A Brief History of the Ismaili Jamat of Jinja

By SALIM AND SULTAN SOMANI

The authors, Salim and Sultan Somani, acknowledge with thanks Nizar Adatia and Sultan Allidina for their valuable feedback and contribution to this article.

Introduction

This brief essay on the history of the Jamat of Jinja was prompted largely by some historical photos found in our family album and also by other photos that we encountered on the internet. Over the years we have shared these photos with friends and family from Jinja. But there are many others with whom we never had the chance to meet in person or through social media to share these remembrances. As we grow older, memories fade and people pass away, carrying with them some of the past history that the young and upcoming generation never get a chance to know about and appreciate. There are many who have no inkling of what their parents and grandparents went through, growing up in Africa, the trials and tribulations they encountered and the challenges they faced.

Rather than let these photos sleep in our albums, we have decided to give them exposure through this website, Simerg, and talk a little bit about them in the hope that they will trigger some memories and invite contributions to make this essay more complete. This essay has some gaps and missing information and is, by no means, exhaustive. Simerg, which is the repository of historical facts, findings and accounts, is, we believe, the right forum for this exposé.

These photos belonged to our beloved father, Gulamali Kara Somani, who was a great teacher and a volunteer. It is to him that we dedicate this essay and honor his memory. Towards the end of this essay, we have paid him a tribute for his outstanding and exemplary contributions to the Jinja Jamat and the role that he played in shaping and impacting the lives of all those whom he taught and worked with.

Jinja in Brief

Map of Uganda. Image credit: Perry-Castañeda Collection / University of Texas.
Map of Uganda. Image credit: Perry-Castañeda Collection / University of Texas.

Situated on the shores of Lake Victoria (the third largest lake in the world), where the River Nile (the longest river in the world) leaves the lake to make its long, meandering 4000 mile journey up north to the Mediterranean Sea, Jinja had the second largest Jamat in Uganda, after the Jamat of Kampala, some 50 miles away. This is going back some 70 years, to the fifties and sixties before the 1972 crisis when the dictator Idi Amin expelled everybody of Asian origin as well as many expatriates.

 Jinja. Victoria Nile above the Rippon Falls.
 Jinja. Victoria Nile above the Rippon Falls. Photo taken in 1936 on a flight with Imperial Airways on a World Trunk route following the Nile from the Delta to the Victoria Nile and the Victoria Lake. Photo: G. Eric and Edith Matson Photograph Collection / US Library of Congress.

On the banks of the River Nile in Rippon Village was a huge rock which was a drop off or pick up point for travellers crossing the Nile. Jinja literally means a stone or rock and this is how the city derived its name. John Hanning Speke, a British explorer, discovered Jinja as the source of the River Nile in 1858.


First Indian Settlers in Jinja

The early 1900s saw the arrival of the first Indian settlers to Jinja. This is best described in the facebook post by Jinja City:

“Indians first settled in Jinja in the early 1900s. During the late 19th century, Indians of mostly Sikh descent were brought to Uganda on three-year contracts, with the aid of Imperial British contractor Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee, to build the Uganda Railway from Mombasa to Kisumu by 1901, to Jinja by 1920 and to Kampala by 1931. Some died, others returned to India after the end of their contracts, and others chose to settle.

“Hajji Tamachi was the first Indian settler in Jinja. He set up Jinja’s first shop and Post Office. Hajji Tamachi played a vital role in encouraging other Indians to settle and do business in Jinja. Other Indians followed suite, with Alidina Visram, Vithaldas and Kalidas also setting up shop. Vithaldas and Kalidas, Madhvani’s uncles, helped to tutor Madhvani in business. Madhavani would later single handedly transform Jinja.”

With the building of the railway and much later in 1954, the Owen Falls Dam for generation of hydro-electric power, the Indian population grew with more of them setting up shop. Different communities lived side by side in peace and harmony, doing business and providing services in their respective fields of expertise and professions. Schools were built and so were places of prayer and worship. The Hindus had their temple, the Sikhs their Gurudhwara, the Ithnasharis their Masjid and, in 1937, the Ismaili Jamatkhana was built.

Ismaili Jamatkhana in Jinja

In 1937, on March 01, thanks to the generosity of Varasianima Virbai, widow of late Mr. Ali Bandali, the Jamatkhana, school, library, traveller’s residence (or musafar khana) etc. were constructed at a cost of 25,000 shillings, for the benefit of Ismailis of Jinja. The project was dedicated to Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan (A.S.).

Jinja Jamatkhana opening photos from Fidai magazine, Simerg
In the top photo, younger and older members of the Jamat are seen gathered at the entrance to the Jamatkhana building at the time of the opening, a proud moment indeed for the Jamat of Jinja. The second photo shows antique cars parked in the front of the Jamatkhana building, indicating that even at that time there were affluent members in the Jamat. Photos: Fidai Magazine, 1885-1936 Golden Jubilee Number.
Jinja Jamatkhana, Simerg
A photo of the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Jinja taken in 2008. Note the presence of a wall around the building which was missing when the Jamatkhana was first built. See preceding image. Photo: © Nazlin Rahemtulla.

A photo of the Jamatkhana taken much later shows a wall built around the perimeter of the building to make it more secure and private. Land was also acquired for sports activities and to hold Imamat Day, Salgirah and Navroz festivities (generally referred to as Khushialis), as well as other special events.

Another new building was built to house the Council Chamber and the Council Office with some space allocated for activities such as baby shows, cooking demonstrations, exhibitions and other social events etc. The foundation stone of the building was laid by Mukhi Gulamhussein Karim. Mukhi Karim was a prominent and affluent member of the Jamat who served in key leadership positions and commanded lot of respect from members of the Jamat.


Religious Education Classes in Jinja

Jinja Jamatkhana building, Simerg
Shams Somani, who was on an assignment as a volunteer teacher with Aga Khan Schools Uganda during the year 1999-2000, is seen standing in front of the building adjacent to the Jamatkhana building where religious education classes were held. Next to the classrooms was the musafar khana (or traveller’s residence) and a residence for the Jamatbhai (caretaker of the Jamatkhana). Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.

Adjacent to the Jamatkhana building, was the building where there were spaces allocated for conducting religious education classes, a musafar khana and a residence for the caretaker of the Jamatkhana known as the Jamatbhai.

One of the principal mandates of the Ismailia Association, precursor to the present day Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB), was to run a religious education school. This school comprised of classes for students of all age groups, from lower primary to senior secondary level students. Popularly referred to as dharmic (religious) classes (the equivalent of today’s Baitul Ilm or BUI religious education program), they were held in the evenings during Jamatkhana time. After recitation of the two Du’as, subjects such as Du’a and its meanings, Ginans, History of our Holy Imams, and General Knowledge etc. were all taught. Our father, Gulamali Kara Somani, was the sole senior teacher and was assisted by other student teachers (e.g. Sultan Allidina, Rosy Kassamali) to teach the lower primary students. He was addressed to as ‘Sir’, a title that stuck with him for many years, even after he settled in Canada.

Much later on, there were other teachers who taught, namely, Gulamhussein Alibhai Pradhan (popularly referred to as GAP) and Yusufali K. Adatia (popularly referred to as YK).

‘Sir’ was a disciplinarian. Like it or not, all students were expected to go to the classes and parents made sure they did. In the evenings, there were those who played cricket and when it was time for classes, they would come carrying their cricket gear and place it at the back of the classroom. Before commencing the class, ‘Sir’ would take a cricket stump and place it on the teacher’s table in front. If anybody did not learn properly or misbehave, they would get the stump on the palms of their hands. Those were the days of corporal punishment. Generally, girls were better students than boys. But everybody learnt, whether out of fear or personal motivation and went on to progress in life. There were competitions held, such as waez (sermon) competitions, which brought out the best in the students.

It was customary to have a visiting Alwaez meet and address the students of the dharmic classes. Such was the case when Alwaez Gulamhussein Juma visited Jinja. An opportunity was taken to take group pictures of the different classes of students on the steps of the Council Chamber and Office building.

Ismaili religious education students Jinja, Uganda Simerg.
Younger students of Jinja’s Ismaili religious education classes pictured with visiting Alwaez Juma, members of the Ismailia Association and the Jamatbhai, Dhanjibhai, standing at back centre, with hands folded. Seated front row left to right: Mr. Sadru Jiwani, Mr. Fazal Gulamhussein, Alwaez Gulamhussein Juma, Mrs. Maleksultan Hemani, Mr. Yusuf Adatia and Mr. Gulamali Kara Somani, our father (popularly called ‘Sir’). Individuals who can identify themselves or can be identified through their friends and colleagues are invited to present their names to Simerg@aol.com for a caption update. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.
Ismaili religious education students Jinja, Uganda Simerg.
Younger as well as some older students of Jinja’s Ismaili religious education classes pictured with visiting Alwaez Juma, members of the Ismailia Association and the Jamatbhai, Dhanjibhai, standing at back, second from left, with glasses. Seated front row left to right: Mr. Sadru Jiwani, Mr. Fazal Gulamhussein, Alwaez Gulamhussein Juma, Mrs. Maleksultan Hemani, Mr. Yusuf Adatia and Mr. Gulamali Kara Somani, our father (popularly called ‘Sir’). Individuals who can identify themselves or can be identified through their friends and colleagues are invited to present their names to Simerg@aol.com for a caption update. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.

The three historic photos that are presented here may have volumes to speak about the individuals, with their own personal stories and experiences. Unfortunately, some may have passed away. Of course, individuals who can identify themselves or whose friends can identify for them are invited to present their names to Simerg@aol.com so that the captions may be updated. For now the captions in all the three photos only include the names of the office bearers seated on the front row with Alwaez Juma.

Ismaili religious education students Jinja, Uganda Simerg.
All girls! Students of Jinja’s Ismaili religious education classes pictured with visiting Alwaez Juma and members of the Ismailia Association. Seated front row left to right: Mr. Sadru Jiwani, Mr. Fazal Gulamhussein, Alwaez Gulamhussein Juma, Mrs. Maleksultan Hemani, Mr. Yusuf Adatia and Mr. Gulamali Kara Somani, our father (popularly called ‘Sir’). Individuals who can identify themselves or can be identified through their friends and colleagues are invited to present their names to Simerg@aol.com for a caption update. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.

Dhanjibhai – Jinja’s Jamatbhai

Dhanjibhai
Dhanjibhai – see previous group photos

A unique individual in two of the photographs shown above, is the unmistakable figure of Dhanjibhai, bespectacled standing behind the group. He was the Jamatbhai, the caretaker for the Jinja Jamat who took care of the day-to-day operation of the Jamatkhana: opening and closing the Jamatkhana, cleaning, making all the necessary arrangements, preparing tea on a sigri (charcoal burning stove) etc. He was the point man for getting anything done on the Jamatkhana premises and had the keys to all the rooms. He was also responsible for collecting Jamatkhana empty plates, bowls etc. from Ismaili households, going from house to house and putting them in a big raffia basket carried by an assistant. Dhanjibhai also delivered notifications to all those who had been given waras (assignments) to recite Du’a, Tasbih, Ginan etc. in Jamatkhana. The response for the acceptance or non-acceptance of the wara had to be given immediately and indicated on the wara card.

Dhanjibhai lived in a residence just next to the musafar khana with his wife, popularly known as maasi (aunty). In the evenings, maasi would prepare fried mogo (cassava) on a makaara (charcoal) burning sigri (stove) and was stationed near the back exit door. She would sell these mogo pieces inexpensively to supplement their meager income. There was chili, salt and a ambli (tamarind) sauce to go with the mogo which was a real treat. As youths, we would always look forward to this mouth-watering mogo after Jamatkhana, huddling near the parked cars on the street and socializing as we waited for our parents to come out of Jamatkhana.

Ismaili Institutions in Jinja

Ismailia Association members Jinja, Uganda, Simerg
Jinja Ismailia Association members. Sitting left to right: Mrs. Shirin Haji Bachu, Mr. Ibrahim Mohamed Jamal (Chairman) and Mrs. Noorbanu Mohamed Mitha; and standing are Mr. Gulamali Kara Somani (our father: ‘sir’) and Ms. Malek Alarakhia, who was a secular school teacher. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.

Inspite of the relative small size of the Jamat, Jinja was very well organized with a functioning Provincial Council, an Ismailia Association as well as numerous sub-committees to cater to the needs of different segments of the Jamat including women and youth. The Ismailia Association was primarily responsible for imparting religious education to members of the Jamat, arranging waezeen tours from time to time, selling religious books, making Farmans available, as well as ensuring that rites, rituals and religious ceremonies were being followed.

Aga Khan Proivincial Council Jinja Uganda, Simerg
The Jinja Aga Khan Provincial Council in session. Sitting clockwise from left are Mr. Sadru Mitha, Mr. Abdul Ramji, Mr. Haji Bachu, Mr. Abdul Devji, Mr. Badru Gulamhussein Adatia (Secretary), Mr. Haroon R. Khamis (Council President), Mrs. Gulshan Adatia, Mr. Madat Hemani, and Mr. Sadru Walji Adatia. Photo: Via author contacts.
Members of the Jinja Ismaili Jamat Entertainment Committee, Simerg
Members of the Jinja Ismaili Entertainment Committee. Seated left to right: Sadrudin V. Virani (Hon. Treasurer), Sadrudin Mitha (Ismaili Youth Organization, IYO, member), Madat Shariff (Chairman), Parin Jamani (Hon. Secretary); standing left to right: Zebun Mitha, Nizar Shariff, Zebun Khamis, Bahadur Shamji, Gulzar J. Karim and Amirali A. Lalani. Photo: Via author contacts.

In sports, the youths of Jinja were very active in practically every sport, be it badminton, table tennis, volleyball and netball (equivalent to today’s basketball). Soccer and cricket were also played, though the playground was not large enough. Volleyball, traditional style, was played regularly, usually over the weekends. Of particular interest was the volleyball match played between married vs bachelors that took place once a year during one of the Khushialis. The match created quite a rivalry and was talked about for weeks afterwards.

At Khushialis, the whole playground was taken over with various activities, both for youths and adults. Starting with the flag raising ceremony, there were games and matches played. Usually the finals in sports such as table tennis were played on that day and trophies awarded to the winners. At lunch time there was sagridaam jaman (communal feast) when pillau (rice), cooked in a deg (large pot) was served in thalaas (large round trays) by the dynamic volunteer corps in full uniform. The Khushiali was a two-day weekend event with dandiya raas (Indian folk stick dance) and raas garba (circular folk dance) being played on Saturday until late at night with music provided by the Ismaili band.

Ismaili Business and Professional Activities in Jinja

Ismaili entrepreneurs were active in all spheres of business; Taxi & Car Rental (Hadi Jamal), Bus Company (Mohamed Mitha, Ibrahim Mohamed, Kassam Haji), Watches & Jewellery (Charanias), Insurance (Hussein Velji), Hotel Blue Cat (Abdul Devji), Restaurant & Bar (Sadru Hussein Rashid Khamis), Wholesale Clothing (Jeraj Sheriff), Portello Soda (Mohamed Remtulla), Pharmacy Retail (Jamal Govindji – Musa Diamond), Gifts (Madatali Hemani), Shoes (Sadru Bata), Molasses (Madatali Moolji), Bakery (Rahim Rajan), Butchery (Alaudin Kara) etc. to name just a few. There were also professionals such as Dr. Abdul Kassam Adatia, first Dean of Faculty of Dentistry at Bristol University (U.K) and visiting professor at Makerere University (Kampala), Yusuf Adatia (Architect) and secular school teachers, Ms. Malek Alarakhia, Ms. Gulzar Allidina and Ms. Gulshan Allidina, who appears in a very rare secondary school staff photo shown below. Indeed, generations of Ismaili students who attended the school will be able to relate to the photo, by recognizing some of their teachers.

Photo of Staff at Senior Secondary School in Jinja

Back row, left to right: R. L. Avasthi, Bahal Singh, L. A. Gomes, B. S. Bhabuta, C. M. Bashir, R. C. Saksena, S. V. Ayyar, P. S. Nayar, Jaswant Singh, A. D. Oza and C. P. Bhabuta; Middle row, left to right: D. B. Deshpande, Beant Singh (Sr. Master Eng.) K. M. Chakravartty, R. S. Aggarwal, J. C. Aggarwalla, Sheikh M. Hussain, B. S. Batra, S. Chakraborti (Sr. Master Hist.), A. A. Khan (Sr. Master Urdu), and H. P. Joshi; and Seated left to right: Miss J. K. Sandhu, Mrs. J. K. Sangha, Mrs. P. Dass, R. N. Banernjee (Headmaster), N. R. Metha (Chief Asstt,), Miss G. Allidina, Mrs. M. Saxana, and Mrs. S. Desai. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.

Visit by Mawlana Hazar Imam to Jinja in 1958

The Jinja Jamat was blessed with two visits by Mawlana Hazar Imam. The first one was in 1958, after the Takhtnashini (ceremonial installation) in 1957 in Kampala, and the second took place in 1966, when Mawlana Hazar Imam made an extensive visit to East Africa.

Aga Khan in Jinja
Mawlana Hazar Imam arriving at Jinja and being received by the Jamati leadership. Here he is seen blessing Kamadia Haji Bachu with Kamadiani Shirin standing next to him. Immediately behind Hazar Imam is Mukhi Shamsudin Mohamed (with hat). Leaning on the car is Alwaez Jaffererali Sufi. On the extreme right is our father (‘Sir’) in full uniform, standing behind Mr. Haji Molu, his colleague. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.
Aga Khan in Jinja, Simerg
Having just been been garlanded, Mawlana Hazar Imam is blessing Mrs. Jenabai Karim. In the foreground, dressed in white with a hat is Mr. Sadruddin Karim, who was the designated driver. In volunteer uniform from left to right are: Mr. Amin Alarakhia, Mr. Haji Molu and our father, Mr. Gulamali Kara Somani (‘Sir’). Immediately behind the policeman (in shorts) is President Mr. Haji Rashid Khamis (in a light colored suit and dark glasses). Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.
Aga Khan Jinja, Uganda, Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam paid a visit to the Jinja Provincial Council Chamber during his 1958 visit. In this photograph, he is seen conferring with the leaders of the Jamat. Seen from left to right are President Haji Rashid Khamis, person standing (not visible), person standing (unknown), Kamadia Haji Bachu, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Mrs. Zohrakhanu Allidina (seated), who held the portfolio of Member for Women and Mukhi Shamsudin Mohamed (standing). Photo: Allidina Family Collection.
Jinja Ismaili volunteers
The Jinja Ismaili volunteers in full uniform on duty in 1958 during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s arrival. Standing from right to left: Our father Gulamali Kara Somani (Lieutenant), Haji Molu (Lieutenant), Amin Alarakhia, Bahadur Fazal, Hassam Mawji, Ahmed Jamal, Madat Khamis, Feroz Khamis, Sultan Allidina and Nizar Sheriff. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.

Visit by Mawlana Hazar Imam to Jinja in 1966

Mawlana Hazar Imam graced the Jinja Jamat with a second visit in 1966. The photos shown are also from our album. The first photo, though, where Hazar Imam is seen stepping down, is of his arrival at Entebbe Airport. If we remember correctly there was no airport in Jinja at the time, and Hazar Imam travelled by car to cities like Jinja and Mbale.

Aga Khan arrives in Entebbe, Uganda, Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam arrives at Entebbe Airport for his visit to Uganda in 1966. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.
Aga Khan in Jinja leaving Counci Chambers Simerg
Mawlana Hazar Imam leaving the Ismaili Council Chamber building surrounded by his murids, trying to get a last glimpse before his departure. From left to right are Amir Madhavji, Zulfikar Devji, Abdul Alarakhia, Mehboob Charania, Malik Kassim-Lakha, Salim Somani, Nizar Sheriff and Sadruddin Karim. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.

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Conclusion

We trust that this short essay has served to provide some history of the Jinja Jamat from our perspective and in so doing, we have honored the memory of our beloved father. But by no means is it complete. There may be some minor errors that need to be corrected and some omissions and information gaps that need to be filled. We are sure that there is much more that others can contribute, and readers can do that by completing the comments box below.

After the 1972 Uganda crisis, when there was a mass exodus, the economy went down tremendously. But since then things have picked up particularly in Kampala, the capital, where there is lot of construction going on. A number of ex-Ugandans have returned and there is new immigration, mostly from India. There is lot of outside investment including by Hazar Imam, e.g Serena Hotel, Bujagali Falls Hydro-electric power station (in partnership between Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development or AKFED, Sithe Global Power of USA, Government of Uganda, Industrial Promotion Services, IPS, and Jubilee Investment Company).

Photo taken in 2000 on the steps of previously used Jinja Council Chamber/Office building, which is now used as a Jamatkhana by the Jinja Jamat. Among those pictured in the front row are Mukhianisaheba of Jinja (3rd from left), originally from Northern Pakistan, ITREB Uganda Chairman Anil Samji, Religious Education Coordinator Karim Jiwani, and Kamadiasaheb of Jinja Jamat; in middle row at left is Shams Somani of Montreal who was on voluntary assignment in Uganda with Aga Khan Schools during 1999-2000; and in back row are Council Secretary Shellina Hasham with her husband Salim Hasham, ITREB District Member. Photo: Gulamali Kara Somani Family Collection.

The economy in Jinja is still depressed with abandoned buildings and buildings in a state of disrepair. The historic Jamatkhana building still stands but there is now a clinic there. The small Jamat that is there, mostly from India, meets for Jamatkhana in the Council Chamber/Office building (see photo, above).

Let us hope and pray that the beautiful city of Jinja, once the industrial hub of Uganda, prospers and blossoms to its days of past glory and become the dynamic and vibrant city that it once was.

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A Tribute to Our Late Father, Gulamali Kara Somani

Gulamali Kara Somani (1924 - 2010) of Jinja, Uganda, Montreal Canada, Simerg tribute Ismaili and Aga Khan
Gulamali Kara Somani (1924 – 2010).

The history of Jinja Jamat and the pictures that we have shared with readers with Simerg are a testimony of our father’s love for Mawlana Hazar Imam and his Jamat. He preserved these photos in our family album for more than 62 years. We wish to pay him our humble tribute.

Our loving father, Gulamali Kara Somani, was born in 1924 in Jinja, He lost both his parents when he was just 8 years old. He was brought up by his uncle and, like many from his generation, he set up shop and started to do business after finishing school. He was always mechanically inclined, fixing things, be it cars, bicycles etc. and was always very creative. For example, he could take a black & white picture and color it using photo tints. (There were no colored pictures at the time). He also developed his own pictures at home. Music was his passion. He started writing and composing songs and played them on a musical stringed instrument of Japanese origin called Taishokoto.

Then he got into repairing watches and got very good at it, a skill that he practiced till his last days. He could pull apart a watch completely, clean the parts, oil them and put them back together for perfect timing. It was this skill that landed him a job in Montreal when he applied to come to Canada. His mind worked on small, intricate details which is why he was very successful in fixing things or creating works of art. At Jamatkhana, when they needed something decorative to be prepared, they knew that they could count on him for something original and he never let them down.

In the 50s and 60s his services were called upon to teach in the religious night school at Jinja to students from junior level to senior secondary level covering all subjects: Du’a and its meanings, Ginans, History of the Imams, Farmans etc. We remember that at one time during a wa’ez competition he wrote a wa’ez in English for us on the subject of: “Education”.

He also served as a senior volunteer (Lieutenant: the highest ranking officer) rendering exceptional services along with other volunteers particularly during Hazar Imam’s two visits to Jinja. We remember seeing him with burn-bubbles on his hands from serving hot, steaming pillau (rice) from the deg (large pot). When he presented himself for Mehmani to Hazar Imam, Hazar Imam blessed him and mentioned: “Good service!”

He was also a member of the Ismaili Band that provided music for dandiya  raas and garba during the Khushiali celebrations.

In 1966 when Hazar Imam visited Uganda, there was a small town named Mbale in Eastern Uganda, on his itinerary (see Uganda map on top of page). Mr. Hadi Jamal of Jinja provided a fleet of cars for Hazar Imam’s staff to travel to Mbale. Our father volunteered to drive one of the cars and was assigned Hazar Imam’s photographer, which was great because he could go everywhere where Hazar Imam went. At one point, Hazar Imam was at a reception and was drinking Coca-Cola from a glass. Our father did not take his eyes off this glass. As soon as Hazar Imam kept his glass on the table and started to leave, our father made a beeline for the glass, picked it up, and then took the glass with him. We still have this glass in our possession which our father preciously guarded and brought it with him to Canada.

A teacher, a volunteer par excellence and above all, a humanitarian, our father served with utmost distinction and dedication, never seeking recognition. His outstanding and exemplary services are truly worthy of admiration and emulation and rubbed off on of us, his children, who have served in various capacities over the years in Jamati institutions.

Our younger sister, Shams, a secular teacher, took one year out of her teaching profession to work as a volunteer with Aga Khan Education Services (AKES) in Kampala from 1999 to 2000. Both our sisters, Layla and Shams were also heavily involved in BUI (Bait-ul Ilm) and have continued to play a role in imparting religious education for many years now. I, Salim Somani, served in various Majalis as Mukhi and Kamadia, in committees (audio visual, catering etc.) and also as a volunteer. My brother Sultan Somani, the co-author with me on this Jinja piece, served as Chairman of Ismailia Association (6 years), as Hon. Secretary on the Aga Khan Council for  Quebec & The Maritime Provinces (6 years), Member and Chairman, Conciliation and Arbitration Board (6 years), and as Majlis Mukhi (3 years), among other duties etc.

Never missing a day, except for health reasons, our father attended Jamatkhana everyday in the morning and evening, no matter what the weather was like. We have seen him bundle up and walk to Jamatkhana when it was extremely cold.

Our beloved father passed away in April 2010 at the age of 86.

We pray that may Allah in His Infinite Grace and Mercy forgive all his sins and rest his soul in eternal peace – Amen.

Copyright © Salim and Sultan Somani.

Date posted: July 31, 2020.

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We welcome your feedback/letters on this special piece on Jinja by clicking on Leave a comment or writing to the editor, Malik Merchant, at Simerg@aol.com. If you were a Jinja resident, your reminiscences about life in Jinja, your participation as a student, a volunteer, a leader or a member of the Jinja Jamat, as well your surprising anecdotes will uncover a wealth of information about Jinja. We also welcome historical photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Jinja. Kindly note that your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

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About the Authors

Salim, in volunteers uniform, 1966

The authors of this article, Salim and Sultan Somani, were both born in Jinja, Uganda and now reside in Montreal, Quebec.

Salim immigrated to Canada in 1974 from England where he pursued his studies in Hotel Management & Catering at Huddersfield Polytechnic and specialized in cuisine. Unable to return to Uganda, following the 1972 expulsion of Asians, Salim moved to join his parents in Montreal where over the years he applied his culinary skills at a number of prestigious places, including the Ritz Carlton, Bonaventure Hilton and Montreal Casino in different cuisines. Most recently he worked at the renowned catering company, La Maison Carrier-Besson.

He is married to Rashida and has a son, Hussein, a National Account Executive with RGIS and a daughter, Aliya, Educational Consultant with EMSB (English Montreal School Board). Salim is now retired.

In recent years, Salim has started carving fruits, particularly watermelons, and his impressive work has resulted in him being invited to carve fruits for several important festivals and ceremonial occasions.

Sultan Somani portrait Jinja article simerg
Sultan Somani with his daughter, Sarah

Salim’s brother, Sultan, immigrated to Canada in 1973. He was studying Physics/Mathematics at Makerere University, and 3 months before writing his final exams, he was in the unfortunate position of having to leave Uganda due to Idi Amin’s expulsion orders. He proceeded to Nairobi, Kenya, and with the assistance of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, under the leadership of late Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, was moved to a refugee camp in Italy where he stayed for 5 months. He then joined his parents in Montreal, where he studied computer science in a university before commencing a career as a systems analyst and programmer at Bell Canada’s Behavioural Sciences Group, Comptrollers Results Department and Corporate Systems Organization (CSO).

Sultan later diversified into a number of businesses in partnership. He has for years dedicated his time to serving Ismaili Institutions in numerous capacities and the Ismaili community in general, for which the title of Rai was bestowed on him. He is now retired, and at the age of 70 is a father of 6 year old daughter, Sarah, whom he takes care of on a full-time basis with his wife, Shainaze.

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The authors recommend the website Sikh Heritage for more information and photos of Jinja.

Shariff Alladina, Ismaili Ginana Reciter, Tanga, Tanzania, Simerg

1960s musical renditions by Shariff Alladina of 4 popular Ismaili Ginans including the Chhogaḍio, Bhāī Tīnī Vireṅ Jīuṅ Umeduṅ

By SAFDER ALLADINA

In my recent piece about my paternal grandparents Alladin and Prembai (see The Story of Tanga’s Alladin Bapu Family) I briefly noted that one of their sons Shariff Alladina (1910-1976), who happened to be my father, had a fine singing voice. I provided links to his Ginans that I had loaded into Soundcloud sometime ago (please click Shariff Alladina’s 4 Ginans, titled as Bapaji 1 thru 4 on Soundcloud). Ever since, I have been pressed for more information about my father as well as his interest in music and Ginans.

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Shariff Alladina’s parents, Alladin and Prembai. Photo: Safder Alladina.

My late father — shown at top of this post — was a business man of Tanga, Tanzania. He came from a musical family. Born in Kathiawar, India, Shariff was brought to Tanganyika in a dhow as a toddler of about two by his parents Alladin and Prembai. In 1930 Shariff married Zera, a Kachhi girl from Zanzibar. It was not very usual for Kathiawari and Kachhi to inter-marry but Saleh Harji, a close friend of Shariff, was able to negotiate the marriage with his niece Zera. She came from well-established families in Zanzibar. Her paternal and maternal grandparents were Mukhi and Kamadia of Zanzibar jamat on multiple times. Zera’s family story is documented in Zahir Dhalla’s piece A rare 100 year old family photo fills in a few blanks of Ismaili Khoja history in East Africa.

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Shariff and Zera Alladina Patney, Tanga Ginan Reciter Ismaili Simerg
Shariff and Zera Alladina Patney, 1930. Photo: Safder Alladina Collection.

There were many singers and musicians in the family. My father taught me to sing Jeere waala Paat madaviney chok puravo (a Ginan which is often recited on days when Ab-e-Shifa is partaken) when I was about 10 years old. Mukhi Habib Kassam, who sang the Ginans early in the evening, was so pleased with my singing that he gave me one shilling!

Every Sunday morning, there was a gathering in my house where musicians and music lovers would gather to listen to the singers and instrumentalists. Ustad Ismail Ragi was a local music master who attended these morning sessions of riyaz until he fell ill and the local businessmen got together to raise money to send him with his wife to India for medical attention.

In the 1960s the sessions were attended by Gangu, a harmonium player and Batuk, a young tabla player. The recordings of my father’s songs, including the four Ginans in Souncloud, came out of these sessions of riyaz on Sunday mornings. I was in the UK at the time.

Shariff Alladina recited the Ginans many times in the Jamatkhana. He also gave lectures in the Jamatkhana where he would introduce pieces of Ginans, Bhajans and Sufi poetry in between his speech. He tutored many young people in Tanga to sing Ginans including his daughters Malek, Shirin and Khatun. Khatun’s rendition of Hazrat Ali’s Mowlana Kalam was enjoyed by many.

With these few remarks contextualizing my father’s interest in the wonderful tradition of Ginans and music, I once again invite readers to click on Soundcloud for Shariff Alladina’s recitation of 4 Ginans as well as a Thumri.

The Ginans in Soundcloud, named as Bapaji 1, 2, 3, and 4, are as follows:

1. Bhāī tīnī vireṅ jīuṅ umeduṅ āsuṅ puṇīuṅ or sānjno chhogaḍio;

2. Sabhāgā is dhunīāṅdhe vich kiyā gin āve;

3. Sāmī rājo more manthī na vīsarejī; and

4. Moman man em jāṇjojī.

Ginans Central at the University Saskatchewan is an excellent resource for Ginans and Ginanic research, and I would suggest you visit the website and see items #140, #614, #751, and #464 corresponding to each of the 4 Ginans listed above that are in Soundcloud.

Date posted: July 20, 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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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

Safder Alladina has taught English as a Foreign Language in England, Japan and Portugal and English as a Second Language in England and Canada. In his 35 years of teaching, he has taught Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Adult classes; and developed and taught Teacher Education programmes at graduate and post-graduate levels at the University of North London, UK, and the University of British Columbia, BC. His research work is in Sociolinguistics. He has retired to a hobby farm in the interior of British Columbia where he does his writing under the pen name of S. Giga Patney.

Muslims pray around the Kaba, Library of Congress, reproduced in Simerg

Islam’s anti-racist message from the 7th century still resonates today

By ASMA AFSARUDDIN
Indiana University

One day, in Mecca, the Prophet Muhammad dropped a bombshell on his followers: He told them that all people are created equal.

“All humans are descended from Adam and Eve,” said Muhammad in his last known public speech. “There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, or of a non-Arab over an Arab, and no superiority of a white person over a black person or of a black person over a white person, except on the basis of personal piety and righteousness.”

In this sermon, known as the Farewell Address, Muhammad outlined the basic religious and ethical ideals of Islam, the religion he began preaching in the early seventh century. Racial equality was one of them. Muhammad’s words jolted a society divided by notions of tribal and ethnic superiority.

Today, with racial tension and violence roiling contemporary America, his message is seen to create a special moral and ethical mandate for American Muslims to support the country’s anti-racism protest movement.

Apart from monotheism – worshipping just one God – belief in the equality of all human beings in the eyes of God set early Muslims apart from many of their fellow Arabs in Mecca.

Chapter 49, verse 13 of Islam’s sacred scripture, the Quran, declares: “O humankind! We have made you…into nations and tribes, so that you may get to know one another. The noblest of you in God’s sight is the one who is most righteous.”

Muslims pray around the Kaba, Library of Congress, reproduced in Simerg
Muslims of all backgrounds praying around the Kaʻbah during Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, in a photo taken between 1885-1889. Photo: Al Sayyid Abd al-Ghaffār, Physician of Mecca / US Library of Congress

This verse challenged many of the values of pre-Islamic Arab society, where inequalities based on tribal membership, kinship and wealth were a fact of life. Kinship or lineal descent – “nasab” in Arabic – was the primary determinant of an individual’s social status. Members of larger, more prominent tribes like the aristocratic Quraysh were powerful. Those from less wealthy tribes like the Khazraj had lower standing.

The Quran said personal piety and deeds were the basis for merit, not tribal affiliation – an alien and potentially destabilizing message in a society built on nasab.

As is often the case with revolutionary movements, early Islam encountered fierce opposition from many elites.

The Quraysh, for example, who controlled trade in Mecca – a business from which they profited greatly – had no intention of giving up the comfortable lifestyles they’d built on the backs of others, especially their slaves brought over from Africa.

The Prophet’s message of egalitarianism tended to attract the “undesirables” – people from the margins of society. Early Muslims included young men from less influential tribes escaping that stigma and slaves who were promised emancipation by embracing Islam.

Women, declared to be the equal of men by the Quran, also found Muhammad’s message appealing. However, the potential of gender equality in Islam would become compromised by the rise of patriarchal societies.

By Muhammad’s death, in 632, Islam had brought about a fundamental transformation of Arab society, though it never fully erased the region’s old reverence for kinship.

Early Islam also attracted non-Arabs, outsiders with little standing in traditional Arab society. These included Salman the Persian, who traveled to the Arabian peninsula seeking religious truth, Suhayb the Greek, a trader, and an enslaved Ethiopian named Bilal.

All three would rise to prominence in Islam during Muhammad’s lifetime. Bilal’s much-improved fortunes, in particular, illustrate how the egalitarianism preached by Islam changed Arab society.

An enslaved servant of a Meccan aristocrat named Umayya, Bilal was persecuted by his owner for embracing the new faith. Umayya would place a rock on Bilal’s chest, trying to choke the air out of his body so that he would abandon Islam.

Moved by Bilal’s suffering, Muhammad’s friend and confidant Abu Bakr, who would go on to rule the Muslim community after the Prophet’s death, set him free.

Bilal Prayer Call
Bilal, center, found freedom in Islam. Wikimedia Commons

Bilal was exceptionally close to Muhammad, too. In 622, the Prophet appointed him the first person to give the public call to prayer in recognition of his powerful, pleasing voice and personal piety. Bilal would later marry an Arab woman from a respectable tribe – unthinkable for an enslaved African in the pre-Islamic period.

For many modern Muslims, Bilal is the symbol of Islam’s egalitarian message, which in its ideal application recognizes no difference among humans on the basis of ethnicity or race but rather is more concerned with personal integrity. One of the United States’ leading Black Muslim newspaper, published between 1975 and 1981, was called The Bilalian News.

More recently Yasir Qadhi, dean of the Islamic Seminary of America, in Texas, invoked Islam’s egalitarian roots. In a June 5 public address, he said American Muslims, a population familiar with discrimination, “must fight racism, whether it is by education or by other means.”

Many Muslims in the U.S. are taking action, supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and protesting police brutality and systemic racism. Their actions reflect the revolutionary – and still unrealized – egalitarian message that Prophet Muhammad set down over 1,400 years ago as a cornerstone of the Muslim faith.The Conversation

Date posted: July 16, 2020.

[Editor’s Note: I first read the above piece in the religion section of the Salt Lake Tribune, which republished it from The Conversation under a Creative Commons Licence. We do likewise, and invite our readers to read the original piece by clicking HERE; it includes several more hyperlinks within the body of the article that some readers may find useful for further study. Image(s) in Simerg’s piece may vary from those posted in The Conversation and the Tribune .]

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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Asma Afsaruddin is Professor of Islamic Studies and former Chairperson, Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures, Indiana University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. To read original article in The Conversation, please click HERE.

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The editor highly recommends the following recent pieces published in Simerg:

1. His Highness the Aga Khan on partnership between races as a condition of peace and prosperity; and
2. Ismaili Youth Perspectives on Black Lives Matter and Social Justice Issues.

Ismaili Diaries: The story of Tanga’s iconic Alladin Bapu family

Preamble to this series on life in the Ismaili community: This is the second in a series of articles dealing with life in the Ismaili community from the late 19th century onwards. The first in the series was on a Rare 100 year old photo. The piece that follows has been adapted by Safder Alladina from his book “Ties of Bandhana: The Story of Alladin Bapu” which was published under his pen name Safder Giga Patney. The paperback book, see image below, is available on Amazon.

Front and back covers of "Ties of Bandhana", by Safder, Simerg article
Front and back covers of “Ties of Bandhana”, available from Amazon.

The lead in this special series is Toronto’s Zahir Dhalla, who wishes Jamati members to dig into their archives and submit electronic versions of family historical photos to Simerg@aol.com. Zahir would then be quite willing to work with families, and prepare stories for publication in Simerg or in its two sister websites, Barakah and Simergphotos.

Alladin and Prembai

Alladin Suleman Hasham Mohamad Giga Patney of Chhachhar, Kathiawar. Gujarat, India.  c1910, Ismaili Simerg
Alladin Suleman Hasham Mohamad Giga Patney of Chhachhar, Kathiawar, Gujarat, India,  c1910. He was born on Sept 9, 1851, in Pattan, India, and died on July 28, 1926 in Tanga, Tanganyika

By SAFDER ALLADINA

Alladin and Prembai owned fields and orchards in Chhachhar in Kathiavar in Gujarat. But at the end of the 19th century the area suffered a series of droughts and famines, and families were looking towards Zanzibar and the East African countries. In addition to this the British Raj, with the connivance of the Nawab of Junagadh and his officials, had imposed excessive taxes and levies. On Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s advice and support from Ismailiss who had made it good in East Africa, families were encouraged to move to East Africa.

Alladin and Prembai, with their children travelled to German East Africa in a dhow. After thirty odd days on the boat they landed at Tanga, Tanganyika. The family had relations in Moshi so they went there in bullock carts on a journey that took them fifteen days. In Moshi, Alladin and Prembai tried to farm but they were new to the climate, weather and growing conditions. After two years, they decided to return to Tanga. The railways and automobiles had arrived in the country and Alladin, with his eldest son Kassam started a shop selling tires, car parts and other hardware.

The shop was on Marketstrasse, Tanga, Deutsche Ost Afrika (German East Africa, now Tanzania), at the corner of the road that came up from the harbour. A railway line from the station cut through the southern part of the town and went down to the port taking sisal, timber and coffee to the ships anchored in the harbour. Steamboats from Europe brought cars, machinery, cloth and equipment while the dhows from India and the Gulf countries brought cloth, tiles, earthenware pottery, salt cod, carpets, spices and tea.

Kassam, Alladin’s eldest son who had a smattering of German now, was talking to the German officials to be allowed to put a petrol pump at the shop. They liked the young man dressed in long khaki pants and a solar topi in the German fashion, and who spoke German and suggested that he go to Berlin on a scholarship to become an engineer instead of pumping gasoline. Kassam’s young wife, who had a boy and a girl now, and his mother were distraught when they heard this: Hai, hai Allah! Hooñ kadi na jawa daooñ! Prembai asserted. (By God! I’ll never let him go abroad.) [1]

story continues after photo

Prembai Ibrahim Teja, c1910 Simerg Ismaili Diaries
Prembai Ibrahim Teja. She was born on June 29, 1854, in Chhachhar, India, and died on June 12, 1924 in Tanga, Tanganyika.

A couple of years later, their son Karim was identified by the German officials as suitable candidate to be sent to Berlin for further education. In 1914, a passage was booked for Hamburg on the Deutsch Ost Afrika line the Pandakoti for Karim to go to Berlin. But war broke out and the Pandakoti was bombed and sunk at Manza Bay near Tanga. Karim had to stay in Tanga and after his father died, ran the gas station on Market Street.

Eventually, Kassam got a license to sell petrol. Drums of petrol were brought to the shop front. A piston pump, operated by hand, was attached to a drum and the fuel pumped into cars and trucks and also sold in tin jerry cans. Motorcycles had now appeared in town. Alladin and Kassam found that they had to start keeping car parts and tyres for the growing automobile population in town.

The family photo, below, shows Karim and Alimohamed newly married. Trinkets of gold and bandhanis of silk were brought out for the marriages of their sons Karim and Ali Mohamed. There was now an extended family of Alladin and Prembai: three married sons and their wives and at least five to six children. Shariff and Fatehali, Kassam and Maanbai’s eldest son, were unmarried.

Shariff had a fine singing voice and was a favourite of the ladies in town. He also used to sing Ginans in the Jamatkhana. (For Shariff Alladina’s 4 Ginans, see Soundcloud, Safder, Bapaji )

story continues after photo

Alladin and Prembai’s family, Ismaili Simerg
Alladin and Prembai’s family, c1925, Tanga, Tanzania (then Tanganyika). Children seated on floor, l. to r : Sherbanu, Amir and Murad; Middle row, l to r: Nurbanu and Milli (2 children), Sikina, Maanbai and Kursum (ladies), Kursum (young girl); Gentlemen l. to r: Shariff, Alimohamed, Kassam, Karim and Fatehali, Kassam and Maanbai’s eldest son. See Note [2] below for more info.

In the August of 1914, there was word around that there was going to be a world war. The British were going to attack German East Africa.

That September, the Districtkommissar went in his open sided automobile to the bigger shops and businesses of the Indians and told them that they would have to leave town and find somewhere to stay until they were given permission to return to their homes. The businessmen were ordered to inform all the other Indian homes in town. Being colonial subjects of the British, the German government saw them as security risk. An Indian owned provision store and Alladin’s petrol pump were told to remain open but their families would have to leave.

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Alladina Bros & Shariff Service Station, Tanga Tanganyika, Simerg Ismaili
Business cum Residence Alladina Bros & Shariff Service Station, 26 Marketstrasse Tanga, German East Africa, antebellum WW I. Photo: Karim Alladin, via his youngest son Mirza, Vancouver. BC.

Alladin and Kassam stayed to keep the business open, while Prembai, and her sons with their wives and children, left by train for Muheza thirty miles inland, in the foothills of the East Usambara Mountain. They stayed with a family from Kodinar, a small town near Chhachhar, the Alladins home village.

On 14th November of 1918, Armistice was declared and the First World War had ended. On 25 November, what was German East Africa became Tanganyika and was given a Class B Mandate by the League of Nations and effectively became Tanganyika Territory of the United Kingdom. The Union Jack now flew over the Customs House, the boma of the District Commissioner, the police station and the Schule school.

Prembai died after the war and Alladin a few years later. They were buried in the Ismaili cemetery at the southern edge of the town. Maanbai became Moti Ma, the matriarch of the household, and Kassam became Mota Bapa  – Big Father of the family.

Today, the Alladin family members are dispersed around the globe in Canada, the USA, the United Kingdom and Belgium, engaged in various professions and businesses – many are still connected to the automobile business.

Date posted: July 14, 2020.

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Safder Alladina

Safder Alladina has taught English as a Foreign Language in England, Japan and Portugal and English as a Second Language in England and Canada. In his 35 years of teaching, he has taught Early Years, Primary, Secondary and Adult classes; and developed and taught Teacher Education programmes at graduate and post-graduate levels at the University of North London, UK, and the University of British Columbia, BC. His research work is in Sociolinguistics. He has retired to a hobby farm in the interior of British Columbia where he does his writing under the pen name of S. Giga Patney.

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The following additional details have been compiled by Zahir Dhalla, author of Ismailis in Tanga.

Alladin and Prembai’s sons started their own businesses in Tanga as follows: Kassam started an auto parts business with his sons; Karim managed the petrol station on Market Street and then went on to start as auctioneer and accountant; Alimohamad started a provision store with his brother Shariff; and Shariff went on to start as copra merchant on his own. He then went into rice milling and producing coir fibre for export.

Collectively, the Alladins became the biggest of Tanga Ismailis Big Five Clans viz. The Alladins: 60; The Hajis: 50; The Nathoos: 40; The Babuls: 30; and The Bhanji Jiwas: 30.

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Notes:

[1]. Kassam and Maanbai were parents to Fateali, Milli, Sherbanu, Amir and Murad; Roshan and Sikina were sisters; all gentlemen standing were sons of Alladin and Prembai and were born in India as was Maanbai. Everyone else in the photo was born in Tanga.

[2]. Offering scholarships to young men was seen elsewhere too: Ismail Jaffer Somji, born 1901, in Bagamoyo, was offered in 1914 full scholarship for himself and elder brother Kassamali. But, as happened above, his ma refused to let them go! Zahir K. Dhalla.

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

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talika Mubarak, and Imamat – a Hereditary Divine Institution that has spanned 1388 years from the time Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S) passed away in 632 C.E.

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/editor SimergSimergphotos  and Barakah

From the day our beloved Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) passed away on June 8, 632, and Hazrat Ali (a.s.) became the first Imam on the Divine Commandment that the Prophet had earlier received at Ghadir Khumm, there have been forty-nine Ismaili Imams, spanning a period of 1388 years in human history.

Top: Imam Shah Hassanali Shah and Imam Shah Ali Shah; Bottom: Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and Mawlana Sha Karim Hazar Imam ( both Gulgee lapis portraits).

Mawlana Hazar Imam and his immediate 3 predecessors have reigned the Jamat for a total of 202 years — 14.6 % of the 1388 years of Imamat to date — as follows: Mawlana Shah Karim Al Hussaini Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan IV, Imam from 1957 — 2020 and continuing, 63 years, he became the 49th Imam at the age of 20); Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah (His Highness the Aga Khan III, Imam from 1885 – 1957, 71 years, he became the 48th Imam at age 7 years), Imam Shah Ali Shah (Aga Khan II, 1881 – 1885, 4 years, he became the 47th Imam at the age of 51 years), and Imam Shah Hassanali Shah (Aga Khan I, 1817 – 1881, 64 years, he became the 46th Imam at the age of 13 years).

This 203 year period accounts for more time than does the entire Fatimid period, reigned by 8 Imams from Imam Mehdi (11th Imam to Imam Mustansir bi Allah (18th Imam)!

Art work Nurin Merchant, Credit: Infinity design povray.org

Some of the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad on the Imamat are follows: “I leave among you two weighty things: The Book of Allah and my Progeny. If you keep attached to these two never, never will you go astray. Both are tied with a long Rope and cannot be separated until the Day of Judgment.”

I recollect a Farman made by Mawlana Hazar Imam during his Silver Jubilee (1982) in Nairobi, Kenya, where he said that he was the 49th Imam and that there would always be Imams in the future, whether it is the space age or even beyond that! That Allah’s guidance is ever present on this earth through the manifest Imam is reaffirmed in another tradition of the Prophet that says that if the world were to remain without an Imam for one moment, the whole world with everything in it would perish instantaneously.

A Ginanic verse that correlates to the Hadith is:

Purush shan matra pag dharani na dharante,
Sansaar, chandra, suraj na dhrashtante,
Kuchh na dhrashtante,
Bhom kar, megh, dharti na aakaash bhave 

Translation:

If the Imam did not have his feet on this earth for even a moment,
then the world, moon, sun would vanish
and nothing would exist,
neither the heaven nor the earth.

On those affirmations from the Prophet Muhammad, our Ginans and Mawlana Hazar Imam, let us therefore truly rejoice that we have a living Imam and that our future generations will also continue to always live under the loving care guidance and protection of the Imam of the Time.

Let us on this auspicious 63rd Imamat Day offer our heartful thanks to Mawlana Hazar Imam for the following Talika that we have received yesterday, July 10, 2020. It was also read out to us last night by ever inspiring President of the Aga Khan Council for Canada, Ameerally Kassim-Lakha, in the weekly reflections program.

We convey Imamat Day Mubarak to our readers and Jamats around the world.

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Talika Mubarak from Mawlana Hazar Imam (English)

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam

My beloved spiritual children,

On the occasion of Imamat day, the 11th of July 2020, 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.

While the Covid-19 pandemic continues to pose a challenge globally, I have agreed to the re-opening of Jamatkhanas in areas where the health authorities allow gatherings in spaces of prayer.

As Imam-of-the-Time, I have authorised modifications to the conduct of ceremonies in our Jamatkhanas, to ensure compliance with present health and safety requirements. This matter is constantly under my review, and I will make appropriate decisions on when to return to normal practice.

It is my wish that, in attending Jamatkhana, as indeed at all other times, my Jamat should continue to exercise utmost care and rigour in observing the measures recommended by the public health authorities.

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

I send my most affectionate special loving blessings for mushkil-asan, good health, safety and security for all my Jamats, and the restoration of peace and stability, with best loving blessings for your spiritual happiness, worldly progress, strength of faith, and for unity in the Jamat.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (French)

A l’occasion de l’Imamat Day, Mawlana Hazar Imam nous a gracieusement béni d’un Saint Talika pour son Jamat global qui est partagé sur le site The Ismaili.

Mes Chers Enfants Spirituels,

A l’occasion de l’Imamat day, le 11 juillet 2020, j’envoie mes plus chaleureuses et mes plus affectueuses tendres bénédictions paternelles et maternelles à tous mes enfants spirituels bien-aimés à travers le monde.

J’envoie mes meilleures bénédictions affectueuses pour les âmes de mes enfants spirituels ruhani, et prie pour que leurs âmes reposent dans la paix éternelle.

Alors que la pandémie Covid-19 continue à poser un défi au niveau mondial, j’ai donné mon accord pour la réouverture des Jamatkhanas dans les zones où les autorités sanitaires autorisent les rassemblements dans les espaces de prière.

En tant qu’Imam-du-Temps, j’ai autorisé des modifications dans la conduite des cérémonies dans nos Jamatkhanas, afin de garantir leur conformité avec les exigences actuelles en matière de santé et de sécurité. C’est un sujet que je suis constamment, et je prendrai les décisions appropriées quant au moment de revenir à une pratique normale.

C’est mon souhait qu’en venant au Jamatkhana, comme en toutes circonstances, mon Jamat continue à faire preuve du plus grand soin et de la plus grande rigueur dans le respect des mesures recommandées par les autorités de santé publique.

En cette heureuse occasion, j’envoie mes plus affectueuses tendres bénédictions à tous mes enfants spirituels qui ont soumis des services et envoyé des messages de félicitations et de bons vœux.

J’envoie mes plus affectueuses tendres bénédictions spéciales pour mushkil-asan, une bonne santé, la sûreté et la sécurité de tout mon Jamat, et le retour de la paix et de la stabilité, avec mes meilleures bénédictions affectueuses pour votre bonheur spirituel, le progrès matériel, la force de la foi, et pour l’unité dans le Jamat.

Affectueusement,

Aga Khan

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Talika from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Portuguese)

Por ocasião do Imamat Day, Mawlana Hazar Imam graciosamente enviou um Talika Mubarak para o Jamat global e que partilhamos pelo The Ismaili.

Meus amados filhos espirituais,

Por ocasião do Imamat Day, 11 de julho de 2020, envio as minhas mais calorosas e mais afetuosas bênçãos paternais e maternais a todos os meus filhos espirituais por todo o mundo.

Envio as minhas melhores bênçãos de amor para as almas de todos os meus filhos espirituais ruhani, e oro para que as suas almas descansem em paz eterna.

Apesar da pandemia de Covid-19 continuar a representar um desafio global, concordei com a reabertura de Jamatkhanas nas áreas onde as autoridades de saúde permitem encontros em locais de oração. 

Como Imam do Tempo, autorizei modificações na realização de cerimónias nos nossos Jamatkhanas, de forma a assegurar o cumprimento dos atuais requisitos de saúde e segurança. Este assunto está constantemente sob a minha análise, e tomarei as decisões apropriadas acerca de quando se poderá regressar à prática normal.

É meu desejo que, tanto ao frequentar o Jamatkhana, como também em todos os outros momentos, o meu Jamat continue a exercer o máximo cuidado e rigor no cumprimento das medidas recomendadas pelas autoridades de saúde pública. 

Nesta feliz ocasião, envio minhas mais afetuosas bênçãos de amor a todos os meus filhos espirituais que submeteram serviços e enviaram mensagens de felicitações e votos de felicidades.

Envio minhas mais afetuosas e especiais bênçãos de amor para mushkil-asan, boa saúde, segurança e proteção, para todos os meus Jamats, e restauração da paz e estabilidade, com as melhores bênçãos de amor para a vossa felicidade espiritual, progresso material, força de fé e para união no Jamat. 

Afetuosamente

Aga Khan

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Talika from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Farsi)

Talika in Farsi

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Talika from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Arabic)

Imamat Day Talika, Aga Khan, Hazar Imam, Simerg
Talika in Arabic

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Talika from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Gujarati)

Imamat Day Talika, Aga Khan, Hazar Imam, Simerg
Talika in Gujarati

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Talika from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Russian)

Imamat Day Talika, Aga Khan, Hazar Imam, Simerg
Talika in Russian

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Talika from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Urdu)

Imamat Day Talika, Aga Khan, Hazar Imam, Simerg
Talika in Urdu

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Talika from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Tajik)

Imamat Day Talika, Aga Khan, Hazar Imam, Simerg
Talika in Tajik

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Shukrana and Supplication

We submit our humble gratitude to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for his blessings to the world wide Jamat on the occasion of his 63rd Imamat Day.

We submit the following supplications from verse 1 of Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea:

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

Date posted: July 11, 2020.
Last updated: July 12, 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.

CORRECTION: When the post was initially published, the Arabic translation was loaded into the Farsi Talika block, and appeared twice. The post now stands corrected, and we regret the confusion it caused.

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

Photos and Story: The Reopening of the Aga Khan Museum

The Aga Khan Museum, closed since March 13, 2020, reopened after more than 100 days. Malik Merchant was present for the opening and shares his experience with story and photos…..MORE ON SIMERGPHOTOS

Glimpses Aga Khan Museum Reopening Simerg and Barakah
Sanctuary, a current exhibition running at the reopened Aga Khan Museum. Please click on image for reopening story and photos. Photo: Malik Merchant /Simerg.

Date posted: July 4, 2020.

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His Highness the Aga Khan and Jehangir Merchant in Lourenco Marques, Mozambique

Ismaili doctrines of faith: Short lessons from the writings of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant: (1) Tawhid or Unity of God

Introduced by Malik Merchant
(Publisher-Editor,  Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

Alwaez Rai Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) — picture above with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan — is fondly remembered everyday single day by his beloved wife of 66 years, Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant, and all her family members.

He passed away 2 years ago on May 27, 2018 at approximately 1:15 AM. We pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace. Amen.

Jehangir  and Maleksultan Merchant
Jehangir and Maleksultan in front of a large
portrait photo of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

My dad was a prolific writer. In England, he edited the flagship Ismaili religious magazine, Ilm, for several years while he served with my mother with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB). His articles related to the faith, history, principles and doctrines of the Ismaili faith, along with insightful interpretations of Qur’anic verses, as well as moving narratives of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Mubarak visits to different parts of the world, richly contributed to the Jamats’ understanding of the faith. The closure of Ismaili religious magazines in the very early 1990’s created a significant void in the dissemination of religious material that was deemed to be “official.” I am referring here to insightful articles in monthly or quarterly magazines published by ITREBs around the world, and not to literary and scholarly books, which the Institute of Ismaili Studies has done a fantastic job of publishing over the past 30 years.

From the time this website, Simerg.com, was launched in 2009, Alwaez Merchant was able to devote time to editing and adapting his Ilm pieces for publication on this website for the benefit of readers on the World Wide Web. Links to those pieces are provided at the end of this article. Ill-health prevailed, and he was no longer able to fully complete the remainder of his Ilm pieces for publication on Simerg.

Ilm Ismaili religious magazine edited by Jehangir Merchant
Ilm magazine – one of Alwaez Jehangir’s magnificent contributions to the Ismaili literary scene. Jehangir edited and wrote extensively for the journal.

Now, I am going to take his unpublished essays from Ilm — many of which were quite lengthy — and share them as short pieces of learning over the coming weeks and months. We begin the Jehangir Merchant series, if I may call it that, with the Concept of Tawhid, which forms the first component in his essay entitled “Fundamental Aspects of Ismaili Doctrine.” It appeared in Ilm, Volume 7, Number 1 & 2, July-November 1981, pp. 2-12.

Tawhid

By (LATE) JEHANGIR A MERCHANT

Jehangir and Maleksultan Merchant, Ismaili missionaries
Jehangir and Maleksultan Merchant served the Imam of the Time and Ismaili institutions for more than 60 years.

In all Shi‘a tariqahs of Islam, Tawhid (belief in the Unity of God), Nubuwwah (Prophethood), Imamah (the Institution of the Divine Guide) and Qiyamah (Day of Judgement), are considered as the doctrines of the faith. My brief explanation of each of these 4 doctrines of faith for publication on Simerg are based on a much broader discussion that I provided on these subjects in my original article published in Ilm magazine, which also included a detailed historical background on the subject of Imamat.

The belief in the Unity of God (Tawhid) is the cornerstone of faith (Iman) for all Muslims.

It is articulated in the pronouncement: La ilaha ill-Allah: “There is no god but Allah.”

This doctrine of Unity of God is beautifully summarised in Sura Tauhid, popularly known as Suratul Ikhlas (112:1-4), which says: “Say, He Allah is One; Allah is Absolute, Independent. He did not beget nor He was begotten and there is none like unto Him.”

We know, however, that the Holy Qur’an, ascribes a number of attributes to Allah. God is spoken of as ar-Rahim (The Merciful), al-Wadud (The Loving), al-Sami (The Hearing), al-Barir (The Seeing) etc. The Qur’an also talks about Wajahullah (the Face of God), Yadullah (the Hand of God), and so on.

While there are numerous references which attribute human qualities to God in the Holy Qur’an, the scripture states in very plain words that Allah is above all material conceptions.

For example, the Qur’an says: “Vision comprehends Him not and He comprehends all vision.” (6:104) and “Nothing is like a likeness of Him.” (42:11)

The Unity of God (Tawhid) implies that God is One in His Dhat (essence) and One in His Sifat (attributes).

The concept of Tawhid appears in the works of many Ismaili dais (missionaries) and philosophers. Their works on the subject place an emphasis against anthropomorphising God, that is, giving human attributes to God.

article continues after image

Fatimid coin Imam al-Zahir
The inscription in the inner margin of this Fatimid coin minted during the reign of Imam al-Zahir reads: la ilah illa / allah wahdahu / la sharik lahu; “no god but God, unique, He has no associate.” Photo: David Museum, Copenhagen.

God is declared in their works as One, Absolutely Transcendent, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Incomprehensible and a Quality-less Being. A Ginanic verse makes this clear:

La thi un dhat kahave, tanki baat kahi nav jai; Dubki le le gotha khave, Pir Paighambar tai na pavey

Translation:

The Dhat [essence] is from nothingness and nothing can be said about it. Pirs and Prophets delve deep in this knowledge but in vain.

The concept that God has no qualities difficult to grasp, because the human mind cannot comprehend a total lack of qualities, a concept which it has not experienced before. We cannot imagine a man, if we can for the moment call such a being a man, who has no colour, no shape, no size, no special existence, who is neither alive nor dead.

Hence, the notion that God is quality-less becomes unintelligible and the Qur’an, therefore, attributes a number of qualities to God. If we consider the qualities applied to God and examine them carefully we find that the grounds for all of these attributes lie in our own experience of this material world.

Pir Shiahbu’d-din Shah writes in his work Risala dar Haqiqati Din (True Meaning of Religion):

“…people speaking about God (Haqq) attribute to Him any such (perfections) as they can imagine. For instance, regarding blindness as a defect, they say about God that He sees everything. They regard ignorance as a defect, and thus say that God is All-Knowing. Thus, whatever they find in themselves as a vice and defect they attribute to God a perfection opposite to that. Most probably, even animals create their own God free from their own defects, ascribing to Him (the opposite) perfections. Imam Muhammad Baqir says that the tiny ant probably imagines his god as having two stings, because it regards the possession of only one sting as a defect.”

So, when the Qur’an attributes qualities to God, it is to help convey to man the idea of God and not that these terms express the true nature of God, or that they are perfect indicators to His Being.

Ismaili doctrine upholds the belief in a single transcendent Being, whose nature is beyond the comprehension of the human mind and who is inexplicable. This is because our definitions are based on our experiences of the material world, and these definitions cannot be applied to this Being.

Pir Shihabu’d-din Shah, again in his previously cited book, says:

“All that is beyond thy imagination, Is merely the limit of thy fantasy, not God. Wisdom can attain a knowledge of His Substance Only in the case if a piece of straw can sink to the bottom of the sea. And Imam Ja’far-as-Sadiq said: “What God is, Man cannot think: and what Man thinks God is not. Yet man lives by God, and God is nearer to him than himself.”

Thus, in the Doctrine of Tawhid, lsmailism completely avoids any form of anthropomorphism and remains purely monotheistic.

We will continue our next discussion on another Shia doctrine of faith, namely, Nubuwwah or Prophethood which will then be followed by Qiyama (the Day of Judgement) and Imamah (the hereditary leadership in Islam).

Date posted: May 27, 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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The following are links to Alwaez Jehangir Merchant’s articles that have been published on this website:

  1. Ghadir-Khumm and the Two Weighty Matters (a Simerg original, I Wish I’d Been There Series)
  2. An Esoteric Interpretation of the Mi’raj (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  3. The Establishment of the Fatimid Caliphate (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  4. The Parable of Moses and Khidr in the Holy Qur’an (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  5. Jehangir Merchant’s Thank You Letter to Da’i Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi (a Simerg original, Thank You Series)
  6. Text and Explanation of “Eji Shah Islamshah Amne Maliya” (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  7. The Story of Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  8. A Translation and Brief Commentary of Pir Sadardin’s Ginan “Jem Jem Jugatsu Preet Kareva” (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  9. The Frontispiece of the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Mashhad, Iran (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  10. “One Jamat” (proposal, with Malik Merchant)
  11. The 1979 London Didar: The Experience (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  12. Imams Muhammad al-Baqir and Ja’far as-Sadiq on Love for the Imam (with Alnoor Bhatia, adapted from Ilm magazine)

Also see:

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

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

By DR. V. A. LALANI
with additional material by MALIK MERCHANT

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

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

What is tasbih and what are its origins in Islam?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted:  April 6, 2020.

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

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

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In light of Jamatkhana closures due to Covid-19, let us pray for Mushkil Asan during week of Satada, which would have been observed in Canada from April 3, and beyond

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

[NOTE FROM WRITER: I wish to clarify at the outset that I am not suggesting that we should be establishing Satadas in our own homes while the Jamatkhanas are closed. COVID-19 has impacted the religious and spiritual lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, who cannot attend their beautiful and inspiring houses of worship and prayers. Ismailis are also affected due to Jamatkhana closures. However, we can perform our obligatory prayers in our homes individually and with family members who are not in isolation. In this post, we suggest (1) extra prayers we may offer for our comfort, courage and happiness, (2) References to Farmans and Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talikas that we can read, and (3) Ginans we can listen to from outstanding resources that we have at our disposal such as Ginan Central at the University of Saskatchewan. NOTE: According to the Ismaili calendar the Satada would have begun in Jamatkhanas on April 3. However what is suggested in the post is applicable for all times, and not limited to the prayers performed only during Satadas. Hopefully the Satada that we must all unfortunately miss due to Covid-19 will be established when Jamatkhanas are re-opened after the pandemic is over.]

Thousands of Ismaili families across Canada are receiving phone calls from their respective Jamatkhana leadership including Mukhi/Mukhiani and Kamadia/Kamadiani inquiring about our well-being at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their concern has deeply touched our hearts, and we sincerely thank them for the time they are taking to speak to us, and to patiently listen to our experiences, needs and challenges. They are playing their leadership roles, as representatives of Mawlana Hazar Imam, with an immense amount of affection and love, which we can feel in their voices.

In an inspiring prayer filled phone call yesterday from the Ottawa Jamatkhana Kamadiani, I was informed that according to the 2020 religious festivals calendar, the weeklong Jamati Satada (communal congregational special prayers for 7 continuous days) in Canada would have commenced from Friday, April 3.

Jamati Satada are held twice a year across many parts of the Ismaili world (there are also individual Satadas which, in serious personal cases, can be held at any time of the year at the request of individuals seeking special prayers for members of their families).

During the seven days of Jamati Satada, tens of thousands of Ismailis, young and old alike, gather in Jamatkhanas around the world for special prayers and heartful supplications for protection from difficulties (or Mushkil Asan). The special prayers are not exclusively for Ismailis. They include supplications for the world at large. In addition to 2 Jamati Satadas in a year, special Jamati Satadas can be instituted in exceptional or extraordinary circumstances, such as major natural or man-made calamities.

With the Satada in Canada earmarked to start on Friday, April 3, we have provided for our readers an outline of prayers that may be offered in our homes or individual spaces. The summary reflects the Satada practice that would be normally conducted in the Jamatkhanas, with minor differences. One point to note is that different countries may have their own starting dates for the Satada. The important thing to remember, however, is that it is a continuous 7-day observation.

SUGGESTED PRAYERS FOR “PROTECTION FROM DIFFICULTIES”

Ismaili Centre Toronto Prayer Hall or Jamatkhana dome. Simerg Photo.
The Toronto Ismaili Centre with its magnificent Jamatkhana prayer hall dome. Ismailis await its opening once the city of Toronto has declared victory over Covid-19, and allows large gatherings to take place. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

1. Recite the two evening Du’a. Remember that in the Du’a, we recite Surah Al-Fatihah (opening of 1st part of Du’a) and Surah Al-Ikhlas (opening of 6th part), both of which are considered to be among the greatest Surahs in the Holy Qur’an. In our beautiful Du’a, we also utter phrases that call for Allah’s mercy and support as well as help and strength from the Imam of the Time, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan.

2. Recite the Satada Tasbih of Ya Ali to Rahem Kar, Ya Ali to Fazal Kar, meaning “O Ali be Merciful, O Lord [Ali] be gracious.”

3. Recite or play recordings of pertinent Ginans and Qasidas of supplication; one such Ginan sung by the Late Shamshudin Bandali Haji, with a link to its English transliteration and translation, is provided below.

4. Read the recent Talika Mubarak and message from Mawlana Hazar Imam.

5. Also, read Farmans from the recently printed Farman Mubarak books authorized by Mawlana Hazar Imam.

6. After 2nd Du’a, partake in Ab-e-Shifa (water of healing) if you have it with you.

Also, during the Coronavirus crisis, and also at other times when times are good:

7. Ask and motivate children and youth to learn and memorize the meaning of the Du’a. Seriously, consider this as one of the most important building block of our faith, and treat it as one of the most important missions that you have. When Mawlana Hazar Imam blessed my late dad Jehangir Merchant with a few precious minutes of his time in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), one of the first questions he put to him was whether children were being taught the meaning of the Du’a.

8. Make faith part of our daily life. Even if it be for a moment or a few seconds, say Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad or Ya Ali, or call on the names of our Imams, keeping in mind that all hereditary Imams from Hazrat Ali are bearers of the same Noor.

9. Recite the Salwat Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad, meaning “O, Allah shower thy choicest blessings upon Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.” This tasbih is recited on Chandraat.

10. Recite the tasbih of Bibi Fatimah. They are Allahu Akhbar meaning God is Great, Subhanallah meaning Glory be to God, and Alhamdulillah meaning All praise is due to Allah. According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) had recommended the tasbih to his beloved daughter Bibi Fatimah (A.S.), and hence its name. It is recited on Chandraat, along with the Salwaat.

11. Seek forgiveness by reciting Astaghafirullahi Rabbi Wa Atubu Ilayhi meaning “Verily, I seek the forgiveness of Allah, who is my Lord and Sustainer, and I turn to Him in repentance.” It is recited when prayers are offered for deceased souls.

12. If you are really fearful of what is going on around you, say the Nade Ali a few times for hope, courage and strength.

Nade Ali, Nade Ali, Nade Ali
 Nade Aliyyan mazhar al-ajaib
 Tajidahu awnan lakafin-nawaib
 Kullu hammin wa ghammin
 sayanj-i Ali Bi wilayatika,
Ya Ali! Ya Ali! Ya Ali!

MEANING

Call Ali call Ali call Ali,
the manifestation of marvels
He will be your helper in difficulty
Every anxiety and sorrow will end
Through your friendship.
O Ali, O Ali, O Ali.

Recitation of Ginan by (Late) Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji

Ginan Aash tamari sree ho by Pir Hasan Kabirdin; recitation by Late Alwaez Shamshudin Bandali Haji. Credit: Ginan Central, University of Saskatchewan.

Please click Ismaili Heritage for an English transliteration with translation.

Date posted: April 2, 2020.
Last updated: April 4, 2020 (editorial note, at top).

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Simerg’s Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who served Jamati institutions for several decades.

We welcome your feedback. Please complete the form below or click on Leave a comment if the form is not displayed. Comments are published at the discretion of the editor. and may be subject to moderation.