Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania” by Dr Zul Premji of Calgary is a Compelling Story of Honesty, Hard Work, Humility and Determination

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Calgary based Zul Premji’s recent book “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania.” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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“This memoir is a rags-to-riches tale full of material on human frailty…It anchors Zul as a superb storyteller…Candid, Honest and Stimulating” — Wafaie Fawzi, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, Harvard University

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Simerg’s Interview with Dr Zul Premji

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?

Zul Premji: The title of my book Malaria Memoirs reflects my life story from birth to retirement. For almost forty years of my professional career, I devoted my life to control malaria in Tanzania; thus my life story is intertwined with malaria in Tanzania. I believe many migrants from Africa who have settled in Europe and North American would have suffered from malaria illness in their childhood while in Africa. This book gives them the nostalgic experience of such malaria episodes and perhaps may provide some insights into malaria as a disease and a public health threat. Through this book the generation that migrated will be able to relay their stories about mosquitoes, mosquito coils, the bitter pills and bed nets to the next generation.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Premji: This book is a tale of hard work, honesty, determination, failures and success. It is a humble story of a poor family and how one of the siblings becomes a Professor at the Medical School in Dar es Salaam. For the younger generation, it is a proof of concept that hard work, honesty and determination is needed to become meritocratic and achieve success in life. To many of my students, this will be an inspirational story of how teaching combined with research can be the most satisfying and effective career path. The book is also for those who are aspiring health related careers to think beyond clinical medicine like surgery, cardiology etc. and think the impact one can make in Public Health, infectious diseases, role of social sciences in disease control and overall research to prevent and minimize human suffering. This is a book that echoes, first, positive thinking in the midst of poverty, disease and suffering and, second, that there are no short cuts to success. 

Simerg: What inspired you to write Malaria Memoirs?

Premji: Upon retirement and relocating to Calgary, Canada, I started to reflect on the work I did at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam. I realized through research how we were able to lower the malaria prevalence. In the process, I built a strong bond with my students and research team, hence this motivated me to write how all of this was done. The result was my biography. Another reason was the constant curiosity my grandchildren exhibited; they wanted to know everything about life in Tanzania, about my work and how I ended up being a medical doctor. The short clips of my stories have contributed to this book.

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Malaria Memoirs by Zul Premji Ismaili author series Simerg
Cover page of Zul Premji’s book “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania.” Paperback, published by Mawenzi House, Toronto, 2021, 144 pp.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Premji: The book is available in softcover and e-books, e.g., Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Google Books. It is widely available directly from the publisher, Mawenzi House, Amazon Canada, Amazon USA and Chapters/Indigo.

Intentionally, the book is not of several hundred pages and is devoid of irrelevant details but the main relevant messages are clearly illustrated. In this era of screens and fast flashy digital clips, reading culture is fast becoming historical. Keeping this in mind, one can easily read this book overnight and feel the author’s pulse.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Premji: I had no clue of how to find a publisher for my book especially in Canada, because malaria cannot be an attractive topic in the cold Canada where there is no malaria. However, through a mutual friend I got connected to the Toronto based Mawenzi House.

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EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS

“Tremendously interesting and entertaining. Prof Zul’s Malaria Memoirs is a truly Tanzanian story to which the average person can relate” — Billy Ngasala, Professor, Muhimbili University Hospital, Dar es Salaam

He speaks with the authority of someone who has met with success. With prose that’s well paced and matter-of-fact, Malaria Memoirs reads like an intimate conversation with a friend, someone who has lived a dedicated life full of achievements and is ready to share — in Compelling People – The Malaria Guru, from rags to research, review by Rachel Gerry, Literary Review of Canada, November 2021

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Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Premji: I wrote the first draft on my own and later the publisher did a wonderful job in editing my initial draft.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Malaria Memoirs from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Premji: I think the whole process of writing, editing, printing and distribution took about two years.

Simerg: Would you like to offer further thoughts about your book?

Premji: The book is based on three phases of my life, the early phase in Morogoro, Tanga and my secondary education at a mission school in the south part of Tanzania. The second phase is how through sheer hard work and commitment I pursued medical career and the last phase is my professional life, spent mostly in research and teaching medical students. After retirement, I worked for only three years as Chair of Pathology at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi and my not so pleasant experiences and observations are clearly explained and the needed remedial actions.

Date posted: June 30, 2022.

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Author Malaria Memoirs, Ismaili author series in Simerg
Dr. Zul Premji

Zul Premji was born in Iringa, Tanzania, and attended school in two towns before obtaining his medical degree from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam. He later took an MSc in Medical Parasitology from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from the Royal College of Physicians in London, and a doctorate in Infectious Diseases from Karolinska, Sweden. His specialization included clinical trials, antimalarial drug resistance and malaria case management. Over a career of more than forty years, he has held numerous academic positions in Tanzania, and has been an advisor to National Malaria Control. He now lives in Calgary, Alberta.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click LEAVE A COMMENT. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)
  15. “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Beautiful Scenes from Calgary: The Top Canadian City to Live In, According to New World Rankings

Malik Merchant has lived in more than 12 cities around the world. When he was suddenly offered an opportunity to relocate to Calgary he did not hesitate. His motto: Seek to be forward looking and be courageous and hopeful. Armed with a camera, just as he did in Toronto and Ottawa, Malik is pleased to share some of his beautiful moments in Calgary, a city that has recently been named as the third best city in the world to live in. Please click CALGARY or on the photo below.

Scenes from Calgary, Malik Merchant, simerg
Downtown Calgary. Please click on photo for complete story.

Date posted: June 26, 2022.

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A Beautiful Day at the Aga Khan Garden, Alberta, in Edmonton: Story and Photos with Insightful Quotes of His Highness the Aga Khan

Malik Merchant drives to Edmonton from his new home in Calgary on the last day of spring, and spends several hours at the Aga Khan Garden. His story, photographs as well as insightful quotes from His Highness the Aga Khan’s speech made on the inauguration day in 2018, bring the Aga Khan Garden alive to readers of Simerg’s sister website, Simergphotos. Please read and share Malik’s beautiful post by clicking on Aga Khan Garden or on the photo below.

Aga Khan Garden Edmonton
A view of the beautiful Talar structure from the Chahar Bagh; Aga Khan Garden, Alberta, in Edmonton. Please click on photo for full story.

Date posted: June 22, 2022

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“Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens,” a Once-in-a-Lifetime Book that Brings the 49th Ismaili Imam’s History and Spiritual Leadership to Life

“As he says in his own introduction to the book, Otte engaged in a deep research of the photo archives of the Aga Khan, finding images chosen for their quality but also for the fascinating story they tell. The result is a unique collection of photos, many of which have not been published before, but which, taken together, form a visual biography. It is a book about His Highness the Aga Khan, but it is also a portrait in time and space of the world seen from a different perspective, one of endless change and movement, but also one of hope” — Philip Jodidio, Preface, p. ix, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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DEPTH OF FIELD: THE AGA KHAN BEYOND THE LENS, edited by Gary Otte with texts by Bruno Freschi, Philip Jodidio, Don Cayo and Gary Otte
Hardcover 260 pp. Published by Prestel, February 2022; 220 colour illustrations. To purchase the book, please see links provided immediately after the article.

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Reflections

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg
Cover jacket of Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens; Hardcover, 260 pages, 25 x 30 cms, 220 colour illustrations; published by Prestel, February 2022.

By NIZAR A MOTANI, PhD

I have used the Aga Khan and Hazar Imam interchangeably in my reflections about this visual biography of him, by Gary Otte  

When I finally received the long-awaited book about Hazar Imam, I gleefully looked at the cover, actually the “jacket,” with his picture. It was intriguing that this photograph portraying Hazar Imam had part of his shoulder hidden: it was found in the inside “folding”, which also has an extract from the Preface. The complete photograph appears on page 121. Then, I instinctively and happily thumbed through this delightful “coffee table” edition, as if it was just an album, though about a familiar figure, without much thought and not reading most of the captions. It soon became apparent that the three essays preceding the photographs must have a purpose and should be read before taking a second closer look at them. In my humble opinion, this is what every viewer should do since these textual and contextual commentaries guide the viewer to not only how to view the images, but also, and more importantly, to ponder over them to see beyond these images, which collectively constitute a pictorial biography of the Aga Khan.

The editor of this milestone photographic record, Gary Otte, explains in the Introduction, that as the Aga Khan’s principal photographer for some thirty years, he had ample, varied and exhausting opportunities to capture a lot of “interesting stuff.” He witnessed happenings at “exotic and iconic locations; global leaders and ordinary folks”; — and events of great historical, cultural, religious and economic significance (p. xi).

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

“In an age dominated by moving images, still photographs continue to carry remarkable power. Nothing captures a moment as memorably. There is no movement to miss, no soundtrack to distract. It is the still photograph that becomes iconic – a fraction of a second with great impact that people can readily call to mind. Few moments in film or video imprint themselves so clearly. It is that single frame from a vivid scene that we carry with us… Like all the photographers who covered the life of the Aga Khan, I benefitted from his acceptance of us as chroniclers of history” — Gary Otte, Introduction, p. xiii, “Depth of Field, The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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The two hundred twenty meticulously selected photographs — ninety by him and 130 taken by some fifty other photographers — take the viewers on a panoramic tour of all aspects of the Aga Khan’s amazing life. They are not chronologically presented but were chosen because they were deemed “technically, compositionally, and editorially excellent” and were “more representative of geography, subject area and decades.” (p. xi).

Otte recommends viewers to inspect and revisit all the photographs because “every long look can reveal something new as you discover or imagine, what is happening.” (p. xi).

Philip Jodidio, a prolific author and an expert on contemporary art and architecture, has written a glowing Preface in which he comprehensively and chronologically portrays the major initiatives of Hazar Imam, who is described as “one of the most fascinating personalities in the world….he is a spiritual leader, the driving force behind numerous humanitarian and cultural organizations” as well as “one of the most important figures who has sought to bridge the divide between the Muslim world and the West” (p. v).

By reading this essay, themes and patterns will emerge in the two hundred twenty otherwise randomly presented photographs. The renowned Bruno Freschi’s brief but telling Foreword is centered on his deep respect for Otte’s superb photographic skills as well as his profound admiration of Otte’s extraordinary subject’s (The Aga Khan’s) ambitious, multidimensional, multifaceted mission, which has been so diligently and visually portrayed.

The Aga Khan’s mission, or more appropriately, his mandate as the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, has been succinctly conveyed in excerpts from one of his numerous speeches (p. xvii) and from his historic address to the special joint session of the Canadian Parliament, on February 27, 2014. Thankfully, Jodidio has excerpted the essence of this speech in his Preface (p. v).

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

“Gary’s photography and his curation have produced a collection with a magical quality. The reader/viewer is transported into the event-image reality. The photography is the doorway into the spirit of the frozen moment. These event-moments are the curtain in the great theatre of life. Once the curtain is raised it reveals the compelling life story of the Aga Khan, an elegant portrait of his historic mission” — Bruno Freschi, Foreword, p. xv, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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In my reflections on just a few of the photographs in this non-chronological historical biography, I hope to be faithful to the sound, revealing guidance on how to embrace each image. Evidently, beyond and behind the photographs, there must be careful and plentiful preparation and coordination, prior to, during, and even after each different event: airport arrivals and departures; protocols; media liaison; motorcade escorts; security arrangements; translators, meetings with heads of state and other leaders; banquets and speeches — to think of just a few. The photograph on page 212 shows Dr. Shafik Sachedina, Head of the Department of Jamati Institutions at the Diwan of the Ismaili Imamat, and Dr. Mohammed Khesavjee, who served as the Information Officer at Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Secretariat at Aiglemont for many years, playing complementary roles behind and at the scene. Most photographs do not show such senior and other personnel in the Aga Khan’s entourage doing the critical groundwork.

The photograph on page 163 shows Hazar Imam thanking the police escort for his motorcade. He is always mindful of the very many individuals, institutions and organizations involved during his official visits as the state guest of the host governments, and he is known to unfailingly acknowledge his gratitude to all of them. Only some of them can be seen in some of the photographs, but they were there and we have to imagine them, as explained by the editor.

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Jacket, "Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens," 220 photographs, pictorial biography, Barakah, Nizar Motani reflection
Jacket, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens,” 220 photographs

In 1983 and 2008, the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim spiritual leader paid official visits as the guest of the ruling Sunni family of the emirate of Dubai (pp. 134 and 135). Significantly, the 2008 occasion was the opening ceremony of the new Ismaili Centre. We can only imagine the elaborate preparations and protocols for this historic event. Being invited as a virtual head of state by governments across the world is an unmistakable theme of this fascinating volume. So much planning and coordination by so many unseen volunteers and paid staff within and outside the Ismaili jamat is always the case.

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READERS SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ON “THE AGA KHAN BEYOND THE LENS”

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

This fabulous book with its layout, font, selection of photos and essays is extraordinary — Moez Murji 

The photographs chosen are not only beautiful but were also very carefully selected, and each carries a deeper message of the Aga Khan’s incredible — and farsighted — vision. It’s indeed remarkable and an occasion of immense happiness for the Ismailis that the unbelievable results that have been achieved by Mawlana Hazar Imam in so many countries around the world are finally covered in such a well condensed pictorial book — Amin Jaffer

In this 280-page bumper pictorial biography of Mawlana Hazar Imam, which I ordered and have already received it as one of my living room’s table top collections, some of the pictures will bring alive our individual and family memories — Kamruddin Rashid

Beautiful! Now [after reading Nizar Motani’s reflections] I have to go back to the Visual Biography (love that!!) and look at it differently! Different viewers may have different meanings to different pictures. Great job Mr Gary Otte for the book and Nizar Motani for his reflections on the book — Mirza Smile 

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Gary Otte’s very first illustration is a two-page panoramic view of the October 1957 Dar es Salaam Takht Nashini. It requires deep individual contemplation to merely “digest” the thousands in attendance. And much more imagining of the hundreds more involved in numerous aspects of staging this majestic enthronement ceremony, in a British colonial African country, with several non-African immigrant minorities among the heterogeneous African populations, can be a challenging mental exercise!

It is almost on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the August 4th 1972 mass Asian Expulsion by Uganda’s mercurial megalomaniac military dictator, Idi Amin Dada, that I am encountering Hazar Imam’s somber photograph with Amin. It was taken during Hazar Imam’s critical February 1972 visit to Kampala (p. 59). I was still in London completing my doctoral dissertation on the topic of Uganda’s African Civil Service, hoping to teach African History at Makerere. It so happened that I returned on that fateful day — August 4th 1972, not to a much anticipated warmest welcome at the Entebbe Airport, but to most somber news, from my parents, about the expulsion order issued just prior to my arrival!

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

Such an epic volume should be an occasion of immense pride and happiness for every Ismaili murid. Gary Otte has clearly acknowledged that Hazar Imam remained very accommodating and patient during the long period of compiling this unprecedented collection…and has thanked Hazar Imam for taking the time to offer suggestions on choosing the photographs and the book’s design. Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain gave their time and advice on selection of photographs and the final draft of images and the text. Hence this official authorized visual biography of our 49th  Imam and a once in a life time publication, should belong in our homes — Dr Nizar Motani, author of this post

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Therefore being absent from Uganda during Hazar Imam’s February visit, I can only imagine the challenging task of the local Ismaili entourage and leadership on how to brief Hazar Imam for any meeting with such a vainglorious man controlling the destiny of all Ugandans. Could Amin have given any clear signal about what was brewing in his mind prior to the alleged dream to ethnically cleanse Uganda of its much maligned Asian minorities? Could Hazar Imam have sensed any forebodings in order to prepare for all eventualities — since the expulsion order’s short deadline was met with fairly well-organized and timely evacuation under the most harrowing circumstances? I was one of the lucky ones who chose to and could leave, within a week, for the USA, but remained tormented and concerned about the rest of the family’s fate who had to plan their escape. This image on page 59 may linger for a long while but with deep gratitude that almost all Asians escaped relatively physically unscathed.

I will conclude my brief reflections about this unique official  pictorial biography of the Aga  Khan, our beloved Hazar Imam, by simply stating that such an epic  volume should be an occasion of immense pride and happiness for every Ismaili murid. The editor, Gary Otte, has clearly acknowledged that Hazar Imam remained very accommodating and patient during the long period of compiling this unprecedented collection of mostly previously unpublished photographs, from his childhood in Kenya to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in various parts of the world, where he was welcomed by the host countries’ Heads of State as a virtual visiting head of state.

Gary Otte has thanked Hazar Imam for taking the time to offer suggestions on choosing the photographs and the book’s design. Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain gave their time and advice on selection of photographs and the final draft of images and the text.

Hence this official authorized visual biography of our 49th  Imam and a once in a life time publication, should belong in our homes. It also makes a wonderful gift to give to  thoughtfully selected non-Ismaili friends and colleagues to increase their awareness of the Aga Khan which Jodidio has stated may be  lacking in the general public. But even we, his murids, will be be astonished and overjoyed to learn so much that we cannot possibly already know about or have seen images of his multifarious undertaking, as well as his personal life.

One final thought, as I take the elderly members of the Jamat into consideration. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s life, through the photographs in this book, spans three generations. How exciting and inspiring might it be for the elders, were their children and grandchildren to sit alongside them and leaf through all the beautiful photographs of their beloved Imam, not once but on multiple occasions. Old memories would be revived and new stories, narratives, anecdotes, and perspectives would emerge, individually and collectively, adding to our knowledge of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s glorious life and Imamat. This book MUST occupy a place in all Ismaili homes.

Date posted: June 18, 2022.

A slightly different version of this piece appeared recently on Simerg’s sister website Barakah under the title Reflections on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Pictorial Biography, “Depth of Field – The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens” by Nizar Motani.

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PURCHASING THE AGA KHAN’S BEAUTIFUL PICTORIAL BIOGRAPHY

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg
The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens; Hardcover, 260 pages, 25 x 30 cms, 220 colour illustrations; published by Prestel, February 2022.

The publisher’s recommended retail price for Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens is US $ 60.00; £ 45.00 but retailers and on-line book sellers may sell it for less. To purchase the book in Canada, click Aga Khan Museum Shop, Amazon.ca or Indigo.ca; in the USA, click Amazon.com; in the UK and other European countries, click Amazon.co.uk; and in Spain and Portugal click Amazon.es. Elsewhere, see if there is a local Amazon chapter serving your location or visit Amazon’s global page. Note that the book is also available for members of the Ismaili community at Jamatkhana literature counters around the world or through the local Jamatkhana leadership.

FEEDBACK

Simerg welcomes your feedback, review and reflections on The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nizar Motani, Barakah, Dedicated to the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam
Nizar Motani

Nizar A. Motani has a doctorate from the University of London (SOAS) in African history, specializing in British colonial rule in East Africa. He has been a college professor at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME) and Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI). He was the first Publication Officer at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London, UK). He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Motani’s previous pieces on Simerg and its sister website Barakah are: 

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A SHORT Youtube Presentation: Gary Otte on the Making of the Book

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to more than 1500 pieces posted since the website was founded in the spring of 2009. Also visit our two sister websites, Barakah and Simergphotos.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com. Please follow Malik @Facebook and @Twitter.

Mansoor Ladha A Portrait in Pluralism - Aga Khan's Shia Ismaili Muslims Ismaili authors series by Simerg

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha of Calgary

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Calgary based Mansoor Ladha’s book “A Portrait in Pluralim: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.” Mansoor is being featured in the series for the second time, following our interview with him on March 6, 2021 on his more recent work, the highly acclaimed “Memoirs of a Muhindi” that was published in 2017. We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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Simerg’s Interview with Mansoor Ladha

Mancoor Ladha and family with His Highness the Aga Khan III, Simerg Ismaili author series.
A memorable family photograph with the 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (d. July 11, 1957) from the dedication page of Mansoor Ladha’s book “A Portrait in Pluralim: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.” Ladha dedicated the book to his parents (Zera and Hassanali Ebrahim Ladha) and grandparents (Count and Countess Ebrahim Ladha), and mentions that his family’s record of service to the Ismaili Imamat started with his grandfather Count Ebrahim Ladha of Zanzibar, who devoted several years of service to the Imam-of-the-Time. Seated (from left): Late Kamadia Hassanali E. Ladha, Late Countess Jenabai Ebrahim Ladha, MAWLANA SULTAN MAHOMED SHAH, Late Kamadiani Zera Hassanali E. Ladha, and Count Ebrahim Ladha. Standing is Kassamali Ebrahim Ladha. Seated in front of the 48th Imam is the author, Mansoor Ladha, when he was two year old. Photo: Mansoor Ladha Collection.

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?

Mansoor Ladha: “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” was published to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. By the time of his Golden Jubilee celebrated during 2007-08, Ismailis had been established in Canada for more than 30 years, but Canadians had many sincere and honest questions about who we were, where we came from and so on. Thus, in the book I have attempted to answer these questions and give additional information about Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Canadian projects and his philosophy on pluralism. In addition to that, I was able to interview some Uganda refugees who settled in Canada starting in the autumn of 1972 after being forced to flee from their homeland by Idi Amin. I also talked to Canadian officials who were responsible for processing refugees in Kampala. The book is a portrayal of the Ismaili community.

I may note however that at the end of his Golden Jubilee Mawlana Hazar Imam established and opened with Prime Minister Stephen Harper the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa, and over the past decade we have seen the opening of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Park, all in Toronto, the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa and the beautiful Aga Khan Gardens in Edmonton.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Ladha: A Portrait in Pluralism and my more recent second book, Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West that you interviewed me on in March 2021, contain historical events affecting the Ismaili community. The book provides history, background, culture as well as success stories of Canadian Ismailis. Hence, they should be compulsory reading not only for adults but especially for the younger generation who didn’t experience what their parents went through. It’s important to educate our youngsters about our past. In this regard, I find it appropriate to quote a paragraph from Dr. Nizar Motani’s review of the Memoirs of a Muhindi:

“Besides being a valuable addition to one’s own library, it would be a suitable gift for your colleagues and neighbours who often ask the diasporic muhindis: “What is your nationality?” But they actually are curious about your country of origin, why you are not black if you came from Africa, and reasons for being in “their” countries.”

Simerg: What inspired you to write A Portrait in Pluralism?

Ladha: A couple of major events had taken place at the beginning of this century. In 2001, there was the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. Then some years later we saw the publication of a series of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in Denmark. Both events created a lot of controversies and incorrectly presented Muslims in a very negative manner. These two events and other negative depictions about Muslims provided me with an opportunity to particularly highlight the Ismaili Muslims, who through the guidance of their Imam, the Aga Khan, were quietly revolutionizing the world and improving the lives of people all around the world by establishing schools, hospitals, universities, factories, and power through AKDN (Aga Khan Development Network). This was also a time when Ismailis were celebrating Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee and hence I was proud that the book was published as a Golden Jubilee Edition, becoming a collector’s item.

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A Portrait in Pluralism, Aga Khan's Shia Ismaili Muslims, by Mansoor Ladha, journalist, Simerg Ismaili author series
Cover page of Mansoor Ladha’s book “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.” Published by Detselig Enterprises Ltd., Calgary, 2008, 238 pp., limited availability at Amazon and (signed) copies directly from the author.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Ladha: The book is now a rare item, but readers may be able to acquire a new or used copy at Amazon.com as well as at affiliated Amazon stores around the world. I have very limited copies still available, and will be pleased to mail out signed copies at a special price (plus postage and packaging). Please write to me at mlpublish@shaw.ca.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Ladha:  Writing a book is an enormous project but publishing it is a mammoth undertaking. Most book publishers will not accept any submissions from an author unless the query and proposal come through a literary agent. It is very difficult to get a literary agent interested in your submission. There are authors whose submissions have been rejected by 20 literary agents, which is not considered to be unusual. I researched for publishers who would accept individual submissions and was fortunate to get Detselig Enterprises based in Calgary to publish A Portrait in Pluralism. The University of Regina Press published the second book Memoirs of a Muhindi

Those authors who have not been successful to get their books published through a traditional publisher can resort to getting their books published by self-publishing companies, such as Amazon, Friesen etc. You do not have to pay anything if your book is published by traditional publishers and the author gets a portion of the revenue while one must pay the entire cost of publishing when self-publishing.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Ladha: Once a publishing company accepts your manuscript, it is contracted to provide all editorial services, including an editor and graphic designer. The editor would suggest some revisions/alterations and seek your approval until the final document is ready. The designer would suggest a couple of book covers for your approval. I was fortunate in that as a copy editor on daily newspapers, my job involved editing stories written by reporters. Hence, this background helped me to send a clean, edited submission to publishers.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Ladha: My first book, Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims, is the subject of this interview. It was published in 2009. Then approximately ten years later I got my second work Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West published by University of Regina. I was also among a group of journalists and scholars invited to contribute a chapter in a book called “The Story that Brought Me Here” published by Brindle & Glass.

May I also note that I have just finished another non-fiction and a novel — my first novel — that I plan to publish sometime in 2022.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Portrait of Pluralism — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Ladha:  As a writer, one must be disciplined and follow a regular writing schedule. I try to write every day but take breaks in between to revitalize. You also must revise what you have written. There is no set time to finish the manuscript.

Marketing is another major problem for writers. Your traditional publisher will provide some help in sending the book to bookstores, arranging interviews with the media, and sending out review copies to newspapers, but the main responsibility of promoting the book lies with the author. I held book launches in various parts of the country at my expense, and I also ended up selling my own books. Often Ismaili stores in Calgary will keep my books for sale. Indeed, I have sold more books on my own than the publisher, who has a staff assigned to promote their publications.

Simerg: Would you like to offer further thoughts about your work?

Ladha: With regard to A Portrait in Pluralism, I was deeply touched to hear from Dr. David Zaborac of Iowa who sent me a personal note. He said:

“I have got a lot of reflections after reading A Portrait in Pluralism – Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. I feel I was greatly educated by my reading. Muslims were an alien world, not just to me, but also to many people whom I shared your story with. It was inwardly comforting to discover that a religion I once felt was extremist, was not necessarily so. The humanism displayed by the Ismailis is astounding. The way the Ismailis meld theology and sociology is inspiring. Most comforting of all was how it dawned on me how similar the goals of the Ismailis and my branch of Christianity are…helping fellow man, creating a better world, involvement with community life, etc.”

Comments such as this should make all Ismailis very proud and I feel all the members of the Jamat can play their own individual part by articulating our ethics and values to Canadians and the world at large.

Date posted: June 8, 2022.

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Mansoor Ladha Ismaili author series, Simerg
Mansoor Ladha

Mansoor Ladha has held senior editorial positions as a copy editor in Canada (Edmonton Journal & Calgary Herald), features editor (The Standard in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), copy editor (Daily Nation, Nairobi, Kenya) and was the only owner/publisher of colour of a mainstream English newspaper in Canada for 25 years. Since retiring, he has been travelling around the world as a travel writer on assignments and has published travel features in leading Canadian newspapers and magazines. He has numerous awards to his credit including being a Citizen of the Year in the Town of Morinville, Alberta; Silver Quill Award by the Alberta Weekly Newspapers for distinguished service to newspapers as well as Canada’s Caring Canadian Award for “outstanding and selfless contribution to your community and Canada” by the Governor General of Canada. He has most recently completed another non-fiction book and a novel, both of which are scheduled to be published in 2022. Ladha was also contributor to Simerg’s highly acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There with a remarkable piece His Name is Jawhar. He was among the first of the Ismaili journalists to have ever interviewed Mawlana Hazar Imam; please click to read Ismaili Journalist Mansoor Ladha’s Precious Moments with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click LEAVE A COMMENT. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)
  15. “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Artistic Expressions: Mobina Marani Presents Beautiful Portrait Paintings of Mawlana Hazar Imam and Members of Her Family

By MOBINA MARANI (nee JAMANI)

My name is Mobina, and I live in Crystal Beach, a lakefront community in Fort Erie, located some 180 kilometres from Toronto, Canada. I was born in Kampala, Uganda, and developed an interest in art at a very early age. After leaving Uganda, I attended an art school in England where I learned to work with many mediums, including paint, metalwork, and ceramic, amongst others.

After marrying Nizar Marani and having two beautiful daughters Zahra and Zaynah, and buying a pharmacy which I owned with my husband for almost 30 years, my artistic endeavours were put on hold.

Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani

It was not until almost 40 years later, shortly after the birth of my first granddaughter, Amarah, that I was inspired to pick up a paintbrush again and find time to dedicate to my artistic expressions. Over the ensuing years, I completed portraits of all my immediate family members. Earlier this year, I rendered a painting of Mawlana Hazar Imam from one of his numerous portrait photographs that were taken during the Diamond Jubilee Year in 2017-2018. I hope to continue expressing myself artistically in the years to come, and fulfill an interest that began in my early childhood.

I would like to express my thanks to Simerg for introducing Ismaili artists such as myself to the worldwide Ismaili community and readers of this website.

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Please click on images for enlargements

Portrait Paintings by Mobina Marani

Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions, Aga Khan portrait
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Acrylic on composite wood 13″ x 17″, January 2022. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada. Mobina rendered her painting from the original official photo shown immediately below.
One of several portrait photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, taken during his Diamond Jubilee Year (2017-2018).
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Amarah, first granddaughter. Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, May 2018. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Grandson, Aaran. Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, October, 2018. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Husband, Nizar, at 15. Acrylic, 13 3/4″ x 17 1/2″, January 2019. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Mobina Marani, Ismaili artist, Simerg Visual expressions
Daughter, Zahra. Acrylic, 19 1/2″ x 15 1/2″, September 2019. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Mobina Marani, Ismaili artist, Simerg Visual expressions
Aunt, Nurumasi, at 100! Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, March 2020. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Grandson, Jordan. Acrylic and wool (hat), 10″ x 10″, April 2020. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Daughter, Zaynah. Acrylic, 16″ x 18″, February 2021. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.

Date posted: May 31, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears at the bottom of this page or click Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

The editor invites Ismaili artists to submit a selection of their paintings and other works of art for publication in Simerg. Please submit images of no more than 8 objects in Jpeg (1200 x 900) along with your profile to the editor Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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Compendium of Ismaili Artists

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publiser/Editor, Simerg

Ismaili artist compendium, Simerg, Editor Malik Merchant
Please click on image to download compendium

Some 8 years ago, we produced a beautiful PDF publication entitled “A Compendium of Ismaili Artists from Around the World” that can be downloaded HERE. It contained a short profile and one work of art for each of the 33 different Ismaili artists from around the world who wanted to be featured in the compendium. As much as we wanted to publish an expanded edition of the compendium featuring many more Ismaili artists, we are sorry to note that the response was disappointing despite a major announcement on this platform as well as pertinent social media pages. We are keen to publish an expanded edition of the compendium provided we can, at the least, double up on the original number of 33 artists that were featured in the first edition. There are hundreds of Ismaili artists around the world, judging from their participation during the Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam held in 2007-08 and 2017-18 respectively. We therefore urge Ismaili artists to review the entries in the first edition, and send their details for the compendium accordingly to Malik Merchant at mmerchant@simerg.com. Please do not ask us to prepare your profiles by submitting your elaborate CV or resume or asking us to visit your website to prepare the profile. We need the information from you, based on the format in the compendium; each artist will be allotted one page in the compendium that will include a brief profile and one image. Read the compendium!

Farida Hassam Passings Simerg

Farida Shahsultan Hassam: A Multi-Talented, Courageous and Devoted Murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Passes Away in Toronto After Prolonged Illness

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

By RASHIDA TEJANI
with MALIK MERCHANT

For many many months, my sister Farida had been gravely ill. On days when she felt better there was hope of recovery, but then after a few days it seemed she would be gone any second. I was thousands of kilometres away from her living on the west coast in Vancouver; she was in Toronto. She was being well looked after in her nursing home, but the feeling of not being with her everyday made me very uneasy.

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Farida Hassam with sister Rashida Tejani, Simerg passings
Farida Hassam, left, pictured with her younger sister Rashida during her visit to Richmond, BC, in 2021. Rashida was present in Toronto when Farida passed away on April 29, 2022 at the age of 78. Photo: Rashida Tejani Collection.

Should I arrange for her to be moved to Vancouver? But, then, would she be able to handle a new home in the condition she was in? All these questions bothered my mind everyday while she courageously struggled to live on and cope with her health problems, which were many, due to a weak heart. Every living thing has an instinct to survive. Human beings are blessed with minds to distinguish between right and wrong, they have a heart and they have a soul. For Farida, the remembrance of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Farman, “whether you are young or old, every day is a day that must be lived, and during that day you must fulfill your responsibilities to the best of your ability” (1976, Mumbai, India) became Farida’s motto to live to the best of her ability. Honestly, when the co-author of this piece and our family friend, Malik, visited Farida in Toronto before his departure for Calgary, he was amazed to see her in high spirits as well as be a witness to her brilliant mind and remarkable memory. When it seemed that she wasn’t listening, because her eyes were closed, she was in fact FULLY alert! She would often correct me, narrate an incident or add detail to a story that I was telling about her, and respond with an astonishing feedback. Yes, that was my beloved sister Farida, who made us cheerful when we felt sad. She was bright as well as intellectually stimulating.

I consider myself truly lucky that during the past several months I was able to visit her multiple times and spend quality time with her during each of my visit. The last visit was in April when she died a few days after the Ismaili Centre Headquarters Mukhisaheb and Kamadiasaheb along with their female counterparts — their spouses — Mukhianisaheba and Kamadianisaheba came to visit Farida at the North York General Hospital to give her their blessings. It was a moment that truly uplifted me, but at the same time some kind of an indicator to me that Farida was probably in her final days. Their timing to visit Farida and bless her was perfect.

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Farida Hassam with Malik Merchant of Simerg and nephew Karim Dhanani. Passings
Top: Nephew Karim Dhanani visited Farida regularly at her nursing home in North York; Malik Merchant visits Farida before his departure for Alberta; Farida enjoying her favourite meal — Swiss Chalet chicken and fries with the restaurant’s special gravy. Photos: Rashida Tejani Collection.

Farida had been admitted to the hospital at the beginning of April because of water retention. Her organs had started to fail and the heart had been weak for several years. At the hospital, she underwent a procedure to drain out fluid from her body. While this gave me signs of hope, the recovery was not to be. Finally, she was transferred to the North York Senior Health Centre Palliative Care, and she finally succumbed on April 29, shortly after the Ismaili leadership’s blessed visit.

Her funeral ceremony took place at Scarborough Jamatkhana on May 3, 2022. The samar and zyarat (ceremonies and prayers for the departed soul) were held later on the same day at the Headquarters Jamatkhana at the Ismaili Centre Toronto.

My dearest sister Farida was born on November 20, 1943 in Mityana, a small town located about 70 kilometres west of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. She did her primary education at the Aga Khan School in Mityana and then moved to Kampala for her secondary education at the Old Kampala Government School. She then joined our sister, Laila, in London to qualify as a hairdresser. She migrated to Canada in the 1970’s, and made Toronto her home.

As a qualified hairdresser, she worked in the field for several years, but was unable to continue with hairdressing on a permanent basis because she underwent three open heart surgeries to replace her heart valves. With her worsening health, she then decided to work as a secretary and also took training to pursue a career in computing. Unfortunately her weakened heart, that was also supported by a pacemaker, made it impossible for her to lead a normal professional life as much as she wanted to. However, Farida continued to remain active in her life through her interest and passion for crocheting and knitting. She made and donated baby outfits and shawls to local hospitals and Ismaili Jamatkhanas so that they would be distributed to young parents. She loved to make “prayer beads” (tasbihs) and supplied them to Ismaili children and youth attending Baitul-Ilm classes as well as to Ismaili community members across Canada. She also arranged to send some tasbihs to Ismailis in Tajikistan.

Farida was a multi-talented individual, full of life and vigour. She loved art and painting. She was also a true lover of nature, and got immense happiness and pleasure out of gardening and growing plants in her apartment. When she was finally moved to the Seniors’ Health Centre in October 2019, her social worker set up a garden on the rooftop of the building for Farida to continue with her hobby. She received excellent care at the Seniors’ Health Centre, a hub of innovative care facilities for the elderly provided by the North York General Hospital.

However, there was one person who had come into her life as an angel when she was still living in her apartment. She is Tarina Barter. Tarina continued visiting her at the Seniors’ Health Centre on a regular basis. She became a constant companion to Farida, spending many hours with her and often took Farida out for coffee and meals whenever Covid-19 protocols permitted. My sister’s favourite dish was the famous Swiss Chalet chicken that came with fries and a delicious bowl of gravy! Tarina’s constant updates on Farida provided me with much needed comfort. It was a blessing for the family that Tarina had appeared in our lives at such a critical and crucial moment, relieving us of constantly worrying about Farida’s health and condition. We cannot thank Tarina enough for her unconditional love, care and affection for Farida for 4 continuous years. Her final visit to Farida was on April 27, two days before Farida passed away (see photo, below).

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Tarina Barter and Farida Hassam, North York Health Centre, Simerg passings
Tarina Barter is seen visiting Farida on April 27, 2022 at the North York Senior Health Palliative Care Centre just two days before she passed away. Tarina came as an angel to Farida and her family. She visited Farida on a regular basis over the last four years at her apartment as well as at the Seniors’ Centre. Photo: Rashida Tejani Collection.

Farida was a very kind and compassionate person. Her spirituality, faith and devotion to Mawlana Hazar Imam was exemplary, and set an example to all in her family to remain hopeful and courageous, whatever one’s circumstances.

In Farida’s passing, we have lost a great family member and we pray for her soul to Rest in Eternal Peace. Ameen.

As I complete this short tribute to my beloved sister Farida, I want to mention that our dad, Esmail Dhanani, and mom, Shirin Dhanani, and older brothers Noorali and Ramzan as well as older sisters Dolat Wadhwani, Roshan Lakhani and Zareen Dhamani have all passed away. May their souls also Rest In Eternal Peace. Ameen. 

Farida is survived by her daughter Fauzia Moorani and siblings Laila Pirani and of course myself, Rashida Tejani. I also take this opportunity to mention that my older brother Noorali Dhanani (popularly known as Noora of Sapra Studio) was one of the photographers selected to take pictures of Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam when he recited the Eid ul-Fitr Namaz in Nairobi at the age of 7. Noora also travelled as a photographer with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah on one of his trips by ship from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. I myself was fortunate to have a photo taken with Mata Salamat, Om Habibeh Aga Khan, in Karachi during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Silver Jubilee visit in March 1983.

For the countless blessings that my family has received of serving the Imam-of-the-Time throughout our lives, we submit our humble shukhrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam.

While I was able to see my beloved sister before she passed away and was present for her funeral in Toronto, my daughter Farah could not travel with me and see her beloved aunt. The least she could do was to pen a tribute poem to her beloved Farida aunty that follows below. As readers may be aware, Farah has contributed beautiful poems and stories to this website.

Finally, I ask all readers to once again join with me in praying for the eternal peace of the soul of my beloved sister Farida, who endured her difficulties gracefully and courageously with the continuous blessings of Mawlana Hazar Imam that each of us, as his murids, are bestowed with every second, and every single day of our precious lives.

“Life”, as Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah wrote in his Memoirs, “is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” Farida lived by the tenets of her Ismaili Muslim faith, and has returned to the abode of heavenly peace. “Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156.

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In Memory of Our Dearest Farida Hassam

Farida Hassam (d. April 29, 2022). Photo: Farah Tejani. Passings Simerg
Farida Hassam (d. April 29, 2022, age 78). Photo: Farah Tejani. Click on image for enlargement.

By FARAH TEJANI

Letting you go was not easy,
Very painful and difficult to endure…
However, watching you suffer with such immense pain,
Was even harder for us to bear.

You were a pillar of strength and dignity,
Even through trials and tribulations,
Like a mountain piercing the sky,
Nothing would shake you…

Nothing could break you.

You were never one to complain,
You faced every battle for your life,
Head on,
Using your faith,
And your strong desire to live,
And your love for your family and friends.

While we watched on,
Nervously,
Anxiously,
Praying for the best outcome.

You would always assure us,
“I am in God’s hands.”

And against all odds
You would always prevail.

Not many could go through,
What you did…
Your faith was tested time and again,
But you never let go of Mawla’s Hands.

Your beauty and sophistication
And your Pure heart,
And unconditional compassion,
Touched all of us, who knew you…
And even those of us who didn’t,
But wanted to.

You always kept busy with hobbies and interests,
You’d even sew some of your own outfits,
Always vibrant colors and flowers so real
You could almost smell them.

You also enjoyed making
Hundreds and hundreds of prayer beads,
That were then Blessed and given out.

You were the prettiest flower,
Who enjoyed growing a garden of sunflowers and tulips,
And then painting them so vividly
Your palette bursting with hues.

And then, just when we thought the worst was over,
You would be hit by another serious health crisis.

But you would be so brave and assure us,
“What doesn’t kill you, Makes you stronger.”
And stronger she was.

But this time, sadly, was your time to go,
But we know that we can be assured,
We know in our hearts,
That you will always be watching from Above.

Date posted: May 29, 2022.

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We invite you to submit your condolences and tributes to Farida Hassam in the comments box below or by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT.

About the writers: Farah Tejani is a creative writer based in Vancouver. She has become a regular contributor of poems and stories to this website, and readers are invited to click HERE for a summary of her beautiful writings. Her incredible mother, Rashida, now retired, lives in Richmond, BC, and has encouraged her daughter in all her literary pursuits over the past 30 years. Both mother and daughter continue to inspire each other as they go through life’s challenges. Malik Merchant, co-author with Rashida to the tribute to Farida, is the founding publisher and editor of Simerg (2009) and its two sister blogs, Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012).

Simerg invites Ismaili families to submit obituaries and tributes to deceased members of their families, whether they passed away recently or in the past. Please review PASSINGS on how to prepare and submit your tribute.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos. Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com

Noah’s Ark by (Late) Jehangir Merchant

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

When the much talked and anticipated Hollywood movie “Noah” hit theatres in North America on March 28, 2014, there was widespread criticism of the movie by numerous Muslim and Christian religious groups. Movie goers had mixed reactions, rating it as high as “A” and “B” and as low as “D”. Google’s numbers indicate that 68% liked the movies. The UK Guardian gave it 3 stars out of 5. A number of Muslim countries including Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population numbering some 231 million (2021) banned the movie for its depiction of Noah. The BBC noted that a number of Arab States including UAE, Qatar and Bahrain were among Middle Eastern countries that banned Noah as it broke Islam’s taboo of depicting a prophet. “There are scenes that contradict Islam and the Bible, so we decided not to show it,” said Juma Al-Leem of Juma Al-Leem UAE’s National Media Centre. Mary Fairchild writing for About.com hinted that the movie would be replete with inaccuracies, and suggested reading the “authentic” story in the Bible.

Simerg has a version of the story from the Qur’an, presented by the well-known late Ismaili Muslim teacher, missionary and writer (Alwaez) Rai Jehangir A. Merchant (December 13, 1928 – May 27, 2018), who dedicated his life to the service of his community for more than 60 years, both in professional and honorary capacities. He passed away on May 27, 2018, exactly 4 years ago, and this popular piece, that has received more than 80,000 views over the years, is being shared by Jehangir’s son Malik, the editor of this website who along with Alwaez’s family members fondly remember him on the 4th anniversary of his passing.

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Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an

A Mughal miniature of Noah's Ark in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
A Mughal miniature of Noah’s Ark in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

[This is a revised version of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant’s original article which was published in Ilm magazine, July 1976, under his pen name Jami. He edited and wrote extensively for the flagship UK Ismaili magazine — Ed.]

By LATE JEHANGIR A. MERCHANT
(1928-2018)

Prophets are the messengers of Allah who came from time to time to guide mankind to the way of Allah, the path of righteousness. Amongst the many who came as guides and warners to the people, Prophet Noah (Alaihisalam) [1] was one of them. He lived long before the time of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu alaihi wasalam), the last of the prophets. [2]

God appointed Noah as the prophet for his people, so as to guide them to the right path and turn them away from their evil ways. The Holy Qur’an tells us the story of Prophet Noah and his people in a number of suras [3], namely sura 71 (Nuh), sura 11 (Hud), and sura 23 (al-Mu’minun), and many ayats [4] therein. It tells us of the strong faith which the Prophet had in Almighty God and about the final destruction of those who ignored the Divine Message.

Commanding Prophet Noah to warn his people, God said:

“Warn your people before there comes upon them a grievous penalty.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:1

Obeying the command of God, Prophet Noah went to his people and said:

“I have come to you with a clear warning that you worship none but God. Verily I fear for you the penalty of a grievous day.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:25-26

The chiefs fearing they would lose their power and authority over the people they ruled, did not approve of what Prophet Noah was preaching and sought to detract the people from the True Path. They argued with the Prophet saying:

“We see nothing special in you except as a man like ourselves. Nor do we see any who have followed you but those who are the meanest amongst us and immature in judgment. Nor do we see in you any excellence over us; in fact we think you are a liar.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:27

Prophet Noah was not perturbed by their derogatory remarks and continued his divine mission purposefully. He called upon his people in a very polite and loving manner to mend their ways. He also warned them of the grievous consequences which would follow if they continued to worship the false gods and lead an immoral life. Assuring them that he was not seeking any wealth or power or favours from them, he said:

“And O my people! I ask you for no wealth in return: my reward is from none but God.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:29

But the chiefs continued to hinder Prophet Noah in his mission by instigating doubts about Noah. They would say to the people:

“He is no more than a man like yourselves. His wish is to assert superiority over you. If God had wished (to send messengers), He could have sent down Angels. Never did we hear such a thing (as he says), among our ancestors of old.” — Holy Qur’an, 23:24. [5]

The chiefs would then turn in anger towards the Prophet and challenge him arrogantly:

“O Noah! Indeed you have disputed with us and you have prolonged the dispute: now bring upon us what you have threatened us with, if you are of the Truthful Ones.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:32

Prophet Noah would then remind them that it was not in his but God’s power to punish them for their evil ways.

“Truly God will bring it on you if He wills, — and then, you will not be able to frustrate it.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:33

But all his warnings, his good advices and counsels seemed to fall on deaf ears. Except for a very few who had followed his guidance, others continued to worship the idols of stone with different names as attested in the following verse:

“And they have said (to each other) ‘Abandon not your gods: abandon neither Wadd nor Suwa, neither Yaguth nor Yauq, nor Nasr.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:23

Prophet Noah re-doubled his efforts but all to no avail. He would then cry out to his Lord:

“O my Lord! I have called to my people by night and by day, but my call only (increases their) flight (from the True Path). And every time I have called to them, that You may forgive them, they have thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, grown obstinate and given themselves up to arrogance. So, I have called to them aloud: further I have spoken to them in public and secretly in private.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:5-9

As the people became more obstinate and refused to accept God’s message accusing Prophet Noah of falsehood, God decided to bring down His punishment upon the unbelievers. To Prophet Noah, God commanded:

“Construct the Ark within Our sight and under Our guidance. Then when comes Our command, and the fountains of the earth gush forth, take on board pairs of every species, male and female, and your people except those of them against whom the Word has already been issued: and address Me not in respect of those who are unjust; for verily they shall be drowned (in the flood).” — Holy Qur’an, 23:27

Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “Noah’s Ark”, Herat 1425. Leaf: 42.3 × 32.6 cm. The scene on the stormy sea is quite dramatic, with the fluttering sail, the ark breaking out of the picture frame, and the swollen bodies. The animals that are to populate the earth are rendered both humorously and fairly realistically. Photo: The David Collection, Denmark.
Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “Noah’s Ark”, Herat 1425. Leaf: 42.3 × 32.6 cm. The scene on the stormy sea is quite dramatic, with the fluttering sail, the ark breaking out of the picture frame, and the swollen bodies. The animals that are to populate the earth are rendered both humorously and fairly realistically. Photo: The David Collection, Denmark.

As commanded, Prophet Noah now set upon the task of building the Ark with the help of the small group of believers. The sight of Prophet Noah and his men constructing the Ark seemed to amuse the chiefs and unbelievers. They did not realise the seriousness of the situation but only laughed and jeered.

“Whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they mocked at him…” — Holy Qur’an, 11:38

Prophet Noah would now answer back to their mocking comments in a very bold and straight-forward manner:

“…If you ridicule us now, verily we too shall mock at you, even as you mock (at us). But soon will you know who it is on whom will descend a penalty which will cover them with shame and upon whom will fall a lasting penalty.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:38-39

When the Ark was completed, Prophet Noah took with him his family and the believers, and a pair of every creature that was found on the land around him. Now God’s warning to the people that He would send floods upon them came to pass.

“At length, behold! there came our Command, and the fountains of the earth gushed forth.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:40

The flood waters began to rise. Believers who had so far suffered at the hands of the chiefs and idol worshippers found themselves safe in Noah’s Ark. They offered their prayers and prostration to Almighty God as thanksgiving for the Mercy He had bestowed upon them. The unbelievers who had ignored God’s guidance were in a grievous state. All was lost to them. The heavy downpour of rain, the strong winds, the deafening thunder and the blinding lightning created confusion in their minds and fear in their hearts. They ran helter-skelter in search for safety. They climbed the roof-tops and the trees but nothing could save them now as the waters rose higher and higher.

Amongst the unbelievers was Prophet Noah’s own son, and he too was desperately trying to save himself from the flood waters. Prophet Noah’s Ark with all aboard was sailing safely on the waters and just when the Prophet saw his son he called out to him and said:

‘O my son! embark with us and be not with the unbelievers’. The son replied: ‘I will betake myself to some mountain, it will save me from the flood’. And Noah said: ‘This day nothing can save you from what God has decreed, for only those on whom He has Mercy will be saved’. And the waves came between them and the son was among the drowned ones.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:42-43

Finally, when all the unbelievers were drowned in the flood, God commanded:

“O Earth! swallow up your water, and O Sky! withhold your rain! and the water abated and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi.” [6] — Holy Qur’an, 11:44

A mausoleum dedicated to Prophet Noah in Azerbaijan. Photo: Wikipedia.
A mausoleum dedicated to Prophet Noah in Azerbaijan. Photo: Wikipedia.

As the ark rested on Mount Judi, Prophet Noah prayed:

“O my Lord! enable me to disembark with Your Blessings, for You are the Best of all to enable us to disembark.” — Holy Qur’an, 23:29

This story from the Holy Qur’an is as a sign from God to the whole of humanity living in different times. It reminds us of the great powers of God. This is not to say that God only possesses the powers to destroy and punish; more so, it tells us of God’s Infinite Love, Care and Mercy He has for all mankind, for it is He Who sends His Guidance to every race and every people.

“And there never was a people, without a Warner, having lived among them.” — Holy Qur’an, Sura Al-Fatir, 35:24.

Date posted: May 27, 2022.

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Notes:

[1] Alaihisalam (abbreviation AS) means ‘Peace be upon him’. Salallahu alaihi wasalam (abbreviation SAWS or SAS) means ‘God’s blessings and peace be upon him’.

[2] Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was the last in the line of the Prophets. There will be no prophet after him and he is therefore called Khatam al-nabiyyin – the Seal of the Prophets. The Holy Qur’an says: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men but he is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets, and God has full knowledge of all things’ (33:40, Sura Al-Ahzab).

[3] Sura means ‘Chapter’. There are 114 chapters in the Holy Qur’an.

[4] Ayat means ‘Verse’. Each Quranic chapter contains a number of verses. The total number of verses in the Holy Qur’an is 6240, or including the 113 ‘Bismillahi-r-Rahmanir-Rahim’ with which the chapters open, 6353. Every chapter except the ninth opens with the ‘Bismillah’. There also exists a slight difference in the numbering of verses. Kufah readers count them 6329, Basrah 6204, Syria 6225, Mecca 6219, Medina 6211. But this is a difference of computation only, some readers marking the end of a verse where others do not.

[5] The wrong doers who never wanted to desist from evil and give up their false worship always questioned as to why Angels were not sent to them as Messengers. They would ask: “What sort of an apostle is this, who eats food and walks though the streets’? Why has not an angel been sent down to give admonition with him’? (Holy Qur’an, 25:7, Sura Al-Furqan).

The Arabs during the time of Prophet Muhammad brought forward the same argument and God commanded our Holy Prophet to answer: “If there were settled on earth, angels walking about in peace and quiet, We should certainly have sent for them an Angel for an apostle down from the heavens” (17:95, Sura Bani-Israel).

Because men inhabit this earth it is only natural that Prophets who bring God’s message to Mankind are also men and not angels.

[6] Jabal (Mount) Judi is situated in the modern Turkish district of Bohtan. The great mountain mass of the Ararat Plateau dominates the district. This mountain system “is unique in the Old World in containing great sheets of water that are bitter lakes without outlets, Lake Van and Lake Urumiya being the chief.” (Encyclopaedia Brittanica). Such would be the very region for a stupendous deluge if the usual scanty rainfall were to be changed into a very heavy downpour. The region has many local traditions connected with Noah and the flood.

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A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mawlana Hazar Imam and Jehangir Merchant
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan listens intently as Alwaez Jehangir explains the material used to impart religious education to Ismaili youth in Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), while Ismaili leaders look on. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Alwaez Jehangir (d. May 27, 2018, age 89) and his wife Alwaeza Maleksultan (d. January 21, 2021, age 89) served the Ismailia Association (now the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board, ITREB) in Mozambique, Tanzania and the UK from 1954 until 1992, and continued to serve Ismaili institutions on an honorary basis until the last years of their lives. Jehangir A. Merchant passed away in May 2018 at the age of 89. Please see Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) 

For articles by Alwaez Jehangir on this Website please click:

  1. I Wish I’d Been There: Ghadir-Khumm and the Two Weighty Matters
  2. An Esoteric Interpretation of the Mi’raj
  3. The Establishment of the Fatimid Caliphate
  4. The Parable of Moses and Khidr in the Holy Qur’an
  5. Jehangir Merchant’s Thank You Letter to Da’i Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi
  6. Text and Explanation of “Eji Shah Islamshah Amne Maliya”
  7. A Translation and Brief Commentary of Pir Sadardin’s Ginan “Jem Jem Jugatsu Preet Kareva”
  8. The Frontispiece of the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Mashhad, Iran

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a fewPlease also visit our sister website Barakah, dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and our photo blog Simergphotos.

Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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(1) The Immaculate Conception of Jesus in the Qura’n and its Impact on a Christian Emperor by Barnaby Rogerson; and (2) Jesus Through a Muslim Lens by Michael Wolfe

“Muhammad, who could do nothing to alleviate the suffering of his small embattled community of believers, at last advised some of his followers to leave sacred Mecca and take refuge elsewhere”…. Read Barnaby Rogerson’s Piece

The Altar of the Nativity, beneath which is the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright. Please click on image for Barnaby Rogerson's piece.
The Altar of the Nativity, beneath which is the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Photo: Copyright Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Please click on image for Barnaby Rogerson’s piece.

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“Christians may be surprised to learn that Muslims believe in the Virgin Birth and Jesus’ miracles”….. Read Michael Wolfe’s Piece

Left: Virgin Mary nurtured by a palm tree in a Turkish miniature, as described in the Qur'an; right: Mary and Jesus in a Persian miniature. Please click on image for Michael Wolfe's article "Jesus Through a Muslim Lens." Images: Wikipedia.
Left: Virgin Mary nurtured by a palm tree in a Turkish miniature, as described in the Qur’an; right: Mary and Jesus in a Persian miniature. Please click on image for Michael Wolfe’s article “Jesus Through a Muslim Lens.” Images: Wikipedia.

Date posted: May 23, 2022.

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A Tribute to a Great and Long-Serving Ismaili Missionary, Alwaeza Gulshan S. Alidina, As She Passes Away in Toronto at the Age of 93

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

By KAMRUDIN A. RASHID

Practically every morning after saying our prayers, I spend some time reminiscing about services that are rendered by tens of thousands of murids (one who has given allegiance and pledged loyalty to the Ismaili Imam, namely His Highness the Aga Khan) around the world to the jamat (community), its institutions and to the Imam-of-the-Time. Over the past 60 years of my services to the jamat in East Africa and Canada, I have been fortunate to encounter and develop special bonds of friendships with countless such individuals serving the Imamat in both honorary and professional capacities.

Ismaili missionary Gulshan Alidina passes away at the age of 93, Simerg tribute by Rashid
The Ismaili jamat in Canada will miss the beautiful and cheerful smiling face of Alwaeza Raisaheba Gulshan S. Alidina (December 20, 1928 – May 11, 2022). Photo: Samsoudine and Gulshan Alidina Family Collection.

One group of people that has constantly amazed me and has been in my heart and thoughts are the missionaries (waezin) of the past and present eras who have been responsible for molding the lives of millions of murids throughout our Ismaili history, by imparting religious knowledge and understanding as well as inculcating the ethic of the Islamic faith. Referred to in contemporary times as Alwaez or Alwaeza, historically the missionaries were often designated titles such as Dai, Hujjat or Pirs in the Ismaili Tariqah (path) of Islam. Several individuals who held such positions were also given the mandate and responsibility of disseminating the faith among non-Ismailis, especially in the Middle East, Central and South Asia. In the last two years, during the Covid-19 pandemic we have seen Ismaili missionaries and scholars appearing in weekly online Jamati programs, and talking openly about the Ismaili Tariqah in the context of the Islamic faith, and also articulating the ethic of maintaining a strong balance between our spiritual and material lives, an emphasis that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has laid on his community throughout the past 64 years of his Imamat.

Over the last few decades, the Ismaili community has seen numerous outstanding Ismaili missionaries pass away. Their rich and inspiring lives have not been told and their works are awaiting proper documentation for future research. It was for this reason that my suggestion to the editor of this website, Malik, to launch a series on Ismaili missionaries was welcomed by him with gratitude and enthusiasm. In recent years, we have seen brief tributes and articles on some of the deceased missionaries such as Abualy Alibhai (d. 2008, age 89), Amirali Gillani (d. 2020, age 75), Sultanali Mohamed (d. 2020, age 93), Nizar Chunara (d. 2021, age 81), and Malik’s own parents Jehangir (d. 2018, age 89) and Malek Merchant (d. 2021, age 89). I wanted to launch the series with an Alwaez or Alwaeza who was still alive. There are many, but I could think of no one to begin the series with other than Alwaeza Gulshan Alidina who, with her husband Alwaez Samsoudine, has served the jamats around the world for 60 years.

Alas, while Alwaeza Gulshan Alidina’s piece was awaiting publication on this website, I learnt with deep sadness that she was unwell and in hospital. Then, with profound grief, I received the news that she passed away peacefully on Wednesday, May 11, 2022 at the age of 93. She is survived by her beloved husband, Alwaez Rai Samsoudine Alidina, daughters Khatidja Mohammed and Fatima Alidina, and grandchildren Shamsa Alidina, Tanwir and Sohail Alidina.

Ismaili missionaries Gulshan and Samsoudine passings simerg
Alwaeza Raisaheba Gulshan Alidina (d. May 11, 2022) and her husband Alwaez Rai Samsoudine pictured in Toronto with their daughters, Khatidja and Fatima (extreme left), and grandchildren Shamsa, Tanwir and Sohail. Photo: Samsoudine and Gulshan Alidina Family Collection.

Alwaeza Gulshan’s funeral ceremonies took place on Saturday, May 14th at Toronto’s Scarborough Jamatkhana — where all Ismaili funeral ceremonies in the Metro Toronto are held. The funeral and burial ceremonies were followed by special prayers (known as samar and zyarat) for the departed soul at Richmond Hill Jamatkhana during evening prayers. Alwaeza was very well known and popular in many parts of the world, and it it is expected that many of her colleagues, friends and family members will hold samars in their respective Jamatkhanas.

Alwaeza Gulshan Alidina and her beloved husband Alwaez Samsoudine Alidina had an amazingly long track record of services to the Jamat, and over the past sixty years, like their late friends Jehangir and Malesultan Merchant, served the Jamat unitedly with the goal to teach the Ismaili tariqah and its essence to murids of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Gulshan and Samsoudine’s inspiring waezes (sermons) were very well attended wherever they preached. They were known as the missionaries from Madagascar. Often the person reading an announcement about their forthcoming sermon, would refer to them as Madagascarwala (i.e. of or belonging to Madagascar). That was in a sense part of their identity, and the community members would show up in very large numbers to listen to them and benefit from their knowledge and wisdom.

Gulshan and her future husband, Samsoudine, both joined the waezin training programme that was offered in Karachi in 1958. Gulshan had travelled from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (then Tanganyika) for the extensive 2 year programme that was conducted by the outstanding scholar (Late) Professor Javad Muscati. He trained the new students on all aspects of Islam and Ismailism, and the recitation of the Holy Qur’an. Gulshan and Samsoudine both said that they could not have studied under a more knowledgeable person than Professor Javad.

On completing the waezin program, the qualifying students were presented with certificates by none other than Mawlana Hazar Imam, who bestowed the new waezin with many blessings for their success. It was during that precious moment in Karachi that Gulshan delivered a waez in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Gulshan found it unthinkable that her very first waez to the Jamat would be in front of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Aga Khan listening to sermon Simerg
Alwaeza Gulshan Alidina presenting a waez (sermon) in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, folloing her graduation from the Karachi waezin training program, September 27, 1960. Photo: Kamrudin Rashid Collection.

Indeed, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s remarks on the waez that she delivered on September 27, 1960 deeply inspired and motivated Alwaeza Gulshan in her career goals. Mawlana Hazar Imam said after the waez that it was one of the most impressive waez he had yet heard, and that Alwaeza in delivering the waez had done well.

After completing her waezin training program in Karachi, Gulshan returned to Tanzania. A proposal of marriage from Samsoudine, who had studied with her in Karachi, was accepted and she commenced her journey of service to the Jamat as a waezin and teacher with the Ismailia Association in Madagascar, her husband’s home. She served in Madagascar from 1960 until 1974, after which the couple settled in Paris for a brief period. The family then made their home in Canada, first in Montreal and then in Toronto. She served with the Ismailia Association, that later came to be known as ITREB (the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board) from 1978 until the mid 1990’s. Upon her retirement, she continued to give waezes and serve the jamat in an honorary capacity. This she continued to do until the last stages of her life.

Throughout her waezin career, and because of her excellent knowledge and oratory, she received invitations to deliver waezes in many parts of Africa including Mozambique, South Africa, and East Africa. Following her highly successful waez tour to East Africa in 1968, Mawlana Hazar Imam sent a message to the president of the Ismailia Association for Tanzania, Rai Shamshudin Tejpar, in which he expressed his deep happiness and pleasure with Alwaeza’s excellent work. He sent her his affectionate paternal and maternal loving blessings for the good work that she had done and for her devoted services. Later in life, Alwaeza also travelled to many European countries, where Ismailis had made new homes, and also travelled to deliver sermons in distant Australia and New Zealand. She was successful and popular because she worked hard and was skillful with the Jamat, and always carried with her the blessings of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Alwaeza Gulshan’s death lives a big vacuum in the jamat and in her family. She was 93 and lived a rich and purposeful life, sharing her wisdom into her late age and inspiring the jamat, both young and old alike.

We convey our sincere and deep condolences to Alwaez Samsoudine and all the members of her family, and pray that Alwaeza’s soul may rest in ternal peace. We wish everyone in her family the courage and fortitude to face her immense loss.

The services rendered by Alwaeza Gulshan will always be remembered by Ismailis around the world. We sincerely hope that everything possible will be done to preserve the written and oral legacy that she has left behind, so that future generations of the jamat are inspired by a great dai of the contemporary era, who served her 49th Hereditary Ismaili Imam Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan, with love and devotion.

Date posted: May 19, 2022.

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Kamrudin Rashid
Kamrudin Rashid

About the writer: Born in Zanzibar, Kamrudin Rashid lived in both Zanzibar as well as in Pemba from 1946 until after 1964 Zanzibar Revolution that saw the island merge with mainland Tanganyika into a unified country called Tanzania. He then settled in Dar es Salaam, before making Canada his home in early 1975. Kamru was in Pemba during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s historic visit on November 18th, 1957. Kamru has served the Ismaili community in honorary and professional positions for over six decades, and today continues to serve and contribute to the Ismaili institutions. Please also read his co-authored piece with Shahbanu Abdulla by clicking on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Pemba visit.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Please also visit our sister website Barakah, dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and our photo blog Simergphotos.

Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com.