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

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

JULY 2021

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

MARCH 2021

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

DECEMBER 2020

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

NOVEMBER 2020

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

JULY 2020

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

MAY 2020

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

APRIL 2020

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

MARCH 2020

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

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

Date posted: July 21, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2021 Imamat Day Card

Click on image for enlargement

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

Explanatory Note of the 2021 Imamat Day Card

By KARIM ISMAIL

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: July 10, 2021.

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

Karim Ismail Calligraphy, Ismaili artist simerg and barakah
Karim Ismail

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

His Highness the Aga Khan: The Revered Ismaili Imam Who Continues the Progressive Heritage of Classical Islam by Michael Hamilton Morgan

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Barakah, a website dedicated to the Aga Khan
His Highness the Aga Khan addressing the 2020 Aga Khan University Convocation. His 64th Imamat Day will be celebrated on July 11, 2021. He became the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims at the age of 20 when he was still a student at Harvard University. Please click on photo for article by acclaimed American writer Michael Hamilton Morgan.

“Believe it or not — hard work in the areas of education, scientific research, medicine, public works, charity, economic development and entrepreneurship — are the behavioral pillars of historical Muslim culture that made Muslim culture the single most progressive force in the world from about 650 to 1500 of the current era…..This ancient Muslim religious devotion to science, ideas, openness and empirical evidence has indeed been obscured in the mainstream….in the Muslim world, incomplete popular understanding of the faith of Islam has weakened understanding of the importance of logic and reason to the Islamic tradition.

“In this vast tapestry of the interaction of Muslims with each other, and with other cultures and faiths, there is one tradition that unfailingly continues the progressive heritage of classical Islam — profoundly intellectual, open, tolerant, pacific — and in particular one leader who has made it especially attuned to the many difficulties of the world today. That would be Ismailism and its revered Imam, the current Aga Khan IV”….. READ FULL ARTICLE.

Michael Morgan is an international speaker and author of Lost History: the Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers and Artists (National Geographic/Random House) which has reached thousands of readers around the world, and has been translated into several languages. Morgan received Egypt’s Presidential award for the Arts & Sciences in 2008. His insightful article on the Aga Khan is a must read!

Date posted: July 7, 2021.

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

Prime Minister Trudeau Vows to Stand for Muslim Community: “This Hate is Insidious and Despicable – and it Must Stop,” as Truck Driver Targets and Rams into Muslim Family in London, Ontario, Killing 4

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

“They were out on Sunday…. going for a family walk on a beautiful spring evening near their quiet, safe London neighbourhood. Now four of them are gone. A nine-year-old boy is in hospital trying to recover from serious injuries while the rest of his entire life has been snuffed out in front of him by a black Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by someone apparently filled with hate…. I can’t understand how a young man, now charged, who would have been raised and schooled in a time when Canadian multiculturalism is more than a concept, but a reality, would be filled with so much anger toward a family he didn’t even know.” — PLEASE READ COMPLETE COLUMN BY JANE SIMS IN THE LONDON FREE PRESS

Rana Najjar, her son Rashad, 11, her husband and sister Hadin place flowers Monday at an impromptu memorial to a London Muslim family that was struck down Sunday night at the intersection of South Carriage and Hyde Park roads in London while walking. Four members of the family were killed and fifth, a nine-year-old boy, suffered serious injuries in what police believe was an intentional act by a driver targeting Muslims. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)
Please click on image for article in London Free Press

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowed to combat Islamophobia in the country following a “targeted attack” on a Muslim family in London, Ontario, which led to death of three adults and one teen. Trudeau expressed grief over the incident and condemned the “hateful and heinous” act. “I spoke on the phone this evening with @LdnOntMayor and @NTahir2015 about the hateful and heinous attack that took place in London, Ontario yesterday. I let them know we’ll continue to use every tool we have to combat Islamophobia — and we’ll be here for those who are grieving,” Trudeau tweeted.

In another tweet, the Prime Minister said:

Ontario Premier Doug Ford was among those who paid tribute to the victims, tweeting: “Hate and Islamophobia have NO place in Ontario.”

The targeted attack on the Muslim family took place in London, Ontario on Sunday, June 6, when the family was out for an evening walk on a splendid spring day.

Simerg conveys its deepest condolences to the family, relatives and friends of the victims as well as to all Muslim and non-Muslim Canadians who are grieving from this horrible tragedy. We pray for the complete recovery of the child who is in the hospital. We pray that the souls of all the deceased victims may rest in eternal peace. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un (“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156).

Date posted: June 8, 2021.

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

Aga Khan arrives for award ceremony in Lahore Pakistan

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s References to Simurgh – the Ideal and Perfect King – and Attar’s “Conference of the Birds”; and the Book’s Availability in English

Compiled and introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simurgh, Simorg, SIMORGH, Conference of the Birds, Aga Khan Museum, Bellerive, SimergPhotos, Photo of the Day by Afraaz Mulji
The Simurgh ceramic vase at the Aga Khan Museum, Bellerive Room.

In our “Photo of the Day” feature published in Simergphotos on June 2, 2021, musician, author and artist Afraaz Mulji picked out the ceramic object Simurgh as his favourite piece among 60 other ceramic works of art that make up the beautiful Bellerive Room at Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum. The collection was gifted by Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan’s widow, Princess Catherine, to honour his memory. The Prince (d. 2003) was a consummate collector who formed one of the great collections of art from the Muslim world.

Bellerive Room, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. Photo: Malik Merchant Simerg Princess Sadruddin and Princess Catherine
Bellerive Room, Aga Khan Museum, Toronto. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Looking through Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speeches, we noted that he had mentioned Simurgh in a dynamic and stirring address that he delivered at the inaugural ceremony of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture held in Lahore, Pakistan on October 23, 1980.

Article continues below

Aga Khan arrives for award ceremony in Lahore Pakistan
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, arrives for the inaugural ceremony of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture held on October 23 1980, in Lahore, Pakistan. Photo: AKDN/Christopher Little.
Aga Khan Award Ceremony AKDN photo Lahore 1980 simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, presents the Aga Khan Award for Architecture to representatives of the Kampung Improvement Programme (KIP) in Jakarta, Indonesia at the first award ceremony held on October 23. 1980, in Lahore, Pakistan. Photo: AKDN/Christopher Little.

Mawlana Hazar Imam said:

“…..as we celebrate the first Awards and open the way for the forthcoming ones, all these challenges (Please read Speech at AKDN) can help us in defining the attitudes we must develop in thinking of the future and the areas of discovery open to us. It is a task we must accomplish together, fully acknowledging our diversities, but knowing, as well, that there is a Straight Path which is that of our Faith.

“Let me close, therefore, by reminding you of Attar’s great poem, the Conference of the Birds, Mantiqat at-Tayr.

“The birds, you will recall, in huge quantities went in search of the Simurgh, the ideal and perfect king. After many tribulations, thirty of them do reach the end of the journey and come to the gate of the Supreme Majesty. The Chamberlain tests them and then opens the door and they sit on the masnad, the seat of the Majesty and Glory. And, as an inner glow came into them, they realised that it is they together who were the Simurgh and that the Simurgh was the thirty birds.

“Is this not what these Awards mean? From the travails and labours of thousands, humble masons or expensive experts, there have emerged those works made by us and for us which we can present as being, all together, as an aggregate, as a group, the statement of our hopes and of our expectations as much as of our achievements.”

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The Conference of the Birds: Selected Works in English


Afkham Darbandi
and
Dick Davis
From left: Front covers of The Conference of the Birds by Davis, Nott, and Sis. Click on links below for pricing and availability. May we note that there are translation by other writers.

1. Attar’s Conference of the Birds by C.S. Nott has been available for more than 60 years in English, with a newer paperback released in 2016. Please check out C.S. Nott Conference of the Birds on Amazon.

2. Penguin Classics published a highly acclaimed translation in English by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis, with an introduction by the latter, in 1984. See Darbandi & Davis Conference of the Birds on Amazon. See also its availability at Chapters-Indigo.

3. More recently Peter Sis, an award winning children’s book writer and illustrator, has offered a beautiful and uplifting adaptation of Attar’s poem which is available in both hardback and paperback formats. See Peter Sis Conference of the Birds on Amazon. See also its availability at Bookoutlet.

Date posted: June 3, 2021.

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

Two Great Readings from Ismaili History: Mu’aayad Shirazi and Ghaddir-Khumm by (Late) Jehangir A. Merchant

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

Alwaez Jehangir and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant pictured at Gatineau Park during their visit to Ottawa in 2007.

Thursday May 27, 2021, will be the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Jehangir Merchant (December 13, 1928 – May 27, 2018), father of Malik (publisher and editor of this website), Fahar and his wife Nina, Alnoor and his fiance Shellina; grandchildren Naim and Nurin; and sister Banu. Our mother and grandmother, Maleksultan (popularly known as Mrs. Merchant), who was our dad’s partner of 66 years, was then still alive; she passed earlier this year on January 21, 2021. This website was launched twelve years ago in the spring of 2009 with their encouragement, guidance and support. The first piece published in Simerg was entitled The Mystery of the Missing Mount Nasir Khushraw.

Among several articles by my dad that were published on Simerg, two original contributions that absolutely stand out and are a must read are (1) a letter of gratitude to his greatest hero in Ismaili history, the Fatimid missionary Muayyad din Shirazi and; (2) Ghadir Khumm and the Two Weighty Matters for the acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There. Please read the two pieces by clicking on the hyperlinks I have provided in the preceding sentence or on the two images shown below.

Please click on image to read Jehangir A. Merchant’s thank you letter to Fatimid missionary Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi

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Please click on image to read Jehangir A. Merchant’s “Ghadir-Khumm and the Two Weighty Matters”

We fondly remember our parents and grandparents, and pray for the eternal peace of their souls. Ameen.

Date posted: May 26, 2021.

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Photos and Video: A Gift for Eid ul-Fitr – The Birth of 6 Goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto on the Blessed Day of Chandraat

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Editor’s note: Please click Simergphotos for a vastly updated version of this post.

Newly hatched goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.

The female goose I had photographed so many times in the weeks before I travelled to Vancouver lay on her eggs for around 28 days. No food, no drinks, no wandering around!

She had to find a perfect spot to protect her nest from animals and human interference, and that she did at a shrub just outside the South East wall of the Ismaili Centre. What a strategy — uncomplicated and safe!

A new family. Proud parents with their newly born goslings outside the Ismaili Centre and the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.

The eggs hatched on the morning of Wednesday May 12, as per the security guard who was present at the nesting site when I met him. My plan was to actually go to Edward Gardens for a long walk but instead of travelling straight on Wynford Drive to reach Don Mills Road, I “lost my senses” and ended in the parking lot of the Aga Khan Museum. I couldn’t have been happier, with what I saw and came away with.

I would call it “A Miracle of Life” and it took place at the end of Ramadhan, and on the day of the sighting of the new moon that Ismaili Muslims celebrate as Chandraat as per the wishes of their 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan (1877-1957). He bestowed the night on the Ismailis for the inner peace and happiness it would bring. For me seeing this phenomenon of birth, and looking at the tiny goslings was an incredible and joyous event. I consider it as the most appropriate gift of Eid ul-Fitr. Enjoy the photographs.

The beautiful Aga Khan Museum Building. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
Children play on the courtyard of the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
The Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana Toronto, an extension of the Ismaili Centre. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
The female goose seen by the shrub at the Ismaili Centre where she nested her eggs for a period of around 28 days. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg.
The mother goose on the nest with her new family of six goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.
Newly hatched goslings at the Ismaili Centre Toronto. May 12, 2021. Photo: © Malik Merchant/Simerg. Click on image for enlargement.

VIDEO OF THE NEW FAMILY

To my fellow brothers and sisters in the Ismaili community, I share with you the following message that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, conveyed to us a year ago on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr:

“It is my wish that my Jamat should look to the future with hope and courage, in keeping with its age-old tradition of unity, generosity and mutual support which has at all times enabled it to move forward to a position of enhanced strength and resilience, from generation to generation.

“My spiritual children should always remain mindful that it is the principles of our faith that will bring peace and solace in these times of uncertainty. I am with my Jamat at all times, and each of you, individually, is always in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.

“I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings to all my Jamat – for happiness, good health, confidence and security in your lives ahead, and for mushkil-asan.”

My daughter Nurin joins me in conveying all readers of Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos Eid Mubarak with best wishes and prayers for good health; long lives and success in all walks of life.

Date posted: May 13, 2021.
Last updated: May 14, 2021 (link to updated version of post, click HERE)

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

May 4, 2021, the 23rd Night of Ramadhan: Laylat al-Qadr Program for Jamats in North America

Ismaili Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadhan, which falls on Tuesday, May 4, in 2021. Jamati members across North America are cordially invited to participate in a special Laylat al-Qadr program that will be held in three sessions as highlighted in the poster below (click on image for enlargement).

Please also click HERE for the institutional events page, and click on Laylat al-Qadr to read Simerg’s piece on the Night of the First Revelation of the Holy Qur’an.

Laylat al-Qadr programming poster for 2021, May 4, 23rd of Ramadhan
Please click on image for enlargement

Date posted: May 4, 2021.

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SALT LAKE CITY SIMERG

A Personal Reflection on the 2020 USA Election: How the People of the Beautiful State of Utah Let Me Down

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

In the summer of 2011, I finally fulfilled a pledge I had made to my 19-year old daughter, an animal and nature lover, who was aspiring to become a veterinarian; her dream finally fulfilled in 2019.

The promise I had made to her when she was in her early teens was that I would take her to see two of my favourite places in the world, that I had either lived in or visited as a tourist. In my mind, they were not going to be Lourenço Marques, (now Maputo) in Mozambique, Dar es Salaam, Serengeti, Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro, all in Tanzania, nor to the majestic mountains and national parks in Canada and the USA such as the Blue Ridge Mountains, Glacier National Park, the Rockies in Alberta and Colorado and the Grand Canyon. She wondered what those two places might be, and my reply to her was, “I will take you to Salt Lake City and Yellowstone National Park”. (Since then, as it will be obvious to my regular readers, I have added to my favourite list His Highness the Aga Khan’s magnificent projects in Toronto — namely the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Park, all three located at one site).

Yellowstone National Park, Minerva Terrace
Minerva Terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone National Park. Photo: © Simerg.

I will not say much about Yellowstone, except that I found it to be the most thrilling of all the parks in North America I have visited. It is a 5-in-1 park with its incredible geysers, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, rivers and lakes, forests as well as superb and varied wildlife, including grizzly bears and wolves. It is truly rich and diverse! I had stopped there some 22 years ago during my 4,500 km road trip from Ottawa to Vancouver via the USA, and vowed to one day return with my daughter and share with her the beauty I experienced.

But what about Salt Lake City, and why?

In 1979, while in London, I was recruited by a New York software firm to work as a trainee computer programmer in the USA under the H3 visa program. Upon my arrival at the company’s headquarters in the Big Apple, I began to familiarize myself with the IBM JCL (Job Control Language), a suite of steps that are necessary to execute computer and related utility programs. My experience in the UK had primarily been on ICL (International Computers Limited) computers.

Then after about a week, as I was taking some in-house JCL tests I was summoned into the director’s office late in the afternoon. He told me that one of company’s two clients in Salt Lake City had dismissed two consultants due to poor representation and performance, and the company was in danger of losing the project altogether. He handed me $300.00 in cash, an airline ticket to fly to Salt Lake City the following day, and firmly asked me to do well and salvage the highly profitable project for the company!

That evening I went to the Jamatkhana in New York only to learn from the Mukhisaheb that there were no Ismailis that he knew lived in Salt Lake City. I nervously travelled to Salt Lake City and was greeted at the airport by the consulting company’s project team lead, an Irish Catholic. He calmed my fears down at the hotel, where he dropped me off.

Within 24 hours I was on the client’s site. I was assigned to an in-house systems analyst, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, who presented me with specifications to develop an intricate file manipulation program that in his view “was the most complex program on their new payroll-personnel system”.

I was a Muslim of South Asian descent, who had grown up in Africa and then completed my college computer degree in the UK. My heart was that of an African, and I loved Africans. In Sandy in the outskirts of Salt Lake City, and then closer to work in Salt Lake City, I shared a home and apartments with Catholics and Protestants. On the project, I worked with members of numerous Christian denominations, Mormons in particular. As a non-smoker, I loved the smokeless office environment; in London I’d shared a small office on Tottenham Court Road with 2 chain smokers! 7-Up had become my favourite drink in the UK, and that became a daily treat for me in the cafeteria in Salt Lake. In the mid 1960’s Sprite had been introduced in Tanzania, close enough.

Project team members showed me immense courtesy and respect, and the country’s ethic of hard work and motto that anything is possible in the USA was true. I myself experienced it. Americans were fantastic people. Everyone who passed me at Salt Lake’s Main Street would give a friendly nod. Yes, America had that ability to inspire, instill confidence and make one courageous! I became self-confident and fearless. My new friends took me to Park City, Snowbird and Utah Jazz basketball games the franchise was quite new. Adrian Dantley became my favourite player. Mormon missionaries, in pairs, came to places where I resided to indoctrinate me with the faith’s teachings, and I respectfully discussed faith matters with them, and in turn told them about Islam. We realized how common our ethics were. It was wonderful. I can honestly say that Salt Lake City made me a strong and confident person.

Moreover, Salt Lake City was surrounded by the beautiful Wasatch Mountains. It is where I also deeply started appreciating nature. The night sky, as I watched the stars and the full and new moons, inspired me. Surely, this would be a place I would like to one day return. My daughter made that wish happen.

Mormon Temple, Salt Lake City, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Simerg, Malik Merchant. ©
The spiritual centre of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS), also known as the Mormons, in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: © Simerg.

When I returned with my daughter to Salt Lake City some 32 years later, I had already approached a Mormon missionary I knew to give us an extended tour of the Mormon Temple. He drove from Provo and spent hours with us. My daughter was impressed with the ethic of teachings of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) that he shared with us, including the faith’s tithing principle as well as the honorary time members devote to the dissemination of LDS Christian teachings around the world.

In 2008, 3 years before our trip to Utah and Yellowstone, Barack Obama became the 44th USA president, and extended his term in 2012. Hillary Clinton, in 2016, lost to Donald Trump. Utah in large numbers gave him the Presidential vote. That, I said to myself, was fine as it was Trump’s first time!

Then, throughout his 4-year tenure as the leader of the most powerful nation in the world as well as the period following the recent 2020 election, President Trump insulted decent hard working human beings, accused them of cheating and corruption, made condescending remarks to loyal and patriotic citizens of the USA including iconic leaders such as the late Republican Senator John McCain, told lies, divided children from their parents, insulted Muslims and immigrants, backed out of important world treaties, instigated seeds of division and hatred, stopped distinguishing good people from bad, undermined science and scientists, and couldn’t bother to care about American lives being taken due to Covid-19; these were only some of his character traits besides being selfish, insultingly prideful, and profoundly arrogant! He did not accept his defeat in the US elections, and never conceded to President-elect Joe Biden. On November 5th, upon hearing his speech after he knew he was losing the election, I had tears in my eyes and sought solace from my mum thousands of miles away in Vancouver. She too was deeply hurt.

And yet Utah’s citizens, who having heard and read the sickening Trump for a 4 full years, still went and voted for him in 2020, in even larger proportion than in 2016 (from 45.5% in 2016, increasing it to 58.4% in 2020 vs Biden at 37.7%).

Has a faith that I have been raised to respect by my own parents, who were both teachers and missionaries, lost its moorings or have the people of Utah stopped recognizing worthy and perennial Christian and LDS values? I note that the LDS church is in an expansion mode as it has been for decades   around the world, and yet by voting for Trump the citizens of Utah forgot some cherished and revered perennial values that all GOOD global citizens must have, such as (1) the necessity of an abundant capacity for compromise; (2) more than a little sense of patience; (3) an appropriate degree of personal humility and honesty; (4) a respect for others; (5) having a good measure of forgiveness; as well as (6) genuinely welcoming human differences. Many of these values that I have noted were shortlisted by His Highness the Aga Khan when he was presented with the Adrienne Clarkson Global Citizenship Award in September 2016. They are also values common to all faiths and I would therefore expect religious minded people to be championing and upholding these values and behaving in accordance with them.

As a Muslim, I hold some conservative values too, but my expressions of them would be for support of the rule of law through the members of the Congress, the House and the Senate, and not by blindly handing over my votes and voice to a divisive leader like President Trump. Let a better Republican candidate show-up, and vote for the person then.

Being a Muslim I have to state that the Holy Qur’an makes it very clear on the unity of mankind, beautifully articulated by His Highness the Aga Khan in an address he delivered to both the Houses of the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014. He said:

“As you build your lives, for yourselves and others, you will come to rest upon certain principles. Central to my life has been a verse in the Holy Qur’an which addresses itself to the whole of humanity. It says: ‘Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women.’ I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race — born indeed from a single soul.”

Utahns voted ignoring key ethical values which I thought were dear to the hearts of those I came to know and cast their voices in support of a divisive president.

So now I carry with me only distant memories of the great city and people I came to know in 1979-1980, where my experiences were such that I promised to take my daughter to Salt Lake City in 2011, to meet people I thought I knew and trusted. I will not make that same promise to anyone else again!

As a footnote let me say there are three Mormons I deeply respect today: My Mormon missionary friend, Andrew Kosorok, who was our tour guide at the LDS temple in Salt Lake City, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah for seeking to speak out honestly and asking his fellow Republican colleagues to be truthful and, last but no means the least, former Republican Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona for standing up to the president of the USA, who has completely relinquished his duties to his country and the revered Constitution of the USA that has been an inspiration to Americans and the world for 233 years. On January 6, 2021 the outgoing president clearly incited his supporters to a destructive march on the citadel of democracy, the Capitol of the USA, to prevent President-elect Biden’s confirmation as president. How could the people of Utah have voted for such a person?

Date posted: January 12, 2021.
Last updated: January 19. 2021.

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The Birth of Jesus Christ in the Qur’an and Its Impact on a Christian Emperor by Barnaby Rogerson

The Altar of the Nativity, beneath which is the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright. Please click on image for Barnaby Rogerson's piece.
The Altar of the Nativity, beneath which is the star marking the spot where tradition says the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus. Photo: © Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Please click on image for complete article.

Verses from the Holy Qur’an on the Immaculate Conception of Jesus Christ

19:17 Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man.

19:18 She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing.

19:19 He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son.

19:20 She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste?

19:21 He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained.

19:22 And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place.

19:23 And the pangs of childbirth drove her unto the trunk of the palm-tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died ere this and had become a thing of naught, forgotten!

[Mary complains to a palm tree about the pains of childbirth. The tree tells her to shake its trunk and ripe dates will fall.]

19:24 Then (one) cried unto her from below her, saying: Grieve not! Thy Lord hath placed a rivulet beneath thee,

19:25 And shake the trunk of the palm-tree toward thee, thou wilt cause ripe dates to fall upon thee.

19:26 So eat and drink and be consoled. And if thou meetest any mortal, say: Lo! I have vowed a fast unto the Beneficent, and may not speak this day to any mortal.

19:27 Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing……CLICK TO READ FULL ARTICLE

Date posted: December 25, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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