Alwaez Nizar Chunara with his wife and children. Passings Simerg

Passings: Alwaez Nizar Chunara (1940 – 2021)

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

Ismaili missionary Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara (1940-2021), Simerg passings
Ismaili missionary Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara (1940-2021)

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

[In writing this tribute, I am deeply indebted to the family of Alwaez Nizar Chunara for supplying me with important information related to his life].

It is with the utmost sadness that I record the recent demise of the much beloved missionary of the Ismaili world, Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara, who passed away in Vancouver on September 8, 2021 at the age of 81. He is survived by his wife Fariyal and their three children Fayaz (Shirzad), Arif (spouse Amynah) and Fazillah (spouse Alim) as well as grandchildren Raeesa, Raian, Mikayla, Alayna, Kayden, Alyssa and Mila and two younger brothers, Alnoor (Remtulla) in Edmonton and Azeem in Australia. Alwaez was laid to rest in Vancouver on September 14, 2021.

Born on October 29, 1940 in Manyoni, a small town near Dodoma, Tanzania, Nizar Chunara did his early schooling in Tabora and completed his secondary education at Dar es Salaam’s Aga Khan Secondary School. He then joined his father’s business in Manyoni and shortly thereafter went to Pakistan to pursue his dream of becoming a missionary (or Alwaez). 

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Aga Khan  Mawlana Hazar Imam with Nizar Chunara waezin program student in Pakistan, photo for Simerg
During his visit to Pakistan in the early 1960’s Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, meets young East African waezin student Nizar Chunara in Karachi. Having learnt from Nizar about his interest in the comparative study of religions, Mawlana Hazar Imam then wrote down the title of a dissertation that would be of interest to the future waezin (see inset image). This note was preserved by Alwaez, and attached to the bottom of the photo shown above, and the blessed moment stayed with him all his life. Photo: (Late) Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

During his studies in Pakistan in the early 1960’s, he was blessed with an opportunity to meet Mawlana Hazar Imam, who inquired what subject interested him the most. When he said he was keen on studying comparative religions, Mawlana Hazar Imam referred Alwaez to Professor Louis Massignon’s dissertation on Al-Hallaj by writing the information down on a piece of paper (see photo, above). This was an unforgettable incident in Nizar’s life at a very young age. It is a well known fact that Massignon (d. 1962), besides being an authority on the life of the legendary Muslim mystic Al-Hallaj, wrote and spoke on interfaith dialogue and was particularly interested in the relationship of the three Abrahamic faith traditions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

For Alwaez, this was the first of several opportunities in his life to meet Mawlana Hazar Imam.

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Aga Khan group photo Nairobi Kenya with Nizar Chunara
This group photo was taken in 1982 in the course of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Silver Jubilee visit to Kenya, when the leadership and spouses of every Jamati institution had the opportunity of a group photograph with Hazar Imam, Begum Salimah and Prince Amyn Mohamed. This particular group was the Ismailia Association, the precursor of the present-day ITREB. Alwaez Nizar Chunara is seen standing in back row (5th from left), immediately behind Hazar Imam, and his wife Fariyal is seated on floor, 5th from left. The then Chairman of the Ismailia Association, Rai Ameerally Kassim-Lakha, is on Begum Salimah’s right. Photo: (Late) Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

In 1964, following the completion of the waezin training program in Pakistan, he joined the Ismailia Association (now known as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board or ITREB) in Tanzania as a full-time Alwaez. He dedicated the rest of his life to the service of Ismaili institutions, the community and the Imam-of-the-Time both in full-time and honorary capacities. His sermons were enjoyed by Jamats wherever he preached.

The most profound memory in his life was of him accompanying Mawlana Hazar Imam on his fifty-four day visit to East Africa and Madagascar in 1966, as the official missionary. The memories of this visit stayed with Alwaez Nizar and inspired him throughout his life.

As a son of one of his best waezin friend, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (d. 2018), whom he would visit every single day as they were neighbours in the same apartment building on United Nations Road, I can say that Alwaez Nizar’s recollection of this extraordinary visit were absolutely remarkable and truly inspiring. I sincerely hope that the recorded written details of this visit have been carefully preserved.

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Jehangir Merchant, Nizar and Fariyal Chunara in Dar es Salaam Tanzania United Nations Road, Simerg, Passings
Nizar Chunara (left), his wife Fariyal and Jehangir Merchant pictured outside their apartment building – Islamabad Flats – located on United Nations Road in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection, photo taken in late 1960’s.

I vividly recall the day when my mum, Alwaeza Malek (d. 2021), was preparing her material for a waez on social habits. Having just returned from the tour, Alwaez Nizar mentioned a Farman that Mawlana Hazar Imam had made in Mbale during a Jamati mulaqat. Hazar Imam warned the jamat about social habits in very strong terms. He also said that some  members of the jamat who had these habits had said to their friends that they were not socially advanced if they did not smoke and drink. Mawlana Hazar said that this was complete and absolute nonsense. That recollection by Alwaez Nizar set the groundwork for my mum’s waez material. The three missionaries shared their hopes and aspirations for the Jamat without any form of rivalry between them. Indeed, they were most respectful and helpful to each other in their common objective to serve the jamat and Mawlana Hazar Imam. That bond of friendship and affection remained throughout their lives until their deaths.

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Nizar Chunara Notes
A page from a waez notebook of Alwaez Nizar Chunara. Photo: Late Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

In accompanying Mawlana Hazar Imam on his 1966 visit as well as serving the jamat and its institutions, Alwaez Nizar was following in the footsteps of his forefathers who had served the Imam-of the-Time with love and devotion. Indeed, the voluminous history of Ismaili Imams in Gujarati written in 1936 known as Nurun Mubin was authored by AJ (Ali Muhammad Jan Muhammad) Chunara, who is among those who has been profiled in 101 Ismaili Heroes.

Nizar was also a superb volleyball player as well as a fantastic football (soccer) goalkeeper. But of course his service to the Jamat was most profoundly felt as an Alwaez.

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Nizar Chunara Ismaili missionary or Alwaez Simerg Passings
Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara with his wife Fariyal. Photo: (Late) Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

In 1972, as he was set to depart for Canada from Tanzania, he was summoned to Kenya for full time service there. By this time he had been married to Fariyal for a few years, and they had two boys, Fayaz and Arif, who were both born in Dar es Salaam. Their third child, Fazillah was born in Nairobi. He served in Kenya until 1988, and then settled in Canada. During his tenure in Kenya he went on several official waezin duties around the world, and one of the most significant ones was visiting refugee camps in Europe where many Ugandan Ismailis had been housed after their expulsion in late 1972.

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Nizar Chunara with his family, Simerg passings
Alwaez Nizar Chunara and his wife Fariyal pictured in group photos with their grandchildren (top photo), and their children with their respective spouses and children, bottom photo. Photos: (Late) Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

As children, what do we most remember of our parents and grandparents? Of course, their unbounded love for us and their devotion to us by giving us the best education possible. Alwaez Nizar and his wife Fariyal gave their children the best they could in every way. Alwaez Nizar’s children and grandchildren also have other fond memories of their beloved dad and grandfather. They simply could not wait for their loving papa to return home from his waez tours, bringing for them heaps of chocolates. To see his children filled with happiness, was Nizar’s greatest joy. He would visit them everyday, play with them and take them for drives. All the grandchildren absolutely loved their Dada and Nana banana!! 

Alwaez Nizar led his life to the fullest, and serving as an Alwaez gave him the greatest happiness. He was fortunate to have the support of his wife and his entire family.

Although he struggled with Parkinson’s for about 15 years, he was not deterred in his determination for service to the Jamat, and continued to be a valuable source of information and inspiration to many in the Jamat. 

Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara will be sorely missed by jamats around the world and we pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

Date posted: October 02, 2021.

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Alwaez Nizar Chunara by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment.

Simerg invites Ismaili families to submit obituaries and tributes for deceased members of their families. For guidelines, please click Passings.

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.

A Tribute to Late Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid (1923-2019) of Zanzibar and Toronto

Passings and Tributes Simerg Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid
Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid (1923-2019) celebrating her 95th birthday in Toronto. Photo: Kamrudin Rashid & Family Collection.

Submitted by KAMRUDIN RASHID & FAMILY

Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid, our dearest mother, mother-in-law, grandmother and great-grandmother and an extremely respected elder in the entire family passed away on July 15, 2019 at the age of 96. She enjoyed a wonderful life with her entire family, including all the extended family members, without any major ailment for which we offer our humble Shukhrana.

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simerg passings and tributes Nurbanu Abdulraul Rashid
Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid and husband Abdulrasul Rashid pictured in 1939 at their wedding. Photo: Kamrudin Rashid & Family Collection.

Born on June 3, 1923 in Zanzibar, she witnessed many milestone events in the family. During her lifetime she was also fortunate to celebrate the Golden and Diamond Jubilees of both the 48th and 49th Ismaili Imams, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan (d. July 11, 1957) and Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan. Her first Deedar (lit. glimpse) with Mawlana Hazar Imam was on November 18, 1957 in the Island of Pemba, and her last mulaqat took place when Mawlana Hazar Imam was in Toronto on November 18, 2018 for the first-leg of his Diamond Jubilee visit to Canada.

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simerg tributes and obituaries passings Nurbanu Rashid
Seated left and right respectively are Sherbanu Haji Abdulla Dewsi and her husband Haji Abdulla Dewsi. The young boy in centre is Akbarali Haji Abdulla Dewsi. Standing are Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid (left), the subject of this tribute, and Abdulrasul Rashid whom Nurbanu would marry in later years. Photo: Kamrudin Rashid & Family Collection.
Aga Khan III, Wete, Simerg
A historical photo of Ismaili ladies and Ismaili youth volunteers outside Wete Pemba Jamatkhana with a framed portrait of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid was an active volunteer and is pictured seated 4th from left, just in front of the framed photo. Photo: Kamrudin Rashid & Family Collection, Toronto.

We would like to recount a sad incident that took place in her lifetime when her own mother, Sherbanu Haji Abdulla Dewsi, who lived in Wete-Pemba and had travelled to Zanzibar for Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah’s visit in 1945, passed away during the Imam’s visit to Zanzibar. The visit took place before the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Dar es Salaam the following year, in August 1946. Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah happened to be at an event when Sherbanu’s funeral procession to the cemetery was underway and was passing along the narrow street outside. Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah asked everyone in attendance to observe a moment of silence and pray for the departed soul.

During Nurbanu’s lifetime dozens of her birthdays were celebrated in a formal setting with many family members in attendance, including her 90th and 95th birthdays in Toronto which were organized and celebrated in style by all her grand and great-grandkids.

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Simerg, Passings and Tribute Nurbanu Rashid
Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid (front row, centre) pictured with her immediate and extended family members in 2008 in Toronto. Photo: Kamrudin Rashid & Family Collection. Please clik on photo for enlargement.

The greatest strength of the families that we all grew up in was living as united families. That ethical aspect of our faith has remained with us along with the ideals of faith, devotion, love and service to Mawlana Hazar Imam that our mother Nurbanu and all the elder members of our family imparted to us during their rich and noble lives. They led the family successfully through three generations.

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Passings and Tributes Simerg Nurbanu Rashid
Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid celebrating her 90th birthday with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Photo: Kamrudin Rashid & Family Collection.

We are deeply happy to share a few memories from our photo albums. We humbly request members of the Jamat to join with us in praying for the peace and rest of the soul of Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid, as well as other deceased members of our family and the Jamats in Canada and around the world. Ameen.

Date posted: August 10, 2021.

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Tributes and condolences: We invite our readers to submit their memories and tributes to Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment.

Simerg welcomes obituaries/tributes to honour past and recently deceased members of Ismaili families. Please see our guidelines for submission by clicking on PASSINGS.

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Passings and Tributes Simerg Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid
Nurbanu Abdulrasul Rashid (1923-2019) celebrating her 95th birthday in Toronto. Photo: Kamrudin Rashid & Family Collection.

Zarina Bhatia (d. July 2021): A Tribute to a Noble Ismaili Social Anthropologist from Birmingham, UK, Who Became One of My Truest Friends

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Ismaili Imam

Zarina Bhatia (d. July 2021)

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

“Mowla is with us day and night in our heart, thought and prayer. We as Ismailis are most fortunate with Allah’s mercy” — Zarina Bhatia

It is with utmost sadness that I share with you the demise of Zarina Bhatia of Birmingham, England, originally of Kampala, Uganda, at the age of 82. Her funeral ceremony took place on Friday July 30, 2021, at Birmingham Jamatkhana, and she was later buried at the city’s Handsworth Cemetery. She had been unwell for some time and of late wasn’t able to communicate as frequently as was her wish.

Since the launching of Simerg some 12 years ago, Zarina became one of its most ardent supporters. She would comment frequently on articles that were posted in Simerg as well as its sister website Barakah, and would write personal inspirational notes to encourage me in my endeavours. She would always remember my late parents, Jehangir (d. May 2018) and Maleksultan Merchant (Mrs. Merchant, d. January 2021), whom she came to know during their waez and teaching visits to Birmingham during their tenure with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for the United Kingdom (ITREB).

I would like to share a couple of important comments that she made on the websites showing her affection for Ismailis around the world. In response to the post titled 1995 Flashback: The Aga Khan’s first visit to Badakhshan, a historic day the Ismailis will never forget, Zarina wrote:

“This article brings tears of joy and spirit of true brotherhood for the Ismaili Jamats of Badakhshan. While we have been so fortunate to have visits, never enough from our Beloved Imams of the Age over decades, these brethren are meeting our Imam-e-Zaman Mowlana Shah Karim al-Husseini for the first time!

My own late Father who was born in a village of Jamnagar in Gujerat in India had described to me his journey as a child of about 8 years old, to the city of Baroda, partly by foot, that took him a few days with his two older and one younger brother along with some Jamati members (his father had already passed away by then) to meet Mowlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, with similar zeal and sentiment. He recalled the Farman Imam made then about importance of educating a daughter, emphasising that with choice between a son if resources were limited, the future was in doing so. With physical health, the son could use his labour and feed the family, but daughter should not be kept at home in illiteracy. We see the significance of this Farman today in Shia Imami Ismailis the world over. Please overlook errors I have made, I am overwhelmed by reading the whole article. May Allah bless you for compiling such moving articles about our Global Jamat scattered across this world we share. Ameen.”

In another letter, in response to Simerg’s article Prayers for Syria, Zarina poignantly wrote:

“Ignorant as I am in Arabic, the English version you have given out of this Prayer (Naad-e-Ali) with beautiful Arabic script that sadly I cannot read, but can hear it and share it with our afflicted brethren not just in Syria but also in Bahrain, Iran and more currently with Shia in Sana’a in Yemen. This, the most powerful prayer of Nade Ali in its entirety rings in my ears and jogs my memory of times when I have addressed it to Mowla.

“Since our young days our parents taught us lovingly while comforting us. When any of us face tribulations, for Mushkeel Asaan we privately recite it [Nade Ali] connecting as if on a direct line, a personal phone call to Ali. He is engraved in our hearts; this supplication is embossed deep down in our soul as the SOS, ultimate call out to help us, to our Mowla Ali present our ‘ghat’ closer than our jugular vein, for example in Ginanic verses: ‘Rome rome maaro Shah vase, jem champa phul manhe vaas…avun Janine bhagatai kijiye …’

“Enough. Words fail me as I bow down my head in Sujjud with all His created human kind. Thank you for the beautiful gift of ‘Nade Ali’ to us, the victims of atrocities, pain and suffering. Ameen.”

Zarina became an elder sister to me, and she promised me that if she ever visited Canada from the UK she would make a special trip to Ottawa. She kept her promise by making that trip in 2015. She travelled on the bus to Ottawa, accompanied by her gracious Toronto host Nadira Lakhani. I was indeed honoured and privileged to receive her and to spend time showing her and Nadira the key tourist points in Ottawa. Before their departure for Toronto, we visited the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building on Sussex Drive.

Zarina Bhatia PhD Social Changes in the Ismaili Society of East Africa with Reference to the Imamat of Four Successive Aga Khans
Zarina Bhatia of Birmingham, England, visits the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building on Sussex Drive in Ottawa in 2015 with her Toronto friend and host Nadira Lakhani. Photo: Malik Merchant.

Zarina was adorned with beautiful virtues, and her motives were pure and upright. She was never afraid to voice her opinion whenever she felt she had to. Throughout her life she remained dedicated to the Palestinian cause, freely discussing their plight and right to statehood. She was also a peace activist and campaigned for nuclear disarmament voicing her strong opposition on the development and distribution of the Trident nuclear programme. She wrote, “Wars cause destruction not only of lives but natural resources. That is why I am an adamant follower of Global Peace and am without reservation a Peace Activist. As a citizen of the world I would like every human being to refrain from wars.”

As a devout Ismaili, she sought to share the Ismaili Tariqah and the work of Mawlana Hazar Imam with her non-Ismaili friends, and encouraged them to learn about the Ismaili faith by sending them pertinent links.

During her trip to Ottawa she shared with me some momentous and unforgettable events in her life, including the blessings that she received from Mawlana Hazar Imam as she embarked on her Ph.D studies in Social Anthropology at Oxford University in 1969.

Mawlana Hazar Imam’s letter of August 16, 1969, sent directly to her Oxford address said: “I send you my best loving blessings in your studies at Oxford” — and then in his own handwriting Mawlana Hazar Imam added — “, and for spiritual happiness and for worldly achievement.”

Later, in 1987, several years after completing her Ph.D, she sent a copy of her thesis entitled “Social Changes in the Ismaili Society of East Africa with Reference to the Imamat of Four Successive Aga Khans” to Mawlana Hazar Imam. He responded with blessings for her success in her career in the UK. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s letter of July 21, 1987 also included prayers and blessings for the souls of her two brothers, Mohamed and Nizar, who had died a few years earlier.

However, she went largely unrecognized by Ismaili institutions, considering her background and achievements dating back to the 1960’s. Despite the indifference shown to her, as well as other personal grief and challenges that she had to deal with during her lifetime, Zarina always remained staunchly devoted to Mawlana Hazar Imam. She wrote to me in an email:

“Mowla is with us day and night in our heart, thought and prayer. We as Ismailis are most fortunate with Allah’s mercy.”

Indeed, as she told me, she kept Mawlana Hazar Imam’s blessings constantly in her heart throughout her life. They were keys to her courage and strength. During her visit to Ottawa, she also presented me with a photocopy of her photograph taken with Mawlana Hazar Imam when he visited her classroom in Kampala in 1959.

On a final note, readers may not be aware that when Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited Oxford in 1968, Susan Mollar, the renowned feminist and campaigner for multi-cultural feminism, introduced Zarina to the Queen in the Common Room of Sommerville College as an African student from Uganda. A photo of the introduction was taken by the then Central Office of Information in London which ceased to exist in 2012.

This is an insufficient tribute to a true, sincere, honest, simple, straightforward and a highly educated Ismaili murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam. I humbly ask all readers to join me in offering prayers that Zarina’s beautiful and pure soul may rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

Date posted: July 30, 2021.
Last updated: August 5, 2021 (Photo added of Zarina Bhatia’s visit to Ottawa in 2015).

Tributes and condolences: We invite our readers to submit their condolences, memories and tributes to Zarina Bhatia. To pen your reflection please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment.

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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.

Passings: Dr. Vali Jamal (d. July 11, 2021)

A Personal Reflection by MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos)

Vali Jamal
Dr. Vali Jamal

I have learnt with deep sadness that Dr. Vali Jamal, a noted economist at the United Nations from the 1970’s to 1990’s, an author and a valuable contributor to Simerg’s acclaimed series on Ismaili Jamatkhanas and Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures, passed away in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2021, at the age of 80.

In 2011, when we published his pieces on 5 Palace Gate, the iconic address in London’s South Kensington that was the centre of Ismaili culture and spiritual life in the UK, and the Kampala Darkhana Jamatkhana, Vali was in the midst of completing a book on Ugandan Asians that was scheduled to be published later that year. Vali was deeply devoted to the book, and very passionate about the subject of the history of Asians and their rich contributions to Uganda. He kept on expanding the book in the ensuing years with the result that the book reached a page count of almost 3000, containing thousands of images.

A version of the cover page of Vali Jamal’s painstaking work on the Ugandan Asians

He jokingly remarked it was a fist breaker because of its size and weight. The dream of launching the book in Uganda and elsewhere was never realized during his lifetime.

I sincerely hope that the book is ultimately published for the amount of authentic and important visual and textual information that Vali painstakingly gathered over the years from primary and first hand sources as well as from individual Asian families he connected with and wrote to him.

Vali Jamal and friends outside Uganda House, London, summer 1962. Clockwise from standing: Amin Chatur, Mansur Lalani, Vali Jamal, Zuli Rajan, Nurdin Juma Jutha and Sikander (aka Pyaralli) Ismail. Photo: Vali Jamal.

Vali, a devoted murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, never failed to appreciate and recognize the contribution of the Ismaili Imam’s uncle, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, in the resettlement of the Ugandan refugees, and wrote a touching tribute piece to the Prince in Simerg’s Thanking Ismaili Historical Figures. In his email exchanges he would often also quote how Mawlana Hazar Imam was personally involved in the resettlement of thousands of Ugandan Asians in Canada through the Government of Canada and Canada’s Prime Minister at the time, the Late Pierre Trudeau, father of the present Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about whom he sent us a special piece when he was elected as the Prime Minister for the first time in 2015.

Dr. Vali Jamal was a Senior Economist at the International Labour Organization of the United Nations from 1976 to 2001. He completed his BA at Cambridge University and PhD at Stanford University, California. He then began working on his book and participated in discussions on the Ugandan Asians through email exchanges as well in the social media.

Images that Simerg created linking them to Vali Jamal’s 3 pieces for the website. See links below.

We would like to remember and recollect Dr. Vali Jamal through the wonderful pieces he contributed to this website. Please read the following pieces:

We pray that Dr. Vali Jamal’s soul may rest in eternal peace. We convey our sincere condolences to all his family members, friends and supporters around the world. We welcome tributes and messages of condolences to Dr. Jamal in our feedback form below.

Date posted: July 12, 2021.

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We invite our readers to submit their condolences, memories and tributes to Dr. Vali Jamal. To pen your reflection please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment.

Links to article(s) by Vali Jamal on external websites:

Kibedi: Story of a man who was misunderstood

Links to his other pieces will be added as received.

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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.

Jehangir Tejani, Vancouver, Passings, Simerg (d. 2021). Photo: Farah Tejani.

Passings: Jehangir Tejani (1946 – 2021)

Submitted by RASHIDA and FARAH TEJANI, Vancouver

Originally from Uganda, Jehangir and Rashida Tejani together with their two year old daughter Farah immigrated to Vancouver, Canada, in August 1970, two years before the Ugandan refugee crisis in 1972. After working in paint sales, Jehangir opened his own business, JR Imports, until his retirement in 2015. Jehangir was an avid golfer and enjoyed playing pool. He loved cooking gourmet meals and entertaining friends and family members, and was regarded as “the life of the party.” He encountered health issues in recent months and was hospitalized. Sadly, he never recovered from his illness, and passed away on May 16, 2021 at the age of 75. His funeral was held in Vancouver on May 21, 2021. 

Jehangir is survived by his wife Rashida, daughter Farah, son Faizal and three grandchildren Donnie, Jayden and Charlize. We pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

The following poem in Jehangir’s honour was penned by his daughter Farah, a creative writer based in Vancouver.

Much Too Soon To Go

Jehangir Tejani, Vancouver, Passings, Simerg (d. 2021). Photo: Farah Tejani.
Jehangir Tejani (April 8, 1946 – May 16, 2021). Photo: Farah Tejani.

By FARAH TEJANI

Dad, how could you leave us and go so soon,
When there was so much left to do and say? 
All of us were hoping and praying, 
That you would recuperate and stay,

None of us could bare to see the pain you were in 
You, the “King of Laughter”…
But there is some consolation that your Soul’s Journey will begin, 
And finally you will be at ease in the World Hereafter.

You gave generously and rarely said “No”
Your heart was pure gold,
And quite frankly there could be no match
To the gut-busting jokes that you told.

Now here I sit with pain and tears of joy 
This double sided coin ,
Such is life here on this Earth 
We come from Him and with Him we rejoin.

I want to thank you Dad , with my most sincere heart
For the life lessons that you taught me 
And the greatest gift was you father!
Greater than anything you bought me.

Our home was open to many,
And everyone you met became your friend
It is just the way you were…
You are my inspiration and you were my friend.

Oh how many stories you would tell, 
And each one fresh and new, 
It was not difficult to attract an audience, 
Every detail was 100% true

And Dad you were a jack all trades, 
You and Mom always provided, 
Please tell me WHAT COULD YOU NOT DO?
Thank you for how you patiently guided.

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You and Mom had vision and you wanted to raise us here,
Despite the comforts of Kampala, Uganda…
You took a gamble for sure,
And here me and my brother are grateful citizens of this GREAT LAND
Fearless you both were, I admire your strength and conviction.

Dad, I will call on you from time to time,
Because I know you will hear me, 
I am happy that you are not suffering…
But I will never get over the loss.
I love you, Papa Jan…You will never be far from my heart.

Date posted: June 28, 2021.

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Jehangir Tejani. To pen your reflection please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment.

Simerg invites Ismaili families to submit obituaries and tributes for deceased members of their families. For guidelines, please click Passings.

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Farah Tejani

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

Mukhi Fazal Moloo of Mbozi, Tanzania: A Devoted Murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam

Submitted by LAYLA MOLEDINA
and Members of LATE MUKHI FAZAL MOLOO (MOLEDINA) Family

Mr. Fazal Moledina arrived in Zanzibar from Kutchh Nagalpur, India, in the late 1930’s at the age of 18 years. He worked hard, saved money and sent money to his mother back home in India. He moved to Morogoro and later worked for Mr. Bhimji Ladha in Chunya, Tanzania. From there he ventured out to Mbozi, 80 kms from Mbeya, to start his own business where he became affectionately known as Fazal Moloo.

In 1945, he married Sakarkhanu from the Walji Haji family of Mbeya during Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s Diamond Jublilee held in Dar es Salaam. They had 5 daughters and a son from their marriage.

In Mbozi, Fazal Moloo dedicated a large room in his newly constructed house to be used as the town’s first Jamatkhana in 1955. He was a man with a big heart, and had immense love for Mawlana Hazar Imam. For the next 6 years, Ismailis would gather and congregate at this Jamatkhana, until a new one was established in 1961.

Tribute Late Fazal Moloo,  simerg passings, Mbozi Jamatkhana Mbeya Tanzania
The courtyard outside the first Mbozi Jamatkhana that was hosted in a large room in the house of Fazal Moledina, popularly known as Fazal Moloo. Photo: Late Fazal Moloo Family Collection.
First Mbozi Ismaili Jamatkhana, near Mbeya in Tanzania, Simerg, Mukhi Fazal Moloo.
A view of the first Mbozi Jamatkhana that was housed in a large room at the residence of Fazal Moloo for 6 years from 1955-1961. Photo: Late Fazal Moloo Family Collection.

In December 1969, with Mawlana Hazar Imam’s grace, Fazal Moloo was appointed as the Mukhisaheb of Mbozi Jamatkhana. But in February 1970, just three months into his term, he suffered a sudden heart attack on the night of Jumaaraat (past midnight Thursday, when it is already Jumaa, Arabic or Swahili for Friday). Even in this condition, he sought to fulfill his duties as the Mukhi of the Jamat to his utmost ability. While arrangements were underway to drive him to a hospital in Mbeya, some 80 kms from Mbozi, he ensured that all the ceremonies that were to take place in the Jamatkhana that morning would be smoothly completed, including the preparation of Siro — a sweet dish — that is offered in teaspoon-like quantity as Sukreet (which symbolizes good deeds) along with Ab-e-Shifa (water of healing). His final noble service as the Mbozi Mukhi was to ensure that the services that had been rendered by his Jamat were delivered to the provincial Ismaili community leadership in Mbeya.

Tribute Late Fazal Moloo,  simerg passings, Mbozi Jamatkhana Mbeya Tanzania
Fazal and Sakerkhanu Moloo with 5 of their 6 children Nurjehan, Zubeda, Gulzar, Naaz, and Anwar. The 6th child, Hamida, a daughter, was in the UK when the photo was taken. Photo: Late Fazal Moloo Family Collection.
Years later…..Mukhiani Sakerhanu Moloo, in green top, with her 5 daughters, Nurjehan, Zubeda, Gulzar, Naaz, and Hamida, and son Anwar. Photo: Late Fazal Moloo Family Collection.

The day following his admission to the Mbeya hospital, Mukhisaheb was in a very cheerful and happy mood. After the family had visited him, the nurse asked him the reason for his happiness, and he replied that he would be returning home on the following day, Sunday. The nurse reminded him that no doctors were available on Sunday to discharge him, and that he would not be able to go back home as was his wish. But Mukhisaheb insisted that he would be going “home”.

On Sunday February 28th, 1970 after finishing his cup of coffee and putting it away, he was called “home,” while he was talking to the nurse. At the young age of 51, the young and dynamic Fazal Moloo passed away and was “ushered in the Abode of Peace.” (Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un, “Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156).

Aga Khan Counci, Mbeya Tanzania letter for Fazal Moloo.
Letter from the Aga Khan Provincial Council for Mbeya, Tanzania, to the family of Mukhi Fazal Moloo following his passing. Photo: Late Fazal Moloo Family Collection.

Shortly thereafter, Mukhiani Sakarkhanu received a letter (see image, above) from the Mbeya Aga Khan Ismaili Council on the passing of her beloved husband. It was signed by the council’s Honorary Secretary, F.G. Jiwan, and it read:

“It was with deep regret and sorrow that this Council received the shocking news of the untimely demise of late Mukhi Fazal Moloo.

“Late Mukhi Fazalbhai was a pillar of the community, and had for many years rendered his services for the benefit of the Jamat. He was always a sincere worker and the good of the community was always at his heart.

“Mukhi Fazalbhai has left behind him memories of a sincere leader and a self-less worker which will be cherished by the Jamat forever.

“We pray to Khudavind Hazar Imam to rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grace you with courage and strength to bear this irreparable loss.”

Then, the family received a very inspirational Talika (written holy message) from Mawlana Hazar Imam through the President and Members of the Provincial Council for Mbeya. In his message of May 5, 1970, Mawlana Hazar Imam conveyed his affectionate paternal maternal blessings for the soul of Mukhi Fazal Moloo, and prayed for the eternal peace of the Mukhi’s soul. Mawlana Hazar Imam also acknowledged the devoted services that the Mukhi had rendered to the Jamat and himself. He offered blessings to the family for their courage and fortitude.

This message from Mawlana Hazar Imam left a deep impact on the entire family, with 6 young children.

Today, Mukhi Fazal Moloo’s dedication and love for Mawlana Hazar Imam has inspired his children, grandchildren and great-grand children, who live in London, England, Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver, to continue to be involved in rendering services to the Jamat.

Late Fazal Moloo with his wife Sakerkhanu who is now 93 years old, and lives in Vancouver. She teaches Jamati members to make tasbihs (rosaries) and makes and repairs broken tasbihs for Burnaby Lake and Tricity Jamatkhanas in Vancouver. Photo: Late Fazal Moloo Family Collection.

Mukhiani Sakarkhanu Moloo, who is now 93 years old, continues to remain active in Jamati services. She teaches Jamati members to make tasbihs (rosaries or prayer beads) and also makes and repairs broken tasbihs for Vancouver’s Burnaby and Tricity Jamatkhanas. She is fondly known as “tasbih wari bai” (the lady of tasbihs).

The family continues to reflect on the noble life of Mukhi Fazal Moloo — a loving husband, father, grandfather and great grandfather — and draw inspiration from his love, dedication and devotion to Mawlana Hazar Imam. They offer their humble shukhrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam for bestowing Mukhi Fazal Moloo with services to the House of Imamat.

Date posted: May 18, 2021.

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We invite you to submit your memories and tributes to the late Mukhi Fazal Moloo. To pen your reflection please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment.

Simerg invites Ismaili families to submit obituaries and tributes for deceased members of their families. For guidelines, please click Passings.

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.

A Visit to the Ismaili Cemetery at the Victory Memorial Park: I Bid Farewell to My Mum, “Mrs. Merchant,” and Pay My Deep Respects to My Beloved Dad and Other Deceased Members of the Jamat

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Mrs Merchant Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Simerg
Alwaeza Malek J. Merchant pictured in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2018 during the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

As I reached the burial sites of my parents on Thursday, April 29, 2021, I was deeply gratified when a Bangladeshi woman walked over to me and offered me two stems of roses that were part of a large bouquet of flowers that she had brought to lay on the grave of her beloved 31 year old son who passed away 3 years ago following a bone marrow transplant. She was in a state of grief as the loss of a child to any parent is the greatest sorrow that can occur. She prayed fervently by her son’s graveyard, and before departing came to me once again to offer her sincere and heartful condolences for the recent loss of my mum, and my dad three years ago. She told me she would think of them during her future visits.

Mrs. Merchant grave Victory Memorial Park
Grave of Alwaeza Malek Merchant (June 9, 1931 — Jan 21, 2021) bearing a temporary plaque with her name. She was buried at Victory Memorial Park, a few metres from my dad’s grave. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Grave of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (December 13, 1928 — May 27, 2018) at Victory Memorial Park, with a permanent marker bearing his name and the Qur’anic verse “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (Surely we belong to God, and to Him we return, 2:156). Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

My visit to the burial grounds was on my 17th day in Vancouver. I had missed my mum’s funeral that took place almost 3 months ago. I had come to close up on her matters and to pay my respects to both her as well my father who had died 3 years ago on May 27, 2018 shortly after he and my mum were blessed with the Diamond Jubilee Deedar (glimpse) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Victory Memorial Park Aga Khan Ismaili Cemetery, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada Simerg
A layout of the Victory Memorial Park Cemetery grounds, with the Ismaili section indicated by the word “Aga Khan” at top left section. Image: Brochure, Victory Memorial Park.

The Victory Memorial Park burial site has been in use by the Ismaili Jamat (community) since 2017. Located in Surrey, it is at a fair distance from the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana, where all the funeral rites and ceremonies take place. However, the previous cemetery, Forest Lawn that is just minutes away from the Burnaby Jamatkhana, continues to administer matters such as the transfer and storage of bodies until the funeral actually takes place as well as the issuance of death certificates.

Modern technology brought me to Victory Memorial Park without any hitch whatsoever. Once at the cemetery, which has a picturesque view of the mountains, the site of Ismaili burials was easily located. The graves are arranged chronologically by year.

The Ismaili cemetery section at Victory Memorial Park.
The Ismaili cemetery section at Victory Memorial Park in foreground, with the main funeral home building seen in the upper centre of the photo. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I spent a considerable amount of time, offering the Fateha and Salwats, for my parents as well as other deceased members of the Jamat, including family friends who were well known to us. I also connected via Facetime with my brother Alnoor in the UK, and my relatives in Canada and Spain who, like me, were unable to attend the funeral because of Covid-19. We all participated in the recitation of the Fateha, and I was deeply inspired that they were able to join me while I was at the cemetery. It was a lovely day, and the beautiful sunshine warmed my heart.

Victory Memorial Park Cemetery, Simerg
A view of the Victory Memorial Park Cemetery from the main funeral home building. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I then proceeded to the cemetery’s main building where the director of the funeral home kindly gave me a quick tour of the building and provided me with a map of the cemetery site.

A view of the Victory Memorial Park Cemetery from a section of the burial grounds. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I left the picturesque cemetery knowing that the deceased souls are in a world filled with light, peace and happiness. I recollected an excerpt of the Talika Mubarak of Mawlana Hazar Imam that was sent to the Jamats worldwide on the occasion of his 84th birthday. It read:

Mr and Mrs Merchant in fromt of Aga Khan Hazar Imam portrait.
Jehangir and Maleksultan Merchant in front of a large portrait photo of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

11th December 2020

My beloved spiritual children,

On the occasion of my birthday, the 13th of December 2020, I send my warmest and most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings to all my beloved spiritual children throughout the world.

I give my best loving blessings for the souls of all my ruhani spiritual children, and I pray for the eternal peace and rest of their souls….

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

During my return drive to my hotel, as my mum’s unit where I had stayed for a fortnight was now empty, I suddenly thought of Tessie, an elderly lady from the Philippines whom my mum deeply adored. Tessie would come by to help my mum on a regular basis, except from November to February when she would go away to the Philippines to spend time with her family. She was still abroad when my mum passed away on January 21, 2021. When Tessie opened the door to me, she was obviously surprised to see me and her first question was, “How is Mrs. Merchant? I miss her a lot.” She broke down when I told her that my mum had passed away, She was in utter shock. She tearfully offered me her condolences and prayers. I then left her home peacefully, knowing that the person my mum would have liked to be informed about her passing had been told about it by a family member.

As I reflected on my parents deaths, I remembered all the members of the Ismaili mayat (funeral) committee for the wonderful work they do to alleviate our pain and sadness, and keep us at peace during a grieving time. They are amazing, as are the Mukhis and Kamadias of the Jamat with their inspiring prayers that provide the Jamat with immense comfort and strength. And, not to be forgotten, are the hundreds of friends, relatives and colleagues around the world who write and telephone to express their feelings, condolences and prayers for the deceased.

Jehangir and Malek Merchant books, waezes, sermons, Simerg
My parents collections of waezes (sermons), religious texts and other material, all carefully packed and ready for shipment. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Mrs. Merchant alwaeza malek jehangir merchant waving goodbye
My mum waves goodbye to my younger brother Alnoor’s fiancé, Shellina, as she departs for the airport after a recent stay with my mum. Photo: Shellina Karmali.

As I prepare to return to Ontario after spending 3 weeks in Vancouver, I do so with immense satisfaction that I was also able to stay with them for long periods of time before both of them passed away.

Finally as we prepare to observe Laylat al-Qadr (Read Institution Program Details), the holiest of all the nights, on the 23rd night of Ramadhan (Tuesday May 4, 2021), my family and I once again draw comfort from Mawlana Hazar Imam’s blessings and his prayers for the eternal peace and rest of all his ruhani spiritual children.

Date posted: May 2, 2021.
Last updated: May 4, 2021 (added link to Laylat al-Qadr program)

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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.

Vartan Gregorian – Educator, Historian, Philanthropist and Restorer of a Fading Library – Passes Away at 87; He Was President of Brown University When His Highness the Aga Khan Became the First Muslim to Deliver Baccalaureate Address to Brown’s Class of 1996

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

On the morning of Friday April 16, 2021, while quickly scanning through the subject column of new emails that I had received overnight, my heart sank when I saw “Carnegie Corporation of New York Mourns the Death of President Vartan Gregorian.”

As a personal tribute to him, I would like to share three beautiful memories I have of Mr. Gregorian, who had previously held the positions of President both at Brown University and the New York Public Library.

The first memory is when I saw him introducing Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to the University’s graduating class of 1996. I had specially travelled to Brown from Philadelphia for the historic occasion, and watched the entire event from the University’s “Green.” The tribute to Mawlana Hazar Imam will be etched in my heart forever, and you can read it in Barakah by clicking HERE. But here is a very short excerpt from the piece:

“His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV is the first Muslim baccalaureate speaker in Brown’s history and I dare say in the history of the Ivy League. He embodies the ecumenical spirit that links the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Aga Khan, a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammed, became 49th Imam — spiritual leader — of the Shia Ismaili Muslims in 1957 at the age of 20….The new Aga Khan shouldered great responsibilities even before he received his undergraduate degree. His challenge was awesome. After all, he was succeeding his grandfather, a world leader….In spite of his youth, he established himself firmly not only as spiritual leader, but also as an enlightened guardian of the far-flung Ismaili community’s welfare and progress.” — Vartan Gregorian

At the end of the speech, President Gregorian thanked Mawlana Hazar Imam for entrusting Prince Rahim’s education to Brown University.

May 26, 1996: A captive audience at Brown University’s “Green” watches a live telecast from the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church where Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan delivered the Baccalaureate Address to the 1996 graduating class. Photo: Barakah/Malik Merchant.
May 26, 1996: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, receives a standing ovation at the conclusion of the Baccalaureate Address at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island. Next to him is Vartan Gregorian who was then President of the University.
Prince Rahim Aga Khan graduated from Brown University. In this photos, he is seen delivering his commencement address for the Graduation Ceremony of the Institute of Ismaili Studies held at the Ismaili Centre in London in 2007.

During the same weekend, Brown University also conferred Mawlana Hazar Imam with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws.

Aga Khan Vartan Gregorian Brown University
Brown University President Vartan Gregorian (right) confers the honorary degree Doctor of Laws upon Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in May 1996. AKDN / Gary Otte.

It was the event at Brown that inspired me to read more about Vartan Gregorian. I learnt that he was responsible for reviving the New York Public Library (NYPL), before he became the President of Brown University. And this is how he re-entered my life after the Brown event — my second wonderful memory of him.

After a number of years of trying and finally been given the go-ahead in December 2006 to re-open the Ottawa Jamatkhana Library that had been closed for several years for unexplained reasons, my thoughts immediately turned to Carnegie Corporation, which a few years earlier had published an insightful monograph entitled “Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith” by Mr. Gregorian. I contacted Carnegie to send us as many copies of the book as were available, because we wanted to use it as an incentive to attract members to the Jamati library! Carnegie Corporation sent us the entire remaining stock of more than 100 books. The incentive idea worked as we had over 100 members join the library during the first week. Individuals inspire us in so many ways, and Mr. Vartan Gregorian inspired me to stay on course to re-establish an important institution in the Jamat — the library — and using his book to impart knowledge and increase library membership. I am pleased to include Gregorian’s book as a PDF file. Please click Islam: A Mosaic, Not a Monolith.

I may also note that during his long tenure as President of Carnegie Corporation, Mr. Gregorian contributed insightful and thoughtful essays on diverse matters of interest in the Corporation’s magazine, The Carnegie Reporter. You may download the magazine as a PDF file or subscribe to it for free home delivery by clicking Free Carnegie Reporter. It is a very good read every month.

Carnegie reporter
Winter 2020 edition of Carnegie Reporter. The quarterly magazine may be downloaded as a PDF file or delivered by mail free of charge to your address.

The third beautiful memory I have of Mr. Gregorian is when Mawlana Hazar Imam honoured him with a major gift to Brown University. In its press release dated October 15, 2010 under the headline “His Highness the Aga Khan Honors Vartan Gregorian with Major Gift to Brown University,” Carnegie Corporation of New York stated:

“Prince Karim Aga Khan IV has established the Aga Khan Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities at Brown University in honor of Vartan Gregorian, President of Carnegie Corporation of New York, who served from 1988 to 1997 as President of Brown University. The gift of $2 million was announced following the October meeting of the Corporation of Brown University.

“The university said that the gift will allow Brown to bring in experts from a wide range of disciplines, including religion, history, anthropology and comparative literature. The Aga Khan Visiting Professor of Islamic Humanities will come from any of the various disciplines depending on who is thought to be the best for the job in a given year, and will be affiliated with the Cogut Center for Humanities.

“For many years, Vartan Gregorian served on the Board of the Aga Khan University.  During Dr. Gregorian’s tenure as president of Brown University, the Aga Khan was the first Muslim spiritual leader to give a Baccalaureate Address at a major American university. He is also the recipient of an honorary degree from Brown University, from which his son, Prince Rahim Aga Khan, graduated.”

In response to the gift, President Gregorian said:

“I am deeply moved and extremely grateful that the Aga Khan has chosen to make this wonderful gift to Brown University in my honor. It is particularly meaningful to me because the Aga Khan is internationally recognized as a major activist for civilized humanity and in promoting the universal values that unite and transcend us all. And he believes that education, self-reliance, solidarity and character are the elements which keep a community vibrant and healthy and lead to enlightenment and dignity. In addition, he supports the education of women as central to global progress. I salute him, I thank him, and I celebrate the bond that he has created with Brown University today, and with the generations of students, faculty, scholars and others who will continue to benefit from his generosity on into the future.” (Read Complete Press Release).

With these fond memories of Vartan Gregorian that I will always carry with me, I now reproduce the email message I received from Carnegie Corporation announcing his death. It is then followed by a link to a detailed obituary posted in the corporation’s flagship magazine Carnegie Reporter.

We convey our condolences to all the members of Mr. Gregorian’s family and wish them strength and courage at this time of bereavement.

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Brief Announcement from Carnegie Corporation on the Passing of Vartan Gregorian

At the JFK Library in Boston, Vartan Gregorian addresses new citizens, friends, and family at a naturalization ceremony. (Photo: Celeste Ford.

Dear Friends of the Corporation,

Vartan Gregorian, an international luminary, legendary educator, distinguished historian and humanities scholar, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, died suddenly on April 15, 2021, in New York City at age 87. He had been hospitalized for testing related to stomach pain.

Gregorian served as the twelfth president of Carnegie Corporation of New York at the time of his death. During his tenure, beginning in 1997, he championed the causes of education, immigration, and international peace and security — key concerns of the philanthropic institution’s founder, Andrew Carnegie. Like Carnegie, Gregorian was a naturalized United States citizen whose experiences in a new country helped shape him, including his belief in the great importance of immigrant civic integration to the health of American democracy.

Gregorian was especially devoted to higher education and was the highly respected president emeritus of Brown University and the former provost of the University of Pennsylvania. In addition, Gregorian is renowned for revitalizing The New York Public Library during his presidency in the 1980s. The recipient of more than 70 honorary degrees and dozens of significant awards, he was decorated by the governments of the United States, France, Italy, Austria, Armenia, and Portugal. His extraordinary story is told in his autobiography, The Road to Home: My Life and Times, published in 2003.

At the Corporation, Gregorian focused the foundation’s grantmaking on aiding the development of innovative ideas and transformative scholarship. During his presidency, Carnegie Corporation of New York awarded more than 10,000 grants totaling some $2.8 billion. He will be sorely missed by all who crossed his path in whatever manner during his long and fruitful life, but especially by those of us who had the good fortune to call him a friend and colleague.
Sincerely,

Thomas H. Kean
Chair, Board of Trustees
Carnegie Corporation of New York

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Tribute to Vartan Gregorian in Carnegie Reporter

Vartan Gregorian. Click on photo to read obituary in Carnegie reporter. Photo: Carnegie.org.

Please read Former president of Brown University and The New York Public Library, illustrious scholar, and steward of Andrew Carnegie’s legacy dies at age 87

Date posted: April 17, 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.

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, passes away at the age of 99: Messages from the Government of Canada, and Jubilee Memories of Her Majesty’s Family with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan

The Chief Justice of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C., is currently serving as the administrator of the Government of Canada until such a time as the next governor general is installed.  His message on the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh was released by him on Friday April 9, 2021, and is reproduced after the following photo.

In this rare photo, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth is seen presiding at the 13 October 1957 Privy Council meeting, with Prince Philip, and Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and Governor General Vincent Massey. At right is Secretary of State for Canada Ellen Fairclough, the first woman ever to serve in the Canadian Cabinet. Fairclough was active in the United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada and was a member of Hamilton Branch. Photo: University of Saskatchewan.

Message from Richard Wagner
Administrator of the Government of Canada

OTTAWA—Throughout his long life, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh devoted himself to the people of the Commonwealth and of Canada. He stood by Her Majesty The Queen for more than six decades, a constant and reassuring presence. He valued community, duty and service. He believed in wildlife conservation, volunteerism and supporting young people. A tireless world traveller, he showed that Canada held a special place in his heart by visiting this country more than any other.

The Duke of Edinburgh leaves a legacy that has touched so many, especially the hundreds of thousands of young participants in the Duke of Edinburgh Awards program. This program, which he established in Canada more than 50 years ago, has celebrated and encouraged service and excellence among young people across the country and around the world. His Royal Highness understood we must offer the next generations opportunities to succeed, and he believed in the power of youth to change the world for the better.

As a sign of our enduring respect, His Royal Highness was made the very first Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada in 2013, a fitting tribute for an extraordinary man. He was also invested as Commander of the Order of Military Merit, an honour that speaks directly to his own military past and his commitment to our women and men in uniform.

His Royal Highness devoted his life to his family and to fulfilling his unique role in our constitutional monarchy. Whether speaking with young Canadians about their hopes and dreams, presenting colours and meeting troops at military bases and events, or representing the Crown at state occasions, Prince Philip constantly showed his commitment to Canada. He was a great friend of this country and he will be dearly missed. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest condolences to the members of the Royal Family.

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Statement by The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, on the passing of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh

“It was with deep sadness that I learned of the passing of The Duke of Edinburgh.

“A man of great service to others – first as a decorated naval officer and later as a dedicated leader in the areas of community engagement and philanthropy – the Duke always sought out the best in people and challenged them to strive for greater heights.

“Prince Philip maintained a special relationship with the Canadian Armed Forces and over the years became Colonel‑in‑Chief of six Canadian units. In 2011, he was named honorary general of the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as honorary admiral of the Royal Canadian Navy.

“The global program that bears his title – the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – has helped empower millions of young people from all backgrounds to realize their greatest potential, and is but one example of his contributions to the social fabric of this country and the world. He was also the patron of more than forty organizations in Canada, including the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute and the Outward Bound Trust. During his last visit to Canada in April 2013, the Duke was named the first-ever Extraordinary Companion of the Order of Canada by the Governor General of Canada.

“Prince Philip was a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others. He will be fondly remembered as a constant in the life of our Queen – a lifelong companion who was always at her side offering unfailing support as she carried out her duties.

“A family has lost a beloved husband, father, grandfather, and great grandfather. The thoughts of Canadians are with Queen Elizabeth II and the members of the Royal Family as they mourn such a significant loss.”

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Message on The.Ismaili Website

The Ismaili community would like to offer its sincerest condolences to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family on the sad news of the passing of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

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Golden Jubilee: Mawlana Hazar Imam at Buckingham Palace

Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip
His Highness the Aga Khan received the title “His Highness” from Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II on July 26th 1957. Here he is pictured with Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Philip when the Queen hosted a dinner at Buckingham Palace to mark the Ismaili Imam’s Golden Jubilee and to acknowledge the close relationship he and his family have had over generations with the British Monarchy and the UK. Photo Credit: Akdn.org
His Highness the Aga Khan presents his brother Prince Amyn and his son Prince Rahim to Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, who welcomed them to Buckingham Palace during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness.
His Highness the Aga Khan presents his brother Prince Amyn and his son Prince Rahim to Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, who welcomed them to Buckingham Palace during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte

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Diamond Jubilee: Mawlana Hazar Imam at Windsor Castle

Her Majesty the Queen in conversation with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at Windsor Castle on March 8, 2018 at a dinner hosted by her to mark his Diamond Jubilee. Prince Philip was absent as he had withdrawn from public engagements. Mawlana Hazar Imam was accompanied by members of his family — his brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan, his daughter Princess Zahra Aga Khan, his eldest son Prince Rahim Aga Khan, Prince Rahim’s wife Princess Salwa, and the Aga Khan’s younger sons, Prince Hussain Aga Khan and Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan. The event acknowledged historic linkages between the Ismaili Imamat and the British Monarchy and longstanding connections between the Ismaili Community, the institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network and the United Kingdom. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.
Her Majesty the Queen, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cornwall and Princess Zahra Aga Khan share a light moment at a dinner hosted by Her Majesty at Windsor Castle on March 8, 2018 in honour of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: AKDN / Gary Otte

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Related posts:

(1) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth holds glittering reception at Windsor Castle to celebrate His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee

(2) Glimpses from past and present: The Aga Khans and Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II

Date posted: April 9, 2021.

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Passings: Sadru Velji – Our Beloved Nana

Sadru Velji
Sadrudin Velji (30 October, 1933 – 26 January, 2021). Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.

By ZAHIDA, SHEHIN, HUSEIN, and ALISHA

Just over a month ago, on January 26, 2021, we lost our beloved Nana at the age of 87.

He was big-hearted and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. My Dad tells us that when we were born, our grandfather was so excited, he came over and played with us everyday, and as we grew, he was someone we joked with all our lives.

Instead of telling us he loved us very much, Nana used to say he loves us “magar” (crocodile) much.

When Nana’s Alzheimers set in about 5 years ago, this aspect of his personality somehow stayed. People were often surprised he had this disease because he made jokes and was still funnier than the rest of us.

Even as Nana lost his memory, he somehow was able to remember anything that had to do with my grandmother, Nani. When he started going to the Adult Day Care every week, (which he used to call “Chakula ya Bure” (“food for free” in Swahili), he pocketed half his sandwich to bring home for my grandmother.

I wish I knew more of the thousands of stories Nana had to tell. I remember him telling me once how his mother passed away when he was little. He seemed really attached to her. Times were hard for him and his five siblings after that, but his stories were still so mischievous and Nana-spirited. He told us once that when he was a kid he snuck into the movies and said his Dua after the lights went down because he felt bad it was Jamatkhana time. That was our Nana.

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Aga Khan performs marriage ceremony
A garlanded Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan joins Sadrudin and Sakerkhanu Velji’s hands in marriage during his Takhtnashini visit to Dar es Salaam in October 1957. Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.
Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection
Sadrudin and Sakerkhanu Velji. Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.

One thing about Nana is how much his faith in things bigger than himself seemed to sustain him through a lifetime. Maybe that’s what helped him be able to give so much to other people. His license plate when we were growing up even used to say “Seva” (meaning service). When you saw that license plate in the parking lot, you knew it was our Nana.

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Sadru Velji vacuuming Ismaili Jamatkhana Photo: © Sadruddin Velji Family Collection.
Sadru Velji considered it an honour to vacuum the Jamatkhanas in Vancouver. Here he is seen performing duties at the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana. Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.

When Nana came to Canada from Tanzania in the 1970s, he opened a drycleaners with my grandmother, served as one of the first Mukhis of the no-longer-existent Jamatkhana on East Hastings Street, and also spent a huge percentage of his life vacuuming the Jamatkhana — volunteer work he considered an honor and did quietly for many, many, many, years, well into his eighties until Jamatkhanas were closed due to Covid-19. He had a kind of generosity that doesn’t exist in a lot of people generally, and is fading even more with our generation.

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Sadrudin Velji and President Nyerere
In this very rare photo, date unknown, Sadrudin Velji is seen greeting Tanzania’s President Julius Nyerere, as a watchful crowd looks on. Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.

One summer about 10 years ago, I brought ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’ by Shel Silverstein to Nana’s house and read them aloud to him. Shel Silverstein’s poems remind me of Nana. Since Nana had the kind of heart that loved to laugh, he liked and understood them right away, and I’ll always remember how he lit up to how full of wonder and light they were, like so much of him. We’ll miss you Nana.

Love you “magar” much.
Zahida, Shehin, Husein and Alisha

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Beloved Papaji

Sadrudin Velji, Vancouver origically of Tanzania
Sadrudin Velji (1933 – 2021). Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection.

By NASREEN

Your Nanabapa [referring to tribute by grandchildren, above], my Papaji, was indeed a special and unique human being. While growing up, I didn’t have my grandparents around, so I lived vicariously through you all.

What a blessing that he was part of our lives for a long time. With his wit and positivity, he made spending time with him some of the happiest moments for me. I don’t know too many Dads who would agree to do many things that I would make him do!

For example, Tuesday senior’s chair yoga at Darkhana. Even during his Alzheimers, he would take a lot of pride following the exercises properly, asking, “Am I doing this correctly?”.

Or come with me on Thursdays for vacuum Seva at the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana. The group of ladies were surprised that at his stage, he was so passionate about volunteering. They welcomed him openly often giving him the chance to say Dua before sharing food. After, he would call my Mom and say proudly how he did a good job.

He spoke “pure” Swahili and would recall words that even Mom might have forgotten when he tried to teach me. His lesson would always accompany a long Swahili tale. He’d say “haraka, haraka, haina barakha”, elaborating the saying, basically meaning “haste is waste” or “if you are going to offer me chai with one hand then offer me a snack with the other mkono (hand),” another saying in Swahili.

The greatest gift that he gave me is hanging out with me for long periods. The many videos are memories that will be treasured of such a unique Dad.

When we decided to turn down the Long Term Care spot, I had the opportunity to spend practically every day with Nana and with Nani. I am grateful to you grandkids and especially to Salim for not only supporting this but encouraging it. Salim often says that he felt blessed to have a Dad once again in his life after his Dad passed away in 1983. Nana, for all of us, you brought happiness into our home as there was always laughter when you were around.

Dad, Bwana Kubwa, we love you very much.
Your daughter Nasreen

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A Personal Tribute to Mukhi Sadrudin Velji

By MALIK MERCHANT

My late parents, Jehangir Merchant (d. May 2018) and Malek Merchant or Mrs. Merchant (d. January 2021) had a special friendship with the family of Mukhi Sadru Velji, who passed away in Vancouver on January 26, 2021, just five days after my mum’s demise. 

Mrs. Sakerkhanu Velji (Mukhianima) and my mum talked to each other everyday. These daily phone calls continued until the very last day of my mum’s life. The Velji family inspired my mother, and felt that a family member was indeed around in the absence of her children who were thousands of kilometres away. If my parents were unwell or an incident had occurred that left me worried, Mukhianima would ease my anxiety, and assured me that she, Sadrubhai as well as her daughters Nasreen, Shellina and Zahra would always be there for my parents.

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Veljis and Merchants at Jehangir's birthday parthy
Malek Merchant (d. January 2021) cuts the birthday cake for her husband Jehangir (d. May 2018) as he celebrates his 89th birthday on December 13, 2017 surrounded by family friends Sadru Velji (d. January 2021) and his wife Sakerkhanu. The Velji family were pillars of strength for the Merchants. Photo: Nasreen Rahemtulla.

The Veljis became an integral part of the family, and their kindness, generosity and affection is etched in my memory. I visited them regularly during my stays in Vancouver. During my previous two month visit to  Vancouver, Nasreen, gave me her new car to use for several weeks. Anything cooked at their place would find a way to my mum’s table, 18 kms away. They also paid regular visits to my dad when he was unwell, and Nasreen would find a way to have my father recite her favorite ginans.

I watched the funeral ceremony of Sadrubhai with deep emotion — my mum’s was scheduled to be held on the following day. I would have liked to have been present for both of them but circumstances did not allow me to fly to Vancouver. It is so gratifying that technology has allowed us to participate in the ceremonies from afar during the Covid-19 pandemic. I shed tears as the coffins for the two funerals were being led to the hearse. It was a very sad moment.

I convey my deepest condolences to Mukhianima and her family and pray that Sadrubhai’s soul may rest in eternal peace and that the family be granted strength and courage to  bear the loss.

I had witnessed with my own eyes how Mukhianima and her children as well as grand children provided Sadrubhai the support, inspiration and courage that he needed during the most difficult period in his life. My special prayers that Allah shower His choicest blessings on the entire family for their dedication to a beloved husband, father and nana who will also be remembered by everyone who knew him here in Canada and around the world.

Date posted: March 1, 2021.
Last updated: March 3, 2021 (daughter Nasreen’s tribute added).

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Sadrudin Velji Simerg Passings
Sadrudin Velji (30 October, 1933 – 26 January, 2021). Photo: © Sadrudin Velji Family Collection. Please click on photo to pen your tribute to Sadrudin Veji.

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