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The views expressed herein are based on the academic research of the Ismaili Gnosis blog and do not purport to represent any institution or community as a whole.
Q. Why do Ismā‘īlī Muslims seek the blessings and forgiveness of the Imām in the course of their prayers?
A. See the following two-part article on seeking forgiveness of the Imām:
Seeking the Forgiveness of the Imam Part 1 – Click Here to Read
Seeking the Forgiveness of the Imam Part 2 – Click Here to Read
Q. Why do Ismā‘īlī Muslims pray three times per day and not five times?
A. The five prayer times are not explicitly mentioned in the Holy Qur’ān and are derived via interpretation. The Qur’ān only mentions three specific prayer times (11:114). As there are several possible interpretations, the Ismā‘īlī Muslims follow the guidance of Mawlānā Ḥāḍir Imām who, as the legitimate authority and interpreter of the Qur’ān, has specified the number of prayers for his community to perform in the current times and contexts.
Click Here to Read an article Three Times Salat or Du’a by Mumtaz Tajddin Sadik Ali about the number of prayer times in the Qur’ān.
Q. Why don’t Ismā‘īlī Muslim women observe pardah?
A. Pardah is not Islamic concept. Click Here to Read a post by NanoWisdoms where the contemporary Ismā‘īlī Imāms explain their views on the matter:
“But purdah, as now known, itself did not exist till long after the Prophet’s death and is no part of Islam. The part played by Muslim women at Kardesiah and Yarmuk the two most momentous battles of Islam next to Badr and Honein, and their splendid nursing of the wounded after those battles, is of itself a proof to any reasonable person that purdah, as now understood, has never been conceived by the companions of the Prophet. That we Muslims should saddle ourselves with this excretion of Persian custom, borrowed by the Abbassides, is due to that ignorance of early Islam which is one of the most extraordinary of modern conditions.”
– Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh Āgā Khān III
Q. Why does Mawlānā Ḥāḍir Imām sometimes participate in Sunni Namaz?
A. The Imām does not actually practice the Sunni Namaz. On occasion, the Imām is invited to a prominent maṣjid to offer prayers with a Muslim political leader or figure, and the Imām graciously accepts the invitation. Anyone may do this with their Muslim brethren – and Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh once encouraged Ismā‘īlī leaders in Pakistan to join their Muslim brothers for Friday afternoon prayers as a sign of Muslim unity. Otherwise, Mawlānā Ḥāḍir Imām, by virtue of his pure soul, is always in a state of continuous prayer and remembrance (dhikr) of God which is the very essence of prayer. This is why the Qur’an refers to the Imams as the Ahl al-Dhikr (People of Remembrance – 16:43, 21:7), and Mawlānā ‘Alī tells us that this group never ceases from remembering God:
“Indeed, there is a special People (ahl) who belong to the dhikr; they have adopted it in place of the world, such that ‘neither trade nor merchandise’ distracts them from it. They spend the days of their life in it.”
– Imam ‘Alī ibn Abi Ṭālib,
(Reza Shah-Kazemi, Justice and Remembrance, 142)
Q. Why is the Ismā‘īlī Jamā‘atkhāna not open to non-Ismā‘īlī Muslims?
A. The Jamā‘atkhāna is only open to those who have given their bāy‘ah to the Ismā‘īlī Imām. The word bāy‘ah, in its root, means ‘buying/selling’ and the bāy‘ah is a spiritual contract or transaction between the murīd and the Imam – where each party makes a pledge to the other. The Jamā‘atkhāna hosts the rites, rituals and ceremonies which form part of the esoteric or Ṭarīqah practice of Islam as opposed to the exoteric or Sharī‘ah practice. The Jamā‘atkhāna is made open to the murīd as a part of the Imam’s pledge to the murīd and can only be legitimately accessed if the murīd has made a corresponding pledge to the Imām. In the material world of goods and services, it is true that a business transaction requires both parties to exchange something – and it is similar in the spiritual world of knowledge and guidance. For a non-murīd to have access to the Jamā‘atkhāna without the Imām’s permission would be akin to stealing or theft.
Click Here to Read an article on this subject by the Institute of Ismaili Studies Website – Muslim Spaces of Piety and Worship by Karim Jiwani – which explains that even Ṣūfī prayer houses such as ribat, zāwīyyah, khānaqah, etc. do not allow admission to Muslims who have not given bāy‘ah to the Shaykh or Pīr of that particular Sufi Brotherhood. Ismā‘īlī policies are not too different from this.
“For instance, khanaqahs of the Suhrawardi Order in India are known to restrict participation to those who have given their bay‘ah, pledge of allegiance, to the pir or shaykh of the Sufi Order. With regard to the issue of the exclusivity of such spaces, Sunni jurists have viewed it to be a matter dependent on custom.”
“The custom of meeting in closed sessions, at specially designated places, to learn about and practice their own interpretations of faith, has been part of the Ismaili tradition from pre-Fatimid times. During the Fatimid period, the Ismailis used to participate in majalis al-hikma (sessions of wisdom), which were accessible only to those who had pledged their allegiance to the Imam-of-the-time.”
Click Here to Watch a public lecture – “Shia Ismaili Islam” – where it is articulated to a University audience of mainly Sunni Muslims as to why the Ismā‘īlī Jamā‘atkhāna is not open to non-Ismā‘īlīs:
Q. What are some Ismā‘īlī Muslim teachings on fasting?
A. The Ismā‘īlī Imāms have emphasized fasting in all of its aspects, not only its ẓāhirī or physical dimension. Click Here to Read a full exposition of fasting and its significance in Ismā‘īlī thought.