Passings: Nazeer Ladhani (1947-2020)

Nazeer Ladhani, AKDN, Aga Khan Foundation, University of Central Asia, Simerg, Passings
Nazeer Aziz Ladhani. Photo: Via The Globe and Mail, courtesy of the family.

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

[Includes material from multiple sources; a new addendum to the obituary has been added on March 8, 2020, following a feedback from Nazir Kassamali of Edmonton, who joined Nazeer Ladhani’s team at the University of Central Asia (UCA). We thank Kassamali for his input, which shows the significance of Nazeer Ladhani’s contribution at UCA at a critical juncture of its development path. – Ed.]

Simerg has learnt with profound sadness the untimely death of Nazeer Aziz Ladhani at the age of 72, in Nairobi, Kenya. According to an extensive obituary dedicated to him in The Globe and Mail, one of Canada’s most widely read and respected newspapers, Nazeer passed away in his sleep on February 19, 2020. Written by Ian Smillie and published under the title “International development agency CEO Nazeer Aziz Ladhani had a mischevious energy” (subscription may be required to read piece), the obituary is a tribute to the exceptional individual he was and the magnificent services he rendered to the Aga Khan Development Network and its numerous agencies in Canada, Asia and Africa.

Guy Pfeffermann, a long time friend of Nazeer, notes on the website of Global Business School Network (GBSN), that “I loved Nazeer. He was a gentle man, and one of the most learned I ever met on almost any subject. People loved to listen to him speak. In 2014 he sat on a panel of business school deans and other outstanding academics at the prestigious Online Education Berlin conference. He spoke last, and the participants were so enraptured by his Renaissance Man discourse that they just didn’t want to leave; the next group who had booked the room had to wait outside until, reluctantly, he let the audience go.”

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan discusses architectural plans with Firoz Rasul, President of the Aga Khan University (AKU), Ambassador Saidullah Khan Dehlavi, Chairman of the AKU Board of Trustees, Trevor Andrews, Managing Director of Planning Systems Services Limited, and Nazeer Ladhani (2nd from right), Project Director of the AKU Graduate School of Media and Communications. Photo: AKDN / Ejaz Karmali.

Nazeer Ladhani’s Contribution to the Ismaili Imamat

Nazeer Ladhani worked in many senior roles with the Aga Khan Development Network and its agencies. He was the Project Director for Graduate Professional Education for Aga Khan University in East Africa, which includes the Graduate School of Media and Communications (see photo, above). He also served as the Director General of the University of Central Asia, a unique, internationally chartered higher university focused on the development of mountain societies, with purpose-built world class residential campuses in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, and Khorog, Tajikistan and (future) Tekeli in Kazakhstan. Nazeer will be fondly remembered in Canada as the founding Chief Executive Officer of Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC), which he led from start-up to a premier private international development agency in Canada. While at AKFC, Ladhani led efforts to establish the Global Centre for Pluralism in Canada.

Nazeer was born on August 20, 1947 in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) to a farming family. He went on to earn an agricultural diploma in animal husbandry from the famous Egerton University in Kenya. He then completed a series of designated accounting certificate programs, and also pursued an Executive Program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. He later earned an MBA from INSEAD, the prestigious business school at Fontainebleau, just outside Paris.

Nazeer leaves behind his wife, Gulabi; daughters, Noor Niyar and Aliya Begum Ladhani; sisters, Zinat Remtulla and Naseem Fazal; and brother, Mushtaq Ladhani. We convey our deep sympathy and condolences to them as well as the entire Ladhani family and to all his colleagues, friends and acquaintances around the world.

Through the services he rendered to Imamat institutions for four decades, Nazir has impacted the lives of millions of people around the world, making a positive difference in their livelihood, well-being and growth. His work will also ensure sustainable growth in communities impacted by the work of the Aga Khan Development Network and Aga Khan Foundation Canada, which holds the annual World Partnership Walk in numerous cities across Canada.

We pray that Nazeer’s soul may rest in eternal peace.

Addendum to Nazeer Ladhani’s Obituary

[Following our publication of Nazeer Ladhani’s obituary, above, we received the following details from Edmonton’s Nazir Kassamali who joined Nazeer Ladhani’s University of Central Asia (UCA) management team as the Director of Finance and Administration. We are pleased to incorporate Kassamali’s feedback into this post, as it reflects Nazeer Ladhani’s outstanding accomplishments at the UCA during the short time he stayed there. He was indeed on an important mission and performed his duties admirably! – Ed.]

By NAZIR KASSAMALI

First of all, I pay my deep respects to Nazeer Ladhani and convey my deep condolences to his family on his recent passing, and pray for the eternal peace of his soul.

I wish to add further to the obituary that has been presented here with respect to his short stint at the UCA whose Administrative Office was in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

During his assignment as the Director General of the University of Central Asia, a unique, internationally chartered higher university focused on the development of mountain societies, with purpose-built world class residential campuses in Naryn, Kyrgyzstan, and Khorog, Tajikistan and (future) Tekeli in Kazakhstan, Nazeer accomplished significant progress which is explained below.

In a meeting in New York, discussion came up about the slow progress of the of University subsequent to the signing of the Agreement with the respective governments, namely, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. There were significant issues that were not being addressed to meet the vision of the newly created University. Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, asked Nazeer Ladhani to takeover the management of the University and address the issues and provide solutions so that the three campuses and core curricula are built on a solid foundation.

Under Nazeer’s leadership and guidance, the UCA team achieved:

• Protocols following the agreements were approved and ratified by the acts of Parliaments of the three countries. This gave recognition equivalent to that of International NGOs such as United Nations which included Diplomatic status of the University, diplomatic license plates for the vehicles, ease of movements of the University employees across the three campuses and trilateral work permits. Government departments and senior employees were educated of the status of the University of Central Asia. This recognition of the UCA status made it easier to work with the Government officials of the three countries.
• Three Schools of Continuing Education and vocational training (SPCE) were built and opened. Full enrollments were accepted across the three campuses during Nazeer’s tenure and first cohorts graduated during the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam;
• Administrative and support staff were hired and trained;
• Financial, Human Resources and Campus enrollment Systems, business processes and procedures were implemented;
• Campus designs of the three Campuses were completed with the Japanese Architects, Arata Sasaki;
• Cadastral surveying of the University lands allocated by the three governments were completed and delivered;
• For Khorog Campus in Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast (GBAO), Tajikistan, alternative land and compensations were allocated to the families who were residing inside the University boundary. This took a lot of persuasion and working with the local leaders and the three layers of Governments;
• Vocational schools to train brick layers, plasterers, carpenters and painters were established with the grant from US Aid which Nazeer was instrumental in acquiring; and
• Incorporation of the Aga Khan Humanities Programme into the UCA’s curriculum.

It takes over three to four decades for a University to achieve the Global standards of recognition and Nazeer Ladhani made an outstanding contribution to give it a solid foundation.

Date posted: March 5, 2020.
Last updated: March 8, 2020 (addendum to obituary).

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Nazeer Ladhani by completing the feedback form below. If form does not show, please click on LEAVE A COMMENT. Alternatively, you may submit your comment for publication to simerg@aol.com; Subject: Nazeer Ladhani.

Simerg offers to all its Ismaili readers around the world an opportunity to submit memorials to honour and celebrate the lives of beloved members of their families who have physically departed this world. Please click Passings for more information.

Passings: Mahebub Mohamed Juma Rupani (1941 – 2020)

Mahebub Rupani, Passings Simerg
Mahebub Rupani (1941 – 2020) pictured with his wife, Dolatkhanu, in 2014. Photo: Mahebub Rupani Family Collection.

With great sadness, the family of Mahebub Mohamed Juma Rupani announces his passing on January 18, 2020, at the age of 79 after a sudden illness while visiting his relatives in Rajkot, India. The funeral and zyarat ceremonies for Mahebub took place in Ottawa, Canada, on January 27, 2020.

Beloved husband to Dolatkhanu Rupani, devoted father, loving grandfather and a cherished member of an extensive global family, Mahebub possessed a calm, kind, peaceful and generous soul that was valued in both his professional and personal life.

Mahebub Rupani (1941-2020), Ottawa, Passings, Simerg.
Mahebub Rupani (1941-2020) and his wife Dolatkhanu pictured in 2007 with their sons Tareeq (back row, left) and Qayad (second from right); grandchildren Azra, Laila and Adrik; and daughters-in-law Debbie and Neziera. Photo: Mahebub Rupani Family Collection.

Born in Zanzibar, East Africa, Mahebub dedicated much of his professional life to the insurance industry, mostly at the Jubilee Insurance Company in Mombasa and Nairobi, in Kenya. He then moved to Portugal where he served with the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Portugal. During his stay in Lisbon, he ran a small business and helped with the planning for Lisbon’s Ismaili Centre. He also served as the Honorary Secretary for the Council in Portugal.  

Mahebub Rupani (1941-2020), Ottawa, Simerg Passings.
Mahebub Rupani (d. January 18, 2020) pictured in a more recent photo taken in 2019 with members of his family. Back row (l to r) are son Qayad, daughters-in-law Neziera and Debby, and son Tareeq. Seated (l to r) are grandson Azra, wife Dolatkhanu, granddaughter Laila, MAHEBUB RUPANI, and grandson Adrik. Photo: Mahebub Rupani Family Collection.

Mahebub subsequently moved to Canada where he upgraded his executive skills in the insurance industry with a Diploma in Computer Science from the DeVry Institute. Upon retiring, Mahebub worked with the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Ottawa. A senior Jamati member described Mahebub’s contribution as, “…integral to the formation of what we now know as Canada’s Ismaili Institutions in Ottawa today”.

 We pray that Allah rest his soul in peace.

Date posted:  February 18, 2020.

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Mahebub Rupani by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT. Your comment for publication may also be submitted to simerg@aol.com; Subject: Mahebub Rupani.

Simerg offers to all its Ismaili readers around the world an opportunity to submit memorials to honour and celebrate the lives of beloved members of their families who have physically departed this world. Please click Passings for more information.

Sultan Jessa: Noble Ismaili Muslim, Great Journalist and Recipient of Order of Canada Passes Away

Veteran journalist Sultan Jesssa receiving Canada's Highest Honour
Sultan Jessa with Her Excellency Adrianne Clarkson, the former Governor General of Canada, at the event in 2005 marking the presentation to him of Canada’s highest honour, the Order of Canada. Photo: Sultan Jessa Collection, Montreal.

Sultan Jessa: A Model Canadian Citizen

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

On August 15, 2019 at 1:15 PM, I received an article for publication from my beloved friend Sultan Jessa with a kind note that said:

Dear Malik, Feel free to use it if you find this appropriate. Sultan.

I simply replied,

Sultan: Will review.

Little did I know that exactly a week later, on August 22, he would pass away! I was having lunch at Fairview Mall in Toronto, when a note was sent to me that said, “Sultan just passed away this morning.” The email simply would not open on my Iphone, and I learnt about the sad news a few hours later on my notebook.

His funeral ceremonies will be held today, Saturday August 24, at 10 AM at Montreal’s Headquarters Jamatkhana. Samar and ziarat prayers in his remembrance will follow in the evening at the Jamatkhana.

Sultan Jessa of Montreal with his wife and daughters
Flashback to 1990: Sultan and Rosila with daughters Yasmin (left) and Anaar. Photo: Sultan Jessa Collection, Montreal.

Four years ago, in 2015, I spent an entire day with Sultan and his wife Rosila at their home in Montreal. I learnt a lot about Sultan’s extraordinary life as well as his dedication to his family. I was fortunate to interview him and I published it under a special piece entitled The Sultan of Hard Work and Sacrifice: Veteran Ismaili Journalist Sultan Jessa, Order of Canada, is a Model Canadian Citizen For All to Emulate.

Their warmth and affection when I visited their home was incredible, and I cannot forget Sultan’s generosity when he unconditionally presented me a carefully preserved envelope containing memorable photos of His Highness the Aga Khan that had been taken by his former colleague at Kenya’s Daily Nation, Azhar Choudry. I was deeply touched.

Sultan Jessa with Mawlana Hazar Imam and Begum Salimah
His Highness the Aga Khan and Begum Salimah with Sultan Jessa at the bungalow of the late Diwan Sir Eboo Pirbhai during their 1972 visit to Kenya. Photo: Azhar Chaudary. Sultan Jessa Collection, Montreal.

At this painful time of bereavement, we convey our heartfelt condolences to his wife Rosila, their two daughters Anaar and Yasmin, and all the members of Sultan’s family, and pray for their strength and courage. We also pray that Allah may rest Sultan’s soul in eternal peace.

We invite our readers to record their condolences and tributes honouring Sultan Jessa’s memorable life at Leave a comment.

Date posted: August 23, 2019.
Last updated: August 24, 2019.

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To read tributes that readers have left for Sultan Jessa or to post one please click Leave a comment.

[Before leaving this page, please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to a vast and rich collection of articles published on this blog as well as its two sister blogs Barakah and Simergphotos.]

Passings: Salim Dawood – a Fantastic and Inspiring Math Teacher at Dar es Salaam’s Aga Khan Boys Primary School

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos
 AND proud student of Mr. Salim Dawood)

Those who did their primary education in the mid 1960’s at Dar es Salaam’s Aga Khan Boys Primary School would remember Mr. Salim Dawood along with other teachers such as the late Mrs. Parin Shariff, Mr. Allana, Mr. Gulamhussein, Ms. Allibhai and others. I’ve specifically mentioned those who taught me in both Standard 6 and 7 from 1964-66. Sadly, Mr. Dawood passed away over the weekend in Toronto at the age of 74.

His funeral ceremonies were held at Scarborough Jamatkhana on Tuesday, July 23, at 12:30 PM and he was then buried at Elgin Mills Cemetery. There were two other Ismaili burials at the same time. Samar and ziarat prayers followed in the evening at Headquarters Jamatkhana (ICT). Earlier, a dilsoji (condolence) gathering took place at the ICT  on Monday, July 22 with hundreds in attendance.

Mr. Dawood was a brilliant and dedicated Maths teacher who taught us with passion and instilled in us a great deal of confidence in the subject. He often spent hours after school to help students who were struggling with the subject — and really Maths has always been a challenge for thousands of young people.

Mr. Dawood was also a great sportsman. As a cricketer, he also captained the Young Ismailis (later Young Cricketers), the sister team of Aga Khan Club (later Dar Cricketers). My late dad, Alwaez Jehangir, enjoyed playing under Salim’s captainship. They both also played under Firoz Kassam, Dinno Bhatia and Shiraz Abdulla. Mr. Dawood bowled medium pace and scored freely as a batsman.

I have a fond recollection. One day after a school recess game (with a tennis ball), when I was in Standard 7, he asked how the game against Standard 8 went and someone told him I scored 50 (over 2 days of recess time). He called me to the front of the packed class and handed me a 10 shilling note! I was gratified. He jokingly remarked that had he been bowling I wouldn’t have managed the 50. Agree!

Above all, Mr. Dawood was a magnificent Math teacher who instilled in us a love for the subject and gave us a solid foundation to build on.

Mr. Salim Kassamali Dawood will remain in my heart and thoughts forever. My thoughts are with everyone in his family as well as his students, fellow teachers, and members of the Jamat wherever he served after leaving Tanzania.

I pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace.

(We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Salim Dawood by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on COMMENT. Should you encounter difficulties submitting your feedback below, please email it for publication to simerg@aol.com.

Date posted: July 22, 2019.
Last updated: July 24, 2019.

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Kutub Kassam served Ismaili Imamat Institutions as curriculum developer, editor, writer and researcher for 40 years

“It is my sad duty to inform you of the passing away of our colleague Kutub Kassam. He served IIS [Institute of Ismaili Studies] and the Jamat most faithfully for more than thirty years. May his soul rest in peace” — Dr. Farhad Daftary, Director, IIS, London, England, March 25, 2019.

Kutub Kassam (1944-2019)

Kutub Kassam (1944-2019)

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

It is with deep sadness that Simerg records the passing away of Kutubdin (Kutub) Aladin Kassam, on March 24, 2019 in London, England, at the age of 75 after serving Ismaili Imamat institutions for 40 years. Of these, he spent 35 years at the Institute of Ismaili Studies for which he was congratulated and recognized by Prince Rahim Aga Khan during the Institute’s 40th anniversary celebration held in London in November 2017.

Kutub’s funeral services were held on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the West London Jamatkhana. He was then buried at Brookwood cemetery in Surrey, following which post burial ceremonies of samar and zyarat were conducted for his departed soul at London’s North West Jamatkhana.

Kutub Kassam was born on January 21, 1944 in Mombasa, Kenya, and received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of East Africa at a ceremony held at the University College Nairobi in 1967.  

In Kenya, he contributed in developing an international curriculum on religious education for the global Ismaili community. He wrote an insightful piece about the challenges of creating the new International Religious Education Program (IREP) in a special commemorative issue celebrating sixty years of Ismaili education in Kenya.

In 1982, Kutub commenced his long tenure with the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, where his first task was to coordinate the activities of the newly established Education Unit (later Department of Education). In that capacity, Kutub was responsible for overseeing the development of the Primary Talim materials.

From 1993 onwards, until his retirement in 2018, Kutub played the role of a researcher and senior editor where he provided invaluable input to scholars who were completing their books. He left his imprint in almost every publication that the IIS published during the past 25 years.

The pivotal role that Kutub played at the IIS as a senior editor was noted with affection by several authors in their book forewords or prefaces, showing how much they respected him for his analysis and insightful suggestions for improving their works before they got published.  

For example, Dr. Aziz Esmail, author of A Scent of Sandalwood: Indo-Ismaili Religious Lyrics wrote: “Kutub Kassam helped the work through, in the final stage, by applying his meticulous regard for the conventions of language, his feel for poetry, and his fine appreciation of the subject, to the text of the work. My thanks are due to him for the sustained effort he put in, and the suggestions he made for the improvement, in several places, of the penultimate text.”

Reza Shah-Kazemi, author of Justice and Remembrance: the Spirituality of Imam Ali thanked Kutub for going beyond the normal editing of the text by contributing to its intellectual content which resulted in a significantly improved text. Mohamed Keshavjee, a member of the Board of the IIS and author of Islam, Sharia and Alternative Dispute Resolution praised Kutub for meticulously reading his manuscript and suggesting extra sources for the book.

The late Peter Willey, one of the earliest contemporary scholars on the Alamut period and author of the highly readable work Eagle’s Nest: Ismaili Castle in Iran and Syria complimented by noting that Kutub was his “ever-patient and judicious editor at The Institute of Ismaili Studies who has always been a tower of strength.” The Vancouver based Amyn Sajoo, author of  Civil Society in the Muslim World: Comparative Perspectives, said he had benefited from Kutub Kassam’s “pragmatic insights and encouragement, which on more than one occasion helped keep the project on track.”

In addition to leaving his imprint in almost every IIS publication,  Kutub himself co-authored and edited Shimmering Light (1996) and An Anthology of Ismaili Literature (2008). 

Kutub’s influence was felt beyond the confines of the IIS. Al Noor Kassum, a prominent Ismaili leader in Tanzania, recognized Kutub’s contribution to his memoirs Africa’s Winds of Change: Memoirs of an International Tanzanian in the following terms: “….I am heavily indebted to Kutub Kassam for the highly professional input that he has provided in every chapter of the book with in-depth analysis that could only have been done by someone of his calibre. I am truly, truly grateful to him because, as a result, I have learnt a great deal, too.”

Aside from providing editorial expertise to authors, Kutub was himself a prolific writer and contributed rich literary articles and poems that appeared in numerous Ismaili publications around the world.

As our tribute to an inspiring and illuminating Ismaili individual of the modern times who served the Imamat for four decades, we bring you this beautiful poem by Kutub that we discovered in the Commemorative Issue 1977-1978: Celebrating Sixty Years of Ismaili Education in Kenya. 

Come, who will walk with me?

By KUTUB KASSAM
(1944-2019)

Come, who will walk with me?
A path there is over hills and dales,
Through avenues of purple, green and gold;
It pauses not where the thickets press,
Nor hesitates
To plunge into the forest gloom.

A place there is concealed
Of leaf and bough and tender grass,
Where the enraptured birds sing and dance;
In the still waters of pool appears
The sky inverted,
That conceals deeper depths.

Come, will you walk with me?
Leave all cares and sorrows behind;
All ambition, ornament and pride renounce;
Property, wealth, work, all abandon:
Come companion,
Put on your wings and let us fly.

Away from this world of
Fever and fret and fear of death,
This wretched city where men toil oppressed
And the memories of innocence drown
Where even the best
Lack compassion or conviction;

To another world where
Man and bird and beast dwell free
In accordance with love, beauty and truth,
Where birth and death, sun and moon
Declare the life
A continuous spiritual ecstasy.

Kutub Kassam’s impact on Ismaili Jamats through his work at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London will last for generations and he will be deeply missed.

We join the Director and staff of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in praying for the eternal peace of the soul of Kutub Kassam. We convey our heartfelt  condolences to Kutub’s family members, colleagues and friends around the world.

Date posted: March 25, 2019.
Last updated: April 1, 2019 (updated portrait photo of the Late Kutub Kassam).

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Shirin Mohamedali Khimji (1935 – 2019): A Remarkable Ismaili Widow and Woman of Faith and Character

Portrait of Shirin Khimji

A portrait of Shirin Mohamedali Khimji (1935-2019). Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

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.

By GHALIB SUMAR

Shirin Mohamedali Khimji of Kutch, Dodoma and Toronto, passed away peacefully at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on February 6, 2019. She was the much-loved wife of late Mohamedali Khimji, father of Sadrudin, Moez, Rosmin and Tazim, grandmaa to Nisara, Abida, Fayaz, Sameer, Juliana, Adam, Arif and Ghalib and great grandmaa to Nasiha. The last rites were held at Scarborough Jamatkhana on February 9, 2019 and she was later buried the same day at Elgin Mills Cemetery in Richmond Hill.

Born on March 5, 1935 in Kutch Mundra, Gujarat, India, Maa, as we fondly called her, was raised in an impoverished town and got married to the only love of her life, her husband, the late Mohamedali Khimji in 1949. Her first child, Sadrudin, was born in 1951 and following the guidance of the late Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, they decided to move to Kimamba, a small town outside of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in July 1951 by ship.

20170514_093818_Portrait of Family

Shirin M. Khimji with her husband Late Mohamedali Khimji and children Moez, Sadrudin and Rosmin. Tazim, the 4th child, was not born yet. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

A few years later on November 14, 1956, when she was only 21, her husband passed away due to heart complications and she lived courageously and selflessly as a widow, raising and blossoming the lives of her four children and several grandchildren throughout her lifetime.

There are many thoughts and recollections that come to mind as we honour and celebrate the life of Maa, a transcendent soul which enlightened the lives of many everyday. Maa always looked after the well-being of others before herself and because of that she was able to build an inclusive and welcoming community wherever she lived.

3_Shirin Khimji

Shirin M. Khimji having an enjoyable moment with her four children: Tazim, Sadrudin, Rosmin and Moez. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

From approximately 1973 to 1983, as an assistant matron at the Aga Khan Boarding Hostel in Dar es Salaam, she transformed and improved the lives of her boarders and earned their respect and trust due to her humble deeds. Maa ensured the rooms were cleaned and was responsible for preparing the daily and weekly menu which included popular Ismaili East African dishes such as kuku paka, ugali and daal bhajia to name a few.

Following her migration to Canada, she continued to serve and enrich the community in numerous ways. For example, at 1420 Victoria Park Avenue, a well-known seniors housing building in Toronto with a significant Ismaili senior population, she once again brought the community together by serving meals and looking after her friends. Maa was remembered for her dedication in feeding those who kept rojo (fast) and would make 150 parathas to ensure those who kept the fast were fed properly. I remember her telling me that there was a big sawab (spiritual reward or blessing) in feeding members  who had observed the fast.

One of Maa’s favourite memories was being able to spend quality time with her children and grandchildren. She would call all her children and grandchildren on an almost daily basis and always inquired about their whereabouts and well-being.

Family Collage 2 Shirin Khimji

A collage of photos representing Shirin M. Khimji with members of her family at various times during her lifetime. Photos: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection. Collage by Simerg.

I was truly fortunate to build a strong and loving bond with her and in October 2017, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited Dar es Salaam for his Diamond Jubilee visit and celebrations. Maa was blessed to have seen the Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

We had talked about the Jubilees in detail on several occasions and we decided that we would bring her back home to celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee in Tanzania. We were able to make that dream a reality. Maa was extremely happy to be back in Tanzania and to see old acquaintances and friends she had not seen for over 30 years.

A crowning moment and memory of the Diamond Jubilee that will forever be etched in our hearts was when Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade was passing by Dar es Salaam’s Upanga Jamatkhana and Maa was yearning to welcome and see her beloved Imam. A few moments later, he waved to her and the countless Ismailis who just wanted a glimpse of their Imam.

5_Shirin Khimji_Collage

Shirin M. Khimji on her final trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with her grandson Ghalib and two daughters Rosmin and Tazim. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

Maa was a selfless individual and she impacted innumerable lives through her humble actions, words and deeds. She prayed for the well being of others everyday until her last breath. Throughout her 84 years of life, Maa brought smiles and laughter to everyone that knew her. 

Our beloved Maa’s luminous legacy and impact will be felt for years and generations and her values of integrity, kindness, generosity, looking after the needy as well as selfless service to the community wherever she lived will always be admired by all.

Her entire life truly epitomized the meaning of ‘selfless service’ and her wise words and counsel are forever illuminated in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. She will always be remembered for her noble actions and deeds as well as an unflinching devotion to community harmony. She touched people of all ages throughout her life, and will be held in the utmost of respect and deep admiration. 

The passing away of our late Maa, Shirin Mohamedali Khimji, is a difficult moment for the family. Today, the family would like to celebrate the physical life of Maa, who most sincerely dedicated her life to the Ismaili Imamat and Jamats worldwide, and we express our humble shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam.

May her soul forever and eternally rest in peace. Ameen.

Date posted: March 5, 2019.

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We welcome tributes and messages of condolence for the late Shirin Mohamedali Khimji. Please complete the feedback form below or click LEAVE A COMMENT.

About the writer: Ghalib Sumar is the beloved grandson of Maa, the late Shirin Mohamedali Khimji. Born and raised in Toronto, he is now located in Calgary and volunteers his time extensively on the Communications & Publications Portfolio of the Aga Khan Council for Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Health Studies degrees and is a communications and marketing professional.

We graciously publish tributes to honour deceased member(s) of your family. Please see Simerg Invites Obituaries / Tributes to Honour Past / Recent Deceased Ismailis. The feature is provided free of charge. 

Simerg Invites Obituaries / Tributes to Honour Past / Recent Deceased Ismailis

Passings

Top portion of image shows plaque commemorating Ismailis who were killed in a WWII raid in Burma. Bottom half is a surreal image by Sarite Sanders of Aswan’s Fatimid cemetery.

HONOURING LIVES LIVED

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

Simerg offers to all Ismaili families around the world an opportunity to submit memorials to honour and celebrate the lives of their deceased family members. The memorials may be submitted in the form of (1) a simple short notice or (2) a tribute of up to 500 words. The memorial may be for any Ismaili who has died recently or at any time since 1950 (or even earlier). This is a FREE listing.

Substance of the Notice and Tribute

1. NOTICE: The simplest kind of tribute is a notice announcing the death of the person. This short notice may be followed by a longer tribute at a later date as described in (2) below. The following is an example of the contents of a notice:

“[Name of Deceased], author and playwright, died peacefully at home in [city], on [date]. He was the much-loved husband of [spouse name], father of [children], guardian and grandfather. The last rites were held in [name of Jamatkhana] on [date] and he was later buried on [date] at [name and city of cemetery]. Post funeral religious ceremonies were conducted at [name of Jamatkhana]. It was the wish [of the deceased or the deceased family] that monetary contributions in his honour be made to [organization, hospital, cause etc.].”

2. TRIBUTE: The purpose of the tribute will be to celebrate the person’s life. It will start with the same basic information you put in the notice (1, above), and goes on to add details about the person’s life: hometowns, jobs, family members, and personal interests activities as well as community services and awards. Anecdotes may be included from the person’s life to help family members, readers and future generations to reflect on the life of the individual. The universal tale, as is well-known, lies in specific examples and for this reason we are inviting you to write a tribute of up to 500 words in length.

For very good examples of short notices as well as tributes see your local newspapers or click The Globe and Mail. They will assist you in constructing appropriate notices and tributes.

Here is a selection of tributes we have published on Simerg:

Submission Rules

Each submission must specify your relationship with the deceased person, as well as include your full name, mailing address and the phone number where you may be contacted. Along with your short notice or tribute, we ask you to submit the celebrated person’s photo. For tributes, we will accept two additional photos which have a direct relevance to the person’s life that you have described. Images should be in JPG format.

Anonymous pieces will not be accepted for publication, although the editor may at his discretion allow author anonymity once the tribute has been approved for publication. Please submit the notice or tribute in PDF, Text or Word format to simerg@aol.com. You may, alternatively, incorporate the material within your email. The editor will contact you with the draft copy once the piece has been finalized for publication. 

The 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan (1877 -1957) said in his Memoirs that “life is a great and noble calling.” It is the life that was celebrated about which we are asking you to reflect and write about, in the form of a short notice or a longer tribute.

Date posted: February 28, 2019.
Last updated: July 24, 2019 (link to new piece, Salim Dawood).

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The editor welcomes tributes honouring your deceased family members. Please send them to simerg@aol.com

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears below. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Please visit our Home page for links to most recent posts. For links to articles posted on this Web site since its launch in March 2009, please click TABLE OF CONTENTS.

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Facebook Page Global Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement is a Noble Service to Ismailis and Deserves Worldwide Jamati Participation and Full Institutional Support

A LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant of Simerg

One thing that I deeply appreciated about the Ismaili UK Newsletter (at least the hard copy version that I knew of) was the periodic publication of births and deaths that occurred in the UK and other European countries that were under the jurisdiction of the UK Aga Khan Ismaili Council. That information was one of the easiest pieces to compile and publish, as every Council records the birth and death of Ismailis in its jurisdiction.

As a long time resident of Canada, I don’t think the Ismaili Canada offered or offers anything like its UK counterpart. Neither do the Al-Akhbar weekly electronic newsletters published in provinces across Canada. I was told just this past week that Ottawa Jamati members were at one time being informed about deaths in their region by emails from the Ottawa Council. I wonder if this practice has ceased. For example, after a friend in Ottawa passed away last week — his funeral was held in Toronto — I decided to stop by for grocery purchases before proceeding to Toronto’s Ismaili Centre for his zyarat and samar services. Another very close friend and his wife, also from Ottawa who happened to be in Toronto, walked into the store as I was preparing to proceed to the Jamatkhana. When I told them about our mutual friend’s death and that earlier that afternoon I had attended his funeral and burial ceremonies they were in utter shock. They felt deeply saddened by the news and said they were glad that they met me because they were originally planning to go to a Jamatkhana closer to them.

One learns about deaths through friends or relatives of the deceased or Jamatkhana announcements at locations where the death took place or a few days later when samars are held to honour and pray for the deceased person. And sometimes through fortuitous encounters such as the one I had in the grocery store. In many instances, one is not even aware about the death of long time friends or relatives for months or years. When I recently met a group of students of my late dad, who passed away last May, a few in the group were not even aware of his death and were deeply apologetic for their oversight.

Some three years ago, Mustak Hasham of Toronto created a Facebook page to help fill this void. Everyday, Mustak, with the assistance of his wife and hundreds of well-wishers from around the world, keeps his more than 45,000 members informed about deceased members on GLOBAL Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement. 

Of course, Mustak’s page brings grief and sadness to many, but such is the fact of life. Everyone feels the grief of the passing away of a beloved member of one’s family and no grief is deeper than seeing the announcement of the death of an individual young in age, predeceasing his or her parents. The grief and burden is considerably lifted when families are consoled, often by individuals who for years were out of contact with the deceased person or family they knew well.

Mustak’s boxed announcement (see image below) is short and informs his subscribers the name of the deceased, age, residence, a profile photo, and pertinent information related to the funeral. In some cases he doesn’t have all the information. Mustak has people around the world who keep him informed about the deaths that take place in their cities, towns and regions. His daily updates sometimes carry up to ten passings. In this work, he is also supported by his wife Sunanda. 

Ismaili Death Announcement 2

A death announcement on Ismaili Community & Funeral Announcements Facebook page managed by Mustak Hasham in Toronto.

When I spoke to Mustak recently, I asked him about responses from remoter places such as Central Asia and Northern Pakistan. Occasionally he hears from residents in those places but he sincerely  hopes that more and more people from those remote locations as well as the Middle East, Iran, Syria and tiny Jamati settlements around the world would join his group and keep him informed about the passings that take place there.

Indeed, Mustak feels that his current page membership of 45,000+ is still small considering the hundreds of thousands who have access to the internet. He wants the numbers to grow significantly in the months to come, and hopes that readers will join and support his humble endeavour.

So far, Mustak hasn’t faced any resistance from families about deaths that he announces on his page. He did confide that on one rare occasion someone from a family of the deceased raised a concern about the posting but then quickly realized the benefit of the announcement. When readers, in response to a death, submit their condolence or prayer message, it is  inspiring for the grieving family. 

Institutions always expect Jamati members to support them on their projects. However it is also essential and important for institutions to be facilitators of websites and social media pages that are doing a worthy job to disseminate important pieces of knowledge and information. I think we have been asked by Mawlana Hazar Imam to work together. Where institutions are not fully able to dedicate their resources to put out important announcements, other than through Jamatkhana announcements, they can support projects such as Mustak’s by easily and quickly assembling a death notice for his attention. With regard to privacy issues, a simple question can be asked of family members: Do you have any objection if the death of your family member is mentioned on a Facebook page that is read worldwide?

Again, I reiterate that Mustak’s work has not raised objections. Indeed, family members appreciate and remain ever so grateful for the work that he is doing every single day.

Working together is a 2-way street. We bloggers and publishers of numerous websites and social media pages are self-motivators, and can immensely benefit from greater institutional encouragement for the work that we perform. CBC, CNN, BBC, G & M, WSJ, NYT and many other media outlets and news agencies are regularly invited to attend events at which Mawlana Hazar Imam is honoured or presides over important functions. It is time for Ismaili bloggers and journalists as well as outstanding photographers who have built a good reputation over the years to be respectfully treated by Ismaili institutions and invited to high profile functions. I can cite many occasions when I myself have sought access to these events, and asked to be present at the very last moment by communication coordinator representatives! There should be proper planning for these events, and advanced preparedness is important.

With regard to Mustak, our message to him is to keep up his wonderful work. He can do much more with everyone’s support, Jamats and institutions alike. Readers should join his page GLOBAL Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement.

The death of  any deceased Jamati member brings immense grief to family members and friends. For those of us who may be strangers to the family, I would say that we can bring abundant blessing and peace to the soul of the departed by taking out a short prayer. That also goes a long way in giving courage and inspiration to the family and friends of the deceased. By such gracious and thoughtful acts, we are affirming that we deeply care for our late spiritual sisters and brothers as well as their families.

Date posted: February 27, 2019.

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We invite your feedback below or by clicking Leave a comment.

Simerg publishes obituaries and tributes submitted by family members to honour and celebrate the lives of their beloved deceased family members. Please visit our page Passings.

 

 

 

 

Nazil Kara (1957-2018): An Ordinary and Extraordinary Satpanthi Woman

[The following is an adapted version of a eulogy delivered by Karim H. Karim  at the bhatti reception honouring his sister Nazil, who passed away recently in Port Moody, British Columbia, at the age of 61]

By KARIM H. KARIM

Nazil Kara

Nazil Kara (1957-2018)

I would like to tell you about my sister Nazil Kara, whose life was ordinary and also extraordinary. Let me start by referring to women in general. They are often the anchors of their communities. Women tend to have the practical and pragmatic wisdom that keeps families stable. They are dynamic engines who seem to have unending resources of energy. Some have ordinary lives that are extraordinary. Yet many of their stories remain untold.

The name Nazil refers to someone who descends from above. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s late father Prince Aly Khan (1911-1960) gave this name to Gulbanu and Haiderali Essa Karim for their yet to be born daughter.

Nazil had a life history similar to that of many other Satpanthi Khoja Ismaili women of her generation. Her values, ethics and spirituality were shaped by the teachings of Pir Sadardin passed down through 700 years, from generation to generation, from parents to children, from grandparents to grandchildren, from aunts and uncles to nieces and nephews. The multiple cultures that she lived were those of India, Africa and North America. Nazil’s story is, in many ways, common to the women and men of the diaspora that has travelled from Gujarat to Africa and then to Canada – traversing half the planet in the course of two centuries.

Nazil was the great granddaughter of Jethibai (also known as “Bead Bai”) and Mohamed Jeevan, who were from India. Both her grandfathers were born in Gujarat and both her grandmothers were born in Kenya. Nazil’s maternal grandparents were Huzurmukhiani Sikina Mohamed Jeevan and Huzurmukhi Kanji Mohamed Jeevan; her paternal grandparents were Alijabanu Shirin Karim and Alijah Essa Karim. (Mohamedbhai travelled from India to East Africa in a dhow; Essabhai made the journey later on the steamship SS Karanja.)

Born on 20th August 1957 in Kisii, Kenya, she was Nazil Haiderali Essa Karim Kassam Premji Punja Vallani. She was a daughter, a granddaughter, a great granddaughter, a sister, a cousin, a niece, a wife, a mother, an aunt, a friend, a confidant, a mentor, and so much more. As a child she flourished among her many relatives in the townships and cities of East Africa – Kisii, Kisumu, Arusha, Magugu, Babati, Dar es Salaam, Nairobi, Mbarara. The family has grown and extended into new generations. It is scattered across Canada and other parts of the world. Some of its younger members who reside in far off places never met Nazil, but her memory is cherished greatly by her own generation of the clan and its elders. She is also remembered by many friends who reside in several countries.

My sibling lived an ordinary life like the most of us, making mistakes and doing good things. However, there is a certain symmetry and uniqueness about Nazil’s stay in this world. Unlike most people, she was given birth at home and she passed away at home. Her earthly beginning and end occurred on high ground: she was born in the hilly town of Kisii in the Nyanza Province of Kenya and took her last breath at Heritage Mountain in Port Moody, British Columbia. The spans of her life before and after marriage were divided into almost equal parts. In her community of some fifty cousins, she is the first to walk to the other world. Or, to put it another way, she is the awwal among this generation of her family to make the journey to the akhirah. My sister was much-loved by our father, Haiderali Essa Karim, who passed away six years ago. Both departed as autumn leaves were turning gold. Her physical resting place is close to our father’s in Burnaby’s Forest Lawn cemetery, which was her dearest wish.

Nazil’s was a life of service. Even her choices for employment were institutions devoted to the care of people. Her first full-time job was with the Aga Khan Foundation Canada, when its offices were in Vancouver. She then worked for her fellow citizens for 27 years as a Service Canada employee. But more than anything else, Nazil was absolutely devoted to her parents, her twin daughters Nayab and Naseeba, and to the love of her life, her husband Arif. Born under the sign of Leo, she was a lioness in protecting her family. Nazil dedicated her life to them. Her last words at 8:15 am on Monday 5th November 2018 were those of care for Arif, who has a long-term illness. With that, at the age of three score and one, she completed her seva (service) in this world and was called to the other.

My sister’s formal education began at the Aga Khan Nursery School in our home town. Following which, she attended the Kisii Primary School until 1966, and later, the Aga Khan Primary School in Naiirobi, Kenya’s capital city. From 1970 to 1975, Nazil was at Nairobi’s Aga Khan High School. Embarking on her post-secondary education, she travelled to Bradford College in Haverhill, Massachusetts, before the family formally migrated to North America. Later, she studied at the Oakland campus of the California College of the Arts. Her higher education was completed at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. But above and beyond school learning, Nazil’s greatest intellectual asset was the practical and pragmatic wisdom of women.

Her school friends remember her as a captain in the Girl Guide Rangers. She was Head Girl in her last year at the Aga Khan High School. In sports, she was a member of the school netball team and competed at the national level in badminton. Nazil was also artistically gifted. She began pursuing art seriously in her late teenage years. The many portraits that she drew are striking in their simplicity.

During the last two decades, Nazil turned to a traditional medium – that of applying henna or mehndi as body art. Her fingers moved almost effortlessly for hours, ultimately unveiling ornate designs that flowed into infinity. Nazil’s art was a creative expression of how she saw the world. It is a metaphor of her existence. Her life had blossomed like the intricate floral patterns that she drew so dexterously. It delighted and infused beauty into many lives. And mirroring mehndi’s ephemeral nature, Nazil’s earthly sojourn was a fleeting one. But unlike henna, ruhani (spiritual) essence does not fade – its eternity is symbolized in the subtle, intersecting patterns that she traced on many hands.

Henna art

The art of Henna or Mehndi was Nazil’s passion for the last twenty years of her life.

Nazil’s artistic skill was much in demand at public fairs and weddings. Her art lives on in many treasured bridal albums. My sister passed on her skills to Nayab and Naseeba, who developed their own unique styles. Art became a way to serve. Mother and daughters frequently applied henna at full-day fund-raising events of the Canadian Cancer Society. Moving beyond the customary use of mehndi as body art, the three of them engaged in a newer form that finely traces henna on art paper. They have individually produced marvellous pieces. A selection of their work was exhibited at the Jubilee Arts Festival in Toronto in the Spring of 2018. A week after Nazil departed, a regular delivery of henna arrived at her home from India. The family’s mehndi art draws from the community’s cultural roots in Gujarat. Building on this age-old tradition, Nazil, Nayab and Naseeba have strived innovatively to transform it into a 21st century genre.

Nazil’s life was integral to the broad arc of time that is the community’s history. She was like many other Satpanthi Khoja Ismaili women of her time. They have been instrumental in passing on the skills, values and ethics of the community. Satpanth means “the true path” or “the path of truth.” Satpanthi women have been leading on the path of truth for generations. The world changes constantly, but the truth remains constant. Its value is eternal. The truth that Nazil expressed was manifested in her art and in her caring for others.

Her daughters are her living legacy. She has passed on the values, ethics and spiritual sensibility of Satpanth to them. We will continue to see Nazil Kara’s continuing presence in the world through Nayab and Naseeba’s accomplishments.

This is a story of one ordinary and extraordinary Satpanthi Khoja Ismaili woman.

Date posted: December 6, 2018.

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Nazil Kara by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment. Your comment may also be submitted to simerg@aol.com.

 

The Life of Jehangir Merchant: Ismaili missionary who rendered long and dedicated services to the Jamat and the Imam-of-the-Time

PLEASE CLICK: “Life of Jehangir” – includes historical photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam

Please click on image for “Life of Jehangir” in photos.

Date posted: September 11, 2018.

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