Who was Imam Ala Dhikrihi’s Salam?

Foundation of the Ismāʿīlī faith is based upon the myth that Karim Aga Khan has an unbroken hereditary link with ʿAlī bin abi Ṭālib who was “appointed as the successor” by the Prophet ﷺ.  Ismāʿīlīs recite the names of all their 49 imams in their Holy Du’ā (daily prayers which they pray instead of the Muslim ṣalāh). These 49 imams are assumes to be the consecutive descendants of ʿAlī bin abi Ṭālib. Ismāʿīlīs claim that this uninterrupted lineage for the last 1400 years is the proof of Karim Aga Khan’s constitutional right to the throne of Imamat by the way of designation (nass) generation after generation from the current imām to the  previous legitimate imām. By virtue of these alleged “uninterrupted designations”, Karim Aga Khan has enjoyed the full authority of governance over and in respect of all religious and community matters of the Ismāʿīlīs.

However, three imams of the Nizari Ismailis, focusing on Imām Hadi, and Imām Muhtadi and then we look at who was Ala Zikrihis Salam (romanized as ʿAlā Dhikrihi-s Salām, which literally means “upon his mention be peace”) and why has his real name, Ḥasan, been deleted from the Holy Du’ā and replaced by just a “blessing”. Finally we look at what Ismāʿīlī and non-Ismāʿīlī historians have recorded regarding Imām ʿAlā Dhikrihi-s Salām before drawing conclusions.

1. Sketchy Details of Imam Hadi, Imam Muhtadi and Imam Qahir

2. Who was Imām ʿAlā Dhikrihi-s Salām ?

3. Ismaili Historical Record of Imam Hadi

4. Ismaili and non-Ismaili Records of Imām ʿAlā Dhikrihi-s Salām

4.1 First Evidence – Farhad Daftary’s “Ismailis: Their History and Doctrines”

4.2 Second Evidence – “Ismaili Imamono Toonk Itihas, Part III” by H.R.H. The Aga Khan Ismailia Association for Pakistan

4.3 Third Evidence – Alamut and Lamasar published by The Ismaili Society

4.4 Fourth Evidence

4.5 Fifth Evidence by Marshall G.S. Hodson

5. Conclusion

1. Sketchy Details of Imām Hādi, Imām Muhtadi and Imām Qāhir

Ismāʿīlī historians record that the historical records of their three consecutive descendants of ʿAlī bin abi Ṭālib, who served as twentieth, twenty-first and twenty-second imams, whose names were Imam Hadi, Imām Muhtadi, and Imām Qāhir, and who had lived in Alamūt , are very sketchy. Crucial data regarding their births and marriages is unavailable. The reason put forward by the Ismāʿīlī historians is that the enemies of the Nizari Ismāʿīlī Imams have torched these historical records. Therefore, only their names and years of their deaths are known to the Ismāʿīlī historians. Their birth record is not available. Here is the available data with Ismāʿīlī historians:

Imam # Name Birth Death
19 Nizar 1044/45 AD 1095/97 AD
20 Hadi Unknown 1136 AD
21 Muhtadi Unknown 1157 AD
22 Qahir Unknown 1162 AD
23 Ala Zikrihis Salam* 1126 AD 1167 AD
* Ala Zikrihis Salam means “on his mention, peace”. His real name was Hasan.

However, a quick examination of the dates of death of these three Ismāʿīlī imāms’ shows that they died within 31 years. Biologically, no human can claim having three successive physical generations within that brief period in history. The historical records as we shall discover from their own historical records and the chart below:

2. Who was Ala Zikrihis Salam?

The real name of Ala Zikrihis Salam was Hasan and is not recited by Ismailis in the ritual prayers. Instead, he is remembered as Ala Zikrihis Salam which literally means “Peace be upon his name” is recited.

Professor W. Ivanow translates his name as “whoever and wherever he may be”.  Majority of the non-Ismaili historians record that Hasan Ala-Zikrhis-Salam was the son of a Dai (missionary) and the name of his father was Muhammad bin Kiya Buzurgumid. Muhammad was not an Imam but was the Grand Master of the community of the dreaded Assassins of Alamut in Persia.

The nineteenth Imam Nizar died in the prison in the end of year the 488 AH/1095 AD and this date is well-recorded in history. His death occurred at the end of Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt. Nizar and his son Hadi, the twentieth Imam both were imprisoned in Alexandria by the then Prime Minister Afzal Badr Jamali. Some historians have claimed that the father and the son both died in Egypt.

3. Ismaili Historical Record of Imam Hadi

The Ismaili historians claim that the twentieth Imam Hadi, escaped from the prison and went to Alamut. If so, this could have only happened after the year of his imprisonment in 1095 AD. The details of the year of escape of Hadi from the prison and his journey from Egypt to Iran are not available. Ismaili historians record that after the escape Hadi settled in Alamut. There, Imam Hadi got married (that is after 1095) and he had a son, a grandson and a great-grandson (Imams twenty-first, twenty-second and twenty-third) in Alamut. The details and year of his marriage as well as the years of births for his son and the grandson are unknown.

4. Ismaili and non-Ismaili Records of Imam Ala Zikrihis Salam

Ismaili historians and non-Ismaili historians do record the birth year of great-grandson – the twenty-third Imam, Hasan (Ala Zikrihis Salam) to be 520 AH/1126 AD.

Reproduced below are the scanned images from Ismaili and non-Ismaili sources confirming that the date is 1126 AD.

What are the possibilities of having biologically three successive generations – between the years 1095 AD and 1126 AD – i.e. within a brief period of less than 31 years?

4.1 First Evidence

The first source is Dr. Farhad Daftary’s book “Ismailis: their History and Doctrines”, 1990, Cambridge,  Page 386 (hardcover copy ISBN 0-521-37019)


fictitious names-evidence1-Daftary5

4.2 Second Evidence

H. R. H. The Agakhan Ismailia Association for Pakistan’s Gujrati history book “Ismaili Imamono Toonk Itihas, Part III”, Third Reprint – 1975, Page 119. Translated by Huzur Mukhi Abdul Muhammad Gilani.

fictitious names-evidence2-I.I.T.I.-Gujrati

4.3 Third Evidence – Alamut and Lamasar published by The Ismaili Society

Prof. W. Ivanow has been a famous name when it comes to English language translations of ancient Ismaili manuscripts. In 1957-58, he was financed by a private study group in Mombasa, Kenya, headed by C.K.R. Paroo and M.H.Rashid, for exploring the historical site of Alamut.

The aim of the expedition was to uncover the mystery surrounding to the founder of Alamut – Hasan bin Sabbah and his successors especially the enigmatic Grand Master, Hasan II, also known by Ismailis in their du’ā as Hasan ala dhikrihis- salam.

The conclusions of Prof. Ivanow’s independent research did not support the Ismaili beliefs. He wrote:

“It would be too long to go into details of the story, but when Kiya Muhammad, the son and successor of Kiya Buzurg-Ummid [successor to Hasan bin Sabbah], died in 557/1162, he was succeeded by the person, who was officially regarded as the son of Kiya Muhammad, but later recognized as the Imam, Khudawand Hasan ‘ala dhkiri-hi’s-salam.”

Ivanov, W. (1960). Alamut and Lamasar: Two Mediaeval Ismaili Strongholds in Iran: An Archaeological Study (p. 26). Teheran: The Ismaili Society.

He goes on to write the below:

Khudawand Jalalu’d-din Hasan ‘ala dhikri-hi’s-salam was born (J.T. 88) in 520/1126, and became the fuler of the Alamut enclave on the death of Kiya Muhammad on the 3rd of Rab.I 557/20-2-1162 first being officially regarded as the son of the latter.

Ivanov, W. (1960). Alamut and Lamasar: Two Mediaeval Ismaili Strongholds in Iran: An Archaeological Study (p. 28). Teheran: The Ismaili Society.

fictitious names - evidnce 3-Ivanow-28-History

4.4 Fourth Evidence – Bernard Lewis’s “The Assassins – A Radical Sect in Islam”

lewis-assassins_book coverIn the book “The Assassins – A Radical Sect in Islam” by Bernard Lewis, it is mentioned that Hasan, the son of Burzugmid publicized that he was only “outwardly” known as the son of Burzugmid. However, esoterically, he was the Imam of the time and had esoterically descended from the previous Imam. Lewis mentions that many people believed that with the Age of Resurrection (also known as the Festival of Qiyama), physical descent had ceased to be of significance and lineage of Hasan Ala Zikrihis Salam was truly of estoeric significance.

fictitious names evidence 4-Bernard-Lewis

4.5 Fifth Evidence – Marshall G.S. Hodson’s The Order of the Assassins

In the book The Order of Assassins – The Struggle of the Early Nizari Isma’ilis Against The Islamic World by Dr. Marshall G.S. Hodson – University of Chicago Committee on Social Thoughts, Mouton  & Co., 1955, it is mentioned on page 151 under the caption “Return of the Imam: Hasan’s Claims” that:

It is not clear in fact just what were Hasan’s actual claims in this respect, and what were the claims only made for him by his son, Muhammad, who succeeded within a year and a half after the Festival of Qiyama. The community itself may not have had time to become fully acquainted with Hasan’s clalims. But Muhammad certainly maintained that Hasan was not only Caliph, but the Imam himself. And it seems that Hasan himself finally claimed to be Imam in the spiritual sense, in the bâtin, though without claiming to be a descendant of Nizar in the outward sense, the zahir.

fictitious names-evidence 5-Marshall-Hodgson-151

On page 152, it is clearly mentioned that:

Hasan means that he is a “unique deputy” (naib munfarid) of the Imam; and as such he might well occupy the imam’s own position in the earth, without being himself the imam.

It goes on to conclude that:

Spiritually, he was the descendant of Nizar.

6. Conclusion

The overwhelming pieces of evidence reproduced above conclude that Hasan, commonly known as Ala Zikrihis Salam, was the son of the Grand Master of Alamut and not a physical descendant of the previous imam Qahir. There is no evidence for the current imam to claim that he is a physical descendant of Ali (ra).

The so-called Nizari Imams after Ala Zikrihis Salam up to Karim Aga Khan are the descendants of Ala Zikrihis Salam and Dai Muhammad bin Kiya Buzurgumid and not Ali (ra).

6 thoughts on “Who was Imam Ala Dhikrihi’s Salam?

    • thank you for the clarity of presenting this hugely eye-opening and critical analysis of golden source evidence. All Ismailis should read this article (a must read) and ask questions of their local leaders in the interest of openness

      Liked by 1 person

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