From 1998 to 2021: Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Vision of a New University for Mountainous Populations, and a Live Broadcast of His Speech at University of Central Asia’s 1st Convocation on June 19

Simerg’s sister website Barakah presents an excellent backgrounder on the University of Central Asia through a series of excerpts from speeches made by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, dating back to the late 1990’s when the Aga Khan Lycee (High School) in Khorog, Badakhshan, was inaugurated. Indeed, that may have planted the first seeds for what is now the University of Central Asia. Read Barakah’s post by clicking HERE or on image below. Barakah was founded in 2017 and is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. Please also visit the Barakah Home Page or Table of Contents, both of which contain links to all the posts.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, escorted by Naryn Governor Amanbay Kayipov, arrives to the UCA Naryn Campus. Please click on image for Barakah article and photos.

Date posted: June 17, 2021.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta Tells Universities to Invest In Training as He Grants Charter to the Aga Khan University; and Link to Excerpts from Hazar Imam’s Speech

The following report is reproduced from the website of the President of Kenya. Thematic excerpts of the virtual speech made by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, can be read at Simerg’s sister website Barakah, which is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat (please read Mawlana Hazar Imam Thematic Excerpts).

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils a plaque on June 11, 2021, on the historic occasion of the Award of the Charter to the Aga Khan University. Photo: Aga Khan University.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils a plaque on June 11, 2021, on the historic occasion of the Award of the Charter to the Aga Khan University. Photo: Aga Khan University.

June 11, 2021: President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked universities to invest in research and training that support Kenya’s new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

“The Competence-Based Curriculum is a revolutionary step we took as a country to provide our learners with twenty-first-century practical skills relevant to the needs of the present world,” the President said.

President Kenyatta, who spoke on Friday in Nairobi when he awarded a charter to the Aga Khan University-Kenya (AKU), also urged universities to concentrate on producing graduates who can tackle global challenges and make the world a better place.

The Head of State reminded Kenyan universities to ensure that they offer quality education.

“You must strive to remain compliant to both the programmatic and institutional standards set by our professional regulatory bodies such as the Commission for University Education,” President Kenyatta said.

At the same time, the President directed regulatory institutions in the education sector to execute their mandate fully in order to ensure the quality of university education is not compromised.

“Regulatory standards are not mere exercises in box-ticking.  They are the lifeblood of a vital process that ensures that learning delivers tangible results for both the learner as well as the nation,” the President emphasized.

On research, the President challenged universities to be at the forefront in providing solutions to emerging challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the event, President Kenyatta also inaugurated the Aga Khan University’s new Kshs 5 billion ultra-modern building. The building will be the university’s main campus in Kenya, housing its graduate school of Media and Communications, Medical College, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Institute for Human Development as well as the Brain and Mind Institute among other programmes.

His Highness the Aga Khan, who is the Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, addressed the occasion via video link, saying the awarding of charter to AKU is a vote of confidence in the university.

He thanked President Kenyatta’s leadership for creating an enabling environment that has allowed private universities in Kenya to flourish.

Education CS Prof George Magoha, Commission for University Education (CUE) Chairman Prof Chacha Nyaigoti Chacha, CUE Secretary Prof Mwenda Ntarangwi as well as the Aga Khan University’s Vice Chancellor Dr Firoz Rasul spoke during the occasion.

With the award of the charter, the Aga Khan University becomes Kenya’s 21st private chartered university.

Date posted: June 11, 2021.

Please also click Mawlana Hazar Imam Thematic Excerpts.

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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.

7 Key Themes from Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Aga Khan University Convocation Address

Simerg’s sister website Barakah is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. Barakah has broken down Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Aga Khan University Convocation address which was delivered virtually on May 22, 2021 to a world wide audience into 7 themes. The Barakah post includes pertinent photos and carries appropriate subtitles to make it highly readable. To read the excerpts please click on Address by His Highness the Aga Khan or the photo below.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Barakah, a website dedicated to the Aga Khan
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, addressing the 2020 Aga Khan University Convocation. Please click photo for thematic excerpts of his speech. Photo: Facebook / AKU

Date posted: May 22, 2021.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Melinda Gates Address First Ever Global Aga Khan University Convocation

(NOTE: For a more detailed report, with photos, of this morning’s Global Convocation event, please click Barakah, a website dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat – Ed.)

For the first time ever, the Aga Khan University this morning, Saturday May 22, 2021 brought together all the graduating classes in Kenya, Pakistan, Uganda, Tanzania and the United Kingdom in a single Global Convocation that is being held throughout the day. The Global Convocation began at approximately 8:45AM (Toronto time), and included speeches by the outgoing president of the Aga Khan University, Firoz Rasul, Melinda French Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Clockwise from left: Prince Amyn Muhammad, Prince Rahim, Prince Ali Muhammad, Prince Hussain, and Princess Zahra. Photo: Clip from Ismaili TV.

The approximately 70 minute program was transmitted via The Ismaili TV and The AKU Website. Present in the room where Mawlana Hazar Imam was speaking from were members of his family — Prince Amyn Muhammad, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Prince Ali Muhammad.

A comprehensive report of the global convocation with excerpts from the speeches that were made will be presented on Simerg and Barakah when the transcripts become available. In the meantime, we have a report with a few photos in Barakah, a website that is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of his family as well as the Ismaili Imamat. Please click HERE

Date posted: May 21, 2021.
Last updated: May 22, 2021.

Featured photo at top of this post: Mawlana Hazar Imam delivering his remarks on May 22, 2021 at the Aga Khan University’s Global Convocation. Photo: Clip from Ismaili TV.

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Installing Solar Panels on the World’s Rooftop: USAID and Pamir Energy are Lighting Up Remote Villages in Tajikistan

Murghab’s installation represents a 50 percent increase in daytime electricity – meaning communities are now able to pursue activities throughout the day, children can attend heated schools, and homes have power and heat during the long and bitterly cold winter months.

Most of the material for this post has been obtained from an article prepared by USAID, with additional material and photographs from AKDN and AKF USA

Arriving in the Murghab district of Tajikistan’s Pamir region feels like one may have landed on the far side of the moon. The Pamir Mountains are among the highest in the world, and home to remote villages and communities living above 3,600 meters/11,800 feet. The area is dry, arid, and bitterly cold. Temperatures between November and March regularly plummet to -50 degrees Celsius/-58 degrees Fahrenheit.

Due to the topography, communities and villages are not connected to a national electricity grid and for decades lived without a reliable or secure power supply. In Murghab, communities relied on subsistence farming and households had almost no ability to cook, see at night, read, study, or pursue commerce and industry.

During the Soviet era, over 70 percent of the region’s energy was provided by dirty diesel generators fueled by Russian-controlled imports. After the fall of the Soviet Union, not a single diesel-operated power plant remained in operation. In 2002, only 13 percent of Murghab households had access to electricity – those that did experienced frequent interruptions. 

Pamir Energy Tajikistan, AKFED
By implementing hydropower plant projects and reducing transmission losses from 39 percent in 2006 to 10 percent (in 2018), Pamir Energy supplies reliable, clean, affordable electricity to 96 percent of the population of Badakhshoni Kuhi in Eastern Tajikistan. Photo: AKDN / Christopher Wilton-Steer

That same year, The Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), formed Pamir Energy in a public-private partnership that included the Government of Tajikistan. Pamir Energy has invested around $37 million to repair and rehabilitate the electrical infrastructure of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province (GBAO) and expand capacity. In the wake of these efforts, over 86 percent of the region’s inhabitants and 96% of households in Eastern Tajikistan now have access to electricity. Subsidies ensure that even the poorest households can access power. 

Murghab’s harsh climate makes water-powered generation challenging. During the winter months the rivers freeze, consequently hydro-power plants are unable to provide power to Murghab communities. To meet this challenge, USAID supported a pilot project to build a solar power plant that can provide Murghab’s communities with electricity during the winter.

USAID’s Power the Future project partnered with the Government of Tajikistan and Pamir Energy to install the 200 kilowatt (kW) Murghab solar power plant – the country’s largest utility-operated solar power plant and the highest in Central Asia.

Most importantly, the Murghab solar power plant operates in parallel with another renewable energy source, the existing Tajikistan hydro-power plant. These two clean energy plants will ensure that nearby villages and communities have access to regular electricity supply all year round. 

Aga Khan in Murghab
Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan visits Murghab, Badakhshan, on May 26, 1995. Photo: The Ismaili.

When the Murghab project kicked-off in January 2020, COVID-19 was reportedly contained in China and had not reached the scale of a global pandemic. As the project began ramping up in March, the world turned upside down as states of emergency and lockdowns were ordered all around the world.

“It seemed like anything that could have gone wrong, went wrong,” remembers Markus Straslicka, a project manager with USAID’s Power the Future project who oversaw installation of the Murghab solar power plant.

In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption to manufacturing and supply lines and closure of international borders, Markus faced a unique challenge: his team didn’t know what the Murghab site looked like. Due to its incredibly remote location, Murghab has limited internet – inhabitants rely on SMS messages to communicate with the outside world. Since Markus had almost no eyes on the ground, he had to plan for every eventuality and trust the Pamir Energy team waiting for him at the site. 

As it turns out, USAID’s Power the Future had the perfect partner. “The Pamir Energy team were extremely competent, hardworking and supportive, despite this being their first experience with solar technology. We were lucky to have them,” says Markus.

To guarantee the project’s success, USAID’s Power the Future team worked hand-in-hand with the Pamir Energy team to install and commission the Murghab solar power plant. Through this unique partnership, Pamir Energy learned how to independently operate the Murghab plant. They also gained the skills, know-how, and capability to build solar power plants throughout the region – helping Tajikistan meets it commitment to providing its citizens with reliable clean energy.

“This is a very special day for us to run the first solar power plant in the country as a utility! The USAID team has done an outstanding job,” said Daler Jumaev, recently appointed Minister of Energy and Water Resources of the Republic of Tajikistan and outgoing CEO of Pamir Energy.

Pamir Mountains
The Pamir Energy company is based in the high mountains of eastern Tajikistan, where it is common to have bitter winters and, increasingly, earthquakes, avalanches and mudslides. The area is also socially complex, bordering China, the Kyrgyz Republic and Afghanistan. Photo: AKDN/Christopher Wilton-Steer

The USAID Power the Future and Pamir Energy team commissioned the Murghab solar power plant on October 28, 2020, and the plant began providing electricity to the region’s communities the same day.

The regional government of the GBAO celebrated this landmark achievement at an opening ceremony on November 11 with representatives from the Tajik central and regional governments, USAID, the Aga Khan Foundation, and Pamir Energy. As noted by the Governor of GBAO, Yogdor Fayzov, Murghab signifies the first of many solar power plants that will be built to electrify remote areas of Tajikistan. 

“The construction of a solar power plant in the remote Murghab region with USAID’s support is a significant step in providing electricity to the residents of this mountainous region,” said Yodgor Fayzov, Chairman of the regional GBAO government.

The positive impacts of access to regular power for the people of Murghab cannot be underestimated. Before Murghab’s installation, businesses could not fully operate during the winter due to power interruptions. Murghab’s installation represents a 50 percent increase in daytime electricity – meaning communities are now able to pursue activities throughout the day, children can attend heated schools, and homes have power and heat during the long and bitterly cold winter months.

Additionally, households no longer need to spend long hours finding firewood to cook meals. USAID’s partnership with the Government of Tajikistan brought stability and prosperity to Murghab and paved the way for full electrification of the Pamir region.

In 2017, Pamir Energy won the 2017 International Ashden Award for Increasing Energy Access for its work bringing hydro power to 220,000 people in East Tajikistan and 35,000 people in North Afghanistan, as well as to many businesses, schools, and health centres.

Date posted: March 15, 2021.

Featured image at top of post: The Murghab solar power plant is now entirely operational. Photo: Markus Straslicka for USAID.

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Further notes:

In 2012 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Aga Khan Foundation USA started the Cross-Border Energy project to expand Pamir Energy’s reach across the border to Afghanistan’s remote Shugnan District. This program has helped to multiply electricity use thereby nearly eightfold and helps establish infrastructure for regional growth. Communities that never have had access to electricity before are now able to experience an improved quality of life and in turn, regional trade and cooperation have increased.

Poem by Farah Tejani Celebrating the Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum’s 6th Anniversary, and the LAPIS Event

Note: The Lapis event is now over

The Aga Khan Museum has been hosting the annual fund raising LAPIS event for the past few years, with Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan honouring the event by personally attending it. Now due to Covid-19, the signature event has been reinvented with a broadcast from the Aga Khan Museum that everyone is invited to register for free.

The program on Thursday September 24, 2020 will be live streamed at 8 PM ET, and include remarks from Prince Amyn, Chairman of the Aga Khan Museum Board, meaningful conversations with acclaimed international artists on art in a changing world and four breathtaking performances with diverse talent from around the world.

The Aga Khan Museum invites you to join with friends and family from around the world as together it shares a unique message of hope, resilience and light. Please click HERE TO REGISTER.

Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre 6th Anniversary

And while we are on the subject of the Aga Khan Museum, let us remind our readers that September 12, 2020 marked the 6th anniversary of the inauguration of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the then Prime Minister of Canada the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper. The Museum officially opened to the public on September 18, 2014, with the Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana (known as the Toronto Headquarters Jamatkhana) opening to Ismaili community for prayers on Friday, September 19, 2014.

To commemorate the openings of the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre as well as the annual Lapis event, we are delighted to present this thoughtful poem by Farah Tejani of Vancouver.

Celebrating the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre in Toronto

Ismaili Imamat Projects on Wynford Drive, Toronto, Canada. The Ismaili Centre (with glass dome), the Aga Khan Museum and the Aga Khan Park.

By FARAH TEJANI

Two complementary sister structures of architectural elegance and splendor
Jut out and pierce the heart of Toronto’s sky.
The Aga Khan Museum and
The Ismaili Centre.

United are they for the beneficial purpose of extending a hand
Of Everlasting Friendship,
Between Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.
Uniting the Muslim Ummah,
The World Ummah,
With Cultural and Religious Tolerance and Respect…

Dispelling all deplorable depictions of Islam in the Media,
By propagating the Truth:

Peace, Love, Brotherhood, Compassion, Spirituality and Prayer.

Yes, we extend a hospitable, gracious, loving hand of friendship,
Celebrating Cultural Diversity,
Historical Traditions,
Arts and Artifacts,
Awe-inspiring Calligraphic Designs and Structures,
Tours, Recitals, Exhibitions, Theatre, Films and
Educational and Cultural Activities.

The Ismaili Centre has unique and grand tiled floors
Laced with elaborate, poignant calligraphy,
Upon entering the prayer hall
We begin every act beseeching God to
Bless and Accept
All Our Endeavours.

The Prayer Hall’s distinctive
And elegant Crystalline dome,
Illuminates the night sky,
Reflecting itself into the pond,
While angels come together to lift and carry,
Each and every Murid’s,
Most Earnest and Heartfelt Prayer
To the stars:
Just Outside Allah’s Door.

Comprising one fifth of the world,
We are Muslims…
Yet there is little known of our faith and traditions.
These two buildings will stand side by side like Doves of Peace,
Aiming to bridge the gap and promote Compassion and Understanding,
Welcome, one and all.

Housing Well-Preserved Priceless Works of Art:
Objects and Artifacts,
From the Aga Khan and his Family’s Personal Collection,
The Aga Khan Museum’s Relics will tell of themselves,
For countless years to come.

Tradition and Modernity,
Come and join together to create these Majestic Timeless Landmarks,
For people from all parts of the world to enjoy.

As His Highness the Aga Khan said at the Opening Ceremony:
“We are, after all, a community that WELCOMES THE SMILE!”
With His Grace, many outdated notions of what Islam is
Will be Demystified,
And the Exemplary Fundamental Truths Unveiled
For all to see.

So again we say Welcome…
We extend a hand of Loyal and Loving Friendship,
With Peace, Brotherhood, Unity and Prayer at the Core of Our Existence.
And from the Heart of each and every individual Ismaili,
We welcome you to
Our Wonderful Universal and Timeless Tradition.
Come discover, share and learn.

Date posted: September 29, 2020.

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Farah graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia in May of 1997 and earned top Honors for her Thesis on Short Fiction. With the help of her agent Barbara Graham she then went on to publish a collection of short stories published by Trafford, called, “Make Your Own Chai, Mama’s Boy!” — ten short stories dealing with different dilemmas South Asians face. Farah also wrote and co-directed her stage play, “Safeway Samosas,” which won “The Best of Brave New Playwrights Award” in July 1995. Her short story , “Too Hot” won third place in the “Canada-Wide Best Short Fiction Award.” and was read at The Vancouver Writers Festival. Currently, Farah is working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called, “Elastic Embrace” to be published in 2021. Her most recent poetic pieces are Behold the Light of Ali and The Great Sacrifice.

Pandemic, Prayers, Pluralism, and Partnerships

By NIZAR A MOTANI, Ph.D

This pandemic has brought the world humbling and tumbling to its knees, which is actually the best position from which to beg for the Supreme Being’s forgiveness, mercy, and blessings. Its economies have been battered and shattered and almost all of the world’s citizens have been imprisoned in their dwellings. He alone will eventually empower our scientists and secular and sacred leaders to find effective vaccines to successfully overcome this calamity.

Guidance from a seventh century ruler to his regional governors entrusted with administering a new and rapidly expanding empire has timeless relevance to our pandemic times. Hazrat Ali was the first hereditary Shia Muslim Imam, as well as the fourth caliph of all Muslims, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.), in 632 A.C. His letter enumerated a host of principles of good governance. He urged his subordinates to rule with intelligence and wisdom; justice, truth, and forgiveness; compassion and forbearance; humility and patience in calamity; consultation and wise counsel; piety and prayers; and above all to seek Divine Guidance. These are lessons which still apply today. [1]

article continues after photo

Folio Hazrat Ali's Nahj al-Balagha
A folio from Hazrat Ali’s Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence).

Remarkably, during the Prophet Muhammad’s time (570-632 A.C.), he had strongly recommended territorial quarantine and stricter personal hygiene, such as frequent hand washing during contagion. Later Muslim scientists and doctors had done the same, and Europe subsequently learned this practice from them. [2]

Turning to the current pandemic, this silent, inscrutable, and insidious enemy with unhindered Global Entry has awakened and heightened the need for prayers and some critical aspects of pluralism, which include public-private partnerships at all levels, to address the current dire situation engulfing almost every country.

Prayers have shown effectiveness since biblical times, and pluralism is inherent, in various forms, in all religious teachings. Some countries even have pluralism embodied in their constitutions, but sadly it often gets ignored.

article continues after photo

Karen Armstrong at Aga Khan Centre London
The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor-General of Canada, and GCP Board Member thanks Karen Armstrong for delivering the GCP 2018 Annual Pluralism Lecture. Photo: AKDN / Anya Campbell

Karen Armstrong, the renowned historian and scholar of religions, has described the Qur’an as the most pluralistic scriptural book, which teaches not just tolerance of diversity, but beyond this a universal brotherhood, empathy, and an inclusive approach that harnesses the intelligence of all in society (annual pluralism lecture at the new Aga Khan Centre, London, 2018). Pluralism entails inclusion of all of God’s children who inhabit our shared planet, as an integral part of the community. Hardly any country is totally homogenous – most are quite heterogeneous with racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse minorities. Accommodating such diversity is best addressed through dialogue, mutual respect, research, and collaboration to promote a better understanding of differences as strengths.

The idea of defining, promoting and giving pluralism an international platform emerged, significantly, after another calamity, namely the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, that shook the world and drastically changed lives and livelihoods. In January 2002, the then Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien and the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, discussed the desirability of jointly creating a formal body to study, explain, and promote pluralistic values across the world and to prevent escalations of conflicts between the West and the Muslim countries. A decade later the Global Centre for Pluralism was formally established in Ottawa, Canada.

article continues after photo

His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston at the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism
His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston look at each other as they applaud a splendid musical performance by the children’s band Orkidstra during the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa on Tuesday May 16, 2017. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

Pluralism, essential in ordinary times to promote mutual understanding, respect, and acceptance of differences, is even more critical in extraordinary times, such as the present, where widespread panic has driven many to act without regard for the wellbeing of others.

Equally alarming, Asian Americans have collectively been demonized and blamed for the virus. Fortunately, there have also been numerous wonderful and inspiring examples of collaboration, innovation, ingenuity, generosity, and volunteering to help those on the frontlines and those thrust onto food line.

However, let us not forget the other endemic and mutating virus of scammers and fraudsters preying on the most desperate of our fellow countrymen. We need more vigilance, prayers, partnerships and pluralism to combat both of these common enemies. Until God’s mercy results in effective vaccines, the best interim vaccines are the three Ps and gratitude.

Coincidentally, during this month of Ramadan, some fundamental practices of Islam are more evident now than at other times: fasting, prayer, and charity towards all — especially the weak, the sick, the poor, orphans, widows, and other most disadvantaged members of society. This constitutes the social conscience of Islam.

It is this Atlanta-based writer’s hope that Muslims and non-Muslims alike will share their relief/stimulus checks, if possible, with those in greater need. Unfortunately, their numbers are exploding, and they largely depend on such charities as the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Atlanta Union Mission, Salvation Army, and Red Cross among many others. Atlanta-based CARE is internationally active, as is the Aga Khan Foundation USA, which is a part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) – the world’s largest, most cost-effective, private, multifaceted network with hundreds of partners including the US Government.

May God Bless America and our interconnected planet.

Date posted: May 19, 2020.
Last updated: May 20, 2020 (Revisions by author)

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.

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Notes:

[1] Nahjul Balagha, Peak of Eloquence; Sermons, Letters, and Sayings of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, Elmhurst NY, 1981.
[2] Article by Yahia Hatim, Moroccan Times, April 4th, 2020. See also March 17, 2020 Newsweek article by Craig Considine.

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The writer, who was born in Uganda, has a doctorate from the University of London, U.K. in African History. He has taught at Bowdoin College (Maine) and Western Michigan University. Later he worked at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in the U.K. A lifetime member of the Global South Studies Association and a longtime resident of Atlanta, he is a volunteer and donor for AKDN.

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Author’s recommendation: For a superb explanation of pluralism in the Qur’an, see Rahim Snow’s highly acclaimed book “Remember Who You Are: 28 Spiritual Verses from the Holy Quran to Help You Discover Your True Identity, Purpose, and Nourishment in God,” published  by Remembrance Studio, 2017, Pp. 213. Please visit his website by clicking Rahim Snow .

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Is Research Underway at the Aga Khan University to Find a Cure for Covid-19?

Letter from publisher

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

Many of our readers who have visited the website of the Aga Khan University (AKU) over the past 2 weeks, may have read about (1) the crucial support AKU needs at this time during the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) Dr. Faisal Mahmoud at the AKU who treated Pakistan’s first COVID-19 patient; and (3) the AKU’s launching of a mobile app that helps to self-screen for Covid-19. You can follow these and other informative stories of how the AKU is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis by clicking HERE. I have been wondering whether the AKU, like other institutions around the world including several in Canada, is racing to find a vaccine for COVID-19. It’s very possible that there is already an initiative underway, but I have yet to read about it.

I would like to start by briefly mentioning the incredible steps that our beloved 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, took in response to the bubonic plague that affected India in 1897. (See full article HERE or an abbreviated version HERE)

The twenty-year-old Imam aided Professor Haffkinez’s research for the development of a vaccine by putting freely at the scientist’s disposal one of his “biggest houses, a vast, rambling palace in Bombay.” The scientist remained there for about two years until the Government of India, convinced of the success of his methods, took over the whole research project and put it on a proper, adequate and official footing.

Portrait His Highness the Aga Khan
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1885-1957), 48th Imam of Ismaili Muslims. Photo: © National Portrait Gallery London, photograph by Elliott & Fry.

Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah writes in his Memoirs that “the impact of the plague among my own people was alarming. It was in my power to set an example. I had myself publicly inoculated, and I took care to see that the news of what I had done was spread as far as possible and as quickly as possible….The immunity, of which my continued health and my activities were obvious evidence, impressed itself on their consciousness and conquered their fear.”

At that time, the Imam did not have Jamati institutions at his disposal to support such an initiative. At the turn of the 19th century, the Ismaili Jamat was economically weak, and educationally even worse off. Very few members of the Jamat could boast a knowledge of the three R’s.

Then, over a period of some 50 years, the 48th Imam transformed the community from rags to riches, an act that is probably unparalleled in history. The Imam was the architect of the modern miracle that we continue to witness today under the benevolent guidance of Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan.

His Highness the Aga Khan in University regalia
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in the Aga Khan University regalia. Photo: The Aga Khan Development Network.

Today, the Jamat is eminently placed on the world stage with its fantastic infrastructure. It has become socially well-organised, professionally competitive, and commercially adventurous. More importantly, the Jamat’s youth is conscious of its strength and ready for any new challenge. We have become a dynamic, intrepid community capable of bearing further loads under the guidance of Mawlana Hazar Imam. He has created exceptional institutions for the well being and progress of the Jamat and humanity at large.

During his Imamat, the establishment of the Aga Khan University in Karachi is probably one of the most significant and monumental projects undertaken in Ismaili history. Its creation and development has led to satellite hospitals and universities in East Africa, and a major mountain university in Central Asia. Over the last 4 decades, the AKU has achieved an international presence and recognition in the world of learning with major educational institutions as its partners — a vision that was first enshrined in the logo of the university.

According to the AKU website, the University’s research endeavours extend across diverse subjects: health sciences, education, culture and society. “At the core of our mission,” the website states, “is the desire to spearhead change for generations to come.” It further adds that the AKU faculty, scientists, educationists and students are engaged in impacting people, communities and societies for a better tomorrow.​​​ It gives an example of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research which houses international researchers conducting state of the art research and teaching in basic and translational stem cell science.

Today, we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic. We have already witnessed its social, cultural, and economical impact on billions of people around the world. We don’t want it to remain with us and plague us for years to come, and a vaccine that will address the virus is the only solution we have for our future well-being. In the USA, the cost of a complete COVID-19 treatment for people who are hospitalized is around US $39,000.

The Seal of the Aga Khan University
The circular form of the Aga Khan University Seal, with its different levels of imagery contained in concentric circles, has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. The circle symbolises the world and reflects the international presence of the University. At the centre of the Seal is a star, or sun. Light is a universal symbol for the enlightenment that education provides.The light emanating from the star is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light).

The development of a vaccine may require millions of dollars, and efforts at developing one may not guarantee that it will be one that is selected for massive immunization. Today, researchers at the AKU, as well as others around the world, have access to the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, lab-grown copies of the virus are available to researchers thanks to the efforts made to isolate and culture the virus from two patients by the University of Toronto and McMaster University.

An aerial view of the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. The University was chartered as Pakistan’s first private international university in 1983. Photo: Aga Khan Development Network.

If they have not already done so, it is important that the AKU join the collaborative efforts that are being spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), where scientists, physicians, funders and manufacturers from around the world are coming together to help expedite the formulation of a vaccine against COVID-19. In its declaration of April 13, to which several renowned institutions are signatories, the WHO states that “we believe these efforts will help reduce inefficiencies and duplication of effort, and we will work tenaciously to increase the likelihood that one or more safe and effective vaccines will soon be made available to all”.

While a vaccine will take time to develop, it will likely be instrumental in controlling this worldwide pandemic. We hope that the Aga Khan University will dedicate some of its research facility and scientists to the development of a vaccine against COVID-19. The AKU’s contribution may literally change the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, just as Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s foresight was responsible for saving countless lives.

Date posted: April 14, 2020.

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.

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Simerg’s Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who served Jamati institutions for several decades.

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Covid-19 update from Aga Khan Foundation Canada: 2020 Partnership Walk and visits to Delegation of Ismaili Imamat among programs impacted

Logo of the Aga Khan Foundation
The Aga Khan Foundation logo is based on the right hand, a universal symbol of skill, achievement and caring. It symbolizes the humanitarian and positive philosophy underlying the Foundation and its activities.

(The following message is reproduced from the website of Aga Khan Foundation Canada. Earlier this week we posted Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED. To contribute to COVID-19, please click on https://giving.aku.edu/. We wish our Canadian readers to note that their contributions to AKU COVID-19 fund will be channeled through Aga Khan Foundation Canada — Ed.)

By KHALIL SHARIFF
(Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Foundation Canada)

Khlail Shariff, CEO of Aga Khan Foundation Canada
Khalil Shariff. Photo: AKFC

March 25, 2020.

Dear friends,

As conditions around the world change rapidly during these unprecedented times, we wanted to share a brief update to keep you informed of how we are responding to COVID-19.

COVID-19 has now grown from an outbreak in one city to a pandemic of global proportions. It is unlikely any country will be untouched by its ripple effects. More than ever, it is clear how Canada’s future is intertwined with the rest of the world.

The health and safety of our supporters, volunteers, and staff are paramount to us. In Canada, we are following all recommendations of the Government of Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as the local public health authorities in the Canadian cities where we operate.

That means, effective last week:

1. All our Canadian colleagues are working from home.

2. We have come to the difficult decision to suspend this year’s World Partnership Walk and World Partnership Golf campaigns. We will have more information on alternate plans to share on these soon.

3. We have cancelled all tours of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building in Ottawa until further notice.

Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in  Ottawa, Canada.
The offices of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada are located inside the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex Drive in Ottawa, pictured above. The building was inaugurated by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, on December 6, 2008. Photo: Maki and Associates/Moriyama and Teshima Architects.

4. Our travelling exhibit, In a Heartbeat, is suspended until further notice.

5. We have postponed our International Youth Fellowship pre-departure training in Ottawa to begin at the end of July, with overseas placements beginning at the end of August. We will continue to monitor the situation in the coming weeks and months, and will adjust the program as required to ensure our fellows’ well-being.

6. All other in-person events have either been cancelled, rescheduled online, or postponed.

We have taken these steps to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are immensely fortunate in Canada to have such competent health leadership, and we encourage everyone to heed the advice of health authorities as best they can.

Healthcare facilities and workers around the world are at the frontlines of events like these. Canadian support over the past 40 years has strengthened health systems across Africa and Asia, and we remain hopeful these investments will mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the geographies where we work.

We also want to assure you that we remain committed to our countries and communities of operation during this crisis. The Aga Khan Development Network, of which we are a part, is mounting a robust response to address the many aspects of this pandemic. Now more than ever, it is important that our work of strengthening systems, institutions, and communities for times of fragility pushes forward.

We may all be working remotely for now, but we are still here for you. If you are already connected to a staff member, you can reach them by email. Otherwise, you send an email to info@akfc.ca, and we will direct your inquiry to the right person. If you have questions about your 2019 tax receipts, you can reach our Donor Services team directly at donorservices@akfc.ca or leave a voicemail at 613-237-2532 ext. 191.

In global crises like these, it is easy to dwell on what worries us. But I invite us all to step forward in support of our friends, relatives, and neighbours for whom this time may be especially trying. We can weather this better together.

We will reach out again as the situation and our plans to respond develop. Until then, we wish you and yours continued good health and spirits.

Sincerely,

Khalil Z. Shariff
Chief Executive Officer
Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

Date posted: March 28, 2020

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(IMPORTANT NOTE: Earlier this week we posted Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED. To contribute to COVID-19, please click on https://giving.aku.edu/. We wish our Canadian readers to note that their contributions for AKU COVID-19 fund will be channeled through Aga Khan Foundation Canada. — Ed.)

Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED

The Seal of the Aga Khan University
The Seal of the Aga Khan University

By RICHARD BROW
Chief Development Officer

The COVID-19 pandemic is having an enormous impact on individuals and families in our communities and around the world.

AKU [Aga Khan University] is on the front lines of the response to this unprecedented health challenge. Our dedicated physicians, nurses and other medical staff are working tirelessly to save lives.

You can support our efforts to secure specialised medical equipment, provide testing and life-saving care to the vulnerable through our Patient Welfare Programme, and address the needs of our physicians and healthcare personnel during this extraordinary time [Note: readers outside Pakistan have encountered problems in completing the form – please select the COVID-19 Fund over the Zakat Donation COVID-19 Fund option, and see if that works for you – Ed.].

The COVID-19 Fund would support the following: 

1. Providing world-class medical care, including for disadvantaged patients through our Patient Welfare Programme;

2. Securing specialised equipment including ventilators and personal protective gear for our staff;

3. Changes to our hospital and University facilities to expand our capacity to respond effectively to this emergency; 

4. Research by our infectious disease specialists, and others, that contributes to the global effort to deliver better diagnostics for COVID-19 and care for those infected;    

5. Support for our staff who are working exceedingly long hours, and need accommodation and other essential support.​

If you would like to make a donation, additional information may be found HERE.

You may also contact us directly at: resource.development@aku.edu

On behalf of all of us at AKU and the countless people we serve, thank you.

Date posted: March 23, 2020.

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Read the latest updates on the University’s action on the coronavirus.​ ​​

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. In the past few days, we have published some excellent pieces on Navroz.