A major branch of the Shi'ah, the Ismailiyyah traces the line of imams through Ismail, son of Imam Jafar Al-Sadiq (d. AH 148/765 CE). Ismail was initially designated by Jafar as his successor but predeceased him. Some of Jafar’s followers who considered the designation irreversible either denied the death of Ismail or accepted Ismail’s son Muhammad as the rightful imam after Jafar.
THE PRE-FATIMID AGE. The communal and doctrinal history of the Ismailiyah in this period poses major problems that are still unresolved for lack of reliable sources. The Muslim heresiographers mostly speak of two Ismaili groups after the death of Imam Jafar: The “pure Ismailiyyah” held that Ismail had not died and would return as the Qaim (mahdi), while the Mubarakiyah recognized Muhammad ibn Ismail as their imam. According to the heresiographers, Al-Mubarak was the name of their chief, a freedman of Ismail. It seems, however, that the name (meaning “the blessed”), was applied to Ismail by his followers, and thus the name Mubarakiyah must at first have referred to them. After the death of Jafar most of them evidently accepted Muhammad ibn Ismail as their imam in the absence of Ismail. Twelver Shii reports attribute a major role among the early backers of Ismail to the Khattabiyah, the followers of the extremist Shii heresiarch Abu Al-Khattab (d. 755?). Whatever the reliability of such reports, later Ismaili teaching generally shows few traces of Khattabi doctrine and repudiates Abu Al-Khattab. An eccentric work reflecting a Khattabi tradition, the Umm Al-kitab (Mother of the book) transmitted by the Ismailiyyah of Badakhshan, is clearly a late adaptation of non-Ismaili material.
Nothing is known about the fate of these Ismaili splinter sects arising in Kufa in Iraq on the death of Imam Jafar, and it can be surmised that they were numerically insignificant. But about a hundred years later, after the middle of the third century AH (ninth century CE), the Ismailiyyah reappeared in history, now as a well-organized, secret revolutionary movement with an elaborate doctrinal system spread by missionaries called daees (“summoners”) throughout much of the Islamic world. The movement was centrally directed, at first apparently from Ahwaz in southwestern Iran. Recognizing Muhammad ibn Ismail as its imam, it held that he had disappeared and would return in the near future as the Qaim to fill the world with justice.
Early doctrines. The religious doctrine of this period, which is largely reconstructed from later Ismaili sources and anti-Ismaili accounts, distinguished between the outer, exoteric (zahir) and the inner, esoteric (batin) aspects of religion. Because of this belief in a batin aspect, fundamental also to most later Ismaili thought, the Ismailiyyah were often called batiniyah, a name that sometimes has a wider application, however. The zahir aspect consists of the apparent, directly accessible meaning of the scriptures brought by the prophets and the religious laws contained in them; it differs in each scripture. The batin consists of the esoteric, unchangeable truths (haqaiq) hidden in all scriptures and laws behind the apparent sense and revealed by the method of esoteric interpretation called ta'wil, which often relied on qabbalistic manipulation of the mystical significance of letters and their numerical equivalents. The esoteric truths embody a gnostic cosmology and a cyclical, yet teleological history of revelation.
The supreme God is the Absolute One, who is beyond cognizance. Through his intention (iradah) and will (mashi'ah) he created a light which he addressed with the Qur'anic creative imperative, kun (“Be!”), consisting of the letters kaf and noon. Through duplication, the first, preceding (sabiq) principle, Kuni (“be,” fem.) proceeded from them and in turn was ordered by God to create the second, following (tali) principle, Qadar (“measure, decree”). Kuni represented the female principle and Qadar, the male; together they were comprised of seven letters (the short vowels of Qadar are not considered letters in Arabic), which were called the seven higher letters (huruf ulwiyah) and were interpreted as the archetypes of the seven messenger prophets and their scriptures. In the spiritual world, Kuni created seven cherubs (karubiyah) and Qadar, on Kuni’s order, twelve spiritual ranks (hudud ruhaniyah). Another six ranks emanated from Kuni when she initially failed to recognize the existence of the creator above her. The fact that these six originated without her will through the power of the creator then moved her to recognize him with the testimony that “There is no god but God,” and to deny her own divinity. Three of these ranks were above her and three below; among the latter was Iblis, who refused Kuni’s order to submit to Qadar, the heavenly Adam, and thus became the chief devil. Kuni and Qadar also formed a pentad together with three spiritual forces, Jadd, Fath , and Khayal, which were often identified with the archangels Jibra'il, Mikha'il, and Israfil and mediated between the spiritual world and the religious hierarchy in the physical world.
The lower, physical world was created through the mediation of Kuni and Qadar, with the ranks of the religious teaching hierarchy corresponding closely to the ranks of the higher, spiritual world. The history of revelation proceeded through seven prophetic eras or cycles, each inaugurated by a speaker (natiq) prophet bringing a fresh divine message. The first six speaker-prophets, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, were each succeeded by a legatee (wasi) or silent one (samit) who revealed the esoteric meaning hidden in their messages. Each legatee was succeeded by seven imams, the last of whom would rise in rank to become the speaker of the next cycle and bring a new scripture and law abrogating the previous one. In the era of Muhammad, Ali was the legatee and Muhammad ibn Ismail the seventh imam. Upon his return Muhammad ibn Ismail would become the seventh speaker prophet and abrogate the law of Islam. His divine message would not entail a new law, however, but consist in the full revelation of the previously hidden esoteric truths. As the eschatological Qaim and mahdi, he would rule the world and consummate it. During his absence, the teaching hierarchy was headed by twelve hujjahs residing in the twelve provinces (jaza'ir). Below them were several ranks of daees. The number and names of these ranks given in early Ismaili texts vary widely and reflect speculative concerns rather than the actual organization of the hierarchy, about which little is known for either the pre-Fatimid or Fatimid age. Before the advent of the Qaim, the teaching of the esoteric truths must be kept secret. The neophyte had to swear an oath of initiation vowing strict secrecy and to pay a fee. Initiation was clearly gradual, but there is no evidence of a number of strictly defined grades; the accounts of anti-Ismaili sources that name and describe seven or nine such grades leading to the final stage of pure atheism and libertinism deserve no credit.
Emergence of the movement. The sudden appearance of a widespread, centrally organized Ismaili movement with an elaborate doctrine after the middle of the ninth century suggests that its founder was active at that time. The Sunni anti-Ismaili polemicists of the following century name as this founder one Abd Allah ibn Maymun Al-Qaddah . They describe his father, Maymun Al-Qaddah , as a Bardesanian who became a follower of Abu Al-Khattab and founded an extremist sect called the Maymuniyah. According to this account, Abd Allah conspired to subvert Islam from the inside by pretending to be a Shii working on behalf of Muhammad ibn Ismail. He founded the movement in the latter’s name with its seven grades of initiation leading to atheism and sent his daees abroad. At first he was active near Ahwaz and later moved to Basra and to Salamiyah in Syria; the later leaders of the movement and the Fatimid caliphs were his descendants. This story is obviously anachronistic in placing Abd Allah’s activity over a century later than that of his father. Moreover, Twelver Shii sources mention Maymun Al-Qaddah and his son Abd Allah as faithful companions of Imams Muhammad Al-Baqir (d. 735?) and Jafar Al-Sadiq respectively. They do not suggest that either of them was inclined to extremism. It is thus unlikely that Abd Allah ibn Maymun played any role in the original Ismaili sect and impossible that he is the founder of the ninth-century movement. The Sunni polemicists’ story about Abd Allah ibn Maymun is, however, based on Ismaili sources. At least some early Ismaili communities believed that the leaders of the movement including the first Fatimid caliph, Al-mahdi, were not Alids but descendants of Maymun Al-Qaddah . The Fatimids tried to counter such beliefs by maintaining that their Alid ancestors had used names such as Al-Mubarak, Maymun, and Sa'id in order to hide their identity. While such a use of cover names is not implausible, it does not explain how Maymun, allegedly the cover name of Muhammad ibn Ismail, could have become identified with Maymun Al-Qaddah . It has, on the other hand, been suggested that some descendants of Abd Allah ibn Maymun may have played a leading part in the ninth-century movement. The matter evidently cannot be resolved at present. It is certain, however, that the leaders of the movement, the ancestors of the Fatimids, claimed neither descent from Muhammad ibn Ismail nor the status of imams, even among their closest daees, but described themselves as hujjahs of the absent imam Muhammad ibn Ismail.
The esoteric doctrine of the movement was of a distinctly gnostic nature. Many structural elements, themes, and concepts have parallels in various earlier gnostic systems, although no specific sources or models can be discerned. Rather, the basic system gives the impression of an entirely fresh, essentially Islamic and Shii adaptation of various widespread gnostic motives. Clearly without foundation are the assertions of the anti-Ismaili polemicists and heresiographers that the Ismailiyyah was derived from various dualist religions, such as Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Bardesanism, Mazdakism, and the Khurramdiniyah.
The movement was rent by a schism about 899 after Abd Allah (Ubayd Allah), the future Fatimid caliph Al-mahdi, succeeded to the leadership. Repudiating the belief in the imamate of Muhammad ibn Ismail and his return as the mahdi, Al-mahdi claimed the imamate for himself. He explained to the daees that his predecessors in the leadership had been legitimate imams but had concealed their rank and identity out of caution. They were descendants of Imam Jafar’s son Abd Allah, who had been the rightful successor to the imamate rather than Ismail; the names of Ismail and his son Muhammad had merely been used to cover up their identity as the imams.
This apparently radical change of doctrine was not accepted by some of the leading daees. In the region of Kufa, hamdan Qarmat and Abdan broke with Al-mahdi and discontinued their missionary activity. Qarmat ’s followers were called the Qaramitah, and the name was often extended to other communities that broke with the Fatimid leadership, and sometimes to the Ismailiyyah in general; it will be used here for those Ismailiyyah who did not recognize the Fatimid imamate. Abdan was the first author of the movement’s books. He was murdered by a daee initially loyal to Al-mahdi, and hamdan Qarmat disappeared. On the west coast of the Persian Gulf, the daee Abu Sa'id Al-Jannabi followed the lead of Qarmat and Abdan, who had invested him with his mission. He had already seized a number of towns, including Al-Qat if and Al-Ahsa, and had thus laid the foundation of the Qarmati state of Bahrain. Other communities that repudiated Al-mahdi’s claim to the imamate were in the region of Rayy in northwestern Iran, in Khorasan, and in Transoxiana. Most prominent among the daees who remained loyal to Al-mahdi was Ibn hawshab, known as Mansur Al-Yaman, the senior missionary in the Yemen. He had brought the region of Jabal Maswar under his control, while his younger colleague and rival, Ali ibn Al-Fadl, was active in the Bilad Yafi further southwest. The daee Abu Abd Allah Al-Shii, whom Mansur Al-Yaman had sent to the Kutamah Berber tribe in the mountains of eastern Algeria, and probably also the daee Al-Haytham, whom he had dispatched to Sind, remained loyal to Al-mahdi. Some of the Ismailiyyah in Khorasan also accepted his claim to the imamate. Residing at this time in Salamiyah, Al-mahdi then left for Egypt together with his son, the later caliph Al-Qaim, as his safety was threatened because of the disaffection of the leading Syrian daee. At first he intended to proclaim himself as the mahdi in the Yemen. Increasing doubts about the loyalty of Ali ibn Al-Fadl, who later openly defected, seem to have influenced his decision to go to the Maghreb, where Abu Abd Allah Al-Shii, having overthrown the Aghlabids and seized Tunisia, proclaimed him caliph and mahdi in 910.
THE FATIMID AGE (910–1171). With the establishment of the Fatimid counter caliphate, the Ismaili challenge to Sunni Islam reached its peak and provoked a vehement political and intellectual reaction. The Ismailiyyah came to be condemned by orthodox theologians as the archheresy of Islam. The Fatimid Ismailiyyah was weakened by serious splits, first that of the Qaramitah and later those of the Druzes, the Nizariyah, and the Tayyibiyah.
The Qaramitah. The Ismaili communities that repudiated the claim of the Fatimid Al-mahdi to the imamate were initially left without united leadership and in doctrinal disarray. Soon after the rise of the Fatimid caliphate they recovered some organizational and doctrinal unity on the basis of a reaffirmation of the belief in the imamate of Muhammad ibn Ismail and in his expected return as the Qaim. This belief was also espoused by the Transoxianan daee Muhammad ibn Ah-mad Al-Nasafi in his Kitab Al-mahsul (Book of the yield), which gained wide authority among the Qarmati Ismailiyyah. The book itself is lost, but numerous quotations from it and discussions in later works attest to its importance and make it possible to reconstruct its contents. Al-Nasafi introduced in it a Neoplatonic cosmology that superseded and partly replaced the earlier cosmolgy and became basic to much of Ismaili esoteric doctrine throughout the Fatimid age.
In this cosmology Kuni and Qadar were replaced by the Neoplatonic Universal Intellect and Soul. God, who is beyond any attribute and name and even beyond being and non-being, has originated (abda'a) the Intellect through his divine order or volition (amr). The Intellect is described as the first originated being (Al-mubda' Al-awwal) since the amr has become united with it in existence. The Universal Soul emanated from the Intellect, and from the Soul in turn issued the seven spheres of the heavens with their stars. These spheres revolve with the Soul’s movement, producing the mixture of the four single natures—dryness, humidity, cold, and warmth—to form the composites of earth, water, air, and ether. Out of the mingling of the composites arise the plants with a vegetative soul, which in turn give rise to the animals endowed with a sensitive soul. Out of the animal realm arises the human being with a rational soul that seeks to ascend through the spiritual hierarchy and to rejoin its origin in the Intellect.
Proclamation of the mahdi. The daee of Rayy, Abu Hatim Al-Razi (d. 934), claimed superior authority among the Qarmati daees as the lieutenant of the absent imam. He succeeded in converting a number of powerful men in the region, sent his daees throughout northwestern Iran, and maintained a correspondance with Abu tahir Al-Jannabi, who had succeeded his father, Abu Sa'id, in the leadership of the Qarmati state in Bahrain. The Qarmati daees were at this time predicting the advent of the mahdi after the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the year 928, an occurrence that they believed would bring the era of Islam to an end and usher in the seventh and final era. As the date approached, Abu tahir carried out daring attacks ever farther into southern Iraq and finally threatened the Abbasid capital of Baghdad itself. In 930 he sacked Mecca during the pilgrimage season, slaughtered pilgrims and inhabitants, and carried off the Black Stone of the Kabah as a sign for the end of the era of Islam. In 932 he proclaimed a young Persian from Isfahan as the expected mahdi.
Events now took a different course than had commonly been predicted by the Ismailiyyah for the coming of the mahdi. According to the erudite expert of the chronology of nations, Al-Biruni (d. 1050?), the date was chosen to coincide with the passing of fifteen hundred years after Zoroaster, the end of the year 1242 of the era of Alexander, for which prophecies ascribed to Zoroaster and Jamasp had predicted the restoration of the reign of the Magians. The Persian was said to be a Magian and a descendant of the Persian kings. His hometown of Isfahan had long been associated by the astrologers with the rise of a Persian dynasty which would conquer the Arab caliphate. The Persian is reported to have ordered the worship of fire and the cursing of all the prophets and to have licensed the most outrageous abominations. After the Persian put some Qarmati leaders to death, Abu tahir felt compelled to kill him and to avow that he had been duped by an impostor.
The significance of this episode must be judged with caution. The Persian, anti-Arab aspect was evidently a spontaneous development among the leaders of the Qarmati community of Bahrain. It does not confirm the assertions of the Sunni polemicists that the Ismaili movement originated in an anti-Islamic and anti-Arab plot of Persian dualists, but it may have given rise to them. More deeply rooted in the movement were the antinomian sentiments radically expressed in the cursing of the prophets, the founders of the religious laws. Antinomian tendencies were naturally inherent in religious thought which looked for an esoteric spiritual meaning concealed behind the exoteric surface of scripture and law. Though sometimes latent for a long time, they manifested themselves powerfully at various stages in the history of the Ismailiyyah.
The ignominious course and outcome of the affair led to massive defections of adherents and shocked the leading daees. Abu Hatim Al-Razi’s Kitab Al-islah (Book of correction), in which he criticized and “corrected” various points of Al-Nasafi’s Kitab Al-mahsul, appears to have been written in reaction to the events. Abu Hatim in particular objected to the anti nomian tendencies apparent in some of the teaching of Al-Nasafi. Arguing that all esoteric truth inevitably requires an exoteric revealed law, he affirmed against Al-Nasafi that both Adam, the first speaker prophet, and Jesus had brought a religious law. While admitting that the seventh speaker prophet, Muhammad ibn Ismail, would not bring a law but reveal the spiritual truths, he insisted that the era of Muhammad had not come to an end with the first presence and disappearance of the seventh imam. There was in each prophetic cycle an interval (fatrah) between the presence of the seventh imam and the advent of the speaker prophet who would inaugurate the new era, during which time the seventh imam was represented by his lieutenants (khulafa'a).
Abu Hatim’s ideas failed to rally the Qarmati communities around his leadership as the lieutenant of the imam. In his Kitab Al-nusrah (Book of support), the younger daee Abu Ya'qub Al-Sijistani consistently upheld Al-Nasafi’s views against Abu Hatim’s criticism and categorically rejected Abu Hatim’s thesis that esoteric truths could be attained only through the religious law. In Khorasan and Transoxiana in particular the authority of Al-Nasafi’s Kitab Al-mahsul seems to have remained paramount after the author’s death in 944. The daees in Iraq continued to recognize the authority of Abdan, in whose name they composed numerous treatises tinged with popular philosophy. After repudiating their pseudo-mahdi, the Qaramitah of Bahrain again claimed to be acting on the orders of the hidden mahdi. Abu tahir soon reached an agreement with the Abbasid government under which he guaranteed the safety of the pilgrimage to Mecca in return for an annual tribute and a protection fee paid by the pilgrims. The Black Stone of the Kabah was returned to Mecca in 951 after payment of a high ransom.
Decline of the movement. In preparation for his conquest of Egypt and the East, the fourth Fatimid caliph, Al-Mu'izz (953–975) strove to win the dissident eastern Ismaili communities for the Fatimid cause and to this end made some ideological concessions to them (see below). His efforts were partly successful, and he gained the allegiance of Abu Ya'qub Al-Sijistani, who in his later works fully backed the Fatimid imamate. Other daees, however, resisted his overtures. Most important, he failed to persuade the Qaramitah of Bahrain, who even allied themselves with the Abbasid caliphate and fought the Fatimid conquerors in Syria and Egypt. Although they later concluded a truce with the Fatimids and at times officially recognized the Fatimid caliphate, they never accepted its religious authority. In the later tenth century they lost their military prowess and were reduced to a local, self-contained power while the Qarmati communities elsewhere either were absorbed into the Fatimid Ismailiyyah or disintegrated. The Qarmati state in Bahrain survived until 1077/8. Little is known about the specific religious beliefs of the sectarians there. Muslim law and rites such as prayer and fasting were not practiced, and all mosques were closed. Much property was owned communally, and some of the revenue from tributes and imposts on sea trades was distributed among the members of the community. Such institutions were, however, not directly founded on the religious teaching, which promised a rule of justice and fairness but did not develop a social program.
The Brethren of Purity. Much discussed and still unresolved is the question of the relationship of the Rasa'il Ikhwan Al- Safa' (Epistles of the Brethren of Purity) and their anonymous authors to the Ismailiyyah. This encyclopedia of fifty-two treatises on all sciences of the ancients pervaded by an esoteric religious message was, according to two authors of the later tenth century, composed by a group of secretaries and scholars in Basra about the middle of the century. Later Ismaili tradition, however, claims that it was written by one of the hidden imams and his daees a century earlier. The treatises speak of the imam as in hiding, though accessible, and foresee his appearance. Some modern scholars have argued that a part or most of the encyclopedia was composed in the pre-Fatimid Ismaili community and that quotations and references in the text that belong to the tenth century are later additions. Others consider it as essentially non-Ismaili though influenced by Ismaili thought; this judgment is usually based on a comparison with Fatimid Ismaili literature. It is evident that the authors, if they did live in the tenth century, could not have been adherents of the Fatimid imamate. Yet the thought and terminology of the treatises are pervasively Ismaili and must have originated in an Ismaili environment. In the middle of the tenth century Basra was dominated by the Qaramitah of Bahrain. It is not unlikely that the authors undertook their project with the approval of the Qarmati leaders, but nothing definite is known about their relationship and the attitude of the later Qaramitah to the encyclopedia.
The Fatimid Ismailiyyah. The first Fatimid caliph rose with the claim of being not only the imam but also the expected mahdi. This claim inevitably raised questions concerning the acts and the eschatological role ascribed to the mahdi in apocalyptic traditions. Al-mahdi answered such questions by maintaining that the prophecies concerning the mahdi would be gradually fulfilled by himself and by the imams succeeding him. He gave his son and successor the caliphal title Al-Qaim, another eschatological name that usually had been considered to refer to the mahdi. In one basic respect he uncompromisingly countered the Ismaili expectations for the advent of the mahdi: While the pre-Fatimid teaching affirmed that the mahdi as the seventh speaker prophet would abrogate the law of Islam and make the esoteric spiritual truths public, Al-mahdi insisted on strict observation of the religious law of Islam and severely punished some daees who ignored it and published esoteric teaching. Official Fatimid doctrine always emphasized the equal validity and necessity of the zahir and the batin, of religious work ('amal) in accordance with the law and esoteric knowledge ('ilm).
Ismaili law. Under Al-Mahdi began the career of Qadi Al-Numan (d. 974), the founder of Ismaili law and author of its most authoritative compendium, the Kitab da'a'im Al-Islam (Book of the buttresses of Islam). In the absence of an Ismaili legal tradition, Qadi Al-Numan relied primarily on the legal teaching of Imams Muhammad Al-Baqir and Jafar Al-Sadiq, transmitted by Twelver Shii traditionists, and secondarily on Zaydi traditions. As a former Maliki jurist, he was evidently also influenced by Maliki legal concepts. In substance Ismaili law naturally agrees closely with Twelver Shii law, it prohibits, however, the temporary marriage (mut'ah) allowed in the latter and nullifies bequests to a legal heir except when consent of the other legal heirs is obtained. It gives the imam authority for determining the beginning of the month without regard to the sighting of the new moon as required by all other Muslim legal schools. Since the early Fatimid period the beginning of the months was generally established in practice on the basis of astronomical calculation and thus often fell one or two days earlier than for other Muslims; this discrepancy often caused intercommunal quarrels about the beginning and end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Esoteric doctrines. The Ismaili law codified by Qadi Al-Numan was adopted by the fourth Fatimid caliph, Al-Mu'izz, as the official law of the Fatimid empire to be applied to all its Muslim subjects. Al-Mu'izz also substantially reformed the Fatimid esoteric doctrine with the clear aim of making it more acceptable to the dissident Qarmati communities in order to gain their backing for the Fatimid imamate. Thus he reaffirmed the early belief that Muhammad ibn Ismail as the seventh imam was the seventh speaker prophet and the Qaim and ignored Al-mahdi’s claim that Abd Allah rather than Ismail had been the legitimate imam after Jafar Al-Sadiq. In his view, the acts of the Qaim in the physical world would, however, be carried out by his lieutenants (khulafa')—a term familiar to the Qaramitah, who also spoke of the lieutenants of the Qaim who were to head the hierarchy during his absence. For Al-Mu'izz, however, these lieutenants were imams and descendants of Muhammad ibn Ismail, who would not return to the physical world but would head the spiritual hierarchy at the end of the world. The lieutenants of the Qaim formed a second heptad of imams in the sixth era, which the prophet Muhammad had been granted as a special privilege. Following the earlier Fatimid caliphs and three hidden imams descended from Muhammad ibn Ismail, Al-Mu'izz was the seventh imam of this heptad. He seems to have envisaged an early end of the physical world and is quoted to have affirmed that there would not be another heptad of imams after him.
Al-Mu'izz also opened the door to the Neoplatonic cosmology of Al-Nasafi, which so far had been rejected by the Fatimid Ismailiyyah. Abu Ya'qub Al-Sijistani, who was converted to the Fatimid Ismailiyyah, became their main representative of Neoplatonic thought. Many of his books and treatises are extant. The esoteric teaching, severely restricted under Al-mahdi, was now organized in formal lecture sessions (majalis) held twice weekly. The lectures were prepared by the official chief daee and submitted to the imam for approval. Attendance at the lectures was restricted to the initiates, who were required to pay religious dues. The Ismaili communities remained a small minority throughout the Fatimid reign.
The Druze. During the later reign of the sixth Fatimid caliph, Al-Hakim (996–1021), the eschatological expectations that Al-Mu'izz had incited gave rise to a new schismatic movement. Encouraged by Al-Hakim’s abnormal conduct, some of the Ismailiyyah came to speculate that he might be the expected Qaim. While the official teaching hierarchy strove to counter these speculations, an enthusiastic follower, Hasan Al-Akhram, publicly proclaimed Al-Hakim’s divinity in 1017. He told his Ismaili audience that their resurrection (qiyamah) had occurred and that the era of their concealment had come to an end. In spite of the favor shown him by the caliph, Hasan was murdered a few months later. In 1019 the movement reemerged, now led by hamzah ibn Ali, the true founder of its doctrine.
Its adherents were called duruz (Druze) after Al-Dar(a)zi, an early rival of hamzah who caught the eye of the public. hamzah claimed to be the imam, the Qaim of the Age (qa'im Al-zaman), and the embodiment of the Universal Intellect. He identified some of his assistants with the Universal Soul and other ranks of the spiritual hierarchy of the Ismailiyyah Al-Hakim and his ancestors back to the second Fatimid caliph, Al-Qaim, were held to be manifestations of the transcendent godhead. Hamzah proclaimed the abrogation not only of the exoteric religious law but also of the esoteric teaching of the Ismailiyyah through the appearance of God on earth in royal dignity. He defined his own message as the pure doctrine of unity (tawh id) that renewed the message of the Adam of Purity (a dam Al-safa'), who had opened the cycle of humanity. The six prophets of the following eras from Noah to Muhammad ibn Ismail had each brought a blameworthy law ordering the worship of nonbeing and the unity of the idol ( Eibadat Al- Eadam wa-tawh id Al-sanam). Hamzah thus employed many Ismaili concepts but transformed them so radically that the Druze religion is usually considered to be outside the Ismailiyyah. After the death of Al-Hakim the new sect was persecuted and quickly suppressed in Egypt. It has survived to the present, however, in the mountains of Syria and Lebanon.
Leading figures. A prominent part in the initial fight of the official Fatimid teaching hierarchy against the founders of the Hakim cult was played by the daee Hamid Al-Din Al-Kirmani. Active in Baghdad and Basra, he came to Cairo about 1015, presumably invited to assist in the struggle against the heretics. Recognizing that the heresy was essentially rooted in the fervent hopes for the advent of the Qaim with its antinomian implications raised by traditional Ismaili teaching, Al-Kirmani reacted sharply against them. In a letter addressed to Hasan Al-Akhram he scornfully repudiated the idea that the resurrection had occurred with the appearance of Al-Hakim and that the era of the prophet Muhammad had come to an end. The resurrection would not occur before the signs predicted by Muhammad had appeared. The era of Muhammad and the validity of the law of Islam would continue under the reign of Al-Hakim’s successors. Ignoring the traditional Ismaili theories about a limited number of heptads of imams, Al- Kirmani envisaged the triumphant rule of the hundredth imam in the era of Muhammad.
In one of his larger works, the Kitab Al-riyad: (Book of meadows), he critically reviewed the controversy between Abu Hatim Al-Razi and Abu Ya'qub Al-Sijistani over Al-Nasafi’s Kitab Al-mahsul. Almost invariably he backed the position of Abu Hatim but went even further in his affirmation of the indispensibility of the law. The belief that the Qaim would abrogate the law was faulty, for spiritual knowledge could never be based on anything but the prophetic laws and their rules for worship. Rather the Qaim would restore the laws in their original form and abolish the teaching hierarchy, which would no longer be needed because knowledge would become actual and general while ignorance would be reduced to potentiality. Abu Ya'qub, he argued, was mistaken in asserting that after the Qaim a time of pure spiritual knowledge without work and law would begin like the great era before Adam. Rather, before Adam pure ignorance had reigned among the creatures since they did not know the hierarchy, and likewise, after the Qaim ignorance would be gradually actualized again and knowledge would become potential because of the abolition of the hierarchy.
Although Al-Kirmani thus maintained, against Abu Ya'qub, the absolute priority of the law over spiritual knowledge, he also made a major contribution to the esoteric teaching. In his most famous work, the Kitab rahat Al-Aql (Peace of mind), he propounded a new cosmology evidently influenced by the Muslim philosophers of Al-Farabi’s school. He replaced the pair of the Intellect and the Soul ruling the spiritual world by a hierarchy of ten Intellects. The place of the Soul thus was taken by the Second Intellect or First Emanation (Al-munba'ith Al-awwal), which proceeded from the higher relation of the First Intellect. From the lower relation of the First Intellect proceeded the Third Intellect, or Second Emanation, which is the first potential being, equated with matter and form and thus the basis of the physical world. Seven further Intellects originated jointly from the First and Second Intellects. The tenth one is the Active Intellect (Al-Aql Al-fa' 'al), the demiurge governing the lower world. The structure of the astral world and of the religious hierarchy was described by Al-Kirmani as closely paralleling that of the spiritual world. Al-Kirmani’s cosmology had little impact on Fatimid doctrine, which mostly preferred the older cosmology of Al-Nasafi and Abu Ya'qub. It was later adopted by the Tayyibi Ismailiyyah in the Yemen.
A prominent daee during the long caliphate of the Fatimid Al-Mustansir (1036–1094) was Nasir-i Khusraw, well known as a Persian poet and as the author of a travel narrative. Because of his activity as a Fatimid daee, he was forced to leave Balkh and found refuge in a Badakhshan mountain village in the upper Oxus valley, where he wrote and taught until his death about 1088/9. He became the patron saint of the Ismaili community of Badakhshan, which has preserved many of his Ismaili works. Some of these are Persian translations and adaptations of earlier books in Arabic; most important is his Kitab jami' Al-hikmatayn (Book joining the two wisdoms), in which he analyzed agreement and disagreement between the views of the Muslim philosophers and the prophetic wisdom of Ismaili gnosis.
Another leading figure in the contemporary Fatimid teaching hierarchy was Al-Mu'ayyad fi Al-Din of Shiraz, the son of an Ismaili daee active at the Buyid court. Al- Mu'ayyad succeeded his father and converted the Buyid emir Abu Kalijar and some of his Daylami troops to the Ismailiyyah but was forced to leave because of pressure on Abu Kalijar from the Abbasid court. He fled to Cairo where he was appointed chief daee in 1058. Although he was soon dismissed and exiled for a time, he regained wide influence as a daee before his death in 1077. His early career is described in his autobiography. His poetry, gathered in a diwan, is strictly doctrinal. The most massive of his numerous works is an eight-volume collection of eight hundred of his teaching sessions (majalis). His doctrine was later considered highly authoritative, especially among the Tayyibi Ismailiyyah in the Yemen and India.
Later schisms. 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 further split among the Ismailiyyah still backing the imamate of the Fatimid caliphs occurred after the assassination of Al-Musta'li’s son and successor, Al-Amir, by a Nizari in 1130. Eight months earlier Al-Amir’s newborn son, Al-Tayyib, had officially been proclaimed his prospective heir, but a cousin of Al-Amir, Abd Al-Majid Al-Hafiz , was now put on the throne. First merely appointed regent, he was later proclaimed caliph and imam. Some Ismaili communities, especially in the Yemen and India, repudiated his claim and continued to recognize Al-Tayyib, about whose fate nothing is known, as the rightful successor of Al-Amir. They were led by the Sulayhid queen Al-Sayyidah residing in Dhu Jiblah in central Yemen. Most of the Ismailiyyah in Egypt, southern Syria, and southern Yemen, where they were led by the Zurayid rulers of Aden, accepted the imamate of Al-Hafiz in spite of the irregularity of the succession of a cousin. They were known as the Hafiziyah or Majidiyah. The Fatimid caliphate was now in full decline and was overthrown in 1171 by the Ayyubid Salah Al-Din (Saladin), who restored Sunnism as the official religion in Egypt. Hafiz i communities survived chiefly in Upper Egypt and continued to recognize as their imams certain descendants of the last Fatimid caliph, Al-Adid, who were kept prisoners in Cairo. Under official persecution the Hafizi communities gradually disintegrated; the last mention of them occurs in the late thirteenth century.
THE POST-FATIMID ISMAILIYAH. With the disintegration of the Hafizi branch, only the Nizari and Tayyibi communities, which had separated from the official Fatimid Ismailiyyah before the fall of the Fatimid dynasty, remained. Both branches, though further divided by schisms, have survived to the present.
The Nizariyah. With the seizure of Alamut, Hasan-i Sabbah initiated a policy of armed revolt against the seljuk sultanate. The Nizariyah captured and fortified numerous mountain castles in the Elburz range, towns in Quhistan in northwestern Iran, and later also mountain strongholds such as Qadmus and Masyaf in northern Syria. In the face of the overwhelming military superiority of their opponents they relied on intimidation through the spectacular assassination of prominent leaders by fida'is, self-sacrificing devotees. Because of their apparently irrational conduct they were commonly called hashishiyin, hashish addicts. Stories that the fida'is were in fact conditioned for their task by the use of hashish are legendary. Their designation as hashishiyin was taken over by the Crusaders in Syria and entered European languages as “assassins.”
Hasan-i Sabbah also elaborated an apologetic missionary doctrine that became known as the “new preaching” (da'wah jadidah) of the Ismailiyyah. At its core was the thesis of humanity’s permanent need for ta'lim, divinely inspired and authoritative teaching, which was basic in much of Shii thought. Hasan-i Sabbah developed it in a series of arguments establishing the inadequacy of human reason in gaining knowledge of God and then went on to demonstrate that only the Ismaili imam was such a divinely guided teacher. The Nizariyah came to be commonly called the Ta'limiyah after this doctrine, and Sunni opponents such as Al-Ghazali concentrated their efforts on refuting it. Hasan-i Sabbah further stressed the autonomous teaching authority of each imam in his time, independent of his predecessors, thus paving the way for the Nizari radicalization of the doctrine of the imamate as compared with Fatimid doctrine.
Among the Sunnis apparently attracted by the “new preaching” was the heresiographer and Ash'ari theologian Al-Shahrastani (d. 1143). Although he kept his relations with the Nizariyah secret, they were revealed by his student Al-Sam'ani. Among his extant writings are some crypto-Ismaili works including an incomplete Qur'an commentary in which he used Ismaili terminology and hinted at his conversion by a “pious servant of God” who had taught him the esoteric principles of Qur'anic exegesis. Most notable, however, is his refutation of the theological doctrine of the philosopher Ibn Sina (Avicenna) from a concealed Ismaili point of view, entitled Kitab Al-musara'ah (Book of the wrestling match). Here he defended the Ismaili thesis that God, as the giver of being, is beyond being and nonbeing, rejected Avicenna’s description of God as the involuntary necessitating cause of the world, and suggested that the Active Intellect which brings the human intellect from potentiality to actuality is the prophetic intellect rather than the intellect of the lunar sphere as held by the followers of Avicenna.
Qiyamah doctrine. After his death in 1124, Hasan-i Sabbah was succeeded as lord of Alamut and chief of the Nizari community by his assistant Buzurgummid. On Ramadan 17, 599 (August 8, 1164) the latter’s grandson, known as Hasan 'ala Dhikrihi Al-Salam, solemnly proclaimed the resurrection (qiyamah) in the name of the absent imam and declared the law of Islam abrogated. He interpreted the spiritual meaning of the resurrection as a manifestation of the unveiled truth in the imam, which actualized paradise for the faithful capable of grasping it while condemning the opponents to the hell of spiritual nonexistence. Two years later Hasan was murdered by a brother-in-law who objected to the abolition of the Islamic law. His son Muhammad (1166–1210) further elaborated the qiyamah doctrine. While Hasan seems to have indicated that as the hujjah of the imam he was spiritually identical with him, Muhammad maintained that his father had been the imam by physical descent; apparently he claimed that Hasan was the son of a descendant of Nizar who had secretly found refuge in Alamut.
According to the qiyamah doctrine, the resurrection consisted in recognizing the divine truth in the present imam, who was the manifestation of the order to create (amr) or word (kalimah) and, in his revelatory aspect the Qaim. The imam thus was raised in rank above the prophets. There had been imam-Qaims also in the earlier prophetic cycles: Mechizedek (Malik Al-Salam), Dhu Al-Qarnayn, Khidr, Ma'add, and, in the era of Muhammad, Ali. They were recognized by the prophets of their time as the manifestation of the divine. In the qiyamah, the spiritual reality of the imam-Qaim manifests itself openly and directly to the faithful. The teaching hierarchy intervening between them and the imam thus had faded away as unnecessary in accordance with the earlier predictions about the advent of the Qaim. There remained only three categories of humanity: the opponents of the imam adhering to the law of Islam, his ordinary followers known as the “people of graduation” (ahl altarattub), who had advanced beyond the law to the esoteric (batin) and thus had attained partial truth, and “the people of union” (ahl Al-wah dah), who see the imam plainly in his spirtual rAlity discarding outward appearances and have therefore reached the realm of pure truth.
Muhammad’s son Jalal Al-Din Hasan (1210–1221) repudiated the qiyamah doctrine and proclaimed his adherence to Sunni Islam. He publicly cursed his predecessors as infidels, recognized the suzerainty of the Abbasid caliph, ordered his subjects to follow the law in its Sunni form, and invited Sunni scholars for their instruction. Thus he became commonly known as the New Muslim (naw-musalman). His followers mostly obeyed his orders as those of the infallible imam. Under his son Ala Al-Din Muhammad (1221–1255) the application of the law was again relaxed, though it was not abolished.
During, 'Ala' Al-Din’s reign the philospher and astronomer Nasir Al-Din tusi (d. 1274), originally a Twelver Shii, joined the Ismailiyyah and actively supported the Nizari cause, though he later turned away from them and wrote some theological works backing Twelver Shii belief. In a spiritual autobiography written for his Ismaili patrons he described his upbringing as a strict adherent of the law and his subsequent study of scholastic theology and philosophy. While he found philosophy intellectually most satisfying, he discovered that its principles were shaky when the discourse reached its ultimate goal, the knowledge of God and the origins and destiny of humanity, and recognized the need for an infallible teacher to guide reason to its perfection. He then chanced upon a copy of the sacred articles (fusul-i muqaddas) of Imam Hasan 'ala Dhikrihi Al-Salam and decided to join the Ismailiyyah. While some of tusi’s works written in this period, such as his widely read Nasirean Ethics (akhlaq-i Nasiri), show traces of Nizari thought, he also composed some religious treatises specifically addressed to the Nizariyah. The contemporary Nizari teaching is primarily known through them, particularly his Rawd: at Al-taslim (Meadow of submission) or Tasawwurat (Representations).
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.
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. After a vain search for a descendant of his, a section of the Syrian community changed allegiance in 1887 to the Qasim-shahi line represented by the Aga Khans. A smaller section, known as the Jafariyah, is at present the only community that continues to adhere to the Muhammad-shahi line.
Imams of the Qasim-shahi branch are known to have lived in the later fifteenth and again in the seventeenth century in the village of Anjudan near Mahallat in Iran, where their tombs have been found. They were in this period, and until the ninteenth century, commonly associated with the Ni'matullahi Sufi order. With the appointment of Imam Abu Al-Hasan Shah as governor of Kerman in 1756 they rose to political prominence. His grandson Hasan Ali Shah Mahallati married a daughter of the Qajar king of Persia, Fath 'Ali Shah, who gave him the title of Aga Khan, which has since been borne hereditarily by his successors. Hasan Ali Shah moved to India in 1843 and after 1848 resided in Bombay. Opposition to his authority in the Ismaili Khoja community led to court litigation ending in 1886 in the judgment of Sir Joseph Arnould in his favor. It recognized the Khojas as part of the wider Nizari Ismaili community. The fourth Aga Khan, Karim Khan, succeeded his grandfather in 1957.
Religious literature. The wide dispersal of the Nizari communities, language barriers among them, and their often tenuous relations with the concealed imams led to largely independent organization and literary traditions. In Persia conditions after the fall of Alamut encouraged the imams and their followers to adopt Sufi forms of religious life. Sufi ideas and terminology had already influenced the qiyamah and late Alamut doctrine; now Ismaili ideas were often camouflaged in apparently Sufi poetry, the imam being revered as the Sufi saint. Doctrinal works, written again from the sixteenth century on, essentially reflect the teaching of the late Alamut age with its emphasis on the role of the hujjah of the imam as the only gate to his spiritual essence and truth. Interest in the traditional Ismaili cosmology and cyclical prophetic history waned as the religious literature of the Fatimid age was no longer available.
The community of Badakhshan, which accepted the Nizari imamate probably before the fall of Alamut, remained attached to the writings, both genuine and spurious, of Nasir-i Khusraw, although many Persian Nizari works of the Alamut and post-Alamut age also found their way there. It also transmitted and revered the Umm Al-Kitab, the anonymous Persian work sometimes erroneously described as proto-Ismaili. It reflects some of the gnostic thought of the Kufan Shii ghulat of the eighth century, but its final redaction may be as late as the twelfth century.
The literature of the Nizari community in Syria, written in Arabic, developed independently of the Persian literature even in the Alamut period. There is no evidence that Persian works were translated into Arabic. Although the resurrection was proclaimed in Syria, apparently with some delay, the qiyamah and post-qiyamah doctrine of the Persian Nizariyah with its exaltation of the imam as the manifestation of the divine word made practically no impact there. The Syrian community preserved a substantial portion of Fatimid and Qarmati literature, and scholarly tradition continued to concentrate on the traditional cosmolgy and cyclical prophetic history. In some religious texts of a more popular character, Rashid Al-Din Sinan (d. 1193?) the leader of the Syrian Ismailiyyah, known to the crusaders as the “Old Man of the Mountain,” is celebrated as a popular hero and assigned a cosmic rank usually reserved for the imam.
The Indian subcontinent. The origins and early history of the Nizari community on the Indian subcontinent are largely obscure. The Nizariyah there are often collectively referred to as Khojas, although there are other, smaller Nizari groups such as the Shamsiyah and Momnas, while some Sunni and Twelver Shii Khoja groups have split from the main body of the Nizariyah. According to their legendary history, the Nizari faith was first spread by pir Shams Al-Din, whose father is said to have been sent as a daee from Alamut. The community was ruled thereafter by pirs descended from Shams Al-Din. Pir Sadr Al-Din, who can be dated with some likelihood in the later fourteenth century, is credited with the conversion of the Khojas from the Hindu caste of the Lohanas and to have laid the foundation of their communal organization, building their first jama'at-khanahs (assembly and prayer halls) and appointing their mukhis (community leaders). The center of his activity was in Ucch in Sind. A substantial section of the community seceded in the sixteenth century under the pir Nar (Nur) Muhammad Shah, who broke with the imams in Iran claiming that his father, Imam Shah, had been the imam and that he had succeeded him. This community, known as Imam-Shahis or Satpanthis, has further split on the issue of leadership and lives chiefly in Gujarat and Khandesh. It has tended to revert to Hinduism but shares much of its traditional religious literature with the Nizari Khojas.
This literature, which is known as Sat Panth (True Path), consists of ginans or gnans, religious poems composed in, or translated into, several Indian languages and meant to be sung to specific melodies in worship. Most of them are attributed to the early pirs but cannot be dated accurately and may have undergone substantial changes in the transmission. They include hymns, religious and moral exhortation, and legendary history of the pirs and their miracles, but contain no creed or theology. Islamic and Hindu beliefs, especially popular Tantric ones, are freely mixed. While idol worship is rejected, Hindu mythology is accepted. Ali is considered the tenth avatar (incarnation of the deity), and the imams are identical with him. The Qur'an is described as the last of the Vedas, which are recognized as sacred scriptures whose true interpretation is known to the pirs. Faith in the true religion will free believers from further rebirths and open paradise, which is described in Islamic terms, to them, while those failing to recognize the imams must go through another cycle of rebirths. The Arabic and Persian Ismaili literature has been virtually unknown among the Khojas except for the Persian Pandiyat-i jawanmardi, a collection of religious and moral exhortations of the late fifteenth-century Nizari imam Al-Mustansir which was adopted as a sacred book. Khojas live chiefly in lower Sind, Cutch, Gujarat, Bombay, and in wide diaspora, particularly in East and South Africa, Arabia, Ceylon, and Burma.
Further Nizari communities are found in the mountains of Chitral, Gilgit, and Hunza in Pakistan, in parts of Afghanistan, and in the region of Yarkand and Kashgar in Chinese Turkistan. Organization, religious practices, and observance of shari'ah rules vary among the scattered communities. The recent Aga Khans have stressed the rootedness of the Nizari Ismailiyyah in Shii Islam and its continued bonds with the world of Islam.
The Tayyibiyah. After breaking with the Fatimid teaching hierarchy, the Tayyibiyah in the Yemen recognized the Sulayhid queen as the hujjah of the concealed imam Al-Tayyib; with her backing they set up an independent teaching hierarchy headed by a daee mutlaq (“unrestricted summoner”) whose spiritual authority since her death in 1138 has been supreme. The second daee mutlaq, Ibrahim Al-Hamidi (1151–1162), became the real founder of the tayyibi esoteric doctrine, which he elaborated especially in his Kitab kanz Al-walad (Book of the child’s treasure). The position remained in his family until 1209, when it passed to Ali ibn Muhammad of the Banu Al-Walid Al-Anf family, which held it for more than three centuries with only two interruptions. The political power of the Yemenite daees reached a peak during the long incumbency of Idris Imad Al-Din ibn Al-Hasan, the nineteenth daee mutlaq (1428–1468). He is also the author of a seven-volume history of the Ismaili imams, Kitab uyun Al-akhbar (Book of choice stories) and of a two-volume history of the Yemenite daees, Kitab nuzhat Al-akhbar (Book of story and entertainment), as well as works of esoteric doctrine and religious controversy. While the Yemenite daees had been able to act relatively freely with the backing or protection of various rulers during the early centuries, they usually faced hostility from the Zaydi imams and in the sixteenth century suffered relentless persecution. In 1539 the twenty-third daee mutlaq appointed an Indian, Yusuf ibn Sulayman, as his successor, evidently in recognition of the growing importance of the Indian tayyii community. Yusuf came to reside in the Yemen, but after his death in 1566 his successor, also Indian, transferred the headquarters to Gujarat in India.
Doctrines. The Tayyibiyah preserved a large portion of the Fatimid religious literature and generally maintained the traditions of Fatimid doctrine more closely than the Nizariyah. Thus the Tayyibi daees always insisted on the equal importance of the z ahir and batin aspects of religion, strict compliance with the religious law and esoteric teaching. Qadi Al-Numan’s Da' a'im Al-Islam has remained the authoritative codex of Tayyibi law and ritual to the present. In the esoteric doctrine, however, there were some innovations which gave the Tayyibi gnosis its distinctive character. The Rasa'il Ikhwan Al-Safa'were accepted as the work of one of the pre-Fatimid hidden imams and were frequently quoted and interpreted.
The cosmological system of Al-Kirmani with its ten higher Intellects replaced that of Al-Nasafi predominant in the Fatimid age. Ibrahim Al-Hamidi changed its abstract rational nature by introducing a myth that Henry Corbin has called the Ismaili “drama in heaven.” According to it, the Second and Third Intellects emanating from the First Intellect became rivals for the second rank. When the Second Intellect attained his rightful position by his superior effort, the Third Intellect failed to recognize his precedence; in punishment for his haughty insubordination he fell from the third rank behind the remaining seven Intellects and, after repenting, became stabilized as the Tenth Intellect and demiurge (mudabbir). The lower world was produced out of the spiritual forms (suwar) that had also refused to recognize the superior rank of the Second Intellect, and out of the darkness generated by this sin. The Tenth Intellect, who is also called the spiritual Adam, strives to regain his original rank by summoning the fallen spiritual forms to repentance.
The first representative of his summons (da'wah) on earth was the first and universal Adam, the owner of the body of the world of origination (sahib Al-juththah Al-ibdaeeyah), or higher spiritual world. He is distinguished from the partial Adam who opened the present age of concealment (satr), in which the truth is hidden under the exterior of the prophetic messages and laws. After his passing the first Adam rose to the horizon of the Tenth Intellect and took his place, while the Tenth Intellect rose in rank. Likewise after the passing of the Qaim of each prophetic cycle, that being rises and takes the place of the Tenth Intellect, who thus gradually reaches the Second Intellect.
Countless cycles of manifestation (kashf) and concealment alternate in succession until the great resurrection (qiyamat Al-qiyamat) that consummates the megacycle (alkawr Al-azam) lasting 360,000 times 360,000 years. The soul of every believer is joined on the initiation to the esoteric truth by a point of light; this is the believer’s spiritual soul, which grows as the believer advances in knowledge. After physical death the light rises to join the soul of the holder of the rank (hadd) above the believer in the hierarchy. Jointly they continue to rise until the souls of all the faithful are gathered in the light temple (haykal nurani) in the shape of a human being which constitutes the form of the Qaim (surah qa'imiyah) of the cycle, which then rises to the horizon of the Tenth Intellect. The souls of the unbelievers remain joined to their bodies, which are dissolved into inorganic matter and further transformed into descending orders of harmful creatures and substances. Depending on the gravity of their sins they may eventually rise again through ascending forms of life and as human beings may accept the summons to repentance or end up in torment lasting the duration of the megacycle.
Indian communities. The Tayyibiyah in India are commonly known as the Bohoras. There are, however, also Sunni and some Hindu Bohoras; they are mostly engaged in agriculture, while the Ismaili Bohoras are generally merchants. The origins of the Tayyibi community in Gujarat go back to the time before the Tayyibi schism. According to the traditional account an Arab daee sent from the Yemen arrived in the region of Cambay with two Indian assistants in 1068. The Ismaili community founded by him, though led by local walis, always maintained close commercial as well as religious ties with the Yemen and was controlled by the Yemenite teaching hierarchy. It naturally followed the Yemenite community at the time of the schism. From Cambay the community spread to other cities, in particular Patan, Sidhpur, and Ahmadabad. In the first half of the fifteenth century the Ismailiyyah were repeatedly exposed to persecution by the Sunni sultans of Gujarat, and after a contested succession to the leadership of the Bohora community, a large section, known as the Jafariyah, seceded and converted to Sunnism.
After its transfer from the Yemen in 1566, the residence of the daee mutlaq remained in India. The succession to the twenty-sixth daee mutlaq, Daud ibn Ajabshah (d. 1591), was disputed. In India Daud Burhan Al-Din ibn Qut bshah was recognized by the great majority as the twenty-seventh daee mutlaq. However, Daud ibn Ajabshah’s deputy in the Yemen, Sulayman ibn Hasan, a grandson of the first Indian daee mutlaq Yusuf ibn Sulayman, also claimed to have been the designated successor and after a few years he came to India to press his case. Although he found little support, the dispute was not resolved and resulted in the permanent split of the Daudi and Sulaymani factions recognizing separate lines of daees.
The leadership of the Sulaymaniyah, whose Indian community was small, reverted back to the Yemen with the succession of the thirtieth daee mutlaq, Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Fahd Al-Makrami, in 1677. Since then the position of daee mutlaq has remained in various branches of the Makrami family except for the time of the forty-sixth daee, an Indian. The Makrami daees usually resided in Badr in Najran. With the backing of the tribe of the Banu Yam they ruled Najran independently and at times extended their sway over other parts of the Yemen and Arabia until the incorporation of Najran into Saudi Arabia in 1934. The peak of their power was in the time of the thirty-third daee mutlaq, Ismail ibn Hibat Allah (1747–1770), who defeated the Wahhabiyah in Najd and invaded hadramawt. He is also known as the author of an esoteric Qur'an commentary, virtually the only religious work of a Sulaymani author published so far. Since Najran came under Saudi rule, the religious activity of the daees and their followers has been severely restricted. In the Yemen the Sulaymaniyah are found chiefly in the region of Manakha and the haraz mountains. In India they live mainly in Baroda, Ahmadabad, and Hyderabad and are guided by a representative (mansub) of the daee mutlaq residing in Baroda.
The daees of the Daudiyah, who constitute the great majority of the Tayyibiyah in India, have continued to reside there. All of them have been Indians except the thirtieth daee mutlaq, Ali Shams Al-Din (1621–1631), a descendant of the Yemenite daee Idris EImad Al-Din. The community was generally allowed to develop freely although there was another wave of persecution under the emperor Awrangzib (1635–1707), who put the thirty-second daee mutlaq, Qutb Al-Din ibn Daud, to death in 1646 and imprisoned his successor. The residence of the Daudi daee mutlaq is now in Bombay, where the largest concentration of Bohoras is found. Outside Gujarat, Daudi Bohoras live in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, in many of the big cities of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Burma, and the East Africa. In the Yemen the Daudi community is concentrated in the Haraz mountains.
After the death of the twenty-eighth daee mutlaq, Adam Safi Al-Din, in 1621, a small faction recognized his grandson Ali ibn Ibrahim as his successor and seceded from the majority recognizing Abd Al-Tayyib Zaki Al-Din. The minority became known as Alia Bohoras and have followed a separate line of daees residing in Baroda. Holding that the era of the prophet Muhammad had come to an end, a group of Alias seceded in 1204/1789. Because of their abstention from eating meat they are called Nagoshias (not meat eaters). In 1761 a distinguished Daudi scholar, Hibat Allah ibn Ismail, claimed that he was in contact with the hidden imam, who had appointed him his hujjah and thus made his rank superior to that of daee mutlaq. He and his followers, known as Hibtias, were excommunicated and persecuted by the Daudiyah. Only a few Hibtia families are left in Ujjain. Since the turn of the century a Bohora reform movement has been active. While recognizing the spiritual authority of the daee mutlaq it has sought through court action to restrict his powers of excommunication and his absolute control over community endowments and alms. All of these groups are numerically insignificant.
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