Khalil Andani Presents on the Ismaili Ta’wil of Hajj at 2016 Medieval Congress

Esoteric Hajj: From the Physical Ka’bah to the Living Imam | Ismaili GnosisTalk Title: Esoteric Pilgrimage: Ismaili Muslim Hermeneutics of Hajj

Abstract: The Fatimid Caliphate (909-1171) was the only Shi‘i Muslim Caliphate in Islamic history in which a hereditary Ismaili Imam descended from the ahl al-bayt of the Prophet Muhammad ruled as both spiritual and temporal sovereign. Before and during the tenure of the Fatimid rule, an Isma‘ili da‘wa operated throughout both Fatimid and non-Fatimid lands where numerous Isma‘ili da‘is summoned Muslims to recognize the spiritual authority of the Ismaili Imams. This paper examines the spiritual hermeneutics or ta’wil of the hajj as elucidated in the writings of the Fatimid Isma‘ili da‘is Ja‘far b. Mansur al-Yaman, al-Mu’ayyad al-Din fi’l-Din al-Shirazi and Nasir-i Khusraw and argues that the Isma‘ili ta’wil of the hajj invests the Ismaili Imam with a spiritual status superior to the physical Ka‘ba. This hermeneutic also establishes a distinctively Isma‘ili practice of making pilgrimage to the Fatimid Imam-Caliph in Cairo. This argument is demonstrated through three pieces of evidence: firstly, the ta’wil or esoteric interpretation of the hajj presented by various Fatimid da‘is, including al-Naysaburi, al-Mu’ayyad, and Nasir-i Khusraw, situates the Ka‘ba as the exoteric House of God and the physical qiblah while presenting the Fatimid Imam as the esoteric House of God and the spiritual qiblah. Secondly, the Fatimid poets Ibn al-Hani al-Andalusi and al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din al-Shirazi explicitly assert the superiority of the Imam to the physical Ka‘bah and highlight the importance of making hajj to the former over the latter. Thirdly, this spiritual hermeneutic is enacted and embodied in the actual pilgrimage in that numerous Isma‘ili da‘is including al-Mu’ayyad and Nasir-i Khusraw made to see the Fatimid Imam-Caliph in Cairo. As an example of an enduring hermeneutic, the practice of undertaking a journey for an audience (mulaqat) with the Ismaili Imam continued to have a paramount status in Isma‘ili Muslim piety long after the Fatimid period and persists in present times.


Khalil AndaniKhalil Andani is a doctoral (Ph.D) candidate specializing in Islamic intellectual history, theology, philosophy, and mysticism at Harvard University and holds a Master of Theological Studies degree (MTS 2014), specializing in Islamic philosophy and Ismaili thought, from Harvard University.

Khalil’s publications include a book chapter on Nasir-i Khusraw’s philosophical thought in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Islamic Philosophy, two articles on Ismaili Philosophy in Sacred Web, and an article on Ismaili views of the Crucifixion of Jesus in The Matheson Trust.

He was recently interviewed on CBC Radio about the Aga Khan Museum. He is also a Chartered Professional Accountant (CA-CPA) and has completed Bachelor of Mathematics (BMath) and Master of Accounting degrees at the University of Waterloo (2008). Over the last few years, Khalil has been invited to deliver several guest lectures and conference presentations on various topics pertaining to Islamic thought and Ismaili philosophy.

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Author: ismailimail

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

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