Item(s) for the ‘Ismaili News’ Category

Apr 21,2011

The Nizamuddin Basti, the centre of Hindustani culture for centuries, will soon come alive with qawwali performances in its authentic settings. In an effort to revive qawwali traditions and bring alive its roots in the Nizammudin Basti, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) is documenting and archiving qawwali traditions, and now also handpicking children from traditional qawwal families to train them to carry the tradition forward.

While preserving the dying qawwali tradition, the Trust hopes to simultaneously create spaces in the Nizamuddin Basti, like the Chaunsath Khamba, the Central Park opposite the MCD school and the Dargah, where regular performances can take place. As part of a cultural revival initiative called the ‘Aalam-e-Khusrau’, co-funded by the Ford Foundation, the Trust is facilitating public performances, discussions, research, archiving and documenting, research fellowships, scholarship programmes and multimedia exhibitions on Khusrau.

Since its beginning in the 13th-14th Century by the Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in Ghiyaspur, qawwali is said to have been adapted in many situations and variations, but all of them display the distinct musical style and structure of the present-day qawwali. Amir Khusrau, the most beloved disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya, supposedly created this style of music as a form of veneration.

Scholars, however, say the tradition is now dying out. Children in qawwal families are found to carry the tradition forward, but without any formal knowledge of music. To train them, AKTC is now in the process of hand-picking children from these families from the Nizamuddin Basti, Chitli Qabar in Old Delhi and Fatehpur Sikri. They will be sent to maestros in classical music for formal training.

Last year, the ‘Jashn-e-Khusrau’ programme included khanaqahi qawwali performances, poetry-reading, lectures and discussions on qawwali and Amir Khusrau, exhibitions depicting the world of Dargah Hazrat Nizamuddin and the Basti area urban renewal projects, as well as heritage walks through the settlement of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti.

A similar programme is being planned for 2012, when a travelling exhibition-cum-workshop will also travel to UP, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Jammu-Kashmir, where the AKTC is documenting and archiving the existing qawwali traditions.

The AKTC has also put forth a suggestion to the Ministry of Culture to set up an Amir Khusrau Resource Centre that can house books, manuscripts, illustrations, recordings and artifacts pertaining to Khusrau’s legacy.

The AKTC has proposed that the centre be located in the Nizamuddin area, while regular events can be organised at central locations like the India International Centre and monuments such as Chaunsath Khamba that will create an interface between performers and scholars to ensure that Khusrau’s legacy is carried on.

“Qawwali traditions initiated by Hazrat Amir Khusrau here in the Nizamuddin area in the 14th Century are as much our contribution to the world’s heritage as Humayun’s Tomb. Hopefully this programme will lead to the revival of the pure art and generate greater interest amongst the younger generation while giving the qawwals new performance venues and greater recognition,” Ratish Nanda, project director, AKTC, told Newsline.

“Nizamuddin Basti has been the cradle of Hindustani culture for 700 years and we hope to revive it through these programmes.”

Mar 20,2011

When one talks about philanthropy, our minds might run straight to Hollywood celebrities, but the spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims has a special niche in that category, writes Edwin Nuwagaba.

Aga Khan Leadership

The Aga Khan was born Prince Karim in 1936 in Geneva and declared healthy despite being premature. He is the son of Prince Aly Khan and his wife Princess Tajudaulah (Joan Yarde-Buller), daughter of Lord Churston. After spending his early childhood in Nairobi Kenya, where his early education was done by private tutoring, he attended Le Rosey School in Switzerland and graduated from Harvard University with an honours degree in Islamic history in 1959. Aga Khan IV succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, to the Imamat on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20.

He is the 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Nizari Ismailis, the largest branch of the Ismaili followers of the Shia faith and is the alleged direct descendant of the Islamic prophet Mohammad through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatimah, Mohammad’s daughter.

The Aga Khan, (third right) has not only shown clear headed and focused leadership to his followers, but has stretched out a generous hand to people outside his religion. As soon as he was crowned imam, he founded the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), whose work is mostly in Asia and Africa. The network is a group of development agencies whose interest lies in the environment, health, education, architecture, culture, microfinance, rural development and disaster reduction.

AKDN conducts its programmes without regard to faith, origin or gender and is said to be one of the world’s largest private development agencies. But the Aga Khan has expressed concern about the work of the AKDN being described as philanthropy.

“Reflecting a certain historical tendency of the West to separate the secular from the religious, they often describe the work of the AKDN either as philanthropy or entrepreneurship. What is not understood is that this work is for us part of our institutional responsibility it flows from the mandate of the office of Imam to improve the quality of worldly life for the concerned communities.”

However, this has not stopped him from giving and reaching out to the poorest of communities. But to be able to sustain abilities to give, he conducts his philanthropic work with a business mind.

The Aga Khan married his first wife, the famous model Sarah “Sally” Frances Croker-Poole, who assumed the name HH Begum Salima Aga Khan, on October 22, 1969 (civil) and October 28, 1969 (religious) at his home in Paris. The couple were married for 25 years and have three children: Princess Zahra, born September 18, 1970, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, born October 12, 1971 and Prince Hussain Aga Khan, born April 10, 1974. They divorced in 1995.

The Aga Khan married his second wife, Gabriele Thyssen, (fourth right)who assumed the name Begum Inaara Aga Khan. “Inaara” is derived from Arabic nur, meaning light. They have a son, Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan, born 7 March 2000 and a stepdaughter, Princess Theresa of Leiningen.

While he is a Muslim leader, this suave man passes for a moderate one and for that he has been criticised by extreme Muslims. Instead of traditional robes, he often wears suits, a trait that was influenced by his long stay and studying in the western world. But that, in the first place, is the reason his grandfather chose him as leader. In his own words, the old man said that having seen the changes that were taking place in the world and the numerous discoveries most notably of atomic science, it was in the interest of the Ismaili community for him to be succeeded by a man who had grown up and developed in the new age. In fact, his grandfather skipped the Aga Khan’s father, who was in direct line of succession. It is because of this that the Aga Khan has sometimes been referred to as Imam of the Atomic Age by Ismailis.

He has individually contributed donations to human causes more than any individual and most countries. And he is known by economists to take big risks. While other venture capitalists tend to shy away from third world countries, he has invested largely in countries like Uganda, recently investing in hydro electric production at Bujagali Falls.

His other investments in Uganda include Industrial Promotion Services, Kampala Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd, Leather Industries of Uganda Ltd, Uganda Fishnet Manufacturers Ltd, West Nile rural Electrification Co., Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust, Diamond Trust Bank, The Jubilee Insurance Company, The Monitor Publications Ltd, Aga Han Hospital Kampala, Aga Khan schools, and Tourism Promotion Services (Uganda) Ltd (Serena hotels and resorts) among others. Yes, all this may sound like straight business, but the Aga Khan does it differently from popular tycoons. He makes money, but it is not his topmost priority.

What motivates him is embedded in his famous 1983 quote in India: There are those who enter the world in such poverty that they are deprived of both means and the motivation to improve their circumstances. Unless they can be touched with the spark which ignites the spirit of individual enterprise and determination, they will only sink into apathy, degradation and despair. It is for us, who are more fortunate, to provide that spark.” Spoken like a true leader.

Source: Daily Monitor

Mar 10,2011

Sajeed, a student of class IV of The Aga Khan School, has just arrived home from school. On his way home, he animatedly kept telling his mother how surprised he was to know that his class friend Maha had not heard about Machu Picchu, Pratik borrowed three books from the library on the topic of medieval age and Ridwan had already memorised the birthdates of 2010 Academy Award Winners.

Even before having his lunch, Sajeed turned on his elder sister Simin’s computer, but not to browse on Facebook or play games. Instead he logged on to, his new obsession to participate in ‘Brain Brats’, the first ever online knowledge combat in Bangladesh.

His last ranking among his peer-group was third. He was trying hard to beat Pratik from his own school and Barnali from Sunbeams School to make it to the top.

“I’ve been playing Brain Brats every day ever since it started on February 7 to improve my scores,” said Sajeed. “I have played it at least three hundred times, and have beaten my own highest score almost every time! I think answering the science and math related questions is a breeze for me, but the real tricky ones are the questions on the topic of general knowledge and IQ. I have picked up the habit of reading the “Brain Brats Knowledge Corner” in The Daily Star, and that helps a lot!”

Brain Brats is an inter-school competition conducted online, where students from Dhaka, Chittagong, Sylhet and Rajshahi log on for free, and compete with each other to win a study tour to Kuala Lumpur with their mothers.

Jointly organised by The Daily Star and Champs21, this is the first Bangladeshi e-assessment service. A total of forty-five English medium schools are participating in the competition nationwide. Brain Brats 2011 consists of three rounds: online round, school grooming round, and the grand finale where students are tested on three different subjects: math, science and general knowledge. The first round lasted for almost a month, while the grooming round by the schools ends today. One or two top performers per class from each school will have the opportunity to take the final test tomorrow at the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre, and win the title for themselves and their schools.

During the first round the students from 45 schools took more than 150,000 test attempts to prove their wits among the peers.

“I have been selected for the grand finale and I am practicing in everyday to be the champion under the supervision of our teacher,” said Nafeez, a student of HURDCO International School. “I want to be one of the Champs to win the study trip to Kuala Lumpur. I don’t mind being the 1st runner up though! An ASUS laptop sounds equally cool!” said Nafeez with a huge grin. “But seriously! The best part of the contest is challenging myself and my friends based on how much we know about the world. Nothing makes me happier than to see my top score beating my previous top score!” he added.

“Due to the huge response from students and active participation of the schools we decided to extend the duration of the first round,” said Russell T Ahmed, CEO, Champs21. He also added “Every student proved to be a champion, and it has been very difficult to choose the top students among them. “We also thank the schools for encouraging their students to break the walls of conventional education system.”

The schools that participated in the contest were highly involved in the selection and grooming process. “It is very prestigious for our school, and that is why we are allocating resources such as computer lab, school library, special teaching sessions and enthusiastic teachers to groom up our kids. On behalf of Bangladesh International Tutorial, I would congratulate my students for their active participation in Brain Brats and also thank The Daily Star and Champs21 team for such a great initiative,” said Lubna Chowdhury, principal of Bangladesh International Tutorial (BIT).

She also mentioned that the real champions are not the ones who win the flashy awards, but the ones who tried to learn more outside the textbook, and will keep the appetite for knowledge undying.

During the online round, The Daily Star and Champs21 team went to the participating schools to answer all the queries of the participants and give them a live demo of the contest. These visits were named “School Activation Session”. According to Tasmina, a student of South Breeze International School, the session had been very helpful to her, as her parents are not internet-savvy enough to help her with the needed guidance.

Since its launch in October 2010 has been working towards popularising e-learning and self-assessment through internet. It primarily offers an online assessment service for the students from class 3 to class 10 of both Bangla and English medium schools, where students can assess their own strengths and weaknesses in Mathematics and Science towards stronger academic foundation.

This also allows students to know their position among all peers countrywide, and opens up opportunities to share lessons, tips, and solutions with students from the same class. Self-learning and peer-learning are thus encouraged through the web portal. The interactive portal is a great tool for academic preparation allowing students to take test anytime, anywhere, at their own pace.

An instant result with performance feedback and answer analysis is provided with a graphical presentation to both the students and their parents. Students can also brush up their co-curricular learning through free Bangla and English literature, art/craft lessons, General Knowledge, IQ, and e-entertainment. Champs21 aims to help the students of Bangladesh be at par with global education delivery, and prepare them for the future world with complete awareness of the ‘self’ and unique cultural identity.

The grand finale of the “Brain Brats” Knowledge Combat will be held on March 12. Students and schools are all warming up for the gala event with great enthusiasm.

“It is a great initiative and Brain Brats is just the beginning. There is a lot more to come with Champs21,” said Mahfuz Anam, Editor and Publisher of The Daily Star adding, “The Daily Star will always spearhead any initiative that has to do with true learning. and events such as Brain Brats have just opened the door for that. It is indeed a great feeling to be pioneering something so great! With a two-pronged vision of bridging the digital divide and preparing the future generation for an increasingly global battle of minds, Champs21 will hopefully be an example for many such local initiatives in the near future.”

S o u r c e :  h t t p : / / w w w . t h e d a i l y s t a r . n e t