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
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)
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
Ismaili Gnosis shares two testimonials from two Ismaili Muslims youth who are regular readers of the blog. Like many young people in the modern world, both readers had many questions about their faith and found answers to such questions through Ismaili Gnosis.
“I finally came upon a website called Ismaili Gnosis and I began to read the various articles about topics I previously had questions about. I also joined the Ismaili Gnosis discussion group on Facebook, and I realized that I had finally found what I was looking for.”
“Ismaili Gnosis has unceasingly provided nourishment for my soul. The content on their website, when followed in its logical progression, rebuilds one’s faith and religious convictions.”
Often persecuted and oppressed, the faith of my ancestors was never destroyed; at times it flourished as in the epoch of the Fatimite Khalifs, at times it was obscure and little understood.
Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III
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
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.
Great architecture, like great art, captures esoteric thought in physical form.
Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV
In May 2010, Imam Shah Karim al-Husayni Aga Khan IV, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shī‘ī Ismaili Muslims and the direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad and Imam Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, presided over the foundation ceremony for the Aga Khan Museum, Ismaili Centre and Jamatkhana, and Aga Khan Park being built in Toronto. The entire site – known as the Aga Khan Campus – is described by the Imam as follows:
“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.
“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:
“It was this Islamic sense of unity in all forms of life which confirmed my father’s faith in a God-governed order. [Imam Sulṭān Muhammad Shāh] achieved a synthesis which enabled him to conciliate his faith in the Almighty as well as in Darwin’s theory of the origin of the species which swept across Europe in his youth and generated such heated debate.”
(Prince Sadruddin Āgā Khān describing the beliefs of his father Imam Sulṭān Muhammad Shāh)
The recent debate between the creationist museum and popular scientist raised the question of whether the monotheistic doctrine of creation is compatible with the scientific theory of evolution. This article reconciles the traditional doctrine of Creation found in monotheistic faiths with the theory of Evolution by refuting both creationism and naturalism (atheism) and integrating Ismā‘īlī Muslim metaphysics with modern science.
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]