In light of Jamatkhana closures due to Covid-19, let us pray for Mushkil Asan during week of Satada which would have been observed in Canada from April 3

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

[I wish to clarify at the outset that I am not suggesting that we should be establishing Satadas in our own homes while the Jamatkhanas are closed. I am simply suggesting that we can pray at home by ourselves and with family members along the same lines as we would during a Satada in a Jamatkhana. I don’t see anything wrong in offering extra prayers, which I have always done at home, when I have lived in cities with nearby Jamatkhanas as well as staying in towns and cities where there were no Jamatkhanas in the vicinity. Hopefully the Satada that we will be missing starting tomorrow, will be established when Jamatkhanas are re-opened once we have passed through the Covid-19 pandemic.]

Thousands of Ismaili families across Canada are receiving phone calls from their respective Jamatkhana leadership including Mukhi/Mukhiani and Kamadia/Kamadiani inquiring about our well-being at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their concern has deeply touched our hearts, and we sincerely thank them for the time they are taking to speak to us, and to patiently listen to our experiences, needs and challenges. They are playing their leadership roles, as representatives of Mawlana Hazar Imam, with an immense amount of affection and love, which we can feel in their voices.

In an inspiring prayer filled phone call yesterday from the Ottawa Jamatkhana Kamadiani, I was informed that according to the 2020 religious festivals calendar, the weeklong Jamati Satada (communal congregational special prayers for 7 continuous days) in Canada would have commenced from Friday, April 3.

Jamati Satada are held twice a year across many parts of the Ismaili world (there are also individual Satadas which, in serious personal cases, can be held at any time of the year at the request of individuals seeking special prayers for members of their families).

During the seven days of Jamati Satada, tens of thousands of Ismailis, young and old alike, gather in Jamatkhanas around the world for special prayers and heartful supplications for protection from difficulties (or Mushkil Asan). The special prayers are not exclusively for Ismailis. They include supplications for the world at large. In addition to 2 Jamati Satadas in a year, special Jamati Satadas can be instituted in exceptional or extraordinary circumstances, such as major natural or man-made calamities.

With the Satada in Canada earmarked to start on Friday, April 3, we have provided for our readers an outline of prayers that may be offered in our homes or individual spaces. The summary reflects the Satada practice that would be normally conducted in the Jamatkhanas, with minor differences. One point to note is that different countries may have their own starting dates for the Satada. The important thing to remember, however, is that it is a continuous 7-day observation.

A SUGGESTED DAILY ROUTINE FOR 7-DAYS OF PRAYERS FOR “PROTECTION FROM DIFFICULTIES”

Ismaili Centre Toronto Prayer Hall or Jamatkhana dome. Simerg Photo.
The Toronto Ismaili Centre with its magnificent Jamatkhana prayer hall dome. Ismailis await its opening once the city of Toronto has declared victory over Covid-19, and allows large gatherings to take place. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

1. Recite the two evening Du’a. Remember that in the Du’a, we recite Surah Al-Fatihah (opening of 1st part of Du’a) and Surah Al-Ikhlas (opening of 6th part), both of which are considered to be among the greatest Surahs in the Holy Qur’an. In our beautiful Du’a, we also utter phrases that call for Allah’s mercy and support as well as help and strength from the Imam of the Time, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan.

2. Recite the Satada Tasbih of Ya Ali to Rahem Kar, Ya Ali to Fazal Kar, meaning “O Ali be Merciful, O Lord [Ali] be gracious.”

3. Recite or play recordings of pertinent Ginans and Qasidas of supplication; one such Ginan sung by the Late Shamshudin Bandali Haji, with a link to its English transliteration and translation, is provided below.

4. Read the recent Talika Mubarak and message from Mawlana Hazar Imam.

5. Also, read Farmans from the recently printed Farman Mubarak books authorized by Mawlana Hazar Imam.

6. After 2nd Du’a, partake in Ab-e-Shifa (water of healing) if you have it with you.

Also, at other times during the Coronavirus crisis:

7. Ask and motivate children and youth to learn and memorize the meaning of the Du’a. Seriously, consider this as one of the most important building block of our faith, and treat it as one of the most important missions that you have. When Mawlana Hazar Imam blessed my late dad Jehangir Merchant with a few precious minutes of his time in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), one of the first questions he put to him was whether children were being taught the meaning of the Du’a.

8. Make faith part of our daily life. Even if it be for a moment or a few seconds, say Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad or Ya Ali, or call on the names of our Imams, keeping in mind that all hereditary Imams from Hazrat Ali are bearers of the same Noor.

9. Recite the Salwat Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad, meaning “O, Allah shower thy choicest blessings upon Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.” This tasbih is recited on Chandraat.

10. Recite the tasbih of Bibi Fatimah. They are Allahu Akhbar meaning God is Great, Subhanallah meaning Glory be to God, and Alhamdulillah meaning All praise is due to Allah. According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) had recommended the tasbih to his beloved daughter Bibi Fatimah (A.S.), and hence its name. It is recited on Chandraat, along with the Salwaat.

11. Seek forgiveness by reciting Astaghafirullahi Rabbi Wa Atubu Ilayhi meaning “Verily, I seek the forgiveness of Allah, who is my Lord and Sustainer, and I turn to Him in repentance.” It is recited when prayers are offered for deceased souls.

12. If you are really fearful of what is going on around you, say the Nade Ali a few times for hope, courage and strength.

Nade Ali, Nade Ali, Nade Ali
 Nade Aliyyan mazhar al-ajaib
 Tajidahu awnan lakafin-nawaib
 Kullu hammin wa ghammin
 sayanj-i Ali Bi wilayatika,
Ya Ali! Ya Ali! Ya Ali!

MEANING

Call Ali call Ali call Ali,
the manifestation of marvels
He will be your helper in difficulty
Every anxiety and sorrow will end
Through your friendship.
O Ali, O Ali, O Ali.

Recitation of Satada Ginan by (Late) Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji

Ginan Aash tamari sree ho by Pir Hasan Kabirdin; recitation by Late Alwaez Shamshudin Bandali Haji. Credit: Ginan Central, University of Saskatchewan.

Please click Ismaili Heritage for an English transliteration with translation.

Date posted: April 2, 2020.

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Simerg’s Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who served Jamati institutions for several decades.

We welcome your feedback. Please complete the form below or click on Leave a comment if the form is not displayed. Comments are published at the discretion of the editor. and may be subject to moderation.

Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s humble entreaty to Ali, or the Imam of the Time: Beautiful recitation and translation of Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea

(Note: The following recitation by Late Shamshu Bandali Haji includes a few verses at the end, which may not be part of the same Ginan. We will try and identify the source of the verses. When you start playing the recording, please scroll down to follow the transliteration and meaning of the Ginan. The recitation is from the superb and must visit Ginan Portal website at the University of Saskatchewan containing hundreds of recitations by Shamshu Bandali Haji and other members of the Ismaili community.

Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea by Pir Hasan Kabirdin; recitation by Late Alwaez Shamshudin Bandali Haji

Transliteration and Translation of Ginan Eji Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea

Transliteration source: PYARALI JIWA; English translation by ZARINA KAMALUDDIN and KAMALUDDIN ALI MUHAMMAD

Editor’s note: Ismaili Pirs, Dai’s and poets in their Ginans and Qasidas referred to the Imam of their era as Ali (a.s.), the first Imam who succeeded the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.), thus emphaszing the principle of the Unity of Imamat. For Shia Ismailis, each Imam is the same irrespective of his own age or the time he lives in, as he is the bearer of the same Noor (Light).

VERSE 1

Eji Saahebe faramaan lakhi mokaleaa suno maaraa nar hari yaa Ali; sevak sa(m)bhaa aa vaale aajman maa(n)he mayaa dhari ya Ali

O brother! Listen, My Lord Ali has written and sent a Farman. The beloved Lord has remembered this servant today with kindness in his heart

VERSE 2

Eji Mananaa manorath purajo suno maaraa nar hari yaa Ali deshe vaalo ati sukh raaj siri-a saara(n)g dhani yaa Ali

O my Lord Ali! Listen! Fulfill the hopes of my heart. The beloved Lord will grant much happiness and kingdom

VERSE 3

Eji Ame umaayo tere darage suno maaraa nar hari yaa Ali mayaaa karo maahaaraaj vaiku(n)th naath dhani yaa Ali

O my Lord Ali! Listen! We beseech hopefully at your door. O Lord of paradise! O Ali the great king! Have mercy

VERSE 4

Eji Charan te aapanaa bhetaadajo suno maaraa nar hari yaa Ali najar karo moraa shaam akhiyu(n) amia bhari yaa Ali

O my Lord Ali! Listen! Grant (me) the favor of expressing obeisance to you. O my Lord Ali! Look at me with eyes full of love

VERSE 5

Eji Dukh doyaalaa sarave taalajo suno maaraa nar hari yaa Ali puri karo maahaaraaj aparam paar dhani yaa Ali

O my Lord Ali! Listen! Remove all my sorrows and troubles. O Lord Ali, the great king! O Lord of infinity! Fulfill all my wishes.

VERSE 6

Eji Bahu aparaadh kari jivaddo aavyo tere darage suno maaraa nar hari yaa Ali mayaa karo mahaaraaj vaiku(n)th naath dhani yaa Ali

O my Lord Ali! Listen! After committing many sins this servant has come to your door. O Lord of paradise! O Ali the great king! Have mercy

VERSE 7

Eji Pir Hasan Kabirdin boleaa venati suno maaraa nar hari yaa Ali chade tu(n) tribhovar shaam parane visav ku(n) vaari yaa Ali.

O my Lord Ali! Listen! Pir Hasan Kabirdin (r.a.) has made this entreaty. O Ali! O king of the three worlds! Manifest yourself and marry the virgin earth

Date posted: April 1, 2020.

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.

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His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam, sends blessings to his worldwide followers, and tells them he is thinking of them “every minute of the day, each day”

Portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, with embedded message.
A portrait of His Highness the Aga Khan taken during his Diamond Jubilee, with the 2 columns containing his recent message to worldwide Ismailis. Image: The Ismaili. Please see text below.

[Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, has sent a message with blessings for his global Ismaili followers, which is shared here by Malik Talib, Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum. The message is reproduced from the official website of the Ismaili community. – Ed.]

By MALIK TALIB
(Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum)

On the occasion of Navroz [March 21, 2020, New Year], our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam blessed us with a Talika Mubarak conveying special blessings for Mushkil Asan, and prayers for our health and well-being. Today, I am pleased to share with you that, recently, in a communication to the International Steering Group coordinating the efforts to ensure the Jamat’s safety and wellbeing, Mawlana Hazar Imam was pleased to bestow blessings for the Jamat as follows: 

“Please convey my best paternal and my best maternal loving blessings to my worldwide Jamat, and tell them that I think of them every minute of the day, each day, and I pray for Mushkil Asan [Protection from difficulty – Ed] and for their peace and happiness. We must remain strong and prepare to build, and to build well, when this crisis passes.”

It is in our Tariqah’s long-standing tradition that Mawlana Hazar Imam provides guidance to the Jamat at all times, including during crises, and the Jamat relies on the Imam of the Time’s blessings and direction. Hazar Imam’s message also stated the following:

“The world is facing a challenging time, and in these moments it is important that the Jamat remains united and focused on helping those who will need assistance and hand-holding.”

Hazar Imam expressed his happiness that all the institutions are working collectively to address the challenges that the Jamat is facing under the current circumstances, and reiterated that the Jamat’s safety, security and wellbeing is paramount.

As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread at an alarming rate, it is clear that the single most important action that we can take is to meticulously follow the advice of global health authorities by prioritising the requirements of “physical distancing” to protect ourselves, our families, and our Jamats. This means staying home as much as possible, and following the guidelines for washing hands regularly and thoroughly, avoiding contact with others, covering the mouth when coughing or sneezing, and self-isolating if symptoms arise.

This is a difficult time. We all miss attending Jamatkhana and meeting our family and friends. But for their safety and your own, we must stay strong. Through this period, let us stay connected with our family, friends and neighbours over the phone or through technology. Physical distancing does not mean social distancing – we must stay united as One Jamat and support each other. And let us remember to draw at all times on our faith for comfort and solace by calling on the tasbih as guided by Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Looking forward, Mawlana Hazar Imam has encouraged us to turn our focus to rebuilding, and perhaps in some cases repositioning, when this crisis passes, and focus our efforts to build a stronger future for the global Jamat.

Let us submit our humble Shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam for his blessings, encouragement and hope, and pray for the global Jamat’s safety, well-being and Mushkil Asan.

Ameen.

Date posted: March 30, 2020.

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Covid-19 update from Aga Khan Foundation Canada: 2020 Partnership Walk and visits to Delegation of Ismaili Imamat among programs impacted

Logo of the Aga Khan Foundation
The Aga Khan Foundation logo is based on the right hand, a universal symbol of skill, achievement and caring. It symbolizes the humanitarian and positive philosophy underlying the Foundation and its activities.

(The following message is reproduced from the website of Aga Khan Foundation Canada. Earlier this week we posted Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED. To contribute to COVID-19, please click on https://giving.aku.edu/. We wish our Canadian readers to note that their contributions to AKU COVID-19 fund will be channeled through Aga Khan Foundation Canada — Ed.)

By KHALIL SHARIFF
(Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Foundation Canada)

Khlail Shariff, CEO of Aga Khan Foundation Canada
Khalil Shariff. Photo: AKFC

March 25, 2020.

Dear friends,

As conditions around the world change rapidly during these unprecedented times, we wanted to share a brief update to keep you informed of how we are responding to COVID-19.

COVID-19 has now grown from an outbreak in one city to a pandemic of global proportions. It is unlikely any country will be untouched by its ripple effects. More than ever, it is clear how Canada’s future is intertwined with the rest of the world.

The health and safety of our supporters, volunteers, and staff are paramount to us. In Canada, we are following all recommendations of the Government of Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as the local public health authorities in the Canadian cities where we operate.

That means, effective last week:

1. All our Canadian colleagues are working from home.

2. We have come to the difficult decision to suspend this year’s World Partnership Walk and World Partnership Golf campaigns. We will have more information on alternate plans to share on these soon.

3. We have cancelled all tours of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building in Ottawa until further notice.

Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in  Ottawa, Canada.
The offices of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada are located inside the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex Drive in Ottawa, pictured above. The building was inaugurated by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, on December 6, 2008. Photo: Maki and Associates/Moriyama and Teshima Architects.

4. Our travelling exhibit, In a Heartbeat, is suspended until further notice.

5. We have postponed our International Youth Fellowship pre-departure training in Ottawa to begin at the end of July, with overseas placements beginning at the end of August. We will continue to monitor the situation in the coming weeks and months, and will adjust the program as required to ensure our fellows’ well-being.

6. All other in-person events have either been cancelled, rescheduled online, or postponed.

We have taken these steps to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are immensely fortunate in Canada to have such competent health leadership, and we encourage everyone to heed the advice of health authorities as best they can.

Healthcare facilities and workers around the world are at the frontlines of events like these. Canadian support over the past 40 years has strengthened health systems across Africa and Asia, and we remain hopeful these investments will mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the geographies where we work.

We also want to assure you that we remain committed to our countries and communities of operation during this crisis. The Aga Khan Development Network, of which we are a part, is mounting a robust response to address the many aspects of this pandemic. Now more than ever, it is important that our work of strengthening systems, institutions, and communities for times of fragility pushes forward.

We may all be working remotely for now, but we are still here for you. If you are already connected to a staff member, you can reach them by email. Otherwise, you send an email to info@akfc.ca, and we will direct your inquiry to the right person. If you have questions about your 2019 tax receipts, you can reach our Donor Services team directly at donorservices@akfc.ca or leave a voicemail at 613-237-2532 ext. 191.

In global crises like these, it is easy to dwell on what worries us. But I invite us all to step forward in support of our friends, relatives, and neighbours for whom this time may be especially trying. We can weather this better together.

We will reach out again as the situation and our plans to respond develop. Until then, we wish you and yours continued good health and spirits.

Sincerely,

Khalil Z. Shariff
Chief Executive Officer
Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

Date posted: March 28, 2020

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(IMPORTANT NOTE: Earlier this week we posted Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED. To contribute to COVID-19, please click on https://giving.aku.edu/. We wish our Canadian readers to note that their contributions for AKU COVID-19 fund will be channeled through Aga Khan Foundation Canada. — Ed.)

Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED

The Seal of the Aga Khan University
The Seal of the Aga Khan University

By RICHARD BROW
Chief Development Officer

The COVID-19 pandemic is having an enormous impact on individuals and families in our communities and around the world.

AKU [Aga Khan University] is on the front lines of the response to this unprecedented health challenge. Our dedicated physicians, nurses and other medical staff are working tirelessly to save lives.

You can support our efforts to secure specialised medical equipment, provide testing and life-saving care to the vulnerable through our Patient Welfare Programme, and address the needs of our physicians and healthcare personnel during this extraordinary time [Note: readers outside Pakistan have encountered problems in completing the form – please select the COVID-19 Fund over the Zakat Donation COVID-19 Fund option, and see if that works for you – Ed.].

The COVID-19 Fund would support the following: 

1. Providing world-class medical care, including for disadvantaged patients through our Patient Welfare Programme;

2. Securing specialised equipment including ventilators and personal protective gear for our staff;

3. Changes to our hospital and University facilities to expand our capacity to respond effectively to this emergency; 

4. Research by our infectious disease specialists, and others, that contributes to the global effort to deliver better diagnostics for COVID-19 and care for those infected;    

5. Support for our staff who are working exceedingly long hours, and need accommodation and other essential support.​

If you would like to make a donation, additional information may be found HERE.

You may also contact us directly at: resource.development@aku.edu

On behalf of all of us at AKU and the countless people we serve, thank you.

Date posted: March 23, 2020.

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Read the latest updates on the University’s action on the coronavirus.​ ​​

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. In the past few days, we have published some excellent pieces on Navroz.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends his blessings to world-wide Ismailis for Navroz and mushkil asan (protection from difficulties), with prayers for their health and well-being

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, pictured at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Kenya. Photo: The Ismaili,

By MALIK TALIB
(Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum)

On the occasion of Navroz, our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam has most graciously sent a Talika Mubarak to be shared with our global Jamat, which reads as follows:

My dear Malik,

On the occasion of Navroz, I send to my worldwide Jamat my best blessings for peace and happiness in their lives.

I am also sending my special blessings for Mushkil Asan for my Jamats wherever they may be, and I pray for their health and their well-being.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

I convey warm Mubarak to the global Jamat on the occasion of Navroz and, on behalf of all the murids world-wide, I express humble shukrana to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for the gracious Talika.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Guidance Central to Ismaili Institutions’ decision making during the COVID-19 crisis

….Malik Talib’s message continues below

The festival of Navroz is a time for hope, optimism, renewal, and faith – even in times of uncertainty and difficulty.

I would like to assure the Jamat that all Jamati institutions and leaders around the world are doing everything possible to ensure the Jamat’s safety and security.

For so many of us, the temporary suspension placed on Jamatkhana gatherings is perhaps the most difficult among the wide array of disruptions to our everyday lives. The decision to temporarily suspend our Jamatkhana gatherings was not taken lightly, and was implemented in accordance with Hazar Imam’s guidance to comply with government and public health guidelines around the world.

While we appreciate that this indeed is a very difficult disruption, and that we are no longer able to gather physically at the present time, we remain unified in our faith, in devotion and compassion.

These bonds of community have sustained throughout the vagaries of time and history, and will continue in the difficult weeks and months ahead. As we prepare ourselves, we will work together as a united Jamat.

It is of great importance that we follow the directions given by the Jamati institutions who are working with the AKDN [Aga Khan Development Network] to ensure compliance with government measures to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.

Ours is an esoteric faith. Our Imam has time and time again reminded us of the importance of spiritual contemplation, reflection, personal search and prayer. In these moments we will find peace and solace to overcome our current challenges. We would be well advised to recall Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Farmans regarding engaging in personal prayer, when we are unable to attend Jamatkhana. It is my conviction that adhering to this guidance will bring us comfort in these challenging times.

Virtual Jamatkhanas Inappropriate

Malik Talib. Ismaili Leaders' International Forum
Malik Talib, Chairman Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum

….Malik Talib’s message continues below

The temporary closure of our Jamatkhanas has resulted in the appearance of electronic and digital channels offering a “virtual Jamatkhana”. This is clearly inappropriate, as a Jamatkhana may only be established and function under the Imam’s authority, through his institutions and appointed Mukhi-Kamadias.

At this time in particular, it is critical that we understand the risks of misinformation and miscommunication, and rely only on credible government and Jamati institutional sources – including The Ismaili – the official website and social media channels for the Jamat.

At a time of increased economic anxiety, it is also imperative that we act rationally, with prudence and sound judgement.

COVID-19 pandemic at the forefront of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s thoughts

….Malik Talib’s message continues below

The current developments regarding the COVID-19 pandemic have been at the forefront of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s thoughts, and I would like to inform the Jamat that, following Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance, an international Steering Group has been established to coordinate the efforts to ensure the Jamat’s safety and well-being, and to support the responses being undertaken in each national Jamati jurisdiction.
 
These are difficult times. However, as one Jamat, our faith unites us, and gives us the strength, courage and hope to face this adversity, and emerge from it, a stronger community, bound by our values, and our allegiance to the Imam-of-the-Time.

Let us offer shukrana for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s continued love, grace, protection and guidance, and pray for the Jamat’s safety, good health and Mushkil Asan.

Ameen.

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A Note from the Publisher/Editor of Simerg

By MALIK MERCHANT

Nothing can be more gratifying for a murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam than receiving his blessings on the occasion of Navroz, as well as special blessings for Mushkil Asan at this particular time of a world wide novel coronavirus pandemic. Instead of celebrating Navroz in Jamatkhanas, we will be observing it in our unique ways in our homes. This is unprecedented in recent history! However we have received the Imam’s Blessings as we would in Jamatkhanas. That should bring contentment and happiness in our hearts and give us immense strength and hope for the future.

The message from Malik Talib, the Chairman of the Ismaili Leaders’ International Forum, has outlined our responsibilities as members of a universal brotherhood. It is important that we follow the instructions of the leaders at this time of crisis, and act according to the wishes of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Date posted: March 21, 2019.

We invite our readers to share their feelings, Navroz greetings, and unique experiences during the extraordinary events that are taking place in light of COVID-19. Please complete the feedback below, and if you don’t see the form please click LEAVE A COMMENT

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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. In the past few days, we have published some excellent pieces on Navroz.

Beautiful recitations of the 16th century Ginan "Navroz na din Sohamna," and composer Sayyid Fatehali Shah's fervent search and illuminating meeting with his Spiritual Master, the Imam of the Time

Conceived and created by Ottawa’s Dr. Nurin Merchant, this Navroz greeting incorporates the rose and jasmine flowers which are extremely popular in Iran during the celebration of Navroz. The base of the picture shows shoots of wheat grass signifying robust evergreen health throughout the year.

Abstract: Two beautiful recitations of the Navroz Ginan by Shamshudin Bandali Haji and Mumtaz Bhulji followed by an explanation by Sadruddin Hassam. In the Ginan, Sayyid Fatehali Shah relates the combined experience of the zahiri deedar (exoteric or physical glimpse or meeting) that he was granted by the 45th Ismaili Imam, Shah Khalilullah (peace be on him), and the inner joy of contentment and ecstasy that he experienced with the bestowal of Noorani (spiritual or esoteric) grace.

Were it not for the shutting down of Jamatkhanas because of the COVID-19 pandemic, tens of thousands of Ismailis around the world would be making their preparations for the Navroz celebrations in their respective Jamatkhanas on Saturday, March 21, 2020. The beautiful occasion of Navroz generates immense happiness and makes our hearts jump with joy as we receive blessings from Mawlana Hazar Imam together with roji and Ab-e-Shifa.

Included in the Navroz Jamatkhana ceremonies, is the recitation of selected verses of the traditional Navroz Ginan and verses from Qasidas.

We once again provide an explanation of the Ginan that many readers have read over and over again but still like to return to it because of its significance in the context of a murid’s yearning to be close to the Imam of the Time. We are pleased to include a full recitation of the Ginan by (Late) Alwaez Shamshudin Bandali Haji of Edmonton as well as a shorter recitation by Mumtaz Bhulji. At the beginning of his powerful recitation, Alwaez Shamshu Haji has incorrectly attributed the Ginan to Pir Shams. This misunderstanding is clarified in the piece on Navroz by Sadruddin Hassam that is produced below.

Navroz Ginan recitation by Shamshu Bandali Haji

Recitation of Navroz Ginan by Late Shamshudin Bandali Haji

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Navroz Ginan recitation of selected verses by Mumtaz Bhulji

Recitation of selected verses of Navroz Ginan by Mumtaz Bhulji

These 2 recitations have been retrieved from University of Saskatchwan’s Library webportal Ginan Central. Click on the link, and you will be able to hear many more recitations of the same Ginan by other Ismaili members of the Jamat.

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Explanation of Navroz Ginan

By SADRUDIN K. HASSAM

Introduction

An attempt is made in this article to give an interpretation of the devotional Ginan Navroz na din Sohamna, which is recited by Ismaili Jamats in many parts of the world on the occasion of the celebration of the Persian New Year which falls on March 21st. In this ginan the composer, Sayyid Fatehali Shah, relates the combined experience of the zahiri deedar (exoteric or physical glimpse or meeting) that he was granted by the 45th Ismaili Imam, Shah Khalilullah (peace be on him), and the inner joy of contentment and ecstasy that he experienced with the bestowal of Noorani (spiritual or esoteric) grace. At the same time, he gently persuades the mu’min (a believer) to always strive for esoteric understanding as well as to develop a lasting spiritual relationship with the Imam of the Time. It may be noted that in Shia Imami Ismaili theology each Imam is the bearer of the same Divine Light (Noor). The Divine Institution of Imamat has its origins in the first Shia Imam, Hazrat Ali (peace be on him), who was declared as the successor to Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) at the famous historical event at Ghadir-e-Khumm.

As the composer has to narrate the exoteric experience as well as the ineffable esoteric relationship, the ginanic diction that he uses has to resort to the traditional and familiar imagery and symbolic expressions in order to convey his message. The words, the imagery and the symbolic expressions, however, blend beautifully in this ginan. This beauty, unfortunately, cannot be recreated in this prosaic interpretation. Nor can we go into the prosody of the ginan.

In this reading we shall first address a common held misunderstanding about the identity of the composer. We shall then make an attempt to describe the exoteric experience of the composer’s meeting with the Imam, as so wonderfully narrated in the ginan, and finally we shall examine and interpret some of the key words and expressions to convey the ineffable spiritual experience as well as the composer’s gentle persuasion to the mu’mins. One hopes that this brief reading will heighten the reader’s appreciation and understanding of this ginan.

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A clarification about the composer and the period of composition

The composition of this ginan is sometimes wrongly attributed to Pir Shams al-Din who lived more than four centuries before the actual composer of this ginan, Sayyid Fatehali Shah. This mistake may have arisen because of the pen-name he has used in the second line of the last verse which reads:

Bhane Shamsi tamme sambhro rookhi.

It was a normal practice for the composer to mention his own name in the concluding verses of the ginan. But Shamsi here does not refer to Pir Shams al-Din  – rather it was the pen-name of  Sayyid Fatehali Shah.

He, like a number of other Sayyids, who did the work of da’wa (propagation and teaching) in India, may have been a descendant of Pir Hassan Kabirdin. Sayyid Fatehali Shah himself preached among the communities in Sind. He eventually died there and was buried near Jerruk which is south of Hyderabad in Pakistan.

The first two lines in verse seven give us the clues as to the period when this ginan was composed as well as validate the real name of the composer. These lines read:

Eji gaddh Chakwa ne kille Shah Khalilullah ramme
Tiyaan Fatehali ne mayya karine bolaawiyya

Shah Khalilullah here refers to the forty-fifth Ismaili Imam, whose Imamat was from 1780 to 1817 A.C. He lived in Iran in the town of Mahallat, which is located approximately 362 kilometers from Tehran. The town is situated on the slope of a mountain. Mahallat is also amongst the most ancient residential areas in Iran and was an important base of the Ismailis; hence the many references to the 46th and 47th Imams (Aga Khan I and II) as Aga Khan Mahallati. Sayyids and murids of the Imam from various parts used to come to Mahallat to pay their respects. This ginan is therefore fairly recent, having been composed either towards the end of eighteenth century or early in the nineteenth century.

It appears that like many other murids, Sayyid Fatehali Shah travelled from Sind to Iran to meet Hazrat Imam Shah Khalilullah.

On arriving in Mahallat on the day of Navroz, he learns that the Imam has gone to the woods on a hunting expedition. The Sayyid naturally feels disappointed that having come all the way, he did not have the opportunity for the deedar. This feeling of sadness is lamented in the first stanza of the ginan. Despite this, there is an undercurrent of inner hope at the prospect of having the deedar by the mercy of the Imam.

The pangs of separation from the beloved and the yearning for reunion are a recurrent theme in Ismaili ginans and also in Sufi mystical poetry. In this ginan, there is the lament of this separation, but in keeping with the traditional ginanic function, there is also gentle persuasion and hope of spiritual union.

We shall now examine how Sayyid Fatehali Shah relates his zaheri deedar of the Imam and how this blends with his esoteric experience.

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The meeting with the Imam of the Time in the woods and at the fort 

In the following four verses (1, 2, 3 and 7), Sayyid Shamsi relates his quest for the Master which leads to his meeting with Imam Shah Khalilullah. The meetings (deedar) fulfilled his intense yearning.

Transliteration:

Eji Navroz na din sohamna,
Shah Ali Qayam shikaar ramwa vann gaya,
Sevak na mann thaya oodassi,
Praan Ali charne rahiya…..1

Interpretive Translation and Explanation

On a beautiful day of Navroz,
Imam-e-Zaman had gone to the woods to hunt.
(I) His murid (disciple) became sad at heart (for missing my Master),
as my soul was yearning to be at the feet of the Imam. (An expression of respect and – obedience to the Imam)….1

Navruz (Navroz – Gujrati variation) is a Persian word meaning ‘New Year’s Day’ (twenty-first March). This is the first day of spring, hence the day is beautiful (sohamna).
Shah Ali Qayam refers to Imam-e-Zaman (Imam of the Time) because Noor-e-Imama is everpresent (qayam).
Shikaar ramwa gaya  means ‘went hunting’ and vann means ‘woods.’
Sevak is ‘one who is ready to serve or obey,’ in this case a ‘disciple’ or a ‘murid.’
Praan means ‘inner life’ or ‘soul.’

VERSE 2

Transliteration

Eji Shah Qayam preete jo chint baandhi
Nar ne preete amme vann gaya
Eva vann sohamna Nar Qayam ditha,
Dela dai devanta rahiya …..2

Interpretive Translation and Explanation

Impatient because of my ardent and deep loving desire to meet the Imam,
I also went into the woods,
which in the presence of the Imam
unfolded like heavenly gates looking angelically beautiful….2

The expression preete jo chint baandhi literally means ‘with love when (one) focuses on the remembrance (dhikr).’
Dela dai devanta rahiya is an idiomatic expression implying ‘the unveiling of angelic (devanta) beauty with the opening of gates (dela).’ When the murid (devotee) searches inwards  for the murshid (master), spiritual insight keeps on unveiling the gates with ever-increasing beauty.

VERSE 3

Transliteration

Eji bhalu thayu Saahebe soomat aali,
Shah Ali Qayam saathe ramwa amme vann gaya.
Anant aasha poori amaari
Shah dil bhaave gamya….3

Interpretive Translation and Explanation

It was a blessing that the Master inspired in me the wisdom
so that I went into the woods.
My intense yearning was fulfilled
because  true bliss had blossomed in my heart…..3

Saahebe soomat aali means ‘the Master inspired in me the wisdom.’
Anant asha poori amaari
means ‘my intense yearning (for deedar, both zahiri and batini) was fulfilled.’

VERSE 7

Transliteration

Eji gaddh Chakwa ne kille Shah Khalilullah ramme,
Tiyaan Fatehaline mayya kari ne bolaawiya,
Anant aasha poori amaari
Neet Ali Noore oothiya….7

Interpretive Translation and Explanation

Shah Khalilullah, pleasantly relaxing at the fortress in Chakwa,
graciously summoned me (Fatehali) in his presence;
then with the constant overflowing of His Noor,
fulfilled my many ardent wishes (for spiritual growth)….7

The expression Neet Ali Noore oothiya implies ‘the mystical experience of the overflowing of the Noorani Deedar of Ali (The Imam Eternal) which was granted (to him).’

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The inner search and experience

In the remaining four verses (4, 5, 6 and 8 ) of the ginan, Sayyid Shamsi, touches upon his own inner yearnings and gently persuades the listener to seek out the spiritual vision through the love and grace of the spiritual lord.

VERSE 4

Transliteration

Eji hette Alisu hirakh baandho,
Avichal ranga Sahebse girahiya,
Evi chint baandhi Nar Qayam saathe,
Sat bhandaar motiye bhariya….4

Interpretive Translation and Explanation

Be joyfully bound in the love of Ali
And attain the unfading spiritual color (the state of bliss) from the Master;
When my mind was bound to the Ever-Living Lord in contemplation
Reality adorned (the Soul) with priceless treasure of (Noorani) pearls….4

Avichal ranga Sahebse girahiya means ‘the permanent state of bliss from the Lord’ and refers to the nafs-i-mutmainna or ‘the contented self’ (Holy Qur’an, 89:27). It is a state of mind which is serene because the self has understood the Reality. The verse of the Holy Qur’an reads: But ah! thou soul at peace! (translated M. Pickthall).

VERSE 5

Transliteration

Eji amme Saheb saathe sahel kidha,
Riddh siddhaj paamiya,
Ek mann ginan je saambhre
Aa jeev tena odhariya….5

Interpretive Translation and Explanation

I (Fatehali) relished the spiritual journey with the Master (the Imam),
and (as a result) I was blessed with spiritual elevation and gnosis (spiritual insight).
He who listens to the Ginans attentively (and strives for the contemplative knowledge),
his soul finds the path to salvation….5

Here the Sayyid implies that a mu’min should strive for the batini deedar (spiritual reality of the Imam). One may achieve this with the blessing of the Imam.

VERSE 6

Transliteration

Eji jeev jiyaare joogat paame,
Praan popey ramm rahiya,
Agar chandan prem rasiya,
Hette hans sarowar zeeliya…..6

Interpretive Translation and Explanation

When the self understands reality,
the soul blends beautifully like a flower
and experiences musk and sandalwood-like fragrance.
The self floats in ecstasy of love as a swan swims in a lake….6

This verse contains symbolic expressions and imagery to convey the ineffable serenity and the inner joy of the fortunate one who has been graced with the the batini (esoteric) experience. The life of such a person becomes beautiful like a flower.

The fragrance of musk (agar) and sandalwood (chandan) symbolizes good behavior of the gifted one through speech and good deeds.

The swan (hans) represents the soul that is pure. Through esoteric and ecstatic experiences it remains liberated and is in abiding love for the beloved.

VERSE 8

Transliteration

Eji bhai re moman tamey bhaave araadho,
Bhane Shamsi tamey saambhro rookhi,
Saaheb na goon nahi wisaare,
Tena praan nahi thashe dookhi….8

Interpretive Translation and Explanation

O momin brothers! With deep affection remember the Lord.
Take heed and listen to what Shamsi says:
“They who do not forget the batin of the Imam (realizable through Imam’s grace),
their souls will never ever be miserable or unhappy”…..8

Sayyid Shamsi gently reminds his momin brothers (rookhi) always to remember the Lord with affection. Here, rookhi is probably the intimate form of the word rikhisar which is used in the ginans to refer to mu’min brothers. The word has been used thus to rhyme with the last word of the stanza dookhi (miserable).

The last two lines are to remind us not to forget the batin of the Imam but to strive towards it through regular prayers. Those who carry out these responsibilities with dedication and devotion can never  be unhappy whatever the worldly life might impose upon them. Thus the souls of the true mu’mins will always be at peace within themselves, knowing that they are under the protection and guidance of a living manifest Imam.

“Remember the Day when we will summon all human beings with their Imam. …” – The Holy Qur’an 17:71

From the above discourse, we can see why the ginan is appropriate for the occasion of  Navroz, which marks the commencement of a new year. The glorious transformation of nature in spring reminds us of the creative power of Allah, who continually showers His bounties for us. Thus, the festival of Navroz should effect a spiritual renewal in each one of us. It should inspire greater love for Imam-e-Zaman as is enjoined upon us by Allah and our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him).

This Navroz ginan by Sayyid Fatehali Shah reminds us of our spiritual obligations for continuous search for enlightenment through the Ta’alim (teachings and guidance) of the Imam of the time.

Date posted: March 19, 2020.

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This reading has been adapted by Simerg from the original article, “Eji Navroz Na Din Sohamna – An Interpretation,” by Sadrudin K. Hassam, which appeared in Ilm, Volume 9, Number 2, (March 1985).

In worrying time of Covid-19 pandemic, let us seek compassion, help and hope from our scriptures and Mawlana Hazar Imam's Farmans that he is present with his murids all the time

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in Booni Chitral.
Mawlana Hazar Imam in Booni Chitral during his Diamond Jubilee visit to Pakistan in December 2017. Photo: The Ismaili/ Karim Sadruddin.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

As the world struggles to cope with the novel coronavirus pandemic, it is natural to become anxious. We live in extraordinary times. The closure of Jamatkhanas in almost all countries accentuates our anxiety.  I do not intend this article to be doom and gloom. To the contrary, I want to portray hope from our faith.

The emergence of this new virus and its global impact has demonstrated the intricate ways in which humanity is interconnected and how it has brought entire humanity to its knees and shown us the vulnerability of the ‘House of Cards’ that is our civilization. There is no ‘foreign virus’ as some have chosen to describe it. This virus is brutally merciless and does not recognize race, colour, gender, religion or national boundaries.  

There is already a disruption of social care and communal services as the pandemic progresses in Europe, North America and elsewhere. This will transfer the burden of care of the aged, less able and vulnerable to younger, and healthier family members who may ride through the illness with minor discomfort. The projected time periods are likely to be several months.

Bearing in mind all these factors, how should we react to the pandemic? Ours is an intellectual tradition. Allah possesses the power of miracles, but we do not relay on Allah’s miracle alone.

At this very moment, there are laboratories around the world racing against time to come up with a vaccine against the virus. Indeed, one was tested on a few patients a few days ago. May be the virus is temperature sensitive and as we, in temperate zones transition to spring and rising temperatures, it may abate the virus. May be the ‘herd immunization’ strategy that is talked about will work and lessen the impact of the new virus. As ordinary citizens, we sometimes feel helpless. Under such circumstances, after following all the advice we are given to protect ourselves and our beloved ones, the next tendency in people in troubled times is prayers.

Psychologists have long known this fact. It gives people tremendous hope and alleviates stress in face of adversity. Prayers work, and in this I am reminded of a Farman Mawlana Hazar Imam had made in the 1960’s when he said that those who prayed in difficult times knew how prayers had helped them during their difficulties. At the same time, he reminded us that we should not only pray when times are bad but also when times are good.

Our Ginans can also give us help during these difficult times. Several Ginans have powerful verses of supplication and pleading for Allah’s mercy and compassion and help. These verses are not parochial but are pleadings for Allah’s compassion and mercy for the entire humanity.  In the context of the pandemic, this fact comes out clear. It is our hope that this ‘One Humanity’ idea endures beyond the pandemic.

Some of the verses I present are well-known, but I include them for completeness. First is a verse that extols the virtue of congregational prayers. It is from Pir Hasan Kabir’s Anant Akhado, verse 115.

Aashaaji til dharam ne hasti paap
sohi gat utaare ji
Gat naa vachan te Nar ji maane
te maahaadan maanhe nahi puchhaaye.

Translation:

O Lord, our good deeds are minuscule, our sins monumental. These are forgiven in congregational prayers
The Lord listens to congregational prayers and spares the questioning on the Day of Judgement.

The physical separateness due to the closure of our Jamatkhanas does not preclude us from offering prayers for humanity in our hearts and/or with our families.

In Pir Hasan Kabir’s Ananta Akhado, verse 32, Pir says that in Lord’s Assembly, He grants you whatever you wish.

Aashaji jiya jem mango, tiya tem verse,
Satgur gher anand ji

Translation:

Whatever you ask for in His assembly, He grants.
There is joy and no one returns disappointed from His assembly.

In verse 127, the scope of the pleading and supplication expands and encompass the entire humanity.

Aashaji, Sansar serve Shrusti tamari, ane serve mankha jiv ji
Daya kari teme amne taaro, Sami serve jiv tamara ji

Translation:

O Lord, the entire creation is Yours,  as are the souls,
With compassion, save us, O Lord, we all are Your souls.

In Pir Hasan Kabir’s Venti Eji Aash Tamari Shree Ho, which is full of supplications and pleadings, the opening verse portrays the congregation, standing with hands folded, asking for Lord’s compassion:

Eji, Aash tamari Shree Ho Kayam Sami, 
Saheb Chinta kee je, Ya Shah
Sab Gatie Shah ke khde re umayo Shah
Raj Rikhisar Ghar Dejo

Translation:

O Lord, we are hopeful of and dependent on your compassion; O Lord, we beseech you, spare your thought for us; the entire congregation is standing in submission; O Lord, bestow prosperity and happiness upon us…

Next is a beautiful venti of sincere submission and heart rendering plea for help by Pir Hasan Kabir in Hum Dil Khalak ya Ali tu(n)hij:

Hum dil Khalak ya Ali tu(n)hij vase,
Ya Mawla tu(n)hij vase,
avar na dhuja koi,
jive pi(n)dhe jo tun(n)hij dhani;
Ya Mawla tu(n)hij dhani.
Jia(n) kari(n) tiya hoi
Maher karo mora saai ya
Ali hum tere aadhar
Tere aadhar ya Mawla tu(n)hij daatar
Maher karo mora saai ya
Ali hum tere aadhan

Translation:

Only you reside in my heart O Ali,
O Mawla only you,
Non-other I think of
You, who are master of my soul and body
O Mawla, truly you are the Master
Your wish and command prevail
Show mercy O Lord
Ali you are my support,
I am dependent in You;
O Mawla you are the provider (of all my needs)
Show mercy O Lord,
Ali you are my only support

The next powerful verse that we often recite to seek divine help  is  from Seyyad Imam Shah’s Ame Saaheb Saathe, Verse 6

Eji Tuj vinaa koi avar na dise,
Saami amne chhe tamaaro aadhaar-ji;
Tuj vinaa ame eklaa Saami,
Saami tame thaajo rakhvaarr-ji

Translation:

O Lord, You alone we see,
O Lord, we rely upon You
Without You we are all alone
Please be our protector (In these troubled times)

In addition to the Ginans, our daily Arabic Du’a has powerful pleas for help.  In part two we recite:

“O Allah, O our Lord from You is my help, upon You is my reliance. You alone we worship and You alone we seek for help. O Aly help me with your kindness.”

In part three of our Du’a, we recite:

“Seek at times of difficulty, the help of your Lord, the present living Imam, Shah Karim al Hussaini.”

In part 4 of our Du’a, we recite:

“O Allah: Forgive us our sins, give us our daily bread and have mercy upon us….”

In part five of our Du’a, we recite:

“Ya Shah Karim, O Mawla, from you is my strength…”

As we go through this difficult time we should take comfort from these Ginanic verses and our Holy Du’a as well the Farmans of Mawlana Hazar Imam that have been published recently. Repeatedly, he assures his murids of his constant presence with them. For example, in his Diamond Jubilee Farman made in Booni, Chitral, Pakistan, he lovingly tells us that he is always with his Jamat, every day, every minute, every second (Diamond Jubilee Farman book, page 57, also pages 51, 62). As such, we should seek to keep his enduring blessings for mushkil-asan (protection from difficulties) alive in our hearts all the time.

I pray that these trying times pass and that Allah in His compassion listens to our plea for help for humanity. His compassion and mercy know no bound.

Date posted: March 18, 2020.

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.

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Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.

The author wishes to thank Platinum Rahemtulla for references to Ginanic verses and their translations that are quoted in the article.

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Must read: TIME magazine’s explanation of terms used in the Coronavirus coverage, and a video on the making of a test vaccine in record time

Time magazine Coronavirus
Please click to read TIME article

We are everyday encountering special words or expressions such as corona / coronavirus / novel coronavirus / COVID-19 / outbreak / epidemic / pandemic / quarantine / self-quarantine / isolation / cordon sanitaire / symptom / symptomatic / asymptomatic / incubation / morbidity / mortality / social distancing. We turn to TIME magazine for an easy to understand glossary of the coronavirus jargon. It is worth your time to read the weekly magazine’s excellent piece, and familiarize yourself with the terms so you can understand what you are reading and explain them to your children and family members!

Date posted: March 17, 2020.

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.

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Amid several Jamatkhana closures around the world due to Covid-19 let us all pray at home individually or as a family and seek to give hope, happiness and inspiration to vulnerable members of the Jamat

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Simerg and Muslim Harji
A Muslim offering prayers under the “Rock” where Abraham brought his son Ishmael for sacrifice. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright.

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

When you have not missed a day in Jamatkhana attendance over the past several years, how do you cope with sudden and unforeseen closures of your favourite Jamatkhana? We live in difficult circumstances. Covid-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — has infected tens of thousands around the world and has been declared a pandemic, causing anxiety and worry. I left a pharmacy on Friday March 13 with a customer expressing, “it feels like death can approach anyone of us, and I just feel at the moment that I might die.” When I next visited a supermarket at around noon time, people were filling their shopping carts to the brim with supplies for their families. Ismaili institutions in Canada on the same day announced the closure of Jamatkhanas in several provinces around the country to protect the elderly and everyone who is vulnerable due to compromised immune systems. A similar decision was made by the USA Aga Khan Council for cities across many states on Saturday, March 14. Of course, these are also containment measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. These measures have also been necessary as a result of bans that have been imposed by state or provincial or even Federal authorities on large gatherings.

In 1979, I was left with a difficult situation of being the only Ismaili in Salt Lake City, Utah, for several months, until a family arrived just before I left the following summer. The nearest Jamatkhanas were in Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix, hundreds of miles away. I disciplined myself to pray regularly and the happiness and strength I achieved was comparable to my earlier praying days at 5 Palace Gate in London, England. In London, I had become a regular only in 1976, and before that attended Jamatkhanas only on Fridays at Central Hall when I was a student at the Polytechnic of North London. In Salt Lake City, I set aside a corner in my room for the purpose of praying. It was a tiny 12-15 sq ft space beside my bed. The night table contained my rosary (tasbih), with the drawers containing Farman and Ginan books along with a copy of the Holy Qur’an as well as some literary magazines and books. I performed my prayers in an identical fashion to what takes place in Jamatkhana — reciting the Du’a, Farmans and Ginans loudly as well as standing up for the tasbih. My heart and soul enjoyed the spiritual nourishment that I experienced even from praying alone. Chandraat (New Moon day or first day of the Islamic month) was a joyful day for me as I saw the new moon above the Wasatch Mountains that surround the Mormon capital. On my drive home in my roommate’s car, I looked forward to the special Chandraat prayers that I would recite.

A few years ago in Ottawa, I met and interviewed the eldest member of the Ismaily family, who was probably the first Ismaili to settle in Canada in the early 1950’s. He had met our beloved 48th Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), just before his lone settlement in a new country. He told me the late Imam asked him to set aside a small portion of his room and conduct his prayers in that space just as he would in a Jamatkhana. The Imam also asked him to keep away from bad and evil social habits, and to work hard. Mr. Ismaily abided, and said that the practice that he adopted of praying regularly in a designated space gave him immense strength, comfort and spiritual happiness.

So here are my recommendations to families where Jamatkhanas have been temporarily closed — and we don’t yet know for how long! Try as a family to pray together. Visit your parents or grandparents at their home, if you are not staying with them, and say to them that you would like to join them for prayers. When visiting them, if you are healthy, take precautions such as hand washing and other important recommended hygienic steps like the ones posted by the Government of Singapore.

Remember they have all of a sudden been deprived of the most valuable moments in their lives — being in Jamatkhanas. Tell them you will recite the Du’a out loud. Keep in mind that many elderly people rely on listening to the prayers recited by another person. Many do not have the capacity to recite the Du’a. Play or recite a ginan or qasida, and join together in tasbihs to help ease our difficulties that we are facing at the present time. Say Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad or Ya Ali. Recite Salwats. Recite the tasbihs of Allahu Akhbar (God is Great), Subhanallah (Glory be to God) and Alhamdulillah (All praise is due to Allah) suggested by the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S) to his beloved daughter Bibi Fatimah (A.S.). Say the tasbih of Ya Ali Tu Rahem Kar (O Ali be Merciful) Ya Mawla Tu Fazal Kar (O Lord [Ali] be gracious) that we recite during Jamati Satada (7 consecutive days of special prayers for the easing of difficulties). Remember, Mawlana Hazar Imam is our strength, so say Ya Shah Karim Ya Mawlana anta Quwati from the 5th part (O Shah Karim, You are my strength/support).

This is a perfect time to come together at home as families, with no live sporting distractions to take occupy our times! It is an opportunity to be together, to help each other out, to motivate each other, to connect more with our parents and children and to build family unity. It is also an opportunity to develop a balanced life, for those who are immersed with worldly issues, and engage more with our faith. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s blessings are with us constantly, and it is an opportune time to read his Farmans from the two-set Farman books that has just been published under his directive. Read them aloud to your children, siblings, parents and grandparents when you are around them.

These are my humble suggestions to ease through the anxious times that we face which is unprecedented in recent history.

May we continue to fulfill our spiritual responsibilities well during this difficult and anxious time in our lives to avail ourselves of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s constant blessings for our well-being, strength and mushkil asan (protection from difficulty).

Finally, as a subscriber to the National Geographic (NG) magazine, I would recommend this superb link containing educational and informative articles on the Coronavirus from the magazine’s fine writers and photographers. NG is making this information available without a paid subscription.

Date posted: March 13, 2020.
Last updated: March 21, 2020.

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.

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