Jamada al-Awwal 1443, 4th December 2021
In Islam, the month of Jumada al-Awwal is marked by celebrations of several local Muslim saints which reflects on the diverse traditions, practices and customs prevailing in Islam. Islam is not a monolithic interpretation; it is a faith of over 1.5 billion Muslims, manifested in multiple societies and cultures. This pluralism results in widely diverse interpretations and popular views of various religious practices. One such practice is the veneration of holy men and women, which has taken on a special significance in the popular culture of Islam. These individuals are believed to possess blessing (barakah), with the Will of Allah and are often considered saintly. The Arabic word for saint is wali or waliullah, translated as ‘friend of God’. Some other terms used for these saints are Pir, Shaikh or Sayyid.
Another common practice in Muslim cultures is annual celebration by believers, known as Urs or Urs-e-Shareef, (literal meaning: wedding), which means Ascension Day (when the saint’s departed soul meets with the Creator), and which includes various rituals. The concept of Urs also exists in most Sufi orders such as Bulleh Shah, Nizamuddin Auliya, Fariduddin Ganjshakar, Khwaja Ghulam Farid, Naqshbandiyya, Chishtiyya, etc., and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. The devotees refer to their saints as lovers of God, the most beloved.
Prophet Muhammed (peace and blessings be upon him and his family, PBUH) experienced Me’raj (meaning Ascension) in his lifetime as he had ascended to meet the Creator on the Auspicious Night known to our Faith as Shab-i Mi’raj or Isra. This is a solemn Day of Supplication (Du’a) and obligatory Prayers. In some traditions (tariqah), believers also go on pilgrimages to the tomb of their saints to seek barakah and divine intervention through them, from Allah. Many dargah (tombs or shrines) of Shi’a Imams and Sufi Masters are also visited by their believers annually; some believers visit their shrines during times of hardship and at times when they hope to fulfill their personal desire. The underlying notion in these celebrations is that saints are viewed as mediators between their believers and Allah; and a source of guidance and barakah. The Ismaili Muslim tariqah, however, has a living Hazar Imam (Imam-of-the-Time), considered to be the bearer of Nur-e ‘Ali.
Ismaili Muslims do not visit tombs of their past Imams or pirs. They seek the intercession of their current Imam-of-the-Time, Hazar Imam, and receive blessings and barakah from him in the form of farameen, guidance and teachings, and through various types of rituals and ceremonies approved by him, in accordance with the Holy Qur’an and the Sunnah.
The current Imam-of the-Time, Mawlana Hazar Imam (Aga Khan lV), said the following in a speech in Al-Khawabi, Syria, on 9th November 2001, where he explained the notion of diversity of interpretations & practices within the Islamic Ummah, which is bound by the ethics of Islam.
“In Islam, the pluralism of human society is well recognized, and the ethics of its multiple interpretations require that this diversity be accorded respect.”
The Aga Khan reminded his audience that “the Shahada – – (the Muslim profession of faith), La-illaha-Illallah-Muhammadur-Rasullilah – – binds a thousand million people who, over the centuries, have come to live in different cultures, speak different languages, live in different political contexts, and who differentiate in some interpretations of their faith. Within the Ummah, the Ismaili Jamat reflects much of the same pluralism. The plurality of the Muslim world” he stressed, “is not just an irreversible historical fact, but it is a strength for which we must be grateful, and a strength that must be continuously harnessed to the building of the future within the ethics of Islam. Any differences must be resolved through tolerance, through understanding, through compassion, through dialogue, through forgiveness, through generosity, all of which represent the ethics of Islam.” (November 9, 2001, Al-Khawabi, Syria)