Mrs. Merchant with senior students of Central London BUI

To Mrs. Merchant: “With Love to the Best Ever” – Memories from Her Students in London, England

Publisher/Editor Simerg, Simergphotos and Barakah

Exactly a year ago, on Thursday, January 21, 2021, my beloved mum “Mrs. Merchant” (Alwaeza Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant) passed away peacefully at the age of 89. Tributes and condolences poured from all over the world, which deeply touched the entire family. The family also received a Talika of blessings from Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, as well as a message of condolence from Prince Rahim Aga Khan, both of which deeply inspired and gave courage to the family during their period of bereavement. My dad, Jehangir, her loving husband of 66 years, had died three years earlier on May 27, 2018. They both served Imamat institutions on a professional and voluntary basis as missionaries and religious education teachers for more than 60 years.

Story continues below

mr and mrs merchant
This July 1992 photo of Mr. and Mrs. Merchant is from the first page of the tribute album prepared by the BUI students of Central London, England on their retirement from the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) for the UK. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

I was unable attend the funeral because of Covid-19, and other challenges. Knowing my situation, my mum told me on Facetime on the morning of her admission to the hospital, “Malik, tereku nai aneka hai” (you are not going to travel). She passed away 12 hours later.

Three months later, I travelled to close her rented home and spent three weeks packing my parents belongings. As mentioned earlier my beloved father, had died 3 years earlier. As I went through thousands of pieces of objects that included their beautifully handwritten waezes (sermons) I came across a priceless album of tributes prepared by Baitul Ilm (BUI) students of Central London, England, for her retirement. All these objects, including the album, were packed and shipped to Ottawa, numbering some 86 boxes. The major categories of the contents were identified on a spreadsheet.

Story continues below after photos and tribute speech

Mrs. Merchant Tribute
Title page of tribute album prepared for Mrs. Merchant. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection,
Ismaili teacher and missionary Mrs. Merchant retirement bouquet of flowers
A young girl presents a bouquet of flowers to Mrs. Merchant on her retirement as teacher and waezin with ITREB for the UK, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.


The Untiring Efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Merchant

Ismaili religious education teacher and missionary Mrs. Merchant
An absolutely beautiful Mrs. Merchant helped by Tasneem Virani cuts a cake at the tribute party held on the occasion of her retirement from ITREB UK. She and her husband were recognized for their services to the UK Jamat in a speech delivered by Ms. Virani (see excerpts below). Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.


Let us take our minds back in the 1970’s when they [Mr. and Mrs. Merchant] worked seven days and evenings, spreading their knowledge to not only the children, but the leaders, the Mukhisahebs and Kamdiasahebs, as well as all the members of the Jamat. They would be in London one morning, then Brighton later in the afternoon, then back to another centre in London, then off again — all by British Rail.

They continued to be extremely involved with teaching, preparing teaching notes, training Mukhisahebs and Kamadiasahebs, perfecting varas [recitations] for children, training the teachers, training and supporting those coming into our Tariqua and so on. This is a real backbone of our strength in our institution as we see today and will never be forgotten. Our gratitude for those untiring efforts have no bounds.

I remember the long hours we all spent together in the stages when we we were planning to formalize the structure of religious education as we know it today. This format of Bait-al-Ilm is the culmination of the untiring and continued support and input from you both, Mr. and Mrs. Merchant.

Mrs. Merchant, you have taught us to follow, in spirit and in action, the most important Farman of Mawlana Hazar Imam of not accepting mediocrity but always aiming at the highest level and not compromising on quality. The time you spent on an individual child and the patience you show all make you a role model for those left now to do the job you started so long ago and continue to do.

We pray to Mawlana Hazar Imam to shower you with blessings that you will have happiness, long life, strength and courage to continue your hard work and give to others what what you have given to us. Ameen, Tasneem Virani, Administrator.


Tribute to Mrs. Merchant
A tribute by a BUI student to Mrs. Merchant from the tribute album presented to her by the London BUI students, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

.…Story continued

With some help from members of the Jamat, I began unpacking a few of the boxes that I had carefully labelled at the time of packing. JAM #55 (Jehangir Alibhai Merchant, everyone wondered why they were labelled JAM, but my dad had a sweet tooth, anyway) had been assigned to the box containing the album. I am deeply happy to post a few images from the voluminous album of tributes to my mum by the London students. I hope to be able to scan as well as OCR a few more pages from the album highlighting the impact of her contribution to religious education in the UK, and to publish another post sometime in the near future.

Mrs Merchant retirement card from students and teachers of BUI London England
Mrs. Merchant admires a beautiful card presented to her during her retirement from ITREB for the UK, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.
Tribute to Mrs. Merchant by Ismaili students in the UK on retirement from ITREB
A tribute by a BUI student to Mrs. Merchant, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.
Mr and Mrs Merchant farewell party.
Mr. Merchant makes a point during his address at the farewell party honouring him and Mrs. Merchant (left) for the services they rendered as religious education teachers and Waezin with ITREB, UK, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.


The Gentle Mrs. Merchant: A Letter from a Student

Mrs. Merchant with senior students of Central London BUI
Mr. and Mrs Merchant with the Darkhana Jamatkhana and ITREB UK leadership, and teachers and senior students of BUI Central London, UK, July 1992. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.


…..We are all gathered here today to say Good-Bye to our dear Mrs. Merchant, What I would really like to do is to share with you a letter which I have written to Mrs. Merchant.

Dear Mrs. Merchant,

I am going back a good number of years when I recall that when I started religious training at [5] Palace Gate you were my first teacher and you have continued to be the gentle but strong influence in my life, for religious training does not end at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday but continues to be an integral part of our lives. I have spent many Saturdays listening and discussing in your classes and these are the roots of my understanding of my beautiful religion. Your constant guidance and willingness to answer the questions, however bizarre, never once a harsh word, or a change in the pitch of your voice, however much we tried your patience, makes you a role model for us. Yes, believe or not Mrs. M. I now come in to teach the little children and I will try and use the same gentle but impossible to say No! manner when asking a child to take a vara [recitation of Dua, Farman, Ginan etc. in Jamatkhana]…. It is thanks to personal touches and willingness to do anything for your students that makes you that special person that you are….

Story continues below

BUI students at Mr and Mrs Merchant retirement party
A group of BUI students perform a recitation at the retirement party in honour of Mr. and Mrs. Merchant who served as missionaries and religious education teachers with ITREB UK. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection.

If we have a vara we can be sure a day or so before the phone would ring and the familiar voice would say, “Beta, you were not in Jamatkhana today, why? How are you doing in your exams? I will pray for you. Are you ready for your vara? Can I hear it over the phone?”

This kind of dedication is rare and we are the lucky few who received it. Well Mrs. Merchant, today we pray for you, that you will always find peace and satisfaction and find more children to benefit from your softly softly approach so that they can become staunch Ismailis and may they also experience the love and confidence we have enjoyed.

We love you and we will miss you. Don’t forget us for we will never forget you. Love from Shaheen and all the others in London.


You Will Be in Our Hearts and Prayers Forever

Mrs Merchant Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Simerg
Alwaeza Malek J. Merchant (June 9, 1931 – January 21, 2021), pictured in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2018, during the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Mrs. Merchant was a truly beautiful soul, a deeply caring mother and grandmother as well as a fantastic teacher and an Alwaeza (missionary) loved by thousands around the world.

I humbly and sincerely ask everyone to join the family in praying that Alwaeza Malek Merchant’s soul may rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

Date posted: January 21, 2022.


Simerg welcomes your feedback. 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 leaving this website please take a moment to visit 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.

A Visit to the Ismaili Cemetery at the Victory Memorial Park: I Bid Farewell to My Mum, “Mrs. Merchant,” and Pay My Deep Respects to My Beloved Dad and Other Deceased Members of the Jamat

Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Mrs Merchant Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee Simerg
Alwaeza Malek J. Merchant pictured in Lisbon, Portugal, in July 2018 during the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

As I reached the burial sites of my parents on Thursday, April 29, 2021, I was deeply gratified when a Bangladeshi woman walked over to me and offered me two stems of roses that were part of a large bouquet of flowers that she had brought to lay on the grave of her beloved 31 year old son who passed away 3 years ago following a bone marrow transplant. She was in a state of grief as the loss of a child to any parent is the greatest sorrow that can occur. She prayed fervently by her son’s graveyard, and before departing came to me once again to offer her sincere and heartful condolences for the recent loss of my mum, and my dad three years ago. She told me she would think of them during her future visits.

Mrs. Merchant grave Victory Memorial Park
Grave of Alwaeza Malek Merchant (June 9, 1931 — Jan 21, 2021) bearing a temporary plaque with her name. She was buried at Victory Memorial Park, a few metres from my dad’s grave. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Grave of Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (December 13, 1928 — May 27, 2018) at Victory Memorial Park, with a permanent marker bearing his name and the Qur’anic verse “Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un” (Surely we belong to God, and to Him we return, 2:156). Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

My visit to the burial grounds was on my 17th day in Vancouver. I had missed my mum’s funeral that took place almost 3 months ago. I had come to close up on her matters and to pay my respects to both her as well my father who had died 3 years ago on May 27, 2018 shortly after he and my mum were blessed with the Diamond Jubilee Deedar (glimpse) of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Victory Memorial Park Aga Khan Ismaili Cemetery, Surrey, British Columbia, Canada Simerg
A layout of the Victory Memorial Park Cemetery grounds, with the Ismaili section indicated by the word “Aga Khan” at top left section. Image: Brochure, Victory Memorial Park.

The Victory Memorial Park burial site has been in use by the Ismaili Jamat (community) since 2017. Located in Surrey, it is at a fair distance from the Burnaby Lake Jamatkhana, where all the funeral rites and ceremonies take place. However, the previous cemetery, Forest Lawn that is just minutes away from the Burnaby Jamatkhana, continues to administer matters such as the transfer and storage of bodies until the funeral actually takes place as well as the issuance of death certificates.

Modern technology brought me to Victory Memorial Park without any hitch whatsoever. Once at the cemetery, which has a picturesque view of the mountains, the site of Ismaili burials was easily located. The graves are arranged chronologically by year.

The Ismaili cemetery section at Victory Memorial Park.
The Ismaili cemetery section at Victory Memorial Park in foreground, with the main funeral home building seen in the upper centre of the photo. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I spent a considerable amount of time, offering the Fateha and Salwats, for my parents as well as other deceased members of the Jamat, including family friends who were well known to us. I also connected via Facetime with my brother Alnoor in the UK, and my relatives in Canada and Spain who, like me, were unable to attend the funeral because of Covid-19. We all participated in the recitation of the Fateha, and I was deeply inspired that they were able to join me while I was at the cemetery. It was a lovely day, and the beautiful sunshine warmed my heart.

Victory Memorial Park Cemetery, Simerg
A view of the Victory Memorial Park Cemetery from the main funeral home building. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I then proceeded to the cemetery’s main building where the director of the funeral home kindly gave me a quick tour of the building and provided me with a map of the cemetery site.

A view of the Victory Memorial Park Cemetery from a section of the burial grounds. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

I left the picturesque cemetery knowing that the deceased souls are in a world filled with light, peace and happiness. I recollected an excerpt of the Talika Mubarak of Mawlana Hazar Imam that was sent to the Jamats worldwide on the occasion of his 84th birthday. It read:

Mr and Mrs Merchant in fromt of Aga Khan Hazar Imam portrait.
Jehangir and Maleksultan Merchant in front of a large portrait photo of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

11th December 2020

My beloved spiritual children,

On the occasion of my birthday, the 13th of December 2020, I send my warmest and most affectionate paternal maternal loving blessings to all my beloved spiritual children throughout the world.

I give my best loving blessings for the souls of all my ruhani spiritual children, and I pray for the eternal peace and rest of their souls….

Yours affectionately,

Aga Khan

During my return drive to my hotel, as my mum’s unit where I had stayed for a fortnight was now empty, I suddenly thought of Tessie, an elderly lady from the Philippines whom my mum deeply adored. Tessie would come by to help my mum on a regular basis, except from November to February when she would go away to the Philippines to spend time with her family. She was still abroad when my mum passed away on January 21, 2021. When Tessie opened the door to me, she was obviously surprised to see me and her first question was, “How is Mrs. Merchant? I miss her a lot.” She broke down when I told her that my mum had passed away, She was in utter shock. She tearfully offered me her condolences and prayers. I then left her home peacefully, knowing that the person my mum would have liked to be informed about her passing had been told about it by a family member.

As I reflected on my parents deaths, I remembered all the members of the Ismaili mayat (funeral) committee for the wonderful work they do to alleviate our pain and sadness, and keep us at peace during a grieving time. They are amazing, as are the Mukhis and Kamadias of the Jamat with their inspiring prayers that provide the Jamat with immense comfort and strength. And, not to be forgotten, are the hundreds of friends, relatives and colleagues around the world who write and telephone to express their feelings, condolences and prayers for the deceased.

Jehangir and Malek Merchant books, waezes, sermons, Simerg
My parents collections of waezes (sermons), religious texts and other material, all carefully packed and ready for shipment. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.
Mrs. Merchant alwaeza malek jehangir merchant waving goodbye
My mum waves goodbye to my younger brother Alnoor’s fiancé, Shellina, as she departs for the airport after a recent stay with my mum. Photo: Shellina Karmali.

As I prepare to return to Ontario after spending 3 weeks in Vancouver, I do so with immense satisfaction that I was also able to stay with them for long periods of time before both of them passed away.

Finally as we prepare to observe Laylat al-Qadr (Read Institution Program Details), the holiest of all the nights, on the 23rd night of Ramadhan (Tuesday May 4, 2021), my family and I once again draw comfort from Mawlana Hazar Imam’s blessings and his prayers for the eternal peace and rest of all his ruhani spiritual children.

Date posted: May 2, 2021.
Last updated: May 4, 2021 (added link to Laylat al-Qadr program)


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.

A Poem in Memory of Mrs. Merchant

Mrs. Merchant

An Ever Burning Flame


Like a candle,
In a dark room,
Her light would erase,

Any frown,
Or any pain,
You had on your face.

A gifted teacher,
Full of knowledge,
She’d leave you wanting more.

Her loving arms,
Were always open,
She would never shut her door.

All her students,
Were her children,
Whom she loved with her whole heart.

Not one student,
Could forget her,
Right from the very start.

Her knowledge
Was a mountain,
Everyone wanted to climb.

She imparted
With her wisdom,
Never concerned about the time.

Her bright smile
Filled the hearts,
Of all who came near,

When in her
Holy Presence,
There was never need to fear,

Her faith
Never wavered,
Not once would she question.

The words
Of the Imam
Or his Noble Direction.

Years and years
Of service,
She has given to our Mawla.

Precious, priceless
For all of us to store.

With much sadness
Her time to go,
Has left us all with pain,

But if she had words
She’d tell us,

“I am an Ever Burning Flame.

Forget me not,
For I am near,
Closer than you know.

For even though
We leave this earth
We never truly go.

We are with God
Though we may be gone,
And though it is a shame.

You keep me alive
Alive in your heart
An Ever Burning Flame.”

Date posted: February 9, 2021.


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.

Farah Tejani graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia in May of 1997 and earned top Honors for her Thesis on Short Fiction. She has published a collection of short stories “Make Your Own Chai, Mama’s Boy!” dealing with different dilemmas South Asians face. Farah also wrote and co-directed her stage play, “Safeway Samosas,” which won “The Best of Brave New Playwrights Award” in July 1995. Her short story , “Too Hot” won third place in the “Canada-Wide Best Short Fiction Award” and was read at The Vancouver Writers Festival. Currently, Farah is working on Childrens’ stories and a collection of poetry called, “Elastic Embrace” to be published in 2021.

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.


Also see the following 3 related pieces:

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

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.


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.


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

Mrs. Merchant: Excerpts From Tributes Celebrating Her Life; Alwaeza’s Funeral Today, Thursday February 4, 2021

Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant (June 9, 1931 - January 21, 2021), age 89. Photo: Shellina Karmali. Ismaili missionary and religion teacher
Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Jehangir Merchant (June 9, 1931 – January 21, 2021), age 89. Photo: Shellina Karmali.

The family of Alwaeza Raisaheba Maleksultan Merchant has been immensely touched by so many messages of condolences it has received following her passing away at the age of 89, on January 21, 2021. 

Social media pages are filled with several hundred messages and Simerg has received more than 200 messages following the publication of a tribute celebrating her life. In addition, members of the family have received numerous telephone calls as well as text messages from all over the world. 

We are deeply grateful to you all. Your love, prayers and encouragement have been a source of  strength and comfort to us at this difficult time.

Thursday, February 4th has been confirmed as the date of her funeral and burial (click iiCanada Funeral announcement). Unfortunately, Covid-19 has created challenges for attending funerals with strict restrictions on travelling and gatherings. 

The following are a selection of  excerpts from numerous tributes to our beloved mother/grandmother who passed away on Thursday January 21, 2021.

Tributes and Fond Memories of Alwaeza Mrs. Maleksultan J. Merchant (1931-2021)

We are among the generation of the Jamat who recall with gratitude the immense contribution that Maleksultanbai and your late father made to our development during our formative years in Dar-es-Salaam. They laid in our minds a strong foundation of Ismaili history and principles, as well ethics and values, which sustains to this day. From those early days, both your parents went on to serve with distinction the cause of the Imamat and Jamat in many countries around the world…..Vazir Shafik Sachedina and Vazirbanoo Nadia Sachedina

I was saddened to hear of the passing of your mum. We pray for eternal peace, rest and batuni noorani deedar for the soul of your mum. At the same time, we offer prayers for mushkil asan for all your family members. The life-long devoted services rendered to Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Jamath by both your mum and dad were an exceptional example for the Jamath…..Ameerally Kassim Lakha

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

Alwaeza was an extraordinary and effective teacher of religious knowledge. To myself as well as others, she was an example, a beloved role model and a beacon that shone brightly, guiding our values during the formative period of our lives. Since those days of primary and secondary school, there has forever stayed in my memory a debt of gratitude for her outstanding and exemplary dedication to her vocation. Her gift and excellence lay not in compulsion and harsh discipline but in noble character and conduct, leading by example. That, more than strict reward or punishment, imprinted in us the ethics of the faith that shaped our values in life. May our humble prayers and remembrances reach her companionship On High…..Shiraz Hameer

I have fondly thought of Mr and Mrs Merchant and the incredible sacrifices they made over so many years for the jamat in the UK. They struggled and suffered a lot of hardships in their work when travelling on public transport over long distances and late at night often in the cold and not having had dinner. And yet both your parents hardly complained. They both truly served the Imam. We will rejoice their achievements and dedication and lovingly remember them…..Fida Moledina

As an early teen in Dar-es-Salaam, your Mother was my coach for the first wa’ez contest that I ventured into, reckoning it would be an extension of the school talks & debates that relished. Visits to your home were encounters with a teacher who exuded a unique coupling of passion and discipline; no, a wa’ez was no ordinary talk, certainly not a debate. Patiently, she teased out and fostered the keys: pace, clarity, command of material, sincerity, lightness … The lessons remained long after the contest (yes, I won) — not just for wa’ez but for wider communication…..Amyn Sajoo

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

“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. [This] beautiful quote was instilled in me by my religion teacher in the 60s known to me as Mrs. Merchant. I will forever be indebted to her as the first religion teacher who impacted my life in such an enlightening way. May her soul rest in eternal peace and may you all have the strength to bear this irreplaceable loss…..Naznin Hajee

She was one teacher that always came to mind when we remembered Dar, a beautiful person inside out. The ginans we learnt from her, we can still sing without requiring a ginan book…..Aziza Kotadia (nee Damji)

She was my Religion Teacher at Aga Khan Girls School in Dar es Salaam. I will always treasure the fond memories of ‘Mrs. Merchant’ – as she was known- in my heart. A beautiful soul, always smiling. Bless her! She will be dearly missed. It’s a great loss to bear but alas! she had to go ‘home’ where she will be in Khudavind’s tender care, engulfed in and by His Noor, Aameen…..Layla Moledina

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

She was a very special person and had significant impact on the lives of many many people. For me — as she called me her son – she played many roles. She nurtured me and supported my health and nutrition in my teenage years. She and Mr Merchant built the foundational knowledge of our faith. I consider myself very fortunate to have had her in my life and for the opportunity I got to talk with her on Dec 24th 2020 – just recently for more almost 2 hours on the phone. Could not visit because of COVID. She will always remain as one of the most loving persons in my life and and one that played a critical role at a particular time in my life…..Alnoor Abdulla

Your Family and also the Global Jamat will dearly miss the enormous knowledge and deep understanding of our Tariqah so eloquently shared by both your Parents with the Jamat. Indeed it is a rare gift they have left with you, your Family to continue which your are doing as well. May you succeed in your most noble endeavours. A deep loss nonetheless, be brave and have courage…..Amir Rashid

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

She was a person that lived in and for faith and was such a blessing with whoever she interacted with. A caring wife ,a loving mom, a sweet aunt ,a dedicated waezin, a wise teacher but above all a humble murid of our Beloved Imam. When ever I spoke to Aunty, it was such a pleasure as she was so knowledgeable in different topics and time just flew. She bought smiles on my face and faith in my heart and showered so much Duas that filled my being with peace….Feriyal Merchant

Alwaeza was my religion teacher in Dar es Salaam. I remember her teaching the Ginan Ya Ali Khub Mijalas. Every time I sing that Ginan during Imamat Day I always think of her and her teaching the Ginan….Azmina Bandali

As a teenager both these remarkable people helped me to see life in the bigger picture. They taught me that being spiritual was bigger than anything else….Mina Crisp née Pradhan

Best teacher, best al waezine who could inspire the new generation with practical examples combining science and the spiritual world together….Mariam Ladha

Both Late Raisaheba and Late Raisaheb devoted their lives to the Imam and the Jamat. Alhamdulillah. They both were personally known to me for over 50 years. They will be dearly missed by hundreds of family members and friends around the globe. Once again, our heartfelt condolences to the entire family…..Kamrudin A. Rashid and family

I am very disheartened to hear the sad news about your mom. She was my best teacher and tutor for ginans and other religious general knowledge. She delivered great waez’s during Lailtul Qadr nights and other occasions. Always smiling, sincere and humble lady. She is in a great place and will be missed by our community…..Maheboob Merali

Both your Mom & Dad were my teachers in Aga Khan Girls Secondary School in Dar es Salaam. Most of my religious education was imparted by them which has stayed with me to-date & have passed it on to my children & grandchildren. This will continue for generations to come. Shukhar. What an impact your parents have made in our lives. Very grateful indeed. May Mowla accept their seva and grant them eternal peace. Ameen……Fatma Premji

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

We, the “Class of 1967” of Agakhan Girls’ School, Dar es Salaam, say a mournful goodbye to our dear teacher Mrs. Merchant. Mournful, because with her passing, we say goodbye to someone who represented a life of unconditional and generous giving, sacrifice, integrity, humility. She imparted with such patience and understanding of her teenaged students, her wealth of knowledge and wisdom, as she tried to instill in us the values and ethics of our faith. But our hearts simultaneously smile and are filled with gratitude, that we can claim to have been touched and influenced by one so profoundly wise and good, so loving and kind. We are richer for it, our world is warmer for it, and we pray that we can pass on a little bit of that richness and warmth. We express our gratitude once again, for our other teacher and mentor, dear Mr. Merchant. Together, the two gave immeasurably to the entire community, in many different parts of the globe. Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. And so we humbly accept the will of Allah as He takes our beloved teacher home for eternal rest…..Naseem (Esmail) Jetha

Mrs Merchant was my religion teacher at Aga Khan Girls school in Dar es Salaam in my high school years. The foundation of my faith that I have personally to this day was all due to her teachings. She was also a beautiful, gentle but a strong soul and helped us get through whatever issues we would be having….Almas Allibhai

I have fond memories of our Beloved Religion Teacher, Mrs. Merchant in Dar es Salaam at the Aga Khan Girls school. Always smiling, kind and hardworking. She was instrumental to instill faith and religion to all her Students….Shamin Rahim 

When I learnt of your beloved Mum’s passing, I experienced mixed emotions. On the one hand, I could relate very much to the void left in your lives and yet also had the satisfaction of knowing that her soul is very much with your beloved Dad and in the Noor of Allah. Ameen and Shukhar. As neighbours growing up in beautiful 1960’s Dar, I have very fond memories of our time playing together and of your Dad and Mum. They were such wonderful people and showed kindness and affection towards everyone they met and interacted with, especially the kids. I remember them always patting mine and my brother’s head and saying “Acha Bacha”…..Karim Akber Hassam Ladha

Mrs Merchant at Lougheed Mall.
My mum, Mrs. Merchant, poses for a photograph in the middle of drinking a hot cup of Tim Hortons Earl Grey tea at the new food court in Burnaby’s Lougheed Mall during my stay with her from November 2019 – January 2020. Photo: Malik Merchant / Simerg.

Mrs. Merchant was my religion teacher in Dar es Salaam late 60s. She was instrumental in instilling love of faith in me. Forever indebted to her memory. May her soul rest in eternal peace….Naznin Hajee

Though some of us gave her a tough time in mission class, she persisted. I can still remember her teaching, as if she were right there in front of us in one classroom at 5 Palace Gate, sharing Prophet Muhammad’s life and history, history of our imams, of different majalis, teaching us ginans and a clearly, recited dua with its meanings. Her voice and laugh remains….Sara

I remember both of your parents from my visits to Putney Jamatkhana where they would give classes after Jamatkhana. We were all in awe of your mum especially – the last thing you wanted as a child was to be told off by ‘Mrs Merchant.’ May her soul rest in eternal peace…..Amira Tharani

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

In the name of all the Ahamad Keshavjee family – a family that was so fortunate to have them not only as mentors but as family, too – we want to present you, and to your brothers Fahar and Alnoor, our most heartfelt condolences and say that our prayers are for the soul’s eternal peace and rest, under our Mawla’s infinite rahma! We also pray that you, your siblings and family find the courage and the strength to face these painful times. Maleka Bhen will always be remembered with love and affection by this family…..Faranaz Jaherali Ahamad Keshavjee

Alwaeza My Mum…..Your death took away joy from my life but will Hold on to the Beautiful Memories of times Spent with you. I will forever Love  and Adore You Mom for everything you taught me in Life. In our Hearts you hold a place no one else will ever fill. I cried endlessly but I promise I won’t let that tears mar the smiles you have given. I know you will always listen from above. Remembering You is Easy I will do Everyday but there will be an ache within my heart ♥️ that will never go away. Mother my Angel God has given you your Assignment “Always my Mother Forever my Angel”…..Farial Manji

A teacher par excellence and an Al-Waeza, she served with utmost diligence and distinction initially in Mozambique and Tanzania and later in the U.K. The glowing tributes that are being paid to her today is an attestation of her many years of dedicated services to the Imam and the house of Imam-e-Zaman. She will indeed be dearly missed…..Sultan Somani

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

Both mum and dad’s untiring and relentless sewa to Mowlana Hazer Imam will be etched in our hearts forever. The commitment and dedication to the teachers and students in the UK was exemplary. Both your mum and dad had been my mentors in London and I have learnt so much from them. We feel very privileged to have them as part of our lives. I have vivid memories of our dinner with mum when she was visiting London in 2018 and I feel so blessed to have met her then after many years….Rozmin & Mehboob Fazal

Your parents were responsible for building the foundation of our religious education. We cherish their memories. All the girls at The Aga Khan Girls school were very fond of them. They were our role models. They will be missed by many whose lives they have touched!….Razia Pullen

Hearing about Alwaeza passing away brought a flood of memories with emotions of the wonderful souls that both your parents were and what a privilege it was to have them so much as part of our lives. They were not only instrumental in working day to day with them as we launched the Bait-ul-ilms in the UK, a global name now but they taught us so much about faith, resilience, forgiveness and how to navigate through tests with sense of faith. Their unquestioning dedication to serve generations of children, and teachers and the Jamat with love through their knowledge and wisdom were a source of comfort to so many of us. They always listened and never judged and I can remember so many times when I thought one thing and they gave us different perspectives to think of that made far more sense…..Azim and Tasneem Virani

It with great sadness I have learned of the passing away of your dear Mum and our precious Alwaeza and teacher without whom we and our children would not be where we are now. Shukhar. Please accept our family’s condolences and we all pray her soul rests in eternal peace under Mawlabapa’s care where Dad is. Inshallah…..Asif, Elhaque, Yasmin and Nizar Dhanani

The accolades, tributes and acknowledgement of your parent’s contributions to our community can never be overstated. My family and I just recently felt your mother’s humanity and consciousness show in the trouble she took to comment on her positive experience on our family history, and that of the Ismaili community of Iringa, Tanzania. Her thoughtful encouragement will, forever, be etched in our memory…..Mohamed Hamir

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

A truly great teacher who was not only inspirational in her imparting her religious knowledge to the Jamat from Africa to Canada but she was a truly motivating individual who had a very positive attitude and a cheerful personality. Mum was instrumental in my foundational knowledge of our faith since Dar es Salaam, she used to be the main judge at our Dua and Ginan competitions and in London, visited the various mobile Mission classes, using the public transport, whatever the weather, to motivate the administrators and teachers. I recall as a child in Upanga where whenever mum used to give her waez, our Jamatkhana used to be packed and people who listened to her waez used to have tears in their eyes as she brought alive the historical events in our faith. Mum’s memories will always be alive in our hearts……Shenie and Roshanbai Dhanji

How can we forget your mom? She was the beacon of all Ismailis around the world. I have no words to describe her love for the Jamats and dedication in the service to our Imam-e-Zaman. We knew your mom very well as she worked (honorary seva) with my late father, Master Abdul Jaffer Devani in the Social Welfare Board in late 1960’s in Dar es Salaam. I don’t remember ever missing any of Mrs. Merchant’s Waezes in Dar! She was one of a kind and will always be remembered fondly as the best Waezin of our time! The contribution made by both your parents as religious educators for all Ismailis, young and old is immeasurable and unforgettable…..Shah and Shiraz Abdulla and the Devani Sisters

May Mowla grant you the courage to face your loss with inner strength and fortitude, and take comfort in the in the following words :

God looked around his Garden
And found some empty space
God then looked down upon the earth
And saw your tired face
He put his arms around you
And lifted you to rest
God’s garden must be beautiful
For He only takes the best

We fondly remember your mother……….ever so gracious, gregarious, warm and loving. Her commitment and love for the Imam were extraordinary, and her desire to share her knowledge and wisdom, one-on-one or during her waezes was unconditional. We will all miss her…..Shamshad and Jalal Jaffer

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

I was greatly saddened to learn of passing away of your beloved mother Al-waeza Maleksultanbai. May Mawla grant her soul eternal peace. May Mawla grant you and your family, courage and fortitude to bear this great loss. I had a great honour to work with both your parents both in Dar es Salaam as well in Europe on many occasions. Their continuous support made my work easy in my new challenge when I came to Paris in 1970s. The late Al-Waez Rai Jehangir and Al-Waeza Rai Saheba Malekbai’s selfless seva will be remembered by many. Students, religion teachers, colleagues as well as members of the Jamat all over the world…..Al-Waez Rai Muhammad Jivraj.

The Prophet declared that the path to Paradise begins from a mother’s lap. I can see her wonderful influence in the people she has touched, and am truly grateful for the kindness of her example….Andrew Kosorok

In 1962, one day after morning prayers, the then President of Ismailia Association Rai Shamshudin Tejpar told me and two other boys to accompany him. We went to Dar es Salam harbour and boarded a ship from Mozambique sailing to India. On this ship were Mr and Mrs Jehangir Merchant with their three sons, Malik, Alnoor and Fahar. After some discussion, President Saheb told us to take all their luggage off board the ship and the Dar Jamat thus was lucky to have two new religious education teachers who were also waezins….Amin Kassam

A selfless, determined, committed, hard working, teacher, who was so focused in her pursuit of the education of the young in particular. I recall on some weekends, she would start off in Ilford BUI and then travel by the underground to teach us at Harrow BUI as it was known then, before heading home in the evening. I learnt so much, and was humbled by her dedication, knowledge, courage, and love for Mawlana Hazar Imam. Quite incredible…..Al-Karim Govindji

Malek Merchant Ismaili teacher and missionary, Africa and the UK

I have such fond memories of her in my upper primary at Aga Khan Girls School in Dar es Salaam. Her trademark warm and affectionate smile coupled with the sparkle in her eyes endeared her to every student who had the good fortune to be in her class. She taught in an unconventional but a very effective way. She told enthralling stories. The dates and facts were picked up from a vast plethora of books and Quran and her favourite ginans. It was like a beautiful tapestry being woven with reds and greens and golds and silvers! It was done with such joy and passion that we remembered them like children’s stories. She became a pivot in our young lives because she took RI teaching and learning to a whole new level. It was a class you really looked forward to.

Bravo and merci beaucoup, Madame Merchant! You have left warm and fond memories behind. With your passionate and selfless seva, I daresay, you will soar like a falcon and rest on Mowla’s glove!…..Izat Velji

Date posted: January 28, 2021.
Last updated: February 1, 2021 (new photo).


You may pen your tribute or message of condolence to Mrs. Merchant in the feedback form below (or click Leave a comment) or by visiting the page where we have posted an article about her.

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.