secular generally translate into neutrality towards religious belief. However, Richard Neuhaus, a prominent Canadian born Christian cleric and writer, complains that secularism has produced a “naked public square” in contemporary Western society because religion and religious values have been systematically excluded from consideration in public life. [6] It is important to point to a distinction between the terms “secular” and “secularism.” In some views, secular positions do not necessarily mean the elimination of religion from public life; on the other hand, secularism can stand for strong opposition towards religion. Aziz Esmail, a scholar at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, notes that “Secularism in the strong sense of the term has the characteristics of an ideology, treating religion as a rival to itself, and attempting to offer a total explanation of its own…” [7]

Religion is a basic (although not the only) source of most societies’ concepts of public ethics, morality and values. Fundamental notions underlying theories of good governance, justice and human rights are drawn from ideas developed in religious philosophy. Even though efforts are made to de-sacralise the secular state’s structures, a country’s culture cannot be completely separated from its spiritual heritage. Key elements in national constitutions and bodies of legislation come from ideas that originate in the religion of the majority. Official and unofficial symbols, public ceremonies, common linguistic phrases etc. are often based on religious culture. Even though the spiritual significance of Christmas and Easter may not be acknowledged in official government discourses, these events are commemorated as holidays in the national calendars of Western countries, where Sunday is also the weekly day of rest. This includes France, despite its rigorous application of the policy of laïcité. Although India is officially secular, its national days include several Hindu and Muslim festivals and Indian states with significant populations of Sikhs and Christians publicly mark their sacred commemorations.

Canadian governments at various levels have historically engaged with aspects of religion. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees “freedom of conscience and religion” as a fundamental right. [8] While the federal Charter gives all Canadians the right to hold their own respective beliefs, Christianity, the faith of the majority population, has historically been given a dominant status. The lyrics in French and bilingual versions of the national anthem, “O Canada,” proclaim “Il sait porter la croix” (“it is ready to carry the cross”) in a clear acknowledgement of the country’s Christian heritage. At the formation of the Canadian nation, the Constitution Act of 1867 provided for separate, religious-based schools. Roman Catholicism, the faith of most francophones, was given recognition within the Canadian state in addition to that accorded to the Church of England. By 1967, three other Christian denominations and the Jewish faith had been included in the federal government’s Order of Precedence, which determines the seating of individual persons — in this case, religious representatives — at official state ceremonies. In the early 1990s, the religious category in the Order was made inclusive of all religious groups, in acknowledgement of the broadening religious diversity of the population.

However, such entente between religion and state in Canada does not mean that they have not been in periodic conflict with each other. Given that aspects of the national culture are based on the norms of mainstream Christian denominations, the latter’s confrontations with the state appear to occur when these norms undergo change — as happened with the legalization of Sunday shopping, abortion and same sex marriage. Recent years have seen an increased discourse about religious identity in the public sphere, mostly due to the growing pluralism of Canadian society. Requests for accommodation have come from a variety of religious groups including Sikhs, Muslims, Jews, Mormons and Mennonites. [9] This has provided for policy challenges at provincial and federal levels in the secular Canadian state.

Quebec’s debates on the prohibition of overt religious expression in public spaces were focused in 2014 around a proposed charter that would have strengthened secularism in that province. This tendency appears to draw from the conviction that holds secularism to be integral to modernity. In the middle of the twentieth century, there was a strong belief among social scientists that religion would cease to exist in public life. According to Daniel Lerner’s The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (1958), an influential work of its time, tradition in the form of Muslim cultures and religion had to be surpassed. Modernization involved “…. the infusion of a rationalist and positivist spirit against which, scholars seem agreed, Islam is absolutely defenceless” (Lerner, 1958: 45). [10] The prominent political scientist Donald Eugene Smith speculated that secularism in its “humanistic-pragmatic” form would sweep through Muslim-majority countries. [11] Similar views were also embraced by leading Arab social scientists such as Hisham Sharabi, who wrote in 1966 that “in the contemporary Arab world Islam has simply been bypassed.” [12] Needless to say, such thinking has had to be significantly reassessed in the light of the last few decades’ developments.

The globally-renowned German philosopher Jürgen Habermas points to the increasing influence of churches and other religious organizations in shaping Western public opinion and public policy. [13] He also notes the impact on Europe of the contemporary intensification of religious discourse in majority-Muslim countries and the growing presence of non-Christian religious communities resulting from large-scale immigration. These developments, according to Habermas, have led to the emergence of “post-secular society” in which the Western Self has become a complex amalgam of secular and religious, indigenous and immigrant. No longer can the supporters of secularism take for granted that religious considerations will have no bearing on public life. Even though religious faith does not have the role that it did in Western societies some three hundred years ago, what has been called the “return of religion” has changed the socio-political dynamics of the contemporary public sphere. The idea of post-secular society is a new and evolving concept which is being shaped by influential academic, political, and religious actors.

The Aga Khan appears to be one of the individuals whose work and discourse are giving particular nuances to this concept.

A MUSLIM LEADER’S PUBLIC DISCOURSE

Public discourse in most Western states tends dominantly to be secular. There is a general sense of a universal framework of speech that is non-religious and in which all members of society can potentially participate. Nevertheless, it takes for granted the religious heritage of Christianity and, by extension, the Jewish faith. The narratives of the Old and New Testaments underlie Western consciousness, as Canadian literary theorist Northrup Frye has demonstrated. [14] This does not necessarily imply a religious adherence, but usually a cultural one. Even those members of society who do not have a Christian or Jewish background are implicitly expected to understand some cultural allusions which originate in the Bible but have become interwoven into everyday language.

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Tutzing Evangelical Academy, Germany, 2006

It seems to be such a discourse in which the Aga Khan appeared to participate in referring to the “the Good Samaritan” in a speech in Germany in 2006. The term is part of common parlance in many Western societies. However, the Aga Khan’s use of this term drew on both the public knowledge about this figure as well as its origins in the New Testament. The nature of the event — the ceremony of the awarding of the Tolerance Prize to the Aga Khan at the Tutzing Evangelical Academy — seemed to call for such a two-fold discursive approach. In the course of his acceptance speech, he spoke about Islamic ideals regarding the unity of the human race and their resonance in Biblical teachings.

“Despite the long history of religious conflict, there is a long counter-history of religious focus on tolerance as a central virtue — on welcoming the stranger and loving one’s neighbour, “Who is my neighbour?” one of the central Christian narratives asks. Jesus responds by telling the story of the Good Samaritan — a foreigner, a representative of the Other, who reaches out sympathetically, across ethnic and cultural divides, to show mercy to the fallen stranger at the side of the road.” [15]

This discourse operated at two levels: in an interfaith context and a secular one that drew on the broader cultural familiarity with the figure of the Good Samaritan. Beyond the actual context of the religious education institution in which the address was delivered, its publication in a book of the Aga Khan’s speeches made it available to a wider readership. Its contents are understandable in Christian, secular, and post-secular settings.

In order to explain the dual nature of his office, the Ismaili Imam often refers to the dyadic Islamic concepts of din and dunya, which are variously translated as faith and world, religion and society, or spirit and matter.

“One of the central elements of the Islamic faith is the inseparable nature of faith and world. The two are so deeply intertwined that one cannot imagine their separation. They constitute a “way of life.” The role and responsibility of an Imam, therefore, is both to interpret the faith to the community and also to do all within his means to improve the quality and security of people’s daily lives.” [16]

Speaking from a position legitimized by Islamic tradition, the Ismaili Imam is able to deal with secular matters in a manner that would seem anomalous from the perspectives in which faith leaders do not involve themselves extensively in worldly affairs. Such a platform provides for a breadth, dynamism and flexibility through which matters such as culture, economics, institutional development and organizational management can be addressed at considerable depth by the Imam. The Aga Khan Development Network [17] includes organizations that work in areas such as aviation, banking, education, health, heritage conservation, infrastructure construction, industry, insurance, media, and rural development. This broad range of endeavours is explained by “the inseparable nature of faith and world.”

In speaking to various publics, the Aga Khan situates himself as a religious leader as well as the head of a conglomeration of transnational institutions which he has founded and has experience of leading for over 50 years. This provides for authoritativeness on two substantial grounds. For a Muslim leader who is not a head of state these bases afford a standing to speak with credibility to high-level government leaders, to whose gatherings he is frequently invited. He said in an address to the Canadian parliament in 2014:

“I will comment, as a faith leader, on the crisis of governance in so much of the world today, before concluding with some thoughts about the values that can assist countries of crisis to develop into countries of opportunity, and how Canada can help shape that process.” [18]

Viewed from the dominant views about the place of religious leaders in society, it would seem out of place for the head of a relatively small Muslim group to comment on international matters of governance to a G-8 government. Yet, audiences in Western and other countries seem keen to hear the Ismaili Imam’s insights.

A CONVERGENCE OF VALUES

A combination of several factors has enabled the Aga Khan to be in a position to conduct his public discourse. The close relationship with the British government fostered by the present Ismaili Imam’s predecessors provided for favourable conditions under colonial rule to build a transnational institutional network. [19] During his own Imamat, the current Aga Khan has developed an international presence through sustained engagement with a number of states and international organizations; these efforts have been complemented by those of Ismaili communities in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, and North America. A rigorous organization of Ismaili communal and “non-denominational” bodies along contemporary lines has provided for a measure of success that has raised the credibility of the Ismaili Imamat internationally. The growing presence of Muslims in Western countries and the emergence of the conditions of post-secular society have provided for a more welcoming environment for an Islamic leader like the Ismaili Imam. Additionally, the threat of militancy exhibited by certain Muslims has also made the Aga Khan’s discourses on pluralism and partnership more attractive.

A significant discursive approach of the Aga Khan is to draw on commonalities between Muslim and Western societies. He builds his arguments around the perceived universality of concepts such as ethics, democracy, human dignity, and pluralism. At the ceremony to mark the agreement between the Ismaili Imamat with the Canadian government to establish the Global Centre for Pluralism, he spoke of “This successful collaboration….. [which is] deeply rooted in a remarkable convergence of values.” [20] However, unlike the Aga Khan, a previous Parti Quebecois-led government of Quebec saw a strong divergence between the values derived from religious and secular societies when it proposed a charter to strengthen secularism. [21] In this environment, the Ismaili Imam’s discourse appears to provide strong support for the emergence of post-secular society in which values drawn from religious bases, including Islam, find a place in public debates.

2009june_canada_edmonton_aga khan_Univ of Alberta

University of Alberta, 2009.

The Aga Khan appears to have found the language of ethics to be one with which he can communicate his views to non-Muslim audiences. This is a topic that has a strong relationship with a religious outlook and is at the same time is firmly embedded in secular philosophy. In addressing students at a University of Alberta graduation ceremony, he gave illustrative examples from various walks of life to which a diverse audience could relate:

“When we talk about the ethical realm, when we attack corruption, we are inclined to think primarily about government and politics. I am one, however, who believes that corruption is just as acute, and perhaps even more damaging, when the ethics of the civil and private sectors deteriorate. We know from recent headlines about scoundrels from the American financial scene to the halls of European parliaments – and we can certainly do without either. But the problem extends into every area of human enterprise. When a construction company cheats on the quality of materials for a school or a bridge, when a teacher skimps on class work in order to sell his time privately, when a doctor recommends a drug because of incentives from a pharmaceutical company, when a bank loan is skewed by kickbacks, or a student paper is plagiarized from the internet – when the norms of fairness and decency are violated in any way, then the foundations of society are undermined. And the damage is felt most immediately in the most vulnerable societies, where fraud is often neither reported nor corrected, but simply accepted as an inevitable condition of life.” [22]

In speaking about these real-life situations he invokes the universal concern for the importance of ethics in society. The Islamic leader presents this discourse that is based on religious sensibilities but he does it without mentioning religion or quoting scripture.

Indeed, he has suggested that certain types of behaviour based on religious precepts can sometimes become an obstacle to the broader interests of humanity.

“There are several forms of proselytism and, in several religions, proselytism is demanded. Therefore, it is necessary to develop the principle of a cosmopolitan ethic, which is not an ethic oriented by faith, or for a society. I speak of an ethic under which all people can live within a same society, and not of a society that reflects the ethic of solely one faith. I would call that ethic, quality of life.

“I have serious doubts about the ecumenical discourse, and about what it can reach, but I do not have any doubts about cosmopolitan ethics. I believe that people share the same basic worries, joys, and sadness. If we can reach a consensus in terms of cosmopolitan ethics, we will have attained something, which is very important.” [23]

This is an intriguing statement by a religious leader: it seems to be promoting the idea in this context that people rise above particular religious interest to a universal cosmopolitanism that is of benefit to everyone.

CONCLUSION

Despite the Ismaili Imam’s vigorous engagement with secular ideas, his frequent references to the value of faith make it clear that he is not diminishing the place of religion in the public sphere. The Aga Khan asserts that even though he holds ideas such as democracy to be vital for contemporary society, that “as a Muslim, I am a democrat not because of Greek or French thought but primarily because of principles that go back 1,400 years, directly to the death of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).” [24] He ensures that his audiences know that he is “a faith leader.” [25] The Ismaili Imam frequently begins his speeches by reciting “Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim” (“In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful”), which is the first phrase of most Qur’anic chapters.

The Aga Khan’s two-fold discursive approach simultaneously addresses the spiritual and the worldly. He does not make direct religious references in many of his speeches, but ideas of the sacred underlie his discourses. The Islamic leader presents the concepts of ethics, democracy, development, meritocracy, pluralism and quality of life as some of the “bridges that unite” [26] ways of understanding that are religious and secular. He has been able to speak effectively to a post-secular society that is dealing with rapidly-changing local and global conditions. The apparent success of the Aga Khan’s model of inter-civilizational communication is especially significant given the often troubled relationship between Western and Muslim societies.

Date posted: May 21, 2018.

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[1] Jürgen Habermas, “Notes on a post-secular society,” signandsight.com. 2008. Retrieved November 11, 2013, from http://www.signandsight.com/features/1714.html.
[2] Aga Khan, Where Hope Takes Root (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2008), p. 120-21. [3] Adrienne Clarkson, “Introduction” in Aga Khan, Where Hope Takes Root (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2008), p. 6.
[4] Karim H. Karim, “At the Interstices of Tradition, Modernity and Postmodernity: Ismaili Engagements with Contemporary Canadian Society,” in Farhad Daftary (ed.), A Modern History of the Ismailis. (London: IB Tauris, 2011), pp. 265-94.
[5] Where Hope Takes Root, p. 96.
[6] Neuhaus, Richard. The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, 1988).
[7] Hayat Salam (ed.). Expressions of Islam in Buildings (Geneva: Aga Khan Trust for Culture, 1991), p.24.
[8] Government of Canada, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Ottawa: Government of Canada, 1982).
[9] Karim H. Karim and Faiza Hirji, “Religion and State in a Pluralist Nation: Policy Challenges in Contemporary Canadian Society,” Diversity 6:1 (Winter 2008), 109-112; Gérard Bouchard and Charles Taylor. Building the Future: A Time for Reconciliation (Quebec City, PQ: Government of Quebec, 2008).
[10] Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society: Modernizing the Middle East (Glencoe, Illinois: Free Press, 1958), p. 45.
[11] Donald Eugene Smith, Religion and Political Development (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1970), p. 14.
[12] Hisham Sharabi, “Islam and Modernization in the Arab World” in J.H. Thompson and R.D. Reischauer (eds.), Modernization of the Arab World (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand, 1966), p. 26.
[13] Habermas.
[14] Northrop Frye, The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (University of Toronto Press, 2006).
[15] Where Hope Takes Root, p. 127.
[16] Ibid, pp. 125-26.
[17] Daryoush Mohammad Poor, Authority without Territory: The Aga Khan Development Network and the Ismaili Imamate (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); Jonah Steinberg, Ismaili Modern: Globalization and Identity in a Muslim Community (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2010); and Karim H. Karim, “The Aga Khan Development Network: Shia Ismaili Islam,” in Stephen M. Cherry and Helen Rose Ebaugh (eds.), Global Religious Movements Across Borders (London: Ashgate Publishers, 2014), pp. 143-60.
[18] Aga Khan, “Address of His Highness the Aga Khan to both Houses of the Parliament of Canada in the House of Commons Chamber,” Ottawa, February 27, 2014. Aga Khan Development Network website. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from http://www.akdn.org/Content/1253/Address-of-His-Highness-the-Aga-Khan-to-both-Houses-of-the-Parliament-of-Canada-in-the-House-of-Commons-Chamber-Ottawa
[19] Marc Van Grondelle, The Ismailis in the Colonial Era: Modernity, Empire and Islam (London: Hurst Publishers, 2009).
[20] Where Hope Takes Root, p. 95.
[21] Government of Quebec, Bill n°60 : Charter affirming the values of State secularism and religious neutrality and of equality between women and men, and providing a framework for accommodation requests (Quebec City, PQ: 2014).
[22] Aga Khan, “Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Graduation Ceremony of the University of Alberta,” Edmonton, Alberta. June 9, 2009. Aga Khan Development Network website. Retrieved September 19, 2012 from http://www.akdn.org/Content/767.
[23] Aga Khan, “Interview by António Marujo and Faranaz Keshavjee,” Paroquias de Portugal NanoWisdoms: Archiving Knowledge from the Imamat website. Retrieved July 23, 2008 from http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/8861/.
[24] Where Hope Takes Root, p. 61.
[25] “Address of His Highness the Aga Khan to both Houses of the Parliament.”
[26] Where Hope Takes Root, p. 95.

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Karim H. KarimAbout the author: Karim H. Karim is the Director of the Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam and a Professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication. He has also served as Director of the School and of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, England, and has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University. Earlier in his career, he worked as a journalist and as a senior policy analyst in the Canadian Government. Professor Karim has been a distinguished lecturer at venues in North America, Europe, and Asia. He won the inaugural Robinson Prize for his book Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence. His most recent publications are Diaspora and Media in Europe: Migration, Identity, and Integration; Re-Imagining the Other: Culture, Media and Western-Muslim Intersections and Engaging the Other: Public Policy and Western-Muslim Intersections. One of Dr. Karim’s articles is “Clash of Ignorance” and he is currently writing a book on this topic.

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Tributes to His Highness the Aga Khan by the Canadian Members of Parliament and Senate

The Federal Ismaili MP Yasmin Ratansi (Don Valley East, Ontario) has shared with us 16 testimonials to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The tributes to Mawlana Hazar Imam are from both Houses of Parliament (House of Commons and the Senate) in Canada and from all parties. They have also each presented their own impressions on the work of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).  The MPs and senators represent different parts of the country. We thank Yasmin Ratansi and her legislative assistant Ashiff Waljee for sharing these wonderful tributes with readers of Barakah.

Introduction to the collage of tributes by Yasmin Ratansi

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 Tributes to His Highness the Aga Khan by Members of Parliament

MR. MATT JENEROUX, MP, Edmonton Riverbend, Alberta, CONSERVATIVE

I’ve personally seen the positive impact of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Through its extensive education programs, the network is helping thousands of people from underdeveloped countries receive an education, which helps reduce poverty for future generations. The AKDN has had a meaningful impact on the developing world and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see some of its sites as a Parliamentarian. 

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MR. MURRAY RANKIN, MP, Victoria, British Columbia, NDP

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DR. ROBERT KITCHEN, MP, Souris — Moose Mountain, Saskatchewan, CONSERVATIVE

The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) provides tremendous aid and assistance to multiple agencies throughout Pakistan and the world. Their emphasis on healthcare through nursing and medicine will provide a bright future in areas of the world that are severely under serviced. Improved health care leads to furthering education and progress in education will enhance their efforts.

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MS. ALEXANDRA MENDÈS, MP, Brossard — Saint-Lambert, Quebec, LIBERAL

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In the past two-and-half years, I have had the good fortune to travel quite extensively through Commonwealth countries. These trips have allowed me to witness some of the incredible work the AKDN is doing – often in collaboration with Canadian NGOs, and even more often with Canadian Ismailis o the ground – to help developing nations attain their Social Development Goals. I have been particularly touched by the dedication of AKDN staff in early childhood nurturing, through education, adequate health care, and parental support. The emphasis that girls should have equal access to these services is a significant factor in ensuring that these communities will be empowered for success. I cannot over-stress the essential nature of the AKDN’s philosophy, in that for humankind to succeed, it must first learn to help itself! To His Highness, and all those He inspires to dedicate so much of their lives to helping the less fortunate, Thank You!

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 MR. ERIN O’TOOLE, MP,  Durham, Ontario, CONSERVATIVE

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Mr. Speaker, last night I joined three Governors General, three Prime Ministers from both sides of this chamber, parliamentarians, and prominent Canadians from the Ismaili community to celebrate the diamond jubilee for a special honorary Canadian, the Aga Khan.

For 60 years, this spiritual leader of the Ismaili community around the world has stood for tolerance and support for the most vulnerable. As Prime Minister Harper once said in this chamber, his leadership inspires us to hope for a better world.

This is also an opportunity to talk about the tremendous contribution of the 300,000 Ismaili Canadians. They came to Canada with very little, but have given our country so much.

Today, I have the honour to thank the Aga Khan for 60 years of service and compassion around the world.

On behalf of the Conservative caucus and all parliamentarians, I want to thank the Aga Khan for 60 years of compassion, global leadership, and friendship with Canada.

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 MS. YASMIN RATANSI, MP, Don Valley East, Ontario, LIBERAL

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I rise today to congratulate His Highness the Aga Khan on his Diamond Jubilee, marking 60 years of tireless leadership of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community globally. On May 1st, I had the pleasure of welcoming him to Ottawa as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee.

His Highness promotes the shared values of pluralism, justice, compassion and of service to others. As PM Chretien stated “We may think it is the Canadian Way but it is in short supply in today’s world.   And therefore it makes the work of the Aga Khan indispensable”. His Highness keeps persevering, undiminished and undeterred. And we need his passion and his message more than ever.

Thank you, your Highness, for walking alongside Canada and helping us meet our SDG goals. Welcome to Canada, it is our great privilege to celebrate your Diamond Jubilee. Jubilee Mubarak.

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MR. TERRY DIGUID, MP, Winnipeg South, Manitoba, LIBERAL

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MR. RAMESH SANGHA, MP, Brampton Centre, Ontario, LIBERAL

My recent visit to Pakistan with the delegation of the Canadian Branch of the CPA was a great experience. I learned much about the invaluable work of the AKDN from the meetings and presentations by the institutional leaders.  The performance of the different AKDN programs in Pakistan is worth praising.

I was impressed by the scope of the AKDN programs in helping children and women with health and other needs, educating girls, reducing poverty and many others. There are some projects that stand out, like the Aga Khan University and Hospital, which are working well towards the betterment of the society at large and are worth appreciating.

I am convinced that joint ventures by the Canadian Government in collaboration with AKDN are a great step for the betterment of mankind and are a win-win situation for all involved. 

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MS. DEBORAH SHULTE, MP, King — Vaughan, Ontario, LIBERAL

After having an opportunity to see the AKDN in action in Tanzania I was most impressed with the services provided. It was clear that they have become a key community resource and are providing excellent services. We toured a hospital providing vital health care to those who otherwise would not have access and we saw how they have developed a network of hotels providing high quality service to visitors while helping with the economic development in the areas where they are located. It is clear that AKDN is doing an excellent job in delivering services to some of the most challenged areas in the World. Canada can work closely with AKDN to encourage more gender equity in their economic development activities and provide more opportunities for women and youth employment.

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MR. KERRY DIOTTE, MP, Edmonton Griesbach, Alberta, CONSERVATIVE

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MR. ARIF VIRANI, MP, Parkdale — High Park, Ontario, LIBERAL

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Mr. Speaker, yesterday members of all parties welcomed His Highness the Aga Khan at Rideau Hall to celebrate his Diamond Jubilee after 60 years as the religious leader of 15 million Ismaili Muslims around the world.

The Aga Khan has had a strong relationship with Canada for six decades, beginning with Canada’s decision to accept Ismaili refugees, like me and my family, who were fleeing persecution from Idi Amin.

Canada subsequently forged a strong working relationship with the Aga Khan Development Network, which provides critical humanitarian assistance in developing countries. Most recently, we bestowed honorary citizenship on the Aga Khan to recognize his commitment to the Canadian values of pluralism and diversity.

As an Ismaili Canadian member of the House of Commons, I am very proud of the Aga Khan’s commitment to community service, as illustrated by Canada 150, when Ismaili Muslims gave this country over one million hours of volunteer service.

I thank His Highness for being an example to us all. On behalf of the Parliament of Canada, we all wish him “Diamond Jubilee Mubarak”.

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Tributes to His Highness the Aga Khan by Members of the Senate

HON. SALMA ATAULLAHJAN, Senator, Ontario, CONSERVATIVE. Appointed to the Senate on the advice of Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative)

Honourable Senators, this week, Canada has the great privilege of welcoming His Highness the Aga Khan to our soil. We congratulate His Highness on the special occasion of his Diamond Jubilee, or 60 years of spiritual leadership of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community in Canada and around the world.

His Highness has been a long-time friend of Canada, and the relationship between the Imamat and Canada has spanned decades and is rooted in strongly shared values. The values of pluralism, of justice, of compassion for those less fortunate and of voluntary service to others are what bind us.

Indeed, His Highness was made an honorary citizen of Canada for his remarkable and lifelong dedication to the well-being of citizens around the world.

Today, we thank His Highness for walking alongside Canada in the search for a more just and compassionate world.

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HON. PETER HARDER (Government Representative in the Senate), Senator, Ontario,  INDEPENDENT. Appointed to the Senate on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Liberal)

Honourable senators, I rise today to congratulate His Highness the Aga Khan on 60 years as the forty-ninth imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community and, as such, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

I had the honour to first meet this extraordinary world leader on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee 35 years ago.

Today, I join with nearly 100,000 Canadians and 15 million Ismailis worldwide to recognize the contribution of the Aga Khan, who demonstrates how spiritual principles of peace and inclusion can manifest themselves in strong democratic institutions and in active policy-making and nation building.

I have learned much from my meetings with the Aga Khan: first, that global turmoil is less a result of a clash of civilizations than it is a clash of ignorance; and second, that no amount of isolationism can deny that globalism has made pluralism the new world order.

Pluralism is, in fact, a way of life in Canada. We have only to look at the recent warm welcome of newcomers from Syria, to the diversity on the streets of our cities and communities, to our commitment to right the wrongs of the past with respect to our colonial history.

We also know in Canada that pluralism is hard work. A society that embraces pluralism is no accident of history. It is a society that evolves through reason; it is a society that values education; it is a society where all sectors — government and civil society — share goals. It is a society that respects human rights.

If that sounds a little like the foundation of democracy to you, you are correct.

Today, pluralism and democracy are intrinsically linked, and those linkages are all the stronger through the work of the Aga Khan Development Network, which has a presence in countries around the world.

Canada, indeed Ottawa, also benefits from the presence of the Aga Khan’s Global Centre for Pluralism, which works around the world with governments, academia and civil society to foster the legislative and policy environments required for civil society effectiveness, democracy and pluralism.

While there are people who see pluralism as the problem, many are we who see it as the only answer to combating ignorance, intolerance and hate.

This is why I wish to congratulate His Highness the Aga Khan on 60 years of inspiration, hope and guidance toward a better and more pluralist world.

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HON. MOBINA S.B. JAFFER, Senator, British Columbia, LIBERAL. Appointed to the Senate on the advice of former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien (Liberal)

Honourable senators, I would first of all like to thank Senator Harder for his statement today and, more important, for his friendship with the Aga Khan and the Ismaili community. We always see you as one of us.

Thank you, Peter.

Honourable Senators, in 1958, as a young child, I saw His Highness the Aga Khan’s coronation in Kampala, Uganda. I was following my dad, Sherali Bandali Jaffer, as he organized the coronation.

Today, 60 years later, I rise to thank His Highness the Aga Khan for the tremendous sacrifices he has personally made to improve the lives of Ismaili Muslims and people all around the world. I humbly thank him for all his hard work.

As you know, senators, I have risen in this chamber on many occasions and have spoken about the positive impact His Highness has had on my life and the positive impact he has had on the lives of men, women and children around the world.

This week is a very special week for Ismaili Muslims in Canada. His Highness is gracing us with his physical presence to commemorate his Diamond Jubilee anniversary.

For more than three quarters of his life, His Highness has worked tirelessly to make this world a better place and improve the quality of life in less-developed regions of the world.

His Highness has also invested a lot in Canada. The Global Centre for Pluralism represents a unique partnership between the Ismaili Imamat and Canada, and was inspired by a shared commitment with Canada’s leadership to create a world where human differences are valued and diverse societies thrive. This commitment was shared by Prime Ministers Chrétien, Martin, Harper and Trudeau, all of whom contributed to the creation of this institution.

Honourable senators, this is a time of great celebration in our community. Later this week, tens of thousands of Ismailis in Calgary and Vancouver will gather to welcome His Highness. We will dance, we will eat biryani and samosas, and we will make memories that we will cherish forever.

While this visit is one that Ismailis across the country are anxiously awaiting, I would be remiss not to mention all of the work that went into making this visit possible.

First, I would like to thank the Government of Canada and Minister Bibeau for welcoming His Highness to Canada. I would also like to thank Presidents Eboo and Talib and their councils, and the Ismaili volunteers, who for weeks have been working day and night ironing out all the details for this visit. They have done an amazing job. This visit would not be possible without the hard work of the volunteers. Whether they are young volunteers, like my grandchildren Ayaan and Almeera, or elders in our community, this visit will bring together people of all ages and remind us of the importance of serving our communities.

Honourable Senators, I would like to conclude by sharing an excerpt of an article my good friend and mentor former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien published yesterday on His Highness’s work. He wrote:

. . . what makes each of us different does not need to be a source of conflict or envy or suspicion, but instead something to treasure and celebrate.

Honourable senators, like me, you may just think of these characteristics as “the Canadian way,” but they’re also in short supply in today’s world. That makes our mission as a country more important, and it makes the work of the Aga Khan indispensable.

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HON. MARILOU MCPHEDRAN, Senator, Manitoba, INDEPENDENT SENATORS GROUP. Appointed to the Senare on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Liberal)

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HON. DIANE GRIFFIN, Senator, INDEPENDENT SENATORS GROUP, Prince Edward Island. Appointed to the Senate on the advice of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Liberal)

My recent trip to Pakistan provided an eye-opener for me about the important work of the Aga Khan Development Network. It was a thrill to learn of its partnership with the Canadian Government and the positive impact on so many countries in areas including education and maternal health. Advances in both of these will tremendously improve the quality of life, help alleviate poverty and foster gender equity. Canada is fortunate to have the opportunity to work with a strong partner like the AKDN toward the goals that both embrace. 

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HON. JEAN-GUY DAGENAIS, Senator, Quebec, CONSERVATIVE. Appointed to the Senate on the advice of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper (Conservative)

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I had the opportunity to visit in 2017, the Aga Khan hospital facilities in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

This hospital was provided with equipment and professional personnel trained by leading medical specialists in palliative care.

The goal was to provide state-of-the-art end-of-life care for patients with cancer, AIDS or heart disease in this part of East Africa.

I have seen how the medical services offered are of a very high quality and are provided with humanism to the local population.

It is not only the sick people who benefit from this installation deployed by Aga Khan, but also the families who must accompany them at the end of their life.

I found this experience very  rewarding to me as the humanitarian side was present.

Date posted: May 14, 2018.
Last updated: May 15, 2018 (typo corrections).

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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.

For links to all the posts please click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and 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 as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.

 

Opinion piece: Seat of the Ismaili Imamat and the Aga Khan network in Portugal

By creating the conditions for the Ismaili Imamat to establish its global Seat in Lisbon, Portugal presents itself as a country with unique characteristics to hold greater prominence in the relations with various peoples and countries of the world

By FELICIANO BERREIRAS DUARTE

(The following piece is adapted from an English translation that was received by Barakah.  Feliciano Barreiras Duarte’s original opinion piece titled Rede Aga Khan em Portugal was published on April 30, 2018 in Portugal’s newspaper Jornal SOL – Sapo). 

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His Highness the Aga Khan and Portugal’s Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Rui Machete on June 3, 2015 sign a landmark agreement establishing a formal Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

Portugal signed an agreement with the Ismaili Imamat on June 3rd, 2015, with the objective of establishing its global Seat in Portugal. At the same time, the official address of its leader, Prince Aga Khan, was intended to move from Paris, where it currently stands, to Lisbon.

This agreement was signed between the parties three years ago based on the law of religious freedom in force (Decree nº 16/2001 of June 22nd), the protocol for cooperation signed in December 2005 as well as the agreement signed on May 8th, 2009.

As a result of all this, Portugal is about to formally and in practice assume the condition of global Seat of the Ismaili Imamat. Ismailis are a Shia branch of Islam with a presence in twenty-five countries on all continents.

Over the last four decades, the Ismaili community has been highly respected and very well integrated in Portugal, with many partnerships in various areas of our collective life, with an emphasis on social work. The Ismailis are, in fact, the largest Muslim community in our country. And Portugal ranks second in the list of [European] countries with most followers. Largely from Mozambique, the Ismailis have excelled in areas such as commerce, catering, hospitality, manufacturing or finance.

His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan is the forty-ninth hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, having succeeded his grandfather, Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, in 1957, when he was only twenty years old.

The relationship between the Aga Khan Network with Portugal is long-lasting and has had very positive results. Its representative in our country is Nazim Ahmad. He is responsible for transforming Portugal into the global hub of the Aga Khan Network.

The Seat will be established in the [Henrique de] Mendonça Palace, in Rua Marquês de Fronteira, in the centre of Lisbon, and will be inaugurated in July [2018].

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Restoration work at Henrique Mendonça Palace.

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Nazim Ahmad, Diplomatic Representative of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal — “By creating the conditions for the Ismaili Imamat to establish its global Seat in Lisbon, Portugal presents itself as a country with unique characteristics to hold greater prominence in the relations with various peoples and countries of the world.”

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Restoration work at Henrique Mendonça Palace.

In the past few months Nazim Ahmed and his team of workers have put an enormous effort so that the restoration works on this early twentieth century property, which has been awarded several prizes, are completed. I am convinced that Lisbon and Portugal will be surprised by the quality of the restoration carried out.

With special care towards the preservation of what has existed for more than a century, with the firm intention to restore what was worn out and to modernise what needed to be modernised, as well as the regeneration of an outdoor area with gardens and grove, the Henrique de Mendonça Palace will certainly become one of the most remarkable areas of nature preservation in the capital. The restoration will all be done with great taste, balance, openness and, above all, simplicity and originality. The work that is being done at the Mendonça Palace deserves all the prominence, respect and praise in our country.

I believe that, in addition to the work undertaken by the Aga Khan Network in Portugal in the last few decades, and the political impact of the move of its global Seat to Lisbon, our capital will have a lot to gain from this new cultural and environmental space, built with private funds, which had not been the case for a long time.

Date posted: May 14, 2018.

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IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT

Barakah, with its sister website simerg, has launched a special blog All Things Lisboa that will be a point of reference for Ismailis travelling to Lisbon to celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee. All Things Lisboa will help you enjoy the best of Portuguese culture and will seek to provide ideas to enhance your experience of the historic city. All Things Lisboa provides a listing of Ismailis offering professional travelling services as well as a list of other reliable options for reserving accommodation etc.

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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.

For links to all the posts please click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and 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 as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.

 

Perspectives and opinion pieces on the Aga Khan by distinguished Canadians

Introduced and compiled by ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, concluded his Diamond Jubilee visit to Canada when he departed Calgary on Saturday May 12, 2018. Barakah sought to provide coverage of his 12-day Diamond Jubilee visit through a special post, The Aga Khan in Ottawa and Western Canada. With a lot to follow and read from numerous sources, many readers may have overlooked some significant opinion pieces on the Aga Khan by several prominent Canadians that appeared in the media across the country. For the benefit of everyone, we are providing in this post very brief excerpts from every opinion piece that we came across or were made aware of, with links to full articles that offer perspectives on the breath and scope of the Ismaili Imam’s  phenomenal work around the world in all aspects of human endeavour.

“What was true 17 years ago in the dark days following 9/11 is as true today in a world that in many ways seems often angrier and more frightened – especially here in the West. Now entering his seventh decade as leader of his faith, he keeps persevering, undiminished and undeterred. And we need his passion and his message more than ever. Perhaps it’s not too surprising that I should be drawn to the Aga Khan and his example. In many ways, his credo of bridge-building, respect for human dignity, his devotion to moderation and decency, his celebration of diversity and pluralism, are what our own country, Canada, is all about.” — Jean Chrétien, former Prime Minister of Canada, READ MORE

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“For 60 years, His Highness has been the spiritual leader of 15 million Ismailis throughout the world. His teachings emphasize human reasoning, the acceptance of racial, ethnic, cultural and intra-religious differences, and social justice. The Ismailis are the only Shia Muslim community led by a living hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet. The Aga Khan is, in effect, a head of state without a geographic territory. In the past, Ismailis had a 200-year empire in Egypt but, since the 11th century, have existed as a diaspora.” — Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada, READ MORE

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“I had the good fortune of getting to know the Aga Khan when I first met him as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. I soon came to admire his inspired and visionary thinking, which he advances as a part of a comprehensive and yet practical approach to addressing some of the world’s most complex and challenging problems. His constant emphasis on a compassionate, peaceful, and pluralistic conception of Islam in a world too often dominated by sectarian strife, is truly remarkable. I have come to consider him, not only the leader of the Shia Ismaili community, but also a rare figure in our world today.” — Bill Graham, Canada’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, READ MORE

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“In my faith tradition, a common prayer roughly translates as “may God accept your service, and may the community be blessed by it.” Indeed, this country, and many around the world, have reaped the blessings of the service of Ismailis and ultimately that of the Aga Khan. For that, all of humanity can be deeply grateful.” — Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary, READ MORE

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“He is the spiritual leader of 15 million Ismaili Muslims, a significant number of whom call Canada home. He is a diplomat, social innovator, global humanitarian and someone with an unshakable belief in the values of pluralism, diversity and equality. In his work and words, he articulates a timeless language of values and ethics grounded in the rich history and heritage of the Muslim world. A belief in pluralism, a commitment to education for all, and a respect for the inherent dignity of humanity are values that also resonate strongly in Canadian society.” — Anne McLellan, former deputy Prime Minister of Canada, READ MORE

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When the Aga Khan’s (and Canada’s) efforts secured the safety of many, including Ugandan Ismailis, he called on Canada’s new Ismaili community to put down roots and to advance the quality of life of their fellow citizens, regardless of faith or background. The seeds planted by the Aga Khan took root, and the Ismaili community has excelled. The ethic of volunteerism that the community is known for, and the commitment to improving the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable, have made a big difference here in Calgary and the rest of Alberta. — Jim Dinning, a former Alberta finance minister and chancellor emeritus of the University of Calgary, READ MORE

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“….God works in mysterious ways and the Aga Khan’s own unconventional ways—the overlapping of temporal and spiritual realms, philanthropy that dovetails with business interests, and stressing local community while acting globally—have clearly uplifted his followers and informed the ethos of Ismaili life. This Ismail version of the “art of living” has not only yielded great material riches for this community, but has made it the paragon of pluralism.” — Jagdeesh Mann, media professional and journalist based in Vancouver, READ MORE

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“In Arusha, Tanzania, I had the opportunity to tour the future site of Aga Khan University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences in East Africa. To invest in such a campus speaks to both the importance of a liberal arts education that is firmly grounded in the African context but also to the importance of critical and interdisciplinary thinking, as well as pluralistic thought in the world today.” — Brian Heidecker, Chair of the Board of the Edmonton Public Library and Sawridge Trusts, READ MORE

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“The Aga Khan is perhaps the leading community builder of our time, taking deliberate and repeated measures to cultivate a sense of community from the smallest villages on the other side of the planet to, literally, the entire world. At the basis for all this work is a deep-rooted commitment to improving people’s quality of life — from safe drinking water to telecommunications, from high quality education and health care to park preservation. He looks at communities holistically, recognizing that how we find contentment as individuals and societies is the sum of many, many parts.” — Dave Mowat, President & CEO of ATB Financial, READ MORE

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The celebrations of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee is particularly reminiscent for me. Todays Diamond Jubilee mirrors the memories I have of his first coronation in Kampala, Uganda in 1958. As a young child, I closely trailed my father, who organized his coronation and had the incredible opportunity of witnessing High Highness’s first steps as the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. — Mobina Jaffer, Canadian Senator, READ MORE

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“In volatile times, when, sadly, people tend to talk about what divides us rather than what unites us, it’s important to look to communities such as Canada’s Ismaili Muslims — those who don’t see the world through the lens of lines and divisions. The Ismaili community values social foundations that are valued by us all such as health care, education and family. Shia Ismaili Muslims are a people of faith. Just as importantly, they’re a people who strive to create strong, vibrant and resilient communities.” — Barbara Grantham, president and CEO of the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. READ MORE

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“I am inspired by this work, and by that foundational belief that everyone — no matter where you are or what you have — deserves the best opportunities, tools and resources. As a basic principle of international development it is not only rare, but also ambitious and deeply human. It speaks both to equality and to dignity, and to an approach that is making our world a better place to live.” — Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancity credit union, READ MORE

Date posted: May 13, 2018.

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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.

For links to all the posts please click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and 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 as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.

 

“And Diverse are their Hues” — A description of the Fatimid gift presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam during his USA Visit

Article adapted from The Ismaili, USA

(Details of the collection based on information provided by Alnoor J. A. Merchant)

A rare collection of Fatimid era (909-1171) colorful glass weights was presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the final Mulaqat of his USA visit, in Houston on March 22, 2018. Zahir Ladhani, Vice President of the Council for USA, made the presentation of this gift on behalf of the US Jamat to commemorate the Imam’s Diamond Jubilee visit to the country.

Fatimid Glass Weights Presented to the Aga Khan for his Diamond Jubilee

An image of 49 of the 147 Fatimid glass weights that were presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, during his Diamond Jubilee visit to the USA in March.

The 147 glass weights in this collection consist of colorful opaque and translucent circular pieces of glass. They are among the several thousand examples which have survived from that period and are in various private and museum collections. Scholars seem to differ as to whether the glass weights may have been used as coin-weights or as currency — or both. They weigh from less than 0.02 of an ounce to over 0.33 ounces, in sizes ranging from those of a US nickel to a quarter.

“Have you not seen how Allah sends down out of heaven water, and therewith we bring forth fruits of diverse hues? And in the mountains are streaks white and red, of diverse hues, and intense black; and among people too, and beasts and grazing livestock — diverse are their hues.” — Holy Qur’an, Chapter 35, Verses 27-28.

A catalogue to accompany the collection was compiled by Alnoor Merchant,  an independent consultant and advisor on Islamic art and rare books, who has contributed to the development of various institutional and private collections over the past three decades. Titled, “Diverse are their hues,” from a verse in the Holy Qur’an describing the diversity of Allah’s creation, the catalogue lists each one of the weights and their inscriptions, which reflect the political and religious authority of the Fatimid Imam-Caliphs. 

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Inscription: al-Imam al-Mu‘izz li-din Allah.

The earliest weights in this collection date back to the period of Imam al-Muizz, (932-975 CE), the 14th Ismaili Imam and the fourth Imam-Caliph, who founded the city of al-Qahira al-Mu‘izziyya (the Victorious One of al-Mu‘izz), in 969, now Cairo. The city became a major seat of learning with the founding of Al Azhar, illustrating the significance placed by the Imams on scholarship, and who encouraged scholars of all faith persuasions to study and share their knowledge. 

“A thousand years ago, my forefathers, the Fatimid imam-caliphs of Egypt, founded al-Azhar University and the Academy of Knowledge in Cairo. In the Islamic tradition, they viewed the discovery of knowledge as a way to understand, so as to serve better God’s creation, to apply knowledge and reason to build society and shape human aspirations” — His Highness the Aga Khan, June 25, 2004, Mozambique.

While the Fatimid dynasty was Shi’i, the majority of its subjects were Sunni, with a large population of Coptic Christians residing in Egypt, as well as Jews. The Fatimid Imams were able to maintain social harmony, and also appointed talented members of other faiths to senior administrative positions within the state bureaucracy.
 
The Fatimids exercised control over an empire stretching from North Africa to Sicily, Syria, Palestine, the Hijaz, including Mecca and Medina, and Yemen. Professor Heinz Halm, in his The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning, writes that “Cairo became one of the centers of Islamic culture and art, and a focus of scholarship and science,” where freedom of religion was tolerated and freedom of thought encouraged. 

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The outer marginal inscription reads al-Imam al-‘Aziz bi’llah amir al-mu’minin, and the inner circle contains the word ‘adl (justice).

Most of the early weights in the collection up to the end of the 10th century appear in dark shades of green, but in the next century, they assumed other colors, such as lime, olive and yellow, and occasionally were almost clear. Three of the nine weights from Imam al-Muizz’s successor, Imam al-‘Aziz, contain the word ‘adl, or justice, making their first appearance on such glass weights, and echoing one of the key characteristics attributed to Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib. 

The catalogue references Imam al-‘Aziz’s Imamat as one that “epitomizes the cultural, intellectual and architectural efflorescence of Fatimid rule in Egypt.” Halm goes further in describing his reign, which lasted more than 20 years (975-996), as “one of the happiest periods in the history of Egypt.” 
 
Imam al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah’s Imamat was renowned for its focus on scholarship and the founding in 1005 of the Dar al-‘Ilm (House of Knowledge), sometimes referred to as the Dar al-Hikma (House of Wisdom). It was situated in the Fatimid palace in Cairo, with a library said to be one of the largest in the world at that time, containing over 100,000 books. 

a_m_Fatimid glass_weight Imam Mustansir bi Allah_-_gw184

The inscription in the circular plain border, reads al-Imam Ma‘ad Abu Tamim al-Mustansir bi’llah amir. The inscription in the center reads, al-mu’minin. On the reverse, a partial date most likely refers to AH 439 (1047-48 CE).

The catalogue notes that some of the glass weights from this period contain the phrase ‘Ali wali Allah, referencing the wilaya of Hazrat ‘Ali, which is normally added by the Sh’ia to the standard recitation of the shahada. Fatimid gold and silver coins from this time also contain this phrase.
 
During the 10th to the 12th centuries, the opulence of the Fatimid court, combined with its naval and military capabilities, made Cairo a hub of activity and a center for the creative arts. It was renowned for its pottery, glass and metalwork, rock crystal, ivory, wood-carving, and textiles.

Date posted: May 12, 2018.

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For the original piece that was published in The Ismaili, please click And Diverse are their Hues.

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.

For links to all the posts please click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and 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 as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.

Registration link for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon and welcome message from the Portugal Aga Khan Council President

 

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LISBON REGISTRATION

PLEASE VISIT OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE ISMAILI COMMUNITY FOR FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND REGISTRATION

Finally, the REGISTRATION DAY is here and the President of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Portugal has sent a warm and special message of welcome to the worldwide Jamats! Thousands of Ismailis around the world who have already made arrangements to travel to Lisbon or have been anxiously waiting for the registration to commence before finalizing their air and hotel bookings, can now begin to REGISTER at the official website of the Ismaili community. The Darbar and Diamond Jubilee events will take place in Lisbon between July 5th and 11th, 2018. We recommend that you visit FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS first for answers to numerous questions about the visit, the registration process and how to complete the registration form. If you encounter technical or other issues, please click on CONTACT US hyperlink at bottom of FAQ page. Here is the link: CONTACT US.

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WELCOME MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE AGA KHAN ISMAILI COUNCIL FOR PORTUGAL

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NEW BLOG ALL THINGS LISBOA

Barakah, together with its sister website Simerg, has launched a special blog All Things Lisboa that will be a point of reference for Ismailis travelling to Lisbon to celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee. It will offer comprehensive information about the events planned in Lisbon as well as provide links to the official website of the Ismaili community, TheIsmaili.org, that will carry many more details including how to purchase tickets for the events.

All Things Lisboa will  help you enjoy the best of Portuguese culture and will seek to provide ideas to enhance your experience of the historic city — its sights, sounds and tastes. While the focus of attention for tens of thousands of Ismailis of Portugal and around the world will be on the Diamond Jubilee events  from July 5th until July 11th, 2018, including a grand Darbar, we think that you can take advantage of your stay to explore Lisbon by bus, foot, tram or with guided tours. All Things Lisboa also provides a listing of Ismailis offering professional travelling services as well as a list of other reliable options for accomodation bookings etc..

First things first: Please REGISTER FOR THE DARBAR and see  FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS that also explains how to complete the registration form.

We will provide you good information about Lisbon in the coming weeks!

Date posted: May 6, 2018.
Last updated: May 7, 2018.

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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.

For links to all the posts please click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and 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 as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.

Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan channels his interest on the work of the AKDN into an inspiring short film

“The people of the Northern Regions of Pakistan have faced emergencies one after another for centuries. And yet, people persevere and progress. They live with courage and hope in a place of both stunning beauty and the constant risk of danger. I, Aly Aga Khan, travelled to Pakistan and was honoured to be able to hear their stories. Their resilience and bravery have inspired me to help document their reality and share their stories. The young people I spoke with give a sense of hope and motivation to overcome these challenges. But these are daunting and we need your help.” — Prince Aly Aga Khan, transcript prepared by Barakah from the film.

Aly Aga Khan in Northern Pakistan Film with young people

Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan engages with youth during his trip to Northern Pakistan in October 2017.

In October 2017, Prince Aly Aga Khan visited the north of Pakistan to learn more about the effects of natural disasters. During his seven day trip to the region, Prince Aly met with numerous families whose quality of life has been enhanced by the Network. This film, written, directed and voiced by Prince Aly, is his personal account of his discussions with the communities in the region and how the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is partnering with them to find solutions to the problems caused by natural disasters.

Date posted: April 28, 2018.

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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.

For links to all the posts please click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and 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 as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.

Honours bestowed on the Aga Khan during his 60 years of Imamat: The President’s Medal by The Architectural League of New York on May 18, 2017

We are humbled by His Highness’s belief in the power of architecture to elevate human experience. By acknowledging not only the complexity and imperfection of the world we have created, but also its potential, His Highness the Aga Khan has set a magnificent example of stewardship and hope.

On May 18, 2017, The Architectural League of New York presented its President’s Medal to His Highness the Aga Khan on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. The President’s Medal is The Architectural League’s highest honor and is bestowed, at the discretion of the League’s President and Board of Directors, to recognize an extraordinary body of work in architecture, urbanism, art, or design.

The Medal was presented to His Highness at a dinner at the Metropolitan Club for 330 guests. The dinner’s guests included family of His Highness the Aga Khan: Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Prince Hussain Aga Khan, and Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan.

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Billie Tsien, the President of The Architectural League of New York, and His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: The Architectural League of New York/Leandro Viana.

In her presentation of the Medal, Billie Tsien, the President of The Architectural League of New York said:

“The Aga Khan Award has been a bridge connecting the world to the beauty and power of work done to serve Muslim populations.” She continued: “This award helps to elevate the quality of architecture, planning, and landscape design by shedding light on exemplary work. And most importantly it affirms the power of architecture to create and to sustain a humane and beautiful world for all people. All people, all cultures, all faiths look to beauty as a profound source of both solace and joy.”

She then read the following citation:

The Architectural League presents its President’s Medal to His Highness the Aga Khan with profound gratitude and humility. We are grateful for the extraordinary work of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture and the recognition, scholarship, and investment it has catalyzed and supported, which has raised the quality of urban and rural environments around the world. We are humbled by His Highness’s belief in the power of architecture to elevate human experience. His Highness has demonstrated the capacity for architecture to be encompassing and inclusive, through his probing search to conceive anew the nature of cultural identity and continuity, his openness to innovation and experimentation, and his unwavering commitment to pluralism as a foundational principle of human community. By acknowledging not only the complexity and imperfection of the world we have created, but also its potential, His Highness the Aga Khan has set a magnificent example of stewardship and hope.

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His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: The Architectural League of New York/Leandro Viana.

In accepting the medal, His Highness remarked:

“In thinking about the way societies live in the developing world, in the industrialized world, I came to a very simple conclusion: what is the art form that has the most important impact on every society, in every part of the world? And the answer is quite simply, architecture. It’s a very important evening in my life because it’s a recognition of an art form that which I believe needs global recognition, needs global attention, needs the best brains that we can mobilize, to improve the human habitat for decades and decades ahead. Thank you for this wonderful award.”

Date posted: April 28, 2018.

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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.

For links to all the posts please click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and 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 as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.

The Aga Khan in Ottawa and Western Canada: A thorough and comprehensive coverage of his Diamond Jubilee visit

“I had the good fortune of getting to know the Aga Khan when I first met him as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. I soon came to admire his inspired and visionary thinking, which he advances as a part of a comprehensive and yet practical approach to addressing some of the world’s most complex and challenging problems. His constant emphasis on a compassionate, peaceful, and pluralistic conception of Islam in a world too often dominated by sectarian strife, is truly remarkable. I have come to consider him, not only the leader of the Shia Ismaili community, but also a rare figure in our world today.” — Bill Graham, see link to full piece below.

His Highness the Aga Khan’s visit to Western Canada

Map Western Canada

The Aga Khan in Calgary

1-Aga Khan Mawlana Hazar Imam goodbye Calgary

Mawlana Hazar Imam waves goodbye to Jamati leaders assembled at the Calgary airport at the conclusion of his Diamond Jubilee visit to Canada. Photo: The Ismaili/Arif Kassam.

VIDEOS

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The following video is in wide circulation on the social media

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TWEETS

MEDIA REPORTS

“My perspective on ethics, faith and how each of us contributes to cultivating a strong, sound society has been shaped by Mawlana Hazar Imam. Welcoming him to the city I love was a proud moment.” — Mayor Naheed Nenshi

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Alberta Lieutenant Governor Lois Mitchell and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi greet Mawlana Hazar Imam upon his arrival in Calgary during his Diamond Jubilee visit to Canada. Photo: The Ismaili/Navroz Mitha

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Mawlana Hazar Imam thanks Jamati representatives for coming out to greet him on his arrival in Calgary. Photo: The Ismaili/Navroz Mitha.

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The Aga Khan in Vancouver

May 7, 2018: Mawlana Hazar Imam departs Vancouver for Calgary

On the last day of his visit with the British Columbia Jamat,  Mawlana Hazar Imam conducted ceremonies at the Ismaili Centre in Burnaby, which he opened in 1985 with then Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Upon his departure, he remarked on the wonderful visit he had experienced and offered his congratulations to the Jamat. Mawlana Hazar Imam later departed Vancouver, arriving in Calgary where he will meet with the Jamats from the Edmonton and Prairies regions.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam meets with all of the officers who served in his police escort during his stay in Vancouver. Photo: The Ismaili/Aziz Ladha.

MEDIA REPORTS

Report and photos in The Ismaili: Mawlana Hazar Imam departs Vancouver

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May 5, 2018: Mawlana Hazar Imam meets with Jamat in Vancouver

CTV image Aga Khan visit in pictures

MEDIA REPORTS

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May 4, 2018: Mawlana Hazar Imam meets Premier of British Columbia

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, waves to his well wishers during his meeting with British Columbia Premier John Horgan (at right). Photo: The Ismaili/Aziz Dhamani.

VIDEO
(Recorded by an Ismaili bystander at a Vancouver hotel)

MEDIA REPORTS

Mawlana Hazar Imam arrives in Vancouver to begin his Western Canada visit

Lt Governor of BC and Mayor of Vancouver at YVR to receive Aga Khan

TWEETS BY: LT-GOV. OF BC, MAYOR OF VANCOUVER AND OTHERS

MEDIA REPORTS

img_9259_20180504-Mawlana Hazar Imam Aga Khan arrives in Vancouver

Mawlana Hazar Imam, accompanied by President Malik Talib of the Aga Khan Council for Canada, is greeted by Jamati leadership upon arriving in Vancouver on Friday May 4, 2018, for his Diamond Jubilee visit to Canada. Photo: The Ismaili/Asif Balesha.

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His Highness the Aga Khan in Ottawa

May 4, 2018: Mawlana Hazar Imam departs for Vancouver

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Mawlana Hazar Imam is greeted by hundreds of Jamati leaders and institutional staff at the airport on his departure from Ottawa on May 4, 2018, after having completed several days of proceedings related to the work of the Aga Khan Development Network and Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: The Ismaili/Moez Visram.

May 2, 2018: Mawlana Hazar Imam at Rideau Hall

Aga Khan with Governor Generals and Prime Ministers of Canada Featured Image

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

“Your Highness, we know, everybody in this crowd knows, that you lead by example, that the work that you’ve done tirelessly for six decades has been groundbreaking. We know that you are trying very hard to improve the quality of life of people in less fortunate places in the world, and that you promote tolerance and education above all.” — Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Rideau Hall, Ottawa, May 2, 2018.

Governor General with framed photo of Messsa and Jeddah from space for Aga Khan medium

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, the Governor General of Canada, displays a framed photo of a night view from space of the cities of Mecca and Jeddah that she presented to His Highness the Aga Khan. Her Excellency is a renowned astronaut. She participated in two space flights to the International Space Station, in 1999 and 2009, and served as the chief astronaut for the Canadian Space Agency. Photo: Sgt. Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall. See more photos at link below.

Invited guests started arriving at Rideau Hall, the residence of the Governor General of Canada, at 6pm for a dinner in honour of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, who is visiting Canada for his Diamond Jubilee. The High Commissioner of Pakistan was one of the first to arrive on the scene. But several minutes before that, I saw a lone well dressed gentleman strolling the lovely grounds of Rideau Hall, enjoying every minute of his walk on an unusually warm day. I was having a hasty lunch at one of the benches when he passed me and little did I know that he had known Hazar Imam for over 30 years until I briefly spoke to him.

Rideau Hall Aga Khan event May 2, 2018

Ceremonial guards march to take guard at the main entrance of Rideau Hall. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Former Governor General David Johnston

Former Governor General David Johnston strides towards his former residence, Rideau Hall, where he attended a dinner in honour of His Highness the Aga Khan hosted by his successor Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Prime Minister Joe Clark

Former Canadian Prime Minister, Joe Clark, arrives at Rideau Hall to attend a dinner in honour of His Highness the Aga Khan hosted by Canada’s Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

I saw the arrival of some past presidents of the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada  in chauffer driven cars; the NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, looking elegant in his turban, arrived in a taxi. Joe Clark, former Prime Minister, was walking with his wife when I captured him in a photo from a short distance. The previous Governor General, David Johnston, whom Julie Payette succeeded last October, was proudly striding towards his former residence, when I took his photo.

Aga Khan arriving at Rideau Hall

Mawlana Hazar Imam arrives at Rideau Hall on May 2, 2018 for a dinner hosted in his honour by the Goverrnor General of Canada. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Then at exactly 6:47 pm Mawlana Hazar Imam’s car with the flag of the Imamat took my attention away from everything else as it drove towards Rideau Hall. Princess Zahra was accompanying him.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Audi bearing the flag of the Ismaili Imamat, parked at Rideau Hall, with cars of other dignitaries who attended a dinner at Rideau Hall on May 2, 2018. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

There was photo op but only with pool media and I did not qualify as an independent publisher. But I am glad I participated in my own little way to be at the grounds when Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived. That was a moment of happiness to witness, because in a few moments he would be received with grace and honour by the new Governor General, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would arrive a few minutes later on foot but I had to leave the grounds as the main gates were about to close. The Prime Minister and his family reside at the grounds while his official residence on Sussex Drive, across the street, undergoes major repairs.

Rideau Hall

A view of Rideau Hall. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

“Thank you Canada. Thank you Canada for the advice, the support, the encouragement you’ve given to our institutions. I see Ismaili leaders from Canada … who are wonderful examples of Canadian knowledge, Canadian wisdom, Canadian comprehension, and who are building on the best of Canadian values. Thank you very much. Thank you.” – His Highness the Aga Khan, Rideau Hall, Ottawa, May 2, 2018.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam speaking at Rideau Hall where he was hosted by Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee. Photo: The Ismaili/Lisa Sakulensky. More photos in The Ismaili, see link below.

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A brief note on the night view photo of Mecca and Jeddah that was presented to His Highness the Aga Khan

Annotated photo

ISS016-E-16189_Mecca and Jeddah at night from the Space Annotated

The rapid growth in Jiddah and Mecca in Saudi Arabia can be mapped from the lighting patterns, and the road connecting them stands out as a bright string in the surrounding dark desert. Photo: NASA. Image ISS016-E-16189 was taken on December 11, 2007, with an 85 mm lens.

In addressing His Highness the Aga Khan at the dinner held in his honour on May 2, 2018 at Rideau Hall, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, a former astronaut, recounted an anecdote about a spaceflight in which she saw Mecca, alone amongst all other cities, gleaming brightly. She said that it was a beacon of light, ‘just as you are.’ She presented the Aga Khan with a photo of the night view of the cities of Mecca and Jiddah taken from the International Space Station (ISS). The photo desk at the Governor General’s office has informed us that the picture presented to the Aga Khan is a close up of NASA Image ISS026-E-028948. It is similar to another NASA Image ISS016-E-16189 that we have reproduced above (annotated) and below. We were not able to locate ISS026-E-028948 on the NASA website.

Astronauts circling the Earth on the ISS have the wonderful vantage point of observing the nighttime Earth from 350-400 kilometers above the surface, taking in whole regions at once. Onboard cameras and a bit of experimentation allow astronauts to take highly detailed images of our cities at night and share them with the rest of us.

ISS016-E-16189_Mecca and Jeddah at night from the Space

The cities of Jiddah and Mecca in Saudi Arabia and the well-lit road connecting them stands out as a bright string in the surrounding dark desert. Photo: NASA; Date taken: December 11, 2007; Time: 20:31:47 GMT. NASA Photo ID: ISS016-E-16189

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MEDIA REPORTS

HOUSE OF COMMONS REMARKS

Arif Virani Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday members of all parties welcomed His Highness the Aga Khan at Rideau Hall to celebrate his diamond jubilee after 60 years as the religious leader of 15 million Ismaili Muslims around the world.

The Aga Khan has had a strong relationship with Canada for six decades, beginning with Canada’s decision to accept Ismaili refugees, like me and my family, who were fleeing persecution from Idi Amin.

Canada subsequently forged a strong working relationship with the Aga Khan Development Network, which provides critical humanitarian assistance in developing countries. Most recently, we bestowed honorary citizenship on the Aga Khan to recognize his commitment to the Canadian values of pluralism and diversity.

As an Ismaili Canadian member of the House of Commons, I am very proud of the Aga Khan’s commitment to community service, as illustrated by Canada 150, when Ismaili Muslims gave this country over one million hours of volunteer service.

I thank His Highness for being an example to us all. On behalf of the Parliament of Canada, we all wish him “diamond jubilee mubarak”.

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Erin O’Toole Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, last night I joined three Governors General, three Prime Ministers from both sides of this chamber, parliamentarians, and prominent Canadians from the Ismaili community to celebrate the diamond jubilee for a special honorary Canadian, the Aga Khan.

For 60 years, this spiritual leader of the Ismaili community around the world has stood for tolerance and support for the most vulnerable. As Prime Minister Harper once said in this chamber, his leadership inspires us to hope for a better world.

This is also an opportunity to talk about the tremendous contribution of the 300,000*  Ismaili Canadians. They came to Canada with very little, but have given our country so much.

Today, I have the honour to thank the Aga Khan for 60 years of service and compassion around the world.

On behalf of the Conservative caucus and all parliamentarians, I want to thank the Aga Khan for 60 years of compassion, global leadership, and friendship with Canada.

*There are an estimated 120,000 Ismailis in Canada and not 300,000 as mentioned by Mr. O’Toole — ed.

TWEETS

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Governor General’s dinner for Mawlana Hazar Imam to be attended by Prime Minister Trudeau

Canada's 29th Governor General Julie Payette

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.Q., C.D. Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada. Photo credit: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall © OSGG-BSGG, 2017

To mark the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan as the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, will host a dinner at Rideau Hall, on Wednesday, May 2, 2018.

This dinner will bring together a cross-section of Canadians who, over the last 60 years, have worked with the Aga Khan and his community, both in Canada and abroad.

A photo op with pool media will take place in the Reception Room at 7:15 p.m. Members of the pool media must be accredited with the Parliamentary Press Gallery and should arrive for 7 p.m. For more information on accreditation, contact the Parliamentary Press Gallery at 613-992-6517.

Itinerary for the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, for Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Prime Minister Trudeau with Ismaili children

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau engages with Ismaili children during his visit to the Ismaili Centre in Toronto on March 21, 2018 on the occasion of Navroz, the Persian New Year. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

Gatineau, Quebec

8:45 a.m. The Prime Minister will attend the Assembly of First Nations’ Special Chiefs Assembly on Federal Legislation and deliver remarks.

…….Other engagements……..

Ottawa, Ontario

7 p.m. The Prime Minister will attend a dinner given by Her Excellency The Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, to mark the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan as the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

Location: Rideau Hall
1 Sussex Drive, Ottawa.

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May 1, 2018: Mawlana Hazar Imam arrives in Ottawa

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, arrived in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, on Tuesday May 1, 2018, to commence his second Diamond Jubilee visit to Canada in 6 months. He will stay in Ottawa until May 4, and then visit his Ismaili followers in Western Canada from May 5 to 11th in Vancouver and Calgary. The Ismailis of Eastern Canada were blessed with his visit last November in Toronto and Montreal. It is now the turn of tens of thousands of their brothers and sisters in Western Canada to cherish their time with their beloved Imam.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam is received by Ismaili Council for Canada President Malik Talib upon his arrival in Ottawa on May 1, 2018. Photo: The Ismaili/Moez Visram.

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The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, together with Ambassador Marc-André Blanchard, the Permanent Representative of Canada to the United Nations, receives Mawlana Hazar Imam at Ottawa airport on May 1, 2018 at the start of his second Diamond Jubilee visit to Canada. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.

Ismaili Council for Canada-Aga Khan Arrives in Canada for Offici

Against a backdrop of the flags of Canada and the Ismaili Imamat, volunteer leaders of the Canadian Ismaili community greet Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as he arrives on May 1, 2018 in Ottawa at the invitation of the Government of Canada. As part of the Diamond Jubilee,Mawlana Hazar Imam will also visit Vancouver and Calgary. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

Our comprehensive coverage of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit will consist of our own exclusive reports and photos as well as links to articles that appear in the external media.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is welcomed to Canada by Jamati leaders upon his arrival in Ottawa on May 1, 2018. Photo: The Ismaili/Moez Visram.

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Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee: Pre-Arrival reports

ARTICLES AND REPORTS IN THE MEDIA

Former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien pens a great opinion piece on His Highness the Aga Khan in the Ottawa Citizen: Why the world celebrates the Aga Khan

Aga Khan and Prime Minister Jean Chretien Barakah

Former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien welcoming His Highness the Aga Khan in February 2002 in Ottawa, Canada. Please see link to the Prime Minster’s piece published in the Ottawa Citizen on May 1, 2018, below. Photo: Website Archives, The Prime Minister of Canada

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Aga Khan’s historical photos with Canada’s Prime Ministers and Governor Generals

1983-aga khan-and Pierre Trudeau Silver Jubilee photo

This unique and historical photo signed by the late Canadian Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, was taken in the Prime Minister’s Office during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Silver Jubilee visit to Canada in April 1983. (l to r) – Hon. Secretary Farouk Verjee (Aga Khan Council for Canada), Mr. Gerry Wilkinson (His Highness the Aga Khan’s Secretariat, Aiglemont, France), Hon. Secretary Mohamed Manji (Aga Khan Ontario Council), President Amirali Rhemtulla (Aga Khan Grants Council), Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan, President Mehboob Dhanani (Aga Khan Ontario Council) and President Zulficar Lalji (Aga Khan Council for Canada). The full signature line note from the Prime Minister read: To Farouk with the best of Memories. Trudeau. 1983. Photo: Farouk Verjee Collection, Vancouver.

Aga Khan and Brian Mulroney

Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and His Highness the Aga Khan during the opening of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre in Burnaby, Canada, in September 1985. Photo: Gary Otte, AKDN.org.

Aga Khan and Jean Chretien

Prime Minister Jean Chretien welcoming His Highness the Aga Khan in February 2002 in Ottawa, Canada.. Photo: Website Archives, The Prime Minister of Canada.

Aga Khan with Paul Martin 2

Prime Minister Paul Martin with His Highness the Aga Khan.

“Conferring honourary citizenship upon His Highness the Aga Khan is a recognition of His Highness’s leadership as a champion of international development, pluralism and tolerance around the world and of his remarkable leadership as Imam of the worldwide Ismaili community.”  — Prime Minister Stephen E. Harper

Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes the occasion of the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum, Centre and their Park held in Toronto on May 30, 2010, to formally present the Aga Khan with the honorary citizenship of Canada. The Prime Minister said: “Welcome to our home and native land, your Highness. It is now and forever your home as well.” A motion introduced to the House to grant the Aga Khan with Honorary Citizienshi, and passed unanimously by all parties on June 10, 2009, recognized the exquisite symmetry between the Aga Khan’s values and Canadian values, and noted the Canada’s deep appreciation for the extraordinary contributions he was making to Canada and the world through the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, the Global Centre for Pluralism and the Aga Khan Museum. Photo: Website of the Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper takes the occasion of the foundation ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum, Centre and their Park held in Toronto on May 30, 2010, to formally present  His Highness the Aga Khan with the honorary citizenship of Canada. The Prime Minister said: “Welcome to our home and native land, your Highness. It is now and forever your home as well.” Photo: The Ismaili Canada, July 2010.

carisse-2016-0517_4689-Aga Khan and Justin Trudeau

His Highness the Aga Khan greets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, at the Office of the Prime Minister located at the Centre Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisee. Copyright.

Personifying cherished Canadian values, His Highness the Aga Khan has devoted his life to protecting the environment and alleviating human suffering due to poverty. Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims since 1957, he has guided the spiritual growth of his followers, teaching compassion and tolerance by example. In 1967, he launched his foundation, the Aga Khan Development Network, with branches in countries around the world, including Canada. Recognizing our nation’s caring spirit, he cites Canada as a role model for the world and has selected Ottawa as the home of a new global centre for pluralism. — Citation, Honorary Companion of the Order of Canada,  Awarded on October 29, 2004; Invested on June 6, 2005

Aga Khan with Governor Generals Adrienn Clarkson, Michaëlle Jean and David Johnston

Top to bottom: His Highness the Aga Khan with Canada’s former Governor Generals Adrienne Clarkson, Michaëlle Jean and David Johnston. Photos: Sgt. Sgt Eric Jolin, MCpl Jean-Francois Neron, and Sgt. Serge Gouin, all Rideau Hall.

Date posted: April 27, 2018.
Last updated: May 12, 2018.

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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.

For links to all the posts please click on Table of ContentsAlso join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and 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 as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.

 

Forgiveness, Imamat and path to enlightenment of the soul: Important notes for Jamats in Western Canada as they prepare for Hazar Imam’s holy visit

His Highness the Aga Khan

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

1. His Highness the Aga Khan to arrive in Canada on May 1 to celebrate his Diamond Jubilee

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, continues his momentous Diamond Jubilee journey of meeting Ismailis around the world with visits to Jamats of Western Canada from May 5-11, 2018. He will first arrive on May 1 in Ottawa, where he will attend a dinner at Rideau Hall, the official residence of Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette. She succeeded David Johnston as the 29th governor general of Canada on October 2, 2017. Ms. Payette is  known for flying two missions in space, and is well respected for her work in developing policies to promote science and technology.

Canada's 29th Governor General Julie Payette

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.Q., C.D. Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada. Photo credit: Sgt Johanie Maheu, Rideau Hall © OSGG-BSGG, 2017

Mawlana Hazar Imam will then visit Vancouver and Calgary to grace the Jamats of British Columbia, Alberta and the Prairies with his holy didar that will involve religious work. During his previous visit to Canada in November 2017, he granted similar mulaqats to Jamats of Eastern Canada in Toronto and Montreal. His visit commenced in Ottawa, where he presided over the first Global Pluralism Award ceremony that took place at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat.

Since the commencement of the Diamond Jubilee year on July 11, 2017, we have been very happy to report on  Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee visits to numerous parts of the world. At the same time, with regard to the religious aspect of his visit, we have presented enlightening articles on the importance of Salawat, the Imamat and the role of Baitul Khayal for our spiritual advancement. We have also sought to heighten the consciousness of the Jamat on the important Islamic ethical principle of forgiving and forgetting at this very important time in the life of every murid. Thus, understanding some key principles of the faith and applying its ethical principle will enhance our spirits as we humbly present ourselves before the Imam to receive his didar and blessings.

2. Let bygones be bygones: “If people have harmed you, forget and forgive…”

Aga Khan Olympia Hall London September 1979Mawlana Hazar Imam pictured at the Olympia Hall, London, during his weeklong visit to the United Kingdom Jamat in September 1979. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

The spirit of forgiveness is an ethic that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has articulated many times since his Imamat. In 1969, he said in Mumbai:

“As the world gets smaller, it is fundamental that people should work together and not against each other, and try to be a little bit more generous than you have been in the past. If people have made mistakes, forgive them their mistakes. If people have harmed you, forget and forgive. Do not hold grudges. Do not turn around and say, ‘he hurt me yesterday, so I will hurt him today’. This is not the spirit of Islam, and it is not as I understand that our faith should be practiced, and this is fundamental.”

The act of apologizing when one thinks that one was not at fault, and the act of exercising forgiveness when one feels that they have been wronged, are probably the most difficult to struggle with.

However, each one of us has to realize that when there are conflicts, especially within a family, the burden of disunity is the greatest on parents because their love for all their children is absolute. Now consider that in the context of Hazar Imam, who addresses all Ismailis as his spiritual children!

According to a popular tradition, when the Prophet Muhammad asked Angel Gabriel what was meant by the Qur’anic verse (7:199),

“Keep to forgiveness (O Muhammad), and enjoin kindness, and turn away from the ignorant”

the Angel replied:

“It is God’s command to forgive those who have wronged you, to give to those who have deprived you, and to tie relations with those who severe theirs with you.”

Another tradition of the Prophet says:

“Show mercy and you shall be shown mercy. Forgive others and you shall be forgiven by God.”

When Mawlana Hazar Imam received the Adrienne Clarkson prize for Global Citizenship he shortlisted a good measure of forgiveness, along with an abundant capacity for compromise, a little sense of patience and humility, as strengths for an aspiring global citizen. Accomplishing these would mean hard work, he said, “but no work would be more important.”

In a piece “Why Forgive” Fatima Ariadne in her blog Decoding Eden says that “forgiveness is about giving yourself permission to let go of the past….and giving that inner space in your heart for something more positive. We forgive because we deserve peace.”

Through our kind gesture of forgiving, we are also raising the consciousness of this fundamental Islamic ethic in the hearts and minds of the persons we are seeking to forgive. Speaking in Moscow in 1995 during his first physical presence among his community in Central Asia, Mawlana Hazar Imam said that “forgiving those who may have made a mistake or harmed you, will give them respect for your behaviour, and it will encourage them to follow your behaviour.”

Of course, Mawlana Hazar Imam was addressing an audience that had passed through a period of civil strife in Tajikistan. However, this principle is as fundamentally important in our daily attitudes to our families and friends.

Louis B. Smedes, professor emiritus of ethics and theology at Fuller Seminary in Pasadens, California and author of book Forgive and Forget wrote that, “Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.” He further noted that “You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well.”

The Qur’anic ayat quoted earlier “tie relations with those who severe theirs with you” imposes upon us a moral obligation to forgive.

So as we approach the important day of the holy encounter with Hazar Imam it would be most appropriate for us to reach out to our friends and family members with whom we are seriously at odds and say, “Let unpleasant things that have happened in the past be forgotten.”

That act of courage would be in the truest and finest tradition of our faith. With that kind spirit in our heart, we will truly lavish in the love, grace, and blessing of Mawlana Hazar Imam when he is with us in a few days. Forgiveness will lead to greater unity within families and the jamat.

It is within the framework of united families and Jamats that Mawlana Hazar Imam wishes us to attain spiritual as well as worldly success and happiness. He has explained:

“I would like my spiritual children here to live in the spirit of Islam. I would like you everyday to remember that you are brothers and sisters. When you pray together, you are brothers and sisters; when you face difficulties, you are brothers and sisters; and when you are having success, you are brothers and sisters. In this unity as a family, I would like you to achieve worldly success also. I would like you to have many worldly goods, but if a family is at odds, you can never achieve success. It is only if you work together, that you are united and that you attempt to succeed together, that you will have success.” — 1964, Peshawar, Pakistan.

and

“I would like you to remember one particular ayat in the Qur’an which says, “Khalaq-kum min nafsin wahidatin” which means He created you, you in the dual — it refers to man and woman — from one soul. This means that Allah has made you from one soul only and He divided you into man and woman. This is what I have said to you, that you are not only brothers and sisters in a worldly manner but also in a spiritual manner.” — 1964, Dacca, East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

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3. Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad

Salawat Calligraphy

Salawat written in Nast’aliq calligraphy. Credit: Wikishia.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

(The author would like readers to note that this short piece was prepared from Khayal Aly’s excellent and elaborate essay on the Salawat titled “Realities of the Salawat”)

Whenever Mawlana Hazar Imam graces us with didar, his arrival and his presence are greeted with the soul-soothing hum of the recitation of the Salawaat:

“Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad,” meaning “O, Allah shower thy choicest blessings upon Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.”

This has been our tradition for centuries. The question arises: Why do we seek blessings upon the Prophet and his progeny?

When the verse of the Holy Qur’an (33:56) “Lo! Allah and His angels shower blessings upon (salloona ‘ala) the Prophet. O you who believe! Ask blessings upon him (salloo ‘alayhi) and salute him with a worthy salutation,” was revealed some of the companions of the Prophet asked him about it: “O Messenger of God, we know already how to greet you; but how should we invoke blessings upon you?”

The Prophet replied:

“You should say, ‘O God, bless Muhammad and his progeny (aal), even as you blessed Abraham and his progeny [O God], you are truly praiseworthy, great in glory’.” [1]

Further reinforcement of this invocation of blessing upon the Prophet and his progeny comes in the verse “Say: I ask you no reward (arjan) except love of the ‘near of kin (al-qurba)’. ” — 42:23

The key concept that emerges here is that of reward (arjan).

To understand this, we have to look at the fact that the Prophet was sent as a mercy to mankind as attested in the verse:

“And we have sent you not, except as mercy to the world.” — 21:107

What then is the reason for asking the ummah to seek blessing upon the Prophet and his progeny? And what is the reason for the expectation of a reward?

In reality the reward that the Prophet is asking, namely the love for the Prophet and his progeny, is not for his own benefit, but rather, for the benefit of the ummah (Muslim community) itself. And here in lies the elegance and efficacy of the Salawat that we recite. Imam Al-Baqir explains this by citing a verse in which Allah tells the Prophet:

“Say, whatever I ask you with regard to my reward, it is [actually] for you. I rely for my reward on no one except God and He is witness to everything.” — 34:47

Several ginans sing about the joys and delights when the Imam graces his murids with his physical didar. In one of these ginans we come across this concept of “reward”. A verse in Pir Sadardin’s ginan Aji Sham kun avanta jo kahe reads:

Sami ke gale me haar hai, heera manek jaddi ya,
Jis re bhave tan ku dete hai,
Saheb hai dil daariya…

Translation:

The beloved has a necklace of diamonds and pearls,
He showers these on who so ever he chooses
The beloved’s generosity knows no bounds.

In the joyful assemblage of Imam’s holy presence and didar, not only does the Imam shower the “reward” of jewels of blessings upon the murids, but the recitation of the Salawat opens the gate of mercy and every recitation of the Salawat multiplies these blessings many many many fold. A tradition from Shia sources refers to the blessings of reciting Salawat as follows:

“Whoever sends ten salawats upon Muhammad and his family, God and His angels will send him a hundred salutations, and whoever sends a hundred salawats upon Muhammad and his family, God and His angels will send him a thousand.

The promise of reward goes even further. When a murid places his hands under the hand of the appointed spiritual authority of the time, Imam-e-Zaman, in an act of allegiance (bay‘at), “he indeed pledge his allegiance to Allah” (innama yubayi‘auna’lla). And thus, fulfilment of this bay’at merits nothing less than a great reward as promised by the verse 48:10 of the Qur’an that whosoever fulfils his bay’at with Allah shall merit a greater reward (arjan azim).

The first act of fulfilment of the bay’at is the declaration of the love for the Prophet and his progeny which is affirmed by the recitation of the Salawat. And its continuous recitation is a demonstration of this love between the murid and the Imam and the continuous shower of the jewels that Ginan Aji Sham kun avaanta jo kahe alludes to.

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Reference:

[1]. Fatimid-Isma‘ili book of law, Da‘a’im al-Islam (Pillars of Islam) by Qadi Nu’man.

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4. Baitul Khayal: The path to spiritual enlightenment

“The esoteric (batini) vision, realized through pious works and the constant remembrance of God during the nightly vigil, as well as the exoteric (zaheri) vision, and beholding the gateway of God’s mercy, becomes the ultimate purpose of human life….Piety should be for the purpose of recognizing and beholding God, which is achieved through the recognition and vision of the Imam of one’s time.” — Imam Mustansir-Billah, 32nd Ismaili Imam

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

In the Memoirs of Aga Khan, our beloved 48th Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah outlines the distinction between two human experiences as categorized by the Muslim philosopher Ibn-Rushd (Averroes):

“On the one hand, our experience of nature as we recognize it through our senses…and on the other hand, our immediate and imminent experience of something more real, less dependent on thought or on the processes of the mind, but directly given to us, which I believe to be religious experience.”

The craving for this direct experience is innate in all of us. Depth psychology which recognizes this craving in a totally different form states that human psyche has great capacity and an insatiable desire for love. The quest for this love molds human actions. In some it takes the form of material pursuits, in others it takes the form of religious and mystical pursuits. And in some souls’ this quest for divine love finds satisfaction in devotion and love for another human being.

Further in his Memoirs, the Imam expounds on this very theme and says:

“We live, move and have our being in God…when we realize this, we are already preparing ourselves for the gift of the power of direct (mystical) experience…some men are born with such natural spiritual capacities and possibilities of development that they have direct experience of that great love, that all-embracing, all-consuming love which direct contact with reality gives to human soul.”

A question naturally arises in the mind: What about people who are not so gifted and not born with the natural capacity of development for spiritual experience?

Allah is mindful of this innate human desire for love and direct vision. Allah grants a gift and a means for this direct experience to all: “And to Allah belong the best names, so call on Him by them.” — Holy Qur’an, 7:180

The invocation of best names (Ism’ul-Azam) referred to in the above Sura are the most beautiful names of Allah, invocation of which provides the path to his mercy and direct experience. The Qur’an also enjoins constant remembrance of Allah:

“O you have faith, remember Allah with frequent remembrance and glorify him morning and evening.” — 33:41-42.

Bol is a Gujarati word for Ism’ul-Azam. In Ismailism, the path to direct experience of the divine reality of Allah through the Noor (Light) of Imamat becomes a very personal and private affair. Each murid has his personal connection with the Imam. The personal spiritual bond of bayah (allegiance) between the Imam and the murid is the cornerstone of this bond.

Every murid has a desire for this vision of Noor. This desire is weak in some and strong in others. The real quest for the vision of the Noor begins when a murid fights the buffeting currents and vicissitudes of daily life and begins to hear the call of the divine and the desire for vision of Noor possesses his heart. The thirst for love that philosophers had talked about becomes a reality. The most enchanting verses of a Ginan of Pir Sadardin which describe the agony of a love-thirsty soul resonate in his heart:

Sajan per hun sada balihari
Ke jine Sajan mohe nipat bhisari
Ab ko je me Sajan pau
Haide under Sej bichau
Milu usinku Noor sangath
Phir nav jalu duje ka haath.

TRANSLATION

(Sajan=Beloved)
I am forever ready to sacrifice my life for the Beloved,
That beloved who has so forgotten and forsaken me
If perchance I attain to the Beloved
I will spread a silk carpet in my heart
And meet him in a shower of Noor
Never again to thirst for aught.

When a soul become thus love-stricken, the path to enlightenment become visible to him and he seeks the Imam’s guidance. The Imam in his benevolence and love for the murid grants him a personal key to the spiritual universe and the possibility to ascend to that peak from whence he has potential of vision of Noor of Imamat and the quenching of that insatiable thirst for love. The key to this spiritual universe is Bol.

The remembrance (dhikr) of this Bol at prescribed time when the world rests is the essence of Baitul Khayal. “The honor and greatness of a believer lies in his praying at night,” said Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq. A number of verses in the Holy Qur’an attest to the importance of the night worship. Allah says, “and part of the night; bow down before Him and magnify Him through the long night. — 76:26 (tr. Arberry). This verse of the Holy Qur’an tells us to remember Allah at such a time when others are asleep.

The Holy Qur’an tells us:

“You have indeed in the Apostle of God a beautiful pattern of conduct.” –33:21.

Thus, as an example to be followed, the Prophet’s escape to Mount Hira for extended hours of contemplation as well as his experiences during the night journey, miraj, are indicative of the rise of the soul from the plane of material existence to the proximity of God. The night journey emphatically proclaimed that if God has placed man on this earth, He has also set up a ladder for man to climb up to Him. Baitul Khayal accords us this opportunity.

Thus, the practice of Baitul Khyal sits at the crest of spiritual practice of Ismailism and is also referred to as Motu Kam (Big Work). As the prescribed practice becomes a routine, the spiritual universe begins to unfold and the bond between the Imam and murid becomes stronger, and the link that binds the murid to the Imam becomes shorter and shorter. It is a process of divine alchemy which is sung in the Ginan Jire vala, dhan re ghadi:

Paras perse to Loha raang pelte
To jagmag jyote jagaye.

TRANSLATION

That which was base metal
Transforms to gold and begins to shine
by divine alchemy

The experience of this transformation and the uplifment of the soul through the constant meditative practice of the Ism’ul-Azam is articulated in some of the verses of the Ginan Brahm Prakash composed by Pir Shamsh:

“True Word” (or Ism’ul-Azam, Bol) is my Guide,
to which the world gives no recognition….1

Do meditate on the Word,
and recite Pirshah as often as possible…..2

And upon utterance of the Word,
the light of love shall be kindled,

and in the heart, great “Faith” will be generated….5

Where the Love flows so incessantly,
the devotee drinks of it and
becomes love-intoxicated….9

How shall I extol (for you) this divine ecstasy!
Its status is so great, that it defies all speech….11

No amount of literature read or listened to,
Could help to attain this experience of happiness….12

The skies in the West glow
and one witnesses a unique and
unparalled show (of “Light” – “Noor”)

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5. The Imam’s True Status

Imam to be perceived with true heart cropped

Image credit: roseannapiter.com.

(Adapted from an ode by 33rd Ismaili Imam ‘Abd al Salam)

The talisman that can open the treasure trove of spiritual meaning of the Holy Qur’an is the Imam. The true essence of the Imam cannot be recognized with earthly, fleshly eyes, for these can only see his physical form, perishing like all else with the passage of time.

His true face is to be perceived with the eyes of the heart. He has thousands of physical habitations, but his true home is traceless; he has had a thousand names, but all of them refer to one reality.

Today he is known as ‘Abd al-Salam, but tomorrow the physical body will be gone and the name will change, yet the essence will remain in the next Imam of the lineage.

Those who look at the Imam as they squint will consider him like any other human being, but as soon as the eyes of the heart perceive correctly, his true status is discovered. In form the Imams change, but in meaning and substance they are changeless. Human language cannot attain to the majesty of the Imams. The Imam is the most precious ingredient in the supreme elixir (miraculous substance) of eternal life-red sulphur. He is not simply a pearl, but the ocean that gives birth to pearls. The existence of the Imam, who leads humankind to a recognition of God, is the very pinnacle of creation. — Adapted from Ismaili in the Middle Ages by Shafique Virani.

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6. The Importance of the Soul

By AL-MU’AYYAD AL-SHIRAZI

“Look at the trouble your parents have taken from the days of your childhood in the growth of your bodies and in the improvement of your physical life on earth. But for the interest they took in you, you would not have been what you are. Your souls are thousand times more important than your bodies. The Imams are your spiritual parents. Avail yourselves of a few days of life which are at your disposal here and look after your spiritual elevation under the care of your spiritual parents. “Once you miss this opportunity, you will repent forever. You will not be given a second chance to set things right.”

Date posted: April 25, 2018.

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