Noah’s Ark by (Late) Jehangir Merchant

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT

When the much talked and anticipated Hollywood movie “Noah” hit theatres in North America on March 28, 2014, there was widespread criticism of the movie by numerous Muslim and Christian religious groups. Movie goers had mixed reactions, rating it as high as “A” and “B” and as low as “D”. Google’s numbers indicate that 68% liked the movies. The UK Guardian gave it 3 stars out of 5. A number of Muslim countries including Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population numbering some 231 million (2021) banned the movie for its depiction of Noah. The BBC noted that a number of Arab States including UAE, Qatar and Bahrain were among Middle Eastern countries that banned Noah as it broke Islam’s taboo of depicting a prophet. “There are scenes that contradict Islam and the Bible, so we decided not to show it,” said Juma Al-Leem of Juma Al-Leem UAE’s National Media Centre. Mary Fairchild writing for About.com hinted that the movie would be replete with inaccuracies, and suggested reading the “authentic” story in the Bible.

Simerg has a version of the story from the Qur’an, presented by the well-known late Ismaili Muslim teacher, missionary and writer (Alwaez) Rai Jehangir A. Merchant (December 13, 1928 – May 27, 2018), who dedicated his life to the service of his community for more than 60 years, both in professional and honorary capacities. He passed away on May 27, 2018, exactly 4 years ago, and this popular piece, that has received more than 80,000 views over the years, is being shared by Jehangir’s son Malik, the editor of this website who along with Alwaez’s family members fondly remember him on the 4th anniversary of his passing.

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Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an

A Mughal miniature of Noah's Ark in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
A Mughal miniature of Noah’s Ark in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

[This is a revised version of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant’s original article which was published in Ilm magazine, July 1976, under his pen name Jami. He edited and wrote extensively for the flagship UK Ismaili magazine — Ed.]

By LATE JEHANGIR A. MERCHANT
(1928-2018)

Prophets are the messengers of Allah who came from time to time to guide mankind to the way of Allah, the path of righteousness. Amongst the many who came as guides and warners to the people, Prophet Noah (Alaihisalam) [1] was one of them. He lived long before the time of our Holy Prophet Muhammad (Salallahu alaihi wasalam), the last of the prophets. [2]

God appointed Noah as the prophet for his people, so as to guide them to the right path and turn them away from their evil ways. The Holy Qur’an tells us the story of Prophet Noah and his people in a number of suras [3], namely sura 71 (Nuh), sura 11 (Hud), and sura 23 (al-Mu’minun), and many ayats [4] therein. It tells us of the strong faith which the Prophet had in Almighty God and about the final destruction of those who ignored the Divine Message.

Commanding Prophet Noah to warn his people, God said:

“Warn your people before there comes upon them a grievous penalty.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:1

Obeying the command of God, Prophet Noah went to his people and said:

“I have come to you with a clear warning that you worship none but God. Verily I fear for you the penalty of a grievous day.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:25-26

The chiefs fearing they would lose their power and authority over the people they ruled, did not approve of what Prophet Noah was preaching and sought to detract the people from the True Path. They argued with the Prophet saying:

“We see nothing special in you except as a man like ourselves. Nor do we see any who have followed you but those who are the meanest amongst us and immature in judgment. Nor do we see in you any excellence over us; in fact we think you are a liar.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:27

Prophet Noah was not perturbed by their derogatory remarks and continued his divine mission purposefully. He called upon his people in a very polite and loving manner to mend their ways. He also warned them of the grievous consequences which would follow if they continued to worship the false gods and lead an immoral life. Assuring them that he was not seeking any wealth or power or favours from them, he said:

“And O my people! I ask you for no wealth in return: my reward is from none but God.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:29

But the chiefs continued to hinder Prophet Noah in his mission by instigating doubts about Noah. They would say to the people:

“He is no more than a man like yourselves. His wish is to assert superiority over you. If God had wished (to send messengers), He could have sent down Angels. Never did we hear such a thing (as he says), among our ancestors of old.” — Holy Qur’an, 23:24. [5]

The chiefs would then turn in anger towards the Prophet and challenge him arrogantly:

“O Noah! Indeed you have disputed with us and you have prolonged the dispute: now bring upon us what you have threatened us with, if you are of the Truthful Ones.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:32

Prophet Noah would then remind them that it was not in his but God’s power to punish them for their evil ways.

“Truly God will bring it on you if He wills, — and then, you will not be able to frustrate it.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:33

But all his warnings, his good advices and counsels seemed to fall on deaf ears. Except for a very few who had followed his guidance, others continued to worship the idols of stone with different names as attested in the following verse:

“And they have said (to each other) ‘Abandon not your gods: abandon neither Wadd nor Suwa, neither Yaguth nor Yauq, nor Nasr.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:23

Prophet Noah re-doubled his efforts but all to no avail. He would then cry out to his Lord:

“O my Lord! I have called to my people by night and by day, but my call only (increases their) flight (from the True Path). And every time I have called to them, that You may forgive them, they have thrust their fingers into their ears, covered themselves up with their garments, grown obstinate and given themselves up to arrogance. So, I have called to them aloud: further I have spoken to them in public and secretly in private.” — Holy Qur’an, 71:5-9

As the people became more obstinate and refused to accept God’s message accusing Prophet Noah of falsehood, God decided to bring down His punishment upon the unbelievers. To Prophet Noah, God commanded:

“Construct the Ark within Our sight and under Our guidance. Then when comes Our command, and the fountains of the earth gush forth, take on board pairs of every species, male and female, and your people except those of them against whom the Word has already been issued: and address Me not in respect of those who are unjust; for verily they shall be drowned (in the flood).” — Holy Qur’an, 23:27

Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “Noah’s Ark”, Herat 1425. Leaf: 42.3 × 32.6 cm. The scene on the stormy sea is quite dramatic, with the fluttering sail, the ark breaking out of the picture frame, and the swollen bodies. The animals that are to populate the earth are rendered both humorously and fairly realistically. Photo: The David Collection, Denmark.
Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “Noah’s Ark”, Herat 1425. Leaf: 42.3 × 32.6 cm. The scene on the stormy sea is quite dramatic, with the fluttering sail, the ark breaking out of the picture frame, and the swollen bodies. The animals that are to populate the earth are rendered both humorously and fairly realistically. Photo: The David Collection, Denmark.

As commanded, Prophet Noah now set upon the task of building the Ark with the help of the small group of believers. The sight of Prophet Noah and his men constructing the Ark seemed to amuse the chiefs and unbelievers. They did not realise the seriousness of the situation but only laughed and jeered.

“Whenever the chiefs of his people passed by him, they mocked at him…” — Holy Qur’an, 11:38

Prophet Noah would now answer back to their mocking comments in a very bold and straight-forward manner:

“…If you ridicule us now, verily we too shall mock at you, even as you mock (at us). But soon will you know who it is on whom will descend a penalty which will cover them with shame and upon whom will fall a lasting penalty.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:38-39

When the Ark was completed, Prophet Noah took with him his family and the believers, and a pair of every creature that was found on the land around him. Now God’s warning to the people that He would send floods upon them came to pass.

“At length, behold! there came our Command, and the fountains of the earth gushed forth.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:40

The flood waters began to rise. Believers who had so far suffered at the hands of the chiefs and idol worshippers found themselves safe in Noah’s Ark. They offered their prayers and prostration to Almighty God as thanksgiving for the Mercy He had bestowed upon them. The unbelievers who had ignored God’s guidance were in a grievous state. All was lost to them. The heavy downpour of rain, the strong winds, the deafening thunder and the blinding lightning created confusion in their minds and fear in their hearts. They ran helter-skelter in search for safety. They climbed the roof-tops and the trees but nothing could save them now as the waters rose higher and higher.

Amongst the unbelievers was Prophet Noah’s own son, and he too was desperately trying to save himself from the flood waters. Prophet Noah’s Ark with all aboard was sailing safely on the waters and just when the Prophet saw his son he called out to him and said:

‘O my son! embark with us and be not with the unbelievers’. The son replied: ‘I will betake myself to some mountain, it will save me from the flood’. And Noah said: ‘This day nothing can save you from what God has decreed, for only those on whom He has Mercy will be saved’. And the waves came between them and the son was among the drowned ones.” — Holy Qur’an, 11:42-43

Finally, when all the unbelievers were drowned in the flood, God commanded:

“O Earth! swallow up your water, and O Sky! withhold your rain! and the water abated and the matter was ended. The Ark rested on Mount Judi.” [6] — Holy Qur’an, 11:44

A mausoleum dedicated to Prophet Noah in Azerbaijan. Photo: Wikipedia.
A mausoleum dedicated to Prophet Noah in Azerbaijan. Photo: Wikipedia.

As the ark rested on Mount Judi, Prophet Noah prayed:

“O my Lord! enable me to disembark with Your Blessings, for You are the Best of all to enable us to disembark.” — Holy Qur’an, 23:29

This story from the Holy Qur’an is as a sign from God to the whole of humanity living in different times. It reminds us of the great powers of God. This is not to say that God only possesses the powers to destroy and punish; more so, it tells us of God’s Infinite Love, Care and Mercy He has for all mankind, for it is He Who sends His Guidance to every race and every people.

“And there never was a people, without a Warner, having lived among them.” — Holy Qur’an, Sura Al-Fatir, 35:24.

Date posted: May 27, 2022.

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Notes:

[1] Alaihisalam (abbreviation AS) means ‘Peace be upon him’. Salallahu alaihi wasalam (abbreviation SAWS or SAS) means ‘God’s blessings and peace be upon him’.

[2] Our Holy Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) was the last in the line of the Prophets. There will be no prophet after him and he is therefore called Khatam al-nabiyyin – the Seal of the Prophets. The Holy Qur’an says: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men but he is the Apostle of God and the Seal of the Prophets, and God has full knowledge of all things’ (33:40, Sura Al-Ahzab).

[3] Sura means ‘Chapter’. There are 114 chapters in the Holy Qur’an.

[4] Ayat means ‘Verse’. Each Quranic chapter contains a number of verses. The total number of verses in the Holy Qur’an is 6240, or including the 113 ‘Bismillahi-r-Rahmanir-Rahim’ with which the chapters open, 6353. Every chapter except the ninth opens with the ‘Bismillah’. There also exists a slight difference in the numbering of verses. Kufah readers count them 6329, Basrah 6204, Syria 6225, Mecca 6219, Medina 6211. But this is a difference of computation only, some readers marking the end of a verse where others do not.

[5] The wrong doers who never wanted to desist from evil and give up their false worship always questioned as to why Angels were not sent to them as Messengers. They would ask: “What sort of an apostle is this, who eats food and walks though the streets’? Why has not an angel been sent down to give admonition with him’? (Holy Qur’an, 25:7, Sura Al-Furqan).

The Arabs during the time of Prophet Muhammad brought forward the same argument and God commanded our Holy Prophet to answer: “If there were settled on earth, angels walking about in peace and quiet, We should certainly have sent for them an Angel for an apostle down from the heavens” (17:95, Sura Bani-Israel).

Because men inhabit this earth it is only natural that Prophets who bring God’s message to Mankind are also men and not angels.

[6] Jabal (Mount) Judi is situated in the modern Turkish district of Bohtan. The great mountain mass of the Ararat Plateau dominates the district. This mountain system “is unique in the Old World in containing great sheets of water that are bitter lakes without outlets, Lake Van and Lake Urumiya being the chief.” (Encyclopaedia Brittanica). Such would be the very region for a stupendous deluge if the usual scanty rainfall were to be changed into a very heavy downpour. The region has many local traditions connected with Noah and the flood.

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A BRIEF NOTE ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mawlana Hazar Imam and Jehangir Merchant
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan listens intently as Alwaez Jehangir explains the material used to impart religious education to Ismaili youth in Lourenco Marques (now Maputo), while Ismaili leaders look on. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

Alwaez Jehangir (d. May 27, 2018, age 89) and his wife Alwaeza Maleksultan (d. January 21, 2021, age 89) served the Ismailia Association (now the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board, ITREB) in Mozambique, Tanzania and the UK from 1954 until 1992, and continued to serve Ismaili institutions on an honorary basis until the last years of their lives. Jehangir A. Merchant passed away in May 2018 at the age of 89. Please see Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) 

For articles by Alwaez Jehangir on this Website please click:

  1. I Wish I’d Been There: Ghadir-Khumm and the Two Weighty Matters
  2. An Esoteric Interpretation of the Mi’raj
  3. The Establishment of the Fatimid Caliphate
  4. The Parable of Moses and Khidr in the Holy Qur’an
  5. Jehangir Merchant’s Thank You Letter to Da’i Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi
  6. Text and Explanation of “Eji Shah Islamshah Amne Maliya”
  7. A Translation and Brief Commentary of Pir Sadardin’s Ginan “Jem Jem Jugatsu Preet Kareva”
  8. The Frontispiece of the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Mashhad, Iran

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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 fewPlease also visit our sister website Barakah, dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and our photo blog Simergphotos.

Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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.

Alwaez Rajwani’s Very Special Bond with Mrs and Mr Merchant

Introduced by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Between 1963, soon after my parents settled in Dar es Salaam — having previously served for over 8 years as teachers in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique — and around 1967 at which time my dad purchased a car, it became a regular weekend routine for our family of 5 to walk either from Tanganyika Flats and, later Islamabad Flats (on Cameroon Road renamed as United Nations Road), to the complex of flats near Upanga Jamatkhana where 3 Ismaili families lived in close proximity. 

Malik Merchant of Simerg with parents Mr and Mrs Merchant
Abdulmalik (aka Malik), founding publisher and editor of this website, with his parents Mr. and Mrs. Merchant, at a park in Lourenço Marques, Mozambique, when he was 3 years old. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

It was a visit that I, as a young boy, deeply cherished. The families of Alwaez Rajwani, Mr. Dharsee and the Ismail’s — Shiraz, Firoz, Razia and primary school teacher Late Gulzar Ismail Walji (d. 1978) — may not remember our visits to their homes, but I do.

With Mr. Dharsee, who wrote special feature articles on the Ismaili Imamat and Ismaili history for the Tanganyika Standard, the talks centred on Ismaili philosophy and other religious subjects. My dad extracted as much knowledge from this brilliant mind, who would keep his signature cheroot cigar aside during our visits. His inquiring and intelligent mind would respond to all questions my dad asked him. His daughter, Alwaeza Gulshan and son in law, Alwaez Shamshu Allidina, are the Ismaili couple famously known as the “Missionaries from Madagascar.”

At the Ismail family’s home, it was fun time. Razia [Pullen], one of my dad’s Aga Khan Girls Secondary School students in the early 1960’s, and her siblings would lay out a beautiful table of fruits and biscuits with plenty of juices, soft drinks, as well as chai, of course.

Abdulrahim Rajwani and Maleksultan Merchant
Alwaez Abdulrahim Rajwani visiting Alwaeza Mrs. Maleksultan Merchant at her home in 2019. Photo: Zarina Rajwani / Abdulrahim Rajwani Collection.

At Alwaez Rajwani’s residence located at the Jamati flat complex, the conversations centred around their waezin colleagues, past and current, as well as on-going waezin activities in Dar es Salaam and other parts of Tanzania. Years later after our families had migrated to the Western world, Alwaez Rajwani would place a regular call to my parents to find out how they were doing. Following my mum’s recent death on January 21, 2021, Alwaez submitted the following letter along with two photographs that he and his daughter took with my mum during one of their visits to Vancouver.

I take deep happiness in publishing the letter and thank Alwaez Abdulrahim and his daughter, Zarina, for the care, concern as well as affection that they showed to both my parents for many, many years. May all their prayers and wishes be fulfilled. Alwaeza’s wife Zenab passed away in 2006 at the age of 81 but Abdulrahim now continues to live a full and complete life in Toronto. He is 90, and I wish him a long and healthy life.

Fond Memories of Alwaez Jehangir and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant

Mrs. Merchant, centre, with Abdulrahim Rajwani and his daughter Zarina
Alwaeza Mrs. Merchant, centre, is visited by Alwaez Abdulrahim Rajwani and his daughter Zarina. Photo: Abdulrahim Rajwani Collection.

By ALWAEZ ABDULRAHIM RAJWANI

Ya Ali Madad, dear Malik.

Although we have spoken on the phone, I also wanted to express my condolences to you, Fahar, Alnoor and your families, as well as pay my respects, honour your parents and share a few memories in writing. It has taken me a while, as I was filled with sadness and nostalgia, remembering the closeness of my loving relationship and friendship with both your parents over the many decades. Also, I had just spoken to mum a few days before she passed away. Zarina, Aziz and I offer prayers for the eternal rest of their souls.

Your parents, Alwaeza Maleksultan (1931-2021) and Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018), were both close friends from Bombay (now Mumbai). I remember meeting mum in the early forties, when we used to have waez competitions between the Religious Night Schools of Greater Bombay. Either she or one of her sisters (Shahsultan or Sakuma) would represent Hasnabaad, and I would represent Kandimohalla (now Karimabad). I remember your dad and Late Alwaez Sultanali Mohamed (1927-2020) attending mission classes in the early fifties, run by Ismailia Association in Kandimohalla, where dad’s eldest brother Mahomedbhai was Mukhi for several years. I was already an Honorary Missionary at that time.

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Aga Khan in Mumbai and Ismaili Missionaries
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, is welcomed by Mukhisaheb of Karimabad Jamatkhana Mahomed Alibhoy, Alwaez Merchant’s oldest brother; and Mrs and Mr Merchant (seated, 3rd and 5th from left) with Waezin team and lecturers before their departure for Lourenço Marques in 1954. Alwaez Sultanali is standing 4th from left. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Collection.

I have many fond and happy memories of our friendship over the decades, and in particular, I remember coming to the ship to disembark your parents, with you as a 5 month baby, when their ship made a stop at Dar es Salaam on its way to Lourenço Marques. That was in very early 1954, and I myself settled in Dar es Salaam two years earlier in 1952.

While we all served as waezin together, I will always regard both mum and dad with the highest respect, honour and love. Their service was outstanding and exemplary. They always kept up with their knowledge and learning. Their way of communicating and conveying this knowledge individually, in small groups and to large Jamati audiences was remarkable. They were able to make this knowledge relevant and personal to individuals, and inspire and uplift them in a highly impactful and significant way. And they selflessly served the Jamat and the Imam-of-the-Time with care and kindness, with devotion and utmost dedication.

I have been speaking to your parents over the years, and to mum regularly, particularly around Navroz, Imamat Day, Salgirah and Eids. I will miss talking to her now, but will always remember her and pray for her soul. Over the years, whenever I was in Vancouver, we would always visit them and more recently mum. It was always a delight to chat and catch up with her. Zarina and I last visited her in September 2019. I am attaching a couple of pictures with her from that visit. I will dearly miss our decades-long incredible friendship and affection.

With fond and loving memories of them both and prayers for their souls,

(Alwaez) Abdulrahim Rajwani.

Date posted: February 7, 2021.

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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.

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.


His Highness the Aga Khan and Jehangir Merchant in Lourenco Marques, Mozambique

Ismaili doctrines of faith: Short lessons from the writings of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant: (1) Tawhid or Unity of God

Introduced by Malik Merchant
(Publisher-Editor,  Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

Alwaez Rai Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) — picture above with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan — is fondly remembered everyday single day by his beloved wife of 66 years, Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant, and all her family members.

He passed away 2 years ago on May 27, 2018 at approximately 1:15 AM. We pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace. Amen.

Jehangir  and Maleksultan Merchant
Jehangir and Maleksultan in front of a large
portrait photo of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

My dad was a prolific writer. In England, he edited the flagship Ismaili religious magazine, Ilm, for several years while he served with my mother with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB). His articles related to the faith, history, principles and doctrines of the Ismaili faith, along with insightful interpretations of Qur’anic verses, as well as moving narratives of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Mubarak visits to different parts of the world, richly contributed to the Jamats’ understanding of the faith. The closure of Ismaili religious magazines in the very early 1990’s created a significant void in the dissemination of religious material that was deemed to be “official.” I am referring here to insightful articles in monthly or quarterly magazines published by ITREBs around the world, and not to literary and scholarly books, which the Institute of Ismaili Studies has done a fantastic job of publishing over the past 30 years.

From the time this website, Simerg.com, was launched in 2009, Alwaez Merchant was able to devote time to editing and adapting his Ilm pieces for publication on this website for the benefit of readers on the World Wide Web. Links to those pieces are provided at the end of this article. Ill-health prevailed, and he was no longer able to fully complete the remainder of his Ilm pieces for publication on Simerg.

Ilm Ismaili religious magazine edited by Jehangir Merchant
Ilm magazine – one of Alwaez Jehangir’s magnificent contributions to the Ismaili literary scene. Jehangir edited and wrote extensively for the journal.

Now, I am going to take his unpublished essays from Ilm — many of which were quite lengthy — and share them as short pieces of learning over the coming weeks and months. We begin the Jehangir Merchant series, if I may call it that, with the Concept of Tawhid, which forms the first component in his essay entitled “Fundamental Aspects of Ismaili Doctrine.” It appeared in Ilm, Volume 7, Number 1 & 2, July-November 1981, pp. 2-12.

Tawhid

By (LATE) JEHANGIR A MERCHANT

Jehangir and Maleksultan Merchant, Ismaili missionaries
Jehangir and Maleksultan Merchant served the Imam of the Time and Ismaili institutions for more than 60 years.

In all Shi‘a tariqahs of Islam, Tawhid (belief in the Unity of God), Nubuwwah (Prophethood), Imamah (the Institution of the Divine Guide) and Qiyamah (Day of Judgement), are considered as the doctrines of the faith. My brief explanation of each of these 4 doctrines of faith for publication on Simerg are based on a much broader discussion that I provided on these subjects in my original article published in Ilm magazine, which also included a detailed historical background on the subject of Imamat.

The belief in the Unity of God (Tawhid) is the cornerstone of faith (Iman) for all Muslims.

It is articulated in the pronouncement: La ilaha ill-Allah: “There is no god but Allah.”

This doctrine of Unity of God is beautifully summarised in Sura Tauhid, popularly known as Suratul Ikhlas (112:1-4), which says: “Say, He Allah is One; Allah is Absolute, Independent. He did not beget nor He was begotten and there is none like unto Him.”

We know, however, that the Holy Qur’an, ascribes a number of attributes to Allah. God is spoken of as ar-Rahim (The Merciful), al-Wadud (The Loving), al-Sami (The Hearing), al-Barir (The Seeing) etc. The Qur’an also talks about Wajahullah (the Face of God), Yadullah (the Hand of God), and so on.

While there are numerous references which attribute human qualities to God in the Holy Qur’an, the scripture states in very plain words that Allah is above all material conceptions.

For example, the Qur’an says: “Vision comprehends Him not and He comprehends all vision.” (6:104) and “Nothing is like a likeness of Him.” (42:11)

The Unity of God (Tawhid) implies that God is One in His Dhat (essence) and One in His Sifat (attributes).

The concept of Tawhid appears in the works of many Ismaili dais (missionaries) and philosophers. Their works on the subject place an emphasis against anthropomorphising God, that is, giving human attributes to God.

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Fatimid coin Imam al-Zahir
The inscription in the inner margin of this Fatimid coin minted during the reign of Imam al-Zahir reads: la ilah illa / allah wahdahu / la sharik lahu; “no god but God, unique, He has no associate.” Photo: David Museum, Copenhagen.

God is declared in their works as One, Absolutely Transcendent, Omnipotent, Omnipresent, Omniscient, Incomprehensible and a Quality-less Being. A Ginanic verse makes this clear:

La thi un dhat kahave, tanki baat kahi nav jai; Dubki le le gotha khave, Pir Paighambar tai na pavey

Translation:

The Dhat [essence] is from nothingness and nothing can be said about it. Pirs and Prophets delve deep in this knowledge but in vain.

The concept that God has no qualities difficult to grasp, because the human mind cannot comprehend a total lack of qualities, a concept which it has not experienced before. We cannot imagine a man, if we can for the moment call such a being a man, who has no colour, no shape, no size, no special existence, who is neither alive nor dead.

Hence, the notion that God is quality-less becomes unintelligible and the Qur’an, therefore, attributes a number of qualities to God. If we consider the qualities applied to God and examine them carefully we find that the grounds for all of these attributes lie in our own experience of this material world.

Pir Shiahbu’d-din Shah writes in his work Risala dar Haqiqati Din (True Meaning of Religion):

“…people speaking about God (Haqq) attribute to Him any such (perfections) as they can imagine. For instance, regarding blindness as a defect, they say about God that He sees everything. They regard ignorance as a defect, and thus say that God is All-Knowing. Thus, whatever they find in themselves as a vice and defect they attribute to God a perfection opposite to that. Most probably, even animals create their own God free from their own defects, ascribing to Him (the opposite) perfections. Imam Muhammad Baqir says that the tiny ant probably imagines his god as having two stings, because it regards the possession of only one sting as a defect.”

So, when the Qur’an attributes qualities to God, it is to help convey to man the idea of God and not that these terms express the true nature of God, or that they are perfect indicators to His Being.

Ismaili doctrine upholds the belief in a single transcendent Being, whose nature is beyond the comprehension of the human mind and who is inexplicable. This is because our definitions are based on our experiences of the material world, and these definitions cannot be applied to this Being.

Pir Shihabu’d-din Shah, again in his previously cited book, says:

“All that is beyond thy imagination, Is merely the limit of thy fantasy, not God. Wisdom can attain a knowledge of His Substance Only in the case if a piece of straw can sink to the bottom of the sea. And Imam Ja’far-as-Sadiq said: “What God is, Man cannot think: and what Man thinks God is not. Yet man lives by God, and God is nearer to him than himself.”

Thus, in the Doctrine of Tawhid, lsmailism completely avoids any form of anthropomorphism and remains purely monotheistic.

We will continue our next discussion on another Shia doctrine of faith, namely, Nubuwwah or Prophethood which will then be followed by Qiyama (the Day of Judgement) and Imamah (the hereditary leadership in Islam).

Date posted: May 27, 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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The following are links to Alwaez Jehangir Merchant’s articles that have been published on this website:

  1. Ghadir-Khumm and the Two Weighty Matters (a Simerg original, I Wish I’d Been There Series)
  2. An Esoteric Interpretation of the Mi’raj (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  3. The Establishment of the Fatimid Caliphate (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  4. The Parable of Moses and Khidr in the Holy Qur’an (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  5. Jehangir Merchant’s Thank You Letter to Da’i Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi (a Simerg original, Thank You Series)
  6. Text and Explanation of “Eji Shah Islamshah Amne Maliya” (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  7. The Story of Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  8. A Translation and Brief Commentary of Pir Sadardin’s Ginan “Jem Jem Jugatsu Preet Kareva” (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  9. The Frontispiece of the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Mashhad, Iran (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  10. “One Jamat” (proposal, with Malik Merchant)
  11. The 1979 London Didar: The Experience (adapted from Ilm magazine)
  12. Imams Muhammad al-Baqir and Ja’far as-Sadiq on Love for the Imam (with Alnoor Bhatia, adapted from Ilm magazine)

Also see:

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click 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.

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.

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Ghadir-Khumm by Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and the Imamat by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness Aga Khan

NOTICE TO OUR READERS

This is to inform our readers that no new posts will be published on Simerg and its sister websites barakah and simergphotos, until the week of September 10, 2018. We invite our readers to click on  Table of Contents for links to hundreds of interesting pieces that have appeared on all the three websites.

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(The following post celebrates Id-e-Ghadir, a major festival in the Shia calendar which falls on 18th Dhul-Hijjah, Tuesday, August 28, 2018). 

For our highly acclaimed series “I Wish I’d Been There”, we invited historians, authors,  and educators as well as our readers to be fly on the wall and answer the question: What is the one scene, incident or event in Ismaili history you would like to have witnessed — and why? One of the thirty-one contributors for the series, Ismaili missionary, teacher and writer Late Jehangir Merchant, went back 1400 years to the beginnings of Islamic history and imaginatively constructed a picture of the iconic event when Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s) raised the hand of Hazrat Ali (a.s.) and declared, “He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is also the Mawla!” Alwaez Jehangir’s skillful writing brings alive a pivotal time in human history. The long serving educator passed away recently at the age of 89, and will be greatly missed by all.

The Two Weighty Matters

By JEHANGIR A. MERCHANT (1928-2018)

A huge caravan of around 100,000 Muslim pilgrims, spread over many miles of the desert, is returning to Medina after completing the Hajj in Mecca. As it reaches Ghadir-Khumm, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) is commanded by Allah to deliver one of the last verses of the Holy Qur’an:

“O Messenger of Allah, make known what has been revealed to you from your Lord, for if you do not, you will not have conveyed His message. Allah will protect you from mankind.” (Holy Qur’an, 5 : 67)

00 Jehangir Merchant Portrait Queen Elizabeth Park Vancouver Cropped for Simerg

Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018)

The date is March 16, 632 C.E. A camp is then decreed at this valley, and the caravan gathers together in a vast open space. A platform is constructed from which the Prophet would speak.

The revelation of the verse renders this as one of the most unique messages in the Prophet’s entire mission. It is crucial, and failing to deliver the message will make his prophetic mission incomplete. The Prophet mounts the rudimentary platform with Hazrat Ali (a.s.) by his side. The murmuring in the crowd turns to a silence.

As the Prophet begins his speech, he pronounces the verse he has received from Allah. He then seeks a confirmation from the pilgrims as to whether he has indeed proclaimed all of God’s commands. They affirm this with a resounding voice. Looking up into the desert sky, the Prophet says, “O God! You be our witness to this day.”

“What could this be all about, with Ali on the stage beside the Prophet? A revelation of twenty three years nullified and judged incomplete without the announcement he is about to make!” I might have pondered, had I been there.

The Holy Prophet’s subsequent actions and words provide the context of Hazrat Ali’s presence on the stage. The Prophet takes Hazrat Ali by his hand and raising it pronounces in his high, clear and firm tone:

“He of whom I am the Mawla, Ali is also the Mawla. O Allah! Be the friend of him who is his friend and the enemy of him who is his enemy. O Allah! Help the one who helps Ali and forsake the one who forsakes Ali!”

This singularly important Message from Allah, and the words of the Prophet find further clarity as he adds the following pronouncement:

“I am leaving amongst you two weighty things after me, the Qur’an and my Progeny (ahl al-bayt). Verily, if you hold fast to them both you will never go astray. Both are tied with a long rope and cannot be separated till the Day of Judgement.” (Muslim, Vol. II, pg. 279)

With these pronouncements, the Prophet lays the foundation for a new Divine Order. The two weighty matters (thaqalain) – Allah’s final Book and the Holy Prophet’s progeny through Hazrat Ali – are new partners till the Day of Judgement.

Before descending from the pulpit, the Holy Prophet commands every one of the returning pilgrims to offer their baiyah (oath of allegiance) to Mawla Ali. Omar ibne Khuttab, who later became the second Caliph, was the first to congratulate and offer his baiyah to Mawla Ali saying:

‘‘Congratulations! Congratulations! O son of Abu Taleb, you have now become my Mawla (Master) and Mawla of every faithful man and every faithful woman.” (Ghazzali, Sirrul-Alameen)

Hearing the words of felicitations offered by Omar to Ali, our Holy Prophet asks him to address Ali not as ‘son of Abu Taleb’ but as Amirul-Mu’mineen (the Lord Commander of the faithfuls).

Thereafter, the pilgrims present offer their baiyah. The Prophet also commands them that on their return they ask those not present to acknowledge Ali as their Amirul-Mu’mineen.

This momentous event at Ghadir-Khumm, almost at the end of Prophet Muhammad’s successful mission as the Last and Final Prophet of Allah, culminates thousands of years of Divine Revelations through God’s appointed Messengers. And thus, the revelation:

“This day have I perfected your religion for you and have completed My favours upon you and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Holy Qur’an, 5:3)

Thus, Ali becomes the guardian (Wali) and the master (Mawla) of all believing men and women, and the Prophet’s successor. Allah’s favours upon mankind are completed, and Islam becomes the perfect religion in His sight.

A bilateral Guardianship (al-Walaya) between Hazrat Ali and the Muslim community is established. Al-Walaya is so crucial that many generations later, the 4th Imam, Muhammad al-Baqir (a.s.) says:

“The last obligatory duty that Allah sent down was al-Walaya (adherence to the guardian designated by Allah). Then, He sent down the verse: ‘Today, I have completed your religion ….’” (Holy Qur’an, 5:3).

The oath of allegiance offered to Hazrat Ali at Ghadir-Khumm as well as the Qur’anic verse (48:10) concerning the bayah is too important to be ignored, and some five centuries later a thinking Nasir Khushraw, who is not yet an Ismaili, demands answers for questions that bother him:

“Why should later believers be deprived of this reward (of bayah)? What fault was it of theirs that they were not born in the time of the Prophet? Why should God allow that hand to disappear? There has to be someone at whose hand the oath to Allah can be pledged.”

Nasir Khusraw does not despair. His resolve and quest take him to Cairo where the hand of the Fatimid Imam al-Mustansir bi Allah (a.s.) awaits him.

The complete event at Ghadir-Khumm — the caravan halt arising for the revelation 5:67, the gathering at one location of widely dispersed pilgrims, the construction of a rudimentary platform, Allah’s Message revealed by our Holy Prophet Muhammad giving Hazrat Ali the parity with himself by ascribing him the attribute of Mawla as well as instructing Muslims to hold fast to both the Holy Qur’an and his progeny, the raising by the Holy Prophet of Hazrat Ali’s hand followed by the bayah to Hazrat Ali — make this a singular event for me and I Wish I’d Been There.

But, at the same time, my mind wonders about the events that followed soon after the spirit of our Holy Prophet took flight to the Blessed Companionship on High. About eighty days had passed since the event at Ghadir-Khumm, when our Holy Prophet had made Allah a witness to his call and had seen the bayah pledged to Hazrat Ali. Why now was there a doubt and unwillingness to accept Ali as their Mawla? And why did Omar, who was the first to offer bayah to Mawla Ali, declare his support for Abu-Bakr as the Caliph at Saqa-e-fae-bani Saa’ada?

Nonetheless, the Divine Plan of continual Guidance established at this epoch-making incident has continued to flourish uninterruptedly under Divine Protection for over 1400 years. This principle of direct hereditary descent of the Imam from the Prophet was championed centuries later by the Ismaili poet Nizar Quhistani, often with the support of the following Quranic verse:

“Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Imran above all people – offspring, one of the other, and Allah knows and hears all things.” (Holy Qur’an, 3:33-34)

Quhistani explained:

“We search for a union with the family of the Chosen (Prophet Muhammad). We search for the truth of son after son. We are totally obedient to his offspring, one of the other. There is no other thing we can add to this but itself. We endeavour in our faith so that we do not turn out to be faithless.”

Thus millions of murids over time have been beneficiaries of the Imams’ guardianship and today we feel this intimate loving care from our 49th Imam, Noor Mawlana Shah Karim al-Hussaini Hazar Imam.

I Wish I’d Been There for that epochal event of March 16, 632, when our beloved Prophet Muhammad laid the foundation for the Institution of Imamat which will stay with Mankind forever as affirmed by the Hadith Thaqalain and the Qur’anic verses mentioned above. To conclude, Allah declares in the Holy Qur’an:

“Their intention is to extinguish God’s Light (by blowing) with their mouths; But God has willed to spread His Light in all its fullness however hateful this may be to all who deny the Truth.” (Holy Qur’an, 61:8).

Copyright: Simerg.com

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His Highness the Aga Khan on the Imamat

Aga Khan Speaking at the Signing of Historic Agreement Seat of Imamat in Portugal

His Highness the Aga Khan

“…As you know, the Shi’a divided from the Sunni after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. Hazrat Ali, the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet, was, in Shi’a belief, named by the Prophet to be the Legitimate Authority for the interpretation of the faith. For the Shi’a today, all over the world, he is regarded as the first Imam.” [1]  His Highness the Aga Khan, Tutzing Evangelical Academy, May 20, 2006.

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“The religious leadership of the Ismaili Imam goes back to the origins of Shia Islam when the Prophet Muhammad appointed his son-in-law, Ali, to continue his teachings within the Muslim community. The leadership is hereditary, handed down by Ali’s descendants, and the Ismailis are the only Shia Muslims to have a living Imam, namely myself.” [2]

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“The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet. But let me clarify something more about the history of that role, in both the Sunni and Shia interpretations of the Muslim faith. The Sunni position is that the Prophet nominated no successor, and that spiritual-moral authority belongs to those who are learned in matters of religious law. As a result, there are many Sunni imams in a given time and place. But others believed that the Prophet had designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up — but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet. [3]

Date posted: August 27, 2018.

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Notes/References:

[1]. His Highness the Aga Khan, Tutzing Evangelical Academy, May 20, 2006. See Speech Archives.

[2].  Voices: “The Power of Wisdom” – His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Politique Internationale

[3] In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race

Read individual articles at  I Wish I’d Been There or download PDF.

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

My last moments with my loving Papa, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928 – 2018)

Grave of Jehangir Merchant (1928 - 2018)

Grave of Alwaez Jehangir Alibhai Merchant (December 13, 1928 to May 27, 2018) bearing a temporary plaque with his name. He was buried on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at Victory Memorial Park located in Surrey, British Columbia. Photo: Nurin Merchant, taken on June 2, 2018.

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

I found myself awake at 2:30 AM on Saturday May 26, 2018, and decided to go and spend a few hours with my dad at Normanna Nursing Care. He hadn’t spoken and eaten now for a full 2 days. I spent many hours engaging in prayers with my dad, and stayed in his room until  my mum and brother Fahar arrived to spend the rest of the day with my dad. My mum was able to spend 2 hours with my dad in mid-afternoon totally by herself. She had been married to him for 66 years. That time was deeply comforting to her. She reminded him of the years of service they had dedicated towards Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Ismaili Jamat around the world.

Jehangir and Maleksultan Merchant in his room at Normanna 2

Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant pictured in his room at Normanna Care Facility. Photo: Nurin Merchant, taken on February 20, 2018.

My mum returned home at 8 PM. Soon thereafter I told her that I was leaving to see dad. “Come back home by 11:00 PM, you are very tired,” she remarked. I said to myself that I would once again sit close to my dad and participate in the early morning contemplative prayers as I had done earlier that same (Saturday) morning. When I arrived in my father’s room  I began monitoring him and played recordings of Qur’anic verses, Ginans, Salwats and recited phrases from the Dua such as “Allahuma Ya Mawlana Antas-Salaam…..Wa Adkhilna na Dar es Salaam” and “Ya Imamaz-Zaman, Ya Shah Karim Ya Mawlana Anta Quwwati” (my father had asked me years earlier to take selected phrases from the Dua and recite them for my strength and courage). I had complied with his wish and advice.

At 10:45 PM the nurse came into the room and interrupted the sequence. She had come to check on my dad’s breathing and change his sleeping position. I again reverted to praying and contemplation. I was physically tired and lay down on the cushion at the ledge of the window from where I could see his face and the movement of his chest and shoulders.

Two hours quickly passed. It was now 12:45 AM, and a new day (Sunday, 27 May) had begun. For a few minutes I had seen his breathing pattern change. When the nurse came into the room to alter his sleeping position, she also noted the change in his breathing pattern. She commented that my dad would pass away that night. I asked, “How long does he have?” Very reluctantly she answered, “Maybe a few minutes or that he could be around for another few hours.” I began praying, “Wa Adkhilna Dar es Salaam”, meaning, “Usher us in the Abode of Peace”, over my dad. I sensed death was going to take place at any moment.

Jehangir Merchant and Maleksultan Merchant at BC Palace

Alwaez Jehangir Merchant and his wife Alwaeza Maleksultan pictured recently at BC Place, Vancouver, prior to the Diamond Jubilee Mulaqat with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Raiya Suleman/Simerg

At around 1:00 AM, without any intervention whatsoever, my dad changed his sleeping position on his own. He straightened up his head (which had been sideways), to face the ceiling. He looked straight up with his mouth fully open. His eyes had been closed, but now as he looked up, they were wide open. I bent my face over his face and said, “Look papa this is Abdulmalik.” I recited the Salwat and other prayers. How was I to know whether he recognized me?

The nurse who had changed his position a few moments earlier to a sideway position, stayed in the room with me, but called her colleague, a registered nurse. At this instant at around 1:05 AM, I asked the nurse to dip a long cotton swab into the Ab-e-Shifa bottle and lightly stroke his lips and tongue with the holy water. After about 2 minutes, with his face still facing the ceiling he breathed out while his mouth was still open, and the nurse told me that it was his last breath. I said, “Wait, wait, nurse that may not be the case.” I was right. My dad then licked his lips with his tongue, closed his mouth and partially closed his eyes.

I said to myself, “How can he breathe in this state with his mouth closed”, as he had been breathing through his open mouth for hours. As his mouth remained closed, I could see pressure building inside his mouth. This went on for about 30 to 40 seconds, and then astonishingly he opened his mouth and breathed out his last breath. With that last breath at 1:10 AM my dad had just passed away from this transient world into the world of spirit. He was returning to the abode of heavenly peace, the Dar es Salaam that he had many years earlier asked me to remember regularly at times other than during recitation of the Dua. I texted at 1:12 AM, “Dad has passed away.” Came the reply, “Shukran lillah walhamdulillah. Be strong.”

Victory Memorial Park Cemetery

A view of the cemetery at Victory Memorial Park in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, where Alwaez Jehangir Merchant was buried on May 31, 2018. Photo: Nurin Merchant.

His dilsoji (condolence meeting) which was held at Darkhana Jamatkhana on May 30 in Burnaby was attended by hundreds of Jamati members as was his funeral ceremony at Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana on Thursday, May 31. He was then buried the same afternoon at Victory Memorial Cemetery in Surrey. The Samar and Ziarat ceremonies were performed the same evening at Darkhana. We then had a small funeral reception (a bhatti) at James Grill that was attended by very close family and friends.

My family and I are immensely grateful and deeply touched by the hundreds of phone calls, messages of condolences and tributes that we have received since the death of my father exactly a week ago. We may not be able to respond to every phone call and message posted on this website or the social media pages, or sent via email. We wish to inform everyone that their condolences and tributes have given us immense strength and comfort during this difficult period of grieving.

May my loving papa, Alwaez Jehangir, rest in eternal peace. AMEN.

Date posted: June 3, 2018.

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Jehangir Merchant by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on Leave a comment. Your comment may also be submitted to simerg@aol.com.

Please also see the piece Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018), announcing his death in response to which more than 280 tributes from around the world were received, as well as In photos: “Life of Jehangir” – Ismaili missionary, teacher and writer who rendered long and dedicated services to the Jamat and the Imam-of-the-Time.

The following is a collection of Alwaez Jehangir’s writings on this website:

Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018)

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.

Jehangir Merchant and Maleksultan Merchant at BC Place
Alwaez Jehangir Alibhai Merchant and his wife Maleksultan pictured recently at BC Place, Vancouver, prior to the Diamond Jubilee Mulaqat with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: Raiya Suleman/Simerg.

It is with deep sadness to inform readers that Alwaez Jehangir Alibhai Merchant passed away peacefully in Vancouver on Sunday May 27, 2018, at the age of 89 after a short illness. He is survived by his beloved wife Maleksultan, sons Abdulmalik, Fahar and Alnoor, grandchildren Naim and Nurin, as well as his sister, Banu.

Alwaez Merchant was blessed with a long period of service to the institutions of the Imamat and the Jamats worldwide. Amongst members of the Ismaili Muslim community, he will be fondly remembered as Mastersaheb, Alwaez Merchant or simply Jehangir.

Over a period spanning sixty years, he taught students, delivered waezs (sermons) and made presentations throughout the world. His literary contributions spanned five decades, and he played a pivotal role in contributing to and editing various Ismaili magazines produced in East Africa and the United Kingdom; he also wrote numerous pieces for this website, Simerg. In addition, he developed curriculum that was used within the religious education system prior to the development of the Institute of Ismaili Studies’ primary and secondary curricula.

Lourenço Marques, 1958: His Highness the Aga Khan, direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and current 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims is seen taking a keen interest as Alwaez Jehangir explains the Gujarati history texts that were used to impart religious education to Ismaili youth in Mozambique.
Lourenço Marques, 1958: His Highness the Aga Khan, direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) and current 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims is seen taking a keen interest as Alwaez Jehangir explains the Gujarati history texts that were used to impart religious education to Ismaili youth in Mozambique.

The Merchant family would like to take this opportunity to thank staff at Normanna Care Facility in Burnaby for the medical attention, as well as loving care extended to Jehangir. The family would also like to thank life-long friends, including waezins, his students, Jamati and institutional leaders of the Ismaili community for their support, care and affection.

Alwaez Merchant’s funeral ceremony will take place at Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana on Thursday May 31, 2018 at 11 AM. A post burial religious ceremony will take place at the Ismaili Darkhana Jamatkhana (Ismaili Centre,  4010 Canada Way, Burnaby) later that same evening. Both will be preceded by a condolence (dilsoji)  ceremony on Wednesday, May 30th at the Darkhana following the conclusion of evening religious ceremonies.

Alwaez Merchant’s greatest mentor throughout his life was the Fatimid Ismaili da’i Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi; the following verses of al-Shirazi are poignant:

It is through you [the Imam] that Ibn Musa [al-Mu’ayyad] asks Allah for deliverance
From captivity and confinement in the worst of stopping places.
Entering shade in the courtyard of His elect,
Shady and residing in security in the refuge of the [Imam’s] palace.

The passing away of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant is a difficult moment for the family. Today, the family would like to celebrate a man who most nobly and sincerely dedicated his life to the Imamat and the Ismaili jamats worldwide, and we express our shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam.

Date posted: May 27, 2018.

Related pieces:

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We invite you to submit your condolences, memories and tributes to Jehangir Merchant by completing the feedback form below or by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT. Your comment may also be submitted to simerg@aol.com.

The following is a collection of Alwaez Jehangir’s writings on this website:

The Miraj: A Powerful Metaphor for Our Spiritual Journey

While ascent (al-ma’arij) in its simple meaning gives a clue to the upward direction of the Prophet’s journey, it proclaims very emphatically that if God has placed man on this earth, He has also set up a ladder for man to climb up to Him. No wonder Allah calls Himself the Lord of the Ways of Ascent (Dhu ’l-ma‘arij).” —  Read More

It is believed that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) prayed at this mosque (which is in the basement of present day Al Aqsa Mosque) before he took the night journey to heaven. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright.

It is believed that Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) prayed at this mosque (which is in the basement of present day Al Aqsa, see next photo) before he took the night journey to heaven. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright. Please click on image for article on Miraj.

A view of old Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock in the foreground. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright.

A view of old Jerusalem with the Dome of the Rock as the centerpiece. Photo: Muslim Harji, Montreal, PQ. Copyright.

Date posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
Last updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

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Mi’raj-e-Rasul – The Night Journey of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.) by Jehangir A. Merchant

PLEASE CLICK: An Esoteric Interpretation of the Mi’raj and the Prophetic Tradition ‘I Have a Time with God’ (li ma’a Allah waqt) By Jehangir A. Merchant

This painted page from a manuscript shows the Archangel Gabriel with the Prophets Moses (left) and Muhammad (right). Surrounded by angels they discuss the question of daily prayers. This happened during Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven. Because it was forbidden to show Muhammad, his face is veiled. Image: Copyright Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF). Please click on image for literary reading.

This painted page from a manuscript shows the Archangel Gabriel with the Prophets Moses (left) and Muhammad (right). Surrounded by angels they discuss the question of daily prayers. This happened during Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven. Because it was forbidden to show Muhammad, his face is veiled. Image: Copyright Museum With No Frontiers (MWNF). Please click on image for literary reading.

DETAILS OF THE IMAGE

This single sheet probably came from a handwritten work completed for the Ottoman Sultan Murad III (r. AH 982–1003 / AD 1574–95), and is currently housed at the Museum of Islamic Art at the Pergamon Museum in Berlin, Germany. It features, between bands of script, the prophets Moses and Muhammad and the Archangel Gabriel conversing in heaven. Angels, perched on five clouds behind these three principal characters, appear to be listening. The scene portrayed is one from Muhammad’s visionary ascension to heaven. Muhammad stands on the right-hand side in a long green robe and turban, and Moses, wearing a long dark red robe, is on the left, in front of his heavenly throne, which is denoted by an inscription in Arabic lettering. Moses is gesturing his hands in speech. Muhammad, with whom he is conversing, stands on the opposite side. A white veil conceals his face, while his hands are hidden in the long sleeves of his gown. The heads of both prophets are crowned with halos, within which their names, written in a black script, can be deciphered. The Archangel Gabriel stands between Muhammad and Moses, turning towards Muhammad. He is characterised by a twin pair of multi-coloured wings and a crown. He is featured in the Old Testament as the gate-keeper of Paradise. As one of two angels standing in the presence of God (Luke 1:19), it was Gabriel who explained the story of the Messiah (Daniel 8:16ff.). In Muslim tradition, the angel brought the Divine Revelation of the Holy Qur’an to Prophet Muhammad. In Sura 2 verse 97 it is written that: Gabriel ‘has by God’s grace revealed it [the Qur’an] to you [Muhammad] to your heart’.

The text above the three personages, which describes the story, is written in Ottoman Turkish. It includes the account of Muhammad discussing with God the number of daily prayers. Both eventually agreed on five daily prayers. Moses is Muhammad’s heavenly adviser and Gabriel is his companion. The direct speech of all those involved is written in Arabic. The text is taken from a biography of the prophet which had appeared from the AH 1st century/AD 7th century on. The generic term for this type of biography is sira, which translates as ‘life facts’ or ‘way of life’.  (Text adapted from the website of MWNF – see link below).

Date posted: Saturday, May 24, 2014.

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For further information about the image shown above, please click on Page of Ottoman Manuscript. Please also click on http://www.museumwnf.org/.

Links to a selection of Jehangir Merchant’s pieces at Simerg:

Noah’s Ark in Islamic Scripture by Jehangir A. Merchant

The much talked and anticipated Hollywood movie “Noah” hit theatres last week amidst criticisms by many religious groups consisting of Muslims and Christians. Movie goers rated it from a high of “A” and “B” with some demoting it to a “D”. A number of Muslim countries including Indonesia and some Arab States even banned the movie for its depiction of Noah.

Mary Fairchild writing for About.com hinted that the movie would be replete with inaccuracies, and suggested reading the “authentic” story in the Bible.

Simerg has a version of the story from the Holy Qur’an, presented by the well-known Ismaili scholar Alwaez Jehangir A. Merchant, who served the community for several decades as a teacher, missionary, and a writer. Please click on The Story of Noah’s Ark in the Holy Qur’an or the image below.

A Depiction of Noah’s Ark in Islamic Art

Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “Noah’s Ark”, Herat 1425. Leaf: 42.3 × 32.6 cm. The scene on the stormy sea is quite dramatic, with the fluttering sail, the ark breaking out of the picture frame, and the swollen bodies. The animals that are to populate the earth are rendered both humorously and fairly realistically. Photo: The David Collection, Denmark.
Miniature from Hafiz-i Abru’s Majma al-tawarikh. “Noah’s Ark”, Herat 1425. Leaf: 42.3 × 32.6 cm. The scene on the stormy sea is quite dramatic, with the fluttering sail, the ark breaking out of the picture frame, and the swollen bodies. The animals that are to populate the earth are rendered both humorously and fairly realistically. Photo: The David Collection, Denmark.