November 2, 2018 marks the 141st birth anniversary of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan, 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. For the anniversary, we present to our readers a heart-warming story by Sakerkhanu Gulamhusain of her experience with the late Imam when she was only 6 years old. The story originally appeared on Barakah’s affiliated website http://www.simerg.com.

By SAKERKHANU GULAMHUSAIN GULAMALI

aga-khan-iii-dj-diamond-examination-bombay1

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, Aga Khan III, examines some diamonds at his residence in Bombay ahead of the Diamond Jubilee Weighing Ceremony which was held at Brabourne Stadium. Photo: Ilm, UK.

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, our beloved 48th Imam, was born on November 2, 1877 in Karachi. He became Imam in 1885, two months short of his 8th birthday.  I was about 6 years old at the time of his Diamond Jubilee celebrations in the year 1946, marking the occasion of his sixty years of Imamat. The celebrations in the Indian Sub-continent took place at various locations in Bombay (now Mumbai). A child from each of the Religious Night Schools was to be selected to recite a ginan (an Ismaili hymn) or poem in front of the Jamat gathered for the Holy Didar at the Wadi Jamatkhana compounds. It was my sincerest desire to participate in this program, and to be amongst the chosen students. I therefore practiced a poem and worked very hard at it.

It was a most thrilling and joyous moment for me when my teacher informed me that I was selected to recite the poem in front of the Jamat before the Imam’s arrival. Like all little children I had a clean and pure heart, and now that I was selected, I wished that I would even get a chance to recite the poem in the presence of the Imam. Therefore, I left no stone unturned to see that I attained the highest possible standard in my recitation. I also kept up with the intensity of my prayer, so that I might be blessed with a chance.

The auspicious day for the Didar of Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah finally arrived, and words are inadequate to express the joy and thrill that I felt within myself. Students came in turns to present their wonderful recitals before the Jamat. I was dressed in my lovely white dress, and as my name was called out I went up on the stage and stood before the mike to present the poem that I had learnt and practiced so well. Just as I finished my recitation, there was a deafening ovation from the Jamat, accompanied with the resounding claps and shouts of “once more, once more”.

The situation continued to prevail, and the only way the leaders could calm the very large gathering of over 20,000 murids was to get me to recite the poem again. At the end of my second recitation, I had another wonderful ovation and the crowd then urged on the leadership that I should recite the poem in the Imam’s holy presence.

In the meantime, Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah had arrived, and the leaders decided to sit me close to the stage of the Imam. It seemed as if my wish was going to be fulfilled, and with that thought my tasbih (supplication) became even more stronger.

However, as the didar program ended, the Imam rose from his seat to leave. Seeing this my heart sank deeply, and it wept with the thought that this was not going to be my day to recite the poem in the Imam’s presence. The leaders then humbly submitted to the Imam that it was the desire of the Jamat for Khudavind to listen to a recital that I had presented earlier. Most graciously, the Imam accepted their request, and seated himself on his chair once again. This was a moment of emotional rollercoaster, and Mawla enacted a drama for me. Instead of the sadness that I had felt just moments ago, I was now buoyant and my heart leapt with joy as I rushed to the stage with confidence. It was an experience of a lifetime as I felt paradise before me. I began my recitation and Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah listened to it intently. I recited the first, second, third, fourth and fifth stanzas as follows:

Ekare Ek, Rakho Khane Jawani Tek,
Mara banduo, mari matao farman padvu faraj che

Bagare Be, Bolo Sultan Mahomed Shahni Jai,
Mara banduo, mari matao farman padvu faraj che

Tragare Tran, Raho Hazat Imamne Charan,
Mara banduo, mari matao farman padvu faraj che

Chogare Char, Mankho Nahi Ave Biji Vaar,
Mara banduo, mari matao farman padvu faraj che

Panchare Panch. Ismaili Ne Na Ave Aanch

Explanation:

First (One), Make a firm niyaat (resolve) to attend Jamatkhana regularly
Bretheren, it is our duty to obey the farman

Second (Two), Evoke the praise of (Imam) Sultan Mahomed Shah
Bretheren, it is our duty to obey the farman

Third (Three), Remain under the care (and protection) of the Imam
Bretheren, it is our duty to obey the farman

Fourth (Four), Life is not granted twice
Bretheren, it is our duty to obey the farman

Fifth (Five), Ismaili (brethren) should not suffer from any severe problems

As soon as I had finished reciting the fifth stanza, Panchare Panch. Ismaili Ne Na Ave Aanch, Hazrat Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah who was seated very close to the mike, immediately took me by both the hands, picked me up and placed me on his holy lap. He asked the leaders, “‘Where is her father?” My father, Huzurmukhi Samji Rajan, was seated in the middle of the crowd. The Imam said, “Iske bap ko bulao” (call her father).

My father’s name was called out on the mike, and he approached the Imam with a deep sense of humility and respect, falling at the Imam’s feet. The Imam gave both of us his affectionate loving blessings and said to me, “bahot khub; shabash” (very very good, bravo). Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah then told my father that I would have a beautiful and enchanting voice in reciting ginans. The Imam then looking at me noted that I was frail and weak, and he asked my father that I should be fed well with eggs and milk so that I would grow up to be a strong and healthy girl.

This event was a great blessing bestowed on me. Mawla had listened to the prayers and supplications of his young spiritual daughter of only six. Not only did he provide me the chance to recite the poem in his presence, but he blessed me with a beautiful and enchanting voice, and he wished that I should recite the ginans for his Jamats.

Since that unforgettable and unique incident in my life, I have regularly recited ginans in Jamatkhanas around the world, and have continued the practice to this day with love, dedication and faith for our Imam. When members of the Jamat approach me and tell me that my ginan recitation touches the inner core of their hearts, my thoughts immediately turn to the blessings that were bestowed on me by our beloved 48th Imam on the historical celebration of his sixty years of Imamat in 1946.

The recitation of ginans since my childhood has given me immense happiness, and has remained a source of hope as well as spiritual strength and progress. It is gratifying to see, even in the Western World, beautiful recitations of ginans  – and I may also add  qasidas – by children as young as 4, 5 or 6 years. These young boys and girls are continuing to keep alive a tradition that Mawlana Hazar Imam once described as “so special, so unique and so important to my Jamat.”

Date posted: November 2, 2018.

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sgulamhusainAbout the writer: Vazirbanu Sakerkhanu Gulamhusain was born and raised in the Indian Sub-Continent. She pursued a career in teaching for a number of years after having obtained a Teaching Diploma and Bachelor’s Degree in Education. After the untimely demise of her husband, Vazir Gulamhusain Gulamali, Sakerkhanu has shared her time between Pakistan and other countries where her children and family reside.

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