Lailat al-Qadr: The Night of Power

BY KARIMA MAGHRABY
(Additional material compiled by Simerg)

In his Khamsa, Shab-i Qadr (the Night of Power), the renowned Persian poet Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE) tells the story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the Laylat al-Qadr. This image is taken from a folio in the Aga Khan Museum collection; the Toronto museum is due to open in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum

In his Khamsa, Shab-i Qadr (the Night of Power), the renowned Persian poet Amir Khusraw Dihlavi (d. 1325 CE) tells the story of a saint who made a failed attempt to stay awake until the Laylat al-Qadr. This image is taken from a folio in the Aga Khan Museum collection; the Toronto museum is due to open in 2014. Photo: Courtesy of the Aga Khan Museum

Laylat al-Qadr is the auspicious night when the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) first received the revelation of the Holy Qur’an, thereby conferring upon him the mantle of prophethood at the age of forty.

The Shia Ismaili Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadan, in keeping with traditions received through Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and his wife Hazrat Bibi Fatimah (a.s.), and the Imams of the Fatimid dynasty. It is a night of special prayer, reflection and remembrance of Allah. In 2019, this falls on May 27, 2019.

When Prophet Muhammad was 40 years old, he received his first divine revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel. When Angel Jibreel appeared to him, he said:

“Recite: In the Name of thy Lord who created,
created, Man of a blood-clot.

Recite: And thy Lord is the Most Generous,
who taught by the Pen,
taught Man that he knew not” — Holy Qur’an, Al-Alaq, 96:1-5

The first revelation

Part of Al-Alaq (The Clot) – 96th sura of the Holy Qur’an – the first revelation received by Prophet Muhammad

The night of this first revelation is celebrated as Laylat al-Qadr (the Night of Power). The following verses from the Holy Qur’an describe the loftiness of this night and articulate the importance of the final revealed scripture to mankind:

“Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power. What will convey unto you what the Night of Power is! The Night of Power is better than a thousand months. The angels and the spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees. Peace it is until the rising of the dawn.” — 94:5

Cave of Hira

A photo of Cave of Hira in the Mount of Light, near Mecca, where the Prophet would come for his devotions and meditations, and the sacred spot where the Holy Quran began to be revealed. Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) had just stepped into the forty-first year of his life, when during the 23rd night in the month of Ramadan the first 5 verses of the Surah Al-Alaq (96) were revealed to him. The small cave is about 3.5 meters long and 2 meters wide. Hira was the Prophet Muhammad’s most adorable place for meditation.

“(This is) a Scripture which We have revealed unto you (Muhammad) that thereby you may bring forth mankind from darkness unto light, by the permission of their Lord, unto the path of the Mighty, the Owner of Praise.” — 14:01

“And celebrate the name of thy Lord morning and evening. And part of the night, prostrate thyself to Him; and glorify Him a long night through. As to these, they love the fleeting life, and put away behind them a Day (that will be) hard.” — 76:25-27

Mountain of LightProphet Muhammad (s.a.s) received his first revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) in the Hira cave which is on Jabl al Nur (Mount of Light) shown in this photo. The peak is visible from a great distance. The Prophet used to climb this mountain often even before receiving his fist revelation from Allah.

“We sent it down during a Blessed Night” — 44:3

“Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong)” — 2:185

Hazrat Mawlana Murtaza Ali (a.s.) the successor of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) to the throne of Imamat is quoted as having said:

“Do not remember God absent-mindedly, nor forget Him in distraction; rather, remember Him with perfect remembrance (dhikran kamilan), a remembrance in which your heart and tongue are in harmony, and what you conceal conforms with what you reveal.” — quoted in Justice and Remembrance, Introducing the Spirituality of Imam Ali, by Reza Shah Kazemi, p. 162.

Date posted: July 18, 2014.
Last updated: June 24, 2019.

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Credits:
1. Wikipedia.org

2. Mecca.net
3. English Translation of the Qur’anic verses by Arthur John Arberry.

LINKS TO A SELECTION OF ADDITIONAL ARTICLES ON THE HOLY QUR’AN

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Kawhi Leornard of Toronto Raptors Makes the Greatest Shot Ever in the Last Second in Game 7 of the NBA Playoffs

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos
 

The Toronto Raptors Lapel Pin

The Toronto Raptors lapel pin that I was presented with as I entered Section 307 to watch the 7th and final playoff game between the Raptors and 76ers. Photo: Malik Merchant.

No one, not even NBA players, could recall a shot in any NBA seventh playoff game in the dying second, buzzer beating moment, such as the one Kawhi’s made to lead his team (OUR TEAM) Toronto Raptors to victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in Toronto at the Scotiabank Arena. Kawhi had to leap high up in the air to ensure that it would go over Joel Embidd (2.13 m, 6.99 feet) who stood in front of him to prevent him from scoring. The ball flirted with the rim 4 times before sinking into the basket. The two-points that Kawhi delivered are now for history books and will be talked about for ever! Perhaps, a physicist can explain the science of all that took place in lay terms — the flight of the ball as it left Kawhi’s hands, the ball bouncing on the rim 4 times, 2 times on either side, before it sunk into the basket.

During the course of my life, I have attended about a dozen NBA basketball games. I first came into contact with basketball as a young boy in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo). I often escaped with my friends to see local basketball matches played at the court of a college that was just 200 metres from the Jamatkhana. I had no favourite local teams then. A few years later, when our family moved to Dar es Salaam, I would go and watch the nail biting  matches between Azania Secondary School and Aga Khan Boys Secondary School. In 1979, when a computing assignment took me to Salt Lake City,Utah, my colleague, Jim Golluch, took me to watch Utah Jazz play LA Lakers (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson), Boston Celtics (Larry Bird and Archibald) and Philadelphia 76ers (Julius Erving or Dr. J and Darryl Dawkins). Utah was beaten in all the games — the franchise was new —  but one Jazz player who left a mark on me was Adrian Dantley whose shooting was almost perfect. Then several years later when I was in Philadelphia, I went to watch the 76ers on a couple of occasions. Utah, however remained in my heart since 1979, until of course the Raptors franchise was established in 1995!

A view of the basketball court at the Scotiabank arena from where I sat (Section 307, Row 17, Seat 20). The Raptors and 76ers are practicing shooting from close ranges. I would not hesitate in recommending the section. Photo: Malik Merchant

I had never watched the Raptors on their home court. I didn’t want yesterday’s 7th game to happen. After routing the 76ers in the fifth game in Toronto, we lost the 6th in Philadelphia to everyone’s dismay. On Thursday, I decided I would go and watch the final game and obtained my ticket at a premium price from Ticketmaster. I got to the Scotiabank arena very early and the gates to the arena opened 90 minutes before the game. The arena was empty and when I got to Section 307 to locate my seat (Row 17, Seat 20), a  Raptor’s representative welcomed me  by giving me a beautiful Raptor’s team pin, when I told him about my love for the game since childhood. The back rest of every seat was covered with a free Raptor’s tee shirt. He told me they did that for the playoff games, and they came in different shades — the free give away tee shirt yesterday was white with portraits of Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol, Pascal Siakam, and Danny Green adorning the front with the proclamation WE THE NORTH. The arena gradually filled to full capacity by the time the game commenced shortly after 7.

WATCH KAWHI’S WINNER

The noise level though, throughout the game, was not as much as I had expected. I think everyone was, like me very nervous. I could not scream as loud as I had wanted to –  my chocked throat held the screaming back, it was difficult to be really noisy! But then in the final minutes when Raptors scored some important vital points – the game was always close – Gason gesticulated to the crowd to raise the noise level. We then went absolutely crazy and became delirious when Leonard (“God is good, I pray everyday”) scored the winning basket just as the buzzer sounded. We were stunned; no one wanted to leave the arena. It’s fine to watch the excitement at home on TV but there is nothing like being at a live game. The experience was overwhelming.

Yes, Kawhi, God is good – to everyone actually – but the incredible player had availed himself of God’s help by working hard, not being like other players who argue and punch fists, make a show of their talents, and are arrogant. Kawhi Leonard, I have always felt, is a pure soul and the bus driver taking me home told me “I like him for what he is.” A truly humble person who delivers over and over again and carries the team on his shoulders without complaining! Incredible. What a human being, and an example to all other sportsmen. But we do need those fists and fights, and shows of pride and arrogance. Its sports!

Congratulations Kawhi and the Toronto Raptors for making Sunday, May 12, 2019, one of the 3 greatest sporting days in my life. The other two are football related – my favourite team in the world, Tottenham Hotspur, coming from behind to defeat, in midweek, Ajax of Amsterdam, and earlier Manchester City in the UEFA Champions Cup.

I wasn’t in person at the Tottenham games, but I was at the Raptors game and that personal presence gives the Raptors game a slight edge over the Tottenham victories which I watched alone.

Date posted: May 13, 2019.

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Muhammad: An Anticlerical Hero of the European Enlightenment

The inside title page of the Qur’an owned by 3rd US President Thomas Jefferson. It appears that Jefferson purchased George Sale’s translation of the Qur’an in 1765 from the office of the Virginia Gazette. At the time, Jefferson was engaged in his law studies at the College of William and Mary, so it is likely that he purchased the book as an example of Arabic law as his textbooks suggested. Jefferson cataloged the book in his section on “Religion,” where it shared the shelves with early Greek and Roman mythology and the Bible. Photo and caption: US Library of Congress.

By JOHN TOLAN
Professor of history, University of Nantes

Publishing the Quran and making it available in translation was a dangerous enterprise in the 16th century, apt to confuse or seduce the faithful Christian. This, at least, was the opinion of the Protestant city councillors of Basel in 1542, when they briefly jailed a local printer for planning to publish a Latin translation of the Muslim holy book. The Protestant reformer Martin Luther intervened to salvage the project: there was no better way to combat the Turk, he wrote, than to expose the ‘lies of Muhammad’ for all to see.

The resulting publication in 1543 made the Quran available to European intellectuals, most of whom studied it in order to better understand and combat Islam. There were others, however, who used their reading of the Quran to question Christian doctrine. The Catalonian polymath and theologian Michael Servetus found numerous Quranic arguments to employ in his anti-Trinitarian tract, Christianismi Restitutio (1553), in which he called Muhammad a true reformer who preached a return to the pure monotheism that Christian theologians had corrupted by inventing the perverse and irrational doctrine of the Trinity. After publishing these heretical ideas, Servetus was condemned by the Catholic Inquisition in Vienne, and finally burned with his own books in Calvin’s Geneva.

During the European Enlightenment, a number of authors presented Muhammad in a similar vein, as an anticlerical hero; some saw Islam as a pure form of monotheism close to philosophic Deism and the Quran as a rational paean to the Creator. In 1734, George Sale published a new English translation. In his introduction, he traced the early history of Islam and idealised the Prophet as an iconoclastic, anticlerical reformer who had banished the ‘superstitious’ beliefs and practices of early Christians – the cult of the saints, holy relics – and quashed the power of a corrupt and avaricious clergy.

Sale’s translation of the Quran was widely read and appreciated in England: for many of his readers, Muhammad had become a symbol of anticlerical republicanism. It was influential outside England too. The US founding father Thomas Jefferson bought a copy from a bookseller in Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1765, which helped him conceive of a philosophical deism that surpassed confessional boundaries. (Jefferson’s copy, now in the Library of Congress, has been used for the swearing in of Muslim representatives to Congress, starting with Keith Ellison in 2007.) And in Germany, the Romantic Johann Wolfgang von Goethe read a translation of Sale’s version, which helped to colour his evolving notion of Muhammad as an inspired poet and archetypal prophet.

In France, Voltaire also cited Sale’s translation with admiration: in his world history Essai sur les mœurs et l’esprit des nations (1756), he portrayed Muhammad as an inspired reformer who abolished superstitious practices and eradicated the power of corrupt clergy. By the end of the century, the English Whig Edward Gibbon (an avid reader of both Sale and Voltaire) presented the Prophet in glowing terms in The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776-89):

The creed of Mahomet is free from suspicion or ambiguity; and the Koran is a glorious testimony to the unity of God. The prophet of Mecca rejected the worship of idols and men, of stars and planets, on the rational principle that whatever rises must set, that whatever is born must die, that whatever is corruptible must decay and perish. In the author of the universe, his rational enthusiasm confessed and adored an infinite and eternal being, without form or place, without issue or similitude, present to our most secret thoughts, existing by the necessity of his own nature, and deriving from himself all moral and intellectual perfection … A philosophic theist might subscribe the popular creed of the Mahometans: a creed too sublime, perhaps, for our present faculties.

But it was Napoleon Bonaparte who took the Prophet most keenly to heart, styling himself a ‘new Muhammad’ after reading the French translation of the Quran that Claude-Étienne Savary produced in 1783. Savary wrote his translation in Egypt: there, surrounded by the music of the Arabic language, he sought to render into French the beauty of the Arabic text. Like Sale, Savary wrote a long introduction presenting Muhammad as a ‘great’ and ‘extraordinary’ man, a ‘genius’ on the battlefield, a man who knew how to inspire loyalty among his followers. Napoleon read this translation on the ship that took him to Egypt in 1798. Inspired by Savary’s portrait of the Prophet as a brilliant general and sage lawgiver, Napoleon sought to become a new Muhammad, and hoped that Cairo’s ulama (scholars) would accept him and his French soldiers as friends of Islam, come to liberate Egyptians from Ottoman tyranny. He even claimed that his own arrival in Egypt had been announced in the Quran.

Napoleon had an idealised, bookish, Enlightenment vision of Islam as pure monotheism: indeed, the failure of his Egyptian expedition owed partly to his idea of Islam being quite different from the religion of Cairo’s ulama. Yet Napoleon was not alone in seeing himself as a new Muhammad: Goethe enthusiastically proclaimed that the emperor was the ‘Mahomet der Welt’ (Muhammad of the world), and the French author Victor Hugo portrayed him as a ‘Mahomet d’occident’ (Muhammad of the West). Napoleon himself, at the end of his life, exiled on Saint Helena and ruminating on his defeat, wrote about Muhammad and defended his legacy as a ‘great man who changed the course of history’. Napoleon’s Muhammad, conqueror and lawgiver, persuasive and charismatic, resembles Napoleon himself – but a Napoleon who was more successful, and certainly never exiled to a cold windswept island in the South Atlantic.

The idea of Muhammad as one of the world’s great legislators persisted into the 20th century. Adolph A Weinman, a German-born American sculptor, depicted Muhammad in his 1935 frieze in the main chamber of the US Supreme Court, where the Prophet takes his place among 18 lawgivers. Various European Christians called on their churches to recognise Muhammad’s special role as prophet of the Muslims. For Catholics scholars of Islam such as Louis Massignon or Hans Küng, or for the Scottish Protestant scholar of Islam William Montgomery Watt, such recognition was the best way to promote peaceful, constructive dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

This kind of dialogue continues today, but it has been largely drowned out by the din of conflict, as extreme-Right politicians in Europe and elsewhere diabolise Muhammad to justify anti-Muslim policies. The Dutch politician Geert Wilders calls him a terrorist, paedophile and psychopath. The negative image of the Prophet is paradoxically promoted by fundamentalist Muslims who adulate him and reject all historical contextualisation of his life and teachings; meanwhile, violent extremists claim to defend Islam and its prophet from ‘insults’ through murder and terror. All the more reason, then, to step back and examine the diverse and often surprising Western portraits of the myriad faces of Muhammad.

Date posted: May 6, 2019.

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This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

About the writer: John Talon is Professor of history at the University of Nantes and author of  Faces of Muhammad: Western Perceptions of the Prophet of Islam from the Middle Ages to Today published via Princeton University Press (2019). The book shows that Prophet Muhammad wears so many faces in the West because he has always acted as a mirror for its writers, their portrayals revealing more about their own concerns than the historical realities of the founder of Islam. Faces of Muhammad reveals a lengthy tradition of positive portrayals of Muhammad. Talon’s previous books include Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination and Saint Francis and the Sultan. Twitter @JohnVTolan

The Imam is Always Present and Obedience to Him Makes Our Faith Complete

Recognition of the Imam

By FIDAI KHURASANI

He is always present
a witness with his followers;
but who has seen his beauty
except the blessed?

He who is the cupbearer of
the fount of paradise
is aware altogether of
the hearts of his followers

He is the Imam of the Time
the guide and comforter
the protector of his followers
whether young or old

Like the sun in the sky
he is manifest in the world
but the blind bat cannot see
his luminous face

Source: Shimmering Light: An Anthology of Ismaili Poems, ed. Faquir M. Hunzai and Kutub Kassam, pub. I. B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 1997. 

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Making Our Faith Complete

By IMAM MUSTANSIR BI’LLAH 

Pandiyat-i- Jawanmardi or Counsels of Chivalry is a compilation of the guidance of the 32nd Ismaili Imam, Mustansir bi’llah, who lived in the 15th century. The book contains exhortations to the faithful on the necessity of recognising and obeying the Imam of the Time and on how to live a truly ethical life. The circumstances that led to the compilation of the work are intriguing, and are alluded to in many of the manuscripts copies as follows:

When Pir Taj al-Din passed away, a number of people from the Sindhi Ismaili Community went to the Imam. Upon arrival they pleaded: “Our Pir Taj al-Din has passed away. Now we are in need of a Pir.” The Imam then had the Counsels of Chivalry compiled and gave it to them saying: “This is your Pir.  Act according to its dictates.”

In the following piece from one of the chapters, the Imam enumerates on how murids (those who have pledged their allegiance to the Imam) can make their faith complete. Says the Imam:

“O, believers, O, pious ones!

“Now is the time when you should strengthen religion (din), by helping each other, by trying to gain knowledge, by advancing the religious cause, and striving to make your faith complete.

“Gain safety by obeying the Imam of the time, and become completely obedient to his orders.

“Do unhesitatingly what you are told by the blessed word of the Imam, –- then you will attain (real) salvation.

“Follow the Imam of your time strictly, so that he may take you under his protection, helping you, granting you victory and relief.

“And obedience to the Imam, attention to his word, will bring about the healing of spiritual ailments and lead to soundness and clarity of the heart.”

Reading adapted from The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, a Search for Salvation by Shafique N. Virani, Hardcover – May 3, 2007

Date posted: May 2, 2019.

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The Avicenna Fragment: Translation of Parts of Canon of Medicine is Found in 16th Century Irish Book Binding

Finding Reveals Connection Between Gaelic Ireland and Islamic Worlds

The Avicenna Fragment is an Irish translation of parts of the opening chapters on the physiology of the jaws, the nose and the back in the ‘Canon of Medicine’ by the Persian physician Ibn Sina (980–1037), better known as Avicenna, who is regarded as one of the most significant physicians in the Islamic Golden Age. The existence of this text was not hitherto known in Ireland. University College Cork (UCC) Professor of Modern Irish, Pádraig Ó Macháin, was made aware of a family in Cornwall in possession of a small Latin manual printed in London in 1534/1536. However it was not the book’s content that Professor Macháin was interested in but the binding which contained the fragment. The above image is a digitised version of the binding that was opened out after the binding was removed from the manuscript with the permission of the owners.

By NEWS AND VIEWS, UNIVERSITY COLLEGE CORK, IRELAND

The discovery and digitisation of the text was a scholarly adventure” — Professor Macháin

A previously undiscovered 15th-century Irish vellum manuscript, reveals an enchanting connection between Gaelic Ireland and the Islamic world, and illustrates how medieval Ireland was once at the centre of medical scholarship in the world.  University College Cork (UCC) Professor of Modern Irish, Pádraig Ó Macháin, was made aware of a family in Cornwall in possession of an early printed book, with an exciting connection to medieval Irish learning.

A 15th-century discovery in a 16th-century book

The book, a pocket-sized Latin manual of local administration, was printed in London in 1534/1536 and had been in the family’s possession since that time. What was of interest to Prof. Ó Macháin was the binding of the book. This consisted of a sheet, full of text in Irish, cut from a 15th-century Irish vellum manuscript, that had been trimmed and folded and stitched to the spine of the printed book to form a sturdy binding.

“The use of parchment cut from old manuscripts as a binding for later books is not unusual in the European tradition,” says Ó Macháin, “but this is the first time that a case has come to light of such a clear example of the practice in a Gaelic context.” From photographs of the binding supplied by the owners, Prof. Ó Macháin established that the Irish text was a medical one. “A quarter of what survives of late-medieval manuscripts in the Irish language is medical in content,” says Ó Macháin, ‘an indication of the practical purpose of these books in Ireland of the time.”

The identity of the text was established immediately by Ó Macháin’s collaborator of many years, Professor Aoibheann Nic Dhonnchadha of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, the only living expert on medieval Irish medicine. It is a fragment of a translation into Irish — previously unrecorded — of the ‘Canon of Medicine’ by the Persian physician Ibn Sena (980–1037), also known as Avicenna, considered one of the most significant physicians in the Islamic Golden Age.

The existence of this text was not hitherto known in Ireland

The ‘Canon of Medicine’ was a great medical encyclopedia which, through translation into Latin (from which the Irish text itself is translated), achieved great popularity in Europe, where state-of-the-art medical theory and practice in medieval times had their origins in the Muslim world. The Irish fragment contains parts of the opening chapters on the physiology of the jaws, the nose and the back. The existence of this text was not hitherto known in Ireland.

Medical scholarship in medieval Gaelic Ireland was on a par with that practised on the Continent and was the most outward-looking of all the native branches of learning. There is evidence of Irish scholars travelling to European medical schools, and bringing their learning back to the medical schools of Ireland.

Because of the importance of the manuscript fragment to the history of Irish learning and medicine, the owners agreed that the binding should be removed from the book by John Gillis of TCD, opened out and digitised under the supervision of Prof. Ó Macháin to whom they entrusted the book, and a new binding provided. This was completed and ‘The Avicenna Fragment’ is now available for viewing on the Irish Script on Screen website. 

The discovery and digitisation of the text was a scholarly adventure,” says Ó Macháin, “one of those occasions when many people, not least the owners of the book, were working together towards a common purpose for the cause of pure learning. It was a pleasure to have been able to make it happen and to have been part of it.”

Following the discovery, a public seminar on ‘The Avicenna Fragment’ and on aspects of Gaelic medieval medicine was hosted by University College Cork on Thursday, March 7, 2019.

Date posted: April 23, 2019.

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CREDIT: This piece was reproduced from the website of the University of Cork, Ireland, with the University’s permission. The original piece can be read by clicking on https://www.ucc.ie/en/news/15th-century-manuscript-reveals-links-between-gaelic-and-islamic-worlds.html.

Yellowstone National Park

With summer approaching, Simerg recommends Yellowstone and Grand Teton for an exciting and unforgettable family safari

By NURIN MERCHANT

Nurin Merchant with her bunny, Pistachio.

“I encourage everyone to travel and visit the forest, for they are amazing…there will be fewer and fewer in the future. That’s what I say to myself when I take every photograph…In my photographs, I let the animals and trees speak for themselves and hope other people will see the beauty I see.”– Prince Hussain Aga Khan

Wondering where to go for your holidays this summer! To follow up on Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s quote, I have a fantastic destination in mind for families as well as youth. My dad and I have just received a heart-warming photo of the first newborn baby bison spotted in Yellowstone this spring. The photo at top of this post was taken by Jim Futter, a long time supporter of the Park. Yellowstone is the only place in the U.S. where wild bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times, so everyone at Yellowstone as well as friends of the park around the world love seeing new calves carry on that legacy. Yellowstone is the world’s very first national park.

I highly recommend Yellowstone and its beautiful neighbour, Grand Teton National Park, as week long family safari destinations that would also include 2-3 days in beautiful Salt Lake City and Park City, which hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. Parents, children and youth will be amazed, thrilled and excited with the complete natural environment they will experience during their trip — marvellous mountains, an amazing and picturesque salt lake, incredible geysers and volcanic activity, lakes, rivers, wildlife — including wolves, grizzly bears, and herds of bisons — green forests as well as burnt out forests from the fire of 1988, breathtaking canyons and much much more! The trip will also be highly educational, as there is so much one learns by being in Yellowstone.

Great Salt Lake and Antelope Island at dusk. Photo was taken from the Buffalo Point lookout and picnic area. Photo: Nurin Merchant. Copyright.
Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Nurin Merchant.
Elks (Yellowstone); moose and grizzly (Grand Teton). Photo: Nurin Merchant.
One of many boardwalks at Yellowstone to experience the Park’s amazing geyser and volcanic activity. Photo: Nurin Merchant.

Yellowstone’s accommodation and restaurants situated next to the Old Faithful Geyser are fantastic, as are resorts just outside Grand Teton. Old Faithful is so named because of its predictable eruptions. You will remember your trip to Yellowstone for your entire lifetime — I say that with confidence, because I have been there and am longing to go back!

I invite you to click on A Phenomenal One-of-a-Kind Experience in Yellowstone, the World’s Very First National Park, Through the Lens of Nurin Merchant to view a collection of my photos that I took at the Park when I visited it. The post has links to detailed pieces about my experiences in Salt Lake City, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

Have a fantastic summer — I bet you will, should you follow my recommendation to make Grand Teton and Yellowstone your choice destinations.

Date posted: April 20, 2019.
Last updated: April 21, 2019.

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Nurin Merchant with her dad, Malik, at Yellowstone

About the author: Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, Nurin completed her International Baccalaureate (IB) high school program at Colonel By Secondary School before proceeding to the University of Guelph, where she has spent eight years, first completing an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences and then pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine. A lover of animals and nature since her childhood, Nurin is also an artist whose art work has been featured on this website. Her inspiring mixed media work on canvas entitled “The Nature of Prayer” was featured  in The Ismaili Canada magazine during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam. She also plays numerous musical instruments such as the piano and flute. She speaks English, French and Spanish as well as her mother tongue, Katchi.  

The best samosas in Toronto are at the Aga Khan Museum, and I enjoyed them even more with Tottenham’s victory over Manchester City

Beef samosas from the Aga Khan’s Museum’s cafetaria. Note the image is of samosas that I froze after bringing the cooked version home. I simply microwave them for 30 seconds and then place them in a toaster oven (toast mode) for 3 – 4 minutes. They turn out to be as delicious as freshly fried ones. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Do not fail to take a few dozen samosas home with you when you visit the Aga Khan Museum

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

Yesterday (April 17), the samosas at the Aga Khan Museum tasted better than ever. Let me tell you why. I have been a Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) football fan since the age of 8, thanks to my late dad, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018). We were in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique, in 1961, when Spurs won the double. Every Tuesday, my dad would acquire a South African English newspaper to see the results of the weekend’s British football games. He would also use the results to predict matches that would end up as draws the following week, and enter his choices in one of the cheaper football pool such as Zetters. Like everyone else who played the pools, his hope was that from his selections of drawn games, 7 or 8 would be correct. It would make him rich overnight, provided of course there weren’t too many draws on the day. If I recall correctly, he spent a good 2-3 hours analyzing the most recent results to make his predictions. I simply wanted him to win so that he would be able to buy me a good box of coloured pencils for 12-15 escudos — times were tough! I asked him one day what team he supported the most, and his reply was “Spurs”; “and second best papa?” And he replied, “Everton.”

Spurs has been in my heart ever since. They haven’t won the English Premiere now for 59 years, and they are not going to win it this year either. Yesterday, though, they broke the hearts of Manchester City players, their highly respected manager and million of fans when in the 3rd minutes of injury time, the goal scored by City’s striker Rahim Sterling was disallowed by VAR (Video Assistance Referee) due to an off-side infringement. Moments earlier, before the VAR review, my heart had sunk to its lowest depth. Now, following VAR review, the referee’s arm went up indicating off-side and the Jumbotron flashed NO GOAL VAR OFFSIDE (watch game highlights, below). I was as excited as every Spurs fan on the face of this earth. On aggregate, the scoreline after the VAR review stood at 4-4 and Spurs eliminated City due to the away goal rule.  Spurs will play their semi-finals against Ajax — the club that was made famous by Dutch master Johan Cruyff, who is regarded as one of the greatest players in football history.

I was ecstatic with the Spurs victory. I thought of my dad; a day earlier I had even told my mum about the game and she also remembered that Tottenham “was papa’s favourite team.” DAZN has the rights to show the UEFA games in Canada through an on-line subscription, and it was not televised, so my mum could not watch it.

Click to watch highlights of incredible UEFA Champions quarter final 2nd leg between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur

After that incredible and tense victory, I needed time to recover from a roller-coaster game that saw 5 goals scored inside the first 21 minutes. My point of relaxation, I decided, would be the Aga Khan Museum, which is open until 8 PM every Wednesday. As I set forth from home, I knew what would give me the greatest pleasure — not the fantastic Moon exhibition, but the delicious samosas that are prepared for the Museum’s courtyard cafe by the highly acclaimed on-site Diwan restaurant.

As I reached the cafe counter, I raised myself to discover that the oven trays where the samosas are kept to maintain crispiness were empty. I was disappointed and told the cheerful attendant they should be turning out more of the samosas, at least on Wednesday evenings. I was relieved when he told me he had placed an order for 10 more and they would be ready in 7-10 minutes. “Do you want all 10?” I replied, “Yes, 2 to eat here and the remainder for home.”

Story continues after quote…..

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 MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM ON HIS FONDNESS FOR SAMOSAS

His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: John Macdonald, Ottawa.

….Earlier this evening I was struck by how quickly we are all affected by the culture we live in although it’s not our own. Bahadur Hirji, you all know, was taking pictures and he kept on saying to my wife and me “cheese” – in the end I said to him, at least if you had said “samosas” or “biriani”, I would have recognised that he was conveying a message to me — His Highness the Aga Khan, Los Angeles, November 3, 1986

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…….continued

The wait was worth every minute. I found a comfortable chair alongside the museum’s atrium. I did not turn on my Iphone. I had come to relax and did not want any intrusions. It was time to savour the Spurs victory with the best samosas in Toronto.

Samosas come in numerous varieties — ground beef and chicken as well as vegetarian. The Aga Khan Museum makes the beef and vegetarian kinds which are spiced splendidly. The version it prepares is with a thin pastry covering, not the thick and much heavier pastry that is served in the majority of Indian restaurants and supermarkets around the country. The thin pastry has always been my preferred choice. I often refer to such samosas  as Ismaili samosas, like the lentil based Ismaili bhajias, and fried muhogo (cassava), because the East African Ismaili community created its own versions of appetizers and curries (such as kuku paka, the equivalent of a Thai green/yellow/red chicken curry), pilaus and bhirianis which can be found in many restaurants across Canada run by East African Ismailis. In Vancouver, for example, restaurants such as Safari, Kilimanjaro, Simba Grill, James Cafe, Agra (across from James) come to my mind immediately. In Ottawa a trio of Ismaili sibblings, with the support of their parents, have established a magnificent catering unit under the name All Seasons Indian Catering on 2285 St. Laurent Blvd, with an East African emphasis. Of course, in addition to restaurants, many Ismaili ladies make outstanding samosas and some even cater for private parties.

As much as I have loved the fusion food at all these East African Ismaili outlets, the samosas at the Aga Khan Museum are among the finest in taste and quality. The crispiness of the samosa with its thin outer pastry, the spice level of the beef and the fact that the exterior pastry doesn’t have an oily feel to it have made me their fan. Moreover, there has never never a hint that the oil that the samosas are cooked in has been used over and over again. The samosa is slightly smaller in size than what you get in restaurants and the Museum sells them at a $1.00 each, with a 10% discount if you are a member of the museum .

Samosas are generally served with a slice of lemon that you squeeze over onto the meat after taking the initial bite. Many restaurants provide different types of chutneys such as amli (tamarind) chutney, a spicy chutney made from green chilies and coriander or even a white coconut chutney. But I am not a believer in these extra chutneys when a food item tastes delicious on its own. Two drinks that I enjoy the most with samosas are a cup of hot chai or a a can of coke. The chai sold at the Museum is a tea bagged version, which is never as satisfying as a chai that is prepared with tea leaves or tea bags combined with cinnamon sticks, elchi (cardamom pods), cloves as well as other spices, that are all boiled for a few minutes in water and milk. I make it a point to occasionally take a dozen samosas from the Museum for my afternoon tea. I freeze them, and whenever I am in the mood for samosas, I warm a couple in the microwave for 20 seconds before placing them in a toaster oven for about 3-4 minutes (in toaster setting — just as you would toast bread). Really, the result is outstanding and the previously frozen samosas come out as crispy and tasty as the freshly cooked ones.

I am generally a fast paced eater but yesterday I spent over an hour finishing two samosas and a cup of chai latte. That’s how relaxed I felt at the museum’s magnificent confines. It has a peaceful atmosphere, a fact that was noted by two new visitors to the museum as they walked by me. My mum who admonishes me for eating rapidly would have been pleased. I felt relaxed. I was savouring the samosas and I considered the time spent at the Museum as one of the finer moments in my life — with that Spurs victory. Thank you Aga Khan Museum for the best samosas in town and its founder, His Highness the Aga Khan, for  building a museum that not only has incredible exhibits and programs but also provides a truly peaceful and healing  environment when you need it the most.

To the Museum staff at the cafe and the chef at Diwan I say: “Thank you for making delicious samosas. I hope to see you over again and again, and definitely when Tottenham qualify for the finals after victory over Ajax of Amsterdam.”

I urge Torontonians and everyone visiting the city to see the Aga Khan Museum. It is fantastic and caters to every age group. The Moon exhibition (until August 18, 2019) is magnificent and highly educational, and every member of your family will love it. Then treat yourself to the samosas and take some home with you.

Date posted: April 18, 2019.
Last updated: April 20, 2019.

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Cannabis use in teens raises depression risk in adulthood and lowers school achievement – McGill and Oxford Study

Introduced by Abdulmalik Merchant
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

In a piece for “On the Brain,” [1] a newsletter published by the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute, the Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University and a former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Joseph A. Califano, Jr., writes:

“In his monumental study of history, the brilliant British historian Arnold Toynbee found that the great civilizations were destroyed not by an external enemy, but from within. ‘Civilizations,’ he said, ‘die from suicide, not by murder’.”

Califano continues:

“Of all the internal dangers our nation faces, none possess a greater threat to our children and families and none is complicit in more domestic ills than substance abuse and addiction.”

In urging Jamats to use their assets of energy, health, intelligence and ability to better ends than wasting them on valueless habits, Mawlana Hazar Imam  interestingly made a similar remark to what has been made above by Califano, when he stated on November 11, 1970 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that those who knew Islamic history would know that social habits had eaten into the fabric of Muslim societies and had contributed to the destruction of Muslim empires.

Just days before Canada legalized the recreational use of marijuana on October 17, 2018, we carried a post  where we called on the Ismaili Jamat and its youth to seek to apply principles of good health and good judgement as articulated by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

We take this opportunity to publish a  report that was released by the University of Oxford on  February 14, 2019. [2] Again, we ask members of the Jamat to keep away from all social habits including smoking, drinking and drugs so that we may always remain a strong and purposeful Jamat.

McGill and Oxford Report

KEY POINTS:

Question:  Is adolescent cannabis consumption associated with risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality in young adulthood?

Findings: In this systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 studies and 23, 317 individuals, adolescent cannabis consumption was associated with increased risk of developing depression and suicidal behavior later in life, even in the absence of a premorbid condition. There was no association with anxiety.

Meaning:  Preadolescents and adolescents should avoid using cannabis as use is associated with a significant increased risk of developing depression or suicidality in young adulthood; these findings should inform public health policy and governments to apply preventive strategies to reduce the use of cannabis among youth.

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While there has been a lot of focus on the role of cannabis use in psychosis, there has been less attention on whether cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of common mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Researchers from McGill University and the University of Oxford carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of the best existing evidence and analysed 23,317 individuals (from 11 international studies) to see whether use of cannabis in young people is associated with depression, anxiety and suicidality in early adulthood.

They found that cannabis use among adolescents is associated with a significant increased risk of depression and suicidality in adulthood (not anxiety). While the individual-level risk was found to be modest, the widespread use of the drug by young people makes the scale of the risk much more serious.

The population attributable risk was found to be around 7%, which translates to more than 400,000 adolescent cases of depression potentially attributable to cannabis exposure in the US, 25,000 in Canada and about 60,000 in the UK.

Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University and a scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, states: “While the link between cannabis and mood regulation has been largely studied in preclinical studies, there was still a gap in clinical studies regarding the systematic evaluation of the link between adolescent cannabis consumption and the risk of depression and suicidal behaviour in young adulthood. This study aimed to fill this gap, helping mental health professionals and parents to better address this problem.”

Professor Andrea Cipriani, NIHR Research Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, said:

“We looked at the effects of cannabis because its use among young people is so common, but the long-term effects are still poorly understood. We carefully selected the best studies carried out since 1993 and included only the methodologically sound ones to rule out important confounding factors, such us premorbid depression.

“Our findings about depression and suicidality are very relevant for clinical practice and public health. Although the size of the negative effects of cannabis can vary between individual adolescents and it is not possible to predict the exact risk for each teenager, the widespread use of cannabis among the young generations makes it an important public health issue.

“Regular use during adolescence is associated with lower achievement at school, addiction, psychosis and neuropsychological decline, increased risk of motor vehicle crashes, as well as the respiratory problems that are associated with smoking.”

The active ingredient in cannabis, THC, mediates most of psychoactive and mood-related effects of cannabis and also has addictive properties. Preclinical studies in laboratory animals reported an association between pubertal exposure to cannabinoids and adult-onset depressive symptoms. It is thought that cannabis may alter the physiological neurodevelopment (frontal cortex and limbic system) of adolescent brains.

While the review of observational studies was the first to look at the effects of cannabis use in adolescents only, it was not possible to predict the risk at the individual level, nor was it possible to discern information about the dose-dependent risk of cannabis use.

Date posted: April 11, 2019.

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[1]. High Society: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What to Do About It by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., please click: https://hms.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/publications%20archive/OnTheBrain/OnTheBrainFall08.pdf

[2]. http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2019-02-14-cannabis-use-teens-raises-risk-depression-young-adults

Kutub Kassam served Ismaili Imamat Institutions as curriculum developer, editor, writer and researcher for 40 years

“It is my sad duty to inform you of the passing away of our colleague Kutub Kassam. He served IIS [Institute of Ismaili Studies] and the Jamat most faithfully for more than thirty years. May his soul rest in peace” — Dr. Farhad Daftary, Director, IIS, London, England, March 25, 2019.

Kutub Kassam (1944-2019)

Kutub Kassam (1944-2019)

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

It is with deep sadness that Simerg records the passing away of Kutubdin (Kutub) Aladin Kassam, on March 24, 2019 in London, England, at the age of 75 after serving Ismaili Imamat institutions for 40 years. Of these, he spent 35 years at the Institute of Ismaili Studies for which he was congratulated and recognized by Prince Rahim Aga Khan during the Institute’s 40th anniversary celebration held in London in November 2017.

Kutub’s funeral services were held on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the West London Jamatkhana. He was then buried at Brookwood cemetery in Surrey, following which post burial ceremonies of samar and zyarat were conducted for his departed soul at London’s North West Jamatkhana.

Kutub Kassam was born on January 21, 1944 in Mombasa, Kenya, and received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of East Africa at a ceremony held at the University College Nairobi in 1967.  

In Kenya, he contributed in developing an international curriculum on religious education for the global Ismaili community. He wrote an insightful piece about the challenges of creating the new International Religious Education Program (IREP) in a special commemorative issue celebrating sixty years of Ismaili education in Kenya.

In 1982, Kutub commenced his long tenure with the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, where his first task was to coordinate the activities of the newly established Education Unit (later Department of Education). In that capacity, Kutub was responsible for overseeing the development of the Primary Talim materials.

From 1993 onwards, until his retirement in 2018, Kutub played the role of a researcher and senior editor where he provided invaluable input to scholars who were completing their books. He left his imprint in almost every publication that the IIS published during the past 25 years.

The pivotal role that Kutub played at the IIS as a senior editor was noted with affection by several authors in their book forewords or prefaces, showing how much they respected him for his analysis and insightful suggestions for improving their works before they got published.  

For example, Dr. Aziz Esmail, author of A Scent of Sandalwood: Indo-Ismaili Religious Lyrics wrote: “Kutub Kassam helped the work through, in the final stage, by applying his meticulous regard for the conventions of language, his feel for poetry, and his fine appreciation of the subject, to the text of the work. My thanks are due to him for the sustained effort he put in, and the suggestions he made for the improvement, in several places, of the penultimate text.”

Reza Shah-Kazemi, author of Justice and Remembrance: the Spirituality of Imam Ali thanked Kutub for going beyond the normal editing of the text by contributing to its intellectual content which resulted in a significantly improved text. Mohamed Keshavjee, a member of the Board of the IIS and author of Islam, Sharia and Alternative Dispute Resolution praised Kutub for meticulously reading his manuscript and suggesting extra sources for the book.

The late Peter Willey, one of the earliest contemporary scholars on the Alamut period and author of the highly readable work Eagle’s Nest: Ismaili Castle in Iran and Syria complimented by noting that Kutub was his “ever-patient and judicious editor at The Institute of Ismaili Studies who has always been a tower of strength.” The Vancouver based Amyn Sajoo, author of  Civil Society in the Muslim World: Comparative Perspectives, said he had benefited from Kutub Kassam’s “pragmatic insights and encouragement, which on more than one occasion helped keep the project on track.”

In addition to leaving his imprint in almost every IIS publication,  Kutub himself co-authored and edited Shimmering Light (1996) and An Anthology of Ismaili Literature (2008). 

Kutub’s influence was felt beyond the confines of the IIS. Al Noor Kassum, a prominent Ismaili leader in Tanzania, recognized Kutub’s contribution to his memoirs Africa’s Winds of Change: Memoirs of an International Tanzanian in the following terms: “….I am heavily indebted to Kutub Kassam for the highly professional input that he has provided in every chapter of the book with in-depth analysis that could only have been done by someone of his calibre. I am truly, truly grateful to him because, as a result, I have learnt a great deal, too.”

Aside from providing editorial expertise to authors, Kutub was himself a prolific writer and contributed rich literary articles and poems that appeared in numerous Ismaili publications around the world.

As our tribute to an inspiring and illuminating Ismaili individual of the modern times who served the Imamat for four decades, we bring you this beautiful poem by Kutub that we discovered in the Commemorative Issue 1977-1978: Celebrating Sixty Years of Ismaili Education in Kenya. 

Come, who will walk with me?

By KUTUB KASSAM
(1944-2019)

Come, who will walk with me?
A path there is over hills and dales,
Through avenues of purple, green and gold;
It pauses not where the thickets press,
Nor hesitates
To plunge into the forest gloom.

A place there is concealed
Of leaf and bough and tender grass,
Where the enraptured birds sing and dance;
In the still waters of pool appears
The sky inverted,
That conceals deeper depths.

Come, will you walk with me?
Leave all cares and sorrows behind;
All ambition, ornament and pride renounce;
Property, wealth, work, all abandon:
Come companion,
Put on your wings and let us fly.

Away from this world of
Fever and fret and fear of death,
This wretched city where men toil oppressed
And the memories of innocence drown
Where even the best
Lack compassion or conviction;

To another world where
Man and bird and beast dwell free
In accordance with love, beauty and truth,
Where birth and death, sun and moon
Declare the life
A continuous spiritual ecstasy.

Kutub Kassam’s impact on Ismaili Jamats through his work at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London will last for generations and he will be deeply missed.

We join the Director and staff of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in praying for the eternal peace of the soul of Kutub Kassam. We convey our heartfelt  condolences to Kutub’s family members, colleagues and friends around the world.

Date posted: March 25, 2019.
Last updated: April 1, 2019 (updated portrait photo of the Late Kutub Kassam).

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Readers who wish to express condolences and share memories of Kutub Kassam may do so by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT. Alternatively, if you have difficulties using the feedback feature, please send your comment by email to Simerg@aol.com (Subject: Kutub Kassam), and we will publish it on your behalf.

Voice of America: How a Syrian Ismaili Family Was Welcomed in the USA

The brief video posted here with the transcript that follows originally appeared on the Voice of America website on March 17, 2017.

We hope to catch up with this Syrian Ismaili family as well as other families like them with whom we have recently made contact, to see how they have been doing since their arrival in the USA or Canada. We also welcome other Syrian Ismaili families who have arrived in North America to reach out to us at Simerg@aol.com, and share their tales of migration.  

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Despite White House Rhetoric, Syrians Welcomed in US

By ELIZABETH LEE
(Voanews.com)

LOS ANGELES — Nael Zaino will do anything for his almost 2-year-old son, Aram, whom he has hardly had a chance to meet.

“When I saw him first time, he was crying and the bad moment was when he refused to come to me. Maybe he’s punishing me why I was absent all this period.”

Working for an oil company in Iraq, Zaino was not absent by choice. He and his wife, Lin Arafat, are Ismaili minorities from Syria, and their home there is no longer safe from the Islamic State.

“They are so close to my village also. We are expecting any moment they may be inside the village,” Zaino said.

Asylum granted

While visiting her aunt in the U.S. in 2015, Arafat asked for asylum and received it. Zaino then applied for a U.S. visa as a family member. It was approved on the same day that Trump signed his first executive order, banning travelers from seven Muslim majority countries. As a result, Zaino’s first attempt to enter the U.S. failed.

“It’s very hard. I lost all my hope — because I’m here all alone with the little boy. I need him [Zaino] to come to have some support,” Arafat said.

“If you ask about my feeling, I would say I was in a dark box, dark room, black everything around you is black,” Zaino said.

‘This is America’

After many days of phone calls that led to help from U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’ office, Zaino finally arrived at the airport in Boston, Massachusetts, which he compared to coming into the sun.

“I start seeing a spot of life,” he said.

To his surprise, he was not only admitted to the country, he was welcomed.

“The officer gave me my passport with a stamp and he told me, ‘Go and start your life and enjoy it with your son.’ It was unbelievable. He let me feel strong. He told me, ‘This is America. This is American people. We are all behind you.’”

The greeting from the customs officer was at odds with what Zaino had seen on the news: The American government was taking a hard line with refugees and immigrants, particularly from Muslim-majority countries in an effort to safeguard U.S. citizens from terrorism. After the first travel order was stopped by the courts, a revised executive order issued March 6 again included Syria in a three-month ban on visa holders from six mostly Muslim countries. A court in Hawaii put a temporary hold on the second order Wednesday.

Getting to know his son

Zaino’s reception in the U.S., not only from the immigration officer but from other Americans he has met, has emboldened him.

“If it (the revised executive order) harms us, there will be someone to stop it, and we will be a part of it,” he said.

For now, Zaino is working on getting to know little Aram, as they take baby steps together.

“I don’t know what happened yesterday. He refused to let me do anything for him, but today, from the morning, he was smiling, and he let me kiss him, which is not possible yesterday.”

Date posted on Simerg: March 22, 2019.

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To see and read the story at source please click, https://www.voanews.com/a/despite-white-house-rhetoric-syrians-welcomed-in-us/3770191.html