"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)
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
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
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[Y]ou must have in every walk of your life a logical concept. This does not mean to wipe away faith, but the real principle of Islam is that faith is logical. Islam would not be what it is if it were not logical and this is something you must keep in mind. [B]ecause the very heart of Islam is logical. There is no hocus-pocus. There is no nonsense. It is clear and it is lucid and it is understandable. (Emphasis added.)
Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV, Pakistan, 1960
North America’s first Ismaili Studies Conference will take place on October 16 and 17 at the University of Chicago. Organized by University of Chicago Doctoral Candidates Shiraz Hajiani and Michael J. Bechtel, the Ismaili Studies Conference features Five Panels and a concluding Roundtable Discussion.
Arguments for the Immateriality of the Human Mind or Consciousness:
“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.
“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
“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:
Harvard University is offering a university course called Ismaili History and Thought for the Spring 2014 semester beginning in January. The course is designed and taught by Professor Ali S. Asani(Professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures) and is open to Harvard undergraduate and graduate students.
[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?”
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.
On Thursday, March 14, Khalil Andani (Master’s Candidate, Harvard University) delivered a presentation on the concept of Knowledge (‘ilm) according to Sayyidnā Nāṣir-i Khusraw. This presentation took place during the 17th annual NMCGSA Graduate Symposium held at the University of Toronto.
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
Dr. Ebrahim’s hermeneutic study explores the shadow of Islam’s trajectory from its conception to the Arab Spring, within the context of its complex history and cultural diversity. It critically examines the opening chapter of the Qur’an, considered by Muslims to be a direct revelation of the Divine Will. Comprised of seven verses known as al-Fatiha, The Opening, it is thought to contain the quintessence of the entire Qur’an. Muslims recite al-Fatiha multiple times in daily canonical prayers, guiding and inspiring the psyche of 1.65 billion adherents of Islam. Using the eco-archetypal image of the Gardens of Paradise, the soul’s ultimate destination, the hermeneutic methodology engages alchemical, imaginal and ecological dialogues to approach the sacred text from various perspectives of the depth and transpersonal psychological tradition.
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.
Henry Corbin introduces and summarizes an Ismā‘īlī Muslim response to a polemical work undertaken against the Ismā‘īlīs by the famous theologian Abū Ḥāmid al-Ghazālī (d. 505/1111).
Al-Ghazālī’s work against the Isma‘ilis was titled Kitab faḍā’iḥ al-bāṭiniyya wa faḍā’il al-mustaẓhiriyya (“The Shames of the Bāṭinites and the Excellence of the Supporters of al-Mustaẓhir”) and the Ismā‘īlī response by Da‘ī ‘Alī ibn Muḥammad ibn al-Walīd, the fifth dā‘ī al-mutāliq of the Mustalian Isma ‘ilis in Yemen, was titled Damigh al-batil wa half al-munazil (“The Destroyer of Error and the Death of He Who Would Defend It”).
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)