Item(s) for August, 2008

Aug 11,2008

faithwithoutfear.jpg Yasmin Virani proudly presents a screening of Irshad’s Manji’s latest – Emmy Award Nominated – documentary, Faith Without Fear. Love her or hate her – join us for coffee and cheesecake, at 3:00pm on Sunday August 17th/2008, at The Drake Hotel (1150 Queen Street).

‘In an era in which Islam is often portrayed in the media as harsh and violent and Muslims as fundamentalist fanatics, Faith Without Fear offers a complex and multi-faceted inquiry into one of the world’s great religions, from the perspective of a woman who is dissenting, yet deeply engaged with her faith.’


SHE’S A WOMAN …’Bigger, much bigger, than girl meets god.’
-O, The Oprah Magazine

SHE’S A LESBIAN …’Hot with revolutionary questions, anger, and challenges!’
– The Independant (UK)

AND SHE TALKS ABOUT ISLAM … ‘Osama bin Laden’s worst nightmare!’
– United Press International’

Tickets Only: $15.00
Students: $10.00


Aug 11,2008

illustratedhistory.jpgThe IIS has just launched The Ismailis: An Illustrated History which was authored and edited by Dr. Farhad Daftary and Dr. Zulfikar Hirji (Class of 1997). Dr. Hirji is currently Assistant Professor of Anthropology at York University, Toronto. Other IIS alumni who were involved with the book were Dr. Fahmida Suleman (Class of 1997), Dr. Miriam Ali-de-Unzaga (Class of 2000) and Alnoor Merchant (Class of 1987).

The Illustrated History is based on the most recent academic research on Ismaili and Islamic history, and is meant for the general reader. The book has four main chapters that take the reader from the advent of Islam and the formation of the Shi‘a through to the historical developments that led to the formation of the Ismailis and their history up until the present-day. Each chapter contains a synopsis, maps and chronology of key events, as well as special sections devoted to important figures, themes and events in Islamic, Shi‘i and Ismaili history. Many of the beautiful images of manuscripts and objects in the book are found in private and public collections, and some are here published for the first time. The book also narrates the history of the Ismailis using contemporary and historical photographs of places and landscapes.

When Zul was asked about the book he commented that, ‘When I conceptualized the book, I imagined taking the reader on a journey through time, across continents, over valleys and mountains, and between oceans. I wanted readers to imagine themselves walking through the city of Cairo, feeling the isolation and majesty of living in a fort or castle perched on the roof of the world, and sailing across the ocean to a new frontier. Ismaili history for me is very much about constant movement and the ever-evolving understanding of faith and the meaning of life. To capture this spirit of movement, the book often juxtaposes materials from a variety of sources in different formats. The production of the book has itself been a journey of discovery. In the process, we have found new materials on Ismaili history, particularly in terms of manuscripts, objects and photographs, and re-thought the role and place of extant materials.’

Aug 10,2008

1810.jpgApproaching the Redondo Performing Arts Center, near Los Angeles, the theatre’s marquee was visible and I was excited. With the evening performance totally sold out and a sizable audience for the matinee show, ALI TO KARIM: A Tribute to the Ismaili Imams was going to be a special event.

From the elegant and informative programme booklet to the anticipation of the audience, it was evident that the unfolding of the Imamat and the Jamat’s 1 400-year history was going to be engrossing. While some anecdotes and historical facts may have been familiar, the lives of the Imams, their heroic sacrifices and contributions, and the community’s displacement and survival over the centuries, were presented in an innovative manner.

A simple white stage lit up as the cast of professional British and local Ismailis took the audience on a roller coaster of emotion. Tears rolled at the description of the massacres at Karbala and Alamut; pride swelled at the mention of Al-Azhar, one of the earliest universities in the world. And in between, the antics of some characters made spectators chuckle and laugh in merriment.

Multimedia images provided the stage backdrop and lent context to the tale. The mix of drama, comedy, narrative, legend, poetry, painting and film used to illustrate the chronology of the 49 Ismaili Imams, carried the audience from one period to the next, seizing them in rapt attention.

Whatever their level of prior knowledge about Ismaili history, members of the Jamat responded overwhelmingly with appreciation at the incredible effort expended over the past year in the conception and realisation of this historic Golden Jubilee International Programme.

A thunderous standing-ovation at the end of the two-and-a-half-hour performance was not the only sign that the immense effort of the project team was appreciated. Elementary school children and senior citizens alike were intent on capturing every word and understanding every gesture.

“Absolutely unbelievable,” said high school graduate, Raziq-Omar Jivani. “It reinforced what I knew. It brought our history to life in a surprising and creative production. I would definitely recommend all to see it. Five stars!”

Dina Mousawi, the Iraqi-Ukrainian actress who played several characters, was asked about her experience of working on the production over the past several months. “What stands out the most and is the most moving,” she said, “is how so many from this community came forward to help… I have never seen such generous people or such volunteer spirit in any Muslim community.”

A member of the National Cast, Noren Panjwani, from Charlotte, North Carolina, had been rehearsing with the cast for three weeks and was appreciative of how the professional actors had helped the novices with their acting — skills that will endure long after the performance. She noted that “the [non-Ismaili] cast seems to know more about our history and faith than most of us,” a reflection of the tremendous amount of research that went into writing the script and educating the cast.

At the end of the evening I felt as though I had returned from a time capsule that had transported me across several continents and centuries. Members of the Jamat eagerly conversed with one other, discussing what they had learnt. Pride in our Ismaili heritage was apparent in the smiles all around.

For more information on ALI TO KARIM and a schedule of cities and dates on this tour, please visit