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.


Course Website: RELIGION 1816 Ismaili History and Thought
This course explores the doctrines and practices of the Ismailis, adherents of a minority branch of Shia Islam that recognizes the continuation of religious authority after the Prophet Muhammad through a particular line of his descendants known as the Imams. Focusing on their historical evolution and manifestations in diverse political, cultural and social contexts, the course will consider three major communities: the Nizari Ismailis (in Syria, Iran, Central Asia, and South Asia); the Tayyibi (Daudi Bohra) Ismailis (in Yemen and South Asia) and the Druze (in Syria and Lebanon). Principal themes to be considered include conceptions of the Imamah and notions of authority, messianic doctrines, philosophy, ritual practice and devotional traditions. The course will also briefly consider the contemporary situation of these communities as minorities in North America and Europe.

Course Highlights:

Week 1: The Ismailis: Myths and Realities
Week 2: Authority in Islam: Overview
Week 3: The Shia Imamat – Imam ‘Ali to Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq
Week 4: Ismaili History: Pre-Fatimid Period
Week 5: Ismaili History: Fatimid Period – History and Governance
Week 6: Ismaili History: Fatimid Period – Ismaili Da‘wah Institutions
Week 7: Ismaili History: Post-Fatimid Period – Nizari Ismailis
Week 8: Ismaili History: Post-Fatimid Period – Tayyibi Ismailis
Week 9: Ismaili Theology and Philosophy
Week 10: Ismaili Approaches to the Qur’an
Week 11: Ismaili Devotional Literatures: Arabic, Persian, and Indic
Week 12: Contemporary Ismailism 1: Dawoodi Bohras
Week 13: Contemporary Ismailism 2: Nizari Ismailis


Selected Sample of Course Readings:

Farhad Daftary, A Short History of the Ismailis (Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 1998)

Arzina Lalani, Early Shi‘i Thought: The Teachings of Imam Muhammad al-Baqir (London, New York: IB Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2000)

Jonah Blank, Mullahs on the Mainframe: Islam and Modernity among the Daudi Bohras (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002)

Farhad Daftary (ed.), A Modern History of the Ismailis (London, New York: IB Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2010)

Farhad Daftary, The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Ismailis (IB Tauris, 1994), 88-130: Read Here

William Graham, Divine Word and Prophetic Word in Early Islam (De Gruyter, 1977), 1-39: Read Here

Mohammad Ali Amir-Moezzi, “Reflections on the Expression din ‘Ali: The Origins of the Shi‘i Faith,” in The Spirituality of Shi‘i Islam (London, New York: I.B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2011), 3-44: Read Here

Andani, Khalil. “A Survey of Ismaili Studies (Part 1): Early Ismailism and Fatimid Ismailism.” Religion Compass Vol. 10, Issue 8, August 2016, 191-206: Read Here

Andani, Khalil. “A Survey of Ismaili Studies (Part 2): Post-Fatimid Ismailism and Modern Ismailism.” Religion Compass Vol. 10, Issue 11, November 2016, 269-282: Read Here

Shainool Jiwa, “Inclusive Governance: A Fatimid Illustration,” in A Companion to the Muslim World, ed. Dr Amyn Sajoo. I.B. Tauris in association with The Institute of Ismaili Studies, 2009: Read Here

Jennifer Pruitt, “Method in Madness: Reconsidering Church Destructions in the Fatimid Era,” Muqarnas 30, 119-140: Read Here

Daniel De Smet, ‘Isma‘ili Theology,’ in The Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology, ed. S. Schmidtke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014): Read Here

David Hollenberg, Beyond the Qur’an: Early Isma‘ili Ta’wil and the Secrets of the Prophets (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2016), 36-78: Read Here

Ali S. Asani, “Satpanth Ismaili Songs to Hazrat Ali and the Imams,” in Barbara D. Metcalf (ed.), Islam in South Asia in Practice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009), 48-62.

Ali S. Asani, “From Satpanthi to Ismaili Muslim: The Articulation of Ismaili Khoja Identity in South Asia,” in Modern History of the Ismailis, ed. Farhad Daftary (London, New York: IB Tauris in association with the Institute of Ismaili studies, 2010), 95-128: Read Here

Daryoush Mohammad Poor, Authority without Territory: The Aga Khan Development Network and the Ismaili Imamat (New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2014): Read Here

Note: For a summary history of the entire Ismaili Imamat based on the latest Ismaili studies scholarship, see our article Historical Proof of the Aga Khan’s Direct Descent from Prophet Muhammad.

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

  1. How can I get into Ismaili courses
    As being and Ismaili I can educate my kids better and be a help to our new was Ismaili
    Generation ( khawad Ali Pabani)

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