Hussain Aga Khan with his father and Portuguese President in Lisbon

Prince Hussain Aga Khan celebrates his 47th birthday on April 10, 2021 and Barakah presents stories of his passion, love and care for sea animals

I stayed with her [Hawksbill Turtle] for an hour; she let me closer and closer in. By the end of the dive she was eating 60 centimeters from my leg — Prince Hussain Aga Khan….READ MORE

Hussain Aga Khan Marine Creatures Barakah and Simerg
Please click on photo for article and photos.

Date posted: April 9, 2021.

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Aga Khan Park Ismaili Flag Birds

Video: The Beautiful Sounds of Birds at the Aga Khan Park and a Quick 360° Tour of Aga Khan Museum and the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Toronto

No creature is there crawling on the earth, no bird flying with its wings, but they are nations like unto yourselves. We have neglected nothing in the Book; then to their Lord they shall be mustered. — Holy Quran, 6:38 (Translation by A.J. Arberry)

The birds, you will recall [in Attar’s great poem, the Conference of the Birds] in huge quantities went in search of the Simurgh, the ideal and perfect king. After many tribulations, thirty of them do reach the end of the journey and come to the gate of the Supreme Majesty. The Chamberlain tests them and then opens the door and they sit on the masnad, the seat of the Majesty and Glory — His Highness the Aga Khan, Lahore, Pakistan October 23, 1980 (read speech)

The sounds of birds chirping at Aga Khan Park thrills and brings joy to Malik Merchant, and he takes the following short video which also takes you around the front section of the Aga Khan Park with views of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and the Aga Khan Museum. After watching the video presentation, please visit Simergphotos for great photo essays.

Note: See correction notes at bottom of this page.

A short presentation of the lovely sounds of birds at the Aga Khan Park with a quick 360° tour of the surrounding projects of His Highness the Aga Khan. Video: © Malik Merchant/Simergphotos.

Corrections:

(1) At the end of the video, I have referred to the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome as the dome of the Ismaili Centre. The Headquarters Ismaili Jamatkhana is an extension of the Ismaili Centre Toronto but also part of it. The Jamatkhana is a unique building in its own right. My commentary should have therefore referred to the dome as that of the Ismaili Jamatkhana, as it did in the earlier part of the video.

(2). The Green and Red flag used by Ismailis for decades was once upon a time referred to as “MY FLAG.” This is no longer in usage, officially at least. I have however mistakenly referred to it as the “Flag of the Ismaili Imamat” in the video report as well as in many other articles and photos on this and other sister websites. The flag without the monogram or crest (taj) of the Ismaili Imamat should simply be referred to as “The Ismaili Flag” as mentioned in the Ismaili Constitution. The flag inscribed with the monogram is only used during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visits, at official signing agreements where he is present, on his planes, and at the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa. The Ismaili Flag on Wynford Drive does not include the crest but is replaced with a flag bearing the crest whenever Mawlana Hazar Imam visits the site; it is then referred to as the Ismaili Imamat Flag.

Date posted: March 31, 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.

Sun’s Crossing of Equator at 5:37 A.M. EDT on March 20, 2021 Heralds Start of Spring in Northern Hemisphere, and Celebration of Navroz, the Iranian New Year

“Awaken, the morning Nowruz breeze is showering the garden with flowers” — Saadi

According to the popular reference book The Old Farmer’s Almanac, Saturday, March 20 marked the start of the spring season in 2021 in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun crossed the equator line heading north at 5:37 A.M. EDT. This event is referred to as the spring equinox or the vernal equinox when the length of day and night is nearly equal in all parts of the world. The Southern Hemisphere is exactly the opposite, as it marked the start of its autumn season.

The spring equinox can occur as early as March 19 or as late as March 21 at Greenwich. For hundreds of millions of people living in Iran, Afghanistan, and the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Turkey and Syria, and throughout Central Asia, in many parts of Pakistan and India, as well as among diasporic communities living around the world. the spring equinox is celebrated as Navroz or New Year. This is the second consecutive year when Navroz celebrations are going to be restrained due to travel restrictions and other measures that have been put in place to halt the spread of coronavirus or Covid-19.

Spring Equinox Earth on March 20, 2011 at 6:12 a.m. local time. NASA
The Spinning Enhanced Visible and Infrared Imager (SEVIRI) on EUMETSAT’s Meteosat-9 captured this view of Earth from geosynchronous orbit. The image shows how sunlight fell on the Earth on March 20, 2011 at 6:12 a.m. local time. Photo: NASA image by Robert Simmon

In Iran, the festivities end 13 days after March 21 with Sizdeh Bedar when people head for open fields, plains, parks and riversides to picnic, taking with them the sabzeh they had meticulously grown. There, they throw the sabzeh into the river or the fields, to symbolise giving back to nature (please read Scheherezade Faramarzi’s excellent article in Middeast Eye).

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Navroz Mubarak

“Nauryz, Navruz, Nawrouz, Nevruz, Nooruz, Novruz, Nowrouz, Nowruz – this celebration of the arrival of spring is as rich in names as it is in traditions. No matter what name you call it by, this shared festivity has brought communities together across countries and regions for more than 3,000 years” Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

Navroz Mubarak calligraphy Persian New Year by Karim Ismail Simerg.com
Navroz Mubarak in Eastern Kufi, © Karim Ismail, Toronto.

My daughter Nurin joins me in wishing all our readers as well as everyone around the world NAVROZ MUBARAK. In a sense, we convey this greeting through the beautiful calligraphic rendition shown above that was designed for 2021 by Toronto’s artist Karim Ismail. We thank him for his permission to reproduce his designs on Simerg and its sister websites.

We sincerely hope and pray that the crushing burden of the pandemic that we have lived through for the past 12 months eases, and that life begins to return to normal in the coming weeks and months, as more and more people around the world are vaccinated against Covid-19. However, we must continue to remain alert, and follow the guidelines given by our respective health authorities to avoid spikes in the number of coronavirus illnesses.

Navroz, Nawruz, Norooz, Nauryz, Navruz, Nawrouz Mubarak!

Nevruz, Noroz, Nooruz, Novruz, Nowrouz Mubarak!

Date posted: March 20, 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.

Looking Ahead at Navroz and Beyond With Renewed Hope and Optimism: (1) NASA Says 2021’s Largest Asteroid Will Pass Close to Our Planet on March 21, But Presents No Threat of Collision Now or For Centuries to Come!

Compiled and Adapted by MALIK MERCHANT
from the NASA Website

The largest asteroid to pass by Earth this year will approach within about 2 million kilometers (1.25 million miles) of our planet on March 21, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said on Thursday March 11, 2021.

Discovered 20 years ago and named 2001 FO32, the asteroid is at the smaller end of the scale, but it will still be the largest asteroid to pass this close to our planet in 2021. The last notably large asteroid close approach was that of 1998 OR2 on April 29, 2020. While 2001 FO32 is somewhat smaller than 1998 OR2, it will be three times nearer to Earth.

Though 2001 FO32 has been classified as “potentially hazardous asteroid” in terms of the distance from earth in astronomical terms, NASA has said that there is no threat of a collision with our planet now or for centuries to come. “We know the orbital path of 2001 FO32 around the Sun very accurately, since it was discovered 20 years ago and has been tracked ever since,” said Paul Chodas, director of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies (CNEOS), which is managed by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Southern California.

Over 95% of near-Earth asteroids the size of 2001 FO32 or larger have been discovered, tracked, and cataloged. None of the large asteroids in the catalog has any chance of impacting Earth over the next century, and it is extremely unlikely that any of the remaining undiscovered asteroids of this size could impact Earth, either. Still, efforts continue to discover all asteroids that could pose an impact hazard. The more information that can be gathered about these objects, the better mission designers can prepare to deflect them if any were to threaten Earth in the future.

The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility telescope during a lunar eclipse
The NASA Infrared Telescope Facility telescope during a lunar eclipse. The Facility is one of the telescopes that makes up the Maunakea Observatories on the Big Island of Hawai’i. The Facility provides vital and unequaled capabilities in planetary research while supporting NASA’s flight missions and Strategic Goal for Planetary Science. Maunakea is a place of immense reverance and cultural importance within the indigenous Hawaiian community. Photo credit: UNIVERSITY OF HAWAI’I.
NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii
This photo shows the view from inside the dome of NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility during a night of observing. The 3.2-meter (10.5-foot) telescope atop Hawaii’s Mauna Kea will be used to measure the infrared spectrum of asteroid 2001 FO32. Photo Credit: UH/IfA

Follow up observations have suggested that 2001 FO32 is estimated to be about 1 km in diameter and between 440 to 680 meters wide. During its approach next weekend, 2001 FO32 will pass by at about 124,000 kph (77,000 mph) – faster than the speed at which most asteroids encounter Earth. The reason for the asteroid’s unusually speedy close approach is its highly inclined and elongated (or eccentric) orbit around the Sun (see photo at top of post).

The asteroids close encounter with our planet will present a valuable scientific opportunity for astronomers. Observations dating back 20 years revealed that about 15% of near-Earth asteroids comparable in size to 2001 FO32 have a small moon, said Lance Benner, principal scientist at JPL. Currently little is known about this object, so the very close encounter provides an outstanding opportunity to learn a great deal about this asteroid. The March 21 encounter will provide an opportunity for astronomers to get a more precise understanding of the asteroid’s size and albedo (i.e. how bright, or reflective, its surface is), and a rough idea of its composition.

After its brief visit, 2001 FO32 will continue its lonely voyage, not coming this close to Earth again until 2052, when it will pass by at about seven lunar distances, 2.8 million kilometers or 1.75 million miles.

Date posted: March 13, 2021.

Featured image at top of post: A diagram depicting the elongated and inclined orbit of 2001 FO32 as it travels around the Sun (white ellipse). Because of this orbit, when the asteroid makes its close approach to Earth on March 21, 2021, it will be traveling at an unusually fast speed of 124,000 kph (77,000 mph). Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

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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.

From Dawn to Dusk at the Aga Khan Park, Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum: A Collection of Superb Photos

Mawlana Hazar Imam His Highness the Aga Khan’s vision, creativity and thought followed by action makes him a talisman for the Ismaili community and for millions around the entire world. For Simerg’s Malik Merchant, Mawlana Hazar Imam’s three projects in Toronto, among hundreds of others around the world that benefit humanity at large, attest to his brilliant leadership. Malik spent a few hours from dawn to dusk at the grounds of the Aga Khan Museum, the Aga Khan Park and the Ismaili Centre to bring you a collection of marvellous photos. View the complete collection by clicking SIMERGPHOTOS or the image below.

Aga Khan Museum Aga Khan Park and Ismaili Centre
Please click on image for photos.

Date posted: January 19, 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.

Simerg – 2020 in Pictures and Words: Blessings from His Highness the Aga Khan; Photos from Private Collections; and Tributes to Deceased

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

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, Talikas 2020, Simerg and Barakh
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, pictured at the Diamond Jubilee Darbar in Kenya. Photo: The Ismaili

TALIKAS AND BLESSINGS FROM MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM

March 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam sends Talika on the occasion of Navroz with special blessings for mushkil asan, and prayers for the Jamat’s health and well-being

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, showers his paternal and maternal blessings on his spiritual children around the world in light of the present crisis 

April 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends message to his spiritual children around the world on Covid-19, with blessings for their protection from difficulty; multiple translations including Farsi, Dari, Arabic, Urdu, Gujarati and Russian

May 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam’s loving and inspiring Talika on the occasion of Eid ul-Fitr shows his concern for his spiritual children in all facets of their lives 

July 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends Talika Mubarak to Ismailis around the world on the occasion of his 63rd Imamat Day

November 2020

Please click: Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in his message on November 2, 2020, tells his spiritual children “there is no room for complacency” over the risks posed by the coronavirus “for sometime to come” and send his blessings for mushkil-asan

December 2020

Please click: In Talika Mubarak on the occasion of his 84th birthday, Mawlana Hazar Imam asks us to draw comfort from the practice of our faith, appreciates the excellent work of volunteers, and conveys his paternal maternal blessings to the world wide Jamat

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PASSINGS

The following tributes/obituaries appeared in Simerg in 2020. Some of the deceased may have died before 2020.

Passings Simerg 2020 Year in Review
Top row (left to right): Mahebub Rupani, Nazeer Ladhani, Amirali Gillani, Salima Arthurs, Sultan Methanwalla, Goulzare Foui, Amirali Nagji; bottom row (left to right): Alnoor Ramji, Shamshu Jamal, Zubeda Jamal, Sultanali Mohamed, Razia Jamal, James Wolfensohn and Madatali Jamal. Image collage: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Please click: Mahebub Mohamed Juma Rupani

Please click: Nazeer Ladhani

Please click: Shamshu Jamal

Please click: Missionary Amirali Gillani

Please click: Alnoor Ramji, Goulzare Foui, Amirali S. Nagji, Sultan Piroj Maknojiya Methanwala, Salima Wanda Arthurs

Please click: Madatali Merali Jamal, Razia Jamal, Zubeda Ebrahim Jamal

Please click: James D. Wolfensohn

Please click: Alwaez Sultanali Mohamed

Please also click: Benjamin Mkapa (d. July 2020. As Tanzania’s President from 1995-2005, the late Benjamin Mkapa strongly supported the work of the Ismaili Imamat in his country as well as abroad. The support that he gave is clearly illustrated in a special piece about him in Barakah, a blog dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan)

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HISTORICAL PHOTOS OF MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM AND HIS FAMILY, IMAMAT PROJECTS AND OTHER EVENTS

2020 Year Simerg photos Aga Khan and Projects
Please click on image for 2020 stories and accompanying photos

Please click: Top photo selections from our 2020 stories: Mawlana Hazar Imam and his family, Covid-19 impact, Aga Khan projects, the four seasons, and other events

Date posted: December 27, 2020.
Last updated: December 28, 2020.

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Idd-e-Milad: A Documentary on Prophet Muhammad and Islam’s Rise, the Aga Khan on Allah’s Last Messenger, and “I Wish I’d Been There” by Astrophysicist Farzana Meru

"Muhammad" written in Thuluth script,  a work by Morgan Phoenix, CC by SA 3.0.
“Muhammad” written in Thuluth script, a work by Morgan Phoenix, CC by SA 3.0.

Prepared and compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
Editor/Publisher SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

The Milad or Mawlid of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) falls on the 12th day of the Islamic month of Rabi’ al-awwal. In 2020, Muslims in different countries around the world will be observing the birth anniversary between October 28-30. This post has a number of pieces on the Prophet that will be of interest to everyone.

We invite our readers to view the first episode of a 3-part series that covers the Prophet’s birth, the first revelation and early writing of the Qur’an, the creation of the first mosque, the persecution suffered by the first Muslims and the major battles fought by the Prophet and his followers to establish the new religion. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actor Ben Kingsley, and directed and produced by Robert Gardner, the captivating episode which first aired on PBS in 2001, has been highly recommended over the years for its educational value.

Watch video.

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Readers who have just seen the documentary will be able to relate numerous segments in it to the following excerpt from the Presidential address made by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, at the Seerat Conference in Pakistan in 1976. They will next appreciate Ismaili astrophysicist Farzana Meru’s reflection on a moment in Ismaili history that she would have loved to experience.

The Prophet Muhammad

By MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM, HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

Mawlana Hazar Imam

“The Holy Prophet’s life gives us every fundamental guideline that we require to resolve the problem as successfully as our human minds and intellects can visualise. His example of integrity, loyalty, honesty, generosity both of means and of time, his solicitude for the poor, the weak and the sick, his steadfastness in friendship, his humility in success, his magnanimity in victory, his simplicity, his wisdom in conceiving new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam, surely all these are foundations which, correctly understood and sincerely interpreted, must enable us to conceive what should be a truly modern and dynamic Islamic Society in the years ahead.” — Read full speech and listen to audio HERE.

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A Moment in Ismaili history I Would Have Loved to Experience: The Time of Prophet Muhammad

By FARZANA MERU

I am struggling to narrow down all the moments in Ismaili history that I would love to have experienced. As I journey through the modern day trying to understand the past, I often ponder what it would be like to rewind time and experience a number of occasions in Ismaili history. But if I could only choose one of the vast number of spectacular incidents, I would go back and experience the beginning of Ismaili history, the key events that sparked the origin of our religion, the dawn of a new era: the time of our Prophet Muhammed (S.A.S.) in seventh century Arabia.

I would love to have experienced first-hand the living conditions and lifestyles of the people in those times. I would want to understand the culture, the tribal systems, the harsh desert conditions that people had to move through on camels. I would want to see how the Prophet himself dealt with the pressures of leading a community which started off very small but grew rapidly and flourished. I want to understand how people transitioned from the way of life in pre-Islamic Arabia into the new times. As a fly on the wall, I could watch the seventh century Arabian world go by, in awe. I would want to experience “where it all began”, an era that would mark the beginning of Ismaili history.

Astrophysicist Farzana Meru
Astrophysicist Farzana Meru

The piece you just read was contributed by astrophysicist Farzana Meru for our first and original series I Wish I’d Been There series some ten years ago. On October 26, 2020, Dr. Meru and NASA’s aerospace engineer, Dr. Farah Alibay, were on the air on Ismaili.TV and reflected on their respective career paths as well as offered some outstanding words of wisdom to Ismaili youth during their schooling years, and for them to be passionate about their chosen area of interest, whatever that may be. Please watch Ismaili.TV’s excellent program by clicking HERE or below.

Date posted: October 27, 2020.
Last updated: October 29, 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.

Traditions of the Prophet Muhammad on the Pumpkin, as the Aga Khan Museum Uses it to Decorate its Courtyard

By MALIK MERCHANT
Editor/Publisher SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

The Aga Khan Museum is one of the few museums in Toronto that has been able to implement Covid-19 protocols and make the museum safe for its visitors. The visiting times were revised this past week, and it is now open from Thursdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.

In recent weeks, Simerg and its sister websites have produced a superb collection of photos of the Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Park, which divides the two magnificent buildings. Readers have been uplifted to see the photos of the 3 magnificent projects, built by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, under the full moon, crescent moon, as well as at the peak of the autumn foliage season.

Aga Khan Museum Courtyard Pumpkin Decoration Simerg Malik Merchant
Aga Khan Museum Toronto Courtyard decorated with pumpkins. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

On a fine day, there is no better place in the museum than to be sitting in its open air courtyard, while enjoying a delicious cup of latte.

October 23, 2020 was one such day. It actually felt like summer, with blue skies and very warm temperatures. The magnificent courtyard was a perfect place for my morning coffee as well as a late breakfast — an egg salad croissant, slightly grilled. I was thrilled to enter the courtyard, and noticed pumpkin decorations in one corner of the courtyard. Of course, pumpkins are to be seen everywhere at this time of the year. It is one of the most popular desserts served during Thanksgiving holidays in Canada (October 12, 2020) and the USA (November 26, 2020), and I wondered how the food was viewed in Islam. My little bit of research led me to numerous traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) on the pumpkin, and I am delighted to post adaptations of some that I read.

“I saw the Prophet being served with soup and containing gourd (pumpkin or squash) and cured meat, and I saw him picking and eating the pieces of gourd.” — Bukhari Volume 7, Book 65, Number 348.

It is related that a sailor once invited Prophet Muhammad to eat some food that he had prepared. Anas bin Malik who accompanied the Prophet, noted that the Prophet was served barley bread and a soup with pumpkin in it. The Prophet keenly ate the pumpkin around the dish, and from that day Anas made it his favourite food. Traditions also note that whenever a a dish of bread, meat and broth was presented to the Prophet and it contained pumpkin, the Prophet would pick up the pumpkin because he really liked it, and made the heart strong. Other Muslim traditions note that the pumpkin increases brain function and brain strength.

Ibn Ridwan, in a medical treatise written during the Fatimid period, recommended the pumpkin as a diet for healthy living along with several other fruits and vegetables such as celery, carrots, lentils and cucumbers.

Interestingly, there is also a general consensus among scholars about the Arabic word yaqteen that is mentioned in the Holy Qur’an. They say that it refers to the pumpkin — a food that nourished and helped heal Prophet Yunus (A.S.), after he was cast into the wilderness while he was sick (see Qur’an, 37:144-146, at Corpus Quran English Translation).

The website healthline mentions that pumpkin is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and is incredibly healthy. Moreover its low calorie content makes it a weight-loss-friendly food. It goes on to add that “its nutrients and antioxidants may boost your immune system, protect your eyesight, lower your risk of certain cancers and promote heart and skin health.”

After about an hour at the museum’s courtyard, I could not return home without walking around the Aga Khan Park. As I looked up in the blue sky above the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome, I saw two birds beautifully gliding at the dome’s left. I was left wondering: Were they turkey vultures, eagles or hawks? Alas, I wasn’t carrying a powerful lens to get a better and sharper close-up.

Please click on photo for enlargement

Headquarters Jamatkhana Toronto at the Ismaili Centre, with birds overhead.
Two birds seen gliding at left of the dome of the Toronto Headquarters Ismaili Jamatkhana, part of the Ismaili Centre. Click on image for enlargement. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Returning to the museum’s courtyard on Sunday October 25, offered a much different kind of experience, as the temperature had dropped from Friday’s 22°C to only 8°C. But the museum had that in mind too! Blue lounge blue chairs had been placed in the courtyard, with portable fireplaces where visitors mingled with their family members over light refreshments.

Aga Khan Museum Courtyard
Visitors keep warm at a portable fireplace at the Aga Khan Museum’s courtyard as temperatures take a dip on Sunday, October 25. 2020. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

The overall experience at the three Aga Khan projects during recent weeks has been overwhelming.

As we all seek good health, I dedicate this post to the humble pumpkin which supports heart and eye health, and boosts immunity, among other benefits.

And, without the pumpkin’s presence in the museum’s courtyard, it may have never occurred to me to search out the traditions of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) that have showed that he really liked the pumpkin. For 2020, Muslims around the world will celebrate his birth anniversary — the Milad un Nabi — between October 28-30. It is an appropriate time to learn more about his inspiring life and leadership as well as his faith in God whom he served as the last messenger for 23 long and devoted years, bringing to Muslims the blessing of the Holy Qur’an.

Date posted: October 24, 2020.
Last updated: October 25, 2020 (new photo/information added)

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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.

Aga Khan Park

Let Storms Beware

Karim H. Karim’s beautiful poem is followed by a brief note from the editor as well as some pictures that he set off to take at Toronto’s Aga Khan Park, shortly after he had been inspired by the poem.

 By KARIM H. KARIM

(Dedicated to all who are sad)

Sweetest are the songs
That we sing in sorrows;
Tears swell in our eyes
Even when joy overflows.

Naïve folk fear the thorns
Where flowers do flourish,
Fresh with hues of hope.

Dawn’s light is nearest
When sadness is darkest,
Sings the black night
In stars’ silent twinkle.

Embrace the aching pain,
Learn to laugh a little
And to comfort others.

Let storms beware
That we are lighting
The lamps of love.

Date posted: October 20, 2020.
Last updated: October 22, 2020.

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(Based on Shankardas Shailendra’s (1923-1966) “Hain Sabse Madhur Wo Geet,” which evokes Percy Shelley’s (1792-1822) line “Our sweetest songs are those that tell of the saddest thought.”)

Karim H. Karim Carleton University
Karim H. Karim

About the author: Karim H. Karim is the Director of the Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam and a Professor at Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication.

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Editor’s note: I was truly feeling sad earlier today (October 20), thinking about my daughter and my mother whom I haven’t visited for several months due to Covid-19. I was lonely, and also worried about my health in these uncertain times! My friend Karim H. Karim who is nearly 450 kms from me must have sensed that. I was waiting for another article from him altogether, not a piece dedicated for those who are sad. In my reply to his humble submission, I told him I would review it in a few days time! However, I decided to read it straight away, and his piece truly cheered me up. And in that moment of becoming a lot less sad, I gained some energy and headed to my favourite place! Yes, the Aga Khan Park, with two incredible buildings, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum around it — gracious gifts from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Admittedly, I haven’t been to the Park for a number of weeks, passing by it only in my car. The photographs that I took during my visit to the Park, represent my joyous moments, that I owe to Karim’s beautiful rendition. As I walked to the park, I was reminded of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s quote where he says that if one has faith, one may be worried, one may at times feel sad but one will never be unhappy. How true! Enjoy the photos, which were inspired by the poem.

Note: The following photos — and more — can be viewed in larger format at Simerg’s special photo blog. Please click Bidding Farewell to Vibrant Autumn Colours at Aga Khan Park. If you haven’t visited the blog please click Simergphotos for an outstanding collection of photo essays!

The Flag of the Ismaili Imamat
The flag of the Ismaili Imamat by maple trees at the peak of autumn colours. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
A close up of autumn colours on a maple tree at the Aga Khan Park. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Museum and Aga Khan Park
The Aga Khan Museum building as seen from the edge of the Aga Khan Park at the Wynford Drive bridge over the Don Valley Parkway. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Big Heech Aga Khan Museum
The famous Big Heech sculpture by the north end of the Aga Khan Museum, with maple trees in the background exhibiting their fall colours. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Park
A gorgeous view of the dome of the Ismaili Jamatkhana, with rich autumn colours at the Aga Khan Park adding to the beauty of entire area. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Park Autumn Foliage Malik Merchant
Beautiful trees with rich autumn colours at the Aga Khan Park. To the left and not shown is the dome of the Ismaili Centre. See previous photo. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg
Ismaili Jamatkhana Dome and Aga Khan Park
A close up of the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome with a maple tree rich in autumn colours in the foreground. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Evergreen Brick Works
A view of CN Tower from the Evergreen Brick Works located in the Don River Valley on 550 Bayview Avenue, Toronto, a 10 minute drive from the Aga Khan Park. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Red maples Aga Khan Park
A beautiful view of red maple trees lined up at the edge of the Aga Khan Park along Wynford Drive, from the Aga Khan Museum (near end) to the Ismaili Centre. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg
Red Maples Aga Khan Park
Red maples reach the peak of their fall colours at the Aga Khan Park, with a view of the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome at left. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.
Aga Khan Park, Flags of Canada and the Ismaili Imamat
From left to right, flags of the Ismaili Imamat, the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario and Canada, with its famous Maple Leaf. Photo: © Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Date posted: October 20, 2020.
Last updated: October 21, 2020 (new link).

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A Comprehensive Guide by Two University of Virginia Medicine Professors on What Doctors Know Works for All Stages of the Covid-19 Illness

This article was updated on October 5, 2020 with the new details of President Trump’s COVID-19 treatments. It is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. You may read the original article by clicking HERE. Note: The featured image shown at top of this post and the first image shown below are reproduced from the website of USA’s Centre for Disease Control — they are not part of the original article in The Conversation.

BY WILLIAM PETRI, Professor of Medicine, University of Virginia and JEFFREY M. STUREK, Assistant Professor of Medicine University of Virginia

With 74-year-old President Trump and 50-year-old first lady Melania Trump testing positive for the coronavirus, what are the best proven treatments for them and other patients?

We are both physicianscientists at the University of Virginia. We care for COVID-19 patients and conduct research to find better ways to diagnose and treat COVID-19.

Transmission electron microscopic image of an isolate from the first U.S. case of COVID-19, formerly known as 2019-nCoV. The spherical viral particles, colorized blue, contain cross-section through the viral genome, seen as black dots. Image Credit: Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, USA (cdc.gov.).

Here we are sharing what physicians have learned over the past eight months treating various stages of this disease. Early in the year, there were few known treatments for people who showed severe COVID-19 symptoms apart from sustaining them on ventilators. Now, several months later, there are a handful of treatments, including drugs, that give doctors far better tools to heal patients, particularly very ill ones.

Who is at greatest risk for severe COVID-19?

Men are one-and-a-half times more likely to die, and an 80-year-old has a twentyfold greater risk of death than a 50-year-old. In addition to age and male gender, obesity; diabetes; recent cancer diagnosis; chronic heart, lung and liver disease; stroke; and dementia all are associated with an increased risk of dying from COVID-19. Based on these criteria, the president falls into a higher-risk category based on male gender and age.

Is treatment different depending upon how sick one is?

The approach to therapy differs depending on the stage of the illness.

It is therefore important to not only diagnose COVID-19 but to define whether the infection is asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic. Also, how sick a person is – whether it’s a mild, moderate, severe or critical case – changes how a patient is treated.

What treatment is there for asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infection?

Asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infection is defined as having a positive diagnostic test for COVID-19 (a PCR or antigen detection test) without symptoms of infection.

There is currently no known effective treatment for this stage. Someone with asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic infection should isolate themself at home for 10 days so as not to expose others.

What are the symptoms of mild disease, and what treatments work?

Symptoms of mild COVID-19 infection can include fever, cough, loss of taste or smell, muscle aches, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, congestion and runny nose.

Someone with mild COVID-19 does not have shortness of breath, chest pain or evidence of pneumonia during a chest X-ray. The exception to this is children with mild disease who may still have an abnormal X-ray.

There are no treatments that have been demonstrated to benefit those with mild disease. However, such patients should be well versed on the symptoms of moderate illness, so that they and others recognize if they progress to moderate illness. This is important because progression to more severe disease can be rapid – typically five to 10 days after initial symptoms.

Moderate illness

Moderate illness is defined as shortness of breath, chest pain, or on a chest X-ray, evidence of pneumonia but without hypoxia (low blood oxygen levels).

There currently is no known effective therapy for moderate illness.

Severe illness

Severe illness is identified by a rapid breathing rate (greater than 30 breaths per minute) or low oxygen levels in the blood, which is called hypoxia. Also, evidence of pneumonia affecting more than half of the lungs, as diagnosed on a chest X-ray, is a sign of a severe case.

Controlled clinical trials have demonstrated that the antiviral drug remdesivir hastens recovery for patients with severe but not critical illness.

In addition the anti-inflammatory steroid medicine dexamethasone (a prednisone-like drug) decreases mortality.

Critical illness

Critical illness occurs when the patient becomes so sick that vital organs begin to fail and they require medicines or other therapies to support these vital functions.

If failure of the lungs is severe enough, physicians may put the patient on a mechanical ventilator or high quantities of oxygen. There is no evidence that remdesivir treatment is beneficial during this critical phase. Dexamethasone is still recommended for treatment because it has been shown to decrease mortality.

What therapies don’t work or are still being tested?

Some treatments that have been shown to be ineffective include chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine.

Other potential treatments are still in the middle of clinical trials to test whether they are effective. These include human convalescent plasma, which contains antibodies that should bind to the virus and prevent it from entering cells.

There are also drugs to modulate the immune response, such as interferons and inhibitors of IL-6, which in some cases may prevent a harmful overreaction of the immune system, commonly referred to as cytokine storm.

A nurse collects convalescent plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient to help the healing process of other COVID-19 patients in Indonesia. Budiono,/ Sijori images/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Newer treatments, including one President Trump has been given

Right now there is no approved treatment for outpatients with asymptomatic or mild to moderate COVID-19. But this appears to be changing, with Eli Lilly’s and Regeneron’s release of clinical trial data on the use of laboratory-manufactured antibodies against the spike glycoprotein of the new coronavirus.

In this approach, as with convalescent plasma, the antibodies work by binding to the virus and blocking it from entering cells and multiplying. This could be particularly effective early on in infection before illness becomes severe.

In an early preview of data from an ongoing phase three clinical trial, subjects with COVID-19 who received an injection of a cocktail of monoclonal antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein had symptoms that lasted only seven days rather than 13. The amount of virus remaining in the nasopharynx – the upper part of the throat behind the nose – was also reduced.

An update from the president’s physician on the afternoon of Oct. 2 indicated that, as a precautionary measure, the president received an infusion of Regeneron’s antibody cocktail. This treatment is not widely available, and can be given only under what is called compassionate use.

On the same day, the president reportedly also received supplemental oxygen and a first dose of the antiviral drug Remdesivir. Research shows this antiviral can decrease the length of COVID-19 patients’ hospital stays, but only when given prior to the patient needing mechanical ventilation.

On Saturday, Oct. 3, the president received a second dose of Remdesivir and a first dose of the steroid dexamethasone. Dexamethasone is an anti-inflammatory medicine in the same class as prednisone. It decreases mortality in patients with COVID-19 that is severe enough to require supplemental oxygen, but may actually worsen disease in those who are not as severely ill.

All of this suggests that the president is receiving state-of-the-art therapies.

Other External Link(s)

Please read:

1. BBC: Covid and Trump: The president’s healthcare v the average American’s
2. New York Times: President Trump Says He’s ‘Better’ From Covid-19. Doctors Aren’t So Sure
3. New York Times: How Much Would Trump’s Coronavirus Treatment Cost Most Americans?

Date posted: October 6, 2020.
Last updated: October 7, 2020 (new external links).

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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.

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