About Ismaili Literature
Literature, particularly religious writing, is the mirror of the soul and intellect of any faith community or group. It records and preserves the thought processes of that group through time and space and encapsulates their identity through history, providing a trampoline for progress in the present and the future based on the solid foundation of a past well remembered.
In the case of Ismailis, who belong to the Shia stream of Islam and who for a number of reasons have suffered from misperceptions, misunderstanding and outright propaganda throughout 1400 years of Islamic history, their literature too has been subjected to great discrimination and destruction, an example of which is ‘tilāl al-kutub’ in the Nile Delta in Egypt. Which came into existence at the end of the Fatimid period of Ismaili history. Al-Maqrīzī, the famous Muslim historian records in his Itticāz al-ḥunafā’ bi-akhbār al-Fāṭimiyyīn al-khulafā’:
The library of the Dār al-cIlm in Cairo was also emptied. Many books came into the possession of a certain cImād al-Dawla Abū al-Faḍl ibn al-Muḥtariq in Alexandria; but when the latter was murdered, many of them were taken to the Maghrib. The Berbers of the Luwāta tribe [who lived as nomads on the western edge of the Nile Delta and in present day Libya] acquired countless indescribably beautiful books through purchase or robbery and took them with them. Their slaves and maids used the covers to make sandals for their feet; as for the leaves they burnt them because they came from the palace; for they believed that they contained the religious doctrines of the Orientals [i.e. the Ismailis], which contradicted their own [Sunni] religious doctrines. The ashes formed great hills in the province of Ibyār [in the Nile Delta], which are even today called the ‘Hills of Books’ (tilāl al-kutub). Many books were thrown into the river or were otherwise destroyed, but many of them reached the great metropolises [of other countries].
Similarly, when the Mongols at the instigation of their enemies attacked the Ismaili fort of Alamut State, vented their barbaric ferocity not only on the library and the observatory but also on the lives of men, women and children. In his seminal book “The Ismailis in the Middle Ages”, Professor Shafique Virani quoting from Juwayni’s book Ta’rīkh-i Jahāngushāy, says: cAta-Malīk Juwayni, Hulagu’s attendant and historian, requested permission to visit the celebrated library, “the fame of which had spread throughout the world.” There he found multitudes of books relating to the religion of the Ismailis, which he condemned to be burned, saving only copies of the Quran and a few other treatises.” These two destructive incidents were duplicated in other parts of the world at other times in Multan and Mansuriyya etc.
The above is to set a context relevant to a web-site on Ismaili Literature. However, since the Ismailis believe in the perpetuity of the light of God in the unbroken chain of Imams from the progeny of Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), the Seal of Prophets, they have successfully weathered all such historical incidents. Their teachings, based on the holy Qur’ān, give them the confidence and the self-assurance to practise their ṭarīqah despite the huge gaps in their literary heritage. Ismailis firmly believe in the statements of the Qur’ān: “Now has come unto you light from Allah and a plain Scripture” (Sūrah 5:15); a light which He will never allow to be extinguished (Sūrah 9:32; 61:8). Further, they believe that the Qur’ān is the final revelation from God which is for all times and places and that its dynamism is guaranteed by the ta’wīl (7:52-53) of the rāsikhun fi’l- cilm (3:7), who are the Prophet and his progeny through Imām cAlī, who he compared to the position of Aaron to Moses. Throughout Ismaili history therefore, great savants and scholars have written books with the ta’yīd of the Imam of their time. If at certain periods the hostility of their enemies destroyed their literature it has never been an insurmountable problem, because the source of knowledge, ‘the light and the manifest book’ have always been present to inspire and assist them. Professor Virani sums up this point in his above-mentioned book as follows:
Seeing the accumulated knowledge of generations go up in flames would have been heartrending for the Ismaili community, passionate as it was about its books. But The Voyage (Sayr wa-Sulūk), a spiritual autobiography of Nasir al-Din Tusi, one of Islam’s great luminaries, in which he recounts how he became an Ismaili, sheds light on why the literary devastation, in itself, could not have crushed the community’s spirit. One of only a handful of Ismaili texts to survive Juwayni’s torch, this work informs us that Ismailism, for all its love of books, gave primacy not to the recorded word, but to the living Word. It is not simply to the command (farmān) that the hearts of the believers should be attached, but to the one who issues the command (farmān-dih). The Commander is the Prophet in his age and the Imam in his own time.
This web-site aims to provide free digital access to those who are interested in and are searching for the esoteric and spiritual dimension of Islam as practised by the global Ismaili community under the ever-presence of the ulu’l-amr (4:59), who are the Imams from the progeny of the holy Prophet in their respective times. Most of the books posted here are the work of a contemporary Ismaili writer, cAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai, who has received the ‘Sitārah-yi Imtiyāz’ from the Government of Pakistan for his contribution to Qur’ānic literature. He writes both prose and poetry and his works have been translated into several languages: English, Persian, Cyrillic, Gujarati, French, Swedish etc. The entire corpus of his work is based on the following principles, which he has elaborated in the Preface of his book “Balance of Realities (Mizān al-Ḥaqā’iq)”:
God, the most Just of judges, sent his beloved Muhammad, the chosen, ṣalla’llāhu calayhi wa ālihi wa sallam to the world as “a mercy for all the worlds” (21:107), and granted him a wisdom‑filled Book which contains, not only the details of spiritual realities, but also the solutions of the most complex and intricate worldly problems of the present and the future which have arisen or are going to arise as a result of an astonishing scientific revolution and [its concomitant] advancement. That heavenly holy Book is the wise Qur’ān. It is obligatory to reflect on its verses to understand their meanings, and with the help of their wisdom to find correct solutions to our problems.
The holy Book of God can be studied and understood only in His light. This is the first and foremost condition which the holy Book itself clearly mentions. If we cannot do so, we will not be able to solve any of the present day problems, and for that the argument will stand against us and not against God (4:165). For He has said that He has completed His favour upon us (5:3) and has left no impediment in the religion of Islam (22:78).
It is hoped that this website will facilitate a correct understanding of the spiritual and intellectual dimensions of Islam and promote the Qur’ānic teaching that all human beings are created from a single soul (4:1), which was the underpinning of the holy Prophet’s (s.a.s.) teaching: “Al-khalqu ciyālu’llāh, People are God’s household”.
History and Core Principles of Ismailia Dāru’l-Ḥikmat
Registered as Institute for Spiritual Wisdom and Luminous Science (ISW&LS), U.S.A.
1. We, the members of Ismailia Dāru’l-Ḥikmat¹ (our original name), are profoundly grateful to our Creator that we are all born in the Ismaili Tariqah of Islam.
2. We are aware of our living and present Imam Shah Karim al-Husayniᶜ’s emphasis on learning the esoteric (bāṭin or ta’wīl) of the holy Qur’ān, as he says:
a. “It is important that if you recite or know parts of the Qur’an, you should be able to explain their meaning. Do not forget that our branch of Islam is an esoteric branch of Islam. Esoteric means that what is written is there, but its meaning is not there to everyone. It is there only to those who are part of our Jamat.” (Bombay, 22ⁿᵈ November, 1967)²
b. Further, the Imam says: “The Imam’s Taᶜlīm lights the murids’ path to spiritual enlightenment and vision.”³:
3. The Imam of the Timeᶜ through his immense mercy, granted us a teacher who fulfilled our souls’ yearning to follow his farmans to learn the esoteric meaning of the holy Qur’ān, the final revelation of God.
4. The history of Ismaili daᶜwat is in two great phases and is compared to the night and day of the physical world. During the night of religion, also known as dawr-i satr or the cycle of concealment, when the Imam’s adversaries create obstacles in conveying his taᶜlīm to his murids, he appoints a religious hierarchy known as the ḥudūd-i dīn to impart it, as in the physical night when the light of the sun is unavailable it is conveyed by the moon and the stars. During the day of religion, known as the dawr-i kashf or qiyāmat or the cycle of unveiling or resurrection, when the Imam no longer has adversaries who create obstacles in conveying taᶜlīm to his murids, he does so directly and there is no need of the ḥudūd-i dīn, just as when in the physical world the sun shines brightly there is no need of the moon or stars.
5. The dissemination of taᶜlīm through the ḥudūd-i dīn continued up to the time of Imam Sultan Muhammad Shahc. His is a very important and auspicious time in Ismaili history.⁴ The night of religion or the dawr-i satr (cycle of concealment) came to an end and the blessed day of religion or the cycle of unveiling or resurrection (dawr-i kashf or qiyāmat) began. He conveyed taᶜlīm to his murids directly and to do so he travelled throughout the globe, wherever it was possible to do so. He made it easier for his obedient and diligent murids to attain spiritual enlightenment and vision by granting them the Supreme Name (ism-i acẓam) directly. He abolished the ḥudūd-i dīn with its extremely strict rules and conditions. This however does not mean that he abolished the daᶜwat. He rather elevated the status of his murids by commanding them to consider themselves his ambassadors⁵ and permitted them to do daᶜwat through their ethics, morals and good dealings with others. The present Imam continues the same qiyāmati taᶜlīm, as he says in one of his farmans: “You know the history of the dais and the journeys they made on behalf of the Jamat and the Imam-of-the-Time. Then I wish you all to become dais in this generation of your family.”⁶
6. There were a number of outstanding dignitaries in our 48ᵗʰ Imam’s time, such as Āghā ᶜAbdu’ṣ-Ṣamad Shāh, Pīr Sabzali, Sayyid Shāh ᶜAbdu’l-Ḥamīd, Sayyid Shāh Nawāz Shāh, Sayyid Munīru’d-Dīn, Sayyid Jalālī Shāh, Varas Ismail Gangji, Missionary Juma Bhagat, Missionary Kara Ruda, Missionary Husseini, etc.
7. Our teacher, ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai was specially blessed by Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shahᶜ who gave him the Supreme Name (ism-i aᶜẓam) in 1946 in Mumbai during his Diamond Jubilee.
8. During his sojourn in western China to serve the Jamat there from 1949 to 1954, he experienced a personal resurrection (qiyāmat) and was blessed with the everlasting wealth of the inner knowledge of the Qur’ān.
9. He established the Ismailia Dāru’l-Ḥikmat on 2ⁿᵈ June, 1963 in Hunza State, to impart and disseminate this given knowledge (cilm-i cata’ī) through writing and publishing books, epistles, poetry⁷, translations of other Ismaili literature, lectures, teaching, etc.⁸
10. In 1963 there were no Jamati institutions in Hunza State, Gilgit Agency.⁹
11. The H.R.H. Prince Aga Khan Ismailia Supreme Council for Jamats of Hunza State, Gilgit Agency, Chitral State and Central Asia, known as “The Supreme Council” came into existence on 21ˢᵗ March, 1969.¹⁰
12. The Ismailia Association established its branch in Gilgit on 10ᵗʰ June, 1972, nine years after the Ismailia Dāru’l-Ḥikmat.
13. Prior to 2ⁿᵈ June, 1963, ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai continued his work on an informal basis. After the establishment of the Ismailia Dāru’l-Ḥikmat, with the blessings of Imām-i zamānᶜ, this work of disseminating the esoteric knowledge of the holy Qur’ān has continued and to date scores of books, epistles, poetry and lectures in print as well as digital format and websites have been shared with interested members of the Jamat as well as those outside the Jamat who are engaged in personal search for spiritual knowledge.
14. The entirety of this service has been done through what Mawlana Hazir Imamᶜ terms “Time and Knowledge Nazrana”, and in the form of material support for the publications in various forms.
15. All the office bearers and members of this esoteric organisation have received powerful motivation from the special hidāyat which Mawlana Hazir Imamᶜ gave at the special mulāqāt granted to ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai in London on 21ˢᵗ June, 2001.
This hidāyat is in a letter dated 16ᵗʰ August 2004, of Vazier Shafik Sachedina who mentions it as follows: “You will recall that Mawlana Hazar Imam was very keen that ways and means should be found whereby your learning and scholarship can receive a wider Jamati exposure through collaboration with the Institute.”
16. We firmly believe that the work of this esoteric organisation is continuing to progress because of Imām-i zamanᶜ’s pleasure and blessings, although ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai passed away from this temporal world on 14ᵗʰ January, 2017.
17. His aspirations and directions for the organisation were recorded as an audio and a transcript was made available, dated 3ʳᵈ December, 2016, just over a month before he passed away. He gave the responsibility of establishing the Zabīḥu’llāh-i Aᶜẓam Khidmat Committee to his senior students, Dr. Faquir Muhammad Hunzai and Rashida Noormohamed-Hunzai for the future work of the organisation.
18. ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai is part of a heritage of Ismaili scholarship and learning which exists within the Shia Imami Ismaili Tariqah of Islam.
19. In keeping with this, his main focus is on the Centrality of Imamat¹¹ and the proofs of it from the holy Qur’ān. His books abound in the esoteric or ta’wīlī teachings of the Qur’ān. In keeping with the great luminaries of the past, such as Sayyidnā al-Mu’ayyad fi’d-dīn Shirāzī, Sayyidnā Kirmānī, Sayyidnā Sijistānī, Sayyidnā Jaᶜfar bin Manṣūr al-Yaman, Sayyidnā Qāḍī Nuᶜmān, Sayyidnā Pīr Nāṣir-i Khisraw, he too discusses the Concepts of Qiyāmah and Ḥaẓrat-i Qā’imu’l-qiyāmat in his prolific writings.
20. Additionally, he writes about concepts related to his own specific time, such as Monoreality, the Personal World, self-recognition and the recognition of God, Divine remembrance and the relationship between Spiritual Science and Physical Science, etc.
21. ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai’s contribution to the esoteric knowledge of the Ismaili Tariqah was due entirely to the blessings in the form of nūrānī ta’yīd, which he received from our 48ᵗʰ Imam, Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shahᶜ and from our present Imam, Nur Mawlana Shah Karim al-Husayni Hazir Imamᶜ.
22. He has written in detail about those concepts which Mawlana Sultan Muhammad Shahᶜ mentions in a concise form in his Memoirs in Chapter 8, such as the Islamic doctrine of Soul, the concept of a perpetual and constant Creation, the possibility of progress of an individual to Companionship-on-High and Monoreality and also the concepts that Mawlana Hazir Imamᶜ has emphasised such as we are all from the Nafs-i wahidah, the importance of Divine remembrance, meritocracy and pluralism.
23. His teachings have resonated with Ismailis from all the traditions, such as the Central Asian tradition, the Pir Sadruddin tradition and the Arabic tradition. His classes have been attended by a diverse group of murids for a long time and reflect Mawlana Hazir Imamᶜ’s wish to promote diversity and pluralism within the idea of One Jamat.
24. Following the learning traditions of Ismailis from the past, classes are held regularly and consist of zikr, ginan and qasida recitation, raqs-i Dawudi and lectures and discussions on all the subjects mentioned above.
25. On many occasions during his lifetime, he had clarified in his lectures that this blessing of ta’yīdī knowledge from the Imam of the Timeᶜ was bestowed upon him alone. He says: “If the knowledge of all these books belongs to the family of Partaw-yi Shah (Naṣīr al-Dīn) [and is] self-made, then wait and see that it will come to an end in a short while, because it is the cycle of Resurrection, in which very little respite is left for false things.”¹²
Summary of Core Principles:
1. Members of Ismailia Dāru’l-Ḥikmat are devoted murids of the Imam of the Timeᶜ, who aspire to obey his farmans regarding the esoteric understanding of the holy Qur’ān.
2. In pursuit of this ‘personal search’ they have been motivated and empowered by the teachings of ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai, who represents a continuity of such search throughout the history of the Ismaili Tariqah.
3. The participation of members in the work of disseminating this esoteric knowledge is voluntary in the spirit of our Tariqah and is based on Imām-i zamānᶜ’s public statement that voluntary service is “enlightened self-fulfilment”.¹³
4. We are fully aware that the progress and success of our work of disseminating esoteric knowledge of the Ismaili Tariqah is due entirely to Imām-i zamānᶜ’s pleasure and blessings.
5. As murids of the Imam of the Time, our members are conscious and fully aware of the importance of the practice of ethics, such as integrity, honesty, humility, trustworthiness, forgiveness and generosity, etc., all of which become doubly important for us because we have been blessed with the recognition and service of this sublime esoteric knowledge of the Imam.
The Need to Record the History and Core Principles Above:
- To correct any misperceptions, which may exist within the organisation or outside about our underpinnings and history.
- To ensure the smooth running of our esoteric (bāṭinī) organisation for the present and the future.
- To guard against any distortion of the founder, cAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai’s knowledge, teachings and the educational methods he used.
- To ensure that his directions, both in his own final words and the transcript of the audio are understood and adhered to by all concerned.
- Throughout his life, in his lectures and writings cAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai has emphasized that the ta’yīdī knowledge he was imparting belonged to the Imam of the Timec and that on his passing it would return to the Imam of the Timec ¹⁴ because it was a trust from him.
¹ See the Taᶜlīqah of Mawlana Hazir Imam of 4th October 1966 in “ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai’s Great
Contribution to Esoteric Knowledge” by Azeem Lakhani, Karachi, 2013
² “Precious Gems” Volume 1, Mubarak Farms of Noor Mawlana Shah Karim al-Husayni Hazar Imam, H.H. Prince
Aga Khan Shia Imami Ismailia Association for Canada.
³ See the Preamble of “The Constitution of The Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims”, Islamic Publications, 1986
⁴ For Mawlana Hazir Imam’s farmans relating to this, see “A Bridge between Two Epochs”, by Rashida
Noormohamed-Hunzai, Vancouver, 2018, pp.20-21.
⁵ See his farman dated 24th April, 1920 at Karachi in “Kalām-i Imām-i Mubīn”, Volume 2, Ismailia Association for
India, Mumbai, 1951, p. 45
⁶ Farman Mubarak of Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al-Hussaini Aga Khan, Diamond Jubilee:2017-2018,
⁷ For more details see “ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai’s Great Contribution to Esoteric Knowledge” by
Azeem Lakhani, Karachi, 2013
⁹ The current name for this area is Gilgit-Baltistan.
¹⁰ The Constitution of the Councils and Jamats of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims of Hunza State, Gilgit Agency, Chitral State and Central Asia, Karimabad, Hunza State (Gilgit Agency), Pakistan, 1969
¹¹ His very first book, published in the same year as the change of the Jāmah of Imamat, i.e., 1957 is entitled
“Silsilah-yi Nūr-i Imāmat” (Chain of the Light of Imāmat)
¹² “Mufīd Interview”, Karachi, 1993, p. 128.
¹³ Speech of H.H. The Aga Khan “Address to both Houses of the Parliament of Canada”, 27th February 2014.
¹⁴ Article by ᶜAllāmah Naṣīr al-Dīn Naṣīr Hunzai entitled “Pāk Ḥāzir Imām kā pāk jismānī farzand hī apne waqt
par pachāswāṅ Imām hogā”, Islamabad, 21st May, 2007