HSDM IMRAN RAZA
FOUNDER AND CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD, THE BRIDGES OF HARMONY FOUNDATION
BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FAMILY OF HSDM IMRAN RAZA
HSDM Imran Raza, who is a direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (PBUH), was born to an ancient aristocratic lineage from Behar, India that descended from a matriarchy founded by the daughter of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Over the course of nearly 1,000 years until the nationalization of their lands as part of the elimination of the feudal system upon formation of Modern India, the Reza family of Nawabs fostered a pluralistic understanding of faith; building Synagogues, Churches, Mosques, Hindu Temples, Bhuddist Temples and Sufi Temples within their sovereign regional state in Behar. Twenty-two years before his birth, his great-grandfather the final ruling Nawab (A title in India used by Muslim Princes which literally translates to "Deputy of God") SM Reza and Guru Dev both predicted Imran would lead a global spiritual movement of significance to Humanity. The Nawab and Guru Dev were both considered to be supernatural beings incarnated as Humans amongst the people of India. The Nawab fostered a close friendship with the revered founder of Pakistan, Mr. Jinnah (who lived with the Nawab while studying law with him at England’s Lincoln Inn) along with the developing the first President of India, Dr. Rajender Prashad, whom was personally groomed and mentored by the Nawab to enter into a political career. Upon becoming President of India, Dr. Rajendar Prashad beseeched the Nawab to take the position of Governor of Behar in order to transition with continuity from autocratic feudal rule to democracy. The Nawab refused to take on the position despite an ardent effort by the President to convince his mentor to take on the Governership of the Province of Behar, to rather focus on philanthropy and to groom his grandson S. Karim Raza in preparation of fostering HSDM Imran Raza. The Nawab chose to stay in India while his children migrated to Pakistan. Whereas the Nawab implored his old friend and roommate, Mr. Jinnah to not take what he considered an Imperialist strategy in line with the dissipating British Empire’s stated policy of “Divide and rule,” the two remained lifelong friends.
HSDM IMRAN RAZA
Written by S. Karim Raza, Father.
The multifaceted artistic creations of Imran Raza, known to countless reverential fans by the acronym HSDM, and his activist takes on the human plights symbolize his liberating movement for humanity to free itself from the bondage of selfishness, greed and hostility easing into the realm of nobility, amity and coexistence willingly accepting diversity as one of the basic ingredients of humanity. Imran is a creative, imaginative, substantive and enchanting artist, musician, vocalist, activist and above all a spiritualist who follows the Sufi traditions and creates endearing works of art to make it a better world.
Imran received a rigorous formal education attending USC Cinema School, USC Creative Writing Program and the USC Marshal School of Business. He also did entrepreneurial experiments in his successful ventures into the marketing of tickets for his music concerts and the marketing of a highly celebrated international trade show at the Los Angeles Convention Center and in the creation and composition of ‘edutainment’ cartoon books and inspiring children lyrics and music, Kids in Command; distributed through Walmart and thousands of smaller gift store chains. This complex combination of education and entrepreneurship along with his informal education in the world of Nature, through his extensive travels and by living a life full of adventures, thrills and dangers has given his works of art a rare universality of appeal.
Imran’s work to transform this tension filled, grief ridden world into a haven of safety, prosperity and love with his innate angelic goodness, his spirituality, his righteousness, his imagination, his ideas, his thoughts, his feelings and his actions are reflected in the inspiring and thought provoking lyrics he has written and the great body of music he has created. Enchanted the audience feel transported to a magical reality of an elevated life synergizing both matter and spirituality through the substantive lyric borne out of the heart of a loving and caring a poet and a composer that Imran is.
Imran’s claim to fame in the world of music came with the daring lyrics he wrote and rendered in musical compositions with vocal presentation in a voice both authentic and effective in the newly emerging genre incorporating the mystical Indian music with its sonorous traditions and tunes of the 800 year old Qawwali Sufi music and the lure and the gusto of the Western rock music. This new genre of music combining the mystical Eastern music with the Western rock and becoming a huge sensation in Asia getting known with a descriptive appellation, “Sufi Rock” put Imran along with several iconic musician-practitioners of this genre in the forefront of the movement. As the Filmlook & Post of Hollywood put in its press release of April 21, 2014: “His (Imran’s) popularity gained momentum and spread across the Asian Continent when his singles “Fly with US”, “The Bombs of Dhamma” and most notably “Hammara Ghar” (Our Home) played hourly on MTV Asia and on other music stations condemning the Taliban.
This remarkable gentleman with a caring heart and determined mind is not only creative artist, a lyricist and a musician he is also an activist with courage and dare. Imran’s in-depth investigation led him to meet two American born kids of parents of Pakistani origin getting ‘education’ in the madrassa. The boys instead of getting the peaceful Islamic education were getting radicalized. Imran created a documentary called Karachi Kids showing the mindset the two American born kids were getting into. He also got a US Congressman involved in negotiating with the President of Pakistan to arrange the release of the boys from the Deobandi madrassa. Imran paid for the airfare and other transportation cost for the boys to be brought back to the United States.
The discovery of the two potentially highly dangerous terrorists caused a stir in the Homeland Security circles and especially so in the media. Imran was interviewed by almost all the major US television networks and talk show hosts both on radio and television.
While going to University of Southern California Imran also worked at Tex Tec Creations, children’s edutainment and positive image clothing company where he came up with the idea of an adventure cartoon series for kids called Likavazar. The story theme entailed a confrontation between the good and the evil where the good did not destroy the evil but positively and determinedly the good transformed the evil into good. A part of the package of the Likavazar cartoon book was a CD containing uplifting kids’ songs written by Imran with music also by him and sung by a female vocalist with a lilting voice inspiring kids to learn diligently and perform high in studies. A video game with the concept of edutainment was also developed by Imran.
He was deeply saddened by the terrorist acts of 9-11. It was at that time that he transferred from The USC Marshal School of Business to The USC Cinema School with the ultimate goal of influencing Muslim youths to pursue peace and denounce violence. At USC Cinema School he created a short film called “Iman” (“Faith”) with the theme of peace and also the message of love for the United States. Over one hundred films were entered at USC Annual student film competition. “Iman” had won the second prize. Professor Oscar Williams of USC presiding over the function had remarked that “when a talent like Imran comes along, we simply bow to it,” to the gathered students, educators and press.
Since his early Middle School and Junior High days the precocious Imran Raza has been an amazingly enlightened thinker in matters of faith and religion. Living with his parents in the multi-diversified community of USC Married Students Housing and attending its preschool with students and teachers from various countries embracing varied religious beliefs and practices he was fully exposed to the Interfaith interactions. According to Jonna Hynes Barragan, the Director of the USC Preschool Imran was very quick to understand and absorb intricate matters at that young age. Given his genius and his mental makeup it is fair to conclude that he developed an understanding that the Supreme Deity of every person was the same God who created all of us and nurtures all of us with care and love.
As a part of the comprehensive education and exposure that Imran’s parents visualized for Imran they got him exposed to the whole spectrum of the Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
As planned he was sent to Bethany Christian School in Whittier, California for his Middle School from where he graduated as a Valedictorian. Participating in Christmas festivities and getting exposed to the story of Lord Jesus Christ and learning about all aspects of the Easter related events including the Resurrection he got knowledgeable even more than an average kid raised in a Christian family in the modern day America.
For exposure to Islamic Studies he got Islamic religious and historical perspective at the weekend courses given by moderate scholars teaching under the guidance of Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, a PhD from Harvard and the one who was later invited by President George Bush to lead the National Interfaith Prayer along with a Jewish Rabbi and a Christian Priest. There, at the Islamic Center of Orange County, Imran was elected overwhelmingly at the age of 17 against a 32 year old from the incumbent party. Imran went on to lead the youth group, which was the largest at the time in the United States and consisted of 15-35 year olds with an intensely progressive, enlightened anti-violence message encouraging the youth to assimilate with mainstream Americans.
Imran’s parents appreciate and respect the spiritual Sufi traditions of the musical Sufi singing of hymns in the enthralling and enchanting ‘Qawali’ (devotional songs by a small band of specialist singers called ‘Qawal’) sessions which at times are enriched with the inspired whirling or non-whirling ecstatic dancing by those who get into a state of ‘vajd’ (enthralled ecstasy) enthusiastically performed in the Sufi traditions of Rumi and other saints. Every summer Imran would travel with his mom and siblings to Pakistan. There in addition to getting yearly reorientation in the culture of the land Imran also experienced the ‘Qawali’ sessions at the ‘Astana’ of Baba Zahin Shah Taji, arguably the most eminent Sufi saint of his era. ‘Astana’ is the sacred enclave where the ‘saint’ has his seat of authority and conducts prayers, benedictions and ‘Qawali’ sessions. In the outer fringe of the enclave are the ‘shrines’ (sacred graves) of the ‘saints’ who preceded the current ‘saint’. The devotees continually lay wreaths or rose petals on those graves covered with heavily embroidered grave covers usually in rich green, red or yellowish colors. As Imran’s mother and his grandmother were prominent citizens of the city and especially devoted to Baba Zahin Shah Taji the family and especially the young Imran got special attention from the ‘Baba Sahib’ along with unfettered access to all parts of the Astana.
For getting an understanding of the Jewish faith Imran attended and participated in all the Jewish religious holidays and prayers at the home of Mr. Joe Gould (Founder of First State Bank) and his elegant wife Mrs. Dorothy Gould who were the host family to Imran’s dad Karim Raza attending USC on a US State Department Scholarship. At the Gould’s Imran experienced great exposure to the Judaic faith, the sufferings of the Jews and their brilliant resilience.
From the childhood onwards Imran had learned about the pacifism of the Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religions of India from his father who had grown up in India and had received his initial education there and admired the Indian culture, traditions and the enchanting ‘bhajans’ (musical hymns). He also learned from his father about Sikhism’s First Guru Nanak Sahib’s teachings which is a fusion of the best precepts of Hinduism and Islam. He attended and graduated the rigorous ten day Vipassana meditation course as conceived by the Buddha, maintaining complete inward meditation, with not so much as eye contact with any person for the course of those ten days, meditating 16 hours per day. Absorbing all of the above and pursuing his love for music Imran got drawn more and more towards Sufism.
Imran was exceptional as a child, he was exceptional as an adolescent, and he has been exceptional as an adult. His genius, his humanitarianism, his creativity, his ability to enthuse and uplift all irrespective of caste or creed and his commitment to make this a better world with creating the environment for all to thrive is his legacy in the making!
HSDM IMRAN RAZA AS A CHILD
Written by Jonna Hynes Barragan, University of Southern California Pre-School Teacher
Seldom, do teachers discover a truly gifted student in their entire career. A genuinely extraordinary child, so gifted and talented in many areas, resembles Edison, or Einstein or Nelson Mandela in the breadth and depth of their remarkable abilities. I was fortunate enough to encounter such a child in my third year as a " facilitator," (one doesn't 't actually teach a gifted child, they learn on their own) and my world was forever changed. If we are blessed, some one like Imran Raza and his remarkable gifted parents, Karim and Mona, will share their lives with us and touch our hearts and minds forever.
This is our story.
When the University of Southern California hired me as the Director/ Teacher of their International Preschool in married student housing, I was thrilled! This would be my first full time teaching and administrator position, the children ages 2 until 6 would come from all parts of the world, providing a challenging and fascinating adventure and I could learn parenting and new ways of being a teacher from understanding new cultures. I was informed that the parents of my students were "The best and the brightest " of their respective countries. They would have high expectations of their children and higher expectations of me!
I will always remember the precise moment that I first met Imran. He, with out saying a word gazed up with solemn eyes at me, and I was immediately taken with him. He had a face like a Renaissance angel, full of wisdom way beyond his 4 years. He was wearing a blue polo shirt, and jean shorts and emanated a radiance of goodness, intelligence and truth. He was carefully holding his little sisters hand and was diligently listening to his mother as she urged Imran to say hello (in English, mind you). He put up a good front, no tears from any of the three; the only sign of fear was Imran's shoulders stiffened a bit when Mrs. Raza waved good-bye. This is a very brave little boy, who had a strong sense of self and the confidence to care for his little sister. I realized I'm going to learn a great deal about genius (as it used to be referred) because this special child deserves unique understanding, and the best possible environment in which to flourish.
We now know that there are a variety of types of intelligence: mental, social, emotional, music prodigies, etc. Forty years ago, this was a new theory and somewhat controversial. Imran possessed amazing ALL of the newly identified traits of genius intelligence in all of the categories. I was not surprised as I had been in awe of this very spiritual little soul since our first meeting. But, I was concerned that I wouldn't provide enough stimulation to have him reach his astonishing potential. I adopted the physician motto, "First do no harm" as we began to do the dance of learning/ teaching together. His emotional intelligence and depth of thought struck me as the greatest of Imran’s gifts as he could actually feel another's pain. One February, when I was instructing the class about President Lincoln life and assassination, Imran asked, "Why did John Wilks Booth kill the President?" I explained that Booth had a different opinion from the President and Imran was visibly shaken! When he asked me what happened to Booth, I began to wonder if I had told this sensitive boy too much? I explained Booth's fate, hoping for the best, and his maturity and compassion was again amazing. He said, "All people have a right to their own opinion, as long as they don't hurt any one". The men who killed Booth were supposed to be the rule makers. How come the good guys did wrong things? Most four year olds are too self-absorbed to developmentally relate to others pain. Empathy and compassion develops between 7 and 9 years old.
Imran was a natural leader. The other children, awed by Imran's abilities, would ask for help with Lego’s or Tinker toys. He, with out bragging or boasting, would patiently assist them, putting his own projects on hold for awhile .I was touched by his giving and humble nature. The majority of little boys LOVE to show off to their peers, but not Imran. When given praise from the teachers or the other children he would shyly smile or say a very quiet "Thank you". He had no idea how bright he was.
I had heard the expression "He had a very old soul." But, until I met Imran, the meaning was lost to me. He had an aura of spiritually, almost a visible holiness surrounding him. I was truly taken aback as I had never experienced a person like this, let alone a child. We formed an instant bond, teacher and student, who would be who?
To understand Imran, one must also look to his parents, Mona and Karim. Highly educated, they instilled a love of learning, exploring the world and, taking chances. Imran’s highly developed character, love of God and family, and respect for others first, come directly from his exceptional parents. He was cherished, loved and guided by also gifted parents.
I'm not surprised that a book is being written about Imran. After loosing contact, we were reunited and I was struck by how little he had changed. I would have known him anywhere: same deep, sensitive, and intelligent eyes. Same gentle smile, and the same aura of goodness. I still felt our bond and easy communication and I again felt blessed to know and love my most unforgettable student.