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


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