Thousands of Ismaili Muslims in B.C. prepare for Aga Khan visit
Spiritual leader visits Vancouver on May 5 as part of diamond jubilee tour
Thousands of Ismaili Muslims in Metro Vancouver are preparing for the arrival of their spiritual leader, the Aga Khan.
Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, the 49th hereditary leader of Nizari Ismailism, a branch of Shia Islam, is coming to Canada to celebrate 60 years — his diamond jubilee — as Imam.
Kahleel Meghji says the Aga Khan's arrival will be special.
"It's a really personally special time for every member of the community to spend time with someone who has really dedicated his life to improving the quality of life for Ismailis and for people who share our communities," he said.
The Aga Khan has held the position since 1957 and is an advocate for eliminating global poverty, promoting secular pluralism, advancing the status of women and honouring Islamic art and architecture. He was named an honorary Canadian in 2010.
The Aga Khan will be in Canada May 1. The trip includes a dinner at Rideau Hall in Ottawa and then stops in Vancouver and Calgary, according to Global Affairs Canada.
He was a figure in an ethics scandal involving Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, after Trudeau stayed at the Aga Khan's home on Bell Island in the Bahamas over the 2016 Christmas holidays.
In Vancouver, he will host around 20,000 people from across the province at B.C. Place over Saturday and Sunday.
Saira Suleman is one of around 5,000 volunteers working to make sure the visit goes well.
"I think it's a really special time," she said. "I think with all of he joy and excitement that's been going around the community, I think being able to help and being able to give back and support one another through this journey is really important."
Many like Suleman say volunteering is an important part of their faith and His Highness, the Aga Khan, is their inspiration for that.
"You just have to serve," said Azim Raghavji. "I mean how can you not? And it can be simple as like ... serving a glass of water to a senior.
"It's in my DNA and it's something I will forever continue as it brings me quite a bit of joy and happiness," said Shelina Dilgir.
With files from Chad Pawson.
- An earlier version of this story stated that the Aga Khan was leader of the Shia branch of Islam. In fact, he is leader of Nizari Ismailism, a branch of Shia Islam.Apr 30, 2018 10:11 AM PT