Islamic Philosophers

Ismaili Studies Presentations by IIS & Harvard at MESA 2015

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
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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
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The Esoteric Feminine: Women in Ismaili History and Thought

ISMAILI WOMEN come from a proud and rich heritage of intellectual prowess, spiritual illumination, and strength against adversity. Ismaili Gnosis @ Instagram presents a series on the history of strong Ismaili women starting with Hazrat Khadijah, the wife of Prophet Muhammad. On Instagram this can be viewed at (

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.

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Comparing the Imamat and the Papacy: Some Short Notes

The recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States is a suitable occasion to consider the often invoked comparisons between the Ismaili Imam and the Catholic Pope.

  • The institution of the Imamat is the succession to the Prophet Muhammad and recognizes Hazrat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib as the first Imam. The Imamat is a hereditary office where each Imam is appointed and designated by the sole designation (nass) of the previous Imam;
  • The office of the Papacy claims to represent the succession to Jesus and recognizes Simon Peter as the first Pope and successor. The Pope is elected by a College of Cardinals;
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    The Secret Life of the Aga Khan

    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.

    – Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
    (Sports Illustrated Interview, August 10, 1964, NanoWisdoms

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    MHI on questioning faith

    Stories: Youth Find Answers to Questions, Strength of Faith through Ismaili Gnosis

    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.”

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    Imam Bearer of Nur

    The Imamat Day Story in Pictures and Quotations

    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 – or on the Ismaili Gnosis Facebook Page.

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    Imam Ali declared the Successor of Prophet Muhammad in Sunni Hadith Literature

    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)

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    Ismaili Gnosis Book Club Engages Membership Worldwide

    Originally posted on Ismailimail:

    Ismaili Gnosis Book Club Engages Membership Worldwide Image via

    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.

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    The Ismaili Imam, Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV, gives didar to his murids in Tajikistan 1995.

    Ya Ali Madad: The Rationale for Praying to God and Calling upon the Imams in Prayer

    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.

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    Does the Soul Exist? Consciousness, Matter, and Quantum Physics

    “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).

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    Scholars from IIS, Indiana and Harvard host two Ismailism Panels at MESA Conference on November 23

    MESA’s 48th annual meeting will commence in Washington, DC at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on November 22-25, 2014. This year’s panel presentations feature several scholars from the IIS, Harvard and Indiana including Nadia E. Jamal, Shainool Jiwa, Paul E. Walker, Khalil Andani, Daniel Beben and others. Both Ismailism panels take place on Sunday, November 23 at 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM respectively.

    1. Discovering and Reinterpreting Key Sources of Ismaili Thought and History

    Organizer: Paul Walker (University of Chicago)
    Time: Sunday November 23, 8:30 AM
    Click here for details

    2. Ismaili History and Thought

    Organizers: Daniel Beben (Indiana University), Khalil Andani (Harvard University)
    Time: Sunday November 23, 4:30 PM
    Click here for details

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    Survey: Ismailism Topics of Interest

    Ismaili Gnosis has created a short survey to determine the sort of topics, subjects and issues most relevant to those wishing to learn more about Ismailism. Please take one minute to fill out the survey as this information will allow Ismaili Gnosis to gear its future articles to your needs. The survey is completely anonymous. Please note that this survey is not related to any Ismaili community institutions.

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    Why Faith Must be Validated with Reason and Knowledge

    [Y]ou must have in every walk of your life a logical concept. This does not mean to wipe away faith, but the real principle of Islam is that faith is logical. Islam would not be what it is if it were not logical and this is something you must keep in mind. [B]ecause the very heart of Islam is logical. There is no hocus-pocus. There is no nonsense. It is clear and it is lucid and it is understandable. (Emphasis added.)

    Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV, Pakistan, 1960

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    The different historical lineages of the Shi‘i Imams to the present day.

    The Shia Imamat: A Timeline of Major Divisions and Developments

    From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up, but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.

    Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV
    Address to both Houses of the Canadian Parliament and Senate, February 27, 2014

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