Montreal’s Beautiful Celebration of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 80th Birthday Through the Lens of Muslim Harji

BY MUSLIM HARJI

mharji-80thsalgirahinmontreal18779701Cake and sherbet (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

On December 13th and 17th, 2016, tens of thousands Ismailis across Canada gathered at their respective jamatkhanas to celebrate the milestone 80th birthday of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, making him the oldest serving Imam in Ismaili history. On the actual day of the birthday, December 13th, Jamats across Canada were served cake and sherbet following religious ceremonies.

On the 17th, the Montreal Ismailis — like other Ismailis in Canada and around the world — were shown a video recording of the preceding day’s thoughtful and inspiring birthday celebrations that took place at His Highness the Aga Khan’s estate in Aiglemont, France. The video presentation touched the hearts and souls of everyone present, and was followed by a jaman (feast), and an entertaining program of music, dancing and dandhia-raas. I was very happy to be present on both days at Montreal’s headquarters jamatkhana.

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Dandhias! (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

The Montreal jamat has grown substantially in the past 20 years, with the arrival of thousands of Ismailis from Afghanistan. Indeed, 90-95% of the jamat in the Province of Quebec is from Afghanistan. Montreal is Canada’s second largest and, arguably, the country’s most exciting city. Its beauty and charm, historic architecture, wonderful open spaces, great  shopping and night life, diverse restaurants, rich culture and arts with world class festivals make it an alluring place to visit, especially in summer. Of course, in winter the city is best known for its legendary hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens. During summer it is only one of  two cities in North America that hosts Formula 1 racing!

mharji-80thsalgirahinmontreal1877a22cThe President of His Highness the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for the Quebec and Maritime Provinces (extreme right) pictured with members of a jamati sub-committe inside the jamatkhana library. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

“In a world torn by division, hostility, war and fear of a nuclear holocaust, he [the Aga Khan] is a shining beacon of inspiration and of hard-headed accomplishment in improving the lot of humankind, in elevating the quality of civilized life and in uplifting all people of the world to cherish the brotherhood of man.”  – McGill University Degree Citation, November 1, 1983, read by David Johnston, Principal and Vice Chancellor.

The internationally famous McGill University was perhaps the 1st educational institution in North America that conferred Mawlana Hazar Imam with an Honorary Degree of Laws on November 1, 1983. The current Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, was at that time the University’s Principal and Vice-Chancellor.

mharji-80thsalgirahinmontreal1877a931 Three handsome Ismaili elders pause for a portrait! (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

The Afghan jamat in Montreal is exciting, colourful and vibrant. Its fine religious and cultural traditions enrich the Ismailis’ everyday ritual of prayers and spiritual life. On the cultural side, their beautiful tradition of dancing uplift the spirits of everyone who attend special celebratory events such as Navroz, Imamat Day and the birthday of Mawlana Hazar Imam. The Afghan jamati members pursue numerous  professions and many run successful businesses. They contribute enormously to the development and well-being of the jamats across the province by serving as leaders and volunteers in numerous Ismaili institutions.

mharji-80thsalgirahinmontreal18779829The birthday cake! (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

Numbering around 6000 to 7000 in Montreal alone – and perhaps another 1000 in districts and towns in Quebec and Maritime Provinces – Ismaili visitors to Montreal from other Canadian provinces often wonder in amazement, “Am I in Kabul?” They just might be!

On that last note, I ask readers to come and visit this exceptionally beautiful city and the Province of Quebec! The 150th birthday anniversary of Canada begins next July, as does the commencement of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee! That would be the perfect time to visit Montreal and feel and taste the Kabul Ismaili experience! Of course, while the focus has been on Ismailis from Afghanistan, let it be said that Ismailis from other parts of the world, who have made their home in Montreal since the 1960’s and 1970’s continue to participate in all jamati functions, and are fantastic role models for everyone through their support for the entire jamat, whatever their origins.

mharji-80thsalgirahinmontreal1877a558A portrait of a handsome Ismaili boy. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

mharji-80thsalgirahinmontreal18779616 A lovely girl helping herself to a piece of cake. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana) Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Cake and sherbet were served to the jamat throughout Canada following jamatkhana ceremonies on December 13, 2016, to celebrate the 80th Salgirah (birthday) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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A portrait of a sweet Ismaili girl. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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On Saturday, December 17th, 2016, jamats around the world were shown a recorded video of the birthday celebration that took place on the preceding day at Mawlana Hazar Imam’s home in Aiglemont, France. Following the video presentation, the jamats in Canada were invited to join in a jaman (feast). Montreal’s headquarters jamat was served salad, naan, butter chicken, rice as well as jalebi! Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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The pride of the Ismaili community! They make it happen in Montreal and thousands of villages, towns and cities around the world with the motto “Work No Words.” (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Feasting (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Feasting (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Feasting (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Feasting (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Feasting (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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 DJ in charge of  dancing, dandhia and raas music. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Dancing! (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

mharji-80thsalgirahinmontreal18779d98  Dancing! (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Husband and wife! (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

mharji-80thsalgirahinmontreal18779d3aRas dancing in concentric circles. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

mharji-80thsalgirahinmontreal18779eb1 Dancing!  (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

mharjimontrea4v9a9389 Wearing a decorative celebratory jubo (gown), a long serving member of the Montreal Jamat is seen pictured with his wife. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Ismaili seniors! (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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The pride of the Ismaili community, the volunteers, who make it happen in Montreal and around the world! Finally, after an exhausting evening it is their turn for a feast! Their motto, “Work No Words.” (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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“Work No Words” with the ever luminous volunteers’ smile! (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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“Work No Words.” The ever luminous volunteers’ smile is on. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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“Work No Words.” The ever luminous volunteers’ smile is always there. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Volunteers and institutional members with Montreal headquarters jamatkhana Mukhi, Kamadia, Mukhiani and Kamadiani. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Left to right: Mukhiani, Mukhi, Kamadia and Kamadiani of Montreal headquarters jamatkhana. (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

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Salgirah cheers and greetings from a buoyant group of Ismaili volunteers! (2016 Salgirah celebration, Montreal headquarters jamatkhana). Photo: Muslim Harji. Copyright.

Date posted: December 21, 2016.

Copyright: Muslim Harji. 2016.

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24 thoughts on “Montreal’s Beautiful Celebration of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 80th Birthday Through the Lens of Muslim Harji

  1. Thank you Muslim Harji. Would have appreciated names of the people in the pictures. Grand, colourful, full of jubilation. Bravo.

  2. Gulnar Jaffer on said:

    Hi Muslim! Thank you so much for sharing these lovely pictures. Not only have you captured the Jamat’s jubilation in celebrating Mawlana Hazar Imam’s milestone birthday, you have also captured the very special expressions of the various Jamati members; happiness, joy, little children looking at you with awe ;), you have captured it all. And the colours of the costumes/outfits are brilliant! Absolutely wonderful. Thank you, again, for sharing. It is very much appreciated.

  3. Another rare presentation – Yes, ALWAYS, it has been a different feat and a varied perspective for the readers in particular and Ismaili jamats in general. At times you take us around the world to Ismailis in rare places like Tajikistan, Syria and even Rangoon and other times you display for us the highlights of their food and culture! My humble Salute and Bravo to artistic Muslim, the guy who I know since two decades and genius Malik (Merchant) who I came to know since Simerg came in existence.

    They both have taken, all of us, to different places and people and shown us their beauty sitting right here at our homes. Both have extreme passion of their own expertise since long …and both are serving the worldwide jamats in their own quiet way. I will just be repeating for umpteen times my praise for both these guys so it is nothing new from my side.

    This time it is different – it is special and you have surpassed all expectations…. With Beloved Imam’s historic 80th Birthday and of course Diamond Jubilee knocking at the door. You have showcased Montreal in particular and its EXTREMELY DIVERSE Jamat. This is NOT surprising, simply because you posses PASSION and INGENUITY to do it.

    I say to both my friends, rather my brothers, go M&M go! Keep it up – just keep going…I know both of you have lots to give and on the other side, Jamats have lots to receive.

    Bravo to BOTH of you…Khushiyali Mubarak to you both …It is my sincere prayers that may Mawla shower His best Blessings on you, give you even more courage and inspiration to make unreachable reachable and forever keep both of you in His shelter and give you even more energy and strength to make this most happy and historical event a Unforgettable Celebration … Ameen

  4. Nash H. on said:

    Masha’allah! Masha’allah! Masha’allah!

  5. Shamim Harji Sivani Merrigan on said:

    Happy faces and colourful outfits!

  6. Noordin Babul on said:

    Thank you Simerg for publishing these beautiful pictures by Muslim Harji. Please Muslim continue with your fantastic work; you exhibit incredible skills and ability in your photography!

    Thank you and Ya Ali Madad
    Noordin Babul and family
    “Know Ali, Know Peace; No Ali, No Peace.”

  7. Mehdi Shallwani from Montreal, Quebec, Canada on said:

    IMAM OF THE ATOMIC AGE
    When Imam Sultan Mohamed Shah turned the page
    He willed the new Imam of the modern atomic age
    The line of succession from Imam Ali remained intact
    The Imamate went to Karim, son of Aly, to be exact
    K as he was known while being a Harvard student
    Was diligent, industrious, meticulous and prudent
    In 1957, at the young age of 20, Karim became the new Aga
    Thus began his erstwhile story, a compelling, incredible saga
    At worldwide Takht-Nashinis from Asia to Africa, he was installed
    To be guide and leader to millions of followers, he had been called
    He initiated his job in right earnest, travelling far and wide
    Undertaking projects, meeting people, leaving none aside
    One after another, venture after venture
    This untiring Imam was full of adventure
    He instituted the International Award for Islamic Architecture
    He became the moderate voice for Islam and its culture
    For Civil Society, his campaigns continue forever
    For Economic Development, his efforts lack never
    In the field of Education, he is a glittering star
    As well in matters of Health, he leaves no scar
    In Historic Cities, he pleads the communities to take pride
    Under Focus, for the disenfranchised he takes their side
    Through Microfinance, personal self-help he promotes
    And, with the Silk Road initiative, the Pamir musical notes
    Rural Development – he holds dearly to his heart and in his fist
    Planning and Building is another achievement in the lengthy list
    Lately, undertaking unwavering tasks in Afghanistan
    And daringly facing challenging conditions in Pakistan
    In war-torn Bosnia, under his umbrella came humanitarian aid
    In Central Asia, foundation of the first mountain university was laid
    Whose partners are the Kyrgyz republic, on the one hand
    And Tajikistan and Kazakhstan, on the other hand
    In history, despite the Ayyubid devastation, the Ismailis survived
    Thank God, now Fatimide splendour is once again being revived
    From the waste dump of central Cairo, now blooms the Al-Azhar Park
    Relentlessly, on task after task he continues to embark
    In Kabul, the neglected ancient Babur Gardens stand out
    While with both the powerful and the feeble, he has clout
    In Delhi, the tomb of Emperor Humayun is the newest landmark
    As he steadfastly keeps on imparting the much needed spark
    In the Education sector, he is meticulous, never standing still
    The Academies, Centers of Excellence, are not run of the mill
    From Hyderabad, India to Mombasa, Kenya, his spread is far and wide
    In his diverse endeavours, he brings about one and all on his side
    Another radiating example of his immense deeds is the Baltit Fort
    And not to miss the newly renovated dispensary at Zanzibar port
    Honorary degrees conferred by universities in the east and the west
    In human terms, in practically everything, he is undoubtedly the best
    The exclusive narrative goes on and on without any stop
    From place to place, from continent to continent, he continues to hop
    In countries all over the world, from Malaysia and India to Portugal and Spain
    Whenever he is involved in the development work, the civil societies gain
    Whether being interviewed by Peter Mansbridge in Canada on “Meet the press”
    Or as Chief Guest at Harvard University to make the commencement address
    Frequently in demand, he is continually being sought
    Leader and led, one and all crave for his thought
    Mehdi, in deep humility, writes his verse and takes solace
    Mowla, your presence on this planet is Allah’s Supreme Grace
    Mehdi A. Shallwani

  8. Dolly Bandali on said:

    Lovely photos, so colourful and everyone in a jovial khushiali mood, of course through the lens of a very talented photographer! Thanks Muslim for sharing these and all your travel the globe photos. Thoroughly enjoy watching them. Belated Khushiali Mubarak.

  9. Nato Zaher on said:

    De très belles photos, bravo!!!

  10. Pingback: Montreal’s Beautiful Celebration of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 80th Birthday Through the Lens of Muslim Harji | gulzara

  11. Farida Kinnare on said:

    Beautiful photos of the Khusiyali celebrations in Montreal by Muslim Harji. May Mowla bless us all with good health, happiness and success. Ameen.

  12. Nasim D. on said:

    Ya Ali! These are very nice pictures of a very nice jamat. When the murids are happy, Mawla is happy! He is our raja, our father. The Montreal jamat is now huge and everyone has a big smile! Mashallah, mabrouk!

  13. Wonderful photos, highly evocative of the occasion. Thanks for bringing the celebrations right into our living rooms!

    Regards
    Raghu

  14. Thank you Muslim and Malik Merchant for sharing this article with us. Wow! It was a sheer joy to learn that Murids from Kabul to Montreal share the same loyalty and the wonderful tradition of volunteerism to our beloved Hazar Imam like other jamats of the world. What a Global Jamat! We should really feel proud of this.

  15. Great & lovely photos.

  16. Shiraz Khalfan on said:

    Thank you both Simerg and Muslim Harji for letting us, the rest of Mawla’s diverse Jamat, share the Montreal Celebration. Just look at the “Noor” on every single Montrealer’s face. May Mawla keep us all healthy, happy and united.
    Shiraz Khalfan

  17. Beautiful!

  18. A. Aziz Ismail Dharsi, Clifton, Karachi on said:

    Very nice photos of the celebration in Montreal. Mubaraki to the Montreal jamat and everyone around the world. We love you all!

  19. Shellie W. on said:

    What a memorable occasion and celebration for the global Ismaili Jamat! Beautiful photos of Montreal Jamat by Muslim Harji.

  20. Abdulrahim Rajwani on said:

    Dear Muslim,

    Your photos of Montreal Khusiali celebration are indeed worth looking again and again. Your photos of other occasions and of your travels are also wonderful. May Mawla keep you and your family happy and healthy and grant you success in all your endeavours. Amen.

    Abdulrahim Rajwani.

  21. Rashida Kanji on said:

    Thank you so much Muslim for sharing such beautiful portraits! Salgirah Mubarak! Stay blessed always!

  22. Vali I V Jamal, PhD on said:

    Very nice and mubaraki to all Ismaili brothers and sisters. If I may make some remarks about diversity and unity in our community. What struck me from these excellent photos is how “different” the Montreal jamat is for being composed mostly of people of non-Indian descent as compared to the Khojas of India, Pakistan and East Africa. They look different, dress traditionally and are very affectionate towards each other and to all members of the jamat. It’s quite a different scene in British Columbia!

    I myself am a Ugandan Ismaili. I have lived in Uganda now since 2005. Continuing along the lines of diversity/unity: In Kampala we have two jamatkhanas – the darkhana in Old Kampala and a smaller jamatkhana in up-urban Kololo. People go according to where they live. At the darkhana, 95% of the murids are newcomers from India/Pakistan. (Total Kampala jamat is around 2,500 – 90% newcomers.) The Kololo jamatkhana was until five years ago mostly attended by original Asian Ismailis (the ones who were expelled and have returned – only 250 or so), but now is 67-33 newcomers:originals, so much economic progress the newcomers have made. The Eids at the darkhana are very special, as the new jamat do lots of stalls. Originals just go and sit down waiting for the jaman to be served! Age has something to do with that, as the originals are mostly over 60 years old, compared half that for the new arrivals. I once wrote an article about that darkhana in Simerg’s Jamatkhana series. It is very special to Hazar Imam since one of the coronation ceremonies was performed on its compound in 1957. We are coming to 2017, Diamond Jubilee. Hope there is a big melo on the compound itself.

    His Highness the Aga Khan played a significant role in our (Uganda Asians’) resettlement in Canada (with Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau) at our expulsion in 1972. Prince Sadruddin played an equally heroic role as head of the UNHCR. The government of Uganda recognizes those roles. I have documented all those three roles in my book Uganda Asians, as well as how we settled all over the world and how some returned to Uganda to be joined by a very youthful new jamat. I started writing the book as a magazine for the Golden Jubilee and the Commonwealth Conference that November (2007). It will be out in July 2017 – so ten years in writing, 2120 pages = 1.5 million words!

    • Farhan A. Aziz on said:

      Great to see these lovely photos of merry moments celebrating Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 80th Salgirah in Montreal! Lots of love to Ismailis around the world.

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