Reading Guide: A Short History of the Ismailis

A Reading Guide prepared by Aleem Karmali.

a short history of ismailis

mhi-official-aiglonThe Muslim world today is heir to a faith and a culture that stands among the leading civilisations in the world. The revelation granted to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) opened new horizons and released new energies of mind and spirit. It became the binding force that held the Muslims together despite the far-flung lands in which they lived, the diverse languages and dialects they spoke, and the multitude of traditions – scientific, artistic, religious and cultural – which went into the making of a distinctive ethos.

— Mawlana Hazar Imam 25th Anniversary of The Institute of Ismaili Studies October 19, 2003


Farhad DaftaryThe Ismailis represent the second largest Shi‘i Muslim community after the Twelvers (Ithna‘asharis), and are today scattered as religious minorities in more than twenty-five countries of Asia, Africa, Europe and North America. Despite their long history and contributions to Islamic civilisation, however, they were until recently one of the least understood Muslim communities. In fact, a multitude of medieval legends and misconceptions circulated widely about Ismaili teachings and practices, while the rich literary heritage of the Ismailis remained inaccessible to outsiders. The breakthrough in Ismaili studies had to await the recovery and study of a large number of Ismaili sources, a phenomenon that has continued unabated since the 1930s. As a result, modern scholarship in the field has already made great strides in distinguishing fact from fiction in many aspects of Ismaili history and thought.

— Dr Farhad Daftary


A Short History of the Ismailis – Traditions of a Muslim Community – Farhad Daftary – Edinburgh University Press, 1998

  • Introduction
  • Guiding Questions
  • Ismaili History and Historiography
  • The Early Shi‘a
  • The Fatimid Age
  • The Nizari Ismailis of Alamut
  • Later Developments Continuity and Modernisation
  • Passages of Relevance

Click here to read

Author: ismailimail

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

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