10 Surprising Facts to Know Before Reading the Qur’an

In the seventh century of the Christian era there was a rapid and brilliant new flowering of humanity’s capacity and desire for adventure and discovery in the realms of both spirit and intellect. That flowering began in Arabia; its origin and impetus were given to it by my Holy ancestor, the Prophet Mohammed, and we know it by the name of Islam. From Arabia the tide of its influence flowed swiftly and strongly to North Africa and thence to Spain.

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III,
(Memoirs of the Aga Khan: World Enough and Time)

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.

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Imamat Proof Pic

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.

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Ramadan Quran verse

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.

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Next Ismaili Studies Conference at Carleton University – March 2017

The Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam is pleased to announce that an international Ismaili Studies conference will take place on March 9 and 10, 2017 at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. It will build on the remarkable success of the Ismaili Studies Conference: State of the Field held at the University of Chicago in 2014.

These multidisciplinary gatherings are a progressive endeavour to provide opportunities for the presentation of research as well as for academic discussion and debate on the scholarly endeavour termed broadly as Ismaili Studies. It provides a pluralist locus for scholarship on the various entities and communities that are related to, have emerged from or are associated in other ways with Ismaili expressions of Islam in the past and the present. The conference also addresses these communities’ relations within the wider Shia, Muslim and other societies.

Also of interest are the engagements across religious boundaries and the articulations of thought and faith in between dominantly defined religious and cultural domains. This multidisciplinary intellectual space includes but is not limited to the critical analysis of the histories, migrations, and institutions as well as of social, economic, political and cultural expressions. It is also inclusive of all geographical regions. Such an approach provides for a robust and integral understanding of a broadly situated Ismaili Studies.

Proposals for papers and panels are invited in the following areas, but are not limited to them:

  • Art and architecture
  • Education
  • History
  • Institutional development
  • Inter-faith / inter-cultural relations
  • Khoja Studies
  • Literature
  • Media and communication
  • Migration, diaspora, transnationalism
  • Music
  • Philosophy and theology
  • Politics
  • Policy
  • Religious practice
  • Socio-economic development
  • Values and doctrines

Abstracts should be sent by July 8, 2016 to: Professor Karim H. Karim (karim_karim@carleton.ca), Director, Carleton Centre for the Study of Islam.


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

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Ismaili Gnosis to Contribute Book Chapter to Pandeism: An Anthology

Ismaili Gnosis is contributing a book chapter on Islamic Metaphysics to Pandeism: An Anthology alongside numerous authors. The Abstract of the Ismaili Gnosis chapter is as follows:

“We offer a constructive critique of pandeism on philosophical grounds and propose that a Muslim Neoplatonic metaphysics (common to Shia-Ismaili, Sunni-Sufi, and several other schools of Islamic philosophy) best accounts for and explains the existence of the Universe as human beings experience it. We first argue, in partial agreement with the pandeist, that there exists a Creator of the physical Universe, who is above space and time, powerful, intelligent, and rational. We also affirm that this Creator creates the Universe for a rational end or purpose. Our critique then proceeds on two points: first, we argue that the notion of the Creator actually becoming the Universe is logically and metaphysically impossible. This is because the Creator of the Universe must necessarily be an immaterial, personal and rational Soul (or Universal Soul) that continuously creates and sustains the Universe and while also being manifest or immanent within it. Secondly, we argue that the existence of the Universe and its Creator (Universal Soul) can only be explained by a Universal Intellect as the locus of eternal truth, whose existence in turn depends upon an absolutely simple and transcendent God. According to our proposed Muslim Neoplatonic metaphysics, all existents (whether physical or metaphysical) are originated by and continuously dependent upon one single absolutely Unconditioned Reality (the God of classical theism) by the mediation of the Universal Intellect, the grounding source of all truth, intelligibility and essences (Forms), and the Universal Soul, the Creator of the Cosmos and the source of all rational and goal directed activities including humanity.”


Ismaili Gnosis to Contribute Book Chapter to Pandeism: An Anthology

Pandeism: An Anthology is a collection of articles by more than a dozen authors, from all over the world, presenting diverse viewpoints on the theological theory of Pandeism. The book editors invited both Atheist and Theist authors to offer their critical views on Pandeism. Authors who have committed articles to this book include an outstanding group of contributors to a variety of areas of philosophical thought. Ismaili Gnosis was solicited to provide the Muslim Neoplatonist perspective on Theism and is contributing a chapter on Islamic Metaphysics alongside the below authors.

  • Michael Arnheim (barrister and Deist, United Kingdom)
  • Robert G. Brown (physicist and philosopher, United States)
  • Dan Dana (Atheist writer, United States)
  • Alan Dawe (author of the award-winning “The God Franchise,” New Zealand)
  • Orlando Alcántara Fernández (Christian poet, Dominican Republic)
  • Ismaili Gnosis (Muslim Neoplatonist philosopher)
  • Zoltan Istvan (Transhumanist author, United States)
  • Bernardo Kastrup (computer scientist and philosopher of consciousness, Netherlands)
  • William…

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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)

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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.

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Quran and Imam4

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

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Abrahamic Religions

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)

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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)

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.

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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
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

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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 (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.

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MEME - Pope - Not so much2

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

    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;
    • 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.

    – 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 – www.instagram.com/ismaili.gnosis or on the Ismaili Gnosis Facebook Page.

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    MHI Tutzing Quote for article

    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


    Ismaili Gnosis Book Club Engages Membership Worldwide Image via Simerg.com

    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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