An Unforgettable Thanksgiving Weekend: A Great BBQ, Historical Photos and a Rejuvenating Holy Message of Blessings from Mawlana Hazar Imam

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

For the first time in more than 19 months, I accepted an invitation to visit friends who were hosting a BBQ for their family. They regard me as one of their family members. I am fully vaccinated against Covid-19. I have known Salim and Nevin Kanji for decades. Salim’s older brother, Mohamed Amersi, was one of Tanzania’s top table tennis players, and he spent time with me and improved my game at the Diamond Jubilee Hall in Dar es Salaam in the late 1960’s. Mohamed passed away at the age of 51! It was shocking when I got the news some 20-25 years ago. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Salim’s grandfather was the well known Late Count Amersi Kanji of Zanzibar, who served the Ismaili Imamat for decades. A couple of stories that Sikandar, Salim’s younger brother, told everyone yesterday about their grandfather, deserve a special post. Hopefully, we can prepare a special piece about Count Amersi’s contribution to the Jamat and the Imamat, often in extremely dangerous circumstances. The photos of the late count that are featured in this post are in Salim and Nevin’s home.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with Salim Kanji’s grandfather Count Amersi Kanji. Photo: Salim Kanji Family Collection.

The BBQ was absolutely delicious and Nevin kindly filled up containers for me to take home. I left their place after about 4 hours, planning to return home and retire early. It was exactly 6:25 PM as I turned left onto Wynford Drive from Don Mills Road. The Ismaili Centre/Headquarters Jamatkhana was 300 metres away. On weekends, the Headquarters Jamatkhana Dua time is 6:30 PM. It was not my scheduled day to attend but deep down something told me to try my luck as a walk-in. I followed my instincts and luckily got a space. I saw the Ab-e-Shifa table set up, and wondered why. Was I wrong about the Milad-un-Nabi date? The mystery was solved when the President of the Aga Khan Council stood up and read the Talika from our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam, which was followed by the recitation of the Talika Ginan. Everyone’s heart was touched, and there was unbounded joy and happiness on everyone’s face.

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A personal Thanksgiving weekend experience, as Ismailis receive a Talika - a holy message - from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan, with the family of (Late) Count Amersi Kanji (seated left with robe). Photo: Salim Kanji Family Collection.

Thanksgiving is an expression of gratitude, and families get together for meals. It was a great afternoon being with a loving family, and I made new friends at Salim’s home with other members of his family that I had never met before. The invitation was a blessing indeed, and the kindness shown to me by Salim, Nevin, their son Hafez (a die-hard Liverpool fan, yes Salah is the best in the world) and all those who were present led me to the Jamatkhana. For me, this Thanksgiving was the happiest one in my 40 years in North America (the USA Thanksgiving comes later in November).

Barakah wishes Ismailis around the world Mubaraki on the auspicious occasion of the Talika. Let us earnestly continue to follow Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance, and always keep his blessings in our hearts.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Mubarak Talika

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

7th October 2021

My dear spiritual children,

On the occasion of a recent mulaqat with my senior Jamati leaders to review their reports on current Jamati work and activities, I send my warmest and most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings to all my beloved spiritual children throughout the world.

I send my best loving blessings for the souls of all my ruhani spiritual children, and I pray that their souls may rest in eternal peace.

I am happy that, in the face of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, my Jamat is continuing to undertake the measures recommended by the health authorities to mitigate the risks, particularly by accepting to be vaccinated as soon as the opportunity becomes available. I wish all my spiritual children to remain constantly mindful of the importance of maintaining good health in all aspects of human life.   

At this time my Jamat in some parts of the world is witnessing political transformation. I remind my spiritual children of our tradition to contribute positively for the growth of a healthy civil society, which I believe will enable the improvement of the quality of life of all peoples and will therefore underpin the restoration of peace and stability.

I send my most affectionate loving blessings for your spiritual wellbeing, worldly success, good health, happiness and progress, with best blessings for my Jamat’s strength of faith and unity. 

I send my special loving blessings for mushkil-asan, and for the safety and security of all my Jamat. You are all particularly in my heart, in my thoughts and in my prayers.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

Date posted: October 11, 2021.

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TALIKA TRANSLATIONS: Please click on the following links for translations of the above Talika in French; Portuguese; Farsi; Arabic; Gujarati; Russian; Urdu; Tajik; and Spanish.

Please visit our sister website Barakah’s Talika page for links to all the Talikas that Mawlana Hazar Imam has sent to the Jamats since the beginning of Covid-19.

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 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.

The above post is also published in Barakah, a website dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. Please visit www.barakah.com.

Essays and Letters simerg 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible

Essays and Letters: The Black Pearl!

By KARIM LADHA

It was the summer of ’77: hot, humid days and nights in Hogtown! Hit tunes on the radio were “Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart and “(The) Best of My Love” by The Emotions.

I saw an ad in our apartment building’s laundry room for a Dodge Challenger R/T (denotes Road/Track, a performance marker used on Dodge vehicles since the 1960’s).

It was a polo green colour with a white vinyl roof, a 4-speed manual transmission with a cue-ball shifter, white vinyl bucket seats, a V-8 426 HEMI engine, generating 425 HP of pure adrenaline power in the iconic 1970 model year!

Rewind to May 1, 1973 when our family landed in Toronto from Tanzania. I was completely fascinated by the American ‘Muscle Cars’ – the Pontiac Trans Am, Firebird, GTO, the Chevy Corvette, Camaro, the Ford Mustang, the Dodge Charger, the AMC Javelin, but the car that caught my imagination and fascination was the Dodge Challenger! (and its sister car – the Plymouth Barracuda, affectionately called the ‘CUDA! – there was even a hit song about the car!). There was something about the Challenger – its front muscular stance, the contour lines sloping to the rear bumpers, the cut air vents in the hood, the growl of its engine; just the feeling of immense power and invincibility it conveyed! I knew the specs of all the muscle cars from my subscription to Hemmings Magazine, and then there was the famous 1971 movie featuring a 1970 Challenger R/T as the star, called “Vanishing Point”, with Barry Newman (and then a made for TV copycat, which also was a hit).

Back to the Challenger for sale via the ad in the laundry room of 20 Edgecliffe Golfway in Don Mills. I was so excited and ripped off the ad from the notice board, so no one else would see it!

2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible, with V-8 392 HEMI 6.4 Litre engine delivering 485 HP with 475 lb-ft of torque simerg, essays and letters Karim Ladha.
Karim Ladha (right) with son, Raheem, pictured by The Black Pearl, a 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible with a V-8 392 HEMI 6.4 Litre engine delivering 485 HP with 475 lb-ft of torque. A rocket indeed, as noted on the vehicle plate! Photo: Shereen Ladha.

I excitedly ran home and called the number. The car was in the underground parking and could be had for a mere $3K! Now, in 1977, $3K was like $13K in today’s dollars! Still, I felt it was a great deal and asked to see the car. It belonged to an elderly couple who were the original owners and were only selling it as they rarely used the car anymore. We struck up a great relationship and they were really keen on selling it to me, especially after hearing about my passion for Challengers! They reduced the price to $2,500.00 only for me, and let me drive it multiple times! I remember it being all the feeling of power and invincibility I had dreamed of and more!

However, reality quickly set in and for a 19 year old in my 2nd year of University, it was virtually  impossible for me come up with that kind of money in such a short time. I even asked my uncle for a loan, who thought it was the dumbest idea I had ever come up with (reflecting back on it, I can’t say I disagree!). Alas, I had to let it go, but I promised myself I would buy a beautiful Challenger one day! Dodge discontinued the Challenger in 1974, a victim of the Petro Crisis of the 70s!   

Fast forward to the Fall of 2020, in the middle of COVID-19 lockdowns. I saw an ad in the Hemmings magazine (now online), for a 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible, pearl black colour, with a V-8 392 HEMI 6.4 Litre engine delivering 485 HP with 475 lb-ft of torque! A real beast!

2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible Simerg Essays and Letters Karim Ladha
The well laid out and beautiful interior of Karim Ladha’s The Black Pearl, a 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT8 Convertible. Photo: Shereen Ladha.
Essays and Letters simerg 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible
Karim Ladha leans against his dream car, The Black Pearl, a 2016 Challenger SRT8 Convertible, outside the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Photo: Shereen Ladha.

Dodge had brought back the Challenger in 2008 as a ‘retro’ model, but never made a convertible. The owner in New Brunswick had purchased the car new and had it shipped in a closed container to a custom car shop in Florida called DropTop Customs. They transformed the car into a convertible!

I called immediately and after a few weeks of back and forth haggling on the hefty price, I finally purchased my Challenger – after 43 long years!

I call the car “The Black Pearl” after the namesake ship in one of my favourite movie series – “The Pirates of the Caribbean”!

Date posted: August 19, 2021.

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Simerg invites Essays and Letters from Ismaili writers who have established themselves in literary circles as well as anyone who has a love and passion for writing. Please submit your piece for consideration and possible publication on this website to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com.

Karim Ladha
Karim Ladha

About the author: Originally form Dar es Salaam and Iringa, Tanzania, Karim Ladha settled in Toronto, Canada, where he embarked on a long career in IT with the Bank of Montreal, and ran a used clothing export business for several years. Now retired, he lives in Toronto with his wife Shahiroz. They have two beautiful children, Shereen and Raheem.

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

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

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

by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

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

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

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

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

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

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Synopsis and Links to Reviews of “Nairobi Days”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: July 21, 2021.

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

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

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Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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

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

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

Elizabeth the Ladybug and the Lonely Rose

Ladybug. Photo: DM (dmott9) on Flickr

By FARAH TEJANI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Swan. Photo: Malik Merchant

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

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

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

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

Tulips. Photo: Nurin Merchant

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

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

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

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

“Are you okay?” Elizabeth asked her sincerely.

 No answer.

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

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

But there was no response. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth  knew she had to do something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ladybug. Photo: DM (dmott9) on Flickr

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

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

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

Date posted: July 20, 2021.

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

Farah Tejani

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

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani of Vancouver – a Must Read in Preparation for Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s 64th Imamat Day on July 11, 2021

by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

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

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

M. Ali Lakhani: The book is the first major survey of the ideas of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, based on his public statements over the last six decades. It illustrates how the ethos of the Ismaili Imamat is derived from the principle of tawhid, what the Imam calls an “all-encompassing unity” which is the essence of the faith of Islam. Ethics is the way of translating faith into action, of bringing our faith into the world; which is why the Imam defines ethics as the bridge between faith (din) and the world (duniya). The title of my book reflects this principal theme.

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

Lakhani: The book will, it is hoped, explain the key messages of the Ismaili Imam to both Ismailis and to non-Ismaili audiences. It addresses the themes of, for example, tradition and modernity, the modernist ethos, Islam and the West, cosmopolitanism and pluralism, and harmonizing identity and belonging through culture.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Lakhani: I was invited by the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) to write the book in order to expand on the ideas of my essay, published in volume 34 of my journal, Sacred Web titled ‘Living the Ethics of One’s Faith: The Aga Khan’s Integral Vision’. (Read article)

I have also spoken about these ideas at the Royal Asiatic Society (for the Temenos Academy) and have written about them for the Doha International Centre in an article titled ‘Integral Pluralism as the Basis for Harmony: The Approach of His Highness The Aga Khan’ (Read article).

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M. Ali Lakhani’s “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” examines how the ideas and actions of the 49th Ismaili Imam, Prince Karim Aga Khan, provide an Islamic response to the challenges that face Muslims in the modern era.

Jacket of M. Ali Lakhani's "FAITH AND ETHICS: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat," 272 pp, I.B. Tauris and the Institute of Ismaili Studies; December 2017, Illustrated edition, Feb. 28 2018, Ismaili authors series Simerg
Jacket of M. Ali Lakhani’s “FAITH AND ETHICS: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat,” 272 pp, I.B. Tauris and the Institute of Ismaili Studies; December 2017, Illustrated edition, Feb. 28 2018.

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

Lakhani: The book was published by the IIS and IB Tauris in 2017, and is available in hardcover format from Amazon Canada, and as a Kobo Ebook at Chapters-Indigo. Both the Kindle and hardcover editions are also available at Amazon.com, and Barnes and Nobles has the book available in hardback as well as a NOOK book. Prices vary from store to store.

[The book may be eligible for delivery within Canada in your area by July 7, 2021; please click Amazon Canada, free delivery is available with Amazon prime membership; the other option is to purchase it as an ebook, as noted above — Ed.]

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

Lakhani: The book was commissioned by the publisher, the IIS. I accepted the commission on condition that it would be my independent work of scholarship, free of any influence regarding its content by the IIS. 

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

Lakhani: I handpicked the illustrations, including the splendid cover illustration, whose marvelous original is housed at the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, and which depicts the ethical human being, a major theme of the book (as I explain in the text).

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Praise for Ali Lakhani’s Book

Lakhani’s lengthy discussion of the Aga Khan’s cosmopolitan approach to modern conflict simultaneously has the wider application of demonstrating to outsiders that Islam in the orthodox, Quranic sense is a religion of unity and justice, not of persecution and oppression…. Islam as presented in the Quran and by the Muslim sages is anything but pitiless and fanatical; it is joyful, intellectually rigorous and compassionate….The Aga Khan’s ethical teachings as presented in this book are especially applicable to the challenges presented by religious pluralism and to encouraging dialogue between religious perspectives, and to calm down reactions to polemics between religious people and secularists, but less so for conflict resolution that requires shared epistemological and ontological principles…. Lakhani’s book is valuable for the insight it offers into Islam’s rich pluralistic and tolerant tradition.” — Andrew Frisardi, American writer whose essays and reviews have appeared in numerous U.S. magazines and journals, including the Atlantic Monthly, Hudson Review, the New Republic and the New Yorker (Read full review)

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Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Lakhani: This was my third published book of a total of four books by me. It was an honor to have this book published by the IIS on the occasion of the Imam’s Diamond Jubilee.

My other three publications are:

The Sacred Foundations of Justice in Islam contains my First Prize essay on Imam Ali from the 2001 Imam Ali International Conference. That essay and Dr. Reza Shah Kazemi’s Second Prize essay were hailed by Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr to be among the best writings in English on Imam Ali.

The Timeless Relevance of Traditional Wisdom contains many of my writings on metaphysics, religion, philosophy, tradition and modernity, gathered from my biannual book-form journal, Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition and Modernity (www.sacredweb.com).

When the Rose Blooms (The Matheson Trust, London, 2021), my latest book, is a collection of spiritual aphorisms which I wrote more than three decades ago. The book includes beautiful illustrations which were designed by Nigel Jackson.

Synopsis of the Book

Shi`i Ismaili Muslims are unique in following a living, hereditary Imam (spiritual leader), whom they believe to be directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad. The Imam’s duty has been to guide his community with Islamic principles that apply to the needs of the time.

In this insightful book, M. Ali Lakhani examines how the ideas and actions of the current Ismaili Imam, and fourth Aga Khan, Prince Karim al-Hussaini, provide an Islamic response to the challenges that face Muslims in the modern era. Prince Karim’s programmes, implemented mainly through the broad institutional framework of the Aga Khan Development Network, are aimed at improving the quality of human life among the disadvantaged, regardless of their religion or ethnicity. Addressing global issues ranging from healthcare and education to culture and civil society, the Aga Khan’s initiatives are founded on core Islamic principles and values. This book is the first to provide an extensive survey of the Aga Khan’s aspirations, showing how the values of integrity and dignity are at the forefront of his work, with the traditional Muslim concepts of cosmopolitanism and social justice guiding his response to the stark challenges of the modern age.

At a time when criticisms and misrepresentation surrounding Islam abound, Faith and Ethics explores the religion’s universal principles and values, which the author believes can make a positive impact both among Muslims and non-Muslims. The book will be of special interest to scholars researching Islam, Muslim faith and ethics and the Ismailis, and to general readers wanting a deeper understanding of Islam.

Date posted: July 4, 2021.

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M. Ali Lakhani editor sacred web ismaili author  of Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat, Simerg series on Ismaili authors
M. Ali Lakhani

M. Ali Lakhani, QC, graduated from Cambridge University and has been practising as a barrister in Vancouver for the last forty years. Interested in applying metaphysics to modern world issues, in 1998 he founded Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition and Modernity, a leading journal in the field that has published articles by the Prince of Wales, the Dalai Lama, Karen Armstrong, Huston Smith, Seyyed Hossein Nasr and William C. Chittick, among others.

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Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan of Toronto Seeks to Bring to the Fore the Islamic Values that His Highness the Aga Khan Enjoins Upon His Followers

by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

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

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

Nizar Sultan: The book seeks to bring to the fore the Islamic ethics and values that Mawlana Hazar Imam enjoins us to live by in his Farman. The book portrays how one Ismaili couple living in a small town in Tanzania in 1957 seeks to bring up their son (who becomes the principal character in the book), essentially acting as roots, to support and nourish a strong tree (the son).

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

Sultan: The Roots and the Trees is a work of fiction built around landmark events that shaped the life of South Asian communities in East Africa, with a focus on the Ismaili Muslim community. It tells the story of two Ismaili boys, Rafiq Abdulla and Anil Damji, starting with their high school years in Dodoma (then a small town in Tanzania) in 1957, and follows them and their families ultimately to Canada as they navigate the political turmoil in East Africa in the 1960s and 1970s.

The book chronicles the Ismaili exodus from Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda in the 1970s and the community’s early settlement challenges in Canada.  It describes the social governance institutions and economic support programs His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan — the Ismaili community’s 49th Hereditary Imam — established, and which Rafiq and Anil got appointed to serve on, to facilitate the community’s settlement in Canada. It then goes on to relate how, guided and supported by their Imam, within five years of its arrival in Canada, the Canadian Ismaili community came to be well settled and respected, from coast to coast, for its organization, self-reliance, voluntarism, professionalism, business enterprise and philanthropy. 

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Sultan: First, it was my desire to document 21 years (1957-1978) of history of Canadian Ismailis of East African origin. I served as a Council member in Tanzania during the residential and commercial property nationalization and the start of Ismaili exodus from East Africa. After arriving in Canada, I served on “Immigration Committee” established to respond to the Uganda crisis. This was followed by my fifteen years of work as manager of a business consulting and loan guarantee program which Mawlana Hazar Imam established in 1975 to help Ismailis establish in business. After this, I worked for 20 years as Council for Canada CEO. My work with the Jamat and Jamati institutions has given me a perspective on the Ismaili move to and settlement in Canada that I wanted to share with my readers.

Next, I wanted to re-enforce the ethics of peace, integrity, generosity, compassion, humility and pluralism we are enjoined to live by. It is my perception (which may not be correct) that our ethics and values have eroded as we have become Occidentalised living in the West.

The third objective was to communicate to the non-Muslim audiences the foundational ethics of Islam and diversity of the Muslim people and practices, and present a counter-narrative to the monolithic image of Islam that is often portrayed in the non-Muslim parts of the world.

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The Roots and the Trees by Nizar Sultan, Ismaili author series, simerg, Fiction
Back and front covers of Nizar Sultan’s “The Roots and the Trees.” 712 pp. August 2020. Click on image to enlarge.

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

Sultan: The book is available on Amazon Canada in Paperback and on Amazon.com in both Paperback and Kindle formats.

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

Sultan: The book is self-published.

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

Sultan: I engaged a book cover designer in Hungary to design the cover and the back page. I engaged a professional formatter to format the book. My daughter Roxana Sultan, who is a brilliant writer, edited the book.

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Praise for Nizar Sultan’s Book

The Roots and the Trees hits all the right notes in a bittersweet melody of nostalgia, childhood innocence, built-in societal bigotry, colonial and post-colonial history, strong family ties, community solidarity and, of course, some Bollywood-type drama….The journey of the two principal characters in the book – Rafiq and Anil – is a familiar one to many in the East African Ismaili diaspora. The author’s keen eye for detail evokes long-forgotten memories and repressed emotions of one’s own journey, at times almost verbatim and interspersed with laugh-out-loud moments…. Through thoughtful prose and lively dialogue, it broaches sensitive societal and cultural issues of the day in all the three countries where Rafiq and Anil lived.  All in all, it is a delightful, breezy read – Dr. Feroz Kassam

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The Roots and the Trees is a fascinating narrative that provides an evocative history for many Ismailis, their children, and grandchildren. For the wider community, the book is a poignant account of one refugee and immigrant community’s arrival, challenges, and effective adaptation to life in Canada – Professor Dr. Fariyal Ross-Sheriff

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Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Sultan: The Roots and the Trees is my first book which I wrote for the reasons I stated. I have no desire to become an “author”. I am working on a sequel to document my perception of our history in Canada from 1979 to 1992 (1992 marked the 20th anniversary of our settlement in Canada in large numbers).

Simerg: How long did it take you to write The Roots and the Trees — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Sultan: It took me two years — working two hours/day, five days a week to produce the first draft and another six months to have the book edited and formatted for printing, after sending out ~200 Advance Reader’s Copies for reviews, and getting it launched on Amazon.

Simerg: Tell us something more about the book and its main character.

Sultan: Although presented as a fictional narrative, the book is more of a case study of an uprooted community’s experience settling in a new land, and the possible impact of its success in settling here on Canada’s immigration policy. The protagonists and other characters in my book are composites of real people, and their stories draw upon the real experiences of members of the East African Ismaili community that came to Canada, some as dispossessed immigrants, others as refugees.

Date posted: June 25, 2021.

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Nizar Sultan author The Roots and the Trees, Ismaili authors series by Simerg
Nizar Sultan

Nizar Sultan was born and raised in British-ruled Tanganyika (now the Republic of Tanzania). After completing high school and a two-year teaching program, Nizar studied in England for five years and graduated with a degree in Economics.  He returned to Tanzania in 1967, where he worked for five years in tourism infrastructure and project development.  He and his wife migrated to Canada in 1972. 

In Canada, Nizar has worked for 45 years in paid and voluntary capacities for the institutions of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan for socio-economic development of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community in Canada, of which His Highness is the spiritual leader. This included 15 years as manager of a business consulting and financing program for Ismailis in Eastern Canada and 20 years as CEO of the Aga Khan Council for Canada.

Nizar’s early life and work experience in Tanzania followed by his work for the Ismaili institutions in Canada and beyond, have provided him with a deep and unique insight into the Ismaili community’s historical background in East Africa, the events leading up to the community’s departure from Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and its settlement in a new land. THE ROOTS AND THE TREES is Nizar’s first novel. It is a real-life study of an uprooted community’s migration and early establishment in Canada, set in a fictional narrative.

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Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal of Vancouver, British Columbia, is Beautifully Illustrated and Will Delight Children

by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

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

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

Nargis Fazal: Baby Koala is the main character of my book. He is named “Coughdrops” because he smells like the Eucalyptus trees that he lives on and feeds from.

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

Nargis: The adventures of curious baby koala will delight you and the beautiful illustrations will fill you with utter joy. This is a great book to read with your children and grandchildren! They will ask for repeats! The learning themes include (a) Safety and Responsibility; (b) Friendships and Feelings; (c) Parental and Familial Bonding, Love, and Care; (d) Kindness and Compassion for all Creatures; and (e) Australia’s Flora and Fauna.

Kids will be pleasantly surprised to discover new tiny creatures entering the various scenes in this book. This book can be a great resource not only for the parents and families but also for Early Childhood Educators. It can be used to impart knowledge across many learning themes, especially safety for children which is paramount. Coughdrops fits in very well with a multicultural, pluralistic curriculum for young children.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Nargis: I wrote this book as a part of my assignment for my course as an Early Childhood Educator in 1988. I had printed the whole story by hand as well as illustrated it myself. I used it throughout my career with diverse groups of children. The kids and their families simply loved it. This inspired me to publish it so all children could enjoy it! As an Early Years Professional I wanted to leave a legacy not only for my own children and grandchildren but also for all the future generations to come.

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Coughdrops Ismaili Authors Nargis Fazal Simerg
Front and back covers of Nargis Fazal’s delightful illustrated book for children, “Coughdrops.” 24 pp. Blurb, June 2015. Please click on image for enlargement.

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

Nargis: Coughdrops is available in hardcover as well as soft cover from Blurb. You can also purchase it from me by writing to me. Please visit my website www.nargisfazal.com.

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

Nargis: My son Rahim who lives in San Francisco recommended Blurb.

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

Nargis: My daughter Noorin who has a Masters in Teaching edited my manuscript. Through “99 Designs” (Rahim’s find) I was able to choose the illustrator. Her name is Marija Stojkovic. She lives in Lescovac, Serbia. She works as a freelance stage designer, graphic designer and illustrator.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Nargis: Coughdrops is my first book. I have just finished writing the final manuscript for my second book which will be published soon.

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

Nargis: It took me a year to write the final manuscript and work with the illustrator Marija to get the pictures done. It took a couple of more months to get the printed version ready.

Simerg: Tell us something more about the book and its main character.

Nargis: Curious baby Koala lives in his mother’s pouch. He wonders what lies beyond the patch of eucalyptus trees where he was born. So he sneaks away to explore the world around him. As he scampers further and further away from home he meets many amazing creatures for the first time in his life. He experiences various feelings and emotions. Some situations terrify him and make him fear for his wellbeing and safety. Little koala realizes he is lost! How will he return home? Will he see his mother again soon?

In this delightfully illustrated story, read about curious koala’s Big Adventures. Bring along your critical thinking skills and join Coughdrops on his journey of growth and development.

Date posted: June 12, 2021.

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Nargis Fazal, Ismaili author series Simerg, Coughdrops, Children illustrated book koala
Nargis Fazal

Nargis Fazal was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. She spent much of her young adulthood in the United Kingdom, where she studied the sciences and worked in Medical Research. In 1981, Nargis and her husband moved to Vancouver, Canada, where their two children were born. Her passion for being actively involved in her children’s development and education inspired her to become an Early Childhood Educator. At present, Nargis is also trained as a Special Needs Educator and a Montessori Practitioner. Her many interests include yoga, reading, meditation, and travelling with her family.

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CALLING ALL ISMAILI AUTHORS

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)

_______________________

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla of Vancouver, British Columbia

by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Canadian writer Nazlin Rahemtulla’s book “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” (carrying the subtitle “The Story of an Ismaili Girl’s Expulsion from Uganda and Acceptance in Canada”). We follow the same Q/A format as our recent presentations of books written by Azmina Suleman, Alnasir Rajan, Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We invite Ismaili authors around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at Simerg@aol.com.

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

Nazlin Rahemtulla: Our family often received invitations from African friends to attend village celebrations. They were written on bark cloth and included the acronym “RSVP” standing for “Rice and Stew Very Plenty”. At the end of the book, I liken my blessings to that invitation – Rice and Stew Very Plenty.

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

Nazlin: Many people from Uganda shared my experiences, and my stories may unfold memories for them. Also, after publication, I heard from many young adults who were grateful to read about their families’ lives in Uganda. Especially as some claimed that their families had been reluctant to recount their experiences.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Nazlin: The notion of documenting my family’s history had been at the back of my mind for many years. Once I started a draft, friends convinced me to consider writing/publishing it in an autobiographical format for others to read.

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Front and back covers of Nazlin Rahemtulla's autobiography "RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty, Simerg Ismaili Author Series
Front and back cover pages of Nazlin Rahemtulla’s autobiography “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty.” 320 pp. Friesen Press, June 2012. Please click on image for enlargement.

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

Nazlin: The book is available in paperback on Amazon and through my publisher, Friesen Press in paperback and eBook. [To access Nazlin’s book page at Friesen, please click RSVP — Ed.]

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

Nazlin: I was looking for a locally based publisher and came across Friesen Press through a web search.

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

Nazlin: My good friend, Margaret Fairweather, helped me research, proofread and edit the book.  My niece, Narmin Kassam, painted the elephant on the cover for her son, Aleem. Narmin writes, “the elephant pays tribute to Aleem’s African roots and represents strength, honour, stability, patience, luck, fortune, and protection”.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Nazlin: This is my first and only book to date.

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

Nazlin: It took approximately two years from start to publishing. I must admit I did not spend a great deal of time marketing the book, however, friends and family were my marketing team.

Simerg: Tell us something more about the book and its main character.

Nazlin: RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty is an autobiography that chronicles my life. I was born in Jinja, Uganda, and RSVP traces my family’s ancestry to Gujarat, India, and I tell of my parents and grand-parents settling in Uganda. The book also describes my experiences of growing up in Jinja; the Asian expulsion in 1972 by Idi Amin within a 90 day deadline; and the resettlement of many Ismailis in Canada and around the world. I may also note that my brother, Bahadur, and I were a handful of Ismailis who initially participated in the reclamation of our family’s assets in Uganda. In the final section of the book, I reflect on my and my family’s lives in Canada.

Date posted: May 28, 2021.

(In 2012, Nazlin Rahemtulla had graciously permitted Simerg to publish an excerpt from her book RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty; please read the excerpt HERE — Ed.)

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Nazlin Rahemtulla, RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty, Simerg Ismaili author series, Story of an Ismaili Girl's Expulsion from Uganda and Acceptance in Canada
Nazlin Rahemtulla

Nazlin Rahemtulla who presently lives in Burnaby, BC was born in Jinja, Uganda of Indian ancestry. Her long-awaited dream of telling her family’s story of migration to Uganda from India, and her own settlement in Canada, as a result of  Idi Amin’s disastrous rule in the East African, is achieved with the publication of her autobiographical work RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty, which she has co-authored with Margaret Fairweather. Her story is told from the perspective of her and her family’s deep attachment to the Ismaili Muslim faith, and its ever-present significance in their lives. This strong affinity with her faith also leads her to describe the infinite good works of the late 48th Ismaili Imam Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, and his successor, Prince Karim Aga Khan IV.

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CALLING ALL ISMAILI AUTHORS

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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

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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Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman of Calgary, Alberta

by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Canadian writer Azmina Suleman’s book “In the Name of Justice – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge.” We follow the same Q/A format as our recent presentations of books written by Alnasir Rajan, Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We encourage Ismaili authors to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to the editor of Simerg, Malik, at Simerg@aol.com.

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

Azmina Suleman: A man of honor, principle and great personal integrity, James Valentine Hogarth Milvain’s name was often synonymous with ‘Justice’ in Alberta. He was appointed judge of the Alberta Supreme Court in 1959 and Chief Justice in 1968. Known for his ready wit, wisdom and innate ‘horse sense,’ Milvain was also popularly dubbed the ‘Cowboy Judge’ where his ranching background kept him close to people, and where ethics and morality guided him in everything he did.

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

Azmina: The book reads like an ‘oral’ judgment. Its tone and text has been kept deliberately simple and free of ‘legal jargon’ so even the ordinary man on the street not necessarily well-versed in the law can appreciate Alberta’s law and its early history – the hardships, courage and tenacity of the early pioneers who helped open up the ‘old West’ in Canada.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Azmina: I actually had the privilege of knowing Milvain for a short period of time Yet, he managed to leave a lasting impression on my mind – more for his humility, compassion and ‘common touch’ than his formidable list of legal accomplish­ments. After graduating from journalism, I felt inspired to write about this outstanding human being whom I genuinely admired and respected, and simply called ‘Uncle Val.’ I may note that in 1987 Justice Milvain was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.

Article continues below

Cover of Azmina Suleman's "In the Name of Justice -- Portrait of a 'Cowboy' Judge,"
Cover of Azmina Suleman’s “In the Name of Justice — Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge,” pp. 316, available in Hardback.

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

Azmina: The book is available in hardcover printed format, and can be purchased at a special discounted price by clicking on The Legal Archives Society of Alberta (LASA)

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

Azmina: The book was published through LASA and printed in Canada.

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

Azmina: The book was professionally edited, but I created the cover myself and had some help formatting the manuscript itself.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Azmina: I have written two books: My first book “In the Name of Justice – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge,” that is being highlighted in this post, was published in 1998. My second book: “A Passage to Eternity – A Mystical Account of a Near-Death Expe­rience and Poetic Journey into the Afterlife” was published in 2004.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write In the Name of Justice — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Azmina: Approximately 4 to 5 years from start to finish.

Simerg: Tell us something more about the book and its main character.

Azmina: Justice Milvain was born in 1904 on a ranch in Southern Alberta during the days of the pioneers, legendary cowboy, horse-buggy and itinerant country doctor. From his humble farm beginnings to his slow rise in the legal profession in Calgary, Milvain became known for his special no-nonsense brand of ‘western’ justice and practical landmark decisions, which went beyond the mere letter of the law to invoke its true spirit while administrating justice in the ‘wild and woolly West.’ Milvain’s passing away in 1993 served as a stark reminder of the fact that a material part of Alberta’s living history was slipping away. Consequently, this book now forms a part of the oral and written history of Alberta. To put it in Milvain’s own words: “Without the written or spoken word, it is not possible that wisdom and knowledge can be passed on to others.”

Date posted: April 28, 2021.

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Azmina Suleman
Azmina Suleman

Azmina Suleman was born and educated in Nairobi, Kenya and moved to England to complete her post-secondary education, before immi­grating to Canada in the early 1980’s. She has a Master’s degree in legal his­tory and is a published author and journalist. She lives in Calgary, Alberta.

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CALLING ALL ISMAILI AUTHORS

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at Simerg@aol.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (article published on 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)

_______________________

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

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