Intellectual life among the Ismailis: An Overview

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorUniversity, Bachelor's February 2008

download word file, 4 pages 5.0

Downloaded 1330 times

The paper under review is an academic work, written by Farhad Dafatry, Daftary an eminent scholar in Ismaili historiography and their thoughts, has wrote several books on Ismailis, their history and Ideas. Undertaken articles belongs to the book titled ?Intellectual Traditions in Islam?, is also edited by Dafatry himself.

This piece of work aimed to synthesize aspects of Ismailis in the realm of intellectual traditions and their contribution in the development of Islamic Rationalism, with respect the history of Shi?ism. The work starts with a brief introduction, of Ismailis and their tenets.

Author inform us that basic doctrine of Shi?ism, was developed and espoused by Ja?far al-Sadiq, and or to say in Bulliet?s words Ja?far al-Sadiq should considered as the first Imam, who is been defined by the doctrine of Shi?ism. According to him the Imam as defined by Ja?far al-Sadiq is a paramount and a divinely guided spiritual leader, who has an authority as vested in ?Ali?, to their descendent, and Imam is the only one who has a particular kind of knowledge (Hikmah), not available to ordinary human being.

And Imamate was to be transmitted by the rule of nass; hence we can say that there would be an only single Imam in a particular time as designated by the previous Imam. Then the Author ponders on the early sect, developed due to the historical causation, we are informed that early Shi?ite was first divided after the death of the Ja?afar al-Sadiq, those who accepted his eldest son Isma?il, called themselves Isma?iliyya, and which later grown into the Ta?wiliya, who stressed on the esoteric meanings of the Koran rather then focusing on Za?hiri aspects of faith.

Ismaili?s intellectual development comes in full moon, after the creation of Fatmid Dynasty, where first time in the history of Islam, Ismaili expressed openly their believes; constructed the cyclical history of time, according to which they had divided the time in seven periods, which they called ?dawar?, each dawar have one big prophet called Natiq, who have an associate Wasi Ali, and other Imam in Ali?s Progeny, whose obedience is required for the salvation on the judgment day. Many of the Fatimid Dai?s tried to harmonize this cyclical view of history with the Judo-Christian Tradition of Kabbalah, and some other like Al-Kirmani, and Al-Sijistani proposed some other systems borrowed from Greek Tradition of Neo-Platonism, and Aristotelian Metaphysics of Being.

To look the paper from critical perspective is very difficult because the author has chosen a very wide spectrum of thought from history, author has developed the paper on the approach of discussing history with respect to the development of ideas and their expression in different time, however for some, who has not exposed to the history of Ismailis would be very helpful but to other who are solely interested in the history of ideas may become confused, it seems that author is not clear that whether he should focus on the history of idea or to the history of Ismailis itself. Initial pages of paper reflect the exhaustive historical information and after it then one can find the philosophical ideas of Ismailis, but again those information is not extensive in the nature, it just starts and then ends, creating quenches to the listeners and to the readers of the paper, it would be good if author should focus only to the historical aspects or remain true to the historical ideas.

Author has by and large talked about the Early Ismailis, but he haven?t given due credit to the philosophical development to Ismaili other then Fatimid?s there is no mentioning of the philosophical framework of al-Qasim ibn-lbrahim (d.86o) Imam an-Natiq bi-1-haqq Abu-Talib (d.951-1053) and Manekdim (Abu-1-Husayn Ahmad) (d.1034), who are inspired by the Mu'tazilite doctrine.

Paper summarize the general thought of some Ismaili Dai?s like, Al-Kirmani, and Al-Sijistani, but he failed to Acknowledge the efforts put forward by other Ismaili Intellectual like Ibn-Sina (Avicenna), who is been considered as Second most respected and acclaimed Philosopher in west, and as well as in east. Author informed their reader about the Al-Kirmani?s version of Aristotelian Metaphysics of Being, that Causality is universal: the ?existence of any being is dependent on the fixity of the preceding cause? . But don?t inform his counterpart Philosophy of Neo-Platonism adopted by other Philosopher like Al-Nafsi, and Avicenna, who argued that existence is accident added to essence (i.e. existence is always external to essence), thus God has to be existence necessiti?a , nothing equal to it (nidd), nothing opposite to it (didd).

Author has also not informed the basic difference in the jurisprudence of Fatimids, which is One of the main differences between Imamate (or Ja'farite) juris¬prudence and that of the Sunnites, Imamites duly qualified jurists give decisions that are based directly (that is, by then-own arguments) on the general principles contained in Koran and Hadith, whereas among the Sunnites by the sixteenth century (apart from some Hanbalites) it was held that even the most learned jurist had to base his decisions on those of earlier jurists. The giving of independent decisions was known as ijtihdd, and the person qualified to do so was a mujtahid. The main Sunnite position came to be expressed (but perhaps not until the nineteenth century) by saying that 'the gate of ijtihdd is closed. The Imamate belief in the continu¬ing right of ijtihdd presumably helped in the adaptation of the existing legal system to the needs of the new state; but in the last century the Imamites have not been noticeably more successful than Sun¬nites in adapting their rules to modern conditions .

And in the last Author has covered a detail intellectual rigor in Ismailis, but he don?t inform his/her reader about the latest intellectual development put forward by them, for example he can speak of Nasirudin Nasir Hunzai, which is been now considered as a person who is developing Ismaili theology in the system of Nasir Khusraw and other Gnostic thoughts of Fatmids.