Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2005 2:58 am Post subject: AUB Testimony
Posted as received:
Subject: A lucky family's encounter at AUB and Hazar Imam(Ahsante sana brother!)
YAM to everyone in my list and to all brother/sisters who get this forwarded email.
Well - sometimes we receive forwarded messages that we ourselves sent out in the first place so we get repeats and it gets annoying but sometimes forwarding messages can lead to blessed moments as this story will unfold and tell.
As the title says . this ahsaante (Thanks in swahili) was sent to me by my brother in MSN and below is details of why. This one is too close to home, it is to do with my own family - and it is a long read but do read it as it is hardly boring. Forward to ismailis only.
And it is one of these emails you regularly receive that helped act as a catalyst for what I call an incredible BEIRUT experience for him, his wife and their 2 children , so please read on and view the attachments too.
Ya Ali Madad: June 29, 2005
I wish to share with you the most wonderful time that my family and I experienced over the last two weeks and in particular last weekend – what a weekend!
Talk about being at the right place at the right time!
My wife, our two wonderful boys and I were on our way to drop off our younger one to the Lebanese American University (LAU) in Beirut where he is taking up learning Arabic as one of his minors. LAU is a sister university to AUB (American University of Beirut).
We started our trip on Tuesday, less than a week after the Padhramni in Toronto. We had hardly recovered from the excitement & late nights of Padhramni preparations – all four of us were involved with flowers of course (see picture).
We spent the first two days in Paris (enjoyed food, visited the city, went up the Eiffel Tower and took the train to Chantilly/Gouvieux - a small suburb North of Paris where we got an outside look at Aiglemont - So now I can relate better when we are told the instructions have come from Aiglemont!)
Took the Eurostar Chunnel Train to London. Spend 3 days in 40 degrees London (visited the IIS; went to Ismaili Centre - Darkhana - Mowla was in town for meetings and gave Mulaqaat to Leadership – Jamat was asked to use the side entrance to exit JK and not the main entrance as Mowla had not yet left the building!; toured city, Arab and India town, toured NW-JK, had Nandos, toured Queen's palace and gardens and of course traveled the tubes; We had lots of the British popular food – Indian Cuisine - it is no longer Fish&Chips!; the boys also experienced clubbing in Britain with their British cousin).
Went to Dubai – city where nothing is ordinary! Spent two nights in city hotel and two nights on beach resort. Took taxi to JK but had the wrong address and couldn't find the placeL. Well, now we have a reason to go back! ; Visited the malls, sooks (sokoni, market place) and of course Mina Bazaar; took the exciting Desert Safari which included natural roller coaster rides over the huge desert dunes, beautiful desert sunset, an evening at the Arabian village – welcomed with dates and Turkish coffee ( kahawa), camel rides, photo sessions in Arabian costumes, go-karting in the open desert, belly dancing and lots of food.)
We had planned not to check emails while on vacation but agreed to take a quick peek just in case there was an urgent matter. So just before departing Dubai for Beirut on Friday morning we checked and there it was…an email from my brother in Calgary, which talked about Mowla being conferred with an Honorary Doctorate at the AUB the very next day at noon. What a coincidence – totally unbelievable, awesome! Sometimes it pays to open up his emails!
This explains being at the right place at the right time. We had hardly settled in our hotel room and the phone rang - it was a call from a very good family friend from Toronto/Ottawa who couldn't resist telling us about the good news and gave us encouragement to not miss out on the ceremony. We immediately started the process to secure invitation tickets from a number of avenues including calling the University's President's office; my son's Arabic professor; students' relations office at AUB and others sources. No initiative resulted in success, so we decided to at least visit the University that evening and hope for the best for next day.
It wasn't till 5 minutes before we were leaving the hotel on Saturday morning that we received an email from the students' office offering us tickets to the graduation ceremony – our prayers were indeed heard. Without this we would not have been allowed to even enter the university compound. We were so excited when we got the four tickets …but the excitement quickly fizzled when we found that the tickets were for an evening graduation and not the noon Doctorate ceremony. We returned to the students' office, begged and pleaded for the noon session and they were kind enough to offer us two tickets. So now it was war zone with all four of us fighting to be the ones to sacrifice…you go …no you must go…parents said boys should go and boys said parents should go. The decision came down to one parent and one child – "who" was left for later as there was still hope...so we headed towards the building where the function was to be held.
Since it was very hot that day we decided to wait under the tree where a group of about a dozen well dressed locals had gathered. As we got closer to the group one of them approached us, pointed at the lapel pin ( Taj pin) I was wearing and asked what it was. Not knowing how Ismailis were looked upon I said it is a pin. Then the gentlemen asked me if I was there for His Highness. As soon I said "yes" he greeted me Ya-Ali-Madad and it was such an exciting moment that we hugged each other. He then introduced us to his family including to the President of the Council for Syria. It was such a joyous gathering. They had one extra ticket which they offered us and gave us assurance that they will find us one more. Except for one couple who were from Beirut they were all from Salamia in Syria.
A few minutes later we met with four other Ismailis:
- one from Ottawa (he works at Canadian Embassy in Damascus)
- one from Toronto (she teaches at a school next to AUB in Beirut)
- one from Vancouver (she works at AKF Syria)
- one from Syria (she works at AKF Syria - I think)
We got our forth ticket from the Ismaili girls as they had an extra one – Shukar.
I think in all there were no more than 30 Ismailis.
At about 11:15 the doors opened in a church like building that seats about 500 people. Just as we were taking our seats on the non-reserved section on the back side, the President of Syria invited us to take seat at the front row that were reserved for the "Guests of The Aga Khan". We were privileged to take seats on the third row from the stage. We were all given the official book with pictures and descriptions of each of the five doctorate recipients. Soon we were joined by the President of Council for Dubai, Mowla's personal secretary (she was holding a copy of Mowla speech in her hands) and Shafik Sachedina, who were seated next to us. We offered them to take our seats which were next to the middle isle, but they asked us to enjoy the good seats.
At noon we were all asked to rise as the procession of dignitaries started coming in, President, Deans, Vice Deans and the five recipients of the Honorary degree, all in ceremonial graduation caps and gowns and Mowla was part of the procession. He looked terrific, had a shy smile, the tassel swinging on the side of His face. As the dignitaries leading the procession got to the steps of the stage everyone behind them had to stop and Mowla happened to stop right where we were seated. Right Place Right Time. My wife was on the isle seat and she was literally shoulder-to-shoulder with Mowla for a good 15 seconds. Many of us had tears flowing down our faces.
The president of the University presented the opening remarks. He said he was going to present the degrees in Alphabetical order as each recipient was a champion in their own fields…and of course Mowla was first. The President had wonderful things to say about Mowla, then called Mowla. After Mowla was presented with the degree he gave His speech, started with BISMILA-HIR RAHMA-NIR RAHIM; He spoke a rather softly but was clearly very happy and excited. The speech is on the net.
When it was the turn for other candidates to do the speeches, Mowla was seating back, relaxing; taking His sweet time looking at His murids and it seemed like He was getting immense pleasure in being with His murids. His focus moved from one murid to the other, one at a time, as if He was blessing each of us. He made eye contact with every murid, kept nodding with a big smile – as if telling us that He was accepting our prayers which many were silently reciting – with teary eyes. What an experience – it will indeed be treasured for a long time! Indescribable.
After the ceremony the dignitaries went and stood outside the building, under the tree and took pictures and were signing the book. By the time we got there Mowla said "last two please". After signing one, he took the book from my wife. She told Him "Congratulations Khudavind". He turned, looked at her, replied "Thank You", signed the book and returned it to her. Then he left. He was clearly so very happy. We will treasure this experience for a very very long time.
We could not find any of the Ismailis from Syria or Beirut – we suspect they may have had a mulaqaat with Mowla. The girl from Toronto working in Beirut invited us and other Canadian Ismailis to her home near by; later she took us to tour the city and the sites where Hariri was killed and for a pleasant walk by the sea-shore then we returned to our Hotel. Next day we moved my son into his residence and in the evening started our journey back home. My older son has gone to visit my other brother and his family in Malaysia and we have returned to home sweet home.
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