Tuesday, 1 March 2016


The Aga Khan and his family celebrating 50 years of being Imam to the Ismailies of world.

When our son was a baby, I'd make up songs to entertain him. There's an Ismaili nursery rhyme called  I-S-M-A-I-L-I which I based our nursery rhyme on.  This is how the Ismaili jingle goes;

I - Ismailies we are
S - Shias we are
M- Muslims we are
A - Affectionate we are
I - Imami we are
L - Loyal we are
I - Ismailies we are


And here's the one I made up for Kahzmir, based on the Ismaili one;

K - Kahzmir you are
A- Affectionate you are
H - Happy you are
Z - Zum zum you are (don't ask!)
M - Muslim you are
I - Ismaili you are
R - Rawr Rawr you are

I was having a hard time finding a focus for this blog, till I remembered this little jingle!

A Shia Ismaili Muslim is what I am and what my family has been for generations. I was born into it and had no choice in the matter and my son was born into it and he had no choice in the matter either. But I would have it no other way. Being Ismaili gives me roots, it gives me community, it gives me peace of mind, it gives me direction and hope, it reminds me to have empathy, it makes me want to be a better person and it gives me a religion I love to the core of my being.

This link gives a great description of who Ismailies are; http://www.theismaili.org/community.

As Ismailies in India, my ancestors were converted from Hinduism by missionaries who had travelled from Iran.

Ismailies are Muslim and Islam is our religion; we believe in one God, the same God as everyone else, only we call Him, Allah. We believe in Prophet Muhammed as the last prophet and we believe in the Quran. The reason for much conflict in the Islamic world starts after Prophet Muhammed died. The camp that I'm from, the Shia camp believes he left a hereditary successor, the Sunni camp does not. That hereditary successor was someone called Ali, the prophet's cousin and son-in-law. Many centuries and splits later, the Ismailies are a community spread around world with the direct descendant of Ali as our guide. He is the 49th Imam (Ali was the 1st) and his name is Karim, his full name with all his titles is, His Highness Prince Shah Karim Al Husseini and we very affectionately call him, Hazar Imam which translates to Present Imam.

Calligraphy: Symbollizing Ali, the first Imam of the Ismailies.

His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Ismailies
Being Ismaili, starts with the bayat (just like you get christened into Christianity, you receive bayat to become an Ismaili) where you symbolically give your allegiance to Allah. I had my bayat when I was about a month old in Arusha. It wasn't a big affair. My dad's cousin, Zubeda Nanji (nee Rajan) handed me over to the Mukhianima (the female leader of the mosque - Nurbanu Abdul Tharani) behind the paat (low table) who held me in her arms, performed the ceremony which involved prayers and blessings and a teaspoon of holy water (nyaaz). And poof, just like that I became Ismaili!

My son Kahzmir had his bayat on April 1, 2006. He was just over two weeks old. It was a much bigger affair. Although the bayat ceremony remains much the same, the event is more celebratory with more people. The Mukhi, Naguib Premji (interesting how mine in 1966 was performed by the Mukhianima and now it's always, the Mukhi who performs the ceremony) held my baby, prayed over him, blessed him and gave him that teeny bit of holy water.  And just like his mum before him, my son became Ismaili.

We celebrate the Muslim holy days of Idd, but we also celebrate specific Ismaili holy days;

Imamat Day Khushali - July 11th

Karim Al-Husseini became Aga Khan IV and the new Imam after his grandfather died in on July 11, 1957. We celebrate that day each year with prayers and fanfare.  Next year, he will have been Imam for 60 years and we will celebrate his Diamond Jubilee.

Khushalis in Toronto are celebrated as a fair with food, activities and dancing at a spot where all Ismailies in Toronto and nearby cities can come together. It's a day to meet Ismaili friends and family you haven't seen in a while. It's huge and you never know who you're going to bump into!

Khushalis in Nairobi were amazing. They were outdoors with a funfair on the cricket grounds at Parklands jamatkhana. It was like a mini CNE, with a lucky dip booth, candy floss, a band and one year I remember we had a jail where you paid for people to get dunked! An evening before Khushali there would be dandia/raas (dancing in circles turning circles and dancing with sticks!) and the band that played was the best band ever! Here's a song that will take you right back to the Parklands pavillion to Boflo's, Ankuli's and Bhinda's band!


Salegrah Khushali - December 13th

This is the Aga Khan's birthday. He will be 80 this year. He has been doing this since he was 21 and he is nowhere near stopping. In fact the projects that he takes on have gotten bigger and of great impact.

The Aga Museum & Park and the Ismaili Centre in Toronto are just one little example of his big vision and making the world a better and more united place.

Thank you for sharing Day 11 of 50 with me!


  1. "My flag is red and green..." Loved those nursery songs!

  2. Minaz I thought you would post our family photo in this post.Remember the one we took outside your house just before going for The Golden Jubilee celebrations.However I still love this post.Just loved listening to the nursery songs!

  3. I remember those nursery rhymes too!

  4. Would be interesting to know where Boflo, Ankuli and Bhinda are