Mrs. Merchant with senior students of Central London BUI

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

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor Simerg, Simergphotos and Barakah

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

Story continues below

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

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

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

Story continues below after photos and tribute speech

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

________________

The Untiring Efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Merchant

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

By TASNEEM VIRANI

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

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

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

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

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

_______________

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

.…Story continued

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

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

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The Gentle Mrs. Merchant: A Letter from a Student

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

By SHAHEEN AND BUI STUDENTS

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

Dear Mrs. Merchant,

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

Story continues below

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

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

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

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

_______________

You Will Be in Our Hearts and Prayers Forever

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

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

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

Date posted: January 21, 2022.

_____________________

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

  1. Alwaeza Maleksultan was a remarkable soul and human being till her last breath. I was fortunate to have her acquaintance and be her confidante in the later years of her life. She had amazing stories and examples to share of all the people she and her husband Alwaez Jehangir had inspired and who had now become leaders through their teachings. They were both true Fidaai’s and truly exemplary and blessed Dai’s of the Imam. She taught me so much. May Mowla continue to bless her family who also sacrificed a lot. Amen!

  2. Selected comments from the social media:

    Shelly Walji: Precious memory. RIP🙏
    Farida Thawer: Treasurable. 🙏🏻
    Nazlin Virji: May her soul rest in eternal peace. Ameen.
    Bahadar Hirani: May her soul rest in eternal peace.
    Mohammedali Samnani: May her soul rest in eternal peace! Ameen.
    رحم خدا محمد سخی: انا لله و انا الیه راجعون ! (We belong to Allah and to Him we shall return!)
    Naznin Hajee: May her soul continue to rest in eternal peace 🙏

  3. Ya Ali Madad Merchant family: Mum was truly beautiful soul and a lovely woman who captured so many hearts with her love, support and teachings. She was my teacher as well as my friend. She is being missed by a lot of children and Jamats. May Mawla rest her soul in eternal peace. Ameen 🙏🏼🙏🏼

    More tributes for Mrs. Merchant at:

    (1) https://simerg.com/2021/01/22/alwaeza-maleksultan-jehangir-merchant-june-9-1931-january-21-2021/#comments;
    (2) https://simerg.com/2021/02/09/a-poem-in-memory-of-mrs-merchant/#comments;
    (3) https://simerg.com/2021/02/07/alwaez-rajwanis-very-special-bond-with-mrs-and-mr-merchant/#comments; and
    (4) https://simerg.com/2021/02/05/mrs-merchant-d-january-21-2021-reflections-on-a-funeral-during-the-year-of-covid-19-as-ismaili-community-bids-goodbye-to-a-very-popular-teacher-and-missionary/#comments

  4. Ya Ali Madad Malik

    Thanks for sharing your mum’s wonderful article. Your mum was a humble soul. What a tribute. May Mawla rest the departed soul in eternal peace Ameen and may Mawla comfort the family Ameen. Shukar Alhamdulillah. Take care.

  5. There will never ever be another Mrs Merchant. Mrs Merchant was a tower of strength and totally dedicated to serve the Imam and his spiritual children. Those who were taught by Mrs Merchant will never ever forget her or not think and pray for her. Exceptionally a blessed lady. We all pray she is resting in Peace in Mawlabapa’s Kingdom. Ameen.

  6. Malik and Alnoor Bhai, YaAliMadad

    Your Mother Alwaeza Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant’s contributions to the Ismaili community is deeply appreciated. She was one of the pillars of our community.

    *إنا لله وإنا إليه راجعون*

    Nothing can replace the love and devotion a mother has towards her children. The hands that have cradled children such as yourself and Alnoor.

    May Allah (swt), the Gracious, through the Tawwasul of Glorious Ahl al-Bayt (as) bestow upon her the best reward.

    I will make special prayers for her🙏🏾

    “An Islamic Perspective on Death”

    https://ismailimail.blog/2021/03/13/chand-raat-of-shaban-1442-13th-march-2021/

  7. I remember Mrs. Merchant fondly from when she taught me. May her soul rest in peace, happiness and light. Ameen.

  8. This is really touching about how your parents served the Imam of the Time and the Jamat. The letter of condolences and blessings from Mawlana Hazar Imam is a blessing. May their souls rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

  9. A great tribute by the students. They were both pillars of the jamat in teaching our Tariqa to young generation of that time. Prayers for their souls for eternal peace Ameen.

  10. A great honour for a noble person. Love for a teacher is the love returned by the students. May Mawla rest her soul in eternal peace in His Heavenly Abode. Ameen

  11. Mrs Merchant was a pillar of the Jamat. I remember the Math and Physics tutorial classes she had organized for the girls in Dar es Salaam. Mawla bless her soul in eternal peace Ameen

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