Esotericism in the Ismāʿīlī Tradition Part III: The Antagonism between Islam and Ismāʿīlīsm

Esoterism in the Ismaili Tradition Part III Cover

Esoterism in the Ismāʿīlī Tradition Part III: The Antagonism between Islam and Ismāʿīlīsm

Continuing from the works cited from al-Sijistani’s works, we continue by quoting from another source on Ismāʿīlī bāṭenism or esotericism. Following are refereces from Dr. Marakem in his book Philosiphical Significance of the Imām in Ismāʿīlīsm.

“Knowing the imām is the perfection of īmān (Reference: M.K. Husayn (ed.) Al-Majalis al-Mustansiriyya, Cairo. p. 25). Thus, the Mu’min is to the Ismāʿīlīs he who believes and obeys the Imām. It follows that the belief in the Imām is the axis around which revolves the whole of the Ismāʿīlī creed. The author of Al-Majalis al-Mustansiriyya says that knowing the imām is the perfection of īmān. Thus, the mu’min is to the Ismāʿīlīs he who believes and obeys the Imām. It follows that the belief in the imām is the axis around which revolves the whole of the Ismāʿīlī creed.”

The above author also testified that faith on imām is everything – without the need for believing in Allāh, the Qur’ān or the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The author also says that:

“In other words this Will is God’s word that He willed. Now this word, in order to realize itself in this world must be manifested to man. In other words, this Will is God’s word that He willed. Now this word, in order to realize itself in this world must be manifested to man. In other words this Will is God’s word that He willed. Now this word, in order to realize itself in this world must be manifested to man.”

The author explains above that the word of Allāh is equivalent to Allāh himself and requires to be manifested in the form of a physical man. The author also mentions that:

“Proof (burhān) and manifest light (nur-e-mubin) are also interpreted allegorically to denote the Imām. Proof (burhān) and manifest light (nur-e-mubin) are also interpreted allegorically to denote the Imām roof (burhān) and manifest light (nur-e-mubin) are also interpreted allegorically to denote the Imām.  Proof (burhān) and manifest light (nur-e-mubin) are also interpreted allegorically to denote the Imām.”

In bāṭeni taʾwīl, the terms of noor and burhān are equivalent to the Imām.

“Then al-Kirmani proceeds to show that the act of Origination (ibda) is not apart from the Originator (God).  It is only an aspect of Him. He says:” (18)

Reference: Al-Kirmani, Rahat al-aql, p.73.

“After that, al-Kirmani goes on to show that the result of the act too, i.e. that which was originated (al-mubda al-awwal) is the same as the Originator and the Origination. Al-Kirmani says: (19)”   (ibid., p.73. Al-Kirmani, Rahat al-aql. p.73.)

The author explicitly mentions that origination is the creation and the originator and creator are identical and are the same.

“the Originator i.e. God, the Originated, i.e. the First Intellect, and the act of Origination are one. Thus, we have three hypostases of a trinity, three real and distinct subsistences in one undivided essence of God. This is obviously very close to the Christian belief in the Trinity and might reveal the Christian influence on the bāṭeni movement in Islam.”

Hence it is called the Second Intellect (al-aql ath-thani). Also it is called the Soul of the First Intellect, (22) and the Universal Soul (an-nafs al-kulliyya).”

Reference: See Masa’il majmu’a, in Gnosis-Texte der Ismāʿīlīten, ed. by R. Strothmann. Gottingen, 1955, p. 25.

1. The Proclaimer (an-natiq); his function is to proclaim the revelation (at-tanzil) 1. The Proclaimer (an-natiq); his function is to proclaim the revelation (at-tanzil)

2. The Foundation (al-asas); his function is to interpret the revelation (at-ta’wil); he is so called because he is the foundation of the inward knowledge (ilm al-batin)

3. The Imām; he carries on this inward knowledge and leads the community.

However in Nizārī Ismāʿīlīsm the imām occupies a higher rank than that given to him in most Fatimid works. He is considered higher than the nāţiq.

“As we have seen above, God’s word must in order to realize itself in this world, be manifested to man. The Imām who is the guide of the believers (those who comply with God’s Word) is therefore the embodiment of this Word. He is God’s Word manifested. The Imām, therefore, must always be present (muqim) in this world in order to guide the believers. In order to show that this Word of God must always be manifested in this world.

The Word of God, as was shown above, is the First Intellect or the First Originated Being (29). It follows that the Imām is the First Intellect manifested in this world. Consequently, the Imām is to the World of Religion (alam ad-din) what the First Intellect is to the Intelligible World.”

Reference: See also Sami Makarem, “Al-amr al-ilahi wa mafhumuhu fil-aqida al-isma’iliyya” (The divine Amr and its concept in the Ismāʿīlī creed), al-abhath, vol.1 (1967), pp.3 ff. See also Sami Makarem, “Al-amr al-ilahi wa mafhumuhu fil-aqida al-isma’iliyya” (The divine Amr and its concept in the Ismāʿīlī creed), al-abhath, Vol. 1 (1967).

“I have shown above that the Ismai’ilis consider their Imām to be the embodiment of God’s Will or Word. He is, therefore, the First Intellect manifested in this world. Adam (31) was the first to be entrusted with that Word or Will, i.e. with the Imāmate”.

(31) Al-Hamidi, Kanz al-walad, in a microfilm in my possession fol. 337.

“In other words the person of the Imām would be the embodiment of God’s Word which is the First Intellect or Origination as it was mentioned above. Thus, he is God’s Nasut, or manifestation; or, in other words, he is God as He appears to mankind. Whereas al-Lahut is God qua God, as He is in Himself.”

“In other words the person of the Imām would be the embodiment of God’s Word which is the First Intellect or Origination as it was mentioned above. Thus, he is God’s Nasut, or manifestation ; or, in other words, he is God as He appears to mankind. Whereas al-Lahut is God qua God, as He is in Himself.”

“Ali says O, Salman and Jundub, I bring humanity to life and make them die, I create them, and nourish them…”

Reference: (34) W. Ivanow, The rise of the Fatimids, Oxford, 1942, pp.73-76 of the Arab text.

“Al-Kirmani’s assertion  that the Imām is to the Ismāʿīlīs the human manifestation of God, or God’s Will manifested (an-Nasut). As for the Lahut, i.e. God as He is in Himself, He cannot be grasped or comprehended. The Nasut is an evidence (hujja) of the Lahut. Al-Mu’ayyad fi d-Din days about the Imām al-Mustansir: (36)”

Reference: (36) M.K. Husayn (ed.), Diwan al-Mu’ayyad fi d-Din, Cairo, 1949, pp.227.

“Jafar ibn Mansur al-Yaman in his book Sar’ir an-Nutaqa, says: (37) “It is related that  Abu Dharr said, ‘I have heard the commander of the Faith say: I am the face of God that He mentioned in His saying ‘Wither so ever you turn, there is the face of God.’ (Sura 11, 109).”

Reference: (37) M.K. Husayn (ed.), Diwan al-Mu’ayyad fi d-Din, Cairo, 1949, p.81 of the preface.

In another poem, al-Mu’ayyad says about al-Mustansir: (38)

“Your face is the luminous face of God, And your light is as a veil to His light.”

Thus, the Imām to the Ismāʿīlīs is God manifested. He is the Word of God and His Will, Thus, the Imām to the Ismāʿīlīs is God manifested. He is the Word of God and His Will.

“He is consequently higher than the Prophet. Al Muayyad made this clear when he differentiated between Nubuwwa (Prophethood) and Imāma (Imāmate). The position of Nubuwwa or Risala, he said, is the office of Trustees (istida), while that of the Imāma is the office of Permanence (istiqrar). (40)”   Reference : (40) M. K. Husayn (ed)., Diwan al-Mu’ayyad, p.80, quoting from al-Mu’ayyadiyya, Vol. 1, p. 68.

“It follows that Muhammad is considered by the Ismāʿīlīs to be inferior ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, the first Imām.”  In his esoteric work Zahr al-Ma’ani, Idris Imad ad-Din, speaking about Ali, says: (41) “… And this his position was exactly the same as that of Al Ima al-Qa’im bi Amrillah with regard to al-Mahdi.”

Reference: (41) W. Ivanow, Rise of the Fatimids, p.78 of the Arabic text.

“Being the Word of God, the Imām is, therefore, to the Isma’ilis as the Qur’ān is to the Orthodox Muslims. He is the ever living guide, the “up-to-date” word of God, so to speak. As there are some Qur’ānic verses which abrogate others, so the Imām can abrogate what was said previously. His word is God’s Word, and his legislation is God’s Legislation., while Ali was Mustaqarr.”

Reference: (44) Wilferd Madelung, “Das Imāmat inder frühen Ismāʿīlītischen Lehre”, Der Islam, 1961, vol. 37, pp.78-79.

“Being the Word of God, the Imām is, therefore, to the Isma’ilis as the Qur’ān is to the Orthodox Muslims. He is the ever living guide, the “up-to-date” word of God, so to speak. As there are some Qur’ānic verses which abrogate others, so the Imām can abrogate what was said previously. His word is God’s Word, and his legislation is God’s Legislation., while Ali was Mustaqarr.”

Reference: (44) Wilferd Madelung, “Das Imāmat inder frühen Ismāʿīlītischen Lehre”, Der Islam, 1961, vol. 37, pp.78-79.

Below are a few excerpts from Shish Fasal also called Rawashana’i-Nama by Nasir Khusraw Persian text translated by W. Ivanow. Ismāʿīlī Society Series B6, published for the Ismāʿīlī Society by  E. J. BRILL, Oude Rijn; 33a, Leiden. Holland.

“These four letters (with the help of which the word Allāh is written) He intended as symbols for four principles (hadd), – two spiritual (ruhani) and two material (jismani), [10] by which the oneness (wahdaniyyat) of God can be proved. One of them is an alif (letter A) which is a straight line, to which all letters can be joined, while it does not join any letter. All letters have developed (?) From it (az u tarbiyat yafta and), because all letters that exist from curved (junbanida) lines. The alif symbolizes the ‘Aql-i Kull from which all the spiritual and material entities have received existence, and all are connected (paywasta) with it, while it itself in its power depends on nothing, being above everything.”

‘The next is the letter lam (L) which consists of a line the lower part of which is drawn forward. (Thus it) possesses length and width, like a surface (sath). It resembles alif but all letters are joined to it, and it itself joins various letters. The lam symbolizes the Nafs-i Kull with which on all sides both the spiritual and material entities are connected, and which resembles the ‘Aql just as the lam resembles the alif.”

“The third letter is (also) a lam, similar to that preceding one. It is, however, equal to only half of the degree (importance) of the alif. It symbolizes the Natiq who all sides is connected with the Nafs-i Kull [11] and receives support (ta’yid) from it in his organization (ta’lif) of the system (or world) of religion, which is the “third world” (suwwum ‘alam).”

“The first world is the world of spiritual (latif) entities, the second is the material (kathif) world, and the third is the world of religion. The Natiq occupies in the last one the position of the ‘Aql, just as the second lam (in the word Allāh) resembles the alif.”

“The fourth letter in it (i.e. in Allāh) is ha (H) which symbolizes the material world, possessing length, width and breadth. It occupies the fourth place (daraja) from the alif, and is a circle in which (one) end (of the line) is brought down to meet the other end. It symbolizes the Asas which is connected with the Natiq, receiving from the latter spiritual support (ta’yid) by the power of the Nafs-i Kull in his (task of) the explanation of [12] the shari’at. This is just like the world which has length, width and height and reveals (sharh-i chiz-ha hami birin arad) various matters such as minerals, plants, animals and foodstuffs for the bodies of men. The Asas brings back the souls of the faithful (mu’minan) to the recognition of the oneness of God (shinakht-i tawhid) and the interpretation of the shari’at (in its relation to) the higher world (‘alam-i ‘ulwi), so that ultimately creation may re-join its source (awwal), like (the line in the) letter ha, which is a circle, whose ends are joined together.

(All of the above from Fasal 1 of Shish Fasal)

“The ta’wil of the “face” is the Imām, because the mu’min is recognized by his Imām,”

(Ref: Fasal 3 of Shish Fasal)

“It is just as the ‘Alawis, i.e. descendants of ‘Ali, who are at present in the world (as living) souls, and those who were before them, or will come after them, are all the substance (dhat) of the soul of the Commander of the Faithful ‘Ali [40] which contained them potentially. But so long as they were not connected with their bodies, it was impossible to take notice of or count them.”

(Ref: Fasal 3 of Shish Fasal)

 “in order that thy descendants, the Imāms, by the command of God, at their own time should [52] explain thy Book to people, bringing its meaning from the form (of the letter) of the Divine Revelation (tanzil) into that of the revelation of its inner sense (ta’wil) and spreading it in time amongst humanity. He, the Prophet, at the end of his life left the command to his descendants, who are the true Imāms, Imāman-i haqq, that they should convey to people its inner meaning; in order that thy descendants, the Imāms, by the command of God, at their own time should [52] explain thy Book to people, bringing its meaning from the form (of the letter) of the Divine Revelation (tanzil) into that of the revelation of its inner sense (ta’wil) and spreading it in time amongst humanity. He, the Prophet, at the end of his life left the command to his descendants, who are the true Imāms, Imāman-i haqq, that they should convey to people its inner meaning;”

(Ref: Fasal 5 of Shish Fasal)

Taʾwīl of kalima aṭ-ṭaiyibah

لا اله الا الله

محمد الرسول الله

This kalima is considered the key to paradise. This key has four components: Universal Intelligence, Universal Soul, the Speaking Prophets and the founder Asas followed by hereditary Imāms. This is the same thing we have studied before.

But, at the same time the operator is required and this operator in Ismāʿīlism is the Imām as all the four Roots/Hudud/Well Springs are merged in the Imām. Therefore, the key is the imām, consequently the Imām himself is the Kalima Tayaba. Result is: the Kalima can be reconstructed as: La Imām Illa Imām az-zaman, or more precisely La Ilaha illa Imām e zaman.

Adopted from (1) Wellsprings of Wisdom By Sajistani Translated by Paul E Walker and (2) Hamare Ismāʿīlī Mazhab ki Haqiqat aur Iska Nizam by Dr Zahid Ali.

When Prophet asked Allāh that I can have Your didar/visual glimpse. Allāh ordained that no human being can see Him and asked the Prophet Mūsa that look at the mountain near about, Allāh’s Tajjali was on the mountain and it was turned into dust and small stones.  Keeping in mind, this teaching of Allāh, how there can be a human being consisting of bones and flesh and other tissues can be Allāh. Therefore this Ismāʿīlī taʾwīl of kalima at-ṭaiyibah leads nowhere and lacks sense.

(Amiru’l-mu’minin), the one who subdued tyrants, the one who was the ascetic amongst ascetics, the devotee amongst devotees, the mihrab of the righteous and the qibla of those who recite the prayers of the Truth (namaz-guzaran-i Haqiqat), ‘Ali Murtada.

(Ref: Fasal 1 of Shish Fasal)

Taʾwīl of Qibla in Ismāʿīlism

Qibla is a cubical structure in Mecca which Qur’ān says Becca. Every Muslim, while praying must face towards this Qibla. This is obligatory and fundamental requirement, in the absence of which Salat/Namaz cannot be offered. Those who do not do face Qibla; their Iman/Faith is not according to Islam. And Allāh does not accept their worship.

Present day Nizari Ismāʿīlīs do not face towards Qibla in Mecca/Becca. But they do not offer ṣalāt but recite a shirk-infested duʿāʾ. Therefore, the Jamatkhanas are the only proclaimed places of ‘Islamic’ worship, which are not constructed in the direction of the Qibla in Mecca. They do not have any Masjid as all other Muslims have that. There is no adhān the call for prayers, nor any ṣalāt therein.

Their argument is that the structure that is in Mecca is just a small structure of black stone and a door, therefore, the true Qibla is the body of Imām which harbors the Noor of Allāh; therefore, the members of this bāṭeni creed face towards a photo/portrait of Imām while praying in Jamatkhanas or otherwise praying at home.

ʿAlī, the man god for Ismāʿīlis was strictly regular with his prayers i.e. ṣalāt facing the Qibla in Mecca. All the following hereditary Imāms have done the same. Who were the “Ismāʿīli Gods” worshipping? How is that the Imām can offer the ṣalāt and that the follows of the Imām, i.e., the Ismāʿīlis have a different prayer for invoking their Imām who they consider as God?

Second questionable action of Ismāʿīlis is the recitation of Qurʾān in the Ismāʿīlī duʿāʾ. Ismāʿīlīs have no belief in the Qur’ān whatsoever. Ivanow writes

Second thing is the recitation of Qur’ān in the Ismāʿīlī Du’a. Ismāʿīlīs have no belief in Qur’ān and they do not possess one. When W. Ivanow compiled the Index of Ismāʿīlī Literature, a Bibliographical Survey of Ismāʿīlī Literature, he referenced every book used in the Ismāʿīlī creed and theology, but did not name the Qur’ān in that list. The actually gave a reason that Ismāʿīlīs do not believe in the ẓâhiri Qur’ān and their belief in the taʾwīl cannot be published.

Ismāʿīlī prayers, or the Holy Duʿāʾ as they call it, was in Gujarātī and Khojki languages and it was said that it was formulated by Pir Sadardin a long time ago. In 1945, when Aga Khan III was in Bombay to celebrate his diamond jubilee of his Imāmat, I was there for the deedar (visual glimpse) of the imām. It was there when he uttered this farman:

Ismāʿīlīs have no written book for Hidāyah/ Guidance but they have living Imām for their Hidāyah Guidance.

Reference: Farman No. 530, dated 29, December 1945 at Wadi in Bombay

This same imām introduced a new duʿāʾ in Arabic and ordered to recite daily three times in Jamatkhanas. I was shocked to find that every part of all the six parts begins with a verse of the Qur’ān. On the contrary in the old Gujarātī and Khojki duʿāʾ, there were no verses from the Qur’ān whatsoever. It was a huge leap from Ismāʿīlīs having ‘no book but the imām’ to picking up many verses from the Qur’ān.

Was the masoom imām wrong in 1945? Was his claiming of having aql-e-kul incorrect as well?

Earlier in this article, it was evident how the taʾwīl of the word Allāh has been twisted to portray the imām as the deity who should be approached, invoked and worshiped.

The evil Ismāʿīlī missionaries first hijacked philosophical canvas presented by Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus, interwoven there in the concept of Philosophical king, developed into ideal/perfect man by Aristotle and then after the Universal Intellect and Universal Soul of the Plotinus. Then this canvas was mercilessly mutated, mutilated and cut through with the knife called taʾwīl, to evolve the imaginary concept of Imāmat, planted into heredity of ʿAlī bin Abī Ṭālib. This is an example how a pious name of Ali is linked to this evident misguidance and concepts which are antagonistic to the basic concept of Islam. Not only these concepts are antagonistic to Islam but they are also appearing to be filled in with animosity.

Let us remember that in regards to takmil-e-deen, the will and Pleasure of Omnipotent Allāh unfolded by making Islam complete, perfect, flawless, faultless, divine, eternal, easy to understand, protected by Allāh  and suited to the demands of all times and climes for the humanity et-large. Muhammad the Blessed Apostle of Allāh, faithfully delivered the Message vouchsafed to him and he strived and practiced with all of his might to raise the Final Ummah, which could discharge the responsibilities ordained by Allāh and exemplified by the Holy Apostle. This Ummah is entrusted the charge of spreading the message of Islam. And this Ummah has been entrusted to safeguard the Qur’ān in its pristine purity against all deviations, innovations and to guide the humanity on the right path. Therefore, there is neither any need of a new Divine revelation nor any Prophet nor any personality in whatever name is needed.

I had submitted that a powerful antagonism exists between Islam and Ismāʿīlī taʾwīl concept. Let me elucidate this point:

1. First Antagonism: The Qur’ān

According to the Qur’ān, Ahadis and other Islamic literature, the Qur’ān is revealed by Allāh to the Apostle through Gabriel and there is no two opinions about this. Qur’ān is open and easy to understand and is meant for each and every human being till the end of this world for aakhirah.

In bāṭeni imāmi Ismāʿīlī creed. Qur’ān has two types of meaning viz. an evident one and other secret one. According to Ismāʿīlī bāṭeni taʾwīl the Qur’ān is authored by Apostle in ẓâhiri sense only and is liable to secret bāṭeni meaning by the Asas/Imām. This secret meaning can only be provided to a selected small group by the Imām.

2. Second Antagonism: Risālat or Prophethood

According to Qur’ān, Allāh revealed the Qur’ān to blessed Apostle by the angel Gaḇrîʼēl in the form of wahi in a time span of about 23 years. This blessed Apostle of Allāh faithfully conducted his life according to the hidāyah/Guidance contained therein. He invited the people to this hidāyah and a final Ummah emerged entrusted with this guidance and invite people to this hidāyah till the day of recon. This means that every Muslim has to adopt and conduct his/her life accordingly and invite the people to this hidāyah. This is the bounden duty for each and every Muslim. This means that the Qur’ān and the Sunnah of the blessed Apostle shall be the only law or sharīʿah till the day of recon.

In the bāṭeni Ismāʿīlī creed there is nothing like final Ummah. Here the Imām has taken up the work to propagate the bāṭeni teachings, alone or along with his Hujjat/Pir. Every Imām has his separate Ummah.

3. Third Antagonism: Allāh

In ʾIslām, Allāh is Hayul, Qayum and is ever functioning as suggested in to all the sifati/attributive names of Allāh without any break since infinite eternally. Everything between earth and skies belongs to Allāh. He hears the prayer and answers means decides immediately.

In the bāṭeni Ismāʿīlī creed the man god Ismāʿīlī Imām though, claims manifestation of divinity and all the sifati/attributive names and their functions, every Imām is supposed to be from the lineage of ʿAlī bin Abī Ṭālib,

4. Fourth Antagonism: Ma’ad/Akhirah:

In the blessed Qur’ān there is vivid description of the judgement day, heaven and hell. This is well-known and does not require further elaboration.

We have so far not touched upon the taʾwīl of heaven and hell. In Ismāʿīlīsm, the taʾwīl of heaven is knowledge hell is ignorance. This means that the knowledge or the acquaintance and the love for the imām is the only means to salvation and does not matter whether you have committed heaps of sins and crimes.

Here Salvation means that after the death if the follower has achieved the marifat of imām then his or her soul will migrate into the soul of the imām and this is Heaven. Otherwise all the other souls are damned.

This antagonism in the all the four foundation pillars, produced by the taʾwīl of the word Allāh, is heresy and their doctrine is heretical. This is dissent, diversion deviation, profanation and sacrilegious.

The hidāyah of Allāh in the Qur’ān in Surah al-Ikhlas (The Unity) – Chapter 112, Verses 1-4 is simple and straight-forward:

Say, He is Allāh the one Alone.

Allāh, the Universally Besought.

He begets not nor is He Begotten.

Nor is there to Him comparable anyone.

It is well-known that the wonders of Qur’ān will never end. This chapter is the example. Think of a very dark night and the darkness is such that one cannot see one’s own hand. But if a small candle is lighted, total darkness will cease to exist.

Say, He is Allāh the one Alone. Allāh, the Universally Besought. (112:1-2)

If the word Ahad is properly understood, the darkness of ignorance, taʾwīl fabricated under word Allāh, where, the imaginary, notional image of the man god Imām is emerged from the false interpretation of the philosophy of Plato, Aristotle and Plotinus, and mercilessly mutated, mutilated and cut to evolve a tailor-made imaginary icon of the man god Imām, will immediately vanish.

This chapter contains three names of Allāh viz. Allāh, Ahad and Samad, the last two are sifati/attributive ones. This whole Sūrah is the explicit and it is easily understood and explains Sifati name of Allāh: Ahad. Therefore, let us discuss it.

Ahad means Eternal one i.e. when there was nothing He was when everything will perish, He will be there. Can anyone claim or gain such position. Obliviously there is none. For all the Sifati/Attributive with prefix al are in the same unique position.

Let us now take as-Samad, everybody universally seeks Him for all needs, but He is not dependent to anyone or anything.  He hears the invocations of all and decides accordingly.  Ahad also contains this attribute.

Let us understand one more example: The attributive name of Allāh Al-Khaliq/Creator: Allāh is the creator of all living and material things. None else can create anything. Does Allāh need any help of anyone?  Does He need any partner to help? Answer is obviously no. Ahad includes this attribute also. Any claimant of the slightest creation is a liar, impersonator and bluffer.

The angels, the stars, the sun and the moon all are created by The Creator. Created ones are not similar to creator and any claim to divinity is null and void.

Lam Yalid, walam youlad. He begets not nor is He Begotten (112:1-2)

The door of Shirk is closed for many prevalent shirks. The false belief of Yahud that Uzair is the son of Allāh, in the light of this surah is negated in such a way that there remains no argument or any type of justification.

Similarly, Christian belief in trinity and division of divinity/elahiyat in three parts viz. Father, Son and Holy Ghost is highly prevalent these days. In the light of this sūrah there is no locus standi, nor any justification and the whole edifice of trinity crumbles down.

The Greek mythology and the gods and goddesses with different function are all human beings and born out of mothers’ wombs. Therefore, no one claim divinity; this is total diversion and deflection from the sirat al-mustaqim Islam.

In Indo-Pak subcontinent the Aryan/Hindu mythology is not different and similar to the Greek mythology with the same fate. But before the Aryan advent in the sub-continent there was pantheism where everything tangible; with life or not can be god; namely serpent/nag-dev &c. everything is created/makhluq that can never be a Khaliq.

Nor is there to Him comparable anyone. (112:4)

Now we’ll try to understand the placement of the Ismāʿīlī Bāṭeni creed’s hero the imām. This Imām is living human born out of a woman’s womb, therefore, in the light of this verse all the claims of his (imāmat) divinity are invalid, null and void and stand eliminated.

Heredity: Inheritance from the previous Imām is necessary, this also falls within the orbit of this verse and therefore, invalid, null and void. Detailed discussion of the inheritance is out of place in short article/essay like this.

But, I’ll like to invite your attention to the fact that: Allāh the Ahad is the provider of everything required for the sustenance of all the human beings and other creations, while, the Imām of the Ismāʿīlī Bāṭeni Creed exploits the unwary followers. How the present Imām exploits this situation to his personal monitory advantages,

Nor is there to Him comparable anyone.  Allāh is Ahad, then, how anything living or otherwise, created by him can have any sort of comparision?

In the next episode, we will look at clear Qur’ānic verses which are misinterpreted by Ismāʿīlī missionaries in the name of taʾwīl or esotericism to deceive the Ismāʿīlī community who are most of the time too busy to validate the far-fetched ideas of these Ismāʿīlī missionaries. May Allāh guide all of us to sirat al-mustaqeem.

Esotericism in the Ismāʿīli Tradition Part II: Tawil of Allah and the system of four roots


Esoterism in the Ismaili Tradition Part II Cover

Continuing our research into the deception of esotericism, let us go back to theological sources and find the definitions for both esotericism (the hidden reality) and exoterism (the external or the apparent).

Finding the Definition of Esotericism and Exotericism from Theological Sources

The definitions of exotericism (ẓâhir) and esoteric (bāṭen or taʾwīl) vary, the concepts are full of contradictions and many theologians have tried to explain this concept without using much reason and logic. The following important questions occur for while explaining the concept of taʾwīl :

1. What is taʾwīl or bāṭeni interpretation?
2. Who is entitled to provide taʾwīl or bāṭeni interpretations and what is the source of his authority?
3. To whom the taʾwīl or bāṭeni interpretation is provided?
4. What are the consequences of the answers to the above three questions?

Is Taʾwīl exclusive to Ismāʿīlīsm?

Every major world religion is tainted by esotericism. Thousands of books have been written on Christian esotericism which are of the view that Christianity is a mystery religion. The authors profess the existence and possession of certain esoteric doctorines or practices of which the general public is unaware, but which is understood by a small group of people. This is exactly how the Ismāʿīlīs view themselves as compared to the Muslim ummah.

In reality, Ismāʿīlīs have a conceited view that only the Ismāʿīlī creed is fortunate enough to have a living, divine Imām for the taʾwīl of the bāṭen of the ẓâhiri sharīʿah and that the Muslims have no such ‘facility’.

The synonyms for the word taʾwīl are esoteric, bāṭen, secret, sacred, ramz, reality (haqeeqat), wisdom (hikmah), gnostic and spiritual interpretation and edicts of the Imām.
The salient arguments raised by Dr. Zahid Ali, in his book Hamare Ismaili Mazhab ki Haqeeqat aur Iska Nizam “The Origins of our Ismaili Creed and its System” can be summarized in the following table:




1. Ẓâhir is a dream. Taʾwīl is the interpretation of the ẓâhir dream.
2. Muslims have to believe in the apparent (ẓâhir) since they do not have the miracle of taʾwīl or bāṭen Taʾwīl is exclusive to Ismāʿīlīs and no one else has it.
3. Custom or traditions must be followed in the ẓâhir. There is no apparent or ẓâhir sharīʿah, no customs and no traditions are necessary to follow.
4. Ẓâhir lacks spirituality and depends on mandatory adherence to sharīʿah Bāṭen is spiritual where the effort to follow thesharīʿah is not required.
5. Ẓâhir is material and lacks spirituality Taʾwīl  is virtual image and is totally spiritual
6. Ẓâhiri sharīʿah is the peel of the fruit Taʾwīl  is the reality and is the kernel of the fruit
7. Ẓâhiri knowledge is full of contradictions Bāṭen is free of contradictions and defects.
8. Ẓâhir is mere blind following (taqlid) of a person and devoid of any reason of knowledge. Bāṭen is enlightenment and based on knowledge, reason and of permanent nature.
9. ẓâhir is shirk and kufr. Bāṭen is real tawhid
10. According to Pir Nasir Khusraw those who do not recognize or deny the IsmāʿīlīImāms are donkeys and dogs. According to Pir Nasir Khusraw those who recognize and follow the Ismāʿīlī Imāms are real believers

 Taʾwīl of the word “Allāh”

Now let me start with the taʾwīl of the word Allāh. Paul E. Walker has written two books on him: one on the life and works of Abu Ya‘qub al-Sijistani and other the translation and commentary of the book Wellsprings of Wisdom.

Using Wellsprings of Wisdom and wajh-e-deen by Nāsir Khusraw, the following is what is the taʾwīl of the word Allāh:

The word Allah consists of four (4) letters viz (1) Alif, (2) Lam long, (3) Lam Short, and (4) Ha.

Each letter stands for or symbolizes an entity (had, plural hudood) viz:

  1. alif (ا ) for Universal Intelligence,
  2. laam (ل) longer for Universal Soul,
  3. laam (ل) shorter for Prophet/apostle,
  4. ha (ہ) for Asas followed by Imams.

Each one has special function to perform:

  1. Universal Intelligence here after to be referred as UI, functions as tayed    
  2. Universal Soul to be referred as US functions as tarkib
  3. Prophet/Apostle functions as talif and
  4. Asas functions as taʾwīl. These hudood are also called the roots of truth.
# Letter Stands for hudood / roots / wellsprings  fx Origin Certain elucidation Element
1 alif Universal Intelligence / U.I. / Preceder tayed Amr Allah To help the following hudood Fire
2 laam (long) Universal Soul / U.S. / Follower tarkib UI Creation of physical & spititual universe Air
3 laam (short) Apostle / Speaking Prophet /Natiq talif US To author or compile Qur’ān Water
4 ha Assas / Founder (followed by Imams) tawil UI + US To elucidate the Secret/bāṭenimeaning Earth

The following is mentioned by al-Sijistani, Wellsprings of Wisdom, p.7:

“The whole system is impressive, especially in its remarkable symmetry.  At the top is intellect. Intellect holds the highest rank of originated being, at the summit of all the knowledge. It is the beginning and final end of all the principles. God does not enter the system because He is utterly and unqualifiedly transcends it. God is beyond both being and nonbeing, outside of all relationship to anything in the cosmos, whether that thing is sublime or mundane. Therefore, the God is not technically a “source’ or “wellspring” of knowledge, although the origin of that knowledge is an origination. As knowledge, however, the originating, and even the identity of God Himself, is nothing other than intellect. Knowledge is intellect: a simple tautology.”

Note the absence of Allāh from this hierarchy, there is nothing but the Imām.

The following is mentioned on p. 49:

“The Alif is the analogue of the Preceder, who is the well spring of divine inspiration; the first lam is the analogue of the Follower who is the wellspring of Physical composition; the second lam is analogue of the Speaking-Prophet, who is the wellspring of scriptural compilation; and the round spherical ha is the analogue of the Founder, who Is the well spring of interpretation.”

Note that the four letters in the word Allāh are the four roots or wellsprings or Hudod.

“As in the belly of the Earth, Water, Air and the Fire are all concealed, so likewise in the person of the founder (Asas/Imam), the divine inspiration of the preceder, the providence of the follower, and instructions of the Speaking- Prophet are merged together.” (ibid., p. 47)

Note that the system of all these four roots is merged in Assas and his progeny Imāms.

“Because there is no other intellect, it cannot be affirmed to be in another intellect, it follows then that intellect does not corrupt. And this is as God says, “all things perish, except His face.” (al-Qur’ān 28:88). The Preceder is God’s face, which does not perish and it is not destroyed. God has indeed removed from Himself all relationships. (ibid., p. 58)

Note that in Universal: the first Root is the face of God. Imām-e-Hazir which means that the Imām is the face of Allāh. The following is provided as a definition of the word ta’til:

“The Arabic word translated here is a “stripping away positive attributes” is in one place ‘mu’atil and the other ta’til. These are technical terms that cannot be adequately translated with adding explanatory language.” (ibid., p. 146)

It is very important to know that there is no position of Allāh in the bāṭeni Ismāʿīlī hierarchy. Everything which Allāh stands for, translates into the Imām, leaving no place for Allāh in the hierarchy. Therefore this bāṭeni interpretation implies that all power of the supreme creator, Allāh are vested into the Imām – so much so that Imām himself is Allāh. The following writings by al-Sijistani attest to this. In the same book (p. 27), he writes:

“God is not a knowable existent, even by mystical means. God does not respond to temporal appeals, but rather has already put in place existing structure, a divine structure, a divine hierarchy that rules the cosmos. It is this structure that must answer to the individual’s query; it contains the sources of all knowledge, divine and otherwise. Were this not so, he would have no order and would be incomprehensible, a mere chaos. The roots of certainty are not thus vague wisps of imagination and fantasy but the hard realities of scientific regulations and laws.”

Also, on p. 30, al-Sijistani writes:

“Significantly, God is not a member of this structure, nor for that matter is the divine command by which He initiates it and brings it into being from nothing.”

“The four roots are each responsible for one of these four functions. Intellect controls ta’yid; it inspires. Soul composes in the sense of tarkib it is the animating force that combines the physical elements in the natural universe into being that move and act. The Speaking –prophet, similarly, composes scripture and creates law, the act of ta’lif. The Founder interprets (provides taʾwīl of) what the other composes.” (ibid., p. 31)

Note: Here are the functions of the four Roots/Hudood/Wellsprings.

“With respect to God, more needs to be said. One area not yet explained is the role of revelatory knowledge. In a sense, al-Sijistani dares deny the connection between God and being because he believes that institution of root sources assumes knowledge of God in and of itself. Humans derive truth from these sources and only from them. God’s position is properly defined only by them and not by extra-systematic perceptions or personal fantasy. Therefore the most accurate understanding of God – in fact, the only valid means to it – is contained in the law and in the pronouncements of the Imam. What the law says is how God is to be known. This is, in the end, a total affirmation of Islam and its teaching of God. It is likewise, in this case, not an appeal to reason or rationality at all. Connecting God, reason is caught between attempted affirmation and repeated denial; it is thus impotent in this one respect.” (ibid., page 94)

The notable point from al-Sijistani’s writing is that there is no Allāh in the Ismāʿīlī hierarchy or the system of four Roots of Truth or four Hudood. What can be the reasons for this: The word Allāh can be only a symbol and each one of the letter can be a symbol for respective root of the truth viz Preceder, the Follower, Natiq Prophet and the Founder meaning Assa’s followed by Imams by heredity. And this is how a system of four roots of truths takes place to perform all the functions of Allāh.

As the word is only a symbol then this is a denial of Allāh; this is total Atheism. Therefore, whole of this system is out of the orbit of ʾIslām.

Denial of Allāh’s universal role in Ismāʿīlīsm

The doctrine of Ta’til says that Allāh is there but He has entrusted all His functions and attributes including and attributive (sifati) names to this system of four roots of truth. All the four roots are merged in the founder meaning Assa’s with following hereditary Imāms. This means that the present Imām is bestowed with all the functions of Allāh. Therefore, the Imām is de facto Allāh. This is therefore complete denial of Allāh’s active role in the universe. In Ismāʿīlīsm, Allāh himself has delegated absolutely everything to the Imām.

Ismāʿīlī history has shown that they have always tried to plant divinity in the Imāms through various means.

The Messenger is the ‘author’ of the Qur’ān in Ismāʿīlīsm

Now, let us consider the Qur’ān  in this system of four roots of truth or hudood. In this system it is not Allāh that revealed Qur’ān to the blessed Apostle Muhammad. According this Ismāʿīlī system the Apostle of Allāh is the author or compiler of the Qur’ān. This is the reason why Allāh has ordained in the Qur’ān to seek the protection of Allāh, before anyone begins to recite the Qur’ān. Allāh narrated in the Qur’ān, more than scores of times that He has revealed the Qur’ān to His Blessed Apostle. Now, should a person have faith in Allāh or these four roots of the so-called ‘truth’ of Ismāʿīlīsm?

This sort of propaganda was a powerful storm against Islam. The main point in this propaganda was that ʿAlī bin Abi Talib had deputed Salman Farsi as his Hujjat to reveal Qur’ān to Muhammad the Apostle even during the tenure of the final Prophet. The effect of this was to falsify (a) Allāh who reveals and (b) that Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was not telling the truth. This is how the propagandists tried in vain to torpedo both pillars of Islam but Allāh did perfect His Islam. He took the cognizance and revealed in the following:

“When we send down one verse to elaborate the other and Allāh knows best what to send down, they say “you forge this Qur’ān yourself.” The fact is that most of them do not know the reality.

Tell them, “The Holy Spirit has brought it down piecemeal intact from my Lord so that He make firm the faith of those who have believed, and to show the Right Way, and to give good news, to those who surrender themselves to Allāh.

We know very well what they say about you: “surely a certain person teaches him.” But the person whom they allude speaks a foreign tongue, and this (Qur’ān) is in plain Arabic.

(Qur’ān Surah Nahl, Verses 101-103)

In the next episode, we will quote from other Ismāʿīlī sources and see further how the Imām is positioned above all else in Ismāʿīlīsm. We will quote references from  Dr. Marakem and al-Kirmani which are respected sources in Ismāʿīlī esotericism. May Allāh guide us all and enable us to practice ʾIslām as it was practiced by the Prophet (pbuh).

Esotericism in the Ismāʿīlī Tradition, Part I: Fragile Foundations

Esoterism in the Ismaili Tradition Part I Cover

After my previous article Takmil-e-Deen, a question was haunting my mind: If there is no place of the doctrine of Imamat in Islam, then what can be the origin of the prevailing doctrine of the Imamat?

Here I was caught in the wilderness of a novel doctrine: exoteric and esoteric concept. Here I quote Ivanow to show how difficult is this field:

In addition to these shortcomings of a purely individual nature, the text, in common with all works on haqaiq, presents much difficulty for understanding and interpretation because of the manner in which the argument suddenly leaps from philosophical matters into the field of theology, only to jump again into the sphere of mythology, Kabbalistic and other superstitious speculations, and so forth.

Source: Ivanov, English Translation of Shish Fasal by Nasir Khuraw

In my understanding the subject of taʾwīl, I had to toil much but Allāh blessed me to understand the concept of taʾwīl.

Four Preliminary Considerations

In this section, we will look at the preliminary considerations while exploring this subject which give us clear evidence of the fragile foundations of esoterism in the Nizari Ismaili creed.

Consideration #1: Lack of Evidence of taʾwīl in the Qur’ān

There is no indication in Holy and Divine Qur’ān that there is any point or narration or commands of the Qur’ān have any secrecy. On the contrary the Qur’ān teaches that:

i. Qur’ān is Ki’tab-e-Mubin that is the open book and no secret reservation.

ii. The Qur’ān is easy to understand. This is repeated in many places.

iii. The verses of the Qur’ān are also explained with similes and examples. This point has repeated at many places.

iv. The verses of the Quran are also explained through similitude or tashbih (plural tashbihāt) and can be easily understood.

The Qur’ān, the basic foundation of ʾIslām, is not philosophy. It is the guidance based on revelation by Allāh. Qur’ān is the complete eternal code of guidance and the complete eternal procedure code is in the form sunnah or the prophetic traditions. Every human being has to conduct his life according to these two sources, for this is the only route to salvation.

Consideration #2: Philosophical Foundations of Esoterism, tasawwuf and sufism

Both the system of batini interpretation and tasawwuf or sufism were seeded in the early third century Hijri, and nurtured in the fourth Hijri centuries. This means that both these systems came into existence after more than three centuries after the takmil-e-deen-e-Islam. Both these systems are based on philosophy. Therefore, as far as Islamic sufism is concerned, there is no word tasawwuf or sufism either in the Qur’ān, or in hadith, nor in the traditions of the companions, their next generation (tabieen) and the generation after them (taba tabieen). These words were adopted in the Arabic language in the late third or early fourth centuries Hijri, therefore these words have no ma’ada in Lugatul Quran.

Foundations of tasawwuf: The basis of tasawwuf is the doctrine of wahdat al-wujood and wahdat ash-shahood. Both these have origin in the Greek and Indian philosophies.

Foundations of bāṭenīyatThe basis of bāṭenīyat has its origins in the Greek doctrine of Universal Intelligence, Universal Soul from Plotinus and that of perfect person or Philosophical King of Plato and “Ideal Man” of Aristotle.

Consideration #3: Divine Wisdom or Human Wisdom?

The philosophers themselves did not mean any harm. The outcome of their thought process was placed publicly in the hands of the literary world. The only point which matters is this: Philosophy is human thinking and wisdom, while Qur’ān is divine and supreme wisdom. These two things cannot be compared. Different philosophers have different ideas of Allāh (or the creator), which will be explored in the next episodes of this article.

It is interesting to note that golden period of philosophy is about twelve centuries beginning from sixth century before Christ and about six centuries after the Christ. In this period very genius personalities produced much of the intelligent philosophies and many are referred to even today.

The important point that concerns us is the fact that Allāh blessed the Ummah and the humanity with the final Apostle Muhammad (pbuh) for all the time to come. This means that the origin of the final divine message final apostle of ʾIslām, perfection of the religion and the last ummah after the golden period of philosophy. The interesting point to note is this: There is no mention of any philosopher or any philosophy in the blessed Qur’ān. Human wisdom has very trivial importance, and the Divine wisdom of Allāh is the only source of guidance in the form of Qur’ān, the complete final and eternal code of life for the humanity and the method how to conduct our life in accordance with the sunnah of final Apostle.

Consideration #4: Inconsistent Application

The esoterians fail to consistently apply the doctrine of esoterism throughout the Quran. A prime example of this is Jihad which is referred to in the Qur’ān in two clear contexts: Fighting as well as struggle with the inner self. However, the concept of jihad in tasawwuf is only against one’s inner self (nafs). Therefore, they believe partly in the exoteric interpretation, while partly believe in esoteric interpretation without providing a sound basis of such inconsistency.

Concept of Jihad in the Nizari Ismāʿīlī creed: The concept of Jihad in the Nizari Ismāʿīlī creed at present is this: In the present era Ismāʿīlī Imām has no army but the notional benefit can be purchased on payment of five hundred rupees for five years service in the army, other categories are: nine hundred rupees for twelve years’ service and five thousand rupees for lifetime services in the Imam’s army.

In the next episode to this article, besides finding the definitions of esoterism and exoterism, we will analyze the taʾwīl and how it applied to the word Allāh, through the reference of the works of the noted Ismāʿīlī philosopher Abu Ya‘qub al-Sijistani.

What They Didn’t Tell You About Dasond in Your Jamatkhana

dasond in jamatkhana

Christians pay ten percent (or ‘tithe’) to the church every time they visit. This is exactly where the name ‘dasond’ comes from. By definition, dasond means ‘tenth’. Ismāʿīlīs pay anything but 10% on their savings. They actually pay at least 12.5% on their income, not knowing what the background of this payment towards their Imām is.

The tithe bowls passed around in Christian churches are downgraded to just ‘mehmani’ collection bowls since they aren’t quite large to carry the hefty amounts which Ismāʿīlīs are deprived of on a monthly basis in the name of dasond.

“A young Ismāʿīlī described how he had been schooled from childhood to pay the monthly dasond, or tithe, which every Ismāʿīlī gives to the Imām. It is the mainstay of Ismāʿīlī finances and brings in untold millions of dollars a year. Dasond means one tenth, but the actual proportion of income a man pays may be less if he is poor or much more if he is rich or particularly pious. The twice a month with the “one-fourth group” or discuss religion and ponder the Aga’s latest farmans (admonitions). “Day by day, you got lost in the religion,” he said, “and you thought that religion was the end of life and whether you lived poor or  rich was no matter, you will sacrifice everything. When you are in the one-fourth group you want to be in the one-half group. Yes, there are people who give one-half of their income to the Imām. Some people give everything, they give even their homes and their dishes and their clothing. And everyone admires them. III would sit thinking: ‘If only I had the courage, if only I were devoted enough to give more’”.

Photo of a tithe collection plate in a church used as a 'mehmani' collection bowl in Ismaili Jamatkahanas.
Photo of a tithe collection plate in a church used as a ‘mehmani’ collection bowl in Ismaili Jamatkahanas.

The money is collected at the Jamatkhana by the two community leaders, the mukhi, or chief, and the kamaria, or treasurer, both the Imām’s appointees, who total the income and dispose of it according to the instructions of the Imām. But the dasond by no means exhausts an Ismāʿīlī’s opportunities for proving his devotion to his Imām. According to the Khoja Reformers, he gets about 275 other chances during his lifetime. There is the chati mandu, paid six days after the birth of a child; the gulf fee paid when a boy’s head is shaved in his eighth of ninth year. An Ismāʿīlī can be solicited for funds when he embarks on a sea voyage and when he returns, when he becomes ill and when he recovers. If he wants to be considered a modern-day fidaya [fidai], he joins the Mota Kamno Panjebhai (Great Works Association), a secret, semireligious order with five degrees of initiation. It’s symbol, appropriately enough, is the open hand. Any Ismāʿīlī who can raise the entrance fee ($15 to $1000 depending on the degree) and keep up his payments can ascent the scale of ranks – membership can even be bought posthumously, for dead relatives. All who can afford it join, for it is at Panjebhai meetings, sitting on straw mats on the floor of the Jamatkhana the men on one side, the women on the other, or chatting on the verandah afterward, that a striving businessman meets the wholesalers and contractors who can do him the most good, where a doting father drops hints about his intelligent son who would like a community scholarship, and where a conscientious mother scouts suitable husbands for her marriageable daughters. The higher the degree, the better the contacts.

On his deathbed, an Ismāʿīlī gets a final chance to pay financial tribute to the Imām as the mukhi moistens his lips with water mixed with dust from the holy city of Kerbala, and reads about the Hindu god Vishnu’s ten incarnations from Das Avatar.

Al of these tithes, fees, and gifts are the Imam’s to dispose of as he pleases. The point is explicitly made in Ismāʿīlī dogma which repeats over and over against that all offerings are an “an absolute gift to His Highness personally.” It has been confirmed in the courts in a number of law suits brought – unsuccessfully – by restive fee-payers. Starting with Judge Arnould’s famous decision in 1866, the courts of India and East Africa have held that the offerings “were intended … to be for his [the Imām’s] own personal use and benefit,” and he need not account for them. If, as at the epochal Golden Jubilee, the Aga decided to use them for the benefit of the community, that was a bit of personal generosity for which his followers humbly thanked him.

Pope sprinkles holy water just as rose water is sprinkled in Ismaili Jamatkhanas. Rose water is also used in Greek Churches.
The Pope sprinkles holy water just as rose water is sprinkled in Ismaili Jamatkhanas. Rose water is also used in Greek Churches.

The sums collected are enormous. No one knows – or is disclosing – the total. Ismāʿīlīs are as secretive about community financing as they are about every other aspect of their religion. Their custom has been to say nothing, except for occasional denials of such rumors as that the Imām sells his bath water. A reliable source recently estimated that today in Pakistan alone, the take amounts to 100,000 rupees ($20,000) a day – or $7,200,000 a year. “

(Slater, Leonard. Aly: A Biography. London: W.H. Allen, 1966. 79-80. Print.)

The above are a few paragraphs taken from the biography of Aly Aga Khan – who is the father of present-day Aga Khan IV. The complete book can be bought from various sources on the internet and interesting bits can be found right here on the Inside Ismailism blog.

Prince, Adventurer, Diplomat, Deity - and perhaps the Greatest Lover of our times - ALY: A BIOGRAPHY by Leonard Slater
Prince, Adventurer, Diplomat, Deity – and perhaps the Greatest Lover of our times – ALY: A BIOGRAPHY by Leonard Slater