The Dar al-Ilm (House of Knowledge)

The Dar al-Ilm (House of Knowledge) was founded in Cairo, Egypt by the Fatimid Caliph-Imam al-Hakim in the year 1005 A.D., in a section of the Fatimid palace in Cairo.

Many subjects were taught at the Dar al-Ilm, which was also equipped with a large library. Many Fatimid dais received part of their training at this institution. The Fatimid dais produced numerous theological treatises in which the doctrine of Imamat retained its centrality. The dai-authors also dealt with a host of theological issues as well as metaphysical systems in which they included a variety of cosmological doctrines.

During the Fatimid period (909-1171), the Ismailis elaborated a diversity of intellectual traditions and institutions of learning, making important contributions to Islamic thought and culture.

Source: Heinz Halm The Fatimids and their Traditions of Learning (London: I.B. Taurus & Co. Ltd., 1997)

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

2 thoughts

  1. Quote from the above article:

    “During the Fatimid period (909-1171), the Ismailis elaborated a diversity of intellectual traditions and institutions of learning, making important contributions to Islamic thought and culture.”

    The cosmological doctrines that were developed by Ismaili dais during the peri-Fatimid period reveal a commitment to intellectual pluralism by the illustrious Imams of this dynasty that should inform our search for knowledge of all types during the current era:

    What I find interesting and very illuminating is how the Imams of the Fatimid period(Al-Qaim to Al-Mustansirbillah) themselves encouraged pluralism of intellectual expression as well. Here you have, on the one hand, the eastern Iranian dais(Al-Nasafi, Al- Sijistani, Khusraw), enthralled by the infusion of Judeo-Christian monotheism into the lofty ideas of Plato(giving Neoplatonism), incorporating it into their own unique Ismaili cosmological doctrines, during the pre- and early years of the Fatimid Caliphate (Imams Al-Qaim to Al-Muiz). Then, on the other hand, you have Arab intellectuals like Alfarabi and Ismaili dai Al-Kirmani, operating during the Imamats of Imams Al-Hakim to Al-Mustansirbillah, preferring, instead, the Aristotelian idea of the ten intellects and incorporating some of those ideas into their cosmological doctrines. Clearly, the Imams of this illustrious period rolled out a fertile red carpet which provided the enabling environment for pluralism of intellectual expression to flourish.

    While the the Al-Kirmani cosmological doctrine continued to be elaborated and promulgated by Caliphs of the later Mustelian period, it was the Al-Sijistani-Khusraw cosmological doctrine that became the ultimate preference of the Nizari Ismailis and my personal opinion is that our 48th Imam himself, Mowlana Sultan Mohammed Shah, in his Memoirs under the chapter on Islam, is partial to the doctrine of the Universal Soul, which is exclusive to the Al-Sijistani-Khusraw cosmology:

    “Islamic doctrine goes further than the other great religions, for it proclaims the presence of the soul, perhaps minute but nevertheless existing in an embryonic state in all existence in matter, in animals, trees, and space itself. Every individual, every molecule, every atom has its own spiritual relationship with the All-Powerful Soul of God.”


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