A Beautiful, Creative and Prayerful Birthday Card from Daughter to Dad

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphoto

The greeting card shown above as a featured image and in the post below is from my daughter Nurin, and it is more than what I would wish for on my birthday on August 5, which coincides with the birthday of Princess Salwa, wife of Prince Rahim (b. October 12), and mother to their beautiful two children Prince Irfan (b. April 11) and Prince Sinan (b. January 2).

Like all children and youth of today, Nurin is multi-talented, and who would think that a veterinarian would have an interest in designing creative birthday cards for friends and family members — but that’s one of her favourite hobbies. She has done tons, and they are gorgeous. She has been an artist from her childhood, and could have easily pursued a degree in the fine and visual arts — during her schooling years she learnt to play the flute, the chelo and the piano, and she was great at tap dancing. She continues to paint and sculpt whenever time permits her.

NUrin Merchant Nature of Prayer
The Nature of Prayer” by Nurin Merchant is a 14″ x 10″ mixed media acrylic painting on canvas. Secured on the canvas with strong glue are a handmade Tasbih (prayer beads), and 3 dried leaves bearing the Arabic inscriptions of Allah, Ali, and Muhammad. The whole piece represents prayer through the invocation of these names. This work was Nurin’s contribution for Colours of Love, an art and culture initiative by the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada during the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The painting was published in the print edition of The Ismaili Canada magazine. Photo: © Nurin Merchant

For the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, her mixed media painting “The Nature of Prayer,” shown above, was featured in the print edition of The Ismaili magazine.

I think she was very thoughtful about her decision on the career path she ultimately chose to pursue. She loves animals and has adopted two bunnies, Canela and Luc, from an animal care and rescue facility. Her previous bunnies Wobbles and Pistachio died. Luc who fractured his leg late last week is recovering after a surgery.

Please click on photos for enlargement

Nurin and Malik Merchant framed onto a creative birthday card designed by Nurin.

The Blue Jays are back in Toronto playing their home games after a long long time and Nurin, as the team’s fan, is wearing the club’s baseball cap. I take photos with an Olympus, so she had that in mind too when creating the card, and her wish for me in the card is: “I pray that Mawla Bapa [Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan] always bless you with good and improved health, happiness, barakat, mushkil assan, and long life. Ameen.”

That certainly made my day, and I feel very very happy. Thank you Nurin, and I await as my friends and family members treat me to lunch and dinner in the coming days and weeks! If anyone is thinking of a little present, no handkerchiefs please! I get a new white set from Nurin every couple of birthdays.

A side view of Nurin’s birthday card which she created for me because of my love of taking photos with my simple Olympus E-M10 camera!

I really look forward to Nurin’s photo essay of her recent trip to Toronto when she visited the Aga Khan Park, Edwards Gardens, the East Don Trail and the Ever Green Brick Works. Here are samples of her photos including one taken at the Aga Khan Park of a bee pollinating on a Russian (Purple) Sage herb plant. These plants are located in front of the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome along with the matching coloured lavenders; the honey and bumble bees as well as other insects simply love them. You will see tons of bees buzzing around the plants on a sunny day. The bumble bees favour the lavenders over the sage. She also took a photo of the Jamatkhana dome as we were travelling north on Don Valley Parkway, a feat that is unsafe for me to carry out while I am driving. As Ismailis, we are enormously proud of what Mawlana Hazar Imam has built in Canada.

Aga Khan Park Russian Sage Bee Pollinating
A bee on Russian sage at Aga Khan Park, Toronto. July 2021. Photo: Nurin Merchant/Simerg.
Ismaili Jamatkhana dome from DVP Toronto.
A view of the dome of the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana from Toronto’s busy Don Valley Parkway, Northbound. The photo was taken from a moving car by Nurin who was seated on the passenger side. Note the references to the Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Centre by the Eglington Avenue Exit sign. The dome when fully lit at night looks spectacular. We hope to bring that photo to our readers in the near future. July 2021. Photo: Nurin Merchant/Simerg.
monarch Butterfly Aga Khan Park
A butterfly on tree at Aga Khan Park. July 2021, Photo: Nurin Merchant/Simerg.
Flower, East Don Trail, Toronto, July 2021. Photo: Nurin Merchant
Flower, East Don Trail, Toronto, July 2021. Photo: Nurin Merchant/Simerg.

Finally, if you are celebrating your birthday this week, a very happy birthday to you too with best wishes for your health, success and happiness as well as fulfillment of your wishes.

Date posted: August 2, 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.

The Ismaili Muslim Greeting Ya Ali Madad, Mawla Ali Madad: A Dialogue with Two Inspiring and Beautiful Songs by Ismaili Children and Artists from the Pamirs

By (Late) Malek J. Merchant
Adapted and edited by Malik and Nurin Merchant

This religious dialogue on Ya Ali Madad is adapted and edited from the original piece by Mrs. Merchant (1931-2021). It was presented by her students at their respective religious education centres and Jamatkhanas in London, England, and also appeared in the 1977 Navroz issue of UK ITREB’S prestigious Ilm magazine. An adapted version of the original piece was later published on this websiste HERE. The piece below was revised recently by her son Malik and granddaughter Nurin who both edit and publish this website, Simerg, and its sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos

Following the dialogue, we present two beautiful Ya Ali Madad songs. The first one by Ismaili children was presented on The.Ismaili website in October 2020, and the second one is a song that was popularized by a team of Ismaili artists from Tajikistan’s Pamir regions when they performed to full houses in cities across Canada in 1999/2000. The Ya Ali Madad song brought the Jamat to their feet, and continues to remain popular in the Ismaili world – Ed.

Dialogue: Ya Ali Madad…. Mawla Ali Madad

AyazHi, Naguib. How’re you?

NaguibYa Ali Madad Ayaz; I’m fine thank you.

Ayaz: You greeted me somewhat differently!

Naguib: Yes, Ayaz, I said Ya Ali Madad, our traditional Ismaili greeting! Just as ‘Hello’, ‘Good morning’, ‘Good afternoon’ and others are greetings in the English culture, Ya Ali Madad is a greeting in our Ismaili tradition and culture. I have been using that to greet all my friends and family members.

Ayaz: That’s interesting — I am glad you greeted me as such.

Naguib: Actually, there is also a Muslim greeting in Arabic, which goes ‘As-salaam-alaykum’. The reply to that is ‘Wa-alaykum-salaam’.

Ayaz:  I guess all that has a special meaning as well?

Naguib: Yes. As-salaam-alaykum means ‘May peace be upon you!’ The reply to this is Wa-alaykum-salaam, which means ‘And may peace be upon you, too’.

Ayaz: That’s really great! Tell me, what does Ya Ali Madad mean?

Naguib: Ya Ali Madad is a phrase very rich in meaning. Firstly, Ali is one of the Names of Allah. It means ‘The Exalted’ or ‘The Most High.’

Ali, of course, is also the name of our first Imam. Thus, from an Ismaili context, Ya Ali Madad means ‘May Mawla Ali, our Hazar Imam, help you’.

I should just like to add that Mawlana Hazar Imam, like his grandfather and our 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, and all Hereditary Imams going back to the first Imam Hazrat Ali, are the Bearers of the Same Light or Noor of Imamat. So, when we say Ya Ali Madad we are seeking help from the Imam of the Time.

Ayaz: I certainly have to read up and become familiar with the concept of Imamat. What is the reply to Ya Ali Madad?

Nuguib: It’s Mawla Ali Madad, which means ‘May Mawla Ali, our Hazar Imam, help you, too’.

Ayaz: I think that’s a very beautiful greeting!

Naguib: It sure is, because Ya Ali Madad, unlike greetings like hi, good morning, etc. is not merely a polite and courteous way to acknowledge another Ismaili’s presence. It is a Tasbih and a prayer.

It’s a Tasbih because we remember Allah and we also remember Hazar Imam. At the same time, it is also a prayer seeking the help of Mawlana Hazar Imam. I remember instances when Hazar Imam has often asked us to call on the name of Allah, the Prophet, Hazrat Ali or even the names of the Imams at any moment during the day as a form prayer. That moment can be as little as a second.

Ayaz: It’s amazing and almost embarrassing to admit hat I’ve never used this beautiful traditional greeting before.

Naguib: But haven’t your parents ever greeted you with Ya Ali Madad?

Ayaz: No. All mum says is, ‘Bye, take care’ when I go out and ‘Hello’ when I come in. When I go to bed, it’s ‘Goodnight’ with a kiss. Come to think of it, mum never says Ya Ali Madad to her friends either. It’s always ‘Hi Jenny’ and ‘Hi Sakar’.

Naguib: It’s very sad to hear that we ignore our traditions. Don’t you think it would be nice to say Ya Ali Madad before leaving for school, then again on returning from school, and finally when going to bed? And parents could reply with Mawla Ali Madad, along with ‘Sleep well’ or ‘Take care of yourself’.

Ayaz: Yes it would, because then we know that Hazar Imam’s help and protection is always available to us. I now can relate to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s blessings during the past year when we have been living through this Covid-19 pandemic. He has conveyed to each one of us his most affectionate loving blessings for protection from difficulties, for our well being, good health, safety and security. And he has also constantly reminded us that he is always with us.

Mum and dad will be really surprised tonight when I say Ya Ali Madad instead of ‘Goodnight’.

Naguib: I bet they’ll be amazed! It is always very inspiring when I hear the exchange of Ya Ali Madad and Mawla Ali Madad greetings between members of the Jamat and especially the youth. They do so with so much affection for each other, and with immense faith in Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Also, Ayaz, you might hear people simply say Ya Ali, and miss out on the final word Madad. Unfortunately, this has become very common. Of course, it is always good to remember our Mawla, but when we are greeting it is good to greet with the full phrase Ya Ali Madad which has a specific meaning.

Ayaz: As a matter of interest, are there greetings similar to Ya Ali Madad among other traditions and cultures?

Naguib: You will be interested to know in Iran the greeting Daste Ali Beh Hamrat is often exchanged, meaning “Ali’s blessing be with you.”

Ayaz: I’m glad I met you today and you said Ya Ali Madad. I wouldn’t have learnt all this if you’d just wished me ‘Hi’. I also thank you for your observation that the greeting should be said in full as Ya Ali Madad and not simply Ya Ali.

Naguib: Well, I’m glad you see the beauty and importance of our tradition.

Ayaz: Thank you very much for being so patient and explaining all this to me.

Naguib: Not a problem at all – I’m glad I could be of help.

Ayaz: I’m glad too that I’ve learnt something about our traditions today. Well, I guess I’d better go now.  Thank you Naguib, and Ya Ali Madad – ‘May our Hazar Imam help you’, is that right?

Naguib: Yes, that’s right. Mawla Ali Madad, Ayaz.

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Two Ya Ali Madad Songs to Enjoy

1. Ya Ali Madad by Ismaili Children

Ya Ali Madad song by Ismaili children.

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2. Audio: The Iconic Ya Ali Madad – Mawla Ali Madad Song by the Ismaili Ensemble from the Pamirs

Ismaili artist with song Ya Ali Madad, Moscow performance, simerg Insights from around the world
The unforgettable Ismaili singer who enchanted and brought the Ismaili Jamats to their feet with his iconic song Ya Ali Madad during a visit by Ismaili artists from Gorno-Badakhshan to Canada in1999/2000. Photo: The singer performing at the 80th birthday celebration of Mawlana Hazar Imam in Moscow, Russia, in December 2016.

The following rendition of the Ya Ali Madad song is from the DVD “Expressions from the Pamirs” produced in 2000 following a highly successful tour of Ismailis artists from Tajikistan who performed in major centres across Canada in 1999/2000. The Canadian Jamat was introduced for the first time to the Ismaili culture of their brothers and sisters in Badakhshan through a 2 hour stage performance of dance, drama, music and songs, along with an informative exhibition containing cultural artefacts related to the Jamats of Central Asia. The editor of this website, Malik Merchant, acted as a guide at the exhibition that was hosted in Vancouver in the latter half of 1999.

Ya Ali Madad, Mawla Ali Madad. Credit: Expressions of the Pamirs, 2000.

Date posted: July 1, 2021.

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Mrs Merchant Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Simerg
Mrs. Malek Merchant (1931-2021)

Alwaeza Malek J. Merchant (1931-2021), popularly known as Mrs. Merchant, rendered services to the Jamat, its institutions and the Imam-of-the Time for several decades as a missionary and religious education teacher in Africa, Pakistan, Canada and the UK. She passed away on January 21, 2021 at the age of 89. This piece has been adapted and re-written from her original dialogue on Ya Ali Madad by her son, Malik, and granddaughter Nurin. Alwaeza contributed a great piece for Simerg’s highly acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There (downloadable as a PDF file). Her article may be independently read by clicking on Varas Ismail Gangji: The Turning Point.

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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.

May 4, 2021, the 23rd Night of Ramadhan: Laylat al-Qadr Program for Jamats in North America

Ismaili Muslims observe Laylat al-Qadr on the 23rd night of Ramadhan, which falls on Tuesday, May 4, in 2021. Jamati members across North America are cordially invited to participate in a special Laylat al-Qadr program that will be held in three sessions as highlighted in the poster below (click on image for enlargement).

Please also click HERE for the institutional events page, and click on Laylat al-Qadr to read Simerg’s piece on the Night of the First Revelation of the Holy Qur’an.

Laylat al-Qadr programming poster for 2021, May 4, 23rd of Ramadhan
Please click on image for enlargement

Date posted: May 4, 2021.

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The Fragrance of Spring

By FARAH TEJANI

Open your doors and let the honeyed fragrance of Spring,
Enter your household while the seraphic birds sweetly sing,
All life is born again now that the gruelling winter is done,
Raise hands and praise Allah under the melting rays of the sun.

Navroz Mubarak, the New Year begins,
We welcome it with wonder and repent for our sins,
Three hundred million of us over three thousand years,
Jubilantly celebrate with sacred songs and with cheers.

A new chapter to read, a new seed to plant,
For abundance and prosperity a sacred prayer we chant.
On Navroz we strengthen bonds and our families unite,
Exchanging human values, our wishes with foresight.

Envisioning the New Year to bring with it Peace,
And for all calamities and ill health to immediately cease.
We dance and we sing sacred Ginans from our Pirs
Qasidas and Garbis unite and cohere.

In harmony with Nature we must strive to exist,
If not pandemics like COVID-19 will sadly persist,
But if we take it in stride as a hard lesson learned
We will appreciate the respect that Nature truly yearned.

We all share a common fate and must aim to erase,
All discrimination and hatred and truly embrace,
Love, tolerance and respect for all of mankind,
So that cultural diversity will not be undermined.

We pray for global peace and international cooperation
For we are all in the Ummah from nation to nation.
Let nothing divide us and bring us to fight,
Let us instead hold and value for tomorrow is in sight.

What was dead becomes alive, let the festivities begin,
Intricate henna designs are dyed on our skin,
We receive our roji and take our Navroz wishes,
For barakat and abundance and we enjoy festive dishes.

It is that time of year, tulips spring out from the soil
A hearty true effort from a burdensome winter’s toil,
Shadowed they waited for this day to emerge,
Colors in splendour they burst and they surge.

Spring blossoms are shedding their soft petals in few,
The buds are just opening thinly covered in dew,
Moist raindrops with sunlight the perfect combination,
To bring creation forth in a renewing sensation.

Take notice of Kudrat and all the miracles of Mawla,
His Bounty is Ever-Present, Al-Hamdu l’illah.
The Spring breeze whispers through the meadows and the trees,
And there is flitting and buzzing of butterflies and bees.

The animals all awaken from a dazed winter’s sleep,
The goats, the chickens and the sheep,
The horses, the donkeys, the rabbits, and the squirrels,
All the animals arise for the Navroz’ precious pearls.

So arise and awaken to the Navroz, our New Year,
And welcome all customs with good heart and good cheer,
United we stand and divided we fall,
The Ummah prevails and respectfully unites us all.

Date posted: March 18, 2021.

Copyright © Farah Tejani, Vancouver.

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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.

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.

Please also read Farah’s previous contributions to Simerg and its sister website Barakah by clicking on the following links:

Mrs. Merchant;
The Light of Ali (in Barakah.com)
The Great Sacrifice
In Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Eyes (in Barakah.com);
Celebrating the Aga Khan Museum;
Mystic Moon; and
A Mother’s Plea, Forest Cries, and Heaven’s Curtain

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.

With resurgence of Covid-19, Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, asks his spiritual children to avoid complacency, as he conveys his blessings for their protection from difficulties

The following message from Mawlana Hazar Imam is reproduced from the The Ismaili, the official website of the community. Following the message, please read our supplication to Mawlana Hazar Imam as well as listen to the Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea, beautifully recited by the late Shamshu Bandali Haji.

2 November 2020

My beloved spiritual children,

My Jamat is aware that the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic continues to pose challenges to the health and quality of life of societies around the world, including the Jamat. This situation remains of deep concern and, as Imam-of-the-Time, I receive regular updates from the Jamati and AKDN institutions and agencies about the impact on my Jamat, and also the mitigation measures being undertaken.

I am pleased that, in many countries, we have been able to re-open our Jamatkhanas in compliance with government and public health guidelines, but my Jamat should remain aware that there is no room for complacency over the risks posed by the highly contagious coronavirus. The need for wearing masks, observing physical distancing and adhering to all the required hygiene protocols remains paramount, and should be treated as part of normal life for some time to come. Many countries are now seeing a resurgence of Covid-19 cases, which demands that my murids should take personal responsibility to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by carefully following the guidelines of the government and public health authorities.

The work on producing vaccines and other forms of therapies is advancing at a rapid pace and, Insha’Allah, over the coming months, we will see positive results which, in due course, will be beneficial to the Jamat and the population at large.

I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings for the good health, happiness, safety and well-being of all my murids, with best loving blessings for mushkil-asan.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

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Supplication to Mawlana Hazar Imam, with recitation of Ginan

We submit our humble gratitude to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for his blessings to the world wide Jamat on November 2, 2020.

We submit the following supplications from verse 1 of Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea:

“O brother! Listen, My Lord Ali has written and sent a Farman. The beloved Lord has remembered this servant today with kindness in his heart”

Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea sung by Late Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji. Credit: http://ginans.usask.ca/recitals/507030

For a complete version of this post with translations in Arabic, French, Farsi, Gujarati, Portuguese, Russian, Tajiki and Urdu please click Barakah.

Date posted: November 3, 2020.

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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.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or, if you don’t see the box, please click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Pandemic, Prayers, Pluralism, and Partnerships

By NIZAR A MOTANI, Ph.D

This pandemic has brought the world humbling and tumbling to its knees, which is actually the best position from which to beg for the Supreme Being’s forgiveness, mercy, and blessings. Its economies have been battered and shattered and almost all of the world’s citizens have been imprisoned in their dwellings. He alone will eventually empower our scientists and secular and sacred leaders to find effective vaccines to successfully overcome this calamity.

Guidance from a seventh century ruler to his regional governors entrusted with administering a new and rapidly expanding empire has timeless relevance to our pandemic times. Hazrat Ali was the first hereditary Shia Muslim Imam, as well as the fourth caliph of all Muslims, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.), in 632 A.C. His letter enumerated a host of principles of good governance. He urged his subordinates to rule with intelligence and wisdom; justice, truth, and forgiveness; compassion and forbearance; humility and patience in calamity; consultation and wise counsel; piety and prayers; and above all to seek Divine Guidance. These are lessons which still apply today. [1]

article continues after photo

Folio Hazrat Ali's Nahj al-Balagha
A folio from Hazrat Ali’s Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence).

Remarkably, during the Prophet Muhammad’s time (570-632 A.C.), he had strongly recommended territorial quarantine and stricter personal hygiene, such as frequent hand washing during contagion. Later Muslim scientists and doctors had done the same, and Europe subsequently learned this practice from them. [2]

Turning to the current pandemic, this silent, inscrutable, and insidious enemy with unhindered Global Entry has awakened and heightened the need for prayers and some critical aspects of pluralism, which include public-private partnerships at all levels, to address the current dire situation engulfing almost every country.

Prayers have shown effectiveness since biblical times, and pluralism is inherent, in various forms, in all religious teachings. Some countries even have pluralism embodied in their constitutions, but sadly it often gets ignored.

article continues after photo

Karen Armstrong at Aga Khan Centre London
The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor-General of Canada, and GCP Board Member thanks Karen Armstrong for delivering the GCP 2018 Annual Pluralism Lecture. Photo: AKDN / Anya Campbell

Karen Armstrong, the renowned historian and scholar of religions, has described the Qur’an as the most pluralistic scriptural book, which teaches not just tolerance of diversity, but beyond this a universal brotherhood, empathy, and an inclusive approach that harnesses the intelligence of all in society (annual pluralism lecture at the new Aga Khan Centre, London, 2018). Pluralism entails inclusion of all of God’s children who inhabit our shared planet, as an integral part of the community. Hardly any country is totally homogenous – most are quite heterogeneous with racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse minorities. Accommodating such diversity is best addressed through dialogue, mutual respect, research, and collaboration to promote a better understanding of differences as strengths.

The idea of defining, promoting and giving pluralism an international platform emerged, significantly, after another calamity, namely the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, that shook the world and drastically changed lives and livelihoods. In January 2002, the then Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien and the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, discussed the desirability of jointly creating a formal body to study, explain, and promote pluralistic values across the world and to prevent escalations of conflicts between the West and the Muslim countries. A decade later the Global Centre for Pluralism was formally established in Ottawa, Canada.

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His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston at the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism
His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston look at each other as they applaud a splendid musical performance by the children’s band Orkidstra during the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa on Tuesday May 16, 2017. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

Pluralism, essential in ordinary times to promote mutual understanding, respect, and acceptance of differences, is even more critical in extraordinary times, such as the present, where widespread panic has driven many to act without regard for the wellbeing of others.

Equally alarming, Asian Americans have collectively been demonized and blamed for the virus. Fortunately, there have also been numerous wonderful and inspiring examples of collaboration, innovation, ingenuity, generosity, and volunteering to help those on the frontlines and those thrust onto food line.

However, let us not forget the other endemic and mutating virus of scammers and fraudsters preying on the most desperate of our fellow countrymen. We need more vigilance, prayers, partnerships and pluralism to combat both of these common enemies. Until God’s mercy results in effective vaccines, the best interim vaccines are the three Ps and gratitude.

Coincidentally, during this month of Ramadan, some fundamental practices of Islam are more evident now than at other times: fasting, prayer, and charity towards all — especially the weak, the sick, the poor, orphans, widows, and other most disadvantaged members of society. This constitutes the social conscience of Islam.

It is this Atlanta-based writer’s hope that Muslims and non-Muslims alike will share their relief/stimulus checks, if possible, with those in greater need. Unfortunately, their numbers are exploding, and they largely depend on such charities as the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Atlanta Union Mission, Salvation Army, and Red Cross among many others. Atlanta-based CARE is internationally active, as is the Aga Khan Foundation USA, which is a part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) – the world’s largest, most cost-effective, private, multifaceted network with hundreds of partners including the US Government.

May God Bless America and our interconnected planet.

Date posted: May 19, 2020.
Last updated: May 20, 2020 (Revisions by author)

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

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Notes:

[1] Nahjul Balagha, Peak of Eloquence; Sermons, Letters, and Sayings of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, Elmhurst NY, 1981.
[2] Article by Yahia Hatim, Moroccan Times, April 4th, 2020. See also March 17, 2020 Newsweek article by Craig Considine.

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The writer, who was born in Uganda, has a doctorate from the University of London, U.K. in African History. He has taught at Bowdoin College (Maine) and Western Michigan University. Later he worked at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in the U.K. A lifetime member of the Global South Studies Association and a longtime resident of Atlanta, he is a volunteer and donor for AKDN.

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Author’s recommendation: For a superb explanation of pluralism in the Qur’an, see Rahim Snow’s highly acclaimed book “Remember Who You Are: 28 Spiritual Verses from the Holy Quran to Help You Discover Your True Identity, Purpose, and Nourishment in God,” published  by Remembrance Studio, 2017, Pp. 213. Please visit his website by clicking Rahim Snow .

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Must Participate: Links to live streams to Laylat al-Qadr programs organized by ITREBs of UK, France, Portugal, Canada and USA

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

Jamats around the world must participate in this unique venture undertaken by Ismaili Institutions for this most extraordinary night commemorating the revelation of the Holy Qur’an

There is a very impressive array of programming organized for the night of Laylat al-Qadr by the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards in the UK, Canada and the USA. Each jurisdiction has its own set of presentations and Simerg urges everyone — wherever they be — to avail themselves of outstanding recitations, sermons, interviews and stories as well as participate in quiet reflective moments that have been designated at specific times. A lot of effort has been put into this programming catered to every member of the Jamat, young and old alike.

Since this is an on-line presentation, viewers will be able to toggle to watch specific programs offered outside their own regions. Please click on the following images or links to see what the ITREBs in North America, the UK and Europe are offering on this truly auspicious and holy night of Laylat al-Qadr. The program can also be seen — for all jurisdictions — on a staggered basis on the website Ismaili TV, where time-zones are common, for example Canada and USA.

UNITED KINGDOM AND JURISDICTION, PORTUGAL AND FRANCE

Laylat al-Qadr UK Simerg
Please click on image for link to Laylat al-Qadr UK., France and Portugal

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CANADA

Laylat al-Qadr Canada Simerg
Please click on image for link to Laylat al-Qadr Canada

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USA

Laylat al-Qadr USA Simerg
Please click on image for link to Laylat al-Qadr USA

Date posted: May 15, 2020.

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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.

The Echoes of Nature

By NAVYN NARAN

Cave of Hira, Saudi Arabia

The echoes of Nature
Bring us back to the cave
Wherein spirituality harkens the soul
Hush
What is this ?
To “Read”?
Not yet.
First to calm down
Slow down the thoughts
And attend the Divine Intellect
That which emanates within each of our souls
Within the bear of this Magnificent body
That is all too human
But never humanly created.

The echoes of Nature
Bring us back to the cave
To will the calm.
Creating space to calm the Will.
The physical jamat Khana is closed today
The spiritual space wide open
The windows to spring invite us in
To quiet the mind for moments within

The echoes of Nature
Light our world
Let fresh air be a gift to enjoy.
Within the chaos we must remember our Peace
The time is given
To slow the rat race.
Echoes of Nature
Harken the soul
Can you hear?
Perhaps outside in nature
Or your child’s face asleep
Or the eyes of a pet by your side

Pause
Come in.

© Navyn Naran. 2020.

Date posted: May 14, 2020.

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Dr. Navyn Naran

About the author: A regular contributor to this website, Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar (1936-2017) and Badrudin Naran (1930-1979). She is currently in Toronto working in pediatrics and volunteering at the Aga Khan Museum.

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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.

Devotion Through Dhikr

By ROXANA JAFFER

Heart in a pulsating mode; in rhythm with the breath
Mind reaching its zenith; as thoughts meet their death

Gratefulness taking over; Conveying lightness to the body
Entire body in smiles; Perhaps the spiritual light in embody

All because of the Dhikr, the constant chanting
His attributes in tempo, energy in sync; all else negating

Dhikr:
What an effect on the waves of the Gamma and the Theta
Both leave defeated, allowing the take-over by the wave of
relaxing Alpha

Dhikr:
Bringing an awareness of His elements; so many …..Ninety-nine
An inner need arises; to ascribe, to impute these traits divine

Dhikr:
My heart is in a pulsating mode, in sync with the mind
Now there is total unity; as mind, body and soul are totally entwined.

Date posted: May 13, 2020.

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

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Editor’s note: We welcome Roxana Jaffer as our new contributor. Dhikr, penned by her in March 2020, is the first of her several poems we will be publishing in the coming weeks.

Roxana Jaffer, Simerg

A Kenyan born girl, brought up in the UK and now residing in UAE, Roxana Jaffer has many awards to her name including “Global Inspirational Leadership Award”, “Best Best Woman in Hospitality UAE Award”, and “The Most Influential Women Leader  Award 2019”. She was also recognized as one of the “Indian Super 100 Women Achievers in the Middle East & Africa”. She partners with UN World food program, and her endeavours have managed to feed over 460,000 hungry children in the world. She is instrumental in Holiday Inn Dubai attaining the coveted  CSR Arabia award, four years running out of 13 Arab countries.

An Accountant by profession she has an MBA from University of Liverpool in Leadership and is a scholar of the Harvard Business School for Executive Education.

Roxana epitomises the best in human endeavour -– fun, laughter, hard work, creativity, caring for others, leading with a social conscience and above all, striving to make the world a better place and is the founder of the NGO -– ‘abc: an Advent for Building human Capital’ (see www.myabcfoundation.org) which accords English to the unemployed in Hunza and Delhi, resulting in a 70% impact as youth get growth.

Her creativity is taking a different turn as she expresses spirituality through poetry she pens.

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Calgary’s Muslim Mayor Naheed Nenshi Responds to Request for the Recitation of the Adhan During Ramadhan

Mayor Nenshi taking a selfie at the 2017 Global Pluralism Award in Ottawa.
Calgary’s Mayor Naheed Nenshi, seen taking a selfie at the inaugural ceremony of the Global Pluralism Award held in Ottawa, Canada on November 15, 2017 during the Diamond Jubilee Year of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. The Mayor served as a member of the jury that selected winners and honourable mentions for the Award. Photo: Copyright © Jean-Marc Carisse.

CBC reported that history was made in Windsor, Ontario, when the Muslim Adhan (call to prayer) was allowed to be recited over a loudspeaker on the roof of the city’s mosque during the remaining days of Ramadhan. Now the beautiful and heart warming Islamic call to prayer will also be heard at participating Calgary mosques once a day during the sunset prayer.

The following is Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s response to a request from the Muslim community:

Mayor Nahid Nenshi's for the Islamic Adhan Adhan
Part of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi’s letter: “In response to your email, and as an effort to spark some joy and community spirit in the Ummah, I have reached out to our Bylaw Team….I am pleased to advise you that an exemption under the Bylaw will be granted once per day for sunset prayer for reminder of Ramadan…”

Editor’s Note: Calling Calgarians — have you taken a very good video recording of the recitation of the Adhan in Calgary? If so, please submit it to Malik Merchant at email Simerg@aol.com, Subject: Adhan recording in Calgary. We will review your submission, and publish some of very best ones from across the city on this website. Please specify mosque location, date and time of the Adhan.

Date posted: May 10, 2020.
Last updated: May 11, 2020.

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

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