[As a prelude to her excellent essay below, Zafeera Kassam has written a very interesting short piece highlighting some of the key events and ceremonies that took place from July 5th as part of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in Lisbon. Before reading the following essay, may we recommend that you read Zafeera’s prelude — ed.]

By ZAFEERA KASSAM

Our present living Imam, our Pir and Murshid, our beloved Shah Karim al Hussaini — Yaali Bapa, Ya Habibi, Mawla, Khudavind — truly is the fulfiller of all our wishes.

That is what materialized in this most epic and historic Darbar. Each and every person I’ve met during this Jubilee year has expressed variations of their deepest desires to see Mawlana Hazar Imam relaxed and at ease with the Jamat, or that he spends more time with the Jamat, or that he cracks jokes and showers his beloved spiritual children with familial affections as well as unlimited blessings.

Well, that is exactly what came to fruition during the Imamat Day Darbar, Lisbon 2018, the culmination of the Diamond Jubilee year. And then some! In spite of the fact that we didn’t do anything exceptional for the Imam during this Darbar (like have him cut an exquisitely decorated cake or weigh him in polished diamonds), Mawlana Hazar Imam, in his infinite glory, made the Darbar incomparably special for us. We are superbly humbled, blessed and honoured to have an Imam as generous and loving as Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini. 

So, here I was setting out with the expectation of enduring huge crowds, endless queues and a squashed place to sit, all exacerbated by the heat wave. But my heart was joyous and I was ready to face any and all discomforts because, ultimately, I was fortunate to have been able to come to Lisbon and be a part of history in the making. The first thing I noticed as I stepped out of the hotel, with my family, were cool breezes blowing by, and a cloudy sky. ‘Thank you, Mawla, at least it’s not so hot today. You’ve kept it pleasant and bearable.’  

With that, I knew. I knew, in my heart, intuitively, that today would be memorable in a way that people would talk about it forever as they still do about the Diamond Jubilee of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah — like when the Imam was being weighed in diamonds and the scales just wouldn’t balance until Begum Om Habibeh Mata Salamat yielded her diamond bracelet and finally the weight was right — how monumental!

Getting off at Oriente Station, my family and I picked our way through the Vasco Da Gama Mall and proceeded through the entrance assigned, on to security checks and into the Hall. Goodness! I was actually inside the Darbar Hall itself within minutes. This was surreal. Where were the crowds? Where were the queues? Was I at the right venue? Well, I must commend the excellent organisation and efficiency of the volunteers. Everything just went through smoothly and expeditiously, I was positively surprised to see that the Darbar Hall was packed, but comfortably so.

As it turned out, we were assigned to the first hall and, at the time we entered, a wave of applause swept through the Jamat already present because chairs were being added to the stage to accommodate members of the Noorani Family. The waves of applause continued every time a chair was carried onto the stage and this was quite endearing.

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On the occasion of the designation of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat, Mawlana Hazar Imam is presented with a gift on behalf of the global Jamat. Photo: The Ismaili/Akbar Hakim.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam addresses leaders of the Jamat on the occasion of the designation of the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat on 11 July 2018. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.

Soon after, a video of the morning ceremonies formalising the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat was shown on the numerous screens. How delightful it was to gaze upon the Noorani Family in their ceremonial regalia. How ever more so delightful it was to see Hazar Imam beaming as he climbed upon the stage. I remember seeing him wink and grin at, I assume, his grandchildren, who were all present for this particular event, including the slightly fidgety Prince Irfan and Prince Sinan who sat in Princess Salwa’s lap and was either sucking his thumb or discreetly reaching into mommy’s purse for a snack. After being presented with the Nazrana on behalf of the global jamat, Mawlana Hazar Imam took to the mic to explain what his decision entailed and what this meant for the Imamat and how he had not taken the decision lightly, but with a lot of thought and analysis. He spoke with so much pride that we swelled with joy to hear him. He then proclaimed that the Seat of the Imamat would be known as Diwan. Following this, he sat down at the table on his left and signed the “instrument” designating the same. It felt heart-warming to be included in this historical moment. 

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Mawlana Hazar Imam ordains the instrument to designate the Henrique de Mendonça Palace as the Seat of the Ismaili Imamat on 11 July 2018. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.

The video ended with a launch of the new website: ismaili.imamat.

My mind was reeling with the ramifications and profundity of this event: What did all this mean in relation to Mawla’s residence? Would beloved Mawla leave France and permanently come to reside in Lisbon? Would he close down Aiglemont or would this Seat be an extension to the Headquarters at Aiglemont?

As I pondered over these questions, I became dimly aware of the Intezari Programme having started. Some qasedas I did not recognise, such as Bud Ali Bud, and some that I did, such as Ya Imami, were crooned mellifluously; Zikrs catalysed time into momentum; Alwaezins elaborated on the arrangements made and what to expect about the proceedings and ceremonies to be held in the presence of the Imam. It was explained that the Mehmanis and Nazranas as well as the Loyalty Address would take place in Hall 1 where after Mawla would proceed to Hall 2 and then Hall 3 where the Ginan, Persian Qaseda and Arabic Qaseda would be recited in the presence of the Imam and we would be able to follow the Imam into these halls and bear witness to this via the live-action feed on the screens. Wow! One Darbar had transformed into a three-in-one Darbar. Zeh naseeb!  

The Alwaezins made it a point, perhaps because of the enthused ovation welcoming the chairs, to reprimand the Jamat that applause is not correct decorum in a Darbar and that happiness ought to be expressed by way of salwats instead. As it turned out, applause was to become very much part of the Darbar’s ambience but I will return to this later on. 

It is impossible to account for the time spent in the Hall because suddenly, almost unexpectedly, it was 5pm; the screens came alive with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade zooming into the arena. As swiftly as Mawla’s Audi came to a halt, the door seemed to have sprung open and there alighted the Lord of Light, his eagerness to be here very much evident in the way he bounced up the red carpet to greet the Leadership as well as Mukhi Kamadia Sahebs and Mukhiani Kamadiani Sahebas. All eyes firmly focused on the screen, a characteristic hush fell onto the gathering. A hush of breathless awe, of tingling anticipation. 

Mawla was dressed in an immaculate suit but the male members of the Noorani Family donned their white Sherwanis and looked absolutely dapper, while Princess Zahra, Princess Salwa and Princess Sara were all resplendent in their glittering saris and jewellery. When Mawla and the Noorani Family had finished greeting the leadership, the coverage cut to the DJ logo and the Alwaezin instructed the Jamat to concentrate on personal zikr, which he led softly, advising us to prepare our hearts to receive the rainfall of Noor which Mawlana Hazar Imam would benevolently bestow upon everyone. 

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Mawlana Hazar Imam greets Mukhi Saheb, Mukhiani Saheba, Kamadia Saheb, and Kamadiani Saheba of Lisbon Darkhana after changing into his ceremonial robe. Photo: The Ismaili/Shyrose Bhanji.

Here, I can say time stretched and the minutes within which Mawla changed into his ceremonial robes were encapsulated in spiritual yet feverish anxiety. It was a period of contemplation marked with all the chaotic thoughts that erupt when you know you’ll forget everything you want to say (in your mind) to the Imam as he advances along the red carpet because the mind just goes blank when the heart expands with ecstasy at seeing him up close and personal. 

And then, the doors opened outwardly. And then, the salwats ballooned sonorously. And then, our beloved Hazar Imam, in all his beatific and divine glory, stepped into the hall.

My family and I were seated at the entrance and so my mother, by virtue of the intimate miracle that placed her at this very spot, adoringly showered his feet with red rose petals as he passed by. As mentioned earlier, Mawla truly is the fulfiller of wishes and it was her heart’s deepest desire to act out the verse of the ginan: ‘Fulada vinavo vira satiyun tana vadhaavo apna tribhovar sham’ (Pick the choicest flower petals and shower them upon the Lord of the Three Worlds). Shukranlillah walhamdulillah.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam walks through the Jamat at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon on 11 July 2018. Photo: The Ismaili/Akber Hakim.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam walks through the Jamat at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon, followed by the Mukhi and Kamadia Sahebs of the Lisbon Darkhana Jamatkhana, Prince Amyn, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa, Prince Hussain, Prince Aly Muhammad, Miss Sara Boyden, and Master Iliyan Boyden. Photo: The Ismaili/Asif Balesha.

Mawlana Hazar Imam proceeded along, nodding lovingly at jamati members and showering his divine blessings. In pursuit, and in formation of pairs, were the Mukhi and Kamadia Sahebs, followed by Prince Amyn and Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa, Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad, Princess Sara and Prince Illyan, with the Mukhiani Kamadiani Sahebas bringing up the rear of this awesome procession that proceeded along the red carpet through the Hall and finally ended up at the stage where Mawla ascended first and gestured for the rest to take their places: Mawla in the centre, Mukhi and Kamadia Sahebs, Prince Amyn, Princess Zahra, Princess Sara and Prince Illyan on his right, Mukhiani and Kamadiani Sahebas, Prince Rahim, Princess Salwa, Prince Hussain and Prince Aly Muhammad on his left. 

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Mawlana Hazar Imam shares a light moment with the Jamat at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon, as Prince Amyn, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa, Prince Hussain, Prince Aly Muhammad, Miss Sara Boyden, and Master Iliyan Boyden look on. Photo: The Ismaili/Sohil Lalani.

With Mawla’s approval, the chain of authority was adorned around his neck, the verse of the Qur’an and translation were recited, the Munajaat (Ya Ali Khoob Mijalas) was sung — though, disappointingly, only one verse — and so were the Farsi and Arabic Qasedas, followed by the Zikr Tasbih. The Loyalty Address was given by the President of the Portuguese Council. Then, the moment we heartily awaited: Mawla came to the mic.

“My beloved spiritual children,” he beamed, “to celebrate with my family is a very special happiness for me and I hope my Jamat will share in that happiness.”

It was at this moment that it sunk in, how indeed special and ethereal it was to have the Noorani Family all assembled together with our beloved Imam. It is certainly rare an occasion and particularly befitting of such an epochal Darbar to have them present as they were in the final Golden Jubilee Darbar held in Paris in 2008. It was also splendorous to see how joyous the Imam was to have his family with him. That just warmed the cockles of my heart. 

He continued on to advise that as we build for the future, the Jamat must think ahead and must identify those countries where its long-term future is secure. 

He took the occasion to thank the government of Portugal for all the courtesies extended to his family and himself, to the institution and he hoped to be able to participate and work with Portuguese interests for the benefit of all the population of Portugal. He pointed out, with a smile, that this would not be unique, because it is a policy, a tradition of loyalty to all the countries in which the Jamat is living. “But it is important, on an occasion such as this, we should mark our loyalty to the country that has extended friendship, welcome, warmth, generosity and kindness,” he emphasized. 

“As a result of the generosity, the forward-thinking of the government of Portugal,” the Imam explained, “I have decided to create a Seat of the Imamat here in Portugal. This will be a permanent presence in Portugal. It will work for the interests of the Jamat, the interests of Portugal, the interests of the people amongst whom we live in various countries around the world. But establishing privileged relations with countries that have demonstrated such continuous generosity is an important policy that we should follow. And I say to my Jamat, don’t think only of Portugal, think back to the times in Mozambique when the situation was difficult and think back to the rigor, generosity, wisdom with which the government of this country received murids who were exposed to difficulty and instability and doubt about their future in Mozambique.”   

Hazar Imam went on to reiterate, “I intend to establish here a Seat of the Imamat, which will be a permanent presence and it will be the beginning of a new vision of relations between secular governments and the Ismaili Imamat.” He hoped to be able to do the same with a large number of governments around the world in the interests of the Jamat in the decades ahead. 

Mawla further emphasized, noting the very wide spectrum of nationalities present, the importance of working together, building together, coming together within countries across frontiers, creating capacities, protecting ourselves from risk. He urged: “Move forward in a rational, concerted, purposeful manner so that future generations may be ensured of equality of life, which you and I would wish for them.”

Hazar Imam concluded with “I give to each and every murid here present and to your families and to your Jamat, my most affectionate and best loving blessings. Khanavadan. Khanavadan. Khanavadan. This evening, I believe you are intending to have some form of Darbar.” He grinned some more and gesticulated with his hands. “A Darbar, by tradition, is an event of happiness, of joy, so I say to my Jamat, participate and have a wonderful time. I hope every murid, who is here and will participate in that Darbar, will be happy. That you will find joy, good relations amongst yourselves, new acquaintances from across frontiers and happiness throughout the Jamat. I finish this farman by giving to each one of you individually, and to your families and to your Jamat, my best, best affectionate blessings. Khanavadan. Khanavadan. Khanavadan.” 

A deep level of paternal maternal affection was intricately woven into his farman. The paternal concern evident in his explicit advice for the future and maternal endearment in his blessings for mushkil aasaan, for individuals present, their families and any Jamat in difficulties, wishing that “all your problems just disappear, just go away and staaaay away.”

He resumed his seat.

The Niyaaz and Mehmanis for the Portuguese jurisdiction were presented before Mawla to accept and bless and then Mukhi Kamadia Sahebs as well as Mukhiani Kamadiani Sahebas of the other Jamats such as Australia, Far East, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Bangladesh etc brought their mehmanis to him to accept and bless and he even exchanged a few words with some but I wouldn’t be able to point out who. Thereafter, the respective Council Presidents offered Nazranas to Hazar Imam, some even explaining their meaningfulness in detail to him. Mawla graciously accepted all the Nazranas and beamingly came to the mic again to say, “My beloved spiritual children, you’ve spoilt me.”

Not even by the slightest margin, but how loving and generous our Imam is! It truly is exemplary and extraordinary. 

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Mawlana Hazar Imam shares a light moment with the Jamat at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon, as Prince Amyn looks on. Photo: The Ismaili/Zahur Ramji.

Looking around at the Jamat, his smile incandescent, he elaborated, “You have spoilt me thoughtfully, generously, with great intelligence and wisdom, knowing what would please me and I express to you my warmest thanks. My warmest thanks. Khanavadan. Khanavadan. Khanavadan.” Now, making circular motions with his hands at the sides of his head, he said, “I’m sure, at the back of your minds, you’re saying to yourselves, what is Hazar Imam going to do with the gifts?” Prince Amyn could be seen chuckling behind him and the Jamat shared in the light humour. Mawla grinned genuinely and stated, “Well, I’ll tell you. The extraordinary works of art will belong to the Imam but they will go to the Aga Khan Museum in Canada for public exhibition and other museums around the world in due course. The material Nazranas will be spent on initiatives for the Jamat around the world so that we can do the best we can to sustain the Jamat that need support in the countries in which they are living.”

He gave his best loving and affectionate blessings once more and then asked rhetorically, “I’m sure you all know the meaning of the word Dai.” 

I just loved the way he said ‘Daa-eee’

“I want all of you this evening to be my Dai” — he smiled and raised his eyebrows — “my dais.” 

“To thank the Jamats for their gifts, their thoughts on this most happy occasion. So convey my blessings to your Jamats, to your families,” beloved Imam instructed. “And tell them that I think of them as Dais.” 

“I think of them as Dais,” he repeated and with this one statement, beloved Mawla generously included all my brothers and sisters who had been unable to be physically present in this significant Darbar.

He followed this claim with blessings for the fulfilment of good wishes and specially for Mushkil Aasan. 

And then, he descended the stage and the hearts became heavier with each step he took towards the exit. It is always so bittersweet to see him take his leave. We experience an almost bipolar battle between desperately clinging onto him and contentedly cradling the utmost gratitude we feel for the love he generates.

But this time, there was something to look forward to. This time, he wouldn’t just disappear into the lounge to hold council with the leadership. This time, there was another hall and yet another hall, and we would be able to watch it in its entirety, making this one of the lengthiest and a continuous Darbar — an epic and historic one.

But, hold on.

What’s this?

Once again, all of a sudden, the screens lit up to show a flurry of unusual activity and leadership rushing about in a fluster.

What was happening?

Jamati members swivelled their heads from the screens to look at each other, bewildered: What was going on?

Mawla, dressed down only in his white Sherwani seemed to be leaving the lounge. Wait!

Was he not going to Hall 2 and 3? Had something happened that needed him to depart abruptly?

But why was he beaming then?

Why was a car, which wasn’t his flag-endorsed green Audi, pulling up to him?

This and much more is revealed in the concluding part of this narrative. 

Date posted: July 24, 2018.
Last updated: July 26, 2018 (link added to Part 2, please click conclusion of this narrative)

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Zafeera KassamZafeera Kassam is a high-school teacher of English Language, Literature and Psychology, residing in Nairobi, Kenya. She spends her free time in creative writing and poetry, and has had her short stories and poems published in various media around the world. As a devotee of Mowlana Hazar Imam, her greatest joy is in penning verse and poems in praise of Hazar Imam. Her latest publication, Always and Forever, is a book of 60 poems dedicated especially to Mowlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee (available on Amazon Kindle). She is also an amateur photographer who takes great interest in capturing nature. Currently, she is concentrating on developing her skills in graphic design and digital imagery. Most of all, she hopes to be continuously inspired to keep penning poems in praise of beloved Hazar Imam.

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