By Mike Ghouse
Every child, teen and an adult has someone or the other that he or she looks up to, and wants to-be-like that person and eventually becomes one. A good role model is a key to the success of a civil society. Indeed we have a few good men and women who are great role models for Muslims to look up to.
His Highness Aga Khan is one Muslim figure that is respected around the world for his work in uplifting fellow beings; the very foundational duty of a Muslim. Quran is inundated with verses that always end emphasizing on taking care of fellow beings over everything else. In simple words, a mother or a father would be happier if their kids get along, and they would be even happier if the one doing well were to lift up the other siblings who were not doing well. Similarly God will be most pleased if we take care our fellow beings;his creation.
Indeed, His Highness Aga Khan has pleased God of the Aalameen (of all people) with his work. His work is not limited to one community, but the whole humanity as God wanted and Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had reiterated.
He is an inspiration to me, and among the living pluralists today he is one of the few who has actually taken the steps to build an educational system, the Global Center for Pluralism in Canada to bring about a positive change in the world. Harvard University is another institution that has done extensive research on Pluralism with Diana Eck. And now, God willing, I am looking forward to setting up an Institution to conduct workshops and teach pluralism based on my twenty years of studies of societies, and I welcome all the help I can.
It is our duty to honor and cherish individuals who have dedicated their lives in building bridges between communities. Their pioneering spirit in facilitating communities to know and to respect each other must be appreciated (Quran 49:13).
Through their speeches, actions and writings, I have identified a few men and women who are inherent pluralists such as HH Aga Khan, Pope Francis, Karen Armstrong, Barack Obama, Javed Ahmad Ghamidi, Dalai Lama, Bishop Tutu, Eboo Patel, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Pope Francis and a few others. Thank God, Pluralism runs in my veins, and I hope to work with these great men and women in the coming years to foster Pluralism; i.e., respecting the otherness of others.
On his 77th Birthday, I urge fellow Muslims to work on writing about these men and women, and how their work can last for centuries to come. Aga Khanâ€™s speeches and writings must become a part of social studies in school text books, Islamic social education at Mosques and private schools. He is our role model!
The role of Muslims is to contribute towards the well being of humanity, to be conflict mitigaters and goodwill nurturers. To aim for a secure world for every human. God wants us to live in peace and harmony with his creation; life and matter.
HH Karim Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. He is a direct descendent of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through Prophetâ€™s daughter Hazrat Fatima (ra) and Hazrat Ali (ra), who was the first cousin of Prophet Muhammad, and the first Imam in Shia tradition.
Indeed, Hazrat Ali was the first male to become a Muslim when the Prophet (s) shared his message of oneness of God, accountability of oneâ€™s actions and creating cohesive societies through justice.
Karim Aga Khan was born on December 13, 1936. At the age of 20, he succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan and became the 49th hereditary Imam of the community. He is the living interpreter of Qurâ€™an and provides authoritative guidance on matters of faith to the Ismaili Muslims.
Khushali is a weeklong birthday celebration of HH Aga Khan. The entire Ismaili Muslim community meets in the Jamaat Khana (community center) for the whole week, extolling his work and his service to their community and humanity.
He is one of the rare gems of Islamic scholarship and a Harvard Graduate. He has understood the essence of Islam and articulates it very well. Islam to him is serving and caring for people around you, regardless of their affiliation. A vision put forth by the Prophet, when he said a good deed is like planting a seed, knowing full well, that you may not be the beneficiary of the fruit and shade of the eventual tree in years to come, the Prophet (s) said, that is a good deed, it is leaving a good legacy for the next generation, as we have bequeathed from the previous one.
One of the unique qualities of Aga Khan is his ability to seamlessly blend the spiritual and the material worlds. Prophet Muhammad (s) and Hazrat Ali, both preached moderation, and creating a balance between ascetic living and living for material comforts.
I drop things to read and listen to his speeches, itâ€™s all about pluralism. I urge fellow humans to consider listening to him. His talks encompass the idea embedded in God being the God of the universes, not for the 47% but for the full 100% of his creation. Prophet Muhammad (s) is the mercy to mankind, not just Muslims but the entire 100% of humanity, what he preached was to create cohesive societies, where no human had to live in fear of the other. The only fear he advocated was fear of God for doing wrong to fellow beings.
Aga Khan lives by example to his 15 Million plus followers around the world. The best way to learn about him is his work, the development work to uplift the ones in the ditches, his institution teaches them how to catch the fish and be self supporting. Visit www.akdn.org/
May he live a long life and serve his community, the Muslim community and every one of the 7 billion of humans.
I am pleased to include Dr. Peerwaniâ€™s comment:
Thank you Mike for posting this on His Highness the Aga Khan, a truly remarkable man. The Ismailies, as you are aware, follow the â€œbatiniâ€ path and differ in some of the practices. It is truly sad that they are maligned and rejected by the orthodoxy. As the Arab Spring now moves into its second phase, acceptance of diversity will be the litmus test. Without this, there is no democracy. Let me quote something from the speech of PM Harper of Canada:
â€œYour Highness, there are no superlatives to adequately describe the admiration Canadians have for the work that you and your organizations do in the service of pluralism, peace and development around the world. You truly inspire our own hopes for a better world. We Canadians are rightly proud of the fact that we have built one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse and harmonious societies on earth. This achievement is rooted in our founding values: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.
But itâ€™s also rooted in our unique history and the heroic agreements our founding peoples made to acknowledge and accommodate their diversity. As you yourself have said, youâ€™re Highness, and I quote, â€œWe cannot make the world safe for democracy unless we also make the world safe for diversity.â€ If I may say so, sir, you sound like a Canadian. And in fact, you are. On June 19, 2009, our House of Commons voted unanimously to bestow Honorary Canadian Citizenship on His Highness the Aga Khan. This is, if I may say, a richly deserved honor.â€
(Abstract from the Speech by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Foundation Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre, Toronto, May 10, 2010)
Mike Ghouse is a speaker, thinker and a writer on Pluralism, Interfaith, Islam and building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. His work is all linked up at www.MikeGhouse.net and published in major news papers and magazine including his blog – www.TheGhouseDiary.com