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Mowlana Hazar Imam's 66th Birthday - December 13, 2002

Mowlana Hazar Imam - 1997
Happy Birthday Mowlana Hazar Imam!
Salgirah Mubarak! Khushiali Mubarak Everyone!

Alhamdulillah! We are truly blessed to be members of the community led by the Prince of Peace of the world. We have reason to rejoice at his birthday anniversary as we rejoice at the birthday anniversaries of our beloved Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali.

This year has been special for us in Houston as we were blessed by his holy Didaar and the opening of the new Jamat Khana and Ismaili center. He made some remarkable speeches on this occasion which you can view at:

Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Inauguration of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center, Houston at the AKDN site
Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan at the Banquet Hosted in Honour of Governor Perry, Houston also at the AKDN site

And, he is now 66 years old! Past the official retirement age! However, he is as busy as ever, bringing hope to others and trying to bring peace to the world. A more comprehensive list of his activities for the year 2002 can be seen at the Heritage Timeline and also at the AKDN site.

What can we give as a birthday gift to him? What can we say we have accomplished that would bring joy to this world and remove the ignorance about Islam and portray it for what it really is? Have we done our share?

"In all forms of art, painting, calligraphy, architecture, city planning; in all forms of science, medicine, astronomy, engineering; in all expressions of thought, philosophy, ritualism, spiritualism, it is of fundamental importance that our own traditional values and attitudes should permeate our new society.

It would be dramatic if those pillars of the Islamic way of life, social justice, equality, humility and generosity, enjoined upon us all, were to lose their force or wide application in our young society. It must never be said generations hence that in our greed for the material goods of the rich West we have forsaken our responsibilities to the poor, to the orphans, to the traveler, to the single woman.

The day we no longer know how, nor have the time nor the faith, to bow in prayer to Allah because the human soul that He has told us is eternal, is no longer of sufficient importance to us to be worthy of an hour of our daily working, profit seeking time, will be a sunless day of despair. "-- His Highness the Aga Khan, speaking at the Peshawar University Convocation, November 30, 1967.


"Some years ago, Professor Samuel Huntington warned of an impending "clash of civilisations" between the West and the Islamic world as the next great confrontation following the end of the Cold War.

My position is somewhat different. It is based on my perspective as the leader of a Muslim community that now lives in the West as well as in the Islamic world, and from an engagement in international dialogue, development and cross-cultural education for more than forty years. What we are now witnessing is a clash of ignorance, an ignorance that is mutual, longstanding, and to which the West and the Islamic world have been blind for decades at their great peril.

For a number of years I have voiced my concern that the faith of a billion people is not part of the general education process in the West - ignored by school and college curricula in history, the sciences, philosophy and geography. An important goal of responsible education should be to ringfence the theologising of the image of the Muslim world by treating Muslims as it treats Christians and Jews, by going beyond a focus on theology to considering civil society, politics, and economics of particular countries and peoples at various points in their history. This will reveal the fundamental diversity and pluralism of Muslim peoples, cultures, histories, philosophies and legal systems. The Aga Khan University's newly established Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in London will address these issues directly, as have the programmes of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture with respect to the field of architecture, and more recently music. Repositioning theology with respect to the normal forces of human society will help develop the understanding that Muslims too live in the real world and have to contend with the same issues of life - of poverty, hunger, tragedy and civil conflict as all others in the developing world.

Within the Islamic world there is work to do as well, starting with a better understanding and appreciation of the pluralism of cultures and interpretations among Muslims.

The legacy is rich, a source of strength, and needs to be encouraged and celebrated. It is also crucial that the Islamic world develops a creative and reasoned response to the impact of Western popular culture, which coupled with the dominance of modern electronic media by Western corporations, poses a serious threat to local and national identities and cultures, and their creative and sustainable evolution."-- His Highness the Aga Khan, speaking at the Banquet Hosted in Honor of Govenor Perry Houston, June 23, 2002.

As you can see that not only is he committed to educating and defining what the Muslim society must aspire to but also educating the West and using all means at his disposal to carry this out.

And as Ivanow says:

"A proper guidance of the community depends on the Imam, but the Imam has to have suitable, reliable, responsible, dependable and intelligent assistants who could convey the Imam’s will and guidance to the community, who may assist it to apply the principle of ta’wil as authorized by the Imam. This demands well-trained and well-educated people. And these may be of great help in seeing that serious questions of educated members of the community may receive intelligent and honest answers, not merely consisting of sophisms and manipulations or misinterpretation of verses of the Quran or hadiths." from The Importance of Studying Ismailism by Professor W. Ivanow.

At this birthday anniversary, we should reflect: have we been an ambassador for Islam and tried to bring about better understanding of our faith by wiping out the ignorance about Islam and Muslims? Since it is the month of Ramadan, my young daughters are also fasting this year and it was amazing how the girls at their school also decided to try to fast and to see how it feels and wanted to join them. Four of them bailed out past midday but two children went ahead and fasted that day and they are all in awe of this Muslim tradition. The teacher is also very interested and wants to keep track and is awaiting Eid. I realize that they educated everyone in their circle about it. Ours is a faith of life - din and duniya - Religion and the world are to be lived and practiced as everyday life. Mowlana Sultan Mahomed Shah (salwaat) has given us great guidance during his life. To refresh these teachings in our minds, visit his page and click on the left navigation His Ideas. Eid ul Fitr is coming up soon. Will we take that as another opportunity to educate the West about our peaceful traditions that have lasted over 14 centuries?

Let us resolve to strengthen our convictions, to bring about knowledge and understanding so that there would be peace on this earth and so that we could attain the state of "fanaa fillah" - merging with God, by righteous living, by love and caring, by meeting our spiritual obligations and aspiring to become one with God, which is the goal and hope of every Ismaili Muslim. Inshallah!

Mubarak! (Blessings!)

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Verses in the Quran proclaiming the Imams - Ahl-e Bayt (Family of the Prophet)
Pan Tan Paak Ahl-e Bayt Page

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