Life – An Exalted Destiny – Aga Khan III

Life - An Exalted Destiny - Aga Khan III Life is a great and noble calling; not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can, but a lofty and exalted destiny.

Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr

The holy month of Ramadan begins on the first day of Ramadan which is the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. This year it starts on July 8, 2013. After 30 days or so, dependent on the sighting of the moon, the end of the fasting month is celebrated by Eid where the devout celebrate after having completed the month of fasting successfully starting with the morning prayers after which greetings are exchanged children are given an Eidi, a gift of money followed great rejoicing and feasting and picnics.

The great Muslim poet Jalal al-Din Muhammad Rumi’s Ramadan poems 13th century AD:

“O moon-faced Beloved,
the month of Ramadan has arrived.
Cover the table
and open the path of praise.”

“The month of fasting has come, the emperor’s banner has arrived; withhold your hand from food, the spirit’s table has arrived.

The soul has escaped from separation and bound nature’s hands; the heart of error is defeated, the army of faith has arrived.

Fasting is our sacrifice, it is the life of our soul; let us sacrifice all our body, since the soul has arrived as guest.

Fortitude is as a sweet cloud, wisdom rains from it, because it was in such a month of fortitude that the Koran arrived.

…Wash your hands and your mouth, neither eat nor speak; seek that speech and that morsel which has come to the silent ones.”

“There’s hidden sweetness in the stomach’s emptiness.
We are lutes, no more, no less.

If the sound boxes stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and belly are burning clean with fasting,
every moment a new song comes out of the fire.
The fog clears, and new energy makes you run
up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.

Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.
When you’re full of food and drink,
Satan sits where your spirit should,
an ugly metal statue in place of the Kaaba.
When you fast, good habits gather
like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon’s ring.

Don’t give into some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you’ve lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast,
like soldiers appearing out of the ground,
pennants flying above them.

A table descends to your tents, Jesus’ table.
Expect to see it, when you fast,
this tablespread with other food,
better than the broth of cabbages.”

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim lunar year. It has double significance as this is the month that the Holy Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad and that night has been called the Night of Power – Layla-tul Qadr, where Angel Gabriel appeared to Prophet Muhammad and declared the first verse of the Holy Quran on this night, the night where a single moment of enlightenment of the Light of Allah converts the night into a period of Spiritual glory and majesty that touches eternity. Pious Muslims strive to make themselves pure, especially during this month, by ritual and spiritual observances to make ready for Companionship on High. This month has been declared sacred in the Holy Quran wherein God says:

2:183 – O you who believe, fasting is prescribed on you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you may become self-restrained.

2:185 – The prescribed fasting is for a fixed number of days, but whoso among you is sick or on a journey, shall fast the same number of other days; and for those who are able to fast only with great difficulty, is an expiation – the feeding of a poor man. And whoso does good of his own accord it is better for him. And fasting is good for you, if you only knew.

For the last 1400 years, over one billion Muslims throughout the world, the faithful, pay special attention to the esoteric (batin) matters by practicing the exoteric (zaher) fasting. Besides holding a fast from food and water from sunrise to sunset, believers also refrain from dishonesty, stealing, unethical actions, and other activities that would lead one astray.  A Momin’s (believer’s) life is a journey to become one with the Essence and her daily life is a mirror of her spiritual beauty. A Muslim lives a daily life of piety which includes practice of faith and taking care of life, Din and Duniya, that means, working for the family, learning, earning and taking part in society whilst also maintaining a relationship with the Creator-on-high. So the tasbi (rosary) will be in constant use by the devout to remember God and to recall this link of matter with the Spirit and the Universal Soul.

During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sun-up to sun-down daily for 30 days, and so do not have anything to eat, drink, smoke and keep away from sexual relations during that period. A special feast is prepared for the breaking of the fast each evening, iftar, where everyone present is invited to partake of the dinner after the all-day fast when prayers of thanks are offered for a successful fast and family and friends reconnect and rejoice for remembering their duty to God and for striving to be pious.

The month ends with special festivities on the Eid al-Fitr (Day of Feasting) celebration when families and friends truly rejoice for having completed the commandment of Allah by successful abstinence from food and drink and by practicing Dhikr (Arabic), Zikr (Farsi and Urdu), (remembrance of God) at all times.

At the end of the 30 day fast, Chandraat, the new moon, is celebrated that evening and the next morning on the 1st day of the new month Shawwal that follows Ramadan is Eid al Fitr which begins with morning congregational prayers and afterwards great rejoicing by greeting each other and thanking God for having completed the extra pious duties successfully and children are rewarded with Eidi, a small gift of money or sweets and many gift exchanges take place followed by a feast.

The extra prayerful month leaves a mark on the faithful as the believer is forever transformed for his/her close communication with God by these material and spiritual practices. One continues this practice all year and reaps the benefits by remaining ever vigilant to her duty to her Lord from Whom we have come and to Him is our return. Inna Lillahi wa inna Illaiyhi Raajeoon!

Here is our 48th Imam Mowlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan III’s view on fasting:

“The healthy human body is the temple in which the flame of the Holy Spirit burns, and thus it deserves the respect of scrupulous cleanliness and personal hygiene. Prayer is a daily necessity, a direct communication of the spark with the Universal flame. Reasonable fasting for a month in every year, provided a man’s health is not impaired thereby, is an essential part of the body’s discipline – through which the body learns to renounce all impure desires. Adultery, alcoholism, slander and thinking evil of one’s neighbour are specifically and severely condemned. All men, rich and poor, must aid one another materially and personally. The rules vary in detail, but they all maintain the principle of universal mutual aid in the Muslim fraternity. This fraternity is absolute, and it comprises men of all colours and all races: black, white, yellow, tawny; all are the sons of Adam in the flesh and all carry in them spark of the Divine Light. Everyone should strive his best to see that this spark be not extinguished but rather developed to that full “Companionship-on-High” which was the vision expressed in the last words of the Prophet on his deathbed, the vision of that blessed state which he saw clearly awaiting him. In Islam the Faithful believe in Divine justice and are convinced that the solution of the great problem of predestination and free will is to be found in the compromise that God knows what man is going to do, but that man is free to do it or not.”

Full text at: Memoirs – Religion of my Ancestors

And here, Mowlana Hazar Imam – His Highness the Aga Khan, discusses fasting in his interview with Nicolas Tomalin:

NT: You’ve told me the ways in which your faith makes it easier to come to terms with the modern world. Are there any ways in which it is more difficult?

AK: Islam is a way of life, much more than Christianity. That is an old, boring thing to say, but it’s true. Now if we are to modernise our society we have to come into contact with totally different traditions. Basically the Ismaili Muslims have a choice between the Communist East, which would prevent us teaching our children the Faith, and the West, which has a set of materialistic and religious standards which are often at variance with ours. Imagine our difficulties seeing a civilisation which is at least twenty years ahead of us in roads, hospitals, and standards of living, but which if we imitate too closely will obliterate the reality of our Faith. Sometimes we are faced with the choice of either accepting habits and customs which have proved economically successful in the West, but go against what our Faith tells us to do, or continuing in our old ways, thus jeopardising our economic development.

I will give you a simple example. One of our factories making jute, for instance, in East Pakistan. In a Western society a factory like that is working 24 hours a day, six days a week all year round. But in an Islamic society that factory can work 24 hours a day, yes, but with five breaks for prayers and a complete break in the month of Ramadan, when the working force is reduced to less than half by fasting.

This is a terrible practical problem. Even among Muslim States they do not agree whether or not to work full time during Ramadan.

NT: How would you advise your communities?

AK: I think if it was, say, a steel factory in a time of national emergency, of war or something like that, then I would advise them to work during Ramadan. If it were peace, and the production were not so vital, then I would advise them to observe Ramadan.

But the real question is, where does one stop? If we are always importing from the West techniques to develop our economics, how can we stop importing alien ideas? You can imagine the problem. Every time we send our young men to Western Universities seven out of ten of them come back with alien traditions and tendencies of which they may be unconscious.

NT: You were a young man who went to a Western university. Did this happen to you?

AK: Yes perhaps. But I think I understand the difficulties and hope to have overcome some of them.

Read full interview at Nanowisdoms

Eid Mubarak! Beit al Quran Cupola with Islamic Calligraphy

Eid Mubarak Everyone!

President Barack Obama’s message from the White House to the Muslim World – see video message and press release below

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For Immediate Release – August 10, 2012

Remarks by the President at Iftar Dinner

East Room 8:40 P.M. EDT

President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the Iftar Dinner, Aug. 10, 2012President Barack Obama delivers remarks during the Iftar Dinner in the State Dining Room of the White House, Aug. 10, 2012 (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

 

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Please, please have a seat.  Good evening, everyone.  And welcome to the White House.

Of all the freedoms we cherish as Americans, of all the rights that we hold sacred, foremost among them is freedom of religion, the right to worship as we choose.  It’s enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution — the law of the land, always and forever.  It beats in our heart — in the soul of the people who know that our liberty and our equality is endowed by our Creator.  And it runs through the history of this house, a place where Americans of many faiths can come together and celebrate their holiest of days — and that includes Ramadan.

As I’ve noted before, Thomas Jefferson once held a sunset dinner here with an envoy from Tunisia — perhaps the first Iftar at the White House, more than 200 years ago.  And some of you, as you arrived tonight, may have seen our special display, courtesy of our friends at the Library of Congress — the Koran that belonged to Thomas Jefferson.  And that’s a reminder, along with the generations of patriotic Muslims in America, that Islam — like so many faiths — is part of our national story.

This evening, we’re honored to be joined by members of our diplomatic corps, members of Congress — including Muslim American members of Congress, Keith Ellison and Andre Carson — as well as leaders from across my administration.  And to you, the millions of Muslim Americans across our country, and to the more than one billion Muslims around the world — Ramadan Kareem.

Now, every faith is unique.  And yet, during Ramadan, we see the traditions that are shared by many faiths:  Believers engaged in prayer and fasting, in humble devotion to God.  Families gathering together with love for each other.  Neighbors reaching out in compassion and charity, to serve the less fortunate.  People of different faiths coming together, mindful of our obligations to one another — to peace, justice and dignity for all people — men and women.  Indeed, you know that the Koran teaches, “Be it man or woman, each of you is equal to the other.”
And by the way, we’ve seen this in recent days.  In fact, the Olympics is being called “The Year of the Woman.”  (Laughter.)  Here in America, we’re incredibly proud of Team USA — all of them — but we should notice that a majority of the members are women.  Also, for the very first time in Olympic history, every team now includes a woman athlete.  And one of the reasons is that every team from a Muslim-majority country now includes women as well.  And more broadly — that’s worth applauding.  (Applause.)  Absolutely.

More broadly, we’ve seen the extraordinary courage of Muslim women during the Arab Spring — women, right alongside men, taking to the streets to claim their universal rights, marching for their freedom, blogging and tweeting and posting videos, determined to be heard.  In some cases, facing down tanks, and braving bullets, enduring detentions and unspeakable treatment, and at times, giving their very lives for the freedom that they seek — the liberty that we are lucky enough to enjoy here tonight.

These women have inspired their sisters and daughters, but also their brothers and their sons.  And they’ve inspired us all. Even as we see women casting their ballots and seeking — standing for office in historic elections, we understand that their work is not done.  They understand that any true democracy must uphold the freedom and rights of all people and all faiths. We know this, too, for here in America we’re enriched by so many faiths, by men and women — including Muslim American women.

They’re young people, like the student who wrote me a letter about what it’s like to grow up Muslim in America.  She’s in college.  She dreams of a career in international affairs to help deepen understanding between the United States and Muslim countries around the world.  So if any of the diplomatic corps have tips for her — (laughter.)  She says that “America has always been the land of opportunity for me, and I love this country with all my heart.”  And so we’re glad to have Hala Baig here today.  (Applause.)

They are faith leaders like Sanaa Nadim, one of the first Muslim chaplains at an American college — a voice for interfaith dialogue who’s had the opportunity to meet with the Pope to discuss these issues.  We’re very proud to have you here.  (Applause.)

They are educators like Auysha Muhayya, born in Afghanistan, who fled with her family as refugees to America, and now, as a language teacher, helps open her students to new cultures.  So we’re very pleased to have her here.  (Applause.)

They are entrepreneurs and lawyers, community leaders, members of our military, and Muslim American women serving with distinction in government.  And that includes a good friend, Huma Abedin, who has worked tirelessly — (applause) — worked tirelessly in the White House, in the U.S. Senate, and most exhaustingly, at the State Department, where she has been nothing less than extraordinary in representing our country and the democratic values that we hold dear.  Senator Clinton has relied on her expertise, and so have I.

The American people owe her a debt of gratitude — because Huma is an American patriot, and an example of what we need in this country — more public servants with her sense of decency, her grace and her generosity of spirit.  So, on behalf of all Americans, we thank you so much.  (Applause.)

These are the faces of Islam in America.  These are just a few of the Muslim Americans who strengthen our country every single day.  This is the diversity that makes us Americans; the pluralism that we will never lose.

And at times, we have to admit that this spirit is threatened.  We’ve seen instances of mosques and synagogues, churches and temples being targeted.  Tonight, our prayers, in particular, are with our friends and fellow Americans in the Sikh community.  We mourn those who were senselessly murdered and injured in their place of worship.  And while we may never fully understand what motivates such hatred, such violence, the perpetrators of such despicable acts must know that your twisted thinking is no match for the compassion and the goodness and the strength of our united American family.

So tonight, we declare with one voice that such violence has no place in the United States of America.  The attack on Americans of any faith is an attack on the freedom of all Americans.  (Applause.)  No American should ever have to fear for their safety in their place of worship.  And every American has the right to practice their faith both openly and freely, and as they choose.

That is not just an American right; it is a universal human right.  And we will defend the freedom of religion, here at home and around the world.  And as we do, we’ll draw on the strength and example of our interfaith community, including the leaders who are here tonight.

So I want to thank all of you for honoring us with your presence, for the example of your lives, and for your commitment to the values that make us “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  (Applause.)

God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END               8:48 P.M. EDT

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Quran, 13:28

ألا بِذِكْرِ اللهِ تَطمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“Verily! In the remembrance of Allah do hearts find contentment.” - Quran, 13:28

Prophet Muhammad

Prophet Muhammad:

‘Ali is ‘as my own soul’ (ka-nafsi).

He said to ‘Ali, ‘You are from me and I am from you (anta minni wa ana minka).’

‘Truly, ‘Ali is from me and I am from him (inna ‘Ali minni wa ana minhu), and he is the wali (patron/spiritual master) of every believer after me.’

Hazrat Ali

12. When some blessings come to you, do not drive them away through thanklessness.

13. He who is deserted by friends and relatives will often find help and sympathy from strangers.

Imam Ali Sayings

Imam Jaffer Sadiq

لاَ يَكُونُ شَيْءٌ فِي اْلاَرْضِ وَلا فِي السَّمَاءِ إِلاَّ بِهذِهِ الْخِصَالِ السَّبْعِ: بِمَشيئَةٍ وَ إِرادَةٍ وَقَدَرٍ وَقَضَاءٍ وَ إِذْنٍ وَكِتابٍ وَأَجَلٍ. فَمَنْ زَعَمَ أَنَّهُ يَقْدِرُ عَلى نَقْضٍ وَاحِدَةٍ، فَقَدْ كَفَرَ.

“Nothing occurs in this earth and in the heaven except with the following seven stages: Will, intention, destiny, decree, permission, book and implementation. Then whoever thinks that he can reduce any of these stages, then indeed he has disbelieved.”

- Imam Jaffer Sadiq, Usul al Kafi, vol. 1, p. 149

Rumi on Ramadan

The month of fasting has come, the emperor’s banner has arrived; withhold your hand from food, the spirit’s table has arrived. The soul has escaped from separation and bound nature’s hands; the heart of error is defeated, the army of faith has arrived. Fasting is our sacrifice, it is the life of our soul; let us sacrifice all our body, since the soul has arrived as guest. Fortitude is as a sweet cloud, wisdom rains from it, because it was in such a month of fortitude that the Koran arrived. …Wash your hands and your mouth, neither eat nor speak; seek that speech and that morsel which has come to the silent ones.

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99 Beautiful Names

Asma-ul Husna

 

Aga Khan jokes

Aga Khan Speech Brown University May 1996:

"Looking around this colorful gathering, I recall helping in the choice of the Aga Khan University's regalia. Our research into Islamic traditions of academic dress revealed that an academic's rank determined the height of his hat. The higher the rank, the taller the hat. The senior most professors therefore appeared taller than their students even when sitting down. I have just learnt that my friend Neil Rudenstein, the President of Harvard has given instructions that all Harvard hats are to be heightened by at least a foot. This has caused havoc in the Ivy League which is now debating resolution MAHH96, standing for Maximum Allowable Hat Height. My academic standing and that of President Gregorian, should be evident from the hats that we are presently wearing!"

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