Every human being in this world has a Soul, and we all come from and return to God, or the Universal Energy of Peace. But not everybody follows the same path to achieve this spiritual enlightenment, and that is where a large part of religion plays in. Some choose to be Christian or Muslim or Jewish, some choose to be Buddhists or to follow other religions they’ve been exposed to, and still others follow no religion but still claim to be spiritual and follow their own path towards God. There is nothing more right or wrong about any specific religion, because they all teach goodness in life and ultimately lead you to eternal spiritual enlightenment.
I have spent many years exploring my spirituality and discovering simple truths about life and who I truly am within the greater context of my faith. However, I am just now beginning to truly understand the meaning behind specific aspects of my religion. I am a Shia Imami Ismaili Nizari Muslim, a small sect of Islam; it is the second largest community of Shia Muslims (after the Twelvers) and 15 million followers living in over 25 countries around the world- about 65,000 of those in the U.S. And it is the ONLY religion in the world in which there has always been and will always be a present living Imam to guide us in the right path according to changing times and lifestyles. Our Imam and prince Noor Mowlana Shah Karim al Husseini, also known as Aga Khan IV, has led by example and used his knowledge to not only guide the Ismaili followers, but also to make a significant impact in every aspect of life for all of humanity around the globe.
The Ismaili religion places a great emphasis on spirituality, meditation, and connection to the Eternal Soul as the primary source of joy during life’s struggles. Of course, our religion teaches good morals, ethics, and values such as honesty, humility, gratitude, and keeps us away from harmful paths involving drugs, gambling, lying, cheating, stealing, and hurting others. It teaches the importance of physical health and balance between spiritual and material worlds. Most importantly, my faith teaches openness—there is a special emphasis on education, open-mindedness, tolerance, peace, patience, acceptance, respect, and love for ALL people, regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual or political preference. Our faith even teaches the importance of laughter- an aspect that has gotten me through the toughest of times.
These are the core aspects of being a good person with or without a religion, and it is nice to have found a home with people of similar values. But, our religion also allows for a lot of involvement. We have a Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), with a health board, education board, youth and sports board, economic planning and financial board, social welfare board, and so much more, all around the world. The Aga Khan has made agreements with countless presidents and leaders of nearly every country in the world to collaborate on important projects and create new ideas with. We have camps, education programs, celebratory events, senior citizen trips, and never-ending new programs to always allow for the opportunity of personal and community growth for all ages from birth to senior ages, and my favorite part: a world-wide community of brothers and sisters so tight-knit that it is impossible to understand without being a part of it yourself.
Without my religion, I would not have been able to become as spiritually enlightened and close to God as I have been able to become in recent years, find myself, or see the greater picture of the shortness of life. I would never quite understand the importance of health as a foundation for building a good lifestyle in which education is the most powerful tool to lead to progress in human society, and I would most certainly have not met the people I have and created the bonds that are so strongly instilled in me today. In short, without my religion guiding me both materially and spiritually, I would not be the person I am so proud to say I am today, and I thank God every moment for blessing me with this religion…because after all of the searching and research and struggle for years, I came all the way back around to the Ismaili religion which will always be my first home.
All of this is a but a very short glimpse of what the Shia Ismaili religion truly consists of, because there is so much more that I have not mentioned here! If you would like to know more about the Ismaili religion, feel free to check out the links and books below!