Saturday, July 12, 2014

Khushali Mubarak - A celebration of 57 years of Imamat (religious leadership) of His Highness, the Aga Khan.

Khushali Mubarak | Historic Iftar by Mayor Rawlings and Rupanis

HH Aga Khan is ceremoniously addressed as, “Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan” by the Ismaili Muslims around the world.  The Imamat was passed on to him by his Grandfather Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III on July 11, 1957.  HH Aga Khan is the 49th Imam of the religious office of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim Community, also known as Ismaili Muslims.   Per the Ismaili Muslim tradition, HH Aga Khan, is a direct lineal descendent of Prophet (pbuh) through Hazrat Ali (RA) and Hazrat Fatima (RA).

As a Muslim Pluralist myself, I have come to admire HH Aga Khan for reviving  a few of the core values of Islam; Pluralism,  and the 2nd most important value called - Huqooqul Ibad -  the obligatory duties to fellow beings.

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Hazrat Ali (ra) had continuously advocated living in moderation; it’s a mid path between the worldly and spiritual needs. The Aga Khan has fine tuned that balance between material and spiritual life.

He performs his religious duties by interpreting Qur'an to his 15 million plus followers spread out across the world, fulfilling his role as the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslim community.

In his speech to the Parliament of Canada on February 27, 2014, he explains the Shia-Sunni and Ismaili tradition, The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet. But let me clarify something more about the history of that role, in both the Sunni and Shia interpretations of the Muslim faith. The Sunni position is that the Prophet nominated no successor, and that spiritual-moral authority belongs to those who are learned in matters of religious law. As a result, there are many Sunni imams in a given time and place. But others believed that the Prophet had designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up — but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet. “
On the other hand he is guiding the community to prosperity and living a responsible life in the societies they live.

He founded the Aga Khan Development Network that is committed to serving the humanity without regard to faith, origin or gender. I believe AKDN is one of the largest Non Governmental bodies serving humanity to learn to stand on their own feet.

Every child, teen and an adult has someone he or she looks up to, and wants to-be-like that person and eventually becomes one.  Good role models are a key to the success of a civil society, and indeed, HH Aga Khan is a great role model for Muslims to look up to.

In gratitude for his continued guidance, the Ismaili Muslims celebrate this week honoring him and reaffirming his leadership with a renewed commitment to serving the humanity.


Islam is about restoring and sustaining the harmony within an individual and with what surrounds him; life and environment. From the very first sentence of the first chapter, and the last chapter and throughout Qur'an, God is “
Sustainer of all the worlds” (1:2) and “Cherisher of Mankind” (114:1) – The message is universal and inclusive of humanity and not a particular group of people.

At present, he is one of the few Muslims in the world who has truly understood the pluralistic message of Quran.  He firmly believes in pluralism and has opened an institution to propagate those ideals. Please visit the Global Center for
Pluralism in Canada.  At the Foundation for Pluralism, we have crystallized the definition of pluralism as “Respecting the otherness of others” based on many verses from Qur'an, but particularly verse 109:6 translation by Yusuf Ali, “To you be your Way, and to me mine.”

Aga Khan delivered the following statement at the Inauguration Ceremony of Aga Khan University in Karachi on November 11, 1985,
"The divine intellect Aql-i Kull, both transcends and informs the human intellect. It is this intellect which enables man to strive towards two aims dedicated by the Faith: that he should reflect upon the environment Allah has given and that he should know himself. It is the light of intellect which distinguishes the complete human being from the human animal and developing that intellect requires free enquiry. The man of Faith who fails to pursue intellectual search is likely to have only a limited comprehension of Allah’s creation. Indeed, it is man’s intellect that enables him to expand his vision of that creation.”

Huqooqul Ibad | Caring for fellow beings

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had said the best among you is the one who sees to it that his neighbor is fed and cared for. Imam Hazrat Ali (ra), the 4th rightly guided Caliph after Prophet Muhammad in providing the leadership to the Muslim community says, "The best man is he who is most serviceable to fellow humans."
There are over 18 verses in Qur'an where God consistently talks about taking care of fellow humans. Indeed the Prophet (pbuh) expressed it in so many different ways to high light the duty to fellow beings. He he said, that an irreligious guy who takes care of his neighbor earns God's grace over a guy who is relentlessly praying.  

Ismaili Muslims participate and contribute in building relationships

Indeed, the beneficence of Aga Khan’s Pluralism discourse can be witnessed everywhere in the world including in Dallas, Texas. 

Arman Rupani and his father Mr. Amir Ali Rupani, a respected philanthropist of Dallas, set in motion a historic event;  Iftar Dinner with  Hon. Mayor Mike Rawlings of City of Dallas. This is the first public Iftar event in Dallas area hosted by the City for its Muslim residents. 

Mayor Rawlings, Arman Rupani, Amir Rupani, Dy Mayor Pro Tem Alonzo
Click to see larger version of the picture | Photo courtesy -

The Mayor delivered an amazing key note address; he was all for building relations with each community in the City. He said, there are about 120,000 Muslims in the area and around 40,000 of them reside in the City of Dallas. He was excited to initiate this tradition and expects it to continue every year.  By the way, his praise for Arman was touching, and the words he had for Amir Rupani for raising a public service son made every one pause and praise this father son duo.  

Thanks to Arman Rupani, Amir Ali Rupani and Akram Syed for co-hosting the event, and building relationships between the Mayor’s office and the Muslims of Dallas.

The honored guests included;
Mayor Mike Rawlings of Dallas, Deputy Mayor Pro Tem Monica R. Alonzo of Dallas, former Mayor Dr. Arjumad Hashmi of Paris, Texas, Council Member Dr. Shahid Shafi of South Lake and most of the Imams of Shia and Sunni traditions,  and some of the most active Muslims of Dallas Fort Worth.

Purpose of Religion

The purpose of every religion and the work of every prophet, messenger or peacemaker was to build cohesive societies, where no human had to live in apprehension or fear of the other. Indeed the ultimate goal of Islam as I understand is to bring harmony and peace to the societies achieved by knowing each other and building relationships.
Indeed God has created us into different tribes, communities and nations (Quran 49:13). It was indeed his choice to create each one of us to be unique with our own thumbprint, eye print, DNA, color and taste buds. Yet, the whole creation was put together in perfect balance and harmony (Q55:7); Planets and plants were programmed to operate with precision (Q55:5) year after year, and humans were given the free will with a responsibility to maintain that balance for their own good or perish like the earlier species through climate changes or conflicts.
God knew such diversity is bound to create conflict and mess up the delicate balance, so he encourages us in the same verse 49:13, that the best among you are the ones who know each other. Indeed, knowledge leads to understanding and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of the God given uniqueness of each one of us, and with that conflicts fade and solutions emerge.
One shining example that stands out is His Highness Aga Khan, who has struck a perfect balance between the life here, and life hereafter.We wish a very happy Imamat day and Khushali to the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and blessing of long life to the Hazar Imam HH Karim Aga Khan. Amen!

This writer was a former commissioner at City of Carrollton.
Ramadan Related Articles:

American Muslim Agenda-I at Huffington Post: 

American Muslim Agenda-II at World Muslim Congress:

Ramadan’s Pluralism Message at Ramadan Exclusive:

Ramadan’s spiritual Discipline at faith Street:
Mike Ghouse is a
speaker, thinker and a writer on pluralism,Peace, Islam, Israel, India, interfaith, cohesive work place. He is committed to building a Cohesive America and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day at and 

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 4th Celebrations, Muslims and Ramadan. American Muslim Agenda, a new beginning for Muslim Americans

Let this 4th day of July 2014 be a historic beginning for Muslim Americans. of you may not know this, but upon Declaration of our Independence on July 4, 1776, two of the first three heads of states who recognized the sovereignty of the United States were Muslim.

Despite a few, who have painted Muslims in a negative light for their own gains; Muslims have always been well wishers of America and will continue to do that. The Journey began with the birth of our nation, and I am pleased to make a recommendation to my fellow Muslims to take this relationship further deeper.
What will I do on July 4th? 2nd of 3 articles on American Muslim Agenda
( to be published at )


Let this 4th day of July 2014 be a historic beginning for Muslim Americans
It is time for Muslims to set their agenda, and develop short and long term plans. We have to debate, discuss and work on developing a final agenda that is good for the Muslims and good for fellow Americans. Here is a 3 part series of initiating such agenda. 
In the first part of the series at Huffington Post, we shared;
1. What does it take to be the Amins “trust keepers” of our society?
2. Why should we stand up for the rights of others? 
3. No American should live in apprehension or fear of the other.
It is at - 
Now, we will address the need for engagement with the society, July 4th, and the others celebrations and commemorations.
July 4th and Muslims
Many of you may not know this, but upon Declaration of our Independence on July 4, 1776, two of the first three heads of states who recognized the sovereignty of the United States were Muslim. 
Morocco was the first state and signed the Moroccan-American Treaty of Friendship; first of its kind. Friesland, one of the seven United Provinces of the Dutch Republic was the next, and Tippu Sultan, the King of Mysore State (India) was the third. According to Dr. Range Gowda, Tippu Sultan’s historiographer, the congratulatory letter to America is preserved in a French Library.
Despite a few, who have painted Muslims in a negative light for their own gains; Muslims have always been well wishers of America and will continue to do that. The Journey began with the birth of our nation, and I am pleased to make a recommendation to my fellow Muslims to take this relationship further deeper.
Muslim Americans reaching out to every American.
Let’s take a conservative number of 3, 150,000 Muslims in America, even though a 6-7 millions figure is thrown without any substantiation. This number is roughly 1% of the American Population – one out of 100 Americans is a Muslim.
If each Muslim sends 100 invitations to fellow Americans to join him or her for a grilled Hot Dog, Hamburger or Barbeque at the backyard, public park or a Mosque parking lot with appropriate permissions, about five to seven neighbors may show up, and it may not cost more than $25.00 to serve them. If this is done consistently, in about 10 years, most of Americans would know each other as fellow celebrators of the festivity together. This is not the responsibility of Muslims alone; all of us have to learn about each other to be good neighbors.
Do you know what Quran says about it? In 49:13 God says, he has created mankind into many tribes, communities, nations and people, and he fully understands that conflicts are bound to happen with such diversity, and then he says, the best ones among you are the ones who get to know each other. Indeed, knowledge leads to understanding, and understanding to acceptance and appreciation of the other and when that happens, conflicts fade and solutions emerge. This is how we create safe societies for our children.
Caution: No matter how tempting it is to flaunt your religiosity, religion is your personal belief. Please do not discuss religion and politics with your guests. it will ruin the relationship – get to know your neighbors as folks with common interests. No matter how smart you are, the moment you suggest your religion is superior in any form shape or innuendos; you will be causing conflict off the bat, and that is not friendship. You don’t tell your friend that your wife is more beautiful than his or your husband is more handsome than her husband.
Be a caring neighbor and be there for them in their celebrations, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, funerals and other commemorations, after all they are your neighbors. 
This is the month of Ramadan, and celebration of July 4th should be a joy while fasting, indeed your personal faith becomes stronger when you let your will power gain control over temptations, fasting is not about being hungry, it is about the sacrifice you make for the sake of God and the common Good. More about it at
This Ramadan, you do not have the time to send the invitations, but have the time knock on ten doors on your street and invite people to hot dogs at your place. Do the invitations next year.
Happy July 4th – if you are driving, carry a lot of water bottles and stop and share some with the stranded ones on the road. What Muslims need most is a lot of Goodwill.
What does engagement mean to Muslims?
It simply means you are invited to your neighbor’s birthday party, Mayor’s inauguration, a political rally of the party you belong to, an interfaith prayer, neighborhood watch meeting, a town hall meeting, celebration of Independence Day, veterans’ day parade, Christmas party, Passover gathering, Diwali, Chinese New year, (Iftar parties) and other community based activities.
If you are not invited, it is not because you are a Hindu, Muslim, Chinese, African American, Arab, Latino, or the other, but precisely because no one knows about you. You have never been a part of any group, other than your own.
Over the years, I have watched with admiration the efforts made by the City and community service organizations to reach out and include all minorities, but sadly, a handful of us respond to it, it’s not only Muslims, the story is same with all minorities.
A few will make an effort and serve on a committee, but drop out quickly because they did not see the fruit on the very same day they planted the seed. Everything takes time, nurturing and development of relationships. The sense of belonging it generates is priceless. You feel confident of your being and your place in the society.
Each one of us rises from the basic level of taking care of the needs of our families to self-fulfillment. We want to give it back to the community and we want to volunteer. Indeed we can contribute towards the overall betterment of the community we live in by engaging with the people.
The power of engagement.
On the individual level, I have been able to diffuse many possible conflicts simply by engaging with people. One such example happened in 2007, there was a rumor that Muslims in France have pushed the Government to ban Holocaust Studies, this rumor was designed to humiliate Muslims. Thanks to Maria Arita at Fox News, she called me up to find out my take. What did I do? I asked her to give me three hours and called my friend late Elliot Dlin, director of Dallas Holocaust Museum, he verified that to be untrue and thanks to Maria, the rumor stopped right there.
On a national level, engaging with Sean Hannity at Fox News has produced significant results for the common good of America, and Muslims. If someone knows you, and you have earned his or her respect over a period of time, going through the full cycle of humiliation, acceptance and appreciation, then he accommodates you.
Thanks to Sean Hannity, he has clarified his position time and again with me that he is not against Muslims or Islam, but against the radical elements. That he will consciously use the term ‘Radicals among Muslim’ instead of ‘Radical Muslims’ was a significant rational improvement and I am glad to be an instrument in that development. I was advised against engaging with Hannity and have been screamed at and ridiculed as well, it would have been easy for me to run from the double edged sword, but I chose to stick with it, as I believe in engagement has its own miracles of mitigating conflicts and nurturing goodwill. Mahatma Gandhi had suggested if you want to see good beneficial changes in the society, be a part of it. More about Hannity at:
On the flip side of the engagement, Huffington Post stands out as a great example of active engagement. No other newspaper had bothered to deal with the minorities, as the coverage was not profitable for them. Huffpost paved the way; they believed that engagement with different Americans was necessary in moving the nation forward. What is good for America eventually became good for them. Today, I am glad to be a part of Huffington Post’s guest writers, and I am glad it is a profitable business.
Engagement works both ways. are innumerable situations where getting engaged with the “other” causes the “other” to join and become “together’, and together as Americans we can achieve a lot, one among them is freedom from tensions about each other.

In the next installment, we will be talking about Engagement, Pluralism, Volunteerism and participation. 
Mike Ghouse is a Muslim speaker, thinker and a writer, and presides over the World Muslim congress, a think tank, and a forum with the express goals of nurturing pluralistic values embedded in Islam to build cohesive societies.

American Muslim Agenda, a new beginning for Muslim Americans on this 4th day of July

American Muslim Agenda, a new beginning for Muslim Americans on this 4th day of July - 1 of 3
Let this 4th day of July 2014 be a historic beginning for American Muslims, where they will put together a clear agenda to participate and contribute towards the well being of America.

God created an integrated and interconnected world in harmony and balance, and all he wants from us is to maintain that balance. That is simply the God’s will.
The World Muslim Congress, a twelve year old think tank, has worked on presenting an “initial agenda” for Muslims in America based on Quran and Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) guidance. We hope this will spur debates, followed by discussions and emergence of a Muslim agenda within the framework of American Agenda.
Due to the length of the plan, it is presented in 3 installments.