Over the past many years of writing on the Inside Ismailism blog, I have received a number of acknowledgments from ex-Ismaili Muslims the course of whose lives were changed by the Inside Ismailism blog, and they left Ismailism to embrace the light of Islam. There were Muslims too, who read about the practices of Ismailism on the Inside Ismalism blog, and were immensely surprised that the practices of Ismailism were so much disconnected from mainstream Islam that they would never have known unless for the Inside Ismailism blog. Such was the case of a Muslim boy who wanted to marry into a Ismaili family, and then of a Muslim girl who wanted to marry into a Ismaili family – by the grace of Allah both of them saw the true path and changed their decisions. These decisions did not impact just four lives, but they will impact generations. These are just a few of the ways in which the Inside Ismailism blog has touched the lives of many.
Then there are some Muslims, many of who are friends, who advocate a more subtle way of preaching to Ismailis, oft quoting that invitation to Islam should be made with “wisdom” – this is, softly. The oft-quoted verse in favor of this behavior is the following:
ادْعُ إِلَىٰ سَبِيلِ رَبِّكَ بِالْحِكْمَةِ وَالْمَوْعِظَةِ الْحَسَنَةِ وَجَادِلْهُم بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ إِنَّ رَبَّكَ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَن ضَلَّ عَن سَبِيلِهِ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
Invite ˹all˺ to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and kind advice, and only debate with them in the best manner. Surely your Lord ˹alone˺ knows best who has strayed from His Way and who is ˹rightly˺ guided.al-Quran, 16:125
Method of understanding religious commands
Before going any further, we must understand that deen cannot be understood by just taking one or two verses out of the Quran and amplifying them over the entire seerah of the Prophet and the rest of the 6,000+ verses of the Quran. Any subject must be analyzed by looking at all the evidences in Quran and Sunnah, and how the Companions understood and implemented what they learned from the Prophet (ﷺ). After all, the Prophet (ﷺ) was the best example of how Islam should be practiced, preached and implemented over the society and in our daily lives. The basic example is that of the prayer, fasting, zakat and hajj. One cannot perform these basic commandments prescribed in the Quran unless the life of the Prophet (ﷺ) is referred to and seen how these commandments were implemented. Picking up a Quranic commandment and applying one’s own whims and desires in the method of understanding and applying is akin to saying that we, today in the twenty-first century have a better understanding than how the Prophet (ﷺ) understood and implemented the Quran.
What is Aga Khan’s claim?
Aga Khan claims to be no less than God. Sultan Mohamed Shah, Aga Khan III, himself claimed that “Ismailis worship me” (Ali, Kassim. The Ever Living Guide. Page 2. Karachi: Ismailia Association Pakistan). This claim of Aga Khan is also manifested today, and thrice-a-day every day, in the Ismaili prayer, recited in Ismaili Jamatkhanas when Ismailis ask Aga Khan to forgive their sins, and for health, wealth and happiness, beliving that Aga Khan is omnipresent and omniscient, and is listening to each and every Ismaili in the world at all times. The Aga Khan prescribes three daily prayers (one in the morning and two combined in the evening) – these prayers have no resemblance to the Islamic salat, and can be prayed facing any direction and not the direction of K’aba which Muslims face. The Imam of Ismailis has abolished Ramadhan fasting for Ismailis, replacing it with Shukrvari Beej fasting which is fasting only 3-4 days a year. He asks Ismailis to pay to him directly 12.5% dasond on each Ismaili’s monthly income rather than the yearly 2.5% zakat on excess wealth, and has replaced the Hajj with his deedar.
How did the Prophet (ﷺ) deal with similar claims?
Now that we understand what exactly Aga Khan’s claim is, we now have to analyze how the Prophet himself dealt with instances where someone claimed the same authority as the Aga Khan, as Allah Himself pointed us towards the Prophet (ﷺ ) to take guidance from him in all affairs:
لَّقَدْ كَانَ لَكُمْ فِي رَسُولِ اللَّهِ أُسْوَةٌ حَسَنَةٌ لِّمَن كَانَ يَرْجُو اللَّهَ وَالْيَوْمَ الْآخِرَ وَذَكَرَ اللَّهَ كَثِيرًا
Indeed, in the Messenger of Allah you have an excellent example for whoever has hope in Allah and the Last Day, and remembers Allah often.al-Quran 33:21
Someone who made a similar claim in seventh century Arabia, as Aga Khan does today, was none other than Musaylimah bin Ḥabīb. Dabestan-e-Madahib narrates that Musaylimah taught three daily prayers to God facing whatever side [exactly like Ismailis do], Ramadhan fasting was mandated in the night only, and he rejected circumcision. When the Prophet (ﷺ) received a letter from Musaylimah signed by Musaylimah as ‘Messenger of God’, the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) immediately replied to him in his letter: “From Muhammad, the Messenger of God, to Musaylimah, the arch-liar. ” To date, Musaylimah is known as Musaylimah the arch-liar (الكذّاب), rather than his real name of Musaylimah bin Ḥabīb. Was the Prophet (ﷺ) not exercising wisdom (al-Hikmah) when he outrightly called Musaylimah as the ‘arch-liar’?
What is ‘al-Hikmah’
At this point, the word al-Hikmah as it appears in 16:125 needs more elaboration. It is normally assumed that al-Hikmah is one’s own understanding to apply his own wisdom. But how can that be true? If one person is being invited to Islam by ten people, these ten people would have different interpretations and applications of ‘wisdom’. It is for that very reason that the definition and understanding of ‘wisdom’ needs to be a central understanding and not a diverse understanding, for a diverse understanding will dilute and misrepresent Islam. Ibn Kathir mentions that Ibn Jarir said, about ‘al-Hikmah’ in the interpretation of 16:125 that al-Hikmah is “what was revealed to him from the Book and the Sunnah”.
It is not the sole incident of Musaylimah, but also the overwhelming evidence of the general method which the Prophet (ﷺ) used to preach his message, how he criticized the falsehood, and how the Quran itself addresses the disbelievers and warns them of ever-lasting punishment of hellfire without mincing any words. Is the word of Allah and the life and method of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) not the most perfect example of al-Hikmah?
Let us also examine how the Prophet (ﷺ) preached the message in early days of the Prophethood to his family and close relatives. The period of open preaching started with Allah revealing the following verse:
وَأَنذِرْ عَشِيرَتَكَ الْأَقْرَبِينَ
And warn, [O Muhammad], your closest kindred.al-Quran, 26:214
Upon receiving the above verse, the Prophet (ﷺ) famously mounted on mount as-Safa and said: “O Quraish, rescue yourselves from the Fire; O people of Bani K’ab, rescue yourselves from Fire; O Fatimah, daughter of Muhammad (ﷺ), rescue yourself from the Fire, for I have no power to protect you from Allâh in anything except that I would sustain relationship with you.”
Do we see the Prophet (ﷺ) mincing any words here? Do we see him what qualifies as a ‘politically correct’ statement in today’s day and age? Do we see him censoring the word ‘Hellfire’ here? The Prophet (ﷺ) was clear, direct and to-the-point in the above message and this was his very first public invitation to the Quraish towards Islam, and he was very clear that “no blood relationship, but only Islam would be the cornerstone of any future relationship between him and the Quraish”. (Mubarakpuri. 2002. The Second Phase – Open Preaching. In The Sealed Nectar: Biography of the Noble Prophet. Riyadh: Dar-Us-Salam).
The Prophet (ﷺ) was then commanded by Allah:
فَاصْدَعْ بِمَا تُؤْمَرُ وَأَعْرِضْ عَنِ الْمُشْرِكِينَ
Then declare what you are commanded and turn away from the polytheists.al_Quran 15:94
After the above verse was revealed, the Prophet (ﷺ) “commenced discrediting the superstitious practices of idolatry, revealing its worthless reality and utter impotence, and giving concrete proofs that idolatry per se or taking it as the media through which an idolater could come in contact with Allâh, is manifest falsehood.” (Mubarakpuri) Therefore, we know here that the Prophet (ﷺ) openly and clearly rejected not only the false prophets, but also the false practices of idolatry in his early days of spreading the message. We should remember that Mecca was a tightly-knit society and the ones to whom the message was preached was the family and relatives of the Prophet (ﷺ) and this was the exact tone which the Prophet (ﷺ) carried. Was this not “wisdom”? Could not the Prophet (ﷺ) have thought that this method of preaching was ‘harsh’? Would he have thought that a better, softer way would perhaps lead his loved and dear ones to Islam? He obviously didn’t, and even if he did, his submission was to the will of Allah (swt) and not to his own thoughts and his own rationalization of ‘al-Hikmah’.
In today’s day and age, it should be our firm belief that the Quran and Sunnah, including the method of the Prophet (ﷺ) was and will always will be the exemplary method of inviting non-Muslims to Islam, calling out the Kuffar and their leaders, discrediting their false Gods and calling out their double standards. Scholars have always called out falsehood in the name of تنھون عن المنکر – they have issued numerous fatwas against Ismailism. Guidance (hidaya) is in the hands of Allah and believing that it’s our own dawah technique which would guide someone to the way of Allah is nothing but pride (kibr) as Allah says in the Quran:
إِنَّكَ لَا تَهْدِي مَنْ أَحْبَبْتَ وَلَٰكِنَّ اللَّهَ يَهْدِي مَن يَشَاءُ وَهُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ
“You [Prophet] cannot guide [to the Truth] whom you love, but Allah guides him who wants to be guided. And He knows best those who are guided”al-Quran, 28:56