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

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

Vali Jamal
Dr. Vali Jamal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: July 12, 2021.

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

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

Kibedi: Story of a man who was misunderstood

Links to his other pieces will be added as received.

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

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

Passings: Jehangir Tejani (1946 – 2021)

Submitted by RASHIDA and FARAH TEJANI, Vancouver

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

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

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

Much Too Soon To Go

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

By FARAH TEJANI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

********

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

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

Date posted: June 28, 2021.

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

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

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Farah Tejani

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: May 18, 2021.

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

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

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

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

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11th December 2020

My beloved spiritual children,

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

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

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In response to the gift, President Gregorian said:

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

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

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

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Brief Announcement from Carnegie Corporation on the Passing of Vartan Gregorian

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

Dear Friends of the Corporation,

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

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

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

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

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

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Tribute to Vartan Gregorian in Carnegie Reporter

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

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

Date posted: April 17, 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

Message from Richard Wagner
Administrator of the Government of Canada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Message on The.Ismaili Website

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

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Golden Jubilee: Mawlana Hazar Imam at Buckingham Palace

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

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Diamond Jubilee: Mawlana Hazar Imam at Windsor Castle

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

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Related posts:

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

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

Date posted: April 9, 2021.

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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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