Remembering Ismailis we have lost since Jamatkhana closures and during the coronavirus pandemic

Simerg invites Ismaili families around the world to submit short obituaries or tributes to members of their families who have passed away during the Coronavirus pandemic, either due to Covid-19 OR any other cause. Please read the first part of tributes by clicking here or on the photo below. Submit the tribute to the editor, Malik Merchant, at simerg@aol.com. The tributes we have published are good examples for a tribute you may wish to write for your family member.

Date posted: June 8, 2020.

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“The Last Anointing” – an amazing must read piece in the New York Times

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ismaili Muslim families whose family members are seriously ill or are in the last stages of their lives seek out their Jamatkhana leaders — the Mukhis and Kamadias — to offer some specific prayers, blessings and rites on the sick members of the family, who may never recover from the illness. Many of us familiar with our sacred and age old traditional ceremonies will be able to relate to this remarkable piece that I have just finished reading in the print edition of the Sunday New York Times (June 7, 2020). Because the piece relates to Covid-19, the newspaper offers it as a free-read on its on-line edition, without having to subscribe. Please read it!

Tributes to Ismailis who have passed away during the Covid-19 pandemic: Issue no. 1 of a multipart series

As announced a few days ago, we commence a special series of tributes to Ismailis as well as non-Ismaili members of Ismaili families who have passed away during the Coronavirus pandemic, either due to Covid-19 or any other cause. For details on submitting your tribute to a deceased family member or a very close friend, please read TRIBUTES and write to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com; you must include your full name and contact information.

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Issue No. 1: Tributes received from May 18-21, 2020

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

Alnoor Ramji
(Canada)

Submitted by Abdulrasul Allibhai Ramji and Lilly Ramji

Tribute to Alnoor Ramji, Simerg
Alnoor Ramji, age 62 (d. April 14, 2020)

It was the beginning of March 2020. Alnoor’s 62nd birthday was just 3 weeks away. But he had cancer, and was in the last stages of his life. He did not let it control him. Rather, he coped with it, accepted it and carried on with his passion of raising funds for the Aga Khan Foundation’s annual World Partnership Walk (WPW). In each of the previous years, he had raised between $13,000 to $15,000. With all the passion that he had developed over the years for the work of the Imamat around the world, he started sending out a message that simply said, “Donate to WPW [World Partnership Walk].” For him, that would be the most cherished birthday gift anyone could ever give him. In a little more than 3 weeks, Alnoor raised $18,000.

He passed away on April 14, 2020, but not before the Mukhi and Kamadiasahebs of Toronto’s Headquarters Jamatkhana at the Ismaili Centre, made a conference call to him. He answered them with the greeting Ya Ali Madad. They bestowed Dua (prayers) on him, and Alnoor responded with the word “Amen” each time – a total of four times.

His funeral was held in Toronto on April 17, 2020. He leaves behind his parents, Abdulrasul Allibhai Ramji and Lilly Ramji. His two sisters, Nilam (Naushadaly) in Edmonton, Alberta, and Rubina (Craig) in Sydney, Nova Scotia, were both unable to attend the funeral.

Editor’s note: An obituary for Alnoor Ramji was published in The Toronto Star on April 17, 2020. Please click HERE to read the detailed piece.

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Goulzare Foui
(France)

Submitted by Nigar Ribault

Tribute to Goulzare, France, Simerg
Goulzare Foui

« Ma chère Goulzare Foui, 

Vous m’aviez dit de ne pas m’inquiéter parce que vous aviez juste la grippe. Vous connaissiez si bien mon caractère angoissé : « mais qu’est ce qu’on va faire de toi avec ces angoisses mon petit ? ».

Et soudain, en quelques jours, vous avez été emportée par ce virus. 

Je vous appelle et je vous cherche depuis 40 jours que vous êtes partie … 

Et vous êtes là ! : 

Les roses ont fleuri et me font signe. Je vous vois Goulzare (Jardin fleuri) dans ces fleurs. Je vois votre beau sourire lumineux. J’entends votre voix dans le chant des oiseaux du printemps. Vous chantez comme un rossignol dans le grand jardin de Mowla Bapa.

Vous ne m’avez pas quittée : vous êtes dans mon cœur pour toujours et dans ce que vous m’avez transmis. Je vous aime ma Goulzare Foui. La petite sœur de mon papa. 

Votre Nigar »

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Translation by Dr. Nurin Merchant

My dear Goulzare Foui,

You told me not to worry, that it was just the flu. You knew my anxious character well — “what are we going to do with you and all of your anxieties my little one?”

And suddenly, in just a few days, this virus had taken you from us.

I call you, I seek you ever since the day you left us 40 days ago.

And there you are!

The roses have bloomed, giving me a sign. I see you Goulzare (flowery garden). I see your beautiful and radiant smile. I hear your voice in the song of the spring birds. You are singing like a nightingale in Mowla Bapa’s big garden.

You have not left me: you are here. Here in what you shared with and passed down to me, and forever in my heart. I love you my Goulzare Foui. My dad’s little sister. 

Your Nigar.

Translators note: In the translation, I have tried to keep the meaning of Nigar’s beautiful tribute to her aunt as best as I could.

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Amirali S. Nagji
(USA)

Submitted by Akberali Nagji

Tribute to Amir Nagji, Simerg
Amirali Nagji, age 78 (d. April 2, 2020)

Amirali Nagji passed away of natural causes on April 2, 2020 in Albuquerque, New Mexio, USA. He was 78. Originally from Mtwara, Tanzania, Amirali was very hardworking and generous; he was known for helping many people by giving free accommodation in his motel.

He served Jamati institutions for twenty years, and had also held the position of Mukhisaheb of Albuquerque Jamat.

Outside Ismaili institutions, he served seniors at a local hospital. His ever-smiling face and friendly demeanor provided comfort to many.

Amirali loved to travel and was fond of Bolywood music. As well as being a good dancer, he had a wonderful sense of humour, for which he was greatly admired.

He is survived by his wife Nurjehan, daughter Alia and her husband Shafin, and two grandchildren.

We pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace. Amen.

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Sultan Piroj Maknojiya Methanwala
(India)

Submitted by the families of Nazarali Kasamali Momin and Akbarali Kasamali Momin

Tribute to Sultan Methanwalla, Simerg
Sultan P. M. Methanwala (d. May 16, 2020)

Sultan Bhai Piroj Maknojiya Methanwala passed away on May 16, 2020 in Vaishali Nagar Jogeshwari West, Mumbai.

He was a prominent leader both within and outside the Ismaili Jamat. He had served as the Mukhisaheb of the Jamat with great distinction, and was deeply loved by members of the Jamat.

He was also a life long social worker, and reached out to all communities to provide care and assistance.

He will be deeply remembered and missed by his family, the Vaishali Nagar Jamat and other communities whom he served selflessly.

May Mawla rest his soul in eternal peace and may Mawla give strength to his family members and the Jamat to bear the loss of a commendable leader of the Jamat. Amen.

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Salima Wanda Arthurs
(Canada)

Submitted by Shaida Hussein

Salima Wanda Arthurs, age 64 (d. April 24, 2020)

Salima Wanda Arthurs, 64 years old, passed away in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on Friday April 24, 2020, the first day of Ramadhan, from cancer.

Her mum, Margaret, sister Linda, some friends and myself, Shaida Hussein, attended the funeral ceremony. Like other Ismaili funerals that take place during the current pandemic, the funeral and post burial ceremonies such as chaanta, last respects, samar and zyarat were conducted according to physical distancing and other guidelines that have been established by each province.

Salima  embraced the Ismaili Muslim faith in 1985, and was a committed volunteer in jamati (community) services. She contributed to the work of Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board on the literature counter and served in the admissions committee, as well as participated in other institutional projects and programs. She was a humble and a compassionate person, and will be fondly remembered and missed by the Calgary Jamat as well as her family and friends.

We pray for her soul to rest in eternal peace. We also pray that Almighty God grants her family and friends the strength and courage to bear this loss.

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To submit a tribute to your family member who has passed away due to Covid-19 or any other cause, please read TRIBUTES and write to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com; please include your full name and contact information.

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.

We welcome tributes from our readers to individuals portrayed in this piece. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment.

Simerg invites Ismaili families to submit tributes to their family members who have passed away during the Covid-19 pandemic

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

The tributes may be submitted for passings due to Covid-19 or any other cause

Some years ago, Simerg launched PASSINGS where Ismailis around the world were invited to submit obituaries or tributes to honour members of their families who had passed away, irrespective of the time frame. Over the past few years, we have seen a trickle of these obituaries and tributes flowing in, and we have graciously published them to the comfort of several family members.

Today, the coronavirus pandemic has brought great sadness to families who have lost family members during the past two months. Like other places of worship, Jamatkhanas in North America, the UK, Europe and many other parts of the world, have remained closed since around the middle of March. Whether the death has been due to Covid-19 or other illnesses, funeral, burial and post-burial ceremonies and rites have been vastly compromised, with limited number of family members and friends being permitted to attend the mourning ceremonies, both before and immediately after the person has been buried.

Restrictions have even prevented family members from being close to their loved ones during their times of illness and during the final moments of their lives. Often, the death of the individual is unknown to many due to Jamatkhana closures, as special prayers for the soul of the deceased (known as samar, which takes place in many parts of the world where the deceased is known through family and friends) can no longer be conducted. With all of these elements missing, many families who have lost their beloved have not experienced a sense of closure with respect to the loved ones that have left them.

Most recently, as readers might be aware, Simerg paid a loving tribute to Missionary Amirali Gillani. His closest family members were deeply comforted by the condolences that they were offered by friends, relatives as well as well-wishers from around the world, who made contact by phone and emails. Many submitted tributes to Missionary Amirali Gillani in the comments section of this website. We went on to report about the extraordinary funeral and burial ceremonies that took place in Toronto for the long serving and well-known Ismaili missionary.

Today, we announce a special weekly series in which we will publish tributes to deceased Ismailis or individuals who are members of Ismaili families who have passed away during the coronavirus pandemic.

The tribute that you pen is not restricted to deaths caused by Covid-19. It will be to anyone who is part of an Ismaili family and who has died from any cause – Covid-19 or otherwise – during the coronavirus pandemic. This opportunity to submit tributes is being offered to Ismaili families around the world in the spirit of the ONE JAMAT that we are, under the leadership and loving care of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Please email the tribute (preferably 75-100 words in length), along with the deceased family member’s portrait photo (if available, in jpeg format), to Malik Merchant at simerg@aol.com. You MUST include your full name and phone number where you can be reached. Anonymous tributes will not be accepted.

The Toronto Star article The Lives They Lived will help you in developing a comprehensive tribute, and Simerg’s editor will always be available to provide his assistance in formulating a good tribute, so long as you provide good information about the deceased.

Kindly note that Simerg’s tribute will be for ALL deceased Ismailis and members of Ismaili families who have passed away during the pandemic due to Covid-19 and other causes. Again, please send your tribute to Simerg@aol.com.

We hope to commence the series of tributes on Friday, May 22, 2020. In addition to English, we will also accept tributes written in French, Portuguese and Spanish with their corresponding English translations, provided by you (you may use Google translate, if you wish).

Date posted: May 17, 2020.
Last updated: May 18, 2020 (added note about submitting tributes in French, Spanish, and Portuguese).

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

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Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions together for several decades in professional and honorary capacities. His daughter, Nurin Merchant, is a veterinarian. He may be contacted at Simerg@aol.com.

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

The Funeral of Missionary Amirali Gillani in the Midst of Covid-19 Restrictions

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

Ismaili Missionary Amirali Gillani Simerg tribute
Missionary Amirali Gillani passed away on April 8, 2020, and was buried in Toronto on April 14. Photo: Family Collection.

A Safe and Dignified Funeral

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

On Tuesday April 14, 2020, Missionary Amirali Gillani’s shrouded body rested inside a grey coloured coffin in the funeral hall of the Scarborough Jamatkhana. He had passed away from cancer on April 8 at the age of 75.

Only the missionary’s peaceful face was in view. The rest of his body which was covered in the white shroud, was under the coffin cover. The coffin did not rest on the floor. It had been placed on a strong roll away frame. Volunteers recited the Salwat in unison continuously, and gave comfort to the small size of mourners, a limit imposed by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario.

There were a total of 16 mourners in attendance for the funeral’s two separate viewing opportunities and the funeral rites. One viewing, including the funeral rites, was for immediate family members, and the second viewing was for other family members and friends. In both the viewings the mourners sat in groups of 4 in two rows in front of the body, keeping the required physical distance. At a normal funeral, there would have been several hundred in attendance. A dilsoji — a condolence gathering a day or two ahead of the funeral — would have attracted a large Ismaili crowd from across Toronto.

Missionary Gillani’s funeral became the first funeral to be made available for online viewing via a dedicated Youtube channel. The viewing was offered, following a trial period, to very close family members who could not physically be at the funeral due to provincial restrictions limiting gatherings to 5 or 10.

Wearing a face mask and gloves on their hands, each of the persons who had come to missionary Gillani’s funeral presented himself or herself beside the coffin, a meter or two away. In solitude, the mourner would spend between 60 to 80 seconds in contemplation, before giving way to the next person. Other Jamati funerals taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic have similar rules and restrictions in place.

Once the viewing and giving of last respects had ended, and the funeral rites were completed, the Muslim funeral procession prayer La Ilaha Illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah commenced. In a normal funeral, men line up in the large foyer of the Jamatkhana to touch or momentarily hold the coffin on their shoulders, uttering prayers for the soul of the deceased before it is transferred to a hearse. However, here there was no one in the foyer of the Jamatkhana. It was empty. The body was wheeled by the Mukhi, volunteers and male mourners into the hearse parked outside, for its 22 km journey to its final resting place — the picturesque Elgin Mills Cemetery.

A view of Elgin Mills Cemetery. Photo: Mount Plesant Group

At the gate of the cemetery, a guard verified each arriving guest against the list of names that he had been given by the Ismaili funeral committee. He guided the arriving mourners to Section 16 of the cemetery. At the site, there were only a few scattered cars, no more than eight. The hearse carrying the body then arrived. This time, instead of wheeling the coffin, as the ground gradient and conditions presented challenges, the volunteers carefully carried it to the grave. Mourners followed and gathered around the coffin, keeping a safe physical distance between one another. The Mukhisaheb of Scarborough Jamatkhana and a family member then each took a heap of soil in a spade, and spread it across the coffin. The Surah Ikhlas was recited (Ch. 112; Translation: “In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. Say: He is God, the One. God, the Absolute. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is nothing comparable to Him”).

Normally the crowd would wait to see the body lowered into the grave, while continuing to recite Salwats and other prayers. Two volunteers would then descend into the grave to ensure its proper placement, stability and also conduct some last rites.

Physical distancing prevented that from occurring and the mourners returned to their cars. Using the same soil that had been been dug up to create the 6 foot deep grave, a tractor arrived to fill it. Once the on-site staff had completed their task of filling the grave and removing wooden planks and other objects around it, we were each handed incense sticks as we walked back to the burial site. Water was then poured on top of the freshly replaced soil by a family member and the Mukhisaheb of Scarborough Jamatkhana. We then honoured and paid respect to the missionary by placing the lit incense sticks we had been given over the top of the missionary’s final resting place.

All ten of us stepped back about 40 metres, and a Fateha for the deceased was then recited. We were standing in rows and kept our safe 2 metre distance from one another. During the recitation of the Fateha, my attention was suddenly drawn to two doves that landed 25 metres to my left. Their sounds in the midst of the Fateha being recited were beautiful and joyous to hear. Only Allah understands the language of birds, animals and insects, as well as everything that has life on this earth. A second Fateha was then recited for all of the deceased members of the Jamat. By then, the birds had flown away.

Mukhisaheb then gave everyone special blessings for attending the burial, and also prayed for the soul of the deceased. As much as we would have loved to, we left the site without shaking hands of the family and embracing them. We consoled them by placing our hands on our hearts, befitting the Islamic ethics of gratitude, humility and affection.

It was a different kind of a funeral to attend. However the dignity of the entire funeral ceremony was preserved. The Jamat has to thank the burial committee for the professionalism with which they are carrying out this extraordinary and noble service to bring comfort and peace to the mourning families and their friends, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Their communication in every respect was outstanding, and emails and telephone calls received prompt attention.

As I headed back home, I thought of the two birds that had landed nearby as the Fateha for Missionary Gillani was being recited. They conveyed to me a profound message: Missionary Amirali Gillani had been ushered into the abode of peace.

Date posted: April 15, 2020.
Last updated: April 15, 2020 (10 AM ET: additional material added; factual corrections; typos).

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We received several tributes to Amirali Gillani when we first announced his death. They may be read by clicking HERE. Further tributes as well as your reactions with regard to recent passings during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how you and your family members dealt with the situation amid the challenges you faced, may be submitted by completing the feedback form below. If the form does not show, please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

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

Passings: Missionary Amirali Gillani (1944 – 2020)

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.

Portrait Ismaili Missionary Amirali Gillani of Arusha and Toronto
Missionary Amirali Gillani (July 15, 1944 – April 8, 2020). Photo: Family Collection

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

It is with deep sadness that I inform readers of the passing away of Missionary Amirali Gillani on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at Toronto’s North York Hospital after a brave and long battle with cancer. He was 75. I learnt of his death from a family member earlier this morning through a text message.

Born in Arusha, Tanzania, he served Jamati institutions in both professional and honorary capacities for several decades, contributing his wisdom until the very last moments of his life. He travelled widely, and finally made his home in Toronto, Canada. Missionary Saheb is survived by four children and five grandchildren.

On April 1, 2020, exactly a week ago, he texted me from the hospital: “Ya Ali Madad. Hope you are well. I am in North York Hospital and my health has deteriorated. With affection, Missionary.” I wanted to visit him but the current state of restrictions in place prevented me from going to the hospital. I responded with a prayer for his strength and courage, and with the hope that I would see him out of the hospital soon. He replied: “Ya Ali Madad. Deeply touched by your prayers. I need His compassion to accept His Will with ease and pleasure. Ya Moula. Affectionately Missionary.” They were profound words.

An articulate missionary with a superb command of the English language, Amirali Gillani was always far ahead of his time in his vision of providing religious education to the Jamat. His ideas more than 50 years ago — and I am referring to the late 1960’s — of utilizing multi media and other technological trends of the day, including the power of TV as well as audio visual concepts, were highly impressive. My late dad, Jehangir Merchant, admired him for his brilliant mind as well as incredible foresight and ingenuity. Alas, we were simply not prepared or ready, even to think about his ideas!

As a close family friend, he would visit my parents whenever institutional duties or personal projects brought him to Dar es Salaam. His contemporaries with whom he graduated in the Waezin program in Pakistan in the 1960’s were Alwaez Nizar Chunara and Alwaez Amirally Mawji, and they would often accompany him.

My most recent — and unforgettable — memory of him was when I spent a couple of hours at his humble apartment in Toronto. A very large portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam adorned one of the walls, and he had told me a few days earlier before I went to his home, that I would feel the Imam’s presence in his apartment. That I certainly did, not only because of the portrait but also by Missionary Saheb’s overpowering faith, love and affection for Mawlana Hazar Imam. This pulled him through some of the most difficult times in the past few years.

This is a sad moment for the family, especially coming at a time when many of us want to pay our personal respects and be at his funeral, and simply can’t because of the restrictions that are in place due to the novel coronavirus. We convey our deepest heartfelt condolences to members of Missionary Gillani’s family for strength and courage to face his great loss. Our prayers are with them at this time of bereavement.

We pray that Missionary Amirali Gillani rest in eternal peace. Amen.

Date posted: April 8, 2020.

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Amirali Gillani 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.

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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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. For guidelines, please click Passings.

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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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. For guidelines and more information please click Passings.

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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[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)

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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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. For guidelines and more information please click Passings.