Date posted: September 11, 2018.
Date posted: September 11, 2018.
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.
(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.
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)
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)
“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).
“…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.”  His Highness the Aga Khan, Tutzing Evangelical Academy, May 20, 2006.
“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.” 
“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. 
Date posted: August 27, 2018.
. His Highness the Aga Khan, Tutzing Evangelical Academy, May 20, 2006. See Speech Archives.
 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
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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.
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 payers as I had done earlier on 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.
At around 1:00 AM, without any intervention whatsoever, my dad changed his sleeping position . 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, 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.”
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.
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@ .
Please also see earlier piece Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) 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:
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
An extensive sketch of the life of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant will be published at a later date on this website. The following is a collection of Alwaez Jehangir’s writings on this website:
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
Date posted: Tuesday, May 3, 2016.
Last updated: Tuesday, April 2, 2019.
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
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.
Links to a selection of Jehangir Merchant’s pieces at Simerg:
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.
“….More than perhaps any other murid’s example in our history, your life is one which clearly illustrates that while serving the Imam presents formidable challenges, it also offers bountiful rewards in the form of spiritual barakah. I will say from the depth of my heart that it is by your noble example that I have been inspired to serve the Jamat and the Imam of the Time with a strong will….” — an excerpt from Alwaez Jehangir’s letter.
To read the complete (uplifting) letter, please click on above image or Jehangir Merchant’s Thank You Letter to the Fatimid Ismaili Icon, Da’i Al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi
In our classic series, I Wish I’d Been There, we had asked our readers to pick up one incident in Ismaili History which they would like to have witnessed. One of the thirty-one contributors for the series, Ismaili missionary (Alwaez), teacher and writer 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!” Based on authoritative sources, this piece by a long-serving Alwaez shows his vast knowledge and flair, and brings alive a pivotal time in human history.