This weekend marked the official opening of the newly established Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building in Ottawa. While many of us have heard about this project throughout the year, it is important for us to understand its inner symbolic significance.
One of the mediums by which the Imam communicates esoteric knowledge to both the Jamat and the world at large is Islamic architecture. As Mawlana Hazar Imam remarked in his speech at the Inaugural Ceremony of the Delegation:
“This new Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, like the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum to be built in Toronto, reflects our conviction that buildings can do more than simply house people and programmes. They can also reflect our deepest values, as great architecture captures esoteric thought in physical form.”
- His Highness The Aga Khan IV,
(Address at the Inaugural Ceremony of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa, Canada, 06 December 2008)
The following article is a humble attempt to discuss some of the ‘esoteric thought’ behind the symbolism of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat and seeks to offers esoteric interpretations (tawil) which are rooted in Ismaili tradition, history and intellectual thought.
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Khalil Andani is a doctoral (Ph.D) candidate specializing in Islamic intellectual history, theology, philosophy, and mysticism at Harvard University and holds a Master of Theological Studies degree (2014), specializing in Islamic philosophy and Ismaili thought, from Harvard University. He is also a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) and completed Bachelor of Mathematics (BMath) and Master of Accounting degrees at the University of Waterloo (2008). Khalil’s publications include a book chapter on Nasir-i Khusraw’s philosophical thought in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Islamic Philosophy and articles in Sacred Web, and The Matheson Trust. Over the last few years, Khalil has been invited to deliver several guest lectures and conference presentations on various topics in Islamic philosophy, theology and mysticism at Harvard University (SCT 2013, HDS 2014), University of Toronto (Christology Symposium, NMCGSA 2013, NMCGSA 2014), University of Chicago (MEHAT 2013, MEHAT 2014), Carleton University, the American Academy of Religion (Midwest AAR 2014, NEMAAR 2014), and the Middle East Studies Association 2013. He can be contacted at Khalil_Andani@mail.harvard.edu