Tag Archives: Ismailism

Workshop: Discussing recent work on Islam in South Asia

The research team “History and Sufism in the Indus Valley“, coordinated by Michel Boivin at the Center for South Asian Studies (CEIAS) in Paris, organizes a workshop to discuss on recent publications focusing on Islam in India and Pakistan. It will be held at the CEIAS on 24 January 2013 between 9 am and 1 .30 pm. For more information about this event, you can contact Delphine Ortis. Continue reading Workshop: Discussing recent work on Islam in South Asia

Book: A Modern History of the Ismailis

Farhad Daftary, A Modern History of the Ismailis: Continuity and Change in a Muslim Community, London, I.B. Tauris Publishers, 2011.

“The Ismailis have enjoyed a long, eventful and complex history dating back to the 8th century CE and originating in the Shi’i tradition of Islam. During the medieval period, Ismailis of different regions – especially in central Asia, south Asia, Iran and Syria – developed and elaborated their own distinctive literary and intellectual traditions, which have made an outstanding contribution to the culture of Islam as a whole. At the same time, the Ismailis in the Middle Ages split into two main groups who followed different spiritual leaders. The bulk of the Ismailis came to have a line of imams now represented by the Aga Khans, while a smaller group – known in south Asia as the Bohras – developed their own type of leadership.This collection is the first scholarly attempt to survey the modern history of both Ismaili groupings since the middle of the 19th century. It covers a variety of topical issues and themes, such as the modernising policies of the Aga Khans, and also includes original studies of regional developments in Ismaili communities worldwide. The contributors focus too on how the Ismailis as a religious community have responded to the twin challenges of modernity and emigration to the West. ‘A Modern History of the Ismailis’ will be welcomed as the most complete assessment yet published of the recent trajectory of this fascinating and influential Shi’i community.”

The introduction can be downloaded on the website of the Institute of Ismaili Studies. The table contents and the entire bibliography of the book can also be consulted from there.

“Farhad Daftary is Associate Director and Head of the Department of Academic Research and Publications at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London. An international authority on Ismaili studies, his many acclaimed books in the field include The Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines, The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Ismailis, and A Short History of the Ismailis.”

Shi’ism in Modern South Asia: Online conference audio-papers

An international conference, ‘Contesting Shi’ism: Isna ‘Ashari and Isma’ili Shi’ism in Modern South Asia’, hosted by the History Department, Royal Holloway, was held in London on 9-10 September 2011.

You can listen to all the conference papers on this website.

Here below is the conference programme:

Friday, 9th September

14:30 – 15:00 Francis Robinson, Reflections on the Shia in South Asia and the wider Muslim world

15:00 – 16:30 Session I

Michel Boivin, The Isna ‘Ashari-Isma‘ili divide among the Khojas around 1910: exploring forgotten judicial sources from Karachi

Ian Williams, Shared and disputed symbols within Twelver Shi‘ite and Ahl-i-Sunnat traditions of Islam: an examination of theological constructions and devotional practices among leaders and adherents from nineteenth century South Asia to the contemporary U.K

Tahir Kamran, Sufi shrines, electoral politics and sectarian violence in Punjab: a case study of the dargah of Siyal Sharif

17:30 – 19:00 Session II

Ludovic Gandelot, Isma‘ili Aga Khani religious and social identities, as seen through Sultan Muhammad Shah’s firmans at the beginning of the twentieth century

Soumen Mukherjee, Of ‘religious and social welfare’ and ‘progress of the community’: religious inspiration, leadership and idioms of welfarism among Shi‘a Imami Isma‘ilis in twentieth century South Asia and East Africa

Bashir Damji, The Khoja Isna ‘Ashari communities of East Africa: from newcomers to flag-bearers

Saturday, 10th September

9:00 – 10:30 Session III

Sajjad Rizvi, Establishing the principles of the faith for a new Shi‘ite polity: the theology of Sayyid Dildar ‘Ali Nasirabadi

Justin Jones, Khandan-i-Ijtihad: authority and transition in a family of Shi‘a ‘ulama in Lucknow, c.1850-1950

Ali Khan, Local nodes of a trans-national network: a case study of a Shi‘a family in Awadh, 1900-1950

11:00 – 12:30 Session IV

Simon Wolfgang Fuchs, Third-wave Shi‘ism: Sayyid Arif Husayn al-Husayni and the Islamic revolution in Pakistan

Hasan Ali Khan, The role of the Auqaf Department in redefining Sufi and Shi‘a built heritage in Pakistan

Saleem Khan, The Shi‘a dominance of the legal profession in British India: a study of the lawyer politicians of Bihar

Book: A Modern History of the Ismailis

Farhad Daftary (Ed.), A Modern History of the Ismailis. Continuity and Change in a Muslim Community, London New York, I. B. Tauris Publishers in association with The Institute of the Ismaili Studies, 2011.

The book edited by the well-known scholar Farhad Datary, the co-director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, is a welcome one. It is indeed the first synthesis proposing academic papers on a number of Ismaili traditions in the Modern period. The 400 pages book is divided into four parts: Nizari Ismailis in Syria, Central Asia and China; Nizari Ismaili in South Asia and East Africa; Nizari Ismaili in Contemporary policies, institutions and perspectives; and Tayyibi Mustalian Ismailis. FD coins the volume as a “modest first attempt at piecing together a history of the Ismailis during approximately the last two centuries”. According to him, the Modern period was distinguished by two main features implemented by the Ismaili imams, better known as Agha Khans. First is the construction of a “distinctive Ismaili identity” and second a focus on reform and modernization (pp. 12-13). Interestingly, the book highlights the diversity of the Ismailis in terms of cultural area, although the majority of the papers are devoted to the Khojas, the South Asia Ismailis. Last but not least, the book ends with three papers on the Tayyibi Ismailis, authored by Bohra scholars belonging to the other South Asia Ismaili community who does not acknowledge the Agha Khan as their spiritual head.

Michel Boivin

MA dissertation: The Imami Ismaili community in South Asia

Laurence Gautier, The evolution of the role and status of the Imam within the Imami Ismaili community in South Asia (1947-1993), M.A. thesis, ENS/EHESS (Paris), 2009.

“This dissertation examines the evolution of the concept of Imama after 1947, in a context of communal tensions and rising Islamic fundamentalism in South Asia. It puts the emphasis on the efforts of Sultan Muhammad Shah and of his successor Shah Karim, imams of the Imami Ismailis, to defend their community – a religious minority in both India and Pakistan, and to preserve their own authority – the target of many controversies. To achieve both objectives, they developed privileged relationships with the authorities in the two new independent states, especially in Pakistan. Above all, they reinterpreted their role and status as imams by using the elements of the Ismaili tradition, which would strengthen the Muslim identity of their community and legitimize their own authority. The temporal dimension of the Imama became essential. Shah Karim later created a large network of NGOs, further shifting the focus of attention from religious controversies to development issues. Being the “Imam of the Time”, Shah Karim not only adapted the understanding of faith to the changing times, he also gave a new definition of his role as imam. The Imama, considered as a fundamental of faith, therefore appeared as a concept in constant evolution.”

 

PhD thesis: Shia-Ismaili Motifs in the Sufi Architecture of the Indus Valley

Hasan Ali Khan, Shia-Ismaili Motifs in the Sufi Architecture of the Indus Valley, 1200-1500 A.D., PhD thesis in Religious Studies, SOAS, London, 30 April 2009.

“The relationship between Shiism and Sufism is one of the most unexplored areas of Islamic studies. Its study has traditionally been hindered by the lack of primary sources. This is especially so in the case of Ismailism in the medieval Islamic Era, which is more easily associable to Sufism.

Ismaili associations with early Sufism go back to the Fatimid Era in Egypt of which the Indus Valley was a part. This is in the tenth century when dominant Ismaili and Twelver states ruled the Middle East. After the destruction of these Shia states by the incoming Sunni Turkic dynasties, Ismailism went underground in Iran and its ideas reappeared in the shape of Sufi Orders in Iraq, most prominently the Suhrawardi Order. In this period, Ismailism flourished again in the Indus Valley under missionaries sent from neighboring Iran, who freely worked on the metaphysical commonality between Indian and Iranian cultures for their proselytism. Its zenith was reached under the Ismaili missionary Shams in the thirteenth century, who after a long spate of problems in his host country, perfected a system of metaphysical interlacing called the Satpanth, or true path, setting up ceremonies which tied him to the Suhrawardi Sufi Order which preexisted here. This association led to the falling out of the court patronised order with the Imperial Authorities in Delhi. The Satpanth worked through an astrological framework based on the Persian New Year, and the vice-regency of the first Shia Imam Ali, which is the basis of the Shia faith. The astrological resonances of Ali’s succession or vice-regency to Muhammad were known to Muslim scholars in the Iranian Shia-Ismaili tradition before Shams’s time, but are historically first interlaced by Shams with the local calendar for the benefit of his followers. The Satpanth later found its way as astrological symbolism on the monuments of the Suhrawardi Order. In addition, an unorthodox monument archetype which accommodates Satpanth ideals is common to the buildings associated with Shams, his descendants and Suhrawardi Sufis over three centuries. Evidence suggest that Shams may have been responsible this archetype.

A comparison between extant religious ceremony, iconography and the common monument archetype in the latter chapters shows the covert Shia-Ismaili beliefs of the Suhrawardi Order in the Indus Valley. This complements the critical reexamination of historical sources for the purpose in the first half of the thesis.”

Keywords: Shiism, Ismailism, Suhrawardi Sufi Order, Satpanth, Shams, Indus valley, Pakistan

Book: Ginân. Texts and Contexts

Tazim Kassam and Françoise Mallison (eds) (2007) Ginân. Texts and Contexts. Essays on Ismaili Hymns from South Asia in Honour of Zawahir Moir, New Delhi, Matrix Publishers.

The ginâns are devotional hymns of the Khojas, Nizari Ismailis of South Asia, disciples of Shâh Karîm, better known in Europe as Aga Khan IV. The contributions collected in this volume by Tazim Kassam and Francoise Mallison are offered to Zawahir Moir. Following the foreword by Christopher Shackle, the book offers a bibliography of Zawahir Moir who is without doubt the most knowledgeable expert on ginâns. The fifteen contributions reflect the diversity and dynamism of ginân studies. Among the issues under discussion, are ginâns the devotional heritage shared by the Khojas and other communities in Gujarat and Sindh. Historians also point out the interest of the role of the ginâns in the construction of Khojas identity during the 19th and 20th centuries.

Michel Boivin