History of Titles


Title in Arabic is laqab (pl. Alqa'b). A title is a name of distinction; an appellation indicating ones rank.

Since the advent of Islam great Muslims - lecturers, warriors, poets, speakers etc. - have been given titles either by the Holy Prophet or by the Caliph or public.

Many Prophets of Allah have titles. For example: Hazrat Issa's title is Ruhullah and Hazrat Moosa's Kaleemullah. Our Holy Prophet Mohammed has many titles such as Rasoolullah, Rasa'lat Ma'ab, Nabiyil Aakhiru Zama'n, Al-Ameen. Mowla Ali has many titles such as Assadullah, Haider, Amirul Momineen, Sa'hibe'Zulfiqaar.

The second Caliph of Islam Hazrat Omar was given the title of Al-Farooq by his admirers during his caliphate. The soldiers of Khalid bin Valid named him Saifullah. A victorious soldier was hailed with the title of Gha'zi.


Most of our Holy Imams used to bestow titles upon outstanding mureeds and servants for their service and work, before and during the Fatimid Caliphate and after it. Ghazi Jawhar was given the title of Qaid. Hassan bin Sabbah's title was Hujjah.

Some of the titles given by our Holy Imams during the post-Alamut period were:






During the post-Alamut period Dargahis and Rahis were the most active officers of the Dargah (court) of the Holy Imam up to the end of the nineteenth century of the Christian Era.

A Dargahi was a minister or an assistant to the Holy Imam, stationed near the Darkhana, the residence of the Holy Imam. Later, Mowlana Imam Abd Salaam created the title of Varas and bestowed upon the highest ranking Dargahis.

Among the famous Dargahis of the recent past were Sayyid Mushtaq, during the time of Mowlana Imam Aga Shah Khalilullah; Sayyid Hassan Pir during the time of Mowlana Aga Shah Khalilullah and Mowlana Aga Hassanali Shah; Varas Ismail Gangji during the time of Mowlana Aga Hassanali Shah and Mowlana Aga Ali Shah; Rahi Kameria Haji Nazerali who was at first a Pragana Kameria then rose to the position of a Rahi. Later, he was appointed as a Dargahi (without any title of Varas) and remained as such till he died in 1916. He spent his whole life in the service of three Holy Imams,

Mowlana Imam Aga Shah Hassanali, Mowlana Imam Aga Ali Shah and Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah. Haji Kameria, as he was popularly known, was nearing his old age when Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah ascended the throne of lmamat at less-than-eight-year of age, yet he respected and considered his child-Imam as his Lord. Varas Rahim Basaria (a.1927) and Missionary Pir Subzali Ramzanali (a.1938) were also famous Dargahis of Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah.


It means a traveller in Persian language. The word Rahi has become Rai by use in India. A Rahi was a roving minister. He was also a preacher-cum-collector. He used to travel from place to place, in his allotted area or province, preaching and collecting karsazi (sarkar sahibi) and returned to the Darkhana to report once or twice a year.

The Rahis used to travel on foot most of the time through dangerous jungles infested with wild animals, poisonous insects and reptiles and of course with robbers'. They had to face extreme climates of the desert and of the snow laden mountains, freezing air and blizzards. But they served their Imam-e-Zaman with devotion and unbelievable courage. (See the Ginan "Shah na khatt aaya veera Jumpoo Deepp ma verses 6-10). This verse of this Ginan reveals that even the Dargahis used to travel on order of the Holy Imam.

Among the famous Rahis of recent time there were Rahi Booran -in the Punjab, during the Imamat of Mowlana Imam Aga Hassanali Shah; Rahi Haji Nazerali in Kathiawar during the Imamat of Mowlana Imam Aga Hassanali Shah, Mowlana Imam Aga Ali Shah; Rahi Ram Kawr in N.W. F. province and Afghanistan during the Imamat of Mowlana Imam Aga Ali Shah and Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah.

The following interesting story will amaze the reader about the presence of mind and courage of Rahi Ram Kawr. He was returning from his last visit to Afghanistan in 1916 when he was about eighty years old. He had collected the karsazi to be taken to the Darkhana in Bombay. It was the war time; travelling was hazardous and dangerous.

He started from Kabul on foot and somehow crossed the frontier through the Khyber Pass near Landi Khana. The only luggage he had was a sack of cloth in which he kept his clothes and food and in the middle of that sack hidden in the clothes was a bundle of the karsazi. Somehow a robber came to know that the old man had some money and ornaments. He followed him from the frontier. At Peshawar they boarded a train which terminated on the west bark of the river Attock. All the ongoing passengers must cross the river by boat to board another train on the other side. The bridge was under construction.

The sun was setting. The Pathan robber pretended to be a friend of the old man. He hired a boat and offered the old man to join him. But the old man said he would pay his half share. It was a small boat and there were only two passengers, the robber and the Rahi. When the boat arrived in the middle of the river the robber drew a large knife and stood up and ordered the Rahi to give him the bundle of ornaments he was carrying in 'the sack, or he would be killed and thrown in. The Rahi Ram Kawr smiled and showed no panic. He remembered the Lord and started opening the sack. First all he removed the foodstuff and then some clothes. And then all of a sudden he picked up the bundle an threw it in the heavy current of the water saying "Ya Ali tera maal" (Ya Ali take your property).

The robber and the boatman were stunned. The Rahi explained to them that the bundle contained something of his sweetheart who had instructed him not to show it to anyone. He further explained that if he had t him (the robber) about that in advance he would have disbelieved and definitely taken it by force; and that he would have broken his vow. The drama was over. The robber became disappointed. He withdrew his knife but gave the Rahi a few slaps and sat down.

After 24 hours' train journey from Attock to Amritsar my birth place and home town) Rahi Ram Kawr arrived at our home utterly shaken. When he met my grandfather Kameria Aziz Ali (they were old friends) he threw his head on the shoulder of my grandfather and cried like a child. He said that no one would believe that story. All would think that he had stolen the karsazi. Alas it had happened at the time when he was nearing his grave he said. My grandfather gave him consolation that Mowla knew every thing therefore he should not be worried.

The Rahi fell sick. He was confined to bed for more than a month at our home. At last after two months of his arrival he proceeded to Bombay to report to the Holy Imam. My grandfather accompanied him.

Immediately after arriving in Bombay he went to see Kameria Haji to arrange for an appointment with the Holy Imam. As soon as Rahi Ram Kawr entered into the room where Mowla was waiting to receive him. He started trembling and after a few steps he fell down. Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah lifted him up and said sweetly that the karsazi he had earlier dropped into the Attock was well received so he should not worry. The Rahi was astonished because no one else except Kameria Aziz Ali knew the story and - they both were travelling together.

The Holy Imam then asked the Rahi to narrate the incident which he did in detail. Mowla assured him that He protected and saved him. The Holy Imam declared him as a very brave man, true honest servant and gave him His blessings. After a few months the Rahi died.

As the postal and banking services after the World War-I became more facilitative the services of the collectors of karsazi were no longer required except in a few remote places. Thus the appointment of active Rahis and the Pragna Kamerias was gradually reduced. But the title of Rahi continued to be bestowed upon the elected servants of the Holy Imams


It is not known when and who created the title of Darwaish but it is known that some Ismaili mureeds were given the title of Darwaish by Mowlana Imam Aga Abul Hassan Shah. Our Pir Shams was a Darwaish. He was a Qalandar, the highest Order of the Darwaish. There is only one Qalandar in the world at a time.

A title in those days was not a mere "show" but carried a responsibility. The title of Darwaish (dervish) was bestowed upon selected persons who used to live a clean and austere life free from any worldly temptation. They served the Jamat through preaching teaching and living as an example

The Persian word Darwaish became daraish and subsequently as Daras or Dharas among the Indian Ismailis


A person who is always ready to sacrifice even his life for the sake of his beloved Imam is known as fida'i..

There were Fida'is during the Imamat of Mowlana lmam Hadi. As mentioned above a title in the olden days was actually an assignment of a responsibility. The Fida'is were the most courageous of our Jamat. Their sacrifices and services were extra-ordinary.


In the past a title was assigned as a special service or responsibility. As the time passed many changes had taken place in our social and religious affairs, particularly after the establishment of our Councils.

Now, the titles are, mostly, given to the retired officers or leaders, in recognition of their services or, sometime, to certain officers for the special services they had rendered earlier. Thus, they are honoured in the Jamat.

During His 72 years of glorious Imamat Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah bestowed thousands of Titles of Honour upon the officers and the leaders of Jamat for their services to the Jamat and the Holy House of Imam. The Holy Imam gave the following titles:








It means a vazier or a special representative. This is an old title. As stated above this title was created by Mowlana Imam Abd Salaam. A Varas was also called a Dargahi.

In India it was first time bestowed upon Ismail Gangji of Junagadh by Mowlana Imam Aga Hassanali Shah. He was Imam's vazier for the whole of Kathiawar including Gujrat. Later, Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah had appointed Varas Amir Chand of Amritsar for the Punjab and the Frontier Province, Varas Moledina Meghji of Mundra for Cutchh and Varas Basaria for Sindh. All these Vaziers had the administrative and executive powers in their area of jurisdiction. There were no Councils.

After the establishment of the Ismailia Councils in 1905 in India and Africa the power of the Vaziers were transferred to the Councils though no change came in their dignity and respect. Since then the title of Varas became a Title of Honour in recognition of the recipient's past service.


It is Aitma'di, means a trustworthy, a treasurer who would look after the financial affairs of the Holy Imam as far as the Jamat is concerned. He is a finance minister.


As stated above a Rahi was a travelling minister of the rank of an ambassador in the past. He was a collector of the karsazi and appointed his own assistants known as the Pragana Kamerias. He was also a preacher.


It is pronounced Aa-li-ja-h. It means a highest placed leader in the Jamat or an assembly. A Muslim King is addressed as Alijah. This title was created by Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah.


This title of Huzur Mukhi is equivalent to the position of an officer attached to the Huzur Staff of the Imam in the Court, the Dargah


A Huzur Kameria is an assistant accountant in the Huzur Staff. Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah had created this title and bestowed upon an Amaldari, Mr. Hussain Moosa, in Bombay in 1940 for the first time.


At the time of the Golden Jubilee and the Diamond Jubilee Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah had created the titles of Count and Diwan in Africa.


This title was created in the year of the Golden Jubilee, 1957, in Africa. It was reserved for Africa only. Nowhere else this title has been bestowed upon any Ismaili.

A Count means a companion, a nobleman equal in rank of an English earl.

The first two Counts were Varas Ghulamhussain Mohammed Nasser Jindani and Varas Abdulla Shariff Kanji both of Zanzibar. At that time the Holy Imam declared that the title of Count would be hereditary but after a few years this privilege was withdrawn. It is no more a hereditary title.

During the 25 years of His Imamat Mowlana Hazrat Imam Shah Karim has given this title once. He bestowed it upon Varas Madatali Alibhai Shariff of Nairobi.


Diwan means the Prime Minister.

Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah bestowed this highest title upon Count G. M. N. Jindani in the year of the Diamond Jubilee, 1946, in Africa. Earlier in the same year the Holy Imam made the Chief Vazier Mohammed Ibrahim Mohammed Rawji of Bombay, Diwan in India. It was declared that there would be only one Diwan in India and only one in Africa.

After the death of Diwan M. I. M. Rawji in 1949 many candidates from our leaders in India approached Holy Imam but no one has ever since been appointed as the Diwan.

Diwan G.M.N. Jindani now lives in Mombasa, Kenya.


According to a circular issued by the Ismailia Supreme Council for Africa, the Order of Rank in these titles is as follows:








The titles are the Titles of Honour in recognition and appreciation of the past service of the titleholders. By no means whatsoever a title is connected with any official duty or function; yet it carries a moral duty of a titleholder to behave in a manner so that the respect and dignity, that our Holy Imams have attached to these titles, are upheld. Of course the titles have no religious or spiritual significance at all.

The titleholders are the elders of the Jamat who have rendered service to the House of the Holy Imam and the Jamat they, therefore, must be respected. Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah had sent the following Taliqah on the 5th of February, 1930:

"I ask you do nothing to reduce honour of my titleholders in Africa."


Some of the titleholders receive a jubbah and a pagdi individually.

During the Fatimid Caliphate the Caliph-Imam used to bestow upon prominent and outstanding servants, titles and khilat . A khilat consisted of a head-dress (a cap -- white or red or green . or black according to the rank with a sash or a piece of plain coloured cloth wound round it) and a robe or..a silk embroidered woollen shawl large enough to make a robe or a jubbah out of it.

In the post-Alamut period our Holy Imams continued to bestow titles as well as gave jubbahs and dastaar a turban of Badakhshani style. A turban in India is called a pagdi. Later, the pagdi developed into a Yemeni style pagdi which was made from woollen or silk cloth, lightly embroidered. With use, and time, the pagdi took the present shape, popularly known as Khoja Pagdi. It is prepared solely from a special cloth woven with hair-thin gold wires.

Elders of the Bohora community also wear this Khoja pagdi though in a slightly different shape.

In India Mowlana Imam Aga Shah Hassanali used to in give Iranian shawls to selected mureeds and servants.

Mowlana Imam Aga Ali Shah continued the practice of giving away shawls and pagdis. he encouraged the Ismaili leaders to wear long coats and pagdis as a way of life.

From its simple and modest style the jubbah has emerged to a sophisticated costly robe of the modern time. It is, now, prepared from a special cloth, crimson in colour, and decorated with gold embroidery and velvet lining.

Plain and modest jubbahs were also given by our Holy

Imams in the past. The writer himself had received a white silk jubbah and a pagdi from Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohammed Shah on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee in Bombay in 1946.

Traditionally, every titleholder receives a jubbah from Alijah up to the Diwan. Actually he receives the cloth and gets it made into a jubbah by a specialist. A titleholder is duty-bound to wear his jubbah and pagdi on all special occasions in the Jamat, particularly when presents himself in the Huzur of the Holy Imam.

There is no special design, or mark, of a jubbah to show the rank of its wearer -- whether Alijah or Varas. When a titleholder is promoted to a higher title he wears the same jubbah.

No one can wear a jubbah if he is not given one, by the Holy Imam, even if he is a Mukhi or a Kameria or an Amaldari. It is a disrespect to the Holy Imam if a person wears a jubbah, or a medal or any such thing, which he has not received himself. It is the sole prerogative of the Holy imam to bestow titles or give jubbahs or any thing He pleases.

JUBBAH property of the Holy Imam,

A jubbah, given to any titleholder by the Holy Imam, is actually the property of the Imam. After the death of a recipient of a jubbah the family should return it to the Mukhi of their Jamat. The Mukhi would mention it's receipt in the regular report to the Huzur, No one in the family of the deceased should wear that jubbah even if there is a titleholder among them. The jubbah must be returned. That is the directive given by Mowlana Imam Aga Sultan Mohamed Shah. The pagdi and the medals, if any, can be kept in the family. If the deceased had earlier received a pagdi from the holy Imam then the pagdi also be returned to the Mukhi.

A jubbah cannot be auctioned in Nadi or elsewhere. Any titleholder who has not yet been given a jubbah cannot buy one or make one for himself. He must wait to get one from the Holy Imam.

While in this uniform of Honour --- a jubbah and a pagdi --- a person must not drink. or smoke or do any act of insult to the honour given by the Holy Imam.

These are the traditions of our Jamat. We must follow our traditions faithfully.

prepared by:
Missionary Abualy A. Aziz.
1 March 1983.
(Golden Jubilee Day in Africa)