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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: May 26, 2021.

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Meaning of Irfan, as Prince Irfan Aga Khan turns 6 years old; and Nurin Merchant’s 4,500 km drive in the Covid-19 pandemic year takes her through beautiful Canadian landscapes and the Terry Fox Memorial

Click image for Prince Irfan

As Prince Irfan Aga Khan celebrates his 6th birthday on April 11, 2021, we adapt a previously published piece that also explains the meaning of his name and the name of his younger brother Prince Sinan Aga Khan…..MORE

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Canadian Prairies, Aga Khan depiction at Winnipeg Museum, and Terry Fox Memorial. Please click on image for photos and story.

Nurin Merchant braves a 4,500 km road trip from Vancouver to Ottawa in the year of the Covid-19 pandemic. At the 3,300 km, mark she and her mom reach the iconic memorial to Canadian cancer hero Terry Fox, overlooking Lake Superior. As ever, she is ready with her camera and comes up with a diverse collection of photos of the memorial and some beautiful Canadian landscape. She is also reminded of Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s quote on life and includes it in her piece with a unique depiction of Hazar Imam at a Canadian Museum….MORE

Date posted: April 11, 2021.

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The world woke up to books during the pandemic and book sales even went up, but ITREB did not empower the Jamat to read by offering curbside pick up and online ordering of important books

This matter has been on my mind for 12 months, and this piece was prepared some 3 months ago. I have now decided to post it after patiently waiting for Jamati institutions, and specifically ITREB, to provide an absolutely essential service to the Jamat — availability of Farman books, important objects (eg. tasbihs) as well as Dua recordings with meanings, and copies of the Qur’an.

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor  SimergphotosBarakah and Simerg

ITREB Curbside pickup
If booksellers and communities can arrange for curbside pickup, the best volunteers in the world can offer this service to the Jamat. Image — imaginary but all is doable — Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Millions of Americans and Canadians turn to Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) Newshour every evening for solid and reliable reporting, insightful analysis as well as highly informative interviews that are conducted by the network’s team of outstanding reporters. PBS and its member stations across the USA lay claim to being “America’s largest classroom, the nation’s largest stage for the arts and a trusted window to the world.”

For some time now the Newshour program, which is anchored by Judy Woodruff, has been running special regular episodes under the banner “CANVAS, PBS’s Newshour art hub.” In a broadcast in late December, PBS reporter Amna Nawaz turned her attention to two American booksellers for their look at the year in books and the public response to books during the Covid-19 year of isolation and pain (read article).

Janet Webster Jones of Source Booksellers in Detroit told Nawaz, “We have been so busy…. that we can hardly answer the phone. We have had a very busy, busy season. We have been frantically doing our fulfillment orders, as well as greeting people by twos and threes as they come to the store.” Ann Patchett co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville added, “People have stepped up to help us out, ordering books online, ordering curbside. We have been running books out to people’s car. And now we’re letting a few people into the store at a time. We take everybody’s temperature. Everybody wears masks, hand sanitizer. And people have been really kind and compliant and supportive. It’s been a very heartwarming Christmastime.”

Thus, as we abide by social distancing guidelines to stay home, books suddenly have become more vital than ever! It is interesting to note that all across North America many religious organizations as well as bookstores have facilitated curbside pick-ups or ramped up their online platforms to service members of their communities (read article).

Shortly after the first shutdown of Jamatkhanas in mid-March (2020), following provincial or federal restrictions recommendations, I had proposed to the national leadership of ITREB (Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board) to facilitate curbside pickup of a selection of books and objects that are close to the heart of Jamat. I had personally offered my assistance to volunteer curbside pickup at the Ismaili Centre in Toronto. Remember, that after more than 40 years of waiting, the Jamat was finally presented with a 2-volume set of Farman books sometime in the middle of January 2020. By the time of Jamatkhana closures in mid March (2020), thousands had already acquired their copies of the Farman books. Yet there were an equal number who never acquired the set. Those who missed the opportunity during the 6-8 week between January and March would have hardly thought that the Jamatkhanas would remain closed for such a lengthy period, or that they would open with limited capacity. I was told that an online order processing system was being seriously considered to fulfill an important and vital need for the Jamat. It hasn’t materialized. I quote, “Do not let time pass….once it has passed it has gone forever.” (Mawlana Hazar Imam, India, 1973).

In addition to the Farman books, Jamati members would want Tasbihs, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s photographs, Du’a and Ginan books and audios, copies of the Holy Qur’an as well as a few other texts from the Institute of Ismaili Studies that are within the grasp of the Jamat’s understanding (Eagle’s Nest?). The pandemic would have provided the opportunity for the Jamat of all ages to begin to become more literary oriented at home. Also, parents would have been able to spend some time teaching their children to recite Du’a properly, and to request them to learn the meaning of the Du’a (“How many amongst you can tell me what the word qul is?” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, Atlanta March 17, 2018. One hand went up!). Memorization by phrases would be excellent, for starters.

Indigo (Chapters-Indigo), the largest bookseller chain in Canada, offering curbside pick-up and even in-store purchase when provinces were not in total shutdown.

Yes, the curbside pickup would have required devotion of time by Jamati members and volunteers of a few hours every week, say at parking lots of selected Jamatkhanas across Canada or in large spaces within the Jamatkhana premises. But where there is a will there is a way, just as our institutions and volunteers around the world organized food and water distributions for their respective communities, Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike, during the pandemic. Their efforts were highly appreciated in the communities they served.

The sad part is that once Jamatkhanas re-opened in Canada last summer with limited capacity, the literature counters continued to remain closed. Social distancing could have been instituted at Jamatkhana literature counters or at appropriate larger areas (such as social halls) during this window that was available. Curbside pick-up should have been facilitated for those unable to attend Jamatkhanas. The summertime window closed! Autumn once saw Jamatkhana closures due to the rise in Covid-19 cases.

Then, last month we saw the re-opening of some Jamatkhanas in Ontario, which are now once again closed down, as of the week of April 5th due to lockdown measures. So when windows of opportunities are available, however brief, we have to take advantage of them. And friends can purchase for their family members who might not attend Jamatkhanas for sometime.

In addition, an online shop should be strongly considered where authenticated Jamati members, who are in the Jamati data base, may be able to order books and then do curbside collections at selected hours. This is not rocket science, just as registration for Jamatkhana attendance is not. If other communities and institutions can take appropriate measures to serve their constituents with energy and some creativity, there is no reason why we can’t equal their enthusiasm, with the best volunteers in the world we have.

Can we be prepared for such eventualities, as well as opportunities that come our way, and not let time pass without being aware that once it has passed, it has gone forever?

Date posted: April 9, 2021.

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

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

Photo of the Day: Birds Vying for Pole Position on Flag of the Ismaili Imamat

At least twice a week, starting Saturday March 27, 2021, our sister website Simergphotos will publish a photo — or photos — of the day that we think our readers will find interesting and even inspiring. Our focus will be on photos related to the work and projects of the Ismaili Imamat and the Ismaili community, in any part of the world, as well as nature and people photos. Please see our featured photos for March 27, 2021 by clicking BIRDS VYING ISMAILI IMAMAT FLAG POLE POSITION

Photo of the Day Simerg Malik Merchant
Please click on image for “Photo(s) of the Day.”

Date posted: March 27, 2021

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Celebrate Navroz with Smithsonian: Painting with Natural Colours in a Live Session on Saturday, March 13 – No Art Experience or Special Supplies Needed

A hands-on workshop designed for sixteen years and older will be conducted on Saturday, March 13, 2021 from 1-3 pm (Eastern Time USA/Canada) by Sayeh (Saya) Behnam, an Iranian American artist based in northern Virginia who works with materials from nature, such as flowers, spices (saffron, turmeric), teas, and minerals to paint decorative eggs and postcards with Persian motifs. No art experience or specialized materials are needed for this workshop; the participants will make their supplies during the workshop from items commonly found at home.

The program is part of the event series Nowruz: A Persian New Year Celebration organized by the Smithsonian’s Asian Art Museum, and is made possible by the Jahangir and Eleanor Amuzegar Persian Cultural Celebrations Fund. Please register for the event by clicking HERE. One registration per household. A Zoom link and a list of suggested materials will be sent to registered participants ahead of the workshop. Enjoy this fun-filled event organized by one of the world’s leading museum institutions – the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

Date posted: March 11, 2021.

Featured image at top of post is credited to Saya Behnam (via Smithsonian)

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Also see our recent post Navroz books for your children to enjoy

At Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos: 1946 Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Medal, 1957 Aga Khan Pemba Visit, Hazrat Ali, Aga Khan Park, Ismaili Authors and Mrs. Merchant

1946 His Highness the Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee

Photographs and story of a historical gold medal that was presented to a British Colonial Officer at the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in 1946 (READ ARTICLE).

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Ismaili Authors: Zeni Shariff

Little One, You Are the Universe by Ismaili author Zeni Shariff of Toronto Canada

Toronto based Ismaili artist and author introduces “Little One, You are the Universe,” the latest of her three books, by answering a series of short question (READ ARTICLE).

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1957 Pemba Visit by His Highness the Aga Khan

Kamruddin Rashid and Shah Abdulla, both originally from Pemba, share their rare photo collection of His Highness the Aga Khan’s 1957 historical visit to the towns of Chake Chake and Wete in the Island of Pemba (READ ARTICLE).

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Ginan for Hazrat Ali’s Birth Anniversary

The unforgettable (Late) Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji inspires us with selected Ginanic verses as we commemorate the birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the 1st Shia Imam (READ ARTICLE).

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Calligraphy, Hazrat Ali Quotes and Imamat for Yawm-e Ali

Hazrat Ali Calligraphy by Karim Ismail

Karim Ismail of Toronto creates a beautiful calligraphy in commemoration of Hazrat Ali’s birth anniversary. The post includes inspiring quotes by Hazrat Ali and his direct descendant His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Hereditary Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. There is also a calligraphy of the prayer of Nadi Ali (READ ARTICLE).

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Aga Khan Park on Valentine’s Day

Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome.

Close to his heart, the Aga Khan Park is where Malik Merchant heads to for a Valentine’s Day celebration (READ ARTICLE).

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Ismaili Authors: Shamas Nanji

Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity" by Edmonton based Shamas Nanji

Edmonton based Ismaili author and philosopher answers a series of question about his book Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity through which readers will learn about the Canadian past from outside the boxes of patriarchy and whiteness (READ ARTICLE).

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Passings: Mrs. Merchant

Mrs. Merchant

Creative writer Farah Tejani pens a poetic tribute to the iconic Ismaili religious education teacher and missionary Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant who passed away recently at the age of 89 (READ ARTICLE).

Date posted: February 27, 2021.

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

Hazrat Ali’s Birth Anniversary: Ginan Recitation by Shamshu Bandali Haji

Shamshu Bandali Haji
A rare portrait of Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji from his early years. Photo: Shamshu Bandali Haji Family Collection.

Simerg is pleased to present a selection of verses from the Ginan Muman Chetamni composed by Syed Imam Shah that relate to the birth of Hazrat Ali (a.s.). The recitations are taken from Ginans Central, a truly exceptional website which curates Ginans for “long-term access and preservation to foster research and learning in the digital era.” The inspiration behind this unique project is Karim Tharani (read ARTICLE).

Here are recitations of three verses followed by a link to the page containing recitations by Alwaez Shamshu and others.

verse Eji te Murtaza Ali….recited by Shamshu Bandali Haji
verse Eji Mataji Gayata Bait…recited by Shamshu Bandali Haji
verse Eji Tare Salaam Kidha…..recited by Shamshu Bandali Haji

Please click HERE for more recitations by Alwaez Shamshu and others. Also, please visit the Ginans Central Home Page, scroll down the page and see links to Ginan collections as well as tools and resources.

Date posted: February 23, 2021.

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

Birth Anniversary of Hazrat Ali, the First Imam: Beautiful Calligraphies and Inspiring Quotes

“Gold remains in this world but right conduct (adab) enables you to meet your lord” – Hazrat Ali

For complete article, click HERE or image below

Hazrat Ali Calligraphy by Karim Ismail
Calligraphy prepared in February 2021 by Toronto’s Karim Ismail to commemorate the birth anniversary of Hazrat Ali. Please click on image for reading.

Date posted: February 22, 2021.

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A Poem in Memory of Mrs. Merchant

Mrs. Merchant

An Ever Burning Flame

By FARAH TEJANI

Like a candle,
In a dark room,
Her light would erase,

Any frown,
Or any pain,
You had on your face.

A gifted teacher,
Full of knowledge,
She’d leave you wanting more.

Her loving arms,
Were always open,
She would never shut her door.

All her students,
Were her children,
Whom she loved with her whole heart.

Not one student,
Could forget her,
Right from the very start.

Her knowledge
Was a mountain,
Everyone wanted to climb.

She imparted
With her wisdom,
Never concerned about the time.

Her bright smile
Filled the hearts,
Of all who came near,

When in her
Holy Presence,
There was never need to fear,

Her faith
Never wavered,
Not once would she question.

The words
Of the Imam
Or his Noble Direction.

Years and years
Of service,
She has given to our Mawla.

Precious, priceless
Memories,
For all of us to store.

With much sadness
Her time to go,
Has left us all with pain,

But if she had words
She’d tell us,

“I am an Ever Burning Flame.

Forget me not,
For I am near,
Closer than you know.

For even though
We leave this earth
We never truly go.

We are with God
Though we may be gone,
And though it is a shame.

You keep me alive
Alive in your heart
An Ever Burning Flame.”

Date posted: February 9, 2021.

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

Farah Tejani graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia in May of 1997 and earned top Honors for her Thesis on Short Fiction. She has published a collection of short stories “Make Your Own Chai, Mama’s Boy!” dealing with different dilemmas South Asians face. Farah also wrote and co-directed her stage play, “Safeway Samosas,” which won “The Best of Brave New Playwrights Award” in July 1995. Her short story , “Too Hot” won third place in the “Canada-Wide Best Short Fiction Award” and was read at The Vancouver Writers Festival. Currently, Farah is working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called, “Elastic Embrace” to be published in 2021.

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

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Also see the following 3 related pieces:

Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant (June 9, 1931 – January 21, 2021), age 89. Photo: Shellina Karmali.

Khyber, a Remote Ismaili Village in Hunza, is Also Home to Magnificent Wildlife: Watch Rare WWF-Pakistan Footage of Himalayan Ibex

In a fascinating 5 part travelogue of his trip to China and Pakistan, Ali Karim dedicated an entire post to the Ismailis of Northern Hunza. His visits to the villages of Passu and Khyber left Ali and his wife Dilshad speechless. They noted, “The experience was overwhelming, as were the sights! The Ismailis of Khyber village and Passu showed us that you can symbolically scale and even climb above the highest of peaks through goodness, warmth and generosity.” Please read Ali’s piece Ismailis of Remote Northern Hunza Rise High Above the Tallest Peaks.

Interestingly, just this past week, the media in Pakistan reported a story about Nyal Mueenuddin, wildlife filmmaker for World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Pakistan and Imtiaz Ahmed, a local photographer, spotting a herd of about 50 Himalayan ibex including females along with their yearlings near Khyber village. We located the beautiful short film on Youtube, which every member of your family, young and old alike, will love watching. The short film follows photos of Khyber Village and Passu from Ali Karim’s must read article.

Khyber Village and Passu, Hunza, Ali Karim Simergphotos
A view of the Khyber village, home to Ismaili families in Northern Hunza. Photo: © Ali Karim.
Khyber Village and Passu, Hunza, Ali Karim Simergphotos
The local jamatkhana in Khyber village is nested on top of a hill, and is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in the world. There is an archway entrance at the foot of the hill beyond which several stairs lead upto to the jamatkhana building. Photo: © Ali Karim. 
Khyber Village and Passu, Hunza, Ali Karim Simergphotos
The main jamatkhana at Passu. Photo: © Ali Karim. 
Khyber Village and Passu, Hunza, Ali Karim Simergphotos, Glacier
A view of the lower-end or terminus of the 20.5 km Passu Glacier from the Sarai Lodge. The glacier covers an area of 115 sq km. The Passu Peak in the back of the Glacier is not visible in this photo because of clouds. Passu Peak, which rises to 7,478 m (or 24,534 ft), was first climbed by Captain Sher Khan (later Colonel) who was part of joint Pakistan-Japan army expedition in 1978. Photo: © Ali Karim.
Khyber Village and Passu, Hunza, Ali Karim Simergphotos, Glacier, Photo: © Ali Karim.
Writing etched into the mountainside in Passu commemorating Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit in November 1987. The cathedral peaks are at the left. Photo: © Ali Karim.
Khyber Village and Passu, Hunza, Ali Karim Simergphotos, Glacier
A close up view of the writing on the mountain. Photo: © Ali Karim.

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WWF-Pakistan Film

Date posted: January 16, 2021.

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A version of this post also appears at Simergphotos.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.