"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)
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.
“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: