The self-deception of Tawḥīd in Ismailism

I would like to bring up a topic that has been in heavy discussion for a while, mainly relating to the clash of beliefs held by Ismaili Gnosis and others about the notion of God and the Aga Khan. I would specifically like to address something that has been on my mind for the past few months, and that is the notion of Tawḥīd in Islam.

Definition of Tawḥīd:

First, I would like to start by establishing the definition of “Tawḥīd.” What better way to define this term than how Allāh has defined it for Himself in the Qurʼān. Here are a few verses that will give us the gist of what Tawḥīd means:

Allah! There is no god ˹worthy of worship˺ except Him, the Ever-Living, All-Sustaining. Neither drowsiness nor sleep overtakes Him. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who could possibly intercede with Him without His permission? He ˹fully˺ knows what is ahead of them and what is behind them, but no one can grasp any of His knowledge—except what He wills ˹to reveal˺. His Seat encompasses the heavens and the earth, and the preservation of both does not tire Him. For He is the Most High, the Greatest.

[Quran: al-Baqarah, 2:255]
Indeed, sincere devotion is due ˹only˺ to Allah. As for those who take other lords besides Him, ˹saying,˺ “We worship them only so they may bring us closer to Allah,” surely Allah will judge between all regarding what they differed about. Allah certainly does not guide whoever persists in lying and disbelief.

[Quran: az-Zumar, 39:3]
They worship besides Allah others who can neither harm nor benefit them, and say, “These are our intercessors with Allah.” Ask ˹them, O Prophet˺, “Are you informing Allah of something He does not know in the heavens or the earth? Glorified and Exalted is He above what they associate ˹with Him˺!”

[Quran: Yunus, 10:8]

Therefore, we can establish that Tawḥīd in Arabic means attributing Oneness to Allāh and describing Him as being One and Unique, with no partner or peer in His Essence and Attributes.  Now that we have a very basic definition of Tawḥīd established, we can take a look at a major tenant in Ismāʿīlism that, I feel, does not align with the core principles in Islam.

Starting off, there is a huge discrepancy between the answers I receive when I ask the question “Does the Aga Khan possess any divine authority or power?” to Ismailis. Today I will list and discuss all the answers that are usually given. Here are the four common schools of thought on the topic, listed from most liberal to most conservative :

  1. The Aga Khan is just a scholar, and we choose to follow him because we appreciate his school of thought.
  2. The Aga Khan is divinely appointed by God, but the Aga Khan does not contain any spiritual power himself.
  3. The Aga Khan is not Allāh, but at the same time contains (or is) the Nur of Allāh.
  4. The Aga Khan is Allāh on Earth.

As all of the common answers have now been listed, we will analyze each one. My objective is to prove that each school of thought contradicts the principle of Tawḥīd, therefore clashing with Islam as a whole and making Ismāʿīlism an incompatible way of worshiping Allāh according to the Quran and Hadith.

School of Thought #1:
“The Aga Khan is just a scholar, and we choose to follow him because we appreciate his school of thought”

This belief is not held by many but is being included solely for the sake of argumentation.

Although it would be nice to think of the Aga Khan simply as a scholar, it is clearly indicated by the doctrines of Ismāʿīlism that the Aga Khan is by definition much more than that.

For example, think of the meaning of a Deedar. It is said that when Ismailis go to a “deedar” to catch a glimpse of Aga Khan, they are not there to see the physical form of the Aga Khan, but rather to see the “ruhani nur.” This ruhani nur is spoken about by many Ismāʿīli scholars, one of the most famous being Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi in reference to the Imam (present day Aga Khan):

Come, I will show you that which is truly the House of God,
Not what you imagine to be the House of God.
O most glorious Qiblah of Truth
And most sublime Ka‘bah of the Living
If the Ḥajj is undertaken to the inanimate House (in Makkah)
So much more fitting, so much more worthy, that we betake ourselves unto you!

Sayyidna al-Mu’ayyad al-Shirazi in Diwān al-Mu’ayyad, in Virani, The Ismāʿīlis in the Middles Ages, 132 & Diwan al-Mu’ayyad, tr. M. Adra, Mount of Knowledge, Sword of Eloquence, 189

If the scholar was not enough, take it from what the Ismāʿīlis claim one of their Imams said about himself:

“We are the Ka‘bah of God (ka‘batullāh), Exalted is He, and we are the Qiblah of God (qiblatullāh). We are the Sacred Sanctuary of God (ḥarāmullah)”

Imam Ja‘far al-Sadiq, (Bihār al-Anwār, 24:211/1, in Muhammad Ali Sabzvari, Tuhfa Yi-‘Abbasi: The Golden Chain of Sufism in Shi‘ite Islam, 68)

Furthermore, the Ismāʿīli Holy Dua also outlines in many places that the Aga Khan is not just a normal human:

“O Allāh, let Thy peace be on Muhammad – the Chosen, and on ‘Ali – the favorite, and on the Imams – the pure, and on the evidence of Thy Authority – the Lord of the age and the time, our present living Imam, our Lord Shah Karim al-Husayni.”

Ismaili Holy Dua or Prayer which is offered as a substitute for the Islamic Salah in the Ismaili Jamatkhana

The key phrase here is “the evidence of Your Authority”, meaning that the Aga Khan is not a scholar but someone who has been designated by Allāh to guide not only the Ismāʿīlis but all else on earth.

So now that it is established that the Aga Khan has some sort of spiritual power that is not inherent in every human (for example, you can not receive the same type of deedar by the nur of your mother walking into the room), then this school of thought must be incorrect. The Aga Khan is not only a scholar, but someone who possesses a certain ordination and designation by God himself. This means that the correct view of what the Aga Khan is must lie in the remaining schools of thought.

School of Thought #2:
“The Aga Khan is divinely appointed by God, but the Aga Khan does not contain any spiritual power himself”

This role is essentially the description of what the Prophet ﷺ was appointed to do by God. He was appointed to deliver the messages of God to the people, without actually possessing any powers himself and being a servant and slave of Allāh (SWT).

Say, [O Muhammad], ‘I do not tell you that I have the depositories [containing the provision] of Allah nor that I know the unseen, nor do I tell you that I am an angel. I only follow what is revealed to me.’

[ Qurʼān: al-An‘ām: 50]

This role is clearly defined in the Qurʼān many times. Here is one of those passages, and the parts where Allāh discusses the role of the messenger has been reiterated below:

We never sent a messenger before you ˹O Prophet˺ without revealing to him: “There is no god ˹worthy of worship˺ except Me, so worship Me ˹alone˺.” And they say, “The Most Compassionate has offspring!” Glory be to Him! In fact, those ˹Prophets˺ are only ˹His˺ honored servants, who do not speak until He has spoken, ˹only˺ acting at His command. He ˹fully˺ knows what is ahead of them and what is behind them. They do not intercede except for whom He approves, and they tremble in awe of Him. Whoever of them were to say, “I am a god besides Him,” they would be rewarded with Hell by Us. This is how We reward the wrongdoers.

[Qurʼān: 21, 25-29]

This verse clearly indicates the following points:

  1. The Prophets are merely messengers appointed by Allāh to pass along His messages on Earth. They do not exceed the limits in their talk before Him and just do His bidding.
  2. The Prophets are not divine and do not know everything that Allāh knows. He knows whatever is before them and also whatever is hidden from them.
  3. The Prophets are separate from Allāh and they praise Him. They live in awe of Him, and if anyone of them were to say, “I am also a deity besides Allāh”, Allāh would send him to Hell, for this is the recompense from Allāh for such workers of iniquity, as mentioned in the above verse.

This leads us to the conclusion that the Prophets, including Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, are mere humans and slaves of Allāh. They have been honored, but do not preach any message besides that of pure tawḥīd.

The Aga Khan cannot be considered a Prophet or claim properties of a Prophet, because as a Muslim you acknowledge that Muhammad ﷺ was the seal of prophets and the last messenger of Allāh.

Muḥammad is not the father of any of your men, but is the Messenger of Allah and the seal of the prophets. And Allah has ˹perfect˺ knowledge of all things.

[ Qurʼān: Al-Azhab: 40]

Therefore, the Aga Khan cannot have this role of merely being a messenger or prophet. To add to this, the prophet ﷺ did not have any special nur that the imams claim to have (as stated above) , so the imams must be higher (or at least different) from prophets.

Since this school of thought has been proven false, the role of the Aga Khan must be within the next two viewpoints.

School of Thought #3:
“The Aga Khan is not Allāh, but at the same time contains the Nur of Allāh”

I will start of this argument with a theological point. Allāh (SWT) is not a physical entity. Allāh is not something divided in half, where one part of him is physical and the other part is nur. Rather, Allāh is One and all of Him is encompassed as One. Therefore, saying that someone or something has the nur of Allāh in it, literally means that that thing or person is Allāh. Furthermore, in order for the Ismāʿīli doctrine to work it is essential that the Aga Khan does have Allāh’s nur, or in other words – in order for anything in Ismāʿīlism to make sense, the Aga Khan has to be Allāh in his entirety. In order to prove this, let us take a look at some Ismāʿīli prayers and supplications:

Supplication of ‘Niyaz’

Noor Mawlana Shah Karim Al Hussaini Hazar Imam, Farman

Translation: Shah Karim, Present Living Imam, Guide Us
Supplication of ‘Tobo Tobo’

Tobo tobo taksidar, bando sarta pa guneghar, Ya Shah tu ghuna bakshe bakshanhar

Translation: I the humble slave repent, for I am sinful from head to my toes, Oh Shah Karim (Aga Khan) forgive me for you are the forgiver
Supplication of ‘Mushkil Asaan’

Mawlana Hazar Imam tumhare kul mushkilyo ahsan kare; Kul aafato, bhalao, bhimariyo, taklifo door kare; kul nek umedo puri khare; sukhi, salamat, aur abad rakhe

Translation: May Mawlana Hazar Imam relieve all your difficulties, remove all your trials, tribulations, and sicknesses; may he (Aga Khan) fulfill all your good wishes; and may he keep you safe and sound)
Supplication of ‘Ruhani’

Mawalana Hazar Imam Ruhani jah kul ghuna maaf kare, noorani dīdar naseeb kare, asal mein vasal kare

Translation: May Mawlana Hazar Imam forgive the deceased, grant them a spiritual meeting, and mix them in with the truth
Supplication of ‘Chanta’

Maulana Hazar imam bakshe, maulana hazar imam tumhare kul Ghana maaf kare, noorani dīdar naseeb kare

Translation: May Hazar Imam (Aga Khan) forgive you, may the Aga Khan forgive all your sins, grant you a spiritual glance of his soul.

You can see the pattern in the above supplications. All supplications (Ya Ali tu rahem kar ya maula tu fazal kar, ya Ali, ya Muhammad), and praises seem to be directed towards the Aga Khan instead of Allāh. This is not like anything the Prophet ﷺ prescribed because he was a Prophet of God and did not have the ability to forgive people’s sins — just like any other prophet. Instead, he asked people to do certain acts and say certain things so their sins will be forgiven, but by Allāh – not the Prophet himself.

Allāh is al-Ghaffar (The Forgiver) of sins and no one has the ability to forgive sins except He.

And since Allāh says that all praise is due to Him and it is only Him who we should worship and seek for help, then in order for any of this is to make sense the only remaining option is that the Aga Khan must be claiming to be Allāh.

School of Thought #4: “The Aga Khan is Allāh”

Now that all other schools of thought are negated, this is the only one that makes sense in terms of the doctrines in Ismāʿīlism. Now to my main point and conclusion. Since this is the only logical conclusion to how Ismāʿīlism sees the Aga Khan, Ismāʿīlism is not a permissible way to worship Allāh and is the worst sin that can be commited in Islam.

By addressing their prayers to the Aga Khan, Ismāʿīlis are ascribing partners to Allāh and assigning the praise and glory due to Him to someone else.

Firstly, going back to a verse cited earlier, Allāh would never send down a messenger or proof only for them to say “worship me besides Allāh.”

“…they [the prophets] are His mere servants who have been honored: they do not exceed the limits in their talk before Him and just do His bidding. He knows whatever is before them and also whatever is hidden from them; they “do not intercede for anyone except for the one for whom Allāh pleases to hear a plea, and they live in awe of Him. And if anyone of them were to say, “I am also a deity besides Allāh”, We would send him to Hell, for this is the recompense from Us for such workers of iniquity.

[Qurʼān 21:25-29]

Not only this, but since Christians began seeing Jesus as God himself and asking him for their forgiveness, Allāh has addressed this very clearly in the Qurʼān. When God says,

“‘Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to people, “Take me and my mother as two gods alongside God”?’ he will say, ‘May You be exalted! I would never say what I had no right to say–if I had said such a thing You would have known it: You know all that is within me, though I do not know what is within You, You alone have full knowledge of things unseen–– I told them only what You commanded me to: “Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” I was a witness over them during my time among them. Ever since You took my soul, You alone have been the watcher over them: You are witness to all things and if You punish them, they are Your servants; if You forgive them, You are the Almighty, the Wise.’”

[Qurʼān 5:116-119]

Associating partners with Allah is the worst sin anyone can commit, and Allah would never endorse a religion whose entire foundation relies on it. Even if He did choose to have a representative on earth at all times He would not allow him to claim he is God like the Aga Khan does!

Lastly, Muhammad ﷺ has told us that no prophet or apostle would come after him in his last sermon. Why then would anyone who claims to be a Muslim not believe in his ﷺ promise?

O People, no prophet or apostle will come after me, and no new faith will be born.  Reason well, therefore, O people, and understand words which I convey to you.  I leave behind me two things, the Quran and my example, the Sunnah, and if you follow these you will never go astray.

[Muhammad’s Last Sermon]

For those of you who are Ismaili and on the fence about if it’s worth all the hassle converting to Islam, know that Allāh will make it easy for you and that He will forgive all of your sins while letting you keep your good deeds. If one decides to reject the truth and does not sincerely repent before they die, Allāh tells us He will judge like so:

God does not forgive the joining of partners with Him: anything less than that He forgives to whoever He will, but anyone who joins partners with God has concocted a tremendous sin. [Prophet], have you considered those who claim purity for themselves? No! God purifies whoever He will: no one will be wronged by as much as the husk of a date stone. See how they invent lies about God, this in itself is a flagrant sin! Do you not see how those given a share of the Scripture, [evidently] now believe in idols and evil powers? They say of the disbelievers, ‘They are more rightly guided than the believers.’ Those are the ones God has rejected: you [Prophet] will not find anyone to help those God has rejected.

[Qurʼān: 4:48-52]

And for those of you who believe it is not your responsibility to change religions and that Allāh would have made you grow up in the right religion if He wanted to, Allāh has addressed this in the Qurʼān as well:

The idolaters will say, ‘If God had willed, we would not have ascribed partners to Him–– nor would our fathers–– or have declared anything forbidden.’ In the same way, those before them continually denied [the truth] until they tasted Our punishment. Say, ‘Have you any knowledge that you can show us? You follow only supposition and tell only lies.’ Say, ‘The conclusive argument belongs to God alone. Had He so willed He would have guided you all.’ Say, ‘Bring your witnesses to testify that God has forbidden all this.’ If they do testify, do not bear witness with them. Do not follow the whims of those who have denied Our revelation, who do not believe in the Hereafter, and who set up equals with their Lord.

[Qurʼān: 6:148-150]

May Allāh reward you for reading this and may He guide us all to His most favored path, and may He let His peace and blessings be upon our beloved Messenger ﷺ. Please note that with this post I do not mean any disrespect, nor is my intention to mock Ismailis or to view them as lesser people. I am simply trying to make clear how the Quran and Sunnah indicate the worship of Allah should be done since I believe it is all of our responsibilities to seek out and follow the truth in our lives. Please contact me if you have any questions or feel that anything in this article is disrespectful.

JazakAllah Khair and Assalamu alaykum wa rehmatullahi wa barakhatu

The Quran: Outdated or Timeless?

One of the major doubts instilled in the minds of Ismāʿīlis by Aga Khan and his missionaries is that the Qurʼān can no more can be used as a source of guidance in the present day and age, and is outdated. They are taught that Aga Khan’s farmāns are interpretation of  Qurʼādn in accordance to modern times. This is one of the biggest blatant lies that Aga Khan is using Qurʼān for his farmāns. Also, it is a baseless doubt that Qurʼān is outdated.

What is the “Modern Society?”

What we call modern society is only identified by the changes in technology, science, traditions, culture and the likes but if we ask the question to Ismāʿīlis how much has man changed from within?

Is there no discrimination in our modern world based on gender, ethnicity, race, caste, creed religion, color? Are there no murders, rape, crimes happening in our “modern world”? Is technological progress the only indication of intellectual progress as a species? Have we been smart enough to take care of the world we live in with utmost care? Have we been able to pull up the oppressed and underprivileged sections of our societies to a respectable and humane level?

Would you consider our “modern world” fit enough for our children to live in?

These questions hint at  just the tip of the iceberg which we face as a human race.

The Reason for revelation of the Qurʼān

The Qurʼān wasn’t sent to us so that we could make outer progress and then discard it. It was sent as a mercy for our inner self as a guide to a fulfilling life. So, is it outdated? Well I don’t see man has become any better then what he was eons ago.

As a society, we are different today – but different doesn’t necessarily mean better. A Muslim may live a hundred years and may still not be able to perfect the principles that God asked us to. It is sent as a guidance which cuts across time and space and not just to a particular section and period of a society.

And with the truth We have sent the Qurʼān down, and with the truth it has descended. And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a bringer of good tidings and a warner.

Qurʼān 17:105

3. Qurʼān presents a timeless challenge

The Qurʼān challenges those who read it – no matter when – to produce something better than the Qurʼān. This is the most serious challenge to those who say the Qurʼān is outdated or in doubt of its authenticity. The Qurʼān challenges the linguists of our time to compose something in its style, eloquence and meaning in the Arabic language. It is also a book that not only been preserved in its content but the modes of recitation have been preserved so much so millions have committed it to memory. 

And if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a sūrah like it; and call your witnesses or helpers (If there are any) besides God, if you are truthful.

Qurʼān 2:23

4. Qurʼān timelessly changes people’s way of life

Qurʼān continues to change people’s lives no matter the time. Without the Qurʼān being changed over time people are willing to alter their life just by reading one book, and people are able to practice what a book has taught 1400 years ago. It is the fastest growing religion and many testimonies have been made that Qurʼān changed their life including priests, Western ex-soldiers, scientists, comedians, former convicts, politicians, actors and many others. Islām is a way of life and people are attracted towards the teachings taught in the book no matter their profession. No matter the place or the time, people are able to practice the faith. 

This [Qurʼān] is a clear statement to [all] the people and a guidance and instruction for those conscious of Allah.

Qurʼān 3:138

5. The Qurʼān is timeless because it tackles modern day ailments

Qurʼān tackles many modern-day ailments of society including gambling, drinking alcohol (leads to death do vehicular accident, date rape, etc.), loaning money on interest (modern day slavery and cause of much pain caused by not being able to payoff debt, causing the next generation to be in more debt), sexual promiscuity, inequality, suicide. This includes emotional ailments of greed, envy, evil thoughts, distress, sadness, feeling hopeless, loneliness, backbiting, boastfulness, spying on one another. Keep in mind that these issues are tackled from the root cause with profound statement of why it is harmful. There are to many examples of this in the Qurʼān but one that stands out is the following verse:

 Righteousness is not that you turn your faces toward the east or the west, but [true] righteousness is [in] one who believes in Allah , the Last Day, the angels, the Book, and the prophets and gives wealth, in spite of love for it, to relatives, orphans, the needy, the traveler, those who ask [for help], and for freeing slaves; [and who] establishes prayer and gives zakāh; [those who] fulfill their promise when they promise; and [those who] are patient in poverty and hardship and during battle. Those are the ones who have been true, and it is those who are the righteous. 

Qurʼān 2:177

It is amazing how this verse starts with saying righteousness is not about physical rituals it is about believing and that belief causes individual to solve real world issues like poverty, especially your immediate family that may be in need.

6. The Qurʼān is timeless because it challenges modern civilization

It would make sense for the Qurʼān only speak of religious rituals but it tackles modern civilization and surprisingly scenarios that last Prophet dealt with 1400 years ago all at the same time. This includes what to do during battle, who to wage war against, who not to wage war against, protect the places where God’s name is mentioned including Churches and Synagogues, what to do with war booty. As well as topics related to family relations between husband and wife, divorce, what should both parties do during divorce, after divorce, how is inheritance allocated after a person dies. The list goes on and on and really is the modern-day living challenge. As non-Muslims like George Bernard Shaw has said if the last Messenger, the walking Qurʼān, “were alive today he will solve the world’s issue over a cup of tea.

And [mention] the Day when We will resurrect among every nation a witness over them from themselves. And We will bring you, [O Muhammad], as a witness over your nation. And We have sent down to you the Book as clarification for all things and as guidance and mercy and good tidings for the Muslims.

Qurʼān 16:89

7. The Qurʼān is timeless because it also speaks in extreme detail life after death so it speaks about the future

With all that valuable content stated above the Day of Judgement, the future, is also mentioned at every page to warn those who are heedless to what really matters most and be aware of our end. Just this topic alone can be a book in itself so let me just emphasize one verse that shows people who are blind of the Qurʼān and hearts locked no matter the evidence given to them. 

And We have certainly created for Hell many of the jinn and mankind. They have hearts with which they do not understand, they have eyes with which they do not see, and they have ears with which they do not hear. Those are like livestock; rather, they are more astray. It is they who are the heedless.

Qurʼān, 7:179

8. Qurʼān is sent for all humankind (هدى للناس), till the day of judgement

Though certain teachings address few matters which vanished as the time passed. For example, teaching of slavery is one of them. There are verses which addressed the rules to treat the slaves, which gave them significant status in society, e.g. treating them equally, and choosing same for them what you choose for yourself. But as the slavery vanished in modern society, those summons became inapplicable. But they’re there as summons/words of Allah. These summons/verse can be used to extract any law/direction by Ulema (knowledgeable persons) for future coming events and situations.

Qurʼān being an ultimate source of Islāmic wisdom, is considered the base of every rules and regulation for present time and the time which has yet to come.

If one thing is not openly declared in Qurʼān, then Hadith (Muhammad’s words, action and agreement with any action done in front of him) is the reference for Islāmic Laws. Any event which takes place and isn’t covered already will be addressed by ijtihād (Islāmic reasoning) by exploring the existing teachings in Qurʼān, Hadith and Fiqh (explanation of Sharia through ijtihād).