Prepared and compiled by MALIK and NURIN MERCHANT
(Publisher/Editor Barakah, Simerg and Simergphotos)
Audio Presentation: The Face of Imamat
Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah was born on November Second, 1877, in Karachi in what is now Pakistan. He became the 48th hereditary Imam of Ismaili Muslims in August 1885 when he was only seven years old. His birth centenary was celebrated in 1977 worldwide with special lectures, events and publications.
In 2009, on the occasion of his 132nd birth anniversary, Simerg published a special series on the Imam. Now, 11 years later for his 143rd birth anniversary on November 2, 2020, Simerg and its sister website Barakah are delighted to present this audio read out from one of the more than 20 articles that were first published in 2009. It may be noted that the series has been considerably expanded since the original publication, and we invite our listeners to visit our websites, and download the entire publication.
This first audio is entitled The Face of Imamat, and we begin with a quote of the 48th Imam.
QUOTE: “Though Ismailis have been always staunch and firm believers in the truth of their own faith in the Imamat Holy Succession, they have never, like some other sects, gone to the other extreme of condemning brother Muslims who have other interpretations of the Divine Message of our Holy Prophet. Ismailis have always believed and have been taught in each generation by their Imams that they hold the rightful interpretation of the succession to the Holy Prophet, but that is no reason why other Muslims, who believe differently, should not be accepted as brothers in Islam and dear in person and prayed for and never publicly or privately condemned, leave alone abused.
“I hope that in these days when the Muslims have to hold together in view of all the dangers, external and internal, from all quarters, I hope and believe and pray that Ismailis may show their true Islamic charity in thought and prayer for the benefit and happiness of all Muslims, men, women and children of all sects.” UNQUOTE.
In the Platinum Jubilee message that you just heard, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, asked his Ismaili followers to show their true Islamic charity in thought and prayers for the benefit and happiness of all Muslims. The beloved 48th Imam passed away two years later on July 11, 1957, after a reign spanning seventy two years, but not before giving his followers these and other thoughtful words to live by.
The Times of London noted that the late Aga Khan was a great force working for understanding and harmony between east and west.
This is reflected in the following messages of universal appeal that he conveyed:
“All men, rich and poor, must aid one another materially and personally. This fraternity is absolute, and it comprises men of all colours and all races: black, white, yellow, tawny; all are the sons of Adam in the flesh and all carry in them spark of the Divine Light. Everyone should strive his best to see that this spark be not extinguished but rather developed to that full Companionship-on-High.”
To the Ismailis, he made the following passionate plea.
“It is my hope that my spiritual children, will by example of their own higher enlightenment and co-operative movement amongst themselves set to the world an example of better fraternity and brotherhood which alone can free men from the fear and dangers of moral and mental discord which leads to disaster for all.”
The death of the Aga Khan was mourned by people of all communities around the world.
For his Ismaili followers, the loss of their long reigning Imam became an occasion for them to reflect about their traditional and historical understanding and belief about the Hereditary Institution that he had led. As they awaited the announcement of who had been designated to continue the Hereditary leadership, they were reminded and were comforted by the famous tradition (Hadith) of the Prophet Muhammad that says, “I am leaving behind me two things, the Book and my Progeny. If you hold fast to them, you will never go astray,” as well as the Qur’anic verses, “Verily, God did choose Adam and Noah, the progeny of Abraham, and the progeny of Imran above all the worlds, descendants, one from the other. And God heareth and knoweth all things.”
The will of their 48th Imam was then read out in front of the Imam’s family at Villa Barakat in Geneva, proclaiming the successor.
QUOTE: “Ever since the time of my first ancestor Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants whether they be sons or remoter male issue. In view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place including the discoveries of atomic science, I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Shia Moslem Ismailian Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam. I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my son Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to be the Imam of all my Shia Ismailian followers.” UNQUOTE.
Through the special designation (or the Nass) of the late Imam, Shah Karim al-Hussaini became the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Nizari Ismailis at the age of twenty.
Shortly after, Prince Karim, the newly enthroned Imam, met Ismaili leaders and representatives from around the world and made the following statement.
“My grand father dedicated his life to the Imamat and Islam, both of which came first, and above all other considerations. I follow a great man in a great responsibility and he could have given me no more appreciated honour than to bequeath me this spiritual leadership. My life, as his, will be dedicated to the service of my followers.”
We end this first in a series of special audio presentations with the following quote of Prince Karim on Islam and his reflections on the 48th Imam.
“Islam is a total religion touching on all aspects of a Muslim’s life. It urges the individual to live a balanced life, one that strives to accommodate both material progress and spiritual well-being. Therefore the Imam, whilst caring for the spiritual well being of his people should also be continuously concerned with their safety and material progress. He is involved in the encouragement of enterprise, though in the spirit of Islam, he must warn that it is unacceptable without a social conscience.”
“I am speaking to you in a city and in a country which have a particular meaning to my family and myself. On 2nd November, 1877 my beloved grandfather was born here in Karachi. Through 72 years of Imamat, he guided his spiritual children to happiness and prosperity.” Karachi, August 4, 1957.
“Many memories come to our minds as we think of him. He achieved in his life, for our community that which could only have been accomplished normally in a period of many generations. The tributes that the world has paid him bear honest testimony to his great life and work.” — Karachi, January 23, 1958.
“Amongst his many qualities, one of them had always particularly impressed me. While the past was a book he had read and re-read many times, the future was just one more literary work of art into which he used to pour himself with deep thought and concentration. Innumerable people since his death have told me how he used to read in the future, and this certainly was one of his very great strengths. As a child I used to listen to him for many hours on end and I think, in fact I am convinced, that it was his inspiration which has created in me such a strong interest in the future, while at the same time, guiding me to learn from the teaching books of the past.” — Karachi, May 12, 1964.
Thank you for joining us. We remind you to download our delightful publication entitled “The Imam of the Socio-Economic Revolution” from our websites Simerg and Barakah.
Looking ahead, we plan to make audio presentations on the social, cultural and religious dimensions of Shia Ismaili Muslims as well as the Islamic faith on a regular basis.
Download Our Magnificent 191 Page Booklet on His Highness the Aga Khan
To download PDF book, please click HERE or on photo below
Date posted: November 1, 2020.
(1) The featured image on Barakah’s home page is the obverse of a medal commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah. The photo was provided to us by Nizar Noorali of Pakistan.
(2) The audio in this post was prepared using the “Read Aloud” option on the PDF file that contained our article (i.e. the transcript published in this post). The voice option we chose from the drag down menu on the PDF task bar was “Microsoft Aria Online (Natural) — English (United States).”
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This website, Barakah, is a special project by http://www.Simerg.com and is dedicated to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamate.
Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Simergphotos (2012) and Barakah (2017). Formerly an IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions for several decades in Mozambique, Tanzania, Pakistan, the UK and Canada in both professional and honorary capacities. Malik’s daughter, Dr. Nurin Merchant, received her veterinary medicine degree with distinction from the Ontario Veterinary College (University of Guelph) in 2019, and now works as a veterinarian. She supports her dad’s endeavours as an editor of the three websites.
Particularly as we sense much passion and great tension in our global political environment it is helpful to know that Imam Karim al Hussaini shares our Canadian citizenship. Thank you.
J. Joachim Moskau
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I am just speechless and moved by your presentation, which I share with most learned non Muslims who admire our tariqah of Islam. Thank you dear Malik for this great presentation. May Mawlana Hazar Imam bless you in educating not only our jamat but others at large.
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Malik / Nurin Ya Ali Madad,
A splendid & marvellous effort, and superb resource for parents and teachers – in the immortal words of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (a.s.) – shabash!
May Mowlana Hazar Imam forever bless you and your entire family with unlimited barakat for your indefatigable industry in the scholarship of our faith…ameen
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Your timely factual reminders are enlightening and contrIbute greatly to the knowledge of Imamat for our younger generations. Pray continue the good work.
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This post in indeed an amazing and a magnificent effort to give to all the readers a combined (written, audio and pictorial account) of our great 48th Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III’s long and meritorious leadership to the humanity during his 72 years of Imamat. I am certain that this will be viewed and read again and again by numerous readers of your posts.
Keep up the great work and our sincerest thanks to you and now also to your daughter Nurin. Best wishes for your good health, peace and happiness also.
Kamrudin A. Rashid
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