History of Nizari Ismailism
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (December 2010)|
| Part of a series on Shīa Islam
The History of the Shī‘a Imāmī Ismā'īlī Ṭarīqah (Nizari) from the founding of Islam covers a period of over 1400 years. It begins with the mission of the Islamic prophet Muhammad to restore to humanity the universality and knowledge of the oneness of the divine within the Abrahamic tradition, through the final message and what Shia believe was the appointment of Ali Ibn Talib as successor and guardian of that message in both the spiritual and temporal authority of Muhammad, through the institution of Imamate.
A few months before his death, Muhammad who resided in the city of Medina made his first and final pilgrimage (Al Hajj) to Mecca, a journey referred to as The Farewell Pilgrimage. There, atop Mount Arafat, he addressed the Muslim masses in what came to be known as The Farewell Sermon. After completion of the Hajj pilgrimage, Muhammad journeyed back toward his home in Medina with other pilgrims.
During the journey, Muhammad stopped at the desert oasis of Khumm, and requested other pilgrims gather together, and there he addressed them with the famous words:
|“||Whomsoever’s mawla (master) I am, this Ali is also his mawla. O Allah, befriend whosoever befriends him and be the enemy of whosoever is hostile to him.||”|
Following Muhammads death the Shiat Ali (Party of Ali) believed Ali had been designated not merely as the political successor to Muhammad (Caliph) but also his spiritual successor. And looked toward Ali and his most trusted supporters for both political and spiritual guidance. Ali's descendants were also the only descendants of Muhammad as Ali had married Muhammads only surviving progeny in the person of Fatima Az-Zahra. And through the generations the mantle of leadership of the Shi'at Al-Ali would pass through the progeny of Ali and Fatima known as the Ahl al-Bayt the (Household of Muhammad), embodied in the head of the family, the Imam. Among the Shia both the Ismāʿīli and Twelvers accept the same initial Imāms from the descendants of Muħammad through his daughter Fāṭima az-Zahra and therefore share much of their early history.
- 1 Imāmi Shia
- 2 Imāmi Schism
- 3 Contemporary Ismā'īlī
- 4 The Ismā'īlī Imāmate Timeline
- 5 References
Imam Ja‘far as-Sadiq was acknowledged as leader of the Shi'at al-Ali, and head of the Ahl al-Bayt (Household of Muhammad). A highly accomplished theologian Ja'far tutored Abu Hanifa who would go onto found the Hanafi Madh'hab (school of jurisprudence), the largest Sunni legal school in practice today, Malik Ibn Anas founder of the Maliki Sunni Madh'hab (school of jurisprudence), and Wasil ibn Ata who founded the Mu'tazilah school of thought which all major Sunni Jurisprudence schools follow.
During a period of rapid change, when Muslims no longer threatened were beginning to concern themselves with questions like "what does it mean to be a Muslim?". Most sought answers from the new learned classes which would eventually develop into Sunni Islam, but for some the answers to such questions were always sought from Muhammad's family the Ahl al-Bayt as led by Imam Jaʿfar Saddiq; who saw the need for a systematic school of thought for those who sought guidance, and were loyal to Muhammad's family, as distinct from the new scholar schools which would synthesis into Sunni Islam. His answer was the Imāmiyyah or Jā‘fariyyah Madh'hab (School of jurisprudence). This period marks the founding of the distinct religious views of both the Shia and Sunni.
Imām Ja'far as-Sadiq was married to Fāṭima, herself a member of the Ahl al-Bayt. Together they had two sons, Ismā'īl al-Mubarak (the blessed) and his younger brother Abd-Allah. Following Fatima's death Imām Ja'far as-Sadiq was said to be so devastated he refused to ever remarry.
The majority of available sources - both Ismā'īli and Twelver as well as Sunni - indicate that Imam Jafar as-Sadiq designated Ismā'īl as his successor and the next Imam after him by the rule of "nass" and there is no doubt concerning the authenticity of this designation. However, it is controversially believed that Ismā'īl predeceased his father. However, the same sources report Ismā'īl being seen three days after in Basra. His closest supporters believed Ismail had gone into hiding to protect his life. Therefore, upon as-Sadiq's death, a group of Jafar A'Sadiq's followers turned to the eldest surviving son of al-Sadiq, Abd-Allah, because he was the son of the daughter of the Khalifa, and because he was the oldest son of Jafar al-Sadiq after Ismā'īl's death. He claimed a second designation following Ismā'īl's disappearance. Later most of them went back to the doctrine of the Imamate of his brother, Musa, together with the evidence for the right of the latter and the clear proofs of his Immmate (i.e. his character) When Abd-Allah died within weeks without an heir, many more turned again to another son of as-Sadiq, Musa al-Kazim a son from a slave named Umm Hamida, who Ja'far had taken after his wife's death. While some had already accepted him as the Imam following the death of Jafar as-Sadiq, Abd-Allah's supporters now aligned themselves with him giving him the majority of the Shia.
Ismā'īlīs argue that since a defining quality of an Imām is his infallibility, Ja'far as-Sadiq could not have mistakenly passed his nass on to someone who would be either unfit or predecease him. Therefore, the Imam after Ismā'īl was his eldest son Muhammad b. Ismā'īl - known as al-Maktūm.
Establishment of the Alevī-Ismā'īlī school of jurisprudence
The Early Imams
- Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (599–661)
- Hasan ibn Ali (625–670)
- Husayn ibn Ali (626–680)
- Zayn al-Abidin (659–712)
- Muḥammad ibn ‘Alī al-Baqir (676-743)
- Ja'far al-Sadiq (702-765)
- Isma'il Al-Mubarak (721–Pre-Deceded his father Ja'far al-Sadiq on 755?)
Callers to Islam
Imam Muhammad al-Maktūm, retained Ismā'īl s closest supporters, who were few in number but highly disciplined, consisting of philosophers, scientists, and theologians; like his father Imam Muhammad retained an interest in Greek philosophy, political, and scientific thought. Muhmmad al-Maktūm was himself several years the senior of his half uncle Mūsā al-Kādhim. Muhammad al-Maktūm reconciled with his uncle Mūsā l-Kādhim, and left Medina with his father's most loyal supporters, effectively disappearing from historical records and instituting an era of Dar al-Satr (epoch of veiling) when the Imams would vanish from public view. There followed a period when mysterious intellectual writings of an Ismā'īlī character appeared, most famously the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-safa' (the epistles of Brethren of Purity) an enormous compendium of 52 epistles dealing with a wide variety of subjects including mathematics, natural sciences, psychology (psychical sciences) and theology. Isma'ili leadership also produced an array of propaganda attacking the political and religious establishments with calls for popular revolution, through a Dāʻwa propagation machine called "Callers to Islām".
This distinctive characteristic of the Ismāʿīlī to challenge established social, economic, and intellectual norms with their vision of a just society was opposed directly opposed to Twelver quietism and political apathy and would be a hallmark of Ismāʿīlī history.
The Fatimid Empire
In the face of persecution, the bulk of the Ismāʿīlī continued to recognize Imāms who, as mentioned, secretly propagated their faith through Duʻāt (singular, dāʻī) "Callers to Islām" from their bases in Syria. However, by the 10th century, an Ismāʿīlī Imām, ʻUbaydu l-Lāh al-Mahdī bil-Lāh, correctly known as ʻAbdu l-Lāh al-Mahdī, had emigrated to North Africa and successfully established the new Fatimid state in Tunisia. His successors subsequently succeeded in conquering all of North Africa (including highly prized Egypt) and the Fertile Crescent, and even holding Mecca and Medina in Arabia. The capital for the Fatimid state subsequently shifted to the newly founded city of Cairo (al-Qāhira), meaning "The Victorious," in honour of the Ismāʿīlī military victories, from which the Fatimid Caliph-Imāms ruled for several generations, establishing their new city as a centre for culture and civilization. It boasted the world's first university, the Al-Azhar University and Dar Al-Hikma where the study of mathematics, art, biology, and philosophy reached new heights in the known world.
During the latter part of the caliphate of Al-Mustans: ir the Ismaili movement in Iran was spurred to revolutionary activity by the teaching and leadership of Hasan-i Sabbah, who in 1090 seized the mountain stronghold of Alamut northwest of Qazvin and made it his headquarters. He had earlier visited Cairo when Nizar, Al-Mustans: ir’s eldest son, was the designated heir. After the death of Al-Mustans: ir, the powerful vizier Al-Afdal put the youngest son, Ahmad, on the throne with the caliphal name Al-Musta'li and captured and immured Nizar, who had resisted. Hasan-i Sabbah, however, continued to recognize Nizar as the legitimate imam and claimed that Nizar had escaped and broken with the Ismaili leadership in Cairo. He gained general support among the Ismailiyyah in Iran and northern Syria and thus became the founder of the Nizari branch. Al-Musta'li was recognized by most of the Ismailiyyah in Egypt, the Yemen, India, and by many in Syria and Palestine.
A fundamental split amongst the Ismāʿīlī occurred as the result of a dispute over which son should succeed the 18th Imam and Fatmid Caliph Mustansir . While Nizar was originally designated Imam, his younger brother Musta'li was promptly installed as Imam in Cairo with the help of the powerful Armenian Vizier Badr al-Jamali, whose daughter he was married to. Badr al-Jamali claimed that Imam Mustansir had changed his choice of successor upon his death bed, appointing his younger son Musta'li (who was married to the daughter of Badr al-Jamali).
Although Nizar contested this claim, he was defeated after a short military campaign and imprisoned; however, he did gain support from an Ismāʿīlī Dāʿī based in Iran, Hassan as-Sabbah. Hassan as-Sabbah is noted by Western writers to have been the leader of the legendary "Assassins".
The Nizari Ism'ailis recognize only the first eight Fatimid Empire Caliphs from the nine listed below:
- Abū Muḥammad ʻAbdu l-Lāh (ʻUbaydu l-Lāh) al-Mahdī bi'llāh (909-934) founder of the Fatimid dynasty
- Abū l-Qāsim Muḥammad al-Qā'im bi-Amr Allāh (934-946)
- Abū Ṭāhir Ismā'il al-Manṣūr bi-llāh (946-953)
- Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mu'izz li-Dīn Allāh (953-975) Egypt is conquered during his reign
- Abū Manṣūr Nizār al-'Azīz bi-llāh (975-996)
- Abū 'Alī al-Manṣūr al-Ḥākim bi-Amr Allāh (996-1021)
- Abū'l-Ḥasan 'Alī al-Ẓāhir li-I'zāz Dīn Allāh (1021–1036)
- Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mustanṣir bi-llāh (1036–1094)
- al-Musta'lī bi-llāh (1094–1101) Quarrels over his succession led to the Nizari split.
Most Ismāʿīlīs outside North Africa, mostly in Persia and the Levant, came to acknowledge Imam Nizar b. Mustansir Billahs claim to the Imamate as maintained by Hassan as-Sabbah, and this point marks the fundamental split. Within two generations, the Fatimid Empire would suffer several more splits and eventually implode.
Hassan began converting local inhabitants and much of the military stationed at the fortress to the Ismā'īlī ideals of social justice and free thinking as he plotted to take over the fortress. During the final stages of his plan, he is believed to have lived within the fortress - possibly working as a chef - under the pseudonym "Dihkunda." He seized the fortress in 1090 AD from its then-ruler, a Zaidi Shia named Mahdi. This marks the founding of the Nizari Ismāʿīlī state. Mahdi's life was spared, and he later received 3,000 gold Dinars in compensation.
Hassan as-Sabbah termed his doctrine Al-Dawa al-Jadida ("The New Preaching") to contrast the Fatimid "Old Preaching". He was viewed as the Hujjah or "Proof" of the Imam, having direct secret contact with Imam Nizar and his rightful successors. Hassan as-Sabbah is also known as the first of the Seven Lords of Alamut Castle, as he chose this secluded fortress as his base.
Under the leadership of Hassan as-Sabbah and the succeeding Lords of Alamut, the statergy of covert capture was successfully replicated at strategic fortresses across Iran, Iraq, and the Fertile Crescent. The Nizārī Ismā'īlī created a state of unconnected fortresses, surrounded by huge swathes of hostile territory, and managed a unified power structure that proved more effective than either that in Fatimid Cairo, or Seljuq Bagdad, both of which suffered political instability, particularly during the transition between leaders. These periods of internal turmoil allowed the Ismāʿīlī state respite from attack, and even to have such sovereignty as to have minted their own coinage.
The Fortress of Alamut was thought impregnable to any military attack, and was fabled for its heavenly gardens, impressive libraries, and laboratories where philosophers, scientists, and theologians could debate all matters in intellectual freedom.
Owing to the difficult situation in which the Ismailis were placed, their system of self-defence took a peculiar form. When their fortresses were attacked or besieged, they were isolated like small islands in a stormy sea. They prepared their garrisons for the fight, but were unable to mount a sizable army so trained military commandos (fidā'iyyūn) as a rear-guard action. Fidā'iyyūn were covertly dispatched into the very heart of the Abbasid Court and enemy military strongholds as sleeper agents. In order to remove key figures planning or responsible for attacks against Isma'ili populations, fidā'iyyūn would take reprisal action for an attack or the planning of one by placing a dagger or a note within the chambers of their opponent as a warning or even assassinating a key opponent when they deemed it necessary. Isma'ili were referred to as "Hashahshin" by their enemies, which as may of their political enemies believed them to consume the intoxicant hashish before being dispatched as agents although modern scholarship tends to dispute this theory as polemic fabricated to discredit the Isma'ili. Other theories suggest the term originates from them being followers of "Hassan". The term entered Western vocabulary through the returning Crusaders as "assassin".
The Seven Lords of Alamut Castle
- Hassan-i Sabbah (1090–1124)
- Kiya Buzurg-Ummid (1124–1138)
- Muhammad I of Alamut (1138–1162) (Muhammad bin Kiya Buzrug Ummid) (Turkish)
- The first concealed imam of Alamut: El-Hâdî bin el-Nizâr (Turkish)
- The second concealed imam of Alamut: El-Môhtadî bin el-Hâdî (Turkish)
- The third concealed imam of Alamut: El-Kahir bin el-Môhtadî bi-Kuvvet’ûl-Lâh / bi-Ahkâmî’l-Lâh (Turkish)
- Ḥasan II ʿAlā Dhekrehee’s Salām (1162–1166)
- Nūru-d-Dīn Muḥammad II (1166–1210) (Nūru-d-Dīn Muḥammad bin Hasan-ı Thanī) (Turkish)
- Jalālū-d-Dīn Ḥassan III (1210–1221)
- ‘Alā’a-d-Dīn Muḥammad III (1221–1255) (Alāa-d-Dīn Muḥammad bin Jalālū-d-Dīn Ḥassan) (Turkish)
- Ruknu-d-Dīn Khurshāh (1255–1256)
The fortress was destroyed on December 15, 1256, by Hulagu Khan as part of the Mongol offensive on Islamic Southwest Asia. The Hashshashin made a critical mistake in the murder of Genghis Khan's son, Jagati, who ruled part of Persia. Jagati had offended the Ismali's and Hashshashin by forbidding certain rituals involved in prayer and slaughter of food animals.
In 1256, the Mongols took their revenge. Most of the Hashshashin were killed and their mountaintop fortresses destroyed. The Church Knights, already weakened by Mongol incursions and civil war, did not send assistance.
The Hashshashin leader, Ruknu-d-Dīn Khurshāh, sought to negotiate with Mongu Khan. He failed to obtain an audience, and he and his party were murdered while returning home. Later, his family was captured and subject to long and tortured deaths.
The last Lord, Ruknu-d-Dīn Khurshāh surrendered it as part of a deal with Hulagu. However, the Monguls slaughtered the inhabitants, burnt the libraries, and brought down the fortifications. Isma'ili survivors made several attempts to recapture, and restore Alamut, and several other Isma'ili forts, but were defeated. In subsequent years, the punishment for anyone suspected of being Ismā'īlī would be instant death, it was common for political or social enemies to claim their rivals as secret Isma'ili, and call for their deaths.
The Wandering Mystics
The Ismā'īlī Imāms, and their followers would wander Iran for several centuries in concealment, The Imāms would often take on the garb of a tailor, or mystic master, and their followers as Sufi Muslims. During this period Iranian Sufism, and Ismāʿīlīsm would form a close bond.
Post-Alamut developments. In 1256 'Ala' Al-Din Muhammad’s son and successor Khurshah surrendered Alamut to the Mongol conquerors and was killed soon afterward. The Nizari state was thus destroyed, and the Persian Ismaili communities were decimated by massacres. Thereafter the imams lived mostly in concealment, and there is considerable uncertainty about their names, number, and sequence. Following a disputed succession their line soon divided into two branches, one continuing with Muhammad-shah, the other with Qasim-shah. Of the Muhammad-shahi imams, Shah tahir Dakani (d. 1549?) achieved fame as a religious scholar and leader. The popularity of his teaching aroused the suspicion of the Safavid shah Ismail, who exiled him to Kashan. Later he was forced to leave Iran and eventually found refuge in Ahmadnagar in the Deccan, where he became an adviser of the ruler Burhan Nizam Shah, whom he encouraged to proclaim Shiism as the official religion. His writings consisted mainly of commentaries on Twelver Shii and philosophical treatises, although he also maintained relations with his Ismaili followers. The last known imam of the Muhammad-shahi line was Amir Muhammad Baqir, with whom his Syrian Ismaili followers lost all contact after 1796.
Return to concealment. The restoration of the law by Jalal Al-Din Hasan was now interpreted as a return to a period of precautionary dissimulation (taqiyah) and concealment (satr) in which the truth is hidden in the batin. The resurrection proclaimed by Hasan 'ala Dhikrihi Al-Salam had come at about the middle of the millennium of the era of the prophet Muhammad and had set the pattern for the final resurrection at the end of it. In the era of Muhammad, the times of concealment and of resurrection might alternate according to the decision of each imam, since every imam was potentially a Qaim. The contradictions in the conduct of the imams were merely in appearance, since in their spiritual reality they were identical and all acted in accordance with the requirements of their time. In the time of concealment the state of union with the imam was confined to his hujjah, who was consubstantial with him. His other followers, the “people of gradation,” were divided into the strong (aqwiya) and the weak (du'afa') according to their closeness to the truth.
With the establishment of the Safawid Shi’i state, many Sufi orders declared themselves to be Shi’i. Approximately one hundred years before this however, the Ismaili imamate was being transferred to the village of Anjudan, near the Shi’i centres of Qumm and Kashan. The Anjudan period constituted a revival of Ismaili political stability, for the first time since the fall of Alamut. Owing to the village in which it occurred, this revival is commonly termed the "Anjudān period".
The Aga Khans
The period of the Aga Khans begins in 1817, when 45th Imām Shah Khalīl Allāh was murdered while giving refuge to his followers by a Twelver Shia mob led by local religious leaders. His wife took her 13-year-old son and new Imām, Hassan Ali Shah to the then Qajar Emperor Shah in Tehran to seek justice. Although there was no serious penalty brought against those involved; The Emperor Shah Fath' Ali Shah gave his daughter the Princess Sarv-I Jahan in marriage to the new Imām, and awarded him the title Agha Khan (Lord Chief).
Almost all Nizārī Ismā'īlī today accept His Highness Prince Shah Karim Al-Husayni, the Aga Khan IV as their "Imām-ı Zāmān" (Imam of the Time), but for about 15,000 in western Syria. In Persian he is referred to Religiously as Khudawand (Lord of the Time), in Arabic as Mawlana (Master), or Hādhar Imām (Present Imam). Karim acceded his grandfather Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III to the Imāmate in 1957, aged just 20, and still an undergraduate at Harvard University. He was referred to as "the Imam of the Atomic age". The period following his accession can be characterized as one of rapid political and economic change. Planning of programs and institutions became increasingly difficult due to the rapid changes in newly emerging post colonial nations where many of his followers resided. Upon becoming Imām, Karim's immediate concern was the preparation of his followers, wherever they lived, for the changes that lay ahead. This rapidly evolving situation called for bold initiatives and new programs to reflect developing national aspirations, in the newly independent nations.
In Africa, Asia and the Middle East, a major objective of the Community's social welfare and economic programs, until the mid-fifties, had been to create a broad base of businessmen, agriculturists, and professionals. The educational facilities of the community tended to emphasize secondary-level education. With the coming of independence, each nation's economic aspirations took on new dimensions, focusing on industrialization and modernization of agriculture. The community's educational priorities had to be reassessed in the context of new national goals, and new institutions had to be created to respond to the growing complexity of the development process.
In 1972, under the regime of the then President Idi Amin, Ismā'īlīs and other Asians were expelled from Uganda despite being citizens of the country and having lived there for generations. Karim undertook urgent steps to facilitate the resettlement of Ismāʿīlīs displaced from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and also from Burma. Owing to his personal efforts most found homes, not only in Asia, but also in Europe and North America. Most of the basic resettlement problems were overcome remarkably rapidly. This was due to the adaptability of the Ismāʿīlīs themselves and in particular to their educational background and their linguistic abilities, as well as the efforts of the host countries and the moral and material support from Ismāʿīlī community programs.
In view of the importance that Islām places on maintaining a balance between the spiritual well-being of the individual and the quality of his life, the Imām's guidance deals with both aspects of the life of his followers. The Aga Khan has encouraged Ismā'īlī Muslims, settled in the industrialized world, to contribute towards the progress of communities in the developing world through various development programs. Indeed, the Economist noted: that Isma'ili immigrant communities, integrated seamlessly as an immigrant community, and did better at attaining graduate and post graduate degrees, "far surpassing their native, Hindu, Sikh, fellow Muslims, and Chinese communities".
In recent years, Ismā'īlī Muslims, who have come to the US, Canada and Europe, mostly as refugees from Asia and Africa, have readily settled into the social, educational and economic fabric of urban and rural centers across the two continents. As in the developing world, the Ismāʿīlī Muslim community's settlement in the industrial world has involved the establishment of community institutions characterized by an ethos of self-reliance, an emphasis on education, and a pervasive spirit of philanthropy. Spiritual allegiance to the Imām and adherence to the Shī'a Imāmī Ismā'īlī ṭariqat (path/persuasion) of Islām according to the guidance of the Imām of the time, have engendered in the Ismāʿīlī community an ethos of self-reliance, unity, and a common identity notwithstanding centuries of being marginalized and persecuted by native and established societies.
Notable Isma'ili include:
- Abu Ali Sina Balkh (commonly known in English by his Latinized name Avicenna) is one of the most influential scientists ever born and the author of The Canon of Medicine. He is often referred to as the Father of Physics. Abu Ali Sina Balkh was a polymath and the foremost physician and philosopher of his time. He was also an astronomer, chemist, geologist, logician, paleontologist, mathematician, physicist, poet, psychologist, soldier, statesman, and teacher.
- Indian Internet pioneer Azim Premji, Forbes estimates his wealth at $14.5 Billion. He is famed for driving a Toyota Corolla, and flying economy, He has used his vast fortune to set up the philanthropic Azim Premji Foundation. Premji was ranked the wealthiest Indian until 2003, and remains India's wealthiest Muslim.
- Nasir al-Din Nasir Hunzai, Dr. Allamah Nasir al-Din Nasir Hunzai (born 1917) is a Pakistani writer and poet, known for his work on Islam and the Burushaski language. The president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan conferred upon Prof. Dr. Nasir al-Din Hunzai the award of Sitarah-i-Imtiyaz on 23 March 2001 in recognition of his outstanding service in the fields of literature and scholarship. He was awarded an honorary PhD degree by Senior University in Canada where he has been associated for a long time as a visiting professor.His books have been translated into English, French, Swedish, Persian, Turkish, and Gujarati.
- British actor and Oscar winner Sir Ben Kingsley, CBE.
- Zul Vellani (1930-Dec 31, 2010), Scriptwriter and commentator for over 700 Films Division of India's documentaries. Known as 'The Voice', he was the chosen narrator on All India Radio for Indira Gandhi's funeral procession. Also a film and theatre director, actor and playwright. His documentary film 'All Under Heaven By Force' won a National Award, while his film adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's play 'Dak Ghar' won the Golden Plaque Award at the 2nd Tehran International Festival for Children and Young People. Wrote scripts for established film directors such as Mehboob and Shantaram as well as for K. Vasudev’s ‘At Five Past Five’. Acted in many short as well as feature films, notable among them being Conrad Rook’s ‘Siddhartha’. Author of 'The Burning Spear', a play on the Kenyan Mau-Mau independence movement commissioned by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Uncle, once removed, to Sir Ben Kingsley.
- Muhammad al-Maghut (1934- April 3, 2006) (Arabic: محمد الماغوط) was a famous Syrian writer and poet.
- Professor Azim Surani, CBE, Professor of Physiology and Reproduction at Cambridge University. The only British Muslim to be publicly honored for services to science.
- British journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, ranked most influential British Muslim journalist by the Times.
- Mustapha Ghaleb (1923–1979) a distinguished Syrian historian.
- Yasmin Rattansi, Canada's first female Muslim MP.
- Saddaruddin Hashwani, business tycoon and 4th richest person of Pakistan.
- New York film producer Shahnee Zaver, an Indian female pioneer in film in the west.
- Karim Khoja, CEO of Roshan Telecom, Afghanistan's largest privately owned company providing almost 10% of government revenue. Until 2001 Ismāʿīlī suffered systematic persecution under the War-Lords and the Taliban.
- Prince Saddrudin Aga Khan, the longest ever serving head of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), twice nominated for UN Secretary General.
- Rahim Jaffer, first Muslim elected to Canada's Parliament.
- Mobina Jaffer, first Muslim appointed as a Canadian Senator.
- Lalak Jan Shaahed, Pakistan awarded him the Nishan-i-Haider, Pakistan’s highest military award, for extraordinary gallantry.
- Firoz Rasul, Past President, CEO Ballard Power Systems in Vancouver. Current President of the Agakhan University.
- Sada Cumber, Entrepreneur and First Representative (Title of Special Envoy) to the OIC from the United States 
- Ali Velshi, a Canadian television journalist best known for his work on CNN. He is CNN's Chief Business Correspondent, and co-host of CNN's weekly business show.
- Zain Verjee, State Department correspondent with CNN, based in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked as a newsreader for The Situation Room and a co-anchor of CNN International's Your World Today.
- Shehzad Roy (Urdu: شہزاد رائے), a pop singer and humanitarian from Karachi, Pakistan.
- Saleem Jaffer, ex-Pakistani fast cricket bowler.
- Nazir Sabir, first Pakistani to climb world's highest peak Mount Everest.
- Ashraf Aman, first Pakistani to climb world's second highest peak K-2.
- Ismail Gulgee (October 25, 1926 – December 14, 2007), Pride of Performance, Sitara-e-Imtiaz (twice), Hilal-e-Imtiaz, was an award-winning, globally famous Pakistani artist.
From July 1982 to July 1983, to celebrate the present Aga Khan's Silver Jubilee, marking the 25th anniversary of his accession to the Imāmat, many new social and economic development projects were launched. These range from the establishment of the US$300 million international Aga Khan University with its Faculty of Health Sciences and teaching hospital based in Karachi, the expansion of schools for girls and medical centers in the Hunza region, one of the remote parts of Northern Pakistan bordering on China and Afghanistan, to the establishment of the Aga Khan Rural Support Program in Gujarat, India, and the extension of existing urban hospitals and primary health care centers in Tanzania and Kenya. These initiatives form part of an international network of institutions involved in fields that range from education, health and rural development, to architecture and the promotion of private sector enterprise and together make up the Aga Khan Development Network.
It is this commitment to man's dignity and relief of humanity that inspires the Ismā'īlī Imāmat's philanthropic institutions. Giving of one's competence, sharing one's time, material or intellectual ability with those among whom one lives, for the relief of hardship, pain or ignorance is a deeply ingrained tradition which shapes the social conscience of the Ismā'īlī Muslim community.
During his Golden Jubilee from 2007-2008 marking 50 years of Imamate the Aga Khan commissioned a number of projects, renowned Pritzker Prize winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki was commissioned to design a new kind of community structure resembling an embassy in Canada, The "Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat" opened in 8 December 2008, the building will be composed of two large interconnected spaces an atrium and a courtyard. The atrium is an interior space to be used all year round. It is protected by a unique glass dome made of multi-faceted, angular planes assembled to create the effect of rock crystal the Aga Khan asked Maki to consider the qualities of "rock crystal" in his design, which during the Fatimid Empire was valued by the Imams. Within the glass dome is an inner layer of woven glass-fibre fabric which will appear to float and hover over the atrium. The Delegation building sits along sussex drive near the Canadian parliament. Future Delegation buildings are planned for other capitals, beginning with Lisbon, Portugal.
In addition to primary and secondary schools, the Aga Khan Academies were set up to equip future leaders in the developing world with a leading standard education. The Aga Khan Museum, which will open in Toronto, Canada, will be the first museum dedicated to Islamic civilization in the west, due for completion in 2011 it will be dedicated to the "acquisition, preservation and display of artefacts - from various periods and geographies - relating to the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of Islamic communities". A series of new Isma'ili centre are underway, including Toronto, Canada; Paris, France; Houston, Texas; Dushabi and the Pamir; Tajikistan.
The Ismā'īlī Imāmate Timeline
Those Imams recognised by both Ismā'īlīyya and Twelver:
1. 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib, died 661 CE
- . Hasan, son of Ali, died 670 (viewed as temporary by Nizari)
A Period of Concealment: The Ismā'īlī leave Mecca and propagate their faith in secret, and produce literature against the established state.
8. Wafī Aḥmad, also known as ʿAbd Allāh.
9. Aḥmad Taqī Muḥammad, son of ʿAbd Allāh.
10. Ḥusayn Radhī ad-dīn ʿAbd Allāh, son of Aḥmad.
The Fatimid Empire The Ismā'īlī re-emerge and found the Fatimid Empire in north Africa, proclaiming themselves Caliphs of the Islamic world.
11. Ubaydullāh al-Mahdī billāh, openly announced himself as Imam, 1st Fatimid Caliph, died 934
12. Muḥammad al-Qā'im bi-'Amrillāh 2nd Fatimid Caliph, died 946
13. Abū Ṭāhir Ismā'il al-Manṣūr bi-llāh, 3rd Fatimid Caliph, died 953
14. Maʿād al-Muʿizz li-Dīnillāh, 4th Fatimid Caliph, died 975
15. Abū Manṣūr Nizār al-ʿAzīz billāh, 5th Fatimid Caliph, died 996
16. Al-Ḥakīm bi-Amri 'l-llāh, 6th Fatimid Caliph, disappeared 1021.
17. ʿAlī az-Zāhir li-Iʿzāz Dīnillāh, son of al-Hakim, 7th Fatimid Caliph, died 1036.
18. Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mustanṣir bi-llāh, 8th Fatimid Caliph, died (1094)
The list continues with The Nizārī Ismā'īlī Imāms known as "The Lords of Alamut": Imam Nizar is imprisoned and Hassan-i-Sabbah leads a rebellion in his cause, working toward establishing Alamut as the centre of a new state, later the crusaders would mark them out as the Order of the Hashshashin (Assassins).
19. Nizār ibn al-Mustanṣir billāh, son of al-Mustansir, died in prison 1094
20. Al-Hādī (escapes to Alamut with a Nizārī Ismā'īlī Da'i Abul Hasan Saidi, "The Period of Second Concealment", remained concealed from public)
21. Al-Muhtadī ("The Period of Second Concealment", remained concealed from public)
22. Al-Qāhir (aka: Hasan I, "The Period of Second Concealment", remained concealed from public)
23. Hasan ala-dhikrihi as-Salaam (Hasan II) - son of Imam al-Qahir and the first Nizari Imam of Alamut to openly declare himself as such, died in 1166
27. Ruknu-d-Dīn Khurshāh, son of Muhammad III,
The Period of Third Concealment of the Nizārī Ismā'īlī Imāms: Nizārī Ismā'īlī communities manage to survive the destruction of their state, and practice secretly to escape persecution, forming a close relationship with Sufism.
28. Shams Al-Din Muhammad
29. Qāsim Shāh
30. Islām Shāh
31. Muḥammad ibn Islām Shāh
32. Mustanṣir billāh II
33. Abd as-Salām Shāh
34. Gharīb Mirzā / Mustanṣir billāh III
the Anjudan Renaissance By the 15th century, a mini renaissance begins to develop in the village Anjudan near Mahallat.
35. Abū Dharr ʿAlī Nūru-d-Dīn
36. Murād Mirzā
37. Dhu al-Fiqār ʿAlī Khalīlullāh I
38. Nūru ad-Dahr (Nūru-d-Dīn) ʿAlī
39. Khalīl Allāh II ʿAlī
40. Shāh Nizār II
41. Sayyid ʿAlī
42. Ḥassan ʿAlī
43. Qāsim ʿAlī (Sayyid Jaʿfar)
44. Abu al-Ḥassan ʿAlī (Bāqir Shāh)
45. Shāh Khalīlullāh III
The Aga Khans: The age of the Agha Khans begins, and final steps toward unifying and reorganising the Ismāʿīlī community start in earnest.
The Current Nizārī Ismā'īlī Imām:
A list of the Ismāʿīlī Imāms can also be found here.
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- Daftary, Farhad (1998). "3". A Short History of the Ismailis. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-0687-4.
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- Virani, Shafique N. The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation (New York: Oxford University Press), 2007.
- Daftary, Farhad (1998). A Short History of the Ismailis. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 206–209. ISBN 0-7486-0687-4.
- The Economist: Islam, America and Europe. London, UK: The Economist Newspaper Limited. June 22, 2006.