Video: Dignity in death for people of all faiths – a story of courage and humanity unfolds in Surat, India

In the age of the Coronavirus many families are unwilling or unable to claim bodies of those who have died, not just from the virus, but from other diseases and even accidents. In this situation, Surat’s Abdul Rehman Malbari and his Ekta Trust step in….watch this highly inspiring video report by MOJO, with English subtitles, and read the BBC and Times of India report that follow the video.

“For three decades, Abdul Malabari has been an undertaker for unclaimed bodies. But he never thought he would have to bury people whose families wanted to say goodbye but couldn’t because of Covid-19” — BBC

Also read:

1. BBC: The Man Giving Dignified Burial to Covid-19 Victims
2. The Times of India: He did what the kin denied: Last rites of 1st Covid-19 victim

Date posted: May 18, 2020.

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

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, sends guidance on Covid-19, with affection and blessings to Ismailis around the world; text in 10 languages

The following message in English and all the translations that follow are reproduced from the The Ismaili, the official website of the community. After reading the message, please scroll to the bottom of this post to read our supplication to Mawlana Hazar Imam — it follows the Urdu translation.

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (English)

My beloved spiritual children,

My Jamat is aware that the Covid-19 virus has created a global crisis that is also affecting the Jamat worldwide. As Imam-of-the-Time, I have recommended the Jamati and AKDN institutions and agencies to closely monitor the impact of this pandemic, and to extend support and assistance to the Jamat and the communities in which they live.

The Covid-19 virus is highly contagious, and every day we are witnessing the damage it is inflicting on human lives and societies. In facing this threat, it is very important that all members of my Jamat should take personal responsibility for exercising all possible steps to protect their own good health, safety and wellbeing, and that of their family.

Among the most critical of the measures recommended by all government and health agencies are the maintenance of the best standards of personal hygiene, and practising the notion of physical distancing. While not easy, physical distancing is essential.

It is my wish that my murids, and all those among whom they live, should follow these as well as all other guidelines and recommendations that the government and health authorities issue.

It is my hope and prayer that, in due course, work on producing vaccines and other forms of medicine will yield positive results, and that we will see a gradual return to normal life in all societies.

As we focus now on overcoming the present challenges, the Jamat and all my institutions should plan to build for the future from a position of strength and wisdom.

I send my most affectionate paternal, maternal loving blessings for the good health, safety, and well-being of all my murids, with best loving blessings for mushkil-asan.

My Jamat worldwide is constantly in my thoughts and in my prayers.

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (French)

Mes Chers Enfants Spirituels,

Mon Jamat est conscient du fait que le virus Covid-19 a déclenché une crise globale qui affecte également le Jamat à travers le monde. En tant qu’Imam-du-Temps, j’ai recommandé aux institutions et agences Jamati et de l’AKDN de suivre de près l’impact de cette pandémie, et d’offrir aide et assistance au Jamat et aux communautés dans lesquelles ils vivent.

Le virus du Covid-19 est hautement contagieux, et chaque jour nous sommes témoins des dégâts qu’il cause sur les vies humaines et les sociétés. Face à cette menace, il est très important que tous les membres de mon Jamat s’engagent personnellement à prendre toutes les mesures possibles pour protéger leur propre santé, sécurité et bien-être, ainsi que ceux de leur famille.

Parmi les plus importantes des mesures recommandées par tous les gouvernements et agences de santé figurent le maintien des meilleurs standards d’hygiène personnelle, et le respect de la notion de distanciation sociale. Bien qu’elle ne soit pas facile, la distanciation sociale est essentielle.

C’est mon souhait que mes murids, et tous ceux parmi lesquels ils vivent, suivent ces mesures ainsi que toutes les autres directives et recommandations que le gouvernement et les autorités sanitaires émettent.

C’est mon espoir et ma prière que, en temps voulu, le travail mené pour produire des vaccins et d’autres formes de remèdes va produire des résultats positifs, et que nous verrons un retour graduel à la vie normale dans toutes les sociétés.

Alors que nous nous concentrons en ce moment à surmonter les défis actuels, le Jamat et toutes mes institutions devraient se préparer à construire pour l’avenir à partir d’une base solide et avec sagesse.

J’envoie mes plus affectueuses tendres bénédictions paternelles et maternelles pour la bonne santé, la sécurité, et le bien-être de tous mes murids, avec mes meilleures tendres bénédictions pour mushkil-asan.

Mon Jamat à travers le monde est constamment dans mes pensées et dans mes prières.

Affectueusement,

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Portuguese)

Meus amados filhos espirituais,

O meu Jamat está ciente de que o vírus Covid-19 criou uma crise global que está também a afetar o Jamat em todo o mundo. Como Imam do Tempo, recomendei às instituições e agências Jamati e da AKDN que monitorizassem de perto o impacto desta pandemia e prestassem apoio e assistência ao Jamat e às comunidades onde estes vivem.

O vírus Covid-19 é altamente contagioso e todos os dias assistimos aos danos que este está a infligir tanto nas vidas humanas como nas sociedades. Ao enfrentar esta ameaça, é muito importante que todos os membros do meu Jamat assumam a responsabilidade pessoal de colocar em prática todas as medidas possíveis para proteger a sua própria saúde, segurança e bem-estar, bem como as da sua família.

Entre as medidas mais críticas recomendadas por todas as agências governamentais e de saúde estão a manutenção dos melhores padrões de higiene pessoal e a prática da noção de distanciamento físico. Embora não seja fácil, o distanciamento físico é essencial.

É meu desejo que os meus murids, e todos aqueles entre os quais vivem, sigam estas e todas as outras orientações e recomendações que o governo e as autoridades de saúde emitem.

É minha esperança e oração que, a seu tempo, o trabalho na produção de vacinas e outras formas de medicina produzam resultados positivos e que se assista a um regresso gradual à vida normal em todas as sociedades.

Enquanto centramos as nossas atenções em ultrapassar os desafios atuais, o Jamat e todas as minhas instituições devem planear a construção para o futuro a partir de uma posição de força e sabedoria.

Envio as minha melhores bênçãos paternais e maternais para boa saúde, segurança e bem-estar de todos os meus murids, com as minhas melhores bênçãos para mushkil-asan.

O meu Jamat em todo o mundo está constantemente nos meus pensamentos e nas minhas orações. 

Afetuosamente

Aga Khan

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Farsi)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Farsi)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Dari)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Dari)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Arabic)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Arabic)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Gujarati)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Gujarati)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Russian)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Russian)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Tajik)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Tajik)

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Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Urdu)

Message from Mawlana Hazar Imam (Urdu)

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Shukrana and Supplication

We submit our humble gratitude to our beloved Mawlana Hazar Imam for his guidance on Covid-19 as well as his blessings to the world wide Jamat for mushkil-asan (protection from difficulty).

We submit the following supplications from verses 1 and 5 of Pir Hasan Kabirdin’s Ginan Sahebe Farman Lakhi Mokalea:

O brother! Listen, My Lord Ali has written and sent a Farman. The beloved Lord has remembered this servant today with kindness in his heart

O my Lord Ali! Listen! Remove all my sorrows and troubles. O Lord Ali, the great king! O Lord of infinity! Fulfill all my wishes.

Date posted: April 24, 2020.

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

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Is Research Underway at the Aga Khan University to Find a Cure for Covid-19?

Letter from publisher

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

Many of our readers who have visited the website of the Aga Khan University (AKU) over the past 2 weeks, may have read about (1) the crucial support AKU needs at this time during the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) Dr. Faisal Mahmoud at the AKU who treated Pakistan’s first COVID-19 patient; and (3) the AKU’s launching of a mobile app that helps to self-screen for Covid-19. You can follow these and other informative stories of how the AKU is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis by clicking HERE. I have been wondering whether the AKU, like other institutions around the world including several in Canada, is racing to find a vaccine for COVID-19. It’s very possible that there is already an initiative underway, but I have yet to read about it.

I would like to start by briefly mentioning the incredible steps that our beloved 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, took in response to the bubonic plague that affected India in 1897. (See full article HERE or an abbreviated version HERE)

The twenty-year-old Imam aided Professor Haffkinez’s research for the development of a vaccine by putting freely at the scientist’s disposal one of his “biggest houses, a vast, rambling palace in Bombay.” The scientist remained there for about two years until the Government of India, convinced of the success of his methods, took over the whole research project and put it on a proper, adequate and official footing.

Portrait His Highness the Aga Khan
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1885-1957), 48th Imam of Ismaili Muslims. Photo: © National Portrait Gallery London, photograph by Elliott & Fry.

Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah writes in his Memoirs that “the impact of the plague among my own people was alarming. It was in my power to set an example. I had myself publicly inoculated, and I took care to see that the news of what I had done was spread as far as possible and as quickly as possible….The immunity, of which my continued health and my activities were obvious evidence, impressed itself on their consciousness and conquered their fear.”

At that time, the Imam did not have Jamati institutions at his disposal to support such an initiative. At the turn of the 19th century, the Ismaili Jamat was economically weak, and educationally even worse off. Very few members of the Jamat could boast a knowledge of the three R’s.

Then, over a period of some 50 years, the 48th Imam transformed the community from rags to riches, an act that is probably unparalleled in history. The Imam was the architect of the modern miracle that we continue to witness today under the benevolent guidance of Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan.

His Highness the Aga Khan in University regalia
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in the Aga Khan University regalia. Photo: The Aga Khan Development Network.

Today, the Jamat is eminently placed on the world stage with its fantastic infrastructure. It has become socially well-organised, professionally competitive, and commercially adventurous. More importantly, the Jamat’s youth is conscious of its strength and ready for any new challenge. We have become a dynamic, intrepid community capable of bearing further loads under the guidance of Mawlana Hazar Imam. He has created exceptional institutions for the well being and progress of the Jamat and humanity at large.

During his Imamat, the establishment of the Aga Khan University in Karachi is probably one of the most significant and monumental projects undertaken in Ismaili history. Its creation and development has led to satellite hospitals and universities in East Africa, and a major mountain university in Central Asia. Over the last 4 decades, the AKU has achieved an international presence and recognition in the world of learning with major educational institutions as its partners — a vision that was first enshrined in the logo of the university.

According to the AKU website, the University’s research endeavours extend across diverse subjects: health sciences, education, culture and society. “At the core of our mission,” the website states, “is the desire to spearhead change for generations to come.” It further adds that the AKU faculty, scientists, educationists and students are engaged in impacting people, communities and societies for a better tomorrow.​​​ It gives an example of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research which houses international researchers conducting state of the art research and teaching in basic and translational stem cell science.

Today, we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic. We have already witnessed its social, cultural, and economical impact on billions of people around the world. We don’t want it to remain with us and plague us for years to come, and a vaccine that will address the virus is the only solution we have for our future well-being. In the USA, the cost of a complete COVID-19 treatment for people who are hospitalized is around US $39,000.

The Seal of the Aga Khan University
The circular form of the Aga Khan University Seal, with its different levels of imagery contained in concentric circles, has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. The circle symbolises the world and reflects the international presence of the University. At the centre of the Seal is a star, or sun. Light is a universal symbol for the enlightenment that education provides.The light emanating from the star is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light).

The development of a vaccine may require millions of dollars, and efforts at developing one may not guarantee that it will be one that is selected for massive immunization. Today, researchers at the AKU, as well as others around the world, have access to the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, lab-grown copies of the virus are available to researchers thanks to the efforts made to isolate and culture the virus from two patients by the University of Toronto and McMaster University.

An aerial view of the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. The University was chartered as Pakistan’s first private international university in 1983. Photo: Aga Khan Development Network.

If they have not already done so, it is important that the AKU join the collaborative efforts that are being spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), where scientists, physicians, funders and manufacturers from around the world are coming together to help expedite the formulation of a vaccine against COVID-19. In its declaration of April 13, to which several renowned institutions are signatories, the WHO states that “we believe these efforts will help reduce inefficiencies and duplication of effort, and we will work tenaciously to increase the likelihood that one or more safe and effective vaccines will soon be made available to all”.

While a vaccine will take time to develop, it will likely be instrumental in controlling this worldwide pandemic. We hope that the Aga Khan University will dedicate some of its research facility and scientists to the development of a vaccine against COVID-19. The AKU’s contribution may literally change the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, just as Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s foresight was responsible for saving countless lives.

Date posted: April 14, 2020.

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

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Simerg’s Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who served Jamati institutions for several decades.

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

In light of Jamatkhana closures due to Covid-19, let us pray for Mushkil Asan during week of Satada, which would have been observed in Canada from April 3, and beyond

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

[NOTE FROM WRITER: I wish to clarify at the outset that I am not suggesting that we should be establishing Satadas in our own homes while the Jamatkhanas are closed. COVID-19 has impacted the religious and spiritual lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, who cannot attend their beautiful and inspiring houses of worship and prayers. Ismailis are also affected due to Jamatkhana closures. However, we can perform our obligatory prayers in our homes individually and with family members who are not in isolation. In this post, we suggest (1) extra prayers we may offer for our comfort, courage and happiness, (2) References to Farmans and Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Talikas that we can read, and (3) Ginans we can listen to from outstanding resources that we have at our disposal such as Ginan Central at the University of Saskatchewan. NOTE: According to the Ismaili calendar the Satada would have begun in Jamatkhanas on April 3. However what is suggested in the post is applicable for all times, and not limited to the prayers performed only during Satadas. Hopefully the Satada that we must all unfortunately miss due to Covid-19 will be established when Jamatkhanas are re-opened after the pandemic is over.]

Thousands of Ismaili families across Canada are receiving phone calls from their respective Jamatkhana leadership including Mukhi/Mukhiani and Kamadia/Kamadiani inquiring about our well-being at this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their concern has deeply touched our hearts, and we sincerely thank them for the time they are taking to speak to us, and to patiently listen to our experiences, needs and challenges. They are playing their leadership roles, as representatives of Mawlana Hazar Imam, with an immense amount of affection and love, which we can feel in their voices.

In an inspiring prayer filled phone call yesterday from the Ottawa Jamatkhana Kamadiani, I was informed that according to the 2020 religious festivals calendar, the weeklong Jamati Satada (communal congregational special prayers for 7 continuous days) in Canada would have commenced from Friday, April 3.

Jamati Satada are held twice a year across many parts of the Ismaili world (there are also individual Satadas which, in serious personal cases, can be held at any time of the year at the request of individuals seeking special prayers for members of their families).

During the seven days of Jamati Satada, tens of thousands of Ismailis, young and old alike, gather in Jamatkhanas around the world for special prayers and heartful supplications for protection from difficulties (or Mushkil Asan). The special prayers are not exclusively for Ismailis. They include supplications for the world at large. In addition to 2 Jamati Satadas in a year, special Jamati Satadas can be instituted in exceptional or extraordinary circumstances, such as major natural or man-made calamities.

With the Satada in Canada earmarked to start on Friday, April 3, we have provided for our readers an outline of prayers that may be offered in our homes or individual spaces. The summary reflects the Satada practice that would be normally conducted in the Jamatkhanas, with minor differences. One point to note is that different countries may have their own starting dates for the Satada. The important thing to remember, however, is that it is a continuous 7-day observation.

SUGGESTED PRAYERS FOR “PROTECTION FROM DIFFICULTIES”

Ismaili Centre Toronto Prayer Hall or Jamatkhana dome. Simerg Photo.
The Toronto Ismaili Centre with its magnificent Jamatkhana prayer hall dome. Ismailis await its opening once the city of Toronto has declared victory over Covid-19, and allows large gatherings to take place. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

1. Recite the two evening Du’a. Remember that in the Du’a, we recite Surah Al-Fatihah (opening of 1st part of Du’a) and Surah Al-Ikhlas (opening of 6th part), both of which are considered to be among the greatest Surahs in the Holy Qur’an. In our beautiful Du’a, we also utter phrases that call for Allah’s mercy and support as well as help and strength from the Imam of the Time, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini Aga Khan.

2. Recite the Satada Tasbih of Ya Ali to Rahem Kar, Ya Ali to Fazal Kar, meaning “O Ali be Merciful, O Lord [Ali] be gracious.”

3. Recite or play recordings of pertinent Ginans and Qasidas of supplication; one such Ginan sung by the Late Shamshudin Bandali Haji, with a link to its English transliteration and translation, is provided below.

4. Read the recent Talika Mubarak and message from Mawlana Hazar Imam.

5. Also, read Farmans from the recently printed Farman Mubarak books authorized by Mawlana Hazar Imam.

6. After 2nd Du’a, partake in Ab-e-Shifa (water of healing) if you have it with you.

Also, during the Coronavirus crisis, and also at other times when times are good:

7. Ask and motivate children and youth to learn and memorize the meaning of the Du’a. Seriously, consider this as one of the most important building block of our faith, and treat it as one of the most important missions that you have. When Mawlana Hazar Imam blessed my late dad Jehangir Merchant with a few precious minutes of his time in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), one of the first questions he put to him was whether children were being taught the meaning of the Du’a.

8. Make faith part of our daily life. Even if it be for a moment or a few seconds, say Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad or Ya Ali, or call on the names of our Imams, keeping in mind that all hereditary Imams from Hazrat Ali are bearers of the same Noor.

9. Recite the Salwat Allahumm-a Sall-i ‘Ala Muhammad-in Wa Al-i Muhammad, meaning “O, Allah shower thy choicest blessings upon Muhammad and the progeny of Muhammad.” This tasbih is recited on Chandraat.

10. Recite the tasbih of Bibi Fatimah. They are Allahu Akhbar meaning God is Great, Subhanallah meaning Glory be to God, and Alhamdulillah meaning All praise is due to Allah. According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.) had recommended the tasbih to his beloved daughter Bibi Fatimah (A.S.), and hence its name. It is recited on Chandraat, along with the Salwaat.

11. Seek forgiveness by reciting Astaghafirullahi Rabbi Wa Atubu Ilayhi meaning “Verily, I seek the forgiveness of Allah, who is my Lord and Sustainer, and I turn to Him in repentance.” It is recited when prayers are offered for deceased souls.

12. If you are really fearful of what is going on around you, say the Nade Ali a few times for hope, courage and strength.

Nade Ali, Nade Ali, Nade Ali
 Nade Aliyyan mazhar al-ajaib
 Tajidahu awnan lakafin-nawaib
 Kullu hammin wa ghammin
 sayanj-i Ali Bi wilayatika,
Ya Ali! Ya Ali! Ya Ali!

MEANING

Call Ali call Ali call Ali,
the manifestation of marvels
He will be your helper in difficulty
Every anxiety and sorrow will end
Through your friendship.
O Ali, O Ali, O Ali.

Recitation of Ginan by (Late) Alwaez Shamshu Bandali Haji

Ginan Aash tamari sree ho by Pir Hasan Kabirdin; recitation by Late Alwaez Shamshudin Bandali Haji. Credit: Ginan Central, University of Saskatchewan.

Please click Ismaili Heritage for an English transliteration with translation.

Date posted: April 2, 2020.
Last updated: April 4, 2020 (editorial note, at top).

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Simerg’s Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who served Jamati institutions for several decades.

We welcome your feedback. Please complete the form below or click on Leave a comment if the form is not displayed. Comments are published at the discretion of the editor. and may be subject to moderation.

Covid-19 update from Aga Khan Foundation Canada: 2020 Partnership Walk and visits to Delegation of Ismaili Imamat among programs impacted

Logo of the Aga Khan Foundation
The Aga Khan Foundation logo is based on the right hand, a universal symbol of skill, achievement and caring. It symbolizes the humanitarian and positive philosophy underlying the Foundation and its activities.

(The following message is reproduced from the website of Aga Khan Foundation Canada. Earlier this week we posted Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED. To contribute to COVID-19, please click on https://giving.aku.edu/. We wish our Canadian readers to note that their contributions to AKU COVID-19 fund will be channeled through Aga Khan Foundation Canada — Ed.)

By KHALIL SHARIFF
(Chief Executive Officer, Aga Khan Foundation Canada)

Khlail Shariff, CEO of Aga Khan Foundation Canada
Khalil Shariff. Photo: AKFC

March 25, 2020.

Dear friends,

As conditions around the world change rapidly during these unprecedented times, we wanted to share a brief update to keep you informed of how we are responding to COVID-19.

COVID-19 has now grown from an outbreak in one city to a pandemic of global proportions. It is unlikely any country will be untouched by its ripple effects. More than ever, it is clear how Canada’s future is intertwined with the rest of the world.

The health and safety of our supporters, volunteers, and staff are paramount to us. In Canada, we are following all recommendations of the Government of Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, as well as the local public health authorities in the Canadian cities where we operate.

That means, effective last week:

1. All our Canadian colleagues are working from home.

2. We have come to the difficult decision to suspend this year’s World Partnership Walk and World Partnership Golf campaigns. We will have more information on alternate plans to share on these soon.

3. We have cancelled all tours of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building in Ottawa until further notice.

Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in  Ottawa, Canada.
The offices of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada are located inside the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat on Sussex Drive in Ottawa, pictured above. The building was inaugurated by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, on December 6, 2008. Photo: Maki and Associates/Moriyama and Teshima Architects.

4. Our travelling exhibit, In a Heartbeat, is suspended until further notice.

5. We have postponed our International Youth Fellowship pre-departure training in Ottawa to begin at the end of July, with overseas placements beginning at the end of August. We will continue to monitor the situation in the coming weeks and months, and will adjust the program as required to ensure our fellows’ well-being.

6. All other in-person events have either been cancelled, rescheduled online, or postponed.

We have taken these steps to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. We are immensely fortunate in Canada to have such competent health leadership, and we encourage everyone to heed the advice of health authorities as best they can.

Healthcare facilities and workers around the world are at the frontlines of events like these. Canadian support over the past 40 years has strengthened health systems across Africa and Asia, and we remain hopeful these investments will mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in the geographies where we work.

We also want to assure you that we remain committed to our countries and communities of operation during this crisis. The Aga Khan Development Network, of which we are a part, is mounting a robust response to address the many aspects of this pandemic. Now more than ever, it is important that our work of strengthening systems, institutions, and communities for times of fragility pushes forward.

We may all be working remotely for now, but we are still here for you. If you are already connected to a staff member, you can reach them by email. Otherwise, you send an email to info@akfc.ca, and we will direct your inquiry to the right person. If you have questions about your 2019 tax receipts, you can reach our Donor Services team directly at donorservices@akfc.ca or leave a voicemail at 613-237-2532 ext. 191.

In global crises like these, it is easy to dwell on what worries us. But I invite us all to step forward in support of our friends, relatives, and neighbours for whom this time may be especially trying. We can weather this better together.

We will reach out again as the situation and our plans to respond develop. Until then, we wish you and yours continued good health and spirits.

Sincerely,

Khalil Z. Shariff
Chief Executive Officer
Aga Khan Foundation Canada.

Date posted: March 28, 2020

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(IMPORTANT NOTE: Earlier this week we posted Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED. To contribute to COVID-19, please click on https://giving.aku.edu/. We wish our Canadian readers to note that their contributions for AKU COVID-19 fund will be channeled through Aga Khan Foundation Canada. — Ed.)

Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED

The Seal of the Aga Khan University
The Seal of the Aga Khan University

By RICHARD BROW
Chief Development Officer

The COVID-19 pandemic is having an enormous impact on individuals and families in our communities and around the world.

AKU [Aga Khan University] is on the front lines of the response to this unprecedented health challenge. Our dedicated physicians, nurses and other medical staff are working tirelessly to save lives.

You can support our efforts to secure specialised medical equipment, provide testing and life-saving care to the vulnerable through our Patient Welfare Programme, and address the needs of our physicians and healthcare personnel during this extraordinary time [Note: readers outside Pakistan have encountered problems in completing the form – please select the COVID-19 Fund over the Zakat Donation COVID-19 Fund option, and see if that works for you – Ed.].

The COVID-19 Fund would support the following: 

1. Providing world-class medical care, including for disadvantaged patients through our Patient Welfare Programme;

2. Securing specialised equipment including ventilators and personal protective gear for our staff;

3. Changes to our hospital and University facilities to expand our capacity to respond effectively to this emergency; 

4. Research by our infectious disease specialists, and others, that contributes to the global effort to deliver better diagnostics for COVID-19 and care for those infected;    

5. Support for our staff who are working exceedingly long hours, and need accommodation and other essential support.​

If you would like to make a donation, additional information may be found HERE.

You may also contact us directly at: resource.development@aku.edu

On behalf of all of us at AKU and the countless people we serve, thank you.

Date posted: March 23, 2020.

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Read the latest updates on the University’s action on the coronavirus.​ ​​

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. In the past few days, we have published some excellent pieces on Navroz.

In worrying time of Covid-19 pandemic, let us seek compassion, help and hope from our scriptures and Mawlana Hazar Imam's Farmans that he is present with his murids all the time

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in Booni Chitral.
Mawlana Hazar Imam in Booni Chitral during his Diamond Jubilee visit to Pakistan in December 2017. Photo: The Ismaili/ Karim Sadruddin.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

As the world struggles to cope with the novel coronavirus pandemic, it is natural to become anxious. We live in extraordinary times. The closure of Jamatkhanas in almost all countries accentuates our anxiety.  I do not intend this article to be doom and gloom. To the contrary, I want to portray hope from our faith.

The emergence of this new virus and its global impact has demonstrated the intricate ways in which humanity is interconnected and how it has brought entire humanity to its knees and shown us the vulnerability of the ‘House of Cards’ that is our civilization. There is no ‘foreign virus’ as some have chosen to describe it. This virus is brutally merciless and does not recognize race, colour, gender, religion or national boundaries.  

There is already a disruption of social care and communal services as the pandemic progresses in Europe, North America and elsewhere. This will transfer the burden of care of the aged, less able and vulnerable to younger, and healthier family members who may ride through the illness with minor discomfort. The projected time periods are likely to be several months.

Bearing in mind all these factors, how should we react to the pandemic? Ours is an intellectual tradition. Allah possesses the power of miracles, but we do not relay on Allah’s miracle alone.

At this very moment, there are laboratories around the world racing against time to come up with a vaccine against the virus. Indeed, one was tested on a few patients a few days ago. May be the virus is temperature sensitive and as we, in temperate zones transition to spring and rising temperatures, it may abate the virus. May be the ‘herd immunization’ strategy that is talked about will work and lessen the impact of the new virus. As ordinary citizens, we sometimes feel helpless. Under such circumstances, after following all the advice we are given to protect ourselves and our beloved ones, the next tendency in people in troubled times is prayers.

Psychologists have long known this fact. It gives people tremendous hope and alleviates stress in face of adversity. Prayers work, and in this I am reminded of a Farman Mawlana Hazar Imam had made in the 1960’s when he said that those who prayed in difficult times knew how prayers had helped them during their difficulties. At the same time, he reminded us that we should not only pray when times are bad but also when times are good.

Our Ginans can also give us help during these difficult times. Several Ginans have powerful verses of supplication and pleading for Allah’s mercy and compassion and help. These verses are not parochial but are pleadings for Allah’s compassion and mercy for the entire humanity.  In the context of the pandemic, this fact comes out clear. It is our hope that this ‘One Humanity’ idea endures beyond the pandemic.

Some of the verses I present are well-known, but I include them for completeness. First is a verse that extols the virtue of congregational prayers. It is from Pir Hasan Kabir’s Anant Akhado, verse 115.

Aashaaji til dharam ne hasti paap
sohi gat utaare ji
Gat naa vachan te Nar ji maane
te maahaadan maanhe nahi puchhaaye.

Translation:

O Lord, our good deeds are minuscule, our sins monumental. These are forgiven in congregational prayers
The Lord listens to congregational prayers and spares the questioning on the Day of Judgement.

The physical separateness due to the closure of our Jamatkhanas does not preclude us from offering prayers for humanity in our hearts and/or with our families.

In Pir Hasan Kabir’s Ananta Akhado, verse 32, Pir says that in Lord’s Assembly, He grants you whatever you wish.

Aashaji jiya jem mango, tiya tem verse,
Satgur gher anand ji

Translation:

Whatever you ask for in His assembly, He grants.
There is joy and no one returns disappointed from His assembly.

In verse 127, the scope of the pleading and supplication expands and encompass the entire humanity.

Aashaji, Sansar serve Shrusti tamari, ane serve mankha jiv ji
Daya kari teme amne taaro, Sami serve jiv tamara ji

Translation:

O Lord, the entire creation is Yours,  as are the souls,
With compassion, save us, O Lord, we all are Your souls.

In Pir Hasan Kabir’s Venti Eji Aash Tamari Shree Ho, which is full of supplications and pleadings, the opening verse portrays the congregation, standing with hands folded, asking for Lord’s compassion:

Eji, Aash tamari Shree Ho Kayam Sami, 
Saheb Chinta kee je, Ya Shah
Sab Gatie Shah ke khde re umayo Shah
Raj Rikhisar Ghar Dejo

Translation:

O Lord, we are hopeful of and dependent on your compassion; O Lord, we beseech you, spare your thought for us; the entire congregation is standing in submission; O Lord, bestow prosperity and happiness upon us…

Next is a beautiful venti of sincere submission and heart rendering plea for help by Pir Hasan Kabir in Hum Dil Khalak ya Ali tu(n)hij:

Hum dil Khalak ya Ali tu(n)hij vase,
Ya Mawla tu(n)hij vase,
avar na dhuja koi,
jive pi(n)dhe jo tun(n)hij dhani;
Ya Mawla tu(n)hij dhani.
Jia(n) kari(n) tiya hoi
Maher karo mora saai ya
Ali hum tere aadhar
Tere aadhar ya Mawla tu(n)hij daatar
Maher karo mora saai ya
Ali hum tere aadhan

Translation:

Only you reside in my heart O Ali,
O Mawla only you,
Non-other I think of
You, who are master of my soul and body
O Mawla, truly you are the Master
Your wish and command prevail
Show mercy O Lord
Ali you are my support,
I am dependent in You;
O Mawla you are the provider (of all my needs)
Show mercy O Lord,
Ali you are my only support

The next powerful verse that we often recite to seek divine help  is  from Seyyad Imam Shah’s Ame Saaheb Saathe, Verse 6

Eji Tuj vinaa koi avar na dise,
Saami amne chhe tamaaro aadhaar-ji;
Tuj vinaa ame eklaa Saami,
Saami tame thaajo rakhvaarr-ji

Translation:

O Lord, You alone we see,
O Lord, we rely upon You
Without You we are all alone
Please be our protector (In these troubled times)

In addition to the Ginans, our daily Arabic Du’a has powerful pleas for help.  In part two we recite:

“O Allah, O our Lord from You is my help, upon You is my reliance. You alone we worship and You alone we seek for help. O Aly help me with your kindness.”

In part three of our Du’a, we recite:

“Seek at times of difficulty, the help of your Lord, the present living Imam, Shah Karim al Hussaini.”

In part 4 of our Du’a, we recite:

“O Allah: Forgive us our sins, give us our daily bread and have mercy upon us….”

In part five of our Du’a, we recite:

“Ya Shah Karim, O Mawla, from you is my strength…”

As we go through this difficult time we should take comfort from these Ginanic verses and our Holy Du’a as well the Farmans of Mawlana Hazar Imam that have been published recently. Repeatedly, he assures his murids of his constant presence with them. For example, in his Diamond Jubilee Farman made in Booni, Chitral, Pakistan, he lovingly tells us that he is always with his Jamat, every day, every minute, every second (Diamond Jubilee Farman book, page 57, also pages 51, 62). As such, we should seek to keep his enduring blessings for mushkil-asan (protection from difficulties) alive in our hearts all the time.

I pray that these trying times pass and that Allah in His compassion listens to our plea for help for humanity. His compassion and mercy know no bound.

Date posted: March 18, 2020.

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

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Shiraz Pradhan

Shiraz Pradhan, in parallel with his work as an international engineering consultant, has contributed for several years to furthering religious education among the Ismaili community in the UK, Canada, USA and Japan. He is the author of several articles published on this website and was a regular contributor to UK’s flagship Ismaili magazine, Ilm. Currently he is concluding the script of a full-length play of the 10th Century trial of the Sufi Saint Mansur al-Hallaj in Baghdad based on historical facts.

The author wishes to thank Platinum Rahemtulla for references to Ginanic verses and their translations that are quoted in the article.

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Amid several Jamatkhana closures around the world due to Covid-19 let us all pray at home individually or as a family and seek to give hope, happiness and inspiration to vulnerable members of the Jamat

Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem, Simerg and Muslim Harji
A Muslim offering prayers under the “Rock” where Abraham brought his son Ishmael for sacrifice. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright.

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

When you have not missed a day in Jamatkhana attendance over the past several years, how do you cope with sudden and unforeseen closures of your favourite Jamatkhana? We live in difficult circumstances. Covid-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — has infected tens of thousands around the world and has been declared a pandemic, causing anxiety and worry. I left a pharmacy on Friday March 13 with a customer expressing, “it feels like death can approach anyone of us, and I just feel at the moment that I might die.” When I next visited a supermarket at around noon time, people were filling their shopping carts to the brim with supplies for their families. Ismaili institutions in Canada on the same day announced the closure of Jamatkhanas in several provinces around the country to protect the elderly and everyone who is vulnerable due to compromised immune systems. A similar decision was made by the USA Aga Khan Council for cities across many states on Saturday, March 14. Of course, these are also containment measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. These measures have also been necessary as a result of bans that have been imposed by state or provincial or even Federal authorities on large gatherings.

In 1979, I was left with a difficult situation of being the only Ismaili in Salt Lake City, Utah, for several months, until a family arrived just before I left the following summer. The nearest Jamatkhanas were in Denver, Las Vegas and Phoenix, hundreds of miles away. I disciplined myself to pray regularly and the happiness and strength I achieved was comparable to my earlier praying days at 5 Palace Gate in London, England. In London, I had become a regular only in 1976, and before that attended Jamatkhanas only on Fridays at Central Hall when I was a student at the Polytechnic of North London. In Salt Lake City, I set aside a corner in my room for the purpose of praying. It was a tiny 12-15 sq ft space beside my bed. The night table contained my rosary (tasbih), with the drawers containing Farman and Ginan books along with a copy of the Holy Qur’an as well as some literary magazines and books. I performed my prayers in an identical fashion to what takes place in Jamatkhana — reciting the Du’a, Farmans and Ginans loudly as well as standing up for the tasbih. My heart and soul enjoyed the spiritual nourishment that I experienced even from praying alone. Chandraat (New Moon day or first day of the Islamic month) was a joyful day for me as I saw the new moon above the Wasatch Mountains that surround the Mormon capital. On my drive home in my roommate’s car, I looked forward to the special Chandraat prayers that I would recite.

A few years ago in Ottawa, I met and interviewed the eldest member of the Ismaily family, who was probably the first Ismaili to settle in Canada in the early 1950’s. He had met our beloved 48th Imam Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), just before his lone settlement in a new country. He told me the late Imam asked him to set aside a small portion of his room and conduct his prayers in that space just as he would in a Jamatkhana. The Imam also asked him to keep away from bad and evil social habits, and to work hard. Mr. Ismaily abided, and said that the practice that he adopted of praying regularly in a designated space gave him immense strength, comfort and spiritual happiness.

So here are my recommendations to families where Jamatkhanas have been temporarily closed — and we don’t yet know for how long! Try as a family to pray together. Visit your parents or grandparents at their home, if you are not staying with them, and say to them that you would like to join them for prayers. When visiting them, if you are healthy, take precautions such as hand washing and other important recommended hygienic steps like the ones posted by the Government of Singapore.

Remember they have all of a sudden been deprived of the most valuable moments in their lives — being in Jamatkhanas. Tell them you will recite the Du’a out loud. Keep in mind that many elderly people rely on listening to the prayers recited by another person. Many do not have the capacity to recite the Du’a. Play or recite a ginan or qasida, and join together in tasbihs to help ease our difficulties that we are facing at the present time. Say Ya Allah, Ya Muhammad or Ya Ali. Recite Salwats. Recite the tasbihs of Allahu Akhbar (God is Great), Subhanallah (Glory be to God) and Alhamdulillah (All praise is due to Allah) suggested by the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S) to his beloved daughter Bibi Fatimah (A.S.). Say the tasbih of Ya Ali Tu Rahem Kar (O Ali be Merciful) Ya Mawla Tu Fazal Kar (O Lord [Ali] be gracious) that we recite during Jamati Satada (7 consecutive days of special prayers for the easing of difficulties). Remember, Mawlana Hazar Imam is our strength, so say Ya Shah Karim Ya Mawlana anta Quwati from the 5th part (O Shah Karim, You are my strength/support).

This is a perfect time to come together at home as families, with no live sporting distractions to take occupy our times! It is an opportunity to be together, to help each other out, to motivate each other, to connect more with our parents and children and to build family unity. It is also an opportunity to develop a balanced life, for those who are immersed with worldly issues, and engage more with our faith. Mawlana Hazar Imam’s blessings are with us constantly, and it is an opportune time to read his Farmans from the two-set Farman books that has just been published under his directive. Read them aloud to your children, siblings, parents and grandparents when you are around them.

These are my humble suggestions to ease through the anxious times that we face which is unprecedented in recent history.

May we continue to fulfill our spiritual responsibilities well during this difficult and anxious time in our lives to avail ourselves of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s constant blessings for our well-being, strength and mushkil asan (protection from difficulty).

Finally, as a subscriber to the National Geographic (NG) magazine, I would recommend this superb link containing educational and informative articles on the Coronavirus from the magazine’s fine writers and photographers. NG is making this information available without a paid subscription.

Date posted: March 13, 2020.
Last updated: March 21, 2020.

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

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