Book Review by Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi – Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat

Faith And Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat by M. Ali Lakhani (I.B. Tauris, London/New York, 2018)
Review by Dr. Reza Shah-Kazemi, Research Associate at The Institute of Ismaili Studies

This book is important for several reasons. First, as stated by the author himself, it is ‘the first extensive survey of the Aga Khan’s ideas’ (p.xxii). For the past sixty-four years the Aga Khan has led his community according to his understanding of the rich tradition of Ismaili Shia Islam. There are three key components here: Islam, the Shia branch of Islam, and the Ismaili branch of Shi’ism. How he has assimilated the principles of these three sources of his heritage, and how he has applied the principles of this tradition in the modern world, is what Ali Lakhani has admirably brought to light in his elegantly written exposition.

Lakhani’s book carries the subtitle: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat. For those who might consider his use of the definite article a tad pretentious—who is Lakhani to say what the vision of the central guiding institution of the Ismaili community is—suffice to note that the book was published by the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, the main research body of the Ismaili community; and one presumes that a book which, for the first time, expounds the ideas of the Aga Khan in a systematic, philosophically coherent manner would have received an imprimatur from the highest authorities in the Ismaili community. It is, therefore, to be taken most seriously as an exposition of the implicit philosophy undergirding the scattered statements, speeches and interviews given by the Aga Khan as leader of his community since 1957.

Lakhani also demonstrates with admirable clarity and concision the ways in which the positive aspects of the contemporary world—its cosmopolitanism, for example (see chapter 4)—can be enhanced and calibrated by the universal principles so central to the Qur’anic revelation.  He also shows how ‘living the ethics of Islam’ (chapter 9) allows not just the Ismaili community but all devout Muslims to integrate din (religion) and dunya (the world) in such a manner as to embrace diversity and pluralism as an expression of their religious ethos.

Full review at https://thegreenknight.org/booksarticles/faith-and-ethics/

Author: ismailimail

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

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