10 Surprising Facts to Know Before Reading the Qur’an

This article presents ten little-known all-important facts about the Holy Qur’an (the scripture of Islam), which both Muslims and non-Muslims remain generally unaware of. For those who remain skeptical about the historical existence of Prophet Muhammad and the dating/transmission of the Qur’anic Text, we first present historical evidence that Prophet Muhammad lived and preached in Arabia in the first half of the seventh century and then show manuscript evidence and academic scholarship that shows the present day Qur’anic Text dates from around 650 CE. Following this, we present ten all-important facts about the Qur’an that have been uncovered by historical scholarship, which change the way one approaches and reads the scripture of Islam.

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Esoteric Interpretations of the Qur’an: The Foundations of Shia Ismaili Ta’wil

The discourse of the Qur’an-e-Sharif, rich in parable and allegory, metaphor and symbol, has been an inexhaustible well-spring of inspiration, lending itself to a wide spectrum of interpretations.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV

You see, my mission is situated on three levels. Firstly, religious: it concerns a symbolic exegesis of the Qur’an…Our religion is esoteric, you understand. It is a perpetual initiation.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV

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Imam Ali declared the Successor of Prophet Muhammad in Sunni Hadith Literature

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)

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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.

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Night of Power: How the Qur’an was Revealed in Human Language

According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muḥammad received the first revelations of the Holy Qur’ān on the Night of Power (laylat al-qadr) which is vividly described in the sūrahs below:

Verily, We sent it down in the Night of Power
And how can we tell you what is the Night of Power?
The Night of Power is greater than a thousand months.
The Angels and the Spirit descend in it by the permission of their Lord for every affair.
Peace it is, until the rising of the dawn.

Surah al-Qadr – 97:1-5

Ha-Mim. By the Manifest Book
Verily, We sent it down in a Blessed Night. Verily, We are ever warning.
In it every wise affair is made clear.
A Command from our Presence. Verily, We are ever sending.
A Mercy from your Lord. Verily, He is the Hearer, the Knower.

al-Dukhan – 44:1-6

The traditional interpretation holds that on the Night of Power, the entirety of the Holy Qur’ān as a Scripture including all of its chapters and verses were ‘sent down’ to the lowest heaven and that the Angel Gabriel then began dictating this ‘text’ to the Prophet Muḥammad over twenty-three years. But this is merely the exoteric interpretation which is based on subjective assumptions and not actually supported by the Qur’ān itself.

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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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Validating the Shia Imamat – Part 3: The Qur’an on the Purified Descendants of the Prophets

By Mohib Ebrahim

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.

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Validating the Shia Imamat – Part 2: The Qur’an on the Purified and Rightly-Guided Possessors of Knowledge

By Mohib Ebrahim

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 second of the three aspects: interpreting the Qur’an and those with the knowledge to do so.

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Validating the Shia Imamat Part 1: The Qur’an on the Holders of Authority

By Mohib Ebrahim

Editor’s Note: Mohib Ebrahim’s article How to Validate the Shia Imamat from the Holy Qur’an presents a novel validation for the manifest Imamat of the Ismailis based on three facets of the notion of Qur’anic notion of “rightly guided, qualified leadership”. In this post, we provide excerpts related to the first of the three aspects: those vested with the authority to lead.

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How to Validate the Shia Imamat from the Holy Qur’an

By Mohib Ebrahim

Editor’s Note: On August 5th, 1923, a young 16 year old boy — the youngest honorary missionary and member of the Bombay Recreation Club, now the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) — delivered a two hour lecture to “prove the significance and the need of Imamat from the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith.” That boy was Rai. A. M. Sadaruddin, who went on to devote the rest of his life in service to the Imamat and to Ismaili studies and history, culminating in his appointment, personally by Mawlana Hazar Imam, as a member of the first Review Board of the Institute of Ismaili Studies. Learn more about that 1923 event here.

Ninety years later, to the month, we are pleased to bring to you a groundbreaking and compelling piece by Rai Sadaruddin’s grandson, Mohib Ebrahim (founder and publisher of the NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings), in which he, following in his grandfather’s footsteps, also validates Manifest Imamat and its necessity but this time from the Holy Qur’an alone. Remarkably, his fresh perspective and innovative method avoids the usual technical debates over the Arabic language and the historical record which this subject never fails to instigate.

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What is Shia Islam? A Visual Chart of Different Shia Communities

It is important, therefore, for non-Muslims who are dealing with the Ummah to communicate with both Sunni and Shia voices. To be oblivious to this reality would be like ignoring over many centuries that there were differences between Catholics and Protestants, or trying to resolve the civil war in Northern Ireland without engaging both Christian communities.

Imam Shāh Karīm al-Ḥusaynī Āgā Khān IV

This short article features a visual chart outlining the major differences between Shia and Sunni Muslims and further depicting the major divisions and branches within Shia Islam pertaining to the succession of the Shia Imamat.

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Iqra: Muhammad meditated upon the Name of God as the Qur’an was revealed

Abstract: According to traditional interpretations, the first verse of the Qur’ān (iqra bi-smi rabbika) merely commands the Prophet Muhammad to read aloud the verses of the Qur’ān.  But based on early Muslim tradition and the rules of Arabic grammar, the Qur’an’s earliest verses actually show that Muhammad was engaged in a form of mystical meditation, consisting of repeating and reciting a special Name of God, when the Qur’an was revealed to him. This interpretation has profound implications on how Muslims should understand the spirituality of a prophet: every prophet undergoes a spiritual initiation which includes rigorous spiritual training, the performance of mystical practices like meditation using a special Name of God.

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Ramadan: From Physical Fasting to Spiritual Fasting

Shahru ramaḍāna alladhī unzila fīhi’l-qur’ānu hudan lilnasi wabayyinātin mina’l-hudā wa’l-furqāni fa-man shahida minkumu’l-shahra falyaṣumhu

“The Month of Ramaḍān in which was sent down the Qur’ān a guidance for mankind, and manifest proofs of the guidance and the criterion (between truth and falsehood).  So whomever among you witnesses the Month, let him fast it.” (Holy Qur’ān 2:185)

Fasting (ṣawm) is among the seven pillars (arkān) of classical Shī‘ī Ismā‘īlī Islām and the five pillars of classical Sunnī Islām.  For Ismā‘īlī gnosis as taught by the Ismā‘īlī Muslim theosophers , each pillar (rukn) of Islām has an exoteric form (ẓāhir), an esoteric meaning (bāṭin), and a spiritual reality which is the esoteric beyond the esoteric (bāṭin al-bāṭin).

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Video: Muslim-Christian Dialogue on Jesus featuring Sunni, Ismaili, Catholic and Protestant Interpretations

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“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)

As the Christmas weekend, it is an appropriate time for Christians and Muslims to read, reflect and understand their beliefs and views on the question of Jesus – his life, spiritual status, mission, and crucifixion – and explore both the difference and the commonality. Most interfaith dialogues between Christians and Muslims feature only the majority perspectives within each faith and neglect the views of Islam’s rich esoteric heritage – as manifest in Shī‘ī Ismā‘īlī Islam and Sufi Islam. In fact, an engagement between Christianity and the esoteric traditions of Islam can lead to a more fruitful and meaningful dialogue:

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The Prophet Unveiled: What the Qur’an says about Muhammad

Muhammad

Contemporary discussions about the Prophet Muḥammad’s spiritual function, due to exoteric and literalist influences (such as Wahhabism or the Ahl al-Qur’ān school), have degenerated into a farce in which the Prophet is demoted to a mouthpiece or transmitter of the Qur’ān and nothing more. This conception reduces the august person of the Prophet Muḥammad to a ‘fax-machine’ and fails to appreciate the spiritual depth of his status as Rasūl Allāh (Messenger of God). This important article, published on the Milād al-Nabī – the birthday of the Prophet Muḥammad first commemorated by his spiritual heirs and progeny known as the Fatimid Imām-Caliphs) – seeks to unveil the metaphysical, spiritual, and religious status of the Prophet Muḥammad – based on a simple and straightforward analysis of the verses of the Holy Qur’ān. The article is divided into two sections – the Prophet-Believer Relationship and the God-Prophet Relationship. It will be shown that the Prophet Muḥammad is the “Messenger” (rasūl) of God who reveals not only the Qur’ān but God’s very “Personality” – His Names, Attributes and Qualities – to the Believers. This article assumes that Muhammad is a true Prophet and that the Qur’an is divinely-revealed – see our article Proof of Prophecy for the logical and historical evidence for Muhammad’s prophethood.

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Towards Validating Manifest Imamat from the Holy Qur’an

By Mohib Ebrahim

Editor’s Note: On August 5th, 1923, a young 16 year old boy — the youngest honorary missionary and member of the Bombay Recreation Club, now the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board (ITREB) — delivered a two hour lecture to “prove the significance and the need of Imamat from the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith.” That boy was Rai. A. M. Sadaruddin, who went on to devote the rest of his life in service to the Imamat and to Ismaili studies and history, culminating in his appointment, personally by Mawlana Hazar Imam, as a member of the first Review Board of the Institute of Ismaili Studies. Learn more about that 1923 event here.

Ninety years later, to the month, we are pleased to bring to you a groundbreaking and compelling piece by Rai Sadaruddin’s grandson, Mohib Ebrahim (founder and publisher of the NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings), in which he, following in his grandfather’s footsteps, also validates Manifest Imamat and its necessity but this time from the Holy Qur’an alone. Remarkably, his fresh perspective and innovative method avoids the usual technical debates over the Arabic language and the historical record which this subject never fails to instigate.

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The Crucifixion in Shi‘a Isma‘ili Islam

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“…the conditions of the dialogue between Christianity and Islam change completely as soon as the interlocutor represents not legalistic Islam but this spiritual Islam, whether it be that of Sufism or of Shi‘ite gnosis.”
(Henry Corbin, Spiritual Body and Celestial Earth, Prologue)

Click Here to Read the full article at The Matheson Trust:
The Crucifixion in Shi‘a Isma‘ili Islam by Khalil Andani (MTS – Islamic Studies – Harvard, 2014)

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Video: Dr. Jalaledin Ebrahim presents PhD Dissertation: “Towards An Integral Psychology of Islam”

Click Here to Watch Video Presentation
Dr. Ebrahim’s Dissertation Defense via his blog:

Al-Fatiha – The Opening (http://jalaledin.blogspot.ca)

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.

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