Princess Yasmin Aga Khan’s Relentless Fight Against Alzheimer’s: “This is Our Moment”

(Note: contributions can only be made using a US or Canadian address)

Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah and SimergphotosBarakah 

Ms. Rita Hayworth being met by Ismaili leaders during her arrival at Arusha airport in 1951, with Prince Aly Khan.

In loving memory of her mother Ms. Rita Hayworth, whose life was cut short due to Alzheimer’s, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan has for four decades sought to raise awareness about the disease and has also raised tens of millions of dollars by hosting the Rita Hayworth Galas through the Alzheimer’s Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. These gala events as well as related functions have been held in many cities across the USA, with the major ones being the annual Galas in New York (founded in 1984, and now known as The Imagine Benefit) and Chicago (1987). The next Rita Hayworth Gala with the theme “This Is Our Moment” is scheduled to be held at the Chicago Hilton on Saturday April 23, 2022 as an in-person event that will be attended by Princess Yasmin herself.

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Banner, Rita Hayworth Gala, Chicago Hilton, April 23, 2022. Image credit: The Alzheimer's Association. Please click on banner to donate.
Banner, Rita Hayworth Gala, Chicago Hilton, April 23, 2022. Image credit: The Alzheimer’s Association. Please click on banner to donate (Note: contributions can only be made using a US or Canadian address).

Recently, Simerg’s sister website Barakah published a special piece entitled Yasmin Aga Khan: A Princess With a Mission that profiled the Princess as well as presented details about the upcoming Chicago Gala. Now, with a few days remaining before the Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago, I make a personal appeal to all readers and subscribers of the 3 websites, namely Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos, as well as my friends on the social media, to consider participating in Princess Yasmin’s gallant and noble initiative to win the fight against Alzheimer’s. I might note that the disease affects hundreds of members of the Ismaili Jamat in North America, and probably thousands more in other countries around the world. Alzheimer’s has a considerable impact on everyone supporting those afflicted with it, and is regarded by medical experts as “one of the saddest diseases in existence.”

I am proud to note that since the mid 1990’s Princess Yasmin’s initiatives through the Alzheimer’s Association, have been faithfully championed and supported by my dear Ismaili friend in Chicago, Sadruddin Noorani. He has held important honorary positions within the Association both as a member of its executive team as well as a benefactor. Noorani, writing in Barakah’s recent piece, noted: “It has been my honour and privilege to have been involved with the Rita Hayworth Gala for more than 25 years, and I am truly humbled by this opportunity that has come into my life, to be associated directly with the work of a beloved member of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s family.”

In recognition of Noorani’s incredible support since the mid 1990’s, the Alzheimer’s Association has designated a special page under his name, where donations specifically to the Rita Hayworth Gala can be made (note: contributions can only be made using a US or Canadian address). Kindly note that all donations to the Rita Hayworth Gala and any tickets purchased for the gala are processed through the industry leading fundraising platform GiveSmart exclusively for the Alzheimer’s Association.

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan

Once a contribution is made of any amount, small or big — and I emphasize no amount, even $5.00, is ever small — the “Contributor’s Name” or the word “Anonymous” (if the donor chooses to stay anonymous) will be displayed on the page along with the amount contributed. While Noorani may have set a goal of $ US 10,000.00 (ten thousand), I sincerely hope we can get close to the number or perhaps even exceed the amount, which I personally consider to be an arbitrary number. Above all, your contribution of any amount as well as an awareness and understanding of the disease are extremely important.

I ask all of you to do what you can for this extraordinary cause that is close to the heart of Princess Yasmin. As of April 24 $ US 10,155.00 has been raised through Simerg and Barakah as well as personal efforts of Mr. Noorani, whose involvement with Princess Yasmin and the Alzheimer’s Association has been noted above. Make your contribution for any amount that fits within your budget by clicking on THIS IS OUR MOMENT.

As Princess Yasmin noted in her remarks at the New York Imagine Benefit Gala last November, “The fight to end Alzheimer’s hasn’t stopped, and neither have we.” Let us heartily join Princess Yasmin in her fight to combat Alzheimer’s, and make sure our future generations and our loved ones do not have to live and cope with one of the saddest of all the diseases.

Once again, I sincerely look forward to your interest in this initiative. Please click THIS IS OUR MOMENT (note: contributions can only be made using a US or Canadian address).

Date posted: April 16, 2022.
Last updated: April 24, 2022 (10:21 AM EDT).


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

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim H. Jiwani of Vancouver

Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Vancouver based Dr. Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible (Memoirs of Engagement with a Global Development Network).” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert, Shairoz Lakhani, Shelina Shariff Zia, 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’s Interview with Dr. Azim Jiwani

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

Azim H. Jiwani: I think readers will perceive levels of meaning embodied by the title. Each reader will draw meaning from the title after reading the book since it can have multiple interpretations. This reflection on implications is what I intended.

Today, many people perceive medicine and health care as cold, selective, fragmented and profit and technology-driven. It seems to lack the human touch, warmth, and empathy. Hence, many, particularly in the developing world, feel a lack of “tangibility” of competent, contextual, compassionate and affordable health care available to them. The health status of large segments of populations in many parts of the world is not improving, and gains in some instances are reversing. Never have so many had such broad and advanced access to sophisticated care, but never have so many been denied access to even basic health care.

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

Azim: Rarely in recent times has the world found itself gripped in conditions that pose substantial existential threats to lifeforms on earth, destabilize societies, impact health, quality of life, economic and cultural survival, and engender greater inequality and divisions between and within countries and regions.

The ideal of health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being envisioned by the WHO, not just the absence of disease. Hence, health is composite of a myriad of determinants, all constantly in a state of flux. This utopian state of health is unlikely to be achieved, but one can reimagine global health and its foundations and moral imperatives.

The recent onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic and the accelerating but belatedly acknowledged climate crisis and its devastating effects on human health have laid bare the historical, political, policy, and institutional deficiencies in health systems worldwide. The vast disparities in availability, accessibility and affordability, quality and equity are glaring in parts of the world, especially when comparing low-income countries of the global South to rich and industrialized countries of the North. This void is more apparent when healthcare systems worldwide are under tremendous stress. During the current pandemic, many in developing countries are denied access to even primary and essential care due to myriad reasons – a dearth of human and material resources, drugs, vaccines, deficits in health policies and local and geopolitical tensions.

I think one thing readers will learn is the complexity and challenges of the development process. The book traces efforts of large non-profit global development organizations — the Aga Khan University and agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network — mainly in the domains of education, healthcare, institutional capacity-building and the empowerment of civil societies. It underscores the mission to anticipate and respond to foreseeable effects of unaddressed inequalities, the poverty, program and leadership deficits in some of the most challenging regions of the developing world. It endeavours to enhance institutional capacities, establish collaborative networks, and promote best practices and international standards of excellence.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Azim: I had the good fortune of engaging with the early development of Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Health Services internationally and its programs in medical education and fostering affordable, ethical and quality health care since the early 1980s.

I held various leadership roles in academic, administrative, clinical and planning positions in several major organizations within and outside the AKU and interacted with some outstanding leaders and thinkers. Early in my medical career, I developed an interest in the global arms race’s health, social and economic impacts, particularly on developing countries. This interest and other public health and justice questions led to a life-changing meeting with Prince Sadrudin Aga Khan at his chateau in Geneva in 1983. I was deeply inspired by his efforts and roles to foster a more just and equitable world.

As narrated in the book, the impetus and inspiration essentially derived from our faith’s essential ethical and moral foundations, as articulated by Hazar Imam in his numerous utterances. The lockdown periods of 2020/2021 finally induced me to chronicle almost four decades of engagement in aspects of medical education, global health, development, marginalization, and comment on historical imprints on development and questions of justice and human dignity. It was impressed upon me that the experience and skills I acquired over decades of engagement in global health and medical education were too valuable to be wasted. My friends and colleagues strongly encouraged me to chronicle my observations of the times and places, ideals and realities of just and compassionate societies and my wide-ranging engagements.

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Ismaili authors Series by Simerg Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani's book "Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible", Friesen Press
Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible”, 300 pp., Friesen Press, August 2021.

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

Azim: The book is available in hardcover, softcover and e-books, e.g., Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Google Books. It is widely available directly from the publisher FriesenPress and Amazon, Chapters/Indigo in Canada, Barnes & Noble in the U.S. and many other retail outlets. It is also available in many countries like the U.K., Australia, Europe and India.

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

Azim: As I was writing, I received many unsolicited offers to publish the book, mainly from the U.S. and Canada. I ignored these until towards the end of the initial draft. I decided to pick a large, established and reputable Canadian publisher, as I was aware of some of the books published by them. They were expensive but of high quality. The publisher FriesenPress partners with a large American publishing and printing house called Ingram; hence the book is printed in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

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

Azim: Basically, the publisher provided the editorial services, printing and distribution, but I selected the photographs and illustration with the kind permission of the AKU and the United Nations. Not being very tech-savvy, I needed some technical help from friends for this.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Humanizing Medicine from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Azim: I think the whole process of writing, editing, printing and distribution took about eighteen months of hard work since I could only focus on the book a few hours a day. The book was published in the Autumn of 2021 and launched in Washington, D.C., about three months ago.

Simerg: Tell us something more about your book.

Azim: The book interweaves three stands. Since it is essentially written from a personal perspective, it tells a unique story spanning almost five decades. It intertwines this strand with the efforts and the ethos of the AKU/AKDN in empowering civil society, human development and equity, the global conditions over the last century, and the historical and national and regional evolutions in health care and development. It includes many short anecdotes and vignettes set in various world locales, from Morocco to Cambodia, illustrating many of the points. I hope that the book provides a longitudinal perspective of global challenges and their relevance in today’s uncertain and trying times. I believe it could be informative and inspiring to professionals and volunteers who seek to broaden their careers and horizons through engagements globally in an interconnected world.

I should inform you that all proceeds from the global sale of this book are donated through the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) to support the Patient Welfare Programs of the Aga Khan hospitals to care for needy patients.

Date posted: March 9, 2022.


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.

Ismaili author Dr. Azim Jiwani Humanizing Medicine Simerg special series
Dr. Azim Jiwani

Dr. Azim Jiwani worked in health care and global health development for several decades, holding various leadership positions in academic, hospital, and community settings. His work included teaching, research, medical administration, strategic planning, advocacy, consultancies, and advisory roles. Dr. Jiwani held senior faculty positions with the Aga Khan University (AKU) and at the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Medicine as a clinical professor. He interacted with many local, national, and multilateral organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations, universities, and global health institutions-and he continues to play a consulting and voluntary advisory role in health care, education and international development.

As an avid traveller, Dr. Jiwani’s journeys have taken him to locales in Europe, Asia, Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Australia and New Zealand, where he explored local cultures, traditions, social, historical and environmental aspects of life and development. He has lectured at many higher learning institutions, professional organizations, civil society groups, and community groups. His interests include natural sciences, moral philosophy, architecture, civilizational histories, and anthropology. Dr. Jiwani lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia, with Nilu, his wife of 45 years. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.

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 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)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)


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.

The editor may be reached via email at

December 28, 2021: A Very Happy Birthday to Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, and We Would Imagine the Greatest Wish for the Princess on Her Birthday Would Be to See a World Without Alzheimer’s

Publisher/Editor SimergphotosSimerg and Barakah

Simerg will be publishing a multi-part series on Alzheimer’s in 2022, and we plan to launch the series early in the New Year with a special profile on Princess Yasmin and her involvement with the Alzheimer’s Association since 1981. Alzheimer’s contributed to her mother Ms. Rita Hayworth’s death at the age of 67 in 1987. The Association has raised tens of millions of dollars through the annual Rita Hayworth Galas that have been held in Chicago and New York over the past 35 years.

Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, daughter of Prince Aly Khan and Rita Hayworth, and younger sister of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Prince Amyn Mohamed, at Alzheimer’s fundraiser in New York in December 1984. Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, photograph by Bernard Gotfryd.

Today, December 28, 2021, is a very special day in the life of the Princess as she celebrates her 72nd birthday. We mark her birthday with a brief tribute to the Princess on our sister website Barakah that includes a selection of historical photographs of the Princess as well as a link to an interview the she gave to Canada’s National Newspaper, “The Globe and Mail” in which she talks about Alzheimer’s.

On Sunday December 26, my morning twilight visit to the Pickering Waterfront on Lake Ontario, was one of the most amazing I have ever had in my life. The sky took on different tones every few minutes — I did not see the rising of the sun because of the cloud cover in the horizon, but watched in awe the sun’s impact on the sky and clouds above it. During those moments of joy, hope and bewilderment, there was only one person that came into my thoughts as I clicked on my camera more than a 100 times during the hour I spent at the Waterfront — Princess Yasmin.

Pickering water front trail twilight, Malik Merchant simerg Princess Yasmin birthday
Lake Ontario, Pickering Waterfront Park, 7:44 am five minutes before sunrise on December 26, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg
Pickering water front trail twilight, Malik Merchant simerg Princess Yasmin birthday
Lake Ontario, Pickering Waterfront Park, 7:53 am, four minutes after sunrise on December 26, 2021. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg

The incredible twilight show in the sky, for me, was symbolic of a day in the life of an Alzheimer’s patient. In the horizon, I saw beautiful bright orange and red clouds that symbolized hope, then there was a dark swirling cloud that became the tail of a large gloomy cloud that represented despair and fear. Several minutes later as the sun continued to rise, and the skies turned blue, I saw the beautiful moon over Lake Ontario, representing hope once again. A normal-like pattern of behaviour in an Alzheimer’s patient, just like that of any other person without the disease, creates an absolutely thrilling moment for any family member, who might then say at that particular instant, ‘”my parent or spouse is healing and I can take him or her home. ” But that hope can quickly fade seconds, minutes or hours later when the patient’s behaviour pattern changes due to the disease; it is an unbearable moment for any loved family members or friends who may be around.

The Forthcoming 2022 In-Person Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago: Founded and Chaired by Princess Yasmin Aga Khan

Our support for organizations such as the Alzheimer’s Association and other local and national institutions in the communities we live in can contribute to finding a long-term improvement in the quality of lives of everyone afflicted with the disease or indeed, one day, in eliminating Alzheimer’s altogether.

Rita Hayworth Gala, Chicago, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan
Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, front row centre, in a group photo with members and supporters of the Alzheimer’s Association. Sadruddin Noorani who has been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association since the 1980’s is pictured on the back row, 3rd from left. Photo: Rita Hayworth Gala/Alzheimer’s Association.

I might note that Princess Yasmin founded and has been the Chair of the annual Rita Hayworth Galas in Chicago and New York since the mid 1980’s. The New York Gala now named the Imagine Benefit, has been built on the legacy of the Rita Hayworth Gala that was first held in 1984 — the latest Imagine event was held in November 2021.

The next Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago, that was inaugurated in 1987, 3 years after the New York Gala, is scheduled to be held on April 23, 2022 at The Hilton in Chicago. It has been planned as an in-person event, with the presence of Princess Yasmin. However, the on-going pandemic situation may cause the event to be relayed virtually.

Simerg invites you to view the Rita Hayworth Gala information HERE. While the event titled “Generation of Hope” may be a few months away, your thoughtful support for the Alzheimer’s cause can begin at any time by visiting the website and submitting a pledge.

I am proud to say that a member of the Chicago Ismaili community, Sadruddin Noorani, has been very prominent in the Chicago Gala and the Alzheimer’s Association for years. His support to Princess Yasmin has been incredible and I would hope that hundreds, like him, from around the world will join Princess Yasmin in her effort to fulfill what we would all imagine would be her greatest wish on her birthday — finding a cure for Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Date posted: December 28, 2021.
Last updated: December 28, 2021; 10:30 AM (corrections, see below).

Corrections: (1) The original piece contained the wrong date for the forthcoming 2022 Alzheimer’s Rita Hayworth Gala in Chicago; the piece now reflects the correct date; (2) the Gala is not planned as a virtual event as mentioned in earlier versions. It is expected to be an in-person event, with Princess Yasmin in attendance unless of course the pandemic situation forces it to be a virtual event; and (3) corrections have been made to dates noted in the twilight photos.


Simerg welcomes your feedback. 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 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.

Important Article on the AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine and Autoimmune and Liver Diseases; Please Get Vaccinated!

Editor’s note: Simerg does not generally publish or encourage anonymous articles on any of its websites but in this particular case we have decided to protect the author’s identity, as it concerns a health matter. The editor has verified the content of the article, and wishes to assure readers that the facts that are noted by the author are correct. Any oversight or error is unintentional and is deeply regretted.

Ontario began rolling out the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in select pharmacies and doctor offices across the province to people over the age of 60 on Monday, March 22, 2021. Yesterday, a mass vaccination clinic was opened in Thorncliffe Park at the the East York Town Centre on Overlea Blvd, and I decided to visit the location. It was jam packed with cars as hundreds of seniors who qualify under Phase One showed up to get the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, after registering through the website of Michael Garron Hospital. I did not qualify under the Phase 1 criteria and would have to wait my turn at East York Town Centre and other mass vaccination sites.

However, another avenue had opened up to acquire the vaccine in Toronto, and that was through one of the designated pharmacies. There was one near the place where I stay that was offering the AstraZeneca vaccine. As I began completing the registration form, I wondered whether my responses to questions concerning my health, for example whether I had a chronic health condition, would disqualify me from getting the AstraZeneca vaccine. I completed the form and submitted it, hoping for the best.

I then followed my application with a phone call to the pharmacist offering the vaccine, and informed the pharmacist about my Autoimmune Hepatitis condition or AIH (this occurs when your body’s infection-fighting system, or the immune system, attacks your liver cells and causes permanent and irreversible liver damage. In acute cases, the liver may heal itself as a regenerating organ).

The cause of AIH has not yet been determined but from what I am learning more and more people, including very young people, are acquiring AIH. The pharmacist had a long list of autoimmune conditions that would still qualify individuals getting AstraZeneca vaccine, but AIH was not among the ones listed. He declined my request, based on the guidelines he had in front of him and suggested that I should go with Pfizer-BioNTech when it became available to me. However the eligibility criteria meant that I would have to wait for a few to several weeks based on the phase 2 or 3 roll-out.

On the weekend of Navroz, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in his Talika or written message to the Ismailis, clearly stated that “my Jamat should not give credence to any misinformation regarding the vaccination process, and comparisons between the different officially sanctioned vaccines that are now available.” He also said, “I recommend that all my murids should accept to be vaccinated in accordance with the directives of their respective health authorities as soon as the vaccines are offered — as indeed I have done already.”

In view of Canada’s approval of AstraZeneca vaccine, I then met my local doctor, as my pharmacist had declined the vaccine to me because of my AIH condition. My doctor was convinced from the research that she had carried out that I was perfectly OK to get the AstraZeneca vaccine. I even read out what Mawlana Hazar Imam had said, and she agreed with him. She said she would be writing to the pharmacist to give me the vaccine, but recommended I also speak to my hepatologist.

Earlier that morning I had actually called and left a message with the offices of the liver clinic, AIH section, at the Toronto General Hospital concerning AstraZeneca. Some hours later I got a phone call from the liver clinic encouraging me to take AstraZeneca when it was made available to me. I was also provided with a link to a letter the liver clinic had issued on its website (read LETTER). Subsequently my doctor forwarded an email to the pharmacist requesting the AstraZeneca vaccine to me.

There had been a cancellation, and I willingly took up the spot that was offered to me on the following day. When I arrived at the pharmacy, I was asked a few questions including any chronic condition. I also read the list of autoimmune diseases at the reception table that qualified for the vaccine. Of course, AIH was not on the list, but the pharmacist had already received my doctor’s approval for the AstraZeneca jab. There was a little bit of a wait but the jab that I got on my left arm took less than 3 seconds to administer. I was asked to hang around in the pharmacy for 15 minutes, in case of any reaction. I was then provided with a letter, as a kind of a receipt, in which I noted that the vaccine was listed as COVISHIELD, which is another name used by AstraZeneca. I reminded myself about adhering to the guidelines about social distancing, washing hands and wearing a mask, even though I had been vaccinated.

I did not know how long a wait it would be for the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vacciness, and am glad I went for the AstraZeneca shot after my reluctance for several days. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talika with precise guidelines was the determining factor. The Government of Canada had already sanctioned AstraZeneca but, until I read the Talika, there was doubt in my mind over getting the vaccine.

For individuals facing autoimmune hepatitis or other serious liver issues, please be advised that the liver clinic at the Toronto General Hospital recommends that you get vaccinated. I conclude this piece with the following 5 important points from their document (and this applies to Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna as well as AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccines):

• Having liver disease does not increase your risk of experiencing a side effect;
• The medications you take for your liver disease, including any immunosuppression [Prednisone, Azathioprine — author], should not be a reason to decline a vaccine, but may have a small effect on how well the vaccine protects you;
• People with liver disease, especially cirrhosis and possibly fatty liver, are at higher risk of getting very sick if they get COVID-19 infection, making it even more important to be vaccinated and be protected;
• The vaccines are over 90% protective against symptomatic COVID-19; and
• The vaccines have been studied in people with liver disease with no safety concerns identified.

I once again remind readers of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s messages: “… Jamat should not give credence to any misinformation regarding the vaccination process, and comparisons between the different officially sanctioned vaccines that are now available”, and “I recommend that all my murids should accept to be vaccinated in accordance with the directives of their respective health authorities as soon as the vaccines are offered — as indeed I have done already.”

Date posted: March 25, 2021.


Have you had your Covid-19 vaccine shot? Tell us how you feel? Are you still reluctant about being vaccinated for Covid-19? We welcome your feedback. Please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment.

Mawlana Hazar Imam in His Navroz Talika Emphasizes Covid-19 Vaccination, Prays that the New Year will Herald a New Beginning and Gives Blessings for Fulfilment of All Our Wishes

The following Talika Mubarak from Mawlana Hazar Imam in English is reproduced from The Ismaili, the official website of the Ismaili community. Official translations in French, Portuguese, Farsi, Arabic, Urdu, Gujarati, Tajik, and Russian can be read at our sister website Barakah. The Talika is followed by recitations of Ginans Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea and Navrozna din Sohaamna.

Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s Talika Mubarak to Ismailis

18th March 2021

My dear spiritual children,

On the occasion of Navroz, the 21st of March 2021, I send my most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings to all my beloved spiritual children of my worldwide Jamat.

My family joins me in wishing you all Navroz Mubarak. 

I send my most affectionate loving blessings to all the spiritual children who have submitted services and sent messages of congratulations and good wishes on this occasion.

With the success in producing effective vaccines and other forms of treatment, human societies around the world are looking with a sense of hope and optimism to emerging from the current Covid-19 pandemic.

At this time, I recommend that all my murids should accept to be vaccinated in accordance with the directives of their respective health authorities as soon as the vaccines are offered — as indeed I have done already. It is also my wish that my Jamat should avoid any complacency, and that every murid should continue exercising personal responsibility to ensure protection from the virus.  

In particular, my Jamat should not give credence to any misinformation regarding the vaccination process, and comparisons between the different officially sanctioned vaccines that are now available.

I have requested the AKDN health care facilities to extend maximum support and assistance to the government authorities in the effective roll-out of the vaccination programme. 

In these troubled times, it is my prayer that Navroz will herald a new beginning, with greater resilience, strength and unity in my Jamat to overcome all forms of difficulty. While the Jamatkhanas will continue to be re-opened as the situation improves, I wish my Jamat to keep in mind the importance I attach to our historic tradition of personal, private prayer.

I send my most affectionate loving blessings for mushkil-asan, and for my Jamat’s wellbeing, good health, safety and security. I also give my best loving blessings for barakah in your spiritual and material lives, and for the fulfilment of all your wishes.

You are all particularly in my heart, in my thoughts, and in my prayers at this time.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan


Shukrana and Supplication

We submit our humble gratitude to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for his Talika Mubarak to the world wide Jamat on the occasion of Navroz, March 21, 2021, and submit the following supplications from verse 1 of Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea:

“O brother! Listen, My Lord Ali has written and sent a Farman. The beloved Lord has remembered this servant today with kindness in his heart”


Ginan Recitation

Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea sung Shamshu Bandali Haji. Credit: Ginan Recitals (


Navroz Ginan Recitation and Link to Explanation

Ginan Navrozna din Sohaamna sung by Mumtaz Bhulji. Credit: Ginan Recitals (

Read Ginan article HERE.


Navroz Mubarak

Conceived and created by Toronto artist Karim Ismail, this calligraphy represents the greeting Navroz Mubarak in Eastern Kufi. Image: © Karim Ismail.

Date posted: March 21, 2021.


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 – 2020 in Pictures and Words: Blessings from His Highness the Aga Khan; Photos from Private Collections; and Tributes to Deceased

(Publisher-Editor SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Talikas 2020, Simerg and Barakh
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, pictured at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Kenya. Photo: The Ismaili


March 2020

Please click: 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

Please click: 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 

April 2020

Please click: 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; multiple translations including Farsi, Dari, Arabic, Urdu, Gujarati and Russian

May 2020

Please click: 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 

July 2020

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

November 2020

Please click: 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

December 2020

Please click: 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 paternal maternal blessings to the world wide Jamat



The following tributes/obituaries appeared in Simerg in 2020. Some of the deceased may have died before 2020.

Passings Simerg 2020 Year in Review
Top row (left to right): Mahebub Rupani, Nazeer Ladhani, Amirali Gillani, Salima Arthurs, Sultan Methanwalla, Goulzare Foui, Amirali Nagji; bottom row (left to right): Alnoor Ramji, Shamshu Jamal, Zubeda Jamal, Sultanali Mohamed, Razia Jamal, James Wolfensohn and Madatali Jamal. Image collage: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Please click: Mahebub Mohamed Juma Rupani

Please click: Nazeer Ladhani

Please click: Shamshu Jamal

Please click: Missionary Amirali Gillani

Please click: Alnoor Ramji, Goulzare Foui, Amirali S. Nagji, Sultan Piroj Maknojiya Methanwala, Salima Wanda Arthurs

Please click: Madatali Merali Jamal, Razia Jamal, Zubeda Ebrahim Jamal

Please click: James D. Wolfensohn

Please click: Alwaez Sultanali Mohamed

Please also click: Benjamin Mkapa (d. July 2020. As Tanzania’s President from 1995-2005, the late Benjamin Mkapa strongly supported the work of the Ismaili Imamat in his country as well as abroad. The support that he gave is clearly illustrated in a special piece about him in Barakah, a blog dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan)



2020 Year Simerg photos Aga Khan and Projects
Please click on image for 2020 stories and accompanying photos

Please click: Top photo selections from our 2020 stories: Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family, Covid-19 impact, Aga Khan projects, the four seasons, and other events

Date posted: December 27, 2020.
Last updated: December 28, 2020.


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Rays of Hope: Greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Blessings from the Aga Khan, the Covid-19 Vaccine and the Inspiring Crescent Moon

(Publisher-Editor SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

Prime Minister’s Greetings

I am among the millions of Canadian who have received “Season’s Greetings” from the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. Their message in a card filled with family photos reads: “Let’s cherish the bonds of love, family and friendship, near or far. We are one big Canadian family. We will have each other’s backs and hearts in the moments when it’s needed the most. We will pull through together!”

Click on photos for enlargements

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with members of his family. Credit: Greeting card
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with members of his family. Credit: Greeting card issued by Justin Trudeau; collage prepared by Simerg / Malik Merchant.

I thank the Prime Minster for the greetings as well as for seeking to ease the burden for millions of Canadians who are living through one of the most challenging periods in the nation’s history. He has tried to work across party lines both federally and provincially as well as with mayors around the country to bring relief and hope during the Covid-19 pandemic. Through his spontaneous briefings, he has kept the country united. He has recognized the work of the front-end workers, whose spirit and dedication for our well-being during the pandemic will remain in our hearts forever.

The Aga Khan’s Messages

In addition to the Prime Minister’s message, within my own Ismaili community, His Highness the Aga Khan, or Mawlana Hazar Imam as we affectionately and respectfully address him, has sent us messages also known as Talikas, throughout the pandemic year. He has given is guidance, blessed us with his prayers and singled out volunteers for their extraordinary work, offering them his “best affectionate blessings.” In the latest message on the occasion of his 84th birthday which was celebrated on December 13, 2020 by millions of Ismailis, either remotely or in person in Jamatkhanas that were open, His Highness referred to the encouraging development of vaccines and asked his community members to “be guided by the advice and directives of their health authorities to benefit from the protection these vaccines will provide.” I am confident that the Ismaili community will seriously participate in the vaccination program. It was gratifying to watch the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, created by the husband-and-wife team of Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci, being administered to long-term care workers at the Ottawa Hospital’s civic campus on the morning of Tuesday, December 15, an occasion which prompted a visit from the Prime Minister.

Mawlana Hazar Imam Online?

In addition to the Talika’s that are now being read by Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike, my hope is that we will soon be able to hear and see the Imam speaking and addressing about the challenges that we have gone through, and on “building for the future from a position of strength and wisdom.” With Jamati visits now possibly a thing of the past for sometime to come, the digital media offers us the opportunity to see and hear the Imam at opportune times to make that connection even stronger. My own daughter, when she was a student some years ago, and other youth recognizing that Mawlana Hazar Imam cannot be travelling to every Jamat in the world on a regular basis, raised the possibility of the youth of the Jamat being particularly singled out and being spoken to by the Imam for his guidance on numerous aspects of their lives on an annual basis via an online platform. This interaction with their beloved Imam would help increase their awareness about their future responsibilities and paths to success, as well as their greater and more meaningful involvement with the Jamat and its institutions.

Story continues below

A view of the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome across the ponds of the Aga Khan Park, with the sun setting in the west end of Toronto. A jet plane leaves a white trail in the sky and, in this photo, cloud cover does not provide a clear view of the crescent moon. See next photo.Photo: Simerg / Malik Merchant.

A Walk for Inspiration and Hope

Buoyed by the message of hope in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s most recent Talika and the Prime Minister’s greeting, I decided to walk over to my favourite place in the world — none other than the site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Park that has added value to my life over the past several months of the pandemic. The grounds were empty of people. There was a dusting of snow on the ground, while some parts of the USA had already seen several inches of snow. Armed with a compass, I knew the 3 day old new moon, still in its beautiful crescent state, was exactly above me but cloud cover prevented me from seeing it clearly. Patience is a good virtue to have, and we have all built that over the pandemic months.

Story continues below

Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana Dome Simerg
The crescent moon emerges from the clouds over the dome of the Toronto Headquarters Ismaili Jamatkhana located at 49 Wynford Drive. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

The Crescent Moon and Covid-19 Impacts

After about 30 minutes, as the clouds drifted away, the crescent moon came to my full view. Being in the earlier stages of development, the crescent moon reminded me of the blessed night of Chandraat (new moon night) that fell on Monday, December 14th, and which Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, the 48th Imam, had told us would bring us spiritual peace and happiness. Some prayers on the blessed night of Chandraat are also dedicated to the souls of the deceased. That reminded me of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talika of December 11 for the occasion of his birthday in which he gave his best loving blessings for the souls of all his ruhani (deceased) spiritual children, and his prayers for the eternal peace and rest of their souls. My thoughts turned to the thousands of souls who have departed this world during the pandemic, most often without the presence of their families around them or not having ceremonies that they would normally have had.

Story continues below

Scotiabnak Wynford Drive and Aga Khan Museum Simerg
Scotia Bank building, at left of Aga Khan Museum, with Aga Khan Park ponds at foreground. Photo: Simerg / Malik Merchant.

Then, as I walked away from the Ismaili Centre towards the Aga Khan Museum, the Scotia Bank building with its red logo at the top came to my view. It raised my consciousness of the financial impact Covid-19 has had on the livelihood of millions of individuals and their families, as well as businesses.

Story continues below

Aga Khan Museum, the Park, Ismaili Centre, Flags and the crescent moon, Simerg
The Aga Khan Museum (left), the Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana dome, the crescent moon over highrises, and the flags of Canada, Ontario, Toronto and the Ismaili Imamat. Photo: Simerg / Malik Merchant.

As I began my homeward walk, I turned around and in a single shot captured the glory of nature, the iconic spaces that the Aga Khan has built in a country that values and respects diversity and pluralism, and the flags of Canada, the Province of Ontario, and the City of Toronto flying in unison, alongside the flag of the Ismaili Imamat.

And Greetings from Simerg

Big Heech, Ismaili Centre, Aga Khan Park, Jamatkhana dome, Simerg Malik Merchant
The Big Heech sculpture outside the Aga Khan Museum and the Toronto Headquarters Jamatkhana dome on the night of December 18, 2020. Photo: Simerg / Malik Merchant.

Thus with this small collection of photographs and messages of hope from the Aga Khan and the Prime Minister, the ingenuity of the human mind in developing a vaccine in record time, the dedication of front-line workers in alleviating the sufferings of millions upon millions of people, I send my SEASONS GREETINGS filled with hope to all Canadians as well as friends subscribers and supporters of Simerg and its sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos. My family joins me in wishing everyone happiness.

Date posted: December 18, 2020.
Last updated: December 19, 2020 (new photo added).


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 from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or, if you don’t see the box, please click Leave a comment . Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Malik Merchant of Simerg Barakah and Simergphotos
Simerg’s Malik at Aga Khan Museum courtyard.

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of this website, Simerg (2009), as well as two other blogs Simergphotos (2012) and Barakah (2017). Formerly an IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to family projects and his 3 websites. He is the eldest son of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions for several decades in Mozambique, Tanzania, Pakistan, the UK and Canada in both professional and honorary capacities as teachers and missionaries. Malik’s daughter, Dr. Nurin Merchant, assists him as an honorary editor of the three websites. She received her veterinary medicine degree with distinction from the Ontario Veterinary College (2019, University of Guelph) and now works as a veterinarian.

As WHO Targets 100 Million Smokers to Quit the Habit, Let Us Be Mindful of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Advice on Smoking and Other Social Habits that Can Weaken the Community

“I say to you today, and particularly the younger generation, use your energy, use your imagination, use your strength, but do not waste it. Do not waste it in drinking, in smoking cigarettes, in eating, in smoking drugs or whatever it may be. This is not for our Jamat…. stay a healthy Jamat and face the problems without wasting your energy and time and money on these other habits. Remember this is a matter of importance, because these habits can weaken the Jamat.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Dar es Salaam, November 11, 1970*; also read Good principles articulated by the Aga Khan

The following piece as well as the photo featured at the top of this post is reproduced from a recent edition of the Voice of America. In the photo, bystanders look a replica of human skeleton smoking cigarette during an awareness rally on occasion of the “World No-Tobacco Day,” in Chennai, India, May 31, 2019.

By VOA News
Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The World Health Organization is calling on governments around the world to ensure their citizens have resources and tools to help them give up tobacco smoking as it launches a yearlong campaign aimed at helping 100 million people quit.

The campaign, Commit to Quit, is focusing on 22 countries including the United States, and it officially got under way Tuesday ahead of World No Tobacco Day 2021, in May.

A WHO statement said the Commit to Quit campaign is aimed at creating “healthier environments that are conducive” for people who want to give up smoking.

The WHO hopes to capitalize on users who have decided to quit since the novel coronavirus pandemic began by creating communities of peer quitters, according to the statement.

Earlier this year, the WHO warned that tobacco users are at high risk of dying from COVID-19.

About 780 million tobacco users say they want to quit, but just 30% have access to resources that can help them do so.

Director of Health Promotion Dr. Ruediger Krech said global health authorities must take full advantage of the millions of people who want to quit. He urged governments to “invest in services to help them be successful,” and “divest from the tobacco industry and their interests.”

Credit: Wellcome Collection, UK. The image is not part of the VOA article.

The WHO is employing digital tools such as the Quit Challenge on Whatsapp to provide social support. Also, the WHO’s 24/7 digital health worker to help people quit tobacco is available in English and soon will add five other languages.

The campaign is encouraging initiatives such as “strong tobacco cessation policies; increasing access to cessation services and raising awareness of tobacco industry tactics.” 

Tobacco is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes. Moreover, people living with these conditions are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

“Smoking kills 8 million people a year, but if users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted.


(1) VOA: Tobacco Causes One in Five Deaths from Heart Disease
(2) VOA: Stop Marketing Deadly Nicotine Products to Children
(3) Simerg: Aga Khan on good health and good judgement

Date posted: December 14, 2020.


* References: Farman quote(s) from archives and notes of Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) on social habits.

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 from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or, if you don’t see the box, please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.