Photo Essay: ‘The Queen of the Skies’ – the Beautiful Boeing 747

After more than 50 years in the air, the last Boeing 747 left its assembly line in December 2022 for delivery to Atlas Air. Malik Merchant honours the Boeing 747 with a special collection of official images as well as textual material from Boeing Images. Feel the grandeur of the iconic 747 by clicking on BOEING 747 or on the image below.

Boeing 747 photo essay honoring the, Jumbo,  Malik Merchant, Simerg, News of Beings last plane.
Boeing 747 over Mt. Rainier in Washington State, US. Please click on image for article honouring the Jumbo. Photographs: Copyright © Boeing.

Date posted: January 30, 2023.



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 SimergphotosThe editor may be reached via email at

Farida Hassam Passings Simerg

Farida Shahsultan Hassam: A Multi-Talented, Courageous and Devoted Murid of Mawlana Hazar Imam, Passes Away in Toronto After Prolonged Illness

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.


For many many months, my sister Farida had been gravely ill. On days when she felt better there was hope of recovery, but then after a few days it seemed she would be gone any second. I was thousands of kilometres away from her living on the west coast in Vancouver; she was in Toronto. She was being well looked after in her nursing home, but the feeling of not being with her everyday made me very uneasy.

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Farida Hassam with sister Rashida Tejani, Simerg passings
Farida Hassam, left, pictured with her younger sister Rashida during her visit to Richmond, BC, in 2021. Rashida was present in Toronto when Farida passed away on April 29, 2022 at the age of 78. Photo: Rashida Tejani Collection.

Should I arrange for her to be moved to Vancouver? But, then, would she be able to handle a new home in the condition she was in? All these questions bothered my mind everyday while she courageously struggled to live on and cope with her health problems, which were many, due to a weak heart. Every living thing has an instinct to survive. Human beings are blessed with minds to distinguish between right and wrong, they have a heart and they have a soul. For Farida, the remembrance of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Farman, “whether you are young or old, every day is a day that must be lived, and during that day you must fulfill your responsibilities to the best of your ability” (1976, Mumbai, India) became Farida’s motto to live to the best of her ability. Honestly, when the co-author of this piece and our family friend, Malik, visited Farida in Toronto before his departure for Calgary, he was amazed to see her in high spirits as well as be a witness to her brilliant mind and remarkable memory. When it seemed that she wasn’t listening, because her eyes were closed, she was in fact FULLY alert! She would often correct me, narrate an incident or add detail to a story that I was telling about her, and respond with an astonishing feedback. Yes, that was my beloved sister Farida, who made us cheerful when we felt sad. She was bright as well as intellectually stimulating.

I consider myself truly lucky that during the past several months I was able to visit her multiple times and spend quality time with her during each of my visit. The last visit was in April when she died a few days after the Ismaili Centre Headquarters Mukhisaheb and Kamadiasaheb along with their female counterparts — their spouses — Mukhianisaheba and Kamadianisaheba came to visit Farida at the North York General Hospital to give her their blessings. It was a moment that truly uplifted me, but at the same time some kind of an indicator to me that Farida was probably in her final days. Their timing to visit Farida and bless her was perfect.

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Farida Hassam with Malik Merchant of Simerg and nephew Karim Dhanani. Passings
Top: Nephew Karim Dhanani visited Farida regularly at her nursing home in North York; Malik Merchant visits Farida before his departure for Alberta; Farida enjoying her favourite meal — Swiss Chalet chicken and fries with the restaurant’s special gravy. Photos: Rashida Tejani Collection.

Farida had been admitted to the hospital at the beginning of April because of water retention. Her organs had started to fail and the heart had been weak for several years. At the hospital, she underwent a procedure to drain out fluid from her body. While this gave me signs of hope, the recovery was not to be. Finally, she was transferred to the North York Senior Health Centre Palliative Care, and she finally succumbed on April 29, shortly after the Ismaili leadership’s blessed visit.

Her funeral ceremony took place at Scarborough Jamatkhana on May 3, 2022. The samar and zyarat (ceremonies and prayers for the departed soul) were held later on the same day at the Headquarters Jamatkhana at the Ismaili Centre Toronto.

My dearest sister Farida was born on November 20, 1943 in Mityana, a small town located about 70 kilometres west of Uganda’s capital, Kampala. She did her primary education at the Aga Khan School in Mityana and then moved to Kampala for her secondary education at the Old Kampala Government School. She then joined our sister, Laila, in London to qualify as a hairdresser. She migrated to Canada in the 1970’s, and made Toronto her home.

As a qualified hairdresser, she worked in the field for several years, but was unable to continue with hairdressing on a permanent basis because she underwent three open heart surgeries to replace her heart valves. With her worsening health, she then decided to work as a secretary and also took training to pursue a career in computing. Unfortunately her weakened heart, that was also supported by a pacemaker, made it impossible for her to lead a normal professional life as much as she wanted to. However, Farida continued to remain active in her life through her interest and passion for crocheting and knitting. She made and donated baby outfits and shawls to local hospitals and Ismaili Jamatkhanas so that they would be distributed to young parents. She loved to make “prayer beads” (tasbihs) and supplied them to Ismaili children and youth attending Baitul-Ilm classes as well as to Ismaili community members across Canada. She also arranged to send some tasbihs to Ismailis in Tajikistan.

Farida was a multi-talented individual, full of life and vigour. She loved art and painting. She was also a true lover of nature, and got immense happiness and pleasure out of gardening and growing plants in her apartment. When she was finally moved to the Seniors’ Health Centre in October 2019, her social worker set up a garden on the rooftop of the building for Farida to continue with her hobby. She received excellent care at the Seniors’ Health Centre, a hub of innovative care facilities for the elderly provided by the North York General Hospital.

However, there was one person who had come into her life as an angel when she was still living in her apartment. She is Tarina Barter. Tarina continued visiting her at the Seniors’ Health Centre on a regular basis. She became a constant companion to Farida, spending many hours with her and often took Farida out for coffee and meals whenever Covid-19 protocols permitted. My sister’s favourite dish was the famous Swiss Chalet chicken that came with fries and a delicious bowl of gravy! Tarina’s constant updates on Farida provided me with much needed comfort. It was a blessing for the family that Tarina had appeared in our lives at such a critical and crucial moment, relieving us of constantly worrying about Farida’s health and condition. We cannot thank Tarina enough for her unconditional love, care and affection for Farida for 4 continuous years. Her final visit to Farida was on April 27, two days before Farida passed away (see photo, below).

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Tarina Barter and Farida Hassam, North York Health Centre, Simerg passings
Tarina Barter is seen visiting Farida on April 27, 2022 at the North York Senior Health Palliative Care Centre just two days before she passed away. Tarina came as an angel to Farida and her family. She visited Farida on a regular basis over the last four years at her apartment as well as at the Seniors’ Centre. Photo: Rashida Tejani Collection.

Farida was a very kind and compassionate person. Her spirituality, faith and devotion to Mawlana Hazar Imam was exemplary, and set an example to all in her family to remain hopeful and courageous, whatever one’s circumstances.

In Farida’s passing, we have lost a great family member and we pray for her soul to Rest in Eternal Peace. Ameen.

As I complete this short tribute to my beloved sister Farida, I want to mention that our dad, Esmail Dhanani, and mom, Shirin Dhanani, and older brothers Noorali and Ramzan as well as older sisters Dolat Wadhwani, Roshan Lakhani and Zareen Dhamani have all passed away. May their souls also Rest In Eternal Peace. Ameen. 

Farida is survived by her daughter Fauzia Moorani and siblings Laila Pirani and of course myself, Rashida Tejani. I also take this opportunity to mention that my older brother Noorali Dhanani (popularly known as Noora of Sapra Studio) was one of the photographers selected to take pictures of Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam when he recited the Eid ul-Fitr Namaz in Nairobi at the age of 7. Noora also travelled as a photographer with Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah on one of his trips by ship from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar. I myself was fortunate to have a photo taken with Mata Salamat, Om Habibeh Aga Khan, in Karachi during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Silver Jubilee visit in March 1983.

For the countless blessings that my family has received of serving the Imam-of-the-Time throughout our lives, we submit our humble shukhrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam.

While I was able to see my beloved sister before she passed away and was present for her funeral in Toronto, my daughter Farah could not travel with me and see her beloved aunt. The least she could do was to pen a tribute poem to her beloved Farida aunty that follows below. As readers may be aware, Farah has contributed beautiful poems and stories to this website.

Finally, I ask all readers to once again join with me in praying for the eternal peace of the soul of my beloved sister Farida, who endured her difficulties gracefully and courageously with the continuous blessings of Mawlana Hazar Imam that each of us, as his murids, are bestowed with every second, and every single day of our precious lives.

“Life”, as Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah wrote in his Memoirs, “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.” Farida lived by the tenets of her Ismaili Muslim faith, and has returned to the abode of heavenly peace. “Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156.


In Memory of Our Dearest Farida Hassam

Farida Hassam (d. April 29, 2022). Photo: Farah Tejani. Passings Simerg
Farida Hassam (d. April 29, 2022, age 78). Photo: Farah Tejani. Click on image for enlargement.


Letting you go was not easy,
Very painful and difficult to endure…
However, watching you suffer with such immense pain,
Was even harder for us to bear.

You were a pillar of strength and dignity,
Even through trials and tribulations,
Like a mountain piercing the sky,
Nothing would shake you…

Nothing could break you.

You were never one to complain,
You faced every battle for your life,
Head on,
Using your faith,
And your strong desire to live,
And your love for your family and friends.

While we watched on,
Praying for the best outcome.

You would always assure us,
“I am in God’s hands.”

And against all odds
You would always prevail.

Not many could go through,
What you did…
Your faith was tested time and again,
But you never let go of Mawla’s Hands.

Your beauty and sophistication
And your Pure heart,
And unconditional compassion,
Touched all of us, who knew you…
And even those of us who didn’t,
But wanted to.

You always kept busy with hobbies and interests,
You’d even sew some of your own outfits,
Always vibrant colors and flowers so real
You could almost smell them.

You also enjoyed making
Hundreds and hundreds of prayer beads,
That were then Blessed and given out.

You were the prettiest flower,
Who enjoyed growing a garden of sunflowers and tulips,
And then painting them so vividly
Your palette bursting with hues.

And then, just when we thought the worst was over,
You would be hit by another serious health crisis.

But you would be so brave and assure us,
“What doesn’t kill you, Makes you stronger.”
And stronger she was.

But this time, sadly, was your time to go,
But we know that we can be assured,
We know in our hearts,
That you will always be watching from Above.

Date posted: May 29, 2022.


We invite you to submit your condolences and tributes to Farida Hassam in the comments box below or by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT.

About the writers: Farah Tejani is a creative writer based in Vancouver. She has become a regular contributor of poems and stories to this website, and readers are invited to click HERE for a summary of her beautiful writings. Her incredible mother, Rashida, now retired, lives in Richmond, BC, and has encouraged her daughter in all her literary pursuits over the past 30 years. Both mother and daughter continue to inspire each other as they go through life’s challenges. Malik Merchant, co-author with Rashida to the tribute to Farida, is the founding publisher and editor of Simerg (2009) and its two sister blogs, Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012).

Simerg invites Ismaili families to submit obituaries and tributes to deceased members of their families, whether they passed away recently or in the past. Please review PASSINGS on how to prepare and submit your tribute.

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. Simerg’s editor Malik may be reached at

Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan: A Celebration of His Youthful Life As He Turns 22 on Monday March 7, 2022

Simerg’s sister website Barakah is delighted to present a pictorial overview of Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan’s involvement with the projects of the Ismaili Imamat. This is a truly inspiring piece about the Prince’s life as a youth, during which he has visited several parts of the world, and has made two eye-opening documentaries on the work of the Aga Khan Development Network in culture as well as the challenges faced by people living in some of the remotest corners of this earth. The post also includes a superb artwork portrayal of Prince Aly Muhammad by Vancouver’s Ismaili artist Aziz Khanbhai. Please read this special piece by clicking on Prince Aly Muhammad or on the photo below.

Queen, Prince Aly Muhammad and the Aga Khan, simerg and barakah
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, introduces Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Aly Muhammad and members of his family, Prince Hussain, Princess Salwa and Prince Rahim during his visit to Windsor Castle in 2018. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte. Please click on photo for piece on Prince Aly Muhammad.

Date posted: March 6, 2022.


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.

Alwaez Nizar Chunara with his wife and children. Passings Simerg

Passings: Alwaez Nizar Chunara (1940 – 2021)

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.

Ismaili missionary Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara (1940-2021), Simerg passings
Ismaili missionary Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara (1940-2021)

(Publisher-Editor Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

[In writing this tribute, I am deeply indebted to the family of Alwaez Nizar Chunara for supplying me with important information related to his life].

It is with the utmost sadness that I record the recent demise of the much beloved missionary of the Ismaili world, Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara, who passed away in Vancouver on September 8, 2021 at the age of 81. He is survived by his wife Fariyal and their three children Fayaz (Shirzad), Arif (spouse Amynah) and Fazillah (spouse Alim) as well as grandchildren Raeesa, Raian, Mikayla, Alayna, Kayden, Alyssa and Mila and two younger brothers, Alnoor (Remtulla) in Edmonton and Azeem in Australia. Alwaez was laid to rest in Vancouver on September 14, 2021.

Born on October 29, 1940 in Manyoni, a small town near Dodoma, Tanzania, Nizar Chunara did his early schooling in Tabora and completed his secondary education at Dar es Salaam’s Aga Khan Secondary School. He then joined his father’s business in Manyoni and shortly thereafter went to Pakistan to pursue his dream of becoming a missionary (or Alwaez). 

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Aga Khan  Mawlana Hazar Imam with Nizar Chunara waezin program student in Pakistan, photo for Simerg
During his visit to Pakistan in the early 1960’s Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, meets young East African waezin student Nizar Chunara in Karachi. Having learnt from Nizar about his interest in the comparative study of religions, Mawlana Hazar Imam then wrote down the title of a dissertation that would be of interest to the future waezin (see inset image). This note was preserved by Alwaez, and attached to the bottom of the photo shown above, and the blessed moment stayed with him all his life. Photo: (Late) Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

During his studies in Pakistan in the early 1960’s, he was blessed with an opportunity to meet Mawlana Hazar Imam, who inquired what subject interested him the most. When he said he was keen on studying comparative religions, Mawlana Hazar Imam referred Alwaez to Professor Louis Massignon’s dissertation on Al-Hallaj by writing the information down on a piece of paper (see photo, above). This was an unforgettable incident in Nizar’s life at a very young age. It is a well known fact that Massignon (d. 1962), besides being an authority on the life of the legendary Muslim mystic Al-Hallaj, wrote and spoke on interfaith dialogue and was particularly interested in the relationship of the three Abrahamic faith traditions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

For Alwaez, this was the first of several opportunities in his life to meet Mawlana Hazar Imam.

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Aga Khan group photo Nairobi Kenya with Nizar Chunara
This group photo was taken in 1982 in the course of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Silver Jubilee visit to Kenya, when the leadership and spouses of every Jamati institution had the opportunity of a group photograph with Hazar Imam, Begum Salimah and Prince Amyn Mohamed. This particular group was the Ismailia Association, the precursor of the present-day ITREB. Alwaez Nizar Chunara is seen standing in back row (5th from left), immediately behind Hazar Imam, and his wife Fariyal is seated on floor, 5th from left. The then Chairman of the Ismailia Association, Rai Ameerally Kassim-Lakha, is on Begum Salimah’s right. Photo: (Late) Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

In 1964, following the completion of the waezin training program in Pakistan, he joined the Ismailia Association (now known as the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board or ITREB) in Tanzania as a full-time Alwaez. He dedicated the rest of his life to the service of Ismaili institutions, the community and the Imam-of-the-Time both in full-time and honorary capacities. His sermons were enjoyed by Jamats wherever he preached.

The most profound memory in his life was of him accompanying Mawlana Hazar Imam on his fifty-four day visit to East Africa and Madagascar in 1966, as the official missionary. The memories of this visit stayed with Alwaez Nizar and inspired him throughout his life.

As a son of one of his best waezin friend, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (d. 2018), whom he would visit every single day as they were neighbours in the same apartment building on United Nations Road, I can say that Alwaez Nizar’s recollection of this extraordinary visit were absolutely remarkable and truly inspiring. I sincerely hope that the recorded written details of this visit have been carefully preserved.

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Jehangir Merchant, Nizar and Fariyal Chunara in Dar es Salaam Tanzania United Nations Road, Simerg, Passings
Nizar Chunara (left), his wife Fariyal and Jehangir Merchant pictured outside their apartment building – Islamabad Flats – located on United Nations Road in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Photo: Jehangir Merchant Family Collection, photo taken in late 1960’s.

I vividly recall the day when my mum, Alwaeza Malek (d. 2021), was preparing her material for a waez on social habits. Having just returned from the tour, Alwaez Nizar mentioned a Farman that Mawlana Hazar Imam had made in Mbale during a Jamati mulaqat. Hazar Imam warned the jamat about social habits in very strong terms. He also said that some  members of the jamat who had these habits had said to their friends that they were not socially advanced if they did not smoke and drink. Mawlana Hazar said that this was complete and absolute nonsense. That recollection by Alwaez Nizar set the groundwork for my mum’s waez material. The three missionaries shared their hopes and aspirations for the Jamat without any form of rivalry between them. Indeed, they were most respectful and helpful to each other in their common objective to serve the jamat and Mawlana Hazar Imam. That bond of friendship and affection remained throughout their lives until their deaths.

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Nizar Chunara Notes
A page from a waez notebook of Alwaez Nizar Chunara. Photo: Late Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

In accompanying Mawlana Hazar Imam on his 1966 visit as well as serving the jamat and its institutions, Alwaez Nizar was following in the footsteps of his forefathers who had served the Imam-of the-Time with love and devotion. Indeed, the voluminous history of Ismaili Imams in Gujarati written in 1936 known as Nurun Mubin was authored by AJ (Ali Muhammad Jan Muhammad) Chunara, who is among those who has been profiled in 101 Ismaili Heroes.

Nizar was also a superb volleyball player as well as a fantastic football (soccer) goalkeeper. But of course his service to the Jamat was most profoundly felt as an Alwaez.

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Nizar Chunara Ismaili missionary or Alwaez Simerg Passings
Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara with his wife Fariyal. Photo: (Late) Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

In 1972, as he was set to depart for Canada from Tanzania, he was summoned to Kenya for full time service there. By this time he had been married to Fariyal for a few years, and they had two boys, Fayaz and Arif, who were both born in Dar es Salaam. Their third child, Fazillah was born in Nairobi. He served in Kenya until 1988, and then settled in Canada. During his tenure in Kenya he went on several official waezin duties around the world, and one of the most significant ones was visiting refugee camps in Europe where many Ugandan Ismailis had been housed after their expulsion in late 1972.

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Nizar Chunara with his family, Simerg passings
Alwaez Nizar Chunara and his wife Fariyal pictured in group photos with their grandchildren (top photo), and their children with their respective spouses and children, bottom photo. Photos: (Late) Nizar Chunara Family Collection.

As children, what do we most remember of our parents and grandparents? Of course, their unbounded love for us and their devotion to us by giving us the best education possible. Alwaez Nizar and his wife Fariyal gave their children the best they could in every way. Alwaez Nizar’s children and grandchildren also have other fond memories of their beloved dad and grandfather. They simply could not wait for their loving papa to return home from his waez tours, bringing for them heaps of chocolates. To see his children filled with happiness, was Nizar’s greatest joy. He would visit them everyday, play with them and take them for drives. All the grandchildren absolutely loved their Dada and Nana banana!! 

Alwaez Nizar led his life to the fullest, and serving as an Alwaez gave him the greatest happiness. He was fortunate to have the support of his wife and his entire family.

Although he struggled with Parkinson’s for about 15 years, he was not deterred in his determination for service to the Jamat, and continued to be a valuable source of information and inspiration to many in the Jamat. 

Alwaez Rai Nizar Chunara will be sorely missed by jamats around the world and we pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace. Ameen.

Date posted: October 02, 2021.


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

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

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

DOORS By Shiraz Bandali, Simergphotos

“DOORS” of Morocco, Spain and Portugal Through the Lens of Late Shiraz Bandali: A Tribute to an Ismaili Photographer

Shiraz Bandali (1959-2016)
Shiraz Bandali (1959-2016)

Shiraz Bandali of Edmonton, Canada, passed away at the age of 56. A passionate photographer, he captured “DOORS” during a family trip to Morocco, Portugal and Spain, and shared them with Simergphotos. We pay a tribute to Shiraz through his beautiful collection. Please click DOORS or on the image below.

"DOORS" by Shiraz Bandali Simerg
“DOORS” by Shiraz Bandali. Please click on image to see collection.

Date posted: April 2, 2021.


The Aga Khan: Prince with a Smile Who Fulfills True Role of Religion, A Tribute by Léopold Senghor

“What we admire in you above all is that you have been able to integrate a modern outlook with religion so that religion has been allowed its true role which is not merely to provide an all-embracing explanation of the universe but also to furnish the fundamental solutions of the problems which life poses us” — READ MORE @ Barakah His Highness the Aga Khan a Visual and Textual Celebration

Please click on image for article.

 Date posted: March 18, 2017.


The Aga Khan: An Icon of Thought, Philosophy and Action – A Tribute by James Wolfensohn


“It is the extraordinary sense of humanity that he has. The great depth of real feeling for real people wherever they find themselves in society. He is a holy man. He is the leader of his faith. He’s a man who represents the very best in Islam.” — READ MORE

PLEASE CLICK: The Aga Khan Stands Out as an Icon of Action
by James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank (1995-2005)

Photo: Photo: Vivian Rozsa. Copyright. Please click on image for tribute.

Photo: Vivian Rozsa. Copyright. Please click on image for tribute.

Passings: Rai Hussein Khanmohammed of Burma (1932 – 2013) – A Tribute by Hasan Essa

Hasan Essa pays a tribute to his close friend and mentor, Rai Hussein Khanmohammed, who passed away peacefully in Los Angeles on September 23, 2013 just as he was about to turn 81. Ismaili institutions in Pakistan recognized his contributions to the community in a well-organized condolence and memorial meeting.

Please click: Remembering Rai Hussein Khanmohammed of Burma

Rai Hussein Khanmohamed (1932 - 2013)

Rai Hussein Khanmohamed (1932 – 2013)

Remembering Laila Lokhandwalla Through Her Loving Golden Jubilee Tribute to Mawlana Hazar Imam


It is with deep regret and sorrow that we announce the passing of Laila Lokhandwalla in Toronto, Canada, on Sunday May 5, 2013 at the age of 55. Our heartfelt condolences go to Ms. Lokhandwalla’s family and friends, and we pray for the eternal peace and rest of Laila’s soul. Her funeral ceremonies took place at the Scarborough Jamatkhana on Thursday, May 9th, with special religious ceremonies for the departed soul later during the evening at the Headquarters Jamatkhana.

Laila Lokhandwalla was born and raised in India. Following her graduation in the early 1980’s from the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, England, Laila moved to Canada where she served with the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board for a number of years. She obtained her B.A. in Sociology from York University, Toronto, and thereafter, her graduate level Certificate in Teaching ESL, from George Brown College, Toronto. Professionally she was a teacher of ESL (English as a Second Language).

An articulate and engaging teacher as well as an Alwaeza (missionary), Laila also wrote beautiful and stirring poetry. Several of her poems and writings were published in Ismaili literary magazines around the world, including the flagship quarterly periodical Ilm published by the UK Ismaili Tariqah Board. In many of her poems, she sought to capture her immense love, affection and devotion to Mawlana Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims).

Following the completion of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee, Laila penned a special poem “Reflections of the Golden Jubilee” which was published on this website, along with a personal statement expressing her fondness for writing.

We pay our respect and tribute to Laila Lokhandwalla by re-publishing some of her pieces below, and invite the readers to also click on A Spring Poem for Shah Karim. We begin though with reflections about Laila from her former colleagues at the Institute of Ismaili Studies.


Tributes to Laila from Her Colleagues

From Mumtaz Virani, Toronto

Further to the above sad announcement about Laila, I would like to inform readers that a collection of Laila’s poems that has been published is available on-line at the following link:

Laila had been a bright student during her school career. She had inherited melodious voice from her mother who used to sing at the radio station in 1960’s in India. Laila had a special flair for arts and culture and had a strong command on English language because of her convent education.

She loved music and dancing. We witnessed her Kathak dance presentations at the parties during our student days at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in early 80’s. When in good spirit she was a well rounded person and it was easy to fall in love with her.

We pray that her soul may rest in peace. Ameen.

* * *

From Alnoor B. Kassam

At heart, Laila was one of a kind… a flower ripe for He Who Is, departed at our loss, well before her time…  Her effervescence of mind was known only to those who’d sat with her during sessions of learning.  How she challenged anyone shy of intellectual rigour, and yet was always keen to adapt to innovative trends of thought!  Hers was a life we may thus celebrate.

Sure, there were challenges.  She bore them with grace.  And we know that Allah SubhaanaHu wa Ta’ala is Gracious, and He has now bestowed her with liberation of spirit.  As it says in the Qur’an ash-Sharif, those who have passed on are even more alive than we are in this world, only we lack capacity in that we neither sense nor fathom it…

Her zeal each time we had an IIS alumni conference will be held in fond memory.  Her intellectual honesty coupled with dedication to her vocation, was just as remarkable as it was sincere.

May she have well earned rest, in eternal peace, grace and blessing…

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My Interest and Love for Poetry

By Laila Lokhandwalla

I have been writing poetry in English since childhood. I started out with writing devotional poems in praise of Mawlana Hazar Imam (His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims), but I now have a collection of more than forty poems on various subjects, including politics, women’s and social issues as well as inspirational poems and poems celebrating nature. Besides poems, I have also written some geets (devotional songs set to music), in praise of Hazar Imam, in Gujarati and Urdu. I sometimes also write poetry in Gujarati and Urdu. However, most of my literary work is in the English language.

The love of religion, philosophy and social work, besides of course the pure love of language, especially the English language, have resulted in the poetry that has literally poured out of my soul. I have never really had to make an effort to write poetry. It has always automatically poured forth from my very being whenever I have been moved by anything in life. My poetry is the result of my life experiences and my feelings and thoughts on whatever I have experienced and lived.


Reflections on the Golden Jubilee

By Laila Lokhandwalla

The sun dawned in the East and slowly but surely,

Lighted up every corner of the globe, in stages, successively,

The earth looked like a newly wedded bride in its enlightened décor,

Even as my Mawla was visiting Jamats, scattered across the globe, one after another,

Illuminating hearts and sparking minds, spreading joy and enlightenment,

Bringing prosperity and progress, breeding hope and encouragement…

This was indeed a special dawn…the dawn of a golden era,

The celebration of the Golden Jubilee of my beloved Mawla!

Excitement within, the tempo building,

Hearts in unison, merrily dancing…

Celebrating in a multitude of ways,

These unique, precious, historic days!

Canada launches several projects new,

To commemorate and celebrate this event…

And to their Imam, their vows they renew,

Pledging love and loyalty with this golden advent!

The Aga Khan Museum and for Pluralism – The Global Centre,

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat and The Ismaili Centre,

In their wake, planning a renewal,

A renaissance: cultural, social, intellectual and spiritual!

What exciting times, the future seems bright in prospect,

How immense the bounties, the blessings of the Imamat!

Could this be real, I am moved,

May I help build this future, as I am encouraged?

For that’s not all, there’s more to come…

My Imam directs, these things must be done:

Poverty must be eliminated,

Seniors must be supported,

Education and Religious Education, quality should reflect,

And walls that divide, must be replaced with bridges that unite…

Witnessing these times, I am blessed, I am thinking…

Even as I see the sun setting,

Slowly also setting upon this golden time…

Yet, the hope, the courage, the happiness, does not seem to dim!

The impact was so strong,

The memory shall linger on…

Forever more, to fuel energies and to inspire,

As to accomplish tasks and resolutions pledged, we thus aspire.

Spiritually renewed, yet humbled by all these graces,

I fall into a prayerful ecstasy, my heart races…

“Shukran, shukran, shukran”, repeats my inner soul’s voice,

In a rhythm that is endless and continuous…

For I envisage my Mawla, you’ve opened up the doors graciously,

To ever-increasing happiness and prosperity, endlessly…


Date posted: Tuesday May 7, 2013
Date updated: Saturday, May 11, 2013.


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