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The Ismailis in the Middle AgesA History of Survival, a Search for Salvation$

Shafique N. Virani

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780195311730

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195311730.001.0001

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(p.3) Introduction
The Ismailis in the Middle Ages

Shafique N. Virani (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Abstract and Keywords

Shi'i Muslims believe that by divine decree, at a place called Ghadir Khumm, the Prophet Muhammad declared his cousin and son-in-law 'Ali as his successor, and the first in a lineage of Imams to whom the Muslim community should owe its allegiance. The Ismaili branch of the Prophet's descendants founded the Fatimid Empire, which claimed dominion over much of the Muslim world, and later established a state administered from the fortress of Alamut. The Mongol onslaught devastated the Ismailis, and it was long believed that the Imams and their community had been annihilated. Only in recent times has the community's continued existence become apparent, but research into the lost centuries of their history has just begun.

Keywords:   Genghis Khan, Ghadir Khumm, Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Alamut, Saljuq, Wladimir Ivanow, Shi'ism, Ismailism

None of that people should be spared, not even the babe in its cradle.

Edict of Genghis Khan as recorded in History of the World Conqueror

The savagery of the Mongol invasions has perhaps no parallel in the history of humankind. Genghis Khan perpetrated more massacres, destroyed more states, reduced to rubble more monuments, razed more cities, and ruined more fields than any previous conqueror. The number of his victims ran into the millions. “My greatest joy,” he is remembered for saying, “is to shed my enemies’ blood, wring tears from their womenfolk, and take their daughters for bedding.”1 “I,” he vaunted, “am the scourge of God!”2

E. G. Browne described the invasions as

a catastrophe which, though probably quite unforeseen, even on the very eve of its incidence, changed the face of the world, set in motion forces which are still effective, and inflicted more suffering on the human race than any other event in the world's history of which records are preserved to us. … In its suddenness, its devastating destruction, its appalling ferocity, its passionless and purposeless cruelty, its irresistible though short‐lived violence, this outburst of savage nomads hitherto hardly known by name even to their neighbours, resembles rather some brute cataclysm of the blind forces of nature than a phenomenon of human history. The details of massacre, outrage, spoliation, and destruction wrought by these hateful hordes of barbarians, who, in the space of a few years, swept the world from Japan to Germany, would, as (p.4) d'Ohsson observes, be incredible were they not confirmed from so many different quarters.3

The naked horror of the thirteenth‐century Mongol irruption into the heart of the Muslim world caused devastation of disastrous proportions. Baghdad, the capital itself, was sacked, and its caliph was murdered. ʽAta‐Malik Juwayni's eyewitness account, however, does not describe this as the pinnacle of Mongol conquest. Rather, for this Sunni historian, the Mongol invasions culminated in the remotest reaches of the Alburz mountains with the obliteration of the mini‐state of the Shiʽi Ismailis, centered at the fortress of Alamut. In one of his imperial edicts, Genghis Khan had ordained that the Ismailis were to be annihilated: “None of that people should be spared,” he decreed, “not even the babe in its cradle.”4 These chilling words heralded one of history's most lurid examples of mass extermination.5 It is to this singular event that Juwayni dedicated the concluding one‐third of his History of the World Conqueror.6 The prominence given to this particular triumph reflects the enormous role played by the Ismailis in Muslim consciousness, belying their minority status. Contemporary Persian historians believed that the utter devastation of Alamut tolled their death knell. They celebrated the collapse of this center, home to a powerful voice of Shiʽi Islam, which had intellectually and politically challenged the reigning authorities.

The beginnings of Shiʽi Islam are connected with events surrounding the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The Prophet's family did not approve of Abu Bakr's assumption of the leadership of the Muslim community, and even withheld allegiance for a period of six months.7 Many Muslims believed that the Prophet had, by divine decree, explicitly designated his cousin and son‐in‐law ʽAli b. Abi Talib as his successor. The group acknowledged ʽAli as its leader, or Imam, and thus became known as the shiʽat ʽAli, the party of ʽAli. It is widely narrated that at a place known as Ghadir Khumm the Prophet had declared, “ʽAli is the lord (mawlā) of those whose lord I am.” Shiʽi authors have always been keen to point out the ubiquity of this narration not only in their own books, but in those of the Sunnis.8 ʽAli's supporters thus tended to view the caliphs who were not members of the Prophet's immediate family (ahl al‐bayt) as illegitimate usurpers.9

Quarrels came to a head in the reign of the third caliph, ʽUthman (d. 35/656), who distributed the governorships of all the major provinces as well as the important garrison towns to members of his own family, the powerful Banu Umayya.10 Discontent with Umayyad hegemony gave rise to opposition movements in Kufa, Basra, and Egypt. It also instilled renewed vigor in the supporters of the Prophet's family. The malcontents soon broke out in open rebellion. ʽAli, despite his own reservations about the legitimacy of ʽUthman's leadership, had placed his sons al‐Hasan and al‐Husayn at the caliph's service to protect him against the mob.11 However, the ensuing chaos culminated in ʽUthman's murder. (p.5) In the midst of these trying circumstances, ʽAli was acclaimed caliph in Medina, twenty‐four years after the Prophet's death. His rule was almost immediately challenged by the Umayyads and their supporters, who wanted him to find the culprits and seek vengeance for ʽUthman's blood.12 Within five years, ʽAli was murdered in the mosque of Kufa, and effective power passed into the hands of ʽUthman's kinsman, Muʽawiya. Henceforth, the Shiʽa and the Prophet's family were to be severely persecuted and to suffer a number of indignities, not least of which was the ritual cursing of ʽAli from the pulpits after the congregational prayers on Friday, a practice introduced during the rule of Muʽawiya.13

Over time, revolts by supporters of the Prophet's kinsfolk became ubiquitous, coloring the pages of early Islamic history. By 132/750, a Shiʽa‐led revolution, with the support of a large cross‐section of dissatisfied elements, managed to topple the Umayyad dynasty. They did not reveal who their leader was, naming him simply “the chosen one from Muhammad's family” (al‐riḍā min Āl Muḥammad). With the defeat of the Umayyads in Iraq, Abu Salama al‐Khallal, the “vizier of Muhammad's family” (wazīr Āl Muḥammad), was called upon to take power and disclose the name of the awaited “chosen one.” He favored installing one of ʽAli's descendants, but his advances were rebuffed by both Jaʽfar al‐Sadiq14 (a descendant of ʽAli's son al‐Husayn) and ʽAbd Allah al‐Mahd (a descendant of ʽAli's son al‐Hasan),15 the two most prominent members of the family. After two months, the ʽAbbasids, descendants of the Prophet's paternal uncle al‐ʽAbbas, managed to orchestrate a takeover of the rebellion, in which they had played a pivotal role, and succeeded in installing Abu al‐ʽAbbas al‐Saffah as the first ʽAbbasid caliph. Abu Salama was compelled to carry on as vizier for a time but was soon executed, almost certainly because of his ʽAlid sympathies.16 The ʽAlid Shiʽi aspirations that had stirred the opposition to action were now crushed. Distancing themselves from those who had propelled them to power, the ʽAbbasids, particularly al‐Mansur, the successor of Abu al‐ʽAbbas, soon set out on a campaign of persecution against their ʽAlid cousins and supporters of the ʽAlid cause.

The aforementioned Jaʽfar al‐Sadiq remained politically uninvolved.17 While he had his own coterie of adherents who looked upon him as his father's successor and the sole legitimate source of religious authority, he also instructed a wider circle, which included, among other outstanding personalities, Abu Hanifa (d. 150/767) and Malik b. Anas (d. 179/796), the eponymous founders of two schools of law within what would later come to be known as Sunni Islam. Elaborating on the teachings of his father, Jaʽfar bequeathed to Imami Shiʽism a comprehensive enunciation of the doctrine of imamate.18 This fundamental tenet was explained as the eternal need for a divinely appointed (manṣūṣ) and infallible (maʽṣūm) guide to instruct mankind by means of his sapiential knowledge (ʽilm).19 Jaʽfar's quiescent policy and refusal to take up arms against the caliphate distressed a number of the Shiʽa. This activist branch soon joined in the ʽAlid revolts of personalities such as (p.6) Muhammad al‐Nafs al‐Zakiyya and his brother Ibrahim, sons of the aforementioned ʽAbd Allah al‐Mahd.20

Following Jaʽfar al‐Sadiq's death, amid confusion about his successor, the Imami Shiʽa split. Among other groups, one faction held to Jaʽfar's original designation (naṣṣ) in favor of his son Ismaʽil al‐Mubarak, while another eventually came to recognize the imamate of a younger son, Musa al‐Kazim.21 In the course of time, the adherents of the elder line came to be designated as al‐Ismaʽiliyya, while the younger line eventually became the Ithna ʽashariyya, or Twelver Shiʽa, after the disappearance of their twelfth Imam.22

The Ismaili Imams went into concealment (satr), away from the long arm of their enemies, the ʽAbbasids. Meanwhile, the Imams of the line of Musa were kept under the watchful eye of the government authorities and, according to Twelver tradition, were poisoned, one after the other, the eleventh Imam dying in 260/874. The Twelver Shiʽa affirm that this Imam had left behind a child, the twelfth and final Imam, whom they believe to have disappeared into a cave in Samarra, finally entering what later came to be known as the “greater occultation” in 329/940. Meanwhile, the Ismailis had prepared the ground for a revolution, which culminated when their Imam, ʽAbd Allah al‐Mahdi, emerged in the Maghrib and established the Fatimid caliphate in 297/909, a direct challenge to the ʽAbbasids of Baghdad.23 The Fatimid caliphate was the apogee of Ismaili political successes. At the height of power, the ʽAlid caliph eclipsed his ʽAbbasid and Umayyad rivals, claiming dominion over all of North Africa, Egypt, Sicily, the Red Sea coast of Africa, Yemen, Syria, Palestine, and the Hijaz with the holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Yet, despite their political power, the Ismailis always remained a minority, even within their own realms. There was no attempt at mass conversion. Significantly, however, the Fatimid Imams had supporters even within the territories of their rivals. In fact, it was one such adherent, the Turkish general al‐Basasiri, who succeeded in capturing Baghdad itself, the very seat of the ʽAbbasid caliphs, albeit only for a short time in 450/1058.24

The political successes of the Fatimids alarmed their rivals, and the ʽAbbasids reacted fiercely, encouraging and commissioning numerous defamatory polemical works. The panic caused by the triumphs of the Shiʽi Ismailis can be gauged by the tone of some of the barbs directed against them. The Ashʽarite theologian, al‐Baghdadi (d. 429/1037), excitedly charges:

The damage caused by the Batiniyya [i.e., the Ismailis] to the Muslim sects is greater than the damage caused them by the Jews, Christians and Magians; nay, graver than the injury inflicted on them by the Materialists and other non‐believing sects; nay, graver than the injury resulting to them from the Antichrist [Dajjāl] who will appear at the end of time. For those who, as a result of the missionary activities of the Batiniyya, have (p.7) been led astray ever since the inception of the mission up to the present time are more numerous than those who will be led astray by the Antichrist when he appears, since the duration of the sedition of the Antichrist will not exceed forty days. But the vices of the Batiniyya are more numerous than the sand‐grains or the raindrops.25

Following the death of the Caliph‐Imam al‐Mustansir in 487/1094, there was a succession struggle between two of his sons, Abu Mansur Nizar and Abu al‐Qasim Ahmad, known as al‐Mustaʽli bi'llah. Though Nizar was apparently captured and killed in the ensuing struggle, he was survived by a number of sons. The Ismailis were now divided into two factions, the Nizaris and the Mustaʽlians.

In 483/1090, shortly before this split, Hasan‐i Sabbah, one of al‐Mustansir's most senior dignitaries,26 had successfully acquired the fortress of Alamut, which was to become the headquarters of the Nizaris. His remarkable organizational skills were indispensable in consolidating the Nizari community, and his writings, notably those on the concept of “spiritual edification” (taʽlīm), proved instrumental in attracting wide support. Under the able leadership of Hasan and his successors, Ismailism spread throughout the domains of its sworn enemies, the Turkish Saljuqs. The Saljuqs ruled in the name and with the blessings of the ʽAbbasid caliphs, who were now largely reduced to being the titular heads of Sunni Islam. Ismaili communities living within Saljuq territory were subjected to repeated massacres, but their dispersal across a number of fortresses made actions against them more difficult. Unable to confront the empire's massive military superiority head‐on, they managed to defend themselves by identifying and assassinating those figures who led or encouraged the massacres against them. The Ismaili combination of both propagation and assassination yielded some astonishing results. According to Ibn al‐Athir, whose work is considered the epitome of Muslim historical annals, so many of the Saljuq Sultan Barkiyaruq's (d. 498/1105) courtiers and soldiers had become Ismailis that some of his officers requested his permission to appear before him in armor lest they be attacked, even in his very presence.27 Despite the adverse circumstances of the times, the literary output of the Nizaris of Alamut seems to have been considerable. As even their inveterate detractors have noted, the library of Alamut was famous for its holdings.28 However, only a handful of Ismaili works have survived from this period.

Despite the ferocity of Saljuq actions against the Ismailis, an adversary of incomparably greater destructive abilities was on the horizon—the Mongols. We hear an ominous foreboding of the coming genocide from William of Rubruck, a Franciscan friar at the court of King Louis IX of France, who was sent on a diplomatic mission to the Great Khan Mongke. He tells that the Great Khan had sent his brother Hulagu to the lands of the Ismailis with an army, “and he ordered him to put them all to death.”29 The explicit targeting of the members of this minority group by (p.8) the Great Khan betrays their influence in the region. When the fortress of Alamut was subjugated by the Mongols in 654/1256, ʽAta‐Malik Juwayni, Hulagu's attendant and historian, requested permission to visit the celebrated library, “the fame of which had spread throughout the world.”30 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.31 Consigned to a fate similar to that of their religious books, the Ismailis themselves were hunted down and slaughtered indiscriminately. Henceforth, it would seem that they had simply ceased to exist, disappearing from the pages of history. Juwayni's account perhaps best describes what was believed to be the final destruction and ultimate annihilation of the community. It is so vivid that it is quoted here in extenso:

And in that abode where monstrous innovations flourished, with the pen of violence the Artist of Eternity wrote upon the portico of each one's dwelling the verse: These their houses are empty ruins (27:53). And in the marketplace of the kingdom of those wretches the muezzin Destiny has announced, Away then with the wicked people (23:43)! Their luckless womenfolk, like their empty religion, have been utterly destroyed. The gold of those crazy, double‐dealing counterfeiters, which appeared to be unalloyed, has proven to be base lead. Today, thanks to the glorious fortune of the World‐Illuminating King, if an assassin still lingers in a corner he plies a woman's trade; wherever there is a daʽi there is an announcer of death; and every Ismaili comrade has become a thrall. The propagators of Ismailism have fallen victims to the swordsmen of Islam. Their Mawlana, to whom they addressed the words: “O God, our Protector,”—dust in their mouths!—(and yet the infidels have no protector (47:12)) has become the serf of bastards. Their wise Imam, nay their lord of this world, of whom they believed that every day doth some new work employ him (55:29), is fallen like game into the net of Predestination. Their governors have lost their power and their rulers their honor. The greatest among them have become as vile as dogs. Every commander of a fortress has been deemed fit for the gallows and every warden of a castle has forfeited his head and his mace. They have been degraded amongst mankind like the Jews, and like the highways, are level with the dust. God Almighty hath said: Vileness and poverty were stamped upon them (13:25). These, a curse awaiteth them (2:58). The kings of the Greeks and Franks, who turned pale for fear of these accursed ones, and paid them tribute, and were not ashamed of that ignominy, now enjoy sweet slumber. And all the inhabitants of the world, and in particular the Faithful, have been relieved of their evil machinations and unclean beliefs. Nay, the whole of (p.9) mankind, high and low, noble and base, share in this rejoicing. And compared with these histories that of Rustam, the son of Dastan, has become but an ancient fable. The perception of all ideas is through this manifest victory, and the light of the world‐illuminating day is adorned thereby. And the uttermost part of that impious people was cut off. All praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds (6:45)!32

Emerging from Obscurity

The volume in your hands is not about the massacres that occurred. While there are numerous instances recorded in these pages of persecution and killings, particularly in the South Caspian region and Khurasan, this book instead seeks to identify and understand how the Ismailis managed to survive such circumstances, and how their religious doctrines and worldview helped them do this.

Juwayni had declared, “He [the Imam Rukn al‐Din Khwurshah] and his followers were kicked to a pulp and then put to the sword; and of him and his stock no trace was left, and he and his kindred became but a tale on men's lips and a tradition in the world.”33 In the light of such unequivocal declarations, triumphantly announcing the complete and total annihilation of the Imam and his community, the extermination of the Ismailis in the face of the Mongol behemoth was accepted as fact in Western scholarship for centuries. This began to change about two hundred years ago.

One of the first people to draw attention in orientalist circles to the continued existence of the community as well as to their local traditions and literature was Jean Baptiste L. J. Rousseau (d. 1831), who was the French consul‐general in Aleppo from 1809 to 1816 and a longtime resident of the Near East. He came across the Nizaris in Syria and highlighted their sorry plight after their 1809 massacre at the hands of the Nusayris, another sect of the region. When he participated in an official French mission at the court of the Persian monarch Fath ʽAlishah (d. 1834), he was taken aback to find that the community flourished in Iran as well. He wrote a letter about his findings to the famous Parisian scholar Sylvestre de Sacy, who quoted it at the end of his pivotal study “Mémoire sur la dynastie des Assassins, et sur l'étymologie de leur Nom.” The letter was dated Tehran, June 1, 1808:

I have collected some fairly exact notions about the Batinis or Ismaʽilis commonly called Mélahédèhs, a sect which still survives and is (p.10) widespread and tolerated, like many others, in the provinces of Persia and in the Sind. As I have very little free time, please excuse my putting off the task of going into a detailed discussion until some other time. Meanwhile, it may be useful to tell you that the Mélahédèhs even today have their imam or pontiff, descending, as they claim, from Jaʽfar Sadiq, the chief of their sect, and residing at Kehek, a village in the district of Qom. He is called Sheikh Khalil Allah and succeeded in the imamate to his uncle, Mirza Abu'l‐Hasan, who played a great part under the reign of the Zends.34 The Persian government does not bother him. On the contrary, he receives annual revenues from it. This person, whom his people grace with the pompous title of caliph, enjoys a great reputation and is considered to have the gift of performing miracles. They assure me that the Muslim Indians regularly come from the banks of the Indus to receive his blessings in exchange for the rich and pious offerings they bring him. He is more specifically known to the Persians by the name of Seid Keheki.35

Although this information was scarcely noted in orientalist circles at the time, shortly thereafter, the continued existence of the community was becoming apparent to the British government, which sought the help of the Imam, Aga Khan I, to secure the lines of communication in Sindh. General Sir Charles Napier, in his diary entry of February 29, 1843, wrote:

I have sent the Persian Prince Aga Khan to Jarrack, on the right bank of the Indus. His influence is great, and he will with his own followers secure our communication with Karachi. He is the lineal chief of the Ismailians, who still exist as a sect and are spread over all the interior of Asia. They have great influence, though no longer dreaded as in the days of yore. He will protect our line along which many of our people have been murdered by the Baloochis.36

By the early 1900s, there was a flurry of notices on the Ismailis of South Asia and greater Badakhshan, where the community was particularly prominent.37 It was with the pioneering efforts of Wladimir Ivanow, though, that the Ismailis made substantial strides in their emergence from academic obscurity. This Russian scholar picturesquely describes his first encounter with them and the amazement his discovery elicited among his peers:

I came in touch with the Ismailis for the first time in Persia, in February 1912. The world was quite different then. No one imagined that the Great (p.11) War, with all its misery and suffering, was just around the corner. Persia was still living in her ancestral mediaeval style, and her affairs were largely going on in their traditional ways, as they were going on for centuries.

I was riding from Mashhad to Birjand, in Eastern Persia; travelling by day and taking shelter at night in the villages that were situated along the road. Icy winds blow in that part of the country in winter, raising clouds of dust and sand which make the journey a real torture. Tired and hungry, I arrived at the village of Sedeh, and was very glad to take shelter in the hut of a peasant. I sat warming myself by the side of a fire awaiting food which was being prepared for me. A man entered, conveying to me the invitation of the local landlord to shift to his house and accept his hospitality. It was, indeed, very kind of him, but, unfortunately, his invitation came a bit too late. … I therefore declined the invitation with thanks, promising that after a rest I would personally go to see the landlord and convey my thanks to him. This I did later on, and enjoyed a very interesting and instructive talk.

Already in Mashhad I had often heard about these localities being populated by a “strange sect.” My inquiries could not elicit any reliable information. Some people told me that the “strange sect” were the Ismailis, but I disbelieved it, having been brought up on the idea, universally accepted by Oriental scholars in Europe, that all traces of Ismailism in Persia were swept away by the brutal Mongols. And here, taking the opportunity of a conversation with the landlord on the spot, I tried to ascertain the truth. To my surprise, he confirmed what I had heard before, stating that the people really were Ismailis, and that the locality was not the only seat of the followers of the community but there were other places too in Persia in which they were found… .

My learned friends in Europe plainly disbelieved me when I wrote about the community to them. It appeared to them quite unbelievable that the most brutal persecution, wholesale slaughter, age‐long hostility and suppression were unable to annihilate the community.38

It is thus only in recent times that the continued survival of the Ismailis has become apparent in Western scholarship. Today, they exist as a dynamic and thriving community established in over twenty‐five countries.39

However, despite their newfound celebrity, the intervening centuries between what appeared to have been their total annihilation in 654/1256, and their modern, seemingly phoenix‐like renaissance, remain shrouded in mystery. The destruction (p.12) of the Ismaili mini‐state centered at Alamut ushered in a period so dim and indistinct that the first half a millennium after the Mongol conquest has had to be classified by researchers under the amorphous title of “post‐Alamut history.”40 In his monumental work, The Ismaʽilis: Their History and Doctrines, Farhad Daftary echoes the sentiments of over a century of previous scholarship in bemoaning this period as “the darkest phase” in the annals of the community.41 He further writes, “Under the circumstances, modern scholars, including the specialists in Ismaʽili studies, have not so far produced major studies dealing with this phase of Nizari Ismaʽilism.”42

The Ismailis in the Middle Ages is an inquiry into the most obscure portion of this period, beginning with the aftermath of the Mongol invasions and continuing until the eve of the Safawid revolution, that is, from the mid‐thirteenth century to the end of the fifteenth century. While the historical investigation is largely circumscribed by these dates, the analysis of thought and doctrine spans a much wider compass, drawing on sources from over a millennium of Ismaili history to elucidate and shed light on the particular precepts and beliefs expressed in the works of this epoch. During the course of research, I discovered numerous previously unknown sources from many areas of Ismaili habitation, including documents in Arabic, Persian, Sindhi, Siraiki, Hindustani, Punjabi, Gujarati, and Latin, that help reconstruct Ismaili history and thought in this period. Most of these sources are still in manuscript form and uncatalogued. The significance of these newly recovered works is considerable and would more than double the number of entries for the Nizari Ismaili authors of this period recorded in the bibliographies of I. K. Poonawala and W. Ivanow, the most important scholarly references for primary sources on Ismailism.43 These writings help us identify several hitherto unknown Ismaili authors, forcing us to reassess earlier judgments concerning the literature of this period. Many other works, some known only by name, others little‐studied, have also been considered, often necessitating a revision of previously accepted theories or providing documentary support for ideas that have been conjectured by earlier scholars.

The book pieces together the existing fragments of information in order to reconstruct the history of how the community survived its political devastation. While it focuses chiefly on developments in the Iranian region, which was the primary home of the Nizari Imams throughout these two and a half centuries, it also touches on the existence of Ismaili enclaves in many other areas of the Near East. The book explains how three aspects of Ismaili thought were crucial to the community's survival: taqiyya (precautionary dissimulation), the Ismaili daʽwa, which literally means “summons” or, as it has sometimes been translated into English, “mission” and the soteriological dimension of the imamate and, in particular, of the role of the Imam of one's time in leading the adept to salvation and a mystical recognition of God.

(p.13) Signposts for the Way

History is intimately connected with thought and doctrine. They are mutually entwined, each influencing the other. For this reason, in the pages that follow, analysis of the Ismaili belief system is often interwoven with historical narrative, as the history could not have unfolded as it did had its actors not conducted themselves according to a worldview inspired by their religious convictions. In some ways, the structure of the book mirrors the method of Ismaili pedagogy. The earlier chapters focus more on the exoteric, historical aspects of Ismailism. As the book progresses, however, greater emphasis is placed on the esoteric, on the system of thought that animated and gave life to the community. At the outset, the note on the text explained some of the nuts and bolts of the book, including the transliteration system, the calendars used, abbreviations and other conventions. The introduction that you are currently reading sets the stage by providing a background to Ismailism and an insight into the ravaging of the community by the Mongol hordes. The first chapter, “Recovering a Lost History,” probes the meaning of history and the significance of historical information. It provides a bird's eye view of the sources used in this study. Chapter 2, “The Eagle Returns,” explores the surprising tenacity of the Ismailis in the South Caspian regions of Gilan, Daylam and Mazandaran, including at the fort of Alamut itself, even after the Mongol devastation. The third chapter, “Veiling the Sun,” is about the first Ismaili Imam of the post‐invasion period, Shams al‐Din Muhammad, as well as his disciple, the poet Nizari Quhistani, both of whose lives typify the practice of taqiyya and help introduce this fundamental concept. Chapter 4, “Summoning to the Truth,” investigates the purport and structure of the Ismaili daʽwa, the biography of the successor of Shams al‐Din Muhammad, known as Qasimshah, as well as his family, and the identity and writings of an Ismaili luminary by the name of Qasim Tushtari, who may have been a contemporary of the Imam Qasimshah. In addition to taqiyya and the Ismaili daʽwa, the concept of imamate was fundamental to the survival of the community. This concept is introduced in the fifth chapter, “Possessors of the Command,” which examines the lives of the successors of the Imam Qasimshah, known as Islamshah and Muhammad b. Islamshah. It also assays the situation of the non‐Iranian Ismaili communities in this period and contrasts the modes of taqiyya in Quhistan and Syria. Chapter 6, “Qibla of the World,” considers the transference of the seat of imamate to Anjudan, the lives of the Imams Mustansir bi'llah, ʽAbd al‐Salam and Gharib Mirza, and the vitae and writings of Ismaili luminaries contemporary with these three Imams. It further discusses the notion of the Imam as the spiritual qibla. The penultimate chapter, “The Way of the Seeker,” continues by probing Ismaili thought in greater depth. It is about taqiyya and daʽwa, the latter viewed primarily through the eyes of Bu Ishaq (p.14) Quhistani, a contemporary of the Imam Mustansir bi'llah, who has left for posterity an invaluable account of his search for truth, his acceptance of Ismailism, and his progress in the Ismaili spiritual hierarchy. “Salvation and Imamate,” the final chapter, delves into the central Ismaili belief in the eternal soteriological necessity for a present and living Imam to lead the adepts to gnosis and knowledge of God. This conviction was essential to the community's survival. The afterword is a reflection on some of the findings of this study.

It is a truism, but it bears repeating, that those who do not hold political power rarely write their own histories. Indeed, while we know of Ismaili chroniclers in the times when the community ruled Egypt and later administered a state from Alamut, no evidence exists that any Ismaili wrote a history of the Imams in the two and a half centuries following the Mongol invasion.44 Not only was the community not in power, it was also a persecuted minority and therefore would have wished to avoid anything that could have drawn attention to its continued existence. However, there is also a more subtle reason for this lack of historical documentation that is connected with the spiritualized conception of imamate. To focus one's attention on the corporeal aspect of the Imam was to degrade him and to degrade one's own spirituality. The Imam's esoteric reality is consistently emphasized in Ismaili works of this and succeeding periods, with an equal emphasis on not focusing one's mind on his physical person. This is dramatically illustrated in a poem recording the journey of a certain Khwaja ʽAbd al‐Maʽsum to deliver the religious dues of the Ismailis of Badakhshan to the Imam Dhu al‐Faqar ʽAli (d. 1043/1634).45 The Khwaja was granted an audience and received the beatific vision (dīdār) of the Imam. Excitedly, others gathered around him:

  • Men and women, young and old, all fell at his feet, saying, “He has returned from the holy family (of the Prophet)!”Taking him aside they pleaded,“tell us what you beheld in that assembly!”He avidly began to relate to them his experience, “When the exalted lord mounted the throne, before him the rest of creation was of no account… .”

His narrative, however, was interrupted:

  • A man, some fool, then asked him, “Is he old? A youth? Tell us!
  • Perchance he's a babe in his cradle. Has he a wife and children at home?”

Distracted from his narrative and focusing on the physical aspect of his encounter, the traveler mused:

  • “His age must have been twenty years or so… .”

The composer of the poem then relates:

  • All the foolish men and women there were abustle, saying oh and ah!
  • What do such people, material by nature, know of the essence of the Imam?
  • There was a man in that assembly—a sage. When he heard this babbling he reproached them, saying, “O worthless nightingale, practice not your idolatry with the unique, the sublime!”

The wise sage then continued by quoting the Quran, drawing the questioners away from wondering about such mundane matters as the Imam's age and family and leading them to an understanding of his sublime nature and esoteric reality.

The poem is illustrative of the Ismaili attitude toward the Imam and gives a greater understanding of the reason histories that recounted facts about the earthly, and hence less important, aspects of the Imams’ lives, would not have been valued nearly as much as treatises on matters of spirituality, which abound in the manuscripts containing works of this period. Hence, the annals of the community must be drawn from sources whose intention was not primarily historical but which, nevertheless, contain historical information. These include verses of poetry, epigraphs, and doctrinal works.

Without a state of their own in this period, the Ismailis did not have the luxury of grand libraries or professional scribes. Pious individuals, who may not always have been equal to the task, therefore took it upon themselves to copy religious works. Much of what we possess today of Persian Ismaili manuscripts originates from the region broadly termed Badakhshan, where Persian is not even a first language. Wladimir Ivanow frequently expressed his exasperation of working with these texts, passages of which had often been corrupted beyond recognition. He described working with the inferior copies as “a thankless task.”46

Ivanow's annoyance became vividly apparent to me when I was poring over a Badakhshani manuscript at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, London, that had earlier been in the possession of the Ismaili Society, Mumbai. Portions of this manuscript had been used by Ivanow for his edition of The Works of Khayrkhwah of Herat (Taṣnīfāt‐i Khayrkhwāh Harātī).47 At the top of page 136, in the unmistakable hand of the learned orientalist, were the words, “Horrible! The copyist was an idiot.”

After studying hundreds of manuscripts, some rendered incomprehensible at the hands of copyists, I can certainly sympathize with Ivanow's sentiments, amusing as they may be to modern‐day readers. However, despite struggling over (p.16) the often‐impenetrable gobbledygook of errors arising from the haplography, dittography, homœoteleuton, and all the other malfeasances of the much‐maligned scribes, I must admit that my reaction is completely different. Rather than the disgust that was felt by the Russian scholar, I feel a deep sense of admiration for the people, many of whom were not native speakers of Persian, who tried their best to preserve their religious heritage in the most adverse, and often hostile, circumstances. Were it not for these scribes, however humble, even the meager remnants of a literary tradition that today have found their way into the possession of both academic institutions and private holdings would have perished without a trace.

With regard to the dizzying number of variants in the manuscripts I have used, I find comfort in the words of Saint Jerome (d. 420), who faced much the same quandary with the texts from which he was translating to produce his Latin Vulgate. In reply to Pope Damasus, who had enquired as to their reliability, the most learned of Christian fathers was obliged to confess: Pius labor, sed periculosa praesumptio. … Si enim Latinis exemplaribus fides est adhibenda, respondeant quibus: tot sunt paene quot codices, “The labor is one of love, but at the same time both perilous and presumptuous. … For if we are to pin our faith on the Latin texts, it is for our opponents to tell us which; for there are almost as many variants in the texts as there are copies.”48

A particularly poignant example of a scribe's acknowledgement of his limitations is that contained in manuscript RK 51 at the Institute of Ismaili Studies, entitled A Bouquet of Poems by the Late Raqqami of Dizbad, Khurasan (Gulchīnī az ashʽār‐i marḥūm Raqqāmī‐yi Dīzbādī Khurāsānī). Expressing his motivation for compiling the book, the scribe, a certain ʽAliquli b. Rajabʽali b. Imamquli, in tropes familiar to copyists, writes of his fear that the religious tradition preserved with such care by his forefathers would be snuffed out if it were not safeguarded. He thus took it upon himself, despite his own shortcomings, of which he was painfully aware, to recopy the work:

Thanks be to our most exalted lord for giving such a helpless servant the strength and ability to complete this book. … This humble slave feared lest the lamp lit by our ancestors with such care be extinguished. … Thus, I withdrew my hand from the occupations of the world and with immense difficulty sat alone [to copy this book]. The entire book is cluttered, disorderly, in the language of the commoners and in the jumbled handwriting of this unworthy servant. … As this servant lacks elegant style and correct orthography, the writing of this book too lacks elegant style and correct orthography … transcribed by the most humble [of devotees], ʽAliquli b. Rajabʽali b. Imamquli.

(p.17) One cannot help being moved by the apology of such a scribe to his future readers. Ivanow had described the task of using such inferior copies as “thankless.” Granted, reading the exquisitely calligraphed and beautifully illuminated manuscripts of the royal courts, penned by richly rewarded and professional scribes, is a great pleasure. But there is a different type of pleasure to be gained from reading, often struggling over, the manuscripts penned by humble devotees who sought no reward from any earthly king for their labors. Far from “thankless,” I have found the perusal of the texts used in this study to be, yes, difficult, extremely trying at times, but yet immensely edifying and truly inspirational. (p.18)


(1.)  Quoted in Fernández‐Armesto, “Steppes Towards the Future” (March 12, 2004), (Independent News and Media, http://www.independent.co.uk/, accessed March 13, 2004). Cf. Man, Genghis Khan: Life, Death and Resurrection (London, 2004), 251.

(2.)  Juwaynī, Taʼrīkh‐i Jahāngushāy, ed. Qazwīnī, 3 vols. (Leiden, 1912–1937), vol. 1, 81, trans. Boyle, The History of the World‐Conqueror, 2 vols. (Cambridge, MA, 1958), vol. 1, xxxiii, 105.

(3.)  Browne, A Literary History of Persia, 4 vols. (Cambridge, 1902–1924), 426–427. While the number of victims recorded by the chroniclers is incredible, “these figures should be taken seriously, not as statistics but as evidence of the chroniclers’ state of mind,” Morgan, Medieval Persia, 1040–1797 (London, 1988), 79–80.

(4.)  Juwaynī, Jahāngushāy, ed. vol. 3, 275, trans. vol. 2, 723. This edict was repeated by his grandson Mongke, who sent his brother Hūlāgū to destroy the Ismailis.

(5.)  One of the most influential explanations of this crime is found in “Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide” (December 9, 1948), (Office of (p.198) the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/p_genoci.htm, accessed February 2, 2006).

(6.)  For a discussion of Juwaynī's possible motivations for this unusual treatment, see Hillenbrand, “The Power Struggle Between the Saljuqs and the Ismaʽilis of Alamūt, 487–518/1094–1124: The Saljuq Perspective,” in Mediaeval Ismaʽili History and Thought, ed. Daftary (Cambridge, 1996), 214; Morgan, The Mongols (Oxford, 1986), 17–18; and chapter 2 of this book.

(7.)  Fuller details of the early Islamic milieu and the development of Shīʽism can be found in Halm, Shiʽism, trans. Watson and Hill, 2nd ed. (New York, 2004); Jafri, The Origins and Early Development of Shiʽa Islam (London, 1979); Madelung, The Succession to Muhammad (Cambridge, 1997); Momen, An Introduction to Shiʽi Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shiʽism (New Haven, 1985), all of which contain further references.

(8.)  See, for example, the massive Laknawī, ʽAbaqāt al‐Anwār fī Imāmat al‐Aʼimma al‐Aṭhār, 10 vols. ([Qumm], 1983–1990), which has been published repeatedly in both Persian and Arabic, and the equally voluminous al‐Amīnī, al‐Ghadīr fī al‐Kitāb wa‐al‐Sunna wa‐al‐Adab, 2nd ed., 11 vols. (Tehran, 1372/1952), which provides full references to over one hundred companions of the prophet who narrated the incident of Ghadīr. The author also provides a chronological account of historians, traditionalists, exegetes, and poets who mention the ḥadīth of Ghadīr Khumm from the beginning of Islam until modern times. See also Jafri, Shiʽa Islam, 19–22; Vaglieri, “Ghadīr Khumm,” in EI2, vol. 2 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0).

(9.)  See Virani, “Ahl al‐Bayt,” in Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Jones, vol. 1 (New York, 2005).

(10.)  See Levi Della Vida and Khoury, “ʽUthmān b. ʽAffān,” in EI2, vol. 10 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0).

(11.)  Jafri, Shiʽa Islam, 87, and sources cited at 99 n28.

(12.)  Crone, “ʽUthmāniyya,” in EI2, vol. 10 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0).

(13.)  See Lammens, Étude sur la règne du calife omaiyade Moʽāwiya 1er (Paris, 1908), 180ff.

(14.)  The prominence of al‐Ḥusayn's descendants in this line is highlighted in a letter of al‐Manṣūr, the second ʽAbbāsid caliph, to Muḥammad b. ʽAbd Allāh al‐Nafs al‐Zakiyya of the Ḥasanid line: “No one born from among you [the ʽAlids] after the death of the Prophet was more virtuous than ʽAli b. al‐Husayn. … After him, no one among you was like his son, Muhammad b. ʽAli … , nor like his [Muhammad b. ʽAli's] son, Jaʽfar.” Cited with references in Modarressi, Crisis and Consolidation in the Formative Period of Shīʽite Islam: Abū Jaʽfar ibn Qiba al‐Rāzī and His Contribution to Imāmite Shīʽite Thought (Princeton, NJ, 1993), 5 n5.

(15.)  Jafri, Shiʽa Islam, 273. For a very brief biography of ʽAbd Allāh al‐Maḥḍ, which does not mention this incident, see Zettersteen, “ʽAbd Allāh b. al‐Ḥasan b. al‐Ḥasan,” in EI2, vol. 1 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0).

(16.)  See Moscati, “Abū Salama Ḥafs b. Sulaymān al‐Khallāl,” in EI2, vol. 1 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0). When the first ʽAbbāsid caliph, Abū al‐ʽAbbās, was inaugurated, his uncle Dāʼūd b. ʽAlī proclaimed that his nephew was the only caliph apart (p.199) from ʽAlī b. Abī Ṭālib not to have usurped the position. Jafri, Shiʽa Islam, 274; Zaman, Religion and Politics Under the Early ʽAbbāsids: The Emergence of the Proto‐Sunnī Elite, (Leiden, 1997), 43–44. Cf. Crone, God's Rule: Government and Islam, (New York, 2004), 87. The rebellion, at least in Khurasan, had called people to return to the Book of God and the tradition of Muḥammad and ʽAlī. See Akhbār al‐dawla al‐ʽAbbāsiyya wa‐fīhi akhbār al‐ʽAbbās wa‐waladihi, ed. al‐Dūrī and al‐Muṭṭalibī (Beirut, 1971), 284; and the discussion in Zaman, Religion and Politics, 43ff.

(17.)  On Jaʽfar al‐Ṣādiq see al‐Ṭūsī, Ikhtiyār maʽrifat al‐rijāl, al‐maʽrūf bi‐rijāl al‐Kashshī, ed. al‐Muṣṭafawī (Mashhad, Iran, 1348 HS/1969), index, s.v.; Halm, Shīʽism (Edinburgh, 1991), 29f.

(18.)  On Jaʽfar al‐Ṣādiq's father, Muḥammad al‐Bāqir, see Lalani, Early Shīʽī Thought: The Teachings of Imam Muḥammad al‐Bāqir (London, 2000).

(19.)  See, for example, Amir‐Moezzi, The Divine Guide in Early Shiʽism: The Sources of Esotericism in Islam, trans. Streight (Albany, NY, 1994), index, s.v., “ilm;” Clarke, “Early Doctrine of the Shiʽah, According to the Shīʽī Sources” (PhD dissertation, McGill University, 1994), 76–176. See also Madelung and Tyan, “ʽIṣmā,” in EI2, vol. 4 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0).

(20.)  Buhl, “Muḥammad b. ʽAbd Allāh b. al‐Ḥasan al‐Muthannā b. al‐Ḥasan b. ʽAlī b. Abī Ṭālib, called al‐Nafs al‐Zakiyya,” in EI2, vol. 7 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0); Kennedy, The Early ʽAbbāsid Caliphate (London, 1981), 200 ff; Modarressi, Crisis, 6–8, 53; Vaglieri, “Ibrahīm b. ʽAbd Allāh,” in EI2, vol. 3 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0). Zaman, Religion and Politics, 73 n11 provides additional bibliographic references.

(21.)  The majority of Mūsā's followers initially accepted the claims of Jaʽfar al‐Ṣādiq's son, ʽAbd Allāh al‐Afṭāḥ. However, his death soon after his father's demise led to their acknowledgment of Mūsā al‐Kāẓim. See Daftary, The Ismāʽīlīs: Their History and Doctrines (Cambridge, 1990), 94; Hodgson, “Djaʽfar al‐Ṣādiḳ,” in EI2, vol. 2 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0); Ibn al‐Haytham, Kitāb al‐Munāẓarāt, ed. Madelung and Walker, trans. Madelung and Walker, The Advent of the Fatimids: A Contemporary Shiʽi Witness (London, 2000), ed. 35–37, trans. 90–92; Modarressi, Crisis, 53ff.

(22.)  This designation was seldom used by the early sectarians themselves and was applied to them by the heresiographers. Cf. Daftary, Ismāʽīlīs, 93. This group has been referred to by a plethora of names in the early literature. Niẓām al‐Mulk (d. 485/1092), for example, mentions ten geographically specific designations, Ismāʽīlī (Aleppo and Cairo), Qarmaṭī (Baghdad, Transoxiana, and Ghazna), Mubārakī (Kufa), Rāwandī and Burquʼī (Basra), Khālafī (Rayy), Muḥammira (Jurjān), Mubayyiḍa (Syria), Saʽīdī (Maghrib), Janābī (Lahsa and Bahrain), and Bāṭinī. See Niẓām al‐Mulk, Siyar al‐Mulūk or Siyāsatnāma, trans. Darke, 2nd ed. (London, 1978), 231. Ghazālī (d. 505/1111) mentions Bāṭiniyya, Qarāmiṭa, Khurramiyya or Khurramdīniyya, Bābakiyya, Muḥammira, Sabʽiyya, Ismāʽīliyya, and Taʽlīmiyya. Cited in Corbin, “The Ismāʽīlī Response to the Polemic of Ghazālī,” in Ismāʽīlī Contributions to Islamic Culture, ed. Nasr, trans. Morris (Tehran, 1977), 74. The name of a branch of the community that had become particularly infamous, the Qarāmiṭa, was often applied derogatorily, and incorrectly, to the entire community. In addition, hostile historical sources frequently refer to the Ismailis abusively as malāḥida, the apostates or heretics. (p.200) Various Muslim groups commonly referred to their foes by this derogatory name, but by Alamūt times it seems to have been most widely directed toward the Ismailis. See Madelung, “Mulḥid,” in EI2, vol. 7 (Leiden, 1960–2004; reprint, CD‐ROM v. 1.0). Mīrkhwānd, for example, states that the term was particularly applied to this community. See Mīrkhwānd, Rawḍat al‐Ṣafāʼ, 10 vols. (Tehran, 1338–1339 HS/1959–1960); 114, Mīrkhwānd, Rawḍat al‐Ṣafāʼ, ed. Am. Jourdain, trans. Am. Jourdain, “Histoire de la dynastie des Ismaéliens de Perse,” Notices et Extraits des Manuscrits, vol. 9 (1813), 155.

Many of these names are inaccurate, some clearly polemical, and others a conflation of the group under study with others that had nothing to do with it. In the early period, the community commonly referred to itself as al‐daʽwat al‐hādiya, “the Rightly Guiding Summons,” or simply as al‐daʽwa, “the Summons.” We also find such names as ahl‐i ḥaqq or ahl‐i ḥaqīqat, “the people of truth,” used in Persian‐speaking regions; Mawlāʼī, “the partisans of the lord,” in Hunza, Gilgit, and Chitral; Panjtanī, “the partisans of the five,” i.e., Muḥammad, ʽAlī, Fāṭima, al‐Ḥasan, and al‐Ḥusayn, in parts of Central Asia; and Satpanthī, “follower of the path of truth” Khwāja (Khojā), “the venerable,” Shamsī, “the followers of Pīr Shams” and Muʼmin (Momnā), “the faithful” in South Asia.

The name currently employed in academia, Ismāʽīliyya, seems to have been used by the early community only occasionally. It appears to have originated with the early heresiographers, notably al‐Nawbakhtī and al‐Qummī.

The term “Ismaili,” however, has a number of advantages, not least of which is its currency in academia. Moreover, it was not rejected among the Ismailis themselves. In a riposte to al‐Ghazālī's virulent attack on the Ismailis in his Infamies of the Bāṭinīs and the Virtues of the Mustaẓhirīs(Kitāb Faḍāʼiḥ al‐Bāṭiniyya wa Faḍāʼil al‐Mustaẓhiriyya), ʽAlī b. Muḥammad b. Walīd (d. 612/1215), the fifth dāʽī of the Ṭayyibī Ismailis, comments on the names Ghazālī ascribed to the community. With regards to the term “Ismāʽīliyya,” he vaunts:

This name designates those whose [spiritual] ancestry goes back to Mawlāna [sic, Mawlānā] Ismāʽīl ibn Jaʽfar al‐Ṣādiq, ibn Muḥammad al‐Bāqir, ibn ʽAlī Zayn al‐ʽĀbidīn, ibn al‐Ḥusayn al‐Taqī, ibn ʽAlī al‐Murtaḍā al‐Waṣī. This is our inherent name. It is our honour and our glory before all of the other branches of Islam, because we stand on the Path of the Truth, in following our guides the Imāms. We drink at an abundant fountain, and we hold firmly to the guiding lines of their walāya. Thus they cause us to climb from rank to rank among the degrees of proximity [to God] and excellence.

Translated in Corbin, “Ismāʽīlī Response,” 74–75. See also Poonawala, “An Ismāʽīlī Refutation of al‐Ghazālī,” in Middle East 130th International Congress of Human Sciences in Asia and North Africa 1976, ed. Lama (Mexico City, 1982), 131–134.

Significantly, this name is now current in the community that considers itself the inheritor of the traditions of the descendants of the Imam Ismāʽīl and that presently owes its allegiance to Prince Karim Aga Khan, the forty‐ninth Imam. Thus, despite the drawbacks outlined above and the fact that some other groups, including the Druze and the Ṭayyibī community (commonly called the Bohrās in South Asia), are equally Ismaili, this term will be used to refer to the Nizārī Ismaili community.

(23.)  On the Fāṭimids, see Daftary, Ismāʽīlīs, 144–255; Halm, Die Kaliefen von Kairo: Die Fatimiden in Ägypten, 973–1074 (Munich, 2003); Halm, The Empire of the Mahdi: The Rise of the Fatimids, trans. Bonner (Leiden, 1996).

(24.)  For an overview of this episode, see Daftary, Ismāʽīlīs, 205–206; Makdisi, Ibn ʽAqīl et la Résurgence de l'Islam traditionaliste au XIe Siècle (Damascus, 1963), 90–102; Qutbuddin, Al‐Muʼayyad al‐Shīrāzī and Fatimid Daʽwa Poetry (Leiden, 2005), 67–76.

(25.)  al‐Baghdādī, al‐Farq bayna al‐Firāq, trans. Seelye, Moslem Schisms and Sects: (al‐Farḳ bain al‐firāḳ) Being the History of the Various Philosophic Systems Developed in Islam (New York, 1966), part II, 107–108.

(26.)  His contemporary, Abū al‐Maʽālī writes in 485/1092 that both Ḥasan‐i Sabbāḥ and Nāṣir‐i Khusraw were distinguished as ṣāḥib‐i jazīra, i.e., as ḥujjats in the Ismaili hierarchy. See Abū al‐Maʽālī, Bayān al‐Adyān, ed. Āshtiyānī and Dānishpazhūh (Tehran, 1376 HS/1997), 55.

(27.)  Ibn al‐Athīr, Taʼrīkh al‐Kāmil [a.k.a. al‐Kāmil fī al‐Taʼrīkh] (Cairo, 1303/1885), vol. 10, 112.

(28.)  Juwaynī, Jahāngushāy, ed. vol. 3, 269–270, trans. vol. 2, 719. Cf., however, Daftary, Ismaili Literature (London, 2004), 46, in which the author does not follow Juwaynī's testimony, but the list of preserved items recorded in Ivanow, Ismaili Literature: A Bibliographical Survey, 2nd amplified ed. (Tehran, 1963), 127–136; Poonawala, Biobibliography of Ismāʽīlī Literature (Malibu, CA, 1977), 251–263.

(29.)  Cited in Daftary, Ismāʽīlīs, 8–9.

(30.)  Juwaynī, Jahāngushāy, ed. vol. 3, 269–270, trans. vol. 2, 719.

(31.)  Ibid, ed. vol. 3, 186–187, 269–270, trans. vol. 2, 666, 719.

(32.)  Ibid, ed. vol. 3, 139–142, trans. vol. 2, 639–640, translation slightly modified.

(33.)  Juwaynī, Jahāngushāy, ed. vol. 3, 277, trans. vol. 2, 724–725.

(34.)  This is a reference to the forty‐fifth Imam of the Ismailis, Shāh Khalīl Allāh, who, in 1206/1792, succeeded his father (not uncle) Abū al‐Ḥasan ʽAlī, who was also known as Sayyid Kahakī. See Daftary, Ismāʽīlīs, 503–504.

(35.)  Sacy, “Mémoire sur la dynastie des Assassins,” Mémoirs de l'Institut Royal de France 4 (1818). The selection quoted is translated by A. Azodi as “Memoir on the Dynasty of the Assassins and on the Etymology of Their Name by Silvestre de Sacy” in Daftary, The Assassin Legends: Myths of the Ismailis (London, 1994), 182, translation emended slightly. Soon after this notice, another report about the continued existence of the Ismailis in Persia, Syria, and India appeared in Hammer‐Purgstall, Die Geschichte der Assassinen aus Morgenländischen Quellen (Stuttgart and Tübingen, 1818), translated into English as Hammer‐Purgstall, The History of the Assassins, Derived from Oriental Sources, trans. Wood (London, 1835) 210–212. In 1906, E. G. Browne wrote of the community's continued existence in Syria, though he seems to have been unaware that they survived in Persia as well. See Browne, Literary History, vol. 2, 206–207.

(36.)  Cited in Dumasia, The Aga Khan and His Ancestors (Mumbai, 1939), 38, and Picklay, History of the Ismailis (Mumbai, 1940), 73. The Baron C. A. De Bode, during his travels, had earlier noted Aga Khan I's appointment as governor of Kirman and his confrontation with government forces from the citadel of Bam. In so doing, he remarks: (p.202)

On my right hand, to the east, was the mountainous district of Mahalat, where a remnant of the Ismaeli sect, the descendants of the followers of Hasān‐Sabāh [sic], or Sheikh‐Jabal (the old man of the mountain), are said still to exist. It is currently believed that their Chief, Aga‐Khan, is likewise looked upon by the Ismaeli sectarians of India as their head.

De Bode, Travels in Luristan and Arabistan, vol. 2 (London, 1845), 317.

(37.)  See, for example, Majerczak, “Les Ismaéliens de Choughnan,” Revue du Monde Musulman 24 (1913), Menant, “Les Khodjas du Guzarate,” Revue du Monde Musulman 12 (1910), Semenov, “Iz oblasti religioznikh verovaniy gornikh tadzhikov [On the Religious Beliefs of the Mountain Tajiks],” ätnograficheskoe obozrenie (Moscow) 47, no. 4 (1900), Semenov, “Iz oblasti religioznikh verovaniy shughnanskikh ismailitov [On the Religious Beliefs of the Ismailis of Shughnān],” Mir Islam (St Petersburg) 1, no. 44 (1912), Semenov, “Opisanie ismailitskikh rukopisey, sobranikh A. A. Semyonovim [Description of Ismāʽīlī manuscripts, A. A. Semenov's collection],” Izvestiya Rossiyskoy Akademii Nauk/Bulletin de l'Académie des Sciences de Russie (Petrograd) 6 série, no. 12 (1918). Decades before these studies were published, a speech on the subject was delivered by E. I. Howard, one of the counsels for the defense in the “Aga Khan Case” of 1866. Howard, The Shia School of Islam and Its Branches, Especially That of the Imamee‐Ismailies: A Speech Delivered by E. I. Howard, Esquire, Barrister‐at‐Law, in the Bombay High Court, in June, 1866 (Mumbai, 1866). This was later reprinted by the Bombay Education Society in 1895, and again in 1906. These reprints may be added to the reference in Daftary, Ismaili Literature, 297.

(38.)  Ivanow, “My First Meeting with the Ismailis in Persia,” Ilm 3, no. 3 (December 1977): 16–17. This is a reprint of an article that originally appeared as Ivanow, “My First Meeting with Ismailis of Persia,” Read and Know 1 (1966): 11–14. The original is not available to me. See Daftary, Ismaili Literature, 306. “Great World War I” in the text has been emended to read “Great War.”

(39.)  See Daftary, Ismaili Literature, 73; Daftary, Ismāʽīlīs, 547.

(40.)  Daftary, Ismaili Literature, 59; Daftary, Ismāʽīlīs, 30–31.

(41.)  Daftary, Ismāʽīlīs, 435. He is preceded in this regard by Algar, “The Revolt of Āghā Khān Maḥallātī and the Transference of the Ismāʽīlī Imamate to India,” SI 29 (1969): 55; Ali, The Origin of the Khojāhs and Their Religious Life Today (Würzburg, 1936), 55; Howard, Shia School, 57–59.

(42.)  Daftary, Ismāʽīlīs, 443. See also Daftary, Ismaili Literature, 59.

(43.)  Ivanow, A Guide to Ismaili Literature (London, 1933); Ivanow, Ismaili Literature; Poonawala, Biobibliography. The more recent study, Daftary, Ismaili Literature, is a very useful guide for published Ismaili works.

(44.)  See Daftary, “Persian Historiography of the Early Nizārī Ismāʽīlīs,” Iran 30 (1992): 97.

(45.)  The following narrative is from Kūchak, Silk‐i Gawhar Rīz, ed. Qudertullah (Dushanbe, Tajikistan, nd), 100–101.

(46.)  See, for example, his “Introduction” to Mustanṣir bi'llāh (=Gharīb Mīrzā?), Pandiyāt‐i Jawānmardī, ed. Ivanow, trans. Ivanow, Pandiyat‐i Jawanmardi or “Advices of Manliness” (Leiden, 1953), 018.

(47.)  Khayrkhwāh Harātī, Taṣnīfāt‐i Khayrkhwāh‐i Harātī, ed. Ivanow (Tehran, 1961).

(48.)   Biblia Sacra: iuxta Vulgatam versionem, ed. Fischer and Weber (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1983, http://www.thelatinlibrary.com/bible/prologi.html, accessed February 2, 2006).