The history of the Ismaili Muslims is a richly-woven tapestry, reflecting numerous geographies, languages, cultures and centuries. Faith and ideas have found diverse expression in poetry, philosophy and architecture, amongst other disciplines. This pluralistic heritage is continually celebrated even as its spirit is harnessed to the contemporary world.
Three decades is a relatively short period in the history of a university, but the impact that the Aga Khan University has had in its formative years is not to be underestimated. And while the institution may be young, its spirit is far older.
As the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada honours Mawlana Hazar Imam with their Gold Medal, Mehnaz Thawer explores how the Imam has demonstrated that architecture can extend beyond the structural, the functional and the aesthetic. It can give shape to cultural values, traditions, aspirations, and be a bedrock for sustainable development.
The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Kinshasa is a contemporary complex that blends timeless traditional design principles. It provides an environment for spiritual contemplation and reflection, and represents a new milestone in the long history of the Congolese Jamat, which continues to build on its pioneering spirit in a country of growing opportunity.
Scheduled to open in Toronto in the summer of 2014, the Aga Khan Museum has embarked on a tour to introduce itself in major American centres. As the first museum in North America dedicated to the Islamic Arts, it is using the opportunity to demonstrate that despite being separated by centuries of history, ancient works and the knowledge they carry within them, remain relevant to us today.
In 1970s, a group of intellectuals came together at Aiglemont, France, to bend their minds towards a pressing problem: how to arrest the decline of architectural traditions across the Muslim world and help these societies rediscover the confidence to shape their built environments in the image of their own values and identities? Journalist Ayesha Daya describes how the questions they raised, their deliberations and debates gave way to the Aga Khan Award for Architecture.
In the 36 years since the Aga Khan Award for Architecture was established, it has recognised a broad array of projects, from office towers to affordable housing developments; the restoration of heritage to radical innovations in the built environment. But what the winning projects have in common is that each is an example of how architecture can make society a better place to live, says journalist Ayesha Daya.
This Ramadan, a group of young Ismailis in Singapore set out to learn more about their country’s Muslim heritage and diversity, while joining with other ummah youth to help families in need. Along the way, they visited the historic Masjid Sultan and took in the vibrant cultures of Geylang Serai Bazaar.
Earlier this year, Ismaili youth from the Far East came together in Thailand to join in celebrating the country’s new year festival – well known for celebrants splashing water on one another! It proved to be a memorable way for the youth to connect while immersing themselves in a unique tradition of Thai culture, says participant Adeel Gilani.
The lyrics, movement and music that reverberated throughout the auditorium of the Britten Theatre at The Royal College of Music, captured the imaginations of hundreds in the audience. In their annual flagship performance, the Ismaili Community Ensemble demonstrated that historical literature represents an important expression of thought, culture and civilisation.
Architectural photographs of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Dhaka, which opened on 18 August 2012.
In a city of nearly 13 million people, the newly opened Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre provides the Dhaka Jamat with a welcome respite from the daily hustle and bustle of life, offering a quiet space for reflection and prayer. But it also testifies to the continued historical commitment of the Ismaili Imamat and the Jamat to the future of Bangladesh.
Chantilly, a historical 20 thousand-acre princely estate and a jewel of French culture, is undergoing a massive 20-year revitalisation effort led by Mawlana Hazar Imam. At the end of September, four new projects on the estate were inaugurated before a gathering of distinguished guests.
Situated in the valley of Nonette some 40 kilometres north of Paris, the Domaine de Chantilly records a history that stretches back over six centuries. In 1884, it was bequeathed – complete with its unparalleled collection of art, manuscripts and furnishings – to the Institut de France by the duc d’Aumale, fifth son of King Louis-Philippe I of France.
Music has the power to transcend difference. Drawing upon heritage and tradition, it can inspire people to better appreciate and come to know one another. Speaking with Ambreen Delawalla and Sameera Gokal, Ismaili musicians shared stories from their own life journeys, and their encounters with faith and music.
Over the past year, the construction of the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park on Wynford Drive has seen immense progress. Integral to their overall design, the Park will connect the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum, offering a welcoming green space to visitors.
As it prepares for its January 2012 concert, the UK Ismaili Community Ensemble has found resonance with the values of the forthcoming London 2012 Olympic Games. The celebration of cultural diversity, finding ways to inspire and involve young people, and leaving a positive legacy in London through social cohesion and cultural participation are notions that are shared by the Ensemble and have influenced the music it has created.
Twelve inspiring and talented artists from across the Middle East and Central Asia performed a beautiful and thought-provoking concert at the Ismaili Centre, Dubai recently. It was an important occasion for both the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Music Initiative, intent on bridging gulfs that have existed for the past hundred years.
Ismaili Musical Ensembles in the USA and Canada provide creative platforms for dedicated Ismaili musicians to learn, practice and showcase their talents. But the musicians are required to demonstrate the quality of their abilities and commit to the ongoing development of their musical education.
As Ismaili families in Dushanbe prepared to observe Eid ul-Fitr in the traditional manner, excitement brewed at the prospect of the Jamat coming together to celebrate the occasion at the new Ismaili Centre for the first time ever. The gathering proved a momentous and moving experience for all.
The photography book Ismailis, A Celebration of Diversity portrays the rich plurality of the global Ismaili community and the sentiments expressed by talented photographers through their visually stirring images. It is the result of one photographer’s love of art and the community.