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The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon: Prince Hussain’s little exhibition of animal photos is captivating

Story and photos by ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

IMG_0076_Prince Hussain Aga Khan Banner

Prince Hussain Aga Khan, like his sister Prince Zahra and brothers Prince Rahim and Prince Aly Muhammad, is well known for his work with the Aga Khan Development Network and the Ismaili Imamat. Unknown to many, including members of the Ismaili community of which his father His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th Imam, is Prince Hussain’s deep passion and love for animals that started during his childhood.

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Left: A beautiful nudibranch in the Phillipines. Photo taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in May 2017. Right: Split level photograph of a marine iguana, with a mountain background. Photo taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in The Galapagos in May 2016. Panel Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

His early passion for wildlife turned into an interest in wildlife photography during his youth when the visited the Brazilian Amazon in 1996. Since then, Prince Hussain has travelled to over 25 countries to take animal photos. Selections from his vast photographic collection have been produced in his two books Animal Voyage (2004 and 2007, new edition) and Diving Into Wildlife (2015) as well as National Geographic blogs. His photos have also been displayed in exhibitions at renowned institutions in the USA and Europe on a much larger scale than what we see in Lisbon where his 6 photos and profile occupy a small elegant space an exhibition hall that includes descriptive displays on Ethics, information about the Aga Khan Museum and a carry over of the Golden Jubilee exhibition titled Rays of Light.

Prince Hussain Aga Khan exhibition

A view of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s animal photo exhibition. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Once you enter Prince Hussain’s photo exhibition, it is difficult to part with it quickly. The beautiful photos that he has taken want you to spend more time with the animals, because you feel their nearness. Prince Hussain humbly explains, “There is nothing scientific about my photographs. Nor do I try to make the animals, waters or trees look any special way. But it’s my hope that others will see the beauty I see and become more actively engaged in the struggle to slow the degradation of our environment and decimation of our wildlife.”

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Left: Portrait of a dolphin in Sataya – about 5 hours from the coast of Egypt. Photo was taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in November or December 2014, and appears on the cover page of Prince Hussain’s book Diving into Wildlife. Right: Detail of a large nudibranch at Gato Island, just off Malapascua in the Phillipines. Photo was taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in May 2017.

This exhibition as small as it is, is truly marvellous and when you have seen the last of the set of 6 photos that are accompanied by short informative captions, you want to turn back or return later for a repeat showing. It is hoped that a future exhibition for the community will be much larger in scale, and that his delightful book Diving into Wildlife will also be available for purchase, thus contributing to his organization Focused on Nature (FON) which aims to help projects related to species conservation and slow habitat loss.

Date posted: July 10, 2018.


Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to 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 and follow us at

This website, Barakah, is a special project by 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’s Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon: Glimpses from the magnificent International Arts Gallery


International Arts Festival. Entrance. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.


In my earlier post today, I recommended that young and old alike must visit the “Sentiment Wall” at the International Arts Festival. It is an outdoor exhibit consisting of three thematic walls located about 150 metres from the International Arts Gallery. After spending about an hour the Sentiment Wall yesterday evening, I attended the International Arts Gallery. It is impressive enough to merit its own catalogue. I present here a glimpse from the remarkable exhibition showcasing outstanding Ismaili talent from around the world.

International Arts Festival. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. CHRONICLE by Zahra Goulamhoussen, UAE. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. THE FOUNTAIN by Raihan Samnani, Kenya. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. THE GOLDEN HORSE by Anil Ashiq Ali Jamal, Australia. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. FAMILY by Boris Maramatshoev, Tajikistan. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.


International Arts Festival. A view of the gallery. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

International Arts Festival. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. GOD’S CREATION by Nadya Shakoor, USA. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. HEALING by Malikshah Muradally, U.K. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Gallery

International Arts Festival. TIME IS ALL AT ONCE by Rayhan Mdhani, Australia. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

International Arts Festival. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

International Arts Festival. REFUGEES by Gulzar Quintino, Portugal. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.


International Arts Festival. A view of the gallery. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.


International Arts Festival. CHOICES, CHANCES, AND CHAOS by Tania Murad Samnani and Faryal Iqbal, Uganda. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

International Arts Festival. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

International Arts Festival. MEDITATION by Al-Qawi Nanavati, India. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.


International Arts Festival. ROPE 1 AND ROPE 2 by Gulnar Sacoor, Portugal. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.


International Arts Festival. ALTARKIZ (THE FOCUS) by Faizan Karmali, Uganda. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Date posted: July 8, 2018.


Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to 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 and follow us at

This website, Barakah, is a special project by 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’s Diamond Jubilee in Lisbon: Young and old alike must visit the “Sentiment Wall” at the International Arts Festival


Azra, Zaheeda and Cazerine — how can I ever thank you?

The 3 Allibhai sisters from Ottawa are ever so respectful and kind to me. It was a joy to meet them yesterday near the International Arts Gallery. They made my evening extraordinarily special by insisting that I visit the Sentiment Wall around 150 metres away, take some photos and publish them on Barakah. I express my gratitude to them for that excellent recommendation. One message that I could immediately relate to simply stated, “I smile when Ronaldo scores a goal.” I loved that! Another insightful message on the second of three panels struck me with the words, “To raise a daughter that can take care of the world.”

I hope that everyone who has come to Lisbon for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee will visit the Sentiment Wall, and spend time to read the thoughtful messages that have been penned on 3 large walls by young and old alike in a multitude of languages.

Aga Khan DJ Sentiment Wall I smile when 001

Sentiment Wall Theme “I smile when…” Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

Aga Khan DJ Sentiment Wall A posotive change 002

Sentiment Wall Theme: A positive change I would make…Tajiki film maker Memonsho Memonshoev (centre) pictured with members of Khorog Jamat. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Aga Khan DJ Sentiment Wall I have always wanted to 004

Sentiment Wall Theme :I’ve always wanted to…Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

Senntimental Wall

Close up of messages on Sentiment Wall. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

Sentimental Wall

Close up of messages on Sentiment Wall. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

Sentimental Wall

Close up of messages on Sentiment Wall. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant

Date posted: July 8, 2018.


Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to 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 and follow us at

This website, Barakah, is a special project by 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.

Thousands of Ismailis gather at Lisbon park to welcome Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, for highest point of his Diamond Jubilee


Ismailis welcome Mawlana Hazar Imam to Lisbon

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations has brought Ismailis from all over the world to Lisbon. This group represents several countries and was pictured on the terrace of Eduardo VII Park following the departure of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

July 6, 2018: The Aga Khan’s arrival in Lisbon

Ismailis from around the world continue to pour into Lisbon for the final celebration of the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, which began on July 11, 2017 with a beautiful Homage Ceremony  in Aiglemont, France. The festive mood of tens of thousands of Ismailis who are now in Lisbon was particularly felt yesterday, Thursday July 6, 2018, with the arrival of Mawlana Hazar Imam into the city.

During his Diamond Jubilee Year Mawlana Hazar Imam has so far visited ten countries where he has undertaken religious work with Ismailis and attended events related to his  Imamat institutions including the Aga Khan Development Network. During his Jubilee journeys he has travelled at least 140,000 kms. His age of 81 makes him the oldest living Imam in Ismaili history.

zr2_Aga Khan Hazar Imam arrival Lisbon airport July 6 2018

Mawlana Hazar Imam arrives in Lisbon, Portugal to Military Honours on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.

Mawlana Hazar Imam was greeted at Lisbon airport by Government officials and Ismaili leaders. Ismailis were informed ahead of time to be at Jardim Amalia Rodriques Park by 3:30 P.M. to welcome the Imam. The small park lies atop the Eduardo VII Park, which has sweeping views of the city and River Tagus.  I declared my own personal arrival at the site at 12:35 P.M with the following Tweet:

“I’m at Jardim Amália Rodrigues and Ismailis are arriving by the bus loads. It’s 12:35 pm. Lisbon time….”

When I reached there, the road was dotted with Ismailis throughout the approximate 400 metre length of the park. Hundreds arrived in buses, others walked from the close by metro stations while many got dropped by Tuk Tuk tour vehicles that had taken them for sightseeing tours of Lisbon. By the time Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade arrived at the Park some 3.5 hours later the attendance had grown to between 3,500 — 4,000 (an estimate that was given to me by two different police officers). Ismailis cheered and sang as they waited for their Imam to arrive. The noise was particular loud as Mawlana Hazar Imam’s plane, bearing his crest and flag flew over the Park.

Ismaili woman from Badakhshan

One of the first persons the author met upon arriving at the Park. She touched and inspired him immensely with her powerful prayers. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Ismaili girl with Imamat and Portugal flags

Ismaili girl carries flags of Portugal and the Ismaili Imamat as she waits to welcome Mawlana Hazar Imam to Lisbon. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations has brought Ismailis from all over the world to Lisbon. This group photo was taken on the terrace of Eduardo VII Park before Mawlana Hazar Imam’s arrival . Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Ismailis see plane of Aga Khan in the Lisbon sky

Crowds cheer as they see Mawlana Hazar Imam’s plane fly over Jardim Amalia Rodriques Park. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

I encountered Ismailis from every corner of the world, and one of my first meetings was with an elderly lady from Central Asia, who conveyed greetings and congratulations to me as well as gave me uplifting prayers. Truly, she was a noble soul. A small but enthusiastic group of Ismailis from New Zealand carried a banner defining their country’s presence. Almost everyone carried Portuguese and the Ismaili Imamat flags, which bear some similarity because of the common colours of green and red.

Aga Khan Hazar Imam waves to Ismailis gathered at Lisbon for his Diamond Jubilee

Crowds gathered at Parque Eduardo VII welcome Mawlana Hazar Imam to Portugal as he waves to them. Photo: Barakah.

The crowd was very disciplined, and the officials on duty including the police only intervened when individuals exceeded safety limits. Of course, the most telling and exciting moments were when Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade arrived and moved slowly along the route. With his window open, he waved to his eager and happy  murids. I had recorded in one of my earlier tweets:

“Watching all this is quite beautiful. The setting with a view of Lisbon and river Tagus is awesome. The crowd makes it all the more exciting. We are here because of Hazar Imam. This gathering is part of the pilgrimage to our spiritual parent.”

I stood on the opposite side of the road, in order to witness the crowd’s mood and reaction and said in a tweet:

“I will …… experience everyone’s feelings. I may not see Hazar Imam but tens of thousands of eyes will see him. It’s beautiful to be here.”

Welcoming Mawlana Hazar Ima m to Lisbon

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations has brought Ismailis from all over the world to Lisbon. This group represents several countries and was pictured on the terrace of Eduardo VII Park following the departure of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Central Asian Ismailis

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations has brought Ismailis from all over the world to Lisbon. This group represents Central Asian Ismailis and was pictured on the terrace of Eduardo VII Park following the departure of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Ismaili Rasuda

Ismailis play rasuda on the terrace of Eduardo VII Park after the departure of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant (still shot from video).

Ismailis at Park to welcome Aga Khan for Diamond Jubilee, Lisbon 010

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations has brought Ismailis from all over the world to Lisbon. This group  from the USA was pictured on the terrace of Eduardo VII Park following the departure of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.This group is from the USA. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Ismailis welcome Aga Khan

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations has brought Ismailis from all over the world to Lisbon. This group representing Ismailis from many countries was pictured on the terrace of Eduardo VII Park following the departure of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Ismailis at Park to welcome Hazar Imam to Lisbon

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations has brought Ismailis from all over the world to Lisbon. This group from Central Asia was pictured at Jardim Amalia Rodriques Park following the departure of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

A friend of the Ismaili community

This non-Ismaili gentleman has known the Ismaili community and admired the work of Mawlana Hazar Imam for many years and joined thousands of Ismailis to welcome their Imam. Many non-Ismailis took time to inquire about the presence of the large crowd. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s presence, even for a short few moments, filled the entire crowd with intense happiness. Once the motorcade had passed, there were celebrations on the terrace of Eduardo VII Park. Women sung and played rasuda to Avjo avjo Pyara Karim Shah. Selfies were being taken by groups from around the world. I also saw joy in the faces of individuals and groups who I met during my walk to the the department store El Corte Inglés and the São Sebastião metro station, from which I took the train to Park of the Nations (Parque das Nações), the heart of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration.

When I arrived at Parque das Nações I realized how many Ismailis I would be seeing and meeting over the coming days, all united by their love and affection for Mawlana Hazar Imam.


July 6: Photos  from Parque das Nações, heart of the Diamond Jubilee events

Time and Knowledge Banner

Time and Knowledge, a key Imamat initiative for members of the Ismaili community to contribute voluntarily to the development and strength of the worldwide jamats and the countries in which they live. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Salim and Nevin Kanji near food stand Kolesterol Puro

Friends Salim and Nevin Kanji in front of one of the most popular food stands that prides — judging by its name — in serving heavy loads of fatty food. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

USA Ismaili Pipe band

A USA based Ismaili pipe band marches through an area at the Park of Nations, the heart of the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in Lisbon. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Belgium and Brazil World Cup 2018 quarter finals

Football fans were not deprived of the crucial quarter final world cup match between Brazil and Belgium. Fan loyalties were clearly divided, with loud cheers for the Belgium team at the end of the match which they won 2-1. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Illustrated poster Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Lisbon

A superbly illustrated site map for the Diamond Jubilee events taking place at the Park of Nations. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Two senior and highly decorated members of the Ismaili pipe band

Two senior and highly decorated members of the Ismaili pipe band from the USA. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Salim and Nasreen Rahemtuall with Mrs. Merchant

Alwaeza Malek Jehangir Merchant with close family friends Salim and Nasreen Rahemtulla of Burnaby, Canada. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Diamond Jubilee motif

A beautifully designed free-standing Diamond Jubilee motif at Park of Nations. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Date posted: July 7, 2018.



Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to 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 and follow us at

This website, Barakah, is a special project by 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 Portugal: Important notes with frequent updates

JULY 6: Welcoming the Aga Khan at Jardim Amália Rodrigues

FRIDAY, JULY 6: After his arrival in Lisbon, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade will drive past Jardim Amália Rodrigues. Arrangements have been made for Ismailis to safely gather and welcome him to Portugal for his Diamond Jubilee.

  1. Date and Time:  July 6,  3:30 P.M.
  2. Address: Jardim Amália Rodrigues
  3. Closest metro: São Sebastião (Red Line)
  4. Park Website:

Date posted: July 5, 2018
Last updated: July 6, 2018, 12:28 A.M, Lisbon time (venue change)


The many facets of His Highness the Aga Khan’s leadership


(GERMANY OUT) Aga Khan IV., Prinz Karim *13.12.1936- Imam der Ismaeliten (Ismaeli Sekte), Unternehmer, GB - Portrait, laechelt - 1960 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims (1960 photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images). Copyright.


The Shia Imami Ismailis are so fortunate and privileged to have benefited from the guidance of their 49th Hereditary Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at every turn in their lives. Their bond with him is resolute and unshakable.

The Ismaili community is a transnational community. Approximately 12 million Ismaili Muslims reside in over 25 countries around the world. Despite being so geographically diverse, as well as representing so many different ethnicities, cultures, traditions and languages, the Shia Imami Ismailis, remain staunchly united, through their faith.

This faith is based on the centrality of the Imam, who is the  direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.

Shortly after receiving the mantle of Imamat on July 11, 1957, while only 20 years of age and studying at Harvard, Queen Elizabeth ll, bestowed him the title of His Highness. Aga Khan title is an honorific title bestowed on 46th Imam Hasan Ali Shah by Persian King Fateh Ali Shah Qajar.

Since taking over the role from his grandfather in July 1957, the Imam has guided the community, through decades of changing and ever-evolving worldly milieu, involving many major political and social movements including decolonization of sub-Saharan Africa.

The Imam sees himself as responsible for the security and quality of life of his followers.

The Imam has been described as a visionary, intelligent, humble, hard-working, genuinely thoughtful, polite, pragmatic and a wise humanitarian. The world also sees him as a brilliant statesman, a modest and respected leader and a world figure.

He refuses to call himself a philanthropist as he considers it his obligation and responsibility, through his institutional Imamat mandate, to help his community, Islam and humanity at large. 

The soft-spoken Imam has always given of his life for the betterment of others. His tireless and dedicated work for his community is unfathomable. 

Words will not do justice to describe their 81 year old Imam’s grandeur, eminence or of his stature. An attempt is made here to highlight the work of the Imam as tens of thousands of Ismailis around the world begin arriving in Lisbon, Portugal, to celebrate the completion of his Diamond Jubilee year on July 11, 2018.

Facet #1 – The Imam’s Engagement with the World

2005-04-Aga Khan Norway-17959 MOU

His Highness the Aga Khan and Norway’s Minister for International Development, Ms. Hilde F. Johnson, sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the AKDN and the Government of Norway, to enhance collaboration on development issues and programmes in Africa, Central and South Asia. 06 April 2005, Oslo, Norway. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

Over this long stretch of time, the Imam has established and re-established relations with governments, despite changing leadership, often overcoming frustrations when progress is marred.

Several Memoranda of Understanding, Accords and Agreements of Cooperation have been signed between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), numerous governments, various renowned educational institutions and other International partners for developmental activities in Africa, the Middle East, the Central and South Asia.

These entities deserve recognition for partnering with the Imam to attain maximum synergy for the important developmental work of enormous humanitarian consequences.

The Office of the Imamat upholds its traditional role of political neutrality.

The AKDN enjoys full legal and diplomatic status where it operates and the Imam is always accorded full privilege and honor, reserved only for Head of States, with all appropriate protocols.

The Imam’s farfetched vision is of an inconceivable, long-term horizon. His engagement with numerous governments is through silent diplomacy.

The fruition of his enduring work is owed to his incredible patience, perseverance and being in the long haul. The vastness of his great work is all coming to light today.

There has been a significant improvement in health and tangible reduction in illiteracy and impoverishment in many remote regions of the world, where the Imam’s work is being carried out.

The Imam talked about the impact of globalization and the changing knowledge society.

The Imam has talked extensively about competency in governance, enabling environment, sustainable development, corporate social responsibility, role of engaged civil society, and best practices.

He has persistently talked about life-long learning, excellence and meritocracy.

He has also talked about cosmopolitan ethics of the fragmented world and concept of Global citizenship. He talks about the role of intellect and collective human responsibility.

Facet #2 – The Imam’s Role in helping the Displaced in his Community

The Imam has been at the forefront for his community during many serious crises like in Burma, Bangladesh, Congo, Uganda, Zanzibar, Afghanistan, Syria and at many other places on different occasions. It deeply hurts the Imam to see any segment of his community to go through any such catastrophic predicaments.

During the diaspora, thousands were displaced and otherwise, had nowhere to turn to. The Imam has provided crucial humanitarian assistance in their resettlement; and provided badly needed, prospect of real hope to those affected.

He had been the sole lifeline and transformed the living of habitants of the vast Central Asian region, left on a cold limb, after the abrupt Soviet Union Collapse. This has required a colossal effort.

Facet #3 – The Imam’s Recognition on the World Stage and valuable contributions of his family

Aga Khan Global Leadership Award 4

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, presents the Champion for Global Change Award to His Highness the Aga Khan on October 18, 2017. Photo: AKDN/Akbar Hakim/Mairaj Manji.

The Imam has delivered many profound speeches at prominent world-wide events. He is well respected and the world listens to him.

Across the globe, he has been revered and decorated with countless awards, highest Civic honours, numerous honorary doctorates, and many esteemed citations from leaders of many countries, organizations and renowned academic institutions.

Befitting to say the least, one of his latest decorations, is Uganda’s highest civilian honour the Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa medal. The name of the medal is so apt and fitting for the Imam. The Imam also got the Asia Society’s Game Changer Award for Lifetime Achievement in New York in 2017, for using philanthropy to lift lives of millions of Asia’s most vulnerable.

Prince Aly Khan

Prince Aly Khan is seen (left) in one of the UN Headquarters lounges in New York as he exchanges views with Ambassador Djalal Abdoh, Permanent Representative of Iran to the UN, and Ambassador Mousa Al-Shabandar of Iraq on November 14, 1957. Photo: UN.

Final Phase Digital

Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan is seen (left) as he called upon Secretary-General U Thant at his home on June 23, 1971 to on plans for assisting refugees from East Pakistan. Photo: UN Photo/Teddy Chen. 23 June 1971.

Another outstanding recent honor to the Imam is the United Nations’ Champion of Global Change Award. Receiving an award from the United Nations is very significant for the Imam, as he has a family connection to this important international organization. The Imam’s grandfather, Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, was at one time the President of the League of Nations, the forerunner to the United Nations. Prince Aly Khan Aga Khan, the Imam’s late father worked as Ambassador for Pakistan. Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, the Imam’s late uncle worked as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and his younger brother Prince Amyn Mohamed Aga Khan also served in implementing the development plan for developing countries early in his career, prior to joining Imam’s demanding work.

The running of the Aga Khan Development Network, with its vast work and reach, is assisted by the Imam’s family: his brother Prince Amyn, and his children Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad. They all take an interest in the Imam’s noble work and are always at his side, steadfastly assisting him.

Facet #4 – The Imam’s Vision for Islam

1967_Aga Khan peshawar_university_21343

His Highness the Aga Khan delivering a speech after receiving an Honorary Doctorate on November 30, 1967 at Peshawar University, Pakistan. Photo: AKDN.

Islam is a spiritual and thinking faith. Like other faiths, Islam affirms vertical relation to the Creator and a horizontal relation to fellow human beings and the rest of Allah’s creation.

The Imam is a remarkable figure and has championed the cause of Islam. He has made compelling speeches to the Ummah on frontierless brotherhood, ethos and the social conscience of Islam.

The Imam has addressed the media about responsible reporting and has argued fervently about misguided beliefs and misconceptions such as ‘the clash of civilizations,’ which he sees instead as a clash of ignorance.

The Imam wants the distorted Image of Islam to be corrected. The few who cause damage to humanity in the name of Islam do not speak for the faith. As mentioned in the Qur’an, killing a single person is like killing all of humanity.

He has reminded the world of the glorious, past contributions of Islam and its significant place in history. He eloquently reminds the Ummah about the ‘Shahada’, which unites all Muslims and often urges the Ummah to accept various interpretations of its faith and appreciate the richness of its diversity.

Located at the new Aga Khan Centre in London, The Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations of the Aga Khan University promotes a more enlightened understanding of the heritage of Muslims.

World of the Fatimids Aga Khan Museum 001

A view of the exhibit hall at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, which was opened by His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Mnister Harper in 2014. Photo: The Aga Khan Museum.

The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto is the largest of its kind in North America and showcases rare Qur’anic manuscripts and Islamic artifacts including those from the Imam’s personal collection. It also exhibits the late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s Bellerive Collection. This landmark monument will help educate the Western world about Islam’s true history, diversity, and contributions.

The Imam wants the know-how of the great faith of Islam introduced in the curriculum in the Western world, along with many universal values that can be found in Islam, such as kindness, honesty, humility, forgiveness, compassion, inclusiveness, and care of the weak and elderly.

Facet #5 – The Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

Aga Khan signing new Ismaili Constitution

His Highness the Aga Khan is seen ordaining a new constitution for the worldwide Ismaili community on the auspicious occasion of his 50th birthday on December 13, 1986.

The modern Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims was first ordained on December 13, 1986 and thereafter revised on December 13th 1998 at the Ismaili Centre in Portugal. It is noteworthy, that Portugal is now going to be the new Seat of Imamat.

The Constitution defines the role and authority of the Imamat and of the Jamati institutions along with code of conduct for the community’s followers, along with many articles and provisions.

The Imam has an absolute and unfettered authority over aspects of religious and Jamati (community) matters of the Ismailis. He is their spiritual and temporal guide. The Imam provides his murids (followers) with contemporary tools for success in their spiritual realm.

Islamic ethics of unity, brotherhood, justice, tolerance and goodwill are all enshrined in this Shia Imami  Ismaili Muslim Constitution.

The Constitution also describes the role of the Ismaili Leaders International Forum, and the numerous community institutions such as the Aga Khan Councils, the Tariqah and Religious Education Boards, the Grants and Review Boards, the Conciliation and Arbitration Boards.

Facet #6 – The Ismaili Centres and the Institute of Ismaili Studies

Ismaili Centre Lisbon

Ismaili Centre Lisbon. Photo: Archnet

The Ismaili Centres around the world are symbolic markers of the permanent presence and core values of Ismaili communities around the world. Incorporating spaces for social and cultural gatherings, intellectual engagement and reflection, as well as spiritual contemplation, they are bridges of friendship and understanding, and serve to enhance relationships among faith communities, government and civil society.

Architecturally unique Ismaili Centres can be found in London, Burnaby, Lisbon, Dubai, Dushanbe and in Toronto. Each of these iconic monuments is outstanding and set in its own surroundings. One is now being planned for Houston as confirmed by the Imam during his recent Diamond Jubilee visit to the USA.

The other spaces of worship include many beautiful Jamatkhanas all across the world. They are important congregational places for the community and other activities.

The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), which is being relocated to the new Aga Khan Centre in London, promotes the scholarship and learning of Muslim cultures and societies, historical as well as contemporary, and literary expressions of Shi’ism in general, and Ismailism in particular.  It produces authentic and scholarly research and publications.

The IIS also produces teaching materials for early childhood education, Bait-ul-Ilm (curriculum for children and youth) and the Secondary Teacher Education Programme Program (STEP). It also provides professional training for teachers.

dsc_4155-3_Aga Khan Centre and Institute of Ismaili Studies

His Highness the Aga Khan in conversation with Lord Ahmad, Mayor Sadiq Khan, HRH The Prince of Wales, and Head Librarian of the Aga Khan Library Dr. Walid Ghali. Photo: The Ismaili/Shyrose Bhanji.

The Ta’lim curriculum for Bait-ul-Ilm is an international programme drawn on modern principles of education. It is presented through high calibre teaching and learning materials. It is published in eight languages: Persian, Portuguese, Tajiki, Urdu, Arabic, English, French and Gujarati.

The institute also offers the Graduate Programme in Islamic studies and Humanities (GPISH).

Facet #7 – The Imam’s Passion for Architecture, Green Spaces and Culture

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His Highness the Aga Khan with the recipients of the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Photo: AKDN.

The Imam is very passionate and knowledgeable about architecture and has united the Islamic community through the tri-cycle Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

The prestigious award is the largest of its kind. It identifies and encourages building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of communities in which Muslims have a significant presence.

The Imam has supported the restoration of neglected Islamic monuments through the AKDN’s Historic Cities Program, requiring rare and unique artisan skills.

Since it was founded, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture has restored and rehabilitated over 350 monuments and historic sites. It has also received 13 UNESCO heritage awards for excellence in restoration.

The Imam also established the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture jointly at Harvard and MIT.

The Imam has provided green spaces for many communities including Al-Azhar Park, reclaimed from a dumpsite in the heart of the historic City of Cairo. Interestingly, the City of Cairo was founded by Imam/Caliph Al-Muiz, the 14th Ismaili Imam during the glorious Fatimid period.

During this flourishing empire, Christians, Jews, Muslims and other faiths all lived in harmony. The University of Al-Azhar, one of the oldest universities in the world, was also founded by the Fatimid Caliphate.

The Aga Khan Park in Toronto, the Forodhani in Zanzibar, the National Park in Mali, the Bagh-e Babur Park in Kabul, the Khorog City Park in Tajikistan, the recently opened Aga Khan Garden in Edmonton, are all gifts by the Imam to the citizens.

AKDN has planted 100 million trees in Pakistan alone through programs that address deforestation, transform degraded environments into productive green spaces, and mitigate the effects of climate change.

The Prince Sadruddin Fund for the Environment promotes the management and development of sustainable natural resources through education, area development and related research that addresses existing issues in the developing world. The intention is to assist populations that are most threatened by their natural surroundings, while working to protect fragile ecosystems that are vulnerable to the effects of poorly planned human activity.

Prince Hussain continues his remarkable awareness efforts with his work on photographic exhibitions, creating awareness of pristine nature and environment, as well as building on theme of Prince Sadruddin’s efforts through a new initiative called Focused on Nature.

Facet #8 – The Imam’s Educational and Health endeavours

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The University of Central Asia Naryn campus in the Kyrgyz Republic lies on the banks of the Naryn River, surrounded by the Tien Shan mountain range. Photo: AKDN.

Two important institutions that can make a big impact on societal development are hospitals and universities.

Both involve substantial and prohibitive input of capital expenditure and human resources. Many poor governments do not have the resources to construct these institutions or to keep them running.

The Imam has stepped up to fill this void. The Imam strongly believes that civil society must complement the role of the government.

The Imam has built world-class facilities and made education and healthcare accessible to millions. The facilities are non-denominational, and not-for-profit.

The Aga Khan Health Services has played an important role with countless rural health care centres across the globe to provide primary health care including vaccinations and interventions that lower infant mortality.

The world-class Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan specializes in tropical illnesses and produces relevant clinical research and innovation.

The Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi, Kenya with its Heart and Cancer Centre is one of the best hospitals in all of Africa. Both above-mentioned hospitals produce leading and pioneering work.

AKDN is also associated in running the recently inaugurated Bamyan Hospital in Afghanistan. It is difficult for women and children to access medical help in mountainous areas.

There are over 15 Aga Khan Hospitals including those in Dar-es-salaam, Hyderabad, Karachi, Karimabad, Kharadar, Kisumu, Mombasa, Mumbai, Nairobi, and a newly announced Hospital in Kampala.  To oversee so many hospitals is a huge undertaking.

Pakistan had an acute shortage of nurses, but with the AKU’s School of Nursing, the Imam helped to alleviate that problem. It is an impressive feat in a country where women face many cultural challenges and barriers. This tremendous success now is replicated in East Africa and other parts of the world.

The Aga Khan Education Services has many schools for children all over the regions. It has provided remarkable opportunities for girls to study and reach their potential. Women have been empowered under his leadership. It opened windows of opportunity for individual families and their communities, and made a huge difference in the quality of their lives.

Institute for Educational Development Program at the AKU was established to improve educational standards in primary and secondary schools through field-based training programmes.

The University of Central Asia, with campuses on the on the legendary silk route, is a case where the Imam has brought three Central Asian countries together, in partnership with AKDN, to achieve a common purpose of meeting needs of specific mountain society education for their communities.

The Imam is the Chancellor of the University and the Presidents of Tajikistan, Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan Republics are the Patrons.

Good governance and Media studies have been added in the curriculum design of the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia to benefit of emerging nations of Africa and Central regions of Asia.

The Aga Khan Academies are sprouting up in different countries, building up a network of schools of world-class calibre to provide wholesome education and create great future leaders.

Three Academies have already been opened in Mombasa, Hyderabad and Maputo. A total of 18 Academies are in planned to serve 14 countries in all.

These competitive, educational institutes are merit based, non-denominational and non-gender-specific. The funding is need-based, giving everyone an opportunity regardless of their religious beliefs, culture, or background.

Facet #9 – The Imam’s other developmental work

Focus Humanitarian at work in Tajikistan in 2005

Focus Humanitarian Assistance Tajikistan, in collaboration with its partners and the Government of Tajikistan, at work to support relief efforts following severe flooding in 2005 in villages across Tajikistan. Photo: AKDN/Iftikhor Fayzakov

The Imam is also a steward for the community’s economic and social welfare. His objective is to improve the quality of life of not only of the Ismaili community, but also of other communities, within which Ismailis reside.

Both forward-looking and sustainability of institutions is a hallmark of Imam’s thinking, who is indisputably a unique and successful institution builder.

AKDN also draws the best skills from the Ismaili community.

The Imam is so concerned about the generations caught in the vicious cycle of poverty and deprived of means. His aim is to improve livelihood of the vulnerable, the marginalized and the ultra-poor. He wants them to have opportunities, be self-sufficient, and live a life of dignity.

The Imam advocates that there is dignity in individual’s ability to manage his or her destiny.

He asserts that that the biggest weapon for these communities is the replacement of fear by hope.

The Imam has also engaged in areas which are hostile and difficult to operate, with ongoing geo-political strives such as Afghanistan and in mountainous regions with extremely difficult access, such as Badakhshan, in Central Asia and Northern areas of Pakistan.

The Imam has also reached out to populations neglected in rural areas of India, Pakistan and remote areas in Africa by providing infrastructure and opportunities.

The Imam has established affordable Housing colonies and helped in providing water and sanitation facilities. He has also provided irrigation and other help for rural farmers through the outstanding AKDN agencies.

The Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance has fostered hope to families with low or no income in many challenging regions of the under developed world.

Focus Humanitarian Assistance (FOCUS) is an International crisis response and disaster risk management agency which provides emergency relief to communities suffering from natural disasters or man-made crises. 

The Imam has also engaged communities through other cultural initiatives such as the Silk Road Music initiative. Recently on Navroz March 21, 2018, he announced the establishment of the Aga Khan Music Awards.

The AKDN literally employs thousands of people and has an enviable budget comparable of a small country in Africa. Millions of people and communities have benefitted. AKDN has made a significant and a meaningful impact in their livelihoods.

With Imam’s compassion and humility, not surprisingly, AKDN today assists the country of Uganda, despite what happened to the Ismaili community and all Asians in Uganda, at the time of the rule of Idi Amin. Such noble values are held by the Imam and his community. It is also noteworthy to mention that the Imam also graced his first Diamond Jubilee visit to Uganda.

Facet #10 – The Imam’s Economic Developmental Work


Uganda’s Bujagali dam provides up to 250 megawatts of generating capacity, and load shedding has been eliminated. Bujagali Hydropower is currently meeting 49% of the country’s electricity needs. Photo: AKDN.

AKDN has also been involved with industrial projects through Industrial Promotion Services (IPS), Serena Hotels, Media companies, Hydro and Telecom companies.  This partnership helps train local workers, create employment and boost the local economy. Surpluses are reinvested for further developmental activities of the AKDN.

The splendorous Serena group of properties operated by AKDN’s agency of Tourism Promotion Services also bring in much needed foreign currency to the local economy. There are currently 22 hotels, resorts and safari lodges in places like Kenya, Tanzania (including Zanzibar), Mozambique, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

A significant mention should be made for the contribution of Roshan, the telecommunication company in Afghanistan, the Bujagali Hydro project in Uganda and of Pamir Energy Company in Khorog, Tajikistan. These are amongst the many flagship infrastructure projects of the AKDN.

The Nation Media Group, founded by the Imam is majority-owned and run by Kenyans and has become the largest independent media company in East and Central Africa.  It was set up with origins in Kenya’s Taifa and Nation newspapers, to provide independent voices during the years just preceding the country’s independence.

Facet #11 – The Imam as an advocate for Pluralism

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His Highness the Aga Khan with winners and honourable mentions of the first Pluralism Award held in Ottawa on November 15, 2017.

The Global Central for Pluralism in Ottawa has been converted from what was once a War Museum to a place that hopefully will contribute to peace in the years and decades to come. The Centre was established by the Imam with support from the Canadian Government. Through research, education and dialogue, its aim is to advance respect for diversity worldwide.

The Imam is a passionate and ardent advocate of Pluralism and reiterates persuasively that Plurality is not only a strength but also fundamental to our existence and survival; and societies have to relentlessly work at it and address it. Genuine Pluralism and diversity does not weaken society but strengthens it.

The Imam also talks about the shared destiny and ethos of Abrahamic tradition that unites the three great monotheistic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The Imam quotes, an Ayat (verse) from the Qur’an that all humans are made from single soul.

The Imam is a uniter and a true bridge-builder. Such qualities are desperately needed in today’s ever fragmenting world.

Facet #12 – The Imam’s Tireless Work

The photograph shows former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s family, friends, colleagues, and official guests in attendance to observe his passing. His son, Justin, now the Prime Minister of Canada, rests his head on the casket of his father. Margaret Trudeau, in the front pew with son, Alexandre, is flanked by the beloved prime minister’s later life partner, Deborah Coyne, and their daughter, Sarah. The former prime minister’s sister, Suzette Rouleau, is on the far side of the same first row. Leonard Cohen on the right. In attendance next to Cuban President Fidel Castro are former Governor-General Romeo Leblanc, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Other notables present at the ceremony not shown in this photograph include past Canadian Prime Ministers John Turner, Joseph Clark, Brian Mulroney, and Jean Chrétien. Photo: Copyright Jean-Marc Carisse.

The photograph shows former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s family, friends, colleagues, and official guests in attendance to observe his passing. His son, Justin, now the Prime Minister of Canada, rests his head on the casket of his father. In attendance next to the late Cuban President Fidel Castro are former Governor-General of Canada Romeo Leblanc, His Highness the Aga Khan and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter. Photo: Copyright Jean-Marc Carisse.

Sixty years of work with no breaks is a long time in anyone’s life. The emotional and physical exertion must be taking a toll on the Imam, even more so, now because of his age. The Imam has clocked countless hours travelling through different time zones for his remarkable endeavours and to complete his essential work.

Many of these prominent state leaders, the Imam has interacted in the past are no longer alive, like John F. Kennedy, Jawaharlal Nehru, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Jomo Kenyatta, Nelson Mandela, Julius Nyerere, and Milton Obote. But the Imam still continues his vital work.  The Imam’s position is a Hereditary position, and thus the prospect of retirement is not in the cards.

The humanly strain and drain on him, with long working hours, of travelling, attending to Jamati work, sometimes of utmost urgency, reviewing and responding innumerable reports from his institutions, preparing for many consequential meetings and high level discussions with different governments leaders and institutions, does not leave the Imam of much personal or leisure time.

His untiring, round-the-clock work is imperative to him. Nothing makes the Imam happier than to see his community move forward and to make a meaningful impact on humanity.  

Facet #13 – The Imam’s followers

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His Highness the Aga Khan at a Golden Jubilee Darbar gathering with Ismailis in Porshniev, Tajikistan, in December 2008.

The Ismaili faith is esoteric and is of an intellectual tradition.

To the world he is a King without Kingdom, but to his steadfast followers, he is the Lord of all Worlds.

He is responsible for their spiritual upliftment. He is the living Interpreter of the Qur’an and engages with modern issues that were non-existent at the time of the Prophet.

Islam’s teaching is that there be no dichotomy between one’s worldly and spiritual lives. The worldly life of an Ismaili is very much intertwined with spiritual obligations, daily prayers and rituals. The conduct of their daily actions is framed by the ethics of Islam.

The Ismaili community is very resilient and has a rich history. The community has evolved and has adapted according to the time; and yet steadfast to the accepted and universal rich values of the time of the Prophet 1400 years ago.

At an early age, their faith teaches them that the worldly life is transient and everyone has to account for the life hereafter.

The pursuit of material well-being should never be the exclusive objective of life and it is imperative not to get hypnotized by mundane worldly activities and excessive wealth. Any surplus must be used for the benefit of those who are not as fortunate.

Similarly knowledge is to be shared. There is no purpose in accumulating knowledge, without using it for the benefit and assistance of others. 

Success is helping others. These are values of Islam, which the Imam has been reminding their community, time and over again.

The community is very generous and gives of themselves abundantly in their resources of both material and of their time and intellectual commitment, ‘Time and Knowledge’.

To the Ismailis, their Imam is their moral and spiritual compass. They have an unmatched allegiance to him.  They are obedient and heed his advice earnestly.

When the Imam visits them in any country, they welcome him with all their love and enthusiasm. They celebrate and look forward for his visits. Their happiness is indescribable.

In Badakshan as in Northern Pakistan, the Imam’s welcome messages are carved high up on the majestic mountains. His followers walk on feet for days and cross mountains to have a glance of him (Didar) when he visits their region.

Even more happier is their Imam to see his murids and he has said that “No mountains, no river, no desert can separate the Imam frrm his murids.”

Ismailis have high conviction of their faith. They internalize their faith in their daily living. Most submit themselves and pray regularly, live simply, are shy and the Imam asks them to stay away from bad social habits.

Facet #14 – The vibrant Ismaili community

Ismailis 150 Initiative

Volunteers clean parks as part of the Ismaili CIVIC 150 initiative in Mississauga. Photo: The Ismaili/Saad Madhani.

One has to be blessed and grateful to belong to the well-respected Ismaili community under the leadership of the Imam.

The community engages pre-schoolers at an early age, helps in raising the children and youth collectively, and aspires them to reach their full potential.

On the other end of the spectrum, the seniors and elderly are engaged, entertained and given health education and support. The sick are even visited in hospitals, never left to feel lonely.

The community offers much, as well, to the in-betweens in every aspect of their life including health, education, economic and social affairs.

The Ismaili community is both inward and outward looking. The community integrates quickly and always faithful to the county of its domicile. The Ismaili community reciprocates and respects the wider community by extending itself through outreach and bridge building.

Some examples of Ismaili community’s outreach are the one million hours of voluntary work for the Canada 150 initiative, feeding the City of Calgary every year for breakfast during the Calgary Stampede, help in Quebec during the Ice storm, help during Hurricane Harvey in Houston, helping at the food banks during festive seasons, help at Olympic games and many International sporting events, hosting interfaith dialogues etc.

The Ismaili community is very active, vibrant, and energetic. The community is very organised, coherent, disciplined, well structured, well-informed, resourceful, adaptable and progressive. It is united, peaceful, respectful, successful and yet modest.

Outsiders consider Ismaili Muslims as hard working and responsible. They regard the Ismaili community as exemplary, close-knit and discreet.

The members of the community always look after the vulnerable, the weak, and the disadvantaged, never leaving anyone behind. The Quality of Life Project, an objective of Diamond Jubilee, specifically addresses that.

The community has tremendous global network and connectivity. The community has a wide reach of assistance and support in almost all activities of life.

The cornerstone of the community has been education, thanks to the recurring emphasis and the persuasive involvement of the present Imam and his great and notable predecessor Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan.

Volunteerism is also at the core of the community. It is a time honoured tradition of service to others. The attitude toward volunteerism is sincere and professional. Service to the community is accorded with enthusiasm, diligence, and serious commitment, without any sought of recognition. To the outsiders, the number of hours, the members of the community put in, are incomprehensible and simply unimaginable.

The community, with modest beginnings, has successfully settled in Canada and elsewhere. Within two  generations, many community members are already successful CEOs, doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, politicians, economists, teachers, nurses, IT professionals, police officers, even artists and  journalists.  Many are also scholars, professors with PhDs and MBAs.

There is incredible talent in the community. They take pride in their achievement, give back to the community and always stand to help and mentor others to succeed in their own right.

Professional Global Alliances are being initiated in the Ismaili community to leverage the community’s diverse social, intellectual and economic strengths.

The community provides a strong and resilient safety net for everyone. Segments of their community like the youth, women, the elderly, newly arrived immigrants, the vulnerable and even those medically challenged are engaged by the community, with a special focus.

The multi-ethnic community is considered a belonging community and is very inclusive. The community is becoming increasingly open and accommodating to spouses of other faiths.

Because of the Imam’s invaluable and exhaustive work, the integrity and peaceful nature of the Ismaili community and their contributions, the Shia Ismaili community is increasingly getting recognized.

Facet #15 – The Ismaili Community’s Emphasis on Youth

Ismaili youth at soccer camp

Ismaili boys and girls from British Columbia seen at a 2-weekend soccer camp at the Burnaby Lake West Complex. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.Copyright

Pre-school education, Bait-ul-Ilm and the STEP program are formative and developmental blocks for young children and the youth.

They learn about the faith holistically and are encouraged to question and reason.

They learn about the concept of God, the ethics of Islam, the tenets of the Ismaili faith and of other great faiths, as well as about Allah’s creation, social issues, moral reasoning, environmental responsibility, cultural Pluralism, work of the AKDN, history and geography, volunteerism, effects of ill-social habits etc.

The youth are grounded in anchors of humanity at an early age and taught to respect everybody, regardless of culture and faith.

To these youth, the valuable knowledge gained with high calibre and professional curriculum by experienced teachers, some even professionally trained is astounding. They are taught very creatively through group activities, teamwork, assignments, field trips, crafts, summer camps, exhibitions, presentations and debates.

The accumulated knowledge adds up to their moral development and gives them additional sense of security. It also teaches them humility in success and perseverance in adversity. It also makes them aware about the larger society and teaches them how they can contribute to humanity.

The youth are exposed and interacted with other youths around the world through International community sport events, like in Golden Jubilee Games in Nairobi, Kenya and at Unity Games at Dubai, U.A.E. The youths improve their interaction and communication skills and learn planning of major International events.

The Ismaili Heritage and Discovery programs also give them exposure of culture, languages of brothers and sisters through travels to other parts of the world where other Ismailis reside. 

Youth at younger age are drawn to serving others, take responsibilities and in turn develop many social, leadership and organizational skills, besides building their self-confidence. They are also entrusted with responsibility of officiating some of the religious ceremonies.

The community gives them a sense of belonging and provides them meaningful responsibilities. It gives them humility and satisfaction, keeps them purposely occupied and abates the risk of them going astray.

The pay-off of engaging the youth in the community is particularly important in the adolescence years, where parents are so busy and pre-occupied with their careers and occupations, while the youth have lot of time at hand.


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His Highness the Aga Khan shares a light moment with the Jamat during the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in London. Photo: The Ismaili/Sarfaraj Sultan.

Emotions, feelings and words fail to describe Imam’s epitome of inspiration in the service of humanity.

His numerous and illustrious achievements, during six decades of his Imamat, are truly impressive and transformational.

The Imam is sincere, kind and a genuine enabler. It is his noble calling. His thinking is informed from the great tenets of the faith of Islam and the responsibility towards humanity.

The Imam is an exceptional human being. He is so highly regarded and well-liked by many. He is a beacon of hope for many. The impact of his exhaustive work through AKDN entities will be felt for generations to come.

Jubilees are markers and events of celebration. They are epochal for the Imam and the community, as is this Diamond Jubilee. They are like trampoline and always propel the Jamats forward, along with the wider community, with which they reside.

On this historical and momentous year of Diamond Jubilee, we wish to say mubaraki to our Imam, express our humble ‘shukhrana’ and also thank him for his Diamond Jubilee visits to Uganda, Tanzania, Canada, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, India the USA, Kenya, France and the UK. We now await the conclusion of his Diamond Jubilee with a visit to Portugal.

Ismailis all over the world are blessed by Imam’s rahemat and gratified of his benevolence, magnanimity and nobility.

I end this humble narrative of the Imam with a prayer for peace for all our Ismaili brothers and sisters, in any corner of the world, who face any kind of difficulty, and especially for those who live in conflict burdened and war-torn countries.

Date posted: July 4, 2018.


About the author: Shiraz A Nasser, B.Sc. Agriculture (Hons) (1973 University of East Africa), is an accredited member of Ontario Association of Certified Engineering Technicians and Technologists (OACETT) since 1982.

Born and raised in Dodoma, Tanzania, Shiraz started his career lecturing on Soil Science at his alma mater, Egerton Agricultural College, Kenya.  Upon immigrating to Canada, he retooled himself by studying Civil Engineering at Ryerson University.

Shiraz currently works for the City of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada as a GIS Specialist in the Geomatics Section. Prior to that, he worked for 28 years for a private consulting engineering firm that designed and constructed infrastructure projects such as highways, railways, airport runways, and municipal infrastructure, as well as automotive plants for companies like Ford and General Motors. 

Shiraz is a recipient of the Ontario Volunteer Service Award for his 30+ years of community service. His varied voluntary roles in the Ismaili community include fundraising for Aga Khan University (Karachi) and Focus Humanitarian Assistance, being Assistant Convenor for Bait-ul-Ilm for Ontario, providing site design consultancy for Greater Toronto Jamatkhanas, being mentor for numerous Ismaili youth and doing other Jamati work.

Shiraz has long had a passion for learning about the world, in particular about history, politics and Islam. This passion is shared by his two children, who both work in the media: His daughter Farah is the well-known Toronto-based anchor for Global News, and son Latif got a PhD from Harvard University,  and is the Director of Research for the New York-based public radio show Radiolab.


Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to 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 and follow us at

This website, Barakah, is a special project by 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 UK and France: A thorough and comprehensive coverage of his Diamond Jubilee visit

His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visit to the UK

Aga Khan with British Prime Minister Theresa May

British Prime Minister Theresa May hosts His Highness the Aga Khan on June 27, 2018 at 10 Downing Street. Photo: UK Prime Minister, 10 Downing Street. See link to full report and Tweet, below

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, Prince Amyn, Lord Ahmad, and leaders of the Ismaili Jamat observe the Nashid al-Imamah and the British National Anthem. Photo: The.Ismaili/Nayyir Damani

Mawlana Hazar Imam arrived in London on June 25, 2018 to commence his Diamond Jubilee visit to the United Kingdom at the invitation of the government. Mawlana Hazar Imam was accompanied by Prince Amyn on arrival and was warmly welcomed at the airport by Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for the Commonwealth and the United Nations, as well as leaders of the Ismaili Jamat.

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His Royal Highness Prince Charles and His Highness the Aga Khan discuss the features of the Garden of Life on the ninth floor of the newly inaugurated Aga Khan Centre with garden designer Madison Cox. Photo: AKDN/Nayyir Damani.

On Tuesday, June 26, 2018, HRH The Prince of Wales opened The Aga Khan Centre in King’s Cross in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Situated at the heart of London’s Knowledge Quarter, the Aga Khan Centre, designed by Maki and Associates, led by Fumihiko Maki, one of Japan’s most distinguished contemporary architects, provides a new home for a number of UK based organisations founded by His Highness the Aga Khan: The Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC) and the Aga Khan Foundation UK (AKF UK).

Mayor of London with Aga Khan and Prince Amyn

His Highness the Aga Khan and Prince Amyn in conversation with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, at the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Centre in London. Photo: AKDN/Anya Campbell

While in the United Kingdom, Mawlana Hazar Imam will spend time with the Jamats from Austria, Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. 





His Highness the Aga Khan’s Visit to France

Mawlana Hazar Imam, Aga Khan france Diamond Jubilee_6

Mawlana Hazar Imam is received at the Darbar hall by Mukhi Saheb, Mukhiani Saheba, Kamadia Saheb, and Kamadiani Saheba of Paris Principle Jamatkhana. Photo: The.Ismaili/Zahur Ramji

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, granted a Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Paris on June 23, 2018 for the France jurisdiction Jamat. Members of the Jamat from France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Côte d’Ivoire, along with murids from the UK jurisdiction who were unable to travel to the UK, gathered for the historic Darbar at Porte de Versailles, the same venue where Mawlana Hazar Imam first met with the France Jamat in 1980. Hazar Imam complimented all volunteers for their excellent work, including many who had come from the UK to support the France volunteer corps, exemplifying a spirit of unity in service.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam admires artwork of the France jurisdiction Jamat; Murids young and old conveyed messages of love, affection, and gratitude to Hazar Imam on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee. Photo: The.Ismaili//Zahur Ramji


Youth volunteers line up to bid farewell to Mawlana Hazar Imam upon his departure. Photo: The.Ismaili/Zahur Ramji

Delivering a Loyalty Address on behalf of the Jamat present, Ismaili Council for France President Shamir Samdjee expressed gratitude to Mawlana Hazar Imam.

A gift of one of the earliest copies of the Holy Qur’an to have been made in China was also presented to Hazar Imam on behalf of the Jamat. The 15th century manuscript, transcribed by Rashad ibn ‘Ali al-Sini in Khanbaliq (modern day Beijing), has lines of Arabic Chinese script on each page and dates back to the fifth day of Muharram in 804AH.


Date posted: June 26, 2018.
Last updated: June 28, 2018.


Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to 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 and follow us at

This website, Barakah, is a special project by 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 Talks, Titles, Treaties and Walks of the Aga Khan IV: Glimpses of his “Extra-ordinariness”


My first pictorial essay posted on February 18, 2017, offered some glimpses of the Aga Khan’s exceptionally remarkable accomplishments since becoming the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims (henceforth the Ismailis) on July 11, 1957. His “inspiring words” (talks) and “commendable deeds” (walks) have been frequently extolled across the world conferring upon him the status of a global citizen, an international leader, and a virtual head of states.

The New Prince Karim Aga Khan Iv In Switzerland After The Death Of The Aga Khan Iii. Portrait du prince Karim AGA KHAN IV devant une photographie de son grand-père l'AGA KAHN III. (Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images)

An early portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan, with a framed photo of his grandfather, the 48th Ismaili Imam, Aga Khan III, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah (1877-1957) in the background. Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright.

This essay provides additional glimpses of his “extra-ordinariness,” and its enthusiastic embrace by increasing numbers of influential individuals and institutions throughout the globe. It recalls the glowing tributes to the “grand old man,” Aga Khan III, and his young, promising grandson, Aga Khan IV, by Professor K.K. Aziz, an eminent Pakistani scholar. Lastly, it reflects on some of the episodes of the year-long Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.

Prof Aziz could be considered a scholarly biographer of Aga Khan III (1877-1957), and an astute observer of Aga Khan IV’s Imamat (1957-present) until the mid-nineties. He concluded that though  Aga Khan III’s monumental mission, in the service of Islam and mankind, was not fully realized during his glorious Imamat of 72 years, “he has passed on to his progeny his intellectual interests, social conscience, and love of Islam. The Aga Khan IV is following in the footsteps of his grandfather to a degree exceptional in hereditary succession. He is the greatest legacy left to his people and to the world.” [1]

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Her Majesty the Queen hosted a dinner at Windsor Castle to mark the Diamond Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

Thus, as the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Ismailis, Shah Karim al Hussani inherited the honorific and noble Persian title of Aga Khan. Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain ennobled him with the title of “His Highness.” His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, henceforth, will be referred simply as the Aga Khan. Also in 1957, he was made a “Brilliant Star of Zanzibar” by the Sultan of Zanzibar. This garland of high honors has been enriched by frequent awards, honorary citizenships and honorary doctorates, keys to cities, medals, prizes, proclamations and tributes. He could possibly be one of the most decorated spiritual or temporal leaders in modern history.

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The Aga Khan addressing the Sirat conference in Pakistan in 1976.

Prof Aziz studied eighteen speeches of the Aga Khan, provided by his Secretariat, in Gouvieux, France. Of these masterly addresses to diverse audiences, he was particularly captivated by one: “The Aga Khan’s fullest and finest exposition of his understanding of Islam and its relevance to the contemporary world, was made in a speech at the International Sirat Conference in Karachi, in 1976.” [2] Clearly enthralled by the young Ismaili Imam’s erudition and elucidation, he concluded: “the virtues of a grandson have erected the noblest mausoleum in memory of his grandfather’s life-long dedication to nurturing respect for human dignity.” [3]

He lamented that the 49th Imam’s eighteen speeches had not been published for the general reading public, as a book. [4] There was some rectification, soon after the Golden Jubilee, with the publication of his thirteen speeches and one interview as a book titled Where Hope Takes Root: Democracy and Pluralism in an Interdependent World (2008).

M. Ali Lakhani’s just-published, Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat (2018), comes closest to such an academic enterprise. Lakhani has selectively excerpted from the Aga Khan’s thematic addresses about the paramount ethics of Islam and has brilliantly annotated them. Since he has drawn these speeches from AKDN’s and Nanowisdoms’ websites, there is a collaborative opportunity for another multi-volume “coffee-table” edition of the 49th Imam’s speeches, for non-digital readers.

With the turn of the 21st century, sadly a shocking dark turn confronted the already much maligned religion of Islam: the appalling terrorist attacks on America on September 11, 2001. The Aga Khan joined other prominent and credible Muslim religious leaders to publicly condemn the nine-eleven atrocity and expound on the peaceful nature of Islam.

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His Highness the Aga Khan delivering a speech on June 23, 2002 at the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center in Houston, Texas. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

On June 23, 2002, at the inauguration of Houston’s Ismaili Center and Jamatkhana, in the presence of then Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, the Aga Khan stated: “Nine-eleven has scarred America but not just America. It also scarred the Islamic world, and hundreds of millions of devout and practicing Muslims for whom the word of the Qur’an affirms that to save a life is, as if, to save humankind altogether.” He further emphasized “Nine-eleven and all that is behind them are repugnant to the very spirit of Islam….In the words of the Qur’an it is as if the entirety of humankind has suffered a death, with every life that was so brutally ended.” Also he warned, “What we are witnessing is a Clash of Ignorance; an ignorance that is mutual, longstanding, and to which the West and the Islamic world have been blind for decades at their great peril.”

He went on to emphasize peaceful Islamic value by describing the Houston Ismaili Center, like other such centers in Canada, Britain, and Europe, as “more than places of congregational prayers. They are places of peace, humility, reflection, and prayer, of search and enlightenment, not of anger and obscurantism.”

Subsequently a host of Muslim and non-Muslim scholars, commentators, religious leaders, and concerned citizens, have taken the message of true Islam to the reading, listening, and viewing public. Evidently, no concrete, lasting steps appear to have been taken by them to remind non-Muslims and Muslims alike, about the essentially peaceful nature of Islam. It is these differences arising from rudimentary or incorrect knowledge of each others’ faiths that have continued to escalate the Clash of Ignorance, for which one of the antidotes is appropriate education at all levels of schooling, especially for those in the media and those with secular and sacred leadership roles on both sides of the religious divide.

In this and other regards, Prof Aziz has summarized Islam at work and Islam at its best as expounded by the 48th and 49th Ismaili Imams, over the past hundred or more years. The Aga Khan III’s Imamat (1885-1957) had laid the foundation of a multifaceted, farsighted organization, which included the subject of affordable housing and early education of girls and women up to university level. The Aga Khan IV (1957-present) has steadily and smartly adapted, modernized, and expanded that into the “planet’s most important” and “staggeringly efficient’’ multinational, multi-pronged network bearing his name: Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN).

Among the other bridge-building activities of AKDN are the actual Walks, Parks, and Museums. Since the mid-1990’s, the Aga Khan Foundation/Partnership Walks have been held in dozens of cities in as many countries. They are intended to form partnerships with like-minded institutions and individuals to increase awareness of, and raise funds for, his incredibly effective supranational network. These walks come with a generous “Aga Khan twist” — he underwrites the entire cost of these annual events, enabling 100% of the collected funds to be used for the alleviation of poverty.

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Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, addresses the gathering as His Highness the Aga Khan and Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Shri Anil Baijal look on during the dedication ceremony of the Sunder Nursery. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

As is evident, the Aga Khan has an amazingly vast range of interests. The completion of the Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, Egypt, in 2005, sparked a burning desire in many “AKDN countries” to have their own green spaces with their proven, considerable, socio- economic benefits. During the Diamond Jubilee tour of India, he dedicated the Sunder Nursery, a splendid botanical garden and mega-park, adjoining the magnificent Humayun’s Tomb, both in New Delhi, and both restored by Aga Khan Trust for Culture. Under a treaty between the Ismaili Imamat and the Government of Alberta, Canada, the Aga Khan gifted millions of dollars for what can be called “seed money” and start-up costs for The Aga Khan Garden in Alberta, which is expected to open in the near future. During his April 2018 state visit to Kenya, he signed an agreement with President Uhuru Kenyatta to revitalize the Nairobi City Park.

Museums are yet another interest of this global Muslim leader. The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto is dedicated to Islamic Art in its broadest sense; The Museum of the Horse in Chantilly, France, which had fallen on hard times, was superbly and generously restored by the Aga Khan.

A close look at the AKDN chart of his multifarious involvements and institutions would suggest that the Aga Khan is one of contemporary history’s most prolific and visionary builder and patron. He has consistently been called a “bridge-builder” and, significantly, AKDN has actually constructed two physical bridges: one to connect Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and the other to re-connect the city of Mostar, in Bosnia, by restoring the war-damaged historic bridge.

Following the precedent of his grandfather, the Aga Khan commemorates all his Jubilees by launching multi-dimensional projects to alleviate poverty and improve the living conditions of not only his own followers but also of what he has called the “frontierless brotherhood of mankind,” as he sees this as a mandate of his Imamat. This should become abundantly clear as we partake of a miniscule portion of the extensive Diamond Jubilee Celebrations (DJC).

The Unforgettable Diamond Jubilee Celebrations

Aga Khan and family Diamond Jubilee Homage Ceremony

His Highness the Aga Khan and members of his family at the homage ceremony inaugurating his Diamond Jubilee on July 11, 2017. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji

The majestic Homage Ceremony on July 11, 2107, at the Aga Khan’s estate in Gouvieux, France, marked the official start of the year-long DJC, scheduled to end on July 11, 2018, in Lisbon, Portugal.

The 49th Ismaili Imam graciously agreed to celebrate sixty years of his Imamat with his global jamat. Some of these visits would be Mulaqats (meetings including religious ceremonies) and others would be Darbars (audience and homage, usually without religious ceremonies).

Thus began his marathon tour of almost a dozen countries and many more cities on four continents. All of these would be state visits at the invitations of the host governments.

Uganda was the first stage of the DJC in October 2017. The Aga Khan was the Chief Guest of the Ugandan President Museveni, for the 55th Independence Anniversary of that country. At a special elaborate ceremony, Uganda’s highest civil honor – “The Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa, The Grand Master Medal” – was conferred upon him.

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His Highness the Aga Khan is conferred with the Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa by His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni, as part of Uganda’s 55th Independence Day celebration on October 9, 2017.

This intrigued a leading East African scholar, Professor Bukenya, to investigate the Award and the Awardee, as he knew little about either. To his astonishment, this very rare honor, reserved for Heads of State or Government, was given to an individual who was neither! It was in the Aga Khan’s landmark speech, “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World,” delivered at Harvard in November 2015, that Professor Bukenya found his answer to “why the Aga Khan?” In his piece originally written for the Daily Nation, Prof Bukenya applauded the Aga Khan’s “approach to faith and life, especially in these dark days of fanatical and violent extremism that is giving faiths like Islam a sadly bad press.”

After enumerating the multitudinous ways in which AKDN is benefiting his and other countries, he declared: “Though he may not be a Head of State or government, he is certainly an allegial one, commanding allegiance among millions of his spiritual followers and all the societies and countries empowered by his beneficial interpretation of faith and practicality.” [5] Remarkably, the Aga Khan had already felt the “Winds of Change” that British Premier Harold McMillan, a year later, stated were sweeping Africa with demand for independence. The Daily Nation was founded by the Aga Khan in 1959-1960 to enable independent news and opinions to be expressed in colonial East Africa. It steadily mushroomed into the mammoth Nations Media Group, including The Graduate School of Media and Communications of the Aga Khan University in East Africa (2015).

Aga Khan and PM Modi

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi welcomes His Highness the Aga Khan to the Prime Minister’s House in New Delhi. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.

Aga Khan at Rideau Hall with Prime Ministers and Governor Generals

Her Excellency the Honourable Governor General Julie Payette hosts His Highness the Aga Khan,  at Rideau Hall to mark his Diamond Jubilee. Guests in attendance included the Right Honourable Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, past Prime Ministers Jean Chrétien and Joe Clark, former Governors General David Johnston and Adrienne Clarkson and their spouses and other notable Canadians. Her Excellency applauded the Aga Khan’s contributions to humanity over the last six decades of his leadership, recognising him as a “beacon of light”. Photo: AKDN/ Lisa Sakulensky

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His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan bids farewell to His Highness the Aga Khan after their meeting in Abu Dhabi. Photo: AKDN/Akbar Hakim

Each subsequent stage of the DJC is well-documented in the Ismaili media. Therefore, here, it will suffice to briefly mention the stately receptions, with some or more variations, that the Aga Khan received: airport honor guards and Imamat’s and host countries’ national anthems; red carpet and red and green colors of the Imamat flag; motorcades and police motorcycle escorts; banquets and meetings with: monarchs (Queen of England and the Sheikh of Dubai); presidents, prime ministers, governors, governors-general (Canada), mayors, civil society leaders, and many others.

Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Texas visit

His Highness the Aga Khan is given a sabre salute by the Texas A&M Ross Volunteers, the State of Texas’ official honor guard as he arrives to celebrate his Diamond Jubilee in Texas in March 2018. Photo: The Ismaili/Akbar Hakim.


Pakistan’s Prime Minister Abbasi presents a commemorative First Day Cover to His Highness the Aga Khan on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee. Photo: The Ismaili/Akbar Hakim.

Commemorative stamps were issued to celebrate his visit (Tanzania and Pakistan); tributes in the media and proclamations in the legislatures of Canada, the U.K. Parliament, and U.S. Congress, wishing the Aga Khan “Diamond Jubilee Mubarak”.

Many other tributes, in recognition of the Aga Khan’s service to humanity, have appeared, during his “world tour”, from the western-most frontier of Islam, (e.g., Jagdeesh Mann, Straight, 5/3/18, Vancouver, Canada), to the farthest eastern frontier (e.g.,, Sauris interview, 2/28/18), and also in India, Pakistan, Western Europe, North America, and East Africa.

Not only has there been an awakening in some parts of the Muslim Umma (community), but there also have been bold suggestions that the Ismaili Muslim Imam’s interpretation and implementation of Islam merit study and emulation. Interestingly, AKDN, particularly the Aga Khan Hospital in Karachi, is so highly regarded in Pakistan, that survivors of sectarian and other extremist violence have requested that they be taken there for treatment. [6]

The creators and volunteers of two exquisite ambassadorial traveling exhibitions – “Ethics in Action” and “Rays of Light”, complemented by the Aga Khan Music Initiative Ensemble, have served to  further increase this awareness of the Aga Khan’s global mission and cultural diplomacy.

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Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, Asia Society President and CEO Josette Sheeran, and His Highness the Aga Khan greet each other prior to the Asia Game Changer Awards on November 1, 2017. Photo: Jamie Watts/Asia Society)

In 2017, four U.S.-based organizations made the DJC even more memorable with their highest honors: the Foreign Policy Association Medal (May 3, 2017); the Architectural League of New York’s Presidential Medal (May 18, 2017); “Champion for Global Change” – U.N. Foundations highest honor (October 18, 2017); and Asia Society’s highest honor – its Lifetime Achievement Award (November 1, 2017). The former U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, confessed that his ten-year term was “challenging” and congratulated the Aga Khan for his sixty-year leadership of his spiritual followers and as a global leader. Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor and a major philanthropist, indicated at the Asia Society’s award ceremony, that the far-flung and remarkably innovative AKDN was worthy of emulation. Interestingly, entertainment was provided by the artists of the Aga Khan Music Initiative Ensemble.

Soon, on November 15, 2017, the Aga Khan’s role reversed dramatically as he was the one presenting the Global Centre for Pluralism’s (GPC) inaugural biennial awards to three laureates and seven finalists, from ten countries on six continents. The Aga Khan has co-founded GPC, based in Ottawa, in partnership with the Government of Canada to promote peace and progress. The three awardees each received CAD $50,000 to support their efforts to advance pluralism.

Aga Khan and California MOU

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California and His Highness the Aga Khan on November 2, 2009 signed an agreement of cooperation reaffirming their shared commitment to dedicate human and material resources to confront poverty. Photo: AKDN.

Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, representing Texas, already deeply involved with the volunteers of the Ismaili community and their diverse contribution to Houston, and aware of AKDN’s FOCUS Humanitarian Assistance’s voluntary relief and rehabilitation efforts in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, introduced a Congressional resolution saluting this enlightened and enlightening global Muslim humanitarian and his followers on March 19, 2018. In 2011, the Aga Khan, in partnership with the City of Houston, had funded the Tolerance Towers sculpture. The State of Texas and AKDN have a formal Agreement of Cooperation and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Similar agreements and MoUs have been signed with California and Illinois.

900-Ismaili Centre Dubai

Ismaili Centre, Dubai, one of the six sublime Ismaili centres built by His Highness the Aga Khan.

While still in Houston, he announced yet another commitment to promoting a better understanding of Islam: The Aga Khan Music Initiative Prize valued at U.S. $500,000. Capping that, he announced the establishment of a new ambassadorial Ismaili Center and Jamathkana in Houston – the first in the United States. Other such ambassadorial, architecturally sublime Ismaili Centers have been established in Burnaby and Toronto (Canada), Dubai (UAE), Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Lisbon (Portugal), and London (England).

During the DJC, the Time and Knowledge Nazrana (TKN), the Aga Khan’s Golden Jubilee initiative, has been re-emphasized to reinvigorate the paramount themes of the Golden Jubilee: poverty-alleviation and quality of life improvement; education from the cradle to the grave with particular attention to the foundational early childhood education; continuing search for the best knowledge and skills and to share these with others who lack such opportunities; to project admirable Islamic values – which are universal values – like generosity, compassion, forgiveness, integrity, pluralism, and promoting mutual understanding and harmony. In short, the Aga Khan invokes all inhabitants of this shared planet to be its responsible trustees. Not surprisingly such guidance and his unrelenting efforts to implement these values have endeared him to so many across frontiers and attracted new partners for AKDN.

Mawlana Hazar Imam and Portugal’s Minister of State and Foreign Affairs Rui Machete sign a landmark agreement on June 3, 2015, establishing a formal Seat of the Ismaili Imamat in Portugal. TheIsmaili/Gary Otte

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

There were no DJC visits during the month of Ramadan. However, there will be more DJC mulaqats, in Paris and in London towards the end of June. Coinciding with the London mulaqat will be the relocation of the Institute of Ismaili Studies and the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, as well as the Aga Khan Foundation UK office, to the Aga Khan Centre at the Knowledge Quarter at King’s Cross.

The culmination of the Diamond Jubilee Celebration on July 11, 2018 will be the grand darbar for the global jamat in Lisbon, Portugal. The crowning moment will occur with the official inauguration of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamt, established by an epochal treaty with the Government of Portugal.

Date posted: June 22, 2018.



[1] K.K. Aziz, ed., Aga Khan III, vol. 1, p. 180.
[2] Ibid, p. 196.
[3] Ibid, p. 198.
[4] Ibid, p. 181.
[5] The Daily Nation, October 14, 2017.
[6] Andreas Rieck, The Shias of Pakistan, 2015, p. 321.

nizar-a-motaniAbout the Author:  Dr. Nizar A. Motani, Ph. D, was privileged to attend Aga Khan primary and secondary schools in Kampala, Uganda. He went on to the then University of East Africa, Nairobi Campus, for his bachelor’s degree and on to the University of London (SOAS) for his doctorate in African History, with specialization in British Colonial rule in East Africa.

He then became a Visiting Lecturer in African history at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine (1972-1978), followed by two years as an Assistant Professor at Western Michigan University, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

From 1980 to 1982, he served at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, UK, as its first Publications Officer. Upon returning to America he made a complete career switch, first living in Albany, Georgia (1982-1989) and then in Atlanta, Georgia, as a consultant in the financial sector. Among Dr. Motani’s publication is a monograph summarizing the central argument of his doctoral dissertation and several articles and chapters in books and scholarly journals, on the Ismailis, East African Asians, the Ugandan Civil Service, and the Makerere College. He has been an occasional book reviewer for the Journal of Third World Studies on African and Middle Eastern subjects.


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This website, Barakah, is a special project by 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.




As the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee Year draws to a close, you should try and visit the exhibition dedicated to his ancestors, the Fatimids, before it ends on July 2, 2018

A Review of The World of the Fatimids

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The World of the Fatimids at the Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. The exhibition’s last day is July 2, 2018. Photo: The Aga Khan Museum.



Until July 2, 2018, the second-floor gallery of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto is offering museum visitors a glimpse of history, which is a first of its kind in North America. The exhibition pulls together various artefacts (about 90 in total) from 14 international lenders based in Paris, London, New York, Cairo and others. [1] The exhibition takes place during Aga Khan IV’s Diamond Jubilee year as the 49th hereditary Imam of the transnational Shi‘a Nizari Ismaili Muslim community.

The World of the Fatimids exhibition which opened on March 10, holds a special meaning for the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismailis in Canada. The Fatimids were one of many Muslim Dynasties of the 10th to 12th centuries. Named after the Prophet Muhammad’s daughter Fatima, the Fatimids embraced the lineage of the Shi‘a Ismaili faith from which Aga Khan IV claims his authority as the 49th legitimate descendant and Imam of the contemporary Ismaili community. The Fatimids conquered Egypt in 969 and established their capital at al-Qahira or Cairo. It is in Cairo where they built the world’s oldest university (Al-Azhar) and created one of the first public libraries that was accessible to everyone. [2] The Fatimids were known for their pluralistic governance and tolerant attitude, influencing knowledge and culture throughout the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Near East. [3] Among their vast contributions to Muslim civilization, art and architecture are considered one of the most remarkable disciplines that flourished under the reign of the Fatimids. In fact, the art produced during the 10th to 12th centuries of the Fatimid dynasty points to a flowering of figural imagery and reflects the dynasty’s confidant and flamboyant nature.

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Oliphant, ivory, carved. Photo: ©The Aga Khan Museum.

Much of the art produced during the height of the Fatimid dynasty is noted for its vibrant, sophisticated and innovative designs. The Fatimids developed a visual language that ignited a renaissance of sorts in the decorative arts, making Cairo an important cultural center. The different items on display at the Aga Khan Museum, made of organic and non-organic materials, showcase the impeccable skills of carving. In particular, objects made of ivory and rock crystal were the most attractive artefacts of the Fatimid period and were widely sold as luxury goods. [4]

The most notable and best-preserved artefacts range from carved woodwork, ivory and rock crystal to woven textiles, gold jewelry and glazed ceramics. Artisans drew inspiration from a variety of sources including contemporary urban and courtly culture, oral and written literature, in addition to artistic traditions beyond the Mediterranean world. [5]

During this period, Fatimid artists played freely with new motifs and created extraordinary designs reflected in the high level of craftsmanship. No wonder Fatimid artists were held in high esteem for their talent and felt a sense of pride in signing their names to a number of works – a practice that was not very common until this period. [6]

It is worth mentioning that as a subject matter, Islamic art (which is a western construct that is based on 19th-century taxonomy) is not monolith. There are many categories to Islamic art, one of which includes figures (animals and humans), naturalistic motifs, and portraits as seen through the collection of the Fatimids. This category of Islamic art dealt with non-religious contexts and is most often found inside private spaces such as palaces. This is in contrast to the familiar sights of geometric patterns and inscriptions that belong to the religious context. The latter are most often associated with mosques, centres of learning and instruction, and other public settings. [7] Contrary to popular conception, there is no direct guidance with regard to art forms in the Qur’an. Rather the revered scripture offers strict opposition to idol worship; “[i]t does not reject representational art as such, nor the making of images, only their worship.” [8] So what was the position of the Fatimids on figural art that is reflected in the various objects on display at the Aga Khan Museum exhibit? Fahmida Suleman offers some perspective on this topic:

Admonitions against images in art are nowhere to be found in the 10th-century legal compendium of the Fatimid state, Pillars of Islam, composed by the dynasty’s leading official jurist, Qadi al-Nu‘man. On the contrary, innovative artists appear to have enjoyed an elevated status during the Fatimid period (909-1171). The sources even recount an episode at court when a painting contest was organised by wazir al-Yazuri during the reign of the Caliph-Imam al-Mustansir billah in the eleventh century. [9]

World of the Fatimids, Aga Khan Museum

A fragment from a tomb surround, Egypt early 11th century, marble carved. From collection of Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Indeed, many of the artefacts containing figural motifs were specifically created for the Fatimid court. One of the most imposing artefacts on display is a set of marble slabs (never before displayed). Visitors will notice that the slabs are heavily decorated with animal figures. “Animals, birds and fantastic creatures abound in Fatimid art and are often interpreted as emblems of good fortune.” [10] It is believed that the use of figural representations by the Fatimid artisans signifies the dynasty’s interest in past ‘high’ civilizations and desire to forge cross-cultural connections. “Muslim artists still in quest of their own vocabulary adopted foreign, Sasanian, and Greco-Roman models and adapted them for their own purposes.” [11] For instance, the peacock used in the marble slabs was considered a symbol of paradise for the Greeks and was also used in the Roman and Byzantine (Christian) empires. [12] In addition, the specific animals carved into these marble panels probably reflect the actual animals found in the palace gardens at the time, pointing to the stature and taste of the rulers. As such, these slabs were probably carved to decorate the Fatimid palace in Cairo. A closer look will show the keen eye that one of the panels contains an undecorated peacock in contrast to a decorated peacock found on another marble slab. This suggests that these pieces were left unfinished, perhaps due to the invasion of Salah al-Din in 1169. [13]

Another object that offers insight into the grandeur of the empire and also utilizes figural representation (human and animal) is a ceramic bowl that uses a technique of lusterware. [14] In the center of the bowl is an image of a person (keeper) who seems to be puling a giraffe by its halter. The image represented in the bowl would have been familiar to the contemporary viewer; recalling a scene from the many Fatimid processions that took place on public and religious occasions. The sources inform us that giraffes and elephants were part of these processions. What is interesting is that these animals were not a common sight in Egypt and had to be brought from other parts of Africa. [15] The artist’s desire to capture this serves as a reminder of the Fatimids’ wealth and influence but also the splendour and impressiveness of these processions. Even more interesting, elephants and giraffes were sent as valued gifts to other rulers, especially the Byzantine emperors of Constantinople, whom the Fatimid Imam-caliphs held in high regard. [16] For example, the sources mention that:

[i]n 993 the Nubian tribute arrived in Cairo accompanied by an elephant and a giraffe. Three decades later, in addition to the usual riding mounts and slaves, the gifts included a lynx, rare birds, monkeys, and elephant tusks. Lions, leopards, and saluqis were sometimes sent to Cairo as gifts, too. [17]

Looking closely at the details of this figural representation, one will notice that the keeper is most likely wearing a robe with woven inscriptions referred to as tiraz. [18] More importantly, the viewer will notice the detailed precision of the artist’s stylized technique. The near accurate representation of the animal, for instance, is an example of what Richard Ettinghausen has referred to as Fatimid ‘realism’. [19]

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Centre glass panel: Moon shaped object made from rock-crystal with Imam-Caliph al-Zahir’s name engraved within. Photo: © Aga Khan Museum.

Another prized artefact on display at this exhibition is a moon shaped object made from rock-crystal known as the ‘Crescent of al-Zahir’ (1021-36). [20] Made of two curved pieces fastened together with the Imam-Caliph’s named engraved within, this object was one of the many prestigious objects of the Fatimid treasury.

The rock-crystal crescent appears as an emblem, a kind of medieval insignia or an official object of the court, which might be affixed to the very top of a spear. Moreover, the lustrous and transparent rock crystals encircle the reliquary and the small holy relics within it like an aura floating above a head of a saint. [21]

Somehow this object and others from the treasury found there way in Church treasuries of the Latin West and served as a Christian reliquary. By the time these rock-crystal objects reached the Latin West, it is believed that the objects acquired a spiritual aura associated with the holy land. Considered to be a prestigious material with special properties, rock-crystal was understood to be a symbol of purity favoured by both Muslims and Christians due to its translucency and transparency As such, many of these pieces were repurposed because of their special properties and were honoured in the Christian context. [22]

How would this object have reached the Latin West?  Although it is difficult to trace a specific record of how each Fatimid object made its way to Europe, there are two plausible incidents mentioned in the sources that provide some insight. Due to some politico-economic unrest around 1068 the Fatimid palace was looted. Military troops emptied the palace treasury, taking military supplies and a number of precious treasures as method of payment. [23] Some sources inform us that 18,000 (or 36,000) items of rock-crystal were looted. [24]

As the goods were brought out from the palace, functionaries recorded who took what. The extravagant descriptions of these fabulous treasures appear in various later works, most based on a Book of Gifts and Rarities, composed by an anonymous eleventh-century Egyptian. The goods found in the palace ranged from huge rock crystal jars filled with precious jewels to intricate curios such as a bejeweled ornamental orchard made of silver. [25]

These precious objects were sold in the markets between the years 1061 and 1069 for money and some even landed in Crusader hands. On the other hand, it is also likely that a number of objects, including the ‘Crescent of al-Zahir’ landed in the hands of the Ayyubids who conquered Egypt in 1171. [26]

The World of the Fatimids, Aga Khan Museum

Visitors viewing the Mihrab exhibit, wood, Egypt, 1137–38 or 1146–47, from the collection of Museum of Islamic Art, Cairo. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.

Dedicating a space solely to Fatimid material culture is indeed a tall order. Be that as it may, this exhibition succeeds in recounting a narrative of coexistence, pluralism, and religio-cultural connections that served as a hallmark of this once glorious dynasty. [27] From the start of the exhibition the museumgoer is welcomed with 3 objects that represent the main religious communities (Coptic Christian, Jewish, and Sunni Muslim). For example, the mihrab on display at the start of the exhibition contains stylistic designs that resemble that of Jewish craftsmanship visible in the nearby photograph of an arch from the Ben Ezra synagogue in Cairo. It is hoped that all visitors will be able to draw inspiration from the stories illustrated through these magnificent artefacts that may provide some insight into the current affairs of the present. More immediately, the exhibition offers Canadian Ismailis an opportunity to visually take-in the relics of a history that is sacred to Ismaili identity. Unfortunately, missing from this exhibition were the well-known Fatimid coins. It was explained to me that the coins did not quite fit the ‘artistic cross-cultural’ theme as envisioned by the curator of the exhibition and reflected in the overall objective of the galleries at the Aga Khan Museum. There is thus a focus on historical art objects that could illustrate a particular story that provides powerful insights for the contemporary world. In addition, there are no objects from the early Ifriqiya period since there is hardly any remaining material culture from this time with exception of some archeological fragments on site, such as in al-Mahdiya. At the end of the exhibition, museum visitors will be able to increase their historical knowledge of the Fatimids by watching a video that offers some insightful details about this dynasty.

What: The World of the Fatimids. 
Where: Aga Khan Museum, 77 Wynford Drive, Toronto, Ontario M3C 1K1, Toll-free 1-844-859-3671.
When: The World of the Fatimids runs until Monday, July 2, 2018. Museum Hours: Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00am – 6:00pm. Free entrance Wednesday 4:00 – 8:00pm. Note: Museum is normally closed on Mondays, except on holiday Mondays.
Things to do: 
Visit the museum’s permanent galleries including the Bellerive Room; have lunch at the museum’s highly acclaimed Diwan restaurant (11:30 am – 2:30 pm), patio is now open until September; stroll through the Aga Khan Park and attend concert at Park on Canada Day, July 1; involve your children in museum’s educational activities; consider planning private events at the museum; and visit the magnificent Ismaili Centre on the opposite side of the museum, after crossing the Park.

More information and to plan your visit: Please visit

Date posted: June 20, 2018.
Last updated: June 21, 2018.


Sahir Dewji PortraitAbout the author: Sahir Dewji received his Ph.D. from Wilfrid Laurier University in Religious Studies, specializing in Islam in North America. His dissertation entitled Beyond Muslim Xenophobia and Contemporary Parochialism: Aga Khan IV, the Ismailis, and the making of a Cosmopolitan Ethic situates the Aga Khan’s cosmopolitan ethic within a broader theme of human connectivity and understanding ‘the Other.’ His research demonstrates how key initiatives of the Aga Khan promote a cosmopolitan ethic, helping to foster a moral sensibility among the Ismailis and communities at large and how this concept is manifested within three institutions of the Imamat in Canada. He received the SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier CGS Doctoral Scholarship for his research.

Sahir also holds an M.A. from Harvard University specializing in the History and Culture of the Islamic world, with a focus on the study of Indo-Muslim Culture. Sahir has also completed the Graduate Program in Islamic Studies and Humanities from the Institute of Ismaili Studies and holds a B.Sc. from the University of Waterloo. Sahir’s publications includes an article in the Studies in Religion Journal, entitled The Aga Khan’s Discourse of Applied Pluralism: Converging the “Religious” and the “Secular” and a book chapter entitled Being Ismaili in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: Identity Maintenance among Gujarati Ismailis in Kinshasa. Sahir’s broader interests lie in the study of Ismaili thought and history as well as Muslim identity and expressions in the North American context. 



[1] Ulrike al-Khamis, Curator’s Tour, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Ontario, June 5, 2018.
[2] The Al-Azhar is today the center of Sunni ‘orthodoxy’ in the Muslim world.
[3] “The proclamation of the Fatimid imamate in early 10th-century North Africa provided the first real opportunity for an overtly Shi‘i architecture and art” (Bloom 2015 “Art and Architecture” p. 230).
[4] “The pure quality of the quartz crystal used to carve the artefacts made them suitable gifts for guests of high rank.” Nimira Dewji, “Treasures: Many Artefacts from the Fatimid Period are Housed in Museums Around the World,” The.Ismaili website, December 24, 2014,
[5] Fahmida Suleman, “Art,” in A Companion to Muslim Ethics, ed. Amyn B. Sajoo (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010), 100.
[6] Richard Ettinghausen, “Islamic Art”: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 33, no. 1 (Spring, 1975).
[7] Ulrike al-Khamis, Curator’s Tour, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Ontario, June 5, 2018.
[8] Fahmida Suleman, “Art,” in A Companion to Muslim Ethics, ed. Amyn B. Sajoo (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010), 93-94.
[9] Ibid., 99.
[10] Ibid., 100.
[11] Eva Baer, “The Human Figure in Early Islamic Art: Some preliminary Remarks,” Muqarnas vol. 16 (1999): 32-41, quote at p.40.
[12] Ulrike al-Khamis, Curator’s Tour, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Ontario, June 5, 2018.
[13] Ibid.
[14] “The technique of lusterware on ceramic, developed originally in Iraq, was revived in Egypt and Syria. Some lusterware pieces from this period are signed by their makers, an indication of the esteem in which the craftsmen were held.” See Suzan Yalman, “The Art of the Fatimid Period (909–1171),” in Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000),
[15] Ulrike al-Khamis, Curator’s Tour, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Ontario, June 5, 2018.
[16] Jonathan M. Bloom, “Gifts of the Fatimids,” The.Ismaili website (December 22, 2017),
[17] Ibid.
[18] Tiraz refers to inscribed textiles, such as the robes of honour distributed by a ruler. It may also refer to the band of inscription on the textiles as well as the state workshops where they were produced (dar al-tiraz).” See Linen was a major export product of Egypt at the time and under the Fatimids an entire textile industry was created just for the court. There was also an entire department dedicated to looking after the imam-caliph and his entire court’s clothing. Ulrike al-Khamis, Curator’s Tour, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Ontario, June 5, 2018. An example of tiraz fabrics is also on display in the Fatimid exhibition at the Aga Khan Museum which contains blessings to the Prophet Muhammad and the Fatimid imam-caliph al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah (r. 952-975 CE).
[19] Richard Ettinghausen, “Early Realism in Islamic Art,” Studi Orientalistici in onore di Giorgio Levi della Vida, vol. I (Rome, 1956).
[20] “The use of crescent-shaped ornaments was borrowed by the Fatimids from Byzantine art.” See Richard Ettinghausen, “Islamic Art”: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 33, no. 1 (Spring, 1975): 9.
[21] Avinoam Shalem, “Histories of Belonging and George Kubler’s Prime Object,” Getty Research Journal no. 3 (2011): 1-14, quote at p.5.
[22] Ulrike al-Khamis, Curator’s Tour, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Ontario, June 5, 2018.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Jonathan M. Bloom and Sheila S. Blair, “Rock Crystal,” in The Grove Encyclopedia of Materials and Techniques in Art Vol. III (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 154.
[25] Jonathan M. Bloom, “Gifts of the Fatimids,” The.Ismaili website (December 22, 2017),
[26] Avinoam Shalem, “Histories of Belonging and George Kubler’s Prime Object,” Getty Research Journal no. 3 (2011): 1-14, quote at p.3.
[27] Ulrike al-Khamis, Curator’s Tour, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto, Ontario, June 5, 2018.


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For links to all the posts please click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah at and follow us at

This website, Barakah, is a special project by 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.

Video and Tweets: Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan at 2018 World Partnership Walk in Toronto on Father’s Day

Six Canadian cities — Calgary, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Regina and Toronto — hosted the 34th World Partnership Walk (WPW) on Father’s Day, Sunday June 17, 2018, to raise funds to end global poverty. The Walk in Toronto was a truly remarkable day for thousands with the surprise appearance of His Highness the Aga Khan’s youngest son, Prince Aly Muhammad.

An initiative of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC), the WPW was held earlier on May 27 and June 3 in Victoria and Ottawa respectively. Similar walks will be held on Sunday June 24 in Kitchener and London. The Partnership Walk’s history dates back to 1985 when  a group of women in Vancouver came together to raise funds to support the work of AKFC. All had come from Africa or Asia and wanted to give back to the communities they left behind. They persuaded 1,000 other Canadians to join them in a walk to fight global poverty and raised $55,000. That first walk grew into an annual event, held in 10 cities across Canada with the support of tens of thousands of volunteers, corporate sponsors and participants. Thirty-three years later, the World Partnership Walk has raised more than $100 million — making it the largest event in Canada in support of international development.

We are pleased to provide tweets by many excited individuals who were present at the walk in Toronto. We welcome readers to submit photos and videos that they took during the walk, and to also share with us stories of their encounters with Prince Aly during the walk. Email them to us at or share them at Barakah’s facebook page

Date posted: June 18, 2018.
Last updated: June 18, 2018 (with factual corrections; also added video of Prince Aly Aga Khan’s remarks).


Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to 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 and follow us at

This website, Barakah, is a special project by 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.

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