BY Jon Sarpong
June 26, 2008 10:29 AM
Individuals from Canada, the United States and around the globe will converge on London, England, to commemorate the golden jubilee of Prince Karim Aga Khan, the 71-year-old spiritual and temporal leader of Shi’a Imami Nizari ‘Ismaili’ Muslims.
The observance of this anniversary began in France on July 11, 2007, exactly 50 years to the day he became the 49th hereditary imam (Living Guide) of the pluralistic and pacifist minority Shi’a community.
Today, close to 15 million Ismailis practice their faith in more than 50 countries around the world.
The Ismaili branch of Islam is the second largest part of the Shi’a community, after the Twelvers. The Ismaili get their name from their acceptance of Ismail bin Jafar as the divinely appointed spiritual successor (imam) to Jafar al-Sadiq, wherein they differ from the Twelvers, who accept Musa al-Kazim, younger brother of Ismail, as the true Imam.
The Ismaili and the Twelvers both accept the same initial imams from the descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatima Zahra and therefore share much of their early history.
As Muslims, the Ismailis affirm the fundamental Islamic testimony of truth, the Shahada, that there is no God but God (Allah in Arabic) and that Muhammad is His messenger. They believe that Muhammad was the last and final Prophet of Allah, and that the Holy Qur’an, Allah’s final message to mankind, was revealed through him.
Muslims hold this revelation to be the culmination of the message that had been revealed through other prophets of the tradition before Muhammad, including Abraham, Moses and Jesus, all of whom Muslims revere as prophets of Allah.
During his week-long stay in the United Kingdom, the Aga Khan will be involved in meeting with representatives from various non-governmental organizations and charities with whom his global Aga Khan Development Network has been involved in humanitarian projects in various countries, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh and South Africa.
The pinnacle of celebration will be the special get together (Mulaquat) in solemn and tranquil surroundings with his spiritual followers at ExCel Centre in the London Docklands.
About 30,000 followers are expected to welcome Prince Aga Khan in jubilation of this monumental event. Adorned in a ceremonial religious robe and cap, and in possession of the Sword of Justice, Prince Aga Khan will wear the chain of office, which displays 49 links that inclusively symbolize his predecessors. With the signet ring used as the seal of the imam as far back as the 12th century, the Aga Khan will enter the Congregational Hall to continuous unified supplications, beseeching the creator to shower blessings on the Prophet Muhammad and his progeny (from whom The Aga Khan’s ancestors originated more than 1,400 years ago).
Affectionately referred to by his devout followers as ‘Hazar Imam’ (Present and Living Guide), the Aga Khan will be imparting spiritual and worldly advice as to how his followers should live and conduct themselves in their personal environment and impart religious knowledge and directives that reflect the ethics of their esoteric faith.
This historic event will mark a milestone in the lives of millions around the globe, as well as thousands of Toronto Ismailis participating in this event.
Visit www.akdn.org for details on the celebration of Prince Karim Aga Khan’s golden jubilee.
Jon Sarpong is a diversity consultant. He provides independent diversity training and consultation for various organizations. To suggest a story idea for Panorama, e-mail email@example.com.
By Jessica Werb
A circle of chairs and a flip chart: are these the key to addressing poverty in the developing world? Absolutely, according to Bridges That Unite, a travelling exhibition at the Roundhouse Community Arts and Recreation Centre until Sunday (June 22), which uses photographs, text, video, and interactive Web-based tools to explore Canada’s role in international development.
A celebration of a 25-year partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network and this country, Bridges That Unite brings to light stories you don’t typically read in the papers: progress in the education of women in Afghanistan; the creation of the University of Central Asia, with its three campuses under construction in Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, and Tajikistan.
At the centre of all these initiatives have been the humble flip chart and chairs, explains Khalil Shariff, CEO of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, by phone on his way home to Ottawa.
“It’s a symbol of the work we’ve done in helping to build strong, local, village-level institutions that then identify their own priorities at the village level and actually begin working toward them,” he says. “It’s not about handing things out. It’s really about investing in communities’ abilities to help themselves over a longer term.”
By enabling communities to define their own futures, long-term and meaningful change can be effected, Shariff insists. “We’ve used this approach for the last 25 years with Canada in the northern areas of Pakistan. Twenty-five years later, there’s a vibrant civil society that’s been created, that’s had incredible results.” Incomes have tripled, infant mortality has dropped by 75 percent, and literacy rates are at an all-time high, he says. “All of it, we think, sustainable, because ultimately it’s been led by strong community institutions themselves.”
In addition to addressing issues of poverty, education, and health, Bridges That Unite also posits that fostering and nurturing culture is another key to sustained success. “Why restore a 16th-century garden in war-ravaged Kabul, Afghanistan?” asks a section of the exhibit that explains how the gardens of Bagh-e Babur in Kabul, which contain the tomb of the first Mogul emperor Babur, were restored to their former glory, providing an oasis of calm for local residents.
“This is an exhibition of hope,” says Shariff. “What does it look like when Canada’s at its best in the developing world? The story, it turns out, is very positive.…Someone told me that a school not burned down is not a headline. That’s why we’ve done this exhibition: to give people a real sense of what it might look like, in a visceral way, to see these efforts up close.”
This time round it was in the much anticipated Kenya Open and Relays Swimming Championships which were held on the 30th, 31st May and 1st June.
The team was well represented by seasoned swimmers who had sacrificed their mid-term break to represent their school in the prestigious and highly rated event in the KSF (Kenya Swimming Federation) calendar.
The girls’ team consisted of Soraya Walli, Dzame Muruu, Mildred Okello, Ester Okello, Dzidze Muruu, Qaisara Kassam, Aika Patel and Raveena Mehta led by Rachita Shah and Anham Salyani while the boys’ team consisted of Akshay Shah, Lawrence Williams, Antony Odede, Bhavik Mehta, Aditya Devani, Allan Nondi, Joshua Williams, Raj Hirani, Shivraj Vaghella, Alex Chia, Jesal Chandi and Samuel Williams.All led by Neeraj chandi and Jason Rose.
Most of the swimmers won gold, silver and bronze in their respective individual events and also clinched medals in the relay events.
The team managed to scoop around 50 medals in both relays and individual events.
Anham Salyani was awarded the victors trophy for being the swimmer with the most points in the girls overall standings while Rachita Shah was awarded the first runner’s up victrix trophy. All in all, the girls’ team was declared the Overall Best Girls Team 2008. And finally the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa was declared the 2008 Best Overall School in Kenya.