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.

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.

(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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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Alwaeza Gulshan Alidina by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment.

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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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Simerg invites Ismaili families to submit obituaries and tributes for deceased members of their families. For guidelines, please click Passings.

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.

Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Ismaili Lawyer and Leader Jalal Jaffer Pens His Encounters of Hope from Kampala to Vancouver

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Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Encounters of Hope from Kampala to Vancouver by Jalal Jaffer, Q.C.
316 pp. FriesenPress
US$ 29.99 (Hardback), US$ 19.99 (Paperback) and US$ 6.99 (eBook) as listed at FriesenPress; also available in all formats at Amazon.ca, and as a Kobo eBook at Indigo.ca (CDN $7.99).

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(We acknowledge, with thanks, the permission of the author Jalal Jaffer to reproduce the following foreword to his book — Ed.)

Foreword to “Memories of a Ugandan Refugee”

By FAROUK MITHA

“For Canadian Ismaili Muslim readers, Jalal has performed an invaluable service by writing this autobiography. It is an eyewitness account of how Ismaili communities established roots and built institutions from 1970s onward. Much of this historical record will soon be lost if it is not preserved. In this light, Jalal’s autobiography will become an important reference work when the history of Canadian Ismaili Muslims is written”

It is 1965 and Jalal Jaffer is on an airplane for the first time. He is flying from Kampala to London, to begin his University studies, and while airborne, he movingly describes his oscillating emotions:

“I stared out of the small window as the plane took off, anxious but not fearful, watching the flickers of light diminishing as the plane climbed higher above the clouds… I was leaving behind a world that I knew, a world of family and friends, a world that had nurtured me, and now entering a new world that I knew little about, a world without family, a world in which I would have to find new friends, a world in which I would live on my own…  However, I did not have the slightest doubt about my purpose in pursuing higher education in London. I had an absolute obligation to help support my family and to take care of their financial needs. It was critical that I studied hard, completed my education and came back home. My family needed me… Besides, the financial support through the Imam’s [Ismaili Community] bursary program undoubtedly imposed additional expectations that I was obligated to fulfill. After completing my education, I would not only support my family, but also give back to the Jamat the benefit of my knowledge, my experience and wisdom.”

Human stories of departures and arrivals are not new, yet this vividly rendered autobiography carries the reader along with Jalal on a momentous, unpredictable journey across continents with unforgettable lessons in the art of living. Jalal captures not only the journey of an individual, but through the arc of his dramatic life he offers rich insights into the life/worlds of Ugandan South Asian communities, particularly communities who have been shaped by multiple migrations and experiences of statelessness. The above, prescient passage contains in a compressed way salient themes running through this autobiography, namely, tensions negotiated by Jalal between individual aspirations and demands of family duties; between emotional uncertainties accompanying experiences of cultural change and intellectual excitement accompanying experiences of cultural discovery; and perhaps most poignantly, between the struggle to nurture deep faith commitments for his inner life as an individual Ismaili Muslim and yet to equally nurture his commitments for a public life of active community service and to the legal profession in Canada.

“What has stayed with me indelibly after reading this book, is Jalal’s passionate voice. It is the voice of a passionate optimist, rooted in love for his faith traditions and for his spiritual guide, Hazar Imam, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslim community”

Memoirs of a Ugandan Refugee Jalal Jaffer Ismaili author
“Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” by Jalal Jaffer, 316 pp., FriesenPress, First Edition 2022.

I have known Jalal for almost three decades and in many ways see him as an exemplary mentor for the generation of Ismaili Muslims who, like me, migrated to Canada as teenagers in the early 1970s. For me the most enduring lessons from his life story reside in his example of self-belief and in his tireless curiosity. Jalal’s steely determination is palpable on almost every page, whether recounting his courageous response to a tragic, freak accident while playing at a neighborhood construction site in Kampala at the age of 6, which led to permanent disfigurement of his left arm; or when recounting how he and his wife, Shamshad, literally escaped out of Uganda in 1972, dodging one military checkpoint after another on the road to Entebbe airport, and finally departing with only two suitcases and fifty British pounds each; or when recounting that after several dead-end job opportunities in Toronto, he hunkers down and completes a law degree at UBC and is called to the Bar in 1978, while, remarkably, at the same time working as a full-time realtor in Vancouver and devoting most evenings serving voluntarily as a senior community leader for recently arrived Ismaili communities across Canada. These and many other continuing transitions in Jalal’s life are narrated in these pages. Fast forward to 2016, and the fact that he is awarded the title of Q.C. (Queen’s Counsel) by the Government of BC for his record of professional integrity and exceptional service as a lawyer – is a telling marker of how far Jalal has travelled by dint of hard work and as a selfless leader.    

For Canadian Ismaili Muslim readers, Jalal has performed an invaluable service by writing this autobiography. It is an eyewitness account of how Ismaili communities established roots and built institutions from 1970s onward. Much of this historical record will soon be lost if it is not preserved. In this light, Jalal’s autobiography will become an important reference work when the history of Canadian Ismaili Muslims is written. In several chapters, there is significant archival material presented, excerpted from newspapers and his journal entries. Indeed, this autobiography makes an important contribution to the emerging archive of post-World War II, non-European migration into Canada.

What has stayed with me indelibly after reading this book, is Jalal’s passionate voice. It is the voice of a passionate optimist, rooted in love for his faith traditions and for his spiritual guide, Hazar Imam, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslim community. Equally, it is the voice of a passionate family man, whose love for his wife, two sons and extended family is an abiding source of his happiness. This passionate voice comes across immediately in the many poems included in this book — poems written by Jalal across different stages of his life. By my lights, these four lines convey the kernel of Jalal’s life-affirming outlook:

We are not a wave
Only a tiny part
Of the mighty sea.
Indeed, we are the sea!

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A Review of Memories of a Ugandan Refugee

By ROBERT WILCOX SWEET

“Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” is quite simply a delight: rarely have I so enjoyed — or so benefitted from — a book. Anyone wishing to learn more about the Ismailis — that most magnificent and inspiring people — the expulsion of Asians from Uganda, and the great challenges emigrants face (particularly those who have had everything — their country, their community, their home and possessions, their job — taken from them), should read Jalal’s wonderful book. 

Why in particular I found his book so fascinating: most of what Jalal and his wife, Shamshad, went through is quite beyond my experience — and even my imagination. What also struck me — indeed, amazed me — is Jalal’s great bonhomie, his great good nature in the face of difficulties under which most of us would simply wilt. (How inspirational that is! My difficulties seem — and are — so very small in comparison.) To arrive penniless in a new country and achieve the success he has achieved, is little short of miraculous. (And yet, what does he do the moment he arrives in Canada?  He begins to give to, to help, others.) 

The German historian Christian Meier wrote that Julius Caesar “viewed difficulties simply as tasks.”  So, too, does Jalal. Better: Jalal views difficulties simply as adventures! The greatest compliment I can pay “Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” is that it is unique: I have never read another book quite like it.  I am exceedingly grateful to Jalal for having written this book, for having taught and entertained me. (On entertained: Jalal has the most delightful writing style, unfailingly cheerful and witty — almost effervescent — no matter the situation he is describing.) I so wish I belonged to a book group: how I would love discussing this book with my fellow readers!

(For more reviews of Jalal Jaffer’s book as well as his profile, please visit his website by clicking HERE — Ed.)

Date posted: May 16, 2022.
Last updated: May 17, 2022 (added book review by Robert Wilcox Sweet)

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Farouk Mitha, Ismaili scholar, Simerg
Farouk Mitha

Dr. Farouk Mitha, author of the foreword to “Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” reproduced above, is a lecturer and Research Affiliate in the Faculty of Education at University of Victoria, Canada. He is currently the Academic Director for the Postgraduate Research Fellowship Programme at Institute of Ismaili Studies. He has published in the area of medieval Islamic thought and on teaching Shakespeare, as well as on Canadian literature and Iranian cinema. His book, Al-Ghazali and the Ismailis: A Debate on Reason and Authority in Medieval Islam was published by I.B Tauris in 2001.

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Robert Wilcox Sweet, author of the review, studied history and literature at Oxford University as an English Speaking Scholar, and Arabic and history in Syria as a Fulbright Scholar; he holds two master’s degrees. He is Senior Philanthropic Advisor to Aga Khan University and the author of ” Life Fighting: Why We Must Sometimes Fight, and How to Do So Well.”

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

Ismaili Muslims in Richmond, Virginia, Celebrate Official Opening of Glen Allen Jamatkhana

Glen Allen Jamatkhana opening
Photo: Tom Lappas/Henrico Citizen. Please click on image for article.

The nearly 1000 members of the Ismaili Muslim Jamat (community) residing in and around Richmond, Virginia, have a new 12,780 square foot Jamatkhana in Glen Allen, in Henrico County. The official opening of the Jamatkhana took place on May 6, 2022. Glen Allen is 13 kilometres from Richmond, the state capital, and 141 kilometres (appx. 88 miles) south of the US capital, Washington, DC. In a fine piece for the Henrico Citizen, Tom Lappas reports on the Jamatkhana opening. He notes that the Ismaili Jamat in Richmond is composed of members from Africa, South Asia, Syria as well as Afghanistan. Sitting on three acres of space, the Jamatkhana building was extensively madeover, and now reflects traditional Islamic geometric designs. It houses a room for prayer (the Jamatkhana itself), as well as classrooms, meeting rooms and an interfaith room for family members who are not Ismailis. Please read and listen to the piece by Tom Lappas by clicking New Jamatkhana for Ismailis in Glen Allen. Lappas is the founder and publisher of T3 Media, LLC, the parent company of the Henrico Citizen and HenricoCitizen.com.

Date posted: May 12, 2022.

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

John Halani, a Prominent Figure in the Ismaili Muslim Community Passes Away in Vancouver at the age of 85

John Halani, titanic Ismaili leader, passings, tribute Simerg
John Halani

As thousands of Ugandan-Asian refugees prepare to mark the 50th anniversary of their arrival in Canada later this year after being ousted from Uganda, John Halani will be remembered as the man who helped scores of them resettle in Greater Vancouver, writes award winning journalist and acclaimed author Fabian Dawson in a special column published on May 9, 2022 in the New Canadian Media.

Bestowed the title of Rai by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, during the Golden Jubilee Year for his devoted services to the Ismaili community, Halani passed away on May 2 at the age of 85, as his fellow Muslims, were celebrating the Eid ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan.

A leader in Canada’s Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim community, Halani, was the Honorary Consul for Uganda in British Columbia for more than two decades. “He built bridges with his passion for helping others,” said Sam Hirji, a Vancouver-based printer, who was part of the exodus from Uganda, some 50 years ago. “For us Ismailis’ he was the go-to-guy for any and all community projects,” Hirji told New Canadian Media.

Farouk Verjee, a past president of His Highness the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada, said, ““He lived to help others and was a consummate community volunteer from his early days in Uganda and later here in Vancouver with the Immigrant Services Society.”

John Halani’s funeral ceremonies will take place at the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana on Tuesday, May 10, at 11:45 AM.

Please click He built bridges with his passion for helping others for Fabian Dawson’s tribute to John Halani.

Date posted: May 10, 2022.

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Readers are invited to submit condolences and tributes to John Halani in the comments box below or by clicking on Leave a comment.

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.

Two Insightful and Profound Interviews of His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Ismaili Muslims belong to the Shia branch of Islam, the other branch being the Sunnis who form the Muslim majority. His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th Hereditary spiritual leader or Imam of the Ismailis and is directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) through his son-in-law, Ali (A.S.), who was married to the Prophet’s daughter, Fatima (A.S.). Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali were also first cousins — their respective fathers Abd al-Muttalib and  Abu Talib were brothers.

According to Shia Muslims, the Prophet had designated Ali to succeed him as the Imam. The Sunnis dispute this, and Muslims have remained divided over this contentious matter for centuries. However, in their book, “History in Quotations”, which reflects five thousand years of World History, the authors M. J. Cohen and John Major write as follows: 

“Muhammad said: ‘He of whom I am the Mawla (patron), Ali is his Mawla. O God, be the friend of him who is his friend and be the enemy of his enemy.’ 

“This became the proof text for the Shia claim that Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law, was the Prophet’s rightful successor after the Prophet’s death in 632. The meaning of Mawla here probably implies the role of patron, lord or protector.” 

The authors, Cohen and Major, sum up by stating that through the use of the term Mawla, Muhammad was giving Ali the parity with himself in this function.

Over the course of history, the Shia Muslims split into a number of branches over the succession of Imams descended from Ali. The first major split occurred during the 8th century, two centuries after the passing of Prophet Muhammad, following the reign of Imam Ja’far al-Sadiq, when one group considered his son Musa Kazim as the rightful Imam. The other group regarded Imam Ja’far’s elder son, Ismail, as the rightful successor. Musa Kazim’s successors continued until the 12th Imam, who is then said to have gone into hiding. This group of Shia Muslims, awaiting the re-appearance of the hidden 12th Imam to take part in the final judgement, forms the Shia majority in Iran and Iraq. They are known as the Twelver Shias or Ithnashries.

The group that held to Imam Ismail became known as the Ismailis and continue to thrive today under the Hereditary leadership of His Highness the Aga Khan, who is respectfully addressed by his Ismaili Muslim followers as Hazar Imam (the present living Imam). Thus, the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely the Aga Khan.

Naheed Nenshi Mayor Calgary Simerg
Naheed Nenshi, left, at an event in Ottawa.

Having recently re-established myself as a resident of Alberta after 40 years, and to put the Ismailis and their Hereditary 49th Imam, the Aga Khan, into an Albertan perspective, I should like to mention that Naheed Nenshi, who served as Calgary’s mayor for three terms from 2010 until 2021 is an Ismaili Muslim. Readers are invited to read his piece in the Globe and Mail, Why I’m grateful for the Aga Khan’s extraordinary service to humanity (a subscription or registration may be required to read the article).

Salma Lakhani, 19th Lieutenant Governor Alberta, Simerg
The Honourable Salma Lakhani

It is noteworthy that Her Honour, the Honourable Salma Lakhani, who was installed as the 19th Lieutenant Governor on August 26, 2020, is also an Ismaili Muslim, and her profile can be read on this website by clicking HERE. The piece also has a link to an interview that Canadian Geographic conducted with her.

In Edmonton, the spectacular 4.8-hectare Aga Khan Garden within the University of Alberta’s Botanic Garden was gifted by the Aga Khan as “a symbol of the continued intellectual, educational and cultural collaboration between the University of Alberta and the Aga Khan Development Network.” The Botanic Garden will open for the 2022 season on May 7th, and is a MUST visit site, according to Hundreds of Google and Tripadvisor reviews. I look forward to publishing a special photo essay in the near future on the Botanic Garden, with a focus on the Aga Khan Garden.

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Aga Khan Garden Edmonton, part of Aga Khan interviews piece in Simerg
Views of the beautiful Aga Khan Garden in Edmonton. The Garden is scheduled to open for the 2022 season on May 7. Photos: Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

And elsewhere in Canada, His Highness the Aga Khan’s projects include the Global Centre for Pluralism and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building, both located on Sussex Drive in Ottawa; the Aga Khan Museum, the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre on Wynford Drive in Toronto; and the Ismaili Centre Vancouver on Canada Way in Burnaby.

Canada is home to more than 100,000 Ismailis, with around 12,000 in Calgary.

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Aga Khan Projects Canada Simerg
Clockwise from top left: Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum, both in Toronto (ponds in foreground in both photos are part of the Aga Khan Park); Ismaili Centre Vancouver, Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa, Global Centre for Pluralism, Ottawa, and Aga Khan Park Toronto. Collage: Simerg.

With these preliminary remarks on the Aga Khan and his Ismaili Muslim followers, I now invite you to read two excellent interviews that France’s Politique International and Canada’s Peter Mansbridge conducted with the Aga Khan. Both the interviews have appeared on this website with the publishers’ permission.

The Aga Khan’s Absorbing Interview with Politique International

Aga Khan, Politique Internationale, Simerg
Click on image for “Power of Wisdom”

“We are a long way from the democratization of nuclear energy. Maybe I’m naïve but I advocate another approach, which I call “positive proliferation.” The positive proliferation that I would dearly love to see happen is based on a simple principle: yes to energy, no to arms” — To read full interview, click Politique Internationale: The Power of Wisdom

The Aga Khan’s One on One Interview with Peter Mansbridge

Aga Khan University of Alberta, Simerg
Click on image for “One on One”

Peter Mansbridge: What is the quality that you most admire about this country?

The Aga Khan: I think a number of qualities. First of all, it’s a pluralist society that has invested in building pluralism, where communities from all different backgrounds and faiths are happy. It’s a modern country that deals with modern issues, not running away from the tough ones. And a global commitment to values, to Canadian values, which I think are very important. — To read the interview and the story behind the interview, please click Peter Mansbridge: One on One.

Date posted: May 6, 2022.
Last updated: May 9, 2022 (caption updates and typos).

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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. 

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

Utah’s Deseret News – the Historic News Component of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – Reflects on Eid ul-Fitr in the Context of its Management’s Visit to the Ismaili Centre Dubai

Ismaili Centre Dubai Photo Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Aaron Sherinian
Ismaili Centre Dubai. Please click on photo for article in the Deseret News

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and SimergphotosBarakah

Having lived in Salt Lake City in 1979-80, I would turn to the award winning Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News for my daily and weekend news. Deseret News, the longest-running news organization in Utah, is a subsidiary of the Deseret Management Corporation, which is owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS).

I have often turned to the two papers’ on-line editions to catch up with news on Salt Lake City, my favourite city in the world for two main reasons — the inspiration it gave me to truly appreciate nature and also by the way the city and its people, and especially the professional group of people I worked with, instilled in me a good work ethic and self-confidence during my very early years in the IT field. That along with Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s blessings, have enabled me to cope with life’s ups and downs and everything it has thrown in my way — good as well as challenging — pretty well.

On May 2, while I joyously celebrated Eid ul-Fitr with the Ismaili Muslim community at Calgary’s Westwinds Jamatkhana, I was pleasantly surprised to come across a piece in Deseret News entitled “Breaking the fast: Today is Eid ul-Fitr, an occasion of peace” containing beautiful photos of the Ismaili Centre Dubai. Apparently, Aaron Sherinian, the author of the article along with photographer Jefferey D. Alfred were part of a team from Deseret Management that visited the Ismaili Centre recently. I invite readers to click Ismaili Centre Dubai or on any of the the two photos on this page to view the beautiful photos in the Deseret News.

Ismaili Centre Dubai Photo Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, Aaron Sherinian
Please click on photo to read article in Utah’s Deseret News. Photo: Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News.

While on the subject of Utah’s newspapers, may I draw the readers’ attention to a piece published on this website on the 48th Ismaili Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s historic visit to the USA in 1907. The visit was covered in a number of American newspapers including the Salt Lake Tribune. Please click Historical American Newspapers on His Highness the Aga Khan’s ‘Incognito’ Visit to the USA in 1906-1907 to read the article that was compiled from the archives of historic newspapers at the US Library of Congress.

Date posted: May 3, 2022.

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

New moon Calgary 2022

Eid Mubarak: Eid ul-Fitr Talika of 2020, and an Exquisite Painting of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

My spiritual children should always remain mindful that it is the principles of our faith that will bring peace and solace in these times of uncertainty. I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, May 23, 2020

Introduced and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and SimergphotosBarakah

According to the websites Griffith Observatory and Time and Date, the New Moon that has just marked the end of Ramadan actually occurred on April 30, but as Time and Date mentions the illumination was 0% making the crescent invisible to the naked eye. However, on Sunday, May 1, at the time of writing this post, the illumination has increased to around 1.2%, again making the new moon crescent virtually impossible to see. The moon is scheduled to set at 10:18 pm (Mountain Daylight Time — Calgary), so following this evening’s sunset at around 8:58 pm, I hope to be able to focus my eyes on the sky in the direction 300 WNW, knowing that the crescent moon is there, and that Eid ul-Fitr will be observed by Ismaili Muslims as well as many other Muslim communities in Canada and other parts of the world tomorrow, Monday May 2, 2022.

On this auspicious occasion of Eid ul-Fitr, my family joins me in wishing all our friends and readers of Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos a very joyous Eid, with a very sincere hope and prayer that the uncertainty, wars, and tribulations that the world is facing should come to an end.

On that note, I leave readers with Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s blessings to his spiritual children around the world on the occasion of Eid-u-Fitr on May 23, 2020. As murids of Mawlana Hazar Imam, we should always keep in mind that the Imam’s blessings are with us all the time, and we should seek to constantly remember his words and keep the blessings in our hearts, minds and souls for constant inspiration and happiness, and for courage and strength to cope with difficulties that may come our way. As Mawlana Hazar Imam says in his holy Talika, “I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.”

STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Please click on photo for enlargement

New moon Calgary start of ramadan 2020, simerg
New moon in the sky above the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, April 2, 2022, 09:47 pm, shortly after the month of Ramadan commenced. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Along with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s benevolent blessings, I am pleased to include photos of the crescent moon that I captured in Calgary about a month ago that marked the start of the month of Ramadan. I am also particularly happy to include a photo of a painting of Mawlana Hazar Imam completed earlier this year by Ismaili artist Mobina Marani (Jamani). The painting along with several other pieces of work by the artist were especially submitted for publication in Simerg. Mobina’s beautiful rendition of Mawlana Hazar Imam, below, is based on a portrait taken during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2018. We hope to be able to publish her submissions in the near future.

Mawlana Haza Imam’s Eid ul-Fitr Talika Mubarak to the Worldwide Jamats, May 23, 2020

Please click on photo for enlargement

Aga Khan Mawlana Hazar Imam by Mobina Marani
A rendering of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s portrait by Ismaili artist Mobina Marani (nee Jamani) of Crystal Beach, Ontario. Mobina completed this 13″ x 17″ acrylic painting on composite wood in January 2022.

My beloved spiritual children,

“On the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr, I send my special loving blessings to my Jamats throughout the world for your happiness, peace, safety, and good health. My family joins me in wishing you all Eid Mubarak.

“At this difficult time, I applaud, with the highest admiration and gratefulness, the selfless services of all my Jamati volunteers, as well as the doctors, nurses, paramedics and support workers in the AKDN and other health facilities and related programmes: Their exemplary courage, commitment and dedication in extending care and comfort to my Jamat and others, and especially to those who are vulnerable and sick, is an outstanding actualization of the human values and ethics that all faiths cherish.

“It is my wish that my Jamat should look to the future with hope and courage, in keeping with its age-old tradition of unity, generosity and mutual support which has at all times enabled it to move forward to a position of enhanced strength and resilience, from generation to generation.”

“My spiritual children should always remain mindful that it is the principles of our faith that will bring peace and solace in these times of uncertainty. I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.

“I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings to all my Jamat – for happiness, good health, confidence and security in your lives ahead, and for mushkil-asan.”

Date posted: May 1, 2022.

Please visit our sister website Barakah to read all the Talikas sent by Mawlana Hazar Imam to his Jamats throughout the world and published online during the Covid-19 lockdown https://barakah.com/talikas/.

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

A Tribute to My Beloved Papa, Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji (1935 – 2022)

By ANIZA MEGHANI

Its just over three months since my papa, Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji, passed away on 14th January 2022. I was aware that Simerg had a Passings category to which one can contribute obituaries or tributes for one’s deceased family members, but my emotions had been all over the place and I could not put pen to paper. How could I best write about my dad’s life and my 56 beautiful years with him? I felt the best was to write as though I were writing a letter to him. This, then, are some of my fond memories of my dad, my beloved papa.

Aniza Meghani Letter to Dad Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji Passings Simerg Insights from around the world
A beautiful portrait of Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji taken in November 2021. He passed away two months later on January 14, 2022. Photo: Aniza Meghani Collection.

Dear Papa,

Thank you for the fabulous 56 years of having been blessed as my father. As I sit and write about your life span of 86 years, I feel immensely proud that your journey began on 13th May 1935, in Masaka, Uganda.

Often, when we would drive around London, you would recall your history, and never once did you complain about how difficult it had been, and then you would tell me “I worked hard and I don’t think I have done badly,” with a slight smile.

Although you did well at maths, unlike me who still uses a calculator, it amazed me, that in your time, you had no calculators and your generation of mental maths was as good as today’s technology.

You never completed school or even had a degree to your name. However, having been gifted with a business acumen, and the experience you got through the family business, gave you a sense of a worldly certificate in how to survive and be successful in your own right.

Your father made you join the family business which, due to competition, was difficult to run and you ended up working in Jinja in a shop/bar/restaurant. For four years you slogged 7 days a week and managed to save 13,700 shillings. At that point, you decided to take a break and travel to Tanzania (then Tanganyika). During this short vacation, you met many people who inspired you, and the trip gave you a taste of wanting to travel more and have a better life.

Aniza Meghani Letter to Dad Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji Passings Simerg Insights from around the world
Kurbanali Mulji pictured during his youthful days, undated photo. Photo: Aniza Meghani Collection.

You made your way to Kampala and came across “GOPE (Zulfikar, Suleiman Kanji, with whom you became best friends. He advised you not to start a business as yet, but perhaps take a course in hairdressing for men as there was only one shop in Kampala at the time, which was Madat’s Hairstyle.

So off you went to the UK with all your savings and reached 5 Palace Gate, which for years remained the focal point and headquarters of the Jamat as well as London’s main Jamatkhana, before the Ismaili Centre was opened in 1985. This property was bought by Prince Aly Khan. When you arrived there, they guided you on how to go about in London. You joined Bogins London School of Hairdressing, on Margaret Street, behind Oxford Circus Station. There you learned the art of trendy haircuts (college boy style) for six months. Mindful of struggles you had undergone, your teacher took sympathy for you as to how you had saved all your life’s earnings for this course. He kindly gave you extra lessons for free and helped you develop more skills. You studied during the day and worked at night at restaurants washing dishes to earn your keep. In those days, you barely made a pound a week. 

After 6 months, you had mastered hairdressing and decided to return home. You purchased all the equipment required to start your business in Kampala. There was only one problem, while you were left with only 1000 shillings, your budget had exceeded by 3000 shillings. Although the goods would take a month or so to reach Africa you were worried how you would be able to raise the 3000 shillings needed to clear customs upon arrival. With panic in your heart, as to who you could ask help from, luck came to your rescue when you entered Salim’s Sweetmart and filled in the football pools lottery. You won £370! You had covered your expenditure and were left with enough to open a shop and name it “HairCo”.

Success followed rapidly and then another family encounter took place. Your brother Mohammed’s health was not so good and he asked you to help run his business that included selling anything from groceries to household goods to textiles imported from abroad. 

In between working, you fell in love and married Nargis Rashid Ladha. Mum decided to work from home selling fabrics that were imported from the UK via Mohammed uncle’s business. Both of you then decided to set up a shop called Nargis Stores. 

It was this trade of textiles that became your passion for fashion. You understood from nylons to chiffons and your taste in buying was simply outstanding. There would be queues for the next delivery. You were blessed with immense barakah and good wisdom. 

Aniza Meghani Letter to Dad Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji Passings Simerg Insights from around the world
Kurbanali Mulji holding his daughter Aniza, in a photo taken in Uganda in 1967. Photo: Aniza Meghani Collection.

However, in 1972 East Africa faced the biggest shake-up of the mass exodus of Ugandan Asians. With three daughters, myself, Ashifa, Azmina and mum expecting a fourth child,(Rahim born in London) you took us to the UK. I remember landing at Heathrow airport. The weather was dull and gloomy. Perhaps the signs of how times would be changing from sunny Africa to hard times ahead.

You rented a room in Kensington for a few months. A one bedroom, with five of us sharing it. You worked in a laundry, a perfume factory and eventually becoming a bus conductor for a few years. Never did you complain or compare the good times or the “struggle” that you had experienced in Africa and the UK, for it was the “meaning of life”. You worked, took all the shifts you could to make ends meet. Simultaneously from home, you set up a business selling washing up liquids, whilst mum babysat 4 children plus 3 others and catered for homemade takeaways.

This would carry on for 8 years, until one fateful day, while on duty as a bus conductor, you noticed a shop called Classic Textiles on Goldhawk Road, a fabric shop, with a “For Sale” signboard. History was in the making once again. In July 1981, you and mum embarked on making Classic Textiles a thriving business. From royalties, television, catwalk, to the future designers, word of mouth was the best form of advertising. We didn’t have social media but yellow pages phone books. Even though you both had retired, your blood, sweat, tears, and most of all your soul vibrated onto the shelves full of beauty, textures, and colors of rolls of fabrics.

Aniza Meghani Letter to Dad Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji Passings Simerg Insights from around the world
Kurbanali Mulji in front of his thriving shop, Classic Textiles, on Goldhawk Road in west London, September 2020. Photo: Aniza Meghani Collection.

You still came to overlook the shop during the pandemic to make sure all was well. However, in the late summer of 2021, the benign tumor, which you had for 15 years, suddenly erupted. I can still remember that cold month of November 2021. Both Azmina and I took you to St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington. You could barely walk but managed to make it to the consultant’s office for your biopsy results.

Consultant: Mr. Mulji, for a man of your age, to undergo a biopsy you did very well. But I am afraid, I don’t have good news. It’s cancer you have. I can’t tell you what stage, for that the oncologist will tell you more next week and what therapy can be recommended. Mr. Mulji, do you understand what I am saying?

Papa, when you heard this your face went white and blank. You held onto the stick. I don’t know what thoughts went through you, but tears just flowed from my eyes. 

Papa: Well, I have no regrets. I have lived a good life.

Papa, you still had hope. All the previous years, you would ask me in “Do you think I will live to make it to the Golden Jubilee?”

When you made it through that, you dreamt of the Olympics in a similar tone.

Me: Of course, you will. Look Papa, all your wishes have been fulfilled. You saw the Golden Jubilee, the Olympics, Diamond Jubilee and you saw Serena Williams on the opening day of Wimbledon on court 1!

Papa: I hope I live 5 more years, then I can see Platinum Jubilee too. I will be happy for just five more years.

Me: Inshallah you will see that too.

A week later we went to Charing Cross and met the oncologist. By then you struggled to make it to the lift and did not want a wheelchair. You were quiet all the way. We entered the room and you looked at the oncologist, wishing or hoping for some good news.

Oncologist: Mr. Mulji, as you know that the biopsy report, showed that you have cancer. It’s stage 4. Do you know what stage 4 cancer is?

Papa: No.

Oncologist: Let me explain. It’s a severe form of cancer of the lungs you have and it’s spreading to other parts of your body. Mr. Mulji, a man of your age will find chemotherapy or radiation treatment at this stage too invasive to handle. You are 86 years old. We stop treatment at age 80, that’s the cut-off point in the hospital. You were wise in all these years not to have it investigated as you saw fit that it had done no harm to you. We believe the quality of life is better than the quantity of life. Mr. Mulji is there anything else you would like to ask….

Papa: No. I have had a good life and I have no regrets. I had never been in hospital till recently. So I can say, I am blessed.

Oncologist: That’s very rare for a man of 86 years to have never been in hospital till now. Go home Mr. Mulji and enjoy the remainder of your life. We are still here for you.

We reached home in silence. You were very brave and dignified to have not asked the oncologist the time left. You took it in your stride that whatever time you had remaining you were going to embrace it with peace. When we went upstairs to your bedroom, it was at that point, that the full impact of what the oncologist had told you, really hit you. You burst into tears, you fell onto the bed with great shock and cried and said: “Forgive me if I was a bad father, but I only told you off because I love you all and wanted nothing but the best and to make sure you were all doing the right things in life. 

Me: Papa there is nothing to forgive. Forgive me too if I have done anything to hurt or upset you.

I hugged him. I vowed then, that I would not cry in front of him as the doctors had given him less than a month to live. That evening, all the grandchildren, Alykhan, Jina, Amara and Alim came round to comfort him. He gave them sound advice for the future.

As I write this saddest moment we shared together, my tears are overflowing. I moved into my parent’s place.

Papa, you slept in the hospital bed and I slept on your side of the bed with mum. On that first night, all three of us were in one room. Papa had become the child and I became the parent.

Papa: I am so overjoyed/ happy that you are sharing this room with us.

I was overwhelmed by his sweet words that despite the seriousness of his ill health, he made me feel comfortable that his journey would be of no pain to me.

He was truly blessed, and the doctors were surprised that his level of pain was sustained by paracetamols. He had no morphine. I remember his own GP coming that first night and telling my sister Azmina and I: “We are doctors, scientifically we give time, dates, etc. But remember, it is the Creator, who only knows the time. Don’t think of days or times, just put that at the back of your mind, carry on as normal, spend time with him, and make it comfortable for him. If you worry about what time he has left, you will not be able to help him without constant pain on your face. Believe me, I have seen many miracles in my life when you expect death to happen, the living then somehow lives… so please don’t think of time, none of us know.”

Aniza Meghani Letter to Dad Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji Passings Simerg Insights from around the world
Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji and his wife Nargis, both seated at left, are pictured with their family members during a family gathering in December 2021. A beautiful photo of a painting of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, by the late Pakistani Ismaili artist Gulgee (d. 2007) at the Ismaili Centre London and framed sports memorabilia adorn the dining room walls of Aniza’s home. Photo: Aniza Meghani Collection.

With such words, we both forgot and carried on as normal. He made sure he spoke to everyone who called him. His days flew with many phone calls from his beloved friends and family around the world. The Zoom calls gave him great joy. The relatives, due to Covid-19, came by to see him in small groups. We were happy to see him talk in great depth about his history.

Five days before he passed away, I had cooked him kalio, rice and a dessert. We were so happy that he ate a full meal. He walked normal. For that whole day, I felt a miracle had taken place. I just couldn’t believe he got out of bed normal, without any walking aid. Little did I know that this would be his ‘Last Supper’. I have been told that just before anyone passes away, God kindly allows us to see few moments of happiness with loved ones. I truly have come to conclusion, that this indicates that life with the Creator gives us a foresight that their journey will be a happy one. The following day, Papa, called Altaaf (my husband) and I: “Altaaf, I want you to know, I am going very soon”.

Altaaf: No, you are not going yet. You are going to live still.

As for the shop, not a day goes by, when customers ask: “How are papa and mama?” At that point, I sit them down.

Me: Papa passed away three months ago.

Customer: “No way! My Lord! Papa Gone! Papa Gone. Good man papa was. He helped me you know. He guided me you know. Always honest in advice. Gave me credit you know. Papa gone, I can’t believe it! Am so sad…. papa you know is in heaven. Am telling you. He was such a good man. My papa gone…”

You taught me about how to run a business. How to be kind and respectable to customers. How to help them.

Aniza Meghani Letter to Dad Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji Passings Simerg Insights from around the world
Kurbanali Mulji pictured in August 2020 with (l to r) daughter Azmina, wife Nargis, daughter Ashifa and granddaughter Jina. Photo: Aniza Meghani Collection.
Aniza Meghani Letter to Dad Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji Passings Simerg Insights from around the world
(L to R) Alim, Alykhan, Jina and Amar pictured during Eid 2021 with their nana (maternal grandfather) Kurbanali Mulji, centre. Photo: Aniza Meghani Collection.
Aniza Meghani Letter to Dad Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji Passings Simerg Insights from around the world
Aniza, author of this tribute, pictured with her beloved papa Kurbanali Mulji, September 2016. Photo: Aniza Meghani Collection.

Papa: if any new customer/ designer comes in, give them discount. Let them make a bit of money Give them a helping hand to move up in life. If you help them, they will come back again. Customers are our bread and butter. I don’t mean customers are always right, but a little help to them goes a long way. Don’t overprice fabrics for more money. Its greed. A little profit is halal (permissible). God does not like greed. There will always be stock. Be honest in your transactions.

In the early hours of Friday 14th January 2022, I witnessed him call out to late Mohammed Uncle:

Mohamed, come back, Mohamed …

I knew then this would be his day to return to His Creator. This journey of time is really short. There were no tears, but thankfulness, laughter, conversations and prayers for 11 hours before the undertakers came. 

As another dear friend quoted yesterday: Dream until its reality. MAN GIVES YOU REPUTATION, CHARACTER IS WHO YOU ARE…

Papa was a firm believer on these quotes. May his soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

Date posted: April 28, 2022.

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We invite you to submit your condolences and tributes to Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji in the comments box below or by clicking on Leave a comment. Should you encounter issues in completing the comment box, please email your tribute to mmerchant@simerg.com; subject Kurbanali K. Mulji.

Aniza Meghani Letter to Dad Kurbanali Kassamali Mulji Passings Simerg Insights from around the world
Aniza Meghani

About the writer: Originally from Uganda, Aniza Meghani lives in London, England, and is an entrepreneur of classic textiles fabrics.

We invite you to read Aniza’s highly acclaimed piece Ismailis on Social Media: You Need to Take Care and STOP Indiscriminate Likes, Follows and Forwards!

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