Like other branches and sects amongst the Shi’ites, the Ismā’īlī religion is based upon a myth. The myth largely entails following an Imam that is supposedly directly linked to Sayyiduna ‘Alī Ibn Abī Tālib. The modern day Ismā’īlīs say that Karim Aga Khan has an unbroken hereditary link with Sayyiduna ‘Alī bin Abi Tālib radiyallāhu ‘anhu, who was appointed as the ‘successor’ by Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Ismā’īlīs recite the names of all their 49 imams in their Holy Du’ā (daily prayers which they pray instead of the Muslim salāh).
Important Note: The word ‘Imam’ entails being in front or standing in front, as is the case with Salāh. The word ‘Khalifah’ means someone who comes later and represents the one before him. When we look at this, we understand the ploy in play. The Imam term itself is problematic, because to say that Sayyidunā ‘Alī bin Abī Tālib radiyallāhu ‘anhu was the first Imam, in essence, shows that he is being placed on par or ahead of Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
In contrast to this, when the word Khalifah is used, it shows that when applied to an individual, it means that he is being placed after Rasūlullāh sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa sallam and follows in his footsteps.
The Twenty-Third Imam
The life of the twenty-third Imam is of particular interest and significance in our critique of inter-faith ideology. This is because of his declarations and weird practices that are in vogue to this day.
Ismaili historians and non-Ismaili historians record the birth date of the twenty-third Imam, Hasan (Ala Zikrihis Salam) to be 520 AH/1126 AD.
Research into the life of this Imam reveals some startling and shocking realities. Firstly, the claim of Hasan ‘Ala Dhikrihi As-Salām to have a lineage that goes up to Sayyidunā ‘Alī radiyallāhu ‘anhu is not accurate. His lineage goes up to Muhammad Ibn Kiya Buzurgumid, who was the successor of Hassan Sabbāh, the founder of the Alamut Castle.
In 1164, Hassan, leading the Nizari sect of Ismailis, proclaimed the Qiyamah, i.e., the abrogation of Sharia according to Bātinī explanations. We know that Qiyamah means ‘the End of the World’ and the ‘Day of Judgment’. But according to the Bātinī interpretations of Ismailism, Qiyamah is the beginning of an era of spiritual renaissance where the spiritual dimensions of Islam will be practiced openly, spiritual truths will become widely known, and the rituals of Islam, like salah, will be abrogated.
Fatimid Ismaili texts from the 10th-11th century describe the anticipated arrival of the Qiyamah era by a future Fatimid Ismaili Imam. These expectations were fulfilled by the declaration of Qiyamah by Hasan‘Ala Dhikrihi As-Salām.
Two years after his accession, Hasan ‘Alā Zikrihi’s Salām conducted a ceremony known as Qaim-ul-Qiyama (resurrection) at Alamut Castle. This is one of the most significant events in Ismaili history.
In the middle of the day, on the 17th of Ramadān 559/11 August 1164, Hasan ‘Alā Zikrihi As-Salām, stood on a pulpit facing the congregants, with their backs towards Makkah Mukarramah. He ordered the congregants to break their fast in an afternoon banquet with wine and other forms of merry-making.
This tradition still exists amongst Ismā’īlīs. They do not fast during Ramadān. On this occasion, Hasan ‘Alā Zikrihi’s Salām had abolished the entire Sharī’ah. He instituted the Qiyāmah as the basis of Bātiniyyat, i.e., esoteric structure of the Ismā’īlī religion.
Text of the Declaration:
‘Today I have explained to you the law and its meaning. I make you free from the rigidity of the law and resurrect you from the bondage of the letter to the freedom of the spirit of the law. Obey me and follow my farmān, i.e., ordinances. Give up all your misunderstanding and be united. Lead a virtuous life to be free from the fear of the Day of Judgement. Union with the divine, in reality, is the resurrection. Break your fast and rejoice. This is the day of utmost happiness and gratitude.’
This text, as shocking as it is, reminds us of the modernist fraternity, who call for reform and abrogation of the Shar’īa. Modernists are, in a way, the spiritual descendents of these Ismā’īlīs.
Imām Hasan died violently in 1166, only a year and a half after the declaration of the Qiyamah. He was stabbed in the Ismaili castle of Lambsar by his brother-in-law. He was succeeded by his son Imām Nūr al-Dīn Muhammad, who further elaborated Hasan’s doctrine of Qiyamah.
Follow Mufti Abdullah on Twitter: @MuftiAMoolla
Understanding Ismailism, Akbarally Meherally, 1988, AM Trust, Canada
- https://insideismailism.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/who-was-imam-ala-zikrihis-salam/ ↑
- Ismailis: their History and Doctrines, 1990, Cambridge, pg. 386 ↑
- “Alamut Castle was originally built in the ninth century at an elevation over 6,800 feet. It was constructed in such a way that it only had one passable entrance that wound its way around the cliff, making the fortress difficult to conquer. But in 1090 A.D., a man named Hassan-i Sabbah was able to do just that.
“Hassan was an Ismaili Shia. He rallied supporters as he hid within the valleys of Alamut. Eventually, he and his followers were able to concoct a plan that let them take over the fortress without spilling a single drop of blood (Hassan supposedly even paid the ousted ruler for the site).
“The fortress became a stronghold for him and his followers, who came to be referred to as his Assassins. They updated the castle’s irrigation and strengthened its defenses. And, perhaps most notably, they built an exquisite library full of literature about astronomy, math, philosophy, and even alchemy.
“Hassan created his own state, using the other fortresses scattered throughout the remote mountains and valleys as bases. He and his followers did more than just strengthen their strategic hideouts: They were also accomplished killers.
“The Assassins used their skills against the rulers of the Seljuk Empire who had been persecuting their sect. However, they also turned their attention beyond northern Iran and faced foreign enemies such as Crusaders. They were meticulous in killing the targeted individual, attempting to do so without any additional casualties. They cultivated their reputation by slaying victims in public, often in mosques. Their weapon of choice is said to have been a dagger.
“Mongolian invaders conquered the castle in the 13th century. They demolished the fortress and burned most of the rare contents that had been safeguarded in its library.
“But the stories of the Assassin’s fortress still live on. The most prominent historical fallacy was spread by Marco Polo in his stories about an “Old Man of the Mountains.” According to his accounts, devotees were drugged to simulate dying and then left to awaken in a secret garden where wine flowed and feasts were served by virgins. When they later awoke, there they were informed that if they wished to return to the paradise they had enjoyed, it would be at Hassan’s discretion and that they must therefore follow his orders directly. [https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/alamut-castle] ↑
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hassan_II_of_Alamut ↑
- Understanding Ismailism, Akbarally Meherally, 1988, AM Trust, Canada [https://insideismailism.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/understanding-ismailism.pdf] ↑
- Understanding Ismailism, p.67, Akbarally Meherally, 1988, AM Trust, Canada [https://insideismailism.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/understanding-ismailism.pdf] ↑
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hassan_II_of_Alamut ↑