All posts by Abdulaziz Kassam

Ismailism: Where Money Matters

Money plays a very important role in the Ismaili community. If money can be extracted under any guise, you can trust the Ismaili leadership to find that way and implement it in the jamaat. For instance, when it was realized that a vast majority of people who cannot aford majlis memberships, and therefore they do not contribute to memhmani given in those majalis by members, a free majlis was invented, called chaand raat ki majlis. More on this later in this article which is an eyewitness account of the Ismaili religious practices and rituals conducted secretly inside the Ismaili Jamatkhana.

A community of traders finds it easy to understand the simple logic of buying and selling. You want your dead relatives to be fed? No problem, it can be done. Just bring food to Jamat Khana and the mukhi or the kamadia (honorary congregational leaders representing the Imam – selected for a term of 2-3 years) bless it and then the food is auctioned off to the highest bidder in naandi and the proceeds end up in Aga Khan’s coffers. The rich buyer of the naandi enjoys a meal from what is referred to as “The Imam’s Restaurant” without having bothered himself or the Imam for the cooking.

Nobody asks why is it that in the Imam’s Darbar, where the departed Ismaili souls go, is there no food?

What happens to those wretched souls whose family members remember them only once a year on their anniversary? How do those souls get fed? What happens to the Ismailis who died so long ago that no one remembers them and no food offerings are sent on their behalf? Do they suffer with pangs of hunger for the rest of the days through eternity?

Aga Khan collects 10% of monthly income from his Ismaili followers for being an Imam, which is his primary responsibility. He also collects an additional 2.5% for being a pir, but he doesn’t seem to do any work of dawah (propogation of religion) which pirs historically used to do. Some adherents also offer “pir ji sani” (The Plate for the Pir) as mehmani in the Jamatkhana which again gets auctioned off in naandi. Offerings for the pir, like other food offerings, are also sold to the highest bidder among the group of Ismaili bidders in the Jamatkhana after daily prayers.

Seemingly, the Imam has a separate stomach for hi sown food offerings as there is also an auction (naandi) called awal sufro (premium banquet) which is for the Imam’s benefit. Awal sufro is an auction held in the main prayer hall open to the whole congregation – there is visible competition during the bidding and so is an opportunity for showing off one’s wealth and how much of it is one willing to spend in the name of piety.

Dua Karawi and Forgiveness of Sins

Whenever one enters a Jamatkhana, the first people who one encounters are the money changers – seated near the entrance. The entrant gets some change and then dutifully walks to the leaders who are sat right in the front of the hall so that everyone notices who goes to those leaders and does dua karawi (paid supplications for special services). One hands out some coins – a note if you are well-provided and utters man murad (whatsoever your heart desires), and the leader says slowly if the amount is reasonable or quickly if the amount is small: “Hazar Imam aanji man murad qabool kare” (Hazar Imam or Aga Khan grants to you, whatever your heart desires).

One gives more money and utters “mushkil aasaan“, and the leader accepts cheerfully and says: Hazar Imam aanji mushkil aasaan kare” (Hazar Imam ease all your difficulties).

You remember your dead and so hand over more money and say “ruhani” and the leader takes the donation with serious mode and says: “Hazar Imam ruhani ke asal mein vasal kar” (Hazar imam make the hereafter safe for the deceased).

You are not done yet for you remember you are a sinner and so give some more an utter “gunah bakshamani” and the leader accepts with a smile and looking right into your eyes and says: “Hazar Imam aanja gunah maaaf kare” (Hazar Imam forgives your sins).

But then during the course of the evening you stand with the rest of the congregation and make supplications for various things which include forgiveness of sins, easing every Ismaili’s difficulties, long-life blessings in every Ismailis wealth, progeny and also prayers for the departed.

On Friday and chaand raat (new moon), everyone queues up to partake of niyaaz and sukreet (water and a sweet blessed by the Imam) for one’s purification and you guessed it – there is a plate for you to make a contribution for people around to see so one tries to donate as much as one can afford.

On the new moon night and various other congregations there is chaanta ceremoney (sprikling of holy water) whereby one’s sins are forgiven – and again one pays and audibly recites the formula that one is a sinner and may the imam and the community forgive one’s sins.

Ladder of Piety: Majlis Memberships and Titles

Then the Imam has a ladder of piety – consisting of several steps – which one rises on, again, by paying membership. In these gathering the process of dua karawi, sufro, chhanta and mehmani are repeated and more money is collected.

One such gathering is referred to as paanch baara saal meaning service to the Imam for 5 or 12 years. The admission to that gathering has to be purchased. If you actually serve those number of years, you get nothing.

Then there is membership to a majlis called life dedication, to which entry is also by financial contribution. If any individual served a long time then such individual might be gradgingly given a title like Huzur Mukhi.

However, if one makes a large donation, one is given the title of vizier and if a vizier makes a further very large donation, he becomes a Count.

These title holders get the privilege of sitting along the mukhi and the kamadia – the two representatives to the Imam. The result is that the rest of the congregation, who forever envied those who sat in front of them, actually bowed to them in their prayers. The leaders were prevented from bowing to those facing them because there are tabls in front of them.

The competition got so intense that there was no space for the viziers to be accommodated and they ended up with the rest of the adherents who faced the Counts and Presidents of various Councils and bowed to them.

The “new” Majlis of Chaandraat

But the best part was when the chaandraat majlis was instituted. I heard a farman (royal decree recited in front of the Ismaili jamaat) from Hazar Imam that previously such majlis did not exist anywhere and Sultan Mohamed Shah started this scheme. It was to prepare for the time when dasond (tithe) would be abolished. So while everyone was required to pay dasond, they would also take out an insurance and pay for joining the scheme and prepare for the time tithe would be abolished which of course being the biggest money make, Hazar Imam never intended to abolish and the scheme continues under the new imam – Aga Khan IV.

In mubarak majlis (The Gathering of the Blessed), one undertakes to pay 25% of the income including 25% of the value of gifts one receives.

The leaders bless you on behalf of the Imam who, according to the daily dua, has knowledge and authority over everything.

Presumably Aga Khan has under his command some beings who carry out his bidding. Whether it is decreasing your difficulty, increasing your life span or income, or bringing peace and harmony to your life. If it does not happen, then surely your faith was not strong so next time you give more and trust more in the Imam to reward you. Presumably the dead gets nourishment too.

One wonders whether the imam or the pir‘s appetite is ever satiated as these practices are repeated in every jamatkhana in every part of the globe. No one dares to ask where did the Imam get his “authority and power”. He certainly did not get it from the Prophet (pbuh) because the Prophet (pbuh) did not have such abilities. Moreover, the Prophet (pbuh) always said that he wanted no reward for conveying the message.

Analyzing Evidence for mehmani from the Quran

Indeed every Prophet said: “O my people! I ask of you no wealth for it, my reward is from none but Allah”.

Some apologists (on such matters you never get anything in writing from the Imam) on behalf of the continuation of such practices suggest that it is provided in the Quran that whenever people visited the Prophet (pbuh), they were asked to pay him.

So asking mukhi saheb to give blessings is like asking the Imam who stands in the shoes of the Prophet (pbuh) so it is proper that there should be a payment.

Really? Is that so?

Presumably the relevant Quranic verse if 12:58 where it says:

O believers! When you consult the Messenger privately, give something in charity before your consultation. That is better and purer for you. But if you lack the means, then Allah is truly All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.

al-Quran 58:12

Is it not strange that the above verse says absolutely nothing about payment to the Prophet (pbuh)? Is tells for payment to be given in charity and elsewhere in the Quran, those who are included among the deserving charity are specified and the Prophet is not included in the list of those deserving charity. Also the payment is not due from the poor but the Ismaili leadership conveniently skips publicizing that fact.

Again, the verse refers to a private consultation. It does not come into play for asking for blessings of Allah (swt) for the afflicted. It would be a duty imposed upon every Muslim to give support and ask for Allah’s help in times of adversity and that help would be given and prayers would be made by a believer as a means of earning reward for himself or free, but… no for the Imam himself – he needs a fee for asking for Allah’s help for his followers.

Let us consider the verse 58:12 a little further.

In the kingdom of Allah, all instruction and consultation is open and free. But human nature is weak, and people want special instruction or private consultation with the Prophet from one of the several motives:

  • They may actually, or they may think they have a special case which they are not willing to disclose to their brethren.
  • They may some sense of delicacy or dignity, which can only be satisfied with a private interview.
  • They may even have been selfish enough to want to monopolize the Prophet’s time.
  • They may even want to give the impression that they are superior to their fellow Muslims in that they enjoy a special relationship with him.

These motives are worth discouraging. Yet such persons cannot be shut out if an audience is going to help improve their condition. It makdes sense therefore, that they spendsomething in charity for the good of their bretheren before they indulge in such weaknesses.

But the “special charity” is not made obligatory, lest less fortunate persons should be shut out altogether from receiving beneficial advice. For them, the merciful and an indulgent lord offers free consultation. But the poor normally do not have big egos. Most of them are humble and they woul dnot wish to impose on the leader.

It is an established practice for the Ismailis that whenever they enter the jamat khana, they all dutifully walk to the mukhi saheb and pay their dues. But is it really the case that they are all so ungrateful? Has life dealt such a bad deal that they have to have special prayers for them every time they go to jamat khana? How about those who are blessed in life to simply take their seat and thank Allah for having blessed them without making a payment.

When you do this you will please Allah for being patient and content and grateful to Allah (swt).

Also, all those poor brethren of yours, who can ill afford to pay – they can happily take their seats without feeling awkward or being embarrassed?

And of course, there is nothing to stop one from spending in the path of Allah (swt) in private not to be seen by the whole jamaat but be seen by the Omnipotent Allah (swt) alone.

In recent years, using the energy and need among the young “to be seen and to see”, there is the visible found raising for the Aga Khan Partnership Walk. Then there is collection for Aga Khan Foundation which used to boast low administrative cost until it’s transparency issues were highlighted by the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA), though one would be hard put to find the charitable projects for which the collections are used.

Then there are schools and a couple of hospitals and a university – which were all built with extra donations and were for the benefit of the community which – as fate would have it – has not much use because Aga Khan Hospital has proved to be the most expensive hospitals in the cities it is present. Just like the hospital, all services have to be paid for and so these are all for profit institutions for the Imam.

“None so blind as those that will not see.”

Are Ismailis Muslims?

Are Ismailis Muslims Cover

Some say that anyone who testifies – says the kalimah ‘lā ilāha illā -llāh, muḥammadur rasūlu -llāh (There is none worthy of obedience and worship except Allāh and Muhammad is the final Messenger of Allāh), makes them a Muslim and we have no right to question that.

Sincerity, however, is subject to proof.

First of all, Islam is the religion prescribed by Allāh for the whole of mankind. That means, it is to be accessible to all. That is why there is no part of a masjid where secret rituals are performed and from which any Muslim is excluded. Even non-Muslims are able to attend and observe. Ismailis, on the other hand, have a closed-door policy. Even within themselves –  several separate gatherings (majalis) are held from which other Ismailis, who are disqualified and excluded from attending on the grounds that they have not paid the requisite fee for attending that particular majlis.

Outsiders may reserve judgment on the grounds that they do not know enough about Ismāʿīlism because of that ‘closed-door’ policy. Those constraints, however, cannot apply to those who have knowledge of Ismāʿīlism, as well as Islam.   Allāh chose the name of His deen as Islam; He defined it and called those who follow it – Muslims – in the Qurʾān.

The Prophet (sallallhu alahi wa salam) (peace be upon him) summarized it for us in two clear criteria. On one he said – Imaan (faith) is:

That you affirm your faith in Allāh, His angels, His books, His meeting, His messengers and that you believe in Destiny.

He also said that Islam is based on 5 principles (pillars):

  1. To testify that ‘none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh and that Muhammad is the slave and Messenger of Allāh’
  2. To perform prayers (Salat)
  3. To pay zakat (charity for the poor)
  4. To perform Hajj
  5. To observe saum (fast) in the month of Ramadhan

Does the Ismaili Kalima- where they add a third part “Amirul Momin Ali ul Allāh” (Ali, the Commander of the believers is of Allāh) take them outside Islam? By itself –  No! as other Shias do so, too.

However, their greeting – “Ya Ali Madad”  (‘O Ali help me’) and their supplications to “Ali” and “the Imam” – which they interchangeably use to supplicate to the Aga Khan, prove without a doubt, that they do not subscribe to that part of the Kalimah “that none has the right to be worshipped except Allāh.” Here they contradict themselves too, as they recite in their Holy Du’a, “You alone (Allāh) we worship and from you alone we seek help”!

In one of the Hymn (also called ‘ginans’) recited in the Jamatkhanas, they even sing to the Aga Khan:

“Haq toon, Paak Toon Baadshah” 

  حق توں پاک تون بادشاہ

Translation: “You are the Truth, you are the Holy, O Lord (King)”

These attributes of Truth and Holy ( Haqq and Quddus in Arabic) belong to Allāh and Him alone. However, Ismailis attribute these to Aga Khan.

The Aga Khan, has also the title “Mazhar of Allāh” meaning he is the “Shadow of Allāh” on earth. I leave it to you to decide that how can Allāh, who has no percieveable shape or form, have a light shining upon Him to form a shadow  on this Earth and what proof is there in Aga Khan’s claim that he is that shadow?

As far as salat is concerned, Ismailis try to put a smoke screen saying that their Dua’ is like  Namaaz – salat  by saying that we do sujud and they quote  Surat Al Fatiha, al-Ikhlas and few other verses from the Quran in their Holy Dua.

However, the format of salat has been with us from the Prophet’s (pbuh) times in which Muslims do qiyam, ruku, sujud, recite durud, face the qiblah and these are absent from the Ismaili 3 (instead of 5 daily Muslim) prayers . Incidentally, the way the Ismailis sit, it is not possible even to do a proper sujud.

Ismailis do not pay Zakat.  Instead, the Aga Khan claims Dasond – Tithe – 10 percent of one’s income regardless whether that income is sufficient or insufficient for one’s needs!

In case of Khoja Ismailis, he also claims an additional ‘two and half per cent’ contributions because he has given himself the role of a pir or dai. Then there are those Ismailis who belong to Mubarak Majalis (Gathering of the Blessed) they are required to give 25 percent of all their income, including personal allowance. So for example if the wife elects to join, and the husband who has given 12.5% on his income and gave $ 500 as personal allowance to his wife, she would pay $125 as Dasond and say on Eid or Birthdays children and husband gave Money and clothes ( purchased from monies left after already having paid their 12.5%) amounting to $200, she would be obliged to pay an additional $50!

The actual Islamic Zakat as prescribed by the Quran, is payable on “surplus wealth” i.e. excluding necessities such as home for residing in and a vehicle for transport held for 12 months at 2.5% only which means that poor people are exempted from paying and the monies collected are to be spent on those qualified e.g. poor, widows, etc. as specified in the Qurʾān.

By tradition, the Prophet and members of the household are specifically excluded from receiving any part of Zakat Funds. They were paid from Bayt-ul-Maal from voluntary donations towards building/running of Mosques and communal administration.  It is strange that Aga Khan claims to be from the household of the Prophet and still collects an inflated Zakat, called Dasond.

Hajj is neither compulsory, not encouraged in Ismailism. Instead, Ismailis believe that the glimpse of Aga Khan is equal to that of a Hajj. Every Ismaili should look at the Aga Khan (or perform a deedar) at least once in a lifetime.

Fasting is not obligatory and at times eating (sukhreet) and drinking of holy water – Niyaz which are part of the rituals on Fridays and certain Majalis (congregations  additional to daily religious rituals are performed)  take place during the time of fasting!

So we see from the forgoing that if a litmus test (which the Qurʾān and Hadith) provide is applied, Ismailism fails on several core areas.

There is one further point I would like to make. Allāh completed and perfected the deen of Islam and gave no one the authority to change it.

Interestingly, the late Aga Khan in his memoirs, states:

“What has been my own policy with the followers? Our religion is our religion; you either believe in it or you do not. You can leave a faith but you cannot, if you do not accept its tenets, remain with it and claim to ‘reform it’. You can abandon those tenets, but you cannot try to change them and still protest that you belong to the particular sect that holds them.”

Yet he can change the doctrine, rites and rituals of Islam and still claim to be a Muslim! This is a strange logic and sense of integrity which would befuddle any ordinary mortal! 

To be truthful, logic and rationality are sorely lacking in Ismaili rituals. For example they recite the Salwat: “Allahumma Salli ala Muhammad in wa ale ala Muhammad”  during Jamati supplication (Giriyazari Tasbih). So they beseech Allāh to bestow His peace upon Prophet Muhammad and his progeny (descendents) (followers) but then conclude by saying, “Ya Ali Ya Nur Mowlana Shah Karim Al Husseini tun salwatji tasbih toje hazur pur mein kabool kar” – ( O Ali, O Light of our Lord Shah Karim Al Husseini accept our supplication)!

In my opinion, by the criteria of the Ismaili Imam himself, they disqualify themselves from belonging to the Muslim Ummah.

Cult of the Dead in Ismailism

Cult of the Dead in Ismailism

Introduction

In the anthropology of religion, a funerary cult is a body of religious teaching and practice centered on the dead, in which the living are thought to be able to confer benefits on the dead in the afterlife or to appease their otherwise wrathful ghosts. Rituals were carried on for the benefit of the dead, either by their relatives or by a class of priests appointed and paid to perform the rites.

Death in ʾIslām

In Islam the approach is perhaps the simplest where the ritual and rites are the minimum. Death being entirely in the hands of Allāh, for those who readily surrender to Allāh’s will, there is less grieving. Death serves as a timely reminder of one’s own mortality and the futility of the worldly pursuit and so death in the family becomes a time for more prayers.

The disposal of the cadaver is a very simple and quick operation. If circumstances permit, the burial takes place on the same day with a minimum of fuss. Traditionally at the home of the deceased, recital of the Qurʾān is undertaken. The body prepared for the burial – called the janāzah, is brought to the masjid, the prayer for the dead (ṣalāt al-janāzah) is recited and the body is then transported to the cemetery for the burial. There are no eulogies as in Islam ‘All Praise is for Allāh’ and no man would stand up and praise the deceased no matter how important a position the person held. In fact, since Allāh is regarded as having enabled the person to make the contribution, the occasion is a reason to praise Allāh even more.

Death in Ismāʿīlism

In Ismāʿīlism, some of the rites show similarities with other Muslim rites but the similarities are superficial and are really a smokescreen for Ismāʿīlis to be accepted as a Muslim group. Their belief and inner practices are far from Islamic and in fact, are quite bizarre in some ways. Even the Kalimah –  testament of faith – they recite ignores the Shia part.

1. On the Deathbed

Chhanta # 1 (چھانٹا): Sprinkling of Holy Water on the Face

Firstly, when someone is on his or her deathbed, the mukhi and kamadia (who function as priests in Ismāʿīlism) visit the person and go through a chhanta ceremony (sprinkling of holy water on the face) which supposedly clears the person of all his sins and therefore the person dies in a state of grace and the Day of Judgement becomes a matter of formality only. The paradise for that person is virtually guaranteed – very much like the Catholics.

2. Upon Death

Immediately upon the death of a family member, wheels are put in motion to make the deceased’s hereafter smooth and safe – at a price, of course.

Payment Upon Death

Every person or family is under the Jurisdiction of a particular Jamatkhana. When death takes place in a family, the Mukhi i.e. Chief of the Jamatkhana is immediately required to be informed of the death. This information must accompany with (i) a pair of the best of the clothes of the deceased and (ii) Coffin fees plus the price for a place in the Ismāʿīlī graveyard.

People gather at the home of the deceased to console the bereaved. Salawat is recited (Allahuma salli ala Muhammad wa ala aal-e-Muhammad, meaning Oh Allah send your peace upon Muhammed and upon his progeny).

This salawat is repeated usually 99 times – and concluded by asking the Imam to accept and grant the supplication of the salwat. Oddly enough, the same formula is also adopted in Jamatkhanas duringgiriyazari tasbih. The absurdity of this formula has NOT dawned upon any one in the congregation or the members of the Ismāʿīli Tariqa and Religious Education Board.

Recitation of Salawat

They also attend Jamatkhana where after the normal prayers, again salawat is recited and members of the family are consoled – this is called dilsoji or dilsozi of the deceased’s family. Everyone also makes a monetary contribution to a fund called mehmani which is an offering to the Imām through the mukhi and kamadia in the Jamatkhana on the evening of the funeral which also is considered to help the deceased. These mehmani are in addition to the contributions which are given to various activities. Also, the well-wishers and the members of the family prepare special dishes and take them to the Jamatkhana on the evening of the funeral and which are then auctioned in the Jamatkhana and the proceeds from this auction (called naandi or ناندی) are again collected by the mukhi and the kamadia.

The Ismāʿīlis believe that the benefit of that food reaches the deceased in a physical sense in that the dead receive the food (they take great pains to prepare deceased’s favourite dishes) and all the dead have a feast in the graveyard.

Personal Belongings of the Deceased including Jewellery

Some of the close relatives busy themselves in preparing clothes and jewellery to take to Jamatkhana on the night of the funeral. Traditionally the deceased’s own clothes and personal jewellery, like watches and rings which the members of the family do not wish to retain –  as they reminded them of the deceased and such remembrance was much too painful.

So the Jamatkhana served as a place they could be disposed and distributed among the needy.  No longer does this happen however, as most of the old clothes are distributed separately among the poor or given away. Instead a new regime has started under the mistaken belief that the dead actually receive these and so new clothes and various other household things depending upon what the people might need including pieces of furniture are donated with great enthusiasm and in some cases the things are donated by the family and then purchased back by the family for keepsake , the deceased having had the use of it all in the spiritual world as the items miraculously find their way to the deceased on being donated to the Jamatkhana. But the ritual is really to inject money into the Jamatkhana. It would be easier to just go ahead and pay the money, but this entire process of packing up and bringing the belongings of the deceased to the Jamatkhana, putting them on auction, and buying them back, is followed. The end result of this is that the belongings remain in the household, but money goes from the household to the Jamatkhana.

The system smacks of the ancient Egyptian ritual of putting all the things in the burial chamber which the deceased Pharaoh would need in his afterlife. History tells us that they put everything in their tombs for that reason.

The body of course remains buried in the ground. It decomposes so the soul neither has a mouth nor stomach and consequently cannot possibly be in need of food. And as it has no body – all jewellery and clothes are unnecessary.

3. On the Day of the Funeral

Mahadan jo Chhanto and Payments in the Funeral Services Room

Mahadan means the day of Judgement or Yawm al-Qiyāmah, and therefore Mahadan jo Chhanto is the roughly translated as ‘the sprinkle that prepares you fro the day of Judgement’.

This Chhanta is believed to be very potent and Ismāʿīlis are taught that this absolves one of all the sins of the past, present and future, till the day of judgement. Being so important this chhanta is variable priced, and is purchased by every member of the community. This purchase can be repeated for any number of times. The relatives of the deceased can commit these purchases for their dead relatives repeatedly. The minimum price for these Chhanta Rs. 51.00 at the least but those who can, are encouraged to pay more without any upper limit. Definitely a very cheap bargain to get all of your sins forgiven.

When the dead body is washed and is ready for the coffin, all the relatives collect around the deceased and the nearest relatives gets the sins of the deceased pardoned by the mukhi (chief Ismāʿīli priest) on payment of the required money. The chief priest sprinkles A’ab-e-Shifa on the face of the deceased and all the sins committed during the life span by the deceased, are dissipated away.

Thereafter, other relatives one by one repeat this process and in the end the friends, neighbours repeat this ceremony. Everyone is supposed to pay the prescribed fees in cash on the spot, which broadly implies forgiveness by the family members and the close relatives of all the wrongdoing done to them by the deceased. Thereafter, the mukhi asks for samar – which again, translates into payment of money.

Everyone present pays some money to the mukhi as per his capacity or nearness of relationship to the deceased. This samar is considered the hard currency during the voyage from the grave to the day of Judgement.

Is it not strange that The Prophet from whom the Aga Khan claims to derive his authority is on record saying that the Prophet (pbuh) himself would be called to account for all his actions.  Also, he did not know himself what was in store for him. Moreover, his uncle and favourite daughter Fatima (ra) were told that they should prepare for the aakhira as on the Day of Judgement, he would not be of any help to them.

Yet the Aga Khan not only knows where he is going to be but also what he would be doing i.e. repaying the money he has extracted from all his followers, who look upon him as God personified, by granting them paradise.

Payments after the Burial

In the evening, all the persons who had joined the funeral ceremony, all the ladies and children of the family and the relatives, and all the other persons who were not able to have timely information, gather in the Jamatkhana. Every one carries with him a packet of sweets with him. The family members are supposed to bring very wide and large plates laden with sweets. A special du’a is offered and everybody present is supposed to participate in this du’a for which every individual has to pay in advance certain sum of money.

Food auctions or ‘nandi’ in Jamatkhana

The friends and relatives of the deceased are required to send food offerings and donations to the Jamatkhana. There, all of this food is auctioned in a ceremony called the nandi, where the scene is no less than that of an auction house without seats and with no list of approved bidders. Whoever can afford at that time, can come forward and bid. This food goes to the highest bidder and again the money goes to Aga Khan.

Money Collected at Soyem or on the Third Day of Death

All the ceremonies performed in evening of the first day are repeated, with the only difference that more people collect in the Jamatkhana, more sweets, more payments for the services of the du’a for the deceased for which every individual has to pay separately. All of these sweets collected in the Jamatkhana are not distributed for free. Instead, these sweets are auctioned through Nandi.

All the money collected out of the du’a and nandi auction go to the coffers of the Aga Khan as his private and personal property.

Money Collected on Tenth Day of Death

On the tenth day of the death, a special ceremony is held called Ziarat of Daswee also known as gol dhani, which consists of a special majlis called the Majlis of Daswi. Relatives, neighbours and all the acquaintances are supposed to collect into Jamatkhana to participate in this ceremony. People and relatives come from far and wide and undertake long journey to participate. Family members and relatives must take to Jamatkhana all sort of articles like cooked and uncooked food, drinks, crockery, utensils, clothes, cloth, apparel, drapery, even furniture like dining table sets, sofa sets, lounge furniture, jewellery, ornaments. All the articles that can be gifted to a bride as dowry are supposed to be taken to the Jamatkhana, (it is irrelevant whether the deceased is a child, new born or an old lady in her nineties.)

All the relatives also bring sweets, and each and every person has to pay for the du’a individually. The articles brought and sweets are again auctioned through nandi and all the money collected from the auction of the articles and the services for the du’a go directly into the coffers of Aga Khan as his private and personal property.

It is one of the fundamental tenets in the Ismāʿīli cult that the soul of the deceased dwells and finds a place, or merges with the soul of the Imām Aga Khan – this doctrine is called “asal mein wasil”, which is derived from Greek and Hindu philosophy.

Ruhani Tasbeeh after 40 days and annually

Ruhani Tasbihs made to the mukhi (chief priest in the Jamatkhana) involving payments and again at an auction ceremony of food over the forty days after the death and then every month and then annually until memory recedes and other dead have to be taken care of.

Closing Comments

But every Ismaili should know that it is Allāh who is the Lord of the Day of Judgement not the Aga Khan. And Allāh has made it a condition for every human being that whosoever rejects Him or associates a Partner with Allāh or takes another being or an object whom Allāh has created as an object of worship, they will not be forgiven. They would automatically be disqualified from entry into paradise as they would be excluded from the presence of Allāh.

This condition is there in the Qurʾān. However, if you do not read the book – and Ismailis rather listen to the Farman (decrees) of the Aga Khan, who they refer to as The Speaking Qur’an –  the folly of their ways can never be discovered – and such ignorance suits the leader absolutely.