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.
As 2016 comes to a close, Ismaili Gnosis presents the website’s 7 most popular articles in 2016 based on the number of views from our readership.
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.
Certain Muslim groups in present times have publicly monopolized and “normalized” an image of Islam where Islam equals the so-called “Five Pillars”: the Shahadah, ritual prayer (salah, namaz), pilgrimage (hajj) to Makkah, alms-giving (zakah), and fasting (sawm) from dawn to dusk in Ramadan. However, the idea of Islam = Five Pillars is a historical construct. The Qur’an never defines Islam as “five pillars” and hadiths where the Prophet Muhammad defines Islam as “Five Pillars” only start circulating at 200 years after the Prophet Muhammad’s death. When one sees how Islam has been practiced through 1,400 years of history and continues to be practiced today, the equation of Islam with “five pillars” simply does not hold up to reality.
“The night of mi’raj is the one on which the Prophet revisited his original abode … It is not that only Hazrat ‘Ali’s progeny can attain this status. Whoever is determined enough will be able to reach the goal. It can come in stages, through repeated efforts.”
– Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III, (September 29, 1899)
In the traditional, exoteric (zahir) understanding of Mi’raj (ascension), the Prophet Muhammad travels from the Ka’bah in Makkah to the Sacred Masjid in Jerusalem on the winged horse Buraq. In Jerusalem, after the Prophet Muhammad led a prayer of all Prophets, Buraq ascended with the Prophet through the seven heavens, after which the Prophet experienced his vision of Allah. However, in Ismaili philosophy, the mi’raj considers this understanding as symbolic of a deeper, esoteric (batin) explanation, or ta’wil. Read more below.
Say: He is God, the Unique (al-ahad). God is Absolute (al-samad).
He does not beget nor is He begotten and there is none like unto Him.
– Holy Qur’an Surat al-Ikhlas
The Imam Ma‘add [al-Mu‘izz] summons
to the absolute oneness of God (tawhid), the Absolute (al-samad).
– Fatimid Coin Inscription
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
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.
Come, I will show you that which is truly the House of God,
Not what you imagine to be the House of God.
Is a House of stone more sacred than the chosen guide
[Muhammad] who established the House?
Sayyidna al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi
(Diwan al-Mu’ayyad, tr. M. Adra, Mount of Knowledge, Sword of Eloquence , 189)
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.
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
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.
[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
“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.
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]
“…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)
This post will address the exoteric (ẓāhir), the esoteric (bāṭin), and the reality (ḥaqīqah) of prayer (ṣalāh) and their relationship to the rituals of the sharī‘ah, the practices of the ṭarīqah, and the realities (ḥaqā’iq) of universal spirituality. In specific, the esoteric relationship between the formal Ṣalāh and the Ismā‘īlī Du‘ā’ will be addressed in great detail.
“Islam is based upon seven pillars: walayah – and this is the most excellent; through it and through the walī (the Imām), the true knowledge of the pillars can be obtained: ṭaharah (purification), ṣalah (prayer), zakah (purifying dues), ṣawm (fasting), hajj (pilgrimage), and jihād (striving).”
– Imām Muḥammad al-Bāqir,
(Qādi al-Nu‘man, Da‘ā’im al-Islām, Prologue, 2)
In the present time, many people have sought to reduce the entire meaning of Islam to the practice of the so-called ‘Five Pillars of Islam’. In doing so, they flatten and hollow out the theological and intellectual depth of the faith. As Islam has developed historically, the Pillars have never constituted the entirety of religion. The Pillars ( belong to a grander and more comprehensive religious framework which includes both theological truths and ritual practices. This framework traditionally consists of the Roots of Religion (Uṣūl al-Dīn) and the Branches of Religion (Furū‘ al-Dīn) and is articulated using the Qur’ānic metaphor of a tree:
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.