Posted: Sun Jun 21, 2009 1:59 am Post subject: Ismaili Brotherhood
I have read your posts with great interest and was happy to see your perspective on many topics. As an Ismaili of Persian decent I think you have some valid points when it comes to certain aspects of the jamat, especially about Khoja Ismailis.
It is important to note that Ismailis from Persia and Ismailis originally from India, known as Khojas, are both brothers under one spiritual leader. If anything else, this is the most important commonality the two of you share. That should bring a sense of pride, unity, and brotherhood.
Even though you are familiar with these aspects there is an understanding that both sides can benefit from. I would say that your Persian background brings a deep sense of Islamic themes. These are good because they are steeped in a belief that is in accordance with the laws of nature. Nowhere in your background does it seem that your forefathers taught you that Allah breaks the laws of nature. Many of the great Ismaili scientists in history were Persian and they have held a marvellous tradition.
At the same time Persians are not Arabs. The prophet Mohammad was born in Arabia, not Persia, so therefore many concepts were learnt from the Arabs. In this light you can say that there were two trains of thought: the Sunni perspective, and the Shia perspective. The entire basis of that is simply the acceptance of Ali to be the spiritual and temperal leader of the newly formed Muslim community. So in Shia Islam, the roles of Mohammad and Ali are central.
In respect of our Sunni brothers, their belief is in Allah and the Prophet. Mainstream Shias believe in Allah, the Prophet, and Ali as central figures of the faith. Manistream Shias take the matter further by saying that the Prophet declared that Ali will be the vicegerent on Earth, and such it was understood that his descendents would inherit the same position.
Persians followed suit in converting to Islam as did many people from different countries. Some Persians converted earlier, some later, but in all they retained a close tradition to what was taught in mainstream Islam. Afterwards, Persians had great ties with the Imamat both in Fatimid times as well as Alamut and post Alamut times.
It is an inevitable fact that Khojas were converted from Hinduism. That not something new. All peoples converted at some point in time, be it Arab, Persian, or Hindus. What needs to be understood is that apart from the faith in the personage of Imam, there is some observations, if you will, that are worth noting.
Khoja’s were originally Hindus. They spoke Gujarati, Kutchi, Hindustani, and so forth. Many Hindus who converted were from different parts of India, so some were known as Shamsis, Khojas, etc.
A man from Iran whose name was Noor el-din Al-Husseini came to India and taught the people about a new theology which completely removed any previous notion of monotheism. His focus was not to teach the Quran, nor to teach the hadiths, nor to say Salat. His focus was for the Hindus to simply abandon idol worship and to follow him.
He never forced the people into a theological debate, nor did he quote passages of texts. His first focus was to have the people love him. His second directive was to establish a practise of dasond. Dasond meant that a tenth of one’s net income belonged to him. He then coined this new found belief as the “True Path.”
So here are a community of Hindus who are steeped in their religious beliefs for hundreds of years and who also have a well established doctrine. How does one suppose that a Persian man, who racially looks totally different than Indians, can possibly convince a well knit community to abandon the very core of their beliefs?
Well from the perspective of history these Hindus were not willing to follow some strange man from a foreign country. But as time went on they realized that more they interacted with him the more convinced they were that he was not normal. There was something special about him.
He taught them that he was the focus of religion and that the doctrine which they had is not entirely wrong, but needs to be corrected. These Hindus believed that God existed as Vishnu – the supreme creator. Vishnu manifested himself on Earth so we, human beings, may know him. They possessed many old texts, perhaps some of the oldest known records of religious texts which dealt with creation and the manifestation of the Creator.
Pir Noordin discussed these issues with them and corrected many mistakes that they had in their understanding of creation. As we all know, the numerals we write with are called Hindu-Arabic numerals. Therefore they also had many questions to ask him regarding calculations of creation, and God as well. The Pir’s words were verbal, nothing was written down. Ginans were a later text that people wrote down from what they remembered the Pir saying, but the Pir himself did not sit and write poetry himself.
His teaching was that he was the focus of religion. That dasond, which means a tenth of one’s net income, belongs to him. That the concept of creation that they understood was not entirely correct and it needed to be brought under a new perspective which included the history of his ancestor, the Prophet Mohammad. He set about saying that he is the manifestation of the Noor on Earth, called Brahma. He went further into saying that his Noor was the very same in Mohammad, who happens to be his great grandfather. He then re-wrote the history of his ancestors from the time of creation till the time of Mohammad’s birth. In that ancestry you can see that no mainstream Hindu or Muslim can relate to it. It is completely different.
In this ancestry he is pointing out that his Noor was manifest as Moses, Jesus, and Mohammad at different points in time. Note that neither the Quran nor the Veds had any information about this lineage.
After introducing himself and declaring his very soul to be the incarnation of Mohammad, he pointed out that this Noor was manifest in the world in different capacities. That along with him, his Noor is manifest in the personage of the Imam. Thereby, his message to the Hindus was that when Moses was the Pir, Aaron was the Imam; when Jesus was the Pir, Simon Peter was the Imam; when Mohammad was the Pir, Ali was the Imam.
In other words the Pir first declared himself to be the incarnation of Brahma, the Creator; thereby introducing the duality of the Noor in two forms: Pir and Imam. His teaching revolved around the fundamental principle: that the Pir was Allah on Earth.
Therefore when Imam Sultan Mohammad Shah expressed in his will that he appoints his grandson to be the Pir and Imam for the Ismailis it makes more sense now.
These concepts were placed in a uniform text, or dua, for Khojas to recite 3 times a day. At the heart of this text you have the declaration that:
Ali is Allah
That a lineage of Piratan and Imamat existed before Islam
That Mohamad and Ali were the same person.
That the Noor of Allah was present before Ali
That Hazer Imam is Allah.
After all I’ve explained to you it is clearly obvious that Allah is not easy to understand. It may be more complicated that simply saying Allah exists. Surely he exists, but to know him is an entire subject in itself.
This is why Khojas are fiercely holding on to the words of the Pir because their perspective is that the Pir is the incarnation of Mohammad, whereas other dais and missionaries who went to convert many other Ismailis were ordinary human beings. That is the same as saying that the Prophet Mohammad was different than Nasir Khusraw or Qadi Numan.
Now, it is not important that an Ismaili from Persia should be forced to learn the Ginans, or that a Khojo should be forced to learn Qasidas, or for that matter both should be forced to learn the Quran. What is important is to have respect and follow the farmans of the Imam of the time.
It is difficult to debate with Khojas because they themselves don’t know their own history well. They lost touch with it ever since they changed the dua. Changing that dua meant a complete turn from believing that Imam is God to believing that he is not.
As an Ismaili from Persia, you come at a time when Khojas have lost their language of origin. They lost their original dua, their principles, and their knowledge. These are all matters of history and are purely based on faith.
One can say the Imam is God or someone can say that he is not God, there lies a matter of faith. Just as your forfathers accepted the Prophet Mohammad so too did the Khojas except Pir Noordin as that very prophet. One can debate that it is Islamic or non Islamic, but ultimately who can judge but the individual himself? From the Ismaili point of view it is entirely Islamic. Difference of opinion is Islamic and that is what makes the faith great.
Rember from now on that for all Ismailis, regardless if you are Persian, Indian, or Tajik, or Afghan, there is a lineage of fifty Pirs from the time of Mohammad till the Karim Al-Husseini which we all should hold as our own.
In summary, whether an Ismaili is from Persia or an Ismaili is from India they both have a relationship with Hazer Imam. That relationship may consider him a God, a man, a leader, a guide, or a messenger. Whatever his status the inevitable fact is that he exists and that’s all that matters.
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