“The Imām knows from which drop of sperm the Imām after him will come”
“His sperm was kneaded along with his intellect.”
“And we come from the Light of God.”
(Imām Ḥasan ‘alā dhikrihi al-salām)
December 13 marks the 77th birthday of Mawlānā Shāh Karīm al-Ḥusaynī (Aga Khan IV), the Haḍir Imām (Present Imām) of the Shī‘ī Ismā‘īlī Muslims. Imām Shāh Karīm is the forty-ninth hereditary Imām in direct lineal descent from Ḥaḍrat ‘Ali ibn Abi Ṭālib, the first of the Imāms in the Cycle of the Prophet Muḥammad.
Each Imām, with respect to his subtle soul, is the bearer or locus of manifestation (mazhar) of the eternal Light (nūr) of Imāmah – otherwise known as the Universal Intellect (al-‘aql al-kull), the Muhammadan Reality (al-ḥaqīqah al-Muḥammadīyyah), the Eternal Imām, etc. which is the first originated being (al-mubda‘ al-awwal) in the metaphysical hierarchy of existence (Click Here to Read Further).
The Imām is the Pole (qutb) of both the physical world and the spiritual world. The sanctity (walāyah) of all saints derives from his walāyah and the inner meaning (ta’wīl) of all religions and revelations is preserved by his knowledge (‘ilm). The Imām provides spiritual and temporal guidance to the believers and his Light inspires and illuminates human souls to achieve spiritual elevation and actualization.
Although Imām Shāh Karīm formally succeeded to the office of the Imāmat on July 11, 1957, the Light (nūr) of Imāmat is something that all the Imāms carry at birth – although at this time their formal status as Imāms is not known publicly.
It must be remembered that the reality which is described as the Light of Imāmat is not a material entity which must be restricted to a single individual, but rather, it can be manifest in several generations at the same time. From a spiritual standpoint, the Imāms are born as Imāms and are always Imāms; they are all bearers of the Light since birth and even before that. The twenty-third Nizārī Ismā‘īlī Imām Ḥasan ‘ala-dhikrihi al-salām makes this clearly evident in his Blessed Epistles (fusūl-i mubārak):
The essential nature of the Imām will never change, even when he is a drop of sperm in the loins of his father, or a fetus in the womb of his mother… The Imāms, both outwardly and inwardly, both exoterically and esoterically, issue from the pure line and loins of the Imām, one after another. The Imām is perfect when still in the form of sperm in the loins of his father and the pure womb of his mother. An Imām is always an Imām and always perfect. Otherwise, why should he say, ‘The Imām knows from which drop of sperm the Imām after him will come?’ If his being in the form of a drop of sperm or adult were not the same, he would not have said: ‘His sperm was kneaded along with his intellect.’ Their status looks different according to the way that our eyes perceive them… But once you come to the realization that that drop of sperm in the loins of his father is but one and the same Light, ‘a Light that transmigrates from loins to loins,’ and even though the mother’s womb into which this Light enters may be perceived by you as imperfect, you may still affirm these words: ‘And we come from the Light of God.’ For can the Light of God be affected by anything? Can the Light of God be dimmed by any cause or circumstance? It is nonsensical to maintain otherwise my friend. Or can this intellectual sperm be more perfect when it becomes a mature person? Or can anything be hidden from the Light of God, that at some time he (the Imām) is cognizant of a truth and another time incognizant, or that some of them know and others do not? This matter of the perfection of Imāmat is not what some people have supposed.”
– Imām Ḥasan ‘alā dhikrihi al-salām,
(Nasīr al-Dīn Tūsī, Rawda-yi Taslīm, tr. S.J. Badakhchani, The Paradise of Submission, 125)
Thus, Mawlānā Shāh Karīm al-Husayni has been the bearer of the Light (nūr) of Imāmat since his birth on December 13, 1936 and even as an infant (as in the below picture):
We invite our readers to read further about the institution of Imāmat, the history of the succession of the Ismā‘īlī Imāms, the theology and metaphysics of the Light (nūr) of Imāmat, and related issues in the article Light upon Light: Glimpses into the Succession of the Ismaili Imams.