Historical Valentine’s Cards from The Henry Ford

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

For Valentine’s day today, Monday February 14, Simerg’s sister website presents some extraordinary Valentine’s Day cards from the Digital Collections of The Henry Ford, dating back to the 1850’s. Please click Simerg Photos or on the image below.

In this referral post, our two images reflect our wish that world leaders will make every effort to seek out peace. The world is looking extremely dangerous at the moment with conflicts everywhere, that are multiplied even more with the challenges we have all faced over the last two years dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. Leaders — please seek to bring conflicts to an end.

Please click on image for more photos.

Date posted: February 12, 2022.


Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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. The editor of the 3 websites, Malik, may be reached at mmerchant@barakah.com.

New Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre in Mumbai Nominated as Building of the Year in Religious Buildings Category of ArchDaily’s 2022 Awards

Publisher/Editor SimergSimergphotos and Barakah

UPDATE (February 19, 2022): With over 100,000 votes cast during the last three weeks, ArchDaily has announced the 2022 ArchDaily Building of the Year Awards. The new but yet to be opened Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre in Mumbai was nominated for the award in the religious building category (see story below) but did not come out as the winner. Readers can meet the winners for all the categories by clicking on Winners.

Our attention has been drawn by a reader to ArchDaily’s 2022 building awards, in which a new yet to be opened Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre in Mumbai has been nominated as one of the buildings for the award in the religious buildings category. The following piece is compiled from Archdaily, NUDES (the website of the Jamatkhana’s design company), and a recent Mumbai Diary column in the e-paper Mid-Day — Ed.

For the 13th consecutive year, ArchDaily, the most visited architecture website worldwide, is asking its readers with the responsibility of recognizing and rewarding the projects that are making an impact in the profession with ArchDaily’s 2022 Building of the Year Awards. The nomination phase began on January 25th, 2022 and ends on February 9th, 2022, following which five projects per category that also includes religious buildings will move into the finalists stage, starting February 9th and ending on February 17th. Thus readers will be filtering over 4,500 projects down to just 15 stand-outs.

One of the candidates nominated for the award in the religious buildings category is the Ismaili Jamatkhana & Community Centre located in the neighbourhood of Oshiwara in the western suburban region of Mumbai.

No firm date has yet been established for the Jamatkhana’s opening. The building was designed by city based architectural firm NUDES, whose principal Nuru Karim has worked on a host of institutional projects both in competition/ schematic design and design development stages.

A collection of some 20 photographs of the Jamatkhana and Community Centre taken by Nazim Lokhandwalla are posted on the ArchDaily website.

Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre, Mumbai, 2022 Nomination for Archdaily award in religious buildings category
Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre, Mumbai, India. Photo: Nazim Lokhandwalla/Via Archdaily. Please click on image for more photos on Archdaily.

Writing in the Mumbai Diary column of mid-day under the title All eyes on Oshiwara’s new architectural wonder, the diarist quotes Nuru Karim as saying, “The Jamatkhana and Community Centre design explores the relationship between light, Islamic geometrical patterns, and built form to create an experiential space”. Karim goes on to explain that Islamic geometrical patterns are analysed to develop arrays of multi-sided polygons, thereby creating “Mashrabiya,” that stems from “Ashrab,” meaning “to drink.” The diarist further notes that the term which was originally defined as a space to drink water, evolved later as a space to cool water stored in earthen pots.

We invite all our readers to visit the page highlighting nominations for religious buildings, learn more about the features of the buildings and cast their votes for the building that impresses them the most. The voting for the Ismaili Jamatkhana may be submitted HERE. Readers who wish to vote are required to create an Archdaily email account or sign in via their Google or Facebook account.

Date posted: February 4, 2022.
Last updated: February 19, 2022 (see announcement at top, re : Winners)

Featured photo at top of post: Ismaili Jamatkhana and Community Centre, Mumbai, India. Photo: Nazim Lokhandwalla/Via Archdaily. Please click HERE for more photos of the project on Archdaily.


Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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.

Afghanistan: The Bacha Posh Tradition That Allows Girls to Access the Freedom of Boys

Insights from Around the World

At not quite 8 years old, Sanam is a bacha posh: a girl living as a boy. One day a few months ago, the girl with rosy cheeks and an impish smile had her dark hair cut short, donned boys’ clothes and took on a boy’s name, Omid. The move opened up a boy’s world: playing soccer and cricket with boys, wrestling with the neighborhood butcher’s son, working to help the family make ends meet — READ MORE OF THIS ARTICLE BY ASSOCIATED PRESS AT VOICE OF AMERICA

bacha posh Afghan Tradition Allows Girls to Access the Freedom of Boys
A photo of Najieh dressed as a boy at a young age lies in a grass, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021. Please click on image to read full article. Photo: Associated Press.

Date posted: January 16, 2022.


Before leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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.

Recent Posts on Simerg’s Sister Websites: Prince Hussain Aga Khan, Princess Yasmin, Prince Sinan, Prince Sadruddin, and Latest Imamat News

Important Notice to Readers of Simerg, Simergphotos and Barakah

Effective January 13, 2022, no new posts will be published in Simerg and its two sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos until the first week in February. The editor is on the move, and hopes to resume publication on Friday, February 4, 2022. During this period, readers are invited to access hundreds of articles via the Table of Contents pages of Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos. Thank you.


We invite our reader’s to enjoy the following recent pieces on Simerg’s sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos. Please click on the hyperlink or corresponding image to read article.

1. 7 Seas: A Special Film Presentation by Prince Hussain Aga Khan

Please click on image for Prince Hussain


2. Latest News on Mawlana Hazar Imam and Members of His Family

Please click on image for latest news on Mawlana Hazar Imam


3. Princess Yasmin Aga Khan Turns 72 and Her Dedication to the Alzheimer’s Association for 40 Years

Please click on image for Princess Yasmin


4. Prince Sinan Aga Khan is 5, and the Meaning of Sinan

Please click on image for Prince Sinan


5. The Bellerive Room: Prince Sadruddin’s Ceramic Collection

Bellerive Room, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. Photo: Malik Merchant Simerg Princess Sadruddin and Princess Catherine
Please click on image for Bellerive


6. The Editor Bids Farewell to Ontario with Beautiful Photographs

Please click on image for farewell

Date posted: January 13, 2022.


The Fragrance of Spring


Open your doors and let the honeyed fragrance of Spring,
Enter your household while the seraphic birds sweetly sing,
All life is born again now that the gruelling winter is done,
Raise hands and praise Allah under the melting rays of the sun.

Navroz Mubarak, the New Year begins,
We welcome it with wonder and repent for our sins,
Three hundred million of us over three thousand years,
Jubilantly celebrate with sacred songs and with cheers.

A new chapter to read, a new seed to plant,
For abundance and prosperity a sacred prayer we chant.
On Navroz we strengthen bonds and our families unite,
Exchanging human values, our wishes with foresight.

Envisioning the New Year to bring with it Peace,
And for all calamities and ill health to immediately cease.
We dance and we sing sacred Ginans from our Pirs
Qasidas and Garbis unite and cohere.

In harmony with Nature we must strive to exist,
If not pandemics like COVID-19 will sadly persist,
But if we take it in stride as a hard lesson learned
We will appreciate the respect that Nature truly yearned.

We all share a common fate and must aim to erase,
All discrimination and hatred and truly embrace,
Love, tolerance and respect for all of mankind,
So that cultural diversity will not be undermined.

We pray for global peace and international cooperation
For we are all in the Ummah from nation to nation.
Let nothing divide us and bring us to fight,
Let us instead hold and value for tomorrow is in sight.

What was dead becomes alive, let the festivities begin,
Intricate henna designs are dyed on our skin,
We receive our roji and take our Navroz wishes,
For barakat and abundance and we enjoy festive dishes.

It is that time of year, tulips spring out from the soil
A hearty true effort from a burdensome winter’s toil,
Shadowed they waited for this day to emerge,
Colors in splendour they burst and they surge.

Spring blossoms are shedding their soft petals in few,
The buds are just opening thinly covered in dew,
Moist raindrops with sunlight the perfect combination,
To bring creation forth in a renewing sensation.

Take notice of Kudrat and all the miracles of Mawla,
His Bounty is Ever-Present, Al-Hamdu l’illah.
The Spring breeze whispers through the meadows and the trees,
And there is flitting and buzzing of butterflies and bees.

The animals all awaken from a dazed winter’s sleep,
The goats, the chickens and the sheep,
The horses, the donkeys, the rabbits, and the squirrels,
All the animals arise for the Navroz’ precious pearls.

So arise and awaken to the Navroz, our New Year,
And welcome all customs with good heart and good cheer,
United we stand and divided we fall,
The Ummah prevails and respectfully unites us all.

Date posted: March 18, 2021.

Copyright © Farah Tejani, Vancouver.


Farah Tejani 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. She has published a collection of short stories “Make Your Own Chai, Mama’s Boy!” 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.

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.

Please also read Farah’s previous contributions to Simerg and its sister website Barakah by clicking on the following links:

Mrs. Merchant;
The Light of Ali (in Barakah.com)
The Great Sacrifice
In Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Eyes (in Barakah.com);
Celebrating the Aga Khan Museum;
Mystic Moon; and
A Mother’s Plea, Forest Cries, and Heaven’s Curtain

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.

Aga Khan Museum

Wow! The Aga Khan Museum Reopens to the Public on Saturday, June 27, 2020


When I am in Toronto, I walk through the Aga Khan Park virtually every day. I take the east entrance, and first walk around to the Ismaili Centre, sit on a bench by tree number 49, and if it’s evening time I contemplate. Often, I read newspapers. The other day I read my month’s supply of the Toronto Star and the Sunday New York Times — 4 hours under glorious sunshine, but protected by the shade of trees.

Ismaili Centre Toronto Dome
Ismaili Centre, Jamatkhana dome. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Then, as I cross a small pathway by the majestic dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana, I see the Museum 200 metres away, where a lone guard stands by the main entrance. Is he bored? I wonder. Thousands have been, for many many weeks. The Museum’s on-line programming has kept us going. But we miss the inside — the actual exhibits, the shop, the samosas at the café, the Diwan restaurant, the courtyard with its many performances, the design, colours and architecture of the building, the Bellerive Room, and the tunnel entrance downstairs that we walk through when we are parked underground! Yes, we do miss so many things, inside and outside the museum building, beautifully thought out by His Highness the Aga Khan and his younger brother Prince Amyn. The children especially love water, and the 5 ponds are empty. The geese who used to fly into the ponds in glorious harmony at around 6:00 AM have to take their bathing somewhere else — it’s truly a joy to watch them bathing in an acrobatic manner! Absolutely magical! For the rest of us, who walk by the 5 ponds or sit on the benches, there is no running water to soothe our senses! But all this changes on Friday, June 26!

Aga Khan Museum and Aga Khan Park
Aga Khan Museum and Aga Khan Park. Photo: Aga Khan Museum.

Museum supporters have just received an email from the Aga Khan Museum’s Development Manager, Caroline Chan, inviting them to a special Friends and Patrons day on Friday, June 26, 2020, before it opens to the general public on Saturday June 27!

The supporters will be the first to see the Museum’s Sanctuary and Chrysalis exhibitions, which both explore the many dimensions of sanctuary, immigration, and migration. The guests have been invited to enjoy a complimentary beverage and cookies at the Courtyard Café and take in the summer blooms at the Aga Khan Park!

Aga Khan Museum, Sanctuary exhibition.
Sanctuary exhibition hall. Photo: Aga Khan Museum.

In line with provincial health directives, the visit will be a little different from what we have been accustomed to in the past. Special health and safety protocols have been put in place including a tool to conduct self-assessment for coronavirus, wearing of face masks, availability of hand sanitization stations and social distancing.

Carolin’es invitation ends with the slogan “Welcome back to where we all belong!”

In addition, the Aga Khan Museum’s CEO, Henry Kim, issued a statement on the reopening. Here are excerpts from his statement:

Dear friends, 

I would like to thank you for your patience and ongoing support during these challenging times. With restrictions on gatherings gradually easing, I am pleased to let you know that the Museum will reopen on June 27, 2020. As we rebuild our lives and livelihoods over the next few months, I do hope you can look to the Museum as a source of hope and inspiration. 

The safety of our visitors is our primary focus, and our intention is to make your return a safe and enjoyable experience. We have instituted a number of measures designed to protect you and our staff, so that during your visit, you can see beautiful art, be moved by learning, and enjoy live performances worry-free. 

As your hosts, we have a duty to ensure your health and safety — it is our highest priority……

The world has changed, and so have we. Reflecting what we have gone through together over the last few months, we have redrawn our programs for the remainder of the year and created Rebuild 2020, our commitment to reconnect and reinvigorate communities through the arts. Please do visit our website for more information on the many programs we have created to reignite your curiosity and spark your imagination. 

Whether you explore online or plan to visit in-person, you are welcome at the Aga Khan Museum. We cannot wait for your return.  

With gratitude, 

Henry S. Kim
Director and CEO, 
Aga Khan Museum 

Mr. Kim, I can assure you we have missed you more than you have missed us! It is us who can’t wait to get into the beautiful and inspiring space, which His Highness the Aga Khan created for millions to enjoy some 6 years ago!

Date posted: June 23, 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.


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.

Malik Merchant Publisher Editor Simerg Barakah and Simergphotos

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 both served Ismaili Jamati institutions together for several decades in professional and honorary capacities. His daughter, Nurin Merchant, is a veterinarian based in Ottawa. Malik may be contacted at Simerg@aol.com.

The Nature of Prayer: Significance of the Tasbih, and carrying it to practice the faith by calling on the name of Allah, Muhammad, Ali or the names of Imams

T'The Nature of Prayer'  by Nurin Merchant. Golden Jubilee art for His Highness the Aga Khan's Golden Jubilee
‘The Nature of Prayer’ is a 14″ x 10″ mixed media acrylic painting on canvas. Secured on the canvas with gesso, a strong glue, are a handmade tasbih (prayer beads), and 3 dried leaves bearing the Arabic inscriptions reading from bottom to top, Allah, Muhammad and Ali. The whole piece represents keeping the memory of Allah, and making sure that every day there is in our minds the presence of our faith in our hearts and souls which in itself is a prayer, hence the title of the painting ‘The Nature of Prayer’. This work was Nurin Merchant’s contribution for Colours of Love, an art and culture initiative by the Ismaili Council for Canada in 2008 during the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

with additional material by MALIK MERCHANT

In response to a recent piece on the impact of Jamatkhana closures, we were pleased to receive a very inspiring recommendation from Omar Kassam of Vancouver who suggested that we slowly recite the Surah Al-Fatihah while we spend 20 seconds thoroughly washing our hands – the #1 health guideline during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Such is the nature of prayer –- that we can seek out small moments of 1 second, 5 seconds or 20 seconds to the remembrance of God, to exalt Him, and to seek His help. The Surah is regarded as one of greatest Surahs in the Holy Qur’an, along with Surah Al-Ikhlas. The wisdom and prayers contained in this small seven verse Surah are absolutely remarkable.

There are many other opportune moments that we have throughout the day, and Mawlana Hazar Imam has often recommended to us to carry the tasbih with us –- in our pockets or handbags –- and seek out moments of happiness by calling on the name of Allah, Hazrat Ali, Prophet Muhammad or the names of the Imams. He has also asked us to invoke these names during any difficulty we are facing.

What is tasbih and what are its origins in Islam?

The Arabic word tasbih means to exalt God, praise God or to pray to God. It is supererogatory prayer, that is, an act which is considered to be good and beyond the call of duty, and not something that is strictly required.

The word tasbih is also given to the beads strung together in the form of a circle which are used in the process of praying.

The tasbih consists of a string of beads that is looped into a circle. The two ends are passed through a larger, decorative bead where they are tied or woven into a knot. This is the starting point of a tasbih.

Almost all the religions in the world today possess some form of this object which differ a little in size, number and arrangement of beads. Calling it by different names (for example, rosary, in Christianity), they make use of it for the purpose of reciting the name of the deity in whom they believe.

Although tasbih is a constant companion and an object of daily use by the believers, its origin, development and purpose has remained so obscure to most of us that I shall discuss some of the details of this small, but important object.

Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest!”Holy Qur’an, 13:28

It is said that the first tasbih (supererogatory prayer) was given by the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) to his beloved daughter Hazrat Bibi Fatima (A.S.), the wife of Hazrat Mawla Murtaza Ali (A.S.). This comprise of the praises of Allah, namely, Allahu Akbar (Allah is Great), Subhan Allah (Glory be to Allah) and Al-Hamdu-lillah (All praise is due to Allah). Each of these was to be recited thirty-three times in succession. This is known as Tasbih-e Bibi Fatima.

In the absence of any circular object like the present day tasbih, it is said that Bibi Fatima used to recite these praises taking help of thirty-three stones of dates or thirty-three pebbles.

Later on, as it was found to be very inconvenient to keep loose stones or pebbles, or have to collect them when needed, it was probably decided to string together thirty-three stones of dates or some such object to make a rosary giving it a circular appearance. At a later period, at the point where the knot was tied, a more decorative, larger bead was added, forming what we recognize as the tasbih today. Tasbih prayer beads are made of various materials, including different stones, sterling silver, wood, etc.

The larger bead at the tasbih’s crown is called imam which means ‘a leader’ and it is so called because all recitations start at this point. Imam leads and all the other small beads follow.

In the ordinary Islamic tasbih, the number of beads varies widely from 99 to 102. The 99 bead tasbih may have 2 extra small beads as dividers, after each group of 33 beads. The 102 bead tasbih used in some tariqahs is divided in parts of 12, 22, 34, 22 and 12. Then, of course, we have the commonly used smaller tasbih with 33 beads that is considered in conformity with our Holy Prophet Muhammad’s original conception of tasbih.

As in the 99 bead tasbih, the 33 bead also carries 2 extra beads after each 11 beads, as dividers. The extra small beads act as an informer when the required number of recitations are completed. These are called mui’zin in Arabic which means ‘an informer’ (like the informer who calls Muslims to prayer). In the Indian sub-continent, these two beads are called banga, bangi or bango which all mean ‘a caller’ or ‘an informer’.

A selection of tasbihs produced during the Diamond Jubilee (left) and Golden Jubilee celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam. Photo: The Ismaili.

Among the numerous memorabilia objects that were produced for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2007 and 2017, the tasbih was the most sought after item. The Diamond Jubilee tasbihs came with a finely-detailed floral pattern interwoven with intricate and diverging leaves inspired by a Fatimid wood carving. The 33 bead Golden Jubilee tasbihs came in twenty-three varieties of semi-precious stone with the top stem adapted from a 16th century alam (emblem or standard).

“O believers, remember God oft and give Him glory at the dawn and in the evening” —
Holy Qur’an, 33:41-42

The last and most important point about tasbih is its purpose. The purpose of tasbih is quite evident and that is to remember Allah.

Over the past 35 years, Mawlana Hazar Imam has sought to encourage us to keep the remembrance of our faith as an integral part of our daily life, and to seek from this remembrance spiritual happiness on an ongoing basis. His most recent reference regarding using the tasbih for calling out the name of Allah, the name of Prophet Muhammad, or Hazrat Ali was in a Farman Mubarak that he made in India in 2018 (see page 144, para. 3, in Diamond Jubilee Farman Mubarak book)

While we all face and feel the effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic with the rest of humanity, let us all recall the message that Mawlana Hazar Imam conveyed to us at the commencement of the Diamond Jubilee year, when he said that the faith of our forefathers would help us to face life’s challenges in times of crisis and rapid changes (see page 12, para. 2, in Diamond Jubilee Farman Mubarak book).

“Sitting, sleeping, going about, take the Lord’s name, take the Lord’s name” —
Ginan, Pir Hasan Kabirdin

An illustrious piece of advice regarding our faith comes from none other than our illustrious forefather Pir Hasan Kabirdin, composer of hundreds of Ginans that have illuminated millions of Ismailis over the past seven centuries. In the second verse of Dur Desh Thee Aayo Vannjaaro, he says: “Sitting, sleeping, going about, take the Lord’s name, take the Lord’s name.” (Translation, Aziz Esmail, in his Scent of Sandalwood)

Ginan Dur Desh…sung by Late Shamshu Bandali Haji. Credit: Ginan Central

Carrying the tasbih with us will act as reminder for us to contemplate on the names of Allah, the Prophet and the Imams during any moment in our lifetime. That is the nature of prayer.

Date posted:  April 6, 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.


This piece contains material from the March 1986 issue of Al-Misbah magazine published by the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom (ITREB). The magazine, like all other religious magazines published by ITREB in numerous countries around the world, ceased publication in the early 1990’s.

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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.

Abida Parveen – “the greatest female Sufi singer in history” – set to transport Melbourne this weekend + 1994 video clip of her performance before Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

Please click on photo to read Ben Eltham’s excellent piece in The Guardian

Abida Parveen to perform February 29, 2020 at Melbourne’s Hamer Hall

There are few artists who are spoken about with the same rapturous fervour as Abida Parveen. Perhaps only her spiritual brother, the late Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, has inspired the same level of devotion among fans.

Parveen has been described by The Guardian newspaper as “the greatest female Sufi singer in history” and by the BBC as “one of the most remarkable voices on the planet.” In his new piece for the Guardian, Ben Eltham writes, “The devotional singer is known to move audiences to a higher plane. Meeting her in Melbourne time went ‘all bendy and loose’.” Please click here to read The Guardian’s excellent piece.

Also read “The musical, ecstatic devotion of ‘Sufi queen’ Abida Parveen” by Nick Miller in The Sydney Morning Herald.


Video clip: Abida Parveen performs before His Highness the Aga Khan in 1994

Date posted: February 27, 2020.
Last updated: March 1, 2020.


More on the concert in Melbourne at Australian Exclusive – Arts Centre Melbourne.

Have you attended a performance by Abida Parveen? What are your impressions? Were you awed by her performance? We welcome your feedback. Please click Leave a comment.

The lonely death of 20th century Qur’an translator A. Yusuf Ali; assessing Qur’an translations; and interview with music artist Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens)

Yusuf Ali, Quran translator
Abdullah Yusuf Ali. Photo: Wikipedia.

“On a frigid December morning in 1953, a policeman found a half-conscious old man slumped on a street bench in the Westminster area of London. That man was Abdullah Yusuf Ali, the famous 20th-century translator of the Quran. He died alone, homeless, and with no one by his side…Generations of Muslims in English-speaking countries have grown up reading Yusuf Ali’s interpretation of the Quran…Read Saad Hasan’s piece in TRTWORLD. 


Assessing Qur'an translations
Please click on image for article.

Multiple translations of the Qur’an line shelves at book stores. Because of the growing Muslim communities in English-speaking countries, as well as greater academic interest in Islam, there has been a blossoming in recent years of English translation. Since fewer than 20 percent of Muslims speak Arabic, this means that most Muslims study the text only in translation. So how accurate are the Qur’an’s renderings into English? The record is mixed…Read more of this informative piece in Simerg (includes a note on Abdullah Yusuf Ali’s translation).


TRT World Showcase Special with Yusuf Islam, formerly Cat Stevens – Why he picked up the guitar again.

“…When the people have nothing, that’s the moment when you have to sing…” — Yusuf Islam

Video: Yusuf Islam

Considered a legend in the music world, Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens opens up to TRT World about his spiritual journey, and shares his thoughts about the world. Please watch the interview, above.

Date posted: October 5, 2019.


A Story About a Celebration that Heralds Nawruz in a Remote Village in Pamirs

Concert Celebrating Nowruz

A photo taken at a UN concert celebrating Nowruz (also Novruz, Navruz, Nooroz, Nevruz, Nauryz). In 2010 the UN General Assembly proclaimed International Nowruz Day at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday — Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan. Inscribed in 2009 — and renewed in 2016 — on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as a cultural tradition. Observed by over 300 million people, Nowruz is an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. It promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities. Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

(In the following story, Sarkari Dawlatamamad from Siponj, Bartang,  describes the beauty of the celebration that heralds the New Year in the Pamirs. The story will be familiar to many Pamiris, even if in other villages the tradition is different, or only exists now in stories told by their parents and grandparents. The inspiration of the story was drawn from the beautiful documentary film SHOGUN, made by Pamiri filmaker Tolik Gadomamadov. The story has been adapted below from the highly acclaimed award winning book “With Our Own Hands” authored by Frederik van Oudenhoven and Jamila Haider.


To understand how we celebrate Nawruz in the Pamirs and how important the holiday is to us, it is necessary first to tell you about time as we experience it in the Pamirs. Our time is different from time elsewhere; it differs even from valley to valley. Our experience of time is conditioned by our dependence on our lands, and our need to predict seasonal changes to coordinate our work in the fields. This is why our ancestors developed special calendars that follow the changes in the land: the passage of the sun through the villages and valleys; the behaviour of plants, animals and spirits; and the influences of these changes on the human body. The body and time are inseparable: you might say that our calendar records the procession of life rather than time, and individual days take meaning from their place in that procession. So, Nawruz, our New Year, is not simply a day of celebration, but the culmination of all the days leading up to it.

Preparations begin already on the darkest day of the year, the winter solstice, which marks the beginning of a period of intense cold in the Pamirs. This period is called chilla and lasts for forty days. When, towards the end of January, the sun shining through the skylight, or roetz, reaches the first mark on the wall, the chilla ends. This is the first sign that spring is coming and we celebrate Khir-pichor.

On the first day of Khir-pichor no guests are allowed to enter the house. Only on the second day, early in the morning, a cousin or niece can visit the house, bringing two kulcha (wedding bread), which they place next to the kitsor (traditional oven). We prepare his or her favourite food — kamoch-tarit (butter bread), khomnigul,  baht (sweet festive porridge), boj (celebratory soup with meat, if we have meat) — and offer a present as well. Afterwards, more people come and bring kulcha. We call this custom salom-salom. Later in the day, the community comes together to eat lunch and the khalifa (religious leader) performs du’a (act of worship for the fulfillment of specific needs, forgiveness or protection).

The Pamiri calendar begins on the second day of Khir-pichor, which literally means ‘sun-in-man’. From now on, the sun will slowly begin to gain in strength, marked by the symbolic passage of the sun‘s rays through the human body. It starts with the sole of the foot or the toenails and gradually climbs up towards the top of the head, before moving down again. The toenails, the top of the foot, the ankles, the shin, the calves of the legs…each part of the body indicates a period of three days. After approximately three weeks, when the sun reaches the knee and the next marking on the wall, we celebrate the second sign of the arrival of Nawruz, Khir-chizon (‘sun-in-knee’).

During Khir-chizon, we put a handful of seeds into the fire of the kitsor and after the fire has finished burning, we look for any remaining seeds in the ashes. These surviving seeds tell us our fortune; they help us know which crops to sow in the New Year. Afterwards we take the ashes and seeds outside and scatter them over the snow.

“Like the majority of the inhabitants of the Western Pamirs, the Bartangi also speak dialects of the family of the Indo-European, non-written Pamir languages. Religiously, they belong to the denomination of the Nizari-Ismailis, a sub-confession of Shia Islam. Nizari-Ismailis consider Aga Khan IV as the closest male descendent alive of the prophet Muhammad and as ephiphany of the divine light. His orders are absolutely binding. The Aga Khan propagates a version of Islam open to progress and to intellectual discourse with the west. His faith is practised even in the remote Bartang valley, enriched with some locally specific practices.” — Excerpt from the website http://www.bartang-has-future.com.

On the first day of Khir-chizon, we prepare boj, and share it with our neighbours. On the second day, we prepare baht. That is why, in our village in Bartang, we also refer to this holiday as Baht ayom.

When, finally, the snow begins to melt and the sun rises over the point on the mountain which we call amalkhana, it is time to celebrate Nawruz in our calendar, the Sun has reached the Heart.

We celebrate Nawruz with great happiness and intensity; Nawruz is the end of a long and difficult winter and the beginning of a new cycle of growth. It reminds us of our great dependence on the Earth, the Sun and Water, and each celebration is an occasion to ask God and the angels to grant us good harvests and healthy, productive animals.

The women and girls will clean every corner of the house and use brooms blessed with wheat flour to chase away the bad spirits that have taken shelter in the nooks and crannies of the wood. Flour is also used to decorate the beams of the ceilings which have been blackened by smoke over time: simple hand prints, old  Zoroastrian patterns whose meaning has often been forgotten, or drawings of sheep and shepherds so that the house will not be without shepherd and a flock of sheep this year. Juniper twigs adorn the pillars of the houses, they bring fertility and blessings.

The men cut the bark of willow branches and weave them into flowers which, once the cleaning is finished and they are allowed back into the house, they offer to the women, with the traditional New Year greeting. The willow is associated with the productivity while the flower is the symbol of joy, abundance and people’s harmony with nature. In every household in the village women will prepare sumanak (pudding made from germinated wheat). It is one of the most well-known new year dishes in Central Asia.

Date posted: March 21, 2017