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Aagha khani

Aagha khani

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Published by: Abdul Jabbar Quraishi on Jun 02, 2009
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02/03/2013

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A HISTORY OF THE AGAKHANI ISMAILIS
This book was first published from Canada in 1991.It has been republished twice from Pakistan.The Urdu translation of the book has been published from Pakistan.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
IN THE NAME OF ALLAH THE BENEFICENT,THE COMPASSIONATE
I begin with my gratitude to the Beneficent and the Compassionate,whose Messages have guided the believers to a straight path.
"As to those who hold fast by the Book and establish regular prayer; never shall Wesuffer the reward of the righteous to perish." Holy Qur'an 7/170
 
1INTRODUCTION
The followers of Karim Aga Khan, the "Agakhani Ismailis,” are spread out invarious parts of the world. They constitute the vast majority, and comprise a controversialgroup, within the various sub-sects of Ismailis, who in turn form a small minority withinthe various groups and sects of the Islamic brotherhood. Thus, the Agakhani Ismailisrepresent a minute proportion, some 0.1 percent, of the Muslim world. However, theirfame and profile far exceed their numbers, due primarily to the prominence of the AgaKhan and his family members through their international political, economic, and socialstatus.Of significance has been their long association with thoroughbred horse racing inEurope; Aga Khan III's weighing in gold, diamonds, and platinum as a gift from hisfollowers; the marriage of Prince Aly Khan Karim Aga Khan's father to renowned actressRita Hayworth and his role as a leader of Pakistan's delegation to the United Nations; theservice of Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan in the United Nations as High Commissioner forRefugees; and, most recently, Karim Aga Khan being named Commander of the FrenchLegion of Honour for eminent services to humanity.It is a common belief that the ancestors of the Agakhani Khojah Ismailis wereHindus and that approximately seven centuries ago they were converted to the Ismailifaith by Pirs (authorized preachers) that came from Persia. The questions often asked are:Were these Pirs Imami Nizari Ismailis? Were they sent to India from Persia by the IsmailiImams (spiritual leaders)? What was the Islamic Tariqah (persuasion) adopted by theseconverts at the time of their conversion?The faith practiced by Ismailis during the golden era of their history the Fatimidperiod of the Caliphate in Cairo was within the spectrum of the various sects,denominations, and schools of thought that exist in mainstream Islam. This meant thatthey observed the Shari'ah laws at the peak of their glory. Fatimid Imams built the firstuniversity in the world, al-Azhar, which became an institute of repute in the Muslimworld, to study the Qur'an and Islamic jurisprudence, among other subjects. FatimidIsmailis recited the canonical Islamic prayers in mosques five times a day, as opposed toconventional Ismaili prayers three times a day at present in the Jama`at khanas (literally,place of assembly; in Ismaili terminology, place of worship). During the congregationalnoon prayers on Fridays, the names of the prevailing Fatimid Imams were mentioned inKhutba (an exhortation or sermon) in Egypt. Like other Muslims, they observed the Fastduring the holy month of Ramadhan and performed the pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj).It is interesting to learn how the dramatic change occurred that absolved the sect fromthe requirements of certain edicts of the revealed laws after the fall of the Fatimiddynasty, in the Alamut period. The roots of the Fatimid Ismailis were in the region of the
 
Middle East where Islam was born. On the other hand, the roots of the majority of theAgakhani Ismailis, who are the Shia Imami Khojah Ismailis, are in the Indo-Pakistansubcontinent, and their conversion from Hinduism has gone through various phases of proselytization. During the past one and half centuries, the religion of these converts hasundergone such drastic changes that the present generation of Agakhani Ismailis is almosttotally ignorant of the practices of their forbears only two, three, and four generations agoin the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent and Africa. The Agakhani Ismailis have madesignificant progress in the fields of education, commerce, and industry. Spiritually,however, the propagation of esotericism has left the community virtually bereft of thefundamental precepts and concepts of Islam.Today, only a few elderly Khojahs (Ismaili, Ithna'ashri, and Sunni Khojahs) who haveread the literature published during the nineteenth century, such as Ibrat-afza (anautobiography of Aga Khan I in Persian) or its Gujrati translation published in 1861, orthose who have heard from their elders the accounts of the second and third proselytizing,can trace back the trails and rediscover the lost heritage.A study of primary as well as secondary documents, some of them rare and othersthat have been withdrawn from circulation or that were written for internal circulation inthe ancient form of Sindhi script called Khojki, reveals that the process of proselytizinghas gone through three distinct stages. The last two are only a century and a half old.A few Agakhani Ismaili scholars who have compiled a bibliography of Ismaili literature,and others who have access to these documents, are well aware of the fact that theconversion of Hindus to the Ismaili faith has not been firsthand and has gone throughmore than one phase. But these scholars are also cognizant of the fact that under Article14 of the Constitution of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims (1986), any Ismaili who prints,publishes, or circulates any material or makes any statement or convenes a meeting orassembly purporting to be on behalf of, or in the name of, or relating to, the Imam, theIsmaili Tariqah, the Jama`at (a congregation or community), and any Ismaili Council orInstitution without the written permission of the National Council within whose jurisdiction he or she resides shall be liable to disciplinary action, and the offender can beexpelled from the community. It is high time that these kinds of stipulations andrestrictions are lifted and that Ismaili scholars have the encouragement and support of community leaders in publishing their findings.In 1947-48, a couple of Ismaili students and I met the Russian professor VladimirAlekseevich Ivanov (1886-1970), popularly known as W. Ivanow, and Vice-ChancellorAsaf Ali Asghar Fyzee (1899-1981), a Sulaymani Ismaili, who were the foundingmembers of the Ismaili Society in Bombay, to obtain their permission to translate one of their publications into Gujrati.In 1946, the Ismaili Society was founded with the aim of promoting independent andcritical study of all matters connected with Ismaili faith, which included their literature,history, and philosophy. The Ismaili Society functioned with the financial support andpatronage of the late Aga Khan III.

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