A Historic Post on His Highness the Aga Khan Prepared from a Very Rare East African Souvenir

Aga Khan Souvenir Simerg

Our sister website, Barakah presents a beautiful piece on the ceremonial installation of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as the 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. The post is on events that took place in October 1957 in Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Kampala. It brings together photographs and textual material that many of our regular as well as new readers may not have seen or read before. Please click HERE or on the images on this page to read Barakah’s informative and inspiring article.

We wish Ismailis around the world a very happy 65th Imamat Day Mubarak. We have the knowledge that we are under the loving care of the Imam-of-the-Time, whose hand is always on our shoulders. At the same time, we should remain grateful for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s constant blessings for our material and spiritual comfort and well being as well as protection from difficulties. We wish all Ismailis success in all their endeavours, with a sincere wish that we follow the Imam’s advice to us to keep the right balance between matters of the world (dunya) and faith (din).

Please click on photo for special article in Barakah.

Date posted: July 11, 2022

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Photographs: Thousands Enjoy Stampede and Eid al-Adha Breakfast Event Organized by Calgary’s Ismaili Muslims

Malik Merchant attends and takes photographs of a special Ismaili breakfast event held on Saturday, July 8, 2022 at Calgary’s Headquarters Jamatkhana. The event shone even more as temperatures reached a high of 27° C (81° F) under sunny blue skies. With spirits running high with the celebration of Eid al-Adha on the same day, the crowd returned home feeling delighted and happy. Click HERE or on the photo below to read the post.

Please click on photo for full story.

Date posted: July 9, 2022.

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The Faith and Loyalty of Prophet Ibrahim (A.S.) and the Courage of His Son, Prophet Ismail (A.S.): Verses from the Qur’an, Poem and a Heart Warming Story for Eid al-Adha; Plus an Invitation to the Free Calgary Stampede/Eid Breakfast

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

Eid al-Adha is celebrated around the Muslim world on the 10th day of the twelfth month of  ‘DhuI-Hijjah, after the culmination of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca (see historical photo, below). This year (2022) the Eid will be celebrated by the Canadian Ismaili Muslim community on Saturday, July 9. Numerous Muslim Mosques in Canada have also announced that the Eid al-Adha Namaz prayer will be offered on July 9. In Calgary, Canada, the Eid al-Adha prayers at the Ismaili Headquarters Jamatkhana will be followed by a special free Calgary Stampede/Eid al-Adha breakfast starting at 11 AM (see details HERE).

Hajj historical photo library of congress simerg
Between 1909 and 1919. Muslim Pilgrims at the Kaaba in holy city of Mecca. Photo: US Library of Congress.

In addition to the Eid, Ismailis around the world will gather in their Jamatkhanas on Monday, July 11, to celebrate the 65th Imamat Day of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, who succeeded to the 49th hereditary throne of Imamat at the age of twenty by the will of his grandfather, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III. The reign of the 48th Imam was a record in Ismaili history, lasting 71 years from August 17, 1885, when he was only 7 years old, until he died on July 11, 1957 at the age of 79.

Later during the week of July 11, on or around Saturday July 16, Ismailis along with other Shia Muslims will be observing Eid-e Ghadir, an event that took place during the return journey of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) from the annual pilgrimage to Mecca when he designated Hazrat Ali (A.S.) to succeed him as the first Imam.

Simerg and its sister websites will carry special features related to these important historic events. For Eid al-Adha, we have Qur’anic verses as well as a poem and a beautiful story by Farah Tejani, whose creative writing has been widely appreciated by our readers.

We convey our heartiest felicitations to all our readers and friends on the occasion of Eid al-Adha and offer our prayers for the fulfilment of all your wishes, for good health as well as for barakah and success in your endeavours.

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The Qur’an on the Sacrifice

He said, ‘I am going to my Lord; He will guide me. (99)
My Lord, give me one of the righteous.’ (100)
Then We gave him the good tidings of a prudent boy; (101)
and when he had reached the age of running with him, he said, ‘My son, I see in a dream that I shall sacrifice thee; consider, what thinkest thou?’ He said, ‘My father, do as thou art bidden; thou shalt find me, God willing, one of the steadfast.’ (102)
When they had surrendered, and he flung him upon his brow, (103)
We called unto him, ‘Abraham, (104)
thou hast confirmed the vision; even so We recompense the good-doers. (105)
This is indeed the manifest trial.’ (106)
And We ransomed him with a mighty sacrifice, (107)
and left for him among the later folk (108
‘Peace be upon Abraham!’ (109)
(Holy Qur’an, 37:99-109, translation by A.J. Arberry (click Corpus Quran for multiple translations.)

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The Great Sacrifice

By FARAH TEJANI

Omnipotent and Merciful is He,
Allah knows what is best,
At certain times He chooses
To put us through certain tests

He observes our response
To His Rightful Command,
And on this He Judges,
Just exactly where we stand.

It is not meant to be easy,
What would be the purpose,
So we are challenged in truth,
Our response to Him defines us.

Reflect and recall a time when,
We chose not to obey His Laws,
He being of course, All-Forgiving,
No doubt, forgave us our flaws.

But what is to be said,
Of Hazrat Ibrahim, The One,
On the day he was commanded,
To take the life of his own son!

Put yourself in his place,
Could you do the same,
Take the life of who you hold most dear,
The ultimate sacrifice in Allah’s name.

Eid al-Adha celebrates Ibrahim’s loyalty,
To The Great and Loving Wise One,
Though surely riddled with fear and pain,
He placed Ismail, his most precious son,

In front of him, and said a prayer,
In the Name of Allah, Lord of All Things,
He swang the knife and opened his eyes,
And “Oh, But what Mercy God Brings.”

In the place of his very own son’s head
A miraculous goat’s head had fallen,
Allah rewarded Ibrahim’s obedience,
Without even a moment of stalling.

Try to imagine the emotions he went through,
Ibrahim was elated and held Ismail near,
Most Merciful is Our Most Gracious Creator,
Humbled by Allah’s Grace he held back a tear.

Abraham would we if we could,
Be as loyal as you are to Allah’s Laws,
You stand as a testimony of Great Faith,
Without even a moment to pause.

Let it be our endeavour, to faithfully honor,
The Words from Above they are in our best interest,
Take a moment to reflect this Eid al-Adha,
And we, too, will surely be at our best.

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Elizabeth the Ladybug and the Lonely Rose

Ladybug. Photo: DM (dmott9) on Flickr

By FARAH TEJANI

Elizabeth the ladybug prided herself on being a very adventurous and curious little insect. Oh, life was simply so magnificent and extraordinary, and she remembered to thank God every single second. There was so much to learn and do, and this day was a very special day. Somehow inside she knew this was going to be a day she would never forget.

There was just something about the way the sun burst out of the sky just like a clown out of a wind-up music box. Today was just after a summer rain which made a double rainbow in the clouds. Elizabeth’s grandpa used to say that this meant there was a pot of gold at the end, but Elizabeth was not interested in gold today. Her grandfather always told her, “Always remember, Lizzie,” because that is what her family called her, “There are always many, many more important things in this world than gold.”

When Elizabeth was very young, her mother asked her, “Lizzie, honey, if you could do anything you want, what would you like to do more than anything in this world?” and Elizabeth kicked her little black foot in the blades of grass, “I don’t know…anything?” “Yes,” her mother smiled, not having a clue what her daughter would say. “I guess I would like to get to know everybody in the whole wide world!” 

“Oh my!” she exclaimed, “This world is a pretty big place, and how would such a little ladybug like you do that?”

Elizabeth looked at her very seriously, “That’s easy. One at a time!”

Her mother laughed and gave her daughter a big hug! She knew if any ladybug could do it, Lizzie would! She would fly as far as her little wings would take her. There was nothing more fun than making new friends. And Lizzie had lots of them.

And this day was special. Elizabeth was on a mission to make a new friend at her favorite park in Richmond, British Columbia. Slowly she made small steps which gave her more time to see more things. Her mother used to tell her, “Lizzie, remember not to run through life too quickly; you might miss out on the good stuff…which was true indeed. So there were times when she would use her wings, but times when she would take slow meticulous steps and enjoy it like a hot cup of chocolate when it’s snowing.

Swan. Photo: Malik Merchant

Minoru Park was so special because it had squirrels and rabbits and ducks and swans and all types of plants and flowers. Elizabeth had many friends here already but today she was on a special mission to meet a new friend she just knew needed her help. You know how you just know things sometimes?…Yeah, like that.

Elizabeth passed all the friends she knew already because she was so tiny, and it was hard for them to see her. So she made her way across the step bridge and smiled at the mating swans which were making a heart shape with their necks. CLICK. She took a photo with her mind because she didn’t have a camera. This is how you make memories. Elizabeth had taken many photos in her mind. Sunsets, spider webs, flowers, squirrels, rabbits, frogs, butterflies and especially family. Photos that she could remember whenever she wanted to.

Suddenly, Elizabeth smelled a beautiful fragrance coming from the flowers on the other side of the bridge.  She tiptoed on the dew on the grass so as not to disturb them and watched in wonder as they went about their day.

She was quite surprised to find some yellow sunlit dandelions doing the tango and dancing in the breeze. They were not aware that she was nearby and so they just laughed and giggled and enjoyed the warmth on their petals. Elizabeth called up from below, “Hey, my name is Elizabeth…do you want to be my friend?” But they were not able to hear her, so she just kept going, sure she would find that special friend.

Tulips. Photo: Nurin Merchant

 And then Elizabeth went to the next bush and she couldn’t believe what she saw! Believe it or not Elizabeth saw some tulips holding briefcases, pens and pencils and charts and diagrams! They seemed to be talking and holding some kind of very important business meeting. Just like humans! “Oh, if only humans only knew what animals and nature do when they are asleep or not paying attention!” Elizabeth decided it was probably best not to disturb them. She carried on her very important adventure.

Elizabeth went a bit further and came across some lilacs singing in a choir! A choir! Oh, they sure sounded as pretty as they looked. It was the end of summer and they were already practicing Christmas carols. Elizabeth sat and listened to their songs for a bit. She was quite amazed at how gifted and talented they were. Elizabeth was going to stop and ask if she could sing with them, but she was determined to make a new friend today, and this would just delay her.

Elizabeth went a little further to a bush with no flowers, just bulbs that had not bloomed just yet. But there right in front of her lying in the grass was a single long stem rose that had been plucked and thrown away! This rose did not look happy just drying up and withering in the sun.

Wilting rose. Photo: Rashida Tejani for Farah's story Elizabeth
Wilting rose. Photo: Rashida Tejani

“Are you okay?” Elizabeth asked her sincerely.

 No answer.

 Elizabeth asked again and moved closer in case she couldn’t hear her. 

“Hey, my name is Elizabeth…do you want to be my friend?”

But there was no response. 

Elizabeth began to worry and she tried again, really anxious on becoming this rose’s friend… she just knew this was the special reason for today’s adventure and she was not going to give up.

“Excuse me, can you hear me? Are you okay? I would like to be your friend.”

Suddenly a small soft voice uttered very slowly and with much effort, “Oh, can’t you see? There’s no time for friends. Can’t you see that a human has plucked me from my bush and cast me to the ground. I was up there in my bush and I was the first one to bloom, so some human thought I was pretty and smelled me and then just decided to throw me away like an old newspaper that has already been read!”

Elizabeth knew this was her special friend and she knew she would do anything to help her.

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth was genuinely concerned. “How can I help you?”

“Put me back in my rose bush with my friends!”

Elizabeth  knew she had to do something.

“Just like you need the plants and the dew on grass I need water and the sun and the soil to LIVE!” The rose craned her neck up with much effort to look Elizabeth in the eyes. “The sun is so hot and blazing on me that I am drying up and withering away! I don’t have too many words left but I hope you will hear me and share this message. I wish human beings would be more careful. LIVE AND LET LIVE!” 

With one of her thorns she pointed at the puddle just next to them.

“You look like a very brave, strong and determined little lady bug. I have faith in you, my new friend. Do you have the strength to roll my stem in there, just so I can live just a little bit longer?”

Elizabeth had tears in her eyes, and looked sadly at the dying rose. But she was so happy she called her her new friend. “I know I can!” She knew there was a reason for her going on her adventure.

And with that, Elizabeth dug her heels in the ground and rolled the end of the flower’s stem into the puddle that she was so happy was there.    

“LIVE AND LIVE!” The rose was fading now. With whatever strength she could gather from the water in the puddle she managed to say some very important things!  

“Don’t put lions in cages, don’t put elephants in cages, don’t put gorillas and monkeys in cages, don’t put killer whales and dolphins in aquariums, don’t put fish and snakes and lizards in tanks…and for God’s sake don’t pluck flowers because they are pretty and they smell nice! LIVE AND LET LIVE! We last a lot longer in the bush and animals last a lot longer in their natural habitat!”

Ladybug. Photo: DM (dmott9) on Flickr

Elizabeth flew up to her petals and closed her eyelids and with that the rose slowly faded away leaving three or four dried red rose petals that looked like tears. Elizabeth took a very sad but meaningful snapshot in her mind and felt very sad that she only had this friend for a matter of minutes. But she was grateful for the lesson that would last a lifetime!

Tears were flowing from her eyes as she sat with the rose while the sun was setting in the distance. She had never thought about how important life was. No one had ever tried to take hers except for that young girl on the farm who put her under a glass where she was held prisoner for hours, but fortunately one of the adults used the glass to get some orange juice and she managed to get away. God knows what the young child would have done with her if the grown up didn’t come in time!

Elizabeth did not even know the rose’s name. “LIVE AND LET LIVE” indeed. Elizabeth said a small prayer of gratitude to God. “Thank you, for this GIFT OF LIFE YOU HAVE GIVEN ME, MY GIFT BACK TO YOU IS WHAT I DO WITH IT.” Amen.

Date posted: July 08, 2022.

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Farah Tejani creative writer Vancouver
Farah Tejani

Farah Tejani is a creative writer based in Vancouver. She is currently working on childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called “Elastic Embrace.” She has been contributing poems and stories for Simerg and its sister website Barakah for the past year. We invite our readers to read some of Farah’s poems by clicking on  Elastic Embrace; The Fragrance of Spring; and “In Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Eyes”. In addition to Elizabeth the Ladybug and the Lonely Rose, children will also love another story by Farah called Mr. Sneaky Peeky and the Two Red-Tailed Monkeys.

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

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Stunning Photographs from Kananaskis, a Gem in Canada’s Alberta Province

Malik Merchant spontaneously takes off for a drive through the stunning Kananaskis Mountain Range in the Canadian Rockies in Alberta. He meets beautiful people, sees awe inspiring lakes and sunsets as well as has close encounters with wildlife. No doubt, the late Aga Khan regarded the appreciation of nature as among the TEN PRINCIPLES one should have for a happier, richer and more meaningful life. Click HERE or on any of the photos below for Malik’s informative and exciting piece.

Wildlife in the Kananaskis. Click on photo for story and beautiful photos.
Lakes, mountains and beautiful sunsets in the Kananaskis. Click on photo for story and more photos.
Wildlife in the Kananaskis. Click on photo for story and beautiful photos.

Date posted: July 5, 2022.

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Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania” by Dr Zul Premji of Calgary is a Compelling Story of Honesty, Hard Work, Humility and Determination

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Calgary based Zul Premji’s recent book “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania.” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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“This memoir is a rags-to-riches tale full of material on human frailty…It anchors Zul as a superb storyteller…Candid, Honest and Stimulating” — Wafaie Fawzi, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, Harvard University

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Simerg’s Interview with Dr Zul Premji

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?

Zul Premji: The title of my book Malaria Memoirs reflects my life story from birth to retirement. For almost forty years of my professional career, I devoted my life to control malaria in Tanzania; thus my life story is intertwined with malaria in Tanzania. I believe many migrants from Africa who have settled in Europe and North American would have suffered from malaria illness in their childhood while in Africa. This book gives them the nostalgic experience of such malaria episodes and perhaps may provide some insights into malaria as a disease and a public health threat. Through this book the generation that migrated will be able to relay their stories about mosquitoes, mosquito coils, the bitter pills and bed nets to the next generation.

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

Premji: This book is a tale of hard work, honesty, determination, failures and success. It is a humble story of a poor family and how one of the siblings becomes a Professor at the Medical School in Dar es Salaam. For the younger generation, it is a proof of concept that hard work, honesty and determination is needed to become meritocratic and achieve success in life. To many of my students, this will be an inspirational story of how teaching combined with research can be the most satisfying and effective career path. The book is also for those who are aspiring health related careers to think beyond clinical medicine like surgery, cardiology etc. and think the impact one can make in Public Health, infectious diseases, role of social sciences in disease control and overall research to prevent and minimize human suffering. This is a book that echoes, first, positive thinking in the midst of poverty, disease and suffering and, second, that there are no short cuts to success. 

Simerg: What inspired you to write Malaria Memoirs?

Premji: Upon retirement and relocating to Calgary, Canada, I started to reflect on the work I did at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam. I realized through research how we were able to lower the malaria prevalence. In the process, I built a strong bond with my students and research team, hence this motivated me to write how all of this was done. The result was my biography. Another reason was the constant curiosity my grandchildren exhibited; they wanted to know everything about life in Tanzania, about my work and how I ended up being a medical doctor. The short clips of my stories have contributed to this book.

Article continues below

Malaria Memoirs by Zul Premji Ismaili author series Simerg
Cover page of Zul Premji’s book “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania.” Paperback, published by Mawenzi House, Toronto, 2021, 144 pp.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Premji: The book is available in softcover and e-books, e.g., Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Google Books. It is widely available directly from the publisher, Mawenzi House, Amazon Canada, Amazon USA and Chapters/Indigo.

Intentionally, the book is not of several hundred pages and is devoid of irrelevant details but the main relevant messages are clearly illustrated. In this era of screens and fast flashy digital clips, reading culture is fast becoming historical. Keeping this in mind, one can easily read this book overnight and feel the author’s pulse.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Premji: I had no clue of how to find a publisher for my book especially in Canada, because malaria cannot be an attractive topic in the cold Canada where there is no malaria. However, through a mutual friend I got connected to the Toronto based Mawenzi House.

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EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS

“Tremendously interesting and entertaining. Prof Zul’s Malaria Memoirs is a truly Tanzanian story to which the average person can relate” — Billy Ngasala, Professor, Muhimbili University Hospital, Dar es Salaam

He speaks with the authority of someone who has met with success. With prose that’s well paced and matter-of-fact, Malaria Memoirs reads like an intimate conversation with a friend, someone who has lived a dedicated life full of achievements and is ready to share — in Compelling People – The Malaria Guru, from rags to research, review by Rachel Gerry, Literary Review of Canada, November 2021

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Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Premji: I wrote the first draft on my own and later the publisher did a wonderful job in editing my initial draft.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Malaria Memoirs from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Premji: I think the whole process of writing, editing, printing and distribution took about two years.

Simerg: Would you like to offer further thoughts about your book?

Premji: The book is based on three phases of my life, the early phase in Morogoro, Tanga and my secondary education at a mission school in the south part of Tanzania. The second phase is how through sheer hard work and commitment I pursued medical career and the last phase is my professional life, spent mostly in research and teaching medical students. After retirement, I worked for only three years as Chair of Pathology at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi and my not so pleasant experiences and observations are clearly explained and the needed remedial actions.

Date posted: June 30, 2022.

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Author Malaria Memoirs, Ismaili author series in Simerg
Dr. Zul Premji

Zul Premji was born in Iringa, Tanzania, and attended school in two towns before obtaining his medical degree from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam. He later took an MSc in Medical Parasitology from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from the Royal College of Physicians in London, and a doctorate in Infectious Diseases from Karolinska, Sweden. His specialization included clinical trials, antimalarial drug resistance and malaria case management. Over a career of more than forty years, he has held numerous academic positions in Tanzania, and has been an advisor to National Malaria Control. He now lives in Calgary, Alberta.

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

Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)
  15. “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)
  16. “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania” by Dr Zul Premji (June 30, 2022)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Beautiful Scenes from Calgary: The Top Canadian City to Live In, According to New World Rankings

Malik Merchant has lived in more than 12 cities around the world. When he was suddenly offered an opportunity to relocate to Calgary he did not hesitate. His motto: Seek to be forward looking and be courageous and hopeful. Armed with a camera, just as he did in Toronto and Ottawa, Malik is pleased to share some of his beautiful moments in Calgary, a city that has recently been named as the third best city in the world to live in. Please click CALGARY or on the photo below.

Scenes from Calgary, Malik Merchant, simerg
Downtown Calgary. Please click on photo for complete story.

Date posted: June 26, 2022.

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A Beautiful Day at the Aga Khan Garden, Alberta, in Edmonton: Story and Photos with Insightful Quotes of His Highness the Aga Khan

Malik Merchant drives to Edmonton from his new home in Calgary on the last day of spring, and spends several hours at the Aga Khan Garden. His story, photographs as well as insightful quotes from His Highness the Aga Khan’s speech made on the inauguration day in 2018, bring the Aga Khan Garden alive to readers of Simerg’s sister website, Simergphotos. Please read and share Malik’s beautiful post by clicking on Aga Khan Garden or on the photo below.

Aga Khan Garden Edmonton
A view of the beautiful Talar structure from the Chahar Bagh; Aga Khan Garden, Alberta, in Edmonton. Please click on photo for full story.

Date posted: June 22, 2022

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“Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens,” a Once-in-a-Lifetime Book that Brings the 49th Ismaili Imam’s History and Spiritual Leadership to Life

“As he says in his own introduction to the book, Otte engaged in a deep research of the photo archives of the Aga Khan, finding images chosen for their quality but also for the fascinating story they tell. The result is a unique collection of photos, many of which have not been published before, but which, taken together, form a visual biography. It is a book about His Highness the Aga Khan, but it is also a portrait in time and space of the world seen from a different perspective, one of endless change and movement, but also one of hope” — Philip Jodidio, Preface, p. ix, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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DEPTH OF FIELD: THE AGA KHAN BEYOND THE LENS, edited by Gary Otte with texts by Bruno Freschi, Philip Jodidio, Don Cayo and Gary Otte
Hardcover 260 pp. Published by Prestel, February 2022; 220 colour illustrations. To purchase the book, please see links provided immediately after the article.

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Reflections

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg
Cover jacket of Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens; Hardcover, 260 pages, 25 x 30 cms, 220 colour illustrations; published by Prestel, February 2022.

By NIZAR A MOTANI, PhD

I have used the Aga Khan and Hazar Imam interchangeably in my reflections about this visual biography of him, by Gary Otte  

When I finally received the long-awaited book about Hazar Imam, I gleefully looked at the cover, actually the “jacket,” with his picture. It was intriguing that this photograph portraying Hazar Imam had part of his shoulder hidden: it was found in the inside “folding”, which also has an extract from the Preface. The complete photograph appears on page 121. Then, I instinctively and happily thumbed through this delightful “coffee table” edition, as if it was just an album, though about a familiar figure, without much thought and not reading most of the captions. It soon became apparent that the three essays preceding the photographs must have a purpose and should be read before taking a second closer look at them. In my humble opinion, this is what every viewer should do since these textual and contextual commentaries guide the viewer to not only how to view the images, but also, and more importantly, to ponder over them to see beyond these images, which collectively constitute a pictorial biography of the Aga Khan.

The editor of this milestone photographic record, Gary Otte, explains in the Introduction, that as the Aga Khan’s principal photographer for some thirty years, he had ample, varied and exhausting opportunities to capture a lot of “interesting stuff.” He witnessed happenings at “exotic and iconic locations; global leaders and ordinary folks”; — and events of great historical, cultural, religious and economic significance (p. xi).

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

“In an age dominated by moving images, still photographs continue to carry remarkable power. Nothing captures a moment as memorably. There is no movement to miss, no soundtrack to distract. It is the still photograph that becomes iconic – a fraction of a second with great impact that people can readily call to mind. Few moments in film or video imprint themselves so clearly. It is that single frame from a vivid scene that we carry with us… Like all the photographers who covered the life of the Aga Khan, I benefitted from his acceptance of us as chroniclers of history” — Gary Otte, Introduction, p. xiii, “Depth of Field, The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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The two hundred twenty meticulously selected photographs — ninety by him and 130 taken by some fifty other photographers — take the viewers on a panoramic tour of all aspects of the Aga Khan’s amazing life. They are not chronologically presented but were chosen because they were deemed “technically, compositionally, and editorially excellent” and were “more representative of geography, subject area and decades.” (p. xi).

Otte recommends viewers to inspect and revisit all the photographs because “every long look can reveal something new as you discover or imagine, what is happening.” (p. xi).

Philip Jodidio, a prolific author and an expert on contemporary art and architecture, has written a glowing Preface in which he comprehensively and chronologically portrays the major initiatives of Hazar Imam, who is described as “one of the most fascinating personalities in the world….he is a spiritual leader, the driving force behind numerous humanitarian and cultural organizations” as well as “one of the most important figures who has sought to bridge the divide between the Muslim world and the West” (p. v).

By reading this essay, themes and patterns will emerge in the two hundred twenty otherwise randomly presented photographs. The renowned Bruno Freschi’s brief but telling Foreword is centered on his deep respect for Otte’s superb photographic skills as well as his profound admiration of Otte’s extraordinary subject’s (The Aga Khan’s) ambitious, multidimensional, multifaceted mission, which has been so diligently and visually portrayed.

The Aga Khan’s mission, or more appropriately, his mandate as the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, has been succinctly conveyed in excerpts from one of his numerous speeches (p. xvii) and from his historic address to the special joint session of the Canadian Parliament, on February 27, 2014. Thankfully, Jodidio has excerpted the essence of this speech in his Preface (p. v).

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

“Gary’s photography and his curation have produced a collection with a magical quality. The reader/viewer is transported into the event-image reality. The photography is the doorway into the spirit of the frozen moment. These event-moments are the curtain in the great theatre of life. Once the curtain is raised it reveals the compelling life story of the Aga Khan, an elegant portrait of his historic mission” — Bruno Freschi, Foreword, p. xv, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens”

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In my reflections on just a few of the photographs in this non-chronological historical biography, I hope to be faithful to the sound, revealing guidance on how to embrace each image. Evidently, beyond and behind the photographs, there must be careful and plentiful preparation and coordination, prior to, during, and even after each different event: airport arrivals and departures; protocols; media liaison; motorcade escorts; security arrangements; translators, meetings with heads of state and other leaders; banquets and speeches — to think of just a few. The photograph on page 212 shows Dr. Shafik Sachedina, Head of the Department of Jamati Institutions at the Diwan of the Ismaili Imamat, and Dr. Mohammed Khesavjee, who served as the Information Officer at Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Secretariat at Aiglemont for many years, playing complementary roles behind and at the scene. Most photographs do not show such senior and other personnel in the Aga Khan’s entourage doing the critical groundwork.

The photograph on page 163 shows Hazar Imam thanking the police escort for his motorcade. He is always mindful of the very many individuals, institutions and organizations involved during his official visits as the state guest of the host governments, and he is known to unfailingly acknowledge his gratitude to all of them. Only some of them can be seen in some of the photographs, but they were there and we have to imagine them, as explained by the editor.

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Jacket, "Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens," 220 photographs, pictorial biography, Barakah, Nizar Motani reflection
Jacket, “Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens,” 220 photographs

In 1983 and 2008, the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Shia Imami Ismaili Muslim spiritual leader paid official visits as the guest of the ruling Sunni family of the emirate of Dubai (pp. 134 and 135). Significantly, the 2008 occasion was the opening ceremony of the new Ismaili Centre. We can only imagine the elaborate preparations and protocols for this historic event. Being invited as a virtual head of state by governments across the world is an unmistakable theme of this fascinating volume. So much planning and coordination by so many unseen volunteers and paid staff within and outside the Ismaili jamat is always the case.

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READERS SHARE THEIR THOUGHTS ON “THE AGA KHAN BEYOND THE LENS”

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

This fabulous book with its layout, font, selection of photos and essays is extraordinary — Moez Murji 

The photographs chosen are not only beautiful but were also very carefully selected, and each carries a deeper message of the Aga Khan’s incredible — and farsighted — vision. It’s indeed remarkable and an occasion of immense happiness for the Ismailis that the unbelievable results that have been achieved by Mawlana Hazar Imam in so many countries around the world are finally covered in such a well condensed pictorial book — Amin Jaffer

In this 280-page bumper pictorial biography of Mawlana Hazar Imam, which I ordered and have already received it as one of my living room’s table top collections, some of the pictures will bring alive our individual and family memories — Kamruddin Rashid

Beautiful! Now [after reading Nizar Motani’s reflections] I have to go back to the Visual Biography (love that!!) and look at it differently! Different viewers may have different meanings to different pictures. Great job Mr Gary Otte for the book and Nizar Motani for his reflections on the book — Mirza Smile 

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Gary Otte’s very first illustration is a two-page panoramic view of the October 1957 Dar es Salaam Takht Nashini. It requires deep individual contemplation to merely “digest” the thousands in attendance. And much more imagining of the hundreds more involved in numerous aspects of staging this majestic enthronement ceremony, in a British colonial African country, with several non-African immigrant minorities among the heterogeneous African populations, can be a challenging mental exercise!

It is almost on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the August 4th 1972 mass Asian Expulsion by Uganda’s mercurial megalomaniac military dictator, Idi Amin Dada, that I am encountering Hazar Imam’s somber photograph with Amin. It was taken during Hazar Imam’s critical February 1972 visit to Kampala (p. 59). I was still in London completing my doctoral dissertation on the topic of Uganda’s African Civil Service, hoping to teach African History at Makerere. It so happened that I returned on that fateful day — August 4th 1972, not to a much anticipated warmest welcome at the Entebbe Airport, but to most somber news, from my parents, about the expulsion order issued just prior to my arrival!

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Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg

Such an epic volume should be an occasion of immense pride and happiness for every Ismaili murid. Gary Otte has clearly acknowledged that Hazar Imam remained very accommodating and patient during the long period of compiling this unprecedented collection…and has thanked Hazar Imam for taking the time to offer suggestions on choosing the photographs and the book’s design. Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain gave their time and advice on selection of photographs and the final draft of images and the text. Hence this official authorized visual biography of our 49th  Imam and a once in a life time publication, should belong in our homes — Dr Nizar Motani, author of this post

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Therefore being absent from Uganda during Hazar Imam’s February visit, I can only imagine the challenging task of the local Ismaili entourage and leadership on how to brief Hazar Imam for any meeting with such a vainglorious man controlling the destiny of all Ugandans. Could Amin have given any clear signal about what was brewing in his mind prior to the alleged dream to ethnically cleanse Uganda of its much maligned Asian minorities? Could Hazar Imam have sensed any forebodings in order to prepare for all eventualities — since the expulsion order’s short deadline was met with fairly well-organized and timely evacuation under the most harrowing circumstances? I was one of the lucky ones who chose to and could leave, within a week, for the USA, but remained tormented and concerned about the rest of the family’s fate who had to plan their escape. This image on page 59 may linger for a long while but with deep gratitude that almost all Asians escaped relatively physically unscathed.

I will conclude my brief reflections about this unique official  pictorial biography of the Aga  Khan, our beloved Hazar Imam, by simply stating that such an epic  volume should be an occasion of immense pride and happiness for every Ismaili murid. The editor, Gary Otte, has clearly acknowledged that Hazar Imam remained very accommodating and patient during the long period of compiling this unprecedented collection of mostly previously unpublished photographs, from his childhood in Kenya to the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in various parts of the world, where he was welcomed by the host countries’ Heads of State as a virtual visiting head of state.

Gary Otte has thanked Hazar Imam for taking the time to offer suggestions on choosing the photographs and the book’s design. Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim and Prince Hussain gave their time and advice on selection of photographs and the final draft of images and the text.

Hence this official authorized visual biography of our 49th  Imam and a once in a life time publication, should belong in our homes. It also makes a wonderful gift to give to  thoughtfully selected non-Ismaili friends and colleagues to increase their awareness of the Aga Khan which Jodidio has stated may be  lacking in the general public. But even we, his murids, will be be astonished and overjoyed to learn so much that we cannot possibly already know about or have seen images of his multifarious undertaking, as well as his personal life.

One final thought, as I take the elderly members of the Jamat into consideration. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s life, through the photographs in this book, spans three generations. How exciting and inspiring might it be for the elders, were their children and grandchildren to sit alongside them and leaf through all the beautiful photographs of their beloved Imam, not once but on multiple occasions. Old memories would be revived and new stories, narratives, anecdotes, and perspectives would emerge, individually and collectively, adding to our knowledge of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s glorious life and Imamat. This book MUST occupy a place in all Ismaili homes.

Date posted: June 18, 2022.

A slightly different version of this piece appeared recently on Simerg’s sister website Barakah under the title Reflections on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Pictorial Biography, “Depth of Field – The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens” by Nizar Motani.

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PURCHASING THE AGA KHAN’S BEAUTIFUL PICTORIAL BIOGRAPHY

Depth of field, Aga Khan Beyond the Lens, by Gary Otte, Ismaili Imam, Simerg
The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens; Hardcover, 260 pages, 25 x 30 cms, 220 colour illustrations; published by Prestel, February 2022.

The publisher’s recommended retail price for Depth of Field: The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens is US $ 60.00; £ 45.00 but retailers and on-line book sellers may sell it for less. To purchase the book in Canada, click Aga Khan Museum Shop, Amazon.ca or Indigo.ca; in the USA, click Amazon.com; in the UK and other European countries, click Amazon.co.uk; and in Spain and Portugal click Amazon.es. Elsewhere, see if there is a local Amazon chapter serving your location or visit Amazon’s global page. Note that the book is also available for members of the Ismaili community at Jamatkhana literature counters around the world or through the local Jamatkhana leadership.

FEEDBACK

Simerg welcomes your feedback, review and reflections on The Aga Khan Beyond the Lens. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nizar Motani, Barakah, Dedicated to the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam
Nizar Motani

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

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

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A SHORT Youtube Presentation: Gary Otte on the Making of the Book

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REVIEW SIMERG’S TABLE OF CONTENTS AND VISIT ITS SISTER WEBSITES

Before departing this website please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to more than 1500 pieces posted since the website was founded in the spring of 2009. Also visit our two sister websites, Barakah and Simergphotos.

Simerg’s editor Malik Merchant may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com. Please follow Malik @Facebook and @Twitter.

Mansoor Ladha A Portrait in Pluralism - Aga Khan's Shia Ismaili Muslims Ismaili authors series by Simerg

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha of Calgary

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Calgary based Mansoor Ladha’s book “A Portrait in Pluralim: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.” Mansoor is being featured in the series for the second time, following our interview with him on March 6, 2021 on his more recent work, the highly acclaimed “Memoirs of a Muhindi” that was published in 2017. We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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Simerg’s Interview with Mansoor Ladha

Mancoor Ladha and family with His Highness the Aga Khan III, Simerg Ismaili author series.
A memorable family photograph with the 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (d. July 11, 1957) from the dedication page of Mansoor Ladha’s book “A Portrait in Pluralim: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.” Ladha dedicated the book to his parents (Zera and Hassanali Ebrahim Ladha) and grandparents (Count and Countess Ebrahim Ladha), and mentions that his family’s record of service to the Ismaili Imamat started with his grandfather Count Ebrahim Ladha of Zanzibar, who devoted several years of service to the Imam-of-the-Time. Seated (from left): Late Kamadia Hassanali E. Ladha, Late Countess Jenabai Ebrahim Ladha, MAWLANA SULTAN MAHOMED SHAH, Late Kamadiani Zera Hassanali E. Ladha, and Count Ebrahim Ladha. Standing is Kassamali Ebrahim Ladha. Seated in front of the 48th Imam is the author, Mansoor Ladha, when he was two year old. Photo: Mansoor Ladha Collection.

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?

Mansoor Ladha: “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” was published to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. By the time of his Golden Jubilee celebrated during 2007-08, Ismailis had been established in Canada for more than 30 years, but Canadians had many sincere and honest questions about who we were, where we came from and so on. Thus, in the book I have attempted to answer these questions and give additional information about Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Canadian projects and his philosophy on pluralism. In addition to that, I was able to interview some Uganda refugees who settled in Canada starting in the autumn of 1972 after being forced to flee from their homeland by Idi Amin. I also talked to Canadian officials who were responsible for processing refugees in Kampala. The book is a portrayal of the Ismaili community.

I may note however that at the end of his Golden Jubilee Mawlana Hazar Imam established and opened with Prime Minister Stephen Harper the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa, and over the past decade we have seen the opening of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Park, all in Toronto, the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa and the beautiful Aga Khan Gardens in Edmonton.

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

Ladha: A Portrait in Pluralism and my more recent second book, Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West that you interviewed me on in March 2021, contain historical events affecting the Ismaili community. The book provides history, background, culture as well as success stories of Canadian Ismailis. Hence, they should be compulsory reading not only for adults but especially for the younger generation who didn’t experience what their parents went through. It’s important to educate our youngsters about our past. In this regard, I find it appropriate to quote a paragraph from Dr. Nizar Motani’s review of the Memoirs of a Muhindi:

“Besides being a valuable addition to one’s own library, it would be a suitable gift for your colleagues and neighbours who often ask the diasporic muhindis: “What is your nationality?” But they actually are curious about your country of origin, why you are not black if you came from Africa, and reasons for being in “their” countries.”

Simerg: What inspired you to write A Portrait in Pluralism?

Ladha: A couple of major events had taken place at the beginning of this century. In 2001, there was the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. Then some years later we saw the publication of a series of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in Denmark. Both events created a lot of controversies and incorrectly presented Muslims in a very negative manner. These two events and other negative depictions about Muslims provided me with an opportunity to particularly highlight the Ismaili Muslims, who through the guidance of their Imam, the Aga Khan, were quietly revolutionizing the world and improving the lives of people all around the world by establishing schools, hospitals, universities, factories, and power through AKDN (Aga Khan Development Network). This was also a time when Ismailis were celebrating Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee and hence I was proud that the book was published as a Golden Jubilee Edition, becoming a collector’s item.

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A Portrait in Pluralism, Aga Khan's Shia Ismaili Muslims, by Mansoor Ladha, journalist, Simerg Ismaili author series
Cover page of Mansoor Ladha’s book “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.” Published by Detselig Enterprises Ltd., Calgary, 2008, 238 pp., limited availability at Amazon and (signed) copies directly from the author.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Ladha: The book is now a rare item, but readers may be able to acquire a new or used copy at Amazon.com as well as at affiliated Amazon stores around the world. I have very limited copies still available, and will be pleased to mail out signed copies at a special price (plus postage and packaging). Please write to me at mlpublish@shaw.ca.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Ladha:  Writing a book is an enormous project but publishing it is a mammoth undertaking. Most book publishers will not accept any submissions from an author unless the query and proposal come through a literary agent. It is very difficult to get a literary agent interested in your submission. There are authors whose submissions have been rejected by 20 literary agents, which is not considered to be unusual. I researched for publishers who would accept individual submissions and was fortunate to get Detselig Enterprises based in Calgary to publish A Portrait in Pluralism. The University of Regina Press published the second book Memoirs of a Muhindi

Those authors who have not been successful to get their books published through a traditional publisher can resort to getting their books published by self-publishing companies, such as Amazon, Friesen etc. You do not have to pay anything if your book is published by traditional publishers and the author gets a portion of the revenue while one must pay the entire cost of publishing when self-publishing.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Ladha: Once a publishing company accepts your manuscript, it is contracted to provide all editorial services, including an editor and graphic designer. The editor would suggest some revisions/alterations and seek your approval until the final document is ready. The designer would suggest a couple of book covers for your approval. I was fortunate in that as a copy editor on daily newspapers, my job involved editing stories written by reporters. Hence, this background helped me to send a clean, edited submission to publishers.

Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?

Ladha: My first book, Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims, is the subject of this interview. It was published in 2009. Then approximately ten years later I got my second work Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West published by University of Regina. I was also among a group of journalists and scholars invited to contribute a chapter in a book called “The Story that Brought Me Here” published by Brindle & Glass.

May I also note that I have just finished another non-fiction and a novel — my first novel — that I plan to publish sometime in 2022.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Portrait of Pluralism — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Ladha:  As a writer, one must be disciplined and follow a regular writing schedule. I try to write every day but take breaks in between to revitalize. You also must revise what you have written. There is no set time to finish the manuscript.

Marketing is another major problem for writers. Your traditional publisher will provide some help in sending the book to bookstores, arranging interviews with the media, and sending out review copies to newspapers, but the main responsibility of promoting the book lies with the author. I held book launches in various parts of the country at my expense, and I also ended up selling my own books. Often Ismaili stores in Calgary will keep my books for sale. Indeed, I have sold more books on my own than the publisher, who has a staff assigned to promote their publications.

Simerg: Would you like to offer further thoughts about your work?

Ladha: With regard to A Portrait in Pluralism, I was deeply touched to hear from Dr. David Zaborac of Iowa who sent me a personal note. He said:

“I have got a lot of reflections after reading A Portrait in Pluralism – Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. I feel I was greatly educated by my reading. Muslims were an alien world, not just to me, but also to many people whom I shared your story with. It was inwardly comforting to discover that a religion I once felt was extremist, was not necessarily so. The humanism displayed by the Ismailis is astounding. The way the Ismailis meld theology and sociology is inspiring. Most comforting of all was how it dawned on me how similar the goals of the Ismailis and my branch of Christianity are…helping fellow man, creating a better world, involvement with community life, etc.”

Comments such as this should make all Ismailis very proud and I feel all the members of the Jamat can play their own individual part by articulating our ethics and values to Canadians and the world at large.

Date posted: June 8, 2022.

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Mansoor Ladha Ismaili author series, Simerg
Mansoor Ladha

Mansoor Ladha has held senior editorial positions as a copy editor in Canada (Edmonton Journal & Calgary Herald), features editor (The Standard in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), copy editor (Daily Nation, Nairobi, Kenya) and was the only owner/publisher of colour of a mainstream English newspaper in Canada for 25 years. Since retiring, he has been travelling around the world as a travel writer on assignments and has published travel features in leading Canadian newspapers and magazines. He has numerous awards to his credit including being a Citizen of the Year in the Town of Morinville, Alberta; Silver Quill Award by the Alberta Weekly Newspapers for distinguished service to newspapers as well as Canada’s Caring Canadian Award for “outstanding and selfless contribution to your community and Canada” by the Governor General of Canada. He has most recently completed another non-fiction book and a novel, both of which are scheduled to be published in 2022. Ladha was also contributor to Simerg’s highly acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There with a remarkable piece His Name is Jawhar. He was among the first of the Ismaili journalists to have ever interviewed Mawlana Hazar Imam; please click to read Ismaili Journalist Mansoor Ladha’s Precious Moments with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

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

Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)
  15. “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Artistic Expressions: Mobina Marani Presents Beautiful Portrait Paintings of Mawlana Hazar Imam and Members of Her Family

By MOBINA MARANI (nee JAMANI)

My name is Mobina, and I live in Crystal Beach, a lakefront community in Fort Erie, located some 180 kilometres from Toronto, Canada. I was born in Kampala, Uganda, and developed an interest in art at a very early age. After leaving Uganda, I attended an art school in England where I learned to work with many mediums, including paint, metalwork, and ceramic, amongst others.

After marrying Nizar Marani and having two beautiful daughters Zahra and Zaynah, and buying a pharmacy which I owned with my husband for almost 30 years, my artistic endeavours were put on hold.

Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani

It was not until almost 40 years later, shortly after the birth of my first granddaughter, Amarah, that I was inspired to pick up a paintbrush again and find time to dedicate to my artistic expressions. Over the ensuing years, I completed portraits of all my immediate family members. Earlier this year, I rendered a painting of Mawlana Hazar Imam from one of his numerous portrait photographs that were taken during the Diamond Jubilee Year in 2017-2018. I hope to continue expressing myself artistically in the years to come, and fulfill an interest that began in my early childhood.

I would like to express my thanks to Simerg for introducing Ismaili artists such as myself to the worldwide Ismaili community and readers of this website.

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Please click on images for enlargements

Portrait Paintings by Mobina Marani

Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions, Aga Khan portrait
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Acrylic on composite wood 13″ x 17″, January 2022. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada. Mobina rendered her painting from the original official photo shown immediately below.
One of several portrait photos of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, taken during his Diamond Jubilee Year (2017-2018).
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Amarah, first granddaughter. Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, May 2018. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Grandson, Aaran. Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, October, 2018. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Husband, Nizar, at 15. Acrylic, 13 3/4″ x 17 1/2″, January 2019. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Mobina Marani, Ismaili artist, Simerg Visual expressions
Daughter, Zahra. Acrylic, 19 1/2″ x 15 1/2″, September 2019. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Mobina Marani, Ismaili artist, Simerg Visual expressions
Aunt, Nurumasi, at 100! Acrylic, 16″ x 20″, March 2020. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Grandson, Jordan. Acrylic and wool (hat), 10″ x 10″, April 2020. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.
Ismaili artist Mobina Marani Simerg artistic expressions
Daughter, Zaynah. Acrylic, 16″ x 18″, February 2021. Painting by Mobina Marani, Crystal Beach, Ontario, Canada.

Date posted: May 31, 2022.

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

The editor invites Ismaili artists to submit a selection of their paintings and other works of art for publication in Simerg. Please submit images of no more than 8 objects in Jpeg (1200 x 900) along with your profile to the editor Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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Compendium of Ismaili Artists

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publiser/Editor, Simerg

Ismaili artist compendium, Simerg, Editor Malik Merchant
Please click on image to download compendium

Some 8 years ago, we produced a beautiful PDF publication entitled “A Compendium of Ismaili Artists from Around the World” that can be downloaded HERE. It contained a short profile and one work of art for each of the 33 different Ismaili artists from around the world who wanted to be featured in the compendium. As much as we wanted to publish an expanded edition of the compendium featuring many more Ismaili artists, we are sorry to note that the response was disappointing despite a major announcement on this platform as well as pertinent social media pages. We are keen to publish an expanded edition of the compendium provided we can, at the least, double up on the original number of 33 artists that were featured in the first edition. There are hundreds of Ismaili artists around the world, judging from their participation during the Golden and Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Mawlana Hazar Imam held in 2007-08 and 2017-18 respectively. We therefore urge Ismaili artists to review the entries in the first edition, and send their details for the compendium accordingly to Malik Merchant at mmerchant@simerg.com. Please do not ask us to prepare your profiles by submitting your elaborate CV or resume or asking us to visit your website to prepare the profile. We need the information from you, based on the format in the compendium; each artist will be allotted one page in the compendium that will include a brief profile and one image. Read the compendium!