Shirin Mohamedali Khimji (1935 – 2019): A Remarkable Ismaili Widow and Woman of Faith and Character

Portrait of Shirin Khimji

A portrait of Shirin Mohamedali Khimji (1935-2019). Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

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 GHALIB SUMAR

Shirin Mohamedali Khimji of Kutch, Dodoma and Toronto, passed away peacefully at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on February 6, 2019. She was the much-loved wife of late Mohamedali Khimji, father of Sadrudin, Moez, Rosmin and Tazim, grandmaa to Nisara, Abida, Fayaz, Sameer, Juliana, Adam, Arif and Ghalib and great grandmaa to Nasiha. The last rites were held at Scarborough Jamatkhana on February 9, 2019 and she was later buried the same day at Elgin Mills Cemetery in Richmond Hill.

Born on March 5, 1935 in Kutch Mundra, Gujarat, India, Maa, as we fondly called her, was raised in an impoverished town and got married to the only love of her life, her husband, the late Mohamedali Khimji in 1949. Her first child, Sadrudin, was born in 1951 and following the guidance of the late Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, they decided to move to Kimamba, a small town outside of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in July 1951 by ship.

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Shirin M. Khimji with her husband Late Mohamedali Khimji and children Moez, Sadrudin and Rosmin. Tazim, the 4th child, was not born yet. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

A few years later on November 14, 1956, when she was only 21, her husband passed away due to heart complications and she lived courageously and selflessly as a widow, raising and blossoming the lives of her four children and several grandchildren throughout her lifetime.

There are many thoughts and recollections that come to mind as we honour and celebrate the life of Maa, a transcendent soul which enlightened the lives of many everyday. Maa always looked after the well-being of others before herself and because of that she was able to build an inclusive and welcoming community wherever she lived.

3_Shirin Khimji

Shirin M. Khimji having an enjoyable moment with her four children: Tazim, Sadrudin, Rosmin and Moez. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

From approximately 1973 to 1983, as an assistant matron at the Aga Khan Boarding Hostel in Dar es Salaam, she transformed and improved the lives of her boarders and earned their respect and trust due to her humble deeds. Maa ensured the rooms were cleaned and was responsible for preparing the daily and weekly menu which included popular Ismaili East African dishes such as kuku paka, ugali and daal bhajia to name a few.

Following her migration to Canada, she continued to serve and enrich the community in numerous ways. For example, at 1420 Victoria Park Avenue, a well-known seniors housing building in Toronto with a significant Ismaili senior population, she once again brought the community together by serving meals and looking after her friends. Maa was remembered for her dedication in feeding those who kept rojo (fast) and would make 150 parathas to ensure those who kept the fast were fed properly. I remember her telling me that there was a big sawab (spiritual reward or blessing) in feeding members  who had observed the fast.

One of Maa’s favourite memories was being able to spend quality time with her children and grandchildren. She would call all her children and grandchildren on an almost daily basis and always inquired about their whereabouts and well-being.

Family Collage 2 Shirin Khimji

A collage of photos representing Shirin M. Khimji with members of her family at various times during her lifetime. Photos: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection. Collage by Simerg.

I was truly fortunate to build a strong and loving bond with her and in October 2017, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited Dar es Salaam for his Diamond Jubilee visit and celebrations. Maa was blessed to have seen the Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

We had talked about the Jubilees in detail on several occasions and we decided that we would bring her back home to celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee in Tanzania. We were able to make that dream a reality. Maa was extremely happy to be back in Tanzania and to see old acquaintances and friends she had not seen for over 30 years.

A crowning moment and memory of the Diamond Jubilee that will forever be etched in our hearts was when Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade was passing by Dar es Salaam’s Upanga Jamatkhana and Maa was yearning to welcome and see her beloved Imam. A few moments later, he waved to her and the countless Ismailis who just wanted a glimpse of their Imam.

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Shirin M. Khimji on her final trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with her grandson Ghalib and two daughters Rosmin and Tazim. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

Maa was a selfless individual and she impacted innumerable lives through her humble actions, words and deeds. She prayed for the well being of others everyday until her last breath. Throughout her 84 years of life, Maa brought smiles and laughter to everyone that knew her. 

Our beloved Maa’s luminous legacy and impact will be felt for years and generations and her values of integrity, kindness, generosity, looking after the needy as well as selfless service to the community wherever she lived will always be admired by all.

Her entire life truly epitomized the meaning of ‘selfless service’ and her wise words and counsel are forever illuminated in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. She will always be remembered for her noble actions and deeds as well as an unflinching devotion to community harmony. She touched people of all ages throughout her life, and will be held in the utmost of respect and deep admiration. 

The passing away of our late Maa, Shirin Mohamedali Khimji, is a difficult moment for the family. Today, the family would like to celebrate the physical life of Maa, who most sincerely dedicated her life to the Ismaili Imamat and Jamats worldwide, and we express our humble shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam.

May her soul forever and eternally rest in peace. Ameen.

Date posted: March 5, 2019.

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We welcome tributes and messages of condolence for the late Shirin Mohamedali Khimji. Please complete the feedback form below or click LEAVE A COMMENT.

About the writer: Ghalib Sumar is the beloved grandson of Maa, the late Shirin Mohamedali Khimji. Born and raised in Toronto, he is now located in Calgary and volunteers his time extensively on the Communications & Publications Portfolio of the Aga Khan Council for Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Health Studies degrees and is a communications and marketing professional.

We graciously publish tributes to honour deceased member(s) of your family. Please see Simerg Invites Obituaries / Tributes to Honour Past / Recent Deceased Ismailis. The feature is provided free of charge. 

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Simerg Invites Obituaries / Tributes to Honour Past / Recent Deceased Ismailis

Passings

Top portion of image shows plaque commemorating Ismailis who were killed in a WWII raid in Burma. Bottom half is a surreal image by Sarite Sanders of Aswan’s Fatimid cemetery.

HONOURING LIVES LIVED

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

Simerg offers to all Ismaili families around the world an opportunity to submit memorials to honour and celebrate the lives of their deceased family members. The memorials may be submitted in the form of (1) a simple short notice or (2) a tribute of up to 500 words. The memorial may be for any Ismaili who has died recently or at any time since 1950 (or even earlier). This is a FREE listing.

Substance of the Notice and Tribute

1. NOTICE: The simplest kind of tribute is a notice announcing the death of the person. This short notice may be followed by a longer tribute at a later date as described in (2) below. The following is an example of the contents of a notice:

“[Name of Deceased], author and playwright, died peacefully at home in [city], on [date]. He was the much-loved husband of [spouse name], father of [children], guardian and grandfather. The last rites were held in [name of Jamatkhana] on [date] and he was later buried on [date] at [name and city of cemetery]. Post funeral religious ceremonies were conducted at [name of Jamatkhana]. It was the wish [of the deceased or the deceased family] that monetary contributions in his honour be made to [organization, hospital, cause etc.].”

2. TRIBUTE: The purpose of the tribute will be to celebrate the person’s life. It will start with the same basic information you put in the notice (1, above), and goes on to add details about the person’s life: hometowns, jobs, family members, and personal interests activities as well as community services and awards. Anecdotes may be included from the person’s life to help family members, readers and future generations to reflect on the life of the individual. The universal tale, as is well-known, lies in specific examples and for this reason we are inviting you to write a tribute of up to 500 words in length.

For very good examples of short notices as well as tributes see your local newspapers or click The Globe and Mail. They will assist you in constructing appropriate notices and tributes.

Here is a selection of tributes we have published on Simerg:

Submission Rules

Each submission must specify your relationship with the deceased person, as well as include your full name, mailing address and the phone number where you may be contacted. Along with your short notice or tribute, we ask you to submit the celebrated person’s photo. For tributes, we will accept two additional photos which have a direct relevance to the person’s life that you have described. Images should be in JPG format.

Anonymous pieces will not be accepted for publication, although the editor may at his discretion allow author anonymity once the tribute has been approved for publication. Please submit the notice or tribute in PDF, Text or Word format to simerg@aol.com. You may, alternatively, incorporate the material within your email. The editor will contact you with the draft copy once the piece has been finalized for publication. 

The 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan (1877 -1957) said in his Memoirs that “life is a great and noble calling.” It is the life that was celebrated about which we are asking you to reflect and write about, in the form of a short notice or a longer tribute.

Date posted: February 28, 2019.
Last updated: July 24, 2019 (link to new piece, Salim Dawood).

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The editor welcomes tributes honouring your deceased family members. Please send them to simerg@aol.com

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears below. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Please visit our Home page for links to most recent posts. For links to articles posted on this Web site since its launch in March 2009, please click TABLE OF CONTENTS.

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Facebook Page Global Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement is a Noble Service to Ismailis and Deserves Worldwide Jamati Participation and Full Institutional Support

A LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant of Simerg

One thing that I deeply appreciated about the Ismaili UK Newsletter (at least the hard copy version that I knew of) was the periodic publication of births and deaths that occurred in the UK and other European countries that were under the jurisdiction of the UK Aga Khan Ismaili Council. That information was one of the easiest pieces to compile and publish, as every Council records the birth and death of Ismailis in its jurisdiction.

As a long time resident of Canada, I don’t think the Ismaili Canada offered or offers anything like its UK counterpart. Neither do the Al-Akhbar weekly electronic newsletters published in provinces across Canada. I was told just this past week that Ottawa Jamati members were at one time being informed about deaths in their region by emails from the Ottawa Council. I wonder if this practice has ceased. For example, after a friend in Ottawa passed away last week — his funeral was held in Toronto — I decided to stop by for grocery purchases before proceeding to Toronto’s Ismaili Centre for his zyarat and samar services. Another very close friend and his wife, also from Ottawa who happened to be in Toronto, walked into the store as I was preparing to proceed to the Jamatkhana. When I told them about our mutual friend’s death and that earlier that afternoon I had attended his funeral and burial ceremonies they were in utter shock. They felt deeply saddened by the news and said they were glad that they met me because they were originally planning to go to a Jamatkhana closer to them.

One learns about deaths through friends or relatives of the deceased or Jamatkhana announcements at locations where the death took place or a few days later when samars are held to honour and pray for the deceased person. And sometimes through fortuitous encounters such as the one I had in the grocery store. In many instances, one is not even aware about the death of long time friends or relatives for months or years. When I recently met a group of students of my late dad, who passed away last May, a few in the group were not even aware of his death and were deeply apologetic for their oversight.

Some three years ago, Mustak Hasham of Toronto created a Facebook page to help fill this void. Everyday, Mustak, with the assistance of his wife and hundreds of well-wishers from around the world, keeps his more than 45,000 members informed about deceased members on GLOBAL Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement. 

Of course, Mustak’s page brings grief and sadness to many, but such is the fact of life. Everyone feels the grief of the passing away of a beloved member of one’s family and no grief is deeper than seeing the announcement of the death of an individual young in age, predeceasing his or her parents. The grief and burden is considerably lifted when families are consoled, often by individuals who for years were out of contact with the deceased person or family they knew well.

Mustak’s boxed announcement (see image below) is short and informs his subscribers the name of the deceased, age, residence, a profile photo, and pertinent information related to the funeral. In some cases he doesn’t have all the information. Mustak has people around the world who keep him informed about the deaths that take place in their cities, towns and regions. His daily updates sometimes carry up to ten passings. In this work, he is also supported by his wife Sunanda. 

Ismaili Death Announcement 2

A death announcement on Ismaili Community & Funeral Announcements Facebook page managed by Mustak Hasham in Toronto.

When I spoke to Mustak recently, I asked him about responses from remoter places such as Central Asia and Northern Pakistan. Occasionally he hears from residents in those places but he sincerely  hopes that more and more people from those remote locations as well as the Middle East, Iran, Syria and tiny Jamati settlements around the world would join his group and keep him informed about the passings that take place there.

Indeed, Mustak feels that his current page membership of 45,000+ is still small considering the hundreds of thousands who have access to the internet. He wants the numbers to grow significantly in the months to come, and hopes that readers will join and support his humble endeavour.

So far, Mustak hasn’t faced any resistance from families about deaths that he announces on his page. He did confide that on one rare occasion someone from a family of the deceased raised a concern about the posting but then quickly realized the benefit of the announcement. When readers, in response to a death, submit their condolence or prayer message, it is  inspiring for the grieving family. 

Institutions always expect Jamati members to support them on their projects. However it is also essential and important for institutions to be facilitators of websites and social media pages that are doing a worthy job to disseminate important pieces of knowledge and information. I think we have been asked by Mawlana Hazar Imam to work together. Where institutions are not fully able to dedicate their resources to put out important announcements, other than through Jamatkhana announcements, they can support projects such as Mustak’s by easily and quickly assembling a death notice for his attention. With regard to privacy issues, a simple question can be asked of family members: Do you have any objection if the death of your family member is mentioned on a Facebook page that is read worldwide?

Again, I reiterate that Mustak’s work has not raised objections. Indeed, family members appreciate and remain ever so grateful for the work that he is doing every single day.

Working together is a 2-way street. We bloggers and publishers of numerous websites and social media pages are self-motivators, and can immensely benefit from greater institutional encouragement for the work that we perform. CBC, CNN, BBC, G & M, WSJ, NYT and many other media outlets and news agencies are regularly invited to attend events at which Mawlana Hazar Imam is honoured or presides over important functions. It is time for Ismaili bloggers and journalists as well as outstanding photographers who have built a good reputation over the years to be respectfully treated by Ismaili institutions and invited to high profile functions. I can cite many occasions when I myself have sought access to these events, and asked to be present at the very last moment by communication coordinator representatives! There should be proper planning for these events, and advanced preparedness is important.

With regard to Mustak, our message to him is to keep up his wonderful work. He can do much more with everyone’s support, Jamats and institutions alike. Readers should join his page GLOBAL Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement.

The death of  any deceased Jamati member brings immense grief to family members and friends. For those of us who may be strangers to the family, I would say that we can bring abundant blessing and peace to the soul of the departed by taking out a short prayer. That also goes a long way in giving courage and inspiration to the family and friends of the deceased. By such gracious and thoughtful acts, we are affirming that we deeply care for our late spiritual sisters and brothers as well as their families.

Date posted: February 27, 2019.

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We invite your feedback below or by clicking Leave a comment.

Simerg publishes obituaries and tributes submitted by family members to honour and celebrate the lives of their beloved deceased family members. Please visit our page Passings.

 

 

 

 

Available for Purchase: Very Limited Quantities of “Diving Into Wildlife” Signed by Prince Hussain Aga Khan

Diving into Wildlife by Hussain Aga Khan

Cover Page of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s Diving Into Wildlife.

It is with tremendous pleasure that we inform our readers that we have received directly from the offices of Prince Hussain Aga Khan, an additional supply of signed copies of Prince Hussain’s book Diving Into Wildlife. The book comprises a collection of extraordinary underwater sea animal photographs taken by Prince Hussain Aga Khan in recent years. A collection of seven of his sea animal photos were displayed in Lisbon last July during the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. A much larger exhibition is currently underway in Nairobi, Kenya. The Prince and his fiance, Fareen, attended the exhibition recently. 

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SIGNED COPIES ARE MUCH DESIRED

Diving Into Wildlife Hussain Aga Khan Signed Page

A specimen of Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s signature in his photo book of sea animals Diving Into Wildlife.

Signed copies are much desired by book lovers and collectors, and, in this particular instance, the signature of Prince Hussain Aga Khan makes his work “Diving Into Wildlife” a truly unique and treasured item for any book collector, or for anyone receiving the book as a gift. 

Viewers of this website will recall that some eight years ago we offered both signed and unsigned copies of Prince Hussain’s book of animal photos entitled Animal Voyage. Prince Hussain had dedicated the book to Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan (1933-2003), and the proceeds from the sale of Animal Voyage went to the Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan Fund for the Environment.

Prince Hussain’s “Diving Into Wildlife” is published under the auspices of a newly created organization by the Prince called Focused on Nature (FON, http://www.focusedonnature.org), whose mission is to “assist in the conservation and protection of threatened and endangered species, as well as habitat conservation efforts when and where possible.”

FON will fulfill the mission by providing grants to projects around the world which the FON team has identified and vetted as having immediate impacts in wildlife conservation, protection, preservation, and education. The money that is distributed by FON to deserving organizations is raised by either direct contributions to FON or from the sale of unique and fine objects including limited edition photographs, art, clothing articles and books such as “Diving Into Wildlife.”

Simerg is thus delighted to support the work of FON by offering to our readers the following two versions of Diving Into Wildlife:

SIGNED COPIES

As of the posting of this announcement we have exactly 19 signed copies, and each is being offered at $US125.00 plus $US25.00 to cover expedited shipping and postage. GST/PST or HST as applicable will be added to Canadian orders. This initiative to ask a premium for signed copies and to submit this premium to FON has not been requested by the author or the publisher, but is a personal one. The signed copies are only available for shipping within North America. Each shipment will be trackable via the website of Canada Post.

UNSIGNED COPIES

We encourage interested individuals who are not able to acquire a signed copy to consider purchasing the unsigned copy of this beautiful volume by Prince Hussain Aga Khan.

Unsigned copies are sold at US$30.00 plus $25.00 to cover expedited shipping and postage. GST/PST or HST will be added to Canadian orders as applicable. The books are only available for shipping within North America. Each shipment will be trackable via the website of Canada Post.

Request for orders for delivery outside of North America will be considered and will be forwarded to FON for shipment from Europe, provided the book is still available.

HOW TO PURCHASE THE BOOK

Payment Methods:

  1. Paypal: Simergbooks has been verified by Paypal. To purchase a copy, please send a request to Simergbooks@aol.com, and an invoice will be generated from Paypal provided we have the book in stock. In view of the limited quantities payment should then be received within 24 hours after the invoice. Canadian orders will be invoiced in Canadian dollars based on an exchange rate of $US 1.00 = $C 1.30.
  2. Email Transfer (for Canadian orders only): Once we have confirmed that a book is available, we will request you to submit a payment via email transfer. In view of the limited quantities payment should then be received within 24 hours after the invoice.

SIMERG’S EXCELLENT CUSTOMER SERVICE

My son was delighted with the excellent photography by Prince Hussain. We as a family will cherish this volume (Animal Voyage) for a long time. Once again, thank you http://www.simerg.com  for making this book available in North America and your outstanding customer service and support. Shamim Rajan, Richmond Hill, Ontario

This is a beautiful piece of work!! The service was excellent. Very quick, safe and efficient turnaround and follow up. I recommend everyone to have a copy. Nazir Alibhai, Markham, Ontario

“Outstanding customer service, superfast delivery, and the book is great addition to any library.” Yaar, Toronto.

Date posted: February 25, 2019.

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“I Wish I’d Been There” – A story of Prophet Muhammad and Hazrat Ali, and linking it to Hazar Imam’s message, “I think of you as working by my side”

Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) received his first revelation from Allah through Angel Jibreel (Gabriel) in a small cave on top of Mount Hira which is also known as Jabl al Nur (Mount of Light). The Prophet used to climb this mountain for his devotions and meditations. During the 23rd night in the month of Ramadan the first 5 verses of the Surah Al-Alaq (96) were revealed to him. The mountain is located just 2 kms from the Ka’bah.

By PERVIS RAWJI

This is a story of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and Hazrat Ali (a.s.) from the earliest days of Islam. I have been telling the story to my children, nieces and nephews for the past several years.

When Prophet Muhammad first received his calling from Allah via Angel Gabriel in the cave of Mount Hira, he came home shaking and was comforted by his beloved wife Khadija, who validated his experience.

Now, with Khadija’s support, the Prophet of Islam had to convey Allah’s message to the people of Mecca. He invited the important men of Mecca, including those of his prominent Quraish tribe. The guests came and ate the meal and were expecting an announcement, as was customary. None came, so they duly departed for their homes.

The Holy Prophet’s nerves, knowing the revolutionary nature of the idea about to be unleashed upon the pagan Meccan society, had at the last minute failed him.

But at the urging and support of Bibi Khadija, Prophet Muhammad again invited the same men over for another feast. After the meal, the men waited expectantly again.

This time the Prophet did speak. He spoke of his vision,  the message and the mission he wanted to convey to the  people: that of one God. He then asked:

“And who among you will champion my cause and work by my side?”

None answered. People put their heads down and avoided eye contact.

Prophet Muhammad asked again, “Who is willing to help shoulder my burden and to work by my side and to be my champ?”

Foreseeing the magnitude of such an undertaking, none answered. Then, from the midst of the crowd, an 11 year old boy jumped up.

He was Hazrat Ali, the Prophet’s young cousin and future son-in-law. “I will champion your cause, O Muhammad! I shall work by your side,” spoke up Ali.

At this, there was a wave of derisive laughter from the crowd of wealthy and influential Meccans as they contemplated the outcome and struggles of this ‘visionary’ with his little sidekick.

But Prophet Muhammad’s face broke into a smile as he opened his arms and hugged the boy, his brother, really, for had they not both been raised by the same Abu Talib and Fatima binti Asad?

This expression of endearment and confidence in Hazrat Ali is one incident I Wish I’d Been There to witness.

I link this inspiring story to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s 1992 visit to Vancouver, when he addressed the jamat and, smiling from ear to ear, he gestured with his hand and said, “I think of you as working by my side.”

Mawlana Hazar Imam was asking us to champion him in his cause against poverty in this troubled world. His vision is to include us, his lashkar (symbolic army) of men and women, in this endeavor.

Date posted: February 22, 2019.

(This is a slightly revised version of the author’s piece that originally appeared in Simerg’s highly acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There).

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About the writer: Born in colonial Uganda, Pervis Rawji (née Patni) went to Aga Khan Nursery and Primary schools before immigrating to Canada with her parents and siblings in 1969. Graduating from New Westminster Secondary School, she went for a BA and Teacher Training (PDP) at Simon Fraser University.

Pervis taught elementary school in greater Vancouver, got married, had two children. During this time she got a Montessori diploma as well as an MSc in International Policy from the University of Bristol, UK. Pervis also teaches ESL and yoga. Pervis Rawji has taught English to Ismailis in Iran, India and Syria, and has worked one autumn at the Roshan Clinic in Kabul. Her hobbies are skiing, logic puzzles, badminton and gardening.

The Inferno of Alamut in the year 1256

A tribute to the great Ismaili dai, Hasan bin Sabbah who was responsible for establishing the Alamut state after the divisions in the Fatimid Empire led to its eventual demise. Hasan maintained that Imam Nizar and not Musteali was the rightful heir to Imam Mustansir billah, the 8th Fatimid Caliph. Photo: © Copyright Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ, Canada..

The recent CNN photo piece On the trail of Iran’s ‘Assassins’ in the Alborz Mountains has stirred an immense amount of interest on the subject of Alamut and the Ismaili community that for more than 150 years protected itself from its enemies by securing fortresses like Alamut in Iran and Syria.

In a high powered and moving poem penned originally for Simerg’s highly acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There, Shariffa Keshavjee reminds all our readers about the tragedy that took place in Alamut nearly 800 years ago when the Mongol warlord Genghis Khan had declared his intention to destroy the Ismailis with the following chilling words, “None of that people should be spared, not even the babe in its cradle.”

The context of Shariffa’s poem can further be appreciated through the following 2 excerpts taken from recent non-Ismaili sources.

1. In his extraordinary historical fictional book Samarkand relating to the turbulent history of Iran from the 11th to the 20th century, which was partially inspired by Omar Khayyam’s Rubayat, the award winning French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf writes:

“He [the Mongol officer] was carrying a torch in his hand and to show [the historian – Juvayni] just how much in a hurry he was, he placed it next to a pile of dusty scrolls. The historian gave in and gathered into his hands and upto his armpits as many [manuscripts] as he could grab and when a manuscript entitled Eternal Secrets of Stars and Numbers fell to the ground, he did not bend over to pick it up again.

“Thus it was that the Assassins’ library burnt for seven days and seven nights causing the loss of innumerable works, of which there was no copy remaining, and which are supposed to contain the best guarded secrets of the universe.”

2. The online website Iran.com offers the following description:

“The Mongol leader [Hulagu, grandson of Genghis Khan] journeyed himself to the citadel in 1256 and ordered everything to be destroyed, including the famous library. Among the precious writings that disappeared were the works of Hasan himself and the complete history of the Assassins and their doctrines. But just before the burning he allowed his historian Juvainy (who was writing a biography of the Mongol prince) to enter the library and bring out a few of the books, enough as would fit into a small wheelbarrow. No time was allowed to consider the matter.

“Juvainy hurriedly saved a few Qurans, a chronicle of Alamut and a biography of Hasan Sabbah. Everything else perished in the flames. The vast library filled with….hundreds of thousands of manuscripts burned for seven days and seven nights bringing to an end the history of the Ismailis of Alamut. Over the years, knowledge of the Ismailis degenerated into misunderstandings, romances and other fanciful nonsenses such as those popularised by the explorer Marco Polo.”

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Inferno of Alamut

By SHARIFFA KESHAVJEE

I often go back in my mind
To a time when giant forts dwarfed
Our human form
But great minds soared
Soared about the forts of Alamut
Where great minds thought
The scribes told wonders
Of the worlds of new continent
New passages in the oceans
Of search for truth.

I often go back in my mind
To the pain of persecution
The fear of the self
Above all the anguish
The anguish of lost knowledge
Beautifully bound skillfully crafted
Books of great knowledge
Of mathematics and cartography
Of mystical passion for the divine
The deep yearning

I often go back in my mind to the
Night the books were burnt
The pages curled in fires of doom
The ink evaporates
Loving  thoughts of seers  up in smoke
Parchments and tomes flung into
Feeding the bonfire of lost knowledge
What the mind perceived
What the pen had scribed
Was gone for ever

The smoke rises over
Over the fort
The charred air rises
The effort to stop in vain
The scream of anguish
Stuck in the throat
As the gaze falls upon
The lost knowledge of Alamut
The human form dwarfed
Dwarfed

Gagged
In its inability to act.

This however is renaissance
Where time and knowledge
Laid at the feet of the Master
Not sepulchered in the fort
But given birth by the vision
No longer subjugated
Free to search  into cyberspace
Following vision without boundaries
Reaching over mountains across seas
Reaching heights

Unthought of in the sojourn in Alamut.

Date posted: February 8, 2019.

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Shariffa Keshavjee is a philanthropist and an entrepreneur with an objective to help women empower themselves. Raised in Kisumu, she considers herself a “pakaa” Kenyan. She is now based in the nation’s capital, Nairobi. She is the founding member and director of the Hawkers Market School and the Kigera Girl Guides Centre which provide educational opportunities for destitute girls in the country’s slums. Her Hawkers Market Girls Centre has been the recipient of the World Bank Development Marketplace Award in 2004 in which the centre was given $85,000. In addition, she is also the founding member of FONA (Friends of the Nairobi Arboretum) which is dedicated to preserving Kenya’s forest and preserved arboreta. Her other interest is in visual arts where she delights in painting on wood, silk and porcelain using water colours, oils and acrylics. She also likes writing, especially for children, and bird watching.

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Alamut’s Registration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Limbo

[Numerous reports in the Iranian media in November 2014 announced that Iran was planning to offer the castle of Alamut to UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The historical significance of the fortress dates back to 1090 A.C. when the Ismaili dai Hassan Sabbah chose the Alamut region as the headquarters of Ismailis following the Nizari-Musteali split in Fatimid Egypt. But four years after the announcement, Iran Daily reports that numerous factors have prevented the registration of Alamut as a World Heritage Site site.]

Alamut Photo by ALIREZA JAVAHERI WIKIPEDIA 800

A winter view of the unassailable rock of Alamut and the famous castle of Alamut nesting on top of this huge mountain of granite stone. This was the Capital of a Confederation of the Ismaili State founded in 1090 AC, by a great genius of all times, Hasan-i Sabbah which lasted for 171 years against formidable enemies and ultimately surrendered before the Mongols in 1256 AC. The Ismaili State was defended by a string of castles, over one hundred in number and Alamut being the capital of the State. This photo of was taken on December 31, 2011 by Alireza Javaheri. Photo credit: Wikipedia. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

By CULTURAL HERITAGE DESK, IRAN DAILY

Alamut located in the northwestern province of Qazvin as an untapped and historical region deserves to be registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List but various factors have prevented the goal from being reached.

Director General of Qazvin Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Department Mohammad Ali Hazrati said that a limited number of foreigners travel to Qazvin Province because it doesn’t have any registered site on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

He added efforts are underway to send the dossier of Alamut natural and historical site to UNESCO for world registration.

Hazrati said Alamut with beautiful natural landscape has several ancient structures including Hassan Sabbah Castle and Pich Bon Caravanserai.

A number of regulations should be observed for registration of any site on UNESCO’s List.

“Illegal construction of buildings within the boundary of the historical structures, including Hassan Sabbah Castle, is among the problems faced by Alamut in this respect”, he said.

The Rock of Alamut.

A fall view of the Castle of Alamut, which is nested on the top of the colossal mass of granite rock. It became the centre of Nizari Ismaili activity after the fall of the Fatimid Empire. It is not until you come to the foot of this colossal mass of stone that you realize the immensity and impregnability of the fortress at its summit. Photo: © Copyright. Muslim Harji.

The steep trek to Alamut Castle. Photo: Copyright © Muslim Harji.

He added that a decree was issued for destruction of structures located in Alamut historical texture, but the resistance of local officials as well as some social considerations prevented it from being enforced.

Hazrati said the registration of Alamut on UNESCO’s World Heritage List would help the ancient site to be recognized more internationally, draw a large number of the visitors to the province and boost tourism and employment in the region.

The Former head of Iranian Center for Archeological Research, Hamideh Choobak, said all ancient sites located worldwide are of high value but international recognition would help increase the governments’ responsibility to protect and maintain them.

“Specific funds will also be made available to the sites by the government and international organizations”, she added.

Choobak, who is the head of Alamut Cultural Heritage Site, noted that Alamut deserves to be registered on UNESCO’s List but it is not enough.

She stressed that a number of conditions should be provided to help realize the target.

Attaining the summit at Alamut is a breath-taking and exhilarating experience. The fortress complex, one soon discovers, sits astride a dangerously narrow ledge of rock resembling the handle and blade of a knife. Photo: Copyright © Muslim Harji.

Milky Way Over Alamut

The Milky Way extends across the sky above the mountain fortress of Alamut in this all-sky view from Iran. The light dome at the lower right is from the capital Tehran, over 100 kilometers away to the southwest. The light on the upper right is from Qazvin, the closest major city to Alamut. Photo: Copyright. Babak Tafreshi/Dreamview.net.

The official said Hassan Sabbah Castle has been registered on the National Heritage List in the year to March 2002, adding some organizations failed to perform their responsibility toward the structure.

She reiterated that related organizations should raise the local people’s awareness about the benefits of the site’s registration on UNESCO’s List and encourage them to cooperate with officials in this respect.

Date posted: February 4, 2019.

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This piece, excluding the photos, was originally published in IRAN DAILYlicensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Please also see our previous post CNN Travel: On the trail of Iran’s ‘Assassins’ in the Alborz Mountains

CNN Travel: On the trail of Iran’s ‘Assassins’ in the Alborz Mountains

By AMAR GROVER, CNN TRAVEL

“Sabbah’s rule from Alamut is shrouded in mystery and enigma…partly because most Ismaili records of the era were destroyed by the Mongols while the writings of their detractors survived. Fused with the half-truths and fanciful tales of European travelers including Marco Polo along with the sensationalist confections of pseudo-scholars, the Ismailis were long cast in lurid light”…MORE ON CNN: A PHOTO TOUR OF ALBORZ MOUNTAINS

Click on image for CNN article and photo gallery

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PIECES ON SIMERG: SPECTACULAR NIGHT TIME PHOTO OF ALAMUT AND ESSAYS ON THE MYTH OF THE ASSASSINS

In this spectacular starry night scene of Alamut published on NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day and the National Geographic News, a meteor’s streak and the arc of the Milky Way hang over the imposing mountain fortress of Alamut. Photo: Babak Tafreshi/Dreamview.net . Copyright.

Date posted: February 3, 2019.

Unity is Strength: A Lesson from the Intertwining Roots of the Redwood Tree

“The children of Adam, created of the self-same clay, are members of one body. When one member suffers, all members suffer, likewise.” — Sadi, Muslim poet.

“Withdrawing and distancing from others does not make us stronger. We hurt ourselves, limit that which can nurture us, open ourselves to injuries that can only be survived by connections. Isolationism and xenophobia fuel hatred and blame.” — Joanne Eddy

[Please also view an excellent and inspiring Youtube presentation on the Redwood Tree (3m 40s) which complements this article; video link at bottom of this post — Ed.]

By JOANNE EDDY

0240fecd-155d-4519-3e8f3d63e3d40665original_redwood trees

Coast redwoods. Photo: US National Park Service.

Redwood trees have always impressed me. From a seed no bigger in size than a tomato seed, they grow as tall as 35 story buildings. In fact, their height helps them survive in dry seasons as it helps them live on only the moisture they are able to extract from fog. Condensing the mist against their trucks, redwoods create fog drips that cool and roll down grooves in their bark flowing down the length of the tree to the roots that nurture it. Resistant to insects, able to withstand fires and floods, subject to no diseases, they endure for ages with no natural enemies but man.

You probably know all of that, but I recently learned something from a business training model about redwoods that surprised me…and set me to thinking.

SunnyFortuna.com tells us: “You would think that a 350-foot-tall tree would need deep roots, but that’s not the case at all with the Sequoia sempervirens. Redwood tree roots are very shallow, often only five or six feet deep. But they make up for it in width, sometimes extending up to 100 feet from the trunk. They thrive in thick groves, where the roots can intertwine and even fuse together. This gives them tremendous strength against the forces of nature. This way they can withstand high winds and raging floods.”

So, redwoods do not survive alone…ever. They form “tribes” or communities. Sometimes they grow so close to each other they merge at the base into one tree. The first thing they provide each other is strength and support: intertwining roots. Not deep, but wide, living in an embrace of others.

The merged roots also meet their needs for nurture. The entire system relies on their rooted connections.

On the National Park System sequoia page I found out that “The coast redwood environment recycles naturally; because the annual rainfall leaves the soil with few nutrients, the trees rely on each other, living and dead for their vital nutrients.” (nps.gov) As a redwood tree dies, it decays and the nutrients it has absorbed over the ages are released back into the community through the roots, nourishing the other trees. And the community replaces that member by sending a new sprout up from their roots.

It’s no wonder that redwoods have inspired the  latest “organizational culture” model, a new Fish Philosophy, Who Moved My Cheese, Star Thrower, Open Source look at what creates success in corporate management. The sequoia “business” model guarantees enduring success and sustains massive growth….but only if the trees work as a team and support each other. The critical key to survival and growth is  interdependence.

But I think this is a lesson that is applicable not just to business but to our own need for communities, individually and as nations. Like the redwoods, we cannot survive alone. People do need alone time, and space for individualism to be content and personally creative, but there are moments in a life that also needs friends and neighbors and groups of like-minded people. We need others  to help us think past what we can alone, to help us solve life problems, to share their strength in our times of need. I would argue that this redwood kind of inter-reliance is needed for health, individual and collective, for us all to survive and thrive.

Even spiritually, as much as I value meditation time, walks at the ocean alone with “Intimations of Immorality” on my mind, I am refreshed by deep talks with others, friends and family. I need them to challenge my thought and nourish my spirit, and for me, as well, I need the comforting ritual, the remembered songs and prayers, the heart and mind community of a worshipping family of faith to nourish me.

I think when we and our world withdraw our roots…try to restrict them to me and mine, we make an egregious mistake. Withdrawing and distancing from others does not make us stronger. We hurt ourselves, limit that which can nurture us, open ourselves to injuries that can only be survived by connections. Isolationism and xenophobia fuel hatred and blame. They are failed strategies that lead more often to war than to the safety they promise.

In the face of Britain’s exit from the EU, where Populism and promises of renewed national strength spoke to many, I would warn them and those here in the US who echo the same arguments to take a look at what happens when loggers cut down redwoods. Not only are the trees they take killed, but the other redwoods that remain in the tribe often die. Without the missing trees to share water and nutrients, the remaining members becomes less healthy and sometimes cannot even survive.

Our world seems to scream at us that helping others hurts you, and standing alone is better than uniting together. Sometimes, while I do understand the fear of change and of the unknown, and the gut response to forces and politicians that inflame that fear, I wish I could get people to look up and out.

There are resources out there in the world still. They may not be mineral, or oil, as much as wind, sun, and PEOPLE.

America has always been made stronger by being united as states and united with the world. Accepting the gifts of those who came to our shores has added to our resources…even when they were poor when they came, like my grand parents. Just like love, which is not diminished when a new child is born into a family, but grows as it is divided among ever larger numbers, we grow our country by welcoming others. And it is in tough times, we most need to reach out into our tribes and communities, knot our roots into even tighter bonds and stand strong together against the fires that race towards us or the floods that threaten to wash us away.

To me, that is the lesson that rustles in the leaves, it’s the strength we can feel in our roots, it’s a model for living we can learn from the redwoods.

Date posted: January 12, 2019.

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This is a slightly revised version of Joanne Eddy’s original article Intertwining Roots: A Lesson on Community which was published on her blog http://www.joanneeddy.com.

joanne eddyJoanne Eddy, lives in NorthoCarolina. She notes on her blog: “Originally from upstate New York. I love my family, my community, and my friends, and embrace ‘living deliberately’ in the world, trying to make a difference. I have written an as yet unpublished book, The Call, an epic fantasy with historical fiction and folklore elements. My blog is for other writers, for those who love a good read, and for all who, like me, are looking to find and live their call.”

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The quote of Sadi at the top of this post is from His Highness the Aga Khan’s speech delivered on April 18, 2008, in Atlanta, Georgia, at the annual meeting of the International Baccalaureate.

Also view a Youtube video “In Giving, We Receive” that complements Johanne Eddy’s piece. Please click https://youtu.be/GuTZUAIHKbo. We thank Yasmin Alibhoy of Madrid Spain, for bringing this video to our notice. 

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Photos and Video: The Aga Khan Museum Lights up its Facade with a Beautiful Show in the Dark

For 4 evenings, the Aga Khan Museum ran a repeating 15 minute video segment highlighting some of its programs and events on its main entrance wall. Approximately 4,000 people visited the museum during the light show held from December 27-30, 2018 between dusk and 9 PM…. MORE

Please click on image for video and photos

Date posted: January 1, 2019.
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