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The History of Nizari Isma'ilism from the founding of Islam covers a period of over 1400 years. It begins with Muhammad's mission to restore to humanity the universality and knowledge of the oneness of the divine within the Abrahamic tradition, through the final message and what the Shia believe was the appointment of Ali as successor and guardian of that message with both the spiritual and temporal authority of Muhammad through the institution of the Imamate.

A few months before his death, Muhammad, who resided in the city of Medina, made his first and final pilgrimage to Mecca, the Farewell Pilgrimage. There, atop Mount Arafat, he addressed the Muslim masses in what came to be known as the Farewell Sermon. After completion of the Hajj pilgrimage, Muhammad journeyed back toward his home in Medina with the other pilgrims. During the journey, Muhammad stopped at the desert oasis of Khumm, and requested other pilgrims gather together, and there he addressed them with the famous words: "Whose mawla (master) I am, this Ali is also his mawla. O God, befriend whosoever befriends him and be the enemy of whosoever is hostile to him." This is known as the event of Ghadir Khumm, which is remembered in the hadith of the pond of Khumm.

Following Muhammad's death the Shia or "Party" of Ali believed he had been designated not merely as the political successor to Muhammad ("Caliph") but also his spiritual successor ("Imam"). And looked toward Ali and his most trusted supporters for both political and spiritual guidance. Ali's descendants were also the only descendants of Muhammad as Ali had married Muhammad's only surviving progeny, his daughter Fatimah. Through the generations, the mantle of leadership of the Shia passed through the progeny of Ali and Fatimah, the Ahl al-Bayt, embodied in the head of the family, the Imam. Both Ismaʿili and Twelver Shia accept the same initial Imams from the descendants of Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah and therefore share much of their early history; the Zaydi are distinct.[1]

The modern Nizari faith refers to itself as a tariqa or "path", the term for a Sufi order, following centuries hiding from oppression as a Twelver Nimatullahi tariqa.


Imami ShiaEdit

Ja'far al-Sadiq was acknowledged leader (Imam) of the Shia and head of the Ahl al-Bayt. A highly accomplished theologian, Ja'far tutored Abu Hanifa, who would go on to found the Hanafi madhhab ("school of jurisprudence"), the largest Sunni legal school practiced today; Malik ibn Anas, founder of the Maliki Sunni madhhab; and Wasil ibn Ata, who founded the Muʿtazila theology that all the major Sunni madhhabs follow.

During a period of rapid change, when Muslims no longer threatened were beginning to concern themselves with questions like "what does it mean to be a Muslim?". Most sought answers from the new learned classes which would eventually develop into Sunni Islam, but for some the answers to such questions were always sought from the Ahl al-Bayt led by Imam Jaʿfar; who saw the need for a systematic school of thought for those who sought guidance, and were loyal to Muhammad's family, as distinct from the new scholar schools which would synthesize into Sunni Islam. His answer was Ja'fari jurisprudence, a madhhab "school of jurisprudence" distinct to the Shia. This period marks the founding of the distinct religious views of both the Shia and the Sunni.

Imami SchismEdit

A fresco by Raphael depicting Aristotle and Plato; Greek philosophy played a pivotal role in the formation of the Isma'ili school of thought.

Ja'far al-Sadiq was married to Faṭimah, herself a member of the Ahl al-Bayt. Together they had two sons, Ismā'īl al-Mubarak and his elder brother, Abdullah al-Aftah. Following Fatimah's death, Ja'far al-Sadiq was said to be so devastated he refused to ever remarry.

The majority of available sources – both Ismā'īli and Twelver as well as Sunni – indicate that Imam Jafar as-Sadiq designated Ismā'īl as his successor and the next Imam after him through nass ("a clear legal injunction") and there is no doubt concerning the authenticity of this designation. However, it is controversially believed that Ismā'īl predeceased his father. However, the same sources report Ismā'īl being seen three days after in Basra. His closest supporters believed Ismail had gone into hiding to protect his life. Therefore, upon as-Sadiq's death, a group of Jafar al-Sadiq's followers turned to his eldest surviving son, Abdullah because he was the son of the daughter of the Caliph and the oldest son of Jafar al-Sadiq after Ismā'īl's death. He claimed a second designation following Ismā'īl's disappearance. Later most of them went back to the doctrine of the Imamate of his brother, Musa, together with the evidence for the right of the latter and the clear proofs of his Immmate (i.e. his character) When Abd-Allah died within weeks without an heir, many more turned again to another son of as-Sadiq, Musa al-Kadhim, a son from a slave named Umm Hamida, who Ja'far had taken after his wife's death. While some had already accepted him as the Imam following the death of Jafar as-Sadiq, Abdullah's supporters now aligned themselves with him giving him the majority of the Shia.

Isma'ilis argue that since a defining quality of an Imam is his infallibility, Ja'far as-Sadiq could not have mistakenly passed his nass on to someone who would be either unfit or predecease him. Therefore, the Imam after Ismā'īl was his eldest son Muhammad ibn Ismā'īl, known as al-Maktūm..

The Early ImamsEdit

Callers to IslamEdit

Arabic manuscript from the 12th century for Brethren of Purity (Arabic , Ikhwan al-Safa اخوان الصفا)

Imam Muhammad al-Maktūm retained Ismā'īl's closest supporters, who were few in number but highly disciplined, consisting of philosophers, scientists, and theologians; like his father Imam Muhammad retained an interest in Greek philosophy, political, and scientific thought. Muhmmad al-Maktūm was himself several years the senior of his half-uncle, Musa al-Kadhim. Muhammad al-Maktūm reconciled with Musa al-Kadhim and left Medina with his father's most loyal supporters, effectively disappearing from historical records and instituting an era of Dar al-Satr (epoch of veiling) when the Imams would vanish from public view. There followed a period when mysterious intellectual writings of an Isma'ili character appeared, most famously the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-safa (the epistles of Brethren of Purity) an enormous compendium of 52 epistles dealing with a wide variety of subjects including mathematics, natural sciences, psychology (psychical sciences) and theology. Isma'ili leadership also produced an array of propaganda attacking the political and religious establishments with calls for popular revolution, through a dāʻwah propagation machine called "Callers to Islam". This distinctive characteristic of the Isma'ili to challenge established social, economic, and intellectual norms with their vision of a just society was opposed directly opposed to Twelver quietism and political apathy and would be a hallmark of Isma'ili history.[1][2]

First Period of Concealment: The Isma'ilis leave Mecca and propagate their faith in secret, and produce literature against the established state.

8. Abdallah al Wafī Aḥmad, son of Muhammad.

9. Aḥmad at Taqī Muḥammad, son of ʿAbd Allāh.

10. Ḥusayn ar Radhī ad-dīn ʿAbd Allāh, son of Aḥmad.

The Fatimid CaliphateEdit

In the face of persecution, the bulk of the Isma'ili continued to recognize Imams who, as mentioned, secretly propagated their faith through Duʻāt (singular, dāʻī) "Callers to Islām" from their bases in Syria.[3] However, by the 10th century, an Isma'ili Imam, Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah, correctly known as ʻAbdu l-Lāh al-Mahdī, had emigrated to North Africa and successfully established the Fatimid Caliphate in Tunisia.[4] His successors subsequently succeeded in conquering all of North Africa (including highly prized Egypt) and the Fertile Crescent, and even holding Mecca and Medina in Arabia.[2][4] The capital for the Fatimid state subsequently shifted to the newly founded city of Cairo (al-Qāhirah, meaning "The Victorious"), in honour of the Isma'ili military victories, from which the Fatimid Caliph-Imams ruled for several generations, establishing their new city as a centre for culture and civilization. It boasted the world's first university, Al-Azhar University and the House of Knowledge,[4] where the study of mathematics, art, biology, and philosophy reached new heights in the known world.

A fundamental split amongst the Isma'ili occurred as the result of a dispute over which son should succeed the 18th Imam and Fatmid caliph al-Mustansir Billah. While Nizar was originally designated Imam, his younger brother al-Musta'li was promptly installed as Imam in Cairo with the help of the powerful Armenian vizier, Badr al-Jamali, whose daughter he was married to. Badr al-Jamali claimed that Imam Mustansir had changed his choice of successor upon his death bed, appointing his younger son.[1]

Although Nizar contested this claim, he was defeated after a short military campaign and imprisoned; however, he did gain support from an Isma'ili Dāʿī based in Iran, Hassan-i Sabbah. Hassan-i Sabbah is noted by Western writers to have been the leader of the legendary "Assassins".[5]

Fatimid CaliphsEdit

The Nizari Ism'ailis recognize only the first eight Fatimid caliphs from the nine listed below:

Medieval depiction the fortress of Alamut.


Most Isma'ilis outside North Africa, mostly in Iran and the Levant, came to acknowledge Imam Nizar ibn Mustansir Billah’s claim to the Imamate as maintained by Hassan-i Sabbah, and this point marks the fundamental split. Within two generations, the Fatimid Caliphate would suffer several more splits and eventually implode.

Hassan began converting local inhabitants and much of the military stationed at the fortress to the Isma'ili ideals of social justice and free thinking as he plotted to take over the fortress. During the final stages of his plan, he is believed to have lived within the fortress – possibly working as a chef – under the pseudonym "Dihkunda." He seized the fortress in 1090 AD from its then-ruler, a Zaidi Shia named Mahdi. This marks the founding of the Nizari Isma'ili state. Mahdi's life was spared, and he later received 3,000 gold Dinars in compensation.

Hassan-i Sabbah termed his doctrine al-Dawa al-Jadida ("The New Preaching") to contrast the Fatimid "Old Preaching". He was viewed as the Hujjah or "Proof" of the Imam, having direct secret contact with Imam Nizar and his rightful successors. Hassan-i Sabbah is also known as the first of the "Seven Lords of Alamut Castle", as he chose this secluded fortress as his base.

Under the leadership of Hassan-i Sabbah and the succeeding lords of Alamut, the strategy of covert capture was successfully replicated at strategic fortresses across Iran, Iraq, and the Fertile Crescent. Nizaris created a state of unconnected fortresses, surrounded by huge swathes of hostile territory, and managed a unified power structure that proved more effective than either that in Fatimid Cairo or Seljuq Bagdad, both of which suffered political instability, particularly during the transition between leaders. These periods of internal turmoil allowed the Isma'ili state respite from attack, and even to have such sovereignty as to have minted their own coinage.

The Fortress of Alamut was thought impregnable to any military attack, and was fabled for its heavenly gardens, impressive libraries, and laboratories where philosophers, scientists, and theologians could debate all matters in intellectual freedom.[6]


Owing to the difficult situation in which the Ismailis were placed, their system of self-defence took a peculiar form. When their fortresses were attacked or besieged, they were isolated like small islands in a stormy sea. They prepared their garrisons for the fight, but were unable to mount a sizable army so trained military commandos (fidā'iyyūn) as a rear-guard action. Fidā'iyyūn were covertly dispatched into the very heart of the Abbasid Court and enemy military strongholds as sleeper agents. In order to remove key figures planning or responsible for attacks against Isma'ili populations, fidā'iyyūn would take reprisal action for an attack or the planning of one by placing a dagger or a note within the chambers of their opponent as a warning or even assassinating a key opponent when they deemed it necessary. Known today as Assassins, these Isma'ilis were referred to as "Hasshashin" by their enemies, as many of their political enemies believed them to consume the intoxicant hashish before being dispatched as agents although modern scholarship tends to dispute this theory as polemic fabricated to discredit the Isma'ili. Other theories suggest the term originates from them being followers of "Hassan". The term entered Western vocabulary through the returning Crusaders as "assassin".

The Seven Lords of Alamut CastleEdit

Artistic Rendering of Hassan-i Sabbah.

The fortress was destroyed on December 15, 1256, by Hulagu Khan as part of the Mongol offensive on Islamic Southwest Asia. The Nizari Ismailis made a critical mistake in the assassination of Genghis Khan's son, Jagati, who ruled part of Iran. Jagati had offended the Nizari Ismaili's by forbidding certain rituals involved in prayer and the slaughter of animals.

In 1256, the Mongols took their revenge. Most of the Nizari Ismailis were killed and their mountaintop fortresses destroyed. The Crusaders, already weakened by Mongol incursions and civil war, did not send assistance.

The last leader of the Nizari Ismaili state, Rukn al-Din Khurshah, surrendered it as part of a deal with Hulagu. However, the Mongols slaughtered the inhabitants, burnt the libraries, and brought down the fortifications. Isma'ili survivors made several attempts to recapture, and restore Alamut, and several other Isma'ili forts, but were defeated. In subsequent years, the punishment for anyone suspected of being Isma'ili would be instant death, it was common for political or social enemies to claim their rivals as secret Isma'ilis and call for their deaths.

The Wandering MysticsEdit

A page of a copy circa 1503 of the Diwan-e Shams-e Tabriz-i

The Isma'ili Imams, and their followers would wander Iran for several centuries in concealment, The Imams would often take on the garb of a tailor, or mystic master, and their followers as Sufi Muslims. During this period Iranian Sufism, and Isma'ilism would form a close bond. Shamsu-d-Dīn Muḥammad succeeded Ruknuddin Khwarshah as the 28th Imam, escaping as a child and living in concealment in Azerbaijan. The 29th Imam Qāsim Shāh, 30th Imam Islām Shāh and 31st Imam Muḥammad ibn Islām Shāh also lived in concealment. Here the Ismaili Imam became a Sufi master (murshid) and his followers mureeds which are terminologies that are used today. There is the offshoot of the Muhammad-Shahi Nizari Ismailis who follow the elder son of Shamsu-d-Dīn Muḥammad, the 28th Qasim-Shahi Imam, named ‘Alā’ ad-Dīn Mumin Shāh (26th Imam of the Muhammad-Shahi Nizari Ismailis). They follow this line of Imams until the disappearance of the 40th Imam Amir Muhammad al-Baqir in 1796. There are followers of this line of Nizari Imams in Syria today, locally called the Jafariyah.

Anjudān/Safavid PeriodEdit

With Safavid Iran's establishment of Twelver Islam as its official religion, many Sufi orders declared themselves to be Shi’i. Approximately one hundred years before this however, the Ismaili imamate was being transferred to the village of Anjudan, near the Shi’i centres of Qumm and Kashan. This revival is commonly termed the "Anjudān period" and constituted a revival of Ismaili political stability, for the first time since the fall of Alamut.[7] By the 15th century, a mini renaissance begins to develop in the village Anjudan near Mahallat. The Imams involved in the Anjudan Renaissance were 32nd Imam Mustanṣir billāh II, 33rd Imam Abd as-Salām Shāh and 34th Gharīb Mirzā Abbas Shah / Mustanṣir billāh III. The Anjudan Renaissance ends by the 16th century with the Safavid dynasty gaining power in Iran and making Twelver Shia Islam the state religion. The Ismailis practiced taqiyyah/dissimulation as Twelver Shiites with the 36th Imam Murad Mirza being executed for political activity and the 45th Imam Shah Khalīlullāh III being murdered by a Twelver Shia mob in Yazd, Iran.

The Aga KhansEdit

The period of the Aga Khans begins in 1817, when 45th Imam Shah Khalīl Allāh was murdered while giving refuge to his followers by a Twelver mob led by local religious leaders. His wife took her 13-year-old son and new Imam, Hassan Ali Shah to the then Qajar Emperor Shah in Tehran to seek justice. Although there was no serious penalty brought against those involved; Fath-Ali Shah Qajar gave his daughter, the princess Sarv-i Jahan, in marriage to the new Imam, and awarded him the title Agha Khan (Lord Chief). The 46th Ismāʿīlī Imām, Aga Hassan ‘Alī Shah, fled Iran in the 1840s after being blamed for a failed coup against the Shah of the Qajar dynasty. Aga Hassan ‘Alī Shah settled in Mumbai in 1848. The largest part of the Ismāʿīlī community, Qasim-Shahi Nizari today accepts Prince Karim Aga Khan IV as their 49th Imām, who they claim is descended from Muḥammad through his daughter Fāṭimah az-Zahra and 'Ali, Muḥammad's cousin and son-in-law.

Contemporary Isma'iliEdit

Almost all Nizaris today accept Karim al-Husayni, known by his title "Aga Khan IV", as their Imām-i Zāmān "Imam/Leader of the Time", except for about 15,000 Muhammad-Shahi Nizaris in western Syria.[2] In Persian he is referred to Religiously as Khudawand (Lord of the Time), in Arabic as Mawlana (Master), or Hādhir Imām (Present Imam). Karim acceded his grandfather Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan III to the Imamate in 1957, aged just 20, and still an undergraduate at Harvard University. He was referred to as "the Imam of the Atomic age". The period following his accession can be characterized as one of rapid political and economic change. Planning of programs and institutions became increasingly difficult due to the rapid changes in newly emerging post colonial nations where many of his followers resided. Upon becoming Imam, Karim's immediate concern was the preparation of his followers, wherever they lived, for the changes that lay ahead. This rapidly evolving situation called for bold initiatives and new programs to reflect developing national aspirations, in the newly independent nations.[8]

In Africa, Asia and the Middle East, a major objective of the Community's social welfare and economic programs, until the mid-fifties, had been to create a broad base of businessmen, agriculturists, and professionals. The educational facilities of the community tended to emphasize secondary-level education. With the coming of independence, each nation's economic aspirations took on new dimensions, focusing on industrialization and modernization of agriculture. The community's educational priorities had to be reassessed in the context of new national goals, and new institutions had to be created to respond to the growing complexity of the development process.

In 1972, under the regime of the then President Idi Amin, Isma'ilis and other Asians were expelled from Uganda despite being citizens of the country and having lived there for generations. Karim undertook urgent steps to facilitate the resettlement of Isma'ilis displaced from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya and also from Burma. Owing to his personal efforts most found homes, not only in Asia, but also in Europe and North America. Most of the basic resettlement problems were overcome remarkably rapidly. This was due to the adaptability of the Isma'ilis themselves and in particular to their educational background and their linguistic abilities, as well as the efforts of the host countries and the moral and material support from Isma'ili community programs.

In view of the importance that Islām places on maintaining a balance between the spiritual well-being of the individual and the quality of his life, the Imam's guidance deals with both aspects of the life of his followers. The Aga Khan has encouraged Isma'ili Muslims, settled in the industrialized world, to contribute towards the progress of communities in the developing world through various development programs. Indeed, the Economist noted: that Isma'ili immigrant communities, integrated seamlessly as an immigrant community, and did better at attaining graduate and post graduate degrees, "far surpassing their native, Hindu, Sikh, fellow Muslims, and Chinese communities".[9]

Notable Isma'iliEdit

In recent years, Isma'ili Muslims, who have come to the US, Canada and Europe, mostly as refugees from Asia and Africa, have readily settled into the social, educational and economic fabric of urban and rural centers across the two continents. As in the developing world, the Isma'ili Muslim community's settlement in the industrial world has involved the establishment of community institutions characterized by an ethos of self-reliance, an emphasis on education, and a pervasive spirit of philanthropy. Spiritual allegiance to the Imam and adherence to the Nizari tariqa according to the guidance of the Imam of the time, have engendered in the Isma'ili community an ethos of self-reliance, unity, and a common identity notwithstanding centuries of being marginalized and persecuted by native and established societies.

Notable Isma'ili include:

  • Indian Internet pioneer Azim Premji, Forbes estimates his wealth at $14.5 Billion. He is famed for driving a Toyota Corolla, and flying economy, He has used his vast fortune to set up the philanthropic Azim Premji Foundation. Premji was ranked the wealthiest Indian until 2003, and remains India's wealthiest Muslim.
  • Nasir al-Din Nasir Hunzai, Dr. Allamah Nasir al-Din Nasir Hunzai (born 1917 – died 2017) is a Pakistani writer and poet, known for his work on Islam and the Burushaski language. The president of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan conferred upon Prof. Dr. Nasir al-Din Hunzai the award of Sitarah-i-Imtiyaz on 23 March 2001 in recognition of his outstanding service in the fields of literature and scholarship. He was awarded an honorary PhD degree by Senior University in Canada where he has been associated for a long time as a visiting professor.His books have been translated into English, French, Swedish, Persian, Turkish, and Gujarati.
  • Zul Vellani (1930 – Dec 31, 2010), Scriptwriter and commentator for over 700 Films Division of India's documentaries. Known as 'The Voice', he was the chosen narrator on All India Radio for Indira Gandhi's funeral procession. Also a film and theatre director, actor and playwright. His documentary film 'All Under Heaven By Force' won a National Award, while his film adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore's play 'Dak Ghar' won the Golden Plaque Award at the 2nd Tehran International Festival for Children and Young People. Wrote scripts for established film directors such as Mehboob and Shantaram as well as for K. Vasudev’s ‘At Five Past Five’. Acted in many short as well as feature films, notable among them being Conrad Rook’s ‘Siddhartha’. Author of 'The Burning Spear', a play on the Kenyan Mau-Mau independence movement commissioned by Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. Uncle, once removed, to Sir Ben Kingsley.
  • Muhammad al-Maghut (1934– April 3, 2006) (Arabic: محمد الماغوط) was a famous Syrian writer and poet.
  • Professor Azim Surani, CBE, Professor of Physiology and Reproduction at Cambridge University. The only British Muslim to be publicly honored for services to science.
  • British journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, ranked most influential British Muslim journalist by the Times.
  • Mustapha Ghaleb (1923–1979) a distinguished Syrian historian.
  • Yasmin Rattansi, Canada's first female Muslim MP.
  • Saddaruddin Hashwani, business tycoon and 4th richest person of Pakistan.
  • New York film producer Shahnee Zaver, an Indian female pioneer in film in the west.
  • Karim Khoja, CEO of Roshan Telecom, Afghanistan's largest privately owned company providing almost 10% of government revenue. Until 2001 Isma'ili suffered systematic persecution under the War-Lords and the Taliban.
  • Prince Saddrudin Aga Khan, the longest ever serving head of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), twice nominated for UN Secretary General.
  • Rahim Jaffer, first Muslim elected to Canada's Parliament.
  • Mobina Jaffer, first Muslim appointed as a Canadian Senator.
  • Lalak Jan Shaahed, Pakistan awarded him the Nishan-i-Haider, Pakistan’s highest military award, for extraordinary gallantry.
  • Firoz Rasul, Past President, CEO Ballard Power Systems in Vancouver. Current President of the Agakhan University.
  • Sada Cumber, Entrepreneur and First Representative (Title of Special Envoy) to the OIC from the United States [10]
  • Ali Velshi, a Canadian television journalist best known for his work on CNN. He is CNN's Chief Business Correspondent, and co-host of CNN's weekly business show.
  • Zain Verjee, State Department correspondent with CNN, based in Washington, D.C. Previously, she worked as a newsreader for The Situation Room and a co-anchor of CNN International's Your World Today.
  • Shehzad Roy (Urdu: شہزاد رائے), a pop singer and humanitarian from Karachi, Pakistan.
  • Saleem Jaffer, ex-Pakistani fast cricket bowler.
  • Nazir Sabir, first Pakistani to climb world's highest peak Mount Everest.
  • Ashraf Aman, first Pakistani to climb world's second highest peak K-2.
  • Ismail Gulgee (October 25, 1926 – December 14, 2007), Pride of Performance, Sitara-e-Imtiaz (twice), Hilal-e Imtiaz, was an award-winning, globally famous Pakistani artist.
  • Salim Merchant - Sulaiman Merchant Famous Bollywood musician

Silver JubileeEdit

From July 1982 to July 1983, to celebrate the present Aga Khan's Silver Jubilee, marking the 25th anniversary of his accession to the Imamate, many new social and economic development projects were launched. These range from the establishment of the US$300 million international Aga Khan University with its Faculty of Health Sciences and teaching hospital based in Karachi, the expansion of schools for girls and medical centers in the Hunza region, one of the remote parts of Northern Pakistan bordering on China and Afghanistan, to the establishment of the Aga Khan Rural Support Program in Gujarat, India, and the extension of existing urban hospitals and primary health care centers in Tanzania and Kenya. These initiatives form part of an international network of institutions involved in fields that range from education, health and rural development, to architecture and the promotion of private sector enterprise and together make up the Aga Khan Development Network.

It is this commitment to man's dignity and relief of humanity that inspires the Isma'ili Imamate's philanthropic institutions. Giving of one's competence, sharing one's time, material or intellectual ability with those among whom one lives, for the relief of hardship, pain or ignorance is a deeply ingrained tradition which shapes the social conscience of the Isma'ili Muslim community.

Golden JubileeEdit

During his Golden Jubilee from 2007–2008 marking 50 years of Imamate the Aga Khan commissioned a number of projects, renowned Pritzker Prize winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki was commissioned to design a new kind of community structure resembling an embassy in Canada, The "Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat" opened on 8 December 2008, the building will be composed of two large interconnected spaces an atrium and a courtyard. The atrium is an interior space to be used all year round. It is protected by a unique glass dome made of multi-faceted, angular planes assembled to create the effect of rock crystal the Aga Khan asked Maki to consider the qualities of "rock crystal" in his design, which during the Fatimid Caliphate was valued by the Imams. Within the glass dome is an inner layer of woven glass-fibre fabric which will appear to float and hover over the atrium. The Delegation building sits along Sussex drive near the Canadian parliament. Future Delegation buildings are planned for other capitals, beginning with Lisbon, Portugal.

In addition to primary and secondary schools, the Aga Khan Academies were set up to equip future leaders in the developing world with a leading standard education. The Aga Khan Museum, which opened in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in 2011, is the first museum dedicated to Islamic civilization in the west. Its mission is the "acquisition, preservation and display of artefacts – from various periods and geographies – relating to the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of Islamic communities". A series of new Isma'ili centre are underway, including Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Paris, France; Houston, Texas; Dushanbe and the Pamirs; Tajikistan.

Diamond jubileeEdit

From 11 July 2017 to 11 July 2018 was designated as the diamond jubilee year of the Aga Khan IV's 60th year of reign. The Aga Khan travelled throughout the diamond jubilee year to countries where his humanitarian institutions operate to launch new programs that help alleviate poverty and increase access to education, housing and childhood development. The Aga Khan's diamond jubilee opening ceremony was held in Dubai. On March 8, 2018, Queen Elizabeth hosted the Aga Khan at Windsor Castle at a dinner to mark his diamond jubilee. During this important time he visited his murids around the world. He has already visited the United States, UAE, India, Pakistan, and Kenya during his diamond jubilee Mulaqat's. During his visit to Houston, he announced The Ismaili Centre Houston. The Aga Khan resided in Canada in early May 2018. His diamond jubilee came to an end at Lisbon, where a big festival was held. The festival included a Mulaqat for all the Nizari Ismaili Muslims around the world. Many performances and events were held around July 11, 2018, which was the Imamat day of the Aga Khan. Following a historic agreement with the Republic of Portugal in 2015, His Highness the Aga Khan officially designated the premises located at Rua Marquês de Fronteira in Lisbon – the Henrique de Mendonça Palace – as the seat of the Ismaili Imamat on July 11, 2018, and declared that it be known as the “Diwan of the Ismaili Imamat".

The Isma'ili Imamate TimelineEdit

# Imam Imamate period (CE) Remarks
Isma'ili and Twelver Imams
1 'Alī ibn Abī Tālib 632–661
Hasan 624–670 son of Ali (viewed as a temporary Imam by the Nizari)
2 Husayn 661–680 son of Ali
3 'Alī Zayn al-Ābidīn 680–713 son of Husain
4 Muḥammad al-Bāqir 713–743 son of Ali Zayn, Offshoot of the Zaidiyyah
5 Ja'far aṣ-Ṣādiq 743–765 son of Muhammad
Isma'iliyah and Ithna' Ashariya split
6 Ismā'īl bin Jafar 702–755 Jafar's son and designated heir, accepted as Imam by the Ismailis
7 Muhammad ibn Ismā'īl 765–813 Ismail's son, died under the reign of Al-Amin, Offshoot of the Qaramita
First Period of Concealment or Dawr al Satr
8 ʿAbd Allāh Wafī Aḥmad 806–828 also known as ʿAbadullāh
9 Aḥmad Taqī Muḥammad 828–870 son of ʿAbd Allāh
10 Ḥusayn Radhī ad-dīn ʿAbd Allāh 870–881 son of Aḥmad
Fatimid Caliphate
11 Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah 881–934 openly announced himself as Imam, first Fatimid Caliph
12 Muḥammad al-Qā'im bi-'Amrillāh 934–946 second Fatimid Caliph
13 Abū Ṭāhir Ismā'il al-Manṣūr bi-llāh 946–953 third Fatimid Caliph
14 Maʿād al-Muʿizz li-Dīnillāh 953–975 fourth Fatimid Caliph
15 Abū Manṣūr Nizār al-ʿAzīz billāh 975–996 fifth Fatimid Caliph
16 Al-Ḥakīm bi-Amri 'l-llāh 996–1021 sixth Fatimid Caliph, disappeared 1021. The Druze believe in the divinity of Al-Hakim's disappearance, believed by them to be the occultation of the Mahdi.
17 ʿAlī az-Zāhir li-Iʿzāz Dīnillāh 1021–1036 son of al-Hakim, seventh Fatimid Caliph
18 Abū Tamīm Ma'add al-Mustanṣir bi-llāh 1036–1094 eighth Fatimid Caliph
Nizari Ismaili Imām in captivity
19 Nizar (Fatimid Imam) 1094–1095 son of al-Mustansir, died in prison, Offshoot of the Musta'li sect
Concealed Imāms of Alamūt: Second Period of Concealment or Dawr al Satr
20 Husayn Ali al-Hādī 1095–1132 escapes to Alamut Castle in Alamut with a Nizari Da'i Abul Hasan Saidi from Egypt
21 Muḥammad I al-Muhtadī 1132–1162
22 Ḥassan I al-Qāhir bi-Quwwatu'llāh 1161–1164
Sultans of Alamut based at Alamut Castle, governing the Nizari Ismaili State
23 Ḥassan II 1164–1166 Son of Imam al-Qahir and the first Nizari Ismaili Imam of Alamut to openly declare himself as such
24 Nūr ad-Dīn Muḥammad II 1166–1210 Son of Hassan II, openly declared himself the Imam
25 Jalāl ad-Dīn Ḥassan III 1210–1221 Son of Nur ad-Din Muhammad II
26 ‘Alā’ ad-Dīn Muḥammad III 1221–1255 Son of Jalal ad-Din Hasan
27 Rukn al-Din Khurshah 1255–1257 Son of Muhammad III and last Lord of Alamut; surrendered to Hulagu Khan in 1256; travelled to the court of Kublai Khan but was murdered on the journey back in 1257.
Third Period of Concealment
28 Shamsu-d-Dīn Muḥammad 1257–1310 based in Tabriz, Azerbaijan
29 Qāsim Shāh 1310–1368 based in Tabriz, Azerbaijan, Offshoot of the Muhammad-Shahi Nizari sect
30 Islām Shāh 1368–1424 based in Kahak
31 Muḥammad ibn Islām Shāh 1424–1464 based in Kahak
Anjudan Renaissance – The Nizari Ismaili Imams are based in the village of Anjudan near Qom and Kashan in Iran
32 ‘Ali Shah Qalandar Mustansir bi’llah II 1464–1480 based in Anjudan
33 Abd as-Salām Shāh 1480–1494 based in Anjudan
34 Gharīb Mirzā Abbas Shah / Mustanṣir billāh III 1494–1498 based in Anjudan
Anjudan Renaissance ends, The Twelver Shia rule of the Safavids, Fourth Period of Concealment
35 Abū Dharr ʿAlī Nūru-d-Dīn (Nur Shah) 1498–1509 based in Anjudan
36 Murād Mīrzā 1509–1574 based in Anjudan, offshoot of Satpanth
37 Dhu al-Fiqār ʿAlī Khalīlullāh I 1574–1634 based in Anjudan
38 Nūr ad-Dahr (Nūr ad-Dīn) ʿAlī 1634–1671 based in Anjudan
39 Khalīl Allāh II ʿAlī 1671–1680 based in Anjudan
40 Shāh Nizār II 1680–1722 based in Kahak
41 Sayyid ʿAlī 1722–1736 based in Kahak
42 Sayyid Hasan ‘Ali Beg 1736–1747 based in Kahak
43 Qāsim ʿAlī (Sayyid Jaʿfar) 1747–1756 based in Kahak
44 Sayyid Abu’l-Hasan ‘Ali (Bāqir Shāh) 1756–1792 based in Kahak
45 Shāh Khalīlullāh III 1792–1817 Murdered by a Twelver Shia mob in Yazd, Iran
The Aga Khans starting from 1817
46 Aga Khan I 1817–1881 The First Ismaili Imam given the title of Aga Khan by Fath-Ali Shah Qajar, he rebels against the Iranian Qajar Shah Mohammad Shah Qajar but is defeated and joins the British in Herat, Afghanistan and helps the British secure Sindh province. Dies in Mumbai, India and buried in Hasanabad.
47 Aga Khan II 1881–1885 son of Aga Khan I, born in Mahallat, based in Mumbai and buried in Najaf.
48 Aga Khan III 1885–1957 son of Aga Khan II, born in Karachi, died in Versoix near Geneva, Switzerland buried in the Mausoleum of Aga Khan, Aswan, Egypt.
49 Shāh Karīm-al-Ḥussaynī, His Highness Prince Karīm Āgā Khān IV 1957–present born in Geneva, Switzerland based in the Aiglemont estate at Gouvieux in the Picardie region of France.


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  3. ^ Daftary, Farhad (1998). A Short History of the Ismailis. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 36–50. ISBN 0-7486-0687-4.
  4. ^ a b c Daftary, Farhad (1998). "3". A Short History of the Ismailis. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-0687-4.
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  6. ^ Daftary, Farhad (1998). The Ismailis. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42974-9.
  7. ^ Virani, Shafique N. The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation (New York: Oxford University Press), 2007.
  8. ^ Daftary, Farhad (1998). A Short History of the Ismailis. Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 206–209. ISBN 0-7486-0687-4.
  9. ^ The Economist: Islam, America and Europe. London, UK: The Economist Newspaper Limited. June 22, 2006.
  10. ^ "Meet Sada Cumber". 5 March 2008. Retrieved 25 June 2017.

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