Mrs. Merchant (d. January 21, 2021): Reflections on a Funeral During the Year of Covid-19 as Ismaili Community Bids Goodbye to a Very Popular Teacher and Missionary

Mrs. Malek Jehangir Merchant at Jehangir's grave
Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant, or Mrs. Merchant as she was known among her students in Africa and the UK, was buried Thursday February 4, 2021, at the same cemetery as her husband Jehangir. Here she is seen visiting his grave shortly after he passed away May 27, 2018. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

Many thoughts come to mind as I attend Mrs. Merchant’s funeral online from the UK. She passed away on January 21, 2021, at the age of 89, on the same day she was admitted to the hospital.

I have fond memories of the time I had spent working with her at 3-5 Palace Gate in London. While teaching Bait-ul-Ilm classes, I benefited immensely from her knowledge and wisdom. 

The Covid-19 pandemic, which also took Mrs. Merchant’s life, is unprecedented and is having a profound impact on our lives. One such impact is that we cannot attend or participate in funerals in the customary way at this time. However, technology has allowed us to participate in the funeral ceremonies from anywhere in the world, albeit in a different manner.  

Mrs. Merchant’s face was visible to all of us who were watching throughout the 30-minute ceremony that included Salwats, the recitation of the prayer Astaghfirullahi Rabbi Wa Atubu Ilaiyhi (Verily, I seek the forgiveness of Allah, who is my Lord and Sustainer, and I turn to Him in repentance) as well as verses from Ginans and profound quotes of Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (d. July 11, 1957).

There are guidelines, which vary from one province to another, about the number of people who can be present for the funeral (in Vancouver, the limit is 6 family members) and burial ceremonies at the cemetery (4 family members), masks are mandatory as is social distancing, and if a person had died of Covid-19 the casket must remain closed unless the body has been embalmed.

The six individuals from the family who were present at the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana were Mrs. Merchant’s son Fahar and his wife Nina, Shellina (fiancé of youngest son Alnoor, who could not attend from the UK), nieces Habiba and Sherezad, and Nasreen, daughter of the family’s extremely close friend Mrs. Sakerkhanu Velji whose husband, Mr. Sadru Velji, was buried just 48 hours earlier on February 2. Due to extraordinary circumstances as well as Mawlana Hazar Imam’s guidance expressing his desire for his Murids to follow public health guidelines, Mrs. Merchant’s eldest son Abdulmalik (Malik) and his daughter Nurin were not able to travel for the funeral.

Story continues below 

Malik and Nurin Merchant on Mrs. Maleksultan Merchant, Ismaili Jamatkhana Toronto
A reflection by Malik and Nurin Merchant on their mum/grandmother . Please click on image for enlargement.

Following the completion of the funeral ceremonies, which has been dubbed as Rites of Passage, volunteers wheeled the casket across the Jamatkhana Hall into the waiting hearse to the calling of the Muslim Shahadah Lailaha illallah Muhammad ur Rasulullah (I bear witness that there is no deity but God, and I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of God) recited by one person, and repeated by the same person as there was no one lined up to carry or touch the coffin (Janazah) due to Covid-19. The live streaming stopped once the coffin left the building into the waiting car. This was truly an emotional send-off for us watching from other parts of the world. 

After the four male members returned from the cemetery, Zyarat and Samar ceremonies were performed. Normally, these would be held during the evening Jamatkhana ceremonies where hundreds of people would be able to participate and recite special prayers for the soul of the deceased. Jamatkhanas have been closed across Canada for the last several weeks, as is the case in many parts of the world.

Jamatkhanas in Canada have never before been closed for such an extended period of time. This past year has been particularly difficult for all of us everywhere, and one can imagine its impact on those who attended Jamatkhana regularly. 

However, there are some collateral benefits of the pandemic. With the blessings of Mawlana Hazar Imam, our faith has been strengthened. Jamats have come together across the world, helping one another. The magnificent work done by the volunteers has impacted every institution within the Jamat — from arts and culture to economic to health to religious education to social welfare boards and the youth. The undertaking has been enormous. The organization of funerals and the work of the funeral, or the  mayat/ghusal committee is simply incredible. Keeping everyone safe under our current circumstance where a virus can spread rapidly is demanding and requires additional hours of care, diligence, organization and work to meet strict protocols and provincial guidelines. 

At the onset of Covid-19 pandemic 2020, things looked bleak and hopeless. But, human ingenuity was at work. Scientists all across the world set to work to come-up with vaccines in record time in the fight against the Covid-19. We saw as we entered 2021 that highly effective vaccines have been formulated, and with proper and fair distribution will give hope to humanity in the coming months.

I am grateful that I have been able to participate in Malekbai’s funeral from the UK and I pray that Hazar Imam bless her with Noorani Deedar and grant the family the strength to bear this loss. Ameen and Ya Ali Madad.

A Dignified and Safe Rites of Passage for Mrs. Merchant 

Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant (June 9, 1931 – January 21, 2021), age 89. Photo: Shellina Karmali.

MOSTLY UNEDITED – ED.

Feriyal Merchant (USA): Ya Ali Madad, Dear family. My sister Kulsum Laiwalla  and myself from Silicon Valley CA watched the blessed last rites and ceremonies of  our beloved Malek Sultan Aunty who was  lying so peacefully in the prayer hall as the heartfelt spiritual paragraph  from our Beloved Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s memoirs was read by her son Fahar, souful ginans and powerful Salwats recited. Though the hall had a few family physical  presence but it was filled with spiritual connections and prayers from all over the world.

Dear Malek Aunty today your earthly body said goodbye, your soul on speedy wings have taken flight to Heavenly  abode. You will be missed by many but always fondly remember. As I saw you lie you left me with thoughts of wisdom as you always do. This is a journey all must take alone so be prepared  so there is after glow of smile and peace on your face as I saw on yours. Shukar Mowla Alhamdullilah.

Salim and Nevyn Kanji (Toronto): Today, we participated in a beautiful and simple funeral service for our teacher. Thank you for giving us this opportunity. May your mom’s soul rest in eternal peace. May Hazar Imam give you lots of strength and courage to face this great loss. Remember, we are always here for you and your family.

Amin Hooda (Ottawa): Thanks for your efforts at the time when there is a huge personal and family`s loss. Humbled to have attended the live video stream, that was completed in less than half hour, through the recitation of tasbihs and ginans; it was an opportunity for me to benefit from this spiritual connection that you mum, alongside your dad, as a lifelong teacher selflessly nurtured for so many individuals and jamat at large, through their friendship and students. Shukar.

(Nahid) Begum Nurmohamed Shariff and family: Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sending me the invite as I was very fond of both mum and dad. They were wonderful people and will live on through you all but also their wider family — those that they taught selflessly over the years with love and compassion. Your mum and I had a bond and I loved and respected her dearly. She is in a wonderful place. Mawla grant her his noorani didar and rest her soul in eternal peace. Ameen. Sending your whole family lots of love and prayers.

Julián Arturo Zapata (Colombia, South America): Querido Hermano Abdulmalik, muy linda la ceremonia del funeral de tu noble Madre Maliksultan. Abrazos Fraternales desde Colombia el Alamut latinoamericano

Translation: Dear Brother Abdulmalik, the funeral ceremony of your noble Mother Maleksultan is very nice. Fraternal hugs from Colombia, the Latin American Alamut.

Shiraz Nasser: Thank you 🙏for inviting us to participate in funeral ceremony. Her soul has merged with the Noor. It is time for spiritual happiness. May Mawla accept all your wonderful sewa. Stay safe, healthy, happy, united and continue your wonderful family tradition of spiritually intellect sewa in humility. Love to all.

Malek Merchant family at her funeral
Mrs. Merchant’s family members pictured on February 4, 2021 in the courtyard of the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana during the funeral ceremonies held for her at the Jamatkhana. Left to right: Nina and Fahar Merchant, Shellina Karmali, Habiba and Alnashir Rashid, and Sherezad Zinna.

Shariffa Keshavjee (Kenya): Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un “Surely we belong to Allah and to Him shall we return.” Thank you for inviting me to join in on your mum’s farewell. May her soul go with the light into Asal Makan. May you get peace and sabar, patience. I once read that sabar is illumination from within, where experiencing patience gives birth to a space. In that space Rab is present.

Alnoor Abdulla (Vancouver): I appreciate and feel privileged to participate. It was a spiritual ceremony. She will always remain special and everlasting in my mind.

Rozmin Fazal (UK): Thank you for sharing the live link to mum’s Mayyat ceremony. It was such a dignified ceremony. May Mowla rest her soul in eternal peace and grant you and the family strength to be able to cope with the loss. Amen.

Anonymous (England): May Mawlana Hazar Imam bless your mum’s soul and may she rest in eternal peace. Ameen. She looked good and at peace. Lovely that everyone there participated individually. I am praying for your mum’s soul and dad. I’m praying for you and the family to have peace in your heart and in your lives.

Abdul Remtulla (Edmonton): Thank you for your invitation to attend on line ceremony. We did and bid her goodbyes. May her soul rest in eternal Peace, Ameen, Warm wishes and Ya Ali Madad.

Azy or Yasmin (Toronto): Thank you for inviting me to participate in the ceremony. I feel honoured indeed. She looked very very peaceful. We lost a great person from the earth but Mowla welcomed her home. Mowla bless her soul with Noorani Didar and bless you and the entire family with strength to face this tremendous loss. Amen.

Muslim Harji (Montreal): Thank you for considering us as a part of your family. Both Nevin and myself attended Maa’s Mayat ceremony and were very impressed with the way it was conducted. We pray for her soul to rest in eternal peace. Ameen Love, Light & Cheers

Nizar Motani (USA): I was able to join the livestream from the beginning. From all the tributes to mourn and celebrate your mother’s amazing service, her  endearing  personality, and her kind nature — she was  clearly  an ANGELIC  SOUL and is resting in the ABODE of PEACE  next to her beloved husband.

Zarina Moosa (Toronto): Thank you for letting me participate in the funeral ceremony of your beloved mother. It was such a dignified and beautiful ceremony fit for an equally dignified and beautiful lady. Shukhar. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. With prayers in my heart for all of you.

Karima, Nasim, Shamshad and Nuryn (Vancouver): Thank you letting us watch, Malekabai’s funeral today. She is at peace, and may Mowla rests her soul in eternal peace, Amen.

Date posted: February 5, 2021.
Last updated: February 6, 2021 (Jamatkhana photo added with a reflection by Malik and Nurin).

Also see two related pieces Mrs. Merchant passes away at 89 and Tributes celebrating her life.

_________________________

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.

Shiraz Pradhan

About the author: Shiraz Pradhan is a professional engineer, writer and philosopher. A regular contributor to this website, Shiraz has a keen interest in Judaeo-Christian History, Islamic Studies, Sufism and philosophies of the Vedas and Upanishads. He is currently completing a book titles Amarapuri, the Abode of Eternity. He is the Chairman of the Association of the Study of Ginans which specializes in the preservation, study and research of the ancient Ismaili Ginans (hymns). Shiraz currently lives in the UK with his family.

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.

_____________________________

Mrs Merchant at grave of husband Jehangir

Passings: Alwaez Rai Sultanali Mohamed (1927 – 2020)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Date posted: December 6 , 2020.

____________________

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

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

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

The Funeral of Missionary Amirali Gillani in the Midst of Covid-19 Restrictions

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

Ismaili Missionary Amirali Gillani Simerg tribute
Missionary Amirali Gillani passed away on April 8, 2020, and was buried in Toronto on April 14. Photo: Family Collection.

A Safe and Dignified Funeral

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

On Tuesday April 14, 2020, Missionary Amirali Gillani’s shrouded body rested inside a grey coloured coffin in the funeral hall of the Scarborough Jamatkhana. He had passed away from cancer on April 8 at the age of 75.

Only the missionary’s peaceful face was in view. The rest of his body which was covered in the white shroud, was under the coffin cover. The coffin did not rest on the floor. It had been placed on a strong roll away frame. Volunteers recited the Salwat in unison continuously, and gave comfort to the small size of mourners, a limit imposed by the Bereavement Authority of Ontario.

There were a total of 16 mourners in attendance for the funeral’s two separate viewing opportunities and the funeral rites. One viewing, including the funeral rites, was for immediate family members, and the second viewing was for other family members and friends. In both the viewings the mourners sat in groups of 4 in two rows in front of the body, keeping the required physical distance. At a normal funeral, there would have been several hundred in attendance. A dilsoji — a condolence gathering a day or two ahead of the funeral — would have attracted a large Ismaili crowd from across Toronto.

Missionary Gillani’s funeral became the first funeral to be made available for online viewing via a dedicated Youtube channel. The viewing was offered, following a trial period, to very close family members who could not physically be at the funeral due to provincial restrictions limiting gatherings to 5 or 10.

Wearing a face mask and gloves on their hands, each of the persons who had come to missionary Gillani’s funeral presented himself or herself beside the coffin, a meter or two away. In solitude, the mourner would spend between 60 to 80 seconds in contemplation, before giving way to the next person. Other Jamati funerals taking place during the Covid-19 pandemic have similar rules and restrictions in place.

Once the viewing and giving of last respects had ended, and the funeral rites were completed, the Muslim funeral procession prayer La Ilaha Illallah Muhammadur Rasulullah commenced. In a normal funeral, men line up in the large foyer of the Jamatkhana to touch or momentarily hold the coffin on their shoulders, uttering prayers for the soul of the deceased before it is transferred to a hearse. However, here there was no one in the foyer of the Jamatkhana. It was empty. The body was wheeled by the Mukhi, volunteers and male mourners into the hearse parked outside, for its 22 km journey to its final resting place — the picturesque Elgin Mills Cemetery.

A view of Elgin Mills Cemetery. Photo: Mount Plesant Group

At the gate of the cemetery, a guard verified each arriving guest against the list of names that he had been given by the Ismaili funeral committee. He guided the arriving mourners to Section 16 of the cemetery. At the site, there were only a few scattered cars, no more than eight. The hearse carrying the body then arrived. This time, instead of wheeling the coffin, as the ground gradient and conditions presented challenges, the volunteers carefully carried it to the grave. Mourners followed and gathered around the coffin, keeping a safe physical distance between one another. The Mukhisaheb of Scarborough Jamatkhana and a family member then each took a heap of soil in a spade, and spread it across the coffin. The Surah Ikhlas was recited (Ch. 112; Translation: “In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. Say: He is God, the One. God, the Absolute. He begets not, nor was He begotten. And there is nothing comparable to Him”).

Normally the crowd would wait to see the body lowered into the grave, while continuing to recite Salwats and other prayers. Two volunteers would then descend into the grave to ensure its proper placement, stability and also conduct some last rites.

Physical distancing prevented that from occurring and the mourners returned to their cars. Using the same soil that had been been dug up to create the 6 foot deep grave, a tractor arrived to fill it. Once the on-site staff had completed their task of filling the grave and removing wooden planks and other objects around it, we were each handed incense sticks as we walked back to the burial site. Water was then poured on top of the freshly replaced soil by a family member and the Mukhisaheb of Scarborough Jamatkhana. We then honoured and paid respect to the missionary by placing the lit incense sticks we had been given over the top of the missionary’s final resting place.

All ten of us stepped back about 40 metres, and a Fateha for the deceased was then recited. We were standing in rows and kept our safe 2 metre distance from one another. During the recitation of the Fateha, my attention was suddenly drawn to two doves that landed 25 metres to my left. Their sounds in the midst of the Fateha being recited were beautiful and joyous to hear. Only Allah understands the language of birds, animals and insects, as well as everything that has life on this earth. A second Fateha was then recited for all of the deceased members of the Jamat. By then, the birds had flown away.

Mukhisaheb then gave everyone special blessings for attending the burial, and also prayed for the soul of the deceased. As much as we would have loved to, we left the site without shaking hands of the family and embracing them. We consoled them by placing our hands on our hearts, befitting the Islamic ethics of gratitude, humility and affection.

It was a different kind of a funeral to attend. However the dignity of the entire funeral ceremony was preserved. The Jamat has to thank the burial committee for the professionalism with which they are carrying out this extraordinary and noble service to bring comfort and peace to the mourning families and their friends, amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Their communication in every respect was outstanding, and emails and telephone calls received prompt attention.

As I headed back home, I thought of the two birds that had landed nearby as the Fateha for Missionary Gillani was being recited. They conveyed to me a profound message: Missionary Amirali Gillani had been ushered into the abode of peace.

Date posted: April 15, 2020.
Last updated: April 15, 2020 (10 AM ET: additional material added; factual corrections; typos).

____________________________

We received several tributes to Amirali Gillani when we first announced his death. They may be read by clicking HERE. Further tributes as well as your reactions with regard to recent passings during the Covid-19 pandemic, and how you and your family members dealt with the situation amid the challenges you faced, may be submitted by completing the feedback form below. If the form does not show, 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.

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.

Passings: Missionary Amirali Gillani (1944 – 2020)

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

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

Portrait Ismaili Missionary Amirali Gillani of Arusha and Toronto
Missionary Amirali Gillani (July 15, 1944 – April 8, 2020). Photo: Family Collection

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

It is with deep sadness that I inform readers of the passing away of Missionary Amirali Gillani on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 at Toronto’s North York Hospital after a brave and long battle with cancer. He was 75. I learnt of his death from a family member earlier this morning through a text message.

Born in Arusha, Tanzania, he served Jamati institutions in both professional and honorary capacities for several decades, contributing his wisdom until the very last moments of his life. He travelled widely, and finally made his home in Toronto, Canada. Missionary Saheb is survived by four children and five grandchildren.

On April 1, 2020, exactly a week ago, he texted me from the hospital: “Ya Ali Madad. Hope you are well. I am in North York Hospital and my health has deteriorated. With affection, Missionary.” I wanted to visit him but the current state of restrictions in place prevented me from going to the hospital. I responded with a prayer for his strength and courage, and with the hope that I would see him out of the hospital soon. He replied: “Ya Ali Madad. Deeply touched by your prayers. I need His compassion to accept His Will with ease and pleasure. Ya Moula. Affectionately Missionary.” They were profound words.

An articulate missionary with a superb command of the English language, Amirali Gillani was always far ahead of his time in his vision of providing religious education to the Jamat. His ideas more than 50 years ago — and I am referring to the late 1960’s — of utilizing multi media and other technological trends of the day, including the power of TV as well as audio visual concepts, were highly impressive. My late dad, Jehangir Merchant, admired him for his brilliant mind as well as incredible foresight and ingenuity. Alas, we were simply not prepared or ready, even to think about his ideas!

As a close family friend, he would visit my parents whenever institutional duties or personal projects brought him to Dar es Salaam. His contemporaries with whom he graduated in the Waezin program in Pakistan in the 1960’s were Alwaez Nizar Chunara and Alwaez Amirally Mawji, and they would often accompany him.

My most recent — and unforgettable — memory of him was when I spent a couple of hours at his humble apartment in Toronto. A very large portrait of Mawlana Hazar Imam adorned one of the walls, and he had told me a few days earlier before I went to his home, that I would feel the Imam’s presence in his apartment. That I certainly did, not only because of the portrait but also by Missionary Saheb’s overpowering faith, love and affection for Mawlana Hazar Imam. This pulled him through some of the most difficult times in the past few years.

This is a sad moment for the family, especially coming at a time when many of us want to pay our personal respects and be at his funeral, and simply can’t because of the restrictions that are in place due to the novel coronavirus. We convey our deepest heartfelt condolences to members of Missionary Gillani’s family for strength and courage to face his great loss. Our prayers are with them at this time of bereavement.

We pray that Missionary Amirali Gillani rest in eternal peace. Amen.

Date posted: April 8, 2020.

____________________

We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Amirali Gillani by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment.

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

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

The Life of Jehangir Merchant: Ismaili missionary who rendered long and dedicated services to the Jamat and the Imam-of-the-Time

PLEASE CLICK: “Life of Jehangir” – includes historical photographs of Mawlana Hazar Imam

Please click on image for “Life of Jehangir” in photos.

Date posted: September 11, 2018.

_________________

Chapter Five of Nasir-i Khusraw’s Wajh-i Din: The Gateway and Key to Paradise by Rukhsana Ali

“By the generosity of the Imam of the time, we say that Paradise in truth is the Intellect, and the Gateway of paradise is the Prophet (peace and salutation be upon him) during his time, and his wasi, his rank, and the Imam of the time during his age. The Key to the gateway of paradise is the utterance of the phrase, La ilaha illa Allah, Muhammadan rasul Allah.”

Please click:  Pir Nasir-i Khusraw on the Gateway and Key to Paradise

This statue of the Ismaili da’i and intellectual giant Nasir Khusraw stands in his memory in Badakhshan. Please click for article.