“Symphony of Courage”: A Documentary of the Dramatic Journey of Afghan Music Students From Kabul to Qatar to Lisbon

Voice of America’s (VOA) 52 DOCUMENTARY is a new documentary series that connects you with the global community through human interest stories. The compelling films allow you to explore new places via spectacular visuals and brilliant storytelling, empowering you to engage with the world in new ways. To watch previews of the 52 DOCUMENTARY series, click HERE. We are pleased to share one such documentary, “Symphony of Courage”, that premiered on VOA+ on August 24, 2022.

About Afghanistan Symphony of Courage: The Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM), the first of its kind, closed down in August 2021 as its members faced fear for their futures as musicians under the Taliban. Founded in 2010, ANIM was renowned for its inclusiveness. It became a symbol of a new Afghanistan, with boys and girls studying together and performing to full houses in the United States and Europe. Dr. Ahmad Sarmast, the institute’s founder and leader, fearing that music was not welcome in Afghanistan under Taliban, teamed up with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and worked tirelessly to secure safe passage out of the country for the institute’s nearly 300 students, including its all-female orchestra  whose 250 members range in age from 12 to 20.

“Symphony of Courage” follows the dramatic journey of two students and sisters, Farida and Zohra, as they navigate life in hiding under the Taliban rule, and eventually made their escape to Qatar and eventually to Lisbon, Portugal, where they are free to make music once again. ​

Date posted: August 30, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please click on Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com

There is No One Islamic Interpretation on Ethics of Abortion, but the Belief in God’s Mercy and Compassion is a Crucial Part of any Consideration

By ZAHRA AYUBI, Dartmouth College

As a scholar of Islamic ethics, I’m often asked, “What does Islam say about abortion?” — a question that has become even more salient since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed 50 years of constitutional protection for the right to get an abortion in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling on June 24, 2022.

This question really needs to be reframed, because it implies a singular view. Islam isn’t monolithic, and there is no single Islamic attitude about abortion. The answer to the question depends on what kinds of Islamic sources, scriptural, legal or ethical, are applied to this contemporary issue by people of varying levels of authority, expertise or religious observance.

Muslims have had a long-standing, rich relationship with science, and specifically, the practice of medicine. This has yielded multiple interpretations of right and wrong when it comes to the body, including ideas about and practices surrounding pregnancy.

Islamic frameworks for thinking about abortion

The typical framing of the question of whether abortion ought to be legal hinges upon American Christian debates about when life begins. Muslims who get abortions don’t always ask “when does life begin?” to ascertain Islamic positions on the matter. Rather, as my research in the Abortion and Religion project and forthcoming book “Women as Humans” has found, Muslims who get abortions generally consider under what circumstances abortion would be permitted in the Islamic tradition.

Further, the Quranic verses and hadith – recorded sayings of the Prophet Muhammad — are not about abortion per se, nor the moment when life begins or whether abortion is akin to taking a life. Instead, they are descriptions for people to reflect on God’s miracle of what happens in the womb, or rahm in Arabic, which is part of God’s mercy and compassion.

It is often a deeply theological discussion about human actions in context of God’s will, omnipotence and omniscience when it comes to life and death. The dialogue often yields answers that are specific to the person’s cosmic and religious beliefs about God’s nature and mercy and their circumstances in the abortion decision-making process.

Many contemporary Muslim jurists and bioethicists point to specific verses in the Quran as well as hadiths with descriptions of the stages of human gestation that are mapped onto the pregnancy timeline in the contemporary abortion debate. The often-cited Quranic verses are 23:12-14: “And indeed We created humankind from an essence of clay. Then We placed him as a sperm-drop in a resting place firm; then We created the sperm-drop into a clinging substance, then We created the clinging substance into an embryonic lump, then We created from the embryonic lump bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, then We produced it as another creation. So blessed is God, the best of creators.”

Then there is the hadith in which Prophet Muhammad describes what happens in the womb: “The human being is brought together in the mother’s womb for forty days in the form of a drop of fluid, and then becomes a clot of thick blood for a similar period, and then a piece of flesh for a similar period. … Then the soul is breathed into him. …”

These scriptural traditions divide the pregnancy timeline into stages. Muslim jurists consider the 120-day mark of ensoulment (40 days x 3 stages), when God is believed to blow life into the fetus, as the point at which the fetus becomes a legal entity with financial rights. The fetus is believed to have inheritance rights; it can leave an inheritance to its siblings or other kin if it dies, or provide its parents with blood money in the event of a violent action against the mother.

While reference to the scriptural tradition might be enough for many Muslims, some might look to the Muslim legal tradition for precedence. Premodern jurists’ inquiries into stage of pregnancy were mainly to settle questions such as what inheritance laws might come into effect in the event of fetal death. They weren’t asking when life begins to settle abortion questions. And even as they touched on the question of legal personhood of a fetus, they ruled on a case-by-case basis rather than through blanket pronouncements.

Contemporary jurisprudence

Most Muslim jurists and bioethicists today argue that abortion before 120 days of pregnancy is permissible on certain grounds and after this term in cases of mortal danger to the mother. When it comes to abortion, the Islamic legal principle of preservation of life is universally interpreted to mean the mother’s life. Other grounds for abortion vary depending on school of thought but include health concerns for mother or fetus and sometimes include unintended pregnancy, depending on the circumstances of how the pregnancy came about.

Since maternal health can be a nebulous category, acceptance of mental health reasons for abortion may depend on whether people take mental health itself seriously. Concerns might include the mental capacity of a mother to care for herself or a child, or potential suicidal thoughts that put the mother’s life at risk.

Financial affordability is generally frowned upon as a reason for abortion because God is seen as provider, but still accepted in some schools of thought, as the tradition generally promotes mercy above else.

Regardless of contemporary jurists’ positions on the subject, however, Muslims who pursue abortion often do so based on their broad Islamic understanding of God’s compassion rather than in consultation with religious authorities who might act as gatekeepers.

American Muslims post-Dobbs

Part of Islamic discourse’s nuance about abortion is the result of a long relationship between medicine and Islamic thought. For American Muslims, that history is overshadowed by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the heavy dominance and influence of one Christian view as the only American view on abortion.

There is often a global assumption, which is held by many Muslims as well, that Muslim rules about gender and women’s rights are stricter than dominant Christian American ones. There have been many problematic comparisons of the Dobbs decision and Sharia. Some have called it “Christian Sharia” to characterize the ruling and abortion bans nationwide as religious, yet in doing so they draw on anti-Muslim sentiment and stereotypes of Islam as uniquely gender oppressive.

When American Muslims themselves mirror evangelical Christian views on abortion, however, it may be a form of virtue signaling or out of ignorance of Muslims’ rich historical relationship with medicine.

Even in so-called religiously conservative Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, laws on abortion are much more liberal than in U.S. states banning abortion. Legally, not only is the life of the mother always prioritized, but because the idea that ensoulment occurs at 120 days is taken seriously, abortion before that point may, and often does, take place in a variety of circumstances such as rape, serial births, mental health issues, untimeliness of pregnancy, etc.

Many American Muslims are speaking in support of the right to abortion. Organizations such as the American Muslim Bar Association, Heart to Grow and Muslim Advocates have issued statements about abortion in Islam and published information on American Muslims’ rights to abortion. The one prevailing commonality among these and diverging Islamic views on abortion is the Islamic concept of God’s mercy and compassion.

Date posted: August 28, 2022.

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Source of article and author

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. To read Zahra Ayubi’s article at source, please click The Conversation – Original Article.

Zahra Ayubi,
Zahra Ayubi

About the write: Zahra Ayubi is a scholar of women and gender in premodern and modern Islamic ethics.  She specializes in feminist philosophy of Islam and has published on gendered concepts of ethics, justice, and religious authority, and on Muslim feminist thought and American Muslim women’s experiences. Her first book, Gendered Morality: Classical Islamic Ethics of the Self, Family, and Society (Columbia, 2019) rethinks the tradition of Islamic philosophical ethics from a feminist critical perspective. Developing a lens for a feminist philosophy of Islam, Ayubi analyzes constructions of masculinity, femininity, and gender relations in classic works of philosophical ethics by Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali, Nasir-ad Din Tusi, and Jalal ad-Din Davani. She interrogates how these thinkers conceive of the ethical human being as an elite male within a hierarchical cosmology built on the exclusion of women and nonelites. She calls for a philosophical turn in the study of gender in Islam based on resources for gender equality that are unlocked by feminist engagement with the Islamic ethical tradition.

FEEDBACK

Simerg invites ethicists, bioethicists as well as scholars within the Ismaili Muslim community to respond to this piece or submit their articles on the subject of abortion in Islam. We also invite our readers to provide their thoughtful feedback on Zahra Ayubi’s piece by clicking on Leave a comment. Please cite specific material from Ismaili Muslim and other related Islamic traditions that may be relevant to the subject.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Readings on His Highness the Aga Khan: Part 1 in a Weekly 5 Part Series

Featured photo above: The Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, the oldest humanities research institute in Canada, on May 20, 2016 conferred an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters upon His Highness the Aga Khan, in recognition of his work to advance, and advocate for, pluralistic societies across the globe. Richard Alway, Praeses of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies congratulates the Aga Khan upon conferring the honorary degree. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

THE AGA KHAN’S DUAL MANDATE IS TO INTERPRET ISLAM AND TO IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF HIS ISMAILI FOLLOWERS AND THE POPULATIONS AMONG WHOM THEY LIVE

Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
The Aga Khan

Times of India: What is our most precious asset as human beings?

The Aga Khan: A value system that is both time-resistant and time-adaptable.

Times of India: And the worst?

The Aga Khan: Killing, indeed all violence. Going by the record of the last 50 years, this is what offends me most.” (READ MORE )

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
M. Hamilton Morgan

In this vast tapestry of the interaction of Muslims with each other, and with other cultures and faiths, there is one tradition that unfailingly continues the progressive heritage of classical Islam — profoundly intellectual, open, tolerant, pacific — and in particular one leader who has made it especially attuned to the many difficulties of the world today. That would be Ismailism and its revered Imam, the current Aga Khan IV — Michael Hamilton Morgan (READ MORE)

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
James Wolfensohn

“….It is the extraordinary sense of humanity that he [the Aga Khan] has. The great depth of real feeling for real people wherever they find themselves in society. He is a holy man. He is the leader of his faith. He’s a man who represents the very best in Islam.” — James Wolfensohn (READ MORE)

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
Andrew Kosorok

As Imam for the Nizari Ismailis, the Aga Khan’s responsibility and sacred calling is to provide for the security of his people, guide them in interpretation of the Faith, and do everything possible to ensure for them a worthwhile quality of life….the Aga Khan sees his responsibility in a more expansive way.  If good can be done for the sake of the Ismaili family, that good is also extended to the areas within which the Ismailis are found — and by extension, to the world — Andrew Kosorok (READ MORE)

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
Mohamed Arkoun

“If we speak with our children with heresiographic mind we are totally lost. We are totally away from the humanistic representation like His Highness the Aga Khan is insisting to have among us. So this is a very important issue on which we have all to reflect and to develop our endeavor.” — Mohamed Arkoun (READ MORE)

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Readings on the Aga Khan Simerg and Barakah
Nizar Motani

The Aga Khan projects Islam’s best principles and practices. Consequently, many like-minded institutions have rewarded him with an impressive range of honors, elevating him to the status of a distinguished, globally respected visionary leader — Nizar Motani (READ MORE)

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Date posted: August 24, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please click on Leave a comment. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com

Artistic Expressions: The Covid-19 Lockdown Inspired Skin Surgeon Nizarali Makan to Take Up Painting – We Have a Selection of His Works

My name is Nizarali R.V. Makan. I am 73 years old and a recently retired Dermatologist and Skin Surgeon. I was born in Zanzibar, and attended the Aga Khan Nursery, Primary and Secondary Schools there, followed by post-secondary education in Dar es Salaam. I received my college, medical school education and postgraduate specialty and fellowship training in the United States, and practiced medicine for nearly forty years in Orange County, California, and Bellingham, Washington.

Ismaili artist series by Simerg
Nizarali Makan

I started painting during the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown, never having used a paint brush before, except for a single course in painting at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, B.C.

Over the past several decades I have been blessed to serve Ismaili institutions in the United States and Canada. As a young physician in the pre-TKN days (1987), I served as guest consultant in dermatology at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, and visited Gilgit and Hunza under the auspices of the Aga Khan Health Services Pakistan. In latter years, I served as both Regional and National Convener for the Institute of Ismaili Studies London. My wife Nazira is from Kampala, Uganda, and we have three children. My hobbies, besides painting, include piano and astrophotography. I am pleased to share a selection of my modest works of art with readers of Simerg, and invite you to view more of my paintings on my Facebook page.

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Please click on images for enlargements

Paintings by Nizarali Makan

Zanzibar street by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“My Street.” Acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

Artist’s note on “My Street”: I was born and grew up in Stone Town, Zanzibar, down the narrow alley from the Ismaili Jamatkhana, and a stone’s throw from the Bohra Masjid and the Mehfil e-Abbas of the Khoja Shia Ithnasheri community. That is why my late mother, who passed away at the age of fifty-two when I was 15 years old, used to make fun of me when I was little — that my faith was Ismaili, my shortcut to the other side of the Zanzibar streets went through the alley of the Mehfil-e Abbas, and with a Maulidi cap at Idd I could easily pass as a Bohra.

Parents Ismaili Artistic expressions by Nizar Makan Simerg
“Parents”, acrylic on canvas, 24” x 18”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Boats cacophony of colours by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“Cacophony of Colours”, acrylic on canvas, 18” x 24”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Bride by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“The Bride”, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 16”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Clay by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“Clay“, acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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My children Ismaili Artistic expressions by Nizar Makan Simerg
“Children”, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 16”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Taj Mahal by Nizar Makan Ismaili artistic expressions simerg
“Story of Love”, acrylic on canvas, 20” x 16”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2020).

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Cosmic communication by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“Cosmic communication”, acrylic on canvas, 16″ x 12”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2020).

Artist’s note on “Cosmic communication”: It is said that God endowed Prophet Dawud (David), a shepherd, with the most beautiful and melodious voice, such that when he sang the Psalms, birds and animals would pause to listen. This painting is a rather simplified representation and reminder of that mystical communication and cosmic bond between all of God’s creatures. After all, we are all interconnected and made up of the same stardust, and our physical bodies are like garments to be shed some day.

Venice by Nizar Makan Simerg Ismaili artistic expression
“Venice, the city of romance, drama and intrigue”, acrylic on canvas, 18” x 24”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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“Rocks shaped by Water” by Nizar Makan, artistic expression by Ismailis, Simerg
“Rocks shaped by Water”, acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

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Aga Khan Development Network, AKDN logos by Nizar Makan Ismaili artistic expressions Simerg
“AKDN”, acrylic on canvas, 16” x 20”, by Nizar Makan, Burnaby B.C. (2021).

A note by the artist on “AKDN”: Each AKDN, Jamati and Apex agency or entity within the Ismaili Imamat has its own unique logo that powerfully represents its goal and objective. In this painting, I have sought to artistically render the logos that I have come across over the past several years onto the Ismaili Flag. I hope to provide meaning of logos in a future piece. Hyperlinks are provided for logos whose meanings have already appeared in Simerg or its sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos.

Column 1 (top to down): Aga Khan Park (Toronto, Canada), Focus Humanitarian Assistance, Aga Khan Health Services, Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance; and Aga Khan Music Awards;

Column 2: Aga Khan Trust for Culture, The Ismaili Centre London (UK), University of Central Asia, The Ismaili Centre Lisbon (Portugal), and Aga Khan Agency for Habitat;

Column 3: Personal Standard or Crest of Mawlana Hazar Imam (top portion), The Ismaili Centre Vancouver (Canada); The Ismaili Magazine, Crest (repeat), and Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development;

Column 4: Personal Standard or Crest of Mawlana Hazar Imam (full), and World Partnership Walk (an initiative of The Aga Khan Foundation);

Column 5: Crest (repeat), The Ismaili Centre Dubai (United Arab Emirates), information about the logo not known, and the Seal of the Aga Khan University (also see HERE with explanations of 3 other logos);

Columns 6: Aga Khan Museum (Toronto), The Ismaili Centre Dushanbe (Tajikistan), Aga Khan Foundation, The Ismaili Centre Toronto, and Aga Khan Centre London (UK); and

Column 7: The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London (UK), Aga Khan Education Services, Aga Khan Planning and Building Services, The Aga Khan Academies, and Aga Khan Award for Architecture.

External Links: For more works of art by Nizarali Makan please visit his Facebook page.

Date posted: August 16, 2022.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears at the bottom of this page or click on LEAVE A COMMENT. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

The editor invites Ismaili artists to submit a selection of their paintings and other works of art for publication in Simerg. Please submit images, preferably a maximum 8 objects in Jpeg (1200 x 900) along with your profile to the editor Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Emerald Ponds, a Grizzly Family of Four, Jagged Mountains and More: An Unforgettable Day on Hwy 40 in Alberta’s Kananaskis Country

After about an hour’s driving (appx 80 kms) from Calgary on the Trans Canada Hwy you are ready for a lifetime experience as you drive through the paved Alberta Hwy 40 or the Kananaskis Trail. Malik Merchant has seen wildlife on the path on every trip he has made over the last few weeks; he now shares photographs that he took on his most recent trip. Please click HERE or on the image(s) below for his latest story, and also visit his photoblog Simergphotos for more of his beautiful experiences in and around Calgary.

Grizzlies Kananaskis Country, Hwy 40
Grizzlies, Kananaskis Trail (Alberta Hwy 40). Please click on photo for story and more photos.
Wedge Pond, Kananaskis Country, Hwy 40
Wedge Pond, Alberta Hwy 40. Please click on photo for story and more photos.

Date posted: August 15, 2022.

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Gifts from Amin by Shezan Muhammedi synopsis on Simerg

Forthcoming Book: “Gifts From Amin – Ugandan Asian Refugees in Canada” by Dr. Shezan Muhammedi

The latest issue (August-September 2022) of Canada’s History magazine, established in 1920 as The Beaver, carries an excellent 8 page article by Ottawa’s Dr. Shezan Muhammedi under the title “Sitting on Fire” based on his forthcoming book “Gifts From Amin – Ugandan Asian Refugees in Canada,” which is due o be released in September 2022 by the University of Manitoba Press. Shezan holds a Ph.D from the University of Western Ontario and is a policy analyst with the Canadian Federal Government and an adjunct research professor in the Department of History at Carleton University in Ottawa.

August 4, 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of President Idi Amin’s announcement in 1972 that all Ugandan residents of South Asian descent, whether citizens or not, had ninety days to leave the country, creating an international humanitarian crisis. Among those affected by the decree, which came into effect a few days later on August 9, 1972, were Shezan’s own mother and family who arrived in Canada in the fall of 1972 along with thousands of other Ugandan Asian refugees. Shezan’s piece in Canada’s History may be accessed by subscribers of the magazine.

The University of Manitoba has put out the following brief on Shezan’s Gifts From Amin:

Giftys from Amin by Shezan Muhammedi University of Manitoba Press
Gifts From Amin: Ugandan Asian Refugees in Canada” by Shezan Muhammedi. Published by the University of Manitoba Press, forthcoming (September 2022), pp. 288.

“In August 1972, military leader and despot Idi Amin expelled Asian Ugandans from the country, professing to return control of the economy to “Ugandan citizens.” Within ninety days, 50,000 Ugandans of South Asian descent were forced to leave and seek asylum elsewhere; nearly 8,000 resettled in Canada. This major migration event marked the first time Canada accepted a large group of predominantly Muslim, non-European, non-white refugees.

“Shezan Muhammedi’s Gifts from Amin documents how these women, children, and men — including doctors, engineers, business leaders, and members of Muhammedi’s own family — responded to the threat in Uganda and rebuilt their lives in Canada. Building on extensive archival research and oral histories, Muhammedi provides a nuanced case study on the relationship between public policy, refugee resettlement, and assimilation tactics in the twentieth century.

“As the numbers of forcibly displaced people around the world continue to rise, Muhammedi’s analysis of policymaking and refugee experience is eminently relevant. The first major oral history project dedicated to the stories of Ugandan Asian refugees in Canada, Gifts from Amin explores the historical context of their expulsion from Uganda, the multiple motivations behind Canada’s decision to admit them, and their resilience over the past fifty years.”

The book may be pre-ordered at Indigo.ca and Amazon.ca.

Date posted: August 14, 2022.

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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 for beautiful photographs on diverse themes including nature and culture. Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Ismaili Centre Houston Imara Aga Khan Simerg

The Ismaili Center Houston: Reflections by Prince Amyn Aga Khan and Mayor Sylvester Turner

“The Ismaili Center is intended to be a resource for all Houstonians as a place to come together with local, national, and international partners to enhance the vibrant nature and rich cultural tapestry of this city” — Prince Amyn Aga Khan (READ MORE ON BARAKAH)

Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner introduces Prince Amyn Aga Khan to Houston Police Department Chief Troy Finner. Please click on photo to read report.

“The Ismaili Center Houston will be a magnificent building, both physically — with its landmark architecture, picturesque gardens, and ingenious design — and societally speaking, through its impact on Houston, across Texas, and throughout the United States” — Honourable Sylvester Turner, Mayor of Houston (READ MORE ON BARAKAH)

Prince Amyn Aga Khan in Houston to review the development of the Ismaili Center Houston
Prince Amyn Aga Khan is joined by Greater Houston Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey, and Performing Arts Houston CEO Meg Booth as they hear remarks from Mayor Sylvester Turner. Please click on photo to read report.

Date posted: August 13, 2022.

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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 for beautiful photographs on diverse themes including nature and culture. Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

August 11, 2022: Watch Live Event from Houston – Prince Amyn Aga Khan on the New Ismaili Center Commissioned by His Highness the Aga Khan

Ismaili Center Houston

Prince Amyn Aga Khan has arrived in Houston to review the progress of the new Ismaili Centre, commissioned by his older brother, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims. Shortly after his arrival, the Prince was bestowed with an Honorary Citizenship of the City of Houston by Houston’s Mayor, the Honorable Sylvester Turner.

On Thursday, August 11, the Prince will be joined by Mayor Turner, at a luncheon with civil society leaders and elected officials, where they will share reflections on the Ismaili Center. The event will be streamed live on the Ismaili TV at the following times:

Please click on image for enlargement

Date posted: August 10, 2022.

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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 for beautiful photographs on diverse themes including nature and culture.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

The Aga Khan as a Junior at Harvard: “My College Room Mate Rules 10 Million”

His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims graduated from Harvard University in 1959. History. Photograph: © Hank Walker/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images. Please click on photo for article by John Fell Stevenson.

By John Fell Stevenson

“Karim impressed me when first we met as freshmen because he had a purpose — he wanted to help people. It wasn’t adolescent sentimentality or showing off: he meant it; and he has meant it ever since….I was able to observe K’s study habits at close quarters. He worked hard, was almost always the last to bed and first to rise. When he was assigned a paper, we would seldom see him except when he rushed into the living room to get more books. I took one course with K that year and I must confess that I came to rely heavily on his excellent notes” — READ MORE

Date posted: August 5, 2022.

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Please See Our Table of Contents and Visit Simerg’s Two Sister Websites

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 for beautiful photographs on diverse themes including nature and culture.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

“Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Encounters of Hope from Kampala to Vancouver” by Jalal Jaffer; Reviewed by Atlanta’s Nizar Motani

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Memories of a Ugandan Refugee: Encounters of Hope from Kampala to Vancouver By Jalal Jaffer, Q.C.
336 pp. FriesenPress, 2022
US$ 29.99 (Hardcover), US$ 19.99 (Paperback) and US$ 6.99 (eBook) as listed on the publisher’s website FriesenPress; also available at Amazon.ca (Hardcover, C$ 33.70; Paperback, C$ 26.57; Kindle C$ 8.91); and at Indigo.ca (as a Kobo Ebook for C$ 8.99). Note: Various formats of the book may sell for less. Please also see Jalal Jaffer’s website for more options to purchase.
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[Nizar Motani’s review of Jalal Jaffer’s Memoirs comes to us for publication close to the 50th anniversary of the announcement on August 4, 1972 by Idi Amin to expel Asians from Uganda; the decree took effect on August 9th. The early major settlement of the first group of Ugandan Asians in Canada has been listed by Carleton University’s special Uganda Asian’s project as follows: Vancouver (1,034); Montreal (480); Toronto (440); Winnipeg (205); and Ottawa (124) — Ed.]


BOOK REVIEW BY NIZAR MOTANI, PhD

Being a diarist since his schooldays; a gifted writer and a poet; a voracious reader; a disciplined life of service, gratitude and contentment with its rewards; and a firm belief that the Divine hand has always been on his shoulder, Jalal Jaffer would be expected to chronicle an exceptional memoir. And he has done it splendidly!

His life story is centered on three overlapping, intertwining, love stories, which beautify and fortify each other. The first love story is about the wonderful family he was born into and his abiding deeply reciprocal love for his parents and eight siblings.

Besides his biological family, he developed a special bond with his spiritual father, the present 49th hereditary Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan IV. However, its foundation was serendipitously laid in his predecessor’s spiritual rein, when the 48th Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan III, named him Jalaluddin, at age sixteen days, during his visit to Kisumu, Kenya, in 1945!

The final love story is about his own biological family, in Vancouver, Canada, after his marriage with Shamshad P.K. Pirani, which remarkably was performed by the 49th Imam, in February 1972, at Kampala, Uganda, Jamatkhana — just six months before Idi Amin’s mass Asian Expulsion order of August 4.

Jalaluddin’s name got shortened to Jalal, who has “tried to traverse through life with prayers and conviction that the Divine hand is, and has always been, on my shoulders to help me, guide me and protect me” (p. 1X). The Divine hand can be seen throughout his autobiography. It came to his rescue when he seriously injured his left hand in an accident, at age six, helping to turn this tragedy into a lifelong triumph, which enabled him to excel at everything; it was at the hotel in Bangkok where two young students he kindly invited into his hotel room to learn about their lives and dreams for the future,  instead they drugged and robbed him but could not kidnap or kill him; it was evident at the beach in Karachi where he and his young son, Jamil, could have drowned; and throughout his and his family’s lives.

The Foreword by Dr. Farouk Mitha and The Prologue by the author whet the readers’ appetite for the thirty-three chapters that follow. In the interest of brevity this review will highlight only the most salient aspects of the three love stories, mentioned earlier.

His abiding love for his families (parents’ and his own) is poetically portrayed in Chapter 29: Loving Family and Friends, and Chapter 32: Encounters. ”My encounter with my parents must rank as the most impactful experience and the highest form of learning in my life” (p 299). His biological father passed away at the age of 96. At the lunch after the funeral, Alwaez Sultanali Nazerali delivered a poignant eulogy describing Ali Jaffer Esmail as a saintly person: “an angel in human form”. Jalal has beautifully translated and summarized it in English (p. 297).

Memoirs of a Ugandan Refugee Jalal Jaffer
“Memories of a Ugandan Refugee” by Jalal Jaffer, 336 pp., FriesenPress, First Edition 2022. Amazon.ca (Hardcover, C$33.70; Paperback, C$ 26.57, Kindle C$ 8.91); and at Indigo.ca (as a Kobo Ebook for C$ 8.99); book may sell for less. Also, visit the website of Jalal Jaffer.

Since their auspicious February 20, 1972 marriage, Shamshad, his beloved “Sham”, and the author, Jalal, have been on many adventurous honeymoons. In a poem titled The Lioness’ Journey, he shares his special love and appreciation for Sham, his bride, wife and partner (p.178-180). Such poetic expressions of his love, for all, appear frequently enhancing the value of this alluring autobiography.

An equivalent of a professional knighthood, Queen’s Counsel (Q.C.), was conferred on him in 2016. It was a great honor and he can and does proudly exhibit it. However, his heart was given to seva (service), in any capacity, at any level, to his murshid (his spiritual leader, the Aga Khan) and to his fellow murids (devotees).

To his amazement, he was blessed with eighteen years of seva at local, national, and international levels (1987-2005). “I was far from exhausted, but my cup was full. I had been blessed to have had these enormously important leadership positions for such a long period…shukar” (p. 210).

For his seva in “these enormously important leadership positions,” which were Imamat-appointed, he reaped enormous “once in a lifetime” meva (reward/blessing, recognition): an invitation to the majestic Diamond Jubilee Homage Ceremony at Aiglemont, France, on July 11, 2017, followed by special seating at the Darbar in Lisbon, Portugal, on July 11, 2018. Both these historic events inevitably moved Jalal to capture his feelings and thoughts in two trademark poems.

Chapter 24: Politics, describes his “insatiable appetite for world affairs and politics” from his childhood days. Of all the conflicts and turmoil engulfing the world, he was sufficiently outraged by the Israeli brutality and inhumanity towards the defenseless Palestinians in the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip. This led him to chide the “chosen people’ in a “short poem” called I Wonder (p. 220-221). It is a subtle  poem but readers will judge its “length” as Jalal’s concept of “short” and “a few words” is uniquely his own!

Two paragraphs to indicate his and his bride’s love, friendship, and respect for their friends will end this not-so-short a review. Chapter 31 captures the astonishing natural beauty of Khorog, Tajikistan, and the surrounding Pamir Mountains and some of its inhabitants. They were guests of Shamim and Iqbal Talib who for almost a decade were engaged in boosting the local economy and had established a spacious second home with ideal accommodation for the rare guests who venture out to Khorog. The Talibs’ unforgettable hospitality competed with the high mountains, and the Jaffers left with fabulous memories and new knowledge of this exotic Ismaili enclave.

However, on another occasion of honoring friendships, he was distinctly derailed when some friends asked him to emcee the wedding of their children. He remembers saying “a few words” that he has recounted over seven meandering pages (271-278)! His captive audience may have endured or even enjoyed his “few words” but his readers could skim through this aberration and enjoy the rest of this memorable memoir.

Date posted: July 30, 2022.
Last updated: July 31, 2022.

Correction: In our earlier version of this post, the title of the book was incorrectly referred to as “Memoirs of a Ugandan Refugee….”; the correct title is “Memories of a Ugandan Refugee….” which is now reflected in this latest update of the post.

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Contributor

Nizar A. Motani has a doctorate from the University of London (SOAS) in African history, specializing in British colonial rule in East Africa. He has been a college professor at Bowdoin College (Brunswick, ME) and Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI). He was the first Publication Officer at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (London, UK). He now lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dr. Motani’s previous pieces on Simerg and its sister website Barakah are: 

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