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Compiled by : Al-Waez Jehangir A. Merchant

It is common knowledge that the Ismailis have been a persecuted sect through centuries, and to escape, therefore, the harassment of the orthodox Muslims, they not only sought refuge behind Taqia1 but were extremely guarded in everything that was connected with their doctrine and even history.

The genuine Ismaili works which formed part of the huge libraries of the Fatimid rulers of Africa, Egypt, and later, Almut were destroyed by the Tartars and other enemies of the sect. Ata Malek Juwaini, who was secretary to Halaku, made use of some of the Ismaili books in writing the "Tarikhe-Jehan-Gushayi" but not being a friend of the Ismailis, he could not be expected to have any interest in their preservation.

Very many European historians while writing books on Ismailism have involuntarily been influenced by the anti-Ismaili Arabic works they have consulted and at times even have not been without personal prejudice.

"Their ideas about Ismailism " says Prof. W. Ivanow, "are all derived from writing of the enemies of the Sect, chiefly of orthodox Muhammadan historians and theologians. These, quite naturally, used to tell their readers only that they could find derogatory and objectionable about the hated heretics. Thus, it became almost a generally accepted point of view that Ismailism was something like 'a swindle on a grand scale', a malicious intrigue for the subversion of the Baghdad Caliphate and of Islamism in general. These ideas, first introduced by Hammer - Purgstall, were later on especially cultivated by the well-known Dutch scholars, Dozy and de Goeje. We scarcely need pay attention to them now, when genuine Ismailite works are become known. No religion, especially one so enduring and strong -spirited as Ismailism, can be started by rascality. We need not, in the least suspect the sincerity and remarkable devotion either of the founders, or of the followers of a sect which succeeded in with-standing a thousands years of persecution." 2

Again, quite a large number of historians who have expressed an opinion on the Fatimis' descent, have voiced their views with so many hesitating statements that they leave the reader totally confused concerning the whole question.

From this it might appear that it is impossible to arrive at a correct conclusion as to the Fatimis' descent. But this is not so. With the wealth of literature presently available on Ismailism it is possible to discuss and examine all the arguments put forward concerning the genealogy of the Fatimi Imams, and to sift the works of the Moslem chroniclers and European Scholars for the truth underlying it.

For the purpose of this article it will be convenient to divide Ismaili history into four different periods, the facts concerning which have been either confused or misrepresented by orthodox historians.

1. The succession of Imam Ismail to the Imamat after Imam Jafar al-Sadiq
2. The genealogical claim of Imam Mohamed Mehdi the first Fatimi Caliph if Africa
3. The succession of Imam Nizar to the Imamat after Imam al Mustansir
4. The Nizari Imams in Alamut, Persia and India


The earliest history of Ismailism is the same as that of Twelve-Imam hi'ism because up to the fifth Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq, there is essentially one body of Shi'ites.

Hazrat Ali, the first revealed Imam, was succeeded to the Spiritual Heritage by his son Imam Hussein, who on the desert of Kerbala died a martyr's death kindling into flame the dying embers of Islamic spirit in the people. Imam Hussein was succeeded by Imam Zainul-Abedin , from whom, the Spiritual Leadership devolved upon Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq.

Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq's successor was Ismail, the eldest son, whom his father had secretly sent away from Arabia in his lifetime so that his enemies who were attempting to wipe out the line of Imamat may not succeed in their object.

"Many years before the death of Ja'far al-Sadiq in A. H. 148, when the command of God came to him, Ja'far had designated his son Ismail to be his successor" 3

"Thus Ismail became the gate to God, His praying niche, the Abode of His Light and the link (sabab) between Him and His creations, The Lieutenant of God on earth. " 4

On another occasion in the presence of Isma'il, Imam Ja'far-al Sadiq is reported to have said: "He is the Imam after me, and what you learn from him is just the same as if you have learnt it from myself. " 5

The facts about the succession of Imam Ismail have not only been borne out by even orthodox historians, but another Arabic publication, al-Falakud-dawwar written by Sheikh Abdullah bin al-Murtaza adds incontrovertible support to it.

As the Imamat could only belong to the one chosen son, by right of Nass 6 or Divine Ordination a section of Imam Jafa'ar al-Sadiq's followers swore allegiance to Imam Ismail who became known as Ismailis but another group accepted Musa Kazim as their Imam and later came to be known as Ithna Ashariya.

Imam Ismail's succession to the throne of Imammat is further strengthened by the fact that he was alive at the time of his father's death and that he died many years later 7 has been substantiated by various references by his contemporaries and historians of a later period.

It is said that Imam Ismail after leaving Medina in secrecy was next seen in Basra where he suddenly came into prominence by his extra ordinary powers in curing the sick and the ailing. From Basra he traveled further to Syria and settled down there, but not in complete security. For, as soon as Khalif Mansur, who was then ruling over Arabia came to know of Imam Ismail's existence, he wrote to the Governor of Damascus to send Ismail in custody to his court. But the Governor had not only a high regard for Imam Ismail but had become his follower. In order, therefore, to save his Spiritual Master, he requested the Imam to leave Syria for a few days. When the Imam was safely away, he made an ostensible search for him and wrote to the Khalifa saying that the whereabouts of Ismail could not be found.

That Imam Ismail's succession to Imammat and his being alive at the time of his father's death has been substantiated by various references; let us now move to the second of the four periods mentioned earlier.


The causes that gave rise to suspicion with regard to the genuineness of the Fatimis' descent from Hazarat Ali and daughter of the Prophet are many. It is noteworthy that there were no disputes as to this matter for a whole century after the Fatimi Caliphate was established in North Africa. This doubting originated in Baghdad in the year 1011 A.D. when a special declaration was made and a curious document signed. At that time, the Fatimi Caliph reigning in Egypt was Imam Hakim Biamr Allah (996 - 1020), while the Abbasid Caliph in Baghdad was Kadir Billah (991-1031). The reasons for the Abbasid denouncement of the Fatimis' origin according to most authorities on this subject, can be summed up as follows: -

1. The perpetual hatred of the Abbasids towards the descendants of Ali and Fatima. The reason for this was that the Abbasids had then begun to lay strong emphasis on their descent from the family of the Prophet, but as the Alids could in this respect claim a superior position through Fatima and Ali, they (the Abbasids) could not supersede them, in spite of being recognised as rulers by the Sunnis, and were therefore jealous and even afraid that for this reason, since they were bereft of temporal power, they might be overthrown.

2. Their embitterment because the Fatimis had deprived them of all their western dominions.

3. Their jealousy because Cairo, the seat of the Fatimis Caliphate, had superseded Baghdad as a center for the arts, sciences and literature of the Mohammedan world. From the time of the founding of Cairo in 969 A.D., until the first denouncement was made in Baghdad in 1011, the Fatimis had proved themselves the most powerful and efficient rulers, both temporally and spiritually in Islam. In 1005 the Caliph Hakem Biamr Allah had founded the famous "House of Sciences" in Cairo, which was attracting the intellectuals of the whole world. The University of Azhar in Cairo, founded in 970 A.D. was already famous for its free tuition "of the then known sciences in Islam by the ablest professors," and of its granting of free lodging to students of all nations.

4. Their fear that if this state of affairs continued, the little that was left to the Abbasids would also vanish with the whole of Islam recognizing the Fatimi Caliphate.

5. In these circumstances a denouncement of the genuineness of the noble descent would stand a good chance of undermining the prestige of the Fatimis; on the other hand, even if it failed in its effect, the state of the Abbasids would be in no way affected.

The Abbasids at this time had not only lost their political power, prestige, and spiritual authority, both inside and outside Baghdad, but also had become literally puppets in the hands of the Buweihi emirs. Having thus reached "the lowest depth of degradation," they could obviously fear of nothing worse that could happen to them.

6. A special record was kept in Baghdad of all the genealogies of the noted families in Islam, from which any mention of the Fatimis' descent could easily be erased and something else substituted in its place, which would make it impossible for the Fatimis, even if they desired to prove their noble descent to the satisfaction of the Sunnis, who recognised officially only the records in Baghdad.

It would be quite easy to take such a measure because not only would the Buweihis be pleased to support a step that might, without any trouble, lead to the lessening of the prestige and therefore the power of the Fatimis, but also there would be no difficulty in influencing the government officials to uphold the measure.

7. Given a good advertisement and the full approval of the Abbasid Caliph, a formal denunciation of the Fatimis' illustrious genealogy would obviously have only two results from the Sunni point of view: either it would be taken up by the Sunni writers and all the other who had a grudge against the Fatimis, and be used as an instrument of ridicule, in which case no more Sunni princes would recognise the suzerainty of the Fatimis, and thus their growing power would be checked; or there would be war between Cairo and Baghdad. In both instances the Abbasid Caliphate would gain rather than lose. The war of course would be waged between the Fatimis and Buweihis and while the two would thus be engaged, the Abbasid Caliphate would have an opportunity of making a bid for independence.

8. There were only three ways in which the Fatimis could retaliate; By sending an army against Baghdad, by proving beyond doubt that they were descended from Ali and Fatima, by regarding the accusation as a jest and ignoring the whole matter. But with the destruction of the Baghdad records, none of these means could serve to prevent their enemies using forever this weapon against them, to the ultimate benefit of the Abbasids. From the above it is apparent that the Abbasids had much benefit and assistance in denouncing the Fatimis in the year 1011 A.D. as non-Alids.

We shall now consult the views of historians regarding this subject.


1. "Suspicion of the dynasty only appears at a comparatively late period in literature; it is obvious also that any means must have seemed legitimate to the Abbasids to overthrow their dangerous and superior rivals." 8

2. "When the family first became of political importance their Alid descent was not disputed at Baghdad. When their success became a menace to the Caliphs of Baghdad, genealogists were employed to demonstrate the falsity of the claim, and a considerable literature, both official and unofficial, rose in consequence," 9

3. "The Abbasid Caliphs took great pains to discredit the genealogy of the Caliphs of Egypt. The descendants of Abbas, being unable to repel these redoubtable rivals who defied them even in their capital, endeavored at least to make them lose, before the eyes of the Moslem people, this inestimable advantage which was giving them the quality of descendants of the Prophet … Those of the Alids who signed the document or condemned without reserve the assertions of the Fatimis, did so under the influence and under the poniard of the Abbasids". 10

4. "The doubts which have been raised regarding the origin of this family are due to nothing but the state-craft and intrigues of the Abbasids, who satisfied in this way their sterile rage against a rival power which had taken away from them half of their states." 11

5. "The genealogy of the Mahdi Obeydallah which is given by the enemies of the Fatimi Caliphs has been forged by them in all manners; it is certain that the Abbasid Caliphs did not hesitate to use this procedure to disqualify their competitors, and to abuse them, even when having at hand all the proof for the authenticity of the Alid descent of the Mahdi Obeydallah." 12

6. "This year (A.D. 1011) the Abbasid Caliph assembled the leading Alids and several prominent canonists at Baghdad, and prepared a manifesto against the Alid claims of the Fatimi Caliphs. The motives and Pressure brought to bear are obvious." 13

As an example of the ruthlessness of the Abbasids, even when they were at the height of their power, the following might be quoted from three works, which have been written recently.

1. "Malik ibn Anas was one of a group of Alids who had given their oath of allegiance to Mansur (second Abbasid Caliph). They had done this under compulsion, and afterwards, in A.D. 762 they wished to withdraw it. Malik ibn Anas, who was the founder of the earliest school of Mohammedan law, ventured to make the decision that an oath given under compulsion was not binding, and for so doing, in spite of whatever authority he could cite from the Traditions, he was publicly flogged. The experience taught him the lesson that even a chief justice must recognise existing political authority…" * 14

2. "The compilation of the canonical collections dates from the time when the Abbasids were firmly in the saddle, and by this time systematic efforts had been made to extirpate the memory of the predecessors of the reigning house. We know that their names were even removed from public monuments." 15

3. "In the Abbasid court obedience was made all the more impressive by a strong characteristic, the presence of the sinister figure of the executioner by the side of the throne, with a strip of leather to catch the blood of the victim. Summary executions became characteristic of the administrative methods of the Abbasids, and many a man summoned in haste to the Palace took the precaution of carrying his shroud with him." 16

The above quotations which have been taken at random from works representative of every shade of thought on this subject, nevertheless all show as interesting agreement of opinion as to the character and probable actions of the Abbasids. From the writings of these scholars it is obvious.

1. The Abbasids had no scruples as to what methods they employed against anyone who menaced their prestige as the "Supreme Head" of Islam.
2. They showed no hesitation even with regard to the alteration of existing laws when such suited their purpose.
3. Their first denunciation against the Alid claims of the Fatimis was made in Baghdad in the year 1011 A.D., and not when that dynasty came into power in 910 A.D.

Now we might quote two short passages from Makrisi's study on Egypt and Ibn Hammad's history of the Fatimis, showing that the Fatimis declared that they were descended from the Prophet from the very first year of their rule. They are the actual words that the muezzins added to their daily calls to prayer in all the towns under the Fatimis, from the year 910 A.D. The first is from Makrisi and refers to the time of Caliph Moezz:

"O God, spread Your benedictions on the Imams, the ancestors of the Commander of the Faithful Moezz Lidin Allah." 17

Ibn Hammad, writing of the time of Obeydallah adds the following words: -

"Honour to thee, to thy pious ancestors, and to thy glorious descendants. This is our perpetual prayer to the day of the last judgment." 18

Ibn Hammad states that this formula became the standard call of the Muezzins under the Fatimis for as long as they held authority over a Moslem country.

Besides these, it might be said that unless the Fatimis were genuine direct descendants of Mohammed Ibn Ismail, the Ismailis proper would never have remained a united community from 765 A.D. to 910 A.D., and moreover would not have upheld the Fatimis as their Imams, having in view the extreme conservatism of their doctrines and there always being Ismailis after the year 765 A.D.

And lastly, the works of the Sunni chroniclers also show that the genuineness of the Fatimis was not doubted.

1. The famous scholar, Shahrastani, a native of Khorasan, who wrote a work in 1127 A.D. called Kitab el-Milal wan-Nihal, "Book of The Religions and sects." Collected in it all the reliable information that he could find on the Magians, Dualists, and Jews, but said nothing about the Fatimis not being genuine, or the Ismailis having had "heretical" doctrines, although during his three years' stay in Baghdad he had doubtless been initiated into the denouncements against the Fatimis.19

2. El-Bekri, the learned traveler who was a pious Sunni, wrote a detailed account in 1068 A.D. of his journey from Egypt to the Atlantic, describing in it the histories of every reputed town he visited, and although he referred to the Fatimi many times, he said nothing about them not being Alids. 20

3. Ibn Hammad was a pious Sunni and a member of the royal family of Bougie, who was greatly respected for his vast erudition by the ulemas of Constantine. His detailed history of the Fatimi Caliphs is well known, but in it we do not find any denouncement of the Alid claims of the Fatimis. 21

4. Makrisi, a Sunni judge in Egypt, after describing the rumors that originated in Baghdad against the claims of the Fatimis, writes: -

" All this has come from the artifice of feeble princes of the Abbasid dynasty, who did not know how to rid themselves of the Fatimis. The armies of the Abbasids could not cope with them and therefore these, in order to inspire the people with aversion for their rivals, spread calumnies against their origin." 22

Adding to the list of above Sunni chroniclers the names of famous Ibn Khaldun and Abul Feda, Prince P.H. Mamour says:-

" These learned men were all conscientious and pious Sunnis and they were not under the influence of either the Abbasids or the Fatimis, so that their upholding of the Alid claims of the Fatimis points out the fact that the genuineness of the dynasty was never doubted by any learned person in Islam, who was at the same time unbiased and free from outside influence, despite all the denouncements in Baghdad. And indeed, when the details of these denouncements are examined carefully and brought together then judged with discernment, the truth is unmistakable:


There being no dispute about the line of succession from Imam Mahdi to Imam al-Mustansir, we now turn to the question of Imam Nizar's succession to the throne of Imammat.


As had happened once before in the time of Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq when the claims of the eldest son, Ismail were contested by a younger son, Musa Kazim, so again, the rights and claims of Nizar, the eldest son of al-Mustansir, were contested by Muste-ali the youngest brother of Nizar.

Imam Shah Nizar was the rightly appointed successor of Imam al-Mustansir can be seen from the following opinions of some eminent scholars: -

1. "Every student of Ismailism knows the historical accounts of that fateful night when the aged al-Mustansir unexpectedly died after a short and apparently not very serious illness, and the princes and other dependents were urgently summoned to the palace only to find that the all-powerful commander-in-chief had already placed his own son-in-law, the youngest prince Musta'ali, upon the throne, and required them to take the oath of allegiance to him. There are different versions of what had really happened - quite naturally, indeed. But it is quite clear that the eldest prince, the original heir apparent, Nizar, under one pretext or other, escaped, and took refuge in Alexandria, claiming his rights. The events happened in the full light of history, and there is very little doubt as to their real trend." 24

2. "Meanwhile, the internal policies and intrigues at the court delivered a mortal blow to the Fatimid plans. On the sudden death of the aged al-Mustansir bi'l-lah, in 487/1094, the Armenian commander of the hired troops dethroned the real heir to the throne, Prince Nizar, and brought up Prince al-Musta'ali, who was his son-in-law." 25

3. "The split on the death of al-Mustansir in 487/1094 was a great catastrophe. His eldest son and original nominee Nizar, was dispossessed of the throne by the party of his brother al-Musta'ali under the commander-in-chief." 26

4. "They (the Mustalians) admit that Nizar had been officially designated and that provincial agents had been duly informed." 27

5. "As far as can be ascertained, the official heir-apparent till the end of Mustansir's reign, was his eldest son Prince Nizar who was over fifty years old at the time of his father's death. This has been admitted in al-Hidayatul Amiriyya or ar-Risalatul-Amiriyya, a document emanating from the highest Musteallian authority which comes under the category of official instructive correspondence issued by the Fatimid Imams to guide their followers in religious matters, especially in situations of emergency." 28

The proofs adduced in favor of the designation of Nizar as Imam removes the third controversy about the succession to Imammat after Imam al-Mustansir, and this, now takes us to the final part of the article.


Imam Nizar, resenting his supersession to the Imammat by his brother Musta'ali under al-Afzal,removed himself to Alexandria and established his headquarters there. He was not allowed, however, to live there long in peace. Musta'ali feeling insecure during Imam Nizar's existence, plotted against him and finally succeeded in making him prisoner along with his two sons.

Imam Nizar died in prison, but his eldest son, Hadi by name escaped from gaol and lived in Iraq where, in course of time, he came into prominence as the ruler of Almut.

" Nizarian records are scarce, " says J.N. Hollister, "having been largely destroyed in the period of Hasan'ala dhikrihi's salaam's grand-son, or by Hulagu Khan when the fortress of Alamut was taken, but the traditions of the sect indicate that there were three Imams during this period: Hadi, son of Nizar, Mahdi or Muhtadi, and Qahir."

The author of "Kalami Pir " records the list of Nizari Imams as follows:-

" After him (i.e. Nizar), there was Mawlana Hadi, then Mawlana Muhtadi, then Mawlana Qahir, then Mawlana Hasan ala dhikrihi's salaam - he took off the ties and chains from the necks of his followers. " 29

Prof W.Ivanow has something very interesting to say about Imam al-Muhtadi and al-Qahir, in his work Alamut and Lamasar :-

" We must now go back to pick up the beginning of the chain of the events with which we are here concerned. The events of the usurping of the rights of prince Nizar, who was the heir designate of the Imam al-Mustansir bi'l-lah, the Fatimid caliph who died in 487/1094, the murder of Nizar and his son intended successor, are sufficiently well known, nor need re-iteration. It is not necessary to have any special knowledge of Ismailism to realise what immense importance the event had for the whole community, and how it had to react. Juwayni (p.231) preserves the tradition accepted in the Nizari community that in 488/1095, that is a year later than those events, an important dignitary at the court of the deceased Caliph, called Qadi Abu'l-Hasan as-Saidi, arrived from Egypt in Alamut, bringing a small child, who was the grandson of Prince Nizar, and thus his legitimate successor. We may remember that Prince Nizar at the time of his death was about 54 years of age. The age of his son, al-Hadi, is unknown, but he could have been anything up to 35, and thus his having a son of about eight is quite possible. The last Fatimid Caliph, not recognised by the Nizaris, al-Amir (d. 524/1130), mentions this in his pamphlet al-Amiriyya, although refuting his identity. 30 This prince was recognised as the Imam, with the regnal name al-Muhtadi.

. . . Already in the times close to his (Hasan'ala dhikri-his-salam's) reign, there was a problem as to whether he was the son of Imam al-Muhtadi, the grandson of Prince Nizar, or the son of al-Qahir bi-amri'l-lah, and thus a grandson of al-Muhtadi . Many believed that the title mentioned above, al-Qahir bi-amiri'l-lah, was assumed by Hasan himself. If Imam al-Muhtadi, brought to Alamut in 488/1095 as a boy of eight, was born in 480/1087, he ought to be in 520/1126 forty years old, and surely could have a son of about 20 years old in or about the date of Hasan's birth, 520/1126. Thus chronologically the existence of al-Qahir is not excluded . . ." 31

The doubt cast upon Hassan ala dhikri-hi's Salaam's descent from Imam Nizar is also cleared by H.A.R. Gibb and J.H. Kramers in their work 'Shorter Encyclopaedia of Islam'. They write: -

" When he (Muhtadi) died in 557/1162, his son al-Kahir bi-Ankam Allah Hasan (the traditional genealogy of the Nizaris at present gives instead of him two Imams, Kahir and Hasan), openly ascended the throne, and on the 17th Ramadan 559/Aug 8,1164 proclaimed the great Resurrection, the Kiyamat al-Kiyamat." 32

The history of other four Imams of Alamut i.e. Ala Muhammad, Jalal al din Hassan, Ala al din Muhammad and Rukn al din Khurshah is known and the summary is found in E.G. Browne's 'Literary History of Persia', ii, 453/460 and J.N. Hollister's "The Shi'a of India', xix 315-319.

Imam Ruknuddin Khurshah had been on the throne of Alamut only for a year at the time of Halaku's final invasion. But before the Fort surrendered, he had sent his eldest son, Shamsh-al din Muhammad, to Persia in secrecy so that the line of Imammat may not be affected.

The destruction of the Ismaili fortress at Alamut, followed by seizure of most of the other Ismaili strongholds together with an effort by the Mongols to destroy completely followers of the sect, greatly crippled the Ismaili movement and for a long time it was thought that it had been destroyed, and especially that the family of the Imams had been wiped out. But history has shown that the sect was not destroyed. Through the years, there were oral traditions preserving the names of the Imams, with here and there an opportunity through historical references to check these. More recent study, with new documents, make it certain that " many of the Imams whose names are preserved by oral traditions really existed." 33

For a long period they were compelled to live incognito and often under intense persecution. From allusions made by the Persian poet, Nizari Quhistan, it is known that Imam Shamsh al din and Qasim Shah lived in Azerbaijan, and that vicinity seems to have been the centre for the Imammat for about two centuries. 34

Lists of Imams are given in " Kalami Pir," 35 in "Ismailitica" 36 and from four sources in 'The Original of The Khojas' by Syed Mujtaba Ali ." 37

" Our purpose, " says J.N. Hollister in the Shia of India, "is well served by taking the list as it has been preserved among the Shughnani Ismailis, and published by W. Ivanow, modified in harmony with the author's articles, 'Tombs of Some Persian Ismaili Imams'. In this Shams al din is the twenty-eighth Imam. This list for the 'Persian' period is as follows: - 38

28. Shams al din Muhammad Shah
29. Qasim Shah
30. Islam Shah
31. Muhammad Shah
32. Mustansir bi'llah II 885/1480
33. Abd al Salam Shah'
34. Shah Gharib Mirza
35. Shah Nur al din Shah (Bin Dharr' Ali)
36. Murad Mirza Shah
37. Dhu'l fiqar'Ali Shah
38. Nur al dahr
39. Khalilullah II
40. Nizar II
41. Sayyid'Ali
42. Hassan'Ali Shah
43. Qasim Shah
44. Abu al Hasan'Ali Shah
45. Khalilu'llah III 39


Imam Shah Khalilu'llah took up his temporary residence at Yezd, leading a retired life. People had great regard for him and Fateh Ali Shah, who was then ruling over Persia, himself held him in the highest esteem. This excited the bitter jealousy of a Mullah who instigated some fanatics to murder him. The dastardly crime created quite a sensation in the country, and the faithful followers of the Imam were in no mood to tolerate it. Fateh Ali Shah realising the seriousness of the situation took prompt measures to allay it. He administered severe punishment to the guilty ones and invited Hasan Ali Shah, the young son of the deceased Imam to his palace where he publicly recognized him as the head of the Ismailis with the title of Aga Khan, and later gave to him one of his daughters in marriage. With the death of Fateh Ali Shah in 1834, civil war broke out and the situation of Agha Hasan Ali Shah, the first Aga Khan was changed. Soon after, he left for Sind via Afghanistan where he was enthusiastically welcomed by the Talpur Amirs of Sind who with other followers had long been his zealous supporters.


The Khoja Case heard by Sir Joseph Arnold, then Chief Judge, in 1866 confirmed beyond doubt the claim of Imam Agha Hassan Ali Shah, the first Aga Khan, as being the direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad, through Ali and Fatima.

In setting out the prominent facts established in the High Court of Bombay, Sir Joseph Arnold declared: - "The question 'Who is the Aga Khan?' has thus been already partly answered: Mahomed Hussain Hooseinee otherwise Aga Khan, or as he is more formally styled when addressed or mentioned in official documents by the Bombay Government - 'His Highness Aga Khan, Mehelati,' is the hereditary Chief and Imam of the Ismailis - the present or living holder of the Musnud of the Imamate - claiming descent in direct line from Ali, the Vicar of God, through Ismail, the son of Jaffir Sadick.' Writing on the case, John Norman Hollister says:-

"The case was heard by Sir Joseph Arnold. A great deal of information concerning the sect was elicited. Such Sunni practices as the plaintiffs presented were explained by the defendants as being in accordance with the Shiite principle of taqiya. The judgment was rendered in favor of the Agha Khan on all points." 40

"As a result of this judgment, " writes A.S. Picklay. "the rights of the Aga Khan as the Spiritual Head of the Shia Imami Ismaili were firmly and legally established much to the discomfiture of a few discontented persons." 41

" Their intention is to extinguish God's Light (by blowing) with their mouths; but God will complete (the revelation of) His Light, even though the unbelievers may detest it."
Holy Qur'an LXI:8

And finally here are a few more references which add further weight to the subject of this short study: -

1. "After Shams al-Din (the 28th Imam) a split arose in the house of the Nizari Imams, one line, the Kasim-Shahis, still exists and is represented by the present Imam of the Nizaris, Sultan Muhammad Shah, well known to the public as the Aga Khan." 42

2. " There are few persons throughout the wide world who do not know of the Aga Khan's historic nobility and pontific heritage. All the same, a short account of his family would interest millions of Muslims and non-Muslims.
"The Aga Khans are direct descendants of the great Arabian Prophet through his son-in-law and cousin, the chivalrous Ali; and his beloved daughter Fatima. " 43

3. "We have traced the line of the Imams of the Shia Imami Ismailis, known also as the Nizari branch of Ismailis, from Ali to the present Agha Khan, and we have seen the sect establish itself in India as one of the important components of Islam in that country." 44

Read and Know #27
Book Published by: Shia Ismailia Association for Tanzania