Harvard Offers Course on Ismaili Islam (Ismailism) in Spring 2017

Harvard University is offering a course on Ismaili Muslim History and Thought in the Spring 2017 Term. This will be the third offering of this course which was designed and will be taught by world class Professor Ali Asani – Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures at Harvard University. The course is open to all Harvard students.

Continue reading

Proof of Prophecy: A Logical Argument for Muhammad’s Prophethood

This article continues from and assumes the conclusions of our previous article on the Proof of the Existence of God as Unconditioned Reality. We request readers not familiar with this argument and the concept of God as Unconditioned Reality to read it first before this article. We also recommend readers consult our earlier article 10 Surprising Facts to Know about the Qur’an, which is a companion article to this present piece.

Nature is the great daily Book of God…
God’s miracles are the very law and order of nature.

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III,
(“What have we forgotten in Islam,” Letter to H.E. Dr. Zahid Husain, April 4, 1952)

The Prophet himself never claimed any miracle of any sort. The only miracle which you have in Islam is the Qur’an.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
(CBC Interview, “Man Alive with Roy Bonisteel”, October 8, 1986)

Continue reading

Why Ismaili Jamatkhanas are only open to Ismailis for prayers

One of the ways in which Ismailis have expressed their identity wherever they have lived is through their places of prayer, known today as the Jamatkhana. Other Muslim communities give their religious buildings different names: from ribat and zawiyya to khanaqa. And, in addition, there are other places where Muslims of all interpretations can come together, such as non-denominational mosques.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
(Toronto Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony, Toronto, September 12, 2014, Read at NanoWisdoms)

Continue reading

10 Surprising Facts to Know Before Reading the Qur’an

This article presents ten little-known all-important facts about the Holy Qur’an (the scripture of Islam), which both Muslims and non-Muslims remain generally unaware of. For those who remain skeptical about the historical existence of Prophet Muhammad and the dating/transmission of the Qur’anic Text, we first present historical evidence that Prophet Muhammad lived and preached in Arabia in the first half of the seventh century and then show manuscript evidence and academic scholarship that shows the present day Qur’anic Text dates from around 650 CE. Following this, we present ten all-important facts about the Qur’an that have been uncovered by historical scholarship, which change the way one approaches and reads the scripture of Islam.

Continue reading

The Aga Khan’s Direct Descent from Prophet Muhammad: Historical Proof

I am the 49th hereditary Imam in direct lineal descent from the first Shia Imam, Hazrat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib through his marriage to Bibi Fatimat-az-Zahra, our beloved Prophet’s daughter.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
(Letter to International Islamic Conference, Amman, July 2005, Read at NanoWisdoms)

The purpose of this article is to present the independent historical documentation that proves (as far as the historical method can show) that Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni is the direct lineal descendant of Prophet Muhammad and Imam ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib in an unbroken line of descent.

Continue reading

Ramadan Fasting in Shia Ismaili Islam: A Historical Overview

Certain Muslim groups in present times have publicly monopolized and “normalized” an image of Islam where Islam equals the so-called “Five Pillars”: the Shahadah, ritual prayer (salah, namaz), pilgrimage (hajj) to Makkah, alms-giving (zakah), and fasting (sawm) from dawn to dusk in Ramadan. However, the idea of Islam = Five Pillars is a historical construct. The Qur’an never defines Islam as “five pillars” and hadiths where the Prophet Muhammad defines Islam as “Five Pillars” only start circulating at 200 years after the Prophet Muhammad’s death. When one sees how Islam has been practiced through 1,400 years of history and continues to be practiced today, the equation of Islam with “five pillars” simply does not hold up to reality.

Continue reading

Mi‘raj: Spiritual Ascension of Prophet Muhammad in Ismaili Thought ~ Ismaili Gnosis

The night of mi’raj is the one on which the Prophet revisited his original abode … It is not that only Hazrat ‘Ali’s progeny can attain this status. Whoever is determined enough will be able to reach the goal. It can come in stages, through repeated efforts.”
– Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, (September 29, 1899)

In the traditional, exoteric (zahir) understanding of Mi’raj (ascension), the Prophet Muhammad travels from the Ka’bah in Makkah to the Sacred Masjid in Jerusalem on the winged horse Buraq. In Jerusalem, after the Prophet Muhammad led a prayer of all Prophets, Buraq ascended with the Prophet through the seven heavens, after which the Prophet experienced his vision of Allah. However, in Ismaili philosophy, the mi’raj considers this understanding as symbolic of a deeper, esoteric (batin) explanation, or ta’wil. Read more below.

Source: Mi‘raj: Spiritual Ascension of Prophet Muhammad in Ismaili Thought ~ Ismaili Gnosis

Aga Khan Development Network: The “Mahdi-ist” Mission of the Ismaili Imamat

To the Imamat, the meaning of “quality of life” extends to the entire ethical and social context in which people live, and not only to their material well-being measured over generation after generation. Consequently, the Imamat’s is a holistic vision of development, as is prescribed by the faith of Islam. It is about investing in people, in their pluralism, in their intellectual pursuit, and search for new and useful knowledge, just as much as in material resources. But it is also about investing with a social conscience inspired by the ethics of Islam. It is work that benefits all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality or background. Does the Holy Qur’an not say in one of the most inspiring references to mankind, that Allah has created all mankind from one soul? Today, this vision is implemented by institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
(Alltex EPX Limited Opening Ceremony, Kenya, December 19, 2003: Read Here)

Continue reading

Harvard Course on Ismaili Ginans & Muslim Devotional Literature by Dr. Ali Asani

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.

Continue reading

Esoteric Interpretations of the Qur’an: The Foundations of Shia Ismaili Ta’wil

The discourse of the Qur’an-e-Sharif, rich in parable and allegory, metaphor and symbol, has been an inexhaustible well-spring of inspiration, lending itself to a wide spectrum of interpretations.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV

You see, my mission is situated on three levels. Firstly, religious: it concerns a symbolic exegesis of the Qur’an…Our religion is esoteric, you understand. It is a perpetual initiation.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV

Continue reading

Judaism, Christianity & Islam: Forgotten Shared Beliefs of the Abrahamic Faiths

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)

Continue reading

10 Ismaili Muslim Poets Everyone Should Know About

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)

Continue reading

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
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

Continue reading

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 (https://instagram.com/explore/tags/ismailiwomen/).

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.

Continue reading

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;
  • Continue reading

    The Secret Life of the Aga Khan

    Through his words, through his actions, and through the results obtained by the institutions that he has founded and encouraged and nourished, he has become a light in much of the world’s conflicting darkness.

    The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

    Watch: Five Minute Video by Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson (Former Governor General of Canada) on the Aga Khan’s Life and Work:

    His Highness Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. 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 including being made an honourary Companion to the Order of Canada (2005) and Honourary Canadian Citizenship (2009);
    • 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.

    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
    http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/10341/
    )

    Continue reading