Vartan Gregorian – Educator, Historian, Philanthropist and Restorer of a Fading Library – Passes Away at 87; He Was President of Brown University When His Highness the Aga Khan Became the First Muslim to Deliver Baccalaureate Address to Brown’s Class of 1996

Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

On the morning of Friday April 16, 2021, while quickly scanning through the subject column of new emails that I had received overnight, my heart sank when I saw “Carnegie Corporation of New York Mourns the Death of President Vartan Gregorian.”

As a personal tribute to him, I would like to share three beautiful memories I have of Mr. Gregorian, who had previously held the positions of President both at Brown University and the New York Public Library.

The first memory is when I saw him introducing Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to the University’s graduating class of 1996. I had specially travelled to Brown from Philadelphia for the historic occasion, and watched the entire event from the University’s “Green.” The tribute to Mawlana Hazar Imam will be etched in my heart forever, and you can read it in Barakah by clicking HERE. But here is a very short excerpt from the piece:

“His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV is the first Muslim baccalaureate speaker in Brown’s history and I dare say in the history of the Ivy League. He embodies the ecumenical spirit that links the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Aga Khan, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammed, became 49th Imam — spiritual leader — of the Shia Ismaili Muslims in 1957 at the age of 20….The new Aga Khan shouldered great responsibilities even before he received his undergraduate degree. His challenge was awesome. After all, he was succeeding his grandfather, a world leader….In spite of his youth, he established himself firmly not only as spiritual leader, but also as an enlightened guardian of the far-flung Ismaili community’s welfare and progress.” — Vartan Gregorian

At the end of the speech, President Gregorian thanked Mawlana Hazar Imam for entrusting Prince Rahim’s education to Brown University.

May 26, 1996: A captive audience at Brown University’s “Green” watches a live telecast from the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church where Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan delivered the Baccalaureate Address to the 1996 graduating class. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.
May 26, 1996: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, receives a standing ovation at the conclusion of the Baccalaureate Address at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Next to him is Vartan Gregorian who was then President of the University.
Prince Rahim Aga Khan graduated from Brown University. In this photos, he is seen delivering his commencement address for the Graduation Ceremony of the Institute of Ismaili Studies held at the Ismaili Centre in London in 2007.

During the same weekend, Brown University also conferred Mawlana Hazar Imam with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Aga Khan Vartan Gregorian Brown University
Brown University President Vartan Gregorian (right) confers the honorary degree Doctor of Laws upon Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in May 1996. AKDN / Gary Otte.

It was the event at Brown that inspired me to read more about Vartan Gregorian. I learnt that he was responsible for reviving the New York Public Library (NYPL), before he became the President of Brown University. And this is how he re-entered my life after the Brown event — my second wonderful memory of him.

After a number of years of trying and finally been given the go-ahead in December 2006 to re-open the Ottawa Jamatkhana Library that had been closed for several years for unexplained reasons, my thoughts immediately turned to Carnegie Corporation, which a few years earlier had published an insightful monograph entitled “Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith” by Mr. Gregorian. I contacted Carnegie to send us as many copies of the book as were available, because we wanted to use it as an incentive to attract members to the Jamati library! Carnegie Corporation sent us the entire remaining stock of more than 100 books. The incentive idea worked as we had over 100 members join the library during the first week. Individuals inspire us in so many ways, and Mr. Vartan Gregorian inspired me to stay on course to re-establish an important institution in the Jamat — the library — and using his book to impart knowledge and increase library membership. I am pleased to include Gregorian’s book as a PDF file. Please click Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith.

I may also note that during his long tenure as President of Carnegie Corporation, Mr. Gregorian contributed insightful and thoughtful essays on diverse matters of interest in the Corporation’s magazine, The Carnegie Reporter. You may download the magazine as a PDF file or subscribe to it for free home delivery by clicking Free Carnegie Reporter. It is a very good read every month.

Carnegie reporter
Winter 2020 edition of Carnegie Reporter. The quarterly magazine may be downloaded as a PDF file or delivered by mail free of charge to your address.

The third beautiful memory I have of Mr. Gregorian is when Mawlana Hazar Imam honoured him with a major gift to Brown University. In its press release dated October 15, 2010 under the headline “His Highness the Aga Khan Honors Vartan Gregorian with Major Gift to Brown University,” Carnegie Corporation of New York stated:

“Prince Karim Aga Khan IV has established the Aga Khan Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities at Brown University in honor of Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, who served from 1988 to 1997 as President of Brown University. The gift of $2 million was announced following the October meeting of the Corporation of Brown University.

“The university said that the gift will allow Brown to bring in experts from a wide range of disciplines, including religion, history, anthropology and comparative literature. The Aga Khan Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities will come from any of the various disciplines depending on who is thought to be the best for the job in a given year, and will be affiliated with the Cogut Center for Humanities.

“For many years, Vartan Gregorian served on the Board of the Aga Khan University.  During Dr. Gregorian’s tenure as president of Brown University, the Aga Khan was the first Muslim spiritual leader to give a Baccalaureate Address at a major American university. He is also the recipient of an honorary degree from Brown University, from which his son, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, graduated.”

In response to the gift, President Gregorian said:

“I am deeply moved and extremely grateful that the Aga Khan has chosen to make this wonderful gift to Brown University in my honor. It is particularly meaningful to me because the Aga Khan is internationally recognized as a major activist for civilized humanity and in promoting the universal values that unite and transcend us all. And he believes that education, self-reliance, solidarity and character are the elements which keep a community vibrant and healthy and lead to enlightenment and dignity. In addition, he supports the education of women as central to global progress. I salute him, I thank him, and I celebrate the bond that he has created with Brown University today, and with the generations of students, faculty, scholars and others who will continue to benefit from his generosity on into the future.” (Read Complete Press Release).

With these fond memories of Vartan Gregorian that I will always carry with me, I now reproduce the email message I received from Carnegie Corporation announcing his death. It is then followed by a link to a detailed obituary posted in the corporation’s flagship magazine Carnegie Reporter.

We convey our condolences to all the members of Mr. Gregorian’s family and wish them strength and courage at this time of bereavement.


Brief Announcement from Carnegie Corporation on the Passing of Vartan Gregorian

At the JFK Library in Boston, Vartan Gregorian addresses new citizens, friends, and family at a naturalization ceremony. (Photo: Celeste Ford.

Dear Friends of the Corporation,

Vartan Gregorian, an international luminary, legendary educator, distinguished historian and humanities scholar, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, died suddenly on April 15, 2021, in New York City at age 87. He had been hospitalized for testing related to stomach pain.

Gregorian served as the twelfth president of Carnegie Corporation of New York at the time of his death. During his tenure, beginning in 1997, he championed the causes of education, immigration, and international peace and security — key concerns of the philanthropic institution’s founder, Andrew Carnegie. Like Carnegie, Gregorian was a naturalized United States citizen whose experiences in a new country helped shape him, including his belief in the great importance of immigrant civic integration to the health of American democracy.

Gregorian was especially devoted to higher education and was the highly respected president emeritus of Brown University and the former provost of the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, Gregorian is renowned for revitalizing The New York Public Library during his presidency in the 1980s. The recipient of more than 70 honorary degrees and dozens of significant awards, he was decorated by the governments of the United States, France, Italy, Austria, Armenia, and Portugal. His extraordinary story is told in his autobiography, The Road to Home: My Life and Times, published in 2003.

At the Corporation, Gregorian focused the foundation’s grantmaking on aiding the development of innovative ideas and transformative scholarship. During his presidency, Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded more than 10,000 grants totaling some $2.8 billion. He will be sorely missed by all who crossed his path in whatever manner during his long and fruitful life, but especially by those of us who had the good fortune to call him a friend and colleague.

Thomas H. Kean
Chair, Board of Trustees
Carnegie Corporation of New York


Tribute to Vartan Gregorian in Carnegie Reporter

Vartan Gregorian. Click on photo to read obituary in Carnegie reporter. Photo:

Please read Former president of Brown University and The New York Public Library, illustrious scholar, and steward of Andrew Carnegie’s legacy dies at age 87

Date posted: April 17, 2021.


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

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan of Mississauga, Ontario

Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Canadian writer Alnasir Rajan’s book “Invisible Birthmarks.” We follow the same Q/A format as our recent presentations of books written by Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We encourage Ismaili authors to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to the editor of Simerg, Malik, at


Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

Alnasir Rajan: Invisible Birthmarks – This is a unique name for the simple reason that it captures the essence of the characters in my book. These characters lived through some of the most horrid times and their pain and scars are in most cases hidden from the rest of the world, they are Invisible. So, I called it ‘Invisible Birthmarks’ because pain is not a visible scar. It lives in the heart, in the eyes and in the memory. Sharing it through stories brings it to light.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Rajan: Most families have been through migration. However, the places they settled into, did not always be their destination homes, even though their families lived there for generations. Similar stories of such migrants who lived for generations in Zanzibar had to flee for their lives. However, the regimes in Zanzibar at the time were restricting any form of travel while persecuting the minorities. This resulted in loss of lives and people found creative ways of getting off the island. You will always relate to the characters as you read through my book. This is not a history of my family.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Rajan: I was always writing short stories and just let them gather dust. However, after moving from Tanzania for 18 years and residing in Kenya and studying there, fate took me back to Dar es Salaam. I had some old friends and I met some new friends who inspired me to write a book to honor people who had no choice, no voice and no hand it what transpired during their struggles in Zanzibar. I had never been exposed to real life tragedies. It was a calling.

Article continues below

Simerg Ismaili authors Invisible Birthmarks by Alnasir Rajan
Cover of Alnasir Rajan’s “Invisible Birthmarks,” pp. 236, available in Soft and Hardbacks as well as Ebook formats.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Rajan: They are available in Paperback, Hard cover and eBook formats. I am contemplating to get an Audiobook version created as that seems the future of readership for me. This book is available from all online book sellers including iUniverse and Amazon.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Rajan: Traditional publishers are very difficult to please. They kept returning my manuscript saying it was not a Canadian content. I have no idea what that meant. So, I opted for a self-publishing route because it is a very fast process of getting a publication online.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Rajan: I did all the writing by myself. I hired an editor but because my book had some Kiswahili language in it, I had to make sure that it was not edited out by error. I had to read the edited version over and over for this reason. The self-publishing company that I had to pay dearly, did the cover page and some esthetics like selecting the images and preparing the book descriptions etc.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Rajan: Invisible Birthmarks is my first book about the survival of minorities in the pre and post independent Zanzibar. My second book is Unfolding Africa which is a story of my family’s migration history from India to Africa in 1897 and the shared history of the generations that followed.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Invisible Birthmarks — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Rajan: When I came to Canada on 15th November 1995, I already had a hand written manuscript that was very raw. The journey to rewrite it began while I was working in Canada and it came into fruition after 15 years in 2010. I went through a learning process. I realized writing a book is just like any other job. You have to sit and work.

Simerg: Tell us something more about the book and its main character(s).

Rajan: Some of the people I met when I returned to Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania after 18 years, were originally from Zanzibar. How they ended up living in Dar-es-salaam became an interesting topic but one which was full of sadness. I listened to many people and I realized that tragedies had happened in our beloved Zanzibar that no one was talking about. It was like a dark phase no one was ready to talk about. People in Tanzania are very forgiving. But the pain still exists. I began writing down these events and the writing bug in me was awakened. I had to share these stories with the rest of the world.

Shiraz is one of the main characters who faced rejection from family and society. He is a very humble person with no bitterness as he still loves his homeland Zanzibar. In my book, I have mentioned Ramzan Bhaloo who was from Zanzibar. Before he came to Canada, he was the care-taker of the Mombasa Ismaili Rest house. A very popular and loved man. Mohammed Meghji is also mentioned in my book. He had shared some of his experiences. I used their struggles and the struggles of some other families to show in totality what the system did to harm them as a minority. I have not used any real names of my friends as characters as the characters are a combination of several characters. However, I tried to do justice by relaying a shared history of sufferings that the surviving families told me about. It is never enough to write about it, but at least it is a start.

Date posted: April 13, 2021.


Alnasir Rajan Invisible Marks Simerg Ismaili author seriesIsmaili
Alnasir Rajan

Alnasir Rajan lives in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada where he and his wife, Narima, own a flower shop called Fairview Florist. They have two sons and a daughter. In his spare time, he loves to give life to the pen and paper affair. He treasures his childhood and adulthood memories as a long path of learning.



We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji have done in their respective interviews. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji; (article published on February 10, 2021)
2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff; (February 25, 2021)
3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha; (March 6, 2021) and
4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)


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

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Magnolia flowers on tree #049 at the Aga Khan Park in Toronto, simergphotos malik merchant

Tree #049 at Aga Khan Park

Malik Merchant feels that trees planted or re-planted at the Aga Khan Park behind the Ismaili Centre were not simply assigned random numbers. There was a reason and meaning behind their placement and numbering. He captures the beautiful setting of tree #049 and the other 2 magnolias on either side of it, and his photos show how well they are blooming. He begins his story, though, by first focusing his attention on the four flags, including the Ismaili Flag, flying majestically at the front of the park…..MORE ON SIMERGPHOTOS.

Magnolia at Aga Khan Park, Tree #049
Tree #049, a Magnolia, at Aga Khan Park, behind the Ismaili Centre building. Photo: Malik Merchant. Please click on photo for more photos and story.

Date posted: April 13, 2021.


Meaning of Irfan, as Prince Irfan Aga Khan turns 6 years old; and Nurin Merchant’s 4,500 km drive in the Covid-19 pandemic year takes her through beautiful Canadian landscapes and the Terry Fox Memorial

Click image for Prince Irfan

As Prince Irfan Aga Khan celebrates his 6th birthday on April 11, 2021, we adapt a previously published piece that also explains the meaning of his name and the name of his younger brother Prince Sinan Aga Khan…..MORE


Canadian Prairies, Aga Khan depiction at Winnipeg Museum, and Terry Fox Memorial. Please click on image for photos and story.

Nurin Merchant braves a 4,500 km road trip from Vancouver to Ottawa in the year of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the 3,300 km, mark she and her mom reach the iconic memorial to Canadian cancer hero Terry Fox, overlooking Lake Superior. As ever, she is ready with her camera and comes up with a diverse collection of photos of the memorial and some beautiful Canadian landscape. She is also reminded of Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s quote on life and includes it in her piece with a unique depiction of Hazar Imam at a Canadian Museum….MORE

Date posted: April 11, 2021.


The world woke up to books during the pandemic and book sales even went up, but ITREB did not empower the Jamat to read by offering curbside pick up and online ordering of important books

This matter has been on my mind for 12 months, and this piece was prepared some 3 months ago. I have now decided to post it after patiently waiting for Jamati institutions, and specifically ITREB, to provide an absolutely essential service to the Jamat — availability of Farman books, important objects (eg. tasbihs) as well as Dua recordings with meanings, and copies of the Qur’an.

Publisher/Editor  SimergphotosBarakah and Simerg

ITREB Curbside pickup
If booksellers and communities can arrange for curbside pickup, the best volunteers in the world can offer this service to the Jamat. Image — imaginary but all is doable — Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Millions of Americans and Canadians turn to Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Newshour every evening for solid and reliable reporting, insightful analysis as well as highly informative interviews that are conducted by the network’s team of outstanding reporters. PBS and its member stations across the USA lay claim to being “America’s largest classroom, the nation’s largest stage for the arts and a trusted window to the world.”

For some time now the Newshour program, which is anchored by Judy Woodruff, has been running special regular episodes under the banner “CANVAS, PBS’s Newshour art hub.” In a broadcast in late December, PBS reporter Amna Nawaz turned her attention to two American booksellers for their look at the year in books and the public response to books during the Covid-19 year of isolation and pain (read article).

Janet Webster Jones of Source Booksellers in Detroit told Nawaz, “We have been so busy…. that we can hardly answer the phone. We have had a very busy, busy season. We have been frantically doing our fulfillment orders, as well as greeting people by twos and threes as they come to the store.” Ann Patchett co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville added, “People have stepped up to help us out, ordering books online, ordering curbside. We have been running books out to people’s car. And now we’re letting a few people into the store at a time. We take everybody’s temperature. Everybody wears masks, hand sanitizer. And people have been really kind and compliant and supportive. It’s been a very heartwarming Christmastime.”

Thus, as we abide by social distancing guidelines to stay home, books suddenly have become more vital than ever! It is interesting to note that all across North America many religious organizations as well as bookstores have facilitated curbside pick-ups or ramped up their online platforms to service members of their communities (read article).

Shortly after the first shutdown of Jamatkhanas in mid-March (2020), following provincial or federal restrictions recommendations, I had proposed to the national leadership of ITREB (Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board) to facilitate curbside pickup of a selection of books and objects that are close to the heart of Jamat. I had personally offered my assistance to volunteer curbside pickup at the Ismaili Centre in Toronto. Remember, that after more than 40 years of waiting, the Jamat was finally presented with a 2-volume set of Farman books sometime in the middle of January 2020. By the time of Jamatkhana closures in mid March (2020), thousands had already acquired their copies of the Farman books. Yet there were an equal number who never acquired the set. Those who missed the opportunity during the 6-8 week between January and March would have hardly thought that the Jamatkhanas would remain closed for such a lengthy period, or that they would open with limited capacity. I was told that an online order processing system was being seriously considered to fulfill an important and vital need for the Jamat. It hasn’t materialized. I quote, “Do not let time pass….once it has passed it has gone forever.” (Mawlana Hazar Imam, India, 1973).

In addition to the Farman books, Jamati members would want Tasbihs, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s photographs, Du’a and Ginan books and audios, copies of the Holy Qur’an as well as a few other texts from the Institute of Ismaili Studies that are within the grasp of the Jamat’s understanding (Eagle’s Nest?). The pandemic would have provided the opportunity for the Jamat of all ages to begin to become more literary oriented at home. Also, parents would have been able to spend some time teaching their children to recite Du’a properly, and to request them to learn the meaning of the Du’a (“How many amongst you can tell me what the word qul is?” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, Atlanta March 17, 2018. One hand went up!). Memorization by phrases would be excellent, for starters.

Indigo (Chapters-Indigo), the largest bookseller chain in Canada, offering curbside pick-up and even in-store purchase when provinces were not in total shutdown.

Yes, the curbside pickup would have required devotion of time by Jamati members and volunteers of a few hours every week, say at parking lots of selected Jamatkhanas across Canada or in large spaces within the Jamatkhana premises. But where there is a will there is a way, just as our institutions and volunteers around the world organized food and water distributions for their respective communities, Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike, during the pandemic. Their efforts were highly appreciated in the communities they served.

The sad part is that once Jamatkhanas re-opened in Canada last summer with limited capacity, the literature counters continued to remain closed. Social distancing could have been instituted at Jamatkhana literature counters or at appropriate larger areas (such as social halls) during this window that was available. Curbside pick-up should have been facilitated for those unable to attend Jamatkhanas. The summertime window closed! Autumn once saw Jamatkhana closures due to the rise in Covid-19 cases.

Then, last month we saw the re-opening of some Jamatkhanas in Ontario, which are now once again closed down, as of the week of April 5th due to lockdown measures. So when windows of opportunities are available, however brief, we have to take advantage of them. And friends can purchase for their family members who might not attend Jamatkhanas for sometime.

In addition, an online shop should be strongly considered where authenticated Jamati members, who are in the Jamati data base, may be able to order books and then do curbside collections at selected hours. This is not rocket science, just as registration for Jamatkhana attendance is not. If other communities and institutions can take appropriate measures to serve their constituents with energy and some creativity, there is no reason why we can’t equal their enthusiasm, with the best volunteers in the world we have.

Can we be prepared for such eventualities, as well as opportunities that come our way, and not let time pass without being aware that once it has passed, it has gone forever?

Date posted: April 9, 2021.


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

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, passes away at the age of 99: Messages from the Government of Canada, and Jubilee Memories of Her Majesty’s Family with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

The Chief Justice of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C., is currently serving as the administrator of the Government of Canada until such a time as the next governor general is installed.  His message on the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh was released by him on Friday April 9, 2021, and is reproduced after the following photo.

In this rare photo, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is seen presiding at the 13 October 1957 Privy Council meeting, with Prince Philip, and Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and Governor General Vincent Massey. At right is Secretary of State for Canada Ellen Fairclough, the first woman ever to serve in the Canadian Cabinet. Fairclough was active in the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada and was a member of Hamilton Branch. Photo: University of Saskatchewan.

Message from Richard Wagner
Administrator of the Government of Canada

OTTAWA—Throughout his long life, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh devoted himself to the people of the Commonwealth and of Canada. He stood by Her Majesty The Queen for more than six decades, a constant and reassuring presence. He valued community, duty and service. He believed in wildlife conservation, volunteerism and supporting young people. A tireless world traveller, he showed that Canada held a special place in his heart by visiting this country more than any other.

The Duke of Edinburgh leaves a legacy that has touched so many, especially the hundreds of thousands of young participants in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards program. This program, which he established in Canada more than 50 years ago, has celebrated and encouraged service and excellence among young people across the country and around the world. His Royal Highness understood we must offer the next generations opportunities to succeed, and he believed in the power of youth to change the world for the better.

As a sign of our enduring respect, His Royal Highness was made the very first Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada in 2013, a fitting tribute for an extraordinary man. He was also invested as Commander of the Order of Military Merit, an honour that speaks directly to his own military past and his commitment to our women and men in uniform.

His Royal Highness devoted his life to his family and to fulfilling his unique role in our constitutional monarchy. Whether speaking with young Canadians about their hopes and dreams, presenting colours and meeting troops at military bases and events, or representing the Crown at state occasions, Prince Philip constantly showed his commitment to Canada. He was a great friend of this country and he will be dearly missed. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest condolences to the members of the Royal Family.


Statement by The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, on the passing of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh

“It was with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of The Duke of Edinburgh.

“A man of great service to others – first as a decorated naval officer and later as a dedicated leader in the areas of community engagement and philanthropy – the Duke always sought out the best in people and challenged them to strive for greater heights.

“Prince Philip maintained a special relationship with the Canadian Armed Forces and over the years became Colonel‑in‑Chief of six Canadian units. In 2011, he was named honorary general of the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as honorary admiral of the Royal Canadian Navy.

“The global program that bears his title – the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – has helped empower millions of young people from all backgrounds to realize their greatest potential, and is but one example of his contributions to the social fabric of this country and the world. He was also the patron of more than forty organizations in Canada, including the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute and the Outward Bound Trust. During his last visit to Canada in April 2013, the Duke was named the first-ever Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada by the Governor General of Canada.

“Prince Philip was a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others. He will be fondly remembered as a constant in the life of our Queen – a lifelong companion who was always at her side offering unfailing support as she carried out her duties.

“A family has lost a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. The thoughts of Canadians are with Queen Elizabeth II and the members of the Royal Family as they mourn such a significant loss.”


Message on The.Ismaili Website

The Ismaili community would like to offer its sincerest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family on the sad news of the passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.


Golden Jubilee: Mawlana Hazar Imam at Buckingham Palace

Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip
His Highness the Aga Khan received the title “His Highness” from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on July 26th 1957. Here he is pictured with Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip when the Queen hosted a dinner at Buckingham Palace to mark the Ismaili Imam’s Golden Jubilee and to acknowledge the close relationship he and his family have had over generations with the British Monarchy and the UK. Photo Credit:
His Highness the Aga Khan presents his brother Prince Amyn and his son Prince Rahim to Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, who welcomed them to Buckingham Palace during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness.
His Highness the Aga Khan presents his brother Prince Amyn and his son Prince Rahim to Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, who welcomed them to Buckingham Palace during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte


Diamond Jubilee: Mawlana Hazar Imam at Windsor Castle

Her Majesty the Queen in conversation with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at Windsor Castle on March 8, 2018 at a dinner hosted by her to mark his Diamond Jubilee. Prince Philip was absent as he had withdrawn from public engagements. Mawlana Hazar Imam was accompanied by members of his family — his brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan, his daughter Princess Zahra Aga Khan, his eldest son Prince Rahim Aga Khan, Prince Rahim’s wife Princess Salwa, and the Aga Khan’s younger sons, Prince Hussain Aga Khan and Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan. The event acknowledged historic linkages between the Ismaili Imamat and the British Monarchy and longstanding connections between the Ismaili Community, the institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network and the United Kingdom. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.
Her Majesty the Queen, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Zahra Aga Khan share a light moment at a dinner hosted by Her Majesty at Windsor Castle on March 8, 2018 in honour of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte


Related posts:

(1) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth holds glittering reception at Windsor Castle to celebrate His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee

(2) Glimpses from past and present: The Aga Khans and Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II

Date posted: April 9, 2021.


We welcome readers’ condolences and respects on the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment

Hussain Aga Khan with his father and Portuguese President in Lisbon

Prince Hussain Aga Khan celebrates his 47th birthday on April 10, 2021 and Barakah presents stories of his passion, love and care for sea animals

I stayed with her [Hawksbill Turtle] for an hour; she let me closer and closer in. By the end of the dive she was eating 60 centimeters from my leg — Prince Hussain Aga Khan….READ MORE

Hussain Aga Khan Marine Creatures Barakah and Simerg
Please click on photo for article and photos.

Date posted: April 9, 2021.


Photo of the Day: Easter and Sacred Christian Spaces and Objects

On April 4, 2021, Christians observe Easter Sunday, and we bring you a selection of photos related to Easter and the Christian faith captured by Montreal’s Muslim Harji during his travels around the world. Please click Photo of the Day or on the image below for more photos.

Stone of Anointing Jerusalem Easter Muslim Harji Simerg and Simergphotos
The Stone of Unction, also known as the Stone of Anointing, is just inside the entrance of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and is believed to be the place where the body of Jesus Christ was laid down after being removed from the crucifix and prepared for burial. Photo: © Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ, Canada. Click on image for more photos.

Date posted: April 4, 2021.


DOORS By Shiraz Bandali, Simergphotos

“DOORS” of Morocco, Spain and Portugal Through the Lens of Late Shiraz Bandali: A Tribute to an Ismaili Photographer

Shiraz Bandali (1959-2016)
Shiraz Bandali (1959-2016)

Shiraz Bandali of Edmonton, Canada, passed away at the age of 56. A passionate photographer, he captured “DOORS” during a family trip to Morocco, Portugal and Spain, and shared them with Simergphotos. We pay a tribute to Shiraz through his beautiful collection. Please click DOORS or on the image below.

"DOORS" by Shiraz Bandali Simerg
“DOORS” by Shiraz Bandali. Please click on image to see collection.

Date posted: April 2, 2021.


Aga Khan Park Ismaili Flag Birds

Video: The Beautiful Sounds of Birds at the Aga Khan Park and a Quick 360° Tour of Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Toronto

No creature is there crawling on the earth, no bird flying with its wings, but they are nations like unto yourselves. We have neglected nothing in the Book; then to their Lord they shall be mustered. — Holy Quran, 6:38 (Translation by A.J. Arberry)

The birds, you will recall [in Attar’s great poem, the Conference of the Birds] in huge quantities went in search of the Simurgh, the ideal and perfect king. After many tribulations, thirty of them do reach the end of the journey and come to the gate of the Supreme Majesty. The Chamberlain tests them and then opens the door and they sit on the masnad, the seat of the Majesty and Glory — His Highness the Aga Khan, Lahore, Pakistan October 23, 1980 (read speech)

The sounds of birds chirping at Aga Khan Park thrills and brings joy to Malik Merchant, and he takes the following short video which also takes you around the front section of the Aga Khan Park with views of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and the Aga Khan Museum. After watching the video presentation, please visit Simergphotos for great photo essays.

Note: See correction notes at bottom of this page.

A short presentation of the lovely sounds of birds at the Aga Khan Park with a quick 360° tour of the surrounding projects of His Highness the Aga Khan. Video: © Malik Merchant/Simergphotos.


(1) At the end of the video, I have referred to the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome as the dome of the Ismaili Centre. The Headquarters Ismaili Jamatkhana is an extension of the Ismaili Centre Toronto but also part of it. The Jamatkhana is a unique building in its own right. My commentary should have therefore referred to the dome as that of the Ismaili Jamatkhana, as it did in the earlier part of the video.

(2). The Green and Red flag used by Ismailis for decades was once upon a time referred to as “MY FLAG.” This is no longer in usage, officially at least. I have however mistakenly referred to it as the “Flag of the Ismaili Imamat” in the video report as well as in many other articles and photos on this and other sister websites. The flag without the monogram or crest (taj) of the Ismaili Imamat should simply be referred to as “The Ismaili Flag” as mentioned in the Ismaili Constitution. The flag inscribed with the monogram is only used during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visits, at official signing agreements where he is present, on his planes, and at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa. The Ismaili Flag on Wynford Drive does not include the crest but is replaced with a flag bearing the crest whenever Mawlana Hazar Imam visits the site; it is then referred to as the Ismaili Imamat Flag.

Date posted: March 31, 2021.


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

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.