Oct. 19, 2018

Ismaili students gather to witness His Highness the Aga Khan on campus

Students reflect on the community impact of His Highness’s honorary degree from UCalgary

Author

Jodi Egan, University Relations

University of Calgary students Naila Feroz Jamani, Alim Shiraz Nimji and Karishma Akbari watched His Highness the Aga Khan receive his honorary degree from the University of Calgary through an on-campus livestream arranged by the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board.

Naila Feroz Jamani, Alim Shiraz Nimji and Karishma Akbari watched the on-campus livestream.

Clayton MacGillivray, for the University of Calgary

While His Highness the Aga Khan received his honorary degree from the University of Calgary on Wednesday, more than 150 Ismaili students gathered to watch the livestream of the event — some pretending they were there with him in the auditorium, while others expressed a spiritual connection so strong it was like the Aga Khan was in the room with them.

“It feels like a spiritual linking,” says Karishma Akbari, a psychology student at UCalgary and member of the Calgary Ismaili Students' Association.

“I am getting emotional with the anticipation, the buildup and with how the whole city is dropping everything to watch this and cherish this moment as best they can.”

Bringing communities together

The livestream viewing, which took place in the Blue Room in the Dining Centre, was put together by the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board with the specific purpose of bringing students together in addition to honouring and celebrating the Aga Khan.

“This is a great time to build community while reflecting on the significance of this event for the Ismaili community on campus, in Calgary and around the country,” says chair of the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board (Prairies), Rahim Moledina.

To students like Alim Shiraz Nimji, having the Aga Khan receive his honorary degree from UCalgary is bringing other cultures together as well as Ismaili’s.

Approximately 150 students gathered in the Dining Centre's Blue Room to watch the livestream of the Aga Khan receiving an honorary degree from the University of Calgary.

Approximately 150 students gathered in the Dining Centre's Blue Room to watch the livestream.

Clayton MacGillivray, for the University of Calgary

“With the Aga Khan coming here, it brings Ismailis together with people from so many backgrounds,” Nimji says. “I see people on campus learning more about His Highness and about us as well. He is of course our leader, but what he does for the community and the world makes him a global leader everyone can learn from.”

That sentiment was mirrored by Naila Feroz Jamani, an undergraduate and now master's student at UCalgary. Because of the humanitarian work done by the Aga Khan, his foundations and institutions, Jamani says the “crazy world” we live in receives some of the compassion, humanitarianism and pluralism it so badly needs.

“The work he does isn’t just for the Ismaili community — it’s a global initiative that goes so much further beyond those borders,” Jamani says. “It empowers us to know that despite the differences between us, we can all come together for what we’re all working for — compassion.”

But what hit Jamani the hardest when watching the livestream, she says, was the realization that she and His Highness the Aga Khan now have a degree from the same institution.

“It’s like we have this extra connection now,” she says.

The livestream took place at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, followed by a question-and-answer period, a prayer and a social event for the students.