September 12, 2021: Barakah’s Tribute to Prince Amyn Aga Khan on His 84th Birthday; and Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre Mark 7th Anniversary of Opening

…it is with deepest admiration that I thank the person whose guiding hand has been so important at every stage of this project: a member of my family, my brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan — Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Opening of Ismaili Centre, September 12, 2014.

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

Aga Khan and Harper at Ismaili Centre
Opening day, September 12, 2014 — Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the rooftop of the Ismaili Centre, with the Aga Khan Museum in the background at right. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah.

Seven years ago on September 12, 2014 during the inauguration ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, I had an opportunity to take a photo of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the rooftop terrace of the Ismaili Centre with the Aga Khan Museum as the backdrop. The media event at the rooftop was very brief. Then, shortly after the inauguration of the Ismaili Centre, we were led across the Aga Khan Park to witness another inauguration — that of the Aga Khan Museum, where Prince Amyn Aga Khan, who celebrated his 77th birthday on the same say, delivered a powerful and insightful speech, excerpts from which are published below. Today, September 12, 2021, we fondly think of him on his 84th birthday, and this is our humble tribute to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s beloved brother.

Aga Khan III with grandsons Prince Karim and Prince Amyn
Flashback, 1942: Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, 48th Ismaili Imam, with his grandsons Prince Amyn (right) and Prince Karim, who succeeded him on July 11,1957 as the 49th Hereditary Ismaili Imam. The picture was taken in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1942. Prince Amyn, now 84 years old, has devoted his life to the Institution of Imamat since the late 1960’s when he left the United Nations to join Mawlana Hazar Imam to work for him. Photo: 25 Years in Pictures. Islamic Publications, London, UK, Volume 1.
Vazir Sherali Alidina, President of the Scouting Association, left, was in charge of conducting the investiture ceremony, which began with Prince Amyn Mohamed Aga Khan reciting the Scout Promise with his left hand on the flag of the Ismaili Scouts Association and his right hand raised in half salute. The President then wrapped the Scout Scarf on Prince Amyn Mohamed’s nape, and pinned the scout badge on his left pocket completing the task with a left-handed scout hand shake with the Prince; the Prince now officially became the second Chief Scout of the Ismailis, following his late father, Prince Aly Khan, who was the first Chief Scout of the Ismailis. The dignified ceremony was short and lasted fifteen minutes. Photo: Khizar Hayat Collection, Toronto, Canada.
Flashback, 1974 — Prince Amyn Mohamed Aga Khan reciting the Scout Promise with his left hand on the flag of the Ismaili Scouts Association and his right hand raised in half salute during his investiture as the Chief Scout of the Ismailis in a ceremony on December 7th, 1974 in Karachi, Pakistan. Photo: Khizar Hayat Collection, Toronto, Canada.
Aga Khan Family, Barakah
Flashback: The late 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, seated on a wheelchair, with members of his family with his successor, the present Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, standing at extreme right. Others in the photo (l to r), grandson Prince Amyn Mohamed, and the late Imam’s two sons, the late Prince Sadruddin and Prince Aly Khan, father of Prince Karim, Prince Amyn and Princess Yasmin who he is seen holding on her shoulders. This rare photo was presented to Simerg by the late Alijah Zul Khoja of Ottawa.
Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and next to him at right his brother Prince Amyn, with members of his family at the inauguration ceremony of his Diamond Jubilee in Aiglemont, France, on July 11 2017. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

I remember Prince Amyn from the time I was a volunteer at the newly opened Karimabad Jamatkhana in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He visited the Jamatkhana one evening in 1970. As the Prince passed me, our eyes met each other. In that rarest of moments for me, my respect and affection for Prince Amyn grew manifold, and has remained so ever since. In 1969, Mawlana Hazar Imam announced during his visit to India that Prince Amyn was accompanying him, and that he had left the United Nations to work for him. Prince Amyn’s devotion and loyalty to Mawlana Hazar Imam has been phenomenal and a blessing to the Jamats around the world. His name is etched in virtually every Imamat project and he has worked incessantly and tirelessly for the implementation of countless Imamat projects with humility and grace. Mawlana Hazar Imam rarely compliments the work members of his family do, but I came across a few remarks that I think should be mentioned on the occasion of Prince Amyn’s 84th birthday. We fondly pay our humble tribute to him on his birthday.

Mawlana Hazar Imam on the Contribution of His Brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan

Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony
Portugal’s President Jorge Sampaio and First Lady Maria Jose Ritta join Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and his brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan, right, for a guided tour of the new Ismaili Centre, Lisbon, opened on July 11, 1988. Photo: The Ismaili/Patrick Ruchdi.

To my brother Prince Amyn, and everyone who has worked with him, I express my sincerest thanks and my deep respect for the hard work, tenacity and will-power they have shown over many long months to develop another Serena Hotel of outstanding beauty and which, Inshallah, will meet the highest professional standards of service,” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, March 16, 1989, opening of Serena Hotel, Quetta, Pakistan

I would like to express my gratitude and admiration to members of our own organisation and community here in Portugal and my secretariat in France for the care and attention they have given to this project, spread over many, long, working days. I want to acknowledge — and forgive me as it is a member of my own family — the contributions of my brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan, whose taste and talent I salute and rely upon, for his special attention to design issues, tiles, fountains, soft and hard landscape.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, July 11, 1988, opening of Lisbon Ismaili Centre

…. it is with deepest admiration that I thank the person whose guiding hand has been so important at every stage of this project: a member of my family, my brother, Prince Amyn Aga Khan — Mawlana Hazar Imam, September 12, 2014, opening of Ismaili Centre Toronto

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Excerpts from Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s Speech Made on September 12, 2014, at the Inauguration Ceremony of the Aga Khan Museum

Prince Amyn Aga Khan Opening Aga Khan Museum Barakah
Prince Amyn Aga Khan speaking at the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

1. Inauguration of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre

What a pleasure it is to welcome you to this exceptional place on this most special day. Exceptional because we are inaugurating today not one but two new and unique buildings, facing each other across a new and unique park, two utterly unusual pieces of architecture housing surprising reflections of beauty — Prince Amyn Aga Khan

Plaque Opening Ceremony Ismaili Centre
Plaque of the opening ceremony of the Ismaili Centre at the centre’s main entrance. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 1, 2021.
Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana, part of the Ismaili Centre building, and the Aga Khan Museum
Views of the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana, part of the Ismaili Centre building, and the Aga Khan Museum at dusk. Photo: Malik Merchant/ Barakah. September 2021.
Plaque of the opening ceremony of the Aga Khan Museum at the museum’s main entrance. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.

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2. Role of the Aga Khan Museum – Gateway into the History and Artistic Traditions of the Muslim World

This is also a special moment because of the special role that we expect the Aga Khan Museum to play, as a gateway into the history and artistic traditions of the Muslim world — nearly a fifth of humanity — for those non-Muslims and even Muslims who wish better to understand that world. The Aga Khan Museum will play this role at a time when such a gateway is profoundly needed. All across the planet, political and economic developments, the forces of globalisation, are connecting Muslim and non-Muslim societies ever more intimately and yet, at the same time, misunderstandings between those worlds are becoming an increasingly dangerous threat — Prince Amyn Aga Khan

Aga Khan Museum’s special exhibitions. Looking down from upper floor one gets a beautiful view of permanent exhibits as well as the iconic Wagner Garden Carpet that was exhibited in 2020 through a loan from Burrell Collection, Glasgow, Scotland. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg; 2020.
Lapis Ball Prince Amyn Aga Khan
Eminent guests at the Bellerive Room of the Aga Khan Museum — Prince Amyn Aga Khan welcomes Violet Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the 29th Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, Adrienne Clarkson (right), the former Governor General of Canada, and her husband John Ralston Saul (left) to the 2018 annual Lapis Ball fundraising event. Photo: Aga Khan Museum.
Aga Khan Museum visitors seeking to understand the Islamic world through beautiful artifacts. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.

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3. Impact of Art and Culture

I believe strongly that art and culture can have a profound impact in healing misunderstanding and in fostering trust even across great divides. This is the extraordinary purpose, the special mandate, to which this Museum is dedicated — Prince Amyn Aga Khan

Angela Pincente (right) performs at the Aga Khan Museum on September 11, 2021 in front of the donor wall. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah.

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4. The Aga Khan Museum – A Rare Institution

The Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, that we are opening today, will differ slightly from the many famous institutions that currently have impressive collections of Islamic art in the Western world. For this Museum will be one of the very few institutions in the Western world, and indeed the only one in the Western hemisphere, that will be entirely devoted to the acquisition, preservation, study and display of the arts of Muslim civilisations.

A visitor seeing the priceless Shah Nameh collection at the Aga Khan Museum. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.

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5. The 1000 or more Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum

The thousand and more treasures gathered here come from Spain, the Maghreb, the Arab near-East, from the Iranian world that stretched through Afghanistan and Central Asia, from the courts of Hindustan, now India and Pakistan, and the Muslim communities of China. As I reflect on this diversity, the word “connection” comes to mind for it will be the special opportunity of this Museum to connect a broad array of Muslim cultures with one another, while also connecting visitors from other cultures to the richness of the Muslim past — Prince Amyn Aga Khan

A view of manuscripts and artifacts on the main floor of the Aga Khan Museum. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah.

Aga Khan Museum, earthenware bowl inscribed with the word Barakah (Blessing). Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.
Aga Khan Museum, page from the Qur’an. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.

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6. Dialogue Between Civilisations

Cultural connection will be at the heart of the Museum’s mission: to increase and illuminate the dialogue between different Muslim civilisations themselves and between those civilisations and non-Muslim civilisations — Prince Amyn Aga Khan

“Rust Garden”, a new contemporary art installation at the Aga Khan Museum by Matt Donovan and Hallie Siegel. It consists of more than 700,000 decaying low-carbon steel letters in a 5-by-7-metre sandbox. The assortment of letters isn’t random. Rather, they are a jumble of every letter that appears in Canadian writer Hugh Maclennan’s classic 1945 novel Two Solitudes. The exhibit encourages audience members to pick up the pieces and use them to craft new, more representative stories about what it means to be Canadian. Three benches have been provided for the audience to participate in a creative assembly of letter. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.
A close-up of the steel letters in Aga Khan Museum’s new exhibit “Rust Garden”. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.

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7. Intellectual Enquiry and Education

The work of the Museum will follow in the best tradition of the venerable Islamic cultural centre where great libraries and other collections became prodigious centres for a continuing process of intellectual and artistic enquiry — a process of exploration and edification, of dialogue and discovery. It is my hope and expectation that this Museum will play an active and effective educational role, helping visitors to appreciate, understand and empathise with an aesthetic and a culture new but no longer foreign or alien to them — Prince Amyn

Manuscript – Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine, Aga Khan Museum. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.
Aga Khan Museum, education program poster. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.
Artistic works created by young children exhibited outside the Learning Centre of the Aga Khan Museum. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 11, 2021.
Bellerive Room Aga Khan Museum Prince Sadruddin and Princess Catherine
Varied objects in the Aga Khan Museum’s Bellerive Room from the collection of Prince and Princess Sadruddin Aga Khan. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; 2021.

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8. Cultural Expressions and Broad Definition of Arts

…..the Museum will focus its attention not only on the acquisition, preservation and display of visual artistic creations, but also on a wide range of other cultural expressions, including poetry, philosophy and literature, music, architecture, science and social organisation. This is a Museum of Islamic Arts with a broad definition of all that the arts include, and presenting these arts as best we can within their full cultural context — Prince Amyn Aga Khan

Moon a voyage through time aga khan museum
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first human steps on the moon the Aga Khan Museum hosted a knowledge and science based exhibition about the moon under the theme “The Moon: A Voyage Through Time” in 2019. Photo: Aga Khan Museum/Aly Manji.

Social and community cohesiveness shown as part of a special exhibition that expressed the vision of the youth following their participation in a photography workshop held at the Aga Khan Museum during the summer of 2019. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simergphotos; September 8, 2019.
Aga Khan Museum Land, Malik Merchant Barakah
The Aga Khan Museum’s new outdoor exhibit on Aga Khan Park called Land/s, a series of 6 panels, showing the power of nature by US based Iranian artist Gohar Dashti. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; September 5, 2021.

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9. Museum and Institutions of the Ismaili Imamat

An asset for the Museum in the fulfillment of its many-faceted mandate will be its close association with other institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network, many of which are represented here today. Among them are the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, The Historic Cities Program, the Aga Khan University, the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations, the University of Central Asia, the Institute of Ismaili Studies, and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture — Prince Amyn Aga Khan

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10. Praise for Architects

Professor Maki’s inspiring building that we are opening today faces the new Ismaili Center, designed by Charles Correa, across the Aga Khan Park designed by Vladimir Djurovic. As a whole, this entire site speaks to the unity in Islamic thought — the profound unity — of three great dimensions of human life: the cultural, the spiritual and the natural. There must also be symbolic value in the fact that the three architects who took the lead in designing these spaces come from Japanese, Indian and Lebanese backgrounds — brought together here in the spirit of international partnership which is also such a proud part of Canadian culture — Prince Amyn Aga Khan

Completed project – a bird’s eyeview of the Ismaili Centre, near end, with its glass domed Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana, and the Aga Khan Museum at the further end. The two buildings are separated by the Aga Khan Park, with its 5 rectangular ponds. The Park flows around the two buildings in all directions. The Park had not yet been inaugurated when the photo was taken. The trees that had been removed temporarily while the construction of the site was underway were replanted. Photo: The Aga Khan Museum; December 2014.

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11. Hope for the Aga Khan Museum: “Enlightenment”

……if I were looking for a single word to sum up my intention and hope for the Aga Khan Museum, it would be the word “enlightenment”. It is a word which has both cultural and spiritual significance. The history of the thought and the creations of man can perhaps be said to be a long path from one period of enlightenment to another. I would hope that this Museum will contribute to a new period of enlightenment, helping visitors from around the world to rediscover the common symbols that unite us all across the globe, across all civilisations, across time — Prince Amyn Aga Khan

A beautiful spring sunrise lights up the sky as well as the front of the Aga Khan Museum building. The powerful and imposing Big Heech steel sculpture is a permanent display at the north end of the museum wall. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Barakah; Spring 2021.

To read Prince Amyn Aga Khan’s full speech and other material pertinent to the Aga Khan Museum’s opening day, please visit the AKDN website page by clicking HERE.

Date posted: September 12, 2021.

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Before departing this website visit our please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents or the Home Page for links to more than 275 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

4 comments

  1. Happy birthday to our beloved Prince Amyn. Wishing you a good health. This is a nice gift on the occasion of his birthday, an Islamic piece presented by my group ” Sheikh Hamed Dawood Group and the Whirling Dervishes of Damascus” from Syria.

    Like

  2. Mubarak Prince Amyn, Happy Birthday and Thank you for your excellent service. Malik excellent article, Mawla be with you in all your endeavors

    Like

  3. Happy Birthday to our Beloved Prince Amyn.

    Thank you for your tirelessly work and contributions for the Imamat. You truly inspire us.

    Wishing you Good Health. Ameen

    Thank you Barakah for sharing all the pictures and articles.

    Shukar Al-Hamdulillah

    Like

  4. A beautiful birthday gift with this article to Prince Amyn. Thank you very much for writing this and making us all aware of the tremendous work Prince Amyn has done for Ismaili community.

    Like

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