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.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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.
“The Imām knows from which drop of sperm the Imām after him will come”
“His sperm was kneaded along with his intellect.”
“And we come from the Light of God.”
(Imām Ḥasan ‘alā dhikrihi al-salām)
December 13 marks the 77th birthday of Mawlānā Shāh Karīm al-Ḥusaynī (Aga Khan IV), the Haḍir Imām (Present Imām) of the Shī‘ī Ismā‘īlī Muslims. Imām Shāh Karīm is the forty-ninth hereditary Imām in direct lineal descent from Ḥaḍrat ‘Ali ibn Abi Ṭālib, the first of the Imāms in the Cycle of the Prophet Muḥammad.
“God created my spirit and the spirit of ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib two thousand years before He created humankind. He sent ‘Alī secretly with every prophet and openly with me.”
– Prophet Muhammad
The Imāmat is the office of spiritual and religious leadership recognized in Shī‘ī Islam according to which the Imām is the spiritual and religious successor (waṣī) of the Prophet Muḥammad. While prophetic revelation ended with the Prophet Muḥammad, divine inspiration, spiritual authority, religious guidance, and mystical gnosis continued in the institution of Imāmat.