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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.

Prince Aly Khan on two most important principles of life for an Ismaili

Introduced by AZEEM MAHERALI


The late 48th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, seated on a wheelchair with members of his family with his successor, the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Others in the photo (l to r), grandson Prince Amyn Muhammad, and the late Imams two sons, the late Prince Sadruddin and Prince Aly Khan, who is seen holding his daughter Princess Yasmin Aga Khan. This rare photo was provided to Simerg by the late Alijah Zul Khoja.

Today, June 13, 2018 marks the 107th birth anniversary of Prince Aly Solomone Khan, father of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, Prince Amyn and Princess Yasmin and brother of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan.

It was on this day in 1911 that Prince Aly Khan was born in Turin, Italy to Cleope Teresa Magliano and Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III.

Prince Aly Khan with his mother Fidai magazine

Prince Aly Khan at a very young age, held tenderly by his mother, Princess Theresa. Photo: Fidai magazine, Golden Jubilee Number, January 21, 1936.

Prince Aly Khan portrait Fidai mgazine 2

A portrait of Prince Aly Khan. Photo: Fidai magazine, Golden Jubilee Number, January 21, 1936.

Prince Aly Khan was educated by private tutors in France and undivided India during his childhood and later trained as a lawyer in England. A multi-linguist, he spoke perfect Oxford English, was fluent in French as well as in Arabic.

Prince Aly Khan traveled extensively with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah to meet Ismailis in the Indian subcontinent, Middle East and East Africa and participated actively in the launch of many programs that targeted improving the quality of life of the Ismailis. Ismailis were always jubilant when Prince Alykhan and Prince Sadruddin were in their presence during the Jubilees of  their father.

prince-aly-khan-lourenco marques hotel departure m-steps

Prince Aly Khan is seen departing his hotel during his visit to Lourenço Marques in 1957. Photo: Jehangir A. Merchant Family Collection.

Prince Aly Khan’s adventurous spirit was reflected in his passion for racing horses, motor cars and planes in addition to his interest in yachting and skiing. As an amateur jockey he won several prestigious races at the Bar Steeplechase, Prix des Lions, French Amateur Derby, Le Trambley, Chantilly and Longchamp. He won Grand Prix races in France, Monaco and Italy. A man of exceptional stamina, in 1932 he flew from Bombay to Singapore via Karachi, Rangoon and Kuala Lumpur, at the time the longest ever civil flight.

During the second World War in pursuit of global peace and freedom he served with the British, French and American forces in Europe and the Middle East. A war hero and in recognition of his exceptional military services Prince Aly Khan was awarded two honors by the French Government – the Croix de Guerre (1939) and Legend of Honour (1950), and the United States Government awarded him the Bronze Star Medal for his bravery, heroic achievement and meritorious service in combat zones. In addition, Prince Aly Khan was invested as the 1st Colonel of the 4 Cavalry Regiment (1956).

rahe-rast-prince-aly-khan medium

An illlustration of Prince Aly Khan in “Rahe Rast,” an Ismaili journal published in Dar es Salaam in 1948/1949 and originally in the collection of the Late Karim Master.

Known for his cosmopolitan outlook and gift for international diplomacy, following the world war, Prince Aly Khan served as a member of the United Nations Political and Security Committee representing Pakistan as its permanent ambassador to the United Nations (UN) (1958). He was also appointed as the Vice-President of the UN General Assembly (1958) and served as Chairman of the UN’s Peace Observation Committee.

First Phase Digital

Prince Aly Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, is seen here (left) as he was interviewed on November 06, 1958 for UN-TV by Mr. John MacVane, Radio and Television Commentator. The Prince was at the time Chairman of Pakistan’s delegation to the 13th session of the UN General Assembly. Photo: UN Photo/Marvin Bolotsky.

First Phase Digital

The UN General Assembly met on August 19, 1958 to continue the substantive debate of its Third Emergency Special Session on South Africa. Among the speakers at the morning’s meeting was Prince Aly Khan, Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations, who is photographed here as he addressed the Assembly. Photo: UN Photo/Marvin Bolotsky.

Prince Aly Khan passed away in a tragic car accident in Suresnes, near Paris, France on May 12th, 1960. He was first buried on the grounds of Château de l’Horizon, his home in the south of France, and 12 years later he was reinterred in Salamiyah, Syria – the place and people that he loved dearly.

Prince Aly Khan Kotahri Collection

Prince Aly Khan with Itmadi Kassam Kothari in Jamnagar, India, 1942 (appx.). Photo: Bashir Kothari/Nuri Kothari, Calgary, Canada

Prince Aly Khan with Jamati members

Prince Aly Khan (13 June 1911 – 12 May 1960) in Nagpur, India. The following can be identified (l to r): In turban and saafa with medal on his lapel is Late Vazir Valibhoy Sunderji. The person in front with glasses is Vazir Ibrahim Suleman Haji. Seen behind the mcirophone is Late Vazir JaferAli Abji Bhalwani. The person on extreme right of the photograph is Vazir H. Javeri. Photo/Caption: Samsu Jalali Collection, Atlanta, Georgia.

Over the past 11 months since the commencement of his Diamond Jubilee, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has continuously emphasized on unity within both the Jamat and families. His beloved late father considered unity as the greatest contribution that an Ismaili could make to his or her community. We pay our tribute to Prince Aly Khan by publishing an excerpt from his speech which appeared in The Ismaili (India), on February 2, 1941.


prince-aly-khan-lm-being-greeted in Lourenco Marques

Prince Aly Khan pictured with members of Lourenço Marques (Maputo after independence) during his visit to Mozambique in 1957. Photo: Jehangir A. Merchant Family Collection.

“Unity and self-effacement are the greatest contributions we can make individually to the rest of the community.

“By self-effacement, I mean the forgetting of oneself sometimes and making one’s personal interests subservient to those of the largest number. If self-effacement is achieved, the foundation of unity will have been well and truly laid. For, at present, it is the consciousness of one’s self-importance and dignity which is making people forget their duties and responsibilities, and indulge in petty squabbles and bitter trivialities.

“The welfare of the Ismailis is so near and dear to my heart that I cannot light-heartedly bring myself to overlook the weak points of the community. It is by recognizing our own faults that we can hope to improve. Let us realize that in the matter of helping our brethren we have much to learn from our sister communities, and that if we ever hope to achieve what we have set out to, we must resolutely follow the principles of the faith, be guided by the lives of men like Hasan bin Sabah and Pir Sadar Din and concentrate on the two most important principles of life — namely, Unity and Service of the Imam-e-Zaman and Community.”

Date posted: June 13, 2018.
Last updated: June 14, 2018 (new photos added).


About the writer: Azeem Maherali, originally of Ottawa, Canada, is currently based in Atlanta, Georgia.

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.

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


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

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

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

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

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

2014-02-Aga Khan Parliament of Canada 2014 small

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Tutzing Evangelical Academy, Germany, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

2009june_canada_edmonton_aga khan_Univ of Alberta

University of Alberta, 2009.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Date posted: May 21, 2018.
Last updated: June 9, 2018.


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


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



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

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

Introduction to the collage of tributes by Yasmin Ratansi


 Tributes to His Highness the Aga Khan by Members of Parliament

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

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


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


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

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


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


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




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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thank you, Peter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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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.


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

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


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

2015-06-portugal-54865_Aga Khan Landmark Agreement Seat of Imamat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seat of Imamat Palacete Mendonca Restoration 016

Restoration work at Henrique Mendonça Palace.

Seat of Imamat Palacete Mendonca Restoration 012

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

Seat of Imamat Palacete Mendonca Restoration 001

Restoration work at Henrique Mendonça Palace.

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

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

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

Date posted: May 14, 2018.



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


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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.


Perspectives and opinion pieces on the Aga Khan by distinguished Canadians

Introduced and compiled by ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Date posted: May 13, 2018.


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.


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

Article adapted from The Ismaili, USA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: May 12, 2018.

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

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

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


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





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

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

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

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

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


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.

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

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

Aly Aga Khan in Northern Pakistan Film with young people

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

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

Date posted: April 28, 2018.


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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She then read the following citation:

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


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

In accepting the medal, His Highness remarked:

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

Date posted: April 28, 2018.


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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