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Mawlana Hazar Imam receives President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa upon his arrival to the Darbar hall in Lisbon. Photo: The Ismaili/Vazir Karsan.

The entire Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Lisbon on July 11, 2018, the 61st Imamat Day of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was filled with beautiful and surprising moments that will be deeply entrenched in everyone’s hearts, carrying indelible memories. Who would have imagined that Mawlana Hazar Imam with his family would visit all the three halls where the Jamats were seated and spend so much time at the Darbar; that in each of the halls he would graciously speak to the Jamat and ask us, as his dais, to convey his blessings to our families and Jamats around the world; and that the Darbar would be filled with so much laughter and happiness as well as applause. Mawlana Hazar Imam made it all happen! For those who were not present in Lisbon, I would recommend Zafeera Kassam’s narrative of the Darbar which has been acclaimed by readers from around the world.

Of course, as a murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam, every moment of his holy presence was touching and deeply inspiring. However the moment that particularly stood out for me was the Portuguese President’s surprise visit at the Darbar. As I came to learn later, the President was deeply touched by the discipline of the Jamat and the adoration of the Jamat for their beloved Imam. The salwats for the Imam rang out from thousands of lips, and I begin to wonder what the President may have personally felt at this highly charged atmosphere.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam speaks at the Darbar in Lisbon on July 11, 2018, calling the visit of Portugal’s President as an unexpected blessing. Members of his family are seen applauding.

Mawlana Hazar Imam termed the visit by His Excellency Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa as “an unexpected blessing.” The mood was euphoric among the approximately 42,000 Ismaili faithfuls from 45 countries who were witnessing an unprecedented event in modern Ismaili history.

Before making way to the Darbar hall, Mawlana Hazar Imam introduced the esteemed President to members of the Noorani family (Prince Amyn, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Princess Salwa, Prince Hussain, Prince Aly Muhammad, Miss Sara Boyden, and Master Iliyan Boyden) as well as  members of the Ismaili Leaders International Forum (LIF) who represent the global jamat.

There were warm and sincere sentiments exchanged in the Darbar hall as the President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa brought greetings from the Portuguese people.

The President’s inspiring message of shared hopes and aspirations for a progressive partnership were reinforced as the President proclaimed “I feel, I’m sure, that Portugal has become your home forever.” Mawlana Hazar Imam concluded his own remarks with “We now have — alhamdulillah — Portugal as our partner.” There were applauses everywhere.

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The President of Portugal congratulates Mawlana Hazar Imam on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee during the Darbar in Lisbon on July 11, 2018.

The President’s profound message of solidarity and gratitude for Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Jamat is as follows:

“Few words, very much felt in this historical moment of the Diamond Jubilee of Your Highness and Spiritual Leader of this so meaningful community and millions and millions spread across all continents.

“Portugal, home of peace and universal understanding congratulates Your Highness for the Jubilee and also for the constant contribution to peace, tolerance, dialogue, social commitment, plus building a better world.

“Portugal, always a grateful nation, marks Your Highness’ choice to host the Seat of the Imamat Ismaili at Palacete Henrique de Mendonça in Lisbon, Your Highness’ support, among us and all over the world, to development, to justice, to the fight against poverty and inequality.

“Portugal welcomes, with open arms, those who arrive, greets the dear thousands of believers of the Ismaili Community, including the 7000 Portuguese, that day after day, endlessly work with competence and social solidarity.

“All of this, much in line with a verse of the Qu’ran, namely:

‘Righteousness is not that you turn your faces to the east or the west, but is in one’s faithful God, the prophets and the book; despite love for it, righteousness is in giving wealth to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveller, those who ask for help.’

“May all of you as well as all of us pay tribute to Your Highness and your family on this historic day and be welcome to Portugal.

“I feel, I’m sure, that Portugal became your home forever.”


A video clip from the Darbar in Lisbon

Date posted: August 8, 2018.


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

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