Discovery of Abbasid and Fatimid gold coins in jug in Old Jerusalem reflect shifting political power of the 2 dynasties

“The profile of the coins found in the juglet are a near perfect reflection of the historical events. This is a time of great political change as control of Israel shifts from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, which sits in Baghdad, Iraq, to ​​its Shiite rivals, the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa.” — Robert Cole

[The following compiled piece includes material released by the Israel Antiques Authority. Also, the website livescience has prepared a short video highlighting the discovery of the Abbasid and Fatimid coins. Please watch the video HERE — Ed.]

In 2015, in a post entitled Sea of Gold, Simerg provided a link to a special on-line exhibit about the discovery by a group of divers of a hoard of Fatimid gold dinars lying on the seabed in the ancient harbor in Caesarea National Park. The divers alerted marine archaeologists of the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA), who conducted a salvage excavation at the site and recovered more than 2,580 Fatimid coins of pure (24 karat) gold weighing a total of 7.5 kg.

The IAA then noted as follows: “The coins are of the finest 24-karat gold (96-99% pure gold). They lay on the sea-bed for a 1000 years but required almost no cleaning, as pure gold cannot corrode. Particularly important for the Fatimid rulers, who were Shi’ites, is the mention of Ali, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law considered by the Shi’a as the first Imam after Muhammad, as ‘God’s intimate’. Also, the name of the mint and the date of issue appear on these coins, making them extremely important historical documents.”

Just over a month ago, on November 9 2020, IAA archaeologists reported another very significant find at a site where an elevator is being built at the Old City of Jerusalem in the Jewish quarter to make the Western Wall more accessible.

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Excavation of a jug containing 4 coins from the Abbasid and Fatimid periods
The juglet and the four gold coins found recently in Old Jerusalem. Photo: Dafna Gazit / Israel Antiquities Authority.

David Gellman, the director of the excavation observed, “We seem to have found an ancient savings bank!” He was actually referring to a small pottery urn containing four pure gold coins more than a thousand years old that was found by the inspector of the Israel Antiquities Authority, Yevgenia Kapil, during preliminary work that was carried out at the site during the holidays. Gellman says that when he emptied the jug a few weeks later, the four glittering gold coins along with sand were washed into his hands. This was the first time that Gellman, as an archaeologist, had discovered gold and he was immensely excited by the discovery.

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spot where the gold-filled jug was found opposite the Western Wall Plaza. Photo: Yoli Schwartz/Israel Antiquities Authority.
Excavation director David Gellman with the Israel Antiquities Authority points to the spot where the gold-filled jug was found opposite the Western Wall Plaza in Old Jerusalem. Photo: Yoli Schwartz / Israel Antiquities Authority.

Dr. Robert Cole, an expert on coins at the IAA, noted as follows about the four coins: “The coins were preserved in excellent condition and could be read immediately even without being cleaned. The profile of the coins found in the juglet are a near perfect reflection of the historical events. The coins date to a relatively brief period, from the late 940s to the 970s CE.  This is a time of great political change as control of Israel shifts from the Sunni Abbasid caliphate, which sits in Baghdad, Iraq, to ​​its Shiite rivals, the Fatimid dynasty of North Africa, which in those days conquered Egypt, Syria and Israel. These historical events are reflected almost perfectly in the distribution of the coins discovered in the jug: two gold dinars were minted in Ramla, under the rule of the Caliph Matia (946 – 974 CE) and the governor on his behalf, Abu al-Qassem ibn al-Ihshid Onuhar (946 – 961 CE). The other two gold coins were minted in Cairo, by the Fatimid rulers al-Mu’iz (953 – 975 CE), and his successor — al-Aziz (975 – 996 CE).”

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Examination of coins unearthed in Jerusalem
IAA coin expert Robert Kool examines one of the gold coins found in a small pottery urn. The coins were preserved in excellent condition and could be read immediately even without being cleaned. Photo: Shai Halevi / Israel Antiquities Authority.

He also explained that “the four gold dinars was a considerable sum of money for most of the population, who lived under difficult conditions at the time. It was equal to the monthly salary of a minor official, or four months’ salary for a common laborer.” This is the first time in fifty years that gold coins from the Fatimid period have been discovered in Jerusalem’s Old City. The previous find of 5 coins and jewellery hoards from the Fatimid period took place after the Six Day War south of the Temple Mount, not far from the recent new discovery.

Date posted: December 22, 2020.

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Rays of Hope: Greetings from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Blessings from the Aga Khan, the Covid-19 Vaccine and the Inspiring Crescent Moon

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor SimergBarakah, and Simergphotos)

Prime Minister’s Greetings

I am among the millions of Canadian who have received “Season’s Greetings” from the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, and his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau. Their message in a card filled with family photos reads: “Let’s cherish the bonds of love, family and friendship, near or far. We are one big Canadian family. We will have each other’s backs and hearts in the moments when it’s needed the most. We will pull through together!”

Click on photos for enlargements

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with members of his family. Credit: Greeting card
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau with members of his family. Credit: Greeting card issued by Justin Trudeau; collage prepared by Simerg / Malik Merchant.

I thank the Prime Minster for the greetings as well as for seeking to ease the burden for millions of Canadians who are living through one of the most challenging periods in the nation’s history. He has tried to work across party lines both federally and provincially as well as with mayors around the country to bring relief and hope during the Covid-19 pandemic. Through his spontaneous briefings, he has kept the country united. He has recognized the work of the front-end workers, whose spirit and dedication for our well-being during the pandemic will remain in our hearts forever.

The Aga Khan’s Messages

In addition to the Prime Minister’s message, within my own Ismaili community, His Highness the Aga Khan, or Mawlana Hazar Imam as we affectionately and respectfully address him, has sent us messages also known as Talikas, throughout the pandemic year. He has given is guidance, blessed us with his prayers and singled out volunteers for their extraordinary work, offering them his “best affectionate blessings.” In the latest message on the occasion of his 84th birthday which was celebrated on December 13, 2020 by millions of Ismailis, either remotely or in person in Jamatkhanas that were open, His Highness referred to the encouraging development of vaccines and asked his community members to “be guided by the advice and directives of their health authorities to benefit from the protection these vaccines will provide.” I am confident that the Ismaili community will seriously participate in the vaccination program. It was gratifying to watch the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, created by the husband-and-wife team of Dr. Ugur Sahin and Dr. Özlem Türeci, being administered to long-term care workers at the Ottawa Hospital’s civic campus on the morning of Tuesday, December 15, an occasion which prompted a visit from the Prime Minister.

Mawlana Hazar Imam Online?

In addition to the Talika’s that are now being read by Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike, my hope is that we will soon be able to hear and see the Imam speaking and addressing about the challenges that we have gone through, and on “building for the future from a position of strength and wisdom.” With Jamati visits now possibly a thing of the past for sometime to come, the digital media offers us the opportunity to see and hear the Imam at opportune times to make that connection even stronger. My own daughter, when she was a student some years ago, and other youth recognizing that Mawlana Hazar Imam cannot be travelling to every Jamat in the world on a regular basis, raised the possibility of the youth of the Jamat being particularly singled out and being spoken to by the Imam for his guidance on numerous aspects of their lives on an annual basis via an online platform. This interaction with their beloved Imam would help increase their awareness about their future responsibilities and paths to success, as well as their greater and more meaningful involvement with the Jamat and its institutions.

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A view of the Ismaili Jamatkhana dome across the ponds of the Aga Khan Park, with the sun setting in the west end of Toronto. A jet plane leaves a white trail in the sky and, in this photo, cloud cover does not provide a clear view of the crescent moon. See next photo.Photo: Simerg / Malik Merchant.

A Walk for Inspiration and Hope

Buoyed by the message of hope in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s most recent Talika and the Prime Minister’s greeting, I decided to walk over to my favourite place in the world — none other than the site of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Park that has added value to my life over the past several months of the pandemic. The grounds were empty of people. There was a dusting of snow on the ground, while some parts of the USA had already seen several inches of snow. Armed with a compass, I knew the 3 day old new moon, still in its beautiful crescent state, was exactly above me but cloud cover prevented me from seeing it clearly. Patience is a good virtue to have, and we have all built that over the pandemic months.

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Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana Dome Simerg
The crescent moon emerges from the clouds over the dome of the Toronto Headquarters Ismaili Jamatkhana located at 49 Wynford Drive. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

The Crescent Moon and Covid-19 Impacts

After about 30 minutes, as the clouds drifted away, the crescent moon came to my full view. Being in the earlier stages of development, the crescent moon reminded me of the blessed night of Chandraat (new moon night) that fell on Monday, December 14th, and which Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, the 48th Imam, had told us would bring us spiritual peace and happiness. Some prayers on the blessed night of Chandraat are also dedicated to the souls of the deceased. That reminded me of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talika of December 11 for the occasion of his birthday in which he gave his best loving blessings for the souls of all his ruhani (deceased) spiritual children, and his prayers for the eternal peace and rest of their souls. My thoughts turned to the thousands of souls who have departed this world during the pandemic, most often without the presence of their families around them or not having ceremonies that they would normally have had.

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Scotiabnak Wynford Drive and Aga Khan Museum Simerg
Scotia Bank building, at left of Aga Khan Museum, with Aga Khan Park ponds at foreground. Photo: Simerg / Malik Merchant.

Then, as I walked away from the Ismaili Centre towards the Aga Khan Museum, the Scotia Bank building with its red logo at the top came to my view. It raised my consciousness of the financial impact Covid-19 has had on the livelihood of millions of individuals and their families, as well as businesses.

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Aga Khan Museum, the Park, Ismaili Centre, Flags and the crescent moon, Simerg
The Aga Khan Museum (left), the Ismaili Centre Jamatkhana dome, the crescent moon over highrises, and the flags of Canada, Ontario, Toronto and the Ismaili Imamat. Photo: Simerg / Malik Merchant.

As I began my homeward walk, I turned around and in a single shot captured the glory of nature, the iconic spaces that the Aga Khan has built in a country that values and respects diversity and pluralism, and the flags of Canada, the Province of Ontario, and the City of Toronto flying in unison, alongside the flag of the Ismaili Imamat.

And Greetings from Simerg

Big Heech, Ismaili Centre, Aga Khan Park, Jamatkhana dome, Simerg Malik Merchant
The Big Heech sculpture outside the Aga Khan Museum and the Toronto Headquarters Jamatkhana dome on the night of December 18, 2020. Photo: Simerg / Malik Merchant.

Thus with this small collection of photographs and messages of hope from the Aga Khan and the Prime Minister, the ingenuity of the human mind in developing a vaccine in record time, the dedication of front-line workers in alleviating the sufferings of millions upon millions of people, I send my SEASONS GREETINGS filled with hope to all Canadians as well as friends subscribers and supporters of Simerg and its sister websites Barakah and Simergphotos. My family joins me in wishing everyone happiness.

Date posted: December 18, 2020.
Last updated: December 19, 2020 (new photo 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.

Malik Merchant of Simerg Barakah and Simergphotos
Simerg’s Malik at Aga Khan Museum courtyard.

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of this website, Simerg (2009), as well as two other blogs Simergphotos (2012) and Barakah (2017). Formerly an IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to family projects and his 3 websites. He is the eldest son of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions for several decades in Mozambique, Tanzania, Pakistan, the UK and Canada in both professional and honorary capacities as teachers and missionaries. Malik’s daughter, Dr. Nurin Merchant, assists him as an honorary editor of the three websites. She received her veterinary medicine degree with distinction from the Ontario Veterinary College (2019, University of Guelph) and now works as a veterinarian.

As WHO Targets 100 Million Smokers to Quit the Habit, Let Us Be Mindful of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Advice on Smoking and Other Social Habits that Can Weaken the Community

“I say to you today, and particularly the younger generation, use your energy, use your imagination, use your strength, but do not waste it. Do not waste it in drinking, in smoking cigarettes, in eating, in smoking drugs or whatever it may be. This is not for our Jamat…. stay a healthy Jamat and face the problems without wasting your energy and time and money on these other habits. Remember this is a matter of importance, because these habits can weaken the Jamat.” — Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Dar es Salaam, November 11, 1970*; also read Good principles articulated by the Aga Khan

The following piece as well as the photo featured at the top of this post is reproduced from a recent edition of the Voice of America. In the photo, bystanders look a replica of human skeleton smoking cigarette during an awareness rally on occasion of the “World No-Tobacco Day,” in Chennai, India, May 31, 2019.

By VOA News
Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The World Health Organization is calling on governments around the world to ensure their citizens have resources and tools to help them give up tobacco smoking as it launches a yearlong campaign aimed at helping 100 million people quit.

The campaign, Commit to Quit, is focusing on 22 countries including the United States, and it officially got under way Tuesday ahead of World No Tobacco Day 2021, in May.

A WHO statement said the Commit to Quit campaign is aimed at creating “healthier environments that are conducive” for people who want to give up smoking.

The WHO hopes to capitalize on users who have decided to quit since the novel coronavirus pandemic began by creating communities of peer quitters, according to the statement.

Earlier this year, the WHO warned that tobacco users are at high risk of dying from COVID-19.

About 780 million tobacco users say they want to quit, but just 30% have access to resources that can help them do so.

Director of Health Promotion Dr. Ruediger Krech said global health authorities must take full advantage of the millions of people who want to quit. He urged governments to “invest in services to help them be successful,” and “divest from the tobacco industry and their interests.”

Credit: Wellcome Collection, UK. The image is not part of the VOA article.

The WHO is employing digital tools such as the Quit Challenge on Whatsapp to provide social support. Also, the WHO’s 24/7 digital health worker to help people quit tobacco is available in English and soon will add five other languages.

The campaign is encouraging initiatives such as “strong tobacco cessation policies; increasing access to cessation services and raising awareness of tobacco industry tactics.” 

Tobacco is a major risk factor for noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes. Moreover, people living with these conditions are more vulnerable to severe COVID-19.

“Smoking kills 8 million people a year, but if users need more motivation to kick the habit, the pandemic provides the right incentive,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted.

RELATED:

(1) VOA: Tobacco Causes One in Five Deaths from Heart Disease
(2) VOA: Stop Marketing Deadly Nicotine Products to Children
(3) Simerg: Aga Khan on good health and good judgement

Date posted: December 14, 2020.

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* References: Farman quote(s) from archives and notes of Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) on social habits.

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.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wishes His Highness the Aga Khan Salgirah Mubarak and thanks him for his outstanding leadership and bringing people together

December 13, 2020
Ottawa, Ontario

The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, issued the following statement marking the birthday of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan:

“Today, we join Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims in Canada and around the world to celebrate the 84th birthday of their spiritual leader, His Highness the Aga Khan.

“A global humanitarian, the Aga Khan has made it his mission to build a better, more peaceful world. In a year where we have seen inequalities compounded by the effects of a global pandemic, His Highness has continued to work to help reduce poverty, advance gender equality, and improve health care and education. Whether through his Global Centre for Pluralism in Canada or the Aga Khan Development Network, his tireless efforts have helped make Canada, and the world, more inclusive. 

“The Aga Khan shares many of the values Canadians hold dear, including kindness, compassion, and respect for diversity. In a world often fraught with division, His Highness has continually worked to bring people together. His unwavering dedication to helping others is an inspiration to us all. For these reasons, he was named an honorary Canadian citizen and invested as an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada.

“Today, Sophie and I thank the Aga Khan for his outstanding leadership. We wish him continued health and happiness on this special day and for years to come.

“Salgirah Khushiali Mubarak!”

Date posted: December 14, 2020.

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Featured photo at top of this post: His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are seen engaged in a warm conversation during their meeting at Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 17, 2016. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

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

A Special Birthday Message from His Highness the Aga Khan, and the Significance of His Birthday for Ismailis

On the occasion of his 84th birthday or Salgirah on December 13, 2020, His Highness the Aga Khan has sent a special message, traditionally referred to as a Talika, to his followers around the world. The Talika is published HERE in English, French, Portuguese, Farsi, Arabic, Gujarati, Tajik, Urdu and Russian.

We have an insightful article for our readers on the significance of the Aga Khan’s birthday. To read it, please click HERE or on the Salgirah Mubarak greeting shown below.

We convey Salgirah greetings to our readers, Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike, and wish everyone and their families happiness and success as well as courage, strength and good health — especially in the present time of a global pandemic. We further hope and pray for the fulfillment of all your wishes. Ameen.

Salgirah Aga Khan Birthday, 13 December 2020, Simerg
The calligraphy in this beautiful Salgirah Mubarak greeting celebrating the 84th birthday (Salgirah) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, was created by Karim Ismail of Toronto, and represents the Aga Khan’s name “Nur Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini” in Fatimid Kufi script. Please click on image to read article on significance of Salgirah.

Date posted: December 12, 2020.

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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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Passings: Alwaez Rai Sultanali Mohamed (1927 – 2020)

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

“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

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

Alwaez Rai Sultanali Mohamed Ismaili missionary and alwaez, tribute in Simerg passings
Alwaez Rai Sultanali Mohamed (March 17, 1927 – November 28, 2020). Photo: Family collection.

It is with deep sadness that I inform readers of the passing away of a great and learned missionary in the Ismaili community, Alwaez Rai Sultanali Mohamed, on November 28, 2020 in Vancouver at the age of 93.

Alwaez Rai Sultanali Mohamed, also known as Missionary Saheb, was born in Mumbai on March 17, 1927, and became an Alwaez in Mumbai studying under very prominent professors and Waezein with a group of other new missionaries that included the Late Alwaez Rai Jehangir Merchant and Alwaeza Raisaheba Malek Merchant. His wife Alwaeza Raibanu Rahematkhanu joined the Waezin training program a year later.

Alwaez Rai Sultanali Mohamed, like his wife Missinarybanu Rahematkhanu, was a deeply religious man with an extraordinarily strong belief in the Ismaili faith, and a profound devotion and love for Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Missionarybanu predeceased him, passing away in Vancouver in October 2010 at the age of 77. 

Alwaez Sultanali Mohamed (standing 4th from left) with fellow students, including Maleksultan and Jehangir Merchant (seated 3rd and 5th from left) and lecturers of a waezin training program that was established in the early 1950’s to train new Ismaili missionaries. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

Alwaez and Alwaez initially began their service in Mumbai, and soon after their wedding the young couple emigrated to Kisumu, Kenya, in 1957. Whilst continuing in their respective professions in Kisumu, they rendered voluntary service with dedication and devotion as Alwaezein for many years, in various cities in Kenya and to the jamats of other countries.

Alwaez Sultanali had a deep-rooted love for knowledge and spent many hours in research, which furthered his deep knowledge of Islam and the Ismaili Tariqah. He wrote a Ginan book called Wonderful Tradition, and a book on the Ismailis in Gujarat called Heroes of Surat. He also curated the content of the monthly Chandraat Bulletin in Kisumu. The books and the bulletin were published by the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for Kenya (ITREB), which was was then known as the Ismailia Association.

Alwaez was an authority in the field of the esoteric meaning of our Ginans and was a mentor to many on this subject. Until recent years, he conducted special Ginan talks on a weekly basis, and through his easy teaching style and kind and friendly nature, he touched the hearts of all who attended his sessions as well as everyone who knew him or met him. His departure is a great loss to his family, friends and the Jamat.

On a personal note, the late Alwaez was a great family friend and I vividly recall the few days we spent with his loving family in Kisumu. He made it a point to take us to the shores of Lake Victoria every evening until we would be able to sight a hippo. He fulfilled that promise, and one can imagine our delight at seeing the animal as young kids. That was my first memory of Alwaez and Alwaeza, who as I found out through the course of my life were always intimately connected with my parents.

Gujarati translation of Short History of Ismailis by Farhad Daftary. Translation by Sultanali Mohamed and Jehangir Merchant, and published by IIS. Simerg passings
The cover page of the Gujarati translation of Farhad Daftary’s book A Short History of the Ismailis. Entitled Ismailio-no Tunk Ittihaas, the translation was done by missionaries Sultanali Mohamed and Jehangir Merchant.

Indeed, my late dad Alwaez Jehangir sought his constant advice on various terms in the Gujarati language, and was proud to have him as co-translator of Farhad Daftary’s book A Short History of the Ismailis. Alwaez Sultanali was also well known for his expert knowledge of the Khojki script. His contributions to the Institute of Ismaili Studies includes the translation of some Khojki literature into English.

Missionarysaheb and Missionarybanu will be remembered fondly by the Jamat for enhancing their spiritual knowledge and by the young students that stayed in the Aga Khan Hostel in Kisumu where they were wardens for a few yew years as their beloved Sir and Bai.

Alwaez and Alwaeza are survived by their three children: daughter Dr. Nevins married to Dr. Zuheir Saeed; son Akber married to Nasira Lakha and son Amanullah married to Nimet Babul, together with five grandchildren and two great grandchildren. This is a sad moment for the family, especially with his passing coming at a time when many of us want to pay our personal respects and be at his funeral, and simply can’t because of the restrictions that are in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

His funeral will take place in Vancouver on Wednesday, December 9. Relatives, friends and well wishers of the missionary may contact Alwaez’s daughter at Nevins@shaw.ca. We also invite our readers to submit their condolences, memories and tributes to the late missionary Sultanali Mohamed by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment.

We pray for the peace and eternal rest of the soul of Alwaez Rai Sultanali Mohamed. Amen. We also convey our deepest heartfelt condolences to members of his family for strength and courage to face his great loss. Our prayers are with them at this time of bereavement.

Date posted: December 6 , 2020.

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We invite our readers to submit their condolences, memories and tributes to the late missionary Sultanali Mohamed by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment. The family of late Sultanali missionary welcomes your emails regarding any questions you might have on the funeral ceremony or other related matters. Please address your email to nevins@shaw.ca.

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

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

Simerg invites (1) Ismaili artists to provide submissions/updates for revised edition of its compendium; and (2) Ismaili authors to submit synopsis of their books for listing on the website

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

Talented Ismaili Artists

The Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, revealed and showcased the amazing  talent of the artists in the Ismaili community. Hundreds of young children and youth as well as elderly members of the Jamat participated in locally held programs during the Golden Jubilee. Ten years later, the Diamond Jubilee became truly international in scope, and the final celebrations in July 2018 in Lisbon brought together a large gathering of a variety of artists including film makers, singers, dancers as well as fine art and visual artists to perform in front of large crowds and display works of art at an international gallery. Their high quality performances captivated audiences daily throughout the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations.

compendium of Ismaili artists simerg
Please click on image to download 2014 edition of compendium. We invite new entries and updates from Ismaili visual artists for the revised edition to be published in 2021.

Some years ago, Simerg produced a highly acclaimed Compendium of Ismaili Artists dedicated to the visual arts. It requires a major and long overdue update! Simerg sincerely hopes that Ismaili visual artists from around the world will go through the compendium and submit their profiles as illustrated in the compendium. Simerg plans to update the compendium and produce a new edition by spring 2021. Please submit your profile and a work of art to Malik Merchant at his email address Simerg@aol.com.

The institutional support for the arts has been truly commendable, and we hope that such support will continue.

The Ismaili literary scene had been somewhat dormant for quite some time until the emergence of Moez Vassanji who is one of Canada’s most celebrated writers. He is a prolific writer whose published work include novels, short story collections and non-fiction collections. Moez is a two time Giller Prize winner and has received numerous other awards and recognitions. In February 2005, he was made the Member of the Order of Canada for contribution to arts/writing.

Talented Ismaili Writers

Ismaili authors
Cover pages of a few of the dozens of books authored by Ismailis.

But what about other fine Ismaili authors who have appeared in the writing scene over the past two decades? They have remained virtually unknown to the community at large. Personally, I would have liked to have seen their works to have been sold through the Jamatkhana literature counters around the world, and for the authors to be given an opportunity to do readings in front of audiences, at least at their local Jamatkhana setting. We hope that when the pandemic is over this suggestion will be taken up by our institutions and that Ismaili authors who feel they have written a book that is worthy of reading because of its overall publication quality and literary merit will be able to present themselves to the Jamat, sell their books and sign them for Jamati members who wish to purchase their works. Many authors market and sell their books via on-line sellers such as Amazon, but institutional support and encouragement is vital for their exposure to a world wide Jamat.

Simerg invites Ismaili writers to come forward and submit a synopsis of their book for publication on this website. In addition, we want each writer to respond to the following questions in no more than 50 words per question:

(1) What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

(2) Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it? 

(3) What inspired you to write the book? 

(4) How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats (ebook, kindle, hardback, paperback?) 

Response to the following questions are optional:

(5) How did you find a publisher for the book? 

(6) Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself? 

(7) Which was your first book and how many have you written? 

(8) How long did it take you to write the book – from start to finish and to begin marketing it? 

Categories for inclusion in our listing: Novels, short stories, inspirational books, biographies, poetry, jigsaw puzzles as well as all non-fiction on diverse subjects (except religious and literary works published by the Institute of Ismaili Studies).

Languages: We will list books published in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Kiswahili, but the synopsis must be submitted in English. Books in other languages will be considered for listing at a later date.

Your response: Authors should submit their responses to the 8 questions accompanied by the book’s synopsis in English (100 words maximum) and an image of the cover page to the attention of Malik Merchant at simerg@aol.com. If your book has been reviewed or is available for on-line purchase, you may provide link(s) to the book reviews and where the book is available for purchase. If you have a website dedicated to your literary work(s), please provide the address of your website.

Simerg looks forward to a fantastic response from Ismaili artists and writers on these two projects dedicated to them.

Date posted: December 3, 2020.

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

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

Malik Merchant Simerg
Simerg’s Malik Merchant at the courtyard of the Aga Khan Museum.

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of this website, Simerg (2009) as well as two other blogs Simergphotos (2012) and Barakah (2017). Formerly an IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to family projects and his 3 websites. He is the eldest son of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions for several decades in Mozambique, Tanzania, Pakistan, the UK and Canada in both professional and honorary capacities as teachers and missionaries. Malik’s daughter, Dr. Nurin Merchant, assists him as an honorary editor of the three websites. She received her veterinary medicine degree with distinction from the Ontario Veterinary College (2019, University of Guelph) and now works as a veterinarian.

Sir James D. Wolfensohn (1933-2020): Led the World Bank, Chaired the IAS Board and Was Deeply Reverential of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Calling Him an Icon of Action

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

It is with deep sadness and a heavy heart that we announce the death of James D. Wolfensohn on Wednesday, November 25 2020 at his home in Manhattan at the age of 86.

I reached out to the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), where Mr. Wolfensohn served as the past chair of the board, to allow Simerg to reproduce the obituary that has been posted on its website. We sincerely thank Lee Sandberg the press contact at IAS for the permission. For the information of our readers, The Institute for Advanced Study is one of the world’s foremost centers for theoretical research and intellectual inquiry. Located in Princeton, N.J., the IAS is dedicated to independent study across the sciences and humanities. Founded ninety years ago, the Institute is devoted to advancing the frontiers of knowledge without concern for immediate application. From founding IAS Professor Albert Einstein to the foremost thinkers of today, the IAS enables bold, curiosity-driven innovation to enrich society in unexpected ways.

His Highness the Aga Khan at a Press Conference announcing the launch of the new Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM) in the company of James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank (3rd left) and John Fergusson, AKDN Head of the Department of Public Affairs (2nd left). AKDN / Jean-Luc Ray
His Highness the Aga Khan (left) at a Press Conference on February 22, 2005 in Geneva, Switzerland, announcing the launch of the new Aga Khan Agency for Microfinance (AKAM) to help some of the world’s most vulnerable populations through innovative services including micro-insurance, small housing loans, savings, education and health accounts, and support for small entrepreneurs seeking to develop businesses related to restored cultural assets. The Aga Khan was joined at the news conference by Jim Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank (right) and John Fergusson, AKDN Head of the Department of Public Affairs. Photo: AKDN/Jean-Luc Ray.

On a personal note, I was present on January 25, 2005 at the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. when Mr. Wolfensohn introduced Mawlana Hazar Imam as the recipient of the Vincent Scully Prize. As an Ismaili, the tribute I heard is perhaps one of the finest and most touching I have ever heard or read during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s entire Imamat. Here is an excerpt from the tribute. The link to the complete tribute follows the obituary.

“In my 10 years at the bank, I’ve had the opportunity of meeting many people in the so-called development business. People that are concerned with the issues of poverty, people that in various ways display their interest in humanity, their concern for history, their concern for hope and for the future. And in that 10 years, I can tell you that there is one person who stands out in my mind as an icon of not only thought and philosophy but of action. And I have to say this in front of His Highness, that I don’t say this about everybody in the development business. He has truly done the most amazing job not only for the Ismaili community throughout the world, but really for all the communities that he serves.”

SIR JAMES D. WOLFENSOHN

The following obituary and accompanying portrait photograph is reproduced with the permission of the Institute for Advanced Study where Mr. Wolfensohn had served as the chair of the Board. Please click James D. Wolfensohn to read the obituary at source, and to learn more about the work of the organization.

JDW portrait
James D. Wolfensohn (December 1, 1933 – November 25, 2020)

Sir James D. Wolfensohn, Chairman of Wolfensohn & Company, L.L.C. and a global champion of human rights, economic justice, scholarship, and the arts, died on Wednesday, November 25 at his home in Manhattan at the age of 86.

Wolfensohn was the ninth president of the World Bank, sworn into office on June 1, 1995, after being nominated by President Bill Clinton. A transformative and hands-on leader, Wolfensohn re-envisioned the Bank’s commitment to alleviating poverty, investing in sustainable development, and promoting social justice globally.

In 1979, Wolfensohn joined the Institute for Advanced Study’s Board of Trustees and became the Board’s longest-serving Chair (1986–2007). Wolfensohn had a passionate commitment to the Institute’s mission of enabling the world’s foremost scholars to conduct breakthrough research at the highest levels of academia.

“Jim embraced the world and everything in it—its challenges, the arts, science, politics, and people most of all,” stated Robbert Dijkgraaf, IAS Director and Leon Levy Professor. “A man of no excuses and a boundless diversity of interests, Jim believed in and harnessed the enormous potential of the human spirit for the common good. We are eternally grateful for the wisdom and generosity he brought to the Institute and world for which he cared so deeply.”

James David Wolfensohn was born on December 1, 1933, in Sydney, Australia. He was a veteran of the Royal Australian Air Force and a member of the 1956 Australian Olympic fencing team. Educated at the University of Sydney, he received a B.A. and LL.B. in 1954 and 1957, respectively. He worked as a lawyer at an Australian law firm and went on to earn an M.B.A. from Harvard University in 1959.

“Jim was larger than life, hard-working, and compassionate,” stated Charles Simonyi, IAS Board Chair. “His moral vision spanned the globe, complemented by a gift for connecting with individuals. Passionate about music and sciences, he was an inspiration to all who knew him. The Institute for Advanced Study will always treasure the memory of his extraordinary leadership.”

After launching his career as an investment banker, Wolfensohn worked for several different institutions in Australia, including Darling & Co., before joining the London-based investment bank J. Henry Schroder & Co. This position led Wolfensohn to return to the U.S. to become the managing director of the bank’s New York City office from 1970 to ’76. In 1979, as a senior executive at Salomon Brothers, he oversaw the emergency restructuring of Chrysler Corporation, working with then CEO Lee Iacocca and then President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank Paul A. Volcker. Wolfensohn spent another fourteen years in investment banking as President and CEO of James D. Wolfensohn, Inc. Wolfensohn became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1980.

As the longest-serving Chair in the Institute’s history, Wolfensohn stewarded the growth of the Institute’s endowment, which more than doubled in real terms under his leadership. His many accomplishments as Chair included overseeing the endowment of six Professorships across the Institute’s four Schools. Wolfensohn also took a particularly active interest in extending the global impact and profile of the Institute, reaffirming and strengthening its reputation as an international center for scholarship.

Having served as Chairman of the Boards of Carnegie Hall (1980–91) and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (1990–95), Wolfensohn, who was an accomplished cellist himself, encouraged musical performance at the Institute, contributing to the establishment of the Artist-in-Residence program and regular concerts. Reflecting Wolfensohn’s long-standing commitment to the Institute and his dedication to the arts, the Institute named its lecture and performance hall, Wolfensohn Hall, in his honor in 1993.

Wolfensohn was the third World Bank president to serve more than one five-year term. During his tenure, which extended from 1995 to 2005, Wolfensohn visited more than 120 countries, often accompanied by his wife and partner Elaine. Wolfensohn implemented an agenda to fight corruption, fund education, and support global health and HIV/AIDS programs. His efforts were also transformative in bringing more transparency to the organization.

In 2005, Wolfensohn’s experience as an investment banker and international advocate for human rights led him to found Wolfensohn & Company, LLC. The firm provides strategic consulting advice to governments and large corporations doing business in emerging market economies.

Among his numerous awards, Wolfensohn was made an honorary officer of the Order of Australia (1987), received an honorary knighthood of the Order of the British Empire (1995) for his service to the arts and the Leo Baeck Medal (2006) for his humanitarian work promoting tolerance and social justice. In 2020, Wolfensohn was recognized with the IAS Bamberger Medal for his extraordinary service in fortifying IAS for the twenty-first century and his unwavering commitment to the pursuit of new knowledge.

Wolfensohn was a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Philosophical Society.

Wolfensohn was predeceased by his beloved wife Elaine, and is survived by children Sara, Naomi, and Adam; and seven grandchildren.

Date posted: November 26, 2020.
Last updated: December 3, 2020 (typo).

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To read James Wolfensohn’s tribute to His Highness the Aga Khan, please click The Aga Khan stands out as an icon of action

Featured photo at top of post: James Wolfensohn speaking on January 25, 2005 in Washington DC when the National Building Museum presented its sixth prestigious Vincent Scully Prize to His Highness the Aga Khan in recognition of his contributions to promoting design excellence and improving the built environment in the Muslim world.

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We welcome tributes and condolences in honour of Sir James David Wolfensohn. Please complete the feedback form below or click on Leave a comment.

A Must-Listen Interview: Matt Galloway of CBC Radio Program “The Current” with President Barack Obama

The link that we are providing via either of the three images shown below will take you to the CBC TV website where you can listen to Matt Galloway’s interview with President Barack Obama that was posted on Monday November 23, 2020 (NOTE: the audio interview is at the beginning of the post and to listen to it please click on The Current icon). The interview is wide-ranging and candid, and includes remarks that many of us will be hearing for the first time. It will of interest to Canadians as well as everyone around the world whose attention is focused on the recent US elections won by Joe Biden. Moreover, it is also based on the President’s new book A Promised Land.

BARACK OBAMA INTERVIEW: Please click HERE or on any one of three images below

The Obama family make an unannounced visit to tour the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C., the night before the President made remarks at the official dedication of the memorial on October 16, 2011 during his term at the White House. (Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama stands with his Vice President Joe Biden, now President-Elect, in the Green Room of the White House prior to delivering a statement on the economy in the East Room, Nov. 9, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
Dec. 14, 2011 “During one of the Christmas Holiday receptions at the White House, I noticed the First Lady’s hands resting on the podium as President Obama made brief remarks.” (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

NOTE: Readers also have the option of listening to the complete 75 minute episode of The Current program aired on November 23, by clicking HERE.

The photographs shown in this post are from a tribute to President Obama that we published on our sister website Simergphotos. The featured photo at the top of the post is from Jan. 21, 2009, President Obama’s first morning in the Oval Office as President of the United States, where he is seen reading some briefing material before a meeting.

Date posted: November 23, 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.