Introduced by Malik Merchant
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, directly descended from Hazrat Ali, the first Shia Imam.
Addressing both the Houses of the Canadian Parliament on February 27, 2014, His Highness said:
“I was born into a Muslim family, linked by heredity to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family). My education blended Islamic and Western traditions, and I was studying at Harvard some 50 years ago (yes 50 years ago — actually 56 years ago!) when I became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.”
The Aga Khan then continued:
“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet.
“But let me clarify something more about the history of that role, in both the Sunni and Shia interpretations of the Muslim faith. The Sunni position is that the Prophet nominated no successor, and that spiritual-moral authority belongs to those who are learned in matters of religious law. As a result, there are many Sunni imams in a given time and place.
“But others believed that the Prophet had designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up — but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.”
Twenty-eight years earlier, on December 13, 1986, the preamble of the new Ismaili constitution ordained by the Aga Khan went on to state as follows with regard to the principle of Imamat, as has been practiced and understood by the Ismailis throughout their history:
“In accordance with Shia doctrine, tradition, and interpretation of history, the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Mawlana Ali Amiru-l-Mu’minin (a.s), to be the first Imam…and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s) and his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s).
“Succession of Imamat is by way of Nass, it being the absolute prerogative of the Imam of the time to appoint his successor from amongst any of his male descendents whether they be sons or remoter issue.
“Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims (please read the full preamble HERE.)
Panel Presented to His Highness the Aga Khan during his Golden Jubilee
It is in light of this firm belief in Imamat going back 1400 years in history, that the Canadian Ismaili community presented a beautiful polychrome panel to their beloved 49th Imam during his Golden Jubilee visit to Canada in 2008. The panel, which originated from Iran, was produced in the late 18th to early 19th century.
Click on image for enlargement
Measuring over two metres in length, the panel is made up of six rectangular tiles. The inscription on the tiles consists of two lines of elegant moulded white nastaliq script set against a cobalt-blue background painted with scrolling vines and flowers. The Arabic inscription is a hadith qudsi that translates as:
Hadith qudsi or sacred tradition is a non-Quranic sayings of God, which is quoted by the Prophet. In these sacred traditions, the content is from God and the words are from the Prophet.
The hadith qudsi quoted on the panel presented to the Aga Khan appears in almost every Shia source. Among the most well-known versions of the tradition, it is referred to as the “Tradition of the Golden Chain” (hadith silsilat al-dhahab).
In the Shia Imami context, this tradition encapsulates the concept of Imamat.
Date posted: October 8, 2022.
For an interesting discussion on Hadith Qudsi on an external website, please click Wikishia.
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