Zarina Bhatia (d. July 2021): A Tribute to a Noble Ismaili Social Anthropologist from Birmingham, UK, Who Became One of My Truest Friends

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Ismaili Imam

Zarina Bhatia (d. July 2021)

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

“Mowla is with us day and night in our heart, thought and prayer. We as Ismailis are most fortunate with Allah’s mercy” — Zarina Bhatia

It is with utmost sadness that I share with you the demise of Zarina Bhatia of Birmingham, England, originally of Kampala, Uganda, at the age of 82. Her funeral ceremony took place on Friday July 30, 2021, at Birmingham Jamatkhana, and she was later buried at the city’s Handsworth Cemetery. She had been unwell for some time and of late wasn’t able to communicate as frequently as was her wish.

Since the launching of Simerg some 12 years ago, Zarina became one of its most ardent supporters. She would comment frequently on articles that were posted in Simerg as well as its sister website Barakah, and would write personal inspirational notes to encourage me in my endeavours. She would always remember my late parents, Jehangir (d. May 2018) and Maleksultan Merchant (Mrs. Merchant, d. January 2021), whom she came to know during their waez and teaching visits to Birmingham during their tenure with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom (ITREB).

I would like to share a couple of important comments that she made on the websites showing her affection for Ismailis around the world. In response to the post titled 1995 Flashback: The Aga Khan’s first visit to Badakhshan, a historic day the Ismailis will never forget, Zarina wrote:

“This article brings tears of joy and spirit of true brotherhood for the Ismaili Jamats of Badakhshan. While we have been so fortunate to have visits, never enough from our Beloved Imams of the Age over decades, these brethren are meeting our Imam-e-Zaman Mowlana Shah Karim al-Husseini for the first time!

My own late Father who was born in a village of Jamnagar in Gujerat in India had described to me his journey as a child of about 8 years old, to the city of Baroda, partly by foot, that took him a few days with his two older and one younger brother along with some Jamati members (his father had already passed away by then) to meet Mowlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, with similar zeal and sentiment. He recalled the Farman Imam made then about importance of educating a daughter, emphasising that with choice between a son if resources were limited, the future was in doing so. With physical health, the son could use his labour and feed the family, but daughter should not be kept at home in illiteracy. We see the significance of this Farman today in Shia Imami Ismailis the world over. Please overlook errors I have made, I am overwhelmed by reading the whole article. May Allah bless you for compiling such moving articles about our Global Jamat scattered across this world we share. Ameen.”

In another letter, in response to Simerg’s article Prayers for Syria, Zarina poignantly wrote:

“Ignorant as I am in Arabic, the English version you have given out of this Prayer (Naad-e-Ali) with beautiful Arabic script that sadly I cannot read, but can hear it and share it with our afflicted brethren not just in Syria but also in Bahrain, Iran and more currently with Shia in Sana’a in Yemen. This, the most powerful prayer of Nade Ali in its entirety rings in my ears and jogs my memory of times when I have addressed it to Mowla.

“Since our young days our parents taught us lovingly while comforting us. When any of us face tribulations, for Mushkeel Asaan we privately recite it [Nade Ali] connecting as if on a direct line, a personal phone call to Ali. He is engraved in our hearts; this supplication is embossed deep down in our soul as the SOS, ultimate call out to help us, to our Mowla Ali present our ‘ghat’ closer than our jugular vein, for example in Ginanic verses: ‘Rome rome maaro Shah vase, jem champa phul manhe vaas…avun Janine bhagatai kijiye …’

“Enough. Words fail me as I bow down my head in Sujjud with all His created human kind. Thank you for the beautiful gift of ‘Nade Ali’ to us, the victims of atrocities, pain and suffering. Ameen.”

Zarina became an elder sister to me, and she promised me that if she ever visited Canada from the UK she would make a special trip to Ottawa. She kept her promise by making that trip in 2015. She travelled on the bus to Ottawa, accompanied by her gracious Toronto host Nadira Lakhani. I was indeed honoured and privileged to receive her and to spend time showing her and Nadira the key tourist points in Ottawa. Before their departure for Toronto, we visited the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building on Sussex Drive.

Zarina was adorned with beautiful virtues, and her motives were pure and upright. She was never afraid to voice her opinion whenever she felt she had to. Throughout her life she remained dedicated to the Palestinian cause, freely discussing their plight and right to statehood. She was also a peace activist and campaigned for nuclear disarmament voicing her strong opposition on the development and distribution of the Trident nuclear programme. She wrote, “Wars cause destruction not only of lives but natural resources. That is why I am an adamant follower of Global Peace and am without reservation a Peace Activist. As a citizen of the world I would like every human being to refrain from wars.”

As a devout Ismaili, she sought to share the Ismaili Tariqah and the work of Mawlana Hazar Imam with her non-Ismaili friends, and encouraged them to learn about the Ismaili faith by sending them pertinent links.

During her trip to Ottawa she shared with me some momentous and unforgettable events in her life, including the blessings that she received from Mawlana Hazar Imam as she embarked on her Ph.D studies in Social Anthropology at Oxford University in 1969.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s letter of August 16, 1969, sent directly to her Oxford address said: “I send you my best loving blessings in your studies at Oxford” — and then in his own handwriting Mawlana Hazar Imam added — “, and for spiritual happiness and for worldly achievement.”

Later, in 1987, several years after completing her Ph.D, she sent a copy of her thesis entitled “Social Changes in the Ismaili Society of East Africa with Reference to the Imamat of Four Successive Aga Khans” to Mawlana Hazar Imam. He responded with blessings for her success in her career in the UK. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s letter of July 21, 1987 also included prayers and blessings for the souls of her two brothers, Mohamed and Nizar, who had died a few years earlier.

However, she went largely unrecognized by Ismaili institutions, considering her background and achievements dating back to the 1960’s. Despite the indifference shown to her, as well as other personal grief and challenges that she had to deal with during her lifetime, Zarina always remained staunchly devoted to Mawlana Hazar Imam. She wrote to me in an email:

“Mowla is with us day and night in our heart, thought and prayer. We as Ismailis are most fortunate with Allah’s mercy.”

Indeed, as she told me, she kept Mawlana Hazar Imam’s blessings constantly in her heart throughout her life. They were keys to her courage and strength. During her visit to Ottawa, she also presented me with a photocopy of her photograph taken with Mawlana Hazar Imam when he visited her classroom in Kampala in 1959.

On a final note, readers may not be aware that when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Oxford in 1968, Susan Mollar, the renowned feminist and campaigner for multi-cultural feminism, introduced Zarina to the Queen in the Common Room of Sommerville College as an African student from Uganda. A photo of the introduction was taken by the then Central Office of Information in London which ceased to exist in 2012.

This is an insufficient tribute to a true, sincere, honest, simple, straightforward and a highly educated Ismaili murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam. I humbly ask all readers to join me in offering prayers that Zarina’s beautiful and pure soul may rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

Date posted: July 30, 2021.

Tributes and condolences: We invite our readers to submit their condolences, memories and tributes to Zarina Bhatia. To pen your reflection please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment.

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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 Collection: “The Aga Khan’s Horses”, Limited Numbered Edition, 128 of 140, Signed by Aga Khan III

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

“My interest in horses, their breeding, training, and racing, has been with me all my life and is of course also part of the tradition that I have inherited, the environment in which I was bred.” – Aga Khan III in Memoirs of Aga Khan, page 192

The first-ever book on the history of His Highness the Aga Khan III’s horse breeding, training and racing activities was published in April 1938. Titled The Aga Khan’s Horses, this book was authored by the horse racing writer, R. C. Lyle.

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The Aga Khan's Horses Numbered Edition 128
Signature page of Limited Numbered Edition 128 of 140 of The Aga Khan’s Horses, with signatures of the author, illustrator and Aga Khan III. Photo: Simerg.

Besides a trade edition, a limited edition of 140 specially bound numbered copies of The Aga Khan’s Horses were also produced. A special and unique feature of these numbered copies is that they are signed by the author (R. C. Lyle), the artist (Lionel Edwards) and His Highness the Aga Khan III (see photo of signature page, above). Of the 140 signed and numbered limited edition copies, only 125 were made available for sale.

Simerg is delighted to offer for sale a copy of this limited numbered and signed edition. The Limited Numbered Edition 128 is bound in beautiful olive green quarter parchment, with the boards covered in linen-texture brown cloth (emulating the racing colours of Aga Khan III). The olive green calf is accentuated with a single gold line and gold lettering on the spine. The upper edges of the handmade paper are gilded, with the other edges untrimmed.

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The Aga Khan's Horses Numbered Edition 128
Cover binding of “The Aga Khan’s Horses,” Limited Numbered Edition 128 of 140, with signatures of the author, illustrator and Aga Khan III. Photo: © Simerg.

The overall condition of #128 of The Aga Khan’s Horses is excellent. Besides the colour frontispiece, there are 7 other plates of colour photolithographs (each covered with guard sheet printed in red with title of illustration), 12 pencil sketches (photolithograph plates), all by the famous British painter Lionel Edwards, who specialized in painting horses, as well as a further 16 photographic illustrations.

Limited edition signed copies of The Aga Khan’s Horses are extremely rare and most are in private or institutional collections. This is a unique opportunity to acquire an original limited edition signed and numbered copy of The Aga Khan’s Horses.

Please send an email to Malik Merchant at simerg@aol.com for pricing details; include your name and contact details with a phone number where we can reach you.

Brief Highlights from The Aga Khan’s Horses Signed by Aga Khan III

The Aga Khan's Horses Numbered Edition 128
An illustration of “Bahram” in The Aga Khan’s Horses, 1938, Signed by the Aga Khan.

R. C. Lyle in his dedication, states:

To H.H. Aga Khan

The only man living who has headed the Leading Owners’ List seven times

1924 1929 1930 1932 1934 1935 1937

And the only man living who has won the Derby three times

1930 1935 1936

In his introduction, R.C. Lyle writes:

“It is a special pleasure and honour to thank His Highness the Aga Khan himself, both for his permission to enquire into all that appertains to his Stable and for the very helpful interviews that he has given.”

An illustration of Mumtaz Mahal in The Aga Khan's Horses, 1938, Signed by the Aga Khan.
An illustration of Mumtaz Mahal in The Aga Khan’s Horses, 1938, Signed by the Aga Khan.

Date posted: July 28, 2021.

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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.

Ghadir Khumm and the Designation of Hazrat Ali as the Successor of Prophet Muhammad

We have two short pieces on the festival of Eid-e Ghadir, which is commemorated on the 18th of the Islamic month Dhul Hijja (in 2021 falling on or around Tuesday July 27). The first piece, along with the ambigram at the top, is reproduced from The Ismaili, the official website of the Ismaili Muslim community. The ambigram, which is in the Arabic script, can be read as ‘Muhammad’ and, upside down, as ‘Ali’. The second piece, At the Ghadir Khumm Campsite, by British writer Barnaby Rogerson first appeared in Simerg’s acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been that can be downloaded as a PDF file. We have also embedded excerpts from the Ismaili Constitution as well as an Ismaili Ginan that are pertinent to the occasion.

Eid-e Ghadir Mubarak

Eid-e Ghadir calligraphy by Karim Ismaili
Outer border: The famous tradition of Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm — Mun Kuntu Mawlahu, Fa Aliyyun Mawlahu (He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla); Centre: The name Muhammad (in middle), and the name Ali repeated seven times in Eastern Kufi calligraphy. Calligraphy and design: © Karim Ismail, Toronto, Canada.

This week, Shia Muslims across the world observe Eid-e Ghadir, marking the anniversary of an important event in Muslim history. According to Shia belief, tradition, and interpretation of history, this occasion commemorates the pivotal gathering at Ghadir Khumm, when Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family) — based on a divine command from Allah — designated Hazrat Ali as his successor and the first in the continuing line of hereditary Imams.

In historical sources, it is recorded that on the way back to Medina after performing a pilgrimage to Mecca, the Prophet received a revelation — Surah al-Ma’ida (sura 5 ayat 67) — that we recite in our daily prayers:

“O Messenger, deliver [to the people] what has been revealed to you from your Lord, and if you do not do so, then you will not have delivered His message …”

Numerous reliable hadith sources — both Shia and Sunni — record this event, which took place in the year 632 CE. Upon receiving this revelation, the Holy Prophet stopped at an oasis known as Ghadir Khumm, and addressed a large gathering of Muslims who had accompanied him. It is said that The Prophet proclaimed: “Man kuntu mawlahu fa aliyyun mawlahu” meaning: “He whose Mawla I am, Ali is his Mawla.” The Prophet then prayed: “O Allah, be a friend of whoever is his friend and extend your support to those who support him.”

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Ismaili Constitution Imamat Aga Khan, Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is seen signing a new constitution for the worldwide Ismaili community on his 50th birthday, December 13, 1986. The preamble excerpts produced in this post are from this constitution.

In accordance with Shia doctrine, tradition, and interpretation of history, the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) designated and appointed his cousin and son-in-law Hazrat Mawlana Ali Amiru-l-Mu’minin (a.s), to be the first Imam to continue the Ta’wīl and Ta‘līm of Allah’s final message and to guide the murids, and proclaimed that the Imamat should continue by heredity through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s) and his daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, Khātun-i-Jannat (a.s).Preamble, Ismaili Constitution

According to Shia belief, by declaring Hazrat Ali as Mawla after him, the Prophet transferred his own spiritual authority bestowed upon him by Allah to Hazrat Ali, making him — and all the Imams that follow — the Amirul Mu’minin, or Master of the Believers.

On instruction from Prophet Muhammad, Hazrat Ali received baiyat (the oath of allegiance), from the Muslims assembled there. According to Shia traditions and sources, following the proclamation, the final verse of the Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet:

“On this day, I have perfected for you your religion, completed my favours upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.”

This marks the end of the period of nabuwwa, or Prophethood, and the historical beginning of the Institution of Imamat. Eid-e Ghadir is an anniversary of special significance to all Shia Muslims, as it is also associated with the well-attested tradition in which the Prophet is said to have proclaimed:

“I am leaving among you two matters of great weight (al-thaqalayn), the Book of Allah and my kindred (itrati), the People of my House (Ahl al-Bayt), and these two shall never be separated until they return to me at the Pool [of Kawthar in Paradise on the Day of Judgement]…”

Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness Prince Aga Khan, in direct lineal descent from the Holy Prophet (s.a.s.) through Hazrat Mawlana Ali (a.s.) and Hazrat Bibi Fatima (a.s), is the Forty-Ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.Preamble, Ismaili Constitution

The Shia Ismaili tradition bears witness to the continuity of the authority vested at Ghadir Khumm. Today, this leadership and authority is vested in Mawlana Hazar Imam. The rope of Imamat has continued over 1,400 years, from Hazrat Ali, to the present 49th hereditary Imam and direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad through Hazrat Ali and Hazrat Bibi Fatima al-Zahra, Khatun-i Jannat.

In commemorating Eid-e Ghadir, the Jamat celebrates the seminal event of Ghadir Khumm, reaffirming our allegiance to the Imam-of-the-Time as the direct lineal successor and inheritor of the authority of Hazrat Ali.

Eid Mubarak!

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Ginan: Imam Must Be Present on Earth

Purush shan matra pag dharani na dharante,
Sansaar, chandra, suraj na dhrashtante,
Kuchh na dhrashtante,
Bhom kar, megh, dharti na aakaash bhave 

Translation:

If the Imam did not have his feet on this earth for even a moment,
then the world, moon, sun would vanish
and nothing would exist,
neither the heaven nor the earth.

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Objects Commemorating the Idd-e Ghadir

Images of some stamps and coins issued by the Islamic Republic of Iran between 1990 and 2010 commemorating the Idd-e-Ghadir. The inscriptions inlude the Shahada, Qur'anic ayats and the declaration made by Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm, "Mun Koontu Mawla, Fa Hada, Aliyun Mawla" meaning "He of whom I am the Mawla Ali is also the Mawla." Simerg
Images of some stamps and coins issued by the Islamic Republic of Iran between 1990 and 2010 commemorating the Idd-e-Ghadir. The inscriptions inlude the Shahada, Qur’anic ayats and the declaration made by Prophet Muhammad at Ghadir Khumm, “Mun Koontu Mawla, Fa Hada, Aliyun Mawla” meaning “He of whom I am the Mawla Ali is also the Mawla.”

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At the Ghadir Khumm Campsite

By BARNABY ROGERSON

Barnaby Rogerson

What an offer! To travel back in time and return as a true witness to the history that I have so often thought and dreamed about. Perhaps I could travel in the habit of a Christian envoy from some Celtic island monastery off the west coast of the British Isles, sent east to seek advice from the wise holy man of whom we had heard, far off in Arabia. For in my homeland the light of civilization seems on the point of extinction, as Barbarian invaders appear like devils from out of the German sea.

I would arrive in the oasis of Medina at a time of peace, when all of Arabia was sending delegations to seek peace and instruction. Here, in my imagination, I would be befriended by Ali and taken back to his home, where I would witness how this battle-scarred warrior was also content in his role as a young father, playing with his boys Hussein and Hassan on the reed mats in his humble hut amongst the palm groves.

Then, in a flurry of energy, I receive a last-minute invitation to join the Prophet’s Last Pilgrimage to the holy shrine at Mecca. Although I am not permitted to approach the shrine itself and am left at a campsite just outside the pilgrimage city, I make certain to record the events as told by the eyewitnesses I travelled with.

On the journey back, I bear witness to the exact succession of events at the Ghadir Khumm campsite: the blessings, the sermon and the ritual actions of the Prophet ordaining Ali as his successor. These I faithfully record in the pages of my journal, before hurriedly departing and returning to my homeland. There, the account of my travels is neatly copied out onto vellum and placed in the monastery library. Years later, the monastery is sacked by raiders coming out of the sea, who in their fury destroyed even the walls of this holy place. But this was fortunate in a way, for the domed roof of the library collapsed preserving all the books, which lie there still…

Date posted: July 26, 2021.

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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.

Podcast: The Making of the Islamic World – Fragments of the Fatimid Caliphate Narrated by Chris Gratien

“For brief period of history, the Fatimid Caliphate based in Egypt presided over arguably the most powerful empire in the Mediterranean. Yet because the legacy of this Ismaili dynasty was erased or downplayed by its Sunni rivals and successors, the Fatimids are often misunderstood. As we show in this installment of “The Making of the Islamic World,” the Fatimid period and the sources that survive from it can in fact be critical to learning more about how pre-modern Islamic polities functioned, demonstrating that the Fatimids had a much more sophisticated state apparatus than some have assumed.” — Excerpt from article on the website Ottoman History Podcast

Fragments of the Fatimid Caliphate is episode 3 in a series of presentations on the Islamic world by Ottoman History Podcast, which has grown to be one of the largest digital resources for academic discussion concerning the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. The recorded interviews and lectures, while still largely academic in tone, provide scholarly conversation accessible to a wider public audience.

In the broadcast, narrator Chris Gratien interviews Marina Rustow, a social historian of the medieval Middle East at Princeton University. Marina has worked extensively on the documents of the Cairo Genizah, and her published works include Heresy and the Politics of Community: The Jews of the Fatimid Caliphate (2008) and The Lost Archive: Traces of a Caliphate in a Medieval Synagogue (2020).

Date posted: July 23, 2021.

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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.

His Highness the Aga Khan’s Messages to His Ismaili Muslim Spiritual Children Around the World Since March 2020

Simerg’s sister website, Barakah, has created a special new Talika page with links to all the Talikas (written messages) that Mawlana Hazar Imam has sent to his Jamats around the world since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Talika page will be updated whenever a new Talika is received from Mawlana Hazar Imam. However, for a start we are also providing the links to all the Talikas from March 2020 to Current (July 2021) hereunder; they are listed in reverse chronological order:

JULY 2021

In a Wide Ranging Imamat Day Talika, Mawlana Hazar Imam Sends Blessings for the Souls of His Deceased Spiritual Children, the Jamats Around the World as Well as Everyone Involved in Combatting Covid-19; Tells Jamats Not to Hesitate in Getting Vaccinated and Expresses Happiness At Two Recent Events in Universities That He Has Built – Barakah

MARCH 2021

In Navroz Talika, Mawlana Hazar Imam tells Jamats that he has been vaccinated against Covid-19, recommends that Jamats do the same without giving credence to comparisons between officially sanctioned vaccines, and gives blessings for barakah in our spiritual and material lives with prayers that Navroz will herald a new beginning – Barakah

DECEMBER 2020

In Talika Mubarak on the occasion of his 84th birthday, Mawlana Hazar Imam asks us to draw comfort from the practice of our faith, appreciates the excellent work of volunteers, and conveys his loving paternal maternal blessings to the world wide Jamat – Barakah

NOVEMBER 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in his message on November 2, 2020, tells his spiritual children “there is no room for complacency” over the risks posed by the coronavirus “for sometime to come” and send his blessings for mushkil-asan – Barakah

JULY 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends Talika Mubarak to Ismailis around the world on the occasion of his 63rd Imamat Day – Barakah

MAY 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s loving and inspiring Talika on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr shows his concern for his spiritual children in all facets of their lives – Barakah

APRIL 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends message to his spiritual children around the world on Covid-19, with blessings for their protection from difficulty; text in 10 languages – Barakah

MARCH 2020

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, showers his paternal and maternal blessings on his spiritual children around the world in light of the present crisis – Barakah; and

Mawlana Hazar Imam sends talika on the occasion of Navroz with special blessings for mushkil asan, and prayers for the Jamat’s health and well-being – Barakah

Date posted: July 21, 2021.

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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.

Nairobi Days by Shelina Shariff-Zia Ismaili author series by Simerg

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Nairobi Days” by Shelina Shariff-Zia of the Bronx, New York City

by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with USA writer Shelina Shariff-Zia’s book “Nairobi Days”. We follow the same Q/A format as our recent presentations of books written by Ali Lakhani, Nizar Sultan, Nargis Fazal, Nazlin Rahemtulla, Azmina Suleman, Alnasir Rajan, Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We invite Ismaili authors around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at Simerg@aol.com.

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

Shelina Shariff-Zia: The novel is set in Nairobi and my title is an allusion to “Malgudi Days,” by R. K. Narayan.

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

Shelina: I want to share our historical heritage of growing up in East Africa and what life was like for the jamaat there. You would learn the history and politics since 1962 through the eighties, as a backdrop to the story of the heroine Shaza growing up.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Shelina: I have been a journalist and am now an English College Professor so writing comes easily to me. In April 2012, my mother passed away from cancer. In her last few years she spent hours talking about her life in Uganda and as a new bride and then teacher in Kenya. She told me many stories about the family as a distraction from her illness and to keep those memories alive. Two days after I came back from the funeral I sat at my computer and started typing. I wrote about my grandmother, then my mother, my aunts and the family dogs. As I wrote each chapter I emailed it to my brother who asked for more. After writing about 160 pages of a memoir I started to write a fictionalized version and a love story. In ten months I had 500 pages written of a story that wrote itself.

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Nairobi Days by Shelina Shariff-Zia Cover_Front_and_Back Ismaili author series Simerg
Front and back covers of Shelina Shariff-Zia’s novel “Nairobi Days.” First edition, 334 pp. Dog Ear Publishing, November 2017 (unavailable). Second edition, 404 pp. Bublish Incorporated, December 2020. Click on image for enlarged version.

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

Shelina: Nairobi Days is available as a paperback, an ebook and Kindle on Amazon, Ingrams, Barnes and Noble, Indiebound, Apple Books and Kobo among other options.

[Please click Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Indiebound, Barnes and Nobles and Kobo (via Chapters-Indigo) to purchase Paperback or Ebook copies of the 2nd edition of Nairobi Days. Also, many local neighbourhood bookstores may be able to order the book for you. The first edition of the book is no longer available — Ed.]

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

Shelina: I wrote a lot of letters and made many phone calls!

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

Shelina: I hired an editor and as he also had a day job the editing took many months as he edited a chapter a week. The publishing company illustrated the cover and typeset the book with input from me. I hired an Ismaili photographer to take the author pictures.

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

Shelina: Writing the book took ten months. Getting it edited, proofread and published took another four years. The marketing is an ongoing process. My publisher set up a Facebook page, Good Reads page and Amazon Page. The first edition came out in November 2017. I got a new publisher Bublish and came out with a second edition in the Fall of 2020.

I have had readings at Shakespeare’s bookstore in Manhattan, Kew and Willow books in Queens, Bronx Community College, the Jewish Community Center in Forest Hills among other venues. The Ismaili Center in Vancouver was very supportive and organized an event attended by about 200 people in April 2019. . But so far other Jamatkhanas or Ismaili Centers have not been encouraging, They do not seem to have any readings for authors but tell me they would if people wrote religious books!

Synopsis and Links to Reviews of “Nairobi Days”

Nairobi Days Nation Kenya Simerg Ismaili authors
Review of Shelina Shariff-Zia’s “Nairobi Days” in Kenya’s Nation newspaper. Click on image for enlarged version.

This diaspora novel is a celebration of Indian and African culture as seen through the eyes of a young woman, who brings her heritage with her wherever she goes. As a member of an Indian minority in a small African country, Shaza’s life is complicated from the beginning. She looks for trouble and is always getting into scrapes and fights. She allies herself with her soft-hearted grandmother in a lively house full of relatives dropping by for long meals and siestas. Her family sends her to a strict English boarding school, but she tries to run away. Later, she meets Idi Amin, the bloodthirsty Ugandan dictator, he invites her to the palace which few people come back from alive…

As a teenager, Shaza goes to a convent school run by Irish nuns. Despite the strict rules, the girls are beginning to discover the opposite sex and flirting with what’s forbidden. Shaza is part of a Muslim family that emigrated from India at the turn of the century, but the old ways still rule. No one in Kenya dates, they just sneak around. At seventeen, Shaza meets a handsome Hindu boy at a party; Sameer is smitten but they come from two different religions. Sameer and Shaza sneak around going to parties and movies, seeing each other secretly.

Shaza is torn between her sense of duty and her longing for Sameer. Will the relationship survive her family’s disapproval and a long separation? They live in difficult times in a turbulent African country; Shaza’s cousin is almost killed by thugs and Kenya has a coup d’état where the Indian minority is targeted.  The saga follows Shaza’s life from the 1960’s to the 1980’s showing the political upheavals in Kenya and her move to the United States.

Nairobi Days is a coming of age story, a love story, a political novel and above all a celebration of life.

[The novel has received excellent reviews and ratings by verified purchasers at Amazon and Goodreads. Please click on the two links — Ed.]

Date posted: July 21, 2021.

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Ismaili author Shelina Shariff-Zia Bronx New York Simerg series
Shelina Shariff-Zia

Shelina Shariff-Zia grew up in Nairobi, a tomboy who was always getting into trouble. She was the fifth generation of an Indian family who migrated to Kenya from Gujarat. She moved to Texas to attend Rice University where she studied literature. After an M.A. at Columbia, she was a journalist. She now teaches college students in the Bronx.

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Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. 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 (series start, 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)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)

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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.

Elizabeth the Ladybug and the Lonely Rose: A Heart-Warming Story for Eid al-Adha

[We begin story telling in Simerg with stories exclusively written for this website by Vancouver based creative writer Farah Tejani, who has contributed inspiring poems for Simerg, including one last year on the occasion of Eid al-Adha titled The Great Sacrifice. This beautiful story of the Ladybug is being presented to our readers at a time when Muslims will be celebrating the Eid over the coming days. There are numerous lessons to be learnt from the story including patience, courage, and giving hope to others who need it the most. The Ladybird’s journey to locate a new friend in need is also one of great sacrifice, as danger is ever present on the road she travels to fulfill her noble mission! We encourage parents to read this story to their young children, and also print the story so that older children may read it. We are sure, however, that the story will be enjoyed by readers of any age, young and old.

Elizabeth the Ladybug and the Lonely Rose

Ladybug. Photo: DM (dmott9) on Flickr

By FARAH TEJANI

Elizabeth the ladybug prided herself on being a very adventurous and curious little insect. Oh, life was simply so magnificent and extraordinary, and she remembered to thank God every single second. There was so much to learn and do, and this day was a very special day. Somehow inside she knew this was going to be a day she would never forget.

There was just something about the way the sun burst out of the sky just like a clown out of a wind-up music box. Today was just after a summer rain which made a double rainbow in the clouds. Elizabeth’s grandpa used to say that this meant there was a pot of gold at the end, but Elizabeth was not interested in gold today. Her grandfather always told her, “Always remember, Lizzie,” because that is what her family called her, “There are always many, many more important things in this world than gold.”

When Elizabeth was very young, her mother asked her, “Lizzie, honey, if you could do anything you want, what would you like to do more than anything in this world?” and Elizabeth kicked her little black foot in the blades of grass, “I don’t know…anything?” “Yes,” her mother smiled, not having a clue what her daughter would say. “I guess I would like to get to know everybody in the whole wide world!” 

“Oh my!” she exclaimed, “This world is a pretty big place, and how would such a little ladybug like you do that?”

Elizabeth looked at her very seriously, “That’s easy. One at a time!”

Her mother laughed and gave her daughter a big hug! She knew if any ladybug could do it, Lizzie would! She would fly as far as her little wings would take her. There was nothing more fun than making new friends. And Lizzie had lots of them.

And this day was special. Elizabeth was on a mission to make a new friend at her favorite park in Richmond, British Columbia. Slowly she made small steps which gave her more time to see more things. Her mother used to tell her, “Lizzie, remember not to run through life too quickly; you might miss out on the good stuff…which was true indeed. So there were times when she would use her wings, but times when she would take slow meticulous steps and enjoy it like a hot cup of chocolate when it’s snowing.

Swan. Photo: Malik Merchant

Minoru Park was so special because it had squirrels and rabbits and ducks and swans and all types of plants and flowers. Elizabeth had many friends here already but today she was on a special mission to meet a new friend she just knew needed her help. You know how you just know things sometimes?…Yeah, like that.

Elizabeth passed all the friends she knew already because she was so tiny, and it was hard for them to see her. So she made her way across the step bridge and smiled at the mating swans which were making a heart shape with their necks. CLICK. She took a photo with her mind because she didn’t have a camera. This is how you make memories. Elizabeth had taken many photos in her mind. Sunsets, spider webs, flowers, squirrels, rabbits, frogs, butterflies and especially family. Photos that she could remember whenever she wanted to.

Suddenly, Elizabeth smelled a beautiful fragrance coming from the flowers on the other side of the bridge.  She tiptoed on the dew on the grass so as not to disturb them and watched in wonder as they went about their day.

She was quite surprised to find some yellow sunlit dandelions doing the tango and dancing in the breeze. They were not aware that she was nearby and so they just laughed and giggled and enjoyed the warmth on their petals. Elizabeth called up from below, “Hey, my name is Elizabeth…do you want to be my friend?” But they were not able to hear her, so she just kept going, sure she would find that special friend.

Tulips. Photo: Nurin Merchant

 And then Elizabeth went to the next bush and she couldn’t believe what she saw! Believe it or not Elizabeth saw some tulips holding briefcases, pens and pencils and charts and diagrams! They seemed to be talking and holding some kind of very important business meeting. Just like humans! “Oh, if only humans only knew what animals and nature do when they are asleep or not paying attention!” Elizabeth decided it was probably best not to disturb them. She carried on her very important adventure.

Elizabeth went a bit further and came across some lilacs singing in a choir! A choir! Oh, they sure sounded as pretty as they looked. It was the end of summer and they were already practicing Christmas carols. Elizabeth sat and listened to their songs for a bit. She was quite amazed at how gifted and talented they were. Elizabeth was going to stop and ask if she could sing with them, but she was determined to make a new friend today, and this would just delay her.

Elizabeth went a little further to a bush with no flowers, just bulbs that had not bloomed just yet. But there right in front of her lying in the grass was a single long stem rose that had been plucked and thrown away! This rose did not look happy just drying up and withering in the sun.

Wilting rose. Photo: Rashida Tejani for Farah's story Elizabeth
Wilting rose. Photo: Rashida Tejani

“Are you okay?” Elizabeth asked her sincerely.

 No answer.

 Elizabeth asked again and moved closer in case she couldn’t hear her. 

“Hey, my name is Elizabeth…do you want to be my friend?”

But there was no response. 

Elizabeth began to worry and she tried again, really anxious on becoming this rose’s friend… she just knew this was the special reason for today’s adventure and she was not going to give up.

“Excuse me, can you hear me? Are you okay? I would like to be your friend.”

Suddenly a small soft voice uttered very slowly and with much effort, “Oh, can’t you see? There’s no time for friends. Can’t you see that a human has plucked me from my bush and cast me to the ground. I was up there in my bush and I was the first one to bloom, so some human thought I was pretty and smelled me and then just decided to throw me away like an old newspaper that has already been read!”

Elizabeth knew this was her special friend and she knew she would do anything to help her.

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth was genuinely concerned. “How can I help you?”

“Put me back in my rose bush with my friends!”

Elizabeth  knew she had to do something.

“Just like you need the plants and the dew on grass I need water and the sun and the soil to LIVE!” The rose craned her neck up with much effort to look Elizabeth in the eyes. “The sun is so hot and blazing on me that I am drying up and withering away! I don’t have too many words left but I hope you will hear me and share this message. I wish human beings would be more careful. LIVE AND LET LIVE!” 

With one of her thorns she pointed at the puddle just next to them.

“You look like a very brave, strong and determined little lady bug. I have faith in you, my new friend. Do you have the strength to roll my stem in there, just so I can live just a little bit longer?”

Elizabeth had tears in her eyes, and looked sadly at the dying rose. But she was so happy she called her her new friend. “I know I can!” She knew there was a reason for her going on her adventure.

And with that, Elizabeth dug her heels in the ground and rolled the end of the flower’s stem into the puddle that she was so happy was there.    

“LIVE AND LIVE!” The rose was fading now. With whatever strength she could gather from the water in the puddle she managed to say some very important things!  

“Don’t put lions in cages, don’t put elephants in cages, don’t put gorillas and monkeys in cages, don’t put killer whales and dolphins in aquariums, don’t put fish and snakes and lizards in tanks…and for God’s sake don’t pluck flowers because they are pretty and they smell nice! LIVE AND LET LIVE! We last a lot longer in the bush and animals last a lot longer in their natural habitat!”

Ladybug. Photo: DM (dmott9) on Flickr

Elizabeth flew up to her petals and closed her eyelids and with that the rose slowly faded away leaving three or four dried red rose petals that looked like tears. Elizabeth took a very sad but meaningful snapshot in her mind and felt very sad that she only had this friend for a matter of minutes. But she was grateful for the lesson that would last a lifetime!

Tears were flowing from her eyes as she sat with the rose while the sun was setting in the distance. She had never thought about how important life was. No one had ever tried to take hers except for that young girl on the farm who put her under a glass where she was held prisoner for hours, but fortunately one of the adults used the glass to get some orange juice and she managed to get away. God knows what the young child would have done with her if the grown up didn’t come in time!

Elizabeth did not even know the rose’s name. “LIVE AND LET LIVE” indeed. Elizabeth said a small prayer of gratitude to God. “Thank you, for this GIFT OF LIFE YOU HAVE GIVEN ME, MY GIFT BACK TO YOU IS WHAT I DO WITH IT.” Amen.

Date posted: July 20, 2021.

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Featured image at top of post: A Ladybird (Coccinellidae) on the leaf of a blackberry bush located on Church Road in the parish of Trimingham, Norfolk, England. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

Farah Tejani

Farah Tejani is a creative writer based in Vancouver. She is currently working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called “Elastic Embrace” to be published later this year. She has contributed numerous poems for Simerg and its sister website Barakah in recent months. Here are links to some of Farah’s poems: The Fragrance of SpringElastic Embrace; and The Great Sacrifice.

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.

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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.

Video: His Highness the Aga Khan and the Vision Behind the Aga Khan Historic Cities Program by Cameron Rashti

The Edinburgh International Culture Summit held virtually from August 24-26, 2020 brought together the world’s leading minds in the fields of culture, the sciences and politics to discuss issues which effect nations around the world. Cameron Rashti, the Director of Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme, Aga Khan Trust for Culture, was one of the participants and reflected on “Culture in Vibrant Communities” providing interesting insights into the goal and purpose of the Aga Khan Historic Cities programs in Central Asia, the Middles East, South Asia, and Africa.

As well as watching Rashti’s 14:41 minute Youtube presentation, below, may we suggest that readers also click on STORIES and ARTISTS IN CONVERSATION IN THE AGE OF COVID which are two other important and inspiring components of the Edinburgh International Culture Summit website.

Date posted: July 16, 2021.

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Cameron Rashti

Cameron Rashti joined the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC) in 1994. A graduate of Dartmouth College, Pratt Institute and Columbia University, he is a registered architect in the USA and the UK. Prior to joining the Trust, he held senior positions on major architectural and urban redevelopment projects in New York (1979-89) and in London (1989-94), as Vice President of Perkins & Will International. On behalf of AKTC, Rashti oversees a portfolio of diverse urban conservation and redevelopment projects in historic cities and heritage sites across the Middle East, Central and South Asia, and the Far East and teams of dedicated professionals in each location. He has served since 2010 as Delegate of the President of the Foundation of Chantilly, mandated with the safeguarding and redevelopment of the Domaine de Chantilly. Rashti has coordinated and contributed to a series of publications produced with Prestel on the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme’s work and development models.

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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.

Passings: Dr. Vali Jamal (d. July 11, 2021)

A Personal Reflection by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

Vali Jamal
Dr. Vali Jamal

I have learnt with deep sadness that Dr. Vali Jamal, a noted economist at the United Nations from the 1970’s to 1990’s, an author and a valuable contributor to Simerg’s acclaimed series on Ismaili Jamatkhanas and Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures, passed away in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2021, at the age of 80.

In 2011, when we published his pieces on 5 Palace Gate, the iconic address in London’s South Kensington that was the centre of Ismaili culture and spiritual life in the UK, and the Kampala Darkhana Jamatkhana, Vali was in the midst of completing a book on Ugandan Asians that was scheduled to be published later that year. Vali was deeply devoted to the book, and very passionate about the subject of the history of Asians and their rich contributions to Uganda. He kept on expanding the book in the ensuing years with the result that the book reached a page count of almost 3000, containing thousands of images.

A version of the cover page of Vali Jamal’s painstaking work on the Ugandan Asians

He jokingly remarked it was a fist breaker because of its size and weight. The dream of launching the book in Uganda and elsewhere was never realized during his lifetime.

I sincerely hope that the book is ultimately published for the amount of authentic and important visual and textual information that Vali painstakingly gathered over the years from primary and first hand sources as well as from individual Asian families he connected with and wrote to him.

Vali Jamal and friends outside Uganda House, London, summer 1962. Clockwise from standing: Amin Chatur, Mansur Lalani, Vali Jamal, Zuli Rajan, Nurdin Juma Jutha and Sikander (aka Pyaralli) Ismail. Photo: Vali Jamal.

Vali, a devoted murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, never failed to appreciate and recognize the contribution of the Ismaili Imam’s uncle, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, in the resettlement of the Ugandan refugees, and wrote a touching tribute piece to the Prince in Simerg’s Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures. In his email exchanges he would often also quote how Mawlana Hazar Imam was personally involved in the resettlement of thousands of Ugandan Asians in Canada through the Government of Canada and Canada’s Prime Minister at the time, the Late Pierre Trudeau, father of the present Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about whom he sent us a special piece when he was elected as the Prime Minister for the first time in 2015.

Dr. Vali Jamal was a Senior Economist at the International Labour Organization of the United Nations from 1976 to 2001. He completed his BA at Cambridge University and PhD at Stanford University, California. He then began working on his book and participated in discussions on the Ugandan Asians through email exchanges as well in the social media.

Images that Simerg created linking them to Vali Jamal’s 3 pieces for the website. See links below.

We would like to remember and recollect Dr. Vali Jamal through the wonderful pieces he contributed to this website. Please read the following pieces:

We pray that Dr. Vali Jamal’s soul may rest in eternal peace. We convey our sincere condolences to all his family members, friends and supporters around the world. We welcome tributes and messages of condolences to Dr. Jamal in our feedback form below.

Date posted: July 12, 2021.

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We invite our readers to submit their condolences, memories and tributes to Dr. Vali Jamal. To pen your reflection please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment.

Links to article(s) by Vali Jamal on external websites:

Kibedi: Story of a man who was misunderstood

Links to his other pieces will be added as received.

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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.

A Unique Imamat Day Card and a Pictorial Presentation of Years 61-64 of the Aga Khan’s Imamat, a Divine Institution that is Rooted in a Proclamation Made by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S) 1389 Years Ago

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

Shia Ismaili Muslims all over the world will commemorate the 64th Imamat Day anniversary of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, on Sunday July 11, 2021.

From the day our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) passed away on June 8, 632, and Hazrat Ali (A.S.) became the first Imam on the Divine Commandment that the Prophet had received at Ghadir Khumm, there have been forty-nine Ismaili Imams in continuous Hereditary Succession, spanning a period of 1389 years in Islamic history.

Upper row: Imam Shah Hassanali Shah (Aga Khan I) and Imam Shah Ali Shah (Aga Khan II). Lower row: Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (Aga Khan III) and Mawlana Shah Karim Al Hussaini (Aga Khan IV). Total reign of the four Imams 203 years from 1817 to current year (2021). Longest reign Aga Khan III, 71 years; followed by Aga Khan I and Aga Khan IV, each 64 years.

Mawlana Hazar Imam and his immediate three predecessors have reigned the Jamat for a total of 203 years or 14.6 % of the entire span as follows:

1. Mawlana Shah Karim Al Hussaini Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan IV, Imam from 1957 – Current, 64 years, he became the 49th Imam at the age of 20); 
2. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (His Highness the Aga Khan III, Imam from 1885 – 1957, Imam for 71 years, he became the 48th Imam at the age of 7 years);
3. Imam Shah Ali Shah (Aga Khan II, 1881 – 1885, Imam for 4 years, he became the 47th Imam at the age of 51 years); and
4. Imam Shah Hassanali Shah (Aga Khan I, 1817 – 1881, Imam for 64 years, he became the 46th Imam at the age of 13 years).

This 203 year period of the reign of 4 successive Ismaili Imams accounts for more time than does the entire Fatimid period, reigned by 8 Imams from Imam Mehdi (11th Imam, North Africa) to Imam Mustansir bi Allah (18th Imam, Cairo)!

On that historical and interesting statistical fact, we convey to Ismaili Jamats around the world as well as friends and supporters of the community Imamat Day Mubarak through a beautifully designed card by Toronto’s Karim Ismail.

The design carries a rich and significant meaning for all Shia Ismaili Muslims as explained in Ismail’s brief note below. We sincerely thank him for sharing this very special and extraordinary work with us and our readers around the world.

We would be remiss if we did not mention the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on humanity at large. Many of us have lost four beloved friends and family members to Covid-19 or other illnesses and causes, and social distancing, travelling and restrictive gathering rules have prevented us from fully participating in funerals. We pray that the souls of the deceased may rest in eternal peace and that their family members may find strength and courage to overcome the grief over the loss.

On this 64th Imamat Day of Mawlana Hazar Imam, we also pray for the fulfillment of our readers’ wishes and that everyone’s lives are filled with barakah (happiness) and success. We particularly wish families with young children and youth success in their studies.

2021 Imamat Day Card

Click on image for enlargement

Imamat Day Card by Karim Ismail Simerg and Barakah His Highness the Aga Khan Mawlana Hazar Imam Prince Karim

Explanatory Note of the 2021 Imamat Day Card

By KARIM ISMAIL

In Shi’i tradition, “The Rope of Allah” (Qur’an 3:103) refers to the “Ahl al Bayt” — the Imams from the House of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S).

This important tradition appears in the card within heptagonal geometry (seven-sided polygon) about which the (Late) Karl Schlamminger, creator of extraordinary designs and distinctive calligraphies for the Ismaili Centres in London, Lisbon and Toronto, observed as follows in an essay for Arts & The Islamic World (volume 3, number 3, page 25-26):

“The floor of the outer entrance hall [of the Ismaili Centre London] has an open ended pattern in heptagonal form which rises at the focus of the room to create a fountain: such a pattern in such space is of course a completely classical Islamic response — but I have never heard of a heptagonal pattern anywhere in Islamic architecture.

“The number seven symbolizes for Ismailis the values of its essential philosophy — but has never been used in an architectural context. Here the sevenness of the design is no superficial effigy or naturalistic picture of an idea, but — as always in Islam — is expressed in geometry (literally: measurement of the earth).”

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Photo Essay: Years 61-64 of the Aga Khan’s Imamat

We now invite readers to visit Simerg’s sister website Barakah for a very special four-part pictorial series on years 61 to 64 of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Imamat.

Date posted: July 10, 2021.

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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.

Karim Ismail Calligraphy, Ismaili artist simerg and barakah
Karim Ismail

Originally from Uganda, Karim Ismail lived in England before settling in Canada. By profession, he is a Pharmacist (retired). It was in England, in 1986, that he came across the artwork of a German Muslim, Karl Schlamminger (1935-2017), at the Ismaili Centre London. Karl’s artwork on calligraphy and geometrics, had a profound effect on Karim. He is frequently seen conducting calligraphy workshops for children at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum, which is currently closed due to Covid-19. Karim was also active on the literature counter at the Ismaili Centre Toronto, before the closure of Jamatkhanas due to Covid-19.