At Aga Khan Museum, young and old alike share messages of hope for 2021 and beyond: No deadly virus, cleaner water, happiness and freedom for all, unity, no wars, vaccine for Covid-19, and more

MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor  SimergphotosBarakah and Simerg

Please click on images for enlargement

Messages of Hope at Aga Khan Museum Wall Simerg
Aga Khan Museum portraits of resilience, togetherness and hope: Photo: Malik Merchant /Simergphotos. Please click on image for enlargement.

Before its latest shutdown due to provincial regulations, Toronto’s Aga Khan Museum gave visitors an interesting opportunity to pen their heartfelt wishes on one of several beautiful pre-designed tiles available at the museum bookstore, and post them onto a large panel prominently placed by the beautiful courtyard. The theme of the project was “Blossom Together Community Tile Wall.”

Community wall messages of hope Aga Khan Museum Simerg Malik Merchant
Section of panel (see inset, bottom right) highlighting purpose of the community wall. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simergphotos.

The cards contained the following themes that visitors could write about: “I hope the future will be …”; “I will make the world better by …”; “I hope ….“; and “My hope for the world is …” Here is a selection of images that I was able to capture. As I glanced at the tiles, I was encouraged by the wishes of hope that I read, several of which related to the current pandemic. It is with these feelings of the young and old alike who expressed themselves on the museum wall that we enter 2021, with the hope that new Covid-19 vaccines which have been developed will become game changers in bringing the pandemic under control.

Messages of Hope Aga Khan Museum
Aga Khan Museum portraits of resilience, togetherness and hope: Photo: Malik Merchant /Simergphotos. Please click on image for enlargement.

We wish all our readers a happy new year.

Date posted: January 1, 2021.
Last updated: January 2. 2021 (minor centre image change, thumbnail inset added)

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This post has been adapted from the original version first published on December 31, 2020 at Simergphotos.

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06:31 GMT December 8, 2020: Historic Day as 90 year old UK woman gets Covid-19 jab to start mass vaccination program

By Voice of America News
(From reports published on December 7 and 8, 2020)

Britain has vaccinated its first citizen against the COVID-19 virus.

Ninety-year-old nursing home resident Margaret Keenan received the first of two doses of a vaccine jointly developed by U.S.-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.  

The vaccination campaign, dubbed “V-Day” by Health Secretary Mark Hancock, began nearly a week after the government’s medical regulatory agency granted emergency approval for the vaccine, making Britain the first western nation ready to begin mass inoculations.

The approval came weeks after Pfizer announced the vaccine had been shown to be more than 90% effective after its final clinical trial.

Keenan, who will turn 91 next week, is among the thousands of nursing home residents and their caregivers, along with staffers with Britain’s National Health Service, that have been prioritized by officials to receive the first shots.

Britain received 800,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine Sunday, the first of a total of 40 million it purchased from Pfizer. Great Britain has a population of more than 66 million people. Delivery of the vaccine is complicated by the fact that it must be stored in super-cold refrigerators at temperatures below 70 degrees Celsius.

Britain has recorded more than 61,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic, one of the world’s hardest-hit countries and the worst affected country in Europe.

The start of the coronavirus vaccination campaign in Britain comes as many other nations inch closer and closer to beginning their own inoculation efforts.

South Korea and Canada

The South Korean government announced Tuesday that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is one of a handful it has secured for its 44 million people.  The Health Ministry says it has pre-ordered 64 million doses of vaccines under development by Pfizer, British-based pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, and U.S.-based drug makers Johnson & Johnson and Moderna, for 34 million South Koreans.

Seoul says another 10 million people will receive vaccines developed by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and French pharmaceutical company Sanofi and secured through the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, or COVAX, the joint project between the World Health Organization, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, an organization founded by Bill and Melinda Gates to vaccinate children in the world’s poorest countries.

Canada announced Monday it would receive its first doses of the same vaccine by the end of December.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday [see excerpts below] that up to 249,000 doses of the vaccine would arrive this month, and 3 million are slated to be delivered early next year. Canada has a population of more than 37 million people.

Separate Developments: India and Indonesia

In a separate development, the Serum Institute of India has applied for emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine under development by British pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford. Serum, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, is leaning heavily toward the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine because it can be stored at 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, as opposed to the super-cold requirements of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.   

Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced Sunday the country has received a shipment of a coronavirus vaccine developed by China’s Sinovac biotechnology company. The vaccine is still undergoing testing in Indonesia, where the government is making final preparations for an initiative to inoculate as many as 270 million people.   

WHO urging for persuasion over mandating vaccinations

While WHO officials are urging governments to persuade their citizens to get vaccinated, public health experts warn that a mandate may not be the right approach.

“I think all of us who work in public health would rather avoid that as a means for getting people vaccinated,” WHO’s emergencies director Michael Ryan told a virtual press conference Monday.  

The world has more than 67.6 million total COVID-19 cases, including more than 1.5 million deaths. The United States leads the world in both categories, with 14.9 million total cases and more than 283,700 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.  

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VOA Video: ‘We’re Ready’ – Baltimore dry ice supplier prepares for COVID Vaccine

The Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine against the coronavirus must be stored at extremely cold temperatures, raising some concerns about the difficult task of moving it across the United States for inoculations. But dry ice companies across the U.S. say they’re up for the challenge. Voice of America’s Esha Sarai spoke with one such company in Baltimore, Maryland

Credit: VOA, http://www.voanews.com
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Covid-19 vaccinations in Canada: Excerpts from remarks by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

December 7, 2020, Ottawa, Ontario

Canada has secured an agreement with Pfizer to begin early delivery of doses of their vaccine candidate.

We are now contracted to receive up to 249,000 of our initial doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine in the month of December.

Pending Health Canada approval, the first shipment of doses is tracking for delivery next week.

Shipments will continue to arrive into 2021, with millions of doses on the way.

This will move us forward on our whole timeline of vaccine rollout, and is a positive development in getting Canadians protected as soon as possible.

Pfizer, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the provinces and territories, are working together to finalize preparations at the first 14 vaccination sites this week.

I want to assure Canadians that any vaccine approved in Canada will be safe and effective.

The regulatory process is ongoing and experts are working around the clock.

They will uphold Canada’s globally recognized gold standard for medical approvals.

We also have agreements with six other vaccine candidates, making our range of potential vaccines the broadest and most diverse in the world.

In addition to Pfizer-BioNTech, there are also Moderna, AstraZeneca-Oxford, and Johnson & Johnson who have already submitted their vaccine candidates to Health Canada.

We are working hard to ensure that Canadians have access to a safe and secure vaccine as soon as possible, as soon as the doses are ready.

Date posted: December 8, 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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Must Watch 4 Minute BBC Video: Covid-19 in N. Dakota – One Day Inside a Rural US Hospital

“We have nightmares, you dream, awful dreams…None of us became nurses and thought we would do anything like this”

Health workers at a 14-bed hospital in North Dakota are struggling to keep friends’ family members alive, as rates of new Covid-19 infections soar in the US heartland’s tight-knit communities. PLEASE CLICK HERE or on image below.

Please click for BBC video

Date posted: November 22, 2020.

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An Ethereal Journey to a Sacred Space in the Pandemic

(Editor’s note: As of November 20, 2020, Jamatkhanas in the Canadian province of British Columbia (BC) are once again temporarily closed due to orders issued by the provincial government that impact all places of worship. The BC Jamatkhanas had re-opened at the beginning of August with limited attendance capacity both in the evenings and mornings. Zaher Ahamed’s excellent piece is an attempt to convey his joyful experience of attending a Jamatkhana in Canada in the midst of Covid-19. On new developments about Jamatkhana openings and closures in Canada, please subscribe to the official Al-Akhbar electronic bulletins distributed by Ismaili institutions in Canada).

“Maybe….because of this pandemic, I have experienced the true nature of our faith and gained a new insight into one of our central religious practices of our tariqah: the remembrance of Him in His house during the hour of Baitul Khayal” — Zaher Ahamed

By ZAHER MEGHJI AHAMED

Headquarters Jamatkhana Vancouver. Photo: FNDA.

It was our first journey to the re-opened Headquarters Jamatkhana in Vancouver during a pandemic: it was for the early morning contemplation and prayers or Baitul Khayal during the earlier part of August, and it turned out to be a  total ethereal, peaceful and powerful experience, the closest I have ever felt to the presence of the Nur (Light) of Imam in a what had become  a truly perfect sacred spiritual space.

There was pin drop silence! The pandemic protocol put in place, after going through a painless computerized registration system as you entered, did not permit for social chit-chat, small talk and worldly conversations over a cup of chai before entering the sacred space.

We were swept with only the thought of Him silently with dignity into the Jamatkhana prayer hall. We were in a peaceful dignified space, where there was not a word between the murids, each masked, each enclosed in his or her own socially distanced bubble. The conversation was only with Him, just as it was meant to be. We felt ourselves immersed in the cosmic quiet and stillness, focusing now only on  seeking out moments of happiness through the Divine Word, knowing that, with the Imam’s presence in this space, He was with us blessings us on our own individual journey to seek to come nearer to Allah through the Nur of Hazrat Ali.

With a silent and reflective utterance of “Haizanda” (He is ever living) we stepped into this sacred space and right into his presence! With closed eyes, a quiet mind and an open heart we slipped into the rhythm of silently uttering the Divine Word, first with our lips and then in our hearts, feeling it flow through, ever so slowly, into the depth of our soul, awakening it: and over a period of time, the word now deeply embedded released moments of energy, awareness, joy and happiness…. all in a timeless moment, the soul wanting to stay for ever and then…. the hour was over in what seemed like a second…. with the promise of another day to be again in His presence in this sacred space.

Jamatkhana prayer hall, Ismaili Centre Vancouver. Photo: Bruno Freschi Collection, 1985.
“Sacred Space” – the Jamatkhana prayer hall, Ismaili Centre Vancouver. Photo: Bruno Freschi Collection, 1985.

This is what the house of the Lord was meant to be like!

Then, without a word with anyone, we stepped straight outside into our car, carrying the peace that was in our hearts. And on our way home, we saw the light of the waning moon with Venus ablaze shining on us, leaving us speechless in the cosmic balance of His creation.

The calmness that we had felt in the Jamatkhana continued on our journey home. It was then that I remembered Hunza, where I had felt that same pin drop silence with no words in calm and quiet in a Jamatkhana with a dimly lit hall, “a sacred space,” in Karimabad. And now, I had once again experienced that in my own Jamatkhana in Vancouver — and that too in a global pandemic or maybe because of a global pandemic!

Maybe, ironically, because of this pandemic, I have experienced the true nature of our faith and gained a new insight into one of our central religious practices of our tariqah: the remembrance of Him in His house during the hour of Baitul Khayal.

Going for Ibadat in the morning, in its truest sense, should be an act filled with a simplicity and a reverence  of the highest kind for this sacred space devoid of any refreshments, hanging around the chai table and having meaningless conversations that last until almost 5 a.m!

Spaces created in Jamatkhanas for prayer are sacred spaces!

It was truly a unique experience and in terms of the logistics, the whole process of going to the Jamatkhana, from the time of arrival until departure, was very well organized, with an army of well trained volunteers directing your every move: Your car on arrival is directed into a pre-planned space; if you have not brought your mask one is provided to you; next you confirm your spot and answer standard Covid-19 protocol questions and have your temperature taken; you then get directed into the shoe/coat area, have your hands sanitized and then are led finally into your own space.

When the limited rites and ceremonies, tailored to keep murids safe, are completed, you are led out to your car in an orderly manner. Fifty pre-allocated murids who have come to the Jamatkhana for the morning Ibadat and prayers each, I believe, leaves with a unique experience.

What else are we witnessing during the pandemic?

I believe, we are seeing the birth of a “global Ismaili renaissance” showcased and driven by a digital platform of webinars, zoom sessions and the Ismaili TV. We are seeing the fruition of the coming together of Ismaili talent in all its forms: academic scholars and waezins, health care professionals, dancers, musicians, singers, consultants, counselors, journalists, Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) executives and staff, and Jamati leaders, all the result of our Imam’s extraordinary vision and its execution over the last 60 years.

It is like seeing a period of our rich Fatimid heritage in a digital mirror!

Seniors are zooming… the youth are dancing, men are cooking… women are leading and “dadimas” (grandmothers) are “face timing… and all this within just the last 7 months.

Learning, Mawlana Hazar Imam has often said, should continue throughout our lives. Age should not be a constraint, and this is precisely what we are witnessing. We are exploring with full confidence, and thousands of voices from around the world and from our global Jamat are now being heard directly. This is the commencement of a new digital communications era, and the challenge now will be to stay truly connected and to manage this era carefully with awareness and sensitivity so that it does not stifle in its own success.

As for me and my family, this pandemic has brought us even closer and it feels good to be in the centre of “This Ismaili Renaissance”.… a truly humbling experience!

Date posted: November 20, 2020.

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Zaher Ahamed

Zaher Ahamed is an internationally recognized expert in Strategic Marketing, Multicultural Communications, Diversity & Human Resources Development, Strategic Planning, Design &  Project Management. His over 40 years of Business & Consulting experience includes working with Expo 86, the Royal Bank of Canada, Life Care International, Terry Fox Foundation, WIOMSA (Zanzibar), Governments of Canada & British Columbia as well as holding teaching positions with the University of Stockholm, Red Deer University and BCIT in Europe and in Canada.

He has had extensive experience working for corporate and not-for-profit organizations in the Middle East and Africa. In Nairobi, Kenya, he worked with the Aga Khan University Hospital, as a project manager for the establishment of turnkey state-of-the-art digitally connected Pilot Primary Health care and diagnostic Aga Khan Medical centres in East Africa. His volunteer experience includes working in Syria, Zanzibar, East Africa, Sweden. USA and Canada. He is multilingual and has a deep interest in Ismaili history and Ginanic and Sufi traditions. Now retired in Vancouver, BC, Canada, Zaher continues to perform voluntary work with Ismaili and non-Ismaili institutions around the world.

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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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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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Jamatkhana Ismaili Centre Toronto and Aga Khan Park, Simerg, Photo Malik Merchant

A Poem Inspired by the Reopening of Jamatkhanas

As We Reopen

By Parin Verjee

Approaching the doors of the Jamatkhana
Heads bowed in all humility
Lower your gaze
Pause a moment
Softly say a heartfelt prayer
Shukhrana, Al Hamdu’lillah
The blessed day has arrived
Quieten your thoughts
Touch your heart
Hand on your heart
Smile with your eyes
Greet gently
Gracious to one and all
Carry your mehmani in your heart
Let Allah’s light guide you
To His threshold
Let divine grace
Touch your praying hands
Embrace the silence
Be at peace
The sacred space
Awaits your soulful zikr

Date posted: August 16, 2020.

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About the author: Parin’s love of books, music, theatre, and travel sometimes leads her to writing about her experiences, and the reopening of Jamatkhanas inspired her to pen a few lines here. Originally from Kenya, she studied at Makerere University, Kampala, and at the University of Dijon, France, and lived in Oxford, England, before moving to Canada. She has been in Doha, Qatar, for the last 12 years and living in the Middle East has enhanced her appreciation of Islamic art and culture. She is presently back in Calgary.

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

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The featured photo shown at the top of this post was taken on the night of Friday August 14, 2020, when the Headquarters Jamatkhana dome at the Ismaili Centre Toronto was lit up for the first time since mid-March when Jamatkhanas across Canada closed down due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The spectacular lit up dome is visible from the busy Don Valley Parkway, and is much admired by pedestrians and drivers alike as they drive through the Parkway or walk along Eglinton Avenue and Wynford Drive. The photo and the beautiful poem penned by Parin Verjee celebrate the opening of the Headquarters Jamatkahana on Monday August 17, as well as other Jamatkhanas that have opened in recent days or will be opening in the coming days.

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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.

Ismaili Jamatkhanas in Canada and Around the World Begin to Reopen with Covid-19 Precautions in Place

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/editor BarakahSimerg and Simergphotos

Here are quick links to:

(1) Registration and News about Jamatkhana Openings in Canada;
(2) Subscription to Canadian Ismaili Institution Newsletters, eg. Al-Akhbar; and
(3) Instructions for downloading Apps for Global and Country Wide Official Ismaili Institution News, TV programming etc.

The Ismaili Canada’s iicanada.org portal proudly announces, “Jamatkhana Reopening Welcome Back,” and goes on to state, “As Jamatkhana capacity is limited due to COVID-19 regulations, and to enable contact tracing in the event of a potential infection event, all individuals will need to register online to gain access to Jamatkhana. Pre-registration allows Jamati members to indicate their preferred dates and times of Jamatkhana attendance (including Jamatkhanas not yet open), and be allocated a confirmed spot ahead of time.”

The Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana, known as Toronto’s Headquarters Jamatkhana, shown above as a featured photo, opens on August 17.

Speaking to a close friend in Ottawa, I am told that yesterday’s (Tuesday, August 12, 2020) opening of the Jamatkhana filled it up to the maximum persons permitted in the prayer hall. It felt like a commemorative occasion with the announcement of appointments of new Majlis Mukhi and Kamadia Sahebs as well as Mukhiani and Kamadiani Sahebas. From Vancouver, I get a video from a friend who attends his local Jamatkhana after more than 150 days, since the Jamatkhana closures in mid-March, and he watches the sky with the moon illuminated at 42%. His face glows, and as he reaches his Jamatkhana his heart is filled with joy.

Narratives circulate on the social media and Whatsapp about 1st day experiences in the Jamatkhana after a long long lay-over, especially from Portugal, where Jamatkhanas first opened a few weeks ago.

A comprehensive list of Jamatkhana opening days, registration details etc. for Canada is available at iicanada.org.

Canada Jamatkhana Reopenings Simerg
The.Ismaili image on Jamatkhana reopenings in Canada

For openings and latest announcements of Jamatkhana openings in some other parts of the world please click FRANCE and PORTUGAL. A few USA Jamatkhanas in small centres were scheduled to open several days ago but the openings have been delayed due to a surge of coronavirus infections in numerous states.

Regrettably, the country portals available through the.ismaili community website are not updated with the status of Jamatkhana openings — except for Canada and France, and local Jamati members in various countries are often informed through their respective Jamati institutions newsletters or Apps. For example in Canada the link iicanada provides a list of Jamati newsletters that you may subscribe to. Of particular importance on the list would be the weekly Al-Akhbar for different regions, BC, Alberta, Ontario etc.

It is advisable that readers download their respective country wide institutional Jamati Apps available in their regions or subscribe to the weekly newsletters for the latest information. However, not everyone is familiar about downloading and using apps, and users accessing the internet via notebooks and desktops are put at a disadvantage.

It is important that there is some consistency about how information for different countries is available through the different portal Ismaili websites for non App users. I was personally confused, and would be happy to stand corrected if others don’t find that to be the case.

For everyone totally comfortable about downloading and using Apps, as we live in an App driven world, I would request readers to visit the official Ismaili community page where instructions are provided for downloading the.Ismaili app onto your hand held device. The Ismaili states that “with the app, which is available to download for free from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, users can stay up-to-date on global and national news, receive official messages from Jamati institutions, and watch The Ismaili TV live.”

Among other things, the App will “allow you to receive notifications, including breaking news and official messages from Jamati Institutions.” It will also allow you to see news from other countries around the world by toggling to as many countries as the readers wishes to. Again, please visit the page the.Ismaili app.

Date posted: August 13, 2020.

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Tributes to Ismailis who have passed away during the Covid-19 pandemic: Issue no. 2 of a multipart series

Share memories of members of your family who you have lost during the Coronavirus pandemic, either due to Covid-19 or any other cause. Please write to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com; you must include your full name and contact information. Please read earlier tributes in Issue # 1.

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

Huzurmukhi Madatali Merali Jamal
(Canada)

Madatali Jamal, age 89 (d. .April 2020)

Submitted by Shahida Mamdani-Sunderji, daughter of Madatali Jamal

Huzurmukhi Madatali Merali Jamal (April 30, 1930 – April 13, 2020), husband of Dilshad Jamal for 66 years, father of Shahida Mamdani-Sunderji and Amin Jamal, father-in-law of Begum Jamal, and grandfather of Shelina, Shairoz, Rahim and Aminmohamed, passed away in Ottawa during the spring of 2020, just over two weeks short of his 90th birthday. He was surrounded by his family in volunteers uniform at his funeral.

For the past several years, Mr. Jamal had dedicated his service to the Ottawa Jamat, at both the old and new Jamatkhana locations on Carling Avenue and Conroy Road, respectively. For years he lovingly tendered the Jamatkhana garden on 991 Carling Avenue. In the evenings, Mr. Jamal would present himself regularly as a volunteer at both the Jamatkhanas. His record of Jamatkhana attendance and services as volunteer was impeccable. He was accompanied and supported in his service and Jamatkhana attendance by his loving wife of 66 years, Dislshad. He served the Ottawa Jamat enthusiastically until the very last months of his life, when dementia took over.

Born and raised in Kakumiro, Uganda, he and his family settled in Scotland in October 1972 following the expulsion of Asians from Uganda, decreed by dictator Idi Amin. Huzurmukhi Jamal held positions of Mukhisaheb and Kamdiasaheb during his years in Uganda and Scotland. In 1985, he migrated with his family to Ottawa.

His dedication to the house of Imamat inspired his children to serve in numerous positions in the Jamat. His son Amin and wife Begum served as the Kamadia and Kamadiani of Ottawa Jamat for 4 years, which included the Golden Jubilee period of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Imamat from July 11, 2007 until December 13, 2008. This service of his children filled Mr. Jamal with immense joy and happiness.

He was very fond of Ginanic literature, and instilled the wonderful tradition in his children. His daughter Shahida recites Ginans in Ottawa Jamatkhana regularly. Ambitious for his family, Mr. Jamal always asked them to take on life’s challenges and meet them with courage, hard work and wisdom.

He is deeply missed by all his family members in Canada and around the world, as well as his friends and the entire Ottawa Jamat.

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

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Huzur Mukhiani Razia Jamal
(United Kingdom)

Razia Jamal, Stoke on Trent, Tribute Simerg
Razia Jamal, age 73 (d. May 3, 2020)

Submitted by Navrose Chappell, daughter of Razia Jamal

Razia Jamal, born in Kampala, Uganda, in 1947, passed away peacefully in hospital on Sunday, May 3, 2020 with her three children by her side, her family including her much loved grandchildren, brothers and sisters holding her hand virtually, whilst her favourite Zikr tasbih played in the room.

Before she passed away, she spoke with all of her family, received Chanta (sprinkling of water on face), and the Stoke-on-Trent Mukhisaheb bestowed Dua upon her and the family via a conference call.

Razia served Stoke-on-Trent Jamati Institutions for over 40 years.  She held the position of Jamati Kamadia Saheba for six years and supported her late husband Huzur Mukhisaheb Shiraz Jamal as he undertook the role of Jamati Mukhisaheb.

She was a dedicated volunteer who also undertook the role of Vice Captain and Captain at Stoke-on-Trent Jamatkhana during her service. Razia was an integral part of the Team in securing a permanent building for Stoke-on-Trent Jamatkhana which was founded in 2000.

As the Central Property Management (CPM) Lead for Stoke-on-Trent Jamatkhana for 14 years, Razia was also the first female CPM Lead in Europe.

Since her passing, the family have received many touching tributes conveying how much of an inspiration she was regarding her voluntary work, remarking on her wonderful services, writing how she was a real example of how voluntary service (seva) should be conducted, describing her as a legend, and commenting on her immense dedication to Stoke-on-Trent Jamatkhana.

Razia was a strong, classy, beautiful, thoughtful and humble lady, who loved her children, grandchildren and family immensely. 

She will be fondly remembered by all of her family, friends, Stoke-on-Trent Jamati members, and all the other Ismaili brothers and sisters who she has worked with during her lifetime of seva.   

Razia will be deeply missed every day, and we pray for her soul to rest in eternal peace. Ameen. 

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Alijah Saheba Zubeda Ebrahim Jamal (Canada)

Zubeda Ebrahim Jamal, d. age 83.

Submitted by Shariffa Keshavjee, friend and colleague of Zubeda Jamal

Alijah Saheba Zubeda Ebrahim Jamal’s funeral took place at Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana, in Burnaby, British Columbia, on August 6, 2020. Originally from Kisumu Kenya, she settled in Vancouver, and attended the Darkhana Jamatkhana.

Zubeda and I became friends as she encouraged me to take an active role in the Guiding Movement. In 1959, when I was in Kisumu, Zubeda was a Commissioner of the Girl Guides. I led the Brownies from the Siriguru Singh Saba School. We took the Brownies and Girl Guides camping.

I am grateful to Zubeda for her encouragement because it led me to serve as a girl guide to date.  I remain a Trustee with the Kenya Girl Guides Association and an Honorary Associate with the World Association.

Rest in peace dear Zubeda. Ameen.

Date posted: August 12, 2020.

We welcome tributes from our readers to individuals portrayed in this piece. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Please also see our earlier tributes by clicking  Issue # 1.

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

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