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

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11th December 2020

My beloved spiritual children,

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

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

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In response to the gift, President Gregorian said:

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

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

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

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Brief Announcement from Carnegie Corporation on the Passing of Vartan Gregorian

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

Dear Friends of the Corporation,

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

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

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

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

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

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Tribute to Vartan Gregorian in Carnegie Reporter

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

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

Date posted: April 17, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

Message from Richard Wagner
Administrator of the Government of Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Message on The.Ismaili Website

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

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Golden Jubilee: Mawlana Hazar Imam at Buckingham Palace

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

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Diamond Jubilee: Mawlana Hazar Imam at Windsor Castle

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

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Related posts:

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

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

Date posted: April 9, 2021.

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We welcome readers’ condolences and respects on the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. Please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment

Passings: Sadru Velji – Our Beloved Nana

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

By ZAHIDA, SHEHIN, HUSEIN, and ALISHA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Beloved Papaji

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

By NASREEN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Personal Tribute to Mukhi Sadrudin Velji

By MALIK MERCHANT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Sadrudin Velji. To pen your reflection please click on his profile photo shown below or click on Leave a Comment.

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

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.

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

1946 His Highness the Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee

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

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Ismaili Authors: Zeni Shariff

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

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

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1957 Pemba Visit by His Highness the Aga Khan

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

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Ginan for Hazrat Ali’s Birth Anniversary

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

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

Hazrat Ali Calligraphy by Karim Ismail

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

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Aga Khan Park on Valentine’s Day

Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome.

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

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Ismaili Authors: Shamas Nanji

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

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

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Passings: Mrs. Merchant

Mrs. Merchant

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

Date posted: February 27, 2021.

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

A Poem in Memory of Mrs. Merchant

Mrs. Merchant

An Ever Burning Flame

By FARAH TEJANI

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her knowledge
Was a mountain,
Everyone wanted to climb.

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

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

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

Her faith
Never wavered,
Not once would she question.

The words
Of the Imam
Or his Noble Direction.

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

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

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

But if she had words
She’d tell us,

“I am an Ever Burning Flame.

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

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

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

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

Date posted: February 9, 2021.

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

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

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

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Also see the following 3 related pieces:

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

Alwaez Rajwani’s Very Special Bond with Mrs and Mr Merchant

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Between 1963, soon after my parents settled in Dar es Salaam — having previously served for over 8 years as teachers in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique — and around 1967 at which time my dad purchased a car, it became a regular weekend routine for our family of 5 to walk either from Tanganyika Flats and, later Islamabad Flats (on Cameroon Road renamed as United Nations Road), to the complex of flats near Upanga Jamatkhana where 3 Ismaili families lived in close proximity. 

Malik Merchant of Simerg with parents Mr and Mrs Merchant
Abdulmalik (aka Malik), founding publisher and editor of this website, with his parents Mr. and Mrs. Merchant, at a park in Lourenço Marques, Mozambique, when he was 3 years old. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

It was a visit that I, as a young boy, deeply cherished. The families of Alwaez Rajwani, Mr. Dharsee and the Ismail’s — Shiraz, Firoz, Razia and primary school teacher Late Gulzar Ismail Walji (d. 1978) — may not remember our visits to their homes, but I do.

With Mr. Dharsee, who wrote special feature articles on the Ismaili Imamat and Ismaili history for the Tanganyika Standard, the talks centred on Ismaili philosophy and other religious subjects. My dad extracted as much knowledge from this brilliant mind, who would keep his signature cheroot cigar aside during our visits. His inquiring and intelligent mind would respond to all questions my dad asked him. His daughter, Alwaeza Gulshan and son in law, Alwaez Shamshu Allidina, are the Ismaili couple famously known as the “Missionaries from Madagascar.”

At the Ismail family’s home, it was fun time. Razia [Pullen], one of my dad’s Aga Khan Girls Secondary School students in the early 1960’s, and her siblings would lay out a beautiful table of fruits and biscuits with plenty of juices, soft drinks, as well as chai, of course.

Abdulrahim Rajwani and Maleksultan Merchant
Alwaez Abdulrahim Rajwani visiting Alwaeza Mrs. Maleksultan Merchant at her home in 2019. Photo: Zarina Rajwani / Abdulrahim Rajwani Collection.

At Alwaez Rajwani’s residence located at the Jamati flat complex, the conversations centred around their waezin colleagues, past and current, as well as on-going waezin activities in Dar es Salaam and other parts of Tanzania. Years later after our families had migrated to the Western world, Alwaez Rajwani would place a regular call to my parents to find out how they were doing. Following my mum’s recent death on January 21, 2021, Alwaez submitted the following letter along with two photographs that he and his daughter took with my mum during one of their visits to Vancouver.

I take deep happiness in publishing the letter and thank Alwaez Abdulrahim and his daughter, Zarina, for the care, concern as well as affection that they showed to both my parents for many, many years. May all their prayers and wishes be fulfilled. Alwaeza’s wife Zenab passed away in 2006 at the age of 81 but Abdulrahim now continues to live a full and complete life in Toronto. He is 90, and I wish him a long and healthy life.

Fond Memories of Alwaez Jehangir and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant

Mrs. Merchant, centre, with Abdulrahim Rajwani and his daughter Zarina
Alwaeza Mrs. Merchant, centre, is visited by Alwaez Abdulrahim Rajwani and his daughter Zarina. Photo: Abdulrahim Rajwani Collection.

By ALWAEZ ABDULRAHIM RAJWANI

Ya Ali Madad, dear Malik.

Although we have spoken on the phone, I also wanted to express my condolences to you, Fahar, Alnoor and your families, as well as pay my respects, honour your parents and share a few memories in writing. It has taken me a while, as I was filled with sadness and nostalgia, remembering the closeness of my loving relationship and friendship with both your parents over the many decades. Also, I had just spoken to mum a few days before she passed away. Zarina, Aziz and I offer prayers for the eternal rest of their souls.

Your parents, Alwaeza Maleksultan (1931-2021) and Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018), were both close friends from Bombay (now Mumbai). I remember meeting mum in the early forties, when we used to have waez competitions between the Religious Night Schools of Greater Bombay. Either she or one of her sisters (Shahsultan or Sakuma) would represent Hasnabaad, and I would represent Kandimohalla (now Karimabad). I remember your dad and Late Alwaez Sultanali Mohamed (1927-2020) attending mission classes in the early fifties, run by Ismailia Association in Kandimohalla, where dad’s eldest brother Mahomedbhai was Mukhi for several years. I was already an Honorary Missionary at that time.

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Aga Khan in Mumbai and Ismaili Missionaries
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is welcomed by Mukhisaheb of Karimabad Jamatkhana Mahomed Alibhoy, Alwaez Merchant’s oldest brother; and Mrs and Mr Merchant (seated, 3rd and 5th from left) with Waezin team and lecturers before their departure for Lourenço Marques in 1954. Alwaez Sultanali is standing 4th from left. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

I have many fond and happy memories of our friendship over the decades, and in particular, I remember coming to the ship to disembark your parents, with you as a 5 month baby, when their ship made a stop at Dar es Salaam on its way to Lourenço Marques. That was in very early 1954, and I myself settled in Dar es Salaam two years earlier in 1952.

While we all served as waezin together, I will always regard both mum and dad with the highest respect, honour and love. Their service was outstanding and exemplary. They always kept up with their knowledge and learning. Their way of communicating and conveying this knowledge individually, in small groups and to large Jamati audiences was remarkable. They were able to make this knowledge relevant and personal to individuals, and inspire and uplift them in a highly impactful and significant way. And they selflessly served the Jamat and the Imam-of-the-Time with care and kindness, with devotion and utmost dedication.

I have been speaking to your parents over the years, and to mum regularly, particularly around Navroz, Imamat Day, Salgirah and Eids. I will miss talking to her now, but will always remember her and pray for her soul. Over the years, whenever I was in Vancouver, we would always visit them and more recently mum. It was always a delight to chat and catch up with her. Zarina and I last visited her in September 2019. I am attaching a couple of pictures with her from that visit. I will dearly miss our decades-long incredible friendship and affection.

With fond and loving memories of them both and prayers for their souls,

(Alwaez) Abdulrahim Rajwani.

Date posted: February 7, 2021.

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

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


Mrs. Merchant (d. January 21, 2021): Reflections on a Funeral During the Year of Covid-19 as Ismaili Community Bids Goodbye to a Very Popular Teacher and Missionary

Mrs. Malek Jehangir Merchant at Jehangir's grave
Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant, or Mrs. Merchant as she was known among her students in Africa and the UK, was buried Thursday February 4, 2021, at the same cemetery as her husband Jehangir. Here she is seen visiting his grave shortly after he passed away May 27, 2018. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

Many thoughts come to mind as I attend Mrs. Merchant’s funeral online from the UK. She passed away on January 21, 2021, at the age of 89, on the same day she was admitted to the hospital.

I have fond memories of the time I had spent working with her at 3-5 Palace Gate in London. While teaching Bait-ul-Ilm classes, I benefited immensely from her knowledge and wisdom. 

The Covid-19 pandemic, which also took Mrs. Merchant’s life, is unprecedented and is having a profound impact on our lives. One such impact is that we cannot attend or participate in funerals in the customary way at this time. However, technology has allowed us to participate in the funeral ceremonies from anywhere in the world, albeit in a different manner.  

Mrs. Merchant’s face was visible to all of us who were watching throughout the 30-minute ceremony that included Salwats, the recitation of the prayer Astaghfirullahi Rabbi Wa Atubu Ilaiyhi (Verily, I seek the forgiveness of Allah, who is my Lord and Sustainer, and I turn to Him in repentance) as well as verses from Ginans and profound quotes of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (d. July 11, 1957).

There are guidelines, which vary from one province to another, about the number of people who can be present for the funeral (in Vancouver, the limit is 6 family members) and burial ceremonies at the cemetery (4 family members), masks are mandatory as is social distancing, and if a person had died of Covid-19 the casket must remain closed unless the body has been embalmed.

The six individuals from the family who were present at the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana were Mrs. Merchant’s son Fahar and his wife Nina, Shellina (fiancé of youngest son Alnoor, who could not attend from the UK), nieces Habiba and Sherezad, and Nasreen, daughter of the family’s extremely close friend Mrs. Sakerkhanu Velji whose husband, Mr. Sadru Velji, was buried just 48 hours earlier on February 2. Due to extraordinary circumstances as well as Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance expressing his desire for his Murids to follow public health guidelines, Mrs. Merchant’s eldest son Abdulmalik (Malik) and his daughter Nurin were not able to travel for the funeral.

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Malik and Nurin Merchant on Mrs. Maleksultan Merchant, Ismaili Jamatkhana Toronto
A reflection by Malik and Nurin Merchant on their mum/grandmother . Please click on image for enlargement.

Following the completion of the funeral ceremonies, which has been dubbed as Rites of Passage, volunteers wheeled the casket across the Jamatkhana Hall into the waiting hearse to the calling of the Muslim Shahadah Lailaha illallah Muhammad ur Rasulullah (I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God) recited by one person, and repeated by the same person as there was no one lined up to carry or touch the coffin (Janazah) due to Covid-19. The live streaming stopped once the coffin left the building into the waiting car. This was truly an emotional send-off for us watching from other parts of the world. 

After the four male members returned from the cemetery, Zyarat and Samar ceremonies were performed. Normally, these would be held during the evening Jamatkhana ceremonies where hundreds of people would be able to participate and recite special prayers for the soul of the deceased. Jamatkhanas have been closed across Canada for the last several weeks, as is the case in many parts of the world.

Jamatkhanas in Canada have never before been closed for such an extended period of time. This past year has been particularly difficult for all of us everywhere, and one can imagine its impact on those who attended Jamatkhana regularly. 

However, there are some collateral benefits of the pandemic. With the blessings of Mawlana Hazar Imam, our faith has been strengthened. Jamats have come together across the world, helping one another. The magnificent work done by the volunteers has impacted every institution within the Jamat — from arts and culture to economic to health to religious education to social welfare boards and the youth. The undertaking has been enormous. The organization of funerals and the work of the funeral, or the  mayat/ghusal committee is simply incredible. Keeping everyone safe under our current circumstance where a virus can spread rapidly is demanding and requires additional hours of care, diligence, organization and work to meet strict protocols and provincial guidelines. 

At the onset of Covid-19 pandemic 2020, things looked bleak and hopeless. But, human ingenuity was at work. Scientists all across the world set to work to come-up with vaccines in record time in the fight against the Covid-19. We saw as we entered 2021 that highly effective vaccines have been formulated, and with proper and fair distribution will give hope to humanity in the coming months.

I am grateful that I have been able to participate in Malekbai’s funeral from the UK and I pray that Hazar Imam bless her with Noorani Deedar and grant the family the strength to bear this loss. Ameen and Ya Ali Madad.

A Dignified and Safe Rites of Passage for Mrs. Merchant 

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

MOSTLY UNEDITED – ED.

Feriyal Merchant (USA): Ya Ali Madad, Dear family. My sister Kulsum Laiwalla  and myself from Silicon Valley CA watched the blessed last rites and ceremonies of  our beloved Malek Sultan Aunty who was  lying so peacefully in the prayer hall as the heartfelt spiritual paragraph  from our Beloved Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s memoirs was read by her son Fahar, souful ginans and powerful Salwats recited. Though the hall had a few family physical  presence but it was filled with spiritual connections and prayers from all over the world.

Dear Malek Aunty today your earthly body said goodbye, your soul on speedy wings have taken flight to Heavenly  abode. You will be missed by many but always fondly remember. As I saw you lie you left me with thoughts of wisdom as you always do. This is a journey all must take alone so be prepared  so there is after glow of smile and peace on your face as I saw on yours. Shukar Mowla Alhamdullilah.

Salim and Nevyn Kanji (Toronto): Today, we participated in a beautiful and simple funeral service for our teacher. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. May your mom’s soul rest in eternal peace. May Hazar Imam give you lots of strength and courage to face this great loss. Remember, we are always here for you and your family.

Amin Hooda (Ottawa): Thanks for your efforts at the time when there is a huge personal and family`s loss. Humbled to have attended the live video stream, that was completed in less than half hour, through the recitation of tasbihs and ginans; it was an opportunity for me to benefit from this spiritual connection that you mum, alongside your dad, as a lifelong teacher selflessly nurtured for so many individuals and jamat at large, through their friendship and students. Shukar.

(Nahid) Begum Nurmohamed Shariff and family: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sending me the invite as I was very fond of both mum and dad. They were wonderful people and will live on through you all but also their wider family — those that they taught selflessly over the years with love and compassion. Your mum and I had a bond and I loved and respected her dearly. She is in a wonderful place. Mawla grant her his noorani didar and rest her soul in eternal peace. Ameen. Sending your whole family lots of love and prayers.

Julián Arturo Zapata (Colombia, South America): Querido Hermano Abdulmalik, muy linda la ceremonia del funeral de tu noble Madre Maliksultan. Abrazos Fraternales desde Colombia el Alamut latinoamericano

Translation: Dear Brother Abdulmalik, the funeral ceremony of your noble Mother Maleksultan is very nice. Fraternal hugs from Colombia, the Latin American Alamut.

Shiraz Nasser: Thank you 🙏for inviting us to participate in funeral ceremony. Her soul has merged with the Noor. It is time for spiritual happiness. May Mawla accept all your wonderful sewa. Stay safe, healthy, happy, united and continue your wonderful family tradition of spiritually intellect sewa in humility. Love to all.

Malek Merchant family at her funeral
Mrs. Merchant’s family members pictured on February 4, 2021 in the courtyard of the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana during the funeral ceremonies held for her at the Jamatkhana. Left to right: Nina and Fahar Merchant, Shellina Karmali, Habiba and Alnashir Rashid, and Sherezad Zinna.

Shariffa Keshavjee (Kenya): Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un “Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return.” Thank you for inviting me to join in on your mum’s farewell. May her soul go with the light into Asal Makan. May you get peace and sabar, patience. I once read that sabar is illumination from within, where experiencing patience gives birth to a space. In that space Rab is present.

Alnoor Abdulla (Vancouver): I appreciate and feel privileged to participate. It was a spiritual ceremony. She will always remain special and everlasting in my mind.

Rozmin Fazal (UK): Thank you for sharing the live link to mum’s Mayyat ceremony. It was such a dignified ceremony. May Mowla rest her soul in eternal peace and grant you and the family strength to be able to cope with the loss. Amen.

Anonymous (England): May Mawlana Hazar Imam bless your mum’s soul and may she rest in eternal peace. Ameen. She looked good and at peace. Lovely that everyone there participated individually. I am praying for your mum’s soul and dad. I’m praying for you and the family to have peace in your heart and in your lives.

Abdul Remtulla (Edmonton): Thank you for your invitation to attend on line ceremony. We did and bid her goodbyes. May her soul rest in eternal Peace, Ameen, Warm wishes and Ya Ali Madad.

Azy or Yasmin (Toronto): Thank you for inviting me to participate in the ceremony. I feel honoured indeed. She looked very very peaceful. We lost a great person from the earth but Mowla welcomed her home. Mowla bless her soul with Noorani Didar and bless you and the entire family with strength to face this tremendous loss. Amen.

Muslim Harji (Montreal): Thank you for considering us as a part of your family. Both Nevin and myself attended Maa’s Mayat ceremony and were very impressed with the way it was conducted. We pray for her soul to rest in eternal peace. Ameen Love, Light & Cheers

Nizar Motani (USA): I was able to join the livestream from the beginning. From all the tributes to mourn and celebrate your mother’s amazing service, her  endearing  personality, and her kind nature — she was  clearly  an ANGELIC  SOUL and is resting in the ABODE of PEACE  next to her beloved husband.

Zarina Moosa (Toronto): Thank you for letting me participate in the funeral ceremony of your beloved mother. It was such a dignified and beautiful ceremony fit for an equally dignified and beautiful lady. Shukhar. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. With prayers in my heart for all of you.

Karima, Nasim, Shamshad and Nuryn (Vancouver): Thank you letting us watch, Malekabai’s funeral today. She is at peace, and may Mowla rests her soul in eternal peace, Amen.

Date posted: February 5, 2021.
Last updated: February 6, 2021 (Jamatkhana photo added with a reflection by Malik and Nurin).

Also see two related pieces Mrs. Merchant passes away at 89 and Tributes celebrating her life.

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

Shiraz Pradhan

About the author: Shiraz Pradhan is a professional engineer, writer and philosopher. A regular contributor to this website, Shiraz has a keen interest in Judaeo-Christian History, Islamic Studies, Sufism and philosophies of the Vedas and Upanishads. He is currently completing a book titles Amarapuri, the Abode of Eternity. He is the Chairman of the Association of the Study of Ginans which specializes in the preservation, study and research of the ancient Ismaili Ginans (hymns). Shiraz currently lives in the UK with his family.

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

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Mrs Merchant at grave of husband Jehangir

Mrs. Merchant: Excerpts From Tributes Celebrating Her Life; Alwaeza’s Funeral Today, Thursday February 4, 2021

Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant (June 9, 1931 - January 21, 2021), age 89. Photo: Shellina Karmali. Ismaili missionary and religion teacher
Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant (June 9, 1931 – January 21, 2021), age 89. Photo: Shellina Karmali.

The family of Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Merchant has been immensely touched by so many messages of condolences it has received following her passing away at the age of 89, on January 21, 2021. 

Social media pages are filled with several hundred messages and Simerg has received more than 200 messages following the publication of a tribute celebrating her life. In addition, members of the family have received numerous telephone calls as well as text messages from all over the world. 

We are deeply grateful to you all. Your love, prayers and encouragement have been a source of  strength and comfort to us at this difficult time.

Thursday, February 4th has been confirmed as the date of her funeral and burial (click iiCanada Funeral announcement). Unfortunately, Covid-19 has created challenges for attending funerals with strict restrictions on travelling and gatherings. 

The following are a selection of  excerpts from numerous tributes to our beloved mother/grandmother who passed away on Thursday January 21, 2021.

Tributes and Fond Memories of Alwaeza Mrs. Maleksultan J. Merchant (1931-2021)

We are among the generation of the Jamat who recall with gratitude the immense contribution that Maleksultanbai and your late father made to our development during our formative years in Dar-es-Salaam. They laid in our minds a strong foundation of Ismaili history and principles, as well ethics and values, which sustains to this day. From those early days, both your parents went on to serve with distinction the cause of the Imamat and Jamat in many countries around the world…..Vazir Shafik Sachedina and Vazirbanoo Nadia Sachedina

I was saddened to hear of the passing of your mum. We pray for eternal peace, rest and batuni noorani deedar for the soul of your mum. At the same time, we offer prayers for mushkil asan for all your family members. The life-long devoted services rendered to Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Jamath by both your mum and dad were an exceptional example for the Jamath…..Ameerally Kassim Lakha

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

Alwaeza was an extraordinary and effective teacher of religious knowledge. To myself as well as others, she was an example, a beloved role model and a beacon that shone brightly, guiding our values during the formative period of our lives. Since those days of primary and secondary school, there has forever stayed in my memory a debt of gratitude for her outstanding and exemplary dedication to her vocation. Her gift and excellence lay not in compulsion and harsh discipline but in noble character and conduct, leading by example. That, more than strict reward or punishment, imprinted in us the ethics of the faith that shaped our values in life. May our humble prayers and remembrances reach her companionship On High…..Shiraz Hameer

I have fondly thought of Mr and Mrs Merchant and the incredible sacrifices they made over so many years for the jamat in the UK. They struggled and suffered a lot of hardships in their work when travelling on public transport over long distances and late at night often in the cold and not having had dinner. And yet both your parents hardly complained. They both truly served the Imam. We will rejoice their achievements and dedication and lovingly remember them…..Fida Moledina

As an early teen in Dar-es-Salaam, your Mother was my coach for the first wa’ez contest that I ventured into, reckoning it would be an extension of the school talks & debates that relished. Visits to your home were encounters with a teacher who exuded a unique coupling of passion and discipline; no, a wa’ez was no ordinary talk, certainly not a debate. Patiently, she teased out and fostered the keys: pace, clarity, command of material, sincerity, lightness … The lessons remained long after the contest (yes, I won) — not just for wa’ez but for wider communication…..Amyn Sajoo

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

“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. [This] beautiful quote was instilled in me by my religion teacher in the 60s known to me as Mrs. Merchant. I will forever be indebted to her as the first religion teacher who impacted my life in such an enlightening way. May her soul rest in eternal peace and may you all have the strength to bear this irreplaceable loss…..Naznin Hajee

She was one teacher that always came to mind when we remembered Dar, a beautiful person inside out. The ginans we learnt from her, we can still sing without requiring a ginan book…..Aziza Kotadia (nee Damji)

She was my Religion Teacher at Aga Khan Girls School in Dar es Salaam. I will always treasure the fond memories of ‘Mrs. Merchant’ – as she was known- in my heart. A beautiful soul, always smiling. Bless her! She will be dearly missed. It’s a great loss to bear but alas! she had to go ‘home’ where she will be in Khudavind’s tender care, engulfed in and by His Noor, Aameen…..Layla Moledina

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

She was a very special person and had significant impact on the lives of many many people. For me — as she called me her son – she played many roles. She nurtured me and supported my health and nutrition in my teenage years. She and Mr Merchant built the foundational knowledge of our faith. I consider myself very fortunate to have had her in my life and for the opportunity I got to talk with her on Dec 24th 2020 – just recently for more almost 2 hours on the phone. Could not visit because of COVID. She will always remain as one of the most loving persons in my life and and one that played a critical role at a particular time in my life…..Alnoor Abdulla

Your Family and also the Global Jamat will dearly miss the enormous knowledge and deep understanding of our Tariqah so eloquently shared by both your Parents with the Jamat. Indeed it is a rare gift they have left with you, your Family to continue which your are doing as well. May you succeed in your most noble endeavours. A deep loss nonetheless, be brave and have courage…..Amir Rashid

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

She was a person that lived in and for faith and was such a blessing with whoever she interacted with. A caring wife ,a loving mom, a sweet aunt ,a dedicated waezin, a wise teacher but above all a humble murid of our Beloved Imam. When ever I spoke to Aunty, it was such a pleasure as she was so knowledgeable in different topics and time just flew. She bought smiles on my face and faith in my heart and showered so much Duas that filled my being with peace….Feriyal Merchant

Alwaeza was my religion teacher in Dar es Salaam. I remember her teaching the Ginan Ya Ali Khub Mijalas. Every time I sing that Ginan during Imamat Day I always think of her and her teaching the Ginan….Azmina Bandali

As a teenager both these remarkable people helped me to see life in the bigger picture. They taught me that being spiritual was bigger than anything else….Mina Crisp née Pradhan

Best teacher, best al waezine who could inspire the new generation with practical examples combining science and the spiritual world together….Mariam Ladha

Both Late Raisaheba and Late Raisaheb devoted their lives to the Imam and the Jamat. Alhamdulillah. They both were personally known to me for over 50 years. They will be dearly missed by hundreds of family members and friends around the globe. Once again, our heartfelt condolences to the entire family…..Kamrudin A. Rashid and family

I am very disheartened to hear the sad news about your mom. She was my best teacher and tutor for ginans and other religious general knowledge. She delivered great waez’s during Lailtul Qadr nights and other occasions. Always smiling, sincere and humble lady. She is in a great place and will be missed by our community…..Maheboob Merali

Both your Mom & Dad were my teachers in Aga Khan Girls Secondary School in Dar es Salaam. Most of my religious education was imparted by them which has stayed with me to-date & have passed it on to my children & grandchildren. This will continue for generations to come. Shukhar. What an impact your parents have made in our lives. Very grateful indeed. May Mowla accept their seva and grant them eternal peace. Ameen……Fatma Premji

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

We, the “Class of 1967” of Agakhan Girls’ School, Dar es Salaam, say a mournful goodbye to our dear teacher Mrs. Merchant. Mournful, because with her passing, we say goodbye to someone who represented a life of unconditional and generous giving, sacrifice, integrity, humility. She imparted with such patience and understanding of her teenaged students, her wealth of knowledge and wisdom, as she tried to instill in us the values and ethics of our faith. But our hearts simultaneously smile and are filled with gratitude, that we can claim to have been touched and influenced by one so profoundly wise and good, so loving and kind. We are richer for it, our world is warmer for it, and we pray that we can pass on a little bit of that richness and warmth. We express our gratitude once again, for our other teacher and mentor, dear Mr. Merchant. Together, the two gave immeasurably to the entire community, in many different parts of the globe. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. And so we humbly accept the will of Allah as He takes our beloved teacher home for eternal rest…..Naseem (Esmail) Jetha

Mrs Merchant was my religion teacher at Aga Khan Girls school in Dar es Salaam in my high school years. The foundation of my faith that I have personally to this day was all due to her teachings. She was also a beautiful, gentle but a strong soul and helped us get through whatever issues we would be having….Almas Allibhai

I have fond memories of our Beloved Religion Teacher, Mrs. Merchant in Dar es Salaam at the Aga Khan Girls school. Always smiling, kind and hardworking. She was instrumental to instill faith and religion to all her Students….Shamin Rahim 

When I learnt of your beloved Mum’s passing, I experienced mixed emotions. On the one hand, I could relate very much to the void left in your lives and yet also had the satisfaction of knowing that her soul is very much with your beloved Dad and in the Noor of Allah. Ameen and Shukhar. As neighbours growing up in beautiful 1960’s Dar, I have very fond memories of our time playing together and of your Dad and Mum. They were such wonderful people and showed kindness and affection towards everyone they met and interacted with, especially the kids. I remember them always patting mine and my brother’s head and saying “Acha Bacha”…..Karim Akber Hassam Ladha

Mrs Merchant at Lougheed Mall.
My mum, Mrs. Merchant, poses for a photograph in the middle of drinking a hot cup of Tim Hortons Earl Grey tea at the new food court in Burnaby’s Lougheed Mall during my stay with her from November 2019 – January 2020. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Mrs. Merchant was my religion teacher in Dar es Salaam late 60s. She was instrumental in instilling love of faith in me. Forever indebted to her memory. May her soul rest in eternal peace….Naznin Hajee

Though some of us gave her a tough time in mission class, she persisted. I can still remember her teaching, as if she were right there in front of us in one classroom at 5 Palace Gate, sharing Prophet Muhammad’s life and history, history of our imams, of different majalis, teaching us ginans and a clearly, recited dua with its meanings. Her voice and laugh remains….Sara

I remember both of your parents from my visits to Putney Jamatkhana where they would give classes after Jamatkhana. We were all in awe of your mum especially – the last thing you wanted as a child was to be told off by ‘Mrs Merchant.’ May her soul rest in eternal peace…..Amira Tharani

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

In the name of all the Ahamad Keshavjee family – a family that was so fortunate to have them not only as mentors but as family, too – we want to present you, and to your brothers Fahar and Alnoor, our most heartfelt condolences and say that our prayers are for the soul’s eternal peace and rest, under our Mawla’s infinite rahma! We also pray that you, your siblings and family find the courage and the strength to face these painful times. Maleka Bhen will always be remembered with love and affection by this family…..Faranaz Jaherali Ahamad Keshavjee

Alwaeza My Mum…..Your death took away joy from my life but will Hold on to the Beautiful Memories of times Spent with you. I will forever Love  and Adore You Mom for everything you taught me in Life. In our Hearts you hold a place no one else will ever fill. I cried endlessly but I promise I won’t let that tears mar the smiles you have given. I know you will always listen from above. Remembering You is Easy I will do Everyday but there will be an ache within my heart ♥️ that will never go away. Mother my Angel God has given you your Assignment “Always my Mother Forever my Angel”…..Farial Manji

A teacher par excellence and an Al-Waeza, she served with utmost diligence and distinction initially in Mozambique and Tanzania and later in the U.K. The glowing tributes that are being paid to her today is an attestation of her many years of dedicated services to the Imam and the house of Imam-e-Zaman. She will indeed be dearly missed…..Sultan Somani

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

Both mum and dad’s untiring and relentless sewa to Mowlana Hazer Imam will be etched in our hearts forever. The commitment and dedication to the teachers and students in the UK was exemplary. Both your mum and dad had been my mentors in London and I have learnt so much from them. We feel very privileged to have them as part of our lives. I have vivid memories of our dinner with mum when she was visiting London in 2018 and I feel so blessed to have met her then after many years….Rozmin & Mehboob Fazal

Your parents were responsible for building the foundation of our religious education. We cherish their memories. All the girls at The Aga Khan Girls school were very fond of them. They were our role models. They will be missed by many whose lives they have touched!….Razia Pullen

Hearing about Alwaeza passing away brought a flood of memories with emotions of the wonderful souls that both your parents were and what a privilege it was to have them so much as part of our lives. They were not only instrumental in working day to day with them as we launched the Bait-ul-ilms in the UK, a global name now but they taught us so much about faith, resilience, forgiveness and how to navigate through tests with sense of faith. Their unquestioning dedication to serve generations of children, and teachers and the Jamat with love through their knowledge and wisdom were a source of comfort to so many of us. They always listened and never judged and I can remember so many times when I thought one thing and they gave us different perspectives to think of that made far more sense…..Azim and Tasneem Virani

It with great sadness I have learned of the passing away of your dear Mum and our precious Alwaeza and teacher without whom we and our children would not be where we are now. Shukhar. Please accept our family’s condolences and we all pray her soul rests in eternal peace under Mawlabapa’s care where Dad is. Inshallah…..Asif, Elhaque, Yasmin and Nizar Dhanani

The accolades, tributes and acknowledgement of your parent’s contributions to our community can never be overstated. My family and I just recently felt your mother’s humanity and consciousness show in the trouble she took to comment on her positive experience on our family history, and that of the Ismaili community of Iringa, Tanzania. Her thoughtful encouragement will, forever, be etched in our memory…..Mohamed Hamir

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

A truly great teacher who was not only inspirational in her imparting her religious knowledge to the Jamat from Africa to Canada but she was a truly motivating individual who had a very positive attitude and a cheerful personality. Mum was instrumental in my foundational knowledge of our faith since Dar es Salaam, she used to be the main judge at our Dua and Ginan competitions and in London, visited the various mobile Mission classes, using the public transport, whatever the weather, to motivate the administrators and teachers. I recall as a child in Upanga where whenever mum used to give her waez, our Jamatkhana used to be packed and people who listened to her waez used to have tears in their eyes as she brought alive the historical events in our faith. Mum’s memories will always be alive in our hearts……Shenie and Roshanbai Dhanji

How can we forget your mom? She was the beacon of all Ismailis around the world. I have no words to describe her love for the Jamats and dedication in the service to our Imam-e-Zaman. We knew your mom very well as she worked (honorary seva) with my late father, Master Abdul Jaffer Devani in the Social Welfare Board in late 1960’s in Dar es Salaam. I don’t remember ever missing any of Mrs. Merchant’s Waezes in Dar! She was one of a kind and will always be remembered fondly as the best Waezin of our time! The contribution made by both your parents as religious educators for all Ismailis, young and old is immeasurable and unforgettable…..Shah and Shiraz Abdulla and the Devani Sisters

May Mowla grant you the courage to face your loss with inner strength and fortitude, and take comfort in the in the following words :

God looked around his Garden
And found some empty space
God then looked down upon the earth
And saw your tired face
He put his arms around you
And lifted you to rest
God’s garden must be beautiful
For He only takes the best

We fondly remember your mother……….ever so gracious, gregarious, warm and loving. Her commitment and love for the Imam were extraordinary, and her desire to share her knowledge and wisdom, one-on-one or during her waezes was unconditional. We will all miss her…..Shamshad and Jalal Jaffer

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

I was greatly saddened to learn of passing away of your beloved mother Al-waeza Maleksultanbai. May Mawla grant her soul eternal peace. May Mawla grant you and your family, courage and fortitude to bear this great loss. I had a great honour to work with both your parents both in Dar es Salaam as well in Europe on many occasions. Their continuous support made my work easy in my new challenge when I came to Paris in 1970s. The late Al-Waez Rai Jehangir and Al-Waeza Rai Saheba Malekbai’s selfless seva will be remembered by many. Students, religion teachers, colleagues as well as members of the Jamat all over the world…..Al-Waez Rai Muhammad Jivraj.

The Prophet declared that the path to Paradise begins from a mother’s lap. I can see her wonderful influence in the people she has touched, and am truly grateful for the kindness of her example….Andrew Kosorok

In 1962, one day after morning prayers, the then President of Ismailia Association Rai Shamshudin Tejpar told me and two other boys to accompany him. We went to Dar es Salam harbour and boarded a ship from Mozambique sailing to India. On this ship were Mr and Mrs Jehangir Merchant with their three sons, Malik, Alnoor and Fahar. After some discussion, President Saheb told us to take all their luggage off board the ship and the Dar Jamat thus was lucky to have two new religious education teachers who were also waezins….Amin Kassam

A selfless, determined, committed, hard working, teacher, who was so focused in her pursuit of the education of the young in particular. I recall on some weekends, she would start off in Ilford BUI and then travel by the underground to teach us at Harrow BUI as it was known then, before heading home in the evening. I learnt so much, and was humbled by her dedication, knowledge, courage, and love for Mawlana Hazar Imam. Quite incredible…..Al-Karim Govindji

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

I have such fond memories of her in my upper primary at Aga Khan Girls School in Dar es Salaam. Her trademark warm and affectionate smile coupled with the sparkle in her eyes endeared her to every student who had the good fortune to be in her class. She taught in an unconventional but a very effective way. She told enthralling stories. The dates and facts were picked up from a vast plethora of books and Quran and her favourite ginans. It was like a beautiful tapestry being woven with reds and greens and golds and silvers! It was done with such joy and passion that we remembered them like children’s stories. She became a pivot in our young lives because she took RI teaching and learning to a whole new level. It was a class you really looked forward to.

Bravo and merci beaucoup, Madame Merchant! You have left warm and fond memories behind. With your passionate and selfless seva, I daresay, you will soar like a falcon and rest on Mowla’s glove!…..Izat Velji

Date posted: January 28, 2021.
Last updated: February 1, 2021 (new photo).

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You may pen your tribute or message of condolence to Mrs. Merchant in the feedback form below (or click Leave a comment) or by visiting the page where we have posted an article about her.

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

“Mrs. Merchant” – Alwaeza Maleksultan Jehangir – Passes Away at 89

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

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

Mrs Merchantt - Alwaeza Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant
Alwaeza Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant (June 9, 1931 – January 21, 2021)
Alwaeza Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant (June 9, 1931 – January 21, 2021). Photo: Shellina Karmali.

By MALIK MERCHANT

It is with deep sadness that I am informing readers that Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant passed away peacefully at around 11:30 pm on Thursday, January 21, 2021, at the age of 89 from COVID-19 and pneumonia. She was predeceased by her late husband Alwaez Rai Jehangir Merchant on May 27, 2018.  Alwaeza is survived by her sons Malik (publisher and editor of this website), Fahar and his wife Nina, Alnoor and his fiance Shellina; grandchildren Naim and Nurin, and sisters Shahsultan Bana and Shakerkhanu (Sakuma) Vazir Ghulam Hussain Alinani.

Aga Khan in Mozambique Simerg
 Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with leaders and teachers of the Lourenço Marques Jamat during his visit in 1958. Maleksultan is at left on second row, and Jehangir behind Mawlana Hazar Imam. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

With her husband of 66 years, Alwaeza Merchant devoted her life to the service of the Imam of the Time and the Jamat as a religious education teacher to the youth of the Jamats in Mozambique, Tanzania and the UK. She was a truly exceptional teacher and she treated each student as her own child. Her co-teachers in London would recall that during a single weekend she would take the underground to visit seven Ismaili religious education centres across London. In both her hands she would be carrying bags of religious education notes and material for distribution to students. At home, she would spend hours on the phone listening to the students’ rehearsing of Dua, Quranic verses, Ginans and Waezes before their recitations in Jamatkhana.

Maleksultan Merchant with Begum Salimah Aga Khan Simerg
Gulzar (centre) introduces Maleksultan Merchant to Begum Salimah Aga Khan at a function held in London during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s week long visit to the Jamat of the United Kingdom in September 1979. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Her oratory as a missionary (waezin) inspired Jamats around the world, enhancing  their understanding of the ethics and principles of Islam and the Ismaili Tariqah.  A particularly memorable period in her lifetime was when she and her husband undertook a year long Waez tour of the newly settled Jamats in the UK, Europe and North America at the behest of the Supreme Council under Diwan Sir Eboo’s leadership.

Outside her religious duties, her honorary work with the social welfare board in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, uplifted and transformed the lives of many in the Ismaili community who were facing poverty, unemployment and other challenging family circumstances.

Jehangir and Maleksultan Mrs Merchant Simerg
Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant (1931-2021) with Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018). They served the Imam of the Time and Ismaili institutions for more than 60 years.

Alwaeza and Alwaez were remarkable partners who worked hand in hand and supported each other throughout their years of service.  The president of the then Ismaili Association for the UK (now ITREB) Dr. Aziz Kurwa remarked  “…..with you Malekbai, I had a formidable team. Both of you supported my work and guided me all the time. The knowledge that Alwaez and Malekbai spread amongst young students in UK and abroad lives in the heart of thousands. There was not a situation where Malekbai and Jehangirbhai did not have the right guidance to offer. Diwan Sir Eboo always admired their devotion and knowledge.”

Alwaeza Maleksultan had remarkable strength of faith and always sought inspiration and strength from her beloved Imam throughout her life, and especially during the 30 month period since the passing of Alwaez in May 2018. Not a moment passed by in her life without acknowledging that Mawlana Hazar Imam was always by her side.

Mrs. Merchant and Jehangir Merchant pictured at BC Place, Vancouver, prior to the Diamond Jubilee Mulaqat with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Raiya Suleman/Simerg.

Like her husband, whose mentor was the great Fatimid da’i Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi, Alwaeza’s mentor was Varas Ismail Gangji. As a teacher of Ginanic literature, she would often recount his life and works. In a piece dedicated to Ismaili Gangji she noted: “I have had the immense happiness of teaching and explaining Ginans to my students and members of the Jamat alike. With zeal, enthusiasm and conviction we acknowledged the profound ethical and spiritual truths contained in Ginans, which provide guidance and inspiration in our daily lives. I would like to share one incident that I have narrated frequently during the course of my career. It was an evening that became a turning point in the life of Varas Ismailbhai Gangji.” (Read article)

The passing away of Alwaeza Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant is a difficult moment for the family. Today, the family would like to celebrate an outstanding murid of the Imam who most nobly and sincerely dedicated her life to the Imamat and the Ismaili Jamats worldwide, and we express our shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam for the special opportunity given to her to serve the House of the Imam in a special and unique way.

Date posted: January 22, 2021.
Last updated: December 28, 2021 (typo(s) and new links added, see below).

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Mrs. Merchant’s funeral will be held on Thursday, February 4 (see new post Mrs. Merchant’s Tribute Excerpts and The Ismaili iiCanada announcement).

Condolences: We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Mrs. Merchant by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment. Your comment may also be submitted to simerg@aol.com. Here is a tribute from several we have so far received.

‘Mrs. Merchant’ has passed? I am ever so sad!

Aga Khan Lourenco Marques Simerg Malik Merchant
1966: Dar es Salaam Aga Khan Girls Secondary School visit by Mawlana Hazar Imam, with Mr. and Mrs. Merchant seen in the photo.

By IZAT VELJI

No matter which way you cut the pie, whenever parents pass on, they leave such a huge void in our hearts that all you can possibly do is pray for their souls’ freedom in Mowla’s Light. May Mowla shower His Noor ke barish (showers of Light) on her and give her soul eternal peace and rest – Ameen.

I have such fond memories of her in my upper primary at Aga Khan Girls School in Dar es Salaam. Her trademark warm and affectionate smile coupled with the sparkle in her eyes endeared her to every student who had the good fortune to be in her class. She taught in an unconventional but a very effective way. She told enthralling stories. The dates and facts were picked up from a vast plethora of books and Quran and her favourite ginans. It was like a beautiful tapestry being woven with reds and greens and golds and silvers! It was done with such joy and passion that we remembered them like children’s stories. It was Mrs. Merchant who introduced us to figures in our history like Gazi Jawhar, Hasan bin Sabah, the development and spread of the Fatimid Empire, the establishment of Alamut – o boy, did the Ismaili history ever come to life when she handled it – hats off to her!

Her own affection and love for her Mowla became very evident in one class when she started her lesson on Hazrat Aly and by the time she came to Mowla Aly’s assassination, she could not control her tears. The pain and hurt were so real for both her and ‘her kids’ that when the bell rang, not one kid twitched. There was pindrop silence in class. Not a single other teacher could command that kind of control over a class like ours – rambunctious and high achievers. But she loved each and every one of us.

She became a pivot in our young lives because she took RI teaching and learning to a whole new level. It was a class you really looked forward to. Bravo and merci beaucoup, Madame Merchant! You have left warm and fond memories behind. With your passionate and selfless seva, I daresay, you will soar like a falcon and rest on Mowla’s glove!

Shukhar! Thanks.

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You may leave a tribute to Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment. Your comment may also be submitted to simerg@aol.com.

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