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

Prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

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

TALIKAS AND BLESSINGS FROM MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM

March 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam sends Talika on the occasion of Navroz with special blessings for mushkil asan, and prayers for the Jamat’s health and well-being

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

April 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends message to his spiritual children around the world on Covid-19, with blessings for their protection from difficulty; multiple translations including Farsi, Dari, Arabic, Urdu, Gujarati and Russian

May 2020

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

July 2020

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

November 2020

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

December 2020

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

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PASSINGS

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

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

Please click: Mahebub Mohamed Juma Rupani

Please click: Nazeer Ladhani

Please click: Shamshu Jamal

Please click: Missionary Amirali Gillani

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

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

Please click: James D. Wolfensohn

Please click: Alwaez Sultanali Mohamed

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

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HISTORICAL PHOTOS OF MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM AND HIS FAMILY, IMAMAT PROJECTS AND OTHER EVENTS

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

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

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

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

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

Prime Minister’s Greetings

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

Click on photos for enlargements

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

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

The Aga Khan’s Messages

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

Mawlana Hazar Imam Online?

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

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

A Walk for Inspiration and Hope

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

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

The Crescent Moon and Covid-19 Impacts

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

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

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

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

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

And Greetings from Simerg

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

An Ethereal Journey to a Sacred Space in the Pandemic

(Editor’s note: As of November 20, 2020, Jamatkhanas in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) are once again temporarily closed due to orders issued by the provincial government that impact all places of worship. The BC Jamatkhanas had re-opened at the beginning of August with limited attendance capacity both in the evenings and mornings. Zaher Ahamed’s excellent piece is an attempt to convey his joyful experience of attending a Jamatkhana in Canada in the midst of Covid-19. On new developments about Jamatkhana openings and closures in Canada, please subscribe to the official Al-Akhbar electronic bulletins distributed by Ismaili institutions in Canada).

“Maybe….because of this pandemic, I have experienced the true nature of our faith and gained a new insight into one of our central religious practices of our tariqah: the remembrance of Him in His house during the hour of Baitul Khayal” — Zaher Ahamed

By ZAHER MEGHJI AHAMED

Headquarters Jamatkhana Vancouver. Photo: FNDA.

It was our first journey to the re-opened Headquarters Jamatkhana in Vancouver during a pandemic: it was for the early morning contemplation and prayers or Baitul Khayal during the earlier part of August, and it turned out to be a  total ethereal, peaceful and powerful experience, the closest I have ever felt to the presence of the Nur (Light) of Imam in a what had become  a truly perfect sacred spiritual space.

There was pin drop silence! The pandemic protocol put in place, after going through a painless computerized registration system as you entered, did not permit for social chit-chat, small talk and worldly conversations over a cup of chai before entering the sacred space.

We were swept with only the thought of Him silently with dignity into the Jamatkhana prayer hall. We were in a peaceful dignified space, where there was not a word between the murids, each masked, each enclosed in his or her own socially distanced bubble. The conversation was only with Him, just as it was meant to be. We felt ourselves immersed in the cosmic quiet and stillness, focusing now only on  seeking out moments of happiness through the Divine Word, knowing that, with the Imam’s presence in this space, He was with us blessings us on our own individual journey to seek to come nearer to Allah through the Nur of Hazrat Ali.

With a silent and reflective utterance of “Haizanda” (He is ever living) we stepped into this sacred space and right into his presence! With closed eyes, a quiet mind and an open heart we slipped into the rhythm of silently uttering the Divine Word, first with our lips and then in our hearts, feeling it flow through, ever so slowly, into the depth of our soul, awakening it: and over a period of time, the word now deeply embedded released moments of energy, awareness, joy and happiness…. all in a timeless moment, the soul wanting to stay for ever and then…. the hour was over in what seemed like a second…. with the promise of another day to be again in His presence in this sacred space.

Jamatkhana prayer hall, Ismaili Centre Vancouver. Photo: Bruno Freschi Collection, 1985.
“Sacred Space” – the Jamatkhana prayer hall, Ismaili Centre Vancouver. Photo: Bruno Freschi Collection, 1985.

This is what the house of the Lord was meant to be like!

Then, without a word with anyone, we stepped straight outside into our car, carrying the peace that was in our hearts. And on our way home, we saw the light of the waning moon with Venus ablaze shining on us, leaving us speechless in the cosmic balance of His creation.

The calmness that we had felt in the Jamatkhana continued on our journey home. It was then that I remembered Hunza, where I had felt that same pin drop silence with no words in calm and quiet in a Jamatkhana with a dimly lit hall, “a sacred space,” in Karimabad. And now, I had once again experienced that in my own Jamatkhana in Vancouver — and that too in a global pandemic or maybe because of a global pandemic!

Maybe, ironically, because of this pandemic, I have experienced the true nature of our faith and gained a new insight into one of our central religious practices of our tariqah: the remembrance of Him in His house during the hour of Baitul Khayal.

Going for Ibadat in the morning, in its truest sense, should be an act filled with a simplicity and a reverence  of the highest kind for this sacred space devoid of any refreshments, hanging around the chai table and having meaningless conversations that last until almost 5 a.m!

Spaces created in Jamatkhanas for prayer are sacred spaces!

It was truly a unique experience and in terms of the logistics, the whole process of going to the Jamatkhana, from the time of arrival until departure, was very well organized, with an army of well trained volunteers directing your every move: Your car on arrival is directed into a pre-planned space; if you have not brought your mask one is provided to you; next you confirm your spot and answer standard Covid-19 protocol questions and have your temperature taken; you then get directed into the shoe/coat area, have your hands sanitized and then are led finally into your own space.

When the limited rites and ceremonies, tailored to keep murids safe, are completed, you are led out to your car in an orderly manner. Fifty pre-allocated murids who have come to the Jamatkhana for the morning Ibadat and prayers each, I believe, leaves with a unique experience.

What else are we witnessing during the pandemic?

I believe, we are seeing the birth of a “global Ismaili renaissance” showcased and driven by a digital platform of webinars, zoom sessions and the Ismaili TV. We are seeing the fruition of the coming together of Ismaili talent in all its forms: academic scholars and waezins, health care professionals, dancers, musicians, singers, consultants, counselors, journalists, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) executives and staff, and Jamati leaders, all the result of our Imam’s extraordinary vision and its execution over the last 60 years.

It is like seeing a period of our rich Fatimid heritage in a digital mirror!

Seniors are zooming… the youth are dancing, men are cooking… women are leading and “dadimas” (grandmothers) are “face timing… and all this within just the last 7 months.

Learning, Mawlana Hazar Imam has often said, should continue throughout our lives. Age should not be a constraint, and this is precisely what we are witnessing. We are exploring with full confidence, and thousands of voices from around the world and from our global Jamat are now being heard directly. This is the commencement of a new digital communications era, and the challenge now will be to stay truly connected and to manage this era carefully with awareness and sensitivity so that it does not stifle in its own success.

As for me and my family, this pandemic has brought us even closer and it feels good to be in the centre of “This Ismaili Renaissance”.… a truly humbling experience!

Date posted: November 20, 2020.

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Zaher Ahamed

Zaher Ahamed is an internationally recognized expert in Strategic Marketing, Multicultural Communications, Diversity & Human Resources Development, Strategic Planning, Design &  Project Management. His over 40 years of Business & Consulting experience includes working with Expo 86, the Royal Bank of Canada, Life Care International, Terry Fox Foundation, WIOMSA (Zanzibar), Governments of Canada & British Columbia as well as holding teaching positions with the University of Stockholm, Red Deer University and BCIT in Europe and in Canada.

He has had extensive experience working for corporate and not-for-profit organizations in the Middle East and Africa. In Nairobi, Kenya, he worked with the Aga Khan University Hospital, as a project manager for the establishment of turnkey state-of-the-art digitally connected Pilot Primary Health care and diagnostic Aga Khan Medical centres in East Africa. His volunteer experience includes working in Syria, Zanzibar, East Africa, Sweden. USA and Canada. He is multilingual and has a deep interest in Ismaili history and Ginanic and Sufi traditions. Now retired in Vancouver, BC, Canada, Zaher continues to perform voluntary work with Ismaili and non-Ismaili institutions around the world.

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

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.

“Largesse” of Mawlana Hazar Imam, and Photos of Fall Colours and Waxing Moon at 3 Unique Aga Khan Projects in Toronto

Watch a short 90 second interview in which a non-Ismaili speaks about Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and then view a collection of superb photos of the waxing moon rising above the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana as well as a display of autumn colours at Aga Khan Park…MORE AT SIMERGPHOTOS

Click on image for interview, story and more photos

Date posted: September 26, 2020.

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Jamatkhana Ismaili Centre Toronto and Aga Khan Park, Simerg, Photo Malik Merchant

A Poem Inspired by the Reopening of Jamatkhanas

As We Reopen

By Parin Verjee

Approaching the doors of the Jamatkhana
Heads bowed in all humility
Lower your gaze
Pause a moment
Softly say a heartfelt prayer
Shukhrana, Al Hamdu’lillah
The blessed day has arrived
Quieten your thoughts
Touch your heart
Hand on your heart
Smile with your eyes
Greet gently
Gracious to one and all
Carry your mehmani in your heart
Let Allah’s light guide you
To His threshold
Let divine grace
Touch your praying hands
Embrace the silence
Be at peace
The sacred space
Awaits your soulful zikr

Date posted: August 16, 2020.

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About the author: Parin’s love of books, music, theatre, and travel sometimes leads her to writing about her experiences, and the reopening of Jamatkhanas inspired her to pen a few lines here. Originally from Kenya, she studied at Makerere University, Kampala, and at the University of Dijon, France, and lived in Oxford, England, before moving to Canada. She has been in Doha, Qatar, for the last 12 years and living in the Middle East has enhanced her appreciation of Islamic art and culture. She is presently back in Calgary.

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

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The featured photo shown at the top of this post was taken on the night of Friday August 14, 2020, when the Headquarters Jamatkhana dome at the Ismaili Centre Toronto was lit up for the first time since mid-March when Jamatkhanas across Canada closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The spectacular lit up dome is visible from the busy Don Valley Parkway, and is much admired by pedestrians and drivers alike as they drive through the Parkway or walk along Eglinton Avenue and Wynford Drive. The photo and the beautiful poem penned by Parin Verjee celebrate the opening of the Headquarters Jamatkahana on Monday August 17, as well as other Jamatkhanas that have opened in recent days or will be opening in the coming days.

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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.

Ismaili Jamatkhanas in Canada and Around the World Begin to Reopen with Covid-19 Precautions in Place

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/editor BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos

Here are quick links to:

(1) Registration and News about Jamatkhana Openings in Canada;
(2) Subscription to Canadian Ismaili Institution Newsletters, eg. Al-Akhbar; and
(3) Instructions for downloading Apps for Global and Country Wide Official Ismaili Institution News, TV programming etc.

The Ismaili Canada’s iicanada.org portal proudly announces, “Jamatkhana Reopening Welcome Back,” and goes on to state, “As Jamatkhana capacity is limited due to COVID-19 regulations, and to enable contact tracing in the event of a potential infection event, all individuals will need to register online to gain access to Jamatkhana. Pre-registration allows Jamati members to indicate their preferred dates and times of Jamatkhana attendance (including Jamatkhanas not yet open), and be allocated a confirmed spot ahead of time.”

The Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana, known as Toronto’s Headquarters Jamatkhana, shown above as a featured photo, opens on August 17.

Speaking to a close friend in Ottawa, I am told that yesterday’s (Tuesday, August 12, 2020) opening of the Jamatkhana filled it up to the maximum persons permitted in the prayer hall. It felt like a commemorative occasion with the announcement of appointments of new Majlis Mukhi and Kamadia Sahebs as well as Mukhiani and Kamadiani Sahebas. From Vancouver, I get a video from a friend who attends his local Jamatkhana after more than 150 days, since the Jamatkhana closures in mid-March, and he watches the sky with the moon illuminated at 42%. His face glows, and as he reaches his Jamatkhana his heart is filled with joy.

Narratives circulate on the social media and Whatsapp about 1st day experiences in the Jamatkhana after a long long lay-over, especially from Portugal, where Jamatkhanas first opened a few weeks ago.

A comprehensive list of Jamatkhana opening days, registration details etc. for Canada is available at iicanada.org.

Canada Jamatkhana Reopenings Simerg
The.Ismaili image on Jamatkhana reopenings in Canada

For openings and latest announcements of Jamatkhana openings in some other parts of the world please click FRANCE and PORTUGAL. A few USA Jamatkhanas in small centres were scheduled to open several days ago but the openings have been delayed due to a surge of coronavirus infections in numerous states.

Regrettably, the country portals available through the.ismaili community website are not updated with the status of Jamatkhana openings — except for Canada and France, and local Jamati members in various countries are often informed through their respective Jamati institutions newsletters or Apps. For example in Canada the link iicanada provides a list of Jamati newsletters that you may subscribe to. Of particular importance on the list would be the weekly Al-Akhbar for different regions, BC, Alberta, Ontario etc.

It is advisable that readers download their respective country wide institutional Jamati Apps available in their regions or subscribe to the weekly newsletters for the latest information. However, not everyone is familiar about downloading and using apps, and users accessing the internet via notebooks and desktops are put at a disadvantage.

It is important that there is some consistency about how information for different countries is available through the different portal Ismaili websites for non App users. I was personally confused, and would be happy to stand corrected if others don’t find that to be the case.

For everyone totally comfortable about downloading and using Apps, as we live in an App driven world, I would request readers to visit the official Ismaili community page where instructions are provided for downloading the.Ismaili app onto your hand held device. The Ismaili states that “with the app, which is available to download for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, users can stay up-to-date on global and national news, receive official messages from Jamati institutions, and watch The Ismaili TV live.”

Among other things, the App will “allow you to receive notifications, including breaking news and official messages from Jamati Institutions.” It will also allow you to see news from other countries around the world by toggling to as many countries as the readers wishes to. Again, please visit the page the.Ismaili app.

Date posted: August 13, 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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Jamatkhana

Ismaili Centre Toronto Prayer Hall Simerg

By NAVYN NARAN

They entered the Jamatkhana prayer hall,
Sat on the patterned carpet or the seniors on chairs
Closed their eyes.
So some chatted to acquaintances
Ya Ali Madad “ki ayon?”
“Did you hear? Did you go…? Shukr
Mawla…”
Mukhi-Kamadiasaheban enter, we start.
Every day, 365.

A pandemic, unprecedented.
A change.
The place of prayer remained.
And was attended, at set time and others,
“All day, all night, every day, every night”
Outdoors and in, on screen and off,
They looked toward the esoteric qibla,
breathed the esoteric Qur’an.

The Jamatkhana holds a special place
and cannot be replaced
The place of prayer remains within
The soul is not erased.
“There are those I see with my eyes”….
Yes, there is that we see with our eyes,
And then, there is that we may feel in the heart.

Will the space of gathering open?
A sanctuary for so many,
A familiar space of belonging,
Connection, hope and light.
When will it open?
No one can speculate.
For it is, when the Imam decides.

“Remember, remember, remember,
And never forget
“Take your tasbirh, take your tasbirh”
Like your breath, in and out.
Only you can decide.
The exoteric and the esoteric

The Jamatkhana is a physical space
A sanctuary, a place of peace.

Date posted: June 22, 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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About the author: A regular contributor to this website, Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar (1936-2017) and Badrudin Naran (1930-1979). She is currently in Toronto working in pediatrics and volunteering at the Aga Khan Museum.

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Translucent Night

 

 

By NAVYN NARAN

A grain of sand,
Held in its shell.
A pearl is born, hidden from sight
These are reflective within the whole
Under the opaque crystal
Of the peaked Ismaili Centre dome
Here grains of sand
transform into pearls.
A mountain peak risen
From circular white granite
The translucent glass faces
His one time home.

The moon is peeking out
As it waxes on a journey
The clearest night paves the way
towards a seventh heaven
No clouds to deter the clarity and blessings
of quanta and waves.
Piercingly clear, nothing interferes.
The dome sits majestically, still as thin air
In the bright night lit of stars
Where all souls pray.

Those who eat of the fruits of that which is within
In the peace of the night
Light enters through the transparent glass
You search for the spiritual nature of being
Between the opaque and the transparent.

Peace tonight as Shawwal arrives
Then dawn will break clearly
And rustle of wings and hymns of birds will be heard,
As buds have been born
Tulip has bloomed
Russian sage is waking
Cherry blossoms are done
Serviceberry smart in rows, salutes
Infinity pools await water,
Thoughts take root.

And so we wonder,
What is under this dome?

Ismaili Centre Toronto Dome
The dome of the Ismaili Centre Toronto

Date posted: May 25, 2020.

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About the author: A regular contributor to this website, Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar (1936-2017) and Badrudin Naran (1930-1979). She is currently in Toronto working in pediatrics and volunteering at the Aga Khan Museum.

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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.

 

The Echoes of Nature

By NAVYN NARAN

Cave of Hira, Saudi Arabia

The echoes of Nature
Bring us back to the cave
Wherein spirituality harkens the soul
Hush
What is this ?
To “Read”?
Not yet.
First to calm down
Slow down the thoughts
And attend the Divine Intellect
That which emanates within each of our souls
Within the bear of this Magnificent body
That is all too human
But never humanly created.

The echoes of Nature
Bring us back to the cave
To will the calm.
Creating space to calm the Will.
The physical jamat Khana is closed today
The spiritual space wide open
The windows to spring invite us in
To quiet the mind for moments within

The echoes of Nature
Light our world
Let fresh air be a gift to enjoy.
Within the chaos we must remember our Peace
The time is given
To slow the rat race.
Echoes of Nature
Harken the soul
Can you hear?
Perhaps outside in nature
Or your child’s face asleep
Or the eyes of a pet by your side

Pause
Come in.

© Navyn Naran. 2020.

Date posted: May 14, 2020.

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Dr. Navyn Naran

About the author: A regular contributor to this website, Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar (1936-2017) and Badrudin Naran (1930-1979). She is currently in Toronto working in pediatrics and volunteering at the Aga Khan Museum.

____________________

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

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.

Amid several Jamatkhana closures around the world due to Covid-19 let us all pray at home individually or as a family and seek to give hope, happiness and inspiration to vulnerable members of the Jamat

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Simerg and Muslim Harji
A Muslim offering prayers under the “Rock” where Abraham brought his son Ishmael for sacrifice. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright.

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

When you have not missed a day in Jamatkhana attendance over the past several years, how do you cope with sudden and unforeseen closures of your favourite Jamatkhana? We live in difficult circumstances. Covid-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — has infected tens of thousands around the world and has been declared a pandemic, causing anxiety and worry. I left a pharmacy on Friday March 13 with a customer expressing, “it feels like death can approach anyone of us, and I just feel at the moment that I might die.” When I next visited a supermarket at around noon time, people were filling their shopping carts to the brim with supplies for their families. Ismaili institutions in Canada on the same day announced the closure of Jamatkhanas in several provinces around the country to protect the elderly and everyone who is vulnerable due to compromised immune systems. A similar decision was made by the USA Aga Khan Council for cities across many states on Saturday, March 14. Of course, these are also containment measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. These measures have also been necessary as a result of bans that have been imposed by state or provincial or even Federal authorities on large gatherings.

In 1979, I was left with a difficult situation of being the only Ismaili in Salt Lake City, Utah, for several months, until a family arrived just before I left the following summer. The nearest Jamatkhanas were in Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix, hundreds of miles away. I disciplined myself to pray regularly and the happiness and strength I achieved was comparable to my earlier praying days at 5 Palace Gate in London, England. In London, I had become a regular only in 1976, and before that attended Jamatkhanas only on Fridays at Central Hall when I was a student at the Polytechnic of North London. In Salt Lake City, I set aside a corner in my room for the purpose of praying. It was a tiny 12-15 sq ft space beside my bed. The night table contained my rosary (tasbih), with the drawers containing Farman and Ginan books along with a copy of the Holy Qur’an as well as some literary magazines and books. I performed my prayers in an identical fashion to what takes place in Jamatkhana — reciting the Du’a, Farmans and Ginans loudly as well as standing up for the tasbih. My heart and soul enjoyed the spiritual nourishment that I experienced even from praying alone. Chandraat (New Moon day or first day of the Islamic month) was a joyful day for me as I saw the new moon above the Wasatch Mountains that surround the Mormon capital. On my drive home in my roommate’s car, I looked forward to the special Chandraat prayers that I would recite.

A few years ago in Ottawa, I met and interviewed the eldest member of the Ismaily family, who was probably the first Ismaili to settle in Canada in the early 1950’s. He had met our beloved 48th Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), just before his lone settlement in a new country. He told me the late Imam asked him to set aside a small portion of his room and conduct his prayers in that space just as he would in a Jamatkhana. The Imam also asked him to keep away from bad and evil social habits, and to work hard. Mr. Ismaily abided, and said that the practice that he adopted of praying regularly in a designated space gave him immense strength, comfort and spiritual happiness.

So here are my recommendations to families where Jamatkhanas have been temporarily closed — and we don’t yet know for how long! Try as a family to pray together. Visit your parents or grandparents at their home, if you are not staying with them, and say to them that you would like to join them for prayers. When visiting them, if you are healthy, take precautions such as hand washing and other important recommended hygienic steps like the ones posted by the Government of Singapore.

Remember they have all of a sudden been deprived of the most valuable moments in their lives — being in Jamatkhanas. Tell them you will recite the Du’a out loud. Keep in mind that many elderly people rely on listening to the prayers recited by another person. Many do not have the capacity to recite the Du’a. Play or recite a ginan or qasida, and join together in tasbihs to help ease our difficulties that we are facing at the present time. Say Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad or Ya Ali. Recite Salwats. Recite the tasbihs of Allahu Akhbar (God is Great), Subhanallah (Glory be to God) and Alhamdulillah (All praise is due to Allah) suggested by the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S) to his beloved daughter Bibi Fatimah (A.S.). Say the tasbih of Ya Ali Tu Rahem Kar (O Ali be Merciful) Ya Mawla Tu Fazal Kar (O Lord [Ali] be gracious) that we recite during Jamati Satada (7 consecutive days of special prayers for the easing of difficulties). Remember, Mawlana Hazar Imam is our strength, so say Ya Shah Karim Ya Mawlana anta Quwati from the 5th part (O Shah Karim, You are my strength/support).

This is a perfect time to come together at home as families, with no live sporting distractions to take occupy our times! It is an opportunity to be together, to help each other out, to motivate each other, to connect more with our parents and children and to build family unity. It is also an opportunity to develop a balanced life, for those who are immersed with worldly issues, and engage more with our faith. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s blessings are with us constantly, and it is an opportune time to read his Farmans from the two-set Farman books that has just been published under his directive. Read them aloud to your children, siblings, parents and grandparents when you are around them.

These are my humble suggestions to ease through the anxious times that we face which is unprecedented in recent history.

May we continue to fulfill our spiritual responsibilities well during this difficult and anxious time in our lives to avail ourselves of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s constant blessings for our well-being, strength and mushkil asan (protection from difficulty).

Finally, as a subscriber to the National Geographic (NG) magazine, I would recommend this superb link containing educational and informative articles on the Coronavirus from the magazine’s fine writers and photographers. NG is making this information available without a paid subscription.

Date posted: March 13, 2020.
Last updated: March 21, 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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