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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Ya Ali Madad: The Rationale for Praying to God and Calling upon the Imams in Prayer

We are the Gates of God. We are the medium for His people. He who approaches Him through us is brought near Him. He who seeks our intercession is interceded for. He who seeks His favours through us is favoured by Him. He who turns away from us goes astray.

– Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq

The purpose of this article is two-fold: first, to explain the metaphysics and philosophy of praying to God through supplication or petitionary prayer (du‘a’) and secondly, to explain the metaphysical and Qur’anic basis for seeking the help and blessings of the Imam of the Time and intercessors in general – the Prophets, the Shi‘i Imams, the Sufi saints (awliya’) etc.

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Scholars from IIS, Indiana and Harvard host two Ismailism Panels at MESA Conference on November 23

MESA’s 48th annual meeting will commence in Washington, DC at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on November 22-25, 2014. This year’s panel presentations feature several scholars from the IIS, Harvard and Indiana including Nadia E. Jamal, Shainool Jiwa, Paul E. Walker, Khalil Andani, Daniel Beben and others. Both Ismailism panels take place on Sunday, November 23 at 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM respectively.

1. Discovering and Reinterpreting Key Sources of Ismaili Thought and History

Organizer: Paul Walker (University of Chicago)
Time: Sunday November 23, 8:30 AM
Click here for details

2. Ismaili History and Thought

Organizers: Daniel Beben (Indiana University), Khalil Andani (Harvard University)
Time: Sunday November 23, 4:30 PM
Click here for details

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Survey: Ismailism Topics of Interest

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.

http://bit.ly/1xKLDyM

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Ten Reasons why Human Consciousness or Mind is not Physical

Arguments for the Immateriality of the Human Mind or Consciousness:

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“Mechanists consider mind to be a part of the body, but this is a mistake. The brain is a part of the body, but mind and brain are not identical. The brain breathes mind like the lungs breathe air.”
– Huston Smith

Certain people today hold to a belief that the human mind or consciousness is nothing more than physical brain activity, and that such brain activity occurs deterministically – in which mechanistic particles and neural firings in the brain are solely responsible for human thoughts, beliefs, intentions, and behaviors. In such a worldview, free will is nothing but an illusion and human beings are nothing more than automatons controlled  by the determinstic laws of classical physics. However, this belief in the material determinism and the denial of the substance of human consciousness can be defeated by a number of arguments – one of which is the immateriality of human consciousness.

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Esoteric Thought in Physical Form: The Aga Khan Campus in Toronto

Great architecture, like great art, captures esoteric thought in physical form.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV

In May 2010, Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shī‘ī Ismaili Muslims and the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and Imam Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, presided over the foundation ceremony for the Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana, and Aga Khan Park being built in Toronto. The entire site – known as the Aga Khan Campus – is described by the Imam as follows:

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Light upon Light: Glimpses into the Succession of the Shia Ismaili Imams

“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.

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Does the Soul Exist? Consciousness, Brain and Quantum Physics

“Whatever may or may not be the soul’s future, there is one impregnable central fact in existence: that here and now, in this world, we have a soul which has a life of its own in its appreciation of truth, beauty, harmony and good against evil.”
– Imam Sultan Muḥammad Shah Aga Khan III

“The structure of quantum theory opens the door to the possibility that all causes and reasons need not be purely mechanical. Thoughts and intentions are themselves actual realities, and as such they ought to be able to have, in their own right, real actual consequences. Quantum theory allows this, and in actual scientific practice demands it.”
– Henry Stapp

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“He who is above all else”: The Strongest Argument for the Existence of God

“I think that monotheistic religions, having a common reference to a single 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.”
– Imām Shāh Karīm al-Ḥusaynī Āgā Khān IV, 

(Interview with Correre della Sera, Massimo Nava, October 22, 2001)

The concept of one God who transcends space, time, multiplicity, and contingency, and gives existence to all things is the foundation of the shared worldview of the monotheistic traditions including Hinduism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam. It is also the pivot around which people of all faiths should rally in order to oppose the atheistic, materialist, relativist and naturalist ideologies appealing to many people today. This article offers a strong deductive and philosophical argument for the existence of God. [If you think philosophy is unimportant or incapable of providing sound knowledge, then please read here first.] Contrary to what many modern people believe, the existence of God can be rationally and logically demonstrated: faith in God is not a matter of ‘blind faith’ or taqlid. According to Imām Shāh Karīm al-Ḥusaynī Āgā Khān IV, logic underlines the very foundation of Islamic belief:

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An Ismaili Muslim Reconciliation of Creation and Evolution

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“It was this Islamic sense of unity in all forms of life which confirmed my father’s faith in a God-governed order. [Imam Sulṭān Muhammad Shāh] achieved a synthesis which enabled him to conciliate his faith in the Almighty as well as in Darwin’s theory of the origin of the species which swept across Europe in his youth and generated such heated debate.”
(Prince Sadruddin Āgā Khān describing the beliefs of his father Imam Sulṭān Muhammad Shāh)

The recent debate between the creationist museum and popular scientist raised the question of whether the monotheistic doctrine of creation is compatible with the scientific theory of evolution. This article reconciles the traditional doctrine of Creation found in monotheistic faiths with the theory of Evolution by refuting both creationism and naturalism (atheism) and integrating Ismā‘īlī Muslim metaphysics with modern science.

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Why Philosophy is Important

[Education] must also stimulate students to consider a variety of perspectives on some of the fundamental questions posed by the human condition: “What is truth?” “What is reality?” and “What are my duties to my fellow man, to my country and to God?”

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
Aga Khan Academies Vision Statement, 2003
http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/6525/

Most people, when hearing the word philosophy, think of a highly abstract and purely theoretical body of ideas that have little or no impact upon their everyday lives. This may be true of the academic study of philosophy in some universities, but philosophy itself is embedded in all human activity — most people are simply unaware of it. Philosophy is ultimately about what is true, what is real, and what is good. It is philosophy that offers one an overarching framework to interpret and manage the other realms of human endeavor. Every person actually has a philosophy which is tacit and implicit in their entire way of living.

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Ibn al-‘Arabi and Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah on Continual Creation and Escaping from Boredom

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“God does not become bored that you should become bored.”
– Prophet Muḥammad 

“Never in my long life – I may say with complete honesty – have  I for an instant been bored…”
 – Imām Sultān Muḥammad Shāh Āgā Khān III

Muḥyī al-Dīn Ibn al-‘Arabī, the great Sufi mystic and theosopher, explains how getting “bored” is the symptom of the person who fails to realize that God’s creative act is perpetual and renewed at every instant and that therefore, no moment or experience of the Cosmos is identical to another. If one realized that all things are anew at every instant, one would never experience boredom.

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The Concept of God in the Teachings of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III

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Ismā‘īlī Gnosis presents Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh’s teachings on the concept of God as found in his public speeches, interviews and writings. 

Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh Āgā Khān III (1877-1957) was the forty-eighth hereditary Imām of the Shi‘ī Ismā‘īlī Muslims and the predecessor of the present Imām Shāh Karīm al-Husayni Āgā Khān IV.  Within the chain of hereditary Imāms in the Cycle of Prophet Muḥammad, the Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh occupies an exalted degree as the Ḥujjat al-Qā’im (Proof of the Qā’im) and the living Laylat al-Qadr (Night of Power).  According to prophecies made by al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirāzi and Nāṣir-i Khusraw, the Ḥujjat al-Qā’im would be the “master of universal explanation and true unveiling” (ṣāḥib al-bayān al-kull wa’l-kashf al-ḥaqīqī) and greater than a thousand Imāms in knowledge. With respect to his pre-eminent position over all the Imāms, Mawlānā Hazar Imām has referred to Imām Sulṭān Muḥammad Shāh as “the finest Imām we have had”. [Click Here to Read about the exalted spiritual status of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah]

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Video: Presentation on the Isma‘ili Thought of Nasir-i Khusraw

On November 1, 2012, Khalil Andani delivered a student presentation at Harvard on the Isma‘ili thought of Sayyidna Nasir-i Khusraw.

His presentation – Reconciling Revelation and Philosophy in Isma‘ili Thought – covers the following areas:
a) Historical context of Isma‘ili thought
b) The life of Nasir-i Khusraw
c) The Concept of Tawhid
d) The Concept of Creation
e) Human Intellect and Divine Authority

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The Greatness of Ismā‘īlī Muslim Thought: A Tribute to the Ismā‘īlī Philosophers

Click Here To Read the Full Article at Simerg.com

Excerpts from the article:

These Isma‘ili Muslim thinkers did not always agree on everything. In fact, they often used to discuss and debate on many points of disagreement. But such disagreement was governed by a higher sense of responsibility, an ethic of humility, in which they realized that – apart from the Imam himself – a single person cannot grasp all the realities of knowledge.

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The Eternal Imam: Songs of Krishna – Sermons of ‘Alī

Imām ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib once proclaimed this soul-quaking utterance in his “Sermon of the Great Explanation”:

“I am the Sign of the All-Powerful. I am the Gnosis of the Mysteries. I am the Threshold of Thresholds. I am the companion of the radiance of the divine Majesty. I am the First and the Last, the Manifest and the Hidden. I am the Face of God. I am the mirror of God, the supreme Pen, the Tabula secreta.”
– Imām ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib,
(Khuṭbah al-Bayān, Shah-Kazemi, Justice and Remembrance, 187)

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What is Ismā‘īli Gnosis?

Gnosis – Arabic: ma‘rifah, Persian: shinākht, Sanskrit: jnāna, Hebrew: hokmah

Gnosis is that ‘supreme knowledge’ ‘which unifies and sanctifies’ the human being. (Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred, 41)

Gnosis is not acquired by discursive learning, but it is innate to the human soul and intellect.  Gnosis is ‘the basis of the intellect (‘aql)’ and is ‘unwavering in man’.   Gnosis is not merely a discursive or rational (fikrī) knowing, but rather, it is direct awareness or recognition. (Sayyidnā Nāsir-i Khusraw, Jami‘ al-Hikmatayn, Chapter 22)

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