A LETTER FROM PUBLISHER
One thing that I deeply appreciated about the Ismaili UK Newsletter (at least the hard copy version that I knew of) was the periodic publication of births and deaths that occurred in the UK and other European countries that were under the jurisdiction of the UK Aga Khan Ismaili Council. That information was one of the easiest pieces to compile and publish, as every Council records the birth and death of Ismailis in its jurisdiction.
As a long time resident of Canada, I don’t think the Ismaili Canada offered or offers anything like its UK counterpart. Neither do the Al-Akhbar weekly electronic newsletters published in provinces across Canada. I was told just this past week that Ottawa Jamati members were at one time being informed about deaths in their region by emails from the Ottawa Council. I wonder if this practice has ceased. For example, after a friend in Ottawa passed away last week — his funeral was held in Toronto — I decided to stop by for grocery purchases before proceeding to Toronto’s Ismaili Centre for his zyarat and samar services. Another very close friend and his wife, also from Ottawa who happened to be in Toronto, walked into the store as I was preparing to proceed to the Jamatkhana. When I told them about our mutual friend’s death and that earlier that afternoon I had attended his funeral and burial ceremonies they were in utter shock. They felt deeply saddened by the news and said they were glad that they met me because they were originally planning to go to a Jamatkhana closer to them.
One learns about deaths through friends or relatives of the deceased or Jamatkhana announcements at locations where the death took place or a few days later when samars are held to honour and pray for the deceased person. And sometimes through fortuitous encounters such as the one I had in the grocery store. In many instances, one is not even aware about the death of long time friends or relatives for months or years. When I recently met a group of students of my late dad, who passed away last May, a few in the group were not even aware of his death and were deeply apologetic for their oversight.
Some three years ago, Mustak Hasham of Toronto created a Facebook page to help fill this void. Everyday, Mustak, with the assistance of his wife and hundreds of well-wishers from around the world, keeps his more than 45,000 members informed about deceased members on GLOBAL Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement.
Of course, Mustak’s page brings grief and sadness to many, but such is the fact of life. Everyone feels the grief of the passing away of a beloved member of one’s family and no grief is deeper than seeing the announcement of the death of an individual young in age, predeceasing his or her parents. The grief and burden is considerably lifted when families are consoled, often by individuals who for years were out of contact with the deceased person or family they knew well.
Mustak’s boxed announcement (see image below) is short and informs his subscribers the name of the deceased, age, residence, a profile photo, and pertinent information related to the funeral. In some cases he doesn’t have all the information. Mustak has people around the world who keep him informed about the deaths that take place in their cities, towns and regions. His daily updates sometimes carry up to ten passings. In this work, he is also supported by his wife Sunanda.
When I spoke to Mustak recently, I asked him about responses from remoter places such as Central Asia and Northern Pakistan. Occasionally he hears from residents in those places but he sincerely hopes that more and more people from those remote locations as well as the Middle East, Iran, Syria and tiny Jamati settlements around the world would join his group and keep him informed about the passings that take place there.
Indeed, Mustak feels that his current page membership of 45,000+ is still small considering the hundreds of thousands who have access to the internet. He wants the numbers to grow significantly in the months to come, and hopes that readers will join and support his humble endeavour.
So far, Mustak hasn’t faced any resistance from families about deaths that he announces on his page. He did confide that on one rare occasion someone from a family of the deceased raised a concern about the posting but then quickly realized the benefit of the announcement. When readers, in response to a death, submit their condolence or prayer message, it is inspiring for the grieving family.
Institutions always expect Jamati members to support them on their projects. However it is also essential and important for institutions to be facilitators of websites and social media pages that are doing a worthy job to disseminate important pieces of knowledge and information. I think we have been asked by Mawlana Hazar Imam to work together. Where institutions are not fully able to dedicate their resources to put out important announcements, other than through Jamatkhana announcements, they can support projects such as Mustak’s by easily and quickly assembling a death notice for his attention. With regard to privacy issues, a simple question can be asked of family members: Do you have any objection if the death of your family member is mentioned on a Facebook page that is read worldwide?
Again, I reiterate that Mustak’s work has not raised objections. Indeed, family members appreciate and remain ever so grateful for the work that he is doing every single day.
Working together is a 2-way street. We bloggers and publishers of numerous websites and social media pages are self-motivators, and can immensely benefit from greater institutional encouragement for the work that we perform. CBC, CNN, BBC, G & M, WSJ, NYT and many other media outlets and news agencies are regularly invited to attend events at which Mawlana Hazar Imam is honoured or presides over important functions. It is time for Ismaili bloggers and journalists as well as outstanding photographers who have built a good reputation over the years to be respectfully treated by Ismaili institutions and invited to high profile functions. I can cite many occasions when I myself have sought access to these events, and asked to be present at the very last moment by communication coordinator representatives! There should be proper planning for these events, and advanced preparedness is important.
With regard to Mustak, our message to him is to keep up his wonderful work. He can do much more with everyone’s support, Jamats and institutions alike. Readers should join his page GLOBAL Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement.
The death of any deceased Jamati member brings immense grief to family members and friends. For those of us who may be strangers to the family, I would say that we can bring abundant blessing and peace to the soul of the departed by taking out a short prayer. That also goes a long way in giving courage and inspiration to the family and friends of the deceased. By such gracious and thoughtful acts, we are affirming that we deeply care for our late spiritual sisters and brothers as well as their families.
Date posted: February 27, 2019.
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Simerg publishes obituaries and tributes submitted by family members to honour and celebrate the lives of their beloved deceased family members. Please visit our page Passings.