"Ismailism pioneered the most daring metaphysical thought in Islam. Its voice, at once original and traditional, should be heard again today — a task of which it seems that the young Ismā‘īlīs are aware." (Henry Corbin)
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.
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)
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
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.
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 ‘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)
In honour of the Aga Khan’s upcoming Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University, Ismaili Gnosis presents the following primer on the Aga Khan and the Shia Ismaili Muslims. We encourage our readers to share this article widely.
Ismaili Gnosis conveys Khushali Mubarak on the occasion of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s birthday. As December 13 is a time when Ismailis all around the world reflect upon the occasion of the birth of the Imam of the Time, Ismaili Gnosis offers a selection of readings on the intellectual validation and esoteric understanding of the Ismaili Imamat.
Ismaili Gnosis has created a short survey to determine the sort of topics, subjects and issues most relevant to those wishing to learn more about Ismailism. Please take one minute to fill out the survey as this information will allow Ismaili Gnosis to gear its future articles to your needs. The survey is completely anonymous. Please note that this survey is not related to any Ismaili community institutions.
From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up, but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.
“We are the House of Muhammad and as such are more entitled to the authority (walāyah) of this affair over you than these pretenders who claim what does not belong to them… By God there is no son of a Prophet other than me among you and among the peoples from East to West.
Imām al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī
The tenth day of Muḥarram, known as the Day of ‘Āshūra’ is when the Battle of Karbala took place – in which Imām al-Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī, the second hereditary Imām of the Shī‘ī Muslims, along with his family and supporters, was brutally massacred by the armies of Yazīd ibn Mu‘āwiya ibn Abī Sufyān.
Our branch of Shia Islam, in that particular generation of the family, accepted the legitimacy of the eldest son, Isma‘il, as being the appointed Imam to succeed and that is why they are known as Ismailis.
Forty-Ninth Hereditary Imam of the Shi‘i Isma‘ili Muslims
Dedication: This article is dedicated to the loving memory of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Hakeem Seth Carney (1979-2007) whose hidden services and loving devotion to the Isma‘ili Imamat shall always be remembered. He will forever be a spiritual (ruhani) presence in the Isma‘ili Muslim Jamat.
The Isma‘ili Muslims take their name from the fact that they affirm the Imamat of Mawlana Isma‘il ibn Ja‘far as the hereditary Imām after the Imām Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq – as opposed to the Twelvers who believe that Musa al-Kāẓim was the Imām after Imām al-Sadiq. The issue became complicated because most historical sources confirm that the Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq publically designated his son Isma‘il as his successor. But most sources also say that Ismā‘īl died before his father. Therefore, at the death of the Imam Ja‘far al-Ṣādiq, the Shi‘ah community split into a number of factions – each following a different Imam. Many who followed Isma‘il and upheld his Imamat did not believe that Ismā‘īl had actually died, while others affirmed Isma‘il’s death and followed his son Muhammad ib. Ismā‘īl as the Imam. The group of Shi‘ah known as the Isma‘ilis trace the line of Imamat through the direct descendants of Isma‘il ibn Ja‘far and his son Muhammad ibn Isma‘il and today recognize their lineal descendant, Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV, as the Present, Living and Manifest Imam of Shi‘i Islam.
“In the early hours of July 11, the Aga’s heart-beat weakened. Aly and Sadruddin were summoned to the Barakat but their dying father could no longer speak. Karim came and the Begum was still keeping up her vigil. Four doctors were in attendance and nurses left the sick-room only to change their clothes or take a bite. At midday, the Aga Khan was sleeping peacefully. Forty minutes later his life slipped quietly away… The curtains were drawn and darkness fell over a great figure of the age.” Willi Frischauer, (The Aga Khans, 1970, p. 206)
The above narrative describes one of the most difficult moments faced by every generation of Isma‘ili Muslim communities: the death of the Imam. This moment is immediately followed by another of equal intensity: the succession of the next Imam.
Editor’s Note: Mohib Ebrahim’s article How to Validate the Shia Imamat from the Holy Qur’an presents a novel validation for the manfiest Imamat of the Ismailis based on three facets of the notion of Qur’anic notion of “rightly guided, qualified leadership”. In this we provide excerpts related to the third of the three aspects: the Purified.