Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s signed copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” and exclusive scarves inspired by his beautiful photography are available for viewing – and purchase – in Toronto

Hussain Aga Khan
Prince Hussain

For a decade, Simerg has officially supported the initiatives of Prince Hussain Aga Khan to his satisfaction. When we received his signed book “Animal Voyage” ten years ago, they were snapped up within a few days. Then, more recently, his signed copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” containing sea animal photos were also sold out shortly after they were made available to Simerg. We have now received very limited quantities of his signed as well as unsigned copies of “Diving Into Wildlife” for sale in Canada.

Diving Into Wildlife by Hussain Aga Khan
Cover Page of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Diving Into Wildlife.

In addition, we have also received for sale in Canada an entire collection of Italian made scarves inspired by Prince Hussain’s photography.

The beautiful STENNELA produced scarves were conceived by Valérie Maurice and designed by Kirsten Synge, exclusively for the Prince’s organization Focused on Nature (abbr. FON). Simerg can arrange to show you the entire collection in person in Toronto. You may then purchase them. Please contact Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com to arrange a viewing in Toronto (or in Ottawa, when he travels to Ottawa). All social distancing rules will be adhered to. As in the past, the entire proceeds from the sales of scarves and books will be submitted to FON, which assists in the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species, as well as habitat conservation efforts.

Focused on Nature Scarves
200×140 cm – 85% modal – 15% silk 250 € or appx. $US 290.00; Italian made and produced by STENELLA brand for Prince Hussain’s organization FON. Other sizes are also available and priced from $US 90.00. Please contact Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com to view – and purchase – the scarves in person in Toronto.

Once again, to view and purchase the books or the scarves, please write to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com. Signed and unsigned copies of Diving Into Wildlife are priced at $US 125.00 and $US 25.00, respectively. Payments can be made by cheques, e-transfers or via Paypal (Simerg is Paypal verified). The prices of scarves range from approximately $US 95.00 – $US 295.00, depending on material (silk or silk/cotton) and size. The entire collection can be viewed online at the Prince’s FON website by clicking HERE. As mentioned, you can try the scarves in Toronto – and buy them in person in Toronto from the complete range we are carrying. We can also ship the books and scarves across Canada, and shipping charges will apply. Please write to Malik at Simerg@aol.com.

Date posted: September 26, 2020.

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For objects shown in this post and to purchase them please write in confidence to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com.

“Largesse” of Mawlana Hazar Imam, and Photos of Fall Colours and Waxing Moon at 3 Unique Aga Khan Projects in Toronto

Watch a short 90 second interview in which a non-Ismaili speaks about Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and then view a collection of superb photos of the waxing moon rising above the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana as well as a display of autumn colours at Aga Khan Park…MORE AT SIMERGPHOTOS

Click on image for interview, story and more photos

Date posted: September 26, 2020.

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Prince Amyn to Grace Aga Khan Museum’s Digital LAPIS Event on September 24, 2020: Register to Watch It; and a Poem by Farah Tejani

The Aga Khan Museum has been hosting the annual fund raising LAPIS event for the past few years, with Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan honouring the event by personally attending it. Now due to Covid-19, the signature event has been reinvented with a broadcast from the Aga Khan Museum that everyone is invited to register for free. The program on Thursday September 24, 2020 will live streamed at 8 PM ET, and include remarks from Prince Amyn, Chairman of the Aga Khan Museum Board, meaningful conversations with acclaimed international artists on art in a changing world and four breathtaking performances with diverse talent from around the world.

The Aga Khan Museum invites you to join with friends and family from around the world as together it shares a unique message of hope, resilience and light. Please click HERE TO REGISTER.

And while we are on the subject of the Aga Khan Museum, let us remind our readers that September 12, 2020 marked the 6th anniversary of the inauguration of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the then Prime Minister of Canada the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper. The Museum officially opened to the public on September 18, 2014, with the Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana (known as the Toronto Headquarters Jamatkhana) opening to Ismaili community for prayers on Friday, September 19, 2014.

To commemorate the openings of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre as well as to celebrate the LAPIS event on Thursday September 24, 2020, we are delighted to present this thoughtful poem by Farah Tejani of Vancouver.

Celebrating the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre in Toronto

Ismaili Imamat Projects on Wynford Drive, Toronto, Canada. The Ismaili Centre (with glass dome), the Aga Khan Museum and the Aga Khan Park.

By FARAH TEJANI

Two complementary sister structures of architectural elegance and splendor
Jut out and pierce the heart of Toronto’s sky.
The Aga Khan Museum and
The Ismaili Centre.

United are they for the beneficial purpose of extending a hand
Of Everlasting Friendship,
Between Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.
Uniting the Muslim Ummah,
The World Ummah,
With Cultural and Religious Tolerance and Respect…

Dispelling all deplorable depictions of Islam in the Media,
By propagating the Truth:

Peace, Love, Brotherhood, Compassion, Spirituality and Prayer.

Yes, we extend a hospitable, gracious, loving hand of friendship,
Celebrating Cultural Diversity,
Historical Traditions,
Arts and Artifacts,
Awe-inspiring Calligraphic Designs and Structures,
Tours, Recitals, Exhibitions, Theatre, Films and
Educational and Cultural Activities.

The Ismaili Centre has unique and grand tiled floors
Laced with elaborate, poignant calligraphy,
Upon entering the prayer hall
We begin every act beseeching God to
Bless and Accept
All Our Endeavours.

The Prayer Hall’s distinctive
And elegant Crystalline dome,
Illuminates the night sky,
Reflecting itself into the pond,
While angels come together to lift and carry,
Each and every Murid’s,
Most Earnest and Heartfelt Prayer
To the stars:
Just Outside Allah’s Door.

Comprising one fifth of the world,
We are Muslims…
Yet there is little known of our faith and traditions.
These two buildings will stand side by side like Doves of Peace,
Aiming to bridge the gap and promote Compassion and Understanding,
Welcome, one and all.

Housing Well-Preserved Priceless Works of Art:
Objects and Artifacts,
From the Aga Khan and his Family’s Personal Collection,
The Aga Khan Museum’s Relics will tell of themselves,
For countless years to come.

Tradition and Modernity,
Come and join together to create these Majestic Timeless Landmarks,
For people from all parts of the world to enjoy.

As His Highness the Aga Khan said at the Opening Ceremony:
“We are, after all, a community that WELCOMES THE SMILE!”
With His Grace, many outdated notions of what Islam is
Will be Demystified,
And the Exemplary Fundamental Truths Unveiled
For all to see.

So again we say Welcome…
We extend a hand of Loyal and Loving Friendship,
With Peace, Brotherhood, Unity and Prayer at the Core of Our Existence.
And from the Heart of each and every individual Ismaili,
We welcome you to
Our Wonderful Universal and Timeless Tradition.
Come discover, share and learn.

Date posted: September 24, 2020.

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

Farah graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia in May of 1997 and earned top Honors for her Thesis on Short Fiction. With the help of her agent Barbara Graham she then went on to publish a collection of short stories published by Trafford, called, “Make Your Own Chai, Mama’s Boy!” — ten short stories dealing with different dilemmas South Asians face. Farah also wrote and co-directed her stage play, “Safeway Samosas,” which won “The Best of Brave New Playwrights Award” in July 1995. Her short story , “Too Hot” won third place in the “Canada-Wide Best Short Fiction Award.” and was read at The Vancouver Writers Festival. Currently, Farah is working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called, “Elastic Embrace” to be published in 2021. Her most recent poetic pieces are Behold the Light of Ali and The Great Sacrifice.

2020 Autumn Foliage is Here! Amidst Covid-19, Awaken Your Senses With Day Trip to Beautiful Algonquin Park

DISTANCES: Algonquin Park from Toronto, 276 km; from Ottawa, 245 km.

Its been a tough summer for everyone. While we are still partially locked down due to Covid-19, do something safe and extraordinary this autumn by yourself, with your partner or your family with children who have a day off due to rotating classes. Yes, escape to Ontario’s Algonquin Park for a day, and let the magic of autumn foliage bring happiness to your hearts and soothe your eyes. Pick a weekday to visit the Park and drive through its 56 km Highway 60 corridor from the West to the East Entrances (or vice versa). The Park is only 2.5 to 3 hour drive from Ottawa or Toronto.

Aga Khan Park foliage
A tree by a pond at the Aga Khan Park on Wynford Drive in Toronto exhibiting its fall colours on September 24, 2020. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Park Fall Colours waxing moon Wynford Drive Toronto
Trees at Aga Khan Park exhibiting fall colours on the night of September 24, 2020 under a waxing moon seen in the sky above the dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana on Wynford Drive in Toronto. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Fall colours are already visible at various locations in Toronto and Ottawa (see two photos, above). So what is it like in Algonquin Park, as of this final week in September of the Covid-19 year? According to the official website of The Friends of Algonquin Park, “Sugar and Red Maples are off to a quick start with their fall colour change in Algonquin Park as a result of shortening daylight length, recent frost, and below freezing conditions….the maple canopy (tops) and forest edges are showing the best fall colour in Algonquin Park.”

The colours are expected to brighten in the coming days, and the 2020 foliage promises to be as fabulous as it was when Nurin and Malik Merchant spent a full day in October 2019 at the Park! Click on the link to see their report, photos and guide of how you can spend a beautiful day at the Park in 2020. And what about the impact of Covid-19? The guide has links to that information, and they tell you what is closed in 2020, based on their fabulous visit a year ago! Really, other than the Algonquin Art Centre every other place along the 56 kms corridor they drove through is OPEN, but do pick up a weekday as Nurin and Malik did!

Click HERE or on Photo for Day Trip Suggestion to Algonquin Park

2020 Algonquin Park Foliage Simerg

Date posted: September 25, 2020 (photos of foliage at Aga Khan Park on Wynford Drive in Toronto added).

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The Three Shams in Ismaili History: Imam Shamsuddin, Pir Shams and Shams Tabriz

Editor’s Note: Malik Mirza’s recent piece, Exclusive Photo Essay: The Mausoleum of Pir Shams in Multan, resulted in comments from our readers concerning the status of the shrine today, its role within the Ismaili community, the miracles attributed to Pir Shams, as well as confusion over the identities of Pir Shams and Shams Tabriz. Simerg turned to Mumtaz Ali Tajddin for some answers, and we are pleased to publish his piece that sheds light on the subject.

By RAI MUMTAZ ALI TAJDDIN S. ALI
Special to Simerg

In the contemporary period of 13th century, there is a confusion on the name “Shams” as there were three personalities existing at the same time. These were Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad, Pir Sham Sebzewari and Shams Tabriz, which is discussed in this paper. 

1. IMAM SHAMSUDDIN MUHAMMAD

Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad (1257-1310), the 28th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis is said to have been born in 646/1230 in the fortress of Maimundiz. He was known as Agha Shams in Syria and Shah Shams in India. He is also known as Shamsu’l Haq in a few Iranian poems. Poet Nizari Kohistani (d. 1320) called him Shamsuddin Shah Nimroz Ali and Shah Shams. He was also known as Shams Zardozi due to residing in a village called Zardoz in Azerbaijan, but another tradition suggests that he had adopted the profession of embroidery, and as such the term zardoz (embroiderer) became his epithet. 

JUVAINI AND MODERN HISTORIANS’ VIEWS ON ISMAILIS AND THE IMAMAT

Ata Malik Juvaini, the Persian historian who wrote an account of the Mongol Empire, wrongly considers the butchery of the Ismailis conducted by the Mongols in Qazwin and Rudhbar following the reduction of Alamut in 1256, as an end of the Ismailis and unbroken line of the Imamate as well. It is however, ascertained from reliable sources that Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad had left the fortress of Maimundiz probably on 11th Shawal, 654/November 1, 1256; the Mongols reached there on 17th Shawal, 654/November 7, 1256.

Ata Malik Juvaini joined the Mongols after 12th Zilkada, 654/December 2, 1256, and as is well known entered the library at Alamut, and upon the orders of Mongol leader burnt the entire library, sparing only a few copies of the Qur’an and some other works, just enough to fit into a small wheelbarrow.

According to Bernard Lewis in The Assassins (London, 1967, p. 63), “The extirpation of the Ismailis in Persia was not quite as thorough as Juvaini suggests. In the eyes of the sectarians, Rukn al-Din’s small son succeeded him as Imam on his death and lived to sire a line of Imams.” Marshall Hodgson also writes in The Order of Assassins (Netherland, 1955. pp. 270 and 275) that, “Juvaini assures himself that every Ismaili was killed; yet even if all the members of garrison were in fact killed, a great many other will have escaped.”  He further adds, “but their spirit was more nearly indomitable; as it is from among them that the great future of Nizari Ismailism sprouted again. It is said the child Imam was carried to Adharbayjan, where the Imams lived for some time.” According to W. Montgomery Watt in Islam and the Integration of Society (London, 1961, p. 77), “In 1256, Alamut was surrounded, and was destroyed and in the following year the Imam met his death and there was a widespread massacre of the Nizaris. It may be further mentioned that, despite this catastrophe and the fact that it has never since had a territory of its own, the community was not exterminated and the line of Imams was maintained unbroken.” 

Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad went to Daylam, and thence moved to Ardabil. It is said that he also lived in Ahar, about 150 miles west of Ardabil. He had been also in Tabriz, which he most possibly evacuated in the early months of 1257 as Halagu invaded Tabriz on July 26, 1257. It seems that he became known as Shams Tabriz in the Sufic circle in Tabriz. Pir Shihabuddin Shah (d. 1884) writes in Khitabat-i Alliya (Tehran, 1963, p. 42) that, “Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad who lived in Tabriz, was compared by the local people to the sun, because of his handsome countenance, and thus he came to be called Shams (the sun) of Tabriz. This gave rise to the confusion between him and Shams Tabrizi, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, but they were always in reality two different persons.” 

The tradition has it that Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad most probably lived from one to another place under different mantles in the province of Azerbaijan. The veritable locality of his residence, however, has not been substantiated. Azerbaijan was an ideal land for the growing Sufi circles, and the Imam had settled in northern region with his family, where he professed in the embroidery works. 

Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad is reported to have betrothed to a Sufi lady at Daylam in 1276, or in the next year. His sons, Momin Shah and Kiya Shah operated Ismaili mission as far as Gilan. Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad died in 1310 in Azerbaijan after vesting the office of Imamate to his son, Kassim Shah.

2. PIR SHAMS

The mausoleum of Pir Shams in Multan, Pakistan. Photo: © Malik Mirza. Simerg.
The mausoleum of Pir Shams in Multan, Pakistan. Photo: © Malik Mirza.

Pir Shams was born most probably in Sebzewar, a town in Khorasan, lying 64 miles west of Nishapur. His father Syed Salauddin had been deputed in Baltistan by Imam Kassim Shah, who most probably came into the contact of Taj Mughal in Badakhshan. Kamaluddin Mujahri of Sebzewar writes in Malfuz-i Kamalia that Pir Syed Muinuddin Hasan of Sebzewar of Ajmer had a meeting with Syed Salauddin in Sebzewar in 1165. It is recounted that Pir Shams had gone to Badakhshan with his father at the age of 19 years, and thence he proceeded to Tibet and returned back to Sebzewar.

It is said that after the death of Syed Salauddin, Imam Kassim Shah commissioned Pir Shams as the hujjat of Sind and Hind at Daylam. In referencing the Imam, Pir Shams says: “Adore sincerely the true guiding light manifested in the person of Kassim Shah, the Lord of the Time.” (vide, Garbi, 5:17).

The earliest description of Pir Shams is found in the treatise of the biographies of Sufis, entitled Nafahat al-Uns (comp. 1478) by Nuruddin Abdur Rahman Jami (1414-1492), the last classic poet of Iran. Nurullah bin Sharif Shushtari (d. 1610) in his Majalis al-Mominin (comp. 1604) traces his ancestry back to the Ismaili root. Some details are also found in Tarikh-i Firishta (comp. 1606). The great Sufi saint Bulleh Shah (1680-1758) also referred to Pir Shams in his poetry.

It is indeterminable point in the modern sources as to when Pir Shams was born? The extant materials however don’t afford one to draw a safe conclusion. His death in 1356 however is indisputable, based on the plaque at the mausoleum in Multan. The most confusing and unsolved point is to locate his date of birth. Most of the scholars concur in his age for 115 years, but it however seems that Pir Shams had lived to an advanced age beyond 115 years. Syed Bawa Ahmad Ali Khaki writes in his Dar-i Khuld-i Bari (Ahmadabad, 1905, p. 123) on the basis of an old manuscript that the span of Pir Shams’s life was for 171 years. If the date of his demise in 1356 may be considered genuine, it means that his birth would have been taken place around 1175 during the period of Imam Ala Muhammad (1166-1210). The genealogy of Pir Shams given in the Shajara, preserved in the shrine at Multan, indicates the birth of Pir Shams in 1165, which is also corroborative.

Pir Shams arrived from Daylam to Badakhshan, where he is said to have brought many followers of Momin Shahi sect into the Ismaili fold. He visited Gilgit and proceeded to Tibet and as far as the ranges of the Himalayas. He came back to Ghazna, where he deputed the local converted prince to Badakhshan on mission work. Pir Shams also converted a bulk of the Hindus during their dasera festival after singing garbis (songs) in a temple for ten consecutive nights in the village called Analvad. W. Ivanow places its location in Gujrat, called Anilvad, not far from Ahmadabad. Pir Shams also visited Kashmir in 1316 and converted the Chak and Changad tribes, thence he proceeded to Multan in 1326 for the first time.

Pir Shams Mausoleum in Multan Pakistan, Simerg
A board on a wall of the mausoleum of Pir Shams which briefly describes short incidents from the life of Pir Shams. He is referred to him as ‘Hazrat Shamshuddin Tabrizi Sabzwari’ which has resulted in confusion over his identity Photo: © Malik Mirza.

In Multan, many miracles of Pir Shams are reported, but not potential for historical value. It needs interpretation to translate the miracles. It is therefore difficult to penetrate through the mist of legends, which formed even during the lifetime of Pir Shams and thickened rapidly after his death. The most popular miracle was the bringing down of the sun on earth, which earned him an epithet of taparez (burning) in Punjab. The word taparez is so coherent with that of Tabriz that it began to be pronounced as Tabriz, contriving a wrong theory to merge these two into one. Since Pir Shams and Shams Tabriz were proximate to each other in time, it is probable that Pir Shams, also known as Shams Taprez was confused with that of Shams Tabriz. It is believed that Shams Tabriz, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, left Konya and then died in in Khoy, where he was buried. A false tradition arose that he moved from Konya to Multan, thus charactering Pir Shams and Shams Tabriz as the same and one, which is absolutely untrue.

Among the Sufis, there existed four principal orders in India, viz. Chisti, Qadari, Suharwardi and Naqashbandi. The period of Pir Shams was thus noted for the several skilled exponents of Sufi thought. He therefore launched his brisk and pervasive mission during the eve of the growing Sufi circles in Punjab. In the villages of Punjab, he mostly converted the Aror or Rohra, a leading caste in south-western part of the Punjab, i.e., of the lower reaches of the five rivers and below their junction, extending through Bahawalpur into Sind. They were mostly cultivators, and their large portion on the lower Chinab were purely agricultures, while in the western Punjab, they were mostly tailors, weavers of mats and baskets, makers of vessels of brass and copper and goldsmiths. Pir Shams appointed musafir (one who travels) in different regions to collect the religious dues, and also built prayer-halls (khana) and appointed their Mukhis. He also introduced the daily prayer in Sairaki dilect, which continued to be recited till the period of his son, Pir Sadarddin. Pir Shams expired in 1356 and was buried at Multan.

MAUSOLEUM OF PIR SHAMS AND ITS RECONSTRUCTION

The mausoleum of Pir Shams is located on the high bank of the old bed of the river Ravi. The tomb is square, 300 feet in height surmounted by a hemispherical dome. It is decorated with ornamental glazed tiles.

Seth Mehr Ali was a prominent person in Sind. His later life was quite different from his early life, which sounds his great leaning towards the doctrine of the Kaysania sect. In spite of the diversity in the oral traditions, there is a common story that Seth Mehr Ali had visited Bombay and then proceeded to Pirana, and came into the contact of the Kaka (headman) of the Imam Shahi sect, named Syed Sharif (d. 1795). This contact would have created his strong disposition towards the veneration of the shrines. Soon after his return, he visited Multan and became the disciple of Makhdum Safdar Ali alias Jiwan Shah, the custodian of the mausoleum of Pir Shams. This contact prompted Seth Mehr Ali to rebuild the mausoleum of Pir Shams. A sum of Rs. 75,000 was spent in its renovation, which he procured through donation in Sind in 1779. He posed himself as a Syed to win the hearts of the people. This is the reason that he is called Syed Mehr Ali in Tawarikh-i Zila’e Multan (Lahore, 1884, p. 85) by Munshi Hukam Chand and Multan: History and Architecture (Islamabad, 1983, p. 206) by Dr. Ahmad Nabi Khan.

CULTURE OF VENERATNG SHRINES AND ISMAILI RESPONSE

Syed Mehr Ali intended that the mausoleum should be crowded on the first Friday after 15th Shaban. He therefore he invited the local Shi’ites and the Ismailis of Sadiqabad, Uchh Sharif and Sind, but his objective was foiled. The Shi’ites venerated it and took its possession, but few Ismailis responded.

The culture of veneration and vows gradually continued to thicken. The custodian of the shrine gave thread and so called sacred water. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah visited Multan on February 16, 1950, the Mukhi humbly requested the Imam that some local Ismaili attended the shrine of Pir Shams, claiming that there was power, which fulfilled the vows. The Imam asked the Mukhi to make an announcement in the Jamatkhana that he would visit the shrine of Pir Shams, and the Jamat was also invited to be there

On the next day, before noon, Ismailis gathered outside the mausoleum. The Imam also came and entered alone, while the Ismailis were outside. It is said that the Imam made seven rounds around the grave of Pir Shams, and came out and said to the Ismailis, “You claim that there is power in the shrine.” Then the Imam raised his right hand and put inside his pocket and said, “I have picked up all the power. Hence, there is nothing in the shrine, therefore, don’t come here and make your vows in the Jamatkhana.” Since then, the Ismailis didn’t go to make the vows at the shrine of Pir Shams as well as other shrines of Pir Sadardin and Pir Hasan Kabirdin in Uchh.

The shrines of Pir Shams, Pir Sadardin and Pir Hasan Kabirdin are under control of the local Muslims.

3. SHAMS TABRIZ OR SHAMSUDDIN TABRIZI, MASTER OF JALALUDDIN RUMI

Shams Tabriz Tomb
Tomb of Shams Tabriz in Khoy, South Azerbaijan province, Iran. Photo: Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Shams Tabriz was born either in Daylam or Tabriz in 1165. He was called Parinda (flying bird), because he was always traveling from place to place.

In 1244, while Maulana Jalaluddin Rumi was teaching his pupils in an open courtyard next to a fountain in Konya, a shabbily externally dressed but perfectly internally adorned Sufi Shams Tabriz came to their assembly and watched them. He saw Maulana Rumi was referring to a large stack of handwritten books in the course of his teaching. Shams Tabriz asked him as to what was in the books. Rumi scoffed and replied, “O! Sufi. This contains knowledge that is beyond your comprehension, so you continue to recite your rosary.” Unnoticed by Rumi, Shams Tabriz threw the stack of books into a nearby pond of water. When Rumi’s students saw what had occurred they began beating Shams Tabriz. Rumi complained that all his valuable knowledge had been destroyed. Shams Tabriz said, “I will give back your books.”

A visibly dejected Rumi conceded to the request thinking that this was impossible. He was surprised to see that Shams Tabriz lifted the drenched books from the pond, blew dust of them and returned the books intact. He asked Shams Tabriz as to how he did this. Shams Tabriz replied, “This knowledge is beyond your comprehension, so you continue to teach your pupils.” Rumi fell at his feet and was swept into the currents of love. The presence of this ragged Sufi, Shams Tabriz, changed Rumi from a respected professor of theology into a lover of God. This event made Rumi to become a disciple of Shams Tabriz.

Hence, Rumi left orthodox teaching of his disciples, and learnt esoteric treasure from Shams Tabriz. One day, Shams Tabriz mysteriously disappeared, and was never seen again. Some say that he was killed by close disciples of Rumi, who were jealous of the close relation between Rumi and Shams. Other also assert that in the plot of his murder, Sultan Walad, the son of Rumi was involved. Shams Tabriz the master of Jalaluddin Rumi (d. 1273), was not traceable after 1247 in Konya. Shamsuddin Aflaki, who wrote in 1353, stated that the death of Shams Tabriz took place in Konya in 1247.

However a group of Sufis maintained that after leaving Konya, Shams Tabriz travelled to Tabriz, about 900 miles to the east. Interestingly, a tomb of Shams Tabriz that had remained obscure for many centuries was discovered in Khoy in the Western Azerbaijan Province in Iran. It has been nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The distance from Khoy to Tabriz is approximately 100 miles.

Shams Tabriz Tomb
Bust, monument tower, and Tomb of Shams Tabrizi — in Khoy, South Azerbaijan province, Iran. Photo: Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

As we have noted previously, Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad died in 1310. When Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad was in Tabriz, he became known as Shams Tabriz.

Rida Quli Khan (d. 1872), a 19th century poet, scholar and literary historian in the service of Qajar kings, writes in Majmau’l Fusaha that, “Shaikh Abu Hamid Awhadu’ddin Kirmani had seen and met Shams Tabriz in Tabriz.”

It is therefore quite likely that Shaikh Abu Hamid had actually seen Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad in the mantle of Shams Tabriz, and that the Imam’s identity began to be equated with that of Shams Tabriz. Henceforward, the presence of two Shams Tabriz during the same period became perplexing and puzzling. 

When Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad was identified as the “son of the last ruler of Alamut”, he was made the “son of Alauddin Muhammad,” incorporating him in the above report. 

The scrutiny of the sources indicates that a bulk of the frightened Muslims began to evacuate the vicinity of Rudhbar and Kohistan during the period of Imam Alauddin Muhammad (1221-1255) to escape the main brunt of the Mongols.

The stampede of the Muslims also carried away with them, the then latest report that, “Alauddin Muhammad is the ruler of Alamut, and the Mongols are about to come to reduce Alamut.”

These Muslims ultimately settled down in Qazwin, Daylam and Tabriz, where they came to know the fall of Alamut by the Mongols in 1256. They seem to have generalized an image in mind that the Alamut’s fall would have taken place in the time of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, and this story continued to prevail for many years in Qazwin, Rudhbar and Tabriz, making Imam Alauddin Muhammad as the last ruler of Alamut.

Marco Polo (1254-1324) passed by these regions in 1272, and heard these fantastic stories from these orbits, which he noted in his diary as follows, “I will tell you his story just as I Messer Marco, have heard it told by many people…The Shaikh was called in their language Alaodin…So they were taken, and the Shaikh, Alaodin, was put to death with all his men.” (vide, The Travels of Marco Polo (London, 1958, pp.40-42) by Ronald Latham. 

When the people conclusively identified Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah as the last ruler of Alamut, most probably after 1272, one other tradition seems to have originated to distinguish these two characters. Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad was deleted from that story from being the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, but Shams Tabriz was made known as the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad instead. Being influenced with this tradition, Daulatshah (d. 1494) was the first to show Shams Tabriz, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, as the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad, in his Tazkertu’sh Shu’ara.

A question then arises, who was Shams Tabriz?  He indeed was an Ismaili, the master of Jalaluddin Rumi, but not the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad. As to the early life of Shams Tabriz, we are yet in dark. Shamsuddin Aflaki (1310-1354) in Manaqibu’l Arifin and Abdur Rahman Jami (d. 1493) in Nafhatu’l Uns concur that Shams Tabriz was the son of a certain Muhammad bin Ali bin Malikad. Rida Quli Khan (d. 1872) in his Majmau’l Fusaha also relied on Aflaki and Jami. According to Silsilatu’ad-Dhahab, it is wrong to allege Shams Tabriz to have been the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad. It was only Daulatshah, who made him the son of Imam Alauddin Muhammad.

Prof. Muhammad Iqbal of Punjab University, who prepared the Lahore edition of Daulatshah’s work, makes his remarks that: “It is evident that Daulatshah has not written historical facts carefully in his book. He has accepted all sorts of traditions, right or wrong, owing to which several errors have crept into his work.” The British orientalist Edward G. Browne writes in A Literary History of Persia (3:436) that “This is an entertaining but inaccurate work, containing a good selection of historical errors.” 

It is also curious that Daulatshah quoted another tradition of parentage of Shams Tabriz that, “Some people say that he was originally a native of Khorasan and belonged to the town of Bazar. His father had settled in Tabriz for the purpose of doing business in cloth.” It is probable that Shams Tabriz was the son of Muhammad bin Ali bin Malikad according to Aflaki and Jami, and he seems to be a native of Khorasan as per another tradition cited by Daulatshah.

Nurullah Shustari (d. 1610) in his Majalis al-Mominin (6:291) states that Shams Tabriz descended from “Ismaili headman” (da’iyani Ismailiyya budand). His father had settled in Tabriz, and was a cloth merchant. Shams Tabriz was indeed an Ismaili like his father. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah delivered a historical speech on 20th July, 1945 at Dar es Salam during the Ismaili Mission Conference in which he said, “Jalaluddin Rumi himself was not an Ismaili, but a murid (disciple) of an Ismaili (Shams Tabriz)”. It clearly means that Shams Tabriz was the master of Jalaluddin Rumi.

There is also a reason to believe that Jalaluddin Rumi must have known both Shams Tabriz and Imam Shamsuddin Muhammad, but did not describe that palpably in his Diwan. He however addresses Shams as the heir of the Prophet (verse no. 2473) and compares him to Ali (verse no. 1944), which seems to have been referred only to the Imam. 

Rumi has repeatedly said in his Mathnawi and Diwan that it was not him but Shams talking through him. That is why he did not use his name in any of the verses out of more than 50,000 verses that he left behind. Rumi ends most of his poems with the name of Shams of Tabriz.

Finally, I may humbly note that the above write-up is not conclusive; it still needs further research.

Date posted: September 23, 2020.
Last updated: September 25, 2020 (typo, wrong birthdate was given for Shams Tabriz).

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Mumtaz Ali Tajddin

About the author: Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali is a prolific writer based in Pakistan. He majored in Islamic history with a Masters degree. Over the past several decades, he has contributed numerous articles to Ismaili literary journals, and is also the author of several books including 101-Ismailis Heroes, Encyclopaedia of Ismailism, and Ismaili Pirs,  Sayeds, Vakils of South Asian Region. Most recently his Brief History of Ismaili Imams was serialized on the website Ismaili Digest. Within Ismaili institutions, he has served as a religious education teacher at the Karachi Religious Centre in Kharadar as well as an Honorary Lecturer/Waezeen with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) for Pakistan. In addition, he is a curator of Hashoo Museum in Karachi which is dedicated to memorabilia from recent Ismaili history. For his long and devoted services to the Ismaili community, he has been bestowed with the titles of Huzur Mukhi (1986), Alijah (1996) and Rai (2010) by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

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Exclusive: A Truly Inspiring Narrative with Historical Photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 1966 Visit to Iringa, Tanzania

“On November 4, 1966, as Mawlana Hazar Imam’s plane circled the Iringa airport, there was palpable excitement as the leaders of the Jamat anxiously awaited the arrival of our beloved Imam. Mawlana Hazar Imam had taken a break on his extended tour of East Africa to return to Europe to attend to some personal matter. Iringa was the second stop on his return visit from Europe. As the ebullient Imam emerged from his plane, without regard to his evident infirmary, with plastered foot and a walking cane, Jamati leaders’ ecstatic emotions turned to one of unexpected concern. But the Imam was quick to calm the leaders’ fears about his infirmed foot.” — PLEASE CLICK TO READ COMPLETE ARTICLE

His Highness the Aga Khan in Iringa Tanzania
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with a plastered foot, lays the foundation stone of the Iringa Sports Complex during his extensive visit to East African countries in 1966. Please click on photo for an exceptional narrative of the visit as well as more photos.

Date posted: September 21, 2020.

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Elastic Embrace: A Poem by Farah Tejani

Mystic Moon

By FARAH TEJANI

Mystic Moon,
Cast your spell…
Your shimmering gaze,
And, oh how many faces!
Cleverly captured in reflections,
On the dark, dark blue waves.

Shifting shadows of craters
On your surface,
Leave mere mortals
Spellbound…
With your catalogue
Of explicit expressions
No two alike.

At times you are serene,
Sometimes in sorrow.
When Joy overtakes you,
Your smile crawls across your face
Slowly but surely.

At times you appear horrified…
Really speaking,
I can’t blame you.

Are you keeping your eye on us?
Like we watch over you?
My niece calls you ‘God’s flashlight,’
Just making certain “All is well.”
Sometimes she calls you a fingernail,
Depending on your phase.

All are in wonder
Of your sublime stature,
Your welcomed wisdom.
I offer you my humble respect
By never underestimating your pull
On our strings…

In all honesty
I am in absolute awe of your
Daily devotion to the Sun.
It is a love of Another World.

Date posted: September 5, 2020.

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Farah Tejani graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia in May of 1997 and earned top Honors for her Thesis on Short Fiction. With the help of her agent Barbara Graham she then went on to publish a collection of short stories published by Trafford, called, “Make Your Own Chai, Mama’s Boy!” — ten short stories dealing with different dilemmas South Asians face. Farah also wrote and co-directed her stage play, “Safeway Samosas,” which won “The Best of Brave New Playwrights Award” in July 1995. Her short story , “Too Hot” won third place in the “Canada-Wide Best Short Fiction Award.” and was read at The Vancouver Writers Festival. Currently, Farah is working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called, “Elastic Embrace” to be published in 2021.

Farah’s recent pieces in Simerg and affiliated website(s):

(1) The Great Sacrifice;
(2) Behold, the Light of Ali; and
(3) Elastic Embrace: A Collection of Poems by Farah Tejani.

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Pir Shams Mausoleum

Exclusive Photo Essay @Simergphotos: The Mausoleum of Pir Shams

A few years ago, Malik Mirza contributed a great piece on the mausoleums of Pir Sadardin and his son Pir Hasan Kabirdin, who are among the architects of Ismaili Dawa in the Indian sub-continent through the wonderful tradition and teachings of Ginans. Mirza’s wish to visit the mausoleum of Pir Shams, father of Pir Sadardin, was fulfilled recently, and he has contributed a fantastic and informative photo essay on the mausoleum. Click on EXCLUSIVE PHOTO ESSAY: THE MAUSOLEUM OF PIR SHAMS or image below to read the essay.

Depictions of Pir Shams at his mausoleum in Multan ,Pakistan
Depictions of Pir Shams in posters and cards sold at his mausoleum in Multan. Pakistan.

Date posted: August 29, 2020.

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Former Daily Nation Chief Reporter Produces a Special Souvenir to Commemorate 60th Anniversary of Paper founded by His Highness the Aga Khan

Reviewed by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

(Special Edition Yesterday at the Nation by Cyprian Fernandes, published by Cyprian Fernandes, Pendle Hill NSW Australia, printed and produced by Australian Trade Printers, April 2020. 132 pp.)

The Daily Nation was my favourite newspaper in Dar es Salaam, along with the Tanganyika Standard (later the Standard and then the Daily News). The popular Kenyan newspaper founded by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, first rolled off at the press as a Sunday newspaper on March 20, 1960, and then as a daily on October 3 of the same year.

The paper would arrive in Dar es Salaam from Nairobi in an afternoon flight. At around 6 PM, our 2nd floor neighbour at Islamabad Flats on United Nations Road, (Late) Akbar Ladha, would knock on my door on his way up and hand me a copy of the paper. He and Sherali Bhai owned a prestigious camera shop on Dar es Salaam’s Independence Avenue, and received letters and packages from all over the world from their clients and suppliers. Akber Bhai knew I was an avid stamp collector, and he would pass all foreign envelopes to me.

On Saturday afternoon, I would cycle to downtown to get my own copy of the early editions of the Sunday Nation and the Sunday Post — without the English premier league results! I became conversant with many of the Nation’s columnists, writers and photographers as well as editors. Among them were Philip Ochieng (who would later join the Tanzania’s Daily News for a brief period), Kul Bhushan who reviewed Indian films, sports writer and editor Norman da Costa, chief reporter Cyprian Fernandes, Ismaili reporter Sultan Jessa and photographer Azhar Chaudary, among several others.

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes
Front cover of special souvenir edition to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nation. The portraits are of Nation journalists, deceased as well as living. Photo: Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

Many years later, I had the fortune of meeting the Nation’s Bill Fairbain in Ottawa. Author of a number of books in recent years, he contributed a special piece for Simerg. Then, I connected with Sultan Jessa who invited me to his home in Montreal and handed me a collection of photos taken by Azhar Chaudary, which were reproduced in Barakah and Simerg. Sultan passed away in 2019. I prepared a tribute to him and linked it to a much longer piece I had written earlier in Simerg.

Cyprian Fernandes Daily Nation Chief Reporter Simerg
The many faces of Cyprian Fernandes through the years as they appear in his souvenir publication, “Yesterday at the Nation.” Photo: Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

Last December, I received a note from the Nation’s former chief reporter Cyprian Fernandes, who has made his home in New South Wales, Australia. He wanted to reproduce my article on Sultan Jessa in a special “not for sale” souvenir to mark the 60th birthday of the paper that he stated in his email to me was “my other mother, The Nation.” I was glad to oblige. When the publication was ready in April 2020, Cyprian mailed two copies to me by Australia’s Post Express — including one to give to Sultan Jessa’s widow, Rosila. I kept on tracking the package for weeks. Due to Covid-19, it never left Australia by air. Instead, I would learn several weeks later, that it was sent by surface. I received “Yesterday at the Nation” just last week!

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes
“Once when they were young,” from left Nation’s Polycarp Fernandes, Fibi Munene, Norman da Coata, Alfred Araujo and Sultan Jessa. Photo: Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

Cyprian commences his souvenir book by producing the introductory note that appeared on the front page of the Nation on the first day of its publication, March 20, 1960. He then says that the souvenir “was made possible by the articles provided by former Nation colleagues and the writings and obituaries of colleagues who have gone before us.”

In his preface “Once Upon a Time” Cyprian notes the brilliant work that Gerry Loughran did chronicling the first 50 years in “Birth of a Nation, The Story of a Newspaper in Kenya” (available in paperback or kindle edition at Amazon).

But for this 60th anniversary souvenir produced completely independently, Cyprian wanted to go further and he therefore dug deep to find more stories about the paper and from the paper. One thing he has done most admirably is to recognize the surviving and deceased journalists who worked at the Nation as well as those whom he tried hard to locate but was unsuccessful to get in touch with. His focus is on the period 1960-1975, a little over the time he himself spent at the paper.

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes
Back cover of a special souvenir edition to mark the 60th anniversary of the Nation. The portraits are of Nation journalists, deceased as well as living. Photo: Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

The 132 page souvenir contains previous articles by Michael Curtis (1920-2004) who Mawlana Hazar Imam first recruited as a speech writer and publicity organizer when he became Imam in 1957; experiences at the Nation by numerous editors such as Jack Beverley (Sunday Nation editor from 1962-64), Jon Bierman (Daily Nation, 1960-63), Joe Rodriques, Boaz Omori and Hilary Ng’weno among others. In reading their stories, one learns about the challenges the editors and journalists faced when they were bold in their opinions about heads of state or on local and international political issues. As we find out from Cyprian’s book many were fired or forced to resign or even ended up in jails. One, a news editor by the name of Mike Chester, was expelled from Kenya due to mistaken identity!

One particular event that was reported well, and has been reproduced in the Souvenir, is when Kenya successfully launched the San Marco’s satellite into equatorial orbit from Malindi. Adrian Grimwood’s column in the Sunday Nation of November 12, 1972 explains what would likely take place on the day of the launch. The launch itself was reported on the front page of the Daily Nation’s coast edition with the headline “Kenya in the Space Age.”

A tragic story that Cyprian includes in his souvenir is that of the extraordinary photographer and front line cameraman Mohamed “MO” Amin who was at the right place at the right time when Kenyan cabinet minister Tom Mboya was assassinated. Within a couple of minutes of being shot, Mo Amin was there to record on still and movie cameras, like the photo that is shown below. The souvenir also notes Mo Amin’s coverage of the 1984 Ethiopian famine in that it proved to be so compelling that it inspired a collective global conscience and became the catalyst for the greatest-ever act of giving. “Unquestionably,” the souvenir notes, “it also saved the lives of millions of men, women, and children.”

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes Tom Mboya assassination
Within a couple of minute’s of the Kenyan Minister Tom Mboya being shot on Nairobi’s main street, Mo Amin was there to record on still and movie cameras, like the photo shown here. Photo via Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.
The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes Mo Amin Photo
Mo Amin in Ethiopia at the height of drought crisis. Photo via Cyprian Fernandes / Yesterday at the Nation.

Mo Amin died in a hijacked Ethiopian Airlines plane that crash landed in November 1996 in the Comoros Islands. It is said that he died standing while still negotiating with the hijackers until the moment of the crash.

A great piece in the souvenir is about Joe Rodriques, who spent 18 years at the Nation, the final few as the paper’s Editor-in- Chief. During his tenure, The Daily Nation was accused by President Moi’s government of assuming the role of an opposition party and selecting news on a sectarian and tribally motivated basis. Rodriques had written an editorial against the Government when the long time Kenyan politician and opposition leader Oginga Odinga was banned from standing in a by-election. Rodriques was arrested and interrogated. The souvenir notes that “The Nation published an apology of sorts, assuring the government of its support, but actually without using the word apology. This was the beginning of the end of Joe Rodriques, as Editor-in-Chief and his own 18 year association with the paper.”

The Daily Nation 60th anniversary souvenir edition by Cyprian Fernandes profile of Sultan Jessa
A page from Simerg’s 4 page piece on Sultan Jessa from “Yesterday at the Nation” by Cyprian Fernandes.

Writing for himself, Cyprian Fernandes observes, “I owe the Nation — everyone who worked in editorial, photographic, proofreading, the compositors, advertising, Karo and Kano the drivers — and everyone else at Nation House the greatest debt of my life. Thanks for giving me a journalistic life that has spanned nearly 60 years and like Johnny Walker still keeps on walking — for the moment at least.”

He ends his detailed narrative about his days at the Nation with the following anecdote:

“I was travelling with the then Vice President Daniel arap Moi and his wife to Botswana. All went well, except for two things: The VP’s security kept his spare bullets by a candle in his bedroom…there was a lot of bang bang. When I tried to phone my story in via Johannesburg, the operator at the other end let loose a torrent of racist abuse including telling me to ask my wife and taste the real thing….and lots more. Unfortunately for him, the President of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama, was in the room and listened in. A few weeks later I received an official apology from the South African government and an invitation to visit South Africa as (an honorary white man).”

Cyprian’s love for “my other mother, The Nation” is deep and sincere. The souvenir edition has been prepared, printed and mailed out from his own personal resources. I was delighted to receive a personalized signed copy and thank him for a volume that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It is one of very few copies that has been produced, and I am indeed lucky to be among the recipients. I hope a demand for the souvenir will prompt Cyprian to come up with a larger printer run for interested readers to purchase. The Daily Nation’s 60th anniversary falls on October 3, 2020.

Date posted: August 27, 2020.

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Editor’s Choice: Alphonso Davies – Canada’s Humble, Joyful Soccer Phenom by the Christian Science Monitor

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Alphonso Davies in action for Canada during a match against Dominica at BMO field in Toronto in October 2018. Photo: Wikipedia, CC BY 2.0. Click on photo for Christian Science Monitor article.

What a marvellous afternoon to be watching the finals of UEFA Champions between Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain, and seeing, YES, 19 year old Canadian Alphonso Davies lift one of the most prestigious trophies in the sporting world! One moment I will never forget from the game was when Alphonso calmly headed back a cross to his own keeper in the second half. His soft precise touch was simply that of a self-assured and confident person. A stronger header, slightly off the goalkeeper’s mark, could have resulted in an own-goal and 1-1 scoreline, taking the game to extra-time if the game remained tied after 90 minutes. It was an amazing touch, and a great footballer commenting the game noted that he would not have dared to do that himself!

Click on photo for article

I never expected one of my favourite newspapers The Christian Science Monitor to be carrying a piece about him, as the Monitor doesn’t carry a sports section. So it was marvellous to read Sara Miller Llana’s wonderful column Alphonso Davies: Canada’s humble, joyful soccer phenom piece! All Canadians and football lovers around the world should read it too!

Date posted: August 27, 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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