Tawḥīd is the backbone of Islām. It is what most differentiated the Muslims from the Idolaters at the time of the Prophet SAW and has been the key message of all the Prophets, upon them all be peace.
With that said, it is imperative that Ismaīlis uphold this key foundation within their doctrine, as otherwise they would easily take themselves outside of Islām. This article is an analysis of Ismaīli beliefs – specifically whether or not they uphold Tawḥīd as it is commanded.
First, it is imperative to establish the definition of “Tawḥīd.” Tawḥīd can be translated as “asserting oneness,” and Allāh has described His Quality of Oneness in the Qurʼān. Here are a few verses that will give us the gist of what this ‘Oneness’ means:
|Allah – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great.|
[Quran: al-Baqarah, 2:255]
|And they worship other than Allah that which neither harms them nor benefits them, and they say, “These are our intercessors with Allah ” Say, “Do you inform Allah of something He does not know in the heavens or on the earth?” Exalted is He and high above what they associate with Him|
[Quran: Yunus, 10:18]
Now that we have a definition of Tawḥīd, we can begin analyzing Ismaili beliefs.
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 :
- The Aga Khan is just a scholar, and we choose to follow him because we appreciate his school of thought.
- The Aga Khan is divinely appointed by God, but the Aga Khan does not contain any spiritual power himself.
- The Aga Khan is not Allāh, but at the same time contains (or is) the Nur of Allāh.
- The Aga Khan is Allāh on Earth.
As all of the common answers have now been listed, we will analyze each one.
School of Thought #1:
“The Aga Khan is just a scholar, and we choose to follow him because we appreciate his school of thought”
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 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.”
The Ismāʿīli 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.
Since Ismaili practices and texts claim the Aga Khan has a 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 designation by God himself.
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 or that I know the unseen, nor do I tell you that I am an angel. I only follow what is revealed to me.” Say, “Is the blind equivalent to the seeing? Then will you not give thought?”|
[ Qurʼān: al-An‘ām: 50]
We know that 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, as Muhammad ﷺ was the seal of prophets and the last messenger of Allāh.
|Muhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah and last of the prophets. And ever is Allah, of all things, Knowing.|
[ 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 claim to have any special Nur that the imams claim to have (as stated above) , so the imams must be seen as 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”
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 able to do the things that which only Allāh can do. This can be seen through Ismāʿīli prayers and supplications:
|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.
All supplications 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 unless he was forgiving someone who had harmed him directly. Instead, he asked people to do certain acts and say certain things so their sins will be forgiven, but forgiven by Allāh, not by him.
One of the names of Allāh is al-Ghaffar (The Forgiver), and no one has the ability to forgive the sins of His servants 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, Ismāʿīlis have effectively replaced Allah with the Imam by worshipping him or asking him to forgive them for all their sins. Logically, this leads us to point four:
School of Thought #4: “The Aga Khan is Allāh”
It has therefore been proven that Ismāʿīlis see their Imam as Allah. By addressing their prayers to the Aga Khan, Ismāʿīlis are ascribing partners to Allāh and assigning the praise and glory due to Allāh to someone else.
The role the Aga claims to have for himself is clearly a lie, as Allāh tells us He would never send down a messenger only for them to say “worship me besides Allāh.”
|“…they 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.”|
[Excerpt from Qurʼān 21:26-29]
Not only this, but since Christians began seeing Jesus (AS) as God himself and asking him for their forgiveness, Allāh addressed this when He says,
|And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah ?'” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen. I said not to them except what You commanded me – to worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. And I was a witness over them as long as I was among them; but when You took me up, You were the Observer over them, and You are, over all things, Witness. If You should punish them – indeed they are Your servants; but if You forgive them – indeed it is You who is the Exalted in Might, the Wise.|
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. Why then would anyone who claims to be a Muslim not believe in his ﷺ promise?
|‘Indeed Messenger-ship and Prophethood have been terminated, so there shall be no Messenger after me, nor a Prophet…’|
[Tirmidhi – Sahih]
For those of you who are Ismaili and wish to turn to true Islam and worship Allah the way He has told us to, 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:
|Indeed, Allah does not forgive association with Him, but He forgives what is less than that for whom He wills. And he who associates others with Allah has certainly fabricated a tremendous sin.|
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:
|Those who associated with Allah will say, “If Allah had willed, we would not have associated [anything] and neither would our fathers, nor would we have prohibited anything.” Likewise did those before deny until they tasted Our punishment. Say, “Do you have any knowledge that you can produce for us? You follow not except assumption, and you are not but falsifying.” Say, “With Allah is the far-reaching argument. If He had willed, He would have guided you all.” Say, [O Muhammad], “Bring forward your witnesses who will testify that Allah has prohibited this.” And if they testify, do not testify with them. And do not follow the desires of those who deny Our verses and those who do not believe in the Hereafter, while they equate [others] with their Lord.|
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.