User:Salim e-a ebrahim/sandbox
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(I have to do this edit again because some aspects can be added into the sections on God and Quran; add refs; update refs; delete if not really needed or if liable to severe dispute – disputes are a HUGE waste of time._SE)
The Nizari doctrines separated from the Mustaali doctrines in the course of time but both doctrines affirm the Muslim creed, the Shahada, that There is no god but God (Allah) and Muhammad is the Prophet of God. However, the Shia Shahada goes a step further and asserts also that, Ali, The Commander of the Faithfuls (Emir ul Mumineena), is from Allah.
The Shia Nizari Ismaili belief in the Imamah differs from the Twelver Shia belief as well as from the Shia Mustali Ismaili belief because the Imam in Nizari Ismailism has to be a living human being who, in addition to being alive and not in "occultation" (the word used is "ghayb" by the other Shia denominations which means that their Imam is present in the world in the spirit form but without a material body) also possesses the Noor (Being, Presence, Light, Immanence, Spirit) of God (Allah) vested within him as per the Quranic Ayat 36:12, Wa kulla shaiin ahsainahu fi Imamim-Mubeen (And We have vested EVERYTHING in the Manifest Imam).
Since there is only the zāhirī (exoteric) bodily difference between each living Imam to the next living Imam, therefore the first Imam after the death of Prophet Mohammad, that is Imam Ali, and every Imam in the succession after him, has been one and the same in the Spirit because they all possessed the Light of God within them. This doctrine has been clarified by Sir Sultan Mohammad Shah Aga Khan III, the 48th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis, in his illustration of a simile between that of the material bodies of the Nizari Imams and the different colored light bulbs in that although the light bulbs are materially different, the electricity flowing in them is the same.
Like the other Shi'ites, the Nizari Ismailis reserve the position and title of Imam for Ali and the descendants of Ali but they do not reserve a special status for Ali himself above that of the other Imams who followed him in his direct and hereditary line, as do the other Shia.
The Nizaris consider Walayah (love and devotion) for God, the Prophets, the Imams, and the Imam of the Time’s babs or pirs (gates), hujjats (proofs), and da‘is (callers) among their Seven Pillars of the faith.
Nizari Ismailis believe that although their Imams have physical bodies subject to ageing and death the same as for all human beings but within them their spirit (soul) is the very Light (Noor) of God Himself, the Light flowing easily from one living Imam to the next. There can only be one designated living Imam at any given time although there can be a designated successor to the living Imam living side by side with him.
The Orthodox Sunni Islam considers Nizari Ismailism heresy at best and shirk (idolatry or polytheism) at worst - shirk because they supposedly make their living Imam a partner with God. The Nizari Ismailis contend that the legitimate Imam of the Time is the Avatar or Incarnation of God alluded to in the Quran according to the Quranic verse 36:12, "And We have vested everything in the manifest Imam." But, the translations of the Quran in all languages vary so extremely from one translation to the other that it is almost impossible to come to an agreement as to what the original in the Quran actually means. To add further to the complexity of arriving at any acceptable meaning for all parties concerned, even the authenticity of the Quran is now questioned after the finding of the very first 1400 year old Quran manuscripts in Sanaa, Yemen in 1972.
In his book What the Koran Really Says: Language, Text and Commentary, Professor Gerd R. Puin, an expert on the Quran's historical orthography (the study and scholarly interpretation of ancient manuscripts), states unequivocally:
"The Quran claims for itself that it is ‘mubeen’, or clear. But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply does not make sense. . . . (T)he fact is that a fifth of the Quranic text is just incomprehensible. If the Quran is not comprehensible, if it can’t even be understood in Arabic, then it’s not translatable into any language. . . . Since the Quran claims repeatedly to be clear but is not (therefore) there is an obvious and serious contradiction. Something else must be going on."
With the latest technology and expert analyses into the origin and authenticity of the Quran performed in the same manner as has been done with the Bible, it has now been finally accepted that the Quran has been altered through the centuries by Islamic rulers (Caliphs) with vested interests. In time the different traditions in Islam have come to follow their own versions of the Quran whether in the Arabic origin of the text or in the different translations in the various languages of the world or in the context of the Quranic revelation (i.e. the context of the why and the how of each and every single verse of the Quran that was revealed to Prophet Mohammad). Thus, the meaning of the Quranic Message as extracted from the Quran, whether in part or in whole, is often times the complete opposite to that derived by one denomination in Islam to another e.g. Nizari Islam derives a totally different Quranic Message as opposed to the Quranic Message derived from the Quran by Wahabi Islam as practiced in Saudi Arabia and its sphere of influence.
This is because Islam is not a monolithic totally uniform Islam that the militant extremists of the Wahabi-Taliban persuasion believe Islam to be and would have one believe. Islam is, in fact, an immensely diverse religion. The so-called Islamist purists on both sides of the Shia-Sunni divide will even kill each other simply on the basis of the other's Islamic belief(s) even though the Quran emphatically insists on Islam being a completely free and open religion wherein any person can enter or leave without persecution of any kind let alone be killed for being a so-called apostate.
There is no apostasy in Islam because the Quran forbids it. You (Prophet Mohammad) were not sent to manage people’s affairs. If any turn away and reject God then God will punish them with a mighty punishment. To Us will be their return and it will be for Us to call them to account. 88:22-26
Prophet Mohammad expressed open contempt for apostasy when he said, The Muslim who calls another Muslim an apostate is himself an apostate.
And yet, "apostates" were openly declared by the very first Muslim civil government under the Rashidun Caliph Abu Bakr immediately after the death of the Prophet: A political expediency in the early days of Islam committed to prevent the Muslims leaving the Muslim community due to the conflicts that had arisen in the matter of the Prophet's succession. Apostasy thus became a permanent fixture in Orthodox Islam as interpreted in its various forms in the various denominations of Islam.
In the Nizari belief system a charge of apostasy brought against any Muslim is considered an abomination of the very concept of Islam. Therefore, Nizari Islam accepts the Ahmadiyya (also known as the Qadiani or Mirzai) as a Muslim sect whereas the entire Muslim community worldwide has ostracized these people as Muslim apostates.
In Pakistan, the Ahmadiyya were enacted upon and decreed as non-Muslims by then Prime Minister Zulfiqar Bhutto (subsequently hanged for murder) and since then no Pakistani government has dared to challenge the Wahabi-Taliban militancy against the Ahmadiyya as a non-Muslim minority. The Nizari belief system poses one simple question to the entire Muslim Community worldwide: "Who then is a Muslim if even the one who accepts and recites the Shahada (the Muslim creed) as created by Prophet Mohammad himself (i.e. There is no God but god and Mohammad is His prophet) is rejected as being a Muslim?" In Pakistan the Ahmadiyya will be tried for blasphemy if he even dares to recite the Shahada in public. He can only do so in the privacy of his home. The concepts of apostasy and blasphemy are anathema in the open and fluid Nizari belief system.
In the Nizari Ismaili belief system, although God remains the ineffable God of the Universe and the helper of and provider for all living creatures, He also takes on additional "roles" in the drama that is continuously unfolding in this world of His own creation. He takes birth as a human Avatar in the guise of a Messiah, Mahdi, Prophet, Imam, etc. as and when He chooses to. Thus, God is and has been always physically and materially present (hazir) and alive and living (maujood) in the world since the Beginning of Time aside from His spiritual transcendency over His creation. And so God lives simultaneously in the here and now in the human form subjecting Himself to the constraints of the Natural Laws of the Universe created by Him in His transcendent form.
To continue with Nizari Ismaili beliefs, Adam was the first ever Imam because he was given knowledge of all things and because all the angels were commanded to prostrate before him:
And God taught Adam the nature of all things. _Quran3:31
And we said to the angels, "Bow down to Adam." And they bowed down except Iblis. _Quran 3:34
The Nizari Ismaili Imam’s role in the human world is to be the perfect human being (al insaan al kamil) in spite of facing tremendous physical odds. By demonstrating his exemplariness in the face of hardship, the true Imam guides humankind in general and in particular he guides his own flock of steadfast believers who believe in him as a divine being and the repository of the original and authentic Quran. Thus, the Nizari Ismaili Imam is the Speaking Quran of the Nizari Ismailis and has the authority and the knowledge to interpret it according to changing times. According to Shams Tabrizi, The meaning of the Book of God is not the text (of the Quran), it is the man who guides. He is the Book of God. He is its verses. He is scripture. Shams Tabrizi was the beloved mentor of the great Sufi poet Rumi and his work was collected by Rumi as the Diwani Shamsi Tabrīz (Poems of Shams of Tabriz). A large number of his hymns-poems comprise the devotional literature of the Nizari Ismailis of Badakhshan.
The changing interpretations of the Quran by the Nizari Ismaili Imams to adapt to changing times creates tension between the Nizari Ismaili Imams and the Orthodox Ulema (Islamic scholars). The two most recent Nizari Ismaili Imams titled Aga Khan III and Aga Khan IV have replaced the obligation to perform the daily prayers from five times a day to three times a day by following the Quranic injunction rather than following the Prophet's custom (hadith and sunnah), in order to ease the religious pressures on the Muslim in the modern world.
Similarly, they have replaced the month long physical fast (during the month of Ramadhan) with fasting during a few certain days of the year. They have dispensed with the keeping of a long beard meant to demonstrate one's identity as a Muslim. They have dispensed with the veil for women and replaced it with dressing according to common decency in the country of one's residence:
"But purdah, as now known, itself did not exist till long after the Prophet’s death and is no part of Islam. The part played by Muslim women at Kardesiah and Yarmuk the two most momentous battles of Islam next to Badr and Honein, and their splendid nursing of the wounded after those battles, is of itself a proof to any reasonable person that purdah, as now understood, has never been conceived by the companions of the Prophet. That we Muslims should saddle ourselves with this excretion of Persian custom, borrowed by the Abbassides, is due to that ignorance of early Islam which is one of the most extraordinary of modern conditions." _Aga Khan III
Specifically, the Aga Khan IV has emphasized the ethics of pluralism, the cosmopolitan ethic of frontierless brotherhood and sisterhood, the forbearance from killing to settle disputes, governance by constitution and law, and the importance of keeping to the Islamic ethics practiced by the Prophet of Islam.
A crude translation of just one short Nizari Ismaili hymn (ginan; qasida) out of more than a thousand hymns, long and short, in many different languages of the East is given here below to inform on the Nizari Ismaili belief in the Avatari form of Ali:
Haq tu(n) paak tu(n) baadshah maherbaan bhi ya Ali tu(n)hi tu(n) . . . 1
[You the truth, you the holy, the gracious king too O Ali is you and only you]
Rab tu(n) rahemaan tu(n) ya Ali aval aakhar kaazi tu(n)hi tu(n) . . . 2
[You the sustainer, you the merciful O Ali the first and last judge is you and only you]
Te upaaya te nipaaya sirjanhaar ya Ali tu(n)hi tu(n) . . . 3
[You birthed, you raised, the creator O Ali is you and only you]
Jal thal mull mandalhaar naa ya Ali hukam teraa bhi tu(n)hi tu(n) . . . 4
[Water and earth from their depths to the heavens created O Ali at your command too - you and only you]
Teri dostee me boliya Pir Shams me bandaa teraa bhi tu(n)hi tu(n) . . . 5
[In your friendship says Peer Shams I am in your fold too - you and only you]
_by Pir Shams Qalander (dervish)
Henry Corbin, the great French researcher in esoteric Islam, quotes Ali as having said during his own lifetime asserting his Avatari form:
"I am the sign of the Most High, I am the gnosis of the Mysteries, I am the Door of the doors, I am the First and the Last, I am the Manifest and the Hidden, I am the Creator, I give birth to the world and I destroy it as I wish. I am the Face of God, I am the Supreme Kalam (knowledge-theologian)."
The Nizari Ismaili doctrine has not remained stagnant in time. With changing times and the constant increase in the material knowledge of the universe, the doctrine (theology, cosmology, eschatology, etc.), rituals and practice of the Nizari Ismailis changes in keeping with the knowledge and logic of the natural world. Thus, the Nizari doctrine has undergone complete reversals from time to time e.g. from the time when the Ismaili Imams became the Fatimid Caliphs of Egypt (the Mustali Ismailis separated from the Nizari Ismailis at near the end of the Fatimid period when there was a succession conflict between Imam Nizar and his stepbrother Imam Mustali) to the time when the now “Nizari” Ismaili Imams lived incognito in the Elburz Mountains of Iran to the time when they once again openly declared themselves as the present and living Nizari Ismaili Imams in the same region.
The Nizari Ismaili Imamat’s rule in the Elburz mountainous region came to an end at the appearance of the Mongols who destroyed every culture and civilization it came across including the Nizari Ismaili habitations and forts in Eastern and Northern Iran. The Mongols finally accepted Islam and settled down in their conquered lands as rulers and aristocratic landowners.
The concept of the cosmos of the Fatimid Ismailis of Egypt and the Nizari Ismailis of the Elburz region from 1100 to 1300 CE is completely different from that of the Nizari Ismailis of the Indian subcontinent during their conversion from Hinduism to Nizari Ismailism in or around the 16th Century.
- Quran, chapter:verse 36:12
- Jami at-Tirmidhi. Collection of the hadiths of the Prophet. http://sunnah.com/tirmidhi
- Virani, Shafique N.|The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation|Oxford University Press, New York, 2007|p93
- The Memoirs of Aga Khan: World Enough and Time. New York, Simon and Schuster, 1954
- Khubat al-Bayan. From a total of 70 such declarations, partially quoted in H.Corbin, "Histoire de la Philosophie Islamique", Paris 1964, page 77.
- Daftary, Farhad (1990). The Ismailis: Their history and doctrines. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.