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2 beautiful photos from 1957 of a blessed day in the lives of Sadruddin and Sakerkhanu Velji: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, performs their marriage

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

Aga Khan Takhtnashini ceremonial installation visit to Dar es Salaam. Blessing a newly married couple.
Sakerkhanu Velji garlands Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, moments before he blesses her marriage to Sadruddin Velji during his Takhtnashini visit to Dar es Salaam in October 1957. Photo: © Sadruddin Velji Family Collection.

Two framed photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, hang prominently on a wall in Sadruddin and Sakerkhanu Velji’s apartment in Burnaby, British Columbia. They live across from the Vancouver Ismaili Centre. The photos are 62 years old from 1957, when Mawlana Hazar Imam performed their marriage ceremony in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (then Tanganyika) during his Takhtnashini (ceremonial installation) visit in October 1957.

The Velji’s gladly allow me to take the frames to my mum’s home for scanning. I also notice a memorable photo of a young Julius Nyerere greeting Mr. Velji. The picture is of good quality and I take that photo too. Their place soon starts feeling “empty” without the photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam; I soon realize that, and after a couple of days I return them, hanging them on the same spot. Their eyes light up once again.

Sadruddin Velji was born in a small town near Tabora; Sakerkhanu too was born in a small town – Manyoni, near Dodoma. They met each other when Sadruddin was assigned to a teaching project in Manyoni. They got married a year later in 1957, and went on to settle in Dar es Salaam. My family always addresses them as Mukhisaheb and Mukhianima because they held those esteemed and respectable positions in the Ismaili Jamat sometime during their lifetime. A day doesn’t pass without my mum having a talk with her beloved “Mukhianima” whom she regards as her own sister.

Aga Khan blessing the marriage of Sadruddin and Sakerkhanu Velji. Simerg and Barakah.
A garlanded Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan (see previous photo), conducts the marriage of Sadruddin and Sakerkhanu Velji during his Takhtnashini visit to Dar es Salaam in October 1957. Photo: © Sadruddin Velji Family Collection.

Mr. and Mrs. Velji migrated to Canada in 1985, and made Kitchner in Ontario their first home. They later settled in Burnaby. They are blessed with three daughters and four grandchildren.

Barakah sincerely thanks the Velji family for sharing their beautiful memories with our readers, and invites other families to submit their own unique and memorable collection of photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of his family for publication on this blog. We have mentioned before that there are khajanas (treasures) of memorable and historical photographs all around the world, and we are doing our best to bring those to you. Your photo submissions will be deeply appreciated and I invite you to write to me at Simerg@aol.com to discuss your collection and how we can best post them in this blog Barakah, which is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

Julius Nyerere, Tanzania, greeting a young Velji. Barakah and Simerg
In this rare photo, date unknown, Sadruddin Velji is seen greeting Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere, with a watchful crowd looking on. Photo: © Sadruddin Velji Family Collection.

Date posted: December 16, 2019.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

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 and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

His Highness the Aga Khan depiction at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights

A depiction of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at a Canadian Museum, and birthday messages from Canadian Ismaili leadership and Prime Minister

The publisher/editor of Barakah, Simerg and Simergphotos and members of the Late Jehangir Merchant family wish Ismailis around the world Salgirah Mubarak on the auspicious occasion of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 83rd birthday, and we offer our sincere prayers for everyone’s happiness and success in all walks of life.

We are delighted to include a downloadable photo of the depiction of Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba, along with Salgirah messages from the core team of the Canadian Ismaili leadership team which appeared in the weekly Al-Akhbar newsletter of Friday, December 13, 2019, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was born on December 13, 1936 in Geneva, Switzerland and, at 83, is the oldest serving Imam in Ismaili history.

Please click on photo below to view/download a high resolution image

His Highness the Aga Khan Cnadian Museum for Human Rights Barakah Simerg
A life-size depiction of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Mawlana Hazar Imam is depicted with other Honorary Canadian Citizens in a special section on the floor dedicated to “Turning Points of Humanity. The caption in the photo reads: “AGA KHAN IV: The fourth Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslim communities was named an Honorary Canadian Citizen in 2009 for advancing tolerance and human right.” The last line in the caption, presumably crediting the photo, says, “French Delegation of the AKDN Foundation.” Photo: Malik Merchant / Barakah.

SALGIRAH MUBARAK GREETINGS FROM THE CANADIAN LEADERSHIP

Joint Salgirah message from AMEERALLY KASSIM-LAKHA, President, Aga Khan Council for Canada, DR. KABIR JIVRAJ, Chairman, Ismaili Tariqah & Religious Education Board for Canada, AZMINA DAMJI, Chairman, Grants & Review Board for Canada, AL-NAWAZ NANJI, Chairman, Conciliation & Arbitration Board for Canada, KARIM THOMAS, Vice-President, Aga Khan Council for Canada, and DR. NAZMUDIN BHANJI, Mukhisaheb, Darkhana Jamatkhana

Today, on the auspicious occasion of our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 83rd birthday, we offer our heartiest Mubaraki to every member of the Canadian Jamat.

Salgirah provides each of us an opportunity to reflect on our deeply personal bond with our beloved Imam and our ties with one another, as spiritual brothers and sisters.

Hazar Imam has often reminded us of the importance of living the principles of our faith in our everyday lives. And in today’s fragmented world, it is the bonds of community and our deeply-rooted values, which allow us to realize the social conscience of Islam.

The ethic of service, for example, sits at the bedrock of our values. The Ismaili Volunteer Corps, marking its 100 years of selfless service, truly embodies the spirit of generosity, compassion and care for those most vulnerable. So too do the countless non-badged volunteers who selflessly give of their time and energy to improve the lives of others in the Jamat and in the greater community. May we all continue to find ways to serve and learn together.

And as we celebrate Salgirah together as one Jamat and re-affirm our love, loyalty and devotion to our Hazar Imam, let us recommit to those cherished principles of kindness, tolerance, and forgiveness, harnessing our values to shape a more understanding, pluralistic and harmonious world.

On this joyous day, we offer our humble shukhrana for Hazar Imam’s continued love, mercy, guidance and protection. We pray for the Jamat’s happiness, good health, prosperity, strength of faith and unity.

We pray for the safety and security of all those living in conditions of conflict and strife. And we hope that today can be a day of light and joy for every member of the Jamat, and for our beloved Imam.

Khushiali Mubarak.

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Statement by the Prime Minister on the birthday of His Highness the Aga Khan

Aga Khan and Trudeau
His Highness the Aga Khan greets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, May 17, 2016, at the Office of the Prime Minister located at the Centre Block of Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

December 13, 2019
Ottawa, Ontario

“Today, we join Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims in Canada and around the world to celebrate the 83rd birthday of their spiritual leader, His Highness the Aga Khan.

“His Highness has worked for more than six decades to reduce poverty, improve healthcare and education, and defend the rights of the most vulnerable, especially women and children. An advocate for people of all backgrounds and faiths, he inspires others to follow his path of compassion, generosity, and service.

“The Aga Khan champions respect for diversity and human rights – values that are shared by Canadians. In recognition of his contributions, he was named an honourary Canadian citizen. His Highness also chose Canada as the home of the Aga Khan Museum and the Global Centre for Pluralism. Canada, and the world, are stronger because of his work to build a more peaceful, inclusive future.

“Today, Sophie and I thank the Aga Khan for his international leadership, and wish him continued health and happiness on this special day.”

Date posted: December 13, 2019.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

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 and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

The Salgirah of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and his unbounded love for his spiritual children

By FAROUK ESMAIL

Aga Khan, Salgirah, Karachi, December 13, 1964

“When I leave, each and everyone of you will be in my heart, in my prayers, in my thoughts….you must remember that Imam loves you more, much more than you can ever love him and you must be strong in this knowledge.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, Karachi, December 13, 1964.

Introduction: Festive celebrations

Festive celebrations are an integral part of the observances of religious traditions. They constitute moments of social solidarity, occasions for the expression in different forms of religiosity and fervour. They are often accompanied by the performance of rites and religious ceremonies which symbolise the event being commemorated. Moreover, they also function as points in time for the believers to re-examine their religious consciousness and its commitments, as well as points for reorientation of their lives in future.

Both the Judaeo-Christian, as well as the Eastern religious traditions, even ancient civilizations provide a plethora of references to the commemoration of certain events. Such events have always been found to be associated with festivities, rites, rituals and ceremonies. Some writers have gone so far as to suggest that the symbolism underlying the rites, rituals and practices of the ancient constitute the very fabric of their mythology which functioned so as to render the enigma of existence intelligible.

In Islam in particular, the observances of the ‘Id al-Adha, the ‘Id al-Fitr, the ‘Id-i Milad al-Nabi and in addition, amongst the Shi’a, the observance of ‘Id-i Ghadir and the commemoration of the birthdays of the Imams have represented important festivals. Their importance lies in the fact that they assist the formation of the identities of the various branches and tariqahs of Islam whilst, of course, maintaining their commitment to the central tenets of the Islamic Faith.

The meaning of the word Salgirah

This paper will approach the subject from the point of view of the significance of the birthday of the Imam in the life of the murids in terms of their love and devotion for the Imam and vice versa.

The term Salgirah is of Persian origin. Sal means anniversary and girah means knot and hence Salgirah literally means ‘an anniversary knot added on to a string kept for the purpose’. Ismailis observe this event with great joy and evident devotion on December 13, the date of birth of the present and living Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan. Besides this, the devotees may celebrate Salgirah on any date which the Imam may specify and this need not necessarily be the actual date of his physical birth.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s references to his Salgirah

In regard to Salgirah we find the following two references in the Farman Mubarak:

“…You have gathered here today to wish me a happy birthday and to reaffirm your loyalty and love to your Imam. My happiness at being with you on this occasion is deep and pure, all my thoughts, all my hopes and all my prayers are for you…..On this happy day I rejoice in being with my spiritual children and in the knowledge that their spiritual and moral strength is such as to allow them to benefit from many more worldly goods without forsaking the remembrance of, and the submission to ‘He from Whom we have come and to Whom we will return’.” (Salgirah Darbar, Karachi, December 13, 1964).

Several issues are clarified in the excerpt quoted above. For one thing, the Imam’s birthday is an event of happiness for him as well as for his spiritual children. This rejoicing is born out of the fact of the spiritual and moral strength of the spiritual children, who are in constant remembrance of and submission to Allah even as they keep up their efforts at maintaining their material progress.

In the very same Farman Mubarak, one also finds the Imam saying:

“For hundreds of years my spiritual children have been guided by the rope of Imamat; you have looked to the Imam of the Age for advice and help in all matters and through your Imam’s immense love and affection for his spiritual children, his Noor has indicated to you where and in which direction you must turn so as to obtain spiritual and worldly satisfaction…” (Salgirah Darbar, Karachi, December 13, 1964)

Here the concept of Imamat as being one which has spiritual guidance at its core is firmly established. In connection to the direction we must turn “so as to obtain spiritual and worldly satisfaction,” one may note that this is what Mawlana Hazir Imam has called “the duality of the life which we live” referring to the two responsibilities “which are placed on you the day you are born — the responsibilities to fulfil your material and spiritual lives…” (Mumbai, November 27, 1973)

In the fulfilment of the material and spiritual responsibilities in the manner prescribed, lies the striving in the way of Allah. Furthermore, the fulfilment of these responsibilities by an individual is not something that benefits only the solitary individual or his own immediate family. In fact, it is something that contributes to the improvement in the general conditions in the Jamat and conversely the non-fulfilment of these responsibilities harms not only the individual and his family but is harming the Jamat as well. The Ismaili tariqah viewing Islam as a whole way of life embracing all its diverse aspects, requires that guidance embraces the totality of life’s aspects not only at the individual level but at the collective level as a whole. Moreover, it is not only guidance and advice but also ‘help’ in all matters that the Ismailis look to the Imam of the Age as noted in the following excerpt:

“Since the 11th of July, 1957 my aims and ambitions have been devoted to help and guide my spiritual children in spiritual and worldly matters…” (Salgirah Darbar, Karachi, December 13, 1964)

The central aspects of guidance, direction and support to man by Allah have been enshrined in the Holy Qur’an. It is there that we find explicit references to the ulil-amri (4:59) and Imam-i Mubin (36:12). Accordingly, obedience to Allah, to the Prophet (S.A.S.) and the ulil-amri (Divine Authority) constitutes a fundamental matter in the Ismaili understanding of the faith and its observances.

Devotion and love for Hazar Imam

Aga Khan birthday cake, Salgirah, Barakah and Simerg

In consonance with this position is the complementary aspect of devotion and love on the part of murids towards the Imam. Qadi Nu’man in the second Majlis of his Code of Conduct for the Followers of the Imam says,

“God the Great says to Muhammad His Prophet, may the greetings be upon him and his descendants, ‘Say, I do not ask you to pay me (for the guidance) any reward excepting your love for my kith and kin’ (Holy Qur’an, 42:23).

“When the Messenger of God was asked as to who were his kith and kin, he replied, ‘Ali, Fatima, Hasan and Husain’. He further said, ‘He who loves them loves me. He who hates them hates me. None but a mu’min loves Ali and none but a hypocrite hates Ali’.

“It is said that in the days of the Prophet, mu’mins could not be distinguished from the hypocrites by anything but their love of Ali. The Prophet ordained and exhorted his followers to love Ali, and God enjoined it as a duty on the Muslims in general…”

Qadi Nu’man quotes Imam al-Baqir (Book of Faith, tr. by A.A.A. Fyzee, pp. 82-83) as saying to Ziyad al-Aswad:

“Glory be to God. What is religion but love? Almighty God says in His Book: ‘(God has) endeared the faith to you and beautified it in your hearts’ – (Holy Qur’an, 49:7) and He said ‘Say (O Muhammad, unto mankind), if you love God, follow me, God will love you’ (Holy Qur’an, 3:31).

Relating another incident, Qadi Nu’man writes:

“A man came to Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq and spoke to him about a man who had died recently and said: ‘O son of the Messenger of God, the deceased had a very high regard for you (the people of the House) and loved you sincerely’.

“The Imam said: ‘Everyone who bears love to us will be with us on the Day of Resurrection. He will be under our protection and be our companion in all our stations (in Paradise). Doubly do I swear by God, God purifies the heart of everyone who loves us’…”

In other words, in keeping with the authoritative position of the Imam in respect of Guidance, Benevolence and Authority, he commands not only the obedience of the faithful but also their love and devotion.

The depth of Hazar Imam’s love for his spiritual children

On the other hand, the Imam’s deep love for his spiritual children is expressed in the following Farman Mubarak:

“When I leave this evening I would like that you should remember two things. One, that I will take with me in my heart the remembrance of each and everyone of you, the face of each and everyone of you. Secondly, that my love for my Jamat is a lot stronger than yours can ever be for me and I would like you to remember this.

“When I leave, each and everyone of you will be in my heart, in my prayers, in my thoughts and also that you should be strong because you must remember that Imam loves you more, much more than you can ever love him and you must be strong in this knowledge.” (Karachi, December 26, 1964)

This indicates the depth of the Imam’s love for his Jamat. One may, therefore, stress the fact that the centrality of the love of the murid for the Imam makes faith possible and acts of prayers, devotion and piety both significant and meaningful. And as Hazar Imam has pronounced in his Farman:

“…You have gathered here today to wish me a happy birthday and reaffirm your loyally and love to your Imam. My happiness at being with you on this occasion is deep and pure, all my thoughts, all my hopes and all my prayers are for you…” (Karachi, December 13, 1964).

On a day such as Salgirah, the murid than re-examines his original bay’ah (oath of allegiance), his love for and devotion to the Imam of the Age and reaffirms it thereby giving proper orientation.

Date posted: December 10, 2019.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

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References :

1. Excerpts of 1964 Farmans quoted in the article are from “Farman Mubarak – Pakistan visit 1964 – of Mowlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim Al-Husayni,” published by the Ismailia Association Pakistan, Karachi, Parts I and II

2. Excerpt of 1973 Farman quoted in the article is from “Farman Mubarak of Noor Mowlana Shah Karim Al Hussaini Hazar Imam,” published by His Highness the Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismailia Association for the United Kingdom, 1976

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Editor’s note: This article has been adapted with minor revisions from the original piece published under the title “Salgirah,” in Ilm magazine, Volume 11, Numbers 3/4, December 1987 – March 1988.

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

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 and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

Aga Khan birthday

A thorough and profound explanation of the Ginan Eji Dhan Dhan Aajano recited for the auspicious birthday of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

By SADRUDDIN K. HASSAM

INTRODUCTION

Aga Khan celebrates his 28th birthday in Karachi, Pakistan on December 13, 1964
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is presented with his 28th birthday cake on December 13, 1964, in Karachi, Pakistan. Photo: Ismaili Crescent (issue 13-12-1969) published by the Ismailia Association for Tanzania.

Spread in various countries around the world, the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims have their own innumerable ways for celebrating important religious occasions according to their various cultural, social and religious traditions and backgrounds. One very important occasion in the annual calendar of the Ismailis is the Salgirah, or the birthday of their spiritual leader His Highness the Aga Khan, or Mawlana Hazar Imam as he is known to the Ismailis. He turns 83 on December 13, 2019, and is the oldest serving Imam in Ismaili history. His grandfather’s Imamat of 72 years is the longest but he passed away at the age of 79.

According to all Shia Muslims, the Institution of Imamat was vouchsafed by the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) through Divine Will at the famous historical incident at Ghadir-e-Khumm. The Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, Hazrat Ali (a.s.), thus became the first Imam upon the Prophet’s physical departure from this earth. 

The simile of the Divine institution of Imamat is as that of a Rope that stretches out (uninterrupted) for ever. The Shia Imami Ismaili Imamat has continued uninterrupted since the time of Hazrat Ali, and His Highness the Aga Khan (henceforth Mawlana Hazar Imam) is the 49th hereditary successor in this continuum.

The following traditions of the Prophet Muhammad are important reminders about the permanent nature of the Institution of  Imamat:

“If the world were to remain without an Imam for one moment, the whole world with everything in it would perish instantaneously.”

and

“Just as the stars are the source of safety for the denizens of heaven, my Ahl al-Bayt (people of the house) are the sources of safety for my people.”

Thus, unlike birthdays of countries, national leaders and of individuals, family members and friends, the celebration of the Imam’s birthday for the Ismaili community far outshines that of the birthday of any other leader, hero or loved one. The Salgirah celebrations are a reminder of the Living Evidence of God’s Mercy and Bounty upon the entire Ismaili Jamat (community). The Ismailis look to Mawlana Hazar Imam for their material and spiritual guidance, advancement and happiness. Moreover, the Imam’s guidance is underpinned by the notion that he is the bearer of the Noor (Light) of Imamat. Thus, Ismailis throughout history have carried the belief that each Imam is the same irrespective of his own age or the time he lives in.

The principle of the unity of Imamat is clearly mentioned in the following Farman that Mawlana Hazar Imam delivered on December 13, 1964 when he celebrated his 28th birthday with the Jamat in Karachi, Pakistan:

“For hundreds of years my spiritual children have been guided by the Rope of Imamat; you have looked to the Imam of the Age for advice and help in all matters and through your Imam’s immense love and affection for his spiritual children, his Noor has indicated to you where and in which direction you must turn so as to obtain spiritual and worldly satisfaction…” 

The Ginan Eji Dhan Dhan Aajano composed by the missionary Pir Sadr al-Din  exhorts the Ismailis to gain the spiritual recognition of the Noor and the Imam-of-the-Time.

The Ginan has attained a very special status because it is primarily recited during the festivities marking the Salgirah of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The appropriateness of reciting “Eji Dhan Dhan Aajano” during the Salgirah will become apparent as we try to understand the ginan and its underlying spiritual teachings.

Aga Khan 80th birthday
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, cuts his 80th birthday cake at his residence in Aiglemont, France, on December 16, 2016, in the presence of his family and Ismaili leaders from around the world. Photo: AKDN / Farhez Rayani.

THE KEY FEATURES OF THE GINAN

This ginan by Pir Sadr al-Din is composed of eight verses and a warani (or refrain) of five lines meant to be repeated at the end of each stanza.

The first six verses of the ginan have two lines each.

The seventh has five lines giving an uninterrupted picturesque description of the elaborate ritual preparation for a sacred wedding ceremony. This is the high point of the narrative which the previous verses have led to.

The eighth verse has three lines which conclude the ginan.

Each line of the ginan, including the first two lines of the warani, ends with the rhyming words ending in ….ji, for example payaji, deshji, vadhavoji etc. These endings in ….ji provide smooth elision with the following lines during the recitation of the ginan. The third, fourth and fifth lines of the refrain end with the rhyming words mookije, tariji-ye and kije respectively. These help to conclude the warani neatly before commencing the next verse.

All the verses of the ginan proper begins with the word Eji which could be translated as ‘O brother.’ But since ginans are meant to invoke the mind to be aware of the soul, Eji could be a ginanic abbreviation for ‘Ejeeve’, meaning ‘O soul!’ Eji also serves the poetic function of commencing the recitation of each verse of the ginan with appropriate raga.

The ginan is in Gujarati poetic language, except for the Hindi expressions hamaraji and kiyajane….hamaraji in verse eight.

The literal translation of the ginan, even though very helpful, will not enable us to understand the underlying spiritual teachings. So it is necessary to try to explain and interpret certain key words, the imagery and the symbolic expressions in order to understand the real teachings couched in the apparent words.

In a proper recitation of this ginan all the words, the imagery and the symbolic expressions blend beautifully. This beauty unfortunately is difficult to recreate in this prosaic explanation. But one hopes that this analytic examination of the ginan will heighten our appreciation during its recitation and will not detract the affectionate feelings and the ineffable sublime sentiments inherent in the poetic version of the ginan.

Prince Karim Aga Khan celebrating his 2nd birthday with his uncle Prince Sadruddin and his brother Prince Amyn.
Mawlana Hazar Imam, left, with his uncle Prince Sadruddin and younger brother Prince Amyn Muhammad on the occasion of his 2nd birthday on December 13, 1938. Photo: Ismaili Crescent (issue 13-12-1969) published by the Ismailia Association for Tanzania.

TRANSLITERATION, GLOSSARY OF KEY TERMS, TRANSLATION AND EXPLANATION OF THE GINAN

(The numbers within  squared brackets [] denote  corresponding footnotes which appear at the end of the reading – we recommend that you read them)

VERSE ONE

Transliteration

Eji Dhan dhan aajano dadalore ame Aiivar payaji,
Jooga joog-na kasamal paapaj tariyaji…..1

Glossary of verse

Eji – Oh brother!
dhan, dhan – blessed, blessed
aajano dadalore – indeed is the day
ame payajj – true recognition
Imam-i-Zaman – Imam of the Time or Age
Alivar [2] – Lord Ali (note: all Imams are generally referred to as Ali who is the first Imam of all Shia Muslims. In essence all Imams are the same, bearing the same Noor)
Paap jooga joogna-na [3] – sins of the past
kasamal [4] – ignorance
tariaji – pardoned

Transliteration of Refrain

Hetano melavdo aapana Satagur-sun kije-ji,
Man-no melavado aapana baar-gursun kije-ji
Dhutaro sansaar parle chhodi mookije,
Thagaro sansaar Shahne naame tariji-ye,
Ene sansaare bhala sukaram kaam kije.

Glossary of Refrain:

hetano melavado kije-ji – Meet with affection
aapna Satguru-sun – our True Teacher
man-no melavado kije-ji – Make meeting of minds
aapana Baar-gurusun [5] – by heeding to his teachings (meaning Pir Sadr al-Din)
parle chhodi mookije – let us leave aside
dhutaro – delusory
sansaar – phenomenol world
Shah-ne naame – in the name of the Shah (Imam)
tariji-ye – gain salvation
thagaro sansaar – transient world
ene sansaare – in this world
bhala sukaram kam kije – perform righteous deeds

Translation

Oh brother! Blessed, blessed indeed is the day, we have come to the (true) recognition of the Imam or Lord Ali;
The sins of the past committed because of wrong understanding or ignorance are pardoned.

Translation of Refrain:

Meet with affection  our True Teacher  – that is Shahpir or Imam-i-Zaman
Make meeting of minds with our Pir Sadr al-Din (by heeding to his teachings)
Let us leave aside the delusory phenomenal world
In the name of the Imam let us gain salvation from the deceitful or transient world.
In this world perform righteous deeds.

Brief explanation:

In this  first stanza of the ginan and the warani (refrain) Pir Sadr al-Din sets the theme by saying that blessed indeed is the day as we have the true recognition of the Imam, and any sins committed in the past because of wrong understanding or ignorance are forgiven. The Pir advises us to maintain an affectionate spiritual relationship with the Shahpir (Imam) and not to engross ourselves entirely to the delusory and transient phenomenal world. He asks us to perform righteous deeds, and gain salvation with the Imam’s assistance.

VERSE TWO

Transliteration

Eji Almot ghadh patan delam deshaji,
Tiyan avatariya Shah maankha veshji …. 2
Hetano……

Glossary

ghadh – fortress
patan – capital
delam desh [6]– Daylaman region
tyan – there
avatariya – (the Shah was) born
maankha veshji – in human form

Translation

The seat of Imamat resided in the fortress of Alamut, the capital of Daylaman region;
There the Shah was born in human form

Explanation

See verse three, next

VERSE THREE

Transliteration

Eji Uncha uncha parabat visami chhe ghataji,
Tiyan chadi jo-un Noor Satgur-ni vaataji ….3
Hetano….

Glossary

uncha uncha – The high
parabat – mountain
vasami – difficult
ghat – mountain pass
chadi – go up, climb
jo-un vaatji – await

Translation

The high  mountain  has difficult  mountain-pass;
There  I go up  and await the Noor of Satguru (Imam).

Explanation of Verses two and three

Please note that the refrain that we explained earlier as part of verse one is important in the context of the explanation that is being provided for all the remaining verses. The refrain as we noted earlier is recited in all the verses of the ginan.

Historically, the second verse refers to the Alamut Period (from 488 A.H./ 1095 A.C. to 655 A.H./1256 A.C.) of Ismaili history when the Imams had their headquarters at Alamut. As this period of our history precedes the time of Pir Sadr al-Din, the ginan has to be understood in its spiritual context.

The term Ghad in here could mean the inner strength of faith, patan would be the mind or soul, delam the heart and avatariya might be referring to the manifestation of Noor in the living and present Imam. The second verse is a very good example of the use of language in the exoteric and the teachings in the esoteric.

In verse three,  the Pir talks about the high mountains and difficult passes. The journey of spiritual elevation is difficult but the Pir observes that one should  persevere and  come to the summit, and then humbly await in earnest for Noorani Didar [7]. One may strive and keep on striving, but the Noorani Didar is entirely upon Allah’s grace.

VERSE FOUR

Transliteration

Eji Uncha uncha tarovar paan vina hinaji,
Tem bhula bhame maanakha jeevada, gur ginan-na hinaji…4
Hetano….

Glossary

uncha uncha – tall (as can be)
tarovar – a tree
hinaji – looks desolate
paan vina – without leaves
tem – likewise
maankha jeevada – human beings
bhula – gone astray
hina – without
gur ginan-na – (haqiqati) knowledge imparted by the teacher (the Imam)
bhmae – grope about

Translation

However tall  a tree may be, it looks desolate without leaves.
Likewise human beings who have gone astray without haqiqati knowledge grope about

Explanation

However learned or advanced people may be in worldly or spiritual matters but without the true understanding or haqiqati knowledge given by the Teacher, Imam-i-Zaman, they are liable to lose direction and grope about. In this particular period, the Bhakti [8] movement was fairly active in Northern India and a number of spiritual masters were competing for adherents. Pir Sadr al-Din is probably gently forewarning the followers not to be cajoled by the fake masters who will not be able to help them achieve true salvation.

VERSE FIVE

Transliteration

Eji Chovata-de chovata-de aapano Sami Rajo aaveji,
aavi kari jumalaji-ma mali kari bethaji…. 5
Hetano….

Glossary

chovatade chovatade – four crossroads
aapno – our
Sami Rajo – Imam
aavi kari – having come
mali kari – graciously met
jumalaji – the Jamat  (murids or followers)
bethaji – he sits down
ma – among them (i.e the murids)

Translation

In open spaces at the four crossroads our Imam comes
Having come  and having graciously met the jamat, He sits down among them

Explanation

From the spiritual void comes our Imam and unites the multiplicity of human knowledge and creates certitude of True Knowledge. The word bethaji symbolises this certitude. Spiritually the presence of Imam’s Noor is there when the jamat meets for prayers.

VERSE SIX

Transliteration

Eji Shamali bajare aapano Sami Rajo dithaji,
Sona-ne singasane aapano Sami Rajo bethaji ….6
Hetano…..

Glossary

shamali – decorated
bajare – gathering place
dithaji – I saw
Sami Rajo – my Imam
Sami Rajo bethaji – the Imam sat
sona-ne singasane – on a golden throne

Translation

In a beautifully decorated gathering place  I saw  my Imam;
He sat  on a golden throne

Explanation

Having attained spiritual elevation, the Pir had the Noorani didar (ditha) and he experienced the barakah in the spiritual presence. This awareness leads to the mumin’s desire for spiritual union. Hence the symbolic preparation in the following verse for spiritual initiation.

VERSE SEVEN

Transliteration

Eji Aale kanshe nile vanse chori chitravoji,
Chori chitravi Shah-na lagan lakhavoji,
Lagan lakhavi Shah-na thar bharavoji,
Thar bharavi Shahne motide vadhavoji,
Parane aapano parthami Rajo vishav kunvari-ji….7
Hetano….

Glossary

aale kanshe – plants for making colours
nile vanse
– (from) bamboo like plants
chori chitravoji
– wedding arbour
chori chitravi
– having decorated the wedding arbour
lakahvoji
– set a date
Shah-na lagan
– (for) the Lord’s wedding
lagan lakhavi
– having set the wedding date
thad bharavo
– tray of offerings
motide – with pearls
vadhavoji – shower
parthami Rajo – our First Supreme Lord
parane – weds
vishav kunvariji – the earth in its pristine, unspoiled state

Translation

With plants for making colour and green bamboo-like plants decorate an arbour (for a sacred wedding ceremony) by placing layers of seven vessels on top of another at the four corners;

Having decorated the wedding arbour, set a date  for the Lord’s wedding
Having set the wedding date prepare a tray of offerings
Having prepared a tray of offerings, shower pearls (on the path) to welcome
Our Lord who is going to wed the earth that is in pristine condition (untouched natural state)

Explanation

This is a symbolic preparation for the spiritual union [9] which a mu’min craves for through the guidance and blessings of the Imam of the time.

Writes Azim Nanji (p.104):

“The metaphor of bride and groom is a common one in Hindu mystical poetry and stands for the soul of the ‘seeker’ and the ‘sought’ respectively. It is therefore noteworthy that after the initial meeting, a marriage is arranged, symbolising the union of the souls, and that the marriage is prefaced by elaborate preparations as if an initiation ritual of some kind was being prepared.”

VERSE EIGHT

Transliteration

Eji Bhane Pir Sadardin ame vanajara-ji,
Joi joi vohro vira vanaj hamara-ji,
Pashu jeevada kiya jane vanaj hamara-ji….8
Hetano….

Glossary

bhane – teaches
ame – we are (Pir refers to himself)
vanajara [10]– travelling salesman
joi joi – examine carefully
vanaj hamara-ji – what we have to offer
vohro – before you purchase
vira [11] – brother
pashu jeevada [12]– humans with animal-like instincts or nature
kiya jane vanaj hamara-ji – will fail to understand what we have to offer

Translation

So Pir Sadr al-Din teaches that we are (referring to himself) a travelling salesman
Examine carefully what we have to offer before you purchase O ! brother
Those who have animal-like instincts will fail to understand what we have to offer

Explanation

What Pir Sadr al-Din is trying to convey in this verse is that he is a traveller in the business (vanajara) of giving guidance on spiritual matters and the mu’min brothers (vira) should heed carefully on what he has to offer. But alas! those who are engrossed only in worldly matters, and are only concerned with instinctive needs due to their lower intelligence and are neither interested in the spiritual message nor have kept their minds receptive for the same will not appreciate what he has to teach.

Aga Khan cutting birthday cake in Toronto in 1978.
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, cutting his birthday cake during his first visit to Toronto in November 1978.

CONCLUSION

The spiritual teachings that Pir Sadr al-Din has conveyed in the ginan Eji Dhan Dhan Aajano should be as valid today as it was in his milieu. The current Imam  has emphasised to the Ismailis the need for a balance between the material and the spiritual aspects of their lives. He has reminded his followers about the transient nature of life in this world and the eternal reality of the hereafter, the preparation for which should begin in this life. There is no need to be completely mesmerized by the temporal phenomena at the cost of the eternal reality.

Should these thoughts come to our minds during the recitation of this ginan, then the medium is providing the message. On this occasion of Salgirah we should resolve to heed the guidnace given by Pir Sadr al-Din and our beloved lmam-e-Zaman.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

Date posted: December 8, 2019.
Last updated: December 9, 2019 (photos added).

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Editor’s note: Please listen to numerous renditions of the ginan by clicking http://ginans.usask.ca/recitals/ginans.php?id=0; ginan #160.

Notes:
[1]. Hazrat Imam Ja’far as-Sadiq whose Imamat was from c. 118 A.H./736 A.C. to 148 A.H./765 A.C. discerned the four different aspects of the Holy Qu’ran thus: expression, for the common people; allusion, for the privileged or elite; touches of grace (lata’if) for the saints; and finally the ‘realities’ for the Prophets. Mystical Dimensions of Islam by Annemarie Schimmel, The University of North Carolina Press. Third Printing April 1978, p. 41.

[2]. In the older Khojki and Gujarati printed ginan books the word Harivar is used.

[3]. In the older books chaar joogna instead of jooga joogna. This refers to the four yugas: kriia, freta, dvapara and kali yuga of the ancient Hindu religion which were cosmic cycles of our creation. For detailed explanation see Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization by Heinrich Zimmer pp 11-19.

[4]. kasamal is derived from ka-samaj meaning ‘wrong understanding’ or ‘ignorance’.

[5]. Barguru is another title of Pir Sadr al-Din which is an attribute to his leading 120 million souls to salvation.

[6]. Delam referring to the region of Daylaman in Northern Iran also refers to the realm of the imam which is paradise. The Order of Assassins by Marshall G.S. Hodgson. AMS Press, 1980, p. 169.

[7]. One may strive and keep on striving but the Noorani didar is entirely dependent upon Allah’s grace.

[8]. Bhakti was a Hindu devotional religious orientation closely incorporating an attitude of faith, love and devotional attachment to a personal deity (mainly Vishnu or Krishna). The devotees, called Bhakta or Bhagat, are completely immersed in the Divinity and are totally dependent on it.

[9]. According to the Hindu ideals of marriage, the husband is indeed the representative of divine power. Schimmel opus cit. p. 435. “In the western part of Muslim India, however – from Sind to Kashmir – the poets followed the Hindu tradition, which describes the soul as the longing girl, a faithful wife or a loving bride….the ginan sacred songs of the Ismaili community of Indo-Pakistan – also depict the soul as a loving female.” p.434. Hence the craving for the symbolic wedding and spiritual union.

[10]. Unlike the other ‘salesman’ Pir Sadr al-Din does not employ ‘glib sales talk’ to gain adherents. His teaching is directed towards their reasoning faculties in order to discern the true from the false. Adoption of satpanth, without any compulsion is left entirely to their volition.

[11]. For the semantic transformation of the Sanskrit term vira in the Hindu, Jainand Tantric contexts see pp. 74, 210 and 588 respectively in Philosophies of India by Heinrich Zimmer, ed. Joseph Campbell, Routledge & K.egan Paul, London, 1951. In the ginanic context, the term vira or virabhai could be referring to the mu’min brother who had adopted the satpanth. One of the qualities of a mu’min is to have control over nafs-i-ammara, the lower or animal instincts. To address the adherents, the Pirs used very respectful terms that were current in the milieu. They were, however, careful to transform the meaning of these tems to reflect the teachings of the satpanth. This trend was begun nearly two centuries earlier by Pir Satgoor Noor who addressed the adherents as Rooda Muniver Bhaiji. This expression is so respectful that in English it would sound awkwardly contrived if one tried to translate it.

[12]. pashu literally means ‘the dark-witted animal of the herd’ p. 588 Zimmer opus. cit. Here it may be compared to ka’l-an’am in the verse of the Holy Qur’an 7:178 part of which is quoted “…they are as cattle, nay, they are in worse errors; these are the heedless ones.” See also Schimmel opus cit. p 282.

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Credits: This reading is adapted from Sadruddin K. Hassam’s article “Eji Dhan Dhan Aajano – An Explanation and an Interpretation” published in Ilm magazine, London, UK, Volume 11, Number 3 & 4, December 1987 – March 1988, pages 8 – 16. Adaptations of the article have appeared previously in Barakah’s sister website http://www.simerg.com.

___________________

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

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 and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

Aga Khan in Calgary in May 2018 for his Diamond Jubilee

The Volunteer's Traditional Motto "Work No Words" needs a revision to "Work and Many Words" in light of Mawlana Hazar Imam's Diamond Jubilee Farman

Letter from publisher

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

The Ismaili community is a dynamic community with the Imam-of-the-Time guiding his followers according to the time. The essence of the faith remains the same but the form may change over time in cognizance of differences in traditions, cultural, social or other factors. Similarly, there could be changes over time in the manner in which voluntary services may be rendered. Paraphrasing the 48th Imam’s Farman, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah had once said that we should follow the Farmans of the Imam-of-the-Time, noting that as the world changes, even his Farmans would change as time progressed.

Ismaili Volunteers Bage
The volunteer’s badge with the motto “Work No Words” is based on Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s message, “Today I will give you  a small motto and that is ‘Work No Words’.” The motto needs to be revised to reflect Mawlana Shah Karim’s Diamond Jubilee Farman in Calgary “Work and Many Words.”

One of the best known motto given by the late Imam in the 20th century to the volunteers of the Ismaili community was “Work No Words.” It is inscribed on every badge that an Ismaili volunteer wears today. It is also something that many honorary workers serving in institutions in various capacities constantly bear in mind.

What do these words actually mean for any volunteer, badged or otherwise?

I think the motto carries several meanings. Perhaps it is an expression of humility — that one does the work without seeking recognition.

It can be perceived to mean that you serve without question and not react to any attitude that may be shown to you while you are doing your work. 

Other volunteers may have their own personal interpretations of the motto during the performance of their duties, and apply it during their service.

Remarkably, that motto was mentioned in the Farman Mawlana Hazar Imam made in Canada during the Diamond Jubilee. At the second Calgary mulaqat, on May 10th, 2018, while mentioning and praising the work of the volunteers, he made a reference to his grandfather’s motto “Work No Words” and declared that “Today my Farman is, ‘Work and Many Words’. Communicate, enjoy life, be happy….” 

Eighteen months have since passed but still there seems to be no discussion on this matter. The old motto “Work No Words” appears everywhere in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the volunteers including a new video “All Work, No Words” that has just been released at The Ismaili website. There is absolutely no reference to the most recent Farman and the new motto. For example, I was quite surprised that the President of the National Council for Tanzania, Amin Lakhani, speaking as recently as July 19, 2019, used the motto that Mawlana Sultan Mohamed Shah gave in one of his speeches, but did not make any reference to the new motto given by Mawlna Hazar Imam. When I raised the issue with a long serving Jamati member, the volunteer became very defensive saying that he would like to see the old motto remain on his badge.

I beg to differ, I believe that we now have to adopt to a new paradigm based on the most recent Farman, “Work, and Many Words.”

How then is this to be interpreted?

Firstly, the volunteers badged and non-badged should not feel fearful to speak up and express their views on matters that concern them on services that they are performing and how they can become more effective, rather than simply taking orders as subordinates. The superiors in the volunteer leadership and heads of various institutions should make the entire team more engaged in decision making and seek out creative thoughts, ideas as well as best practices. Quite so often when suggestions are made to institutional heads about new approaches, one is often made to feel that they already knew about the idea that has been brought up. A case in point was when a suggestion was made to make Jamati members more engaged in meetings that the Aga Khan Council and national institutional boards hold on a quarterly basis. The reply was, “We are thinking about it.” For how long?

Many serving in institutions who speak out are left marginalized for speaking out boldly, even when they have done so sincerely and from the heart. This should no longer be the norm. I have personally experienced such treatment.

The old motto “Work No Words” on the badge that volunteers have been wearing for some 70 years is in need of a change. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee “Work and Many Words. Communicate…” should resonate with everyone. We should communicate openly and sincerely and the office bearers should listen respectfully. One area that should require particular attention is legitimate concerns of volunteers in doing their work.

There is one other aspect where the motto “Work, and Many Words” may be applied very effectively. Volunteers of the Jamat participate in many outreach programs outside the community. We have each been considered by the Imam to be his Da’is — a very important term in Ismaili history where only a select few were known as Da’is. Now, remarkably, Mawlana Hazar Imam has told everyone that he or she is a Da’i! The Diamond Jubilee Farmans made at various locations attest to this role we have been asked to play. I think another way of looking at the Farman “Work and Many Words. Communicate…” is in the context of the volunteer who as a Da’i would be a great communicator to others about the ideals, principles and ethos of the Ismaili community. The following Farman made by Mawlana Hazar Imam in 2002 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, gives us a clear direction on the role the volunteers as well as the youth and professionals in the Jamat can play:

“…It is important, I think, today, that my Jamat worldwide, not just here in Tanzania, my Jamat worldwide, should reaffirm the traditions that we have, the rectitude and correctitude of our interpretation of Islam, of the role, within Shia Islam, of the intellect, of the human intellect, so that the young, the less young, the old, all of you, wherever you are, are ambassadors of Islam — the Islam that we believe in, that we practice, and that guides us in our lives. So I say to you today, whether you are in Tanzania or whether you are in any other part of the world, stand up, do not run away. Speak openly and frankly about what is our interpretation of Islam.”

Interestingly, in his Diamond Jubilee Farman in Atlanta, USA, Mawlana Hazar Imam asked the Jamat if they knew the meaning of the word Qul (from Sura Ikhlas, which is recited by Ismailis in their Du’a multiple times everyday). One person out of thousands raised a hand! Was that a hint from the Imam to us to seek to understand our faith better? To be effective communicators, requires that we have good knowledge of the faith, its ideals and the work of the Imamat, including for example the AKDN agencies.

So my notion of the work of the volunteers — and indeed each one of us — is to work, and with “many words” express kindness to others, convey good ideas and best practices and pass on the ethos of Islamic and Ismaili principles to everyone we come across.

What should the new badge say? Totally opposite of “Work No Words.” Indeed, the badge should now say “Work and Many Words.” However those “many words” should be spoken with humility, sincerity and thoughtfulness.

I welcome your feedback. Please complete LEAVE A REPLY BOX AT FOOT OF THIS PAGE or send your comment in an email to Simerg@aol.com. You may remain anonymous. Your email will never be shared.

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Barakah’s Table of Contents for links to more than 190 pieces dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, his family and the Ismaili Imamat.

Date posted: December 6, 2019.

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Malik Merchant is founding publisher/editor of 3 websites, Barakah (2017), Simerg (2009), and Simergphotos (2012). They are works of passion influenced by his parents involvement with literary pursuits and community publications, as well as his childhood dream of becoming a journalist. However, he spent almost 4 decades working as an IT consultant in both the public and private sectors in the UK, USA and Canada. He has volunteered in the Ismaili community as a teacher and librarian and was co-editor with his late father, Jehangir Merchant, of the flagship UK Ismaili publication Ilm. He has also held numerous institutional and Jamati portfolios, including being the Member for Religious Education and Chairman of the Ottawa Tariqah Committee. He is currently based in Ottawa and Toronto. He invites your feedback on this piece by completing LEAVE A REPLY box at foot of THIS PAGE or by sending him an email at Simerg@aol.com.

_____________________

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Please join/like Barakah at http://www.facebook.com/1000fold and also follow us at http://twitter.com/simerg.

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 and members of his family, as well as the Ismaili Imamat.

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