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.
Celebrated on 21 March each year, Navroz is an occasion of special significance to millions around the world. Having migrated to Canada from Afghanistan, 35-year-old Ahmad Wali fondly reminisces over the rich traditions and memories of Navroz that he harbours from his childhood.
The new Ismaili Jamatkhana Lahore is the first facility to be purpose-built for the Jamat in that city. Rooted in tradition and heritage, it symbolises centuries of the community’s presence in the region, and its continuity in a land steeped in the many interpretations and practices of Islam.
Dr Hussein Rashid delivered a lecture titled Everyday Art: An Islamic Impact on American Art on 13 February 2011 at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. In the talk, Dr Rashid highlights Islamic influences on popular art in America – from architecture and popular media to poetry and writing.
On 4 November 2010, Dr Francesca Leoni delivered a presentation to mark the millennial anniversary of Firdawsi’s Shahnama. The presentation took place at the University of Texas at Arlington, with support from its Office of the Provost, the University’s College of Liberal Arts, and the Ismaili Council for Northern Texas.
In Afghanistan, the past year will be remembered for the large number of jamatkhanas that were inaugurated across the country. In Kabul alone, four newly built facilities were opened, while ground was broken for additional jamatkhanas in Badakhshan province and elsewhere.
Aftab Jalia works with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in Delhi and is part of an initiative to revitalise the area surrounding Humayun’s Tomb and Gardens, and improve the quality of life of the residents in the neighbouring Nizamuddin district. A graduate of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT, he shares some insight on the progress of the project and its impact on the surrounding community.
As the “Cultural Capital of the Arab World in 2010”, Doha was a fitting venue for the Award Ceremony of the 11th cycle of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, which was held in November. The event was particularly special for members of the Qatar Jamat, who were jubilant over Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to their peninsular country.
A passionate group of eight individuals makes up the Salimahabad Orchestra in Pakistan. They recently released an album that espouses a vision of life, devotion to faith and respect for humankind through a fusion of contemporary musical genres including hip-hop, Arabic melody and soft rock.
Muharram is a month of remembrance in the Islamic calendar.
In May 2010, the Aga Khan Award for Architecture announced the shortlist for its 11th award cycle at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Selected from over 400 nominees, the 19 projects, spanning 16 countries, range from a small private residence in India to the conservation of an Ottoman town in Albania.
RAYS OF LIGHT: Glimpses into the Ismaili Imamat opened in London on 10 September and has drawn thousands of visitors, many of whose written comments are pinned to large boards just outside the circular structure. The comment cards offer unique perspectives on how the exhibition is being received, both within the Jamat and by the wider public.
On 23 August 1985, then Prime Minister of Canada, Brian Mulroney, officially opened the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam and then Premier of British Columbia, Bill Bennett. The opening of the first Ismaili Centre in North America was a historic moment for the Jamat in Canada and around the world.
The 2010 Yawm-e Ali Lecture at the Ismaili Centre, London was delivered on 14 July by Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi, Reasearch Fellow at The Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. In his lecture titled Imam Ali and the Power of Compassion, Dr Shah-Kazemi explored the role played by Rahma – divine compassion – in the teachings of Hazrat Ali.
In May and June, the Houston Ismaili community collaborated with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston to organise educational events that explored and celebrated artistic traditions of the Muslim world. It was part of an ongoing outreach effort that has given way to greater dialogue between Muslims and non-Muslims about their respective faiths and cultural heritage.
Several North American-based Ismaili artists talk about what draws them to create art. They also discuss how Islamic themes and symbols influence their work, and how they use art to give expression to their personal faith interpretations while exploring cultural heritage and celebrating identity.
After years of anticipation, the Jamat across Canada came together to celebrate the Foundation Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park in Toronto. They eagerly shared their thoughts and feelings about how the new developments will impact their identity as Ismaili Muslims in Canada.
Over the decades, the Toronto neighbourhood of Don Mills has opened its welcoming arms and helped many new immigrants make Canada their home, including Ismailis and other Muslims. On 28 May, Mawlana Hazar Imam will lay the foundation for three important new projects that will invite Canadians – Muslim and non-Muslim – to explore their connected heritage and celebrate their unique backgrounds.
The Aga Khan Museum Collection, which has been travelling across Europe since 2007, will ultimately find its permanent home in a new museum being established in Toronto. Reflecting the diversity and pluralism that characterises the Muslim world, the artwork and objects that comprise the Collection are helping to foster a greater appreciation of our collective human heritage and shared history.
This year marks the 1 000th anniversary of the completion of Shahnama, The Book of Kings by Abu´l-Qasim Firdawsi. Consisting of some 60 000 verses, it is considered one of the longest and most important epic poems ever written. To commemorate its millenary, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston hosted a lecture that was co-sponsored by the Ismaili Council for the Southwestern USA.
In the 1990s, the Ismaili Centre, London hosted two major theatrical productions, but it wasn’t the first time that the grounds of the Centre had entertained thespian ambitions. TheIsmaili.org traces the history of the present-day site, which was once earmarked for the National Theatre.