Ismaili Students Participate In Spritual Deedar


Pouring in, the crowd of over 10,000 people from all over Central and Southwestern U.S., ripped off their shoes and swarmed into the small hall from all angles. Sitting down, all eyes turned to the front, where a single chair had been set on a small stage. As more and more people came in, the swarm turned into a gentle river, the long wait then slowly turning into minutes of anticipation. The crowd, which was filled with the sound of relatives meeting relatives, and parents scolding children, became deathly quiet as the choir of 10,000 people praying together echoed across the hall.  Tears of joy filled the room as the 49th Hereditary Iman of the Shia Imami Ismaili Nizari Muslims, Mawlana Hazar Imam, walked into the room to bless his followers after ten years.

The spiritual leader, His Highness the Aga Khan, gives guidance to the Ismailis all around the world, spiritually and physically. His developmental institutions help Ismailis improve their quality of life all over the world and his speeches, which contained his blessings to his children and community, voice his urge for his followers to stay moral. However, these speeches are only given at deedars, or the times when an Imam visits his followers, which are very rare occasions. In the last 18 years, the Imam had only visited the U.S. three times. As a result, when His Highness announced his visit in March, many students missed school throughout the week of March 19 through March 22 to attend this mulaqaat, or meeting.

“It’s been 10 years since we saw him and everyone was kind of anxious and antsy,” Mishal Karadia ‘20 said. “It was just a really happy occasion. He gave us lots of blessings and just kind of filled everyone’s hearts. Our hearts were so open to him after seeing him again after all this time, it only felt like he was there for 15 minutes and it went by way too soon. Seeing him for all of his jubilees, I think, means a lot to us because he just does so much for us and there’s no way that we could ever repay him for that. We’re all just so thankful and we just love him so much that’s kind of like a direct connection to God, but through him.”

Even prior to this deedar, Ismailis had been celebrating the 60 years of His Highness’s guidance through the celebration of his Diamond Jubilee, which began last July. The past year of celebration was also filled with reflection for many young Ismailis, who would now be old enough to fully comprehend the immensity behind his visit. Through presentations and deep conversations with other religious leaders and parents, students hoped to prepare themselves for the visit and the emotions that they would feel when he arrived.

“Before, it didn’t really hit me, and I didn’t really know what was going to happen, and I just sat down at the hall and it just all hit me,” Sara Ali ‘20 said. “I’ve been following this guy for my whole life, and today, I can finally see him and I’ll actually remember more than if I was two. I did tear up at one point because it was very overwhelming for me.”

As a resolution for the Diamond Jubilee, many Ismailis sought to repair their actions and mold themselves into better people. Since His Highness is young, he set a high example of leadership and service, which has impacted his community. They strived to reach this example by volunteering through the Ismaili Community Engaged in Responsible Volunteering (I-CERV) in Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. They also reflected on past mistakes by correcting their flaws, hoping to renew their religious devotion.

“Most of [my emotions] were happy and emotional,” Karadia said. “When he first walked in, I started crying. But, at the same time, there was also some guilt because you start remembering all the bad stuff you’ve done in your life. Like the stuff like the small times you’ve lied or the small times you’ve made fun of someone without thinking about it. But, most of the time, I was definitely happy.”

Many are traveling to Lisbon in July to visit him once more, while others who can’t are continuing celebrations in Austin, at the Palmer Events Center this weekend. These celebrations will continue until His Highness ends his Diamond Jubilee celebrations and deedars in July.