Harvard Offers Course on Ismaili Islam (Ismailism) in Spring 2017

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.

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Proof of Prophecy: A Logical Argument for Muhammad’s Prophethood

This article continues from and assumes the conclusions of our previous article on the Proof of the Existence of God as Unconditioned Reality. We request readers not familiar with this argument and the concept of God as Unconditioned Reality to read it first before this article. We also recommend readers consult our earlier article 10 Surprising Facts to Know about the Qur’an, which is a companion article to this present piece.

Nature is the great daily Book of God…
God’s miracles are the very law and order of nature.

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III,
(“What have we forgotten in Islam,” Letter to H.E. Dr. Zahid Husain, April 4, 1952)

The Prophet himself never claimed any miracle of any sort. The only miracle which you have in Islam is the Qur’an.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
(CBC Interview, “Man Alive with Roy Bonisteel”, October 8, 1986)

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The Aga Khan’s Direct Descent from Prophet Muhammad: Historical Proof

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.

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Ramadan Fasting in Shia Ismaili Islam: A Historical Overview

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.

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Aga Khan Development Network: The “Mahdi-ist” Mission of the Ismaili Imamat

To the Imamat, the meaning of “quality of life” extends to the entire ethical and social context in which people live, and not only to their material well-being measured over generation after generation. Consequently, the Imamat’s is a holistic vision of development, as is prescribed by the faith of Islam. It is about investing in people, in their pluralism, in their intellectual pursuit, and search for new and useful knowledge, just as much as in material resources. But it is also about investing with a social conscience inspired by the ethics of Islam. It is work that benefits all, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, nationality or background. Does the Holy Qur’an not say in one of the most inspiring references to mankind, that Allah has created all mankind from one soul? Today, this vision is implemented by institutions of the Aga Khan Development Network.

Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
(Alltex EPX Limited Opening Ceremony, Kenya, December 19, 2003: Read Here)

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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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10 Ismaili Muslim Poets Everyone Should Know About

Poetry is the voice of God speaking through the lips of man. If great painting puts you in touch with nature, great poetry puts you in direct touch with God. It is not a soft indulgence, you need to be wide awake, with all your wits about you, to share the poet’s joys. And, indeed, happiness is never a negative affair; it is to be won by men who are fully alive, full of the joy of living.

Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III,
(Interview with The Daily Sketch November 2, 1931)

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Comparing the Imamat and the Papacy: Some Short Notes

The recent visit of Pope Francis to the United States is a suitable occasion to consider the often invoked comparisons between the Ismaili Imam and the Catholic Pope.

  • The institution of the Imamat is the succession to the Prophet Muhammad and recognizes Hazrat ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib as the first Imam. The Imamat is a hereditary office where each Imam is appointed and designated by the sole designation (nass) of the previous Imam;
  • The office of the Papacy claims to represent the succession to Jesus and recognizes Simon Peter as the first Pope and successor. The Pope is elected by a College of Cardinals;
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    The Secret Life of the Aga Khan

    Through his words, through his actions, and through the results obtained by the institutions that he has founded and encouraged and nourished, he has become a light in much of the world’s conflicting darkness.

    The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson

    Watch: Five Minute Video by Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson (Former Governor General of Canada) on the Aga Khan’s Life and Work:

    His Highness Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. This article looks at the Aga Khan’s life and mission, in which the Imam has worked quietly and tirelessly to serve and bring hope to millions of people worldwide, in the name of Islam. The Aga Khan has been widely recognized for his efforts in providing spiritual guidance and material assistance to the Ismaili Muslims, who are today spread over 25 countries, and for his vast contributions to quality of life in various communities worldwide. These include (courtesy of Ismailimail):

    • 28 Title and State Decorations including being made an honourary Companion to the Order of Canada (2005) and Honourary Canadian Citizenship (2009);
    • 21 honorary degrees, from universities representing the US Ivy League, Canadian Group of 13, UK’s Russell Group, and others;
    • 16 civic honours, representing 9 investures as Foreign Member to several state academies (for the creation of new knowledge – promoting research and stimulating the enhancement of thought, literature, language and other forms of national culture) and 3 Leadership posts at influential European Institutions to promote diplomacy, culture and development;
    • 30 awards spanning domains such as architecture and the built environment, restoration and the revival of culture, education, health, diplomacy and peace, philanthropy, sports, corporate enterprise
    • delivered over 70 high profile keynote addresses.

    Overnight my whole life changed completely. I woke up with serious responsibilities toward millions of other human beings.

    – Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV,
    (Sports Illustrated Interview, August 10, 1964, NanoWisdoms
    http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/10341/
    )

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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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    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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    Why Faith Must be Validated with Reason and Knowledge

    [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

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    The Shia Imamat: A Timeline of Major Divisions and Developments

    From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up, but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.

    Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV
    Address to both Houses of the Canadian Parliament and Senate, February 27, 2014
    http://www.nanowisdoms.org/nwblog/10724/

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    Mourning for Ma‘rifah: Imam Husayn at Karbala

    “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.

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    The Ismaili Imamat’s Guidance against Drinking Alcohol

    The Imam’s word on the Faith is taken as an absolute rule. Every Ismaili is expected to accept it.

    Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan

    The greatest danger to every Muslim citizen – I have not the least hesitation in saying it – is alcohol.

    Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan

    Our belief is that the thing which separates man from the animals is his power of thought. Anything that impedes this process is wrong. Therefore alcohol is forbidden. I have never touched alcohol.

    Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan

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