Ismāʿīlism (Arabic: الإسماعيلية al-Ismāʿīliyya;
Persian: اسماعیلیان; Sindhi: اسماعيلي;
Esmāʿīliyān) is a branch of Shia Islam. The Ismāʿīlī
(/ˌɪsmeɪˈɪli/) get their name from their acceptance of Imam
Isma'il ibn Jafar
Isma'il ibn Jafar as the appointed spiritual successor (Imām) to
Ja'far al-Sadiq, wherein they differ from the Twelvers who accept Musa
al-Kadhim, younger brother of Isma'il, as the true Imām.
Tracing its earliest theology to the lifetime of Muhammad, Ismailism
rose at one point to become the largest branch of Shī‘ism,
climaxing as a political power with the
Fatimid Caliphate in the tenth
through twelfth centuries. Ismailis believe in the oneness of God,
as well as the closing of divine revelation with Muhammad, whom they
see as "the final Prophet and Messenger of
God to all humanity". The
Ismāʿīlī and the Twelvers both accept the same initial Imams from
the descendants of
Muhammad through his daughter
Fatimah and therefore
share much of their early history. Both groups see the family of
Muhammad (the Ahl al-Bayt) as divinely chosen, infallible (ismah), and
God to lead the Islamic community (Ummah), a belief that
distinguishes them from the majority
Sunni branch of Islam.
After the death of
Muhammad ibn Isma'il
Muhammad ibn Isma'il in the 8th century CE, the
teachings of Ismailism further transformed into the belief system as
it is known today, with an explicit concentration on the deeper,
esoteric meaning (batin) of the Islamic religion. With the eventual
development of Twelverism into the more literalistic (zahir) oriented
Akhbari and later
Usuli schools of thought, Shi'i
Islam developed into
two separate directions: the metaphorical
Ismaili group focusing on
the mystical path and nature of God, with the "Imām of the Time"
representing the manifestation of esoteric truth and intelligible
reality, with the more literalistic
Twelver group focusing on divine
law (sharia) and the deeds and sayings (sunnah) of
Muhammad and the
Twelve Imams who were guides and a light to God.
Ismaili thought is
heavily influenced by neoplatonism.
Though there are several paths (tariqat) within Ismailism, the term in
today's vernacular generally refers to the Nizaris, who recognize Aga
Khan IV as the 49th hereditary Imam and is the largest Ismaili
group. In recent centuries Ismāʿīlīs have largely been a Pakistani
and Indian community, but Ismailis are also found in Bangladesh,
Malaysia, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Jordan, Iraq, East Africa,
Angola, Lebanon, and South Africa, and have in recent years emigrated
to Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and
Trinidad and Tobago. There are also a significant number of
Ismāʿīlīs in Central Asia.
1.1 Succession crisis
Karbala and afterward
1.2.1 The Battle of Karbala
1.2.2 The beginnings of Ismāʿīlī Daʿwah
1.3 Ascension of the Dais
1.4 The Qarmatians
1.5 The Fatimid Caliphate
1.5.1 Rise of the Fatimid Caliphate
Middle East under Fatimid rule
1.5.3 Decline of the Caliphate
1.6.1 Hassan-i Sabbah
Hashasheen / Assassiyoon
1.6.3 Threshold of the Imāmate
1.6.4 Destruction by the Mongols
2.1 View on the Qur'an
Ginans and Qasidas
2.6 Pir and Dawah
2.10 Dasond (Zakat)
Taharah or Shahada
4.1 Muhammad-Shahi Nizari/Mumini
5.1 Dawoodi Bohra
5.3 Alavi Bohra
5.4 Hebtiahs Bohra
5.6 Progressive Dawoodi Bohra
7 Extinct branches
8 Inclusion in
Amman Message and Islamic Ummah
9 Ismailism amongst Shia Islam
10 See also
13 External links
Further information: Mustaali, Taiyabi Ismaili, Nizari, History of
Nizari Ismailism, and Ismā‘īlī Constitution
Main article: Succession to Muhammad
Ismailism shares its beginnings with other early Shi‘i sects that
emerged during the succession crisis that spread throughout the early
Muslim community. From the beginning, the Shia asserted the right of
Ali, cousin of Muhammad, to have both political and spiritual control
over the community. This also included his two sons, who were the
Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah.
The conflict remained relatively peaceful between the partisans of
Ali and those who asserted a semi-democratic system of electing
caliphs, until the third of the Rashidun caliphs,
Uthman was killed,
and ‘Alī, with popular support, ascended to the caliphate.
Soon after his ascendancy, Aisha, the third of the Prophet's wives,
claimed along with Uthman's tribe, the Ummayads, that
Ali should take
Qisas (blood for blood) from the people responsible for Uthman's
Ali voted against it as he believed that situation at that
time demanded a peaceful resolution of the matter. Both parties could
rightfully defend their claims, but due to escalated
Battle of the Camel
Battle of the Camel was fought and
defeated but was respectfully escorted to
Medina by Ali.[citation
Following this battle, Muawiya, the Umayyad governor of Syria, also
staged a revolt under the same pretences. ‘
Ali led his forces
Muawiya until the side of
Muawiya held copies of the Quran
against their spears and demanded that the issue be decided by Islam's
holy book. ‘
Ali accepted this, and an arbitration was done which
ended in his favor.
A group among Ali's army believed that subjecting his legitimate
authority to arbitration was tantamount to apostasy, and abandoned his
forces. This group was known as the
Khawarij and ‘
Ali wished to
defeat their forces before they reached the cities where they would be
able to blend in with the rest of the population. While he was unable
to do this, he nonetheless defeated their forces in subsequent
Regardless of these defeats, the Kharijites survived and became a
violently problematic group in Islamic history. After plotting an
assassination against ‘Ali, Muawiya, and the arbitrator of their
conflict, only ‘
Ali was successfully assassinated in 661 CE, and the
Imāmate passed on to his son Hasan and then later his son Husayn, or
according to the
Nizari Ismāʿīlī, the
Imamate passed temporarily
to Hasan, who was an Entrusted Imam (al-imam al-mustawda), and
afterwards to Husayn who was the Permanent Imam (al-imam
al-mustaqarr). The Entrusted Imam is an Imam in the full sense except
that the lineage of the
Imamate must continue through the Permanent
Imam. However, the political caliphate was soon taken over by
Muawiya, the only leader in the empire at that time with an army large
enough to seize control.
Even some of Ali's early followers regarded him as "an absolute and
divinely guided leader who could demand of them the same kind of
loyalty that would have been expected for the Prophet." For
example, one of Ali's supporters who also was devoted to the Prophet
said to him: "our opinion is your opinion and we are in the palm of
your right hand." The early followers of ‘
Ali seem to have taken
his guidance as "right guidance" deriving from Divine support. In
other words, ‘Ali's guidance was seen to be the expression of God's
will and the Qur'anic message. This spiritual and absolute authority
Ali was known as walayah and it was inherited by his successors,
the Imams. In the first century after the Prophet, the term sunnah was
not specifically defined as "
Sunnah of the Prophet" but was used in
connection to Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, Uthman, and some Umayyad Caliphs. The
idea of "Hadith" or traditions ascribed to the Prophet was not
mainstream nor was
Hadith criticism. Even the earliest legal texts by
Malik b. Anas and
Abu Hanifa employ many methods including analogical
reasoning and opinion and do not rely exclusively on hadith. Only in
the 2nd century does the
Sunni jurist al-Shafi‘i first argue that
Sunnah of the Prophet should be a source of law and that this
Sunnah is embodied in Hadiths. It would take another one hundred years
after al-Shafi‘i for
Muslim jurists to fully base their
methodologies on prophetic Hadiths. Meanwhile, Imam Shia
Muslims followed the Imams' interpretations of
Islam as normative
without any need for Hadiths and other sources of
Sunni law such as
analogy and opinion.
Karbala and afterward
The Battle of Karbala
Main article: Battle of Karbala
After the death of Imam Hasan, Imam Husayn and his family were
increasingly worried about the religious and political persecution
that was becoming commonplace under the reign of Muawiya's son, Yazid.
Amidst this turmoil in 680, Husayn along with the women and children
of his family, upon receiving invitational letters and gestures of
support by Kufis, wished to go to
Kufa and confront Yazid as an
intercessor on part of the citizens of the empire. However, he was
stopped by Yazid's army in
Karbala during the month of Muharram.
His family was starved and deprived of water and supplies, until
eventually the army came in on the tenth day and martyred Husayn and
his companions, and enslaved the rest of the women and family, taking
them to Kufa.
This battle would become extremely important to the Shi'i psyche. The
Twelvers as well as
Mustaali Ismāʿīlī still mourn this event
during an occasion known as Ashura. The
however, do not mourn this in the same way because of the belief that
the light of the Imām never dies but rather passes on to the
succeeding Imām, making mourning arbitrary. However, during
commemoration they do not have any celebrations in
Muharram and may have announcements or sessions regarding the tragic
events of Karbala. Also individuals may observe
Muharram in a wide
variety of ways. This respect for
Muharram does not include
self-flagellation and beating because they feel that harming one's
body is harming a gift from Allah.
Ali written in a single word. The 180
degree inverted form shows both words.
The beginnings of Ismāʿīlī Daʿwah
Main article: Zaidiyyah
After being set free by Yazid, Zaynab bint Ali, the daughter of
Ali and the sister of Hasan and Husayn, started to spread
the word of
Karbala to the
Muslim world, making speeches regarding the
event. This was the first organized daʿwah of the Shia, which would
later develop into an extremely spiritual institution for the
After the poisoning of
Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin by Hisham ibn Abd
al-Malik in 713, Shiism's first succession crisis arose with Zayd ibn
‘Alī's companions and the Zaydīs who claimed Zayd ibn ‘Alī as
the Imām, whilst the rest of the Shia upheld
Muhammad al-Baqir as the
Imām. The Zaidis argued that any sayyid or "descendant of Muhammad
through Hasan or Husayn" who rebelled against tyranny and the
injustice of his age could be the Imām. The Zaidis created the first
Shi'i states in Iran,
Iraq and Yemen.
In contrast to his predecessors,
Muhammad al-Baqir focused on academic
Islamic scholarship in Medina, where he promulgated his teachings to
many Muslims, both Shia and non-Shia, in an extremely organized form
of Daʿwah. In fact, the earliest text of the
Ismaili school of
thought is said to be the Umm al-kitab (The Archetypal Book), a
Muhammad al-Baqir and three of his disciples.
This tradition would pass on to his son, Ja'far al-Sadiq, who
inherited the Imāmate on his father's death in 743. Ja'far al-Sadiq
excelled in the scholarship of the day and had many pupils, including
three of the four founders of the
However, following al-Sadiq's poisoning in 765, a fundamental split
occurred in the community. Isma'il ibn Jafar, who at one point was
appointed by his father as the next Imam, appeared to have predeceased
his father in 755. While Twelvers argue that either he was never heir
apparent or he truly predeceased his father and hence Musa al-Kadhim
was the true heir to the Imamate, the Ismāʿīlīs argue that either
the death of Isma'il was staged in order to protect him from Abbasid
persecution or that the
Imamate passed to
Muhammad ibn Isma'il
Muhammad ibn Isma'il in
lineal descent.
Ascension of the Dais
Main article: Da'i
Persian miniature depicting
Shams Tabrizi in a circa 1503 copy of
his disciple Rumi's poem, the "Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz-i". Shams
Tabrizi is believed to have been an
Ismaili Dai and his relationship
Rumi a symbolic manifestation of the sacred relationship between
the guide and the guided.
For some partisans of Ismāʿīl, the Imāmate ended with Ismāʿīl
ibn Ja'far. Most Ismailis recognized
Muhammad ibn Isma'il
Muhammad ibn Isma'il as the next
Imam and some saw him as the expected
Ja'far al-Sadiq had
preached about. However, at this point the Ismāʿīlī Imāms
according to the
Mustaali found areas where they would be
able to be safe from the recently founded Abbasid Caliphate, which had
defeated and seized control from the Umayyads in 750 CE.
At this point, some of the
Ismaili community believed that Muhammad
ibn Ismail had gone into the Occultation and that he would one day
return. A small group traced the Imamat among
Muhammad ibn Ismail's
lineal descendants. With the status and location of the Imāms not
known to the community, the concealed
Ismaili Imams began to propagate
the faith through Dāʿiyyūn from its base in Syria. This was the
start of the spiritual beginnings of the Daʿwah that would later play
important parts in the all
Ismaili branches, especially the Nizaris
and the Musta'lis.
Da'i was not a missionary in the typical sense, and he was
responsible for both the conversion of his student as well as the
mental and spiritual well being. The
Da'i was a guide and light to the
Imām. The teacher-student relationship of the
Da'i and his student
was much like the one that would develop in Sufism. The student
desired God, and the
Da'i could bring him to
God by making him
recognize the Imām, who possesses the knowledge of the Oneness of
Da'i and Imam were respectively the spiritual mother and
spiritual father of the Isma'ili believers.
Ja‘far bin Manṣūr al-Yaman's
The Book of the Sage and Disciple
The Book of the Sage and Disciple is
a classic of early Fāṭimid literature, documenting important
aspects of the development of the Ismāʿīlī da‘wa in
tenth-century Yemen. The book is also of considerable historical value
for modern scholars of Arabic prose literature as well as those
interested in the relationship of esoteric Shī‘ism with early
Islamic mysticism. Likewise is the book an important source of
information regarding the various movements within tenth-century
Shī‘ism leading to the spread of the Fāṭimid-Isma‘īlī
da‘wa throughout the medieval Islamicate world, and the religious
and philosophical history of post-Fāṭimid Musta‘lī branch of
Yemen and India.
Shams Tabrizi and
Rumi is a famous example of the importance of the
relationship between the guide and the guided, and
Rumi dedicated much
of his literature to
Shams Tabrizi and his discovery of the truth.
Main article: Qarmatians
While many of the Ismāʿīlī were content with the Dai teachings, a
group that mingled Persian nationalism and
known as the Qarmatians. With their headquarters in Bahrain, they
accepted a young Persian former prisoner by the name of Abu'l-Fadl
al-Isfahani, who claimed to be the descendant of the Persian
kings as their Mahdi, and rampaged across
the Middle-East in the tenth century, climaxing their violent campaign
by stealing the
Black Stone from the
Mecca in 930 under Abu
Tahir al-Jannabi. Following the arrival of the Al-Isfahani, they
changed their qibla from the
Mecca to the
Zoroastrian-influenced fire. After their return of the
Black Stone in
951 and a defeat by the Abbasids in 976 the group slowly dwindled off
and no longer has any adherents.
The Fatimid Caliphate
Main article: Fatimid Caliphate
Al-Hakim Mosque in Cairo, Egypt, an Ismāʿīlī Imām and Fatimid
Rise of the Fatimid Caliphate
Main article: Abdullah al-
The political asceticism practiced by the Imāms during the period
Muhammad ibn Ismail was to be short lived and finally concluded
with the Imāmate of Abdullah al-
Mahdi Billah, who was born in 873.
After decades of Ismāʿīlīs believing that
Muhammad ibn Ismail was
in the Occultation and would return to bring an age of justice,
Mahdi taught that the Imāms had not been literally secluded, but
rather had remained hidden to protect themselves and had been
organizing the Da'i, and even acted as
After raising an army and successfully defeating the Aghlabids in
North Africa and a number of other victories, al-
successfully established a Shi'i political state ruled by the Imāmate
in 910. This was the only time in history where the Shi'a Imamate
Caliphate were united after the first Imam,
Ali ibn Abi Talib.
In parallel with the dynasty's claim of descent from ‘Alī and
Fāṭimah, the empire was named "Fatimid". However, this was not
without controversy, and recognizing the extent that Ismāʿīlī
doctrine had spread, the
Abbasid Caliphate assigned
Sunni and Twelver
scholars the task to disprove the lineage of the new dynasty. This
became known as the
Baghdad Manifesto and it traces the lineage of the
Fatimids to a Jewish blacksmith.
Middle East under Fatimid rule
Fatimid Caliphate at its peak.
Fatimid Caliphate expanded quickly under the subsequent Imāms.
Under the Fatimids,
Egypt became the center of an empire that included
at its peak North Africa, Sicily, Palestine, Syria, the
Red Sea coast
of Africa, Yemen,
Hejaz and the Tihamah. Under the Fatimids, Egypt
flourished and developed an extensive trade network in both the
Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, which eventually determined
the economic course of
Egypt during the High Middle Ages.
The Fatimids promoted ideas that were radical for that time. One was
promotion by merit rather than genealogy.
Also during this period the three contemporary branches of Ismailism
formed. The first branch (Druze) occurred with the al-Hakim bi-Amr
Allah. Born in 985, he ascended as ruler at the age of eleven. A
religious group that began forming in his lifetime broke off from
mainstream Ismailism and refused to acknowledge his successor. Later
to be known as the Druze, they believe Al-Hakim to be the
God and the prophesied Mahdi, who would one day
return and bring justice to the world. The faith further split
from Ismailism as it developed unique doctrines which often class it
separately from both Ismailism and Islam.
Arwa al-Sulayhi was the Hujjah in
Yemen from the time of Imam al
Mustansir. She appointed the Dai in
Yemen to run religious affairs.
Ismaili missionaries Ahmed and Abadullah (in about 1067 CE (460
AH)) were also sent to
India in that time. They sent Syedi
Nuruddin to Dongaon to look after southern part and Syedi Fakhruddin
to East Rajasthan, India.
The second split occurred following the death of al-Mustansir Billah
in 1094 CE. His rule was the longest of any caliph in both the Fatimid
and other Islamic empires. After he died, his sons Nizar, the older,
and al-Musta'li, the younger, fought for political and spiritual
control of the dynasty. Nizar was defeated and jailed, but according
Nizari sources his son escaped to Alamut, where the Iranian
Ismāʿīlī had accepted his claim.
Mustaali line split again between the Taiyabi and the Hafizi, the
former claiming that the 21st Imām and son of al-Amir bi-Ahkami'l-Lah
went into occultation and appointed a Dāʿī al-Muṭlaq to guide the
community, in a similar manner as the Ismāʿīlī had lived after the
Muhammad ibn Ismail. The latter claimed that the ruling
Fatimid caliph was the Imām.
However, in the
Mustaali branch, the Dai came to have a similar but
more important task. The term Dāʻī al-Mutlaq (Arabic: الداعي
المطلق) literally means "the absolute or unrestricted
missionary". This dai was the only source of the Imām's knowledge
after the occultation of al-Qasim in
Taiyabi Ismaili tradition, after the death of Imām
al-Amīr, his infant son, at-Tayyib Abu'l-Qasim, about 2 years old,
was protected by the most important woman in
Musta'li history after
the Prophet's daughter, Fatimah. She was Arwa al-Sulayhi, a queen in
Yemen. She was promoted to the post of hujjah long before by Imām
Mustansir at the death of her husband. She ran the dawat from
the name of Imaam Tayyib. She was instructed and prepared by Imām
Mustansir and ran the dawat from
Yemen in the name of Imaam Tayyib,
following Imāms for the second period of Satr. It was going to be on
her hands, that Imām Tayyib would go into seclusion, and she would
institute the office of the Dāʻī al-Mutlaq.
Zoeb bin Moosa
Zoeb bin Moosa was
first to be instituted to this office. Dai continued in
Yemen up to
24th Dai Yusuf who shifted Dawat to India. . Before the shift of Dawat
India Dai's representative were known as Wali-ul-Hind. Syedi Hasan
Feer was one of the prominent
Ismaili wali of 14th century. The line
of Tayyib Dais that began in 1132 is still continuing under the main
sect known as
Dawoodi Bohra (see list of Dai of Dawoodi Bohra).
Mustaali split several times over disputes regarding who was the
rightful Dāʿī al-Muṭlaq, the leader of the community within The
After the 27th Dai, Syedna Dawood bin Qutub Shah, there was another
split; the ones following Syedna Dawood came to be called Dawoodi
Bohra, and followers of Suleman were then called Sulaimani. Dawoodi
Bohra's present Dai al Mutlaq, the 53rd, is Syedna Mufaddal Saifuddin,
and he and his devout followers tread the same path, following the
same tradition of the Aimmat Fatimiyyeen. The
Sulaymani are mostly
Saudi Arabia with some communities in the
South Asia. The
Dawoodi Bohra and
Alavi Bohra are mostly exclusive to
South Asia, after the migration of the Da'wah from
Yemen to India.
Other groups include
Atba-i-Malak and Hebtiahs Bohra.
and practices, unlike those of the
Nizari and Druze, are completely
compatible with mainstream Islam, representing a continuation of
Fatimid tradition and fiqh.
Decline of the Caliphate
In the 1040s, the
Zirid dynasty (governors of the
Maghreb under the
Fatimids) declared their independence and their conversion to Sunni
Islam, which led to the devastating
Banu Hilal invasions. After about
1070, the Fatimid hold on the
Levant coast and parts of
challenged by first Turkish invasions, then the First Crusade, so that
Fatimid territory shrunk until it consisted only of Egypt. Damascus
fell to the Seljuk
Empire in 1076, leaving the Fatimids only in charge
Egypt and the Levantine coast up to Tyre and Sidon. Because of the
vehement opposition to the Fatimids from the Seljuks, the Ismaili
movement was only able to operate as a terrorist underground movement,
much like the Assassins.
After the decay of the Fatimid political system in the 1160s, the
Nur ad-Din, atabeg of Aleppo
Nur ad-Din, atabeg of Aleppo had his general, Saladin,
Egypt in 1169, forming the
Sunni Ayyubid dynasty. This signaled
the end of the
Mustaali branch of Ismailism as well as the
Main article: Alamut
Artistic rendering of Hassan-i Sabbah.
Main article: Hassan-i Sabbah
Very early in the empire's life, the Fatimids sought to spread the
Ismāʿīlī faith, which in turn would spread loyalty to the Imāmate
in Egypt. One of their earliest attempts was taken by a missionary by
the name of Hassan-i Sabbah.
Hassan-i Sabbah was born into a
Twelver family living in the scholarly
Persian city of
Qom in 1056 CE. His family later relocated to the city
of Tehran, which was an area with an extremely active Ismāʿīlī
Daʿwah. He immersed himself in Ismāʿīlī thought; however, he did
not choose to convert until he was overcome with an almost fatal
illness and feared dying without knowing the Imām of his time.
Hassan-i Sabbah became one of the most influential Dais in
Ismāʿīlī history; he became important to the survival of the
Nizari branch of Ismailism, which today is its largest branch.
Legend holds that he met with Imām al-Mustansir Billah and asked him
who his successor would be, to which he responded that it would be his
eldest son Nizar.
Hassan-i Sabbah continued his missionary activities, which climaxed
with his taking of the famous citadel of Alamut. Over the next two
years, he converted most of the surrounding villages to Ismailism.
Afterwards, he converted most of the staff to Ismailism, took over the
fortress, and presented Alamut's king with payment for his fortress,
which he had no choice but to accept. The king reluctantly abdicated
his throne, and
Hassan-i Sabbah turned
Alamut into an outpost of
Fatimid rule within Abbasid territory.
Hashasheen / Assassiyoon
Main article: Assassins
Surrounded by the Abbasids and other hostile powers and low in
numbers, Hassan-Al Sabbah devised a way to attack the Ismāʿīlī's
enemies with minimal losses. Using the method of assassination, he
ordered the murders of
Sunni scholars and politicians who he felt
threatened the Ismāʿīlīs. Knives and daggers were used to kill,
and sometimes as a warning, a knife would be placed on the pillow of a
Sunni, who understood the message to mean that he was marked for
death. When an assassination was actually carried out, the
Hashasheen would not be allowed to run away; instead, to strike
further fear into the enemy, they would stand near the victim without
showing any emotion and departed only when the body was discovered.
This further increased the ruthless reputation of the Hashasheen
throughout Sunni-controlled lands.
The English word, assassination, is said to have been derived from the
Arabic word Hashasheen. It means both "those who use hashish," and one
of the Shiite
Ismaili sects in the
Syria of the eleventh century.
Threshold of the Imāmate
Main article: Nizar (Fatimid Imam)
After the imprisonment of Nizar by his younger brother Ahmad al
Mustaali, various sources indicate that Nizar's son
Ali Al-Hadi ibn
Nizaral-Hādī survived and fled to Alamut. He was offered a safe
place in Alamut, where Hassan-Al-Sabbah welcomed him. However, it is
believed this was not announced to the public and the lineage was
hidden until a few Imāms later.
It was announced with the advent of Imām Hassan II. In a show of his
Imāmate and to emphasize the interior meaning (the batin) over the
exterior meaning (the zahir), Imam Hasan announced the Qiyamah
(spiritual resurrection) - the beginning of a new era in which the
spiritual meaning of the religious law was revealed and practiced
openly. He prayed with his back to Mecca, as did the rest of the
congregation, who prayed behind him, and ordered the community to
Ramadan fasting with a feast at noon. He made a speech
saying that the Imam had brought his murids to the qiyamah from the
Afterwards his descendants ruled as the Imāms at
Alamut until its
destruction by the Mongols.
Destruction by the Mongols
Main article: Mongol Empire
Though it had successfully warded off
Sunni attempts to take it
several times, including one by Saladin, the stronghold at
met its destruction. By 1206,
Genghis Khan had managed to unite many
of the once antagonistic Mongol tribes into a ruthless, but
nonetheless unified, force. Using many new and unique military
Genghis Khan led his Mongol hordes across Central Asia
into the Middle East, where they won a series of tactical military
victories using a scorched earth policy.
A grandson of Genghis Khan, Hulagu Khan, led the devastating attack on
Alamut in 1256, only a short time before sacking the Abbasid caliphate
in Baghdad in 1258. As he would later do to the
House of Wisdom
House of Wisdom in
Baghdad, he destroyed Ismāʿīlī as well as Islamic religious texts.
The Imāmate that was located in
Alamut along with its few followers
were forced to flee and take refuge elsewhere.
After the fall of the
Fatimid Caliphate and its bases in
Syria, the three currently living branches of Ismāʿīlī generally
developed geographically isolated from each other, with the exception
Syria (which has both
Druze and Nizari) and
Pakistan and the rest
South Asia (which had both
Mustaali and Nizari).
Mustaali progressed mainly in
Yemen and then shifted their dawat
India under Dai, working on behalf of their last Imam, Taiyyab, and
were known as Bohra. From India, various groups spread mainly to south
Asia and eventually to the Middle East, Europe, Africa and America.
Nizari have maintained large populations in Syria, Uzbekistan,
Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and they have smaller
China and Iran. This community is the only one with a
living Imām, whose title is the Aga Khan. Badakhshan, which spills
over northeastern Afghanistan, eastern
Tajikistan and North Pakistan,
is the only part of the world where Ismailis make up the majority of
Druze mainly settled in
Lebanon and developed a
community based upon the principles of reincarnation through their own
descendants. Their leadership is based on community scholars, who are
the only individuals allowed to read their holy texts. There is
controversy over whether this group falls under the classification of
Islam because of its unique beliefs.
The Tajiks of Xinjiang, being Ismaili, were not subjected to being
Turkic peoples because the two
peoples did not share a common geographical region. . The Burusho
Pakistan are also Nizaris. However, due to their isolation
from the rest of the world,
Islam reached the Hunza about 350 years
ago. Ismailism has been practiced by the Hunza for the last 300 years.
The Hunza have been ruled by the same family of kings for over 900
years. They were called Kanjuts.
Sunni Islam never took root in this
part of central Asia so even now, there are less than a few dozen
sunnis living among the Hunza.
One of the most important texts in
Ismaili historiography is the
ʿUyun al-akhbar, which is a reference source on the history of
Ismailism that was composed in 7 books by the Tayyibi Musta‘lian
Ismaili da‘i-scholar, Idris Imad al-Din (born ca. 1392). This text
presents the most comprehensive history of the
Ismaili imams and
da‘wa, from the earliest period of
Muslim history until the late
Fatimid era. The author, Idris Imad al-Din, descended from the
prominent al-Walid family of the Quraysh in Yemen, who led the Tayyibi
Ismaili da‘wa for more than three centuries. This gave
him access to the literary heritage of the Ismailis, including the
majority of the extant Fatimid manuscripts transferred to Yemen. The
‘Uyun al-akhbar is being published in 7 volumes of annotated Arabic
critical editions as part of an institutional collaboration between
the Institut Français du Proche Orient (IFPO) in Damascus and The
Ismaili Studies (IIS) in London. This voluminous text has
been critically edited based on several old manuscripts from The
Ismaili Studies' vast collection. These academic editions
have been prepared by a team of Syrian and Egyptian scholars,
including Dr Ayman F Sayyid, and this major publication project has
been coordinated by Dr
Nader El-Bizri (IIS) and Dr Sarab
Part of a series on Islam
Five Pillars of Islam
Six articles of belief
The Last Judgement
Sunni theological traditions
Commanding what is just
Forbidding what is evil
Seven pillars of Ismailism4
Other Shia concepts of Aqidah
Sixth Pillar of Islam
Other schools of theology
1Jahmi; 2Karramiyya; 3
Alawites & Qizilbash
Assassins & Druzes
5Ajardi, Azariqa, Bayhasiyya,
Najdat & Sūfrī
Bahshamiyya & Ikhshîdiyya
Bektashi Order & Qalandariyya
View on the Qur'an
Main article: Esoteric interpretation of the Quran
Ismāʿīlīs believe the Qur'an was sent to
Muhammad through the
angel Gabriel (Jibra'il in Arabic) over the course of 23 years. They
believe that the Imam has the authority to interpret the Qur'an in
relation to the present time.
Ginans and Qasidas
Main article: Ginans
Nizari religious texts. They are written in the form of
poetry by Pirs to interpret the meanings of Quranic ayat into the
languages of South Asia, especially Gujarati and Urdu. In comparison
to Ginans, Ismāʿīlīs of other origins, such as Persians, Arabs,
and Central Asians, have qasidas (Arabic: قصيدة) written by
missionaries such as Pir Sadardin
Belief in reincarnation exists in the
Druze faith, an offshoot of
Druze believe that members of their community can only
be reincarnated within the community. It is also known that Druze
believe in five cosmic principles, represented by the five-colored
Druze star: intelligence/reason (green), soul (red), word (yellow),
precedent (blue), and immanence (white). These virtues take the shape
of five different spirits which, until recently, have been
continuously reincarnated on Earth as prophets and philosophers
including Adam, the ancient Greek mathematician and astronomer
Pythagoras, the ancient Pharaoh of
Egypt Akhenaten, and many others.
Druze believe that, in every time period, these five principles
were personified in five different people who came down together to
Earth to teach humans the true path to
God and enlightenment, but that
with them came five other individuals who would lead people away from
the right path into "darkness."
Main article: Numerology (Ismailism)
Ismāʿīlīs believe numbers have religious meanings. The number
seven plays a general role in the theology of the Ismā'īliyya,
including mystical speculations that there are seven heavens, seven
continents, seven orifices in the skull, seven days in a week, and so
Imamah (Ismaili doctrine)
Imamah (Ismaili doctrine) and List of
Ismāʿīlīs believe the Qur'an has two layers of meaning, the zāhir
meaning apparent, and the bātin, meaning hidden.
For this sect, the Imām is the manifestation of truth, and hence he
is their path of salvation to God.
Classical Ismāʿīlī doctrine holds that divine revelation had been
given in six periods (daur) entrusted to six prophets, who they also
call Natiq (Speaker), who were commissioned to preach a religion of
law to their respective communities.
Whereas the Natiq was concerned with the rites and outward shape of
religion, the inner meaning is entrusted to a Wasi (Representative).
The Wasi would know the secret meaning of all rites and rules and
would reveal them to a small circles of initiates.
The Natiq and the Wasi are in turn succeeded by a line of seven
Imāms, who guard what they received. The seventh and last Imām in
any period becomes the Natiq of the next period. The last Imām of the
sixth period, however, would not bring about a new religion of law but
rather supersede all previous religions, abrogate the law and
introduce din Adama al-awwal ("the original religion of Adam")
Adam and the angels in paradise before the fall, which
would be without ritual or law but consist merely in all creatures
praising the creator and recognizing his unity. This final stage was
called the Qiyamah.
Pir and Dawah
Just as the Imām is seen by Ismailis as the manifestation of the
first-created Light, during the period between the Imāmates of
Muhammad ibn Ismail and al-Madhi Billah, the relationship between the
teacher and the student became a sacred one, and the Dai became a
position much beyond a normal missionary. The Dai passed on the sacred
and hidden knowledge of the Imām to the student, who could then use
that information to ascend to higher levels. First the student loved
the Dai, and from the Dai he learned to love the Imām, who was but an
interceder on behalf of God. In
Nizari Ismailism, the head Dai is
called the Pir.
Main article: Zahir (Islam)
In Ismailism, things have an exterior meaning, what is apparent. This
is called zāhir.
Main article: Batin (Islam)
In Ismailism, things have an interior meaning that is reserved for a
special few who are in tune with the Imām, or are the Imām himself.
This is called bātin.
Main article: 'Aql
As with other Shia, Ismāʿīlīs believe that the understanding of
God is derived from the first light in the universe, the light of
'Aql, which in Arabic roughly translates as 'Intellect' or to 'bind'
(Latin: Intellectus). It is through this Universal Intellect ('aql
al-kull) that all living and non-living entities know God, and all of
humanity is dependent and united in this light. Contrastingly,
Twelver thought this includes the Prophets as well, especially
Muhammad, who is the greatest of all the manifestations of 'Aql.
God, in Isma'ili metaphysics, is seen as above and beyond all
conceptions, names, and descriptions. He transcends all positive and
negative qualities, and knowledge of
God as such is above all human
comprehension. Read more at:
Ismaili Musim Teachings on
For the Shia, the Light (nur) of the
Imamate is the Universal
Intellect, and consequently, the Imam on earth is the focus of
manifestation (mazhar) of the Intellect.
The Ismailis have submitted the Qur'anic zakat (see Qur'an 9:103),
which is a purification due and not charitable alms, to the Imams
since the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The zakat rates historically
differed depending on the asset type - 2.5% of animals, 5% of
minerals, and 10% of crops. Among
Khoja Ismailis, the zakat is 12.5%
of cash income and among other Ismailis of Iran, Syria, Central Asia,
and China, the zakat is 10% of cash income and other %s of
non-cash assets like crops and livestock. Link to Article on
Dasond The entire zakat amount is given to the
Ismaili Imam through
his representatives in the Jamatkhanas, called Mukhi-Sahibs. The
zakat/dasond funds are used exclusively for the benefit of the
community — and for the expenses the Office of the Imamat incurs in
this work. And even though the Imam has a right to a portion of those
funds, personally, in fact the reverse happens and the Imam
supplements Imamat funds from his personal resources, sometimes by an
additional 150%. This has been documented in several interviews of the
present Aga Khan.
Main article: Walayah
Walayah is translated from Arabic as “guardianship” and denotes
“Love and devotion for God, the Prophets, the Aimmat and Imām uz
Zaman, and the Dai.” It also denotes Ta'at (following every order
without protest, but with one's soul's happiness, knowing that nothing
is more important than a command from
God and that the command of His
vicegerents is His Word). In Ismāʿīlī doctrine,
God is the true
desire of every soul, and He manifests himself in the forms of
Prophets and Imāms; to be guided to his path, one requires a
messenger or a guide: a Dai. For the true mawali of the Imam and Dai,
heaven is made obligatory. And only with this crucial walayat, they
believe, will all the other pillars and acts ordained by
judged or even looked at by God.
Taharah or Shahada
Main article: Taharah
A pillar which translates from Arabic as “purity.” As well as a
pure soul, it includes bodily purity and cleanliness; without Taharat
of the body, clothes and ma'salla, Salaat will not be accepted.
Main article: Shahada
In place of Taharah, the
Druze have the Shahada, or affirmation of
Main article: Salat
Main article: Zakah
A pillar which translates as “charity.” With the exception of the
Druze sect, the Ismāʿīlīs' form of zakat resembles the
other Muslims. Along with zakat, the Twelvers also pay khums, which is
1/5 of one's unspent money at the end of the year. Ismāʿīlīs pay a
tithe of 12.5%, which is used for development projects in the eastern
world, primarily to benefit Ismāʿīlīs and, by extension, other
communities living in that area.
Main article: Sawm
A pillar which is translated as “fasting.”
Sunni and Shi'ite
Muslims fast by abstaining from food, drink from dawn to sunset as
well purifying the soul by avoiding sinful acts and doing good deeds,
e.g., not lying, being honest in daily life, not backbiting, etc., for
30 days during the holy month of
Ramadan (9th month of the Islamic
calendar). In contrast, the
Nizari and Musta'ali sects believe in a
metaphorical as well as a literal meaning of fasting. The literal
meaning is that one must fast as an obligation, such as during
Ramadan, and the metaphorical meaning is seeking to attain the Divine
Truth and striving to avoid worldly activities which may detract from
this goal. In particular, Ismāʿīlīs believe that the esoteric
meaning of fasting involves a "fasting of the soul," whereby they
attempt to purify the soul simply by avoiding sinful acts and doing
good deeds. Still, many
Nizari Ismailis around the world fast during
the month of
Ramadan every year. In addition, the
Nizari also fast on
"Shukravari Beej" which falls on a Friday that coincides with the New
Main article: Hajj
A pillar which translates from Arabic as “pilgrimage," meaning the
pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is currently the largest annual
pilgrimage in the world and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious
duty that must be carried out at least once in one's lifetime by every
Muslim who can afford to do so. Many
Ismaili sects do not
ascribe to mainstream Islamic beliefs regarding the Hajj, considering
it instead to metaphorically mean visiting the Imam himself, that
being the greatest and most spiritual of all pilgrimages. However,
Druze do not follow shariah, they do not believe in a
literal pilgrimage to the
Mecca as other Muslims do, while
Mustaali (Bohras) as well as the Nizaris still hold on to the
literal meaning as well, performing hajj to the Ka'aba and also
visiting the Imam (or in a secluded time like today, the Dai, who is
the representative or vicegerent of the Imam) to be Hajj-e Haqiqi.
Main article: Jihad
An Islamic term,
Jihad is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the
word jihād is a noun meaning "struggle."
Jihad appears frequently in
the Qur'an and is sometimes used in the nonmilitary sense. A person
engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is mujahideen. When a
violent act is intended, the Qur'an used the term "Qattal" meaning to
engage in killing/violence.
A minority among the
Sunni scholars sometimes refer to this duty as
the sixth pillar of Islam, though it occupies no such official status.
Twelver Shi'a Islam, however,
Jihad is one of the 10 Practices of
For the Isma'ilis,
Jihad is the last of the Seven Islamic Pillars, and
for them it means a struggle against one's own soul; striving toward
rightness, and sometimes as struggle in warfare. However, Isma'ilis
will stress that none but their Imam uz Zaman [Imam of the Time] can
declare war and call his followers to fight.
Branching of Ismāʿilism within Shi'a
Islam at a glance. ( Note:
Kaysani's Imam Hanafiyyah is descendant of
Ali from Ali's wife
Khawlah, not Fatimah)
Main article: Nizari
The largest part of the Ismāʿīlī community, Qasim-Shahi Nizari
today accepts Prince Karim
Aga Khan IV as their 49th Imām, who
they claim is descended from Muḥammad through his daughter
Fāṭimah az-Zahra and 'Ali, Muḥammad's cousin and son-in-law. The
46th Ismāʿīlī Imām, Aga Hassan ‘Alī Shah, fled
Iran in the
1840s after being blamed for a failed coup against the Shah of the
Qajar dynasty. Aga Hassan ‘Alī Shah settled in
There is the offshoot of the Muhammad-Shahi
Nizari Ismailis who follow
the elder son of Shamsu-d-Dīn Muḥammad, the 28th Qasim-Shahi Imam,
named ‘Alā’ ad-Dīn Mumin Shāh (26th Imam of the Muhammad-Shahi
Nizari Ismailis). They follow this line of Imams until the
disappearance of the 40th Imam Amir
Muhammad al-Baqir in 1796. There
are followers of this line of
Nizari Imams in
Syria today, locally
called the Jafariyah.
Main article: Mustaali
In time, the seat for one chain of the Dai was split between
Yemen as the community split several times, each recognizing a
different Dai. Today, the Dawoodi Bohras, which constitute the
majority of the
Mustaali Ismāʿīlī accept
Mufaddal Saifuddin as the
53rd Dāʿī al-Muṭlaq. The Dawoodi Bohras are based in India, along
with the Alavi Bohra. Minority groups of the Sulaymani, however, exist
Yemen and Saudi Arabia. In recent years, there has been a
rapprochement between the Sulaymani, Dawoodi and Alavi Mustaali
Mustaali sects are the most traditional of the three main groups
of Ismāʿīlī, maintaining rituals such as prayer and fasting more
consistently with the practices of other Shi'i sects. It is often said
that they resemble
Sunni Islam even more than Twelvers do, though this
would hold true for matters of the exterior rituals (zahir) only, with
little bearing on doctrinal or theological differences.
Main article: Dawoodi Bohra
The divisions of the Mustaali, sometimes referred to as Bohras.
The Dawoodi Bohras are a very close-knit community who seek advice
from the Dai on spiritual and temporal matters.
Dawoodi Bohras is headed by the Dāʻī al-Mutlaq, who is appointed by
his predecessor in office. The Dāʻī al-Mutlaq appoints two others
to the subsidiary ranks of māzūn (Arabic Maʾḏūn مأذون)
"licentiate" and Mukāsir (Arabic: مكاسر). These positions are
followed by the rank of ra'sul hudood, bhaisaheb, miya-saheb,
shaikh-saheb and mulla-saheb, which are held by several of Bohras. The
'Aamil or Saheb-e Raza who is granted the permission to perform the
religious ceremonies of the believers by the Dāʻī al-Mutlaq and
also leads the local congregation in religious, social and community
affairs, is sent to each town where a sizable population of believers
exists. Such towns normally have a masjid (commonly known as mosque)
and an adjoining jamaa'at-khaana (assembly hall) where socio-religious
functions are held. The local organizations which manage these
properties and administer the social and religious activities of the
local Bohras report directly to the central administration of the
While the majority of Dawoodi Bohras have traditionally been traders,
it is becoming increasingly common for them to become professionals.
Some choose to become Doctors, consultants or analysts as well as a
large contingent of medical professionals. Dawoodi Bohras are
encouraged to educate themselves in both religious and secular
knowledge, and as a result, the number of professionals in the
community is rapidly increasing. Dawoodi Bohras believe that the
education of women is equally important as that of men, and many
Dawoodi Bohra women choose to enter the workforce. Al Jamea tus
Saifiyah (The Arabic Academy) in Surat, Nairobi and
Karachi is a sign
to the educational importance in the Dawoodi community. The Academy
has an advanced curriculum which encompasses religious and secular
education for both men and women.
Today there are approximately one million Dawoodi Bohra. The majority
of these reside in
India and Pakistan, but there is also a significant
diaspora residing in the Middle East, East Africa, Europe, North
America and the Far East.
The ordinary Bohra is highly conscious of his identity, and this is
especially demonstrated at religious and traditional occasions by the
appearance and attire of the participants.
Dawoodi Bohra men wear a
traditional white three-piece outfit, plus a white and gold cap
(called a topi), and women wear the rida, a distinctive form of the
commonly known burqa which is distinguished from other forms of the
veil due to it often being in color and decorated with patterns and
lace. The rida's difference from the burqa, however, is significant
beyond just the colour, pattern and lace. The rida does not call for
covering of women's faces like the traditional veil. It has a flap
called the 'pardi' that usually hangs on the back like the hood of a
jacket but it is not used to conceal the face. This is representative
Dawoodi Bohra community's values of equality and justice for
women, which they believe, is a tenet of the Fatimid Imamate's evolved
Islam and the true meaning of women's chastity in
Dawoodi Bohra community also do not prevent their women
from coming to mosques, attending religious gatherings or going to
places of pilgrimage. It is often regarded as the most peaceful sect
Islam and an example of true Sufism; it has been critically
acclaimed on several occasions even by Western governments such as
those of the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and particularly the
United States for its progressive outlook towards gender roles,
adoption of technology, promotion of literature, crafts, business and
secular values. However, the Dawoodi Bohras are highly single-minded
about inter-caste or inter-faith marriage. They do not oppose it but
do not encourage it either. If a
Dawoodi Bohra member does marry into
another caste or religion, he or she is usually advised to ask his or
her spouse to convert to
Islam and, specifically, into the community.
They believe that straying away from the community implies straying
away from Ma'ad – the ultimate objective of this life and the
meaning of the teachings of Islam, which is to return to where all
souls comes from and re-unite with Allah. Besides, converting someone
Islam has high spiritual and religious significance as doctrines
espouse that making someone a
Muslim or Mu'min confers the Sawab
(reward of good deeds) equivalent to that of 40 Hajjs and 40 Umrahs
Mecca and the
Kaaba during days other than that of Hajj).
The position of
Da'i al-Mutlaq is currently disputed after the demise
of the 52nd
Da'i al-Mutlaq of the
Dawoodi Bohra community, Mohammed
Burhanuddin. Two claimants emerged for the position of 53rd Da'i
Mufaddal Saifuddin and Khuzaima Qutbuddin, and a case is
pending in the Bombay High Court to resolve the matter. Qutbuddin has
since died and appointed his son
Taher Fakhruddin as his successor.
Besides speaking the local languages, the Dawoodis have their own
language called Lisānu l-Dāʻwat "Tongue of the Dāʻwat". This is
written in the
Persian alphabet but is derived from Urdu, Gujarati and
Arabic and Persian.
Main article: Sulaymani
Founded in 1592, the
Sulaymani are mostly concentrated in
are also found in
Pakistan and India. The denomination is named after
its 27th Daʻī, Sulayman bin Hassan. They are referred and prefer to
be referred as Ahle-Haq Isma'ilis and Sulaymanis and not with the
The total number of Sulaymanis currently are around 300,000, mainly
living in the eastern district of
Jabal Haraz in northwest
in Najran, Saudi Arabia. Beside the
Banu Yam of Najran, the
Sulaymanis are in Haraz, among the inhabitants of the Jabal Maghariba
and in Hawzan, Lahab and Attara, as well as in the district of Hamadan
and in the vicinity of Yarim.
India there are between 3000 and 5000 Sulaymanis living mainly in
Mumbai and Surat. In Punjab, Pakistan, there is a
Sulaymani community in Sind. Some ten thousand
Sulaymanis live in rural areas of Punjab known to the
Jazeera-e Sind; these
Sulaymani communities have been in the Jazeera-e
Sind from the time of Fatimid Imam-
Caliph al-Mu'izz li-Din
he sent his Daʻīs to Jazeera-e Sind.
There are also some 900–1000 Sulaymanis mainly from South Asia
scattered around the world, in the Persian Gulf States, United States,
Canada, Thailand, Australia,
Japan and the United Kingdom.
Main article: Alavi Bohra
The ‘Alavi Bohras, popularly and incorrectly known as Alya
Bohras, follow a different line of succession of Du’aat
(missionaries) from the 29th da’i onwards after the split from
Da’udi Bohras in
Ahmedabad in 1621 CE. They believe the rightful
da’i was a grandson of the 28th da’i named ‘
Ali Shams al-Din b.
Ibrahim (d. 1046 AH/1637 CE). They are named after this ‘Ali,
calling themselves ‘Alavis, and their mission ad-Da’wat
ul-Haadiyat ul-‘Alaviyah. Three da’is later, in 1110 AH/1699
CE, the seat of the ‘Alavi Da’wat was moved from
Vadodara by 32nd da’i, acting on the will of 31st da’i (except for
a brief interlude in
Surat for 20 years 1158-1178 AH/1745-1764 CE).
Vadodara remains the headquarters of the ‘Alavis to this
day. The ‘Alavi Bohras have a library of 450 Isma’ili
manuscripts, some up to 500 years old, at their centre in Vadodara.
Currently ‘Alavi Bohras are a close-knit organized community
numbering approximately 8000, with the majority of them settled in
Vadodara, where they have their own locality. They have their own
masjids and musafirkhanas in places like Mumbai, Surat, Ahmedabad,
Nadiad in India. Some have migrated to the United States, United
Kingdom, Australia, Canada, UAE and Europe. Like majority of Bohra
Alavi Bohras are mostly traders and dominate the
optical and furniture market in Vadodara. They are now increasingly
venturing into professions such as law, medicine, engineering,
business management, computer sciences. Beings Isma’ili-Taiyebis
they follow strictly Fatimid spiritual hierarchical set-up, law, dress
code, customs, beliefs, eating hadits, life-style, ethics and
customary traditions etc.
While lesser known and smallest in number,
Alavi Bohras have their
spiritual and temporal head as the 45th dāʿī al-muṭlaq, Haatim
Zakiyuddin. The doctrines of
Alavi Bohras is centered in the
recognition of Imam. It continues to be the most important foundation
among Bohras. In fact, dai al-mutlaq acts as a direct representative
of the concealed Imam as he receives required guidance from him.
During this time of the concealment of 21st Fatimid Imam at-Taiyeb and
his progeny, the religious hierarchy of the
Alavi Bohras is headed by
the Dāʻī al-Mutlaq, who is appointed by his predecessor in office
and similar as of Dawoodi Bohra.
Main article: Hebtiahs Bohra
Hebtiahs Bohra are a branch of
broke off from the mainstream
Dawoodi Bohra after the death of the
Da'i al-Mutlaq in 1754.
Main article: Atba-i-Malak
The Atba-i Malak jamaat (community) are a branch of
Islam that broke off from the mainstream
Dawoodi Bohra after the
death of the 46th
Da'i al-Mutlaq, under the leadership of Abdul
Hussain Jivaji. They have further split into two more branches, the
Atba-i-Malak Badar and
Progressive Dawoodi Bohra
Dawoodi Bohra is a reformist sect within Musta'li
Islam that broke off circa 1977. They disagree with
mainstream Dawoodi Bohra, as led by the
Da'i al-Mutlaq, on doctrinal,
economic and social issues.
Main article: Druze
While on one view there is a historical nexus between the
Ismāʿīlīs, any such links are purely historical and do not entail
any modern similarities, given that one of the
Druze's central tenets is trans-migration of the soul (reincarnation)
as well as other contrasting beliefs with Ismāʿīlīsm and Islam.
Druze is an offshoot of Ismailism. Many historical links do trace back
Syria and particularly Masyaf.
Satpanth and Khoja
Satpanth is a subgroup of
Nizari Ismailism and
by conversions from Hinduism 700 years ago by
Pir Sadardin (1290-1367)
and 600 years ago in the 15th century by his grandson Pir Imam Shah
(1430-1520), they differ slightly from the
Nizari Khojas in that they
Aga Khan as their leader and are known more commonly as
Imam-Shahi. There are villages in Gujarat which are totally
'Satpanthi' such as Pirana near
Ahmedabad where Imam Shah is buried.
It is also the older form of
Ismaili practice originating from
the Kutch community of Gujarat.
Pir Sadardin gave the first converts
to Ismailism the name 'Satpanth' because they were the followers of
the 'True Path.' They were then given the title of
Khoja to replace
their title of Thakkar.
Main article: Böszörmény
According to the historian Yaqut al-Hamawi, the Böszörmény
Ismaili / Nizari) denomination of the Muslims who lived
Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary in the 10–13th centuries, were employed as
mercenaries by the kings of Hungary. However following the
establishment of the
Kingdom of Hungary
Kingdom of Hungary their community was
Christianized by the end of the 13th century.
Main article: Hafizi
This branch held that whoever the political ruler (Caliph) of the
Fatimid Caliphate was, was also the Imam of the Time, after the reign
Al-Hafiz was recognized as the
Imam of the Time
Imam of the Time as well as
his descendants. The
Ismaili sect had 26 Imams. The
lived on into the 14th century AD with adherents in Northern
Syria but had died out by the 15th century AD.
Main article: Sevener
A branch of the Ismāʿīlī known as the Sab'īyah "Seveners" hold
that Ismāʿīl's son,
Muhammad ibn Ismail, was the seventh and final
Ismāʿīlī Imam, who is said to be in the Occultation. However,
most scholars believe this group is either extremely small or
non-existent today. The
Qaramita were the most active branch of the
Amman Message and Islamic Ummah
The Amman Message, which was issued on 9 November 2004 (27th of
Ramadan 1425 AH) by King Abdullah II bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, called
for tolerance and unity in the
Muslim world. Subsequently, the "Amman
Message" Conference took place in Amman,
Jordan on 4–6 July 2005 and
a three-point declaration was issued by 200
Muslim academics from over
50 countries focusing on the three issues of:
Defining who is a Muslim;
Islam (takfir); and
Principles related to delivering religious edicts (fatāwa).
The three-point declaration (later known as The Three Points of the
Amman Message) included both the Ja'fari and
Zaydi Shia madhāhib
(schools of jurisprudence) among the eight schools of jurisprudence
that were listed as being in the
Muslim fold and whose adherents were
therefore to be considered as
Muslim by definition and therefore
cannot be excluded from the world community of Muslims.
The Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of the Ismailis, was invited to issue a
religious edict for and on behalf of the Ismailis, which he did by a
letter explicitly stating that the Ismailis adhered to the Ja'fari
school as well as other schools of close affinity including the Sufi
principles concerned with personal search for God.
The summarization by Prince Ghazi bin
Muhammad explicitly delineates
on page 11 the place of the Ismailis as being within the Ja'fari
school as stated by the Aga Khan.
Ismailism amongst Shia Islam
The Shia belief throughout its history split over the issue of the
Imamate. The largest branch are the Twelvers, followed by the Zaidi
Ismaili and Kaysanite. All the groups follow a different line of
Imamate linked together as shown in chart below.
Note: Kaysani's Imam Hanafiyyah is descendant of
Ali from Ali's wife
Khawlah, not Fatimah
Brethren of Purity
List of extinct Shia sects
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The Uyun al-akhbar is the most complete text written by an
Ismaili/Tayyibi/Dawoodi 19th Dai Sayyedna Idris bin Hasan on the
history of the
Ismaili community from its origins up to the 12th
century period of the Fatimid caliphs al-Mustansir (d. 487/1094), the
time of Musta‘lian rulers including al-Musta‘li (d. 495/1101) and
al-Amir (d. 524/1130), and then the Tayyibi
Ismaili community in
Daftary, Farhad (2012) Historical dictionary of the Ismailis. Lanham,
Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2012.
Steinberg, Jonah (2011) Isma'ili Modern: Globalization and Identity in
Muslim Community. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
Spencer C. Tucker; Priscilla Roberts (12 May 2008), The Encyclopedia
of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A Political, Social, and Military
History [4 volumes]: A Political, Social, and Military History,
ABC-CLIO, ISBN 978-18-5109-842-2
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ismailism.
Introductory lecture on Ismailism, YouTube
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