"Ismā‘īlīsm pioneered the most daring metaphysical thought in Islam. Its voice, at once original and traditional, should be heard again today — a task of which it seems that the young Ismā‘īlīs are aware." (Henry Corbin)
Harvard University is offering a brand new course by Professor Ali Asani on Muslim Devotional Literature in South Asia, featuring the study of the Ismaili Ginans in their historical, cultural, and devotional contexts. The Ginans stem from the Satpanth Ismaili tradition of South Asia and Ismaili tradition attributes the authorship of the Ginans to the Pirs (the babs or supreme hujjats of the Imam) and Sayyids descended from the family of the Ismaili Imams and who were active from the 12th century to the 19th century.
I think that monotheistic religions, having a common reference to One God, should and must dialogue. The three religions which Abraham inspired have many more common facets than those which divide them. Religion must be the means by which to affirm the ethical significance of existence, regardless of one’s profession of faith.
Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
(Interview with Correre della Sera, Massimo Nava, October 22, 2001)
Poetry is the voice of God speaking through the lips of man. If great painting puts you in touch with nature, great poetry puts you in direct touch with God. It is not a soft indulgence, you need to be wide awake, with all your wits about you, to share the poet’s joys. And, indeed, happiness is never a negative affair; it is to be won by men who are fully alive, full of the joy of living.
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III,
(Interview with The Daily Sketch November 2, 1931)
As members of a rich and vibrant esoteric tradition of Islam, Ismaili Muslims has always emphasized intellectual exploration in matters of faith. The present and hereditary Imam of the Ismailis, Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV, has often discussed the “interdependence of spiritual inspiration and learning” and said that “the widening of man’s intellectual horizons [is] essentially (an) Islamic [concept]” (Mawlana Hazar Imam, Aga Khan University Speech, November 11, 1985). Throughout history, the Ismaili Imams and their murids have extended this intellectual search to the spiritual realm and the esoteric knowledge emanating from this search has been expressed in mystical, intellectual and doctrinal poetry.
MESA’s 49th annual meeting will commence in Denver, Colorado at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel on November 21-24, 2015. This year’s panel presentations feature several scholars from the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS), Harvard University, University of Chicago, and Nazarbayev University including Farhad Daftary, Samer Traboulsi, Shainool Jiwa, Paul E. Walker, Daniel Beben, Khalil Andani, Paul Anderson, and others. The Fatimid Ismaili Identity Politics panel organized by the IIS take place on Sunday, November 22 at 4:30 PM. Daryoush M. Poor presents in a panel on Concealment and Manifestation on Monday, November 23, at 2:30 PM. The Harvard Panel on Ismaili History and Thought organized by Khalil Andani takes place on Monday at 5:00 PM.
1. Identity Politics in the Fatimid Ismaili Tradition
Organizer: Paul Walker (University of Chicago)
Chair: Farhad Daftary (IIS)
Time: Sunday November 22, 4:30 PM Click here for details
2. Medieval Ismaili Muslim Thought: Methodology, Hermeneutics and Cosmology
Organizer: Khalil Andani (Harvard University)
Chair: Daniel Beben (Nazarbayev University)
Time: Monday November 23, 5:00 PM Click here for details
In Ismaili history, women have not only played important material and political roles. The Ismaili esoteric tradition recognizes a number of women who held important spiritual ranks and performed religious functions alongside the Prophets and Imams: Hazrat Eve with Prophet Adam, Hazrat Hagar with Prophet Abraham, Hazrat Zulaykhah with Prophet Joseph, Hazrat Maryam with Prophet Moses, Hazrat Maryam with Prophet Jesus, Hazrat Khadijah and Hazrat Fatimah with Prophet Muhammad, and numerous other women with the Imams.
On December 13, 2015, His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, turns 79 years old. This article looks at the Aga Khan’s life and mission, in which the Imam has worked quietly and tirelessly to serve and bring hope to millions of people worldwide, in the name of Islam. The Aga Khan has been widely recognized for his efforts in providing spiritual guidance and material assistance to the Ismaili Muslims, who are today spread over 25 countries, and for his vast contributions to quality of life in various communities worldwide. These include (courtesy of Ismailimail):
28 Title and State Decorations;
21 honorary degrees, from universities representing the US Ivy League, Canadian Group of 13, UK’s Russell Group, and others;
16 civic honours, representing 9 investures as Foreign Member to several state academies (for the creation of new knowledge – promoting research and stimulating the enhancement of thought, literature, language and other forms of national culture) and 3 Leadership posts at influential European Institutions to promote diplomacy, culture and development;
30 awards spanning domains such as architecture and the built environment, restoration and the revival of culture, education, health, diplomacy and peace, philanthropy, sports, corporate enterprise
delivered over 70 high profile keynote addresses.
Our affair is one hardship after another, one mystery after another, one ordeal after another. No one can bear it except an angel close (to God), a Prophet sent as a messenger, or a believer whose heart God has tested with faith.
– Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib,
(Nasir al-Din Tusi, The Paradise of Submission, 128)
Overnight my whole life changed completely. I woke up with serious responsibilities toward millions of other human beings.
Ismaili Gnosis shares two testimonials from two Ismaili Muslims youth who are regular readers of the blog. Like many young people in the modern world, both readers had many questions about their faith and found answers to such questions through Ismaili Gnosis.
“I finally came upon a website called Ismaili Gnosis and I began to read the various articles about topics I previously had questions about. I also joined the Ismaili Gnosis discussion group on Facebook, and I realized that I had finally found what I was looking for.”
“Ismaili Gnosis has unceasingly provided nourishment for my soul. The content on their website, when followed in its logical progression, rebuilds one’s faith and religious convictions.”
Ismaili Gnosis presents the Story of Imamat Day through pictures and quotes from Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah and Mawlana Hazar Imam. On July 11, 1957, Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV succeeded his grandfather Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III as the hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. Shia Ismaili Muslims around the world commemorate July 11 every year as Imamat Day or Yawm al-Imamah. Check out the Story of Imamat Day by following Ismaili Gnosis on Instagram – www.instagram.com/ismaili.gnosis or on the Ismaili Gnosis Facebook Page.
Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 661) was the first cousin of the Prophet Muhammad with whom he shared the same paternal grandfather, the son-in-law of the Prophet as the husband of his only surviving daughter, and the most important personality in early Islam after the Prophet himself. As noted in Sunni Muslim historical chronicles, when Imam ‘Ali was just ten years old, the Prophet Muhammad invited his close family to Islam and asked them:
Which of you, then, will help me in this, and be my brother, mine executor and my successor amongst you?’ All remained silent, except for the youthful ʿAlī who spoke up: ‘O Prophet of God, I will be thy helper in this.’ The Prophet then placed his hand on ʿAlī’s neck and said, ‘This is my brother, mine executor and my successor amongst you. Hearken unto him and obey him.’
(Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, tr. A Guilaume, The Life of Muhammad, 118)
The Ismaili Gnosis Book Club is an online platform for Ismailis to discuss a book with a particular interest to Ismailis. We discuss a chapter at a time and bring in relevant pictures, newspaper clippings, articles and other book excerpts to add context to the quote being discussed.
Currently we are reading Mowlana Sultan Muhammad Shah’s Memoirs. A book that people may be aware of or even read previously but that they are now able to study in detail with the thoughts, ideas and comments of Ismailis around the world.
In honour of the Aga Khan’s upcoming Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University, Ismaili Gnosis presents the following primer on the Aga Khan and the Shia Ismaili Muslims. We encourage our readers to share this article widely.
We are the Gates of God. We are the medium for His people. He who approaches Him through us is brought near Him. He who seeks our intercession is interceded for. He who seeks His favours through us is favoured by Him. He who turns away from us goes astray.
– Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq
The purpose of this article is two-fold: first, to explain the metaphysics and philosophy of praying to God through supplication or petitionary prayer (du‘a’) and secondly, to explain the metaphysical and Qur’anic basis for seeking the help and blessings of the Imam of the Time and intercessors in general – the Prophets, the Shi‘i Imams, the Sufi saints (awliya’) etc.
“Whatever may or may not be the soul’s future, there is one impregnable central fact in existence: that here and now, in this world, we have a soul which has a life of its own in its appreciation of truth, beauty, harmony and good against evil.” – Imam Sultan Muḥammad Shah Aga Khan III
“The structure of quantum theory opens the door to the possibility that all causes and reasons need not be purely mechanical. Thoughts and intentions are themselves actual realities, and as such they ought to be able to have, in their own right, real actual consequences. Quantum theory allows this, and in actual scientific practice demands it.” – Henry Stapp
The purpose of this article is to present some key arguments for existence of the human soul as an immaterial or “spiritual substance” (jawhar ruḥānī).