Mrs. Merchant with senior students of Central London BUI

To Mrs. Merchant: “With Love to the Best Ever” – Memories from Her Students in London, England

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor Simerg, Simergphotos and Barakah

Exactly a year ago, on Thursday, January 21, 2021, my beloved mum “Mrs. Merchant” (Alwaeza Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant) passed away peacefully at the age of 89. Tributes and condolences poured from all over the world, which deeply touched the entire family. The family also received a Talika of blessings from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as well as a message of condolence from Prince Rahim Aga Khan, both of which deeply inspired and gave courage to the family during their period of bereavement. My dad, Jehangir, her loving husband of 66 years, had died three years earlier on May 27, 2018. They both served Imamat institutions on a professional and voluntary basis as missionaries and religious education teachers for more than 60 years.

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mr and mrs merchant
This July 1992 photo of Mr. and Mrs. Merchant is from the first page of the tribute album prepared by the BUI students of Central London, England on their retirement from the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) for the UK. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

I was unable attend the funeral because of Covid-19, and other challenges. Knowing my situation, my mum told me on Facetime on the morning of her admission to the hospital, “Malik, tereku nai aneka hai” (you are not going to travel). She passed away 12 hours later.

Three months later, I travelled to close her rented home and spent three weeks packing my parents belongings. As mentioned earlier my beloved father, had died 3 years earlier. As I went through thousands of pieces of objects that included their beautifully handwritten waezes (sermons) I came across a priceless album of tributes prepared by Baitul Ilm (BUI) students of Central London, England, for her retirement. All these objects, including the album, were packed and shipped to Ottawa, numbering some 86 boxes. The major categories of the contents were identified on a spreadsheet.

Story continues below after photos and tribute speech

Mrs. Merchant Tribute
Title page of tribute album prepared for Mrs. Merchant. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection,
Ismaili teacher and missionary Mrs. Merchant retirement bouquet of flowers
A young girl presents a bouquet of flowers to Mrs. Merchant on her retirement as teacher and waezin with ITREB for the UK, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

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The Untiring Efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Merchant

Ismaili religious education teacher and missionary Mrs. Merchant
An absolutely beautiful Mrs. Merchant helped by Tasneem Virani cuts a cake at the tribute party held on the occasion of her retirement from ITREB UK. She and her husband were recognized for their services to the UK Jamat in a speech delivered by Ms. Virani (see excerpts below). Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

By TASNEEM VIRANI

Let us take our minds back in the 1970’s when they [Mr. and Mrs. Merchant] worked seven days and evenings, spreading their knowledge to not only the children, but the leaders, the Mukhisahebs and Kamdiasahebs, as well as all the members of the Jamat. They would be in London one morning, then Brighton later in the afternoon, then back to another centre in London, then off again — all by British Rail.

They continued to be extremely involved with teaching, preparing teaching notes, training Mukhisahebs and Kamadiasahebs, perfecting varas [recitations] for children, training the teachers, training and supporting those coming into our Tariqua and so on. This is a real backbone of our strength in our institution as we see today and will never be forgotten. Our gratitude for those untiring efforts have no bounds.

I remember the long hours we all spent together in the stages when we we were planning to formalize the structure of religious education as we know it today. This format of Bait-al-Ilm is the culmination of the untiring and continued support and input from you both, Mr. and Mrs. Merchant.

Mrs. Merchant, you have taught us to follow, in spirit and in action, the most important Farman of Mawlana Hazar Imam of not accepting mediocrity but always aiming at the highest level and not compromising on quality. The time you spent on an individual child and the patience you show all make you a role model for those left now to do the job you started so long ago and continue to do.

We pray to Mawlana Hazar Imam to shower you with blessings that you will have happiness, long life, strength and courage to continue your hard work and give to others what what you have given to us. Ameen, Tasneem Virani, Administrator.

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Tribute to Mrs. Merchant
A tribute by a BUI student to Mrs. Merchant from the tribute album presented to her by the London BUI students, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

.…Story continued

With some help from members of the Jamat, I began unpacking a few of the boxes that I had carefully labelled at the time of packing. JAM #55 (Jehangir Alibhai Merchant, everyone wondered why they were labelled JAM, but my dad had a sweet tooth, anyway) had been assigned to the box containing the album. I am deeply happy to post a few images from the voluminous album of tributes to my mum by the London students. I hope to be able to scan as well as OCR a few more pages from the album highlighting the impact of her contribution to religious education in the UK, and to publish another post sometime in the near future.

Mrs Merchant retirement card from students and teachers of BUI London England
Mrs. Merchant admires a beautiful card presented to her during her retirement from ITREB for the UK, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.
Tribute to Mrs. Merchant by Ismaili students in the UK on retirement from ITREB
A tribute by a BUI student to Mrs. Merchant, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.
Mr and Mrs Merchant farewell party.
Mr. Merchant makes a point during his address at the farewell party honouring him and Mrs. Merchant (left) for the services they rendered as religious education teachers and Waezin with ITREB, UK, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

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The Gentle Mrs. Merchant: A Letter from a Student

Mrs. Merchant with senior students of Central London BUI
Mr. and Mrs Merchant with the Darkhana Jamatkhana and ITREB UK leadership, and teachers and senior students of BUI Central London, UK, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

By SHAHEEN AND BUI STUDENTS

…..We are all gathered here today to say Good-Bye to our dear Mrs. Merchant, What I would really like to do is to share with you a letter which I have written to Mrs. Merchant.

Dear Mrs. Merchant,

I am going back a good number of years when I recall that when I started religious training at [5] Palace Gate you were my first teacher and you have continued to be the gentle but strong influence in my life, for religious training does not end at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday but continues to be an integral part of our lives. I have spent many Saturdays listening and discussing in your classes and these are the roots of my understanding of my beautiful religion. Your constant guidance and willingness to answer the questions, however bizarre, never once a harsh word, or a change in the pitch of your voice, however much we tried your patience, makes you a role model for us. Yes, believe or not Mrs. M. I now come in to teach the little children and I will try and use the same gentle but impossible to say No! manner when asking a child to take a vara [recitation of Dua, Farman, Ginan etc. in Jamatkhana]…. It is thanks to personal touches and willingness to do anything for your students that makes you that special person that you are….

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BUI students at Mr and Mrs Merchant retirement party
A group of BUI students perform a recitation at the retirement party in honour of Mr. and Mrs. Merchant who served as missionaries and religious education teachers with ITREB UK. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

If we have a vara we can be sure a day or so before the phone would ring and the familiar voice would say, “Beta, you were not in Jamatkhana today, why? How are you doing in your exams? I will pray for you. Are you ready for your vara? Can I hear it over the phone?”

This kind of dedication is rare and we are the lucky few who received it. Well Mrs. Merchant, today we pray for you, that you will always find peace and satisfaction and find more children to benefit from your softly softly approach so that they can become staunch Ismailis and may they also experience the love and confidence we have enjoyed.

We love you and we will miss you. Don’t forget us for we will never forget you. Love from Shaheen and all the others in London.

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You Will Be in Our Hearts and Prayers Forever

Mrs Merchant Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Simerg
Alwaeza Malek J. Merchant (June 9, 1931 – January 21, 2021), pictured in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2018, during the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Mrs. Merchant was a truly beautiful soul, a deeply caring mother and grandmother as well as a fantastic teacher and an Alwaeza (missionary) loved by thousands around the world.

I humbly and sincerely ask everyone to join the family in praying that Alwaeza Malek Merchant’s soul may rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

Date posted: January 21, 2022.

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Gulshan-i rāz or The Garden of Mystery: A Rare 20th Century Ismaili Work at the US Library of Congress; Downloadable

Article reproduced and adapted from the website of the US LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (LOC)

Gulshan-i rāz (The garden of mystery) is a 20th century text on the Nizari Ismaʻili belief system, written by Nadir Shah Kayani (circa 1897 – circa 1971), a leader of the Ismaʻili community in Afghanistan.

Article continues below

Ismaili work Gulshan-i rāz, Library of Congress LOC, Simerg
Page 1 of 42 of the Ismaili work Gulshan-i rāz. Photo: LOC.

The title of this work deliberately echoes a celebrated Ismaʻili book of verse of the same name composed by Mahmud Shabistari in 1317. Nadir Shah’s work is organized in 14 sections, each of which discusses a philosophical or religious topic such as nafs (the soul) or namaz (prayer). The first section, on tafakkur (the faculty of thought), is written as a commentary on a verse from the original Gulshan-i rāz.

Article continues below, click image to download PDF

Ismaili work Gulshan i Raz at LOC, Simerg
Page 12 of 42 of the Ismaili work Gulshan-i rāz. Photo: LOC; please click on image to download the work in PDF format.

Much remains to be discovered about the Ismaʻili community of Afghanistan during this period. What is known is that Nadir Shah belonged to a family of Ismaʻili leaders based in the Kayan valley in northern Afghanistan. He was a prolific author who wrote both poetry and philosophical texts. The present work is a manuscript, most likely produced in Afghanistan.

Aga Khan III, Library of Congress LOC, Simerg
Aga Khan III. Photo: LOC.

Kayani’s leadership of the Ismaʻili community coincided with the reign of the 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957; Imam from 1885-1957).

The script is nastaʻliq, written in black ink, 11 lines to the page, on a light-cream paper. The “third” in the title probably refers to Shabistari’s original work as the first Gulshan-i rāz. The identity of the second Gulshan-i rāz is not clear; it could be a reference to the well-known commentary by Shams al-Din Lahiji, written in 1472-73.

Please download Nadir Shah’s work in PDF format by clicking HERE.

Summary of Work

Contributor Names: Kiyānī, Nādir Shāh.
Created/Published: Between 1900 and 1999?
Notes: Manuscript; Nastalīq script; 11 lines in written area 21.5 x 14 cm; Paper is light cream; black ink; Probably written in Afghanistan; Also available in digital form (PDF and JPEG, click HERE for PDF); In Persian; Acquired for LC only.

Date posted: January 18, 2022.

(Read the article at source by clicking HERE)

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The editor of Simerg, Simergphotos and Barakah is on the move, and hopes to resume publication of original pieces submitted for publication from Friday, January 28, 2022. During this period, readers are invited to read referral pieces that we may post from time to time as well as access hundreds of articles via the Table of Contents pages of SimergBarakah and Simergphotos — Thank you, Malik, mmerchant@barakah.com.

Afghanistan: The Bacha Posh Tradition That Allows Girls to Access the Freedom of Boys

Insights from Around the World

At not quite 8 years old, Sanam is a bacha posh: a girl living as a boy. One day a few months ago, the girl with rosy cheeks and an impish smile had her dark hair cut short, donned boys’ clothes and took on a boy’s name, Omid. The move opened up a boy’s world: playing soccer and cricket with boys, wrestling with the neighborhood butcher’s son, working to help the family make ends meet — READ MORE OF THIS ARTICLE BY ASSOCIATED PRESS AT VOICE OF AMERICA

bacha posh Afghan Tradition Allows Girls to Access the Freedom of Boys
A photo of Najieh dressed as a boy at a young age lies in a grass, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021. Please click on image to read full article. Photo: Associated Press.

Date posted: January 16, 2022.

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Readers should note that no new articles will be published in Simerg and its two sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos until the week of January 24, 2022. The editor is on the move, and hopes to resume publication of original new pieces submitted for publication on the 3 websites on Friday, January 28, 2022. During this period, readers are invited to read referral pieces that we may post from time to time as well as access hundreds of articles via the Table of Contents pages of SimergBarakah and Simergphotos — Ed.

Nairobi’s Iconic ‘Town Jamatkhana’, Once the ‘Darkhana’ of Kenya, Celebrates 100 Years

Nairobi’s Town Jamatkhana was opened on January 14, 1922. On its 100th anniversary, we invite our readers to read Zahir Dharsee’s highly acclaimed piece Memories of Nairobi’s Majestic Town Jamatkhana that first appeared on this website in 2011 as part of our special Jamatkhana Series

May we note that to mark the anniversary, Kenya’s Daily Nation has published a special piece co-authored by Azim Lakhani and Shamira Dostmohamed. Please read their article by clicking on Celebrating Over a Century of Ismaili Community in Kenya. It includes an excellent overview of numerous events that have taken place at the Jamatkhana over the past decade.

Please click for article and photos.

Date posted: January 14, 2022.

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As noted in an earlier post, no new articles will be published in Simerg and its two sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos until the week of January 24, 2022. The editor is on the move, and hopes to resume publication on Friday, January 28, 2022. During this period, readers are invited to access hundreds of articles via the Table of Contents pages of SimergBarakah and Simergphotos. Thank you.

Recent Posts on Simerg’s Sister Websites: Prince Hussain Aga Khan, Princess Yasmin, Prince Sinan, Prince Sadruddin, and Latest Imamat News

Important Notice to Readers of Simerg, Simergphotos and Barakah

Effective January 13, 2022, no new posts will be published in Simerg and its two sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos until the week of January 24, 2022. The editor is on the move, and hopes to resume publication on Friday, January 28, 2022. During this period, readers are invited to access hundreds of articles via the Table of Contents pages of Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos. Thank you.

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We invite our reader’s to enjoy the following recent pieces on Simerg’s sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos. Please click on the hyperlink or corresponding image to read article.

1. 7 Seas: A Special Film Presentation by Prince Hussain Aga Khan

Please click on image for Prince Hussain

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2. Latest News on Mawlana Hazar Imam and Members of His Family

Please click on image for latest news on Mawlana Hazar Imam

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3. Princess Yasmin Aga Khan Turns 72 and Her Dedication to the Alzheimer’s Association for 40 Years

Please click on image for Princess Yasmin

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4. Prince Sinan Aga Khan is 5, and the Meaning of Sinan

Please click on image for Prince Sinan

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5. The Bellerive Room: Prince Sadruddin’s Ceramic Collection

Bellerive Room, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. Photo: Malik Merchant Simerg Princess Sadruddin and Princess Catherine
Please click on image for Bellerive

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6. The Editor Bids Farewell to Ontario with Beautiful Photographs

Please click on image for farewell

Date posted: January 13, 2022.

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December 28, 2021: A Very Happy Birthday to Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, and We Would Imagine the Greatest Wish for the Princess on Her Birthday Would Be to See a World Without Alzheimer’s

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergphotosSimerg and Barakah

Simerg will be publishing a multi-part series on Alzheimer’s in 2022, and we plan to launch the series early in the New Year with a special profile on Princess Yasmin and her involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association since 1981. Alzheimer’s contributed to her mother Ms. Rita Hayworth’s death at the age of 67 in 1987. The Association has raised tens of millions of dollars through the annual Rita Hayworth Galas that have been held in Chicago and New York over the past 35 years.

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, daughter of Prince Aly Khan and Rita Hayworth, and younger sister of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Prince Amyn Mohamed, at Alzheimer’s fundraiser in New York in December 1984. Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Bernard Gotfryd.

Today, December 28, 2021, is a very special day in the life of the Princess as she celebrates her 72nd birthday. We mark her birthday with a brief tribute to the Princess on our sister website Barakah that includes a selection of historical photographs of the Princess as well as a link to an interview the she gave to Canada’s National Newspaper, “The Globe and Mail” in which she talks about Alzheimer’s.

On Sunday December 26, my morning twilight visit to the Pickering Waterfront on Lake Ontario, was one of the most amazing I have ever had in my life. The sky took on different tones every few minutes — I did not see the rising of the sun because of the cloud cover in the horizon, but watched in awe the sun’s impact on the sky and clouds above it. During those moments of joy, hope and bewilderment, there was only one person that came into my thoughts as I clicked on my camera more than a 100 times during the hour I spent at the Waterfront — Princess Yasmin.

Pickering water front trail twilight, Malik Merchant simerg Princess Yasmin birthday
Lake Ontario, Pickering Waterfront Park, 7:44 am five minutes before sunrise on December 26, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg
Pickering water front trail twilight, Malik Merchant simerg Princess Yasmin birthday
Lake Ontario, Pickering Waterfront Park, 7:53 am, four minutes after sunrise on December 26, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

The incredible twilight show in the sky, for me, was symbolic of a day in the life of an Alzheimer’s patient. In the horizon, I saw beautiful bright orange and red clouds that symbolized hope, then there was a dark swirling cloud that became the tail of a large gloomy cloud that represented despair and fear. Several minutes later as the sun continued to rise, and the skies turned blue, I saw the beautiful moon over Lake Ontario, representing hope once again. A normal-like pattern of behaviour in an Alzheimer’s patient, just like that of any other person without the disease, creates an absolutely thrilling moment for any family member, who might then say at that particular instant, ‘”my parent or spouse is healing and I can take him or her home. ” But that hope can quickly fade seconds, minutes or hours later when the patient’s behaviour pattern changes due to the disease; it is an unbearable moment for any loved family members or friends who may be around.

The Forthcoming 2022 In-Person Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago: Founded and Chaired by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan

Our support for organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and other local and national institutions in the communities we live in can contribute to finding a long-term improvement in the quality of lives of everyone afflicted with the disease or indeed, one day, in eliminating Alzheimer’s altogether.

Rita Hayworth Gala, Chicago, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan
Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, front row centre, in a group photo with members and supporters of the Alzheimer’s Association. Sadruddin Noorani who has been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association since the 1980’s is pictured on the back row, 3rd from left. Photo: Rita Hayworth Gala/Alzheimer’s Association.

I might note that Princess Yasmin founded and has been the Chair of the annual Rita Hayworth Galas in Chicago and New York since the mid 1980’s. The New York Gala now named the Imagine Benefit, has been built on the legacy of the Rita Hayworth Gala that was first held in 1984 — the latest Imagine event was held in November 2021.

The next Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago, that was inaugurated in 1987, 3 years after the New York Gala, is scheduled to be held on April 23, 2022 at The Hilton in Chicago. It has been planned as an in-person event, with the presence of Princess Yasmin. However, the on-going pandemic situation may cause the event to be relayed virtually.

Simerg invites you to view the Rita Hayworth Gala information HERE. While the event titled “Generation of Hope” may be a few months away, your thoughtful support for the Alzheimer’s cause can begin at any time by visiting the website and submitting a pledge.

I am proud to say that a member of the Chicago Ismaili community, Sadruddin Noorani, has been very prominent in the Chicago Gala and the Alzheimer’s Association for years. His support to Princess Yasmin has been incredible and I would hope that hundreds, like him, from around the world will join Princess Yasmin in her effort to fulfill what we would all imagine would be her greatest wish on her birthday — finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Date posted: December 28, 2021.
Last updated: December 28, 2021; 10:30 AM (corrections, see below).

Corrections: (1) The original piece contained the wrong date for the forthcoming 2022 Alzheimer’s Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago; the piece now reflects the correct date; (2) the Gala is not planned as a virtual event as mentioned in earlier versions. It is expected to be an in-person event, with Princess Yasmin in attendance unless of course the pandemic situation forces it to be a virtual event; and (3) corrections have been made to dates noted in the twilight photos.

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Simerg welcomes your feedback. 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.

Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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.

Photographs and Description of the 85th Birthday Gift Presented to His Highness the Aga Khan by His Worldwide Ismaili Community

[A similar version of this piece also appears on Simerg’s sister website Barakah that was inaugurated in 2017 to celebrate the Hereditary Leadership (or Imamat) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The origins of the Divine Institution of Imamat that His Highness leads go back to the time of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) who designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law, Hazrat Ali (a.s.), to continue to govern the Muslim community in spiritual and temporal matters. His Highness is the 49th Imam in this succession of Hereditary Imams — Ed.]

Compiled and Prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergphotosSimerg and Barakah

In the Talika Mubarak (holy written message) of December 10, 2021 that was sent to the world-wide Jamat on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday on December 13, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, said: “I am most touched that on the occasion of my birthday, senior Jamati leaders have presented a beautiful gift on behalf of my global Jamat, which I accept with appreciation and gratitude.” 

Porcelain vases Aga Khan birthday present Simerg Malik Merchant
Porcelain vases presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on his 85th birthday on December 13, 2021. Photo: The Ismaili.

The ‘beautiful gift’ referred to by the Imam was a pair of porcelain vases, and The Ismaili provided a brief description and photograph of the two vases in a post dated December 12, 2021.

However, the happiest moment was for the Jamats worldwide to see Mawlana Hazar Imam himself holding one of the two vases in a garden setting at his Lisbon residence, with what appears to be an orange or clementine tree in the background. What a beautiful photo Fernando Costa captured for all of us to see, and give us so much joy.

Aga Khan holding gift of porcelain vase presented to him on his 85th birthday
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, is seen holding one of the two 19th century porcelain vases that was presented to him by leading Ismaili leaders on behalf of the global Ismaili community on the occasion of his 85th auspicious birthday on December 13, 2021. Photo: Fernando Costa / IPL via The Ismaili.

This pair of porcelain lavender-ground vases were made in 1874 at the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres, which became the preeminent porcelain manufacturer in Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. During the 19th century, the Sèvres factory’s output reflected an ongoing desire for technical innovation as well as a wide embrace of diverse decorative and historical styles. The shape and design of these vases is based on a Persian metal prototype and, as such, they are recorded in the Sèvres Archives as ‘Vase Bouteille Persane’. Eighteen similar vases were entered for sale in January 1874 and described as ‘fond sous couverte et décor en or’ (under cover and gold decoration) at a cost of 95 francs each. [1]

Gift to Aga Khan from Ismailis on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday, December 13, 2021.
Detail of vase presented by the worldwide Ismaili community to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday, December 13, 2021.

Of Islamic shape, the ovoid body of each vase continues in a long narrow elongated tapered neck, all made in three sections and each joined with two slender fillets of ormolu. The vases are decorated with elaborate Persian gold-powder motifs  in the form of interlacing scrollwork and arabesques on the body and ornamented fillets on the neck in heightened relief against a pale lavender or ‘fond changeant’ ground. Designed by the important Parisian sculptor, Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887), the vases exist in several versions that differ according to their colour and decoration.

The lavender colour of the vases presented to Mawlana Hazar Imam is very unusual — it changes according to the light under which it is placed, from purple/grey in daylight to pale pink in artificial light. This change of colour according to its exposure to light is due to a mixture of vanadium oxide and cerium oxide. This use of the ‘chameleon’ paste was invented in 1848 by the Sèvres factory chemist Alphonse Louis Salvetat for the 1862 Universal Exhibition held in London to promote the savoir-faire (know how) of the world’s rapidly expanding industries.

Close up of the vase presented by the world wide Ismaili community to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday, December 13, 2021.
Detail of vase presented by the worldwide Ismaili community to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on the auspicious occasion of his 85th birthday, December 13, 2021.

While similar vases in blue and white are to be found in private and museum collections, vases in this pale lavender colour are exceptionally rare. The vases bear, on the underside, green printed lozenge and iron-red decore marks, as well as various incised potters inscriptions, of the Sèvres factory. The vases, each of which is 55 cm in height, are in extremely fine condition. Using the same techniques pioneered during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres continues to produce some of the most high quality works of porcelain art — vases, painted plaques, dinner services, figures — to this day, and it is therefore not surprising that Sèvres is such an integral part of the landscape of the decorative arts today.

Date posted: December 25, 2021.

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[1] Manufacture Nationale de Sèvres Archive, Registre Vr, 1 iere serie, vol.2, fol. 247.17.

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Simerg welcomes your feedback. 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.

Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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 Greatest Gift also known as The Season’s Upon Us

By FARAH TEJANI

Winter winds whispering through the near naked trees,
The Season is upon us, feel that crisp familiar breeze.
With no two snowflakes alike, they settle on our faces,
Melting on eyelashes and leaving no traces…

A white blanket of fresh snow falls all around,
Like in a snow globe it always astounds;
We run out to greet it throwing our hands in the air,
So effortlessly it falls and with wonder we share

With loved ones we gather making snow angels and snowmen.
Year after year, we never tire, we do it again and again.
The fresh snow makes everything feel sacred and new,
Our own Winter Wonderland is the spectacle we view.

So gather together as the New Year draws near,
It is a time for resolutions and to make them sincere,
Take note with GRATITUDE, God is blessing you with more time,
Blessed is life’s journey, to waste even a day is a crime.

With this new snowfall, it’s time to clean all the slates,
Forgiveness is Powerful, it can open any gate,
Bear no grudges, this is of no use to you,
It is just more baggage to carry, and it is truthfully undue.

We are granted just this one gift to live here and now,
What you do with this gift is to God what you vow.
Every day when your eyes open, before turning the coffee pot on,
Look in your heart and thank God that you are not gone.

Every single day is a present to be opened with joy,
And doing God’s WORK is a meaningful and righteous employ.
Forget all the spending, the best present you can give,
Is TO LOVE UNCONDITIONALLY FOR AS LONG AS YOU LIVE.

Copyright © Farah Tejani

Date posted: Dec 23, 2021.

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Farah Tejani Ismaili poet and writer
Farah Tejani

Farah Tejani is a creative writer based in Vancouver. She is currently working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called “Elastic Embrace.” She has been contributing poems and stories for Simerg and its sister website Barakah for the past year. We invite our readers to read some of Farah’s poems by clicking on  Elastic Embrace; The Fragrance of Spring; and The Great Sacrifice. Children will particularly love her heart warming stories Mr. Sneaky Peeky and the Two Red-Tailed Monkeys and Elizabeth the Ladybug and the Lonely Rose.

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.

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 Hawk at Aga Khan Park: Beautiful Photos from Simerg’s 2021 Collection

Hast thou not seen how that whatsoever is in the heavens and in the earth extols God, and the birds spreading their wings? Each — He knows its prayer and its extolling; and God knows the things they do — Holy Qur’an, 24:41, Sura An-Nur

Hawk at Aga Khan Park
Please click on image for more beautiful photos of the hawk’s visit to Aga Khan Park in August 2021.

Date posted: December 23, 2021.

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This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1853

19 December in World History: In 1846, Canada’s First Telegraphic Message; In 1961, India’s Invasion of Goa; Plus Samuel Morse and the Aga Khan on the Power of Instant Communication

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

December holds many significant historical memories for me. The month is of particular importance for Ismailis around the world. On December 13, 1936 Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Muslims was born in Geneva, Switzerland. Ismailis celebrated their Imam’s 85th birthday (or Salgirah) last week and presented him with two beautiful porcelain vases. My dad Jehangir, who died in May 2018, was born on exactly the same day in 1928. Were he alive, he would have celebrated his 93rd birthday this year.

Also in December, in 1961 India annexed the Portuguese territories of Goa, Daman and Diu, in what the Portuguese called an invasion, while the Indians called it a liberation. A consequence of this action by India was that all its citizens in Mozambique, a Portuguese colony, were interned for more than 5 months in a camp located a few miles outside Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). My parents, Jehangir and Malek Merchant, were the only Ismailis in Mozambique carrying Indian passports, and were severely affected by this measure. My dad was taken to the camp with 5,000 other Indian citizens. Being a teacher, he was able to conduct special classes for young children and other students during his stay. During the same month, my mother gave birth to my brother Alnoor (pictured below with our parents). She was thus spared from the camp, and was looked after at a hospital for the entire period that my dad was in internment. Then, following their release from internment, Indian nationals were asked to leave the country within 90 days. My parents left for Tanzania (then Tanganyika), where they continued their service to the Imamat and Jamati institutions as religious education teachers and honorary missionaries.

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Alnoor Merchant and Jehangir and Malek
Alnoor, centre, pictured with his parents Jehangir and Malek Merchant, during the Silver Jubilee visit of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to London, England in July 1983. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Going much further back in history, December 19, 1846 marked the inauguration of the telegraph in Canada, with a line from Toronto to Queenston carrying the first message. A plaque marking this historic day has been placed outside on the entrance wall of St Lawrence Market located in Toronto’s Front Street (see photo, below).

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Plaque commemorating the inauguration of the telegraph in Canada on December 19, 1846, Malik Merchant, Simerg
Plaque commemorating the inauguration of the telegraph in Canada on December 19, 1846, on the front entrance wall of Toronto’s St Lawrence Market; December 18, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

It may be noted however, that the first telegraphic message was sent by its inventor, Samuel Morse, two years earlier in May 24, 1844 which simply read: “What God Wrought?” He credited the message to his friend’s daughter, Annie Ellsworth, who found it in the Bible. It is an expression of awe for God [for inspiring the invention].

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When decoded, this paper tape recording of the historic message transmitted on May 24, 1844 by Samuel F. B. Morse reads, “What hath God wrought?” Morse sent it from the Supreme Court room in the U.S. Capitol in Washington to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore. Photo: US Library of Congress.
This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1853
Telegraph stations in the United States, the Canadas & Nova Scotia, 1853. This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1853, only nine years after the first message, shown in the previous image. By this time, only one state east of the Mississippi, Florida, was not connected by telegraph. The legend on the left offers the list of message rates from Pittsburgh. By 1861, telegraph lines crossed the American continent; by 1866, the transatlantic cable connected America and Europe. Credit: Chas. B. Barr, Pittsburgh, Pa. Wegner & Buechner lith., 1853. Col. map 59 x 85 cm. Scale ca. 1:4,200,000 Geography and Map Division, via US Library of Congress.

Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah was a frequent user of the telegraphic services. On December 29, 1948, he sent a telegram conferring Count Jindani with the title of Diwan for his great services. There are numerous other examples of telegraphic messages that the late Imam sent to Ismaili individuals and institutions. A few from Ismaili magazines appear on this website.

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A telegram from Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shah, Aga Khan III, 48th Imam of the Ismailis, conferring the title of Diwan on (Count) Gulamhussein Mohamed Naser Jindani.
A telegram from Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan conferring the title of Diwan on (Count) Gulamhussein Mohamed Naser Jindani. Photo: Mohamed Jindani Collection, London, UK.

In a brief historical overview on communications technology as they have evolved over the last few hundred years, a piece on the website of Elon University states:

“The printing press was the big innovation in communications until the telegraph was developed. Printing remained the key format for mass messages for years afterward, but the telegraph allowed instant communication over vast distances for the first time in human history. Telegraph usage faded as radio became easy to use and popularized; as radio was being developed, the telephone quickly became the fastest way to communicate person-to-person; after television was perfected and content for it was well developed, it became the dominant form of mass-communication technology; the internet came next, and newspapers, radio, telephones, and television are being rolled into this far-reaching information medium.”

In response to the invention of the telegraph, Charles F. Briggs and Augustus Maverick wrote in their 1858 book “The Story of the Telegraph”:

“Of all the marvelous achievements of modern science the electric telegraph is transcendentally the greatest and most serviceable to mankind … The whole earth will be belted with the electric current, palpitating with human thoughts and emotions … How potent a power, then, is the telegraphic destined to become in the civilization of the world! This binds together by a vital cord all the nations of the earth. It is impossible that old prejudices and hostilities should longer exist, while such an instrument has been created for an exchange of thought between all the nations of the earth.” (emphasis added)

Morse, however, had anticipated much earlier that a communications technology such as the one he had invented could be misused. In a letter to Francis O.J. Smith in 1838, Morse wrote:

“This mode of instantaneous communication must inevitably become an instrument of immense power, to be wielded for good or for evil, as it shall be properly or improperly directed.”

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, delivering Brown University’s Ogden lecture on March 10, 2014.

Looking at the power the internet holds today, how accurate was Morse! And let’s elaborate on this by studying what Mawlana Hazar Imam has said with regard to the innovation of technologies and different disruptive forces that are at play. In his March 10, 2014 Stephen Ogden Lecture at Brown University, he said:

“We often think about technological innovation as a great source of hope for the world. We hear about how the internet can reach out across boundaries, helping us all to stay in touch, and giving us access to information from every imaginable source.

“But it is worth remembering that the same affirmations have greeted new communication technologies for centuries, from the printing press to the telegraph to television and radio. Yet in each case, while many hopes were fulfilled, many were also disappointed. In the final analysis, the key to human cooperation and concord has not depended on advances in the technologies of communication, but rather on how human beings go about using – or abusing – their technological tools.

“Among the risks of our new communications world is its potential contribution to what I would call the growing “centrifugal forces” in our time – the forces of “fragmentation.” These forces, I believe, can threaten the coherence of democratic societies and the effectiveness of democratic institutions.

“Yes, the Information Revolution, for individuals and for communities, can be a great liberating influence. But it also carries some important risks.

“More information at our fingertips can mean more knowledge and understanding. But it can also mean more fleeting attention-spans, more impulsive judgments, and more dependence on superficial snapshots of events. Communicating more often and more easily can bring people closer together, but it can also tempt us to live more of our lives inside smaller information bubbles, in more intense but often more isolated groupings.

“We see more people everywhere these days, standing or sitting or walking alone, absorbed in their hand-held screens. But, I wonder whether, in some larger sense, they are really more “in touch?” Greater “connectivity” does not necessarily mean greater “connection.”

“Information travels more quickly, in greater quantities these days. But the incalculable multiplication of information can also mean more error, more exaggeration, more misinformation, more disinformation, more propaganda. The world may be right there on our laptops, but the truth about the world may be further and further away.”

Mawlana Hazar Imam then discusses some of the conflicts that are taking place in the world today, and asks, “How can we respond to such tendencies?” He says:

“The response, I would emphasise today is a thoughtful, renewed commitment to the concept of pluralism and to the closely related potential of civil society. A pluralist commitment is rooted in the essential unity of the human race. Does the Holy Qur’an not say that mankind is descended from “a single soul?” In an increasingly cosmopolitan world, it is essential that we live by a “cosmopolitan ethic,” one that addresses the age-old need to balance the particular and the universal, to honour both human rights and social duties, to advance personal freedom and to accept human responsibility.”

Please read Mawlana Hazar Imam’s complete speech by clicking HERE, in which he recommends ways to overcome the challenges of miscommunication and misinformation we are dealing with.

Date posted: December 18, 2021.

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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.

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.