Friday, July 10, 2009

492)An Article By Khalil Andani That Reaches The Heart Of The Shia Ismaili Muslim Belief System;Light Upon Light:Succession in the Shia Ismaili Imamat

On July 11, millions of Shi‘a Isma‘ili Muslims around the world will celebrate the anniversary of the ascension of their 49th hereditary Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim al-Husayni, to the office of the Isma‘ili Imamate. The notion of succession in the Imamate evokes several key questions: How is the next Imam chosen? Does the Imam-to-be know of his own status beforehand? Was he prepared for his function? Why does the Imamate continue in a single line of male descent? This article explores the principles of the Imamate succession in light of Shi‘a Isma‘ili intellectual literature and provides examples from the history of the Isma‘ili Imams including the most recent succession of the 49th Imam in light of these principles:

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The following are quotes from this article in the order in which they appear in the article. In order to fully appreciate these quotes and excerpts a thorough reading of the article by author Khalil Andani as it appears in pdf format on ISMAILI MAIL is necessary:

“In the early hours of July 11, the Aga’s heart-beat weakened. Aly and Sadruddin were summoned to the Barakat but their dying father could no longer speak. Karim came and the Begum was still keeping up her vigil. Four doctors were in attendance and nurses left the sick-room only to change their clothes or take a bite. At midday, the Aga Khan was sleeping peacefully. Forty minutes later his life slipped quietly away… The curtains were drawn and darkness fell over a great figure of the age.”(Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, 1970, p. 206)

‘Offspring, one from the other...’
“Ever since the time of my ancestor ‘Ali, the first Imam, that is to say over a period of thirteen hundred years, it has always been the tradition of our family that each Imam chooses his successor at his absolute and unfettered discretion from amongst any of his descendants whether they be sons or remoter male issue…”- Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III(Last Will and Testament)

In this respect, there must be noted the Quranic concept of the exalted and virtuous family, whose favour in the eyes of God derives from their righteous deeds and services in the cause of God. In all ages the prophets have been particularly concerned with ensuring that the special favour of God bestowed upon them for the guidance of man be maintained in their families and pass to their progeny. The Quran repeatedly speaks of the prophets praying to God for their progeny and asking Him to continue His guidance in their lineages. In the answer to these prayers, the verses of the Qur'an bear direct testimony to the special favour of God being granted to the direct descendants of the prophets to keep their fathers' covenants intact, to become true examples of their fathers' righteousness, and to keep fast to the path of righteousness set by these prophets. Four terms are repeatedly used in the Qur'an to express God's special favour for the descendants of the prophets: Dhurriya, ‘Aal, Ahl, and Qurba. The total number of verses that mention special favour requested for and granted to the families of the various prophets by God runs to over a hundred in the Quran.(S. M. Jafri, The Origins and Development of Shia Islam, Chapter 1, Beirut, 1976)

And remember that Abraham was tried by his Lord with certain commands, which he fulfilled: He said: "I will make thee an Imam of mankind." He pleaded: "And also (Imams) from my offspring!" He answered: "But My Promise is not within the reach of evil-doers.”- Holy Quran 2:124

Or are they jealous of mankind because of that which Allah of His bounty hath bestowed upon them? For We bestowed upon the House of Abraham (‘ala ibrahima) the Book (al-kitaba) and the Wisdom (alhikmata), and We bestowed on them a Mighty Kingdom.- Holy Quran 4:54

“As for Me, this is My covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you.”- Holy Bible, Genesis 17:7

Verily, God did choose Adam and Noah, the progeny (‘al) of Abraham, and the progeny (‘al) of
Imran above all the worlds (alamin), descendants (dhurriyyah), one from the other: And God
heareth and knoweth all things.
- Holy Quran 3:33-34

“Know that this Imamate is a reality [which] will never cease, change or be altered. It will continue forever to be transmitted through the progeny of our lords (mawalina). It will never leave them, whether in form, meaning or reality.”- Imam Hasan ‘ala dhikrihi al-salaam, (quoted in Nasir al-Din Tusi, Rawda-yi Taslim transl. S.J. Badakhchani, The Paradise of Submission, p. 122)

The Bearers Of Light:
Since my grand-father, the last Aga Khan, died, I have been the bearer of the Nur - a word which means ‘The Light’.”- Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV(Sunday Times Weekly Review - Interview, Dec 12, 1965)

“Yes. Since My grand-father, the last Aga Khan, died, I have been the bearer of the Nur - a word which means ‘The Light’. The Nur has been handed down in direct descent from the Prophet. But my work and responsibilities overflow into the practical side of life.”- Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV(Sunday Times Weekly Review - Interview, Dec 12, 1965)

“The first thing created by God was the Intellect; The first thing created by God was my Light”.- Prophet Muhammad, (quoted in Willam Chittick, The Sufi Path of Love, State University of New York Press, New York 1983, p. 66)

“The Imam is perfect when still in the form of sperm in the loins of his father and the pure womb of his mother. An Imam is always an Imam and always perfect. Otherwise, why should he say, ‘The Imam knows from which drop of sperm the Imam after him will come?’”- Imam Hasan ‘ala dhikrihi al-salaam, (quoted in Nasir al-Din Tusi, Rawda-yi Taslim transl. S.J. Badakhchani, The Paradise of Submission, p. 125)

Al-Qadi al-Nu’man was among those who had precedence in serving the Imam al-Mahdi bi’llah during the later part of his caliphate. He was also the beneficiary of the favours of al-Qa’im bi-Amr Allah as were others. Then Imam al-Mahdi bi’llah disclosed to him the distinction of his grandson Imam al-Mansur bi’llah who was the third of the Imams of the [period of] manifestation. He (al-Nu’man) said: ‘O Commander of the Faithful, three Imams in one age?’ the [number]astounded him. Then Imam al-Mahdi bi’llah showed him al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah who was a babe in his cradle and said, ‘And this is the fourth of us, O Nu’man!’(Idris Imad al-Din, Tarikh al-Khulafa al-Fatimiyyin bi’l-Maghrib, transl. Shainool Jiwa, Anthology of Isma‘ili Literature, p. 60)

“When I was but a child he took me under his wing … I would follow him [the Prophet] as a baby camel follows the footsteps of his mother. Every day he would raise up for me a sign of his noble character, commanding me to follow it. He would go each year into seclusion at[Mount] Hira. I saw him and nobody else saw him. At that time no household was brought together for the religion of Islam, except the Messenger of God, Khadija, and myself as the third. I saw the light of the revelation and the message, and I smelt the fragrance of prophecy…”- Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib(quoted in Reza Shah-Kazemi, Justice and Remembrance, p. 13)

“Nobody could have been closer to the Imam than myself. I was his son, and yet my heart was filled with awe of his glory. One day, when I was just a little boy, I was walking behind him. I rejoiced at looking at him and receiving his didar. Then I would look at the heavens and the skies and rejoice at looking at them. Then I would look at him once again until my heart was satisfied. I thought to myself, the master of all creation is God in the heavens, and the Imam is his representative.The more this began to sink in, the more glorious my father appeared in my eyes, the more awe-inspired was my heart. Then Imam al-Qa'im turned around to face me. He held me and hugged me close. He said,‘My dear little son, may Allah not place in your heart what he has placed in the heart of your mawla.’ I knew, at that moment, that he was referring to all of the worries that he had.”(al-Qadi al-Nu’man, Majalis wa'l-Musayarat)

He (Imam al-Mansur) used to confide secrets in him (Imam al-Mahdi)and no one knew what transpired between them. One of the people who used to enter the presence of al-Mahdi frequently, as it was imperative for him to do so, said to me that there was never a time when he (al-Mahdi) was alone without al-Mansur being present and al-Mahdi would be speaking in confidence to him.(Idris Imad al-Din, Tarikh al-Khulafa al-Fatimiyyin bi’l-Maghrib, transl. Shainool Jiwa, Anthology of Isma‘ili Literature, p. 61)

The Golden Prince(Ali Khan)
“We are sending you our beloved son. Consider his coming as equivalent to our own coming. We are sending our Prince as our Wali ‘Ahd.”- Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III(Message to the Syrian Isma‘ili’s, 1930)

Young Karim winced whenever the headlines brought the tittle-tattle about his father home to him. It was in these days that he first formed his aversion to publicity and resolved to give the press as little cause for comment about his personal affairs as humanly possible. That he would grow up to hate, not his father, of whom he was fond and proud, but his father’s playboy image was a foregone conclusion.(Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, p. 186)

But increasingly in recent years, Aly has gone about his father’s business and those who have seen him in his Eastern robes earnestly carrying out the rituals of his sect find it hard to believe that this can possibly be the same slick socialite who in London, Paris and NewYork jokes with his friends in a faultless Oxford accent and leads western café society in all the arts of high living and smart thinking.(Gordon Young, Golden Prince, p. 22)

He was undoubtedly the beloved of his family as well as the Jamats…He was extremely popular in the Jamats all over the world and was loved by young and old alike. Very often he was sent by the Holy Imam to represent him for religious duties. He was a great sportsman and a statesman. He was very fond of hunting, travelling and horseracing…His Serene Highness Prince Aly was a great champion of Islam and never missed an opportunity to serve and defend it. He had all his life contributed financially, as well as physically, to the cause ofIslam. A warm-hearted friend, an ardent servant of Islam, a shrewd horse-breeder, an energetic sportsman, a lover of speed and motion, a great public speaker, a cautious statesman, generous and benevolent, he was indeed a great man.(Al-Wa’z Abualy Aziz, Brief History of Isma‘ilism, Dar as-Salaam, 1974)

Dressed in the style of a young Indian prince, Aly looked perfectly at home in the setting of his eastern forebears. And when it came to visiting the jamatkhana with the Imam, he was well-versed in the prayers and the ritual for which his Muslim teachers had prepared him and as familiar with Ismaili history as any Christian boy of his age with the Bible. But the extravagance with which the ordinary Ismali venerated his father made a deep impression.(Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, p. 91)

“We are sending you our beloved son. Consider his coming as our own coming. We are sending our Prince as our Wali ‘Ahd.”- Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III,(Message to the Syrian Isma‘ilis, 1930)

Since the age of eleven, too, Aly Khan has flown East to visit groups of the Ismailis in the place of his father. Wearing faultless tropical suitings and a black Astrakhan cap, Prince Aly would give readings from the Koran and accept tributes on behalf of his father ranging from anything between 10,000 and 30,000 a time.(Gordon Young, Golden Prince, p. 22)

Had there been doubt about the reception these primitive warriors would give the sophisticated and westernized youngster, it was quickly dispelled. The Aga Khan never entertained such a doubt because he had a higher opinion of his son than Aly himself suspected and sensed the spark in his temperament which would quickly fire his followers. No sooner had the reception committee spotted Aly – His Serene Royal Highness, Prince Aly Khan, as he was styled in these parts – than the Aga Khan was proved right. The men prostrated themselves before the eminent visitor, tried to touch his clothes, sought his glance. Flushed with excitement, Aly responded warmly and joyfully. The enthusiasm in the villages was even greater.Wherever he went, he was greeted by cheering crowds lining the dusty roads. Exchanging his Savile Row suits for the flowing robes of the indigenous Arabs, he joined his hosts in daring displays of horsemanship and quickly earned their respect. The tour reached triumphal proportions at Salamiya, the Ismaili stronghold where he remained a favourite throughout his life.”(Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, pp. 106-107)

His was an astonishing feat of personality: ‘Aly’s appearance always sent the marriage rate soaring,’ wrote Leonard Slater. ‘Young men would speed their courting; young women would overcome their shyness.’ Sex appeal may have had something to do with it but much of Aly’s success was spontaneous popular reaction to a warm-hearted, handsome young man with a genuine affection for people. From Syria he went on to Bombay and Karachi where he visited jamatkhanas, led the prayers and performed religious ceremonies with a touch as sure as that of an experienced mukhi. The tour was a great success.(Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, p. 107)

Our beloved Prince ‘Aly Khan has completed forty-three years of age. We join Ismaili Jamats from all over the world in offering felicitations to His Serene Highness Prince Aly Khan on this happy occasion. His Serene Highness has inherited the qualities of his illustrious father, Mawlana Hazar Imam. The jamats have been appreciative of the keen interest His Serene Highness takes in all the varied activities of the community in all parts of the world, and of his great contribution to their welfare.(The Ismaili, quoted in Gordon Young, Golden Prince, London 1955, p. 148)

Imam of the Atomic Age
“…I am convinced that it is in the best interests of the Shi‘aMuslim Isma‘ilian Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam. For these reasons, although he is not now one of my heirs, I appoint my grandson Karim, the son of my son Aly Salomone Khan to succeed to the title of Aga Khan and to be the Imam and Pir of all my Shi’a Isma‘ilian followers…”- Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III (Last Will and Testament)

From the moment Karim was born, it was taken for granted that hewould one day become Imam, and, unlike Aly, he was educated for the job from the beginning. When he was only seven years old, living inNairobi, he was dressed in a tiny uniform and taken to the jamatkhana to chant: “We are the direct descendant of the ProphetMuhammad, may peace of God be on him.”(Leonard Slater, Aly, Random House, New York, 1965, p. 269)

When the old Aga returned from Africa and was staying in Lausanne,the boys were taken to see him: ‘An extraordinary relationship developed between my father-in-law and my elder son,’ Princess Joan recalls, ‘K always talked to his grandfather as if they were contemporaries. There was a powerful bond between them.” It was probably due to his grandfather’s influence that Karim was mature beyond his age without forgoing the pleasures of a typical teenager’s life.(Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, p. 152)

From a young age, [Imam] al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah had a special status with his grandfather [Imam] al-Qa’im. He used to keep him in his company, be close to him and confide in him in preference to his father. Whenever he (al’-Qa’im) was alone, he (al-Mu’izz) was with him and whenever he was absent, he (al-Qa’im) would send for him. Similarly, Imam al-Mansur had the same status with his grandfather al-Mahdi, who was inseparable from him… One day al-Mu’izz mentioned a similar instance to his situation, saying that al-Mahdibi’llah used to nurture him (al-Mansur) with wisdom and prepare him for the Imamate, just as al-Qa’im did so with him.(Idris Imad al-Din, Tarikh al-Khulafa al-Fatimiyyin bi’l-Maghrib, transl. Shainool Jiwa, Anthology of Isma‘ili Literature, pp. 60-62)

The old Aga seemed to think highly of the boy. Whenever he was at Villa Barakat in Geneva he sent for Karim and talked to him at great length, subtly introducing him into the deeper meaning of the Ismaili faith and instilling him with the sense of mission which became apparent to all not many years later. Prince Karim himself remembers his grandfather asking questions about his religious instruction, testing his knowledge: ‘He could extract more from a human being in short conversation than anybody else in a lifetime,” he mused.(Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, p. 182-3)

“…and in these circumstances and in view of the fundamentally altered conditions in the world in very recent years due to the great changes which have taken place including the discoveries of atomic science I am convinced that it is in the best interest of the Shi‘a Moslem Ismailian Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of a new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam. For these reasons and although he is not now one of my heirs, I APPOINT my grandson KARIM, the son of my son, ALY SALOMONE KHAN to succeed to the title of AGA KHAN and to be the Imam and Pir of all my Shia Ismailian followers…”- Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III,(Last Will, Willi Frischauer, The Aga Khans, p. 208)

“According to the Will of my Beloved Grandfather, I am your Hazar Imam. I am your 49th Mawla Mushkil Kusha.”- Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV (To Jamati Leaders, Geneva, July 13, 1957)

‘A Link in the Chain’“The Imam is a transitory being, who forms a link between the past and the future. For this reason, ensuring the continuity of the institution and its ability to fulfill its role is what my life is all about.”- Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,(Paris Match Interview No. 2907, 3-9 February 2005)

In Ismailism, the fact that the Imam embodies a tradition extending considerably backwards in time creates the setting for just such an experience. By encapsulating the past within himself, the Imam serves as history incarnate, so to speak. In this sense, history is not only"learned"; it is also "experienced", with a heightening of one's intellectual and moral imagination.(Aziz Esmail, Why History, Institute of Isma‘ili Studies: Lifelong Learning)

“When you inherit an office, which is a life office, you are simply a link in the chain. And you therefore look at life somewhat differently than if you were, I suppose, a professional who moves around and is free to do what he wishes. Now some things are impossible to achieve. I well know that. And if that is the case, I simply have to try and move the issues forward as much as I can. The next Imam will then decide how he wishes to handle the issues. But, it is the continuum which is at the back of my mind. And that's why perhaps my time dimension appears different than it might for other people.”- Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV (Forbes Global, Cover Story, May 31, 1999)

‘Light upon Light’
God is the Light of the heavens and the earth. The similitude of His light is as a niche wherein is a lamp. The lamp is in a glass. The glass is as it were a shining star. (This lamp is) kindled from a blessed tree, an olive neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil would almost glow forth (of itself) though no fire touched it. Light upon light. God guideth unto His light whom He will. And God speaketh to mankind in allegories, for Allah is Knower of all things.- Holy Quran 24:35

“I think I would hope the next Imam has a thorough deep understanding of the Faith which he has to represent and lead in its interpretation. I think he must have a good understanding of the issues which the Isma‘ili community and the countries in which they live will have to be addressed and that is essentially the countries ofAsia and Africa. And he will have to have a good understanding of the forces that are at play and that are likely to be at play. Therefore, he is going to have to be well equipped to deal with the leadership office…He is appointed during my lifetime in the sense that I am the person who knows who the next Imam would be, but only me. But he becomes Imam when I die.”- Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV(ITV Interview, Chantilly, June 5, 1985)

All quotes above taken from the article by Khalil Andani:

Easy Nash

The Qur'an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
The Quran tells us that signs of Allah's Sovereignty are found in the contemplation of His Creation: Aga Khan IV(2007)
This notion of the capacity of the human intellect to understand and to admire the creation of Allah will bring you happiness in your everyday lives: Aga Khan IV(2007)
Islam, eminently logical, placing the greatest emphasis on knowledge, purports to understand God's creation: Aga Khan IV(2006)
The Holy Qu'ran's encouragement to study nature and the physical world around us gave the original impetus to scientific enquiry among Muslims: Aga Khan IV(1985)
The first and only thing created by God was the Intellect(Aql): Prophet Muhammad(circa 632CE)