BY MALIK MERCHANT
The Diamond Jubilee lapel pin on a woman’s outfit. Photo: Safiq Devji, Ottawa. Copyright.
On Tuesday July 11, 2017, hundreds of thousands of Ismailis around the world gathered at different Jamatkhanas and other special venues to witness and celebrate the formal inauguration of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee year, also known as the Homage Ceremony. The ceremony, took place at 11.00 am (Central European Time) at Aiglemont, France, where past and present Ismaili leaders reaffirmed their allegiance, faith and love for their 49th Imam on behalf of their respective Jamats. The Aga Khan becomes only the 5th Imam in Ismaili history, since the time of the first Shia Imam, Hazrat Ali (a.s.), to complete a reign of 60 years.
As for me, I decided to attend the event in Montreal for a different level of experience — that of being in the presence of around 7,500 Ismailis from Afghanistan who have made the Province of Quebec their home since the early 1990’s.
As we streamed in a disciplined manner into the banquet facilities at Stad Uniprix (Uniprix Stadium), eager young volunteers presented each one of us with a lapel pin — an accessory of sublime grace, yet very rich in historical meaning and symbols. For those who may not be aware, the lapel pin has been growing in popularity in recent years as a fashion accessory and is considered to be more memorable than many other accessories as part of being “well-dressed!”
A lapel pin, symbolically representing the Toronto Ismaili Centre which was inaugurated in September 2014, was issued later in the same year on December 13 during the celebration of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 78th birthday. Whereas that pin was diagonal in shape, the Diamond Jubilee lapel pin is circular, and bears the crest of the Ismaili Imamat in the centre. The crest has 60 crescents surrounding it, representing the Aga Khan’s 60 year reign. A Kufic rendition of the Qur’anic ayah or verse (49:13) from Surah Al-Hujurat (the Dwellings) with the following meaning, forms the outer perimeter of the lapel pin.
“O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! the noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.” — Translation by Pickthall.
The verse highlights the ethic of plurality in Islam, a subject that the Aga Khan has spoken about throughout his Imamat, and more so in his speeches made in the past 25 years. This verse, combined with the crest of the Ismaili Imamat and the sixty crescents, enable the wearer, especially members of the Ismaili community, to make a historical statement about their beloved 49th Imam, in the context of what the Imam represents to the community as a religious and spiritual leader, as well as his contributions to human kind.
The pin, on a man’s jacket
This tiny object of fashion, while presenting a look that is fresh and original, is also most appropriate as an introduction to the Ismaili Imam, the community which the Imam leads, and the faith of Islam. The pin serves as a powerful reminder for an Ismaili of his/her loyalty and allegiance to the Imam of the Time, and enables Ismailis to act as ambassadors of the faith of Islam.
Date posted: July 16, 2017.
Last updated: July 17, 2017 (new photo, top).
Malik Merchant is the founding publisher and editor of Barakah and two other blogs, Simerg and Simergphotos. He is an IT professional, and has worked in the computer industry for several years as an applications designer and developer on IBM mainframes as well as a senior systems analyst. Please follow him at Twitter @simerg and Facebook @1000Fold.
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